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My Top Yachts

Before long every sailor starts to dream about a long blue water adventure…and then the never ending discussions start about which is your "dream boat". Perhaps you have it already, but perhaps you are like me and have a lovely coastal cruiser, but perhaps you know in your heart that it probably is not the one to carry you across oceans, or out run a storm for days on end.

Of course if you are the next Robin Knox Johnson these matters would not concern you – but if you have spent most of your life behind a desk earning the money to even contemplate such an adventure, then you will probably need a vessel that is far tougher than you!.. and will look after you when your strength, and perhaps your nerve, are beginning to fail.

This set of pages represent my research into trying to assess which boat that may be “The One”. The one that I could afford (!), and the one that will keep me and my wife safe when we are far from a safe haven…

I have selected boats that have the following characteristics:

  • They can be bought in reasonable condition for about GBP150k (or less)
  • They are around 40ft LOA
  • They are already, or could be, cutter rigged
  • They have the load capacity for a blue water cruising
  • They could be handled by 2 people (husband and wife)
  • They score less than 1.99 on the “Capsize Ratio” see page on Ratios to see a full explanation.

There are two exceptions – I have included my current 32ft sloop (a Compromis 999) and the Discovery 55 – just for the comparison of two worthy “outliers” – both are classed as CAT A in the CE classification. The Compromis 999 I have included just because it is a great coastal cruiser – well built – and I already own it! The Discovery I have included because it is meant to be a “dream” blue water cruiser for 2 people and it is made in the UK…and it costs GBP650k !

I am in the process of redoing all this information. I hope to incorporate comparative ratios that can be used to indicate the relative merits of one boat over another in the context of blue water sailing. …your contributions are gratefully received just email me

I used two comparative ratios for my assessment – the Displacement/Length ratios and the Sail Area/Displacement Ratio. I used the sloop and cutter rigged configurations for sail area, to see the impact on these two ratios. I also used the manufacturers quoted figure for displacement and then an estimate for a “fully laden” displacement by adding 10% to represent the extra weight of equipment; spares; water; fuel; etc… needed for blue water cruising.

I have then listed all those boats that “qualify” within the optimal settings for blue water cruising as defined by leading yacht designers. Check out the sub-pages on Designers and also Ratios to see the full set of research that relates to this quest.

The summary of the results is set out below. The 4 criteria are

  • D/L (unladen)
  • D/L (cutter rigged + laden)
  • SA/D (unladen)
  • SA/D (cutter rigged + laden)

So boats that score “4 out of 4” have hit the optimal ranges for D/L and SA/D whether they are cutter rigged or not, and whether they are fully loaded or not.

4 out of 4 3 out of 4 2 out of 4

Ovni 385

Rustler 42

Bowman 42

Valiant 42

Regina 38

Oyster 406

Cambria 40
Bruckman 42
Christina 43
Moody 42 CC
Discovery 55
Nautor Swan 40
Gozzard 41
Sweden Yachts 41
Nordship 40 DS

Cabo Rico 40
Pacific Seacraft 40
Pearson 40
Najad 420
Malo 42
Jeanneau 42 CC
Southerly 42RS
Sabre 402
HR 42
Hunter 450
Saga 409
IP 420
Tartan 4100
Cambria 44
Morris 45


I will be publishing the full data on my pages “My Top Yachts” shortly….


Fugawi .v. Volvo…?

What have these two companies got to do with each other …you may ask!

Well, my buddy the “oil baron” took me out on his brand new Sealine F42 recently. The F42 is a fantastic motor boat, but of course one of the issues of owning such a boat – even if you are an “oil baron” – is that you want to be able to gauge the fuel consumption as you speed along at 20+ knots…

The F42 has a planing hull, and 2x Volvo Penta Diesel IPS500 370hp (or 435hp) engines…. you really would want to know the optimum speed (for the sea conditions) and also the trim tab setting for the sea conditions and the speed that you are doing. If only you had some sort of dial that would show you the impact on fuel consumption, as you adjusted the trim tabs up/down or, as you powered down or up on the throttles.

Volvo_EVCWell – as you may suspect – the F42 comes with a system to do just that. It’s the Volvo EVC system. This is composed of the panel shown here plus the engine control throttles and associated switches. There is a very good video showing the Volvo EVC system being used at BoatTest.com. What struck me – and the oil baron – as strange was that there was only one fuel consumption gauge even though there were two IPS engines. This may be because the software in the EVC system is so clever that it automatically adjusts the fuel efficiency of both engines such that a combined reading is the only sensible one to show (?) – I don’t know – more digging around required!

In fact the Volvo EVC system even has a cruise control and auto trim assist button the former automatically keeps the speed you set, the latter adjusts the trim for optimum fuel efficiency – job done!


