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LinkWav, Inmarsat FB finally makes sense for intermittent users

Sun, 2014-12-14 13:00

Written by Ben Ellison on Dec 14, 2014 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub

Ho hum, just another sat coms service provider? No way! I think that LinkWav has pulled off something quite special in the daunting world of expensive marine satellite voice minutes and data megabytes. The company figured out how to offer a simple Inmarsat FleetBroadband service plan with decent rates and nearly realtime cost/budget monitoring, but without an oppressive contract. In fact, LinkWav is especially designed for the ocean racers, cruisers and small commercial operators who only need satellite communications now and then, sometimes with many months in between. The cherry on top is the high quality of the LinkWav team…

First, let’s review some frustrating FleetBroadband history. When the service went live in 2007, even the smallest 15-inch FB250 antenna offered significantly faster, better global service than had ever been available with hardware that small. Then in 2009 along came the $6,000 11-inch FB150, which seemed really right for some medium-size yachts. In fact, Panbo friend Gram Schweikert installed that KVH FB150 above (alongside an Iridium OpenPort) and then tested both from Newport to NZ. As explained in that last entry and further here, Gram and his family found the FleetBroadband system easy, reliable and useful during their long cruise, and service options, like the ability to buy a year of minutes up front and use them any time during the year, made it reasonably affordable.

But then, in 2011 some of the cruiser-friendly service options went away and in 2012 Inmarsat base rates for light and/or intermittent users seemed to go up again. We later learned that Inmarsat was under pressures that had little to do with their smaller yacht users, but I’m not sure that made the affected boaters feel better about the results. Some installer/dealers who had equipped customers with FleetBroadband were also upset and the one I quoted in 2011, saying that the service changes “will completely orphan the recreational community,” was particularly perturbed. But guess what? The guy who cared a lot about his customers is the guy behind LinkWav.

For many years Eric Steinberg has run Farallon Electronics, where he’s specialized in Grand Prix racing yacht systems and has also developed products like the IstarGPS. I finally met him in San Diego (above), where he was responsible for all the conventional and very unconventional electronics aboard the dozens of the Americas Cup 34 support vessels (and here) that went around the world helping to pull off a whole new level of race management and live video coverage. I caught up with Eric during the actual AC72 racing in San Francisco, and by then was even more impressed with how he and the rest of Stan Honey’s team had employed so much new technology with so few hitches. He didn’t mention LinkWav then, but according to the company’s modest About page, the idea was germinating. In fact, the person responsible for the complex database that makes LinkWav work is Chris Milnes, whose father Ken is Stan Honey’s longtime tech partner. I presume that, like Eric, he, too, is familiar with work in high performance environments where reliability is key.

In that spirit, LinkWav has already been tested on about a dozen boats for over a year, and I know that Steinberg and Milnes were perfectionists about the LinkWav site before they made it public a few weeks ago – which is why I don’t need to say much about it. I think that the single pay-as-you-go service plan is easy to understand, even though there’s nothing else like it. The magic seems to be behind the scenes in how LinkWav interfaces with Inmarsat’s pre-paid SIM card billing system (and Inmarsat is purportedly fine with it). The sign-up system looks very straightforward and requires no financial commitment…

…and a customer’s Air Management controls also seem easy, though powerful. The concept here is that you can buy all the airtime you want easily, but also stop whenever you want, and if you use the management tools carefully, you can spend close to zero up to 8 months of no use. Below is an actual LinkWav Usage Status email sent to a customer somewhere on the planet earlier this week. Eric doesn’t think that any other service provider offers this amount of detail, and he’s hoping similar database programming can offer special help to users of the harshly regionalized Fleet One service when LinkWav adds support for it.

Incidentally, some FB150 hardware systems are now under $5,000 ,and I must say that sometimes even a cheap coastal cruiser like me wonders if all the time I spend messing with cell and WiFi connections is worth it. If I ever did want solid satellite communications, what could beat having LinkWav and the guys who run it between Inmarsat and my wallet?

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

ARC 2014 Podcast: Leopard by Finland

Sat, 2014-12-13 23:28

Andy sits down with Samuli & Timo in Saint Lucia to talk about Leopard’s record-breaking run in this year’s ARC. Nearly 3,000 miles in just over 8 days! While the boat was long gone, Samuli and Timo were still on island with their families and graciously chatted with Andy at Elena’s Cafe in Rodney Bay Marina for an in-person chat. They talk about sailing culture in Finland, Samuli’s pro racing career, Timo’s adventures in the mountains and of course what it’s like to sail a 100-foot maxi at 30+ knots offshore.

To follow the ARC in real-time, visit worldcruising.com/arc or keep up to date on facebook.com/arcrally.

Want to go ocean sailing with Andy? Book a berth on Sojourner, Serenity or a Swan 57 at 59-north.com/events.

ARC 2014 Podcast: Leopard by Finland

Sat, 2014-12-13 23:28

Andy sits down with Samuli & Timo in Saint Lucia to talk about Leopard’s record-breaking run in this year’s ARC. Nearly 3,000 miles in just over 8 days! While the boat was long gone, Samuli and Timo were still on island with their families and graciously chatted with Andy at Elena’s Cafe in Rodney Bay Marina for an in-person chat. They talk about sailing culture in Finland, Samuli’s pro racing career, Timo’s adventures in the mountains and of course what it’s like to sail a 100-foot maxi at 30+ knots offshore.

To follow the ARC in real-time, visit worldcruising.com/arc or keep up to date on facebook.com/arcrally.

Want to go ocean sailing with Andy? Book a berth on Sojourner, Serenity or a Swan 57 at 59-north.com/events.

Your day is about to get better

Sat, 2014-12-13 09:30

Get ready to smile! You know how when you smile at someone, it’s hard for them not to smile back? When someone passes along a good feeling, it’s hard not to share it and pass it along yourself? That’s pretty much how the kids & kittens fundraiser happened. It all started with a picture of the cute little boy we call Monk (for his impassive demeanor and bald head). His name is actually Hualan, but whatever the name, who can resist a trouser-less toddler gripping onto his favorite thing in the world, a new-to-him scooter?

When Mike messaged me after seeing Monk’s picture on Facebook, wanting to get scooters for other resident shipyard kids, a quick fundraiser was born. I never imagined that so many people would be so giving, so generous, so eager to take that smile and pass it along but in just a few days, we raised almost $1,400. This blew me away- the whole purpose was to pass along that good feeling by making a bunch of kids really, really happy. Does it get any better than that?

Siobhan and her buddy, Biya. Thanks to Jamie from SV Esper for the photo.

Who are the kids, anyway? The first I met were from the Burmese families. These parents have to overcome big hurdles just to get to Satun, and support their families, paying agent fees that cost them months of salary just to get to this place and have a living. PSS built housing for many of the yard staff and their families live, where they pay only for water and electricity. It’s affordable housing for people who have come far from their home villages looking for work, and can’t afford anything more. They are Burmese, Cambodian, and Thai; children range from infants to teens, so the kids are often “around” in the yard. Our kids had gotten to know many of them (despite the lack of shared language) during our stay, between mock Muay Thai battles in the yard, weekend afternoons playing card games and drawing together, running around on the scooters in the yard’s open spaces.

With Totem’s launch date looming, this all had to happen quickly. The day before our planned launch, and only a few days after the whole fundraiser idea coalesced, Julie (PSS shipyard management) and I spent a morning shopping in Saturn town. I had worried about being able to spend our budget raised, but I shouldn’t have. First, we picked out wheels for each of the kids: scooters, bikes, trikes, ride-on trucks. Then we got a few things for fun: soccer balls, frisbee and badminton rackets (it’s popular here, and they have a net in the yard).

Choosing soccer balls in Satun. Thanks to Julie from PSS-Satun for the photo.

School supplies were next: notebooks, pens, pencils, and erasers. Last, we went to the bank to get cash for uniforms. One of the hurdles for kids to attend school daily is that they need three complete uniforms (with different shoes), each worn on different types of days at school. One uniform set can cost more than a parent earns in a day- it’s significant, so you have some days where some kids might not be able to go to school because they don’t have the right clothes to wear.

We planned a giveaway/ presentation for that night. During our stay at PSS, we’d become fans of Bobby’s Pizza in Satun (pizza tossed the old school way and served with a Liverpool accent- what more to love?!), and when Bobby caught wind of the plans he generously offered to drive out with a big pizza treat for the kids. Time for a party!

Julie serves pizza to the kids at the shipyard. Thanks to Jamie from SV Esper for the photo.

Bikes, assembled and waiting. Remember getting your first bike? Mine tasted a lot like freedom! There’s a age range that’s the sweet spot for a scooter, and these kids span a spectrum. For the youngest, we got ride-on toys. For those a little older, set got scooters; older kids were given bicycles. Scooters are stacked on the right just out of the frame.

The bicycle lineup! Thanks to Jamie from SV Esper for the photo.

At left in the photo below is Cho, one of the Burmese mamas and shipyard staff, with her daughters and grandson. We only share a couple of dozen words between my broken Thai and her broken English, but with a chain of translation she helped explain to gathered group what this was about, and how it came to be- the fantastic readers from Totem, a world away from Satun.

