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Lest We Forget: The Carib 1500 Crews Who Won’t Make it to Tortola This Year

Fri, 2014-11-14 09:32

Nothing ever bad happens in the rally, right? If you read the daily news stories over the years, you’d certainly think so. But despite what I sometimes think of as the ‘propaganda’ that we post in the news and features during the 1500 (and I’m myself responsible for producing it), I feel we ought to focus at least occasionally on some of the more unfortunate realities of ocean sailing. Namely, not everyone is, or will be, partying in the Virgin Islands when this thing is all said and done.

And I’m not talking about maritime disasters here. Since I’ve been involved with the 1500, I’m happy to say that we’ve had no major mishaps aside from some bumps and bruises and a dislocated shoulder last year. No sinkings or abandonments, no dismastings, just the normal ‘wear and tear’ that an ocean passage puts on a sailboat (knock on wood – believe me, I know how much luck is involved in that, especially with a large fleet of boats. Put me on a boat and I’m pretty confident we’ll get there. But with this fleet, it’s mostly out of my hands). But nevertheless, each year, there are always one or two boats that will fall by the wayside and ultimately be forgotten by the fleet that makes it safely to Tortola. And that’s the focus of today’s news item.

Before the fleet even left the dock, we had our first dropout. Rockhopper, a Morgan 45, was forced to drop out of the fleet for medical reasons. It was heartbreaking hearing the news from Frank and Suzanne, knowing that this was a dream of theirs as well. They’re two little doggies, Oz and Jonesy, provided some comfort with their constant yapping and smiling, but the news was still difficult to swallow. 

I can personally attest to their feelings, a little bit anyway. My dad took his boat, Sojourner, offshore to the Caribbean last year with the 1500, but he was one crewmember short. He and my mom had bought their boat, a Wauquiez Hood 38, in 2009, and had planned to cruise on it long-term over the following few years. Instead, mom got brain cancer and died in 2012. My dad stuck to his plans though, and with a heavy heart, headed offshore anyway last year, and again this year, leading the ARC Bahamas fleet to Marsh Harbor.

My dad wasn’t alone in that endeavor either. Without naming names, at least three other boats in the 1500 fleet this year are in similar situations, dreams altered with the loss of loved ones, but continued nonetheless. 

Thankfully for Rockhopper, Frank and Suzanne still have each other, and will continue cruising, just a little closer to shore. When we left them at Ocean Marine Yacht Center in Portsmouth, they were planning to cruise south on the ICW, remain close to medical care, and take their trip a day at a time. We wish them the best.

Shortly after the rally start, the fleet lost Heart’s Desire, a Pacific Seacraft 37. Though it ended well for John and his crew, it was a scary start for Rally Control. I got a phone call from the US Coast Guard while we were back in Pennsylvania, who said that one of our boat’s had issued a Pan Pan. After the initial shock wore off from the USCG call, I had to smirk to myself over the Pan Pan call. Mario Vittone, ex-USCG rescue swimmer, who had spoken during the seminar program in Portsmouth, had highlighted the usefulness of a Pan Pan.

“Nobody that I can recall ever required a rescue after issuing a Pan Pan,” he’d said. “A Pan Pan let’s us know that you’ve got a small issue on board but are working on it. As soon as it turns into a bigger issue, we know exactly where you are and what’s up, and can come and help. But usually, the folks responsible enough to call Pan Pan, end up working the issue out on their own.”

That’s exactly what John and his crew did. They had a minor engine issue, and managed to sail back to Virginia Beach without outside assistance.

“Turns out it was a very simple fix,” John told me on the phone once they were back on shore. “Almost so easy I’m embarrassed to even talk about it! The problem was, I was the only one onboard capable of fixing it, and I was too seasick to go below.”

John took the conservative route and headed back home safely. Last we spoke, he had gotten help from Trudy, our wonderful volunteer in Hampton, who rustled up some crew and helped John take Heart’s Desire to the marina for winter storage. He’s planning on following Rockhopped down the ICW and might make a run offshore to the Bahamas in early December once he gets a bit further down the coast.

Earlier this morning I spoke with Fred Ball, builder, owner and skipper of the Newick 50 trimaran Lucky Strike. They’d made it safely to Puerto Rico and Fred was about to board a flight to Miami while the friends he’d made in Portsmouth were enjoying a seminar on cruising the BVI.

“I’ve never been on a boat with someone that sick before,” Fred told me. “One of our crew, it turned out, had viral bronchitis. He was a little stuffy before the trip started, but figured it was just a cold and he’d get better. He didn’t.”

Fred said that this crewmember was so sick that he thought about the worst on a few occasions. They decided early on that with the upwind conditions, their quickest way to medical help would be to crack the sheets and aim for Peurto Rico, where they’d also conveniently be back in the USA and closer, in theory, to the American health system.

“We rolled him off the boat and got him into a hotel room the day we arrived,” Fred continued, “and immediately put him on an oxygen tank. He was on a plane the next day and is now back in Michigan in the hospital undergoing treatment. He’s getting better, which is good.”

It had to have been a brutal decision for Fred. This trip has been a longtime dream of his, and to abandon it only halfway through the passage had to hurt emotionally. Fred actually built the boat back in Michigan and had sailed it on the Great Lakes for it’s entire life. He’s getting a bit older now, and this Caribbean foray was to be a swan song of sorts. let the boat stretch it’s legs offshore, do the Caribbean racing circuit, maybe even cross the Atlantic to France, where multihulls are king. After all, he’d sailed Lucky Strike to victory in all the major Great Lakes races, so he had nothing left to prove back home.

But his trip’s not over yet.

“I’ll go back to Miami to be with Pam tomorrow,” Fred told me. “And the boatyard here is working on the engine and fixing a few minor issues. The boat did great. Aside from it being upwind and a little wet on deck, we had a great sail. I’ll be back soon enough and we’ll sail her over to Virgin Gorda where she’ll stay at the Bitter End for a while, and I’ll get back down here over the winter.”

Despite the situation, which appeared dire at times, Fred remains optimistic. Here’s to hoping he makes it. We owe you a rum punch, Fred!

So as the fleet continues to arrive in sunny Tortola, we in the rally office are making a point to think about the boats and crews who won’t make it here, who’s dreams of sailing over the horizon were put on hold, at least for a little while. With luck, we’ll see them down the line and will always be happy to lend a helping hand.

Podcast: Across the North Sea, Part 2

Fri, 2014-11-14 00:00

This is Part 2 of Andy & Mia’s last big offshore passage on Arcturus from 2012, when they sailed direct to Sweden from Scotland. If you missed Part 1, it was last Friday’s episode, so you’ll want to hear these in order.

Curse of the Dried Beans

Thu, 2014-11-13 22:54

I’m a fan of tinned beans. If I had to guess, I’d say I’ve mentioned tinned beans on this blog more than any other food. Mostly because dried beans hate me. That’s life. But I have a two-part problem: a) they don’t sell tinned beans here, and b) I like to cook with beans. This leaves me with the dried bean option.

I like hummus, and they don’t sell that here, either. So I broke down and bought a bag of chickpeas. Every few days I would think about making hummus. I’d look at the chickpeas in their plastic package, and recall they had to be soaked overnight. “Oh, well, it is only one o’clock; I’ll do that later.” And then forget.

Last night I pulled myself together. I ripped open the package, tossed the chickpeas in a bowl, and covered them with water.
“Let’s give this a try, okay little chickpeas?” My track record is not good. I was reasonably certain the chickpeas would be green and disgusting by morning.
The sun came up, and all looked well in the bowl. I checked the directions: bring to a boil, then simmer 20-30 minutes.
Which I did. And they softened. And by 30 minutes in, they actually tasted pretty good. I was feeling quite pleased with myself until I dropped one down my shirt. (Note to the ladies: do not get hot chickpeas stuck in your bra. It really hurts, and is too embarrassing to relate to anyone except strangers on the internet.)

I drained the chickpeas and smiled at them in the colander. Well done, Amy, you master chef, you! But something was niggling at me. I picked up the colander and peered at my peas. One, two, three… there have to be six cups of cooked chickpeas in there. How many cups do I need? One. One cup.

I guess you aren’t supposed to reconstitute the whole bag at once. Does anyone know if you can freeze hummus? I’ll be over by the blender, peeling a million gloves of garlic.

Distributed Power Systems on an Average Cruising Boat: I say no!

Thu, 2014-11-13 16:20


Distributed power systems (or digital switching systems, or smart power systems, or intelligent, or multiplexing power systems…the industry is still settling on a name) are going into many new boats. I have a friend in the luxury power boat business, and he says distributed power systems save thousands of dollars, and reduce weight by hundreds of pounds, on every build. For builders it’s definitely the way to go for shipboard electrical systems. But is it right for owners?

