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Engine trouble and kidnappings

Wed, 2014-06-25 01:20

There’s a Yiddish proverb: “Man plans, God laughs.” The cruiser’s equivalent is to say that our plans are written in the sand, at low tide.

Yes, we still make plans. Usually, they’re weather driven: designed to avoid hurricane/cyclone/typhoon seasons on the grand scale, and pick days for optimal sailing on immediate front. The current “big plan” is next year’s Indian Ocean passages, starting early in 2015 and winding a slow path through a number of countries before South Africa. It’s trying to nail down any nearer term plans that has proved impossible. I hesitate share any, because every time we make them- even in a general sense (like, hey, let’s go to the Philippines this year!)- they change. Anything we commit to now will probably change a few more times!

Palawan. Source: alantankenghoe, Flickr

We had revised routing earlier based on the kidnappings in NE Sabah, Malaysian Borneo, decided to go north to Palawan island in the Philippines instead. News then came out that a couple disappeared from their cruising boat off Palawan. The same rebel group, Abu Sayaff (ASG), was fingered.

It’s disturbing, because:

1.       ASG kidnaps for profit. This would be their first cruising boat 2.       It’s Most of their activity lately has been in the Sulu archipelago, not Palawan

3.       They have a history of keeping hostage for years (or, killing them)
4.       A spokesman for the Abu Sayaff has stated that, “We have been trying hard to get an American because they may think we are afraid of them.” He added, “We want to fight the American people.” Great!

However, it seems just as possible that the couple simply had an accident or became crocodile lunch…as has happened recently in that area. Some reports say when their boat was found, nothing was missing- cash, laptops, etc., and towels were in the cockpit with the swim ladder down. Reports vary enough it’s hard to know where speculation and truth nest together, so we wait to see if more definitive information comes to light.

Palawan. Source: nenborromeo, Flickr

Waiting is easy, because we’re delayed getting our engine serviced. Parked in lovely Telaga Harbour near the Thai/Malay border for the duration, we spent nearly a month longer than we expected there as it dragged out. Then, there were the problems heading south down the peninsula. Dealing with the outcome of power problems in one marina added a few days, but the big culprit was when our newly tuned engine developed an irritating habit of overheating that defied diagnosis.

“This is frustrating” might be one of the more common phrases lately.

But getting stressed out or frustrated by delays is pointless. It’s just the way it is (although there was no avoiding the stress of losing our engine, in little wind and more current, in the shipping lanes for one of Asia’s busiest ports. Yeah- that was stressful!). We could get worked up over the delays, but what good will that do? Smile, work on the problem, and try to make the most of the situation.

And yes, although it really is frustrating, the guys from Supreme Power Services have been great. To try and get the overheating problem solved they’ve spent more than 8 additional days on Totem so far, commuting from Kuala Lumpur to various location where Totem is. Yes, something happened while servicing that started it all, but they’ve generally done solid work at a fair price and they’re not charging for any of the extra time. Jamie’s been impressed with what they know, and happy with how much he’s learned a lot from them. Plus, they slid him a shop manual for our engine, which is you would think was gold plated!

This morning, we finally had a clean bill of health on the state of the engine: a presumed combination of air getting in (bits not put back together exactly right) and a bad radiator cap combining to cause the problems with different symptoms and under different conditions. So there was some irony when as they stood on the dock preparing to depart, Jamie realized the alternator was not properly charging, and discovered a broken diode. Because we are waiting for a replacement charger to use shore power or our generator, and the rainy season isn’t helping our green power generation… well, this getting juice into the battery bank just became a problem, and once again, our engine is not working.

Here we go again! I think I’ll grab the pilot charts for the Indian Ocean and make some popcorn.

Mellow go-with-the-flow types know we love it when you read this on Sailfeed website.

MAINE COAST CRUISE: To Thomaston and Back

Tue, 2014-06-24 20:26

This wasn’t so much a cruise as a delivery to nowhere, as the goal was to get Lunacy from Portland to Rockland, get her measured for new sails by Doug Pope, and then get her back to Portland again as quickly as possible. The scheduled window for accomplishing this was Tuesday through Friday of last week. Coming along for the ride was my old partner-in-crime, Phil “Snakewake” Cavanaugh (see photo up top), who in his dotage has taken to wearing country-western garb while sailing.

We got off from Portland on Tuesday at about 1100 hours in a variable breeze that had us variously close-reaching at speed, drifting under the cruising spinnaker, and motoring under a floppy mainsail. We got as far as Damariscove Island, where we pulled into the tiny harbor to find two other mid-size cruising boats tied up to moorings, plus a third small one moored way up at the head of the cove.

