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Troubleshooting the Generator, Lady Style

Sun, 2014-02-23 04:20

When Erik went back to work, Papillon became My Boat.  By which I mean, Papillon became My Problem.  With my resident handyman thousands of miles away, anything that broke was going to be my responsibility.  And it was just a matter of time before something bad happened.  This is a boat, after all.  So when the generator died this week, I wasn’t surprised.

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m not very handy.  As Erik kindly puts it, I’m not a natural tool user.  No arguments here.  But, being the big boss that I am now, I thought I could show some maturity and give this a whirl.  I’ve watched Erik fix the genset before, usually in my role as Tool Monkey.  I may not be able to do it as quickly as he could, but surely I could start the troubleshooting process.  At worst, I would be setting a good example for my girls.

How to begin?  First, I fell back on my scientific training: I gathered data.  What did I know?  When I tried the system a second time, it died after five minutes, just like the first go-around.  No sputtering, just sudden death.  So probably not lack of fuel.  I checked the temperature.  Aha.  Too high.  Probably a cooling system issue, then.

But it was barely seven o’clock: time to get the kids off to school.  I met our carpool moms in the parking lot, and mentioned my issue.  Immediately, they both offered up their husbands to help me.
“Oh no,” I said, “I’m okay for now, but I’ll let you know if I need some help.”  What a nice gesture, I thought.  People are so kind.

Because I had my own resources.  Manuals.  My native intelligence.  Um, my own husband.  No need to go picking up extras yet.

“Are you sure you’re okay?” asked my port-side neighbor as I climbed back aboard.  ”Later on, I can come take a look.”
“I’m okay for now,” I told him.  ”But thanks – I’ll let you know if I get stuck.”

I had an email waiting from my not-currently-resident expert.  He gave me a cascade of likely culprits, and, full of optimism, I got ready to knock through them.

First: were we getting cooling water into the system?  When I turned the genny on, yes, water exited the hull.  Okay, good.  Something was flowing.  But it looked less-than-usual to me, and sounded more sputtery than normal.  Maybe we had some marine growth down there.  Sure enough, when I felt around the throughhull, it was full of the tiny tubeworms that seem so prevalent here.  So I cleared it out.  As I examined my torn-up fingers, I made a mental note to use a tool next time.  But that was the easy one – the inlet throughhull is well below the waterline.  I mentally prepared myself to slide into the yucky marina water to clear out the inlet side.

But before I could dip a toe in the water, what to my wondering eyes should appear, but an extra husband!  A neighbor from down the dock approached with a glum expression and a scuba mask, explaining he had been sent by his wife to help me.  I tried to dissuade him, but he shook his head.  ”When I was away, someone helped her.  Now I must help you.”

I pondered this nugget of Man Logic as he dove into the water.  These husband-offering gestures were comical around husband #3, but started to depress me a little by #6.  As the days wore on, no one ever asked me if I needed help – they just assumed I required assistance.  Male assistance.  Not a single woman put herself forward.  The fact that I did, in fact, need Erik’s advice at every stage only made me feel worse.  How were all of us raised to expect the men in our lives to repair everything?

Extra Husband hauled himself back onto the dock.  ”It’s clear,” he said as he hosed himself down.  ”Nothing is growing in the throughhull.”

Rats.  My easiest option was off the table.  Pushing past me to the engine room, Extra Husband offered to look at the generator himself.  While he was poking around, Stylish and her teacher came home from their French lesson.

“My husband is waiting in the car,” said the French teacher as Stylish skipped off.  ”Do you need me to have him take a look?”  She noticed Extra Husband down below.  ”You let me know how this one does,” she whispered.

Extra Husband poked around for a while, but didn’t have any good answers.  ”You should call a mechanic,” he said.

But I wasn’t defeated yet.  Call a mechanic – so much for this plethora of husbands.  Surely there was still some low-hanging fruit to pick before giving up.

My first port of call when I don’t know something is a book.  Out came the operator’s manual.  I squinted at the schematics: tiny, badly-photocopied pictures clearly drawn for someone of Smurf-like stature.  The section on the cooling system didn’t do much more than refer me to the service manual.  So, out came the service manual.  At least this was a pdf; I zoomed in and found what I wanted.  I was ready to do battle.

As I sat in the engine room, tracing hoses with the flashlight and fighting a stress headache, my confidence started to wobble.  After three years, I hardly know this room at all.  I couldn’t even find the fridge reset last week until Erik explained where it was.  How did I expect to figure out this stupid generator?

But I wasn’t beaten yet.  More emails.  More questions.  More tracing.  More husbands.  I tackled the raw water filter – clear.  The feed hose to the raw water pump – flowing nicely.  Time to try the impeller.

By now, I had gained a small and fragile confidence in my abilities.  Sure, Erik could have knocked out this job in about fifteen minutes, whereas I was on Day 3, but there is a good reason for that.  He has experience.  Fixing cars, fixing farm equipment, and fixing many, many boat parts.  Why, surely my brothers couldn’t do this either, being soft city-dwellers just like me.  Fix a motherboard, maybe.  But even Erik was a noob once in his life, even if it was just when he was six years old.  I could make up for the lost years.

Out came the Allen keys.  As I wedged my hands into the generator, I began to understand the reason for Smurf-sized pictures in my manual: only a person three apples tall could possibly work comfortably in those tight spaces.  I started to smile; in a way, it is funny that I’m always offered the husbands – how do their enormous hands ever fit anywhere in a boat?  Enough hilarity, Amy; back to work.  I closed the seacock (those of you playing the home game, don’t forget this step), prepped the vacuum and the “yuck bucket”, and slowly opened the cover plate.  I sucked up all of the extra water, put the screws and the plate into a tupperware bin (also critical – screws love to roll away and fall into inaccessible places), and gently pulled off the plate.  There was the impeller.  And it looked perfect.

Damn.  Well, still, I had to pull it out and check.  What did the service manual say?  Check for flat spots, cracks and broken vanes.  No problem.  Even I am no stranger to a broken impeller.

Okay, but wait.  How was I supposed to get the impeller out?  Back to ask Husband, the Original.  Oh, there’s a special tool.  What a relief, I thought, because I was really hoping to unpack another locker to hunt down another tool.  As I descended into the engine room for the nine hundredth time that day, tool in hand, I started to have a new appreciation for Erik and his constant requests for help.  It is annoying to have to keep stopping a job because you forgot the silicone grease, or you need a different ratchet, or the metric wrenches instead of the imperial.  Clearly we need to train the girls up for this role.

“Amy?” called a dock-side husband.  ”Need some help down there?”
“I’m okay, thanks.  I’ll let you know.”
Impeller-extractor in hand, I was ready to do battle.  I turned to the genny and tried to ease the tool between the vanes.

And discovered that the fuel filter was in the way.

I wedged myself back against the fuel lines and stared at the offending filter for about half an hour.  Yes, I could probably figure out how to get it off.  I could.  But I was hard running up against the fact the issue here wasn’t a simple blockage.  Something was almost certainly broken in there – something requiring expertise to identify and fix.  Was I trying to fix this generator because it made sense for me to do the job, or was I just trying to prove something to myself?

I took a deep breath.  And I put down my tools.

I set my pride aside, closed up the generator, opened the seacock, and walked away.  Good sense dictated that I agree with the husbands: it was time to call the mechanic.

I respect the time Erik has put into understanding our systems.  And I can see that I’ve wasted a chance to learn that myself during our time aboard.  Oh, I’ve got excuses: I was teaching/cooking/writing/wrangling children/otherwise occupied.  But the truth is, I never thought that pumps and fuel and lines and the other necessary elements of a boat were very interesting… and I had someone to rescue me  But, when I tried it for myself, it was kind of fun to figure out where things were and how they fit together.  It was a puzzle: if this leads to this, then that must do that.

I still don’t think this is my life’s calling, but I do think I will watch a little more carefully next time.  I might even ask to try it myself once in a while.