If you’re not up on these systems, here’s what they do: Take the bow of your boat, where you might have some navigation lights, a windlass, a couple of reading lights in the forepeak, and a fan over the bunk. In a conventional installation you’d have a big set of cables running up to that windlass, a pair of wires to serve the nav lights, a pair to serve the fan, and a pair to serve the reading lights, but lights are often wired in parallel so that a pair of wires serves several cabin lights. In this conventional system, each circuit would have its own switch and its own fuse or breaker.

In a distributed power system a single pair of cables would run to a central location in the bow and terminate in a node or remote controlled breaker module (again, the industry hasn’t settled on one name). From this node, wires would branch out to the windlass, the nav lights, the fan, and the reading lights, but each device would be turned on and off through computer wizardry. You’d still have on-off switches for your reading lights, but the switches would actuate a breaker/switch within the bow node. All of these devices could also be controlled from a central location aboard.

The advantage of such a system is that instead of running four sets of wires to the bow, you only run one pair of cables and a tiny set of signal wires. Multiply this effect throughout a large boat with a complicated electrical system and it reduces the amount of wiring, and the time to install it, by a lot…by hundreds of pounds of wire, my friend says.

If you want to get fancy with one of these systems, the sky’s the limit. You could have a program, served from the central location, called “Night Sailing.” You press the night sailing button and the nav lights come on, the wind instruments, the electronics, and some very dim red footlights in the main cabin. You could have another program called “party time,” another called “night motoring” (add the steaming light), and one called “at anchor.” The system could tell you when a bulb blew out, or when something was consuming more power than normal, or when a bilge pump was running more than it should, or how cold it is in your freezer.

Manufacturers include Carling, with its Octoplex platform, Swedish company EmpirBus, and Capi2, just to name a few. Ben Ellison has written extensively on the subject on Panbo.

The problem with these systems, or the potential problem, is summed up in one word: Computer. There’s that saying about how to err is human, but to really screw things up it takes a computer, and I think I’d rather not have a computer controlling the juice to my shipboard electronics when I’m trying to thread the needle between a couple of ice bergs in shallow water to get into a tight anchorage before the storm blows in: “Oh yeah, no big deal, just have to re-boot the system and it’ll be fine. Oh wait, it seems to be hanging up. Let’s try de-powering it completely then re-install the configuration file…” You get the idea.

As I’ve said before, marine electricians and marine electronics experts (except those who make distributed electrical systems) seem more apt to quail at the mention of anything “networked,” be it the boat’s whole power system or just the electronics. We like things simple and field repairable.

Hallberg-Rassy uses the EmpirBus system on all of their new builds. The pages in the owner’s manual (section starts on page 20) that refer to the “state of the art distributed power system” scare me out of the whole idea: the recommended spares, troubleshooting, and contacting the EmpirBus dealer in say, Palau. With a conventional electrical system you could get away with a spares kit consisting of spare fuses/breaker, some wire, and some crimp-on lugs and connectors…and any marine electrician, anywhere in the world, could repair your system.

Manufacturers claim these systems are fairly dependable, but bugs, interoperability issues, and vendor reliability are always at play with any technology.

Still, the technology is probably too good to pass up on new builds for larger boats. Distributed power systems have been used on aircraft for decades and very few seem to fall out of the sky. Commercial aircraft have thousands of circuits, and some of these newer yachts may come close, but on an average cruising boat I draw the line. I’m saying there’s a sweet spot – somewhere – and below that it’s just not worth it.

I counted all the circuits on my 40-foot cruising boat, and I’ve got most of the gadgets. Forty circuits. All the lights, all the pumps, all the electronics, all the blowers and fans, and it adds up to forty different electricity-consuming devices. Forty circuits just doesn’t add up to enough complexity to warrant a distributed power system, in my book.

And here’s a second reason to ponder: LED lights. I’ve only changed a few of my shipboard lights to LEDs, but over time, as the old fixtures fail or get uglier, I’ll eventually switch all of my lights to LEDs. LED lights use less power, produce less heat, and thus use smaller wires. If one of the main goals of distributed power is to reduce wire weight, LED lights accomplish much of this same end when you consider that the majority of your onboard circuits service various lights. (Of the forty devices on my boat, half are lights.)

The current ABYC standard says that 16 gauge is the smallest wire you can use aboard a recreational yacht, unless it’s strictly a signal wire. Sixteen gauge is overkill for most LED lights. The pigtails coming off some new LED light fixtures are 20 gauge, maybe 22 (this is very small, like the size of a strand of dental floss). Point being, with wire this small, even at 18 or 16 gauge, you can serve all the lighting needs of an average cruising boat and the weight and complexity will be negligible. The wires feeding LED lights won’t be much bigger than the signal wires in a distributed power system. In other words, with or without distributed power systems, the wiring looms on the boats of the future will be much smaller anyway.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s definitely a place for distributed power systems in the marine world, and there’s no stopping progress, but I think it’s overkill and overcomplicating things for the average cruising boat. By average I mean a boat about like mine with something like forty circuits, and by cruising boat I mean likely to be in a place where parts and expertise may be months away.

One Fleet, Two Very Different Stories

Wed, 2014-11-12 13:28

Falcon, the 80’ Cookson, did the expected and beat the rest of the fleet to the BVI. The ex-America’s Cup training vessel, now a tricked out cruising yacht, sailed the course in just over seven days, arriving Monday night around 9pm.

“We had the perfect passage,” said the yacht’s owner Cary St. Onge. Never more than 10-15 knots of wind, close reaching or close-hauled. Falcon does great in those conditions.”

“Any hobby horsing?” asked Ron Horton of Lone Star, the third boat to arrive almost 24 hours after Falcon, on Tuesday afternoon.

“None at all!” answered skipper Ryan St. Onge, Cary’s son. “No, we’re long enough and narrow enough that we just slice through the waves,” he added.

Rosemary, Matt & Bill of Crazy Horse, all circumnavigators

Crazy Horse, who recently circumnavigated with World ARC, was the second boat to arrive. Rosemary Thomas was quick to remind Lone Star who won.

“Crazy Horse defeats Lone Star – the Indians finally beat the Cowboys!” she exclaimed, as she helped Lone Star tie up to the dock. 

As I write this, this eighth boat is making her way into Nanny Cay Marina. Winedown called us a short while ago as the yellowshirts were having lunch, very excited to have completed the passage south.

“Winedown, this is Rally Control. You’re loud and clear on channel 72. Proceed into the marina and towards slip B One Six. We’ll see you on the docks shortly with your cold rum punch!”

“Make that a double!” exclaimed skipper Dale over the VHF.

Besides the three early arrivals, until early this morning it’s been awful quiet in the marina. The yellowshirt team has been on island since Friday. However, due to the one-day delayed start (which, in fact, was two days later than in 2012 and 2013), the fleet started arriving later than usual, and we had several days to get caught up and actually enjoy some of the amenities of Nanny Cay Marina. Yesterday was spent playing volleyball on the beach and swimming in the ocean.

But it’s not all fun and games. In fact, the quietness inside the marina is not a good sign for us rally staff. While on the surface it’s provided us with some rare free time, we know it’s only really delaying the inevitable rush of arrivals later this week, which will also force a re-arranging of the arrivals program. But no worries – we’re on island time!

Lyall, Jake and Andy showing off their ‘staches for Movember!

The other reason for the later arrivals is of course the weather. If you’ve followed the blogs that the boats are sending in from at sea, as well as our frequent Facebook posts from here in Nanny Cay, you’d have seen that the weather is not exactly favorable, especially for the smaller, slower boats towards the back of the fleet. A contrary wind has been blowing from the southeast for days now, severely slowing the progress of the fleet and reminding anyone watching from home why the traditional sailing directions say GO EAST! while you have the chance. Certainly some of the fleet would wish for a mulligan on the first half of their trip south to do just that.

Lone Star crew is nicely dressed as they make their arrival on Tuesday

As it is, they’ll just have to do their best to find the favorable tack and make their way south. Some of the smaller boats, like the sister ship Vancouver 42’s Moonshadow and Mystic Shadow, still have over 400 miles of ocean between them and Tortola. And with a VMG of only around 3 knots, that’s a lot of hours remaining on the water.

“After 8 days of sailing only 350 miles left to go!” wrote Opportunity, one of the smaller boats, a Corbin 39, bringing up the rear of the fleet. “But only if we sail in a straight line, and not the zigzag upwind path of the last couple of days. The winds have been light to moderate and just lately we have been enjoying a stiff 20 knot breeze, all from the southeast, with lumpy seas, so not the best conditions for getting anywhere fast.”

