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Vesper XB-8000 test, much more than a Class B AIS transponder

Sun, 2014-03-30 15:00

Written by Ben Ellison on Mar 30, 2014 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub

I’ve had a Vesper XB-8000 installed in the lab for the last month, and I’m confident that it will do well in a long test on board Gizmo beginning in May. I will miss some features of the Vesper Vision I tested last season, but having the blue box installed behind the scenes will help me test the glass bridge concept (one MFD brand, many screens), and at $799 I think the XB-8000 is a multifunction value that could work on a wide variety of vessels. The recent testing also revealed some new features that apply to both the XB and the Vision as Vesper continues to expand on the concepts expressed in the 3-in-1 diagram above…

Let’s start with a look at XB-8000 results. The SEAiq app above is running on an iPad that’s connected by WiFi to the XB and it’s showing the same GPS and AIS data I saw coming from the Vision last summer. That’s quite useful in itself, but note the addition of depth and wind. The XB-8000 (or the Vision) can now serve as a NMEA 2000 gateway, translating data on my network into a form that can travel over WiFi and that many apps can understand. Only major N2K message types (PGNs) are supported – wind, depth, speed, heading, log and temperature so far — but the XB (and Vision) have other data gateway and multiplexer features.

Above is a screen from the much revamped Vesper PC (and Mac) Configuration and Status Utility software that owners can download here. Many of the settings aren’t available for any other transponder I’m aware of. For instance, checking those NMEA 0183 boxes above means that I could be sending the translated 2000 wind, depth, etc. data to an older MFD that didn’t have an N2K port or to a charting program running on the same PC that’s connected to the XB-8000 by USB cable (or via WiFi, as seen in the screen below).

Vesper has also significantly improved its NMEA 2000 GPS output. It’s always been confusing that while Class B AIS transponders are required to have good GPS receivers built in, their NMEA 0183 or 2000 GPS output is often unusable by other devices. This is true because many MFDs and chart plotters won’t recognize GPS as valid unless they see some or all of the secondary GPS data messages like “satellites in view,” but the standard NMEA 0183 AIS connection — though called “high speed” at 38,400 baud — barely has enough bandwidth to carry all the AIS target info for a busy area.
While charting apps and PC programs are often more liberal about GPS validity, it’s always seemed possible that a transponder with a much wider bandwidth N2K connection could provide enough GPS data to be the primary or backup GPS source for the fussier plotters on a network. As far as I know, though, Vesper is the first to do it, as partially illustrated above, and I saw it work pretty well in the lab. 

The Raymarine a77 and e127 (that I’ve been testing LightHouse II on) as well as the Simrad NSS8 MFD and RS35 VHF radio all see the XB-8000 as a valid source of NMEA 2000 GPS (and of course all the MFDs also displayed the AIS target data it’s outputting). The Ray and Simrad GPS diagnostic screens above suggest how thorough the XB’s GPS output is (and I assume Vision output is the same). While many GPS receivers offer extra high update rates and/or GLONASS support these days, an AIS transponder that also serves as a GPS has extra value for many boats.
(Surprisingly, though, neither the Garmin 8212 or 741sx displays installed in the lab see the XB-8000 at all, not even on their N2K device lists, but I know for sure that Vesper and Garmin are working together to figure this out. The screen above may also reveal a possibly related Vesper GPS date translation glitch that just caught my eye yesterday, but it’s conceivable that both issues are somehow related to my particular test set up. I will definitely update both situations as they unfold in the comments section below.)

Vesper’s utility software gives the XB-8000 the same flexible WiFi management that I experienced with the Vision. It’s not just easy to change its access point name (SSID), password, IP address, etc., but it’s also easy to have it join an existing onboard WiFi network (even with a preferable static IP address). The result on a boat like Gizmo is that tablets and phones can use XB data, while also being online and having app access to other onboard devices like a Fusion 700 stereo system.
I only tested WiFi client mode briefly in the lab (because my home WiFi signal is so weak there), but I did confirm that I could even use it to run AISdispatcher and thus send the XB target data to MarineTraffic (recent Panbo discussion here).  I continue to lobby Vesper to build AISdispatcher-type functionality right into the XB and Vision, which would mean that a boat could serve as volunteer station while only running the transponder and perhaps a high power WiFi system like the Rogue Wave or NautiCloud. Please speak up if you, too, would value that extra feature.

Vesper’s own iPad and iPhone app WatchMate can’t do all the deep configuration that the PC and Mac software can, but it, too, has been improved. For instance, that informative AIS Plotter screen above is new. But what you can’t see on the screen is how all those target vessel names (and underlying detail) filled in the moment the app was opened. Vesper calls this feature “Instant Target Acquisition” and both the XB-8000 and Vision can only deliver it to the app, but remember, static target data like vessel names even when powered down. Usually, it takes a while for any AIS app or display to collect all the available static target data because it’s only broadcast every six minutes.
Vesper tells me that Instant Target Acquisition from the XB or Vision is available to any developer who’d like to work with them, and they try to maintain a list of apps that already work with Vesper WiFi output. They’ve also launched a partnership with an ambitious new iOS app called NavPlay.

In my preliminary testing, NavPlay is still a work in progress, and I also tend to agree with Francis Fustier’s pricing concerns. But it does have some lovely design features — you can draw a route with your fingertip — and I’m sure we’ll see it not only mature, but add new data integration features as Vesper adds them. In the meantime, I’ll close with a Coastal Explorer 2011 screen that nicely illustrates the power and value that the XB-8000 offers right now.  CE is running on a PC that’s only connected to the lab’s NMEA 2000 network via XB WiFi, but look how many data sensors it sees.

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

Hurricane Eggs & Tornado Warnings – Day 3 Offshore

Sat, 2014-03-29 10:31

Mmmm, hurricane eggs! My friend Andy Staus taught me about these last year during the delivery of Susie Q on this very same route at this very same time of year. We picked up a couple of loads of fresh-made Bahamas bread in Marsh Harbor (unsliced of course). For the last two mornings I’ve been slicing off big chunks of the stuff, cutting a hole out of the center and grilling the bread with 2-3 eggs cracked in the hole in our cast iron skillet. There is just something about the combination of grilled bread, gooey eggs and butter that creates something truly greater than the sum of its parts.

Sojourner, as of 1030 Saturday, was in position 30 10 N, 080 58 W, making 5-6 knots under power on a course of 310 degrees true.

It’s a grey, chilly and damp morning. After having to shorten sail around 0200 this morning, we are now motoring in a relative calm, the wind having gone to the EAST somehow! As I was cooking brekkie, dad tuned in the NOAA weather radio on the VHF – we are close enough to Florida now to do that – and heard them issue a thunderstorm and tornado watch for the area just to the south of us.

I’m aware that sailing north towards Hatteras in March is not the smartest idea. Particularly with this relentless winter we are having. As we were prepping Sojourner in Marsh Harbor, NOAAs offshore weather had winds blowing 70-90 knots south of Nova Scotia! With 45 foot seas! Yikes! So yeah, getting north to Annapolis in one go was probably unlikely, even with a boat as well-equipped to handle heavy weather as Sojourner. Dad and I have nothing to prove, so why be uncomfortable?!

But we have a time constraint. My dad wanted my help to bring the boat north, and I wanted to do it. We really enjoy sailing together, and this was the only week I had available all spring, so here we are. With the winter in mind, our plan is a very conservative one. Another weak cold front was expected sometime tonight into Sunday, and we figured we could get about 300 miles on the southerly winds before it passed us. This time of year is not the time of year to gamble that the front will remain weak – we are assuming the opposite.

So we’re on a course for Fernandina Beach in northern Florida, and should make it there in the next 8 hours. At which point we will reevaluate the weather and discuss continuing on up the coast, or playing it safe and riding up the ICW until a better weather pattern emerges. Ironically, due to the curvature of the US east coast, Fernandina Beach is only 100 miles closer to Annapolis than Marsh Harbor was! But well be back on home turf, and it will give us options.

