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Signal K, a true game changer?

Tue, 2014-11-11 20:00

Written by Bill Bishop on Nov 11, 2014 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub

I see a lot of marine electronics and I’m hard to impress. There’s a lot of the new, faster, bigger and brighter appearing every year. However I get very enthused when I see real innovation appear. CHIRP sounder technology and WiFi enabled chart plotters are a couple of excellent examples. But now there is Signal K, and I’m really excited. This is potentially a game changer on a grand scale, and I’ll attempt to explain what’s happening and its long term implications for your boat.

Signal K is a universal data model that allows data and information about your boat, and other boats both locally and across the globe, to be easily shared. It speaks the language smart phones, tablets and the wireless Internet understand in our now much more connected world. This capability has not existed in any meaningful way before, and now it’s quicky becoming a reality.

The possibilities are nearly endless. Since Signal K can make all your boat’s data available in a consistent Internet-friendly open source format, developers worldwide would be free to create applications for your boat. This is because Signal K’s communication format makes it much simpler to access and use your boat’s information, especially for mobile devices and cloud based servers.

There are security levels to control this access, but if you allowed it, a marina could sense your boat and automatically send you docking information. Crowd sourcing of data such as water depths can be automatic. You could see not only your depth, but the depth of the boat in front of you. Sharing of your waypoints, POI’s, and even the yacht club trip route becomes simple. Check in on your boat from anywhere in the world or be notified by email if problems arise. It may seem incredible, but this is part of Signal K’s overall vision and it’s much closer to reality than you might believe. Your boat’s WiFi antenna will become in many ways as important to you as its VHF antenna.

In order to understand what Signal K is about, we have to take a look at what capabilities our boats currently have for dealing with information. Instruments and sensors gather data and typically send it to other devices using the NMEA 0183 or newer NMEA 2000 formats. NMEA data is collected, packaged and transmitted in related groups. For example the NMEA 2000 engine parameters PGN 127489 contains things like oil pressure, voltage, and also has a large number of status indicators such as “water in fuel” alarm status and others.

Your chartplotter’s software takes this data, sorts it out and displays the information on its dedicated data pages for you. It works well and nobody argues with this….. unless you want to use a mobile device and/or the Internet to easily see your boat’s data. Wouldn’t you like the limited number of wireless marine apps that are now available to do much more?

The crux of the issue is that NMEA’s communication formats understandably did not foresee the exponential growth of both the Internet and wireless communications. NMEA 2000 made its first appearance in 2001. There was virtually no wireless Internet access. Tablets and smart phones didn’t exist either. In 2014 alone over $200 billion of these smart computing devices will end up in consumer hands.

In a world where there should be hundreds of mobile apps that use your boat’s data, there are only a few. You can buy black boxes that will transmit NMEA 0183 and 2000 data wirelessly, but the manufacturers tend to use different formats and offer different subsets of the data available. This makes it difficult for app developers. They can’t just write one app and have it apply to all boats, but instead have to add individual support for different module types. Fiscal incentives for both the app developers and the gateway developers is quashed by the inherently small and fractured market. These problems can all be solved by Signal K in a very clever and unique way.

Signal K by itself isn’t designed to replace your existing navigation system. Instead it augments your boat’s potential and provides the tools developers need to create meaningful apps for your vessel with secure connections to the outside world.

Signal K is a system that takes NMEA and many other types of data and places it into a consistent and predictable data model (a schema). Think of the Web — every page has a different and unique URL. The same URL always takes you to the same page, although the content may differ second by second. Some are available permanently, some are not. Some are restricted, some are public. And most importantly you can access them from any device. Signal K applies the same concepts to your boat’s data. It defines a consistent and predictable “URL” for each individual data item.

The typical data elements shown in the schema sample all have a similar format. The information in the schema is human readable, making is easier for app programmers to access it. In the example shown it’s “headingMagnetic.” Value means this is a number and it’s currently 43 degrees. The source of the the data in this context is “self” meaning it’s comes from your boat, and “time stamp” is when the data was received by the schema so we know how fresh, or old, the data is.

The schema also stores other things important to you. Information about AIS targets, charts, routes, tides, waypoints, VHF/HF call signs, MMSI numbers, alarm set-points, cruising notes, names of crew members and much more. As the schema continues to grow, existing data types keep their original URLs, and new information types such as your sailboat’s polar data get new and unique URLs. This allows Signal K applications to keep working despite the inevitable new additions to the schema as it grows.

Arduinos can interface too

Open source hardware such as Arduinos create the opportunity to capture data and/or to manage NMEA as never anticipated. For example Signal K already has a seawater salinity data element in its schema. Arduino’s can sense this along with many other monitoring possibilities such as engine room or freezer temperatures. Lighting control with motion sensors, audio alarms like “Warning bilge high water!” and more are possible by integrating Ardunios into a Signal K based system. The Freeboard Project is completing software to allow Arduino’s to directly communicate with Signal K.

Arduinos are small, powerful and very inexpensive ($60.00) computers used to deal with the physical word. They have many inputs and outputs both digital and analog. An example of a current Arduino boating application is Jack Edward’s very successful and home-built autopilot system, which I wrote about here.

The open source Freeboard system uses Arduinos and Raspberry Pi’s to create a browser-based navigation system that uses Signal K. As part of that effort Freeboard has developed a set of specialized interface boards to aid in connecting Arduinos to your boat and Signal K. There are connections for a GPS, Peet Bros wind instrument and a water speed paddle wheel sensors along with basic autopilot functionality (a work in progress). The Freeboard Project is now rapidly approaching turnkey status. You can learn more about the Freeboard Project here.

So where is this all going? Signal K may lead toward a world where your boat’s displays are commodity items like tablets and smart phones. You select your functionality in the same way you select apps for your cellphone. Add new capabilities like crowd-sourced cruising notes. If a 15″ waterproof sunlight viewable tablet appears, just secure it to the helm, and history suggests they will appear. Waterproof cellphones (Samsung S5) are now readily available. It’s clear Signal K has game changing potential for both recreational, and commercial boating. Nothing else like it exists in a developer friendly format to accomplish this.

Navguage is an example of an open source project that has pledged support for Signal K. Navgauge takes Signal K data and uses JavaScript and SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics) to created browser-based customizable displays for PCs, tablets and phones. You can see a demonstration page showing this capability online here.

The popular OpenCPN navigation PC based software is also planning to add Signal K functionality into their next major software revision and many others are now watching the system’s progress closely.

The project has come a long way in a very short period of time. Currently a basic reference server is operational. This is a type of software prototype design, to test against and ease continuing development. The basic hardware configuration on a boat will consist of a Signal K server running on a relatively inexpensive single board processor like a Raspberry Pi, a USB hub, and a WiFi router. The NMEA data inputs can come from NMEA 2000/0183 to USB gateways, and Ardunios if desired.

Signal K implementations like Navgauge, OpenCPN, the Freeboard Project, and others are all “Open Source” projects. Like other open source platforms, anyone who can help, including commercial developers, are welcomed and encouraged to participate. You can find information about how to do this at the Signal K website.

Signal K’s goal is to help your boat become more like an iPad. One reason the iPad became such a success was the way it provided a common platform that app developers worldwide could use. It’s the abundance of good apps that made the iPad such a runaway success, not just its hardware.

In Signal K’s world apps use all of your boat’s information, not just data from sensors. Social sharing and crowd sourcing becomes possible. Also viable would be apps that do long-term data monitoring and analysis or let you use your boat’s polar data in a race. Have you selected an avatar for your boat yet?

Bill Bishop is a professional marine electronics installer as well as creator of The Marine Installers Rant

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

LIVE Podcast: Billy Cullen’s Gadgets

Tue, 2014-11-11 00:10

Bill Cullen, accomplished offshore sailor and crewmember aboard Serenity in this year’s Caribbean 1500, guest-hosts the podcast to discuss his favorite gadgets for offshore sailing and down-island cruising. These are far from your ‘mission critical’ items that Andy is constantly harping on, but they’re fun, clever ideas for making the best of your time at sea. Bill has sailed in most parts of the world, and has a website called thebookofsail.com, where you can find examples to most of the gadgets he talks about today. This episode was recorded LIVE at the Caribbean 1500 seminar program in Portsmouth, VA.

Nice Guy Finishes First

Mon, 2014-11-10 15:29

Loïck Peyron was not scared to use the word “scared” in describing himself in his record Route du Rhum crossing.

Anyone who has met this radiant, unassuming, generous man (ask the wheelchair folks at BAADS) will doubly appreciate what a force of nature he is. Or perhaps we take it for granted that one human will undertake an Atlantic crossing of 3,500 miles in a 103-foot hotrod trimaran at speeds that most sailors never see in a lifetime?

A through-the-water average of 22.93 knots?

And a new record of 7 days, 15 hours, 8 minutes, 32 seconds for the route from Saint-Malo to Pointe-a-Pitre, Guadaloupe.

Peyron was a late stand-in for the intended skipper of Banque Populaire VII, Armel Le Cléac’h, who injured his hand two months ago and instead formed half of the weather routing team ashore. Together they pocketed the race early on, with Peyron negotiating a tough beat out the English Channel and then making the turn first into open ocean at Ushant. That gave him a jump that he never lost, even when the rubber band tightened briefly in light breeze near the Azores. At the finish, Peyron had a lead of 180 miles on Yann Guichard and the even-larger trimaran, Spindrift.

Banque Populaire VII on an earlier, fully-crewed mission

In 2010, Franck Cammas won the Route du Rhum on the same boat in a time of 9 days 3 hours. It was known at the time as Groupama, after one of the other French companies that find it worth their while to fund these ventures.

