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First time sailing?

Sailing for the first time?

The most important questions, tips and tricks!

The first time on a sailing yacht at sea and spending a few days on the boat is one thing above all: unfamiliar! - And maybe a little scary too. Most rookies definitely have respect and a lot of questions. I have put together a few things that should support making your first steps from the safe mainland, via the narrow gangway, on board a sailboat.

Will you enjoy sailing and living on board?

To be able to estimate this a bit, I have put together a few questions:

  • Have you ever slept in a tent?
  • Do you feel comfortable on a camping site?
  • Do you like it when the wind blows?

"No" three times? - Then talk to your skipper again!

More food for thought:

  • How do you deal with changing weather conditions?
  • How much is it a challenge for you to accept things that you cannot change at that very moment?

What is behind these last two questions is, of course, how much weather affects you in your well-being and your drive going outdoors. You know best what type of person you are: do you prefer to stay at home when the weather changes, or do you proceed with your plan to go outside and take good care of your clothes / equipment? The same is true on a boat, were you will find quite sime external conditions that you cannot change: can you find a way to solve the problem in your head / or with yourself?

To go sailing means getting settled in the smallest space and to get by with very little privacy, marinas and anchorages generally offer very simple and mainly functional infrastructure. The main drive of a sailboat is wind, if you don't like air movements, you won't be happy on a sailboat. And finally the thing in your head: you can of course plan, you can prepare, you can practice, but when sailing it is like in life as usual: reality happens while you make other plans.

A few truths:

"Where there is a lot of light, there is also a lot of shadow," you could say. I don't know if this is perfectly true for sailing, but of course you have to be willing to accept certain things for all the adventure, the beauty, the fascination, the great experience and the ability for curious exploration:

  • Resources are scarce, especially water and electricity can be used consciously and sparingly
  • If it is sunny and warm, it is hot in the boat; if it is wet and cold outside, it is also reflected in the interior
  • One swims in the water, water is a moving medium, so boat movements are always part of it
  • Space is tight, everything has to have its place, otherwise a boat will go down in chaos
  • Safety is the top priority, but you have to be prepared to do without certain things
  • And, sorry guys, the skipper is the boss - a boat is not a democracy

But there is also an incredible amount of enrichment to be learned. But you also have to look and give nature time. Sailing is not comparable to a visit to the cinema where everything is preprogrammed and optimized, nature is not a zoo and a 49 foot boat is not a mega yacht in Monte Carlo with staff and water toys on board. Everything is half as bad, but I find expectations management and clear communication an important building block for a successful first step on board.

A few impressions are linked below: Video boat tour, departure maneuver and a 14-day sailing trip




The most common two first questions:

1. Can the boat fall over?

In a nutshell: usually not. Each keel boat is equipped with a ballast on the bottom of the boat. Designers invest a lot of time and energy in calculating the forces generated by wind and waves, and the righting moment is part of this design. In total, the cast iron keel of the Five Senses weighs 3.6 tons. The inclination (= heeling) of the boat in the wind is factored in, improves the sailing characteristics and is not dangerous at all. Everything is designed to deal with the heel. For example, the steps of the companionway are bent precisely because of this and the helmsman is not standing on a level floor in the cockpit. There are grab handles everywhere and using them is highly recommended. In extreme situations, everything can of course "tip over", but this requires hurricane-strong wind and waves that do not occur in the Mediterranean. So: we will not capsize!

2. Do I get seasick?

Probably yes. Of course, a lot depends on the prevailing conditions: wind direction, wind strength, waves, etc.

But here too a lot is depending on your mental strength and there are a few tips to protect yourself from seasickness:

  • Have a good breakfast before starting the trip and always make sure that you do not get hungry
  • Avoid foods that strain the stomach (coffee, alcohol, orange juice, ...)
  • Stay up on deck, avoid staying below deck if safey and possible
  • Looking at the horizon, reading / playing on your mobile phone is only recommended for advanced sailors
  • Take the helm, look for other jobs
  • Vitamin C chewing gum
  • Dimenhydrinat chewing gum
  • Dimenhydrinat coated tablets

Stay positive! It is what it is - you need to deal with it. Seasickness is inherently harmless 😉

Packing considerations:

  • Space is scarce.
  • Basically: 1 sports bag per person
  • No suitcases please, foldable bags are ideal
  • Plan hygiene articles, medication etc. just like on a camping holiday
  • There are cushions, blankets, sailing gloves and personal equipment in the form of life jackets and seat belts for everyone on board
  • Wearing shoes on board is ideal as long as the sole doesn't ruin the deck and you have a good grip on it
  • We are delivered almost without protection to the elements, so pay attention to sun protection, rain protection and cold protection
  • Take time to have time for games, water sports, reading material, music, shore leave; plan any equipment
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Venice and its sourounding islands


