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Finding and Fixing Dinghies

Sun, 2015-01-25 18:48

“Do you feel like checking out some sailing dinghies this weekend?” asked Erik.
“Sure,” I said. “Sounds fun.”
“Great. They’re in an old container down at the dock; someone abandoned them years ago.”
I looked up. “Abandoned” is usually a deadly adjective for a boat.
“It’s all supposed to be in pretty bad shape.” he continued. “The sails are probably going to be full of rat poop, and who knows if anything will still float.”
“Boy, Erik, why didn’t you lead with that? You know I can’t resist a rusty old container full of broken boat parts.”
“And rat poop,” he added.
“Yes, don’t forget the rat poop.”

So off we went on Sunday morning. The container was better than I expected. Yes, the promised rat droppings were everywhere, but a neighbour has been storing his kayaks in there, too, so the place wasn’t as sad and forsaken as previously advertised.

Erik quickly located the ownerless dinghies, and we dragged them out for a wash.

Rinse completed, the girls instantly took possession of the green dinghy and went for a paddle.

Meanwhile, Erik befriended a man putting his canoe into the water beside us. Twenty seconds later, Erik was paddling away.

Happy, happy happy.

Soon the kayaks were out, washed and in the water, too.

But this was all too easy. When Indy and I got back from our jaunt, we noticed the stern of our kayak was full of water. Unsurprisingly, there was a bung missing. A quick survey of the container didn’t turn up a spare, so Erik and Indy did the next best thing: they made one out of a water bottle lid and masking tape.

Perfect.

As Stylish paddled around and Indy doused everyone with the hose, we turned to more serious matters, ie. rigging the dinghies. We assembled all of the gear we could find, and discovered that, between the three masts, two booms and various stays, shrouds and blocks, we had enough rigging for the white dinghy. Mostly.

Unfortunately, there is a small hole in the hull, so I see some fibreglassing in our future.

The sails were another matter. The rats had gone to town, and, being a discerning sort of beast, had preferentially munched their way through the best sails first.

“Well, that’s no problem,” said Erik. “We have six sails to work with. We’ll just scavenge material from these sails to fix those ones. Someone around here must have a sewing machine.”
I counted up the rips and holes. One, two… seven, eight… thirteen… “I don’t know, Of course we can do it, but it is going to take hours. And once we leave, you know the sails will go back in the container, be forgotten and get eaten all over again.”
Erik looked momentarily discouraged. Then, like a true cruiser, he shook it off. “Meh, I want to do it anyway.”
I nodded. I kind of wanted to fix it up, too.

So we cleaned the sails and brought them home to dry. It looks like we have a new weekend project.

A New Tall Ship: Mission Not Impossible

Sun, 2015-01-25 12:26

No one could have guaranteed the success of the Matthew Turner project, taking shape quite nicely along the shoreline of Sausalito, California.

But the Call of the Sea, which now serves 5,000 people annually, most of them youth, is over-subscribed.

The Matthew Turner — is needed. KL

CLEAT OF THE YEAR AWARD: Antal’s Sexy New Super-Handy Roller Cleat

Fri, 2015-01-23 17:35

I don’t know if you guys have noticed or not, but deck-cleat technology, once a mundane and very static science, has become increasingly sophisticated in the last few years. Most developments have swirled around the concept of the retractable cleat, which are increasingly common on new boats I see at shows. Their utilitarian justification is that they won’t catch working lines or wandering toes when you’re sailing and/or strolling about on deck. Which is a worthy attribute. But in a world where designers are trying to make sailboats look more and more like sleek out-of-this-world spaceships, with as little evidence of working parts on their decks as possible, it would seem these cleats are also part of a larger not-necessarily-functional nautical fashion trend.

Frankly, I’ve always been a little suspicious of retractable cleats. It bothers me a lot that the load-bearing portion of the structure is a moving part. To me this implies vulnerability. Also, they obviously will still catch lines and toes when they are busy being cleats.

Example of a typical retractable cleat

Example of a sailboat that wants very hard to look like it has no cleats at all. (You know they’d 86 those winches if they could!)

All of which is why I was very pleased to learn that Antal’s new Roller Cleat (see image up top) has been unanimously selected as this year’s Cleat of the Year. The cool thing about these cleats is they can quickly be transformed with a flick of your wrist from a conventional easy-to-get-a-line-around open-horned cleat to a pair of closed fairleads that, like a retractable cleat, can’t catch lines or toes. Better yet, you can effect this transformation when the cleat is already loaded with a line, so they become inoffensive to stray working lines and toes while still doing their jobs as cleats.

I find it very reassuring that the load-bearing portion of the Roller Cleat is a fixed part. I also think they look pretty slick when closed. Not as de minimis, obviously, as a retracted retractable cleat, but I am highly skeptical of this sailboat-as-spaceship style trend and actually prefer to have my deck hardware accessible and in plain view. All this gear-under-the-deck business, it seems to me, is nothing but a potential source of trouble.

What’s also cool is that, when closed, you can use the Roller Cleat as a Panama fairlead. These get their name from the closed leads and chocks you typically like to have onboard when locking through the Panama Canal (or any canal, for that matter), where you often have working dock (or lock) lines running at variable angles, including steep raised angles above the fairlead, as the water level in a lock changes. Such fairleads, of course, are also generally useful in any situation where you need to secure a boat to a structure that is higher than the boat’s deck.

Example of a Panama fairlead, as used on large ships

Example of a regular fairlead that has been transformed into a Panama fairlead through the addition of what is known as a Panama plate

Arguably, of course, a retractable cleat such as the one pictured above could also be used as Panama fairlead, but ultimately it looks much less suitable, don’t you think? I mean, damn, the thing appears to have sharp edges. Also, you can get a line through a Roller Cleat without having to actually lead the bitter end through the fairlead, kind of like a snatch-fairlead.

Again, very cool.

Not coincidentally, I gave the Roller Cleat a big thumb’s up in my capacity as Cruising Judge in SAIL’s annual Freeman K. Pittman Innovation Awards. You can check out my other picks and all the other FKP winners right here.

Future Sailing: His Name Is Paul

Thu, 2015-01-22 19:41

By Kimball Livingston Posted January 22, 2015

What would you do if you were the fastest sailor on water?

(Soft water.)

If you were coming off eleven years of obsessed design/build/test/fail/win and when you finally were a winner it was not by a smidgen, no, a winner by a country mile, a winner by a revolution, you could go away and stare at the trees for a while. Wait for a butterfly to flutter by. Read a book about anything but boats, aerodynamics, hydraulic drag. Take a little hike in the Antarctic. Maybe even think, never again.

It was more or less like that for Paul Larsen, whose absolute speed record looks secure for a while to come. That would be 65.45 knots at 500 meters, 55.32 at one nautical mile, with more in the bank if somebody wants to exploit, as Larsen puts it, “an ideal platform to develop the next generation of high speed foils.”

Now, Paul Larsen has had his break, and the hormones are pumping again. He’s back in the kitchen, cooking up something he thinks will leapfrog every other technology in ocean sailing and: “Now I have a project that’s ten times as complex.”

On the Gitana team, Sébastien Josse is keen to put an ocean-going trimaran, a Multi 70, on foils? Fine.

Good ole Hydroptere has a Transpac course record shot in the offing? Fine.

Larsen wants to land like a mission to Mars. Or maybe from Mars. Nothing should be the same after.

If the guy next door started talking like this, I might back away, ever so slowly, smiling, nodding . . .

But Paul Larsen? He’s people.

Here’s the rub: Larsen can’t go forward without going deep into electronics and, “I hate electronics,” he says. But there is the issue of speed at sea versus human response times, and so, “This path with electronics is inevitable. I’ve watched Richard Jenkins send out drones with wings controlled by tiny servos, and that’s the future. We can’t have someone sitting all night with three turns on the winch” waiting to blow the sheet in a puff. Not when, “For twenty quid, you’ve got these incredible microprocessors in your hand.” And those microprocessors can be programmed to respond instantly to a sudden change in the angle of heel. For example. Before a human could even think to slip a line.

