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Bart’s Bash Already a Hit

Mon, 2014-06-16 18:02

The Andrew Simpson Sailing Foundation is delighted to announce the launch of the new Bart’s Bash website and the opening of the individual sailor sign-up process

Organised by the Andrew Simpson Sailing Foundation, Bart’s Bash is a global sailing race and fundraising event which will take place on Sunday 21 September 2014. Bart’s Bash will inspire and unite thousands of worldwide sailors in a race at their local sailing club to set a new Guinness World Record and to raise money for charity.

The first three competitors to sign up were four time Olympic Champion, America’s Cup winner and team principal of Ben Ainslie Racing, Sir Ben Ainslie; double Olympic champion and Artemis Racing team manager, Iain Percy; and two time America’s Cup winner and skipper of Oracle Team USA, Jimmy Spithill.

Watch the video here.

Sir Ben Ainslie, a Trustee of the Andrew Simpson Sailing Foundation, will race at the Queen Mary Sailing Club in London, and will then join the events at the Andrew Simpson Sailing Centre.

“We are grateful to all of those who have shown support for this global event so far. We invite all sailors to sign up for a unique opportunity to race the best sailors in the world. It will be a fantastic day,” said Sir Ben Ainslie.

Foundation Trustee Iain Percy has also signed up to race at the Andrew Simpson Sailing Centre on the Olympic waters in Weymouth and Portland.

“Bart’s Bash has received worldwide support and attention from the best sailors across the globe. For the first time sailors of all levels will race against each other in a global event which we hope will inspire new young sailors and encourage participation in the sport. I look forward to going out on the water to race against thousands of sailors,” said Iain Percy.

America’s Cup winner Jimmy Spithill will join the E. Scow regatta at the Pewaukee Yacht Club, in Wisconsin.

Nearly 600 sailing clubs have already registered for the event and from today individual sailors are invited to sign up by following the simple steps below:

Visit the new Bart’s Bash website bartsbash.co.uk

Click on the yellow ‘Sign me up’ button

Log-in via facebook or create an account by entering your email address

Search clubs to find and select your local Bart’s Bash registered club

Fill in your contact details

Select whether you are a skipper or crew and fill in the details of your boat

Tick the box to setup a Just Giving fundraising page or click finish to complete your registration

Share your Bart’s Bash profile page and start fundraising!

Every sailing club that registers will have its own microsite created where the fundraising totals, number of participants and much more will be displayed. A number of participating clubs including the newly opened Andrew Simpson Sailing Centre in Weymouth, and Queen Mary in London, will have resources available for less experienced sailors to take part in the race. If participants don’t have a boat then they can still take part by clicking on this link for more information.

As part of the sign up process sailors are invited to set up a Just Giving fundraising page to raise funds for the Andrew Simpson Sailing Foundation charity. There is no entry fee to take part, although sailors are also welcome to make a donation to the Foundation as part of the entry process. The new website features a rewards and incentive scheme to help motivate individual fundraising. As different fundraising targets are reached, rewards are unlocked including personal videos from Olympic stars and commemorative medals. Top fundraisers will also find themselves receiving personal invites to a gala dinner hosted by some of the biggest names in world sailing. More prizes will be announced throughout the signing up process.

The Andrew Simpson Sailing Foundation was founded in honour of Olympic champion Andrew ‘Bart’ Simpson and works to transform the lives of young people by providing opportunities to grow, achieve and inspire excellence. Bart’s Bash is our largest fundraising event so far to support our wide range of UK and international activity. For more details on the Foundation’s charitable aims and work, please visit andrewsimpsonsailing.org.

The One-Off “San Francisco America’s Cup”

Sun, 2014-06-15 13:15

Posted June 15, 2014 – Photo by Gilles Martin-Raget/ACEA, slightly edited at BPT

Many moons ago, Tom Blackaller declared, “If we ever get the America’s Cup to San Francisco Bay, we’ll show the world how good sailing can be.”

Tom could not have imagined how right he was.

Looking forward, Mayor Ed Lee enthused, “This will be remembered as the San Francisco America’s Cup.”

For reasons he did not exactly foresee.

And neither imagined a followup to the triumph of AC34 in which negotiations for AC35 would be summed by the San Francisco Chronicle with a quote from an unnamed San Francisco city official, “They didn’t want the hassle, and neither did we.”

I hope the dog has beautiful puppiesKimball

ARC DelMarVa Finishes on a High Note

Sun, 2014-06-15 10:41

The weather finally turned. At just after midnight on Saturday morning, the cold front that had been stalled just west of the Chesapeake Bay for days, bringing wet, foggy, misty weather to the fleet, finally pushed offshore with a flurry of rain showers and thunderstorms, clearing the air for a gorgeous early morning. The full moon – the rally was planned around it after all – finally showed it’s face as the fleet re-entered the Chesapeake Bay, and the day dawned clear and cool, a fresh northwesterly breeze propelling everyone south on the rally’s final leg.

“We set a speed record today of 9.3 knots,” said one of the crew from Zephyr. Many others mentioned the same, as it was fast reaching conditions on flat water Saturday morning.

By late afternoon all but one of the 18 yachts who’d completed the DelMarVa loop had arrived in Annapolis. Sea Quinn, who’d elected to spend an extra day in Cape May, were on their way up the Delaware Bay when the final prizegiving dinner began at the Eastport Democratic Club.

Crews began arriving at just before 6pm. The buffet table was set, and the bar was open. A slideshow of photos from the past week played on the big screen inside, and the din of excited chatter among the sailors grew louder and louder as the place filled up.

“Thanks to you all for coming this evening, and congratulations on completing such a big challenge!” said event manager Andy Schell as the crews sat down to eat. “It certainly was made more difficult by the adverse weather this week. You should all be very proud of yourselves. Let’s raise a glass to a great accomplishment” With that, the crews toasted their achievement and continued the revelry.

A while later the prizes were announced. Though the DelMarVa was a non-competitive event, several awards were up for grabs. Some of them – like the Weems & Plath ‘Navigator’s Award’ – were actively competed for, with crews turning in their logbooks to be judged on accuracy and traditional seamanship. Others – like the ‘I’ll Never Do That Again’ Award – were more humor-based, and simply invented during the week as stories were shared among the fleet.

To kick things off, the crew from Dana Marie were the ‘Best Fishing Attempt’ award for their prowess on the offshore leg. They did manage to catch a small bluefish for their efforts, and were awarded a flag.

Following that, crews were invited to the front of the room to compete for the ‘Best Bruise’ award, something that was created in the 2012 Caribbean 1500, a particularly rough passage that year. Crews from three boats

The ‘Communications Award’ went to Molly Kate. The award was given sort of tongue-in-cheek; Molly Kate was assigned to be a net controller on Leg 1, but realized their radio wasn’t functioning properly. As it turned out, their VHF masthead antenna had been unplugged and turned upside down by the boatyard when their mast was last pulled, and never replaced! The audience had a good laugh at that one.

The ‘I’ll Never Do That Again! Award’ came about after stories were circulated about people doing dumb things on or to their boats during the course of the week. Molly Kate was again recognized for their antenna prowess (as well as a crewmember who’d slept in a hammock on the dock, only to lose his cell phone in the drink when he woke up and rolled over). Tom from Jubilee managed to chuck his handheld VHF into the water in Portsmouth looking for a dockline; Dennis on Sojourner managed to motor at 2400 RPM for over an hour before realizing that the boat wasn’t in gear; and Dana Marie were so excited sailing down the Bay on Leg 1 that they let their batteries run dead and couldn’t start the engine! But Adagio took the award in the end for their destroying all of their forward halyards when the genoa furler got stuck. The award was all in good fun, and it was a learning experience for everyone being out there, kind of the point of the rally in the first place.

The ‘Sailor’s Award’ went to Ken and his crew on Kayode for their remarkable start – they seized the starting line over the much nimbler J/105 Diffugere Nives and were recognized for the feat at last night’s party.

The ‘Hero Award’ was given to the crew of Wine Dog who came to Dana Marie’s assistance when their batteries ran dead. In an epic adventure, Wine Dog rendezvoused with Dana Marie at sea and transferred over a portable Honda generator via a coupld oe halyards, and managed to help get Dana Marie’s engine started.

Finally, to wrap things up, the Weems & Plath ‘Navigator’s Award’ – a fancy bronze navigator’s set in a wooden box, engraved with the ARC DelMarVa logo – was awarded to Adagio for their excellently kept navigator’s log.

The evening ended by thanking all the sponsors involved in the event – including J/World Annapolis, SpinSheet Magazine, SAIL Magazine, Chesapeake Sailmakers, Port Annapolis Marina and Southbound Cruising Services, Pantaenius, and the Eastport Democratic Club – and crews filed out of the venue shortly before 9pm, heading into a gorgeous Annapolis evening. Until next year.

Fire at Eastern Yacht Club

Fri, 2014-06-13 18:48

The latest missive from Eastern Yacht Club, Marblehead—

Update on EYC Fire
Posted On: June 13, 2014

Dear Eastern Members,

The initial evaluation seems to appear that the fire damage is not as severe as first thought. Fortunately, there was no personal injury. Paintings, models and artifacts are intact and are being evaluated.

We have convened a team to begin the process of cleaning, restoring and re-establishing our resources.

The waterfront and pool facilities will remain open. The Clubhouse is closed until further notice.

