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Erik de Jong Returns to the 59º North Podcast

Wed, 2014-05-28 10:36

Erik de Jong was one of Andy’s favorite guests on the podcast, and spoke at length on Episode 15. This one is a bit shorter. Andy & Erik talked via Skype last Saturday, the day before Erik was set to depart Halifax bound for Greenland in his custom steel 50-footer Bagheera, which Erik designed and built himself (he’s a professional ship designer, so he can do that sort of thing!). Andy & Erik discuss how the very cool story of Erik delivering some sculptures to an art Student in Nuuk, Greenland came about after the last podcast episode was released. So as I type, Erik is en route to Nuuk, with a cargo of artwork, on a very cool mission! He’ll continue sailing north this summer on his Arctic expeditions (still some crew spots left!). Check out to follow his progress and book a bunk! Thanks again to Erik for joining the show.

Circumnavigating Everest

Tue, 2014-05-27 14:43

A conversation with Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, lightly edited for the read
Posted by Kimball Livingston on May 27, 2014
. Above, the Clipper fleet leaving for N.Y. from Jamaica

His next solo race, the Route du Rhum, being months away and his ambitious business undertaking, the Clipper Round the World Race being very much of the moment—the fleet is now closing on New York and the end of race 13, from Jamaica—I took my sit-down with Sir Robin Knox-Johnston as an opportunity to ask a question that has bugged me for years. The Clipper Race being, in its ninth running, a contest of 12 boats with professional skippers and a total of 680 paying crew sailing 16 individual races over a passage of 40,000 miles, making it the world’s longest race—

KL: What in God’s name possessed you to think that you could pull this off?

—Sir Robin Knox-Johnston in 2007, 4th in Velux 5 Oceans—

Well . . .

I was climbing in Greenland with a friend, and he was telling me how much it costs to climb Mount Everest.

I thought, Whoa, that’s a lot of dough. What would be the equivalent, in the sailing world, of summiting Everest?

A circumnavigation, of course.

But there must be a lot of people who don’t have the confidence to set out to do it, or the skills, or they don’t have the boat or the money for the boat. I did some rough calculations on the back of an envelope—costs for boats, professional skippers, crew training, food, port fees, promotion and whatever else I could think of—and came to the conclusion that I could send someone sailing around the world for about half what it would cost them to climb Everest. So then I thought, well, I’ll advertise and see what happens.

I got 8,000 responses.

Now, that includes the no-hopers, a lot of them, but still, it’s 8,000 people responding. Then I figured I had advertised the idea, and “someone” was going to do it, so I’d better get on with it.

[Add fund raising and other small details]

So we ordered eight boats, set up a training system, and I rushed around the world setting up a route. Ten months later, we had our first race.

[I'll interject the obvious here, that this is an astounding achievement, and it worked, and it worked out. It's difficult enough to get one boat across an ocean. Much less, to get 12 boats (in 2014) from stop to stop around the world, with a training regimen for newbies that makes them fit for sea, with pricing and an agenda that fits single-leg clients as well as "rounders," with backup parts on hand for things that break, with a race committee on hand to bring them into port, provide support and activities, and get the show on the road again. Apparently, whatever was in Sir Robin Knox-Johnston that got him around the world in 312 days to win the inaugural, 1969 singlehanded race around the world—a slower world—left plenty in the tank for the next thing, and the next. In person, Knox-Johnston is engaging and unhurried, no matter what's tugging at his elbows, and on the day of our meeting, there was plenty. But he spoke to me as if he hadn't another concern in the world, and we were best friends from college days, picking up where we left off. I've learned from other people, that's typical of the man. The voice is mild, with a musical inflection and no hint of the dramas that went into, for example, setting the round-the-world record in 1994 in the Jules Verne Race with Peter Blake. I wanted to ask about his inspiration to race the Route du Rhum, solo, at age 75, but there was more on the Clipper Race, first. He continued.]

The initial demand to participate in the Clipper Race was mainly British, but it’s become international to the point that we have 42 nationalities participating in 2014. We like that. We encourage it. And every crewman goes through the same training. [26 days worth] Sailing skills, seamanship, safety, boat maintenance, race tactics and ocean routing, they go through it whether they’re skilled or starting from scratch, because there is more than one way of doing things, but we can’t afford to have more than one method in play. There has to be a complete understanding, front to back, and a uniform terminology.

At sea aboard a Clipper Ventures 70. Note the extremely protected steering stations

KL: Considering that this is the only true trans-Pacific race, and the fleet got kicked around a lot in the crossing from Qingdao to San Francisco Bay, I imagine you would time that leg differently if you could—5800 miles, and the crews are warned ahead of time that they could have snow on deck for the first week. That is, you’d leave later in the season than that March 16 start.

We’d also prefer to sail into China later in the season. And then, yes, the Pacific crossing is a toughie. People think of the North Pacific as champagne sailing, but no way is it that. And our people got to San Francisco saying it was hard and they didn’t really enjoy it. But you know, given a month, the point is that they did it. They achieved something rare. You’re right, I would time it differently if I could, but our time constraint is to leg down the coast from California, get through the Canal, and then clear the Caribbean ahead of the hurricane season. We have to push to be out by the first of June.

KL: You accomplished that by departing Jamaica on May 24 for New York, with a fleet ETA of June 1. But I’m curious about your reactions to Qingdao, which you have used more than once as a port of call. And who funded the entry, Qingdao?

The city funded Qingdao. They could see the benefit of continuing to promote the city as the sailing center of China, and they’re working on that. Every time we go there, they have more boats, more sailing programs, more people stopping us in the street to talk when they see the team jackets. We have nine sailors from Qingdao in the fleet this time, including Vicky Song on the Qingdao entry. She’s going to become the first Chinese woman to sail around the world.

KL: And you were the first person to sail solo around the world, nonstop, in a race that made history. Now, with your Open 60, Grey Power, you’re returning to transatlantic racing as the oldest-ever entry in the Route du Rhum. What’s the inspiration?

I just bloody well want to. I raced Sydney-Hobart on one of our own boats [it's a leg of the Clipper Race] and chose to race on one of the older 68-footers rather than the new 70-footers. And I didn’t want to replace my skipper. I told him, I’ll just do navigation and tactics. And I realized how much I’d missed it. We had a ball, and we beat all the new boats except one. I’m not sure that was good marketing . . .

EDITOR’S NOTE: Leaving aside a few do-it-yourselfers who may or may not be doing it right, the costs for an attempt on Everest begin at a bare-bones and good-luck-with-that $30,000 and escalate rapidly, depending upon which face you choose to climb and how much support or “luxury” you’re willing to pay for. $65,000 is typical for your Chevrolet version of summiting, and it’s easy to nick six figures at the Cadillac end. By comparison, the 26-day mandatory training for the Clipper Race costs about $5000 US. Individual legs could be as little as $4000, with a circumnavigation going for $50,000—a bit more than Knox-Johnston’s “one-half” comparison, but you see a lot more of the world, success is more likely, and by the end you’ll be one hell of a sailor.

Installing Silentwind: power projects aboard

Tue, 2014-05-27 06:00

This could be the shortest post ever, because installing the Silentwind wind generator was a non-event.

The instructions were easy to follow.

It took three hours, including decommissioning our old turbine and installing Silentwind.