“I was supposed to do the Rhum race on a very small yellow trimaran,” Peyron said, “which will be the case in four years time, I will be back. But it is not a surprise because I knew that the boat was able to do it. I knew that the team was able to help me a lot.

“It is stressful for the boat to withstand high speeds in bad seas. I was able to sail well, but I was scared. This is what the multihull game is all about. One night I fell asleep at the helm and nearly capsized the boat. But this is a great victory, possibly one of the nicest, and breaking the record is the cherry on top of the cake.”

Peyron, 54, first raced trans-Atlantic as a 22-year-old. He has now raced across the Atlantic 49 times, including 18 solo passages, and he holds the around-the-world record. Is there any wonder that Artemis Racing would keep him on the team? And he has a real nice truck that he keeps in California. And he shows the world a lot of love, and he gets it back. Here is Loïck sailing in a BAADS regatta at South Beach, San Francisco.

That would be the Bay Area Association of Disabled Sailors . . .

Photo by Chris Barrineau

With apologies to R. Crumb, we can only say, Loïck,

YANN GUICHARD ARRIVES AT POINTE-A-PITRE

The word from the team —

Yann Guichard has finished the 10th edition of the Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe in second position. After 8 days, 5 hours, 18 minutes and 46 seconds of racing, his maxi-trimaran Spindrift 2 crossed the finish line in Pointe-à-Pitre today (Monday, November 10th) at 14:18:46 local time (18:18:46 UTC). The runner-up of this record-breaking transatlantic crossing finished 14h 10mn 14s behind the race winner, Loïck Peyron (Banque Populaire VII). Yann completed the official 3,542 nautical miles race at an average speed of 17,95 knots, although in reality travelled 4334 miles at an average speed of 21,96 knots!

Photo by Thierry Martinez

The 40-year-old Spindrift 2 skipper has not only successfully crossed the Atlantic in a 40m trimaran, the largest ever to compete in this race, but has achieved a magnificent second-place finish. His performance has gained the plaudits of his peers and of the huge crowd that has gathered at Pointe-à-Pitre’s main square, Place de la Victoire, where the atmosphere is incredible.

Slow Progress for the Caribbean 1500 Fleet

Mon, 2014-11-10 10:15

Thanks to a late start and slow progress at sea, the Yellowshirt team here in Nanny Cay has had time to explore Tortola more than usual. Prior to our hike up the gut yesterday, Mia and I had an opportunity to take a taxi into Road Town for a walk around and a visit to the smoothie guy. Afterwards we trekked to the big and very well-stocked Riteway supermarket just opposite the Moorings charter base for some breakfast and lunch fixins to hold us over for the week.

Meanwhile at sea, the fleet is still trudging along. Aboard Crazy Horse, the crew has been writing about their frustrating progress.

“Here we are at the under 200 mile mark,” wrote Crazy Horse. “These last couple hundred miles have been very frustrating thanks to the wind. It is constantly on our nose-precisely where we want to go! Southeast southeast! No matter what we do – put up sails, sail to the east, sail to the west, take sails down – no progress is made. One hour we made 2 miles. So finally we have decided to motor sail with one reef in the mainsail. We feel like we are clawing our way uphill to the finish line.” 

But despite the slow progress, spirits still remain high, if the logs are any indication.

Club Carp, for one, is still having fun with their daily dog quote: “Dog quote of the day #8: ‘Dogs like to ride in the back of pick-ups.’” Thanks for that Club Carp! They continued to write about their time onboard the boat (sans dog).

“Over to the daily meal recap (really all we do out here is sail, drink, and eat…that is when the Captain doesn’t have us checking items off his NEVER-ending to-do list — poor Susie can confirm), the “Cooke” whipped up a Mahi flambe with a cognac reduction last night coupled with brown basmati rice and baked beans (I did mention he was a Brit, right?). Finally, our spirits we given a warm boost by yet another rainbow amidst the daily squalls.”

Aboard Tom Tom, the shiny new Oyster 54, the crew is settled into life at sea and enjoying a proper ocean sail.

“This is what ocean rallying is all about – a wonderful night of sailing. After yesterday’s thunderstorms, with its 45-knot gusts, conditions are now as close to perfect as they could be – small puffy clouds highlighted by the waning moon – calmer seas, and 10-15 knots of breeze. After beating to the east, we’ve picked up a south easterly breez, a little off the nose, but the boat is beautifully balanced and running well as we enjoy the occasional lifts from the wind moving to the east and then the forecast north east trades as we approach Tortola.”

By late tonight we hope to welcome Falcon to the dock, who’s now officially beaten the trimaran Lucky Strike, and offer up the first rum punches of this year’s Caribbean 1500. Lucky Strike was earlier today forced to divert to Puerto Rico to attend to an ill crewmember, but are otherwise A-Ok. 

Due to the slow progress and the delayed start, the program in Nanny Cay will be modified this week to accommodate the stragglers. But don’t worry, every boat will still get their obligatory rum punch on arrival!

Hiking the ‘Gut’ in Tortola

Mon, 2014-11-10 08:44

Do cool stuff and then write about it.

I’m in the room now at Nanny Cay Hotel. Two double beds. Vaulted, wooden ceilings at least 15 feet high at the peak. A deck overlooking the courtyard where roosters run around and chase the chickens and the worms. A glass table (where I’m currently writing, pencil on paper in a sketchbook). A tiny kitchen with a stove, microwave and sink. A large ceiling fan hanging a good six feet down from the western slope of the roof. Tile floors and a wicker love seat. A wicker dresser as well, small bathroom and shower that is either scalding hot or a little too cold. A small flatscreen TV, which I’m sure in the years we’ve been coming here has never been turned on by Mia or me.

Mia’s lounging on the ‘junk’ bed typing her version of today’s events in Swedish on my computer. Hence why I am doing this in pencil.

The yellowshirt team, minus Lyall took a mission up the ‘gut’ behind the marina this afternoon. I’d heard a rumor from Brian Duff, our friend at BVI Yacht Sales that they’d been up it many times, yet in all the years we’ve come here, we’ve yet to try it. No time. But with the fleet now tacking against a southeasterly, we’ve got plenty of that. So I called Brian (Ted actually, who was with Brian) to get the lowdown.

“The start is easy to find,” he said. “Turn left out of the marina. When you get to the first little grocery store a few hundred yards down the road, turn right. Follow that road to the dead end and pass through the mechanic’s yard and down into the riverbed.”

Sounded easy enough. We’d gone to that very grocery in the past to buy plantains, so I knew it. 

“The top is harder. You’ve got to find the correct exit trail to get back to the road, or else you’ve got to retrace your steps down the gut again. It’s mostly rock climbing, so that could be difficult. Look for a trail to the right that continues across the river to your left. Follow it to the right. You’ll pass loads of wild pineapple – they have big flat leaves with little spikes on the end, like aloe plants – and you should get to Elevator Road within ten minutes. If you loop back to the river, it’s the wrong trail.”

We set off around 11:45, Jake’s backpack loaded with water and camera gear. We wore t-shirts, quick-dry adventure shorts and flip flops (figuring we’d be barefoot anyway on the steeper bits, and besides, none of us had any hiking shoes). 

We found the gut easy enough. At the end of the road by the grocery store we found the mechanic. Brian had said the ‘shade tree mechanic’, and he wasn’t joking. On the right side, a guy was out, under a large shade tress, working on a couple of derelict cars. Where the tree didn’t provided adequate shade, his white tarp covering the garden did.

From there we took a dirt path to the left. A mom and two baby goats blocked our path but let us pass, almost letting us pet them. The babies had sharp little horns, and for a while I expected them to try and headbutt me. 

Past the goats we followed a steep bank down towards the guy (really just a river bed that floods during the heaviest rains). I led the way, encountering a few spider webs (which would become a theme on this day).

Once into the gut itself, the going was easier, with less vegetation. Just a trickle of water remained this low down, despite the torrential rain on Friday. Large and small boulders littered the path, which we negotiated in our flip flops, hopping from one to another so as not to get our feet wet (though this would not last).


After a short while the terrain got steep. Small boulders gave way to much larger rocks. Water cascaded down the cracks and spaces between these rocks. We remained in shade throughout, the thick vegetation on either side swallowing the sunlight. Regardless, the heat and humidity had us all soaked.

There was more water now. Pools of it collected at the base of each little waterfall. Muddy pools, the visibility only two inches or so. Depth was hard to judge. At one point, as I approached a rock to scramble up, I slipped and fell backwards, sinking to my belly and soaking my shirt in the muddy water. By then Jake had already stowed our flip flops in the backpack.

Tortola, compared to the big, high islands south and east in the Caribbean, is drier. But this felt more like Grenada than the Tortola we’d become familiar with. It still didn’t have that grand rain-foresty feel, but it was enough to have Jake whistling the theme from Jurassic Park, which thereafter was stuck in my head the rest of the way up. Which wasn’t a bad thing – I love that film.

The hike was easy enough not to be scary, but challenging enough to really have some fun with. The middle 1/3 was the most technical. Waterfalls would cascade down large boulders, and several routes to the top of each pitch were visible. We’d inevitably choose the most difficult (or at least Jake and I did), which usually was directly up the falls itself.


“Gotta trust your arms on this one,” Jake said after he’d scrambled up the most difficult pitch of the day. He’d handed me the backpack so as not to soak it, and pulled himself up and over a small overhang over which the water was pouring. It wasn’t high – maybe eight feet –  but it did require some real upper body strength.

I tossed him the bag and followed, while Mia traversed around the side. I slipped, losing the grip with my left hand, and banged the inside of my left knee on a rock protruding from beneath the falls. No biggie, but it hurt like the pain from banging your funny bone. On the second go I made it.

“Old man Andy won’t let you show him up!” I teased Jake. “I’m the only one over thirty here you know!”

