Written by Ben Ellison on Oct 7, 2013 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub
That’s Raymarine’s Larry Rencken accepting the NMEA New Technology Award for the Evolution autopilot system from NMEA Director Bruce Angus (with NMEA Office Manager Cindy Love assisting). This was Evolution’s second honor in two weeks — congratulations! — as it also shared the IBEX Innovation Award for electronics, as discussed on Panbo here. Whereas I was involved in that first contest and a close observer of the various NMEA Awards, I thought I’d explain how they work and also note the other winners. No awards process I know of is perfectly fair, but these are handled quite seriously and are worthy of attention, I think.
NMEA offers Product Awards in several categories plus the single Technology Award, which is quite separate. Electronics manufacturers nominate entries for the Product Awards and traditionally they were judged by all NMEA members who cared to send back the ballot. However, the results became fairly predictable and seemed to largely reflect the high standing certain manufacturers like Furuno have with the U.S. technical dealers who dominate this trade organization. So this year NMEA tried something new by appointing 50 anonymous expert judges who were “proportionally balanced amongst dealer, manufacturer and trade members in each NMEA region.”
Manufacturers could submit one product nomination for each brand as long as it had been “available for sale in North America no earlier than January 1, 2011 and no later than June 30th, 2013.” Also, a nominated product “using NMEA 0183 as the data interface must utilize RS-422″ and one with N2K “must be NMEA 2000 certified or have been submitted for certification.” As best I can tell, the expert judges were not necessarily looking for most innovative, but rather a more general “best” product. And here are the 2013 winners in order of announcement:
Autopilot: Garmin GHP 20 Autopilot with Smart Pump (which may well be the first time Garmin won an NMEA Product award and drew large applause).
Fish Finder: Humminbird 360 Imaging (another large round of applause — perhaps partially because it was becoming clear that these Product Awards really were different — and I heard that the Furuno crew enthusiastically bought the Humminbird crew a round later that night).
Radar: Furuno TZtouch TZT14 w/ DRS4D (some things are virtually undeniable).
Communications: KVH TracPhone V3 (KVH has also built strong relationships with technical dealers, plus when the nominees were announced, I noticed all sorts of worthy products ranging from security systems to VHF radios)
Entertainment: KVH TracVision HD11
Navigation: Furuno NavNet TZtouch Black Box System
Computer-Based Software: Nobeltec Time Zero App (this was a new Product category this year and the first Product Award to an app, I think).
Marine Specialty: FLIR MD-625 Thermal Imager (another category stuffed with interesting and divergent nominees and another challenge to the experts, I suspect)
Manufacturer of the Year — Support: Furuno USA (All NMEA members could vote on this and the applause was huge as Furuno has won the category ever since it went on the ballot in 2005!)
Manufacturers can nominate the same or another product for the NMEA Technology Award except that it has to have been released for sale after June 30, 2012 (and again prior to June 30, 2013). This award is determined by three judges put forward by Boating Writers International and I know the drill well, as I was one from the award’s inception in 2009 until I rotated out after the 2011 NMEA Conference. This year’s able BWI judges were Bill Bishop, Zuzana Prochazka, and Mark Corke.
Before they even got to San Diego, the Tech Award judges got packets about each nominee product, and then they went around the conference exhibit area to review them. In some happy cases that also meant a ride on a demo boat like the ones above, and I hear that the judges really put the Evolution thru some paces (like a highspeed sharp turn). At any rate, based on the award’s stated criteria of “innovation, benefit to boaters, practicality and value,” the trio gave Evolution the nod and also awarded honorable mentions to the Nobeltec TimeZero app (my enthusiasm vindicated?) and to the Garmin quatix watch (with which I’m also very impressed, review coming).
It’s no coincidence that the IBEX (and Miami) Innovation Awards are also judged by BWI members using very similar criteria. They’re just much bigger affairs (and IBEX also allows nominees that will be released for sale within 60 days, which I think a bit dangerous). This year seven of us reviewed 59 products in more than 9 categories (we’re allowed not to give an award in a category, and we did). That meant huge boxes of brochures, samples, and USB sticks shipped around the country, then two solid days of walking the show floor as exhibitors set up their booths, and finally, some comparative Google searching and lots of spirited discussion.
Listed here are the IBEX 2013 Innovation Awards and note electronics-wise that still-innovating Fusion Marine Audio got an honorable mention in the OEM Electronics category won by Raymarine and Volvo Penta/Garmin; that Navico won in the Boatyard and Dealer Hardware/Software category for System Builder (not a consumer product, but certainly of benefit to); that ABYC won for Safety Equipment with its free Boat Essentials app; and finally, that I’ll soon put up more detail on Syntec Industries’ Smart Wheel, winner in the Deck Equipment & Hardware category. When our super-organized leader Alan Wendt hit the stage at the big IBEX opening breakfast — with silly slides profiling his fellow judges — we even got to honor a particularly compact and easy-to-install Dometic Marine Head.
A boat we met during our Pacific crossing recently finished their circumnavigation. That happens more frequently now as we have gone slowly, and those with fewer diversions or specific goals to complete a loop continue their march to the west. The post by M/V Emily Grace’s skipper reflecting on their completion sounded eerily familiar: the original source was easy to find, and it’s worth sharing again with appropriate attribution.
This trip was about simple discovery, venturing out to see the world and the people in it. Along the way we faced obstacles and challenges that only a trip like this could produce, and with no alternative but success we overcame. What we found was that the world is indeed a beautiful place filled with beautiful people. And like nearly everything in life, it is the people that make the experience and Bubbles was blessed with the best characters this world has to offer. It was a dream come true for me and If I learned anything on this trip it was that with a little luck and a lot of determination (or maybe it’s the other way around) you can make anything happen… just go for it!!
- Alex Rust, in the final post to the blog of Bubbles, 12 Sept 2012
It’s impossible not to think about our own plans while reading the inspirational words of Alex. His bias to live life to the fullest captured the hearts of many, both along the way and in the wake of his untimely passing earlier this year.
Alex’s words ring especially clearly to me today, like a tonic for the soul. I needed the lift after the days we’ve logged in marinas this last month. Tying up to docks in Malaysia has provided some great rewards: the chance to meet up with old friends, the opportunity for Jamie to work, and some epic provisioning trips with my friend Karen. For the most part, though, being parked a marina isn’t our first choice. On the east coast of Malaysia, marinas are generally isolated developments. Disconnected from local communities, they remove us from the experiences that bring wonder to our floating life- from those characters, those adventures, those interactions that great memories are made of. My joy in the journey ebbs a bit with each day tied to a dock.
But here’s the thing: the characters, the experiences, the adventures… they are not exclusive of marinas. I just need to get out and not dwell on the fact that it’s stinking hot, there’s precious little breeze, that we have a literal boatload of laundry, and we are stuck out in a dusty artificial island. That’s just window dressing.
Alex’s words also nudge me into thoughts about our own bigger plan. To be clear: we have specifically not set out a goal to circumnavigate. Our goal, if I had to encapsulate one, is to live a joyful life afloat as a family: learning, loving, sharing, exploring- as long as it’s fun, and we haven’t run out of money. Lately, it’s seemed more and more like one facet of that life afloat together could be circumnavigating. I’ve started building out folders on the computer with titles like “Morocco,” and asking friends in the Med to pass along the secret handshake for anchorages in Croatia that don’t charge $40/night.
It’s still not a goal. It’s not even a promise- not yet. Just a possibility that feels more tangible, a gift we can give each other, and in the nearer term- an inspiration to get a few more dollars into that cruising kitty.
My father has been unhospitalized, and I have resumed the aborted Fall Solo Mini-Cruise aboard Lunacy. I found this lobster yacht, provocatively named, in the cove just north of Malaga Island off Sebasco and thought it made an interesting contrast to the one discussed at the end of my post on Bustins Island. I like it much better–it obviously was once a working fishing vessel, but doesn’t pretend to be any longer. The huge barbecue behind the house is a nice touch and makes it clear what the current priorities are.
Yesterday morning I went ashore and hiked around Malaga, and was struck, as always, by the ghosts that inhabit it.
