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Garmin GNX 120/130, 7- and 10-inch NMEA 2000 instrument displays

Sail Feed - Fri, 2015-01-16 12:00

Written by Ben Ellison on Jan 16, 2015 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub

This morning Garmin announced the $900 7-inch GNX 120 and the $1,500 10-inch GNX 130 (above) with planned delivery in February and May respectively. They use what’s called “high-precision glass-bonded monochrome ultra-glow LCD displays” and the data backlighting can be switched to most any color. Set up is done with those onscreen touch buttons or with a new GNX Keypad . Over 50 NMEA 2000 data types will be recognized and there will be five display configurations including “single, dual and triple functions, plus Gauge and Graph mode”…

I can picture these displays becoming popular on high-end motor yachts — much as B&G instruments have earned space on many megayacht bridges — but obviously the focus is performance sailing. The top portion of the big “hybrid” LCDs seem to use efficient segmentation while pixels on the lower portion permit graphics and the whole power load is said to be less than 0.4 Watts night or day for either size. Note that the “256″ and “78” on the depth screen above are max/min for the graph time period, which is user configurable.

There is more detail on the GNX 120 and 130 product pages that literally just went live, though I don’t yet see anything about the carbon fiber mast bracket accessories seen below. This week Garmin also released a major software update that includes (for some MFDs) the Start Guidance feature I recently described. Now I’m wondering if the commenter or two who opined that Garmin wasn’t serious about sailboat racing would like a do-over ;-)

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

A handful of epoxy hints

Sail Feed - Thu, 2015-01-15 17:28

I’ve been doing a lot of epoxy work this last week and it has got me thinking how much easier this stuff is than when I first started. Sure, I’m more skilled now than I was but much of it has to do with simple habits which allow me to move quickly and surely when working with the stuff. With that in mind, here are a handful of tricks that have helped me this week. I’ll try to update this as I think of them.

Having a good set of mixing buckets will save you time and materials. Yoghurt containers work great in a pinch but they’re really not the right shape. Far better is a bucket or square container with a wide bottom. Epoxy sets up faster when it is concentrated in a small space so the more you can spread it out the better. The wide bottom will also allow you to get a spreader in there to really scrape out the last of the goo. Actually a plastic-handled rubber kitchen spatula is perfect for this. For fairing compounds the taller the container the better- raised sides will keep more of your fairing fillers in the bucket and out of the air. You can reuse a plastic bucket many times but for fine work or a final round of fairing use a fresh bucket to ensure there are no little bits of dried epoxy falling off the sides of the bucket and messing up your finish.
This 1-gallon paint bucket has a wide, flat bottom which can be easily scraped clean and high sides which keep fairing filler out of the air when mixing. It’s also soft enough plastic that it can be flexed to pop out cured epoxy.

This yoghurt container is difficult and slow to scrape clean, resulting in a lot of waste.

Foam brushes are nice because they carry a lot of epoxy but the ones at the hardware store just don’t hold up. Get ones made for epoxy work, or just stick with a disposable chip brush.

And speaking of chip brushes, if you’re epoxying something where finish is important try this. Before you start cover your hand with a length of packing tape, sticky side out, then vigorously brush over the tape. This will pull out most of the loose hairs in your brush, keeping them out of your work:

Epoxy can be effectively thinned with a very small amount of acetone, but this will have minor detrimental effects on its strength. Better is to warm the epoxy and/or whatever you’re working on. Just keep in mind that warming epoxy greatly reduces its working time.

Save yourself a huge amount of finish work by getting used to the different stages of epoxy curing. When fairing compound is not-quite-cured it can be trimmed with a shop knife or razor blade, saving a lot of sanding. The same is true of fiberglass cloth. Rather than messing with unravelling edges try cutting pieces of cloth a half-inch oversize and trimming with a shop knife for your final fit when the epoxy has nearly cured. Be careful not to try trimming epoxy when it is too malleable of you will find it catching and tearing. Also, always use a very sharp tool.

Take it slow, and in batches. I rarely mix more than 1/2c epoxy at a time. The stickier things are the harder it is to work. When you find your gloves or spreaders starting to gum up after a batch or two, take a moment to change them or wipe them down with acetone, and get a fresh brush when needed. I like to use extra-heavy nitrile gloves. They cost more but I end up changing them less often because they don’t tear and they can even be cleaned up once or twice with a capful of acetone.
Cheesy packaging aside these gloves are the best bang for your buck I’ve found for epoxy work. I buy them at Lowes.

Epoxy can be colored with polyester pigment from the craft store. Over 2% pigment weakens the epoxy, but only slightly. It’s difficult to get a perfect finish with brushed on epoxy but this can cut down a lot on primer coats when painting. See this article for more detail: http://westsystem.com/ss/adding-pigments-to-epoxy/

Oh, and I’ve mentioned it before, but the West System helpline is a great free resource for any epoxy project: 1-866-937-8797 Weekdays, 9-5

an event becomes An Event

Sail Feed - Thu, 2015-01-15 01:43

By Kimball Livingston Posted January 14, 2015

The screening of a rough-cut documentary doesn’t always draw a crowd, but apparently there’s something about the Cape Horn rounding of the schooner, Wander Bird, and black and white footage that, for once, does not shrink the waves. They look really big. Or maybe the camera did shrink the waves, and they were really, really, really big.

(There’s this saying, How do you flatten an angry sea? Take a picture of it.)

Director Oleg Harencar and producer Don Zimmer embarked a while back upon documenting some of the great characters of the Marin waterfront. People who have stories. People who made stories.

Marin County, California. The northern shore of San Francisco Bay.

I call it a public service. In the case of Wander Bird’s Cape Horn Passage, director and producer had a great advantage, the footage shot by Warwick Tompkins in his voyaging between the world wars in the celebrated 85-foot pilot schooner, Wander Bird. The footage should have made a rollicking newsreel of the day, running ahead of a Hollywood feature, but WWII intervened and took all the air out of the plan.

Many viewers today will already know much of the Wander Bird story, and how then-four-year-old Warwick M. Tompkins ‘assumed’ command of the deck and the rigging aloft and wound up with the enduring nickname of Commodore.

Commodore today, at 80+, talks to the camera, and his voice becomes commentary and narration as he reads from his father’s book, 50 South to 50 South, and considers what it means to grow up, in part, at sea.

The event was another in the Wednesday Yachting Luncheon speaker series at St. Francis Yacht Club — open to members of all recognized yacht clubs — and it was nudged toward Event status when, following the screening, Commodore Tompkins skyped in from New Zealand to take questions from the crowd.

It became An Event when they all sang Happy Birthday to him.

I thought you should know.

Happy Birthday, Commodore.

Learn more about the project at Life On the Water.

Icom M424G & 324G VHF with GPS, and DSC embarrassment

Sail Feed - Wed, 2015-01-14 14:00

Written by Ben Ellison on Jan 14, 2015 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub

I’m visiting Gizmo in less chilly North Carolina for a week (before TrawlerFest) and was reminded that just before leaving in November, I experienced the first DSC Urgency message I’d ever seen. My reaction was slightly embarassing, but the U.S. Coast Guard response was impressive, as will be detailed below. For now, let’s just say that DSC is a potentially excellent but underused safety tool and thus, it’s good news that Icom has upgraded two of its fixed VHF radio models to include internal GPS sensors, so they will be ready to make DSC distress calls almost the moment power and antenna are attached. At the London Boat Show last week Icom UK introduced the IC-M423G above, which features a “striking new white backlight LCD” as will the M424G U.S. version…

Icom Japan has details of the IC-M424G which will likely soon appear at Icom America. (I think that weather alerts are the only substantial difference between American VHF radios and the ones built for the rest of the world, but maybe a reader can fill us in.) As seen above, there will also be a new M-195G Commandmic IV with a matching white backlit LCD (and either a black or white casing). Given the advent of the premium M506 AIS/VHF, I was hoping to see more NMEA 2000 radios from Icom because they can integrate nicely with multi-function displays and external GPS. But having an internal GPS like Standard Horizon trail blazed is also a good thing. Then you have DSC distress and other features available even if the rest of your nav system and N2K network are shut down. Note that the new Raymarine Ray70 has it all — N2K, AIS, and internal GPS — which is a first, I think, and one I hope to see in action next month at the Miami show.

Then again, the new Icom M324G “value” VHF — which looks just like the European M323G above — is apt to go on boats with more modest systems and perhaps no NMEA 2000 at all. So, having the internal GPS saves having to do the NMEA 0183 connection that seems so often undone or failed. I haven’t seen prices for these new Icom models yet, but at least here in the U.S. we’ll probably have to wait for the FCC approval. In the meantime, at Icom UK I noticed the interesting Black Box Dual Commandmic Solution below. It probably works with the M400BB Black Box VHF sold here, but it’s an Icom UK product.

Now here’s what happened when the Simrad RS35 I’m testing emitted a loud DSC All Ship Urgency alarm one quiet day at the (truly excellent and affordable) Bridgepoint Marina. I switched and listened to Channel 16 as suggested by the radio, and after a period of silence, I even called out on 16 to see if anyone was really in trouble. However, the only response I got was from a somewhat distant Coast Guard station that had heard my call but not the DSC alert. I misinformed them about what I’d seen on my radio (which did not include a GPS position), because it was only when I later looked at the photo below that I realized it was actually an Urgency call and not the higher level Distress call.

So there’s an embarrassing example of how inexperienced most of us are with DSC, I think. But that’s not the end of the story. That evening in the marina laundry room a woman described the strange experience she and her husband had had that day while uninstalling a VHF on their recently purchased boat. The USCG had called to inquire about their safety after tracking the MMSI number I obscured below to the original owner and then through the broker to this couple who didn’t even realize they’d accidentally fired off an alert! So I was embarrassed again and apologetic, but also very impressed that the Coast Guard had gone to such trouble. Image how well they’d respond if you have a DSC VHF with GPS input properly installed and you push the red button under that protective Distress door for a few seconds, especially now that Rescue 21 is fully operational for nearly 42,000 miles of U.S. coastline.