We talked via skype. Beyond the man and his computer was the wing of the scale model he’s building of his long-distance sailing contraption, and he related with a hoot and a grin how all three floors of the house were littered with boat parts. Of course. Aussie by birth, Larsen lives now in Weymouth, England, one of the speed sailing capitals of the world. I met the man years ago in, of all places, Doha, Qatar, as he was prepping for a race around the world. Even amid the splendors of a Middle East hotel lobby favored by the ruling Al Thani family, he had the aura of a guy with a house full of boat parts.

My kind of people.

So now we have the sailing speed record holder telling us he can achieve a revolution in ocean sailing, and one of his problems is parallel to what Harbor Wing Technologies was exploring as it worked up a program for an unmanned observation/reconnaissance trimaran. They made it as far as a working prototype powered by a wing and fully managed by electronics. One of the points made by Harbor Wing is that a fully-feathered wing, separated into vertical sections, presents less drag than a bare mast. Larsen agrees except, “Having a wing up full-time, offshore, when you add pitching and rolling, is a complicated conversation. Still, once you’ve worked with a wing, it’s hard to go back to a soft sail. It’s addictive, the way you can control inputs.”

Sailrocket 3, the record setter — representing eleven years of try and try again — was a bet on a concept of opposing forces first imagined by a fellow named Bernard Smith in a book titled, The 40-Knot Sailboat.

Smith was good at imagining.

Larsen hammered out the track-worthy version, and now he’s on fire to produce something that will be, not just a record setter, but transformational. The Sailrockets were good for going one direction only, and early versions tried pretty hard to kill the pilot.

“I had wondered what would fill the void beyond Sailrocket,” he says, “but I’ve virtually forgotten speed sailing now. There’s an empty space in sailing waiting to be filled, and I’m pretty sure I can do it. I’m not going to build another scream-reacher. I’ve done that.”

Larsen envisions a record-capable ocean-going boat that “wouldn’t be sitting, waiting for a weather window. We want to be able to get through the light stuff too. Anything we design has to be suitable for converting to foils, but if you design specifically for foils you’re making compromises. And there’s a lot of stuff out there to hit.

“At the end of the day, it’s about getting rid of drag.”

But what the heck is it? Sorry. For all his urges to blab to the world, he’s not.

“The first person to win a Route du Rhum with this will get credit for it.”

And he wants that person to be named Paul Larsen.

So, you didn’t quite read it here.

P.S. There is a journo who rode in Sailrocket 3 and wrote about it for Wired. For a slightly dated read, but a darned good read, here is Adam Fisher

…and this week in International Epoxy News

Thu, 2015-01-22 14:40
This, apparently, is a current image of the gold funerary mask of King Tutankhamun:   Source:Al Araby Al Jadeed

 The story goes that a cleaner at the museum was spiffing up the mask when they managed to knock its beard off (or, in another version, the beard was intentionally removed because it was loose). Then, in a classic case of sidestepping, the head of the renovations team called her husband instead of the Ministry of Antiquities and asked him to fix it. Supposedly, he’s also a ‘renovator.’ Whatever that means. Unfortunately, it looks like he’s never read the West System Use Guides or my last post on Epoxy Hints. Allegedly the husband decided to repair the 21″ tall ancient gold artifact by gooping the beard up with epoxy and sticking it back. Apparently more damage was done when squeeze out dried on the face of the mask and was later scraped off.

 Now I can’t speak to whether epoxy is the correct material for repairing ancient gold artifacts, but anyone who has done a little boatwork could have warned this this guy about squeeze out and explained that if he cleaned that epoxy up before it cured with a bit of acetone (or even white vinegar) he could save himself the scraping. Solid gold is pretty soft, after all. On the upside, it seems like the beard is now solidly affixed so at least we now know that epoxy provides a reasonably secure mechanical bond in gold to gold glue ups. Maybe someone can ask him about the prepping process? Do we need an etching primer, or can you just hit it (lightly) with an 80-grit disc on an angle grinder? I’m happy to do some experiments and report back if anyone wants to send a few gold bars my way.

King Tut’s mask in better days

Huffington Post story here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/01/21/king-tuts-mask-damaged_n_6520910.html
And the original (in Arabic): http://www.alaraby.co.uk/investigations/b8674bca-fccf-473c-a599-ce1cfb20daa5



Last days in Thailand

Wed, 2015-01-21 04:28

Cruising is hard work. Really. Our punch list to have Totem ready for the Indian Ocean is shrinking but it’s constant daily effort to track towards an end of month departure. Even when we’re relaxing, like those lazy weeks up in Koh Phayam, we’re not on vacation. I made this list of things Jamie did over the course of a few days while we lingered in the bay there:

  • -     cut hole in deck for inner forestay
  • -     cut six inches of 3/8 inch 316 SS plate from an overbuilt/oversized backing plate
  • -     install backing plate with some exceptionally messy butyl tape
  • -     re-splice dyneema inner forestay
  • -     connect solar panels (offline since arch was rebuilt at the shipyard)
  • -     field install connector for NMEA 2000 network GPS (getting aaaalll the little wires into an end: finicky work)
  • -     replace burned-out Caframo fan in forepeak

Relaxing is not so much relaxing lately.

But then we delayed our departure from Thailand a bit longer for the best possible reason: the chance for a visit from my cousin and her new husband, as the first stop on their honeymoon travels in Southeast Asia. With Maeve and Noel on board, we had a great break from the pressure.

They had a taste of the cruising life. Beautiful anchorages. Lugging provisions. Underwater exploring. Wicked cards. Gorgeous sunsets. Making plans based on the tide. Glorious sailing, interspersed with wind on the nose, or no sailing wind at all.

Maeve hooked 2/3 of our junior crew on rock climbing. Siobhan climbed a 5.9 that nearly stumped me. Niall got up a 5.10 at mountain goat speed. Suddenly I’m looking at the many atolls that sprinkle our 2015 route and thinking we should start researching climbs in Sri Lanka and Madagascar. Now.

In Koh Phi Phi the climbing bug (and a few annoying mosquitoes) bit at Ton Sai wall. We caught up with Delos, who we first shared an anchorage with back in Mexico in 2009; there was the funny bookshop lady who managed to rope us into setting up her shop.

In Koh Muk, we swam through a dark tunnel into the sky lit “room” of the emerald cave, and found breathtaking and unexpected life underwater.

 

New experiences, old friends, the stuff cruising is made of.

Back in Langkawi, we stare down the punch list again. At this point, it’s only “must-do” items that are chipped away at daily. We’ve begun some goodbyes, and started to do things “for the last time” here. It’s bittersweet, but it’s exciting all the same.

Eric Forsyth

Tue, 2015-01-20 00:17

Listen Now.

Eric Forsyth, legendary ocean voyager with over 300,000 sea miles and whose visited both Antarctica & Spitsbergen on his Westsail 42, joins the podcast! Andy and Eric chat about his days in the 1950s flying the first fighter jets with the Royal Air Force, how Eric got into sailing, navigating on Celestial only in the Newport-Bermuda Race in the 1970s and what it’s like to endure a 75-knot gale in the Southern Ocean.

Eric is a very humble man with extraordinary achievements beneath his keel, and bumps along the road in his life. “I have no regrets,” he says about it all. Eric’s now going on 83, and is planning on going back to Fiona this spring to sail, well, who knows where. Thanks to Eric for this inspiring conversation! Read all about Eric and his travels on yachtfiona.com.

