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CRUISING SAILBOAT EVOLUTION: Early Fiberglass Cruisers and the Westsail Cult

Tue, 2014-12-09 17:14

In our last thrilling episode in this series we discussed the classic cruiser-racers that dominated sailboat design through the early to middle part of the 20th century, including when the first production fiberglass boats appeared in the 1950s and ’60s. These boats were mostly built to the old CCA rule, which remained the primary rating rule in American sailboat racing until 1970, when it was supplanted by the International Offshore Rule. The IOR was promulgated to encourage international competition by resolving differences between the CCA rule (so called because it was created by the Cruising Club of America) and the Royal Ocean Racing Club‘s rating rule, which governed racing in Great Britain and Europe. Whereas the CCA rule had explicitly sought to encourage development of boats that could both cruise and race, the new IOR was more focused on performance, and as a result racing and cruising designs eventually started to diverge.

Early IOR boats were not radically different from boats conceived in the twilight years of the CCA rule. Indeed, some boats designed during the transition between the two rules, with rudders hung on skegs and swept-back fin keels that seemed like organic remnants of the full keels they supplanted, are among the most beautiful ever conceived. They were also capable, like the best CCA boats, of succeeding both as racers and cruisers. By the mid to late 1970s, however, everything had heated up. Fiberglass production was making boats more and more affordable, drawing larger numbers of people into the sport of sailing. Offshore racing was growing more popular and increasingly intense, with more events and more sailors competing in them.

The Swan 40, designed by Sparkman & Stephens and built from 1970-72, is a good example of an early IOR design that was both graceful and functional as a cruiser

Designers therefore were under more and more pressure to produce cutting-edge boats–not only so that keen racing sailors could win trophies with them, but also so that salespeople could tout winning records when marketing them. By the end of the decade, the typical IOR boat was a more specialized light-displacement racing machine with a narrow stub of a fin keel, a spade rudder situated perhaps a bit too far aft, flat bilges, a beamy midsection with exaggerated tumblehome, narrow pinched ends, a large sailplan with a narrow high-aspect mainsail, and a relatively high center of gravity that required lots of crew weight on the rail to keep the boat upright and sailing its best. Some of these features improved boat-speed, but the intent of others was solely to exploit loopholes in the rating rule. The result, in any event, was a type of boat that was faster than the old CCA cruiser-racers but not as comfortable or as seaworthy, as was dramatically demonstrated during the Fastnet Race of 1979, during which a strong gale sank five boats, capsized dozens of others, and took the lives of 15 sailors.

One characteristic of IOR boats was that they tended to roll a lot when sailing downwind, due to their bulbous midsections and pinched ends, which led to some exciting broaches. The then-popular blooper, a free-flying downwind headsail flown alongside a spinnaker, also helped keep things interesting

This IOR racer, showing exaggerated midship beam, was appropriately named Tumblehome

And this boat sports a good example of an extreme IOR aft section

But even as fiberglass race boats were becoming more specialized and more cranky, there also appeared a new generation of specialized fiberglass cruising boats. It is tempting to infer a straight cause-and-effect relationship here, but in fact the two trends seem to have emerged simultaneously. Again, it was the immense increase in the size of the sailing market that was driving events. The mature industrial economy of the late 20th century had created more wealth for middle- and working-class families even as it lowered the costs of boat ownership through the efficiencies of fiberglass production. The concomitant increase in active sailors fed the ranks of both the cruising and racing communities and allowed both types of boat to flourish side by side.

As the Fastnet tragedy demonstrated, racing sailors were perfectly willing to let modern technology, their greed for speed, and the perversities of rating rules drive them toward the edge of the safety envelope. Dedicated cruising sailors, meanwhile, instinctively headed in the other direction. What most appealed to these people, production builders quickly learned, was the romance of sailing, and the best way to evoke this in a boat design, they also deduced, was to make it traditional-looking.

The “breakthrough” boat in this respect was the phenomenally successful California-built Westsail 32. Its design, cobbled together by Bill Crealock, was anything but innovative. Indeed, it was a direct rip-off of William Atkins’ fat double-ender Eric, which in turn had been directly based on Colin Archer’s old pilot and rescue boat, the Redningskoite, a concept that was then nearly a century old.

In its first incarnation as the Kendall 32, the Westsail was a complete failure. But then its mold was purchased at a bankruptcy auction by a young couple, Snider and Lynne Vick, who knew little about sailing and nothing about boatbuilding but saw the cruising dream incarnate in the boat’s design and had a vision of sharing that dream with the world. Their deft marketing of the boat, which they reintroduced as the Westsail 32 in 1972, strongly emphasized the romance of voyaging under sail (and the boat’s heavyweight indestructibility) and thereby struck a major chord not only with sailors, but with the public at large. By 1974 the boat was featured in Time magazine as something akin to a lifestyle phenomenon. By the end of the decade the Vicks had sold more than 800 hulls and had expanded their model line to include a 28-footer and a 42- and 43-footer.

The Westsail 32 certainly looked romantic and was very popular, but it was also heavy, slow, and wet. Some sailors today derisively refer to them as “Wetsnails”

A simple Westsail design drawing. Thanks primarily to the boat’s great success, many cruisers were for years biased in favor of fat double-ended full-keel designs

The Westsail’s cult status had a profound effect on the design of fiberglass cruising boats. For years afterward, builders who wanted to be sure of tapping into the cruising zeitgeist felt compelled to produce heavyweight full-keeled double-enders that mimicked the look and feel of this iconic boat. Some were direct variations, most notably the Ingrid and Alajuela 38 (circa 1973), which were also designed by William Atkin. Like the Westsail, such boats were heavy, carried simple outboard transom-hung rudders controlled with large tillers, and featured hulls with very full forefoots.

Other designs were more derivative and somewhat more sophisticated, with canoe sterns (to retain the double-ended look), inboard rudders controlled with wheels, and hulls with slightly cut-away forefoots. Many of these boats were built in Taiwan, where lavish teak joinery and deck-work, which always helps to evoke a traditional mood (and increase weight), could be economically executed. Examples of such designs include the Baba 30 (designed by Robert Perry circa 1978), the highly popular Tayana 37 (Robert Perry, circa 1979), and several models offered by builder Hans Christian.

Other builders, however, sought to refine and modernize the Westsail template and soon produced much more sophisticated designs. These also sported canoe sterns, but were lighter and narrower and had taller sailplans, flatter bilges, and more cut-away underbodies with generously sized fin keels and separated rudders. Significant examples include the Valiant 40 (another Robert Perry design, circa 1973), the Fast Passage 39 (William Garden, circa 1976), and several boats produced by Pacific Seacraft that were designed by the original perpetrator himself, Bill Crealock.

The Valiant 40, often hailed as the first “performance cruiser,” represented an early attempt to produce a significantly faster double-ended cruising boat

The old double-ended Redningskoite was not, however, the only archetype available to builders who wanted to market traditional-looking cruising boats. Another significant type was seen in certain heavy full-keel designs, most with ketch rigs, with traditional features like clipper bows, bowsprits, wide wineglass transoms, and carved wooden taffrails and bow-boards. The first of these, the Cheoy Lee Clipper 36 (circa 1969), actually predated the Westsail by a few years. Imitators included the Hardin Sea Wolf 31 (circa 1973), the Fuji 35 (circa 1974), and the Vagabond 47 (circa 1978). Unlike the Westsail, which was in fact simply an old design recast in fiberglass, these were contemporary designs, yet were conservative and derivative in nature. The larger examples did feature a new concept, the center cockpit, which quickly became popular with cruising sailors because it opened up space belowdeck for an aft stateroom.

A Vagabond 47 under sail. Like the Westsail, it seemed salty and romantic

The Vagabond 47 in profile. Like the Westsail, it was also heavy and slow, with a long full keel

There were also several early fiberglass boats marketed strictly as cruisers that did not explicitly evoke or mimic traditional designs. One good example was the Allied Seawind 30, a small ketch designed by Thomas Gilmer that was introduced in 1962. In its hull form and rig the Seawind had much in common with the more affected “clipper ketches” that followed in its wake. It was relatively heavy with a full keel, generous beam, and a conservatively sized split rig that supposedly made sailhandling easier, as each sail needing handling was smaller in area.