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

Welcome to Wally’s World…

Sail Feed - Wed, 2015-01-14 12:47

I’m a new face here on Sailfeed, but certainly not a new face to SAIL Magazine readers, as I’ve been writing for SAIL for nearly ten years. Nonetheless, I’m very excited about being able to speak with you here on Sailfeed, and I look forward to many conversations with you. First though, a bit of an introduction, to me, and to what to expect from me here.

I’m a full time cruiser living the dream, (and let’s be honest, occasionally it’s a nightmare!), out of Lake Huron’s Georgian Bay – truly some of the world’s best cruising grounds along with the North Channel of Lake Huron. I began cruising south over ten years ago after deciding that Canadian winters were way over-rated. Since then, I’ve cruised as far as the Bahamas and Cuba, done deliveries out of the BVI and Puerto Rico, and SAIL even sent me to Tahiti to cover the Pearl Regatta…what WERE they thinking? Do you have any idea how hard it is to leave Tahiti?
I’ve also done 24 trips on the ICW, the most recent one this past fall as the rally leader for 18 boats, all new cruisers, from Hampton south to Miami. You can read all about that adventure on the blog I did about that trip at http://icw.sailmagazine.com.
So what can you expect from me here on Sailfeed? First of all, I hope to excite and entertain you with my writing, and to inspire you to go cruising if you aren’t already out here. Secondly, I want to help you with the information in these posts, and if you have questions about any aspect of cruising, to be able to answer them here for you, so please don’t hesitate to comment, or ask questions. If I don’t know the answer, I’ll find it for you, or someone who knows it.
Recently, there’s been a lot of discussion about the recent White House announcement about Cuba, and I’ve had dozens of inquiries about it since the news about my Sailfeed blog. Can cruisers now go? What are the rules? What can I expect to find there? Is it safe?
Cuba is a fascinating country for cruisers, so my next post, sometime in the next few days, will discuss Cuba, with photos and video for you. Stay tuned.
I’ll be returning to Cuba this winter to explore the south coast, after having done the north coast over two winters. Expect regular updates on these fascinating cruising grounds.
And in the meantime, please enjoy this video on the Cars of Cuba…

http://www.sailfeed.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/CarsofCuba.m4v

RIO GUADIANA CRUISE: Between Time and Portugal

Sail Feed - Tue, 2015-01-13 19:36

I was sitting in the cockpit of Crazy Horse, my old Alberg 35 yawl, toes contracted in the thin film of cold dew that clung to the boat, cup of hot coffee in hand, watching the sun struggle to emerge from behind the distant hills and fill the river with light. Instinctively, I groped for my watch, a habit remembered from my life ashore, and wondered: what time could it be now? And at once I was struck by the absurdity of the question.

It said something of the nature of cruising under sail, I realized, that it was only the previous day, after having spent nearly a week on the river, that we finally discovered that the clocks on the west bank (in Portugal) were an hour behind those on the east bank (in Spain). It was appropriate, too, that we had learned this from a village drunk, although now I understood it didn’t really matter much. Time in its conventional sense had little meaning aboard a boat afloat on a river like this, except as it pertained to the tide, and one hardly needed a clock to keep track of what it was up to. A glance at the riverbank and at the silky brown water flowing past our anchor rode was all the data required to gauge its progress.

Ironically, I remembered that time had seemed very important when we first entered the river. We had first heard of it by word of mouth, its name popping up repeatedly in conversations with other cruisers we met while wandering Spain’s Costa del Sol.

“Oh, but you must go to the Guadiana!” they all exclaimed.

And so, inevitably, we went.

But when navigating by word of mouth, it is best to take nothing for granted. On studying some borrowed references, I had learned that the river stretches some 450 miles into the great Iberian peninsula and that its lower reaches for centuries had served as the border between Spanish Andalusia and the Algarve on Portugal’s south coast. The first 23 miles, up to the Portuguese town of Pomarão, were said to be navigable, but one had to take this a bit on faith, as there were no charts available of the river itself. Tidal currents were said to run as hard as 2 knots on the ebb, which seemed a little daunting, but manageable.

There was a chart of the entrance, which I had copied from a Danish cruiser’s collection in Gibraltar. It showed just three feet of water over the bar at low water, so I knew it would be critical to come in on a rising tide close to high water. With some effort I also managed to acquire a photocopy of the one relevant page from the relevant tide table, but could not tell from the cryptic declaration at the top of the page–MINUS 1:00 HR–whether it referred to Greenwich Mean or local time.

The river entrance

The river from the entrance to Alcoutim

So it was with great trepidation that we had approached the river entrance one sunny morning a week earlier. Testicles shriveling, eyes glued to the depthsounder, I was immensely relieved when it became apparent the river mouth had recently been dredged.

As soon as we were inside I killed the engine, rolled out the jib, and lost myself in the champagne sensation of sailing a river, watching the land slip silently past on either side. First to the left the low sprawl of the Portuguese town of Vila Real de Santo António, where an abandoned brigantine lay leaning against the quay with gossamer fragments of sail hanging from its yardarms. Then to the right the Spanish town of Ayamonte, resplendent in a honky-tonk veneer of tourist-trap restaurants and gift stores.

We were halfway past Ayamonte when two men in a skiff suddenly appeared behind us waving documents.

“Who are you?” shouted Carie, my intrepid crew and companion.

“Portuguese!” they shouted, pointing to the left bank. “Guarda Fiscal.”

We pointed to our Spanish courtesy flag and insisted we were in Spanish waters.

“Please,” they begged. “Only a moment!”

Reluctantly, I rounded the boat into the wind, furled the jib, and allowed them to come alongside. They handed over a clipboard with a blank entry form on it. Once we filled this out and handed it back, they beamed like children on Christmas morning. The Portuguese do so love their paperwork!

“Welcome to the river!” they waved as they turned and sped back toward shore.

Formalities having thus been dispensed with, we unrolled our jib and continued on our way through the looking-glass.

 

THIS NOW SEEMED as though it might have been a century ago, and since that distant moment we had drifted up and down the river at our leisure, like so much flotsam on the tide. We had anchored beneath tiny hamlets utterly devoid of commerce, with nary a store, nor a bar, nor a vending machine to their name. We had listened in the evening to the nightingales in the willows on the riverbank, heard the splash of fish leaping, and watched chevrons of storks and herons flying past overhead.

Evidence of human agriculture and animal husbandry

Sailing the river

Sunset on the river, as seen from our deck

Carie makes a friend

We had spent afternoons wandering the dry brown hills, clambering up to the ruins of Moorish castles, watching goatherds and their flocks wend their way down twisted trails. We had gunkholed in the dinghy up myriad creeks and estuaries past stands of reed and bamboo, watching turtles bask in the sun and pipers skitter across mudbanks. And in the heat of the day we had bathed in the river, keeping an eye out for the enormous pale jellyfish that pumped aimlessly through the water.

And it seemed now as if life might go on forever this way.

 

THE PREVIOUS DAY, I remembered, after we learned of the discrepant clocks on either side of us, we had experienced events, those blisters of action that, temporarily at least, make time seem meaningful. We had waited for the turn of the tide in the afternoon, which came an hour after I expected it (a live demonstration, if you will, of how useless clocks could be), and when finally it arrived we prepared to weigh anchor and sail downriver.

The anchor, however, refused to come aboard. After a great effort we at last hauled it close enough to the water’s surface to see it was much entangled in a great gnarled web of rope–evidently some sort of fishing rig.

One hates to destroy another man’s means of sustenance, but in this case there seemed little choice. The rig, in any event, did not appear at all functional, and I guessed it had been lost to its owner for some time. A knife, then, seemed to be the answer. There was a considerable length of loose line–cheap polypropylene, though dear enough to any fisherman living on this river–that I cut free and salvaged, about 100 feet of it. Then I sawed feverishly at the heavier line all twisted about the anchor’s throat, and in a moment we were free.

The sail downriver was splendid. Again, the sensation of a magic carpet ride, as though we were not traveling through the water, but some fraction of an inch over it. All we saw around us passed as though in a dream, and even while lost in the details of the helm, navigation, and sailhandling, this quality of perceiving the river as a vision was not lost.

Conditions were relatively mild, but quite variable, as is to be expected in a narrow river with high land on either side. The wind danced back and forth across our stern, gusting and subsiding at random intervals. Speed was not important; we let the tide take care of that. We needed only to control the boat and so rolled out a fraction of the jib, well short of the shrouds, so that we might jibe back and forth effortlessly.

It took just an hour to reach the village of Alcoutim, though it may have been minutes, or a day, or a lifetime. To perceive time as a quantity, I now realized, is a fatal disease. It is its quality we should be concerned with. Given our lives are finite, what else could possibly matter?

We dropped our anchor under sail. Ran down into a gap between two groups of boats, rounded up, rolled up the jib, let the tide and wind stop the boat, dropped the hook, paid out rode, snubbed it, and–click–the anchor dug in like a pawl on a winch. We had not torn the fabric of the moment with our engine, and the river rolled on by.

I had left the line I cut free from the anchor in a tangled pile in the dinghy and now set to sorting it out, poking at the stone-hard knots with my marlinspike. A thin sentiment of remorse passed through me as I considered how important this line must have been to the man who tied these knots, but a mariner’s ruthlessness prevailed. Finder’s keepers, after all. And in the same instant, as I reconciled myself to the fact that this would now be my line, I heard a yelp of dismay from on deck.

In the Portuguese town of Alcoutim, looking across to Sanlucar de Guadiana in Spain

Grappling with my new line

Carie had dropped a bucket overboard and was pointing at it, cursing herself as it rushed downriver on the tide. I was already in the dinghy, but was reluctant to chase the bucket with oars, as it would be a difficult, perhaps impossible task to row the little inflatable boat back to its mothership against both wind and tide.

