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The new MarineTraffic Internet AIS service, cautiously optimistic

Thu, 2014-03-06 18:56

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

These days I feel obliged to include a warning every time I write about AIS over the Internet. What you see in a nice app like ShipFinder HD (above) probably does not include every vessel that’s transmitting AIS info even in fairly well covered areas like the Miami/Lauderdale area, and many areas aren’t covered at all…unless perhaps you’re using the Seapilot app in Sweden or somehow have access to another well-organized AIS receiver system. That’s because what most of us see on computers, phones or tablets connected to the web is target data collected by patchy networks of volunteers, whose shore antennas may well miss even fairly nearby 2 Watt Class B AIS transmissions or even 12 Watt Class A signals obscured by buildings or terrain (or may suddenly go offline just because the volunteer’s kid trips on a power cord or something similar).

That warning stated, one particular source of Internet AIS, MarineTraffic, seems to have attracted a large number of volunteer listening stations. The screen above shows all the stations currently registered in the USA — a lot more than there used to be — with the color green representing the ones that were sharing live data this morning. MarineTraffic (MT) is even stronger in Europe, and thus, the bottom left brag about having 56,026 AIS targets in range when I grabbed the screen. Note also how MT vastly improved its web browser presentation recently, though that change came with a possible problem.

Along with a completely redesigned web interface and a slew of new features, MarineTraffic became a commercial AIS tracking operation, and I’ve unhappily experienced that transition before. Back in 2005, I lamented the limitations of AISlive once it went seriously commercial, and something similar happened to the VesselTracker site that was a favorite in 2008 (along with several still-good regional services). In recent years MarineTraffic seemed to build the best global coverage with the most user features among the free sites, but will a hunger for subscription revenues mean decreased AIS tracking for freeloaders like me?
   Well, so far so good, and I like the “Free Forever” notation on the Basic membership in the various service plans partly shown above.  The plan list is also a good place to see all the features MarineTraffic offers now, including satellite tracking of vessels beyond shore stations. And about the only new limitations for Free users that I can detect are a limit of 5 vessels in “My Fleet” and only three days of vessel track history. Those features remain pretty useful in my view, and I particularly like being able to tag Fleet vessels so I get emailed when they enter or leave a port, as noted in this 2012 MarineTraffic appreciation. My Fleet combined with the still free MT map widget also makes a nice addition to Panbo’s About page (and might work well for many marina and boatyard sites).

Notice that my own My Fleet isn’t limited to 5 vessels of interest and that my screenshots aren’t showing the ads that appear if you’re on the Free plan or unregistered altogether. That’s because MT gave free Premium subscriptions to all its volunteer station keepers when the plans were introduced, and I was maintaining a receiver here in Camden (as I wrote about here). That was a nice gesture (and I hope to get a station running on Gizmo before MT pulls the subscription). It’s neat, for instance, to zoom into targets on a high quality (Jeppesen C-Map) nautical chart anywhere in the world.
The example above shows a yacht working its way into an exotic looking anchorage in the Tobago Cays today — an inspiring sight from a desk in chilly Maine — though its Class B signal is barely being captured by a volunteer station on Carriacou. And that’s why it’s great the MarineTraffic is offering free Pro or Premium plans to new volunteer stations (depending on performance) and even offer free receivers for good locations.

There really can’t be too many AIS receiving stations in my experience, and I continue to think that it’s a great opportunity for marinas and other coastwise marine businesses to “add a little value” and do a little marketing at low cost. In fact, one reason I’ve been lax with my home station is that Wayfarer Marine set up a reliable station in Camden Harbor, and the inhouse installer Alden Cole enjoys maintaining a volunteer station so much he also minds a home system high in the hills behind town. There’s another station at the Lyman Morse boatyard in Thomaston — note the credit in the target detail box above (that’s the marketing part) — and Walter Barnard’s station recently opened in the north bay. Walter’s rig is down today, but note that he’s also been taking photos of local AIS targets like the ferry shown above, and photos are a huge part of Internet AIS (and can also earn free MT subscriptions). And finally, a new station just popped up in Searsport, but they haven’t yet identified themselves on their MT account’s My Stations page. (This screen also shows where the ads go if you’re not logged into a pro subscription).

At any rate, it looks like the east side of Penobscot Bay will be well covered on MarineTraffic when spring arrives and lots more boats finally appear. It’s likely then that even a small boat sailing around North Haven will be able to know when the ferry will loom out of the fog, with just a smartphone and an inexpensive app like MarineTraffic’s own. If the existing stations stay alive, even more elaborate Internet AIS focused apps like the SeaNav/BoatBeacon combo should work well around here. Plus, Wayfarer and Lyman Morse (anyone really) can put up MT widgets so their customers with AIS, or their families, can see what’s going on from afar. They can even suggest the mAIS app so boaters can get on MT, even if they don’t have a real AIS transponder.
But not far in either direction, and in many other places around the US coast, there’s still no Internet AIS coverage at all. If you have a spot and a few hundred dollars to invest, please consider becoming a MarineTraffic volunteer. I also think all us volunteers should hedge our bets and promote competition by contributing our feeds to other sites like AISHub, ShipFinder, and FleetMon (I’ll add details to the “how-to” entry).

While I’m obviously an Internet AIS enthusiast, I should finish where I began. This spring there will be another spike of boaters with newly installed Class B transponders (good!) who will call their installer or supplier because they can’t see themselves on MarineTraffic or a similar site. Sometimes it’s because a forest of nearby masts in the marina kill the signal, but usually it’s because the location isn’t really covered, at least for Class B. We need to help folks out with this confusion and we need more receivers, I think. Meanwhile, one recent MT joy has been watching Yme’s electric Drift Away cruising the fascinating waterways of Holland in near real time. Do other armchair I-AIS cruisers prefer other sites or have ways to use MT that I haven’t discovered yet?

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

How the America’s Cup Came to the Caribbean 1500

Thu, 2014-03-06 16:28

2014 will mark the 25th edition of the Caribbean 1500. It’s now officially branded the ARC Caribbean 1500, ostensibly to have it fall in line with World Cruising Club’s other rallies around the world bearing similar monikers. But to those who sail it, and those who long to, it’ll always be, simply, the ’1500.’

I first got involved in 2006, sailing on my first-ever offshore passage aboard the Jeanneau 40 Dress Parade. We were last to finish, leaving from Charleston, SC, on our own, and joining the fleet in Tortola, when the event still called Road Town home. Fast forward a few years – I’m now, alongside my wife Mia, the event manager for the 1500, and have sailed in several other iterations of it on various boats since 2006.

One of our challenges for 2014 will be commemorating the 25th edition of the event. It’s seen major change since Steve Black left the helm in 2011, but we think we’ve done a good job of keeping it’s spirit intact. 2013 saw the event move to Portsmouth, Virginia, where we received an extremely warm welcome from the local community and our new hosts at Ocean Marine Yacht Center. And then suddenly something happened that will make the 25th edition of the event memorable, regardless of what we plan for it.

On Monday this week, the yacht Falcon officially registered for the 1500. This would be uneventful, except that the yacht Falcon is 80 feet long and was built as a training vessel for the 2000 America’s Cup. In full carbon fiber. Quite quickly, Monday became one of the most exciting days that I’ve had as event manager for the 1500, and a pretty good start to 2014.

What follows is a brief blurb from the owner with some details of the boat and what he plans on doing with it – and how you can go sailing with him:

“Falcon is an eighty foot carbon fiber maxi racing yacht originally designed to train a crew for the 2000 Americas Cup. Starting this year she will have a new life as a training vessel. Falcon will be used for youth safety at sea programs, corporate and family team building, and now in conjunction with the World Cruising Club, she will sail in the 2014 ARC Caribbean 1500. Falcon will offer an unforgettable learning experience for 10 lucky sailors. The cost of the program will include participation in the 1500 events, several days of offshore training prior to departure and a crew position on Falcon for the rally to Tortola, BVI.

Falcon has just completed a major refit including a full cruising interior. This thoroughbred race boat capable of 20 knots boat speed will now become a safe and comfortable platform to learn the art of offshore sailing. Safety at sea, sail handling, heavy weather sailing, routing, weather, navigation, and a multitude of other subjects will be discussed prior to and during the voyage.”

The captain, Cary St Onge, has a heck of a resume himself, and is quite the interesting character. He’s a circumnavigator with 45 years of racing and cruising experience. He’s done 15,000 miles singlehanded and holds a USCG 100 Ton Master license.

For those of you in the area, Cary will be giving a short presentation during the Annapolis Ocean Sailing Seminar in March (there is still limited room to sign up), and will be available all weekend to discuss crewing opportunities on Falcon.

Anyone with an interest in securing one of these crew positions should contact Cary at Falcon@Force10Sailing.com or 303-927-8489 for more information.

As for me, I’m still trying to convince the office to let me catch a ride on Falcon in the 1500 – she’s almost guaranteed to be the first boat to arrive in Tortola!

 

The Hurricane of 1939, Newport Beach

Thu, 2014-03-06 14:02

This video, a gift to our local nautical museum, just got posted to YouTube.

The carnage begins about 3 minutes in, if you’re just into carnage.

It’s bizarre to watch this on the harbor I grew up on, which is usually a very mellow place, and hasn’t had a hurricane since, well, 1939. I’ve only seen waves break inside the harbor a few times in my life, namely the Swell of 1983, when The Wedge was breaking at well over twenty feet.

My dad was six years old in 1939, and he remembers it well.

Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about it:

“The 1939 California tropical storm, also called the 1939 Long Beach tropical storm, El Cordonazo, The Lash of St. Francis was a tropical cyclone that hit Southern California in September, 1939. Formerly a hurricane, it was the only tropical storm to make landfall in California in the twentieth century. The only other known tropical cyclone to directly affect California is the 1858 San Diego Hurricane, and only three other eastern Pacific tropical cyclones have caused gale-force winds in the continental United States. The tropical storm caused heavy flooding, leaving many dead, mostly at sea.”

The cost of cruising: the rest of Totem’s maintenance list

Thu, 2014-03-06 07:00

The roundup of our current maintenance projects isn’t complete without a look at the work we’ve recently done. Totem is just one case, but a reasonable stand-in to consider the kind of work that a well used cruising boat goes through after five plus years in the tropics. It’s a different perspective than offered by the general rule of thumb, and that’s fine by us: we take good care of our baby.

1. Prop shaft and bearings. Looking good now, but turned out that it had a few kinks.

2. Bottom job. We won’t expect to get five years out of this one like we did the last, but we should be covered until at least South Africa now.

3. Replace through-hulls. Original (32 year old) units replaced… excellent peace of mind.

4. Haul out. Essential for #1, 2, and 3. We spent a week on the shipyard at Satun and had a great experience.

5. New holding tank. Now here’s something that you REALLY don’t want to have fail catastrophically! Better to do it before it’s an absolute necessity. Ours showed signs, so it was replaced.

