Sail Feed

Syndicate content
Brought to you by Sail Magazine
Updated: 53 min 10 sec ago

Tense moments and unanswered questions

Sat, 2014-06-07 22:08

Pulling out the jib was an unexpected bonus as we sailed south from the islands of Langkawi.It’s more than 400 miles from there to Singapore, and we hoped to break it up with extended visits in Penang and Malacca to experience the interesting food, culture, and history they offer. But service delays stole that time, so we had to hustle south instead. The transit has turned out to be a string of strange encounters and some stressful situations.

We tried fishing for a while, even though we knew there wasn’t much chance of a catch.  After reeling in several varieties of “plastic bag fish”, we kept our lines on board. Then, all the dead fish started to show up.

We had heard of large fish die-offs reported in other parts of the world, but don’t know where the conspiracy theorist reports end and real concern begins. It’s common knowledge that this area is over fished, but we didn’t expect to see evidence of a local die off – especially one that involved so many fish. But we passed thousands of dead fish, like this one, between Penang and Pangkor. What was the cause?

Off Pangkor, our chain wrapped around a large, abandoned anchor. Jamie was able to lasso a fluke to wrestle it off, but the pretty light of dawn didn’t make it any better. I’m grateful Totem has a robust windlass!

Large vessels ply the waters near coastal ports. This huge barge passed behind Honey at Pangkor, where the catamaran was anchored just outside the channel for a night.

Seeing smoke on the horizon, we angled toward a boat that appeared to be on fire.

On closer examination, it was just normal operation. Double whammy for the environment.

Much of what we see isn’t glossy magazine spread Malaysia. It’s industrial developing Malaysia.

When the heat of the day passes, we linger in the cockpit during our evenings at anchor. At least, as long as the bugs don’t come out! One night we were descended upon by large flying cockroaches… I am not a fan.

Passing the shipping terminals at Port Klang early in the morning, we shared the channel with everything from massive cargo ships to wooden fishing boats taking a cue from fanciful sketches of Noah’s Ark. All interesting, until our engine overheated and was shut down at the south end of the entrance channel.

This was a convergence point where large ships enter the port from the Straits of Malacca: not a good place to have compromised navigation capabilities. With lots of current, little wind, and a chopped up sea, it was cause for serious concern.

Thankfully, we had a working engine and steerage before boats this big were too close, but there were tense moments and it dragged out long enough that we were getting tow lines out to throw to SV Utopia. Look closely to see the small, southbound sailboat chose to tacking alongside: probably not as close as it looks, but not where I’d want to be.

We were underway soon enough, but slightly stressed about the unknown root cause for our engine overheating. Nothing like a flyby visit from a couple of powered paragliders to lighten things up a little!

In Port Dickson, we stopped to break for a few days at the lovely Admiral Marina. It’s a pretty resort with a nice, protected facility for cruisers and residential yachts. The collected kids between our boat and two companions numbered eleven altogether, and made for epic games of Marco Polo at the pool. But our reprieve was broken when problems with dock wiring damaged our battery charger and nearly caused a fire. It’s extremely fortunate we were on board at the time and able to shut it down before it got out of control. This facility takes customer service more seriously than any other marina we have experienced in Malaysia, and is working with us to replace the damaged equipment.

Down the dock, the caregiver for a boat with an absentee owner encountered acrid fumes on board. Uncertain what was wrong, she solicited help from cruisers on the dock. Jamie’s instinct was the battery bank:  after a quick search, he found the batteries snapping and crackling with heat. He quickly disconnected them from power inputs and got off the boat, but it was extremely dangerous as the batteries are highly explosive and full of acid. Even just a few minutes in the cabin left him with sore eyes for a day, but the alternative was a major boat fire in the marina.

Our stop in Port Dickson was partly for a follow up from the Yanmar service that helped us with the tune up. The alternator belt replaced in Langkawi was loose, a possible root cause for the overheating we experienced earlier. It’s tightened, and we cross our fingers.

Today we’ll reach Puteri Harbour, our last stop before Singapore. There were no tours of Penang or Malacca on our journey south on the Malay peninsula, but sometimes you just have to put miles under the keel. The disappointment is easy to put in perspective, since we’ll probably be back this way in November and can make it up then. Meanwhile, the engine has overheated again…

Mellow readers know we love it when you read this on the Sailfeed website.

Communication Breakdown: Helping Family Let Go

Sat, 2014-06-07 18:32

Around about now, I expect I am somewhere on the East coast, dining out with friends.  Worried about exactly where I am? I’m used to that. Back in the day, some well-meaning family members got a little nervous about our whereabouts, too.

Originally posted as Calling All Worrywarts, or, Next Stop, 1996! on December 15, 2010
As this little blog has grown, I have gotten the odd bit of mail from you, my dear readers.  Most of it is kind.  Some of it is mystifying.  But much of it comes from landlubberly types.  With that in mind, it is time for the educational (or, as Stylish, age 3, would have put it, edumacational) portion of our blog.  This will take the form of a Q&A with concerned readers Heckle and Jeckle.  Today’s topic is:

When do we call the Coast Guard?   “I’m concerned about this sailing business, old bean!

Heckle & Jeckle:  Look here, Papillon Crew.  Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.  You move around too much.  You don’t move around enough.  Your track goes higgeldy piggeldy, hither and yon.  Your track has gaps.  Your track goes impossible places.  You stopped in the middle of the ocean.  All you do is write blog posts.  You never write blog posts.  You don’t answer emails.  You don’t take calls.  All this makes me anxious.  How will you ever get help without us?  We’re calling the Coast Guard. Papillon Crew:  No, you’re not. H&J:  But… PC:  No. H&J:  Oh, come on… PC:  No. H&J:  Fine then!  Explain yourselves. PC:  Avec plaisir.  Let’s go through our issues in order. Complaint #1:  I disapprove of your frequency of movement! Response:  In the early days, we moved almost every day.  That is because a) we needed the practice, and b) it was getting very, very cold in the Chesapeake.  And if there is one thing I object to in this life, it is being cold.  As we reached points south, the weather improved.  (Well, not here in Florida, apparently.  It is frigid here.)  Otherwise, hurray.  And so we started to linger.  Contrary to what you may think, we are out on this tub to loaf about in the tropics.  We aren’t trying to circumnavigate, or race, or do anything else that would involve a lot of moving.  Yes, we want to have fun sailing, but we also want to drop anchor and swim.  And make sandcastles.  And fly kites.  You get the picture. Summary:  We’ll move when we feel like it and not before. Complaint #2:  Your tracker is misleading, confusing, and makes me worried!  Response:  Our Spot, while a nifty little gadget, has its flaws.  First, it will only track us for 24 hours at a time.  After that, we have to press the button again to keep it going.  That may not sound like much, but we’re usually otherwise occupied on passage with things like fatigue, feeding children, and whichever alternator has caught fire that day.  So, a few hours go by before we remember Spot.  Thus, the gap. Also, batteries die.  With the aforementioned feeding and fires, we also don’t always have time to change out batteries the moment Spot dies.  Result: more gaps. As for the funny tracks, Papillon is a sailing vessel.  When we need to muck around with the sails, we turn head-to-wind.  It may look like we are veering off-course, but really we’re just changing something.  Keep watching and… see?  Back on course. As for those mid-trip float-abouts, they are occasionally a necessary evil for rather benign reasons.  If we find that our current course and speed will get us into port in the middle of the night, we need to choose: speed up or slow down.  Unlike in a car, there is only so much velocity-adjustment you can practically do.  Tides, currents, wind speed… all of these things constrain us.  Once in a while, we’ll choose to heave-to and just float around for a while on a calm day.  That may get us in at 7 am instead of 3 am, which is much, much safer. Summary:  Spot is spotty and sailing means funny tracks. Complaint #3:  Your communication stinks. Response:  Well, now.  Our boat has an aluminum hull.  That means we live in a big Faraday cage.  We don’t get signals down below – not internet, not cell phone.  And the honest truth is, as time goes by, more often than not we forget we own these fancy devices.  We’re busy doing math with Stylish, or reading a book to Indy.  We’ve wandered off to the craft fair in town and forgotten to turn on the phone.  It isn’t that we don’t love you.  We are just doing other stuff. Plus, the internet hates us, and that is that.  Connections have been worse and worse as we moved south.  And I just won’t waste an hour every night trying to suck my email over the three seconds of connection I manage to grab. Summary:  Our boat is rejecting your call. Don’t take it personally. Complaint #4:  You have no concept of safety and can’t take care of yourselves, you tiny babies. Response:  Hold on.  My eyes have rolled right back in my head and I can’t see to type. Ohhhkaaaay.  Here’s what we’ve got, just off the top of my head, in case of trouble: Warning systems: Fire alarms.  Carbon monoxide detectors.  Erik’s inhuman hearing.  AIS so big ol’ ships know we’re there. Preparedness training:  Man overboard drills.  Fire drills (kids included).  And I mean full dry runs, right up to mock-activating the life raft. Response systems: Fire extinguishers.  Fire blankets.  Self-inflating life raft with food onboard.  Communications:  VHF to talk to your friends the Coast Guard.  SSB for offshore.  An EPIRB registered to our vessel which automatically gives all of our information to the Coast Guard, and has its own GPS unit.  It is independent of all other boat systems, and would go with us if we abandon ship. Natural suspicion:  I don’t pick up hitchhikers, and if you think I’m inviting anyone strange onboard without pointing a flare gun in their face, you don’t know me very well.  We will radio for help for other people, but my kids come first. Summary:  For reals, we know how and when to get help. H&J:  Yeah, okay.  I guess you’ve thought of a few things.  But I want to be connected to you right now! PC:   Tough nuts. H&J:  Hey! PC:  No, seriously.  During university, I spent a month on my own in Indonesia for a research project.  There was rioting in Jakarta just before I went.  Towns I visited got burned down after I left. And did anyone panic because they couldn’t reach tiny Amy during this dangerous time?  No.  Because it was 1996.  No one expected me to have access to a phone or email during those prehistoric days.  Everyone had to trust I was okay, and wait for a postcard. So here is the deal.  We are all going to pretend that it is 1996.  Jump into your DeLorean and visit us in the past, because that’s where our communications systems are living.  “Could you give Papillon a message for me?” H&J:  We’re still calling the Coast Guard. PC:  Like fun you are.  Those people are busy with real problems – real problems, incidentally, that we have heard and even helped with on our aforementioned VHF radio – and they don’t have the resources to hold your hand.  Plus, if we get blacklisted for fake calls, you’ll feel guilty forever that we can’t get help when we need it. H&J:  You’re mean. PC: I’ve come to terms with that. Reaction: June 2014 Yes, the anonymous Heckle and Jeckle did call the Coast Guard on us back in the day.  While we were at anchor. In Florida. And we hadn’t moved for a week.  But the internet went down and we hadn’t called home in a while… and we were too busy visiting the Space Center and enjoying ourselves to remember that the people back home were still getting used to our new life. Let this be a lesson to cruisers and family alike: don’t panic. Let people know how and when you will communicate, and do your best to stick to that. And leave the Coast Guard out of it.

