Sail Feed

Syndicate content
Brought to you by Sail Magazine
Updated: 39 min ago

Passagemaking dreams

Thu, 2014-05-01 06:00

The unmistakable bellow of conch horns echoed around the bay yesterday morning as the 50′ sloop Love Song headed out, bound for the Indian Ocean. Next stop: Maldives, if they need fuel, otherwise- Mauritius! With a likely three thousand mile passage looming, their exit earned a salute.

Love Song was the latest in a series of boats making their exodus from this quiet harbor in Langkawi we’ve called The Duck Pond as a nod to the calm, protected waters sandwiched between by two little islands and the shoreline. It’s that time of year: in our corner of Southeast Asia, the seasons are in transition, and the rainier southwest monsoon prompts most cruisers to move on to different corners or the region- or away, like Love Song, looking for favorable winds to cross the Indian Ocean. I can’t resist following boats who have pointed for South Africa, and daydreaming about passage making again.

The night before Love Song’s departure, we gathered around with other cruisers in a local watering hole and reminisced. It’s funny how the reflections were all good memories, even though we know, at the time, some of those miles were miserable. There’s a kind of amnesia that sets in not long after the joy of a landfall. The last, very uncomfortable stretch of our 19-day passage to the Marquesas in the reinforced trades of a La Nina year were quickly erased from memory as we reveled in the immensity of arrival. The squash zone that caught us in gale conditions for days was quickly repressed as we discovered our landfall was an island where nautilus shells lay sprinkled periodically along the fringing white beach.

Our journeys this year are scaled back. Parked in Langkawi for two months (an unusually long time for us to stay fixed in one place), we’ve caught up on both the cruising kitty and boat projects. Jamie has worked with boats on rigging and electrical projects, enabling us to make progress on our list of maintenance needs. In addition to installing our new 1000Ah battery bank, we have put up a new 420 watt Silentwind turbine and 270 watt solar panel to pump in the juice. Worn cloth is being replaced: the torn settees in our main cabin have pretty new covers, there’s a mainsail cover showing up soon. Meanwhile, essential parts of our trusty Yanmar are undergoing spa treatment in Kuala Lumpur. As much as we’d like to have continued to South Africa, these and other projects come first.

What WILL we do? This has been the subject of much debate. How do you choose a route? Weather practicality comes first. Then, there’s a magic mix between the places that draw us, those that we can afford, and the plans of our friends on other boats. Bringing those together, a plan is taking shape that takes us back down the peninsula and out to the Philippines, where we’ll enjoy pretty clear water for a while before making a U-turn back to mainland southeast Asia- probably landing back in Langkawi again around the end of this year- the yellow line, approximately.

I hoped to spend more time in Indonesia, along one of the two green line routes, but adding up the miles and considering that we’d spend most of them motoring, it just didn’t make sense. We’d be pushing ahead instead of enjoying places, and burning a lot of diesel. No thanks! The world is round, and mostly likely, I’ll get to spend time in my beloved Indonesia again someday.

Meanwhile, kid boats know that life is better when you are with other kid boats. We’re lucky to know quite a few in the region that we can share anchorages with along this way. There were a dozen kids celebrating Mairen’s twelfth birthday on the beach this last week, and many of them will be with us in anchorages between here and the Philippines.

On the far side of the Pacific, we watch reports of friends sailing from Mexico- Fluenta’s reports from their journey, Hotspur celebrating landfall in the Marquesas. I make some of Meri’s kimchi (an excellent cruising solution for on-refrigerated, long life, crunchy veggies), pass a jar of it to Love Song, and dream of anticipating life at sea for weeks again.

Reaaders who go the distance know we love it when you read this on the Sailfeed website.

As Everyone Else Heads Out to Sea

Wed, 2014-04-30 21:30

Cyclone season is officially over in the South Pacific.  The weather has shifted from “unbearably hot” to”uncomfortably hot”. I am no longer glued to my gribs. We made it through cyclone season in one piece.

Time to sit back and relax a little. But, a couple of days ago, something strange started happening. People started leaving. I knew that some of my neighbours were only in the marina for cyclone season, but I didn’t realize just how many were going to be booted out come May 1st. Here we are, on the Fête du Travail, and the boats are leaving in a steady stream.
Empty docks, waiting for new arrivals.

Even stranger is the fact that new boats are arriving. From other countries. How I failed to expect this I don’t know – I suppose I have been in a routine for too long. Because when I saw my first Q flag on Tuesday, my heart gave a lurch. The flood of cruisers has begun. These people are smelly, dirty and dead tired. All they want is to tie up and sleep for fourteen hours, but first they need to rinse the decks, pack the sails, and head off to Customs and Immigration.

I am so jealous.

I introduced myself to a new neighbour yesterday, fresh from the crossing from Australia.
“So,” she asked once the pleasantries were dispensed with.  ”Do you live in the marina permanently?”
It gave me a start. Do we look so settled? I sometimes forget that we had only planned to be in New Caledonia for a couple of weeks, and here we are, eight months later. “No, no,” I insisted, “We’ll be leaving in a few months.”
She nodded, but I saw the look in her eyes. Some cruisers live their lives on the cusp of departure… but they never go. Still repairs to do, still things to perfect, still comfortable here. Just a little longer. My neighbour’s look said, “Good luck.  I hope you make it out of the tar pit.”

Perhaps our unexpected stop has had some good consequences. We reassess our status every year or so, and this year I can safely say that I am not ready to stop yet. I want to keep cruising. If I envy every boat that comes and goes, that tells me something, and it is good to have that clear in my mind. Maybe this pause was the deep breath we all needed to say, Onward! More sailing! More cruising! More family adventures!

Before we know it, it will be time to wrap up in New Cal for real. I am newly determined to make the most of the time we have left.

I am ready to hoist the Q flag and go.

Because Sabots Are Forever

Wed, 2014-04-30 14:24


By Kimball Livingston Posted April 30, 2014

Old and outdated?

Or a timeless classic?

I remember a day when that was a point of debate, but I think we’ve quietly gone beyond the handwringing that once went on over Southern California’s long love affair with its indigenous sail trainer, the tiny shoebox known as a Naples Sabot. It’s not just puppy love. It’s not over.

Sure, Sabots are regional, and you can find plenty of kids now in training programs that have moved on to the Opti, which offers international competition. But kids who grow up in Sabots and catch the racing bug and want to move on to Lasers or whatever find that their skill sets are “right there” with kids coming out of Optis. The evidence is in. Just go sail, and the rest will take care of itself.

So, this is an appreciation.

On display in the pool for US Sailing. Photo KL

At this year’s US Sailing Leadership Forum in San Diego, Naples Sabot 7200 had pride of place for the opening party, and plenty of the locals in attendance knew exactly whose hands 7200 had passed through over the years. The 2014 flagship of the mighty San Diego Yacht Club is a Sabot (grownups can play too) and that is a fact that is just plain cool, as cool as this otherwise-irrelevant shot that I really have to share of Commodore Charles Sinks. It’s cropped to run as a banner photo on the club’s Board of Directors page . . .

In new news, the Huntington Beach Sailing Foundation has a fleet of Sabots, some of which are more than 40 years old—almost as old as the foundation, which is partnering with the W.D. Shock Corporation to build a new fleet. More than 2000 kids have passed through the program over the years.

The foundation states its mission thus: “To develop the skills of individuals to sail; to foster confidence and self-reliance in a way that enhances self-esteem and mental, spiritual and emotional development; to promote competition in a manner that encourages teamwork, leadership, good sportsmanship and honor; and to provide a structured environment and fun summer activity for children as they grow and develop into young adults.”

It’s hard to argue with smiles like these . . .

Early beginners, ages six or seven, learn about water safety, knot tying, nautical terms and code flags. They get to spend time on the water with instructors and more experienced students. Slightly older kids learn about rigging, boat parts, wind direction, and the basics of racing. It is in this class that students can sail solo in a Naples Sabot for the first time and—

There is nothing to compare with being in command of your own ship at a young age.

Or, as John Kostecki (still the only person ever to win an America’s Cup, an Olympic medal, and a race around the world) explains of his own time in a sailing shoebox, “I liked to be in control.”

The courses are progressive, of course. And don’t you know this guy likes drawing this duty for the day?

With financial support from the public, the Huntington Beach Sailing Foundation is able to provide tuition-free lessons to children from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, the physically handicapped, and children of military personnel. Click the link for further info.

Photos courtesy of Huntington Beach Sailing Foundation and Lido Island Yacht Club

Postscript: The cluelessness of so many in the boating industry, when it comes to promotion and media, will forever astound me. This post was triggered by a press release from the W.D. Schock Co., and as I was writing, it occurred to me that, on San Francisco Bay, our training programs have pretty much all abandoned our own still-loved, near-sistership-to-Sabots, El Toros, in favor of Optis. El Toros, when capsized and swamped, do not self-rescue. Optis do, which in a heavy-wind region makes a strong argument for Optis. Huntington Harbor is a different, milder world, but I had a moment’s curiosity—no big deal—whether Schock was updating the Sabot in this special iteration. I called the company, but I couldn’t get anyone to talk to me, and three days later, I guess I’ve got the message, not.

Tom Schock, we miss you.

Don Street Stories: A Rough Start in the Virgin Islands

Tue, 2014-04-29 20:18

Street in good company with sailors Paul Shard and Liza Copeland.

This is the third part in an ongoing series of short pieces that didn’t make the final magazine cut of my ‘Don Street is Not Dead’ article. Some of the below appears in the magazine, but most of it’s new. To listen to the entire 90-minute conversation I had with Don, click here. To kick things off, here’s what outgoing Yachting World editor David Glenn said about Street when I prodded him last year…

“Don was always with his typewriter in what used to be the ‘Last Lemming’ bar in Antigua with his trademark, sweat stained Tilly Hat in place and a cold green ‘un – i.e. a Heineken – handily placed, while he bashed out his next story. Seamanship is seamanship and he knows the meaning of the word and its importance, something that many modern yachtsmen don’t! Don might be from another era but his thinking is still relevant. Worth dusting him down from time to time….!”

Without further ado, another Don Street Story…

Donald Street’s legendary accomplishments in the Caribbean didn’t happen immediately. In fact, from the stories he tells of the times, it’s a wonder he ever got anything accomplished.

