Caption: “In memory of all the Åland Islanders who found their graves in the ocean.”
I have a habit of beginning my journal entries – the stories I write when I’m actively out traveling or sailing or actually doing something – with reminding myself of where I was when I wrote it. Setting the scene for my own memories sake I think (incidentally, that’s the main reason I write, or at least started writing – it’s pretty selfish. I enjoy the act of it. Turning on some music – this time, Smashing Pumpkin’s ‘Adore’ album – using the blackout feature in Word that makes my computer desktop black save for the white screen on which these letters appear, and sinking right into it. And the subsequent re-reading of what I’d written. I have journals like this that go back to my first experience abroad, in Costa Rica in 2004, that one written by hand, the title and a little palm tree sketch scratched into the leather surface of that particular journal’s cover with my Swiss Army knife. It’s all great stuff).
So I’m writing from the ‘sommar stuga’ in Bergö, in the northern part of mainland (sort of) Åland. This is Johanna Mattsson’s parent’s summer cottage (there’s a mouthful), Mia’s maid of honor in our wedding and whom I met in New Zealand at the same time I met Mia. Unfortunately, she can’t be here (she works in Sweden as a dentist), but her parents have been giving us a wonderful stay.
The property was handed down (as is much of the property on Åland, for it’s nearly impossible for foreigners to buy real estate here, keeping the country in the hands of the locals. And more importantly, keeping this beautiful place reasonably priced for those who grew up here) from Johanna’s grandmother on her mom’s side. It’s a small peninsula overlooking a little cove inside a larger bay. The waterside is interspersed with the typical red granite cliffs of Åland, and reedy, swampy areas where the water is shallower. They have a very small dock built into the red granite in front of the cottage, where Tryggve, Johanna’s dad, keeps his old wooden runabout moored. Just up from the waterfront is the ‘bastu’ (sauna), which has an attached shower and a set of bunk beds for guests (where Mia and I slept last night to get off the boat). Behind the cottage is another tiny little ‘stuga’, which houses the washing machine (no dryer), larger refrigerator and the oven (the cottage itself is not much bigger than a typical college dorm room, so there is room for only a tiny fridge and simple two-burner stove next to the single sink). Next to it is the outhouse (yep). Inside, the cottage has a small dining table for two, a sitting room with a couple bookshelves and a wood stove as the centerpiece, and two very small attached bedrooms (by which I mean, literally, rooms big enough only for the beds that occupy them. No walk-in closets here).
All the buildings on this little piece of land (it’s probably an acre, if that, but a gorgeous acre it is) are painted dark green, so they blend right into the surrounding forest. The deck out front of the cottage is painted dark brown, and probably has a larger footprint than the cottage itself, with a big dining table for 6 or 8, and a handful of sitting chairs and coffee tables. It overlooks the dock just down the sloping front yard, which is mostly grass with a few big natural granite slabs poking up here and there. This is a summer place, and most of the time is spent here outside.
Arcturus is anchored in the tiny cove just off the dock, and it became apparent last night that a large sailboat is indeed an odd sight around these parts. Granted, we were able to get here reasonably easy enough from the open sea and the outer archipelago, winding our way through a couple of cliff-lined narrow channels (Mia and I tacked through one particularly small part, with 100’ red cliffs on each side, that dropped another 160’ sheer into the sea, the wind funneling directly into this little canyon. We only had a couple hundred yards room, just enough to get up some headway to enable us to tack over again. Arcturus is not the most weatherly boat – a modern J boat could probably have made it in two tacks – but we made it through nonetheless, dropping the sails only when the channel became too rock-strewn and narrow to even make one tack). But the thing is, it feels inland here. It is only 5 feet deep where we’re anchored, and small fishing boats passed us as we made our way in, and the reedy, forested shorelines were a decided change from the rocky outcroppings of the archipelago.
The boat drew attention from the neighbors apparently, too. We sat down for dinner last night on the deck (I was the grillmaster for the pork loin and zucchini – only after, of course, Mia and I had a naked swim in the cove and a fantastic sauna and shower afterwards. It feels so luxurious to me, but not having a sauna in Finland is like not having a shower in America – it’s just how it works here), and shortly thereafter two of the neighbors wandered down to inquire about the sailboat in the harbor. Tryggve offered them cold beers as a good host, and they sat down for a chat. Tryggve is very impressed that we sailed all the way here from America, and is constantly asking me what this and that is like back home. He rowed out the boat with me yesterday to help retrofit the propane system from American to European. He enthusiastically told his neighbors about us and the boat, much to his delight.
Turns out that one of them (I forget their names – these Finnish ones are hard for me to understand, and harder for me to remember) was a seaman on a ship in Gustav Erikson’s fleet back in the day, and had been across the Atlantic himself several times as a merchant mariner. Gustav Erikson is rather famous around these parts, for he owned 17 of the last merchant sailing ships to sail the grain route from Australia to England, and many Ålander’s were captains and crew, far more than the countries tiny population of 28,000 would think to have provided.
Later that evening another neighbor turned up, this time in an old wooden motor launch. We watched him approach the dock from the deck, Tryggve already bragging for the man about the boat, making sure I noted how smoothly it parted the water, ‘like a swan,’ he’d said. Claes (his name I remembered) shouted for Tryggve to come down to the dock. He grabbed a cold beer first, and I followed him down, intrigued to see this neat old wooden boat. As they chatted, I asked in Swedish if I could climb onboard and poke around. ‘Absolutely!’ Claes replied.
