September 30, 2012
Saying Good Bye

September 15, 2012
Reflections on Our 27 Year Circumnavigation

September 1, 2012
Sea of Cortez Sailing

August 15, 2012
Back to the Sea of Cortez

August 1, 2012
After Circumnavigation: What to Take, What to Leave Behind

July 15, 2012
Mexican Booby Trap

July 1, 2012
Tackling the Tehuantepec

June 14, 2012
Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico

June 1, 2012
Sailing northern Costa Rica and Nicargua

May 15, 2012
Costa Rican Cruising

May 1, 2012
New Found Friends in Golfito, Costa Rica

April 15, 2012
It’s a Jungle Out There

April 1, 2012
Hunting and Gathering in Panama

March 15, 2012
Money.... Money.... Money

March 1, 2012
Feel Free Transits the Panama Canal

February 15, 2012
Transiting the Panama Canal

February 1, 2012
Feel Free is Back in the Pacific

January 15, 2012
Charter Skipper for a Week

January 1, 2012
Confessions of a Charter Cat Chef

December 15, 2011
Away to the Andamans Part 2

December 1, 2011

November 15, 2011
Sailing in a Freshwater Paradise

November 1, 2011
To Barf or not to Barf, that is the question

October 14, 2011
Remarkable Cruisers

October 3, 2011
The Sea of Cortez, Another World

September 15, 2011
Panama Canal Here We Come

September 1, 2011
Sailing for Humanity

August 15, 2011
A Hard Lesson on the Hard and Reflections on Boat Work

August 1, 2011
Here Come the Lion Fish

July 15, 2011
The Joy of Books

July 1, 2011
The Sailors of San Blas

June 15, 2011
The Good Life in Kuna Yala

June 1, 2011
The Dirt Dweller in Paradise

May 15, 2011
People of the San Blas, Then and Now

May 1, 2011
Cruising in Kuna Yala

April 15, 2011
Near Disaster in the San Blas

April 1, 2011
At Last in the San Blas

March 15, 2011
Chilling Out in Cholon

March 1, 2011
Ah, Cartagena!

February 15, 2011
Cruising the Cape Horn of the Caribbean Part 2

February 1, 2011
Cruising the Cape Horn of the Caribbean Part 1

January 14, 2011
Aruban Interlude

December 30, 2010
Hunkering Down for a Hurricane

December 15, 2010
A Day in the Life - Our Passage to Aruba

December 1, 2010
Stuck in Curacao

November 15, 2010
Stormy Night Sailing

November 1, 2010
Sailing In The Sticks

October 15, 2010
Safety, Security and Circumnavigating with some tips on how to stay safe

October 4, 2010
Feel Free Transits The Suez Canal

September 15, 2010
Red Sea Sailing

September 1, 2010
FEEL FREEs Voyage Into the Red Sea

August 15, 2010
And just a little further, to Curacao

August 1, 2010
Bonaire Diving

July 15, 2010
Then To Bonaire

July 1, 2010
Cruising Remote Venezuelan Isles

June 15, 2010
Cruising St. Vincent

June 1, 2010
Right Place, Right Time

May 15, 2010
The Spice Isle

May 1, 2010
To the Grenadines

April 15, 2010
We Be In Barbados Mon

April 1, 2010
Atlantic Passage Part II

March 15, 2010
Atlantic Passage Part 1

March 1, 2010
Provisioning for the Atlantic Crossing

February 15, 2010
Atlantic Crossing Preparations

February 1, 2010
Cruising the Canary Islands

January 15, 2010
Out Of Africa

January 1, 2010
Come With Me To The High Atlas Mountains.............

