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How to get a perfect fit in an odd-sided, curved, enclosed space?

Sail Feed - Sat, 2014-12-20 20:02

 

It’s been a while since I’ve done a boat repair tip. Here’s one I used yesterday on a friend’s boat.

        Have you ever found yourself trying to duplicate a particularly odd four-sided shape, maybe in an enclosed area or on a curved surface? I ran into this problem when working on an icebox. The box is going to be built into a cockpit seat. It’s basically going to be a drink cooler so in order to make the best of a very small space it will be built with minimal insulation and directly against the hull. I started by epoxying the insulation directly to the hull, keeping the curvature. The challenge was then to then cut a piece of 1/4″ marine ply to fit the bottom which curves in two dimensions and has sides which are curved and/or at not-quite-90-degree angles. There are a few ways I might have done this but I like this one for its relative speed and simplicity:

I begin by getting a rough approximation of the shape I’m trying to copy. One easy way to do this is to lay a series of pieces cardboard or thick paper along the edges, taping each one to the last. It looks like this when you’re finished:

Then, I traced the exact shape of the inside of the box by taping a marker to a block of wood and running it along the sides of the box. As long as the sides are a consistent angle to the floor and you keep the marker square to the edges you will get an exact copy of the shape of the box, except it will be smaller by the width of your marker apparatus:

 Now I take out my template and place it on the plywood I will be using for the bottom of the box and I cut away the edges at my marker line.

 To get the actual shape of the box I now increase my line by the width of the marker/wood block. In this case it was 1/2″. I make marks every few inches.   The last step is to strike a line between all these marks and cut along that line. On flat sections you can use a straightedge but curved edges should be done with a thin, flexible bit of wood, called a ‘batten’. The idea is to bend the piece of wood so that it touches each of the marks you are trying to strike a line through:   Using this technique I was able to get with 1/32 of a perfect fit, on the first try. Because of the odd shape and the curvature of the hull I did need to cut the plywood into two pieces, as you can see in the picture.   

 

  There it is, a quick and easy way to copy a very odd enclosed shape. What about other tricks for transferring these types of shapes?

VESTAS WIND SHIPWRECK: Post Mortem With Embarrassing Personal Recollection

Sail Feed - Fri, 2014-12-19 19:15

You know something really big has gone on in the sailing world when even The New Yorker magazine feels they have to say something about it. The grounding and abandonment of Team Vestas Wind has been a major publicity coup, for both the Volvo Ocean Race and the boat’s sponsor, Vestas Wind, made all the sweeter by the fact of the happy ending: no one was seriously injured. The cause of the accident has been pretty clearly identified. The Cargados Carajos Shoals were in an exclusion zone that was opened to the fleet the night before they started leg 2 of the race out of Cape Town. Vestas navigator Wouter Verbraak (see image up top) wasn’t aware that the shoals were directly on the route north to Abu Dhabi, didn’t have time to fully scope out the new track before the start, and assumed he’d be able to do so while racing the leg. In the end he never zoomed in close enough on his electronic chart to see the shoals, and the crew sailed right on to the reef at night having no idea it was there.

This obviously was a stupid mistake, and Verbraak, to his credit, has openly confessed to it. The boat’s skipper Chris Nicholson likewise has accepted full responsibility for what happened and recently gave two long interviews—one in print with Sail-World (a big three-parter that starts here) and one on video with Sailing Anarchy. These are both well worth your attention.

As far as commentary goes, I think one of the best responses to the accident has come from Ben Ellison at Panbo, who goes into some detail on the relevant technical aspects of electronic charting and points out that integral route conflict alarms are an available technology that needs to be more fully exploited both by the electronics industry and by navigators. Another is from Rick Spilman, on the Old Salt Blog, who puts the Vestas grounding in a much broader historical perspective and surveys similar technology-assisted mishaps, starting with the famous Andrea Doria disaster of 1956, wherein two ocean liners tracking each other on radar collided in fog off Nantucket Shoals, killing 51 passengers and crew. Note, too, that Spilman in his piece references another fine bit of commentary from Elaine Bunting of Yachting World.

On reading and watching the two interviews with Nicholson, I was struck most by the great danger the Vestas crew found themselves in immediately after grounding. I had imagined they were able to simply step off the boat, but in fact the situation was much, much dicier. A simple safe exit was never assured, as the boat was moving around a lot, suffering serious damage as it was pounded by the surf, and there was a real threat of it rolling over on top of everyone. (For a detailed description of all this see Part 2 of the Sail-World interview.)

It is a testament to Nicholson’s leadership and to the crew’s ability that no one was really hurt. Of course, they were also damn lucky. If the boat’s keel had come off on impact and the hull had flipped immediately, the consequences would have been fatal for sure. The fact that the canting keel’s joint survived the ordeal (and evidently is still intact, though the keel bulb itself fell off quite promptly) says a lot about the integrity of these new Volvo boats.

The wreck of Vestas with the bulletproof keel joint in plain view

As to Sailing Anarchy’s video interview, I was impressed that Alan Block had the chutzpah to query Nicholson directly on the accident’s publicity value, pointing out that the best result for a Volvo race sponsor is always for a boat to “break or win.”

“I hear you,” responds Nicholson. “But I don’t recommend this road for anyone.”

“Don’t crash your boat to get sponsor value,” concludes Block. “Fair enough.”

Sponsor Vestas Wind won major green publicity points as the team worked to immediately remove all pollutants (see that fuel tank there?) from the wreck

Block also directly confronted another tricky question: would Nicholson have Verbraak back as navigator? Nicholson’s very equivocal response makes it pretty clear he wouldn’t.

Having absorbed all this now, I still have some questions in my mind:

1. This exclusion zone—was it intended to protect the boats from the shoals or from Somali pirates? If the former, didn’t race organizers have a positive obligation to point the shoals out to all competing navigators? Shouldn’t they have nav briefings before each leg in any event? It seems Team Vestas Wind weren’t the only ones who were surprised to find the reef there, though they were the only ones who didn’t find it before hitting it.

2. Ben Ellison has pointed out that chart alarms could easily be improved. What about also making obvious hazards on electronic charts more obvious? All it takes when you’re zoomed out too far is a little box saying: “Danger! Zoom in here.”

3. Verbraak apparently had paper charts aboard, but has stated he didn’t have what he needed to suss out the newly opened exclusion zone en route. Did they have the wrong charts, or what?

4. More broadly: do Volvo boats carry sextants? I’m guessing not. Should they be required to? Do Volvo navigators know how to use them? Should they be required to carry paper charts, etc., etc.? I don’t have an opinion on this, but I think it bears discussing.

The VOR leadership has announced they will conduct a thorough investigation and release a full report on the incident, and I imagine we will see some changes in their relevant rules and regs subsequent to this. Team Vestas Wind meanwhile is both moving to get their dead boat off the reef as quickly as possible while simultaneously scrambling to put a new boat together in time to rejoin the race. According to Nicholson, they have received many offers of support from the other teams to help do this.

