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MELMAR's Sailor's Page

Diese Seite publizieren wir nur in Englisch, da wir davon ausgehen, dass Langfahrtensegler Basiskentnisse der englischen Sprache mitbringen.

Last update/edit of this page: 7. October '07 (no changes in contents since 16. March '07).

After some sailing and talking to many people and friends who are planning to do the same or a similar living we figuered it would be handy to have some of our experiences and thoughts about all kind of topics collected. This Sailor's Page is intended only to give some ideas and for sure is nothing but complete - there are always about one million things more to think about - these notes reflect our own opinions or those which we like to share. Our little collection on links could also be interesting - with more references (and ideas) to be found.

Finding and Choosing a Sailing Yacht

  • keep in mind, live-aboards in general sail only about 30% of the time - the other 70% you actually live on the boat - it is your home which you take along
  • boat size: think about living/storing space versus manoeuvrability (and marina/slipping costs)
  • ketch vs. sloop (sail areas on a ketch are smaller per sail, thus handier also with not too much strength and/or small crew)
  • decksaloon, hardtop cockpit - it's nice if you're not living in a cellar and it is almost a safety issue if you have some good protection against the elements with a good roof over your cockpit
  • go and visit places with yachts on display (exhibitions, yards, marinas, factories) - every time you learn and see things you want to have or not
  • buying via broker or direct - doing contracts in a foreign country is not always easy, a broker can help very much; it comes of course with a price
  • check-out local or the national yachting association - e.g. the RYA in the UK has a great booklet with tips and a general contract example for buying a yacht

Choosing Equipment

  • a dinghy is like your car - choose not too small, you might want to take all your groceries at once; choose not too big, you need to be able to handle the dinghy (lifting it up the beach/boat) - make sure you always lock it, not only with a cable!
  • outboarder - the bigger the better?! yeah, but also this piece of equipment needs to be lifted and handled and the bigger the more likely it's stolen! - often seen brands/spare parts in the Caribbean: Yamaha and Johnson, some Mariner
  • a good combination of dinghy (with hard bottom) and a not too weak outboarder (e.g. 6-10hp) will give you the freedom to choose also an anchorage a bit more outside since you will be fast to any place
  • sails: normal sail wardrobe is usually not a question; have a light wind sail (spinnaker, drifter, parasail) which you are able to handle (maybe also alone), very often you will be able to avoid to motor for hours as it's just too little wind
  • SVB at Bremen/Germany - a big warehouse to order from: good selection, different qualities; we like it very much and if you start buying big you'll might also be able to get reductions; upon request also VAT-free delivery (where possible)
  • different areas call for different antifouling as well - the European stuff is nice and environment-friendly but really not enough for Caribbean waters
  • diesel and fuel quality varies very much (also within 'civilised places') - 'Mr Funnel' as SVB sells it (basically a filter which also takes out water) together with a 'shaking pump' (small hose with a one-way ball valve) are good help (and try to get the carburants at places with high turn around)
  • scratching and cleaning the hull and keel - nothing goes over a suction grip to keep you at that working place and an old credit card to get those barnacles off the surface
  • freediver - with that deepsnorkel device you go diving with a hose on your back and the running compressor swimming on the surface with you - ideal for works on the boat under water (e.g. have you ever tried to change a shaft anode without diving equipment?)
  • anchoring: an issue with many diverse opinions and procedures - especially in choppy seas or with wind gusts a damping part in your anchor connection is a must (minimum a 'stretching' rope between anchor chain and boat, also to unload your winlass); rubber-mooring-damper are very handy for it, but they last not really long - we are still looking for a good solution


  • literature: Dashew's Mariner Weather Handbook, good to learn the basics and/or ideal to lookup the items you forgot; includes upper weather aspects
  • the internet is for sure today's prime source of meteo information combined with the reception of the classic weather faxes once enroute
  • start early to find the good websites for your own journey/areas of interest
  • lookout for local meteo pages - usually they take local topographic influences into account and show smaller areas
  • keep also a look on the general / overall picture of weather systems
  • collect also text based meteo pages to download via saildocs (see further down in communication section for how saildocs works)
  • get the weather fax stations frequencies and schedules before you leave for a region
  • have some lists ready for ftp-mail downloads of weather maps (e.g. NOAA's ftp-mail; see also in communication section)
  • there are many radio nets around to listen to; often if you call up they will give specific weather to you
  • and of course keep your eyes and ears open along the journey - those new sailing friends you just met might have another good source or idea