The climbing continued like this. Short, flat sections followed by steep pitches up and around the falls. Hermit crabs littered the rocks, hiding in the cracks and crevices. Small lizards scampered along ahead of us, and those big, black and yellow spiders kept impeding out way forward with their webs.

We scouted for the trail once it felt like we’d climbed pretty high. For the most part the gut was like a gorge, steep riverbanks each side and no place at all to exit. It’d be scary in there during a flash flood.

Once it flattened out again we found the trail quite easily in fact. Jake scouted to the left to ensure it actually continued that way, like Brian said it should. Confirmed, we again donned our flip flops and hiked out to the right.

After ten minutes and countless more spider webs – and a few cows looking at us from the adjacent hillside quite curiously – we emerged out of the forest and were greeted with a view out over the south, the Virgin Islands laid out far beneath us.

Back on the road, it felt nice to walk again rather than scramble on all fours. Jake managed to flag down the second car that passed and we hitched a ride down to Nanny Cay. We found Lyall by the pool, and the four of us went for a swim.

Inspect your sails: how to find UV damage

Mon, 2014-11-10 05:10

Cruisers flock towards the tropics, where all that sun exposure can be tough on sails. Short of alien ships on a bad landing approach, UV damage is the biggest culprit in ending the useful life of a sail. Jamie often checks sails on the boats we’re with, like Papa Djo next to us in the shipyard: in the last few months, a spate of them had no idea their sails suffered from moderate to severe damage.

It’s not difficult for cruisers to inspect their own sails and have a good pulse on the condition, so compromised integrity doesn’t unexpectedly turn a nice day on the water into a mess. Jamie shares his perspective in this first of two posts on evaluating UV damage to sails.

Sailmaker says:

As with Totem’s resident gecko repairing its damaged tail (it fell off), it’s possible to revive sails from minor and even severe damage. With the right cloth, know how, and machine a (oops, didn’t see that squall) shredded sail can fly again with reconstructive surgery. Recutting a blown out sail is also possible. The nip and tuck of a skilled sailmaker can remove some sag and stretch of a well used sail. The bigger question for cruising sailors is: is it worth it?

I’m all for extending the life of cruising sails and anyone that seen Totem’s current headsail can attest to that! Still, as frugal as cruisers tend to be, there comes a time when the underlying structure of a sail begins failing. The culprit is usually damage from the sun. Just as UV rays can cause skin cancer, it also can rob strength from the strongest sailcloth and thickest thread. No fixed exposure time signifies when a sail becomes a rag. Sailcloth, thread, and protective materials degrade at different rates. So every time “the bloody sun, at noon” beats down upon the sails, a clock ticks time away from their lifespan.

Checking the Derm

First, step back and look at the big picture of the sail in question. Just as sailors should check their skin for potential UV related problems (especially old farts, defined by my children as anyone over 40) they should also check sails for UV damage. It easy enough to do and like many cancers, early diagnosis goes a long way toward mitigating the problem. Stitching or sailcloth with some UV damage is repairable. A sail weakened by UV damage and flogged while reefing or tacking can quickly become a shredded mess. Shredded sails are much harder to fix. With inspection you can also get a good sense of when UV damage is bad enough that repairs are a waste of money. Fixing one failed seam may not make sense if pervasive rotted thread means all the other seams are on the edge of failure.

Stitching

Testing stitching is simple: just scrape a thumbnail across stitching in various areas of the sail. You have to put some force into it! Look for two things:

  1. Do the stitches break? Bad news, the thread is toast.
  2. Do the stitches fray? Rotting: the more fraying you have, the  more damaged it is.

Location matters. Stitching on the protective UV strip along a leech and foot is the first to go. Second is the mainsail leech area, because after dropping the main, the cover doesn’t always go on right away – does it? Test stitching on webbing reinforcement, seams, leech tapes, and batten pockets. You can also use this test for thread on dodger, bimini, leecloth, and mainsail covers, etc.

Stitching is the weakest part of any sail. Most sails and covers are sewn with UV stabilized Polyester (Dacron) thread, of varying thicknesses. In the tropics, two years of UV exposure on “UV stabilized” thread degrades strength by about 50%. That’s not a lab test figure, but drawn much experience. Higher latitudes may not have the same UV intensity (with exceptions like the ozone layer hole over New Zealand), but longer hours of sun in summer don’t help.

There’s a relatively new and supremely awesome thread that is little affected by UV: it’s PTFE (Teflon) thread. Tenara is a brand of PTFE thread made by Gore that sailmakers will know by name. PTFE thread is a little weaker than Polyester when both are new, though not so much as to compromise a sail. After time in the sun, PTFE retains its original strength while Polyester weakens significantly. PTFE thread is also very slippery, so I suspect a little more chafe resistant. Some sailmakers shy away from PTFE thread because is it more expensive and harder work with (read: a royal pain for sewers). Still, it’s a must-use on UV strips, mainsail and exterior canvas or covers. Long term tropical sailors should also consider PTFE thread for seams as well. It should only adds about 3% to the price.

This covers stitching; Part II will address sailcloth. And of course, if that sail is beyond salvaging, Jamie is an active sailmaker and would love to provide a quote for a new sail! And whether you are interested in a new sail from him or not, he’s happy to just answer questions to try and combat the reams of misinformation he sees online about sails.

Coming soon- Part II: evaluating sailcloth. Savvy sailors know we love it when you read this on the Sailfeed website.

Yellowshirts in the (rainy) Caribbean / First ARC Bahamas boats make landfall

Sat, 2014-11-08 10:40

After a brief respite back in Amish Country, where the Rally Control team was based after the Portsmouth pre-departure program, we’re back on the road and back in the islands. Unfortunately, it wasn’t exactly the warm Caribbean welcome we’d grown accustomed to over the past couple years.

Friday morning came awful early for Lyall, Mia and me. The alarm rang at 3:07am – it felt like I’d been woken for the dawn watch, so at least I could sympathize a bit with the sailors. But no, it was our wake-up call so we’d have time enough to make it to the airport for our 7:35 flight. At least there was no traffic on the roads as we meandered through the dark.

After a brief layover in Miami, affording us just enough time for lunch, we hopped the next flight to St. Thomas, where we’d meet Jake and take the ferry over to Tortola. Except that the ferry wasn’t running.

“You’ve got to go to Red Hook!” said the cabby at the airport. It was pouring down rain. “The ferries in town aren’t running this afternoon. Too much rain! If you’re lucky, you’ll make the last one out of Red Hook.”

Great. So the four of us saddled up in the big taxi van and were off for a tour of St. Thomas. Red Hook’s on the opposite side of the island, and the only way across is over the top. Rivers of water ran down the gutters alongside the impossible steep hills, and the tinted windows of the van made for an ominous view out over Charlotte Amalie harbor. By the time we reached the pinnacle of the hillsides, we were shrouded in clouds. Tinting or no tinting, there was nothing to see.

We did make the ferry in the end. Just in time. I paid cash for our tickets and we were herded onto the small ferry boat at the end of the dock. Standing room only for us four, and our bags were unceremoniously added the pile on the back of the boat and covered with an old blue tarp. Our stuff was soaked by the time we unpacked at Nanny Cay.

We disembarked at West End and walked, with all our stuff, down the muddy path to the Fish & Lime restaurant for a quick bite. We had to move tables because the wind was blowing the rain right in on our meals. Finally, after 14 hours of travel, we arrived into the familiar confines of Nanny Cay Hotel and crashed out before 10 o’clock. Despite the early bedtime, we still managed to oversleep this morning.

But it’s good to be back in the islands. And though I’d much rather have sailed here, it’s nice to be a day or two ahead of the fleet. Falcon isn’t due to arrive until early in the morning on Monday, so we’ve got the weekend off to swim, explore Tortola and get the program set for the rest of the week. 

Meanwhile, the majority of the ARC Bahamas fleet has made their arrival in Marsh Harbor at our new hosts at Harbourview Marina. Comocean, Toby Hynes’ Sabre 42, took line honors, crossing the finish line yesterday afternoon as we were en route to Tortola. They were closely followed by the J/World boat Euro Trash Girl, who made it to the islands despite their crews injury a few days prior. The two cats, Symmetry and Delphinus, arrived one after the other, after mirroring each other’s courses for nearly the entire route. Sojourner, my dads’ boat, brought up the rear, and should be arriving sometime this afternoon, if the wind holds.

“We’ve had a really calm passage so far,” said Dennis, my dad, and skipper of Sojourner yesterday on a short sat phone call while we were in Miami airport. “Thankfully, after this frontal passage, the wind is up in the twenties and were sailing again with the small jib and two reefs in the main. I thought we were going to run out of fuel.”

“We did have one issue with the boat,” he continued. “The external regulator on the charging system crapped out. Tom, [one of my crew], and I spent the afternoon rewiring it. Turns out that the alternator actually has an internal regulator on it, so we just bypassed the external one and we’re back in business. It was a bit scary cutting all those little wires though!”

The ARC Bahamas fleet will enjoy a happy hour tonight at Snappa’s bar and grill, adjacent to the marina. Tomorrow night, once the entire fleet is settled in, they’ll have their final prizegiving and beging their winter exploring the Abacos and the Bahamas.

2014 SOUTHBOUND LUNACY: Waiting on WX in Bermuda

Fri, 2014-11-07 21:28

Right now I’m sitting out my second gale-force WX feature since arriving here last Saturday morning. I had had some hope of getting out before it arrived and taking off Wednesday afternoon as soon as all my crew were onboard. A few boats left on Monday, bound south for the islands, and one took off Tuesday, but when that one came right back less than 24 hours later, saying their weather-router had threatened to disown them if they didn’t turn around, I could see the writing on the wall. No choice but to wait for this gishy low-pressure cell grafted on to a front to move through, and the plan now is to leave tomorrow morning, Saturday, exactly seven days after I arrived here.