Take for example his paint contracting business he and a friend started in St. Croix, an endeavor, Street admits, that “was not successful.”

He and his friend would work normal contracting hours – up early, start work at 7am and quit by 3. They’d end up in town by 4pm, ready for a cold beer. Problem was, the pub in town was run on traditional British pub hours – closed between 2:30pm and 5:30pm, when it would reopen for dinner.

“Well, Robin was tall, and there were these little windows you could open up top,” Street explained, grinning all the while. “I’d stand on Robin’s shoulders, go through the window, open up the door.” Street had to pause here to laugh, his eyes smiling as much as his face. It was fun to watch the wheels turning in his head as he recalled all these obviously joyful memories. “And we’d start a tab. Various other people knew about this, and came knocking on the door [laughs] and we let them in, and Aubrey would show up at 5:30 and say ‘I’m the only guy who can make money with a pub when he’s sound asleep in bed!’”

Street bounced around the Virgin Islands doing various work to stay busy, but quite obviously enjoying himself, away from the cold concrete canyon of Wall Street, and in a place where nobody cared if he had a beard.

His first ‘real’ work experience came as a land surveyor. “I didn’t know a damn thing about it,” he admits. “I bought on book on Friday, and by Wednesday had convinced them that I’d learned enough to do basic survey work and they hired me. I figured it was just like navigation, except you knew exactly how far you went!”

The state of marine Ethernet connectors, and hello to RayNet

Tue, 2014-04-29 14:00

Written by Ben Ellison on Apr 29, 2014 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub

It’s not an exciting photograph, I know, but cables are a fairly big deal when you or your installer get down to the real nitty-gritty of putting a marine electronics system together. While it’s great that the NMEA 2000 cable and connector standard is pretty much taking care of lower speed sensor networks regardless of equipment brands, the sore spot now is the Ethernet cables used for high speed data like radar, sonar, IP cameras, and chart sharing. Though standard Ethernet cables easily connect many different devices in our homes and offices, marine connectors are not standardized. In fact, some Raymarine customers are dealing with two proprietary Ethernet connector designs as the company transitions to the RayNet plugs seen above. But RayNet makes sense to me and shouldn’t cause undue pain once all the available options are understood…

The basic problem is the otherwise ubiquitous Ethernet RJ45 connector. Your house probably has at least a few cables double-ended with male RJ45 connectors like the one above and snapped into network ports on computers, routers, printers, televisions, etc. The plug can snake through a hole about 13mm (1/2″) in diameter, and I’m told that an installer handy with a RJ45 crimping tool can fairly easily run plain cable. In short, the RJ45 generally works fine indoors (regardless of device brand). However, it is not rugged enough to go on the back of a marine multifunction display, let alone a radar, because it’s not at all waterproof and it doesn’t take much of a tug to overcome the little plastic locking mechanism.

While the NMEA is slowly selecting a waterproof marine Ethernet connector standard as part of ongoing OneNet development (which, like NMEA 2000 connectors, will be an existing industrial standard offered by multiple manufacturers), the major brands have already each come up with their own way of doing boat Ethernet. The photo above shows how some are simply RJ45 plugs with a collar system that keeps water out and makes the mechanical connection strong. The first two are the same Garmin Marine Network style, meant to show how the snap-on collar leaves the connector an installer needs to snake through a boat only 24mm (15/16″) in diameter (though Garmin has a neat alternative, discussed below). The middle connector is Raymarine’s old style SeaTalkhs collared RJ45 and then circled in red is the new RayNet connector, which seems designed from the ground up for marine use and thus, has nothing to do with RJ45. Finally there’s Navico’s colorful marine Ethernet plug, also built specifically for the job. Why is Raymarine switching?

Well, some manufacturers support the concept that RJ45 connectors are good enough to use in dry, protected boat spaces, which is evident in the older Raymarine SeaTalkhs (high speed) switch above. In fact, that very switch has been mounted under Gizmo’s flying bridge helm for several years and has happily accepted the RJ45 plugs that came on the end of a Ray radome cable and the inside ends of the old SThs cables that went to an E-Wide MFD and a blackbox DSM sounder, plus the standard cable used to control FLIR cameras (their Ethernet details here) and the RayNet-to-RJ45 cable that came out with the new plug. The 26mm (1+”) diameter of the old SeaTalkhs waterproof connector really didn’t matter because the installer could fish the RJ45 end (at least tape wrapped for protection) or just whack off the inside plug and crimp on a new one after making the run.

However, as marine Ethernet systems got more sophisticated and also started finding their way aboard smaller, less protected boats, Navico and Garmin both developed Ethernet switches that use their waterproof connectors, the Navico NEP-2 and the Garmin GMS 10. So, now Raymarine offers the HS5 SeaTalkhs Network Switch, which also costs about $250. But when you start running cables with waterproof connectors at both ends, their diameter really matters, and that’s one reason the new RayNet plug is the slightly skinnier winner at about 18mm (11/16″) with Navico second at 20mm (13/16″). Then again, none of these connectors is skinny enough in certain situations, radar cables fished through sailboat masts being the most common.

Before discussing Ethernet cable splicing strategies, let’s look at the heavy-duty backside of a Furuno NavNet TZT14. I didn’t have a Furuno Waterproof LAN cable to pose with the others (it’s still installed on Gizmo), but obviously, Furuno uses the collared RJ45 approach. The inside end is standard RJ45, as is their HUB101 switch. As noted, similar Raymarine Ethernet architecture worked fine on my boat, and having RJ45 inside also means you can probably use a regular (and much less expensive) Ethernet switch. Furuno seems particularly open to that option, and I’ve used a nice little 12v NetGear GS105 with both NavNet 3D and TZT. Note, though, that the TZT14 has its own 3 port Ethernet hub. It’s become common now for larger MFDs to have multiple Ethernet ports, and it often means that a separate switch is not necessary. However, on a boat with two helm stations, having a switch may mean you can run radar, sonar, etc. at either helm without having an unused MFD turned on.

As for butt splicing typical Cat 5 Ethernet cable, it’s just not done in polite company! It’s the same problem as fine gauge NMEA 0183 wires except with four twisted pairs of 22-24 gauge solid core wire. You don’t crimp connect them individually and you don’t use a terminal block. The accepted way to join two Ethernet cables is by putting a male RJ45 connector on each end and snapping them both into a female-female coupler. It used to be that if you wanted to connect a Raymarine radar directly to, say, an E-Wide MFD, you used the Crossover Coupler seen in two pieces above (I won’t get into what “crossover” means in Ethernet wiring, largely because current gear doesn’t care). You can use the same coupler with RayNet/RJ45 cables — like the one seen at the top of the entry — but I like the new A80247 Adaptor shown going together above.

Here’s what the waterproof adaptor looks like when screwed together and further accessorized with the new RayNet Right Angle Adaptor, which also doesn’t seem to have reached online stores yet, but can be seen on this Raymarine page. There’s also old SThs connector to RayNet adapters, a RayNet to RayNet Cable Joiner, and even a neat RayNet Cable Puller, which both provides the right place to tie a string and protects the connector pin holes as it travels through your boat’s mast or raceway. Conclusion? RayNet looks like a better marine Ethernet connector than its predecessor, and I don’t think the installer who called me last week after finding himself dealing with both types of SThs connectors on the same new install will feel so frustrated when he sees all the available adaptors.

Actually, that particular installer and many others often turn to Garmin Marine Network parts to solve Ethernet cabling issues even when they don’t involve Garmin gear. That’s because they can buy Garmin waterproof RJ45 plugs they can crimp themselves, plus the Coupler pictured above, which can even be bulkhead mounted (perhaps near your mast step). All of this marine Ethernet gear is fairly expensive, by the way, and the new RayNet cables look especially so. By contrast, that standard RJ45 coupler above costs 56 cents and is doing the job on some boats (possibly wrapped in tape). On the other hand, many boaters don’t want to go cheap on their high speed data networks and some advanced Ethernet capabilities are just coming to marine electronics. The Raymarine gS Series, for instance, uses Power over Ethernet (PoE) to simplify installation of the RMK keypad and IP cameras to come (as I described here).

In fact, if you look closely at the RayNet plug you’ll see that it has 10 pins, which is a minor mystery given the Ethernet norm of 8 wires. Does anyone have a guess about what those two extra pins do, or will eventually do?

Finally, I’d like to close with a shot of Raymarine’s A06046 N2K (DeviceNet) Male Adaptor Cable, hoping to avert a negative reaction to my opening remark about how NMEA 2000 connectors and cabling have become the lower speed data standard across brands. Ray likes its SeaTalkNG connectors and cabling — and it does have merits, like a color-coded backbone and heavier gauge power wires — but the cable below will put any current Raymarine device on a standard N2K network where it’s going to share data with other brand gear. Or you can use the A06045 Female Adaptor Cable to go the other way. But even if you used the Ethernet adaptors and tools discussed above to connect, say, a Navico MFD with a Garmin radar, they will not talk to each other. That level of data sharing probably won’t even happen when OneNet is finished, but it might be good to at least have a standard Ethernet cable and connector system.

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

The Air Crash and the Vallejo Race

Tue, 2014-04-29 12:16

The following is from Erik Simonson, Pressure-Drop.US After failing to recover remains, the Coast Guard abandoned the search on Monday.

1st On Scene Witness Report:
As reported by Noble Griswold, who was sailing in Sunday’s Vallejo race on his Beneteau Mooring’s SD E-ticket. Noble and crew had just finished the race and Nobel had put the boat on auto-pilot and lit the BBQ, headed back to Benicia when one of the crew pointed out the planes that were traversing the area. The crewmember is a pilot and was telling the other crew about the Korean War era fighter plane, a Hawker Sea Fury when the collision occurred directly overhead. Noble points out the had made a slight error during the race which cost him some time sailing, enough to miss 1st in class by a few seconds corrected over Gordie Nash’s Arcadia.(PHRF 5). Had they not made the tactical error, the would have been about 200 feet further up the bay.

“Both planes were traveling together, and it seems the Hawker plane suddenly veered and accelerated, with a glancing blow to the Cessna’s wing, which immediately fell off” The crippled cessna then did a broad arc and accelerated from what Nobel estimates from 150 mph to 250 mph.