Shell midden beach left by the black and mixed-race inhabitants who were evicted by the state
An old well on the north end of the island
South end of the island, looking over to Sebasco
And looking south across Casco Bay
In the midst of my walk I found a young filmmaker with a camera, and we talked for a while. He was raised in these parts, though he now lives in San Francisco, and his step-father is descended from one of the “Malagites” that once lived on the island. He, like many others, is now actively engaged in trying to process what happened here.
A navigational note: the mast on the wreck in the cove north of Malaga is now gone, so you have to guess where the wreck is. This isn’t hard at low tide, but can be challenge when the tide is high
In the afternoon, finally, a whisper of breeze appeared. Normally when sailing in October wind is not in short supply, but this week has been perverse. The warm temperatures are very nice, but I’d rather be chilly and sailing fast. I had hoped to get east of Casco this time out, but I’m not willing to motor much to do it, so I contented myself instead sailing the short distance between Malaga and Quahog Bay in a faint sea breeze.
I found this rather unique boat anchored off the north end of Snow Island, where Dodge Morgan used to live. It looks to be a Southern Cross 31 converted to gaff rig. Very attractive, but I have to believe it would sail better under its original rig.
I don’t know who owns Snow Island now, but things are busy there. I heard lots of construction noise as I drifted past on the last cat’s paw of the day.
Jamie and I co-author a cruising column for 48° North, a Pacific Northwest regional boating magazine. Our article for October offers anecdotes internet technology on board. Love it or hate it, it’s certainly changed a great deal about cruising. Puget Sound residents can pick up 48° North in boaty outlets, but anyone can read the full issue free online. Mostly, we think it’s a good thing, but it has made it a lot harder to blame your missing clearance papers on the dog.
Puget Sound boaters calling the verdant silicon forest of the Pacific Northwest home are more likely than most to recognize technology as a friend. On Totem, internet access and digital devices are an part of our everyday routine and make many basic tasks much easier than they were when we first dipped our toes into cruising in the 80s and 90s. The new world of traveling, afloat or otherwise, was hammered home when a recent visitor to Totem related with the air of a confessional that although it seemed old fashioned, she decided to buy a “printed” guide book for her trip to see us anyway. While technology has certainly made our lives afloat safer and easier, there is a flip side to many of the benefits. Here are some of our favorite examples on board, along with some cautionary tales to consider how tech is used whether you are bluewater cruiser, or a weekend sailor in the Sound.
The comments of our visitor notwithstanding, printed guidebooks are still an important part of our library. Perhaps our digitally native children will be able to flip and browse on a tablet the way I do with a hard copy, but I find the physical experience more effective for most needs. On the other hand, the internet is almost always the first resource checked after pilot charts when we choose a new route, especially as we stray beyond the boundaries of cruising guides. Checking for the latest information on clearance formalities, looking for the experiences of recent travelers, and seeing if there are raves (or warnings) play a bigger role than cruising guides in choosing our path.
Technology has changed the basic set of tools for navigation. Google Earth can provide a valuable view that complements on board charts, whether we have an internet connection or not: caching regional images beforehand keeps them accessible. Linked to a GPS, we found it to be more accurate in some places than our electronic charts and offering a valuable visual aid, such as determining a route into an atoll. Beyond onboard navigation, Google Earth and street navigation applications make it easier to get around in unfamiliar areas, especially where English isn’t the local language.
As quickly as we were enamored of tablet navigation, the importance of an alternate source became apparent. We had looked forward to testing out Google Earth in remote parts of Papua New Guinea. We didn’t count on iTunes locking us out until we could download the latest version- a lockout that happened after we left the internet-friendly shores of Australia. PNG doesn’t build roads for most of its people, so you can imagine it wasn’t easy to find internet access sufficient to download the monster update file. It took a few months before we could use the app.
It’s easier than ever to go cruising sooner or longer by using internet access to continue work. We have met cruisers engaged in a range of part time to full time employment including stock speculation, freelance writing, illustration, and more because they can work remotely. Anchored next to Totem in the waters off Pulau Tioman, Malaysia, is an Australian family that has been able to cruise for years because they remotely manage a business at home. The internet requirement does limit their choice of destinations, but they have still managed to cruise through relatively remote areas like Vanuatu. It just took a little more advance planning.
Ready access to a large body of information can filter destinations in another way, too. What is written (or, not written) about a place will influence where many choose to go. In some cases, it can open doors: our documentation of a safe route through Papua New Guinea prompted a number of other cruisers to change their plans and visit instead of skipping this fascinating place. On the other hand, wonderful places which miss out on anecdotal or blog coverage can be left off itineraries altogether.
All this great information can sometimes be misleading. Data becomes obsolete, rules change, and updates aren’t always consistent. We had the frustrating experience of using a list of service centers as a significant factor in our selection of a life raft brand. We realized too late that the manufacture lists centers which have long since stopped supporting the brand, and refuse to recertify. This became a serious problem when we were thousands of miles from another option and have a life raft increasingly past expiration, with ocean miles ahead.
For better or for worse, easy communications has also supported a new standard for official reporting. In Australia, visiting boats are required to give at least 96 hours advance notice of arrival to clearance authorities. It is assumed that this is understood and easy to act upon, although passages from countries nearby (New Caledonia, New Zealand, Vanuatu) can easily take a week. A vessel arriving into Coffs Harbor the same day we did in 2010 had failed to send their notification. It didn’t matter that they’d had just experienced a harrowing passage with equipment failure; the lack of notice cost them thousands of dollars in fines.
There is a dark side to all this great enablement that technology has brought. When you go out for a weekend cruise, does the way you use your cell phone / ipad / ebook reader get put in perspective, or is it as much of a distraction as it can be in everyday life? One of the wonderful things about getting on a boat and casting off is the opportunity to tune down the usual background noise of life, and instead be present to admire the world around you or reconnect with friends and family.
Instead of hanging around in a lonely phone booth on Nuku Hiva, it’s pretty great to be able to Skype from the anchorage to talk to loved ones. Some might debate the loss of the romance of remote and disconnected travel, but it’s still out there if you want to chase it, be that on the backside of Vancouver Island or the remote atolls of the Pacific. Meanwhile, instead of sending blue airmail envelopes folded from whisper-thin letter paper and hoping for the best, I’ll take the nearly instant gratification of email and appreciate what technology has done for our world.
Where do you land on the technology spectrum? Is internet on board an essential utility, or will you happily while away weeks away from connectivity?
We’ve got company coming – it’s time to buy some food. (Didn’t we just go grocery shopping a month ago? My goodness, these chores are relentless.) Off to the store!
We trundled the cart up and down the aisle, restocking cookies and corn, pasta and peppers, while the girls tested how far they could slide on the tile floors without hitting anybody.
Erik stopped short and started cursing.
He looked at his watch and swore again. “It’s after twelve o’clock. And today is Wednesday.”
I swore, too. Because everyone knows you can’t buy alcohol after noon on a Wednesday in New Caledonia. Or after noon on Friday, Saturday or public holidays. Or the day before or after public holidays. But, good news! Monday, Tuesday and Thursday? No problem. Get your drink on. And as for Sunday? Well, my friend. You aren’t just out of luck for alcohol on Sunday. You’re out of luck on everything. The whole city is closed.
I’m not a stranger to restrictive shopping rules. In Germany, we had to get everything bought by eleven a.m. on Saturday, or go hungry for the rest of the weekend. Even in Ontario – part of the North American 24-Hour Consumer Paradise – we didn’t have Sunday shopping until I was in high school. But – and it is a big but – little stores were allowed to open on Sunday. If you were in a pinch, there was always a convenience store open nearby. And, open stores or closed, you still saw people on the street.
Not so in Noumea. A few Sundays ago, the girls were playing at on a friend’s boat. Erik and I decided to dinghy around to the marinas in the area and look at boats. (Looking at boats – it’s what boat people do.) We looked at boats, tied up to the deserted dinghy dock, and tromped up past the closed office.
It was that time in the afternoon when a young man’s fancy turns to cake. “Let’s go get a coffee,” said Erik.
