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We Dig Dig Dig Dig Dig Dig In Our Mine The Whole Day Through

Mon, 2015-02-09 23:51

Snow White and the Seven Dwarves isn’t one of my favorite Disney movies. I am going to generously describe the heroine as “insipid” and leave it at that. But the film does have a few snappy tunes, among them the first half of Heigh Ho. Oh, you didn’t know the beginning was a completely different (and superior) song? Before all of that boring whistling, the dwarves sing about working in their mine. To wit:

We dig dig dig dig dig dig dig
In our mine the whole day through
To dig dig dig dig dig dig dig
Is what we like to do

It ain’t no trick to get rich quick
If you dig dig dig with a shovel or a pick
In a mine! In a mine! In a mine! In a mine!
Where a million diamonds shine!

We dig dig dig dig dig dig dig
From early morn till night
We dig dig dig dig dig dig dig up
Everything in sight

We dig up diamonds by the score
A thousand rubies, sometimes more
But we don’t know what we dig them for
We dig dig dig a-dig dig.

Back in the day, preschool-Stylish immediately took to this song, and we both learned the words. Don’t ask me why, but we used to sing it in the car as we drove around on errands. This was long before Erik got into mining, so I am going to claim that we were prescient. Perhaps this was the clairvoyant version of, “if you can’t beat’em, join ‘em.”

But Erik did finally a) discover and b) fall in love with mining, thus our current sojourn in PNG.

Last week, Erik suggested we go visit the mine on the weekend. He had to secure all sorts of official permissions (safety first), but he was dying to show it off to the girls and me.

“I’ve got it all arranged,” he said. “We can go Saturday afternoon.”
“Isn’t that the annual cricket game? I thought you were down as an alternate.
“Oh, is that right?” he said cooly, fooling no one. “Too bad – it’s all set up.”
I can understand the dodge; I think even Indy has more cricketing experience than he does. And don’t tell any of my Australian friends, but I was far keener on seeing the mine than watching the batsmen and bowlers. Although I would make an exception for this:
The only cricket worth watching is superhero cricket.

Saturday came, and we piled into the car. We had hardly pulled onto the main road before Erik began pointing out the sites. “This area is called so-and-so. We expect to be digging there in Year X. And the interesting thing over here is…”

We paused on-site to pick up some hard hats and vests, and we were off.
I get to show the mine to my girls. I am so excited!

First stop: the pit, and a brief lesson in the geology of the region. The kids listened politely, but they were mainly waiting for the good stuff: seeing the enormous trucks.

Here is my advice to you. Do not drive your Honda Civic into a mine site and hope to end up anything but flat. Not only won’t you be seen, you also won’t be felt when the trucks roll right over you. The only way anyone will know you were there will be when someone notices the micron-thin piece of steel that was once your car sitting on the road.

Seeing the equipment up close made me newly appreciative of the 4m flag sticking out the top of Erik’s utility vehicle.
Can you see us? Standing in a face shovel… …and we’re tiny. Dancing on the teeth. Time to go up and take a look at the cab.

All the while, Erik kept up a constant patter about what the equipment was for, what happened in that part of the mine, and who we were about to meet next. You would think he was a volunteer tour guide, he was so enthusiastic. I haven’t included any photos of the plant, but don’t think that we skipped that. No, sir. We couldn’t drive more than a few feet without Erik stopping to explain exactly what was going on inside each Large Metal Structure in front of us. I’m pretty sure I could have a passed a process exam based on what I heard that afternoon.

Barely up to the hub cap. As we drove home, Erik asked: “So, girls, what job would you like to do at the mine?”

“Drive the trucks,” they chorused.
“But I am going to be a mechanical engineer when I grow up,” Indy added.

Maybe they’ll just drive as a summer job, then.

Wire Fraud Cruisers Nabbed in Bahamas

Mon, 2015-02-09 16:54


The Winberg’s second attempt to flee justice aboard a cruising sailboat has been foiled. The couple faced trial for wire fraud, and decades in prison, if convicted.

The couple and their seven children tried to flee the country in early December, but ended up sinking in Galveston Bay, Texas. Their infant wasn’t breathing, but was revived with CPR. The locals knew something was up when they fled ASAP, and abandoned the boat. It turned out they’d given fake names.

Now, two months later they almost got away with it again…almost. A different boat, a different coast, and they were off to the Bahamas, where American tourists promptly recognized them, and alerted the Bahamian authorities. They are now in Miami and the children are being assessed by Child Protective Services.

The Winbergs obviously didn’t know quite what they were doing when it came to sailing, per the incident in Galveston. I guess when it comes to fleeing the country one doesn’t have a lot of options, if wanted by the law. If you get on a commercial flight you’ll be nabbed. Driving into Mexico, and points beyond, is an option. Sailing off into the sunset is another, but they probably should have gone farther than the Bahamas, and maybe hid out somewhere a little more off the beaten path than the Staniel Cay Yacht Club.

More here.

Simple marine cell boosting: Wilson Sleek 4G (weBoost Drive 4G) and Digital Antenna Bullet

Mon, 2015-02-09 10:20

Written by Ben Ellison on Feb 9, 2015 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub

New FCC regulations have caused turmoil in the world of cell boosters and now leading manufacturer Wilson Electronics has changed its name to weBoost. Thus, the Wilson Sleek 4G (460107) above, one of the very first new breed boosters last April, has just morphed into the weBoost Dash 4G-S (470107). Adding to the confusion is the boater’s need to replace that wimpy car top antenna with a possibly illegal marine model – I’m happily using a Digital Antenna 1285 Bullet in my testing — but the whole package ends up relatively simple to install and effective for its cost.

The Sleek (Dash) 4G is a cradle booster that only works with one fixed phone, but it couldn’t be much easier to install. You just fasten the mount where you want the boosted phone to live, figure out the cradle “ear” shape and positions that best fit that phone model, and run the USB cable to a decent 12v USB power source (perhaps like these). The Sleek (and Dash) 4G cradles also have a USB outlet, so that curly wire above is keeping my old Galaxy Nexus phone charged while it’s being boosted. Constant charging is especially important when I’m using the phone as a WiFi hotspot to put the boat’s computers and tablets online. The screen at right suggest how much I used this mode while cruising south this fall; yes, I put over 14 gigabytes of data — 12 of it via onboard WiFi — through the phone in just 20 days, though I would have been more careful if I hadn’t lucked into an unlimited Verizon 4G service plan.

In fact, I’ve used this cell setup a lot since last August — I had a fast 4G/LTE connection almost the entire trip south — and I often saw significant signal strength differences on that able Network Signal Pro app when I negated the booster by turning it off or pulling the phone out of the cradle. But I suspect that much of the performance enhancement came from the high performance antenna combined with 30 feet of thumb-thick Wilson/weBoost LMR400 ultra low loss coax cable that you can just make out stepping through a couple of adaptors into the Sleek (Dash) booster. (Note that I regularly wear a somewhat unusual Bluetooth headset and am also long testing a heavy duty Cruising Solutions alternative.)

While I detailed my mast install of the Digital Antenna 1285 last September, this photo shows more of the possibly irritating base design plus the terrific Wera Mini Bit Ratchet that made it possible to apply those little upside-down screws while in the rigging! I’m happy to report, though, that the newer Digital Antenna 1264 Bullet model can fit on a standard 1″ x 14 antenna mount and comes with a nice one. Plus, all the DA Wide Band Bullet Antenna models — which claim 4-9 dBi gain on every cell frequency (I think) plus WiFi and WiMax — seem to be winning the admiration of marine electronics professionals (who should in many cases be installing these systems).

But I did mention “possibly illegal marine” antenna in the opening paragraph, and that’s because the new FCC rules state that consumers “must operate” their cell booster “with approved antennas and cables as specified by the manufacturer” (who must supply complete kits). So while I guess my install is technically illegal, I take comfort in the fact that the Sleek (Dash) booster only claims a maximum gain of 23 dB while the new booster limit is 70 dB. It’s hard to imagine how the cradle booster — which only uses a maximum 2 amps, even while charging my phone — could interfere with other cell phones.

You will also see warnings on the new breed boosters that “YOU MUST REGISTER THIS DEVICE” with your cell provider, but look at the bottom of the small type for notice that AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, Sprint and 90 regional carriers “have given blanket consent to all boosters meeting the new certification standards,” presumably because the new boosters are designed to shut down if they cause network problems. I did, in fact, try to register the test booster at Verizon, but they don’t make it easy.

Of course, you’ll have an even simpler, less expensive and totally legal Sleek (Dash) 4G install if you just use the included antenna, and you can see how that might work in this Love Your RV video. Note that the tester is using a 4G Jetpack MiFi mobile hotspot instead of a phone, and that the beloved beagle does make a “live” appearance:-) But I have done a little A/B testing of the small Sleek antenna versus the Digital Antenna Bullet and think the latter makes a big difference. After all, the reason the FCC now views boosters as complete systems is because their total effectiveness equals external antenna gain minus cable loss plus actual booster gain minus/plus the cradle, cable or internal antenna that makes the final booster-to-phone link.

Unfortunately, complete marine cell booster kits remain scarce. I believe that weBoost plans at least one — possibly based on their new 65dB Connect 4G — and Digital Antenna purportedly has an excellent boat booster that’s unfortunately stuck in the FCC approval process. If you want a high-power marine system that will serve several uncradled phones at once, like the (long gone) one I tested in 2013, the only choice right now may be one of the Shakespeare Halo CA series, and note that you have to choose a specific 4G provider model, and that the total retail cost before installation is about $1,500.

