A personal choice

Our running out of fuel incident seem to have concerned some of you. It's always interesting when it comes to these questions as they clearly divide two sorts of sailors. Our 1971 Halsey Herreshoff 43' was designed and built with a 37 hp diesel engine and a very small fuel tank, with the intention of having an engine onboard solely for the purpose of bringing the boat in and out of port before and after a race. Duende is a racing sailboat and not intentionally designed to be a cruising boat, though she has slowly been transformed into some sort of hybrid between the two. Later on at some point, someone removed that engine and installed a Perkins 4108 and a single fuel tank with 37 gallon capacity. Most production cruising sailboats have 2-4 times that capacity and of course that is what most people want, as the regular cruiser seem to turn on the key as soon as lighter wind appears. I wouldn't categorize us as that sort of sailors and I'm glad to have been schooled by Alex's more natural and profound (French!) sailing knowledge which means that the engine is always the last and unwanted resort for us. Sailing and the sea is in focus, not to get fast from A to B at whatever price. 

Because we do not want to use the engine more than absolutely necessary, we have chosen at this time not to install additional tanks and basically we normally only use the engine for getting in and out of harbour. For our previous passage, the wind was forecasted to be steady around 20 knots for the whole week so we had hoped to be able to sail all the way through the trip. Now it so happened as it often does, that the winds changed and unless we wanted to bob around there in the Caribbean sea forever, we had to use that damn engine anyway. Our filled fuel tank plus two jerry cans offered us approximately three days of motoring in total, 8 hours of them were saved for the final day and entrance into port in Florida. A day and a half was spent tweaking spinnakers to get some speed under the hull. It's all part of sailing after all. One could argue that it could have been wise to have had a larger fuel tank installed on the boat, but since we so very rarely use the engine at all, there really is no need for it if you look at the whole picture. In fact, since we bought the boat 1,5 years ago, we have only refueled three times in total and we've sailed around 3000 miles and visited fifteen different countries in that period of time. 

It's all about choices and different mindsets. If you are in a hurry and feel anxious when you do not make a steady progress, you might want to have a reliable engine and large fuel capacity, if living in the moment and sailing as sailing originally was done, then the engine shouldn't be your greatest priority. 

If we use last weeks passage as an example, imagine if we were able to motor all the way through the calm waters, there would have been many beautiful moments missed. We would have probably never stopped to dive into the cobalt blue water. We would have never get the necessary and important training using all those sails. We would have had to smell the odor and listen to the awful sound of the engine for four long days rather than two and a half. And the peace and quietness of a dead calm sea is something very spectacular in itself that I think many people miss out on as they do not take the time or opportunity to embrace it fully as the engine is always being used when becalmed. We also have no autopilot on this boat at this moment, only a wind pilot so using the engine means disconnecting the wind vane and getting down with hand steering which isn't a fun thing to do more than a day at a time. And even less so when the engine is running. 

When crossing the Pacific ocean next year or whenever that will happen, we have calculated that besides the 37 gallon tank that we have onboard, we will carry an additional 40 gallons in jugs as a reserve to be able to motor through most of the doldrum. And if that isn't enough, well, it's still a sailboat with some real good sails so one day we will eventually be getting wind in those clothes again.