“The plane plummeted into 12 feet of water with a straight shot, at that speed” Noble says. “The planes were about 700 feet above the water and took about 7 seconds before the water impact. The main fuselage landed about 200 feet away and other debris landed just 100′ away, Noble continues

Noble points out the collision occurred at 4:01 PM.

The crew, quickly doused the jib and left main up due to previous engine issues and prepared the lifesling in hopes of assisting any survivors. There were none.

In the aftermath, 4 to 6 additional boats responded to the scene and searched for anything. One of the items which was located was a backpack with a womans purse within, containing her ID and credit cards, the crew also found a pink makeup bag near by. The deceased was born in 1963. Other items found float were a males sneaker and what appeared to be a wallet, but the wallet sank before they could retrieve it.

One oddity that Nobel and crew noted was the Hawker did not circle, but merely altered course and speed, the flew off.

Nobel feels positive on the immediate response of the boating community, and how quickly the boats nearby responded. The San Rafael Sheriff and San Rafael Police boats were on scene with 5-10 minutes.

Although they pinpointed the location of impact, they could not immediately locate the aircraft. Noble locked the GPS on the location and handed it over to authorities. He’s had a busy day with conversation’s with local authorities and the FAA and reporters, and is still in a bit of a haze after witnessing something so tragic happen to close by…Noble is still trying to grasp with how something so pleasant, a late afternoon sail with good friends, some music and food can quickly turn so tragic, but finds comfort in the efforts made by all who assisted to help, if nothing else bring closure to those affected. He is also VERY glad he had the tactical error earlier, which cost him a pickle dish, but had he not been a tad slower, his boat and crew would have been almost exactly where the plane went down at time of impact…

Thank you very much,

The Pressure Drop Team
Pressure Drop

Kiwi Spirit & the Volvo Ocean Race: Patrick Shaughnessy of Farr Yacht Design on the Podcast

Mon, 2014-04-28 21:26

Big thanks to our returning sponsor Weems & Plath! Listen here to get the promo code for 30% off on their website, Episode 23 is Patrick Shaughnessy, President of Farr Yacht Design. Andy spoke to Patrick in his office in Annapolis, Maryland, where he grew up sailing and worked his way up from the ‘basement’ of the famous design office to the top dog. They talked about the Kiwi Spirit project and Stanley Paris’ record attempt, Patrick’s sailing history, yacht design (obviously), and spent a lot of time towards the end of the chat discussing the new Volvo 65 one design project that Patrick and his team at Farr have been developing over the past several years. He couldn’t be specific, but Patrick assured me that we’d see 7 teams at the starting line of the next Volvo Ocean Race this coming fall. Awesome chat this one, so thanks to Patrick and the Farr Yacht Design team!

FLASHAmerica’s Cup Competition in Indiana!

Mon, 2014-04-28 17:50

A scoop from the News Star

RUSTON — Members of the Louisiana Tech University Debate Team earned a place as one of 16 teams in the world to compete in the America’s Cup 2014 tournament, hosted earlier this month at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind.

The team of Hannah Schilling, a senior political science and journalism major from Bossier City, and Samuel Hathorn, a junior education major from Alexandria, competed on behalf of Louisiana Tech against teams from institutions such as the U.S. Air Force Academy, California Polytechnic Institute (Caltech), Loyola University and Stanford University.

“The intelligence and motivation of Louisiana Tech’s debate team is inspiring,” said Shane Puckett, instructor of speech and director of debate at Louisiana Tech. “Tech’s team routinely competes against some of the best and brightest minds in education today, and they do well. This has to be a testament to the team’s tenacity and hard work ethic. I’m proud to be their coach.”

The America’s Cup tournament was held in an international style of debate called, “Worlds.” In this style, a two-person team receives a topic and position 15 minutes before the debate starts. Although Louisiana Tech advanced to the quarterfinals, the team said being chosen as one of the elite 16 to compete in this tournament was most impressive.

To continue reading about this new development in America’s Cup competition click here

Transatlantic (Ladies) Training for the Volvo

Mon, 2014-04-28 14:33

As found at, the women of Team SCA are making tracks, Lanzarote to Newport, R.I.

Onboard reporter Corinna Halloran tells it this way:

Day 2: Transatlantic Blog

Imagine riding a wicked fast motorbike at night. You’re cruising along down a windy road. Suddenly, it starts to rain, not just a nice easy rain but a relentless rain – the kind that floods roads.

And then you’re blind folded. You cannot get off the motorbike; you are propelling yourself faster and faster down hills and bends, into the dark night with water all around.

This is what it was like sailing downwind last night in 26 knots. Completely exposed to all of the elements, maneuvering through a gybe completely blind.

Sam was stationed at the helm. Her focus was completely on getting the boat safely down waves. She couldn’t see to ensure no one was injured whilst stacking sails from windward to leeward. This process can be a challenge – think carrying long, wet, potato sacks over your shoulder – but you’re trying to not to get hurt, or worse, fall off the boat as it screams down waves doing 22, 23, 24, 25 knots.

The girls knew the night was going to be tricky. During dinner, Stacey made a good point: we were certainly jumping off into the deep end! No chance to hide now! With the wind and sea state only increasing during the night, the girls needed to be focused.

Staying focused, Sam said, would be the key to being safe on a night like last night. All maneuvres, even the smallest of ones, needed to be thoughtful and done with the utmost concentration.

Once dawn broke, we continued to see much of the same conditions from the night before, except now we could see. Over the day we had to gybe a few more times before putting in our final, multi-day gybe shortly before dinner.

Abby was pretty happy with how the first 24 hours had gone – despite the tough conditions – they had sent it.

Team SCA transatlantic crew – Lanzarote-Newport
1. Sally Barkow (USA) – Helm / Trimmer
2. Carolijn Brouwer (NED) – Navigator / Helm
3. Dee Caffari (GBR) – Helm / Pit
4. Sophie Ciszek (AUS) – Bow
5. Sam Davies (GBR) – Watch Captain / Person In Charge
6. Abby Ehler (GBR) – Boat Captain/ Pit
7. Stacey Jackson (AUS) – Bow
8. Annie Lush (GBR) – Helm / Trimmer
9. Elodie-Jane Mettraux (SUI) – Helm / Trimmer
10. Justine Mettraux (SUI) – Helm / Trimmer
11. Liz Wardley (AUS) – Watch Captain
Libby Greenhalgh (GBR) – Navigator (on trial)
Corinna Halloran (USA) – OBR (on trial)

Saving a Folkboat for Us Folks

Mon, 2014-04-28 11:47

In which a Folksong hits a new note

By Terri Watson Posted April 28, 2014

The ad said, “One repair and she is ready to race. $5000 firm.”

The slide began when I asked, “So what is that one repair?”

My mother taught me better, the woman who counseled me to never, ever go to the SPCA just to visit the animals. The owner said, “Go take a look for yourself.”

I met Folkboat US95 tied to the dock at what was then Nelson’s boatyard in Alameda, where she had been taken for a checkup by Fred Andersen, the San Francisco Bay Folkboat fleet’s resident wooden boat doc. A winter storm was blowing in, and Folksong tugged fretfully at her dock lines as I stepped aboard. The chop slapping the hull immediately inspired me to envision this boat beating smartly up the cityfront, come spring.


Water slapping the hull.

Water running through the cockpit.


The big car battery in the cabin, tethered to a bilge pump discharging over the side, hinted rather strongly that all was not well.

A quick inspection confirmed what I suspected. This once-proud, race-winning woodie chosen in 1975 to make the mold for Svend Svendsen’s locally-produced fiberglass Folkboats—that is to say, the boat that ensured the survival of Nordic Folkboats as a class on San Francisco Bay—had once been tied to a dock for years, going nowhere. The current owner, over a couple of years, had put money into upgrading racing hardware, but there were issues with the hull that had needed attention long before he bought her.

How bad could it be?

Not bad enough to stop us, apparently, or to leave us with any regrets.

Even in the dusk, I could see a golfball-sized opening where Folksong’s transom met the top of the stern post. The slapping waves were pouring in water at an alarming rate. The bilge pump was busy. A stream from the bow, and sodden planks, highlighted a chronic leak somewhere around the waterline. The mast collar on the deck was lifted up out of the wood, and the wet decking below indicated that a long-term freshwater leak had taken its toll. The rest looked easy enough to fix – some scrapes, a cracked tiller, broken and loose floor boards and planks on the interior. A quick check with Fred the next day confirmed that structural repairs alone would exceed “$5000 firm.” Time to walk away. And then . . .

An idea formed. My partner, like myself an avid crewmember in the Folkboat fleet, had often bemoaned the fact that we really wanted our own boat. We were caught up in the world of enthusiasts who race these handsome, lapstraked 25-footers born in Sweden in the 1940s. But the fiberglass versions—Folksong’s very progeny—were out of range. A birthday was coming up. How cool would it be to give Kimi a Folkboat? Especially if I could get it for free, almost, and then have Fred do just basic structural pieces. We could do the rest. I heard the words, faintly: “Beware of a free boat. Especially a free wooden boat.”

What’s in a logo? © Lyons Imaging

As we finished the hull prep, the painting loomed large. In Fred’s world, painting is dead simple. He smiled and encouraged us so that we could carry on in our world, and gave us advice when asked, and checked in to see when we might want to schedule our launch. I said “two days from now.” He smiled. He and Kimi agreed on a date more than a week out. I worried we would hit the water and be on our way in a frenzy for the start of our first race, sandwiches and sailing instructions and sheets in hand. But I was surrounded by people who wanted to do the job right.

Painting the hull went surprisingly well. Fred and Kimi just said no when I proposed to buy porch paint, and we ended up with Pettit’s “Bikini Blue.” I think even Fred was surprised at how well it came out. As I’ve always maintained, there’s something to be said for using the best paint.

On the day of launch (exactly one month after I met Folksong at the dock), we christened her with a shot of Aquavit, Scandinavia’s traditional toasting drink, and shouts of “Skoal!” We were surprised to find we kind of liked Aquavit. There are rumors that the bottom of the bottle tastes even better.