Hot dog! I thought. A civilized coffee in a cafe, where any kids going bananas are Not My Problem. “There’s a cafe over there,” I said. We walked over. Closed. The next one, closed. We were alone on the sidewalk. We walked further and further into the ghost town, but no one was in sight, and every business had its grim metal curtain down. No coffee for you, they announced. So much for playing carefree grown-up for half an hour. (Never have I so missed the coffee vendors in Cartagena, who wander the streets with massive thermoses of super-sweet tinto as hot as lava. Twenty cents would get you a thimbleful in a tiny plastic cup. Hot caffeine was never far away.)
So I shouldn’t have been surprised by the odd liquor laws when we encountered them. (Again – Ontario, where you still have to buy your beer at a government-run operation called: The Beer Store.) And it’s no one’s fault but our own that we only seem to make it to the store on Wednesday or Friday afternoon. But is it so much to ask to have something in the cupboard to offer guests beyond Carrefour store-brand apple juice?
We shrugged in that what-can-you-do kind of way that we have perfected, finished our shopping and took it back to the boat.
And Erik woke up bright and early on Thursday morning to make a liquor run.
Lin & Larry Pardey are on the podcast! Two of my sailing heroes, whose voyages, articles, books and advice has spanned at least two generations of sailors. I spoke to them from Sweden – they were half a world away in New Zealand – and we chatted Baltic sailing, what it feels like to stay (more or less) in one place after a lifetime of ocean voyaging and what they think of the modern voyaging sailor. Check out Lin’s new edition of ‘The Care & Feeding of Sailing Crew’ on their website at landlpardey.com, and catch them at the Toronto and Chicago Boat Shows this winter. Thanks Lin & Larry!
I was a little worried when filmmaker Greg Roscoe got in touch and offered to send along a copy of his new documentary, Raw Faith: A Family Saga. The film follows the story of George McKay and his bizarre mock galleon, Raw Faith, and my fear was Roscoe would seek to romanticize both him and his boat. As I remarked here three years ago when Raw Faith finally sank off Cape Cod, though I always admired McKay’s tenacity, his parody of a vessel made my skin crawl. She was, very obviously, a disaster waiting to happen.
Roscoe, fortunately, doesn’t pretend otherwise. His film is very honest and focusses mostly on the nature of George McKay’s obsession and how it corroded his family. Like a lot of middle-aged men, McKay dreamed of building a boat and sailing away in it. Unlike most, his pursuit of that dream was both grandiose and utterly impractical. Originally he clothed his project in an aura of familial selflessness, declaring his purpose was to build a vessel accessible to his wheelchair-bound daughter Elizabeth and others like her. And the family does pull together to help George construct his preposterous vessel. But as soon as she is completed, they start falling away one by one, until George in the end is left alone with his inevitably selfish fixation.
Though of course I knew how this story ends, I watched this well-made film in slack-jawed amazement. It is visually arresting, as the ticky-tacky galleon seems to lend itself to dramatically framed shots, and is also dramatically paced. A good part of the narrative concerns McKay’s battles with the Coast Guard and local harbormasters, and one is left with an appreciation of our government’s inability to prevent us from doing stupid things on boats. There are some other themes, however, that might have been more fully developed.
I was surprised to learn, for example, that McKay’s interest in Christianity only developed after the galleon was launched. One of the best quotes in the film is from one of McKay’s sons, when he points out that it is not the devil that is thwarting his father. “Life is a bunch of obstacles,” he explains. “And that’s kind of the point.” The film suggests that many of the volunteer crew were Christian fundamentalists, but shies away from exploring the topic in any detail. Another supremely ironic detail–the fact that son Tom ultimately obtains his own small boat and pursues his own variant of his father’s dream–is likewise glanced over.
The ultimate demise of the galleon is also given short shrift, and the end of the film seems a bit hasty. We learn none of the details of the effort to save McKay and his one last crew member as Raw Faith finally sinks beneath the waves 160 miles offshore. More importantly, there is no after-the-fact commentary and no hint of how McKay or his family processed the loss of the vessel.
I urge you to watch the film in any event, particularly if, like me, you are inherently interested in seemingly crazy sailors with weird homemade boats. We most often hear about these people when they have succeeded in making their dreams come true, but it is useful, too, to learn about the dreams that fail.
Check the film’s website for screening times and places, or you can order a DVD.
When we faced changing winds that would turn our anchorage on the west side of Tioman from placid to exposed, it was an easy decision to hop a few miles around to a beach on the other side. We even got to sail a little: bonus!
Juara is typically exposed- in the northeast monsoon, it’s even a surf beach: really not where you’d choose to anchor most of the time. There was nothing much to see underwater, but enty of fun on shore.
Siobhan and I spent some quality time at the Juara Turtle Project. They help improve outcomes for turtle eggs laid on Tioman beaches, provide education and outreach to residents and tourists about turtles and broader conservation issues. Great information is presented about current nesting and historical data, in a highly accessible way. They haven’t been working in the area long enough to have statistically significant data… which is relief, because the last handful of years have not exactly been a positive trend.
Hopefully it’s just a temporary dip. They’ve got a great hook to engage and educate the local community: an open door policy and English language lessons. Kids get supplemental English language instruction, parents tag along, and everybody learns- not just about the importance of preventing the turtle population from disappearing from Tioman, but about a variety of ocean conservation issues. It’s brilliant: better organized than any of the others we’ve seen.
The kids spent most of our days there playing on the beach, of course. The snorkeling was entirely uninteresting (sand, sand, more sand). We did a hike inland to a waterfall one morning. Getting there was half the fun. There was the pontoon we had to haul ourselves across the lagoon in, for starters.
The “waterfall” turned out to be an enthusiastic description for a stream bubbling over boulders, but it did make a nice pool at the bottom to paddle around in. The water was very refreshing: shaded under the tall canopy, and gloriously cool after the hot hike up the hillside. Inevitably, boulders invite.. bouldering.
Apparently the frogs liked the water here, too. Ridiculous number of frogs- big ones, too.
We were peacefully hanging out around the pool (eyeing frogs / treetop gazing / pretend fencing with sticks / paddling around) when a very large tree crashed in the jungle immediately adjacent. I nearly jumped out of my skin! Well, there we go again, living without seat belts or safety bars.
Soon enough the weather was expected to switch back and we had to move around again, but we were glad to get a chance to check out this quieter side of Tioman.
Written by Ben Ellison on Oct 1, 2013 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub
I’ll write soon with NMEA Conference details of the futuristic (and unfinished) NMEA OneNet standard, but I also left San Diego with the strong impression that the good old NMEA 0183 standard is still very much alive. One interesting example is the new Digital Yacht GPS 150 DualNav, which earns its last name for its ability to receive more than one set of positioning satellites at once — already active GPS and GLONASS in particular, more coming — and to then deliver more accurate L/L, COG & SOG than can be gleaned from just one GNSS system.
Garmin already offers the similarly capable GPS 19X, and builds the same high-speed multi-GNSS technology into new MFDs like the GPSMap 741. With a 10 hz refresh rate and more satellites to look at, a user of these new generation GNSS receivers should get better performance plus the comfort of redundancy, if either GPS or GLONASS happens to fail in your area. It should also make recently discussed GNSS spoofing a lot harder. Thus, I suspect that what we see Garmin doing now will eventually become standard for all the major electronics manufacturers.
What Digital Yacht has done differently is to put GPS/GLONASS high-precision navigation data out over the NMEA 0183 standard with a lot of flexibility to work with various existing systems. Yes, indeed, inside the waterproof GPS 150 is a classic DIP switch, so that an installer can set it up without needing an attached PC or MFD. The many modes available (see the manual) include TurboNav, which outputs 10 Hz position and motion data capable of under 3-foot accuracy at 115,000 baud. Digital Yacht says that level of performance is getting the attention of sailors with older Nexus and B&G systems able to handle that sort of NMEA 0183 input. And with a price under $200, the DualNav is also a good candidate to replace deceased Raymarine RayStar 102/125 sensors according to DY, which has even put up a dedicated DualNav site.
