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MARINE INSURANCE: Scoring New Coverage for Bluewater Cruising

Thu, 2014-10-23 16:31

As I may have mentioned, I am in the midst of getting Lunacy ready for a run down to the W’Indies. This is always a fraught process, what with the normal anxieties of worrying about whether the boat is truly ready to go offshore, putting together crew, and watching the unruly fall weather unfold. Historically for me this anxiety has always been compounded by my fussy insurance company, ACE, which insists on vetting my crews and making me fill out lots of forms before they’ll give me an endorsement for a passage to the Caribbean.

Marine insurance, of course, is how the whole concept of insurance first got started. Hedging against the potential loss of a vessel and its cargo is a financial game that dates as far back as the ancient Greeks and Romans and was institutionalized in its modern form as early as the late 17th century in Edward Lloyd’s famous coffee house in London (see image up top), where shipowners, merchants, and skippers all gathered together to mull over the perils of ocean-borne commerce while getting hopped up on caffeine. As such, it is fair to say that marine insurance has played a very important role in the development of our global economy, but in the context of recreational bluewater cruising it is another animal entirely.

After all, what is it exactly that an insurance company sells to you? The answer, plain and simple, is fear. When you buy a policy what you’re really doing is making a bet that your own vessel will sink, because you’re afraid it will. This is a smart move, I suppose, when you’re talking high finance and need to protect a big investment, but when you’re talking about a boat that you sail with friends and family it has always seemed to me to be inappropriate. Bad luck. Almost evil, frankly.

When I first went offshore in a boat I owned myself, in my old Pearson Alberg yawl Crazy Horse, I looked into buying some bluewater insurance and the only quote I got was ludicrously high–$3,600 a year to cover a boat I’d bought for only $28K. This was in the mid-1990s, remember, back when I could live on my boat and cruise around full-time for only $10K a year. I did just that for over two years, without any insurance at all, and earned enough not paying premiums to stay out cruising for many extra months.

Back in those days no one ever asked you if you had insurance, and after I made the decision not to buy any I never thought about it again. But now most marinas and boatyards everywhere in the world absolutely require that you have insurance, and quite often they do insist on seeing proof of coverage. Some people I know have solved this problem by simply forging insurance certificates, which is not that hard to do. All you need is a computer and a printer. Others I’ve met buy common coastal policies, so they have an honest piece of paper to show off when necessary, but then “self-insure” when they go offshore, which fact they fail to mention to the foreign marinas and boatyards they visit.

When I first bought Lunacy back in 2006 I looked into insurance and bought a policy from ACE that cost $2,000 a year, this for a boat for which I’d paid $115K, which seemed fairly reasonable. When I was ready to take her offshore in 2008 they wrote me an endorsement for the Caribbean, for which they charged an extra $1,300, and also pestered me with forms and spurious requirements regarding the passage there. Over the years these premiums have steadily increased (though the pestering has never decreased), and when the last boost took my annual “fear payment” (as I think of it) to over $5,000, before the offshore and Caribbean endorsements were factored in, I knew it was time to do some shopping.

On doing some research I realized just how badly I was being gouged by ACE. Friends with boats just as old as mine (1985), with about the same value, are paying less than $2,000 a year for coastal coverage in the United States. But getting a new policy that would allow for a trip to the Caribbean wasn’t easy. I was hoping, for example, to get coverage from Pantaenius, which now writes policies for U.S. boats and is the recognized premiere insurer for offshore cruising vessels, but they wouldn’t even give me a quote. As was the case with Crazy Horse, it seems Lunacy is too old and cheap to be of interest to many marine insurers.

For a while I was thinking I’d have to become a forger or a self-insurer to go south this year. I told one broker what I really wanted was coverage while in the Caribbean, with exclusions for the passages back and forth, but was told in response that no insurer would ever agree to that. Which seems crazy to me. If I was an insurance company I’d jump on a deal like that. I was also thinking I might cancel my ACE policy, sail down south, and then buy another local policy in the Caribbean and cancel that in the spring before sailing north again.

In the end, however, I did get two decent quotes. One was from New Hampshire Insurance Company, for $2,600 a year, including offshore and Caribbean coverage, but with lots of hoops to jump through and forms to fill out when actually going offshore. They also were insisting on a rigging inspection and full audio-gauge report on the hull, on top of the survey I just had done, before they’d issue a policy. The other was from Seaworthy Insurance Company, for $2,700 a year, including offshore and Caribbean coverage, but with no hoops and forms to deal with and no more inspections required.

Can you guess which one I went for?

Meanwhile, what I’m really stressing about is the weather. Of course. Right now I’m waiting for this low that’s sitting just south of New England to go away so I can sail Lunacy down to Newport. It’s a pretty impressive system. The UNH Marine Lab Field Station here in Portsmouth was reporting gusts to over 60 knots as of 9 this morning.

I’m hoping to leave for Newport tomorrow, and then depart Newport for Bermuda on Monday. Right now that seems feasible… but that assessment, as always, is subject to change.

Gaming the weather this time of year really is like playing Russian roulette. It seems there’s no way to get all the bullets out of the chamber before you pull the trigger. One thing I’m wondering now is whether it’s good luck or bad luck for me that both places I’m going, Bermuda and then St. Maarten, just got pasted by the same hurricane.

You may recall my friend and erstwhile shipmate Jeff Bolster, who has been taking his Valiant 42 Chanticleer south to the W’Indies the last few years. He’s tried the sail-south-from-New-England strategy and the sail-down-to-the-Chesapeake-first-and-then-sail-south strategy and found both wanting. So this year he developed a whole new strategy: he sailed Chanticleer out to Bermuda in August and put her up on the hard. Come December he was then planning to launch her again and sail down to the Caribbean.

That was seeming very clever until Bermuda took a direct hit from Gonzalo last week. For four days Jeff couldn’t get through to his boatyard in Bermuda to find out if his boat had survived. Then finally he received this happy snapshot of his pride and joy:

Safe and sound. But many other boats in the very same yard (in the Dockyard, on the island’s West End) weren’t nearly so lucky.

So it seems Jeff really did dodge a major bullet there. I was wondering what his insurer thought of his new transit strategy, and he tells me they did specify a “Windstorm Deductible” of over $17,000 before giving him permission to store his boat in Bermuda during hurricane season.

Welcome to the shipyard

Wed, 2014-10-22 20:57

PSS Satun, a Thai shipyard just a hop over the southern border with Malaysia, sits at the edge of a small village up a winding muddy river. Because we can only enter the river at high tide, we spend the night before our haulout at a bend where the depth drops enough to keep water under the keel through a full swing. Surrounded by mangroves, we watch fishermen wade knee-deep in the mud at low tide, pushing boxes and collecting something- crabs?- from the flats.

Crossing into Thailand to this spot retraces the same route that brought us here nearly a year ago. This does nothing to dampen our enthusiasm: if anything, it is lifted, knowing what lies ahead. Jamie and I sit in the cockpit, watching sea eagles wheel and cry overhead, and imagine the possibilities.

This is our calm before the shipyard storm. Last year, we spent about a week in this same yard to put new bottom paint on. Our only hindsight regret was that we didn’t fully appreciate the breadth and depth of skillsets, and how much more we could have done. Not this time!

Here’s a sped-up view of our trip up the slipway:

We still aren’t sure what we’ll do. Like many things, it is a pushme-pullyou between what we’d like to do and what our meager budget allows. But even little budgets like ours can stretch far with the good value for quality work available here. We’re already in a mindset to spend a little more than we probably should, because it’s hard to find these skills at such good rates. Still, there’s always a limit! once we have all the estimates, we’ll prioritize projects based on importance and cost. The wish list, however, is extensive.

The essential projects

New water tank. Our stainless steel primary tank (it’s backed up with a bladder tank and jerry cans) has growing leaks. We patched it up in Mexico, five years ago; this time, it needs to be replaced and are weighing whether to go with stainless or fiberglass. You do kind of need water, so this has to be fixed.

New stanchion bases. Like our water tank, these are original to Totem. They’ve served well for more than three decades but show some signs that their strength is compromised. This is a safety concern, so it’s non-negotiable; we’ll replace them.

New refrigerator box. At the moment, we don’t have any refrigeration beyond a cooler with a bag of ice. The compressor stopped working some weeks ago, and I’ve since been expanding my repertoire of Meals From Stuff That Doesn’t Need Refrigeration. That’s coming along nicely, thank you, but I am not the kind of hard core cruiser who can go without any refrigeration at all. We could replace the compressor- we’ll have to- but the bigger underlying problem is that fact that our fridge box, is insufficiently insulated. It’s also original to the boat (sense a theme here?), and the 32 year old open cell spray-in foam of insufficient thickness is definitely more of a conductor than an insulater. For this bit of fun, we get to RIP OUT THE GALLEY. Hoo boy!

Full rudder inspection. We’ll drop the rudder and skeg to inspect bearings and any signs of corrosion and wear. This may have been done by a prior owner, but it may not have been done since Totem was built in 1982: we just don’t know, and that’s not good enough. With big blue water ahead, it’s important for our peace of mind and the safety of our little crew.

New bottom paint. Unfortunately, the paint we put on last year didn’t do as well as we hoped. It’s intended for commercial vessels that have more constant (and higher speed) motion. We proceeded to spend half of this year being relatively stationary dealing with our engine. Boats don’t move very well when they host barnacle farms underwater, so it’s something else we simply must do.

