Extra letters: May 2012
- Tue, 3 Apr 2012
Thank you to everyone who wrote to us. Unfortunately we didn't have enough space to publish all of your letters in the magazine but we wanted to share the best of the rest with you. Scroll down to read what you think about our recent cruising heroes feature, buying a boat in the USA, 3G radar and, of course, red diesel.
Red diesel and maritime law
With regards the Red Diesel issues and especially Belgium's stance on 'fining' visiting Yachtspersons, I believe there are two main aspects, one, slightly flippant, the other a Maritime Law aspect.
1) Belgium has stated they will fine any yachtspersons visiting their country and having additives to the diesel fuel (Red Diesel). If this is Belgium's 'interpretation' of EU tax rules, then this is for the respective Governments to resolve.
However, to ensure fair play by the Belgium Government I would expect the Belgian Government to publish the following data;
a) The anticipated number of Belgian-flagged leisure vessels visiting the UK annually.
b) The anticipated number of Belgian-flagged leisure vessels likely to refuel within UK waters.
c) The anticipated Belgian-flagged leisure vessels fined for having 'Red Diesel' on board when they re enter Belgium waters.
One would expect, in the spirit of fairness, that the numbers in each of the three sections would be the same.
2) Within aspects of International Maritime law. It would appear Belgium will no longer honour:
a) The Flag of State
THE COMMON MARITIME POLICY
Directorate-General for Research
Working Document, Transport Series - W 14 -
Chapter Two, the Sea and Navigation
Although this is a working document, the International Law aspect, broadly adhered to, especially concerning "According to this principle, ships are subject to the law of the state whose flag they fly". Which one would assume also covers taxes paid within that country.
If they fine, or impound, a vessel for a ruling that is being contested by the respective Governments, is this legal? Is this a form of Piracy? Alternatively, is this an interpretation issue?
b) Rights of Passage
However, this is another good Maritime story, for another time.
How will the Belgium Government 'inspect' all vessels within their waters to ensure compliance to their interpretation of International Maritime Law?
More cruising heroes
Paul Gelder has written a splendid salute to 25 cruising heroes which I read with great interest. He tells himself about the difficulty of reducing the number on the list to 25 and mentions quite a few whom he has left out, so I shall not comment on that.
You call, however, for ‘local' heroes, and here I should like to put forward the great cruising couple Rolf Bjelke and Debora Shapiro who in 1982-1984 sailed their Joshua-type steel ketch NORTHERN LIGHT from the Arctic North of Svalbard to Deception Island in the Antarctic, who in 1992 spent the Antarctic winter in the ice at Hovgaard Island aboard NORTHERN LIGHT, and who since then have continued cruising far and wide over the oceans of the world. Debora Shapiro is an American and Rolf Bjelke a Swede.
Also the Dutch couple Eerde Beulakker and Hedwig van den Brink deserve to be called cruising heroes. In 1990-1992 they sailed their steel sloop TEAKE HADEWYCH from Holland to the Falkland Isles, Antarctic, South Georgia, Tristan da Cunha and back.
By the way, writing on "the father of modern blue water cruising", Paul Gelder tells that Eric Hiscock designed and built WANDERER II himself, but according to his own book "Wandering under Sail" she was designed by Jack Giles and built by "a new firm of builders at Poole" - whose name for some unmentioned reason remains obscure.
Finn Wiberg-Jørgensen, Frederiksberg, Denmark
Hiscocks' documentary film
As an adjunct to the Cruising Heroes feature (March issue), it is worth mentioning that Eric and Susan Hiscock made a 75-minute documentary film of their second circumnavigation, starting in 1959, aboard Wanderer 111 entitled Beyond the West Horizon. Brilliantly shot by them both in 16mm colour this was first shown by the BBC over two consecutive evenings and later on lecture tours to raise funds for further adventures. It is both an amazing record of an epic voyage and also of a pre-electronics, pre-windvane era of small boat cruising and not surprisingly highly inspirational. It was until fairly recently available on VHS and is well worth the effort in finding a copy, if only to witness how it used to be....