I also attended a seminar in which various branches of the U.S. Coast Guard explained their involvement with marine electronics. For instance, Lee Luft of the USCG R&D Center explained how his team worked with NMEA, IEC, Inmarsat and others to create five new NMEA 0183/IEC 61162-1 sentences, which can “convey Maritime Safety Information (MSI) from Inmarsat-C and Mini-C shipboard terminals to other shipboard equipment” (example above and tech bulletin PDF here). Equivalent NMEA 2000 PGNS will follow, but presumably 0183 went first as that’s what most of the equipment can handle. (There’s also a useful sounding new MOB notication message, both for 0183 and for 2000.)
So NMEA 0183 is very much alive and kicking, even if I’m happy to have very little of it aboard my own boat. I’m also fine with the concept of modern MFDs dropping 0183 support altogether, as Furuno has done with both its high-end NavNet TZT series and the value-oriented GP1670F and 1870F plotter/fishfinders I learned more about at NMEA (paper chart fans should know that you get NOAA raster charts via C-Map 4D on these bright, fast screens).
I hadn’t realized, though, that Furuno has also developed a small, reasonably priced NMEA 0183 to 2000 gateway to deal with mixed systems. The bi-directional IF-NMEA2K2 has three 0183 interface modes — the default at 4,800bps, high-speed (38,400) autopilot, and high-speed AIS — each with its own set of message translations and refresh rates (well explained in the manual). And if you could read the label below, you’d see that the high-speed modes are selected simply by cutting a particular wire loop bundled with the regular 0183 leads. It’s a fast, effective install solution that makes even a DIP switch seem high tech.
We’ll recall that the advent in the early 19th century of what might be called the first purpose-built cruising boat, Cleopatra’s Barge, was nurtured by the vast personal wealth of one individual, George Crowninshield. And as the 19th century progressed, yachting, not surprisingly, continued to be the domain of the wealthy. The vessels and the egos behind them only grew larger and more extravagant.
Yachting was very much about social status, and this led to the formation of exclusive clubs. The two most prominent were the Royal Yacht Squadron (RYS), formed in England in 1815, and the New York Yacht Club (NYYC), founded in 1844. Neither, however, was the first of its kind in its respective continent. The Water Club, formed in Cork, Ireland, circa 1720, is believed to have been the first yacht club in Europe, while the Boston Boat Club, circa 1830, was the first in North America. The activities of these clubs centered on racing and wagering, and the racing could be quite vicious. Competitors in early RYS events, for example, would effectively wage combat against each other, wielding weapons of various sorts in efforts to cut away their opponents’ rigs. Like their Dutch predecessors, RYS members also staged mock naval reviews in which large groups of yachts sailed in formation.
Cruising, it should be noted, was not unheard of. Members of the RYS often cruised in company across the English Channel on wine-buying expeditions along the French coast. Likewise, the first thing members of the NYYC did upon forming their club was to cruise in company up Long Island Sound to Newport, Rhode Island, staging various “trials of speed” along the way. To this day the NYYC Annual Cruise with its competitive squadron runs is religiously observed.
Over time, yacht racing became more formal and less violent, though the wagering continued unabated. The designing of yachts also became a specialized practice. Originally, as was the case with Cleopatra’s Barge, a gentleman’s “yacht” was essentially a working vessel dressed in finery. Its construction might be specially commissioned and executed, but its design was based on common working craft. Over time, however, yachts became unique vessels in every respect. Eventually it became possible for men to earn a living by specializing in the creation of these pleasure craft.
Cutters Versus Sloops
As the design of yachts evolved, two fundamental paradigms asserted themselves. In Great Britain, where racing handicaps were based on government tonnage rules for taxing commercial vessels that penalized beam, yachts tended to be narrow and deep. These so-called “cutters”–the term in those days referred to a vessel’s hull form rather than its rig–depended for their stability on a great deal of ballast fixed as low in the keel as possible. In the United States, meanwhile, where beam was not penalized and there was a considerable amount of shoal water along the coast, yachts tended to be wide and shallow. Vessels like this, described as “sloops” (again, the reference is to the hull, not the rig) and sometimes as “skimming dishes,” depended on their wide hulls for stability (though some ballast was carried loose in their bilges) and on centerboards to minimize leeway. The centerboard, an American innovation first patented in New Jersey in 1811, was directly descended from the leeboards used by the Dutch aboard their wide, shallow jaghts.
A radical example of a British cutter with a deep keel and a very narrow hull
American centerboard sloops like Gracie, shown here, were quite wide and shallow
Inevitably, these divergent design paradigms were forced to converge. The first equalizing event came in 1851, when the famous yacht America, owned by John Cox Stevens, a founding member of the NYYC, crossed the Atlantic and trounced a fleet of British yachts in a race around the Isle of Wight. America‘s hull was not radically shallow, nor did she carry a centerboard, as she had been designed expressly to cross the Atlantic and was based more on New York pilot schooners than on cutting-edge racing yachts. But she was wider than the British yachts she competed against and, more importantly, carried much of her beam aft and had a hollow bow with a fine entry forward. This was the exact opposite of the crude “cod’s head and mackerel’s tail” shape (a wide entry forward with a narrow run aft) that still prevailed in Britain.
As a result of America‘s success, though British yachts did not immediately become significantly wider overall, their proportions started shifting. Bows became more hollow and concave, and the point of maximum beam moved farther aft. This was exactly in keeping with the first scientific theory of naval architecture–called the Wave Line Theory–which had been developed and promulgated by a Scotsman, John Scott Russell, nearly a quarter of a century earlier, but had until then been ignored in Britain.
Besides winning her famous cup for the New York Yacht Club, the yacht America was an early example of a “scientifically” designed sailboat
Lines of America
The next significant equalizing event came in 1876, when the American centerboard schooner Mohawk capsized and sank in a sudden but relatively moderate squall off Staten Island in New York Harbor. The boat’s owner, Will Garner, his wife, and a party of guests were killed in the incident.
Mohawk, an extreme example of the skimming-dish type, was intended by Garner to be the largest, fastest, most opulent yacht in the NYYC fleet. She was 141 feet long, 30 feet wide, and had a draft of just 6 feet that increased to 30 feet when she dropped her massive 7-ton centerboard. She flew an amazing 32,000 square feet of sail area. The fact that she could not stand up to all her sail in spite of her great beam helped fuel arguments that the wide, shallow yachts favored in the United States were fundamentally unsafe. It did not help either, of course, that Mohawk was slower than Garner had hoped and proved a dud on the race course.
Schooner Mohawk under sail. She proved both slow and unstable
A narrow British cutter named Madge crossed the Atlantic and raced successfully against several U.S. yachts in 1881, and then another large centerboard schooner, Grayling, capsized on her maiden sail in 1883. As a result a vociferous group of “cutter cranks,” who called the skimming dishes “death traps” and favored British designs instead, became prominent in American yachting circles. This led to the development of “compromise” designs pioneered by Edward Burgess of Boston, Massachusetts, an entomologist turned yacht designer who was heavily influenced by British cutters he had observed during a summer spent on the Isle of Wight.
These compromise boats, like the British cutters, had heavy ballast keels, but they were not nearly as narrow or deep relative to their length. Also, like the American boats, they carried centerboards. The litmus test came in 1885, when the Burgess-designed Puritan defeated an American skimming dish, Priscilla, for the right to defend the America’s Cup, then beat a British cutter, Genesta, in the Cup finals.
Lines of Puritan. A successful compromise design that bridged the gap between narrow British cutters and wide American sloops
Racing Rule Development
The final factor that helped to unite the opposing camps of yacht design was the development of empirically based handicap rules for racing. As noted, handicaps originally were based on commercial measurements devised for tax purposes. Over time, however, it became clear that these formulas had little to do with a vessel’s actual performance.
Performance, it was noticed, depended most directly on waterline length–i.e., more waterline equals more speed. In 1883, the first handicap rule based on measurements of waterline length and sail area, the Seawanhaka Rule, developed by New York’s Seawanhaka Corinthian Yacht Club, was adopted in the United States. Soon afterward, in 1888, a similar rule came into use in Great Britain. The result, ultimately, was a universal trend favoring boats with overhanging ends whose waterlines increased as they heeled to the wind.