Meanwhile, the Sleek (Dash) 4G can handle multiple 4G/LTE providers — though the old Wilson specs are more specific about which than weBoost’s — and the total retail for what I’m testing is about $400. The weBoost Dash 4G-S does seem very similar to the Sleek, but a representative tells me that it does “feature a newly designed dynamic gain control system, which maximizes the signal connection automatically, adjusting to varying external signal strength and environmental changes including to the landscape”…which I thought was already happening, and that it “also has a larger surface to accommodate for the growing size of our smartphones.”

I’ll close with some images that Digital Antenna passed along from their dealer/installers. Above is an empty KVH dome which has been fitted with three Bullets, presumably for aesthetic balance. Digital says the install works well because the Bullets only need 10 inches of horizontal separation. You’ll also see a Bullet installed on the stern of the current Volvo Ocean 65, and then there’s the quad Bullet array that Axxess Marine just finished on the superyacht below. I don’t know what cellular, WiFi or whatever tasks these wideband antennas are up to — hopefully, commenters can fill us in — but it sure looks like Digital Antenna has a bullet-shaped hit.

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Carrying on Regardless

Mon, 2015-02-09 03:33

Posted by KL – February 8, 2015 – Lead photo of Skud 18s racing in Miami by Walter Cooper

A week or so ago at the Miami Olympic classes regatta — ISAF Sailing World Cup Miami — I ran into Maureen McKinnon, back on the campaign trail. You should remember Maureen as the gold medal crew for Paralympic hero sailor Nick Scandone.

Just getting to the 2008 Paralympic Games in Qingdao, with Nick in the late stages of ALS, was a thin-line ride between a dream and a nightmare. But they made the finish line. They made the top of the podium, which, for Paralympians, is figurative rather than literal.

Maureen slowed down a bit after that — to the extent that she ever slows down — but she’s found a next skipper for a next Skud 18 campaign. When I saw her last, she had just received two pieces of news simultaneously. She and Ryan Porteous had been named to US Sailing Team Sperry, and sailing had been dropped from the 2020 Paralympic Games.

Up.

Down.

There is much afoot about reversing that last decision about 2020. Meanwhile, what’s below arrived today from Maureen, by way of a press release. Here’s Maureen :

For the past six years
since our gold medal win in China, I have continued to sail part time on the Paralympic circuit, hoping to find a team to put together. In November, I began practicing with a talented college sailor from San Diego, California and I am back in the SKUD18.

We have just returned from a World Cup event – our first racing together as a team. Ryan Porteous and I secured the second place SKUD 18 spot on the US Sailing Team Sperry, one year prior to the upcoming US Paralympic team selection for Rio games 2016. We were just two points behind the other US team.

[And last in a small fleet, but you have to start somewhere: KL]

The US Paralympic Sailing Team has a long history of Paralympic medal achievement in the 3 sailing disciplines. Since the sport’s inception in 1996, the US has won 3 Bronze, 3 Silver and one Gold for our country. “We are very proud to make the US Sailing Team Sperry in this critical year, just before the 2016 Rio Games in Brazil.”

It will take a lot of practice, training days, good regatta performances and public support over the next year to win the US Trials. The Marblehead community (especially the sailing community) really got behind us for my last bid in 2008. I hope to rally up the support we need to bring MORE gold back to our proud sailing community! The Olympic stipends provided to serious Rio campaigners fall well short of the fundraising needs of any team.

[And people ask why US Olympic/Paralympic sailors struggle against the fully-professionalized competition from abroad: KL]

Our schedule will include two expensive overseas regattas and two boat charters for this year. We also have 4 local New England regattas (Newport & New York), and we are hoping to be granted a SKUD 18 start line for the 126th Marblehead Race Week this summer.

Returning to the Editor’s voice :

Marblehead Race Week 126? Very cool. Let’s do this, Marblehead.

As seen through the lens of Leighton O’Connor in 2014, Marblehead Race Week was a little of this . . .

And a little of this . . .

And this . . .

And . . .

Cruising in Thailand: what we won’t miss

Fri, 2015-02-06 06:24

There are a lot of great reasons to sail in Thailand. But for all those things we really enjoyed, there were plenty of things we won’t miss. What didn’t we like? Here are some reflections based on nearly half a year spend in Thailand between 2013 and 2014.

It’s lousy underwater. Thailand is supposed to be famous for great dive sites and snorkeling. I don’t doubt that years ago, they were great. But now, it’s mostly pretty dead underwater- clear signs of overfishing. We were always within sight of fishing boats, many of them the paired trawlers that drag a net between them and indiscriminately clean out every bit of marine life in the middle. Not a surprise that sharks, dolphins, turtles, etc. were absent- we didn’t see a single one while we were there. Add to the tragedy that these boats famously employ slave labor. That particular aspect is apparently getting some attention from the government, but it’s not slowing down the parade of boats that continuously trawl for “trash seafood” (anything they can get) to feed the shimp farms on shore. Did you know that the US is one of the biggest importers of farmed Thai shrimp? Think about the cost of your  next pretty shrimp cocktail. Meanwhile, there’s still plenty of business schlepping tourists out to snorkeling sights, but I think the tourons just have no idea how damaged it is – most of them probably have no basis for comparison.

It’s very touristy. That doesn’t work with us for a few reasons. Partly because it changes the behavior of people you meet locally, partly because it changes the place itself. Like on the beautiful offshore marine park islands, or the gorgeous islands around Koh Phi Phi, which are breathtaking for a short window after sunrise and again before sunset, but for most daylight hours are  overrun. I think we counted around 1,000 day trippers on a small curve of beach in the otherwise gorgeous Similan islands. Between clueless tourists on jet skis, raucous booze cruises, or locally-driven daytripper boats recklessly hotrodding around, I’d rather be somewhere quieter. Or the sex tourism that plays out in the seamier side of Phuket, which apparently supports human trafficking and who knows what else. Or the shops selling the same junk over and over and over. You can find the true place behind these distractions, but they can make it difficult.

Amusing myself by taking pictures of the selfie-takers one afternoon

Relationships are transactional. We like getting to know people in places where we travel. But almost every person we met in Thailand was only interested in what they were going to get out of us. That made it pretty difficult to have any kind of relationship: I really don’t like being treated like a walking dollar sign, it’s not what I’m about. There were exceptions, sure, overwhelmingly, if we weren’t buying something, there was no interest in pursuing conversation. If we had spent more time in areas with less tourism, this would surely be different.

Officialdom is erratic. Sometimes, the hand is out for an unofficial fee. We didn’t encounter that much, but even once leaves a bad taste. It is clear how disconnected higher level government decisions are with what actually happens on the ground. Like when the government decided to require all foreign yachts to carry AIS transponders last year: when we checked into the country, MONTHS later, it didn’t come up either of the two times we cleared into the country. Probably not a surprise considering the paper forms in customs all still pre-printed with a date that begins “19__” – things do not happen quickly here, it seems! But it’s nice to have some predictability from the government of the country you’re traveling too, and occasionally the lack of stability was unnerving. Like when we were sitting in the immigration office in Ranong last year, where big TV screens were showing protesters, one of them in life-on-cam death throes from military sniper fire on the streets of Bangkok. It was horrific. But the Thai immigration officials just went about stamp-stamp-stamping everything in the crazy backwards everything-is-paper process to extend our visas and seemed completely unaffected by the madness in their capital.

Yes, we liked a lot of other things about Thailand. We did meet some wonderful people – people we’ll never forget, and hope to meet again someday. We saw some gorgeous places during our months, places we would happily return to and spend extended time. But when we shake it all out, Thailand ends up ranking pretty far down the list of places we’ve been as cruisers; these are the reasons why.

Savvy sailors know we love it when you click through to the SAILfeed post- thanks for tossing change in our cruising kitty!

Flyin’ Hawaiian Sinks of Monterey

Thu, 2015-02-05 17:48


This boat was one of the many eyesores dotting Richardson Bay, where about 200 liveaboards anchor with apparent impunity to local, state, and federal laws regarding registration and holding tanks. I always assumed it was built just as a floating home, and had no inkling of the owner’s dream of sailing her to Hawaii. I’d heard about her construction, all from materials purchased at Home Depot. I kayaked around her one day with a friend and deemed her unseaworthy beyond the confines of greater San Francisco Bay, and maybe a stretch within.

More here in the Marin Independent Journal.

Lowrance MotorGuide Xi5 SmartSteer trolling control, life changing

Thu, 2015-02-05 08:00

Written by Ben Ellison on Feb 5, 2015 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub

Two Maine blizzards later it’s nice to recall that just a week ago I was casting a lure off a similarly tricked-out Yellowfin 24 Bay Boat. I didn’t land a pose-worthy fish like my friend Chris Woodward, but the important thing about this photo is how well that trolling motor is holding an “anchor” position. Note the nonchalant skipper, despite a brisk wind and strong current both pushing him toward the channel marker aft, not to mention rocks to starboard and us to port. The pro I was with — the impressive Tom Rowland of the Saltwater Experience TV series — seemed equally confident about the reliability of the MotorGuide Xi5 and its do-anything integration with the twin Lowrance HDS 12 Gen3 displays, and it was easy to buy his claim that the combination has significantly improved his boating life.

The MotorGuide Xi5 Pinpoint GPS-equipped model they’re using is the beefiest available, with 105 pounds of maximum thrust, and it can be had with a seemingly powerful wireless remote. But it only takes a little NMEA 2000 gateway to get the user even more controls with easy access from any HDS Gen 2 or 3 display. (And right now the $250 gateway is “free” with an Xi5 and HDS purchase.)

Sorry for the poor photo, but here’s how the Xi5 trolling motor autopilot and “anchor” controls are included among the many other big touch buttons you can get to from any HDS Gen3 screen by simply tapping the HDS’s physical power button. (Simrad NSS evo2 and B&G Zeus2 use the power button in a very similar way, and I think it’s a good idea all the MFD interface designers should consider.)