Until Next Time,
Andy & The Sojourner Crew

Sojourner heading north from Bahamas

Fri, 2014-03-28 17:04

Sojourner, 28th March 2014, 10.00 EST

I got a phone call from Andy this morning from the Sat Phone. The number start with 8816.. so it is easy to spot. Everyone who has been following the weather (or just looked outside the window the last couple of days) know it is not ideal conditions out there. Noting dangerous, but not as ideal as the 15kt from behind and blue sky like they had on their last passage up to the Bahamas.

They left yesterday morning so this phone call was about 24 hr out. Andy felt a bit seasick and had a patch on for the first time. He never had to hang over the side, but just could not finish making dinner in the galley. So it is a bit bumpy out there, but it sounds like they are having a good time.

When Andy called the were at the position 28° 51′ N / 078° 25′ W. You can see it better on the picture at the top of this post,  basically off Orlando, but a bit further out.

The plan is to head into Jacksonville or somewhere along the coast,maybe go on the ICW for a bit and then head out again if the weather gets better.

I will update their position if I her from them again, so check back sometime tomorrow.


Mia, the shore team :)

Kelpie of Falmouth Poised to Launch

Fri, 2014-03-28 13:49

By Kimball Livingston Posted March 28, 2014

Put it in a frame and what is it? Art, accidental and un? Art, modern and traditional? A schooner in a plastic tent?

In her eighty-six years on the water, the schooner Kelpie has touched many lives. This weekend in Cornwall she relaunches as Kelpie of Falmouth in what promises to be a brilliant new chapter of her own life.

The name comes from a Scottish water horse—mythical, to certain skeptics—a water horse that will grab you and not let go. Whoever has been near Kelpie still feels the grip. And that’s no myth.

Launched in 1928 from the Gamage Boatyard in South Bristol, Maine, Kelpie was brought through the Canal from Boston soon after World War II, and we told that story as the second part of Changing Dreams in Mid-Stream. For two generations of Southern California sailors, Kelpie is legendary. They knew her outline on the water, her sailplan at a distance against the peaks of Catalina, the gleaming green topsides reflecting in-harbor. A sojourn in Northern California proved less fortunate. Kelpie was looking bedraggled when her new masters found her in Oakland, a few years ago, but their keen eyes recognized just the right bone structure, my dear. Purchased by Captain Charlie Wroe on behalf of the man who also owns the celebrated 1915 schooner Mariette, Kelpie of Falmouth is in the best possible hands.

In Southern California, where she was regarded as the fastest of her breed, Kelpie was rigged as a staysail schooner. Kelpie of Falmouth will sail with a gaff fore, per the original rig. You can follow the story at the open-group Facebook Kelpie of Falmouth and get a feel for the project with this video of the restoration.

Here she is last week emerging from the shed at Gweek Quay Boatyard in Cornwall. All images come from the Kelpie of Falmouth Facebook page.

That transom, by the way, replaces one built into earlier work and replicates the 1928 original. Proper restoration involves studying a lot of old pictures, and then it’s up to the woodbutcher’s craft.

Charlie Wroe’s account of the roll-out mentions typically wet Cornish weather, but imagine being on this deck on May 27, answering the guns for race one of Pendennis Cup 2014.

Your most valuable cruising equipment

Fri, 2014-03-28 06:00

Important pieces of cruising gear aren’t always obvious. A reader who hopes to go cruising emailed recently to ask:  ”When you look back at your years of sailing, what are some pieces of equipment that you brought with you that you never realized how important they would become (e.g. handheld VHF, specific spares, etc.)? ”

It’s a good question, because it’s easy to hemorrhage cash in the run up to taking off for cruising, trying to anticipate the things you might need and eyeing shiny toys in the chandlery. It’s impossible to know what’s essential because you haven’t gone cruising and don’t have a style yet. Gearhead? Ascetic? Most of us are somewhere in the middle of the spectrum between those points, and your essential is someone else’s throwaway. As much as you can, avoid discretionary purchases some until you have a better sense of what you real needs are.

  • Outboard and dinghy you can depend on. Unless you’re a marina maven, you’re going to rely on it almost every day that you’re not passage making- e.g., more than 90% of the time! Don’t shortchange yourself. We wouldn’t have a dinghy we couldn’t plane while loaded, but that’s us.
  • A spare, small outboard (not important for US/Mexico, because repairs are easy to come by). I thought this was dumb until our Mercury 15 died in Bora Bora. We borrowed a friends small outboard for the rest of the Pacific crossing, because they were way too expensive to buy mid-Pacific. Now we have a Tohatsu 18 and 3.5 (which we just used as the 18 needed a new impeller).
  • Excellent ground tackle. There was a servicable primary anchor on Totem, but we replaced it with a beefy Rocna and use 410’ of 3/8″ chain. This has served us really well, as have the 50’ of ½” 3 strand nylon snubber ties- use a rolling hitch, and lead fair. We do love this anchor, but any of the scoop type anchors (Mantus, Rocna, Manson, etc) tend to be more reliable over broader bottoms compositions.
  • Good cabin fans. If you’re spending time in the tropics (and overwhelmingly, cruisers are spending time in the tropics), cabin fans can be a lifesaver for comfort below. After trying a bunch of different brands, we’ve found the Caframo Ultimate 747s do the best to move more air and are far easier to keep clean (and wow, do fans get dirty when run all day/night!)
  • An ereader. Being on a passage without a good book is my nightmare scenario. ereaders hadn’t hit the scene when we left to go cruising, so we added many many linear feet of bookshelves to Totem to make sure we never ran out of quality reading. Now, we’re happily reclaiming that space and everyone on board has their own: don’t think for a minute that you can share one! Tablets are fine, but we like the eink readers best by far: they need much less power, and are far easier to read in daylight.
  • VHF. A setup onboard should be obvious, but good handhelds might not be as obvious. They take a lot of use and abuse: we use them to stay in touch on shore as much as ship-to-shore.
  • Scanner/printer. We’ve used this innumerable times to make copies of important documents, from passports to vessel documentation, for clearance in foreign ports.
  • Fuel filtering gear. Our Baja filter has been invaluable, and it’s priceless to have sufficient fuel filters as well. We always filter diesel and gas putting them in the tank. Despite double filtering, we still we had some dirty fuel issues after a few months in a country where most sources were questionable; having spare filters is a good thing.
  • Radar. It’s not just fog and ship traffic, it’s about invaluable use for piloting in squalls and evaluating chart error by comparing distances.
  • LED lights. If your boat isn’t LED-centric already, make it so, from running lights to deck an cabin lighting. Power saved is too significant to ingore.
  • Good basic tools. Don’t pay for high end, because most of them rust just as quickly as the middle range. We’ve gotten a lot of use from a multimeter an, surprisingly, a VSWR meter.

Off label bino use: observing a solar eclipse!

  • Good binoculars. We went a few months without functional binos in an area where eyeball nav is critical, and it was very unpleasant!
  • Large storage bags that have a port for sucking out air with vacuum cleaner. It’s not just about sealing, but the fact that they are great for reducing the space needed by bulk storage items.
  • Spare line. 6mm single braid Dyneema (Amsteel and the like) with a 6mm (1/4”) fid for splicing – very easy to splice and endless uses.

Shopping lists are convenient. Here’s the plain truth: YOU are the most valuable equipment of all. Cruising is ALL about attitude! Whether you are newer to sailing or cruising, or have a moderate level experience, we all have to tackle the mental side- regardless of your learning curve.

Go in with an open mind. Learn how to use, and re-use, and get away from the disposable economy of single-use items. Don’t try to know everything; ask those around you to help, since cruisers near you may have great experience and are often very generous with their time. On the flip side, cruisers are also full of opinions, so take it all in and then decide for yourself.

Ready yet? The last thing to remember is not to feel like you need to buy everything to reach a perfect state of readiness, because really, there is no such thing. As much as possible, hold off on discretionary purchases until you have a sense of what your real needs are- it’s a mental game, not a game of Boat Stuff.Cruisers in touch with their valuable equipment know we love it when you read this on the Sailfeed website.

