Written by Ben Ellison on Nov 15, 2013 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub
Perhaps, coming soon to a marine electronics store near you (though not yet online) is a fairly complete line of NMEA 2000 cables and connectors under the well-known Ancor brand. I particularly like how the kits and explanatory packaging will encourage consumers to set up their own small networks. The 2 and 5-meter cables, for instance, are sold as Backbone/Drop Cables, while the 10-Meter is simply a Backbone Cable (because a spur shouldn’t exceed 5 meters). I saw the preview Ancor line above at IBEX, but learned more about it in a special Soundings Trade-Only advertorial publication designed for next week’s METS show…
One notable feature of the Ancor N2K cables is that they use 18 awg power wires instead of the conventional 22 gauge, which means less chance of unacceptable voltage drop if the network grows large. They’ve also developed a tee connector with a built-on 1-meter spur cable that I’ve never seen before (though some other parts, like the multi-tees, appear to come from a source used by other N2K distributors). We don’t yet know how Ancor pricing will compare to the competition, but I like to think “the more the merrier” in that regard. I was also pleased to learn from the Trade-Only page that in 2014 Ancor is adding back “200 products that had previously been rationalized out of” their catalog. (Thanks, incidentally, to reader Butch for sending me to the related Continuous Wave discussion.)
It will be particularly interesting to see how Ancor pricing compares to Maretron’s MID size cables, which also employ 18 gauge power wires. The pile photographed on Gizmo last spring is now a color-coded backbone, snaking from engine room up through both helms and back to the antenna mast. I know that some people wail at the costs — which range from about $26 retail for a .5 meter to $51 for a 10 meter — but I thought it a reasonable investment for high quality data/power cabling that will never be obsolete, no matter how the electronics change. It’s also worth noting that the last remaining proprietary NMEA 2000 connector and cabling system, Raymarine’s SeaTalkNG, also features 18 gauge power wires and is also designed with a color-coded backbone. But I digress.
The facing page in the Trade-Only pub advertises a new line of bus bars, fuse holders, battery switches, etc. from Ancor sibling company BEP. Fortunately, the Pro Installer line is well documented online, but I’ll add that the gear looked very well made and smartly designed at IBEX (I thought) and I suspect it will be of interest to both real pros and informed do-it-yourselfers. Then again, Blue Sea Systems is also very strong in this area. The more the merrier!
By the way, I will not be at METS myself, but I will be covering some major electronics introductions there and Kees Verruijt will again report after a show visit.
We’re a pet-free boat. Oh, we tried, once upon a time. Hermit crabs count, right? We needed a little education before jumping into that one, but… well, they have personality. Kind of.
Truth be told, I really miss having a dog, and the kids to do. We know a few boats with cats, but boats with dogs aboard are a little less common.
It’s messy: less space and more feet/paw prints and hair. It adds complication: countries can have very specific and inflexible rules about entry for your pet.
Our friends on Love Song pretty well smash any myths about long term / long distance cruising with a dog: two dogs, actually, and a cat. They’ve been living aboard for over a decade, have crossed the Pacific, and have Their yellow lab Dallas, above, is eleven and has been on board since they brought her home as a pup.
Dulce was added to the family when they found the bedraggled dog on a beach in Mexico.
Last year, Miao was added to the floating family after being rescued from near death in Thailand.
These aren’t small dogs, but they make it work. The dogs have crossed the Pacific. They’ve made lengthy passages, from the big leap to the South Pacific, to runs from the Marshall Islands (where they’ve spent hurricane months) back down to the islands. Sure, it’s impacted their routing. No trips to Australia or new Zealand. It can be done (Ceilydh has written the how-to for bringing in their cat into Oz, among other cat topics), but it’s expensive and inconvenient at best.
It was actually Dulce who “taught” Dallas to consistently pee on the bow, where it can be hosed down. It’s Miao who sends all of them running around this little islet we’re anchored off, as she tries to pretend to be a dog: treeing squirrels, chasing birds, and yes, catching fish. Just say “FISH!” to Dallas, and she’s off to the shallows to hunt.
What do we have? We have Stevie.
Stevie is a little gecko that we spirited away from Ambon last February.
He disappears for weeks at a time, but apparently we have enough bugs (cough) to keep him happy. Mostly, eh lives in the forward head. Stevie is the current in a list of Stevies (#5? #6?), but he’s proven to have staying power, and, well, he’s kinda cute.
When we brought him on, he was tiny. Less than 2″ long. Now? Not so tiny. Now? Comes when he is called. Well, sometimes, when you cluck at him nicely. Now? Likes to be hand-fed. Truth. Niall is always looking for bugs to feed him, and I have to admit, we all get a big kick out of the little gecko-kiss of hand feeding.
Not exactly a pet you can cuddle up to, but the kids adore him, and…well, it’s sweet. We’d all love a pet, but for us it’s just not quite practical… except the gecko. We’ll stick with Stevie.
A few days back, we cleared customs in Sint Maarten (Also, known as Saint Martin, but we’re on the Dutch side of this tiny, amiably divided island so I’ll honor their spelling). There was no inspection of the boat so this took just a few forms and a handful of minutes. It was a world of difference from our Bermuda entry. Here we are on our way into St. George’s Harbor, Bermuda:
That’s a local police boat, making sure we don’t pitch any drugs overboard
Per protocol we called on the VHF when we were a few hours out of the harbor but at that distance communication was a bit garbled. When we called again near the entrance nothing seemed out of order until this police boat showed up. They trailed us by about 100′ and when we tried to hail them on the VHF they barked at us on a loudspeaker to ‘maintain course and speed to the customs dock’. Of course we did exactly that.
At the customs dock they were ready for us. As we got our passports in order a police van pulled up and released a couple stern-looking officers and their drug dog onto the scene. Still, we were optimistically ignorant. Strong security, sure, but maybe they do this for every boat?
Following the passport rigamarole they commenced with the search. Bob, our captain, was brought aboard with the police while the rest of us were told in no uncertain terms to keep off of the boat, and not communicate with him. While we twiddled our thumbs on the dock they went through the boat, opening every bag and locker, searching them and photographing the contents. They were exactingly thorough. However, they were also quite polite throughout. By the time it had become amply apparent that this small group of unshaven sailors was not much of a threat, they even let Bob pet the drug dog.
This genial attitude seems to be the way things are done on the island. Even while we were suspected drug smugglers the officials were polite and once that little matter was cleared up they let us up to see the operations center.Yes, security for the island is still run from a fort!
The innocuously named Bermuda Radio is actually a very high-tech surveillance and control tower at the top of the island which is used to monitor shipping and, occasionally, air traffic. It is built into a fort, complete with moat and slits for shooting arrows at invaders. Visitors are allowed in each evening to take a look around, as long as they call in advance.