Lowrance made a good video about Xi5 SmartSteer (which can work alongside their outboard autopilot), but there’s nothing like seeing it in action. Tom Howland was using the trolling control pop-up window above to modify a spiral mode he’d already set up, but he could have had those controls in a regular screen window. Either way he could easily control the speed or stop the pattern altogether if he “found” whatever the spiral search pattern was set on. You may notice that setting a pattern or getting the Xi5 to follow a route or track can make a plotter messy with waypoints, especially if you do the demo repeatedly in a small harbor, but I presume there’s a fast way to delete or hide them.

Let’s step back a minute to see some of the other HDS Gen3 integrations that were at work on the Yellowfin. That’s Sirius satellite weather and radio showing on the lefthand HDS12 (there’s SonicHub and UNI-dock audio also available) and note how Capt. Tom likes to have his Remaining Fuel overlaid on the weather screen. In fact, full instrumentation for the big Mercury outboard is seen on the righthand HDS12, while the Mercury VesselView 7, which gateways SmartCraft engine data to the Lowrance system, is showing the C-Zone digital switching controls usually seen on Navico displays (and many of which are duplicated with the physical switches).

This screen versatility is possible because Navico manufactures the Vessel View and thus seems to have a special relationship with Mercury, and — hey — MotorGuide has been part of the Mercury Marine since 2000. Now Humminbird MFDs and the Minn Kota i-Pilot I once enjoyed both belong to the same company (though I’m not sure they’ve yet enabled this level of integration), but I have to wonder if there’s another trolling motor company for Garmin or Raymarine to partner with? (Remember that advanced autopilot control is unfortunately, if understandably, the big exception to normal NMEA 2000 brand interoperability.)

That seems like an important question once you realize how nice deep trolling motor integration can be. Tom Howland described several of his day-to-day routines that are now much easier. Perhaps most dramatic is how he’s traded the 600 feet of anchor line and chain he once struggled with to fish the Keys drop-off in fair weather for the Xi5 Anchor mode, which he can jog 5 feet in any direction with each screen tap. On the demo run we first saw Anchor mode at work in some current near a bridge to Route 1. We could have been fishing but accidently came across another use for the feature when we noticed a nest of iguanas in the shrubbery. I could have gotten the photo below by myself using Anchor mode, or sat peacefully with my grandaughter discussing these creatures and being glad they don’t fall out of trees where we live. Lawrence Husick and I even started imagining how useful this technology might be on a daysailer or maybe as an oddball bow thruster hung from a sailboat’s anchor guide.

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Florida Anchoring Survey – the Cynical Point of View

Thu, 2015-02-05 01:50
Dinghy anchored behind Miami Beach house to block anchoring

The FWC recently released the results of its Florida Anchoring Survey, and the results were, well – intriguing. Not so much that the results were that out of line with what might have been expected, but some recent conversations have brought out the cynic in me. After reading this post, you may well feel the same.
Some history first. Last spring, 2014, the Florida legislature attempted to enact a law which would have permitted some municipalities – read Miami, Fort Lauderdale principally – to enact local anchoring legislation. That legislation would have brought us back to, as the late Claiborne Young was wont to say, the ‘wild west’ for cruisers, with legislation differing from town to town. Think back to pre 2007. Think 24 hour anchoring limits in some places, perhaps 72 in others before the water cops rushed you out of town.
Cruisers rushed to the mast, headed by Boat US and the SSCA, and hauled that legislative canvas back down the mast before it filled, but that wasn’t the end of it. Oh no….
The FWC – Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission – was tasked with conducting surveys, one of which I attended in Vero Beach and reported on in SAIL. (see FWC Meeting)
They then put out a survey on the internet, the results of which can be seen here, and the executive summary here.
At the meetings, cruisers were very explicit on two particular issues – local vs state legislative authority, and setoffs. Well, the survey seems to have come through for us on the local vs state issue – 81% of respondents agree that legislative authority should remain at the state level. We’re off that hook.
However, on the issue of setoffs – that’s where this survey makes me wonder just what’s going on…I’ll come back to this, be patient…
The question itself was set up in a way guaranteed to skew the result. That’s because many cruisers, like myself, feel that there should be no setoff at all, in large part because it’s not necessary. Setoffs also violate the Public Trust Doctrine, but I’ve covered that issue before – and no doubt will again.
The law has other ways of dealing with the issues that setoffs are supposed to solve that do not infringe on the rights of both boaters and the general public. But there was no ‘Zero setoff’ choice. Hold that thought for a moment…
The Florida legislature wants, desperately, to keep their wealthy constituents happy. To do that, they need to show that they are addressing this issue on their behalf. How better to do so than to accept a recommendation from the FWC, which was ‘supported’ by a plurality of those taking the survey, which would effectively close almost every anchorage in the south of Florida?
‘Gee gosh, how can you blowboaters and cruisers complain? We TOOK a survey and the majority of you agreed to what we’ve just enacted as law.’ Quitcherbitchin’ in other words.
In other words, because 32% of respondents agreed that a 150 foot setoff from private property was acceptable, the legislature will feel the need to enact this as the standard. And yes, I’m taking bets on that.

So. 32%. I might find some solace if that number represented an identifiable group – but over HALF of that number are ‘stakeholder group not determined’ as you can see by the chart here.
That’s right. We’re going to get screwed by a group of people who are not identifiable as boaters, OR as waterfront homeowners. We have NO idea who they are, or who they might represent.
The survey indicates that 17% of all respondents are Florida waterfront homeowners. It also shows that 22% of all Florida respondents are not identifiable – ‘stakeholder group not determined’.
Here’s the definition, from Gary Klein of the FWC, of ‘stakeholder group not determined': “that group is anyone who does not meet the other three categories listed which are:  Cruising Boater NOT a Waterfront Resident, Waterfront Resident AND a Cruising Boater or a Waterfront Resident NOT a Cruising Boater.  One example would be NOT a Waterfront Resident and NOT a Cruising Boater.”
In other words, people who have no real interest in the decision and are not affected by it. So they could be guys with a 22 foot fishing boat living inland for example. Or someone without a boat living in downtown Miami.
But there’s another possibility, a very ugly possibility, for this group – they could be bought and paid for respondents, people whose replies were sought by those wishing a certain outcome to this survey. In other words, waterfront homeowners who want changes to the laws that benefit them.
Am I being unreasonable? Let’s look at unreasonable here. Frederick Karlton, of Sunset Lake fame, spent over $30,000 on 20+ Pico rotomolded dinghies to place behind his house to block boaters from anchoring there, as you can see in the photo here.

Dinghies behind Karlton’s Sunset Lake home, Miami Beach

That is unreasonable. And, it demonstrates the lengths to which those opposing anchoring will go. It is not beyond the realm of belief that these same people – not necessarily Karlton but those of his ilk – have purchased survey respondents and skewed the survey to give them the result they want.
The great unwashed here represent about 2400 or so people. If each of them was paid $10 to fill out this survey, it wouldn’t amount to what one man paid for 20-some Pico dinghies. To people with this kind of wealth, that’s not an unreasonable amount of money to get the result they want.
Why would setoffs be the result these people want? Simple – a 150 foot setoff will effectively close every anchorage in south Florida. Just look at the charts done by my colleague Mike Ahart, from Waterway Guide.

The one shown here is of Middle River, Fort Lauderdale. As I write this, a friend anchored there tonight tells me there are 8 boats anchored there – which is probably 1/2 to 2/3 the number this anchorage could comfortably accommodate. With a 150 foot setoff, to which you’ll add at least 100 foot of rode, PLUS your boat’s length…this anchorage will hold one, perhaps two boats.
This law would effectively eliminate all but three or four boats from Lake Sylvia as well, and there would be no place to anchor from there to Miami. In Miami, it would eliminate anchoring along the Venetian Causeway, and….gee, Sunset Lake. Who’d a thunk it?

Why do I believe that 150 foot setoffs are in our future? First of all, for those of us who have been watching, it’s been coming for a while now. The pilot program didn’t make the homeowners happy.
There is incredible pressure from certain municipalities – Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Stuart and Martin County, probably others – to permit local rule making.
No choice for Zero setoff…

We were promised back when the Pilot Program was brought in that local rulemaking would not happen. But ‘something has to be done’ – that’s the message state legislators have been getting. The FWC was tasked to research the issue, and they have done so, using a survey so skewed that the one result cruisers would want was not even on it, as you can see here.
And it just happens to be the one result that gives unhappy homeowners what THEY want – the removal of anchored boats from their view.
So yes, I’m cynical. I strongly suggest that the results of this survey should only be used with the total removal of this ‘unidentified stakeholder’ cohort. Otherwise, they are, in my opinion, total garbage.
I also state here – and I’m going to get some people at these organizations upset with this comment – that those negotiating on our behalf, the Seven Seas Cruising Association, Boat US and the NMMA – state clearly that the only acceptable result is NO setoffs, which is in line with the Public Trust Doctrine. It’s also in line with what their members have clearly stated is what THEY want.
I say this because, as one government official said to me, ‘the tough part is getting the laws changed. Once changed, they are easy to amend’.
In other words, let’s say we settle for a 50 foot setoff. The precedent has been set, and it’s no problem for the rules to be rewritten to 100, to 150 feet at some later date.
Local building codes mandate setoffs between houses that are far, far less than 150 feet. Every house on the water is closer to its neighbour than I can possibly get with my boat to the house. Why should we be discriminated against?
No, this survey stinks, and we need to tell Florida, yet again – obey your laws and leave us alone. We aren’t the problem.