“Quick! The outboard!” I called.

Carie was still cursing as she handed it down. “It’s my best bucket!” she complained.

“Don’t worry,” I said. “We’ll get it back–if only it doesn’t sink.”

Whereupon the bucket promptly disappeared from view. I looked down then at all the line still heaped in confusion on the dinghy’s floor.

What the river giveth, the river taketh away.

I drained the last of my coffee from my cup and could now see the light creeping across the water towards me. I leaned into the companionway and this time succeeded in finding my watch. It was seven a.m. in Spain, six in Portugal–take your pick. In the distance I heard a donkey trying to sing, truly a gruesome sound. A rooster crowed. A halyard slapped the mast.

Good morning, good morning, they cried. Welcome to another day on the river.

Editor’s note: I cruised the Rio Guadiana with Carie van der Krüys during the summer of 1996. An earlier version of this story first appeared in the July 1997 issue of SAIL Magazine. To read more about my days cruising on Crazy Horse, check out the following links:

South to Senegal

Finding My Toma

Africa Dances

RIO GUADIANA CRUISE: Between Time and Portugal

Sail Feed - Tue, 2015-01-13 19:36

I was sitting in the cockpit of Crazy Horse, my old Alberg 35 yawl, toes contracted in the thin film of cold dew that clung to the boat, cup of hot coffee in hand, watching the sun struggle to emerge from behind the distant hills and fill the river with light. Instinctively, I groped for my watch, a habit remembered from my life ashore, and wondered: what time could it be now? And at once I was struck by the absurdity of the question.

It said something of the nature of cruising under sail, I realized, that it was only the previous day, after having spent nearly a week on the river, that we finally discovered that the clocks on the west bank (in Portugal) were an hour behind those on the east bank (in Spain). It was appropriate, too, that we had learned this from a village drunk, although now I understood it didn’t really matter much. Time in its conventional sense had little meaning aboard a boat afloat on a river like this, except as it pertained to the tide, and one hardly needed a clock to keep track of what it was up to. A glance at the riverbank and at the silky brown water flowing past our anchor rode was all the data required to gauge its progress.

Ironically, I remembered that time had seemed very important when we first entered the river. We had first heard of it by word of mouth, its name popping up repeatedly in conversations with other cruisers we met while wandering Spain’s Costa del Sol.

“Oh, but you must go to the Guadiana!” they all exclaimed.

And so, inevitably, we went.

But when navigating by word of mouth, it is best to take nothing for granted. On studying some borrowed references, I had learned that the river stretches some 450 miles into the great Iberian peninsula and that its lower reaches for centuries had served as the border between Spanish Andalusia and the Algarve on Portugal’s south coast. The first 23 miles, up to the Portuguese town of Pomarão, were said to be navigable, but one had to take this a bit on faith, as there were no charts available of the river itself. Tidal currents were said to run as hard as 2 knots on the ebb, which seemed a little daunting, but manageable.

There was a chart of the entrance, which I had copied from a Danish cruiser’s collection in Gibraltar. It showed just three feet of water over the bar at low water, so I knew it would be critical to come in on a rising tide close to high water. With some effort I also managed to acquire a photocopy of the one relevant page from the relevant tide table, but could not tell from the cryptic declaration at the top of the page–MINUS 1:00 HR–whether it referred to Greenwich Mean or local time.

The river entrance

The river from the entrance to Alcoutim

So it was with great trepidation that we had approached the river entrance one sunny morning a week earlier. Testicles shriveling, eyes glued to the depthsounder, I was immensely relieved when it became apparent the river mouth had recently been dredged.

As soon as we were inside I killed the engine, rolled out the jib, and lost myself in the champagne sensation of sailing a river, watching the land slip silently past on either side. First to the left the low sprawl of the Portuguese town of Vila Real de Santo António, where an abandoned brigantine lay leaning against the quay with gossamer fragments of sail hanging from its yardarms. Then to the right the Spanish town of Ayamonte, resplendent in a honky-tonk veneer of tourist-trap restaurants and gift stores.

We were halfway past Ayamonte when two men in a skiff suddenly appeared behind us waving documents.

“Who are you?” shouted Carie, my intrepid crew and companion.

“Portuguese!” they shouted, pointing to the left bank. “Guarda Fiscal.”

We pointed to our Spanish courtesy flag and insisted we were in Spanish waters.

“Please,” they begged. “Only a moment!”

Reluctantly, I rounded the boat into the wind, furled the jib, and allowed them to come alongside. They handed over a clipboard with a blank entry form on it. Once we filled this out and handed it back, they beamed like children on Christmas morning. The Portuguese do so love their paperwork!

“Welcome to the river!” they waved as they turned and sped back toward shore.

Formalities having thus been dispensed with, we unrolled our jib and continued on our way through the looking-glass.

 

THIS NOW SEEMED as though it might have been a century ago, and since that distant moment we had drifted up and down the river at our leisure, like so much flotsam on the tide. We had anchored beneath tiny hamlets utterly devoid of commerce, with nary a store, nor a bar, nor a vending machine to their name. We had listened in the evening to the nightingales in the willows on the riverbank, heard the splash of fish leaping, and watched chevrons of storks and herons flying past overhead.

Evidence of human agriculture and animal husbandry

Sailing the river

Sunset on the river, as seen from our deck

Carie makes a friend

We had spent afternoons wandering the dry brown hills, clambering up to the ruins of Moorish castles, watching goatherds and their flocks wend their way down twisted trails. We had gunkholed in the dinghy up myriad creeks and estuaries past stands of reed and bamboo, watching turtles bask in the sun and pipers skitter across mudbanks. And in the heat of the day we had bathed in the river, keeping an eye out for the enormous pale jellyfish that pumped aimlessly through the water.

And it seemed now as if life might go on forever this way.

 

THE PREVIOUS DAY, I remembered, after we learned of the discrepant clocks on either side of us, we had experienced events, those blisters of action that, temporarily at least, make time seem meaningful. We had waited for the turn of the tide in the afternoon, which came an hour after I expected it (a live demonstration, if you will, of how useless clocks could be), and when finally it arrived we prepared to weigh anchor and sail downriver.

The anchor, however, refused to come aboard. After a great effort we at last hauled it close enough to the water’s surface to see it was much entangled in a great gnarled web of rope–evidently some sort of fishing rig.

One hates to destroy another man’s means of sustenance, but in this case there seemed little choice. The rig, in any event, did not appear at all functional, and I guessed it had been lost to its owner for some time. A knife, then, seemed to be the answer. There was a considerable length of loose line–cheap polypropylene, though dear enough to any fisherman living on this river–that I cut free and salvaged, about 100 feet of it. Then I sawed feverishly at the heavier line all twisted about the anchor’s throat, and in a moment we were free.

The sail downriver was splendid. Again, the sensation of a magic carpet ride, as though we were not traveling through the water, but some fraction of an inch over it. All we saw around us passed as though in a dream, and even while lost in the details of the helm, navigation, and sailhandling, this quality of perceiving the river as a vision was not lost.

Conditions were relatively mild, but quite variable, as is to be expected in a narrow river with high land on either side. The wind danced back and forth across our stern, gusting and subsiding at random intervals. Speed was not important; we let the tide take care of that. We needed only to control the boat and so rolled out a fraction of the jib, well short of the shrouds, so that we might jibe back and forth effortlessly.

It took just an hour to reach the village of Alcoutim, though it may have been minutes, or a day, or a lifetime. To perceive time as a quantity, I now realized, is a fatal disease. It is its quality we should be concerned with. Given our lives are finite, what else could possibly matter?

We dropped our anchor under sail. Ran down into a gap between two groups of boats, rounded up, rolled up the jib, let the tide and wind stop the boat, dropped the hook, paid out rode, snubbed it, and–click–the anchor dug in like a pawl on a winch. We had not torn the fabric of the moment with our engine, and the river rolled on by.

I had left the line I cut free from the anchor in a tangled pile in the dinghy and now set to sorting it out, poking at the stone-hard knots with my marlinspike. A thin sentiment of remorse passed through me as I considered how important this line must have been to the man who tied these knots, but a mariner’s ruthlessness prevailed. Finder’s keepers, after all. And in the same instant, as I reconciled myself to the fact that this would now be my line, I heard a yelp of dismay from on deck.

In the Portuguese town of Alcoutim, looking across to Sanlucar de Guadiana in Spain

Grappling with my new line

Carie had dropped a bucket overboard and was pointing at it, cursing herself as it rushed downriver on the tide. I was already in the dinghy, but was reluctant to chase the bucket with oars, as it would be a difficult, perhaps impossible task to row the little inflatable boat back to its mothership against both wind and tide.

“Quick! The outboard!” I called.

Carie was still cursing as she handed it down. “It’s my best bucket!” she complained.

“Don’t worry,” I said. “We’ll get it back–if only it doesn’t sink.”

Whereupon the bucket promptly disappeared from view. I looked down then at all the line still heaped in confusion on the dinghy’s floor.

What the river giveth, the river taketh away.

I drained the last of my coffee from my cup and could now see the light creeping across the water towards me. I leaned into the companionway and this time succeeded in finding my watch. It was seven a.m. in Spain, six in Portugal–take your pick. In the distance I heard a donkey trying to sing, truly a gruesome sound. A rooster crowed. A halyard slapped the mast.

Good morning, good morning, they cried. Welcome to another day on the river.

Editor’s note: I cruised the Rio Guadiana with Carie van der Krüys during the summer of 1996. An earlier version of this story first appeared in the July 1997 issue of SAIL Magazine. To read more about my days cruising on Crazy Horse, check out the following links:

South to Senegal

Finding My Toma

Africa Dances

Webb Chiles

Sail Feed - Tue, 2015-01-13 00:00

Listen Now.