We went up one evening and chatted with Gordon, the guy on duty (who wouldn’t let me take his photo). In the course of our conversation it came out that he was actually the one who called the cops on us. Gordon clearly felt a bit sheepish about this and he spent a while explaining exactly why he made that call. It mostly has to do with Bermuda Radio’s high-definition radar array.The heart of Bermuda Radio is an array of high-definition radar and security cameras
This is the inside of the station and those screens are radar and surveillance equipment with a range extending for miles on all sides of the island. It was here that Gordon was watching us on radar long before we reached the harbor, wondering why we hadn’t yet contacted customs (apparently, the guy on shift before him hadn’t mentioned our first garbled attempt to hail them). Watching us, he saw a local fishing boat come rather close, cutting behind us to cross our wake. This is when he called the cops. Apparently, wake-crossing is a big red flag for the radar guys because it’s a standard technique for smuggling. You sail up in your boat, put the drugs/guns/whatever in a styrofoam container and then you drop them into the water for a local boat to pick up.
Gordon also told us about a recent event that had put everyone on guard. Apparently, a couple months back an Eastern European solo sailor had come into Bermuda, fleeing a storm. He was out from Columbia, bound for home and after checking in at customs he tied up at a dock and spent a couple days innocuously fixing his boat. It was only after they got a tip-off that customs inspected the vessel. They found a pistol and a few kilos of cocaine, very much out in the open. The guy had a ready excuse though; he wasn’t importing the stuff to Bermuda, he was just in transit!
Just back from helping from helping me mate Jeff Bolster sail his Valiant 40 Chanticleer down to Norfolk, VA, from Newport, RI. This being phase two of his four-step campaign to take the boat down to the West Indies for the winter (phase one having been a short jaunt from here in Portsmouth, NH, down to Newport, accomplished by he and his bride Molly). Jeff, you may recall, bought this iconic fiberglass cruising machine–the boat that in many ways made Bob Perry as a yacht designer–just last summer. Immediately afterward he managed to do a pissload of work on it, including repowering it, before taking it down to the W’Indies and back last season.
We left Newport Friday morning, after a cold front barreled through, and carried the post-front northwesterly, which had much more west than north in it, out Narragansett Bay, past Block Island across the mouth of Long Island Sound, and out past Montauk into the ocean proper before sunset. Friday night was a real shitfight. The wind at least cranked a bit more northerly, so we had it almost on the beam, but it blew hard–30 knots with gusts to 35–and the sea was ungodly.
And, of course, it was bone cold.
But we were fast, slamming through those seas like a hammer, and were well past the yellow-brown loom of New York City to the north before the sun rose on Saturday… after which, thankfully, the wind started easing.
We had a lost shore bird come aboard that morning, a BLUB, as I sometimes call them (Brown Little Unidentified Bird), that had been blown off the land in the night. The poor creature was most thoroughly exhausted. It could barely maintain any altitude at all and twice fell into the sea as it struggled to catch up with us. Finally, it made it up to the cockpit and landed on Jeff’s arm.
I’ve often seen shore birds come aboard when sailing offshore, and they almost never survive. If they are not afraid of you, it seems they are certain to die.
This bird explored the deck and cockpit for a bit, then went below and made itself at home. It spent all the rest of the day flitting about the cabin–sitting on the potrail on the stove, flying up to the forepeak and back, trying to nestle down on the heads of off-watch crew–and seemed to be regaining strength. Eventually, it flew down into the galley sink and starting sipping from the little puddles of fresh water it found there. Then it started eating the crumbled bits of cracker we put out for it.
I have often offered food to lost birds at sea, but I had never seen one accept any before. So maybe maybe maybe, I hoped, this little guy would make it back to shore with us.
Jeff, ex-pro schooner jockey and wood-boat aficionado, is a Luddite and proud of it. He considers his new Monitor windvane to be Advanced Technology. What you see here, with control lines led to the aft pulpit rail, then to the cockpit sole, and thence to the drum behind the wheel, seems to be the standard installation for Valiant 40s
Meanwhile, the wind went uncooperative and backed to the southwest, dead against us. Our course deteriorated accordingly and took us further and further away from the land. The forecast was for yet another cold front to come through, with the wind veering back into the northwest after it passed, and Jeff’s fervent hope was that we could just keep sailing south-southeast until the shift came. Then we would recurve neatly back towards shore and arrive at the mouth of Chesapeake Bay.
By the time sun went down, however, it seemed clear (to some of us, at least) that the shift would never come in time. Sometime before midnight, as I lay suspended half-asleep in my leecloth, I overheard our other crew member, young Matt Glenn (himself a professional mariner, and skipper of the historic gundalow Piscataqua back in Portsmouth) arguing with Jeff that the correct “resolution” to our destination was to tack back west.
And when I finally crawled out of that leecloth at 0100 for my watch, I put it more bluntly: “I cannot believe we are still on this tack.”
Jeff is stubborn and opinionated, but he is not stupid. So we tacked over at last and began tracing out a very dispiriting northeast track on the chartplotter, seemingly right back where we came from.
This is Jeff’s first chartplotter, newly installed. He doesn’t trust it one bit
The next morning, Sunday, came fine with moderate to strong (if contrary) wind and bright sunshine. Our little bird, unfortunately, did not reappear from whatever nook or cranny it had found to sleep in, and we guessed it must have expired during the night. Outside there was a great cloud of sea birds all around us, hundreds of them, gulls, shearwaters, and skuas all mixed up together. Which seemed unusual… one often sees individual birds swooping about the ocean, but not big flocks like this, unless they are following a fishing boat.
Chanticleer (the term, if you are wondering, is a synonym for “domesticated male chicken”) smashed on through the contrary sea, sending up great sheets of spray on her lee bow. Behind each sheet was an instantaneous rainbow as the sunlight shot through the water in the air. Each instant was achingly beautiful, as was the vast exaltation of birds soaring all around us, and it seemed to me they had come to honor the little one that had died onboard.
Eventually the flock dissipated, and we slogged on all the rest of the day, heading at a near perfect right angle away from our destination. Amazingly, at the end of the day, the northwest shift came just as we crossed our original rhumbline route to the Chesapeake. So we tacked over once again, trimmed out for a reach, and roared through the next night right down that rhumbline to the entrance of the bay.
Jeff, it seemed, had timed our first tack perfectly after all.
One thing we saw as we stood in toward Cape May on Sunday were various large ships anchored or drifting about way offshore, evidently waiting to enter Delaware Bay. This one was anchored out in 250 feet of water
Jeff and Matt in the cockpit as we sailed through the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel on Monday morning
Your humble narrator on the deck simultaneous
Major U.S. warship spied while pottering through Hampton Roads past Norfolk
Lesser U.S. warships
Both Jeff and Matt had maritime-historical orgasms all over themselves when we passed this fine Norwegian square-rigger
Annoying problem here. We chafed through the cover on the Monitor vane’s brand new control lines in just 350 miles of sailing. Set the lines too loose and they jump off the drum on the wheel when conditions are rough. Set them too tight and this happens. Jeff needs to resolve this issue. Negotiations with the manufacturer are underway
We tied up at the Tidewater Yacht Marina in Portsmouth, across the river from downtown Norfolk, at Mile 0 of the ICW. Jeff, previously contemptuous of people who keep boats in marinas, is now learning to be a marina rat himself. As you can see here, he has all the necessary skills. He and Molly will return later this month to take the boat from here down the ICW to Beaufort, NC. In December they’ll take it from Beaufort offshore to the W’Indies
The mortal remains of our poor BLUB, exhumed from the forepeak during post-passage cleaning
VALIANT 40 IMPRESSIONS: I sailed this boat with Jeff on a coastal passage last year, but this was my first offshore passage on a Valiant. Chanticleer was fast, easily driven, with a seakindly motion: we were routinely moving at 6-8 knots, in spite of having the mainsail double- or even triple-reefed most of the time. Our top speed was over 9 knots.
