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Hauling Out

Sail Feed - Tue, 2014-08-12 22:51

No one likes hauling out. Mostly because it means you are not sailing, and that is a terrible fate when the sun is shining and the wind is blowing.  Hauling out means fixing things, buying replacement parts, discovering nasty surprises, and living in a boat yard. None of those are my favorites.  But what needs to be done needs to be done, and Papillon definitely needs a propeller shaft rejig and some centerboard work.

We got out of the marina on Monday morning, and made the short trip across the bay to the yard. As Erik heroically defied our massive prop-walk and started backing us into the slip, one of the guys from the yard ran over and started waving his arms. I pointed at us and the slip. More emphatic negative arm waving.

I turned to the cockpit.  “He’s waving us away. Now he is making telephone gestures.”
Erik swore, and pulled forward again.  As he circled, we tried the VHF. No luck. I found the phone number for the yard.
“Bonjour.”
“Bonjour,” said Erik.  “We have an appointment for an 8:30 haul-out… Yes, I know that is half an hour away.  But we are scheduled as the first haul of the day – can’t we just pull in and wait?  Great, thanks.”

We shared some choice words for the idiot who waved us off for no good reason, and tried again. Success. Backing a boat into a tiny slip is harder than it sounds. A boat isn’t like a car – you don’t just point and go. Wind, the shape of your keel and prop-walk all fight you. But Erik got us in like a champion.

And up we came.  Unsurprisingly, Papillon had a decent beard of marine growth on the hull.

We’ve tried a number of antifouling paints over the past four years. It isn’t easy to find decent antifouling for an aluminum hull. Most biocide paint contains copper, which is a big no-no for us. TBT works, but (quite rightly) you can’t buy it in most countries because it has hideous side effects for the environment. In New Zealand, we switched to Vivid.  As you can see, the marine growth scraped off with the lightest touch, leaving the paint behind. It looks like we finally have a winner!

So Papillon has a new home out of the water. And now the work begins.

VARIOUS MISHAPS: Two Abandonments and Two Boats Sunk at Harbor Entrances

Sail Feed - Tue, 2014-08-12 07:51

It’s been a busy fortnight in the realm of sailing mishaps. Number one involves the abandoning of a 42-foot sailing vessel Walkabout (see photo up top), whose crew of three were caught in Hurricane Julio and issued a distress call Sunday about 400 miles northeast of Oahu. They reported their liferaft had been stripped off the boat, a hatch cover had been ripped off the deck, and they were taking on water faster than they could pump. Not at all a sanguine situation.

Two planes did fly-bys: a hurricane hunter that diverted from inside the storm and then a Coast Guard C-130 that dropped a raft and pumps that Walkabout‘s crew failed to recover due to the severe conditions. One of the planes (I’m thinking the storm hunter) did manage to catch this viddy:

The crew were safely taken off the boat Monday morning by a container ship, M/V Manukai, inbound to Honolulu, that diverted to the scene. Walkabout was herself inbound to Hawaii from California when she was disabled. Reportedly the flooding aboard was brought under control after conditions eased, but the boat meanwhile had also been dismasted. As you can see in that video, she looks pretty torn up. I can’t make out what sort of boat she is; definitely a double-ender, maybe a one-off.

For mindless speculation and baseless conclusions regarding the culpability of the crew, I recommend you check out this forum discussion here.

Our next mishap, also illustrated, involves a gorgeous Concordia yawl, Winnie of Bourne, that collided with a Swan 46 and sank at the entrance to Nantucket Harbor last Friday morning. No injuries were reported, and the yawl was salvaged on Sunday.

Winnie wounded right after the collision. You can see the hole in her starboard bow. I assume the bow you see to the left is the Swan she collided with

Down for the count on Friday

Resurrected on Sunday with some help from a barge and crane

Winnie sure was a stunner, as you can see in these Ben Mendlowitz boat-porn shots from before her embarrassment.

But I’m sure a strong dose of insurance payments will have her back in the pink in no time.