We stepped the mast, re-assembled the rigging, and headed Folksong to her new berth just a few days before our first race. None of the running rigging had been worked on, and we sailed that race Cunningham-free with a set of lightly-used sails from Denmark that we had never seen in action—though we did change out the numbers the night before in the otherwise-elegant Chart Room of the St. Francis Yacht Club. After hours. Discretion, you know. We have since spent time replacing old lines and re-tooling old systems, and currently we have our sail controls all labeled with blue 3M varnishing tape. We walk around and look at other Folkboats, and get ideas, and make changes. We ask other fleet members for advice, and we get it by the truckload. We enter races on faith.

Proof that persistence pays. © Lyons Imaging

There’s something we were told the first day we crewed in a Folkboat (USA 116, Emma) for our friends Danielle Dignan and Dan Zuiches. They said, “When you pick the boat you decide you want to race, it isn’t about the fleet, it’s about the FLEET.”

They meant that it is all about the people.

Not only our San Francisco Bay fleet, but new friends in Europe—some that we know only by email, phone, and mutual acquaintance—have stepped in to share what they know, and provide what they can to help us in our efforts to keep US95 sailing.

It takes a village to race a Folkboat.

Our villagers at play . . .

Folkboats on the San Francisco cityfront. © Lyons Imaging


From the Editor: It is possible, if not likely, that your mother told you, life is full of surprises. If she taught you well, it should be no shock to learn that Folksong has yet another owner as the Nordic Folkboat fleet comes this week to its first-of-the-season Wednesday Night Woodies race on the cityfront of San Francisco. Think of it as a happy-sad coda. You have a boat, and you’re treating her as well as you can, when along comes someone with superb credentials who offers a square deal, if only you will let him take the boat into his own hands and bless her to a fare the well. Surprise, your darling wins a scholarship to Harvard. Do you keep her down on the farm, or give her a kiss and wish her on her way?

With that, I return you to our author, Terri Watson

For our time with Folksong, our brief but special time, our thanks go out to many people. First, to Peter Lyons of Lyons Imaging for the photographs seen here.

And with the horrible fear of forgetting one, or many, I will nevertheless put this down—

We owe thanks (in no set order} to:
Fred Andersen, US74 Filur, for high-quality work, great value, encouragement and wonderful teaching. And Hilary and Kate, for supporting Fred’s long hours on the project.
Vince Spohn and Cecily Jordan, Ex-US95, for generosity in making the transition possible.
Chris Herrman, US108, Thea, for encouragement, information, and references. That, and beer. And tequila. And introducing us to a great mixer.
Tom Reed, Jr. US111, for a great set of tuning tips and a chance to crew and learn.
Brock DeLappe, US121, Faith, for encouragement to pursue this, crew opps, and film.
Danielle Dignan and Dan Zuiches, Ex US-74 and Ex US-116, for the donation of a nearly new sail set and showing us the right attitude on the race course from the start. And a weekend of crewing and boat fixing (all at the same time!).
Peter Jeal, US113, for advice, donation of parts, and assistance pulling and setting a mast at the dock in a few hours to deal with a stuck halyard. Also for setting us up with some sails, giving up a Sunday to teach the use of the gin pole, and constant encouragement and availability. And handfuls of free, otherwise-expensive hardware. And always being there to help – whatever, whenever.
The Wilson’s US106, Windandsea, for getting this idea started last year and encouraging us to be willing to try it.
Mike Goebels, US109, Elsie, for focusing us on the actual costs of getting into the fleet, and working towards solutions.
Eric Kaiser, US122, Josephine, who has pressed us for years to jump into the fleet as owners, and for the loan of a whisker pole mid-Woodies, even though it was a prized antique that his dad had made, and it had tremendous value to him.
David and Evie, once a two-Folkboat family, provided pictorial evidence of US95’s repair efforts at the dock during the 2008 Internationals involving a cordless drill, deck screws, and most of the fleet standing on the stern to lift the suspect area out of the water.
Dieter Loibner, Author, “The Folkboat Story” for his encouragement, history, and great company on a day in Jack London Square.
Mickey Waldear, ex winning skipper with US95, for setting such high expectations for the boat and for a gracious welcome after a Saturday race.
Theis Palm, North Sails, Denmark, for advice on tuning to our new set, as well as ideas for future consideration..
Louise Harboe/Hans , Denmark, for a great deal on a set of good sails.
Ralf Morgan, KKMI, 19__ Season Champion, for talking a good hour about jumpers and sheaves, and for lots of great rigging advice.
Paul Kaplan, KKMI, S/V Santana, for convincing me that it was okay to be bitten by the wooden boat bug, even if it didn’t make any sense. And for providing concrete support in our malady when needed.
Chris Kaplan, City Yachts, for a wonderful shuttle on the morning of the sail home, as well as an unexpected bottle of champagne and a great set of photos of US95’s first sail with us.

The list goes on. T.W.


Fri, 2014-04-25 19:37

Someone robbed my boat last night.

I woke up at about 1:30am because I heard noises.  Someone was approaching the V-berth.  I thought one of the girls must be coming to see me – nighttime visits are not unheard of around here.  I registered that whoever it was had a flashlight, which was odd, but not impossible.
“Honey?  Are you okay out there?” I called.
Scuffle, scuffle.
As the intruder turned and started pounding up the companionway, I came fully awake and realized what was happening.  And I started screaming my head off.
“Help!  Help!  There is someone on my boat!  Please help me!”  I jumped out of my hatch and kept screaming as the man raced away down the dock.  The otherwise silent, still dock.

Nobody came.

I called the police.  I stood on deck, trying to make my voice stop shaking, trying to summon French vocabulary that I never use – to steal, to flee.

A neighbour appeared.  He and his wife heard me, and came to help.  They made me tea and sat with me while I waited for the police.  He called the marina security office, and helped me talk to the guard.  And I sat in the cockpit and shook.

I made a list of all of the cards in my wallet.  I called the bank to cancel everything.  I prayed that Skype wouldn’t drop my connection until I was done.

It was 3am when I finished, and I felt like I was never going to sleep again.  But, scared or not, I couldn’t just surf the internet all night.  I had to try to sleep.

Weak batteries be damned, I turned on all the lights before heading back to bed.  As though someone were still hiding in the corner.  And there, lo and behold, was my wallet, abandoned in the middle of the salon table.  All of the cash and change was gone, but everything else remained – credit cards, baby pictures, scrawled notes to myself.  And I started to laugh a little.  Of course, now that I had cancelled everything, the wallet was there all along.

Lights out.  Well, most lights out.  I went to bed with a flashlight in my hand and the 32V light burning above my bed.  Eventually I slept.  Lightly, jumping at every noise.  But it was something.

This morning I went around to talk to my neighbours.  Everyone was shocked and upset.  And 3/4 boats had woken to a noise, but when it didn’t continue, they chalked it up to rowdy people and went back to sleep.  No one else had anything missing.

This is our third brush with crime on our cruising adventure.  The second time, I had my bag stolen at the beach in Cartagena.  And the first event happened only days after we bought Papillon: the outboard motor was stolen off the back deck in Florida.  So.  Although onlookers express the greatest fears for our safety when we visit developing nations, I see that we have only had issues in urban, fairly first world environments.  Interesting.

So let’s talk reactions.  I have lived a very lucky life: this is my first real brush with scary crime.  And you never know how you are going to react to a situation until it happens.

My first reaction is that I am grateful the whole thing went down the way it did.  This… this… I’m having trouble choosing a family-friendly term here, so let’s use “thief” and you can replace that as you like.  This thief didn’t lay a finger on me or my girls.  That is 100% all I care about.  And it is frankly what scares me the most – this thief was on my boat while I was sleeping, walking around my personal space and poking through my stuff.  If things had gone differently, would I have been able to scream long and loud enough for someone to take the noise seriously?  I felt safe in the marina with neighbours a few feet away.  Now I feel like I might as well be on a thousand acres all alone.  But back to gratitude: this was the best possible outcome.  Yes, I lost some money, but nobody got hurt.  Scared, but not hurt.

So what do I do now?  What will I change?  What should I do to be safe?  More accurately, what should I do to feel safe?  Because I think safety is pretty much an illusion.  Yes, you do your best, but sometimes that tweaker is going to grab your cash.  That is the hard reality of life.

Back in the Caribbean, we came across a number of boats with guns aboard.  People hung signs from the companionway like: This boat protected by a .357 Magnum.  Now that I’ve been robbed, now that I’ve had my space violated, I have to say: I still don’t want a gun aboard.  Leaving aside the constant hassle gun owners have with Customs, what would a gun have done for me last night?  When I woke up, I thought it was one of my kids.  To shoot this thief, I would had to have the gun right beside me and ready to go the moment I woke up on spec that something bad was going on.  And if he had had more sinister motives and had snuck up on me instead of rooting through my purse, could I possibly have woken up, fully understood and assessed the situation in that millisecond, put that gun in my hand and used it in time?  No.  I still don’t think guns are worth the risk to my family.

Now I have to take a breath and regroup.  Decide how to balance reasonable protection versus fear.  Choose how best to fulfill my responsibilities to my kids.  Maybe I’ll start with a motion detector hooked up to a light or a siren – something to scare your casual thief away.  I’ve already turned down the offer of a guard dog for a few nights.  And I’ll think about what really needs to be done when my head is clearer.

But right now, I just want some sleep.

DUTCH BARGE RACING: Demolition Sailing

Fri, 2014-04-25 18:04

Who says you need a modern go-fast boat with foils to make sailing really exciting? Check out these video clips of traditional Dutch barges, called skutsjes, which were originally used for hauling cargo in Friesland and are still actively raced today. What blows me away in the first one are the guys to leeward with the sounding poles. Looks like a much dicier job than bowman! Note also the major TV sports coverage. Very impressive that. You can tell the Dutch have their priorities straight. Also… there’s a nice collision at 3:21.

Funny thing about Dutch, I tried translating the YouTube video description in a couple of different online translation programs, and Dutch translated into English looks just like Dutch in the original Dutch. Maybe someone who speaks Dutch can explain that to me.

Meanwhile, this viddy has a fantastic collision. One skutsje literally falls down on top of another one:

No, they don’t carry any ballast, and yes, they evidently do capsize with some frequency. The next clip has a nice demonstration of how it’s done and how you recover (starts at about 3:00). But please, if you don’t have a large tugboat handy, do not try this at home.

