We are very happy we bought an HR 42. She is a lovely boat. Her upwind performance is very good, and downwind the steering remains light, even in heavy seas. It is reassuring to know that she is such a strong boat as well as a good investment. In terms of the specification we might have done a few things differently.
I have never been happy with the furling mainsail. When the sail is furled it gets fuller. When you reef a sail in strong winds, you want the exact opposite. The sail should get flatter. Besides there are creases running from the clew at a 45 degree angle upwards. My preference is now a fully battened mainsail with lazy jacks.
Having said this, Alegría's performance upwind is still pretty good. We often sail to windward where others prefer to motor. Tania is very happy that reefing the main is so quick and easy.
Many Hallberg Rassy's are sold with a bow thruster. We did not order one. When we first left Sweden we thought this might have been a mistake. We were not yet used the the handling of the boat, and had to maneuver in those tiny European marina's, often with a crosswind.
In the Caribbean it happens perhaps once or twice a year that a bow thruster might have been helpful. And even then, there is always another way of doing it, perhaps by using an extra line. A bow thruster would be one more thing to maintain. For a start, you would have to clean the barnacles off the blades on a regular basis.
It is often said that a steering vane is an absolute necessity on an offshore cruising boat. We don't have one. Looking around in the Caribbean, less than one quarter of all cruisers have one. Our autopilot is a Raytheon ST 7000+. Once we had a problem with it, shortly after delivery. It was dealt with promptly by the dealers in Holland and Belgium, all under warrantee. It turned out to be a manufacturing error. Thereafter it has been working flawlessly, even running downwind in 30-35 knots of wind.
The electric power consumption of the autopilot depends very much on the conditions. All I can say is that it is not as bad as many people think. On long passages we use the towing generator to offset the extra consumption from the autopilot, the navigation instruments and the navigation lights at night.
When using a steering vane you need to trim the sails such that the boat is well balanced and easy to steer. If you do the same with an autopilot, you reduce electrical power consumption, reduce wear and tear on the actuator, and avoid possible overheating of the electric motor. It is also important to keep the batteries topped up. Low battery voltage is a sure way to overheat electric motors.
I regret not having installed the solar panels any earlier. I think it is by far the best way to make electrical power on board, unless you want air conditioning, in which case you need a diesel generator.
We have come across a new type of generator called the WhisperGen. It is based on an extremely quiet Sterling motor and is marketed by a Dutch company named Victron Energy. Before installing a conventional diesel generator I would certainly consider a WhisperGen.
Before we left Sweden, we asked Vicky Vance to prepare a list of recommended spares for a long distance cruise. Together we went through the list. We added some items to the list, and deleted some. She supplied everything before we left. This has been very useful. Now that we are under way, she provides an excellent mail order service, so we can keep our stock of spare parts up-to-date and deal with any breakdowns.
We are insured with Pantaenius through their UK office. In addition to the information requested on the application form, I volunteered information about the safety equipment on board and the way we prepared ourselves for this trip (including the training courses on board Mahina Tiare, and the medical training course in the Harbour hospital in Rotterdam, the Netherlands). We were pleasantly surprised to find that Pantaenius offered us two years of no-claims bonus, even though we had never owned a yacht before.
We have an Achilles inflatable dinghy with a high pressure inflatable floor and a 8 HP Yamaha outboard. The dinghy is constructed of Hypalon fabric (including the floor), so unlike PVC it is resistant to petrol and UV light. On long trips where we might encounter heavy weather we deflate the dinghy and store it in the cockpit locker. You couldn't do this with a hard bottom dinghy.
On shorter trips we secure the dinghy on the foredeck. Our dinghy is 3.4 meters in length. With hindsight we should have gone for the 3.1 meter model. That way it would fit aft of the anchor windlass. Now we have to secure it over the top of the anchor windlass, and the front of the dinghy rests on the anchor chain. Before dropping the anchor we hoist the front of the dinghy a few inches on the spinnaker halyard to prevent chafe.
We ordered a bimini (sun shade) as an optional extra from Hallberg Rassy. In the Caribbean a bimini is an absolute necessity. The first time we used the bimini was in the south of England. This is when we discovered that the frame of the bimini gets in the way of the winch handle for the genoa sheet winches. You simply could not sail with the bimini up.
In Trinidad I modified the bimini. Now the frame no longer gets in the way of the winch handle, the aft strap no longer gets in the way of the main sheet, and the whole thing is much sturdier than it was before. At the same time we added a removable 'curtain' to the aft end of the bimini to provide shade in the late afternoon sun. We discovered that it also works as a giant wind scoop that makes the cockpit nice and cool in light wind anchorages.
We found that food at the bottom of the freezer did not freeze. To solve this problem, I installed grating along the walls and the bottom of the freezer. That way food doesn't touch the bottom or the walls of the freezer. Air can circulate freely from the evaporator unit along the walls and bottom back to the evaporator. Now the temperature inside the freezer is more evenly distributed and the power consumption of the freezer has reduced.
Initially e-mail communication on board was via our Inmarsat-C terminal. This is a very expensive means of sending e-mails. It costs about 0.5 cent of a dollar per character. If it could wait at all, we went to an internet cafe. Now we installed a Pactor modem and are using Sailmail. The annual subscription is US$ 200 per year, and otherwise usage is free (within limits). The communication is via short wave radio to various radio stations linked to the internet. It has proven to be very reliable.
In the past two years we have anchored hundreds of times. Our anchor, a SPADE, is probably the best available and we chose one size bigger than the one recommended for our boat. In all but a handful of cases the anchor set first time and held against the pull of the engine in reverse at 2500 rpm. Nevertheless one can never be too careful. We have been close to disaster twice (see Key West and Luperón). If we have any doubt at all, I go snorkeling to see if the anchor is dug in properly (provided this is possible given the visibility and depth of water). Also, we often set the anchor alarm on the GPS which will wake us up if the boat moves.