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Iridium GO! + PredictWind for Totem’s Indian Ocean debut

Fri, 2015-02-27 09:49

Not long before leaving Malaysia, we purchased an Iridium GO!. This was somewhat unexpected because Totem has long been a radio centric boat. Since we started cruising in 2008 we’ve relied solely on our HF radio for long distance communications: it has met our needs, we value the community of an informal radio net at sea, and we are grateful the safety net of land-based hams such as the awesome Pacific Seafarers Net.

What changed?

But this past year, paying close attention to the progress of boats along our intended route in the Indian Ocean, we were dismayed to hear how much trouble they were having connecting to land-based stations for the purpose of receiving updated weather data over PACTOR modems- to the point that we know radio-centric boats that relied upon sailing in company with those carrying satellite based systems on board so that they could to receive updated weather forecasts.

Weather data is critical for cruisers.

The waters around the south end of Africa are famous for monstrous wind and wave events. We don’t want to be without current weather data anywhere in the world, but if we had to pick spots we’re especially keen to have weather info on demand- it’s off southern Africa. South Africa has radio nets and hams, but connecting to the land stations for boats coming in from the east was a struggle. It was also difficult for boats heading into the Atlantic after rounding the Cape. Sailmail or Winlink, it didn’t seem to matter- both had issues with station access from that corner of the world.

Time to look beyond HF!

To solve our weather dilemma, for us the best solution is a combination of PredictWind and the Iridium GO!. We’ve used PredictWind for years on Totem, and they have apps designed specifically for working with an Iridium GO!. That’s actually very important: there’s a misconception that the GO! is like having a satellite based wifi-hotspot with you. It’s more complicated than that, because applications must be specifically designed for Iridium GO! to work with the unit. For the most part, these apps are tablet or smartphone based, but PredictWind works with the Iridium on a computer – and I want to be able to see and work with weather info on my bigger screen, not just a mobile one.

Before the passage.

The hardest part of the install was deciding where to put the base unit. Once we had that worked out, the rest was uncomplicated: Jamie mounted the external antenna on the top of our solar arch, and ran the cable back through the conduit already in place for our SilentWind turbine and solar panels. Easy.

We used the PredictWind Offshore App on a Windows laptop, with a Professional subscription. Prior to departure, Jamie spent time using routing tools in the PredictWind app to analyze our plan and found valuable insights that prompted us to adjust our route. Originally, the plan was to sail pretty close to a rhumb line through the northern Nicobar islands- something like the yellow track above. Based on what he learned thorugh the PredictWind routing algorithm, we decided to go farther south instead–between Sumatra and the south end of the Nicobars, which the routing showed to have a stronger favorable current flow. This had obvious benefits for our overall passage time, and helped us keep up our pace in very light air.

On the way to Sri Lanka

Thankfully, sailing from the Malay peninsula at this time of year is pretty benign. But “weather happens” and we wouldn’t rely on any forecast after a few days, and we expected up to 10 days on this passage.  Going through the PredictWind app, we could download satellite images of the region, text based forecasts, and grib files. There are four different grib file types available (three are GFS based, and two of those are specialized PredictWind algorithms), and you can choose different viewers for the gribs: we like looking at it with a grib plugin on OpenCPN.

Winds in the Bay of Bengal are light at this time of year, and only get lighter until the end of the NE Monsoon in late March or April. As the forecast evolved during our voyage, the breezes held and we were able to knock three days off our expected time- getting in after seven days and a few hours.

Beyond weather.

The #1 reason we got the GO! is for weather data. But the GO! opens up a world of other features that I’m very happy to have on board.

Email. We used the (free) Iridium email app, and gave the address to a handful of friends and family to reach us while we were at sea. This worked tremendously well. I really liked the easy communication, and with a Bluetooth keyboard, could type as comfortably as at a laptop.

SMS. We tested this with a few friends, and it worked really well. It’s probably going to be the fastest / easiest way to get messages while we’re “out there”: there’s an audible ping from the Iridium when a new message comes in, so we get it much sooner than waiting for the next time we check our email. Happily, several other boats traveling loosely in company with us have recently purchased GO! units as well, so we can text back and forth anytime we want to get immediately in touch.

Twitter. The GO! made it very easy to keep tweeting away, and I had fun sending messages from our passage- and getting notifications for any pings, favorites, and retweets. It’s not set up for photos, just text.

Internet browsing. This only worked marginally for us. We simply found it to be very, very slow. I mean, it IS a satellite connection. We expected slow. But pages often timed out before loading, even with the super stripped down Opera “Mini” app cranked to minimize the pipe and remove images. But I have heard other boats having more success with this, so… well, we’ll keep trying.

Facebook. We should be able to post from the GO! to Totem’s facebook page, but unfortunately, this was a total fail. It could be user error; I’m still trying to figure this one out. I tested it before we left, and it worked just fine. Great, even! I had grand illusions of posting pictures to Totem’s Facebook page from the middle of the ocean. But as soon as we left, the posts failed to show up. I’m not sure what happened, as we see this working well for our buddies on Ceilydh, who are happily posting away as they sail towards us from Malaysia. Hopefully we can fix this for the next passage to Maldives.

Phone. Yes, you can make phone calls too! We didn’t, because our Unlimited data plan only includes 5 minutes of phone calls through the GO! per month, and we were hanging onto them “just in case.” But I’ll test it out soon. With a few extra bucks for the Unlimited Plus plan, you get 100 minutes. You pay a per-minute rate once you exceed the limit- this can add up fast.

Looking ahead.

One of the cool tools that PredictWind offers that we have yet to really take advantage of is a custom web page for tracking your boat, automatically updated with GPS positions from the Iridium GO! Friends and family can use it to follow your every move from afar (it updates every  hour, automatically), and you can embed it into a web page. I’m looking forward to using this, but we won’t start until we’ve cleared the Lloyds London Market Exclusions list (aka, the piracy “High Risk Area”) for yachts. Unfortunately, the HRA box currently includes Maldives and Chagos, our next two destinations- so we’ll hold off on real time tracking for now, and begin using the page designed just for Totem from the Seychelles forward.

You should know:

PredictWind sells the GO! competitively with a cruiser-friendly package. They bundle the base unit with a variety of options we need, from an external antenna and varying lengths of cable to a SIM card. And trust me- you want that external antenna! Below deck, there’s not enough reception to be functional without the outside antenna. And yes, although the device is rugged (e.g., you can take it on deck), you wouldn’t want to leave it exposed to the elements- and we found it to be finicky without a full view of the sky. The GPS antenna on the device is not in the external antenna, however: it’s in the GO! base unit, so do give thought to where you mount it. For satellite visibility, putting the antenna on our solar arch is an easy solution.

Well connected readers know we love it when you read this on the SAILfeed website – thanks for kicking the change in our cruising kitty!

Furuno TZtouch2 and FI-70, back in the game!

Wed, 2015-02-25 18:00

Written by Ben Ellison on Feb 25, 2015 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub

Sorry for the blown out screens, but the point of this photo is Furuno USA marketing manager Dean Kurutz, who co-delivered the NavNet TZtouch2 introduction with senior product manager Eric Kunz just like they did with the original NavNet in 2001 — when I was just getting into electronics writing — and every NavNet update since. The dynamic duo have been coming to Miami with the company since well into the last century and a lot of their colleagues have similar histories. If you go Furuno you get remarkable management consistency and institutional memory, but that doesn’t mean they’re old school…

Well, in some ways Furuno is old school: they distribute mainly through traditional dealer/installers; their famous customer service apparently stocks spares for decades-old equipment; and they’ve earned high esteem in tough niches like offshore commercial fishing and the US Coast Guard. But the corporate personality is quite complex, especially since the Furuno team partnered with the TimeZero developers at MaxSea, which means they’re now also deeply involved with Nobeltec.

In fact, at least one sweet detail of the new TZtouch2 user interface — that blue ship wheel icon above representing a collapsed route that can be opened with one tap, which also collapses any other route cluttering the screen — first impressed me in the Nobeltec Timezero iPad app. The powerful TZ charting engine marks the decidedly new school side of Furuno, and it’s now being developed in Windows (all previous NavNet TZ MFDs plus MaxSea/Nobeltec charting programs), Apple iOS (MaxSea/Nobeltec apps), and now Android (the new 12- and 15-inch TZT2 MFDs). I didn’t know about the Android platform change until after the Miami introduction, but I sure noticed how the new interface seems to nicely mix elements from all sorts of touchscreen systems.

The NavNet TZT2 site and especially the brochure found on the new MFD product pages are good ways to get familiar with the “Total Control, Simply Refined” graphical interface. Don’t the new big Home Screen icons look like Windows 8 tiles, in a good way? And the four “edge swipes” remind me of many likable tablet and phone features. Down from the top reveals those big tiles for Quick Page changes, while in from the left gets the familiar TZT custom data window (which therefore no longer needs an onscreen button). Swiping up from the bottom yields a Layers menu context sensitive to the active window function and finally, a right edge swipe slides out a menu similar to what you’d get if the good old NavNet RotoKey was still there.

So here’s the 15-inch TZT2 with the Layers menu showing chart options. Many of those controls may actually be easier to access than with the RotoKey, but the TZT2 MFDs can also be controlled by the MCU002 keypad and/or a new Android NavNet Controller app (iOS version coming). Note the Departure/Arrival choice under Routes On/Off, which means those collapsed route icons can display at either end. Also, note that the new MFDs are not actually named TZT2, I guess because they will network fine with the existing TZT models, which aren’t going away. TZtouch2 is more an interface and feature set, while the MFD above is officially designated a TZTL15F, which may imply future models that aren’t in Landscape mode and/or do not include a internal sonar for Fishing.

And here’s the NavNet TZTL12F showing a new autopilot control window that looks quite powerful. I think it’s great that the manufacturers are learning how to put more controls onto their main touch screens, or a single swipe, tap, or button push away. The ever growing System Controls menu, always accessible with the Lowrance (and sister MFD) power button, is a good example, and TZtouch2 seems to have come up with several new ones. Incidentally, the TZTL12F will usually be panel or even flush mounted, which seems almost mandatory given such a clean glass style, but the photo shows a new style plastic bracket that’s quite a contrast to the heavy metal ones designed for previous Furuno MFDs. The change is no doubt part of what may be TZtouch2’s biggest feature — “Best-Ever Furuno MFD” value — which I’ll get to below.

