Barba The Boat
Gearing up for such harsh condition as our crew undertakes makes it extremely important to only bring the best quality equipment, and making sure we have enough of it. Barba's key expertise is interacting with the marine environment, at times under technically challenging conditions in remote locations. Photo: Terry Ward with Barba.no
The gear we use
From her homeport of Stavanger, Norway, Barba has ventured as far as the pack ice surrounding the North Pole. We have encountered polar bears and whales, flagship species of the Arctic that we use as part of the storytelling. For the past three winters, we have worked specifically with orcas in Arctic Norway in what has developed into a science project.
The work ethos is based on operating Barba as a green self-sufficient platform in the field, while always striving towards getting the best possible obtainable result regardless of the task at hand. We always work and operate as a team, and as such market our work with the Barba brand.
The boat and concept are named in memory of the family dog Barba. She was a great companion with an admirable appetite for the good and simple things in life such as food, friends and outdoor activities. As with any good friend and dog, Barba was above all a trustworthy and loyal companion.
Barba is the result of years of voluntary work from our shore and offshore crew. We are always keen to meet with new adventurers wanting to take part in inspiring people to care for nature and the values therein.
We work with scientists and conservationists, and use the media to raise awareness, inspire and to transfer the conservation message.
To date we have sailed tens of thousands of miles in the North-Atlantic, to destinations such as Greenland, Jan Mayen and the pack ice of Svalbard. In addition, we have been documenting whales in the winter time in Northern Norway for weeks in the polar night while watching temperatures drop to -20* Celsius. Up until now we have never suffered technical failures on the boat that prevented us from reaching our goals. More importantly we have had no injuries among the crew. This section is written as we receive a large amount of queries regarding the gear in use. It´s not meant as a comprehensive list, but it will rather pinpoint some of the gear we find of particular interest.
The right gear and equally well-maintained equipment that we know how to utilize is somewhat of a religion onboard Barba. Whether we are outside helicopter range somewhere in the North Atlantic, diving offshore in the winter time or when entering a port at night in a blizzard; our safety depends on the gear we have and the knowledge on how to use it.
Downloading the latest weather forecast and ice charts, prior to entering the pack ice at 81 degrees north, Svalbard 2015. By Daniel Hug.
Finding the right gear is usually done through online research, communicating with other expedition sailors, connecting with the supplier in question, and then finally drawing the conclusion based on the matrix of inputs. We have been fortunate enough to have some of our gear sponsored. We do, however, only accept gear that we believe is the best suited to our needs.
In general, we like to keep the boat configuration as clean and simple as possible. We are also influenced by space limitations, and all gear is subject to a cost benefit assessment. Furthermore, we focus on longevity from a performance point of view, cost point of view and from an environmental point of view.
Expedition sailing involves a large amount of aspects, ranging from sailing itself, to meteorology, understanding nature and technical know-how. It's a massively complex activity, and one we will never fully master, which is part of the reason for our passion for sailing. In addition to the sailing, we have the additional complexity of a wide range of activities such as climbing, diving and paragliding. As for the gear, we never rest on our laurels. It's continuously tweaked and improved as we gain more experience.
The following topics will be covered:
- The boat
- The electronics
- Safety gear
- Diving gear
Barba is a French built Jeanneau Sun Fast 37 (37 foot). Ideally we would have wanted an aluminum boat in the range of 45-50 feet, with insulated hull, watertight bulkhead, retractable keel and more. This is well outside our budget, so we do the best we can with what we have. We have met many of these expedition boats, but they usually stay in port winter time when Barba is out in the blizzards, and only a few of them would follow our path in the ice infested waters of Svalbard.
Focusing on the positives, the following is worth mentioning about Barba: Led keel, mast attached to the keel, low fuel consumption, reasonably light (makes her easier to control and maneuver) and small size giving access to additional anchorages. It´s also a well-tested design. The stern gives us easy access to the water facilitating diving, launching the dinghy and other interactions with water.
The following critical upgrades have been done to the boat:
- Cutter stay and running backstays
- Retractable bowsprit
- All through hulls upgraded to composite valves
Up until the summer of 2017 Barba used was limited by 100 AH gel batteries. They worked, but the amount of power available was limited. For the winter of 2017 season, 2 x 100 AH Lithium batteries were installed, thus quadrupling the amount of power (given the superior discharge capacity). The batteries have worked exceptionally well so far, securing ample amounts of electricity, allowing for charging the extensive amount of camera gear and computers while running the heating system and fridge. The batteries were of the make Topband, supplied by Skanbatt Norway. The batteries can be charged by the engine, shore power or by the wind generator.
Occasionally we do consider sailing south. Chart plotter with radar image does make a difference, especially so in fog and at night.
All the navigation electronics were upgraded to B&G in 2015. In addition to standard gear, we have an AIS, radar and forward looking sonar. The latter two are of particular use in low visibility and/or poorly chartered waters. In our opinion the AIS is mandatory for cruising in Norwegian waters and beyond. We use OpenCPN as a back-up chart system on laptops, and finally Navionics on Ipad and paper charts should we run out of power.
When outside range of normal means of communications we use the Iridium phone in combination with the brilliant UUPlus software to download weather files and ice charts.