Because surely there is a better way for me to solve small problems aboard than to borrow a husband or two.

What’s One Little Crash?

Sat, 2014-02-22 13:45

Photo by Lloyd Images

When you know that it was variable, 5 knots to 25 knots, you know how the latest Extreme 40 race could go wrong.

Aberdeen closing on Groupama in a light spot.

Both closing on the finish.

Then Aberdeen caught the biggest gust of the day, lost control, and, Groupama skipper Franck Cammas said, “I had absolutely no idea it was coming, other than a shadow.”

Those who could, jumped overboard, and the one injured crewman, Tanguy Cariou, may or may not be aboard if overnight repairs successfully return Groupama to the course for next day’s racing in Singapore.

Photo by Lloyd Images

Mamma said there would be days like this—Kimball

.

Day 5: Running downwind to the Abacos

Sat, 2014-02-22 10:48

Good morning from Sojourner! As of 0930 EST we are in position 24 21 N, 073 04 W and running square before a SE breeze around 15 knots. A nice big, long swell lifts our stern and surges us forward every 15 seconds or so, and we are averaging around 6.5 knots.

Yesterday evening we set the running rig as the wind continued to clock from E to SE. By just before dinner time we were nearly 20 degrees off course. So we set the genoa to windward (starboard) on the spin pole and continued on through the night, which was filled with brilliant stars. Jupiter shone brightest right overhead on my watch, with Orion just to the west. The Milky Way glowed in the sky.

This morning on my 0600-0900 watch the wind eased a bit and continued to clock. Kevin and I jibed the whole running rig, which is rather time consuming with all the guy lines and preventers involved. We slowly and methodically brought everything around, and are now on a port tack for the first time, the genoa piled out to port and the reefs shaken out of the mainsail. Full sail for the first time sine leaving St. Lucia and easy, beautiful sailing. So far, 1000 miles have passed under Sojourner’s keel since leaving St. Lucia.

Until Next Time,
Andy and the Crew

Miami 2014 comms #1: WiFi, Cellular, and V-SAT advances

Fri, 2014-02-21 17:00

Written by Ben Ellison on Feb 21, 2014 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub

That’s the Web browser built into the Humminbird ION10 MFD that I first saw demoed in Lauderdale (pre browser), and the test was pretty realistic for a boat show. It was easy to log the ION onto my phone’s WiFi hotspot and if you click the image bigger, you’ll see how well it rendered a complex site like www.powerandmotoryacht.com. It even supports tabs for multiple sites, so if I were out fishing on, say, a sunny center console, I could have had a weather site open while still checking my gmail or moderating Panbo comments, all on a bright waterproof screen. This is a MFD first, I think — the Standard Horizon CPN1010i can access the Web, but not while in navigation mode — though the lack of ION detail on Humminbird’s site suggests that they are taking their time getting it out the door.

More conventional boats’ WiFi often involve an onboard router combined with a hi-power bridge like the Rogue Wave I’ve been testing for years. One thing that distinguishes the Rogue from other solutions based on the same Ubiquity hardware is custom browser pages that make changing hotspots easy, and it was nice to see that there’s now a mobile version suitable for phones. Cruise into a new harbor, find a good hotspot on your phone, and all the devices using your boat router will be online.

Wave WiFi was also showing smaller versions of its marine broadband router and dual-antenna MIMO versions of its bigger-boat EC-HP and EC-ER models. But notice all the locked access points on the screen above; WiFi Internet access can be great on a boat, but it’s not as easy to find as it once was. Wave WiFi wants to help in that department, too, encouraging electronics installers to work with them on creating quality marina hotspots. (And I encourage installers to pitch an AIS receive station at the same time, as it’s another relatively inexpensive way to make a marina stand out.)

A lot of cruising boats use cellular data connections instead of WiFi, or at least when beyond good hotspots, and marine cellular accessories seem to be entering a new phase. Behold the new and interesting-looking Digital Antenna 1285 and Shakespeare Galaxy 5239 wideband antennas that may soon distinguish some masts. After testing a Wilson cell booster that includes 4G/LTE frequencies, I learned that Shakespeare is working with SureCall on a series of “anywhere” booster kits – I think the Halo 2G/3G/4G kit is almost ready to ship — and in Miami I saw a prototype 2G/3G/4G Digital Antenna amp. All the booster manufacturers are scrambling to meet just-extended FCC technical requirements, but the end result should be a better booster environment without worries about “taking down a tower.”

If you do have a fast Internet connection right now, you might want to check out BaronMarineWeather.com’s interactive map. It’s mostly U.S. data right now and a little buggy, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many interesting data layers on a free site before. This screen I generated yesterday afternoon shows the predicted precipitation (future radar) this morning, and so far, it’s been fairly true (a yucky day). The justifiably proud Baron meteorologist who showed me this site in Miami wasn’t sure if it will stay forever free, but I’m trying to find out.

Cruising in a warm exotic locale would be nice right now, but I am getting to the age where access to telemedicine is moving up the equipment list. So, it’s good to learn that bandwidth-efficient Digigone SecureChat can be used with GWU’s Maritime Medical Access service, and that the large, expensive remote viewing station will soon have an alternative consisting mostly of the Android tablet above and a neat wireless hi-res macro camera that’s pointed at the “patient’s” face in this demo (the “doctor” was actually a computer tech with a stethoscope back at the Digigone offices). Though I’ve experienced SecureChat video conferencing that seemed useful at only about 60 Kbps, Digigone recommends a minimum of 150 Kbps for telemedicine, and I think that means at least an Inmarsat FleetBroadband 150 connection. (Hey, there’s a new “small boat” service called Fleet One coming, though all that’s out now is a partner announcement).

But while I’m having yucky day fantasy, I might as well include broadband satellite comms, and I’d quite enjoy the very clever add-on that KVH has come up with.  With the acquisition of Headland Media last spring, KVH got access to all sorts of premium movie, TV, and news content, all of which will soon appear as the IP-MobileCast content delivery service. You’ll need at least a TracPhone V3-IP mini-VSAT system, plus a MobileCast subscription, but then content like first-run movies will start flowing “over the top” — meaning when the mini-VSAT network is not busy, mostly at night, and also beyond your regular data subscription — and into a KVH-supplied media server. So, most anywhere your big yacht might be, you can use a tablet, PC or smart TV (or converter) to watch things you couldn’t even get on your home cable system. Not to mention news in so many flavors it reminded me how far flung the yachting world is.

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

Day Four Offshore: Sunrise and Dirty Underwear

Fri, 2014-02-21 09:15

I know for certain that I’m going to jinx us by writing what I’m about to write, but I’m going to write it anyway. It’s the dawn of our 4th day at sea on Sojourner since departing St. Croix, and if you count the leg from St. Lucia, today marks the start of our seventh consecutive sailing day broad reaching on starboard tack with 20 knots of wind off the stern quarter. Remarkable sailing.

I’ve been sitting here standing watch in the cockpit with the iPad in my hand waiting to write this until the sun came up. It was already light when I relieved Tom at 0600, but the sun was still somewhere over the horizon. Soon though, a large bank of clouds, like snow covered mountains in the distance, lit up a brilliant gold as the sun crept up beyond them. The sky above the boat turned all sorts of orange and pink and blue. As it got higher, though still hidden behind the mountainous clouds, rays of sunbeams fired out in all directions, up and over the peaks and down onto the ocean. It would be impossible to photograph this, or even paint it. If you’ve seen it, you’ll know what I mean. If you haven’t, we’ll get out there and look for yourself. The combination of slight sleep deprivation and the mental state that affords, plus the great wilderness that we’re sailing through gives sunrises at sea a special feel. Even if you could properly convey the image of the scene back home, you’d never convey that feeling, and that’s what it’s all about.