Finally, here’s an excerpt from a documentary film about the sport that was made back in the 1960s. Complete with subtitles. It gives a good sense of the tradition behind these boats.

And if you want to find out still more about traditional Dutch yachts, you can flashback into the WaveTrain archive and check this post on Hermann Goering’s famous botter jacht Groote Beer.

Ashley Rogers Podcast: Preparing for the Solo Trans-Tasman Race

Fri, 2014-04-25 10:05

Ashley Rogers is an old friend of mine from my Broadreach days, when I worked out of St. Martin on liveaboard sail-and dive-training expeditions. Ashley was a SCUBA instructor and we got to know each other at Broadreach’s ‘Pad’ during the 2009 summer. Though she was living and teaching diving aboard sailing boats – and actually sailing between isalnds and dive sites – she hated it! Originally from Guatemala, Ashley now lives in New Zealand and spoke to me via Skype about how she got into sailing after reading the classic book ‘Dove’ by Robin Lee Graham, and decided she wanted to give it a go. Now she’s preparing her boat for the 2018 edition of the Solo Trans Tasman race, a big event held every four years that sees sailors cross the Tasman Sea from New Zealand to Queensland, Australia. The 2014 edition of the race just got underway on April 22, so folow the fleet here! Ashley will be only the 5th woman to ever attempt the feat. Follow her on her Facebook page, The Solo Challenge.

Mail call: especially pawsome deliveries!

Thu, 2014-04-24 06:55

Mail! It’s something we rarely get, unless it’s brought by visitors; our changeable routing and backwater destinations make it difficult. Spending a more extended time in one place (wow, almost two months already!) means we’ve had a chance to actually have things sent to us. That alone is kind of a novelty, but two special deliveries in a month? Unprecedented! (Honey- the new batteries, and the order from Defender- they do not count. sorry.)

The first was a valentine, sent from the other side of the Pacific by my friend Charlotte. Charlotte, like me, lives in a digital world- but as a cruiser, appreciates the rare touch of personal mail. I tried to remember the last time I got a letter in the mail, and I can’t. It’s been a very long time. That her card held a sweet note with a picture her gorgeous girls in it made me a little teary when I opened it up. Naturally, this was also in the marina office (no way was I waiting on a dinghy right back to the boat!), so now the whole office knows that I’m a little sappy. That’s fine, and it’s been reinforced by my reaction this week after learning the receptionist got engaged (trust me, if you saw that pretty ring on her lavishly hennaed hands, you’d get misty too) so they’re used to me now…

The next came special delivery with stamps from France. France! (Niall immediately tore these off for his own collection, he’s kind of a Francophile. I have no idea how this happened but suspect our friends on Merlin.) Not only that, but it was delivered to the kids. That’s REALLY special and uncommon!

The kids couldn’t wait, either, and opened it up immediately. Tucked carefully in the padded envelope was a copy of Bailey Boat Cat: Adventures of a Feline Afloat. Sweetly inscribed and pawtographed by Bailey and his humans, Louise and James, they sat in the main cabin and read it cover to cover. Together. In perfect peace and harmony. (This hasn’t always been the case lately…) 

our friend Maia with favorite ship’s cat Charlie of sv Ceilydh

Bailey presents an entertaining view of life afloat on his human’s Tayana 37, Nocturne. Paging through it myself once the kids were willing to share, I loved his clever bits of Whisker Wisdom (“To be curious on a boat is to have the world at your paws”) and nautical observations.

A tour through this book shares an intuitive look at what it’s like to live on a boat through Bailey’s feline eyes. It explores his world on Nocturne without fancy jargon, but plenty of little truths, an abundance of clever wit, and a large dose of pawsomeness. In the process, it actually offers a really nice view for the humans who wonder what this boat living thing is all about. Turning the last page, I even- dare I say it?- I even found myself thinking that maybe someday we should have a ship’s cat.

This would be a big step, since our idea of “pets on boats” only started a year ago with a wild gecko (Steve prefers accepts hand-fed snacks brought domain in the forward head, and has allowed a second pet on Totem- our dwarf hamster, Jiaozi). Thanks Bailey – we’ll just keep it our little secret for now.

Whisker Wisdom: Take a look around: life is pawesome! Yes, it is. You can grab a copy of Bailey Boat Cat: Adventures of a Feline Afloat in print or for your Kindle on Amazon.

Cat people know it makes us purrrfectly pleased when you read this on the Sailfeed website.

Smartgauge battery monitor, RC proclaims “paradigm shift”!

Wed, 2014-04-23 16:00

Written by Ben Ellison on Apr 23, 2014 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub

If you like sailing with some electronics running, or just anchoring without a generator, you’re probably very interested in the State of Charge (SoC) of your battery banks. Voltmeters, however, only hint at what’s going on, and true battery monitors require careful calibration and the installation of shunts, but still tend to get out of whack over time. Well, darned if the great RC Collins of Compass Marine didn’t go to extraordinary lengths to prove that the Smartgauge — a little known product that’s been around for almost a decade — can somehow accurately measure SoC without calibration and without a shunt, and yet still get even more accurate over time. Apparently when it shows your Charge at 92%, as above, your battery bank really is at 92% capacity…

RC Collins is knowledgable on many boating subjects, but I first wrote about his Compass Marine site in regard to a highly detailed 2011 article titled Installing a Battery Monitor. You can learn a lot about traditional amp hour counters in that article, particularly the popular Victron BMV-602 which Collins also used as one reference in the elaborate Smartgauge test setup you see in these photos. Let’s note that unlike the Smartgauge the BMV and other monitors with shunts can display realtime current use — which I found useful for understanding Gizmo’s power needs when I first got her — and can also calculate remaining amp hours in addition to charge percentage, at least theoretically. The Link 1000 Gizmo came with seemed very accurate about actual current use, but nearly drove me bonkers with inaccurate amp hour info (until I was calmed down by battery-smart readers).

A Smartgauge only delivers voltage and SoC (and voltage for a second battery bank) but, wow, it seems to do that amazingly well. While I highly encourage you to read the full Compass Marine Smartgauge review, know that after four months of testing with all four major battery types, RC wrote “If I had three thumbs this product would get all three!” Reading the full test is also a lesson in how difficult battery monitoring really is. In order to calibrate the testing, Collins built a system able to properly measure batteries against their 20 hour capacity rating. Gizmo’s “245 A.H. @ 20Hr” AGM 8D batteries, for instance, should each be able to deliver 12.25 amps per hour for 20 hours while going from full charge to 10.5 volts at about 77 degrees. But these batteries — now at least five years old — no longer have such capacity (if they ever did) and the difficulty of making an accurate 20 hour test would be strike number one against the accuracy of a traditional amp counting monitor (followed by Peukert’s law and other nuances that make this subject so complex).

In fact, RC sometimes had to run three complete 20 hour discharge/recharge tests to determine the capacity of used batteries, and that’s when the Smartgauge really started blowing his mind. Even though it only sees voltage, via a pair of 14 gauge wires going directly to the battery terminals, the Smartgauge usually came up with an accurate State of Charge percentage before Collins and all his precision equipment could even determine accurate capacity. He notes that the device can’t handle Lithium batteries and is less accurate when a bank is being charged, but in discharge mode he believes it’s more accurate than the two traditional shunt sensors he compared it to even though they were painstakingly calibrated (and won’t stay that way on their own). And on top of it all, RC manages to includes some battery geek humor; for cripes sake, if you do act on the results of his hard work, buy your Smartgauge at Compass Marine.

As much as I appreciate RC’s testing and writing, I do feel like an idiot for having had a sample Smartgauge for years but never getting around to testing it. I even installed it on Gizmo’s power panel last spring but then got sidetracked when I realized that I could use the already wired Link shunt with the wonderful CZone Signal Interface (so SoC and live current load are on NMEA 2000, though of course that setup needs better calibration). Another possible test this season is the Victron Color Control QX discussed here, which could conceivably monitor Gizmo’s inverter/charger, batteries (via the latest BMV 700 series) and even the solar panels, with N2K output too.

Finally, I’d like to apologize for an extremely delayed product test to Smartgauge designer Chris Gibbons (though I certainly won’t come close to RC’s super thorough review). The SmartGauge Electronics website is an interesting place to visit but I’m not sure much has happened there since Merlin Power Systems acquired Smartgauge in 2009. At Merlin you can see some of Gibbon’s other power products like SmartBank split charging, and note that Balmar now distributes Smartgauge in the U.S. (reportedly with excellent technical support). But it’s at the original site where you can learn about the Smartgauge test boat — a “trad style” 70-foot narrow boat — along with neat details like how the gauge’s alarm relay outputs can be used with SmartBank to automate a battery locker venting fan. “Smart” is a badly overused word in modern electronic products, but maybe not this time.

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

More Baba blog Part two

Wed, 2014-04-23 15:45

The Baba Story         Part two


Once again: If my memory fails I’ll make something up that sounds right and makes me look good.

When we left the story Bob Berg had quit the TV station and was working full time as a broker. I think the brokerage was called Flying Dutchman, started by my old buddy Will Eickholt.  They were selling Tayana 37′s with good regularity.


One day Bob came in the office and said he had an idea for a new boat. He wanted a 30′ version of the Tayana 37. It should be a heavy little boat with the emphasis on the interior layout. Bob already had the interior laid out in his mind down to the last detail. My work on this layout was simply to draft of Bob’s ideas. So while I would love to take credit for the interior of the Baba 30 I can’t. It’s all Bob Berg. The office joke was, when you open a drawer on the Baba 30 inside it you’ll find another little drawer. Bob didn’t let a cubic inch go unused. I was skeptical.


But I’m not going to design a hull without doing my very best to make it a good performing boat. That’s a challenge with 12,000 lbs. on 30′LOA. I essentially used similar shapes to those in the Tayana 37. The Baba 30 would be a chunky monkey but curvaceous. I’m sitting here now, at my computer, staring up at the Baba 30 half model on my wall. I’m trying to figure out what In did that was “special”. Can’t see it myself. But we’ll get into the performance of the 30 later. On my wall the half model of the Tayana 37 is right above the half model of the Baba 30. There are more similarities than differences.