The wish list

Next begins the wish list, in no particular order, of projects we hope to undertake…depending on what time and budget will allow.

Awning frame. We don’t have enough shade in the cockpit. It can be pretty hot and uncomfortable underway, as whoever is on watch looks for a patch of shade under our hard dodger. With a frame, we’ll be able to stretch fabric that extends the shade footprint we can have while sailing- and give us more options for even larger shaded areas at anchor.

Dodger reinforcement. We added this hard dodger after buying Totem in 2007. It’s great to have easier access to the boom, but is a little thin to carry adult weight and has developed some stress cracks. A little strengthening will go a long way.

Stern rail / arch modifications. Our current stern arch was an awkwardly placed addition by a prior owner that doesn’t integrate with the original stern rails. It includes davits that are hugely helpful for lifting our outboard, use in a potential man overboard situation, and short-term dinghy hauling- but are not quite the right size, creating chafe on the dinghy. Stuck between the arch and the rails is a pole that hosts the wind turbine is yet another add-on. While we love each of these independently, it’s a poor overall design that isn’t at all integrated, and creates a lot of dead space on the aft deck. The yard has skilled stainless workers: with minor modifications, we hope to have better davits, reclaim usable space, add social space (aft deck seats! wooo!), an improved turbine mount, and a stronger mount for the outboards.

Anchor roller. Minor modifications will better lock the anchor in place when stowed, and provide better control of chain exiting the roller when Totem is swinging at anchor and the chain angles off to one side.

Bow rail. We’ve done our fair share of leaning out over the bow, and Totem’s bow pulpit is small. We’d like to extend the stainless rail back to the first stanchion. Whether it’s looking at dolphins or trying to get a mess off the anchor, it will give us a safer, more stable base.

Waterline stripe. Since we have to paint the bottom, it’s a good time to work on the waterline stripe. Our current blue stripe is half gone from bottom cleaning and wear and tear.

In the world of wants vs needs, my big “wish” is for the stern modification. It would make this part of Totem so much  more functional, and fun! Still, adding shade with an awning would be pretty huge too. OK, I could actually talk myself into any of these being important! But we’ll see what we can manage. If we only get our essentials done, we’ll be happy. If we can nip a couple on the wish list, we’ll be thrilled. If we get that stern area done, I might even add ecstatic! But basically: this is a win/win proposition, and I’m really excited to see what the coming weeks bring.

It’s a big list, and of course, there are things we don’t even know about that will undoubtedly float onto it- it’s a boat!

Shipyard veterans past and future know we love it when you read this on the Sailfeed website.

Andy’s Biased Review of ‘Red Dot on the Ocean: The Matt Rutherford Story’

Tue, 2014-10-21 20:30

Note: The movie makes it’s theatrical debut this Friday in New York City at the Quad Cinema. Click for tickets. Click here to watch the trailer.

Mia and I watched ‘Red Dot on the Ocean’ last night, the film about Matt Rutherford and his historic ‘Solo the America’s’ voyage. In a word: inspiring. If you don’t read any further, just take my advice and watch the film. It deserves to become a classic, and I hope it will.

Matt is one of my closest friends in the sailing industry, and so this review will absolutely be biased. I know Matt’s story, I’ve heard it countless times, I’ve written about it countless times and I’ve been one of Matt’s biggest fans since I first met him in 2009. And still, I was mesmerized by this movie, and surprised by what I didn’t know.

In short, the movie follows the fairly formulaic style of switching between his journey around the American continents on his 27′ Albin Vega St. Brendan and his troubled upbringing. If you’ve read Between a Rock and a Hard Place, about Aron Ralston cutting off his arm in that Utah canyon, you’ll know what I mean. The style works for this movie, and nicely balances the dramas unfolding in each storyline, leaving you in a bit of suspense each time they flip back and forth in time. And both narratives are so compelling – unlike Ralston’s childhood, which was way more ‘standard’, and I found boring (I just wanted to hear about his hiking trip) – that the style works particularly well.

Matt had a surprisingly troubled upbringing, beyond anything he ever told me. I won’t ruin it, but to give you an idea of what I mean, he was a recovering drug addict at age 13, a convicted felon at 14, grew up in a cult, and at times contemplated suicide. Only some of this I knew about Matt. He’d hinted at it over the course of our friendship, but never went into detail and I never asked. It doesn’t change the way I think about him, but it certainly changes the way I think about his story and his accomplishment. He’s suddenly elevated to another level entirely. It makes you think though, could he have done this without those kinds of traumatic childhood experiences?

The portion of the film that focuses on the sailing was remarkably well put together, especially considering what the filmmakers had to work with. Matt set off by himself in 2011, with no money and only basic supplies. The fact that he had a camera at all, and managed to take some compelling footage, both above decks and underwater is incredible. He’s good at talking to himself and to the camera, and giving you a feel of what it’s like to be at sea. And to be clear, all of the sailing footage is completely authentic – at times it almost felt stages, but I assure you, having seen his still images, that it’s all authentic. When Simon Edwards sails alongside Matt towards the end of his journey, it’s so calm it looks like they’re on a pond – they’re not. In fact, they’re 600 miles offshore, in the heart of the ocean wilderness, and the fact that Simon was able to track him down at all is incredible. The movie doesn’t touch on this, and to the layperson I think that might seem ‘normal’ at sea. Trust me, it’s not. That Simon had a camera with him was a good call on his part.

To the non-sailors, and even the sailors who have never been offshore, what Matt accomplished was absolutely extraordinary. If there is one thing the film didn’t do, it was emphasize this fact. Perhaps they hoped that just by showing it, folks would realize the enormity of it, but I’m not so sure. Ocean sailing is hard. Like most endurance sports, it’s probably 20% physical and 80% mental, especially once you go beyond a certain point (and especially alone), and Matt’s mental fortitude throughout the voyage and the movie puts him in the company of some of histories great explorers. Matt would sign all of his blog posts he sent in via sat phone with Ernest Shackleton’s family motto, Fortitudine Vincimus, and it’s Shackleton that Matt most wanted to emulate. He certainly came darn close.

I put Matt in the category of the great solo sailing pioneers of the 1960’s, the sailors and writers we all grew up reading about, Matt included. Francis Chichester, Robin Knox-Johnston, Bernard Moitessier. He doesn’t seem it on the surface, but Matt is probably most like Moitessier in that he’s almost a creature of the sea himself, so at peace with the elements and his own mind (which, once you see his childhood, you’ll find perhaps the most remarkable part of the film) that he could thrive out there on his sailing boat indefinitely, if only the boat wouldn’t fall to pieces beneath him. Matt’s voyage was every bit as incredible as Knox-Johnston’s first solo circumnavigation of the world, or Moitessier’s one-and-a-half-times around loop via the Great Capes.

In many ways it’s even more incredible. Matt was sailing a boat that was originally conceived around the same time those guys were making history (the first Golden Globe race was in 1968), and aside from his satellite communications and robust furling gear, he had mostly the same technology. Moitessier and Knox-Johnston had a bit of an edge, in that at the time, nobody thought what they were doing was even possible. Their successes made people change their minds, and suddenly what was impossible became possible. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that we landed on the moon around that same time.

Matt, almost 50 years later, set perhaps an even more remarkable record with his voyage. He sailed the equivalent of a circumnavigation – he basically circled the globe from top to bottom, rather than left to right – and did so through the world’s most treacherous stretches of ocean, through the NW passage which even this year was deemed impassable by the great Jimmy Cornell. And he did it with no money, in an old boat, and for no glory. His was as honest an endeavor as can be, and this the film recognizes very well.

The movie was very personal to me. That same summer, as Matt was heading north, Mia and I were heading east, sailing from Nova Scotia to Ireland in Arcturus, on our way ultimately toward Sweden. When we set off, on July 31, 2011, Matt was up in Baffin Bay, writing about his insomnia as he stood 50-hour watches in the fog, dodging icebergs and foul weather. I’d exchanged a few sat phone emails with him, wishing him well through the Arctic and on his journey. Matt wrote me back, via sat phone, the day we set off ‘the deep end’ from St. Pierre:

“Have a good trip. Godspeed. Let me know when you get to the other side I would love to hear about it.”

On August 13, when Arcturus was still 8 days from making landfall in Ireland, Matt wrote again:

“How was the crossing?  Im deep in the Northwest passage by this point. Drink a Guinness for me.”

A week later, I got this from Matt, after I’d emailed him to tell of our successful 23 day Atlantic crossing:

“Sounds like you had very little wind. I hate being becalmed! Funny thing is im becalmed right now as I write this. I loved Ireland. Be careful going up the coast the cliffs are a hazard. You will see more wind in Ireland then you did crossing the Atlantic. I was on anchor in the Kenmare river (bad spelling?) and I had 45kts. I was just in a gale the other day. It was blowing 40kts in the Amundsen Gulf. Send me some questions and ill be happy to answer. A follow up article would be good. I’m afraid we are not going to raise much money.”

The fact that he was curious and concerned about us, even in the midst of the biggest challenge of his life, is telling. And that is biggest concern was not raising much money for CRAB, which was the point of the voyage in the first place (he needn’t have worried – he ended up raising $120,000). Maybe he was yearning for human contact, but I genuinely think he was hoping we’d be okay and were having fun. There are lots more of these emails. Digging back through my inbox, I can nearly recount Matt’s voyage through the emails he sent me. Ocean sailors are kindred spirits, and these gestures from Matt meant a lot. 