CRUISING BOAT EVOLUTION: From Work Boats to Yachts

Thu, 2014-03-27 14:43

In our last episode in this series, we described the genesis of the Cruising Everyman in the mid- to late 19th century. These were sailors who were not aristocratic bluebloods looking to flaunt their wealth, but a simpler breed of more middle-class sailors who enjoyed cruising under sail for its own sake. These are cruisers we can easily relate to today, and what most interests us, of course, is the sort of boat they most often went cruising in.

For many sailors of more modest means who wanted vessels that were both substantial enough to survive a bit of weather and large enough to live aboard for limited periods of time in some comfort, the easiest and cheapest thing to do was simply to buy an old working boat and refurnish it. Some paint, some furniture tacked in down below, and perhaps some rig alterations could quickly transform many such boats into perfectly serviceable cruisers. It helped, of course, that working sailboats everywhere were steadily being replaced by power vessels, and thus were available at reasonable prices in ever-growing numbers.

Fishing boats were probably the most popular candidates for conversion. Indeed, some types established secondary reputations as cruising boats that ultimately eclipsed their previous identities. We tend to forget, for example, that two popular American craft now considered classic coastal cruising vessels–the Cape Cod catboat and the Friendship sloop–were both originally designed and used as inshore fishing boats.

Sailplan of a typical Friendship sloop. These were working fishing boats that morphed into coastal cruisers as cruising under sail became more popular

In Britain, lifeboats were also seen as ideal vessels to make over into cruising boats. This practice, which continues to this day, started at least as early as 1886, when E.F. Knight made a name for himself cruising from England to the Baltic and back aboard Falcon, a converted ship’s lifeboat he purchased for just 20 pounds.

Pilot boats were another logical choice, as they were usually designed to be both fast (so they could compete with other pilot boats racing out of a harbor to do business with inbound vessels) and seaworthy enough to go out in any weather. Several types were pressed into service as yachts on both sides of the Atlantic. Bristol Channel pilot cutters became particularly popular as cruisers in Britain, but by far the most influential type was a beamy double-ended 47-foot pilot and offshore rescue boat designed by Colin Archer in 1893 for work along the coast of Norway. The simple symmetrical lines of these boats, known as Redningskoites (see photo up top), were explicitly copied by others seeking to create durable all-purpose cruising boats. The best-known example was Eric, a scaled-down 32-foot Redningskoite designed by William Atkin in 1925. Meanwhile, the design for another very influential double-ended cruising boat, the Tahiti ketch, conceived by John Hanna in 1923, was explicitly based on boats sailed by Greek sponge fishermen.

A British pilot cutter under sail

For a generation of cruisers John Hanna’s Tahiti ketch, based on old sponge fishing boats, was considered an ultimate “get-away boat”

By far the most famous converted working boat was Joshua Slocum‘s Spray. Slocum does not at all fit the template of the amateur cruising yachtsman described in our last installment, but his influence on the sport was extraordinary. Ironically, he did have something in common with George Crowninshield, the owner of Cleopatra’s Barge, which we discussed at the very beginning of this series. Like Crowninshield, Slocum gained his nautical expertise as a professional merchant mariner. Unlike Crowninshield, he lived in the latter part of the 19th century, when commercial sail was being driven into extinction.

Crowninshield took up cruising because it amused him, and he had been successful enough as a commercial mariner that he could indulge his fancy in a grandiose manner. Slocum, on the other hand, became a cruiser mostly in desperation. His professional life had been destroyed, and he was shorebound and down on his luck when, in 1892, a fellow ship captain, perhaps as a joke, gave him a decrepit 36-foot Delaware oyster smack that had been left in a field to rot. With characteristic tenacity Slocum rebuilt the boat and, after a brief attempt to earn a living fishing her, set out on a protracted singlehanded cruise around the world. This voyage and Slocum’s book describing it, Sailing Alone Around the World, not only helped to legitimize “alternative” cruising, it also spread the seed of the cruising dream much farther than before. Indeed, Slocum’s book is still in print today and still works its magic in the minds of most cruising sailors.

Joshua Slocum aboard Spray

Sailplan of Spray

Lines of Spray

What perhaps is most significant about Spray is how anachronistic she was. Even at the time of her circumnavigation, which Slocum completed in 1898, she was in many respects completely obsolete. She was, by Slocum’s account, approximately 100 years old when he acquired her, and her hull form reflected this. Her shape tended toward the old “cod’s head and mackerel’s tail” school of naval architecture, with a fat entry, maximum beam at or a little forward of amidships, and a finer run aft on her waterline. She was wide (over 14 feet) with a relatively shoal draft (about 4 feet) and short ends–her waterline length (about 32 feet) was just 4 feet shy of her length overall. She was also immensely heavy for her size, displacing 24,000 pounds, and carried all her ballast in her bilges, with none at all in her keel.

Spray had almost nothing in common with modern turn-of-the-century yachts (a fact in which Slocum seemed to take great pleasure), but she served well enough as a cruiser. Indeed, her performance, given her particulars and the fact that she was sailed singlehanded, was extraordinary. Slocum reported top speeds on the order of 8 knots, and he routinely averaged 150 miles a day on passage–numbers more typical of 36-foot yachts built in the mid-20th century that weigh half as much. He also boasted of the boat’s ability to steer herself, but credit for this, and for the speeds achieved, must in fact go to Slocum himself. He was a master mariner who had the skill and nerve to drive a vessel hard and was an intuitive expert when it came to sail trim.

What is also significant about Spray is that, in spite of her putative obsolescence, her design is still considered viable today. Contemporary cruising boats that mimic her lines, most particularly steel hulls built to plans drawn by designer Bruce Roberts, though not exactly common, are not hard to find. Some devotees, in fact, still insist that Spray represents the “ultimate” cruising boat.

Example of a Bruce Roberts ketch based on Spray

What this really demonstrates is that–unlike a racing yacht, which succeeds only if it wins races–the worth of a cruising boat can be measured in any number of ways. One good reason, for example, why some traditional designs based on old workboats like Spray are still viable is that they yield lots of interior accommodation space, which is, for many cruisers, a key consideration. Other reasons for favoring such boats may include, as mentioned above, their affordability and availability, plus they are often extremely seaworthy. But perhaps their most powerful (and most subjective) attraction is their strong romantic appeal. Traditional boats tap directly into the zeitgeist of the cruising dream, and this unquestionably influenced the development of cruising boat design as cruising became more popular.

Of course, not all early small-boat cruisers were inclined to go sailing in old work boats. Many had the resources to commission the building of modest yachts and this led to a proliferation of specialized designs. As was the case with R.T. McMullen’s 42-footer Orion, which we mentioned last time, these were often unremarkable adaptations of mainstream yacht designs. It became common, however, for experienced amateur cruisers to commission idiosyncratic designs that reflected personal prejudices and preferences. Here again McMullen provides a useful example, as both Procyon and Perseus, his smaller purpose-built singlehanders, were unique vessels that must have seemed odd to mainstream yachtsmen of the time.

Some amateur cruisers acquired enough knowledge and expertise to become amateur designers as well. One of the first and most influential of these was Albert Strange, a British headmaster and art teacher born in 1855 who first started cruising the Thames estuary as a teenager in a converted workboat. As a member of the Humber Yawl Club, which was directly descended from one of John MacGregor’s canoe clubs, Strange’s design work followed a fascinating trajectory from small sailing canoes similar to those sailed by MacGregor to much larger double-ended deep-keeled vessels known as “canoe yawls.”

A Strange canoe-yawl under sail

Lines of a Strange canoe-yawl with overhanging stern

Strange did not invent the canoe yawl, but he is credited with inventing the elegant overhanging pointed canoe stern that initially distinguished his boats from others and was later widely copied. Among the many amateur cruiser/designers who followed in his wake were T. Harrison Butler, W. Maxwell Blake, Fred Fenger, and Maurice Griffiths. Although the work of such men is unique and identifiable, their boats on the whole tended to be conservative, featuring moderate proportions, full ballast keels, narrow to moderate beam, and relatively short ends.

Yet another intriguing wrinkle was the advent of cruisers who sought to build their own boats. For a certain sort of fellow the notion of constructing a boat was just as alluring as the prospect of sailing it. Also, of course, for those with the time and skills backyard building could be a more economical way to get afloat.