More AIS in the USA, the new USCG requirements

Tue, 2015-02-03 08:35

Written by Ben Ellison on Feb 3, 2015 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub

Please credit the U.S. Coast Guard with a sense of humor. The (NOA and) AIS Final Rule may be a dry read, but not last week’s email announcement, which began with the giddy declaration “4,232 days in the making!” I don’t know why the rulemaking process took so long, and it may have been most frustrating for those who do, but I’ll still be glad to have more of the commercial vessels working along our coasts equipped with AIS. It won’t happen fast, though — vessels newly required to carry Class A or B AIS transponders can take until March 2016 to install them — and the number of such vessels seems uncertain…

When the new requirements were first drafted in 2008, the USCG suggested that Class B transponders might be allowed in some cases to lower costs. In fact, about half of the commercial vessels affected by the requirements will be allowed to use Class B, as illustrated above and at Vesper Marine. Vessels less than 65′ but with 50 or more passengers escaped AIS requirements in the final rule, but when I wrote “USCG AIS mandates, get’er done, please!” in 2010 they only accounted for about 1,000 boats and all the USCG category counts have gone down considerably.

The CG has posted the new “Potentially Effected Population” (sic) count above on their informative AIS FAQ list. Compared to the 2010 count, the total fishing vessels over 65 feet went from over 5,500 to under 3,000, and towing vessels > 26′ & > 600hp from over 4,500 to under 1,500. With the <65′ >50 passenger exclusion, the grand total went from over 17,000 to 5,848. I thought the lower category numbers might be because they eliminated vessels that had already installed AIS voluntarily — like the Maine State Ferries (thank goodness) — but actually it’s because the CG “rid our databases of old and/or duplicate records.”

So I’m going to guess (wildly) that the number of vessels which haven’t already installed AIS but must by 3/1/2016 is about 4,000. That’s a long way from 17,000, but then again, many of the new AIS vessels are underway a lot, voluntary Class B on recreational vessels is increasing rapidly, and the more boats that have it, the more useful it is. It’s a virtuous circle.

If you do have a commercial vessel that may be affected by the new requirements — or if you install electronics on such vessels — perhaps the best breakdown of the “A or B” question is the one above created by SRT and posted at Port Supply along with some good videos about installing (SRT made) Em-Trak Class A and B devices on workboats. Milltech Marine is a great AIS resource, especially for do-it-yourselfers; the expertise of True Heading has come to the USA; and there are reviews and more in Panbo’s AIS section. Now let’s look beyond extended AIS carriage requirements in the USA.

We added a section to 33 CFR part 62 and amended two sections in part 66 to address a comment requesting that we expand AIS carriage to offshore fixed structures. In our NPRM, we encouraged broader use of AIS, but this comment highlighted a particular shortcoming regarding offshore fixed structures. Our proposed rule addressed mobile shipboard devices such as AIS Class A or B, but not offshore structures or AIS Aids to Navigation (AIS AtoN) systems which are best suited for fixed position deployment, such as on offshore oil platforms. Existing AtoN regulations (see 33 CFR 66.01-1 Basic Provisions) bar the use of AIS as a Private Aid to Navigation, and thus preclude the use of an AIS AtoN on certain fixed structures. This prohibition in the current AtoN regulations is inconsistent with our stated objective of broadening the use of AIS. An AIS AtoN would provide position, name, and health status of the aid, such as “on station, watching properly.” These amendments to parts 62 and 66, which allow for enhanced MDA and improved navigation safety, would not require anyone subject to our rule to establish an AIS AtoN, they would merely make that option available.

There’s a whole lot more to the new regulations, and I don’t mean the Notice of Arrivals (NOA) part, which I don’t fully understand and which doesn’t seem relevant to recreational vessels. What struck me in the long, though often elegantly written, Final Rule is the Coast Guard’s broad confidence in the value of AIS both for vessel safety and MDA (Marine Domain Awareness), plus its longterm vision for using it for even more good. I hope the folks who worry about AIS “clutter” and an overburdened system pay attention to where the experts are at after years of experiencing AIS in action.

One example is a modification to the AtoN regs that permits AIS AtoNs — now in wide beta use around the U.S.– to be put up privately (with permission). I highlighted the pertinent Final Rule text above, but then check out the actual “Broader Use of AIS” section for a description of how AIS Application Specific Messaging (ASM) will be used to “provide a more dynamic detail to information that is traditionally conveyed by slower means: chart updates, (e.g., new navigation hazards), printed notices to mariners, navigation publications and directives, meteorological and hydrographic Web sites, and more.” I’m just beginning to understand the ASM aspect of AIS myself, but the USCG is on it, and the possibilities are exciting.

Of course, other people may read this rule in other ways (which may be why it took so long to iron out). In fact, I’ve already heard from a chap who wrote of the rule that he was “surprised that the recreational 65′ vessel was dropped as it was a concern for homeland security and the potential carrying capacity for destructive weapons.” When I replied that I’d never had an inkling that the USCG was planning to mandate AIS on recreational vessels, he couldn’t document his assertion at all, but nonetheless referenced the Rule Note at bottom to conclude that:

Captain of the Port now has the very broad authority to determine who may be required to install AIS…which is a round-about method to addressing to any recreation vessels. You will note it does not specify commercial. This presently satisfies the Homeland security issue and would allow a “quick” fix if desired. (Anticipate the future to require recreational vessels over 65′ to be AIS carriage in certain areas.)

Sheesh! What the Note actually says, I’m pretty sure, is that while the Captain of the Port has always had broad authority to restrict vessel use, he or she can now permit a dubious vessel of any sort to operate if it voluntarily installs AIS. It’s an option, not a mandate, even for those folks who think AIS somehow threatens their liberty. What concerns me much more is what happens if terrorists do strike a soft target with a small vessel, as I once heard a USCG Rear Admiral worry about. But that’s me. What rational conclusions do you draw from the new regs, and what did you find if dug deep?

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Schooner Mahdee & Bootstrap Adventure

Tue, 2015-02-03 01:00

Andy spoke with Brenda of the schooner Mahdee, which is currently berthed in California. Brenda and her husband David got inspired to go sailing in their college years while on a cycling trip around Lake Superior. Eating from a camp stove, they looked at a sailboat on the lake and thought, ‘that’s how we ought to travel!’

Years went by, and Brenda and David traveled all over the world following his career as a Navy Pilot while Brenda picked up Engineering jobs. Finally, in 2006, their dream came true when they bought and begant the lengthy restoration of the classic 1931 schooner Mahdee. Since launch, they’ve cruised the west coast as far as Alaska, and are full-time liveaboards, having sold everything ashore to follow their dream. Check out Mahdee’s transformation on blog.mahdee.com.

Their latest project is Bootstrap Adventure (bootstrapadventure.com), where they’re attempting to create a marketplace for outdoor adventurers to buy and sell gear, knowledge and experience.

Want to go ocean sailing with Andy? Book a berth on 59-north.com/events.

Treasures at the Beach

Mon, 2015-02-02 20:41

There was a time in my life when a visit to the beach was as rare and exciting as Christmas. Once in a blue moon my parents would hook the pop-up trailer to the back of the Big Red Van, and we would trundle off to Southampton. It didn’t matter if the water was cold, we didn’t care if the sky was grey. We were at the beach! Seashells! Sand castles! Bathing suits 24/7, baby! Peeling shoulders, new friends from exotic locales such as Sarnia and Guelph, and hair full of sand. It was about as good as life gets.

For my kids, excitement is seeing a squirrel in Grannie and Poppa’s backyard. “Oh! Oh! Mom! Did you see that? Quick, look – it’s a squirrel! Oh my gosh, can I go outside and see it? I hope it doesn’t run away!” There’s no doubt they love the beach, but there is no mystery there. Try to entice them with a stretch of sand and the promise of some fish in the water, and all you’ll get is a look that says, “Okay, okay, don’t hurt yourself. It’s just the beach.”

But new-and-unexplored or old-and-familiar, the beach is still a ton of fun. Who can say no to this?

First stop is always the water. Sunday morning, Stylish immediately took possession of a boogie board, and went out in the waves.

Erik went in search of bigger game. Our friends had an extra surfboard on hand, so he paddled out to give it a try.

Erik has long cherished a wish to go kite surfing, but had to settle for trying regular surfing this time. Myself, I wonder at the need for a kite. I guess there is nothing like zooming along the surface of the water at up to 100 kph on a tiny board. But why is it that every sport Erik enjoys involves a harness and a safety knife to cut yourself free?

I went for a snorkel (undocumented, comme d’habitude). Some fish, some coral, watch for rip currents and the breaking waves; same old, same old. Honestly, I could do it every day.

But even the boring old beach can have surprises in store. After Indy finished her wave-jumping exercises, she went in search of shells. Each time she found a good one, she ran back up the beach, showed it off, then ran back to the water’s edge for more.
A Frisbee full of shells.

But the best was yet to come. “Mooooooom!” she yelled, running towards me. “Look what I found! It’s a piece of pottery. I think it was a cup. It must have come from a shipwreck. I’m so excited!”

Indy happily tucked her find into the dive bag, and scampered off to look for more.

Meanwhile, Stylish had also started beachcombing. Being older and that much more savvy, she sent a younger child to fetch me when she found something good.

I’ll admit, I didn’t expect her to find a sewing machine.
Now, where did you come from?

It is an old Singer, but the logo is a little different from the others I saw poking around online. I’d love to know what era this is from – can anyone help me out? (I’m looking at you, Mom.) Amazingly enough, the chrome on the flywheel and the thread plate is still as shiny as ever. It is too bad the body is so rusty; it is certainly the most unusual thing we have ever found on the beach.

Stylish really wanted to bring it home, but Mean Mom and Dad said no. Now, I kind of regret that. I’d like to take a better look at the machine.

Maybe we’ll have to go back to the beach this weekend.

What’s Sailing in Cuba Really Like?

Mon, 2015-02-02 15:59

Seeing the mountains of Cuba, especially after leaving the flat and featureless Bahamas, is exciting. You know it’s going to be different, but just how different you don’t know. Equal parts of fear and anticipation, hesitancy and expectation, jitter about in your mind. It’s not at all like entering any other country.

