OVNI Yachts FAQ

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Jimmy Cornell completed a five-year circumnavigation on Aventura III, an Ovni 43 built by Alubat, in 2006. Since her launch in early 1998, Aventura III has covered over 70,000 miles. Late in 2009 Jimmy sold Aventura III. (Read about Jimmy Cornell’s new Aventura, a revolutionary long distance cruising yacht built by Garcia Yachting to Jimmy’s own specifications, here)

Questions about OVNI yachts sent to Jimmy Cornell have been dealt with over a number of years. As a result some of the answers listed on this page may be out of date or even irrelevant.

A useful link to anyone interested in OVNI yachts is www.ovniclub.com (in French)

On this page:


Questions about stability and heavy weather sailing


How stable is the boat bearing in mind that it has a centreboard?

The question of stability generally (not just for the OVNIs) is a tricky one, and I must admit that I am not an expert on the theoretical aspects of it. Looking at it purely subjectively – and having sailed some 30,000 miles on the OVNI43, including crossing Drake Passage twice (once in winds over 50 knots) as well as being battered in Le Maire Strait.

I can say the following: apart from the inherent stability factor itself, a lot depends on:
1. Sea and wind conditions
2. How the crew handles/steers the boat
3. Luck (good or bad!)

I believe that if you encounter the wrong conditions at the wrong place at the wrong time… you will probably capsize the QE2.!
My feeling is that with 3.5 tons of ballast, the 43 is quite a stable boat. So if the boat is sailed properly, reefed early, etc you have absolutely no reason to be concerned. As far as I know, of some 600 OVNIs built in the last dozen years (between 30 and 45 feet LOA) none has capsized or got into any serious trouble because of its design.

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What is the movement like? With no ballast in the keel, is it not somewhat rolly?

…The yard won’t let me look at their stability curves, which worries me (and I have heard that the 385 has an AVS of only 100 degrees!).

The OVNI is much more stable than you would expect, and it is not at all rolly. As to the yard not letting you see the stability curves… I would guess they didn’t do it, simply because they may not have that kind of detailed information! This business of stability in cruising yachts is, honestly, most of the time a red herring. None of the production cruising yachts that I know of have been properly tested in a tank, so that mythical “stability factor” depends primarily on calculations, which, at best, present only one side of the argument. As I stated above, the stability of a yacht depends as much on its inherent stability as on a host of external factors: wind, sea state, etc., etc. There are certain situations when even the most stable yacht will simply flip over… I took my own OVNI43 to the Antarctic, crossed the Drake Passage in 50 knots+, while last summer I sailed on an OVNI 39 to 80°N… and slept very well on both occasions!

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Have you got a device to tell where the centreboard is or do you guess from the number of strokes on the pump?

I rarely use the board in an intermediate position (it doesn’t seem to make much difference), so it is either fully down or up.

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What about the OVNI’s sea-keeping abilities, her comfort levels at sea and her ability to deal with an ugly sea?

…I don’t imagine she will be as forgiving and comfortable as our Nic32, but how much worse I wonder? If you had the freedom to choose another boat, would you still take your OVNI down South again? What were her shortfalls at sea? and what did she do better?

Yes, I did take my OVNI 43 to Antarctica and also sailed on a friend’s OVNI 39 to Spitsbergen. I have confidence in the OVNI design BUT when it comes to stability…. it is not just the stability of the boat that counts if it may come to extreme weather and the possibility of capsizing, but also the experience of the crew and skipper. So while I was quite happy to take my own OVNI into the Southern Ocean (and had an experienced crew) I would be reluctant to recommend to anyone to take a light displacement centreboarder into that area. The OVNI is OK for ANY job, but a lot depends on who is in charge!

I just completed a circumnavigation on my OVNI 43 and I can assure you that the boat is as comfortable as a heavier boat. Your concern, about how an OVNI handles in heavy weather is understandable. I have been in winds 60+ knots (briefly) and sustained 40 knot winds, without any problem, but I continued sailing – because this is what you do in a light or medium/light displacement boat. Also, I hove to in 35 knots and while she made more leeway than a keeled boat, she behaved reasonably well and was very stable.

If you only plan to go around Cape Horn, I feel a 385 would be fine…if you plan to sail all the way to New Zealand in the 40s and 50s, then I go back to the beginning of this message: it’s not up to the boat, it’s up to you! I know what I can do, and I would take my boat along that route.

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Lack of ultimate stability?