Though not particularly fast, the Seawind was (and is) eminently seaworthy, as was demonstrated by an early enthusiast, Alan Eddy, who took one around the world singlehanded during the years 1963 through 1969, thus earning the Seawind the distinction of being the first fiberglass boat to complete a circumnavigation. In its first iteration, the Seawind had a simple outboard rudder, but the Seawind II, introduced in 1975, had an inboard rudder and was lengthened by two feet to create more interior space.

In 1972 the Allied Boat Company also introduced two larger ketch-rigged cruisers in the same vein—the Princess (36 feet) and the Mistress (39 feet). Other builders, notably Irwin, Morgan, and Gulfstar, introduced similar cruising ketches during the 1970s, the larger examples of which, again, tended to feature center cockpits. Some of these boats, including some of the faux-traditional models just mentioned, hewed away from the tried and true full-keel hull form, but never too far. Larger Irwin ketches, for example, often carried centerboards and had slightly cut-away underbodies with separate rudders.

The Allied Seawind, the first plastic boat to circle the world

One builder, Garry Hoyt, founder of Freedom Yachts, was not at all afraid of trying new ideas. His Freedom 40, first introduced as a prototype in 1977, showed just how different a cruising boat could be. It featured a radical unstayed “cat-ketch” rig that had a self-tacking main and mizzen on wishbone booms with no headsails. The hull form, however, deliberately conceived by Hoyt as a “retro” challenge to the “fad” of fin-keeled IOR hulls, featured a full shoal-draft keel with a deep centerboard descending from it. The deck layout included a massive center cockpit (though an aft cockpit version was also available).

The Freedom 40 under sail. Note the traditional wooden wheel and aft “quarterdeck”

The Freedom 40 in profile

Originally the unstayed masts on the Freedom 40, and on other Freedom models introduced by Hoyt, were aluminum, but in 1980 he switched to carbon-fiber masts, a prescient innovation that anticipated by several years a shift to carbon spars in race boats. A few other builders later followed Hoyt’s lead and marketed cruising boats with unstayed rigs, most notably Hinterhoeller, a Canadian company, whose Nonsuch boats featured one big sail on a single unstayed mast with a wishbone boom. The hulls of the several Nonsuch models combined a beamy footprint with relatively light displacement and a modern underbody that featured flat bilges, fin keels, and separated spade rudders. Like Hoyt’s Freedoms, however, the Nonsuchs were modern designs that evoked a traditional aesthetic. The Freedom, with its long keel, huge transom, and big outboard rudder, seemed vaguely reminiscent of 18th century squareriggers, and the beamy Nonsuch, with its boxy house and mast right forward, seemed to be descended from the old New England catboat.

A Nonsuch under sail

Most importantly, because they were built in fiberglass, all of the boats we’ve discussed here, and many others that are similar, as well as even older CCA designs that were also built in glass, are still afloat and are still being cruised today. True, most of them are not as fast or weatherly as more contemporary boats, but most are also considerably less expensive to buy and many well maintained examples can be found on the brokerage market. Indeed, this is a fact that plagues builders of new boats today, but also helps to keep the cruising dream alive for sailors with modest budgets: old fiberglass boats never die, they just keep getting cheaper.

If you found this post useful and/or interesting, be sure to check out its predecessors in this series:

The Golden Age of the Cruiser-Racer

From Work Boats to Yachts

The Emergence of “Alternative” Cruising

Early Trends in Yacht Design

Cleopatra’s Barge

Scarlet Oyster & Captain Blind Duke it out to the ARC Finish

Tue, 2014-12-09 10:07

The Racing Division doesn’t get much tighter than the battle between veterans Scarlet Oyster and Captain Blind. Both yachts finished early this morning off Pigeon Island in St. Lucia within an hour of each other. That wouldn’t be so remarkable, except for the fact that they’d be dueling for thousands of miles previously.

Already on Day 7, Scarlet Oyster began referring to their rivals on Captain Blind in their at-sea blog. At the time, the French boat was leading Ross and crew on Scarlet.

“After 1200nm of racing and in the very middle of the Atlantic Ocean we have just met up with Captain Blind, who are only 4nm ahead of us,” wrote skipper Ross, a wily veteran of the ARC and class winner in his previous three attempts.

Captain Blind, a Gran Soleil 43, is a faster yacht than Scarlet, an Oyster 48, on handicap at least. While Blind were leading Scarlet outright, they trailed even then on corrected time. However, with 1,000 miles still to sail, anything was possible.

Thus started a game of cat and mouse between the two boats, which lasted the rest of the way across the Atlantic. Or should we say dog and cat, for at one stage, Captain Blind, writing in French, referred to the crew on Scarlet, trailing at the time, but right on their heels, as their ‘petit chien’ – little dog. Scarlet, a largely British crew, began affectionately referring to their French rivals as ‘the enemy’ in their blogs.

“They have proved to be very hard to hang on to,” wrote Ross, “and we are quite sure their Captain is not blind! They certainly appear to be a class act, and any mistakes on our part will make it very difficult to keep her in our sights.”

Scarlet continued their pursuit of their worthy rivals through each star-studded and moonlit night. Ross admitted that “it would seem foolish to split from our strongest rival,” electing to follow rather than take a flyer and try to escape.

With under 100 miles to go, Scarlet Oyster, based on their own calculations, felt they had a chance to take the outright win in the Racing Division over the mighty record-breaking Leopard of Finland. They had overtaken Captain Blind, but only barely, and since they were gybing towards Pigeon Island, were still uncertain of who would cross the finish line first.

“It is likely to be close boat on boat to the finish with them, just as it should be after such a close battle for so long,” wrote Ross in the yacht’s last blog entry.

In the end, Scarlet did make it to the line first. It’s up to the corrected time calculations before we get an official Racing Division result, but skipper Ross was pleased with his crew’s performance. And despite the rivalry at sea, the crew of Scarlet, despite the late hours on their arrival, rushed down the dock to welcome in Captain Blind and congratulate them on their successful passage.

As for the rest of the fleet, the light air offshore prevails, but it’s picked up enough to allow several arrivals overnight and today. 21 ARC yachts are now safely berthed in Rodney Bay Marina, with another dozen or so expected today. The festive atmosphere on the docks will only continue to grow as the days go by.

Podcast: Matt Rutherford on his movie

Mon, 2014-12-08 16:18

Matt Rutherford is back, and joins Andy via Skype from the R/V Ault, the Ocean Research Project’s Colvin schooner in Annapolis. They discuss Matt’s tumultuous history as a youngster, which was depicted in the newly released documentary ‘Red Dot on the Ocean.’ Matt touches on living in a cult, spending weeks in prison, living on and off the streets and how he relates to money (or lack thereof). 

“At the end of the day you die,” says Matt. “It’s not about how much money you have, but what you’ve done with your life.”

They also discuss the ORP’s last expedition across the Pacific in a Harbor 29 daysailor. The conversation wraps up with Andy & Matt just chatting sailing in general, as they often do.

Buy the DVD of ‘Red Dot on the Ocean’ here or purchase the digital download here.

Want to go ocean sailing with Andy? Book a berth on Sojourner, Serenity or a soon-to-be-announced Swan 57 at

Fusion BB300 black box stereo & a peek into 2015

Sun, 2014-12-07 13:17

Written by Ben Ellison on Dec 7, 2014 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub

It’s not on the Fusion website yet, but the MS-BB300 black box marine stereo was introduced in Fort Lauderdale — press release here — and is scheduled to ship this month. In a way it’s Fusion’s first black box unit, but then again they built the trailblazing Simrad SonicHub in 2010 and then the Garmin Meteor 300 last year. In fact, the BB300 is very similar to the Meteor 300 and whereas Garmin acquired Fusion in May, the BB300 can be viewed as a statement about Fusion’s continuing independence. The Meteor may integrate with non-Garmin displays over NMEA 2000, but the BB300 promises N2K Fusion-Link integration with many current MFDs from Humminbird, Murphy, B&G, Lowrance, Simrad and Garmin. A further indication that Fusion is going to keep on innovating in concert with multiple partners was a preview look at four new marine stereo heads that will be formally introduced early next year…

Check out this Humminbird ONIX10 screen for a reminder of how good Fusion-Link audio control can be on a color touchscreen display. I’ve written about the excellent Garmin implementation and will have high expectations when I try the Simrad version next spring. This is what makes black box stereo possible and even attractive, though many boaters will also want a remote control for those times when they don’t want to run their MFD system and/or because no MFD or wireless interface can beat a good old dedicated volume knob. (Note that I’ve also tried Raymarine Fusion-Link, but it won’t work with the BB300 because it’s done over Ethernet, and that’s the same story for the Furuno TZT series.)