Cho and family. Thanks to Jamie from SV Esper for the photo.

Each child was called up by name. Here’s the really cool thing: every time one of their compatriots received a gift, the kids CHEERED. A rousing, fantastic, I’m-happy-for-you cheer as each of them picked up the smile and carried it along. There wasn’t the shadow of jealousy for what one received or another didn’t: they were so genuinely happy for each other.

Jamie, of SV Esper, does weekly videos. Meeting Jamie and Liz was one of the highlights of our stay in Satun, and he’s put a video together that covers the fundraiser and party for the kids. It tells the story better than I am here, including a tour through the shipyard staff homes adjacent to the shipyard. It’s a great watch, other than the parts where I’m getting a little over emotional sharing the story of the fundraiser! But listen closely in the beginning: that’s the cheer, the uplifting enthusiasm that happened over and over as each kid came forward and got their scooter (or bike, or whatever). They were just so happy for each other- it was beautiful!

This was also about the kittens. Facebook followers know that our girls nursed a pathetic looking gaggle of prematurely mama-less kittens (and two puppies) during our stay at the shipyard: growing them bigger and stronger, holding them through worming shots at the vet, getting special kibble for kittens who stop nursing too soon, diligently giving them daily eye drops, ringworm treatments, oral vitamins and antibiotics. Needless to say these little kittens worked their way into our hearts!

At the vet in Satun. Thanks Julie for the photo!

As a result of the fundraiser, there’s plenty of kibble and kitty litter to keep the kittens well cared for inside the shipyard offices. They’ve come a long way but they still need to get bigger and stronger before they can become “shipyard cats.” And, they’re in good hands! Jamie and Liz from Esper will see them through the coming weeks, and Julie is consistently supportive.

There are times in my life when I really can’t believe how lucky I am. Except I do. I really do know how incredibly fortunate we are. But this week was an emotional wringer of reminders and I felt luckiest of all to be the vehicle to help bring a spark to these kids. I just wish I could have brought every donor into the shed to see the look in the kids’ eyes when their hands where put on a set of wheels, just for them! And I wish they could experience the gratitude from the parents for a little uniform help. It is tremendous.Thank you to everyone who gave- please know that you have made a difference!

The monk who started it all, and eternal kid Tony. Thanks to Jamie from SV Esper for the photo!

We’re always grateful when you click through to the Sailfeed website.

Shopping for Sailor-Stuff?

Fri, 2014-12-12 15:22

Sail Couture Holiday Gift Guide 2014!
By Kara Hugglestone

Few things are as satisfying as giving the perfect gift, something truly special that will be treasured.

This year we searched out unique gifts for the special sailor on your list and some even have a Sail Couture discount.

– See more at: SailCouture.com

MAYDAY: Liveaboard Sailor Swept Offshore and Rescued 12 Days After Making Call

Thu, 2014-12-11 20:10

Ron Ingraham, a 67-year-old fisherman who had been living aboard his Bayfield 25 Malia on Molokai in Hawaii, was rescued Tuesday by the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard, 12 days after first trying to call for help on a jury-rigged VHF radio and a week after a search for him had been called off. News reports have it that Ron’s ordeal started when he was unable to enter Kaumalapau Harbor on the west coast of the island of Lanai, south of Molokai, due to a strong northwest swell. If you watch the TV interview with him here, however, it seems clear to me what actually happened was he was anchored at Kaumalapau and had to bail out because of the swell (note he refers to having to “cut his ropes” to avoid going up on the rocks just before dark).

Take a peek at this chart of the harbor, which is fairly small and open (though evidently it is the main commercial harbor on the island), and you can see it would be quite untenable with a lot of westerly swell piling into it:

Once clear of the harbor Ron was forced to run off to the south in the strong wind, until he was 200 miles off the south end of the big island of Hawaii.

At some point his boat was knocked down, with its mast in the water, and his masthead VHF antenna was lost, and he was swept overboard. Fortunately, Ron had a line on him and was able to pull himself back aboard. He jammed a coat hangar in his radio as a makeshift antenna and put out two Mayday calls on Thanksgiving Day, in which he stated he was taking on water and in danger of sinking. According to at least one report, he gave out an incorrect position during these calls that put him 46 miles west of Kailua-Kona, which is in the middle of the Big Island’s west coast, due to a problem with his GPS.

For whatever reason, the Coast Guard spent five days conducting a large search in the wrong area, southwest of Maui, after receiving the calls and finally gave up looking for Ron on December 1. Meanwhile, Ron was evidently having some luck sailing back north, as when his next call was received Tuesday morning he was just 64 miles south of Honolulu. The U.S. Navy destroyer Paul Hamilton picked up Ron and handed him and his boat off the Coast Guard, who returned them both to Molokai yesterday.

Ron meets the Navy after getting picked up

And here’s a video of the pick-up:

Ron ran out of food and water during his impromptu adventure and survived by catching fish. He was reported as being “weak, hungry, and dehydrated” when he was finally rescued.

The feel-good holiday ending is that authorities contacted Ron’s son Zakary, age 43, in the middle of all this. Zakary and his dad hadn’t seen or spoken to each other in many years, as Zakary was taken away by his mom after his parents divorced when he was just 7. Ron was living a simple life on Molokai, with no phone or e-mail access, and evidently was difficult to contact. When told the search for his dad was being called off, Zakary, who lives in Missouri, told authorities he believed his father was still alive.

“You know who Rambo is?” Zakary told reporters. “Rambo has a picture of my dad on his wall.”

Now he’s saving up his money so he can fly to Hawaii to visit his dad.

PS: Some reports have it that Ron’s little boat Malia lost both its masts during this mishap, but that is obviously wrong. It only has one mast, which was obviously still upright when Ron was rescued.

MAYDAY: Liveaboard Sailor Swept Offshore and Rescued 12 Days After Making Call

Thu, 2014-12-11 20:10

Ron Ingraham, a 67-year-old fisherman who had been living aboard his Bayfield 25 Malia on Molokai in Hawaii, was rescued Tuesday by the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard, 12 days after first trying to call for help on a jury-rigged VHF radio and a week after a search for him had been called off. News reports have it that Ron’s ordeal started when he was unable to enter Kaumalapau Harbor on the west coast of the island of Lanai, south of Molokai, due to a strong northwest swell. If you watch the TV interview with him here, however, it seems clear to me what actually happened was he was anchored at Kaumalapau and had to bail out because of the swell (note he refers to having to “cut his ropes” to avoid going up on the rocks just before dark).

Take a peek at this chart of the harbor, which is fairly small and open (though evidently it is the main commercial harbor on the island), and you can see it would be quite untenable with a lot of westerly swell piling into it:

Once clear of the harbor Ron was forced to run off to the south in the strong wind, until he was 200 miles off the south end of the big island of Hawaii.

At some point his boat was knocked down, with its mast in the water, and his masthead VHF antenna was lost, and he was swept overboard. Fortunately, Ron had a line on him and was able to pull himself back aboard. He jammed a coat hangar in his radio as a makeshift antenna and put out two Mayday calls on Thanksgiving Day, in which he stated he was taking on water and in danger of sinking. According to at least one report, he gave out an incorrect position during these calls that put him 46 miles west of Kailua-Kona, which is in the middle of the Big Island’s west coast, due to a problem with his GPS.

For whatever reason, the Coast Guard spent five days conducting a large search in the wrong area, southwest of Maui, after receiving the calls and finally gave up looking for Ron on December 1. Meanwhile, Ron was evidently having some luck sailing back north, as when his next call was received Tuesday morning he was just 64 miles south of Honolulu. The U.S. Navy destroyer Paul Hamilton picked up Ron and handed him and his boat off the Coast Guard, who returned them both to Molokai yesterday.

Ron meets the Navy after getting picked up

And here’s a video of the pick-up:

Ron ran out of food and water during his impromptu adventure and survived by catching fish. He was reported as being “weak, hungry, and dehydrated” when he was finally rescued.

The feel-good holiday ending is that authorities contacted Ron’s son Zakary, age 43, in the middle of all this. Zakary and his dad hadn’t seen or spoken to each other in many years, as Zakary was taken away by his mom after his parents divorced when he was just 7. Ron was living a simple life on Molokai, with no phone or e-mail access, and evidently was difficult to contact. When told the search for his dad was being called off, Zakary, who lives in Missouri, told authorities he believed his father was still alive.

“You know who Rambo is?” Zakary told reporters. “Rambo has a picture of my dad on his wall.”

Now he’s saving up his money so he can fly to Hawaii to visit his dad.

PS: Some reports have it that Ron’s little boat Malia lost both its masts during this mishap, but that is obviously wrong. It only has one mast, which was obviously still upright when Ron was rescued.

Sailor Rescued Off Hawaii After Seach Abandoned

Thu, 2014-12-11 19:54

…and he was reunited with his long lost son. Story here as well.

Lessons of Vestas Volvo wreck, but what about the C-Map Grounding Alarm & similar?