‘Start her up!’ he said in Swedish. No, no, I can’t do that, I said. The engine was ancient, a small green two-cylinder gasoline motor built in the 1940s. The boat itself was older, build of fir on the neighboring island of Föglö in 1938, with tarred frames inside and a varnished hull outside, built in the clinker style.
Claes finally convinced me to turn the key and bring the thing to life, which I did with delight, and he eventually convinced me to take the boat out for a spin in the bay. By now Mia had come down to see what all the commotion was, with her camera in tow as usual, and the two of us took the little Adele out for a ride in the bay. The controls were directly on the engine itself, a lever (cleverly homemade by Claes from an old piston) attached to the gearbox for forward and reverse, the throttle adjacent. You had to keep the cover off the engine box to drive the thing, and you steered with a tiller. I’d never driven a proper wooden boat before, so it was a thrill. It was an open launch, about 25’ long perhaps, a beautiful canoe stern and graceful sheer. A real boat, which I made sure Claes knew I understood upon our return. He seemed proud to have shared it with us.
Later on, after the sun had set and we’d retired into the stuga, Claes came up from the dock to politely interrupt Mia and I from checking email and Facebook. I gladly closed the computer for him, and we chatted for another 30 minutes. He seemed as excited to meet us as I was to meet him, and was thrilled that we’d sailed Arcturus here all the way from America, and all the more impressed with my Swedish (as a quick aside, it’s incredibly nice to be able to speak the local language here. It’s opened up another side of life that I had not experienced for the first 4 years that I knew Mia. I was always on the outside, only getting the small translated parts of conversations and not able to really participate in life here. Now that I’m more or less fluent, at least conversationally, it’s like I’ve opened up another world).
Claes was yet another merchant seaman in his day, and told us of his trips round the world carrying cargo, ‘more than I can count,’ he said with a smile and that little ‘spark’ in his eye, as Mia likes to say. He talked about how he nearly relocated to New Zealand, after working for a while on the New Zealand Line between there and Australia, but came home for the sake of his three kids. ‘I’d thought about writing my memoirs one day,’ he told us in Swedish, ‘but I’d only publish them if I could guarantee that my kids wouldn’t read them!’
Claes and I spoke in Swedish, though he acknowledged that he speaks English. In his 40 years of travel on the sea, he would have had to, he explained. Claes is not unlike many Ålanders in that he’s followed a life at sea. We talked about how interesting it must have been to come from such a small island in the middle of the Baltic, which today has only 28,000 people, and to go out and see the world, to bring back those stories. Even today this continues. Åland has a top notch maritime academy in Mariehamn that caters to islanders and Finns and Swedes alike. Nowadays the seaman work on merchant ships and Norwegian ships searching for oil in the North Sea.
I’m saving the details of this for a magazine story, but it’s the reason that Åland controlled the very last of the merchant sailing ship trade, the reason the main flag outside the maritime museum is not that of the country, but of the International Cape Horners Association, of which Åland has an active branch (and in fact only last week hosted the International Congress, with the few remaining Cape Horners in the world coming to Mariehamn and having dinner aboard the Pommern, the only Cape Horn tall ship in the world to be preserved in it’s original state. It sailed the route up until the late 1930s). And it’s the reason we got to meet Ålands last living Cape Horner, the 95-year-old Frank Karlsson, who worked as first mate on the Viking, another of Gustav Erikson’s ships, and rounded the Horn in 1938. We found him at the old folks home in the village of Degerby, stopping there on a whim on a windy day last week, solely because I’d seen a newspaper article in the museum that mentioned he lived there. But again, I’m saving that for another story.
So until tomorrow, when we’ll sail back across the open stretch of ‘Åland’s Hav’, we’ll be enjoying the stuga, the sauna and our little swimming dock. Mia and I are planning a 13-mile run this afternoon through the countryside (the gravel roads here are paved with crushed red granite), whereby we’ll return, have a swim and a sauna, and, hopefully, another delightful dinner with Johanna’s parents. Who knows who might drop by tonight and what more stories I’ll discover.
Onboard the ‘Pommern’ near the helm at the stern.
Photos from belowdecks on the ‘Pommern’ depicting life at sea.
The Åland sector of the A.IC.H., International Cape Horner’s Association
“Frank, the Last Cape Horner”
‘Pommern’s’ impressive four-masted rig.
Shackles on the ‘Pommern’ bigger than Mia’s head!
Albatross statue commerorating Åland’s Cape Horn Association
Memorial to all the Åland Islanders who died at sea, outside the Maritime Museum
‘Pommern’, with her foresails hoisted…I didn’t know this, but at the time this photo was taken, the last of the living Cape Horners were actually aboard for a dinner.
View from the ‘stuga’.
Claes’ ‘snipa’, his 1938 wooden launch built on nearby Föglö
‘Adele’s’ 1940s era gasoline two-cylinder.
At the helm!
Åland’s pretty red, blue and yellow flag.
We’ve all had times where we’ve been counting the minutes to the end of a watch, but this is something entirely different–a gripping account of what it is like to race through the icebergs of the Southern Ocean during a Whitbread/Volvo Ocean Race.
It is an experience that takes sailing deep into the realm where the crew not only has to manage a boat that is always on the edge, but also manage psychologies, that are also on the edge. It takes a toll.
The sailor speaking in the video below is Gordon Maguire, who was a helmsman with News Corp in the eighth edition of the race in 2001-02.
For more of the same, the Volvo Ocean Race this video came from a great series about the experience of racing through the Southern Ocean.