I should mention for the wives and families back home that Sojourner is currently in position 22 45 N, 070 38 W as of 0630 EST. We changed back into the Eastern time zone yesterday, and in another 45 miles we’ll be officially out of the tropics (north of 23 30 N, or the northernmost latitude that the sun will reach in the summer solstice in late June). Kevin would know that well by now – he and I spent many hours yesterday discussing celestial navigation, and worked our way through his first sun sight. (I love the binder he made up for the class. On the back cover he printed a photo of the Dos Equis ‘Most Interesting Man in the World.’ Kevin’s invented caption reads, ‘I don’t always shoot sun lines, but when I do, I always use the lower limb.’ Pretty clever!)

Today will be a cleaning day aboard the boat. All of us now are going on more than half a week in the same scuzzy clothing. I haven’t changed underwear since Tuesday, and my scalp is starting to itch and my fingernails are dirty. It’s HOT sailing offshore in the tropics, as you’ve got to keep the boat all closed up. Down below it must be 90 degrees. It’s a huge relief coming outside and feeling the breeze on our dirty skin. So well heave-to later on this afternoon for a swim and a good cleanup. I’ll change my underwear and shave. Well wipe down the cabin sole with fresh water and clean the galley and the head real good. Dump some fresh water on the cockpit cushions (it hasn’t rained more than a few drops yet).

So that’s life aboard Sojourner as it stands today. Kevin and Tom are proving awesome crew members and good company, and we are eating quite well – chicken curry ala Chef Andy last night, burgers by Kevin the night before, and with any luck some fresh mahi mahi tonight if my dad can prove himself a real fisherman. Northwest we sail towards the Bahamas.

Until Next Time,
Andy and the Crew

Bad things come in threes, right?

Fri, 2014-02-21 07:00

It was a trio of unfortunate events on a day that began with a beautiful sail, after a day anchored off another stunning Thai island. Any one of these three could ruin your day, and even two out of three could cause serious problems. We managed to luck out with all three.

  1. Autopilot failed. Inconvenient, not serious.
  2. Steering cable broke. Getting serious now.
  3. Engine overheated. Trifecta of doom?

It was late morning and Totem was scooting along nicely, nearly 9 knots on a beam reach in 20 knots, stunning blue skies, and seas peaking out around two meters. It was glorious, if slightly rolly when the bigger waves gave Totem a shove.

another pretty island recedes in the early morning light

Remember how important it is to listen to your boat? Sometimes your boat doesn’t whisper. Sometimes, it yells at you. Ours began the audio assault with a constant shrill beep that means our autopilot has lost steerage. This normally happens when there isn’t enough wind, which was hardly the case at the moment. Instead it was giving up because of the forces against it- a kind of protection from catastrophic failure. We’ve had an occasional problem on the port tack when the sea state puts additional force on the rudder, and it’s been “on the list” to look at.

Was this a crisis? No, not at all. Gorgeous day, great sailing conditions, we’ll just hand steer. It’s only about 25 miles to our destination, and we’ve got plenty of daylight. Jamie called for more sunscreen, and I read a couple more chapters of Prince Caspian with the girls.

A couple of hours later, I heard grunting thump from my perch in the nav station. It was kind of like the sound a line makes when it loads up on one of our primary winches, but not quite. The next sound really caught my attention: Jamie calling “Problem!” from the cockpit. Before I can get entirely up the companionway, he tells me he thinks we’ve lost our steering cable.

Things just went from inconvenient to really serious. Losing our steering cable?

We came up about 15 degrees. Jamie and Niall furled the jib, and we eased the main way out, bringing us back towards our course towards Ko Lipe. The good news was Totem was well balanced. If there had been different conditions- big weather helm, seas pushing the transom to the side- we could have been prone to more rounding up and creating some chaotic conditions on board. Instead, while Jamie set up our emergency tiller, I could stay in the cockpit and keep monitoring our course and traffic.

the tiller is short, so Jamie lashes a spare piece of wood to extend it

Wind and seas had abated considerably since the autopilot gave up, so we gave it a try- in the lighter conditions, it happily clicked and whirred back into gear. Yeah! One step back in the right direction. This was great, but now we needed more speed, so we decided to fire up the engine.

This doesn’t last long. The engine alarm shrieks at us angrily, demanding attention. Jamie and I are both a little confused. First the autopilot. Then the steering. Now the engine?! What’s going on?

benign conditions, but I hope we never need the emergency tiller again

We immediately shut it down. The temperature gauge is pinned at the top: we’ve only seen that once before, when our impeller blew up between Moorea and Tahiti in a very ugly sea state. Jamie goes below to open the side doors of the engine compartment to help it cool down faster, and begins troubleshooting.

While the engine is cooling, he spends time first looking at the steering cable. We assumed it had broken, and wanted to make sure that movement from the quadrant wasn’t setting up further problems with a jammed cable- thinking it may need to be moved out of the way while the autopilot takes care of steering. It turns out the cable is fine, but an eye bolt that holds it in place has sheared in half- so it’s simply fallen uselessly down. As Gary knows, I’m married to McGuyver, and in a matter of minutes Jamie has rigged up a loop with Dyneema that has the steering cable back in play again. Another step forward- steering works! It’s a little squishy, but it’s fine. We’ll replace the broken bolt, but leave a piece of dyneema as a backup in the future.

you have to be a contortionist to get into the area of the quadrant

Confident that things are getting better, we decide to try the engine. Bad idea: there’s more of the shrieking alarm immediately. Time to let it cool more, and start working through the decision tree of possible causes. One after another, they come up empty. There’s plenty of coolant. Oil is fine. We took time to watch water flow when we turned it on the second time, and water is definitely running through (blowing my initial theory that we picked up one of the 4,236,927 plastic bags floating between Phuket and Langkawi). Impeller looks great. Nothing is obvious, so we just wait.

While we’re waiting, the wind starts to die. Of course, right? We’ve got steerage, but only just barely. We have current, and it’s pulling us toward the islands that looked like such a friendly destination hours earlier. Now I can only see them for the rocky shoreline and off lying reefs. Not so friendly. We remember our friends on Kittani were planning to come into the same island group, and are lucky to find them with a quick VHF call. They’re only a few minutes away, and agree to loiter near the pass between islands we’re heading for just in case we need a tow.

At this point, I’m also thinking about how nice it is to have a dinghy and outboard with some jam to it. Most of the time I chalk the importance of a solid outboard up to the ability to cruise out to a great snorkeling reef, but the reality is that it can also let us use the dinghy as a barge and propel Totem if needed. Nothing speedy, but enough to help if we needed it.

Another hour passes. The wind dies, and the current picks up: so sailing is no longer an option, and the rocky reefs of the islands ahead are worrisome. Jamie’s found nothing with the engine, so we decide to give it a try again and glue our eyes to the temp and oil gauges. This time, no problem. We warm it up gradually, and eventually decide that it’s running normally. A huge relief, although not a complete one, because we the cause is a mystery. I’d really prefer a known cause that can be addressed! The anchorage is just a few miles away now- crystal water, a lovely beach, and a calm harbor.

What did we do right?

  • We didn’t freak out: we kept our heads, and addressed the issues one at a time as a team
  • We were prepared with alternates / backups to help in each scenario
  • We contacted a boat nearby, friends we thought were headed to the same bay and were lucky to find just a few miles away: they stayed nearby and would have been available to help with a tow if needed
friends on Kittani staying close by

What can we learn from this?

  • Hindsight being 20/20, we could have spent time looking into this known issue with our autopilot many miles ago
  • Our Yanmar 4JH3/TE is due for a 5,000 hour checkup. Could it be something that more timely maintenance could have prevented? We generally baby this baby, but we’re past due there

There are still some puzzles to solve and maintenance to do to make sure we can prevent a repeat, but what could have been a horrible day just turned out to be nothing more than… eventful, in the way we don’t usually like to record.

relaxing at last: anchor down in Ko Lipe

Tonight’s sunset G&T is going to be appreciated just a touch more than usual.

McGuyver knows that reading this on the Sailfeed website is better than fixing a tiller with rubber bands and chewing gum.