Communication Breakdown: Helping Family Let Go

Sat, 2014-06-07 18:32

Around about now, I expect I am somewhere on the East coast, dining out with friends.  Worried about exactly where I am? I’m used to that. Back in the day, some well-meaning family members got a little nervous about our whereabouts, too.

Originally posted as Calling All Worrywarts, or, Next Stop, 1996! on December 15, 2010
As this little blog has grown, I have gotten the odd bit of mail from you, my dear readers.  Most of it is kind.  Some of it is mystifying.  But much of it comes from landlubberly types.  With that in mind, it is time for the educational (or, as Stylish, age 3, would have put it, edumacational) portion of our blog.  This will take the form of a Q&A with concerned readers Heckle and Jeckle.  Today’s topic is:

When do we call the Coast Guard?   “I’m concerned about this sailing business, old bean!

Heckle & Jeckle:  Look here, Papillon Crew.  Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.  You move around too much.  You don’t move around enough.  Your track goes higgeldy piggeldy, hither and yon.  Your track has gaps.  Your track goes impossible places.  You stopped in the middle of the ocean.  All you do is write blog posts.  You never write blog posts.  You don’t answer emails.  You don’t take calls.  All this makes me anxious.  How will you ever get help without us?  We’re calling the Coast Guard. Papillon Crew:  No, you’re not. H&J:  But… PC:  No. H&J:  Oh, come on… PC:  No. H&J:  Fine then!  Explain yourselves. PC:  Avec plaisir.  Let’s go through our issues in order. Complaint #1:  I disapprove of your frequency of movement! Response:  In the early days, we moved almost every day.  That is because a) we needed the practice, and b) it was getting very, very cold in the Chesapeake.  And if there is one thing I object to in this life, it is being cold.  As we reached points south, the weather improved.  (Well, not here in Florida, apparently.  It is frigid here.)  Otherwise, hurray.  And so we started to linger.  Contrary to what you may think, we are out on this tub to loaf about in the tropics.  We aren’t trying to circumnavigate, or race, or do anything else that would involve a lot of moving.  Yes, we want to have fun sailing, but we also want to drop anchor and swim.  And make sandcastles.  And fly kites.  You get the picture. Summary:  We’ll move when we feel like it and not before. Complaint #2:  Your tracker is misleading, confusing, and makes me worried!  Response:  Our Spot, while a nifty little gadget, has its flaws.  First, it will only track us for 24 hours at a time.  After that, we have to press the button again to keep it going.  That may not sound like much, but we’re usually otherwise occupied on passage with things like fatigue, feeding children, and whichever alternator has caught fire that day.  So, a few hours go by before we remember Spot.  Thus, the gap. Also, batteries die.  With the aforementioned feeding and fires, we also don’t always have time to change out batteries the moment Spot dies.  Result: more gaps. As for the funny tracks, Papillon is a sailing vessel.  When we need to muck around with the sails, we turn head-to-wind.  It may look like we are veering off-course, but really we’re just changing something.  Keep watching and… see?  Back on course. As for those mid-trip float-abouts, they are occasionally a necessary evil for rather benign reasons.  If we find that our current course and speed will get us into port in the middle of the night, we need to choose: speed up or slow down.  Unlike in a car, there is only so much velocity-adjustment you can practically do.  Tides, currents, wind speed… all of these things constrain us.  Once in a while, we’ll choose to heave-to and just float around for a while on a calm day.  That may get us in at 7 am instead of 3 am, which is much, much safer. Summary:  Spot is spotty and sailing means funny tracks. Complaint #3:  Your communication stinks. Response:  Well, now.  Our boat has an aluminum hull.  That means we live in a big Faraday cage.  We don’t get signals down below – not internet, not cell phone.  And the honest truth is, as time goes by, more often than not we forget we own these fancy devices.  We’re busy doing math with Stylish, or reading a book to Indy.  We’ve wandered off to the craft fair in town and forgotten to turn on the phone.  It isn’t that we don’t love you.  We are just doing other stuff. Plus, the internet hates us, and that is that.  Connections have been worse and worse as we moved south.  And I just won’t waste an hour every night trying to suck my email over the three seconds of connection I manage to grab. Summary:  Our boat is rejecting your call. Don’t take it personally. Complaint #4:  You have no concept of safety and can’t take care of yourselves, you tiny babies. Response:  Hold on.  My eyes have rolled right back in my head and I can’t see to type. Ohhhkaaaay.  Here’s what we’ve got, just off the top of my head, in case of trouble: Warning systems: Fire alarms.  Carbon monoxide detectors.  Erik’s inhuman hearing.  AIS so big ol’ ships know we’re there. Preparedness training:  Man overboard drills.  Fire drills (kids included).  And I mean full dry runs, right up to mock-activating the life raft. Response systems: Fire extinguishers.  Fire blankets.  Self-inflating life raft with food onboard.  Communications:  VHF to talk to your friends the Coast Guard.  SSB for offshore.  An EPIRB registered to our vessel which automatically gives all of our information to the Coast Guard, and has its own GPS unit.  It is independent of all other boat systems, and would go with us if we abandon ship. Natural suspicion:  I don’t pick up hitchhikers, and if you think I’m inviting anyone strange onboard without pointing a flare gun in their face, you don’t know me very well.  We will radio for help for other people, but my kids come first. Summary:  For reals, we know how and when to get help. H&J:  Yeah, okay.  I guess you’ve thought of a few things.  But I want to be connected to you right now! PC:   Tough nuts. H&J:  Hey! PC:  No, seriously.  During university, I spent a month on my own in Indonesia for a research project.  There was rioting in Jakarta just before I went.  Towns I visited got burned down after I left. And did anyone panic because they couldn’t reach tiny Amy during this dangerous time?  No.  Because it was 1996.  No one expected me to have access to a phone or email during those prehistoric days.  Everyone had to trust I was okay, and wait for a postcard. So here is the deal.  We are all going to pretend that it is 1996.  Jump into your DeLorean and visit us in the past, because that’s where our communications systems are living.  “Could you give Papillon a message for me?” H&J:  We’re still calling the Coast Guard. PC:  Like fun you are.  Those people are busy with real problems – real problems, incidentally, that we have heard and even helped with on our aforementioned VHF radio – and they don’t have the resources to hold your hand.  Plus, if we get blacklisted for fake calls, you’ll feel guilty forever that we can’t get help when we need it. H&J:  You’re mean. PC: I’ve come to terms with that. Reaction: June 2014 Yes, the anonymous Heckle and Jeckle did call the Coast Guard on us back in the day.  While we were at anchor. In Florida. And we hadn’t moved for a week.  But the internet went down and we hadn’t called home in a while… and we were too busy visiting the Space Center and enjoying ourselves to remember that the people back home were still getting used to our new life. Let this be a lesson to cruisers and family alike: don’t panic. Let people know how and when you will communicate, and do your best to stick to that. And leave the Coast Guard out of it.