It worked immediately.


Ease of installation (and instant gratification!) matter to us because of the sharp contrast with our prior wind turbine installation experience. In 2009, it took more than six months for the AirBreeze we purchased from Southwest Windpower to function. The details are on a post Jamie made to Cruiser’s Forum; suffice to say it was a drawn out, frustrating experience hampered by abysmal customer support. In the end, it worked, but it was an exercise in frustration.

This a was the counterpoint to that experience at every level.

After hearing us rave about our new Silentwind, another boat in the anchorage ordered the same model, and Jamie helped with the install. This was the first wind generator on SV Quasar, but didn’t take much additional time. With installing a pole (previously designed and fabricated) and running new wiring, they were finished in about four hours.

There are great details, like the 50 amp fuse included to use when you first connect the controller to the battery bank to ensure proper circuit protection. Then, there’s the fact that the three AC conductors (wires) leading from the turbine connect in any order to the three charge controller terminals. The controller determines each wires function, and directs it accordingly. Basically, you can’t screw up the wiring! And, the controller itself is included in the package, not a separate purchase. This is a nice touch, with a very cool bonus factor. It turns out you can use this same charge controller to manage up to 550 watts of solar- as much as many cruising boats manage.

Of note: per the instructions, it’s important when doing the AC wiring to prevent turbine blades from spinning. If they spin, they’ll generate AC electricity. We used a lanyard, loosely tied between one blade and the mounting pole.

Easy breezy readers know we get a charge when you read this on the Sailfeed website.

CHEEKI RAFIKI: Hull Found Again, Post Mortem

Mon, 2014-05-26 13:49

The fate of the four crew members aboard Cheeki Rafiki was confirmed on Friday when the U.S. Navy again found the overturned keel-less hull and inspected it closely enough to determine that its liferaft was still onboard. So with much drama and angst and effort we have at least confirmed what the U.S. Coast Guard initially surmised when it first suspended its search for survivors. I don’t think the effort was wasted or useless. Given the enormous interest in the fate of these four men, I think it was well worth it to achieve closure on that point.

I would hope some people who criticized the Coast Guard rather harshly for suspending the search might now express some regret (I noted, for example, that Brian Hancock, a well-known racing sailor, accused the Coasties of abandoning the search “without really trying”), but I’m not holding my breath on that. What’s more important is to focus on what we can take away from this tragedy to make sailing safer.

Time to wake up! This happens all the time

I’ve seen people discussing liferafts and such, but for me this big issue here is keels. The four crew on Cheeki died because the boat’s keel fell off, probably very suddenly, and this is not, as some have suggested, an unusual occurrence. It is frighteningly common. Modern fin keels fall off cutting-edge high-end race boats all the time (e.g., keel loss is a common reason for Vendee Globe withdrawals) and off less exotic race boats (e.g., I have one good friend who lost a keel off a TP52 while racing and know of many other similar incidents) and off common production boats, both while racing and cruising.

The underside of Cheeki Rafiki, showing the area where the keel ripped off. Note the large swath of damaged laminate below the keel’s footprint

On production boats like Cheeki, a Beneteau First 40.7, it is probably true that most keel failures are the result of damage sustained in groundings. This is a tricky business, as grounding damage can be very hard to assess accurately, and damage can be cumulative over several groundings. Even worse, with charter boats like Cheeki, there may be one or more groundings that take place and are never reported to the boat’s owner or those responsible for maintaining it.

For an excellent discussion of the damage sustained on Cheeki, I recommend you dive into this Sailing Anarchy thread here, from whence I pilfered these photos:

Enhanced out-take of the keel’s footprint from the image above. Questions raised: 1) are those bolt-heads and washers we see on the two forward keel bolts? Or are they broken off? 2) the aft bolt clearly seems to have been corroded, so is this where the trouble started? 3) the central bolts seem to have been the last to let go and took with them a big chunk of laminate, but was the laminate under the keel cored?

Another First 40.7, Barracuda, that lost its keel. Note the similarity in the damage to the underbody

Keel-bolt pattern on a stock First 40.7, as seen from inside. Note that the keel’s attachment points are not tied directly into the structural bilge grid. Also, this is an exceptionally shallow bilge!

Interestingly, on page 7 of the SA thread you’ll find one participant,, who claims to have been on two different supposedly undamaged never-grounded First 40.7s where the aft keel bolts started weeping when you honked down hard on the backstay. Another commenter, axobotl, claims to have been on a First 40.7 that grounded at hull speed without sustaining any detectable damage.

Thinking of that rusty aft bolt on Cheeki, I have to wonder if this is a weak spot on all First 40.7s that have been raced hard. (And there are a lot of them. They have an active one-design thing going on.) If you trap moisture against that bolt every time you crank down hard on the hydraulic backstay adjuster, corrosion seems inevitable.

In perusing the online commentary, I’ve seen that some people don’t believe it is possible to engineer a bolted-on fin keel that is not vulnerable. That this is a risk you have to take when sailing on boats like this.

Personally, I don’t accept this. I’m not an engineer, but I have to believe it is possible to design a keel attachment that spreads loads over a much wider area of the hull. After all, we never (or at least almost never) hear of wings shearing off of airplanes. Yes, I am sure “over-engineered” keel attachments would be heavier (and thus would decrease performance) and more expensive (thus less economically attractive), but they must be feasible. On page 6 of the SA thread, for example, you’ll find links to a patented Swedish system for attaching a fairly aggressive fin keel that looks incredibly strong.

As a starting point, I would say a “properly” engineered fin-keel attachment should spread loads over such a large area that you should need to effectively destroy the hull to remove the keel (like on a full-keel boat). Also, there should be some mechanism or “fuse” that lets you know when the assembly has been critically damaged.

I can only hope that all the energy that went into browbeating the Coast Guard to continue looking for Cheeki might now be channeled into this purpose. Then the crew of Cheeki would not have died in vain.

How do we create this new standard of construction in what is effectively an unregulated industry? It would help a lot, I think, if race organizers and rule mavens started the ball rolling. If the high-end race boats whose keels fail most often were forced to be safer in this regard, a lot would follow from that.

Gizmo’s Ocean Armor topsides & Pettit Hydrocoat Eco bottom, the testing begins

Sat, 2014-05-24 12:20

Written by Ben Ellison on May 24, 2014 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub

Check out the evening gleam on Gizmo’s flared bow. I think it’s impressive for a gelcoat surface that’s seen a lot of weather over 14 years and better yet, the pros who applied the “nano polymer wax replacement” were also impressed. There’s more detail on the new coating called Ocean Armor Pro Maxi All Gloss further along in this entry and also my experience with an initial application of Pettit HydroCoat Eco bottom paint, which seems like another winner so far…

You may recall that I already conducted a three-year test of copper-free Interlux Pacifica Plus and it did pretty well. When Pettit claimed that their unique copper-free and water-based Hydrocoat Eco could do even better, I was of course interested but then got concerned that the remaining and still quite ablative Pacifica Plus would have to be removed. However, Pettit told me that any of their Hydrocoats can go over almost any other paint because the lack of normal solvents means that the old paint can’t get kicked off again with possible troublesome effects like bubbling. In fact, they said that if Gizmo’s new bottom coat wears off, the old Pacifica Plus will go back to work again. Wayfarer Marine painter Wes Ames did hit the old paint with a scrubby (old habits die hard), but the Hydrocoat Eco certainly went on without issues. Wes doesn’t look happy in this photo — who would when on your knees painting overhead? — but he did enjoy the lack of solvent fumes (and only masked up to avoid splatter on his face). Note how rudder, prop, and even transducers are all getting anti-fouling paint…