Burns and Speer: Secrets of the Comeback

Thu, 2014-02-20 19:30

ACEA/Guilan Grenier

“Platform aerodynamics, I think, made the difference between the American boat and the Kiwi boat.” Tom Speer, wing designer, Oracle Racing

By Kimball Livingston

We could have titled this, Six Extra Feet of Wing, But Do You Know How to Use It?

The way “Fresh” Burns tells the story, and he should know, having been head of performance for Oracle Team USA, there were multiple turning points in Oracle’s desperate, early losing days of the San Francisco America’s Cup. The American boat was losing on every tack, every gybe. Then the Mere Grinders came to the Mighty Chiefs and said something like, “Look, we can tell when the boards are loaded and when they’re not loaded. Why don’t we try moving them when they’re not loaded?”

Boink.

And if you’ve been around even a little while, you’ve heard someone on deck wisecrack, “You just keep grinding, and if I need any sheet, I’ll take it.”

Well, sonny, that’s pretty much how the Oracle crew was sailing USA-17—with hydraulic pressure always on tap—on those upwind legs where the comeback finally kicked in. Nonstop pumping. No-delay trimming. That was the context when Ben Ainslie yelled, “This is it! This is it! Work your arses off!”

Skiff stuff, translated. Advanced Sailing 101.

And then the dazzled Kiwi press went to spinning stories about a “Herbie,” a Boeing-built gyroscopic stabilizing contraption that made quite a good story, if you needed a story. My headline ran, “Bigfoot Sighted on Grassy Knoll.”

These days, Burns commutes between his home in the California wine country and 201 Shipyward Way, Suite B, Newport Beach, CA. That’s the street address of Morrelli & Melvin, where the next design rule is taking shape. If you’re paying attention, you already know the basics: 60-65 feet long, certain components made one-design in the hope of achieving cost savings, fewer restrictions on control surfaces to make the boats, in turn, easier to design, safer to sail, and faster per foot of LOA. Oracle Racing CEO Russell Coutts has gone public with that much, and in my too-cool-for-school fashion I assumed that 60-65 feet was merely a gloss of an already established overall length, to hold something back for the press conference at the release of the next Protocol, presumably in March. Maybe. But when I threw that at Oracle wing designer Tom Speer—returning for 2017— Spear allowed as how, “Actually, I think they’re still working on it.”

Maybe. Tom Speer is a straight shooter when he can be. I think we can take it for granted that it’s a welterish job down at M&M, trying to sort through the gamut of the possibilities for a 2017 AC generation in the wake of all the unintended consequences of the 2013 generation.

ACEA/Guilain Grenier

Speer spoke on Wednesday at a noontime gathering on the San Francisco cityfront, addressing wing development over the decades and, inevitably, in Q&A, the comeback. He went so far as to say, “Platform aerodynamics, I think, made the difference between the American boat and the Kiwi boat. We had that pod [below trampoline level] that effectively extended our wingspan two meters. That gave us the potential for the upwind speed that we eventually developed, and platform aerodynamics is the area in which we perhaps can make the biggest performance difference going forward.”

With that potential waiting to be exploited, and New Zealand close to clinching the win in spite of it, another key turning point in the 34th match came, gradually, as Oracle studied how to retrim to add more load to the back of the wing. “The boat had lee helm,” Speer said. “You know that kills upwind speed. It was clear that we needed to retrim, so we raked the wing aft—and no, that didn’t work. It turned out that when we powered-off the upper elements—when we added twist aloft—the center of effort shifted down and forward. There was no relief in that. So instead we opened the slot. That gave us less lift on the main element and more lift on the flap [which funnels air aft]. Over the course of the regatta we increased the traveler load by 50 percent. That eliminated lee helm, helped the boat point, and simply made us faster upwind.

“So, it was a bunch of boat-tune things that turned it around for us. Look at any one-design fleet, and the difference between the front and the back is huge. Most of that is fine tuning.”

Before we leave the subject of “slot,” we should listen to Tom Spear describe the effect of the slot from an engineer’s point of view. Here goes: “The slot allows you to go to a higher maximum lift because of the behavior of the boundary layer, which is where all your skin-friction losses occur. The boundary layer is thin, but it wants to get stuck to the wing and not move. Meanwhile, at the leading edge of the wing, the pressure is very low. Toward the trailing edge, pressure increases. There is a tendency to push the boundary layer toward lower pressure—push it forward on the wing—and that’s where you get flow separating from the surface and a big dropoff in lift. With a slot-and-flap arrangement, you are basically dumping slow air from the lead element into high-velocity air around the flap. Or, let’s say that you are taking one bottom layer and handing it off to a fresh bottom layer on the flap.”

Wings have been a fascination in this space for years, but in Spear’s figuring, “Wing development has hit a plateau. [in only one AC cycle, after decades in C-cats and A-cats!]. Given the motivation to control costs, it’s likely the next design rule will constrain the design of the wing so that teams don’t have to spend so much in that area.” Again, if you’ve been paying attention, you’ve heard the talk in high places about making all or, more likely, parts of the wing one design.

NEXT:
Control. Control. Control. Another just-in-time for Oracle, and the hydro that bit New Zealand.

.

Phone call from the ocean

Thu, 2014-02-20 13:58

Sojourner 20 Feb mid-morning

21° 13′  N / 68° 38′ W

Andy called me today and told me what a great sail they are having! I told him I was out running in the forest with almost a foot of new snow on the ground. Both of us are having a great time! He also mentioned that he was a bit queasy since they left St. Croix, but starting to feel better now. They were getting the sextant out so they can’t be too sick!

Have a look at the picture above, they should be around the green arrow! As you can see, they are making great progress. 

Cheers,

Mia

CHASING SHACKLETON: What Paul Larsen Did After Breaking the Sailing Speed Record

Thu, 2014-02-20 12:34

PBS has aired and released its great three-part video series, Chasing Shackleton, which follows the exploits of five modern-day adventurers as they seek to recreate Ernest Shackleton’s amazing small-boat voyage from Antarctica to South Georgia Island in 1916. Follow this link here, and you can watch all three 1-hour episodes for free. Don’t dawdle! I’d be surprised if they leave these up for long.

For sailors, the story inside this story is that one of the five crew aboard Alexandra Shackleton, a very accurate duplicate of Shackleton’s lifeboat James Caird, was Australian Paul Larsen. Just weeks before embarking on this grueling survivalist nightmare of a voyage deep in the Southern Ocean, Larsen had been in Namibia triumphantly shattering the world sailing speed record aboard Vestas Sailrocket 2. This was the culmination of a 10-year personal quest, during which many had ridiculed Larsen and his revolutionary boat.

Even better, Larsen’s job aboard Alexandra, arguably the most important and most difficult one, was navigator. Not only did all the crew wear accurate period clothing, but Larsen had to do all his navigation strictly by sextant. One miscalculation and the boat would either end up on the rocks of South Georgia… or miss the island altogether. Larsen was also one of the three crew who hiked across the unmapped interior of the island after landing in the lifeboat.

Accommodations inside Alexandra Shackleton. The only way to stay warm was to cuddle with shipmates (Photo by Ed Wardle)

Larsen aboard Sailrocket (Photo courtesy of Vestas Sailrocket)

Larsen in the period Shackleton gear he wore during his 800-mile voyage across the Southern Ocean (Photo by Ed Wardle)

Landing on South Georgia Island on the same beach where Shackleton landed a century earlier (Photo by Jo Stewart)

Anyway, I’m not going to spoil the viddies for you by giving anything away. Watch them first, then take a look at this story in Classic Boat, which describes the voyage aboard Alexandra in some detail. Then saunter over to this Sailing Anarchy discussion forum, where Paul mixes it up with the peanut gallery and answers lots of questions about the boat and the passage.

Finally–please, please, please–can someone tell me why Larsen never received any kind of sailing award for this amazing doubleheader of unique accomplishments?