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

KNOT OF THE YEAR AWARD: The Obscure But Ultimately Very Useful Halyard Knot

Mon, 2015-01-19 19:15

That’s right, sports fans: it’s awards season! In the always hard-fought Cordage Utility category the ballots have been counted and the surprise winner this year is the mysterious halyard knot. Unknown to many sailors, the halyard knot is nonetheless an elegant compact knot that is particularly handy to know about if you need to bend a line on to some sort of shackle or clip (a halyard shackle being the eponymous example) on a more-or-less permanent basis, but are too lazy (or ignorant) to be bothered with actually splicing the line on to said bit of hardware.

The knot most people use in these situations is, of course, the perennial and ubiquitous bowline, which is not quite ideal in this application, as it is bulkier than it needs to be (a drawback, for instance, when you have to hoist a halyard shackle up close to masthead sheave) and involves a fixed bight or loop of line that necessarily must be larger than necessary.

The halyard knot is very easy to tie. Pass a line through the shackle in question, take two full turns around the standing part, then slip the bitter end up through the turns alongside the standing part. The result is a low-profile slip knot that will snug down tight and neatly against the shackle.

The halyard knot is very secure and is very unlikely to come undone after it has been loaded up. Unlike a bowline, however, it is not that easy to untie once it has been in service for a while. In the end, when you want to get your shackle back, you may have to cut it off. At a minimum you’ll need a nice marlinspike to pick it apart.

In bestowing this year’s award, Horatio P. Nimblefingers, head knot judge, stated: “Though it is always preferable to splice a halyard to its shackle, particularly when using high-modulus line, the sad fact is many so-called experienced sailors don’t know how to splice multi-braid rope. And those that do know may sometimes find themselves in situations where splicing a line to shackle is not practical or feasible. In those instances where a knot is, or must, be used, our judging panel agreed unanimously that the halyard knot is by far the most qualified candidate. It is attractive, easily executed, and easy to remember. In short, it is everything we like to see in knot.”

The halyard knot, renowned for its shy, retiring habits and character, declined to appear at the awards ceremony and afterwards could not be reached for comment. Accepting the award in its place was the more flamboyant hangman’s knot, which declared: “That’s my buddy Hal! He’s a real winner, but he hates to admit it. What he is at heart is a utilitarian minimalist.””

KNOT OF THE YEAR AWARD: The Obscure But Ultimately Very Useful Halyard Knot

Mon, 2015-01-19 19:15

That’s right, sports fans: it’s awards season! In the always hard-fought Cordage Utility category the ballots have been counted and the surprise winner this year is the mysterious halyard knot. Unknown to many sailors, the halyard knot is nonetheless an elegant compact knot that is particularly handy to know about if you need to bend a line on to some sort of shackle or clip (a halyard shackle being the eponymous example) on a more-or-less permanent basis, but are too lazy (or ignorant) to be bothered with actually splicing the line on to said bit of hardware.

The knot most people use in these situations is, of course, the perennial and ubiquitous bowline, which is not quite ideal in this application, as it is bulkier than it needs to be (a drawback, for instance, when you have to hoist a halyard shackle up close to masthead sheave) and involves a fixed bight or loop of line that necessarily must be larger than necessary.

The halyard knot is very easy to tie. Pass a line through the shackle in question, take two full turns around the standing part, then slip the bitter end up through the turns alongside the standing part. The result is a low-profile slip knot that will snug down tight and neatly against the shackle.

The halyard knot is very secure and is very unlikely to come undone after it has been loaded up. Unlike a bowline, however, it is not that easy to untie once it has been in service for a while. In the end, when you want to get your shackle back, you may have to cut it off. At a minimum you’ll need a nice marlinspike to pick it apart.

In bestowing this year’s award, Horatio P. Nimblefingers, head knot judge, stated: “Though it is always preferable to splice a halyard to its shackle, particularly when using high-modulus line, the sad fact is many so-called experienced sailors don’t know how to splice multi-braid rope. And those that do know may sometimes find themselves in situations where splicing a line to shackle is not practical or feasible. In those instances where a knot is, or must, be used, our judging panel agreed unanimously that the halyard knot is by far the most qualified candidate. It is attractive, easily executed, and easy to remember. In short, it is everything we like to see in knot.”

The halyard knot, renowned for its shy, retiring habits and character, declined to appear at the awards ceremony and afterwards could not be reached for comment. Accepting the award in its place was the more flamboyant hangman’s knot, which declared: “That’s my buddy Hal! He’s a real winner, but he hates to admit it. What he is at heart is a utilitarian minimalist.””

TorqTrac: Torqeedo electric outboards get app monitoring & more

Mon, 2015-01-19 08:05

Written by Ben Ellison on Jan 19, 2015 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub

I declared my love for the Torqeedo 1003 electric outboard in 2011 and the feeling only deepened after two seasons of long testing, despite a glitch or two. Well, wow, the same motor has run like a top ever since, and as of a few days ago, it has a very cool accessory. The TorqTrac Bluetooth module and apps were announced some time ago, but apparently the $149 kit is only becoming available now. The version 1.0 app does not look like what was originally announced, or even what’s shown at Torqeedo USA right now, but my first underway tests suggest that TorqTrac is going to add some nice spice and utility to my Torqeedo 1003 relationship…

First I did a dry run in Gizmo’s salon. It’s always been possible to connect the tiller to the battery to see its state of charge, but I was pleasantly surprised that the TorqTrac app found the Bluetooth module without any pairing hassle whatsoever. It just worked and has every time since. This may be because the wireless module uses Bluetooth 4.0, which may also be why TorqTrac for Android isn’t compatible with my three-year-old Samsung Galaxy Phone. Note that the photo, even if you click it bigger, makes the tiller screen look harder to read than it really is. In fact, during some sunny testing conditions the tiller LCD was easier to see than my oldish iPad Mini. But the tiller screen is often not where I want it to be. While it’s fine if I have passengers and am sitting on the tender’s aft seat, I often drive solo with an extension tiller (seen here).

So, while most of the data on the left-hand iPad screen above is already on the tiller display, my first TorqTrac run was also the first time I got to see that the wide open 1003 throttle can push my latest tender at 8.6 km/h or 4.6 knots (which seems pretty good for a decidedly non-planing 9-foot Fatty Knees that’s 4.5 feet wide). If I had stepped back to the tiller at that speed, it would have knocked the boat way out of trim, or worse. It’s also nice to see the live battery range shown as a graphic circle on a map, though a chart would be better, and the device must be online to get these maps. The distance and time to Home is another unique TorqTrac feature, though I obviously hadn’t figured out how to use it during test #1.

In fact, I did a lot of “testing” during the recent balmy days here in New Bern, North Carolina. I learned that simply tapping on the units of speed/distance cycles through km, m, and nm. And one tap into the Range screen makes the map zoomable and lets you long tap waypoints, one of which can be designated as Home. This feature could be useful for kids or guests using the tender, and I wonder how long it will be before a drunken sailor uses this feature to find his boat at night in a crowded anchorage. Note how much lower the power draw is at just over 3 knots and how much the range increased even though the battery is down from test 1. I’ve never felt the need for a second battery and I generally use the boat many times between charges.

Apple iOS TorqTrac is like the Android version and the third main screen you can swipe to lets you start and stop tracking, which could also be useful for harbor navigation, not to mention electric-quiet gunkholing. But it took me a while to figure out that it uses the mobile device’s GPS instead of the one built into the Torqeedo tiller. Maybe that has something to do with the long time it took to get the app through the Apple approval process. At any rate, once I fired up the Bad Elf Pro, the tracking got very accurate.

The lower window on that All Trips page shows the crazy tracking the iPad did when just connected to my phone’s WiFi (for the map downloading). Yes, I ended up using three wireless devices plus the TorqTrac module for this testing and was impressed that they all got along, but a user with a compatible Android or iPhone won’t have any of these issues as the phone has its own GPS and is probably online. So many current Torqeedo owners will find TorqTrac very easy to set up and use, and probably very desirable. And I imagine that Torqeedo will start building the Bluetooth right into the tillers soon, plus perhaps the controls for their ever larger systems (Deep Blue Hybrid is on its way).