First, I want to touch on the instrumentation display that Dean and Eric emphasized during the Miami demos. The screen above is not meant to be useful but rather to show off all the gauge and numeric data styles available, as well as the expanded NMEA 2000 PGN support, and this video suggests how you can apparently fingertip arrange all those instruments in nearly infinite ways. I’m going to reserve judgment until I can see how well we can customize gauge ranges, yellow/red alerts, labels, and so forth — Maretron has long shown the way — but TZtouch2 may have the best MFD instruments yet.

Of course, Furuno had another reason to work on instrumentation and that’s the new FI70 4.1-inch color N2K display also introduced in Miami. It wasn’t really a surprise given the matching 711C Navpilot head covered here last summer, but it looks good. I noticed that Furuno was willing to borrow the nice mini AIS display first seen on the Raymarine i70, and they’re going for NMEA 2000 certification by only including one N2K port. In other words, the FI70 can’t be daisy-chained (even if that wasn’t a bad idea), though the limitation can be overcome fairly easily with a multiport.

Another feature emphasized during the TZtouch2 intro was the RezBoost technology that can purportedly improve the internal fishfinder imaging (something like CHIRP does). But perhaps the bigger story is that the new MFDs are the first in the NavNet series to have any internal sonar at all, plus a built-in GPS, and all without any apparent cost increase.

A somewhat hidden cost of the existing NavNet TZT system is the need for a separate power supply even for the little but mighty 2kW DRS2D radome, but it looks like Furuno is dealing with that issue, too. The DRS4DL was not mentioned in Miami — and the US team doesn’t know what it will cost or when it will arrive — but the brochure certainly suggests a version of the DRS4W WiFi Radar that runs directly on 12 volts and trades advanced features for a lower price.

Incidentally, not only did the attractive integration of WiFi radar and the Nobeltec TZ app become official in Miami, but there’s yet another Furuno 19-inch radome, the DRS4DCM, that will work directly with Nobeltec PC programs, no MFD required. There’s more info here and I understand that another TZtouch2 feature — the “coming soon” TimeZero Cloud Data Service — will further enable integration among all the TZ cousins. Also “coming soon” are ActiveCaptain cruising info support, first ever on an MFD, and Community Charts, MapMedia’s first foray into crowdsourcing, all purportedly made easy with TZT2 WiFi.

And now the TZT2 booty shots, which reveal a backside very unlike other NavNet MFDs. In fact, I don’t recall any MFD that uses pigtail ports like these, but I think they make sense for easing installations and cutting production costs. And that latter part is really key to this whole endeavor. I exaggerated when I added the “back in the game!” to this entry. Furuno has never left the game, at least in terms of medium to big recreational boats, but when I discussed specs/price options in the popular glass bridge MFD style last summer, the TZT14 that arguably spearheaded the trend had become a distinctly premium choice.

Well, compare that spreadsheet to this one! The game has tightened up all around. Furuno already dropped existing TZT prices considerably and the new MFDs — said to ship “spring of this year” – are right in the ball park, built-in features and popular 12-inch size included. Garmin also got more competitive with their new 76xx MFDs and for a minute both nearly matched the NSS evo2 pricing (which just went down). But MSRP pricing is only a guide, and the ones for Raymarine MFDs are quite tentative so far. I added their a- and e- models to better illustrate the broadness of their lines, though they aren’t quite “glass bridge” style, and I added weight specs because that also seems to tell the competitive story. Note, for instance, how the TZTL15F — which could have easily been called a 16 — weighs about 2/3rds of a TZT14. If you need an MFD that you could practically drive a truck over, a TZT2 may not be the right choice.

So that’s what I mean by “back in the game!” In the world of glass bridge systems there are four strong competitors, and Furuno is suddenly looking quite good. I do have caveats, though. When you port or rewrite a whole MFD software package like TimeZero, things can get lost, and a couple I’ve noticed with TZT2 is the lack of Axis IP camera support and also support of Furuno’s NavNet Remote App (though I’m told that’s planned). TZT users may find things they can’t do anymore. Moreover, Furuno still doesn’t have a 7-inch networkable MFD, let alone Ray’s a5, and it is the only one of the big four that hasn’t partnered with a digital switching and monitoring company. Nor have they shown interest yet in all the sonar innovations the others are mainly bringing to fresh and shallow water boaters, but which hold promise for deeper water fishermen and cruisers. Overall, though, I almost feel sorry for anyone trying to make the big main MFD system decision these days, except that you really can’t go too far wrong, especially if you take the time to figure out which system, and company, suits you best.

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

Giving back: the best birthday gift ever

Wed, 2015-02-25 13:17

We’re just over one week in Trincomalee, Sri Lanka. It is an explosion of new experiences: it’s so different, full of new sights and sounds and tastes and smells, which are taking time to process! But we are so happy to be here, relaxing into a familiar rhythm and learning about a new place…like walking past the gauntlet of marine police, above,to what must be the best-guarded dinghy dock we’ve EVER tied up to.

They named her Lucy. Dutch Beach, Tricomalee, Sri Lanka

One of the things you can’t miss in Trinco is the number of stray dogs. They’re not a problem, they’re just omnipresent. Every walk, there’s one that follows for a spell. On the beach, a yearling romps in the sand with the kids. Almost every day, I see the same desperate looking pooch in front of the same storefront. Mostly, they don’t seem to belong to anyone, but to a space- a stretch of street- and somehow get by. The same few dogs in the police-customs compound we pass through from dock to street don’t seem to belong to anyone, but they seem to belong to everyone just a little bit. And it’s happened to us, certainly, as with the kittens and puppies back in Satun that our girls cared for last year, nursing them through early weeks when they were too young to be motherless.

Two of the six kittens the girls fostered in Thailand.

We’re not alone in having our hearts tugged by the critters around us. In Mexico, the family on SV Eyoni has a tremendous tale of two dogs they rescued from an island off Baja, fostering them (in addition to the pup they’d adopted in Guayamas) until finding them new homes. In La Paz, the two girls on SV Del Viento volunteered in two different shelters where they’d walk dogs, and it was younger sister Frances in particular who is passionate about caring for them. They’ve done fundraisers for clinics with dockside bake sales in Canada and Mexico, and Frances has fostered three dogs on board during their time in Mexico, and gone beyond the role of dog walker to provide meaningful support at spay/neuter clinics in Mexico.

Frances with puppy, and her sister Eleanor; Mexico. photo, M/W Robertson, SV Del Viento.

But the subject here is birthdays. Frances turns nine this week. When her parents asked what she wanted for Christmas, it was all about the dogs. When they asked about her birthday, all about the dogs. So, for her birthday, her parents are raising money to run a spay/neuter clinic for stray dogs in La Paz, in Frances’ name.

Frances doesn’t know yet- they’ll tell her on Thursday, for her birthday. The fundraiser runs for the next ten days. I really can’t think of a better way to help a bunch of creatures and make a little girl really, really happy! So if you’ve got a spare buck or ten, please visit their fundraiser site and give a boost. The more they can raise, the more dogs they can help- so share this to some friends, and see those funds get used more and more efficiently as it grows.

Back here in Trinco, I think about Frances and what a great gift this is from her parents, and what a great example of how cruising doesn’t limit opportunities to give back in communities – it just presents more and more of them, when you take the time to find an avenue.

Share the awesome, and click through to enjoy this on the SAILfeed website- it kicks change in our cruising kitty! 

STEVE JOBS SUPERYACHT VENUS: Barely Escapes From Simpson Bay Lagoon

Tue, 2015-02-24 16:09

And now for something completely different. Steve Jobs’ 256-foot superyacht Venus, built by Feadship and completed in 2012, a year after his death, has been out and about this season and was most recently drone-videoed as it squeezed through the Simpson Bay drawbridge in St. Maarten. According to the Insider’s St. Maarten Island Guide, the yacht had been in SXM for two weeks and on Saturday headed out on a private charter.

In superyacht lingo, I guess Venus is what you’d call a “Simpson-Max” vessel, as in there is no possible way it could be any bigger and still fit through this bridge:

Got hand it to the skipper: he (or she?) has got some cojones for sure.

But what I really want to talk about is the boat’s appearance. Steve Jobs was justifiably renowned for his sense of taste and style when it came to electronic devices, but somehow, IMHO, it doesn’t seem to translate too well to boats.

Jobs worked with designer Philippe Starck in developing the boat and the goal was to create a minimalist superyacht, which, pardon me for saying so, is a gross oxymoron in and of itself. The boat, as you can see here, looks quite good in a forward quarter shot:

But the aft quarter is more problematic:

Particularly when you close up the garage doors.

To me from these angles it looks like an ugly slab-sided gun emplacement. The “fortress pillbox” aesthetic is particularly noticeable when you consider the bridge, where the ship is controlled by a battery of seven iMac monitors.

According to an interesting article in the French version of Vanity Fair, in which Starck both brags about his connection to Jobs and complains about Jobs’ anal personality and ego (takes one to know one is all I can say), Jobs was particularly interested in the interior design. Unfortunately, there are no photos available yet of the boat’s living spaces, except you can see a bit of one interesting-looking space way up forward in the bow in this shot:

I’m guessing there is no collision bulkhead. There’s really no point in having one of those if you’re going to live forward of it. Note also the Jacuzzi and lounge area up on the foredeck, which is likely a big PITA for line-handlers when docking. And the anchor deploys from much further aft than usual, so I’m wondering how much she sails around when lying to a hook. Though I suppose the answer to that problem is to just set both of them.

Bonus video: This is Venus noodling around the harbor at Horta on Faial in the Azores. You can see how awkward she looks at certain angles:

Another fast day at sea…

Tue, 2015-02-24 11:57

It was another fast day for Serenity on their way from Grenada back to the BVI. So fast that the crew has decided to stop in St. Croix on the way to Tortola..

Serenity in Grenada

Position February 24, 2015 8am
16°41’N 63°49’W

When i spoke to Andy, they were about 80nm from, St. Croix and since it the island is almost on the way to the BVI, and since the trip has been way faster than expected, they have decided to stop there for a day. They expect to arrive sometime tonight, and leave for Tortola on Thursday.

On the way out of Grenada they saw a big sea turtle, and there has been plenty of sea birds hanging around the boat. No dolphins except some on the way down.