The most adventurous build-it-yourself cruisers worked without plans and made things up as they went along. Remarkably, this was yet another trail blazed by Joshua Slocum. Some years prior to his voyage in Spray, Slocum had owned and commanded a 138-foot trading bark, Aquidneck, that he lost on a sandbar in Brazil in 1887. To get his family home to the United States, he and his oldest son, Victor, built a bizarre 35-foot unballasted junk-rigged sampan (Slocum actually called it a canoe) that they christened Liberdade. Slocum and his wife and two children not only sailed this unlikely vessel more than 5,000 miles from Brazil to the U.S., they then lived aboard the boat and cruised it on the East Coast for nearly a year.

A vessel as eccentric as Liberdade did not immediately inspire imitations, but Slocum’s use of the Asian junk rig did anticipate such modern designers as Blondie Hasler, Tom Colvin, and Jay Benford, who installed junk rigs on both racing and cruising vessels. Liberdade also provided an important creative precedent, setting an example for future designers and sailors willing to think “outside the box.”

The backyard builders who had the biggest impact on the development of cruising boat design were those who wanted or needed plans to build to. To meet this demand, some designers started conceiving boats with simplified lines that were easy for amateurs to put together. Often such designs were published and marketed through the several boating magazines that sprouted up on both sides of the Atlantic.

One of the earliest and most significant was an American publication, The Rudder, founded in 1891 by a fiery small-boat evangelist named Thomas Fleming Day. Day believed strongly in the concept of backyard building–”No Boats, No Sport: All Hands Build Hulls” was a favorite slogan of his–and he published many build-it-yourself designs in his magazine. He also believed in practicing what he preached and in 1911 sailed one of these boats, a 26-foot yawl named Sea Bird, across the Atlantic from Rhode Island to Gibraltar with two companions as crew.

Sea Bird under sail

Drawing of Sea Bird

Sea Bird had a simple V-bottomed hull with a single hard chine on either side and was explicitly designed for ease of construction. Her plans specified two underwater configurations; she could be built either with a centerboard or with a deep keel supporting 700 pounds of ballast. She also reportedly carried about 1,000 pounds of internal ballast. With her low freeboard, Sea Bird may not have looked particularly seaworthy, but Day’s transatlantic voyage hushed many nay-sayers, while convincing others that Day himself most likely was a lunatic. Further support for the latter proposition came the following year when Day went transatlantic again, this time in a 36-foot powerboat carrying 1,200 gallons of gasoline.

Over the years, several hundred copies of Sea Bird were built by amateur cruisers. Among these was a larger sistership, a 34-foot boat named Islander built by Harry Pidgeon, a farm boy from Iowa, in a vacant lot in Los Angeles in 1917. Pidgeon, a self-taught sailor, completed a singlehanded circumnavigation in Islander in 1925, becoming only the second man (after Joshua Slocum) to perform this feat. He subsequently lived aboard for 16 years, made another circumnavigation, and was in the middle of a third (this time with his wife) when he finally lost Islander in a hurricane in the New Hebrides. Fortunately, both Pidgeon and his wife escaped with their lives.

NEXT: The Golden Age of the Cruiser-Racer

Beginning the Journey Home

Thu, 2014-03-27 10:58

“So go and tell the boys for me we’re leavin’ here today!”

That Blaggards song was playing on my last run in Marsh Harbor this morning, and its in my head now as we prep for departure. The short, but likely difficult, as its March, hop offshore to the US east coast and ultimately Annapolis represents the final stage of Sojourner’s journey home from St. Lucia.

We’ve got an awesome crew – me, Dad, Billy Rudek and Tom Herrington, who sailed with us earlier rom St. Croix. Plan is to depart here within the hour and aim for Charleston. Another cold front is on the way. If the forecast holds, we have until Saturday night to be somewhere sheltered. If we get caught out it won’t be dangerous, but it wont be pleasant either. They’re calling for 25-35 knots fom the N-NE off Hatteras on Monday, and that’d be unpleasant indeed. So well leave here on a nice SE’ly breeze and see where we end up!

As usual, ill try and keep this updated with our position as we go. Thanks for reading!

-Andy & the Sojourner Crew

Romance Reborn

Thu, 2014-03-27 09:24

One hears over and over again of the “romance” attendant to boats, sailing and the sea, but if you ask someone why he or she sails, I’ll bet that the R-word pops up a respectable distance down the list, in back of the F-words (freedom, fun) and the A-words (adventure, activity). Still, I am positive that a romantic streak is an integral part of every sailor’s make-up, even if we might not like to admit it’s there. There is no other way of explaining some of the irrational things that sailors do.

For instance, I was once possessed by a wooden boat. I do not mean, “possessed” as in requiring the services of an exorcist (though on reflection, that may not have been a bad idea), but as in totally consumed by 47 feet of carvel-planked, close-seamed, mahogany-on-locust beauty. When we bought her, she had sat at her slip for five years being pumped out every few months by the marina staff, her engine was a solid lump of rust, and belowdecks she reeked of neglect and bilgewater. She was gorgeous.

Such was the potency of the spell she cast that we did not actually see the boat as she was, but as she had been years before, and as she would be again. We pictured her gleaming white hull and towering rig slicing though tropical seas, a laughing, tanned couple in her cockpit—as soon as we had attended to a few minor details. We told ourselves—and this is the mark of the true romantic – that the necessary work was “mainly cosmetic”.

Five years, two children, and a marriage-testing number of lost weekends and stinging yard bills later, this boat sailed out of our lives and into that of her next victim, a hard-nosed banker. She had won him over easily enough; as a small boy, he had watched the shipwrights planking her shapely frames, and, he confided emotionally, he had hankered after her ever since she had sailed out of the yard and out of his life. She had a soft spot in her transom and a weep from her garboards, but her flaws were nothing to the joy of a love rekindled.

We knew for sure that the proper relationship between possessor and possessed had been established when the new owner wrote a few weeks later of a hellish delivery trip during which boat and crew took a real beating. “I don’t think my wife likes sailing any more,” his litany of woe concluded dolefully, before hitting a brighter note. “I think she would look wonderful with her topsides painted red, her bottom black, and her pilothouse varnished.”

Now there’s the mark of a true romantic. I could only hope he was talking about the boat.

































Silliness: Four on a Kiteboard

Wed, 2014-03-26 20:52

But it’s Richard Branson, so it came to the ‘Times as a “news alert.”

The embed code does not want to embed, so this will take you to youtube and a world record that you can judge for yourself.

Four Emmy Nominations for America’s Cup

Wed, 2014-03-26 20:38

Released from ACEA on March 26

Media production for the 34th America’s Cup has received five Emmy Award nominations, including for Outstanding Live Sports Special.The five nominations come on the heels of a previous Emmy Award for Outstanding Technical Achievement for AC LiveLive.“When we started planning for the 34th America’s Cup in 2010, one of the initial priorities was to create an exciting television experience for viewers,” said Stan Honey, Director of Technology for the America’s Cup. “These nominations from the media production of the America’s Cup in 2013 are a clear signal that the America’s Cup is now being recognized as a compelling television sport.”The five Emmy Award nominations are for:Outstanding Live Sports SpecialOutstanding New Approaches – Sports Event Coverage – Official AppOutstanding Technical Team RemoteOutstanding Live Event Audio/SoundThe George Wensel Technical Achievement Award – AC LiveLine, “WingWash”The America’s Cup Official App, for iOS and Android, was nominated in the Outstanding New Approaches – Sports Event Coverage category. The Official App allowed users to follow the racing live via video, race animation, or text updates and users could select from several audio streams, including commentary, or on-board audio from each of the competing teams. Users could also post comments, chat and interact with event media and officials.AC LiveLine, the groundbreaking graphics technology that allows for information to be embedded in the broadcast, previously won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Technical Achievement. This time, AC LiveLine is nominated in the same category for a new feature that showed the flow of wind across the giant wingsails that powered the America’s Cup boats at speeds of up to 50 mph, adding another dimension of information for viewers to aid in understanding the race tactics.The 35th Sports Emmy Awards will take place on May 6th in New York City.