BONUS VIDEOS: Yes, there is yet another video of the grounding to watch. This one is nicely organized and sums the whole experience up rather neatly:

Note that during the actual black-and-white grounding footage we now know that what everyone is looking at over the leeward (port) side just before they hit is some white gleaming on the water that they erroneously believed was moonlight.

Plus, here’s a video of the post-wreck press conference held in Abu Dhabi:

BONUS ANECDOTE: I was very interested to learn while studying his two interviews that Chris Nicholson had never before run aground while sailing. I’m guessing this is because he is a fancy high-paid racing sailor. As a lowly unpaid cruising sailor, I run aground all the time. Indeed, whenever another cruiser tells me proudly he or she has never run aground, I always assume they haven’t been sailing very long.

Most of my groundings, of course, have been in situations where I knew I was cutting it close and the bottom was just sand or mud. I did, however, have one full-on seemingly-out-of-nowhere major-could-have-been-a-shipwreck grounding just like Team Vestas Wind.

This was back in 1990, when a friend of mine, Richard, asked me to help him sail his new Dutch lemsterrak (he’d just had it shipped over from Holland) from Sag Harbor, Long Island, to Newport, Rhode Island. Richard had never sailed out of sight of land before and so wanted me to do the navigating.

The boat in fact had very little navigation equipment. You couldn’t read the one compass from the helm (I moved it so we could), and there were no dividers or parallel rules or any other such tools onboard. We did have a paper chart, but of course nothing like Loran or GPS.

I laid out a course as best I could from Sag Harbor to the entrance of the Great Salt Pond on Block Island, where we planned to spend the night. I then stayed on deck closely monitoring our whereabouts until shortly after sunset, when we raised a flashing red light I was sure marked our target.

“Steer for that light,” I told Dave, our other crew member, who was on the tiller.

Then I went below for a little nap. Richard, our putative skipper, meanwhile decided to do the same.

I awoke a few hours later and went on deck to find everything was pitch black with very poor visibility, but with that blinking red light plainly visible ahead of us and seeming still to be some ways off. Dave, the least experienced sailor onboard, was still happily steering straight for it. Richard, meanwhile, was still asleep.

Still yawning from my nap, I went forward to see if I could see anything more clearly from the bow. I was up there peering ahead into the impenetrable gloom when suddenly the blinking red light disappeared.

I was walking aft again to tell Dave we should maybe turn around, when the boat suddenly slewed up sideways on to a beach. (It turned out to be the beach just south of the pond’s entrance.) Very fortunately, if you are going to do something this stupid, a Dutch lemsterrak is the boat to do it in. They are basically flat-bottomed sailing barges with leeboards and are designed to take the ground comfortably. Also, conditions were calm. We lay all the rest of the night on the beach, suffered no damage, and were easily hauled off by a tow boat in the morning.

An example of a lemsterrak under sail. They are very versatile vessels

There are, of course, many important lessons to be learned from this mishap, and I am very willing to have you all tell me what they are.

I’ll start the discussion by asking another question about the VOR. Specifically: should it be sailed in lemsterraks?

VESTAS WIND SHIPWRECK: Post Mortem With Embarrassing Personal Recollection

Sail Feed - Fri, 2014-12-19 19:15

You know something really big has gone on in the sailing world when even The New Yorker magazine feels they have to say something about it. The grounding and abandonment of Team Vestas Wind has been a major publicity coup, for both the Volvo Ocean Race and the boat’s sponsor, Vestas Wind, made all the sweeter by the fact of the happy ending: no one was seriously injured. The cause of the accident has been pretty clearly identified. The Cargados Carajos Shoals were in an exclusion zone that was opened to the fleet the night before they started leg 2 of the race out of Cape Town. Vestas navigator Wouter Verbraak (see image up top) wasn’t aware that the shoals were directly on the route north to Abu Dhabi, didn’t have time to fully scope out the new track before the start, and assumed he’d be able to do so while racing the leg. In the end he never zoomed in close enough on his electronic chart to see the shoals, and the crew sailed right on to the reef at night having no idea it was there.

This obviously was a stupid mistake, and Verbraak, to his credit, has openly confessed to it. The boat’s skipper Chris Nicholson likewise has accepted full responsibility for what happened and recently gave two long interviews—one in print with Sail-World (a big three-parter that starts here) and one on video with Sailing Anarchy. These are both well worth your attention.

As far as commentary goes, I think one of the best responses to the accident has come from Ben Ellison at Panbo, who goes into some detail on the relevant technical aspects of electronic charting and points out that integral route conflict alarms are an available technology that needs to be more fully exploited both by the electronics industry and by navigators. Another is from Rick Spilman, on the Old Salt Blog, who puts the Vestas grounding in a much broader historical perspective and surveys similar technology-assisted mishaps, starting with the famous Andrea Doria disaster of 1956, wherein two ocean liners tracking each other on radar collided in fog off Nantucket Shoals, killing 51 passengers and crew. Note, too, that Spilman in his piece references another fine bit of commentary from Elaine Bunting of Yachting World.

On reading and watching the two interviews with Nicholson, I was struck most by the great danger the Vestas crew found themselves in immediately after grounding. I had imagined they were able to simply step off the boat, but in fact the situation was much, much dicier. A simple safe exit was never assured, as the boat was moving around a lot, suffering serious damage as it was pounded by the surf, and there was a real threat of it rolling over on top of everyone. (For a detailed description of all this see Part 2 of the Sail-World interview.)

It is a testament to Nicholson’s leadership and to the crew’s ability that no one was really hurt. Of course, they were also damn lucky. If the boat’s keel had come off on impact and the hull had flipped immediately, the consequences would have been fatal for sure. The fact that the canting keel’s joint survived the ordeal (and evidently is still intact, though the keel bulb itself fell off quite promptly) says a lot about the integrity of these new Volvo boats.

The wreck of Vestas with the bulletproof keel joint in plain view

As to Sailing Anarchy’s video interview, I was impressed that Alan Block had the chutzpah to query Nicholson directly on the accident’s publicity value, pointing out that the best result for a Volvo race sponsor is always for a boat to “break or win.”

“I hear you,” responds Nicholson. “But I don’t recommend this road for anyone.”

“Don’t crash your boat to get sponsor value,” concludes Block. “Fair enough.”

Sponsor Vestas Wind won major green publicity points as the team worked to immediately remove all pollutants (see that fuel tank there?) from the wreck

Block also directly confronted another tricky question: would Nicholson have Verbraak back as navigator? Nicholson’s very equivocal response makes it pretty clear he wouldn’t.

Having absorbed all this now, I still have some questions in my mind:

1. This exclusion zone—was it intended to protect the boats from the shoals or from Somali pirates? If the former, didn’t race organizers have a positive obligation to point the shoals out to all competing navigators? Shouldn’t they have nav briefings before each leg in any event? It seems Team Vestas Wind weren’t the only ones who were surprised to find the reef there, though they were the only ones who didn’t find it before hitting it.