Webb Chiles is a sailing legend.  Andy and he spoke about his sailing philiosophy, what it’s like to survive for 26-hours floating in the ocean, rounding the Horn and whether or not there is a god (yep, it’s deep). 

You may not have heard too much about Webb, and that’s kind of by design. Webb is an artist as much as he is a sailor (read his work at inthepresentsea.com), and he’s about as pure as they come in the sailing world. He’s been around the world a full five times, and set a myriad of records, including first American to sail solo around Cape Horn, and fastest aorund the world alone, beating Sir Francis Chichester’s record in the 1970s (which has of course since been demolished). 

In his 70s now, Webb is about to embark on his sixth circumnaviagation, this time in a 24-foot light-displacement day-racer, which he’s been sailing for a while (luxurious compared to his lap of the globe in an 18-foot open yawl).

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

Listen Now.

The Great Escape

Sail Feed - Mon, 2015-01-12 12:04

As yet another year draws to a close I am reminded once again of what a great sport, pastime, call it what you will, we sailors enjoy. A late fall delivery from Bermuda to the Caribbean proved the perfect antidote to the continuing gloom that dominated the airwaves last year; I found there’s nothing like a bracing beat into 25-knot headwinds and a rambunctious seaway to banish thoughts of Ebola-infected ISIS militants swarming across the border to behead us in our sleep. Politics, fracking, climate change, none of these meant anything compared to the struggle of merely climbing out of your bunk at change of watch and the bleak contemplation of more of the same as the wind remained resolutely in the south.

They meant even less a day or two later, when the wind finally subsided and the gray clouds overhead gave way to towering castles of blinding white cumulus in the kind of azure sky you only get at sea. Our spirits rose with the sun and quickly our two days of rough sailing in the wrong direction were forgotten. Once again I could marvel at the sailor’s ability to relegate such genuine misery to the past tense. Give us a good breeze and a clear sky and nothing else matters much. The world and its woes will still be there when you get home, but in the meantime all you need to care about is your boat, your shipmates and the weather, and that’s as true when you’re out for an afternoon sail as it is when you’re hundreds of miles from land.

I’ll be holding onto that thought over the next few months as winter tightens its grip on we northerners. To those of you fortunate enough to be sailing down south in the winter months, I wish you fair winds and flat water. As for the rest of us, surely a mild winter and an early spring isn’t too much to hope for…

Tradition for the fun of it

Sail Feed - Mon, 2015-01-12 05:32


It was just a little tickle on my neck, but something made me give it a flick instead of a scratch. Good thing, too, because instead of aggravating the little scorpion that perched there I knocked it to the cabin sole- and I ended up with a nip instead of a serious injury.

The little brown scorpion had jumped from a large stem of bananas (200+ bananas!) that I was cleaning and cutting into hands, the gift of a generous family back in Panapompom Island. It all worked out, but how could we have avoided a scorpion in the first place? Well, had we paid attention to maritime superstitions, that banana stalk where it was hiding wouldn’t have been on board in the first place: sailor’s superstition says it’s bad luck.

It turns out, a bananas are one of many things that are said to bring bad luck to a boat. Nautical tradition is full of superstitions, and we ascribe to many of them. But we do this because it’s fun, and not because we’re superstitious. Mostly.

A line-crossing ceremony is said to bring good luck to the sailor marking a first crossing of the equator. Well, it’s also a lot of fun, and we did it for that reason- and because it invoked tradition, and gave us stories to tell and recall. When we splashed Totem from the Satun shipyard, a string of firecrackers sent us off with a bang. It’s a sound year hear near fishing ports in this part of the world: fishermen looking for good luck and a safe voyage. And maybe it does, but either way, it’s a celebratory way to mark an event. Boaters everywhere love naming ceremonies when a boat’s name is changed, but I’m pretty sure that’s mostly because we all love a good party.

We’re certainly never going to kill an Albatross, but I don’t think it’s unlucky- just stupid. Whistling is supposed to be bad luck but we think it’s a fine way to pass time on watch. And my husband would like to know: how exactly are woman unlucky on board? He’s been very lucky with a woman onboard.

But you’ll often hear me say “touch wood’ (and I do!), I tend toward triaphilia (things come in threes), and my sailor’s superstition is this: I will never depart for a significant voyage on a Friday. There have been times when weather and timing pointed to Friday, and we might have departed, but Saturday looked fine as well… and so we waited in port an extra day. Is it rational? No, but it sticks, and if I’m honest about it there’s a little more than the love of maritime tradition. The HMS Friday tale is fiction, but the Christmas tree ship isn’t.

The question of sailor’s superstitions afloat came from LOOK insurance. They’re running a survey about it, and I’m curious to find out: am I an outlier? Or in a herd of Friday-avoiders? Share your superstition… or lack of them. We’ll see when LOOK shares the results.

And meanwhile, do I wish we’d left those bananas behind? No, but I wish we’d taken the smart, practical measure of dunking it in saltwater for several minute before bringing it on board! It’s common knowledge that creepy crawlies hang out in these big stalks of fruit.

Even the most pragmatic readers know it’s fantastic luck to click through to the Sailfeed post.

Burling Rocks the Flying Moth

Sail Feed - Sun, 2015-01-11 20:27

Peter Burling (left) and Tom Slingsby. Photo © Thierry Martinez

Sorrento, Australia

It was a crazy day on the water. The word from ISAF —

New Zealand’s Peter Burling reeled off four straight wins to take the lead on Day 2 of the McDougall + McConaghy 2015 International Moth World Championship on Port Phillip in Sorrento, Victoria, sounding the warning bell for the other 159 competitors.

With the fleet split into Blue and Yellow, Burling was in the Blue group on a course closer to shore. Defending world champion Nathan Outteridge (AUS) was in the Yellow on a course further out and on the receiving end of bumpier conditions and scored 3-2-2-1 results.

Two drops are in place following the seven qualifying races. Burling is on 5 points and Outteridge on 7. Tomorrow the fleet will be divided into Gold and Silver, with the top half of leaderboard going through to the Gold fleet.

Ashore Burling said: “I won all four races – the last one by over a lap, which is pretty pleasing in this fleet. it’s all come together here,” he said referring to his disappointing results at the Worlds in 2011 and 2013.

“I did well in the light and shifty weather yesterday and today was as good. I put a lot of work into improving my game for this event.”

“We were in flatter more manageable water than the Yellow fleet, but even so, I dropped off the foil at one stage and fell back to 11th, but I still got back and won. Everyone had a swim, or crashed or overtook,” the 2012 Olympic 49er silver medallist said of the course which was closer to the Sorrento Sailing Couta Boat Club, host for the event.

On Nathan Outteridge, Burling said: “Both of us have different commitments now – me with Emirates Team NZ and him with Artemis Racing (AC syndicates). We’re still good mates, but things are slightly different now. He is my biggest challenge for this title, of course.”

He named Chris Rashley and Chris Draper from Great Britain and Australians Tom Slingsby, Iain ‘Goobs’ Jensen, Josh McKnight and Scott Babbage as other threats.

For his part, Outteridge said of Burling: “I’ll face him tomorrow, because qualifying is over and we’ll be in the Gold fleet. I beat him on the first day in light air – that’s what I’m best at, but tomorrow’s meant to be even windier than today… I’ll be OK, but I prefer the light.

“I was OK for the first race today, but then the current changed – the last race especially was full-on and I was just trying to keep up with the leaders. It was bumpy and hard going and we all swam at some stage; everyone’s feeling it.”

On his Yellow fleet opponents: “Five of us shared it around, me; Chris Rashley (GBR), Josh McKnight (AUS), Scott Babbage (AUS) the top four from the last Worlds in the Yellow fleet, so it was never going to be easy. Dave Lister (AUS) got amongst it too.”

Babbage is tucked into third place overall, a win in Race 6 giving him the jump on Outteridge’s 49er crew and fellow Artemis Racing team member, Iain Jensen, who sailed in the Blue fleet and is fourth overall after, “three good races, but I broke a bunch of stuff in the fourth… It was bumpy, crazy and full-on in the last two races,” he said.

Not so lucky was 2008 Olympic Tornado silver medallist and multiple multihull world champion Glenn Ashby (AUS). The Emirates Team NZ wing trimmer suffered extensive damage after a crash with one of the American boats in Race 6, dropping him down the board and cutting him out of Race 7, for which he will ask for redress.

“Lucky I’m a Sailmaker, so I can fix that, but I’ve got a broken foil and bow damage that will take a bit of fixing. Apart from that, it was a tough and bumpy old day, but awesome sailing.”

Racing will get underway from 1300 hours on Monday.

Sixteen countries are represented in the record fleet of 160: Australia (97), Austria (2), Denmark (1), France (5), Great Britain (7), Hong Kong (1), Ireland (3), Italy (5), Japan (5), New Zealand (1), Norway (8), South Africa (1), Sweden (2), Switzerland (7), the US Virgin Islands (1) and USA (13).

Real, Synthetic & Virtual AIS AtoNs, can you see them?

Sail Feed - Fri, 2015-01-09 17:00

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

One way to spend a frigid night in Maine is learning about AIS AtoNs, an electronic augmentation to the aids to navigation we commonly think of as nav buoys, lighthouses, beacons, etc. The US Coast Guard recently began a year-long experiment with AIS AtoNs in New York Harbor, and sure enough, there they are on Marine Traffic. MT is an imperfect tool for understanding what AIS AtoNs look like on our boat displays, but if you set up the Filter as I have above — Show Ship Names on, all vessel types but Navigation Aids off — you can see that they are now set up around many major U.S. ports and that we’re behind much of the world. There are three major types of AIS AtoN, along with many nuances, and their capabilities seem impressive, though perhaps a little confusing or even scary for some mariners…

The most obvious variety is what’s called a “Real” AIS AtoN, like the McMurdo Kanaton above. What’s real is that the transceiver (or transmitter) is installed on a physical aid to navigation. The hardware is vaguely similar to an AIS transponder on a boat, though you’ll learn that there’s a lot more to it if you dig into this IALA Guideline PDF (credit to Jim Hebert’s good AIS AtoN research at Continuous Wave). For instance, there are three (sub) types of Real AIS AtoNs. And even the basic transmit-only type 1 can accept sensor input, and thus, report on the status of the nav aid’s light or RACON as well as weather information. The type 3 Kanaton above also has a receiver and can relay messages transmitted by a nearby AIS SART/MoB device or safety messages set up by an AIS base station ashore.