Brunswick Invests in Boatbound

Wed, 2014-03-26 19:59

Brunswick announces its financial investment in Boatbound’s latest funding round

LAKE FOREST, Ill., March 26, 2014 – Brunswick Corporation (NYSE: BC) announced today the launch of a strategic partnership with San Francisco-based Boatbound, the leader in the peer-to-peer boat rental market space. The peer-to-peer model creates a new way to easily connect potential renters with owners willing to rent their assets, and is quickly gaining traction in the boating space.

(Read our story about peer-to-peer rentals)

This Brunswick and Boatbound partnership is based on the common belief that the peer-to-peer boat rental model encourages boating participation and trial, while at the same time allowing boat owners to offset some of their ownership costs. This partnership with Boatbound offers Brunswick a way to more closely monitor and observe developing trends in the consumer boating market. It also provides Brunswick’s dealers, through the Brunswick Dealer Advantage dealer services program, potential income from renting boat inventory and access to an emerging segment of boating consumers. In addition to the strategic partnership, Brunswick is making an undisclosed lead investment in Boatbound’s latest financing round.

“The long-term health of our industry requires us to make boating even more accessible and affordable, especially among younger, aspiring boaters,” said Brunswick Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Dustan E. McCoy. “Boatbound offers an innovative way to provide those interested in boating with actual boating experiences, which we believe will translate to boat ownership down the road. Additionally, Boatbound’s business model provides rental income opportunities to current boat owners who also gain access to boat rentals when away from home.”

“We are very pleased to join forces with Brunswick, the top manufacturer in the marine industry, to lead the way in serving millions of aspiring and present boaters interested in a convenient, reliable and affordable way to experience boating,” said Boatbound founder and CEO Aaron Hall. “The online peer-to-peer market concept is already making successful inroads into the travel, hotel and auto-rental industries. Both Brunswick and Boatbound see the boating industry as a natural next step and look forward to realizing this vision.”

Through this partnership, Boatbound gains important growth resources and support from Brunswick, the world’s foremost recreational marine manufacturer, whose leading marine brands are represented in over 4,300 sales and service outlets in North America. Boatbound initial efforts are focused on the Miami and San Francisco markets. Additional markets will be added as Boatbound expands throughout 2014.

The Boatbound service allows both dealers and boat owners to list their boats for rent to pre-screened, qualified renters. Boatbound’s easy-to-navigate online application offers transparency and convenience with no listing or sign-up fees for either owners or renters. As part of their comprehensive rental service, Boatbound provides insurance, towing protection and extensive customer service support.

Owners have full control over who rents their boat, as well as the rental price, availability and conditions of their listing. Renters will be able to choose from a wide selection of boat types and price ranges in an increasing number of boating markets across the United States. After each rental, both the boat owner and renter review each other to provide feedback that can be viewed on their Boatbound profiles by future owners and renters.

For more information please contact Brunswick through Brunswick Dealer Advantage at 1-877-462-3884 or by visiting The Boatbound team can be contacted through their website at

About Brunswick

Headquartered in Lake Forest, Ill., Brunswick Corporation endeavors to instill “Genuine Ingenuity”(TM) in all its leading consumer brands, including Mercury and Mariner outboard engines; Mercury MerCruiser sterndrives and inboard engines; MotorGuide trolling motors; Attwood marine parts and accessories; Land ‘N’ Sea, Kellogg Marine, and Diversified Marine parts and accessories distributors; Bayliner, Boston Whaler, Brunswick Commercial and Government Products, Crestliner, Cypress Cay, Harris FloteBote, Lowe, Lund, Meridian, Princecraft, Quicksilver, Rayglass, Sea Ray, Uttern and Valiant boats; Life Fitness and Hammer Strength fitness equipment; Brunswick bowling centers, equipment and consumer products; Brunswick billiards tables and table tennis. For more information, visit

About Boatbound

Boatbound™, the nation’s fastest growing boat rental marketplace, gives the over 13 million registered boat owners a way to offset their ownership costs by renting their boat to pre-screened, qualified renters. Every rental includes up to $1 million in liability protection from one of the most trusted insurers in the world, as well as on the water towing and support from Boat U.S. Whether you are looking for a boat for watersports or cruising, a fishing boat to explore a local fishing hole, or a sailboat to leisurely set sail, Boatbound creates safe and unique boat rental experiences at any price. Boatbound is free to join and has no monthly or membership fees.

Press Contact:

The Billingham Buoy

Wed, 2014-03-26 18:10

It’s all in the Bs.

The B Buoy on the cityfront of San Francisco.

Bob “Buddha” Billingham. And I know Bob’s not in love with that nickname . . .

Just as he knows he can’t quite escape it. This comes up because the renaming of the B Buoy became official on the night of March 25, at the St. Francis Sailing Foundation’s 2014 auction fundraiser—think Olympic sailors, disabled sailors, underprivileged youth—where the lion’s chunk of the $300,000+ take came, not in the form of bidding on stuff to take home, but in contributions in honor of said renaming.

Now we have the Billingham Buoy.

It’s out of the water for painting at the moment, but soon it will be back in the water in the traditional spot just off the windows of the St. Francis Yacht Club, a familiar sight to thousands of sailors. What would prompt such an outpouring? Well, it’s more than Bob’s list of successes in business or sailing, that’s for sure. It’s somewhere in a realm that you can’t quite put your finger on, somewhere between incredible physical power and a quiet, self-effacing regard for everyone around him. And the successes. And the contributions. Long service on the St. Francis Foundation. Long service with the US Olympic Committee. Winning AC crew in 1992, and so on.

As a project manager, Bob has run America’s Cup campaigns, and he was the facilities manager for America’s Cup 34—meaning that his job description was to produce miracles. But my favorite Billingham moment goes back to 1988, when he was middle crew and, yes, project manager for an Olympic Soling campaign with John Kostecki driving and Will Baylis on the bow. Not long before it was time to take off for the Games at Pusan and a silver medal, Kostecki and Billingham were in front of an audience on the SF cityfront.

Someone asked them if they needed more money.

In the same breath, John said “No.” Bob said “yes.”

There are plenty of people who have strong feelings about the Bs and the new Billingham Buoy. Further contributions can be made via the St. Francis Sailing Foundation web site.

Bob, thanks for saying “yes” again. To the renaming—Kimball

Lowrance Elite 5/7 cheap CHIRP, the sonar wars rage on

Wed, 2014-03-26 17:00

Written by Ben Ellison on Mar 26, 2014 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub

Lowrance just launched Elite-5 and -7 CHIRP fishfinders and plotter combos today, but they showed off working prototypes during the Navico writer’s event I attended in January. What seemed to particularly excite the product managers was the Elite’s new ability “to produce low, medium and high CHIRP sonar ranges and display two user-selected ranges simultaneously” using just an “affordable” HDI Skimmer transducer. Apparently they didn’t realize that this tranducer could usefully CHIRP until they tried it, and now they think they have a edge in the sonar battle that’s taking place both on the water and in law offices…

In December I hailed the Elite-4 HDI as a lot of fishfinder and plotter technology at a low cost, but of course a 7-inch screen can reveal a lot more information, especially when you can put a long scroll of CHIRP sonar right above the same track imaged with high-frequency DownScan. The Elite-7x CHIRP fishfinder — which will retail for $649 in April, with a 4-frequency transducer — also includes NMEA 2000, as will the Elite-7 fishfinder/plotter at $849 with quite a bundle of Navionics salt and freshwater cartography.

Raymarine was arguably the first to offer cheap CHIRP sonar when they introduced the 5.7-inch Dragonfly early last year, and Lowrance had one installed for comparison. Ray doesn’t offer the same level of CHIRP sonar control but does purportedly apply CHIRP to what it calls DownVision. As noted in my entry about the writer demos, the DragonFly above did not seem as sharp as what I’d seen in Miami a year earlier.