6. Foredeck sun cover. Not pretty, but great for keeping cool. Covering the foredeck has made a big difference in comfort in the tropics, lowering temps for the kids’ cabins at the forward end of Totem. Unfortunately it cost me the one spot on deck that was big enough for a yoga mat. Oh well, small sacrifices!

7. Service alternator. Aside from being a routine job, we’ve had to rely on our engine for power many times in the last few months, as the local weather around the equator has been less cooperative than you’d think (cloud cover from squally days, and generally not enough wind to make the turbine very productive)- so having the alternator in good working order is especially important

8. New dinghy. Our Avon dinghy was 19 years old. We really can’t ask for more than that! The hypalon became so thin that it was popping new leaks daily. We got a good price on a slightly smaller aluminum bottom hypalon dink in Phuket, and it joins the fleet at left of mother ship, kayak, and… I think that’s a fishing cooler converted into an sailing outrigger. Meanwhile, we sold our never-used spare dinghy to defray the cost. Better yet, because the hull of our old dinghy still had plenty of integrity, the company we bought our dinghy from took it to refurbish it and give it to a local sailing school that had lost their tender in a recent storm. Win/win/win!

Coupled with the work we plan to do in the coming months, this puts our maintenance costs at somewhere over $25,000. It sounds daunting to budget cruisers like us, but compared to the “rule of thumb,” we’re feeling pretty good about it.

Previously:

Cruising costs, routine maintenance, and the 10% (15%, 20%) rule The cost of cruising: Totem’s maintenance list (part 1)


Well maintained readers know we love it when you read this on the Sailfeed website.

Classics, Modern and Un-

Thu, 2014-03-06 01:53

By Kimball Livingston Posted March 5, 2014

Let’s talk classics, sailable and wearable.

In my book, there are two true classic fiberglass boats, the Hinckley Bermuda 40 and the Cal 40.

The Hinckley is the traditionalist, beautifully recalling the allure of the wooden boats that came before.

The Cal 40 was, in its moment, a bold leap forward, a disruptive surfin’ machine.

Both of these 1960s boats please the eye. Both please the hand.

Also in my book, there are two classic sunglass styles, Ray-Ban’s Aviator and Kaenon’s Kore, likewise worlds apart.

Aviators have made a comeback, big time. The “most” classic retails at $145.

The comeback of the Aviator style follows a onetime loss of market share to the new wave of sports eyeware—much more practical for the active user—as embodied by the Kaenon line.

Wouldn’t want to live without either.

Kaenon today has a full boat of offerings, but I noticed that speed skater Denny Morrison showed at Sochi with his Kores ($214), the first model Kaenon released—in 2001—and still going strong. Dare I say, instant classic?

In fact . . .

Once upon a time, Kaenon Kores had such a hold on pro sailors that you would see just about nothing on pro-sailed boats but the silver-framed Kaenon Kore. It was easier to count the pros without silver Kores than the ones with.

Founded by sailors, dedicated to sun-protection for all sports, predicated upon researching the extra mile and going the extra mile, Kaenon launched huge in the sailing world. Having company principals who were known quantities in sailing helped, but they’ve expanded “a bit” beyond that as you can see at Kaenon.com. It’s kit that works.

To stay relevant, Kaenon of course has brought out new product lines, some of which represent new technology, and some of which are “just” fashion incorporating said technology. But, frankly, I don’t know anyone in my sailing world who doesn’t put Kaenon first in the gene pool.

I had a bit of fun back in the day, with the 2007 America’s Cup under way in Spain and my discovery that I could not replace my lost silver-frame Kores. Black frames, yes. Silver, no. As I learned, pro sailors are one thing, and “the market” is something else, and the market just did not support the production of those silver frames. I well recall the dismay registered on one friend’s face when I shared the news. Then came this advertising note from Kaenon:

“It’s a question of style. Terry Hutchinson chooses the original, the tried and true Kore. Our original award-winning design. Straight-up performance. Brad Butterworth is going new-school with the new Hard Kore. A bit more attitude, a bit more style. An evolution that compliments the ever so clever and sophisticated Butterworth. Two different styles…one common theme.”

But, what was Terry Hutchinson actually wearing?   The no-longer-available silver frames.

So now I know. I should never have worn mine. I should have hoarded, maybe eventually sold on eBay. They weren’t silver. They were gold.

Classics, Modern and Un-

Thu, 2014-03-06 01:53

By Kimball Livingston Posted March 5, 2014

Let’s talk classics, sailable and wearable.

In my book, there are two true classic fiberglass boats, the Hinckley Bermuda 40 and the Cal 40.

The Hinckley is the traditionalist, beautifully recalling the allure of the wooden boats that came before.

The Cal 40 was, in its moment, a bold leap forward, a disruptive surfin’ machine.

Both of these 1960s boats please the eye. Both please the hand.

Also in my book, there are two classic sunglass styles, Ray-Ban’s Aviator and Kaenon’s Kore, likewise worlds apart.

Aviators have made a comeback, big time. The “most” classic retails at $145.

The comeback of the Aviator style follows a onetime loss of market share to the new wave of sports eyeware—much more practical for the active user—as embodied by the Kaenon line.

Wouldn’t want to live without either.

Kaenon today has a full boat of offerings, but I noticed that speed skater Denny Morrison showed at Sochi with his Kores ($214), the first model Kaenon released—in 2001—and still going strong. Dare I say, instant classic?

In fact . . .

Once upon a time, Kaenon Kores had such a hold on pro sailors that you would see just about nothing on pro-sailed boats but the silver-framed Kaenon Kore. It was easier to count the pros without silver Kores than the ones with.

Founded by sailors, dedicated to sun-protection for all sports, predicated upon researching the extra mile and going the extra mile, Kaenon launched huge in the sailing world. Having company principals who were known quantities in sailing helped, but they’ve expanded “a bit” beyond that as you can see at Kaenon.com. It’s kit that works.

To stay relevant, Kaenon of course has brought out new product lines, some of which represent new technology, and some of which are “just” fashion incorporating said technology. But, frankly, I don’t know anyone in my sailing world who doesn’t put Kaenon first in the gene pool.

I had a bit of fun back in the day, with the 2007 America’s Cup under way in Spain and my discovery that I could not replace my lost silver-frame Kores. Black frames, yes. Silver, no. As I learned, pro sailors are one thing, and “the market” is something else, and the market just did not support the production of those silver frames. I well recall the dismay registered on one friend’s face when I shared the news. Then came this advertising note from Kaenon:

“It’s a question of style. Terry Hutchinson chooses the original, the tried and true Kore. Our original award-winning design. Straight-up performance. Brad Butterworth is going new-school with the new Hard Kore. A bit more attitude, a bit more style. An evolution that compliments the ever so clever and sophisticated Butterworth. Two different styles…one common theme.”

But, what was Terry Hutchinson actually wearing?   The no-longer-available silver frames.

So now I know. I should never have worn mine. I should have hoarded, maybe eventually sold on eBay. They weren’t silver. They were gold.

What’s the Most Polluted Harbor in America?

Wed, 2014-03-05 20:44

Posted March 5, 2014 by Kimball Livingston

Polluted? Surely not Marina del Rey.

But, out of tests performed in ten harbors in America, on the day of the Rozalia Project’s testing in Marina del Rey, that spiffy enclave four miles north of LAX, and just south of hot, hot, hot Venice Beach, rang the bell as the most polluted harbor in America.

We’ll have to add qualifiers, so don’t stop reading here. But if you care about Marina del Rey, you need to know.

Source: visitmarinadelrey.com

Because, yes, we’re talking about the Marina del Rey that was created in the days when any car worth having sported tailfins to the stars. Home over the years to the yachts of the stars. Also the nation’s largest man-made pleasure-boat harbor with more than 4,000 slips, according to the Los Angeles Times, or, according to MarinaDelRey.com, home to “more than 6,000 recreational boat slips, the highest density of restaurant seating in a one-square-mile area outside of New York City, and boat launching ramps that provide access to over 100,000 trailer-class boats annually.”

In its best moments, it’s just lovely.

The nonprofit Rozalia Project has devoted recent years to testing waterways on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, trawling with a standardized, replicable system and then counting what’s there besides water. Plastic, for example. Plastic, especially. They’re not analyzing toxicity; they’re measuring a volume of trash, including tiny trash. (Including even the tiny-tiny-tiny beads of plastic used in many of the facial exfoliants on the market. Those exfoliant beads go down the drain, and then they go guess where.)

Rozalia Project director Rachael Miller reports that the team’s tows in Marina del Rey “produced a count of 282,000 pieces of trash per square kilometer. That’s an incredible amount. Even our tows on the East River didn’t match that.”

Tows near Point Loma, in San Diego Bay, produced a count of 21,000 pieces of trash per square kilometer, less than ten percent of the count on test day in Marina del Rey.

Miller is quick to add that these were date-specific surveys. The Rozalia Project isn’t big enough, yet, to run long-term, robust studies all across the country. Samplings have not been made exhaustively in Marina del Rey, or San Diego, or the East River. “I’m confident of the data that we have,” Miller says, “but we can’t extrapolate from one or two days of towing in any given harbor to say that Marina del Rey always has the most particulate pollution.”

Got it. But that alarm bell is ringing.

The test date for Marina del Rey was November 13, 2012, and you might wonder why data from 2012 is “news” in 2014. Simply because numbers mean little without comparisons. I had my first contact with the Rozalia Project much more recently, when I rode along on tows in San Francisco Bay. I was naturally interested in how my hometown harbor fit in. The conversation led to this comparison of sampling results that have taken several years to accumulate. The per-tow numbers often varied widely. Here are harbor averages:

1. Los Angeles – Marina del Rey: 282,000 pieces of trash per km²
2. Port of LA/Long Beach: 88,000 pieces of trash per km²
3. Philadelphia – Delaware River: 83,555 pieces of trash per km²
4. New York Harbor: 74,000 pieces of trash per km²
5. Boston – inner harbor: 58,557 pieces of trash per km²
6. San Francisco Bay: 23,818 pieces of trash per km²
7. San Diego – near Point Loma: 21,000 pieces of trash per km²
8. Seattle – Lake Washington: 14,000 pieces of trash per km²
9. Chicago – inside breakwater: 8,500 pieces of trash per km²
10. Vancouver – off Jericho: 3,500 pieces of trash per km²

What’s in the water. Source: rozaliaproject.org

About the results for Marina del Rey, Miller says, “The good news is, we believe we’ve found the culprit. “It’s an action item. The fix is affordable.”

Affordable, because if Miller is correct about the source of Marina del Rey’s spike in plastic, the fix is already built in to capital expenditures—if someone is on the ball.

The test-day photographs seem to indicate that, at the time of testing, elements of one or more of Marina del Rey’s floating docks had deteriorated. The shell(s) encasing foam flotation had broken and was (were) spilling plastic foam at a prodigious rate. That particular type of foam is formed from tiny spheres, and as it breaks up, here comes the spike in your plastic pollution. “Without that plastic from failing dock flotation,” Miller says, “Marina del Rey would be looking OK, or at least no worse than most other harbors.