I failed to take photos this time around, but want you to know that I’d already sprayed the prop and rudder with Pettit’s “new” 1792 Prop Coat Barnacle Barrier. I’m qualifying “new” because Prop Coat is exactly the same as the 1792 Zinc Coat Barnacle Barrier that I’ve been using on at least the prop for years (May 2010 photo above). I’m glad for the slight name change, though, as I always worried a bit that it might cause some odd prop corrosion, even though it seemed to work pretty well. In fact, here’s a photo showing a 1792-coated prop after 18 months versus a rudder I only coated with very ablative Pacifica Plus that apparently went away quickly in the prop wash. At any rate, Pettit assured me that Prop Coat is fine for props and that it would last even longer with a top coat of Hydrocoat Eco, which is exactly what I hope to test for the next 18 months. (They also advised me to shake the 1792 spray cans beyond normal during the two-coat application to avoid the dimply wear pattern that had been my only real objection to the product.)

I got a further sense of Hydrocoat Eco by doing a quickie bottom coat on Gizmo’s summer tender. You can see that two long winters upside down in my yard had pretty much eliminated the Pacifica Plus I’d applied in May 2012, so I just washed the hull, taped and painted. I wasn’t racing and was sidetracked a few times, but the photo records show that only two hours elapsed between the scene above and below…

I barely even stirred the Hydrocoat Eco and I applied it with a 4 inch disposable brush. It doesn’t tend to separate, goes on very easily, covers well, dries fast, and doesn’t smell a bit. It was even easy to wash my hands and the brush, and then, per instructions, I poured a little water in the remaining half gallon so it won’t skim dry in storage. All told, about 1.5 gallons sufficed for a 10-foot tender and 37-foot powerboat with the latter getting an extra coat around the waterline. I also touched up a few spots where the white paint (great Epifanes Yacht Enamel) had chipped to the black gelcoat, but the yellowy scum marks that failed to wash off did succumb to a special gunk…

I learned about Davis FSR (Fiberglass Stain Remover) a year ago when dealing with the nasty and tenacious brown “moustache” that had accumulated on Gizmo’s bow while running the tannin-rich ICW. It worked extremely well and was even easy to apply with a rag from a dinghy, though good rubber gloves are highly recommended. While some CruisersForum commenters report good results with less expensive household products, I still had enough FSR to whiten the tender “good enough” for the summer. (Note the EasyBailer solar tender pump in the background, still in fine shape after four seasons.)

In retrospect, I wish the Wayfarer topsides crew had tried a little FSR on the tannin stains remaining near Gizmo’s waterline, because that was the only area where they felt obliged to use a compound with a heavier cut than the sample Ocean Armor Pro Maxi Finishing Compound, which otherwise “seemed to take away the oxidization quickly and gave a great substrate to the ‘wax’.” My service manager, Doug Woodbury, also reported that Pro Maxi polymer All Gloss sealer “went on very well and seems to bring a very nice sheen to the gelcoat surface.” I like how it looks, too, and 15.5 hours of labor to polish and “wax” Gizmo’s topsides seems reasonable, but perhaps the highest accolade was when Doug asked me to put him in touch with Ocean Armor, which is a brand-new contender in a field full of decent boat maintenance products. Meanwhile, there are many other surfaces on Gizmo that might benefit if I actually try the Pro Maxi line myself, and I’ll report here when I do.

So Gizmo isn’t fully commissioned yet, but she’s at least looking good up to the toe rail. The schedule is long though — like 18 months in the water if all goes well — and she will be flying flags before the weekend is over. Here’s wishing all U.S. readers a great and boaty Memorial Day.

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

Sailing Acrobats

Fri, 2014-05-23 22:36

Both Stylish and Indy consider the lines aboard their own.  Yes, fine, we might need them for actual sailing now and again, but, as far as they are concerned, the lines are mainly for climbing.  We have had to set strict rules about the whens and hows of such activities.  Early in our voyage, Erik looked up from the deck to find Stylish most of the way to the spreaders.  Not wanting to scare her, he calmly asked her to come down, and we had a little talk about potential energy and how perhaps she didn’t want to earn herself a wheelchair at age six.

At anchor, we often fix the spinnaker pole over the water, attach a line, and let the girls swing off the deck into the water.  Before long, they gave up on the ladder altogether, and were climbing back up the line again, monkey-style.

Out… …and up again.

Often the girls package the activity around a game of some sort – pirates, princess acrobats, princess-pirate acrobats. They have missed climbing since we have been in the marina. Call me a rotten mother, but if my kids are going to climb, I’d prefer they had a soft landing. So their games have moved in other directions.

But imagine their excitement when the circus came to town. And not just any circus – acrobats who perform on their own boat.  For the past few days, La Loupiote has been in our marina, performing two shows a day. And, so far, we have been to all of them.

The early show is aimed at kids.  A couple of bumbling sailors work on their boat, skying halyards, knocking each other over, and generally taking a slapstick approach to life aboard.  The kids around me at the first performance laughed themselves sick.

Of course, all this fun led to the inevitable conversation:
“Mom,” said Stylish, “if they can do tricks up high on the lines, why can’t I do that, too?”
“Because their Mom is nicer than yours,” I said.
“You show me your transcripts and degree from Circus School, and then we’ll talk.”

But I’m not all mean, you know.

The girls are resigned to waiting until we can set the spinnaker pole out again, but I don’t think I’ve heard the end of the acrobats. Rumour has it these people offer lessons aboard their boat.

I wonder if they teach adults, too?

Ben & Teresa Carey Return to the 59º North Podcast

Fri, 2014-05-23 13:46

Ben & Teresa Carey Return! Andy spoke with Ben & Teresa from his couch in Lancaster PA. No, they were not on the couch – they were in Maine! In a sweet little cafe while their new boat was anchored offshore! And that’s much of what this episode is about – their new-to-them Norseman 447, how they decided on buying it, what it was like getting down to Panama (the country!) to bring her home, and the adventures they had along the way. Of course Andy, Ben & Teresa take a few detours along the way, talking about sailing philosophy, shipwrecks at sea, this that and the other thing, but that’s what old sailing friends do when they haven’t caught up in a while. Check out Ben & Teresa’s new adventures – and sign up for their sail-training courses this summer! – on, or on their new conservation-media site. Thanks guys!

Sparking Young Minds, and the un-Young TooEducational Tall Ships

Thu, 2014-05-22 12:04

By Kimball Livingston Posted May 22, 2014

Photo by Jerry Soto

Here’s a stat: In the ports of the USA there are 200 educational training vessels. Some of them can be called tall ships. Others are just out there, doing good work.

More are on the way.

The superb Maritime Museum of San Diego is building a full-sized, fully functional, and historically-accurate-to-the-best-of-their-knowledge replica of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo’s flagship, San Salvador. Building it, appropriately enough, at Spanish Landing Park alongside North Harbor Drive. Traveling between Shelter Island and Lindbergh Field, you surely wouldn’t fail to notice . . .

