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WaveTrax iThing app, more smart boat logging to the cloud

Tue, 2014-04-08 19:50

Written by Ben Ellison on Apr 8, 2014 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub

I wish that track was on the water, but testing WaveTrax auto boat logging over the road is impressive, nonetheless. Running on my iPad mini, the app not only collects a track point every minute, but automatically creates log entries marking my Lat/Long, COG, and SOG on the hour (and at user selectable distances). It’s fairly easy to add notes, captioned photos, engine/fuel status, and weather observations as desired, and when a trip is done, I even get to touch scribble a signature. But that’s hardly half of it… 

WaveTrax is both an app and a synchronized personal website, and in my view, that’s the way to go for tasks like this. The iPad is easy to use on a trip, but my home PC is better for, say, adding text and photos of my various vessels and regular crew members. And since that data gets synched back to the app, it’s ready to use the next time I start a fresh log entry. Synchronizing app data with the cloud also protects it, plus a mobile device is generally good at wireless connections.
   For me, so far, that just means using a Bad Elf Pro for precise GPS records, but I’m optimistic that WaveTrax or similar apps will soon be automatically fetching GPS, weather and lots of other log data via an onboard WiFi source like the just-tested Vesper XB-8000 or the Navico GoFree tested last year (note the TripCon PC log software examples in that entry). All the pieces are falling in place to make automated voyage logging easy, inexpensive and data rich.

But I get ahead of myself. The WiFi boat data connection will be great, but I think that many boaters will enjoy just a well-designed logging app like WaveTrax that also lets you access and edit your trip data on the Web, once they understand the possibilities. For instance, I spent very little time collecting the data that’s in the printable PDF trip log that a WaveTrax user can create on his or her personal website, and it can even include captioned photographs. WaveTrax can also synchronize “certifications” (important documents), though so far they have to be images, not PDFs and the app sells for $13 with a free year’s subscription to the website. (You can try the WaveTrax website for free and it can create logs from existing GPX track files.) 
   I’ve also been testing the free (Android) BoatLogger app that can now automatically upload data to the BoatLogger website I began beta testing in January. The app is not as polished and full featured as WaveTrax, but then again, my personal WaveTrax website is not as polished and full-featured as what BoatLogger makes possible. Hopefully, these two ambitious developers are checking out each other’s work! 

Any developer trying to make it easier for us boaters to keep track of all the data even a moderately complicated vessel can generate should also check out the new iPad app My Boat. The core component is a database of all the gear, spares, etc. you have stowed around your boat, but as you enter them you can assign costs and service/inspection reminders that flow out to other elements of the app. You can also photograph items likes spares. Unfortunately, My Boat does not synchronize to a personal website — though you can back up the database to DropBox — and I ran into other issues like an inability to customize storage locations. But then again, the $20 app does include a lot of pre-built checklists that you can easily customize. 

I don’t plan to invest more time in My Boat unless the developer makes my data web accessible — I’m already happy with CarbonFin Outliner for general to-do and checklists — but I will definitely keep testing BoatLogger and WaveTrax as they develop more features (and crush more bugs). I will also predict, though without any inside information, that this year we’ll see a big developer like Navico, Garmin or Navionics/Raymarine announce a vaguely similar logging service. Aren’t the possibilities obvious?
   The final illustration shows three screens from the BoatLogger app. It may be rudimentary compared to WaveTrax, but they even threw in some scripts for bad situations like MayDay with all the right data filled in automatically. 

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

Nationality Rules & nationality rules

Tue, 2014-04-08 13:34

Remember when? Team Korea (RIP) photo by Gilles Martin-Raget/America’s Cup

By Kimball Livingston Posted April 8, 2014

In the quiet before the storm—counting down to the release of a Protocol for America’s Cup 35—I note that the chatter-flurry about a nationality requirement has died away in the expectation that “something” will be done, even at the risk of consigning a raft of Kiwi pros to the unemployment line. The “we’re a highly international team” bit has not played as well as hoped, and yes, the American team was thin on yanks. In one facet of the big picture, however, a nationality requirement is kinda too bad. Oman is not joining the AC game, but when you look at the strength of that tiny country’s Oman Sail program, and how it is growing grassroots from the seeds of imported talent, there’s a case to be made for international pollination. If that hasn’t worked yet in the America’s Cup, it’s probably because the bar is set so high for Step One. This is, after all, the America’s Cup. Embracing a turnaround in my own thinking, I believe I see clearly now . . .

Technical innovation. National pride. Those are the overriding themes in America’s Cup, all 162 years of it, especially at the birth of it. Short of a complete overhaul, attempted but not achieved in 2013, that’s how it must be.

In 1851, England hosted the Great Exposition, the first-ever world’s fair, showcasing the wonders of technology in the Victorian age. The Yankee schooner that represented its nation, winning the 100 Pounds Cup, embodied shockingly superior technology in the great age of sail. Britain ruled an empire because Britannia ruled the waves, but those cheeky ex-colonials took them on, and prevailed.

And they had the gall to name that boat, America.

By any other name, it would have been noted, but not historic.

Mama’s Mink Cup 35 in 2017? I don’t think so. Thus began a long run and . . .

