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350+ Km sail on 14ft Caper - advice?

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Evening all!

I propose to sail from Townsville to Cairns on a Caper Cat to raise money for Cerebral Palsy Foundation Australia.

I endeavor to complete the trip on my 14 Ft Calypso Caper Cat between December 13th to 18th 2010. The cat will be inspected by a marine specialist (here in townsville) and overhauled within the next 2 months.

However, I would like to have all of your opinions and advice on changes/recommendations for the boat and the trip.

I was contemplating upgrading the original main sheet to have a boom-less main sheet? Also upgrading the Jib to have a roller furling Jib? Thoughts? Also from your experience, is there any major weaknesses on the Caper that should be noted? I will be strengthening all rigging and adding two forestays. The boat is equipped with an outboard mount, i will be fitting it with a 3 or 5 hp outboard for emergencies.

Also any suggestions on the trip itself? Or of Marine Equipment?

The trip is labelled "Sail 4 Palsy". I would sincerely appreciate your advice and opinions on the boat and the trip. If you are interested in more information or getting involved please feel free to contact me.

Email peter.hodgson1@jcu.edu.au or 0400 528 326.

Looking forward to hearing from you all.


Peter Hodgson

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Carry flares (both hand held & parachute), an EPIRB & a PLB (with GPS) on yourself. Wear an inflatable Type 1 PFD at all times.

Practice writing the boat fully loaded because it will be harder fully loaded than if it were empty. A float at the top of the mast will help stop the boat turtling too...

Carry a hand held VHF radio and report in with the maritime authorities when leaving and an estimated arrival.

Also things like an iPhone might come in handy to check the weather if your just running up the coast. Or any mobile that you could contact someone on incase of a looming weather system.

I'd also recommend that you do a Safety & Survival at Sea Course (SSSC). It will teach you basic survival techniques and also trip management techniques to help prevent the likeliness of an incident. On top of that it will teach you that if there is a way to avoid disaster its FAR better than having to react to a disaster. Being at see isn't something to be taken lightly, its a dangerous place out there...

Remember if shit hits the fan, the less time your in the water the better, not only for your safety but that of the rescuers too...

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Caper cats are generally strongly built but I would want to be on a late model well maintained one as hidden corrosion/worn bolts, cracks etc in beams, rudder fittings, shrouds etc could catch you out.

Don't muck around- replace all the rigging even if it is a couple of years old, and especially if you see any signs of corrosion, rust, broken wire strands/kinks etc.

Do you have deep rudders or the shallow beach ones which are crap in choppy conditions?

What is your sailing experience?

You don't mention whether you've got a shore based support crew, what spares,food, water or other weighty stocks you are carrying. Is this a pure speed dash or are you carrying everything?

Have you mapped out landing locations in emergencies if the wind comes up and you are exhausted. Will you be sailing overnight and need battery navigation lights?

If nothing else, jib roller furling and mainsheet reefing cringles will let you reduce sail area and not get overpowered in strong winds but let you drive through the waves. You could face some steep chop with the current going against wind & wave direction which could make it very tough going. My maricat cat was severely slowed when beating to windward in choppy seas on Cleveland bay

Are you following the coast or be out at sea on the rhumb line?

There used to be an article online on Jesse Martin, his dad and brother who sailed a 14 foot caper cat? from Cairns to Thursday Island. They were 30k's offshore at times and also had a shark longer than the cat rub itself along dthe hulls.

You will need to be well prepared physically and mentally.

At a minimum as well as radios, EPIRBS, Flares, I'd want a decent sheathed diving knife, a paddle, signalling mirror, V sheet, spare gloves, booties and a quality stinger suit. An Irikanji sting while out there could easily incapacitate you.

if you haven't done dstance sailing, I'd suggest you do a marathon from say the city to the southern tip of Cleveland bay, Magnetic and Palm Islands and back to give you an idea of conditions you may face.

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Thanks for your advice - appreciate your time.

I have ensured the mast is sealed, to stop turtling in addition to having mast top float.

I will be wearing PDF at all times, with the Marine UHF attached to the vest. I certainly have plans to be carrying necessary safety equipment. Does anyone have any hand held Gps Units, Marine equipment they would recommend or have experience with?

I have 6 years sailing experience, mainly ocean (around 3 years with the caper). However, over the next 3 months I propose to sail with a couple of experienced sailors (one being a gentleman who sailed capers for around 10 years).

I will have the boat inspected by a gentleman at Townsville Slip way, to check for serious weaknesses. I will the have the overhaul carried out, then re inspect all repairs/changes and rigging. As you suggested i will be replacing all bolts, strengthen tie down points etc.

I appreciate the suggestion about the deep water rudders. Does anyone have any suggestions where i could purchase these? Or anyone have any for sale? Likewise with Jib Roller Furling? Any for sale? Or Know where i could purchase one?

I will have a Crew to meet at the major points along the way. However, for the intermediate landings I will have to carry supplies. I understand the boat will be relatively heavy and do not expect a speed of more than 3-6 knots average.

I read the story on Jesse Martin, quite a great read, http://www.jessemartin.net/Jesse_Martin_-_Adventures.html.

Guys sincerely appreciate the advice - anymore where that came from? Certainly helps. If any of you are based in townsville, please send me an email peter.hodgson1@jcu.edu.au or call 0400 528 326 - love to catch a coffee.


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Definitely talk to the cat sailors at Townsville sailing club on the Strand near the Olympic pool. (It was there in 94 when I left Townsville) They can easily assess the cat and look for weak points. Look in this forums For Sale pages for the NSW based maricat guy (emmesse?) who may a few used deep rudders at good prices. Maricat rudders are ideal but Hobie 16 rudders are also a good option. The small boat jib roller furling assembly is available at most chandlers for about $130. There is a top swivel as well which may be sold separately.

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Pete, you will enjoy the trip,(Not the best time of the year to do it, Cyclone season) but you will be close to shore all the way. I have done the trip a few times in boats as small as a Hartley 16, the caper is a good 1 man cruiser for the job, pull the beams off and check for corrosion and cracks, have the tramp checked and replace the dolphin striker, leave the boat as designed except for twin forestays, slab reef and furler, anything you carry should be in waterproof bags/containers. The mosquitoes and sandflies are the biggest problem if you intend to sleep on beaches. Ph 02 43591729 any time. regards Darcy.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hi Guys,

Just a quick note to thank you all for your valuable feedback. I sincerely appreciate the time you have given to offer your sailing advice! I will be certainly taking the information on board. One change i will be making is inviting fellow sailors along - what a great idea.

ARE YOU INTERESTED IN JOINING US? I would like to invite all sailors interested to contact me and discuss the trip!

If you are interested in sailing in the evetn, please check out the website! www.sail4palsy.org. It will give you a good outline of the event, myself and info about cerebral palsy. Also send me your interest on the site and i will contact you!

I will certainly be asking more questions in weeks to come! So please keep an eye on the topic!

Thanks again guys!

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