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Drew Hardesty

Sail Feed - Tue, 2015-02-17 00:00

This one is for the sailors who are also skiers – Drew Hardesty is a forecaster with the Utah Avalanche Center. How does he relate to sailing? Drew is the definition of an outdoorsman, and the wilderness envrionment that is the backcountry in the mountains of Utah is strikingly similar, philosophically, to the wilderness that is the high seas, and both are blessed and cursed with the same adventure and the same problems.

Drew and Andy discuss his career as a rescue-climber and backcountry avalanche forecaster, as well as Drew’s ideas on how to manage the influx of people into the backcountry, how those same problems plague the ocean sailing community, his hopes and fears to the future of backcountry use, and what he thinks we can do about it.

Reach out to Drew to join his backcountry outreach program on drew [at] utahavalanchecenter [dot] org, or check out avalanche.org for more information. 

Want to go ocean sailing with Andy? Book a berth on 59-north.com/events.

MID-BLIZZARD EVACUATION: Australians Rescued Off $10K eBay Boat

Sail Feed - Mon, 2015-02-16 22:48

Yet another mid-winter North Atlantic Coast Guard helicopter rescue. Not off a new boat this time, but off an old 43-foot Carroll Marine racing sled, Sedona (built in 1995), that an Australian, Jason McGlashan, age 37, bought on eBay for $10,000 US. Apparently the price was too low to resist, and Jason and his dad, Reg, age 66, flew into Rhode Island a while back to prep the boat for a delivery back to Oz. The eyebrow-raising bits are that a) they departed from Jamestown last Friday, right in front of the huge blizzard we endured this weekend, and b) apparently the Coast Guard, as well as someone who had worked on the boat, strongly warned the duo not to leave.

The evacuation, via an MH-60 Jayhawk out of Cape Cod, took place 150 miles south of Nantucket around 9 a.m. yesterday after Jason asked for assistance and reported that Sedona was without power, with shredded sails. By the time the Aussies were safe and sound aboard the CG chopper, the wind was reportedly blowing 60 mph and seas were running at 25 feet. The air temperature was 35 degrees; water temperature was 43.

Brrr.

As usual, you can catch the action courtesy of a CG video:

According to a report in the Newport Daily News, Sedona originally belonged to and was raced by Len Hubbard of Jamestown, who donated the boat to an unnamed charity, which subsequently listed it for sale on eBay. According to an anonymous source cited by the gCaptain website, Hubbard got rid of the boat because its hull was delaminating. Hubbard also reportedly brought the McGlashans some food prior to their departure.

From left to right: Reg McGlashan, Len and Jill Hubbard (the boat’s prior owners), and Jason McGlashan (Photo courtesy of the Newport Daily News)

Reg and Jason down below (Photo courtesy of the Newport Daily News)

Jason, a sailor since childhood, planned to take Sedona to Port Macquarie, Australia, via the Cape of Good Hope and the Southern Ocean and expected the voyage to last 6-8 weeks. He hoped eventually to sail her on a record attempt around Australia.

“We’ve never done anything like this,” Jason told the Newport Daily News. “Dad’s not even a sailor, but he’s a quick study. We’ve got plenty of food, plenty of booze, good sails and all the safety gear you could ever need, so we’re going to be OK.”

Jason McGlashan aboard Sedona yesterday morning, prior to being evacuated

We have no details as to exactly what was going wrong on the boat, so it would be presumptuous to second-guess the McGlashans’ decision to call for help. It seems, however, we may know enough to speculate a bit about their decision to set off in the first place. If it’s true the Coast Guard felt they shouldn’t leave, and warned them not to, I have to wonder why they weren’t simply ordered to stay in port, as happened to George McKay and his ludicrous galleon up in Rockland, Maine, several years back.

The forum chatter is also full of questions about whether the McGlashans should have to pay for their rescue, given the circumstances. Speaking both as someone who has  been rescued by the Coast Guard, and as a taxpayer, I do believe there should be some mechanism for deciding when compensation is appropriate. I don’t think any of us who were aboard Be Good Too last year would be at all uncomfortable describing our adventure to a tribunal.

The important thing, of course, is that the McGlashans are safe, and once again we must give thanks for that to the Coast Guard, who really had their work cut out for them this time. The weather was so bad I barely left the house this past weekend; I can’t imagine what it was like swimming off Nantucket.

IN OTHER NEWS: Sailing Anarchy has just published a nice account by Jen Edney (one of my favorite up-and-coming sailing photogs) about a delivery aboard the latest Gunboat 55, Toccata, from North Carolina to Miami. SA hints that more news concerning hull no. 1, Rainmaker, which was recently abandoned off North Carolina, is forthcoming, so I’m wondering about that salvage attempt Gunboat CEO Peter Johnstone said would be undertaken.

Also, I was remiss in not mentioning the loss of Flyin’ Hawaiian earlier this month.

Built in a parking lot by James Lane, who dreamed of voyaging to Hawaii, this craft, constructed of plywood and 2x4s, was 65 feet long and weighed 8 tons

Another home-built monstrosity in the tradition of Raw Faith (except it seemed a bit tidier, I have to say), Flyin’ Hawaiian generated much controversy around San Francisco Bay before foundering off the coast with five crew aboard, who were plucked from peril (once again) by Coast Guard helicopters.

God love ‘em.

For more details you can check out this post by Clark Beek, my compatriot at SAILfeed.

MID-BLIZZARD EVACUATION: Australians Rescued Off $10K eBay Boat

Sail Feed - Mon, 2015-02-16 22:48

Yet another mid-winter North Atlantic Coast Guard helicopter rescue. Not off a new boat this time, but off an old 43-foot Carroll Marine racing sled, Sedona (built in 1995), that an Australian, Jason McGlashan, age 37, bought on eBay for $10,000 US. Apparently the price was too low to resist, and Jason and his dad, Reg, age 66, flew into Rhode Island a while back to prep the boat for a delivery back to Oz. The eyebrow-raising bits are that a) they departed from Jamestown last Friday, right in front of the huge blizzard we endured this weekend, and b) apparently the Coast Guard, as well as someone who had worked on the boat, strongly warned the duo not to leave.

The evacuation, via an MH-60 Jayhawk out of Cape Cod, took place 150 miles south of Nantucket around 9 a.m. yesterday after Jason asked for assistance and reported that Sedona was without power, with shredded sails. By the time the Aussies were safe and sound aboard the CG chopper, the wind was reportedly blowing 60 mph and seas were running at 25 feet. The air temperature was 35 degrees; water temperature was 43.

Brrr.

As usual, you can catch the action courtesy of a CG video:

According to a report in the Newport Daily News, Sedona originally belonged to and was raced by Len Hubbard of Jamestown, who donated the boat to an unnamed charity, which subsequently listed it for sale on eBay. According to an anonymous source cited by the gCaptain website, Hubbard got rid of the boat because its hull was delaminating. Hubbard also reportedly brought the McGlashans some food prior to their departure.

From left to right: Reg McGlashan, Len and Jill Hubbard (the boat’s prior owners), and Jason McGlashan (Photo courtesy of the Newport Daily News)

Reg and Jason down below (Photo courtesy of the Newport Daily News)

Jason, a sailor since childhood, planned to take Sedona to Port Macquarie, Australia, via the Cape of Good Hope and the Southern Ocean and expected the voyage to last 6-8 weeks. He hoped eventually to sail her on a record attempt around Australia.

“We’ve never done anything like this,” Jason told the Newport Daily News. “Dad’s not even a sailor, but he’s a quick study. We’ve got plenty of food, plenty of booze, good sails and all the safety gear you could ever need, so we’re going to be OK.”