On board HMS Medusa, D-Day marine electronics

Fri, 2014-06-06 05:00

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

There’s much to report about my three day visit with Raymarine’s impressive product development team, but the impromptu kicker was a visit to HDML (Harbour Defense Motor Launch) #1387, and the vessel’s key story couldn’t be more timely. 70 years ago yesterday, well before D-Day H-Hour, 1387 headed toward Normandy loaded with electronics that helped her crew precisely mark the planned final channel to Omaha Beach, first for the minesweepers and then for the vast fleet of landing craft that left Portsmouth behind her. And today she’s headed for France again, this time with an all-volunteer crew led by Alan Watson, the gentleman who so kindly showed me around last evening.

There’s a good basic history of Medusa at National Historic Ships UK and much more detail at The Medusa Trust. Though still considered an honorary member of the Navy — thus the honest HMS designation and today’s visit by Princess Anne — the vessel is actually cared for by a small support group. During her last major refit (done largely by student shipwrights), they strove to restore the original HDML configuration but with a willingness to mix in modern equipment to keep her safely operational. So while the rudder angle indicator visible behind the wheel is entirely mechanical, tucked in the corner is a modern DSC VHF supplied by sponsor Raymarine, where Alan Watson also serves as the radar and navigation trainer.

Apparently, it’s mainly Watson who’s scavenged examples of Medusa’s D-Day era electronics, like the ASDIC sonar seen mounted in the wheelhouse above. As explained here, this was actually what we call Forward Looking Sonar, though at a very low frequency with paper and audible output mainly useful for spotting submarines. The various brass appendages comprise a mechanical computer that helped time the release of small depth charges that were literally rolled off the side deck of the HDML. The ASDIC could also be used in passive mode to detect pings, and that was critical for the D-Day mission as a seabed acoustic beacon had already been dropped at the edge of the mine field where Medusa was to stand station for 36 hours.

Medusa also had two forms of LORAN-like electronic position finding which are explained here. The black device at left is part of the GEE system, and that handle suggests how the receiver module could be switched out with a last minute change of the shore station frequencies. Alan is pointing at the vessel’s radar, which could only look forward with its fixed yagi transmit antenna. Dual fixed receive antennas were used to give some sense beyond range of where a target was in the radar’s 60 degree beam, but like the other gear it seems like an artful operator was mandatory.

The gray box at right is an IFF, as in friend or foe identification, which could send out an ID signal on the radar frequency that a similarly equipped friend could automatically reply to. Watson thinks of the technology as an early form of AIS. Medusa also had a RACON-like directional radio beacon that was activated so that the Allied fleet could home into Medusa and the mine cleared channel.

Yes, I had a wonderful time visiting this historic vessel and couldn’t help but ham it up while feeling what work it is for the engineer to shift the original twin Gardiner diesels in response to bell commands from the bridge or wheelhouse. The pride and good cheer of her volunteer stewards were also infectious. But I’m also aware of the solemn side of this occasion. 70 years ago my dad was leading an artillery company up through southern France and would lose more friends and most of his hearing before it was all done. And he got to go home to a country that hadn’t been ravaged by bombs and nearly conquered.

Apparently, the jaunty 1944 sailor seen at lower right below, now 90 years old, was back aboard Medusa yesterday, and note the Hitler imitator at upper left. I’ll be traveling home today, but when I can, I’ll follow Medusa on Marine Traffic. I imagine she’ll be the talk of the English Channel as she crosses all that traffic.

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

On board HMS Medusa, D-Day marine electonics

Fri, 2014-06-06 05:00

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

There’s much to report about my three day visit with Raymarine’s impressive product development team, but the impromptu kicker was a visit to HDML (Harbour Defense Motor Launch) #1387, and the vessel’s key story couldn’t be more timely. 70 years ago yesterday, well before D-Day H-Hour, 1387 headed toward Normandy loaded with electronics that helped her crew precisely mark the planned final channel to Omaha Beach, first for the minesweepers and then for the vast fleet of landing craft that left Portsmouth behind her. And today she’s headed for France again, this time with an all-volunteer crew led by Alan Watson, the gentleman who so kindly showed me around last evening.

There’s a good basic history of Medusa at National Historic Ships UK and much more detail at The Medusa Trust. Though still considered an honorary member of the Navy — thus the honest HMS designation and today’s visit by Princess Anne — the vessel is actually cared for by a small support group. During her last major refit (done largely by student shipwrights), they strove to restore the original HDML configuration but with a willingness to mix in modern equipment to keep her safely operational. So while the rudder angle indicator visible behind the wheel is entirely mechanical, tucked in the corner is a modern DSC VHF supplied by sponsor Raymarine, where Alan Watson also serves as the radar and navigation trainer.

Apparently, it’s mainly Watson who’s scavenged examples of Medusa’s D-Day era electronics, like the ASDIC sonar seen mounted in the wheelhouse above. As explained here, this was actually what we call Forward Looking Sonar, though at a very low frequency with paper and audible output mainly useful for spotting submarines. The various brass appendages comprise a mechanical computer that helped time the release of small depth charges that were literally rolled off the side deck of the HDML. The ASDIC could also be used in passive mode to detect pings, and that was critical for the D-Day mission as a seabed acoustic beacon had already been dropped at the edge of the mine field where Medusa was to stand station for 36 hours.

Medusa also had two forms of LORAN-like electronic position finding which are explained here. The black device at left is part of the GEE system, and that handle suggests how the receiver module could be switched out with a last minute change of the shore station frequencies. Alan is pointing at the vessel’s radar, which could only look forward with its fixed yagi transmit antenna. Dual fixed receive antennas were used to give some sense beyond range of where a target was in the radar’s 60 degree beam, but like the other gear it seems like an artful operator was mandatory.

The gray box at right is an IFF, as in friend or foe identification, which could send out an ID signal on the radar frequency that a similarly equipped friend could automatically reply to. Watson thinks of the technology as an early form of AIS. Medusa also had a RACON-like directional radio beacon that was activated so that the Allied fleet could home into Medusa and the mine cleared channel.

Yes, I had a wonderful time visiting this historic vessel and couldn’t help but ham it up while feeling what work it is for the engineer to shift the original twin Gardiner diesels in response to bell commands from the bridge or wheelhouse. The pride and good cheer of her volunteer stewards were also infectious. But I’m also aware of the solemn side of this occasion. 70 years ago my dad was leading an artillery company up through southern France and would lose more friends and most of his hearing before it was all done. And he got to go home to a country that hadn’t been ravaged by bombs and nearly conquered.

Apparently, the jaunty 1944 sailor seen at lower right below, now 90 years old, was back aboard Medusa yesterday, and note the Hitler imitator at upper left. I’ll be traveling home today, but when I can, I’ll follow Medusa on Marine Traffic. I imagine she’ll be the talk of the English Channel as she crosses all that traffic.

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

Safe passagemaking in the Straits of Malacca

Thu, 2014-06-05 06:37

There’s a long history of piracy in the straits of Malacca, and plenty of modern bandits too- this area currently has more pirate activity than any other part of the world. But those aren’t our concerns as we sail south from Langkawi toward Singapore. Unlike the Gulf of Arabia, the piracy is focused entirely on commercial vessels- not private boats like ours. Thank goodness, because we’ve got plenty other things to worry about.

not pirates of men, but pirates of fish

There’s a lot of traffic here. Close to shore, small fishing boats are everywhere. At night, they are improperly lit, or not lit at all. They trail long nets behind the boat, and you can’t tell how far they reach behind the boat in almost every instance. Others run buoyed, flagged nets like these- sometimes attached, sometimes drifting. These long nets keep us on constant watch during the day and would be impossible to spot in the dark.

the best-marked nets look like this

Fishing boats stay out of the shipping lanes farther offshore, but we don’t want to sail there either: massive commercial vessels bear down at tremendous speed. Between these zones, tugs lumber along with their tows. These boats are also poorly lit, if they’re lit at all. Totem’s radar expired last year and has yet to be replaaced. We have an AIS receiver, but only the container ships transpond around here. You have to use your eyeballs, all the time.

Tug and tow, just… you know, hanging out

Debris is a serious problem, too. At no time during our passage south have we been able to look at the water without seeing plastic garbage: water bottles, Styrofoam take-out containers, bags, and more. Then, there are the fishing nets: some attached to boats, some just drifting. Friends of ours sailing straight through last month ran into nets and timber multiple times along this stretch, and were lucky to get away with nothing more than a bent prop.

my lovely assistant showcases some of the larger traffic in Port Klang

Then, there’s the weather. Because our delays pushed us into the transition to the southwest monsoon season, there’s a higher incidence of squalls and storms, and (lucky us!) they will come from the direction to which we are most exposed. This area has earned the name “lightning alley.” Great! Most of these happen at night. Radar is a huge help for tracking squalls at night, except… well, we need a new one. So we watch the clouds, and use our eyeballs, and we have another reason to stay put at night.

grim clouds

The upshot of all this: day hops only. It’s not a big deal, and protected anchorages are within ranges we can easily manage during daylight hours. Sure, we’d like to get south sooner, especially after all the delays with our engine service, but are happy to trade the hazards for a more cautious, slower pace.

Vigilant passage makers know we love it when you read this on the Sailfeed website.