The miniature harbor at Damariscove. The tower on the left represents the Coast Guard station. Back in pre-colonial days, when this was a seasonal fishing station, up to 30 boats at a time supposedly moored in here

Stern anchor deployed from Lunacy‘s stern on nylon rode. That’s a Kaiser Gale Force 34 behind us on the right and a sweet L. Francis Herreshoff ketch on the left

We dropped anchor just south of the two larger moored boats, alongside the old Coast Guard station, and for a short while the faint south breeze kept us lined up properly in the cove. It soon shifted a bit southeast, however, setting us on the west-side rocks a bit, so we roused ourselves into activity and set a stern anchor–the first time I’ve ever done this on Lunacy. I was very gratified that I actually had all the necessary bits onboard, and that the deployment went smoothly.

We had a wretched night onboard. First came a big northbound ground swell and some treacherous fog, then came a brisk southerly breeze, and finally some thunder squalls. This was actually more-or-less consistent with the forecast, and all I could do was give myself a big dope-slap for not believing it. The boat was pitching madly, and neither of us slept much, and I was praying fervently that the anchor would hold.

Looking back at my last post on Damariscove, I see I had a similar experience last time I was there. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions about that. In my defense, all I can say is that I like this place so much, I’ll apparently go through hell to stay there.

We were, in any event, quite happy to leave in the morning. The wind was south shifting northwest through the day, and as I studied the chart, pondering the distance to Rockland as we sailed by Monhegan Island, it suddenly occurred to me it would be much easier to just go up the St. George River to Thomaston instead. Shorter distance, flatter water, just as close (almost) to Doug Pope’s shop, and I hadn’t actually been up the river since the late 1990s, when I first started sailing my old Golden Hind 31 Sophie.

The Thomaston waterfront, about 10 miles up the St. George River. It doesn’t look it, but this was once a major center for shipbuilding

By the time we got up there the northwest wind, slanted almost straight west by the terrain, was blowing hard, and the tide was at maximum flood running in the opposite direction. There was zero chop, but picking up the town mooring buoy was still something of an adventure.

Phil shows off his battle mud after wrestling with the mooring pennant

I actually lived in Thomaston a long while back, and it was very interesting walking around town again. Relatively little has changed. Down on the waterfront I was hailed by an old friend, Peter McCrea, who has been cruising and racing a Freedom 32 named Panacea since before time began. Later we hooked up with an even older friend, Loric Weymouth of Weymouth Yacht Rigging, who gave us a ride in his funky antique Land Rover and took us over to Rockland for dinner.

Lunacy lying in the river, with wind and tide aligned

The yard at Lyman-Morse, as viewed through Lunacy‘s foretriangle. This is a great town for checking out other people’s boats

Clammers in a creatively modified runabout, heading downriver for a tide’s worth of digging in the morning

We enjoyed a blissfully quiet night. The next morning we had Doug Pope onboard for an hour, doing his tape-measure thing, and were off again by 1030 hours. The wind was still in the northwest, blowing briskly with gusts to 24 knots, and we had a scream of a sail heading downriver and then west again. Once out the river we were either closehauled or on a close reach all day and made major miles.

By 1800 hours, to our surprise, we were rounding Cape Small and were back in Casco Bay. After studying the chart for a bit, I decided we’d try spending the night in Small Point Harbor.

We anchored east of Newbury Point, a bit north of red nun 4

If you study the Taft and Rindlaub cruising guide, you’d think this was a very bad idea. They state the main harbor is too open to be tenable and suggest instead it’s best to squeeze through the very tight entrance into Cape Small Harbor, just east, for a good night’s sleep. But their text is worded in such a way that it seems likely they’d never actually tried spending a night here.

I figured after a day and a half of strong northwesterlies, any swell from the southwest would be greatly minimized and that it was worth a shot. Approaching from the south, we were able to sail right in, and the fact that there was not one single mooring out, or a single boat anchored here, suggested either a) T&R are right and this is a miserable place to be; or b) everyone believes what they read in T&R.

Our prospects seemed good, for as soon as we anchored two couples in a center-console skiff came by and plied us with free cocktails. We slept like babies again that night, and though there was a bit of motion in the anchorage, it was very subdued.

At anchor at Small Point Harbor. Were we the first ever to attempt this?

Next morning we toured Cape Small Harbor in the dinghy. It seemed a very magical, perfectly protected place, but the entrance is a worry. On the chart there you can see a 5-foot and 3-foot spot in the main channel, and my chartplotter offered no better detail when zoomed in. I saw no deep-draft sailboats inside and would probably want to survey the entrance with a portable depthsounder or a leadline in the dinghy before taking Lunacy in.

After our dinghy tour we were off again, screaming along in another firm northwesterly, and were back in Portland before noon–on schedule, mission accomplished.