So while the new Fusion black box seen above looks identical to this Garmin Meteor 300 photo, the $479 package includes a MS-NRX200i wired remote while the the slightly restyled Meteor Remote is a $190 accessory to the $350 Meteor box. Another difference is that the Meteor comes with an adaptor cable for that non-standard NMEA 2000 port which will tee into an existing N2K network, but if you want to do that with a BB300, you’ll also need to purchase a CAB000863 cable. That’s because the orange adaptor cable above is designed to power the network and remote on a boat that doesn’t already have an N2K network (yes, the NRX200i can serve as a complete, though not ideal, control head).

I detailed Fusion’s current N2K cabling scheme in 2013, and that entry also discusses the versatile Uni-Dock that can cable to the BB300’s USB port instead of that nice panel-mount USB extension cable seen above (note the panel-mount 3.5mm accessory input too). The dock — Garmin also offers one — is useful if you want waterproof protection for your smartphone or iPod instead of just using your own USB cable or streaming music over Bluetooth. And isn’t it nice that Fusion’s accessory Bluetooth modules are not needed with either black box as audio streaming is built right in?

Now here’s a peek at the back end of the Fusion MS-UD750 that will become a flagship control head unit sometime in 2015. Installers will appreciate how all the connectors are on pigtails, and I think everyone concerned will be glad to see the standard NMEA 2000 connector. The unit will still be able to join a network or create one, but no confusing adaptor cables will be needed because power to the network will be turned on and off from the setup menu. One of the very last non-standard N2K connectors bites the dust. Hurray!

As the model name suggests and as seen above, the UD750 has a Uni-Dock built in. The AV750 will have a CD/DVD deck instead — though you can still hang a separate Uni-Dock on its USB port — and it features an HDMI port that will make it easy to get quality TV audio to the Fusion system or Fusion-based DVD video to your boat’s best screen. Of course, Bluetooth is built in, but in the 750 series it can handle both audio streaming and the Fusion-Link remote control app that used to work only if you attached a Fusion’s Ethernet port to a WiFi router. Cool!

The UD750 and AV750 don’t look much different from the current IP700i and AV700i control heads, but now the daylight readable color LCD screen is optically bonded to improve durability and eliminate the possibility of fogging. And note the “thumb’s up” and down icons under the Mute and screen Brightness buttons. They are there because the Fusion Bluetooth audio streaming — already able to display track and artist data flowing from many phone models — will also be able to send back Pandora listener preferences on the new models.

I think it’s reasonable to assume that the new Fusion 750 control heads will not be inexpensive, and that’s why there will also be a 650 series with grayscale screens (though still bonded and daylight-viewable). I understand that the UD650 and AV650 will only support three independent audio zones (two powered) instead of the 750’s four zones, but I don’t know of more differences yet. And I’ll add that I’m still quite impressed with the Fusion MS-IP700 I installed in early 2012. When onboard I use it almost constantly, sourcing audio from USB stick, ancient iPod Touch, FM bands, Android phone or Gizmo’s Chart Table 21 PC/TV. I would have been reluctant to remove the NXR200 remote on the flybridge during the “glass bridge” makeover if I hadn’t found that Fusion-Link on an MFD or via the WiFi app — I use both regularly — to be powerful and reliable.

The new 750 and 650 control heads look good — especially the Fusion-Link app (below) simplification with Bluetooth and the HDMI soundtrack improvement, I think — but Fusion has already blazed marine stereo trails far beyond any other manufacturer I know of (even if the NMEA 2000 part was quite zig-zagged :-). What’s next, besides perhaps the ability to play multiple sources simultaneously to different zones? It’s possible, though, that Fusion may be more vulnerable to competition than ever. Some big time marine electronics executives, for instance, may not see the BB300 as a sign of Fusion independence, but rather as a clever way for Garmin to sell its own products onto “their” boats. A quality audio company willing to do the hard work Fusion did to integrate their gear with whole boat systems may get their partnership proposal calls returned.

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

Friendships and cruising

Sun, 2014-12-07 04:47

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

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

Friends at home

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

Friends afloat

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Local friends

the girls with Mollina, their auntie in Ninigo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Podcast: Evolution of a Dream Essay

Fri, 2014-12-05 13:56

I wrote this piece in 2008, long before I got into any of this sailing stuff professionally (or even otherwise). I was dreaming of going offshore, and this is how I put that initial dream into practice. It’s read in the present tense, but remember, was written in 2008, so it’s not what I’m thinking now, but what I was thinking then. Hopefully it can inspire you to put your own dreams into action!

Want to go ocean sailing with Andy? Book a berth on Sojourner, Serenity or a Swan 57 at

VOLVO OCEAN RACE: Supernatural Bird Attack and Vestas Grounding Video

Fri, 2014-12-05 00:32

The birds are not happy with Team Alvimedica, who stood by so selflessly at Cargados Carajos Shoals waiting to help their shipwrecked mates on Team Vestas Wind. I read somewhere the other day that Cargados Carajos actually means something like Bird Excrement Island, so I’m wondering if that is relevant. What happened evidently is the boat was mobbed yesterday right around sunset by a huge gang of black noddy terns.

You needn’t take my word for it, you can watch the video right here:

Very bizarre. Only time I’ve ever seen birds behave like this is around fishing boats.

Oh, wait. There was another time that didn’t involve fishing:

And we all know how that turned out.

Seriously, though, I’m wondering why those noddies were so interested in a big black sailboat. You see in the video how the crew, in jest, captures one noddy and pretends to interrogate it, asking: Who sent you? The question, in fact, should be: What attracted you?

Who knows what evil lurks in the heart of birds??? The noddy knows!

These are not pelagic birds. They roost on shore every night and normally do not wander more than 50 miles out to sea. What it looks like to me is the birds are trying, or hoping, to roost on the boat, or in its sail, which may look like a cliff to them. That’s what terns normally do at sunset.

MEANWHILE, the Vestas crew has just published some amazing video footage of their grounding at Cargados Carajos:

What is remarkable to me is that the impact, given they were sailing 18-19 knots at the time, was not more dramatic. It seems like they were lucky in that boat suffered a series of glancing blows before it stopped, rather than stopping very suddenly all at once.

Here’s another more complete clip showing the impact in more detail:

Skipper Chris Nicholson has manned up and made a public statement that the grounding was all his fault, and we are expecting a full report once the team reaches Abu Dhabi. They are now on Mauritius, after stripping the boat of all pollutants and valuable hardware.

Good on them.

VOLVO OCEAN RACE: Supernatural Bird Attack and Vestas Grounding Video

Fri, 2014-12-05 00:32

The birds are not happy with Team Alvimedica, who stood by so selflessly at Cargados Carajos Shoals waiting to help their shipwrecked mates on Team Vestas Wind. I read somewhere the other day that Cargados Carajos actually means something like Bird Excrement Island, so I’m wondering if that is relevant. What happened evidently is the boat was mobbed yesterday right around sunset by a huge gang of black noddy terns.

You needn’t take my word for it, you can watch the video right here:

Very bizarre. Only time I’ve ever seen birds behave like this is around fishing boats.

Oh, wait. There was another time that didn’t involve fishing:

And we all know how that turned out.

Seriously, though, I’m wondering why those noddies were so interested in a big black sailboat. You see in the video how the crew, in jest, captures one noddy and pretends to interrogate it, asking: Who sent you? The question, in fact, should be: What attracted you?

Who knows what evil lurks in the heart of birds??? The noddy knows!

These are not pelagic birds. They roost on shore every night and normally do not wander more than 50 miles out to sea. What it looks like to me is the birds are trying, or hoping, to roost on the boat, or in its sail, which may look like a cliff to them. That’s what terns normally do at sunset.