“To fix this, you wouldn’t have to go in and replace every floating dock. Instead, you could take action as one docks ages and needs to be replaced. There are other kinds of foam flotation you could use, and they don’t break up in this destructive way.”

Your reporter had an extended exchange of phone calls and emails with a spokesperson at the Los Angeles County Department of Beaches and Harbors, which administers the land and water rights of Marina del Rey on behalf of the City of Los Angeles and leases waterfront land to private lease holders in long-term agreements.

In our exchanges, we shared the Rozalia Project’s test methods and results and comparisons to other harbors. There was a concern on the part of Beaches and Harbors that the sampling might have occurred in the wake of a rainstorm, which washes detritus from a swath of LA down to the beach. My search of NOAA records did not support this, nor did the records of the Rozalia Project, which tracks weather as a factor in data collection. Ultimately, the Department released the following statement. I don’t blame them for hedging a bit, and, frankly, this sounds reasonable:

“The Department of Beaches and Harbors is committed to working with the boating community and other stakeholders to provide the cleanest harbor possible. Tests of a single water sample taken from one location in the largest recreational marina in the United States cannot paint a full picture of the day-to-day water quality of the Marina, especially when the sample is taken after an early season rain event, when landside run-off often flows into the Marina. The plastic pellets used in floating docks are confined to boxes that should prevent their escape into the harbor. But if the micro-plastics can be traced to materials from debilitated floating docks, the Department would be willing to explore the use of alternative docks that contain no such materials and would certainly seek to address any other identifiable sources of such pollution.”

The graph below was published by weatherspark.com as a historical record of 2012 precipitation at LAX. I note what appears to be a spike just after mid-November (some days after testing) and even then, close reading reveals an amount of precipitation of less than one quarter of an inch. I don’t think we can ascribe Rozalia’s results to runoff.

So—

We kicked off with the provocative question, what’s the most polluted harbor in America? By now, you know that we don’t have the answer. But if people who keep boats in Marina del Rey, and people who operate harbors in Marina del Rey, and the well-intentioned officials who administer Marina del Rey, all pay attention going forward—and if indeed dock flotation is verified as a pollution source—there you have one nasty problem that can be resolved as low-hanging fruit.

Re-spec’d dock flotation would be a noncontroversial and easier and cheaper problem to solve than the toxicity issues surrounding bottom paint, which Los Angeles is already trying to address. The bottom paint story has moved beyond what I am posting here, but it launched with the following notice:

ATTENTION BOATERS! Public Meeting on TMDL Proposal – February 6, 2014, 9:00 a.m. – The County has submitted comments to the L.A. Regional Water Quality Control Board (Regional Board) on the proposed changes to the Marina del Rey TMDL. Next, the Regional Board will hold a public meeting on February 6, 2014 to discuss the proposed changes to the TMDL, which would require that 85% of boats moored in Marina del Rey have their hulls repainted with non-copper based paints by 2024. This would most likely require full stripping of a boat’s hull as well as more frequent in-water hull cleaning and repainting.

Now, that sounds expensive, and it produced the predictable blowback.

WHY DOES PLASTIC MATTER?

Most of us have heard of the “Pacific Garbage Patch,” which is not at all the floating island of garbage once touted, but it’s actually more sinister. As with oceans elsewhere, the Pacific has a current flow around a central gyre where garbage collects. Scripps oceanographers, among others who have done on-site research, report that you can go there and see little in the water, but if you troll and assess, you discover that the water teems with tiny residue of plastic bits.

The brightest bits are taken for food by seabirds, accounting for dieoffs on Midway, for example, while others continually degrade into smaller and smaller plastic bits that work their way into the food chain.

And that plastic did not arrive mid-ocean by being thrown overboard from boats in mid-ocean. It came almost entirely from shoreside sources, carried on the wind, carried on the currents, abandoned to gradually turn into a new form of poison. I think the science on that is solid, and anything that can be done to reduce plastic pollution counts.

There’s a sign near Howlands Landing, Catalina Island: When you throw something away, where is “away” ?

THE PREMISE OF THE ROZALIA PROJECT is that, yes, the deep oceans are infused with tiny bits of degraded plastic which we expect will cause long term harm as they join the food chain. But there is no likely way to go out to the collection points, the gyres, and clean things up. And that plastic got there by washing out of rivers and streams and blowing off beaches and drifting with the currents. So the accessible intervention is close to home:

Keep bad stuff out of the water.

Education is part of it. So is knowing what we’re up against, which means taking measurements.

Rozalia’s measurement system employs a Neuston net, a hard-frame device developed by ocean scientists in the 1960s, originally for the purpose of capturing and studying neuston—marine life dwelling at or near the surface.

To capture pollution, the Rozalia Project’s net is towed from a boom extended outside the boat to undisturbed water, in this case beyond the bow wake of a boat traveling a standardized distance at a standardized speed. Rozalia’s tows run one quarter of a kilometer in a straight line. Trash per square kilometer data is extrapolated from multiple tows.

– Midway photo © Chris Jordan -

Probably, the Rozalia Project tows happened to coincide with a breakup of floating foam beneath identifiable floating piers. And then, all that plastic had to go somewhere, and there was only the water. If that actually was the process, you have to expect that there is a next pier in line, and a next.

To learn more about the Rozalia Project’s outreach programs and their collection of underwater debris using robotic machinery, visit Rozalia Project.

Below, we see a Newston tow in progress on San Francisco Bay. The vessel is the Derek M. Baylis, conceived and designed by Tom Wylie for conservation work and education. The Baylis has been on the case for years now, working much of the time on Monterey Bay. Here is what SeaLifeConservation.org has to say about the Baylis:

“The vessel was named after a man who was a mentor to the designers [and others, and father to three famous sailors: KL] and contributed his expertise to several marine institutions in the Monterey Bay area. The vessel has a rear deck like a trawler, living quarters crafted in a modern yacht style, and uses wind as its primary fuel. The Baylis was specifically designed and constructed to provide a comfortable, fast and eco-friendly vessel for research and education. The Baylis can be operated quietly, economically and emit zero pollution, making DMB specially suited for non-obtrusive monitoring. We carry up to 24 passengers comfortably on day trips, and 10 passengers on more extended voyages. The large cargo capacity, removable transom, stern-mounted titanium A-frame, and 22-foot long aft deck facilitate easy deployment of a wide range of gear.”

Photo KL

What’s the Most Polluted Harbor in America?

Wed, 2014-03-05 20:44

Posted March 5, 2014 by Kimball Livingston

Polluted? Surely not Marina del Rey.

But, out of tests performed in ten harbors in America, on the day of the Rozalia Project’s testing in Marina del Rey, that spiffy enclave four miles north of LAX, and just south of hot, hot, hot Venice Beach, rang the bell as the most polluted harbor in America.

We’ll have to add qualifiers, so don’t stop reading here. But if you care about Marina del Rey, you need to know.

Source: visitmarinadelrey.com

Because, yes, we’re talking about the Marina del Rey that was created in the days when any car worth having sported tailfins to the stars. Home over the years to the yachts of the stars. Also the nation’s largest man-made pleasure-boat harbor with more than 4,000 slips, according to the Los Angeles Times, or, according to MarinaDelRey.com, home to “more than 6,000 recreational boat slips, the highest density of restaurant seating in a one-square-mile area outside of New York City, and boat launching ramps that provide access to over 100,000 trailer-class boats annually.”

In its best moments, it’s just lovely.

The nonprofit Rozalia Project has devoted recent years to testing waterways on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, trawling with a standardized, replicable system and then counting what’s there besides water. Plastic, for example. Plastic, especially. They’re not analyzing toxicity; they’re measuring a volume of trash, including tiny trash. (Including even the tiny-tiny-tiny beads of plastic used in many of the facial exfoliants on the market. Those exfoliant beads go down the drain, and then they go guess where.)

Rozalia Project director Rachael Miller reports that the team’s tows in Marina del Rey “produced a count of 282,000 pieces of trash per square kilometer. That’s an incredible amount. Even our tows on the East River didn’t match that.”

Tows near Point Loma, in San Diego Bay, produced a count of 21,000 pieces of trash per square kilometer, less than ten percent of the count on test day in Marina del Rey.

Miller is quick to add that these were date-specific surveys. The Rozalia Project isn’t big enough to run long-term, robust studies all across the country. Samplings have not been made exhaustively in Marina del Rey, or San Diego, or the East River. “I’m confident of the data that we have,” Miller says, “but we can’t extrapolate from one or two days of towing in any given harbor to say that Marina del Rey always has the most particulate pollution.”

Got it. But that alarm bell is ringing.

The test date for Marina del Rey was November 13, 2012, and you might wonder why data from 2012 is “news” in 2014. Simply because numbers mean little without comparisons. I had my first contact with the Rozalia Project much more recently, when I rode along on tows in San Francisco Bay. I was naturally interested in how my hometown harbor fit in. The conversation led to this comparison of sampling results that have taken several years to accumulate:

1. Los Angeles – Marina del Rey: 282,000 pieces of trash per km²
2. Port of LA/Long Beach: 88,000 pieces of trash per km²
3. Philadelphia – Delaware River: 83,555 pieces of trash per km²
4. New York Harbor: 74,000 pieces of trash per km²
5. Boston – inner harbor: 58,557 pieces of trash per km²
6. San Francisco Bay: 23,818 pieces of trash per km²
7. San Diego – near Point Loma: 21,000 pieces of trash per km²
8. Seattle – Lake Washington: 14,000 pieces of trash per km²
9. Chicago – inside breakwater: 8,500 pieces of trash per km²
10. Vancouver – off Jericho: 3,500 pieces of trash per km²

What’s in the water. Source: rozaliaproject.org

About the results for Marina del Rey, Miller says, “The good news is, we believe we’ve found the culprit. “It’s an action item. The fix is affordable.”

Affordable, because if Miller is correct about the source of Marina del Rey’s spike in plastic, the fix is already built in to capital expenditures—if someone is on the ball.

The test-day photographs seem to indicate that, at the time of testing, elements of one or more of Marina del Rey’s floating docks had deteriorated. The shell(s) encasing foam flotation had broken and was (were) spilling plastic foam at a prodigious rate. That particular type of foam is formed from tiny spheres, and as it breaks up, here comes the spike in your plastic pollution. “Without that plastic from failing dock flotation,” Miller says, “Marina del Rey would be looking OK, or at least no worse than most other harbors.

“To fix this, you wouldn’t have to go in and replace every floating dock. Instead, you could take action as one docks ages and needs to be replaced. There are other kinds of foam flotation you could use, and they don’t break up in this destructive way.”

Your reporter had an extended exchange of phone calls and emails with a spokesperson at the Los Angeles County Department of Beaches and Harbors, which administers the land and water rights of Marina del Rey on behalf of the City of Los Angeles and leases waterfront land to private lease holders in long-term agreements.