According to reports, the first broke out after midnight, probably in the attic, and was contained about two and one half hours later. The following is taken from the Eastern Yacht Club web site

In 1870, twelve Boston gentlemen organized themselves as the Eastern Yacht Club, a club dedicated to the promotion of yachting. Within one month, they had enrolled 110 members with 23 yachts. The Clubhouse on Marblehead Neck was completed in 1881.

From the beginning, the Club became a leader in yacht racing with Puritan, Mayflower, and Volunteer, all flying Eastern colors, successfully defeating their British challengers in the America’s Cup in 1885, 1886, and 1887, respectively. The Eastern has hosted a multitude of local, national, and international sailing events from the Sonder class regattas that preceded WWI to the competitive one-design and PHRF races of today, including the Etchells Worlds, Star Worlds, IOD Worlds, Olympic Class Regattas, Viper 640 North Americans, Sonar North Americans, Shields Nationals, and the Soling North Americans, a preliminary race for the ’96 Olympics. In 1994 the club received the coveted St. Petersburg Trophy, awarded for the Race Committee’s outstanding management of the Star North Americans. In 2011 the Club was named Yacht Club of the Year by Mass Bay sailing for race management on national and local events including the J105 North American Championship, the Etchells North Americans, and the IOD Worlds.

A visit to the Eastern is a walk through yachting history, from the glorious days of the huge racing yachts to the present-day streamlined one-designs. Nearly 130 years of yachting history resides here. Throughout the Clubhouse, you can find trophies and medals marking the Club’s illustrious history.

LEE QUINN: He Sailed to Tahiti With an All-Girl Crew

Fri, 2014-06-13 17:19

Sailors of a certain age will remember seeing this B-movie title in TV listings for certain low-budget UHF stations back in the day: I Sailed To Tahiti With an All-Girl Crew. I certainly remember it, and I’ve used the title as a throw-away line most of my life, but I don’t think I ever actually sat through the whole movie. Quite recently I learned there was a real person and a real story that inspired the making of that film, and (as is so often the case) the real story is actually much more interesting than the one Hollywood told. This concerns a professional steeplejack, Lee Quinn (see photo up top), who had a strong adventurous streak and sort of inevitably fell into the sport of ocean sailing starting in the 1950s.

Google around a bit and you’ll see there’s not much available online about Quinn–just a few old news clippings and some stray archive pix. The only full-length coherent narrative of his life is found in the pages of a self-published autobiography, Above and Beyond: The Simple Life, written by his ex-wife, Mary Ann Quinn. She, too, was a steeplejack, probably the first woman ever to take it up professionally, and shared many of Lee’s adventures.

If you google the movie title, you’ll get many more hits, but not much substantive information.

The film was released in 1968 and evidently was popular in drive-in theaters, presumably because what people did mostly in drive-ins was make out. The story line was pretty thin–two yachtsmen get into argument about who’s a better sailor, and one of them bets the other $20,000 (which was quite a lot of money in those days) that he can beat him in a race to Tahiti, even with the handicap of taking on an all-girl crew. There are a few plot twists, of course, one of which involves one of the female crew being wanted for murder, as referenced in this YouTube clip.

If you want to actually watch the whole film, you can buy what I’m guessing is a bootleg DVD cheap on eBay, though I think your money would be much better invested in a copy of Mary Ann’s book.

Lee and Mary Ann working a job in Honolulu in 1958

Lee and Mary Ann got married in 1946, soon fell into the steeplejack business as a team, and in their spare time had wild adventures together. They bicycled and motorcycled around Europe together, hitchhiked across North Africa, hopped a freighter across the Med (on which Mary Ann almost got raped), took up flying, and crashed a plane into the palace of dictator Rafael Trujillo in the Dominican Republic. Seriously, the list goes on and on. These two were big-time adrenalin junkies.

In 1952, Lee got it into his head that they should take up sailing. He talked Mary Ann into buying a 30-foot sloop, Flamingo, that almost immediately was destroyed by a tsunami raised by a 7.7 magnitude earthquake. Lee was still determined to go sailing, however, so he at once built himself a 16-foot catamaran out of plywood and set out to sail it solo down the coast of Baja California.

Lee test-sails his homemade cat at Long Beach

He got caught in some very fierce weather, almost lost the cat, but was saved by a fishing boat that simply hoisted him and the boat right on to their deck.

Lee got distracted by flying for a while, but soon enough came back to sailing and in 1961 bought a 45-foot ketch in Sausalito that he appropriately named Neophyte, as testament to his status as a sailor. On an early shakedown sail with Mary Ann, they nearly lost the boat when they were almost run down by a freighter near Point Conception.

Neophyte under sail

Mary Ann at the helm

Lee was not daunted by this and immediately started making plans to sail Neophyte around the world. Mary Ann wasn’t interested in that little adventure, as she was starting to get into competitive surfing, so Lee determined he’d simply go alone. Mary Ann objected to this, insisting he had to have a crew, and Lee essentially retaliated by recruiting an all-girl crew. After signing on one young German woman he met at random, Giselle, who according to Lee had “the physical attributes of a voluptuous Italian movie queen,” he advertised in the paper for more women crew and was besieged with applicants.

And this was beginning of his great schtick. From 1962 to 1970 Lee Quinn roamed the world in two different boats named Neophyte and always sailed with all-girl crews. In all a total of 105 women from 18 different countries joined him and together they attracted major publicity wherever they went. There was a constant string of newspaper articles, Lee gave many profitable lectures, and eventually the “all-girl” sailing schtick made it into the movies.

Lee Quinn’s crew receives a package of ice cream from a U.S. Navy warship while underway in 1963

As for Quinn & Co., yes, they did make it to Tahiti, among many other places, including Antarctica. Mary Ann was a very good sport about it all (to hear her tell it, anyway) and joined the boat and crew at certain points. Eventually, though, she and Lee divorced amicably, in 1964, and Lee married one of his crewmembers, Bea Berkson. Just two years later, however, they divorced and Lee started courting Mary Ann again. She appreciated this, for they did have a special bond, but she cherished her independence and was too busy with her own life–running the steeplejack business, traveling on her own, plus competing as both a surfer and skier–to reunite with her wayward ex-husband.

Unfortunately, Lee’s life ended in tragedy, as his predilection for nautical mishaps was never sated. The first Neophyte eventually succeeded in getting run down by a freighter, just off Sydney Heads in Australia in 1965. Lee at this point toyed with the notion of abandoning his voyage, but Mary Ann, ironically, urged him to continue, and he soon purchased another boat, a 48-foot cutter, which he christened Neophyte Too.

Neophyte Too under sail

Soon enough Lee was having more misadventures. He put his new boat up on the Great Barrier Reef for a while, then she was dismasted a year later, off Baja California, not long before Lee finally closed the loop on his circumnavigation in 1967.

He soon set out on yet another peripatetic voyage, again with all women as crew. This time he decided to start with a loop of the North Pacific and sailed to Japan via Honolulu and southeast Asia. On October 11, 1970, Lee and and four women, two of them Japanese, departed Aburatsubo, Japan, on Neophyte Too headed back for San Francisco.

They were never seen or heard from again.

It’s very appropriate that Mary Ann is the one left to tell Lee’s story. He was an overwhelming force in her life, and it’s a great testament to her own ambition and willpower that she succeeded in carving out an independent life of her own… and that she succeeded in surviving him.

Onboard Haircuts: A Necessary Evil

Thu, 2014-06-12 20:06

Although I can’t claim we spend our days in yachting whites, we aboard Papillon do make an effort to meet a minimum standard of grooming.  This isn’t always easy when your choice is between sufficient drinking water and a nice shower, but we do our best. One of our persistent problems has to do with hair. Let’s face it: we’re a hairy boat.  So how do we manage those strands of waste protein that just won’t stop growing?

Originally appeared as Long, Beautiful Hair on November 12, 2012
When I was little, Saturday morning was not complete without cartoons on channel 29 out of Buffalo. One of the staple commercials breaking up He-Man and Scooby Doo was The Hair Club For Men. Happy clients shook their newly-thickened locks as they cavorted in hot tubs with young models in blue eyeshadow and grinned knowingly at us, the viewers, around their Burt Reynolds mustaches. I never understood why men would want those elaborate, shiny perms, and I put it down to Strange Things Grown-Ups Do.

Maybe the problem was that I didn´t identify with the untamed styles of the late 70s. In my family, hair was neatly cut, no matter whether you tended to the thinner end of the hair continuum, or you fell on the hairy end of the curve. When my brothers were about seven and ten, a movie was filmed at their summer camp. My brothers were instantly cast to wrestle in the background of a certain shot. Why? Because the movie was set in the 50s, and their crewcuts were perfect.


The girls had long hair when they first boarded Papillon; they now they have considerably less. Between the salt and the sand and their casual acquaintance with the hairbrush, they were starting to look somewhat feral. Chop, chop. I bought a proper pair of scissors from a beauty supply shop and, when we couldn’t find a decent (read: cheap) haircut, Mom would do the honors. And I’d like to claim that I can produce a fairly decent bob. I’ve promised them they may grow their hair when they can take care of their hair; we’ll see when the magic day arrives. As for me, I have long, straight hair. Erik won’t go near it with the scissors, so about twice a year I find a salon, have it trimmed, and that is that.

And then there is Erik. His hair is a thatch. Curly in childhood, it is now a wavy landscape of wiry bristles that obey no man. If you have ever seen an aerial view of Mayan pyramids still buried in the jungle, you will have an idea of what I mean.