MEANWHILE, the Vestas crew has just published some amazing video footage of their grounding at Cargados Carajos:

What is remarkable to me is that the impact, given they were sailing 18-19 knots at the time, was not more dramatic. It seems like they were lucky in that boat suffered a series of glancing blows before it stopped, rather than stopping very suddenly all at once.

Skipper Chris Nicholson has manned up and made a public statement that the grounding was all his fault, and we are expecting a full report once the team reaches Abu Dhabi. They are now on Mauritius, after stripping the boat of all pollutants and valuable hardware.

Good on them.

ARC Course Record Smashed by Maxi ‘Leopard of Finland’

Wed, 2014-12-03 08:11

For more images from the ARC, click here.

Unprecedented in the 29 year history of the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers, the ARC Course Record has been broken for a second consecutive year following ideal trade wind sailing for the largest transocean rally. Leopard by Finland crossed the finish line in Rodney Bay Saint Lucia this morning at 01:09:51 UTC (02/12 21:09:51 Local time) smashing the ARC Course Record by 2 days 6 hours 45 minutes and 19 seconds.
Sailing across the Atlantic from Las Palmas de Gran Canaria to Rodney Bay, Saint Lucia in a total of 8 days 14 hours, 39 minutes and 51 seconds, the 10 Finnish adventurers alongside Leopard’s regular ‘pro’ crew headed by skipper Chris Sherlock, celebrated successfully completing the Finnish-led transatlantic record attempt that has been over a year in the planning.
The project has the brain child of Samuli Liesti and his friends who have been passionate about bringing Finnish sailing to a wider audience and increasing the profile of the sport.  Mike Slade’s 30m (100ft) canting keel super-maxi was chartered for the attempt and rechristened Leopard by Finland. Liesti then recruited a crew combining some of Finland’s sailing superstars, such as Whitbread veteran and two-time Finnish International Sailor of the Year Kenneth Thelen, with Atlantic novices who had not experienced crossing an ocean before.

“The idea came about to do a transatlantic because for so many people, including us, it is a dream come true. It has been awesome and great pleasure to be part of such a great team,” beamed Project Manager, Samuli Leisti as he reached the dock. “Stepping on board in Las Palmas was one of those remarkable moments. Leopard is 100 foot super-maxi with canting keel and a boat that holds so many records … it is just amazing. Before we started [the whole project], we said we wanted to first do a transatlantic crossing and second break the ARC Course Record. Now we have achieved these dreams.”
ARC Weatherman Chris Tibbs commented on the weather for Leopard’s record breaking crossing: “The low pressure system that caused the delayed start to ARC 2014 has meant that the wind on the passage has been more northerly than usual, enabling Leopard to sail a more direct course and not go south of the rhumb line in search of trade winds, at least until the latter part of the crossing. As they closed the finish in Saint Lucia, they have had to get south of a trough of Low pressure to stay in the trade winds, which saw them dipping in close Barbados, adding extra miles to their trip.”
After a breezy preparation period in Las Palmas that saw the start delayed by 22 hours due to strong winds locally, the ARC fleet have enjoyed text-book tradewind sailing for the first week at sea that has meant two of the three fleet leaders will make landfall within the previous record time. The crew on board Andy Budgen’s Volvo 70 Monster Project will undoubtedly feel some disappointment to cross the finish line in Rodney Bay within the record time later tonight, but missed out due to Leopard by Finland’s triumph, having traded gybes with them most of the way across.
‘We had great downwind sailing all the way, moving at 30+ knots of boat speed, surfing down waves, and here we are 8 days down the line. To take 2 days off the record; we are very, very happy; it is a great team. One of those dream crossings.” said Chris Sherlock, skipper of Leopard. “This is my 29th Atlantic crossing and I have been coming to Saint Lucia for 22 years…. Saint Lucia is my second Caribbean home and we love it here.” John Emmanuel, Public Relations Manager for the Saint Lucia Tourist Board greeted the 23 crew with a welcome basket and champagne to celebrate their arrival on the Caribbean Island.
“This is the 3rd ARC I have done and each year gets better and better. We are really pleased to be a part of it and World Cruising Club do a really good job of what they do. The racing division is run well. It’s a great event and I can thoroughly recommend anyone who wants to do a transatlantic crossing to do is a part of the ARC.”
With the previous ARC Course Record, set by Caro a Knierim 65 in ARC 2013 tumbling in less than a year, the Leopard crew are determined to keep their name at the top for a long time to come, ‘We will be back next year and try and take some time off that again!” added Sherlock.

AMERICA’S CUP: Why Not Bermuda?

Tue, 2014-12-02 21:25

Since word first leaked out two weeks ago that Bermuda would be selected to host the 35th America’s Cup in 2017 there has been a drumbeat of criticism in the sailing community. People saying the island doesn’t have the infrastructure to support the event, that the sailing conditions are not adequate, that it would be a travesty for an American defender to defend the Cup in foreign waters, and mostly, it seems, that the “real reason” Larry Ellison wants his Oracle Team USA to defend the Cup in Bermuda is because of its status as an international tax haven. Well, today the rumor became official, Bermuda IS the venue, and funnily enough not one member of the media attending the press conference in New York had the cojones to ask a single question about taxes.

Why is that? Why is it that people do nothing but bitch, bitch, bitch about the way the America’s Cup is run, no matter who is running it, no matter how it’s being run? And when someone who has strong opinions about the Cup finally gets a chance to actually do something about it, even just to ask a simple question in public, they gape and do nothing?

At least the folks at Sailing Anarchy, long one of the most virulent critics of Cup management, have acknowledged this disconnect. Their explanation of why they decided not to bother traveling to New York to harass the Powers That Be, published yesterday, is pretty right on, IMHO. They call it Dyscuptoptia, this disease of irrationality that seems to afflict us all when it comes to all matters Cup-related.

Personally, I’m psyched that Bermuda is the venue. Partly this is personal: I’ve always liked Bermuda, I visit often (always in some capacity related to sailing), I have friends there. But mostly it’s objective: Bermuda has a great sailing heritage, it is tightly linked to the United States and its sailing community (at least on the East Coast), the hospitality is fantastic, and I guarantee you almost every single soul there will be very invested in this event. Sure, there will be some problems to work out, but none of them are insurmountable.

It was implied but not stated at today’s press conference that the course for the America’s Cup will be set on Great Sound, which is the great bight inside the island’s “fishhook” at its western end.

Again, for some reason, no media people at the press conference asked any questions about this. Jimmy Spithill, representing Oracle Team USA, did acknowledge that races would be run on “a tight track.” As you can see in that aerial Google map up there, it will be tight indeed. From Ireland Island straight across to the Gibb’s Hill Lighthouse is a distance of only about five miles, and it looks to me like you could set at most a three- to four-mile straight-line windward-leeward course inside the sound proper. Whether that’s too short or not for 62-foot foiling catamarans to really strut their stuff I don’t know, but it does look like a great spot for so-called “stadium sailing.”

There was an announcement that the old Royal Navy Dockyard on Ireland Island will be made over into a unitary America’s Cup village with a genuine “pit row” that has all team facilities in one location, and those attending the press conference (or streaming it live online, like me) were treated to a hot promo video with lots of artist’s renditions of what a wonderful village it will be:

I have some questions about this, too, and hopefully I’ll soon be able to buttonhole some folks I know in Bermuda and get some answers about how the logistics (like how you get hordes of people out there and back) might actually work.

At the conference, from left to right, were Jimmy Spithill (Oracle Team USA), Nathan Outteridge (Artemis Racing), Max Sirena (Luna Rossa), Franck Cammas (Team France). Also present, but not shown here, were Ben Ainslie (Ben Ainslie Racing), Kevin Shoebridge (Emirates Team New Zealand), Michael Dunkley (Premier of Bermuda), and Harvey Schiller (America’s Cup Commercial Commissioner)

Meanwhile, people, I implore you: let’s stop bitching about the Cup. Let’s follow Sailing Anarchy’s lead here and consciously shed the awful disease of Dyscuptopia.

True, the America’s Cup has often been crazy and unpredictable, but this is inherent to its being organized as a charitable trust with a crazy core contradiction–that the putative trustee should have to compete with putative beneficiaries for the corpus of the trust. If you want to change the fundamental nature of the Cup, you have to change that fact, and the only way you, me, or even Larry Ellison can do that is by filing suit in New York state court.