As you approach, and generally somewhere about 9 or 10 miles out, the Cuban Guarda Frontera (coast guard) contacts you via VHF with a request you identify yourself and your intentions. This is it. You’re heading in and your entire cruising experience is about to be changed.

ooops…..

My first visit I entered at Puerto de Vita after a 65 nm crossing from Ragged Island in the Bahamas. I then managed to put myself aground right at sunset – at high tide no less. The next morning, the doctor had to give me pratique with the boat over at 30 degrees. ‘Come ahead in your dinghy, you can complete clearing in when you get your boat to the marina,’ he told me.  No stress, totally at ease with the situation. That made one of us, but this casual attitude to life’s difficulties was typical of most Cubans.

Customs officer in Varadero

It was the following day’s higher high tide before I was able to kedge Gypsy Wind into deep water, and head into the marina. There had been no issues with my hanging about during the day waiting on the tide, everyone was friendly, and several offered to assist in getting the boat free.
Once tied up, about 10 officials boarded the boat to complete clearing me in – Guarda officials, the vet to deal with agricultural issues, marina manaager, Customs, and a drug dog with handler.

Every one of them had his/her papers to be signed, and only a couple of them spoke really good English, so with my non-existent Spanish, it went slowly. Two hours later however, the last of them departed with a smile, and a few cans of Coke as small ‘regalos’ – gifts.
My boat had been searched, although not extensively, and my handheld GPS had been sealed into a locker. The flare gun was a non-issue, although that wouldn’t be the case in Havana. The big concerns were drugs, weapons, and certain foodstuffs, such as lettuce, and eggs. On another occasion, the agricultural inspector actually used a jeweller’s loupe to inspect lettuce for mold.
After this carnival however, boardings at each new location were limited to presenting my passport and despacho (zarpe), a quick look around, and a cheerful welcome from the local Guarda officer. Pretty painless in other words.

Guarda post inside north coast pocket bay

 

The marina staff at Puerto de Vita, headed by former schoolteacher Tina, were smiling, polite and friendly, although only a few spoke passable English. I made friends with several of the staff and a few of the cruisers at the dock. Like any good sailor, I found the showers, and the bar/restaurant. I was ready to experience Cuba.

Over the next few days I spoke extensively with Tina about my ongoing plans, where I could go, where I could not, what the rules for cruisers were in this Communist nation. I learned I could only go ashore with the boat at a marina. Rowing ashore from anchor wasn’t permitted – although you could anchor off a marina and row in. Certain locations, such as nearby Gibara (pronounced hibara) were ‘prohibido’, off limits. No reason given, and you could certainly travel overland to visit, but not by boat. A lot of the rules don’t make sense, but that’s just how Cuba is. Eventually, you just accept the insanity of it all.

Leaving Puerto de Vita a week later, I decided to head for Gibara anyway as there was an international film festival underway…only to be greeted on approach by the Guarda on the VHF saying “Yipsy Wind, Yipsy Wind…” – the Guarda officer couldn’t pronounce the ‘g’ in the boat’s name. As I proceeded, it became clear that they were getting annoyed with me. Although I couldn’t understand what was being said, the words ‘es prohibido’ kept cropping up and that was pretty clear. I tacked and headed on to the next cape and into an anchorage for the night.

The 300 plus nm west to Varadero over the next two weeks were wonderful. I’d spend the evenings perusing Nigel Calder’s Cruising Guide to Cuba for my next anchorage, carefully reading his cautions about reef entries, shoals, pocket bays and anchorages. Plans made, I’d motor out to the reef, raise sail and enjoy a 7 knot downwind romp to my next stop, day after day.

Cuba is best experienced heading west, to take full advantage of the currents and trade winds. I spent not even $20 on diesel fuel before returning stateside from Varadero.
I met one fellow taking his boat from Fort Lauderdale to Brazil. He was having an awful time of it, and had shredded his main by the time he’d gotten to Cayo Coco, beating against the trades.
At that point, he’d travelled 500 miles, nonstop, to make about 175 good, having gone directly south to Cuba before turning east. I’d travelled 175 miles, stopping every evening after a great day of sailing to rest, and dining on lobster or fish I’d traded t-shirts for with local fishermen. He looked like he’d been beaten with a stick – a big stick. He had no weather radio either. I suggested he return to Florida, get new sails and a radio, and try again but through the Bahamas to get some easting rather than taking on the trades for the next 1600 nm to Port of Spain.

Dock at Cayo Coco, or Guillermo – no showers, no heads. Just a dock..and an extremely challenging entrance.

Cayo Coco, or Guillermo as it’s also known, is a tourist area with a small marina. It’s a very difficult, poorly marked and shallow entry and boats often go aground entering or leaving. It has no facilities, not even bathrooms or showers, and the nearest provisioning is 50 miles away. I’ve been told it’s closed now and boats have to anchor on the far side of the island.

There are all inclusive resorts however, and I wandered into one for something to do. I met up with a British couple at the pool, some French and Italian tourists and a few Canadians. They were entranced by my stories of what the real Cuba was like, there being no towns or villages near the resort for them to visit.
This is typical. The Cuban government tries, as much as possible, to keep everyday Cubans from interacting with tourists. Obviously this isn’t possible in places such as Havana, or Varadero, but where it’s possible, they do it, often locating resorts at a great distance from any community.

However, Cubans are friendly folk and eager to meet us. In Holguin, Cuba’s second largest city which I visited in a rental car, I met a local schoolteacher who offered to show me around his hometown. He was obviously quite proud of where he lived, despite the obvious poverty.
In most places, you could expect the hand to be out pretty quickly, but not in Cuba. I had to cajole my new friend into having lunch with me, a soda and slice of pizza, perhaps $3 for both of us, and there was never a request for a gratuity for his services as a tour guide.

City of Holguin from the mountaintop

 

This was the norm. Walking back to the boat very late one evening in Varadero, I was invited to join a group of Cubans sitting drinking rum and singing at a restaurant patio. Only one spoke good English, a woman in a wheelchair playing guitar.
She played a John Denver song for me, the only English tune she knew, to welcome me. Joining them, I drank rum and danced until nearly dawn, laughing and talking with my new friends before returning to my boat at the marina.

Stay tuned – more to come….

RAINMAKER ABANDONED: Gunboat 55 Hull No. 1 Dismasted, Crew Evacuated by Helo

Sat, 2015-01-31 21:14

For me this is like déjà vu all over again. All this month I’ve been thinking about where I was a year ago, dangling from a wire beneath a Coast Guard helicopter many miles offshore with a busted catamaran beneath me. For SAIL Magazine’s story click here. This year’s victim, unfortunately, is an award-winning Gunboat 55, hull no. 1, Rainmaker, which got dismasted yesterday after getting raked by a 70-knot whiteout squall about 200 miles southeast of Cape Hatteras. The five-member crew elected to abandon the vessel and was evacuated by a Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter operating near the limit of its range.

Gunboat CEO Peter Johnstone broke the story late yesterday on his Facebook page and described the incident to me in more detail early this afternoon.

Rainmaker was 36 hours into a passage that began at Gunboat’s North Carolina yard, bound for St. Martin, when she was dismasted. Sustained winds at the time were 30-35 knots, with 40-knot squalls coming through at intervals. The crew, led by skipper Chris Bailet and owner Brian Cohen, were flying a triple-reefed mainsail and a storm jib. Also aboard were Cohen’s son and two other professional crew. The coup-de-grace was delivered by one 70-knot squall, a microburst Johnstone termed it, that looked no different from the other squalls as it approached. In Johnstone’s words: “The mast came down with the wall of wind.”

According to Johnstone, the rig was cleared with no damage to the hull, and the crew salvaged the storm jib in hopes of putting up a jury rig later. There were lines around the props, which precluded any motoring until they could be cleared. “No question, they probably could have turned downwind and tried to sort something out later,” Johnstone told me. “But the weather forecast was bad, and in the end they decided to play it safe with the lives aboard.”

According to the Coast Guard’s report, a 350-foot cargo vessel, Ocean Crescent, was 40 miles from the scene and diverted to pick up the crew, but was unable to come alongside the catamaran. According to Johnstone, Rainmaker collided violently with the ship and was almost sucked into its propeller. Ultimately, the crew was lifted off at approximately 5 pm by a Coast Guard Jayhawk helicopter sent from the Coast Guard airbase at Elizabeth City, North Carolina. The Jayhawk reportedly didn’t have enough fuel to make it back to Elizabeth City and instead landed in Manteo, North Carolina, not too far from the Gunboat yard, at 8:10 pm.

Here’s a viddy of the lift that the Coasties have posted:

Conditions look quite a bit rougher than they were when I got to appear in one of these productions last year.

I am sure a lot of people out there are already in Armchair Admiral Mode, doing the would-have should-have could-have thing, second-guessing the crew’s decision to abandon ship, but I can tell you from experience this is a definitely-have-to-be-there sort of decision. I met the skipper, Chris Bailet, when I was aboard Rainmaker at the Newport show last fall and was very impressed with him. I’m guessing he very likely might have organized a way to get the boat back to shore once the weather settled out, but there are other personal factors to consider. I’m thinking in particular of the owner, and that son of his. I’ve met many owners who are bolder than their skippers when it comes to a boat’s safety. But a child’s safety is something else entirely.

Johnstone has stated an effort will be made to retrieve the boat, which is valued at about $2.5 million. I imagine right now they’re pretty busy organizing that.