Jamie and I recently spent time talking to Christina Brown, host of Our Take on Arise TV. We were joined by other families who choose alternative lifestyles based on travel. It was a fascinating discussion with varied perspectives on similar goals: to help our children be citizens of the world. You can watch the full program on YouTube (linked above); more program segments from executive producer Debbie Mitchell’s YouTube channel.
Our segment begins roughly halfway through, but the first part is really worth listening to earlier portions of the show. The one prior to ours regarding cord blood donation really spoke to me. We donated the cord blood from our children, and were privileged to get The Tap to learn that one of them was a match for a leukemia patient. It is humbling to think you can give that kind of gift.
IWhen Arise approached us about joining a segment, I looked into this relatively new cable channel and I liked what I found. It’s a relatively new, and it’s their mission- Every Culture Every Angle- that resonated. This is an important aspect of what we seek through our travels: to get a broader perspective and understand the places we visit from multiple angles, to help our children grow up to be open minded citizens of the world.
I will confess: something else that night spoke to me too. Literally. With a big dumb grin on my face, I realized that every accent coming in over our Skype discussion was American. Let me tell you, it has been a long time since that happened! It helped me get over the face that we were up at a horrific hour to accommodate their US East coast afternoon schedule. Yikes. I’m not a night owl.
Watch and enjoy.
August 23, 2013 01:00 UTC
Somewhere along the way
Erik read my last post and made a face. "Why did you say where we are?"
I looked up from my book. "Why?"
"Because we are making lousy time."
Erik gave me his patented incredulous, isn't-it-obvious look. I returned fire with my what-are-you-talking-about-you-crazy-person stare. (I won, because I have better eyebrows. Never underestimate the power of a shaggy brow in an adversarial situation.)
But I knew out what he was talking about. We are becalmed. And there is nothing worse for troop morale.
20 knots on the beam? Happy. 30 knots in a cold front? Bring it on. But three knots on the stern in rolling seas? Our mood falls apart like wet tissue paper.
The kids don't care. Fast, slow, heavy seas, flat calm – it is all the same to them. They want to know: when do we eat? Will you tell me a story? Any new books hiding in your closet? Beyond that, passage is a long, undifferentiated block of time that will eventually end in friends and swimming. I admire their live-in-the-moment attitude.
Unfortunately, their father has a harder time with being stuck in a high pressure zone. He spends his time scowling at the sky. Sails go up, sails go down. New sails come out of the locker. He is sure, somewhere is his sailor's heart, that if only we could find that perfect, special, kissed-by-golden-unicorns sail combination, then the rolling will stop and we will get moving again.
I feel bad for him in the way I feel bad for Charlie Brown trying to kick Lucy's football: pity with a heavy dose of exasperation. This is never going to happen. I may not earn my PhD in Physics for this, but I know perfectly well that the 3 knots of wind puffing at our stern is not going to translate into forward motion on our 30 tons of aluminum any time soon.
So we have two choices: motor or wait. Right now, we are waiting. This isn't a race. It might take ages to get through this high. But, probably, by tomorrow a little wind will come. And we can start moving. And once again happiness will reign supreme aboard Papillon.
Until then, I'll give my eyebrows a workout when the captain gets too crotchety.
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With so much attention trained on the crazy, and often unfulfilling, anti-climactic, antics of that little old regatta known as the America’s Cup, it starts to seem as if there are no other sailing regattas worthy of our time.
Well, that would be wrong, as the creative Sam Greenfield shows with this video series about France’s “other” tour. Sailing competitions don’t get much better than this.
I look at this photo of our children at the time we embarked on the cruising life in 2008 and wonder- how did five years pass so quickly? It’s five years today since we backed Totem out of her Bainbridge Island slip and departed on cruising adventures. At the time, I really didn’t think that we’d still cruising five years later. A couple of years seemed achievable. I didn’t dare hope or think about more, and living in those amazing moments was enough.
Today we celebrated five years since departure from the Salish Sea. To commemorate the journey, Jamie pulled out the log and we all talked about those places where we were for each of those last cruisiveraries. It’s with immense gratitude that I can reflect on the beautiful places and indelible experiences.
2009: San Carlos, Mexico: Marina Real. 27 56.778N / 111 05.549W
One year in, Totem was parked in a slip in the the Sea of Cortez while we road tripped back to the USA for a few months of the hurricane season. Returning in early September, we marveled at the colors and textures of Baja’s Gulf coast, and pinched ourselves about the fact that we were living the dream.2010: Vava’u Group, Tonga: uninhabited island. 18 40.600S / 173 55.400W We were in Tonga for our second cruisiversary, anchored in a pristine spot at the southeast side of the island group, in the company of close friends on M/V Oso Blanco and S/V IO. Unforgettable, and a time when we keenly felt we were living a dream to be in such a spectacular and remote place. Truly, the dream come true. 2011: Sydney, Australia. 33 49.101S / 151 13.364E Sydney at this point had been our home for nine months while we stayed relatively stationary to refill the cruising kitty. The crew of wonderful people in the Cammeray Marina, from our fellow liveaboards to the marina staff, truly made it home. Camping trips to the mountains inland were a taste of the temperate terra life we’d not experienced in some time. Not to mention, polar fleece, our new-again friend. 2012: Manly, Australia: Moreton Bay Boat and Trailer Club. 27 27.275S / 153 11.319E Last August, we were in the throes of planning our departure. Within weeks, we’d sail north to Papua New Guinea. Anticipating months with few stores or services and certainly no marine chandlers had us in a preparation frenzy. But it was good. VERY good. Besides the excitement of being on the move again, we had our good friends on Oso Blanco to make more memories. Here’s Totem in front of Stradbroke Island on our 4th cruisiversary, taken from Oso’s flybridge. 2013: Sarawak, Malaysia; Kuching Marina. 01 33.531N / 110 24.309E As our fifth year comes to a close, and we begin our sixth year (HOLY COW) of cruising on Totem, we’re anchored in the muddy Kuching river on the Malaysian side of Borneo. The kids, shown as we motored up the river a few days ago, are a mite bigger than that top photo. Niall is almost as tall as Jamie. Sad for this mama, there is no more baby fat to squeeze. It still feels too good to be true. I look at our children, marvel that they have been able to grow up this way, and I wonder: how did we get so lucky? I have no answers. Just immense gratitude to be able to live this life.