Jason McGlashan aboard Sedona yesterday morning, prior to being evacuated

We have no details as to exactly what was going wrong on the boat, so it would be presumptuous to second-guess the McGlashans’ decision to call for help. It seems, however, we may know enough to speculate a bit about their decision to set off in the first place. If it’s true the Coast Guard felt they shouldn’t leave, and warned them not to, I have to wonder why they weren’t simply ordered to stay in port, as happened to George McKay and his ludicrous galleon up in Rockland, Maine, several years back.

The forum chatter is also full of questions about whether the McGlashans should have to pay for their rescue, given the circumstances. Speaking both as someone who has  been rescued by the Coast Guard, and as a taxpayer, I do believe there should be some mechanism for deciding when compensation is appropriate. I don’t think any of us who were aboard Be Good Too last year would be at all uncomfortable describing our adventure to a tribunal.

The important thing, of course, is that the McGlashans are safe, and once again we must give thanks for that to the Coast Guard, who really had their work cut out for them this time. The weather was so bad I barely left the house this past weekend; I can’t imagine what it was like swimming off Nantucket.

IN OTHER NEWS: Sailing Anarchy has just published a nice account by Jen Edney (one of my favorite up-and-coming sailing photogs) about a delivery aboard the latest Gunboat 55, Toccata, from North Carolina to Miami. SA hints that more news concerning hull no. 1, Rainmaker, which was recently abandoned off North Carolina, is forthcoming, so I’m wondering about that salvage attempt Gunboat CEO Peter Johnstone said would be undertaken.

Also, I was remiss in not mentioning the loss of Flyin’ Hawaiian earlier this month.

Built in a parking lot by James Lane, who dreamed of voyaging to Hawaii, this craft, constructed of plywood and 2x4s, was 65 feet long and weighed 8 tons

Another home-built monstrosity in the tradition of Raw Faith (except it seemed a bit tidier, I have to say), Flyin’ Hawaiian generated much controversy around San Francisco Bay before foundering off the coast with five crew aboard, who were plucked from peril (once again) by Coast Guard helicopters.

God love ‘em.

For more details you can check out this post by Clark Beek, my compatriot at SAILfeed.

Serenity update 2015.02.16 8am

Sail Feed - Mon, 2015-02-16 17:48

Hi Everyone!

Position 2015.02.16 8am (13 local time in Sweden where I am at the moment):
17°00’N 63°45’W
15 kt of wind

I got a phone call from Andy today with their updated position. They are having a great time, had a lovely sail with 10kt of wind during the night and 15kt of wind when he called at eight in the morning. The night was pretty dark with no moon, but they all enjoyed it.

One of the crew got a little seasick (not sure who) over night but according to Andy recovered quickly. No swimming yet but I think that’s only a question on time, I am sure they will slow the boat down one of the days and go for a swim in the ocean!

It was great to hear from them and I make sure to ask more questions next time so I can update you with some fun info tomorrow.

Serenity’s position at 8am local time / EST. BVi where they departed are the group of islands to the right of Puerto Rico.

Serenty has departed Tortola

Sail Feed - Sun, 2015-02-15 15:55

Serenity before departure in Nanny Cay marina, Tortola BVI

Hi Everyone,

This is Mia, Andy’s wife.  I will be updating this blog every time I hear for Serenity,  so keep checking back here for updates.

I spoke to Andy today and they were planning to depart Nanny Cay marina around noon today Sunday February 15. All crew arrived yesterday, Andy & Jake has filled up some great food and the only thing they needed to do today before departure was to fill up the water tanks.

I hope to hear from the boat tomorrow, so check back sometime in the afternoon or evening for an update! 

LEEWARD ISLANDS CRUISE: St. Kitts and Nevis

Sail Feed - Sat, 2015-02-14 17:12

This was my primary personal goal for Lunacy‘s winter season in St. Martin. Together with fellow SEMOSA members, Phil “He Of Many Nicknames” Cavanaugh and Charles “May I Cast Off Now?” Lassen, I had previously sailed Lunacy south from St. Martin to explore Saba and Statia. Also, of course, I have voyaged with the immediate family north and east to the more immediately neighboring islands of Anguilla and St. Bart’s. But this year I wanted to get to St. Kitts and Nevis, to the southeast, which are probably the furthest islands you can easily reach from St. Martin during a one-week round-trip cruise.

The most difficult part of the process, sadly, was just flying down to the boat. Thanks to the biblical snowstorms we’ve had here in New England (plus an ugly bout I had with the flu), “Many Nicknames” Cavanuagh and I had to postpone our first flight down to SXM for a week, during which time (in a bid to take advantage of said snowstorms) Phil tore up his knee in a grim skiing accident. Our next attempt (with Phil now in ortho-knee-gear) was then pushed back a day by yet another snowstorm, and by the time we finally emerged in the bright tropic sun on the tarmac at Princess Juliana Airport we looked and felt like a pair of pale snow-shocked out-patients.

At least we hit the ground running. Within 24 hours of arriving we had prepared the boat to sail, taxied halfway across the island and back to shuffle paper and pay exit fees, purchased provisions, and sailed out to Ile Fourchue, an uninhabited islet about halfway between St. Martin and St. Bart’s.

The anchorage at Ile Fourchue. There were a surprising number of boats here, all of which (including Lunacy) were rolling like pigs as a southerly swell crept in through the night

This proved an excellent launching point for our leap to St. Kitts the following morning. It not only is a bit closer to the west end of St. Kitts, but is also further east than St. Martin, so instead of a tight closehauled board of 40 miles or so, we had a fast close reach of about 35 miles and consequently made good time. The next stretch, about 10 miles of motorsailing to windward from Sandy Point to the main town of Basseterre, was more tedious, but not at all uncomfortable, as the wind is diminished and the water quite flat close to the island’s long southwest coast.

Phil claps binoculars on St. Kitts as we approach from the north. It’s nearly 4,000 feet high and the lofty peak, dubbed Mt. Limuiga, is perpetually shrouded in clouds

One of many abandoned sugar mills we passed on the leeward shore, with a nice stretch of rain forest rising in the background. All the modern mills on the island closed down in 2005

Basseterre is a classic old West Indian town–a mix of old colonial architecture, corrugated tin, unlikely shops, and lots of colorful-looking characters. There is a small marina for yachts, but we anchored out, preferring to keep air moving through the boat at the cost of some rolling. (At times, reportedly, the rolling can be unendurable, and the marina becomes the only reasonable option.) Directly adjacent the marina there is a large cruise-ship terminal and a goofy cruise-ship shopping mall, but it seems none of the honky-tonk touristic nonsense from in there spills out into the town itself.

The portal of modern Caribbean commerce. There was one cruise ship in port when we showed up, and another when we left two days later, and four scheduled to come in the day after that

Marching in the streets. These are supporters of the Labour Party, which has been in power the last 20 years. An election is scheduled for early next week

The Edgar O. Challenger Library, part of the St. Kitts Research Document University

People here take great pride in their motor vehicles

The open-air market had lots of tasty-looking local produce

A fishmonger on the beach

On wandering into town we were immediately immersed in a large political rally. This featured lots of red-shirted people and loud cheerful music that unfortunately kept playing all night long and easily carried out to the anchorage. The next morning we learned more about the upcoming election from Matthew, a.k.a. Caveman, who agreed to drive us around the island in his taxi.

St. Kitts and Nevis, the smallest independent nation in the Americas, was originally a bit bigger, as it also included Anguilla, about 70 miles north, after the British, the former colonial power in question, cut the three islands loose back in the mid-1960s. The Anguillians, however, did not want to be in an independent nation with St. Kitts and so quickly rebelled, driving several Kittitian police officers off their island in 1967. The Kittitians threatened to invade Anguilla in retaliation, but the Anguillians beat them to the punch and attempted (unsuccessfully) to invade St. Kitts instead with the help of two hired mercenaries. Somehow this imbroglio led the British to conclude that Anguilla was being taken over by the Mafia, and so they invaded Anguilla themselves in 1969. This British “Bay of Piglets,” as it was known (the official name was “Operation Sheepskin“), was a great comic event in modern Caribbean history, as 135 paratroopers and 40 police from Scotland Yard stormed ashore and were greeted not by Mafia insurgents, but by members of the press who had been tipped off in advance. (You can see a short film of the invasion here.)

