Category: Techniques & Tactics
Created: Thursday, 10 December 2009 22:17
Written by Charles Doane
This is a common sight at Dowling's fuel dock in St. Georges, Bermuda, both in the spring and the fall when the seasonal stampede of migrating yachts passes through. It never fails to amaze me how many jerry jugs of fuel some bluewater sailors are willing to carry. In this case I counted 16 jugs open on the quay waiting to be filled and another four on deck. At five gallons a pop that's an extra 100 gallons of fuel this crew will somehow lash down on the deck of their 40-foot sailboat. At 7.3 pounds per gallon (the most generally accepted average weight for diesel fuel) that's an extra 730 pounds this boat will be carrying well above its center of gravity. Or to look at it another way: that's like sailing around with over 900 feet of quarter-inch high-test anchor chain stored on deck.
Is this necessary? In most cases, I suspect, it really isn't. On Lunacy, for example, making the same passage this boat was preparing to make (Bermuda to the West Indies), I carried just one 5-gallon jerry jug on deck for insurance. I probably have about the same tank capacity as this boat (70 gallons), did lots of motoring on the way down (82 hours), and still had about 25 gallons of fuel left aboard (including what was in the jerry jug) when I arrived in St. Martin.
Over the years I've noticed that a lot of cruising sailors aren't nearly as savvy as they might be about using their engines to get where they're going. I can't count how many times I
've seen sailboats bashing violently into big head seas with their sails down and their engines running close to full out, burning tons of fuel while crawling along at ultra-slow speeds with their crews experiencing maximum discomfort. Sometimes I wish I might be magically transported aboard one of these vessels so I can slap its skipper upside the head and ask: "Do you really enjoy paying more money and creating more pollution just so you can waste more time and be more miserable aboard your boat???"
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