This mystified me at first. I am no stranger to full hair; my father’s family – every man, woman and child – grows hair in what I can only describe as a luxurious abundance. My nonagenarian grandfather still sports a snowy coif to put one in mind of Cary Grant. But every man Jack of us has straight, manageable hair. Not so my husband. Make no mistake – his hair is the envy of men half his age. It is thick, grows quickly, and there is an almost-impossible volume of it sprouting from his noggin. (If you are familiar with the Artemis Fowl books, Erik has Mulch Diggums hair – impossibly thick and quite possibly alive.) But, he has only sixty seconds after leaving the water to brush or otherwise manage his hair. After that, the die is cast. Nothing will shift the geologic strength of those patterns.

During the decades we’ve been together, Erik’s hair has slowly gotten shorter. In high school he sported a mop that followed the letter, if not the spirit, of our school rule that a boy’s hair never fall below his collar. Gravity had no effect on the twisting strands erupting from Erik’s head; the hair just went up, up, up. He cut it shorter during university to ease the summer job hunt, but the peaks and valleys returned quickly if he didn’t keep ahead of the game.

On the boat, Erik’s hair has gotten shorter still. To his delight, Erik discovered that he has Latin American hair. This meant the haircuts he received through Central America were the best and most ridge-free he had ever enjoyed. By the time we reached the Galapagos, Erik was sporting what the girls and I dubbed the Caesar look, and, as a totally unbiased onlooker, I must say he’s looking pretty good these days.

The problem is, the ‘fro comes back: the new hairdo won’t last much beyond 3-4 weeks. So, when we got to Tahiti, we decided the time had come to buy our own set of clippers. No more paying an outrageous $3 for a haircut! I could figure out how to work the clippers before we left on passage, and any disaster would grow back by the time we hit land again. Simple. Brilliant.

We perused the clippers at the department store. We bought what looked like a robust pair. We took them home and opened the box. After some debate, we decided to start with the conservatively long teeth, just in case things didn’t go smoothly; ie. let’s not scalp Erik right out of the gate.

“Ready?” I asked.
“Ready,” said Erik.
Bzzz brrrrp rruh rruh rruh.
We were stuck.

I turned off the clippers and gently teased them out of Erik’s hair. I looked at them. Three sad wisps sat in the hair catcher. I pressed the button again. Bzzzzz! The clippers buzzed merrily in the air. I put the clippers back against Erik’s head. Bzzz brrrrp rruh rruh rruh. We were stuck again.

We switched to the shorter teeth. Then the shortest teeth. Rruh, rruh, rruh. No go. All thoughts of saving Erik’s delicate scalp were gone – we cranked the dial to eleven. Erik’s hair just tangled in the clippers and refused to be cut. I think I heard it snicker.

We debated the problem with our male friends in the harbor. They laughed and ran nervous hands through their own fine hair. Everyone agreed: Erik has too much hair for man-clippers.

“Right,” said Erik. “I’m going to the pet store.”

And he tried. He went to every pet store in Papeete trying to buy dog clippers, but there were none to be found. I don’t suppose many sheepdogs roam the tropics (and if they do, they don’t last long in that heat). Worse luck for Erik.

He is getting shaggy again. The pyramids are slowly erupting through the Caesar cut. But in a few weeks, we will be in New Zealand. And if there is one thing Kiwis know, it is how to separate a fleece from its owner.

Industrial clippers, here we come.

Update: June 2014
He had to wait until Christmas, but Erik got his clippers.

And, as you can see on the box, they are indeed intended for the furrier among us: namely, poodles and horses.

But they work a treat.  I’m slowly getting better at giving Erik a nice,smooth haircut.  Lucky for me, his hair grows so rapidly that even the worst errors would grow out in a week.  Point is, thank goodness for the Osters.  And let’s hope the kids never get their hands on them.

Boom! Volvo Ocean Race 2014

Thu, 2014-06-12 17:17

GoPro: Great White Shark In Sydney Harbour

Thu, 2014-06-12 14:15

I spent over a year on and off, anchored right at that spot, and jumped off those rocks many times. It looks like since then somebody’s put an (ineffective) fence around them. The very first time I dropped anchor there, after entering the Heads for the first time, and old salt advised me on the holding, and advised me not to swim. I asked why, and he made the the big mouth sign with his arms. Throughout the year+, and many hours of lovely swimming around that bay, bottom scrubbing, etc., I came to dismiss all the the rumors about man-eating sharks in Sydney Harbour/Port Jackson. Hmm… What a video!

Lenovo Windows tablet, new MFD accessory or primary plotter?

Wed, 2014-06-11 18:50

Written by Ben Ellison on Jun 11, 2014 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub

I first heard of the Lenovo Miix 2 when Digital Yacht dubbed it a “best buy for boaters”; besides a low price of about $220, the 8-inch tablet is purportedly bright, fast, and able to run regular Windows navigation programs like DY’s own SmarterTrack. While an internal GPS enables standalone navigation, the DY team mainly envisions the tablet as a second station using NMEA 0183 or 2000 boat data (like the AIS seen above), provided over WiFi by one of its many black box hardware options. But then a look at the Miix 2 on Amazon revealed a sailing reviewer who’s very enthusiastic about this tablet as his primary nav device, running free OpenCPN software…

Before discussing the Lenovo tablet as a DIY chart plotter, here’s a SmarterTrack screen shot showing the tablet’s 1,280 x 800 pixel resolution (minus the bottom menu bar seen in the top photo). A significant feature of this setup as a second station is that a user can copy the Navionics chart card they’re using in their MFD to the tablet, including the latest Navionics+ with “Freshest Data” and SonarChart updates. SmarterTrack also seems quite adept at AIS plotting, able to graphically forecast Closest Point of Approach (CPA) situations as illustrated above. (It’s pure coincidence that my Raymariner experience last week included those same River Hamble waters.)

This image shows the Lenovo Miix2 working at the helm of a Catalina 250 on the Delaware River, and apparently, owner Rick S. is not only happy with the display, but did enough research to claim its daylight viewability is better than all the Windows 8 competitors out there right now. Besides that Amazon review, Rick has explained his nav system in detail on this Sailnet thread titled “Chart plotter or iPad.” It’s a good read if you’re interested in how this choice may play out, as I think both sides are well represented.

Rick is also an evangelist for OpenCPN, as you’ll find on this Cruisersforum OCPN thread — where he posts as “RhythmDoctor” — and in this tablet discussion. I’m not familiar with OpenCPN — Rick’s screen shot above was taken on the netbook that preceded the Windows tablet — but it obviously has a lot of fans, and Bill Bishop recently covered a new team effort in open source boat data called Signal K that might benefit efforts like OpenCPN significantly. Plus, Furuno really did come out with the 1st Watch DRS4W WiFi-only Radar (though Furuno USA doesn’t seem interested, and I don’t understand its value myself). I remain interested in all these developments, but I’m unable to envision tablets taking over navigation on a boat like mine any time soon. So I appreciate how Rick S is often careful to state that he sails in protected waters (though with lots of AIS traffic). I also notice that the Lenovo Miix2 is listed as “sold out” by the manufacturer and newer models are not specific about screen brightness.

But what happens when powerful, weatherproof, high-bright tablets come along at reasonable prices? In fact, last week I participated in a lively discussion on that topic in a very unlikely spot. Or perhaps it was the perfect spot, as the HMS Warrior — where Raymarine hosted a gala dinner on the gun deck — was apparently a marvel of warship technology in 1860 but soon became obsolete. Personally, I’m glad to have missed the opportunity to beta test the 110 pound breech loading guns, though muzzel loading 68 pound shells don’t seem appealing either. It was a heck of a spot to discuss the future of tablets and marine electronics, but several of the product guys and even the company’s general manager were up for it.

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

Podcast: Mentally Preparing to go Offshore

Tue, 2014-06-10 13:28

Welcome back! This week is a seminar Andy recorded at the Cruiser’s University in Annapolis during the Spring Sailboat Show. People talk endlessly about preparing their boats to go offshore, but what about their brains? Andy spends over an hour going through the stages of a voyage, from preparation through to landfall, and discusses the common anxieties, what to expect, and how to keep it all in perspective. Enjoy!

AC-n-SF, Game Over or Game On?

Tue, 2014-06-10 13:19

By Kimball Livingston Posted June 10, 20145

San Diego-based Bernie Wilson is reporting for the Associated Press that San Francisco Bay is out of the running as a venue for the 2017 America’s Cup match, so you have to believe that, just maybe, San Francisco Bay is out of the running as a venue for the 2017 America’s Cup match. Or, this could be the final-final point of leverage. It’s not as though there haven’t been talks, very recently, at City Hall. And it’s not as though anybody thinks there is a better place to run the races.

But, as the Godfather’s folks would say, “It’s just business.”

Ask Ben Ainslie, seen above with a fellow sailing enthusiast, the Duchess of Cambridge, announcing that the elements of a British challenge have fallen into place.

But first, Bernie Wilson’s account” which reads, in part—

“Russell Coutts, the CEO of two-time defending champion Oracle Team USA, told The Associated Press on Monday night that one venue has been eliminated, and that he plans to reduce the field to two by the end of June.

Coutts wouldn’t confirm which city is out. But it’s been known for months that San Francisco — the hometown of Oracle Team USA — hasn’t offered terms as attractive as those offered by San Diego, Bermuda and Chicago to host the final rounds of the 2017 regatta.