The sea state has been rough at times and apparently the first night no dinner was made, so a little bit of rough weathers.  They cooked a nice veggie stir-fry last night though. Jake has tried to fish but they haven’t caught any so far, maybe the equipment or the fisherman?

Sounds like they all are having a great time, I am very excited to see some pictures from the trip! I am sure you are as well!

Serenity only 80 nm, from St. Croix at 9 am February 24. St. Croix and BVI is marked with yellow text on the picture, click on the photo to see it bigger.

Offshore to the Bahamas

Tue, 2015-02-24 00:00

This week’s episode features another LIVE lecture from the Toronto International Boat Show about sailing offshore to the Bahamas! The tried and true route is down the ICW from the Chesapeake. But that takes weeks! Which ic great if you have the time to meander and enjoy the nice towns along the way.

But if you’re really keen to get to the islands and enjoy that time there, there’s a much faster way, and it’s in the ocean. In five days from Norfolk or Beaufort, you can be sipping rum and laying back in the Abacos! The focus of today’s episode is getting over the fear and trepidation of going offshore in general, and then planning specifically for a Bahamas-bound passage. What weather to expect, where to make landfall, etc.

Want to go ocean sailing with Andy? Book a berth at 59-north.com/events.

CRUISING SAILBOAT EVOLUTION: Multihulls and Other Alternatives

Mon, 2015-02-23 20:58

Our most recent ruminations on this topic focused on some of the popular dedicated cruising-sailboat designs that dominated mass-production boatbuilding as the industry started growing and maturing through the 1970s. It is important to remember, however, that even as fiberglass production techniques were thrusting sailboats into the heart of the 20th-century consumer economy, some cruising enthusiasts, as always, were determined to stay outside the mainstream. Many of these modern alternative cruisers favored unusual offbeat boats. One of these was James Wharram (see photo up top), who in 1954 designed and built for himself an extremely crude 24-foot plywood catamaran he called Tangaroa.

In company with two young German women, Wharram cruised his unlikely craft from his home in England across the Atlantic to the Caribbean. On a beach in Trinidad, he then designed and built yet another plywood cat, the 40-foot Rongo, to replace the disintegrating Tangaroa, and sailed this new boat with his all-girl crew back to England via New York in 1959. Wharram documented his adventure in various magazine articles and later in a book, Two Girls Two Catamarans (featuring several photos of his bare-chested crew), and thus helped bring the concept of the catamaran to the attention of the 20th-century sailing public.

Wharram and crew aboard his first boat, Tangaroa, in the Canary islands en route to the Caribbean

Wharram was certainly not the first Westerner ever to build and sail a catamaran. Eighty years earlier, in 1876, the legendary yacht designer Nat Herreshoff conceived and patented a unique design for a twin-hulled sailboat, Amaryllis, that proved capable of outstanding speed and was soon banned from organized competition. Even earlier, way back in 1662, Sir William Petty designed and built for England’s King Charles II (who, we’ll recall, was an early and very influential recreational sailor) an innovative “double-bottom” yacht that, appropriately, was named The Experiment.

Plan for Petty’s radical 17th-century catamaran. King Charles II did not look upon it favorably

Wharram himself was aware of at least one Western predecessor, the Frenchman Eric de Bisschop, who in 1937 built a 38-foot “double canoe” on a beach in Hawaii and then sailed it to France via the Cape of Good Hope. Indeed, Wharram carefully studied de Bisschop’s book, The Voyage of the Kaimiloa, when designing and building his first boat. But ultimately (like de Bisschop before him) he was more heavily influenced by the Polynesians, who first traversed the Pacific in double-hulled voyaging canoes hundreds of years earlier. (Note that the English term “catamaran” is not Polynesian in origin, but in fact derives from the Tamil term kattumaram, for “bound wood,” which describes a type of raft once used in southeast India.) There were also some other more immediate predecessors, including Roland and Francis Prout in England, Francis “Skip” Creger in California, and Woody Brown in Hawaii, all of whom began experimenting with small beach cats in the mid-1940s.

Eric de Bisschop departing Honolulu aboard Kamiloa in 1937

Jim Wharram, more importantly, was among the first to promote cruising not just as a mode of sailing that might challenge certain orthodoxies of the yachting establishment, but as an entire counter-cultural lifestyle that called into question the values of 20th-century industrial society. He was also one of the first Westerners to devote his attention to the creation of larger catamarans capable of cruising long distances. Since the early 1960s, Wharram has generated a large portfolio of build-it-yourself designs, from small beach cruisers to huge “tribal” voyaging vessels, that to this day he sells to others who want to sail away from civilized life on the cheap. Having sold over 8,000 sets of plans to date–half of which, he estimates, have led to the creation of finished boats–he is very likely the most successful and influential designer of build-it-yourself cruising sailboats in history.

Profile drawing of a Pahi 63, a larger “tribal” design by Jim Wharram

Another visionary who began creating larger multihulls around the same time was Arthur Piver, a retired pilot and trade-journal publisher from California. Piver first designed and built a small 20-foot catamaran in 1954, but soon shifted his attention to trimarans. By 1957 he was selling build-it-yourself trimaran plans (his boats, like Wharram’s, were plywood and thus simple to build). In 1960 he gained some notoriety sailing Nimble, a 30-foot plywood trimaran he designed and built, across the Atlantic from Massachusetts to England.

Piver died at sea aboard one of his boats in 1968 while attempting to qualify for a singlehanded ocean race, but lived long enough to mentor other men–Norm Cross, Jim Brown, and Dick Newick–who also began designing and building trimarans. Newick focused more on performance designs, but most of the boats designed by Cross, Brown, and Piver himself were intended to function primarily as cruisers. All three of these men, though perhaps not to the same degree as Jim Wharram, saw cruising multihulls as catalysts for alternative lifestyles.

A Victress trimaran, designed by Arthur Piver. Nigel Tetley sailed one of these around the world in the 1968-69 Golden Globe Race. Donald Crowhurst, who came to such a tragic end in the same race, sailed a variation of the same design. You still see some of these boats actively cruising today

The old-school yachting establishment, unsurprisingly, was for many years disdainful of multihulls and the colorful men who created and promoted them. But by this time the yachting establishment had less and less to do with the mainstream of the sport, which was increasingly consumer oriented. As is so often the case, the market did not hesitate to wrap its arms around a product with a counter-cultural image, and by the late 1960s the first fiberglass multihulls were being offered for sale.

The potentially greater speed of multihulls, their larger living spaces, unsinkability, and disinclination to heel under sail were all palpable advantages that were easy to promote to family-oriented middle-class cruisers. The first mass-produced multihull in the United States was evidently a trimaran, the Corinthian 41 (circa 1967), designed by Ted Irwin for Symons-Sailing. Most other early fiberglass multihulls were catamarans built in Great Britain. These included the Buccaneer 24 (circa 1968), Iroquois 30 (circa 1969), Hirondelle 24 (circa 1970), the Snow Goose 34 (circa 1971), and the Solaris 42 (circa 1971).

Sales brochure for an Iroquois catamaran, an early fiberglass multihull design

For many years boats like these were more or less outliers in the boatbuilding industry, but over time multihulls, particularly since catamarans started appearing in bareboat charter fleets, have steadily garnered more and more market share.

Alternative Materials

Other alternative-type cruising boats that began emerging during the 1960s and ’70s were constructed of materials other than fiberglass and wood. These included boats built of metal, most especially steel. The key evangelist here was an iconoclastic French colonial, Bernard Moitessier, who first took to bluewater cruising in the mid-1950s as a way to escape his homeland, Vietnam, which had been engulfed in a bitter anti-colonial civil war.

Moitessier wrecked two wooden boats early in his sailing career, the second of which he designed and built himself, and was stranded in Trinidad when he first considered alternative construction materials. His initial idea for getting away from Trinidad was to build a composite boat of newspaper and pitch on a wood frame, but he set this ambitious scheme aside when offered passage to Europe as crew aboard an oil tanker. Working on the tanker, he spent much time scraping and painting the ship’s steel topsides and concluded, as he later put it, “that a properly built steel yacht could be maintained by a well-trained monkey.” Moitessier, who had spent much time attending to worms and rot aboard his wooden boats, was greatly attracted to the seeming ease of maintenance and the indestructibility of steel as a building material.

Moitessier’s Joshua under sail. Today she is owned and maintained (and often exercised) by the La Rochelle Maritime Museum in France

In his next boat, Joshua, a rather crude 40-foot steel ketch designed by Jean Knocker and launched in 1961, Moitessier gained an international reputation making record-breaking non-stop ocean passages. The first was from Tahiti to Spain via Cape Horn with his wife in 1965-66. The second, in 1968-69 during the first non-stop solo around-the-world race took him one-and-a-half times around the world singlehanded. These voyages, and the best-selling books Moitessier wrote about them, helped popularize steel yacht construction, which up to that time had been common only in Holland.

Metal construction became particularly prevalent in France, where Moitessier was (and still is) revered. Soon there appeared a variety of designs for steel cruising boats, many of them featuring hard-chined hulls that significantly simplified construction. Aluminum, which is much lighter than steel, was also recognized as a viable building material, and by the mid-1970s one-off aluminum racing and cruising yachts were likewise increasingly common.

Metal boatbuilding ultimately became mainstream in Europe, and this has been reflected in design trends there. The Europeans quickly moved away from the conservative precedent established by Joshua, which had a double-ended full-keel hull form very similar to Colin Archer’s Redningskoite, and soon were building more modern hulls with fin keels and separated rudders. Some production metal-boat builders, notably Garcia and Alubat in France, both of which remain successful to this day, also appeared.

A modern example of a hard-chined aluminum production boat, an Alubat Ovni. The Ovnis are centerboard boats that can easily take the ground

In the U.S., meanwhile, the metal sailboat scene has never been anything more than marginal. With the exception of those developed for aluminum racing boats, American metal-boat designs have favored traditional forms and have been built on a one-off basis, either by custom builders or adventurous build-it-yourself types. Probably the most successful American designer of metal cruising boats has been Tom Colvin, whose work is based largely on working vessels such as pinky schooners, Chesapeake skipjacks, Chinese junks, and other types. His most popular design, the 42-foot Gazelle (of which over 700 have been built), blends the hull of a traditional working schooner with an Asian junk rig. Other American designers favoring metal boats include Ted Brewer, Charles Wittholz, and Jay Benford.