Wilderness

Wed, 2014-02-19 09:36

Good morning! And a good morning it is! As of 0800 AST, Sojourner is in position 19 13 N, 066 17 W, sailing about 310 T towards the Bahamas. By the way, if anyone wants to email us, you can do it at captaindennis[at]ocens[dot]net. Text only, no HTML, photos or links.

I just woke up for my 0700-1000 watch after a very restful sleep. Sailing offshore with four capable crew is really a luxury – 9 hours off between watches! This is a holiday… But not to get ahead of ourselves. There is a lot of ocean between us and the Abacos, and I know as well as anyone that anything can happen…

However, for the moment, things can’t get much better. We had a rough start leaving St. Croix yesterday. The weather was fine, but the motion of the ocean was rather annoying. Kevin barfed. “Enough that I think my pecs are going to be sore tomorrow,” he said. I took a while to get my sea legs too, but managed to recover in time to make a killer pumpkin soup for dinner from real Caribbean pumpkin.

We’re far offshore now, finally away from the influence of land and shallow water and light pollution. No matter how often I do this I’m still enchanted by the wilderness that is the ocean. Yeah we’ve got modern comms that are letting me post this to the Internet almost in real time, but the beauty of being alone on our three-mile circle of ocean inside our horizon will never get old. The swell is regular now, large, impossibly blue waves with the occasional white foamy crest marching in across the starboard quarter while the sun rises in the east behind some perfect, puffy trade wind clouds. It’s a friendly day today.

Sojourner is making 7 knots with two reefs in the main and the big genoa while the autopilot steers. I just finished my yogurt breakfast and am wondering what Mia is doing in Sweden and how my sister’s first day at her new school went (she’s a teacher). I’m pretty content.

Miami 2014, glass bridge everywhere

Tue, 2014-02-18 18:00

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

The Garmin and Volvo Penta Glass Cockpit won a lot of awards and shook up the competitors. I think it’s why Raymarine rolled out its nifty-seeming ECI-100 so quickly, and I suspect it motivated Mercury Marine to put together the clean “glass dash” above. The Simrad NSO evo2 driving those two MO19-T monitors is not only doing the boat’s CZone switching — even able to activate the four outboards — but its Mercury Vessel View app seemed a terrific interface to all those engines…

While we never got underway in the quad-powered center console, I began to buy Mercury’s claim that they’ve gone way beyond virtual analog engine gauges with both its own VesselView displays and especially the just announced Navico integration. The idea is to put essential info on one screen and abet it with automatic pop-ups and/or user customized sub windows. During the NSO demo we experienced clear engine fault alarms, managed cruise control, and even saw a backup camera pop up when the motors were shifted into reverse.
You need at least a VesselView4 display on a boat to monitor/control two outboards and to serve as a bridge between SmartView and the NMEA 2000 data Navico uses. But a VesselView7 — which is actually based on Simrad NSS7 hardware design and built by Navico — also has an Ethernet connection and can serve as a full navigation display. It’s unlikely that anyone would swap normal uses like I did on the Mercury show demo above, but consider how a single VesselView7 could provide both engine and nav screens on, say, a tuna tower.

There are many aspects to the glass bridge concept and though the Furuno TZT arguably led the display part with its multi-touch screen under edge-to-edge black glass, they don’t yet have a separate keypad for hard-to-reach screens or hard sea conditions. But it’s coming soon — see above — and it looks quite compact and able. It features a combined rotary knob and cursor joystick, and its shallow backside only has a USB cable to hook up.

Also, coming fairly soon, is a glass-style color autopilot head for Furuno’s line, and of course, the screen looks sharper than my show photo indicates. It seems obvious that similar color instrument displays will follow, but the Furuno reply on that hypothesis was just a grin.

If you want a multi-screen glass bridge with a bright 7-inch touchscreen that controls them all, KEP has you covered. The company has also become the U.S. distributor for various heavy duty NSI trackballs and keyboards.

Iris Innovations was showing a new line of monitors in Miami. Glass bezel style versions will be coming soon, but these were already showing the interface style with touch panning of Iris Nightrunner nav cams and zoom controls hidden in the corners. I gather that small navigation computers with cue and slew camera integration are also part of what Iris is calling IceBridge.

Green Marine (on Panbo in 2010) was showing off all glass BridgeCommand monitors with a nice glassy feature: The on button is invisible under the logo, and you don’t see the flat red controls until you touch that button either. Unfortunately, a new color touch multi-monitor controller didn’t make the show, and it has WiFi and remote apps, too.

Smart phones and tablets are definitely part of the general glass bridge idea where boat systems are integrated together with multiple easy interfaces. The big press event announcing the partnership between Garmin and Mastervolt CZone also included Scout, the first boatbuilder to install the systems. Check out the clever holder that Scout designed for the iPad that comes with every boat. When the door-like mount is closed the charging iPad running the CZone app (or Garmin Helm app) it looks like it’s part of the down below control center.

And while the helm of Navionics’ founder Giuseppe Carnevali’s sailing cat doesn’t look glassy, I think the new Raymarine Plotter Sync — where fresh chart data, community edits, and routing moves easily from app to MFD, with tracks and sonar logs coming back to your cloud and beyond — is in the glass spirit. I look forward to trying it and writing about it soon.

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

Would you eat insects?

Tue, 2014-02-18 15:00

We all process cultures in different ways and through different filters. One of my favorites is food, and in that respect, Thailand is truly a feast: delicious cuisine that is often much more complex than it appears. Even the Thai equivalent of fast food is a treat. A few nights ago, we trucked out to the big weekend market in Phuket with an international group of cruisers (Aussie, New Zealander, Danish, American) to do some sampling from the food stalls.

“Truck” is not the best way to describe our transport. Actually, we had a van with a driver- described as VIP, but ultimately cheaper per person than the alternatives after we crammed dozen and a half cruisers in. It had some specific rules emblazoned on the side panel windows. Remember, people: no durian. No dogs. No smoking. No sex. But karaoke? OK! Hmmmm. Arriving at the market is overwhelming at first. It covers an area that’s easily larger than a couple of city blocks, with tiny alleyways between packed vendor stalls. Single file is the only way to make progress in the flow of the crowd. There are a few places to sit, but most of them are under hot airless covers. Helpful in the rainy season, no doubt, but unnecessary now – especially when almost everything can be eaten by hand.

We start with the simple stuff. This is easy, because there are more edibles on a stick than the Minnesota State Fair. Unlike the Fair, most of them are identifiable (let’s ignore the mystery meat kebabs- but hey, look at those baby octopus!) and barbecued instead of deep fried. Mmm, smokey blackened squid with a fiery chili sauce…

There are the stalls that stop you in your tracks, like this one selling massive grilled prawns: each one is about the size of a lobster tail. This is the “high end” of the market: most vendors sell servings for $.50-$1 (like the sate sticks above), but a full plate of these babies is a little over US$10.

Bacon makes everything better, right? How about grilled, bacon-wrapped straw mushrooms? (I’ll take those over the bacon wrapped hot dogs…).

Other times you kind of have to just look the other way… like the fly swatter getting a little too friendly with the crab. I’ll pass. On the other hand… see those shredded veggies in the bag at the right side? That’s a green papaya salad. Pounded in a large mortar with a dressing that brings together the key elements of sweet, salty, sour, spicy, it’s one of my favorite things to eat in Thailand.

These light pancakes get a leaf of lettuce, a few thin slices of pork, some vegetables and a mystery sauce to be miraculously transformed into the best non-fried spring roll to grace your tastebuds.

I looked forward to finding find new-to-me treats. I did not expect that to include insects, but there they were, and there was the vendor with a big thumbs up and a smile, saying “arroy!” (delicious!). Living in Bali in 1991, it was a while before I learned that my favorite dish was not in fact vegetarian, but included honeybee larvae as a key ingredient. At a gut level, you know these aren’t going to be bad. It’s just cultural, right? It’s only our western lens that says “ew, insects!”  In fact, insects are a staple feature of many regional Thai food traditions.