Here’s a look at the test tender, which may deserve the name Gadget. That is a Vexilar Sonar Phone T-Box transducer attached to a board that’s about to be clamped to the transom, and I did indeed use it with the Navionics Boating live SonarChart feature. It all worked fantastically well, but there are some data interpretation issues to iron out, and I’ll be writing about all that soon.

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

Cuba – What’s Really Changed?

Sat, 2015-01-17 13:02
The net is just buzzing with talk about Cuba since the release yesterday (Jan 16, 2015) of the new US regulations regarding the embargo. Everyone wants to go to Cuba – nothing new there – but just what do the new regulations actually say? That’s the real question, and it’s not being properly answered by most of the people discussing it.
For those of a legal bent, I’m going to include links to the new regs at the end of this article, so you can nitpick to your heart’s content. For the rest of us, it’ll be a bit more ad hoc.
First of all, what has actually changed in regards to taking a boat to Cuba?
The short answer? Everything…and nothing. Recreational boating to Cuba has not been approved. In fact, ‘recreational’ tourism outside of the person to person tours has not been approved. You still cannot legally go to Cuba and swill mojitos on the beach.
Here’s what senior administration officials have said: [the new regulations] “…are not meant to facilitate tourist travel to Cuba, as tourist travel remains prohibited by statute.”
Well, isn’t that a bummer? But remember, I said “legally”. We’ll come back to that comment.
The big change and the one that’s going to bring more Americans to Cuba are the changes in the ‘general license’ structure.
Prior to yesterday, certain individuals were permitted to go to Cuba if they fit certain criteria placing them in either a ‘general’ or ‘specific’ license category. Those groups included Cuban Americans with family in Cuba, those on official U.S. government business, including some intergovernmental organizations; journalists; professional research; educational and religious activities; cultural including public performances, athletic and other competitions.
The specific license category required that you file an application with the Office of Foreign Asset Controls (OFAC); the general license category was by declaration, subject to proof of qualification if demanded.
Here’s how it works: an American journalist can legally go to Cuba for work purposes under a general license. That hasn’t changed.
So there you are with your sailing blog. That’s journalism, isn’t it? Well, yes, but not in this case.
Unless you have a significant and verifiable presence as a journalist, which includes getting paid for your work, you don’t qualify. The devil truly is in the details, and there are lots of them.
But let’s say that you really are a journalist – and you want to sail to Cuba (are you listening Peter S?) or otherwise qualify legally…can you now sail there? That’s not clear. You couldn’t do so previously, and there appears to be nothing in the new regs changing that. The answer to that one will have to wait until someone asks the question, but given that travel by boat is largely seen as recreational, I don’t see it changing in the immediate future.
Now, I did say ‘legally’…here’s what I think is going to happen. A lot of Americans are going to find some way to travel to Cuba by ‘fitting’ themselves into the legal categories. That wouldn’t be particularly hard to do as a quick read of the new regulations will show you.
It won’t be a good fit and in many if not most cases, it won’t be legal. But if the US government doesn’t care, and doesn’t bother with verifying those individuals – accepting in good faith people’s declarations that they are a bona fide writer for the Podunk Daily Chronicler, or the Grand Supremo Guru of the Church of the Book of Jib – then it’s going to happen. That means that some people are going to choose to travel to Cuba by boat. I don’t doubt that a half dozen set off today from Key West actually.
The real test will be in the reaction of the government to those doing this. I suspect there will be no reaction, that the government has no intention of prosecuting anyone for traveling to Cuba, no matter how they get there, or why. In that way, they can create pressure to totally lift the embargo, which is this administration’s apparent goal. Time will tell. My next blog, I’ll discuss what it’s like to actually travel in Cuba by boat….in the meantime, for your viewing pleasure, and because I’m such a tease…here’s a video about a Saturday night in Cuba – enjoy, and stay tuned, there’s more to come! Oh yes, I did promise some links for the nitpickers and the legally savvy amongst us, if that’s not being redundant… – http://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Programs/Pages/cuba.aspx and also http://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Programs/Documents/cuba_faqs_new.pdf

Cuba – What’s Changed?

Sat, 2015-01-17 11:54

The net is just buzzing with talk about Cuba since the release yesterday (Jan 16, 2015) of the new US regulations regarding the embargo. Everyone wants to go to Cuba – nothing new there – but just what do the new regulations actually say? That’s the real question, and it’s not being properly answered by most of the people discussing it.
For those of a legal bent, I’m going to include links to the new regs at the end of this article, so you can nitpick to your heart’s content. For the rest of us, it’ll be a bit more ad hoc.
First of all, what has actually changed in regards to taking a boat to Cuba?
The short answer? Everything…and nothing. Recreational boating to Cuba has not been approved. In fact, ‘recreational’ tourism outside of the person to person tours has not been approved. You still cannot legally go to Cuba and swill mojitos on the beach.
Here’s what senior administration officials have said: [the new regulations] “…are not meant to facilitate tourist travel to Cuba, as tourist travel remains prohibited by statute.”
Well, isn’t that a bummer? But remember, I said “legally”. We’ll come back to that comment.
The big change and the one that’s going to bring more Americans to Cuba are the changes in the ‘general license’ structure.
Prior to yesterday, certain individuals were permitted to go to Cuba if they fit certain criteria placing them in either a ‘general’ or ‘specific’ license category. Those groups included Cuban Americans with family in Cuba, those on official U.S. government business, including some intergovernmental organizations; journalists; professional research; educational and religious activities; cultural including public performances, athletic and other competitions.
The specific license category required that you file an application with the Office of Foreign Asset Controls (OFAC); the general license category was by declaration, subject to proof of qualification if demanded.
Here’s how it works: an American journalist can legally go to Cuba for work purposes under a general license. That hasn’t changed.
So there you are with your sailing blog. That’s journalism, isn’t it? Well, yes, but not in this case.
Unless you have a significant and verifiable presence as a journalist, which includes getting paid for your work, you don’t qualify. The devil truly is in the details, and there are lots of them.
But let’s say that you really are a journalist – and you want to sail to Cuba (are you listening Peter S?) or otherwise qualify legally…can you now sail there?

That’s not clear. You couldn’t do so previously, and there appears to be nothing in the new regs changing that. The answer to that one will have to wait until someone asks the question, but given that travel by boat is largely seen as recreational, I don’t see it changing in the immediate future.
Now, I did say ‘legally’…here’s what I think is going to happen.

A lot of Americans are going to find some way to travel to Cuba by ‘fitting’ themselves into the legal categories. That wouldn’t be particularly hard to do as a quick read of the new regulations will show you.
It won’t be a good fit and in many if not most cases, it won’t be legal. But if the US government doesn’t care, and doesn’t bother with verifying those individuals – accepting in good faith people’s declarations that they are a bona fide writer for the Podunk Daily Chronicler, or the Grand Supremo Guru of the Church of the Book of Jib – then it’s going to happen.

That means that some people are going to choose to travel to Cuba by boat. I don’t doubt that a half dozen set off today from Key West actually.
The real test will be in the reaction of the government to those doing this. I suspect there will be no reaction, that the government has no intention of prosecuting anyone for traveling to Cuba, no matter how they get there, or why. In that way, they can create pressure to totally lift the embargo, which is this administration’s apparent goal.

Time will tell. My next blog, I’ll discuss what it’s like to actually travel in Cuba by boat….in the meantime, for your viewing pleasure, and because I’m such a tease…here’s a video about a Saturday night in Cuba – enjoy, and stay tuned, there’s more to come! 