Safe passagemaking in the Straits of Malacca

Thu, 2014-06-05 06:37

There’s a long history of piracy in the straits of Malacca, and plenty of modern bandits too- this area currently has more pirate activity than any other part of the world. But those aren’t our concerns as we sail south from Langkawi toward Singapore. Unlike the Gulf of Arabia, the piracy is focused entirely on commercial vessels- not private boats like ours. Thank goodness, because we’ve got plenty other things to worry about.

not pirates of men, but pirates of fish

There’s a lot of traffic here. Close to shore, small fishing boats are everywhere. At night, they are improperly lit, or not lit at all. They trail long nets behind the boat, and you can’t tell how far they reach behind the boat in almost every instance. Others run buoyed, flagged nets like these- sometimes attached, sometimes drifting. These long nets keep us on constant watch during the day and would be impossible to spot in the dark.

the best-marked nets look like this

Fishing boats stay out of the shipping lanes farther offshore, but we don’t want to sail there either: massive commercial vessels bear down at tremendous speed. Between these zones, tugs lumber along with their tows. These boats are also poorly lit, if they’re lit at all. Totem’s radar expired last year and has yet to be replaaced. We have an AIS receiver, but only the container ships transpond around here. You have to use your eyeballs, all the time.

Tug and tow, just… you know, hanging out

Debris is a serious problem, too. At no time during our passage south have we been able to look at the water without seeing plastic garbage: water bottles, Styrofoam take-out containers, bags, and more. Then, there are the fishing nets: some attached to boats, some just drifting. Friends of ours sailing straight through last month ran into nets and timber multiple times along this stretch, and were lucky to get away with nothing more than a bent prop.

my lovely assistant showcases some of the larger traffic in Port Klang

Then, there’s the weather. Because our delays pushed us into the transition to the southwest monsoon season, there’s a higher incidence of squalls and storms, and (lucky us!) they will come from the direction to which we are most exposed. This area has earned the name “lightning alley.” Great! Most of these happen at night. Radar is a huge help for tracking squalls at night, except… well, we need a new one. So we watch the clouds, and use our eyeballs, and we have another reason to stay put at night.

grim clouds

The upshot of all this: day hops only. It’s not a big deal, and protected anchorages are within ranges we can easily manage during daylight hours. Sure, we’d like to get south sooner, especially after all the delays with our engine service, but are happy to trade the hazards for a more cautious, slower pace.

Vigilant passage makers know we love it when you read this on the Sailfeed website.

The “Match” is Back

Wed, 2014-06-04 12:03

By Kimball Livingston Posted June 4, 2014

It’s far from the most important feature of the newly-released Protocol for America’s Cup 35, but it just jumps out. The word, match.

After a long, belabored attempt to get people to speak of the 2013 match as the “America’s Cup Finals,” this time out, the powers that be have let the verbiage slip back to tradition. As in what it is, a match. A match between two boats following whatever runup, trials, eliminations are required to get there. And no, barring an intergalactic spasm, there will be no Louis Vuitton Cup awarded to the winner of the 2017 challenger selection. Vuitton had a thirty-year run and put its stamp on the history of Cup competition, but the days are long gone when breathing the air at the America’s Cup was a salty equivalent to hanging near the Queen’s box at Ascot.

What we have in the 78-page document revealed on Tuesday is a reminder of what we knew already, that it is a tortuous process to tie the America’s Cup match to a world tour. Doubly tortuous to imagineer a tour that might generate revenue and somehow be relevant to The Match. It’s a made marriage, and you will love each other.

Even at a quick march through the read, it comes clear why the negotiations between Defender and Challenger of Record ran so long that we are only now seeing this document. There’s a devil in every detail. And, oh yes, the guy in charge of the Challenger side for Australia’s Hamilton Island Yacht Club is Iain Murray, whose long record of success on the race course and in related business was most recently seen in his service as CEO of America’s Cup Race Management for AC34. Does Iain Murray know where the bones are buried? Does rhetorical question carry an extra “h?”

Here’s one devilish detail by way of example: There will be racing in 2015 and 2016 in the familiar one-design AC45s, then racing in 2017 in new 62-foot foiling catamarans—the generalities were leaked months ago—and the AC62s will sail a Qualifiers series leading to a Final Four Playoffs to decide who actually becomes the Challenger for America’s Cup 35. If the winner of the Qualifiers becomes the Challenger (having, obviously, then won the Playoffs) that boat enters the first-to-seven America’s Cup match with one point in its pocket.

Only the final-four eliminations (the “Playoffs”) are guaranteed to be held in the venue of the Match. And where is that, you ask? We are assured of an answer by December 31, 2014.

I repeat, December 31, 2014.

What I can tell you about that, not that I “know” a danged thing, is that San Francisco Bay is the likely place, because it is the right place, and if the Golden Gate Yacht Club as Defender, and Oracle Racing as the home town team, were not trying to make it happen on San Francisco Bay, they could already have a deal elsewhere. I’m betting on the waters where Jimmy Spithill recently won a six-mile standup paddleboard event hosted by one of Larry Ellison’s two (that I know of) San Francisco yacht clubs.

The Qualifiers leading to the final-four, we should note, will be put out to bid separately.

Even shortened ten feet from the boats we saw last year, a foiling AC62 catamaran—per the 2017 protocol—will be a handful for a crew of eight, reduced from eleven crew in 2013. What makes that doable, in theory, is a new prescription allowing for limited stored energy in the boats that will be raced in 2017.

That is, one of Oracle’s comeback tricks last year was that the grinders never stopped grinding on the upwind legs. The trimmer always had juice to work with in the hydraulic systems and never had to ask for “trim.” But as a vision for the future of sailing, well, that’s a bit much. And people are the biggest cost, and promises have been made about trimming costs, and there we go. A crew of eight.

Wind limits of five to twenty-five knots true. Much simpler. Much better. And the boats will be up to handling the higher wind range.

The next cycle kicks off with nonfoiling AC45s sailing, we are assured, at least six events each in 2015 and 2016. Each challenger is offered an opportunity to run an event in-country, which, obviously, becomes a financial conversation. There also are two youth events to be placed on the calendar, presumably one per year. Youth racing was popular on the last go-round, in part because “youth” is an easy sell but also because that was fleet racing, and plenty of boats on the water spells visual drama, and here we have one more chapter of the made marriage between what people want and what they get, the America’s Cup being the America’s Cup.

For all the talk about a nationality requirement, the stipulation under the protocol that 25 percent of the crew of an AC62 must be nationals of the challenging “yacht club” brings it to a total of two, which is a yawn. And the definition of yacht club continues to be stretched like taffy, and that’s what’s happening, baby.

Personally, I’d be fine without no nationality component at all, even though I get the history. The original winner, after all, was a schooner called America, and no one took the America’s Cup away until Australia II appeared on the scene 132 years later. But that was 1851, and then 1983, when nationalities were much more defined, and sources of resources were much more clear than they are now, and people simply did not move around as much. Now the organizers naturally want to encourage new countries to participate, and bring money, and two-out-of-eight is a milktoast number that is close to meaningless.

Not a wrong number, because no number could ever be right . . .

And the only parts of the boat you have to build in-country are the outer skins of the hulls.

Two more details: For the youth racing, the 18-25-year-olds must each be nationals of the country they represent, but for two years of AC45 racing, 2015 and 2016, six events or more per year, one national aboard will do. National by birth or by passport. Said World Series racing in AC45s—not modified to foil, apparently—will determine the “seeding” of the Qualifying round in AC62s, which means to me that the AC45 competition continues to be more show than go. As well it should, having no inherent connection to The Match.

Golden Gate Yacht Club as Defender and Hamilton Island Yacht Club as Challenger of Record “shall publish the AC62 Class Rule prior to the start of the Entry Period” which opens June 1 and continues through August 8. Plenty of the intent of the rule-to-come has already been leaked. A number of one-design elements to lower R&D costs, fewer restrictions on trimmable surfaces, etcetera. But, returning to our consideration of what negotiations must have been like—

The Defender gets to build two boats. Each Challenger gets to build one. But that simple language simply won’t do. It’s more like this:

Oracle Racing may build two pairs of hulls and two pairs of crossbeams, but the second pair of hulls must come from the same molds as the first pair. Any modification cannot exceed 20 percent of the surface area.

In a world where catamaran hulls have become foil-delivery devices, and we’re expecting the rule to require that all boats have fuller (safer) bow sections than Oracle carried in 2013, do we much care?

Modifications to crossbeams cannot exceed 50 percent of surface area, and all of this is tied through detailed specification to the risks of repairable versus unrepairable damage. Under clause 35.3 (b), the Defender is required to race its first pair of hulls and crossbeams unless etcetera etcetera. Challengers face similar percentage limits on surface modifications of their one pair of hulls and crossbeams.

Wing spars are limited to two, lower daggerboard sections to six (but they count only if installed). Considering the copious verbiage dedicated to defining one-piece versus two-piece daggerboards, there must be room here for mischief, and determination is specifically allocated to the Measurement Committee.

The Qualifying races in AC62s will be sailed in 2017 at a date and place still to be set, and no challenger may launch ahead of 150 days prior to race one of the Qualifiers. The Defender may not launch a second pair of hulls more than 30 days prior to race one of the Qualifiers.