The Colvin Gazelle, an American junk-rigged schooner designed to be built in steel. Several have also been built in aluminum

Ferrocement was yet another alternative building material that briefly attracted the attention of cruising sailors. This technique, similar to that proposed by Moitessier for paper, involved plastering concrete over a frame constructed of wire mesh and steel pipes and rods. Hailed at first as the ultimate do-it-yourself building method because it required no specialized skills, ferrocement was enthusiastically embraced for a short period starting in the late 1960s.

A ferrocment boat under construction. Boats like these were easy for amateurs to frame up, but harder to complete successfully

Example of erosion seen in a typical ferrocement hull. Ferro boats are still afloat and are cheap to buy, for just this reason

Eventually, however, it became clear that ferrocement construction in fact does require a great deal of persistence and patience and that construction quality is extremely variable. Improperly built hulls soon exhibited a tendency to disintegrate, and by the end of the 1970s the ferro building craze was pretty much over. These boats were most often built to traditional full-keel designs, as this simple hull form was relatively easy to frame in wire mesh.

Earlier posts in this series:

Early Fiberglass Cruisers and the Westsail Cult

The Golden Age of the Cruiser-Racer

From Work Boats to Yachts

The Emergence of “Alternative” Cruising

Early Trends in Yachts Design

Cleopatra’s Barge

CRUISING SAILBOAT EVOLUTION: Multihulls and Other Alternatives

Mon, 2015-02-23 20:58

Our most recent ruminations on this topic focused on some of the popular dedicated cruising-sailboat designs that dominated mass-production boatbuilding as the industry started growing and maturing through the 1970s. It is important to remember, however, that even as fiberglass production techniques were thrusting sailboats into the heart of the 20th-century consumer economy, some cruising enthusiasts, as always, were determined to stay outside the mainstream. Many of these modern alternative cruisers favored unusual offbeat boats. One of these was James Wharram (see photo up top), who in 1954 designed and built for himself an extremely crude 24-foot plywood catamaran he called Tangaroa.

In company with two young German women, Wharram cruised his unlikely craft from his home in England across the Atlantic to the Caribbean. On a beach in Trinidad, he then designed and built yet another plywood cat, the 40-foot Rongo, to replace the disintegrating Tangaroa, and sailed this new boat with his all-girl crew back to England via New York in 1959. Wharram documented his adventure in various magazine articles and later in a book, Two Girls Two Catamarans (featuring several photos of his bare-chested crew), and thus helped bring the concept of the catamaran to the attention of the 20th-century sailing public.

Wharram and crew aboard his first boat, Tangaroa, in the Canary islands en route to the Caribbean

Wharram was certainly not the first Westerner ever to build and sail a catamaran. Eighty years earlier, in 1876, the legendary yacht designer Nat Herreshoff conceived and patented a unique design for a twin-hulled sailboat, Amaryllis, that proved capable of outstanding speed and was soon banned from organized competition. Even earlier, way back in 1662, Sir William Petty designed and built for England’s King Charles II (who, we’ll recall, was an early and very influential recreational sailor) an innovative “double-bottom” yacht that, appropriately, was named The Experiment.

Plan for Petty’s radical 17th-century catamaran. King Charles II did not look upon it favorably

Wharram himself was aware of at least one Western predecessor, the Frenchman Eric de Bisschop, who in 1937 built a 38-foot “double canoe” on a beach in Hawaii and then sailed it to France via the Cape of Good Hope. Indeed, Wharram carefully studied de Bisschop’s book, The Voyage of the Kaimiloa, when designing and building his first boat. But ultimately (like de Bisschop before him) he was more heavily influenced by the Polynesians, who first traversed the Pacific in double-hulled voyaging canoes hundreds of years earlier. (Note that the English term “catamaran” is not Polynesian in origin, but in fact derives from the Tamil term kattumaram, for “bound wood,” which describes a type of raft once used in southeast India.) There were also some other more immediate predecessors, including Roland and Francis Prout in England, Francis “Skip” Creger in California, and Woody Brown in Hawaii, all of whom began experimenting with small beach cats in the mid-1940s.

Eric de Bisschop departing Honolulu aboard Kamiloa in 1937

Jim Wharram, more importantly, was among the first to promote cruising not just as a mode of sailing that might challenge certain orthodoxies of the yachting establishment, but as an entire counter-cultural lifestyle that called into question the values of 20th-century industrial society. He was also one of the first Westerners to devote his attention to the creation of larger catamarans capable of cruising long distances. Since the early 1960s, Wharram has generated a large portfolio of build-it-yourself designs, from small beach cruisers to huge “tribal” voyaging vessels, that to this day he sells to others who want to sail away from civilized life on the cheap. Having sold over 8,000 sets of plans to date–half of which, he estimates, have led to the creation of finished boats–he is very likely the most successful and influential designer of build-it-yourself cruising sailboats in history.

Profile drawing of a Pahi 63, a larger “tribal” design by Jim Wharram

Another visionary who began creating larger multihulls around the same time was Arthur Piver, a retired pilot and trade-journal publisher from California. Piver first designed and built a small 20-foot catamaran in 1954, but soon shifted his attention to trimarans. By 1957 he was selling build-it-yourself trimaran plans (his boats, like Wharram’s, were plywood and thus simple to build). In 1960 he gained some notoriety sailing Nimble, a 30-foot plywood trimaran he designed and built, across the Atlantic from Massachusetts to England.

Piver died at sea aboard one of his boats in 1968 while attempting to qualify for a singlehanded ocean race, but lived long enough to mentor other men–Norm Cross, Jim Brown, and Dick Newick–who also began designing and building trimarans. Newick focused more on performance designs, but most of the boats designed by Cross, Brown, and Piver himself were intended to function primarily as cruisers. All three of these men, though perhaps not to the same degree as Jim Wharram, saw cruising multihulls as catalysts for alternative lifestyles.

A Victress trimaran, designed by Arthur Piver. Nigel Tetley sailed one of these around the world in the 1968-69 Golden Globe Race. Donald Crowhurst, who came to such a tragic end in the same race, sailed a variation of the same design. You still see some of these boats actively cruising today

The old-school yachting establishment, unsurprisingly, was for many years disdainful of multihulls and the colorful men who created and promoted them. But by this time the yachting establishment had less and less to do with the mainstream of the sport, which was increasingly consumer oriented. As is so often the case, the market did not hesitate to wrap its arms around a product with a counter-cultural image, and by the late 1960s the first fiberglass multihulls were being offered for sale.

The potentially greater speed of multihulls, their larger living spaces, unsinkability, and disinclination to heel under sail were all palpable advantages that were easy to promote to family-oriented middle-class cruisers. The first mass-produced multihull in the United States was evidently a trimaran, the Corinthian 41 (circa 1967), designed by Ted Irwin for Symons-Sailing. Most other early fiberglass multihulls were catamarans built in Great Britain. These included the Buccaneer 24 (circa 1968), Iroquois 30 (circa 1969), Hirondelle 24 (circa 1970), the Snow Goose 34 (circa 1971), and the Solaris 42 (circa 1971).

Sales brochure for an Iroquois catamaran, an early fiberglass multihull design

For many years boats like these were more or less outliers in the boatbuilding industry, but over time multihulls, particularly since catamarans started appearing in bareboat charter fleets, have steadily garnered more and more market share.

Alternative Materials

Other alternative-type cruising boats that began emerging during the 1960s and ’70s were constructed of materials other than fiberglass and wood. These included boats built of metal, most especially steel. The key evangelist here was an iconoclastic French colonial, Bernard Moitessier, who first took to bluewater cruising in the mid-1950s as a way to escape his homeland, Vietnam, which had been engulfed in a bitter anti-colonial civil war.

Moitessier wrecked two wooden boats early in his sailing career, the second of which he designed and built himself, and was stranded in Trinidad when he first considered alternative construction materials. His initial idea for getting away from Trinidad was to build a composite boat of newspaper and pitch on a wood frame, but he set this ambitious scheme aside when offered passage to Europe as crew aboard an oil tanker. Working on the tanker, he spent much time scraping and painting the ship’s steel topsides and concluded, as he later put it, “that a properly built steel yacht could be maintained by a well-trained monkey.” Moitessier, who had spent much time attending to worms and rot aboard his wooden boats, was greatly attracted to the seeming ease of maintenance and the indestructibility of steel as a building material.

Moitessier’s Joshua under sail. Today she is owned and maintained (and often exercised) by the La Rochelle Maritime Museum in France

In his next boat, Joshua, a rather crude 40-foot steel ketch designed by Jean Knocker and launched in 1961, Moitessier gained an international reputation making record-breaking non-stop ocean passages. The first was from Tahiti to Spain via Cape Horn with his wife in 1965-66. The second, in 1968-69 during the first non-stop solo around-the-world race took him one-and-a-half times around the world singlehanded. These voyages, and the best-selling books Moitessier wrote about them, helped popularize steel yacht construction, which up to that time had been common only in Holland.

Metal construction became particularly prevalent in France, where Moitessier was (and still is) revered. Soon there appeared a variety of designs for steel cruising boats, many of them featuring hard-chined hulls that significantly simplified construction. Aluminum, which is much lighter than steel, was also recognized as a viable building material, and by the mid-1970s one-off aluminum racing and cruising yachts were likewise increasingly common.

Metal boatbuilding ultimately became mainstream in Europe, and this has been reflected in design trends there. The Europeans quickly moved away from the conservative precedent established by Joshua, which had a double-ended full-keel hull form very similar to Colin Archer’s Redningskoite, and soon were building more modern hulls with fin keels and separated rudders. Some production metal-boat builders, notably Garcia and Alubat in France, both of which remain successful to this day, also appeared.

A modern example of a hard-chined aluminum production boat, an Alubat Ovni. The Ovnis are centerboard boats that can easily take the ground

In the U.S., meanwhile, the metal sailboat scene has never been anything more than marginal. With the exception of those developed for aluminum racing boats, American metal-boat designs have favored traditional forms and have been built on a one-off basis, either by custom builders or adventurous build-it-yourself types. Probably the most successful American designer of metal cruising boats has been Tom Colvin, whose work is based largely on working vessels such as pinky schooners, Chesapeake skipjacks, Chinese junks, and other types. His most popular design, the 42-foot Gazelle (of which over 700 have been built), blends the hull of a traditional working schooner with an Asian junk rig. Other American designers favoring metal boats include Ted Brewer, Charles Wittholz, and Jay Benford.