Regardless of the time they’ve got left, they certainly seem to be enjoying themselves.

“Every day has been sunny and warm and every night softly moonlit, we have fresh mahi-mahi on the menu thanks to Duncan, and even caught a few squalls today to rinse away some of the salt from the boat and ourselves! We have sea and sky all around and haven’t seen another boat in about three days. All in all a great week of sailing!”

I will readily admit that it is a big relief to me to hear such positive thoughts from the crews at sea. One of the hardest things to do as rally organizer is to remain ashore as I send the fleet off into the wilderness. I’d love nothing more than to be there with them, to lead from the front so to speak, and take my lumps with everyone else. As it were, there’s just too much work to do ashore, especially communications wise. At any rate, I sympathize with them, but still feel like, on a trip like this, it’s as much about the sailing and about being on the ocean as it is about getting here. I’ll take the mid-Atlantic on a sailing boat over Nanny Cay Marina any day of the week. And I mean that.

The arrival programs kicks off in earnest tonight with the first happy hour at the Beach Bar just before sunset. Club Carp, who arrived earlier today, have already familiarized themselves with the place earlier today, sampling the local libations over a much-deserved cooked lunch at the bar. We expect another half-dozen boats between now and noon tomorrow. 

Follow the hourly updates on the Caribbean 1500 Facebook page at facebook.com/carib1500.

Signal K, a true game changer?

Tue, 2014-11-11 20:00

Written by Bill Bishop on Nov 11, 2014 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub

I see a lot of marine electronics and I’m hard to impress. There’s a lot of the new, faster, bigger and brighter appearing every year. However I get very enthused when I see real innovation appear. CHIRP sounder technology and WiFi enabled chart plotters are a couple of excellent examples. But now there is Signal K, and I’m really excited. This is potentially a game changer on a grand scale, and I’ll attempt to explain what’s happening and its long term implications for your boat.

Signal K is a universal data model that allows data and information about your boat, and other boats both locally and across the globe, to be easily shared. It speaks the language smart phones, tablets and the wireless Internet understand in our now much more connected world. This capability has not existed in any meaningful way before, and now it’s quicky becoming a reality.

The possibilities are nearly endless. Since Signal K can make all your boat’s data available in a consistent Internet-friendly open source format, developers worldwide would be free to create applications for your boat. This is because Signal K’s communication format makes it much simpler to access and use your boat’s information, especially for mobile devices and cloud based servers.

There are security levels to control this access, but if you allowed it, a marina could sense your boat and automatically send you docking information. Crowd sourcing of data such as water depths can be automatic. You could see not only your depth, but the depth of the boat in front of you. Sharing of your waypoints, POI’s, and even the yacht club trip route becomes simple. Check in on your boat from anywhere in the world or be notified by email if problems arise. It may seem incredible, but this is part of Signal K’s overall vision and it’s much closer to reality than you might believe. Your boat’s WiFi antenna will become in many ways as important to you as its VHF antenna.

In order to understand what Signal K is about, we have to take a look at what capabilities our boats currently have for dealing with information. Instruments and sensors gather data and typically send it to other devices using the NMEA 0183 or newer NMEA 2000 formats. NMEA data is collected, packaged and transmitted in related groups. For example the NMEA 2000 engine parameters PGN 127489 contains things like oil pressure, voltage, and also has a large number of status indicators such as “water in fuel” alarm status and others.

Your chartplotter’s software takes this data, sorts it out and displays the information on its dedicated data pages for you. It works well and nobody argues with this….. unless you want to use a mobile device and/or the Internet to easily see your boat’s data. Wouldn’t you like the limited number of wireless marine apps that are now available to do much more?

The crux of the issue is that NMEA’s communication formats understandably did not foresee the exponential growth of both the Internet and wireless communications. NMEA 2000 made its first appearance in 2001. There was virtually no wireless Internet access. Tablets and smart phones didn’t exist either. In 2014 alone over $200 billion of these smart computing devices will end up in consumer hands.

In a world where there should be hundreds of mobile apps that use your boat’s data, there are only a few. You can buy black boxes that will transmit NMEA 0183 and 2000 data wirelessly, but the manufacturers tend to use different formats and offer different subsets of the data available. This makes it difficult for app developers. They can’t just write one app and have it apply to all boats, but instead have to add individual support for different module types. Fiscal incentives for both the app developers and the gateway developers is quashed by the inherently small and fractured market. These problems can all be solved by Signal K in a very clever and unique way.

Signal K by itself isn’t designed to replace your existing navigation system. Instead it augments your boat’s potential and provides the tools developers need to create meaningful apps for your vessel with secure connections to the outside world.

Signal K is a system that takes NMEA and many other types of data and places it into a consistent and predictable data model (a schema). Think of the Web — every page has a different and unique URL. The same URL always takes you to the same page, although the content may differ second by second. Some are available permanently, some are not. Some are restricted, some are public. And most importantly you can access them from any device. Signal K applies the same concepts to your boat’s data. It defines a consistent and predictable “URL” for each individual data item.

The typical data elements shown in the schema sample all have a similar format. The information in the schema is human readable, making is easier for app programmers to access it. In the example shown it’s “headingMagnetic.” Value means this is a number and it’s currently 43 degrees. The source of the the data in this context is “self” meaning it’s comes from your boat, and “time stamp” is when the data was received by the schema so we know how fresh, or old, the data is.

The schema also stores other things important to you. Information about AIS targets, charts, routes, tides, waypoints, VHF/HF call signs, MMSI numbers, alarm set-points, cruising notes, names of crew members and much more. As the schema continues to grow, existing data types keep their original URLs, and new information types such as your sailboat’s polar data get new and unique URLs. This allows Signal K applications to keep working despite the inevitable new additions to the schema as it grows.

Arduinos can interface too

Open source hardware such as Arduinos create the opportunity to capture data and/or to manage NMEA as never anticipated. For example Signal K already has a seawater salinity data element in its schema. Arduino’s can sense this along with many other monitoring possibilities such as engine room or freezer temperatures. Lighting control with motion sensors, audio alarms like “Warning bilge high water!” and more are possible by integrating Ardunios into a Signal K based system. The Freeboard Project is completing software to allow Arduino’s to directly communicate with Signal K.

Arduinos are small, powerful and very inexpensive ($60.00) computers used to deal with the physical word. They have many inputs and outputs both digital and analog. An example of a current Arduino boating application is Jack Edward’s very successful and home-built autopilot system, which I wrote about here.

The open source Freeboard system uses Arduinos and Raspberry Pi’s to create a browser-based navigation system that uses Signal K. As part of that effort Freeboard has developed a set of specialized interface boards to aid in connecting Arduinos to your boat and Signal K. There are connections for a GPS, Peet Bros wind instrument and a water speed paddle wheel sensors along with basic autopilot functionality (a work in progress). The Freeboard Project is now rapidly approaching turnkey status. You can learn more about the Freeboard Project here.

So where is this all going? Signal K may lead toward a world where your boat’s displays are commodity items like tablets and smart phones. You select your functionality in the same way you select apps for your cellphone. Add new capabilities like crowd-sourced cruising notes. If a 15″ waterproof sunlight viewable tablet appears, just secure it to the helm, and history suggests they will appear. Waterproof cellphones (Samsung S5) are now readily available. It’s clear Signal K has game changing potential for both recreational, and commercial boating. Nothing else like it exists in a developer friendly format to accomplish this.

Navguage is an example of an open source project that has pledged support for Signal K. Navgauge takes Signal K data and uses JavaScript and SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics) to created browser-based customizable displays for PCs, tablets and phones. You can see a demonstration page showing this capability online here.

The popular OpenCPN navigation PC based software is also planning to add Signal K functionality into their next major software revision and many others are now watching the system’s progress closely.

The project has come a long way in a very short period of time. Currently a basic reference server is operational. This is a type of software prototype design, to test against and ease continuing development. The basic hardware configuration on a boat will consist of a Signal K server running on a relatively inexpensive single board processor like a Raspberry Pi, a USB hub, and a WiFi router. The NMEA data inputs can come from NMEA 2000/0183 to USB gateways, and Ardunios if desired.

Signal K implementations like Navgauge, OpenCPN, the Freeboard Project, and others are all “Open Source” projects. Like other open source platforms, anyone who can help, including commercial developers, are welcomed and encouraged to participate. You can find information about how to do this at the Signal K website.

Signal K’s goal is to help your boat become more like an iPad. One reason the iPad became such a success was the way it provided a common platform that app developers worldwide could use. It’s the abundance of good apps that made the iPad such a runaway success, not just its hardware.