There’s still plenty to do, but it’s easy enough to imagine that there’s a ship in there. This image is out of date but interesting for the construction details . . . from UT San Diego


Coming from a different corner, farther north in California, there’s Alan Olson in Sausalito with his Educational Tall Ship project, one man’s very (very) personal vision of a wooden school ship “that will last a hundred years” and proof that if you start building it, they will come. The volunteers. The believers. The fellow dreamers.


Understand, Olson has built before. He’s a qualified master who knows the ocean. And his other great undertaking, the Call of the Sea foundation, is maxed out at 5,000 people aboard, under way, every year—most of them school children in their first taste of the waterways and ocean science—and he needs more capacity.

At 100 feet on deck and a sparred length of 132 feet, the brigantine to be christened with the name of San Francisco Bay’s master shipbuilder of the 19th century, Matthew Turner, will be able to carry 12,000 people a year. That’s the ship in the rendering that leads this piece.

The keelson is already ready. Thirty-eight of forty-two frames are already laminated. The lead keel arrives today, Thursday, May 22. All 86,000 pounds of it. But don’t worry. It comes in two pieces.

The Matthew Turner will have a bronze floor tying keel to ship, with engineering from Tri-Coastal Marine, which operates in CAD, not through lofting, even though their mission is “the design, construction and preservation of historic ships,” and they have a history of taking on heroic projects. “They are leaders in this kind of boatbuilding,” Olson says. And that is the basis for his hundred-year prediction.

I imagine Alan wouldn’t mind if I share a few facts about Matthew Turner, who with 228 vessels—most of them built in Benecia, California, on the Sacramento River, upstream from San Francisco Bay—was this nation’s most prolific builder of wooden ships. In the wake of a family tragedy, Turner quit his native Ohio and found success in the gold fields of California, then traveled to New York, bought himself a schooner, and returned to San Francisco Bay to go into the shipping business. With a partner, he grew a business with a handful of ships and, as a captain, was twice honored by foreign governments. Queen Victoria (you know she was English, right?) presented him with a gold-mounted spyglass for his part in saving the lives of British sailors. The government of Norway presented him with a silver service award for his rescue of a Norwegian vessel in danger of foundering at Honolulu.

When Matthew Turner turned to shipbuilding, he defied the wisdom of his moment, which is a fact that strikes me as strange. The wisdom, not his defiance. I say that, because what he did in 1868 was design the brig Nautilus with a fine entry and broad stern sections, knowingly echoing what had already proved successful in yachts. As in, the schooner America that was a winner against the Brits (with their forms of cods head-mackerel tail) fourteen years prior.

My point is, nobody knew?

I’ll stop. There’s plenty out there about Matthew Turner for those who go searching.

Alan Olson’s 70-foot brigantine, Stone Witch (construction to launch, 1971-1977) sailed 40,000 miles under his command, conducting education and outreach, and also served a stint as the flagship of Greenpeace. Which should be an adequate introduction to the following excerpt from the ETS web site—

“By combining technologies from the 19th and 21st centuries—skipping over the petroleum era—ETS will become a unique teaching tool that can inspire appreciation for past boat building designs while utilizing innovative technology solutions to construct a truly green sailing ship.

“The basic regenerative electric propulsion concept is simple. Instead of diesel engines, the ship is propelled by AC electric motors directly connected to the propeller shafts and drawing energy from large battery banks. When the ship is sailing, the energy of the passing water causes the propellers to rotate, which, in turn, causes the electric motors to become generators that re-charge the batteries onboard. Significant electrical energy is created as sailing speeds increase.

“New advances in propellers, electric propulsion/regeneration motors, battery technologies and electronic controllers make this possible and are available today. ETS can, in fact, operate on a carbon neutral basis. Energy to run our ship will come from regenerative power under sail, onboard generators fueled with recycled vegetable oil, and dockside charging from solar panels and wind generators. Day-to-day operations are designed to minimize energy and water use with a waste management system that will repurpose, recycle and reduce waste. By using LED lighting, induction cooking and low energy navigation and appliances, we will use less than 50kWh per day. Producing and storing enough energy from just four to six hours of sailing can achieve energy self-sufficiency.”

The Educational Tall Ship, the Matthew Turner, will have a 1,000-mile range on standby generators. Nothing is taken for granted. The build project has two paid shipwrights and as many as eight skilled volunteers per day, enough volunteer labor to materially lower the total budget.

“A ship is one of the best educational tools available,” Olson says. “Building a ship keeps knowledge and skills alive.” Build it of wood, he says, and you can give back more than you take: “We are using Forest Stewardship certified Oregon white oak and Douglas fir, sustainably harvested, and we intend to plant more trees than we take.”

I think it’s called, giving back.

And the most active boat in Northern California is—

The Call of the Sea Foundation’s schooner Seaward, with a passenger list of mostly schoolkids and a science program attuned to the fourth and fifth grade curricula. You could take a bucket of bay water into a classroom and look at plankton under a microscope, but that’s nothing compared to trolling up your own, in fresh air, with the deck alive beneath you—

The Seaward is also available for adult charter in the USA and, in the winter, in Mexico. That helps keep the show on the road. By the way, it’s a bargain . . .

And this comes next . . .

Celebrating National Maritime Day with a flag giveaway (up to $50)

Thu, 2014-05-22 06:00

I love flags. Growing up, my family had a rotating parade of flags, and changing the flag in front of our house was a memorable ritual. Living on a boat and cruising mean lots of opportunities to keep indulging my love of flags- from our ensign, to international courtesy flags, to the occasional burgee or full-dress parade styling. Now, I get to share it!

Gettysburg Flag Works is giving me the chance to say THANK YOU to the followers of Sailing with Totem. They’re gifting a flag for a giveaway. Readers make my day again and again with great questions, comments, and emails. It’s a gift for me to know I can help you reach your cruising dream, answer your questions about what it’s like or how to do it, or just offer a bit of vicarious living. Thanks go Gettysburg Flag Works, I can offer something back! This giveaway is for any one flag from their website, valued up to $50.

Why are they doing this? Well, Gettysburg Flag Works is run by Mike Cronin, who happens to be an avid boater. He sails in upstate NY (that’s Mike, below, demonstrating that any day on the water is a good day!). Turns out he’s not the only member of his flag-making team who is passionate about boating, and they were inspired by National Maritime Day – yes, that’s today, May 22, every year - to connect their enthusiasm for boating and flags.

Going cruising? I’ll never forget the first time we hoisted an international flag under the starboard spreader as cruisers. We’d put up The Maple Leaf many times as Salish Sea boaters, but raising a Mexican flag as we prepared to enter Ensenada had a whole new meaning: grand adventures, and many nautical miles ahead. It was pretty flimsy, though, and wore out after just a few months. Gettysburg’s 12×18″ country flags are the perfect size, and their canvas reinforcing and sturdy grommets mean they’ll take you through a season of trade wind flying in the Bahamas.