To my knowledge, though, the USCG is not experimenting with Real AIS AtoNs, and here’s where the confusion may begin. A transponder that is where it tells you it is makes more sense than the fact that all those AIS AtoNs seen on Marine Traffic around San Francisco are being broadcast from one or more shore towers. That’s possible because an AIS receiver cannot determine where transmissions come from; it only knows what it’s told (and hence there is an issue with AIS spoofing, though it’s largely overblown). To add to the confusion, there are two distinct types of non-Real eATONs, to use an acronym the USCG likes. A Synthetic AIS AtoN is electronically “located” at the same spot as a physical AtoN while a Virtual AIS AtoN only exists on AIS displays.

The general idea is that Synthetic AIS AtoNs can augment existing aids — like Real AIS AtoNs, but without the hardware hassle and expense — while Virtual AtoNs can go where physical ones don’t make sense or where one is needed quickly. So many of the Synthetics around San Francisco correspond to the actual buoys marking the Traffic Separation Scheme, as neatly suggested above using Marine Traffic’s vessel “density” overlay (now available with the free subscription). Recreational boaters with AIS displays might use the new aids to help them stay the heck out of the way.

Meanwhile, Virtual AIS AtoNs are being used to mark the towers under the Bay Bridge, like the one that got in the way of the 900-foot M/V Cosco Busan one foggy morning in 2007. Virtual AtoNs can also be used to quickly mark, say, a vessel that sinks just below the surface in a channel or to permanently guard a dangerous ledge in a remote area (like this Vesper Marine install)…the uses seems almost infinite. And I think that both Synthetic and Virtual AIS AtoNs can be deployed almost anywhere along our coast, because they can be broadcast not just from the AIS base stations typically found near major ports, but also from the NAIS towers that are trying to monitor all AIS traffic off our coasts. (And, yes, it is valid to ask, “Why isn’t the public AIS portion of NAIS data available to the public?” in my opinion at least.)

Incidentally, Real AIS AtoNs can create Virtual and Synthetic AtoNs, as explained in a neat YouTube video that goes with the Carbon model SRT builds for OEM distribution.

So how do AIS AtoNs display on a multifunction nav display or charting program? I really don’t know! I saw some on the SeaPilot app while visiting True Heading in Sweden but have not yet spotted one on any of Gizmo’s many AIS displays, probably — but not necessarily — because I haven’t been within range of one yet. The screenshot above was taken of Marine Traffic before I lost my Pro subscription with its choice of Navionics chart overlay (remember that you, too, can earn a Pro or Premium sub by maintaining a volunteer listening station, and there can’t be enough.) And while it’s nice that MT shows AIS AtoNs at all — some other Web AIS viewers don’t — the site does not display them correctly. While it is translating AIS Message 21 for AtoNs, some of the info is squeezed into a data box meant for vessels, and I think that some isn’t displayed at all. That’s why “RANCE LWB A” is not the Destination of “BOSTON N CHANNEL ENT” but rather the rest of its name!

Marine Traffic is also using the same icon for AIS AtoNs as it uses for moored vessels, and that’s not right, either. I found the graphic above in a USCG AIS ATON Special Notice PDF and you can see that while Real and Synthetic AIS AtoNs intend to look the same, Virtual AtoNs get different treatment. By the way, there’s a “CAPE CAN DGR A” AIS AtoN operating just north of Cape Canaveral, Florida, right now and wouldn’t it be great if an enterprising Panbo reader got screenshots of how it looks on their boat displays?

But note how the USCG graphic shows how an “Isolated Danger” AIS AtoN will potentially be portrayed. By the same token, the graphics above showing more types of AIS AtoN icons come from a draft of IEC 6288 Ed. 2. I also read somewhere that even ECDIS displays are not yet required to show standard AIS AtoN icons. All this makes me nervous about what the state of affairs is on recreational displays, but of course many of you out there can help.

As noted at the beginning, Marine Traffic shows AIS AtoNs in many places along the U.S. coast and many, many more around Europe and Asia (though the ones I saw properly displayed on SeaPilot are oddly missing). Are they showing up on your displays? Do the icons look right? Are long nav aid names shown correctly? Are there data fields to indicate if an aids light or RACON is working correctly, or if it’s off station? Please tell us in the comments and if possible, please send screenshots (ben at panbo.com) for a followup entry. Bonus points for a screen showing AIS AtoN weather info, because that’s a subject of much more complexity that may also merit an eventual entry. Myself, I hope to “see” the AIS range marks and entrance bouy in Miami during the February show, but won’t really get going in Gizmo until April or May.

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

STANLEY PARIS: Foiled Again

Sail Feed - Wed, 2015-01-07 20:43

I get the sense some people out there are waiting for me to opine on the fate of Dr. Stanley Paris, who again decided to abandon his attempt at a non-stop circumnavigation and put into Cape Town aboard his custom performance cruiser Kiwi Spirit (see photo up top) a little over a week ago. As discussed previously, the good doctor was never entirely forthcoming about the gear damage he suffered during his last abortive voyage. He has been even less forthcoming this time. All we know is that “the top quarter of [his] mail (sic) sail separated along a seam from the rest of the sail.” There has been no description of any causative weather or event, no indication at all of what might have precipitated this.

So it’s impossible to say anything at all conclusory or in the least bit judgmental without making many assumptions, which I suspect is one reason why Dr. Paris is so reluctant to share facts with us. He wants us reading about him, but he doesn’t want us talking about him. All I can offer is the one fairly obvious question: wasn’t there a spare mainsail aboard? Given that Paris once told Cruising World that he planned to carry an entire spare rig, it seems having a spare main on hand would not be unthinkable.

Kiwi Spirit under sail, with the offending mainsail at full hoist. Presumably it is a laminated sail, which would explain Paris’s inability to repair it at sea. I believe it was built by North. Such sails are very strong, and it would normally take some severe abuse to cause the damage described. With a Dacron sail, at least, he could have pulled out some needle and thread and had at it

In the end, it would appear that Paris has aborted this second attempt due to less severe, more foreseeable damage than he suffered last time. And we can’t help but note that he’s bailed out at almost exactly the same point as he did last time, not too far from Cape Town, just before getting into the wild and wooly heart of the Southern Ocean.

If I were mean I suppose I could say he didn’t really want to do this, or that the only way he could ever have succeeded was if nothing on his boat ever broke at all. But I don’t really believe either of these things. I don’t know what to believe. The man is a total mystery to me. Non-void. A cipher.

He does still have his most excellent boat (which again is being brought back north by a hired delivery crew), and now that this non-stop circumnavigation nonsense is done with (he has made it clear there won’t be a third attempt), maybe Paris will run Kiwi Spirit as a straight cruiser and just enjoy himself, hopefully without tugging on our shirt sleeves trying to get us to pay attention to him.

UPDATE: Stanley speaks! Dare I believe that it was my whining above about the lack of information he has shared that prompted him just one day later to explain in more detail what happened to his sail? No, I don’t really believe that, but I’m very glad he’s told us more.

North 3Di mainsail on Kiwi Spirit immediately after the damage occurred

Torn main down on the dock in Cape Town

Apparently the sail blew up in moderate condtions during a controlled jibe. North Sails has taken responsibility for the failure and is repairing the sail free of charge. They are reportedly mystified as to why/how this could have happened. The delivery crew, led by Steve Pettengill, will use the repaired sail to take the boat back to the States and will also carry a spare main. Paris in his new post implies but does not state that this “old” sail was aboard when he lost the number one mainsail, as he states: “With three onboard they can change the sail though it would have been unlikely that I could have done it alone.”

I had wondered about that actually. Could he bend on a new main alone at sea? It certainly wouldn’t be easy, but you’d never know for sure until you tried.

Sometime today allegedly Dr. Paris will provide another post describing a problem with his rudder (never mentioned before) and tomorrow will discuss whether he’ll try again. Which implies he might.

Here’s some advice if he does: expect some major sail damage and be prepared to deal with it at sea.

Whatever you make of all this, I’ve got to hand it to the man. I’d be very daunted handling those huge laminated sails alone. We’ll recall that Dodge Morgan, whose old non-stop RTW record the good doctor is trying to best, sailed his voyage on American Promise with a Dacron roller-furling mainsail, a much easier beast to handle, at least when it’s working properly. Morgan, interestingly, was initially very nervous about the sail and worried over being to repair or replace it at sea. As far as we know, it gave him no trouble and he ultimately concluded that it allowed him to make a faster passage, as his confidence in being to reef quickly and incrementally enabled him to keep maximum sail area flying at all times.