2. Ben Ellison has pointed out that chart alarms could easily be improved. What about also making obvious hazards on electronic charts more obvious? All it takes when you’re zoomed out too far is a little box saying: “Danger! Zoom in here.”

3. Verbraak apparently had paper charts aboard, but has stated he didn’t have what he needed to suss out the newly opened exclusion zone en route. Did they have the wrong charts, or what?

4. More broadly: do Volvo boats carry sextants? I’m guessing not. Should they be required to? Do Volvo navigators know how to use them? Should they be required to carry paper charts, etc., etc.? I don’t have an opinion on this, but I think it bears discussing.

The VOR leadership has announced they will conduct a thorough investigation and release a full report on the incident, and I imagine we will see some changes in their relevant rules and regs subsequent to this. Team Vestas Wind meanwhile is both moving to get their dead boat off the reef as quickly as possible while simultaneously scrambling to put a new boat together in time to rejoin the race. According to Nicholson, they have received many offers of support from the other teams to help do this.

BONUS VIDEOS: Yes, there is yet another video of the grounding to watch. This one is nicely organized and sums the whole experience up rather neatly:

Note that during the actual black-and-white grounding footage we now know that what everyone is looking at over the leeward (port) side just before they hit is some white gleaming on the water that they erroneously believed was moonlight.

Plus, here’s a video of the post-wreck press conference held in Abu Dhabi:

BONUS ANECDOTE: I was very interested to learn while studying his two interviews that Chris Nicholson had never before run aground while sailing. I’m guessing this is because he is a fancy high-paid racing sailor. As a lowly unpaid cruising sailor, I run aground all the time. Indeed, whenever another cruiser tells me proudly he or she has never run aground, I always assume they haven’t been sailing very long.

Most of my groundings, of course, have been in situations where I knew I was cutting it close and the bottom was just sand or mud. I did, however, have one full-on seemingly-out-of-nowhere major-could-have-been-a-shipwreck grounding just like Team Vestas Wind.

This was back in 1990, when a friend of mine, Richard, asked me to help him sail his new Dutch lemsterrak (he’d just had it shipped over from Holland) from Sag Harbor, Long Island, to Newport, Rhode Island. Richard had never sailed out of sight of land before and so wanted me to do the navigating.

The boat in fact had very little navigation equipment. You couldn’t read the one compass from the helm (I moved it so we could), and there were no dividers or parallel rules or any other such tools onboard. We did have a paper chart, but of course nothing like Loran or GPS.

I laid out a course as best I could from Sag Harbor to the entrance of the Great Salt Pond on Block Island, where we planned to spend the night. I then stayed on deck closely monitoring our whereabouts until shortly after sunset, when we raised a flashing red light I was sure marked our target.

“Steer for that light,” I told Dave, our other crew member, who was on the tiller.

Then I went below for a little nap. Richard, our putative skipper, meanwhile decided to do the same.

I awoke a few hours later and went on deck to find everything was pitch black with very poor visibility, but with that blinking red light plainly visible ahead of us and seeming still to be some ways off. Dave, the least experienced sailor onboard, was still happily steering straight for it. Richard, meanwhile, was still asleep.

Still yawning from my nap, I went forward to see if I could see anything more clearly from the bow. I was up there peering ahead into the impenetrable gloom when suddenly the blinking red light disappeared.

I was walking aft again to tell Dave we should maybe turn around, when the boat suddenly slewed up sideways on to a beach. (It turned out to be the beach just south of the pond’s entrance.) Very fortunately, if you are going to do something this stupid, a Dutch lemsterrak is the boat to do it in. They are basically flat-bottomed sailing barges with leeboards and are designed to take the ground comfortably. Also, conditions were calm. We lay all the rest of the night on the beach, suffered no damage, and were easily hauled off by a tow boat in the morning.

An example of a lemsterrak under sail. They are very versatile vessels

There are, of course, many important lessons to be learned from this mishap, and I am very willing to have you all tell me what they are.

I’ll start the discussion by asking another question about the VOR. Specifically: should it be sailed in lemsterraks?

Lowrance HDS Gen3, plus Elite CHIRP and SmartSteer two ways

Sail Feed - Thu, 2014-12-18 15:00

Written by Ben Ellison on Dec 18, 2014 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub

Lowrance put a lot of cards on the table yesterday. Foremost is a new HDS Gen3 series which combines the touch interface of the Gen2 Touch with a keypad similar to regular Gen2 models. Added are multi-touch gestures, built-in WiFi and Bluetooth, dual SD card slots (though micro size), and a CHIRP option in addition to Broadband sonar. And it all fits into about the same dimensions as the original Gen2 Touch 7-, 9- and 12-models with about the same original retail prices. I don’t yet buy the press release, “next revolutionary step forward,” but “state of the art” sure seems appropriate…

I got a peek at a prototype HDS12 Gen3 alongside the Gen2 Touch during the Fort Lauderdale show, and you can see above how they shrunk the left side of the bezel to fit in two narrow columns of control buttons. Jim Hebert over at Continuous Wave did a good job of figuring out what the Gen3 buttons do — before yesterday’s marketing blitz — but I don’t share his worry about identifying them with icons instead of English labels. I think they’re easy to figure out even without looking at the Quick Start Guide PDF, but I do wonder if the relatively small buttons will be hard to use in some conditions. Running what seems like a very similar Simrad NSS evo2 interface with a simpler keypad (and knob!) works well for me, but then again, there are commands I can’t get to as quickly.

Some Internet commenters think that the Gen3 is simply NSS evo2 in different clothes, but the backside of this $3,149 Gen3 12 says different. On the $3,999 NSS12 e2 you’d also see an HDMI video output, a dedicated power port, and a port combining NMEA 0183 RX/TX wires with dual RCA analog video inputs. The HDS Gen3 will support one analog video input, but it requires an optional cable that works with the combined power and 0183 port (red above). But both MFDs do have standard NMEA 2000 ports, dual Navico-style Ethernet ports (yellow), a CHIRP/Broadband sonar port (blue), and a StructureScan HD (or SpotlightScan) port. With evo2, and B&G Zeus2, that port can also be used for networked ForwardScan, but Lowrance doesn’t offer FS yet. (I think Navico wants to emphasize ForwardScan’s usefulness for grounding avoidance, though I can testify that it does image fish, too.)

Of course, Lowrance HDS Gen3 can already do all sorts of fish and structure imaging. While Kees once took a great closer look at HDS Gen2 Touch, he’s the unusual (though not necessarily unwise) sailor who uses Lowrance. For hands-on opinions about fishfinding I like sources like The Hull Truth electronics forum, and one interesting aspect of Lowrance CHIRP is that they claim effectiveness even with a lowend transducer. I saw it demoed during Navico’s press event but only in shallow water, so I’ll pass along this THT report from ‘abbor‘: “…there are thousands of people (including me) who have tried CHIRPing with HST-WSBL. Using a standard transducer in CHIRP mode usually produces a cleaner image, at larger depths the resolution is improved and the sensitivity is also improved under most conditions. Where it brings least value is probably at 30′ and less. A TM150M will probably give better results 98% of the time, and the difference is usually significant.”

