Seraffyn's Meditteranean Adventure
Lin & Larry Pardey

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          This third book in the continuing narrative of the Pardey’s cruising life shows the development of their thinking.  Going through the process with them and observing the evolution as it occurs, is very useful in validating what they say in their text books as you can see how they arrived at various conclusions.  As usual the whole book is fascinating but certain things stand out as of special interest.  We cover some of these topics also in our “Living Aboard – Frequently Asked Questions” publication, which is on our marine publishing order form as well, but it is especially helpful to have them available in the form on a narrative as in this book.

            I especially want to comment on one phrase on page 13 where they say “One day you turn to your partner and say, “This is our way of life, the other world is the myth.””  This speaks to those people who view living on a boat as some sort of escape for people running away from something.  In reality no one who is truly “running away” is going to be happy on a boat.  Boats are for people seeking a closer engagement with the natural world and the people therein.  Once you have lived aboard for a time and realized that living aboard is safer, cleaner, more healthy, and reduces stress, it is hard to view the conventional life in industrial societies as “real”.  You begin to realize that what many people think of as “reality” is simply a collection of expectations created by convention and the advertising and entertainment industries.  The cruising person on a modest boat who does not own a car, dresses simply in outdoor clothes, and is very happy, calm, and close to their spouse, looks at the land based couple as avoiding thinking about reality.  They are working desperately hard to own two fancy cars of no greater utility than the simplest and cheapest used car, a huge house with many rooms, and fancy clothes and electronic gadgets to the extent that their marriage is under terrible strain.  The live aboard wonders how such artificial stresses can possibly constitute “reality” in anyone’s mind.  This is not to say that the live aboard couple thinks everyone should live aboard, but clearly simple, lower stressed, ways of life would be more healthy for virtually everyone.

            On page 26 they talk about the common error of buying a larger boat in anticipation of having guests frequently.  They present all the reasons why this tends to be a bad idea very neatly and come to the same conclusions that we did:  While people might occasionally “camp out” with you for a night or two, they will be much happier in a hotel or modest rental ashore and visiting with you daily.  This is normally much less expensive and troublesome than buying and dragging around with you an extra, say, seven feet of boat needed to have a guest cabin.  In our years of living aboard, even when we had a 48’ schooner, we very rarely and certainly no more than once in a year or two had guests actually stay aboard the boat even as much as a few days.

            On page 127 and sequential pages there is an excellent discussion of company cruising, where two boats sail together.  The Pardeys, like ourselves, have found that, as enjoyable as this can be, there are disadvantages.  People instinctively feel a group will insulate them somehow from problems.  However compromises in decision making and insulation from the other cruising and local people you would otherwise meet are strong negative factors.  We would add to this discussion that the recent practice of “rallies” to cruise areas and cross oceans has the disadvantages of company cruising immensely magnified and the additional problem that they tempt people to sail “beyond their experience”.  That is they would not be comfortable sailing on their own across an ocean as yet but are tempted to do so by the feeling that “everyone  else” is doing it.  Much better to cruise modestly until you are thoroughly familiar with the boat, have her equipped the way you want her, and have developed the confidence to say that you may still be apprehensive but you are fully prepared in your skills and not relying on anyone else.

            The Pardeys again give a good account of the advantages of not having an inboard engine in a smaller boat.  I do think that in vessels much under 30 feet a yuloh for ordinary maneuvering and an outboard for absolute calms, canals, and getting in and out of crowded harbors is quite sufficient.  Further, most  people have far larger inboard engines, and even outboards, than there is any need for.  From 30’ to 36’ I’d probably have a modest single cylinder inboard with a feathering offset propeller.  These small engines can be set so low in the average liveaboard yacht that you don’t lose that much room.

            People take up huge amounts of space with fuel tanks, but if you truly only use the engine when the boat doesn’t have steerage way, or to be safe in getting in and out of crowded harbors, you really don’t need much.  As I write this I am on a 22’ twin keel sloop with a 5-1/2 horsepower outboard.  This is probably at least 3 hp more than we really need and we’ve been quite liberal in our use of the engine, as we aren’t really in our normal non-schedule based state.  Yet we aren’t using even a gallon a week.  That would be 52 gallons in an entire year.  From experience I can say that would be quite high compared to our actual use.  Yet plenty of people would ask for that much in fuel tankage alone as a matter of course.

            On page 180 the Pardeys discuss swaged fittings versus splicing.  However I note that they lump Norseman and other end fittings, which only need a good set of wrenches to assemble, with swaged fittings.  This is not correct.  Norseman fittings, since they are not compressed around the wire by special machinery are not prone to cracking.  Indeed I don’t think cracking of a Norseman fitting is even reasonable to worry about.  Assuming reasonable care in assembly about the only way a Norseman fitting could let go would be if it was used with the wrong sized wire or the wrong sized internal cone.  They do make a good point that the wires must always have a good fair strain and not be bent as it leaves any swaged or swageless fittings.  This is normally done by using a toggle in the system so that everything can always take a fair lead.  One thing not mentioned about spliced eyes in standing rigging is that they should always be made up over solid cast thimbles bored for the clevis pins so that they will develop full strength through bearing on the full length of the clevis pin and the thimble cannot distort and put a more concentrated load on a smaller part of the spliced eye.