This morning we had some excitement as Lunacy leaned away from one big gust of wind and started slowly dragging her anchor. It seemed then to stop dragging and hold again, but we didn’t have that much room behind us before we’d start hitting things, so we didn’t take any chances. With two crew aboard it was relatively easy to pick up the anchor and get underway in the howling breeze; singlehanded it would have been a serious challenge. As long as we were relocating, I reckoned we should find better shelter, so we moved from the usual yacht anchorage just east of Ordinance Island to a protected spot between Saint David’s and Smith Islands all the way across the harbor, from whence we have a good view of the big-boy yachts who all came in last night and anchored in the Powder Hole (see image up top).

Soon afterwards it came on screaming again like demons, but with heavy horizontal rain and big-time angry lightning bolts cracking directly overhead. The first close strike sent me jumping down the companionway like a whipped puppy, and we immediately took precautions and stuffed our personal electronics and the ship’s handheld GPS in the oven for safe-keeping.

Soon after the rain and lightning stopped I hopped into the dinghy to bail it out and found a needle fish that had accidentally jumped aboard and couldn’t get out again. Unfortunately, it died before I discovered it.

I suppose the fish is a metaphor, right? Though I’m still trying to figure out what it represents. I’m also wondering why its needle is below its mouth rather than over it.

While waiting on this weather, I have of course been fixing things. On Monday I came to the wall just east of Dowling’s fuel dock so I could get a mechanic aboard to consult about the engine-alignment situation. A young man, Jason, from Powell’s Marine, agreed with my diagnosis that the engine was now more-or-less straight again, and that the engine mounts were loose, and with some fancy wrenches he had we managed to get everything tightened up again. I also replaced the luff-slide straps on the mainsail headboard after filing the edges down a bit.

Being on the wall was a big nostalgia trip for me, as the last time I laid here, in this very same spot, was in 1995 aboard Crazy Horse. I was here three weeks then, waiting on parts and fixing all sorts of broken things, and met all sorts of people. One of them was a young fisherman named Troy, a gentle affable soul, who was always pointing out one of his fishing rivals around the waterfront and exclaiming: “I see you, spy!”

Right after I tied up here on Lunacy, I was thinking of him, repeating that phrase to myself, and soon afterwards came out on deck and found myself talking to Troy, the current version, 19 years older than last time I saw him.

I love it when stuff like that happens.

A big part of waiting on weather in Bermuda is finding about what’s going on with other boats, and yes, I have learned a thing or two since last I posted here. Starting with Adesso, the boat I mentioned before that was apparently in distress when we came in. Turns out she was on delivery, from Padanarum, Massachusetts, with an experienced delivery crew, Nigel and his partner “Miss” Kitty, and they had all kinds of trouble getting here. Bizarre electrical and engine problems, a fuel transfer in mid-ocean from a passing ship, a faulty autopilot, and then Nigel fell and badly injured his back and Kitty had to hand-steer for over 80 hours to make it here. How Adesso gets the rest of the way south seems an open question, and the owner is now on the scene trying to sort things out.

This is Calypso, a Saltram cutter that once belonged to Nick Nicholson, of Practical Sailor, who coincidentally I first met while living on Crazy Horse and was the one who first showed me Lunacy back when I bought her. Calypso and Lunacy (then Star Cruiser) are old buddies and sailed in company a bit while circling the world in their previous lives. Calypso (she’s also the boat that left Tuesday and came back Wednesday) now belongs to Laurie Dobson and Bob Hudson

This is Cimarron, a fine old wood yawl that was sailing in company down from Maine with Calypso. She was caught out in that last piece of weather that came through here on Sunday and got roughed up a bit before making it in on Monday

This is Galadriel, a big sloop with a two-man delivery crew that also got caught out on Sunday. She got knocked down, with lots of water coming below through her companionway, and now her interior cushions are spread out all over town drying out

Last but not least, this is my crew (Phil Cavanaugh in the foreground, Peter Nielsen in the background) practicing drinking beer at the St. George’s Dinghy Club

UPDATE: We just moved the boat again! The wind has shifted and subsided and now we’re back on the wall by Dowling’s, waiting to head out tomorrow first thing.

2014 SOUTHBOUND LUNACY: Waiting on WX in Bermuda

Fri, 2014-11-07 21:28

Right now I’m sitting out my second gale-force WX feature since arriving here last Saturday morning. I had had some hope of getting out before it arrived and taking off Wednesday afternoon as soon as all my crew were onboard. A few boats left on Monday, bound south for the islands, and one took off Tuesday, but when that one came right back less than 24 hours later, saying their weather-router had threatened to disown them if they didn’t turn around, I could see the writing on the wall. No choice but to wait for this gishy low-pressure cell grafted on to a front to move through, and the plan now is to leave tomorrow morning, Saturday, exactly seven days after I arrived here.

This morning we had some excitement as Lunacy leaned away from one big gust of wind and started slowly dragging her anchor. It seemed then to stop dragging and hold again, but we didn’t have that much room behind us before we’d start hitting things, so we didn’t take any chances. With two crew aboard it was relatively easy to pick up the anchor and get underway in the howling breeze; singlehanded it would have been a serious challenge. As long as we were relocating, I reckoned we should find better shelter, so we moved from the usual yacht anchorage just east of Ordinance Island to a protected spot between Saint David’s and Smith Islands all the way across the harbor, from whence we have a good view of the big-boy yachts who all came in last night and anchored in the Powder Hole (see image up top).

Soon afterwards it came on screaming again like demons, but with heavy horizontal rain and big-time angry lightning bolts cracking directly overhead. The first close strike sent me jumping down the companionway like a whipped puppy, and we immediately took precautions and stuffed our personal electronics and the ship’s handheld GPS in the oven for safe-keeping.

Soon after the rain and lightning stopped I hopped into the dinghy to bail it out and found a needle fish that had accidentally jumped aboard and couldn’t get out again. Unfortunately, it died before I discovered it.

I suppose the fish is a metaphor, right? Though I’m still trying to figure out what it represents. I’m also wondering why its needle is below its mouth rather than over it.

While waiting on this weather, I have of course been fixing things. On Monday I came to the wall just east of Dowling’s fuel dock so I could get a mechanic aboard to consult about the engine-alignment situation. A young man, Jason, from Powell’s Marine, agreed with my diagnosis that the engine was now more-or-less straight again, and that the engine mounts were loose, and with some fancy wrenches he had we managed to get everything tightened up again. I also replaced the luff-slide straps on the mainsail headboard after filing the edges down a bit.

Being on the wall was a big nostalgia trip for me, as the last time I laid here, in this very same spot, was in 1995 aboard Crazy Horse. I was here three weeks then, waiting on parts and fixing all sorts of broken things, and met all sorts of people. One of them was a young fisherman named Troy, a gentle affable soul, who was always pointing out one of his fishing rivals around the waterfront and exclaiming: “I see you, spy!”

Right after I tied up here on Lunacy, I was thinking of him, repeating that phrase to myself, and soon afterwards came out on deck and found myself talking to Troy, the current version, 19 years older than last time I saw him.

I love it when stuff like that happens.

A big part of waiting on weather in Bermuda is finding about what’s going on with other boats, and yes, I have learned a thing or two since last I posted here. Starting with Adesso, the boat I mentioned before that was apparently in distress when we came in. Turns out she was on delivery, from Padanarum, Massachusetts, with an experienced delivery crew, Nigel and his partner “Miss” Kitty, and they had all kinds of trouble getting here. Bizarre electrical and engine problems, a fuel transfer in mid-ocean from a passing ship, a faulty autopilot, and then Nigel fell and badly injured his back and Kitty had to hand-steer for over 80 hours to make it here. How Adesso gets the rest of the way south seems an open question, and the owner is now on the scene trying to sort things out.

This is Calypso, a Saltram cutter that once belonged to Nick Nicholson, of Practical Sailor, who coincidentally I first met while living on Crazy Horse and was the one who first showed me Lunacy back when I bought her. Calypso and Lunacy (then Star Cruiser) are old buddies and sailed in company a bit while circling the world in their previous lives. Calypso (she’s also the boat that left Tuesday and came back Wednesday) now belongs to Laurie Dobson and Bob Hudson

This is Cimarron, a fine old wood yawl that was sailing in company down from Maine with Calypso. She was caught out in that last piece of weather that came through here on Sunday and got roughed up a bit before making it in on Monday

This is Galadriel, a big sloop with a two-man delivery crew that also got caught out on Sunday. She got knocked down, with lots of water coming below through her companionway, and now her interior cushions are spread out all over town drying out

Last but not least, this is my crew (Phil Cavanaugh in the foreground, Peter Nielsen in the background) practicing drinking beer at the St. George’s Dinghy Club

UPDATE: We just moved the boat again! The wind has shifted and subsided and now we’re back on the wall by Dowling’s, waiting to head out tomorrow first thing.

Podcast Essay: Across the North Sea, Part 1

Fri, 2014-11-07 00:00

Andy reads from a handwritten log entry during Arcturus’ North Sea crossing from 2012. This is the first of a four-part series on the voyage from Scotland to Sweden, the last major offshore passage that Andy and Mia have done on Arcturus since crossing the Atlantic in 2011. Since then, the boat’s been in the sheltered waters of the Baltic archipelagos. Stay tuned over the next three weeks for parts 2, 3 and 4.

Weather Bomb in North Pacific

Thu, 2014-11-06 19:28

Super Typhoon Nuri has more to say. Already one of the most powerful cyclones of 2014, Nuri is predicted to become an extratropical cyclone in the Bering sea: “Bomb”…perfect storm…if you’re on a boat, sink it and run for your life.