Podcast: Solving Problems Offshore

Tue, 2014-06-24 07:00

No “new” episode this week, because Andy’s in Bermuda and has been sailing for several days to get here! Hope they did well! This is another lecture from Cruiser’s University that Andy gave in April in Annapolis. Sorry for the not-perfect quality (he recorded it on his phone), but hopefully the content makes up for it! Andy discusses six common problems you might encounter offshore, and how to deal with them. Indeed, whether some of them are even worth losing sleep over! Of the six, only two are what Andy calls ‘deal-breakers’ – meaning they can ruin, sometimes dangerously, an otherwise pleasant experience ocean sailing. If you missed it, check out Episode 29 about ‘Mentally Preparing to go Offshore,’ the other lecture from Cruiser’s U. Enjoy!

Shockwave Leads into Bermuda

Mon, 2014-06-23 13:04

Hamilton, Bermuda, June 23. After sailing nearly side by side over 635 miles and two and a half days,George Sakellaris’ Shockwave nipped Hap Fauth’s Bella Mente at the finish line at St. David’s Lighthouse, Bermuda, by 7 minutes to win line honors in the 2014 Newport Bermuda Race.

Shockwave finished Monday at 5:33 a.m. EDT (6:33 Bermuda Time) , followed by Bella Mente at 5:40. The third boat on elapsed time, Alex Schaerer’s Caol Ila R, finished more than three hours later. The next boat, the US Naval Academy ‘s Constellation, is more than 100 miles back of her, followed by the rest of the fleet in a big pack.

Hamilton, Bermuda, June 22, 9:30 p.m. In a repeat of their dramatic duel in the 2012 Newport Bermuda Race, two 72-foot Mini-Maxis, Shockwave and Bella Mente, are within 2 miles of each other on the final sprint to the finish of the 635-mile race.

So close that they sometimes appeared as one boat on the Pantaenius Tracker, Shockwave was 88.7 miles from the finish at 9:00 and Bella Mente had 90.2 miles to go. A third Mini-Maxi, Caol Ila R, was more than 20 miles behind the two leaders for the race’s first to finish honors.

If they keep up the pace of the 9- to 13-knot speeds reported on the tracker, the two Gibbs Hill Lighthouse Division boats may cross the finish line off St. David’s Lighthouse by dawn Monday. In 2012 Bella Mente beat Shockwave on elapsed time by 2 minutes, 3 seconds, and both boats broke the previous elapsed time record for the race. Shockwave won the Gibbs Hill Lighthouse Trophy on corrected time in 2012.

The tracker calculated at 9:30 that, this year, Shockwave would be the top boat in the fleet under the IRC Rule, with Christopher Dragon, in the St. David’s Lighthouse Division, second ahead of Bella Mente.

See more at: BermudaRace.com.

Club Communications—There’s an App for That(Your Next Move?)

Mon, 2014-06-23 12:49

By Kimball Livingston Posted June 23, 2014

The job of organizing the 2014 Pacific Cup—San Francisco Bay to Kaneohe Bay—presented the standard bucket of joys, opportunities and problems. Compared to the printed booklets that were state of the art when this 2070-mile crossing to Hawaii kicked off in 1979, the web site at pacificcup.com already was doing a better job by far of providing and updating information. But hey, web sites are like, so, totally 2005-clunky. If people are coming from way off yonder to do this race, why not give them an app they can download to a phone, a world in the pocket, an app that lists . . .
Boatyards and Chandleries
Marine Parts and Engine Work
Sail Lofts and Canvas Work
Divers and Riggers
Fuel, CNG, Propane
Life Rafts, Steering, Watermakers
Electrical
. . . plus a restaurant guide plus race information plus local dope on provisioning, health services, things to do, transportation, and a laundry list of local services from financial and business to churches and, well, laundry.

In my role as flatfoot reporter, I downloaded the 2014 Pacific Cup app to my own phone. And having lived with it just a bit, I figure that, even though categories such as “2014 PacCup Sponsors” and “Village Events” will soon be seriously out of date, I’ll keep the app. Its developer, Greg Gorsiski, notes, “Web sites are becoming more and more like phone books. This is a ‘push’ world, and that’s the bottom line.”

Or, from the point of view of Pacific Cup Yacht Club Commodore Steve Chamberlin—PCYC being a paper club of enthusiasts existing solely for the sake of staging the race—there is this: “Fifty percent of our crew members come from Southern California or the Pacific Northwest. We have one from Australia. The goal as we saw it was to provide concierge service, and the guy from Australia told us, ‘I feel like I already know where everything is.’ ”