The Colvin Gazelle, an American junk-rigged schooner designed to be built in steel. Several have also been built in aluminum

Ferrocement was yet another alternative building material that briefly attracted the attention of cruising sailors. This technique, similar to that proposed by Moitessier for paper, involved plastering concrete over a frame constructed of wire mesh and steel pipes and rods. Hailed at first as the ultimate do-it-yourself building method because it required no specialized skills, ferrocement was enthusiastically embraced for a short period starting in the late 1960s.

A ferrocment boat under construction. Boats like these were easy for amateurs to frame up, but harder to complete successfully

Example of erosion seen in a typical ferrocement hull. Ferro boats are still afloat and are cheap to buy, for just this reason

Eventually, however, it became clear that ferrocement construction in fact does require a great deal of persistence and patience and that construction quality is extremely variable. Improperly built hulls soon exhibited a tendency to disintegrate, and by the end of the 1970s the ferro building craze was pretty much over. These boats were most often built to traditional full-keel designs, as this simple hull form was relatively easy to frame in wire mesh.

Earlier posts in this series:

Early Fiberglass Cruisers and the Westsail Cult

The Golden Age of the Cruiser-Racer

From Work Boats to Yachts

The Emergence of “Alternative” Cruising

Early Trends in Yachts Design

Cleopatra’s Barge

Fast sailing on Serenity

Mon, 2015-02-23 15:40

Serenity had a great first 24hr run from Grenada. When i spoke to Andy at 9am this morning, they still had 1 hr to go until they had been at sea for 24hr. And they had already covered 160nm! Very impressive! 

Position at 9 am, 2013.02.23
14°30’N 62°52’W
Wind: 15-20 kt

Last evening and night was a bit squally, with gusts above 30kt. During Tom & Jake’s watch, they got the speed record for the trip of 10.7kt! When i spoke to Andy, they were having a lovely sail under full genoa and 15kt of wind on the beam!

The crew really enjoyed to read the comments when they arrived to Grenada, so if you read the blog, please remember to add a quick (or long) comment.

14°30’N 62°52’W at 9am, February 23 2015. 

MIBS 2015: Raymarine, Icom, Lowrance, B&G, FLIR, Blue Sea and drones

Mon, 2015-02-23 12:45

Written by Ben Ellison on Feb 23, 2015 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub

“Black is the new gray,” say the folks at Raymarine, and so it is with the three new CPx70 sonar modules which were introduced in Miami. They’ll replace the existing blackbox fishfinders but not the CP100 and 200 CHIRP Down-or-Side-Vision and sonar combos designed for shallower depths and structure imaging. So by contrast the 600-foot-max-depth CP100 also installed on the demo boat above highlights the beefiness of the new base CP370 model, which is actually the bottom of the line with its traditional dual 50KHz and 200 KHz fixed frequencies, 1,000W of power and purported depth range of 5,000 feet. The performance enhancements seem subtle but multiple…

The demo ride was rough and the CP370 firmware not yet completely dialed in, but I learned that besides the sharp industrial design, the new fishfinders will be better at discriminating targets and holding bottom in tough conditions while also offering improved controls. Manual gain, for instance, will become auto gain with a manual plus or minus factor. In other words, when you go into manual mode, you don’t just turn the auto algorithms completely off, but work with them. This is actually already done by at least one competitor, Navico, but that doesn’t make it a bad idea for Ray users. Meanwhile, the often confusing TVG control – explained well on the Ray tech forum — will be eliminated (automated) and there are numerous other interface improvements that will hopefully be illustrated in coming Ray videos.

In fact, Raymarine’s techy U.S. marketing manager, Jim McGowan, brought along a video tool that seems worth a side note to the industry. The completely self-contained Atomos Ninja 2 can record professional level video from any HDMI source, like the one on the back of Raymarine gS Series MFDs. I believe that McGowan also has experience creating training aids, and I’m hopeful he’ll find the time to produce some videos that walk through subjects like the new CPx70 user interface. Please show us all how it’s done, Jim, and I’ll post links!

Incidentally, the CP370 will be MFD compatible all the way back to the E-Classic series, while the CP470 and CP570 will provide high-power multi-channel CHIRP fishfinding to a-, c, e-, and gS series displays.

I’ve already mentioned C-Map’s delight about Raymarine’s new support for its 4D chart packages, and here are some photographic attempts at showing how good it looks. Available are three levels of C-Map 4D, starting with the stripped down Essentials subset that comes bundled with many new Raymarine MFDs, then 4D-Max with many added features (especially for fishermen), and finally, C-Map 4D-Max+ which includes complete paper-like raster chart coverage in addittion to the 4D vector charts. Thus, a 4D-Max+ card that covers the Bahamas includes the orginal Explorer Charts and coverage of most foreign coasts includes the official hydrographic office paper charts.

I think that Raymarine’s presentation of C-Map 4D vector charts looked good, too, and the Lighthouse II Release 13 update adds a nice chart interface feature called “hot-spotting” that gives you basic info on any chart object you tap, plus lets you move that query spot around the chart, all before you dig deeper into a big dialog box of possible commands and more info. I believe this works with all three vector chart formats Raymarine now supports, as well as C-Map 4D rasters because they are integrated with 4D vectors behind the scenes. Lighthouse 13 also brings C-Map compatability to all existing a-, c-, e- and gS Series MFDs, and I understand that there will soon be a Raymarine online chart store that will make it easy to understand all the choices and pricing.

Raymarine’s relatively new — and black! — Ray50, 60 and 70 VHF radios are still not shipping, but the interfaces are certainly looking more finished than they did in Fort Lauderdale. The Ray70 seems particularly noteworthy, as I think it’s first to combine all the features — NMEA 2000 support, built-in AIS receiver and built-in GPS — that may be needed to maximize the safety potential of DSC on many boats. However, I’m learning to be a little skeptical about the ability of big manufacturers to get VHF detail right — the prime example being the Simrad RS35’s early bugs, and the fact that it still hasn’t been updated so it can place direct calls to AIS targets it sees with its own receiver. As for Ray70 first impressions, the big push-to-select knob may run the iconed menu system almost as well as the soft key approach favored by the major VHF developers, but let’s hope they beef up that channel number font so even us old-eyes can read it across a pilothouse.

Note, for instance, the highly readable channel numbers on the new Icom M424G with its built-in GPS, white backlit LCD screen and optional matching CommandMic. I covered the M424G in January along with sister M324G when their (very) slightly different European cousins came out. But Icom America also had some interesting possible news about the future; absolutely no promises were made, nor dates set, but they do now think it’s possible to build a combination VHF radio and Class B AIS transponder that could be approved by the authorities.

Navico was understandably quiet, having just shown boating writers many new developments like GoFree MFD online in January. But then again, Navico’s product development is relentless, and thus they were able to impress mightily with Lowrance MotorGuide trolling motor control off Hawk’s Cay without even mentioning the related Power-Pole control they showed in Miami. Power-Poles are the hydraulic shallow water anchoring systems that you often see now on serious fishing boats in the Keys, Carolinas, and the like; plus, they’re sometimes suited to fishing kayak setups like the Miami demo. In all cases the fishermen have lots to do with their hands besides grabbing another wireless remote control, which is why alternate control on the MFD screen may be very welcome. I think that only Lowrance’s new HDS Gen3 models can support Power-Pole control — and it will only take a software update — because it’s the first HDS with Bluetooth (and WiFi) built in.

In Hawk’s Cay I saw B&G advancements I can’t talk about yet, but in Miami I learned about the system integrations on the Volvo Ocean Race one-designs at a press conference that included a Q&A Inmarsat call with Alvimedica skipper Charlie Enright while he was sailing hard on a South Pacific breeze. The navigation, safety, communications and power systems deserve a whole entry and will get one, but this slide suggests the mass of data being displayed on the B&G systems, including about 150 elements that are also streamed up to the Race HQ. Did you see that all six active one-designs are within less than 20 miles Distance to Finish (Auckland) after more than two weeks of racing?

A separate entry will also detail FLIR’s new Ocean Scout handheld thermal camera and high-end M400 “Multi-Sensor Marine Thermal Night Vision” device. The M400 has the sleek and tilt/pan efficient design of the familiar M-Series but it’s significantly bigger, as seen in this booth top picture, and it’s loaded with new features.

Speaking of cameras, Garmin was showing off support for multiple Axis Network (IP) cams as well as analog-to-IP encoders at their booth, though to my knowledge nothing has been announced yet. Obviously a quad view is planned — perhaps like what Raymarine showed in Lauderdale with their own IP camera, or what Furuno NavNet has long done with Axis cams — but I’m sure we’ll hear more when Garmin is ready. Incidentally, the remarkable IC360 cam also mentioned that Lauderdale entry will be offered by KEP Marine, who seem quite happy about their recent acquisition by the resource-rich Sparton corporation.

Something different was getting to see a Blue Sea PowerBar 1000 and several other new products while sipping wine in a dimly lit tapas lounge. But it worked; what a hefty busbar for our boats’ expanding power complexities, and what a good chance to ask Blue Sea management about their recent acquisition by Power Products, LLC. The main question is how do Blue Sea power products — beloved by many installers and DIYers I know — get blended with the coming-on-strong Marinco BEP line. There are many overlaps, like the IBEX prize-winning Pro Installer busbars. But this is a good problem for a power conglomerate to have, and the short answer was a grinning and slowly spoken “c a r e f u l l y!” I suspect that we’ll have both brands around for quite a while though specialties may get assigned much like BEP CZone and Mastervolt have nicely rationalized their overlaps and integrated with each other in the process.

Finally, the subject of the Boating Writers International annual meeting — besides prizes, including a Panbo Second for Online Expressions — was drones. They obviously have huge potential for boat photography but the technical and regulatory complications are many. All were discussed, so I better understood the proposed FAA regulations that came out just two days later, but the real excitement was watching Miami Aerial’s Hagen Rottke demo the smaller of two drones he built and regularly pilots. When it blew all the papers off a table near me, the seriousness of this tech got real. At any rate, I was pleased that so many of my AIM colleagues were honored at BWI and also that PassageMaker at least thinks it published the first boating magazine cover shot (legally) by a drone, interesting details here and more Greenline 48 drone shots here.