Raymarine Wi-Fish and FLIR One for everyone

Sail Feed - Wed, 2015-01-07 07:42

Written by Ben Ellison on Jan 7, 2015 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub

Some days I feel like retiring, but wow, the changing technology I enjoy covering just won’t let up. Yesterday Raymarine introduced the wonderfully named Wi-Fish, which seems at least visually even more a sign than Furuno’s DRS4W WiFi radar of how mainstream marine electronics can accomodate our collective fascination with mobile computing. Wi-Fish is essentially a Dragonfly sonar display without the display but with an app that can purportedly do its job and more. And Raymarine didn’t stop there, also introducing a variety of new 4- and 5-inch Dragonfly models, including Pro versions that support the Wi-Fish app while also offering an “All weather viewable” display and GPS plotting on a great choice of chart formats…

The Dragonfly 5 model lineup tells the story, and it’s the same tale for the 4-inch models. Raymarine seems to have no qualms about building and distributing a huge number of models in order to give customers exactly what they want. So you can have a Dragonfly 5M that’s all chartplotter, a DVS that’s dual CHIRP sonar and DownVison, or a Pro that combines all of the above with the Wi-Fish app as frosting on the cake. Also, have you ever seen “Social Media Uploading” as a marine electronics feature before (some of which may make the impressive Dragonfly Screen Capture gallery)? Note, too, that these are the first Raymarine displays to support Jeppesen C-Map charts as well as Navionics (plus Lighthouse vector and raster here in the U.S.), a choice coming to all Lighthouse II MFDs soon. In fact, C-Map base maps are default on the new Dragonflys, which may indicate a tidal change, but then again, the Wi-Fish models could work sweetly with the Navionics charting app, particularly in Vexilar-like SonarChart mode.

I have not seen pricing on the new Dragonflys yet, but the FLIR press release that went with the CES debut yesterday claimed the first CHIRP downview sonar under $200. Mama FLIR herself was showing off what might be described as the FLIR One V2 thermal cam. What you’ll mostly see on the product site is the original version, which only fit the iPhone 5 and 5s, but the new dongle-style design will work with many Android phones. It’s due out around midyear and given the reversible Lightning port found on most iOS devices, that model will even take “thermies” like the one below.

Gizmodo’s Andrew Liszewski also reports that the new FLIR One will have more resolution but be less expensive and still retain the unique MSX dual cam technology that overlays the thermal imagery with edges captured with higher res visible light. It may be a crushing blow for the somewhat similar Seek thermal cam that several Panbo readers have asked me about. I warn them not to presume that a camera like this can perform like a true thermal navigation cam (which FLIR certainly doesn’t claim).

In fact, I got a brief chance to try a prototype FLIR One V1 during their Miami press cruise last year, and you can see below that even a fairly close bridge seemed out of range. I did wonder if the MSX image enhancement, also available in a new C2 pocket camera, might be useful in a real thermal navigation device. Then again, my shot was a prototype quickie and the new version is higher resolution. Plus, there are many shorter range uses for an inexpensive thermal cam as rather hilariously demonstrated by Liszewski and also at a recent FLIR One Hackathon. App developer kits are available and there must be some neat ways to utilize this tech on a boat.

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

Bruce Schwab

Sail Feed - Tue, 2015-01-06 00:00

Listen Now. Bruce Scwab is the first American sailor to complete the legendary solo, nonstop Vendee Globe ocean race. It was his second solo circumnavigation onboard Ocean Planet, the boat he designed and developed on the west coast. 

Bruce grew up in northern California and started sailing with his dad a young age, eventually working at a rig shop for many years where he honed his skills on the owners boat as a solo racing sailor, winning the first event he ever entered.

DON’T MISS Bruce’s YouTube channel with some incredible footage from the Vendee, including a horrendous Southern Ocean storm.

‘In hindsight, I realized that for my entire life I’d been training for the Vendee and didn’t even realize it,’ Bruce says. The lightbult went off and he started putting together a program with the nonprofit Ocean Planet, who funded the boat. He tells the whole story – and then some – here on the podcast.

Bruce now lives in Maine and specializes in outfitting cruising boats with alternative energy sources and high-end batteries, and is on the forefront of marine energy technology. Check him out at bruceschwab.com or oceanplanet.org.

Want to go ocean sailing with Andy? Book a berth on Sojourner! Summer Annapolis-Lunenburg & fall Caribbean passages available on 59-north.com/events.

POST-CHRISTMAS WEST INDIES CRUISE: High Maintenance Vacation

Sail Feed - Mon, 2015-01-05 22:29

Truth be told, I originally resisted the idea of basing Lunacy in St. Maarten this winter, primarily because she previously spent two other winters there, and I was hoping to check out someplace new. Also, I’ve always found the island to be a bit over-developed, with too many people, too much traffic, and too many big-box stores. Inexorably, however, it was the place that made the most sense for the sort of winter cruising we do (in short bursts of a week or so), because the airfares are reasonable and there are often direct flights from Boston. And during our just completed post-Christmas cruise, the island’s over-developedness in fact turned out to be a blessing, as we spent an inordinate amount of time attending to boat maintenance (a price one often must pay when wandering about on one’s own boat), and St. Maarten, if nothing else, is a great place to buy boat gear.

Problem number one, annoyingly, was simply getting out of Oyster Pond, where the boat was docked. Examining the boat’s bottom from dockside it seemed to be very clean, and I therefore assumed the propeller must also be clean, as our high-tech Ultrasonic Antifouling system has historically succeeded in keeping the prop much cleaner than the bottom. But no! On trying to motor out the pond’s famously sketchy entrance, fortunately in rather calm conditions, I found, as Gertrude Stein might put it, that there was no there there when it came to forward propulsion under power.

We barely made it out by the skin of our teeth. After we sailed around to Marigot, on the French side, and I finally got a chance to jump in the water with a mask and fins on, I found the prop was in fact incredibly foul with barnacles, though the rest of the bottom was almost spotless. Go figure. It took me about an hour of free-diving to scrape the suckers off with a very sharp knife, and after that maneuvering the mothership under power was much less hair-raising.

(Note to self: remember to ALWAYS get the boat’s bottom scrubbed before exiting Oyster Pond, even if it seems entirely unnecessary.)

This is probably as good a place as any to bloviate a bit more on Oyster Pond, in case you’re cruising through the area. First, you need to know that the fuel dock at Captain Oliver’s Marina is currently not (repeat NOT) operational. There’s actually nothing wrong with it, but it seems the marina recently changed hands, and the local government is dragging its feet about issuing the new owners the permit they need to pump fuel. The delay evidently has been going on for months now, which is a major pain in the butt, particularly for the Sunsail and Moorings charter fleets that are based there. They’ve been dragging all their fuel in by truck and have to schlep it out to all the monohulls in jerry jugs, as they draw too much water to come in close alongside shore to top up their tanks.

Also, if you’re approaching the Oyster Pond entrance from outside, don’t waste any time looking for the big sea buoys that used to be there to help lead you in. They all got wiped out in Hurricane Gonzalo last fall and have yet to be replaced. All that’s left are the three spindly little stakes that mark out the entrance itself, and these are very hard to spot until you’re within half a mile or less of where you need to be to shoot between the two east-facing reefs that make this such an interesting inlet to transit.

Another thing I’ve noticed is that there’s something weird about the entrance on the Navionics chart I run on my iPad. My tracks both in and out suggest something is seriously out of place and that you should rely strictly on your eyeballs when coming in here.

Doing it at night would be a very bad idea!

This is the track I recorded on my iPad coming into the pond after our cruise, and it mirrors the unrecorded one I saw going out. In reality I stayed very close to the three red stakes both coming and going, but the track shows me running perilously close to the shoal on the entrance’s south side, well away from the two easternmost stakes

The next major problem, coincidentally, had to do with our dinghy’s propulsion system. Our old 5-hp four-stroke Honda outboard had been getting increasingly unreliable over the past two years, and I had thought before leaving New Hampshire that this would likely be its last season in service. After I spent far too much time trying (and failing) to get it to run properly after we reached Marigot, I reluctantly concluded, as visions of the family getting swept out to sea in the dinghy coursed through my head, that we had to replace it immediately.

Fortunately, there were not one but two chandleries (Island Water World and Budget Marine) in Marigot for me to shop at, and the upside of the inconvenience (and expense!) was that at least here in the W’Indies it is still possible to buy brand new two-stroke engines that are lighter, more powerful, and more reliable than the fussy (but cleaner) four-stroke models that are available in the States.

While cruising the chandleries, I also bought Lunacy some new dock lines (we found one of her old ones had snapped since I left her at Captain Oliver’s in November) and some new padlocks (the old ones are starting seize up solid at very inopportune moments), plus an extra life vest for daughter Lucy, who is forever mislaying them.

And yes! They do have a working fuel dock in Marigot, at the Fort Louis Marina, so we were able to top up our tanks there. And we also bought groceries.

Wrecked boats on the beach in Marigot. More casualties from Hurricane Gonzalo

View of Marigot and Simpson Bay Lagoon from the ramparts of old Fort Louis. The fort was allegedly built to ward off noisome English pirates back in the early 18th century. I noticed, however, that most of its guns are facing the town

At last, on New Year’s Eve, a full three days after first arriving on the island, we had the boat ready to go somewhere else. And though I had sworn to myself I would never ever spend another New Year’s at Gustavia on St. Bart’s, I was persuaded by certain females aboard that this was in fact where we wanted to go.

The long beat to windward in search of 2015

One very small portion of the very large, very crowded anchorage at Gustavia

Anchoring there at this time of year is always a catch-as-catch-can affair. (See this previous post on some of the politics and etiquette involved.) After finding a crack to wedge into, I dove on our anchor to make sure it was biting, but after our neighbor dinghied over to cheerfully inform me that the last two boats anchored where we were had both dragged, I found it hard to feel sanguine.

The scene ashore, at least, wasn’t as frenzied as it usually is, and we had little trouble finding a place to eat. Afterwards, certain younger members of the crew (read teenage daughter Una) made a point of staying up until midnight to watch the madness and fireworks from on deck.

The next day we retreated (gratefully, on my part) to nearby Anse de Columbier for some swimming and snorkeling and beachcombing.

Lucy jumps off Lunacy‘s gunwale for the very first time!

Una conducts submersion experiments on her new (allegedly) waterproof iPhone case before trusting it in action

And the day after that, unfortunately, it was already time to head back to Oyster Pond. The forecast was for some fearsome wind to come up, so we left early before the sea could build up at the entrance.