Need a new ensign? I really like flying the US flag at the stern (especially since the maritime officer in Australia asked if ‘WA’ on our transom was for Western Australia…not Washington), but the elements give them a beating. Our current flag wasn’t well made, and is wearing too quickly. Besides a super tough flag, Gettysburg also has a great little guide to help you figure out the right size for your boat length, based on whether you will put it up on a powerboat or sailboat. It’s different! Didja know that? But on to the…


Rules: I’m a big fan of keeping things simple.
1. You must have a US or Canadian shipping address to be eligible.
2. Hopefully, you’ll smile at someone, and there will be two happier people!
3. Some legalese terms and conditions. Unavoidable.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Entries will be taken until 11:59pm Pacific time on Monday, June 2… plenty of time to get a flag before National Flag Day, June 14!

Please consider sharing this with your friends. More smiles in the world!

1200 Feet Long, Loaded, Under Tow

Wed, 2014-05-21 20:50

It’s billed as the first test/demonstration in the USA of towing one of the new crop of ultra-large ships. Here’s the word:

Posted May 21, 2014

ALAMEDA, Calif. — Coast Guard Sector San Francisco personnel and CMA CGM – the third-largest shipping group – along with other local industry partners tested the Bay Area’s capability to tow ultra-large container vessels during an exercise Wednesday.

Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Loumania Stewart

The vessel used for this exercise was CMA CGM’s Centaurus, an 11400 TEU container ship measuring 365 meters, or approximately 1,200 feet.

The purpose of the towing demonstration was to test the capability of existing tug assets within San Francisco Bay to connect to and tow an ultra-large container vessel.

This exercise marked the first such attempt in the United States. The demonstration was intended as a learning experience conducted within the confines of the Bay to enhance preparedness for emergency towing operations either in the Bay or in the approaches to San Francisco.

“The Coast Guard is excited to be a part of this groundbreaking demonstration,” said Capt. Gregory Stump, commander of Sector San Francisco and Captain of the Port of San Francisco. “This is a prime example of the forward-leaning posture of the San Francisco Bay Area Harbor Safety Committee and a testament to the commitment of our maritime community to safety and environmental protection.”

Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Loumania Stewart

“There will be many important lessons learned from this exercise,” said Coast Guard Cmdr. Jason Tama with the 11th Coast Guard District prevention division. “It was a great example of the Coast Guard, Harbor Safety Committee, and maritime industry working together to ensure we are ready to respond to an incident involving an ultra large container vessel.”

Commenting on the operation, Marc Bourdon, President of CMA CGM America declared, “We are very proud to cooperate with the U.S. Coast Guard and the San Francisco Harbor Safety Committee for this drilling exercise, which illustrated CMA CGM’s strong commitment to safety and security.”

The CMA CGM Group is a leading and recognized industry player in the field of safety and security, and constantly aims to achieve the highest security standards at all times, Bourdon said.

CHEEKI RAFIKI: USCG Caves to Pressure, Search Resumed

Wed, 2014-05-21 10:35

After a truly amazing public appeal by a number of British public officials, well-known sailors, and 200,000 random civilians who signed an online petition, the U.S. Coast Guard yesterday resumed its search for Cheeki Rafiki, a Beneteau First 40.7 that went missing on Friday while returning to the UK after racing at Antigua Sailing Week. Joining the search are elements of the World Cruising Club’s ongoing ARC Europe rally, led by the Outremer 64 catamaran Malisi (see photo up top). Yachting World’s technical editor Matthew Sheahan has also posted a detailed description of the search areas now involved and is urging any yachts transiting the area to join in the effort.

It makes perfect sense, of course, that people on yachts should help find the four missing crew from Cheeki Rafiki. But there is an element of risk involved–the overturned hull found by a container ship on Saturday, which presumably was Cheeki Rafiki, is certainly a hazard to other yachts. I would hate for anyone to find it by running into it.

If anyone does find it again, here’s another question: what exactly do you do with it? Is there any way to flip it over again? If not, how do you inspect the interior? Even for a well-equipped, well-trained diver, I imagine it would be a challenge.

Matt Sheahan in his post argues against the scenario I discussed in my last post, that what likely happened was that the boat suddenly flipped before the crew could deploy and board a liferaft. Sheahan urges the loss of the keel might have been gradual, giving the crew time to react. Others have argued that the fact that there were two personal rescue beacon hits from devices lit off in sequence, one after the other, proves that there must be survivors in a liferaft.

Again, the question in my mind is: under what circumstances do you have time to board a liferaft without bringing along the ship’s EPIRB? Two PLB hits in sequence does, of course, suggest there are two or more people cooperating on getting rescued, but they could just as easily be together in the water as in a raft while doing it.

I have read one report that states the ship’s EPIRB was ignited on Thursday, when the crew first reported they were taking on water, but no source is cited and I find no other reports confirming it. Given what we know, it seems unlikely. The crew reported Thursday they had a leak that was under control and that they were diverting to the Azores; given their experience, you wouldn’t think they’d also light off their EPIRB at this time. If they had, SAR resources would have immediately been focussed on recovering them.

One can only assume that the Coast Guard’s working assumption when they called off the initial search after just 53 hours was that any survivors had to have been in the water. I believe they made the right call resuming the search, given all the interest and unusual circumstances, but realistically I think the odds of finding survivors are slim.

Here’s yet another question I’m asking myself: if this had been a plain-vanilla cruising crew instead of a reasonably high-profile racing crew, would Robin Knox-Johnston, Sir Ben Ainslie, the British government, et al, have gone to such lengths lobbying the Coasties to keep on searching???

Supercell, as in Super Cell

Wed, 2014-05-21 01:16

Quality NMEA 2000 cabling, the eBay way

Tue, 2014-05-20 14:25

Written by Ben Ellison on May 20, 2014 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub

I’m not sure whether to thank or curse the Panbo reader who got me hunting for NMEA 2000 cabling equipment on eBay. There is a thrill to picking up a $290 Turck JBSS 57-811 DeviceNet multi-port junction box for about $35 to $45 with shipping (and there seem to plenty left here, here, and here). It’s beautifully made — fully potted with nickle-plated brass connectors and gold-plated brass contacts, plus a built-in voltage indicator — and it can definitely be a useful part of most any boat’s NMEA 2000 network, as I’ll demonstrate. But you may find yourself up late looking for related heavy duty N2K network components, probably getting confused by complex nomenclature and maybe even buying stuff you can’t use. Then again, you’re apt to learn how many ways there are to build a valid N2K network…

The cable and connector standard adopted for NMEA 2000 is a subset of the DeviceNet standard used in industrial automation, and if you try to equip your boat with used or surplus DeviceNet gear found online, the term “subset” will take on new meaning. It turns out that there are many forms of DeviceNet, and several of them are useless for N2K. But on a happier note, I’m pretty sure that the eBay purchases above constitute a small, high quality NMEA 2000 network at a bargain price. Recall that N2K includes two five-pin connector sizes, generally called Mini and Micro and perhaps best seen on this Maretron page. I’ve only seen the misnamed Mini connectors — they’re 7/8-inch in diameter — on large vessels, generally used for the trunk or backbone cabling with Micro drops to the various devices. Apparently, that’s also a common connector architecture for industrial automation, which explains the design of the Turck junction box and the preponderance of Mini size cabling when searching eBay for DeviceNet cable listings.