Officials in San Francisco didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Bob Nelson, the chairman of the board of commissioners at the Unified Port of San Diego, confirmed that his city’s bid has advanced.”

The other potential venues in the line of chatter are Chicago and Bermuda.

Curious and curiouser.

Meanwhile, four-time gold medalist Ben Ainslie has made his America’s Cup challenge official. The word from the PR team:

Sir Ben announced his challenge with Yacht Squadron Racing, saying: “This is the last great historic sporting prize never won by Great Britain. It has always been my ambition to mount a home challenge. The time is right and I am hugely encouraged by the support we are getting, not least from the Duchess of Cambridge. I learned a great deal aboard Oracle in San Francisco and I would not be challenging if I did not believe we have a real chance of winning this time.”

the world’s most successful Olympic sailor after winning a fourth gold medal in London 2012, and quickly turned his attention to his long term ambition – winning the America’s Cup for Britain. In 2013, Ainslie became the first Briton to be part of a winning America’s Cup team in 110 years with ORACLE TEAM USA. He played a vital role in one of the greatest comebacks sport has ever seen, overturning an 8:1 deficit to Team New Zealand, and allowing the USA to retain the trophy. Now Ainslie is planning to take the trophy from the Americans in 2017, and bring the America’s Cup back to Britain with his team, Ben Ainslie Racing (BAR).

Sir Charles Dunstone, Chairman of BAR’s Board said: “This campaign is about righting a wrong. We have never won it. We have an amazing maritime history. The Cup has to come home, we have to do that.”

The team announced that it will be representing Yacht Squadron Racing, which is affiliated to the Royal Yacht Squadron, and it means that should BAR be successful and win the Cup for Britain it will bring it back to Cowes and the place where it all began 163 years ago. Royal Yacht Squadron Commodore, Christopher Sharples, said, “We are absolutely delighted to be working with our member Sir Ben Ainslie in his patriotic quest to bring the America’s Cup back to Britain. Since losing the original race in 1851, the Squadron have made a number of unsuccessful attempts to win the Cup, the previous and most recent occasion was in 1958. Sir Ben has impressed us with his incredible track record, his total commitment, his ability to build a most impressive management team and recruit some of the world’s top sailors and designers with the relevant experience.”

BAR has been in gestation since 2011, when Ainslie first started to look ahead to life beyond the Olympics. He spoke with ORACLE TEAM USA (OTUSA) CEO, Russell Coutts with the sole intention of trying to buy an AC45 multihull to compete in the 2012/13 America’s Cup World Series. Coutts had a better idea and instead offered him a job with the Americans. Ainslie subsequently negotiated both a role with OTUSA and his own World Series entry for BAR. It worked out well for both OTUSA and Ainslie, who gathered crucial experience; and as a result of circumstances, found himself substituted onto the US boat in the tactician’s role for the 34th America’s Cup.

The spectacular 9:8 OTUSA victory provided the perfect springboard for Ainslie to return to the UK and seek support for a British effort. The first meetings last October were with Sir Charles Dunstone and Sir Keith Mills, their unwavering commitment gave Ainslie the courage to push on to find other private investors to build a viable British challenge. Subsequent backing came in the form of Chris Bake, Peter Dubens, Lord Irvine Laidlaw, Ian Taylor and Jon Wood. Ex-head of the BBC, Channel 4 and ITV and a keen sailor, Lord Michael Grade was asked and agreed to take on the role as an independent board member alongside Linklaters Chairman and Senior Partner Robert Elliott.

The early investment was critical to building a successful team behind the scenes with the America’s Cup predominantly being a design contest. Following the 2013 Cup, the transfer market for the top design talent was predictably hot, but the private investor funding already achieved made it possible to attract several top names.

Ben Ainslie Racing Team Members

Investor Group and Board Members

Sir Charles Dunstone – Founding Shareholder and Chairman

Sir Keith Mills GBE – Founding Shareholder and Board Member

Chris Bake – Founding Shareholder and Board Member

Peter Dubens – Founding Shareholder

Robert Elliott – Independent Board Member

Lord Michael Grade CBE – Independent Board Member

Lord Irvine Laidlaw – Founding Shareholder

Ian Taylor – Founding Shareholder

Jon Wood – Founding Shareholder and Board Member

Management Team

Sir Ben Ainslie (GBR) – Team Principal and Skipper

Jono Macbeth (NZL) – Sailing Team Manager and Sailor

Andy Claughton (GBR) – Technical Director

Andy Hindley (GBR) – Chief Operating Officer and Chief Finance Officer

James Stagg (GBR) – Shore Team Manager

Jo Grindley (GBR) – Head of Commercial, Marketing, Communications and Events

Design Team

Andy Claughton (GBR) – Design and Naval Architecture

Dirk Kramers (NED/USA) – Design and Engineering

Clay Oliver (USA) – Design and Performance Simulation

Rodrigo Azcueta (ARG) – Design and Computational Fluid Dynamics

Luc du Bois (SUI) – Instrumentation and Performance Analysis

Francisco Azevedo (POR) – 3D Modelling

Jason Ker (GBR) – Design and Naval Architecture

Matteo Ledri (ITA) – Computational Fluid Dynamics

Johannes Mausolf (GER) – Performance Prediction and Software Development

Benjamin Muyl (FRA) – Design and Naval Architecture

Simon Schofield (GBR) – 3D Design and Modelling

Benjamin Vernieres (FRA) – 3D Modelling

Sailing Team

Sir Ben Ainslie (GBR) – Skipper

Jono Macbeth (NZL) – Sailing Team Manager

Andy McLean (NZL)– Sailing and Design Team Liaison

David Carr (GBR) – Sailing Team

Matt Cornwell (GBR) – Sailing Team

Nick Hutton (GBR) – Sailing Team

Tough first leg for the ARC DelMarVa Rally

Tue, 2014-06-10 12:19

The inaugural ARC DelMarVa Rally – 450 Miles around the DelMarVa Peninsula – got underway in Annapolis on Sunday, with 21 yachts taking the starting line off Back Creek (with two more joining in Portsmouth). And if it weren’t for the rough, tiring conditions over the next 36 hours, we’d have had a news story up on the website much sooner!

It didn’t look like it was going to turn out this way. As of 1700 on Saturday evening, Mia and I were lamenting the lack of breeze at the Skipper’s Briefing, held at J/World Annapolis in Eastport – complete with a keg of local Fordham Copperhead Ale. The forecast was for light southerlies, if anything, and we advised everyone to fill up on fuel. We should have advised them to fill up on Dramamine instead!

The start itself was calm, with just enough breeze to see Kayode, a Tanton 44, take the lead across the line, closely edging out the much racier J/105 Diffugere Nives. The rest of the fleet followed, tacking out the Severn River on a foul before rounding Tolly Point and entering the Chesapeake Bay proper. Mia, my dad, Marcia and I followed suit on Sojourner, which we used as the committee vessel. They say boats are never quite ‘ready’ for sea, but in our case that was an understatement. We still had to hoist the newly repaired genoa after setting the start line, but finally got underway and followed the fleet down the Bay.

“For a while there it was one of the best days sailing we’ve ever had,” said John on Diffugere Nives, the J/105. “We were tacking back and forth across the Bay, making runs in excess of 8 knots. It was gorgeous!”

The calm conditions did not persist. The south breeze filled in quite nicely at first, but then never stopped. By late afternoon it was blowing over 20 knots, and never relented. Aboard Sojourner, we weren’t expecting the conditions and had in fact de-rigged our solent stay and stowed the small jib, rigging instead the big genoa in anticipation of the light winds. So up to the foredeck we went, re-rigging the stay and hanking on the small jib, the sail which my dad had gotten so much use out of on the 1500 last fall when the fleet set out offshore into 30 knot northerlies.

By nightfall, the wind was a steady 18-20, with higher gusts, and the ugly ‘Chesapeake Chop’ had kicked in. Smartly, most boats – including us on Sojourner – gave up the tacking duel and started motorsailing by nightfall, if nothing else to let the crew get some rest. Tacking every few miles is exhausting work, and requires two people in the cockpit. Motorsailing takes only one, and the rest of the crew can sleep. The noise of the engine, for me anyway, is the best sleep aid there is.

All night the south wind never relented, and by morning – when we should have been approaching Hampton Roads – we were only near Solomon’s, barely halfway down the Bay. Yesterday Sojourner, Diff Nives and Sea Quinn stopped for fuel in Deltaville. We had used a whopping 23 gallons! While the other two boats wisely chose to stay the night, we pushed on aboard Sojourner and spent another long evening at sea.

We finally arrived off Hampton Roads around 10pm last night, and as we headed west into the river, set the genoa again and had a beautiful sail into the Norfolk area, finally cutting the engine and enjoying what we’d set out to do in the first place. Sail, that is.

As of noon today, Tuesday, most of the fleet had arrived into Ocean Marine Yacht Center in Portsmouth, happy to be there and enjoy some needed rest. Three boats – Andante, Island Gal and Adamantine – have elected to leave the rally and cruise the Bay. They plan to join us in Annapolis for the final party back in Annapolis.

“I never had to cook a meal in those conditions before!” said Jon Cohen from the Pacific Seacraft 34 Ruach.

Aboard Seabee, one crewmember was so seasick that when some spray knocked the crackers from his hand and onto his shirt, he simply left them there. “It’s not what it looks like!” he promised.