In our exchanges, we shared the Rozalia Project’s test methods and results, and comparisons to other harbors. There was a concern on the part of Beaches and Harbors that the sampling might have occurred in the wake of a rainstorm, which washes detritus from a swath of LA down to the beach. My search of NOAA records did not support this. Ultimately, the Department released the following statement. I don’t blame them for hedging a bit, and, frankly, this sounds reasonable:

“The Department of Beaches and Harbors is committed to working with the boating community and other stakeholders to provide the cleanest harbor possible. Tests of a single water sample taken from one location in the largest recreational marina in the United States cannot paint a full picture of the day-to-day water quality of the Marina, especially when the sample is taken after an early season rain event, when landside run-off often flows into the Marina. The plastic pellets used in floating docks are confined to boxes that should prevent their escape into the harbor. But if the micro-plastics can be traced to materials from debilitated floating docks, the Department would be willing to explore the use of alternative docks that contain no such materials and would certainly seek to address any other identifiable sources of such pollution.”

The graph below was published by weatherspark.com as a historical record of 2012 precipitation at LAX. I note what appears to be a spike just after mid-November (some days after testing) and even then, close reading reveals an amount of precipitation of less than one quarter of an inch. I don’t think we can ascribe Rozalia’s results to runoff.

So—

We kicked off with the provocative question, what’s the most polluted harbor in America? By now, you know that we don’t have the answer. But if people who keep boats in Marina del Rey, and people who operate harbors in Marina del Rey, and the well-intentioned officials who administer Marina del Rey, all pay attention going forward—and if indeed dock flotation is verified as a pollution source—there you have one nasty problem that can be resolved as low-hanging fruit.

Re-spec’d dock flotation would be a noncontroversial and easier and cheaper problem to solve than the toxicity issues surrounding bottom paint, which Los Angeles is already trying to address. The bottom paint story has moved beyond what I am posting here, but it launched with the following notice:

ATTENTION BOATERS! Public Meeting on TMDL Proposal – February 6, 2014, 9:00 a.m. – The County has submitted comments to the L.A. Regional Water Quality Control Board (Regional Board) on the proposed changes to the Marina del Rey TMDL. Next, the Regional Board will hold a public meeting on February 6, 2014 to discuss the proposed changes to the TMDL, which would require that 85% of boats moored in Marina del Rey have their hulls repainted with non-copper based paints by 2024. This would most likely require full stripping of a boat’s hull as well as more frequent in-water hull cleaning and repainting.

Now, that sounds expensive, and it produced the predictable blowback.

WHY DOES PLASTIC MATTER?

Most of us have heard of the “Pacific Garbage Patch,” which is not at all the floating island of garbage once touted, but it’s actually more sinister. As with oceans elsewhere, the Pacific has a current flow around a central gyre where garbage collects. Scripps oceanographers, among others who have done on-site research, report that you can go there and see little in the water, but if you troll and assess, you discover that the water teems with tiny residue of plastic bits.

The brightest bits are taken for food by seabirds, accounting for dieoffs on Midway, for example, while others continually degrade into smaller and smaller plastic bits that work their way into the food chain.

And that plastic did not arrive mid-ocean by being thrown overboard from boats in mid-ocean. It came almost entirely from shoreside sources, carried on the wind, carried on the currents, abandoned to gradually turn into a new form of poison. I think the science on that is solid, and anything that can be done to reduce plastic pollution counts.

There’s a sign near Howlands Landing, Catalina Island: When you throw something away, where is “away” ?

THE PREMISE OF THE ROZALIA PROJECT is that, yes, the deep oceans are infused with tiny bits of degraded plastic which we expect will cause long term harm as they join the food chain. But there is no likely way to go out to the collection points, the gyres, and clean things up. And that plastic got there by washing out of rivers and streams and blowing off beaches and drifting with the currents. So the accessible intervention is close to home:

Keep bad stuff out of the water.

Education is part of it. So is knowing what we’re up against, which means taking measurements.

Rozalia’s measurement system employs a Neuston net, a hard-frame device developed by ocean scientists in the 1960s, originally for the purpose of capturing and studying neuston—marine life dwelling at or near the surface.

To capture pollution, the Rozalia Project’s net is towed from a boom extended outside the boat to undisturbed water, in this case beyond the bow wake of a boat traveling a standardized distance at a standardized speed. Rozalia’s tows run one quarter of a kilometer in a straight line. Trash per square kilometer data is extrapolated from multiple tows.

– Midway photo © Chris Jordan -

Probably, the Rozalia Project tows happened to coincide with a breakup of floating foam beneath identifiable floating piers. And then, all that plastic had to go somewhere, and there was only the water. If that actually was the process, you have to expect that there is a next pier in line, and a next.

To learn more about the Rozalia Project’s outreach programs and their collection of underwater debris using robotic machinery, visit Rozalia Project.

Below, we see a Newston tow in progress on San Francisco Bay. The vessel is the Derek M. Baylis, conceived and designed by Tom Wylie for conservation work and education. The Baylis has been on the case for years now, working much of the time on Monterey Bay. Here is what SeaLifeConservation.org has to say about the Baylis:

“The vessel was named after a man who was a mentor to the designers [and others, and father to three famous sailors: KL] and contributed his expertise to several marine institutions in the Monterey Bay area. The vessel has a rear deck like a trawler, living quarters crafted in a modern yacht style, and uses wind as its primary fuel. The Baylis was specifically designed and constructed to provide a comfortable, fast and eco-friendly vessel for research and education. The Baylis can be operated quietly, economically and emit zero pollution, making DMB specially suited for non-obtrusive monitoring. We carry up to 24 passengers comfortably on day trips, and 10 passengers on more extended voyages. The large cargo capacity, removable transom, stern-mounted titanium A-frame, and 22-foot long aft deck facilitate easy deployment of a wide range of gear.”

Photo KL

Grael Leads Bacardi Cup

Wed, 2014-03-05 20:42

A win on Wednesday keeps Lars Grael in the lead for the 87th Star Class Bacardi Cup, part of Miami Sailing Week. Grael and crew Samuel Golzalves have been solid, with finishes of 2-2-1 in one of the toughest assemblages you can imagine. The two-time Olympic medalist in the Tornado catamaran called Wednesday’s racing “very tactical . . . it was a gybe war.”

Grael and Gonzalves moved to the top of the overall standings in the 55-boat fleet on Tuesday. Their 2-2-1 scoreline, for five points, gives them a five-point cushion over San Diego’s Mark Reynolds and Miami’s Magnus Liljedahl.

The fifth annual running of BACARDI Miami Sailing Week (BMSW) presented by EFG runs through March 8. As of Thursday, Melges 20s, Melges 24s, Viper 640s, and VX One classes join the Stars on Biscayne Bay.

Grael Leads Bacardi Cup

Wed, 2014-03-05 20:42

A win on Wednesday keeps Lars Grael in the lead for the 87th Star Class Bacardi Cup, part of Miami Sailing Week. Grael and crew Samuel Golzalves have been solid, with finishes of 2-2-1 in one of the toughest assemblages you can imagine. The two-time Olympic medalist in the Tornado catamaran called Wednesday’s racing “very tactical . . . it was a gybe war.”

Grael and Gonzalves moved to the top of the overall standings in the 55-boat fleet on Tuesday. Their 2-2-1 scoreline, for five points, gives them a five-point cushion over San Diego’s Mark Reynolds and Miami’s Magnus Liljedahl.

The fifth annual running of BACARDI Miami Sailing Week (BMSW) presented by EFG runs through March 8. As of Thursday, Melges 20s, Melges 24s, Viper 640s, and VX One classes join the Stars on Biscayne Bay.

Rockin’ the Giltinan

Wed, 2014-03-05 20:32

Slightly launched is sorta like slightly pregnant?

TheJJ Giltinan Trophy, aka the 18-foot skiff world championship, is never less than a visual treat. Crossing the midpoint of the seven race series on Sydney Harbour, The Gotta Love It 7 team of Seve Jarvin, Sam Newton and Scott Babbage have recovered the lead they held early on—and they had to dig out from the depths to make it happen.

Gotta Love It 7 took the lead on the second windward leg of race four and finished more than a minute and a half ahead of Chris Nicholson, Mike McKensey and Ricky Bridgein Mojo Wine.

There are two teams from the USA in a fleet of 34, both running in the twenties after three races: Past winners Howie Hamlin and Mike Martin, with a new third, Nick Catley; also Skip and Jody McCormack with Joe Penrod.

Source: 18footers.com

Rockin’ the Giltinan

Wed, 2014-03-05 20:32

Slightly launched is sorta like slightly pregnant?

TheJJ Giltinan Trophy, aka the 18-foot skiff world championship, is never less than a visual treat. Crossing the midpoint of the seven race series on Sydney Harbour, The Gotta Love It 7 team of Seve Jarvin, Sam Newton and Scott Babbage have recovered the lead they held early on—and they had to dig out from the depths to make it happen.

Gotta Love It 7 took the lead on the second windward leg of race four and finished more than a minute and a half ahead of Chris Nicholson, Mike McKensey and Ricky Bridgein Mojo Wine.

There are two teams from the USA in a fleet of 34, both running in the twenties after three races: Past winners Howie Hamlin and Mike Martin, with a new third, Nick Catley; also Skip and Jody McCormack with Joe Penrod.

Source: 18footers.com

ALEX THOMSON: Making a Fashion Statement

Tue, 2014-03-04 17:55

Who wouldn’t want to be Alex Thomson? He’s suave and sophisticated and has enjoyed the longest running full-on sponsorship in professional sailing. Hugo Boss has been financing his racing career since 2003 and recently re-upped with a new four-year deal. Alex was so pleased he scored a fancy new suit and went for a walk:

I don’t really follow fashion, so maybe someone out there can tell me what kind of suit it is. I think I’d like one just like it. ;)

I’ll take one of those boats, too. What really blows my mind is what a good job they do sailing it literally on its ear while Alex sashays up the spar.

Compare this stunt to the last one from a couple of years ago, when Alex decided to go for a stroll on his keel, and you’ll see they have definitely improved their technique.

Thanks to Hugo Boss, Alex has a pretty nice schedule in front him: the 2014 Ocean Masters New York-Barcelona Race, the 2014 Barcelona World Race, and of course the 2016 Vendee Globe.

I’m sure he has a few more cool suits in his wardrobe as well.

Fusion-Link N2K & Garmin, happy together

Mon, 2014-03-03 18:00

Written by Ben Ellison on Mar 3, 2014 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub

The ability of Fusion marine stereo systems to integrate with multifunction displays over NMEA 2000 (or Ethernet) is a wonderful example of what MFDs and standard network protocols can do for us. One day last summer a Garmin software update suddenly made the GPSMap 7212 already installed on Gizmo’s flybridge the best interface I had for the Fusion IP700 stereo installed below. And mind you, I already had a Fusion NRX remote control up there, and I also had the Fusion Remote apps running on iPad and smartphone via Gizmo’s WiFi router. There was a notable glitch, which I’ll describe, but that’s long past and now Fusion-Link has arrived beautifully in the Garmin 7×1 and 8000 Series MFDs seen above.

