Seraffyn's European Adventure
Lin & Larry Pardey
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Having lived aboard and sailed around on a vessel about the size of “Seraffyn” for many years we can identify strongly with the adventures in the successor to the Pardey’s classic book “Cruising in Seraffyn”. It strikes me repeatedly that, while many people learn best from text books, others will find the "in context" lessons in the Pardey’s cruising narratives to be quite memorable. In this sense they are not only enjoyable narratives but excellent tools for teaching yourself about the life.
The Pardey’s writing style is particularly valuable as so many of the previous generation’s books were written by either British “stiff upper lip” sorts or those imitating them. By contrast when the Pardeys are very happy you know it. When they are tired, or apprehensive, or short tempered you know that too. As is usual with the Pardey’s the narrative material is supported with appendices with interesting information on various boats and people, etc. All of which is always fascinating information.
We note on page 31 that the Pardeys are glad that they carried a very large light air sail. While they rarely used it at sea, the diurnally variable winds along the coast made them very happy to have a very large light air sail. They use a spinnaker. We would use a spinnaker cloth drifter which amounts to an easier handled version of the same thing which might mean that we would use it more. The idea in either case is that since Marconi rigged vessels don’t have all that much area in their working rigs they’ll need a large light sail of some sort to avoid having to spend extra time getting to a port, heaving too off of ports for the night or having to use an engine.
With today’s rigs so short to allow producing stock boats with more accommodations cheaply, light sails are even more important than they should be. Very often when people talk about wanting better performance the problem isn’t the hull, but the short rig. Notice though that even with a fairly large sail area for her size Marconi rigged “Seraffyn” can still benefit from a large drifter or spinnaker.
When I wrote the first version of this review we were cruising in a small British twin keeler we bought to use while restoring a somewhat larger voyaging yacht. In common with many British vessels she is horribly under rigged. Yes, many times in early fall cruising we’ve sailed heavily reefed. But also there have been a substantial number of days which have had frustratingly low winds. We would have loved to have a really large light air sail. The vessel we have now is another British vessel. This one a 30’ double ended pilothouse sloop. She also has a short rig and we will undoubtedly have to add to here sail area substantially before we are really happy with her performance.
People have become so used to unusually short Marconi rigs which require the use of not just overlapping jibs but often even genoas as working sails rather than light air sails that they have come, over time, to think of progressively increasing wind strengths as “too light to sail”. On a recent fall trip we’ve noticed that we sailed virtually all the time except getting in and out of crowded harbors and just occasionally get a bit away from the land to get out to where the wind was rather than wait an hour more to get started. Yet at the same time virtually every sailboat we saw seemed to be under power even if they had sails up. Even more ironically as soon as there was enough wind so that the huge genoa they had up to try to get enough area for light winds became any kind of work to handle they would take down sail and power again. There didn’t seem to be any range of wind left in which the average person was comfortable sailing. This just can’t be as much fun as having a boat rigged from the first to have plenty of working sail so that the drifter and other potentially hard to hand sails become true light weather sails only, which can then be entirely fun to handle and thus make it much less common to use the engine.
The above shows how one little observation by the Pardeys can trigger a great deal of very useful thinking, and this book is full of commentary not just on what they’ve done but why, that over and over will make the reader think to their great profit.
We were intrigued with the mention on pages 40 and 48 of “Eurochecks” and “Eurocards”, which apparently allow one to access one’s European bank account from any other participating bank anywhere in Europe. If this system is still in operation it sounds very useful.
One theme in this book is Lin’s increasing confidence and determination to do more on her own. The first instance of this being a charming tale on pages 50 and 51 of Lin’s banishment of Larry to the end of the bowsprit for an hour or so to allow her to sail the vessel by herself and his pride in her increasing confidence.
Long time readers of this web site will find a familiar theme on page 62 in the Pardey’s discussions with sailmaker Paul Lees in which he points out that, as we have said many times, battens in Marconi (or gaff for that matter) mains cause an incredible amount of repair work. Also we concur that reef points in headsails make a lot of sense. So many boats rely on many bags of alternate headsails which take up a huge amount of room. It is so much better to use combinations of headsails with reef points and minimize headsail changes and clutter down below.
Here is something that the Pardeys do not seem to realize but is definitely a lesson that we all could learn and profit from. On page 67 of this book and in every narrative book by the Pardey’s which I have read there is a story of how terribly upset they became when they were painting or varnishing and spilled a whole can on the decks or down below. I would humbly suggest that stirring or pouring operations be done off the boat or at least over a large plastic tub and that the amount of paint or varnish in the actual container you carry around be just enough to dip the tip of the brush into in the bottom of container perhaps 3” in diameter. That way you can never spill much at a time and will probably be able to get it all cleaned up if it does spill. I was taught this at a very young age by my father, but I can see how one would assume that you would paint out of the same can the paint comes in. It’s a natural assumption, but a disastrous one.
A couple of gruesome stories about proper ventilation and proper venting of heating stoves are presented on page 86. Remember those and remember that heating a boat and heating a house are very different. Toxic gases don’t leak out around the bottom of the doors, or whatever, as they are at least likely to do in a house. Instead, since nothing can “drain” out of a boat they just collect. This nearly killed Lin and Larry, did kill some other folks they heard about, and has killed people we’ve known. Don’t try to heat a boat with any heater that doesn’t have a chimney to carry off the combustion gases.
I want to particularly draw attention to Appendix A where the Pardeys state: “We chose between the physical luxuries of a big boat and the freedom of a small one.” They continue talking about the tremendous increases in costs to build and cost and time to maintain as size increases. Where the Pardeys were able to work about three months out of the year to cruise nine on “Seraffyn” were they to have had a comparable 36’ vessel, even with the proportionally lower beam and draft you might expect on a sizable vessel, I would calculate that they would probably have been working closer to six months in order to cruise six months. A drastic reduction in sailing time. While I wouldn’t make too much of the math here as there are too many variables you can change, it is a strong indicator of why we say people should think pretty hard about keeping their boat small.
I notice they recommend about 80 to 84 square feet of sail for each ton of displacement. While I think that this is much better than no ratio at all, they are talking about determining a reasonable amount of sail area for light winds. However in light winds it is wetted surface and the resulting frictional resistance which primarily determines the need for sail area. Therefore having a high sail area to wetted surface ratio, at least a ratio of 2.5 to 1 will be far more effective. Of course a moderate type of heavy displacement vessel will tend to have lower wetted surface than a moderate light displacement vessel relative to sail carrying power. So it is easier to get good light air performance, especially in unprotected waters, from a heavy displacement vessel.
This is a fascinating and informative book on cruising in a simple satisfying manner year after year. We highly recommend it. (319 pages) (tm) $16.95