One of the most important yachts to exploit this little rule-beating trick was Gloriana, a 70-foot sloop designed and built by Nathanael Herreshoff for E.D. Morgan in 1891. Gloriana, thanks at least in part to her overhanging spoon-shaped bow, was undefeated the one season Morgan raced her and instantly secured Herreshoff’s reputation as a yacht designer. Described by some as the first “scientifically contructed” yacht, she was also very stable and could carry a great press of sail, as weight above her waterline was greatly reduced and was instead concentrated as ballast in her keel.
E.D. Morgan’s Gloriana under sail. She was undefeated the one season he raced her
Lines of Gloriana
In the decade that followed, the continued development of these features, plus a tendency to cut away as much keel as possible to reduce surface area below the water, produced increasingly radical boats. This evolution culminated in a 1901 Bowdoin Crowninshield design, Independence, that was lightly built with immensely long overhangs, a tiny keel, and a gigantic sailplan. Independence leaked badly, however, and handled, as her skipper put it, like “an ice wagon.” Nat Herreshoff managed to perfect the concept in his equally radical Reliance, which defended the America’s Cup in 1903. Termed a “monster” by many at the time, Reliance measured 144 feet long on deck (and a little over 200 feet overall if you measured from the end of her boom to her bowsprit), and had a waterline length of just 90 feet, with over 16,000 square feet of sail area flying from a single mast that was 200 feet tall.
Lines of Independence
Reliance running off with maximum sail set
Profligacy in the Gilded Age
In all ways, the general trend in yacht construction in the latter half of the 19th century was increasingly grandiose. This was particularly true in the United States, where the enormous expansion of the national economy in the years following the Civil War—the Gilded Age, as Mark Twain termed it—allowed for the accumulation of private wealth on a scale never before imagined. Picking up where George Crowninshield had left off with Cleopatra’s Barge, the American “robber barons” competed with each other in creating ever more extravagant vessels.
Originally, these 19th century super-yachts could function both as cruising and racing vessels. Will Garner’s Mohawk, for example, though intended to excel on the race course, also featured fabulous creature comforts, including gas lighting, hot and cold freshwater plumbing, and a steam-heat system, not to mention a grand piano and other lavish, heavy furnishings. Even America’s Cup contenders were tricked out in this manner and were often cruised between campaigns. By the end of the century, however, the superwealthy tended not to cruise in the sailing vessels they raced, as these were becoming ever more extreme. Instead, they cruised for pleasure aboard enormous steam yachts that were even larger than their sailboats.
The trend toward profligacy, and toward steam, was reflected in the changing composition of the NYYC’s squadron of members’ vessels. In 1870 the squadron consisted of only 49 vessels, four of which were steam yachts. The largest vessel was a 145-foot schooner displacing 275 tons, owned by William Douglas. Within just 30 years, the squadron mushroomed to 402 vessels, 207 of which were steam yachts. The queen of the fleet was Lysistrata, a 314-foot steamer displacing 2,682 tons that belonged to newspaper magnate James Gordon Bennett.
The nearly tenfold increase in the size of the squadron was not really a function of yachting’s growing popularity as a sport. Instead it reflected yachting’s growing importance as a venue for public displays of status and wealth–a fact, of course, that was also reflected in the growing size of the yachts themselves. Many of the “yachtsmen” who owned these vessels, unlike George Crowninshield, who made his fortune at sea aboard trading vessels, had little interest in nautical matters. Even those who owned and campaigned racing yachts were often happy just to write checks (and make wagers) and never sailed their boats themselves.
As for cruising, the tycoons of the late 19th century did indeed wander far and wide in their floating palaces. One of these was an Englishman, Sir Thomas Brassey, who circled the globe in 1876-77 in his 170-foot steam auxiliary schooner Sunbeam. His wife, Lady Anna Brassey, published an account of the voyage (it was, in fact, the first circumnavigation ever made by a yacht) that became a bestseller both in Britain and the United States.
J.P. Morgan’s Corsair. By the end of the century rich yachtsmen most often cruised in large steam vessels and only raced under sail
The Brasseys were followed by many others, particularly Americans who, like Crowninshield before them, yearned to cruise the Mediterranean, where they could purchase art and perhaps hobnob with European royalty. J.P. Morgan, for example, bought his first yacht—Corsair, a 185-foot steamer—in 1881 and at once took off on an art-buying cruise to Palestine. His third Corsair, built in 1899, which he often cruised to Europe, was 304 feet long. James Gordon Bennett, meanwhile, spent almost 20 years living aboard his steam yachts, meandering ceaselessly back and forth across the North Atlantic. Lysistrata, his last and largest vessel, had more than 100 paid crew, a stable for a milking cow, and three separate owner’s staterooms.
Needless to say, cruising on this scale never trickled down to the lower strata of society. But upper-middle-class and middle-class sailors were finding ways to get afloat, and in the end the cruises they undertook turned out to be much more influential.
We recently crossed the one-year mark since departing Australia, and a relatively stationary period in our floating life. It was a banner year and prompted some reflection I posted a few stats on our Facebook page… here’s an expansion we mulled today, as we headed north up the west coast of the Malay peninsula.
Nautical miles traveled: 7,724. A lot of miles- exceeded only our Pacific crossing year (over 9,500).
Countries visited: 4. Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, Brunei, Malaysia.
Days at anchor: 287. It’s our preference to be anchored instead of docked, but it’s also the only option along our route this past year. We didn’t even see a marina until we got to Bali, more than 4,700 nm after leaving Australia.
Days docked: 47. We’ve been in quite a few marinas in Malaysia, where they’re generally reasonable, and very helpful while we wait for parts to repair our watermaker.
Nights underway: 31. It was six days from Australia to PNG; we had a few other multi-day trips, but most of these are just overnighters…not a lot of long stretches required for insular southeast Asia.
Places visited: 92. Most of these were in Indonesia, which accounts for the majority of the mileage.
Average wind speed: 5 knots. This is just a round estimation, but… well, yeah.
Diesel gallons: 1,224. See above. There’s a reason this is called the land below the wind.
Deepest anchorage: 115′. Jayapura, our first stop in Indonesia. Papua and West Papua provinces generally had very deep anchoring, and often current to deal with as well.
Deepest stop (shore tied): 170′. Tucked into islands on the southeast side of Misool island, in Indonesia’s Raja Ampat, it was too deep to anchor; Totem was secured with three different lines to shore instead.
Biggest wave: estimated 35′+. When we came through the Jomard entrance from the Coral Sea into Papua New Guinea, water depths went rapidly from thousands of feet to just a few hundred, stacking swells and giving us a hair raising stretch of water.
Fish caught: 10. Keepers, anyway. This is entirely in PNG, because we were saddened enough by the overfishing in Indonesia to pretty much stop fishing altogether.
Plastic bags pulled from raw water intake: 4. One of them was three feet long. The water in Indonesia is literally trashed, and Malaysia isn’t much better.
Number of times we’ve had to back down hard to shake plastic off the prop: 8. Well, that’s the number of times we could easily remember. There were probably more. Have I mentioned how trashed the water is in Southeast Asia? Imagine the microplastic, given the amount of visible garbage present.Removed from Totem’s engine intake
Number of languages we’ve learned greetings in: 9. Misima, Budibud, Seimat, Pidgin, Indonesian, Buton, Bajau, Iban, Malaysian.
Most rewarding trade: a perfect scale model of a Louisiades sailing outrigger, exchanged for a pile goods that included everything from a dive mask to a bag of rice.
Favorite places: the impossible question. We all have a few, one of which is invariably Raja Ampat- these are the unique individual favorites.
Jamie: Brooker island, Louisiades, PNG, for waking us up to the dramatic differences in our lives.
Behan: Mal island, Ninigo, PNG, for the friendships made with special families.
Niall: Rabaul, PNG, for the wealth of WWI history and artifacts
Mairen: Hermit Islands, PNG, for swimming with whales, nice snorkeling, and the sweetest pineapples in the world.
Siobhan: Banda, Muluku, Indonesia, because she climbed a big volcano!
Jamie: rendang, a spicy dry rubbed beef, slow cooked in coconut milk until reduced to a thick sauce.