So the Turck JBBS 57-811 junction box is designed with male and female Mini ports for the network trunk and 8 Micro female ports for device drops. But in the photo above, I’m using one Mini to insert 12v power with terminating resistors screwed into the other Mini and one Micro port. In this case the JBBS is the entire backbone with 7 female Micro connectors ready to accept drops up to 6 meters long each. I’m also demonstrating how you can check for the proper 60 Ohm resistance across the white and blue data wires, because you may recall that NMEA 2000 is an impedance-driven networking technique. Heck, you could just use the Micro ports for all the connections, though it would be a bad idea to leave the Mini port contacts exposed (fine Turck male RKF-MC and female RSF-MC closure caps are available surplus, and there are probably many alternatives if you can find them).

By now you’ve probably realized that yours truly spent part of his winter collecting components for an N2K network that may be heavy duty enough to run a serious assembly line, but before discussing further, let’s look at a couple of mistakes. Doesn’t that look like a nice 0.8 meter Micro drop cable with a 90° female end handy for attaching to the back of many N2K devices? Well, look a little closer, because that male connector is not Micro size, but rather an even smaller DeviceNet standard size, variously called Nano or Pico. (Turck calls Micro size connectors Euro or EuroFast, by the way, and there are many such impediments to eBay search and identification.) At any rate, there are hundreds of these cables available on eBay for some reason, sometimes for as little as $5 each. At first, I thought they could be used with a raw wire junction box like Furuno’s or Actisense’s, but the cable is also UltraThin size with 26AWG wires, which is not up to N2K specs. Anybody want them?

I was also disappointed with this surplus DeviceNet power tap, though it’s built like a tank. I presumed that the two pairs of power leads meant that I could separately switch the two sides of the trunk line, as explained here on Panbo. But testing — and the further research I should have done in the first place — indicate that both power feeds go to both sides of the network, enabling redundant power sources instead of splitting the trunk. Note that Maretron obviously sources their Mini Powertap (PDF here) from the same source, except that theirs has two female backbone connectors, so that if you ever open the network live, the male pins shouldn’t be hot (unless the gender was changed somewhere). Meanwhile, Maretron’s Micro/Mid Powertap Tee (PDF here) is truly split (as is the Actisense QDP), which also helps with the issue of voltage drop in a large N2K network. Of course, voltage drop is also prevented by the 15 or 16 AWG power wires found in the Thick or Mid size cables that typically come with Mini size connectors, but note in the photo that a careless eBay shopper can find Mini cables that are the Light size (with 22 AWG power wires) normally found with Micro connectors…

It took a while, but eventually I learned to check attractive looking eBay offerings with manufacturer sites or PDF catalogs. It’s often easier to use parts numbers instead of product names, because the latter can get wicked confusing. “NMEA 2000″ is never mentioned in this world, but sometimes you’ll see DeviceNet Micro/Euro/whatever cables that sure look like they’d be useful in our world. Like the Turck Daisy Chain cable above, which could very neatly provide a drop to, say, three N2K devices in a tight helm pod. It seems like the design takes care of the NMEA’s concern about daisychained displays where the network actually passes into and out of the device (though most major manufacturers offer it anyway). Unfortunately, I’ve never seen one of these cables outside of the Turck Connectivity Catalog, but the point is that DeviceNet is a sprawling and interesting cable standard.

So here’s another potential N2K network making use of the nifty Turck JBBS 57-811 junction boxes. I believe it’s valid to run the backbone through the junction box, but a better practice is to drop the junction boxes from the backbone. For Gizmo, I found some Mini size Tee connectors, including some with one female Micro drop connector, so most of the backbone is Micro size with Thick or Mid cabling, as are the drops to three JBBS junction boxes. It’s overkill, for sure, but there should be no voltage drop issues and plenty of room to grow. For now, it has one power feed fused 4 amps to account for all the Micro Thin cable drops, but I’ll keep hunting for a neat way to split the power into the Micro backbone. (I’m also switching the boat’s SimNet network to regular Micro, both because it will make device swapping easier and because Simrad is making the same switch. I didn’t have any problems with SimNet, though.)

If I’ve misunderstood something about quality NMEA 2000 cabling and the stuff that can be found used or surplus online, I dare say I’ll be corrected pretty quickly by readers and/or manufacturers. But I also modeled the network with Maretron’s ever better (and still free) N2KBuilder software. I was pleased to see that it recognized my hybrid Mini/Micro network as having a valid trunk and branch design with plenty of voltage. Note that I used two Maretron 4-drop Micro Multiport boxes (PDF here) to represent each JBBS 8-drop box (and note that this whole entry can also be argument for some to simply stick with NMEA 2000 certified cable and connectors made or sourced by quality marine electronics companies like Maretron). I purposely made one mistake to illustrate the point that even a fee Tees can serve like a multi-port box, but not when the total cable length from trunk to device exceeds 6 meters. Now, what mistakes have I missed?

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

Cooking with a Solar Oven aboard

Tue, 2014-05-20 05:13

We’re in the tropics. There is a lot of sun. We can cook with the sun. It makes sense, right? Still, you don’t see a lot of solar ovens on boats- and that’s too bad.

1. Your galley stays cool.

This is an excellent feature for retaining the sanity of the primary cook aboard (moi) because I don’t have get cranky while I drip sweat in a hot galley, or heat our boat while I’m cooking (it kills me that for the gold plated price they command, Force 10 – like most boat ovens – are not insulated. why, people? why?).

2. You use less propane.

Sometimes, it’s very  hard (or very inconvenient) to refill propane. Papua New Guinea? Sorry, but the islands we visited din’t have roads or electricity, and they definitely didn’t have propane available… local cooking is done over a wood or coconut husk fire. Indonesia? A strangely unique fitting is used locally, and most places wouldn’t refill our US tanks. We can go about three months on our two cylinders. Being able to extend that time with a solar oven is really helpful.

3. Dinner is cooked while you’re doing other things

Point it into the sun, and during peak hours the oven heats up to 200-250F. That’s kind of like having a crock pot on deck, which slowly turns out a delicious meal over the course of an afternoon and meanwhile… there are far better things that I can think of to do with that time!

much rather commune with the fishes (Surin islands, Thailand)… …or hike with my family (Komodo National Park, Indonesia)

4. Food cooked by the sun is DELICIOUS.

I am not clear on the underlying science, but vegetables cooked with minimal added moisture retain flavor better- I suppose because it’s not lost into steam? Whatever it is, veggies keep a brightness that’s lost on the stovetop or oven. Tough meats (which is mostly what we can find) tenderizes nicely with slow cooking.  A whole chicken (stuck into raw rice with a little water) cooks to falling-off-the-bone deliciousness, in about 4 hours. It bakes a carrot cake that was to die for. Back in the less humid Mexican climate, we’d also dry fish jerky and make sundried tomatoes. Too humid in SE Asia, unfortunately.

If you’re planning to go cruising, this is a great galley gadget to try in advance- kind of like a pressure cooker. Have fun with it and get used to it in advance- why not? When we first picked ours up, it was delivered to my family in northern Michigan (on our Escape from Hurricane Season grand road trip of 2009). Up there at latitude 43 or so, it made delicious ratatouille, baked potatoes, corn on the cob, hard boiled eggs, and more.

What’s the catch?

It’s just the bulk, really. It’s a big box, it doesn’t collapse, and it does take up a chunk of space. It’s got a special corner on deck where it lives, and we really would rather minimize what’s on deck… but there’s not another option. We didn’t get the optional reflectors, so I can’t bake loaf bread well (quick breads and cakes are fine, though). That’s it. This thing is great!