…People are concerned about lack of ultimate stability, which has to be the case with a light centreboard. The yard quoted me an AVS of 115deg for the Ovni 435 (probably bottom end of acceptability).
They don’t admit to having the curve, and referred me to the designer (I couldn’t be bothered, as I should not have chosen such a design if I wanted a 140+deg AVS). My main concern was a basically strong boat capable of withstanding being beaten up by three small boys, and possibly the odd floating nasty.

I am not prepared to go into long discussions about stability – I am not a naval architect and do not know enough about this subject to be able to make an informed comment. Generally OVNIs have a good record (I don’t know of any that have capsized), and as I said in reply to a similar question, I took my boat to the Antarctic and back and wasn’t too worried…so draw your own conclusions.

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Purely out of interest, do you carry either/both a drogue and parachute?
…Partly due to point 2, I thought I would get both a parachute and a proper series drogue for the boat this time – to give some choice in the matter. I have heard, but with no decent references, that lifting the keel when lying to a drogue would mitigate against being tripped during a broach in exceptional conditions. Any thoughts on this?

I really believe parachute anchors are useless and dangerous… a boat like the OVNI is made to sail, so I would not suggest to heave to to a sea anchor EVER! If you have the experience (and the guts!) you just carry on sailing, playing the swell and winds and hope for the best. Much safer than lying to a drogue.

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Questions About Heavy Weather Sailing

…Reading the OVNI FAQ Jimmy says that the best way to sail an Ovni in bad weather is keep her sailing and not use drogues and parachute anchors. We would like to have advice about the best way of keeping her sailing with a small crew in 40/50 knots and more.
Is he steering the boat himself at that moment? Which course to the wind and waves is the best to steer when you have space enough? Do you still lift the centreboard when you are downwind reaching in bad weather? Do you always try to avoid sailing in bad weather? How much is using as less sail as possible? Is there something published in a book or article about sailing this kind of modern boats so we can read about it?

First of all I need to make two important points:
1. I speak entirely from personal experience, and am not prepared to make general statements on this, or any, subject;
2. The most important aspect in anything to do with sailing is the personal experience of the skipper and his crew. Nothing can beat that!

I will now deal with your points in order:
1. Drogues or parachute anchors: I have no personal experience of either, have considered both, and decided that a medium light displacement boat as an OVNI could be handled, in heavy weather, without such aids. The maximum wind I have experienced on my current OVNI 43 was 60 knots, but that was in gusts. The highest sustained winds I have had to deal with were 50 knots, with corresponding seas. This was in Le Maire Strait (off Argentina) and the seas were quite confused and high. We continued to sail the boat, as far reefed down as possible, and survived with only some minor damage.
2. Sailing an OVNI in 40-50 knots. I have been in 40+ knots on several occasions, and – fortunately on most occasions – the wind was from such a direction that I could continue to sail more or less in the direction I wanted to go. Usually I would have 3 reefs in the mainsail (I have a 4th reef as well, but have used it only once), and the staysail rolled up to about half its normal size. Broadreaching at about 150 degrees is the best for the boat and steering. Under such conditions I normally let the autopilot do the work: I have a powerful Brookes & Gatehouse hydraulic pilot. Occasionally I take over by hand, but it is hard work… and I am not doing such a good job as the pilot! The pilot is an ATP2 hydraulic system – identical to the one used by Ellen McArthur on her recent circumnavigation… so you can see why it works so well on a 43 foot cruising yacht!

Returning from Antarctica to Chile in 1999, we had to heave to in about 45 knots as the winds were from NW and we expected higher seas once we reached the continental shelf. With 4 reefs in the main, and a well reefed staysail, the boat hove-to well, and was quite comfortable. We spent the night like this, and by morning the wind had gone into the north and we could lay our course.
1. If you have enough sea room, the best way, I believe, is to try and broadreach (around 150 degrees). If you have no sea room, then heaving to is probably the answer.
2. To avoid bad weather, I do try and sail – whenever possible – in the safe seasons in the tropics, so as to avoid, as much as possible, being caught by a tropical storm. Avoiding bad weather at other times (on long passages) is virtually impossible, so one has to be prepared for it.
3. Books: I think Adlard Coles “Heavy Weather Sailing” (in its latest edition) is the best on the subject.

Going now back to the two points I made at the beginning, I want to encourage you to get yourselves (and the boat) as well prepared as possible… and go sailing. It is certainly not as dangerous out there as you think, especially if you are reasonably cautious… and the experience that I also mentioned will come with time!

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What would happen if the boat capsizes?

It never happened yet, but if an Ovni capsizes, what happens to the keel, is it fixed or does it fall down, risking damage to the boat and preventing the boat to redress itself?