The first foreign boat to take away the America’s trophy— after 132 years— was named Australia. To be perfectly correct, the wing-keeled wonder was named Australia II, but it was the ‘Australia’ part that ignited the biggest national celebration in OZ since VJ Day ended World War II. And much later, in 1995 and again in 2013, it was Team NEW ZEALAND that had a nation on the edge of its collective seat.

Draw a comparison to Olympic competition, national pride and audience engagement, and the arguments for a nationality requirement in America’s Cup 35 are a no-brainer.

Except, it’s going to take brains and bets to get it right, or right-enough, in a shrinking, interconnected world with blurred borders and a yearning on the part of so many to get Asia into the game. Asia’s money, whatever.

Frankly, I don’t need a nationality requirement. It means little to my Cup addiction to have, as it seems we soon may, some sort of percentage requirement for crew composition. But, apparently, it’s lesson #1 in America’s Cup Marketing 101. Not to forget that there were those who fustigated mightily each time Charlie Barr was allowed to (successfully) skipper a defender. The same Scottish-born former fisherman Charlie Barr who arrived on the scene as skipper of 1887 Cup challenger Thistle, only to be soundly whipped by the American defender, Volunteer, then go on to take US citizenship and—upon winning the trust of Nathaniel Herreshoff—skipper American defenders in 1899, 1901 and 1903.

But is anybody leaning on our resident Aussie, Jimmy Spithill, to adopt the country where he now lives (in San Diego) with wife and family?

And all those Scandinavian deckhands heaving lines before the invention of winches . . .

Naw, not really part of the conversation.

Whether or not Aussie designer Ben Lexcen really dreamed up the winged keel for Australia II? Or was it that pesky Dutchman, Peter van Oossanen? There’s a question still good in certain circles for a three-beers argument.

Nationality rules, you see.

Last Minute Charters – Antigua Sailing Week

Tue, 2014-04-08 12:25

The word from the regatta organizers of Caribbean Classic-


Have you been wishing you had made up your mind sooner to charter a boat to participate in Antigua Sailing Week 2014? Well it’s not too late! There are still single places and whole yacht charters available if you know where to find them.

Antigua Sailing Week’s Official Yacht Charter Sponsor, Sunsail, reports that although all available boats in Antigua are chartered for Antigua Sailing Week, there are still several bareboat options available in St. Maarten. For more information on how to book your Sunsail boat for Antigua Sailing Week see: Sunsail.

Lucy Reynolds of Performance Yacht Charter announced that Sunset Child is still available for charter. Lucy says: “Sunset Child – formerly El Ocaso – is a well-known Caribbean racing yacht which has won most of the prestigious regattas in the Caribbean – the St. Thomas International Regatta overall most recently; the Caribbean Sailing Association’s Traveller’s Trophy in 2013; and the Lord Nelson Trophy as overall winner of Antigua Sailing Week 2012; among many other wins. The J120 is well known for being fast and responsive and is sure to put a smile on your face and put your team on the podium if you’ve got what it takes.”

The charter package for Sunset Child includes the yacht and all her racing and safety equipment, one professional crew and two training days before the regatta. The cost of the charter package is £8,995 but get in touch with Lucy to negotiate a last-minute discount.

Performance Yacht Charter also still has a few individual spaces available on Northern Child for £1,495 inclusive of two professional crew, technical racing t-shirts, racing lunch and refreshments, all berthing and race entry costs – literally turn up and go sailing.

Oyster Lightwave 48, Scarlet Oyster is available for whole boat charter for Antigua Sailing Week 2014. Built in 1987, Scarlet Oyster has been continuously updated and excels in every sailing event she participates in. She has proven very effective in typical Caribbean conditions which tend to see winds of 15+ knots. She has a very extensive sail wardrobe and sail configurations can be adjusted to optimise for the CSA Rating Rule, anticipated conditions and courses, and of course the ability of the crew.

Scarlet Oyster is one of the most competitive race charter yachts on the market with wins that include 1st in class in the RORC Caribbean 600 in 2013 and 2012 (and fourth overall in 2012), several 1st in class wins in the RORC Rolex Fastnet Race, and 1st in class (2nd overall) in the ARC racing division. She has also been very competitive in the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta and Antigua Sailing Week finishing in 2nd place in both regattas in each of 2012 and 2013.

Scarlet Oyster races with a crew of 12 and can accommodate six sleeping on board. The cost of the regular charter package for Scarlet Oyster is £10,495 but last minute deals can be negotiated.
For more information about the availability of Sunset Child, Northern Child, Scarlet Oyster and Performance Yacht Charter options, see: Scarlet Oyster.

Ondeck Antigua still has a variety of options available for participating in Antigua Sailing Week 2014. At one end of the scale is Sonic of Ayr, an all carbon 37 foot Santa Cruz that sails like a rocket. Sonic of Ayr is available for whole boat charter or, alternatively, individual places can be booked for the whole event at US $1,895 including sleep on board if required.

Back by popular demand is Ondeck’s ‘Rock up and Race’ offer which allows residents and visitors to Antigua the unique opportunity to take part in the racing for only one day or more. With Ondeck’s local Antiguan Chief Instructor Logan Knight at the helm, novices and/or experienced sailors will be able to join and really be part of the action. At US $225 per day including water, lunch and all safety equipment, this is a unique opportunity for this year’s event. With its base in Antigua, Ondeck’s guests are guaranteed to be part of the post-race party action as well. Book now at: Ondeck Sailing.