Port calls: Aprilia Maritiima- Venice - Aprilia Marittima

Days cruised: 3

Difficulty of sailing route: suitable for beginners

Timeplan: relaxed

Self-sufficiency needs: daysail



There are around 45 nautical miles to sail from Aprilia Marittima to Venice - an ideal daily route when the wind is good. The trip leads past Caorle, Bibione and several fish and mussel farms, which are characterized by numerous tons and buoys. Except for a few recreational athletes like us and maybe a few fishermen, there are few other ships at this time of year. Major shipping in particular has no destinations here and is therefore hard to find as close to the mainland. Everything is different right in front of Venice, apart from cruise ships, there are also tankers and freighters to be seen here.
For this year's Easter trip, we planned to test and calibrate the newly installed instruments including the autopilot together with a REBO technician. Only then did we set off in the sunshine, but unfortunately no wind to the south. So we motorized the entire route, which gave at least a constant speed of 6.5 knots. We used the time to test our new cockpit pillows, to cook, to take photos and I practiced using the radar.

Shortly before we arrived in Venice, I called Marina Sant'Elena to inquire about a berth. Fortunately there was a space available and we were asked to report via VHF channel 77 shortly before arrival. So it passed the mighty Moses Project and Forte Sant'Andrea, a 16th century fortress.

After it was quite late in the afternoon, we moved the route over the Canale Guidecca and past St. Mark's Square to the day of departure and moored in the marina. Here, as is customary in the Adriatic, Roman Catholic (with the stern to the jetty) is moored. The marina is equipped with floating docks and large dolphins. Nothing witchcraft. The actual shower cubicles and toilets are still not finished. There is a provisional in containers and that is bad rather than in good shape.

The next morning we took the vaporetto to the island of Burano, one of the neighboring islands of Venice. This place is known and famous for its colorful houses. We got off a station in front of the ferry terminal and discovered a small hotel restaurant with a wonderful garden, right next to the jetty. Herbs smell here and wine thrives in incredible silence and tranquility.

As soon as you pass the ferry terminal, you dive into a lively pedestrian zone. The splendor of colors is really indescribable and despite the fact that we strolled through the alleys and streets here alone, this was as varied as it was nice.

The next stop on our island hopping tour was Torcello. If you are looking for magnificent palazzi, villas or Burano's colors, you are completely at the wrong steamer. Historians assume that Venice began to settle here around 452, but today nothing is left of the glory of the old days. Probably, within the framework of the "move" to Venice, everything that was somehow possible was really recycled. After stones and even timber in the Laguno were rare and therefore precious, everything was taken away and used for the construction of Venice - so the historical theory. There is no evidence of this, however. Today there is still a tower and a cathedral to visit.

Two of the few remaining houses dominate excellent restaurants, and with another Heuriger-like eatery and evening bar, almost all of the island's buildings are listed. We enjoyed nature, tranquility and the excellent cuisine.

At the end of our day trip Murano was still on the program. If you want to watch the glassblowers at the large ovens, you are too late with the procedure described here. Then you should visit Murano in the morning. We, on the other hand, enjoyed an afternoon coffee in one of the numerous ice cream parlors and strolled through Murano's alleys and tasted in front of the glass artists' shop windows.

Back in the marina, a small kiosk had started operating. In addition to Aperol, there were the usual Italian drinks and warm snacks. Perfect to end the day!

We didn't want to leave without visiting the center of Venice. Despite the expected mass rush of visitors, we dared to walk towards St. Mark's Square. While there was actually a lot going on up to the Rialto Bridge and there was hardly any room to breathe, things got quieter after the train station. To relax, we booked a gondola ride through the artist district "Accademia" and enjoyed the peace and quiet of the long belt.


Since we only know a few good restaurants in Venice that also offer quality at reasonable prices, we have remained true to the "Osteria Al Ponte". There are local specialties with friendly and brisk service, and not cheap, but not outrageously expensive either.

Our tour of Venice then ended in the marina. At dusk was the best time to try the lensball and check the weather for the next day. We reached the entrance to the Laguna of Lignano at dusk and the children used the great play of colors to take pictures on deck.

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Decalcifying the water system with citric acid

Five Senses was built in 2004 and we sailed her since 2016. Since then, we uprgraded our water pump to a higher flow device, we installed an additional water outlet at the front of the deck, a land-water connection has been build at the stern and of course we try to keep the tanks and the entire water system clean through annual cleaning and ongoing maintainance.

Part of these efforts is regular descaling and desinfection. There are numerous industrial products available for such purposes. For 3 tanks of 240 litres, the cost for all of this can be considerable. And with some of the available products success has been modest and not worth the spend. So I thought I would share this year's experience of a new approach to decalcify our water system with lime acid.

I had read about the usage of lime acid for such a purpose, so I gave it a try this spring. Some words about price difference: Industrial descalist for tanks are about 15 euros per 100 litres of tank volume (0.5 kg of granules); Lemon citric comes at approx 6 Euros per 1 kg. Vinegar acid should not be used because it attacks too much the various rubber seals. That's why I got 2 kg of food quality citric acid per tank this year. Saving me about 50% of what I have spent so far for descaling.