A new function icon you can see on the Gen3 Home Screen at the top of this entry is titled “Steer” and that’s because Lowrance’s interesting Auto Steering technology is getting real. At IBEX that Gen2 Touch above was using the new Outboard Pilot — due out this month — to turn a real outboard and new Gen2/3 software will also support the MotorGuide Xi5 SmartSteer (trolling motor) Control. The best detail I’ve found on both these systems is on these videos (which is also a good page for learning about HDS Gen3).

The videos show that a HDS Gen3 (or Gen2) user will be able to easily flip from “smartsteering” an outboard to having a trolling motor do the same tricks, like following a route or maintaining a heading (and speed too, with the trolling motor). Come to think of it, that may be “revolutionary” (or maybe I’m not caught up with the fast moving world of small fishing boats – corrections please if needed).

Lowrance also introduced Mark-4 and Elite-4 CHIRP fishfinder/chartplotter displays yesterday. So the little Elite below offers a 4.3-inch LED backlit able to show 455/800 kHz DownScan and Med or High CHIRP running around 83 or 200kHz all for $299 with transducer included, not mention built-in GPS and 3,000 lake maps included. Which may be a “revolutionary” value though again the sonar competition is moving fast. Navico is holding another Florida writer’s event in January — where I expect to see all this new gear in action, and maybe more — but Raymarine and Garmin are already planning Miami demos in February.

Click here to read comments about this Panbo entry, or add your own.

Sacrebleu!: French frigate Latouche-Tréville

Sail Feed - Thu, 2014-12-18 13:13

I filmed these guys during a Sunday sail on Condesa. The radioed to ask about mal de mer, and I suggested ginger candies and those wrist bands.

Game Called on Account of Snow

Sail Feed - Thu, 2014-12-18 11:07

Can’t talk – too busy watching kids make snowballs.

Meanwhile, back in PNG, Erik has admitted to eating an entire box of chocolates meant for me. I no longer feel bad about eating all of my Grandmother’s shortbread cookies without him.

Enjoy your week, everyone. I will post again when I’m not hiding under a fur hat or fighting food battles against my nearest and dearest.

Man Rescued in Bahamas After 5-Days Adrift in Dinghy

Sail Feed - Wed, 2014-12-17 16:06

Looks like Larry Sutterfield drifted from Marathon, Florida to Cay Sal Bank, Bahamas, on a fishing/camping trip gone wrong.

Engine trouble and an offshore wind? I’ve bloviated about the dangers of such escapades and my close call here.

Full story here.

Vestas Volvo Ocean Race Wreck: Very Naughty Language!

Sail Feed - Tue, 2014-12-16 19:35

It seems to have escaped the sailing world that Cargados Carajos, the site of the wreck, is not a term to be bandied about in front of children. Google translates it as “loaded f*ck.” Like much profanity in English, it doesn’t make much grammatical sense, but when we’re screaming profanity, are we really trying to make any sense?

I speak Spanish, but when it comes to the finer distinctions of obscene expletives I seek help. One native Spanish-speaker answered my request for clarification thusly: “‘Cargados carajos’ pretty much means loaded f*ck. Holy sh*t would be more like “santísima mierda” o “santos carajos” even. But cargados carajos definitely has some ‘loaded’ in it.”

A Guatemalan guy I work with says this is definitely an expression of Spanish, as in from Spain, profanity, not from the New World. I can find no mention of any Spanish connection with the place. Its first European discovery was by the Portuguese, and cargados carajos doesn’t mean anything in Portuguese.

At any rate, we can imagine some sailor of old (perhaps a Spanish sailor standing watch on a Portuguese ship?) uttering this expression upon sighting crashing waves and a reef awash on what he thought was a wide open sea.

I’m guessing the first reports of the Vestas wreck from this heretofore-unknown-to-most-of-the-world shoal identified it as such, and it stuck for all further reports. Thanks to Team Vestas, it’s finally earned it. They might have used the alternate name, St. Brandon Shoals, which is what I’m guessing the Spanish sailing press is calling it. Tee hee.

Thane & Brenda Paulsen

Sail Feed - Tue, 2014-12-16 07:41

Brenda and Thane Paulsen spoke with Andy from their Bavaria 39 ‘Asylum’ at Rodney Bay Marina in Saint Lucia. They’d just completed their first Atlantic crossing, sailing in the ARC+ rally, which departs Las Palmas and stops in the Cape Verde islands en route to the Caribbean.

Brenda and Thane sailed double-handed, and spoke about the challenges of short-handed sailing. They delved into their sailing history, gave some practical tips on shipping their boat to Europe and cruising the Med, and talked about what it’s like to sail in a rally.

Follow the ARC on Facebook or the ARC website.

Want to go ocean sailing with Andy? Book a berth on Sojourner, Serenity or a Swan 57 at 59-north.com/events.

CRUISE INTERRUPTED: Young Swedes Shipwrecked on Easter Island

Sail Feed - Mon, 2014-12-15 18:34

Ah, to be young again. That’s what I’m wishing after reading this account of two young Swedes, Melvin Svensson and Emil Warme, who were shipwrecked on Easter Island (called Rapa Nui by locals) this past August after their Carter Concubine 33 Frivarv was driven ashore at Ahu Tongariki (see photo up top). I was shipwrecked once in my younger days, but that was in Spain, a very civilized, well populated place. These guys lost their boat literally in the middle of nowhere. Easter Island is one of the most remote inhabited islands on the planet. The nearest inhabited land, Pitcairn Island, with a population of just 50, is almost 1,300 miles away, and the nearest continent, South America, is about 2,220 miles away.

As far as I can tell, Melvin and Emil are still on the island, plotting their next move. (Or at least, according to this Facebook page, they were there as of October.) They’ve been well received by the local population of 6,000 souls, though a big part of their problem immediately after their boat was wrecked was that many items of value were stolen. Ironically, too, it seems the hospitality of the locals may have been their downfall, as they evidently were staying ashore with newfound friends when Frivarv hit the bricks. From what I understand, Easter Island is not a good place to leave your boat unattended for very long.

You can see Tongariki up in the northeast corner of the island. There are nothing but open roadsteads here, with no real secure anchorages

Melvin and Emil first arrived on the island on July 27, after a three-week passage from the Galapagos, and were shipwrecked just 12 days later. In all the boat, which seems to belong to Melvin, had spent 11 months coming from Sweden. She had as many as eight crew aboard during the seven weeks she was in the Caribbean last winter, but after that it was just Melvin and Emil.

Frivarv under sail in the Caribbean

Emil (left) and Melvin (right) commune with a tortoise in the Galapagos

Emil inside the remains of the boat

According to that local news story cited above, the boys were hoping “to buy a new boat in the vicinity” to continue their cruise, but I can’t imagine there are many cruising sailboats on the market there. I’m sure, however, that an extended stay on the island would be a fascinating experience. Fortunately for them, there is another Swede living there, Marcus Edensky, who speaks the local language.