In Signal K’s world apps use all of your boat’s information, not just data from sensors. Social sharing and crowd sourcing becomes possible. Also viable would be apps that do long-term data monitoring and analysis or let you use your boat’s polar data in a race. Have you selected an avatar for your boat yet?

Bill Bishop is a professional marine electronics installer as well as creator of The Marine Installers Rant

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

LIVE Podcast: Billy Cullen’s Gadgets

Tue, 2014-11-11 00:10

Bill Cullen, accomplished offshore sailor and crewmember aboard Serenity in this year’s Caribbean 1500, guest-hosts the podcast to discuss his favorite gadgets for offshore sailing and down-island cruising. These are far from your ‘mission critical’ items that Andy is constantly harping on, but they’re fun, clever ideas for making the best of your time at sea. Bill has sailed in most parts of the world, and has a website called thebookofsail.com, where you can find examples to most of the gadgets he talks about today. This episode was recorded LIVE at the Caribbean 1500 seminar program in Portsmouth, VA.

Nice Guy Finishes First

Mon, 2014-11-10 15:29

Loïck Peyron was not scared to use the word “scared” in describing himself in his record Route du Rhum crossing.

Anyone who has met this radiant, unassuming, generous man (ask the wheelchair folks at BAADS) will doubly appreciate what a force of nature he is. Or perhaps we take it for granted that one human will undertake an Atlantic crossing of 3,500 miles in a 103-foot hotrod trimaran at speeds that most sailors never see in a lifetime?

A through-the-water average of 22.93 knots?

And a new record of 7 days, 15 hours, 8 minutes, 32 seconds for the route from Saint-Malo to Pointe-a-Pitre, Guadaloupe.

Peyron was a late stand-in for the intended skipper of Banque Populaire VII, Armel Le Cléac’h, who injured his hand two months ago and instead formed half of the weather routing team ashore. Together they pocketed the race early on, with Peyron negotiating a tough beat out the English Channel and then making the turn first into open ocean at Ushant. That gave him a jump that he never lost, even when the rubber band tightened briefly in light breeze near the Azores. At the finish, Peyron had a lead of 180 miles on Yann Guichard and the even-larger trimaran, Spindrift.

Banque Populaire VII on an earlier, fully-crewed mission

In 2010, Franck Cammas won the Route du Rhum on the same boat in a time of 9 days 3 hours. It was known at the time as Groupama, after one of the other French companies that find it worth their while to fund these ventures.

“I was supposed to do the Rhum race on a very small yellow trimaran,” Peyron said, “which will be the case in four years time, I will be back. But it is not a surprise because I knew that the boat was able to do it. I knew that the team was able to help me a lot.

“It is stressful for the boat to withstand high speeds in bad seas. I was able to sail well, but I was scared. This is what the multihull game is all about. One night I fell asleep at the helm and nearly capsized the boat. But this is a great victory, possibly one of the nicest, and breaking the record is the cherry on top of the cake.”

Peyron, 54, first raced trans-Atlantic as a 22-year-old. He has now raced across the Atlantic 49 times, including 18 solo passages, and he holds the around-the-world record. Is there any wonder that Artemis Racing would keep him on the team? And he has a real nice truck that he keeps in California. And he shows the world a lot of love, and he gets it back. Here is Loïck sailing in a BAADS regatta at South Beach, San Francisco.

That would be the Bay Area Association of Disabled Sailors . . .

Photo by Chris Barrineau

With apologies to R. Crumb, we can only say, Loïck,

YANN GUICHARD ARRIVES AT POINTE-A-PITRE

The word from the team —

Yann Guichard has finished the 10th edition of the Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe in second position. After 8 days, 5 hours, 18 minutes and 46 seconds of racing, his maxi-trimaran Spindrift 2 crossed the finish line in Pointe-à-Pitre today (Monday, November 10th) at 14:18:46 local time (18:18:46 UTC). The runner-up of this record-breaking transatlantic crossing finished 14h 10mn 14s behind the race winner, Loïck Peyron (Banque Populaire VII). Yann completed the official 3,542 nautical miles race at an average speed of 17,95 knots, although in reality travelled 4334 miles at an average speed of 21,96 knots!

Photo by Thierry Martinez

The 40-year-old Spindrift 2 skipper has not only successfully crossed the Atlantic in a 40m trimaran, the largest ever to compete in this race, but has achieved a magnificent second-place finish. His performance has gained the plaudits of his peers and of the huge crowd that has gathered at Pointe-à-Pitre’s main square, Place de la Victoire, where the atmosphere is incredible.

Slow Progress for the Caribbean 1500 Fleet

Mon, 2014-11-10 10:15

Thanks to a late start and slow progress at sea, the Yellowshirt team here in Nanny Cay has had time to explore Tortola more than usual. Prior to our hike up the gut yesterday, Mia and I had an opportunity to take a taxi into Road Town for a walk around and a visit to the smoothie guy. Afterwards we trekked to the big and very well-stocked Riteway supermarket just opposite the Moorings charter base for some breakfast and lunch fixins to hold us over for the week.

Meanwhile at sea, the fleet is still trudging along. Aboard Crazy Horse, the crew has been writing about their frustrating progress.

“Here we are at the under 200 mile mark,” wrote Crazy Horse. “These last couple hundred miles have been very frustrating thanks to the wind. It is constantly on our nose-precisely where we want to go! Southeast southeast! No matter what we do – put up sails, sail to the east, sail to the west, take sails down – no progress is made. One hour we made 2 miles. So finally we have decided to motor sail with one reef in the mainsail. We feel like we are clawing our way uphill to the finish line.” 

But despite the slow progress, spirits still remain high, if the logs are any indication.

Club Carp, for one, is still having fun with their daily dog quote: “Dog quote of the day #8: ‘Dogs like to ride in the back of pick-ups.’” Thanks for that Club Carp! They continued to write about their time onboard the boat (sans dog).

“Over to the daily meal recap (really all we do out here is sail, drink, and eat…that is when the Captain doesn’t have us checking items off his NEVER-ending to-do list — poor Susie can confirm), the “Cooke” whipped up a Mahi flambe with a cognac reduction last night coupled with brown basmati rice and baked beans (I did mention he was a Brit, right?). Finally, our spirits we given a warm boost by yet another rainbow amidst the daily squalls.”

Aboard Tom Tom, the shiny new Oyster 54, the crew is settled into life at sea and enjoying a proper ocean sail.

“This is what ocean rallying is all about – a wonderful night of sailing. After yesterday’s thunderstorms, with its 45-knot gusts, conditions are now as close to perfect as they could be – small puffy clouds highlighted by the waning moon – calmer seas, and 10-15 knots of breeze. After beating to the east, we’ve picked up a south easterly breez, a little off the nose, but the boat is beautifully balanced and running well as we enjoy the occasional lifts from the wind moving to the east and then the forecast north east trades as we approach Tortola.”

By late tonight we hope to welcome Falcon to the dock, who’s now officially beaten the trimaran Lucky Strike, and offer up the first rum punches of this year’s Caribbean 1500. Lucky Strike was earlier today forced to divert to Puerto Rico to attend to an ill crewmember, but are otherwise A-Ok. 

Due to the slow progress and the delayed start, the program in Nanny Cay will be modified this week to accommodate the stragglers. But don’t worry, every boat will still get their obligatory rum punch on arrival!

Hiking the ‘Gut’ in Tortola

Mon, 2014-11-10 08:44

Do cool stuff and then write about it.

I’m in the room now at Nanny Cay Hotel. Two double beds. Vaulted, wooden ceilings at least 15 feet high at the peak. A deck overlooking the courtyard where roosters run around and chase the chickens and the worms. A glass table (where I’m currently writing, pencil on paper in a sketchbook). A tiny kitchen with a stove, microwave and sink. A large ceiling fan hanging a good six feet down from the western slope of the roof. Tile floors and a wicker love seat. A wicker dresser as well, small bathroom and shower that is either scalding hot or a little too cold. A small flatscreen TV, which I’m sure in the years we’ve been coming here has never been turned on by Mia or me.

Mia’s lounging on the ‘junk’ bed typing her version of today’s events in Swedish on my computer. Hence why I am doing this in pencil.

The yellowshirt team, minus Lyall took a mission up the ‘gut’ behind the marina this afternoon. I’d heard a rumor from Brian Duff, our friend at BVI Yacht Sales that they’d been up it many times, yet in all the years we’ve come here, we’ve yet to try it. No time. But with the fleet now tacking against a southeasterly, we’ve got plenty of that. So I called Brian (Ted actually, who was with Brian) to get the lowdown.

“The start is easy to find,” he said. “Turn left out of the marina. When you get to the first little grocery store a few hundred yards down the road, turn right. Follow that road to the dead end and pass through the mechanic’s yard and down into the riverbed.”