This is Rainmaker on her home turf, off Manhattan. Brian Cohen intended to use her as “a floating conference center” for a group of investors he leads during the summer season and spend winters aboard down in the Caribbean. You can read more about Cohen and the boat in this Forbes profile here, and can also catch them together in this viddy:

Rainmaker‘s crew with the Coasties that retrieved them, safe and sound in Carolina

One question I’m asking myself is about the ultimate range of these Coast Guard rescue helicopters. We were 300 miles offshore when we were rescued last year, and they refueled twice at sea on a U.S. Navy vessel while retrieving us, once coming out to us and once going back. When I asked about this, my Coasties told me the Jayhawk’s range is about 300 miles. Hence on a 600-mile round trip, plus spending a lot of time hovering while lifting people aboard, it obviously made sense to stop twice for gas.

Now here we have the same helo saving Rainmaker’s crew on a 400-mile round trip with no fuel stops and apparently just barely enough fuel aboard to pull it off.

According to Wikipedia, the Jayhawk “is designed to fly a crew of four up to 300 miles offshore, hoist up to 6 additional people on board while remaining on scene for up to 45 minutes and return to base while maintaining an adequate fuel reserve.”

Anyone got hard facts on this?

GoFree goes online & Insight Genesis Social Mapping goes free

Fri, 2015-01-30 10:00

Written by Ben Ellison on Jan 30, 2015 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub

The 2015 Navico writers event was in the same Florida Keys location as last year’s spectacular, which only seemed to highlight the rapid development pace we witnessed. For instance, fishing in a now familiar place and style with the new Lowrance HDS Gen3 multifunction display really showed off the phenomenal variety and quality of functions built in. It may even qualify as a “revolutionary” MFD feature set, despite my earlier skepticism, and it wasn’t even mentioned at the 2014 event. But that story will have to wait. Last fall Navico also announced a plan to get their MFDs online and, as suggested on the screen above, I got to see the software update in action. It’s only the beginning of what the GoFree online connection can be, but it’s an impressive beginning…

So while it was easy to get the Lowrance HDS Gen3 online by pointing its built-in WiFi to my phone’s hotspot, don’t presume that we could then download weather files, browse email, or auto log engine data to the cloud while motoring around Hawk’s Cay. All that and much more may come but for now the MFDs can only perform a few tasks with their Internet connection, one of which is to purchase charts from the GoFree Shop. It’s still called the Insight Store on the Web, but you can see the wide variety of charts and maps offered, which now include not only NV raster charts but also Fugawi rasters of Canada and the US. (We also learned that the next edition of the C-Map Max N+ cartography bundle seen above will include many C-Map 4D features like raster chart and hi-res bathy layers, but that too is another story.)

Now some folks may be put off that a first Navico MFD online “feature” involves spending more money more easily, but consider the heavy development required to make that work.

Purchasing and downloading very large files has only recently gotten easy and reliable ashore, so making it work with a relatively limited MFD and a possibly flaky boat Internet connection is quite a challenge. But it seems like Navico has worked it out in detail. The system warns you if your SD card doesn’t have sufficient room, for instance, and an interrupted download restarts without data loss when the connection is re-established. Going online with the GoFree Shop is also synchronized to your online account and apparently secure enough to protect your credit card info and the data of the many chart companies that are participating.

So it looks to me like most of the major “iMFD” challenges have been addressed; if GoFree online can manage large secure files over intermittent Internet connections, many of the other possibilities — did I mention easy chart updating? — should be quite doable. The software update for Lowrance HDS Gen2 Touch, Simrad NSS evo2, and B&G Zeus2 should be out soon, and it can also download firmware updates and automatically upload sonar files. And there’s some great news about what those sonar files can do.

Navico’s Insight Genesis make-your-own maps system just got a lot of new features, and the free version got a lot more valuable. Specifically, anyone registered in the free IG program can not only turn their sonar logs into online maps, as I tried back in 2013, but also download those maps to their MFD along with any other sonar map made available by fellow Insight Genesis users. Navico calls them Social Maps and once you register you’ll find that there are already at least bits of Social Map lake and coast coverage all around the world, searchable with online lists or satellite maps.

The $99/year Premium Insight Genesis subscription is still needed download private sonar maps as well as extra vegetation and bottom composition layers, as explained in this Free versus Premium comparison. But I think that a big deal here is the combination of the new GoFree MFD online abilities and the free Social Map downloads. While the sonar mapping off Hawk’s Cay seen below is pretty spotty and the HDS screenshots were taken 1,500 miles away in Tulsa, consider how this will work in the very near future. The boater, if agreeable, will automatically collect sonar logs which will automatically upload to the IG servers whenever their MFD is online via their phone or marina WiFi, even if it takes several sessions. A few days later the processed Social Map will be available to download direct to the MFD and at any time the user can easily grab existing Social Maps, all for free if you own a current generation display.

These Navico developments are a challenge to the Navionics subscription-only SonarChart model, though it would be nice to see SonarCharts also available at the GoFree Shop (which is possible I think). The easy new MFD integration and freemium pricing are also a recipe for rapid worldwide Social Map coverage, and at least tentatively I think that the Insight Genesis system produces higher quality bottom mapping than SonarCharts. So while the sonar sensor wars rage on, the crowd-sourced sonar map competition may be just getting started, and isn’t it all good for us?

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Preparing for passage making

Fri, 2015-01-30 07:02

How do you get ready for a passage? We’ve done it enough, but we’re rusty. And the upcoming ~1,200 nm from Malaysia to Sri Lanka is our first passage in a year of big passages. Even though we keep Totem in shape, after more than two years of mostly coastal sailing important to avoid complacency and make sure we’re on top of all systems aboard before taking off. Of course, life on a boat is a constantly scrolling list of repairs and maintenance, but the miles ahead add extra pressure.

So, what are we doing before we leave? Here’s a look at the current list.

Rigging. Jamie’s been checking a lot of rigs on other boats- time to check ours! He uses a magnifying glass (ours is the salvaged eyepiece from an old pair of binoculars) and scrutinizes it. Inspection is almost complete. He’s also re-spliced the inner forestay to get more tension, cleaned up chafe protection (re-purposed old yoga mats) has mostly tuned the rig.

Main strop. Our current strop has done enough time in tropical UV rays, so Jamie’s going to make a new one.

Vang. Needed a simple repair after blowing up on our sail between Koh Muk and Koh Lipe recently.

Sails. We bent on our new headsail yesterday. WOW, did that feel good! It’s very pretty. Who wants a 93% genoa? Still has life!

Steering system. Resolved play in the quadrant, adjusted and inspected the steering cable.

Alternator. After acting funny for a few hours recently, island hopping in Thailand, the alternator simply stopped charging our battery bank. The alternator was inspected by a mechanic; a few broken wires, fixed, working. Except it didn’t. Next in the charging chain is the voltage regulator, but with our backup installed we still weren’t charging. But it DID work when the backup-backup-ancient-dinosaur voltage regulator was installed. Eureka! We are now awaiting a new voltage regulator.

Wiring jobs. Above deck, wrapping up some wiring into the new solar arch for the stern light and the aft deck light. Below deck, it cleaning up electrical connections- there were signs of corrosion in a few spots.

Safety on deck. Installing jacklines, and securing bolts in all the lifeline stanchions. And, new PFDs: turns out, not all of our inflatables would still inflate when we tested them recently (a sobering moment). We couldn’t find them for sale here, but a friend / blog reader / sail customer in Singapore came up from Langkawi last weekend and offered to bring new PFDs from a chandlery there. Thank you Stephan!

Lines everywhere. Inspecting running rigging. Installing a preventer. Running lines for the asymmetric, which we think may get a lot of use soon (finally! But Jamie still wishes we had a Code Zero instead).

Outboard maintenance. It’s been misfiring; a little cleanup in order.

Windlass. Our installed windlass will get a little routine TLC, and our spare motor has been taken in for service. We rely on this too much to be without a backup…or skip on taking care of the one we have!

Stowage. Best advice I had in early cruising days: take a photo of your cabin. Rotate it 90 degrees, and see what won’t stay in. Rotate it another 90 degrees, and see what’s going to fall. We’ve not had rough weather in a while, and it’s really important to make sure everything has a place and will stay in it. First, we’re trying to have less stuff to stow…

Medical kit. Review of kit contents, and stowage. We have several kits, and they’ve gotten a little mixed up and messy over the last couple of years. Not to mention we’ve burned through more antibiotic ointment than expected: we don’t want to risk infection from cuts or scrapes in the tropics.

Safety gear. Checking all the fire extinguishers. Reviewing the contents of our ditch kits (and their expiration dates), and re-stowing the kits in more accessible locations for the passage. We’ll test our EPIRB, update our beacon registration, and send a message to emergency contacts about our plans.

Galley organization. We’re still getting used to where things go and how they’re secured. I’m sure we’ll learn more on this passage. Meanwhile, knives are getting two new under-cabinet magnets for storage.

Paperwork. Everything from visas, to clearance agents, to taxes, to health and boat insurance… it’s mind numbing, and it drains the wallet, but it has to be done.

Provisioning. Right, THAT! We did a big run in Phuket. We’ll top up here. My provisioning strategy for now is mostly passage focused, vs. looking at the broader season in the Indian Ocean, since I hear we’ll have good produce in Sri Lanka. I’ll wait until then to do canning and other longer-term provisioning. And, it’s not just food: we’ll top up on fuel and water before we leave as well.

Random pesky stuff. Our headliner replacement wasn’t complete when we left Satun. We don’t have time for all the trim work but will make sure the panels are secure so nothing becomes a hazard on the passage. A number of drawers need latches or pulls, and the chart locker needs a door.

There is a light at the end of this prep tunnel. We’re working through steadily. Jamie’s watching weather, I’m helping with net control for the HF radio net with other boats pointing across the Indian Ocean. And we’re excited, all of us, about a new horizon.

Passage prep’s a snap for readers who click through to the Sailfeed website!