Easter Island is renowned for its mysterious monumental statues, called moai. There are nearly 900 on the island, most of them on the shoreline, and no one knows for sure what their purpose was. They were presumably erected by the Polynesians who first settled the island sometime during the first millennium AD. Subsequently the population crashed, many statures were toppled over, and the island was deforested for reasons that are not clear

Another mystery for me personally is this boat they were sailing. Anyone ever heard of a Concubine 33 before? What a fantastic name for a boat!

There’s not much info online. According to this one old brochure I found it was based on a 3/4-ton IOR design and repurposed for cruising by Northshore Yachts in the U.K. starting in 1977. The promo blurb describes it as “Dick Carter’s most luxurious 33-foot cruiser/racer.”

Concubine 33 profile and accommodation plan

Which seems a bit of a stretch to me.

CRUISE INTERRUPTED: Young Swedes Shipwrecked on Easter Island

Sail Feed - Mon, 2014-12-15 18:34

Ah, to be young again. That’s what I’m wishing after reading this account of two young Swedes, Melvin Svensson and Emil Warme, who were shipwrecked on Easter Island (called Rapa Nui by locals) this past August after their Carter Concubine 33 Frivarv was driven ashore at Ahu Tongariki (see photo up top). I was shipwrecked once in my younger days, but that was in Spain, a very civilized, well populated place. These guys lost their boat literally in the middle of nowhere. Easter Island is one of the most remote inhabited islands on the planet. The nearest inhabited land, Pitcairn Island, with a population of just 50, is almost 1,300 miles away, and the nearest continent, South America, is about 2,220 miles away.

As far as I can tell, Melvin and Emil are still on the island, plotting their next move. (Or at least, according to this Facebook page, they were there as of October.) They’ve been well received by the local population of 6,000 souls, though a big part of their problem immediately after their boat was wrecked was that many items of value were stolen. Ironically, too, it seems the hospitality of the locals may have been their downfall, as they evidently were staying ashore with newfound friends when Frivarv hit the bricks. From what I understand, Easter Island is not a good place to leave your boat unattended for very long.

You can see Tongariki up in the northeast corner of the island. There are nothing but open roadsteads here, with no real secure anchorages

Melvin and Emil first arrived on the island on July 27, after a three-week passage from the Galapagos, and were shipwrecked just 12 days later. In all the boat, which seems to belong to Melvin, had spent 11 months coming from Sweden. She had as many as eight crew aboard during the seven weeks she was in the Caribbean last winter, but after that it was just Melvin and Emil.

Frivarv under sail in the Caribbean

Emil (left) and Melvin (right) commune with a tortoise in the Galapagos

Emil inside the remains of the boat

According to that local news story cited above, the boys were hoping “to buy a new boat in the vicinity” to continue their cruise, but I can’t imagine there are many cruising sailboats on the market there. I’m sure, however, that an extended stay on the island would be a fascinating experience. Fortunately for them, there is another Swede living there, Marcus Edensky, who speaks the local language.

Easter Island is renowned for its mysterious monumental statues, called moai. There are nearly 900 on the island, most of them on the shoreline, and no one knows for sure what their purpose was. They were presumably erected by the Polynesians who first settled the island sometime during the first millennium AD. Subsequently the population crashed, many statures were toppled over, and the island was deforested for reasons that are not clear

Another mystery for me personally is this boat they were sailing. Anyone ever heard of a Concubine 33 before? What a fantastic name for a boat!

There’s not much info online. According to this one old brochure I found it was based on a 3/4-ton IOR design and repurposed for cruising by Northshore Yachts in the U.K. starting in 1977. The promo blurb describes it as “Dick Carter’s most luxurious 33-foot cruiser/racer.”

Concubine 33 profile and accommodation plan

Which seems a bit of a stretch to me.

LinkWav, Inmarsat FB finally makes sense for intermittent users

Sail Feed - Sun, 2014-12-14 12:00

Written by Ben Ellison on Dec 14, 2014 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub

Ho hum, just another sat coms service provider? No way! I think that LinkWav has pulled off something quite special in the daunting world of expensive marine satellite voice minutes and data megabytes. The company figured out how to offer a simple Inmarsat FleetBroadband service plan with decent rates and nearly realtime cost/budget monitoring, but without an oppressive contract. In fact, LinkWav is especially designed for the ocean racers, cruisers and small commercial operators who only need satellite communications now and then, sometimes with many months in between. The cherry on top is the high quality of the LinkWav team…

First, let’s review some frustrating FleetBroadband history. When the service went live in 2007, even the smallest 15-inch FB250 antenna offered significantly faster, better global service than had ever been available with hardware that small. Then in 2009 along came the $6,000 11-inch FB150, which seemed really right for some medium-size yachts. In fact, Panbo friend Gram Schweikert installed that KVH FB150 above (alongside an Iridium OpenPort) and then tested both from Newport to NZ. As explained in that last entry and further here, Gram and his family found the FleetBroadband system easy, reliable and useful during their long cruise, and service options, like the ability to buy a year of minutes up front and use them any time during the year, made it reasonably affordable.

But then, in 2011 some of the cruiser-friendly service options went away and in 2012 Inmarsat base rates for light and/or intermittent users seemed to go up again. We later learned that Inmarsat was under pressures that had little to do with their smaller yacht users, but I’m not sure that made the affected boaters feel better about the results. Some installer/dealers who had equipped customers with FleetBroadband were also upset and the one I quoted in 2011, saying that the service changes “will completely orphan the recreational community,” was particularly perturbed. But guess what? The guy who cared a lot about his customers is the guy behind LinkWav.

For many years Eric Steinberg has run Farallon Electronics, where he’s specialized in Grand Prix racing yacht systems and has also developed products like the IstarGPS. I finally met him in San Diego (above), where he was responsible for all the conventional and very unconventional electronics aboard the dozens of the Americas Cup 34 support vessels (and here) that went around the world helping to pull off a whole new level of race management and live video coverage. I caught up with Eric during the actual AC72 racing in San Francisco, and by then was even more impressed with how he and the rest of Stan Honey’s team had employed so much new technology with so few hitches. He didn’t mention LinkWav then, but according to the company’s modest About page, the idea was germinating. In fact, the person responsible for the complex database that makes LinkWav work is Chris Milnes, whose father Ken is Stan Honey’s longtime tech partner. I presume that, like Eric, he, too, is familiar with work in high performance environments where reliability is key.

In that spirit, LinkWav has already been tested on about a dozen boats for over a year, and I know that Steinberg and Milnes were perfectionists about the LinkWav site before they made it public a few weeks ago – which is why I don’t need to say much about it. I think that the single pay-as-you-go service plan is easy to understand, even though there’s nothing else like it. The magic seems to be behind the scenes in how LinkWav interfaces with Inmarsat’s pre-paid SIM card billing system (and Inmarsat is purportedly fine with it). The sign-up system looks very straightforward and requires no financial commitment…

…and a customer’s Air Management controls also seem easy, though powerful. The concept here is that you can buy all the airtime you want easily, but also stop whenever you want, and if you use the management tools carefully, you can spend close to zero up to 8 months of no use. Below is an actual LinkWav Usage Status email sent to a customer somewhere on the planet earlier this week. Eric doesn’t think that any other service provider offers this amount of detail, and he’s hoping similar database programming can offer special help to users of the harshly regionalized Fleet One service when LinkWav adds support for it.