If an OVNI inverts, I am sure it will come back again although you may lose the mast. My OVNI 43 has 3.5 tones of lead ballast to a displacement of 8.5 tons, so it is quite stable. The centreboard, if in the fixed position, will not move. If the hydraulic lock is open, the centreboard will simply fall into its case – and not cause any damage. The board weighs about 100 kg, so it is too light to prevent the boat from righting itself.

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Questions about sails and rigging


You took a fully battened main and a roller staysail, were you happy with this rig?

I am very happy with the fully battened mainsail, as it is very efficient – and you need to sail this kind of boat efficiently to windward.
The sail is fitted with lazy jacks and a lazy bag. It is a perfect combination.

I’d like to add that if you go for a fully battened mainsail, make sure you get the best quality roller bearing travellers (Harken works very well on mine)

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What type of foresails do you have?

On Aventura III, I have both a furling staysail and a furling yankee (not a genoa – as I took the boat into strong wind areas, so I considered a genoa to be too much). This system works very well.

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The yard provides ’53′ and ’44′ winches: are these adequate in your view?

The winches installed as standard are adequate but I also have an electric winch (also Harken) which deals with all heavy work – and all my halyards, etc come to the cockpit. The electric winch is on the port side by the companionway.

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Is there a problem in tuning the rig with the double afterstays? Do you have any device to tighten them?

I can tighten both backstays (I have a tightener on each backstay as used on some racing boats) and it works very well.

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Could you give us some advice on the Parasailor?

…I have read with great interest your accounts about your experience with the Parasailor… I am about to cross the Atlantic with the ARC from east to west and am seriously considering buying this sail. We are a not-so-experienced crew and I would like to make our downwind sailing as comfy and safe as possible. The sail is very expensive, so I’m hesitating… any advice for 3 women eager to sail with ease??

The Parasailor spinnaker is a great sail, I have no doubts about that… but it is more expensive than a normal spinnaker as it is a high-tech sail. It will definitely make sailing downwind easier, so if you can afford it, I certainly advise you to get it… but hurry up or you may not get it in time for this year’s ARC. I used a Parasailor for about 8,000 miles in the last 18 months and it worked perfectly!

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What’s your opinion on the reefing arrangement best suited to Aventura III?

…I would appreciate your opinion on the reefing arrangement best suited to Aventura III. The standard Alubat reefing set-up is to provide single line reefing back to the cockpit, I very much wish to have the reefing lines led back to the cockpit. We have been contemplating having separate lines for the leach and luff reefpoints on the first two reefs, all four lines led to clutches on the stbd side cockpit cabin top. I am hoping that this will ensure that we would end up with less friction, lower loads, more control and perhaps better sail shape. We have already picked up on the need for a fully battened main and are having Harken’s Batt Car & track to ensure friction is kept to a minimum.

Single-line reefing has great advantages – and works well provided you use good quality lines and blocks. On my boat I have the 1st reef set up at the foot of the mast. The 4th is only set up in emergencies.

The most important reefs are 2nd and 3rd as it is very convenient to be able to deal with them from the comfort of the dry cockpit, when the wind comes up! My single lines run through blocks on the luff and leach of the sail, through the boom., and back to an electric winch in the cockpit. There is naturally some friction but this is not too bad if you use large blocks, and ideally bring the mainsail as close as feasible to the centreline of the boat. I managed to take in a reef often when running, but it has to be done very gradually, by easing the main halyard bit by bit. Needless to say both the main halyard and reefing lines are next to each other right by the electric winch, which makes it very easy for one person to reef in normally less than one minute.

Using two lines would not work so well from the cockpit, in which case you might as well use the classic system and do the work from the foot of the mast.

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Questions about engine, propeller & equipment


Did you take the bigger engine option (60hp)?

No, and the 50 hp is ok. There were a few early problems such as the salt water pump had to be replaced twice, but it all works fine now. The engine uses too much oil for my taste, but I’ve been assured that this is a general problem with this model and there is no reason to be concerned,

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Engine Volvo or Yanmar?

I had a lot of problems with the Volvo so I hope the Yanmar is better!

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I have just ordered a 435 for a long trip, and I was wondering if I could clarify a few points
… The boat comes with Volvo MD22 as standard. You said this had problems, and you would use a Yanmar in future. The MD22 is fairly commonplace, although the Yanmar has a better reputation. Is this a problem with installation, or just a poorer engine design in your experience? Maybe I should switch if possible.

I cannot comment on Volvo’s quality (MD22) – I did have a lot of problems with the sea water pump, but what annoyed me most was the bad after-sales service, even while the engine was still under guarantee. I just hope Yanmar are better in this respect. My Volvo is running well, so no complaints on that score.