I perhaps have been spoiled by my boat Lunacy, but I did not like the forward position of the head. In rough conditions it is a most unpleasant place to be. I also didn’t like the cramped, steep companionway. For a tall guy like me, the transition between cockpit and cabin was awkward. The cockpit and interior otherwise were most comfortable and seamanlike.
Q: Do you have a planned end to your cruise? When you get to a particular place? After a set number of years? When you (or the girls) get to be a particular age?
A: It is barely mid-November, and already I am getting reports from home about snow. I sit in the cockpit reading my email, and when a chill wind blows and the temperature plummets to 24 C, I put on a fleece. I can’t even handle the suggestion of snow anymore, much less the reality. Perhaps these notes are my family’s passive-aggressive way of keeping us out at sea. So if you ask me today when I’m going home, I’ll shout out, “Never! Not in a million years!”
Which is a lie. Of course we’re going home again. But the problem with asking about The End is simple. It is the absolute, number one, gold medal, top-ranked worst question to ask a cruiser because the answer you get will be worthless. Because nobody really knows.
When we started out, we knew we would be gone for two years, maximum. Maybe less. I had never set foot on a boat before, so we took a “try it and see” approach to the cruising life. But we had a fixed best-before date, and it was summer 2012. Home in time for grade three and junior Kindergarten.
And then we decided to cross the Pacific. We needed more time – another year, at least. And then we were in the Pacific. So much to see, such great distances to travel – one year more. And we needed money, which involved a work stop, which ate up a few months more. Plans flexed and morphed.
When I went home for a visit in April, we had one year to go. That was it. Erik and I had talked it through, built an Excel spreadsheet, looked at family ages, individual needs, finances and a host of other relevant factors. One more year was all we could squeak out. That’s it. And, like a fool, I told people that. I believed it sincerely. We were wrapping up. One last tour of glory! The kids loved being back home, and I thought that would be that.
But when the girls and I arrived back in New Zealand, they announced that another five years on the boat would be about right. Erik and I raised our eyebrows at each other. Five might be pushing it a bit, but two. Two we could do.
I still honestly believe that we have two years left in us. But I know perfectly well that I might be a great big lying liar on this point.Am I ready to say goodbye to this? Not yet.
Cruising isn’t like a vacation – you don’t go in with a set schedule. And that means you don’t have to think about the end until you get there. Because once you step off the boat for the last time, it’s over. You are making a total lifestyle change. And that is wrenching, even when you are ready for it. Even when the time is right, and you give your boat a fond pat and a thanks-for-the-memories, you are breaking up with a life you might truly have loved. All of your days and nights from this point on will be different. Maybe equally satisfying, but of a different character.
So the most honest answer is: I don’t know when we are going home for good. And I won’t know until we have actually bumped up against the end. We aren’t ready to stop yet. We know what we value, and we know what will tip us back into a land life at some point. But it won’t happen today.
And, if I have any choice in the matter, it won’t happen in the middle of a Canadian winter, either.
Andre and Marie-Claude sailed in the Caribbean 1500 two years ago aboard their Moody ‘Dancing Lizard.’ This was a conversation I had with them over good French coffee and scrambled eggs aboard their boat in Hampton, VA before the start of the rally. Andre and Marie-Claude were two of my favorite folks in that event, and I see them popping up here and there on Facebook, cheering on their French-Canadian compatriots in this year’s rally! Thanks for breakfast guys, and thanks for chatting!
Life in Langkawi isn’t all waterfall hikes and beach barbecues. This island is duty free, and while it’s rustic, there are tempting offerings for our scant kitty.A day of hard-core retail action began when we were handed car keys by a stranger. For 50 ringgit (about $16), we now had 24 hours with a aging four door Proton sedan. The car’s owner did not know our names, did not ask to see a driver’s license, and there was no payment up front. Honor system. Welcome to Langkawi! This is the theme for getting around the island, and mental whiplash for the uninitiated, but just the way it works. Before you hit the road, it’s good to know about Langkawi’s road hazards. There are the ongoing road repairs (which somehow have to be on the blind hairpin mountain curves, with inconsistently present flaggers… oh my nerves!). I personally find the monkeys on the side of the road to be extremely distracting and charming as road hazards go, as long as we stay on opposite sides of the car from each other. Jamie (de facto driver, I do not drive on the left side of the road, especially with a standard shift) is more focused on the *real* hazards. Moo. We start off pretty well focused on needs, not desires, but that gives us plenty to work with. The baseline for Langkawi shopping is that it’s a scavenger hunt. Retailers are scattered in small, mostly family-owned shops. There’s no public transportation to speak of, so rental cars are the way to go. As a baseline priority, provisioning here is a little different. In “normal cruising Malaysia” life, I’m happy with whatever is at the local wet market and a corner store. Here, though, there are options and imports. You can get so many things that I haven’t seen in… well, over a year. Things like quinoa, or tortillas, or GOOD olives, cheeses from Europe, lamb from New Zealand. It’s not easy pickings, though. Every shop has a slightly different selection, and you kind of have to visit them all to find everything on your wish list. Then there’s still a crapshoot element. I mean, this is still a small island with an imperfect supply chain. Things are sometimes simply not available. Next in the Totem priorities is finding bottom paint for our upcoming haulout. After five and a half years, we are overdue for a new bottom. Three gallons of ablative bottom paint plus primer, filler, and all the sandpaper, brushes, rollers, and safety gear we need, are a bargain. The sum is easily less than we spent on only two gallons of bottom paint in the states. Edging into the ‘want’ territory, we went to look at dinghies. Our tubes are on their last legs, with steady leaks and many weak spots. We’ve been weighing the options between putting on new tubes, and just getting a new dinghy. Thanks to manufacturing in China, duty free imports, and low cost of living: a new aluminum-bottom hypalon dink in Malaysia sells for not that much more than re-tubing our ancient (90s) fiberglass Avon. It’s been great, but… hmm. Every penny counts, and we might find a cheaper option to re-tube. Then there’s the booze. Well into the ‘want’ not ‘need’ zone, but at duty free prices, hard to resist as I think it’s the cheapest we’ve seen anywhere. The selection is… well, it is what it is. But $15 for a liter of Mount Gay? Less for top-shelf gin? On a volume basis, the tonic will cost considerably more than the spirits. This is the source, fondly known among cruisers as The Warehouse. Bonus: you get to dodge forklifts ferrying pallets while you track down a case of Tanqueray. Truth be told, I love these excursions for one thing in particular: the food. Malaysian food is a fantastic blend of Indian, Chinese, and Malay – there is so much to try and it is all so good. Jamie tolerates my insistence on lots of “snack breaks” but we eat well. None of these plates were more than $3. Roti. My personal favorite, especially roti canai with a spicy dahl. That’s an apom manis (a kind of sweet crepe-like pancake) on the right. Hainanese chicken and rice. Doesn’t look like much but WOW. Perfection of tender steamed chicken, mildly spiced sauce, and delicate broth. Barbecured pork. Bit tricker to find the non-halal around here. Winner for presentation and sheer variety of amazing flavors: the Indian buffet that served on banana leaf plates. We’ll be back!