I want to plug the Solar Oven Society specifically- their oven is made from recycled materials, and sales of it support their extensive nonprofit work to bring these ovens to those who truly need it. In the five years since we got their Sport model oven, it’s taken a beating: the side clips have rusted and fallen off, the plastic cover is crazing from UV exposure (ironically)- but it still works FINE, it’s just not “new” looking anymore.

Have you used a solar oven on your boat? Let me know in the comments, or share a picture by posting to Totem’s Facebook page!

Solar savvy readers know we get aaaalll heated up when you read this on the Sailfeed website.

Onboard the J Class Hanuman

Mon, 2014-05-19 20:34

May 19, 2014

Kenny Read gets some good rides. This time he’s on JK6, Jim Clark’s J-Class sloop, Hanuman, a modern replica of Endeavour II. In 1937, T.O.M. Sopwith brought Endeavour II from England, hoping for the same speed advantage he had enjoyed—and wasted—with Endeavour in 1934. Mike Vanderbilt was waiting for him with Ranger, an all-time great, and that was the end of that.

The way the J Class has organized itself, you’re allowed to build from a design that was never constructed, or to replicate a boat since lost. The original Endeavour II was scrapped in 1968.

What we have here is just a little big-boat porn and some words from the Menorca Maxi press office—

Ken Read and his crew trained on Monday off Port Mahón, under relatively flat seas and moderate breeze. Official photographer Jesús Renedo went onboard and captured the beauty and excitement of the J-Class.

Racing at Menorca Maxi runs from Thursday, May 22nd to Sunday, May 25th. The schedule calls for three days of windward/leeward races and one day of coastal racing with the first warning signal at 12:30pm local time every day.

The event is an initiative of the Island Council of Menorca and is organized by Club Marítimo de Mahón, with the support of Port of Mahón, one of the Mediterranean’s biggest and most beautiful ports. Being chosen by two of the world’s most prestigious superyacht classes is a clear demonstration of Menorca’s know-how and ability to hold world-class sailing events.

Follow the Menorca Maxi regatta via the event’s official website, Menorca Maxi, is your comprehensive source of information, with daily updates, official results and plenty of high-quality photos and videos.

Ultra Large but Safe in Port?

Mon, 2014-05-19 19:01

From U.S. Coast Guard District 11 Public Affairs:

Posted May 19, 2014

Harbor Safety Committee to evaluate Bay Area emergency towing capabilities on an Ultra Large Container Ship

ALAMEDA, Calif. — The San Francisco Bay Harbor Safety Committee, in coordination with the Coast Guard and local industry partners, will be evaluating the region’s capability to respond to an emergency involving an Ultra Large Container Vessel on San Francisco Bay. The drill will be held Wednesday in South San Francisco Bay in the vicinity of Anchorage Nine, and will involve multiple tug boats simulating an emergency tow of one of the largest container ships currently calling on California ports.

The purpose of the towing drill is to evaluate the capability of existing tug boats within San Francisco Bay to tow an ultra-large container ship. This will be the first such drill conducted in the United States.

The drill is intended as a learning experience conducted within the confines of the Bay to enhance preparedness for emergency towing operations. “The Harbor Safety Committee is dedicated to maintaining a safe maritime transportation system,” said Capt. Lynn Korwatch, Chair of the San Francisco Bay Area Harbor Safety Committee. “I am proud of the local maritime community’s efforts to take this innovative step toward improving readiness.”

“The Coast Guard is excited to be a part of this groundbreaking drill,” said Capt. Gregory Stump, Sector San Francisco commander. “Ships calling on California ports continue to get larger, and we are working with our port partners to ensure we are ready to respond to an emergency.”

Sponsor: San Francisco Harbor Safety Committee

Participants include:

• Coast Guard Sector San Francisco

• San Francisco Bar Pilots


• Harbor Safety Committee – Tug Workgroup Members

D11 Public Affairs

CHEEKI RAFIKI: Hull Found, Search Suspended

Mon, 2014-05-19 15:41

The U.S. Coast Guard are coming under major pressure today after they announced yesterday they were suspending their search for possible survivors from Cheeki Rafiki, a Beneteau First 40.7 that went missing in the North Atlantic about 1,000 miles east of Cape Cod on Friday. On Saturday a container ship participating in the search, Maersk Kure, found an overturned hull, with no keel (see photo up top), that most likely was Cheeki Rafiki, but they were unable to inspect the hull closely and found no other debris, no liferaft, and no other signs of survivors. Various luminaries, including Robin Knox-Johnston, the crew’s families, and tens of thousands people who have endorsed an online petition are pleading with the Coast Guard to resume the search.

Cheeki, which is managed by a British firm, Stormforce Coaching, had raced at Antigua and was being delivered back to the UK by an experienced crew of four. They contacted Stormforce on Thursday to report they were taking on water and were diverting to the Azores. On Friday two satellite rescue beacons were ignited–evidently these were personal beacons, not the ship’s EPIRB–and there’s been no word since.

Cheeki Rafiki racing at Antigua earlier this month. She finished first in the CSA 5 division

Last known location

A very tough call this. Knox-Johnston and others are claiming it is “very likely” the crew is adrift in a liferaft, but I’m not so sure. Assuming that the overturned hull is the boat in question, it may be she flipped very suddenly when the keel fell off. (An impending keel failure may well be what was causing the leak.) Two crew on deck thrown suddenly into the water as the boat turtled would explain the personal beacons being ignited. A sudden inversion would also explain why the ship’s EPIRB, presumably stored below, wasn’t ignited. If there was no time to light off the EPIRB, there likely wouldn’t have been enough time to launch and board a liferaft.

It’s a shame the container ship crew couldn’t check out that hull in detail. There could be bodies onboard. But conditions at the time were very strong, and a container ship, obviously, isn’t equipped for that sort of work.

My sudden-inversion scenario is purely speculative, but based on the facts we have now, it seems the likeliest explanation. It certainly makes you think about modern keels. I have bloviated before about the vulnerability of keels on high-end race boats, but this was a common production boat. Unfortunately, other such boats have also lost keels in the past. Call me old-fashioned, but I like to take it for granted that my keel will stay put.

The Coast Guard reports they searched 53 hours for survivors, and that the estimated best-case survival time given the conditions was 20 hours. The crew onboard were James Male, Andrew Bridge, Steve Warren, and Paul Goslin, all from great Britain.

Being On Time: A Cultural Mystery

Sun, 2014-05-18 19:43
As close as we get to hurrying around here.

Many years ago, I stood waiting for a train in Switzerland.  Shortly before my train was due, a very apologetic-sounding announcement came over the loudspeaker.  By the third repetition, I had the Swiss-German mostly deciphered: our train would be two minutes late, and the management was deeply sorry for the inconvenience.  A collective sigh went up along the platform.  The elderly ladies waiting beside me were particularly put out, and continued to grumble until the train arrived – precisely two minutes late.

As a Canadian, I can’t say I would have noticed a two-minutes-late train.  That falls within the standard error of “on time” as far as I am concerned.  A five to ten minute grace period doesn’t seem unreasonable.  In Germany, they want to run their trains like the Swiss but in fact run them like the Canadians, so, again, waiting an extra few minutes from time to time isn’t much of a surprise.