Sounded easy enough. We’d gone to that very grocery in the past to buy plantains, so I knew it. 

“The top is harder. You’ve got to find the correct exit trail to get back to the road, or else you’ve got to retrace your steps down the gut again. It’s mostly rock climbing, so that could be difficult. Look for a trail to the right that continues across the river to your left. Follow it to the right. You’ll pass loads of wild pineapple – they have big flat leaves with little spikes on the end, like aloe plants – and you should get to Elevator Road within ten minutes. If you loop back to the river, it’s the wrong trail.”

We set off around 11:45, Jake’s backpack loaded with water and camera gear. We wore t-shirts, quick-dry adventure shorts and flip flops (figuring we’d be barefoot anyway on the steeper bits, and besides, none of us had any hiking shoes). 

We found the gut easy enough. At the end of the road by the grocery store we found the mechanic. Brian had said the ‘shade tree mechanic’, and he wasn’t joking. On the right side, a guy was out, under a large shade tress, working on a couple of derelict cars. Where the tree didn’t provided adequate shade, his white tarp covering the garden did.

From there we took a dirt path to the left. A mom and two baby goats blocked our path but let us pass, almost letting us pet them. The babies had sharp little horns, and for a while I expected them to try and headbutt me. 

Past the goats we followed a steep bank down towards the guy (really just a river bed that floods during the heaviest rains). I led the way, encountering a few spider webs (which would become a theme on this day).

Once into the gut itself, the going was easier, with less vegetation. Just a trickle of water remained this low down, despite the torrential rain on Friday. Large and small boulders littered the path, which we negotiated in our flip flops, hopping from one to another so as not to get our feet wet (though this would not last).


After a short while the terrain got steep. Small boulders gave way to much larger rocks. Water cascaded down the cracks and spaces between these rocks. We remained in shade throughout, the thick vegetation on either side swallowing the sunlight. Regardless, the heat and humidity had us all soaked.

There was more water now. Pools of it collected at the base of each little waterfall. Muddy pools, the visibility only two inches or so. Depth was hard to judge. At one point, as I approached a rock to scramble up, I slipped and fell backwards, sinking to my belly and soaking my shirt in the muddy water. By then Jake had already stowed our flip flops in the backpack.

Tortola, compared to the big, high islands south and east in the Caribbean, is drier. But this felt more like Grenada than the Tortola we’d become familiar with. It still didn’t have that grand rain-foresty feel, but it was enough to have Jake whistling the theme from Jurassic Park, which thereafter was stuck in my head the rest of the way up. Which wasn’t a bad thing – I love that film.

The hike was easy enough not to be scary, but challenging enough to really have some fun with. The middle 1/3 was the most technical. Waterfalls would cascade down large boulders, and several routes to the top of each pitch were visible. We’d inevitably choose the most difficult (or at least Jake and I did), which usually was directly up the falls itself.


“Gotta trust your arms on this one,” Jake said after he’d scrambled up the most difficult pitch of the day. He’d handed me the backpack so as not to soak it, and pulled himself up and over a small overhang over which the water was pouring. It wasn’t high – maybe eight feet –  but it did require some real upper body strength.

I tossed him the bag and followed, while Mia traversed around the side. I slipped, losing the grip with my left hand, and banged the inside of my left knee on a rock protruding from beneath the falls. No biggie, but it hurt like the pain from banging your funny bone. On the second go I made it.

“Old man Andy won’t let you show him up!” I teased Jake. “I’m the only one over thirty here you know!”

The climbing continued like this. Short, flat sections followed by steep pitches up and around the falls. Hermit crabs littered the rocks, hiding in the cracks and crevices. Small lizards scampered along ahead of us, and those big, black and yellow spiders kept impeding out way forward with their webs.

We scouted for the trail once it felt like we’d climbed pretty high. For the most part the gut was like a gorge, steep riverbanks each side and no place at all to exit. It’d be scary in there during a flash flood.

Once it flattened out again we found the trail quite easily in fact. Jake scouted to the left to ensure it actually continued that way, like Brian said it should. Confirmed, we again donned our flip flops and hiked out to the right.

After ten minutes and countless more spider webs – and a few cows looking at us from the adjacent hillside quite curiously – we emerged out of the forest and were greeted with a view out over the south, the Virgin Islands laid out far beneath us.

Back on the road, it felt nice to walk again rather than scramble on all fours. Jake managed to flag down the second car that passed and we hitched a ride down to Nanny Cay. We found Lyall by the pool, and the four of us went for a swim.

Inspect your sails: how to find UV damage

Mon, 2014-11-10 05:10

Cruisers flock towards the tropics, where all that sun exposure can be tough on sails. Short of alien ships on a bad landing approach, UV damage is the biggest culprit in ending the useful life of a sail. Jamie often checks sails on the boats we’re with, like Papa Djo next to us in the shipyard: in the last few months, a spate of them had no idea their sails suffered from moderate to severe damage.

It’s not difficult for cruisers to inspect their own sails and have a good pulse on the condition, so compromised integrity doesn’t unexpectedly turn a nice day on the water into a mess. Jamie shares his perspective in this first of two posts on evaluating UV damage to sails.

Sailmaker says:

As with Totem’s resident gecko repairing its damaged tail (it fell off), it’s possible to revive sails from minor and even severe damage. With the right cloth, know how, and machine a (oops, didn’t see that squall) shredded sail can fly again with reconstructive surgery. Recutting a blown out sail is also possible. The nip and tuck of a skilled sailmaker can remove some sag and stretch of a well used sail. The bigger question for cruising sailors is: is it worth it?

I’m all for extending the life of cruising sails and anyone that seen Totem’s current headsail can attest to that! Still, as frugal as cruisers tend to be, there comes a time when the underlying structure of a sail begins failing. The culprit is usually damage from the sun. Just as UV rays can cause skin cancer, it also can rob strength from the strongest sailcloth and thickest thread. No fixed exposure time signifies when a sail becomes a rag. Sailcloth, thread, and protective materials degrade at different rates. So every time “the bloody sun, at noon” beats down upon the sails, a clock ticks time away from their lifespan.

Checking the Derm

First, step back and look at the big picture of the sail in question. Just as sailors should check their skin for potential UV related problems (especially old farts, defined by my children as anyone over 40) they should also check sails for UV damage. It easy enough to do and like many cancers, early diagnosis goes a long way toward mitigating the problem. Stitching or sailcloth with some UV damage is repairable. A sail weakened by UV damage and flogged while reefing or tacking can quickly become a shredded mess. Shredded sails are much harder to fix. With inspection you can also get a good sense of when UV damage is bad enough that repairs are a waste of money. Fixing one failed seam may not make sense if pervasive rotted thread means all the other seams are on the edge of failure.

Stitching

Testing stitching is simple: just scrape a thumbnail across stitching in various areas of the sail. You have to put some force into it! Look for two things:

  1. Do the stitches break? Bad news, the thread is toast.
  2. Do the stitches fray? Rotting: the more fraying you have, the  more damaged it is.

Location matters. Stitching on the protective UV strip along a leech and foot is the first to go. Second is the mainsail leech area, because after dropping the main, the cover doesn’t always go on right away – does it? Test stitching on webbing reinforcement, seams, leech tapes, and batten pockets. You can also use this test for thread on dodger, bimini, leecloth, and mainsail covers, etc.

Stitching is the weakest part of any sail. Most sails and covers are sewn with UV stabilized Polyester (Dacron) thread, of varying thicknesses. In the tropics, two years of UV exposure on “UV stabilized” thread degrades strength by about 50%. That’s not a lab test figure, but drawn much experience. Higher latitudes may not have the same UV intensity (with exceptions like the ozone layer hole over New Zealand), but longer hours of sun in summer don’t help.

There’s a relatively new and supremely awesome thread that is little affected by UV: it’s PTFE (Teflon) thread. Tenara is a brand of PTFE thread made by Gore that sailmakers will know by name. PTFE thread is a little weaker than Polyester when both are new, though not so much as to compromise a sail. After time in the sun, PTFE retains its original strength while Polyester weakens significantly. PTFE thread is also very slippery, so I suspect a little more chafe resistant. Some sailmakers shy away from PTFE thread because is it more expensive and harder work with (read: a royal pain for sewers). Still, it’s a must-use on UV strips, mainsail and exterior canvas or covers. Long term tropical sailors should also consider PTFE thread for seams as well. It should only adds about 3% to the price.

This covers stitching; Part II will address sailcloth. And of course, if that sail is beyond salvaging, Jamie is an active sailmaker and would love to provide a quote for a new sail! And whether you are interested in a new sail from him or not, he’s happy to just answer questions to try and combat the reams of misinformation he sees online about sails.