Raymarine is also cleverly running a Dragonfly Screen Capture Competition, and you can find out what’s happening on winning screens like the ones above. Yes, that is a jet plane at lower left, and that’s an underwater statue quite sharply imaged at lower right (and there are more Dragonfly screen captures here.)  I can’t find a screenshot library at the Humminbird site anymore but a Google search definitely brings up lots of memorable images from their long history of sonar innovation.

And along comes Garmin! Above are some screenshots from the simulator that came as part of a huge recent GPSMap 741sx software update. So now the 741 and other Garmin displays can show CHIRP-assisted DownVu and SideVu networked from the various new sonar products introduced last November. And note the nice multi-window split control that also came with the update. I think that Bill Bishop is intalling his first Garmin down/side sonar this week and hopefully he’ll soon be sharing the results with Panbo readers.

In short, boaters now have a LOT of CHIRP/down/side sonar choices, even at the low end of marine electronics pricing. And I’m optimistic that the patent disputes going on behind the scenes will not throw a wrench in any company’s developements. No one will talk about the details, even off the record, but here’s what I think is going on. Humminbird’s parent Johnson Outdoors has a side scan sonar imaging patent (perhaps two) that they once used to sue Navico regarding StructureScan. But Navico had a downscan imaging sonar patent (perhaps two) that Humminbird wanted to use and the two companies probably swapped rights, which may have strengthened both their claims. The settlement was not explained, but both now offer both types of scanning. Plus Navico then sued Raymarine over downscanning, which was just somehow settled last week. If my presumptions here are correct, Garmin may soon be sued by both Johnson Outdoors and Navico, though I suspect the parties already have agreements in mind or maybe already in place.

I don’t like seeing money that could be used for more R&D or lower product prices going to patent lawyers — and some claims at least look ridiculous (like Briartek’s) — but reasonable trades and/or fees shouldn’t create major problems. And while Navico’s Leif Ottosson told me that something like 20 million dollars may exit the marine electronics industry this year due to (non sonar) patent litigation, he is asking his fellow chief executives to at least talk to each other before filing suits. It’s fascinating to look at these patents, screenshots, and demos trying to figure out who has the best sonar technology. Lets all hope that every company gets a crack at producing the best views of the structure and wild life in the waters around our boats.

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Time Running Out to Nominate to the Sailing Hall of Fame

Tue, 2014-03-25 14:27

Preserving America’s Sailing Legacy * Engaging Sailing’s Next Generation

The deadline is April 1 for nominations to the National Sailing Hall of Fame, Class of 2014.
The only way your favorite sailing great can be added to the list is with your nomination.

These sailing greats are already in. Who’s next?

Betsy Alison Peter Barrett John Alden
Hobie Alter Bob Bavier, Jr. Tom Blackaller
Charlie Barr F. Gregg Bemis Bill Buchan
Paul Cayard Stan Honey Starling Burgess
Dennis Conner Bruce Kirby Frank Butler
Nathanael Herreshoff John Kostecki Runnie Colie, Jr.
Ted Hood Mark Reynolds Dave Curtis
Gary Jobson Rod Stephens, Jr. Timmy Larr
Buddy Melges John Cox Stevens Morris Rosenfeld
Bus Mosbacher Stu Walker
Lowell North
Joshua Slocum
Olin Stephens
Ted Turner
Harold Vanderbilt

View the easy instructions and file your nomination at the NSHOF web site

Peer to Peer Boat Rentals NOW

Mon, 2014-03-24 13:53

By Kimball Livingston Posted March 24, 2014

“Because you can only talk to so many crazy brides”

So there was Aaron Hall outside Dallas, at Lake Ray Roberts, one of those manmade lakes that mix fishing, skiing, sailing and the like in a not-quite-flat, rolling countryside interspersed with farms and freeways and clumps of forest and bees and junebugs and honeysuckle. That is to say, its own kind or paradise. And Aaron Hall was trying to rent a boat because this corner of paradise on this summer day was “Texas-hot and Texas-humid.”

Nothing doing.

“The marina had a few clunkers,” Hall relates, “and even those were rented out.”

So there was Aaron Hall making a picnic of it, shoreside, with the parental units and bro and bro’s twins. Anyone who was serious about bass fishing had been off the lake for hours. Now the wake boarders were roaring and hooting. The lake level was low, so there was plenty of room along the bank, but did we mention that the day was Texas-hot and Texas-humid? Sitting on the bank going nowhere just wasn’t the same as being out there on a boat. And right over yonder, in the marina, hundreds of boats sat, ignored by their owners on a fine summer day, likewise going nowhere. Why should it be so?

“I leaned over toward my dad and I told him, ‘There ought to be something like Airbnb for boats.’
Airbnb being the peer-to-peer online service that lists over 500,000 residential rentals, from modest private rooms to castles.

“I’m someone who uses Airbnb a lot,” Hall says. “Right there on the beach, I started googling, and the more I searched for a service for boats, the less I found. When I came home to San Francisco, I brought that thought with me.”

Your moment here? would naturally be founded in San Francisco, where Airbnb and so many other technology companies are based and where peer-to-peer took off immediately with ride services such as Uber and Lyft. “In San Francisco, it’s hard to miss P2P, so I took the idea to my business partner, Matt Johnston. He said, ‘I love it. Let’s take it to the team.’

“And they liked it. Our business was in the wedding space, but we weren’t necessarily committed to that. We were five guys and a girl, and we’re all outdoorsy types, and, frankly, you can only talk to so many crazy brides.”

The 54′ Sea Ray, Sundancer, rents for $3,000 per day out of Miami Beach

Over the next six months, the team partnered with the boat owners association, Boat US, to survey the receptivity of their membership. The response was positive, and why not? According to the data they collected, most boats are used only 14 days a year while together dragging down billions of dollars a year in storage and maintenance fees.

As long as their boats are in good hands, most owners would be more than happy to let someone offset part of the cost. But “good hands” is a sticking point.

“The number one thing was that nobody was going to put a boat out for rent unless there was insurance protection,” Hall relates. “We discovered that four or five companies had already taken a shot at this, but when they couldn’t solve the insurance problem, they folded. In a different life, I ran an HR insurance consulting company, and that positioned me to make the insurance side work.” The short course on making it work is that every Boatbound rental is covered by $1 million in insurance, with towing coverage by Boat US.

In February, 2014, Boatbound announced a partnership with the American Sailing Association providing two-way benefits on learning, certification, and resources. Boatbound qualifies renters by experience, but certifications clarify and streamline the qualification process while removing subjectivity. Over the next two years, the company plans to build a captains service so that an owner unwilling to put his boat out to rental without a licensed skipper will have a bank of captains to choose from, and anyone, skilled or not, can go boating under the care and guidance of a competent captain. That can be a great way to learn from a professional, or to try something completely new.

If you can charter the 288-foot Maltese Falcon at €350,000 per week (THAT is the Falcon) you have people who can tee that up. For the rest of us, here’s where a service like Boatbound comes in.

Hall says, “We’re not really about boat rentals. We’re about helping people get money out of the boat they already own. We’re about getting more people into boats. We’re about having an experience on the water, and we’re giving Everyday Joe a way to get out there. Or maybe there’s a particular kind of boat you’ve always wanted to try. Or what’s in a charter fleet just isn’t what you’re looking for.” Or there is no charter fleet, as such. That would be a lot of places where boats are popular.

As Hall describes it, the company is making an effort to grow carefully, not letting its marketing get ahead of its ability to deliver: “There’s no rush to have thousands of listed boats. This is about delivering hundreds of good experiences to good people, and turning owners and renters into advocates for the brand. We’ve seen marinas where one person lists a boat, and it works, and pretty soon there’s another boat on the same the dock that is listed. And then there’s another.”

Boatbound officially launched nationwide in June, 2013, but that was a soft launch, with a small number of boats and an intentional focus just on San Francisco Bay, looking for the proof of the pudding, evidence that this wouldn’t turn into a game of bumper boats, evidence that the business model was viable. “We were testing small-scale,” Hall says, “but we got press coverage, and we blew right past our goals for the season.” Viable? Apparently. The soft launch turned into a fast rollout and accelerated fundraising to scale up. Boat owners in nearly seventy countries have entered their boats for listings, but that is beyond capacity for now. The company is focusing upon developing selected markets. The good news for consumers is that those selected markets are, logically, a handful of places where lots of people want to get out on the water.