TOPPLED: Sloop Providence Replica Falls Off Jackstands in “Historic” N.E. Blizzard

Wed, 2015-01-28 17:11

Ouch! This happened yesterday in Newport, Rhode Island, at the Newport Shipyard, where Providence was blocked up for the winter. Though the yard staff evidently stuck in some extra jackstands before the storm, they weren’t up to the job. The vessel’s mast is busted and her fiberglass hull has been punctured. She also, coincidentally, is for sale, so now’s the time to come in with a super lowball bid if you’re interested.

Here are some more pix:

(Top 2 pix are by Dave Hansen, the bottom 2 are by Rocky Steeves, courtesy of the Associated Press)

The original Providence was built in 1775 and served during the Revolutionary War under John Paul Jones, among others. She is credited with having sunk or captured 40 British ships during the war. The replica (61 feet on deck, 110 feet overall) was built in 1976 for the Bicentennial and has served in two Pirates of the Caribbean films.

Blizzard, you say?

Most definitely, that’s what it was. In New York City they may be whimpering about the storm that wasn’t, but here on the New Hampshire coast the snow is as high as an elephant’s eye (as Oscar Hammerstein might put it), and we are still digging out. On Nantucket I understand the island was raked by 80-mph winds and they lost all power and communications, no ferries or flights in or out, and they only have food for a week. The town of Scituate is under 5 feet of water, Worcester got 31 inches, etc., etc.

For me personally, however, this has all worked out very well. I was scheduled to fly down to St. Martin yesterday to spend some time on Lunacy, but I was also coming down with the flu (courtesy of my disease-vector daughter Lucy, which is why I’m calling this the “flucy”), and I really didn’t want to waste my cruise in the W’Indies feeling like death warmed over. Thanks to the storm my flight was preemptively cancelled, and I was able to push everything back a week without paying any change fees. Now I have plenty of time to lie in bed moaning and groaning while watching snow drifts envelope the house. Plus I’ll be around to watch the Super Bowl.

No, I haven’t taken any pix of snow outside the house to share with you. But follow this link here and you can see some pix and a time-lapse video of yesterday’s storm as it was experienced at the new skating rink just down the street.

I’m telling you, that rink is boss. They’re reopening today at noon, and if I wasn’t feeling so crappy I’d be down there with the blades on with the quickness.

UPDATE: Crikey. It’s worse than I thought. Turns out someone just signed a sales agreement on Providence and she was scheduled to be surveyed. Hope it comes out OK.

Why we love cruising in Thailand

Wed, 2015-01-28 05:53

We’ve checked out of Thailand, and don’t know when we’ll be back. While we wrap up pre-passage projects on Totem in Malaysia, it feels like the perfect time to reflect on what we loved (and didn’t) about the nearly six months we’ve spent in Thailand between 2013 and 2014.

The landscapes are breathtaking. The Andaman coast is peppered with stunning spots. From the surreal archipelago of limestone spires in Phang Nga bay to the sparkling water of the marine park islands offshore, there’s one beautiful anchorage after another. There should probably be a whole separate post of favorite places!

beautiful Phang Nga bay

The food is outrageously good. And it’s not just good, it’s cheap. For a family like ours on a small budget, we typically pass on restaurant meals ashore. Not in Thailand! Delicious curries and stir fries are $1-2 per person. Finer dining might set you back $10 each. And it’s a treat for the senses: delicately nuanced flavors in the artful balance between sweet, salty, spicy and sour, new ingredients and combinations or fragrance and taste to discover- it’s all a delight. I’ll take this one with us thanks to cooking lessons in Phuket.

whole fried fish, covered with a green papaya salad and cashews. OMG

It’s affordable. Shipping things from overseas isn’t (high customs fees are unavoidable – they don’t fly with the “yacht in transit” duty exemption), but local prices are good, and local wages are low. So although we had to pay full retail for the parts from Spectra for our watermaker (ouch), the very low labor rates kept the overall servicing of our device far lower than it could have been in many other countries. Treats like a restaurant dinner ando everyday things, like a taxi ride or a ticket to the movies, are relatively inexpensive.

delicious pizza in Chalong, run by a couple of Italian guys. yes please! (note the HUGE table of cruising kids)

We get to indulge in imported goodies. Thanks to the large expat population in Phuket, passing through Thailand has given us better access to familiar foods since we left Australia in 2012. Now, we do love to eat local style, but tastes from home are important too. I went way over budget on cheeses, cured meats, and treat like brussels sprouts or endive or granola from Makro. And I like knowing we’ll have enough balsamic vinegar and olive oil to get us to South Africa now.

fine camembert at sundowners brought to you by Makro. not sure we saw the green flash but it was fun trying

It’s accessible. With relatively inexpensive international flights and a well-greased skid for tourism into Phuket, we’ve had visitors FOUR times while we were in Phuket. Unprecedented! I miss family so much sometimes, but here, we’ve had both my brother and his family come for Christmas in 2013, and my cousin and her husband spend part of their honeymoon with us this month. Good friends Dan and Hyo joined us for fun in the sun too. It means so much to us to have special people like this visit. We know it’s not easy. And it’s pretty fantastic that the relative accessibility of Thailand helps make this possible.

Hyo’s here!

 

Dan’s here!

There’s beautiful underwater life to be found. I don’t want to overplay it, because mostly it’s terrible: the waters here are overfished, and the reefs are not well. But: it was VASTLY better than anything we saw in the rest of 2014 in Malaysia, and there were some stunning spots.

beautiful, and totally unexpected, display of fans at a poitn in Koh Muk

 

sinister scorpion fish in the Similans

The cruisers! Sure, we love to get off the beaten track. But we like to socialize, too. I mean, we really like to socialize! And since Thailand is a seasonal hub for cruisers, it’s easy to cross tracks with cruising friends. With a little advance planning, we had every kid boat in the watery neighborhood hanging out and having fun in Koh Phayam for Christmas. We’ve made lasting memories with great friends- from Strawberry Monkey Yacht Club hazing initiation at the wayward hippie bar, to long walks and lazy beach days on Koh Phayam, diving in the marine park Islands, crazy nights in Patong, and shoes-optional beach dinners in Chalong.

sunset drinks on Koh Lipe with my good friend Cathy

beach games on Koh Phayam with Utopia

There’s actually SAILING to be done. Yes, we live on a sailboat. But for more than two years, we’ve been in often windless in the tropics. There are no trades here, just seasonal monsoons which seem to mostly translate into a) not enough wind to sail in or b) almost enough but it’s on the nose or c) whoa, that’s a big squall, not sailing again! But here, we’ve had some epic days where we could turn off the engine and just put away miles listening to water gurgle past the hull. It’s a tall glass of water in the desert.

racing, I mean sailing in company, with Kittani en route to Koh Phayam

 

Why would we ever leave? It’s not all roses. Next post: what I really won’t miss about Thailand.

Savvy sailors know we love it when you click through to read this on the SAILfeed site- thanks for tossing change in our cruising kitty!

MARINE LIGHTNING PROTECTION: Getting Z-Z-Z-Zapped on a Sailboat

Wed, 2015-01-28 00:53

I have to admit I don’t normally think about this too much. As is true of many sailors I suspect, I have subscribed to the philosophy that lightning and its effects are so random and poorly understood that you can get royally screwed no matter what you try to do about it. Which is a great predicate, of course, to going into denial and doing nothing at all. But the death in Florida last summer of Noah Cullen, a most promising young man who presumably was killed in a lightning strike while out singlehanding on his pocket cruiser, got me pondering this in a more deliberate manner. On doing some research, I found there are some hard facts out there that are well worth knowing.

Much of what we tend to learn about lightning is anecdotal, which mostly serves to make it seem more mysterious. I, for example, have never been struck by lightning, but I did once cut through some severe thunder squalls in the Gulf Stream in a grounded fiberglass boat and saw a bolt of lightning the size of a large tree trunk flash straight into the water just a few yards behind us. I can’t begin to tell you why it didn’t hit our nice 55-foot aluminum mast, and ever since then I’ve believed a strike is pretty much an act of God. It’s either going to get you, or not, and there’s nothing you can really do about it.

I have met a number of sailors who have been struck by lightning, mostly in grounded boats, and in every case they told me they lost all their electronics. So I have also always assumed there is nothing you can really do to protect installed electronics from a lightning strike.

But you should forget all the anecdotes you ever heard, at least temporarily, and think about the following:

Likelihood of a strike: It’s probably much higher than you like to think. One source states that a sailboat with a 50-foot mast will on average be struck once every 11.2 years. According to insurance data, the general average for all boats is about 1.2 strikes per 1,000 boats each year.  The average bill for damage is around $20,000. Most strikes are on sailboats (4 strikes per 1,000 sailboats each year). And these are likely lowball numbers, as it seems many lightning-strike victims are not insured or do not report the strikes to their insurers. According to one independent survey, unreported strikes could be as high as 50 percent of the total.

Location is also a big factor. Some areas, including very popular cruising grounds like Florida or Chesapeake Bay, are much more lightning-prone than others, and you are obviously much more likely to get struck when sailing within them. The overall average for reported lightning strikes on boats in Florida, for example, is 3.3 strikes per 1,000 boats each year, nearly three times the national average.

Map showing lightning strike probabilities around the world. The higher the number, the higher the probability

Interestingly, catamarans overall apparently are struck twice as often as monohulls. Could this be because they are effectively twice as much boat???

Preventing a strike: It really isn’t possible. There is no technology that can positively keep your boat from being hit. There’s seems to be little evidence, for example, that those silly little masthead bottle brushes some people put up are good for anything.

Spectacular image of a sailboat getting hit in Rushcutter’s Bay in Sydney Harbor, Australia, with inset images showing damage to the mast. Lots of other targets with masts around, so why did the bolt hit this one boat?