We tore into the design of the 30 and before long the boat was being built in Taiwan at a new yard, one I had never heard of, Ta Shing , Mandarin for “Big New”. I have always translated Ta Shing as “Big Star” “Shing” meaning “star”. But I was recently corrected. I hate looking stupid. With the build well underway Bob thought I should make a trip to the yard to check on the progress. I met Bob in Taiwan and he was accompanied by his inspector, Tim Ellis. Tim, an Englishman about my age lived in Taiwan and really knew the ropes.  We met early in the morning at the hotel in Taipei and off we drove almost the length of Taiwan to the new yard in Tainan.


Ta Shing was located down a narrow lane in a series of co-joined brown brick buildings that looked less than impressive. The approaching lane was narrow and I had to move chickens out of my way to get to the front door of the yard. The actual Boatbuilding area of the yard was small and dark. There was the Baba 30 to one side and a quarter tonner being built for a Japanese client on the other side. I just stared at the 30. It looked to be perfect in every way. I was blown away by the quality and level of finish. It was a handsome little hooker all dressed up with teak everywhere. But that was Bob’s style. i.e. put teak on everything. Keep in mind that this build was at a time when labor was cheap in Taiwan. I would question a client on a labor intensive detail and get the reply, “Forget labor cost. It’s nothing.” So, here were the first two Ta Shing boats I ever saw. Two boats that could not be more different, an IOR quarter tonner and a very heavy little double ender. Both built beautifully.


Everybody was happy. The yard wanted to take Me, Bob and Tim to dinner. The problem was that we had made other dinner plans back in Taipei. This was a problem. The solution was lunch with the guys from the yard. Off we went for a “modest” lunch. The Taiwanese are not good at doing modest meals. I was the guest of honor and along with about six men from the yard we sat down to an extravagant feast in a private room at a nice restaurant. These plush, private rooms were common in better restaurants in Taiwan. The room layout was simple, a series of big armchairs lining the four walls and a big circular dining table in the middle.


The Taiwanese don’t drink during a meal the way we do. If my observations are correct the Taiwanese only take a drink after they have toasted the guest. They employ an unfair tactic here. They gang up on the guest. I was the guest of honor so I was the toasting target. I had six guys toasting me in quick rotation. Each toast was “gumbei” or bottoms up. We were probably drinking Taiwan beer which is most excellent beer. I don’t know. I passed out. I woke up in one of the overstuffed chairs with a wet towel over my face. As I came to and removed the towel I looked to my right and there was a Taiwanese guy, Jackson, passed out with a towel over his face in the next chair. Leaving the restaurant I said to Tim, “I must have lost face passing out like that.” Tim said, “No, Jackson passed out first.” You’re fine.


Tim, Bob and I were not in too good a shape for the drive back to Taipei. But off we went in Tim’s little car, cruising down the brand new end to end of Taiwan highway. The highway was not finished but this did not deter the Taiwanese drivers. They sped down the divided highway totally oblivious of which side of the highway they should be on. There were abrupt 4″ high changes in the highway level at frequent intervals. Small Taiwanese cars that had never been driven over 40-mph were lined up, broken on both sides of the highway. Tim always prided himself on his ability to take advantage of the free form style of Taiwan driving rules so to keep us awake he would do very strange things on the highway. It was exciting.


We pulled up to my hotel THE SANTOS to find our dinner party waiting for us in the lobby. Great. I asked for time to clean up before dinner. One of the dinner party went up to my room with me. I don’t remember his name but he was about my age, maybe even younger. He was extremely curious about all the things I traveled with. I travel heavy. He literally went through my bag asking what each item was for and how much I paid for it. I thought it was funny and I truly admired his curiosity and keen effort to learn. I have no recollection of dinner at all. It was a very long day.


I just called Bob Berg. I wanted to know what a Baba 30 cost when they were introduced. Bob is going to get back to me on that. But in conversation about my blog I askd Bob if he remembered the time I passed out at lunch. His reply was, “Well, that happened several times.” Some friend he is.

It would take me some time to realize that it was socially OK  to say ,”Ee pan” meaning “one half”. Avoiding the bottoms up trap. Also in time I got to the point where just couldn’t take the “let’s drink the big nose under the table tactic any longer. I devised my own plan. When asked to dinner by a hospitable builder I would decline explaining that I had a previous dinner engagement. This worked well. But in time it back fired and dinner invites became few and scarce. I was left to fend for myself at dinner time and Taiwanese food is not best enjoyed alone. But eating alone in a crowded Sichuan restaurant did at times lead to some interesting situations. My favorite place to eat by myself was Y. Y’s Steak House on Chung San be loo. They knew me there and I never had to order. They would just bring me the exact same thing I had eaten the previous time at the very same table: Fried salami appetizer, a gin and tonic, corn chowder, salad, a fabulous New York steak and a bottle of Torres Sangre de Toro Spanish wine. I never had the heart to change my order. I thoight it would have dissapointed the, The head waitress was Jessica. I felt at home there in that strange steak house with an ambiance of a mixture of Scottish hunting lodge and African safari bungalow. One night I returned from Kaohsiung late and went straight to Y. Y’s. I had called and made a reservation. When I got there the help was sleeping on the bench seats in the deserted dining area but they got up and sprang into action when I walked in. Y.Y. had his four year old son there. I ate my dinner while Y’Y's son stood at my table singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star over and over and over. Y’Y's is probably my most favorite restaurant in the world.


An aside:

You have probably noticed that I don’t call the people of Taiwan “Chinese”. This is a very thorny issue and I am not smart enough to explain it in accurate detail. But the way I see it is this: If you came to Taiwan before Chang Kai Shek you consider yourself Taiwanese. You probably speak Taiwanese when you get together with your friends. If you came to Taiwan with Shang Kai Shek  or after Mao took power in China, you probably consider yourself Chinese and you would speak Mandarin first and Taiwanese as a second dialect. However, today, my young 30 something Taiwanese friends are fiercely independent and I get a very strong feeling that they want to be Taiwanese and totally separate from China. This is causing some problems.  Attending Wayne Chen’s mother’s 80th birthday party everyone was speaking Taiwanese. I asked why they were not speaking Mandarin and I got an earful. Dui bu xi ( I’m sorry). Thanks to my Taiwanese friend Wayne Shen for going over these details with me and correcting me.

Xie xie loaoshi. ( Thank you teacher)


When the first Baba 30 came to Seattle I was pleasantly surprised at how well the snug interior worked. Bob was right and I should not have been skeptical. But how did the little “brick” sail? It sailed very well thank you. It is very light on the helm and well balanced. It is surprisingly quick in light air. One weekend of the Perry Rendezvous we had an informal race to the harbor. Due my son’s soccer game I got a late start and began motoring the Valiant 40 down the Sound. Up ahead was the Rendezvous fleet with a Baba 30 in last place. It was flying a big, colorful cruising chute in the light Northerly. Well hell, I couldn’t just motor over or under the Baba 30. That would be really bad form. So I did the only thing I could do, I put up the sails on the Valiant 40 and started sailing. About what seemed like an hour later I pulled ahead of the Baba 30. Mind you I did not have a big cruising chute but still. I thought the Baba 30 was moving very well and I gained more respect for the boat that day.


There was a brick layer from Baltimore who did a solo circumnavigation in his Baba. He sent me post cards along the way. I have friends that love their Baba’s. There are a handful of my designs that surprised me in that they turned out better boats than I had anticipated. I’d count the Baba 30 in that lot.


In time Ta Shing would go on to become the biggest and most prestigious yacht builder in Taiwan. Their new yard is amazing.  The Baba 30 would lead to the Baba 35 aka Flying Dutchman 35 and from there to one of my all time favorite designs of mine the Baba 40. I had the honor of racing a Baba 35, pilot house version a year ago and we did amazingly well and surprised a lot of people. The boat can go despite its ultra traditional look. In the next chapter I will go into more detail on the 35, 40 and the change over to the Tashiba brand.

Aerodynamic Wing Control and . . . Other Stuff

Wed, 2014-04-23 13:19

By Kimball Livingston Posted April 23, 2014

Suddenly we have anecdotal evidence in plenty that there’s nothing like a hot lime-colored wing on a sailboat to set people a’wondering, and we were able to address the collective WTF in our piece about Richard Jenkins’ prototype of a wing for a wind-assisted ferry of the maybe-future.

If you haven’t seen that story, and you want to, and if looking around the Home page is below your pay grade, you can find the story here.

Among reactions to the piece, there was a posting on the forum of BAMA, the Bay Area Multihull Association, by Oracle Racing wing designer Tom Speer. When Tom speaks, people listen, and he gave me permission to repeat his post here. He describes Harbor Wing, and we’ve written about Harbor Wing before. They were on a roll until funding dried up. I’ll let Tom take over, but before I make the handoff, there’s this. I note that Tom refers to the Scripps Flip, a truly unique contraption that I toured in San Diego as a perk of calling on Mark Ott of Harbor Wing. Lots of folks have been around boats a lifetime and never seen anything where the facilities can be rotated 90 degrees, as they have to be on the Scripps Flip.

Okay, Tom, take it away . . .

“In addition to Richard Jenkins’ prototype, there’s the Harborwing X2 prototype (photos: Harbor Wing}. Mark Ott has also worked with Morelli & Melvin on the conceptual design of a wingsail powered cruising cat.

“I had a chance to visit with Mark Ott onboard the Harbor Wing X2 when it was in San Diego, tied up to the Scripps Flip. It is a modified Condor 50 trimaran, and it’s capable of operating offshore. At the time, Mark was looking to do some voyages to show the offshore capability, and was trying to find the funding to continue the boat’s development. There was a lot of the interior taken up by the mounting structure of the cantilevered wing, but that’s to be expected with a prototype. I think a purpose-designed boat wouldn’t sacrifice as much to the rig. But it is really important that the wing have very good bearings and a support structure that won’t bind up when it flexes or be subject to fatigue failure.

“Both boats use an aerodynamically controlled wingsail. Jenkins’ tail is an innovative application of an aircraft configuration in which boom-mounted tails extend the span of the wing for reduced drag. The twin tails of the Harbor Wing configuration avoid the problem with “hunting” at low angles of attack, when the wake of the wing can affect the ability of the tail to precisely control the wing near zero lift, as when the wing is feathered when moored. Harbor Wing’s X1 prototype, a modified cruising cat, uncovered the fact that even though a wing can be feathered to produce zero net lift when moored, wind shear could still generate a dangerous heeling moment. That was the genesis of their split wing approach, in which the upper and lower halves can move independently, controlling heeling moment as well as lift.