Oddly, despite all the naysayers (one editor at a prominent magazine refused to publish a story I’d written about Matt’s upcoming trip, claiming he was nuts and would never make it), I never had any doubt in Matt. I’d been on the boat in Annapolis before he left, and I was a small boat sailor myself. I know the fear that you get out there at the start of a passage, and the nagging doubt that creeps in and tries to stop you. But I knew, somehow, that Matt would make it. 

This is a rambling review, and I’m not a movie reviewer, but I hope the point comes across that you ought to see this. Even knowing the story inside and out, I found myself on the edge of my seat, my heart racing with inspiration as I watched Matt on the screen making a life for himself that he and only he made the rules for. I knew what the outcome would be, but it didn’t matter. As cliched as it sounds, it’s the journey that Matt had along the way that is so inspiring.

Andy’s Biased Review of ‘Red Dot on the Ocean: The Matt Rutherford Story’

Tue, 2014-10-21 20:27

Note: The movie makes it’s theatrical debut this Friday in New York City at the Quad Cinema. Click for tickets. Click here to watch the trailer.

Mia and I watched ‘Red Dot on the Ocean’ last night, the film about Matt Rutherford and his historic ‘Solo the America’s’ voyage. In a word: inspiring. If you don’t read any further, just take my advice and watch the film. It deserves to become a classic, and I hope it will.

Matt is one of my closest friends in the sailing industry, and so this review will absolutely be biased. I know Matt’s story, I’ve heard it countless times, I’ve written about it countless times and I’ve been one of Matt’s biggest fans since I first met him in 2009. And still, I was mesmerized by this movie, and surprised by what I didn’t know.

In short, the movie follows the fairly formulaic style of switching between his journey around the American continents on his 27′ Albin Vega St. Brendan and his troubled upbringing. If you’ve read Between a Rock and a Hard Place, about Aron Ralston cutting off his arm in that Utah canyon, you’ll know what I mean. The style works for this movie, and nicely balances the dramas unfolding in each storyline, leaving you in a bit of suspense each time they flip back and forth in time. And both narratives are so compelling – unlike Ralston’s childhood, which was way more ‘standard’, and I found boring (I just wanted to hear about his hiking trip) – that the style works particularly well.

Matt had a surprisingly troubled upbringing, beyond anything he ever told me. I won’t ruin it, but to give you an idea of what I mean, he was a recovering drug addict at age 13, a convicted felon at 14, grew up in a cult, and at times contemplated suicide. Only some of this I knew about Matt. He’d hinted at it over the course of our friendship, but never went into detail and I never asked. It doesn’t change the way I think about him, but it certainly changes the way I think about his story and his accomplishment. He’s suddenly elevated to another level entirely. It makes you think though, could he have done this without those kinds of traumatic childhood experiences?

The portion of the film that focuses on the sailing was remarkably well put together, especially considering what the filmmakers had to work with. Matt set off by himself in 2011, with no money and only basic supplies. The fact that he had a camera at all, and managed to take some compelling footage, both above decks and underwater is incredible. He’s good at talking to himself and to the camera, and giving you a feel of what it’s like to be at sea. And to be clear, all of the sailing footage is completely authentic – at times it almost felt stages, but I assure you, having seen his still images, that it’s all authentic. When Simon Edwards sails alongside Matt towards the end of his journey, it’s so calm it looks like they’re on a pond – they’re not. In fact, they’re 600 miles offshore, in the heart of the ocean wilderness, and the fact that Simon was able to track him down at all is incredible. The movie doesn’t touch on this, and to the layperson I think that might seem ‘normal’ at sea. Trust me, it’s not. That Simon had a camera with him was a good call on his part.

To the non-sailors, and even the sailors who have never been offshore, what Matt accomplished was absolutely extraordinary. If there is one thing the film didn’t do, it was emphasize this fact. Perhaps they hoped that just by showing it, folks would realize the enormity of it, but I’m not so sure. Ocean sailing is hard. Like most endurance sports, it’s probably 20% physical and 80% mental, especially once you go beyond a certain point (and especially alone), and Matt’s mental fortitude throughout the voyage and the movie puts him in the company of some of histories great explorers. Matt would sign all of his blog posts he sent in via sat phone with Ernest Shackleton’s family motto, Fortitudine Vincimus, and it’s Shackleton that Matt most wanted to emulate. He certainly came darn close.

I put Matt in the category of the great solo sailing pioneers of the 1960’s, the sailors and writers we all grew up reading about, Matt included. Francis Chichester, Robin Knox-Johnston, Bernard Moitessier. He doesn’t seem it on the surface, but Matt is probably most like Moitessier in that he’s almost a creature of the sea himself, so at peace with the elements and his own mind (which, once you see his childhood, you’ll find perhaps the most remarkable part of the film) that he could thrive out there on his sailing boat indefinitely, if only the boat wouldn’t fall to pieces beneath him. Matt’s voyage was every bit as incredible as Knox-Johnston’s first solo circumnavigation of the world, or Moitessier’s one-and-a-half-times around loop via the Great Capes.

In many ways it’s even more incredible. Matt was sailing a boat that was originally conceived around the same time those guys were making history (the first Golden Globe race was in 1968), and aside from his satellite communications and robust furling gear, he had mostly the same technology. Moitessier and Knox-Johnston had a bit of an edge, in that at the time, nobody thought what they were doing was even possible. Their successes made people change their minds, and suddenly what was impossible became possible. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that we landed on the moon around that same time.

Matt, almost 50 years later, set perhaps an even more remarkable record with his voyage. He sailed the equivalent of a circumnavigation – he basically circled the globe from top to bottom, rather than left to right – and did so through the world’s most treacherous stretches of ocean, through the NW passage which even this year was deemed impassable by the great Jimmy Cornell. And he did it with no money, in an old boat, and for no glory. His was as honest an endeavor as can be, and this the film recognizes very well.

The movie was very personal to me. That same summer, as Matt was heading north, Mia and I were heading east, sailing from Nova Scotia to Ireland in Arcturus, on our way ultimately toward Sweden. When we set off, on July 31, 2011, Matt was up in Baffin Bay, writing about his insomnia as he stood 50-hour watches in the fog, dodging icebergs and foul weather. I’d exchanged a few sat phone emails with him, wishing him well through the Arctic and on his journey. Matt wrote me back, via sat phone, the day we set off ‘the deep end’ from St. Pierre:

“Have a good trip. Godspeed. Let me know when you get to the other side I would love to hear about it.”

On August 13, when Arcturus was still 8 days from making landfall in Ireland, Matt wrote again:

“How was the crossing?  Im deep in the Northwest passage by this point. Drink a Guinness for me.”

A week later, I got this from Matt, after I’d emailed him to tell of our successful 23 day Atlantic crossing:

“Sounds like you had very little wind. I hate being becalmed! Funny thing is im becalmed right now as I write this. I loved Ireland. Be careful going up the coast the cliffs are a hazard. You will see more wind in Ireland then you did crossing the Atlantic. I was on anchor in the Kenmare river (bad spelling?) and I had 45kts. I was just in a gale the other day. It was blowing 40kts in the Amundsen Gulf. Send me some questions and ill be happy to answer. A follow up article would be good. I’m afraid we are not going to raise much money.”

The fact that he was curious and concerned about us, even in the midst of the biggest challenge of his life, is telling. And that is biggest concern was not raising much money for CRAB, which was the point of the voyage in the first place (he needn’t have worried – he ended up raising $120,000). Maybe he was yearning for human contact, but I genuinely think he was hoping we’d be okay and were having fun. There are lots more of these emails. Digging back through my inbox, I can nearly recount Matt’s voyage through the emails he sent me. Ocean sailors are kindred spirits, and these gestures from Matt meant a lot.

Oddly, despite all the naysayers (one editor at a prominent magazine refused to publish a story I’d written about Matt’s upcoming trip, claiming he was nuts and would never make it), I never had any doubt in Matt. I’d been on the boat in Annapolis before he left, and I was a small boat sailor myself. I know the fear that you get out there at the start of a passage, and the nagging doubt that creeps in and tries to stop you. But I knew, somehow, that Matt would make it.

This is a rambling review, and I’m not a movie reviewer, but I hope the point comes across that you ought to see this. Even knowing the story inside and out, I found myself on the edge of my seat, my heart racing with inspiration as I watched Matt on the screen making a life for himself that he and only he made the rules for. I knew what the outcome would be, but it didn’t matter. As cliched as it sounds, it’s the journey that Matt had along the way that is so inspiring.

USB charging on a 12v boat, fie on Apple?

Tue, 2014-10-21 11:00

Written by Ben Ellison on Oct 21, 2014 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub

It was easy to gather a slew of devices currently on board Gizmo that hunger for a USB power supply at least occasionally. Heck, when the Verizon Android Galaxy phone is providing an LTE WiFi hotspot and also streaming Bluetooth audio to the Fusion IP700 stereo as it is now — I’m online while listening to a Maine radio station — it needs to be charged almost constantly. The hard-working phone is also why I keep those two USB charged/charging batteries topped up for shore trips (and, yes, they do make great press event swag, thank you Simrad and FLIR). The Phonak hearing aid accessory needs nightly charging and while the DeLorme InReach Explorer in the background can go for days doing satellite tracking and a few messages, I prefer to keep it plugged in so my Share Map stays complete. In short, I need multiple 12v USB power sources to keep this crew happy and thus this entry will cover several types I’ve tested. There are a lot of cables involved too, but it’s nice that all the gadgets pictured use a standard USB mini or micro size power/data plug, with one very significant exception…

Of course it’s the Apple iPad mini that uses a proprietary Lightning connector instead of a standard USB plug. The tablet does have excellent battery life and I understand that it needs more than a standard USB 5 volt 1 amp charger (or .5 amp laptop USB port) to renew the battery efficiently, but iPad charging issues go well beyond that. My experience is that even if you use a charger rated at the 2.1 amps purportedly needed by most iPads — newer models have gone to 2.4 amps — you won’t know for sure that you’ll see the charging screen above when you plug the Lightning cable in. There are endless online discussions about this and it may be that Apple uses a unique way of detecting a higher amperage charger that you’ll only find for sure in Apple Certified chargers, none of which is ideal for a boat (in my opinion).