Limiting damage: This is where the action is. To paraphrase one writer: it is a fallacy to think in terms of “lightning protection.” What you want is “lightning control.” Which definitely means grounding your boat! An ungrounded boat is much more likely to suffer potentially disastrous damage when struck (i.e., holes in the hull, dead crew, etc.). A boat in fresh water is also much more vulnerable, because fresh water doesn’t conduct electricity as well as salt water. An ungrounded boat in fresh water is most vulnerable of all. If you’re on one of these during a strike, you may as well just forget about it and put a cap in your head.

Typical exit damage around an anchor well drain on a fiberglass boat. Hull damage just above the waterline is not at all unusual

Grounding your boat: The old school notion of leading a big copper strip from the base of your mast in a straight line to a single grounding plate on your hull is the process of being discarded in favor of a more sophisticated technique that connects the mast as primary conductor to a network of dissipating electrodes installed just above a boat’s waterline, the idea being in effect to make all of the boat’s hull something like a Faraday cage, so that the equipment and people within will be safer.

Example of a more modern grounding system

Note (I was particularly gratified to learn this): a metal hull is indeed a great ground, and the fact that it is painted, or coated in epoxy, or whatever, doesn’t change this. But you can still suffer significant damage on a metal boat!

Bonding: You and the gear on your boat are more likely to survive a strike without damage if the major bits of metal on your boat are bonded to the grounding system. This reduces the likelihood of dangerous side flashes. (It does, however, create complications with respect to the potential for galvanic corrosion on a boat.)

Saving electronics: First of all, stowing handheld electronics (or any disconnected electronics) in your oven will protect them during a strike. Just remember to take them out again before using the oven!

More importantly, you can protect installed electronics using various individual surge protectors, fancy spiral wiring, and other techniques I’m not going to pretend to understand, much less explain. See the sources below for more details.

Your personal safety: This should be most important, right? You want to stay off the helm if possible, stay below, stay dry, and don’t touch any big pieces of metal. All of which are easier said than done when you’re in the middle of a big squall! It would seem the most prudent tactic is severely reduce sail, or take it all down, pop the boat on autopilot, and get below well in advance of and after a thunderstorm.

SOURCES

Lightning and Sailboats: Academic paper published by Ewen M. Thomson, currently recognized as the most well-informed go-to guy on this subject.

Marine Lightning Protection: Website for a business run by Ewen Thomson (see above), who is a pioneer in modern cage-style boat-grounding techniques. Thomson will ground and bond your boat for you, if you like, but there’s also lots of useful raw info in here.

Lightning Survey Results: Discussion re results of a small independent online lightning-strike survey conducted by a cruiser who owns a power-cat named Domino. Very informative.

Considerations for Lightning Protection: Conclusions reached post-survey by the owner of Domino, referenced above.

Lessons in Lightning: Ocean Navigator article by a cruiser in an aluminum boat who was struck by lightning in the Baltic. Of particular interest to those (like myself) who own aluminum boats.

There are lots of other resources out there, but these four links are a very good place to start. You’ll find many other valuable sources just by reading through these articles and following the links within.

MARINE LIGHTNING PROTECTION: Getting Z-Z-Z-Zapped on a Sailboat

Wed, 2015-01-28 00:53

I have to admit I don’t normally think about this too much. As is true of many sailors I suspect, I have subscribed to the philosophy that lightning and its effects are so random and poorly understood that you can get royally screwed no matter what you try to do about it. Which is a great predicate, of course, to going into denial and doing nothing at all. But the death in Florida last summer of Noah Cullen, a most promising young man who presumably was killed in a lightning strike while out singlehanding on his pocket cruiser, got me pondering this in a more deliberate manner. On doing some research, I found there are some hard facts out there that are well worth knowing.

Much of what we tend to learn about lightning is anecdotal, which mostly serves to make it seem more mysterious. I, for example, have never been struck by lightning, but I did once cut through some severe thunder squalls in the Gulf Stream in a grounded fiberglass boat and saw a bolt of lightning the size of a large tree trunk flash straight into the water just a few yards behind us. I can’t begin to tell you why it didn’t hit our nice 55-foot aluminum mast, and ever since then I’ve believed a strike is pretty much an act of God. It’s either going to get you, or not, and there’s nothing you can really do about it.

I have met a number of sailors who have been struck by lightning, mostly in grounded boats, and in every case they told me they lost all their electronics. So I have also always assumed there is nothing you can really do to protect installed electronics from a lightning strike.

But you should forget all the anecdotes you ever heard, at least temporarily, and think about the following:

Likelihood of a strike: It’s probably much higher than you like to think. One source states that a sailboat with a 50-foot mast will on average be struck once every 11.2 years. According to insurance data, the general average for all boats is about 1.2 strikes per 1,000 boats each year.  The average bill for damage is around $20,000. Most strikes are on sailboats (4 strikes per 1,000 sailboats each year). And these are likely lowball numbers, as it seems many lightning-strike victims are not insured or do not report the strikes to their insurers. According to one independent survey, unreported strikes could be as high as 50 percent of the total.

Location is also a big factor. Some areas, including very popular cruising grounds like Florida or Chesapeake Bay, are much more lightning-prone than others, and you are obviously much more likely to get struck when sailing within them. The overall average for reported lightning strikes on boats in Florida, for example, is 3.3 strikes per 1,000 boats each year, nearly three times the national average.

Map showing lightning strike probabilities around the world. The higher the number, the higher the probability

Interestingly, catamarans overall apparently are struck twice as often as monohulls. Could this be because they are effectively twice as much boat???

Preventing a strike: It really isn’t possible. There is no technology that can positively keep your boat from being hit. There’s seems to be little evidence, for example, that those silly little masthead bottle brushes some people put up are good for anything.

Spectacular image of a sailboat getting hit in Rushcutter’s Bay in Sydney Harbor, Australia, with inset images showing damage to the mast. Lots of other targets with masts around, so why did the bolt hit this one boat?

Limiting damage: This is where the action is. To paraphrase one writer: it is a fallacy to think in terms of “lightning protection.” What you want is “lightning control.” Which definitely means grounding your boat! An ungrounded boat is much more likely to suffer potentially disastrous damage when struck (i.e., holes in the hull, dead crew, etc.). A boat in fresh water is also much more vulnerable, because fresh water doesn’t conduct electricity as well as salt water. An ungrounded boat in fresh water is most vulnerable of all. If you’re on one of these during a strike, you may as well just forget about it and put a cap in your head.

Typical exit damage around an anchor well drain on a fiberglass boat. Hull damage just above the waterline is not at all unusual

Grounding your boat: The old school notion of leading a big copper strip from the base of your mast in a straight line to a single grounding plate on your hull is the process of being discarded in favor of a more sophisticated technique that connects the mast as primary conductor to a network of dissipating electrodes installed just above a boat’s waterline, the idea being in effect to make all of the boat’s hull something like a Faraday cage, so that the equipment and people within will be safer.

Example of a more modern grounding system

Note (I was particularly gratified to learn this): a metal hull is indeed a great ground, and the fact that it is painted, or coated in epoxy, or whatever, doesn’t change this. But you can still suffer significant damage on a metal boat!

Bonding: You and the gear on your boat are more likely to survive a strike without damage if the major bits of metal on your boat are bonded to the grounding system. This reduces the likelihood of dangerous side flashes. (It does, however, create complications with respect to the potential for galvanic corrosion on a boat.)

Saving electronics: First of all, stowing handheld electronics (or any disconnected electronics) in your oven will protect them during a strike. Just remember to take them out again before using the oven!

More importantly, you can protect installed electronics using various individual surge protectors, fancy spiral wiring, and other techniques I’m not going to pretend to understand, much less explain. See the sources below for more details.

Your personal safety: This should be most important, right? You want to stay off the helm if possible, stay below, stay dry, and don’t touch any big pieces of metal. All of which are easier said than done when you’re in the middle of a big squall! It would seem the most prudent tactic is severely reduce sail, or take it all down, pop the boat on autopilot, and get below well in advance of and after a thunderstorm.

SOURCES

Lightning and Sailboats: Academic paper published by Ewen M. Thomson, currently recognized as the most well-informed go-to guy on this subject.

Marine Lightning Protection: Website for a business run by Ewen Thomson (see above), who is a pioneer in modern cage-style boat-grounding techniques. Thomson will ground and bond your boat for you, if you like, but there’s also lots of useful raw info in here.

Lightning Survey Results: Discussion re results of a small independent online lightning-strike survey conducted by a cruiser who owns a power-cat named Domino. Very informative.

Considerations for Lightning Protection: Conclusions reached post-survey by the owner of Domino, referenced above.

Lessons in Lightning: Ocean Navigator article by a cruiser in an aluminum boat who was struck by lightning in the Baltic. Of particular interest to those (like myself) who own aluminum boats.

There are lots of other resources out there, but these four links are a very good place to start. You’ll find many other valuable sources just by reading through these articles and following the links within.

Liza Copeland

Tue, 2015-01-27 01:00

Listen now!

Andy sat down in person with Liza Copeland at the Toronto Boat Show not too long ago. In fact, they shared a booth alongside Paul & Sheryl Shard, who were all part of the seminar program at the show. Liza has sold an astounding number of her books, all about the cruising lifestyle, which has made her a household name in the sailing world. She first circumnavigated with her young family aboard a production Beneteau, and has since sailed over 100,000 miles in that boat, called ‘Bagheera.’

Andy & Liza discussed how she got into cruising and what it’s like saiing around the world with a family! This is truly an inspiring episode for anyone thinking of sailing with kids (Andy met her son at the show, who’s now a successful airline pilot – and still a sailor!). 

You can find Liza’s books online at aboutcruising.com.

Want to go ocean sailing with Andy? Book a berth for the Canadian Maritimes this summer and the Caribbean 1500 next fall at 59-north.com/events.

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