Volvo Ocean 70, Monster Project, still has a few individual places left on board for Antigua Sailing Week 2014. It will be your last chance this year to sail on the 70 foot carbon fibre, canting keel racing machine and to experience the thrill of high speed sailing in the warm Caribbean sunshine!

You can join Monster Project for an 8-day complete package (2 days training, 6 days racing) for £3,500 per person, or tailor your own combination of training/racing days for £450 per person per day. Packages include Monster Project’s very own race clothing.

Don’t miss out! For more information and to book your place on Monster Project today go to:
Monster Project.

Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 52.2, Great Escape of Southampton, is available for whole boat charter with a 10-day package including a couple of practice days. Great Escape has been highly competitive at Antigua Sailing Week and other Caribbean regattas in previous years. She can race with 12 sailors and has sleeping accommodation for 9. For more information and to find out about a great last-minute deal, see: Great Escape

Antigua’s Miramar Sailing has some fantastic late deals for Antigua Sailing Week 2014. You can join skipper Tony Sayer on Augustine or skipper Johannes Schwarz on Cuba Libre. Both boats are available for the Yachting World Round Antigua Race and Antigua Sailing Week from April 24th through May 2nd.

Cuba Libre is one of the legendary Volvo Ocean 60 transatlantic race yachts. She races with a maximum crew of 18, and a minimum crew of 8 including the skipper, with accommodation on board for 12. Cuba Libre is available by individual berth forUS $1,530 or whole yacht for US $18,360.

Augustine, a Beneteau First 42, is a competitive performance racing yacht. She accommodates 6 crew overnight, and races with 10. Augustine has individual places available (inquire for price) or the whole yacht can be chartered at a great last-minute price ofUS $7,000. Visit: Miramar.

German charter company KH+P yachtcharter, a loyal supporter of Antigua Sailing Week, still has a few individual spaces available on its entered bareboats. For more information and to find out how you can join a KH+P crew see: KH+P.

So there you have it. Antigua Sailing Week may only be a few weeks away, but it’s not too late to make a last minute charter booking – whether as an individual or chartering a whole boat with a group of friends. Flights are still available from the US and UK at very reasonable prices – for example, from New York from US $650 and from London from £650. Check with your travel agent for more details on flights from your location.

Dave Perry Gains on Congressional Cup Qualification

Tue, 2014-04-08 12:11

This report was filed by Long Beach Yacht Club press officer Rich Roberts:

Monday’s weather: wind 4-10-3k, south; high temp. 77F.
Tuesday’s forecast: Wind 10k south; high temp. 76F.

April 7, 2014


Perry finds his niche: match racing in the Congressional Cup

Dave Perry’s long week of sailboat racing started out with last place in the Heritage Regatta fleet race Sunday but he blasted back to first place on opening day Stage One of the 50th Congressional Cup Monday, winning four of five match races.

At age 59, he went from the youngest skipper in the fleet Sunday to the oldest Monday, so . . . he just couldn’t handle the old guys?

“That was fleet racing,” he said, smiling. “I’m not really into that anymore. It’s a different game.”

Whatever it is, Perry, who dealt runnerup Phil Robertson of New Zealand his only loss, is in strong position among the six Stage One competitors to be one of the four who will join five former Congressional Cup winners and world No. 1-ranked Taylor Canfield of the U.S. Virgin Islands in Stage Two Wednesday through Sunday.

Christopher Poole of the Seawanhaka Corinthian YC in Oyster Bay, N.Y. isn’t even out of the chase at 1-4, but he’ll have to crack a 2-3 crush among locals Scott Dickson and Dustin Durant and Australia’s Keith Swinton.

The second round of racing is scheduled to start Tuesday at 11:30 a.m., conditions permitting … and conditions barely permitted it Monday, leaving a sunny and slightly hazy day windless until 12:32 p.m., then building from 4 knots to 10 from the southwest by the third flight, then fading after the fifth flight.

Principal race officer Randy Smith called it a day just after 4 o’clock and said he saw “a lot of happy faces after we pulled the plug.”

That was okay with Perry. Although a two-time Congressional Cup winner in 1983 and 1984, he said he was thrilled to be invited back for the event’s golden anniversary, bringing longtime friend Dave Dellenbaugh and Dellenbaugh’s daughter Rebecca to serve on his five-person crew. When he won his pair of Crimson Blazers there were few foreign entries; now they dominate the game, with nine sailors in their 20s and 30s winning the last nine Congressional Cups.

“To me,” Perry said, “they’re in their primes. I wish there were more U.S. guys doing it.”

Durant, 26, is doing it quite well. Perry held him off by four seconds in Monday’s first race.

“We both had to look down the [finish] line to see who won,” Perry said.

Dickson said his problem was that “we practiced for two weeks when it was blowing unusually hard, and it wasn’t anything like that today. Like they say, it’s never like that here.”

The Stage One winner will receive the Ficker Cup, which honors 1974 Congressional Cup winner Bill Ficker, who also skippered the 1970 America’s Cup winner Intrepid.

Spectators enjoy incomparable viewing of the races from Belmont Veterans Memorial Pier. Admission is free, with paid parking at the base of the pier. Seating, free public shuttles, concessions and comfort stations are available.

Follow Congressional Cup on Facebook or Twitter for daily weather conditions and approximate start times: 11:00-11:30 a.m. Or listen to the play-by-play on VHF Channel 20.