Until that happens, if ever, we should just kick back and savor the madness. It may not be an ideal way to run a top international sporting event, but it has resulted in some fine superlatives: oldest trophy in sports history, longest winning streak in sports history, most spectacular comeback in sports history.

Let’s stop whining and just be proud of all that.

Nobeltec TimeZero app 2015, Furuno DRS4W WiFi radar overlay & more!

Tue, 2014-12-02 16:00

Written by Ben Ellison on Dec 2, 2014 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub

Yes, iPad navigation fans, that is Furuno 1st Watch WiFi Radar overlaid on the Nobeltec TimeZero charting app. I wasn’t even sure that an iPad could overlay radar over a simple vector chart, but here it is over a finely rendered raster chart blended with hi-res satellite photos. This is virtually the same mix of navigation data that I’ve found so useful on a Furuno TZT and the short demo file I saw running in Fort Lauderdale suggested that it may pan and zoom (and even go 3D) almost as smoothly on an iPad. It’s a major advance in tablet navigation, I think, but the TimeZero app update coming next spring has more to brag about…

The Nobeltec announcement that went online today is titled TimeZero App Compatibility with FURUNO DRS4W Radar & AIS, but there’s actually more to it than that. After the update the standard version of TimeZero — which already impressed me and costs $40 to $50 depending on the (large) chart region you choose — will be able to receive some basic boat data like GPS and Heading coming over WiFi. (And they hope to give TZ the ability to accept and display more basic data like Depth, Wind, and Temperature eventually.) Buy a $10 add-on software module — right in the app, just like you buy the charts — and TZ will also display AIS targets coming over the same WiFi connection. Finally, if you have a Furuno DRS4W radar, a $50 module enables overlay and full radar control.

The diagram above shows how you could use all of TimeZero’s new capabilities at once. The 1st Watch Radar with its fixed WiFi name (SSID) and password acts as the central access point, so whatever WiFi bridge you use to send out Heading, AIS, etc. from the boat system must be able to join a network, not just create one. But this feature is becoming more common, like with the Vesper XB8000 AIS transceiver that has recently been distributing AIS, Depth, Wind, etc. via Gizmo’s own WiFi router. At any rate, picture the above diagram with a Vesper bridge/transponder plus a few sensors and instrument displays. I see a pretty powerful yet economical navigation package running on the two iPads a DRS4W will support with no MFD onboard. I’m not saying I want to go that way myself, but some boaters do, and this is exactly the scenario that Furuno’s standalone WiFi Radar concept seemed to hunger for. (Note that Furuno and Nobeltec do have a relationship.)

It’s also possible to use the TZ app simply with the WiFi Radar, as Nobeltec says the overlay will sync to charts OK with COG (Course over Ground) instead of Heading if you’re going over 1 knot. They highly recommend Heading, though, and apparently the compass built into iPads isn’t up to the task.

A third possible diagram would show the iPad hooked directly to a boat’s WiFi data access point, without a WiFi radar. So the updated TimeZero should see some Vesper data streaming from Gizmo’s router, AIS included if I add the module. And I’ll bet the TZ app does good AIS target plotting, like its MFD and PC sisters. But perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself. Besides the announcement, Nobeltec has a detailed TZ/DRS4W/AIS FAQ for download and they promise a list of compatible WiFi bridges when the update materializes sometime next spring. Who’s now more interested than ever before in Furuno’s WiFi Radar and/or the Nobeltec TimeZero app?

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Weekend Water Fun

Tue, 2014-12-02 14:35

You would think that moving off the boat would mean less time spent in the water. That hasn´t been the case. Our lives still revolve around beaches, snorkelling, cyclones and storms; our focus is just a little different. Instead of wondering: “Do we need to reef the main before that squall hits?” now we ask: “Do the girls need to take an umbrella to school today?”

Saturday dawned on our second swim meet of this term. The girls do Swim Squad every Tuesday after school. They were good swimmers before, but now that they are mastering the actual strokes, they are amazing. It is a strict-but-fair program run on the official Australian rules for the sport, and the girls are eating it with a spoon.

The swim meets of my youth were a sad affair in comparison. No humid indoor rec centre, no chlorine stench, no grey walls and the echos of overeager parents. Instead, we have a lovely 25 m outdoor pool with the tropical breezes blowing and a view of the neighbouring islands. (Someday my girls are going to give me grief about their upbringing, because we have clearly spoiled them rotten.)

For two and a half hours, they raced. Freestyle, backstroke, breaststroke and butterfly. Even the littlest kids did the 100 m medley. Erik and I filled our regular roles as timekeepers, and the whole town cheered the kids on.
Come on, let´s get started! Get set…

To do some obligatory parental bragging, the girls were awesome. They are like darts in the water. Stylish won a special award for her work over the term, and came home with a pair of the fastest times for the year. Once Indy gets a little more length in her limbs, she is going to give her sister some serious competition.

But that was not the end of our water weekend. The next day was Waterslide Day. Every December, the town erects a souped-up slip-n-slide in the park. The kids bring their own dish soap, a parent stands by with a hose, and off they go. On Sunday afternoon, the slide opened for business.

See that house in the background of the first photo? That is my house. You can guess where we have been every free moment since the slide opened.

Erik´s fine videography shows it best.

I am treasuring these water moments. Soon the closest I´ll get to warm water will be hiding in a bathtub, trying to pretend there isn´t a snowstorm going on outside. Sigh. Although, come to think of it, not much beats a hot bath and a book on a cold day.

We´ll see if the girls think so, too.

LIVE Podcast: Down-Island Caribbean Cruising

Tue, 2014-12-02 00:02

We recorded this one live in Tortola at the end of the Caribbean 1500 rally. Andy gives an informal chat on his favorite places to visit down-island in the Caribbean. Basically St. Martin and south – the Eastern Caribbean’s Leeward & Windward Islands. (By the way, that sound you hear in the background? It’s the waves at the beach where we recorded this!)

If you want to follow along graphically, it’s a good idea to listen to this one near a computer and just Google Earth the places I mention here to get an idea of what we’re talking about geographically. Better yet, downlaod the Imray app, including the Imray-Iolaire charts for the Caribbean, and follow along (these are the same charts I reference in the talk, and my personal favorites).

I’ll also have a page on the site devoted to this talk, with notes, charts and photos, so you can refer to that here.

Want to go ocean sailing with Andy? Book a berth on Sojourner, Serenity or a soon-to-be-announced Swan 57 at

VOLVO OCEAN RACE: Team Vestas Wind Wrecked

Mon, 2014-12-01 17:47

Here’s one way to get cruising sailors interested in the ongoing Volvo Ocean Race–have one competitor pile up on a reef at night in the middle of nowhere. It was definitely NOT a happy Thanksgiving holiday weekend for the crew on the VOR65 Team Vestas Wind, as they hit Cargados Carajos Shoals (a.k.a. Saint Brandon Shoals) 200 miles north of Mauritius on Saturday while racing in leg 2 of the Volvo race, from Cape Town to Abu Dhabi. Reportedly, they were making 18 knots at the time.

Ouch! This is why crew on these boats always fall asleep in their berths with their feet facing bulkheads.

Another competitor, Team Alvimedica, which has since resumed racing, stood by the grounded boat for several hours until all the crew were safely off and local authorities arrived on the scene. The Vestas crew, who initially had to evacuate on to the reef itself, are now all ashore and are plotting how best to salvage their vessel.

The burning question, of course, is how did this happen? How does a navigator on one of the most sophisticated racing sailboats in the world, with satellite comms and a full-on electronic nav suite, manage to drive up on to a charted reef? Online forums, predictably, are abuzz with commentary, and the usual suspects are proclaiming how such a thing would never ever have happened to them because they would have had paper charts, etc., etc., etc.

What we do know for sure is:

A) Yes, this most certainly would never have happened to any of those usual suspects, because they will never ever in their lives have a chance to navigate a boat in the Volvo Ocean Race.

B) The area where the reef is located was originally in an exclusion zone that competitors were prohibited from sailing in. The zone was opened, however, so that boats could stay clear of a tropical storm in the vicinity.

C) At least one other boat, Team Dongfeng, had trouble avoiding the reef and its tiny islands and had to jibe at the last minute to stay clear.