As for my own inspirational author, no one could have awoken a lifetimes fascination with small boats and the sea like Arthur Ransome. Reading "We didn't mean to go to sea" as a small boy in a very land locked Leicester in the early 1960s (with absolutely no family interest in boats) kindled a passion that survives undiminished to this day.
Charles Hurst, yacht Blue Saluki
Red diesel research
As you'll probably know, the red diesel saga continues: the concession that we could use red diesel and pay the extra duty (depending on the declaration of the split between propulsion & heating use) ended in 2008 and our dear Government did nothing about sorting it out. The rest of the EU eventually got narked enough to fine UK yotties who arrive abroad with red diesel (Belgium started, then Germany and Holland; surprisingly not France (yet)) and the Government's response is to say that red diesel will now only be supplied for use in UK waters and you must sign a declaration to that effect when you fill up.
The Minister responsible, Chloe Smith, has a rather limited knowledge of maritime law: what she should have said was that red diesel cannot now be used outside UK and International waters. But if you might visit Europe (or Ireland), you must now have white diesel in your tanks, not red.
This leads to two problems: supply and dilution.
I contacted 24 marinas (the ones listed in the PBO Eastern Region): 12 replied (Bradwell, Burnham YH, Chatham, Essex, Fox's, Gillingham, Lowestoft Haven, Shotley, Suffolk YH, Wisbech, Woodrolfe & Woolverstone). All 12 supply only red diesel and have currently no plans to change.
12 did not respond (Broom Boats, Brundall Bay, Eastwood, Fambridge, Ipswich Haven, Limehouse, Neptune, Smallgains, St Katharine's, Tidemill YH, Titchmarsh & Waveney).
So if you want white diesel, you must fill up cans in a garage & carry them to the boat: this applies not only to UK yotties wanting to sail abroad, but also foreign yotties visiting the UK, since if they go back home with red diesel, they get fined.
It is clearly uneconomic for a marina to provide both red and white diesel, with the duplication of infrastructure required: one possible suggestion is that two marinas close to each other could agree that one supplies red and the other white; but this would depend on the demand for white, which can't really be determined without providing it (chicken & egg). So I can't see marinas rushing to supply white diesel.
Even if you are physically able to carry cans to your boat, what do you do with the red diesel you currently have? Red diesel is marked with 9mg/l of dye: it needs to be diluted down to 0.12mg/l to be deemed acceptable. Because I'm sensible and keep my tanks topped up to reduce condensation & bug, I've got 400 litres of red diesel to get rid of! Apparently tipping it over the side is frowned upon; pumping it into someone else's tank would be tedious and difficult, so I have to use it up.
How much white diesel you have to add to dilute the red down to an acceptable level depends on how far you run the tank down before you fill up with white: a few minutes with a spreadsheet shows that if you run down to 1/10 capacity before topping up, you have to add a total of twice the tank's capacity. If you run down to half full before topping up, you must add 3.5 times the tank's capacity. If you only run down to 9/10 capacity, you must add 4.5 times the capacity.
So if you have a 100 litre tank and top up with white when it is half full, you need to continue doing that until you have added 350 litres of white: how long will that take you, with normal use? For most of us, that means foreign is out of bounds for quite a few years, unless you decide to motor round in small circles to use up all your diesel, which definitely goes against the grain, being a mean old git (my 400 litres cost me about £550: I'm not going to use that just to heat up the sea).
If you do decide to dilute down your red diesel with white until it is acceptable, then you have to keep a note of the concentration of red dye: this is the way to do it. Every time you add white diesel, note the date, quantity before adding & quantity after adding. Then the concentration of dye after adding equals the concentration before times the quantity before divided by the quantity after.