Lunacy back on the dock at Captain Oliver’s. Note the new Tohatsu outboard and the new dock lines

Lucy remembers the coconut we bought in Marigot and decides to smash it open on the dock with a hammer. Unfortunately, it was all rotten inside

This turned out to be unnecessary, but it is always better to be safe than sorry.

POST-CHRISTMAS WEST INDIES CRUISE: High Maintenance Vacation

Sail Feed - Mon, 2015-01-05 22:29

Truth be told, I originally resisted the idea of basing Lunacy in St. Maarten this winter, primarily because she previously spent two other winters there, and I was hoping to check out someplace new. Also, I’ve always found the island to be a bit over-developed, with too many people, too much traffic, and too many big-box stores. Inexorably, however, it was the place that made the most sense for the sort of winter cruising we do (in short bursts of a week or so), because the airfares are reasonable and there are often direct flights from Boston. And during our just completed post-Christmas cruise, the island’s over-developedness in fact turned out to be a blessing, as we spent an inordinate amount of time attending to boat maintenance (a price one often must pay when wandering about on one’s own boat), and St. Maarten, if nothing else, is a great place to buy boat gear.

Problem number one, annoyingly, was simply getting out of Oyster Pond, where the boat was docked. Examining the boat’s bottom from dockside it seemed to be very clean, and I therefore assumed the propeller must also be clean, as our high-tech Ultrasonic Antifouling system has historically succeeded in keeping the prop much cleaner than the bottom. But no! On trying to motor out the pond’s famously sketchy entrance, fortunately in rather calm conditions, I found, as Gertrude Stein might put it, that there was no there there when it came to forward propulsion under power.

We barely made it out by the skin of our teeth. After we sailed around to Marigot, on the French side, and I finally got a chance to jump in the water with a mask and fins on, I found the prop was in fact incredibly foul with barnacles, though the rest of the bottom was almost spotless. Go figure. It took me about an hour of free-diving to scrape the suckers off with a very sharp knife, and after that maneuvering the mothership under power was much less hair-raising.

(Note to self: remember to ALWAYS get the boat’s bottom scrubbed before exiting Oyster Pond, even if it seems entirely unnecessary.)

This is probably as good a place as any to bloviate a bit more on Oyster Pond, in case you’re cruising through the area. First, you need to know that the fuel dock at Captain Oliver’s Marina is currently not (repeat NOT) operational. There’s actually nothing wrong with it, but it seems the marina recently changed hands, and the local government is dragging its feet about issuing the new owners the permit they need to pump fuel. The delay evidently has been going on for months now, which is a major pain in the butt, particularly for the Sunsail and Moorings charter fleets that are based there. They’ve been dragging all their fuel in by truck and have to schlep it out to all the monohulls in jerry jugs, as they draw too much water to come in close alongside shore to top up their tanks.

Also, if you’re approaching the Oyster Pond entrance from outside, don’t waste any time looking for the big sea buoys that used to be there to help lead you in. They all got wiped out in Hurricane Gonzalo last fall and have yet to be replaced. All that’s left are the three spindly little stakes that mark out the entrance itself, and these are very hard to spot until you’re within half a mile or less of where you need to be to shoot between the two east-facing reefs that make this such an interesting inlet to transit.

Another thing I’ve noticed is that there’s something weird about the entrance on the Navionics chart I run on my iPad. My tracks both in and out suggest something is seriously out of place and that you should rely strictly on your eyeballs when coming in here.

Doing it at night would be a very bad idea!

This is the track I recorded on my iPad coming into the pond after our cruise, and it mirrors the unrecorded one I saw going out. In reality I stayed very close to the three red stakes both coming and going, but the track shows me running perilously close to the shoal on the entrance’s south side, well away from the two easternmost stakes

The next major problem, coincidentally, had to do with our dinghy’s propulsion system. Our old 5-hp four-stroke Honda outboard had been getting increasingly unreliable over the past two years, and I had thought before leaving New Hampshire that this would likely be its last season in service. After I spent far too much time trying (and failing) to get it to run properly after we reached Marigot, I reluctantly concluded, as visions of the family getting swept out to sea in the dinghy coursed through my head, that we had to replace it immediately.

Fortunately, there were not one but two chandleries (Island Water World and Budget Marine) in Marigot for me to shop at, and the upside of the inconvenience (and expense!) was that at least here in the W’Indies it is still possible to buy brand new two-stroke engines that are lighter, more powerful, and more reliable than the fussy (but cleaner) four-stroke models that are available in the States.

While cruising the chandleries, I also bought Lunacy some new dock lines (we found one of her old ones had snapped since I left her at Captain Oliver’s in November) and some new padlocks (the old ones are starting seize up solid at very inopportune moments), plus an extra life vest for daughter Lucy, who is forever mislaying them.

And yes! They do have a working fuel dock in Marigot, at the Fort Louis Marina, so we were able to top up our tanks there. And we also bought groceries.

Wrecked boats on the beach in Marigot. More casualties from Hurricane Gonzalo

View of Marigot and Simpson Bay Lagoon from the ramparts of old Fort Louis. The fort was allegedly built to ward off noisome English pirates back in the early 18th century. I noticed, however, that most of its guns are facing the town

At last, on New Year’s Eve, a full three days after first arriving on the island, we had the boat ready to go somewhere else. And though I had sworn to myself I would never ever spend another New Year’s at Gustavia on St. Bart’s, I was persuaded by certain females aboard that this was in fact where we wanted to go.

The long beat to windward in search of 2015

One very small portion of the very large, very crowded anchorage at Gustavia

Anchoring there at this time of year is always a catch-as-catch-can affair. (See this previous post on some of the politics and etiquette involved.) After finding a crack to wedge into, I dove on our anchor to make sure it was biting, but after our neighbor dinghied over to cheerfully inform me that the last two boats anchored where we were had both dragged, I found it hard to feel sanguine.

The scene ashore, at least, wasn’t as frenzied as it usually is, and we had little trouble finding a place to eat. Afterwards, certain younger members of the crew (read teenage daughter Una) made a point of staying up until midnight to watch the madness and fireworks from on deck.

The next day we retreated (gratefully, on my part) to nearby Anse de Columbier for some swimming and snorkeling and beachcombing.

Lucy jumps off Lunacy‘s gunwale for the very first time!

Una conducts submersion experiments on her new (allegedly) waterproof iPhone case before trusting it in action

And the day after that, unfortunately, it was already time to head back to Oyster Pond. The forecast was for some fearsome wind to come up, so we left early before the sea could build up at the entrance.

Lunacy back on the dock at Captain Oliver’s. Note the new Tohatsu outboard and the new dock lines

Lucy remembers the coconut we bought in Marigot and decides to smash it open on the dock with a hammer. Unfortunately, it was all rotten inside

This turned out to be unnecessary, but it is always better to be safe than sorry.

Sailing into 2015

Sail Feed - Mon, 2015-01-05 06:02

By many measures, we did not have a great year. 2014 was not marked by exotic anchorages and interesting cultural exchanges, but routine maintenance (and breakdown, and more maintenance), costly equipment replacements, and attempts at upgrades with varying degrees of success. Gear failures cost us plans for sailing to Borneo and the Philippines, and just much everything we tackled took significantly longer than it could or should. It is marked by complications and aggravations.

But a good year, or not, is mostly what you make of it. And although we would rather not repeat much of 2014, we had some incredible experiences that stand out like fireworks in hindsight- events and encounters and trends that added light to life. Those are the measures to have.

Sundowners with good friends in Totem’s cockpit – all gone separate directions now

The symbolic start came early in the year when we were facing a number of necessary but expensive maintenance costs on Totem. We’ve been skating on thin financial ice, so this was stressful. One of our blog followers asked what we needed; we told him, and thanks to a giving and kind human, the cost of replacing our dying battery bank was covered. It was both humbling as well as uplifting at a time when we could use the boost, and in the process, has brought to us a new, virtual crew member.

Jamie builds the new battery box

Our outlook further improved as Jamie returned to selling sails, his first career as a sailmaker coming around again. He’s working with a Kiwi designer based in Langkawi and building out of China Sail Factory, and has helped a number of boats with new sails: vessels near us in Southeast Asia, but also in the US, Caribbean, and Australia. The income will help us keep going, but importantly, Jamie really loves what he’s doing- sharing from his deep experience as a sailmaker, now filtered through the practicality of years of cruising experience.

In 2014, we didn’t make miles so much as we made friends. When engine troubles kept us in places for long and unplanned stretches, the fixed time let us make new friends and grow existing friendships. It has been an incredibly rich year for cruising community in our life, and when I think of the boats and the people we have met and connected with, I’m incredibly grateful.

with friends in Penang – more unforgettable memories

The cumulative effect of all this is pure goodness. Although there’s a project list as long as my arm and only a few weeks before our intended departure for Sri Lanka and points west, we are now ready in the most important ways.

best part of my year: organizing a fundraiser for shipyard family kids

When we splashed Totem from the shipyard last month, it would have been easy to stay close to Langkawi. We could have gone over to the lovely and popular Butang islands for a holiday break and some of the R&R we needed. But had we done that, we wouldn’t have had a good test of Totem. So instead, we decided to make the roughly 600 mile round trip trek from Langkawi to Koh Phayam, a sleepy little Thai island near the Myanmar border. With all the projects of the last year, Totem’s systems needed a hard workout. Our trial paid off almost immediately as our watermaker decided to more or less implode just as we reached Phuket, where there’s a service center equipped with the parts and skills to make it right again.

We also returned to Koh Phayam to get ourselves ready, because it’s not just having systems and gear in order. For my part, it’s wrapping up a book manuscript on a guide for cruising with kids – a project I’m incredibly excited to be a part of. For Jamie, while “getting ready” would probably make him think of maintenance tasks, what he’s needed more than anything is a break: after a year with lots of work, spending weeks of flat-out work on the hardstand drained him.

working hands – Jamie in the shipyard

And so we did. And while there was still a lot of writing, and a lot of project work, happening during our stay in Koh Phayam… there were some unforgettable hours where the only thing we tried to do was enjoy ourselves, in good company, in a pretty place.