The Congressional Cup has been an innovator in the game of match racing, introducing on-the-water umpiring in the early 1990s, plus a high level of organization with a unique volunteer force of more than 300 LBYC members. Each competing crew is assigned a boat hostess and housing team, who deliver the outstanding local hospitality characteristic of Congressional Cup for half a century, alongside world-class yacht racing.

Long Beach Yacht Club has been one of the nation’s premiere boating institutions since its founding in 1929, located at 6201 E. Appian Way in Long Beach, Calif.

Stage One results

FLIGHT 1—Dave Perry, Pequot YC, Conn. def. Dustin Durant, LBYC, 4 seconds; Phil Robertson, Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron, def. Christopher Poole, Seawanhaka Corinthian YC, N.Y., 0:45; Keith Swinton, South of Perth YC N.Z., def. Scott Dickson, LBYC, 16 seconds.

FLIGHT 2—Perry d. Poole, 0:28; Durant d. Swinton, DNF; Robertson d. Dickson, 0:30.

FLIGHT 3—Swinton d. Poole, 0:31; Durant d. Dickson, 0:04; Perry d. Robertson, 0:04.

FLIGHT 4—Dickson d. Poole, 0:23; Perry d. Swinton, DNF; Robertson d. Durant, 0:25.

FLIGHT 5—Dickson d. Perry, 0:12; Poole d. Durant, 0:12; Robertson d. Swinton, 0:15.

STANDINGS (after 5 of 10 flights)—1. Perry, 4-1; 2. Robertson, 4-1; 3. Durant, Swinton and Dickson, 2-3; 6. Poole, 1-4.

Correction –
Sunday’s report on the Heritage Regatta erred in noting that skippers Skip Allan of Los Angeles YC and Scott Allan of Newport Harbor YC were not related. Skip, 69, is the older brother of Scott, 67, who was 20 when he won the third Congressional Cup in 1967.

Crazy people, taking children cruising

Tue, 2014-04-08 11:40

What kind of irresponsible parent would take their children cruising? That seems to be the underlying message from many corners in the wake of the Kaufman family’s rescue in the Pacific from their boat, Rebel Heart.

It’s all too easy for me to remember the questions we had from people who didn’t understand our decision to go cruising as a family. They dove to the risks, and not to the benefits, and never considered that we had considered those risks already. This was a very deliberate choice driven by family values: not crazy hubris, not selfish interests.

Not that this stops the naysayers, who loved to let us know how we were ruining our children’s education. Placing them in harm’s way. Not to mention, of course, that they would never be properly socialized.

I remember too well what it was like, that run up to cruising: it is full of voices, some from the well-intentioned but uninformed, some in your head, some from those who need to speak against your brave choices to justify their own inaction. Don’t let them intimidate you, or let one unfortunate event spun up in the media tip your dreams. Don’t let the ridiculous fabrications of the fearful leach into your psyche.

Consider the sources, and hold tight to your supporters instead. Their voices align more closely with the reality. Cruising is the fulfillment of our dream to share precious years with our children as they grow. Countless memories and experiences enrich their lives and ours. It is turning our kids into curious, articulate citizens of the world. It has given them respect for cultures and lives beyond our home sphere. It has built our bonds as a family.

No, it’s not completely without risk, but we take great care to prepare for the tough realities, and mitigate each of them to the best of our ability. And really, what life is without risk? Whether it is natural disaster, or human error, or pure bad luck- stuff happens, whether you live on a farm in Oklahoma or a boat in Mexico or a condo in San Francisco. None of us are immune, no matter how we navigate our futures.

Irresponsible? Crazy? If that’s the bucket we get tossed in, well, I’m proud to be a member of the tribe that’s chosen to raise children differently.

You know it drives us extra crazy when you read this on the Sailfeed website.

REBEL HEART EVACUATION: Another Internet Sailboat Rescue Tornado

Mon, 2014-04-07 17:34

Goodness gracious. Do I feel sorry for Eric and Charlotte Kaufman! Not only have they lost their home, Rebel Heart, the Hans Christian 36 they’ve been cruising on for two years, which they had to abandon yesterday when they boarded a U.S. Navy warship about 900 miles west of Mexico, and which the Navy subsequently scuttled and sank. Not only have they had to cope with the unthinkable stress of having their 1-year-old daughter, Lyra, come down with some mysterious illness in the middle of a long Pacific passage. But now they have a good chunk of the global population lambasting them online for getting into all this trouble in the first place.

Isn’t modern technology wonderful?

No doubt you’ve heard about this on some level already. I started following the story Friday online and heard it on National Public Radio yesterday, which doesn’t happen very often with bluewater cruising news.

But let’s review what we know:

1) Eric and Charlotte left Mexico on Rebel Heart about three weeks ago with their two young daughters, Cora (3) and Lyra (1), onboard. Eric is an experienced sailor and lured Charlotte into the cruising game. They bought Rebel Heart and started planning a circumnavigation 9 years ago; left San Diego and started actively cruising Mexico 2 years ago. Lyra was born after the cruise started (you can read an exciting account of her birth here). This big passage west to French Polynesia was the family’s first major ocean crossing.

