Frequently Asked Questions

This is a list of answers to questions that people normally ask us. Some are related to sailing catamarans, some are related to having four people on board and others are just plain curiosity tidbits. Please note that we are by no means experts in the subject.

Basic Categories

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Provisioning

Q: How much water do you carry?
Jo: We carry 110 gallons in our primary tanks, 36 gallons in jerry jugs and maybe another 10 gallons in 2 liter soda bottles that we use for showering and dishes. In addition we have two handheld reverse osmosis water makers. On a passage we having been using less then 1 gallon per person per day without much effort. We bathe and wash dishes using salt water. For the final rinse we use fresh water.

Q: How much fuel do you carry?
Jo: We carry 36 gallons of diesel in our fuel tank and 36 more in jerry jugs. Our engines use about a quart an hour combined. When motoring in calm water we will run the engines at 1800rpm giving us a speed of about 4.5 knots. We also use the engines about an hour a day for battery charging purposes.

Q: How do you pick what groceries to buy?
Jo: We call ourselves opportunistic eaters. What we mean by that is that we will have all the basic cooking supplies on board, but we expect to supplement our diet with local foods. We do not plan our meals in advance. We normally just get close to dinner time and see what is available.

Q: What did your grocery list look like in Panama?
Jo: That is a loaded question. It took us three large trips and $2000 to load up the boat with groceries. A partial grocery list.

rice 20 lbs margarine 3 16oz
beans 10 lbs pasta 30lbs
canned corn 48 cans lemon juice 8x48oz
canned ham 8 cans spices assorted
peanut butter 14x40oz hot sauce 1.25 gal
quick oats 4 lbs parmesan cheese gr. 3 cans
maple syrup 3x64oz crackers 10 boxes
tuna 48 cans sugar 10 lbs
olive oil 1 gal flour 15 lbs
vegetable oil 2 gal mayonaise 1 gal
inst. mashed potatoes 10 lbs bisquick 10 lbs
spaghetti sauce 20 jars assorted ketchup 2x64oz
canned tomatoes 40 cans tomatoe paste 20 cans
ramen noodles 48 bags kool aid 50 packets
toilet paper 100 rolls paper towels 50 rolls
chick peas 12 cans laundry detergent 1.5 gal
joy-dish wash det .5gal white vinegar 2 gal
mustard 4x24oz cookies 10 bags
eggs 6 dozen pancake mix 4 lbs

We also bought a large quantity of items in small quantities. Things like olives, chocolates, sardines, basically anything we thought might spice up a dinner on occasion.

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Selecting the route

Q: How do you pick where to go?
Jo: Our route planning follows a few basic guidelines. Our overall plan started with Jimmy Cornels book World Cruising Routes. Then we refine our plan by selecting places we would like to see. We keep refining the plan by finding charts and asking other cruisers. Finally as we approach the destination we can get much better information. Things like ease of entrance (paper work) , interesting anchorages and political stability will sway our choices one way or another.

Q: Charts?
Jo: We carry a number of paper charts (about 350) and electronic charts. What we found to be the most useful combination is a selection of medium to large scale charts and good cruising guides for the area if available. The cruising guides giving much better information on anchorages than the small scale charts.

Q: Local Information?
Jo: As you approach a destination you will find that the cruisers network is very useful. In any given area you can get information about neighboring countries and anchorages. Take it with a grain of salt and life is good! The information can come from a conversation in the local bar, or over the radio in a designated VHF or SSB net. Invaluable is if you can hook up with a local fisherman to find out details of specific areas. We had the fishermen in Buccoo Bay lead us through the reef passage.

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Engine Spare Parts

Q: What do you carry for engine spare parts?
Jo: We have a fairly good stock of replacement parts. We wish we had more! As a general rule have twice as many fuel and oil filters as you possibly think you would need. In addition the advise we got was to carry the appropriate replacement for the fuel pipes since those are prone to crack with vibration after time. We have a word document that we used to buy parts.

Q: What kinds of things have you had to fix on the engine?
Jo: We replaced the fuel hoses (they where dried and cracked). We had to replace fuel filters. Dave has repaired a leaky water pump. Multiple oil changes. Some electrical wiring problems. Fixed the starter solenoid.

Q: Where did you learn how to fix engines?
Jo: We learned it the hard way. By working on these engines. Invaluable are the parts manual for the engine with blowup assembly pictures and the book Marine Diesel Engines.