About two beats after I realized this was a surprise party for my birthday! Thanks to SV Atea for the photo.

As we return south to Langkawi, our heads are getting into countdown mode. We’re seeing places and people for the last time. The project list is evolving into a punchlist, with the must-do pulling away from the want-to-do. And it is tremendously exciting: 2015 is full of promise and adventure, and we just cannot wait!

On the move again at last – and feeling good!

Cruisey sailors know when you click through to the Sailfeed page for this post, it kicks a little change in our cruising kitty.

Not Snow, A Blizzard at the Rose Bowl Regatta

Sail Feed - Sun, 2015-01-04 23:02

Georgetown University’s Nevin Snow and Katia DaSilva demo a light-air roll tack

Posted January 4, 2015 by KL

Rich Roberts’ Rose Bowl Regatta Report:

Sunday’s weather: Sunny; wind 2-8k NW-SW; temp. 61F.

Georgetown Romps While Newport Harbor Ends Pt. Loma’s Reign

Long Beach, California

While Georgetown University coasted to a comfortable defense of its College championship in the 30th Rose Bowl Regatta Sunday — skipper Nevin Snow and crew Katia DaSilva rocking a 37-point win over second-place Coast Guard Academy — Newport Harbor High School kept its foot on the gas to end Point Loma’s eight-year reign in the High School Gold class.

The Sailors’ (that’s their appropriate nickname) B team of Campbell D’Eliscu and Madeline Bubb matched the efforts of the A team’s Sean Segerblom and Briggs D’Eliscu (Campbell’s kid brother) in winning the first and last of their eight races over two days, and also notched two firsts and a second as NHHS swept the Gold A and B groups.

Cathedral Catholic of San Diego repeated as winner of the High School Silver class.

Thirty college teams coast to coast and 62 Gold and Silver high schools all sailed 13-foot, 3-inch two-person CFJ dinghies off the beach at the Belmont Veterans Memorial Pier in the major youth sailing event hosted by the United States Sailing Center and Pacific Coast Sailing Foundation.

D’Eliscu and Bubb made the most of it with a first and second in the last three races, wrapped around an 11th. A bold last-second burst at the line launched their first place, but when they tried to match it the next time . . .

“We were over early,” D’Eliscu said.

But by the end of the day it didn’t matter. Bold moves often pay off.

“It was a big thing to win this at the start of the year,” D’Eliscu said, “especially among some amazing people.”

Those included A.J. Reiter, skipper of Georgetown’s B boat with Isabelle Luzuriaga as crew. Like many of the competitors, Reiter and Luzuriaga were Californians racing for Eastern schools.

Unlike most Easterners, “We’re very lucky to sail all year,” Reiter said.

The weekend conditions weren’t entirely easy as the teams urged limited knots of speed out of their boats in Saturday’s gentle breeze, and Sunday started worse with 2-4 knots from downtown Long Beach to the northwest before fading completely in early afternoon.

That was a good sign, because soon a steady 8 to 9 knots filled in from the locally reliable southwest to pick up the pace.

Georgetown thus remained a close second in the national college standings to Yale, which didn’t venture West this time, and added the trophy to the World University Championships it won in Italy last summer.

Top finishers

College: 1. Georgetown University, 52 points; 2. U.S. Coast Guard Academy, 89; 3. Fordham U., 98.

High school Gold: 1. Newport Harbor, 61; 2. Corona del Mar 105; 32. Point Loma, 107.

High school Silver: 1. Cathedral Catholic, 79; 2. Windward School, 95; 3. The Bishop’s School, 101.

Sometimes, You Just Gotta Rant

Sail Feed - Sun, 2015-01-04 19:02

By Kimball Livingston Posted January 4, 2015

This photo that ran last week on Scuttlebutt Sailing News caused a stir.

Is this really “us” ?

It was shot dockside at the International Orange Bowl Regatta, sponsored by Coral Reef Yacht Club on the shores of mostly-lovely Biscayne Bay. With the US Sailing Center next door running the regatta “in cooperation” with CRYC, it makes you wonder.

Comments on social media ranged from simple outrage that garbage was thus strewn to huffy offense that a photograph was taken and run when the person commenting was sure that all that yucky stuff would have been cleared away quickly, because that’s how things are done at the Orange Bowl Regatta. Sorta to ask why, if the photographer is so hoity-toity particular, why not clean things up instead of snapping a picture?

I have my take, but first: Craig Leweck’s post on Facebook drew 406 Likes and 162 Comments, with many more Comments on the 92 Shares (at last look). Here’s a sampling:

Youth America’s Cup veteran and Olympic hopeful (NACRA 17 catamaran) Ian Andrewes looked at the pic and responded, “All this uproar about one over-flowing garbage can at one junior event — You should see what it’s like at other big events all over the world. The excuse that you’re allowed to litter because there wasn’t a nearby recycle bin will be the downfall of our oceans. Having easier access at event sites to offload trash will help. Ultimately, it will come down to educating people on how laziness causes damage, and packing your trash out if necessary is not that much work. I will try to lead by example. I hope more people jump on the bandwagon.”

Coach and training director Jay Kehoe chimed in on Facebook: “Worst part about this is, it’s from the coach and parent boats…. pretty easy [for them] to have walked down to the dumpster!”

Rich Jepsen, long a principal at Olympic Circle Sailing Club on SF Bay, had this: “Thanks, Craig, for forwarding the conversation about our responsibility to the waterways that give us so much pleasure. Many racing crews are switching to BYOB re-useable water bottles. Many sailing schools have banned one-use bottles and encourage students to bring their own bottles from home. We have easy water filling stations at our club.”

And there was this observation from hard-traveling, hard-sailing Rachel Smith: “Returning to the event site [a week later] we found this sort of rubbish on our boats (Stars and Etchells) as well. It was by no means just the kids, as I doubt that they were drinking beer and smoking (leaving their butts amongst the trailers).”

Which doesn’t fit with the following from Tricia Sines Walker: “As a former multi year PRO for Orange Bowl I have to say this is misconstrued. ALL fleets are told to pick up trash they find floating. Lunch trash is given to coach or support boats. I’ve even given prizes to the kid who fished out the most trash. This photo was probably taken right after a fleet came in. You have to figure 10 to 20 coach boats plus 4 to 8 support boats all hitting the dock at the same time and cleaning up their boats at the same dock. Is there going to be a lot of trash? Yes. Is it going to just sit there for hours? Absolutely not. We have a huge staff on shore to make sure things stay clean. I’ve been racing my J/24 down there for the last 10 years and raced Stars before that. You have never seen a bigger bunch of environmental nazis than us Bay sailors. So please…. No pot shots at one of the best run youth regattas in the country or at Miami.”

Justin McJones, Staff Commodore of Los Angeles Yacht Club, added, “We just returned from the regatta. Most coaches have bigger water bottles on board and they refill the kids personal containers. That shot looks out of context to me.”

And my favorite, from Mike Coleman: “I’m guilty. I’ve seen it and walked by it with out doing anything because I’m thinking the yacht club staff will do the right thing. Wrong. At a large regatta, everyone involved needs to pick up litter, even Tom Blackaller.”

Whatever the facts about this year’s regatta, I’m pretty sure that, next year, the organizers won’t let any such photo opp happen again.

But I’m boggled that so many (certainly not all) of the people who offered comments accepted the presence of plastic, at all.

The order of the day, folks, is BYOB. Many people do. Single-use plastic is anathema, and water from plastic containers is no better than (and, I suspect, often less clean than) water from the tap.

And if you believe in plastic “recycling,” it’s never too soon to start composing your 2015 letter to Santa Claus.

Aside from cleaning up on general principles (YES, Mom), there is so much documentation of the dangers of plastic as it degrades in volume that I surely don’t have to drag out examples for this readership. Single-use plastic is so obviously wasteful that it ought to be shunned on its own lack of merit, before it blows off into the formerly-natural world. How does it make sense to pump oil out of the earth to transport it in carbon-spewing ships and trains and trucks to carbon-spewing refineries to be converted into petroleum products to be converted into plastics to be conveyed to bottling plants to be filled and conveyed via carbon-spewing ship, train and truck to a shelf life of about five minutes?

Plastics are a miracle. Modern medicine would go off a cliff without plastics, and that’s just for starters.

But.

Who needs H20 hauled 7,500 miles from Fiji? I look at the Fiji Water crate in the middle of that mess and wonder, do hydrogen and oxygen bond so much more deliciously on the other side of the world? Notice, I refrain from asking,
what kind of _____ would fall for Fiji Water marketing?

I guess, the same one who buys Smart Water twice.

It’s going to be a struggle to jump tracks, but we owe it to the food chain that we’re so blissfully on top of. The food chain we’re absorbing.

And I grant the deniers that the evidence is not complete.

But the accumulating evidence is nothing to ignore.

Dropping plastic into the Blue Bin? That’s a story in itself, a long, ugly story. In recognition, the California Legislature in 2014 passed a ban on single-use plastic bags. Now the industry is mounting a campaign to overturn that ban.

Yeah, and cigarettes are good for you.

It’s hard to swim against the tide. A few years ago, US Sailing held its annual meeting in my home town at a Marriott where lunches boxed in plastic were the norm, accompanied by plastic knives, forks and spoons packaged in plastic, with all the plastic-bottled water you could drink. So you find yourself there for the day, and you’re hungry and you don’t like what you see, but . . .

Happens too often.

I’m ready to see my national authority engage these issues on behalf of ethical choices. Maybe the task of organizing national meetings gets harder, but maybe, just maybe, it’s our opportunity as sailors to make a difference, and build a legacy and . . .

Sigh. Thank you for ranting with me.

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