Wed, 2014-12-10 15:15

Written by Ben Ellison on Dec 10, 2014 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub

The fixed camera on the stern of Vestas Wind captured the worst possible unintended jibe. That’s when you’re blasting along at 19 knots through a tropical offshore night, but then your Volvo Ocean 65 suddenly smashes its way up onto a reef shearing off the rudders and spinning 180° as waves and wind take total control. That is a frightened and nearly naked man beyond the limp mainsheet and when watching the video you, too, may utter involuntary curses. No one was hurt, though, and the crew has been frank about the mistakes made. This has led to some useful conversations about the dangers of electronic charting, but it also reminded me of an uncommon electronic charting feature that might have prevented this shipwreck…

It’s impressive that the one-design Volvo racer hadn’t already lost her mast or canting keel when this morning-after photo was taken, but the boat itself is probably toast — note the “hinging” starboard quarter — and according to Monday’s press conference Team Vestas Wind may build another Ocean 65. Also impressive is how the crew removed possible pollutants and valuables like sails, carbon steering wheels, and that fabulous aft array of satellite, VHF, cellular and WiFi communications gear. And how about a shout-out to the Inmarsat sponsorship and Cobham Sailor hardware for making the HD video coming off these boats possible even in the “middle of nowhere” via FleetBroadband.

But how the heck did professional sailors make this mistake? Peio Elissalde over at Marine GeoGarage posted a great collection of chart images showing the “middle of nowhere” Cargados Carajos Shoal that Vestas Wind fetched up on. I’m not sure where he grabbed the screen above because I don’t see a satellite map option on the Volvo Ocean Race tracker, but the fairly large area of reef and islets is certainly obvious from space. Vestas Wind is on the very steep-to and dangerous western side while Alvimedica is on the safer side ready to assist while the other racers pass by.

While I’m not sure that the GeoGarage image of the large area C-Map above looks exactly like the presentation that the Volvo navigators saw on their AdrenaPro Offshore and Expedition 9 charting and routing screens, several reported that they had to zoom way in to see the real danger, and Vestas Wind thought the shoal was at least 40 meters deep. There’s a long SailingAnarchy thread on how the mistake was made, some of it valuable, but Starpath’s David Burch may have nailed it in a blog entry titled Don’t Blame eCharts for Anything. I often draw a similar distinction between the act of navigation and the tools used (and I wish I could find the Panbo entry I once wrote about particular cautions to take with vector chart zooming, scales, etc.)

6 out of 7 Volvo boats did not make the Vestas mistake and you can see one of the techniques used on this Expedition screen from the gripping video of Alvimedica standing by. As I understand it, the light red exclusion zone drawn around the shoal would keep Expedition from routing the boat through that area and may trigger alarms, even when the chart is so zoomed out that the C-Map detail goes away. I think that a lot of regular charting programs and MFDs offer a similar boundary feature to highlight danger areas. Note that Vestas is marked on this screen by one of the crew’s Kannad R10 AIS SART devices, and that Alvimedica navigator Will Oxley did a lot of quick route and (light blue) divider work to get safely into the bight and prepare to possibly take on passengers or worse.

At any rate, Vestas Wind navigator Wouter Verbraak and skipper Chris Nicholson have admitted to a grievous navigation error, and hopefully, a lot of sailors will now be extra careful with their electronic chart work. But here’s the thing: I believe that most every charting program, app and MFD “knows” when we’re about to make such a mistake and could warn us! Vector charts are databases of objects and related information, and the algorithms that decide what gets drawn on a screen at any particular location and zoom level are what we need to be careful with. But the database includes geopositioned spot soundings and shorelines, while the display knows precisely where you’re headed relative to the data. A constantly running search algorithm that concluded, “Hey, shoal water and then land 1 mile dead ahead!” doesn’t seem hard.

In fact, data-based grounding alarms have existed for quite a while. Jeppesen C-Map calls their version Guardian Alarm and any developer who wants their charting software to use C-Map Max or 4D cartography receives an SDK containing the search algorithms. When available — and apparently that includes a lot of current chartplotters by the likes of Furuno, Standard Horizon, and Humminbird — the MFD user gets to set a minimum draft and the distance to look ahead. They also get to choose what chart objects will be “interrogated”, and the search area is shown on the chart by that red triangle. If a danger is seen, an alarm pops up and you can also get a report showing which object type triggered the alarm. The Guardian Alarm can only be set to search 1 mile ahead at max, which is not ideal for a boat doing 19 knots way offshore, but it still might have helped (especially if they’d set their draft to 99 feet or whatever that max is). And couldn’t ever-improving processors handle longer ranges?

C-Map’s grounding alarm cannot only run when you’re underway but can also be used to check a proposed route, as seen above, and note that 4D includes auto routing. I’m happy to add that Raymarine is working right now to make C-Map 4D cards compatible with all its current displays. I don’t know for sure that Guardian Alarm will be part of Lighthouse II v13, but let’s hope so.

Let’s also note the similar “Look Ahead” function that was prominent on the Maptech i3 over a decade ago (and also on the sister Sea Ray Navigator, also now long gone). The graphic looks something like the Simrad and Echopilot forward scanning sonar that is gaining a new lease on life, but of course, is quite different in potential range and use. I want both!

Finally, Coastal Explorer can also identify obstacles along a planned route and clicking on the red notations below takes you right to the problem area. The quickly created route name below also shows how CE can sensibly name a waypoint from the vector chart database, so if it had an underway grounding alarm it could maybe say, “Hey! Cargados Carajos Shoal 5 miles or 15 minutes dead ahead!”

So, what am I missing here? We all make mistakes. Why aren’t vector data-based grounding alarms more available or used more when available?

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

The Many-Headed Hydra

Wed, 2014-12-10 13:21

 
     I am, finally, back home in New Orleans after a long jaunt down the East Coast. The crew and I were completely out of touch with the world for the past few weeks as we explored some of the more remote reefs in the Florida Keys and made the jump out to the Dry Tortugas and home to New Orleans from there. Now we’re surrounded by friends, airing out stale projects, re-combobulating the trappings of life on land. There’s a bicycle hanging in a wharehouse on St. Ferdinand, a few boxes from the attic of a house on Urquhart, some clean clothes. The marina won’t let me stay without getting boat insurance. Now feels like a funny time to be starting a policy.
               These are the easy things, or at least straightforward. More difficult is recalling a sense of personal identity, just me in a sea of people. My boat is twenty-eight feet long; just enough space for two settees, a V-berth and almost nothing else.  For the past four months I’ve been always within arm’s reach of seven other people (not all at the same time) and I’ve rarely interacted with anyone else. We were a little bubble learning to act in unison while moving through a busy and chaotic world.

At the end of the trip, we ran into a German sailor who had only complaints about sailing on the U.S. East coast. ‘If there is wind, it is always a storm’, he said. It hadn’t occurred to us quite like that but he was right. Unless you want to endlessly beat to weather leaving New England in the fall means stormy sailing. Mostly we rode cold fronts down the coast and as we bounced along we developed less a rhythm of living together than a collective corporeality. At sea, in the thick of it, we were a hive mind controlling a dozen arms and legs, forever climbing and tripping over itself to work the sails, find a snack, pass the salt. It was wet, messy, difficult and great fun. There were a few perks. To remember where you set down a book, you describe the cover out loud. A set of eyes remembers where someone’s hand put it down earlier and motions to the closest set of hands, which lays it in front of you.
Our state of life in the middle of our roughest passage

     Many sailors have heard a certain joke about the two types of people who stand in companionways, but I like this one more.
Question: What is the most sensuous place on the boat?
Answer: The companionway. “Hey! Sence-youw-is there (can you grab me that)”
It doesn’t translate well to type. Consider that the second half of the punchline is just a gesture. If you’ve ever tried co-habiting in tiny boats and you’re standing in a companionway you’ll remember the one.

 

Even ashore we were usually together, or at least in twos. Decisions- where to go, what to eat, when to set sail- were made collectively, effortlessly. We almost always wanted the same things. We made plans with and for each other and accompanied ourselves everywhere. Invited somewhere, individually, we didn’t pause before extending the invitation to the larger body. But then to be caught individually was rare. Singular pronouns gradually pluralized and we didn’t even notice until it began to raise eyebrows in our interactions with the outside world. And we raised a lot of eyebrows. People everywhere we went were amazed that we could tolerate living so close in so little space but for us it was so easy that we soon forgot what it was like to live any other way,

In this we were lucky, I was lucky. This kind of rapport is rare, I hear. People would see us crowded into our little dingy and feel compelled to share their horror stories of bad crew and long, crowded passages. We never had much of a response. I couldn’t tell you what in particular made it work, just that it did. It takes a unique group of people, at least a touch insane, to be able not only to live together, four or five at a time, on a twenty-eight foot boat but to actually enjoy it. This was us, and we ended our months together feeling closer than when we began. So I am incredibly grateful that I had a crew to accompany me who were not only tough and very capable but also honest, open, and easy-going, a joy to live with. I couldn’t imagine anyone better to sail with and even though we still see each other often in a way I’m already starting to miss them.