In any event, it seems Kittitian politics are just as entertaining as ever. As he drove us around the island, Caveman (a supporter of the opposition People’s Action Movement) complained to us at some length about the Labour Party and its leader, Prime Minister Dr. Denzil “Dougie” Douglas. The immediate controversy involved a nefarious gerrymandering scheme, in which Dougie had unilaterally redrawn all the voting district boundaries in his favor just weeks before the election, and as we toured the island Caveman explained in some detail which villages were anti-Labour and how the new boundaries had been drawn to dilute their constituencies.

(Note: according to yesterday’s news a five-justice privy council in the U.K. has just overturned Dougie’s plot, ruling the election must be held with the old district boundaries, which no doubt has made our friend Caveman very happy!)

Caveman did show us some other stuff while talking politics. This saman tree on the Romney Manor in Old Road Town is reputed to be the oldest tree on the island. Its crown shades almost an acre of ground!

The original Romney Manor burned to the ground and has been replaced by workshops and a store run by Caribelle Batiks

Brimstone Hill (as seen from the water here when we later sailed past) is a UN World Heritage site and is home to a troop of African green vervet monkeys, some of whom we encountered on the road to the top. Of course, there’s also an old colonial fort up here, which has recently been restored

View from the fort looking west. Those are the islands of Statia and Saba visible on the horizon

The view looking east, with Nevis (shrouded in its own forest-nurturing cloud) visible in the distance

The view looking down as a Sunsail bareboat lopes by on its way back to St. Martin

A volcanically rocky bit of the island’s windward shore

The next day, Sunday, we sailed over to check out Nevis, but because it was Sunday nothing much was going on there, except on the beach, where again there was loud cheerful music playing at high volume.

Lunacy on a mooring at Nevis, with the cloud-capped Nevis Peak (about 3,200 feet high) in the distance. Anchoring is now forbidden here, but there’s no shortage of moorings

The heart of Charlestown, the island’s major community, dead as a doornail on a Sunday afternoon

The only restaurant we found open in town was the Chinese Tea House, where young agnostics like to gather instead of going to church. If you make a government-approved investment of $400K or more you can become a citizen of the nation of St. Kitts-Nevis, and judging from the many Chinese-owned business we saw, I’m guessing many investor-citizens are in fact from China

This is Star, an old Marco Polo triple-master designed by L. Francis Herreshoff that is home-ported here in Nevis. I have often seen her in Bermuda and last I was there met her owners, Steve and Irene, who spend summers on Cape Cod and winters down here

We would have liked to spend more time on Nevis, as it seems a quiet, very attractive place, with a more hikable mountain than St. Kitts, but we also wanted to drop in at St. Bart’s on the way back to Oyster Pond, as Phil had never been there before. I warned him St. Bart’s isn’t really part of the Caribbean, but is off in its own alternative universe. (For example, it has always bugged me that there are hardly any black people on the island.) Once we got there, he was a bit surprised by just how true this is.

Your humble narrator, selfified during the sail to St. Bart’s

PC phones home as we edge out of range of the cell towers on St. Kitts. Note the knee brace and also the stylish do-rag. The latter was adopted after two different hats took off downwind

From Nevis to St. Bart’s was a 50-mile sail. We covered it in good time, about 7 hours, but were easily overhauled by this svelte Spirit

Our neighbors in the anchorage at St. Bart’s struggle to bring their tender aboard before heading off to another deluxe destination

Making the scene in fashion-conscious Gustavia. I bet that dog would kill to get that sweater off

After a night at Gustavia we retreated to Anse de Columbier, a far more civilized locale IMHO, where we enjoyed some snorkeling and our last sunset of the cruise

After we returned to Oyster Pond, I was kind of hoping the weather up north would delay our flying home, just as it had delayed our flying down, but we had no such luck. Bing bang boom—we were back in the cold right on schedule, and now I’m hunkered down in NH, waiting for the next blizzard to hit.

We’re looking for another 12 inches or so in the next 24 hours, on top of the 36 we already have.

(Sigh)

PS: In case you’re wondering what happened to Anguilla after the invasion, they were eventually taken over by Britain again, which is all they wanted in the first place.

PPS: This is what this weekend’s blizzard looks like on paper:

(Double sigh)

LEEWARD ISLANDS CRUISE: St. Kitts and Nevis

Sail Feed - Sat, 2015-02-14 17:12

This was my primary personal goal for Lunacy‘s winter season in St. Martin. Together with fellow SEMOSA members, Phil “He Of Many Nicknames” Cavanaugh and Charles “May I Cast Off Now?” Lassen, I had previously sailed Lunacy south from St. Martin to explore Saba and Statia. Also, of course, I have voyaged with the immediate family north and east to the more immediately neighboring islands of Anguilla and St. Bart’s. But this year I wanted to get to St. Kitts and Nevis, to the southeast, which are probably the furthest islands you can easily reach from St. Martin during a one-week round-trip cruise.

The most difficult part of the process, sadly, was just flying down to the boat. Thanks to the biblical snowstorms we’ve had here in New England (plus an ugly bout I had with the flu), “Many Nicknames” Cavanuagh and I had to postpone our first flight down to SXM for a week, during which time (in a bid to take advantage of said snowstorms) Phil tore up his knee in a grim skiing accident. Our next attempt (with Phil now in ortho-knee-gear) was then pushed back a day by yet another snowstorm, and by the time we finally emerged in the bright tropic sun on the tarmac at Princess Juliana Airport we looked and felt like a pair of pale snow-shocked out-patients.

At least we hit the ground running. Within 24 hours of arriving we had prepared the boat to sail, taxied halfway across the island and back to shuffle paper and pay exit fees, purchased provisions, and sailed out to Ile Fourchue, an uninhabited islet about halfway between St. Martin and St. Bart’s.

The anchorage at Ile Fourchue. There were a surprising number of boats here, all of which (including Lunacy) were rolling like pigs as a southerly swell crept in through the night

This proved an excellent launching point for our leap to St. Kitts the following morning. It not only is a bit closer to the west end of St. Kitts, but is also further east than St. Martin, so instead of a tight closehauled board of 40 miles or so, we had a fast close reach of about 35 miles and consequently made good time. The next stretch, about 10 miles of motorsailing to windward from Sandy Point to the main town of Basseterre, was more tedious, but not at all uncomfortable, as the wind is diminished and the water quite flat close to the island’s long southwest coast.

Phil claps binoculars on St. Kitts as we approach from the north. It’s nearly 4,000 feet high and the lofty peak, dubbed Mt. Limuiga, is perpetually shrouded in clouds

One of many abandoned sugar mills we passed on the leeward shore, with a nice stretch of rain forest rising in the background. All the modern mills on the island closed down in 2005

Basseterre is a classic old West Indian town–a mix of old colonial architecture, corrugated tin, unlikely shops, and lots of colorful-looking characters. There is a small marina for yachts, but we anchored out, preferring to keep air moving through the boat at the cost of some rolling. (At times, reportedly, the rolling can be unendurable, and the marina becomes the only reasonable option.) Directly adjacent the marina there is a large cruise-ship terminal and a goofy cruise-ship shopping mall, but it seems none of the honky-tonk touristic nonsense from in there spills out into the town itself.