Walking by suddenly was not an option, and raising my camera to take a photo wasn’t really satisfying enough. So we bought a bag.

I admit it: I had to close my eyes for that first one. The vendor watched me with rapt concentration, and I gave her a completely honest reaction. “Arroy!” Holy cow, but little fried crickets are GOOD. Think of it this way: it’s a crunchy, salty snack. How far off can you really go? I don’t know what else was mixed in when the vendor gave them a quick fry up and another shake of some mystery marvel powder, but it was delicious!

Two ingredients that show up over and over: lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves. You really can’t substitute for the flavor of either, and their unique citrusy tang is getting worked into meals on Totem now too. These are finely sliced and mixed into fried rice, then topped with a sate of your choice and a selection of sauces.

If you’re going to eat, you’ll want to drink. There’s plenty of chilly Chang beer, but when else can you have fresh sugarcane juice? Stacks of sugarcane sit next to the machine that pulverizes them into juice, then decanted into recycled glass pop bottles. It’s sweet, not as sickly sweet as you’d expect.

Time for dessert! Two kids demonstrate a universal truth, watching with unbroken intensity as a vendor prepares their custom order of frozen goodness. Ice cream here is prepared by hand, to order, by blending the base flavor with mix-ins like fruit or sprinkles over a cold plate.

Sated and happy we piled back into our VIP transportation, where the driver did his best to charm us by turning on the black light and cranking up the country and western, and we did our best to surprise ourselves by belting out the lyrics to “Country Road” as we bounced back to the anchorage.

Hungry yet? Here are more photos from the night market to indulge your Thai food fantasies.

Well-nourished readers know that reading this on the Sailfeed website fills our plate.

A SPECTACULAR Bike Ride; Now Time to Depart St. Croix

Tue, 2014-02-18 08:01

Okay, this is the REAL chance to test the sat phone email system again. Kevin brought the inverter we need to power the little Ocens Optimizer so I can connect the iPad to the sat phone. So hopefully this works ( if you’re reading this it did).

We’re t-minus three hours to departure on Leg 2 of this trip north from St Lucia. St Croix has been a very (unexpectedly) pleasant stopover. Whatever your impression of the USVI, throw it out the window. It’s just different here. For the better.

After posting on here yesterday I hit the road on the borrowed Kestrel road bike that Julie and Dave hooked me up with ( shoes and all!) I cycled east along the coast road, headed for Pt. Udall, the easternmost spot in the USA. The road was alternatively smooth, newly paved blacktop and choppy, gritty, potholed rough riding. Thankfully the biggest holes were marked with orange spray paint. Hitting one with skinny road tires would surely have broken the bike and myself.

After I left the town and the fort behind, the road wind along through sparse residential areas and along the beach in spots, with views to the almost artificially blue water off the coast. St Croix is surrounded by reefs (indeed many charter companies won’t even allow yachts to visit the island – probably the reason I like it here so much!), and the shallow water inside them just sparkles in the sunshine. White sandy patches glow light blue at midday, while the reefy bits shine a darker green-brown. The deep water is a brilliant navy-purple blue.

About 2/3 of the way out east I passed that Very Large Baseline Array telescope, situated by the side of the road opposite a small park on the beach. The VLBA is one of several around the world that basically, from my understanding, looks for aliens. Ever see the movie ‘Contact’. It’s something like that.

The final stretch to Udall was a newly paved road that wound through the desert scrubland and into the higher hills to the east. The road dipped and dived and rose steeply along this stretch devoid of human habitation. It reminded me of Tongariro in New Zealand. The final climb to the top and the strange looking monument they erected there was steep, offering views out over the ocean beneath the cliffs.

At Udall I paused to take in the surroundings, tempted to climb down the path to the beach on the south side if I’d have had a bike lock. Then I continued back again, retracing the same road I came in on until it came to the intersection to head south, which i did, and cycled back along the south shore to complete the loop. It was much less populated there, and considerably drier. Again the reefs sparkled beneath the cliff that the road followed. I let out a long ‘wooooooooo!’ descending one particularly long, fast hill that offered inspiring. Views of the ocean on my left and the mountains straight ahead.

Just before Lowry Hill on the way back into town I spied a guy selling coconuts by the roadside. I ha to stop. His name was Andrew, and he confirmed my laid-back impression of the island.

“It’s a sleepy, mellow place!” He said with pride. “Nothing at all like St Thomas.” Indeed

Andrew explained that the road I was on was part of the St Croix Half Ironman bike leg, and he sits by his tamarind tree and watches the racers zoom by. For the past several years Lance Armstrong has competed in – and won – the race. And Andrew had a front row seat for the show. I told him Lance might not be back because he was banned, and he was genuinely surprised. I guess the news still doesn’t travel that far or fast.

After two coconuts down the hatch I kept on up the hill and descended again back onto the road I first left town on. Before heading back down to town, I made one last detour up Mt Welcome road and looped around the side of town before heading back just in time to beat the rain. Julie picked the bike up along with Marcia, and drove her to the airport.

So now we leave St Croix behind, bound for the Bahamas. Looking at the chart last night at dinner, Dad and I got inspired to try and stop somewhere in the Exumas and revisit one or two of the islands I last saw as a ten year-old when we lived aboard the 36′ Sojourner ketch with my Mom and sister Kate and the two cats. That was the defining year of my life, the reason, I’m sure of it, that I’m sitting here writing this right now. It’ll be a weird feeling going back.

RED BULL STORM CHASE: Windsurfing in a Hurricane

Mon, 2014-02-17 20:01

Don’t know if you’ve been watching the North Atlantic weather charts this winter, but FYI Ireland and the UK have been taking direct hits from storms as strong as hurricanes on a weekly basis for some time now. And I don’t know if you’ve been following the Red Bull Storm Chase series, which I blogged about when it started in Ireland last January, but the series recently wrapped up with an amazing session right in the middle of one of those storms in Cornwall, England. Thomas Traversa of France was declared the winner of this grueling triptych of events (there was another session in Tasmania last August) and is now officially the craziest, most bad-ass windsurfer on the planet.

As your attorney I advise you to pop a Red Bull and watch this viddy right here:

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After watching it myself a few times, I’m wondering if they shouldn’t have given prizes to the guys who wiped out the most.

From left to right: Marcilio Browne (Brazil, 2nd place); Thomas Traversa (France, 1st place); Leon Jamaer (Germany, 3rd place)

As to the weather, this is the kind of mess I’m talking about right here. Check out that fierce fist of low punching right through Ireland.

It’s been like watching a marathon kick-boxing fight. Plus we’ve been getting vivid descriptions from my father-in-law in County Kerry of all the damage there.

“The worst in living memory.” It’s one of his favorite phrases, as he has that classic Irish penchant for the dramatic, and now he gets to use it every week.

Here’s hoping the worst is over for now.

PS: Be sure to check back on that Red Bull link tomorrow, as they should be posting a full-length viddy with highlights from all three Storm Chase sessions!

Shoe Destruction

Mon, 2014-02-17 19:38

On Sunday evening, Indy buried her head in my leg and cried, “I don’t want to go back to school!”
I patted her head.  I was surprised, I had to admit it.  Indy was always keen on school; she had been so pleased that the new school year would begin the next day.
But before I could say anything comforting, she went on: “I can’t stand wearing shoes all day!  My feet get so hot!”
Oh.
“But your new shoes are so comfy,” I said, certain I was the only parent in Noumea trying to reassure her child that her feet wouldn’t catch fire from wearing shoes all day.  ”And I’m sure they will breathe well.  You can take them off the moment you get home.”
“How about the moment school is over?”
“Nope.  At home.”
Fine.  I’m going into the hammock.”

We have a troubled relationship with shoes on this vessel.  Most of the time, we go barefoot.  It is comfortable, it is breezy, and everyone likes it.  But that isn’t possible on shore.  Aside from the issues of broken glass and ubiquitous dog poo, one is expected, as a civilized person, to hide one’s ugly hobbit feet in a more pleasing wrapper when gadding about town.