Working Through the Time Zones

Wed, 2014-12-10 07:50

It is six in the morning, and I am writing this post. That isn’t so unusual – I normally get up at four-fifteen these days. But I am nine time zones away from my usual morning coffee on the couch with Erik, and my body hasn’t caught up yet.

The girls and I arrived home after three days of travel. All in all it was pretty painless; the kids are so big now that they only need me around to navigate them through Customs and Immigration and pay for the odd sandwich. One flight after another we ate, we watched movies, we squirmed in our seats, we dozed, and we inched ever closer to home.

Our rule, learned from hard experience, is you have to forget your old time zone. (Flying from Toronto to Europe is the worst, because the flight is only eight hours and you land at about seven in the morning, meaning you have to force yourself to stay up for another twelve hours.) Naps are a trap best avoided unless you like waking up for the day at 2am.

What? No, I’ve been awake this whole time!”

As we taxied down the runway at Pearson, I woke the kids and reminded them of how things would be. “We just have to stay awake until seven,” I said. “That will get us on track.” It was already afternoon, so that sounded pretty easy.

So far so good. We were excited to be back and to see the family. By six o’clock I was fading, but we fought through to eight, which I thought was a pretty strong showing.

At four am, my eyes snapped open, and I knew I was done for the night. I read until five thirty, then crept upstairs for a pot of tea. My mom and the girls followed shortly after. I was kind of proud of us – we were adjusting pretty quickly. Indy was having the most trouble, but only because she couldn’t understand why the sun refused to come up.

“Mom,”she said, looking out the window at seven fifteen, “it is still the middle of the night. Do we have to go back to bed?”
“No, remember, we talked about this,” I said. “It is almost the winter solstice. This part of the Earth is tipped away from the sun at this time of year, so we get long nights and short days.”
She shook her head at the inky blackness outside. “It isn’t right.”
Amen, sister.

After a morning of errands and a good lunch, I made the fatal error of sitting down on the couch. Having quiet time at two o’clock is deadly, because sleep is almost inevitable. I opened my book and settled in. “Don’t let me sleep,” I warned my mom.
“Okay,” she agreed.

I opened my eyes to discover it was dusk outside. I shot upright. Indy was out cold beside me, her head on the sofa, her legs on the floor.
“Mom!” I shouted. “You let me fall asleep! What time is it?”
“About five,” she said calmly.”And I tried to wake you up. We all tried to wake you up. It wasn’t happening.”

That was it. My plan was blown. I didn’t get to sleep until midnight that night, and then I woke up four times in the night. Yesterday I made it through the day, but was snoring by nine thirty. Today? Awake at five o’clock.

I’m sure this will all smooth out soon enough, but in the meantime, put me first on the list for when someone invents an anti-jetlag pill.

CRUISING SAILBOAT EVOLUTION: Early Fiberglass Cruisers and the Westsail Cult

Tue, 2014-12-09 18:14

In our last thrilling episode in this series we discussed the classic cruiser-racers that dominated sailboat design through the early to middle part of the 20th century, including when the first production fiberglass boats appeared in the 1950s and ’60s. These boats were mostly built to the old CCA rule, which remained the primary rating rule in American sailboat racing until 1970, when it was supplanted by the International Offshore Rule. The IOR was promulgated to encourage international competition by resolving differences between the CCA rule (so called because it was created by the Cruising Club of America) and the Royal Ocean Racing Club‘s rating rule, which governed racing in Great Britain and Europe. Whereas the CCA rule had explicitly sought to encourage development of boats that could both cruise and race, the new IOR was more focused on performance, and as a result racing and cruising designs eventually started to diverge.

Early IOR boats were not radically different from boats conceived in the twilight years of the CCA rule. Indeed, some boats designed during the transition between the two rules, with rudders hung on skegs and swept-back fin keels that seemed like organic remnants of the full keels they supplanted, are among the most beautiful ever conceived. They were also capable, like the best CCA boats, of succeeding both as racers and cruisers. By the mid to late 1970s, however, everything had heated up. Fiberglass production was making boats more and more affordable, drawing larger numbers of people into the sport of sailing. Offshore racing was growing more popular and increasingly intense, with more events and more sailors competing in them.

The Swan 40, designed by Sparkman & Stephens and built from 1970-72, is a good example of an early IOR design that was both graceful and functional as a cruiser

Designers therefore were under more and more pressure to produce cutting-edge boats–not only so that keen racing sailors could win trophies with them, but also so that salespeople could tout winning records when marketing them. By the end of the decade, the typical IOR boat was a more specialized light-displacement racing machine with a narrow stub of a fin keel, a spade rudder situated perhaps a bit too far aft, flat bilges, a beamy midsection with exaggerated tumblehome, narrow pinched ends, a large sailplan with a narrow high-aspect mainsail, and a relatively high center of gravity that required lots of crew weight on the rail to keep the boat upright and sailing its best. Some of these features improved boat-speed, but the intent of others was solely to exploit loopholes in the rating rule. The result, in any event, was a type of boat that was faster than the old CCA cruiser-racers but not as comfortable or as seaworthy, as was dramatically demonstrated during the Fastnet Race of 1979, during which a strong gale sank five boats, capsized dozens of others, and took the lives of 15 sailors.

One characteristic of IOR boats was that they tended to roll a lot when sailing downwind, due to their bulbous midsections and pinched ends, which led to some exciting broaches. The then-popular blooper, a free-flying downwind headsail flown alongside a spinnaker, also helped keep things interesting

This IOR racer, showing exaggerated midship beam, was appropriately named Tumblehome

And this boat sports a good example of an extreme IOR aft section

But even as fiberglass race boats were becoming more specialized and more cranky, there also appeared a new generation of specialized fiberglass cruising boats. It is tempting to infer a straight cause-and-effect relationship here, but in fact the two trends seem to have emerged simultaneously. Again, it was the immense increase in the size of the sailing market that was driving events. The mature industrial economy of the late 20th century had created more wealth for middle- and working-class families even as it lowered the costs of boat ownership through the efficiencies of fiberglass production. The concomitant increase in active sailors fed the ranks of both the cruising and racing communities and allowed both types of boat to flourish side by side.

As the Fastnet tragedy demonstrated, racing sailors were perfectly willing to let modern technology, their greed for speed, and the perversities of rating rules drive them toward the edge of the safety envelope. Dedicated cruising sailors, meanwhile, instinctively headed in the other direction. What most appealed to these people, production builders quickly learned, was the romance of sailing, and the best way to evoke this in a boat design, they also deduced, was to make it traditional-looking.

The “breakthrough” boat in this respect was the phenomenally successful California-built Westsail 32. Its design, cobbled together by Bill Crealock, was anything but innovative. Indeed, it was a direct rip-off of William Atkins’ fat double-ender Eric, which in turn had been directly based on Colin Archer’s old pilot and rescue boat, the Redningskoite, a concept that was then nearly a century old.

In its first incarnation as the Kendall 32, the Westsail was a complete failure. But then its mold was purchased at a bankruptcy auction by a young couple, Snider and Lynne Vick, who knew little about sailing and nothing about boatbuilding but saw the cruising dream incarnate in the boat’s design and had a vision of sharing that dream with the world. Their deft marketing of the boat, which they reintroduced as the Westsail 32 in 1972, strongly emphasized the romance of voyaging under sail (and the boat’s heavyweight indestructibility) and thereby struck a major chord not only with sailors, but with the public at large. By 1974 the boat was featured in Time magazine as something akin to a lifestyle phenomenon. By the end of the decade the Vicks had sold more than 800 hulls and had expanded their model line to include a 28-footer and a 42- and 43-footer.

The Westsail 32 certainly looked romantic and was very popular, but it was also heavy, slow, and wet. Some sailors today derisively refer to them as “Wetsnails”

A simple Westsail design drawing. Thanks primarily to the boat’s great success, many cruisers were for years biased in favor of fat double-ended full-keel designs

The Westsail’s cult status had a profound effect on the design of fiberglass cruising boats. For years afterward, builders who wanted to be sure of tapping into the cruising zeitgeist felt compelled to produce heavyweight full-keeled double-enders that mimicked the look and feel of this iconic boat. Some were direct variations, most notably the Ingrid and Alajuela 38 (circa 1973), which were also designed by William Atkin. Like the Westsail, such boats were heavy, carried simple outboard transom-hung rudders controlled with large tillers, and featured hulls with very full forefoots.

Other designs were more derivative and somewhat more sophisticated, with canoe sterns (to retain the double-ended look), inboard rudders controlled with wheels, and hulls with slightly cut-away forefoots. Many of these boats were built in Taiwan, where lavish teak joinery and deck-work, which always helps to evoke a traditional mood (and increase weight), could be economically executed. Examples of such designs include the Baba 30 (designed by Robert Perry circa 1978), the highly popular Tayana 37 (Robert Perry, circa 1979), and several models offered by builder Hans Christian.

Other builders, however, sought to refine and modernize the Westsail template and soon produced much more sophisticated designs. These also sported canoe sterns, but were lighter and narrower and had taller sailplans, flatter bilges, and more cut-away underbodies with generously sized fin keels and separated rudders. Significant examples include the Valiant 40 (another Robert Perry design, circa 1973), the Fast Passage 39 (William Garden, circa 1976), and several boats produced by Pacific Seacraft that were designed by the original perpetrator himself, Bill Crealock.