Written by Ben Ellison on Nov 12, 2013 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub
Iris Innovations used some magnet magic to highlight the sveltness of the NightRunner dual payload pan/tilt/zoom navigation camera system it debuted in Fort Lauderdale. The real magic, though, seems to be in the pricing. At about $5,000 including a full-featured joystick control pad, the NightRunner isn’t that much more than a fixed Raymarine T200 with the same 320 x 240 thermal resolution and no daylight camera at all, and the NightRunner installation doesn’t seem much harder. Meanwhile the dual payload PTZ model most similar to the NightRunner appears to be the FLIR M-324L (or its sibling Ray T400) with a full retail price of about $15,000! How is this possible?
I do not fully understand such a seemingly radical price difference, but I do know that there is a whole lot of technological nuance in these thermal nav camera systems. Iris, for instance, seems to have sourced smaller scale parts. The NightRunner is 6.3″ high and 6.8″ in diameter including that easy (though less elegant) mounting flange, while the similar model M-Series (or T Series) casing is 11.2″ high and 7″ in diameter. So, can the apparently smaller Tamarisk 17 µm VOx Thermal Core produce as useful an image as the same resolution FLIR core? I’m dubious, largely because I’ve seen FLIR thermal image quality improve over the years regardless of resolution (as I tried to illustrate recently), but then again, even crude thermal can highlight surprises in complete darkness.
It will be good when Iris puts up NightRunner video captures like FLIR and Raymarine offer (though better if all parties would declare the resolution in use), but the utility of the 595 controller is fairly apparent. Joystick pan and zoom seemed smooth and fast at the FLIBS booth, and I think that most any skipper could easily use that screen and its 8 soft keys to get around even a complex menu system (that we’ll know more about when the manual comes out). In fact, Iris already has a similar 516 controller that can handle dozens of cameras (including the NightRunner after a planned update).
I also felt I could understand the NightRunner’s unique install scheme, and it seems clever to me. While you or an installer only has to run a single Cat 5 Ethernet cable to the NightRunner, it is not an IP camera. Instead, the Ethernet wires carry analog video, serial control data and dc power that gets broken out somewhere near the helm with the small device above. In fact, Iris does not believe that IP is appropriate for navigation video because network traffic can cause pauses.
In a few months, though, the company plans to offer an IP encoder that will simply replace the break-out device and allow the output of the cameras to be networked around the boat with Ethernet and/or built-in WiFi. The encoder will also have an analog bypass for the main navigation display and the hope is it will cost less than $400. Sound good?
But I’m convinced that tightly integrating a nav camera with a nav system, as I’ve been testing, makes it significantly easier to use and more valuable. FLIR has forged such relationships with Raymarine (which it owns) and also with Furuno and Navico. Can Iris do the same? Actually — not that anyone will say for sure — it seems likely that Iris worked on some beautifully integrated Garmin nav cams that unfortunately never came to market. It’s impossible to know if Iris has some reponsibility for that product shipping failure, but NightRunner is an entirely new design anyway, and it meets several serious environment standards (download data sheet).
Iris says that NightRunner uses Pelco D and ONVIF IP standards that nav system developers should be able to work with easily, but obviously, integration — like image quality and perhaps product durability — is an area that will take a while to fully reveal itself. That said, I think it’s fantastic that there’s now a $5,000 PTZ thermal/daylight nav cam available, and I’ll close with a feature that I wish FLIR would add, which is simply that camera pan location icon overlaid on the output of the NightRunner’s Sony Effio-P color cam.
I’m somewhere in the Atlantic at this point, bobbling contentedly along (if we judged the weather right). While I’m out there, let me shift your attention to an entirely different sea. The body of water south of China, east of Vietnam and and west of the Philippines is known by nearly as many names as there are countries surrounding it. It’s a confusion of nomenclature which reflects a variety of conflicting geopolitical perspectives. To the ‘western’ world this has long been known as the South China Sea and to call it the West Philippine Sea or the East Sea reveals as much about the one naming as the thing being named.
In the southwest corner of this sea is a group of scraggly, desolate reefs and rocks which are at the heart of the naming issue. The Spratly islands are disputed territory, claimed in whole or in part by China, Taiwan, Vietnam, The Philippines, Malaysia, and Brunei. As with most sovereignty disputes over uninhabitable islands the issue is less about the land itself and more about the location, and what lies beneath. It’s a familiar story. What isn’t familiar is this way this is being played out, which resembles a real-life game of Risk. To support sovereignty claims these nations have been placing small settlements, buildings, and detachments of soldiers on these reefs and islets. As the landscape and political situation shifts, so do these settlements- a hurricane might force the evacuation of an islet, allowing an occupation by another country.
Strangest of these settlements is the Sierra Madre. It’s a rusting hulk of an ex-US Navy ship, owned by the Philippine government, which was intentionally run aground on a disputed reef over a decade ago. Since then it has been continuously occupied by a handful of Philippine soldiers, tasked with defending a claim to the area by simply residing there. It’s a wild story, one which Jeff Himmelman at the New York Times Magazine tells better than I ever could. He just produced a visually stunning and absolutely fascinating multimedia piece about it. If any of this interests you, I highly recommend giving it a look: NY Times – Of Shark and Minnow
The resort was a great interlude, but we’ve settled back into “normal” cruising life in Malaysia, and a decidedly different groove. We’re happily catching up on projects, books, and fun with friends in Telaga Harbour.
A nice breeze often comes through the bay, keeping the boat cool outside the hottest hours of the day. Hardly any bugs- thank goodness! I think we used more insect repellent in two weeks at Rebak than we’ve used in several years combined.
A couple of artificial islands protect the bay from the south. This time of year, prevailing winds switch to NE, and we’re entirely protected by the big island of Langkawi.
the view from the beach…
…and looking at the islet, and Love Song. That’s about half of the whole island in the frame.
Before the sun gets high enough to make life uncomfortable, I’ve been running with Kathy (Love Song) and other women from nearby boats. They know trails here, and we wind through tracks shared by monkeys, horses, and the occasional elephant. It’s kicking my butt, which hasn’t run much in a while, but feels great. What’s better than a run where you see hornbills and monkeys? One where you see hornbills, monkeys, and get to talk to girlfriends!
these birds are big and noisy: like they know they can get away with being flamboyant
crazy flying leaps they take between trees…and utility poles
If there can be said to be a rhythm, it’s this. Mornings are a time to catch up on books, projects, and life maintenance; afternoons are playtime. The kids like to hit the beach of the tiny islet we’re anchored near with the boys from Love Song. They have easy access back and forth between the little islet, and the boats anchored close by. There are epic sand castle / village / ecosystems built, with hermit crab citizens and boat cat godzillas.Morgan and Siobhan shuttle back to Love Song
On shore, there are trails to walk to a geopark, a series of waterfalls, and more. We spent the better part of a day walking to (and playing in) the waterfalls. Best natural slides ever.
the lower pools, below the falls
Niall is so good with helping his sisters
This run was a particular favorite. It plunged down slippery-smooth rocks into a pool of surprising depth. It terrified me to look down from above (those are Niall’s feet!), because if you keep going past that bit of whitewater at the bottom, there’s a short series of pools and then a VERY large drop. See the falls in the picture above? Yeah…you don’t want to go over that.