The portal of modern Caribbean commerce. There was one cruise ship in port when we showed up, and another when we left two days later, and four scheduled to come in the day after that

Marching in the streets. These are supporters of the Labour Party, which has been in power the last 20 years. An election is scheduled for early next week

The Edgar O. Challenger Library, part of the St. Kitts Research Document University

People here take great pride in their motor vehicles

The open-air market had lots of tasty-looking local produce

A fishmonger on the beach

On wandering into town we were immediately immersed in a large political rally. This featured lots of red-shirted people and loud cheerful music that unfortunately kept playing all night long and easily carried out to the anchorage. The next morning we learned more about the upcoming election from Matthew, a.k.a. Caveman, who agreed to drive us around the island in his taxi.

St. Kitts and Nevis, the smallest independent nation in the Americas, was originally a bit bigger, as it also included Anguilla, about 70 miles north, after the British, the former colonial power in question, cut the three islands loose back in the mid-1960s. The Anguillians, however, did not want to be in an independent nation with St. Kitts and so quickly rebelled, driving several Kittitian police officers off their island in 1967. The Kittitians threatened to invade Anguilla in retaliation, but the Anguillians beat them to the punch and attempted (unsuccessfully) to invade St. Kitts instead with the help of two hired mercenaries. Somehow this imbroglio led the British to conclude that Anguilla was being taken over by the Mafia, and so they invaded Anguilla themselves in 1969. This British “Bay of Piglets,” as it was known (the official name was “Operation Sheepskin“), was a great comic event in modern Caribbean history, as 135 paratroopers and 40 police from Scotland Yard stormed ashore and were greeted not by Mafia insurgents, but by members of the press who had been tipped off in advance. (You can see a short film of the invasion here.)

In any event, it seems Kittitian politics are just as entertaining as ever. As he drove us around the island, Caveman (a supporter of the opposition People’s Action Movement) complained to us at some length about the Labour Party and its leader, Prime Minister Dr. Denzil “Dougie” Douglas. The immediate controversy involved a nefarious gerrymandering scheme, in which Dougie had unilaterally redrawn all the voting district boundaries in his favor just weeks before the election, and as we toured the island Caveman explained in some detail which villages were anti-Labour and how the new boundaries had been drawn to dilute their constituencies.

(Note: according to yesterday’s news a five-justice privy council in the U.K. has just overturned Dougie’s plot, ruling the election must be held with the old district boundaries, which no doubt has made our friend Caveman very happy!)

Caveman did show us some other stuff while talking politics. This saman tree on the Romney Manor in Old Road Town is reputed to be the oldest tree on the island. Its crown shades almost an acre of ground!

The original Romney Manor burned to the ground and has been replaced by workshops and a store run by Caribelle Batiks

Brimstone Hill (as seen from the water here when we later sailed past) is a UN World Heritage site and is home to a troop of African green vervet monkeys, some of whom we encountered on the road to the top. Of course, there’s also an old colonial fort up here, which has recently been restored

View from the fort looking west. Those are the islands of Statia and Saba visible on the horizon

The view looking east, with Nevis (shrouded in its own forest-nurturing cloud) visible in the distance

The view looking down as a Sunsail bareboat lopes by on its way back to St. Martin

A volcanically rocky bit of the island’s windward shore

The next day, Sunday, we sailed over to check out Nevis, but because it was Sunday nothing much was going on there, except on the beach, where again there was loud cheerful music playing at high volume.

Lunacy on a mooring at Nevis, with the cloud-capped Nevis Peak (about 3,200 feet high) in the distance. Anchoring is now forbidden here, but there’s no shortage of moorings

The heart of Charlestown, the island’s major community, dead as a doornail on a Sunday afternoon

The only restaurant we found open in town was the Chinese Tea House, where young agnostics like to gather instead of going to church. If you make a government-approved investment of $400K or more you can become a citizen of the nation of St. Kitts-Nevis, and judging from the many Chinese-owned business we saw, I’m guessing many investor-citizens are in fact from China

This is Star, an old Marco Polo triple-master designed by L. Francis Herreshoff that is home-ported here in Nevis. I have often seen her in Bermuda and last I was there met her owners, Steve and Irene, who spend summers on Cape Cod and winters down here

We would have liked to spend more time on Nevis, as it seems a quiet, very attractive place, with a more hikable mountain than St. Kitts, but we also wanted to drop in at St. Bart’s on the way back to Oyster Pond, as Phil had never been there before. I warned him St. Bart’s isn’t really part of the Caribbean, but is off in its own alternative universe. (For example, it has always bugged me that there are hardly any black people on the island.) Once we got there, he was a bit surprised by just how true this is.

Your humble narrator, selfified during the sail to St. Bart’s

PC phones home as we edge out of range of the cell towers on St. Kitts. Note the knee brace and also the stylish do-rag. The latter was adopted after two different hats took off downwind

From Nevis to St. Bart’s was a 50-mile sail. We covered it in good time, about 7 hours, but were easily overhauled by this svelte Spirit

Our neighbors in the anchorage at St. Bart’s struggle to bring their tender aboard before heading off to another deluxe destination

Making the scene in fashion-conscious Gustavia. I bet that dog would kill to get that sweater off

After a night at Gustavia we retreated to Anse de Columbier, a far more civilized locale IMHO, where we enjoyed some snorkeling and our last sunset of the cruise

After we returned to Oyster Pond, I was kind of hoping the weather up north would delay our flying home, just as it had delayed our flying down, but we had no such luck. Bing bang boom—we were back in the cold right on schedule, and now I’m hunkered down in NH, waiting for the next blizzard to hit.

We’re looking for another 12 inches or so in the next 24 hours, on top of the 36 we already have.

(Sigh)

PS: In case you’re wondering what happened to Anguilla after the invasion, they were eventually taken over by Britain again, which is all they wanted in the first place.

PPS: This is what this weekend’s blizzard looks like on paper:

(Double sigh)

Hello, Young Lovers

Sail Feed - Fri, 2015-02-13 14:51

By Kimball Livingston

It’s such a common phrase, such a common feeling, that we take it for granted. The romance of the sea. Even those who dwell far from the sea are not immune to it. Red sails in the sunset. The very notion of sailing away to paradise. Those who heed the call, those who love the sea and sailing, will not find it strange that a sailor would choose Valentine’s Day to write a love letter to the sport.

Once upon a time there lived a young man so enamored of sailboat racing that he couldn’t look out from the deck of one raceboat to another race going on over yonder without wishing he could be part of that race, too.

Absurd? Whoever said that Rational was a component of Passionate?

Ernest Hemingway was no bigtime sailor. On the water, he was more at home in the fighting chair of a fishkiller with a touch of brandy close at hand. But the man had an eye. He could absorb what he saw and put it into words. He had gazed across the waters. He knew the look of boats under sail. And there came a moment in the writing of The Sun Also Rises when the blankness of the page demanded a next sentence that would describe, economically, the beauty of his heroine, Lady Brett Ashley. He wrote, “She was built with curves like the hull of a racing yacht.”

The real flesh and blood Lauren Bacall, who brought so many fictional characters to life—Hemingway’s “Slim” Browning of To Have and Have Not comes to mind—has many times remarked that her only real competition for her leading man’s affections was that boat, Santana.

Do sailors romanticize their boats? Do they ever. With so many women now sailing at the top of the sport, it’s awkward to wade into the origins of the usage of “she” to speak of a boat. But, let’s be simpleminded. Sailors in those early days were men, and that’s how they felt about their boats.

Are boats erotic? Don’t be silly. I just like to run my fingers along the hull . . .

And on a boat, it doesn’t have to be Valentine’s Day to need, seriously need, chocolate. So I just want to say:

Sailing, I really really really like you. I mean, I like you a lot. I mean. . .

Okay. I admit. It’s more than that. This is the real thing, and even though I really really really got ****’d in that last race, I’ll still love you tomorrow.

Tortola to Grenada Expedition Set to Depart!