In 2014, the Pacific Cup has organized its first race village, located at Richmond Yacht Club on the eastern reach of San Francisco Bay in what locals call the “Richmond Riviera” because it is that. Sheltered from the relentless seabreeze that blows through the Golden Gate wind slot and straight into Berkeley, a couple miles to the south, Point Richmond is a world unto itself. A few major streets. A tiny downtown. The yacht club is a member-driven gem—it was John Kostecki’s first junior-sailing club and a textbook example of how you don’t have to go big time to be an f’ing great yacht club—but Richmond YC is not within walking distance to anywhere. It’s all by its happy lonesome. So you gotta drive. And Point Richmond is separated by a freeway from the larger town of Richmond, a place of broken and continually heartbreaking dreams where, whatever your spirit of good will, you don’t want to get out of the car. All the more need to know. All the better, bringing in Sonnen BMW as a sponsor to provide, literally, a daily concierge/shuttle service from the race village along a servicing and provisioning route. Other companies including Svendsen’s Boatworks & Chandlery will be providing dropoff services—just click on what you need. From a long downward slide, Pacific Cup entrants are back up to 70+ boats (maximum numbers are limited by available space in Kaneohe) and it’s clear that the 2014 organizers are doing something right.

As a member of RYC Gorsiski “ran our junior program for a number of years.” He has been a game developer for more than 25 years, so when The Mrs. got involved as a race officer for 2014, he was automatically in the line of fire, with something to contribute.

“The idea for the app came late in the game,” Gorsiski says. “The product is not as polished as I’d like, but we had to think about the needs of people who would be at the yacht club for a week or more, and I didn’t want to mess with the dynamics of the club’s web site. It came down to an info-pack-in-the-pocket.

“I had already floated the idea of creating an annual app for Richmond Yacht Club because, face it, people are moving away from web sites. For example, when we post something on our club’s Facebook page, it might have 400 views in an hour. That doesn’t happen at richmondyc.org. So now we have an app for the Pacific Cup, and all the clubs involved [Richmond, Kaneohe, PacCup] are tweaking their web sites to be more mobile friendly.”

So the logical next question is, what does it cost? If my club or my event needs its own app, and I’m not RYC and I can’t get Greg Gorsiski to work for free, and I have to hire him as Artysta Studios, how does that look?

“It depends.”

Well, is it closer to $2,000 or closer to $20,000?

I had to ask several times, in different ways, but we got down to . . .

“Closer to $2,000, depending on how much data has to be put in.”

Add fun facts you probably don’t need to know: “For Android devices I can put out an app update in two or three hours,” Gorsiski says. “To update an Apple app, you’re talking one or two weeks.”

The 2014 Pacific Cup has five starts for different types of boats, July 6 through July 11, with signals made ashore from the St. Francis Yacht Club racedeck. Start times vary from 1030 to 1430 to take advantage of ebb tides, which run 50 minutes later each day.

Beautiful Places: Camping in the Tuamotus

Sun, 2014-06-22 17:17

Part of the fun of setting up this series of “remember when” posts has been reviewing our trip for myself. As I skimmed through French Polynesia, I was shocked to discover that I haven’t posted any photos of the Tuamotus – one of the most beautiful places we have visited.  And so, for my last holiday post, I will remedy the oversight.  I’ll be back to regular posts later in the week.

Originally posted as Sleeping in the Great Outdoors, September 4, 2012
My family did a lot of camping when I was young. Every summer we hitched our pop-up trailer to the big red van, and toodled around the great campgrounds of Southern Ontario. When I was a little older, I was introduced to the joys of a damp sleeping bag when I was sent to a summer camp in Algonquin Park. This was a canoe trip kind of camp, and we girls were sent out for a few days at a time to paddle the lakes as the blackflies buzzed and the mosquitoes whined. After a long day of paddling a canoe and acquiring a mild sunburn, occasionally punctuated by a tiring portage, our counsellors would guide us to a campsite. As the sun went down, we would coax the wet sticks we found into a fire and try to cook something before falling dead into our drippy canvas tents. (Note to the interested: Kraft pizza mix is a superior camping meal. Wrap the dough around a stick, cook it in the fire, then dip the dough stick into the tomato sauce and sprinkle with cheese. Cést magnifique. I only had this once during my camping career, and still remember it clearly almost thirty years later.) As a parent, I see how wise it was to tire out a quartet of nine-year-old girls in this way. Although I didn´t care for camp as a whole (too much rigidly-scheduled cheerfulness), I have fond memories of gliding across still lakes, listening to the birds overhead, and eating charred, sticky marshmallows at the end of the day.


The years went by and I encountered My Dear Spouse. It should surprise no one reading this blog that Erik is keen on camping. But Erik was a proponent of La Vie Sauvage in a way I could never be. For example, winter camping. True, there are no bugs to worry about, but actually choosing to sleep outdoors during a Canadian winter only begs the question: why? Nothing he said abut the crisp beauty of the thing fizzed on me at all. There I draw the line.

Happily, there is a middle ground between trailers and snow forts. When we travelled around Europe during university, we slept in a two-man tent Erik bought in Compiegne. In the years that followed, out little Jamet took us through the mountains of Switzerland, climbing in New Hampshire, hiking in Maine, and into our own backyard when Stylish was young. And while I never developed an antipathy to camping, I thought my days of sleeping on the cold, hard ground were over.