Before describing my search for a good marine iPad charger, let me grumble a warning about the Lightning cable itself. The official Apple one above failed during my trip from Maine to Baltimore, which caused some anxiety as I didn’t have a spare and I use the iPad mini a lot. Fortunately I was able to get this connector to pass a charge again by gently sanding the contacts with fine emory paper lubricated with a little oil. But I’ve had Apple-made cables fail before, and cheap knock-off cables have done worse. The back-up Lightning cable I should have brought from home and highly recommend is Amazon’s own Apple Certified design. It seems sturdier than Apple’s and reasonably priced, especially given that Apple apparently gets a few dollar fee for every one.

By far the most common way to charge USB devices in a car or boat is with adapters like the ones above. They fit what are now called “12v accessory outlets” though oldsters like myself know that the “outlet” was originally designed for cigarette lighters. That’s a limited and very short-term use and as that Wikipedia entry rightly notes, the design has “poor contact stability” even though my boat came with four such power receptacles installed. Of course I tried them and adapters like the one at left with the 2.1A output sometimes charged my iPad. Sometimes, not always. Then one day I realized that the adapter had gotten quite hot, apparently because it was trying to draw those 2 amps through a poor contact. It was not the first time I’ve had such trouble, which is why I wonder if such “outlets” should be used untended on a boat.

First I tried the type of 12v USB power source designed to install behind a dash, which work neatly with accessories like the Tallon Ultimate iPad Mount or just a regular USB cable snaked to your favorite charging station. I couldn’t find a known brand model but both the CPT (no longer available) and the RioRand (available here at Amazon) charge every USB device on Gizmo just fine…except the iPad. Even though both chargers claim 3A output, sometimes the iPad says it’s charging, sometimes not.

I realize that iPads often charge slowly even when they aren’t acknowleging it, but I was frustrated nonetheless and was often using the Apple AC charger with Gizmo’s inverter just to be sure. And when I recently shopped for the type of USB charger that can replace an existing cigarette lighter receptical, my expectations for iPad compatability were low. So far, though, the Blue Sea Dual USB Charger Socket is working very well and the similar XYZ Boat Supplies model pretty well. Specifically, my iPad mini has always shown charge status when plugged into either Blue Sea outlet, but it failed once when plugged into the XYZ’s high power outlet (and its blue LED even went out). I’m not surprised that the Blue Sea product seems more reliable, but I don’t know how either charger will work with new iPads that would like 2.4 amp charging. Anyone?

Finally, don’t these annoying incontestabilities, worn cables, and so forth make one yearn for a universal inductive charging standard? I don’t know if that will ever happen, especially for Apple devices, but at IBEX I saw how inductive charging is coming neatly to boats, and will write about it soon.

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A 50 Kilometer Run Through the Woods / The Blues Cruise Ultramarathon

Tue, 2014-10-21 08:38

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything solely for myself, let alone by hand. Feels strange to put pencil to paper, and awkwardly slow. My brain thinks these sentences faster than my hand can scrawl them down. On the computer, my typing can keep up. Still, somehow this feels better.

I ran my first ultramarathon on Sunday, October 5 over at Blue Marsh Lake, about 5 minutes from my dad’s house, the house I grew up in, outside Reading. The ‘Blues Cruise Ultra 50K’ put on by the Pagoda Pacers Athletic Club.

Saturday night had been later and involved more red wine that I’d have preferred. Mia and I drove home to dad’s house from Lancaster to ‘stage’ there before the race. Kaitie joined us so we could go through some of my Mom’s stuff. Lots of kitchen utensils, old jewelry and a ton of books. I took many about Native American Culture, a side of my mom I knew about – it was a big part of who she was – but never explored much on my own.  That evening, after a salmon and vegetable cookout on the very windy deck, we drank wine and my mom’s stuff brought back fond, fond memories of things I thought were long forgotten.

I realize that my pre-race routine may not exactly have been so performance oriented. Aside from the wonderful, large meal, I probably had 2 too many glasses of wine (I’d previously started a routine of drinking 2 glasses of red wine the night before any endurance event) went to bed an hour too late and hadn’t trained enough in the three weeks since my marathon in Helsingborg, Sweden. But here’s the point – I’m not out there to win. Exercise is a lifestyle for me, and in order to maintain it, there’s got to be a balance. I burned out of golf early in my career and decided I can’t fully dedicate myself to just one thing. But I love to train. I love the endurance sports especially – it’s not how fast I can go, but how far – pushing that limit is what excites and motivates me.

On to the race! The morning dawned clear and very cool. Perfect running conditions, about 50º F at the start. I wore cheap Puma socks, New Balance Minimus 10 shoes, calf compression socks, Helly Hansen running shorts, my Garage Strength singlet and a long-sleeve running shirt to keep my arms warm at the beginning. I brough a 2-liter ‘Nathan’ brand water backpack, with two tablets of ‘Resorb’ (basically Pedialyte) dissolved into it, and carried several Gu gels and a Larabar. I wore a visor to keep the sun out of my eyes.

The atmosphere around the starting area was distinctly different from a standard marathon. Very low-key and non-commericial. Something like 330 runners took the start, so it was decidedly un-crowded. An older guy with a Pennsylvania Dutch accent was making announcements over the PA system in between loud German oompa music, which I effin’ loved.

We gathered in the grass behind the start/finish line and set off with the gun at 8:35am (there was a 5-minute delay due to the long line of people at the port-o-pots who needed that one last poop, myself included. It’s amazing how your nerves will empty out your gut before a long endurance race.)

The start of a long event is always mentally daunting. Knowing that you won’t be back to the same place for over 5 hours is difficult to comprehend. That’s a very slow round of golf! Jeeze. But we were off at last.

It’s difficult to describe how hard it is to pace yourself on a long run (anything more than 13 miles, really). Especially in a race. Your blood is pumping, and with days of tapering and rest, your body (hopefully) feels amazing. You’ve got to squash the urges to go out fast at the start. In fact you’ve got to deliberately try and run slower than you think is possible. 31 miles is a long way, and any extreme effort at the start will be paid for in pain and suffering hours later.

In Helsingborg, the marathon I ran three weeks before the ultra, I went out very fast, trying to set a new PR – under 3:40:00 – and blew up with still 10 miles to go. 1 mile at the end of a marathon feels like eternity when your body hurts like mine did. 10 feels next to impossible – but then that’s why I run these long events. The impossible becomes possible.

The trails at Blue Marsh are mostly single- and double-track mountain bike trails. No super elevation changes, but not many flat sections either. And the hills, though never too long, are very steep and the terrain is a mix of packed dirt, loose shale, rocks and roots. Most of the time your vision is concentrated on each step (and I passed several people who didn’t lift their feet enough and tumbled). Several times I ran onto a stone or root directly under the ball of my foot. With the minimus shoes on, this is no fun. Might as well be barefoot.

The course was run clockwise around the lake (it alternates each year). This was a boon to me mentally, because even as a id, we always biked in that direction. The landmarks are more familiar and it’s easier for me to gauge distances. In an ultra (or even a standard marathon), it’s the mental side that gets you through the end. It was nice to have that small edge.

So, how’d it go? After the summer spent training on the small, flat islands in the Stockholm archipelago (I managed only 6 runs over 20km, 2 over 30), I was not ready for the hills. But neither, apparently, was anyone else. From the first rise heading up to the steep slope from the parking lot at the stilling basin, folks were walking. I took this as a sign of experience – these guys must know that in an ultra, you simply walk the steeper hills from the get-go to save energy, to save your legs for the miles yet to come. So I reluctantly followed suit (at times there was no choice as there were simply no passing lanes on the narrow trails).

The pack of runners very quickly strung out. I wound up chatting with an experienced looking guy wearing black shorts, a black t-shirt, a sweet headband and the minimalist running sandals called huarachas that the Tarahumara Indians wear in Mexico, and which got so much attention in the book Born to Run. I decided then and there that if I stayed with him, I’d be okay – he kept a similar pace and had done the race before, and simply looked like he knew what he was doing.

When you’re properly trained, the first half or so of any endurance event is basically ‘free.’ Meaning, you set the pace early on and just go on autopilot. The rhythm of your footsteps and breathing patterns become hypnotic. Make sure to keep eating and drinking at regular intervals (whether you feel you need it or not) and try to hold yourself back a bit. They say a marathon doesn’t start until mile 20 – those last 6.2 feel vastly longer than the first 20 (which I experienced in Helsingborg). An ultra then, really starts once you pass the marathon mark. That’s uncharted territory.