Incidentally, some FB150 hardware systems are now under $5,000 ,and I must say that sometimes even a cheap coastal cruiser like me wonders if all the time I spend messing with cell and WiFi connections is worth it. If I ever did want solid satellite communications, what could beat having LinkWav and the guys who run it between Inmarsat and my wallet?

Click here to read comments about this Panbo entry, or add your own.

ARC 2014 Podcast: Leopard by Finland

Sail Feed - Sat, 2014-12-13 22:28

Andy sits down with Samuli & Timo in Saint Lucia to talk about Leopard’s record-breaking run in this year’s ARC. Nearly 3,000 miles in just over 8 days! While the boat was long gone, Samuli and Timo were still on island with their families and graciously chatted with Andy at Elena’s Cafe in Rodney Bay Marina for an in-person chat. They talk about sailing culture in Finland, Samuli’s pro racing career, Timo’s adventures in the mountains and of course what it’s like to sail a 100-foot maxi at 30+ knots offshore.

To follow the ARC in real-time, visit worldcruising.com/arc or keep up to date on facebook.com/arcrally.

Want to go ocean sailing with Andy? Book a berth on Sojourner, Serenity or a Swan 57 at 59-north.com/events.

ARC 2014 Podcast: Leopard by Finland

Sail Feed - Sat, 2014-12-13 22:28

Andy sits down with Samuli & Timo in Saint Lucia to talk about Leopard’s record-breaking run in this year’s ARC. Nearly 3,000 miles in just over 8 days! While the boat was long gone, Samuli and Timo were still on island with their families and graciously chatted with Andy at Elena’s Cafe in Rodney Bay Marina for an in-person chat. They talk about sailing culture in Finland, Samuli’s pro racing career, Timo’s adventures in the mountains and of course what it’s like to sail a 100-foot maxi at 30+ knots offshore.

To follow the ARC in real-time, visit worldcruising.com/arc or keep up to date on facebook.com/arcrally.

Want to go ocean sailing with Andy? Book a berth on Sojourner, Serenity or a Swan 57 at 59-north.com/events.

Your day is about to get better

Sail Feed - Sat, 2014-12-13 08:30

Get ready to smile! You know how when you smile at someone, it’s hard for them not to smile back? When someone passes along a good feeling, it’s hard not to share it and pass it along yourself? That’s pretty much how the kids & kittens fundraiser happened. It all started with a picture of the cute little boy we call Monk (for his impassive demeanor and bald head). His name is actually Hualan, but whatever the name, who can resist a trouser-less toddler gripping onto his favorite thing in the world, a new-to-him scooter?

When Mike messaged me after seeing Monk’s picture on Facebook, wanting to get scooters for other resident shipyard kids, a quick fundraiser was born. I never imagined that so many people would be so giving, so generous, so eager to take that smile and pass it along but in just a few days, we raised almost $1,400. This blew me away- the whole purpose was to pass along that good feeling by making a bunch of kids really, really happy. Does it get any better than that?

Siobhan and her buddy, Biya. Thanks to Jamie from SV Esper for the photo.

Who are the kids, anyway? The first I met were from the Burmese families. These parents have to overcome big hurdles just to get to Satun, and support their families, paying agent fees that cost them months of salary just to get to this place and have a living. PSS built housing for many of the yard staff and their families live, where they pay only for water and electricity. It’s affordable housing for people who have come far from their home villages looking for work, and can’t afford anything more. They are Burmese, Cambodian, and Thai; children range from infants to teens, so the kids are often “around” in the yard. Our kids had gotten to know many of them (despite the lack of shared language) during our stay, between mock Muay Thai battles in the yard, weekend afternoons playing card games and drawing together, running around on the scooters in the yard’s open spaces.

With Totem’s launch date looming, this all had to happen quickly. The day before our planned launch, and only a few days after the whole fundraiser idea coalesced, Julie (PSS shipyard management) and I spent a morning shopping in Saturn town. I had worried about being able to spend our budget raised, but I shouldn’t have. First, we picked out wheels for each of the kids: scooters, bikes, trikes, ride-on trucks. Then we got a few things for fun: soccer balls, frisbee and badminton rackets (it’s popular here, and they have a net in the yard).

Choosing soccer balls in Satun. Thanks to Julie from PSS-Satun for the photo.

School supplies were next: notebooks, pens, pencils, and erasers. Last, we went to the bank to get cash for uniforms. One of the hurdles for kids to attend school daily is that they need three complete uniforms (with different shoes), each worn on different types of days at school. One uniform set can cost more than a parent earns in a day- it’s significant, so you have some days where some kids might not be able to go to school because they don’t have the right clothes to wear.

We planned a giveaway/ presentation for that night. During our stay at PSS, we’d become fans of Bobby’s Pizza in Satun (pizza tossed the old school way and served with a Liverpool accent- what more to love?!), and when Bobby caught wind of the plans he generously offered to drive out with a big pizza treat for the kids. Time for a party!

Julie serves pizza to the kids at the shipyard. Thanks to Jamie from SV Esper for the photo.

Bikes, assembled and waiting. Remember getting your first bike? Mine tasted a lot like freedom! There’s a age range that’s the sweet spot for a scooter, and these kids span a spectrum. For the youngest, we got ride-on toys. For those a little older, set got scooters; older kids were given bicycles. Scooters are stacked on the right just out of the frame.

The bicycle lineup! Thanks to Jamie from SV Esper for the photo.

At left in the photo below is Cho, one of the Burmese mamas and shipyard staff, with her daughters and grandson. We only share a couple of dozen words between my broken Thai and her broken English, but with a chain of translation she helped explain to gathered group what this was about, and how it came to be- the fantastic readers from Totem, a world away from Satun.

Cho and family. Thanks to Jamie from SV Esper for the photo.

Each child was called up by name. Here’s the really cool thing: every time one of their compatriots received a gift, the kids CHEERED. A rousing, fantastic, I’m-happy-for-you cheer as each of them picked up the smile and carried it along. There wasn’t the shadow of jealousy for what one received or another didn’t: they were so genuinely happy for each other.

Jamie, of SV Esper, does weekly videos. Meeting Jamie and Liz was one of the highlights of our stay in Satun, and he’s put a video together that covers the fundraiser and party for the kids. It tells the story better than I am here, including a tour through the shipyard staff homes adjacent to the shipyard. It’s a great watch, other than the parts where I’m getting a little over emotional sharing the story of the fundraiser! But listen closely in the beginning: that’s the cheer, the uplifting enthusiasm that happened over and over as each kid came forward and got their scooter (or bike, or whatever). They were just so happy for each other- it was beautiful!