Murphy_HelmViewThe Murphy HelmView is a plug-and-play system that works with J1939 and NMEA 2000 protocols to allow the sharing of information between onboard electronic devices. There are three CAN (Control Area Network) inputs that can integrate engines, gensets, NMEA devices, and GPS. On a display at the helm, you can view everything from speed, engine rpm, and fuel burn to waste-tank level and rudder angle. You can even view trim tab levels.

The 6.4-inch colour VGA LCD flat-screen display can also act as a backup chart plotter since it is compatible with Navionics chart displays – the same one that you would use in your Raymarine chart plotter. Murphy have been in partnership with a number of companies to supply their engine and engine-driven controls and monitoring systems e.g. Nautique LINC digital display system.


Fugawi_Avia1Both these systems are pretty much aimed at the power boat owner – but what about sailors?

Well there is a system that is interesting since it is aimed at Microsoft Windows users – and could be used in either power or sail boat systems and it comes from Fugawi. The Fugawi Avia software receives data from onboard sensors via the industry standard NMEA 0183 and NMEA 2000® protocols, and presents the data as analog and digital instruments on your Windows® PC, netbook or tablet.

If you click on the image and look at the enlargement you will see that each engine is monitored separately on a twin engined power boat. Of course this is instrument data display – it does not provide the logic and the control of the Volvo EVC system.

As I mentioned in my previous post on the virtualisation of instrumentation on boats…the Avia system is actually produced by the Avia Design Group and is part of their range of virtual instrumentation products.

If your are using other software on your laptop you can have the instruments that you want to see overlay the screen so you can watch both at the same time – neat idea.

The title of this post is a bit tongue in cheek of course – if your boat is not drinking 100+ litres of fuel per hour – then a cheaper system than the Volvo EVC may be more up your street. However, if you do have a boat such as the Sealine F42 – then the Volvo EVC is an essential item – and knowing how to use cruise control and auto trim is a good technique to master!


GPSGate Express for Windows

BluNextGPSOn a recent delivery trip from Liverpool I had the chance to use a small piece of software called GPSGate. This enabled my bluetooth GPS (BluNext 65 Channel Dongle ) top connect to my laptop correctly when all other attempts had failed. The problem was the useless bluetooth software built into Windows XP – it may be different with Windows 7 I haven’t tried. But I encountered all sorts of problems trying to get my MaxSea software to recognise the virtual comm port that the GPS data was streaming in to from the GPS dongle.

The built in communications port wizard in MaxSea was of no use either and I even had MaxSea tech support guiding me through editing various config files using notepad – all to no avail. Finally GPSGate fixed the problem and even allowed me to share the GPS data with two different chart plotting programs.

GpsGate Client Express lets multiple applications share GPS data simultaneously on a computer with a single GPS device. GpsGate Client Express supports built-in GPS devices, Bluetooth GPS devices and GPS devices connected via serial and USB ports. It also adds stability to the GPS connection, with automatic re-connection when required.

The free GpsGate Client Express can:

  • Split one GPS to two virtual COM ports
  • Handle most GPS devices, Bluetooth, Serial and USB
  • Stabilize Bluetooth GPS connections
  • Automatically re-connect lost connections
  • Support Garmin GPS devices
  • Connect standard GPS to nRoute with Garmin protocol
  • Show GPS position in Google Earth
  • Make GPS position available to web browser
  • Connect to a GpsGate Server for GPS tracking
  • Run on 32 and 64 bit Windows (7/Vista/XP/2k/NT/98)

Why not give it a go if you have problems connecting your GPS or any other bluetooth device with your laptop – its free – download here…


Battlefield Strength Laser…

Last year wired.com reported “Electric lasers have hit battlefield strength for the first time — paving the way for energy weapons to go to war. In recent test-blasts, Pentagon-researchers at Northrop Grumman managed to get its 105 kilowatts of power out of their laser — past the “100kW threshold that has been viewed traditionally as a proof of principle for ‘weapons grade’ power levels for high-energy lasers,” Northrop’s vice president of directed energy systems, Dan Wildt, said in a statement. That much power won’t get you a Star Wars-style blaster. But it should be more than enough to zap the mortars and rockets that insurgents have used to pound American bases in Iraq and Afghanistan.

100 kilowatts of piercing light isn’t something to sneeze at, even fired for just a few seconds, but Northrup Grumman’s long-awaited weapons-grade laser recently ran for a full 10 minutes. That milestone is the feather in the company’s cap as it prepares to ship the hulking machine to the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, where it will presumably begin doing what it does best — turning things into crispier, more exploded versions of themselves in no time flat.

Well a year later and The Office of Naval Research and their industry partner Northrop Grumman successfully disable a small target vessel using a solid-state, high-energy laser (HEL), mounted onto the deck of the Navy’s self-defence test ship, the former USS Paul Foster (DD 964).