After the debacle in Sweden (my first half split was 1:52:00, right on pace for a 3:45:00 race. My second half? 2:15:00…), I decided to just run the ultra with the goal to finish in one piece. At about mile 14 (I only had a simple wristwatch, so wasn’t tracking my distance aside from watching the trail markers go by) I was still with the sandals guy. There was a steep hill up to the road where the 2nd aid station was situated. ‘You look strong!’ shouted Mia, cheering with her small cowbell on the side of the trail. ‘Too strong!’

I felt strong. I powered up the hull, running this time, stopped briefly at the aid station to fill my water backpack, scarfed a few boiled potatoes dipped in salt (my new favorite endurance snack) and got the heck out of there. It was the last time I’d see the sandals guy (who was by then behind me).

My next target was a gorgeous girl in short running shorts and a long brown pony tail. From behind, she was stunning – her long legs were tanned and fit. These are the small pleasures you get running such a long race. She was slightly faster, but I kept pace maybe ten yards behind and admired her legs for the next several miles, my rthymic breathing and strides ticking along like a metronome. I wasn’t floating effortlessly anymoe, but I felt I could keep up the pace without any issues and with just a little more concentration.

At another aid station I was still even with the leggy girl, but left her behind after my short potato break. That was a shame – those legs were really something. By mile 20, I felt I was still racing for ‘free.’ The pain and suffering hadn’t begun. Perhaps the three weeks of rest after the miserable marathon was actually needed (I trained 2-3 times, running only one longish run of 17km, and lifted weights at the gym three days before the ultra).

Mia was there at every turn it seemed with her little cowbell. It’s hard to stress how much energy you can get from cheering fans along an endurance course, especially your loved ones. But it wasn’t just me she was cheering for – Mia cheered on everyone around me, and you could just feel the energy. Others commented on it. Mia being a distance runner herself knows firsthand how much the fans help, so she made sure to keep it up.

The the final aid station, I was starting to feel it. I’d by then run more than a marathon, farthest ever. My stomach didn’t feel like eating anymore, and my legs were starting to get ‘wooden.’

‘Come on you pussy,’ I kept saying to myself over the small uphills. I’d made a point to keep running now, hills be damned. That late in the game, everyone was walking even the slightest incline, so I got some mental energy knowing I could run by them. I also knew that they’d be slightly deflated by getting passed. It’s still a competition after all, even in the middle of the pack.

I knew the trail, and I knew that with just 1 mile to go, there was one more major hil 0 not too steep, but very rutted and rocky and very long. I kept it up, and made a point to run that effin’ hill, passing maybe half a dozen people on the way. Mentally I was inspired, and physically I felt surprisingly good. Back on the road round the corner towards the finish I started sprinting, and crossed the line at full speed, 5:47:04 showing on the clock. They handed me not a medal for finishing, but rather a chair. I sat, and Mia fed me hummus and potato pancakes that the PA Dutch folks were preparing on the nearby griddle.

I was on the moon having finished. My first ultra! 31 effin’ miles! At that point, 50 miles seemed actually feasible. I was physically drained after 31, but could suddenly understand, not feeling totally broken, how 50 or even 100 was possible with the proper training. And that’s the point – keep pushing your limits, and you’ll realize that there are no limits.

Endurance sports greatly appeal to me because it doesn’t matter how fast you are, but how far you can keep going, how long you’re willing to suffer physically but stay mentally focused. Endurance sports are a lifetime endeavor – I was to be doing this when I’m 80.

I finished 99th of the men, out of 230-something, so in the top half of the pack. The winner ran an insanely fast 3:32:00, but there were only 35 of so people under 5 hours. I was a little disappointed that I didn’t feel more tired at the end – I felt maybe I had left a little too much in the tank, maybe could have run 15 or 20 minutes faster. But then I’ve got that for next time. It wasn’t worth blowing up and ruining the experience.

Who’s joining me next year?

 

Red Dot on the Ocean: Official Trailer of the Matt Rutherford Story

Tue, 2014-10-21 07:01

Watch the official trailer of the Matt Rutherford story about his epic voyage around the america’s and his unbelievable childhood that put him on the path to become one of the greatest sailors of the modern world. Red Dot on the Ocean premiere’s this Friday, October 24, at the Quad Cinema in New York City. Look for Andy Schell’s full review later today, Tuesday October 21.

What’s your favorite cruising destination?

Mon, 2014-10-20 04:57

With 71% of our planet covered by oceans, there is no shortage of places to explore by boat. So when I landed recently on a page for the latest campaign from LOOK, which aims to identify the world’s most exotic sailing location, well, I had two reactions. What’s their pick? And how could we possibly choose just one from among our favorites? I asked the question on Totem’s facebook page and had a slew of interesting suggestions… so we started thinking more about ours.

As we’ve done a interviews for podcasts or print, the question of a favorite place typically comes up. I’m not sure we’ve referenced the same place twice, because not only is it hard to pick one, but we don’t all agree: should it be Papua New Guinea’s Ninigo island, Suwarrow atoll in the Cook Islands, the glorious Tuamotus in French Polynesia, or Banda Neira in Indonesia? Pushed to name a selection of favorites there’s one place that all five of us bring up, especially as it falls father into hindsight. Mexico, and in particular the Sea of Cortez, is a stunning place to go cruising. By one measure after another, it is simply an epic destination. We spent about a year and a half in Mexico, and more than four months in the Sea of Cortez, between 2009 and 2010. Why do we love it? Why should you go?

Soak up the larger-than-life landscapes. I expected to dislike the desert; I expected to dislike it quite a bit, in fact. In truth, it is spectacular. I found it impossible to resist the lure of this stunning, majestic landscape. Anchorages in the Sea of Cortez offer these one after the other.

Dive into unforgettable snorkeling. In Agua Verde, we spent many hours taking in the beautiful clear water of the bay. There aren’t corals here to speak of, it’s too far north, but the diversity of fish and other marine life exceeded anything else we saw underwater in Mexico, especially out at the pinnacle ‘Roca Solitaria.’

That’s Roca Solitaria on the right, distant

Be utterly and completely alone. Crown yourself regent at one uninhabited island after another. Some might want to turn up the speakers, but what’s truly special is the ability to luxuriate in the glorious silence of a night uncluttered with a single other man-made sound, just the occasional howl of a coyote.

no neighbors here

Surround yourself with vibrant Mexican culture. When you’re finished with the solitude, communities sprinkled along the Baja side of the Sea are vital counterpoints to the desert space.

Lose yourself in the food. On one hand, there is the incredible food to be found in towns: from the classic fish taco with queso fresco, to one with succulent fresh shrimp, grilled and tucked into a warm corn tortilla. Should I mention the bacon-wrapped hot dogs of Santa Rosalia? The flip side of the awesome food is the utter and total lack of anyplace to buy groceries for some very long stretches. That might be a downside for some, but we loved the lessons it gave us in planning, self sufficiency, and foraging.

catching sand bass for dinner in the northern Sea

The beachcombing is insane. Byproduct of so many miles of coastline and so little of… well, anything. Fish, whale bones, agates, glorious shells, ancient artifacts, desiccated starfish, rusted industrial remnants. It’s all here and more.

You can go sailing! OK, that’s a bit tongue in cheek- this is about a favorite sailing destination, after all.  And yes, we did our fair share of motorsailing and motoring there, too, but the sails on Totem had a LOT more use during a few months in the Sea of Cortez then they have in a year and a half in Southeast Asia.

She sails! thanks to Jesse Stephens for this photo of Totem.

History lives here. From an anchorage you can spot the middens that are hallmarks of ancient settlements, long lost to memory. Walk around them and you can find arrowheads, heat-cracked stones, and more.

Mexico didn’t show up as one of LOOK’s picks, and I think it deserves a spot. But check out their favorites: the list started out feeling a little predictable, then took a left turn with an entirely unexpected destination that grabbed my interest. No spoilers, you have to find out for yourself! And then, write back and tell me your favorite.

 If you read this on the Sailfeed website, you’re surely confident in the location of your own favorite sailing destination.

When I Wake Up

Sun, 2014-10-19 22:34

At 6:15 on Saturday morning, I found myself losing at Monopoly to Indy. This is noteworthy not because I was getting trounced by a six-year-old, but rather because I was up, dressed, fed and already losing a board game at quarter past six.

Truth is, I had been up for two hours already.

I have never been a morning person. I leave Disease J to those better suited to it. Still, if you do a thing long enough, you get used to it. Between Indy, sailing, and living in the tropics, I have learned to scroll back my wake-up time. But I really thought that waking at 5:45am every morning – as required to get the kids to school on time in New Caledonia – was my low-water mark. I should have known I could count on my dear husband, The Envelope Pusher, to take a job that required him at work at by sunrise.


Erik wisely waited to present his schedule to me until we were already here.
“You’re setting your alarm for when?
“4:15.”
“Because?”
“I need to get out of here by five at the latest so I have time to eat in the mess before I head to work.”
Well, that was something, anyway. At least I wasn’t going to have to produce breakfast in the middle of the night.
And I then I said it.
“Why don’t I get up with you. We can have a cup of coffee before you go.”
I heard the words leaving my lips, and I was like someone else was speaking them. Was I completely out of my mind? Get up at that time of day on purpose? Just to drink coffee with my crummy husband? Boy, I must like him more than I thought.
Erik gave me a skeptical look. He knows my views on the antemeridian hours. “Okay – if you want to. That would be really nice.”