In normal use, the Fusion interface only occupies that media bar at the bottom of your MFD screen (if you want to see it at all). But a tap on the scrolling artist/song title window takes you to full screen controls for picking audio sources, browsing tunes on sources like an iPod or USB memory stick living in the waterproof IP700 or a Fusion dock, or even digging deep into the stereo’s many settings…

Here’s an example of a deeper menu — note the huge and sometimes informative touch buttons — and also the user’s ability to name speaker zones so it’s easier for you or a guest to know what you’re doing with the volume GPSMap 7212 controls. I demonstrated that naming feature when I first installed the IP700 in 2012, but in fact, I left “Fly Brjdge” mispelled for over a year because editing labels with the stereo’s limited interface is so tedious. Redoing the names with a big Garmin touch keypad (on the 741SX in this collage) made me smile, especially since it was entirely free.

However, I’ve had to rename Gizmo’s zones several times now because they get erased when you update the software in the stereo itself. I was happily cruising with the Garmin 7212 interface, and had even removed the NRX200 remote, when Fusion sent a new BT200 BlueTooth accessory to try (explained here with other 2013 changes). It required another IP700 update…which completely disabled the 7212, even when the Fusion stereo was turned off! I don’t think that many normal users suffered this surprising glitch, because Garmin quickly issued another MFD update that fixed the problem (but also removed numerous interface features), and Fusion added a somewhat vague warning to their update page. I simply reverted to the earlier IP700 software and gave up BlueTooth streaming, so I could keep the full Garmin interface until full compatability was attained…

Well, now the test IP700 and Garmin gear are all running their latest software and dare I say that they’re “singing together”? The top photo shows how all can manage audio streaming from my iPad via BlueTooth, even showing song info and letting me advance or mute tunes from anywhere. Tunes coming via BlueTooth from my Galaxy Nexus phone don’t show names and artists (yet) and the MTP (Media Transfer Protocol) feature theoretically available via USB to the same phone does not work, but both issues are also true for the snazzy Ford Sync system in my car. Integrating so many pieces, especially with the fractured Android world involved, is hard.

But Fusion and its marine electronics partners seem to get better and better at making this all work easily. These Garmin interfaces, for instance, are very fast, even when browsing a loaded 8 gig iPod (though it would be better if the 8212 used its bigger screen as efficiently as the 741 does. I was also pleased to see that the current Fusion software does a better job of playing and displaying tunes I’ve loaded onto USB sticks (possibly in a less-than-ideal way :-).

Fusion-Link can’t pass cover art over NMEA 2000 to Garmin MFDs, but apparently, the Furuno TZT and all current Raymarine MFDs can do that using Ethernet. Lowrance HDS Gen 2 and Simrad NSS/NSO also support Fusion-Link over NMEA 2000 as well as their own SonicHub, which spearheaded audio integration (and is built by Fusion). And of course Garmin now also offers the Meteor 300 audio system (which may be Fusion’s newest design and notably has Bluetooth streaming and control built in).

I’ll close with a shot of the Fusion-Link iPad app that can control the stereos that have Ethernet ports (Fusion-Link android here), which worked fine for me on Gizmo last summer. Let’s note, though, that no one has to run their boat stereo as many ways as I’ve tried, nor will most users try all the sources I have. So the Fusion system is generally a lot simpler than might be obvious from my entries, yet able to serve in many different boat environments. But what could they do better and who’s going to compete with them?

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

The cost of cruising: Totem’s maintenance list

Mon, 2014-03-03 11:35

Totem is just a sample size of one, but it’s not a bad proxy for the maintenance you might expect on a well-found boat after a handful of years of tropical cruising. It’s one thing to talk in theory about how to account for the cost of maintenance while cruising; hopefully this look at what we’re addressing on Totem makes it a little more real.

These are the non-negotiables: the things that have to be addressed near term. They are safety essentials or gear we need to replace, and work that’s all planned for the next few months.

1.Battery bank. Our batteries have had an excellent service life, running over five and a half years already- can’t complain! They have been on a steady decline, and it will be peace of mind when the replacements arrive.

2.Liferaft. Our Winslow 6-man raft should have been re-certified a couple of years ago, but (contrary to the Winslow reports and website) there was not a a service center in Australia that would touch it. We’ll be able to get this done in Singapore when we head south in a few months.

3.EPIRB battery. We have two EPIRBs on board, and one has a battery past expiration. This replacement is also waiting for us in Singapore.

4.Safety gear check/update. This runs from checking various alarms to making sure all our fire extinguishers are in good order, to new lifejackets for the kids (they seem to keep growing…).

5.New bimini and weathercloths. Ours are falling apart. They have looked hideous for a couple of years, which frankly, is fine. They’re doing an excellent job of providing sacrificial protection from UV damage, and it shows! Since they need replacing, we’ll look to improve water catchment at the same time.

6.Headsail repair. The UV strip on our genoa is currently flapping in the breeze. I call the streamers our Nepalese prayer flags, although they’re not nearly as colorful. We are the classic example that the cobbler’s kids have no shoes, since Jamie is a sailmaker! There’s spare Sunbrella on board, but we don’t have a sewing machine. We’re hoping to borrow or barter for use of one soon, since this is a straightforward job for him to do.

7.Mainsail cover. Kind of like the bimini, the main cover has done an excellent job of providing sacrificial protectioni. The boat gremlins have made it mysteriously shrink and the sun has destroyed the stitching and zippers. We could repair it (check out the great fix Clark did on his boat!), but are leaning towards working with Jamie’s sailmaking connections for a good value on a stack pack instead.

8.Replace torn settee covers. They’re so far gone, that the foam is now getting damaged, so these need to be done soon. I’m really disappointed that our fancypants Brisa material (so pretty!) is literally disintegrating after ~5 years… I expected more.

9.New stanchion bases. Original stanchions on Totem are showing signs of failure, so we’ve been working through replacements. We can get these fabricated locally for a fraction of the cost of off-the-shelf new ones and have complete confidence in the full set.

10.Replace failing soft sides on dodger. This has to be done every few years, and it’s time again. This time we may get a whole new set of sides instead of just swapping out the glass and reinforcing the stitching, since snap fittings are breaking and the Sunbrella has finally had it.

11.Water tank. Our stainless water tank is original and weeping from pinhole leaks. We’ve done stopgap fixes, but really need a new tank.

12.Radar / display. We got a great deal on a second hand radar in Australia, but it lasted less than a year. Despite the face Raymarine still sells our model at retail it’s considered outdated and unsupported (buyer beware!). We’ve done without, but really want one on board before ocean crossing. Jamie’s drooling over the advancements in radar and dreaming about the possibilities… we’ll see.

13.Engine service. Our Yanmar 4JH3/TE has provided excellent service, and we’d like to keep it that way, so will baby our baby with a full tune up for her 5,000 hour mark.

14.Main halyard. Our topping lift doubles as a backup halyard, but the primary is vectran that’s probably about a decade old. It’s time to replace it.

15.Rig inspection. We do this regularly and don’t expect any issues, but it’s got to be done.

16.Spares. Between filter, oil, and anodes we’ll put about $800 of disposable spares on board before crossing the Indian Ocean.

17.Rudder/skeg inspection. We participate in an owners group for the Stevens/Hylas 47, Totem’s sisterships, and another owner of a similar vintage hull reported some issues: we’d like to be absolutely certain we don’t have any. It will mean another haulout, but that’s relatively inexpensive in Southeast Assia.

The cost of all of those must-dos? We estimate that it’s somewhere north of US$12,500, but it’s hard to know until they’re done. And really, this is just part of the list: we’ve already knocked off that amount over the last few months, enough to leave the kitty pretty much on fumes at one point! On the other hand, being in Southeast Asia has been massively helpful in keeping costs down. Many of the things we do here are so inexpensive that they don’t even hit the list- like our $15 alternator rebuild, which would be far more costly in other parts of the world.

Yeah… we’re definitely making up for some lower cost years! Still, nothing like the rule of thumb estimates that get thrown around. Next installments: the things we’d really like to do, but don’t have to do, and work we’ve already finished in this round.

Intrepid do-it-yerselfers find reading this on the Sailfeed website to be personally gratifying.

CRUISING SAILBOAT EVOLUTION: The Emergence of “Alternative” Cruising

Mon, 2014-03-03 10:58

We have already discussed an early elite cruising vessel, Cleopatra’s Barge, and the development of high-end yacht design in the 19th century. Now it’s time to turn to the “hoi polloi,” the unwashed mass of middle-class (and upper middle-class) sailors who were also determined to enjoy “messing about in boats,” and who, ultimately, had a much bigger impact on the development of the sport.

One important pioneer was a stern British stockbroker named Richard Turrell (R.T.) McMullen, who, in 1850, at age 20, decided to teach himself sailing and commissioned the construction of a 20-foot half-decked cutter named Leo. Over the next 41 years he cruised throughout the British Isles and across the English Channel in a series of purpose-built vessels, the largest of which, a 42-footer named Orion (see image above), was a classic deep-draft, narrow-waisted British cutter.

McMullen’s career as a yachtsman, described in meticulous detail in his book Down Channel, was significant both because he was not a wealthy tycoon or aristocrat and because he was acutely interested in sailing for its own sake. He cared nothing for racing or yachting society, but was instead fascinated by the minutiae of boats and boat-handling and by the aquatic environment itself. He set strict standards and ultimately became competent enough to handle his vessels singlehanded.

McMullen’s first solo experience was aboard Procyon, an unusual 28-foot shoal-draft lugger with a cat-yawl rig and a short centerboard, or “drop-keel” as he termed it. He also once sailed the much heavier Orion singlehanded from France to England after dismissing a crew he deemed incompetent. His last vessel, the 27-foot Perseus, was, like Procyon, a yawl-rigged lugger conceived specifically for singlehanded cruising, except that she carried a headsail and had more draft and no centerboard. In 1891 McMullen was found dead, alone, aboard Perseus in the middle of the English Channel, apparently a victim of heart failure.

Another important figure was a Scottish attorney, John MacGregor, who in 1865 embarked upon a tour of Europe in a 14-foot canoe he called Rob Roy. The book he wrote about his adventure–A Thousand Miles in the Rob Roy Canoe on Twenty Lakes and Rivers of Europe–was published the following year, and its success quickly led MacGregor to make more canoe voyages in Scandinavia (1866) and the Middle East (1869).

John MacGregor receives some “local assistance” while canoe-cruising on the River Jordan

MacGregor’s canoe trips were not really cruises in the proper sense of the term, in that he hauled his boats by train or carriage from each river or lake he wished to explore and always found lodging for the night ashore. Nor were his canoes much akin to what we now think of as proper cruising boats. They were, in fact, mere kayaks, or “double-paddle canoes” as some then called them, a design concept MacGregor freely admitted to having cribbed from the North American “Esquimeaux.” But MacGregor’s adventures did serve to open the public’s eyes to the concept of recreation afloat and demonstrated in a very palpable way that the expense need not be prohibitive. MacGregor himself was, more than anything else, an indefatigable showman and expert propagandist with an unfailing instinct for garnering and exploiting publicity. His books and popular lectures were highly influential and led to the creation of “canoe clubs” throughout Britain and Europe.