With Leg 1 complete, the fleet is now 1/3 of the way to completing what for many will be the biggest challenge of their sailing careers (though hopefully not the last!). And with the tough conditions on the Bay, combined with the navigational challenges of sailing in a confined space at night, plus the shipping traffic, crews should be very proud to have made it to Portsmouth. In fact, in the dozens of times I’ve sailed the length of the Bay nonstop, this has easily been the longest. Leg 2 is set to depart tomorrow morning, with a (knock on wood) better weather forecast, so here’s to hoping that the hardest part is in the books.

Follow the fleet at worldcruising.com/arcdelmarva.

New Raymarine a9, a12 & gS19 — aboard the mighty Raymariner

Mon, 2014-06-09 13:00

Written by Ben Ellison on Jun 9, 2014 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub

Raymarine recently announced three new multifunction displays, extending the multitouch aSeries to 9- and 12-inch screen sizes, and the glass bridge gS Series to 19 inches (the proportions of my collage are approximate). Given four additional a9 and a12 models with digital sounder or Chirp DownVision built in and the fact that all these new MFDs can network with all the aSeries, cSeries (non touch), eSeries (hybrid touch), and gS models already available, is any other manufacturer offering so much choice? They all run the same software — now up to Lighthouse II, release 10 — so you may already be familiar with most of the features, but the new MFDs do have a few new hardware highlights, some of which I got to see in action aboard Raymarine’s remarkable testing vessel…

Raymariner is a highly customized Hardy 42. The abundance of wind sensors, radar scanners, and GPS mushrooms visible in this photo only hint at what’s inside. In this scene some of the 20 boating writers invited to England last week are being put on a dock in Cowes so they could try other demo boats while a few of us rode Raymariner back to her home dock on the River Hamble. Sitting middle seat above is my colleague Chris Landry, who’s already written an informative Trade Only piece on Raymariner.

The next day I enjoyed more time on the Solent aboard Raymariner, when she was back to work. Here you can see four of the eight main testing stations, each with a big removable panel which can be set up with displays back at the R&D center in Fareham. I forgot to ask but presume that on some days you’d see competitor products getting reviewed here. But on this day I found Tony Jesshope — a once-retired Motorola engineer and never-to-retire local sailor — doing some final checks on the new “10Hz Fast Acquisition GPS with GLONASS, WAAS / EGNOS /MSAS” built into the a12 (and a9). Note the extensive patch panel, which meant in this case that Tony could easily unplug the optional external GPS antenna…

The performance I saw was stunning. With the exterior antenna attached, the a12 got a fix very quickly and was soon using 22 satellites — note that the signal strength bar chart scrolls — with an EHPE (estimated horizontal position error, or 50% confidence circle) of one foot! Jesshope showed me how the a12 recovered gracefully from an antenna “failure” though this status screen showed a performance drop, and even more of one when he put his hands over the internal antenna that runs along the display’s top edge (though it was still delivering a valid fix). He also showed me how a LightHouse II diagnostic screen can indicate which GPS antenna is in use. I’ve already noticed great improvements in Ray diagnostics, particularly regarding third party NMEA 2000 devices, and this was more evidence.

I’d seen the multi sonar module support that arrived with LightHouse R10 on one of the demo boats (and yesterday on Gizmo), but I doubt that anyone will ever stress the feature to this extent. What’s happening here is that we’ve set up a new favorites page with four sonar windows and now we’re being asked which “sonar channel” we’d like to see in each one. I can’t count the possibilities because this particular a12 has an internal sonar module and it’s networked to an a97 with built-in dual frequency sonar plus one each of Ray’s three black box fishfinders, all of which offer multiple modes and may even have more than one transducer attached. Note the informative text and graphics describing what the attached CP450 is capable of, and also the ability to turn pinging off if you run into an interference issue (which seemed quite possible in this case ;-). The bottom line is that fisherman or other sonar fiends can have nearly infinite sensors and can set up favorites pages that display the channels they want for a particular purpose, apparently with all settings saved.

The bigger picture is that Raymariner — there’s also FLIRtacious in California, and many volunteer test vessels — is a terriffic tool for testing the bejesus out of marine electronics. I can’t talk specifics about the LightHouse R11 update that was also being stressed out last Thursday, but it does involve radar display synchronization and the tester was making the driver do high-speed maneuvers that most of us will never try. Helping R&D wring out new features and software is one thing, but Tony also showed me an elaborate test protocol on his laptop that gets applied in real world conditions to every model every time anything changes.

Raymariner also had a new gS195 mounted next to the real lower helm station. It’s very fast and you can see its vast screen area compared to the captain’s e12 (which is sporting an extra wide bezel refit kit). Note the RMK-9 keypad; it’s still primarily marketed as a gS Series accessory but in fact it can also extend hybrid touch to an aSeries (as can the Remote app on a smartphone, sort of). The small hardware change in the gS195 is the addition of an HD-SDI video input port. I’d never heard of the protocol myself but was told it’s “future proofing” and also notice that Raymarine is now offering even FLIR’s top end marine camera systems. Meanwhile, another feature of the new a9 and a12 models is support for analog as well as IP video — perhaps because making IP boat cameras is harder than anticipated? — and also the inclusion of a SeaTalkNG to DeviceNet adaptor cable with every unit (see “in the box” here). Many of us have known for a long time that STng and N2K work together fine, but having Raymarine declare that in such a material way is a good thing.

Of course I was also fascinated by the technology behind a test vessel that can support so much equipment. Here’s a view of the networking wall in an aft utility cabin. Note how much updating must have happened when the relatively new RayNet Ethernet connector and HS5 switches came out (discussed here on Panbo). Also tucked away somewhere is a massive battery bank and various heavy duty inverters and DC voltage converters. And besides “four rows” of fixed sonar transducers, Raymariner also has two “moon pools” like the one below. Those three Airmar CHIRP transducers were installed in a blank fiberglass form that was then swapped with the one already bolted into the boat’s starboard casing, no haul out required. Does anyone know of such a well-equiped marine electronics test vessel?

But an able test vessel doesn’t mean much if the manufacturer involved doesn’t also have solid R&D and manufacturing processes in place, which I believe Raymarine does. I think it’s quite visible in the current product lines and quarterly LightHouse updates, and I saw more detail of how it works in England, which I will write about soon. The story also has a people aspect, suggested in part by the photo below. First note the forest of masts in the background; this southern coast section of the big island has a huge recreational boat population, as well as a huge maritime history (as I saw a bit of on HMS Medusa). Now consider the seasoned engineer and mariner who drove Raymariner for the demo day. I didn’t get to talk with Derek Gilbert much, but I know he currently manages Raymarine’s global customer support department (U.S. excepted) and has worked for the company since 1986. That means he was part of the Autohelm team that Raytheon acquired in 1990 to backbone its recreational marine division, was there for the leveraged buy-out that created “Raymarine”, etc. etc…timeline here. We tend to think of Raymarine as a company that’s been through a lot of changes, even hard knocks, in the last decade, and it has; but there’s also a salty core of expertise that been there all along and now with some guidance from FLIR seems to be maximizing its potential.

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OPEN 60 REFIT: Great American IV Ready to Sail

Mon, 2014-06-09 11:27

While dropping in occasionally at Maine Yacht Center over the winter to keep tabs on my own boat, I always had half an eyeball on Rich Wilson’s new IMOCA Open 60, Great American IV (ex-Mirabaud), which was undergoing a refit for Wilson’s 2016 Vendee Globe bid. Recently, MYC general manager Brian Harris (see photo up top) gave me a nickel tour and told me about all the work they’d done.

I gather, as big race-boat refits go, this was a relatively modest one. Here’s the run-down:

Complete electrical refit, including all power storage and generating systems and all new wiring throughout the boat. Two new 200AH Genasun lithium-ion batteries were installed. These are nourished by two newly refurbished Watt & Sea hydro-generators with brand new controllers, by four new 50-watt Solbian flexible solar panels, and by a new 300-amp water-cooled direct-drive (no belt or bracket) Nanni engine alternator with a new water-cooled regulator. Wiring for a wind-generator to be mounted later was also installed.

All new spaghetti everywhere. This is the back of the nav station, showing only some of the new wiring that was installed

The heart of the new electrical system. These two lithium-ion batteries weigh almost nothing, take up little space, and together form a 400AH house bank

That blue thing stuck between the saildrive transmission and the main body of the engine is the direct-drive alternator. This was a new one on me. You can see the plumbing for the water-cooling, which helps keep this puppy super-efficient, as alternators really hate heat. Rated at 300 amps, it actually puts out almost that much in real life, so Brian tells me, which means you can crank up the batteries from almost nothing in a little over an hour!

The alternator’s brain, a new Iskra regulator, is also water-cooled

New navigation station and galley module. To make the boat more comfortable and habitable for Wilson, an older sailor who will often be communicating with shore and creating educational content to send to his Sites Alive Foundation, a new larger nav desk was designed and built from Corecell foam, E-glass, and epoxy resin. A more substantial galley with a fixed sink, a dedicated stove mount, and dedicated storage areas was also built and installed, and the cabin layout was altered to create an area with standing headroom by the companionway.

The new nav station with a gimballed combination bench-seat/berth. The molded seat back is removable

The new galley module. It may not look like much, but on an Open 60 this is considered super deluxe

All major sailing foils serviced. The moveable canting keel and daggerboards were all removed so the keel bearing and daggerboard cassette bearings could be serviced. The bearings on the twin rudders were also serviced.