Written by Ben Ellison on Aug 21, 2013 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub
Yesterday Garmin big-footed into a new niche with new VIRB action cameras — VIRB as in verb, as in action (I think). It’s not a boat camera per se, but I expect that one will be useful and fun around a boat, and it’s also another indication of the company’s product ‘ecosystem’ stradegy. Garmin was just getting into dedicated marine electronics when I began covering the subject in depth over a decade ago, but nonetheless the major players almost unanimously cited the big Kansas complex full of engineers (with its own factory in Taiwan) as their biggest competitive fear. I suspect it was capablities like this that caused the concern. VIRB is not an assault on any marine companies but CNet’s sharp analysis is aptly titled ”Garmin gets up in GoPro’s grill with VIRB HD cameras“…
As you may well know GoPro has built quite a business as “the world’s leading activity image capture company” by which they mean recording your adventures with a small super-wide-angle video camera attached to your skydiving helmet or kite board. Or trawler mast? I bought a GoPro Hero2 Motorsports Edition in late 2011 largely on the promise that it would soon have a WiFi accessory so that I could see what it sees and also control video/still recording from my phone or tablet. I may have been overly enthusiastic, not to mention my personal “so many gizmos, so little time” issue.
While the Hero2 does make wonderfully sharp images, the WiFi Bacpac was so late to market that the Hero3 series with WiFi built in was already out. And there have been other bumps on the user experience road like very laggy WiFi performance and difficult firmware upgrades. What company in Kansas is stellar at continuously improving its products with easy updates?
If you compare the specs for the $300 VIRB and $400 VIRB Elite, you’ll see that they meet and often improve on the GoPro3 White, Silver, and Black editions in most every way (though critical image quality is yet to be determined, and Garmin quit underselling competitors a long time ago). Compare, for instance, the built-in IPX7 waterproofness and 1.4-inch transflective color screen to GoPro’s clunkier solutions.
The secret sauce, though, is how “VIRB allows many current Garmin customers to take advantage of the Garmin ecosystem” (press release here). Right out of the box I should be able to control even the base model VIRB with the quatix watch I’m testing and the camera will purportedly be able to display and/or log GPS, heading, etc from the quatix and other Garmin sensors with ANT+ wireless. The VIRB Elite has quatix-like sensors built in plus WiFi for relationships with promised smartphone and tablet control and video streaming apps.
Garmin also promises to provide free desktop video editing software and the ability to embed all that sensor data into the imagery. Wow. The sample screen above is a wakeboarding session but couldn’t it be an exciting fishing or sailboat racing scene? My lifestyle hardly qualifies as ‘active’ in the way these cameras are marketed, but I’d love to capture, say, some time lapse video of the Maine gunkholing I enjoy. Which seems possible given the VIRB’s 3 hour battery life, with at least six on standby.
Plus I can envision all sorts of troubleshooting situations on the boat where it could be great to have a camera I can attach most anywhere with WiFi streaming to a mobile screen (so it will also be interesting to see how the VIRB’s focal length and low light performance compare with GoPro).
Let’s consider product ecosystems some more. The idea that giant tech companies have moved into selling whole systems of hardware, apps, content, and online services is a hot subject, though it’s not as simple as it first sounds and I’m not sure how much it will apply to the little world of marine electronics anyway. Actually real boat cameras — the kind that get installed permanently to look around the boat and beyond with integration to navigation/monitoring systems — is a particularly mixed case.
I think that fixed boat cams are about to get a whole lot better and perhaps the main sign is Raymarine’s move toward IP camera support across all its a, c, e, and g MFDs with POE built into the latter. Network cameras can become part of a vessel ecosystem instead of just showing up on one or two fixed screens. Meanwhile FLIR’s work with thermal and lowlight nav cameras nicely defies brand ecosystems, as they now integrate with Furuno, Simrad, and Raymarine systems (all three of which I hope to try out soon). Plus NMEA OneNet promises to provide a marine standard for IP cameras. Can we predict widespread support for generic IP cameras along with brand ecosystem models that have special features?
We know that Garmin has already developed some good fixed nav camera integration though unfortunately the third party camera hardware was shelved for purported durability issues. Will Garmin make a second attempt? Will it include some of the secret sauce we see with the VIRB cams? And remember that the quatix watch could already control existing Garmin autopilots when it shipped, and the GMT 10 box that gives it NMEA 2000 data streaming and MOB alarm capability seemed long planned, though entirely unpredicted.Click here to read comments about this Panbo entry, or add your own.
I’ve always loved the graceful, sleek, seaworthy lines of Fife yachts. Apparently CNN Mainsail’s Shirley Robertson feels the same way. Here’s her 3-part tribute to the Fife family and the timeless vessels it produced.