Date Quantity before Concentration before Quantity after Concentration after
1/4/12 150 9 180 7.5
1/5/12 120 7.5 200 4.5
1/6/12 160 4.5 190 3.79
Start with 9, ie the concentration of dye in undiluted red diesel (that's 9mg/l). On the first of April (what a good choice of date for this new legislation to come into force!), you have 150 litres left in the tank and you fill up with 30 litres, to 180 litres. The new concentration is 9 x 150 ÷ 180, which is 7.5
By 1st May, you're down to 120 litres & you top up with white to 200 litres: the concentration is now 7.5 x 120 ÷ 120, ie 4.5.
Keep going until the concentration gets down to 0.12, which is the level accepted as being insignificant.
If after that number of years you're (a) still alive and (b) still able to sail, you can now go foreign again!
Buying a boat in the USA
My wife and I enjoyed the article by Tom Cunliffe entitled ‘In Search of a Modern Classic'. A year or two ago, we were looking for a relatively new, classic-looking yacht with a high displacement that sails well. We spent two years searching in the UK before turning our attention to the USA. It seems that the USA market caters for a much broader range of tastes from modern racing yachts to more classic, traditional elegance.
In 2009, we bought a Little Harbor 52 (note no ‘u'!), now called Robin of Cowes. She is absolutely gorgeous, and was built for Ted Hood, of America's cup fame, in 1991. She is high displacement and is rock solid in a breeze. Her centreboard means that we can get over the bar at Beaulieu river at low tide.
Regarding RCD, we found that a previous American owner had sailed her to the British Virgin Islands prior to the cut off date of 1998. She was therefore deemed to have been imported to the European waters before the RCD was implemented. The former owner kindly supplied a notarized statement to this effect, and therefore Robin was deemed exempt from RCD, thus saving us a load of hassle.
Like Tom, we considered all the options for bringing Robin across the Atlantic. We decided to sail her back and stopped by the Azores to complete the import paper work and paid a lower rate of VAT. I took four weeks off work to do the trip and we made the crossing, from Maine to Plymouth in 23 sailing days - with over 2,000 miles on starboard tack! After that, our yacht-handling skills needed some brushing up to take on the Solent...
Hamish and Elin Wilson, yacht Robin of Cowes
We have just replaced our complete radar system - prior to, and thus sadly without the benefit of your group test in the March issue. We chose Navico's 3G Broadband, for all the reasons you outline but also because of its low power usage, minimal power usage on standby and ‘instant on'. We had found our previous pulse radar so power hungry and frustrating to wait to power up that it would often be off - just when we needed it.
We would agree that our 3G lacks longer range but we have found that with the scanner on the mast and 7m above the waterline, we see big commercial ships and chunky bits of coast at 27nm. Low coastline does not appear till 10-15nm ahead. The poorer long-range target identification is more than offset by its amazing short-range clarity. Our previous pulse radar was good for squall-dodging and the 3G turns out to be just as good.
If Navico would introduce a ‘sleep and sweep' function, at a user-preset schedule, you could leave the instrument ‘on' all the time, because every time it detected something, and I'm guessing this could be so much quicker than a mere person, it could trigger an alarm and its power usage would be minimal.
Jonathan Neeves, yacht Josepheline, Sydney
Let's be honest about the boat show
Yachting Monthly's March 2012 edition was surprisingly upbeat about the London Boat Show (LBS). Let's be honest, the key issue is that London no longer caters for huge sections of the UK leisure marine market. LBS has now become the BBS - ‘big boat show' - with little for the average sailor to see.
When the major multinationals - such as Suzuki, Beneteau and Zodiac - together with numerous medium-sized regional UK marine companies, such as my own Pennine Marine - all feel it is not viable to be at ExCel, it means LBS is losing exhibitors from across the spectrum of marine suppliers. It is therefore not surprising that LBS continues to shrink every year.
Two things in Yachting Monthly's coverage summed up the London 2012 Boat Show:
1. The model who opened the show, Tamara Ecclestone, is - like many of the boats at London - very, very nice. However, like many of the boats at London, Tamara is far too expensive to take out for a weekend.