There’s minimal risk, ask it turns out, because that whitewater is a whirlpool that just spins you around.
We had a blast, running the slide over and over, but realized we’re more used to being in the water than most people. Our comfort possibly made it look easier than it really is: at least, that’s the best explanation I can come up with for some children with had little/no swimming ability (they had on water wings, people, water wings) were sent off to swim by parents who weren’t paying much attention them. Our kids fished out one terrified child in water wings, and got a parent over to forcibly hauled another youngster out from the spin cycle. It’s a scary, awful thing for a small child to have to experience.
Many evenings, we gather with their family and others to have dinner on the beach and watch the sinking sun turn the Langkawi to gold.the kids scavenge driftwood for a fire
breaking up driftwood into fire-sized pieces
Talking story into the night around the glow of a fire has been like a balm for busy souls. What’s adding an extra bit of fun is that for the first time in a very long time, most the boats we’re spending time with are from North America. We can see five US ensigns around us in the anchorage: I think the last time that happened might have been back in Mexico, three and a half years ago.
We originally looked at Langkawi, and the 99 islands that make up the area, and thought- wow, we’ve got nearly a month to poke around and explore! But you know what? Sometimes the best thing, the very best thing, is not to explore every corner. It’s to slow down, to get to know one place, and to just focus on spending time with friends and family instead.
Written by Ben Ellison on Nov 10, 2013 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub
I’ll probably always associate Hurricane Sandy and the sinking of the HMS Bounty with last fall’s cruise to the Carolinas and a Fort Lauderdale show that got a little scary just because Sandy’s eye passed by about 160 miles to the east. Soon after flying from Lauderdale to Gizmo’s super safe location in Myrtle Beach (lucky!), I was adding Bounty comments to an entry about how I’d first spotted the storm on a Furuno TZT. What I didn’t mention then was that I’m one of a cohort that had more reason than most to get cold chills over the sinking of a large traditional sailing vessel, a loss that could have been so much worse if it weren’t for an extraordinary USCG rescue operation. But it’s relevant now because an old square rig shipmate has written a very fine analysis of the disaster and what we can learn from it…
I wrote last Christmas about my time as relief captain of the barkentine Regina Maris. Well, another reason that I pulled that off, despite my vast inexperience, was the assistance of several very good mates, perhaps the best of whom was a young Maine Maritime Academy graduate with the full name G. Anderson Chase. Andy already had substantial experience in large sailing vessels, and he also had the maturity to be a very supportive mate (instead of playing the impatient second-guesser role he had every right to assume given his youth and our topsy-turvy experience levels).
For that I’m forever grateful, and I’ve followed Andy (mostly from afar) as he first pursued a bluewater career — which included being the subject of John McPhee’s excellent Looking for a Ship — and then became a professor at the Academy, where I believe he was quite instrumental in expanding the “transportation” program to include smaller vessels and even auxilary sail. So when Andy’s Bounty article came out in WoodenBoat magazine last summer, I dug into it with very high expectations. I was not disappointed; in fact, I think Andy nailed it, and I’m pleased to report that he, illustrator Jan Adkins (also creator of the marvelous Craft of Sail), and WB have made the whole “Lessons of the BOUNTY” article freely available to all.
When you read the piece, you’ll find that Andy makes humble use of his Regina experience to poke at the widely held notion that experience itself is the source of good judgement. “Experience in a vacuum doesn’t make us smarter. Experience has to be processed. It has to be considered with full disclosure.” I can’t say I’d ever thought that through, but it makes total sense, as do the principles of Bridge Resource Management, Risk Management and Margins of Error, which Andy explains carefully and in relation to what was going on aboard Bounty before and during her fateful voyage.
Andy also addresses the old rule of thumb that was purportedly favored by the Bounty’s captain, noting that while, “It used to be an accepted standard that a ship was safer at sea than in port in the event of a severe storm”…it also “used to be that the ship was more important to the owners than its crew was.” What really gets me, though, is when he imagines the collaborative vessel readiness conversation that could have taken place amongst all the Bounty’s department heads before she left New London. It seems like the real pros know that the age of the all-knowing captain is over, and that’s a good thing.
I’ve noticed that when we discuss boating accidents on Panbo, like last summer’s Hylas dismasting, the conversation eventually turns from blaming equipment or techniques of doing things (old or new) to the subtler subjects of crew communications, situational awareness, cascading errors and the like. I think there’s been a lot of progress in understanding how things actually go wrong, probably originating in critically difficult fields like combat and aviation (and USCG rescue ops). This progress may be overshadowed in our eyes by the amazing march of technology, but, man, I’m glad to know that Andy and his similarly qualified colleagues are teaching future mariners at this level. You, too, may want to follow up his Bounty article with Dan Parrott’s Bridge Resource Management for Small Ships or Andy’s own Auxiliary Sail Vessel Operations.
I don’t want to leave the impression that going to sea on an old traditional sailing vessel, even one that leaks over a 1,000 gallons a day, is completely foolhardy. Hell no! It was a complete blast to join Andy Chase and nearly 60 other former deck officers, cooks, scientists, students, etc. at the Regina Maris Reunion in Gloucester because the vessel had been such an intense experience in all our lives. It was especially neat to meet crew from other eras in the boat’s long career (roughly outlined on Wikipedia, but much more richly documented on Facebook and Flickr). Apparently, the old girl had been seriously leaky for a long time before I got on board, but neither does anyone forget the sheer joy (and/or terror) that can be found high aloft on a yardarm.
Oddly, though, I’ve just found the best description yet of our unforgettable Silver Bank whale watching cruises in a great little book I didn’t even know that Andy wrote. Fortunately, Sea Stories by Andy Chase can be read in its entirety online. Aside from describing how close we got to the majestic humpbacks — I totally concur with “one of the very highest high points of my life” — Andy also captures the low point of our last Regina passage together. I found a another reference to it in the logs that many of us perused deeply in Gloucester. (What did I mean by the “Crud” in Puerto Plata and did I write my log entry as, “The ‘Crud’ strikes twice this day,” because I’d been reading too many Hornblower novels?)
At any rate, check out GAC’s log entry about the broken chainplates his watch discovered when we were at about 28N x 70W with dicey shore communications and nothing like the SAR systems we have today. And I believe that one or two more shrouds gave way before we nursed Regina into Bermuda where the students and scientists got off for a maintenance period. I also recall that besides the very hard work of removing and replacing alternate chainplates, the crew had a pretty wild time largely because we’d salvaged a wrecked sailboat in the Bahamas and we sold the booty to local DIY boatbuilders to fund dock parties. But both Andy and I rotated off the vessel during that beautiful 1981 April in Bermuda and neither of us sailed on her again.
Late last night, the Hylas 54 ‘Wings’ crossed the finish line of the 2013 Caribbean 1500, and for the second straight year took Line Honors. After a passage of a little over 7 days – and that ran the gamut with weather conditions – ‘Wings’ is happy to be in the islands.