Rebel Heart in slings

Charlotte with Lyra on the inside

The whole family, with Lyra on the outside

2) Judging from the accounts of the passage posted separately on Charlotte’s blog and on Eric’s blog, they were having a challenging trip. Variable winds, too light for a while (they weren’t carrying enough fuel to motor), and also strong enough to move the boat fast, but with lots of motion. Seasickness and some minor repairs needed.

In other words, basically normal ocean-sailing conditions, but with having to mind the kids on top of it. On Charlotte’s blog, in particular, you can get a good sense of how hard this was. She does a lot of arguing back and forth with herself about whether it’s worth it or not and seems to come out on the “yes, it’s worth it” side, but only barely.

3) About a week ago something major went wrong with the boat, though we really have no idea what. Various reports mention the boat taking on water, steering problems, and a loss of communications (presumably also power), but nothing confirmed by the Kaufmans themselves. The last blog post, from Charlotte, was on April 1 and was very terse: “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”

At about this same time, though we don’t know which happened first, Lyra came down with a big rash and fever that did not respond to medication. She reportedly had suffered from salmonella prior to the family’s leaving Mexico, but had been cleared by a doctor to depart.

4) The Kaufmans somehow contacted the U.S. Coast Guard via satellite on Thursday (several reports refer to a satellite “ping,” but I suspect it had to be more than that) and asked for help, and that same night four California Air National Guard rescue swimmers parachuted on to the scene, boarded the boat, and stabilized the child.

5) All eight persons onboard abandoned the boat yesterday and boarded a Navy frigate, USS Vandegrift, and Rebel Heart was scuttled.

Rebel Heart from the air

USS Vandegrift underway

Evacuating Rebel Heart

On the basis of this relatively slim narrative, many non-sailing laypeople, including Charlotte’s brother, have seen fit to criticize them for recklessly endangering their children. You can peruse the comments on their Facebook page for an idea of how this has been going, or check the comments section to any relevant news story.

The sailing community, I am pleased to say, has countered all this criticism with nearly unanimous support.

Ironically, I must note, when I had my little rescue adventure in January with Hank Schmitt and the owners of Be Good Too, this worked exactly the opposite way: laypeople supported us and the sailing community mostly criticized us.

Moral of that story: if you have to abandon a boat and want other sailors to sympathize with you, take some children along.

I actually had been following the Kaufmans via their website for a while, as Pat Schulte, former SAILfeed blogger of Bumfuzzle fame, had tipped me off to them. He and his family encountered them while they were knocking around Mexico on their boat. (Now they are boatless, cruising on the hard in their antique motorhome.)

So I kind of feel I know these guys, and my heart goes out to them. Having to cope with a major illness or injury has always been one of my biggest fears when sailing offshore. Having it be a sick child only makes it a hundred times scarier. As for the boat, I won’t be too surprised if it turns out it was uninsured, which would be a huge bummer. But I’m very glad Lyra and the rest of the family are OK.

Plus, of course, I’m dying to know what actually went wrong with the boat. Also: why so many rescue swimmers? Hopefully we’ll get answers later this week when the Vandegrift makes port in San Diego.

Other sources: CBC News, NBC 7 San Diego, Old Salt Blog, Washington Post

Infant Rescued from Cruising Boat 900 Miles Off Cabo

Mon, 2014-04-07 13:36

There’s been an ongoing rescue of a one-year-old baby from the cruising boat Rebel Heart, which is about 900 miles west of Cabo San Lucas. They haven’t clarified what the illness is, but it’s been an elaborate rescue, complete with mid-air refuelings, medics dropped from air and landed aboard, extraction of the infant, and a happy ending.

The whole episode is tweeted on the California Air National Guard Twitter feed, with photos, links to relevant articles, and updates.

The Congressional Cup at Fifty

Sun, 2014-04-06 18:02

Posted April 6, 2014

Half a century on from the inaugural, the 50th Congressonal Cup is a survivor and still a leader.

It’s a spirit thing that powers the heart of the Long Beach Yacht Club.

Thanks to viewing from a pier and bleachers, it’s spectator-friendly.

And it’s a standalone. From its just-us-folks beginnings, this thing spiraled up in a hurry and made its own place in the world. Tying the Congressional Cup to a circuit just never worked out. Tying it to a title sponsor just never worked out. But we know now that those things never had to work out. Chairing the various features of a Congressional Cup are each a rung on the ladder to chairing the event itself, which in turn is a rung on the long ladder to a place in “the flags,” as sailors call their serving club officers. Add a few hundred Long Beach Yacht Club volunteers brimming with enthusiasm and passion, and you have the formula that keeps the sailors coming back. They come because they like it, because they’re happy here, because they feel the love.

Photos from the Congressional Cup Facebook page

Second from the left, Dennis Durgan

The 50th Congressional Cup kicked off Saturday night with celebrations aboard the Queen Mary and continued on Sunday with the “Heritage Regatta” for past winners, including Dennis Durgan, Skip Allan, Scott Perry, Dave Perry and Tommy Pickard. Durgan came out on top . . .

Racing continues with two days of racing for the Ficker Cup, with the top four advancing to further flights and cuts until we have a final-two match and a 2014 Congressional Cup champion on Sunday.

Fifty years ago, it made sense-enough to stage match racing in bring-your-own Cal 40s. Then came the club’s commitment to matched sails, to even things out. Now, behind an even bigger commitment, the entire region benefits from having a fleet of foundation-owned, identical Catalina 37s available for other events as well. On-the-water umpiring? Just one of the many things we take for granted today that began at the Congressional Cup.