Sail Feed - Wed, 2015-02-11 19:43

Hi guys, Andy here. I’m packing up the last of my gear for an early morning departure to Tortola! I’ll be rendezvousing with our first mate Jake Albano in Tortola, and together we’ll be spending the next two days getting Serenity, the Shannon 43 ketch, ready for her passage to Grenada! 

We’ll be joined on Saturday by the rest of the crew – Tom from Iowa, Steve & Paula from just outside Toronto, and Andrew, also from Toronto. Those four brave souls will be embarking on an offshore passage of about 500 miles, direct to Grenada. it’s my chance to follow through on what’s become my passage making motto – that is, to share the wisdom of the high seas with those wise enough to seek it out. I’m thankful that Tom, Steve, Paula & Andrew were indeed wise enough to follow through! 

We’ll be posting regular updates (or Mia will be), indicating our position and what’s been happening onboard, so follow this blog to join in the fun from back home! Photos, stories and perhaps a podcast or two will follow upon our return! 

ote that all posts from this trip will be tagged ‘Serenity Passage.’

Garmin Panoptix All-Seeing Sonar, GPSmap 7×16, and BlueChart Mobile 2.0

Sail Feed - Wed, 2015-02-11 08:00

Written by Ben Ellison on Feb 11, 2015 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub

The Garmin Panoptix “All-Seeing” sonar announced this morning sounds fascinating, but be aware that it’s meant for smaller boat fishing, at least at first. The $1,500 rectangular “multi-beam transducer that utilizes a phased-array scanning sonar technology” will come in two styles, with the tilted Panoptix Forward model oriented vertically on a trolling motor or transom mount and the Down Transducer with its horizontal orientation only available for transom installs. Neither one looks easy to transform into a thru-hull fitting but judging from the screenshots a lot of bigger boat owners will be hoping that’s possible…

This is the PS31 Panoptix Forward Transducer purportedly imaging 80 feet of slightly upsloping bottom and also a diver about 20 feet ahead of the transducer in what Garmin calls LiveVü mode. It looks similar to Simrad ForwardScan but is covering a wider wedge of bottom and water column and is said to be so fast that you can watch your lure being reeled in (which is what’s happening in the first GIF animation on Garmin’s Panoptix page).

But, whoa, I’ve only seen what Garmin calls RealVü 3D mode on much more expensive sonars like the EchoPilot 3D FLS. This is no doubt a slower mode but the user can control the speed for desired level of detail. Note how this particular RealVü viewing angle shows the 60 degree coverage of the Panoptix Forward Transducer and also how it can paint bottom and fish (or diver?) detail not just forward but from side-to-side within the phased-array beam.

It’s no surprise then that the PS30 Panoptix Down Transducer can create a rectangular RealVü below the boat. It can also assemble these into long swaths called RealVü 3D Historical or do LiveVü Down imaging that supposedly let’s you pinpoint fish and/or bait. And get this: both Panoptix Forward and Down are said to work fine when a boat is stationary and both contain AHRS sensors to compensate for boat motion underway or at rest.

The Panoptix transducers are “expected to be available in the spring of 2015″ and will work with a variety of current Garmin MFDs, including the GPSMap 7×00 series that was announced at Lauderdale and is slated to ship very soon. The series already looks to me like a nice ‘value’ version of the 8000 Glass Helm displays and now it will be available in a 16-inch version. In fact, the GPSmap 7616xsv version will retail at $6,000 with built-in processing for not only Panoptix but CHIRP DownVü and SideVü plus dual-channel 1kW CHIRP sonar…quite like the Simrad NSS16 that looked so good in my glass bridge price comparison. Hello!

Finally, the already able planning app BlueChart Mobile will greatly expand its weather resources when version 2.0 comes out this summer. Included will be “weather observations and buoy reports, marine zone forecasts (US/Canada/Europe), land zone forecasts (US/Canada), surface wind forecast grids, sea surface temperatures, surface pressure forecast and and sea state forecast, plus in-app purchase purchase options for radar and infrared cloud imagery, lighting, and StormWatch watches.” And here’s the kicker: with BCM 2.0 owners of Garmin WiFi-enabled MFDs will not only be able to pass routes easily but the updated weather data will stream to the bright readable MFD screen as long as the BCM iPad is online (which is most of the time on Gizmo thanks to my cell boosting system).

Well, actually the real kicker for me is that I’ll be on the water with Garmin Panoptix this afternoon in Miami (and that’s only one of four demo rides today ;-). I’ll report back when possible but don’t hestitate to post questions I might ask now.

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

Best places to sail in Thailand

Sail Feed - Wed, 2015-02-11 05:00

There are a handful of places we’ll never forget from our months of sailing in Thailand. We found a lot to love (and a lot we could do without). These are our favorites spots: the places that capture, in one way or another, what for us was the best of cruising along the Andaman Sea coast of Thailand.

Koh Phayam. When we first arrived in January 2014 a friend with us exclaimed – “this is like Phuket in the 80s!” Without cars or utilities, this sleepy little island near the border of Myanmar is geared towards more basic travelers and the counterpoint to chaotic Phuket. With a scattering of beachfront bungalows, cool places like The Hippy Bar (with the apocalyptic look of its crazy post-tsunami driftwood construction), delicious and inexpensive little restaurants, and wide curve of beach- it’s a great spot for cruisers looking for a laid back atmosphere. That’s one of the big reasons we picked it as a destination to gather with friends for Christmas & New Year’s Eve in 2014. The only thing it’s lacking is nice water to swim in; it wasn’t as murky as some places, but it was pretty dead below the surface.

Phang Nga Bay. This stunning bay just north and east of Phuket is truly like fairlyland. As we approached it from the south and the wild spires of limestone islands began to take shape (see photo at the top of this post), we couldn’t believe how beautiful it was. Inside many of these islands are ‘hongs’ – caves, from the Thai word for room. But what’s really special about these caves is that they’re often open to the sky after being accessed through a tunnel. Truly spectacular to paddle or swim into a hong, then be treated by blue skies overhead and lush greenery on the steep cliff sides up. Many, many daytripper boats come through here, but they tend to go to the same hongs over and over. Pick up a copy of The Hong Book online, written by cruisers, to find your way to a host of spots that won’t include a throng of tourists.

Satun. OK, so this isn’t exactly a beauty spot you go to anchor in. This was the shipyard where we spent 8 days in 2013, and about six weeks in 2014. But Satun goes down as one of my favorite places in Thailand for a few reasons. First, the utter lack of any tourism was incredibly refreshing in comparison to the rest of our experience in Thailand. Walk through the village to the market I might meet another person, or I might not, but at least when I did I knew it was purely out of mutual human interest and not because someone wanted to sell me something. That defined most of the rest of Thailand, and it really got old. We made some wonderful friends in Satun, among cruisers and local residents. When I think of the people we met in Thailand that I hope to see again, it’s Satun where we came together. And by being here a while, and having a peek and a connection to local families, we had a precious opportunity to give back to a community.

The Surin islands. These lovely islands are mostly uninhabited and offer a beautiful underwater environment to explore. The clarity was better than along the peninsula and the biodiversity was probably the best we saw in Thailand. The Surins compared favorably to the other Andaman Sea marine park archipelago- the Similans- because they are harder to get to (which translated to far fewer daytrippers) and the reef was healthier. It’s still not great, apparently damaged by area overfishing and sea warming- but it was probably closer to what the brochures sell than the other spots we dove in Thailand. We had ONE report from a boat in company of shark sighting, a hopeful sign that the reef isn’t a lost cause yet. Between 2014 and 2015 we spent nearly two weeks here: for more of the Surins underwater, browse these photos on Flickr.

Thanks for clicking through to read this post on the SAILfeed website and kicking some change into our cruising kitty!