2. Yachting Monthly thought the star of the boat show was a wreck!
We all used to love the London Show - it cheered us up in January. However if LBS is to remain the all-encompassing and well-loved national boat show that it used to be, then it needs completely overhauling for 2013.
Peter Bryson, director, Pennine Marine
Lost your pipes?
Last September, we found three smokers' pipes and a tobacco pouch on our harbour pier in Enkhuizen, Holland. We think they belong to a visiting British crew. If the owner would like them back, please get in touch.
Editor's note: If you left your pipes in Enkhuizen, email email@example.com and we'll pass on the message
March issue radar test
Yes: time for another radar test, and why not? Things move on a bit each season, so it's well worth reviewing the current kit, but I thought your test was a missed opportunity, to say the least. It seemed very vague and unstructured, with no attempt at setting a series of specific tasks and showing in a consistent way how each 'set' performed that task. Are you worried that if it's not 'chatty' enough, your readers will be frightened off by the technicalities? Crikey - if they can't cope with a professionally constructed review, they're unlikely to be capable of operating radar...
The bulk of the available page-space was taken up with photos of the radomes (fascinating) and large-but-childish charts of performance criteria (which weren't really measured, as far as I could make out, or assuming they were, we weren't permitted to see either detail or method).
The job is made more difficult, I suppose, by the different screen-devices each manufacturer provides, so you ended up with a gamut of kit, from the tiny Garmin and Raymarine to the grand and glorious(ly expensive) B&G. That's just how it is these days, but I still think it ought to have been possible to measure Actual Radar Performance against a set number of tasks, with 'working shown', regardless of screen size and number of MARPA targets trackable, etc.
So I'm putting in my plea to please make the next radar test (or any other test for that matter) much more technical, much more structured and much more informative. We can cope, really... we can all get the basic info off manufacturers' websites; it's your ability to present a beautiful synthesis and analysis which is on the line here. I hardly like to say it, but you are veering dangerously close to 'Sailing Today' journalism (much too matey with suppliers, lazy regurgitation of press-releases, Hamble mafia syndrome).
Nick Hallam, Nicholson 30 Tamasin II, River Dart
New boat tests, please!
As a subscriber to Yachting Monthly, I am disappointed that you no longer review new yachts. This was one of the most interesting features each month and it's greatly missed.
Migrants in distress
The newspaper reports about migrants left adrift off Libya in May 2011, with distress calls left unanswered, raises issues for any cruising sailor on passage down the central Mediterranean, coast-hopping in southern Italy, Sicily or approaching or leaving Malta. Coming across a boat-load of illegal immigrants anywhere along the North African coast poses even more problems for an isolated pleasure vessel otherwise living in an entirely different world. I wonder, therefore, whether it would be topical for YM to explore the various aspects of such an encounter: law of the sea, range of communication equipment, determination of emergency responses, etc. It would seem, in some cases, that boatloads of these unfortunate people are sent off into the Mediterranean by those who are well aware that there is insufficient fuel to reach their destination.
I don't seem to have come across anywhere that deals with such an encounter from the point of view of a yacht skipper. Regretfully, it is a situation which can only get worse and - probably - be a feature of much of the coast of southern Europe and even Turkey.
Bob Johnson, yacht Penguin II
Not the right knot
I read with interest Chris Beeson's article about the effects of bends and hitches on the breaking strains of line (YM April 2012). I'm concerned that for the last 50 years I appear to have been tying a round turn and two half hitches wrongly! The photograph on page 88 shows (nearly) what I've always called a ‘Fisherman's Bend' - a hitch specifically used for bending a line to a ring.
The second half-hitch in the photo has been turned against the lay of the line... Why?
I've always understood that a 'Round Turn and Two' is designed for bending a line to a spar. The first half hitch of a Round Turn and Two shouldn't turn around the standing turn on the spar. This is what creates the Fisherman's Bend.
Reading the above, I sound like a right sad old anorak! That said, if it was good enough for my mariner ancestors (and there are many), then it's good enough for me.