I’ve always loved the graceful, sleek, seaworthy lines of Fife yachts. Apparently CNN Mainsail’s Shirley Robertson feels the same way. Here’s her 3-part tribute to the Fife family and the timeless vessels it produced.
As per usual, scroll down to see the photos…otherwise, read on!
We’re in Länsmansgrund now, one of the few places we’ve stayed on this trip for more than one night. You might say we get restless on these sailing trips, but it’s more like we just want to see so much and only have a limited amount of time (which is really a reflection of how I’ve lived my life over the past several years, never staying in one place for more than a few weeks and always moving between one project and the next, never stopping to rest. But there it is then – there is just so much to see and do in life, and if you subscribe to the theory that you only live once – which I’m not sure I do, but anyway – you’ve got to take advantage).
Länsmansgrund is holding our attention however, and we’re staying here again tonight. We arrived last night around 7pm after a five-hour sail in strong, rainy conditions yesterday. Mia and I debated for much of the morning whether we’d go anywhere at all. Plus, it was raining, and neither of us felt like getting wet.
We’d sailed into a wide bay the night before, anticipating a strong south wind and (after meeting Åland’s last living Cape Horner at an old folk’s home in Degerby, a 95-year-old gent who was First Mate on the tall-ship Viking and sailed the grain route from South Australia to England – look for that story to follow soon) found a nice anchorage between some islands that offered good protection, formed by a big island typical of the Åland archipelago, with red rocks down near the shoreline and mossy pine forest covering most of the interior. The bay was open to the north and there was a very narrow, low-lying stretch of rock to the south, precisely where the wind was coming from, and it funneled through this spot with enough force that we second-guessed our choice of anchorage. We slowly motored more to the west. The chart indicated a shallow area between the main island and another, much smaller island to the north. The channel between the two was a few hundred yards across, and there were no rocks marked on the chart, so we nosed our way in to explore. Passing through the narrow bit, a small cove opened up to the south, on the main island. This was oddly not marked as an anchorage on the chart, but it was ideal, and where we ended up staying the night, deploying the boat anchor for the first time since we left Sweden.
That next morning we spent drinking coffee and reading books in the drizzle, waiting to decide what to do. The bilge was full of water underneath the engine, and our manual bilge pump had given up the ghost sometime over the past week, and I had been putting off dealing with it. The water was coming from the rudder post, which leaked badly under sail, particularly in a following breeze when the stern tended to squat as the boat reached hull speed, forcing water into the rudder bearing, so I took the opportunity to deal with it, particularly if we were going to venture out into the stormy weather to continue the trip counterclockwise around Åland’s main island.
The manual pump I could not get going (I need to take it entirely apart and rebuild it), so we ended up installing the electric bilge pump that I had originally planned on using for the bilge under the cabin sole. It works phenomenally under the engine however, so we’re going to leave it there and get a second one for the main bilge (for anyone interested, it’s a Whale ‘Supersub’ 650, which works on an internal switch – meaning no float switch needed to operated automatically – and pumps a fair amount of water, even with a check-valve fitted. I’m very pleased with it).
In the end, we sailed, weather be damned. After hauling in the anchor I hanked on the small jib while Mia did circles in the bay to remain protected from the wind. It was blowing close to 30 knots from the south (14 meters per second is what the forecasters called for, which is roughly twice that in knots), but we were going north. Despite the rain, it turned into a nice little sail, as zig-zagging between the islands and rocks provided a flat sea, albeit tricky navigation, but it was good fun. The sun tried coming out a couple of times, and by the time we approached the outer archipelago to the north of Åland, there was a distinct change in the weather on the way. Ahead of us, to the north and west, a sharp line distinguished the lousy weather from the good, with dark clouds behind us to the east, and blue skies and sunshine ahead to the west.
That line finally passed us after we sailed into the tiny cove that is Länsmansgrund, careful to avoid the submerged rock on the western side, and the evening sun provided some spectacular lighting over the area, which I took advantage of with the camera while Mia made dinner.
This little cove is situated SE to NW, and you can moor to the rocks, as we’d been doing in Sweden. There might be room for four of five small yachts here moored in this way, maybe one or two anchored ‘traditionally’ in the middle of the bay, with about ten feet under the keel. The scenery is typical of the outer archipelago here, the ubiquitous red rocks making up most of the landscape, while the forest on the bigger islands gives way here to lower, more scrubby vegetation and lime-green colored moss. The cliffs surrounding the little harbor are higher than we anticipated, and afforded fantastic hiking this afternoon. It kind of feels like walking on Mars. We saw a big snake, which Mia did not enjoy.
This is just about as far north as one can sail in the Åland archipelago, and if you climb up the cliffs by the boat, you’re afforded splendid views over the Sea of Bothnia (‘Nordhavet’ the Åland locals call it – literally ‘North Ocean’ – while to the Swedes, its ‘Bottenhavet’, or ‘Bottom Ocean’) that stretches over the horizon and into the far north between northern Sweden and Lappland – where Santa is from! – in Finland. The guidebooks call Öregrund, the town just west of here on the Swedish mainland where we’re leaving the boat next winter, the northern limit for most cruising boats. And this is another record for Arcturus. Our mooring here puts us at 60º 28’ N, the farthest north we’ll get this summer, and only 5 ½ degrees of latitude south of the Arctic Circle (or about 330 nautical miles).