Northrop Grumman designed and built the MLD for the Office of Naval Research, leveraging a laser built by Northrop Grumman for the US Army Space and Missile Defence Command /Army Forces Strategic Command and the High Energy Laser Joint Technology Office.

Open ocean tests were conducted between October 2010 and April 2011 at the Pacific Ocean Test Range near San Nicolas Island off the Central California coast. For these tests, the laser system was installed on the Navy’s Self Defence Test Ship, the USS Paul Foster.

This is obviously good news for the pirate infested waters off the coast of Somalia.…come to think of it, is this the first sign of a useful gadget for Raymarine to come up with for our yachts? ….oh yes…this would make crossing the Traffic Separation Zone in the English Channel just a little more interesting!


Fugawi breaks away from the crowd…

For some time Fugawi has produced a perfectly good piece of navigation software Fugawi ENC. I must confess I have not had time to review it in detail, so much time was spent with my 7 part optimal routing series last year and with testing MaxSea TZ in action.

Who owns Fugawi? – well in January, software manufacturer Northport Systems that owns Fugawi and X-Traverse.com (the online chart subscription service) announced that its president, Robin Martel, had acquired the company. Robin Martel took over as the owner of Northport after having joined business development manager in 2002. He became the company's president three years later. Prior to joining Northport Systems, Martel co-founded and led New Zealand-based GPS Control Ltd., working as its managing director and technical manager; held directorial positions with Pico Data Ltd. and Expressway Group Ltd.; and was the marketing manager, sales engineer and IT manager for Geo-Systems Ltd.

Northport Systems began operations fifteen years ago. Its first product was the affordable Fugawi-brand mapping software for GPS receivers, which allowed customers to scan and calibrate their own map images for use with early GPS handheld devices. The company has since expanded both its customer and product base, and now offers a selection of GPS-related software products for land, marine, commercial and military applications; as well as an extensive line of digital maps and charts for regions throughout the world that are available for instant download from X-Traverse.com to a wide variety of PC, Mac, iPhone, Android, Symbian and Windows Mobile devices. With its desktop, mobile and web-based navigation and mapping software products and services, available under the Fugawi, X-Traverse and third party brands in over 130 countries, Northport Systems enjoys a worldwide reputation as a leader in GPS mapping software and innovative GPS applications.

Structure_FugawiHandheld/Mobile Device Expertise – So Northport/Fugawi has a great track record in getting digital charts and charting software on to a very large variety of GPS enabled handheld devices and smartphones. Its X-Traverse.com is a web service that allows you to transfer your digital map data and personal Waypoint, Routes, Tracks and POI to and from your PC, iPhone, and other mobile devices.

Northport/Fugawi have already proved their skill with the excellent $129 NavPlanner2 which is bundled with Navionics Gold charts of the entire U.S. plus the Northern Bahamas, and a Navionics card reader.  The software also has GRIB weather file overlay facilities and it includes even more U.S. freshwater data than HotMaps (17,000 U.S. lakes on a $20 DVD!), with all of Navionics High Definition lake surveys. This is a great planning tool from which you can transfer routes to most your plotter using cable, card, or Internet.  NavPlanner2 supports Waypoint, Route and Track transfer export to: GPX, Google Earth (KML or KMZ), ESRI ShapeFile, Fugawi or ASCII Text.

It is also compatible with MuskokaTech's PathAway GPS Software for Windows® Mobile and Nokia/Symbian operating systems. It can be used with Fugawi's X-Traverse to transfer data online with iNavX or iMap on an iPhone or iPad, Facebook, and more. All the transfers are two way so you can use NavPlanner2 to collect and enjoy tracks you made on all sorts of devices.

Strategy – So following the thread I began about strategic trends in marine electronics and the posting about the structure of modern chart plotting software which looked at the products coming from the Furuno/Signet stable (MaxSea TZ and Nobeltec Trident) – its seems perfectly sensible that Robin Martel should be talking to these guys about joining forces.

Now please note I have no idea if Robin is doing thisBUT I would be delighted if Northport would bring their the undoubted expertise in the mobile arena, and the brilliant glass bridge AVIA series of products, into the fold.

The North Vancouver based Avia Design Group Inc. is the producer of the Avia Sail and Avia Motor line of virtual instrumentation products for NMEA 0183 and NMEA 2000® networks. And Northport appear to have an exclusive distribution agreement for this product line.

Of course as the diagram illustrates there is nothing to stop you doing this right now. All the elements of the software and hardware interfaces are on the market right now and all will work together using the important glue of X-Traverse.com at the software/data level, and Actisense at the hardware level.

In the meantime Garmin, who is pretty much a go it alone type of company building their whole stack of products from the hardware upwards, is going to have their work cut out. As for poor old Raymarine – well readers of my previous postings know what I think of their strategic thinking! – as I have said before, good luck FLIR !

In my next post I will look at the Fugawi AVIA product line – very exciting, and its not just a pretty face!