The Defender may not sail two boats together until the Qualifiers are complete.

Are you with me?

The Defender will sail in the Qualifying round, according to the Protocol, and the mere thought of having the Defender mix with the Challengers in their Cup vehicles takes us back to some ugly conversations of the past. In the Qualifying round only, not later. But still. The Match may be back, but not all of the traditions associated with it. The Protocol Governing the 35th America’s Cup, dated June 2, 2014, is one helluva barrel of sausage. As we grope toward a formula for high-end sailing in the 21st century, and a public face for the sport, the adventure continues. Gosh, how I look forward to explaining it. And explaining it.

“And Tiny Tim said, ‘God bless us every one.’ ”

Which is the right way to speak. When cameras are rolling, under 47.2, there are fines for profanity. Careful, Scrooge.

Maintenance on board: how mechanical are you?

Tue, 2014-06-03 07:54

We just had a crazy stretch of boat work on Totem, and knocked several big items off our list of essentials for maintenance or repair as we anticipate next year’s Indian Ocean passages. Sometimes it was just a matter of paying a vendor. Sometimes it was work we did ourselves. Typically it was a combination, where we invested a lot of effort too: replacing the boat batteries wasn’t just a swap out. Jamie built a whole new box to store them in and decomissioned the old one. Over and over, I was grateful for his diverse skills and creative problem solving in everything from carpentry and fiberglass to fabricating the new roll pin needed with positioning a bearing on the autopilot. What else happened?

sleek stack pack, nearly invisible dodger sides

Battery bank. This was the top priority, as our existing bank was on fumes. A Malaysian supplier, Pollux, had the right batteries at the right price. It looks like we nailed not only bank size for our use, but our green power generation, and corrected Totem’s starboard list at the same time. DONE.

Engine service. With a referral to a skilled Yanmar tech, we completed major service (for 5,000 engine hours) that included cleaning and pressure testing heat exchanger, replacing fresh water pump, servicing raw water pump, replacing seals for turbo, servicing start motor, replacing the start solenoid, servicing alternator, de-greasing and cleaning, painting, and alignment. DONE.

Replaced mainsail cover.  A tidy new stack pack replaced the dead mainsail cover. Very happy with how it looks, and even happier about how easy it is to get the main down now. DONE.

Replaced soft sides on dodger. We nearly didn’t do this, since it’s costly and could have been deferred, but ended up taking an eleventh hour, lower cost approach that we love. Instead of getting Sunbrella-bordered sides with large clear windows, as we’ve had since 2007, we put in 100% clears around the front and sides of our hard dodger. It is stunning to have the full viewable range, and Totem gets a sleeker profile. DONE.

Replaced settee covers. New covers once again protect the foam beneath, and light colors are a great lift for the main cabin. Splashy pillows set it off, and the whole place feels brighter. DONE.

There’s a lot left on that list of pre-Indian Ocean essentials, since they’ll either need to wait for a specific location… or for our bank account to take the impact. Meanwhile, slowdowns on the engine service ended up causing a three week delay for getting south from Langkawi, but that’s a tradeoff we don’t mind for having great work done by quality techs who really know Yanmar engines. It also meant: more time for MORE MAINTENANCE! OK: some new stuff, too.

Some of these were standout Jamie did an incredible amount of work during our stay. The delays meant we could do more, and it’s all good. This is the short version:

- New SilentWind 420 watt wind turbine installed, with external regulator
- New 270 watt solar panel installed
- New 60 amp MPPT solar charge controller installed
- Autopilot motor and linear drive unit serviced
- Watermaker motor service: brushes replaced
- Replaced eye bolts for steering cable at quadrant, added Dyneema lashing as backup
- Removed autopilot drive mount (rusting I-beam) and fabricated new fiberglass mount
- Cleaned main diesel fuel tank and polished diesel
- Serviced Lavac toilet (there is no escaping maintenance on the head…)
- Installed three new cabin fans (costly Caframo BoraBoras failed inside 15 months)
- Serviced two winches on mast
- Installed low friction rings at leech reefs

the shop where we brought the alternator, starter, and watermaker motors for servicing

Those projects just what he did on Totem, roughly over the last month. Here’s what he did on other boats in our watery neighborhood, while we swung at anchor in Telaga Harbor:

helping remove the engine going out for an overhaul from a friend’s boat

- Rig inspections: 8
- 16:1 cascading vang installs: 2
- Fix poor mainsheet setup: 1
- Replace hardware with strop to connect mainsheet to boom: 2
- Service winches, windlasses, and autopilots: 4
- Dyneema check stays installed: 4
- Dyneema lifeline installation: 1
- Steering cable replacement: 1
- Install a complete new propane system: 1
- Solar panels installed: 4
- Pactor modem install and setup: 1
- Installed / wired wind turbine: 1
- Configured and installed charge management systems for dual alternator systems: 2
- Wires replaced or repaired ends: way too many to count!

Mechanical skills: if you want to go cruising and you don’t have them, well, hope that your partner does!

Hands-on types know we love it when you read this on the Sailfeed website.

Maintenance on board: how mechanical are you?

Tue, 2014-06-03 07:54

We just had a crazy stretch of boat work on Totem, and knocked several big items off our list of essentials for maintenance or repair as we anticipate next year’s Indian Ocean passages. Sometimes it was just a matter of paying a vendor. Sometimes it was work we did ourselves. Typically it was a combination, where we invested a lot of effort too: replacing the boat batteries wasn’t just a swap out. Jamie built a whole new box to store them in and decomissioned the old one. Over and over, I was grateful for his diverse skills and creative problem solving in everything from carpentry and fiberglass to fabricating the new roll pin needed with positioning a bearing on the autopilot. What else happened?

sleek stack pack, nearly invisible dodger sides

Battery bank. This was the top priority, as our existing bank was on fumes. A Malaysian supplier, Pollux, had the right batteries at the right price. It looks like we nailed not only bank size for our use, but our green power generation, and corrected Totem’s starboard list at the same time. DONE.

Engine service. With a referral to a skilled Yanmar tech, we completed major service (for 5,000 engine hours) that included cleaning and pressure testing heat exchanger, replacing fresh water pump, servicing raw water pump, replacing seals for turbo, servicing start motor, replacing the start solenoid, servicing alternator, de-greasing and cleaning, painting, and alignment. DONE.

Replaced mainsail cover.  A tidy new stack pack replaced the dead mainsail cover. Very happy with how it looks, and even happier about how easy it is to get the main down now. DONE.

Replaced soft sides on dodger. We nearly didn’t do this, since it’s costly and could have been deferred, but ended up taking an eleventh hour, lower cost approach that we love. Instead of getting Sunbrella-bordered sides with large clear windows, as we’ve had since 2007, we put in 100% clears around the front and sides of our hard dodger. It is stunning to have the full viewable range, and Totem gets a sleeker profile. DONE.

Replaced settee covers. New covers once again protect the foam beneath, and light colors are a great lift for the main cabin. Splashy pillows set it off, and the whole place feels brighter. DONE.

There’s a lot left on that list of pre-Indian Ocean essentials, since they’ll either need to wait for a specific location… or for our bank account to take the impact. Meanwhile, slowdowns on the engine service ended up causing a three week delay for getting south from Langkawi, but that’s a tradeoff we don’t mind for having great work done by quality techs who really know Yanmar engines. It also meant: more time for MORE MAINTENANCE! OK: some new stuff, too.

Some of these were standout Jamie did an incredible amount of work during our stay. The delays meant we could do more, and it’s all good. This is the short version:

- New SilentWind 420 watt wind turbine installed, with external regulator
- New 270 watt solar panel installed
- New 60 amp MPPT solar charge controller installed
- Autopilot motor and linear drive unit serviced
- Watermaker motor service: brushes replaced
- Replaced eye bolts for steering cable at quadrant, added Dyneema lashing as backup
- Removed autopilot drive mount (rusting I-beam) and fabricated new fiberglass mount
- Cleaned main diesel fuel tank and polished diesel
- Serviced Lavac toilet (there is no escaping maintenance on the head…)
- Installed three new cabin fans (costly Caframo BoraBoras failed inside 15 months)
- Serviced two winches on mast
- Installed low friction rings at leech reefs

the shop where we brought the alternator, starter, and watermaker motors for servicing

Those projects just what he did on Totem, roughly over the last month. Here’s what he did on other boats in our watery neighborhood, while we swung at anchor in Telaga Harbor:

helping remove the engine going out for an overhaul from a friend’s boat

- Rig inspections: 8
- 16:1 cascading vang installs: 2
- Fix poor mainsheet setup: 1
- Replace hardware with strop to connect mainsheet to boom: 2
- Service winches, windlasses, and autopilots: 4
- Dyneema check stays installed: 4
- Dyneema lifeline installation: 1
- Steering cable replacement: 1
- Install a complete new propane system: 1
- Solar panels installed: 4
- Pactor modem install and setup: 1
- Installed / wired wind turbine: 1
- Configured and installed charge management systems for dual alternator systems: 2
- Wires replaced or repaired ends: way too many to count!

Mechanical skills: if you want to go cruising and you don’t have them, well, hope that your partner does!