The other thing that makes this place special is the small ‘stuga’ that is built on the shoreline just meters to the west of us. The wooden hut has a set of bunk beds and an iron fireplace, plus a small writing desk with a four-paned window that looks out onto the bay. Out back is a pile of split wood available to any who choose to inhabit the hut for an evening or a weekend. This place is a nature reserve, and the hut is maintained by the government for public use. Tonight, a small open motorboat arrived and moored outside the hut with duffel bags and food, and the couple onboard will ostensibly stay the night in the bunk beds, reading by the warmth of the fireplace. Outside is ‘Finland’s coziest picnic table,’ according to the guidebook. After seeing it, it’s difficult to argue.
So we’re staying here another night, and I’m very pleased with that decision. Mia and I spent the morning training on the rocks just by the bow of the boat, me doing a kettlebell routine while Mia did some pushups and situps and a bit of yoga. Afterwards we did some running rehab-type exercises with Mia’s stretchy band she’s had since her swimming days, designed to strengthen the hip and lower back muscles, the small muscles that get so tired by the end of a marathon and which destroy your running form if they’re not in shape. I set up a little rope climb in the rigging and plan to send the photos to my friend Dane Miller, the former PA State Champ in shot-put who now runs the Garage Strength gym back home in Berks County, in an effort to convince him to open up ‘Garage Strength Finland’ here on the red rocks of Åland. Then, since the bay was ours alone, we went for another naked swim, which has sort of become routine on this trip. There is nothing like a little morning chill to wake up the system, and a hot cup of coffee afterwards never tasted so good.
Well, I guess today wasn’t the day we’d see a complete Louis Vuitton Trophy Finals race. After a sort of interesting, and at least close, start (if Luna Rossa had pulled the trigger just a second earlier they might have been first to the first turning mark), Race 3 of the LV Final ended when Luna Rossa suffered (yet) another breakdown.
The onboard mics delivered the inside perspective, and it wasn’t too surprising. “Oh my God!” you could hear Luna Rossa helmsman Chris Draper exclaim in frustration.
And then, to add emphasis to the lameness, the second race of the day (Race 4 of the Final) was postponed to–you guessed it–too much wind.
Despite all that, the truncated race seemed to show that if the Italians can raise their boathandling (the second downwind gybes–a perfect foiler from ETNZ and a clunker from LR–was a perfect measure of where the two crews are), they might actually have the boat speed to keep a race close.
So the Italian job list seems pretty simple.
Item 1: Try to deliver a boat that can finish to the start line.
Item 2: Sail that boat better.
We can hope, can’t we?
August 20, 2013 00:00
30 50.11 S, 173 28.07 E
Greetings from the open ocean! Papillon is two days and about 275 NM out of Opua, so this post is coming to you via the old-school magic of single sideband radio. Your correspondent gave into curiosity a few weeks ago and checked out marine satellite internet systems. After I picked myself up of the floor, my brain aching at the cost, I gave my trusty Pactor modem a friendly pat, and decided such luxuries as posting photos and checking failblog will have to wait until we return to port. As is often the case, low tech is happy tech on a boat.
It hasn't taken long to settle into our passage routine. The first couple of days of passage are a free-for-all. The girls read, play, watch movies, eat, and stay in their pajamas day and night. I take Sea Legs religiously, feed the masses, read, and sleep. And Erik puts sails up and down with a zeal and regularity that makes me feel like I am living in some sort of a nautical brothel, without the naughty bits.
But today, things get back to normal. School this afternoon. Family-wide resumption of regular chores. And the Nail Fairy.
Back in Whangarei, Indy managed to slam her finger in a car door. It turned purple, the nail began to lift off, and as the weeks went by, we slowly trimmed it back, bit by bit, to keep her from catching it on something and ripping it off completely. The usual. This week, she was down to a 2mm-wide section clinging to one side. And Indy had plans.
"Hi, Mom." Indy woke me this morning with her hand in my face. "Look. The rest of my nail is coming off."
I cracked an eye open. "So I see. Want me to clip that off for you?"
"Yes, please. I'm going to leave it for the Nail Fairy."
"The Nail Fairy," said Indy, as though I were mentally deficient.
Indy is four years younger than her sister, and has long been jealous of Stylish's encounters with the Tooth Fairy. Now that Stylish does the breakfast dishes and earns a modest allowance, this jealousy has increased. I scented a con for easy money.
"Honey, there is no Nail Fairy," I said.
"Mom, you're hurting the Nail Fairy's feelings."
Groan. "Okay. I've never heard of the Nail Fairy. But if there is a fairy out there who collects post-injury nail clippings, I'm pretty sure she doesn't pay for them, like the Tooth Fairy does."
"That's okay. We'll make an origami basket and leave it for her anyway."
I know better than to fight city hall on that one. So that is my next job. Heaven help me, I'm leaving out a nail for the Nail Fairy tonight, in a teeny-tiny origami box, probably with a note that says, "Dear Nail Fairy, Please enjoy my yucky bit of nail. Leave money here. Love, Indy."
If she shows up, I'm going to be a little concerned.
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Written by Ben Ellison on Aug 19, 2013 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub
After Raymarine and Furuno introduced multifunction displays with WiFi built-in and apps that could mirror and even control the MFD screen on an iPad or Android tablet — a great idea that caught on quickly — I was frankly a dite dubious when various Navico folks said that they had an even better idea. Eventually, though, we got to discuss the WiFi1, their MFD network hotspot, and then the whole multi-tier GoFree concept. It’s a complicated concept largely because it’s so ambitious — for instance supporting both Navico screen control apps and multiple third party apps like the ones seen above — but it seems to me that GoFree is now doing even more than Navico promised, and there’s virtually no limit to where it’s headed…
The photo above shows a GoFree WiFi-1 module (upper right) that had just been installed for the B&G press event in Las Palmas last February. I was easily able to view and control the Zeus Touch goodness with my iPad mini using the B&G/Simrad/Lowrance GoFree app (Las Palmas screenshot here) and also had success streaming GoFree “NMEA 0183″ data into several third party apps. Getting Gizmo’s fairly complex Simrad network to work well with a WiFi-1 took me a while (and various updates I misunderstood at first), but it’s been solid for months now and I’ll discuss some results below.