The canting keel, minus the hull

Running rigging modifications. One set of mast deflectors was removed from the existing running backstays and an additional set of backstays was installed to make the backstays overall easier to handle and more secure. Sheet leads were relocated and a symmetrical continuous-line in-hauler was installed on the jib trim rings (allowing adjustments to lead angles to be made on both sides of the boat simultaneously). Various rope clutches were also relocated.

On most Open 60s there’s just one running back on each side, with “deflectors” that pull it in against the mast at different locations so that it can back up different headsails on different forward stays. Rich wanted an extra backstay on each side, with fewer deflectors. This is heavier and creates more windage, but is more secure and easier to handle

The new continuous-line in-hauler (left of the trim ring in this photo) resets lead angles on both sides of the boat, so you don’t have to worry about what happens after you tack

Deck modifications. To improve security on deck the lifeline height was increased and the number of lifelines was increased from two to three. This necessitated the installation of all new stanchion posts and the fabrication and installation of new bow and aft pulpits. New cabintop handrails were also installed. The boat’s tiller was modified from a cumbersome yoke configuration to a simpler single inline tiller. All Harken winches and the winch pedestal were also serviced.

Higher lifelines and more of them. Again, its heavier this way, but safer

New handrails along the house make it much easier to move safely between the cockpit and deck

A one-stick tiller. It’s simpler and takes up less space

Electronics upgrades. New navigation electronics, new computers, and a new data network were installed. A new remote video system was designed and installed, with two exterior and one interior remote cameras. New processors were installed for the B&G autopilots, and a new Iridium satellite phone system was also installed.

New watermakers. A new reverse-osmosis watermaking system was installed.

Next I’m hoping to get to actually go for a sail on this thing. Brian keeps mentioning it; I just hope it happens for real!

US Volvo Entry Expected Monday in Newport, RI

Sun, 2014-06-08 14:27

WHAT: Team Alvimedica, the American entry in the Volvo Ocean Race, is expected to arrive to Newport, RI Monday, June 9 in the late afternoon/early evening following a challenging 3,000 mile transatlantic training leg.

WHO: Skipper Charlie Enright of Bristol RI, 29, and crew member Mark Towill, 25, Kaneohe, HI. Other Rhode Islanders on board include Nick Dana of Newport, Jesse Fielding of North Kingstown, and photographer/videogeapher Amory Ross of Newport.

Families of the Team and many local supporters of the Team will be at the dock to greet the crew who are about to complete their first transatlantic training run for the around the world race. The team departed from Portugal on May 30 bound for Newport.

The young team, preparing for its first Volvo Ocean Race, will train in Newport until July 9 when the team sails back to Europe for the Spain race start. The team will use the Newport session to select its final race crew.

WHY: Newport is the only USA stopover in the 38,000-mile race.

Tense moments and unanswered questions

Sat, 2014-06-07 22:08

Pulling out the jib was an unexpected bonus as we sailed south from the islands of Langkawi.It’s more than 400 miles from there to Singapore, and we hoped to break it up with extended visits in Penang and Malacca to experience the interesting food, culture, and history they offer. But service delays stole that time, so we had to hustle south instead. The transit has turned out to be a string of strange encounters and some stressful situations.

We tried fishing for a while, even though we knew there wasn’t much chance of a catch.  After reeling in several varieties of “plastic bag fish”, we kept our lines on board. Then, all the dead fish started to show up.

We had heard of large fish die-offs reported in other parts of the world, but don’t know where the conspiracy theorist reports end and real concern begins. It’s common knowledge that this area is over fished, but we didn’t expect to see evidence of a local die off – especially one that involved so many fish. But we passed thousands of dead fish, like this one, between Penang and Pangkor. What was the cause?

Off Pangkor, our chain wrapped around a large, abandoned anchor. Jamie was able to lasso a fluke to wrestle it off, but the pretty light of dawn didn’t make it any better. I’m grateful Totem has a robust windlass!

Large vessels ply the waters near coastal ports. This huge barge passed behind Honey at Pangkor, where the catamaran was anchored just outside the channel for a night.

Seeing smoke on the horizon, we angled toward a boat that appeared to be on fire.

On closer examination, it was just normal operation. Double whammy for the environment.

Much of what we see isn’t glossy magazine spread Malaysia. It’s industrial developing Malaysia.

When the heat of the day passes, we linger in the cockpit during our evenings at anchor. At least, as long as the bugs don’t come out! One night we were descended upon by large flying cockroaches… I am not a fan.

Passing the shipping terminals at Port Klang early in the morning, we shared the channel with everything from massive cargo ships to wooden fishing boats taking a cue from fanciful sketches of Noah’s Ark. All interesting, until our engine overheated and was shut down at the south end of the entrance channel.

This was a convergence point where large ships enter the port from the Straits of Malacca: not a good place to have compromised navigation capabilities. With lots of current, little wind, and a chopped up sea, it was cause for serious concern.

Thankfully, we had a working engine and steerage before boats this big were too close, but there were tense moments and it dragged out long enough that we were getting tow lines out to throw to SV Utopia. Look closely to see the small, southbound sailboat chose to tacking alongside: probably not as close as it looks, but not where I’d want to be.

We were underway soon enough, but slightly stressed about the unknown root cause for our engine overheating. Nothing like a flyby visit from a couple of powered paragliders to lighten things up a little!

In Port Dickson, we stopped to break for a few days at the lovely Admiral Marina. It’s a pretty resort with a nice, protected facility for cruisers and residential yachts. The collected kids between our boat and two companions numbered eleven altogether, and made for epic games of Marco Polo at the pool. But our reprieve was broken when problems with dock wiring damaged our battery charger and nearly caused a fire. It’s extremely fortunate we were on board at the time and able to shut it down before it got out of control. This facility takes customer service more seriously than any other marina we have experienced in Malaysia, and is working with us to replace the damaged equipment.

Down the dock, the caregiver for a boat with an absentee owner encountered acrid fumes on board. Uncertain what was wrong, she solicited help from cruisers on the dock. Jamie’s instinct was the battery bank:  after a quick search, he found the batteries snapping and crackling with heat. He quickly disconnected them from power inputs and got off the boat, but it was extremely dangerous as the batteries are highly explosive and full of acid. Even just a few minutes in the cabin left him with sore eyes for a day, but the alternative was a major boat fire in the marina.

Our stop in Port Dickson was partly for a follow up from the Yanmar service that helped us with the tune up. The alternator belt replaced in Langkawi was loose, a possible root cause for the overheating we experienced earlier. It’s tightened, and we cross our fingers.

Today we’ll reach Puteri Harbour, our last stop before Singapore. There were no tours of Penang or Malacca on our journey south on the Malay peninsula, but sometimes you just have to put miles under the keel. The disappointment is easy to put in perspective, since we’ll probably be back this way in November and can make it up then. Meanwhile, the engine has overheated again…

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

Tense moments and unanswered questions

Sat, 2014-06-07 22:08

Pulling out the jib was an unexpected bonus as we sailed south from the islands of Langkawi.It’s more than 400 miles from there to Singapore, and we hoped to break it up with extended visits in Penang and Malacca to experience the interesting food, culture, and history they offer. But service delays stole that time, so we had to hustle south instead. The transit has turned out to be a string of strange encounters and some stressful situations.

We tried fishing for a while, even though we knew there wasn’t much chance of a catch.  After reeling in several varieties of “plastic bag fish”, we kept our lines on board. Then, all the dead fish started to show up.

We had heard of large fish die-offs reported in other parts of the world, but don’t know where the conspiracy theorist reports end and real concern begins. It’s common knowledge that this area is over fished, but we didn’t expect to see evidence of a local die off – especially one that involved so many fish. But we passed thousands of dead fish, like this one, between Penang and Pangkor. What was the cause?

Off Pangkor, our chain wrapped around a large, abandoned anchor. Jamie was able to lasso a fluke to wrestle it off, but the pretty light of dawn didn’t make it any better. I’m grateful Totem has a robust windlass!

Large vessels ply the waters near coastal ports. This huge barge passed behind Honey at Pangkor, where the catamaran was anchored just outside the channel for a night.

Seeing smoke on the horizon, we angled toward a boat that appeared to be on fire.

On closer examination, it was just normal operation. Double whammy for the environment.

Much of what we see isn’t glossy magazine spread Malaysia. It’s industrial developing Malaysia.

When the heat of the day passes, we linger in the cockpit during our evenings at anchor. At least, as long as the bugs don’t come out! One night we were descended upon by large flying cockroaches… I am not a fan.

Passing the shipping terminals at Port Klang early in the morning, we shared the channel with everything from massive cargo ships to wooden fishing boats taking a cue from fanciful sketches of Noah’s Ark. All interesting, until our engine overheated and was shut down at the south end of the entrance channel.

This was a convergence point where large ships enter the port from the Straits of Malacca: not a good place to have compromised navigation capabilities. With lots of current, little wind, and a chopped up sea, it was cause for serious concern.

Thankfully, we had a working engine and steerage before boats this big were too close, but there were tense moments and it dragged out long enough that we were getting tow lines out to throw to SV Utopia. Look closely to see the small, southbound sailboat chose to tacking alongside: probably not as close as it looks, but not where I’d want to be.