Behan: Wendy’s incredible yams in coconut milk, from Panapompom island in PNG
Niall: nasi goreng ayam, or fried rice with chicken, a serial favorite at warungs across Indonesia
Mairen: roti susu, the puffed bread drizzled with sweetened condensed milk available all over Malaysia
Siobhan: bakso in Banda, Indonesia. Common everywhere, but especially delicious prepared with care by our friend Nini, with fish balls, rice noodles, and a nutmeg- because it’s the Spice islands.
Hello Mister! Typically called in greeting, loudly, without respect to gender of the person being greeted, in much of Indonesia and PNG.
Kali katuai. Budibud for “thank you,” which has become a catchphrase for us.
OK OK OK. For some reason, “OK” is never said just once, it’s said in triplicate. We started to notice this in PNG, and it’s only become more prevalent as we continued west.
Alternate modes of transportation:
Horse drawn carts (Gili Air, Indonesia)
Sailing dugouts (Ninigo, PNG)
Ojeks, the motorcycle lifts which are standard ride-for-hire (all over Indonesia)
Back of a truck (Tioman, Malaysia)
Local fishing boat (Banda, Indonesia)
Bemos, the open public minibuses (Indonesian population centers. livestock optional.)
Big air conditioned buses (Malaysian population centers)
Taxis (Indonesian/Malaysian population centers)
Sobering startling realizations:
Trashed waters. The amount of pollution is shocking. It was worst in Indonesia but is pretty bad in Malaysia as well. By contrast, there was very little in PNG, where every used water bottle that washes up on shore finds use- and there simply isn’t much available to turn into trash in the first place.
Throwback economies. Most of islands we visited in PNG have no functional cash economy; it is subsistence living, supplemented with shark finning. People may want to romanticize a life of foraging in a tropical island paradise, but it is hard, you die young, and they’d really prefer to have options.
Disenfranchisement. It was shocking how a country with as many resources as PNG allows all wealth to be skimmed at the very top and provides pretty much nothing to citizens. The average person gets it, but it’s hard to organize to create change when you can’t communicate (no infrastructure) and the NGOs are elsewhere.
Genocide. This is not a word to use lightly. Defined by Webster as the “deliberate and systematic destruction of a racial, political, or cultural group,” it appears to be what is happening to Melanesians in Indonesia’s far eastern provinces. We’d like to go back to Indonesia, so it’s not been a blog topic, but what we have seen, heard, and read made an impression.
It’s been a big year. Not our biggest in miles, or number of countries, or many measures- but it felt big to us as we willfully separated ourselves from common routes and the company of others. It was more work, but it was immensely rewarding, and ultimately- it was, like so much of life, all about the people that we met.
“Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.”
– Maya Angelou
“Time to start school.”
“I don´t wanna do school, today.”
“You have to do school – it´s important.”
“Come on, it won´t take long.”
“Alright, alright! Fine! I´ll do school.” I turn away from Erik and lean out of the cockpit. “Kids! Time for school!”
Teaching is my primary job aboard Papillon. It took me a while to figure it out – don´t ever think that elementary school teachers are just breezing through life – but now the kids and I have a system that works well for us. Most days I look forward to our school time, and all three of us have fun. But there are days when I open my eyes in the morning and the weather is cold and rainy, or we´re in a particularly interesting place, or I don´t feel so great, or I´m just plain lazy. On those days I want to call in sick and skip the whole thing. I´m having one of those times. And this is not helped by the fact that the girls are having one of those times, too.
Our rule has always been: every day is a school day, unless something else is going on. We never make it seven days in a row; there is a always a break in there somewhere. Longer vacations come when we have visitors or two-parent disruptions (like applying antifouling before the rain comes back.) We haven´t had a big break since I took the kids home in April, so we are due for a rest. And as luck would have it, guests are coming. October will bring on-off-on alternating weeks of visitors. Vacation time is upon us.
This means, however, that we have to be good now and get something done. But not one of the three of us is making it easy. Do you remember those last few days befor
By now, many of you have probably heard about modern forays into sail transport. There are small-scale operations popping up in predictable places, like Seattle, and less-predictable ones, like Michigan Then, there are the ‘big’ operations: Tres Hombres, pictured above, is a 126 ton schooner which has been transporting chocolate and wine across the Atlantic for the European market. These guys are smart, and very media-savvy. In this excellent short video their captain, Andreas Lackner, points out that they aren’t in a position to compete with big shipping companies. Instead, their mission is show that if sail transport can be done, profitably, on a small ship there’s no reason it couldn’t be scaled up. (Although I can’t help but wonder how much of the cargo goes missing during the voyage…)
There are some big guns behind this idea of scaling up, also based in Holland. The Naval Architecture firm Dykstra has put serious resources into designs for the ‘Ecoliner’ which will be a high-tech hybrid/sail propulsion cargo ship.Credit: Dykstra
The ‘Ecoliner’ design utilizes sets of computer-controlled squarish sails which sit on rotating masts, called a DynaRig. This rig is designed to be operated by an absolute minimum of people and it has already made its way off of the drawing board and onto the 289-foot megayacht ‘Maltese Falcon’
Sails on the ‘Maltese Falcon’ are largely computer-controlled and the ship can be sailed by a single person.
Sail transport is not just a way to cope with global warming, it is also a means of getting supplies to remote places which desperately need them. Take YachtAid Global. This is an organization which links up sailors (and motorboaters) with aid organizations in isolated communities and disaster areas, the idea being that aid can be delivered by boats which are already headed that direction. It’s an admirable concept, although I have to confess that my stomache turns a bit at the idea of a luxury motoryacht stopping to drop off a few supplies on their way to a five-star resort or private island in some economically desperate country. Much more my style are the smaller and often informal networks run by cruising sailors. Over the years we’ve met plenty of folks helping bring medical aid to Cuba, or disaster relief supplies to Haiti and other locations in the Caribbean.
Not-quite-coincidentally, this brings me to a question for anyone reading this out there on the internet. My sister Pippin, who helped found a Community Printshop here in New Orleans, has been volunteering at a community center in Jacmel, Haiti. They are building a printshop and teaching people the skills to start small screenprinting businesses. Unfortunately the mail system in Haiti is still virtually non-functional so they’ve been forced to fly with all their supplies but they’ve run into a problem in that there are one or two essential items which aren’t allowed on a plane. We’re searching for a person or organization who might be able to help transport a small box of supplies down there by boat. I would love to hear from anyone who is sailing to Haiti or knows of a Yacht Aid-type organization which brings supplies there.
In the meantime, I hope to see a lot more sailboats out there with holds full of cargo!
Congratulations to anyone whose Facebook account has not been hammered with postings about an alleged, illegal, computer-driven hydrofoil-stability system aboard Oracle Team USA. Once these things get loose, you can’t kill them.
But, if you want to get a grip on reality, there are two ready touchpoints.
On Friday, Team New Zealand boss Grant Dalton told the New Zealand Herald that he had no thought of legal action.
And, you can read the International Jury’s Public Interpretation No. 49 (read it here: PI-49) which was dated August 8. At ETNZ’s request, the Jury—including one Kiwi and zero Americans—considered the legality of the board-control system installed on the US defender.
The Jury ruled the system to be human-controlled and legal.
The inquisitive among you will want to see the diagram of the small spring in the linear actuator, the only component of the system that ETNZ was challenging. The diagram is included in PI-49. (BTW, it’s not even clear that Oracle sailed with that spring.)
All of this was history long before somebody(s) pulled this rumor out of the mill and, in the process, wasted a heap of cybertime.
Five on My Scorecard
On my scorecard, there have been five occasions in the 162 years of the America’s Cup when the competition became a national obsession. Each time, the story line was David vs. Goliath.
1851: David vs. Goliath: Britain rules an empire because Britannia rules the waves, but a cheeky young republic sends its own special breed of boat to race the POMs in the year of the Queen’s Great Exhibition, a world’s fair featuring the display of national technologies. The Yanks had the gall to name their boat America, but had it been Mama’s Mink, we would have been saved a heap of bother.