“We crossed the line a bit ago,” wrote the crew, “and are working hard to let our guard completely down in the form of Dark and Stormies. Really looking forward to raising a glass or two with all the Carib 1500 fleet in Nanny Cay next week.”
Over the next few hours we expect a few more yachts to make landfall in the BVI. ‘Karina’ and ‘Altair’ have already made dinner plans with each other, and plan on anchoring out tonight before joining us at Nanny Cay Monday morning. ‘Te Mana’ and ‘Nexus’ should round out the finishers for today (Sunday).
Out at sea, the rest of the fleet is enjoying fine sailing under blue skies, and the increase in log submissions has been a telling indication of the calmer conditions after the rough start.
“The sun rising off TARA’s bow was accompanied by a flurry of quiet activity,” wrote the crew of ‘Tara.’ “Flying fish in the distance, a bird resting on the rigging, and spotting a sailboat off the starboard bow were each the focal point of their individual moments. We’ve been motoring for 27 hours, since the wind died. TARA’s engine is quiet, affords us a nice 7kt speed, ample charging for electronics, and plenty of hot water.”
Someone asked the time during all of this, and true to the life at sea, the reply came. “No one really cares, but the answer rings out from stem to stern, ‘It’s noon and it’s AWESOME!’”
‘Free Spirit’ has been motor-sailing as well, and had some excitement yesterday encountering a cruise ship.
“Our excitement yesterday was spotting the Norwegian Gem cruise ship, passing within 2 miles of our location. We contacted them to verify courses to ensure safe crossing, resisting the temptation to request a six-pack and bag of ice.”
‘Sojourner’, now the smallest yacht in the rally after ‘Topaz’ diverted to the Bahamas, is bringing up the rear with ‘Andromeda’. After a call in today from the sat phone, they reported light winds, but enough to make 5 knots under full sail. And they’re doing their best to stay true to the nature of the event, avoiding the temptation to run the engine.
“We’ve recorded just four engine hours,” said Dennis today. “But now we’re all getting ansty to get in, so we’ll see how long that lasts.”
The boys aboard ‘Solstice’ has a different take on motoring, and have finally sorted out their engine problems after it kept overheating. Happy to motorsail in the light winds, they summed up a sailor’s relationship with his engine quite humorously.
“A quote for yesterday and bloody engines,” they wrote. “‘Now, motors, like women, are not all bad, but it must be admitted there is a great difference among them. I prefer the simple, clean, reliable ones, and admire the economical ones, and almost love the quiet ones that are small and don’t smell…’”
Typhoon Haiyan ran a course of destruction through the Philippines this week, cutting through the middle of the country on a westbound track. It came with sustained winds of nearly 200 mph (320 km/h)- gusts were up to 235 mph. Can you even imagine what it feels like to be in that kind of wind? Not being able to stand, or walk; the smallest piece of airborne debris hitting with a painful sting. Imagine being in a car going that fast (as if)- you couldn’t hold your hand out the window.
Like this Super Typhoon, we are in Southeast Asia, but very far away from the bad weather. We’ve received through messages asking if we were nearby or affected by the storm, and I’m grateful that we were not and have no cause for concern. But we watch closely: being aware of the weather is important for our security, and we have friends who are in the area affected, or have families there. Cebu, a popular stop for cruising sailors, was smack in the path. Thousands of casualties are expected. It is hard to hear about human pain, and feel helpless to do anything about it.
But here’s the thing: it is possible to help, even from a remote perch. You, sitting there on your phone or your computer taking five minutes to reading this, you can take action to contribute to the relief effort. It won’t cost anything but a few minutes of your time. How?
Social media offers a way for voices to be heard. The problem for relief agencies is to cut through the volume of content to find and process the important data, to separate it from the noise. A series of apps allows that task to be crowdsourced: to throw it out to volunteers who can scan and categorize the messages. This micromapping helps agencies understand where the needs are greatest, and what those needs are, so they can concentrate and direct their efforts.
Sitting here, with our lousy internet connection, I could quickly categorize a couple of dozen tweets. Our friends Tim and Bec from sv Infinity, who turned me on to this, are scanning and categorizing on their phone from what is probably a much worse connection in Bali. This is tremendous, really. It feels like a game changer to move slacker clicktivism into a meaningful way to make a material difference in a crisis response, and it is EASY.
Do you want to know more about micromapping? Start by reading this article on Patrick Meier’s blog.
Ready to just jump in and scan a few tweets? Go over to CrowdCrafting’s TweetClicker and start.
Feeling more traditional? The Philippine Red Cross would be grateful for donations.
If there is one thing to be grateful for about Typhoon Haiyan, it’s that the path through the Philippines was cut very quickly, instead of lingering and causing even greater damage. Now, however, it’s headed across the South China Sea to Vietnam, pointing right at Hanoi. It’s weakening, but still packs a punch. I’m going to scan and categorize a pile of tweets, and ping my friend Rick in Hanoi.
There are days I think that we moved onto Papillon not to sail the seven seas, not to give Erik endless tinkering projects, not to spend family time – but to visit every coral reef on Earth. We are reef peekers. I feel no shame in that.
Erik and I used to do a lot of diving back in the day, but now we are snorkelers because it lets the kids get involved, and there is so much to see in those first twenty feet, anyway. Now that Indy has joined the ranks of strong swimmers, it is all the easier. Not that I didn’t enjoy towing her along by her lifejacket strap or carrying her on my back. But sometime over the past few months she made the switch from child to fish, just as Stylish did when we were starting out. And now we are a well-oiled snorkeling machine.
From this… …to this, in a year.
We have seen healthy reefs and ruined reefs, enormous fish and tiny. We carry the memories of the truly wild places, and keep chasing that high. The sad fact is, there are a lot of dirty, nutrient-loaded, over-fished, half-dead reefs out there. More than you would think.
But there are still good pockets, and you don’t always have to sail days into the middle of nowhere to find them. We spent ten days at Ilot Maitre, which is only a few miles from Noumea. It is a heavily-travelled marine reserve, but, considering the city is a stone’s throw away, it still has its charms. So let me share a few of the things we have seen lately.
I love octopetes (octopi, octopuses – take your pick, they are all correct). Stylish is our champion octopus spotter. We watched this one crawl over a coral head. Watch as his color changes, and he turns bumpy to blend with the coral. Cuttlefish have that cool side-wave going on. I can’t resist them. The ones we saw here were enormous – at least a foot long. Erik saw a pair of twelve-foot Manta Rays in Fatu Hiva, and I have never quite gotten over my jealousy. These stingrays are pretty cool, too, even if they aren’t bigger than the dinghy.
Most sea turtles disappear when they see you. They have been hunted down to nothing, so I can’t really blame them. The only genuinely chill turtles we’ve seen were in the Galapagos, where they are so well protected that they haven’t learned to worry. The turtles here are fairly relaxed, too, and they are abundant.
We try to be good neighbors to these animals. We set our anchor in the sand, not in the coral. We don’t touch anything, and we leave them alone. I very much hope that the reefs will last enough enough for the girls to show their own kids someday.