We recently celebrated Erik´s birthday in the atoll of Makemo. After a day spent snorkelling around reefs with a fish population to put the world´s finest aquarium to shame, we decided to camp out on an uninhabited motu for the night. After a dinner of fish grilled over the fire, we laid out a bed of palm fronds on the coral rubble, pitched our old friend the Jamet, and crawled inside when the sun went down.

It is rather entertaining to camp in the Tuamotus. Huge parrotfish abound along the shoreline, and their dorsal fins and tails flap out of the water as they munch on the coral just below. And, rather than worry about snapping turtles, one has to be on the lookout for sharks. Although the shallows beside the motu are only a foot or so deep, still blacktip sharks as big as Indy patrol right to the shoreline. This morning, as I washed out the breakfast dishes, I was surprised when two large-ish sharks suddenly turned and swam away from me. They were only three feet away when they turned, and whether they objected to the hot peppers I´d rinsed away or didn´t like the look of their reflections in the big metal bowl resting on the bottom, I don´t know.

Just a baby swimming by.

I am still getting used to reef sharks. I prefer a certain cultured aloofness in my sharks. But the sharks here, especially those of human size, are interested in us and want to know what we are about. So they circle, ever so slowly. Our local friend and guide told us the sharks would likely not bother us, provided we didn´t move much or follow them. I am hardly about to go chasing sharks. But it isn´t always easy to freeze like a popsicle when a higher predator glides past only four feet away. The rule is, no splashing, no noise – just stay resolutely large and wooden. The largest sharks we´ve seen were 12-14 feet long, and the largest pack held at least twenty bodies. I am delighted to report that these refined animals feigned the lofty ignorance of our presence of which I so approve. Their smaller comrades should take a lesson.

It is crucial when camping up north to hoist your food. Otherwise, critters from racoons to bears will get into it, no question. We also had to hang our food at night on the motu… because of the hermit crabs. The hermit crabs here are the size of my fist, and they are wonderful cleaners. Anything left out at night will be gone by morning, and one can hear the clack-clack of shells sliding over the coral rubble all night long. The hermit crabs were especially fond of the plastic Ikea forks we´d brought, and we had to retrieve these well-chewed items from all sorts of far-flung and unlikely places.

The sun came up, and little eyes opened. Maybe it was the mild tropical night. Maybe it was the lack of biting insects. Or maybe curling up with our girls on a Thermarest as the stars circled overhead is just one of life´s small pleasures. Because all of us agreed when we woke up – we would stay the next night as well.

Reaction: June 2014
The Tuamotus sit high on our list of places we would love to go back to.  It is quiet; most atolls don’t have an airport, and only see a handful of boats each year.  Some of the atolls are essentially uninhabited, or have a village so far away that certain passes never see people – or, more importantly, fishing.  There were times I feared we were visiting the world’s last healthy reefs.  Sadly, I didn’t have a good underwater camera at the time, but here are a few photos to give you an idea of why we liked it so much. This is the upside of cruising in a nutshell.

WHAT IS IT ?

Sat, 2014-06-21 14:34

Posted June 21, 2014

The Round the Island Race, aka the JP Morgan Chase Asset Management Round the Island Race—around the Isle of Wight—was every bit as slow as it looks in the Thierry Martinez pic above. This is the park-up at the Needles.

For your grab bag of trivia, you might want to know that the name of the Needles came from a fourth, truly needle-like upthrust of chalk that collapsed and went away in a storm in 1764. Now, 340 years later, the name sticks.

Call the race a 50 miler, scheduled to take advantage of the solstice, and this was the 83rd edition. First to finish was Team Richard Mille in a GC32 catamaran with Paul Campbell-James at the helm in a time of 8 hours, 51 minutes. Don’t bother doing the math. The thing to know is that Thomas Ratsey still holds the record for the slowest race, by about an hour, in 1931, and I guarantee you the good Captain Ratsey had no speed bursts like this one . . .

A year ago, Sir Ben Ainslie set a new race record, for speed, at 2:52:15 using his AC45 cat. His body language here tells you a lot about the spinie-tingling excitement of 2014 . . .

There were hundreds of dropouts, though a breeze did pick up late for those who stuck it out. Friends of Cheryl Lincoln Nelson were treated to Facebook updates like this one, but this was as bad as it got . . .

A few more from onEdition . . .

And Yes, I’m Following the Bermuda Race

You can too right here.