“My experience with an aerodynamically controlled landyacht rig showed that the rig was quite good at gust load alleviation and was better than my manual wing-trimming skills when sailing in light, shifty winds.

“I think there’s a lot of potential for aerodynamically-controlled wing rigs on cruising boats. The big question is how well they will work under extreme conditions. In principle, a wing can be feathered to produce less drag than bare poles. But whether or not the wing will respond quickly enough in gusty conditions, or be affected by motion in a heavy seaway, will determine if wingsails are safe for use offshore.

Cheers, Tom Speer”

Footnote from the editor:

The Harbor Wing concept of a cruising cat includes a wing computerized sufficiently to appeal to a powerboat skipper who wants to dial in a course and speed and walk away. Probably, that capability a matter of when, not if.

As for Wind + Wing Technologies—

A few years ago, when they were in-concept but not yet sailing a demo platform, we published the following about their collaboration with Morrelli & Melvin. The M&M in-house man who was front and center on the project was Bobby Kleinschmit:

“At Morrelli & Melvin, we started in early 2008,” said Kleinschmit. “First we did a comprehensive feasibility study. We modeled winds over San Francisco Bay ferry routes for a full year to develop a basis for estimating fuel savings. It was interesting because the route from the San Francisco Ferry Building to Sausalito and back is ideal for wind assist—or for being fully wind powered on some of the runs.”

Let’s note, further, that it would be a reach-out, reach-back between Fisherman’s Wharf and Alcatraz for the commercial operators who carry tourists out to “The Rock.” I figure that’s even more ideal for sail, considering the bias toward reach-reach and the bias toward a summertime (seabreeze) timeframe.I will share with you that, when Jay Gardner did a presentation on this forward-thinking subject at the St. Francis Yacht Club (programs that are open to members of all recognized yacht clubs), there were leaders of commercial ferry companies who came to meet and listen.

Gardner recalls that he first approached Golden Gate Transit in July, 2008, “and right off the bat the meeting started with an admission that if diesel weren’t $4.75 a gallon they would not even be talking to me.

“But, we went to them because they’re the most operationally experienced. We knew we’d have to convince the most hard-nosed ferry guys.”

Don Street Stories: It’s a miracle he ever got published!

Wed, 2014-04-23 10:11

The Don Street article started at the Annapolis Sailboat Show in 2011. I met SAIL’s editor, Peter Nielsen, at a World Cruising Club party. We started discussing Don Street. I was adamant that despite his age, he was still relevant to my younger generation of ‘real’ sailors. He sometimes talked in ancient terms, referencing long-ago obsolete technology. But the substance was still at the core. Street speaks in sailing Truths – it’s just a matter of wading through the history to uncover them.

I started writing this piece the following February. Street himself was cooperative, sending me pages and pages of personal histories he’s either written or had written about him. Wading through his emails, I began to understand why Peter had said nobody will accept his work anymore – he writes in one long run-on sentence, and is apparently oblivious to capitalization and punctuation.

“It’s always been that way,” Peter explained. “One editor after another tackled his work, and one after another just got burned out on it.”

It’s a wonder he was ever published in the first place. And yet, there is passion in his work. The Truth is in there, always has been, and it’s thanks to his many editors over the years that it’s now out there for all of us.

After a year of researching, writing and re-writing, I realized I was never going to properly finish the article until I spoke at length with Street himself. I finally had that opportunity in October, again at the Annapolis Sailboat Show. I met Street in his small apartment upstairs of Weems & Plath, where Peter Trogdon, enthusiastic owner of the classic nautical instruments company, hosts him every year.

“He’s a legend,” says Trogdon, “of course I’m going to have him here!”

We sat down at a round table – when I arrived, Street made me wait a few minutes while he finished making corrections to one of the Imray-Iolaire charts – and chatted for over an hour-and-a-half. 


Tue, 2014-04-22 17:59

By Kimball Livingston Posted April 22, 2014

And not really, of course, but it’s not all that often that the Coast Guard’s Commander of the Pacific Area, Defense Force West, is promoted to the office of Commandant. That part doesn’t become official until ceremonies in Washington, D.C. a few weeks hence, but—

Today, the process began with a Change of Command ceremony at Coast Guard Island, Alameda, in which Vice Admiral Paul Zukunft, Commandant-to-be, handed off the Pacific Area command to Vice Admiral Charlie Ray.

(Go Razorbacks)

We’re in good hands. In the pic we see, left to right, Zukunft, Admiral Robert Papp, Commandant, and Ray. While the new Commandant wrangles Washington on behalf of the service, Vice Admiral Ray will be in charge of 13,000 Coast Guard personnel and their missions covering 74 million square miles of ocean, encompassing six of the seven continents and touching 71 countries.

No small matter.

And these stories generally begin here, in the leadership laboratory known as the USCGC Eagle. You can read my story about the Eagle by clicking here.

The Commandant to be offers these parting words:

I would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to the communities of Alameda, Oakland and San Francisco. My wife and I have called the Bay Area home for the past two years, and have been honored to call you all our neighbors while serving as the Coast Guard’s Pacific Area Commander.

These communities have embraced my family just as they have embraced all of the 4,000 Coast Guard members and their families that are assigned here and call the Bay Area home.

We work closely with our partner agencies here in the Bay Area to maintain a 24/7 readiness and response stance against threats affecting national security, as well as safety of life and property at sea not only in the Bay Area, but throughout the 74 millions of square miles in the PACAREA area of responsibility, placing the communities of the Bay Area on the front lines of Coast Guard operations.

The Bay Area Coast Guard is comprised of boat stations, a buoy tender, an air station, training centers, three national security cutters and regional headquarters commands that coordinate operations throughout California and the entire Pacific. Our national security cutters, Bertholf, Waesche and Stratton, provide long-range offshore capabilities and regularly conduct counter-drug patrols off the coasts of Central and South America as well as fisheries patrols in Alaska.

Alameda has a special claim to the Coast Guard family by not only being a Coast Guard City, but by also being home to the first national security cutter, the Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf. Each time one of these cutters deploys to the Eastern Pacific for counter illicit trafficking patrols, or north to the Arctic, they sail through the Golden Gate out to sea. But they come home the communities of the Bay Area.

In 2013 we melded as a community to show the world what the Bay Area has to offer by hosting the 34th America’s Cup Race, which was held in the heart of the Port of San Francisco. We worked closely with the event organizer and local agencies that operate on the Bay to create a race route that allowed for a safe and secure race while minimizing the impacts to commercial shipping traffic.

During my time in the Bay Area I have witnessed your outpouring of support when we needed our community the most. Our partner agencies and our communities mourned with us when we remembered both Senior Chief Petty Officer Terrell Horne and Petty Officer 3rd Class Travis Obendorf. Though the circumstances behind both deaths were very different, it reminds us that our jobs are inherently dangerous and we depend on the support of our community agencies to get the mission done, both while deployed and at home.

As I get prepare for my next adventure as the Commandant of the Coast Guard, I am inspired by the way the Bay Area communities have embraced our Coast Guard shipmates and families. I ask you to join me in welcoming our new Pacific Area Commander, Vice Adm. Charles Ray, as he assumes the mantle of command for the Bay Area’s largest military force. I am truly grateful to have served in such a caring and vibrant region.


Vice Adm. Paul F. Zukunft

MID-ATLANTIC CRUISE: Bareboat Chartering in the Azores

Tue, 2014-04-22 15:42

While dawdling about the North Atlantic in my old Alberg 35 yawl Crazy Horse I spent nine months in the Azores in 1995 and ’96. The beautiful nine-island archipelago just sucked me right in. With its dramatic volcanic topography, verdant sub-tropical foliage, sumptuous mid-ocean cloud formations, amazingly friendly people, low food prices, and exquisite architecture it seemed to me a paradise on earth. But if you had told me back then there would one day be a successful bareboat charter operation in the islands, I would have laughed at you.

Not that the sailing is bad. Much of the time it is perfectly splendid, with interestingly variable breezes and occasionally challenging conditions to keep you honest. The big problem was parking. The islands have virtually no natural harbors, anchoring along the steep-sided shore is usually impossible, and the few moorings you were apt to find in those days were grossly unreliable. During my time there I did manage to visit and explore seven of the nine islands, but I had a few skin-of-my-teeth experiences in some of the tiny man-made harbors, and one acquaintance of mine actually lost his boat after he left it in the harbor at Vila do Porto on Santa Maria on a seemingly solid mooring that failed.

But that was then. When I first visited the Azores, as crew aboard Constellation in 1992, there was just one safe haven for yachts, at the marina in Horta on the island of Faial. By the time I returned on Crazy Horse in 1995 there were two more. One was a new marina at Praia da Vitoria on Terceira, where I was the first American ever to visit. (I remember I was very pleased when I learned they weren’t charging for dock space, but I wasn’t so pleased when I found an enormous dead pig floating next to my boat the morning after I checked in.) The other was a new marina at Ponta Delgada on Sao Miguel, where Crazy Horse was one of three transient yachts to winter over.

Nowadays there are marinas on all the islands but two (Corvo and Graciosa), there are two marinas on Sao Miguel (at Vila Franca do Campo, as well as Ponta Delgada), and the existing marinas at both Horta and Ponta Delgada have been greatly expanded. This not only makes it possible for transient bluewater cruisers to easily visit multiple islands while sailing through, it also (gasp!) makes bareboat chartering perfectly feasible.

The first such operation, SailAzores, was started just three years ago and runs a small fleet of Dufours, ranging in size from 37 to 45 feet. Their clients are mostly from central Europe, and last week SAIL‘s editor-in-chief Peter Nielsen and I (together with one imported photographer, Graham Snook, from the UK) became the first bareboat charterers ever to visit from the United States. For me it was something like a return to Valhalla. I love these islands and being able to sail there again without having to first make a major ocean passage was a real treat.