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Serenity update 2015.02.22

Sun, 2015-02-22 13:36

Captain Andy on the beach in Grenada

After a few days in Grenada Serenity is now back at sea again. They departed St. Georges, Grenada at 10 am this morning (Sunday February 22), a beautiful beam reach and sunny sky! Next stop will be BVI, where the trip first started about a week ago.

Grenada was a nice break for the crew, they stayed in St. Louis Marina in St. Georges, enjoyed some hiking, the beaches, good food and the pool that belonged to the marina. Jake managed to send me a few photos through the very unreliable wifi.

In Grenada they also changed up the crew a bit. Tom, Paula and Steve are on board for both legs, Andrew left Serenity in Grenada and along came Gil, all according to plan. 

Serenity was spotted on marinetraffic.com via AIS 22 February at 13.00, three our after departing Grenada. They are the pink/purple spot next to the name box.

BLACK SAILS: Pirates on TV

Fri, 2015-02-20 00:38

One thing I particularly like about the age in which we live is that there are lots of great TV shows to watch. An astounding number, really, with gritty adult themes such as we never dreamed of back in the days of straight broadcast TV, well-written scripts with subtle, involved plots, and fantastic performances from actors and actresses who can now develop truly multi-dimensional characters over the course of protracted detailed story lines. It really is putting the film industry to shame, as cable TV shows (some of them, anyway) are now far superior to most of the pablum you see in cinemas. Another thing I really like is that digital special effects have made it possible to create quite convincing action scenes involving ships under sail (see, e.g., the image up top, from the TV series in question). Gone are the days, thankfully, of blatantly fake scenes staged with models in placid swimming pools.

Given these two serendipitous trends, it was only a matter of time before someone thought to put together a cable TV series involving pirates. Given the great success of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, one might reasonably fear such a show would be just as goofy and frivolous. But the Starz Network, in its TV pirate series Black Sails, has instead steered a much more intriguing course, blending fictional characters from Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic tale Treasure Island with historical characters from the golden age of piracy in the early 18th century. I just finished watching season one (now available on iTunes, as season two just started up on cable last month) and by the end was totally hooked.

The show as it opens is set in 1715, with most of the action taking place at Nassau in the Bahamas, which at the time, in true historical fact, was known as the Republic of Pirates and was an independent sanctuary and base for privateers, subject to the law of no nation. The primary plot premise is that this is a prequel to Treasure Island and tells the story of how Stevenson’s fictional Captain Flint won the great hoard of gold later sought by Jim Hawkins and company. Flint’s target is a Spanish treasure galleon, the Urca de Lima, which also existed in history and was wrecked with an entire fleet of treasure ships near Ft. Pierce, Florida, in 1715 no less. Flint’s unwanted accomplice is none other than Long John Silver (complete with two legs), who scams his way into a position as cook aboard Flint’s ship, the Walrus. Other real-life historical pirates with important roles in the story include Calico Jack Rackham, Anne Bonny, and Charles Vane.

I’m not going to ruin the story for you by giving anything away, but suffice it to say the plot involves lots of betrayal, unexpected twists and turns, a fair amount of intelligent character development, and enough violence and naked ladies to capture the attention of most over-stimulated adolescents. As in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, the sets and costumes look quite realistic (except, interestingly, none of the characters in Black Sails have realistic bad teeth like they do in the Pirates franchise), with the added bonus that the story itself is fairly realistic.

As I now seem to have a reputation as an unforgiving sailing-film purist, after my scathing review of Robert Redford’s All is Lost, I am happy to report that technical sailing details in this series are at least accurate enough to keep real sailors from laughing out loud. Admittedly, most of the story is character-driven and there isn’t actually too much sailing involved, though issues of marine science do intrude on the plot from time to time, such as when Flint has the Walrus careened for a bottom-cleaning, with some unexpected consequences, prior to setting out in hot pursuit of the Urca.

The Walrus careened, with Flint supervising on horseback

I will note nonetheless that the digital-effects crew does seem apt to get a bit carried away with themselves when depicting bad weather, but this, alas, is only to be expected (see, e.g., The Perfect Storm).

The Walrus mounts an exaggerated cartoon wave during a storm at sea. It looks to me like she has way too much canvas up!

My favorite character so far is Jack Rackham, who in both history and in this tale was/is the paramour of Anne Bonny and an important associate of Charles Vane. As played by Toby Schmitz, Rackham is quite rakish, ultimately pragmatic, but also quick-witted, well spoken, with a chameleon-like adaptability. Thus far in his relationship with Bonny, who is mostly sullen and inarticulate, Rackham seems the weaker partner, an interesting twist, and is more often scrambling to keep up with her machinations than she is with his. The bond between them, however, seems very deep, for reasons that remain unclear.

Calico Jack in action on TV, not fighting, but negotiating. Note the involved metro-male facial hair. The historical Jack Rackham, who gave up an official pardon to run away with Anne Bonny, was executed at Port Royal, Jamaica, in 1720, and his corpse was gibbeted (i.e., publicly displayed) on a small island near the harbor entrance that is now known as Rackham’s Cay

My next favorite character is purely fictional–Mr. Dufresne, who serves under Flint on the Walrus, and evolves from a timid ship’s clerk and accountant into a battle-hardened quartermaster (which is seemingly equivalent to a first mate in this particular nautical universe). He seems the most ethical pirate you could ever hope to meet and is married to the buccaneer’s code of business and justice, which in fact was quite rigorous, fair, and rational.

Mr. Dufresne, played by Jannes Eiselen (in season one, but not season two unfortunately), in a climatic scene in the final episode of season one. The glasses give him away as a reformed clerk; the minimalist hairstyle was inflicted on him by his shipmates after he was promoted to quartermaster

One of my least favorite characters, ironically, is Long John Silver, played by Luke Arnold. If you read Treasure Island (which I urge you to do, if you haven’t recently), you will be struck by the intensity of the original character as conceived by Stevenson. John Silver may well be the first truly sympathetic evil character in English literature. In the book he seems absolutely sincere as he befriends and earns the trust of young Jim Hawkins, becoming in effect his surrogate father. But of course he is ultimately only interested in winning Flint’s treasure, and is perfectly willing to betray Jim to do this, but somehow you never really believe that his affection for Jim is not true.

I cannot imagine how the Silver we meet in this TV series will ever evolve into the Silver who drives all the action in the book. There is no complexity to him, only self interest, and so far, though he is somewhat likable, he seems ultimately one-dimensional.

Long John Silver, as seen on TV, groveling at gunpoint, as usual

I am also not very impressed with Eleanor Guthrie, played by Hannah New, who in fact is the most important central character in the series, after Flint (played by Toby Stephens). Eleanor, daughter of merchant Richard Guthrie, is supposed to be the putative ruler of Nassau, the seemingly reputable intermediary through whom the pirates must sell all their stolen goods. Plot-wise Eleanor’s character is very complex–bisexual, ruthless, extremely ambitious, and presumably charismatic. But mostly she comes off as an overly attractive fashion model who is simply pretending to be all these things.

Ms. Guthrie, looking a bit befuddled, but beautiful, as she tries to assert herself

Admittedly, another important female character, Ann Bonny, played by Clara Paget, also looks a bit too much like a lost fashion model, but she manages to transcend her appearance and is more believable in her role. When she says “f*ck,” as both a verb and an expletive, you really feel it as such. When Eleanor says it, it seems only a pose.

Ann Bonny telling Jack Rackham what he can do to himself. That raggedy hat certainly does help her seem more disreputable. The historical Bonny abandoned her husband to take up with Jack Rackham as a pirate. Together they had a child in Cuba. Bonny was captured with Rackham, but there is no record of her being executed

These are mere quibbles, however, and this was only season one, and overall the scripting of the show is strong enough that I will not be at all surprised if its one-dimensional characters grow more dimensions as the story progresses. To give an idea of the quality of the writing, I will throw one quote your way. I actually paused the show to write this down, as it is something any true sailor (or pirate) can relate to.

This is Mr. Gates, Flint’s formerly loyal quartermaster, speaking to Flint during a storm at sea not long before something unfortunate happens to him:

There are no legacies in this life. No monuments, no history. Just the water. It pays us, and then it claims us. It swallows us whole, as if we had never been here at all.

POSTSCRIPT: If you are interested in reading more about historical pirates, I recommend you start with The Buccaneers of America, a first-person account by Alexander Exquemelin, who served with Henry Morgan, the most successful pirate of all time, in the late 17th century. Highlights include a good account of how buccaneering got started in the Caribbean and an eyewitness depiction of Morgan’s famous sack of Panama.

I also recommend you read (or re-read) Treasure Island. Even for adults, it really is a fantastic story!

BONUS IMAGES

Long John Silver, as depicted by artist N.C. Wyeth, doing unkind things to young Jim Hawkins

The bones of Captain Flint, guarding his vast treasure, as depicted in the Disney animated feature film Treasure Planet

OH, YEAH: I almost forgot. Here’s a trailer for the series, to whet your appetite.

Serenety has arrived to Grenada!

Thu, 2015-02-19 11:10

Serenity arrived to Grenada last night around 1.30 am in the morning! When I spoke to Andy this morning I asked if they were having a good time and if everything was alright. His answer was ‘Oh yes it is great, Jake is cooking an omelette, I just went for a swim off the boat and we have rainbow above us’.  Sounds pretty nice to me!

I am sure Andy will post a blog himself here during their days in Grenada, this is just a quick update from me that they have arrived!

I spotted Serenity on the marinetraffic.com website via their AIS signal. 

Passage making: Malaysia to Sri Lanka, part two

Thu, 2015-02-19 02:35

Coastal Cruising has dominated the last couple of years in Southeast Asia. Our passage making skills are rusty. Before we left, I wondered: what habits would we have to relearn? What would come back like muscle memory? Read about the first half of the passage here – this picks up with the back half.

Day 5

With less than 500 miles to Trincomalee, our halfway mileage mark, we celebrate at breakfast with a cherry coffee cake.