But let’s note first that some people want GoFree to work with their own boat’s WiFi routers, no WiFi-1 involved, and though Navico made no promises, they’ve apparently satisfied that desire by publishing details about how to do it (see the download section down the product page). I say ‘apparently’ because I haven’t tried it (and am not sure I have the IT skills required), but some Panbo readers report success.
Navico also came through with the Android version of their GoFree app, as seen on my Nexus phone above. I don’t think that it makes as efficient use of the screen space as the iOS version does (please stack the controls right or left if possible), but it’s fabulous that I can monitor Gizmo’s tank guages while fueling from a dock or running the overboard waste pump inconveniently installed in the head (happy CZone tank interface story here). Plus I can use an iPad to bring the NSS 8 up to the fly bridge alongside the NSE 12 (though the vice versa is not possible because the NSE doesn’t have the video chip needed to enable the screen streaming app).
Then there’s what Navico calls “Tier 1: TCP/IP NMEA 0183″ data. I didn’t expect much when I first put the WiFi-1 IP address into the iNavX iOS nav app – because Gizmo’s NSS 8 has no NMEA 0183 data going into it — but, wow, iNavX gets GPS, Wind, Depth, Heading, AIS, and more. And thus is a much more full-bodied nav program than it already was. The impressive SEAiq app provides similar GoFree nav integration at a much lower price (though the AIS streaming needs some work).
So Navico is generously translating a lot of Gizmo’s fundamental NMEA 2000 data into an 0183 format that’s easily understood by many third party apps. The iRegatta iPhone/iPad tactical sailing app, for instance, seems fully populated with Gizmo GoFree data and a good example of how the integration can make some tricky niche functions fairly easy and inexpensive to obtain.
MID Wifi seems to provide some iRegatta performance specifics like polars while also offering sexy instrumention that looks ironically similar to Zeus Touch (though you may want it on a pad so you can devote your Zeus screen to charts, radar, etc.).
I’ve just started testing NMEAremote, but am already convinced that there’s a very talented programmer behind the scenes. Its goal is boat instrumentation any way you like it and it’s slick how all the possibilities are organized into themes and chapters (though I wish there were alternates to the faux segmented LCD data font).
What’s especially interesting is how well NMEAremote handles the WiFi data connections, and how many flavors it can support. While iRegatta even makes you dig into iOS general settings to set up your GoFree IP address, NMEAremote is the only app I’ve seen able to figure that out itself. Note how it also has a data stream window so you know immediately if the connection is working and that Rules button lets you control individual data type inputs.
I’ve heard that NMEAremote will also be the first to support the super easy Bonjour WiFi interface built into the Vesper Marine WiFi AIS transponders – Vesper Vision is already working well with third party apps on Gizmo (more to come) — and do check out that list of supported NMEA sources. In fact, you do not have to own a current Navico MFD to use any of these apps. It’s more like Navico has helped its customers (and itself) by freeing its system data for use with third party apps, and I bet that’s helping not only those developers but even the various manufacturers who offer alternative hardware to get NMEA data onto WiFi. A lot of boaters don’t know about this NMEA WiFi thing yet.
Of course it would be great to hear how others are using GoFree, but a couple of other points first. Something I don’t understand is the state of Tier 2 NMEA 2000 data. Obviously the generous 0183 feed takes care of many needs and is being widely adopted by the apps developers, but Tier 2 promises to unleash more info than 0183 can handle plus two-way control. Do any such apps exist yet, or are about to?
Let’s also note that neither Navico, Raymarine, nor Furuno yet have an associated planning app that passes routes as neatly as Garmin BlueChart Mobile does (though Nobeltec/MaxSea TimeZero could conceivably get that feature at any moment). Meanwhile Garmin does yet offer a screen control app, and none of the MFD manufacturers beside Navico is working with the independent developers. Finally, Standard Horizon just entered the game with a CPN software release that supports screen control integration with C-Map Plan2Nav (and purportedly brings numerous other improvements, including N2K support, to that still-trailblazing WiFi plotter).
But what about the upper tiers of Navico GoFree, about which very little was promised? This weekend I had the pleasure of trying TripCon Lite, the free trial version of an unusual logbook PC program being developed in Germany. It took just a few minutes to install it and select Gizmo’s GoFree WiFi as the data source. As illustrated above and below, TripCon not only uses the data streaming seen in other apps but also NSS 8 screen streaming and control. I’m hoping to test the full version, but it sure looks like I’ll be able to record the video screen or attach screenshots to an automated or manual log entry. Like I said, the GoFree possibilities seem unlimited.
At first the Holy Grail for this America’s Cup was foiling. Emirates Team New Zealand figured out how to foil off the wind and changed the game for everyone. The next Holy Grail (if there can be two Holy Grails!) is foiling UPWIND. And Oracle Team USA looks like it might have unlocked that secret (though it’s hard to know if they are using elevators or any other flap systems that aren’t allowed by the AC72 design rules).