The morning line from John Rousmaniere—
EDT 1030 – The predicted battle for the elapsed time victory between the three Mini-Maxis in the Gibbs Hill Lighthouse Division is coming to fruition. Based on tracker report as of 5 a.m., with 485 miles to the finish, Bella Mente, and Caol Ila R are racing head to head, though at slower speeds (3 knots) than they were making before midnight. Some 20 miles astern are the 70 footers Kodiak, Rima 2, Irie 2, and Terrapin. The rest of the 163-boat fleet is in a large clump extending about 50 miles, where the wind may be a bit stronger. Wind under 10 knots are predicted for most of Saturday. Everybody is a few miles to the west of the rhumb line, indicating that they’re all headed toward the favorable predicted current in the Gulf Stream, some 140 miles ahead. The sea is reported to be flat.

A Final Note

On Friday I had a chat with SAIL Magazine editor Meredith Laitos and mentioned casually that my yacht club this weekend is hosting our annual Heavy Weather Opti Regatta. Meredith said something about how odd it is to use a name like that, and I responded, “Yes, but this is San Francisco Bay.” By the end of that day, it was blowing so hard on the cityfront that you had to be careful how you opened a car door. As I prepare to click Publish today, the breeze in the wind slot is 15-20 and building, and it’s not yet noon. Yep, this is San Francisco Bay, and as club photographer Chris Ray knows, the quest for bragging rights keeps bringing the little nippers back — Kimball

FATHER-DAUGHTER CRUISE: On Father’s Day, No Less

Fri, 2014-06-20 01:15

This is the second time Lucy and I have done this, but the first time we’ve done it on Father’s Day. We both thought it a good a idea, though Lucy, inevitably, wanted to know why there isn’t a Daughter’s Day, so we could go out then, too. Of course, we all know the answer to that. Last time, you may recall, Lucy was very focussed on climbing rocks and trees. This time it was the mast. We arrived at the Goslings quite late Sunday afternoon, having slashed through a sporty 20-knot breeze on a close reach to get there, and she had me haul her up the mast in the bosun’s chair five times after we got settled in. And yes, she did almost make it to the masthead a couple of times.

A New Volvo Entry from Spain

Thu, 2014-06-19 10:49


19 June 2014 News from the Volvo Ocean Race team

Spain is back for the Volvo Ocean Race 2014-15 with a boat spearheaded by two of the country’s leading sailors, Iker Martínez and Xabi Fernández who will be aiming to help claim their nation’s first victory.

It’s the eighth time out of the 12 editions of the race that Spain has been represented in the 41-year-old event.

The campaign, which is being mounted by Galician sailor/businessman Pedro Campos, is the sixth crew announced so far for the Race which begins in Alicante on October 4 with the in-port race there followed by the departure on leg one to Cape Town a week later.

The Campos team, which will be announcing their title sponsor and skipper shortly, has already taken possession of their one-design Volvo Ocean 65 boat in Southampton, England and is currently preparing the boat to be launched.

“We’re happy to see Spain’s presence again in sailing’s leading offshore race, the Volvo Ocean Race. For our team it is an honour to have a fifth boat participating in succession, a record in the history of the race,” said Campos.

“We know that it will be a very difficult edition, with all the boats identical but as always we’ll try to raise the Spanish flag at its highest as much as possible.”

Campos said that Martínez and Fernández would be “pillars” of the Spanish sailing crew in 2014-15.

There’s unfinished business in the Volvo Ocean Race for the pair. The Olympic gold medalists from Athens dominated the early stages of the last edition in 2011-12 on board Telefónica but a broken rudder in the penultimate stage ruined their hopes of overall victory that was taken by French team Groupama.

No Spanish team has won offshore sailing’s toughest and most prestigious race – formerly the Whitbread Round the World Race.

Knut Frostad, CEO of the Volvo Ocean Race which is based in Alicante, Spain, said he was delighted to welcome the Campos team alongside probably the most evenly-matched fleet in the event’s history.

“The Spanish team has some of the most versatile and experienced sailors in the world involved and I am sure they are in the race to do well. It’s great to see this team back for the fourth edition in a row,” he said.

The Spanish team will line up in Alicante alongside the all-women’s crew of Team SCA, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, Dongfeng Race Team, Team Brunel and Team Alvimedica who have already been announced.

Previous Campos teams to compete in the Volvo Ocean Race are movistar (2005-06), Telefónica (two boats in 2008-09) and Team Telefónica (2011-12), the latter skippered by Martínez.

The team’s sponsors are expected to be announced in the next months and the campaign will also be supported by Spain’s National Sports Council and the Royal Spanish Sailing Federation.