Dan Knox sails his Islander 36, Luna Sea, where Boatbound first went beta, San Francisco Bay. He was wanting to upgrade his racer-cruiser experience and had it in mind to sell Luna Sea and go to a different fleet when “Boatbound called me.”

Knox bought the pitch and signed up, but the first time his boat went out on rental, he admits, it was a little like sending a daughter out on a first date. He recalls, listening to the pitch, “I was thinking, if I can cover slip expenses, maybe I can keep Luna Sea and I won’t be an idiot for having two boats.” Three months on, “I’ve had 14 charters, and they cover a big chunk of my expenses. That’s why I’m a Boatbound guy.”

The Islander 36, Luna Sea, rents for $350 per day on San Francisco Bay

THE MARKETPLACE also offers peer-to-peer boat rentals. It too promises $1 million in insurance and towing through Boat US, and it too went live in June, 2013. And too was founded in San Francisco, though it now lists its headquarters as Dania Beach, Florida. Its partners include the giant marina facilities operator Westrec.

Jaclyn Baumgarten, Cruzin co-founder and CEO, has described the company this way: “The internet platform allows Cruzin to reach a wide audience while keeping the experience personal. Boat owners and renters get the opportunity to engage and get comfortable with each other prior to meeting at the boat for the handoff. Cruzin is building a community of boaters even before they get out on the water.”

But the point, of course, is to get those boats out there.

RUDDER SKEG REPAIR: Getting Ready for Spring

Mon, 2014-03-24 12:05

IT’S HERE! Spring, I mean. Though there is still snow in the forecast up here in New England, and even in Annapolis, from which I returned last night after holding forth at the World Cruising Club Ocean Sailing Seminar over the weekend. I have an awful feeling I will actually succeed (for once!) in getting Lunacy launched in early to mid-May this year… and there will then be a HUGE BLIZZARD the day after she splashes.

We are forging ahead regardless, so I stopped by Maine Yacht Center last week to see how the old girl’s rudder-skeg repair is coming along.

The welder was on site and stuff was happening! I love it when that happens. You’ll recall this is actually the second time we’ve made this repair. Last time, over four years ago, there was a small crack at the back of the skeg and we just focussed on fixing that. This time we’re taking a more global approach.

In addition to repairing the crack that has reappeared at the back of the skeg, I also asked the welder to lay on extra metal all the way around the base of the skeg.

And then I asked that fillet plates be welded on to either side of the skeg. Here you see the welder holding one of them in place. The idea, of course, is to spread the load imposed on the root of the skeg.

The skeg doesn’t fully support the rudder. Most of that job is done by two big bearings on the transom. But there is a rudder heel at the bottom of the skeg that connects it to the rudder, and the rudder is quite deep. The skeg is also a very high-aspect structure, with a short root, and is simply welded on to the bottom of the hull. Side loads from the rudder are evidently transmitted to the right-angle joint at the base of the skeg, and that I reckon is what keeps cracking the weld at the back of the joint.

Jean-Claude, owner one of Lunacy‘s sisterships (there are in fact five of them), advised me that he solved this problem (you can read his comment to my last post on this subject) by building a new skeg that comes up eight inches into the hull of his boat and is tied into the interior framing. Which sounds very strong, indeed, but also quite expensive. I’m hoping by adding structural support outside the hull I can save some trouble and money.

Note: there will also be end-plates welded on to the back of the fillets to keep wildlife from inhabiting the voids.

Here’s another mini-project involving metal. Two surveyors and various service managers have complained over the years about the simple wood plug I use to secure the drain hole in Lunacy‘s keel. The plug has always worked well enough, but at last I let the guys at MYC fabricate an aluminum plug to take its place. There are two, actually–one on the inside and this one on the outside–so now I can stop worrying about teredo worms chewing up the soft pine plug that used to live down there.

After fussing around with my boat, I took a quick tour of the MYC shed and found a few other interesting projects going on:

This is the canting keel from Rich Wilson’s Open 60 Great American IV, which is currently being refit at MYC to run in the next Vendee Globe.

In the foreground here you see part of the bridgedeck and the house of a home-built high-performance cruising catamaran that MYC’s service manager, Jeff Stack, has been creating in his spare time. In the background that’s Mike Hennessey’s Owen Clarke Class 40 Dragon, which will soon get splashed so it can compete in this year’s edition of the Atlantic Cup.

And this is Mike Dreese’s Akilaria RC3 Open 40 Toothface 2, which is also being prepped for the Atlantic Cup.

Lunacy may be a funky boat, but you can see she does keep good company.

Love and Marriage Aboard

Sun, 2014-03-23 19:11

One of the questions I get with some regularity is: how has cruising affected your marriage?  And I understand why people want to know.  I do.  People are awed by the prospect of spending 24/7/365 with another person, even someone they love.  But this is a question I have avoided so far, because usually it comes from about-to-be-cruisers, and what they are really asking me is, “Is cruising going to be great for my marriage?  Please reassure me.”

And I will.  Sort of.  But I’m going to make this an inductive argument, so hold my hand and be patient.

We just wrapped up a ten-day visit with Erik after almost two (unexpected) months away.  And the four of us were delighted to see each other.  In the battle of Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder versus Out of Sight, Out of Mind (or, for Nicolas: Loin des Yeux, Loin du Coeur), Fonder won hands down.  It was positively sickening how happy we all were.

The next day, the kids went off to school, and Erik and I got down to the real business of a loving relationship.  Namely, reviewing the insurance papers and fixing the outboard.  As as we spent a romantic morning on the dock in the blazing sunshine, passing the vice grips back and forth, fetching drills and Dremels, we talked about other things.  Erik told me stories about work, and I caught him up on what the kids had been doing.  We made pie-in-the-sky plans plans about where to sail next.  I learned how to change the oil.  And we had a delightful time.

Looking back, we’ve never really excelled in the RomanticTM department.  At least, not in a way that would please anyone else.  When we moved into our house almost a decade ago, tradition (read: television) dictates we should have celebrated with a bottle of wine in front of a roaring fire.  Instead, we spent the evening in our unfinished basement trying to figure out how to convert our 50 Hz German washing machine for use in 60 Hz Canada.  (Looking back at that sentence, I see how inevitable it was that Erik I and I would someday go cruising.)  And we were perfectly happy.  And, with a little fancy footwork and a few new parts, we triumphed.

Jump ahead to Papillon: as Erik’s visit wore on, we continued with our normal routine.  Everyone worked during the day, and we had fun together in the evenings.  We read books with the girls.  We fixed stuff.  We bickered.  We dropped the kids with friends and went on a date.  And when it was time to say goodbye, we all rolled out of bed at 5 am and walked down the dock in our pajamas to wave Erik off to the airport.

Off to the beach with Dad.

So here we are, three and a half years into our new life, and I see that it is really our old life in different clothes.  We do the same things together and the same things with the kids as we always did, but we do it more often because we have the time.  Precious, irreplaceable time.

I am reminded of an old story.  A man moves to a new town.  His first evening there, he visits the local pub.  Everyone is drinking and smiling, singing songs, arm in arm. The newcomer gets into a conversation with an old man.  “What are the people like, here?” asks the newcomer, turning his back to the revelry.  “Do they make good neighbours?”  The old man takes his pipe from his mouth and gives a newcomer an appraising look.  “What were your neighbours like in your old place?” he asks.  “Terrible,” says the newcomer.  “Nosy, mean-spirited, unhelpful.  Just awful.” The old man nods slowly as his eyes travel over the happy, laughing crowd.  “Then you’ll find the people here just the same.”

The point is, the marriage you left with is the marriage you’ll carry on with, wherever you are.  Cruising isn’t a death knell for a relationship, nor is it a magic fountain of rainbows.  As for me, I have a great marriage, great kids, and I love cruising.  This has totally worked for us.  And although I can’t promise you, dear reader, that it is going to work for you, too, I will say this: if everyone steps aboard with a good attitude and a willingness to try, then you’re halfway there.  If you can embrace your common ground and be a “good neighbour”, your marriage aboard can be just as much fun as your marriage on land.  Even if you don’t like to fix washing machines.