1983: David vs. Goliath: America is the Power That Be, and the cheeky Aussies come to town with a better mousetrap and take away the Cup despite Dennis Conner’s nearly-successful defense with a slower boat. To this day, I know how to stir up an argument over whether or not Australia II was class legal, but it don’t matter now, no how. Just days ago the Aussies held a reunion to celebrate their victory. My Aussie journo counterpart, Rob Mundle, dashed off a note, “Just arrived in Sydney for the 30th Anniversary celebration of Australia II’s win in the America’s Cup ~ September 26 1983, Newport, Rhode Island (the end of the longest winning streak in sporting history!) Just had lunch with Bondy, who has flown in specially from London. We’re all getting out of bed early (6am) to watch the final San Francisco showdown, then, regardless of the result, get on with one hell of a party. It’s going to be a fantastic reunion, and a huge celebration. Almost the entire AII crew is here for a huge lunch at the Hilton Hotel. 500 paying guests – it’s a sell out.”
And a word of follow-up: I hear the celebration went very well.
1987: Goliath strikes back: Dennis Conner reclaims the Cup in straight races in a match that electrifies both Australia and America. Those who were part of it are still saying, Thank you, OZ.
1995: David vs. Goliath: A superior Black Magic, sailed by Team New Zealand, takes the Cup in straight races in San Diego. Following the Australian model, the country goes cheerfully nuts. (Russell Coutts arrives on the AC scene as a New Zealand national hero)
2013: David vs. Goliath: Prepared to once again go cheerfully nuts, and already talking waterfront renovations and historical displays as Team New Zealand racks up early wins, David’s stone flies but misses the mark. In our joy at winning, even the most rabid of San Francisco Bay supporters (like, totally, me, for example) found no joy in the defeat of the Kiwi team (though, Grant, you may have overachieved on the slur campaign). At times it was surreal. For the CEO of his Oracle Racing, Larry Ellison had hired the winningest guy in Cup history (a certain former New Zealand national hero) because that’s what Ellison does. The consequence was that I and mine in San Franciscoville were caught in a Kiwi crossfire.
Oh well, we move on. My favorite image of AC34 was shot by our local, Abner Kingman, working for the America’s Cup Event Authority. Right place, right time.
And the next America’s Cup is going to be fine—Kimball
I was just pulling into a mooring field in Sebasco after sailing across Casco Bay from Portland, when I got a phone call from Phil “Snake Wake” Cavanaugh, who was somewhere in central Europe at the time, telling me that Oracle had just won races 17 and 18 and had forced a final race 19 to decide it all. I had been planning this last long outing of the season for weeks and wasn’t about to let Cup fever thwart it, but I was willing to stay over a day in Sebasco so I could watch the last race in the bar at the little resort there.
Of course, all Phil wants to talk about (now and then) is how wrong I was in picking the Kiwis to win way back when. And that’s cool. I’m very glad I was wrong, because I’m sure I won’t ever see anything like this again in my lifetime.
The thing about the America’s Cup, of course, is that the soap opera never stops. Rumors are now flying that Oracle had some potentially illegal automatic foil trimming system on their boat and that Team New Zealand will seek to void their victory. (Given Oracle got caught cheating in the AC World Series this seems almost inevitable, doesn’t it?) And Larry Ellison has announced that he has received a formal challenge from the Challenger of Record for the next Cup cycle, but he won’t say who it is. And, of course, there’s been all sorts of wild speculation about what sort of boats should be used next time.
There have also been estimates flying around as to what all this madness cost. These range from $770 to $830 million, with $450 to $500 million of that being spent by Larry Ellison alone. So the one thing everyone seems to agree on is that it has to be cheaper next time, with more affordable boats.
I will therefore offer one helpful suggestion.
I propose that the next Cup should be sailed in gundalows right here in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The course should run under several bridges, so the crews can show off their spar-dipping techniques. It should also be legal to use sweeps in light-air conditions.
We now return to the cruising blog I used to write.
I saw this boat at Sebasco, which has been moored all season at Portland right near Lunacy, and had a brief conversation with her new owner in the shower. She is a Cy Hamlin Controversy ketch, strip planked in mahogany, built in Southwest Harbor during the 1970s. Note the reverse sheer and center cockpit, which were unusual features in those days. You can’t see it in this photo, but there’s also a very unusual rope reel mounted on the starboard sidedeck that is used to handle the anchor rode.
I also saw Jay Paris and his wife Phyllis, who came in aboard Petrel, their little centerboard cruiser that Jay spent over 30 years designing and building. They treated me to lunch aboard and later went ashore with me to watch Oracle complete their amazing comeback.
Immediately after the race I got a phone call first from Phil, who, yes, wanted to talk about how wrong I was picking the Kiwis to win, and then from my dad’s nursing home, telling me my dad had to be hospitalized.
So… that was the end of that cruise for now.
Here are videos of the last AC races, just so my collection here will be complete:
The key moment out of all of these, I think, is during race 18. Dean Barker finally wins a start again (starting at 1:12:40 in the second viddy), but then Oracle sails right over Team New Zealand going to windward (starting at 1:20:30), foiling easily and clearly demonstrating their superior upwind boatspeed. Which is the amazing thing about this whole series, how Oracle was so much slower to begin with and how much they managed to improve under combat conditions.
Major congrats to Larry Ellison, Russell Coutts, Jimmy Spithill, and company. (Unless, of course, you guys were cheating on the big boat, too, then I take it back.)
It’s been all over SAILfeed here, the story of Matt Rutherford’s encounter with the abandoned Swan 48 Wolfhound and his subsequent attempt at salvaging her. Here it now from the man himself, on the second installment of my ‘59 Degrees North‘ podcast. Episode 3 is also Matt, discussing the specifics of his first Ocean Research Project expedition to study the Atlantic Garbage Patch with scientist Nicole Trenholm onboard the Colvin 44 Ault . Enjoy!
We had surprisingly good snorkeling at Tioman Island by just jumping off the boat from our mooring near the village of Tektek. A controversial marina was put in here not long ago, against a great deal of pressure from environmental concerns and with the expected lack of transparency.
The quality of the reef exceeded expectations. I wonder how much it’s been affected by the development of the marina? The marina has probably brought jobs, and money from boats going into the economy; that has to be a good thing. And I suppose there are guys like this who would scrape the bottom paint off his boat on the beach if he didn’t have the convenient ramp at the marina. The marina could educate and prevent poor practices like this, but I doubt the information, experience, and will exist to do that effectively…for now anyway.
Then there are the idiots like the cruiser who sucked all the oil out of his bilge, put it in shallow pans on the dock, then left the boat for a trip to Kuala Lumpur. Meanwhile, torrential rains caused the pans to overflow and spill all that waste oil in the marina waters. People like that really piss me off. I’m not going to key any hulls, but it makes my blood boil. There’s no excuse to be so irresponsible.
We weren’t anchored nearly as close as this photo makes it look: it was about 100′ to the beginning of the reef, and then about 200′ from there to the beach- but you can see, it’s right next to the marina development. Still, the marine life in the reef adjacent was really vibrant. Although we have routinely seen commercial fishermen actively fishing in protected waters (so frustrating), the size and curiosity of the groupers near Tektek suggest to me that they really are left alone in this particular area.
It’s always cool to see a turtle, like the one in the photo at the top. This individual was spotted a few days in a row, by our crew and Utopia’s. Thanks to the distinctive chunk out of the left side of his shell, it’s highly recognizable. Random fact: do you know that green turtles were named not for the tint to their shells, but for the color of the fat rendered when cooked? This one is actually a hawksbill. I think. (overlapping scutes, that beaky thing…I am no expert with the species ID)
The reef was full of other visual treats. Among the smattering of the underwater delights were razorfish, something I have wanted to see for years: in my pre-cruising life, I worked at a company named Razorfish. Finally, the moment arrived! They are a crackup to watch: long skinny fish that hang vertically in the water, moving in near perfect unison.
There were beautiful corals. The camera doesn’t do justice to the purple edge on this one.
The table corals were really big, too. This one must have been at least ten feet across. I am too close to fit it all in the frame- oops.
What I don’t know is if all that bleaching at the tips is a bad sign, or a normal level. Anyone? Meanwhile, check out the TONS of little polyps waving around!
Here’s a fish playing symbiotic hide-and-go-seek in a sea urchin:
…and here’s as sea urchin playing hide-and-go-seek behind corals:
How about the pretty blue spotted stingray under a coral head?
There were lots of anemones. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many in one area.