Utopia on the horizon at dawn one morning

We left with Utopia, a Beneteau 50 with an Aussie family aboard. Incredibly, we’ve remained within visual range of our friends for the duration of the passage to date. That’s pretty unusual, especially under somewhat varied conditions. We’ve had wind from just a couple of knots to the low twenties, and apparent wind angles from 60 to 180 degrees. Then again, our main prior reference is with the two boats we shared many passages with in the South Pacific: a Baba 30, IO, and a Nordhavn 64, Oso Blanco. It would be hard to find more differently paced vessels than that triumvirate to “bungee boat” together.

I’ve stashed liter-sized bottles to use in collecting water samples for a citizen science project on ocean plastics we’re contributing too. Siobhan spies one ready for a sample, and decides we should use it for a message in a bottle.

There’s an evening radio net for Indian Ocean boats on the SSB, but it has very little traffic. We planned to add a morning net to touch base with Utopia but decide it’s unnecessary since we’re remained in VHF range. The proximity adds fun for the kids: Siobhan and Ava play battleship over the radio one morning. Meanwhile, the wind has come behind and lightened up again: perfect conditions for our asymmetric. We fly it for ten glorious hours and put away the miles.

In the evening, Jamie realizes we’ve reached a major milestone- much bigger than the passage halfway mark: at this longitude, we have now sailed halfway around the world from the easternmost point we reached in Pacific Mexico. Halfway around the world! It feels pretty good.

you sank my battleship! Siobhan and Ava play over the VHF

Day 6

The end is in sight! The forecast keeps adjusting, and lighter winds we originally expected haven’t materialized. It looks like we should arrive in Trincomalee on our eighth day. Since we don’t want to arrive in the dark, now it’s just a question of whether conditions will make it easy for us to line up with a daytime arrival or if we’ll have to consider either slowing down.

This was the point at which we weren’t supposed to have much wind at all, but it’s a stunning 12-15 on the beam all day. It fades at night, but still helps us keep pace for day 8 arrival.

It’s Valentine’s Day! We eat an all-red dinner of roasted pepper risotto and tomato salad, with red foil wrapped chocolate hearts for dessert.

At night, the first Sri Lankan fishing boats appear as we near 200 nm from Sri Lanka. We haven’t seen a single fishing boat since the Indonesian crew off the north end of Sumatra, or a single commercial vessel since leaving that funnel into the Malacca Strait. Jamie’s on watch and picks the boat up on radar initially, then sees their lights ahead. As we get closer, the lights are turned out- why? He alters course to avoid the boat.

Day 7

Winds have been light night, without enough for us to do anything but bang and slat in the 1.5m seas. It’s hard on us and hard on gear, so on goes the engine from the wee hours through early light.

we read a LOT of books on this passage

There’s a new game on board today: it’s called find the squeak! Where is the squeak? We’d sure like to know before it causes a problem, whether that’s breakage or mental sanity. The first reef line has stretched and is one of the early culprits. Jamie finds the alternator belt loose (again) after motoring. But the one we have the most trouble pinning down turns out to be the autopilot. That’s a pretty important piece of gear for us: Jamie tries to lube it, but it’s difficult, so it will get more TLC after landfall.

Meanwhile, silliness in the crew is a known symptom of etended time at sea. Jamie has discovered that Trincomalee and Tipperary can be swapped out and a whole new set of verses drafted for “It’s a long way to Tipperary Trincomalee.” Niall backs it up on the ukulele (note to self: must get a proper tuner for the uke…ouch).

Day 8

All we can think about is how we’ve nearly there! Jamie sights land mid-morning. Fishing boats are everywhere now, but none have tried to approach. After hearing stories about boats trading DVDs for drinking coconuts in the middle of the Bay of Bengal, we’ve kind of wondered what we’d experience. They’re definitely more interested in catching fish than meeting with us, and it’s a little disappointing. We finally make landfall with seven days, four and a half hours of passage time.

Readers who appreciate the sweet sweet taste of arrival always click to the post on Sailfeed – thanks for kicking a little change in our cruising kitty!

Serenity update 2015.02.18

Wed, 2015-02-18 16:04

Hi everyone!

Once again I have an update from the Serenity crew. Andy called me around 10am, the wind had eased of a bit and they could raise full sail for the first time in two days. The night was a bit rough with up to 30 kt of wind, so the light wind was a nice break for them. They also spotted some dolphins just before they called!!

Position at 2018.02.18 10 am
13°04’N 62°16’W
12 kt of Wind

They were only about 65 miles from Grenada so they are expecting to arrive sometime tonight. They will have a few days in Grenada before heading back to the BVI again.

Cheers,
Mia

Serenity update 2015.02.17

Tue, 2015-02-17 14:50

Hi everyone!

Here is today’s update from the Serenity crew. Andy called me once again early in the morning, at 8 am this morning they were just west Dominica, so not too far to go to reach Grenada.

Position 2015.02.17, 8am local time/EST
15°00’N 62°53’W
Wind 15-20 kt

They had a wonderful sail yesterday with 15 kt of wind and full sails. The wind picked up a bit over night to about 25kt, but were back down to 15-20 again when i spoke to Andy.

Last night the enjoyed Spaghetti Bolognese with Garlic bread for dinner thanks to ‘Chef Tom’. Still no swimming but they were planning to slow the boat down and go for a swim today if the wind dropped a little.

It was great to hear from them and is sounds like they are having a great time aboard Serenity.

I heard rumors that you can spot them on AIS, but at the moment when they are far from land their signal does not show up. I am pretty sure you will be able to see them on AIS once they get closer to Grenada. AIS can be viewed on marine traffic’s website: www.marinetraffic.com (zoom in on the Caribbean and Grenada)

Keep the comments coming, the crew will love to read them once they are in Grenada!

Mia

Serenity 2015.02.17, 8 am: 15°00’N 62°53’W, just west of Dominica. Serenity is the red drop on the map.

MIBS 2015: Ocean Signal, ACR, C-Map, Garmin GNX, Lumitec and Veethree

Tue, 2015-02-17 08:29

Written by Ben Ellison on Feb 17, 2015 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub

It’s often hard to organize the news from a busy event like the Miami International Boat Show (MIBS), but this year a few of my photos stood out because they also portray the people behind the electronics. So say hello to Ocean Signal founder James Flynn, seen here showing off their latest ultra compact rescueME safety devices. The MOB1 personal AIS beacon with its added DSC alarm seems impressively simple to fit and use, and thanks to recent FCC approval, it’s now available here in the USA.

The new Ocean Signal rescueME EPIRB1 also impressed, but the beacon being used in the dramatic simulation above was no doubt well made by ACR, who co-hosted this kickoff “Saved by the Beacon” campaign event with the National Safe Boating Council. I really appreciate the steadfast ability of the COSPAS-SARSAT system and the need for all of us to keep our EPIRB/PLB registrations in order; plus, it was great to have an opportunity to cheer USCG boat and helicopter responders. But several of us noticed that an AIS MOB beacon might have been a better tool for this particular rescue scenario, and I look forward to the day when the SAR community shows more interest in SEND devices like the DeLorme inReach I often carry.

The flares used during the EPIRB demo and later in the dark were new ACR Aurora models that may well become commonplace. The red Aurora Hand Flares will purportedly cost little more than the Orion handhelds most every recreational boat now uses to fulfill USCG requirements, but they are 21 times brighter and seem a lot safer to use. The pull ignitor being shown by ACR marketing director Mikele D’Arcangelo above, for instance, looks a lot friendlier than the striker method. There will also be an Aurora Smoke Flare and yes, these new models seem similar to flares made by ACR sister company PainsWessex but without the SOLAS rating (and higher price). The new flares are not on ACR’s marine product page yet, but you can see Mikele making comparisons here.

The Jeppesen C-Map gang — Roger Brudenell, Francesco Altamura, Ken Cirillo, and James Detar — were a lot more joyful than I was able to photograph. A nearly full implementation of the C-Map 4D cartography suite was looking quite good on all those Raymarine displays, and it can now be yours with the new Lighthouse 13 update. (Note that matching raster charts will come with every vector region — including paper-like Explorer charts of the Bahamas — but Easy Routing and Guardian Alarm are still on the to-do list.) Add Raymarine compatability to the improving quality of Max-N+ charts for Navico MFDs that I saw in Hawk’s Cay and suddenly C-Map is a compelling choice for a whole lot of boaters.

While I think that Jan Silfven was also grinning on the inside, both of us were intent on trying to show how well a Garmin GNX display does its thing in bright Miami sunlight. Jan was part owner of Nexus Marine at one point, then a partner of Dean Barker, and now he seems excited to be part of the Garmin sail performance team in Sweden. He’s also the guy who once showed me how quickly a custom data label could be programmed into a Nexus display — illustration here — and I was happy to learn at the show that Garmin is making that sort of customization easy on the GNX for third party racing developers.

I was tickled to learn that Lumitec founder and CEO John Kujawa has teamed up with several other outstanding engineers on a research project called the innovation boat. For instance, while using simple on/off power switching to put light fixtures into different dim and color modes is common practice, this boat combines that idea with the speed and precision of digital switching (by CZone). The result is a simple interface that can deeply control individual lights on single power circuit while also being light on install expense and hassle. It’s still an experiment, though.

Finally, Veethree Intruments sales engineer Eric Mueller showed me the company’s very interesting new Engine Gateway Monitor, which can put analog and J1939 engine data onto NMEA 2000 networks as well as display it (PDF here). Veethree is the instrument side of Teleflex and they know a lot about engine monitoring. Eric also had a prototype for a black box version of the gateway that will also be flexible and reasonably priced.

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

Passage making: Malaysia to Sri Lanka

Tue, 2015-02-17 04:30

Coastal Cruising has dominated the last couple of years in Southeast Asia. Our passage making skills are rusty. Before we left, I wondered: what habits would we have to relearn? What would come back like muscle memory?

Day 0

When you take off for a voyage, sometimes, it’s best just to tuck around the corner instead of going directly into the event. The final weeks we spent in Langkawi, Malaysia, were so jammed with projects and shopping runs and goodbyes: our last hike to the waterfalls, our last evening with friends at Mare Blu, our last barbecue on the harbor islet. We honestly needed a break before embarking. So when we raised anchor from Telaga Harbour, we only sailed 30 miles to Thailand’s Butang Islands, tucked into a pretty anchorage by a deserted beach, and spent a day (and a couple of nights) resting up and doing our last tasks at a more relaxed pace.