Hands-on types know we love it when you read this on the Sailfeed website.

Stitches, Burns and Breaks: The Injury Hall of Fame

Mon, 2014-06-02 19:12
Here I am again, that old good-for-nothing bird, runaway Mayzie – still on vacation and still just as lazy.* Today, let’s review some of the better injuries we’ve had aboard. I have even included a bonus, hitherto-unreported injury for those of you willing to make it to the end. (But be warned: this post contains mildly yucky photos, so if you don’t like blood, you’d best skip along.)

Injury 1: Amy’s broken finger.  Originally appeared in Question and Answer Time, November 15, 2010.
Q:  What is worse than having to do the dishes by hand three times a day?
A.  Having to do the dishes by hand three times a day with a finger you can’t get wet.

It was a sunny morning.  We’d gotten the anchor up with minimal annoyance (read: mud), and I was clearing up the deck and feeling rather good about life in general and this trip in particular.  I opened the port deck box to put away a hose.

Wham!

The spring holding the lid buckled.  Down came the lid onto my right index finger.  It hurt so much I didn’t make a sound; I just crumpled onto the deck.  And just how bad did it look?  Well, let me show you.

And that was back when it looked good.  The nail is lifting off now, and the tip remains swollen enough a week later that I’m pretty sure I broke it.

Lucky for me, I married A Man of Many Talents.  Behold, Erik’s excellent bandaging job:

Copper fuel line: it’s not just for diesel anymore. Combining skills learned from instructor Doug at St John Ambulance and helping his dad bandage up declawed cats, Erik made me this lovely splint/bandage ensemble.  If the girls would only stop smashing into it, it might actually heal this calendar year.

Update: June 2014
Yes, I managed to break a finger one month into our cruising adventure. Way to go, Amy! For a couple of years afterwards, I could feel the scar tissue when I pressed on the pad of that finger – it felt like ball bearings under my skin.  I still have a thin white scar under my nail to remind me of the experience.  I remain cautious of the deck boxes to this day.

Injury 2: Stylish’s chin.  Originally appeared in State of the Children (December 8, 2011),and So Much Fun, We Had To Do It Again! (December 13, 2011)
When I was young, I was Wonder Woman.  I don’t mean, “I liked Wonder Woman,” or “I often pretended I was Wonder Woman.”  I mean I was, every minute of every day, Amazon princess and warrior Wonder Woman.  I would only respond to the name Diana Prince (which drove my sister wild).  I wore my costume year-round, contributing, I’m told, to a severe case of laryngitis one cold January. ( I suspect no one really minded.)  And while I don’t often have a reason to don my golden bracelets of power these days, Wonder Woman I remain. The resemblance is uncanny. My progeny have inherited my superheroism.  Indy is a souped-up version of Lightning McQueen, a flying racecar ready to beat the pudding out of any bad guys that cross her path.  That is, of course, when she isn’t being a  bad guy herself.  Indy often chooses the role of The Bad Witch or similar, and is content to terrorize whatever playfellows she has at the time.  (I approve; villains are often the more interesting characters.  I had far greater sympathy for Darth Vader than Luke Skywalker, and it was many a long year before I could watch Return of the Jedi without crying when Vader became one with the force.) But imagine my pride when, as I was sitting on the foredeck two days ago, I saw Stylish take a flying leap to dive over the boom to escape her sister.  It was a Wonder Woman move if ever I saw one. Don’t be distracted by my excellent art – it was really quite a dramatic leap. My pride turned to concern when Stylish started rolling around on deck, gasping out tears and bleeding copiously. Landing is less fun than flying. Young Stylish had a gaping wound in her chin.  Erik bundled her off to the hospital and, four stitches, a misaligned first cervical vertebra and a prescription for antibiotics later, she was back.  Somewhat chastened, certainly willing to vow never to leap over the boom again.  Some superhero antics are better left untried. Tired and injured, but still smiling. Stylish’s Schedule: Monday:  Jump over the boom and knock chin.  Visit local hospital and get four stitches. Tuesday:  Run a high fever from the virus that is going around.  Show no signs of brain injury.  Nonetheless stress mom out. Wednesday:  Fever gone.  Get head and neck checked by fellow cruiser expert in head injuries.  Adjust first cervical vertebra.  Continue to take antibiotics. Thursday:  Go back for second neck check.  Antibiotics. Friday:  Antibiotics. Saturday:  Finish antibiotics.  Dad removes stitches at the end of the day.  Wound looks great. Sunday:  Visit local friends.  Roughhouse with older girls.  Knock chin and start to bleed copiously under bandage.  Have Mom and Dad check.  Yes, the wound is fully reopened.  Return to local hospital for four more stitches. Chin injury, mark II Update: June 2014
Stylish has a small scar on her chin to mark the excitement.  She is rather proud of it, and shows it off whenever she can.  It may not be as exciting as her sealion bite, but it still rates.

Injury #3: Indy’s Eyebrow; June 2012. (100% new content!)
We’ve been to a lot of amazing places on our trip, but, I have to admit, the Galapagos were special.  I try to get too excited in advance about our destinations – unreasonable expectations and all that – but we were all excited about the Galapagos, and it lived up to our dreams.

But before we could get there, we had to, well, get there.  We spent a few days in the Las Perlas south of Panama, initially to visit the pretty islands, and later because I gave myself a very bad burn while making pasta. (Tip: always, always, always use a waterproof apron when dealing with hot liquids aboard.  Always.) So the anticipation had time to build.

Once I was sufficiently healed, it was time to head out to my favourite place: the seasickness place.  Four guaranteed days of feeling like someone was scraping holes through my skull with a spork in seventeen different places.  And this time, I would have the bonus of a 8″x3″ tender spot across my abdomen.  (To give you an idea of how bad it was, I used gel burn pads for weeks, and it took more than a month just to close up.)

Off we sailed. A couple of days in, just as the sun set, Indy was doing what Indy does best: tiggering. She was leaping around the cockpit like a mountain goat, like she had a thousand times before, while Erik and I asked her to stop, like we had a thousand times before. Then Papillon shifted one way while she jumped another way, and bang! Indy had whacked her eyebrow against the cockpit combing, and there was blood everywhere. The briefest survey showed that she needed at least three stitches.

The troops sprang into action: Erik gathered the suturing supplies, Stylish disappeared to find a book.  And I held Indy, whispering to her softly, and trying to keep her calm, while at the same time trying to keep from losing my dinner.  Blood doesn’t bother me; I’ve seen a lot in my day, although that was mostly in eppendorf tubes as opposed to fountaining out of my child’s scalp.  And there is something comfortingly familiar about that sharp, iron smell that always takes me back to working in the lab on a too-hot summer’s day. But being coated in blood and facing the prospect of helping Erik stitch Indy up didn’t do my seasickness any good, and I was whispering to keep myself together as much as to reassure her.

As night fell, we patched Indy up, while keeping as best a watch as we could.  Erik stitched, I assisted and held the patient, and Stylish read to us from Junie B Jones.  It was our biggest medical crisis aboard – an injury days from land – but we made it through. It was a family effort.
Does it look bad? Nah, I’m fine.


Indy now has a scar curving down from her eyebrow.  Like Stylish, it doesn’t bother her a bit.  And she’ll happily tell the story of when Daddy stitched her up at sea.

We made it to the Galapagos a few days later.  Sure, two of us were on antibiotics and had injuries to mind, but what is that in the face of swimming with giant, unafraid sea turtles?  Priorities, people.  Priorities.

*Oh, please.  Like you didn’t recognise Horton Hatches the Egg.

Stitches, Burns and Breaks: The Injury Hall of Fame

Mon, 2014-06-02 19:12
Here I am again, that old good-for-nothing bird, runaway Mayzie – still on vacation and still just as lazy.* Today, let’s review some of the better injuries we’ve had aboard. I have even included a bonus, hitherto-unreported injury for those of you willing to make it to the end. (But be warned: this post contains mildly yucky photos, so if you don’t like blood, you’d best skip along.)

Injury 1: Amy’s broken finger.  Originally appeared in Question and Answer Time, November 15, 2010.
Q:  What is worse than having to do the dishes by hand three times a day?
A.  Having to do the dishes by hand three times a day with a finger you can’t get wet.

It was a sunny morning.  We’d gotten the anchor up with minimal annoyance (read: mud), and I was clearing up the deck and feeling rather good about life in general and this trip in particular.  I opened the port deck box to put away a hose.

Wham!

The spring holding the lid buckled.  Down came the lid onto my right index finger.  It hurt so much I didn’t make a sound; I just crumpled onto the deck.  And just how bad did it look?  Well, let me show you.

And that was back when it looked good.  The nail is lifting off now, and the tip remains swollen enough a week later that I’m pretty sure I broke it.

Lucky for me, I married A Man of Many Talents.  Behold, Erik’s excellent bandaging job:

Copper fuel line: it’s not just for diesel anymore. Combining skills learned from instructor Doug at St John Ambulance and helping his dad bandage up declawed cats, Erik made me this lovely splint/bandage ensemble.  If the girls would only stop smashing into it, it might actually heal this calendar year.