The blue track is Team Vestas Wind, which landed on the eastern windward side of the reef. The red track is that of Team Dongfeng, and you can see clearly how close they came too. The orange track is that of Team Alvimedica, coming in to stand by on the leeward side of the reef

Another thing is also certain. We will eventually get a detailed debrief on what actually happened, as every Volvo boat has an “embedded” journalist onboard, taking lots of notes and photos and video. Most likely, once the Vestas reporter, Brian Carlin, gets some serious comms capability we will be inundated with on-the-spot images and info.

Ironically, not long before Vestas ran aground Carlin shot this image of the boat’s underbody and posted it to Instagram with the caption “Look out below!”

Meanwhile, there’s lots of other relevant video to inspect. I suggest you start with this Facebook video put up by race leader Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, in which Abu Dhabi‘s skipper, Ian Walker, gives us his post mortem on the accident. He notes in particular how he had worried about how easy it would be to go aground here at night and how you have to zoom in real close on their electronic chart to see the obstruction at all.

You might also check out this viddy, taken onboard Alvimedica as they stood by to help:

Plus this one here, in which Vestas skipper Chris Nicholson fields a call from VOR Race Control after he and his crew made it to dry land:

And this one, where Alvimedica‘s navigator, Will Oxley, also talks to Race Control:

I should also note that this event is well worth following even when the fleet isn’t hitting the bricks. The new VOR65s are essentially one-design boats, and the racing has been very close. Right now, for example, the top three boats are all within four miles of each other!

Racing With Copepods? Yep, Racing With Copepods

Mon, 2014-12-01 00:42

Released December 1. A project with my friends . . .

Fundraiser: kids & kittens at the shipyard

Sat, 2014-11-29 21:15

A few days ago, I posted the photo above to Totem’s Facebook page with the following caption:

We’ve decided the scooters on Totem will have an extended useful life if they stay with the kids in the shipyard instead of coming across the Indian Ocean with us. How many paved roads are there in Maldivian atolls, anyway? This little guy is really too cute for words. We lowered handlebars as far as they could go for him and he won’t let it out of his grip.

One of our followers, Mike F., was inspired to send a scooter to the kids here… then realized how outrageous the shipping costs are. Shipping costs alone could probably buy several scooters already IN Thailand! It didn’t make sense.

We came up with the following solution:

  • raise some money from interested folks,
  • buy a scooter (or three) in Thailand on their behalf,
  • use any excess to buy the kids’ school supplies,
  • deliver scooters to the kids before we sail away.


Here’s the catch: there’s less than a week to do this, because the shipyard would prefer to leave fulfillment with us, and we should be launching as soon as December 4th.

<This didn’t show up in Sailfeed for some reason, but I’ve removed it from the blog and have moved into shopping mode now anyway!>

I’ll post updates to Facebook as funds are raised, and answer any questions here (and on FB), and share pictures of goodies going to kids on the eve of our departure.

Did you know about the kittens?

While we’re raising a few dollars, I’ll put the shipyard kittens out there too. Six motherless kittens (and two puppies) were found in the lumber storage at the shipyard, are currently being cared for by our daughters in what’s become the critter nursery inside the PSS shipyard offices. Barring adoption by a yachtie passing through, they’ll not be “pets” but live in the shipyard: but first, they  need to get bigger and stronger to survive independently…not to mention, a few trips to the vet for worms, skin fungus, and eye infections.

Caring for the kittens has been the mission for our girls during our stay at the shipyard! Please consider donating towards costs of kitten care, and we’ll make sure they’re well supplied with kitten chow and litter before we depart. Just mention it in the memo field what portion of your donation is for the kittens, or let me know through our contact form.

12/1 UPDATE:

We have raised more than $900 dollars since this was posted yesterday. I am blown away by your generosity. This will do SO MUCH GOOD! Julie has made a list of the kids of the shipyard workers, and is talking to parents about their needs. We can get shiny scooters, yes. Soccer balls, too. And with all this, we can also help their families in a very real way with school uniforms and supplies- constraints that keep some kids from going to school. The kittens will have a deep stash of kibble, too! We’ll have a party to share the goodies and news with the kids on either Wednesday or Thursday, Dec 3 or 4- still need to confirm (at this point, contingent on having enough time to do all the shopping!).

12/2 UPDATE:

Well that was overwhelming, in the best possible way. We’ve raised nearly $1,400 for the kids & kittens from you wonderful humans who read this and felt inspired to give! I will do my best to see that your donations are used as well as possible. With the last couple of days we have here, I’m working with shipyard management on how to best meet the needs of families here, and shopping to meet those needs.




Long time followers know we appreciate the change you kick into our cruising funds when you click through to the Sailfeed website

METS 2014: Navico GoFree, Simrad IS35, Victron Bluetooth, LCJ Capteur BaroPlug & more

Fri, 2014-11-28 19:00

Written by Kees Verruijt on Nov 28, 2014 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub

Earlier this week we published Henning Dürr’s report on METS 2014 and now here’s what Kees Verruijt found.

Navico GoFree cloud content and services
The Simrad NSO evo2, NSS evo2, B&G Zeus2 and Lowrance HDS Gen2 Touch MFDs will all get a January software update that allows users to buy new charts, update software, and more directly from their boat displays. Moreover, GoFree is being upgraded to a separate “brand” that covers all the cloud-enabled content and services offered by Navico on all three “hardware” brands…

The first big step is to make the existing GoFree WIFI-1 wireless bridge — which previously provided only a closed loop WiFi connection between mobile devices and an MFD/sensor network — also able to act as a WiFi client to an internet access point. (You can use another WiFi bridge instead of the WiFi-1, download “GoFree Advanced Setup” here, but you won’t be able to set these up from the chart plotter nearly as easily.) The coming software update also seems to put rudimentary browser and file transfer functions on the MFDs, as well as enabling quick tasks like choosing a new external WiFi network.

The new GoFree Shop choice coming to the current generation MFDs will let you access the Insight Store (which will be renamed the GoFree Store) to buy Navico’s own charts and those of charting partners that participate in the program. NVcharts and Jeppesen C-Map have announced that they will participate.

Direct downloading of system software updates will also be enabled, as well as chart updates and the ability to easily upload sonar data to the Insight Genesis make-your-own-chart program. What was still missing at METS was the participation of Navionics, who run their own Freshest Data chart update program. When asked, the Navionics people on hand could not provide any guidance, so we’ll have to wait and see how this plays out.

Navico obviously has big plans for their new brand, though, and if you check out the Introducing GoFree video you’ll find mentions of telematics and social boating.

Simrad IS35 instrument display
Also being shown was the new $399 IS35 color instrument display. These will look very nice on a motorboat “glass bridge” underneath one or more NSS 2 displays. They are intended as a replacement for analog engine instruments for motorboats — with default pages for engine monitoring, fuel economy, cruising, steering, and depth history. For that reason they are not the “standard” 110 mm / 4″ size but 10mm smaller so they fit the standard 85mm (3 3/8″) circular cut-outs typically used by analog gauges. The IS35 is the more stylish option in such an installation compared to the existing $549 IS40 color instrument display, but the IS40 has a larger display, buttons that are easier to use with gloves and — depending on what the final firmware in the IS35 will contain — they’re possibly better suited to sailboats.

B&G H5000 one year on & Zeus Glass Helm
The H5000 display that I liked last year in a rough form is now, with a few more firmware releases under its belly, ready for prime time. The race start display in particular is now very easy to use and gives excellent feedback — how many boat lengths advantage on which side of the line, how many boat lengths over/under the line. If you are a serious racer, you need something like this. B&G has also come out with Zeus2 Glass Helm system (based on the Simrad NSO evo2) with a choice of 16- or 19-inch monitors.

Editor note: Among Garmin’s many Fort Lauderdale announcements was a graphic Race Start function that will run on new 7400/7600 MFDs and also looked easy to use and informative ~ Ben

The atmosphere at Victron was ebullient. Panbo readers in the U.S. will be glad to hear that they are not only are expanding the marketing and sales departments, but also the tech support and fufillment areas. This should improve Victron support in the U.S. considerably.