Through the years, the event has had its identity crises. Should the Congressional Cup have a bucks-up title sponsor? No. Title sponsors come and go, trailing turmoil, and the Cup is here to stay. Should it be part of a bigger, international circuit with a pot of prize money? The answer, again, was no. Not if Long Beach Yacht Club wanted to run its own show. And the winner’s Crimson Blazer is a big deal in itself, worn by the likes of Ted Turner, Bill Ficker, and Dennis Conner, who declares, “Winning the Congressional Cup launched my America’s Cup career, because whoever won the Congressional Cup was looked upon as the best match racer in the world.”

You can find event details at LBYC Congressional Cup or meet the all-time players in video at . . .

I’m not on the scene for the 50th, but even at a distance, over the phone or in the email trail, I can feel the energy. Things are UP in Long Beach this week.

And people wonder why I’ve got this grin—Kimball

Shaft Razor long test, with a look at the competition

Sat, 2014-04-05 12:00

Written by Ben Ellison on Apr 5, 2014 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub

There are still patches of icy snow left from a memorable March in Maine, but I enjoyed a recent afternoon wandering around the boatyard checking out shaft cutters. Pictured above is the Shaft Razor that’s been protecting Gizmo from line wraps since the spring of 2010. Like my stainless rudder it picked up a lot of barnacles last fall, but that double set of super-sharp serrated teeth were still quite effective. The Shaft Razor is also a good value that has required zero maintenance, and while I saw some interesting competition around the yard, I wouldn’t trade it…

First, here’s a closer look at the Shaft Razor that better shows its simple one-piece design and diabolical teeth. The precise CNC machining is done in Rockland, Maine, by the Evolution Company (which also manufactures a nifty fuel-efficient, vibration-dampening shaft system). Installing the Razor did require the removal of Gizmo’s prop, but the worst case failure entails two set screws letting go, which is doubtful and would still leave me with a repairable Razor.
   I don’t believe that any running gear protection system is 100% effective; eventually, some line or net will find a way to foul itself on your rudder or shaft nut or somewhere. But the Razor has worked very well over many miles now, often in waters so thick with lobster trap buoys that, “You could snowshoe across them”!  I try hard to avoid them, and I know the tricks — like not to pass close to a pot warp that’s streaming downcurrent away from me. Sometimes, when the inevitable happens, I have to back down to bring the offending line to the cutter, but Gizmo has never gotten hung up and I’ve only had to go overboard to clear some annoying remains once. (For that purpose, I carry a wet suit, a mask, a fabulous Sailor’s Solutions Hooknife, and a pair of kevlar gloves to protect me from my Razor.) 

So, I’m not surprised that the simple disc-style shaft cutter is quite popular, at least in Maine. I didn’t bring a clipboard, but at least two-thirds of about 50 mid-size power and sailboats stored outside around Wayfarer Marine have cutters of some kind, and about two-thirds of those are disc type. However, I don’t understand why I saw a lot more Shaft Sharks than Shaft Razors. The Shark does have the same aggressive serrated outer blade, and some sizes are available in easier-to-install split versions, but I really like how the forward facing blade on the Shaft Razor is also serrated.
   I’ve heard that a severe line wrap between the prop and aft shaft bearing can damage that bearing, so I like the idea of sharp teeth eating away at that sort of wrap as it forms. Do we all agree that serrations cut line much better than the straight blade seen above on the front of the Shaft Shark? For the same reason, the single straight blade on the Prop Protector disc doesn’t seem as effective. Plus the 4 11/16″ Shaft Razor that fits Gizmo’s 2″ shaft cost $386 retail, while a similar Shaft Shark split disc discounts at $529. Am I missing something?

The other cutters I saw in the yard were all of the scissor/chopper style and most were the popular Spurs Marine brand. The particularly heavy duty choppers above are not Spurs — I can’t identify the brand — but the photo nicely illustrates the general idea, which looks quite effective but is also darn complicated to manufacture and install. The after blade ring simply spins with the shaft, just like a disc cutter, but the forward blade ring remains stationary, held in place by that big spring-dampened stopper, while the shaft spins within an internal bearing. You are looking at three serrated line guillotines!

There’s an interesting third design style called a ”shavercutter” and represented by the Quickwater Marine quickKutter from Australia, but I’ve never seen one in the flesh. I’ll close with a “belt and suspenders” rig seen on the seasoned cruiser below. This boat is not only equipped with Spurs, but also has two custom stainless steel appendages designed to keep lines from getting near the prop in the first place. If you know of other protection schemes or have experience with the ones I’ve listed, please don’t be shy…

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My favorite shot of Frankie (that’s what we call the boat)

Fri, 2014-04-04 16:51

I had a very weird dream last night that all my photos of Frankie were dissapearing from my computer and only visible on my iphone. So I thought I had better post this view of Frankie before it sails away into my iphone forever.

Kim motyored Frankie over to Shilshole Marina this morning. It was choppy and blowing 15 to 20. He hit a big tugboat wake and a freighter wake. He was very impressed at the boats’s lack of reaction to the waves. He said it was “rock steady”. I questioned him about slamming going into the steep head sea chop we get so often around here. He said there was no pounding or slamming at all. Interesting. Maybe it has to do with such a small frontal area to the boat. I would have thought that with our extremely flat rocker the boat would have slammed a time or two into a head chop. Glad I was wrong. I love it when my client is happy.