Update: June 2014
Yes, I managed to break a finger one month into our cruising adventure. Way to go, Amy! For a couple of years afterwards, I could feel the scar tissue when I pressed on the pad of that finger – it felt like ball bearings under my skin.  I still have a thin white scar under my nail to remind me of the experience.  I remain cautious of the deck boxes to this day.

Injury 2: Stylish’s chin.  Originally appeared in State of the Children (December 8, 2011),and So Much Fun, We Had To Do It Again! (December 13, 2011)
When I was young, I was Wonder Woman.  I don’t mean, “I liked Wonder Woman,” or “I often pretended I was Wonder Woman.”  I mean I was, every minute of every day, Amazon princess and warrior Wonder Woman.  I would only respond to the name Diana Prince (which drove my sister wild).  I wore my costume year-round, contributing, I’m told, to a severe case of laryngitis one cold January. ( I suspect no one really minded.)  And while I don’t often have a reason to don my golden bracelets of power these days, Wonder Woman I remain. The resemblance is uncanny. My progeny have inherited my superheroism.  Indy is a souped-up version of Lightning McQueen, a flying racecar ready to beat the pudding out of any bad guys that cross her path.  That is, of course, when she isn’t being a  bad guy herself.  Indy often chooses the role of The Bad Witch or similar, and is content to terrorize whatever playfellows she has at the time.  (I approve; villains are often the more interesting characters.  I had far greater sympathy for Darth Vader than Luke Skywalker, and it was many a long year before I could watch Return of the Jedi without crying when Vader became one with the force.) But imagine my pride when, as I was sitting on the foredeck two days ago, I saw Stylish take a flying leap to dive over the boom to escape her sister.  It was a Wonder Woman move if ever I saw one. Don’t be distracted by my excellent art – it was really quite a dramatic leap. My pride turned to concern when Stylish started rolling around on deck, gasping out tears and bleeding copiously. Landing is less fun than flying. Young Stylish had a gaping wound in her chin.  Erik bundled her off to the hospital and, four stitches, a misaligned first cervical vertebra and a prescription for antibiotics later, she was back.  Somewhat chastened, certainly willing to vow never to leap over the boom again.  Some superhero antics are better left untried. Tired and injured, but still smiling. Stylish’s Schedule: Monday:  Jump over the boom and knock chin.  Visit local hospital and get four stitches. Tuesday:  Run a high fever from the virus that is going around.  Show no signs of brain injury.  Nonetheless stress mom out. Wednesday:  Fever gone.  Get head and neck checked by fellow cruiser expert in head injuries.  Adjust first cervical vertebra.  Continue to take antibiotics. Thursday:  Go back for second neck check.  Antibiotics. Friday:  Antibiotics. Saturday:  Finish antibiotics.  Dad removes stitches at the end of the day.  Wound looks great. Sunday:  Visit local friends.  Roughhouse with older girls.  Knock chin and start to bleed copiously under bandage.  Have Mom and Dad check.  Yes, the wound is fully reopened.  Return to local hospital for four more stitches. Chin injury, mark II Update: June 2014
Stylish has a small scar on her chin to mark the excitement.  She is rather proud of it, and shows it off whenever she can.  It may not be as exciting as her sealion bite, but it still rates.

Injury #3: Indy’s Eyebrow; June 2012. (100% new content!)
We’ve been to a lot of amazing places on our trip, but, I have to admit, the Galapagos were special.  I try to get too excited in advance about our destinations – unreasonable expectations and all that – but we were all excited about the Galapagos, and it lived up to our dreams.

But before we could get there, we had to, well, get there.  We spent a few days in the Las Perlas south of Panama, initially to visit the pretty islands, and later because I gave myself a very bad burn while making pasta. (Tip: always, always, always use a waterproof apron when dealing with hot liquids aboard.  Always.) So the anticipation had time to build.

Once I was sufficiently healed, it was time to head out to my favourite place: the seasickness place.  Four guaranteed days of feeling like someone was scraping holes through my skull with a spork in seventeen different places.  And this time, I would have the bonus of a 8″x3″ tender spot across my abdomen.  (To give you an idea of how bad it was, I used gel burn pads for weeks, and it took more than a month just to close up.)

Off we sailed. A couple of days in, just as the sun set, Indy was doing what Indy does best: tiggering. She was leaping around the cockpit like a mountain goat, like she had a thousand times before, while Erik and I asked her to stop, like we had a thousand times before. Then Papillon shifted one way while she jumped another way, and bang! Indy had whacked her eyebrow against the cockpit combing, and there was blood everywhere. The briefest survey showed that she needed at least three stitches.

The troops sprang into action: Erik gathered the suturing supplies, Stylish disappeared to find a book.  And I held Indy, whispering to her softly, and trying to keep her calm, while at the same time trying to keep from losing my dinner.  Blood doesn’t bother me; I’ve seen a lot in my day, although that was mostly in eppendorf tubes as opposed to fountaining out of my child’s scalp.  And there is something comfortingly familiar about that sharp, iron smell that always takes me back to working in the lab on a too-hot summer’s day. But being coated in blood and facing the prospect of helping Erik stitch Indy up didn’t do my seasickness any good, and I was whispering to keep myself together as much as to reassure her.

As night fell, we patched Indy up, while keeping as best a watch as we could.  Erik stitched, I assisted and held the patient, and Stylish read to us from Junie B Jones.  It was our biggest medical crisis aboard – an injury days from land – but we made it through. It was a family effort.
Does it look bad? Nah, I’m fine.


Indy now has a scar curving down from her eyebrow.  Like Stylish, it doesn’t bother her a bit.  And she’ll happily tell the story of when Daddy stitched her up at sea.

We made it to the Galapagos a few days later.  Sure, two of us were on antibiotics and had injuries to mind, but what is that in the face of swimming with giant, unafraid sea turtles?  Priorities, people.  Priorities.

*Oh, please.  Like you didn’t recognise Horton Hatches the Egg.

CRASH TEST BOAT: Eight Simulated Emergencies All in One Book!

Mon, 2014-06-02 10:15

Those of you who don’t follow the British sailing comics may have missed the Crash Test Boat series of articles that ran in Yachting Monthly a few years back. It was a brilliant premise, cooked up by then-editor Paul Gelder: lay hands on an average plain-vanilla cruising boat and test it to death, carefully documenting everything that does and does not work when coping with various simulated emergencies. Over a period of eight months, YM systematically “tested to destruction” a 1982 Jeanneau Sun Fizz ketch and created an extremely useful series of articles and videos. All that material is now available in one book, appropriately titled The Crash Test Boat, published by Adlard Coles.

In all the book covers eight carefully crafted simulations: running aground, capsizing, a dismasting, creating a jury rig, sinking (hull breach), major leaks (failed seacock or through-hull fitting), fire onboard, and a propane explosion. The last, inevitably, wasn’t really a simulation. They actually did blow up the boat (see photo up top), sort of like blowing out the candles on a birthday cake, as a magnificent denouement to Paul’s career as a yachting journalist and editor.

It’s impossible to summarize all the useful information in this book, so you really do have to buy it. The lay-out is very succinct and user-friendly, with lots of useful photos and well thought out conclusions and recommendations on how to prepare for and cope with each emergency situation. There are even QR codes prominently displayed for each chapter, so you can quickly access the relevant videos online.

My advice would be to read the book closely, study the videos, make your own conclusions about what information is useful to you, equip your boat accordingly, then keep your copy of the book onboard your boat.

The dismasting. The book includes detailed tests and recommendations on what tools work best to clear the rig

Fire onboard! Find out what extinguishers work best for what sort of fires

High and dry. Tips on how to get off again and how to survive the ordeal if you don’t

Rolled in a capsize. There are very simple things you can do to minimize the damage

Paul Gelder admires the aftermath of the propane explosion

The section on major leaks give a good sense of how creative the YM team was in testing different solutions to different problems. In addition to trying to stem the leaks they created with various commercial products–the proverbial soft wood plugs we all wire to our through-hulls, Forespar’s Truplug synthetic bung, etc.–they also tried potatoes and carrots, which worked pretty darned well.

Each section also contains “real-life story” anecdotal accounts of actual emergencies and how they were resolved, so you can compare simulated experience to the real thing.

The Crash Test Boat (2013, Adlard Coles Nautical); Forward by Mike Golding; Edited by Paul Gelder; 176 pp.

ADMINISTRATIVE NOTE: Loyal WaveTrain riders hopefully noticed that the site was down for a while a couple of days ago. This was because we’re in the middle of redesigning it. Hopefully the new version will get launched this week!

Inmarsat Fleet One, affordable FleetBroadband for real?