Besides new low end chargers and DC/DC converters what caught my eye was a Bluetooth LE dongle that will connect BMV-700 series battery monitors (and MPPT solar panel controllers that also use the VE.Direct protocol) to mobile devices. I had not realised until I researched this entry that the “new” Bluetooth LE (Low Energy) standard is so different to “classic” Bluetooth, and therefore is a huge improvement — lower in energy, simpler to pair, all good. It definitely seems to be on a roll and catching on quickly. The Victron dongle is another example of how a simple serial to wireless dongle allows you to use the superior graphical user interface on your smartphone or tablet, reducing the number of LCD screens scattered around our boats…

Airmar Ultrasonic Speed Sensor
Are others interested or is it just me who’s developing a personal obsession with Airmar’s ultrasonic speed sensor? Henning had obtained a DST900 brochure (download here) that shows a picture of the now almost mythical paddle-less speed sensor that has been delayed for many years. Since last year (oh no – it is already two years ago) they have managed to put a picture of the actual sensor in their show material, but release is still “scheduled for early next year” and some distributors have given up. I guess it’s good on Airmar that they are not releasing an unfinished product and making us all guinea pigs, but maybe this technology is just not meant to be? Or maybe the tech works but just not at a cost-effective price level?

LCJ Capteurs BaroPlug
Henning and I also visited LCJ Capteurs, who I mentioned in my METS 2012 coverage. I was curious to see how they got on since I do not see a huge uptake locally amongst racing or cruising sailors and so I guess it is still an up-hill battle for them to compete with the bigger players. Maybe their new BaroPlug will help? It is a very simple NMEA 2000 sensor that only does one thing, provide atmospheric pressure onto the network. Although there are other solutions such as an Airmar PB/WX series, I think this is the first simple single type sensor providing this particular data point. Pressure is important for any boater — when the pressure starts dropping you ought to be executing previously made plans for bad weather. And if, by oversight, you haven’t, you are warned and can take action — hopefully in time. At €150, or about $200, it is reasonably priced for a NMEA 2000 sensor and I think it has a bright future ahead.

Closing thoughts
The atmosphere was good, people seem to be cautiously optimistic. The trend towards tablet-style interfaces and better styling in electronics continues. However, it seemed to me that there were very few world class premieres around. Could it be that the competition is heating up so that there is no time to wait for a yearly show? Or are shows such as FLIBS gaining the upper hand?

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America’s Cup Legacy: The Good News

Fri, 2014-11-28 17:30

By Kimball Livingston Posted November 26, 2014

The first time I saw a kid in a sweatshirt that said – MISSION HIGH SAILING TEAM – it made my day for a week.

This comes up because of my recent, published appraisal of the legacy of the San Francisco America’s Cup as “chopped liver.” I stand by that appraisal for the big picture. Citywide, chopped liver it is. But Valerie Santori, who manages Golden Gate Yacht Club’s youth program, rang my chimes to remind me that there are exceptions. Says Val —

“For youth sailing in Northern California, the America’s Cup legacy is huge. I checked the league directory on [Pacific Coast Interscholastic Sailing Association] to see which of our schools have registered. I was blown away by the number of full sized Northern California high school teams.”

Well, I can vouch for that, and yes, the America’s Cup had an impact on it. Bumped up the profile. Got more people looking. We can’t measure cause and effect, but something that was already growing, boomed.

On the city front of San Francisco, StFYC in 2014 hosts eight high school teams, with more knocking at the door. The program can’t grow because there simply isn’t any more parking space for boats on trailers, but, wanna talk high energy? Man, it’s electric. And the kids will sail in anything, and they won’t quit. Maybe I can capture the spirit of it if I paint an imaginary picture of an imaginary mom standing on the breakwater on a drizzly, wintry eve shouting, “Sally, Johnny, get in here. It’s dark and it’s time for dinner.” In the distance, faintly, we hear, “Awww, Mom. Five more minutes.” Take away the mom, substitute a professional coach in a safety boat, and our imaginary picture gets pretty darned real.

I write this because I’ve seen it for myself, and I know it’s no different at Golden Gate Yacht Club, farther out the jetty, which hosts five high school teams including Mission High. The Golden Gate Yacht Club program grew on two factors: The energy and finance driven by GGYC’s role as the sixth trustee of America’s Cup, and the dedication of Valerie and her husband, GGYC rear commodore Dave Santori. These things always take a sparkplug or two, and I am grateful to Val for reminding me of things the America’s Cup campaign got right.

With Oracle Racing turning its face toward Bermuda for a 2017 defense (or so we hear), the youth program is something GGYC can point to with pride as a benefit to San Francisco. The program is not an affiliate of SFUSD, but as GGYC states, “it is an excellent option for PE credits for schools that offer alternative PE arrangements.”

——————————————- WOULDN’T YOU RATHER BE SAILING? ———————————————————

And, as Val pointed out, the Treasure Island Sailing Center is a superstar of the America’s Cup legacy. Their office/classroom is a doublewide trailer purchased out of a $250,000 grant from the America’s Cup Event Authority, and program director Chris Childers says, “Because the America’s Cup people chose us for outreach, we’ve been able to put more than 1,500 kids through our science-and-sailing program. When we started, I was going school-to-school, and at first they’d give me a blank stare and say ‘The America’s Cup doesn’t do anything for this city.’ Then they’d get it. In 2012 we had about 450 kids. In 2013, it was 1,100.

“We target fourth graders, a few fifth graders. Most of these are kids who live within a couple miles of the bay, but they’ve never been on the water, never felt a boat move underneath them.”

And Treasure Island is a place where a kid can be a kid . . .

The photo above and others below come from the TISC Facebook page, which is loaded with smiles.

Every fourth grader in the San Francisco Unified School District is eligible for this wake-up experience. In a typical session, a kid spends four hours at Treasure Island, including 90 minutes on the water in a stable 18-foot sloop with an instructor. They check out “the critters,” Childers says: Pelicans, cormorants and seals, sometimes at close range. They pick out landmarks. They see their home from a profoundly new perspective.

In a classroom session, they learn about the population dynamics of crabs, what makes the seabreeze, why the waters of the bay rise and fall, and who can say, really, what they’re learning in the background, because —

“I’ve seen the benefits explode,” Childers says. “As the kids come through, we occasionally see one that we know from the summer camps that we run, but not many. Now we’re seeing kids who came for a school day coming back and registering for camp. It’s fair to say, the America’s Cup is still taking kids sailing.”

Treasure Island Sailing Center is cranking on many levels. Its programs run from youth to adult to adaptive to “watersports” and not only sailing. Groups and community organizations are welcome. Scholarships are available. And there is protected water in the lee of the island. Treasure Island. For teens, there is competitive sailing in FJ dinghies like this. Yeah, there’s the occasional giggle . . .

In 2014, if it didn’t exist, we would not re-invent this landfill plot that originally hosted the 1939 International Exposition, lovely though the Expo was. In its moment, the Expo was almost religiously celebrated for its innovative lighting. The cove that now hosts the Sailing Center once was the base for the Pam Am Clippers that famously flew the Pacific route to the Orient.

Today the City of San Francisco has big plans for the future of a redeveloped Treasure Island. With the Sailing Center at the heart of it. It will never again be as we see it below, but there’s plenty to like.

Bridges old and new. The fleet awaits the morrow. Photo courtesy Treasure Island Sailing Center.

Holiday gifts for cruisers

Fri, 2014-11-28 08:03

Shopping for a sailor? Getting ready to go cruising, and don’t want to spend on things you won’t use in your life afloat? Here is a list of suggested gifts we love (or wish we had!) that you can take with you…and some distractions to help you keep the cruising dream present while you wait.

Dream fodder

If cruising is in your future, here are some great reads to keep the dream alive, with tales directly from cruisers about their experiences afloat.

Blown Away, Herb Payson. One of the true classic cruising memoirs, this new edition includes the author’s hindsight on the aftermath of cruising. Herb is everyman, who took a lean budget and his family to find grand adventures. It is timeless, insightful, honest, and will leave you laughing as you wish you were following in his wake.

Love with a Chance of Drowning, Torre DeRoche and The Motion of the Ocean, Janna Cawrse Esarey. These two cruising memoirs women have  very little in common except that one rather important criteria: they’re well written page-turners that take you on their voyages.