Filling in is quite hassle-free. However, the crystallized acid must be flooded into the tanks under constant water flow, otherwise thick lumps can quickly build clots. After filling all the water containers, I let the "broth" act 24 hours before I started disposing of the tank contents again. I was pretty suprised about the result at the end:  Especially after a short cruise with some swell it seems not only the the lime had been solved, but also vigorously shaken so that a milky soup came from all the taps. Per tank I had to clean the filters at least 4-5 times and also the finer filter directly on the pump had to be flushed several times.

I ensured that all containers, screens and pipes were also thoroughly rinsed with clear water. I had never achieved such a result before. I had no idea how much lime we had carried around with our ship. Whether these deposits came mainly from the tanks, or whether the hot water boiler in particular has given up its contents, I cannot say, of course. But in the fall, I repeat the procedure for sure. Can you share your experiences here? I would be very interested in reactions and experiences. Thank you!

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The end of the PDLC project

This is how the PDLC film looks after a few winter months. I had installed it back in December. The film is totally stiff, it does not adhere to the plexi-glass bottom any more. Not sure if the extreme of temperatures destroyed is, or, if the UV-rays damaged the various layers of film. In any case, the PDLC film is in such a bad condition that there is no hope of refurbishing it in any way. Therefore, I consider this as a total loss. Let me know if anyone of you were more sucessful.

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Comparison of various energy sources

On Five Senses, the main source of energy so far has been the shore power connection. While cruising, I had relied on the alternator of the ship's diesel as an additioal source. What a mistake! Equipped with lead acid batteries (4 x 100 Ah), the alternator only fed in electricity for a few hours a day. However, lead acid batteries require long charging times to really reach their full capacity. Also, the manufacturer's specifications of older alternators are not really correct in terms of their output. Low RPM of the engine, unfavourable temperatures during summer time and contribut to a lot of power loss. Jason Wynn measured his charge current and posted a video. At idle he achieved 25A, at 2000 RPMs it was a maximum of 28A. I'm afraid our setup will hardly deliver better values. This means that neither the charging current nor the charging time on board the Five Senses have been sufficient to provide us with sustainable energy. Season 2019 will be different!

Alternator: New generations of alternators achieve higher charging currents even at lower speeds/RPMs. You can also mount a second device on the ship's diesel. If you have electricity storage that can be charged quickly, 1-2 engine hours a day are sometimes enough to replenish your energy reserves. I definitely don't want to install a generator with another fuel engine, because that would entail maintenance costs, etc. and also means weight and noise on board. The idea of ​​sustainability and environmental protection naturally also come into play. Even if an additional alternator costs a little engine power for me a clear go.

Hydrogenerator: This technology has developed rapidly in recent years. If cruising at sufficient speed, a propeller-driven generator rotates and thus supplies energy. The additional water resistance is negligible. For our main cruising area, the upper Adriatic, I don't think such a solution is ideal, since in summer we usually sail under light wind conditions. Together with the start-up costs, this is not a perfect solution for me, even if the technology overall makes a lot of sense to me. The crew of "Sailing 7 Seas" had a completely different idea. The ship's diesel was exchanged for an electric motor, which now also recuperates electricity while sailing. Cool idea!

Wind generator: Again, new developments have brought good improvements. Annoying wind noise and vibrations are becoming a matter of the past. The advantage of a wind generator is undoubtedly that it also works at night as long as there is enough wind. The charging currents at 3-5 beaufort are considerable and such a solution is certainly one of the choices for longer passages. The cost / income ratio for wind generators is cost! Maybe later for the Atlantic crossing 😉

Solar power: Solar cells have seen several steps-up in technology in recent years. In addition to fixed / rigid installations, there are now also flexible panels. Although they seem to have a shorter lifespan, there is progress here too. An Italian manufacturer produces their panels without the vulnerable soldering points and has redundant wiring, which means that the flexible solar panels remain functional for a much longer time. In addition, such a panel only has a maximum of 2.5 kg. A second problem was shadowing. If even small areas or single cells were covered, the charging performance dropped rapidly. A horror on a sailboat with large "shaded areas". New, intelligent charge controllers can now master this challenge much better. And we have enough space on deck, so again: "green light!"

Fuel cell: For some years now, fuel cells run with alcohol have been able to produce energy. The charging capacity can be almost completely automated via programmable relays. As long as you have enough alcohol (usable for this device!) on board, you won't run out of electricity. This still very young technology is relatively expensive compared to other energy sources on board and I don't imagine constantly lugging around the canisters. So I'm waiting here for a few more years for further developments.

In addition to new energy storage, I will plan for solar fields and an additional alternator this year. I discussed the connection diagram in a Facebook group (Solar on a boat!) And received a lot of interesting feedback. So now it's time for detailed planning!


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