The town of Horta on Faial, seen from on high

A classic view from the Horta marina, with the 7,680-foot peak on the island of Pico seen in the distance

The main drag in Horta, as seen from sea level

We started our tour at Horta, which has long been Sailor Central for transatlantic bluewater cruisers, as far back as Joshua Slocum. We had only a week to spend, and as you can see on the map up there, the islands are quite spread out, with 370 miles of open ocean stretching between the easternmost and westernmost islands. So we limited our exploration to three of the islands in the central group, taking a day on each to explore by car.

For anyone else coming to charter here from the States, I’d recommend taking two weeks if at all possible. This will give you time to visit all the central islands, plus shoot over to the east and/or west. There is a fair chance you’ll be weather-bound for a day or two, so having extra time in hand is always a good idea. If you’re lucky with the weather and feeling ambitious, it is possible to visit all nine islands during one two-week cruise.

My man Duncan Sweet (on the right), originally from New Hampshire, has been operating Mid-Atlantic Yacht Services in Horta for over 20 years now. He helped me sort a few problems on Crazy Horse way back when, and now tells me he’s looking to sell his business so he can go sailing again

A typical sidewalk in Horta. You see these basalt mosaics on the streets of most Azorean towns. Even the crosswalks are inlaid!

For decades transient sailors have left paintings on the harbor walls in Horta. A few charter guests do it, too, but personally I think this is uncool. The unwritten rule is that you have to cross an ocean before leaving a painting here

The wall paintings are surprisingly impermanent. You see few that are more than few years old, and the paintings I made for Constellation (1992) and Crazy Horse (1996) were long gone. Dieter on Lady Summerfield, as you can see, didn’t take any chances and solved this problem by making his mark with tiles

A pair of cruising kids wielding brushes

Boss Nielsen makes the scene at Peter’s Cafe Sport, the most famous sailor’s bar in the world

The marina at Horta is one of the best places in the world to ogle bluewater boats. You always see a fascinating array of offbeat vessels. My favorite this visit was this Golden Hind 31, which looked to be about the same vintage as my old Golden Hind Sophie

The highlight of our tour of Faial was a visit to Capelinhos on the island’s northeast corner. From September 1957 through October 1958 this was the site of an ongoing volcanic eruption that destroyed two villages and led over a third of the island’s population (about 2,000 people) to emigrate to the U.S. and Canada.

Capelinhos today. The lighthouse was formerly on an exposed headland, but now is inland, and all the land you see there on the right, nearly 3 square kilometers, was created during the eruption

Capelinhos during the eruption. Faial’s main volcanic caldera (or crater) in the center of the island was also involved, as the lake there drained away and fumaroles of boiling clay and mud appeared on the crater floor

A wasted village, post eruption. Fortunately there were no fatalities, but there was a great deal of property damage

We had a marvelous sail from Horta over to the town of Velas on Sao Jorge the following day. It was a beat, but the wind was moderate, 10-12 knots, and we were able to lay Velas after just two tacks. There’s great little marina there now that’s perfectly secure, with an extremely friendly harbormaster, but when I last visited Velas on Crazy Horse back in 1996 the only place to park was right on the seawall.

My second morning there the harbormaster came down and told me I had to leave immediately, as the monthly freighter was coming in ahead of schedule. He and a buddy cast off my lines post haste, before I was ready, and the boat’s caprail on one side was smashed to pieces as I pulled off the wall. Then, as soon as I cleared the harbor, a surprise gale blew in out of the southwest, and I spent the next eight hours running off to the north in a vicious 50-knot breeze. I didn’t make it to Horta until the next afternoon, and then had to spend the next two days after that fixing up my caprail.

So, yes. This time I really did appreciate that marina.

Another sail spied en route to Velas, with the top of Pico just peaking out of the clouds

Boss Nielsen demonstrates his power-lounging technique as we approach Sao Jorge

The town of Velas, seen from on high, with Faial in the background. You can see the wondrous yacht marina in the lower righthand corner of the harbor, directly across from the evil wall. The smaller marina in the upper corner is for fishing boats

And yes, as I said, the current harbormaster is exceedingly friendly. So friendly that after we toured the island by car the following day he arranged for us to use the local pilot boat as a photo chase boat so Graham could snap pix of us sailing by the town.

The one downside to the marina, I should note, is that at night the high cliffs directly above it are inhabited by a vast flock of very noisy shearwaters. They sounded like deranged children and cackled with glee until well after midnight.

Downtown Velas, with dragon emerging from pool

The public garden in Velas. The little stone house you see behind the lamp-post furthest left is filled with dozens of parakeets

One of many weird ducks that lives on the waterfront in Velas. Unlike the shearwaters, they had nothing to say

Sao Jorge is a long, tall spine of an island, girded round on all sides by very high cliffs. Along the coast there are a few flat tongues of land, known as fajas, that are prized for their habitability. This is one of the biggest ones, Faja do Ouvidor, seen from on high

Dolphins and a pair of recreational fishermen enjoy an evening outing in the channel between Sao Jorge and Pico

Journalistic incest. I shoot Graham shooting Nielsen as he prepares a dinner onboard

In the local parlance: Pico wears a hat. Our first morning in Velas we found it had snowed on high across the channel during the night

After one full day on Sao Jorge, we sailed around to south shore of Pico and had good wind most the way. First a steady breeze from behind us as we scooted down the Sao Jorge channel and around the eastern tip of Pico, then lots of erratic blustery gusts as we sailed west with the high land of Pico towering above us. After only a wee bit of motoring, we landed at last in the town of Lajes, which is unusual among Azorean harbors in that it has shoal water. We squeezed into the marina there with no trouble and soon after tying up headed for the local whaling museum.

Whaling used to be a big deal in the Azores. The waters around the islands are thick with marine mammals, and Azoreans first learned about whaling when they signed on as crew aboard American whalers that came to archipelago both to hunt and reprovision. By the middle of the 19th century, Azoreans were hunting on their own in local waters from small open boats. Pico, and Lajes in particular, was the focus of much of this activity until as late as 1984.

The mountain of Pico, shrouded in cloud, as seen from the marina in Lajes. That’s our boat, Insula, on the right, with another SailAzores Dufour 375 right next to it

Inside the whaling museum. Whale watching instead of whale hunting is now a significant source of income in Lajes

A museum model of an Azorean whaleboat, with all relevant gear. These were the boats used right up until 1984, and there are many men on the islands still alive today who once worked in them

South coast of Pico near Lajes

Though Azoreans stopped whaling, they haven’t stopped building and maintaining whaleboats, which they now race under both sail and oars. We found this example in a boathouse in a small village near Lajes. On the wall you can see photos of crew members and a case full of trophies

Azoreans are also still maintaining the old motor launches that were once used to tow whaleboats out to the hunting grounds

Many Azoreans are also still fishing from small wooden skiffs in the traditional style. You’ll note, however, that they do install electronics

Alas, we lost the vaunted Snook, our photographer, on Pico, as he had to catch a ferry back to Faial to hop a flight home to the UK. Nielsen and I spent an extra day on the island, then motored back to Horta in a bit of rain the following afternoon. There we had a chance to dine again at Cafe Sport with our friends from SailAzores and were introduced to Jose Azevedo, the current proprietor and grandson of the famous bar’s original founder.

The next day we flew to Sao Miguel and lay over one night before catching our flight back to Boston. Again, thanks to the extremely gracious tourism board, we had a car at our disposal and were able to tour around a bit before moving on.

Jose Azevedo gave us a personal tour of his family’s famous scrimshaw museum. Among the items on display is a well-known photo he took of a huge storm that hit Faial in February 1986. You can see a human face in the immense sheet of spray above the rock on the left

This is but a small portion of the Cafe Sport scrimshaw collection, which most likely is the largest in the world. This set of sperm whale teeth is adorned with likenesses of various famous sailors and members of the Azevedo family

The north coast of Sao Miguel

Sao Miguel has three major volcanic calderas, two of which are inhabited. This is the village of Sete Cidades, situated on the floor of the western caldera, as seen from the crater rim

This is the village of Furnas, which is inside the eastern caldera

Hot sulphur springs outside Furnas. This suggests to me that this volcano is not entirely inactive

An old friend on the hard in Ponta Delgada. Back when I last visited the Azores very few locals had yachts, as there was no place to keep them. Now, with all the marinas, local yachts are quite common. This was one of the first ones, an old Cheoy Lee ketch that was imported to Ponta Delgada the winter I lived in the marina there. She was berthed right across from Crazy Horse, and of course I was both surprised and pleased to find she is still hanging out there


How Much Has It Changed?

All of you with distant memories of the Azores will be pleased to know the islands have actually changed very little over the last two decades. The harbors everywhere have been greatly improved, and there are a few more tourists than there used to be, but otherwise I was very pleased to find things were much as I remembered them. The one exception was Sao Miguel, which now has divided highways traversing part of the island and a cruise ship dock in Ponta Delgada. Gack! Cruise ships also visit Horta, but they cannot land there and evidently do not spend the night.

Stuff You Need To Know

This ain’t the BVI people. To charter a boat here you need a fair amount of experience, as the sailing can be challenging at times. You don’t need a certificate, but you will be queried closely as to your experience and background and may be turned away if these are found wanting.

No, the tourism board will not give you cars to drive like they did us, but you can easily rent them and can make arrangements through SailAzores to have a car waiting for you wherever you go. Alternatively, you can just hitchhike your way around when exploring each island. This is how I got around when I stayed here before. People are very friendly and often stop to pick up hitchers, but in some places the traffic is very thin.

All marina fees are included in your charter fee, and SailAzores will make sure there is space for you and people to greet you in every marina you visit. On the two islands without marinas they will make sure there are secure moorings for you to stay on.

One downside to cruising in any Portuguese jurisdiction is that you have to book in and out of every port you visit. The Portuguese love their paperwork, but in the Azores at least everyone is very nice about it. You can usually book out of ports the day before you actually leave, which simplifies things, and since officials see the SailAzores charter boats all the time they do seem willing to cut them a little slack.

The charter season runs from April through October. The best time to come is May through September. If you’re interested in doing this, be sure to plan ahead. The summer season this year is already all booked up.

English is widely but not universally spoken.

Many Thanks To

Nicolau Faria, Joao Portela, Anabela Costa, and Emidio Goncalves of SailAzores

The Azores Tourism Board

  • facebook
  • twitter