We were underway soon enough, but slightly stressed about the unknown root cause for our engine overheating. Nothing like a flyby visit from a couple of powered paragliders to lighten things up a little!

In Port Dickson, we stopped to break for a few days at the lovely Admiral Marina. It’s a pretty resort with a nice, protected facility for cruisers and residential yachts. The collected kids between our boat and two companions numbered eleven altogether, and made for epic games of Marco Polo at the pool. But our reprieve was broken when problems with dock wiring damaged our battery charger and nearly caused a fire. It’s extremely fortunate we were on board at the time and able to shut it down before it got out of control. This facility takes customer service more seriously than any other marina we have experienced in Malaysia, and is working with us to replace the damaged equipment.

Down the dock, the caregiver for a boat with an absentee owner encountered acrid fumes on board. Uncertain what was wrong, she solicited help from cruisers on the dock. Jamie’s instinct was the battery bank:  after a quick search, he found the batteries snapping and crackling with heat. He quickly disconnected them from power inputs and got off the boat, but it was extremely dangerous as the batteries are highly explosive and full of acid. Even just a few minutes in the cabin left him with sore eyes for a day, but the alternative was a major boat fire in the marina.

Our stop in Port Dickson was partly for a follow up from the Yanmar service that helped us with the tune up. The alternator belt replaced in Langkawi was loose, a possible root cause for the overheating we experienced earlier. It’s tightened, and we cross our fingers.

Today we’ll reach Puteri Harbour, our last stop before Singapore. There were no tours of Penang or Malacca on our journey south on the Malay peninsula, but sometimes you just have to put miles under the keel. The disappointment is easy to put in perspective, since we’ll probably be back this way in November and can make it up then. Meanwhile, the engine has overheated again…

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

Communication Breakdown: Helping Family Let Go

Sat, 2014-06-07 18:32

Around about now, I expect I am somewhere on the East coast, dining out with friends.  Worried about exactly where I am? I’m used to that. Back in the day, some well-meaning family members got a little nervous about our whereabouts, too.

Originally posted as Calling All Worrywarts, or, Next Stop, 1996! on December 15, 2010
As this little blog has grown, I have gotten the odd bit of mail from you, my dear readers.  Most of it is kind.  Some of it is mystifying.  But much of it comes from landlubberly types.  With that in mind, it is time for the educational (or, as Stylish, age 3, would have put it, edumacational) portion of our blog.  This will take the form of a Q&A with concerned readers Heckle and Jeckle.  Today’s topic is:

When do we call the Coast Guard?   “I’m concerned about this sailing business, old bean!

Heckle & Jeckle:  Look here, Papillon Crew.  Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.  You move around too much.  You don’t move around enough.  Your track goes higgeldy piggeldy, hither and yon.  Your track has gaps.  Your track goes impossible places.  You stopped in the middle of the ocean.  All you do is write blog posts.  You never write blog posts.  You don’t answer emails.  You don’t take calls.  All this makes me anxious.  How will you ever get help without us?  We’re calling the Coast Guard. Papillon Crew:  No, you’re not. H&J:  But… PC:  No. H&J:  Oh, come on… PC:  No. H&J:  Fine then!  Explain yourselves. PC:  Avec plaisir.  Let’s go through our issues in order. Complaint #1:  I disapprove of your frequency of movement! Response:  In the early days, we moved almost every day.  That is because a) we needed the practice, and b) it was getting very, very cold in the Chesapeake.  And if there is one thing I object to in this life, it is being cold.  As we reached points south, the weather improved.  (Well, not here in Florida, apparently.  It is frigid here.)  Otherwise, hurray.  And so we started to linger.  Contrary to what you may think, we are out on this tub to loaf about in the tropics.  We aren’t trying to circumnavigate, or race, or do anything else that would involve a lot of moving.  Yes, we want to have fun sailing, but we also want to drop anchor and swim.  And make sandcastles.  And fly kites.  You get the picture. Summary:  We’ll move when we feel like it and not before. Complaint #2:  Your tracker is misleading, confusing, and makes me worried!  Response:  Our Spot, while a nifty little gadget, has its flaws.  First, it will only track us for 24 hours at a time.  After that, we have to press the button again to keep it going.  That may not sound like much, but we’re usually otherwise occupied on passage with things like fatigue, feeding children, and whichever alternator has caught fire that day.  So, a few hours go by before we remember Spot.  Thus, the gap. Also, batteries die.  With the aforementioned feeding and fires, we also don’t always have time to change out batteries the moment Spot dies.  Result: more gaps. As for the funny tracks, Papillon is a sailing vessel.  When we need to muck around with the sails, we turn head-to-wind.  It may look like we are veering off-course, but really we’re just changing something.  Keep watching and… see?  Back on course. As for those mid-trip float-abouts, they are occasionally a necessary evil for rather benign reasons.  If we find that our current course and speed will get us into port in the middle of the night, we need to choose: speed up or slow down.  Unlike in a car, there is only so much velocity-adjustment you can practically do.  Tides, currents, wind speed… all of these things constrain us.  Once in a while, we’ll choose to heave-to and just float around for a while on a calm day.  That may get us in at 7 am instead of 3 am, which is much, much safer. Summary:  Spot is spotty and sailing means funny tracks. Complaint #3:  Your communication stinks. Response:  Well, now.  Our boat has an aluminum hull.  That means we live in a big Faraday cage.  We don’t get signals down below – not internet, not cell phone.  And the honest truth is, as time goes by, more often than not we forget we own these fancy devices.  We’re busy doing math with Stylish, or reading a book to Indy.  We’ve wandered off to the craft fair in town and forgotten to turn on the phone.  It isn’t that we don’t love you.  We are just doing other stuff. Plus, the internet hates us, and that is that.  Connections have been worse and worse as we moved south.  And I just won’t waste an hour every night trying to suck my email over the three seconds of connection I manage to grab. Summary:  Our boat is rejecting your call. Don’t take it personally. Complaint #4:  You have no concept of safety and can’t take care of yourselves, you tiny babies. Response:  Hold on.  My eyes have rolled right back in my head and I can’t see to type. Ohhhkaaaay.  Here’s what we’ve got, just off the top of my head, in case of trouble: Warning systems: Fire alarms.  Carbon monoxide detectors.  Erik’s inhuman hearing.  AIS so big ol’ ships know we’re there. Preparedness training:  Man overboard drills.  Fire drills (kids included).  And I mean full dry runs, right up to mock-activating the life raft. Response systems: Fire extinguishers.  Fire blankets.  Self-inflating life raft with food onboard.  Communications:  VHF to talk to your friends the Coast Guard.  SSB for offshore.  An EPIRB registered to our vessel which automatically gives all of our information to the Coast Guard, and has its own GPS unit.  It is independent of all other boat systems, and would go with us if we abandon ship. Natural suspicion:  I don’t pick up hitchhikers, and if you think I’m inviting anyone strange onboard without pointing a flare gun in their face, you don’t know me very well.  We will radio for help for other people, but my kids come first. Summary:  For reals, we know how and when to get help. H&J:  Yeah, okay.  I guess you’ve thought of a few things.  But I want to be connected to you right now! PC:   Tough nuts. H&J:  Hey! PC:  No, seriously.  During university, I spent a month on my own in Indonesia for a research project.  There was rioting in Jakarta just before I went.  Towns I visited got burned down after I left. And did anyone panic because they couldn’t reach tiny Amy during this dangerous time?  No.  Because it was 1996.  No one expected me to have access to a phone or email during those prehistoric days.  Everyone had to trust I was okay, and wait for a postcard. So here is the deal.  We are all going to pretend that it is 1996.  Jump into your DeLorean and visit us in the past, because that’s where our communications systems are living.  “Could you give Papillon a message for me?” H&J:  We’re still calling the Coast Guard. PC:  Like fun you are.  Those people are busy with real problems – real problems, incidentally, that we have heard and even helped with on our aforementioned VHF radio – and they don’t have the resources to hold your hand.  Plus, if we get blacklisted for fake calls, you’ll feel guilty forever that we can’t get help when we need it. H&J:  You’re mean. PC: I’ve come to terms with that. Reaction: June 2014 Yes, the anonymous Heckle and Jeckle did call the Coast Guard on us back in the day.  While we were at anchor. In Florida. And we hadn’t moved for a week.  But the internet went down and we hadn’t called home in a while… and we were too busy visiting the Space Center and enjoying ourselves to remember that the people back home were still getting used to our new life. Let this be a lesson to cruisers and family alike: don’t panic. Let people know how and when you will communicate, and do your best to stick to that. And leave the Coast Guard out of it.

Communication Breakdown: Helping Family Let Go

Sat, 2014-06-07 18:32

Around about now, I expect I am somewhere on the East coast, dining out with friends.  Worried about exactly where I am? I’m used to that. Back in the day, some well-meaning family members got a little nervous about our whereabouts, too.

Originally posted as Calling All Worrywarts, or, Next Stop, 1996! on December 15, 2010
As this little blog has grown, I have gotten the odd bit of mail from you, my dear readers.  Most of it is kind.  Some of it is mystifying.  But much of it comes from landlubberly types.  With that in mind, it is time for the educational (or, as Stylish, age 3, would have put it, edumacational) portion of our blog.  This will take the form of a Q&A with concerned readers Heckle and Jeckle.  Today’s topic is:

When do we call the Coast Guard?   “I’m concerned about this sailing business, old bean!