Coming soon- Part II: evaluating sailcloth. Savvy sailors know we love it when you read this on the Sailfeed website.

Yellowshirts in the (rainy) Caribbean / First ARC Bahamas boats make landfall

Sat, 2014-11-08 10:40

After a brief respite back in Amish Country, where the Rally Control team was based after the Portsmouth pre-departure program, we’re back on the road and back in the islands. Unfortunately, it wasn’t exactly the warm Caribbean welcome we’d grown accustomed to over the past couple years.

Friday morning came awful early for Lyall, Mia and me. The alarm rang at 3:07am – it felt like I’d been woken for the dawn watch, so at least I could sympathize a bit with the sailors. But no, it was our wake-up call so we’d have time enough to make it to the airport for our 7:35 flight. At least there was no traffic on the roads as we meandered through the dark.

After a brief layover in Miami, affording us just enough time for lunch, we hopped the next flight to St. Thomas, where we’d meet Jake and take the ferry over to Tortola. Except that the ferry wasn’t running.

“You’ve got to go to Red Hook!” said the cabby at the airport. It was pouring down rain. “The ferries in town aren’t running this afternoon. Too much rain! If you’re lucky, you’ll make the last one out of Red Hook.”

Great. So the four of us saddled up in the big taxi van and were off for a tour of St. Thomas. Red Hook’s on the opposite side of the island, and the only way across is over the top. Rivers of water ran down the gutters alongside the impossible steep hills, and the tinted windows of the van made for an ominous view out over Charlotte Amalie harbor. By the time we reached the pinnacle of the hillsides, we were shrouded in clouds. Tinting or no tinting, there was nothing to see.

We did make the ferry in the end. Just in time. I paid cash for our tickets and we were herded onto the small ferry boat at the end of the dock. Standing room only for us four, and our bags were unceremoniously added the pile on the back of the boat and covered with an old blue tarp. Our stuff was soaked by the time we unpacked at Nanny Cay.

We disembarked at West End and walked, with all our stuff, down the muddy path to the Fish & Lime restaurant for a quick bite. We had to move tables because the wind was blowing the rain right in on our meals. Finally, after 14 hours of travel, we arrived into the familiar confines of Nanny Cay Hotel and crashed out before 10 o’clock. Despite the early bedtime, we still managed to oversleep this morning.

But it’s good to be back in the islands. And though I’d much rather have sailed here, it’s nice to be a day or two ahead of the fleet. Falcon isn’t due to arrive until early in the morning on Monday, so we’ve got the weekend off to swim, explore Tortola and get the program set for the rest of the week. 

Meanwhile, the majority of the ARC Bahamas fleet has made their arrival in Marsh Harbor at our new hosts at Harbourview Marina. Comocean, Toby Hynes’ Sabre 42, took line honors, crossing the finish line yesterday afternoon as we were en route to Tortola. They were closely followed by the J/World boat Euro Trash Girl, who made it to the islands despite their crews injury a few days prior. The two cats, Symmetry and Delphinus, arrived one after the other, after mirroring each other’s courses for nearly the entire route. Sojourner, my dads’ boat, brought up the rear, and should be arriving sometime this afternoon, if the wind holds.

“We’ve had a really calm passage so far,” said Dennis, my dad, and skipper of Sojourner yesterday on a short sat phone call while we were in Miami airport. “Thankfully, after this frontal passage, the wind is up in the twenties and were sailing again with the small jib and two reefs in the main. I thought we were going to run out of fuel.”

“We did have one issue with the boat,” he continued. “The external regulator on the charging system crapped out. Tom, [one of my crew], and I spent the afternoon rewiring it. Turns out that the alternator actually has an internal regulator on it, so we just bypassed the external one and we’re back in business. It was a bit scary cutting all those little wires though!”

The ARC Bahamas fleet will enjoy a happy hour tonight at Snappa’s bar and grill, adjacent to the marina. Tomorrow night, once the entire fleet is settled in, they’ll have their final prizegiving and beging their winter exploring the Abacos and the Bahamas.

2014 SOUTHBOUND LUNACY: Waiting on WX in Bermuda

Fri, 2014-11-07 21:28

Right now I’m sitting out my second gale-force WX feature since arriving here last Saturday morning. I had had some hope of getting out before it arrived and taking off Wednesday afternoon as soon as all my crew were onboard. A few boats left on Monday, bound south for the islands, and one took off Tuesday, but when that one came right back less than 24 hours later, saying their weather-router had threatened to disown them if they didn’t turn around, I could see the writing on the wall. No choice but to wait for this gishy low-pressure cell grafted on to a front to move through, and the plan now is to leave tomorrow morning, Saturday, exactly seven days after I arrived here.

This morning we had some excitement as Lunacy leaned away from one big gust of wind and started slowly dragging her anchor. It seemed then to stop dragging and hold again, but we didn’t have that much room behind us before we’d start hitting things, so we didn’t take any chances. With two crew aboard it was relatively easy to pick up the anchor and get underway in the howling breeze; singlehanded it would have been a serious challenge. As long as we were relocating, I reckoned we should find better shelter, so we moved from the usual yacht anchorage just east of Ordinance Island to a protected spot between Saint David’s and Smith Islands all the way across the harbor, from whence we have a good view of the big-boy yachts who all came in last night and anchored in the Powder Hole (see image up top).

Soon afterwards it came on screaming again like demons, but with heavy horizontal rain and big-time angry lightning bolts cracking directly overhead. The first close strike sent me jumping down the companionway like a whipped puppy, and we immediately took precautions and stuffed our personal electronics and the ship’s handheld GPS in the oven for safe-keeping.

Soon after the rain and lightning stopped I hopped into the dinghy to bail it out and found a needle fish that had accidentally jumped aboard and couldn’t get out again. Unfortunately, it died before I discovered it.

I suppose the fish is a metaphor, right? Though I’m still trying to figure out what it represents. I’m also wondering why its needle is below its mouth rather than over it.

While waiting on this weather, I have of course been fixing things. On Monday I came to the wall just east of Dowling’s fuel dock so I could get a mechanic aboard to consult about the engine-alignment situation. A young man, Jason, from Powell’s Marine, agreed with my diagnosis that the engine was now more-or-less straight again, and that the engine mounts were loose, and with some fancy wrenches he had we managed to get everything tightened up again. I also replaced the luff-slide straps on the mainsail headboard after filing the edges down a bit.

Being on the wall was a big nostalgia trip for me, as the last time I laid here, in this very same spot, was in 1995 aboard Crazy Horse. I was here three weeks then, waiting on parts and fixing all sorts of broken things, and met all sorts of people. One of them was a young fisherman named Troy, a gentle affable soul, who was always pointing out one of his fishing rivals around the waterfront and exclaiming: “I see you, spy!”

Right after I tied up here on Lunacy, I was thinking of him, repeating that phrase to myself, and soon afterwards came out on deck and found myself talking to Troy, the current version, 19 years older than last time I saw him.

I love it when stuff like that happens.

A big part of waiting on weather in Bermuda is finding about what’s going on with other boats, and yes, I have learned a thing or two since last I posted here. Starting with Adesso, the boat I mentioned before that was apparently in distress when we came in. Turns out she was on delivery, from Padanarum, Massachusetts, with an experienced delivery crew, Nigel and his partner “Miss” Kitty, and they had all kinds of trouble getting here. Bizarre electrical and engine problems, a fuel transfer in mid-ocean from a passing ship, a faulty autopilot, and then Nigel fell and badly injured his back and Kitty had to hand-steer for over 80 hours to make it here. How Adesso gets the rest of the way south seems an open question, and the owner is now on the scene trying to sort things out.

This is Calypso, a Saltram cutter that once belonged to Nick Nicholson, of Practical Sailor, who coincidentally I first met while living on Crazy Horse and was the one who first showed me Lunacy back when I bought her. Calypso and Lunacy (then Star Cruiser) are old buddies and sailed in company a bit while circling the world in their previous lives. Calypso (she’s also the boat that left Tuesday and came back Wednesday) now belongs to Laurie Dobson and Bob Hudson

This is Cimarron, a fine old wood yawl that was sailing in company down from Maine with Calypso. She was caught out in that last piece of weather that came through here on Sunday and got roughed up a bit before making it in on Monday

This is Galadriel, a big sloop with a two-man delivery crew that also got caught out on Sunday. She got knocked down, with lots of water coming below through her companionway, and now her interior cushions are spread out all over town drying out

Last but not least, this is my crew (Phil Cavanaugh in the foreground, Peter Nielsen in the background) practicing drinking beer at the St. George’s Dinghy Club

UPDATE: We just moved the boat again! The wind has shifted and subsided and now we’re back on the wall by Dowling’s, waiting to head out tomorrow first thing.

