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Patience is a virtue on a Sail Boat with Solar Electric Engine

Gull-winged sails from the cockpit of OCEAN STRIDER

We’ve learnt to be patient now we have a solar electric engine onboard OCEAN STRIDER: 1,500 miles of sailing, Maryport to the Algarve.

Passage plans as we travel onboard OCEAN STRIDER are evolving to suit “sailing” long distances with a solar electric engine. Our journeys are much longer than they were and usually to new destinations.

Predicting conditions is vital

Our day to day sailing plans are derived from tides and wind predictions and now give us a firmer plan for that day’s sail and a stronger strategy for sailing or staying put for a few days after.

Using tidal, wind and weather information, I try to predict the places I can reach under sail with the wind on the aft quarters and a following current. Using the motor as little as possible. Sailing efficiently is a priority when you have an electric motor.

Pilot books are life savers

The pilot book gives detailed information on sand bars, currents, rocks and other relevant information when entering bays, rivers and coves.

From that information I choose my bolt holes and a final destination. I try to estimate the power reserve I’ll have left in the batteries at the end of the sail. This I do using experience from using the solar electric engine and the predicted wind for the trip.

Weather App’s are a modern luxury

My reliance on the Windy Whether App is very high. Sailing as we have for the past few months has highlighted the limitations. If the wind speed is close to the gust speed the prediction is very good but if the wind speed and the gust speed are a long way apart the prediction seams to fall short. I’m usually left with no wind which is by no means perfect when you have solar electric propulsion.

My 2 favourite points of sail for a long trip are a dead run or a broad reach, with a wind speed of about 15 -> 25kts.  If the swell isn’t high and the sun is shining it makes perfect sailing.

We usually sail gull-wing on a dead run, as we don’t have a cruising chute at the moment. Using a preventer on the boom for the main sail. A spinnaker pole with up-haul, down-haul and jib sheet on the fore sail. Keeps everything under control.

Using preventers will save your life

Preventers are literally a life saver. Secure a good rope to a solid pre-fixed bracket on the clew/sheet end of the boom. Release the boom as far as possible, taking into account the shrouds. Tie the preventer/rope from the boom to a cleat forward of mid-ships on the same side of the boat.

For better control you can use a block forward of the beam, lead the rope back to a cleat in the cockpit.

There are also purpose built bracket’s to help create preventers.

We then connect a spinnaker pole to the clew of the fore sail, leading the sail out to the opposite side of the boat to the main sail. Connect our spare jib halyard to the outer end of the spinnaker pole, to be used as an up-haul. Finally, we use the jib sheet from opposite side of the boat as a down-haul. The final adjustments are a matter of personal adjustment for performance. You will also need to adjust the spinnaker pole on the mast end. This will stabilise the fore-sail.

We then set the tiller pilot on our boat and watch the miles click by, adjusting the tiller pilot to suit the wind direction as required. If we veer to far off course, we change our setup.

A very similar setup to gull wing is Twistle rig twistle rigging pictures – Bing .

Broad reach is less work and much easier but, as with all points of sail, you will need to adjust as wind direction changes.

How this affects charging, sailing and motor-sailing

Sailing downwind on a sunny day activates 3 different remote charging sources available on OCEAN STRIDER.

The water speed we are making through sail, spins the propeller. This activates the DC electric propulsion to re-charge the main batteries.

The sun activates 400w of solar panels to input charge to the main batteries.

The wind speed activates the wind generator, charging the main batteries.

Motor sailing becomes a joy as there’s no diesel fumes. You forget you’re using the motor.

Longer trips are best with electric propulsion

Due to the above, it really is a case of the longer the trip the better the chance of arriving at your next destination fully charged. You have the ability to re-charge on the go. Good planning is essential.  

Traveling with a fair wind reduces work, decreases risk and increases speed.

Unfortunately, we don’t all have the luxury of time. That doesn’t mean electric drive is not for you, sailing is a hobby that requires flexibility. There is always a way, you should to plan accordingly.    

Published by oceanstrider2

An old boy with a plan to see the world.

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