This monster is predicted to break records, create 50-foot waves, and alter the weather over North America for the next week or two. Weather nerds, get ready.

Here is an excellent analysis.

Just a comment: When there’s a weather forecast like this, this one for tomorrow in the Bering Sea, maybe they should put some parts of it in capital letters, or red, or something. And when you’ve got the first part of it saying what it does, the patchy fog and rain don’t really figure in…kind of like having a sword through your chest and fractured skull, with slight headache, loss of appetite:

Fri S wind 20 to 40 kt becoming SE 50 to 65 kt in the afternoon. Seas 9 to 13 ft building to 15 to 27 ft in the afternoon. Patchy fog. Rain.

Fri Night S wind 40 to 55 kt. Seas 23 to 38 ft.

Costumes, Hats and Other Odd Traditions

Thu, 2014-11-06 15:44

Let’s start today with a quiz. Complete the following sentence: Tuesday was ________.

Most of you will have finished that off with phrases like “rainy” or “a pretty good day”. But if you are Australian, you definitely said: Tuesday was Melbourne Cup. Still lost? It’s a horse race. More accurately, it is the horse race that brings the nation to a standstill.

For a race that lasts less than 200 seconds, that is a pretty impressive feat. Not only is it a public holiday in Melbourne, but the rest of the country shuts down (officially or not) from about noon onwards in order to drink champagne, watch pop stars perform, and wear funny hats.

I have no trouble with dressing up. It’s fun. Goodness knows, I tried my hardest to spread the gospel of Hallowe’en last Friday. And the local kids were game – just clueless.

*knock knock*
I opened the door. “Hello, kids! What great costumes!”
We stared at each other for a moment.
“So,” I prompted, “what do you say?”
“Thank you,” they chorused.
“Very polite, but not yet. First we say, ‘Trick or treat.'”
“Trick or treat.”
“Well done. Here you go, here you go. You didn’t bring a bag? Erik, pass me another plastic bag. There you are, put your candy in that. Good night! Happy Hallowe’en!”
Every single time.
Experienced players in the Hallowe’en game.

But the fancy hat phenomenon escapes me. I own one hat that I like, and it doesn’t help me much in my current locale:
My head might catch fire if I tried to wear this in PNG.

When the invitation arrived for the local Melbourne Cup party, my Australian neighbours were quick to give me a primer. (There are advantages to being a foreigner – everyone expects you to be totally ignorant of their local customs, and they are usually right in that assessment.) The conversation always went this way:

“Are you coming to Melbourne Cup on Tuesday?” asks Nice Neighbour.
“Yes, I’ll be there,” I say. “Noon, right?”
Nice Neighbour nods. “Now, do you have a hat?”
“No-o-o, but I’ll make something.”
Nice Neighbour nods again. “Some of the ladies have extras, if you need one.”

Pfft, I thought to myself. I can manage a hat. The kids will help me. I knew, of course, about hats and horse racing in a vague sort of way. I had seen photos from Ascot – fantastical tipped-to-the-side creations ranging from a few feathers to replicas of Big Ben. In Brisbane, the local department store featured a rack of fascinators – smaller fancy headware usually built around a hairband. The girls and I used to get a kick out of walking past this display, and wondering who would possibly buy one of those odd things.

On Monday night, we sat down to make my hat. I planned to keep it simple – a few pipe cleaners, some paper flowers and we’re done. Indy, however, embraced the project. She emerged from the craft drawer with ribbons, pins, a tiara, and blue cellophane.

“Oh! Put this on! Mom, tape this down!”
As Stylish passed me the occasional tastefully-tied ribbon, Indy grabbed a fedora and went to town. The production only stopped when I told her it was time for bed.
“Just let me add a horse,” she said, scribbling and cutting as if in a fever. “There. It’s beautiful, Mom!”
“It is certainly something,” I said.
Front (veil up) Left-hand side Back Right-hand side

I am the very picture of modern elegance, I think we can all agree.
It’s a wonder I don’t dress like this every day.

Tuesday morning I whipped up some appetizers, grabbed a bottle of emergency gin (always be prepared), and set off. I had accepted a ride down the road, as I was reliably informed we all needed to look “fresh” for the party. My fellow car-mates looked rather glamourous; I was glad I had pulled my one black dress out of the closet. I couldn’t extend my dress-up as far as my feet – high heels and I have a cold and distant relationship these days – but I thought I was doing pretty well.

We arrived at the party and, sure enough, hats everywhere. Pink fascinators. Satin festooned with flowers. A few ladies had raided their gardens to put together beautiful fascinators of their own, all orchids and greenery and tropical flowers.

As I gazed around the room, I realized that everyone else at the party had played it straight. Clearly, Melbourne Cup hats were not to be trifled with – they certainly weren’t intended to be your six-year-old’s evening craft project. I shrugged. Oh well. Indy and Stylish had a whale of a time putting it together.

Everyone was, of course, very gracious. This is another bonus in the Being a Foreigner column – no one expects you to get it right. As the party progressed, I leaned the real reason behind those tiny fascinators. As it turns out, wearing a cellophane-wrapped fedora in the Equatorial heat becomes a little uncomfortable as the hours roll by, no matter how many gin and tonics you put away. Life lessons. But I gamely put the hat back on for every photo.

When the race was complete and the bets paid out, it was time for the hat prizes. My neighbour of the satin-and-flowers won a prize; so too did the gorgeous orchid creation. And who won Most Creative Hat? Indy and Stylish, of course. Their hat was definitely in a class of its own.

Indy’s desk now sports our trophy – a small bunch of plastic flowers in a vase. She couldn’t be prouder. I haven’t brought myself to dismantle our creation yet, but soon enough someone is going to need that tiara for other purposes.

And may I never wrap my head in cellophane again.

Raymarine CAM200IP marine camera, and hello IC Realtime Marine

Thu, 2014-11-06 09:20

Written by Ben Ellison on Nov 6, 2014 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub

While I was just goofing around during the Raymarine demo cruise seen via screenshot above, in retrospect my thumbs are seriously up about both the new CP200 CHIRP SideVision sonar and the new CAM200IP marine camera. I’ve been on the water twice now with SideVision and it seems to have noticeably greater side looking range than the Navico, Garmin and Humminbird side imaging I’ve previously experienced; there are numerous factors at work here, though, and they’ll have to wait for a future discussion. Today I’m writing about advanced boat cameras, particularly the CAM200, which could be an excellent addition to most any boat running Raymarine LightHouse II software…

Here’s the helm of the Boston Whaler demo boat (did you know Whaler is still doing that cut-in-half unsinkable thing, only at much larger scale?). First let me say that none of the photos or screenshots in this entry do real justice to how crisp and color-rich the CAM200 video looks on the Raymarine displays. The specifications say the image sensor is a 2 megapixel 1/2.8″ SONY Exmor CMOS and I think I saw some of the Exmor processing advantages described in this video. I definitely saw the big 53° horizontal by 33° vertical field of view and what seemed like high resolution on whichever display we tried (the max is 1920 x 1080 pixels). Yes, “whichever display we tried,” because as an IP network camera, the 200 can be easily called up on any Ray display connected by Ethernet…

In fact, if you have a gS Series MFD it will only take a RayNet cable to completely wire the CAM200. That’s because the gS has PoE (power over Ethernet), though the Y cable that you’d use to insert 12 volts if you only have a Ray a-, c- and e-Series is still trivial compared to what it takes to power a regular analog camera and split its output to multiple displays. The CAM200 is somewhat bulky — for instance it hangs about 4 inches from the overhead in the demo install above — but it does include 20 infrared LEDs that give it black and white low light vision purportedly out to 20 meters. Of course, that’s nothing compared to the true thermal T200 camera above it, not to mention the open array HD radar. This boat has eyes!

But near range night vision can have value and that leads to my one gripe with the CAM200. For several years I’ve been using an analog CAM100 pointing aft from under Gizmo’s extended cabin top, and there have been occasions like night docking when it would have been great to temporarily point it in another direction. However, the CAM100 swivel mount is not easily changed, and the CAM200 mount seems virtually the same. On the other hand, the CAM100 has stood up to lots of abuse without a hiccup and especially without any internal moisture affecting its sharp (for analog) image, and that’s a good sign for the similarly cased 200.

Actually, I understand that the CAM200 camera came out later than hoped for because Raymarine had difficulty getting it up to those strict environmental standards I saw tested in England. But perhaps, one positive result of that is how ready the Lighthouse software is to handle IP camera input. It’s super simple to start/stop video recordings or take a snapshot and it’s also easy to get at the standard format files and play them back. And I was fairly flabbergasted at how quickly I could scroll through the 53 minute video we made during the demo trip.

As is, Ray’s Lighthouse II operating software will let you swipe from one camera source to another, but Version 12 — shown in Lauderdale and coming out soon — adds a “Quad View” mode that looks like what you see on many megayachts. As shown in the menu above, three of the video windows have to be IP cameras, but I’m convinced IP boat cameras will become the norm eventually. Consider, for instance, the easy networking and many bonus features you get with $700 CAM200 vs the $600 CAM100.

Tap on any window in Quad View and you’ll get a full screen view from that particular camera source, but only an IP camera will include those Record and Snapshot buttons at lower left. That’s because IP video integrates much more tightly with the operating system in an MFD, which is also why screenshots like the one at top will include an IP video image but usually leave a black hole where an analog camera image was somehow overlaid.

At any rate, instead of watching a busy Lauderdale Electronics Tent, imagine having one or more CAM200’s monitoring a sportfishing cockpit, or your view as you cruise new territory, or even just the precious engines you rarely see in action. In all cases being able to see clearly and easily saved video or stills could be fun and/or practical. But what about IP-based pan/tilt/zoom (PTZ) cameras, which are widely available in the security and other markets? Well, the good news is that Lighthouse II can support the ONVIF (Open Network Video Interface Forum) standard, which at least loosely permits PZT control by, say, a marine touchscreen. So, it is reasonable to imagine a day when Raymarine will support its own or a partner’s IP PZT marine camera with integration as total as with the FLIR M-Series I’m testing.