The Valiant 40, often hailed as the first “performance cruiser,” represented an early attempt to produce a significantly faster double-ended cruising boat

The old double-ended Redningskoite was not, however, the only archetype available to builders who wanted to market traditional-looking cruising boats. Another significant type was seen in certain heavy full-keel designs, most with ketch rigs, with traditional features like clipper bows, bowsprits, wide wineglass transoms, and carved wooden taffrails and bow-boards. The first of these, the Cheoy Lee Clipper 36 (circa 1969), actually predated the Westsail by a few years. Imitators included the Hardin Sea Wolf 31 (circa 1973), the Fuji 35 (circa 1974), and the Vagabond 47 (circa 1978). Unlike the Westsail, which was in fact simply an old design recast in fiberglass, these were contemporary designs, yet were conservative and derivative in nature. The larger examples did feature a new concept, the center cockpit, which quickly became popular with cruising sailors because it opened up space belowdeck for an aft stateroom.

A Vagabond 47 under sail. Like the Westsail, it seemed salty and romantic

The Vagabond 47 in profile. Like the Westsail, it was also heavy and slow, with a long full keel

There were also several early fiberglass boats marketed strictly as cruisers that did not explicitly evoke or mimic traditional designs. One good example was the Allied Seawind 30, a small ketch designed by Thomas Gilmer that was introduced in 1962. In its hull form and rig the Seawind had much in common with the more affected “clipper ketches” that followed in its wake. It was relatively heavy with a full keel, generous beam, and a conservatively sized split rig that supposedly made sailhandling easier, as each sail needing handling was smaller in area.

Though not particularly fast, the Seawind was (and is) eminently seaworthy, as was demonstrated by an early enthusiast, Alan Eddy, who took one around the world singlehanded during the years 1963 through 1969, thus earning the Seawind the distinction of being the first fiberglass boat to complete a circumnavigation. In its first iteration, the Seawind had a simple outboard rudder, but the Seawind II, introduced in 1975, had an inboard rudder and was lengthened by two feet to create more interior space.

In 1972 the Allied Boat Company also introduced two larger ketch-rigged cruisers in the same vein—the Princess (36 feet) and the Mistress (39 feet). Other builders, notably Irwin, Morgan, and Gulfstar, introduced similar cruising ketches during the 1970s, the larger examples of which, again, tended to feature center cockpits. Some of these boats, including some of the faux-traditional models just mentioned, hewed away from the tried and true full-keel hull form, but never too far. Larger Irwin ketches, for example, often carried centerboards and had slightly cut-away underbodies with separate rudders.

The Allied Seawind, the first plastic boat to circle the world

One builder, Garry Hoyt, founder of Freedom Yachts, was not at all afraid of trying new ideas. His Freedom 40, first introduced as a prototype in 1977, showed just how different a cruising boat could be. It featured a radical unstayed “cat-ketch” rig that had a self-tacking main and mizzen on wishbone booms with no headsails. The hull form, however, deliberately conceived by Hoyt as a “retro” challenge to the “fad” of fin-keeled IOR hulls, featured a full shoal-draft keel with a deep centerboard descending from it. The deck layout included a massive center cockpit (though an aft cockpit version was also available).

The Freedom 40 under sail. Note the traditional wooden wheel and aft “quarterdeck”

The Freedom 40 in profile

Originally the unstayed masts on the Freedom 40, and on other Freedom models introduced by Hoyt, were aluminum, but in 1980 he switched to carbon-fiber masts, a prescient innovation that anticipated by several years a shift to carbon spars in race boats. A few other builders later followed Hoyt’s lead and marketed cruising boats with unstayed rigs, most notably Hinterhoeller, a Canadian company, whose Nonsuch boats featured one big sail on a single unstayed mast with a wishbone boom. The hulls of the several Nonsuch models combined a beamy footprint with relatively light displacement and a modern underbody that featured flat bilges, fin keels, and separated spade rudders. Like Hoyt’s Freedoms, however, the Nonsuchs were modern designs that evoked a traditional aesthetic. The Freedom, with its long keel, huge transom, and big outboard rudder, seemed vaguely reminiscent of 18th century squareriggers, and the beamy Nonsuch, with its boxy house and mast right forward, seemed to be descended from the old New England catboat.

A Nonsuch under sail

Most importantly, because they were built in fiberglass, all of the boats we’ve discussed here, and many others that are similar, as well as even older CCA designs that were also built in glass, are still afloat and are still being cruised today. True, most of them are not as fast or weatherly as more contemporary boats, but most are also considerably less expensive to buy and many well maintained examples can be found on the brokerage market. Indeed, this is a fact that plagues builders of new boats today, but also helps to keep the cruising dream alive for sailors with modest budgets: old fiberglass boats never die, they just keep getting cheaper.

If you found this post useful and/or interesting, be sure to check out its predecessors in this series:

The Golden Age of the Cruiser-Racer

From Work Boats to Yachts

The Emergence of “Alternative” Cruising

Early Trends in Yacht Design

Cleopatra’s Barge

CRUISING SAILBOAT EVOLUTION: Early Fiberglass Cruisers and the Westsail Cult

Tue, 2014-12-09 18:14

In our last thrilling episode in this series we discussed the classic cruiser-racers that dominated sailboat design through the early to middle part of the 20th century, including when the first production fiberglass boats appeared in the 1950s and ’60s. These boats were mostly built to the old CCA rule, which remained the primary rating rule in American sailboat racing until 1970, when it was supplanted by the International Offshore Rule. The IOR was promulgated to encourage international competition by resolving differences between the CCA rule (so called because it was created by the Cruising Club of America) and the Royal Ocean Racing Club‘s rating rule, which governed racing in Great Britain and Europe. Whereas the CCA rule had explicitly sought to encourage development of boats that could both cruise and race, the new IOR was more focused on performance, and as a result racing and cruising designs eventually started to diverge.

Early IOR boats were not radically different from boats conceived in the twilight years of the CCA rule. Indeed, some boats designed during the transition between the two rules, with rudders hung on skegs and swept-back fin keels that seemed like organic remnants of the full keels they supplanted, are among the most beautiful ever conceived. They were also capable, like the best CCA boats, of succeeding both as racers and cruisers. By the mid to late 1970s, however, everything had heated up. Fiberglass production was making boats more and more affordable, drawing larger numbers of people into the sport of sailing. Offshore racing was growing more popular and increasingly intense, with more events and more sailors competing in them.

The Swan 40, designed by Sparkman & Stephens and built from 1970-72, is a good example of an early IOR design that was both graceful and functional as a cruiser

Designers therefore were under more and more pressure to produce cutting-edge boats–not only so that keen racing sailors could win trophies with them, but also so that salespeople could tout winning records when marketing them. By the end of the decade, the typical IOR boat was a more specialized light-displacement racing machine with a narrow stub of a fin keel, a spade rudder situated perhaps a bit too far aft, flat bilges, a beamy midsection with exaggerated tumblehome, narrow pinched ends, a large sailplan with a narrow high-aspect mainsail, and a relatively high center of gravity that required lots of crew weight on the rail to keep the boat upright and sailing its best. Some of these features improved boat-speed, but the intent of others was solely to exploit loopholes in the rating rule. The result, in any event, was a type of boat that was faster than the old CCA cruiser-racers but not as comfortable or as seaworthy, as was dramatically demonstrated during the Fastnet Race of 1979, during which a strong gale sank five boats, capsized dozens of others, and took the lives of 15 sailors.

One characteristic of IOR boats was that they tended to roll a lot when sailing downwind, due to their bulbous midsections and pinched ends, which led to some exciting broaches. The then-popular blooper, a free-flying downwind headsail flown alongside a spinnaker, also helped keep things interesting

This IOR racer, showing exaggerated midship beam, was appropriately named Tumblehome

And this boat sports a good example of an extreme IOR aft section

But even as fiberglass race boats were becoming more specialized and more cranky, there also appeared a new generation of specialized fiberglass cruising boats. It is tempting to infer a straight cause-and-effect relationship here, but in fact the two trends seem to have emerged simultaneously. Again, it was the immense increase in the size of the sailing market that was driving events. The mature industrial economy of the late 20th century had created more wealth for middle- and working-class families even as it lowered the costs of boat ownership through the efficiencies of fiberglass production. The concomitant increase in active sailors fed the ranks of both the cruising and racing communities and allowed both types of boat to flourish side by side.

As the Fastnet tragedy demonstrated, racing sailors were perfectly willing to let modern technology, their greed for speed, and the perversities of rating rules drive them toward the edge of the safety envelope. Dedicated cruising sailors, meanwhile, instinctively headed in the other direction. What most appealed to these people, production builders quickly learned, was the romance of sailing, and the best way to evoke this in a boat design, they also deduced, was to make it traditional-looking.