No Workout for Kotoum’s Repaired Strut

Sun, 2014-03-23 13:55

Light Air Flyers – Koutoum Wins

Even though Florida’s breeze never touched ten knots during Saturday’s edition of the US Moth Nationals at Key Largo, that was enough for liftoff. Veteran Anthony Kotoun led the standings into Sunday’s racing for these cutting-edge foilers, where the sailors continue to set standards for class spirit. Kotoun rushed off after racing to keep a commitment at a friend’s wedding, which could have been bad news for his prospects on the race course on Sunday. Sailing in after Saturday’s racing, Kotoun broke a carbon wing bar. But it was his fellow competitors who set to work repairing it so that he could shower and be on his way. And, this being not an old-time car race movie in black and white, they fixed it right.

Light-air flyers flying high, by the way. Thanks to Meredith Block for the pics . . .

Meredith Block/US Moth Nationals

A complete absence of sail-able wind on Sunday resolved that the broken part, and repair, made no difference to the outcome. Enough races had been sailed. Kotoun takes the Nationals.


It got reeeel windy for the final day of racing in the Oman installment of the Extreme Sailing Series, where the home team of Muscat: The Wave caught fire to pass Alinghi for the win and the series lead.

Leigh McMillan, Sarah Ayton, Pete Greenhalgh, Kinley Fowler and Nasser Al Mashari of Muscat, The Wave

Down Mexico Way
At Regata Copa Mexico a large and very international fleet racing for the J/24 North American Championship was led by the USA’s Mike Ingham. The Bahia Banderas vet was a solid winner. Lots more to come with boards, kites, etc.

Sonos WiFi HiFi tested: excellent at home, maybe for boat

Sun, 2014-03-23 11:00

Written by Ben Ellison on Mar 23, 2014 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub

I knew little about Sonos wireless hifi a month ago. While the ads suggested an elegant Apple-like design, I had the impression it also came with Apple-like premium prices and was certainly not suitable for boats. But now that I’ve lived for a month with the relatively new Play:1 seen above, I may have been wrong on both counts!  Many reviewers have already praised the little speaker/amp’s hardware and audio quality compared to similar wireless speakers. I want to detail the superb Sonos audio access and control software that you can tap into with just one $199 Play:1(though adding more components will be a huge temptation) and also discuss how Sonos can make sense afloat.

There’s a lot happening in the Sonos Controller PC app screenshot above and I hope you’ll click on it for a bigger view. Starting at left you’ll see that I have two “Rooms” set up — Sonos loaned me two Play:1′s and also a Bridge for review — and that each is playing a different source. I can control either room from my desk or with any of the mobile iOS and Android apps seen running in the top photo. I can also group the two rooms to a single source or set up the two Play:1′s as a stereo pair in one location.
On the right are my primary music sources. Some are Sonos standards like Favorites, Playlists, and a remarkable selection of online Radio stations (for instance, they even list the two small community radio stations in my area plus a scanner feed for the county sheriff’s department).  I had to set up other sources like the Music Library (in my case, two iTunes libraries on my main PC), along with my Amazon and Stitcher accounts, but all that was so easy that I’ve been experimenting with Pandora and Spotify and will probably try others in Sonos’s deep Music Services list.
The middle column shows what I’m listening to in the selected room, along with a queue that could be an old iTunes playlist, a list of today’s podcasts collected in Stitcher, or a custom mix of many sources that I can save as a new playlist. I’ve messed with a lot of audio players over the years, but this is a whole new level of easy everything.

Setting up or changing the Sonos hardware system is also extraordinarily easy. In fact, the automatically collected product registration data seen on the Sonos site above suggests that once I’d registered and downloaded the iPad software, it took just seconds to get a Play:1 and the Bridge operational. Just plug the Bridge into your WiFi router and AC power, “Add a Sonos Component” in the app, tap the button on the Bridge…done. Plug the Play:1 into any AC outlet in the wide range of the Bridge, add component again… done. Note that the Bridge is not necessary if you can run an Ethernet cable to a Play:1 or any other Sonos component; they can all serve as bridges. I tried this and didn’t even have to add the Play:1 component again; it just replaced the Bridge without losing any settings except the unsaved music queue.
Note, too, that by using the Sonos Connect I’ll get a new “Line In” audio source that will be anything playing on my living room stereo and perhaps more importantly, my old but able living room stereo will become a Sonos Room that we can use with any of the Sonos app controls and digital music sources. And I say, “will,” because this indeed was one of those dangerous product tests that led to a personal purchase. I’ve ordered two Play:1′s and a Connect that should get here before I have to return the loaners. I’ve learned enough about Sonos to commit to at least a small home system, but the boat remains a question mark.

For some cruisers like me the main problem with using Sonos onboard is AC power. While Gizmo has an efficient Victron inverter, I only have to use it when running the boat’s work/entertainment PC and monitor/TV. By contrast, the yacht seen above probably has constant AC and it makes a lot of sense to use that big Play:5 as a portable speaker that can sit at the wet bar or easily move out on the sun deck in good weather (or be stowed in a locker if there’s danger of it banging around).  When the yacht has Internet access, probably a lot of the time, all the Sonos audio sources are available and it’s also common these days for such a vessel to have a PC music library or possibly just a Network Attached Storage (NAS) device, which Sonos also supports.

Marine Professionals in Fort Lauderdale, a company that’s installed a lot of Sonos gear on yachts, also sent me a photo showing how a Fusion IP700 marine stereo can use a Sonos system as a wireless speaker zone. The possible configuration — Fusion speaker zone to Sonos Connect audio in, Sonos Connect audio out to Fusion auxilary line in — sounds complicated but the results could be easy-to-use yet spectacular source and speaker placement flexibility even on a relatively small boat. And note that the small Play:1 can be bracket mounted — though the audio design won’t suffer jammed on a book shelve either — and only uses about 8 watts at volume and 4 in standby mode. However, my boat experimentation will have to wait.

I’ll close with some shots of the new controller app that Sonos has in public beta test. For me, it sealed the deal. While I was already impressed with how well everything I’ve described currently works — it seems almost magic how quickly most sources start playing, for instance — it’s also great to see that Sonos is not resting on its many laurels. (Check this credible WireCutter “Best Whole Home Audio” review.)
The new player is lovely and intuitive, and if you want, you can dig deep into settings like managing your library (middle screen above), but what really got me is how well it supports third party sources. In that third screen above I’m able to interact directly with Pandora, and the screen below shows how the new Universal Search feature can reach across multiple sources. Suddenly, my music collection is not just more accessible than ever; it’s now the hub around which I can explore endlessly. Sonos likes the tag line “Steam all the music on earth” but their system reminds me of “To the future and beyond!”


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If It Looks Strange to You . . .

Fri, 2014-03-21 15:03

By Kimball Livingston Posted March 21, 2014

If it looks strange to you, imagine how it looks to them.

Thanks to Lloyd Images for the pics.

A raft of AC players and would-be AC players, along with former AC player Alinghi, make up the Extreme Sailing Series, which is now in Muscat, Oman for the second installment of the series. AKA an Act.

Alinghi, the leader, is skippered by Morgan Larson, a California guy who has a number of good lines. My favorite would be: “I went to the University of Hawaii because the team travels a lot. I figured I’d study on the plane.” Yep, a good line. But I think Morgan did most of his studying on the water, and that is working out quite well. You will recognize, of course, the waters of the Strait of Hormuz.

The message from Oman goes something like, Get used to it. And that’s the message for home consumption, too, when they’re broadcasting photos like this one of Nashwa al Kindi, a sailing instructor who completed a crossing from Mumbai just in time to join the crew aboard one of Oman’s two entries.

And while we’re on the subject of contrasts, howzabout this take of Sir Ben Ainslie, who also has been having success in the Extreme 40 catamarans and claims to be well on his way to having a British Cup campaign in the works. Here, he was taking time out to stir up some enthusiasm in the youth set . . .

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