But wait, there’s more. I lucked onto the scene above, in which a crew from IC Realtime Marine is pitching Raymarine product management director Chris Jones on their extraordinary 360 Degree IP dome camera, which offers solid state PTZ and more. What’s in that stainless casing — best understood at the mother IC Realtime site — is a 185 degree fisheye lens, a 4000 x 3000 pixel image sensor, and a fast Linux microcomputer able to “dewarp” the fisheye view so it’s “undistorted to the human eye.” They showed us a live demo on a big center console, and it was quite impressive how you could pan around a half hemisphere view with virtually no lag (and no motors and gaskets to wear out). The best way to see what I mean is with these demo videos of the IC720, an even wilder system that’s essentially an integration of two 360 cams.

While that IC360 demo install involved an IP-to-analog video converter, a control box and a trackball, both IC and Raymarine seemed to think it possible to integrate with Lighthouse II hardware in the same easy way as the CAM200. Wow. But the first step for Chris Jones was to take a sample back to the UK for torture in the testing lab, so let’s make no presumptions about future possibilities. However, the IC360 was not the only solid-state PTZ IP camera I saw in Fort Lauderdale. While they’re not online yet, Iris Innovations showed a trio of new Barracuda underwater cameras and if click bigger the brochure page below, you’ll see that the top-of-the-line Barracuda-IP is quite similar to the IC360. Except that I don’t think there’s ever been an underwater PTZ cam before. It may be quite a while before you can easily and affordably run something like this from your multifunction display, but isn’t it fun to imagine?

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Day 4 at sea: Carib1500 fleet gets their sea legs

Thu, 2014-11-06 09:15

“The later you are, the more excited dogs are to see you.”

That’s Club Carp’s ‘dog quote of the day,’ from Day 1 at sea. They’ve taken to a daily dog quote to lighten up their at-sea logs a little bit, and it’s definitely lightened our heart’s a little bit here at the rally office. The team of yellowshirts are packing up in Pennsylvania in preparation for their flight to Tortola tomorrow (Friday). Many participants asked if we’d be sailing down with the fleet. I wish. We need to get there in time to prepare the cold rum punch that each boat gets on arrival, day or night. And as they say, nothing goes to weather like a 747. So we fly.

Meanwhile, at sea, it’s the dawn of day 4 already, and the crews should by now be fully adjusted to the routines on the boat – sleeping in the daytime, staying awake at night, balancing the constant movement, eating again (after perhaps a bout or two of mal de mar). The fleet is now entering that ‘philosophical middle portion’ of an offshore voyage that I like to talk about. This part, once you’re adjusted to life at sea, lasts until a day or two before landfall, when you’re close enough to practically smell that first cheeseburger and ice cold beer. But until then, that middle portion could continue indefinitely, the days and nights blending into one another as you glide across the ocean under a moonlit sky. That’s what we go to sea for.

It’s been apparently calm enough at sea that many boats are sending in logs over their sat phone email systems, offering an inside look at what it’s like out there. Aboard Adagio, an Amel ketch, the crew wrote of how calm the seas had gotten in the middle of the high pressure system that moved over the fleet shortly after Monday’s start.

“The last time I saw waters like this was in 2006 in the Mediterranean sea. Of course, we were aboard a Celebrity cruise ship and really didn’t care all that much about sea state, but nonetheless it was a topic of conversation that went kind of like ‘You know, if we ever really actually DO get to sail our own boat to places like this, I guess it’ll be motoring all the way.’… Well, we’re not quite in the Med (yet) but the Atlantic looks almost identical to that water we experienced over 8 years ago. Not a whisper of wind to show us riplets on the water, not a breath to even shake the sails out just a little.”

Windswept’s dinner!

It’s hard to believe how calm the ocean can get at times. You’d think there always at least a little bit of wind out there. But it can indeed, and the fleet is learning it first hand. So what can you do in those boring times of absolute calm?

“Jump overboard, that’s what :) It’s swimming time!” Adagio had the answer. “We tossed out a safety line, lowered the swim ladder and made a cursory attempt to heave to (I ~think~ I remember it takes wind to do that …). Grab the shampoo and over we go with Robin keeping a careful watch over the whole silly show.”

Aboard Club Carp, a longtime Caribbean 1500 veteran, aside from their daily dog quotes, they’ve experienced similar calm conditions.

“Last night’s watches were again uneventful. To keep us on our toes, we had a moon-lit, neck-to-neck race with Corsair, our closest competitor! We were also lucky to start the evening with an amazing home cooked lamb curry to keep us going during the night. Some of us even added ripe banana slices to our curry (chef Cooke said it’s how his mum taught him, so we didn’t argue) as well as a little diced up Trinidad Scorpion habaneros … sweet, yet spicy … could life get any better?”

Uneventful is absolutely the way you want your ocean passages. It sounds boring, but at sea you’re never want for something to do. Cooking, cleaning, sail-repairing, reading, writing – you’d be shocked at how creative your brain gets when completely disconnected from life on shore.

Club Carp’s water part, and an encounter with a whale.

“For additional entertainment,” added Club Carp’s crew, “we stopped at the local water park, were we got to see the neighborhood whale. We decided to call him King Jimmy as he quickly dove to the depth of the ocean for better smelling company. Our next stop at the water park was a dip in the 16,000-foot deep pool. Freaky is the only way to describe but our crew-mate from the Midwest took to the swim as if he was born in the water.
Dog quote of the day #3: ‘A dog’s parents never visit.’

So for most of the fleet, the first four days at sea were calm a welcome change for those who remember last year’s 3 days of 25-30 knots sustained wind. The Gulf Stream crossing was easy this year.

But the rally thus far hasn’t been totally uneventful. Heart’s Desire, the Pacific Seacraft 37, was forced to turn back with engine trouble. They’ve made it safely back to a small inlet on Virginia Beach and expect to get under way again tomorrow.

“It was a really simple fix,” said skipper John Fink. “But unfortunately I was the only one able to fix it, and I was too seasick to go down below. So we took the conservative route and turned back.”

On Euro Trash Girl, the lead ARC Bahamas boat, things were slightly more serious. “J/World has long been known to fly kites on very light air days for some entertainment,” said Kristen Berry, J/World staff, who’s driving to Florida before flying to Marsh Harbor to meet the fleet. “One of our instructors who’s on the boat brought along a fancy kite for this trip,” he continued, “and apparently it crashed or something and the kite string sliced into his hand. Thankfully it wasn’t a client, but it’s still a bit of a problem for the guys.”

Thanks to J/World’s recent Ocean OPS course, the crew handled the situation with aplomb. After stopping the bleeding and ensuring that the injured had feeling and movement in all of his fingers, they bandaged the wound. A brief call via sat phone to a USCG doctor confirmed that it’s just a flesh wound, and Euro Trash Girl is continuing on to Marsh Harbor as planned

Kedging in the ICW

Thu, 2014-11-06 09:05

Photos Courtesy of Mon Iker   After a bit of an absence I would like to return with a bang, or at least a soft thud. I am currently cruising South from Maine with a crew of friends, headed for New Orleans. We’ve made it as far as Florida, always a good place for adventure.

I (maybe unfairly) tend to think of the ICW as slow, expensive, and often dull, so we’ve been staying offshore most of the time. But there are exceptions, most recently the stretch between St. Augustine and Lake Worth when we decided, for once, to avoid one of the big cold fronts which are usually our mile-makers. I was surprised and a little chagrined to find out how lovely this stretch of ‘the ditch’ is. Passing through largely undeveloped lakes and rivers we were often surrounded by dolphins and migrating birds and we even saw a half dozen manatees in the lower stretches of the Indian River. Not only was it beautiful but we had an excellent sailing wind, courtesy of the NE blow we were hiding from.             Actually the wind was a little too perfect. It was blowing so nicely and from just the right direction, that in the empty straight stretches we kept cramming on sail until we were making over five knots, which is about as fast as my little boat goes. We went along like this for nearly two days,  only reducing sail and occasionally motoring in the tricky or highly populous stretches, but of course it couldn’t last… Eventually, in the Matanzas river, we had just the wrong combination of relatively inexperienced helmsperson, skinny little channel, and gusting wind and we broached just long enough to run out of the channel and into a mudbank at hull speed. It was so soft that despite our speed we didn’t even lurch, just came to a stop with a schlurp.

              Fortunately two of my crew happen to be professional photographers, so this made for a good kedging-off photo op. Kedging off, for those who have yet to get the opportunity, is the process of dragging your boat off a grounding via the anchor. It’s a simple concept but there are a handful of tricks to make it more efficient and, of course, ways to up the ante when you’re really stuck.

We started out by taking quick soundings around the boat with the boathook, which told us that only the bow was really aground. Next up was a fruitless attempt to blow the bow off using the jib, but if anything this might have just stuck us in harder so we resigned ourselves to kedging.

Sometimes the jib can heel the boat just enough to come off of a shoal, but you need a little clear water at the bow The key to setting a good kedge anchor is placement. It should be far enough from the boat to set hard and give you plenty of scope to winch yourself out on and it should be oriented so that it will pull the boat directly into deeper water. With a little ingenuity and maybe a snatch block the rode can be winched from any point of the boat to pull yourself off by the bow, the stern, or wherever. Since we went in bow first we pulled ourselves off by the stern.