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Tools

Q: What does your toolbox look like?
Jo: We have all kinds of tools but I'll try to list them in order of use:

    1. Assorted screwdriver set
    2. Metric and standard wrenches
    3. Socket set
    4. Set of pliers (side cutters, electricians, needle nose, very small needle nose)
    5. Vise Grips
    6. A mounted vise. We have ours mounted in a piece of plywood so that we can move it around
    7. Hack saw
    8. Cordless Drill. We have a DeWalt 12.4 Volt unit with the fast charger. We use the inverter to charge the batteries. Drill bits, hole cutters, grinding stone.
    9. Allen Wrenches - metric and imperial
    10. Files - metal and wood files
    11. Hammer
    12. Chisels and a sharpening stone
    13. Electrical wiring kit with spare connectors
    14. Small electric soldering gun, solder, flux and small wire brush or fine sand paper
    15. Large size electric cable crimper
    16. Assorted sand paper
    17. Assorted paint brushes (disposable)
    18. Utility knife w/ spare blades
    19. Tape measure
    20. Square
    21. Electric palm sander - Seems every job requires sanding.

That takes care of 95% of our repairs. I should say that we don't have much wood work to do in our boat so adjust your tools accordingly. In addition we have some tools that come in handy but probably not required.

  1. Gear pullers - They come in handy when pulling things apart like the steering wheel
  2. Fiberglass rollers - Nice to have if you are doing any kind of glass work
  3. Propane torch - Seizing line ends, freeing up rusted parts
  4. Punch set - A set punch and others seem to come in handy
  5. Tap and Die set
  6. Scroll Saw when you get tired of using the hacksaw.
  7. Pipe cutters for cutting stainless pipes. - Much cleaner and easier then a hack saw

Finally we carry the following supplies

    1. Epoxy and Slow Hardener - West system 1 gallon. Various mixing powders
    2. Assorted fiberglass scraps
    3. Blue masking tape by 3M
    4. Duct tape
    5. Assorted pieces of plastic hosing
    6. Wire ties
    7. Hose clamps
    8. Large assortment of screws, nuts, washers and bolts. With the machine screws you are better off getting a box of a larger size. You can always cut them down if you need to.
    9. Marine plywood scraps
    10. Electrical tape
    11. Pieces of aluminum sheet thickness of 1/4 for backing plates and thinner for other jobs
    12. Deck paint
    13. Varnish
    14. Caulk tubes Marine Silicon and 4200 assorted silicon tubes
    15. Contact cement for vinyl repairs, dinghy repairs
    16. Super glue
    17. Stainless wire. It seems that we are always looking for a piece of wire.
    18. WD 40
    19. Lithium grease for most greasing jobs

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Heavy Weather

Q: Have you guys ever encountered heavy weather?
Jo: We have been in some heavy gales with winds up to 45 knots. The boat behaved quite nicely with only the reefed main. We basically kept the boat pointed up wind slowly sailing to windward. We have also been in some rough seas coming down from Aruba to San Blas (Panama). 10 to 15 ft swells and 35 knots of wind. So nothing really rough so far, and we hope to keep it that way. Do note that the whole idea of the cruising plan is to avoid the major storm seasons.

Q: Do you have a plan for heavy weather?
Jo: Funny you ask. We had a plan made up for insurance purposes that you can read.

Q: What are you prepared to do in extreme situations?
Jo: We carry both a drogue and a sea anchor. The main objective in extreme situations is to prevent the boat from capsizing. For that purpose the sea anchor holds the nose of the boat into the wind, and the drogue can be carried astern to slow down the boat and prevent it from nose diving into the bottom of the waves ahead.

Q: What do you think the biggest danger in heavy weather is?
Jo: Tired crew is probably the biggest source of danger. Other than that my biggest fear with our catamaran is getting pooped. That mean a large wave coming from behind swamps the cockpit. Most catamaran cockpits are huge, and ours is not an exception. Getting pooped once is not a problem, but if you can't drain the water fast enough your chances of getting pooped by the next wave increase dramatically! Finally after being pooped multiple times the sliding door into the salon fails and water is free to flood the hulls. Bummer! How to avoid being pooped: Keep weight towards the center of the boat, not on the transom or bow; sail fast so that the boat has more time to rise on a wave coming from behind; finally, if it gets ugly, head up wind, maybe using the sea anchor to keep you pointed in the right direction.

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Paper Work

Q: How does it work when you sail from one country to the next?
Jo: The answer is: "It varies." We use Jimmy Cornells World Cruising Handbook, cruising guides and information from the cruisers net to try to identify the basic procedure. Usually this is how it all works.