CAT PPALU: Great Salvage Video

Fri, 2014-04-04 10:57

Gotta hand it to Randy West. He knows how to bounce right back after getting slapped down hard. You’ll recall his classic 75-foot Peter Spronk catamaran, Ppalu, sank last month in St. Maarten during the Heineken Regatta. (This right after Randy got done with a 7-month refit of the boat.) Now you can watch a properly produced Rick Moore video on how the old girl was salvaged:

You’ll also learn a bit about the history of the boat, starting with when Randy was one of 200 people who helped pick her up and walk her into the water when she was first launched in St. Maarten over 30 years ago.

The salvage operation was pretty dicey, as the boat couldn’t be refloated on her hulls in situ. In the end they had to tow her with nothing but float bags holding her up, through the bridge into Simpson Bay Lagoon, right in the middle of the Heineken Regatta.

If she had slipped off the bags and sunk in the channel, that would have pretty much mashed up the regatta… and the whole Dutch side of the island, too!

The damage turned out to be extensive, as the bottom of much of the starboard hull had been ripped out.

Repairs, as you can see, are well along. For more on that, and to help with finances if so inclined, you can check out Randy’s Project Ppalu Facebook page.

Really, as noted, the most impressive thing about the viddy is Randy’s attitude. He’s cool as a cucumber throughout. My favorite bit is a sanguine little flashback he experiences in the middle of the operation: “Never salvaged a boat before. Oh, no. Sixty-eight in the Bahamas. A freighter that went aground on James Point. We salvaged a Cadillac off the deck. Wasn’t anything like this.”

A Win for Sailing Yacht Research

Thu, 2014-04-03 21:01

Posted April 3, 2014

Or we could title this, Ambitious Programs R Us.

In 2014, the first $100,000 nets $200,000 for SYRF, the Sailing Yacht Research Foundation, and we’ll come back to that and—

I know you may not have heard of the Sailing Yacht Research Foundations, except, now you have.

SYRF is carrying on the work of the MIT/Pratt project begun more than 30 years ago. That study generated what eventually became our ORCi and ORR rating systems of 2014, but as anyone would know who has ever had a conversation about yacht handicapping, there’s always room to improve.

As described by SYRF, “The tens of thousands of bits of information that comprise the intricate measurement requirements – drag and velocity, as well as handicaps and countless other standardized ratings for offshore racing sailboats – have to come from somewhere. That somewhere is the Sailing Yacht Research Foundation . . . While sailors strive to optimize the designs of their boats in an effort to ensure a greater chance of winning, SYRF helps to level the proverbial playing field. Through the use of technological advances in hull design, studies, tests and anticipates, SYRF attempts to “beat the rule” through the exploitation of flaws in the system. SYRF provides the technological capability to minimize those potential flaws. But this takes constant research and development so that rule-makers can properly model the fundamentals of yacht performance, staying on top of optimization trends.”

With a board of Stan Honey, Steve Benjamin, Gary Weisman, Scott Weisman and Jim Teeters, there’s no credibility gap here.

They’ve been a going concern since 2006, but SYRF is raising its profile. The Sailing Yacht Research Foundation today announced that it has reached its first 2014 fundraising goal of $100,000, qualifying for a matching grant from an anonymous donor. Now it’s fast-forward on the wide/light boat project. As in, addressing the realities of the new boats—Kimball

Wanted: Ride to 1985

Thu, 2014-04-03 19:47

I received a package today that contained three mysterious items called “cassettes”.  As I understand it, these are audio recording units from the paleolithic.  I need a quick ride back to the mid-1980s to pick up a boom-box, Sony Walkman, or similar.  Anyone with a time machine who can help me out, please leave a note in the comments.  I can pay in hilarious tales of life aboard or in cupcakes – your choice.

Afterguard heads-up display, the Recon Jet goes sailboat racing

Thu, 2014-04-03 14:00

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

The goal is to direct your focus wherever it’s needed on or beyond the boat while still having critical data in sight.  Brand spanking new today is the Afterguard heads-up display (HUD) for racing sailors. Yes, recent America’s Cup skippers apparently used HUD sunglasses, though you’re a better researcher than I if you can find detail about how they worked and what data they provided. Afterguard intends to bring this technology down at least a few levels, and that means we get a better look at what it can do. This sort of product is more than a little out of my wheelhouse, so to speak, but it looks like this new company did its homework and made some smart decisions…

The heart of the Afterguard system is a Central Communications Unit (CCU) that can accept data in three protocols – NMEA 0183, NMEA 2000 and Seatalk — and has purportedly been tested with the output of many instrument systems (compatibility list here). Even AIS data can be processed in the CCU, though the initial software package will not have AIS overlay. The tech specs don’t say what sort of processor or operating system are in the CCU but the crunched data is broadcast over WiFi (external antenna supported) to one or more customized pairs of Recon Jet HUD sunglasses (which run Android).