So I got up that first day. And we had a nice, quiet, undisturbed chat. (Not even Indy recognizes the hours before 6am). I got up again the next day. And the next. And now it is my routine. Get up, prepare & consume hot beverage, boot husband out the door, enjoy 60-105 minutes of quiet work time (Indy-dependent), shovel the girls out of bed, make breakfast, and get on with the day.

Mind you, this makes my evenings somewhat dicey. Indy is always ready to go to bed, but Stylish is a classic night owl. She now tucks me in from time to time, giving me massive flashbacks to kissing my own parents goodnight as my mother struggled to keep her eyes open past 8:00pm.

During the week my new routine isn’t a problem: school nights mean everyone has to go to bed in a timely fashion. But on weekends, things actually happen in the evenings. On Saturday, we were invited to a party in the park across from our house. I looked at the invitation: 4 o’clock. Excellent, I thought. That won’t go too late.

We went, we ate,we laughed, and everyone had a good time. Eventually, Indy slouched up to me. “Mom, I want to go home.”
“Are you tired?”
She nodded.
“Okay.” I made my goodbyes and walked her home, all the while thinking: Hot dog! It must be eleven o’clock; I’m ready for bed, too.

We had hardly made it inside the house when footsteps pounded up the stairs behind us.
“They’re doing ice cream!” shouted a child’s voice.
Indy, who had been walking slumped almost in half, straightened immediately. “Mom, can we go back?”
I pushed down the whine that formed in my throat. “Of course we can. Off you go.” She raced back into the night.
I glanced at the microwave on my way out the door. 7:38pm. I shook my head. Clock must be broken.

Two cupcakes and an ice cream cone later Indy gave up for real. We were both tucked in bed by 10:00.

And the next morning? I slept in until six.

2014 ANNAPOLIS TEST SAILS: Garcia Exploration 45, Seascape 27

Sun, 2014-10-19 21:41

Day two of this year’s test-sailing program looked to be a bit snotty weather-wise, with the forecast early on showing wind gusting to 30 knots, rain, and a good chance of thunderstorms. Great conditions, in other words, for trying out the new Garcia Exploration 45. As things turned out, the weather was actually a bit more moderate than that, but we still enjoyed sporty conditions out on Chesapeake Bay during our first test sail, with the wind blowing about 20 knots true.

We sailed the whole test with two reefs in the Garcia’s mainsail and tried out both working headsails. I was little surprised to learn the boat doesn’t have a true cutter rig. You can either sail with just the staysail rolled out (as in the photo up top), or with just the jib out, but not with both. Strictly speaking, I guess that makes it a “solent rig.” You can also fly a bigger Code-Zero-type headsail on a continuous-line furler, or an A-sail in a sock or on a furler, from the very beefy bowsprit.

One nice heavy-weather feature on this boat is the super-strong heavily insulated companionway hatch/door that can be dogged down tight for maximum security. Right here is the part of the test where Brad Baker and Pete McGonagle of Swiftsure Yachts closed me in down below so I could experience how quiet the interior is when things are boisterous outside. And yes! It was very peaceful in there

That’s Zuzana Prochazka on the helm and my compatriot from SAIL, Adam Cort, cowering in the shelter of the hard dodger. With her twin rudders, the boat has a very easy helm. Very soft, but still accurate. I guess you’d have to pretty much put the mast in the water to load it up much. One issue for Zuzana, however, was that she could not see over the tall coachroof when standing behind the wheel. She had to steer sitting out to one side or the other to get a clear view forward. Even for me, at over six feet, dodging small obstructions like crab pots was hard when steering from the cockpit

This is where you want to be when dodging lots of pots, or when it’s pouring rain out, as happened at the end of our sail. From the forward-facing nav desk at the front of the deck saloon you have a nice clear view ahead and can both steer and control the engine. One thing I noticed was that the nav seat was the only comfortable place to sit in the saloon when our test boat was heeled on starboard tack. Subsequent boats will have a strong backrest on the bench seat on the port side of the table to ameliorate this

Here’s the bulletproof companionway as seen from the other side. The overhead sliding hatch in the coachroof is a nice feature when it’s real stinky out. Our test boat also had a frame for a canvas dodger that can be raised to increase shelter in this area. Note too the strong integral handholds and tether attachment points

With the full jib and double-reefed main we hit speeds over 7 knots no problem and were very comfortable doing it. The boat has a smooth easy motion, which I have noticed is usually true of integral centerboard boats like this. My theory is this is because you are closer to the ballast, which is up in the hull in the bilges rather than many feet underwater at the end of a keel. I particularly liked that the side-decks are very secure. With lots of handholds on the high coachroof, moving forward while underway was a piece of cake

I was a little worried about my second test of the day, aboard the Seascape 27, a sliver of a sportboat that looked to be something of a handful in strong wind. My Slovenian hosts, however, were downright enthusiastic about our prospects, and the weather, in any event, actually moderated a bit after the big rain squall that went through during the end of my outing on the Garcia. By the time I got out on the Seascape, the true wind was blowing just 13-15 knots, though the seas were still a bit lumpy.

Here we are skating along at an easy 7-9 knots. I found the boat has a great helm–smooth, not at all quirky, and very accurate, which made it easy for me to scull the boat through the 4- to 5-foot seas

This is the reacher, as my friends called it, flying from the retractable carbon sprit up forward. It has a big positive luff and you can’t get too close to the wind with it. During the boat’s first test of the day, back when it was blowing 20 in the morning, boatspeed reportedly hit 15 knots under this sail

Later we switched to this big asymmetric spinnaker, which had stayed in the bag during the morning outing. We made 9-10 knots running off on a broad reach under this puppy

Heading back to the barn under power. The hideaway outboard well in the middle of the cockpit worked great in practice. The boat’s construction is not at all radical–just fiberglass vacuumed over a foam core, with some carbon in the center structure that carries the mast and keel loads. Plus the rig is carbon. Base price is just $70K

And here’s the trailer she rode in on. The boat has a swing keel, so can be easily hauled off to the nearest regatta. Full price with sails, electronics, and the trailer is about $120K

If you want to read more detailed write-ups on both these boats, keep an orb glued to future issues of SAIL. Meanwhile, I’m switching into offshore-passage mode and will soon start sailing Lunacy south for the winter, so if you want to read about that, keep the other orb glued right here.

Scrapping in La Rochelle

Sun, 2014-10-19 18:51

By Kimball Livingston Posted October 19, 2014 – Lead photo by Icarus Sailing Media

Halfway through, the 2014 Student Yachting World Cup belongs to England to lose. Accounting for a discard race apiece, Ireland and Italy on Sunday edged the USA into fourth, and that is the group that appears to be headed toward a battle for podium finishes.

Racing continues at La Rochelle, France in a fleet of 12 matched keelboats. The breeze has been light to killing light so far. But that may change.

Representing the USA for the second time is the California Maritime Academy, qualified off its win at the Kennedy Cup in Annapolis. Before the team left for La Rochelle, I had some time with Cal Maritime skipper Dillon Lancaster, who recalled that he was—

“A freshman the first time Cal Maritime went to the World Cup. That team set the bar high for us, and we’ve been looking for a repeat since.”

In addition to the win at the Kennedy Cup, the Keelhaulers pulled of a four-peat last March at the Harbor Cup in Los Angeles, so something’s working.

“We had a strong crop of freshmen that came in together,” Lancaster said. “We’ve kept pretty much the same team together to the point that we know each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and we can read each other’s minds. This year, we won pretty much every keelboat event we went to.”

As a team, they also finished second at the Kennedy Cup in their sophomore and junior years, so barely missed making this journey before.

But Cal Maritime is unique in the California State University system, with only 1100 students and an engineering-centric curriculum that is much more experience-oriented than its sister schools. In job placement and early earnings statistics, it’s a clear winner, but experience-oriented has its issues too.

“We ship out on the Golden Bear—this isn’t a normal school—and it’s hard to keep a consistent practice schedule.”

Cal Maritime explains it this way: Each summer, cadets in their first and third years depart with licensed faculty officers for two months during the Annual Training Cruise. During these periods at sea, intellectual learning, applied technology, and leadership development blend daily as cadets apply what they have learned in the classroom, in the lab, in the Corps, and on the waterfront.

Offshore coach Parker Mitchell clearly has a successful workaround working, and I have a hunch the Keelhaulers results in La Rochelle right now would be better if the breeze were a bit more like home. Breezy. Offshore coach Parker Mitchell set the team up with a Mumm 30 for part of their practice. The deck layout is similar to what they would find in La Rochelle, and they had the team’s notes from the excursion to France four years ago.

Lancaster started his sailing at the age of seven at King Harbor, Redondo Beach, in Sabots. He ran into team tactician Scott Doyle at the same time, “And we’ve been on the water together since day one,” he says. “We did high school sailing against each other, the Governors Cup, everything.”

That tight team that started out together as freshmen (“We did go to a rugby player to get a mast man; we said, ‘Ryan, we need you.’ “) will be moving on, of course. Lancaster, in fact, is already graduated with a work history. “They let us sail in the World Cup because we were students when we qualified. I came back in September after three months of working on tugs north of the Arctic Circle. That’s when the offshore team really started cooking.”

For those into video, here is Day Two:

Yr humble reporter finds himself watching developments through Facebook, where the regatta reported on Sunday: “The day’s wind was so low that a break was taken after the first race. People could enjoy some bathing and diving. As the wind didn’t blow again, every one landed back and waited at the race village, playing cards, sunbathing, drinking fresh beers or eating crepes.