To pull ourselves out stern-first we ran the anchor rode through a chock on the stern and directly to the winch. Loading up the anchor in the stern of the dinghy The anchor is loaded into the dingy. There are a couple considerations here. First, you want the anchor to be separate from the rode, so you can easily toss it in. Second, you want the rode ready to run out smoothly, without destroying your dingy. In most dinghies you’ll want keep everything aft and run the chain out over the stern. Watch out when kedging in deep water! If you toss an anchor with a chain rode into 50′ of water, that’s fifty feet of chain that is going to whip out at high speed, and if it catches you’re liable to swamp the dinghy.

Hauling ourselves back out… Once you’ve got the anchor set and the rode run to a convenient winch or manual windlass, it’s time to start cranking. If you try to kedge with an electric windlass you’re liable to burn it out so unless you’ve got electric winches and a lot of juice you’ll probably have to sweat this out. The job can be much easier if you heel the boat over as much as possible to reduce its draft. A few ways to do this: get all the crew leaning out over the side of the boat, put one or two if them on the end of the boom and swing it out over the water, or pull out the jib and let it catch some air. You can even run out a second kedge anchor and attach it to a halyard and then winch down on the halyard to pull the boat over by the masthead.

With a whole crew for cranking the winch we were able to drag ourselves off without too much trouble, and get back to sailing. With a little less canvas up.

Podcast: Erik de Jong #3

Wed, 2014-11-05 11:24

Andy chatted with Erik for a third time about a month ago now, just after Erik had returned from 4 months in the Arctic on Bagheera. They discussed why he’s drawn to sailing in the ice, how he made it all the way to 78º north, how he rebuilt his engine in Nuuk, Greenland, and his design ideas on the Adventure 40 he’s working on with John Harries. Follow Erik on bagheera-sailing.com.

25th Caribbean 1500 Heads to Sea

Tue, 2014-11-04 07:42

Updated Tuesday, Nov 4, 0730: Lucky Strike, despite being the last boat out of the marina and over an hour behind the fleet, has taken the lead offshore as the boats enter the Gulf Stream. Lucky Strike, the 50′ Newick trimaran, is cruising along at 10 knots. If conditions persist, they should be WAY ahead over the next 24 hours at that pace!

Conditions were much more favorable for the start of an offshore passage today with the sun shining and winds 12-15 knots out of the NW. Crews mentioned they were pleased that the start had been delayed 24hrs.

The morning of the start there is always plenty of activity on the docks with everyone wishing each other well and getting those last phone calls in to home. With the start line being 10 miles further up the Elizabeth River off the Hampton Flats, boats slipped lines early to get up there with plenty of time to spare before the midday start. Some of the yachts in the Open Division, that will not be taking the start line, had already started to head out into the bay and offshore as the start line was being set up.

In no time at all, the 41 rally boats that have filled up Ocean Marine this past week with colourful code flags have headed out to fog horns blasting and cheers from the docks. Things are a little quieter here now with just the trimaran Lucky Strike, who had a small problem with their AIS antenna and wanted to get that repaired, and Alchemy who are securing some last minute items. As the committee boat returned to the dock, both Lucky Strike and Alchemy were under way, the marina empty. 

The committee vessel today was the 40’ tender to New Zealand megayacht T6 and thanks to the yacht’s Chief Mate Clint  for taking us out to the start (at a cool 35 knots!)

Weather conditions at the start set up well for a downwind run out the Bay and into the Atlantic, and indeed many of the boats flew their spinnakers across the line, making for a festive sight. 
There were three starts in all, separated by ten minutes. Southern Cross led the multihull fleet over the line, while Sojourner took the Bahamas class start. Euro Trash Girl, the J World Annapolis boat, quickly took the lead as they smoked across the line under spinnaker, the first boat to do so. In the second start, for the Class B yachts, the Valiant 39 Chanticleer only very narrowly edged out the Corbin 39 Opportunity, who got their spinnaker up just after the start, a great big Canadian flag design that they proudly flew out into the Bay.

Class A was even more hotly contested, with Wine Down leading the way, followed by Serenity. In total, 29 boats took the starting line, with just Lucky Strike and Alchemy the only two Cruising Division yachts to get away late. The remaining 9 boats sailed in the Open Division, and had left earlier this morning.

Once out of the Chesapeake Bay the majority of the fleet will be sailing the ARC Caribbean 1500 route to Tortola in the BVI and can expect a passage of around 8-11 days, whilst 5 boats are sailing the ARC Bahamas to Marsh Harbor, a shorter passage of around 4-6 days. 

Whilst underway each yacht is fitted with a Yellowbrick GPS tracker and you can follow their progress using the Fleet Tracker. Also click here to read all of the blogs coming in from the boats to find out what life is like at sea.

 

Standard Horizon HX870, handheld VHF/GPS/DSC powerhouse

Mon, 2014-11-03 19:00

Written by Ben Ellison on Nov 3, 2014 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub

I was impressed with Standard Horizon’s original HX850 and I’ve been happily using the slightly upgraded HX851 model above for several years. It’s a fine handheld 6 Watt VHF (if you don’t mind the size) plus it’s always ready to place a DSC distress call and/or navigate a life raft (or tender or kayak or…). But, wow, look what they did with the new HX870 model: The screen is at least twice as large, the interface seems usefully updated with soft keys and icons, the battery is substantially larger, and more…

Despite the change from 1,380 to 1,800 milliamp internal lithium-ion rechargeable batteries, the HX870 still floats. In fact, this new model can even turn itself on and start its strobe light if it falls in the water (with or without you). Another improvement from the HX851 is a 66 channel GPS, instead of 12, and the 870 still comes with AC and DC chargers as well as an alkaline battery tray all at the same $250 list price.

These HX series handhelds are full fledged DSC radios with all the direct/group calling and position polling features, but one general problem with non-distress DSC features is figuring out how to use them. That’s one reason that the new interface seems promising. I only tried the sample briefly, but it was easy to figure out how the left/right arrow keys scroll you through the bottom icons, which you can choose with a soft key. My thumb also liked the central cluster of channel and volume keys, though it took a bit to figure out how to press the squelch button on the left side and then use the volume buttons to set it. By the way, that MOB icon represents another new feature.

The easy to see and understand graphics seem to extend deep into the system menus and the big screen also seems good for navigation graphics like the compass screen below, which could be taking you to a waypoint or the position of a DSC distress call. GM (Group Monitor) is yet another new feature and while the 870 manual is not yet available, I’ll guess it means that you can track multiple vessels at once if they share a group MMSI.

Standard Horizon is no longer the only manufacturer offering a VHF/GPS/DSC handheld, but they seem determined to lead the pack. For instance, the HX870 is also a true Class D DSC radio — meaning it has a separate receiver always monitoring DSC channel 70 — while the Icom M92D and others are not. The powerhouse 870 is not on Standard Horizon’s website yet but it will purportedly ship this month and is already listed by distributors like Landfall Navigation.

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

2014 SOUTHBOUND LUNACY: Hard On the Wind Forever

Mon, 2014-11-03 14:57

Sorry I’ve been AWOL from the blog for so long, but I’ve been struggling to get Lunacy south to the W’Indies for the winter. This process actually started nearly two weeks ago, on October 20, when Phil “Snake Wake” Cavanaugh and I brought Lunacy down from Portland to Portsmouth during a long daysail, motorsailing into a light, but contrary southerly breeze. Then there was a gale, and after that my brother Peter and I sailed the boat from Portsmouth down to Newport, during which we spent one day reaching and one day beating into vicious headwinds. Then there was a gale, and after that OPO crew-member Richard Holbrook and I spent five days sailing from Newport here to St. George’s, Bermuda, during which we spent one day reaching and four days beating into sometimes rabidly vicious headwinds. Right now I’m sitting in St. George’s, riding out a gale at anchor, waiting for the next crew to fly in.

Perhaps you’ve noted a pattern here. And yes, looking at the forecast right now, it appears I will again be confronting mostly headwinds when we leave here for St. Maarten later in the week.

We all know the old adage: gentlemen never sail to weather. To which all I can say is: thank God, I’m not a gentleman. Otherwise I’d never get anywhere.

While gale-bound in Newport Richard and I had a chance to visit Newport Shipyard and gawk at the mega-yachts that live there. Afterwards we had a delightfully random encounter with Yves-Marie Tanton, the man who designed Lunacy and who came aboard for a brief inspection.

Transoms of the Gods

Jackstands the size of Christmas trees

Yves-Marie checks us out

On leaving Newport the morning of Monday, October 27, the forecast I had from Ken McKinley of Locus Weather called for strong northwesterlies morphing into southwesterlies that would carry us on a reach most of the way to Bermuda before going southerly only on the last day or so. It seemed as ideal a scenario as one can reasonably hope for this time of year.

What happened in reality was that the northwesterlies on day one weren’t very strong and brought to us no fewer than five gale-swept shore birds, from Long Island presumably, two of whom spent some time in the cabin belowdecks, and one of whom spent the whole night sleeping peacefully atop one of the settee back cushions.

This is the one who spent the night. It pooped several times on its settee cushion, then flew off in the morning into the great void of sea and sky, where it must have died. Such is the fate of those who shit where they sleep

We never did see those southwesterlies. Instead the wind pretty much went straight south on Tuesday and stayed there, building to a fine crescendo on Thursday night, when a series of gnarly southerly squalls pumped the wind up to 35 knots for a while.

By then I was very tired. Constantly bracing yourself against the incessant heeling of the boat and the intermittent pitching and slamming concomitant with closehauled sailing in open water is a fantastic isometric exercise regimen, but after a few days of doing it 24/7 it does wear you down. Also, I had spent a good deal of time with my head in the bilge, dealing with an annoying technical problem. Once the wind went squirrely as the squalls came on, we started motorsailing so as to save us from constant sail changes and then we just kept on motorsailing so as to be sure of getting here before the impending gale.