On Passage

  • usually the first days into a passage are the worst, only then you/your body starts to get used to it - for us the first passages were only two or three days and therefore we thought we'll never are going to do any long passages...
  • for the first days (and for the rough ones) have some easy meals ready (instant packages were you only have to stay in the galley for setting up water or so), or why not get some take-away for the first day
  • just to be on the safe side: start in the beginning with some anti-seasickness tablets - they usually come in different doses - until your body gets the hang of the movements, then you can stop taking them
  • we are keeping a strict watch at all times: there are too many vessels which do not lookout or react upon your appearance
  • watch plan: we like to have a rolling two hour watch system where one person does not have to do every night the same odd watch; a fix schedule from 1800 till 1000 and during the day a more relaxed 'who-is-available' system (but always someone responsible)
  • for those night hours have a headlight ready, maybe even with a red foil/red bulb that your eyes can quicker adapted to the darkness afterwards; mp3-music or audio books make the hard hours much shorter and you can still look around
  • lunch time is gathering time onboard MELMAR Y - we cook for lunch and have everybody together at least once a day; very often one or the other is sleeping at other times
  • food: buy only fresh food which has not been in a cooling chain (e.g. fresh food market); try other food before you store it by the ton, too often that one meal-in-a-can has this odd side taste which you don't want to have for the whole passage
  • don't rely on rain as water supply (we didn't have enough squalls during our 25 days crossing the Atlantic to get it as freshwater)
  • we were very unlucky in fishing (maybe we didn't got the secret yet) - so don't necessarily rely on fish as food supply 
  • have lots of towels: to be able to change them more frequent for your personal hygiene, to put between those rattling items inside your lockers, to gather the water which still might come in at the oddest spots - they are so handy in all situations

Onboard Communication

  • we find that communication to the outside is very important - not only to get weather information but also to keep in touch with friends and family; and how often is it so much easier to quickly send an email to enquire for some prices or so
  • along coasts and islands the mobile phones (GSM) are very handy - get a new prepaid in a country you stay for a while and let all your friends know the new number, the costs to get called are zero and you can send those handy SMS/text messages; if you hook up your mobile with your laptop sending and receiving emails is also possible (depending on traffic this might become expensive - we don't use this solution)
  • instead of buying new prepaid numbers in ever country you stay, consider joining GlobalSIM: the rates are quite reasonable and you keep the same number in all countries
  • onshore the possibility to call via internet, e.g. with Skype get more popular by the minute - it's free and works usually very good on broadband connections; we also bought some credit which allows us to call not only to an online partner but to any phone anywhere, mostly on very good rates 
  • satellite phones are another possibility with basically always a connection, also offshore and on passages; although prices have come down, you still need a subscription and pay per minute (we wanted to try it without fix costs)
  • radio communication is a bit more difficult at times but for free if you take the hurdle of doing the ham exam (radio amateur licence; today no morse anymore); our experience on working with email by amateur radio (SSB/HF radio) is quite good - by the way, if you don't want to do the amateur licence you can get the same by joining sailmail and with a yearly payment you get your own call sign
  • as radio we use a great amateur set 'YAESU FT-857' - it's small like a car radio but powerful like a big desktop radio; of course there are also other brands and models available
  • next in line comes a modem: we chose the original pactor developer SCS and got us pactor IIpro with the firmware upgrade to pactor III (higher speeds); unfortunately we were just a bit too early and bought the version with only a serial RS232 connection, therefore we need a laptop with such a port (hard to find on low-cost laptops); today there is a version with USB connection to the laptop
  • airmail is a 'simple' radio email program with lots of more possibilities (e.g. internet connection capabilities); it works via radio on the winlink2000 network which is optimized for narrow band connections (including compression) -> checkout their sites, they have good explanations on the programs and systems 
  • via the airmail/winlink2000 system you can very easy post your own and get others positions off the net; with every position report you can send a small text - third party services take the reports and show them more or less nice and zoomable on a map; your family and friends will love to see your progress e.g. on a passage 
  • another handy small-band service is offered by saildocs: send a request and usually after only a very short time get the requested info by email back - we use it for weather grib files, we get text files off the web (just insert the URL address); get started as follows: send an email to with any or empty subject and mention in the message body: send info 
  • ftp-mail may be known to many, it was new to us: send a small 'command-file' by email to the service and a bit later receive the result as an email - at NOAA you can get all weather charts that way; there may be many more ftp-mail services around; checkout the website or get started as follows: send an email to with any or empty subject and mention in the message body: help 
  • weather fax reception is a free, easy way to get weather charts: we use JVComm on our laptop and hooked it directly to our pactor modem; you can also just take a normal world band receiver and connect its output with the mic input of your laptop; now only tune your radio at the right time to the right frequency and get those weather charts 
  • communication with other boats takes place also by VHF radio; a DSC VHF radio gives the additional possibility to call your friend's yacht electronically (if he has a DSC VHF radio as well) - simply 'dial' his MMSI and choose a channel on which you want to talk, the systems will do the rest
    it's used also for emergencies to advice other ships - it's a mandatory system under GMDSS for commercial ships