If Oracle has sorted out upwind foiling, that’s going to put a lot of pressure on ETNZ (or Luna Rossa if they somehow happen to win the LV Cup by breakdown default). Though my guess is that ETNZ is close on upwind foiling (if they are not already there and keeping it under wraps).
An intriguing and interesting development…
Plus: If you want to see what close racing in AC72s looks like, check out the so-called “Defender Trials.” Though they are breaking stuff, too:
The west side of Borneo is giving us excellent squall-spotting and squall-dodging practice. Thunderstorms form most afternoons.
It starts innocently enough…just some pretty cumulus clouds giving texture to a beautiful day.
But at some point, that puff of fluffy cloud gets evil looking. Most of the time, the wind hits first, with rain starting only when the wind begins to diminish. Unless, of course, it’s an especially evil squall. Then all rules about wind and rain order are off.
the wall of rain
We’re mostly able to appreciate the beauty they bring, but it always puts us on high alert, and it can be stressful. It can be especially stressful when you are rounding a point where confused
seas pile up on each other in the shallow water, where a drifting timber floats
out with other debris in river outflow, and your engine hiccups because once
again the fuel filters are getting clogged, and there’s a tug towing a large
barge up ahead that can’t seem to decide where it’s going.
Hypothetically speaking. You know, on days like that.Jamie is focused on clawing our way past this squall, rounding a corner, with the full complement of stress-inducing floating logs, tugs and tows, shifting shoals, etc. Good times. Is it bad? Rarely. Gusts rarely top out more than about
40 knots. The torrential rains give the rigging a nice freshwater rinse, and if
they last long enough, help trickle feed our water tanks (especially welcome as
we wait for parts from Spectra to get our watermaker running again). A nice rinse…at the dock in Miri, Sarawak The patterns are just inconsistent enough to keep you on your toes. The
weather tea leaves aren’t always easy to read on this side of the South China
Sea. We know enough to recognize that the line of clouds in the distance on the
morning we take off for Pulau Lakei probably means that we’re in for more
weather than the 5-10 knots from the SE that multiple sources indicated. SW and
25+ was more like it, and as the Murphy’s Law of sailing requires, coming from
exactly the direction we wanted to go. Anvil cloud looms over sunset- near Kuching, Sarawak
Sailing Totem can also be followed with Bloglovin.
So two races completed in the Louis Vuitton Cup Finals, and both decided by breakdowns. In the first race on Saturday, Charlie posted the spectacular Emirates Team New Zealand nosedive (amazing the wing did not come down). But the race, in fact, was already over (which proves that it is very hard to dial back these boats during a bear away), because Luna Rossa had already been crippled by a daggerboard breakdown.
Sunday, at least we got a pre-start and a few legs before a race-ending breakdown. In this case it was ETNZ, with an electronic malfunction which crippled their hydraulics, allowing Luna Rossa to sail past and take the win. ETNZ was thumping Luna Rossa at the time, so maybe the most suspenseful element of the racing in the LV Final for any given race will be which boat breaks first.
Throw in the fact that the next race was cancelled (as was the second race on Saturday) because the wind in San Francisco (which was picked in part because it was windy) was too strong, and you are looking at an America’s Cup that mainstream TV broadcasters will never touch in a million years.
So please let’s go back to focusing on making the America’s Cup exciting and interesting to sailors, and think about going back to boats that don’t break so easily and can engage one another closely.
Is this a harbinger of what’s to come? First race yesterday of the Louis Vuitton finals to determine who will challenge Oracle for the America’s Cup and the Italians are crippled straight off with a busted daggerboard. The Kiwis, meanwhile, stuff their bows, lose two guys overboard, yet still finish the race.
They get credit for the win… and I’m wondering: isn’t there a rule about having all your guys onboard at the end???
We do have our fair share of squalls (really, it’s a daily event) but most of the time we have spent making our way from one part of Borneo to another has been mild and mellow. We aren’t catching any fish, but we aren’t trying hard- the fishfinder (the best cheap depth sounder you can buy!) rarely shows anything but the bottom, a mere 30-50 feet below. Crossing a river outflow can be the most exciting part of the day.
That’s OK with me. There are hours to read in the shade of the cockpit.
We have picked up small friends. The one hung out on Niall’s book for a long time one morning. Bonus points for anyone who can identify the book.What doesn’t feature in coastal Borneo passagemaking? Wind you can sail with! Usually there isn’t any, but when there is, it’s on the nose. Of course.
This isn’t quite as cool as Dorade winning the Transpac, but it’s close. A French Corinthian father-son crew, Pascal and Alexis Loison, sailing Night and Day, a 33-foot JPK 1010, beat out an enormous fleet of 336 boats to become the first doublehanded crew ever to win the Fastnet Race (on corrected time, of course). Not too shabby, considering they were sailing against some biggest, fastest multi- and monohulls on the planet.
A great summer for underdogs on the ocean-racing circuit!
The fleet beating up the Solent to the Needles
Competitors included the cutter Jolie Brise, first winner of the race back in 1925 and only boat to win three times
The victors in their moment of glory. Besides winning the race overall Pascal and Alexis won top-honors tin as top non-British boat in IRC, best corrected time for a skipper age 18-30, winning navigator, best two-handed IRC boat, and best IRC 3 boat
NOSTALGIA DEPT.: I once raced in the Fastnet–sort of–with Don Street. You can read more about that here.
Charlie Rose is a gentle questioner, but it’s still well worth listening to Ellison explain his thinking, and the choices he made….
“We decided to make this an extreme sport. To make it exciting. We certainly never intended anyone to be hurt.”