Colin Firth to Play Donald Crowhurst in Biopic

Sail Feed - Tue, 2015-02-10 14:03


Talk about a long wait. The book, The Strange Last Voyage of Donald Crowhurst, by Nicholas Tomalin and Ron Hall, was completely out of print for some years, but a cult favorite and the subject of many late night cockpit ruminations.

It tells the tale of Donald Crowhurst who, along with the likes of Bernard Moitessier, Robin Knox-Johnson, and Chay Blyth, entered the Sunday Times Golden Globe Race in 1968, the first singlehanded, non-stop round-the-world race. Indebted and under intense pressure to succeed, yet woefully unprepared and inexperienced, Crowhurst never made it farther than the South Atlantic. He faked his positions to appear he was in the lead, then went mad and committed suicide. The story has come back into vogue, just from the passing of time, or somehow reflective of our current fascinations and insecurities.

The excellent documentary, Deep Water, came out in 2006, telling the story with excellent original footage and interviews. I give it my highest recommendation:

But now the story is hitting the big time, a full Hollywood production: blue chip director, blue chip writer, and Oscar winner for best actor, Colin Firth, playing Crowhurst. You’ve got to admit they really look alike:

I can’t wait! I’m very excited to see how Hollywood spins the tale…or completely botches it. Please, please, oh pleeeeeze don’t blow it with the sailing stuff. Hire a simple technical consultant – any one of us will do – to consult on the film so the sailing bits aren’t rendered ridiculous to sailors, like All Is Lost, The Perfect Storm, or pretty much every other movie about sailing or the sea. Please don’t have white squalls materializing out of nowhere, 100-foot waves swallowing boats, vicious sharks chewing on rudders, or people dangling from rigging for no good reason with lit cutting torches with no hoses attached to them.

I wonder who’ll play Sir Robin Knox-Johnson? I’m going with Geoffrey Rush.

United Nations, United Ocean?

Sail Feed - Tue, 2015-02-10 12:46

Posted by Kimball Livingston February 10, 2015

Dr. Sylvia Earle, oceanographer, diver, explorer and warrior on behalf of oceans stewardship, was chief scientist at NOAA until she figured out that the job came with a muzzle. Today she lends herself to many causes and runs Mission Blue, a nonprofit initiative aiming to ignite support for a global network of marine protected areas – Hope Spots, she calls them – large enough “to save and restore the blue heart of the planet.”

Dr. Earle is also a National Geographic Explorer in Residence. We each contributed to this project . . .

More recently, Dr. Earle addressed the United Nations, urging legal protection for the high seas. This was her message :

The United Nations came into existence in 1945. I personally came into existence ten years earlier, and as a child was barely aware of the historic actions then being addressed by my species. The ten year olds of today are more likely to be tuned in to the significance of the actions being deliberated here. They – and we – are armed with access to unprecedented knowledge, information that did not exist when I was a child.

In less than half a century, we have come to understand what our predecessors could not: the living ocean – the living ocean – drives climate and weather, generates most of the oxygen in the atmosphere, takes up much of the carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere, holds 97% of Earth’s water and embraces 97% of the biosphere. Now we know. Humankind is altering the nature of the ocean and therefore, the nature of nature, through what we are putting in and through what we are taking out of the sea. The ocean is large and resilient, but it is not too big to fail. What we are taking out of the sea, what we are putting into the sea are actions that are undermining the most important thing the ocean delivers to humankind – our very existence.

The new reports this week in Science, NY Times, and the Economist are among many examples of the evidence concerning the drastic reduction in the quantity and diversity of marine systems in recent decades, and raise real concerns about the consequences to humankind of these impacts. There is a direct link between the state of life in the ocean and a planet that works in our favor. All of humankind relies on the ocean for everything we care about – prosperity, health, security – our very existence. No ocean, no life. No blue, no green. No ocean, no us. An ocean in trouble means civilization in trouble. The highest priority for humankind is to keep the world safe for our children. To do so means taking care of the natural ocean systems that make life possible.

The status quo is not adequate and is not acceptable. It is high time for the High Seas, the blue half of the world, to be recognized as the blue heart of the planet, the cornerstone of Earth’s life support system, the vast but vulnerable part of the planet that until recent decades has not only been beyond the limits of national jurisdiction, but also beyond the reach of the ability of humans to effectively exploit it for short term gain.

We have an opportunity – right now – to fill the gaps in governance of half of the world, the blue half that has a disproportionately significant role in maintaining Earth as a planet hospitable for life as we know it. Armed with new knowledge, we have a chance, right now, this week, to encourage governance to safeguard the high seas – as never before in history. And maybe, as never again.

The ten year olds are watching.

The ten year olds are watching — KL

Franz Amussen

Sail Feed - Tue, 2015-02-10 00:00

Franz Amussen, host of the ‘Sailing the Med’ podcast, joins Andy to discuss his namesake podcast. They recorded over Skype, Andy in Toronto for the boat show there, Franz in his home in Salt Lake City. 

This is the first part of a two-part episode, and is mostly Franz interviewing Andy about his own sailing career, cruising in the Baltic, Swedish customs and other fun stuff. Towards the end the tables are turned and Franz is the one answering questions, but they ran out of time before getting too far into it. Stay tuned for a Part 2 coming up soon!

Want to go ocean sailing with Andy? Book a berth on at 59-north.com/events.

We Dig Dig Dig Dig Dig Dig In Our Mine The Whole Day Through

Sail Feed - Mon, 2015-02-09 22:51

Snow White and the Seven Dwarves isn’t one of my favorite Disney movies. I am going to generously describe the heroine as “insipid” and leave it at that. But the film does have a few snappy tunes, among them the first half of Heigh Ho. Oh, you didn’t know the beginning was a completely different (and superior) song? Before all of that boring whistling, the dwarves sing about working in their mine. To wit:

We dig dig dig dig dig dig dig
In our mine the whole day through
To dig dig dig dig dig dig dig
Is what we like to do

It ain’t no trick to get rich quick
If you dig dig dig with a shovel or a pick
In a mine! In a mine! In a mine! In a mine!
Where a million diamonds shine!

We dig dig dig dig dig dig dig
From early morn till night
We dig dig dig dig dig dig dig up
Everything in sight

We dig up diamonds by the score
A thousand rubies, sometimes more
But we don’t know what we dig them for
We dig dig dig a-dig dig.

Back in the day, preschool-Stylish immediately took to this song, and we both learned the words. Don’t ask me why, but we used to sing it in the car as we drove around on errands. This was long before Erik got into mining, so I am going to claim that we were prescient. Perhaps this was the clairvoyant version of, “if you can’t beat’em, join ‘em.”

But Erik did finally a) discover and b) fall in love with mining, thus our current sojourn in PNG.

Last week, Erik suggested we go visit the mine on the weekend. He had to secure all sorts of official permissions (safety first), but he was dying to show it off to the girls and me.

“I’ve got it all arranged,” he said. “We can go Saturday afternoon.”
“Isn’t that the annual cricket game? I thought you were down as an alternate.
“Oh, is that right?” he said cooly, fooling no one. “Too bad – it’s all set up.”
I can understand the dodge; I think even Indy has more cricketing experience than he does. And don’t tell any of my Australian friends, but I was far keener on seeing the mine than watching the batsmen and bowlers. Although I would make an exception for this:
The only cricket worth watching is superhero cricket.

Saturday came, and we piled into the car. We had hardly pulled onto the main road before Erik began pointing out the sites. “This area is called so-and-so. We expect to be digging there in Year X. And the interesting thing over here is…”

We paused on-site to pick up some hard hats and vests, and we were off.
I get to show the mine to my girls. I am so excited!

First stop: the pit, and a brief lesson in the geology of the region. The kids listened politely, but they were mainly waiting for the good stuff: seeing the enormous trucks.