December 15, 2009
Two Years Of Mediterranean Sailing

December 1, 2009
Moving On To Morocco

November 18, 2009
Leaving The Med

November 13, 2009
Reaching The Rock Of Gibraltar Milestone

October 15, 2009
Sailing Spains Costa del Sol

October 1, 2009
Sailing Spains Costa del High-rise

September 15, 2009
Sailing The Spanish Isles

September 1, 2009
At Sea Or On The Hook, These Recipes Travel Well

August 15, 2009
An Interlude At Menorca

August 1, 2009
A Pleasant Passage To Menorca

July 15, 2009
The Agony And Ecstasy Of The Tunisian Coast

July 1, 2009
Tripping Around Tunisia

June 15, 2009
Tales From North Africa

June 1, 2009
Dont Freak If Your Fridge Fails

May 15, 2009
Into Africa

May 1, 2009
Meandering Around Malta, Then Off To Tunisia

April 15, 2009
Low-Tech DIY Ideas For The New Economy

April 1, 2009
The Med Set A Few Cruiser Profiles

March 15, 2009
That Sinking Feeling

March 1, 2009
Thailand to Oman: Three Passages, Three Ports

February 15, 2009
Doing Hard Time in Malta

February 1, 2009
Pirate Alley Part 2

January 15, 2009
Pirate Alley Part 1

January 2, 2009
So Many Islands, So Little Time

December 15, 2008
Cruising With The Bear

December 1, 2008
Versatile Vinegar, The Boaters Friend

November 15, 2008
What I Did In This Summer -- Dock Masters In paradise

November 1, 2008
Over The Top Of Oz

October 16, 2008
The Tumultuous Tasman

October 1, 2008
Sweet Memories Of The Splendid Surins

September 15, 2008
And Then We Were In Malta

September 1, 2008
Feel Frees Siracusan Story

August 15, 2008
The Best of Times, The Worst of Times

August 1, 2008
All Tied Up In The Ionians

July 15, 2008
A Greek Odyssey Our Journey to Ithaca

July 1, 2008
Anatomy of a Near Catastrophe

June 15, 2008
Good-bye Turkey, Hello Greece

June 1, 2008
More Winter Cruising in Turkey

May 15, 2008
Winter Cruising in Turkey

April 15, 2008
Talking Turkey: Marmaris Marina Living

April 15, 2008
The Joy Of The Side Trip

April 1, 2008
Return to Marmaris, And The Budget

March 15, 2008
Passing Time And Dodging The Meltemi

March 1, 2008
Home Sweet Home

February 15, 2008
A Little Working, A Little Cruising

February 1, 2008
Working Our Way Around The World

January 15, 2008
Welcome Aboard Feel Free

January 1, 2008
Liz Tosonis and Tom Morkins Feel Free

January 1, 2008
About Tom Morkin and Liz Tosoni

January 1, 2008
About Feel Free

January 1, 2008
Voyage Itinerary

August 1, 2012
After Circumnavigation: What to Take, What to Leave Behind

By Tom Morkin

La Cruz, Puerto Vallarta Mexico

After 13 years and umpteen miles under her keel Feel Free has tied the knot on the circumnavigation. As the ship’s chief engineer and bottle washer I thought it might be interesting to reflect on the hardware side of the trip. How did all the stuff we packed on Feel Free perform, and would we recommend it to other cruisers? If, heaven forbid, we were to contemplate a second circumnavigation, how would things be different? What gear would we simply have to have and what would we leave behind?

This discussion will also include the boat itself, how did she perform, how well suited was she and is she suited to this kind of long distance sailing endeavour? Would we entrust our lives with her to do another circumnavigation? What would we look for in our next cruising boat?

Sailboat design

Feel Free is a Canadian built Spencer 51. She’s of 70s vintage which explains her very thick fiberglass layup. The hull above the waterline as well as the deck, are cored with airex foam. She has a long fin keel and a skeg hung rudder. Her beam is 13 feet and her draft 7 ½ feet.

Her long, narrow wineglass shaped hull with the deep fin keel means she can go to weather better than her crew. We have paid the price though, for her deep draft. We’ve been kept out of plenty of anchorages and harbors. Shallow cruising areas like the Bahamas and the south coast of Cuba while not out of the question for us, would be challenging.

Spencer 51s were built with aft or center cockpits, ours is the latter. The center cockpit design has several advantages: it’s a more comfortable liveaboard while at anchor; there’s more privacy when guests are aboard; and the engine access under the cockpit is much better than under the floor. The disadvantages: foredeck is much smaller and less user-friendly; there’s not as much space for stowing dinghies; accessing the wind vane is more difficult and requires leaving the safety of the cockpit. Although my personal preference is the center cockpit, it isn’t a strong preference.


Feel Free is a cutter rigged sloop. I wouldn’t want it any other way. We carry a full battened main with three reef points, the inner forestay is on hanks and the head sail is controlled with a Harken roller furler.

In heavy weather we tend to completely furl the head sail and carry on with stay sail and reefed main. After 20 years of service we retired the North Sail main and replaced it with a Lee Sail mainsail which we ordered direct from Hong Kong and had shipped to Panama six months ago- no dramas at all and much cheaper than buying from sail makers in North America. So far, so good.

Our sail inventory includes two furling jibs, a 120 and a 140, the larger of the two has been virtually unused during the circumnavigation. This can also be said of our asymmetric cruising spinnaker and our storm trysail. I can say that we really needed only three sails, the main, staysail and 120 furling headsail.

Although we often put a single reef in the main, and occasionally a double reef, we have never had occasion to triple reef the main. That said, I would insist on having three reef points for the main.

Sail Handling

Occasionally people ask if it would be easier handling a smaller boat given the relatively large sails on Feel Free. Not at all, thanks to the efforts of the previous owners who put a lot of thought, money and work into arranging that all sheets and halyards be led to the cockpit.