2014 SOUTHBOUND LUNACY: Waiting on WX in Bermuda

Fri, 2014-11-07 21:28

Right now I’m sitting out my second gale-force WX feature since arriving here last Saturday morning. I had had some hope of getting out before it arrived and taking off Wednesday afternoon as soon as all my crew were onboard. A few boats left on Monday, bound south for the islands, and one took off Tuesday, but when that one came right back less than 24 hours later, saying their weather-router had threatened to disown them if they didn’t turn around, I could see the writing on the wall. No choice but to wait for this gishy low-pressure cell grafted on to a front to move through, and the plan now is to leave tomorrow morning, Saturday, exactly seven days after I arrived here.

This morning we had some excitement as Lunacy leaned away from one big gust of wind and started slowly dragging her anchor. It seemed then to stop dragging and hold again, but we didn’t have that much room behind us before we’d start hitting things, so we didn’t take any chances. With two crew aboard it was relatively easy to pick up the anchor and get underway in the howling breeze; singlehanded it would have been a serious challenge. As long as we were relocating, I reckoned we should find better shelter, so we moved from the usual yacht anchorage just east of Ordinance Island to a protected spot between Saint David’s and Smith Islands all the way across the harbor, from whence we have a good view of the big-boy yachts who all came in last night and anchored in the Powder Hole (see image up top).

Soon afterwards it came on screaming again like demons, but with heavy horizontal rain and big-time angry lightning bolts cracking directly overhead. The first close strike sent me jumping down the companionway like a whipped puppy, and we immediately took precautions and stuffed our personal electronics and the ship’s handheld GPS in the oven for safe-keeping.

Soon after the rain and lightning stopped I hopped into the dinghy to bail it out and found a needle fish that had accidentally jumped aboard and couldn’t get out again. Unfortunately, it died before I discovered it.

I suppose the fish is a metaphor, right? Though I’m still trying to figure out what it represents. I’m also wondering why its needle is below its mouth rather than over it.

While waiting on this weather, I have of course been fixing things. On Monday I came to the wall just east of Dowling’s fuel dock so I could get a mechanic aboard to consult about the engine-alignment situation. A young man, Jason, from Powell’s Marine, agreed with my diagnosis that the engine was now more-or-less straight again, and that the engine mounts were loose, and with some fancy wrenches he had we managed to get everything tightened up again. I also replaced the luff-slide straps on the mainsail headboard after filing the edges down a bit.

Being on the wall was a big nostalgia trip for me, as the last time I laid here, in this very same spot, was in 1995 aboard Crazy Horse. I was here three weeks then, waiting on parts and fixing all sorts of broken things, and met all sorts of people. One of them was a young fisherman named Troy, a gentle affable soul, who was always pointing out one of his fishing rivals around the waterfront and exclaiming: “I see you, spy!”

Right after I tied up here on Lunacy, I was thinking of him, repeating that phrase to myself, and soon afterwards came out on deck and found myself talking to Troy, the current version, 19 years older than last time I saw him.

I love it when stuff like that happens.

A big part of waiting on weather in Bermuda is finding about what’s going on with other boats, and yes, I have learned a thing or two since last I posted here. Starting with Adesso, the boat I mentioned before that was apparently in distress when we came in. Turns out she was on delivery, from Padanarum, Massachusetts, with an experienced delivery crew, Nigel and his partner “Miss” Kitty, and they had all kinds of trouble getting here. Bizarre electrical and engine problems, a fuel transfer in mid-ocean from a passing ship, a faulty autopilot, and then Nigel fell and badly injured his back and Kitty had to hand-steer for over 80 hours to make it here. How Adesso gets the rest of the way south seems an open question, and the owner is now on the scene trying to sort things out.

This is Calypso, a Saltram cutter that once belonged to Nick Nicholson, of Practical Sailor, who coincidentally I first met while living on Crazy Horse and was the one who first showed me Lunacy back when I bought her. Calypso and Lunacy (then Star Cruiser) are old buddies and sailed in company a bit while circling the world in their previous lives. Calypso (she’s also the boat that left Tuesday and came back Wednesday) now belongs to Laurie Dobson and Bob Hudson

This is Cimarron, a fine old wood yawl that was sailing in company down from Maine with Calypso. She was caught out in that last piece of weather that came through here on Sunday and got roughed up a bit before making it in on Monday

This is Galadriel, a big sloop with a two-man delivery crew that also got caught out on Sunday. She got knocked down, with lots of water coming below through her companionway, and now her interior cushions are spread out all over town drying out

Last but not least, this is my crew (Phil Cavanaugh in the foreground, Peter Nielsen in the background) practicing drinking beer at the St. George’s Dinghy Club

UPDATE: We just moved the boat again! The wind has shifted and subsided and now we’re back on the wall by Dowling’s, waiting to head out tomorrow first thing.

Podcast Essay: Across the North Sea, Part 1

Fri, 2014-11-07 00:00

Andy reads from a handwritten log entry during Arcturus’ North Sea crossing from 2012. This is the first of a four-part series on the voyage from Scotland to Sweden, the last major offshore passage that Andy and Mia have done on Arcturus since crossing the Atlantic in 2011. Since then, the boat’s been in the sheltered waters of the Baltic archipelagos. Stay tuned over the next three weeks for parts 2, 3 and 4.

Weather Bomb in North Pacific

Thu, 2014-11-06 19:28

Super Typhoon Nuri has more to say. Already one of the most powerful cyclones of 2014, Nuri is predicted to become an extratropical cyclone in the Bering sea: “Bomb”…perfect storm…if you’re on a boat, sink it and run for your life.

This monster is predicted to break records, create 50-foot waves, and alter the weather over North America for the next week or two. Weather nerds, get ready.

Here is an excellent analysis.

Just a comment: When there’s a weather forecast like this, this one for tomorrow in the Bering Sea, maybe they should put some parts of it in capital letters, or red, or something. And when you’ve got the first part of it saying what it does, the patchy fog and rain don’t really figure in…kind of like having a sword through your chest and fractured skull, with slight headache, loss of appetite:

Fri S wind 20 to 40 kt becoming SE 50 to 65 kt in the afternoon. Seas 9 to 13 ft building to 15 to 27 ft in the afternoon. Patchy fog. Rain.

Fri Night S wind 40 to 55 kt. Seas 23 to 38 ft.

Costumes, Hats and Other Odd Traditions

Thu, 2014-11-06 15:44

Let’s start today with a quiz. Complete the following sentence: Tuesday was ________.

Most of you will have finished that off with phrases like “rainy” or “a pretty good day”. But if you are Australian, you definitely said: Tuesday was Melbourne Cup. Still lost? It’s a horse race. More accurately, it is the horse race that brings the nation to a standstill.

For a race that lasts less than 200 seconds, that is a pretty impressive feat. Not only is it a public holiday in Melbourne, but the rest of the country shuts down (officially or not) from about noon onwards in order to drink champagne, watch pop stars perform, and wear funny hats.

I have no trouble with dressing up. It’s fun. Goodness knows, I tried my hardest to spread the gospel of Hallowe’en last Friday. And the local kids were game – just clueless.

*knock knock*
I opened the door. “Hello, kids! What great costumes!”
We stared at each other for a moment.
“So,” I prompted, “what do you say?”
“Thank you,” they chorused.
“Very polite, but not yet. First we say, ‘Trick or treat.'”
“Trick or treat.”
“Well done. Here you go, here you go. You didn’t bring a bag? Erik, pass me another plastic bag. There you are, put your candy in that. Good night! Happy Hallowe’en!”
Every single time.
Experienced players in the Hallowe’en game.

But the fancy hat phenomenon escapes me. I own one hat that I like, and it doesn’t help me much in my current locale:
My head might catch fire if I tried to wear this in PNG.

When the invitation arrived for the local Melbourne Cup party, my Australian neighbours were quick to give me a primer. (There are advantages to being a foreigner – everyone expects you to be totally ignorant of their local customs, and they are usually right in that assessment.) The conversation always went this way:

“Are you coming to Melbourne Cup on Tuesday?” asks Nice Neighbour.
“Yes, I’ll be there,” I say. “Noon, right?”
Nice Neighbour nods. “Now, do you have a hat?”
“No-o-o, but I’ll make something.”
Nice Neighbour nods again. “Some of the ladies have extras, if you need one.”