Here is my advice to you. Do not drive your Honda Civic into a mine site and hope to end up anything but flat. Not only won’t you be seen, you also won’t be felt when the trucks roll right over you. The only way anyone will know you were there will be when someone notices the micron-thin piece of steel that was once your car sitting on the road.

Seeing the equipment up close made me newly appreciative of the 4m flag sticking out the top of Erik’s utility vehicle.
Can you see us? Standing in a face shovel… …and we’re tiny. Dancing on the teeth. Time to go up and take a look at the cab.

All the while, Erik kept up a constant patter about what the equipment was for, what happened in that part of the mine, and who we were about to meet next. You would think he was a volunteer tour guide, he was so enthusiastic. I haven’t included any photos of the plant, but don’t think that we skipped that. No, sir. We couldn’t drive more than a few feet without Erik stopping to explain exactly what was going on inside each Large Metal Structure in front of us. I’m pretty sure I could have a passed a process exam based on what I heard that afternoon.

Barely up to the hub cap. As we drove home, Erik asked: “So, girls, what job would you like to do at the mine?”

“Drive the trucks,” they chorused.
“But I am going to be a mechanical engineer when I grow up,” Indy added.

Maybe they’ll just drive as a summer job, then.

Wire Fraud Cruisers Nabbed in Bahamas

Sail Feed - Mon, 2015-02-09 15:54


The Winberg’s second attempt to flee justice aboard a cruising sailboat has been foiled. The couple faced trial for wire fraud, and decades in prison, if convicted.

The couple and their seven children tried to flee the country in early December, but ended up sinking in Galveston Bay, Texas. Their infant wasn’t breathing, but was revived with CPR. The locals knew something was up when they fled ASAP, and abandoned the boat. It turned out they’d given fake names.

Now, two months later they almost got away with it again…almost. A different boat, a different coast, and they were off to the Bahamas, where American tourists promptly recognized them, and alerted the Bahamian authorities. They are now in Miami and the children are being assessed by Child Protective Services.

The Winbergs obviously didn’t know quite what they were doing when it came to sailing, per the incident in Galveston. I guess when it comes to fleeing the country one doesn’t have a lot of options, if wanted by the law. If you get on a commercial flight you’ll be nabbed. Driving into Mexico, and points beyond, is an option. Sailing off into the sunset is another, but they probably should have gone farther than the Bahamas, and maybe hid out somewhere a little more off the beaten path than the Staniel Cay Yacht Club.

More here.

Simple marine cell boosting: Wilson Sleek 4G (weBoost Drive 4G) and Digital Antenna Bullet

Sail Feed - Mon, 2015-02-09 09:20

Written by Ben Ellison on Feb 9, 2015 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub

New FCC regulations have caused turmoil in the world of cell boosters and now leading manufacturer Wilson Electronics has changed its name to weBoost. Thus, the Wilson Sleek 4G (460107) above, one of the very first new breed boosters last April, has just morphed into the weBoost Dash 4G-S (470107). Adding to the confusion is the boater’s need to replace that wimpy car top antenna with a possibly illegal marine model – I’m happily using a Digital Antenna 1285 Bullet in my testing — but the whole package ends up relatively simple to install and effective for its cost.

The Sleek (Dash) 4G is a cradle booster that only works with one fixed phone, but it couldn’t be much easier to install. You just fasten the mount where you want the boosted phone to live, figure out the cradle “ear” shape and positions that best fit that phone model, and run the USB cable to a decent 12v USB power source (perhaps like these). The Sleek (and Dash) 4G cradles also have a USB outlet, so that curly wire above is keeping my old Galaxy Nexus phone charged while it’s being boosted. Constant charging is especially important when I’m using the phone as a WiFi hotspot to put the boat’s computers and tablets online. The screen at right suggest how much I used this mode while cruising south this fall; yes, I put over 14 gigabytes of data — 12 of it via onboard WiFi — through the phone in just 20 days, though I would have been more careful if I hadn’t lucked into an unlimited Verizon 4G service plan.

In fact, I’ve used this cell setup a lot since last August — I had a fast 4G/LTE connection almost the entire trip south — and I often saw significant signal strength differences on that able Network Signal Pro app when I negated the booster by turning it off or pulling the phone out of the cradle. But I suspect that much of the performance enhancement came from the high performance antenna combined with 30 feet of thumb-thick Wilson/weBoost LMR400 ultra low loss coax cable that you can just make out stepping through a couple of adaptors into the Sleek (Dash) booster. (Note that I regularly wear a somewhat unusual Bluetooth headset and am also long testing a heavy duty Cruising Solutions alternative.)

While I detailed my mast install of the Digital Antenna 1285 last September, this photo shows more of the possibly irritating base design plus the terrific Wera Mini Bit Ratchet that made it possible to apply those little upside-down screws while in the rigging! I’m happy to report, though, that the newer Digital Antenna 1264 Bullet model can fit on a standard 1″ x 14 antenna mount and comes with a nice one. Plus, all the DA Wide Band Bullet Antenna models — which claim 4-9 dBi gain on every cell frequency (I think) plus WiFi and WiMax — seem to be winning the admiration of marine electronics professionals (who should in many cases be installing these systems).

But I did mention “possibly illegal marine” antenna in the opening paragraph, and that’s because the new FCC rules state that consumers “must operate” their cell booster “with approved antennas and cables as specified by the manufacturer” (who must supply complete kits). So while I guess my install is technically illegal, I take comfort in the fact that the Sleek (Dash) booster only claims a maximum gain of 23 dB while the new booster limit is 70 dB. It’s hard to imagine how the cradle booster — which only uses a maximum 2 amps, even while charging my phone — could interfere with other cell phones.

You will also see warnings on the new breed boosters that “YOU MUST REGISTER THIS DEVICE” with your cell provider, but look at the bottom of the small type for notice that AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, Sprint and 90 regional carriers “have given blanket consent to all boosters meeting the new certification standards,” presumably because the new boosters are designed to shut down if they cause network problems. I did, in fact, try to register the test booster at Verizon, but they don’t make it easy.

Of course, you’ll have an even simpler, less expensive and totally legal Sleek (Dash) 4G install if you just use the included antenna, and you can see how that might work in this Love Your RV video. Note that the tester is using a 4G Jetpack MiFi mobile hotspot instead of a phone, and that the beloved beagle does make a “live” appearance:-) But I have done a little A/B testing of the small Sleek antenna versus the Digital Antenna Bullet and think the latter makes a big difference. After all, the reason the FCC now views boosters as complete systems is because their total effectiveness equals external antenna gain minus cable loss plus actual booster gain minus/plus the cradle, cable or internal antenna that makes the final booster-to-phone link.

Unfortunately, complete marine cell booster kits remain scarce. I believe that weBoost plans at least one — possibly based on their new 65dB Connect 4G — and Digital Antenna purportedly has an excellent boat booster that’s unfortunately stuck in the FCC approval process. If you want a high-power marine system that will serve several uncradled phones at once, like the (long gone) one I tested in 2013, the only choice right now may be one of the Shakespeare Halo CA series, and note that you have to choose a specific 4G provider model, and that the total retail cost before installation is about $1,500.

Meanwhile, the Sleek (Dash) 4G can handle multiple 4G/LTE providers — though the old Wilson specs are more specific about which than weBoost’s — and the total retail for what I’m testing is about $400. The weBoost Dash 4G-S does seem very similar to the Sleek, but a representative tells me that it does “feature a newly designed dynamic gain control system, which maximizes the signal connection automatically, adjusting to varying external signal strength and environmental changes including to the landscape”…which I thought was already happening, and that it “also has a larger surface to accommodate for the growing size of our smartphones.”