But I dawdled in buying the girls new school shoes.  This was stupid.  I knew they needed them – both kids have grown more than an inch since Christmas – but shoe shopping is a nightmare.  How I thought it would be better waiting until five days before the beginning of the school year remains a mystery.  Because, sure enough, about a thousand other parents had waited until the last minute, too.

We elbowed our way through the shoe store.  Indy quickly located a pair that she liked.  Three sizes later and a hop around the crowded room, she was done.  Just the way I like it.

I peered a little closer at her choice.  ”Greedy cat?”
Sure enough, that is what it said.  A happy-looking feline peered up at us from inside the shoe.  Indy proudly drew a bag out of the box.  ”See?  I get a Greedy cat bag, too!”

I’m still wondering what faulty translation software produced this name.

But there was no time to ponder the mystery of Greedy cat.  Stylish stood alone, casting mournful eyes around the store.  I left Indy hopping in a circle around my mother.  As desperate parents and cranky children pushed past and stepped on our toes, Stylish and I looked at every pair of shoes.
“No.  No.  Uh uh.  No.”
“Honey.  You have to try something.”
Finally, after great deliberation, she chose a pair.  The shoe lady muttered the model number into her headset, and we propped up a bit of wall as we waited for a minion to appear with the shoes.
Headset lady appeared.  ”None left in that size.”
We tried another pair.  No.  Another.  Nope.
By now, Stylish had gotten over her pickiness.  She gave the lady a range of options, and, mercifully shoes arrived.
“Ow, too tight.”
“No, too long.”
“I don’t like them.”
I sat on the floor and looked up at her.  I wondered how long I could keep her in her current sneakers.  Maybe I could cut a hole in the toe or something.
“These ones!  I want these ones!”  Stylish wiggled her feet at me then strutted around in her surprisingly cool Converse knock-offs.
“Sold!” I said, not even glancing at the price.  ”Let’s get out of here.”

And that should have been the end of it, right?  The girls had school shoes – everything else was gravy.

Except we were going out with my parents the next day, and every other shoe on board decided to self-destruct.

Exhibit 1
This shoe appears at the top of this post.  These are the most comfortable flipflops I’ve ever had.  And I have had many.  But now I have worn them down to nothing.  I know I need to throw them out – my left toe touches the ground, for crying out loud.  But they are so comfy!  Maybe I’ll wait for a second hole.

Exhibit 2
As we walked through the pools at trou feuillet, I felt something strange under my foot.  A sort of flippy-flappy motion that meant either I had stepped on a large and unhappy fish, or the sole was finally breaking free from my Teva.  I grabbed the offending bit of rubber, and the other shoe started to go.  I made it to shore just in time.

This is not our first Teva-related issue.  Honestly, you would think those people could make a glue that lasts longer than 18 years.  What is this world coming to?  But at least I still have all of the pieces-parts; now all I have to do is break out the sailmaker’s palm and sew the sole to the upper.  Just like we always do.

Exhibit 3
We bough the girls new jelly shoes when we reached New Caledonia.  But we should have known these were a slick and fancy version of the workhorse jellies we bought in Tahiti. So far, all metal bits have rusted, and usually rusted right off.  The melty repairs split open again, and I’ve been reduced to sewing on emergency velcro.  No.  Good.

Exhibit 4
And, sometimes, the crummy little buckles don’t even bother to rust – they just pop off.

Exhibit 5
Ahh, my trusty jellies.  I planned to wear these to trou feuillet.  As I pulled them on in the cockpit that morning, the last bit of the metal pin in my buckle gave out.  Calmly, ever so calmly, I threaded a piece of whipping twine through the strap and around the plastic buckle, around and around.  I tied the package in a bow.
“Let’s go,” I said.
My mother looked at my feet.  ”You’re not wearing those.”
Fine.”  I strapped on my soon-to-be-ruined Tevas.  As so the circle of motherly bossiness continues through the generations.

I am going to fix all of these shoes.  I am.  But maybe not today.

And don’t tell Indy, but I wrote this post barefoot.

Winging It

Mon, 2014-02-17 16:42

Wingsail tech is going mainstream

Trickle-down economics might not have worked out so well for most of us, but the technological trickle-down from the most recent America’s Cup seems to be falling on fertile ground. First there was what you might describe as the legitimization of foiling; the idea that a boat can rise above the waves and proceed at thrice true windspeed is no longer the province of the sort of wild-eyed evangelistic character you wouldn’t want next to you on the subway. Production-built foiling catamarans are already available. There’s plenty of experimentation going on with foiling monohulls too.

The mainstreaming of another concept once relegated to the fringes of sailing—the wingsail rig—is also well under way. Boatbuilding giant Groupe Beneteau has embarked on the development of a wingsail that it hopes will soon become a viable option on its production boats. A wingsail on a free-standing mast has already been installed on a Sense 43, and the coming summer will be dedicated to trying out the concept in a wide range of conditions and on different boats. Unlike the hard wings of the AC cats, the Beneteau wing is a soft sail that can be reefed and stowed.

Beneteau’s development head, Bruno Belmont, tells me that the concept springs from intensive research into the problem that’s facing the entire sailing industry—how to replace the baby-boomers that are gradually aging out of the pastime.  “We think this is a good way to make sailing easier,” he says. “And the only way to bring new people into sailing is to make it easier.”

Belmont also points to research into the learning habits of teenagers that indicates how learning habits have changed—not to mention staying power. “It found that if a child between 10 and 15 cannot learn a game in 15 minutes, they lose interest in it,” he says.  “Translate that to sailing, and you see we have a challenge.” Beneteau, he says, is throwing out its preconceptions and taking a fresh look at sailhandling and deck layout in general. The rig itself will be only a part of the process of reinventing the production cruiser.

This process will take years, but full marks to Beneteau for kick starting a new approach to a problem that’s been building for years. In all the other innovations in cruising boat design over the last decade, no production builder has really looked past the two-white-triangles aspect of rig design.  Where Beneteau leads, others will surely follow.

Another Day in St. Croix

Mon, 2014-02-17 10:07

A lot has happened since I wrote that last post. Dan is gone, safely back in NYC after his flight putta here. Kevin and Tom, the two new crew for Leg 2 arrived last evening in time for us to all have dinner tonight, and Tom had a serendipitous encounter with a woman at the airport that is going to profoundly affect my day today (in a good way).

But first there was yesterday.

It’s been a very mellow stay here in St. Croix, as there isn’t really anything to do on the boat to get her ready for the passage north. In fact, there wasn’t much to do in St. Lucia either (which goes to show how nice it is to have a properly equipped and outfitted boat – all we really had to do, save for inspecting all the important bits, was mend the solent jib and hank it onto it’s stay. We never used it, so it remains in it’s bag on the foredeck, ready to deploy). Anyway, after a pretty long sleep-in to 8:30 yesterday morning, Dan and I explored around town a bit more.

Christiansted, despite it being officially in the USA now, is decidedly Danish. I overheard just as many Danish-speaking conversations along the sidewalk as English, and the Danish flag flies just as prominently from the government building as the American one. The streets and architecture are very well-preserved – all the sidewalks are covered in these little arch-shaped walkways to keep walkers out of the rain (remnants from the 17th and 18th century building designers). Houses are two and three stories and built of brick or masonry, and painted in bright, tropical colors. Light pink, faded yellow, baby blue. And various naturally-colored brick facades. Three large Protestant churches dominate the architecture in town, one ornately built of brick and masonry, another entirely of wood, with a wooden steeple and clock tower. The old fort, meticulously maintained over the years in its original state, guards the waterfront. It’s painted bright yellow, with white trim, and cannons still point seaward from the ramparts.