  1. As you enter the waters of the new country you raise the courtesy flag followed by the 'Q' flag on your starboard spreader.
  2. Some countries expect you to make radio contact.
  3. You sail to one of the ports of entry.
  4. When you are finally anchored contact the port authorities. This can be over the radio, or might require a trip to shore.
  5. Once the port authorities are contacted they usually want to see the boat documentation, passports and an exit document from the previous country (Zarpe).
  6. Once cleared with the port captain the you will go through immigration with the passports, boat papers and port captains entry papers. They will stamp your passports
  7. Finally some countries may have a separate custom office separate from the port captain.
  8. On the way out the same thing applies. Check with immigration to clear out and with the port captain to get exit papers.

Q: How long does it take?
Jo: From a couple hours to a few days! We have had many request to come back the next day for some reason or another. Those countries are usually lax as far as being around without a visa.

Q: Does it cost anything?
Jo: We have payed from $0 to $140 depending on the country

Q: Who is responsible for the paper work?
Jo: We share the responsibilities of being "Captain". We rotate about every six months. Dave took the first round. Jo took the next and Stacy will probably do the work in the French Polynesia.

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Catamarans vs Tippy Boats

Q: What is your performance compared to a Monohull?
Jo: The best I can do to answer this question is to give you some numbers. With the boat loaded for the Pacific (i.e.: loaded to the rim and four sailors) these are some of the numbers I observed: We would always be sailing about one third our apparent wind speed from close hauled to broad reach. That equated to about half the actual wind speed. This seems to hold through until we reach 7 knots in about 15 knots of wind. Then it takes some more wind to go faster than that. Our top sustained speeds (30+minutes) are 9 knots on a reach in flat water, 20 knots of wind. 10 knots in 25 knots of wind and following seas.Top speed record, held by Guy, is 13.5 knots surfing a nice wave in 25 knots of wind. Our performance upwind is similar to other cruising boats the same size. Not great, but we are definitely not afraid of upwind passages.

Q: How does the sailing motion compare to a monohull?
Jo: It is a big misconception that catamarans sail flat. They sail flat only as long as the water is flat. The thing we noticed right away was the quickness of the motion. In confused seas it is quite hard to predict the motion of the boat. The rhythmic motion of sailing a monohull upwind is not quite present in a catamaran. The boat has an additional rotation movement when the boat is switching from riding one hull to the next on the crest of the wave. It took us a while, but now we are comfortable with it. We did notice though, especially sailing downwind the faster we went the more comfortable it gets!

Q: Is it easier to steer a catamaran?
Jo: Two things come in play when steering our boat. 1) Because the boat does not heal you do not have weather helm associated with the hull. That means the rudder is never heavy. 2) We have a very large main sail, and it will easily overwhelm the rudders if trimmed poorly. Typically we can't bear off after raising the main if the main is sheeted in. We have an Autohelm 3000 (the smallest one they make) and it seems to have no problems steering the boat if the sails are trimmed properly, even in heavier air.

Q: Why did you choose a catamaran?
Jo: Another loaded question, but here we go. We were two couples when this adventure first started, and we were looking for a boat with two double berths where no one would be inconvenienced by the head. There are a few monohulls under 40 ft that satisfy this requirement, but we found none inside our budget. Laurie at the time was having problems with seizures, so we wanted a boat that she would not end up overboard if she had a seizure. I (Jo) had sailed some cruising cats before in Key West and proposed the idea. We loved the idea right away, but found no seaworthy catamarans we could afford. They are usually overpriced for what you get. Finally we found Ladybug through the internet sitting in the BVI. Finally the idea of having a boat that does not sink sealed the deal.

Q: What do monohull sailors like about your boat?
Jo: The first comment is usually about the amount of space we have. The cockpit and salon areas of our boat are many times bigger then a comparable sized monohull. The amount of shade and the ventilation seems to be a bonus in the tropics. Many monohull require intricate canvas work to keep the boat cool enough to live in the tropics. The privacy for four people is also quite apparent.

Q: What do they not like about the Bug?
Jo: Catamarans have a bad reputation of being poor upwind sailors. We beg to differ. Catamarans have a lot of windage. Yep! But we are able to store everything inside, so we have no additional windage. Most monohulls our size end up with dodgers, wind vanes, bimini tops, bicycles, jerry jugs, spray cloths and all kinds of stuff that make us not look so bad. Catamarans can tip over. Monohulls can sink. Our engines are small (18hp) but we only weigh 5 tons compared to their 30.

Q: Have you heard any negative comments you did not have a smart reply to?
Jo: Yes, and here are some of them. There are no handholds inside the boat. In rough weather there is nothing to hold onto in the saloon.

Q: In the really nasty stuff where would you rather be?
Jo: From my limited historical knowledge a few well build monohulls still provide a safer heaven.

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