“Around 4’o clock all crews went back sailing for a second race. Not every crew in fact as the Japanese team missed the call and didn’t compete for that race. That’s a shame as they had done a really good first race. France sailed well today putting England in the shade.”

[I may have excised a few exclamation marks from that copy]

From a Keelhauler’s post we get, ” After hours of postponement on the water and on shore, they dropped the AP at 3:40 and back out we went. A nice breeze of about 5-6 knots was waiting. A general recall was called as the anxious fleet wanted to get racing. The breeze was dying and a huge right shift left us on the wrong side of everything. We fought back to 5th just behind Ireland and Italy (our closest competitors) but lost Scotland at the finish ( a shortened course at the second windward mark. Just halfway through the regatta and hoping to have a better second half. Oh, and England took yet another bullet.”

I’ll be off the farm for a couple of days, and the best I can do now is leave you with:

The outlook for Monday according to weather.com: Winds southwest 10-20. Chance of rain 100%.

Roepers’ Plenty takes Farr 40 Worlds

Sat, 2014-10-18 18:48

Posted October 15, 2014

It was an early-arrival, late-starting and slow final day, but the 17th Farr 40 Worlds made it to seven races, with Alex Roepers’ Plenty slipping in race seven to its only double-digit finish.

With four firsts in seven races, Plenty wrapped with a ten-point lead over Australians Lisa and Martin Hill and Estate Master.

Terry Hutchinson called tactics aboard Plenty, in waters where he has has success before.

Nineteen boats sailed the regatta, hosted by St. Francis Yacht Club.

Bermuda Gets Through Gonzalo

Sat, 2014-10-18 18:38

Posted October 15, 2014

The organizers of the Bermuda Gold Cup report of their fleet of IODs—

Hamilton BERMUDA, October 18, 2014 – The Royal Bermuda Yacht Club has announced that the Argo Group Gold Cup is still set to sail, albeit on a compressed schedule, starting Wednesday, October 22. Using the one-day-delay plan announced last Wednesday, the Argo Group Gold Cup will be compressed to five days of racing and organizers will take advantage of the fine weather expected after Gonzalo. Winds predicted to be in the 20kt range each day will help get the full event completed for the competitors and spectators.

Stage 6 of the Alpari World Match Racing Tour had been threatened by the category 3 hurricane that struck Bermuda on Friday night [October 17] with predicted winds of over 130 mph. Saturday morning island officials were accessing the damage and later in the day reopened the causeway that links the Bermuda International Airport to the Hamilton end of the island, points South and West.

Past Commodore Brian Billings, Chairman Argo Group Gold Cup sent the following communication to the competitors today [Saturday]:
Commodore Kempe spoke with the Governor of Bermuda this morning who expressed his hope that the storm will not stand in the way of the Argo Group Gold going forward in true Bermuda style.

The Argo Group Gold Cup organizing committee met at 3:00 this afternoon to review our status and we are happy to report that we are proceeding as planned to host the Argo Group Gold Cup with practice on Tuesday and racing beginning on Wednesday October 22th .

The causeway to the airport is now open and flights are expected on schedule Sunday. British Airways has re-booked many of the people due in Saturday to Sunday’s flight.

There was minor roof damage at the club which will not impact our facilities. The terrace and our famous bar will be open for business as usual Monday.

We need 8 IOD’s [International One Design sailboats used for match racing]. We normally have two spares. One of our spare IODs was damaged and we working on a replacement. Our Race Committee boat Cleopatra was unharmed as were our fleet of inflatable umpire boats.

We are checking with all our hosts to ensure that they can accommodate the competitors. While some hosts have had damage and may be running on auxiliary power or candlelight, almost all are ready to welcome our guests and backup arrangements are in progress where there is a problem.

We look forward to a fabulous hurricane party in the form of the 2014 Argo Group Gold Cup!

As previously announced the Renaissance Re Junior Gold Cup will remain on its original schedule Oct. 23-26. The juniors sail up to 5 races a day in the Great Sound for three days. The final day they race one last race on Hamilton Harbour doing the halftime break in the Argo Group Gold Cup finals.

The Family Festival of Sail, the initial event of Argo Group Gold Cup Week , was originally scheduled for Sunday Oct 19 in Barr’s Bay Park adjacent to RBYC. The festival is rescheduled to October 26 and will be part of the finals day celebration.

Thirteen countries are represented in the 2014 Argo Group Gold Cup. The matches will be sailed with the same 20-team format used in 2013. This Argo Group Gold Cup format is unique on the Alpari World Match Racing Tour. It allows for two 10-team groups. Skippers in each group are ranked and divided by Alpari World Match Racing Tour officials and the organizers at the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club.

Rankings in the groups are based on AWMRT and ISAF rankings and other performance factors. Each group will sail a 10-team round-robin. Each group’s top four teams move directly to the Quarter Finals. Ranking are updated to Oct. 15

Skipper ISAF Rank Nation Racing Team
Canfield, Taylor 1 ISV USone
Williams, Ian 2 GBR GAC Pindar
Richard, Mathieu 3 FRA LunaJets
Hansen, Bjorn 4 SWE Hansen Sailing Team
Robertson, Phil 5 NZL WAKA Racing
Monnin, Eric 6 SUI Swiss Match Race Team
Swinton, Keith 9 AUS Team Alpari FX
Gilmour, David 10 AUS Team Gilmour
Linberg, Staffan 11 FIN Alandia Sailing Team
Morvan, Pierre-Antoine 12 FRA Equipe de France
Berntsson, Johnie 16 SWE Stena Sailing Team
Poole, Chris 19 USA Riptide Racing
Herreman, Arthur 20 FRA MATCH THE WORLD
Stanczyk, Marek 32 POL www.470sailing.org.pl

So Long, Drydock 1

Sat, 2014-10-18 14:39

Posted October 15

There’s nothing new about seeing odd ships at Pier 50, on San Francisco’s southeastern waterfront. But this weekend, if you see one that’s sinking, it isn’t. The M/V Tern has come for our drydock.

Ken Watson’s pic, above, shows the Tern in a different place, on a different mission. The word from Coast Guard Public Affairs:

San FRANCISCO — The Coast Guard is enforcing a safety zone Saturday morning for the motor vessel Tern, a 590-foot vessel, that will transport the Port of San Francisco’s Drydock 1 to a green certified ship recycling facility near Shanghai, China.

The Tern will lift the 4,200-ton drydock out of the water on Saturday, at approximately 9 a.m. at Pier 50.

The Tern is a semi-submersible heavy-lift vessel, which partially sinks itself so that cargo may be floated over its cargo deck. The Tern then de-ballasts to lift the cargo out of the water to complete the heavy lift operation.

The San Francisco-based drydock is 128-feet wide and will be slightly wider then the Tern.

While it may appear to be a ship sinking in the bay, it is actually a planned operation by the Port of San Francisco.

The Coast Guard will enforce a 500-foot safety zone to ensure that the vessel is effectively able to conduct their heavy lift operations.

Following a couple of days of sea fastening, the Tern will depart on Tuesday for the recycling facility near Shanghai.

Things Go Bump

Sat, 2014-10-18 11:59

Yann Riou/Dongfeng Racing

Posted October 15 by KL

During lunch just yesterday there was talk of collisions at sea between fast boats and the increasing mass of junk floating around in the ocean.

I don’t have numbers on this, but it’s my strong perception that, every transpac, there are more people arriving in the islands talking about hitting things, having to back down to clear debris, etc. This comes up because the Volvo Race story of the day goes —

ALICANTE, Spain, Oct 18 – Dongfeng Race Team lost the lead in the Volvo Ocean Race early on Saturday after the boat hit an unidentified object and broke their rudder.

They lost the lead but replaced the decimated part and they were soon back sailing at 20 knots.

The problem enabled Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing to take the lead but the rest of the fleet were still hot on their heels.

The Chinese team’s problems began at 0210 UTC when a ‘violent impact’ hit the boat.

Dongfeng’s onboard reporter Yann Riou picks up the story: “We had two options, installing the emergency rudder or removing what was left of the old rudder and putting the new one in place. We decided to go for the second option.

“Thomas (Rouxel) put the diving suit on. He jumped into the water… removed what was left from the old rudder (not much) and we put the new one in place.

“We are all disappointed… it does not look very fair but there’s nothing to do about this.”

It has not been plain sailing for Ian Walker’s Abu Dhabi crew either. They reported narrowly missing a net yesterday afternoon but the winds were so light that they were able to take avoiding action.

Team Brunel and Team SCA were not so lucky and were held up briefly after debris caught in their keels.

The Dutch boat even had to send a swimmer into the water to dive down to remove a strip of rubber from their keel.

The women’s team also showed an irregular track and reported running into a fishing net, leading to more lost time behind the rest of the fleet who are now some 50 miles ahead of them.

The seven-strong fleet were expected to arrive in Cape Town in the first leg from Alicante at the beginning of November but their estimated arrival may be delayed after light winds in the Atlantic held up their progress.

What Does It Take to Restore a Lake?

Sat, 2014-10-18 00:46

San Francisco, CA, is on the leading, bleeding edge of environmental goodism — and we need more, much more of that, intelligently applied.

SF’s Mountain Lake Park is connected to the underground system, including Lobos Creek and it’s natural spring, that feeds 80 percent of the fresh water to the Presidio. This is playground central to one of the best family neighborhoods of the city.