            On page 204 they give some good methods for determining the hours to build on a new boat.  I would suggest adjusting the hours to marine tons, which are 2,240 lbs. for easier comparison rather than the 2,000 pounds “ton” which has no relevance to naval architectural calculations.  The weak point in the discussion comes from giving a dollar figure per ton for materials as this changes over time.  Also the Pardeys give this as $2,800 per ton of displacement, but displacement tons are always 2,240 lbs, yet they have used a ton of 2,000 lbs above so it is confusing.  Fortunately there is an alternate way of figuring materials costs:  Take the number of hours provided by the method above for a professional to build a boat.  Then find out what the average independent expert boatbuilder charges per hour in your area.  Provided that this is an area with reasonable availability of materials and equipment either in local inventory or by routine shipping arrangements without prohibitive import duties, you should get a reasonable figure for materials and equipment by multiplying the nominal hours to build by the normal per hour charge of an independent craftsman.  In other words whether fancy or simple, light or heavy the cost to build if it were done by an independent craftsman working on his own would be roughly half labor and half materials and equipment.  The rest of the Pardey’s estimating procedures would remain the same.

            Those of you who’ve read our “Living Aboard” comments on the site and our publication “Living Aboard – Frequently Asked Questions” will be aware that we view raising children on a boat very favorably.  The Pardey’s comments tend to reinforce what we have to say.  While I don’t think I would cross oceans with a baby, I am much more comfortable than they with the idea of taking a baby under one year old aboard.  In the last couple of generations our family has sailed a good many miles with diapers drying on the life lines.  Our daughter was 5 weeks old when we first took her aboard for a summer.  If a teenager is already accustomed to sailing they will normally adapt well to living aboard.  If an older teen has lived aboard much of their life and wants more independence, it may be appropriate to help them buy a modest liveaboard boat of their own.  The initiative, self-reliance, and social skills of live aboard children tends to be quite extraordinary.  The examples given by the Pardeys seem quite typical to us.  If an older teen is rebellious and has an “attitude” about his or her parents, living aboard may not make this better.  However sending them to an on the water survival school, or a summer at a sailing school learning not  just basic boat handling but cruising and navigation techniques as well may change their whole view of the prospect of living aboard.  At least we have seen this happen.

            I really liked the section starting on page 240 on the decision process which led to them deciding to build their ultimate slightly larger boat although brief it is its own validation of their way of live and it is very interesting to see that although they did build a bit bigger boat more room was not the primary motivation.  Instead it was more that they wanted to try out some new ideas and refinements that could not be done on “Seraffyn”.

            I also thought that a point that I had not thought of which is mentioned on page 247 is very important.  This is that a wind of a given velocity will have more force to heel or propel if it is more humid.  This consideration might be very important in planning and thinking about the amount of sail you may be considering carrying on a certain day.  I would add to this that colder and higher pressure air is also packing more force for a given velocity.  This is why fall sailing, which we are doing as I write this, may not have much higher velocities but you tend to end up reefing more and having a bit higher seas for the given wind strength.  All this is very interesting stuff.

            I did notice in the appendix detailing the books that they carried that they have a copy of  “The Ocean Cruising Yacht” by Donald Street.  Before you rush out and buy this I would like to point out that although I have great respect for Mr. Street’s experience and expertise on the Caribbean he is not technically oriented and there are a number of statements and recommendations in his book which cannot be justified and one should really not rely on his recommendations without checking them with experts in the particular area that he is discussing at the time.  Just one example would be that he recommends not firmly wedging the mast at the partners.  He has a theory about why he likes to do this but any engineer could tell you that this means you are converting a fixed end to a pin end in your mast which dramatically reduces the designed strength of the rig.  Although one could design a rig that would stand with this handicap, as it is just like designing a deck stepped mast, to just remove the partner wedges on an existing rig is potentially disastrous.

            Again in their section on books I was particularly pleased to have their recommendation that the bottoms of bookshelves should be gratings, or presumably other types of open work.  Since every effort should be made to have plenty of air flow around books in the marine environment this is a wonderful innovation and we will be incorporating it in all our future designs.  They are also quite correct that dust jackets and glossy paperback covers tend to stick to damp solid surfaces if they are varnished or enameled.  I bet we should also say that book shelf ends and dividers should be open work as well to help prevent this.  These are the sort of practical details which end up making the interiors of yachts planned by experienced liveaboards turn out so different from those designed by people who have not lived aboard.  To me this one tip on proper interior design which was new to me was well worth the price of the book.

            To sum up I would say again that while people think of sailing narratives like this as primarily mood shaping pieces which provide entertainment and inspiration, I find this book and other narratives by the Pardeys to be great for helping people think about and learn about living aboard and voyaging.  As such they are not only entertaining and inspiring but are also great learning tools.  I highly recommend getting a copy of this book if you have an interest in living as the Pardeys do.  (256 pages) (tm)  $14.95

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