This was the real problem. I set up the whisker pole before leaving Newport, just in case we had to pole out a headsail to cope with those northwesterlies, and it jinxed us for sure

Self-revealed selfie. The eye in the hand of the eye that reflects it. And I’m looking not nearly so knackered as I feel

Sunrise on Saturday, as we at last approach Bermuda

Richard on deck with Bermuda in sight

During our approach to St. George’s in the wee hours of Saturday we heard half of a drama unfolding on the radio. This happens often, where you can hear Bermuda Radio, which has a very strong VHF transmitter, talking to boats whose responses you cannot hear, because their transmitters aren’t nearly so strong. In this case Bermuda Radio was organizing both a tow and an ambulance for a vessel Adesso, obviously in distress.

Most telling was a question from Bermuda Radio: “Is your husband–I’m sorry, I mean the captain–is he in very serious pain?”

I assumed from this that Adesso‘s crew was a couple, a husband and wife gone off at last on their big adventure to the Caribbean, and that the husband had been hurt somehow, and the wife now had no idea how to manage the boat without him. But this is only an assumption, and I do not know the facts.

On arriving at St. George’s the effects of the recent hurricane were very apparent. Several roofs in town have been blown away, including that of the venerable White Horse Tavern. The foliage ashore is all messed up. The customs dock at Ordinance Island is shattered, so to clear in we had to land on the wall in the pilot boat’s berth instead. There are very few boats in the water, with missing local boats being most conspicuously absent. People still seem a little bit shell-shocked, though very grateful no lives were lost in the storm.

This is Adesso, which appeared in the anchorage here by Sunday morning. Still no clue as to what really happened, but I just exchanged a wave with one animate body in her cockpit

And this–surprise, surprise–is Lucy2, Alpha 42 catamaran hull no. 2, which arrived here about six hours before us. (You may remember I had an interesting time aboard hull no. 1 in January.) The owner, Jamie, had no unusual problems en route and is generally pleased with the boat

Found on deck after getting here, Exhibit 1. I’ve remarked before on how the flying fish are disappearing. I saw only two in the water during this passage after we crossed the Gulf Stream (where normally you’d see hundreds) and then found this one in the scuppers after we got here

Exhibit 2. One of our shore birds, with its neck broken under a shroud’s split pin

 

TECHNICAL PROBLEMS

There were a few, but nothing horribly awful.

Once again the exhaust line backed up with seawater and had to be cleared by draining the muffler before the engine could be started (see previous head-in-bilge reference). I thought I had solved this by replacing the plastic Vetus snorkel at the end of the exhaust line. Now I’m thinking it was mounted too low (insert dope-slap here) and have remounted it as high as possible in the stern. If this doesn’t work, I guess I’ll have to install a valve to close the exhaust when sailing. I still don’t understand why this was never a problem before, but is now

My surveyor Mark Corke warned me the engine might be slightly out of alignment, based on his inspection of the shaft-seal gland. I thought this was hoo-hah, simply a surveyor intent on finding something that might be wrong with the boat, but it turns out he was right. After some hard sailing the engine now runs with notably increased vibration, with obvious shaft wobble. But after it runs a while everything straightens out nicely again. So right now I’m trying to figure out how to tighten the engine mounts, but can’t see how to get a wrench on the bolts under the mounting beds

And finally one problem with the new sails. The razor-sharp edges on the slots in the new headboard cut right through the luff-slide straps. I need to take a file to those slots and put on new straps

2014 SOUTHBOUND LUNACY: Hard On the Wind Forever

Mon, 2014-11-03 14:57

Sorry I’ve been AWOL from the blog for so long, but I’ve been struggling to get Lunacy south to the W’Indies for the winter. This process actually started nearly two weeks ago, on October 20, when Phil “Snake Wake” Cavanaugh and I brought Lunacy down from Portland to Portsmouth during a long daysail, motorsailing into a light, but contrary southerly breeze. Then there was a gale, and after that my brother Peter and I sailed the boat from Portsmouth down to Newport, during which we spent one day reaching and one day beating into vicious headwinds. Then there was a gale, and after that OPO crew-member Richard Holbrook and I spent five days sailing from Newport here to St. George’s, Bermuda, during which we spent one day reaching and four days beating into sometimes rabidly vicious headwinds. Right now I’m sitting in St. George’s, riding out a gale at anchor, waiting for the next crew to fly in.

Perhaps you’ve noted a pattern here. And yes, looking at the forecast right now, it appears I will again be confronting mostly headwinds when we leave here for St. Maarten later in the week.

We all know the old adage: gentlemen never sail to weather. To which all I can say is: thank God, I’m not a gentleman. Otherwise I’d never get anywhere.

While gale-bound in Newport Richard and I had a chance to visit Newport Shipyard and gawk at the mega-yachts that live there. Afterwards we had a delightfully random encounter with Yves-Marie Tanton, the man who designed Lunacy and who came aboard for a brief inspection.

Transoms of the Gods

Jackstands the size of Christmas trees

Yves-Marie checks us out

On leaving Newport the morning of Monday, October 27, the forecast I had from Ken McKinley of Locus Weather called for strong northwesterlies morphing into southwesterlies that would carry us on a reach most of the way to Bermuda before going southerly only on the last day or so. It seemed as ideal a scenario as one can reasonably hope for this time of year.

What happened in reality was that the northwesterlies on day one weren’t very strong and brought to us no fewer than five gale-swept shore birds, from Long Island presumably, two of whom spent some time in the cabin belowdecks, and one of whom spent the whole night sleeping peacefully atop one of the settee back cushions.

This is the one who spent the night. It pooped several times on its settee cushion, then flew off in the morning into the great void of sea and sky, where it must have died. Such is the fate of those who shit where they sleep

We never did see those southwesterlies. Instead the wind pretty much went straight south on Tuesday and stayed there, building to a fine crescendo on Thursday night, when a series of gnarly southerly squalls pumped the wind up to 35 knots for a while.

By then I was very tired. Constantly bracing yourself against the incessant heeling of the boat and the intermittent pitching and slamming concomitant with closehauled sailing in open water is a fantastic isometric exercise regimen, but after a few days of doing it 24/7 it does wear you down. Also, I had spent a good deal of time with my head in the bilge, dealing with an annoying technical problem. Once the wind went squirrely as the squalls came on, we started motorsailing so as to save us from constant sail changes and then we just kept on motorsailing so as to be sure of getting here before the impending gale.

This was the real problem. I set up the whisker pole before leaving Newport, just in case we had to pole out a headsail to cope with those northwesterlies, and it jinxed us for sure

Self-revealed selfie. The eye in the hand of the eye that reflects it. And I’m looking not nearly so knackered as I feel

Sunrise on Saturday, as we at last approach Bermuda

Richard on deck with Bermuda in sight

During our approach to St. George’s in the wee hours of Saturday we heard half of a drama unfolding on the radio. This happens often, where you can hear Bermuda Radio, which has a very strong VHF transmitter, talking to boats whose responses you cannot hear, because their transmitters aren’t nearly so strong. In this case Bermuda Radio was organizing both a tow and an ambulance for a vessel Adesso, obviously in distress.

Most telling was a question from Bermuda Radio: “Is your husband–I’m sorry, I mean the captain–is he in very serious pain?”

I assumed from this that Adesso‘s crew was a couple, a husband and wife gone off at last on their big adventure to the Caribbean, and that the husband had been hurt somehow, and the wife now had no idea how to manage the boat without him. But this is only an assumption, and I do not know the facts.

On arriving at St. George’s the effects of the recent hurricane were very apparent. Several roofs in town have been blown away, including that of the venerable White Horse Tavern. The foliage ashore is all messed up. The customs dock at Ordinance Island is shattered, so to clear in we had to land on the wall in the pilot boat’s berth instead. There are very few boats in the water, with missing local boats being most conspicuously absent. People still seem a little bit shell-shocked, though very grateful no lives were lost in the storm.

This is Adesso, which appeared in the anchorage here by Sunday morning. Still no clue as to what really happened, but I just exchanged a wave with one animate body in her cockpit

And this–surprise, surprise–is Lucy2, Alpha 42 catamaran hull no. 2, which arrived here about six hours before us. (You may remember I had an interesting time aboard hull no. 1 in January.) The owner, Jamie, had no unusual problems en route and is generally pleased with the boat

Found on deck after getting here, Exhibit 1. I’ve remarked before on how the flying fish are disappearing. I saw only two in the water during this passage after we crossed the Gulf Stream (where normally you’d see hundreds) and then found this one in the scuppers after we got here

Exhibit 2. One of our shore birds, with its neck broken under a shroud’s split pin

 

TECHNICAL PROBLEMS

There were a few, but nothing horribly awful.

Once again the exhaust line backed up with seawater and had to be cleared by draining the muffler before the engine could be started (see previous head-in-bilge reference). I thought I had solved this by replacing the plastic Vetus snorkel at the end of the exhaust line. Now I’m thinking it was mounted too low (insert dope-slap here) and have remounted it as high as possible in the stern. If this doesn’t work, I guess I’ll have to install a valve to close the exhaust when sailing. I still don’t understand why this was never a problem before, but is now

My surveyor Mark Corke warned me the engine might be slightly out of alignment, based on his inspection of the shaft-seal gland. I thought this was hoo-hah, simply a surveyor intent on finding something that might be wrong with the boat, but it turns out he was right. After some hard sailing the engine now runs with notably increased vibration, with obvious shaft wobble. But after it runs a while everything straightens out nicely again. So right now I’m trying to figure out how to tighten the engine mounts, but can’t see how to get a wrench on the bolts under the mounting beds

And finally one problem with the new sails. The razor-sharp edges on the slots in the new headboard cut right through the luff-slide straps. I need to take a file to those slots and put on new straps

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