Podcast with Chris Museler, NY Times Journalist & Hugo Boss Media Crew

Wed, 2014-06-18 16:08

Andy and Chris met at the 2011 Caribbean 1500 when Chris was covering the rally. They caught up this morning on Skype and had a PHENOMENAL chat about Chris’ experience onboard Hugo Boss in the recent New York – Barcelona IMOCA 60 race. It’s the first time in history an outside journalist has been allowed onboard a shorthanded (double- or single-handed) to report objectively on what the crews go through in such a lengthy endurance test. Hugo Boss’ normal skipper Alex Thomson is of course famous for his mast walk and keel walk escapades in his Hugo Boss clothing. Thomson couldn’t make the race, so American Ryan Breymaier stood in…the won the race! Chris discusses life onboard, if it’s possible to accurately document a double-handed race with a third person onboard (and Chris offers an awesome Heisenberg uncertainly analogy), what it feels like to sail a cutting edge rocketship like an IMOCA 60, and more! Towards the end Andy and Chris delve into fears offshore and some more philosophical ideas about sailing. Check the 59 North Facebook page for links to some of the stuff we talk about in the podcast. If you like it, please review it!

We’ve got a new intro song from the Blaggards, and a new, simplified podcast logo! Like it? Hate it? Let me know! Any comments or questions, interview ideas, etc, please email andy [at] 59-north [dot] com. Thanks for listening!

Hand’s on Scanstrut Rokk adjustable mount & 2nd generation Lifedge iPad case

Wed, 2014-06-18 10:00

Written by Ben Ellison on Jun 18, 2014 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub

“Rokk” is a apt name for Scanstrut’s adjustable mount system. Due to the large surface area and fine machining of those metal-on-metal ball and socket joints, it’s easy to precisely position an attached MFD or iPad and then just a modest twist on the white handle will render the whole rig rock solid. I tested the Rokk Adjustable Rail Mount — note how well it handles curved 1-inch rail or helm pedestal pipe — with the Lifedge iPad case holder shown, but there’s also a Rokk Adjustable Deck Mount and either can accommodate top plates custom designed for various popular displays in the 5- to 7-inch screen range. Is Rokk better than RAM?

I personally like RAM Mounts largely because they have a bracket or plate for almost anything I might test. But the RAM designs are utilitarian to be sure and the materials don’t always hold up well to the boating life. I’ve seen RAM anodized aluminum go pocky and a RAM rail mount u-bolt rust. By contrast, the Rokk hardware seems as elegant as a lot of modern sailboat fittings and just as able to withstand the elements. And while the rubber vibration dampening built into RAM mounts may have value in cars and bikes, Rokk solid seems better on a boat. Not surprisingly, the Rokk gear is more expensive as in this adjustable mount for a Garmin 7xx at $89 street price. One thing to note, though, is that unlike RAM mounts, the Rokk can not be easily removed (leaving just a RAM ball plate or a relatively yachty Tallon receptacle). On the other hand, it’s harder to steal Rokk mounted gear; all those parts above have to go together in a certain order and a thief will need a particular screwdriver just to get started.

I tend to like adjustable mounts because it often seems valuable to reposition screens for particular light or boating conditions, but fixed mounts are simpler and generally less expensive. There is a plain Rokk Rail Mount, for instance, that’s just the cubish pipe clamp and a top plate. Edson also offers a variety of handsome and solid-looking fixed rail mounts, not to mention a wide selection of pipe-mounted display housings.

Scanstrut also sent me their second generation Lifedge iPad case to try, possibly because the first generation design did not do well in my 2013 marine iPad case review. The new three-piece design — which fits iPads 2/3/4, but not the 1 or Air — is definitely much easier to put on an iPad. An owner will now use those black accessories as kickstands, rather than shoehorns needed to wrestle on the silicone bumper. I can get this case on or off in little more than a minute, and my fingers don’t hurt afterward. The new design also has a charging port but seems to retain the waterproof ruggedness of the orginal as well as the racing friendly hand strap on the back.

With my daughter’s iPad 2 inside I did not actually test the Lifedge in sink and shower like I did the Lifeproof frē that’s housed my iPad mini since I reviewed it. I like the Lifeproof’s slim design a lot but have learned that while it may be shock, dirt, snow, and water proof, it is not fool proof. Do not try to open the Lifeproof case with the charging port door closed or you might break the thin top piece! The same caution probably applies to the Lifedge though it does seem a little beefier, and bulkier. Designing the perfect waterproof iPad case is not easy.

In that regard, my daughter and I both noticed a slight issue with the sample Lifedge case that might be transitory or a production anomoly. Note in the photo how the chunky gray case area over the Home button is twisted slightly outward. That pulls the stiff screen protector outward and thus touch commands, particularly on the right side, have to be aggressive. Another example of design difficulty is the prototype Gumdrop Marine iPad Case seen on my photo stand below. It may be the most ambitious iPad-at-helm case yet — it even comes with mounting bail and sun cover — and I found the prototype fairly easy to use with an iPad Air. But Gumdrop CEO Tim Hickman, arguably an iPad case cowboy, is not entirely pleased with the design details, plus the poor man recently purchased a large boat. As soon as I know more about the Gumdrop, I’ll put it in the comments section below.