Mon, 2014-06-02 08:00

Written by Ben Ellison on Jun 2, 2014 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub

Boaters looking for a reliable, moderately fast satellite Internet connection for light and/or occasional use have learned to be leery of Inmarsat. When FleetBroadband came out in 2009 — particularly the FB150 model with its easily installed 13.5-inch stabilized antenna — it seemed like a reasonably affordable option for bluewater cruising. This promise was confirmed in a terriffic Panbo review series conducted by Gram Schweikert as his family sailed from Maine to New Zealand with both KVH FB150 and Iridium OpenPort antennas mounted on the spreaders. Note the fairly friendly FB rate sheet published in Gram’s installation entry and how (with very careful data use) he found the FB150 quite useful out in the Pacific at only about $100 to $150 a month in service charges. Unfortunately, the deal changed…

In 2011 Inmarsat purportedly modified the terms their service resellers could use — causing particular pain to intermittent users (and the dealer/installers who had set them up) — and in 2012 we got a clearer understanding of the company’s motivation. Inmarsat’s VSAT competitors in the data-hungry ship and megayacht market were using nearly global FB systems as a backup to cover the areas they couldn’t. Suddenly, the middle class yacht could no longer, say, prepurchase 12 months of a basic $59/mo service plan and use the total block of 60 up/download megabytes and 1,100 voice minutes however they wanted during that year. The FB150 is still available, but you don’t see them on many cruising boats.

Well, Fleet One is Inmarsat’s new attempt to “meet the particular communications needs of leisure mariners, day boaters and sport and coastal fisherman,” and the Sailor Fleet One hardware pictured at the top of the entry looks remarkably similar to the Sailor 150 FleetBroadband System. In fact, it may well be the exact same hardware, but with software that only enables one voice connection at a time and that limits data speeds to 100 kbps — versus FB150′s “up to” 150 kbps. The major difference, though, is that Fleet One’s attractive rates only apply within the coastal regions shown in green above…

The green (or lavendar) regions are actually quite substantial. It looks, for instance, like a yacht could cruise throughout the Carribean and then passage to New England via Bermuda without ever crossing the line where Fleet One prepaid data rates take a huge leap from $5 to $40 a megabyte. With “In Region” voice calls at 68 cents a minute, Fleet One could be just the right service level above a sat phone (or maybe the new Iridium GO!). You’re not going to surf around the Web like you do when you’re on land-based WiFi or cellular connections, but carefully managed Internet use should be easy and fairly quick. Cruisers will also appreciate the fact that $50/30 day prepaid vouchers are good for a year and that unused time can roll over onto another voucher if it’s activated before the first one’s 30 days is up. Plus, an activated SIM card can go unused for 8 months before another $100 activation fee is needed. And note that the same hypothetical coast-of-North-America yacht could pick up the same Region rate in the Med, and they still would have had easy data access while crossing the Atlantic, though at a premium rate (that will discourage use of Fleet One as a VSAT backup :-).

Installing the Fleet One BDU and ADU — the below and above decks units — looks fairly straightforward. The above manual illustration is from the Inmarsat-branded hardware, which looks very similar to the proven Skipper FB150. Accessing Fleet One Internet via the built-in browser pages, illustrated below, also looks fairly straightforward. I’d still recommend having a reputable dealer/installer involved, though, if nothing else than to serve as an advocate with Inmarsat if things turn sour. The company may want to work with leisure boaters, and this offering seems attractive, but I’m not sure they’ve learned how to treat us. For instance, I’m pretty sure that even though a Fleet One system could use its included GPS to warn a user if they’ve crossed a Region border into high rate territory, it does not. That’s why the non-partisan sat comms expert who supplied much of the info for this entry favors pre-paid usage. “It limits liability!” Soon, the Web should have more information and opinions about Fleet One. I’ll be paricularly interested in what Global Marine Networks has to say, and note that they already like the Iridium Pilot (formerly known as OpenPort for similar user profiles.

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

Enter to win a flag- just two days left!

Sun, 2014-06-01 02:39

I’m looking forward to picking a name out of the virtual hat (OK, so actually, it’s randomized event executed with a mouse click…), and going through pictures of flags. If you haven’t entered to win yet, you’ve got two days left- that’s two more chances to enter! Well, as long as you have a US or Canadian mailing address. I think the world needs more smiles in it: so please, share this with your friends!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

How much do I love flags?

Here’s Totem, anchored in Sydney Harbour for New Years Eve a few year back, we made a string of all the courtesy flags we had on board. Our usual, 12×18″ courtesy flag was swapped for a stunner of an Aussie ensign,  a big flag that was the thoughtful parting gift from the company I worked for in Australia. many boats in the harbor had their celebratory best colors out, and it was beautiful to see. Our string of courtesy flags are a kind of “poor cruisers” version of dress flags, but we loved the memories that came with putting each one of those flags together… in the order that we visited the countries, or course.

Flags are memories of good times. Australia day, in January, we bobbed around the harbour (again teeming with boats)- flags of all sizes, but large ones in particular. Our host for the day in 2011 was the trawler Furthur, another vessel from the Salish Sea. With a boat full of Americans and a US hailing port, the natural thing to do was string up all the flags and then make a big banner of our own to get in the fun.

In Thailand, we noticed a lot of local boats flying yellow and blue flags. It seems like a strange thing to do (clearly, they didn’t need Quarantine yellow) until I realized they contained complex emblems: it turns out these are special flags celebrating the Thai king (yellow) and queen (blue). When in Rome, right?

It’s actually not quite proper etiquette to string them like this. Typically, stringing one national flag over another means the higher flag has declared war on the lower one. We went with it since that was the modus operandi on local vessels. On the other hand, it also reflected the anti-royalist tension in much of Thailand at the time…although the last thing we were aiming for was a political statement. I’m pretty sure that’s not what the fishing and tourist boats in Phuket had in mind, either.

While there are a lot of rules around flags, they’re often easily bent. Where we draw the line is where it may offend anyone- especially our host country- or where it may cause harmful misunderstanding (e.g., indicating distress when there is none). But I have to admit, when we see an obvious miss on flag etiquette, we notice. Like the boat that thought it was cute to fly their Scottish flag over the local courtesy flag. They probably have no idea that they’re being rude, but they are. We didn’t have the opportunity to tell them, but it was a chance to show our kids what not to do, and why.

Otherwise, we literally just let our flags fly. Have extras, or the materials to make them! Without flags to spare, we hand-made one to leave at Suwarrow. Check out the wealth of great flags hung up there with messages and remembrances from cruisers in years gone by.

A big thanks to Gettysburg Flag Works, who is making this giveaway possible! More information on Gettysburg, their great flags for boaters, and the story behind the giveaway in this earlier post.

Flag-flying fans know we love it when you read this on the Sailfeed website.

Enter to win a flag- just two days left!

Sun, 2014-06-01 02:39

I’m looking forward to picking a name out of the virtual hat (OK, so actually, it’s randomized event executed with a mouse click…), and going through pictures of flags. If you haven’t entered to win yet, you’ve got two days left- that’s two more chances to enter! Well, as long as you have a US or Canadian mailing address. I think the world needs more smiles in it: so please, share this with your friends!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

How much do I love flags?

Here’s Totem, anchored in Sydney Harbour for New Years Eve a few year back, we made a string of all the courtesy flags we had on board. Our usual, 12×18″ courtesy flag was swapped for a stunner of an Aussie ensign,  a big flag that was the thoughtful parting gift from the company I worked for in Australia. many boats in the harbor had their celebratory best colors out, and it was beautiful to see. Our string of courtesy flags are a kind of “poor cruisers” version of dress flags, but we loved the memories that came with putting each one of those flags together… in the order that we visited the countries, or course.

Flags are memories of good times. Australia day, in January, we bobbed around the harbour (again teeming with boats)- flags of all sizes, but large ones in particular. Our host for the day in 2011 was the trawler Furthur, another vessel from the Salish Sea. With a boat full of Americans and a US hailing port, the natural thing to do was string up all the flags and then make a big banner of our own to get in the fun.

In Thailand, we noticed a lot of local boats flying yellow and blue flags. It seems like a strange thing to do (clearly, they didn’t need Quarantine yellow) until I realized they contained complex emblems: it turns out these are special flags celebrating the Thai king (yellow) and queen (blue). When in Rome, right?

It’s actually not quite proper etiquette to string them like this. Typically, stringing one national flag over another means the higher flag has declared war on the lower one. We went with it since that was the modus operandi on local vessels. On the other hand, it also reflected the anti-royalist tension in much of Thailand at the time…although the last thing we were aiming for was a political statement. I’m pretty sure that’s not what the fishing and tourist boats in Phuket had in mind, either.

While there are a lot of rules around flags, they’re often easily bent. Where we draw the line is where it may offend anyone- especially our host country- or where it may cause harmful misunderstanding (e.g., indicating distress when there is none). But I have to admit, when we see an obvious miss on flag etiquette, we notice. Like the boat that thought it was cute to fly their Scottish flag over the local courtesy flag. They probably have no idea that they’re being rude, but they are. We didn’t have the opportunity to tell them, but it was a chance to show our kids what not to do, and why.

Otherwise, we literally just let our flags fly. Have extras, or the materials to make them! Without flags to spare, we hand-made one to leave at Suwarrow. Check out the wealth of great flags hung up there with messages and remembrances from cruisers in years gone by.

A big thanks to Gettysburg Flag Works, who is making this giveaway possible! More information on Gettysburg, their great flags for boaters, and the story behind the giveaway in this earlier post.

Flag-flying fans know we love it when you read this on the Sailfeed website.

  • facebook
  • twitter