Festina is undergoing a metamorphosis from racer to cruiser – albeit with a few hiccoughs of the one step forward, two steps back kind . We have installed solar panels , but and every time I connected them up the in line fuse blew! Eventually I traced one of the connectors (the one that involved taking ALL the headlining down!) which was wired back to front and the problem appears to be solved. Next , a 90 amp hour alternator and smart charger went in and so far seem to be fantastic – but I did have some help here.

The towed generator was a different matter. We first tried it on a day when it was blowing 30 knots and soon discovered it is not a piece of kit to be trifled with. All went well until the ensign got caught in the towing line and was instantaneously rolled up, swallowing and snapping the ensign staff with a sound like a pistol shot . The ensuing bundle, rotating at high speed , started to shake the back of the boat to bits. I immediatly began to pull the line in downstream of the bundle, but it ensnared my hand like a python on speed and proceeded to throttle it in a rapidly tightening spanish windlass. Cue panicky calls for a knife (the cockpit knife was not in place!) and huge sighs of relief when we eventually managed to free the hand, heave the boat to (overcanvassed in a 35 knot gust) and land the wriggling monster before it did any more damage. Phew! A lot of lessons were learned – including the fact that we had the batteries wired up wrongly and nearly boiled one .
I THINK its all OK now, so now its JUST the water maker, a bilge pump and the vane steering gear to go. Lets hope I make fewer mistakes with this lot!


  1. Robin Mecklenburgh

    Hi Phil,

    Hilarious story about python generator. Why do you need so much charging ability? Because of the watermaker?

    I’m trying to work out when I’ll be able to take a year off and sail the sigma south. Maybe not for a couple of years though, unfortunately. We have a 1.5 yr old girl now who likes to get up and about and is not too happy when restricted in her ability to manouver. We moved from Dublin to Dallas last October and will probably be here for a few more months then back to the UK.

    Keen to hear more about transforming Festina. What sort of watermaker, where, etc. Did you fit bigger water tanks?

    All the best


  2. Robin – great to hear from you – and to find that you too have embarked on the great adventure that is family life !

    The “charging ability ” ( yet to be proven at sea!) is due to my natural pessimism re the engine and things mechanical . Thus if it fails – what with the vane steering etc we should still be free from having to steer and have enough electric power for basic systems. Watermaker takes 8 amps ( I think) – its a Katadyn – I have fitted it on port side behind the berth ( under the pilot berth on your boat tho we have shelves and lockers ) . The theory is that it is plumbed into the Port tank – and if something goes wrong we can drain that tank and start again rather than contaminate the whole system .

    Once I have proven that the various systems work ( or not!) I will put them up on the Sigma website. The boat is currently out of the water and we are at that horrid stage with 101 tasks 3/4 complete and seemingly no end in sight – but as Lynda and I have just stopped work it will hopefully all come together and we can do some trialing at sea before setting out in the next few weeks.

    My regards to your parents – oh and Barney Smith sends his regards – we were at his birthday party last night . Its a small world!