I’ll close with some images that Digital Antenna passed along from their dealer/installers. Above is an empty KVH dome which has been fitted with three Bullets, presumably for aesthetic balance. Digital says the install works well because the Bullets only need 10 inches of horizontal separation. You’ll also see a Bullet installed on the stern of the current Volvo Ocean 65, and then there’s the quad Bullet array that Axxess Marine just finished on the superyacht below. I don’t know what cellular, WiFi or whatever tasks these wideband antennas are up to — hopefully, commenters can fill us in — but it sure looks like Digital Antenna has a bullet-shaped hit.

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

Carrying on Regardless

Sail Feed - Mon, 2015-02-09 02:33

Posted by KL – February 8, 2015 – Lead photo of Skud 18s racing in Miami by Walter Cooper

A week or so ago at the Miami Olympic classes regatta — ISAF Sailing World Cup Miami — I ran into Maureen McKinnon, back on the campaign trail. You should remember Maureen as the gold medal crew for Paralympic hero sailor Nick Scandone.

Just getting to the 2008 Paralympic Games in Qingdao, with Nick in the late stages of ALS, was a thin-line ride between a dream and a nightmare. But they made the finish line. They made the top of the podium, which, for Paralympians, is figurative rather than literal.

Maureen slowed down a bit after that — to the extent that she ever slows down — but she’s found a next skipper for a next Skud 18 campaign. When I saw her last, she had just received two pieces of news simultaneously. She and Ryan Porteous had been named to US Sailing Team Sperry, and sailing had been dropped from the 2020 Paralympic Games.

Up.

Down.

There is much afoot about reversing that last decision about 2020. Meanwhile, what’s below arrived today from Maureen, by way of a press release. Here’s Maureen :

For the past six years
since our gold medal win in China, I have continued to sail part time on the Paralympic circuit, hoping to find a team to put together. In November, I began practicing with a talented college sailor from San Diego, California and I am back in the SKUD18.

We have just returned from a World Cup event – our first racing together as a team. Ryan Porteous and I secured the second place SKUD 18 spot on the US Sailing Team Sperry, one year prior to the upcoming US Paralympic team selection for Rio games 2016. We were just two points behind the other US team.

[And last in a small fleet, but you have to start somewhere: KL]

The US Paralympic Sailing Team has a long history of Paralympic medal achievement in the 3 sailing disciplines. Since the sport’s inception in 1996, the US has won 3 Bronze, 3 Silver and one Gold for our country. “We are very proud to make the US Sailing Team Sperry in this critical year, just before the 2016 Rio Games in Brazil.”

It will take a lot of practice, training days, good regatta performances and public support over the next year to win the US Trials. The Marblehead community (especially the sailing community) really got behind us for my last bid in 2008. I hope to rally up the support we need to bring MORE gold back to our proud sailing community! The Olympic stipends provided to serious Rio campaigners fall well short of the fundraising needs of any team.

[And people ask why US Olympic/Paralympic sailors struggle against the fully-professionalized competition from abroad: KL]

Our schedule will include two expensive overseas regattas and two boat charters for this year. We also have 4 local New England regattas (Newport & New York), and we are hoping to be granted a SKUD 18 start line for the 126th Marblehead Race Week this summer.

Returning to the Editor’s voice :

Marblehead Race Week 126? Very cool. Let’s do this, Marblehead.

As seen through the lens of Leighton O’Connor in 2014, Marblehead Race Week was a little of this . . .

And a little of this . . .

And this . . .

And . . .

Cruising in Thailand: what we won’t miss

Sail Feed - Fri, 2015-02-06 05:24

There are a lot of great reasons to sail in Thailand. But for all those things we really enjoyed, there were plenty of things we won’t miss. What didn’t we like? Here are some reflections based on nearly half a year spend in Thailand between 2013 and 2014.

It’s lousy underwater. Thailand is supposed to be famous for great dive sites and snorkeling. I don’t doubt that years ago, they were great. But now, it’s mostly pretty dead underwater- clear signs of overfishing. We were always within sight of fishing boats, many of them the paired trawlers that drag a net between them and indiscriminately clean out every bit of marine life in the middle. Not a surprise that sharks, dolphins, turtles, etc. were absent- we didn’t see a single one while we were there. Add to the tragedy that these boats famously employ slave labor. That particular aspect is apparently getting some attention from the government, but it’s not slowing down the parade of boats that continuously trawl for “trash seafood” (anything they can get) to feed the shimp farms on shore. Did you know that the US is one of the biggest importers of farmed Thai shrimp? Think about the cost of your  next pretty shrimp cocktail. Meanwhile, there’s still plenty of business schlepping tourists out to snorkeling sights, but I think the tourons just have no idea how damaged it is – most of them probably have no basis for comparison.

It’s very touristy. That doesn’t work with us for a few reasons. Partly because it changes the behavior of people you meet locally, partly because it changes the place itself. Like on the beautiful offshore marine park islands, or the gorgeous islands around Koh Phi Phi, which are breathtaking for a short window after sunrise and again before sunset, but for most daylight hours are  overrun. I think we counted around 1,000 day trippers on a small curve of beach in the otherwise gorgeous Similan islands. Between clueless tourists on jet skis, raucous booze cruises, or locally-driven daytripper boats recklessly hotrodding around, I’d rather be somewhere quieter. Or the sex tourism that plays out in the seamier side of Phuket, which apparently supports human trafficking and who knows what else. Or the shops selling the same junk over and over and over. You can find the true place behind these distractions, but they can make it difficult.

Amusing myself by taking pictures of the selfie-takers one afternoon

Relationships are transactional. We like getting to know people in places where we travel. But almost every person we met in Thailand was only interested in what they were going to get out of us. That made it pretty difficult to have any kind of relationship: I really don’t like being treated like a walking dollar sign, it’s not what I’m about. There were exceptions, sure, overwhelmingly, if we weren’t buying something, there was no interest in pursuing conversation. If we had spent more time in areas with less tourism, this would surely be different.

Officialdom is erratic. Sometimes, the hand is out for an unofficial fee. We didn’t encounter that much, but even once leaves a bad taste. It is clear how disconnected higher level government decisions are with what actually happens on the ground. Like when the government decided to require all foreign yachts to carry AIS transponders last year: when we checked into the country, MONTHS later, it didn’t come up either of the two times we cleared into the country. Probably not a surprise considering the paper forms in customs all still pre-printed with a date that begins “19__” – things do not happen quickly here, it seems! But it’s nice to have some predictability from the government of the country you’re traveling too, and occasionally the lack of stability was unnerving. Like when we were sitting in the immigration office in Ranong last year, where big TV screens were showing protesters, one of them in life-on-cam death throes from military sniper fire on the streets of Bangkok. It was horrific. But the Thai immigration officials just went about stamp-stamp-stamping everything in the crazy backwards everything-is-paper process to extend our visas and seemed completely unaffected by the madness in their capital.

Yes, we liked a lot of other things about Thailand. We did meet some wonderful people – people we’ll never forget, and hope to meet again someday. We saw some gorgeous places during our months, places we would happily return to and spend extended time. But when we shake it all out, Thailand ends up ranking pretty far down the list of places we’ve been as cruisers; these are the reasons why.

Savvy sailors know we love it when you click through to the SAILfeed post- thanks for tossing change in our cruising kitty!

Flyin’ Hawaiian Sinks of Monterey

Sail Feed - Thu, 2015-02-05 16:48


This boat was one of the many eyesores dotting Richardson Bay, where about 200 liveaboards anchor with apparent impunity to local, state, and federal laws regarding registration and holding tanks. I always assumed it was built just as a floating home, and had no inkling of the owner’s dream of sailing her to Hawaii. I’d heard about her construction, all from materials purchased at Home Depot. I kayaked around her one day with a friend and deemed her unseaworthy beyond the confines of greater San Francisco Bay, and maybe a stretch within.

More here in the Marin Independent Journal.

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