Pfft, I thought to myself. I can manage a hat. The kids will help me. I knew, of course, about hats and horse racing in a vague sort of way. I had seen photos from Ascot – fantastical tipped-to-the-side creations ranging from a few feathers to replicas of Big Ben. In Brisbane, the local department store featured a rack of fascinators – smaller fancy headware usually built around a hairband. The girls and I used to get a kick out of walking past this display, and wondering who would possibly buy one of those odd things.

On Monday night, we sat down to make my hat. I planned to keep it simple – a few pipe cleaners, some paper flowers and we’re done. Indy, however, embraced the project. She emerged from the craft drawer with ribbons, pins, a tiara, and blue cellophane.

“Oh! Put this on! Mom, tape this down!”
As Stylish passed me the occasional tastefully-tied ribbon, Indy grabbed a fedora and went to town. The production only stopped when I told her it was time for bed.
“Just let me add a horse,” she said, scribbling and cutting as if in a fever. “There. It’s beautiful, Mom!”
“It is certainly something,” I said.
Front (veil up) Left-hand side Back Right-hand side

I am the very picture of modern elegance, I think we can all agree.
It’s a wonder I don’t dress like this every day.

Tuesday morning I whipped up some appetizers, grabbed a bottle of emergency gin (always be prepared), and set off. I had accepted a ride down the road, as I was reliably informed we all needed to look “fresh” for the party. My fellow car-mates looked rather glamourous; I was glad I had pulled my one black dress out of the closet. I couldn’t extend my dress-up as far as my feet – high heels and I have a cold and distant relationship these days – but I thought I was doing pretty well.

We arrived at the party and, sure enough, hats everywhere. Pink fascinators. Satin festooned with flowers. A few ladies had raided their gardens to put together beautiful fascinators of their own, all orchids and greenery and tropical flowers.

As I gazed around the room, I realized that everyone else at the party had played it straight. Clearly, Melbourne Cup hats were not to be trifled with – they certainly weren’t intended to be your six-year-old’s evening craft project. I shrugged. Oh well. Indy and Stylish had a whale of a time putting it together.

Everyone was, of course, very gracious. This is another bonus in the Being a Foreigner column – no one expects you to get it right. As the party progressed, I leaned the real reason behind those tiny fascinators. As it turns out, wearing a cellophane-wrapped fedora in the Equatorial heat becomes a little uncomfortable as the hours roll by, no matter how many gin and tonics you put away. Life lessons. But I gamely put the hat back on for every photo.

When the race was complete and the bets paid out, it was time for the hat prizes. My neighbour of the satin-and-flowers won a prize; so too did the gorgeous orchid creation. And who won Most Creative Hat? Indy and Stylish, of course. Their hat was definitely in a class of its own.

Indy’s desk now sports our trophy – a small bunch of plastic flowers in a vase. She couldn’t be prouder. I haven’t brought myself to dismantle our creation yet, but soon enough someone is going to need that tiara for other purposes.

And may I never wrap my head in cellophane again.

Raymarine CAM200IP marine camera, and hello IC Realtime Marine

Thu, 2014-11-06 09:20

Written by Ben Ellison on Nov 6, 2014 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub

While I was just goofing around during the Raymarine demo cruise seen via screenshot above, in retrospect my thumbs are seriously up about both the new CP200 CHIRP SideVision sonar and the new CAM200IP marine camera. I’ve been on the water twice now with SideVision and it seems to have noticeably greater side looking range than the Navico, Garmin and Humminbird side imaging I’ve previously experienced; there are numerous factors at work here, though, and they’ll have to wait for a future discussion. Today I’m writing about advanced boat cameras, particularly the CAM200, which could be an excellent addition to most any boat running Raymarine LightHouse II software…

Here’s the helm of the Boston Whaler demo boat (did you know Whaler is still doing that cut-in-half unsinkable thing, only at much larger scale?). First let me say that none of the photos or screenshots in this entry do real justice to how crisp and color-rich the CAM200 video looks on the Raymarine displays. The specifications say the image sensor is a 2 megapixel 1/2.8″ SONY Exmor CMOS and I think I saw some of the Exmor processing advantages described in this video. I definitely saw the big 53° horizontal by 33° vertical field of view and what seemed like high resolution on whichever display we tried (the max is 1920 x 1080 pixels). Yes, “whichever display we tried,” because as an IP network camera, the 200 can be easily called up on any Ray display connected by Ethernet…

In fact, if you have a gS Series MFD it will only take a RayNet cable to completely wire the CAM200. That’s because the gS has PoE (power over Ethernet), though the Y cable that you’d use to insert 12 volts if you only have a Ray a-, c- and e-Series is still trivial compared to what it takes to power a regular analog camera and split its output to multiple displays. The CAM200 is somewhat bulky — for instance it hangs about 4 inches from the overhead in the demo install above — but it does include 20 infrared LEDs that give it black and white low light vision purportedly out to 20 meters. Of course, that’s nothing compared to the true thermal T200 camera above it, not to mention the open array HD radar. This boat has eyes!

But near range night vision can have value and that leads to my one gripe with the CAM200. For several years I’ve been using an analog CAM100 pointing aft from under Gizmo’s extended cabin top, and there have been occasions like night docking when it would have been great to temporarily point it in another direction. However, the CAM100 swivel mount is not easily changed, and the CAM200 mount seems virtually the same. On the other hand, the CAM100 has stood up to lots of abuse without a hiccup and especially without any internal moisture affecting its sharp (for analog) image, and that’s a good sign for the similarly cased 200.

Actually, I understand that the CAM200 camera came out later than hoped for because Raymarine had difficulty getting it up to those strict environmental standards I saw tested in England. But perhaps, one positive result of that is how ready the Lighthouse software is to handle IP camera input. It’s super simple to start/stop video recordings or take a snapshot and it’s also easy to get at the standard format files and play them back. And I was fairly flabbergasted at how quickly I could scroll through the 53 minute video we made during the demo trip.

As is, Ray’s Lighthouse II operating software will let you swipe from one camera source to another, but Version 12 — shown in Lauderdale and coming out soon — adds a “Quad View” mode that looks like what you see on many megayachts. As shown in the menu above, three of the video windows have to be IP cameras, but I’m convinced IP boat cameras will become the norm eventually. Consider, for instance, the easy networking and many bonus features you get with $700 CAM200 vs the $600 CAM100.

Tap on any window in Quad View and you’ll get a full screen view from that particular camera source, but only an IP camera will include those Record and Snapshot buttons at lower left. That’s because IP video integrates much more tightly with the operating system in an MFD, which is also why screenshots like the one at top will include an IP video image but usually leave a black hole where an analog camera image was somehow overlaid.

At any rate, instead of watching a busy Lauderdale Electronics Tent, imagine having one or more CAM200’s monitoring a sportfishing cockpit, or your view as you cruise new territory, or even just the precious engines you rarely see in action. In all cases being able to see clearly and easily saved video or stills could be fun and/or practical. But what about IP-based pan/tilt/zoom (PTZ) cameras, which are widely available in the security and other markets? Well, the good news is that Lighthouse II can support the ONVIF (Open Network Video Interface Forum) standard, which at least loosely permits PZT control by, say, a marine touchscreen. So, it is reasonable to imagine a day when Raymarine will support its own or a partner’s IP PZT marine camera with integration as total as with the FLIR M-Series I’m testing.

But wait, there’s more. I lucked onto the scene above, in which a crew from IC Realtime Marine is pitching Raymarine product management director Chris Jones on their extraordinary 360 Degree IP dome camera, which offers solid state PTZ and more. What’s in that stainless casing — best understood at the mother IC Realtime site — is a 185 degree fisheye lens, a 4000 x 3000 pixel image sensor, and a fast Linux microcomputer able to “dewarp” the fisheye view so it’s “undistorted to the human eye.” They showed us a live demo on a big center console, and it was quite impressive how you could pan around a half hemisphere view with virtually no lag (and no motors and gaskets to wear out). The best way to see what I mean is with these demo videos of the IC720, an even wilder system that’s essentially an integration of two 360 cams.

While that IC360 demo install involved an IP-to-analog video converter, a control box and a trackball, both IC and Raymarine seemed to think it possible to integrate with Lighthouse II hardware in the same easy way as the CAM200. Wow. But the first step for Chris Jones was to take a sample back to the UK for torture in the testing lab, so let’s make no presumptions about future possibilities. However, the IC360 was not the only solid-state PTZ IP camera I saw in Fort Lauderdale. While they’re not online yet, Iris Innovations showed a trio of new Barracuda underwater cameras and if click bigger the brochure page below, you’ll see that the top-of-the-line Barracuda-IP is quite similar to the IC360. Except that I don’t think there’s ever been an underwater PTZ cam before. It may be quite a while before you can easily and affordably run something like this from your multifunction display, but isn’t it fun to imagine?

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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.

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