Gear thoughts after an offshore passage

Sabre 402 Nostos
The Sabre 402 Nostos at the dock in St. Georges, Bermuda.

Recently, I completed an offshore trip that included periods of heavy weather. We were aboard Nostos, a 2001 Sabre 402, departed from Jamestown, RI on Oct 24, bound for St. Thomas, USVI, with a stop in Bermuda. Here are thoughts on some of the gear we had aboard during the passage.

We were blessed to have had the Garmin InReach system and a good B&G GPS/AIS platform. The vintage 2001 RayMarine AutoHelm was a godsend to our aching shoulders. It performed flawlessly and exhaustively in troubled waters and was driven by four Firefly batteries. This bank provided close to 24 hours of non-stop AutoHelm, reefer, and dual-station B&G MFD operations — very impressive.

The RayMarine vane and cups blew off the mast after a 50-knot gust, but those are easily replaced (just not in Bermuda).

We had to reposition the mast in Bermuda since it had shed several of its chocks and lodged back hard against the cabin in the big blow. This was a considerable effort as the entire rig had to be loosened, and only then were we able to persuade the mast forward with a 4:1 block system cinched about seven feet above the deck on the mast and made fast at the bow.

During the passage the stove became the catch basin (on port tack) for torrents of saltwater cascading down the companionway during any access to the cabin. It and the windlass both need more desalinization work but should survive.

Interestingly, the windward (unused) outer rail jib track block was unlocked by the sea, blew back, smashed through the track lock and hit me in the hand as I clung to the aft rail during a big rolling wave. It was a shock to have been hit, and then to essentially catch this component as it was smashed loose from the boat.

For the trip, we mostly had upgraded to Spinlock 5D/6D Deckvests, a harness with an integrated inflatable PFD. The ease of their fast buckle front closure and numerous safety features was a terrific help during our many quick and wet gear changes.

Our headsail, which alone powered us through about 90% of the journey, was a high aspect, 100% Doyle jib; truly a workhorse. All in all, the Sabre 402 was a true workhorse and fought in conditions that I would say were above her weight and size. The other boats in Bermuda were 47 feet or greater, and I think that would have made for a safer and more comfortable platform on this trip.

We literally could not have had more horrible and relentless weather impact our passage. That said, the strength of the captain, the boat and the crew brought us to our destination and provided an incredible set of learnings of all types.

Jim Kerney, retired from IBM, cruises in New England, the Bahamas and the Caribbean on his Sabre 402 Blown Away, with occasional offshore trips. Kerney created PedPox – Pedestal Pockets (, pouches to hold safety gear snuggly at the helm within easy reach of the helmsman.

By Ocean Navigator