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High output alternators?
…In my discussions with Mr. Bernard Roucher at Alubat in Les Sables d’Olonne, I could not obtain clear advice on options for achieving the charging capacity required for a bank of 6-95 amp-hr batteries. For Euro 1385, he indicated that the Volvo distributor puts a 60 amp high output alternator in place and clearly this is costly and insufficient. You have stated that Aventura III is equipped with two 70 amp high output alternators: did you have this work completed by Alubat? I feel as though I need to have the charging capacity I need at launch since my plan is to sail the boat home, not ship it.

The first alternator on my OVNI43 was installed by Alubat. It is not really a high-output alternator, just a standard alternator. The cost quoted by Alubat is about the same as the price I paid in 1998. The second alternator is fitted with a Greiff smart regulator. This work was done in London by a German electrical engineer and inventor (Wilhelm Greiff) after the boat was delivered. Depending on your electricity consumption, you may find the two alternators sufficient. I also have 3 solar panels, as well as a Rutland windgenerator.

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Did you fit an Autoprop?

No, a Maxprop, and it works very well.

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Did you get a good enough radar picture with the scanner on the aft porch/spoiler?

No problem there – it works very well.

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How do you get your heating system to work efficiently?

…You mention that you have a WEBASTO hot air heating in your boat and four outlets. My boat is a little smaller than yours (40 ft). I installed 3 years ago a heating (Eberspächer) very similar to your Webasto I imagine and 5 outlets (one in the forecabin, one in each of the aft cabins and two in the centre. This heating provides hot water as well in a very efficient way. But I’m not satisfied by the heating which is not efficient at all. The heating exchanger (XEROS 4200) is at the aft part of the boat and the air is not hot enough when arriving in the fore part and even in the middle (too long hose?). When it is 10°C outside, I cannot get more than 14°C inside….. That is why I would like to ask you how is the installation of “Aventura III”. Do you use some exchanger similar to the XEROS ? How do you get hot air at more than 4/5 meters from it?

Your problem could be the insulation of your boat. My boat is very well insulated, both overhead, and the sides down to waterlevel (should have gone right down to the bilge!). We had no problem keeping the boat warm in Antarctica, even if, as in your case, the hot air outlets farthest away from the heater were not very efficient. So you may have to get the boat better insulated… or learn to live at 14°C… in Antarctica we had the temperature go down to 6° at night – and we survived!

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You say that you have a watermaker (type?), does it run on 12 V or do you have a 220V generator?

I have a HRO and I am not too happy with it. It works on 12V but needs a lot of power (about 40-50 Amps) so need to run the engine when using it. There are now better systems on the market… HRO is, I feel, rather outdated. I don’t have a 220V generator.

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What are Jimmy’s comments on the Windpilot he uses?
…(I think it must be the Pacific MF4 model) since I own a Trisbal 36 (more or less the same as an OVNI of the same length) and I’d wish to install one.
…What about the electric pilot used with the Windpilot? You used to use a Hydrovane windvane steering system. I would be very interested to know whether either system is clearly better than the other and, if so, which is best and why. Did you switch from the Hydrovane to the Windpilot because the former did not work satisfactorily?

Yes, I use a Windpilot Pacific self-steering gear (1998) and I am reasonably happy with it. Occasionally I use a small autopilot (Navico) as a back-up to my main autopilot (Brookes & Gatehouse), especially in light winds as the Navico uses less power. The system works but, as I said, I use it mainly as an emergency back-up. The make of the pilot is not important as long as it is of the push-pull type that can be connected to the Windpilot’s windvane frame.

I switched from Hydrovane to WindPilot because I felt that the Hydrovane system may not be powerful enough for a 43 ft boat. The Hydrovane worked well on my previous, 40 ft boat, so I could not state that one is better than the other. Both have certain limitations, and in fact all wind operated self-steering systems have some limitations, so I prefer to have both a windvane and a reliable autopilot – and I advise anyone setting off on a long voyage to follow my example.

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Other questions


Do you have some suggestions regarding the prevention of hull corrosion by electrolysis or do you have other instruments other than the zinc anodes to face this potentially “lethal” phenomenon?

I have had an OVNI435 for 5 years – and sailed some 45.000 miles – and – thank God – have not had any corrosion problems. I have renewed the zinc anodes regularly (one which goes quickly – after about 6-9 months – is the propeller anode – I have a MaxProp). Apart from that all you need to do is regularly check the current leakage meter (Contrôle d’isolement) which is installed as standard on all OVNIs.