No fewer than 10 winches surround the cockpit complete with six jammers. Although I must leave the cockpit to reef the main, only at the mast, it takes only seconds to lower the sail and hook the tack cringle to the goose neck.

We use lazy jacks (lines that run from either side of the boom to the first set of spreaders at the mast) to catch the mainsail when it is lowered.

We put steps on the mast which lead to the mast head. I couldn’t live without mast steps. They are invaluable when conning through reef strewn channels in the tropics or going aloft to check standing and running rigging as well as replacing light bulbs or wind instruments.


Protection from the sun, wind, rain, salt water spray and the cold while in the cockpit cannot be taken too lightly considering the vast amount of time one spends in the cockpit.

Over the years, we added a hard, fiberglass over plywood bimini to the original fiberglass dodger that came with the boat from the factory. During our two winters in the Mediterranean, one in Turkey and one in Malta, Liz made a complete cockpit enclosure. This ‘bubble’ gave us another room aboard and meant we could keep the forward and aft companionway hatches open without freezing to death. In the heat of the tropics, the bubble gives way to sunbrella side curtains and overhead canopy that runs aft from the bimini to almost the end of the boom.


A 70 hp, 4 cylinder marinized diesel engine turns the 20 inch fixed 3 bladed propellor. Named “Yosh”, it’s the original power plant on Feel Free. It has about 6,400 hours on the tack. Of those hours, about 2,000 of them were since leaving Cabo San Lucas in 1999, when we began the circumnavigation with Feel Free.

Although it performed flawlessly since new, it did have an appetite for motor oil and drooled a bit around some oil seals.

Nothing major but while in Malaysia, contemplating the importance of the motor in transiting the Red Sea and Mediterranean, we considered re-powering. Our mechanic quickly talked us out of that insisting it was a great engine and would be a shame to replace it with a newer higher revving type. “Let’s pull it out and rebuild it” he said and so we did. Yosh has lost his appetite for oil and has stopped drooling. After 1,080 hours on the rebuild, it looks like it was a good decision.

Self Steering

There are a number of ways to steer without steering. We always had two autopilots and one wind vane.

Both autopilots are antiques (Cetec Benmar Course Keeper and CPT 2000), in fact, so is our Sayes Rig wind vane. If we were to go again, I’d get a light duty autopilot that would steer the boat via the wind vane, since the power required to turn the wind vane is only a fraction of the power required to turn the boat’s rudder.

Self steering is not a luxury, it’s a safety item. It eliminates the need for a helmsperson and frees that person up to navigate, handle sails, keep a lookout, or make tea. It reduces fatigue and stress.


We carry solar panels and a wind generator. We have 4 60 watt panels mounted on a stainless steel stern arch we had built in Malaysia. While in Curacao where the trade winds blow virtually nonstop we bought an Air Breeze wind generator. It was fantastic, doubling our electrical output while we were in the Caribbean. Now that we’re back on the Pacific coast the wind generator’s contribution is drastically reduced.

If you have the resources and space to have both, have both. If we had to choose between one or the other we’d definitely go with the panels as they generate no noise and are virtually maintenance free.

The dinghy and outboard- (the family car)

We’re on our 4th inflatable dinghy in the 18 years of owning Feel Free. So many, because with the exception of our present dink the other 3 were second hand. They were all either 9 or 10 feet in length and all made from hypalon.

In that time we’ve bought 4 two stroke outboards, 2 were 8 hp and one, 2.5 hp, and one 9.8hp. We still have the 9.8 and the 2.5. The 2.5 stays in the bilge and is for emergencies only. One of the 8’s was stolen and the other we just sold recently.

Most boats carry their dinghies on davits, however with our wind vane on the stern we required a different solution. We simply raise the dinghy and outboard with the spinnaker halyard every night while at anchor and put it on deck while underway.

That’s a brief look at Feel Free and some of her gear. By today’s standards she’s a pretty simple boat. We certainly haven’t been quick to adopt all the new innovative technologies. We still have no water maker or AIS, we’re still without email while offshore, have no fancy wind instruments or furling mainsail. Our limited resources are directed toward ensuring the boat’s rigging is strong, ground tackle well galvanized, through hulls and seacocks sound, bilge pumps working well, life raft serviced, ditch kit up to date; in short the systems are kept simple which make them simple to keep safe. It’s definitely a K.I.S.S. (keep it simple stupid) boat. Certainly she’s a safer boat today than she was 18 years ago when we bought her. Although she’s definitely in need of a paint job and some minor cosmetic work she’s certainly no worse for wear after all those years and miles and I, with mixed emotions can say she’ll no doubt be cruising long after Liz and I.