Highway 1 roars past on the northern reach, with cars coming from, or going to, the Golden Gate Bridge.

Long ago, the first Spanish military mission camped here—because there was water—before establishing their first version of “The Presidio.”

And here is the story, as delivered by longtime SF Chronicle science writer David Perlman:

Recovering Mountain Lake Park.

So It’s, Like, Mid-October

Sat, 2014-10-18 00:06

By Kimball Livingston Posted October 17, 2014

And in case you didn’t know, come mid-October, all bets are off for breeze on San Francisco Bay.

And it’s not only “like.” It really is mid-October.

The seabreeze season has come and gone.

The Farr 40s have come, and they’re not gone yet.

One more day of racing remains for the 17th Farr 40 World Championship title, and Saturday promises to be better than Friday.

Friday was a long un-day of un-racing.

Even the pinnipeds were unimpressed, almost as unimpressed as if they had just heard the news that we’re probably still two months away from knowing the venue for the next America’s Cup match.

San Diego or Bermuda. Bermuda or San Diego.

(Not the thing most on anyone’s mind at the moment among our friends in Bermuda.)

Hey there, Gonzalo. Now go away.

At the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club, they’ve pushed back the start of the Argo Group Gold Cup to Wednesday next, and they’re hoping, of course, that they still have boats to sail.

The Gold Cup is stage 6 of the Alpari World Match Racing Tour, and Bermuda had a brush with Hurricane Fay only last Sunday, October 12. Now, less than a week later, here is Gonzalo. Probably, there will be boats to sail.

International One Designs.

Bermuda being the one stop on the Alpari World Match Racing Tour where the fleet on offer is comprised of boats that do not not not turn on a dime.

Italy’s Francesco Bruni won the Gold Cup the last time around. Ian Williams and Taylor Canfield, past winners both of the Tour, have the Tour lead going into Bermuda with Williams six points in front. The Briton, Williams, will be arriving on short time from the Farr 40 Worlds racing in San Francisco, where he’s been sailing as tactician on Helmut Jahn’s Flash Gordon 6.

And while we’re almost on the subject, here’s the latest un-update from the Farr 40 Class:

The breeze that usually makes San Francisco such a popular place for sailors was noticeably absent for the penultimate day of competition at the Rolex Farr 40 World Championship. A low pressure system had siphoned most of the air off the Bay, and with the fleet drifting around on the Berkeley Circle for several hours, the Race Committee took the decision to abandon attempts to run a race.

Basically the breeze didn’t cooperate,” said Principal Race Officer Peter Reggio. “We had a fairly nice forecast for the day of a southerly between 8-12 knots. We got out there for a noon start and waited around until about 1:30-2:00 p.m. and we finally got what looked like a nice sea breeze, a nice little westerly. It filled in for about 35 minutes and we started to set up a course and as we were doing that the breeze died and the Bay went back to glass. We brought the boats back up to the west of Alcatraz hoping that if the sea breeze came in later in the day we’d at least be closer to it.”

The ripple effect is that the starting time for the final day of racing, Saturday, October 18, has been pushed forward an hour to 11:00 a.m. Regatta organizers hope to run three races before the 3:30 p.m. cutoff time after which a race cannot be started per the sailing instructions.

New York’s Alexander Roepers, on Plenty, goes into the final day of the championship with a 1-1-1-6-4-1 scoreline for 14 points, and an almost unassailable 18-point lead on his closest competitor, Australia’s Martin Hill on Estate Master. Italy’s defending Rolex Farr 40 World Champion, Alberto Rossi on Enfant Terrible, is third overall with 33 points, followed by Andrew Hunn on the Australian-flagged Voodoo Chile, with 34 points. With 39 points, three-time Rolex Farr 40 World Champion Jim Richardson of Newport, R.I. and Boston, Mass., rounds out the top-five in the 19-strong international at the helm of the Australian-flagged Kokomo.

The day ended . . .

And that would have been enough breeze, if only it had been around all day.

By the way, in case you missed it—

Photo © Avila Gonzalez/San Francisco Chronicle

2104 ANNAPOLIS TEST SAILS: Bavaria Cruiser 46, Xc 35, Beneteau Oceanis 35

Fri, 2014-10-17 18:30

Just back from test-sailing boats après-show this past week at Annapolis. Five boats in two days in fairly strong conditions, with the wind blowing 20 knots at time. Once I even saw gusts to over 30. This is ideal! Normally we get light wind, which makes it harder to get a good sense of how boats behave. My first boat on day one was the Bavaria Cruiser 46, which really is just a new updated version of the Bavaria Cruiser 45. The hull and underwater appendages are the same, but the deck and interior have been modified. As you can see in that photo up top, she has a very wide butt and an enormous fold-down transom.

I shared my test-sail with John Kretschmer of Sailing magazine (whose most recent book, Sailing A Serious Ocean, I highly recommend), and unfortunately we spent much of our time aboard trying to get the sails to set properly. The boat had just been set up and had never been sailed before and still needed a good bit of tweaking to get going anywhere near her potential. This is actually fairly common, and we try to work around it as best we can, but here’s a hot tip for builders and dealers: to get the best reviews, prep the boat first if you can.

Fortunately, in this case I had previously tested a Bavaria Cruiser 45 in Grenada that had been meticulously prepared by James Pascall of Horizon Yacht Charters, so I knew exactly what the boat is capable of. She’s a powerful modern cruiser, quite fast for a boat of this type, and easy to control on the wind, in spite of her wide transom, thanks to her twin rudders.

John at the helm. The twin helm stations are comfy to steer from, with neat flip-up foot chocks in the cockpit sole that help keep you in place when the boat is heeled. There are winches right by each wheel, but they are under-sized. You need to go electric, or order bigger winches, or both (just in case you lose power)

Our test boat had the standard in-mast mainsail (spars are by Selden), which is controlled by twin mainsheets in a bridle. This is not the same as a double-ended “German” mainsheet–they are actually two single-ended sheets, which allows you a bit more control over sail shape. Of course, there’s a vang to help with that, too

One of the changes in the boat’s interior is this optional island twixt the galley and saloon table. This replaces a short bench seat. The island provides better support for a cook working underway, with easier-to-access storage cabinets, and improves traffic flow for those moving forward. There’s a flip-up jump seat at the base of the island so you can still seat extra people at the table. Also, the new interior has no nav station, but you can order the saloon table with optional nav desk drawers at either end

My second boat of the day was the new Xc 35 from X-Yachts of Denmark. X-Yachts is well known for their fast racer-cruisers, and this is their take on a straight cruising boat.

This boat has a fuller hull below the waterline than other performance boats from X-Yachts, to increase tank volume and ease the boat’s motion. It’s still narrow compared to other modern cruisers and sails extremely well. I think most folks would call it a cruiser-racer, and you could certainly race it if you wanted

This is Forbes Horton, one of our hosts for the test sail. (Coincidentally, I learned during our outing that he once almost bought my old boat Crazy Horse!) The boat has twin steering stations, but only one rudder. We pressed it as hard as we could sailing upwind (with a full main in 20 knots of breeze) and it never let go of the water. One problem on the test boat was that there was nothing to hold on to in the cockpit when the boat was heeled. You definitely want to order the optional cockpit table, and I’d like to see granny bars over those low-slung wheel pedestals

I shared this test sail with the Boat of the Year evaluation team from Cruising World. That’s editor-at-large Tim Murphy, me old roommate (who also, coincidentally, crewed on Crazy Horse the first time I ever took her offshore), in the foreground and that’s editor-in-chief Mark Pillsbury behind him

The interior of the Xc 35 is a bit cramped compared to most other modern cruising boats, but this is the price you pay for superior performance under sail. I particularly liked this versatile saloon table

And the boat does have a proper nav station, which is something you don’t see on many new cruising boats these days

Below the cabin sole you’ll also find a super-strong steel hull grid to carry the mast and keel loads

And here’s a revolutionary concept: plenty of appropriately sized winches! The boat comes standard with two winches on each side of the cockpit–the ones aft, by the helm stations, are just for the double-ended mainsheet (led under the side-deck, as you can see here), and the ones forward are just for the headsail sheets. No clutching or un-clutching of lines is required to simply handle sheets, which is the way life should be IMHO. One very nice feature on the mainsheet is that with crew working both winches you can pick up the sheet really fast. All other control lines are handled with another pair of winches on the coachroof

The last boat I sailed on day one was the new Beneteau Oceanis 35, a slightly smaller version of the Beneteau Oceanis 38 that rang lots of people’s bells last year and won many awards, including a Best Boat nod from SAIL.

Like all boats in the latest Oceanis iterations, this one has twin wheels, twin rudders, and a big mainsheet arch forward of the cockpit. The transom, of course, folds down, and those helm seats you see fold up out of the way when you want maximum access to the water

I shared this test sail with Zuzana Prochazka, seen here steering the boat on a broad reach. This boat, too, hadn’t been properly prepared, and the standing rig was way out of tune, but it sailed pretty well in spite of this

Like the 38, the Oceanis 35 is all about its unconventional versatile interior. Our test boat had the two-cabin Weekender layout, which we’re told is by far the most popular of the several options available. It features this super wide-open saloon space, plus one segregated stateroom aft that has a huge athwartship double berth

It also (drum roll, please) has a very large segregated shower room. Not a stall, a room. You could have a party in there!

You can look for more detailed reviews of these boats, plus our picks for this year’s Best Boats, in upcoming issues of SAIL magazine.

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