The “breakthrough” boat in this respect was the phenomenally successful California-built Westsail 32. Its design, cobbled together by Bill Crealock, was anything but innovative. Indeed, it was a direct rip-off of William Atkins’ fat double-ender Eric, which in turn had been directly based on Colin Archer’s old pilot and rescue boat, the Redningskoite, a concept that was then nearly a century old.

In its first incarnation as the Kendall 32, the Westsail was a complete failure. But then its mold was purchased at a bankruptcy auction by a young couple, Snider and Lynne Vick, who knew little about sailing and nothing about boatbuilding but saw the cruising dream incarnate in the boat’s design and had a vision of sharing that dream with the world. Their deft marketing of the boat, which they reintroduced as the Westsail 32 in 1972, strongly emphasized the romance of voyaging under sail (and the boat’s heavyweight indestructibility) and thereby struck a major chord not only with sailors, but with the public at large. By 1974 the boat was featured in Time magazine as something akin to a lifestyle phenomenon. By the end of the decade the Vicks had sold more than 800 hulls and had expanded their model line to include a 28-footer and a 42- and 43-footer.

The Westsail 32 certainly looked romantic and was very popular, but it was also heavy, slow, and wet. Some sailors today derisively refer to them as “Wetsnails”

A simple Westsail design drawing. Thanks primarily to the boat’s great success, many cruisers were for years biased in favor of fat double-ended full-keel designs

The Westsail’s cult status had a profound effect on the design of fiberglass cruising boats. For years afterward, builders who wanted to be sure of tapping into the cruising zeitgeist felt compelled to produce heavyweight full-keeled double-enders that mimicked the look and feel of this iconic boat. Some were direct variations, most notably the Ingrid and Alajuela 38 (circa 1973), which were also designed by William Atkin. Like the Westsail, such boats were heavy, carried simple outboard transom-hung rudders controlled with large tillers, and featured hulls with very full forefoots.

Other designs were more derivative and somewhat more sophisticated, with canoe sterns (to retain the double-ended look), inboard rudders controlled with wheels, and hulls with slightly cut-away forefoots. Many of these boats were built in Taiwan, where lavish teak joinery and deck-work, which always helps to evoke a traditional mood (and increase weight), could be economically executed. Examples of such designs include the Baba 30 (designed by Robert Perry circa 1978), the highly popular Tayana 37 (Robert Perry, circa 1979), and several models offered by builder Hans Christian.

Other builders, however, sought to refine and modernize the Westsail template and soon produced much more sophisticated designs. These also sported canoe sterns, but were lighter and narrower and had taller sailplans, flatter bilges, and more cut-away underbodies with generously sized fin keels and separated rudders. Significant examples include the Valiant 40 (another Robert Perry design, circa 1973), the Fast Passage 39 (William Garden, circa 1976), and several boats produced by Pacific Seacraft that were designed by the original perpetrator himself, Bill Crealock.

The Valiant 40, often hailed as the first “performance cruiser,” represented an early attempt to produce a significantly faster double-ended cruising boat

The old double-ended Redningskoite was not, however, the only archetype available to builders who wanted to market traditional-looking cruising boats. Another significant type was seen in certain heavy full-keel designs, most with ketch rigs, with traditional features like clipper bows, bowsprits, wide wineglass transoms, and carved wooden taffrails and bow-boards. The first of these, the Cheoy Lee Clipper 36 (circa 1969), actually predated the Westsail by a few years. Imitators included the Hardin Sea Wolf 31 (circa 1973), the Fuji 35 (circa 1974), and the Vagabond 47 (circa 1978). Unlike the Westsail, which was in fact simply an old design recast in fiberglass, these were contemporary designs, yet were conservative and derivative in nature. The larger examples did feature a new concept, the center cockpit, which quickly became popular with cruising sailors because it opened up space belowdeck for an aft stateroom.

A Vagabond 47 under sail. Like the Westsail, it seemed salty and romantic

The Vagabond 47 in profile. Like the Westsail, it was also heavy and slow, with a long full keel

There were also several early fiberglass boats marketed strictly as cruisers that did not explicitly evoke or mimic traditional designs. One good example was the Allied Seawind 30, a small ketch designed by Thomas Gilmer that was introduced in 1962. In its hull form and rig the Seawind had much in common with the more affected “clipper ketches” that followed in its wake. It was relatively heavy with a full keel, generous beam, and a conservatively sized split rig that supposedly made sailhandling easier, as each sail needing handling was smaller in area.

Though not particularly fast, the Seawind was (and is) eminently seaworthy, as was demonstrated by an early enthusiast, Alan Eddy, who took one around the world singlehanded during the years 1963 through 1969, thus earning the Seawind the distinction of being the first fiberglass boat to complete a circumnavigation. In its first iteration, the Seawind had a simple outboard rudder, but the Seawind II, introduced in 1975, had an inboard rudder and was lengthened by two feet to create more interior space.

In 1972 the Allied Boat Company also introduced two larger ketch-rigged cruisers in the same vein—the Princess (36 feet) and the Mistress (39 feet). Other builders, notably Irwin, Morgan, and Gulfstar, introduced similar cruising ketches during the 1970s, the larger examples of which, again, tended to feature center cockpits. Some of these boats, including some of the faux-traditional models just mentioned, hewed away from the tried and true full-keel hull form, but never too far. Larger Irwin ketches, for example, often carried centerboards and had slightly cut-away underbodies with separate rudders.

The Allied Seawind, the first plastic boat to circle the world

One builder, Garry Hoyt, founder of Freedom Yachts, was not at all afraid of trying new ideas. His Freedom 40, first introduced as a prototype in 1977, showed just how different a cruising boat could be. It featured a radical unstayed “cat-ketch” rig that had a self-tacking main and mizzen on wishbone booms with no headsails. The hull form, however, deliberately conceived by Hoyt as a “retro” challenge to the “fad” of fin-keeled IOR hulls, featured a full shoal-draft keel with a deep centerboard descending from it. The deck layout included a massive center cockpit (though an aft cockpit version was also available).

The Freedom 40 under sail. Note the traditional wooden wheel and aft “quarterdeck”

The Freedom 40 in profile

Originally the unstayed masts on the Freedom 40, and on other Freedom models introduced by Hoyt, were aluminum, but in 1980 he switched to carbon-fiber masts, a prescient innovation that anticipated by several years a shift to carbon spars in race boats. A few other builders later followed Hoyt’s lead and marketed cruising boats with unstayed rigs, most notably Hinterhoeller, a Canadian company, whose Nonsuch boats featured one big sail on a single unstayed mast with a wishbone boom. The hulls of the several Nonsuch models combined a beamy footprint with relatively light displacement and a modern underbody that featured flat bilges, fin keels, and separated spade rudders. Like Hoyt’s Freedoms, however, the Nonsuchs were modern designs that evoked a traditional aesthetic. The Freedom, with its long keel, huge transom, and big outboard rudder, seemed vaguely reminiscent of 18th century squareriggers, and the beamy Nonsuch, with its boxy house and mast right forward, seemed to be descended from the old New England catboat.

A Nonsuch under sail

Most importantly, because they were built in fiberglass, all of the boats we’ve discussed here, and many others that are similar, as well as even older CCA designs that were also built in glass, are still afloat and are still being cruised today. True, most of them are not as fast or weatherly as more contemporary boats, but most are also considerably less expensive to buy and many well maintained examples can be found on the brokerage market. Indeed, this is a fact that plagues builders of new boats today, but also helps to keep the cruising dream alive for sailors with modest budgets: old fiberglass boats never die, they just keep getting cheaper.

If you found this post useful and/or interesting, be sure to check out its predecessors in this series:

The Golden Age of the Cruiser-Racer

From Work Boats to Yachts

The Emergence of “Alternative” Cruising

Early Trends in Yacht Design

Cleopatra’s Barge

Scarlet Oyster & Captain Blind Duke it out to the ARC Finish

Tue, 2014-12-09 11:07

The Racing Division doesn’t get much tighter than the battle between veterans Scarlet Oyster and Captain Blind. Both yachts finished early this morning off Pigeon Island in St. Lucia within an hour of each other. That wouldn’t be so remarkable, except for the fact that they’d be dueling for thousands of miles previously.

Already on Day 7, Scarlet Oyster began referring to their rivals on Captain Blind in their at-sea blog. At the time, the French boat was leading Ross and crew on Scarlet.

“After 1200nm of racing and in the very middle of the Atlantic Ocean we have just met up with Captain Blind, who are only 4nm ahead of us,” wrote skipper Ross, a wily veteran of the ARC and class winner in his previous three attempts.

Captain Blind, a Gran Soleil 43, is a faster yacht than Scarlet, an Oyster 48, on handicap at least. While Blind were leading Scarlet outright, they trailed even then on corrected time. However, with 1,000 miles still to sail, anything was possible.

Thus started a game of cat and mouse between the two boats, which lasted the rest of the way across the Atlantic. Or should we say dog and cat, for at one stage, Captain Blind, writing in French, referred to the crew on Scarlet, trailing at the time, but right on their heels, as their ‘petit chien’ – little dog. Scarlet, a largely British crew, began affectionately referring to their French rivals as ‘the enemy’ in their blogs.