This is another guest post from Mike Hixenbaugh, a reporter at the Virginian-Pilot Newspaper in Portsmouth, VA. The article discusses the distress calls from Thursday night during the Salty Dawg Rally, and I’m quoted in here a couple of times. To see the original article, click here. I will personally have much more to say on this topic in due time…
After distress calls, rally’s decision-making questioned
By Mike Hixenbaugh
© November 9, 2013
Two rival sailing organizations, each planning to travel from Hampton Roads to the Caribbean: One group shipped out ahead of schedule last weekend in a single pack to get out ahead of bad weather. The other group waited.
Most of the boats in the second group, sailing in the Salty Dawg Rally out of Hampton, left Tuesday and Wednesday after the first of two forecasted cold fronts had passed. They hoped to cross through the volatile Gulf Stream off Cape Hatteras before the second cold front moved into the area Thursday.
Many of the Salty Dawgs, though, didn’t make it across the strong ocean current before conditions got rough, resulting in an unusually busy night for Coast Guard rescue teams in North Carolina – and prompting some in the sailing community to question the safety of the event.
Roughly 115 boats participated in the third-annual Salty Dawg Rally. Several experienced serious problems late Thursday as they sailed into strong crosswinds and choppy seas some 200 miles off the coast of North Carolina.
Two boats lost their masts; four others had serious rudder problems. One sailor lost his footing and broke an arm. Crew members from other boats reported intense seasickness.
In all, the Coast Guard responded to five distress calls from Salty Dawg participants.
By Thursday evening, the 41-foot sailboat Ahimsa was taking on water faster than the crew could bail. Around 1:30 a.m. Friday, an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter from Elizabeth City arrived overhead after stopping to refuel aboard the Vella Gulf, a Navy cruiser. One by one, the Ahimsa’s four crew members jumped into the choppy sea and into the arms of a rescue swimmer, Petty Officer 2nd Class Chad Watson.
“They were pretty shaken up,” Watson said, hours after completing the rescue at sea. “It was a rough night out there.”
The four sailors were hoisted, one by one, into the chopper and flown to Elizabeth City; all declined medical treatment once on the ground.
Not far away from where the Ahimsa foundered, the crew of the 38-foot sailboat Nyapa sent a satellite signal indicating they had lost their mast and were taking on water. A Coast Guard HC-130 Hercules airplane that had been circling above the Ahimsa was diverted toward the distress signal. The boat’s crew later reported that the vessel was fine – minus the mast – and that they were continuing the journey by motor.
The crew of the sailboat Aurora also sent out a distress signal when conditions turned ugly, but they later contacted another sailboat, which passed word to the Coast Guard that the crew had decided to head for Bermuda.
The fourth vessel in distress, the Braveheart, was about 50 miles southeast of Ocracoke Inlet when the crew reported that a 67-year-old man had a serious arm injury. The Coast Guard Cutter Block Island arrived, intending to accompany the Braveheart back to shore. Instead, it was diverted to help yet another disabled sailboat, so Braveheart sailed to Morehead City, N.C. on its own.
The Block Island moved on to the 54-foot sailboat Zulu, which was adrift about 100 miles east of Oregon Inlet. The cutter crew towed the boat to shore Friday morning.
The rash of distress calls stretched the on-duty Coast Guard crews and required additional personnel to be called in, but it was nothing the service couldn’t handle, said Coast Guard spokesman Chief Nyx Cangemi.
Word of the harrowing night at sea spread quickly among the East Coast sailing community, prompting some to question in social media posts and online forums the wisdom of setting sail with such a narrow window to beat rough weather.
Andy Schell fears the episode could be a black eye for ocean sailing. Schell, an event organizer for World Cruising Club, is in charge of planning the Caribbean 1500, an annual cruise, or rally, from Hampton Roads to the Virgin Islands.
The rally was scheduled to begin last Sunday, but the threat of back-to-back cold fronts prompted event organizers to set sail a day early from Portsmouth. Each of the 30 boats participating in that event crossed through the Gulf Stream without issue, Schell said.
“Nobody wants to see this happen,” Schell said. “It’s really a shame. That’s why we use the sailing model that we use – to minimize the risk as much as possible and keep everyone safe.”
The Caribbean 1500, which charges a participation fee and adheres to International Sailing Federation safety standards, has long required each boat to submit to pre-event safety checks and strongly suggests that its participants set sail within a certain window. If the boats hadn’t left a day early, Schell said, forecasts suggested it would be at least a week before conditions improved enough to begin the event.
“We wouldn’t have sailed Wednesday or Thursday,” he said.
The Salty Dawg Rally started three years ago after a core group of mariners from the Caribbean 1500 broke away. Linda Knowles and her husband founded the rally for seasoned mariners who desired a less rigid experience. The group doesn’t charge a participation fee, and the responsibility for deciding when to set sail is entrusted to each skipper.
“It’s not as if we’re just a bunch of wayward sailors who leave when we want and do what we want and don’t pay attention to forecasts,” Knowles said, noting that her group provides training opportunities and daily sailing forecasts. “We give them advice, but the decision as to when they go is totally up to them, and they’re responsible for that decision. They knew those seas were going to be bad.”
The weather conditions were a bit worse than forecasted, Knowles said, and the front lingered longer than expected. Still, the majority of the Salty Dawg participants made it through the Gulf Stream without trouble, she said.
Knowles said she’s thankful nobody was seriously injured or killed. In her mind, Thursday night was a learning experience for a young and fast-growing sailing organization.
“We’ll take a look at what happened and will want to talk to each boat to understand what went wrong and what could have been done to prevent it,” Knowles said. “We’ll get together as a board to discuss what we can do better, but our model will not change. We firmly believe in what we’re doing.”
Mike Hixenbaugh, 757-446-2949, firstname.lastname@example.org
We like to take the road less traveled, and chose anchoring in a quiet bay over tying up in a marina, but it was a fine change of pace to soak up the resort style benefits of the Rebak Resort & Marina while my parents were visiting.
It reminded me that cruising comes in all kinds of flavors, and our take is just one way to go. Almost everyone we met at Rebak was residential: either berthed semi-permanently, or flying in and out between their boat, and jobs elsewhere. Either way, it’s a good life and enjoying the good life with lots of benefits (room/berth service!). Malaysia makes it easy, though, to cruise from marina to marina- they are spread out at day-trip intervals along the peninsula. Mexico wasn’t terribly different, though, and the similar pockets exist in other regions around the world.
We all have different ideas of the resort lush life. The kids loved the pool, where we spent many afternoons once the sun came out. It was a cooker in the middle of the day, but when the sun sinks just enough to put most of the pool in shadow, it was heavenly. Not to mention, hello, swim up bar! Shockingly, I never got around to patronizing it. I love swim up bars.
There were some nice little hikes: one of my favorite things to do. One stunning walk runs up and along the ridge behind the marina’s hardstand. Most of it looks like this, and is utterly peaceful:
It had been installed years ago with granite gravel, but was horribly overgrown until a dedicated group from the marina took to walking it with their machetes. Now the resort charges about $30/person for guests to have a naturalist lead hike, but you can just take yourself anytime. I’m pretty sure they don’t show the guests the ropes course down to the beach, either.