Early canoe cruisers under sail and paddle

In addition to his canoe trips, MacGregor also engaged in one “proper” cruise in 1867 aboard a 21-foot yawl (also called Rob Roy) that he designed himself. This was much more a standard (albeit miniaturized) yacht with a ballast keel and a hull form roughly similar to that of larger British yachts of the era. It lacked a cabin (nights aboard were spent under a cockpit tent) but did feature such clever amenities as a tiny galley that folded into a cockpit locker.

The yawl Rob Roy

Galley arrangement on Rob Roy

MacGregor’s little yawl was seaworthy enough to take him across the English Channel from England to France, up the Seine River to Paris, and back again. The ostensible purpose of this voyage was to spread the gospel about canoeing (and the Protestant faith) at a French boating exhibition sanctioned by the Emperor Napoleon III, who, like many others, had been inspired by MacGregor’s writing. MacGregor’s book about the cruise, The Voyage Alone in the Yawl Rob Roy, led many who yearned to set sail on vessels more substantial than canoes to mimic his example.

MacGregor’s American counterpart, Nathaniel H. Bishop, is no longer as well remembered but was also influential in his day. Inspired by MacGregor, Bishop first went cruising aboard a small paper canoe he called Maria Theresa. Subsequently, in 1875, he cruised down the Ohio and Mississippi rivers and along the Gulf Coast to Florida aboard Centennial Republic, a Barnegat Bay sneak-box he had built for just $25.

Lines and rig of a Barnegat Bay sneak-box

The sneak-box was a specialized centerboard spritsail skiff designed for use by duck hunters in the shoal waters of coastal New Jersey. Bishop’s boat was 12 feet long with a beam of 4 feet and weighed just 200 pounds. The book he wrote about his experience, Four Months in a Sneak-Box, was well received, and in 1880, again following MacGregor’s example, he helped form the American Canoe Association, of which he was the first commodore.

Remembering Nathaniel Bishop

It is difficult to say how many would-be cruisers immediately followed in the wakes cut by men like McMullen, MacGregor, and Bishop. This sort of unobtrusive sailing–small voyages for pleasure undertaken by ordinary people in modest craft–was not of immediate or compelling public interest. The high-profile exploits of the rich and famous, by comparison, whether conducted on shore or aboard their yachts, were always grist for the popular press. Unless they were willing to tell their stories themselves, common cruisers had to be, and were, content to do their sailing in obscurity.

But something powerful was at work here–a seductive fantasy of autonomy and adventure that cruising under sail somehow promised to make real. MacGregor himself summed it up neatly in his account of his cruise to France. “Often as a boy,” he wrote, “I had thought of the pleasure of being one’s own master in one’s own boat; but the reality far exceeded the imagination of it, and it was not a transient pleasure.”

What we do know is that from the late 19th century onward, the number of middle- and upper-middle-class people engaged in cruising aboard their own small boats steadily increased, and gradually this aspect of the sport of yachting became just as significant as the nautical doings of the upper classes. By the early 20th century, there were enough London-based middle-class amateur yachtsmen cruising the coast of southern England that railway companies saw fit to offer them special fares. These open-ended round-trip tickets made it possible for sailors who were office-bound in London during the week to take a train south to one town on the English Channel on a Friday evening, spend the weekend aboard their boat sailing to some other town, and return to the city on Sunday night in time for work on Monday morning. In this manner, over a series of weekends, a persistent cruiser might hopscotch his way along a fair portion of the coast.

Small-boat cruisers, like their blue-blooded predecessors, also formed clubs. The first was the Cruising Club, which held its inaugural meeting in the office of a British lawyer, Arthur Underhill, in 1880 and soon afterward was officially ordained the “Royal” Cruising Club. There followed the Little Ship Club, another British club formed in 1926, and in the United States the Cruising Club of America, which first met in a Greenwich Village speakeasy called Beefsteak John’s in 1922.

These and several other cruising clubs that sprung up at the time focused on educating their membership in the vagaries of seamanship and navigation. In various ways–via newsletters, lectures, and lending libraries–members of these clubs sought not to assert their social status but to share information and expertise. This same impulse, leavened, of course, with pride of accomplishment, also led some to write and publish accounts of cruises they had made. This growing body of literature served both to disseminate knowledge among those practicing the sport and to attract new practitioners.

In our next installment in this series we’ll explore in detail the sorts of boats this new breed of cruisers set sail in.

A (Long) Running Diary of All is Lost – SPOILERS!

Fri, 2014-02-28 22:56

Warning! DO NOT read this if you plan on watching All is Lost but haven’t yet done so. But, by all means, if you have seen it, check out what I had to say as I took notes during my first viewing of it. This happened in real time as the film played, and was only slightly edited to fix some spelling and make a few points sound better. 

Feb 28, 2014, 10:00pm: First, some notes with the benefit of hindsight. I wrote this over two weeks ago and did nothing with it. In fact, I wasn’t going to publish it at all in the end, because I love Robert Redford and I love ‘the movies.’ So I didn’t want to sit here and bitch about something I’d never be able to do myself (make a movie, that is).

But I’m publishing it anyway. Ultimately, in hindsight now, I think the movie was pretty cool, and definitely a great idea. Hearing what it meant to the actor and producers made me realize that. See this little video for their perspective:

And the best way to sum up the movie as a movie-going and life-affecting experience is this quote from ‘New Morning’ on sailinganarchy.com:

“[All is Lost] is not a movie about sailing, so criticism at that level misses the point. It’s an allegory, sailing as a metaphor for life. We travel through life solo, make good decisions, make bad decisions, have good luck, have bad luck, and die. Step back and forget about sailing.”

Boom. He nailed it, and it’s the one reason I actually liked the movie (despite what you’re about to read).

But as a sailor, particularly if you’ve crossed oceans, it’s impossible to look past the incredible discrepancies throughout the movie. So for that reason, I’ve decided to publish my thoughts. What follows, is the real-time account of what I was thinking as I watched the movie for the very first time. This took place on the plane en route to St. Lucia on February 11. Here goes.

February 11, 10:56 AM: We boarded the plane in Miami after having breakfast at Ku*Va, the little Cuban sit-down restaurant where Mia and I nearly missed our flight that one time I decided to be mellow.

‘We’ve got plenty of time, let me finish my coffee,’ I said. ‘Andy, the flight leaves in 5 minutes,’ she insisted. I thought for sure it boarded in five minutes, but low and behold Mia was right. They were calling my name on the loudspeaker by the time I got to the gate. I made the flight.

Anyway, this time we were sure of the boarding time and enjoyed a leisurely breakfast, me, Dad and his new girlfriend Marcia (this is as weird for me to write as I’m sure it is for some of you to read, so if you’re a friend or family, trust that we’re sharing the same emotions right now. No offense to Marcia). I had four scrambled eggs, plantains and café con leche.

Once we took off, the flight attendant announced on the intercom that the in-flight movie would be All is Lost. We’re on the way to deliver Sojourner north to the Bahamas, so it might not be an appropriate movie. Scratch that – it’s perfectly appropriate, and neither my dad nor I have ever seen it. He’s sitting two rows in front of me, and when the announcement came on we simultaneously glanced and smiled at each other, asking ‘Did you hear what movie’s on?!’

I know nothing of the film other than the fact that my sailing friends hate it (including my fellow SAILFeed contributor Charlie Doane) while my non-sailing and movie-loving friends dig it. It’s either one of the best movies ever or one of the worst movies ever, depending on who I ask.

So here it is, the running diary, in real-time, of my first experience with Robert Redford as the ‘unidentified sailor-man’ in All is Lost. My gut reaction to all parts of the movie – interspersed with some comments on what the plane ride is like – as they are happening, with little time for reflection.

Suffice it to say, if you haven’t seen it yet, this will be full of spoilers. You’ve been warned.

11:04 AM: The movie hasn’t even started yet and I already know that I’m going to have to pee in the middle of it. Thankfully I swapped my window seat out for an aisle seat at the gate just before we boarded (I was nearly the last person on the plane, as I always am). I’m afraid that the couple next to me is also going to have to get up at some point and also interrupt the movie.

It hasn’t started yet. I’m listening to classical music on the airplane headphones until it does.

11:10 AM: Still hasn’t started yet. My mom used to love Robert Redford. She REALLY loved him in The Horse Whisperer. Ooh, it’s coming on now!

11:16 AM: ‘1,700 miles from the Sumatra Straits.’ The suspense!

11:18 AM: He’s napping in the vee-berth!? Ha! Very first scene with our man in the picture and I’m already agreeing with Charlie. You’d never sleep in the vee-berth offshore unless you have to. He’s single-handed! He can choose any bunk on the boat!

11:19 AM: Nice job furling the mainsail. And wow, that container must have been moving at quite a clip to take out the side of his boat, on the aft section no less. Interesting idea with the drogue though to get the container unstuck as he sailed away from it.

11:21 AM: Only one wrap on the genoa winch! Mr. Redford is lucky he doesn’t have some serious rope burn.

11:23 AM: Mr. Redford is awfully oversteering on the helm. Nobody turns the wheel that fast. I’m very confused as to why he’s sailed his boat up to the container and let the jib luff while he jumps aboard it… Ah, it was to retrieve his sea anchor. The tack on the genoa wasn’t properly attached…

11:26 AM: A toaster in the galley! And it’s plugged in! Now he starts addressing the giant hole in the side of the boat, after the water is now waist-high. That sea anchor must have been expensive…

11:28 AM: A sextant? Nope. Epoxy. In a nice little wooden tool box. He applies the epoxy before cutting the patch piece. And he has to fashion a handle for the manual bilge pump. Nice preparation, sir (that was ironic).

11:30 AM: There is no way he’d be calmly taking a nap with that much water still in the boat. What happened to the scared man with a bucket principle?!

11:32 AM: Clever idea to sit in the bosun’s chair to repair the outside of the hull. If you ever need a reason to get a higher capacity manual bilge pump, just watch this movie. Hey, he’s down to a bucket and sponge! The hole is fixed and all the water is out of the boat! Still only one wrap on the genoa sheet. Jesus, these producers know nothing about sailing. And then the boat is heeled the wrong way – he was just pulling on the port genoa sheet winch, and the boat is heeled to starboard, testing his new hull repair.

11:35 AM: Freaking ratty looking boat. I like the paper charts though. Looks like he was leafing through a book on celestial nav. now that his electronics are shot. SOS call! Nobody says that!