So of course, there were so many anemone fish. This is the first time I’ve seen one that was more white than orange.
I love these little guys! So much personality. At least they weren’t trying to attack me, as they did my bloggy friend Lara.
It would have been nice to compare other reefs around Tioman, but we were pretty happy in out little spot. Utopia invited us to share their scuba gear one day, and check out the reef around an islet at the west end of the bay. Very fun: although it was less diverse, it was still full of fish (and full of tourists, since it was a holiday weekend). Not to mention- regular shark spotting! A stout looking blacktip cruised through a couple of times. There seems to be an very high population of sea urchins… something out of balance? Not sure, but maybe I should brush up on catching and preparing uni…
Written by Ben Ellison on Sep 26, 2013 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub
“Pretty cool…ESPN says one of the greatest upsets in sports history!” my brother-in-law emailed me last night, and he’s a guy who knows who pitched World Series games decades ago and how well, but bupkis about the America’s Cup. Yes, indeed, AC34 was incredibly unpredictable and exciting, but I’ll argue that the winners all along were the teams who made the race management, umpiring, and broadcasting so innovative and so effective…
Consider, for instance, those huge floating race marks that showed up so well on TV and must have been easily visible to the racers even as they flew at 40 knots with gale-like spray in their faces. Remember that they were supposed to be 42-foot mark/VIP boats (Dan’s Panbo profile here) with Volvo Penta dynamic positioning so that race management could modify the course easily. Well, “easily” if you’ve put together amazing telemetry and data communications systems and the ability to push course changes out specially modified Garmin chartplotters on all the support vessels (Panbo committee boat visit here).
But the Artemis accident forced new safety measures including the decision not to put humans at the race marks, and AC Race Management (ACRM) apparently designed, sourced and built those floaters in three weeks. They are, in fact, giant megayacht-toy-style inflatable trampolines equipped with some sort of pyramid structure and a telemetry/comms pack so that ACRM, the umpires, and the LiveLine coverage would all know precisely where they were. I’m told that they’re quite comfortable inside, but a bitch to anchor and/or move in San Francisco Bay.
Nonetheless, a few nattering nabobs of negativity at Sailing Anarachy still complained about how the ACRM aboard Regardless (above) could have changed the course, so that some of the cancelled races had run. But note who didn’t complain about the race management or the umpiring. The racers themselves neither complained nor argued, and I think that’s one key to why this event was so compelling (though perhaps not obvious unless you’ve suffered through contentious AC events).
So how about a big hand to AC34 uber geek Stan Honey (Panbo profile here) and team members like Eric Steinberg (Panbo profile here) and many others?
You may notice that most of my writing about AC34 dates back to the ACWS event in San Diego almost two years ago (thanks again, Garmin). However, it’s largely the same tech team who ran the AC72 series in San Francisco and they clearly had their systems down. Heck, the umpires didn’t even need Eric’s tricked-out PWCs anymore, and I never once saw the impossibly complex Liveline overlays go out of register with the real and fast action on the Bay. (While the system wasn’t very useful in the fog, in my book that was only validation that Honey is not actually a god and was genius to keep the Virtual Eye system in reserve ;-)
Before I got to visit the ETNZ compound two weeks ago, ACRM had not only dealt with issues like the floating marks, but had also added goodies to the system like those virtual AIS spectator boundary buoys seen on the Vesper Vision screen above…
The giggling geeks above are myself and Vesper founder Jeff Robbins (and note the video and audio microwave link antenna at the top of ETNZ’s wing). Jeff had worked with Stan Honey so that a single Vesper virtual AIS beacon transmitter (Panbo detail here) could not only place a row of virtual beacons along the spectator “fence”, but Stan’s course management system could automatically move them if and exactly when the course changed.
There are many AC34-happy geeks around. At the NMEA Conference exhibit hall opening last night, for instance, the USCG’s AIS guy, Jorge Arroyo, was excited to talk about the virtual beacons and also the AIS-transmitted geographical boundary notice that Robbins and Honey trailblazed for the USCG (unlike the virtual beacons, most AIS displays — even Vesper’s — couldn’t see the lines, but they were there). Jim Dodez was also excited to talk about KVH’s several contributions to the Honey system and how it may have value beyond future sailboat racing.
All of this is not to say that Larry Ellison and Team Oracle didn’t do outstanding work. This is how I ended my Yachting article about AC34 technology and I planned to quote it even if Oracle had lost.
Larry Ellison may be one of the most competitive guys on earth, but wouldn’t a second Cup victory be sweetest if won on an ultrafair playing field in front of a huge crowd? In fact, I think Ellison may become a boating hero, not for winning the Cup once, twice or more, but for making it a truly great sporting event.
Finally, here’s a shot of Oracle beautifully losing race 2 on Sept. 12, when I was not the only one who thought that New Zealand had the Cup wrapped up – deservedly, too. I hope you agree that Larry and his teams of sailors and geeks still would have been winners.Click here to read comments about this Panbo entry, or add your own.
For the sport of sailing, Race 17 of the America’s Cup was going to be a big win, whichever boat crossed the line first.
Oracle Team USA got the gun—a bit delayed, Spithill says he was thinking, “Come on, fire the thing”—and that made it a big win for San Francisco.
In 2010 I was convinced that the 34th match for America’s Cup would be sailed on San Francisco Bay because that was the right thing to do. Now it’s 2013, and I have the same feeling about the 35th match. It was always part of the equation that keeping the Cup would be the big payoff for San Francisco and the Bay Area.
If this thing had ended a week ago, it would have been huge for New Zealand, but it would have left misery behind in San Francisco, with nothing but coulda shoulda’s. We still have the coulda shoulda’s but now we can turn them into coulds and shoulds.
Enough for now. I’m drained, relieved, and very, very happy—Kimball
I can always tell that we have been in port too long when Erik and I start to bicker. As soon as we start
breaking out the why-don`t-you-get-it-yourselfs and the can`t-you-show-a-little-enthusiam-heres, it
means we are cranky and bored. Time to move on.
Not that I have anything against Noumea. The people are extremely friendly and helpful, and a
baguette costs 80 cents. You can`t beat that. But we have been up to our eyeballs in stress about
what is wrong with our engine-propeller run. The short answer is, we can jolly things along for now,
but we need to plan on a major repair during cyclone season. The propeller shaft coupling that self-
destructed was only a symptom of a larger problem: the whole assembly was badly designed, and
needs to be pulled. That means a haul-out, an expert, and all sorts of other time-taking, money-
costing nonsense that makes me want to hide under the table and eat Cheetos. Alas, Cheetos don`t
provide the answer to all of life`s problems. But sometimes sailing does.
Erik and I were grumping around the cockpit after talking it all through and bickering some more and
generally being irritable and not worth talking to. Erik checked the weather.
"We`re going to lose our wind tomorrow," he said.
"Grump," I replied.
"We're going to be stuck here another five days. We have to go right now. Do you want to go right
It was already noon. We had five and a half hours to make it somewhere – anywhere – before sunset.
"Grump," I said again. (This was a positive grump. You speak grump, don't you?)
And we were off and running. Haul up the dinghy tie down the dinghy clear away the towels and
wetsuits and bathing suits and hairbands and books from the cockpit get those damn boogieboards
out of my way stow the companionway boards where did you put the oh there it is turn on the fuel
primer pump and away we go.
And we had a beautiful afternoon of sailing. As our new motto is "baby the engine," we sailed off our
anchor, kept the engine on only as a backup through the pass, and sailed down to Baie du Prony on a
beautiful SW breeze. We had no seastate in the lagoon – just calm waters and red cliffs falling past us
at 8 knots. We sailed through Canal Woodin dead downwind – usually a nightmare for Papillon – but
since the waters were flat, even our jib stayed full. Erik even got to break out the binoculars as we glided past a nickel mining operation. We sailed into our anchorage just as the sun was setting. You couldn't ask for a better afternoon.
Now we have a day of waterfalls and hotsprings behind us. Some friends should join up with us later today. And when the wind comes back, we'll head down to Ile des Pins to get some snorkelling in.
So the next time you and your spouse are locked in a bickerwar, consider a change of pace. Sometimes you can sail away from your problems.
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