This was also about the kittens. Facebook followers know that our girls nursed a pathetic looking gaggle of prematurely mama-less kittens (and two puppies) during our stay at the shipyard: growing them bigger and stronger, holding them through worming shots at the vet, getting special kibble for kittens who stop nursing too soon, diligently giving them daily eye drops, ringworm treatments, oral vitamins and antibiotics. Needless to say these little kittens worked their way into our hearts!

At the vet in Satun. Thanks Julie for the photo!

As a result of the fundraiser, there’s plenty of kibble and kitty litter to keep the kittens well cared for inside the shipyard offices. They’ve come a long way but they still need to get bigger and stronger before they can become “shipyard cats.” And, they’re in good hands! Jamie and Liz from Esper will see them through the coming weeks, and Julie is consistently supportive.

There are times in my life when I really can’t believe how lucky I am. Except I do. I really do know how incredibly fortunate we are. But this week was an emotional wringer of reminders and I felt luckiest of all to be the vehicle to help bring a spark to these kids. I just wish I could have brought every donor into the shed to see the look in the kids’ eyes when their hands where put on a set of wheels, just for them! And I wish they could experience the gratitude from the parents for a little uniform help. It is tremendous.Thank you to everyone who gave- please know that you have made a difference!

The monk who started it all, and eternal kid Tony. Thanks to Jamie from SV Esper for the photo!

We’re always grateful when you click through to the Sailfeed website.

Shopping for Sailor-Stuff?

Sail Feed - Fri, 2014-12-12 14:22

Sail Couture Holiday Gift Guide 2014!
By Kara Hugglestone

Few things are as satisfying as giving the perfect gift, something truly special that will be treasured.

This year we searched out unique gifts for the special sailor on your list and some even have a Sail Couture discount.

– See more at: SailCouture.com

MAYDAY: Liveaboard Sailor Swept Offshore and Rescued 12 Days After Making Call

Sail Feed - Thu, 2014-12-11 19:10

Ron Ingraham, a 67-year-old fisherman who had been living aboard his Bayfield 25 Malia on Molokai in Hawaii, was rescued Tuesday by the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard, 12 days after first trying to call for help on a jury-rigged VHF radio and a week after a search for him had been called off. News reports have it that Ron’s ordeal started when he was unable to enter Kaumalapau Harbor on the west coast of the island of Lanai, south of Molokai, due to a strong northwest swell. If you watch the TV interview with him here, however, it seems clear to me what actually happened was he was anchored at Kaumalapau and had to bail out because of the swell (note he refers to having to “cut his ropes” to avoid going up on the rocks just before dark).

Take a peek at this chart of the harbor, which is fairly small and open (though evidently it is the main commercial harbor on the island), and you can see it would be quite untenable with a lot of westerly swell piling into it:

Once clear of the harbor Ron was forced to run off to the south in the strong wind, until he was 200 miles off the south end of the big island of Hawaii.

At some point his boat was knocked down, with its mast in the water, and his masthead VHF antenna was lost, and he was swept overboard. Fortunately, Ron had a line on him and was able to pull himself back aboard. He jammed a coat hangar in his radio as a makeshift antenna and put out two Mayday calls on Thanksgiving Day, in which he stated he was taking on water and in danger of sinking. According to at least one report, he gave out an incorrect position during these calls that put him 46 miles west of Kailua-Kona, which is in the middle of the Big Island’s west coast, due to a problem with his GPS.

For whatever reason, the Coast Guard spent five days conducting a large search in the wrong area, southwest of Maui, after receiving the calls and finally gave up looking for Ron on December 1. Meanwhile, Ron was evidently having some luck sailing back north, as when his next call was received Tuesday morning he was just 64 miles south of Honolulu. The U.S. Navy destroyer Paul Hamilton picked up Ron and handed him and his boat off the Coast Guard, who returned them both to Molokai yesterday.

Ron meets the Navy after getting picked up

And here’s a video of the pick-up:

Ron ran out of food and water during his impromptu adventure and survived by catching fish. He was reported as being “weak, hungry, and dehydrated” when he was finally rescued.

The feel-good holiday ending is that authorities contacted Ron’s son Zakary, age 43, in the middle of all this. Zakary and his dad hadn’t seen or spoken to each other in many years, as Zakary was taken away by his mom after his parents divorced when he was just 7. Ron was living a simple life on Molokai, with no phone or e-mail access, and evidently was difficult to contact. When told the search for his dad was being called off, Zakary, who lives in Missouri, told authorities he believed his father was still alive.

“You know who Rambo is?” Zakary told reporters. “Rambo has a picture of my dad on his wall.”

Now he’s saving up his money so he can fly to Hawaii to visit his dad.

PS: Some reports have it that Ron’s little boat Malia lost both its masts during this mishap, but that is obviously wrong. It only has one mast, which was obviously still upright when Ron was rescued.

MAYDAY: Liveaboard Sailor Swept Offshore and Rescued 12 Days After Making Call

Sail Feed - Thu, 2014-12-11 19:10

Ron Ingraham, a 67-year-old fisherman who had been living aboard his Bayfield 25 Malia on Molokai in Hawaii, was rescued Tuesday by the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard, 12 days after first trying to call for help on a jury-rigged VHF radio and a week after a search for him had been called off. News reports have it that Ron’s ordeal started when he was unable to enter Kaumalapau Harbor on the west coast of the island of Lanai, south of Molokai, due to a strong northwest swell. If you watch the TV interview with him here, however, it seems clear to me what actually happened was he was anchored at Kaumalapau and had to bail out because of the swell (note he refers to having to “cut his ropes” to avoid going up on the rocks just before dark).

Take a peek at this chart of the harbor, which is fairly small and open (though evidently it is the main commercial harbor on the island), and you can see it would be quite untenable with a lot of westerly swell piling into it:

Once clear of the harbor Ron was forced to run off to the south in the strong wind, until he was 200 miles off the south end of the big island of Hawaii.

At some point his boat was knocked down, with its mast in the water, and his masthead VHF antenna was lost, and he was swept overboard. Fortunately, Ron had a line on him and was able to pull himself back aboard. He jammed a coat hangar in his radio as a makeshift antenna and put out two Mayday calls on Thanksgiving Day, in which he stated he was taking on water and in danger of sinking. According to at least one report, he gave out an incorrect position during these calls that put him 46 miles west of Kailua-Kona, which is in the middle of the Big Island’s west coast, due to a problem with his GPS.

For whatever reason, the Coast Guard spent five days conducting a large search in the wrong area, southwest of Maui, after receiving the calls and finally gave up looking for Ron on December 1. Meanwhile, Ron was evidently having some luck sailing back north, as when his next call was received Tuesday morning he was just 64 miles south of Honolulu. The U.S. Navy destroyer Paul Hamilton picked up Ron and handed him and his boat off the Coast Guard, who returned them both to Molokai yesterday.