Also, take normal precautions, such as never staying too long docked next to a boat that is made of steel, or boats that run their generator too much… by not too long, I mean not weeks. Also, it is very important when you connect to shore power in marinas that you make sure that the polarity is correctly wired – a lot of marinas are not (which doesn’t really matter on 220 Volt but apparently is not a good idea on an alu boat).

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Your opinion of a watertight bulkhead? Bowthruster?

The boat has a watertight compartment ahead of the fwd cabin (the chain locker) so I am not sure about having more of the same. Bowthruster only if you use the boat a lot in marinas and are short-handed. The boat handles very well without a thruster, …but I would get one for the Med.

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Have you had any problems with the plastic valving, sea cocks etc – or did you replace stuff?

I don’t have plastic seacocks but welded alu pipes which I think are probably better, especially in ice.

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Did you increase the tankage on water(or fuel) during the build?

No, I have a watermaker, so no problem.

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What can I use to purify the water in the (obviously Aluminium!) water tanks?
I have an Ovni 385 and am trying to find out what I can use to purify the water in the (obviously Aluminium!) water tanks. Bleach cannot be used as it reacts with the metal… do you have any ideas?

The manufacturer should have neutralized the tanks when new. There is a product on the market that is used to do just that but I do not know the name. I think West Marine in the US are selling that product. What people have done is use vinegar to neutralize new tanks… it seems to work.

The bad news is that chlorine in ordinary tap water also reacts with aluminium tanks and gives off a bad smell. So what I do is I use one tank for only water from the watermaker, which has no chlorine, and the other tank I fill up from marinas… and always make sure when I leave the boat for any time, that I completely empty the tanks.

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Did you make any changes to the boat’s standard layout, if so, what did you change?

The two main changes were to move the galley to port and have 2 armchairs installed at the navigation station, which is now on the stb side of the boat, parallel with the dinette.

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Have you, or considered, reinforced the companionway hatch/washboards? It seemed a little light to me.

The main companionway is indeed not very strong but where are you planning to go?

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How does the Ovni perform upwind? Can you estimate the average angle between windward and COG and the speed, tacking in different wind forces and sea state?

The actual angle can be anything between 50 and 60 degrees. The speed depends on the strength of wind of course. I have sailed upwind under all wind conditions and the boat has performed well, but it is very important to have good sails, to reef early, to set the sails well, etc. It all takes more effort than on a keeled boat, but it works!

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Is condensation an issue in colder climates?

…We intend to buy a used OVNI (80′s). Our major concern is about condensation. We will be sailing in Canada with summer water temperature around 8°C with a air temperature around 20°. The boat is not insulated. I plan to install a central fuel cabin heater. I notice that the centreboard compartment is covered inside with a thin vinyl and so is some deck area near the rear cabin. I thought that wooden interior finish would create a barrier. Am I too optimistic? From your experience, do you think that condensation would be a issue? I would not want to get into insulating the boat.

My own OVNI is insulated from the waterline up, and including the roof. It is 100 mm polystyrene (hard) insulation and works very well both in hot and cold weather. It was excellent in Antarctica.
Installing insulation is, I agree, quite an upheaval, so I suggest you try it without insulation one season and see how it goes. What you can do is pack up all top hatches with bubble-wrap. It lets light through but acts as a barrier… and the worst area for condensation are the plexi hatches. Try it.

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If you should order a new Ovni, which changes would you make?

That’s a difficult question! The main cabin is forward of the mast and the bunk is too narrow (my wife complains about it) so I would make sure that the main cabin (wherever it is) has a wide berth.

I gave up the port aft cabin to have more storage space, and now I regret not having that extra cabin.

Apart from that I wouldn’t make too many changes as I am quite happy (mine is a 43 – the new 435 is better designed and has a lot more space, and carries the beam further aft). All I can say, that if and when I order another boat it will be an OVNI again (probably the 455 – as my family is growing!).

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Any other thoughts or suggestions?

  • Buy the best anchor windlass you can afford (I have Lofrans – excellent)
  • Put a second (identical) alternator on the engine – ideally with an intelligent charging/regulator system. I have a German regulator supplied by Wilhelm Greiff and it works very well.
  • In heavy weather the ventilation ports let water into both engine and starboard locker. This can be very dangerous and something should be done about it.
  • Make sure you fix the spreaders so they cannot ride up on the rigging – we lost one on the way to the Falklands!
  • When you install the secondary (low level) navigation lights, put the stern light on a separate switch, so you can use it when you get on and off the skirt at night – or when working there generally, such as when adjusting the windvane (Windpilot in my case).

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