“They have proved to be very hard to hang on to,” wrote Ross, “and we are quite sure their Captain is not blind! They certainly appear to be a class act, and any mistakes on our part will make it very difficult to keep her in our sights.”

Scarlet continued their pursuit of their worthy rivals through each star-studded and moonlit night. Ross admitted that “it would seem foolish to split from our strongest rival,” electing to follow rather than take a flyer and try to escape.

With under 100 miles to go, Scarlet Oyster, based on their own calculations, felt they had a chance to take the outright win in the Racing Division over the mighty record-breaking Leopard of Finland. They had overtaken Captain Blind, but only barely, and since they were gybing towards Pigeon Island, were still uncertain of who would cross the finish line first.

“It is likely to be close boat on boat to the finish with them, just as it should be after such a close battle for so long,” wrote Ross in the yacht’s last blog entry.

In the end, Scarlet did make it to the line first. It’s up to the corrected time calculations before we get an official Racing Division result, but skipper Ross was pleased with his crew’s performance. And despite the rivalry at sea, the crew of Scarlet, despite the late hours on their arrival, rushed down the dock to welcome in Captain Blind and congratulate them on their successful passage.

As for the rest of the fleet, the light air offshore prevails, but it’s picked up enough to allow several arrivals overnight and today. 21 ARC yachts are now safely berthed in Rodney Bay Marina, with another dozen or so expected today. The festive atmosphere on the docks will only continue to grow as the days go by.

Podcast: Matt Rutherford on his movie

Mon, 2014-12-08 17:18

Matt Rutherford is back, and joins Andy via Skype from the R/V Ault, the Ocean Research Project’s Colvin schooner in Annapolis. They discuss Matt’s tumultuous history as a youngster, which was depicted in the newly released documentary ‘Red Dot on the Ocean.’ Matt touches on living in a cult, spending weeks in prison, living on and off the streets and how he relates to money (or lack thereof). 

“At the end of the day you die,” says Matt. “It’s not about how much money you have, but what you’ve done with your life.”

They also discuss the ORP’s last expedition across the Pacific in a Harbor 29 daysailor. The conversation wraps up with Andy & Matt just chatting sailing in general, as they often do.

Buy the DVD of ‘Red Dot on the Ocean’ here or purchase the digital download here.

Want to go ocean sailing with Andy? Book a berth on Sojourner, Serenity or a soon-to-be-announced Swan 57 at 59-north.com/events.

Fusion BB300 black box stereo & a peek into 2015

Sun, 2014-12-07 14:17

Written by Ben Ellison on Dec 7, 2014 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub

It’s not on the Fusion website yet, but the MS-BB300 black box marine stereo was introduced in Fort Lauderdale — press release here — and is scheduled to ship this month. In a way it’s Fusion’s first black box unit, but then again they built the trailblazing Simrad SonicHub in 2010 and then the Garmin Meteor 300 last year. In fact, the BB300 is very similar to the Meteor 300 and whereas Garmin acquired Fusion in May, the BB300 can be viewed as a statement about Fusion’s continuing independence. The Meteor may integrate with non-Garmin displays over NMEA 2000, but the BB300 promises N2K Fusion-Link integration with many current MFDs from Humminbird, Murphy, B&G, Lowrance, Simrad and Garmin. A further indication that Fusion is going to keep on innovating in concert with multiple partners was a preview look at four new marine stereo heads that will be formally introduced early next year…

Check out this Humminbird ONIX10 screen for a reminder of how good Fusion-Link audio control can be on a color touchscreen display. I’ve written about the excellent Garmin implementation and will have high expectations when I try the Simrad version next spring. This is what makes black box stereo possible and even attractive, though many boaters will also want a remote control for those times when they don’t want to run their MFD system and/or because no MFD or wireless interface can beat a good old dedicated volume knob. (Note that I’ve also tried Raymarine Fusion-Link, but it won’t work with the BB300 because it’s done over Ethernet, and that’s the same story for the Furuno TZT series.)

So while the new Fusion black box seen above looks identical to this Garmin Meteor 300 photo, the $479 package includes a MS-NRX200i wired remote while the the slightly restyled Meteor Remote is a $190 accessory to the $350 Meteor box. Another difference is that the Meteor comes with an adaptor cable for that non-standard NMEA 2000 port which will tee into an existing N2K network, but if you want to do that with a BB300, you’ll also need to purchase a CAB000863 cable. That’s because the orange adaptor cable above is designed to power the network and remote on a boat that doesn’t already have an N2K network (yes, the NRX200i can serve as a complete, though not ideal, control head).

I detailed Fusion’s current N2K cabling scheme in 2013, and that entry also discusses the versatile Uni-Dock that can cable to the BB300’s USB port instead of that nice panel-mount USB extension cable seen above (note the panel-mount 3.5mm accessory input too). The dock — Garmin also offers one — is useful if you want waterproof protection for your smartphone or iPod instead of just using your own USB cable or streaming music over Bluetooth. And isn’t it nice that Fusion’s accessory Bluetooth modules are not needed with either black box as audio streaming is built right in?

Now here’s a peek at the back end of the Fusion MS-UD750 that will become a flagship control head unit sometime in 2015. Installers will appreciate how all the connectors are on pigtails, and I think everyone concerned will be glad to see the standard NMEA 2000 connector. The unit will still be able to join a network or create one, but no confusing adaptor cables will be needed because power to the network will be turned on and off from the setup menu. One of the very last non-standard N2K connectors bites the dust. Hurray!

As the model name suggests and as seen above, the UD750 has a Uni-Dock built in. The AV750 will have a CD/DVD deck instead — though you can still hang a separate Uni-Dock on its USB port — and it features an HDMI port that will make it easy to get quality TV audio to the Fusion system or Fusion-based DVD video to your boat’s best screen. Of course, Bluetooth is built in, but in the 750 series it can handle both audio streaming and the Fusion-Link remote control app that used to work only if you attached a Fusion’s Ethernet port to a WiFi router. Cool!

The UD750 and AV750 don’t look much different from the current IP700i and AV700i control heads, but now the daylight readable color LCD screen is optically bonded to improve durability and eliminate the possibility of fogging. And note the “thumb’s up” and down icons under the Mute and screen Brightness buttons. They are there because the Fusion Bluetooth audio streaming — already able to display track and artist data flowing from many phone models — will also be able to send back Pandora listener preferences on the new models.

I think it’s reasonable to assume that the new Fusion 750 control heads will not be inexpensive, and that’s why there will also be a 650 series with grayscale screens (though still bonded and daylight-viewable). I understand that the UD650 and AV650 will only support three independent audio zones (two powered) instead of the 750’s four zones, but I don’t know of more differences yet. And I’ll add that I’m still quite impressed with the Fusion MS-IP700 I installed in early 2012. When onboard I use it almost constantly, sourcing audio from USB stick, ancient iPod Touch, FM bands, Android phone or Gizmo’s Chart Table 21 PC/TV. I would have been reluctant to remove the NXR200 remote on the flybridge during the “glass bridge” makeover if I hadn’t found that Fusion-Link on an MFD or via the WiFi app — I use both regularly — to be powerful and reliable.

The new 750 and 650 control heads look good — especially the Fusion-Link app (below) simplification with Bluetooth and the HDMI soundtrack improvement, I think — but Fusion has already blazed marine stereo trails far beyond any other manufacturer I know of (even if the NMEA 2000 part was quite zig-zagged :-). What’s next, besides perhaps the ability to play multiple sources simultaneously to different zones? It’s possible, though, that Fusion may be more vulnerable to competition than ever. Some big time marine electronics executives, for instance, may not see the BB300 as a sign of Fusion independence, but rather as a clever way for Garmin to sell its own products onto “their” boats. A quality audio company willing to do the hard work Fusion did to integrate their gear with whole boat systems may get their partnership proposal calls returned.

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Friendships and cruising

Sun, 2014-12-07 05:47

Ponnusamy, or Sam as we call him, prepared chicken curry at his home in Penang, Malaysia for us to share on Totem recently. He called it “a simple curry” although was anything but simple, with so many different spices that even chili-fueled fire didn’t overwhelm the complex flavors. Other than love of good chicken vindaloo it would be easy to assume we don’t have much in common with Sam, yet over the course of a few evenings together he’s become a good friend. Different paths, cultures, beliefs, and we are richer for our time together.

We’ve made precious few friends like Sam during this last year in Malaysia and Thailand. That makes the cruising life sound lonely, which is misleading. True, going cruising will affect the friends in your life. It almost certainly thins the ranks of your current circle. But unless you choose solitude, new friends are everywhere: in the countries you visit, and the vessels nearby.

Friends at home

The transition into cruising is the hardest period, as existing relationships shift and what lies ahead is less certain. Some friends, or even family, may not support your dream at all. By choosing a different path, they may feel you’ve passed judgment on their choices, and react defensively. We’ve met cruisers who were cut off by those who felt abandoned or rejected after they set sail. You have to ask yourself: if someone cannot be happy for you to following you dream, is that relationship really a friendship? For friendships that drift away, in most cases, it’s not a deliberate act but the inertia from simply not being physically present. But for friendships based on deeper connections than living down the street or having your kids in the same class, technology makes it possible to stay connected. I’m not great about staying in touch, but there are friendships at home that are stronger in my heart as the distance makes them sweet.