11:38 AM: Booze. That’s his problem! Doesn’t he know it’s bad luck to drink offshore? Ask my dad and I (we ran into a nasty little 30 knot, 8-hour storm up in Nova Scotia after toasting to a particularly nice day with a couple of warm rum and pineapple drinks. The sailing gods didn’t take kindly to that)…hardly any motion at all as he’s in the galley and now getting rained on outside. Though I do know that feeling, and it’s a good one to be wet with fresh water after a thorough dousing with salt. Feels like something is going to happen…

11:41 AM: They got the mast climbing part right. No f’ing way his VHF antenna comes unscrewed. No way. Broken in the melee, maybe. But unscrewed. Sorry. Suddenly his roller furling gear is missing on the forestay now that he’s at the masthead…storm clouds on the horizon! Where’d the genoa go? Annoying, Charlie, is an apt description. I’d say thus far, almost unwatchable.

11:44 AM: Yeah right, he filled that 6-gallon gerrycan with about 10 pumps of that tiny hand pump in the galley. Sailors are cursed watching this movie, it’s impossible not to notice these things.

Side note, written after the fact: I’m sure at some point during pre-production, the team on the movie admitted that there’d be mistakes made when it came to sailing. They probably figured the average audience and most of the critics would never notice. Totally understandable. But they HAD to know that this movie woud greatly appeal to the very niche audience of bluewater sailors like myself who’d want to watch the film. So you’d think somebody would have said, ‘Hey guys, wait a minute. These people who know sailing are going to KILL us for this, and it’s going to bring down the overall respect for the film.’ Apparently that question was either never asked or completely ignored.

Classic old-school oilskin foulies, and boat-dancing to get into them. That’s good. Mr. Redford moves about the boat slow and methodically, the ‘have a cigarette and think about it approach’ that Mike Meer and I always talk about. Storm jib is nicely stowed in it’s bag in the vee-berth, just where you want it when the sh*t hits the fan (that was meant sarcastically). The way that wind sounds, had he actually set that sail down on the cabin top it’d have been gone in an instant. Oh look, the genoa’s back, nicely rolled up again (still with the tack looking strange and floppy).

I dig the dark music just barely perceptible in the background after Mr. Redford manages to climb back aboard the boat with the storm jib. Are you f’ing kidding me? He hoists the storm jib with no luffing, and no winch handle in about three pulls of the halyard and then climbs back down below without doing anything at the helm. Sheesh. There’s that neat music again.

Dear lord, Ben & Teresa, can you please release that movie already so people can see what sailing is actually all about?

I wonder if this is what people felt like who knew about horses when they watched Mr. Redford in the Horse Whisperer movie?

11:54 AM: I love (read: ‘hate’) how he casually tosses around his safety equipment in the height of the gale as he comes out the companionway, like it’s going to miraculously stay there.

I can just hear the director…’and then the boat flips over again, and our hero gets tangled in the rigging and manages to swim back to the cockpit just as the boat rights itself, emerging triumphantly back into the nighttime storm to a wrecked rig.’ Ugh. He cuts that rigging wire awfully easily. Some kind of pocket knife! Ever try and cut 1×19 wire, even with a hydraulic press?

Oops. Another hole in the deck. Here we go again, water up to the settee berths. At least he’s not sleeping in the vee-berth anymore. Our man learns quickly.

My dad just got up to go pee. I tapped him on the arm and said, ‘this is pretty awful.’ He agreed. ‘Brutal,’ he said with a smirk.

11:59 AM: One thing I will admit though, this movie is making me want to go sailing again. I do miss the sea.

That feeling of pulling out the liferaft…I hope I never experience it.

12:01 PM: Looks like a Winslow? Don’t bother grabbing and food or clothing though, I’m sure you’ll be fine.

12:04 PM: Smart enough to stay tethered to his foundering boat. Now he’s back onboard looking for food and supplies. Don’t forget the spoons. Still slow and methodical. Matt Rutherford would approve.

I just went back to see how long this has been running for. Almost an hour now. It can’t end soon enough, frankly. This is an absolute joke. Redford looks like a complete fool on this boat, who has no idea what he’s doing and no business being offshore in the first place. Whoever said this was the apex of his acting career is out of their minds. Redford is Lost should have been the title of the movie. His acting is awesome, but if you concede that he’s supposed to be pretending to be a sailor (right?), then his acting is awful. He’s the farthest thing from a sailor in this movie. Maybe his Horse Whisperer character decided to go to sea. Should have stayed on the farm.

12:11 PM: What’d I miss, how did he cut his forehead? Oops. Boat’s really going down now, better get out of there buddy. That’s right – step up into the liferaft. Good on ya! There are an awful lot of calms 1,700 miles from the Sumatra Straits. I’m using the phrase ‘awful lot’ an awful lot in this diary. Also, that’s not the color of the ocean 1,700 miles from anywhere. Looks like the muddy brown coast of Virginia Beach. Where was this filmed anyway?

12:14 PM: A brand-spanking new sextant, still in the cardboard box and plastic wrap! Cool! Looks like an Astra IIIB? But why is Redford looking at it like he’s never seen one before? All sailors at least know which end is up. Sheesh. Did Astra donate one for the movie? You’d think if they had anything to do with it, they’d at least have showed the film crew how to use the damn thing.

12:17 PM: Well, at least he’s got time to learn it! Get to those books! You think he knows you can only get one LOP, and not an actual fix, from a single sight? I bet that realization was disheartening after all that work. I dig his sweater.

12:18 PM: Castaway was way better. At least Hanks’ character was making stuff up on the fly. Not too many people put in that scenario. Redford is almost to the shipping lanes if his sextant work is right. Presumably he’s also doing some dead reckoning from his last known position from the boat. Otherwise his noon sites would give him latitude only – he’d have no idea how far east or west he was without a good watch.

12:20 PM: Storms and calms, storms and calms. Where’s the regular wind? Presumably he knows how to right a capsized liferaft? Yes, yes he does. There’s that music again! By far the best thing about the movie. More calms again.

I wonder what Steven Callahan had to say about this movie? Mr. Redford just gave up pretty darn quickly trying to pump up his raft. Closer to the shipping lanes now (like his sextant and paper chart survived that capsize!). Oops. Salt in the water. Oops! He left the vent open when he filled it! Oh no!

12:27 PM: That’s a huge liferaft. Like an 8-person. No wonder it capsized without the ballast from the crew.

12:28 PM: Careful with that knife in the liferaft! A marlinspike! Nice touch. No f’ing way he throws anything away, not even the plastic cutoff from the water jug. No way. That’s a potential fishing lure! Cool music again in the underwater scene with the fishes.

12:32 PM: Hey, there’s a ship! USCG flares, and only now he’s reading the directions!

12:36 PM: Oh the irony of a container ship passing him so closely by, when one of it’s cargo got him here in the first place. He’s so handsome!

12:39 PM: Maybe Mr. Reford really doesn’t know what he’s doing and that’s why he ends up shipwrecked in the first place? Maybe the whole intention of the movie was to portray someone so foolishly inept at sailing that he never had a chance at all. Someone with a pipedream of sailing alone around the world that took off with marginal experience and an enormous lack of knowledge – like that guy whose boat got washed up in New England after he abandoned it last year – and it ended badly for this guy. How then, did he end up 1,700 miles from the Sumara Straits? That’s a long way to make it entirely by accident, even if he’s African (which, with a California-built boat that has ‘Virginia’ in it’s name, he’s presumably not). Furthermore, no way a neophyte sailor who accidentally got himself in that situation reacts so calmly in those hairy situations. His deliberate actions imply years of experience at sea.

12:42 PM: Oops. Drifted right through the shipping lanes. Still plenty calm. There’s that fantastic music again as we pan wide to show the liferaft adrift at sea.

12:45 PM: Message in a glass jar, clever! That’s some damn sturdy paper in that little raft! I wonder if he wrote his email address on it?

12:47 PM: So we know he lasts at least 8 days in the liferaft, because that’s how the movie started…‘8 days ago…’ Is he making a fire in his solar still, with that nice dry paper? You bet he is! No way he’s able to stand up in that flaccid raft. Especially with a fire raging. Nice move, he just set his raft on fire. That ship has to see that, right?

12:52 PM: I wonder if he’s thinking how beautiful that scene with the burning raft and the moon is as he’s sinking beneath the sea? Ooh, a search light. Nope…I get it now.

What a cool metaphor for death though, swimming towards the white light with the arm reaching out to grab him.

12:54 PM: Really sweet music as the credits roll. I wonder what that is?

1:01 PM: Well, that was an experience. After the credits rolled Marcia glanced back from two seats in front of me and just sort of raised her eyebrows, a ‘what’d you think?’ sort of gesture? She’s not a sailor (though will be, at least to some degree, after this trip. More so than Redford anyway, if I have anything to do with it!), so was looking for a realistic opinion. What did I think?

I thought the ending was great. His liferaft bursting into flames was a little silly, but the larger meaning as the searchlight pierced the water and he suddenly starts swimming towards the ‘light’ was pretty sweet. Just before the movie ends, a hand reaches into the water and takes Mr. Redford’s, and the screen fades to white. A pretty heady interpretation of drowning and drifting off to heaven. My mom would have totally dug that.

As for the rest of the movie? Well, you can see my comments above. Oddly, despite all the ridiculous, inexcusable sailing errors in the film, I was left with a kind of cool feeling afterward. It made an impact on me, almost spiritually. Maybe it’s because here I am watching Robert Redford, one of my mom’s all-time favorite actors, drown in what can only be described as a beautiful scene, while thinking about my mom in her death, and watching the back of my dad and his new girlfriend’s head two rows in front of me. All of those emotions mixing together – not to mention the added impact of being on an airplane, which makes me especially emotional (I once cried at Hotel for Dogs on the way home from Sweden) – perhaps created a volatile emotional cocktail that instantly made me realize that the movie wasn’t that bad after all, despite it all.

The most frustrating aspect of it was that it could have been so easy! All Redford needed to do was go take a weekend sailing lesson somewhere and he’s have known himself how stupid he looked in the movie. Normally Hollywood hires consultants for movies like this – in fact, there was a great article in Boat/US magazine about Steven Callahan’s consultant’s role in Life of Pi – so why they didn’t have one for All is Lost actually angers me. According to Cruising World, they used Line & Larry Pardey’s Storm Tactics book as a reference, but why not just hire them? It could have been such a cool movie, I mean a seminal, one-for-the-ages survival story.

But they freaking ruined it. That’s the most annoying part about all of it. Those little discrepancies throughout the movie add up to something much greater than the whole. Taken together, they kill what could be a fantastic movie, something the film critics and the sailors alike could have agreed on. Granted, sailing – and especially bluewater sailing, as John Kretschmer says – is a very small fraternity of people passionate about an admittedly niche sport. So the producers probably didn’t irritate an overall large percentage of their audience. Casual weekend sailors wouldn’t have noticed much of the stuff I was griping about. But everyone can relate to the dream of sailing off into the sunset to discover yourself and the world. They should have just done their freaking research about what that actually takes.