Oh yes, I did promise some links for the nitpickers and the legally savvy amongst us, if that’s not being redundant… – http://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Programs/Pages/cuba.aspx and also http://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Programs/Documents/cuba_faqs_new.pdf

2016 Bermuda Race to go All-ORR

Fri, 2015-01-16 20:36

AND it will be the 50th Newport Bermuda Race. The word —

By John Rousmaniere

When the Newport Bermuda Race is next sailed in 2016, it will be scored by one handicapping system, the Offshore Racing Rule (ORR). The ORR calculates each boat’s speed potential based on its dimensions, using a Velocity Prediction Program (VPP). The ORR has been used in the Newport Bermuda Race since 2006, following many years of handicapping under other VPP systems.

The announcement was made by Race Chairman A. J. Evans (Red Bank, NJ). He noted that the 2016 race will be a double anniversary year for the Newport Bermuda Race. It will mark the 50th “Thrash to the Onion Patch” since the biennial race was founded in 1906. The nickname honors Bermuda’s agricultural history and the typical demanding sailing conditions on the 635-mile race course across the Gulf Stream.

The next race will also mark the 90th anniversary of the partnership between the race’s co-organizers, the Cruising Club of America and the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club. Evans announced the appointment of four race officials from the clubs. They are Principal Race Officer John Osmond (Osterville, MA), International Jury Chair Peter Shrubb (Warwick, Bermuda), Race Safety Officer Ron Trossbach (Newport, RI), and Chief Inspector James Phyfe (Cranston, RI).

The “50th Thrash” will start on June 17, 2016, off Castle Hill, at Newport, R.I. In the most recent Newport Bermuda Race, in 2014, 164 boats sailed in divisions for racing-cruising boats, cruising boats, doublehanded boats sailed by two sailors, and Grand Prix racing boats with professional sailors.

Garmin GNX 120/130, 7- and 10-inch NMEA 2000 instrument displays

Fri, 2015-01-16 12:00

Written by Ben Ellison on Jan 16, 2015 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub

This morning Garmin announced the $900 7-inch GNX 120 and the $1,500 10-inch GNX 130 (above) with planned delivery in February and May respectively. They use what’s called “high-precision glass-bonded monochrome ultra-glow LCD displays” and the data backlighting can be switched to most any color. Set up is done with those onscreen touch buttons or with a new GNX Keypad . Over 50 NMEA 2000 data types will be recognized and there will be five display configurations including “single, dual and triple functions, plus Gauge and Graph mode”…

I can picture these displays becoming popular on high-end motor yachts — much as B&G instruments have earned space on many megayacht bridges — but obviously the focus is performance sailing. The top portion of the big “hybrid” LCDs seem to use efficient segmentation while pixels on the lower portion permit graphics and the whole power load is said to be less than 0.4 Watts night or day for either size. Note that the “256″ and “78” on the depth screen above are max/min for the graph time period, which is user configurable.

There is more detail on the GNX 120 and 130 product pages that literally just went live, though I don’t yet see anything about the carbon fiber mast bracket accessories seen below. This week Garmin also released a major software update that includes (for some MFDs) the Start Guidance feature I recently described. Now I’m wondering if the commenter or two who opined that Garmin wasn’t serious about sailboat racing would like a do-over ;-)

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

A handful of epoxy hints

Thu, 2015-01-15 17:28

I’ve been doing a lot of epoxy work this last week and it has got me thinking how much easier this stuff is than when I first started. Sure, I’m more skilled now than I was but much of it has to do with simple habits which allow me to move quickly and surely when working with the stuff. With that in mind, here are a handful of tricks that have helped me this week. I’ll try to update this as I think of them.

Having a good set of mixing buckets will save you time and materials. Yoghurt containers work great in a pinch but they’re really not the right shape. Far better is a bucket or square container with a wide bottom. Epoxy sets up faster when it is concentrated in a small space so the more you can spread it out the better. The wide bottom will also allow you to get a spreader in there to really scrape out the last of the goo. Actually a plastic-handled rubber kitchen spatula is perfect for this. For fairing compounds the taller the container the better- raised sides will keep more of your fairing fillers in the bucket and out of the air. You can reuse a plastic bucket many times but for fine work or a final round of fairing use a fresh bucket to ensure there are no little bits of dried epoxy falling off the sides of the bucket and messing up your finish.
This 1-gallon paint bucket has a wide, flat bottom which can be easily scraped clean and high sides which keep fairing filler out of the air when mixing. It’s also soft enough plastic that it can be flexed to pop out cured epoxy.

This yoghurt container is difficult and slow to scrape clean, resulting in a lot of waste.

Foam brushes are nice because they carry a lot of epoxy but the ones at the hardware store just don’t hold up. Get ones made for epoxy work, or just stick with a disposable chip brush.

And speaking of chip brushes, if you’re epoxying something where finish is important try this. Before you start cover your hand with a length of packing tape, sticky side out, then vigorously brush over the tape. This will pull out most of the loose hairs in your brush, keeping them out of your work:

Epoxy can be effectively thinned with a very small amount of acetone, but this will have minor detrimental effects on its strength. Better is to warm the epoxy and/or whatever you’re working on. Just keep in mind that warming epoxy greatly reduces its working time.

Save yourself a huge amount of finish work by getting used to the different stages of epoxy curing. When fairing compound is not-quite-cured it can be trimmed with a shop knife or razor blade, saving a lot of sanding. The same is true of fiberglass cloth. Rather than messing with unravelling edges try cutting pieces of cloth a half-inch oversize and trimming with a shop knife for your final fit when the epoxy has nearly cured. Be careful not to try trimming epoxy when it is too malleable of you will find it catching and tearing. Also, always use a very sharp tool.

Take it slow, and in batches. I rarely mix more than 1/2c epoxy at a time. The stickier things are the harder it is to work. When you find your gloves or spreaders starting to gum up after a batch or two, take a moment to change them or wipe them down with acetone, and get a fresh brush when needed. I like to use extra-heavy nitrile gloves. They cost more but I end up changing them less often because they don’t tear and they can even be cleaned up once or twice with a capful of acetone.
Cheesy packaging aside these gloves are the best bang for your buck I’ve found for epoxy work. I buy them at Lowes.

Epoxy can be colored with polyester pigment from the craft store. Over 2% pigment weakens the epoxy, but only slightly. It’s difficult to get a perfect finish with brushed on epoxy but this can cut down a lot on primer coats when painting. See this article for more detail: http://westsystem.com/ss/adding-pigments-to-epoxy/

Oh, and I’ve mentioned it before, but the West System helpline is a great free resource for any epoxy project: 1-866-937-8797 Weekdays, 9-5

an event becomes An Event

Thu, 2015-01-15 01:43

By Kimball Livingston Posted January 14, 2015

The screening of a rough-cut documentary doesn’t always draw a crowd, but apparently there’s something about the Cape Horn rounding of the schooner, Wander Bird, and black and white footage that, for once, does not shrink the waves. They look really big. Or maybe the camera did shrink the waves, and they were really, really, really big.

(There’s this saying, How do you flatten an angry sea? Take a picture of it.)

Director Oleg Harencar and producer Don Zimmer embarked a while back upon documenting some of the great characters of the Marin waterfront. People who have stories. People who made stories.

Marin County, California. The northern shore of San Francisco Bay.

I call it a public service. In the case of Wander Bird’s Cape Horn Passage, director and producer had a great advantage, the footage shot by Warwick Tompkins in his voyaging between the world wars in the celebrated 85-foot pilot schooner, Wander Bird. The footage should have made a rollicking newsreel of the day, running ahead of a Hollywood feature, but WWII intervened and took all the air out of the plan.

Many viewers today will already know much of the Wander Bird story, and how then-four-year-old Warwick M. Tompkins ‘assumed’ command of the deck and the rigging aloft and wound up with the enduring nickname of Commodore.