Day 1

When we finally did take off, it was a rolly ride dead down wind in 18-20 knots. Not the most comfortable point of sail, but after all the motoring we’ve done in Asia, it felt really good; the dolphin sendoff from the last point of land didn’t hurt either. We play with various sail combinations, and end up with a single reef in the main and a poled-out genoa, as in the photo at top.

Around 50 nm out, we started crossing bands of current every 5-10 nm. I’ve never seen anything like it: they run perpendicular to our westward path, as far as the eye can see. Inside them the sea state changes from relatively smooth swells with a few wind waves, to washing machine chaos. Oddly, it seems to have little effect on Totem, although it looks like we should be thrown around or have our speed affected.  At night, the frothy wave crests in these rivers glow green with bioluminescence and make for an eerie stripe in the ocean.

Day 2

The wind goes light and we end up making about 150 miles in our first 24 hour run. It’s typical to get lighter as the NE monsoon season progresses, and the weather data we’re getting on our new Iridium GO! from PredictWind indicate we’ll have less and less breeze as the passage goes on. We’re anticipating about 10 days to landfall, although with better wind we should be able to manage it pretty easily in six or seven. This day we just want enough to propel us between Sumatra to the south and the Nicobar islands to the north, after which we can alter course and point more northwest towards Trincomalee. That will give us a better angle on the wind, both because of our heading and because of an expected wind shift west of the Nicobars. Until then, there’s a nice boost from the current and we’re squeezed like a watermelon seed between Indonesia and India into the Bay of Bengal. It’s a good 1.5+ kts and helps keep progress in the light air.

There’s nothing but ocean in every direction, but we’re far from alone. Just after dawn, I have to alter course so we don’t bump into an Indonesian fishing trawler. Passing just a few boat lengths away, work stops for the men hauling a large net on deck as they whoop and wave. One man holds a tuna aloft, another waves us over. Siobhan and I clap and yell and wave but decline the invitation.

Ships pointing to the Malacca Strait funnel here in a wide band that requires constant vigilance. It’s amazing how quickly a 700’ cargo ship goes from horizon speck to behemoth when moving at 20 knots. I’m grateful for the AIS transponder we added to Totem last year. Previously, we had a receiver, as transponders were not yet available to private boats when we left the US. But having made the switch, we can see how the large merchant ships alter course for us, and never reach the point we need to make a radio call to alert them our presence. It is tremendous peace of mind.

The wind gets lighter and lighter, so we motorsail a few hours to try and get to the point where we can turn up towards Trinco.

Day 3

Shortly before we left Malaysia, a package arrived from my parents. Inside, a grand treat among many goodies: a chocolate babka from Zabar’s! They’ve had it shipped from New York City to surprise us. If you’ve ever had one, you know how special this is- but it’s extra special for us. When I lived in the East Village years ago, and Jamie would visit from Connecticut on the weekends, we’d rollerblade (hey it was the early 90s!) to the upper west side delicatessen / specialty grocer regularly to indulge in this chocolatey delight. Now we dole out slices for breakfast, and manage to get three days from the loaf.

The wind picks up a few hours after sunrise and we’re treated to spectacular sailing conditions: relatively flat seas, and 10-15 kts on the quarter. As if we weren’t having enough fun yet, a pod of a half dozen whales – humpbacks? – pass nearby to bless our progress, although it’s a little sobering to look beyond them as they pass between Totem and a tanker that’s more than four football fields long. The only downside to these great conditions is that we’re sailing too fast to catch any fish. I’m not going to complain.

Day 4

We’re a little out of sorts for the first few days, getting used to disrupted sleep patterns and the motion at sea. But by the fourth day the mental fog clears, and with such comfortable conditions as we’re having the daily routine becomes even more enjoyable. And truly, it is glorious! Our new angle puts the breeze more squarely on the beam most of the time, a fast and flat point of sail on Totem, and gentle seas keep the motion very comfortable. As if we weren’t already on a high, the dolphin escort joins us in the early hours of the fourth day to lift our spirits again. The half dozen common dolphins aren’t always visible in the dark, but puffs of breath at the surface remind us of these constant companions. The pod stays until just after dawn, and then disappears to the north.

Nighttime watch has a magical quality when you’re not fighting to stay alert. We’ve left with a waning moon: not ideal, since it will give us little light for the back half of the passage, but great for stargazing. In the wee hours, I can see the Big Dipper and North Star to starboard; to port, the Southern Cross stretches up into the sky.

During the day, we cross the halfway mark in terms of mileage. But we’ve had a good breeze, and the forecast still shows it getting lighter ahead, stretching out our expected days at sea. That’s OK: we’re in the passage making grove now. And in truth, conditions are so pleasant, we just don’t care if it takes us longer to make landfall. Thankfully, it seems we haven’t had to re-learn passage making lessons the hard way…yet.

Next post: the last 500 miles to Sri Lanka.

Passage-ready readers always click to the post on Sailfeed – thanks for kicking a little change in our cruising kitty!

Drew Hardesty

Tue, 2015-02-17 00:00

This one is for the sailors who are also skiers – Drew Hardesty is a forecaster with the Utah Avalanche Center. How does he relate to sailing? Drew is the definition of an outdoorsman, and the wilderness envrionment that is the backcountry in the mountains of Utah is strikingly similar, philosophically, to the wilderness that is the high seas, and both are blessed and cursed with the same adventure and the same problems.

Drew and Andy discuss his career as a rescue-climber and backcountry avalanche forecaster, as well as Drew’s ideas on how to manage the influx of people into the backcountry, how those same problems plague the ocean sailing community, his hopes and fears to the future of backcountry use, and what he thinks we can do about it.

Reach out to Drew to join his backcountry outreach program on drew [at] utahavalanchecenter [dot] org, or check out avalanche.org for more information. 

Want to go ocean sailing with Andy? Book a berth on 59-north.com/events.

MID-BLIZZARD EVACUATION: Australians Rescued Off $10K eBay Boat

Mon, 2015-02-16 22:48

Yet another mid-winter North Atlantic Coast Guard helicopter rescue. Not off a new boat this time, but off an old 43-foot Carroll Marine racing sled, Sedona (built in 1995), that an Australian, Jason McGlashan, age 37, bought on eBay for $10,000 US. Apparently the price was too low to resist, and Jason and his dad, Reg, age 66, flew into Rhode Island a while back to prep the boat for a delivery back to Oz. The eyebrow-raising bits are that a) they departed from Jamestown last Friday, right in front of the huge blizzard we endured this weekend, and b) apparently the Coast Guard, as well as someone who had worked on the boat, strongly warned the duo not to leave.

The evacuation, via an MH-60 Jayhawk out of Cape Cod, took place 150 miles south of Nantucket around 9 a.m. yesterday after Jason asked for assistance and reported that Sedona was without power, with shredded sails. By the time the Aussies were safe and sound aboard the CG chopper, the wind was reportedly blowing 60 mph and seas were running at 25 feet. The air temperature was 35 degrees; water temperature was 43.

Brrr.

As usual, you can catch the action courtesy of a CG video:

According to a report in the Newport Daily News, Sedona originally belonged to and was raced by Len Hubbard of Jamestown, who donated the boat to an unnamed charity, which subsequently listed it for sale on eBay. According to an anonymous source cited by the gCaptain website, Hubbard got rid of the boat because its hull was delaminating. Hubbard also reportedly brought the McGlashans some food prior to their departure.

From left to right: Reg McGlashan, Len and Jill Hubbard (the boat’s prior owners), and Jason McGlashan (Photo courtesy of the Newport Daily News)

Reg and Jason down below (Photo courtesy of the Newport Daily News)

Jason, a sailor since childhood, planned to take Sedona to Port Macquarie, Australia, via the Cape of Good Hope and the Southern Ocean and expected the voyage to last 6-8 weeks. He hoped eventually to sail her on a record attempt around Australia.

“We’ve never done anything like this,” Jason told the Newport Daily News. “Dad’s not even a sailor, but he’s a quick study. We’ve got plenty of food, plenty of booze, good sails and all the safety gear you could ever need, so we’re going to be OK.”

Jason McGlashan aboard Sedona yesterday morning, prior to being evacuated

We have no details as to exactly what was going wrong on the boat, so it would be presumptuous to second-guess the McGlashans’ decision to call for help. It seems, however, we may know enough to speculate a bit about their decision to set off in the first place. If it’s true the Coast Guard felt they shouldn’t leave, and warned them not to, I have to wonder why they weren’t simply ordered to stay in port, as happened to George McKay and his ludicrous galleon up in Rockland, Maine, several years back.

The forum chatter is also full of questions about whether the McGlashans should have to pay for their rescue, given the circumstances. Speaking both as someone who has  been rescued by the Coast Guard, and as a taxpayer, I do believe there should be some mechanism for deciding when compensation is appropriate. I don’t think any of us who were aboard Be Good Too last year would be at all uncomfortable describing our adventure to a tribunal.

The important thing, of course, is that the McGlashans are safe, and once again we must give thanks for that to the Coast Guard, who really had their work cut out for them this time. The weather was so bad I barely left the house this past weekend; I can’t imagine what it was like swimming off Nantucket.

IN OTHER NEWS: Sailing Anarchy has just published a nice account by Jen Edney (one of my favorite up-and-coming sailing photogs) about a delivery aboard the latest Gunboat 55, Toccata, from North Carolina to Miami. SA hints that more news concerning hull no. 1, Rainmaker, which was recently abandoned off North Carolina, is forthcoming, so I’m wondering about that salvage attempt Gunboat CEO Peter Johnstone said would be undertaken.

Also, I was remiss in not mentioning the loss of Flyin’ Hawaiian earlier this month.

Built in a parking lot by James Lane, who dreamed of voyaging to Hawaii, this craft, constructed of plywood and 2x4s, was 65 feet long and weighed 8 tons

Another home-built monstrosity in the tradition of Raw Faith (except it seemed a bit tidier, I have to say), Flyin’ Hawaiian generated much controversy around San Francisco Bay before foundering off the coast with five crew aboard, who were plucked from peril (once again) by Coast Guard helicopters.

God love ‘em.

For more details you can check out this post by Clark Beek, my compatriot at SAILfeed.

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