There are ruins too. Old brick buildings mostly, that have been neglected for whatever reason over the years. I ran past one yesterday that was just a hollow shell, with no roof. You could see through the cracks in the boarded up window openings into the central part of the house, where palm trees and high grasses grew out of what was once probably the living room. Most of these ruins have Sotheby’s real estate signs on them. Ostensibly they’re just waiting for the right person to see the historical promise and built them back up into their former glory. Apparently, so the guidebook says, ruins like this exist all over the island. One at a time, they hope to resurrect them.

I started my afternoon run yesterday along the triathlon course, but quickly got bored of the main road and started exploring off the side streets. After running eastward out of town this time for about 30 minutes, I turned off onto a dirt road that led up into the forest and towards an old sugar mill up in the hills. It looked like the road might lead there, so I followed it, always up for a little adventure. It didn’t ultimately, but instead came out in a small cluster of holiday bungalows up in the hills and overlooking the north shore of St. Croix and Buck Island, which lays a mile or so off to the northeast. The road came to a dead-end here, but not wanting to backtrack (I never backtrack), I continued on through someone’s backyard, where a couple iguanas were sunbathing, and down their steep driveway and onto a back road inland from the coast a ways. Every house on this street had little barking dogs in their fenced in yards, so there was quite a chorus as I passed.

Halfway back to town, now back on the main road I ran out on, I passed a turnoff that said ‘Rainbow Gardens’ or something similar, and decided to turn. This road led up a very steep hill towards some large houses built high on the ridge, and I thought I might be able to get up and over the other side, and descend back into town. The hill was very steep in places, and on a couple occasions I was within a step of stopping to walk, continuing at a slow jog only after reminding myself that my mom never gave up in her journey with brain cancer (especially not during her hours-long open-brain surgery, which was the scariest part of the whole process to me), so I pushed on. That thought works every time.

At the top of the hill I was afforded a fantastic view of the ocean, but no way to get down the other side as planned. So I backtracked, running gingerly down the hill on tired thighs and sore feet. I finished the run by entering town from the top this time, running down a back street I’d not yet explored, and around an old cemetery behind one of the churches, and finally back down towards the waterfront, passing by several low-income housing projects. I dove in the ocean straightaway, and showered with the hose on the dock.

I just paused writing this for a moment to go and meet the woman I mentioned above. Tom had seen her on the airplane coming over from Puerto Rico, and somehow managed to get her to offer him a ride to Christiansted. Her name is Julie, and her and her husband Dave moved here 6 years ago. They have 3 young kids. The whole family came down and met us for dinner last night at Rum Runner’s on the dock. Super friendly family. Anyway, I casually mentioned my search to find a proper road bike to get in some exercise and a little exploration, but the one bike shop in town is only open on Wednesdays and Fridays. Turns out Julie is a big triathlete, and has done the St. Croix Half Ironman 3 times! She won her age groups in the ‘8 Tough Miles’ race on St. John as well (Dave runs too). So Julie offered to hook me up with a friend of theirs road bike, and dropped it off this morning, complete with helmet and clip-in shoes! Dave is actually at-sea now with the owner of bike, sailing his boat somewhere and flying back tonight. So I’ve got the morning and early afternoon to hit the roads and get in a good loop on a proper road bike. Lucky me.

One Day in St. Croix

Mon, 2014-02-17 10:03

This was written yesterday, posted today (Monday). Photos below.

We arrived into St. Croix yesterday afternoon after what I think was probably the easiest passage I’ve ever done. We sailed on starboard tack the whole way, broad reaching in anywhere from 8-25 knots, and only motoring for one hour, through a pretty calm spot when the sails were banging around and we had to roll up the jib. Otherwise it was full genoa and mainsail, with up to two reefs in the windy bits, and the boat just rollicked along rather contentedly, like her crew.

Daniel and Marcia surprised me by not getting seasick (much). Marcia did puke once, after a morning cup of coffee. I warned her that coffee might not be the best thing to drink offshore. But she was over it. Dan even managed to read down below, and only felt queasy just once, after doing the dishes down below. Both of them put transderm Scopolamine patches on the night before departure, so I think that definitely helped (in fact, I told all the crew that they’d have to get scopolamine from their doctors and wear it for 24 hours at home, to ensure they didn’t get an allergic reaction. Once, up in St. Pierre, we saw a schooner return to the dock three days after they’d departed towards Greenland. The photographer onboard who’d chartered the boat for an Arctic photo expedition, reacted poorly to scop and didn’t pee for 3 days – his kidneys had nearly shut down and they got him to the hospital just in time. I do not want to experience that).

St. Croix, Christiansted in particular, where we tied up to the end of a rickety old dock on the boardwalk in town, is a beautiful, sleepy little Caribbean town. I dig the vibe here – nothing like Tortola or St. Thomas. Very cool Danish architecture, more or less preserved, all throughout town, and a lovely yellow fort overlooking the harbor. Sailing in from the east, we almost went aground on the bar you have to cross if you want to cut the corner off a bit (and not go out and around). I’d mis-identified the one green marker we needed to aim for, and we were heading towards a 5-foot spot on the outer edge of the bar. The depth sounder read 12, then 10, then 8, 6 and finally 5 – meanwhile the boat is sailing full-and-by going 6.5 knots – and I spun her around and let the sails flog before we grounded. We worked south to the deeper side of the bar and found the correct green marker and sailed the rest of the way in the ‘schooner channel’ to the east of Round Reef and onto the Customs Dock in Gallows Bay, where we parked in front of the schooner Roseway.

I went for a run yesterday once we got settled onto the dock, exploring to the east of town and past what looks to be the power plant. They run a pretty well-known half-Ironman here in May, so I’m going to try and run the running course today or tomorrow, 13.1 miles that starts at the fort in town and loops around the northern coast before returning and finishing back in town along the main street (all of which have Danish and English street signs, by the way). I haven’t run more than 6 miles in a loooong time, so it’ll be a good little endurance test before we set sail again. My legs felt like concrete yesterday after only 48 hours on the boat.

Kevin and Tom should arrive tonight, and Dan just headed off to find a cab to take him to the airport. Marcia leaves tomorrow afternoon. I plan on getting a scooter to go exploring further afield tomorrow and hopefully find some trails off in the hinterland that I can explore on foot. All we have left to do on the boat is some provisioning at the nearby Pueblo’s grocery store, so that should happen tomorrow afternoon. Then we’re off again, bound for somewhere in the Bahamas. It’s just under 1,000 nautical miles to Green Turtle Cay. It’d be nice to make it that far, but we’re tempted to stop at some of the out islands to the southeast of the Exumas, if only just for a swim and a little exploratory mission, so we’ll see how far we actually make it.

Kevin is supposed to be bringing the inverter I need to be able to send emails from the sat phone, so if that’s the case I’ll be updating our position on here every few days. Stay tuned!

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Glad Alla Hjartans Dag! (Happy Valentines Day!)

Sun, 2014-02-16 17:18

I love you Mia! Wish you were here to enjoy this! And happy Valentines Day to you too Kate! We miss you guys!

We’re currently at 15 49.6 N, 062 43.6 W and just banging along at a steady 7.5-8 knots. Dad just said this might be the best sail he’s ever had. We did 148 miles in the first 24 hours, with a couple calms last night, so pretty good going for this big heavy boat. The wind couldn’t be from a better direction – 20 knots off the starboard quarter, full geona and 2 reefs in the mainsail. Dan and Marcia are tre spoiled.

Until tomorrow.

Andy & the Sojourner Crew

Sojourner under way

Fri, 2014-02-14 12:48

Sojourner: 

15° 52′ N / 62° 45′ W

Andy called me today and gave me a position and weather update ( and also wished me a Happy Valentines Day :) ). Sojourner is flying and the crew is having a fantastic sail, 20 kt from behind and boat speed of 8kt. They expect to arrive to St. Croix sometime Saturday.

The email system they have require an inverter and that was one of the things they forgot to bring. Not sure if they will try to get one over the weekend, or let me update the blog for them.

Check back on Saturday / Sunday for a longer update from Andy about the trip!

Cheers, Mia

 

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