Early morning walks were always full of wildlife. I could see the flash of monkeys jumping across the path ahead of me, or a hornbill up in a tree.thank you Mr (Ms?) Hornbill for posing for me
There were activities we could easily join, from movie nights, to tennis, to the kids favorite: archery. Jamie hadn’t picked up a bow for 30 years but nailed bullseyes with his first five arrows. Very fun, and definitely not as easy as it looks.
The girls indulged in some bubble baths, too. No bathtubs on a boat! Plenty of fun hanging out with grandparents in their air conditioned suite, though.
I couldn’t talk the rest of the crew into coming on any hikes with me. Possibly this is the reason. What, you have to walk? We have these cart things and people to drive us around!
This is probably a little pathetic, access to REAL laundry machines made me very happy. Of course, these are “marina use only.” No hot water (there’s never hot water) but who needs it?Note the honor system book to record machine usage
Then there was the food. Oh my goodness. I need a serious Rebak Reduction plan. Most meals with my parents were off the boat, and the food at the resort was incredible. They treated us to many meals up at the resort… we brought them (clandestinely) to the “marina guests only” restaurant as well. A fraction of the price for the same deliciousness.dressing down to sneak into the yachtie restaurant
We all had favorites- I loved the Indian dishes. Siobhan loved the breakfast buffet, and basically invited herself to it as often as she could.breakfast buffet catered to Indian, Chinese, Malay and Western tastes. Wow.
I guess we got used to this sweet bit of resort living.
Back on the hook again (yeah, that’s one of those phrases that’s hard to use outside of boating circles), sure, we miss the easy access to things: we are lugging water in jerry cans. Doing laundry in a bucket. Watching our voltage to make sure the battery bank is OK.
I guess we miss not having to worry about those things while we were resorting, but they’re really just part and parcel of everyday cruising life. Mostly, we miss the family we had around.dressing down for dinner at the yachtie restaurant
Resort life was nice, but enabling time for three generations to be together is what it was really about.
As we approach the seven-days-at-sea mark in this year’s ARC Caribbean 1500, the lead boat, Wings, a Hylas 54, is less than 400 miles out from Tortola. Tal Lira, on the other hand, has made their arrival as planned in the Bahamas after four days at sea.
“Just to inform you that we arrived yesterday evening,” Pauline informed Rally Control this afternoon. “We are on our way to Bluff House Marina and we would like to thank you for your hospitality during the last week!”
Pauline also reported in that they’ve had contact with Morning Haze, the Canadian yacht also bound for the Abacos, and expect to see them arriving sometime today.
The four and five day passages for Tal Lira and Morning Haze, respectively, represent a nearly two-week advantage on the time it would have taken to transit the ICW and cross the Gulf Stream near Miami, as is the more common route to the Bahamas during the annual southerly migration. While the ICW is a deservedly popular route on it’s own, for those looking for a quick and easy way to go direct to the Bahamas, doing with the ARC Bahamas fleet – which re-launched next fall in conjunction with the 1500 – is an option to consider.
As for the yachts bound for Tortola, the breeze has finally relented and the sun is shining. After five boisterous and fast sailing days, everyone is now getting a chance to peel off some of those layers and dry out their boats.
Solstice, though a bit tired, took a chance to wax philosophically about their passage in yesterday’s blog.
“We really are having a blast,” wrote crewmember Tom. “What a great feeling to be out on the big blue sea in control of your own destiny and making things happen. I love sailing! As Ray said today with a big smile on his face, ‘There are just a few times in life like this. Isn’t this a beautiful day.’”
Meanwhile Wings, who leads the fleet in both position and enthusiasm for sending in logs from at-sea, wrote today that the weather has finally eased off, to Dave’s apparent chagrin.
“Dave is depressed that we’ve lost the high winds and the big waves that gave us our speed over the last three days,” Wings wrote. “On the other hand, two members of the crew (who shall remain Anonymous) are delighted to be able to move around the boat without being catapulted across the cabin.”
The calm seas, though they’ve cost Wings a bit in speed, have had their own advantages.
“This morning, in celebration of calm seas, Pat decided to cook a huge amount of bacon. Everyone who sails would admit that there is something very special about the smell of bacon the morning. Even Bob, who is trying hard to be a vegetarian, is drooling around the cabin, muttering that our attraction to fried bacon is primal and it must be something to do with how closely related we are to pigs.”
Life at sea certainly has it’s highs and lows.
Dehler was one of a few venerable European sailboat brands that ran out of oxygen during the Great Recession. You may recall that many of their quick, durable, well-built cruiser-racers got sold on this side of the Pond over the years. Hanse Group, which evidently aspires to be the General Motors of European boatbuilding, bought the remains of the business a while back and this Dehler 38, which just debuted in Annapolis, is the first all Hanse-built model they’ve put out. It was the very first boat I test-sailed after the show, and I have to say I was impressed by its performance.
It is not as well built as its predecessors, but it sails as well, or even better. I recall, for example, that the rudder on the last Dehler I test-sailed, over 10 years ago, lost its grip in just 15 knots of wind. No such worries on this puppy. We had about the same wind this time, and the boat was very sure-footed and quick. It is also considerably less expensive than a new “old” Dehler would be–base price in the U.S. for this model is a tad under $220K, which isn’t that much more than what a 12-year-old Dehler would set you back.
Hanse is renowned for the severe, edgy Euro-styling of its own Hanse brand boats (the other brands in the conglomerate include Moody, Fjord, and Varianta), but they restrained themselves here. This new 38 has a sort of subdued modern look inside that is vaguely reminiscent of the old Dehler interiors.
I rather liked the curved headrests over the settees. It makes you feel like you’re in a private jet
The galley is small, but very serviceable
Two- or three-cabin layouts are available. I was on a three-cabin boat. You have to go through the head to get to the port-side aft cabin, but the head is cleverly laid out, and this works much better than you’d think
The boat has three different keels to choose from–standard cruising, shoal-draft, and competition–and two different fractional rigs, one with standard Selden aluminum spars and a taller one with carbon sticks. I sailed the straight standard boat, which at its best was hitting speeds a tad over 9 knots, which ain’t too shabby for a boat with handlaid laminate and a 34-foot waterline. We had no instruments of any sort (other than my handheld GPS), but I estimate its best closehauled angle was just inside 30 degrees apparent.
Pony up for the taller rig and deeper keel, and I think you might have a very competitive boat here. Even with the standard set-up, you clearly won’t be embarrassing yourself during a beer-can series.
This is my babysitter Matt Karhan steering for a bit while I snap pix. The boat has twin helms and a fold-down transom
One nice performance feature is the full-width traveler. It’s recessed in the sole, which looks cool, but I wonder if stray line tails will get tangled up in there
My test-boat did not have the optional fixed cockpit table. Thus there was nowhere to mount a chartplotter in the cockpit and nowhere to mount a steering compass near the helm, as the wheels are on struts rather than binnacles. Folks with older eyes may have a hard time reading those little bulkhead compasses while steering
You can read a full review of the boat in an upcoming issue of SAIL.
This video went viral; amazing if you haven’t seen it. Visually stunning too, with all those bright lights and manta rays flipping around: