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Day 4 at sea: Carib1500 fleet gets their sea legs

Thu, 2014-11-06 09:15

“The later you are, the more excited dogs are to see you.”

That’s Club Carp’s ‘dog quote of the day,’ from Day 1 at sea. They’ve taken to a daily dog quote to lighten up their at-sea logs a little bit, and it’s definitely lightened our heart’s a little bit here at the rally office. The team of yellowshirts are packing up in Pennsylvania in preparation for their flight to Tortola tomorrow (Friday). Many participants asked if we’d be sailing down with the fleet. I wish. We need to get there in time to prepare the cold rum punch that each boat gets on arrival, day or night. And as they say, nothing goes to weather like a 747. So we fly.

Meanwhile, at sea, it’s the dawn of day 4 already, and the crews should by now be fully adjusted to the routines on the boat – sleeping in the daytime, staying awake at night, balancing the constant movement, eating again (after perhaps a bout or two of mal de mar). The fleet is now entering that ‘philosophical middle portion’ of an offshore voyage that I like to talk about. This part, once you’re adjusted to life at sea, lasts until a day or two before landfall, when you’re close enough to practically smell that first cheeseburger and ice cold beer. But until then, that middle portion could continue indefinitely, the days and nights blending into one another as you glide across the ocean under a moonlit sky. That’s what we go to sea for.

It’s been apparently calm enough at sea that many boats are sending in logs over their sat phone email systems, offering an inside look at what it’s like out there. Aboard Adagio, an Amel ketch, the crew wrote of how calm the seas had gotten in the middle of the high pressure system that moved over the fleet shortly after Monday’s start.

“The last time I saw waters like this was in 2006 in the Mediterranean sea. Of course, we were aboard a Celebrity cruise ship and really didn’t care all that much about sea state, but nonetheless it was a topic of conversation that went kind of like ‘You know, if we ever really actually DO get to sail our own boat to places like this, I guess it’ll be motoring all the way.’… Well, we’re not quite in the Med (yet) but the Atlantic looks almost identical to that water we experienced over 8 years ago. Not a whisper of wind to show us riplets on the water, not a breath to even shake the sails out just a little.”

Windswept’s dinner!

It’s hard to believe how calm the ocean can get at times. You’d think there always at least a little bit of wind out there. But it can indeed, and the fleet is learning it first hand. So what can you do in those boring times of absolute calm?

“Jump overboard, that’s what :) It’s swimming time!” Adagio had the answer. “We tossed out a safety line, lowered the swim ladder and made a cursory attempt to heave to (I ~think~ I remember it takes wind to do that …). Grab the shampoo and over we go with Robin keeping a careful watch over the whole silly show.”

Aboard Club Carp, a longtime Caribbean 1500 veteran, aside from their daily dog quotes, they’ve experienced similar calm conditions.

“Last night’s watches were again uneventful. To keep us on our toes, we had a moon-lit, neck-to-neck race with Corsair, our closest competitor! We were also lucky to start the evening with an amazing home cooked lamb curry to keep us going during the night. Some of us even added ripe banana slices to our curry (chef Cooke said it’s how his mum taught him, so we didn’t argue) as well as a little diced up Trinidad Scorpion habaneros … sweet, yet spicy … could life get any better?”

Uneventful is absolutely the way you want your ocean passages. It sounds boring, but at sea you’re never want for something to do. Cooking, cleaning, sail-repairing, reading, writing – you’d be shocked at how creative your brain gets when completely disconnected from life on shore.

Club Carp’s water part, and an encounter with a whale.

“For additional entertainment,” added Club Carp’s crew, “we stopped at the local water park, were we got to see the neighborhood whale. We decided to call him King Jimmy as he quickly dove to the depth of the ocean for better smelling company. Our next stop at the water park was a dip in the 16,000-foot deep pool. Freaky is the only way to describe but our crew-mate from the Midwest took to the swim as if he was born in the water.
Dog quote of the day #3: ‘A dog’s parents never visit.’

So for most of the fleet, the first four days at sea were calm a welcome change for those who remember last year’s 3 days of 25-30 knots sustained wind. The Gulf Stream crossing was easy this year.

But the rally thus far hasn’t been totally uneventful. Heart’s Desire, the Pacific Seacraft 37, was forced to turn back with engine trouble. They’ve made it safely back to a small inlet on Virginia Beach and expect to get under way again tomorrow.

“It was a really simple fix,” said skipper John Fink. “But unfortunately I was the only one able to fix it, and I was too seasick to go down below. So we took the conservative route and turned back.”

On Euro Trash Girl, the lead ARC Bahamas boat, things were slightly more serious. “J/World has long been known to fly kites on very light air days for some entertainment,” said Kristen Berry, J/World staff, who’s driving to Florida before flying to Marsh Harbor to meet the fleet. “One of our instructors who’s on the boat brought along a fancy kite for this trip,” he continued, “and apparently it crashed or something and the kite string sliced into his hand. Thankfully it wasn’t a client, but it’s still a bit of a problem for the guys.”

Thanks to J/World’s recent Ocean OPS course, the crew handled the situation with aplomb. After stopping the bleeding and ensuring that the injured had feeling and movement in all of his fingers, they bandaged the wound. A brief call via sat phone to a USCG doctor confirmed that it’s just a flesh wound, and Euro Trash Girl is continuing on to Marsh Harbor as planned

Kedging in the ICW

Thu, 2014-11-06 09:05

Photos Courtesy of Mon Iker   After a bit of an absence I would like to return with a bang, or at least a soft thud. I am currently cruising South from Maine with a crew of friends, headed for New Orleans. We’ve made it as far as Florida, always a good place for adventure.

I (maybe unfairly) tend to think of the ICW as slow, expensive, and often dull, so we’ve been staying offshore most of the time. But there are exceptions, most recently the stretch between St. Augustine and Lake Worth when we decided, for once, to avoid one of the big cold fronts which are usually our mile-makers. I was surprised and a little chagrined to find out how lovely this stretch of ‘the ditch’ is. Passing through largely undeveloped lakes and rivers we were often surrounded by dolphins and migrating birds and we even saw a half dozen manatees in the lower stretches of the Indian River. Not only was it beautiful but we had an excellent sailing wind, courtesy of the NE blow we were hiding from.             Actually the wind was a little too perfect. It was blowing so nicely and from just the right direction, that in the empty straight stretches we kept cramming on sail until we were making over five knots, which is about as fast as my little boat goes. We went along like this for nearly two days,  only reducing sail and occasionally motoring in the tricky or highly populous stretches, but of course it couldn’t last… Eventually, in the Matanzas river, we had just the wrong combination of relatively inexperienced helmsperson, skinny little channel, and gusting wind and we broached just long enough to run out of the channel and into a mudbank at hull speed. It was so soft that despite our speed we didn’t even lurch, just came to a stop with a schlurp.

              Fortunately two of my crew happen to be professional photographers, so this made for a good kedging-off photo op. Kedging off, for those who have yet to get the opportunity, is the process of dragging your boat off a grounding via the anchor. It’s a simple concept but there are a handful of tricks to make it more efficient and, of course, ways to up the ante when you’re really stuck.

We started out by taking quick soundings around the boat with the boathook, which told us that only the bow was really aground. Next up was a fruitless attempt to blow the bow off using the jib, but if anything this might have just stuck us in harder so we resigned ourselves to kedging.

Sometimes the jib can heel the boat just enough to come off of a shoal, but you need a little clear water at the bow The key to setting a good kedge anchor is placement. It should be far enough from the boat to set hard and give you plenty of scope to winch yourself out on and it should be oriented so that it will pull the boat directly into deeper water. With a little ingenuity and maybe a snatch block the rode can be winched from any point of the boat to pull yourself off by the bow, the stern, or wherever. Since we went in bow first we pulled ourselves off by the stern.

To pull ourselves out stern-first we ran the anchor rode through a chock on the stern and directly to the winch. Loading up the anchor in the stern of the dinghy The anchor is loaded into the dingy. There are a couple considerations here. First, you want the anchor to be separate from the rode, so you can easily toss it in. Second, you want the rode ready to run out smoothly, without destroying your dingy. In most dinghies you’ll want keep everything aft and run the chain out over the stern. Watch out when kedging in deep water! If you toss an anchor with a chain rode into 50′ of water, that’s fifty feet of chain that is going to whip out at high speed, and if it catches you’re liable to swamp the dinghy.

Hauling ourselves back out… Once you’ve got the anchor set and the rode run to a convenient winch or manual windlass, it’s time to start cranking. If you try to kedge with an electric windlass you’re liable to burn it out so unless you’ve got electric winches and a lot of juice you’ll probably have to sweat this out. The job can be much easier if you heel the boat over as much as possible to reduce its draft. A few ways to do this: get all the crew leaning out over the side of the boat, put one or two if them on the end of the boom and swing it out over the water, or pull out the jib and let it catch some air. You can even run out a second kedge anchor and attach it to a halyard and then winch down on the halyard to pull the boat over by the masthead.

With a whole crew for cranking the winch we were able to drag ourselves off without too much trouble, and get back to sailing. With a little less canvas up.

Podcast: Erik de Jong #3

Wed, 2014-11-05 11:24

Andy chatted with Erik for a third time about a month ago now, just after Erik had returned from 4 months in the Arctic on Bagheera. They discussed why he’s drawn to sailing in the ice, how he made it all the way to 78º north, how he rebuilt his engine in Nuuk, Greenland, and his design ideas on the Adventure 40 he’s working on with John Harries. Follow Erik on bagheera-sailing.com.

25th Caribbean 1500 Heads to Sea

Tue, 2014-11-04 07:42

Updated Tuesday, Nov 4, 0730: Lucky Strike, despite being the last boat out of the marina and over an hour behind the fleet, has taken the lead offshore as the boats enter the Gulf Stream. Lucky Strike, the 50′ Newick trimaran, is cruising along at 10 knots. If conditions persist, they should be WAY ahead over the next 24 hours at that pace!

Conditions were much more favorable for the start of an offshore passage today with the sun shining and winds 12-15 knots out of the NW. Crews mentioned they were pleased that the start had been delayed 24hrs.

The morning of the start there is always plenty of activity on the docks with everyone wishing each other well and getting those last phone calls in to home. With the start line being 10 miles further up the Elizabeth River off the Hampton Flats, boats slipped lines early to get up there with plenty of time to spare before the midday start. Some of the yachts in the Open Division, that will not be taking the start line, had already started to head out into the bay and offshore as the start line was being set up.

In no time at all, the 41 rally boats that have filled up Ocean Marine this past week with colourful code flags have headed out to fog horns blasting and cheers from the docks. Things are a little quieter here now with just the trimaran Lucky Strike, who had a small problem with their AIS antenna and wanted to get that repaired, and Alchemy who are securing some last minute items. As the committee boat returned to the dock, both Lucky Strike and Alchemy were under way, the marina empty. 

The committee vessel today was the 40’ tender to New Zealand megayacht T6 and thanks to the yacht’s Chief Mate Clint  for taking us out to the start (at a cool 35 knots!)

Weather conditions at the start set up well for a downwind run out the Bay and into the Atlantic, and indeed many of the boats flew their spinnakers across the line, making for a festive sight. 
There were three starts in all, separated by ten minutes. Southern Cross led the multihull fleet over the line, while Sojourner took the Bahamas class start. Euro Trash Girl, the J World Annapolis boat, quickly took the lead as they smoked across the line under spinnaker, the first boat to do so. In the second start, for the Class B yachts, the Valiant 39 Chanticleer only very narrowly edged out the Corbin 39 Opportunity, who got their spinnaker up just after the start, a great big Canadian flag design that they proudly flew out into the Bay.

Class A was even more hotly contested, with Wine Down leading the way, followed by Serenity. In total, 29 boats took the starting line, with just Lucky Strike and Alchemy the only two Cruising Division yachts to get away late. The remaining 9 boats sailed in the Open Division, and had left earlier this morning.

Once out of the Chesapeake Bay the majority of the fleet will be sailing the ARC Caribbean 1500 route to Tortola in the BVI and can expect a passage of around 8-11 days, whilst 5 boats are sailing the ARC Bahamas to Marsh Harbor, a shorter passage of around 4-6 days. 

Whilst underway each yacht is fitted with a Yellowbrick GPS tracker and you can follow their progress using the Fleet Tracker. Also click here to read all of the blogs coming in from the boats to find out what life is like at sea.

 

Standard Horizon HX870, handheld VHF/GPS/DSC powerhouse

Mon, 2014-11-03 19:00

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

I was impressed with Standard Horizon’s original HX850 and I’ve been happily using the slightly upgraded HX851 model above for several years. It’s a fine handheld 6 Watt VHF (if you don’t mind the size) plus it’s always ready to place a DSC distress call and/or navigate a life raft (or tender or kayak or…). But, wow, look what they did with the new HX870 model: The screen is at least twice as large, the interface seems usefully updated with soft keys and icons, the battery is substantially larger, and more…

Despite the change from 1,380 to 1,800 milliamp internal lithium-ion rechargeable batteries, the HX870 still floats. In fact, this new model can even turn itself on and start its strobe light if it falls in the water (with or without you). Another improvement from the HX851 is a 66 channel GPS, instead of 12, and the 870 still comes with AC and DC chargers as well as an alkaline battery tray all at the same $250 list price.

These HX series handhelds are full fledged DSC radios with all the direct/group calling and position polling features, but one general problem with non-distress DSC features is figuring out how to use them. That’s one reason that the new interface seems promising. I only tried the sample briefly, but it was easy to figure out how the left/right arrow keys scroll you through the bottom icons, which you can choose with a soft key. My thumb also liked the central cluster of channel and volume keys, though it took a bit to figure out how to press the squelch button on the left side and then use the volume buttons to set it. By the way, that MOB icon represents another new feature.

The easy to see and understand graphics seem to extend deep into the system menus and the big screen also seems good for navigation graphics like the compass screen below, which could be taking you to a waypoint or the position of a DSC distress call. GM (Group Monitor) is yet another new feature and while the 870 manual is not yet available, I’ll guess it means that you can track multiple vessels at once if they share a group MMSI.

Standard Horizon is no longer the only manufacturer offering a VHF/GPS/DSC handheld, but they seem determined to lead the pack. For instance, the HX870 is also a true Class D DSC radio — meaning it has a separate receiver always monitoring DSC channel 70 — while the Icom M92D and others are not. The powerhouse 870 is not on Standard Horizon’s website yet but it will purportedly ship this month and is already listed by distributors like Landfall Navigation.

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

2014 SOUTHBOUND LUNACY: Hard On the Wind Forever

Mon, 2014-11-03 14:57

Sorry I’ve been AWOL from the blog for so long, but I’ve been struggling to get Lunacy south to the W’Indies for the winter. This process actually started nearly two weeks ago, on October 20, when Phil “Snake Wake” Cavanaugh and I brought Lunacy down from Portland to Portsmouth during a long daysail, motorsailing into a light, but contrary southerly breeze. Then there was a gale, and after that my brother Peter and I sailed the boat from Portsmouth down to Newport, during which we spent one day reaching and one day beating into vicious headwinds. Then there was a gale, and after that OPO crew-member Richard Holbrook and I spent five days sailing from Newport here to St. George’s, Bermuda, during which we spent one day reaching and four days beating into sometimes rabidly vicious headwinds. Right now I’m sitting in St. George’s, riding out a gale at anchor, waiting for the next crew to fly in.

Perhaps you’ve noted a pattern here. And yes, looking at the forecast right now, it appears I will again be confronting mostly headwinds when we leave here for St. Maarten later in the week.

We all know the old adage: gentlemen never sail to weather. To which all I can say is: thank God, I’m not a gentleman. Otherwise I’d never get anywhere.

While gale-bound in Newport Richard and I had a chance to visit Newport Shipyard and gawk at the mega-yachts that live there. Afterwards we had a delightfully random encounter with Yves-Marie Tanton, the man who designed Lunacy and who came aboard for a brief inspection.

Transoms of the Gods

Jackstands the size of Christmas trees

Yves-Marie checks us out

On leaving Newport the morning of Monday, October 27, the forecast I had from Ken McKinley of Locus Weather called for strong northwesterlies morphing into southwesterlies that would carry us on a reach most of the way to Bermuda before going southerly only on the last day or so. It seemed as ideal a scenario as one can reasonably hope for this time of year.

What happened in reality was that the northwesterlies on day one weren’t very strong and brought to us no fewer than five gale-swept shore birds, from Long Island presumably, two of whom spent some time in the cabin belowdecks, and one of whom spent the whole night sleeping peacefully atop one of the settee back cushions.

This is the one who spent the night. It pooped several times on its settee cushion, then flew off in the morning into the great void of sea and sky, where it must have died. Such is the fate of those who shit where they sleep

We never did see those southwesterlies. Instead the wind pretty much went straight south on Tuesday and stayed there, building to a fine crescendo on Thursday night, when a series of gnarly southerly squalls pumped the wind up to 35 knots for a while.

By then I was very tired. Constantly bracing yourself against the incessant heeling of the boat and the intermittent pitching and slamming concomitant with closehauled sailing in open water is a fantastic isometric exercise regimen, but after a few days of doing it 24/7 it does wear you down. Also, I had spent a good deal of time with my head in the bilge, dealing with an annoying technical problem. Once the wind went squirrely as the squalls came on, we started motorsailing so as to save us from constant sail changes and then we just kept on motorsailing so as to be sure of getting here before the impending gale.

This was the real problem. I set up the whisker pole before leaving Newport, just in case we had to pole out a headsail to cope with those northwesterlies, and it jinxed us for sure

Self-revealed selfie. The eye in the hand of the eye that reflects it. And I’m looking not nearly so knackered as I feel

Sunrise on Saturday, as we at last approach Bermuda

Richard on deck with Bermuda in sight

During our approach to St. George’s in the wee hours of Saturday we heard half of a drama unfolding on the radio. This happens often, where you can hear Bermuda Radio, which has a very strong VHF transmitter, talking to boats whose responses you cannot hear, because their transmitters aren’t nearly so strong. In this case Bermuda Radio was organizing both a tow and an ambulance for a vessel Adesso, obviously in distress.

Most telling was a question from Bermuda Radio: “Is your husband–I’m sorry, I mean the captain–is he in very serious pain?”

I assumed from this that Adesso‘s crew was a couple, a husband and wife gone off at last on their big adventure to the Caribbean, and that the husband had been hurt somehow, and the wife now had no idea how to manage the boat without him. But this is only an assumption, and I do not know the facts.

On arriving at St. George’s the effects of the recent hurricane were very apparent. Several roofs in town have been blown away, including that of the venerable White Horse Tavern. The foliage ashore is all messed up. The customs dock at Ordinance Island is shattered, so to clear in we had to land on the wall in the pilot boat’s berth instead. There are very few boats in the water, with missing local boats being most conspicuously absent. People still seem a little bit shell-shocked, though very grateful no lives were lost in the storm.

This is Adesso, which appeared in the anchorage here by Sunday morning. Still no clue as to what really happened, but I just exchanged a wave with one animate body in her cockpit

And this–surprise, surprise–is Lucy2, Alpha 42 catamaran hull no. 2, which arrived here about six hours before us. (You may remember I had an interesting time aboard hull no. 1 in January.) The owner, Jamie, had no unusual problems en route and is generally pleased with the boat

Found on deck after getting here, Exhibit 1. I’ve remarked before on how the flying fish are disappearing. I saw only two in the water during this passage after we crossed the Gulf Stream (where normally you’d see hundreds) and then found this one in the scuppers after we got here

Exhibit 2. One of our shore birds, with its neck broken under a shroud’s split pin

 

TECHNICAL PROBLEMS

There were a few, but nothing horribly awful.

Once again the exhaust line backed up with seawater and had to be cleared by draining the muffler before the engine could be started (see previous head-in-bilge reference). I thought I had solved this by replacing the plastic Vetus snorkel at the end of the exhaust line. Now I’m thinking it was mounted too low (insert dope-slap here) and have remounted it as high as possible in the stern. If this doesn’t work, I guess I’ll have to install a valve to close the exhaust when sailing. I still don’t understand why this was never a problem before, but is now

My surveyor Mark Corke warned me the engine might be slightly out of alignment, based on his inspection of the shaft-seal gland. I thought this was hoo-hah, simply a surveyor intent on finding something that might be wrong with the boat, but it turns out he was right. After some hard sailing the engine now runs with notably increased vibration, with obvious shaft wobble. But after it runs a while everything straightens out nicely again. So right now I’m trying to figure out how to tighten the engine mounts, but can’t see how to get a wrench on the bolts under the mounting beds

And finally one problem with the new sails. The razor-sharp edges on the slots in the new headboard cut right through the luff-slide straps. I need to take a file to those slots and put on new straps

2014 SOUTHBOUND LUNACY: Hard On the Wind Forever

Mon, 2014-11-03 14:57

Sorry I’ve been AWOL from the blog for so long, but I’ve been struggling to get Lunacy south to the W’Indies for the winter. This process actually started nearly two weeks ago, on October 20, when Phil “Snake Wake” Cavanaugh and I brought Lunacy down from Portland to Portsmouth during a long daysail, motorsailing into a light, but contrary southerly breeze. Then there was a gale, and after that my brother Peter and I sailed the boat from Portsmouth down to Newport, during which we spent one day reaching and one day beating into vicious headwinds. Then there was a gale, and after that OPO crew-member Richard Holbrook and I spent five days sailing from Newport here to St. George’s, Bermuda, during which we spent one day reaching and four days beating into sometimes rabidly vicious headwinds. Right now I’m sitting in St. George’s, riding out a gale at anchor, waiting for the next crew to fly in.

Perhaps you’ve noted a pattern here. And yes, looking at the forecast right now, it appears I will again be confronting mostly headwinds when we leave here for St. Maarten later in the week.

We all know the old adage: gentlemen never sail to weather. To which all I can say is: thank God, I’m not a gentleman. Otherwise I’d never get anywhere.

While gale-bound in Newport Richard and I had a chance to visit Newport Shipyard and gawk at the mega-yachts that live there. Afterwards we had a delightfully random encounter with Yves-Marie Tanton, the man who designed Lunacy and who came aboard for a brief inspection.

Transoms of the Gods

Jackstands the size of Christmas trees

Yves-Marie checks us out

On leaving Newport the morning of Monday, October 27, the forecast I had from Ken McKinley of Locus Weather called for strong northwesterlies morphing into southwesterlies that would carry us on a reach most of the way to Bermuda before going southerly only on the last day or so. It seemed as ideal a scenario as one can reasonably hope for this time of year.

What happened in reality was that the northwesterlies on day one weren’t very strong and brought to us no fewer than five gale-swept shore birds, from Long Island presumably, two of whom spent some time in the cabin belowdecks, and one of whom spent the whole night sleeping peacefully atop one of the settee back cushions.

This is the one who spent the night. It pooped several times on its settee cushion, then flew off in the morning into the great void of sea and sky, where it must have died. Such is the fate of those who shit where they sleep

We never did see those southwesterlies. Instead the wind pretty much went straight south on Tuesday and stayed there, building to a fine crescendo on Thursday night, when a series of gnarly southerly squalls pumped the wind up to 35 knots for a while.

By then I was very tired. Constantly bracing yourself against the incessant heeling of the boat and the intermittent pitching and slamming concomitant with closehauled sailing in open water is a fantastic isometric exercise regimen, but after a few days of doing it 24/7 it does wear you down. Also, I had spent a good deal of time with my head in the bilge, dealing with an annoying technical problem. Once the wind went squirrely as the squalls came on, we started motorsailing so as to save us from constant sail changes and then we just kept on motorsailing so as to be sure of getting here before the impending gale.

This was the real problem. I set up the whisker pole before leaving Newport, just in case we had to pole out a headsail to cope with those northwesterlies, and it jinxed us for sure

Self-revealed selfie. The eye in the hand of the eye that reflects it. And I’m looking not nearly so knackered as I feel

Sunrise on Saturday, as we at last approach Bermuda

Richard on deck with Bermuda in sight

During our approach to St. George’s in the wee hours of Saturday we heard half of a drama unfolding on the radio. This happens often, where you can hear Bermuda Radio, which has a very strong VHF transmitter, talking to boats whose responses you cannot hear, because their transmitters aren’t nearly so strong. In this case Bermuda Radio was organizing both a tow and an ambulance for a vessel Adesso, obviously in distress.

Most telling was a question from Bermuda Radio: “Is your husband–I’m sorry, I mean the captain–is he in very serious pain?”

I assumed from this that Adesso‘s crew was a couple, a husband and wife gone off at last on their big adventure to the Caribbean, and that the husband had been hurt somehow, and the wife now had no idea how to manage the boat without him. But this is only an assumption, and I do not know the facts.

On arriving at St. George’s the effects of the recent hurricane were very apparent. Several roofs in town have been blown away, including that of the venerable White Horse Tavern. The foliage ashore is all messed up. The customs dock at Ordinance Island is shattered, so to clear in we had to land on the wall in the pilot boat’s berth instead. There are very few boats in the water, with missing local boats being most conspicuously absent. People still seem a little bit shell-shocked, though very grateful no lives were lost in the storm.

This is Adesso, which appeared in the anchorage here by Sunday morning. Still no clue as to what really happened, but I just exchanged a wave with one animate body in her cockpit

And this–surprise, surprise–is Lucy2, Alpha 42 catamaran hull no. 2, which arrived here about six hours before us. (You may remember I had an interesting time aboard hull no. 1 in January.) The owner, Jamie, had no unusual problems en route and is generally pleased with the boat

Found on deck after getting here, Exhibit 1. I’ve remarked before on how the flying fish are disappearing. I saw only two in the water during this passage after we crossed the Gulf Stream (where normally you’d see hundreds) and then found this one in the scuppers after we got here

Exhibit 2. One of our shore birds, with its neck broken under a shroud’s split pin

 

TECHNICAL PROBLEMS

There were a few, but nothing horribly awful.

Once again the exhaust line backed up with seawater and had to be cleared by draining the muffler before the engine could be started (see previous head-in-bilge reference). I thought I had solved this by replacing the plastic Vetus snorkel at the end of the exhaust line. Now I’m thinking it was mounted too low (insert dope-slap here) and have remounted it as high as possible in the stern. If this doesn’t work, I guess I’ll have to install a valve to close the exhaust when sailing. I still don’t understand why this was never a problem before, but is now

My surveyor Mark Corke warned me the engine might be slightly out of alignment, based on his inspection of the shaft-seal gland. I thought this was hoo-hah, simply a surveyor intent on finding something that might be wrong with the boat, but it turns out he was right. After some hard sailing the engine now runs with notably increased vibration, with obvious shaft wobble. But after it runs a while everything straightens out nicely again. So right now I’m trying to figure out how to tighten the engine mounts, but can’t see how to get a wrench on the bolts under the mounting beds

And finally one problem with the new sails. The razor-sharp edges on the slots in the new headboard cut right through the luff-slide straps. I need to take a file to those slots and put on new straps

25th Caribbean 1500 Delayed: Start Postponed until 1200 Monday, Nov. 3

Sun, 2014-11-02 10:14

It was a windy night at Ocean Marine Yacht Center. At 10:30 last night, Rally Control received a call from Delphinus, a catamaran headed to Marsh Harbor with the ARC Bahamas fleet.

“It’s pretty bouncy down here on the outside of A dock,” said a concerned Pete Davenport. “Lucky Strike, the trimaran, is getting knocked around pretty good. Every so often a bigger wave comes along and her inside hull comes out of the water. I’m afraid it’s going to hit on the dock.”

Despite the time, we quickly rang up Lucky Strike’s skipper, and within a few minutes the crews were working together on the dock to get the boats secured for the night. In the end, all was well, and as the wind shifted to the west overnight, the water calmed down a bit. The height of the gale seemed to arrive last night around midnight. Even the old bed and breakfast the rally staff has been occupying for the week was shaking in the gusts, which were topping 50 knots offshore. 

“The boat was heeling pretty good overnight,” said Dennis on Sojourner. “Otherwise it was okay. Glad to be in the marina!”

The official announcement to delay came at 0730 this morning via email. We received the morning outlook from WRI, and despite our insistence on waiting until 0900 to make the final call, the report from WRI made the decision easy, and we decided to inform the fleet as early as possible. 

CONCLUSION: LATEST OBSERVATIONS SHOW WIDESPREAD GALE FORCE W-NW WINDS, NOT ONLY COVERING COASTAL VIRGINIA AND NORTH CAROLINA, BUT EXTENDING SEVERAL HUNDRED MILES OFFSHORE, A BYPRODUCT OF THE SIGNIFICANT DEEPENING AND MASSIVE COVERAGE OF THE AFOREMENTIONED STORM THAT IS ALREADY IN PLACE.

That was this morning’s initial WRI report. Easy call. It continued:

REPORTS ALONG THE VIRGINIA AND NORTH CAROLINA COASTS AND IN ADJACENT WATERS WEST OF 75W FOR EXAMPLE SHOW W-NW WINDS GUSTING 35-40KTS EARLY THIS MORNING AND A SHIP REPORT OVER THE PAST 1-2 HOURS JUST EAST OF OREGON INLET EVEN REPORTS NNW SUSTAINED WINDS OF 48KTS. FURTHER, OFFSHORE SHIP AND BUOY OBSERVATIONS OFFSHORE FROM THE NORTH CAROLINA/VIRGINIA COASTS, INCLUDING THE GULFSTREAM, SHOW N-NE SWELLS GENERALLY AS HIGH AS 15-20FT.

It’s weather reports like these that we like at Rally Control. No ambiguity, no pause to think about whether we made the correct call or not. This was an easy one, and the speed of the system means it should be well offshore to our NE tomorrow morning, and the long-range weather looks good.

Jamie Wendell from Mystic Shadow enjoying the marina’s free coffee this morning.

The delay will allow much needed time for a few boats to finish up last minute preparations. Alchemy, a classic Tartan 41, has been undergoing a chainplate refit over the past few days. Though they could have made the start today, they’re thankful for the extra time to finish off the repair. Likewise for Emerald. All should be ready for tomorrow’s planned departure at noon.

For the yachts ready to head to sea, it’ll be a day of watching football or catching the matinee movie feature this afternoon at the Commodore Theatre in town. It’s only 50º on the docks, so I’m sure folks will be happy to stay inside!

Friendships and cruising

Sun, 2014-11-02 04:47

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

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

Friends at home

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

Friends afloat

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Local friends

the girls with Mollina, their auntie in Ninigo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tips for Crewing Offshore

Sat, 2014-11-01 14:23

As someone who is new to the offshore sailing world, I had many questions before going on my first offshore passage. What do I pack? How much time should I budget?  I thought I would share some things I have learned about being a crew that will help you be more prepared, less annoying to the skipper and other crew, and hopefully get invited back.

Limit your luggage to one bag. A large duffel bag should be all you need for a 3-5 day passage, more than that is not only unnecessary but more to move to and from the boat and more stuff the other crew members have to deal with on the passage. I found that I could fit three changes of clothes, foul weather gear, towel, and toiletries in my Henri Lloyd Sea bag with no issues. Showing up to the boat is everyone’s first impression of you. Get off on a good foot by having efficiently packed luggage.

Bring a sleeping system. Have a sleeping bag that you’re comfortable in; you’ll be in an environment that is completely unfamiliar. If all else fails, at least when your off watch in your bunk having a comfortable and familiar sleeping setup will allow you to get more sleep and ultimately have a better experience.  Make sure the bag is adequate for the conditions the boat will be sailing through. It also helps if the material can be easily dried — god knows at some point water will find wherever you store your gear. If the boat is small, make sure to clean up your bedding area when you go on watch. That way it is out of everyone’s way when you’re topside and everyone else is living down below.

Pack for 20 degrees colder than you think you will encounter. Even in the summer the temperature offshore is always colder than near shore. Picture how it feels to be on a ski lift: you’re frozen by the time you get to the top of the mountain.  Sitting on a boat with a 15-knot breeze can feel very similar depending on the season. The key is layers. I try to pack clothes so that they can be worn as separate outfits but can all be used together if and when you need extra protection from the cold.

Dietary restrictions? Think ahead and pack what you need. Let the skipper know ahead of time if you have allergies. A reaction offshore can be deadly. If you do have specific dietary preferences bring along your own supply of food. Be sure to share with the other crewmembers. You may introduce them to some new types of food, and by offering you’ll alleviate any tension made by being “some dude eating weird food.”

Bring something small and simple to occupy your down time. One of the best things about being offshore is it limits. Not having the option to work or be distracted with the routine and stress of daily life leaves you open to read that book you’ve had for a while or write that long letter to Aunt Jemima. An e-reader is nice and compact, but beware of the charging requirements. Paper books never need charging!

Keep all your personal items in your bag. Don’t leave your shit lying around the boat! It’s already a super small space and any clutter you can avoid will gain you tons of points with the crew and skipper.

Seasickness? Bring medicine and try it beforehand. Even if you don’t get seasick normally, elements can combine offshore and even bring down the most ironclad of sailors. Bring medication with you and try it before you get on the boat. Some people can have reactions to certain types of seasickness medication. It’s always better to find out on shore if you’re one of those people.

Be open to learning and taking orders. Another fantastic thing about crewing offshore is you get to learn a new boat and a new method of doing nearly everything.  Picture yourself as a sponge and absorb as much knowledge as possible.  After all, you’re out here to learn.

Budget two more days than you think you will need. Even if everything does go to plan, you’ll surely need a day to get rest after arriving at your destination or after disembarking from the flight home. If delays do happen (as they often do) you will be happy you built a little extra cushion into your timeline. Finally, having more time allotted lets you be more flexible should opportunities arise, say a 30-mile ride down the coast on a borrowed bicycle or an extra day snorkeling in Tortola.

Hopefully these tips will allow you to have a successful passage, get you invited back for more sailing, or provide a solid reference for future sailing opportunities you may want to take advantage of. Have more tips for being good crew that I missed? Send me an email or comment below!

-LC

Offshore safety tips from a former USCG Rescue Swimmer: Quick Takeaways from the Mario Vittone Seminar at the Carib1500

Fri, 2014-10-31 12:20

“Every incident offshore could have been prevented before they ever left the dock. It’s all about preparation. Even in bad weather, it’s the preparation that will determine the outcome.”

-Mario Vittone

The five rules of boating:

1. Keep the water on the outside of the boat
2. Keep the bad stuff inside the boat (oil, etc).
3. Keep the boat from catching fire or blowing up.
4. Keep everyone on the boat, on the boat.
5. If any of that stuff goes wrong, call us!

“Sailors get into trouble primarily for this – the failure to recognize when they’re in trouble.”

On Calling a ‘MayDay’

“You don’t have to call Mayday first – I’ve never heard a mariner of any variety say ‘Pan Pan’ over the radio. It was my job for 15 years to listen. I’ve never heard it. ‘Pan Pan’ simply means, ‘You know, I have a problem. I’m not really sure. But I just wanted to let you know that I’m working the problem’. I’ve never had to go out and rescue someone who’s issued a ‘Pan Pan’.”

On PFD’s & PLB’s (Personal Locator Beacon’s)

“Anytime you go ‘Eh, I don’t like this’. Or maybe smoke is coming out of a piece of gear. That’s when lifejackets go on.”

“If you bought an inflatable, and have never had it on inflated, you have no idea what you’re in for.”

“I’ve found a lot of EPIRB’s not tied to people. You can’t hold it up beyond two or three satellite passes. Velcro it to you so the antenna can transmit without you holding it up. Put the hook side [of the Velcro] on your device, the soft stuff onto the PFD.”

“Round flashlights – they’re round – I can’t put velcro on it. It’s a great handheld, but I can’t take it with me in the water because I can’t attach it.”

“Attach a small flashlight. It’ll fit in the PFD. It won’t run out like a flare will. Tie it in with nylon cord, 36”. Give you room to maneuver it. If I drop it, I can find my line, find my light, in the dark.”

“For god’s sakes their batteries! Change them every March! Forget the expiration date. Be logical and smart.”

On rescues offshore:

“No one’s gonna write another Adrift – it was the worst six hours of my life! If you have the proper technology – EPIRBs and sat phones. 267 minutes is the average time to rescue if I know where you are!”

On Cheeki-Rafiki and EPIRBs

“Your hydrostatic release on the EPIRB cradle is set to go off at 30’ deep. Cheeki Rafiki never made it to 30 feet. It flipped, and it floated, full of water. The ship’s EPIRB never activated.”

“There is a misunderstanding about EPIRB’s. Everyone’s are registered right? What have you got in your ‘other’ data field? Float plan? Nothing? Don’t know it’s there? You know what mine has? My website – mariovittone.com/floatplan – and the password. Everything about the boat. Photos of the boat out of the water. Photos of all the safety gear. Unlimited on the data.” 

On Preparation

“I’ve never seen a float plan. The kind of people that make them don’t call ‘Mayday’! Everyone prepares for what they’re doing – prepare like you KNOW you’re going to sink. Prepare for failure. Where are my bailout points? Spend some time planning for failure. Take extra time. And plan on screwing it up – that KEEPS you from screwing it up.”

“The USCG boat is small. You know what it has? A 6,240-item maintenance check, done annually. Weekly, daily, pre- and post-SAR, monthly, semi-annually and annually. How long is your maintenance list? Think the water’s different for you, huh?”

On Drills

“Step away from the wheel and say ‘I fell off.’ See what happens. Create something like that. Captain emergencies are the worst if the crew isn’t trained right.”

On Flares & Signaling Devices

“Flares you carry. Smokes, flares and parachutes, right? Don’t aim them at the helicopter! They’ve come right up through the rotor arc in the past. Don’t shoot them at us! Know where we are looking. Nobody in the helicopter is looking much past 7 or 8 o’clock. We’re looking in the FWD ⅔ of the aircraft. Don’t signal the back quarter.”

“The best signal is really a flashlight. If I had both, I’m using the flashlight. If you’re EPIRB’s going on, they’re DF-ing [direction finding] on you. The DF-ing is not what you think it is.”

“Flares are burning phosphorous. They’re really bright for 30-40 seconds. You know what? It’s really bright to us in the helicopter for 12 minutes. We have nightvision and FLIR [Forward-Looking InfraRed]. It detects a 1ºF difference in anything in the water. The end of that flare stays hot. Until you can safely touch it, we can see it.”

“How about those orange smoke flares for daytime? They’re really, really hot orange smoke! They make a better night signal than the night flares! The USCG won’t ever say that. But I’m saying it from experience. I’m looking for you with FLIR goggles. Long after that flare burns out, the smoke is still hot, and it’s pointing straight back where it came from, and it lasts a long time. Out of night flares? You’re not done! Light off the smoke!”

Garmin 2015: glass bridge 7600 series, Reactor autopilot, xHD2 radar & more

Fri, 2014-10-31 09:00

Written by Ben Ellison on Oct 31, 2014 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub

Garmin introduced lots of new products in Fort Lauderdale yesterday along with the promise that all of them will be shipping by mid-February. There’s even a special Marine 2015 website, while this Garmin blog entry offers a succinct overview of the whole lineup. At the press conference the line that seemed to neatly frame Garmin Marine 2015 was “not necessarily ground breaking, but easier to select, easier to install, and easier to use.” I noticed evidence of all that along with a few features that do indeed seem unique and valuable…

Perhaps the most important new line is the GPSMap 76xx/74xx series, a portfolio of 7-, 8-, 10- and 12-inch displays with the look, feel, and underlying software base that was introduced in the 8000 Glass Helm. So you get features like SmartMode and GRID support but with WiFi and 10Hz GPS/GLONASS built in, and a lower price. Compare a $3,500 GPSmap 7612 with a $5,000 GPSmap 8212 and you might wonder who will buy the latter (but note that the 8212 is almost twice the weight, has more CANbus and video inputs and will still have a place on higher end boats).

Moreover, 76xx/74xx “xsv” models like the one above include built-in sonar and DownVü/SideVü scanning technology, similar to many current Lowrance and Simrad models but with CHIRP and more power. All that simplifies installations considerably, but Garmin is going a step further with combined transducers like this big GT15M thru-hull. Have there ever been combo transducers like these before? There are also new (non-networking) echoMap models with built-in sonar, DownVü, and even SideVü in the 7- and 9-inch sizes, plus a GSD 25 “premium sonar” black box. Sonar is a big part of Garmin 2015, as it is elsewhere, but so far there’s “no comment” on the forward looking variety.

The new xHD2 open array radars may look like xHD but are said to be a complete redesign. They now go up to 6-foot 12kW and have a bird mode that is a prime reason many sportfishing boats have large radars. They also offer dual range, though neither can be overlaid on a chart, and you can have two xHD2 radars on the same system.

I had to chuckle at the new echo trails feature, though. I’ve been testing a GMR24 xHD radome recently and was surprised it doesn’t have the echo trail option I think I’ve seen on every radar I’ve ever tried, including earlier Garmin models. Garmin’s “Power of Simple” design discipline is generally admirable and effective, but sometimes goes too far. Apparently enough users complained about the lack of echo trails that they’re back, at least in xHD2.

Then there’s the new GHP Reactor autopilot series. One could joke that it was developed in reaction to Raymarine’s Evolution pilot, but that’s a good thing. Gone is the spherical heading sensor, replaced by a 9 axis AHRS that purportedly provides better steering along with easier installation and setup while using less power. Garmin still requires the presence of a GHC control head, at least for the initial setup, but may be the only manufacturer to permit pilot control in their MFD tablet app (and certainly on a watch).

It will be interesting to see how well Garmin’s 2nd generation auto routing feature works now that the guidance generated can be modified. I’ve gotten a lot a of use from the original version even if it was somewhat crude and ignored nav aids, and I’m feeling the same way about the Navionics auto routing now enabled on many Raymarine MFDs. C-Map also can also provide auto-routing algorythms with its charts and I’m hoping for a healthy competition in this area.

I saw some other 7600/7400 software improvements like an improved home page and a neat-looking graphic sail racing start line screen, and I understand they’ll get added to at least existing 8000 models. But the why-didn’t-anyone-think-of-this-before! feature is partially illustrated below. If there’s a Garmin VHF radio connected via NMEA 2000, the SOS button on this 7608 takes you to a list of distress categories like fire, aground, man overboard, etc. In this case I selected sinking and thus the radio has been set up to send a DSC distress message with the specific code for sinking, which is something few people know how to do with their DSC radio even in calm circumstances. Possibly more valuable is the displayed script of the proper things to say once the radio goes from DSC to audio mode. If a Garmin AIS is on the network even your boat’s name and call sign will be filled in, and there other screens available to help you manage a problem.

Congratulations to Garmin on this improvement in safety communications and do you agree that every manufacturer of both MFDs and VHF radios should put this idea high on their developement roadmap?

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

LIVE Podcast: Caribbean 1500 Mental Preparations

Thu, 2014-10-30 23:06

Andy gives a seminar on Tuesday at the Caribbean 1500 on mentally preparing to go offshore. This is similar to the one that was up previously, but is specific to the Caribbean 1500 and more generally the route from the Chesapeake to the Caribbean, regardless of whether or not you’re with a rally. This was recorded at Roger Brown’s on High St. in Portsmouth during the pre-departure program in front of a live audience. Follow the 1500 on carib1500.com.

Direct download.

Preparing for Tropical Hallowe’en

Thu, 2014-10-30 20:44

Sorry, no time to talk. It’s Hallowe’en, and I am trying to get ready. I have a very busy schedule of ordering/receiving proper treats from North America (check), making decorations (check), and explaining what Hallowe’en is to people who run the gamut from “oh, yeah, that’s an American thing,” to “never heard of it and why are you torturing that watermelon?” (ongoing).

Like all immigrants, I am appalled that my deeply cherished traditions are not immediately understood and embraced by my new land. It rocks me to my core that there are people out there who don’t understand Hallowe’en, best of all the holidays, night of imagination and unlimited chocolate. I would have thought that Hallowe’en was about as high-concept as a holiday could be: children become actual monsters to rule the night. Where is the confusion? Plus, Hallowe’en boasts more apostrophes than any other holiday, and that is just plain fun.

I have put my shock and dismay behind me and have moved on to Phase II of the Immigrant Holiday Experience: how do I adapt the crucial parts of my traditions to suit this new place? For example, what to do about a jack o’ lantern? (See, another apostrophe.) Pumpkins aren’t exactly thick on the ground, here.

As a public service, I hereby present this handy primer on celebrating Hallowe’en in the tropics:

How to Make A Watermelon Jack O’ Lantern

1. Grow a watermelon. Since seeds sprout even in the gravel here, that shouldn’t be any trouble. I found mine growing under the stairs.

2. Scoop it and drain it.

This watermelon was never going to stand up on its end, so I turned it on its side. It’s called being flexible, people, and it rules my life.

3. Save the tasty parts; toss the rest. Keep draining.

See that pool of water in the bottom? It is going to keep coming back. Watermelons are wet. (I’m just as surprised as you.)

4. Plan a face.
Adorable!

This part was easy. I’ve carved the same face on every jack o’ lantern I’ve made since 1985.

5. Alter the face slightly to irretrievably muck it up.
I just had to mess with that eye, didn’t I?

6. Stop to look out at the lovely view. Oh, it’s snowing where you are? Sorry (not sorry.) Let me ease your pain with a picture of my kids on a cold Hallowe’en many years ago.
Fake fur is essential for night-time trick-or-treating.

7. Drain the watermelon again. (Yes, I’m getting tired of it too, but at least this thing was 1000x easier to carve than a pumpkin. I think I could have managed it with a ballpoint pen.)

8. Insert lit candle.
Spoooookyyyyyyyyy!

And, you’re done!

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m a little concerned those mini chocolate bars might have gone funny in transit. I think I’d better test a couple of peanut butter cups just to be sure – for the sake of the children.

8+ at 93+

Thu, 2014-10-30 16:25

Does anybody really think that America’s Cup 35 belongs anywhere but San Francisco Bay?

San Diego, a great sailor town, has released its final promotional video, as if Russell Coutts or anyone else in AC management could care.

Better San Diego than Bermuda, I’d say, but the phrase that jumps out at me is the enthusiastic promise of winds “over eight knots, 93 percent of the time.”

Yes, the next-generation cats will foil in that, but they won’t thunder, baby, they won’t thunder.

Tick, tick, tick: Time is running out until the start of the 25th Carib1500

Wed, 2014-10-29 17:10

The weather at Ocean Marine has been downright summery. Temperatures touched 80º both yesterday and today. Despite some mid-afternoon clouds and the threat of rain, it’s cleared again this evening and the setting sun is casting a golden glow over the rally fleet.

Click here to see the gallery of photos from last night’s happy hour at Skipjack Nautical Wares.

“What a cool sight!” exclaimed onlookers walking by the docks and admiring the code flags on the boat’s that are ‘fully dressed’ in the marina. The atmosphere is certainly festive for the new arrivals. At least three boats checked in today, bringing the grand total to 31 of the 41 boats set to depart on Sunday. Despite the preparations, time is running out!

So what goes on during the hectic week leading up to the start of a long offshore voyage? Lyall Burgess and Pete Burch have been focusing on completing the safety inspections as efficiently as possible for those boats that have arrived early. This got off to a great start on Saturday, with Lone Star, the veteran ARC Rally participant, having the honor of the first safety check to get completed on the first try.

“While you can’t really ‘fail’ a safety check, oftentimes getting signed off requires a second or third visit to the boat,” said Peter Burch, longtime head inspector for the 1500 and experienced ocean sailor himself. “The first visit takes the longest. This is where we go over all the required safety equipment with the skipper and ensure everything is in order. We’ll also talk about how they might handle different emergency situations offshore. Many times we’ll come up with things people haven’t ever thought of.”

One example, and it’s a big one, is the liferaft requirement. In the past, we’ve had multihull owners insist that they didn’t need to carry a raft, as their foam-cored boats were ‘unsinkable.’ “That’s an easy one,” says Pete. “I just ask them what they’d do if they boat caught on fire 300 miles offshore and they were unable to put it out? That usually gets a big ‘Oh. I see.’ And the issue is solved.”

Most times, the re-checks take only a few minutes, as the items are usually small ones. Rigging jacklines, for example, or sticking retro-reflective tape on the MOB equipment.

The safety checks are central to the Caribbean 1500, and skippers are made aware of the required equipment well in advance. “It’s nothing that a properly outfitted ocean-going boat wouldn’t want to have onboard anyway,” continued Pete. “We’ve seen a lot of successful first and second-time checks this year, with very little major items missing, which is a sign that people are arriving prepared.”

But while most boats have arrived properly prepared, time is indeed running out as we pass the halfway point in the pre-departure program. The focus now shifts from outfitting the boat to provisioning food, refilling propane tanks, doing the last few loads of laundry, that sort of thing. 

Tensions are certainly rising around the docks as well, and there’s a definite spring in most people’s steps as they hurry around Portsmouth working down their every increasing checklists. It’s a classic axiom that a sailing boat is never truly ready to leave the dock, so the priority lists are getting re-arranged and the things not at the top, and not critical to the safety of the boat, simply won’t make the cut.

For some, life this week has been easy and stress free. Tom, Colin and crew aboard Corsair were looking mighty mellow, even as early as Monday afternoon.

“You guys look way too relaxed!” I remarked when I visited the gorgeous Bristol 57 on B dock that afternoon. The crew was lounging in the cockpit listening to orchestral music and reading, cool drinks not far from their reach. Corsair’s code flags were flying, the decks were sparkling and the crew was smiling. 

“We’ve been ready for a week!” Tom said. “All we’ve got to do is load up some food, do some laundry and leave the dock! It’s a nice feeling.”

Corsair, as it were, indeed was as ready as they felt, passing their safety inspection on the first go just like Lone Star, their neighbor on B dock. 

Corsair had spent nearly a month at Ocean Marine prior to this week’s pre-departure program getting some teak deck work done and finishing up any last major projects. Having the boat already in town certainly saved them some added stress of making the long passage down from New England, or the overnight sail down the Bay, as some other boats have had to contend with this week.

On the fun side of things, the events program has been a big hit, and a definite improvement on 2013, our first year in Portsmouth. The City hosted the Welcome Reception on Monday night at Griff’s on High Street. Nearly every participant that could have made the event was there, filling the room with laughter and storytelling while the beer and wine flowed from the bar. David Schulte, head of the City of Portmouth’s tourism department, hosted the event, alongside Jim Bento of Ocean Marine. 

Colonel Crawford, the ‘founder of Portsmouth,’ was along to greet folks through the door in full 18th century regalia, and introduced the 8-year-old Colin, who played a few numbers on his fiddle. Colin is a true prodigy. He got the crowd going with his version of the classic ‘Drunken Sailor’ chanty, then continued with a few bluegrass numbers and some traditional Scottish music, making the kilt he was wearing even more appropriate.

Wednesday was an off day on the program. Tomorrow Mike Meer of Port Annapolis Marina kicks off the day with his ‘Offshore Riggging’ seminar, followed by Davis Murray’s classic fishing talk. The evening will wind up with Davis and his steel-pan band playing a tribute night to Carib1500 founder Steve Black at Roger Brown’s.

Don’t forget to follow the hourly action at the 1500 on facebook.com/carib1500.

Android app with boat data: Memory Map Pro & Naviotab

Tue, 2014-10-28 17:30

Written by Ben Ellison on Oct 28, 2014 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub

The partial screenshot above shows Gizmo in the BridgePointe Marina slip where she’ll likely spend the rest of 2014. I’m a bit sad about tying up long term, but also looking forward to the Fort Lauderdale Show and especially being back in Maine with my family for the holidays. And while I haven’t made winter plans yet, it will be nice to have the boat staged for further cruising, or at least repairs and projects afloat. But more relevant to this entry is the new version of Memory-Map that I tested during the trip down from Baltimore. I believe that it’s the first Android charting app that can integrate boat data like GPS, depth, wind, and AIS coming over WiFi…

Memory-Map is a good standalone charting app, as I detailed when their Android edition first came out in early 2012. Going down Chesapeake Bay I still would have had constant GPS plotting on a well-rendered NOAA raster chart as well as easy route making and the right data displays to follow one (even if I have more than a mile of X-Track error in this particular case). But isn’t the tablet a much better navigation tool when it also displays AIS targets, depth, and even the wind speed/direction that motivated me to alter course? On Gizmo it was relatively easy to add all this info as shown in the dialog boxes to the right. I simply set up a TCP/IP connection using the address and port # that’s listed in the setup software that comes with the Vesper XB8000 AIS transponder multiplexer under test. I could have the Nexus7 tablet talking directly to the Vesper’s WiFi, but a bonus feature of the latter is its ability to join an onboard network; thus, the tablet remains connected to the WiFi router named “M/V Gizmo (Ranger)” and if that’s online I can download charts to Memory-Map if needed, check the weather forecast, etc.

I know that many boaters roll their eyes when this stuff comes up, and I have to agree that an onboard LAN (Local Area Network) sometimes connected to a WAN (Wide Area Network — aka the Internet — via WiFi, cellular, or satellite comms) can be a bit daunting to all but IT experts. The benefits can be significant, though, and ways to make the boat-data-to-WiFi part work are proliferating. iNavX maintains a good list of NMEA 0183 & 2000 muliplexers and I’ve seen it and other iOS iPad apps work well with Simrad GoFree as well as the Vesper XB and Vision devices. But up until now I didn’t have an answer when people asked about an Android charting app that worked with boat data.

I don’t know if there’s something about Android that makes it harder to enable a WiFi data stream or it’s just that many more developers are working on iOS marine apps. The Android AIS app Boat Beacon can display a boat’s own AIS data (as well as Internet AIS), but the same developer’s SeaNav charting app is iOS only. So I think — corrections welcome — that Memory-Map is the first full nav app to integrate boat data and one immediate beneficiary is the Android-based Argonaut A615 Smart Monitor, which already shipped with Memory-Map, but now can be even more of a complete nav solution. Richard Stephens also sent along this image of a Sony Android SmartWatch displaying a notification generated by Memory-Map Pro running on a Bluetooth connected tablet. AIS targets can also trigger tablet and smart watch notifications, and the parameters can be set differently for Class A and B vessels, though I should note that in the iPad world SeaNav’s interface with the Pebble watch is at least as impressive.

The Memory-Map Mobile apps — besides Android, there’s also iOS and Windows Mobile versions — are “free” with large area topo maps but after the demo period it costs $10 per year to download their form of NOAA raster charts. These charts have always been fast acting and good looking, but are now even better at high zoom levels because they take full advantage of the 400 dpi (dots per inch) digital format NOAA moved to this year. I’ve appreciated the difference in my testing but Stephens sent the Camden Harbor comparison screenshot above made with the Memory-Map PC program that can be used in conjunction with the mobile apps. The new NMEA WiFi data connection is so far only in the Android app and does require a one-time Pro license costing $50.

While I also did a lot of radar and sonar testing on the way to New Bern — which you’ll be hearing about eventually — I spent further Android time with the Naviotab “Future of Marine Navigation” seen above. What seems to be happening here is that an established California “weather gadgets” distributor has sourced a high-spec IP67 waterproof Android tablet from China, which it’s marketing to boaters with a year warranty, tech support, bundled apps and appropriate accessories. One included app is Boat Beacon, seen above with the optional Naviotab mount. It’s great to see that this app and Marine Traffic both have much better online AIS coverage of this area than they did two years ago — thank you, onshore volunteers! — but much of the coast still lacks dense enough coverage to use Boat Beacon reliably without its boat connection.

This shot compares the Nexus7, Naviotab and iPad mini, all running some form of the Navionics Boating app but with each showing a different type of chart. The Nexus has had Navionics US & Canada on it for a couple of years, but in early September the app was auto updated to Boating US & Canada 4.1 with a year of Freshest Data and SonarChart (shown) downloads. Nice! The Naviotab is running the free version of Boating with US “Gov” charts that serve pretty well, and finally the iPad Mini Navionics USA HD app also got a free Boating update and thus is showing an up-to-date Navionics chart.

Meanwhile, I believe that the iPad is a tad brighter than the two Android screens and that the two waterproof cases both have anti-glare screen protectors, but frankly none of these tablets is easy to use in bright sun. The Naviotab case — which is not easily removable, if at all — seems a lot more rugged and heavily bumpered than the Lifeproof frē case (which I like for its slimness but which is obviously falling apart after a long, hard test life). In fact, the Naviotab seems a bit heavy for their suction mount option, though the mount is stronger than it looks (and RAM offers an alternative).

Naviotab also offers a sun shield but while I had found this simple idea very effective with laptop screens in bright wheelhouses, the concept doesn’t work as well with a touch screen. The rugged tablet’s $600 list price is also daunting, though I’ll note that it does include 4G cellular abilities — you supply the SIM card — and when I called the Naviotab tech line, an informed human answered immediately. If I were shopping for an Android boat tablet, I’d also check out the new Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact, which has built-in waterproofness and claims a screen “sharp even in bright sunlight.” Thanks to Memory-Map, Boat Beacon, and Navionics Mobile — and maybe others? — pretty sophisticated nav tools can be had in the Android world.

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

LIVE Pocast: Matt Rutherford, Jamin Greenbaum & Nicole Trenholm

Mon, 2014-10-27 23:00

Andy sat in on the Ocean Research Project’s two-year anniversary party and ‘friendraiser’ at Heavy Seas Brewery in Baltimore. He got to sit next to Senator Tom Harkin and Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley during the ORP’s presentation! Matt, Jamin and NIcole talked about the ORP’s last two years and what happening next summer in Greenland. Jamin’s part of the presentation was exceptionally interesting – they’ll be using drones to study the glaciers in Arctic Greenland, and Matt is understandably excited to be heading back to the ice! Thanks to Zack for getting the audio.

Click here for the direct download.

Miracle on Marinship Way

Mon, 2014-10-27 16:27

It began as you see it, above.

By Kimball Livingston Posted October 27, 2014

I don’t mind telling you, the first time I heard about a plan to build a 132-foot wooden brigantine to serve as a new school ship, I thought,

“Uh oh.”

But dreamers can be doers.It’s been a quarter of a century since Alan Olson first began using sailboats on San Francisco Bay as an outreach to at-risk youth. Today, on a much-expanded teaching mission, the nonprofit Call of the Sea reaches 5,000 students a year with the schooner, Seaward, but can’t keep up with demand. The brigantine-to-be, Matthew Turner, is intended to expand that compass to 17,000 kids a years experiencing first-hand the ecology, wildlife, and interconnections of things around them often seen but “unseen.”

On the evening of October 25, during Game 4 of the 2014 World Series, true believers and former doubters gathered under a tent—a huge tent—to celebrate a “Blessing of the Bones.” That is, completion of the framing. Would you believe . . .

By golly, think they’re going to make it.

The mood was up as people explored . . .

The angels are in the details, and they don’t have to be pretty, yet . . .

And this . . .

Leads to this . . .

Yep, it’s going to be a long way above the water. Jackson Pollack was here?

The volunteers were eager . . .

Alan Olson was in form, and he still is not a fan of pirate parties . . .

Now it’s back to the workaday project—but this workaday project has its volunteers inspired. And they’re friendly.

Here’s what they say at Educational Tall Ship:

Visit the Matthew Turner build site by the Bay Model in Sausalito – See history come alive!

We are located at 2330 Marinship Way in Sausalito CA. You really can’t miss the huge tent, so please stop by and see what we’re up to! You’ll find someone here from 8-4, Monday-Saturday, and, if you’re so inclined, sign up to volunteer and join us as we construct the first tall ship to be built in this area in over 100 years,

Wood from sustainably-managed forests.

Propulsion when needed from regenerative electrics.

That’s the Matthew Turner to be.

Every sailor should know the name, Matthew Turner. Not to try to improve upon the writing at Educational Tall Ship, Turner

. . . immigrated to the Bay Area from his home on the shores of Lake Erie in 1850. He came to California to try his luck in the gold fields and, finding success, he traveled back to the East Coast to purchase a ship, for he saw more potential in the shipping business than in the gold trade. He began his career in the booming coastal lumber trade but quickly found that he needed more ships. Not impressed with the available vessels at that time, he pulled together what he had learned from his father about ship design and building on Lake Erie and his experience with contemporary vessels in the Pacific to build his first ship, the Nautilus, in 1868. The Nautilus out-performed all other ships of the time, raising the bar in sailing ship design. At that time on the East Coast, design innovation in commercial sail was at a standstill, as steamships became the focus.

But on the West Coast, long distances, lack of coal and the industrial capacity to produce large steam engines gave sailing vessels the edge until the turn of the century. The Nautilus launched Turner’s career and he is considered the most prolific builder in history, with 228 vessels built by the end of his career in 1907.

His vessels were responsible for the success of many entrepreneurs of his time. Matson Lines began their operations with the Lurline. Spreckles Sugar had a fleet of Turner’s ships, as did C&H Sugar. His ships moved between San Francisco and Hawaii at record speeds, making 13 round trips in one year, including loading and unloading. Only the largest and fastest modern sailing yachts can hope to beat the 8 days and six hours trip From SF to Hawaii by the Lurline and the 9 day trip from Honolulu to SF by the W.G. Irwin. Turner himself discovered the Alaska cod industry and owned and operated the first packet ships between San Francisco and Tahiti.

A DISABLED SPEED RECORD AT LUDERITZ

WORTH NOTING

In San Diego, CA, the Maritime Museum’s building project, a replica of the Cabrillo’s 1542 galleon, San Salvador, was the subject of a “near completion” celebration in September. The project’s web site doesn’t have much to offer regarding this stage of construction, but the pictures are looking good.

STUDENT YACHTING WORLD CUP

Congratulations to the UK team that ran away with the regatta last week in La Rochelle, France. The standings tightened up below second, behind Italy and Norway, with the USA team from Cal Maritime finishing sixth out of twelve. Here’s Cal Maritime after the wind finally came up, and below, the happy podium threesome . . .

Live from the 1500: More German Bier & the start of the Seminar Program

Mon, 2014-10-27 14:24

Day two at the rally wrapped up last night back at the Bier Garden in Portsmouth, VA. Several boats had arrived throughout the afternoon and evening, so we had a larger crowd than the night before, which kept the Kolsch flowing.

Tom Tom and Serenity made their arrival later in the evening. Tom Tom made their way into the marina around 7pm last night, with Chris and his British crew arriving in time for the staff at Ocean Marine to catch their docklines and welcome them ashore. Serenity, on the other hand, had to resort to more drastic measures.

Merrill Brown and his wife Mary had left New England late last week just as the fury of that nor’easter was winding down off the coast of Newport. Serenity was based at Block Island.

“In the midst of it all, we wound up having to grab a mooring when it was blowing 40 knots,” said Merrill as Serenity pulled into the fuel dock last night around 10:30pm. The big Shannon ketch must surely have been unwieldy under power in those conditions (though she would likely have fared just fine under reduced canvas father offshore), which made for an exciting exit from New England.

“Otherwise we had a good, if not a bit rough, sail south over the past few days,” added Merrill. “Although Silas didn’t fare so well. His stomach quickly decided it did not like ocean sailing, so he was pretty miserable most of the way.”

“I did manage to eat some chili on that first day,” Silas said, “but after that, I’ve basically been on a hunger strike.” 

The crew was lucky then to find an open pub on High Street last night, as it was 11:00pm until they got off the boat and made their way into town. Thanks to the NFL’s late Sunday game, and Game 5 of the World Series, the town wasn’t entirely shut down, so the Serenity crew – Silas especially – enjoyed a meal ashore in the stationary comfort of a restaurant booth.

Despite their late arrival, the Serenity crew made it out to Roger Brown’s in time for this morning’s seminar program, which got under way at 0900 with Mia’s ‘Provisioning’ chat. The takeaway from that? All crewmembers love chocolate!

Bill Cullen, who will ironically be crewing on Serenity for the voyage south from Portsmouth, followed up Mia’s chat with his new-to-the-program talk on ‘Gadgets & Gear to Have Onboard.’ 

“I’ve basically come up with a list of the top-25 best bits and bobs to have on the boat on both the ocean crossing and once you get in the islands,” Bill explained as his presentation got underway. He talked about everything from mosquito nets and sun shades to spearfishing, dinghy ladders and glass bottom buckets to a very receptive audience (who by then we’re livened up with their morning coffee, which was flowing from the back of the room). 

Visit Bill Cullen’s website on thebookofsail.com.

Rally leader Andy Schell rounded out the morning seminars with his popular talk on ‘Mentally Preparing to go Offshore,’ with the focus geared towards the 1500 and what to expect in the last few days leading up to the start.

Andy stressed the importance of what it’s okay to get anxious about – the ‘mission critical’ components of the boat like the hull, rig and sails and safety of the crew – and what’s not worth worrying about, like watermakers and electronics, which you can certainly live without offshore (if you’re properly prepared). 

“Landfall is the most exciting part of the voyage,” he finished with. “Remember to savor it, take photos, and notice the smell of land after you’ve been in the sea air for so long!”

The rally program continues this evening with the official ‘Welcome Reception’ hosted by the City of Portsmouth and Ocean Marine Yacht Center, set to kick off at Griff’s on High Street at 1800 this evening.

Stay up to date on the Carib1500 Facebook page, including links to today’s presentation slides, at facebook.com/carib1500.

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