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

Through the Panama Canal

Tue, 2014-06-17 17:46

I’m not going to lie to you: crossing the Panama Canal is exciting.  Massive cargo ships, other sailboats, the prospect of getting dashed against the walls and sinking in the lock – the Canal has it all.  Lucky for me, my computer-savvy family was able to capture part of the journey via the webcams set up at each lock – be sure to watch the flipbook at the end of the post!

Originally appeared in Canal Win! on May 5, 2012
Waiting for your canal date is a lot like waiting for Christmas when you are six years old.  Time moves unendurably slowly, and at some point you are convinced the big day is never going to arrive.  And then it does.  And then you are so excited and jumpy and full of sugar that you can hardly focus long enough to enjoy the experience.  But, since I’m a grown-up and all mature and stuff, I was able to calmly record my observations.  When I wasn’t busy being excited and jumpy and full of sugar.

The day before, I cooked from lunch until midnight.  That is because we would have an extra five people aboard – an advisor, two linehandlers (friends of ours), and their two kids, ages 11 and 13.  I also knew there would be no time to cook anything complicated during the two-day transit, as I would be busy helping ensure our boat didn’t crash into the walls of the locks.  Because crashing is bad seamanship, my friends.  Also, a quick path to divorce.

Anyway.  I made pancakes, chicken-lemon-feta pasta, Caesar salad, garlic bread, two chocolate cakes, and four pizzas ahead.  We did scrambled eggs in the morning, because they are quick, and I made a loaf of cinnamon raisin bread in the breadmaker, ready just as everyone awoke.  Mmm.  I’m not a great chef, but when I stick to my classics, everyone seems satisfied.

But what about the canal itself?  What happens is, during that interminable waiting time, your boat gets measured and you give many, many dollars to the canal authorities.  They decide how best to fit you in with other boats.  Then, on the day, you go to a staging area called The Flats at the time they tell you, and you wait.  Your advisor shows up.  And, surprise!  He has an apprentice with him.  You are glad you made so much food.  Then, the fun begins.

There was a freighter named Baltic Star in the lock with us.

Passing by to reach the first lock. Please, let there be room for both of us.

We were rafted together with two other boats, a catamaran and another monohull.  The cat was in charge of driving, and we on either side were in charge of staying appropriately tied to the lock walls.

How it works is this.  Once you enter the first lock, a canal linehandler throws you a monkey’s fist.  (No, not literally.  Gross.  It means a line with a big knot tied on the end.)  You tie this through the large bowline on the end of the line you have prepared on board, and he hauls your line up.  When you get to your designated spot, he throws your bowline over a bollard, and voila.  You are lied to the lock wall.  You tighten your line, cleat it off, the doors close and things get started.

Goodbye, Colon. Too late to change your mind now.

As the water rushes into the lock, you need to keep taking up the slack on your line.  Only not too much, or your boat will get pulled into the wall.  Your counterpart, the linehandler on the wall, will give you helpful signals to guide you.  Unfortunately, all signals look like “talk to the hand” to my eyes.  Take up slack, don’t take up any more, cleat that off, keep going – everything earned a raised hand.  The advisor beside me translated these gestures for me, and seemed genuinely puzzled that I didn’t naturally understand what the man wanted.

They understood as much as I did.

On it went through three locks.  When we reached Gatun lake, we cut loose from the other two boats, and found a mooring for the night.

Early the next day, we were up for round two.  We had a long motor through Gatun lake to reach the Miraflores locks on the Pacific side.  It was very pretty country; it looked very much like Cootes Paradise (the tip of Lake Ontario), but with more palm trees.

This all seems so familiar…

The Miraflores locks were the same, but in reverse.  Gently letting the line out to keep a little, but not too much, tension, and again, to keep from banging into the walls.  We were rafted to just the catamaran on this leg.  My dad took these screen captures:

 

And my Uncle Tom sent me this awesome flipbook:

And people claim technology never did anything good.

Before we knew it, we were there.  The Pacific!

Holy bananas, it’s a whole new ocean.

We granted ourselves a day of rest, and now we are back in job mode.  After a last flurry of buying food and boat parts and whatever else we won’t see again until New Zealand, we’ll head for the Perlas.

But first, we get to do the canal again, this time as linehandlers for our friends.

Reaction: June 2014
I had forgotten just how fun it was to cross the Panama Canal.  I’m getting excited just remembering the whole thing.  Aside from being great in itself – going up and down those locks really is pretty cool – crossing the Canal carries psychological weight. It marked a new chapter in our trip: we left the Caribbean behind, and it was time to dare mighty things by tackling the Pacific.  So much awaited us: breaking the mizzen mid-ocean, snorkelling French Polynesia, finally finding a decent control for my seasickness, and meeting so many new friends.  It makes me want to do it all over again.  Anyone need a linehandler?

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!

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