Commodore today, at 80+, talks to the camera, and his voice becomes commentary and narration as he reads from his father’s book, 50 South to 50 South, and considers what it means to grow up, in part, at sea.

The event was another in the Wednesday Yachting Luncheon speaker series at St. Francis Yacht Club — open to members of all recognized yacht clubs — and it was nudged toward Event status when, following the screening, Commodore Tompkins skyped in from New Zealand to take questions from the crowd.

It became An Event when they all sang Happy Birthday to him.

I thought you should know.

Happy Birthday, Commodore.

Learn more about the project at Life On the Water.

Icom M424G & 324G VHF with GPS, and DSC embarrassment

Wed, 2015-01-14 14:00

Written by Ben Ellison on Jan 14, 2015 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub

I’m visiting Gizmo in less chilly North Carolina for a week (before TrawlerFest) and was reminded that just before leaving in November, I experienced the first DSC Urgency message I’d ever seen. My reaction was slightly embarassing, but the U.S. Coast Guard response was impressive, as will be detailed below. For now, let’s just say that DSC is a potentially excellent but underused safety tool and thus, it’s good news that Icom has upgraded two of its fixed VHF radio models to include internal GPS sensors, so they will be ready to make DSC distress calls almost the moment power and antenna are attached. At the London Boat Show last week Icom UK introduced the IC-M423G above, which features a “striking new white backlight LCD” as will the M424G U.S. version…

Icom Japan has details of the IC-M424G which will likely soon appear at Icom America. (I think that weather alerts are the only substantial difference between American VHF radios and the ones built for the rest of the world, but maybe a reader can fill us in.) As seen above, there will also be a new M-195G Commandmic IV with a matching white backlit LCD (and either a black or white casing). Given the advent of the premium M506 AIS/VHF, I was hoping to see more NMEA 2000 radios from Icom because they can integrate nicely with multi-function displays and external GPS. But having an internal GPS like Standard Horizon trail blazed is also a good thing. Then you have DSC distress and other features available even if the rest of your nav system and N2K network are shut down. Note that the new Raymarine Ray70 has it all — N2K, AIS, and internal GPS — which is a first, I think, and one I hope to see in action next month at the Miami show.

Then again, the new Icom M324G “value” VHF — which looks just like the European M323G above — is apt to go on boats with more modest systems and perhaps no NMEA 2000 at all. So, having the internal GPS saves having to do the NMEA 0183 connection that seems so often undone or failed. I haven’t seen prices for these new Icom models yet, but at least here in the U.S. we’ll probably have to wait for the FCC approval. In the meantime, at Icom UK I noticed the interesting Black Box Dual Commandmic Solution below. It probably works with the M400BB Black Box VHF sold here, but it’s an Icom UK product.

Now here’s what happened when the Simrad RS35 I’m testing emitted a loud DSC All Ship Urgency alarm one quiet day at the (truly excellent and affordable) Bridgepoint Marina. I switched and listened to Channel 16 as suggested by the radio, and after a period of silence, I even called out on 16 to see if anyone was really in trouble. However, the only response I got was from a somewhat distant Coast Guard station that had heard my call but not the DSC alert. I misinformed them about what I’d seen on my radio (which did not include a GPS position), because it was only when I later looked at the photo below that I realized it was actually an Urgency call and not the higher level Distress call.

So there’s an embarrassing example of how inexperienced most of us are with DSC, I think. But that’s not the end of the story. That evening in the marina laundry room a woman described the strange experience she and her husband had had that day while uninstalling a VHF on their recently purchased boat. The USCG had called to inquire about their safety after tracking the MMSI number I obscured below to the original owner and then through the broker to this couple who didn’t even realize they’d accidentally fired off an alert! So I was embarrassed again and apologetic, but also very impressed that the Coast Guard had gone to such trouble. Image how well they’d respond if you have a DSC VHF with GPS input properly installed and you push the red button under that protective Distress door for a few seconds, especially now that Rescue 21 is fully operational for nearly 42,000 miles of U.S. coastline.

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

Welcome to Wally’s World…

Wed, 2015-01-14 12:47

I’m a new face here on Sailfeed, but certainly not a new face to SAIL Magazine readers, as I’ve been writing for SAIL for nearly ten years. Nonetheless, I’m very excited about being able to speak with you here on Sailfeed, and I look forward to many conversations with you. First though, a bit of an introduction, to me, and to what to expect from me here.

I’m a full time cruiser living the dream, (and let’s be honest, occasionally it’s a nightmare!), out of Lake Huron’s Georgian Bay – truly some of the world’s best cruising grounds along with the North Channel of Lake Huron. I began cruising south over ten years ago after deciding that Canadian winters were way over-rated. Since then, I’ve cruised as far as the Bahamas and Cuba, done deliveries out of the BVI and Puerto Rico, and SAIL even sent me to Tahiti to cover the Pearl Regatta…what WERE they thinking? Do you have any idea how hard it is to leave Tahiti?
I’ve also done 24 trips on the ICW, the most recent one this past fall as the rally leader for 18 boats, all new cruisers, from Hampton south to Miami. You can read all about that adventure on the blog I did about that trip at http://icw.sailmagazine.com.
So what can you expect from me here on Sailfeed? First of all, I hope to excite and entertain you with my writing, and to inspire you to go cruising if you aren’t already out here. Secondly, I want to help you with the information in these posts, and if you have questions about any aspect of cruising, to be able to answer them here for you, so please don’t hesitate to comment, or ask questions. If I don’t know the answer, I’ll find it for you, or someone who knows it.
Recently, there’s been a lot of discussion about the recent White House announcement about Cuba, and I’ve had dozens of inquiries about it since the news about my Sailfeed blog. Can cruisers now go? What are the rules? What can I expect to find there? Is it safe?
Cuba is a fascinating country for cruisers, so my next post, sometime in the next few days, will discuss Cuba, with photos and video for you. Stay tuned.
I’ll be returning to Cuba this winter to explore the south coast, after having done the north coast over two winters. Expect regular updates on these fascinating cruising grounds.
And in the meantime, please enjoy this video on the Cars of Cuba…

http://www.sailfeed.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/CarsofCuba.m4v

RIO GUADIANA CRUISE: Between Time and Portugal

Tue, 2015-01-13 19:36

I was sitting in the cockpit of Crazy Horse, my old Alberg 35 yawl, toes contracted in the thin film of cold dew that clung to the boat, cup of hot coffee in hand, watching the sun struggle to emerge from behind the distant hills and fill the river with light. Instinctively, I groped for my watch, a habit remembered from my life ashore, and wondered: what time could it be now? And at once I was struck by the absurdity of the question.

It said something of the nature of cruising under sail, I realized, that it was only the previous day, after having spent nearly a week on the river, that we finally discovered that the clocks on the west bank (in Portugal) were an hour behind those on the east bank (in Spain). It was appropriate, too, that we had learned this from a village drunk, although now I understood it didn’t really matter much. Time in its conventional sense had little meaning aboard a boat afloat on a river like this, except as it pertained to the tide, and one hardly needed a clock to keep track of what it was up to. A glance at the riverbank and at the silky brown water flowing past our anchor rode was all the data required to gauge its progress.

Ironically, I remembered that time had seemed very important when we first entered the river. We had first heard of it by word of mouth, its name popping up repeatedly in conversations with other cruisers we met while wandering Spain’s Costa del Sol.

“Oh, but you must go to the Guadiana!” they all exclaimed.

And so, inevitably, we went.

But when navigating by word of mouth, it is best to take nothing for granted. On studying some borrowed references, I had learned that the river stretches some 450 miles into the great Iberian peninsula and that its lower reaches for centuries had served as the border between Spanish Andalusia and the Algarve on Portugal’s south coast. The first 23 miles, up to the Portuguese town of Pomarão, were said to be navigable, but one had to take this a bit on faith, as there were no charts available of the river itself. Tidal currents were said to run as hard as 2 knots on the ebb, which seemed a little daunting, but manageable.