9 Years on the 7 Seas, Anne Brevig. This book is ALL about the pictures: images from Anne’s circumnavigation and the accompanying journal of her travels were my frequent companions on nights when our cold Pacific Northwest winters felt dark, and the South Pacific felt very far away. You can buy digital editions directly from Anne on her website; I favor the large format paperback.

Sailing Alone Around the World,Joshua Slocum. The original cruiser and his in dominatable voyage around the world: this is the book that made me fall in love with the dream of cruising.

Mairen reads in the cockpit; Phang Nga Bay, Thailand

Personal gear

An ereader. You should at least partially convert to ereaders if you haven’t already! We love to read, and it’s simply hard to keep up with quality reading from outside the US. Unless you’re satisfied with the Patterson, Cussler, and Steel on the honor library shelves you’re going to have to bring it with you- and there’s only so much bookshelf space on a boat. We’ve used several different types over the years: I’d get another Kindle Paperwhiteif I had to buy one tomorrow. The gentle side lighting makes for unobtrusive and easy nighttime reading. We specifically like the e-ink over tablet readers as dedicated reading devices – we have a couple of iPads on board too, but it’s a less pleasant reading experience and too hard to use in bright daylight. Oh, and don’t even think you will be able to share one!

A rugged headlamp. We use our headlamps all the time. They get us from cabin to head without disaster at night. They keep us hands free to light a beach fire. They act as dinghy lights on the way back to the boat at night. Yet somehow, a really dependable headlamp has been elusive! We’re trying this set now, and are pretty optimistic. They are waterproof, rugged, extra bright when we need them, dim when we don’t. The only thing ours doesn’t have are night-vision friendly red lights, but we have red cabin lighting that fills this need on night watches.

Camera equipment

A good DSLR. I’ve had some nice compliments on photos here and I’m pleased with the gear we use on board. A Nikon 5100 DSLRas my primary camera. The newer generation of this is the Nikon D5300 (see this comparison); for a great deal, I trust Adorama for second hand gear. For lenses, I love this 50mm lens – it’s kind of famous for clarity: it takes gorgeous shots! I’ve usually got this 18-135, though, as a walkaround. If I had my druthers, though, and a new budget for gear- I’d swap it for a nice wide angle like this one, with a better zoom for distance. I’ve written about our current gear it more extensively in this post.

An underwater camera. If it’s going to be a wet dinghy ride or I just need something small and rugged, we use a Canon Powershot D20. We use it for all our underwater photos as well, and it’s been great for us (check out the current model, the Canon PowerShot D30- our D20 is already two years old). But if we were buying a new compact underwater today, I’d take a long hard look at the newer Olympus Tough-  I believe it edges out the Canon.

Fun in the water

Snorkel (or dive) gear. I wasn’t really into swimming before cruising. Wow, THAT changed! With such gorgeous clear water, and so much to see, we spent a lot (a LOT) of time in the water. Good gear is worth the investment. You’re best off trying on masks at a dive shop to get the best fit. Make sure the there’s an actual hinge (not just soft silicon) between the frame and the strap. We have a hodgepodge on board, but the better Cressi snorkeling gearhas all held up well.

Speargun. Won’t THAT make an impression under the tree! These have been worth endless hours of fun on the reef, pushed us to improve our freediving capabilities, helped us better understand the marine environment, and provided some extremely delicious dinners. Jamie bought a Pelaj in Australia; this Rob Allen railgunstyle is similar, and 100cm is a good length for versatility.

our friend Mike from IO, spearfishing in Fiji


General cruising aids

A good rangefinderis just the kind of gadget that is super helpful, but a bit of a splurge for something so specific. I wish we had purchased one back when we still had a good income! A range finder can save sleepless nights at anchor wondering exactly how close you’re getting to that cliff, or if the charter boat in front of you is dragging as much as you suspect.

Infrared thermometer. This is another one of those discretionary gadgets that makes a fun pre-cruising gift you will actually use. OK, so sometimes we use it for kicks just to see how hot the deck gets in the tropical sun (it’s measuring Celcius, by the way- that’s HOT)… but it’s also been very useful for troubleshooting when we had engine overheating problems. Professional grade can run to a couple hundred dollars, but you can get a “good enough” cheapie like this onefor around $20.

Galley favorites

Pressure cookers are praised by many cruisers. Count me in: I bought one ONLY because we were going cruising, and used it for a year before I left. Honestly? It was a revelation how it eased dinners for our busy family life, with homemade meals in less time. Aboard, of course, that means less fuel used and less heat in a tropical galley. Mine is a Kuhn-Rikonwith short handles (easier to stow) and 6 liter capacity (a whole chicken roast, or 4 pint jars for canning). Don’t wait until you go!

Good coffee. I remember looking longingly at our espresso machine at home and wondering how I’d break my addiction to good coffee afloat. Turns out: no habit change required, just different methods! Our everyday coffee is made in a stovetop Bialetti Moka Express- just know that when it says “six cup” size it’s referring to espresso portions: that 6 cup model is just enough for Jamie and I to have our morning joe. You’ll need spare gaskets (we go through about one a year). We also use this gorgeous Bodum stainless steel french pressto make delicious coffee; but what you need to know is how ridiculously sturdy and overbuilt this pot is.  That pretty glass french press one won’t get you far offshore! It’s also insulated, and keeps a pot warm for hours. The right cookbook. I love to cook and didn’t think I needed another cookbook, but you will: The Boat Galley Cookbookis awesome, and Carolyn and Jan have thought through pretty much every question you will have about provisioning, adapting for other countries, and recipes with a cruising filter.

Field guides

Last year I wrote about our favorite guides for fish, shells, other marine life, birds and more about a year ago. With the natural world so big in our lives, these add tremendous enjoyment to our everyday existence. They’re great memory keepers, too, with notations in the books about when and where we’ve seen a given critter.

Going to Mexico?

With Mexico in sights as the first major destination for most west coast cruisers, here’s my pick on reads to set you up for a great experience.

The Log from the Sea of Cortez, and The Pearl,John Steinbeck. It’s simply required reading, both the nonfiction story of his exploration in the Gulf of California in the 1950s and the piognant tale of a Baja boy who finds the pearl of his dreams.

Gathering the Desert,Gary Paul Nabhan. Fascinating look in depth at a few key items you can forage for in the Baja deserts. A great read for anyone spending hurricane season in the Sea of Cortez, very interesting if you’re into that kind of thing. I loved this book.

The People’s Guide to Mexico,Karl Franz. Occasionally dated (it is in the 14th edition), this is still both entertaining and helpful for orientation if you’re totally unfamiliar with Mexican culture.

Going to the South Pacific?

It’s too easy to be in Mexico and realize you don’t have quality books for the South Pacific. It happened to us! We lucked into books from someone who changed plans – don’t make our mistake. I listed useful guide books in this post.

Typee,Herman Melville. When you get to the Marquesas, you will probably anchor in the same bay where Melville jumped ship with another sailor. It is a tremendous true story that was believed to be made-up tale for years, and a great way to find new appreciation for your exotic surroundings.

An Island to Oneself,Tom Neale. This is the book that has inspired many cruisers, and a must-read if you’ll be sailing to Suwarrow, one of our favorite stops in all of the Pacific.

For the cruiser with everything

There’s always a carbon fiber head

Ideas from other cruisers

I asked around for other lists of gift ideas for cruisers: here are some recommendations from others:

It’s always appreciated when you click through to the Sailfeed website! The links in this post which lead to Amazon listings include a referral from the Totem crew. If you click through a link and purchase from Amazon, it throws a little change in our cruising kitty. It doesn’t cost you a penny, but it’s a nice help for us. Thank you for supporting our family!

Podcast Across the North Sea, Pt. 4: Landfall

Fri, 2014-11-28 00:02

This is Part 4 of Andy & Mia’s last big offshore passage on Arcturus from 2012, when they sailed direct to Sweden from Scotland. If you missed Parts 1, 2 & 3 they were  the last two Friday episodes, so you’ll want to hear these in order.

Thanks to the Blaggards for the music! Check them out at

Want to come ocean sailing with Andy? New passages for 2015 announced on a Shnnon 43 ketch, a Swan 57 and a trip to Lunenburg, Nova Scotia on Sojourner! Visit for details and to register.

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