The initial Afterguard system will offer three screens that the wearer can change by swiping an optical sensor on the glasses. That’s the “Start Sequence” above, which is something like the B&G H5000 start screen I saw in January. That one wasn’t showing the valuable TTK (Time To Kill) calculation but did have more info on the line distances and bias.
The Afterguard screen shown in the top photo — called “Virtual Tactician” — is designed to help with mark roundings and boat crossings, and it has an intriquing description: “By tracking the user’s gaze and combining it with the system’s data the user will be able to make split second tactical decisions without relying on a hand bearing compass, lines marked on the deck or other basic means. Simply put, the user will be able to look at another boat and gauge whether they are ahead and whether there is room to cross.”

Finally, there’s the “Performance Dashboard” screen, which obviously includes targets based on a boat’s polar data, and apparently the Afterguard system can receive the polars and do the computations itself. You can see this screen and others in action on this exciting video and/or the one on the Afterguard site.

My guess is that some racers will be excited about Afterguard “competitive edge” promise but possibly dissappointed that it won’t ship until next fall and that the buy-now price is $1899. I wonder if other companies or even enterprising teams will try to do something similar with the off-the-shelf version of Recon Jet HUD sports glasses, which are due out soon at $599 a pair. As you can see in the diagram below, the standard glasses come with quite an array of sensors and wireless communications options, plus a camera, mic, and speaker. Recon recently got backing from Intel and several tech writers are pretty excited about the Jet design, as in this Wired article and this Engadget video.
And how about a sportfisherman being able to check out his fishfinder with just a slight glance down? But no doubt many readers will think that using a HUD is silly on a boat, or anywhere, and I might have agreed…before I adopted the hearing aid, bluetooth watch, and smartphone network I use every day.

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Rounding Cape Hatteras

Thu, 2014-04-03 09:30

It’s 0823 on Thursday morning. Sojourner is in position 35 09 N, 75 19 W. Plot that on the chart – it’s as close to Cape Hatteras as you’d ever want to be.

We made it here this morning, the outer edge of Diamond Shoals, a full three hours ahead of my most optimistic prediction of a day or so ago. That was based on six knots of boat speed, and assuming we’d be motoring to keep that, as the weather was calm and likewise the forecast. Shortly after my little math project to see if we’d have enough fuel, the SW breeze filled in and we’ve been sailing wing on wing ever since, the big genoa poled out to starboard and the main squared off to port. We earned a two-knot bonus riding the western edge of the Gulf Stream. Since yesterday morning, our speed rarely dipped below 7 knots.

In anything other than very benign conditions I’d be nowhere close to where were positioned now. In fact, were cutting the corner INSIDE the big platform marking Diamond Shoals themselves. The water quickly went from 66 degrees and 400 feet deep, to 58 degrees and 40 feet deep in the time it took my dad to go to the head. Despite the fact that its blowing only 8-10 knots from the west (and coming off the land), the deep sea swell from the south has turned into short, steep waves on the shoals, their tops tumbling off in foamy crests. With no wind, they’re harmless, but it makes you think.

We ended up so close in because I decided to jibe at 0200 last night just after Tom relieved me on the watch. I went down into my bunk up forward but couldn’t sleep. Over the course of my three hours on deck, we’d gradually had to ease towards the east as the wind slowly clocked around. With the pole set I had no options for sail trim and could only adjust our course. We were making about 060, when we needed 040 to cut it close around Hatteras. So I rose again, got my gear back on, and Tom and I furled the genoa, secured the pole and jibed the mainsail onto port tack. We redeployed the genoa and set a course for 035, the best we could do to keep wind in the sail (and not blanketed by the main). Hence six hours later, we ended up practically ON Diamond Shoals.

Yesterday was the type of day offshore that keeps you coming back. An easy breeze from the SW propelled Sojourner along bang on course, aided by the favorable current, and on a flat sea thanks to the several days of settled weather we’ve had since the little gale off Savannah. It was shorts and t-shirt weather. Schools if dolphins circled the boat and played in the bow wave almost hourly. Tom, perched at the pulpit, counted twelve at one point, bunched tightly together and escorting Sojourner towards the NE.

More wildlife joined us later in the day.

“Turtle!” Said Tom. He’d spotted it just off the starboard beam, but dad and I missed it.

“Was it big?” I asked.

“About the size of the dinghy!” Tom answered.

We’d seen bug sea turtles off the Nova Scotian coast on our way across the Atlantic in 2011, and were surmised to find them that far north. I guess this guy was heading in that direction for the summer.

We fished all day and landed three ‘little tunnies.’ Otherwise known as bonito. Dad was ready with the cheap vodka to knock him out and get him ready for the frying pan. He was beautiful, deep blue stripes on an almost reflective silver. Weird as it sounds, I saw my mom’s spirit in that fish. She believed all living things had a soul, not in a religious sense but in a spiritual one, and I saw the life in that little fish and couldn’t bring myself to take it from him. He patiently waited for me to remove the hook and I set him free to live another day. A few hours later a friend of his wound up on the hook and we did the same, releasing him back to the ocean after admiring him. Almost immediately we caught a third! Or maybe that second one was dumb enough to take the lure again. At any rate, as the sun was going down, that was the end of our fishing, and I felt strangely content with potatoes and chili for dinner.

In the time it took me to write the above, we seem to have cleared the worst of Diamond Shoals. We’re around Hatteras now, and it’s saved it’s fury for another day. The waters back to over 100 feet and those big, deep sea rollers have flattened right out. Well spend today running up Virginia Beach, and if our luck holds, will be back in the familiar waters of the Chesapeake sometime in the next 24 hours.

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