So ultimately, I can see both sides of the argument – All is Lost IS simultaneously one of the best films ever and one of the worst films ever. And what category you put it in depends entirely on your own real-life experience. And that’s kind of cool in a weird way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Offshore Sailing in Photos: St. Lucia – St. Croix – Bahamas

Fri, 2014-02-28 22:46

Thanks to our crew member Kevin King, who was constantly taking photos during the passage north on Sojourner, I’ve had an enjoyable evening drinking a glass of red wine, listening to St. Vincent and organizing an album of the trip. Since I’ve already written what there is to be written about (see the past 5 or 6 posts), here’s a pretty sweet gallery of images with captions. If you’ve never been offshore before, there is nothing quite like it. Hopefully these photos capture just a little of what that’s like (and inspire you to get out there and see for yourself!) The photos are mostly Kevin King’s with some of mine (Andy’s) thrown in (pretty obvious where).

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Hand-stitched sail repair on the solent jib in St. Lucia.

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Hand-stitched sail repair to the solent jib, St. Lucia

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Reading from my favorite watch keeping spot offshore, St. Lucia to St. Croix

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Kevin’s arrival in St. Croix. We dropped off Dan and Marcia there, and picked up Kevin and Tom for Leg 2 to the Abacos.

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Downtown St. Croix. It was a sleepy place.

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The VLA satellite dish in St. Croix, one of only a handful in the world, searching for aliens.

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Point Udall, the easternmost point in the USA. I made it there on my bike ride.

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Which way does the sun rise? In the east!

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Which way does it set? In the west!

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The local ‘color’ in St. Croix.

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Pretty sweet old Swan in the boatyard at St. Croix Marine.

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Kevin’s first encounter with Sojourner. He likes the solent rig (so do I)

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You know, St. Croix used to be Danish. Ja!

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The seaplane terminal was right behind our berth at Jones Maritime in town. They came and went several times a day, using the harbor as a runway.

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Nice!

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Jones Maritime dock where we tied up for our St. Croix stay.

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Safety gear and sleeping gear down below.

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There’s my favorite spot again. Contemplating the universe apparently while on watch offshore.

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Tom Herrington, one of the best crew I’ve yet to sail with.

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Dad, your iPhone doesn’t work offshore!

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Tom down below on a particularly calm day (we had lots of them – it was awesome sailing!).

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Hove-to for a swim! St. Croix to the Bahamas leg.

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Even hove-to, Sojourner made 1.5 knots through the water, which made for a nice workout getting to the ladder.

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Hove-to. Had we done this in heavy weather, we would have been much more conscious of chafe. In this case, it only lasted a few minutes.

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Setting the spin pole. Don’t go offshore without one!

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Wing-on-wing and checking sail trim with the small A sail.

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Tom’s looking very pleased with himself.

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And Andy is looking rather pleased with himself too! Downwind sailing at its best!

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Going out on the pole to re-lead a sheet before gybing the A sail.

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I wore the GoPro while Kevin photographed me with his Nikon.

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Kind of a cool perch out there offshore!

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Re-leading the spin sheet before gybing at the end of the pole.

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Tom helping to re-lead the spin sheet at the bow.

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Dad discovering the clogged intake line on the head. We’d sucked up a bunch of pine needles at the dock in St. Croix.

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Not so much fun cleaning it out.

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Sunrise. These are the moments that make the trip. This is life.

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A calm day for some aerial photography at the masthead while under full sail.

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Pretty nice view, eh?

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Yes, I was having fun with this. Boy, the earth looks big from here (so does the boat!).

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Tom was usually smiling! He ought to have been with the weather we had!

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Running the reef break at Little Harbor in the Abacos. Note the modern (iPad) nav, and the old school chart nav.

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Dad and Tom having a chat in the cockpit. We wore lifejackets and harnesses at night and whenever someone was alone on deck.

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Fun with celestial navigation!

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Kevin practicing a sun sight with the sextant.

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…And working out the sight reduction forms in the cockpit. Where are we Kevin?

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Watching for Wilson the Whale at the bow.

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Where’s Wilson?

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There he is! Wilson the minke whale spouts just next to the boat.

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The captain and the chef! Brekky onboard. Looks like omelets.

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Navigating at the nav station (where it’s meant to be done!).

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Cell phones don’t work out here…but satellite phones do. Calling the family back home.

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The photographer. Kevin, who is usually behind the camera, was about to reef the mainsail before making landfall.

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Tom helping reef the main before running the reef.

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Hmm, where are we dad? You sure that reef break is wide enough?

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Always looking at the sail trim…’When doubt, let it out!’

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Once through the reef we lifted the beer prohibition for the crew.

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Happy faces and blue water now inside the reef in the Abacos.

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Tied to the dock after 6 days offshore.

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The crew at Curly Tails Bar for the first meal ashore in a week.

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Pretty little squall in Marsh Harbor.

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Show and tell time with Dad and Tom, explaining where we went on our Bahamas trip in 1993/94.

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Pete’s Pub in Little Harbor. We rented a car for the 20 mile drive south.

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The pub and gallery are quite a famous place. Check out the book ‘Artist on His Island’…

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Back in 1952 Randolph Johnston uprooted his family and sailed south to Little Harbor to escape civilization and live as artists.

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The Johnston family lived in caves across the way while they built their houses ashore.

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Meanwhile, I harvested coconuts!

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This was only about ¼ of my take for the day! I was giving them away to other people at the bar!

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My trusty Myerchin rigging knife helped me open them.

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And boy are they tasty! Nothing beats fresh coconut water.

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One of the many bronze statues outside the gallery and scattered around the property.

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Boobs!

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Pretty sweet statue there, huh Dad?

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Grouper that was selling for something like $12,000.

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An old Seagull outboard!

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Hiking to the abandoned lighthouse at the cut where we ran the reef break two days earlier.

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Inside the old abandoned lighthouse (that’s Tom). The reef break is visible through the windows on the left.

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That’s more like it…coconut water in the rum.

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Potcake!

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That’s what they call the local stray dogs. This one was a friendly guy.

Video of Wilson the Minke Whale

Fri, 2014-02-28 16:37

This has been all over my Facebook page the past couple of days, thanks to Kevin King, who crewed with us and took the footage. When the whale first approached, we were in awe, and just enjoyed his company. Kevin wanted to film right away, but I kind of discouraged him – if you’re always behind the camera, you can’t appreciate what’s right in front of you. But the whale kept coming back! I was afraid jamming the camera down in the water might scare him off (he thinking it might be a harpoon!), but eventually we gave it a go. I think it was worth it!

Cruising costs, routine maintenance, and the 10% (15%, 20%) rule

Fri, 2014-02-28 10:00

What does it cost to go cruising? Most of these discussions focus on month to month living expenses. Do you eat out in restaurants or stick to the boat? Do you stay in marinas or anchor out? Do you send out your laundry or wash it in a bucket? What’s easy to miss in the discussion, or not apparent in a month-to-month level examination, are maintenance costs. They get lost in the shuffle, but maintenance costs can bite you in the bum.

How can you ballpark annual maintenance costs? There are various “rules of thumb” and most of them put yearly maintenance costs at 10-20% of the boat’s value. It’s extremely problematic to estimate, for a variety of reasons. What is your definition of maintenance (are you including capital expenses or insurance or mooring or repairs or truly only maintenance)? How much can you DIY vs hire out? What country are you in? How gear / equipment intensive is your boat?

Even at the low end of that range, this suggests we should be spending somewhere around US$20,000/year on maintenance. Let me tell you, that is not happening! Our maintenance expenses are a mere shadow of that figure, but we don’t consider Totem to be under-maintained. A little scruffy, maybe, but we are scrupulous about maintenance.

It helps a lot that we left in 2008 with solid systems and gear on board Totem: a great deal of it new, or early in service life. New rigging, new watermaker, new canvas, relatively new engine. New bottom paint, new chainplates, new settees, new autopilot, new liferaft. Basic maintenance costs are low, and there weren’t big surprises.

There have been chunks of maintenance costs along the way since 2008. We had to replace the SSB. We got a new mainsail. We’ve had to get some costly bits for the watermaker and autopilot. We got a new windlass motor, and keep the original as a backup/spare. There was a new mainsail cover. There is periodic servicing or rebuilding on various parts: we are meticulous about service schedules for the most part. Most recently was the alternator we had rebuilt in Miri, Sarawak for the princely sum of $15.

In general, we keep it down by doing as much as possible ourselves. When I say we, I’m mostly talking about Jamie, who is far more mechanically gifted than I am and has the added benefit of years of experience as a sailmaker. He’s re-stitched new windows into the soft sides for our hardtop dodger twice since 2008, reinforced stitching on our old mainsail before our Pacific crossing. He has taken apart and rebuilt our pumps so many times that we call our primary water pressure pump the “frankenpump.” He’s become so skilled with wiring and electronics that other cruisers have hired him to assist with installing equipment or troubleshooting electrolysis issues. But we both get under and scrub the bottom, or polish stainless (well, that’s what kids are for too, right?), or scrub the deck/hull (again, hello kids!). These could easily be chalked up as maintenance that if you’re paying an hourly rate to a service provider in a first world country could add up significantly.

Our orientation to DIY probably accounts for our much lower maintenance costs as much as the fact that we haven’t had costly gear failures to absorb: there are thousands and thousands of dollars we have not spent because we did the work ourselves. Still, the cumulative is not close to $20,000 (+), much less the $100,000 (++) we’d get from multiplying that out over the last five years- and we’re well into our sixth year now.

Well, we are about to look a little more like the rule – at least for this year.

Partly it’s simply the wear and tear of years of cruising. Partly it’s the older systems that need service or are now near the end of service life. As part of our prep to cross the Indian Ocean we’re giving everything a critical eye once more, safety gear in particular. The list of must-do projects adds up to about $25,000. We started these projects last year and are about halfway through the list now now, so hopefully it stays close to that mark! There’s another $10,000 or so of things we’d like to do, but simply aren’t essentials. Sticking to essentials is part of how we’ve been able to go cruising in the first place instead of staying stuck at the dock, so that’s OK. The fact is that we are able to tackle much of this list for significantly less than it would cost us back in the US by virtue of being in a country where labor costs are low. Boat bits are still expensive, especially because there’s often international shipping involved, too. But lower costs for skilled labor can save significantly, and help us get more value for our maintenance dollar.

Still, let’s say we did (if we could!) spend the whole $35k. With a generous definition of our maintenance costs in prior year, this bump might put our average around half of the “rule of thumb” over a five year period, and when you factor in the DIY level…well, maybe suddenly that 10% isn’t looking so far off. Except that it is, and that’s kind of the point. This is just one year out of six where it looks like we will come close to the low end of the “rule of thumb,” yet the term maintenance suggests costs that are steady and at least somewhat predictable at an annual level.

Rule of thumb? There is no rule of thumb, no perfect estimate, but it’s one way to try and bake in your boat size and gear level, with some variance for your risk tolerance, comfort needs, and most of all- your own capabilities.

Up next: what Totem’s maintenance list looks like.

McGuyvers know that reading this on the Sailfeed website puts those costs in even better perspective.

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