Ron meets the Navy after getting picked up

And here’s a video of the pick-up:

Ron ran out of food and water during his impromptu adventure and survived by catching fish. He was reported as being “weak, hungry, and dehydrated” when he was finally rescued.

The feel-good holiday ending is that authorities contacted Ron’s son Zakary, age 43, in the middle of all this. Zakary and his dad hadn’t seen or spoken to each other in many years, as Zakary was taken away by his mom after his parents divorced when he was just 7. Ron was living a simple life on Molokai, with no phone or e-mail access, and evidently was difficult to contact. When told the search for his dad was being called off, Zakary, who lives in Missouri, told authorities he believed his father was still alive.

“You know who Rambo is?” Zakary told reporters. “Rambo has a picture of my dad on his wall.”

Now he’s saving up his money so he can fly to Hawaii to visit his dad.

PS: Some reports have it that Ron’s little boat Malia lost both its masts during this mishap, but that is obviously wrong. It only has one mast, which was obviously still upright when Ron was rescued.

Sailor Rescued Off Hawaii After Seach Abandoned

Sail Feed - Thu, 2014-12-11 18:54

…and he was reunited with his long lost son. Story here as well.

Lessons of Vestas Volvo wreck, but what about the C-Map Grounding Alarm & similar?

Sail Feed - Wed, 2014-12-10 14:15

Written by Ben Ellison on Dec 10, 2014 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub

The fixed camera on the stern of Vestas Wind captured the worst possible unintended jibe. That’s when you’re blasting along at 19 knots through a tropical offshore night, but then your Volvo Ocean 65 suddenly smashes its way up onto a reef shearing off the rudders and spinning 180° as waves and wind take total control. That is a frightened and nearly naked man beyond the limp mainsheet and when watching the video you, too, may utter involuntary curses. No one was hurt, though, and the crew has been frank about the mistakes made. This has led to some useful conversations about the dangers of electronic charting, but it also reminded me of an uncommon electronic charting feature that might have prevented this shipwreck…

It’s impressive that the one-design Volvo racer hadn’t already lost her mast or canting keel when this morning-after photo was taken, but the boat itself is probably toast — note the “hinging” starboard quarter — and according to Monday’s press conference Team Vestas Wind may build another Ocean 65. Also impressive is how the crew removed possible pollutants and valuables like sails, carbon steering wheels, and that fabulous aft array of satellite, VHF, cellular and WiFi communications gear. And how about a shout-out to the Inmarsat sponsorship and Cobham Sailor hardware for making the HD video coming off these boats possible even in the “middle of nowhere” via FleetBroadband.

But how the heck did professional sailors make this mistake? Peio Elissalde over at Marine GeoGarage posted a great collection of chart images showing the “middle of nowhere” Cargados Carajos Shoal that Vestas Wind fetched up on. I’m not sure where he grabbed the screen above because I don’t see a satellite map option on the Volvo Ocean Race tracker, but the fairly large area of reef and islets is certainly obvious from space. Vestas Wind is on the very steep-to and dangerous western side while Alvimedica is on the safer side ready to assist while the other racers pass by.

While I’m not sure that the GeoGarage image of the large area C-Map above looks exactly like the presentation that the Volvo navigators saw on their AdrenaPro Offshore and Expedition 9 charting and routing screens, several reported that they had to zoom way in to see the real danger, and Vestas Wind thought the shoal was at least 40 meters deep. There’s a long SailingAnarchy thread on how the mistake was made, some of it valuable, but Starpath’s David Burch may have nailed it in a blog entry titled Don’t Blame eCharts for Anything. I often draw a similar distinction between the act of navigation and the tools used (and I wish I could find the Panbo entry I once wrote about particular cautions to take with vector chart zooming, scales, etc.)

6 out of 7 Volvo boats did not make the Vestas mistake and you can see one of the techniques used on this Expedition screen from the gripping video of Alvimedica standing by. As I understand it, the light red exclusion zone drawn around the shoal would keep Expedition from routing the boat through that area and may trigger alarms, even when the chart is so zoomed out that the C-Map detail goes away. I think that a lot of regular charting programs and MFDs offer a similar boundary feature to highlight danger areas. Note that Vestas is marked on this screen by one of the crew’s Kannad R10 AIS SART devices, and that Alvimedica navigator Will Oxley did a lot of quick route and (light blue) divider work to get safely into the bight and prepare to possibly take on passengers or worse.

At any rate, Vestas Wind navigator Wouter Verbraak and skipper Chris Nicholson have admitted to a grievous navigation error, and hopefully, a lot of sailors will now be extra careful with their electronic chart work. But here’s the thing: I believe that most every charting program, app and MFD “knows” when we’re about to make such a mistake and could warn us! Vector charts are databases of objects and related information, and the algorithms that decide what gets drawn on a screen at any particular location and zoom level are what we need to be careful with. But the database includes geopositioned spot soundings and shorelines, while the display knows precisely where you’re headed relative to the data. A constantly running search algorithm that concluded, “Hey, shoal water and then land 1 mile dead ahead!” doesn’t seem hard.

In fact, data-based grounding alarms have existed for quite a while. Jeppesen C-Map calls their version Guardian Alarm and any developer who wants their charting software to use C-Map Max or 4D cartography receives an SDK containing the search algorithms. When available — and apparently that includes a lot of current chartplotters by the likes of Furuno, Standard Horizon, and Humminbird — the MFD user gets to set a minimum draft and the distance to look ahead. They also get to choose what chart objects will be “interrogated”, and the search area is shown on the chart by that red triangle. If a danger is seen, an alarm pops up and you can also get a report showing which object type triggered the alarm. The Guardian Alarm can only be set to search 1 mile ahead at max, which is not ideal for a boat doing 19 knots way offshore, but it still might have helped (especially if they’d set their draft to 99 feet or whatever that max is). And couldn’t ever-improving processors handle longer ranges?

C-Map’s grounding alarm cannot only run when you’re underway but can also be used to check a proposed route, as seen above, and note that 4D includes auto routing. I’m happy to add that Raymarine is working right now to make C-Map 4D cards compatible with all its current displays. I don’t know for sure that Guardian Alarm will be part of Lighthouse II v13, but let’s hope so.

Let’s also note the similar “Look Ahead” function that was prominent on the Maptech i3 over a decade ago (and also on the sister Sea Ray Navigator, also now long gone). The graphic looks something like the Simrad and Echopilot forward scanning sonar that is gaining a new lease on life, but of course, is quite different in potential range and use. I want both!

Finally, Coastal Explorer can also identify obstacles along a planned route and clicking on the red notations below takes you right to the problem area. The quickly created route name below also shows how CE can sensibly name a waypoint from the vector chart database, so if it had an underway grounding alarm it could maybe say, “Hey! Cargados Carajos Shoal 5 miles or 15 minutes dead ahead!”

So, what am I missing here? We all make mistakes. Why aren’t vector data-based grounding alarms more available or used more when available?

Click here to read comments about this Panbo entry, or add your own.
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