There was a chart of the entrance, which I had copied from a Danish cruiser’s collection in Gibraltar. It showed just three feet of water over the bar at low water, so I knew it would be critical to come in on a rising tide close to high water. With some effort I also managed to acquire a photocopy of the one relevant page from the relevant tide table, but could not tell from the cryptic declaration at the top of the page–MINUS 1:00 HR–whether it referred to Greenwich Mean or local time.

The river entrance

The river from the entrance to Alcoutim

So it was with great trepidation that we had approached the river entrance one sunny morning a week earlier. Testicles shriveling, eyes glued to the depthsounder, I was immensely relieved when it became apparent the river mouth had recently been dredged.

As soon as we were inside I killed the engine, rolled out the jib, and lost myself in the champagne sensation of sailing a river, watching the land slip silently past on either side. First to the left the low sprawl of the Portuguese town of Vila Real de Santo António, where an abandoned brigantine lay leaning against the quay with gossamer fragments of sail hanging from its yardarms. Then to the right the Spanish town of Ayamonte, resplendent in a honky-tonk veneer of tourist-trap restaurants and gift stores.

We were halfway past Ayamonte when two men in a skiff suddenly appeared behind us waving documents.

“Who are you?” shouted Carie, my intrepid crew and companion.

“Portuguese!” they shouted, pointing to the left bank. “Guarda Fiscal.”

We pointed to our Spanish courtesy flag and insisted we were in Spanish waters.

“Please,” they begged. “Only a moment!”

Reluctantly, I rounded the boat into the wind, furled the jib, and allowed them to come alongside. They handed over a clipboard with a blank entry form on it. Once we filled this out and handed it back, they beamed like children on Christmas morning. The Portuguese do so love their paperwork!

“Welcome to the river!” they waved as they turned and sped back toward shore.

Formalities having thus been dispensed with, we unrolled our jib and continued on our way through the looking-glass.

 

THIS NOW SEEMED as though it might have been a century ago, and since that distant moment we had drifted up and down the river at our leisure, like so much flotsam on the tide. We had anchored beneath tiny hamlets utterly devoid of commerce, with nary a store, nor a bar, nor a vending machine to their name. We had listened in the evening to the nightingales in the willows on the riverbank, heard the splash of fish leaping, and watched chevrons of storks and herons flying past overhead.

Evidence of human agriculture and animal husbandry

Sailing the river

Sunset on the river, as seen from our deck

Carie makes a friend

We had spent afternoons wandering the dry brown hills, clambering up to the ruins of Moorish castles, watching goatherds and their flocks wend their way down twisted trails. We had gunkholed in the dinghy up myriad creeks and estuaries past stands of reed and bamboo, watching turtles bask in the sun and pipers skitter across mudbanks. And in the heat of the day we had bathed in the river, keeping an eye out for the enormous pale jellyfish that pumped aimlessly through the water.

And it seemed now as if life might go on forever this way.

 

THE PREVIOUS DAY, I remembered, after we learned of the discrepant clocks on either side of us, we had experienced events, those blisters of action that, temporarily at least, make time seem meaningful. We had waited for the turn of the tide in the afternoon, which came an hour after I expected it (a live demonstration, if you will, of how useless clocks could be), and when finally it arrived we prepared to weigh anchor and sail downriver.

The anchor, however, refused to come aboard. After a great effort we at last hauled it close enough to the water’s surface to see it was much entangled in a great gnarled web of rope–evidently some sort of fishing rig.

One hates to destroy another man’s means of sustenance, but in this case there seemed little choice. The rig, in any event, did not appear at all functional, and I guessed it had been lost to its owner for some time. A knife, then, seemed to be the answer. There was a considerable length of loose line–cheap polypropylene, though dear enough to any fisherman living on this river–that I cut free and salvaged, about 100 feet of it. Then I sawed feverishly at the heavier line all twisted about the anchor’s throat, and in a moment we were free.

The sail downriver was splendid. Again, the sensation of a magic carpet ride, as though we were not traveling through the water, but some fraction of an inch over it. All we saw around us passed as though in a dream, and even while lost in the details of the helm, navigation, and sailhandling, this quality of perceiving the river as a vision was not lost.

Conditions were relatively mild, but quite variable, as is to be expected in a narrow river with high land on either side. The wind danced back and forth across our stern, gusting and subsiding at random intervals. Speed was not important; we let the tide take care of that. We needed only to control the boat and so rolled out a fraction of the jib, well short of the shrouds, so that we might jibe back and forth effortlessly.

It took just an hour to reach the village of Alcoutim, though it may have been minutes, or a day, or a lifetime. To perceive time as a quantity, I now realized, is a fatal disease. It is its quality we should be concerned with. Given our lives are finite, what else could possibly matter?

We dropped our anchor under sail. Ran down into a gap between two groups of boats, rounded up, rolled up the jib, let the tide and wind stop the boat, dropped the hook, paid out rode, snubbed it, and–click–the anchor dug in like a pawl on a winch. We had not torn the fabric of the moment with our engine, and the river rolled on by.

I had left the line I cut free from the anchor in a tangled pile in the dinghy and now set to sorting it out, poking at the stone-hard knots with my marlinspike. A thin sentiment of remorse passed through me as I considered how important this line must have been to the man who tied these knots, but a mariner’s ruthlessness prevailed. Finder’s keepers, after all. And in the same instant, as I reconciled myself to the fact that this would now be my line, I heard a yelp of dismay from on deck.

In the Portuguese town of Alcoutim, looking across to Sanlucar de Guadiana in Spain

Grappling with my new line

Carie had dropped a bucket overboard and was pointing at it, cursing herself as it rushed downriver on the tide. I was already in the dinghy, but was reluctant to chase the bucket with oars, as it would be a difficult, perhaps impossible task to row the little inflatable boat back to its mothership against both wind and tide.

“Quick! The outboard!” I called.

Carie was still cursing as she handed it down. “It’s my best bucket!” she complained.

“Don’t worry,” I said. “We’ll get it back–if only it doesn’t sink.”

Whereupon the bucket promptly disappeared from view. I looked down then at all the line still heaped in confusion on the dinghy’s floor.

What the river giveth, the river taketh away.

I drained the last of my coffee from my cup and could now see the light creeping across the water towards me. I leaned into the companionway and this time succeeded in finding my watch. It was seven a.m. in Spain, six in Portugal–take your pick. In the distance I heard a donkey trying to sing, truly a gruesome sound. A rooster crowed. A halyard slapped the mast.

Good morning, good morning, they cried. Welcome to another day on the river.

Editor’s note: I cruised the Rio Guadiana with Carie van der Krüys during the summer of 1996. An earlier version of this story first appeared in the July 1997 issue of SAIL Magazine. To read more about my days cruising on Crazy Horse, check out the following links:

South to Senegal

Finding My Toma

Africa Dances

RIO GUADIANA CRUISE: Between Time and Portugal

Tue, 2015-01-13 19:36

I was sitting in the cockpit of Crazy Horse, my old Alberg 35 yawl, toes contracted in the thin film of cold dew that clung to the boat, cup of hot coffee in hand, watching the sun struggle to emerge from behind the distant hills and fill the river with light. Instinctively, I groped for my watch, a habit remembered from my life ashore, and wondered: what time could it be now? And at once I was struck by the absurdity of the question.

It said something of the nature of cruising under sail, I realized, that it was only the previous day, after having spent nearly a week on the river, that we finally discovered that the clocks on the west bank (in Portugal) were an hour behind those on the east bank (in Spain). It was appropriate, too, that we had learned this from a village drunk, although now I understood it didn’t really matter much. Time in its conventional sense had little meaning aboard a boat afloat on a river like this, except as it pertained to the tide, and one hardly needed a clock to keep track of what it was up to. A glance at the riverbank and at the silky brown water flowing past our anchor rode was all the data required to gauge its progress.