But the French, as has been widely noted through history, are different.

Last week, the girls and I were invited to spend Sunday with friends in another bay.  I took a look at the bus schedule, and determined our bus would leave the station at 9:58am.  And, since I wasn’t sure exactly where to wait, I decided to get there a few minutes early, just to be on the safe side.  As we crossed the street at 9:45am, I saw our bus pull into the station.  We sauntered in, joined the end of the line, paid our fares… and the bus pulled out.  I looked at the clock. 9:47.  I can understand leaving a few minutes late, but early?  That hardly seems sporting. Surely this was an aberration. Maybe the driver forgot the check the clock.

I forgot about the incident until Thursday. The girls and I were off to visit Erik in Brisbane, and I had booked the airport shuttle for the three of us: 2:35pm, in front of the shuttle offices. As we left Stylish’s school, my phone rang.
“Hello, Mrs Schaefer, this is Ar-en-ciel.  The shuttle is waiting – will you be here soon?”
I checked my watch.  2:20pm.  ”We’re two blocks away,” I said. And the girls and I huffed over the hill with our bags.
As we settled into the shuttle, we endured some disapproving looks from the other passengers. Clearly, we had made everyone wait.  I double-checked the time on my receipt.  Yes, 2:35pm.  But, somehow, still late.

We arrived back from Brisbane last night at one in the morning.  I shoveled the girls into bed and fell asleep myself.  At 6:00am, my phone alarm went off.  It was suspiciously bright outside. As I rolled this information around in my brain, I realized that I had forgotten to change my phone back to Noumea time: it was really 7:00am. And, inevitably, this is Parent’s Week at school.  Indy and I were due at her school for breakfast… at 7:00am.  Which, given recent events, meant we probably should have been there at 6:45.

I exploded out of bed, threw clothes and baguette at the girls, locked up and ran.  As I went, I called my neighbour who usually drives the girls to school.  I was late and sure to be in trouble with her.
“Not to worry,” she said, puzzled at my tone.  ”We still have plenty of time to make the breakfast.”

And, sure enough, all of the parents were at least 45 minutes late for the coffee and pain au chocolat.  The event went on in a leisurely fashion until 8:30am,when everyone tossed their cups in the trash in a synchronized fashion and left.

So, I still don’t understand French timekeeping.  Sometimes you have to be ten minutes early.  Sometimes you are better off being half an hour late.  I suspect everyone has a cranial implant that lets them know which is which.  But maybe Tourist information could publish a handy guide to help clueless anglos like me. And, in the meantime, I’ll try not to miss too many planes.

Choosing a wind generator: power projects aboard

Sat, 2014-05-17 20:57

Increasing energy produced from wind and sun are part of our ongoing power projects on Totem. Silentwind was a clear standout from the available options, with the two key benefits we wanted: more power, and QUIET. The cool blue blades? Bonus. But let me back up a little… there’s more to the story.

When we purchased Totem in 2007, there were 300 watts of solar panels installed on an arch at the transom. During our early cruising days In Pacific Mexico, we had fewer than five days of rain over nearly a year and a half—the perfect place for solar! After a year, we wanted to boost our available power (this, along with four-foot-itis, is a chronic disease among cruisers…). Panels were increasingly affordable, so naturally, after a year in Mexico, we added a wind turbine.


Sure, there was a lot of sun, but there was also a lot of wind in the daily thermals. Anchored in Banderas Bay, they blew with clockwork like consistency. We often had breezes at night, too: hours you can’t harness the sun. Besides, we liked the idea of diversifying our power sources.

big winds hid behind the mountains in the Sea of Cortez

This wasn’t just about Mexico. Despite the glorious cruising photos of blue skies and stunning weather, lower latitudes ahead would also bring shorter days, an increase in cloudy days, and trade winds. With less sun and more wind, complementing our solar panels with wind power made a lot of sense. Solar panels may look cheaper for amp at the outset, but it’s no good at all unless you have sun.

Sure enough, as we’ve added up months and miles closer to the equator, that’s pretty much how it’s panned out. Sitting in an atoll with the trades blowing through, we’d listen to the turbine putting power in the bank all night.

This generator earned a name: Pepe. Baja, Mexico

I’ll emphasize: we’d listen to the turbine. The downside of our initial wind gen was the noise. For that first turbine we had chosen an Air Breeze for value, and the fact that it would begin supplying power at lower speeds. Unfortunately, it provided that power with the kind of noise that gives wind turbines a bad name. Noise was worst at lower wind ranges, which meant every time it would spin up or wind down as the breeze fluctuated we (and our neighbors) had to listen to the whining drone. We joked that it was a great alarm for changes in conditions at night, waking us up with any shift in the breeze… but really, there are better ways to do that. Our master cabin is aft, and the turbine was only about four meters overhead. It was also only 200 watts, which didn’t seem like a big deal at the time–but once in the tradewind zones, we jealously eyed the boats with 400 watt models.

Between Mexico and the Marquesas, we burned 36 gallons of diesel. There were hours in the doldrums to get through, but much of this was necessary for charging. Between our watermaker, refrigeration, and autopilot, we had a baseline of need that we didn’t quite meet with the 300 watt solar + 200 watt wind.

Back in 2009, Silentwind didn’t have a wind turbine for the marine market, or I’m sure we’d have given it a close look. They did manufacture turbine blades which could be fit to make other manufacturer’s models quieter, but we weren’t sure it was a necessary cost. Hindsight? Worthwhile. Hind-hindsight? Happier yet with the more powerful 420 watt turbine from Silentwind that’s on Totem right now.

Being able to live off the grid is a pretty great feeling. Solar and wind power working for us, no carbon cost to charge the battery bank for on-board power needs, and the very practical benefit of extending our cruising range. There are corners of the world where it’s hard to source fuel, and these are places we like to be. With the new turbine, we’re putting in more than ever now, we’re doing it without the sharing the whine of a dentist’s drill from our boat with the rest of the anchorage.

Up next: installing the new Silentwind generator.

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59º N Podcast with French multihull gurus Jean-Charles Corre & Antoine Derv

Sat, 2014-05-17 16:49

You might not recognize their names, but Jean-Charles & Antoine have been at the top of the multihull game for some time, and I had the chance to chat with them in Bermuda during the ARC Europe stopover. Both guys are French through and through (and I love their accents), and the French are nuts about multihulls. They were commercial mariners and fisherman, respectively, but got invited to join the crew of Geronimo, a 110-foot trimaran that was purpose built to break all the speed-sailing records in the early 2000′s. They were both onboard for much of the campaign, including the Jules Verne Trophy (63 days nonstop around the world), the trans-Pacific California to Japan record, the round Australia record and on and on. We spoke aboard the one-off VPLP-designed cat Tosca that had just sailed the 650 miles from Portsmouth, VA to Bermuda in 3 days (!), with a top speed of 18 knots. And this is a cruising boat…Jean-Charles & Antoine couldn’t have been nicer hosts – two days later, they invited Mia and I onboard for an evening of wine and cheese and great conversation. Jean-Charles also got me in touch with Mathias Maurios, the actual designer of Tosca who works for VPLP in Paris, so I’ll be having him on the podcast soon! Thanks guys!

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