Heckle & Jeckle:  Look here, Papillon Crew.  Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.  You move around too much.  You don’t move around enough.  Your track goes higgeldy piggeldy, hither and yon.  Your track has gaps.  Your track goes impossible places.  You stopped in the middle of the ocean.  All you do is write blog posts.  You never write blog posts.  You don’t answer emails.  You don’t take calls.  All this makes me anxious.  How will you ever get help without us?  We’re calling the Coast Guard. Papillon Crew:  No, you’re not. H&J:  But… PC:  No. H&J:  Oh, come on… PC:  No. H&J:  Fine then!  Explain yourselves. PC:  Avec plaisir.  Let’s go through our issues in order. Complaint #1:  I disapprove of your frequency of movement! Response:  In the early days, we moved almost every day.  That is because a) we needed the practice, and b) it was getting very, very cold in the Chesapeake.  And if there is one thing I object to in this life, it is being cold.  As we reached points south, the weather improved.  (Well, not here in Florida, apparently.  It is frigid here.)  Otherwise, hurray.  And so we started to linger.  Contrary to what you may think, we are out on this tub to loaf about in the tropics.  We aren’t trying to circumnavigate, or race, or do anything else that would involve a lot of moving.  Yes, we want to have fun sailing, but we also want to drop anchor and swim.  And make sandcastles.  And fly kites.  You get the picture. Summary:  We’ll move when we feel like it and not before. Complaint #2:  Your tracker is misleading, confusing, and makes me worried!  Response:  Our Spot, while a nifty little gadget, has its flaws.  First, it will only track us for 24 hours at a time.  After that, we have to press the button again to keep it going.  That may not sound like much, but we’re usually otherwise occupied on passage with things like fatigue, feeding children, and whichever alternator has caught fire that day.  So, a few hours go by before we remember Spot.  Thus, the gap. Also, batteries die.  With the aforementioned feeding and fires, we also don’t always have time to change out batteries the moment Spot dies.  Result: more gaps. As for the funny tracks, Papillon is a sailing vessel.  When we need to muck around with the sails, we turn head-to-wind.  It may look like we are veering off-course, but really we’re just changing something.  Keep watching and… see?  Back on course. As for those mid-trip float-abouts, they are occasionally a necessary evil for rather benign reasons.  If we find that our current course and speed will get us into port in the middle of the night, we need to choose: speed up or slow down.  Unlike in a car, there is only so much velocity-adjustment you can practically do.  Tides, currents, wind speed… all of these things constrain us.  Once in a while, we’ll choose to heave-to and just float around for a while on a calm day.  That may get us in at 7 am instead of 3 am, which is much, much safer. Summary:  Spot is spotty and sailing means funny tracks. Complaint #3:  Your communication stinks. Response:  Well, now.  Our boat has an aluminum hull.  That means we live in a big Faraday cage.  We don’t get signals down below – not internet, not cell phone.  And the honest truth is, as time goes by, more often than not we forget we own these fancy devices.  We’re busy doing math with Stylish, or reading a book to Indy.  We’ve wandered off to the craft fair in town and forgotten to turn on the phone.  It isn’t that we don’t love you.  We are just doing other stuff. Plus, the internet hates us, and that is that.  Connections have been worse and worse as we moved south.  And I just won’t waste an hour every night trying to suck my email over the three seconds of connection I manage to grab. Summary:  Our boat is rejecting your call. Don’t take it personally. Complaint #4:  You have no concept of safety and can’t take care of yourselves, you tiny babies. Response:  Hold on.  My eyes have rolled right back in my head and I can’t see to type. Ohhhkaaaay.  Here’s what we’ve got, just off the top of my head, in case of trouble: Warning systems: Fire alarms.  Carbon monoxide detectors.  Erik’s inhuman hearing.  AIS so big ol’ ships know we’re there. Preparedness training:  Man overboard drills.  Fire drills (kids included).  And I mean full dry runs, right up to mock-activating the life raft. Response systems: Fire extinguishers.  Fire blankets.  Self-inflating life raft with food onboard.  Communications:  VHF to talk to your friends the Coast Guard.  SSB for offshore.  An EPIRB registered to our vessel which automatically gives all of our information to the Coast Guard, and has its own GPS unit.  It is independent of all other boat systems, and would go with us if we abandon ship. Natural suspicion:  I don’t pick up hitchhikers, and if you think I’m inviting anyone strange onboard without pointing a flare gun in their face, you don’t know me very well.  We will radio for help for other people, but my kids come first. Summary:  For reals, we know how and when to get help. H&J:  Yeah, okay.  I guess you’ve thought of a few things.  But I want to be connected to you right now! PC:   Tough nuts. H&J:  Hey! PC:  No, seriously.  During university, I spent a month on my own in Indonesia for a research project.  There was rioting in Jakarta just before I went.  Towns I visited got burned down after I left. And did anyone panic because they couldn’t reach tiny Amy during this dangerous time?  No.  Because it was 1996.  No one expected me to have access to a phone or email during those prehistoric days.  Everyone had to trust I was okay, and wait for a postcard. So here is the deal.  We are all going to pretend that it is 1996.  Jump into your DeLorean and visit us in the past, because that’s where our communications systems are living.  “Could you give Papillon a message for me?” H&J:  We’re still calling the Coast Guard. PC:  Like fun you are.  Those people are busy with real problems – real problems, incidentally, that we have heard and even helped with on our aforementioned VHF radio – and they don’t have the resources to hold your hand.  Plus, if we get blacklisted for fake calls, you’ll feel guilty forever that we can’t get help when we need it. H&J:  You’re mean. PC: I’ve come to terms with that. Reaction: June 2014 Yes, the anonymous Heckle and Jeckle did call the Coast Guard on us back in the day.  While we were at anchor. In Florida. And we hadn’t moved for a week.  But the internet went down and we hadn’t called home in a while… and we were too busy visiting the Space Center and enjoying ourselves to remember that the people back home were still getting used to our new life. Let this be a lesson to cruisers and family alike: don’t panic. Let people know how and when you will communicate, and do your best to stick to that. And leave the Coast Guard out of it.

On board HMS Medusa, D-Day marine electronics

Fri, 2014-06-06 05:00

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

There’s much to report about my three day visit with Raymarine’s impressive product development team, but the impromptu kicker was a visit to HDML (Harbour Defense Motor Launch) #1387, and the vessel’s key story couldn’t be more timely. 70 years ago yesterday, well before D-Day H-Hour, 1387 headed toward Normandy loaded with electronics that helped her crew precisely mark the planned final channel to Omaha Beach, first for the minesweepers and then for the vast fleet of landing craft that left Portsmouth behind her. And today she’s headed for France again, this time with an all-volunteer crew led by Alan Watson, the gentleman who so kindly showed me around last evening.

There’s a good basic history of Medusa at National Historic Ships UK and much more detail at The Medusa Trust. Though still considered an honorary member of the Navy — thus the honest HMS designation and today’s visit by Princess Anne — the vessel is actually cared for by a small support group. During her last major refit (done largely by student shipwrights), they strove to restore the original HDML configuration but with a willingness to mix in modern equipment to keep her safely operational. So while the rudder angle indicator visible behind the wheel is entirely mechanical, tucked in the corner is a modern DSC VHF supplied by sponsor Raymarine, where Alan Watson also serves as the radar and navigation trainer.

Apparently, it’s mainly Watson who’s scavenged examples of Medusa’s D-Day era electronics, like the ASDIC sonar seen mounted in the wheelhouse above. As explained here, this was actually what we call Forward Looking Sonar, though at a very low frequency with paper and audible output mainly useful for spotting submarines. The various brass appendages comprise a mechanical computer that helped time the release of small depth charges that were literally rolled off the side deck of the HDML. The ASDIC could also be used in passive mode to detect pings, and that was critical for the D-Day mission as a seabed acoustic beacon had already been dropped at the edge of the mine field where Medusa was to stand station for 36 hours.

Medusa also had two forms of LORAN-like electronic position finding which are explained here. The black device at left is part of the GEE system, and that handle suggests how the receiver module could be switched out with a last minute change of the shore station frequencies. Alan is pointing at the vessel’s radar, which could only look forward with its fixed yagi transmit antenna. Dual fixed receive antennas were used to give some sense beyond range of where a target was in the radar’s 60 degree beam, but like the other gear it seems like an artful operator was mandatory.

The gray box at right is an IFF, as in friend or foe identification, which could send out an ID signal on the radar frequency that a similarly equipped friend could automatically reply to. Watson thinks of the technology as an early form of AIS. Medusa also had a RACON-like directional radio beacon that was activated so that the Allied fleet could home into Medusa and the mine cleared channel.

Yes, I had a wonderful time visiting this historic vessel and couldn’t help but ham it up while feeling what work it is for the engineer to shift the original twin Gardiner diesels in response to bell commands from the bridge or wheelhouse. The pride and good cheer of her volunteer stewards were also infectious. But I’m also aware of the solemn side of this occasion. 70 years ago my dad was leading an artillery company up through southern France and would lose more friends and most of his hearing before it was all done. And he got to go home to a country that hadn’t been ravaged by bombs and nearly conquered.

Apparently, the jaunty 1944 sailor seen at lower right below, now 90 years old, was back aboard Medusa yesterday, and note the Hitler imitator at upper left. I’ll be traveling home today, but when I can, I’ll follow Medusa on Marine Traffic. I imagine she’ll be the talk of the English Channel as she crosses all that traffic.

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