Ironically, I remembered that time had seemed very important when we first entered the river. We had first heard of it by word of mouth, its name popping up repeatedly in conversations with other cruisers we met while wandering Spain’s Costa del Sol.

“Oh, but you must go to the Guadiana!” they all exclaimed.

And so, inevitably, we went.

But when navigating by word of mouth, it is best to take nothing for granted. On studying some borrowed references, I had learned that the river stretches some 450 miles into the great Iberian peninsula and that its lower reaches for centuries had served as the border between Spanish Andalusia and the Algarve on Portugal’s south coast. The first 23 miles, up to the Portuguese town of Pomarão, were said to be navigable, but one had to take this a bit on faith, as there were no charts available of the river itself. Tidal currents were said to run as hard as 2 knots on the ebb, which seemed a little daunting, but manageable.

There was a chart of the entrance, which I had copied from a Danish cruiser’s collection in Gibraltar. It showed just three feet of water over the bar at low water, so I knew it would be critical to come in on a rising tide close to high water. With some effort I also managed to acquire a photocopy of the one relevant page from the relevant tide table, but could not tell from the cryptic declaration at the top of the page–MINUS 1:00 HR–whether it referred to Greenwich Mean or local time.

The river entrance

The river from the entrance to Alcoutim

So it was with great trepidation that we had approached the river entrance one sunny morning a week earlier. Testicles shriveling, eyes glued to the depthsounder, I was immensely relieved when it became apparent the river mouth had recently been dredged.

As soon as we were inside I killed the engine, rolled out the jib, and lost myself in the champagne sensation of sailing a river, watching the land slip silently past on either side. First to the left the low sprawl of the Portuguese town of Vila Real de Santo António, where an abandoned brigantine lay leaning against the quay with gossamer fragments of sail hanging from its yardarms. Then to the right the Spanish town of Ayamonte, resplendent in a honky-tonk veneer of tourist-trap restaurants and gift stores.

We were halfway past Ayamonte when two men in a skiff suddenly appeared behind us waving documents.

“Who are you?” shouted Carie, my intrepid crew and companion.

“Portuguese!” they shouted, pointing to the left bank. “Guarda Fiscal.”

We pointed to our Spanish courtesy flag and insisted we were in Spanish waters.

“Please,” they begged. “Only a moment!”

Reluctantly, I rounded the boat into the wind, furled the jib, and allowed them to come alongside. They handed over a clipboard with a blank entry form on it. Once we filled this out and handed it back, they beamed like children on Christmas morning. The Portuguese do so love their paperwork!

“Welcome to the river!” they waved as they turned and sped back toward shore.

Formalities having thus been dispensed with, we unrolled our jib and continued on our way through the looking-glass.

 

THIS NOW SEEMED as though it might have been a century ago, and since that distant moment we had drifted up and down the river at our leisure, like so much flotsam on the tide. We had anchored beneath tiny hamlets utterly devoid of commerce, with nary a store, nor a bar, nor a vending machine to their name. We had listened in the evening to the nightingales in the willows on the riverbank, heard the splash of fish leaping, and watched chevrons of storks and herons flying past overhead.

Evidence of human agriculture and animal husbandry

Sailing the river

Sunset on the river, as seen from our deck

Carie makes a friend

We had spent afternoons wandering the dry brown hills, clambering up to the ruins of Moorish castles, watching goatherds and their flocks wend their way down twisted trails. We had gunkholed in the dinghy up myriad creeks and estuaries past stands of reed and bamboo, watching turtles bask in the sun and pipers skitter across mudbanks. And in the heat of the day we had bathed in the river, keeping an eye out for the enormous pale jellyfish that pumped aimlessly through the water.

And it seemed now as if life might go on forever this way.

 

THE PREVIOUS DAY, I remembered, after we learned of the discrepant clocks on either side of us, we had experienced events, those blisters of action that, temporarily at least, make time seem meaningful. We had waited for the turn of the tide in the afternoon, which came an hour after I expected it (a live demonstration, if you will, of how useless clocks could be), and when finally it arrived we prepared to weigh anchor and sail downriver.

The anchor, however, refused to come aboard. After a great effort we at last hauled it close enough to the water’s surface to see it was much entangled in a great gnarled web of rope–evidently some sort of fishing rig.

One hates to destroy another man’s means of sustenance, but in this case there seemed little choice. The rig, in any event, did not appear at all functional, and I guessed it had been lost to its owner for some time. A knife, then, seemed to be the answer. There was a considerable length of loose line–cheap polypropylene, though dear enough to any fisherman living on this river–that I cut free and salvaged, about 100 feet of it. Then I sawed feverishly at the heavier line all twisted about the anchor’s throat, and in a moment we were free.

The sail downriver was splendid. Again, the sensation of a magic carpet ride, as though we were not traveling through the water, but some fraction of an inch over it. All we saw around us passed as though in a dream, and even while lost in the details of the helm, navigation, and sailhandling, this quality of perceiving the river as a vision was not lost.

Conditions were relatively mild, but quite variable, as is to be expected in a narrow river with high land on either side. The wind danced back and forth across our stern, gusting and subsiding at random intervals. Speed was not important; we let the tide take care of that. We needed only to control the boat and so rolled out a fraction of the jib, well short of the shrouds, so that we might jibe back and forth effortlessly.

It took just an hour to reach the village of Alcoutim, though it may have been minutes, or a day, or a lifetime. To perceive time as a quantity, I now realized, is a fatal disease. It is its quality we should be concerned with. Given our lives are finite, what else could possibly matter?

We dropped our anchor under sail. Ran down into a gap between two groups of boats, rounded up, rolled up the jib, let the tide and wind stop the boat, dropped the hook, paid out rode, snubbed it, and–click–the anchor dug in like a pawl on a winch. We had not torn the fabric of the moment with our engine, and the river rolled on by.

I had left the line I cut free from the anchor in a tangled pile in the dinghy and now set to sorting it out, poking at the stone-hard knots with my marlinspike. A thin sentiment of remorse passed through me as I considered how important this line must have been to the man who tied these knots, but a mariner’s ruthlessness prevailed. Finder’s keepers, after all. And in the same instant, as I reconciled myself to the fact that this would now be my line, I heard a yelp of dismay from on deck.

In the Portuguese town of Alcoutim, looking across to Sanlucar de Guadiana in Spain

Grappling with my new line

Carie had dropped a bucket overboard and was pointing at it, cursing herself as it rushed downriver on the tide. I was already in the dinghy, but was reluctant to chase the bucket with oars, as it would be a difficult, perhaps impossible task to row the little inflatable boat back to its mothership against both wind and tide.

“Quick! The outboard!” I called.

Carie was still cursing as she handed it down. “It’s my best bucket!” she complained.

“Don’t worry,” I said. “We’ll get it back–if only it doesn’t sink.”

Whereupon the bucket promptly disappeared from view. I looked down then at all the line still heaped in confusion on the dinghy’s floor.

What the river giveth, the river taketh away.

I drained the last of my coffee from my cup and could now see the light creeping across the water towards me. I leaned into the companionway and this time succeeded in finding my watch. It was seven a.m. in Spain, six in Portugal–take your pick. In the distance I heard a donkey trying to sing, truly a gruesome sound. A rooster crowed. A halyard slapped the mast.

Good morning, good morning, they cried. Welcome to another day on the river.

Editor’s note: I cruised the Rio Guadiana with Carie van der Krüys during the summer of 1996. An earlier version of this story first appeared in the July 1997 issue of SAIL Magazine. To read more about my days cruising on Crazy Horse, check out the following links:

South to Senegal

Finding My Toma

Africa Dances

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