Friends afloat

We were introduced to the sped-up nature of cruising friendships even before we escaped the border to Mexico. Pulling into the harbor in Monterey, California, a child called to us from the dock: “hey Totem! I know you!” We, on the other hand, had absolutely no idea who the kid was. It turned out Bear and his family learned through the coconut telegraph that another cruising family was headed their way, so they were on the lookout. We became fast friends, and later shared scores of anchorages across thousands of miles.

Our very first meeting with Bear, in 2008… and on the sand dunes of Australia in 2012.

In Langkawi last month we met an adventurous German family, freshly living aboard with zero boating experience. They have many questions and we’re happy to help. Then there’s the Russian / Australian couple from across the anchorage who regaled us with stories of land travels to over 70 countries. And the 82 year old Welsh single-hander a few boatlengths ahead: he’s circumnavigated three times! Meeting people while cruising is easy. Maybe it’s because everyone has an accent and “where are you from” is an easy ice-breaker. Or maybe it’s because when you park you house (boat) in someone’s yard, they want to know who the new neighbor is. Or perhaps, in cruising the world we left some artificial constraints behind. Sometimes we are the biggest boat around – or smallest, most experienced – or least, funniest – or not. It doesn’t matter when you’re in the same anchorage. Our differences don’t keep us apart. Instead they are part of why we are all living this lifestyle.

It’s typical in many popular cruising areas for vessels to ebb and flow along similar routes based on seasonal weather. Meet a new cruising friend in one harbor, and whether by accident or intention, it’s easy to meet again in a new port. Sometimes we choose to be on our own but it’s often the company of familiar yachts we keep, falling into the pattern of “bungee boating” (our term for loose buddy boating, as distances between our boats stretch and spring back).

the girls play “dress-up” with a new friend in Mexico: December, 2008

If anything, it’s goodbyes that are the difficult part. Jamie and I have joked that cruising is like dog years for marriages (one year equals seven years): you spend so much time together, and in more intense living than typical land life. Friendships are similar, and close friendships form comparatively quickly. An experienced cruiser who was one of my first friends after cutting the docklines helped prep me for the roller coaster of parting ways, although I was too new to appreciate it at the time. It still stinks to say goodbye after making a great connection with a new friend, but having been able to also say “hello!” again to so many boats we parted ways with – it always feels possible, even likely, we’ll meet again.

Last year, we enjoyed several months with a family we originally met in Mexico more than five years ago. In December, we have a much-anticipated reunion with a Canadian cruising family we spent time with in both Mexico and Australia. Those are just two of many examples this last year, as we’ve reconnected with a surprising number of boats previously met in different countries and across a wide range of longitudes.

Local friends

the girls with Mollina, their auntie in Ninigo

In the slower pace of less developed countries, we’re more likely to make lasting friendships with people ashore. Village life has a different rhythm, and people are more likely have the time and the interest to pause in their day for conversation. Simply asking for directions may be the spark that starts a series of exchanges and contact over time. Although our stay in a given locale may be relatively brief, but where people have time to give, that can be enough.

In Ninigo, Papua New Guinea, days were both languid and packed. Adopted by a family, we passed hours sharing stories. This was done in parallel with other activities: a walk to the vegetable garden for dinner, an afternoon under palms weaving baskets, a jaunt to the reef to spear fish, a trip across the lagoon in a sailing canoe. We were only there about one week, but we left, we were told: “You must change your citizenship. You are from Ninigo now!” In the two years since, we continue to trade messages whenever a passing boat can play intermediary, and children in Ninigo are named after ours.

Dinner in Penang with Thana, Sam, and Mr Ong – “the chemical man.”

Here in Malaysia, it’s been more difficult. There’s a thriving middle class: people have 9-5 jobs and family cars and schedules. There is simply less opportunity to connect as locals rush around keeping up with their busy lives. It’s easy to empathize since our patterns were the same before we went cruising. If I met a traveler that needed directions, I’d help just as I’m often helped here, but it’s unlikely that the interaction would extend farther. This is what made our curry dinner and other nights out in Penang with Sam particularly sweet: after nearly a year in Malaysia, making Malaysian friends felt like a breakthrough.

Some sail away to escape, but for us it’s all about the friends we make while cruising. Our lives are immeasurably richer for what we have learned and shared with the people we’ve met along the way. It can be difficult to take the leap, but remember: as far as friendship are concerned, cruising wrecks your life for the better, and you should  never pass up an offer for a simple curry.

Jamie and I co-author the cruising column for 48° North, a Pacific Northwest boating magazine. Friendships have been on my mind a lot lately, with the loss of a special friend at home and the distance between others set to increase as we point west. You can read the full issue for free, online, or pick up a copy on newsstands around the Salish Sea.

As always, we appreciate it when you read this on the Sailfeed website!

Podcast: Evolution of a Dream Essay

Fri, 2014-12-05 14:56

I wrote this piece in 2008, long before I got into any of this sailing stuff professionally (or even otherwise). I was dreaming of going offshore, and this is how I put that initial dream into practice. It’s read in the present tense, but remember, was written in 2008, so it’s not what I’m thinking now, but what I was thinking then. Hopefully it can inspire you to put your own dreams into action!

Want to go ocean sailing with Andy? Book a berth on Sojourner, Serenity or a Swan 57 at 59-north.com/events.

VOLVO OCEAN RACE: Supernatural Bird Attack and Vestas Grounding Video

Fri, 2014-12-05 01:32

The birds are not happy with Team Alvimedica, who stood by so selflessly at Cargados Carajos Shoals waiting to help their shipwrecked mates on Team Vestas Wind. I read somewhere the other day that Cargados Carajos actually means something like Bird Excrement Island, so I’m wondering if that is relevant. What happened evidently is the boat was mobbed yesterday right around sunset by a huge gang of black noddy terns.

You needn’t take my word for it, you can watch the video right here:

Very bizarre. Only time I’ve ever seen birds behave like this is around fishing boats.

Oh, wait. There was another time that didn’t involve fishing:

And we all know how that turned out.

Seriously, though, I’m wondering why those noddies were so interested in a big black sailboat. You see in the video how the crew, in jest, captures one noddy and pretends to interrogate it, asking: Who sent you? The question, in fact, should be: What attracted you?

Who knows what evil lurks in the heart of birds??? The noddy knows!

These are not pelagic birds. They roost on shore every night and normally do not wander more than 50 miles out to sea. What it looks like to me is the birds are trying, or hoping, to roost on the boat, or in its sail, which may look like a cliff to them. That’s what terns normally do at sunset.

MEANWHILE, the Vestas crew has just published some amazing video footage of their grounding at Cargados Carajos:

What is remarkable to me is that the impact, given they were sailing 18-19 knots at the time, was not more dramatic. It seems like they were lucky in that boat suffered a series of glancing blows before it stopped, rather than stopping very suddenly all at once.

Here’s another more complete clip showing the impact in more detail:

Skipper Chris Nicholson has manned up and made a public statement that the grounding was all his fault, and we are expecting a full report once the team reaches Abu Dhabi. They are now on Mauritius, after stripping the boat of all pollutants and valuable hardware.

Good on them.

VOLVO OCEAN RACE: Supernatural Bird Attack and Vestas Grounding Video

Fri, 2014-12-05 01:32

The birds are not happy with Team Alvimedica, who stood by so selflessly at Cargados Carajos Shoals waiting to help their shipwrecked mates on Team Vestas Wind. I read somewhere the other day that Cargados Carajos actually means something like Bird Excrement Island, so I’m wondering if that is relevant. What happened evidently is the boat was mobbed yesterday right around sunset by a huge gang of black noddy terns.

You needn’t take my word for it, you can watch the video right here:

Very bizarre. Only time I’ve ever seen birds behave like this is around fishing boats.

Oh, wait. There was another time that didn’t involve fishing:

And we all know how that turned out.

Seriously, though, I’m wondering why those noddies were so interested in a big black sailboat. You see in the video how the crew, in jest, captures one noddy and pretends to interrogate it, asking: Who sent you? The question, in fact, should be: What attracted you?

Who knows what evil lurks in the heart of birds??? The noddy knows!

These are not pelagic birds. They roost on shore every night and normally do not wander more than 50 miles out to sea. What it looks like to me is the birds are trying, or hoping, to roost on the boat, or in its sail, which may look like a cliff to them. That’s what terns normally do at sunset.

MEANWHILE, the Vestas crew has just published some amazing video footage of their grounding at Cargados Carajos:

What is remarkable to me is that the impact, given they were sailing 18-19 knots at the time, was not more dramatic. It seems like they were lucky in that boat suffered a series of glancing blows before it stopped, rather than stopping very suddenly all at once.

Skipper Chris Nicholson has manned up and made a public statement that the grounding was all his fault, and we are expecting a full report once the team reaches Abu Dhabi. They are now on Mauritius, after stripping the boat of all pollutants and valuable hardware.

Good on them.

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