Our other abandonment involves a 37-foot boat, Blue Horizon, that was abandoned last Wednesday 125 miles northeast of the Cook Islands after being dismasted. Her Swedish crew, Siv and Stig Bodin, ages 69 and 70, evidently set off their EPIRB and placed a sat-phone call to Swedish authorities as they feared the boat would be holed by its rig.

They were taken off by a tanker, M/V Stena Paris, that diverted 150 miles to reach them.

Siv and Stig Bodin with the crew of Stena Paris after their rescue. The Bodins were en route to Tahiti when they abandoned their boat

Last but not least we have the yacht Oboat, a 30-year-old Beneteau, with a Swiss skipper and three other crew aboard, including two children, that crashed on a reef and sank two weeks ago while trying to enter Bonbonon, a hurricane-hole harbor on Negros in the Philippines. Oboat lost her engine and got her main ripped up while crossing the Sulu Sea and tried to enter Bonbonon under sail at night in strong conditions. Unfortunately, it’s a tricky entrance, and she was caught by large seas and was thrown on to the reef nearby.

Cruisers from the 35 or so yachts anchored inside the harbor came to their assistance. One dinghy reportedly was lost and the crew of another was injured when theirs overturned. The crew of Oboat, fortunately, managed to scramble safely up a cliff, but poor Oboat herself was completely destroyed by a squall that ground her to bits on the reef that same night.

All told, not a great score for the boats–four down and only one recovered. So far. Since Walkabout was upwind of Hawaii when she was abandoned, I’m thinking she may turn up again (if she can stay afloat with that open hatch). The good news, of course, is that all the peeps in all four boats survived. Many kudos to all the rescuers!

VARIOUS MISHAPS: Two Abandonments and Two Boats Sunk at Harbor Entrances

Sail Feed - Tue, 2014-08-12 07:51

It’s been a busy fortnight in the realm of sailing mishaps. Number one involves the abandoning of a 42-foot sailing vessel Walkabout (see photo up top), whose crew of three were caught in Hurricane Julio and issued a distress call Sunday about 400 miles northeast of Oahu. They reported their liferaft had been stripped off the boat, a hatch cover had been ripped off the deck, and they were taking on water faster than they could pump. Not at all a sanguine situation.

Two planes did fly-bys: a hurricane hunter that diverted from inside the storm and then a Coast Guard C-130 that dropped a raft and pumps that Walkabout‘s crew failed to recover due to the severe conditions. One of the planes (I’m thinking the storm hunter) did manage to catch this viddy:

The crew were safely taken off the boat Monday morning by a container ship, M/V Manukai, inbound to Honolulu, that diverted to the scene. Walkabout was herself inbound to Hawaii from California when she was disabled. Reportedly the flooding aboard was brought under control after conditions eased, but the boat meanwhile had also been dismasted. As you can see in that video, she looks pretty torn up. I can’t make out what sort of boat she is; definitely a double-ender, maybe a one-off.

For mindless speculation and baseless conclusions regarding the culpability of the crew, I recommend you check out this forum discussion here.

Our next mishap, also illustrated, involves a gorgeous Concordia yawl, Winnie of Bourne, that collided with a Swan 46 and sank at the entrance to Nantucket Harbor last Friday morning. No injuries were reported, and the yawl was salvaged on Sunday.

Winnie wounded right after the collision. You can see the hole in her starboard bow. I assume the bow you see to the left is the Swan she collided with

Down for the count on Friday

Resurrected on Sunday with some help from a barge and crane

Winnie sure was a stunner, as you can see in these Ben Mendlowitz boat-porn shots from before her embarrassment.

But I’m sure a strong dose of insurance payments will have her back in the pink in no time.

Our other abandonment involves a 37-foot boat, Blue Horizon, that was abandoned last Wednesday 125 miles northeast of the Cook Islands after being dismasted. Her Swedish crew, Siv and Stig Bodin, ages 69 and 70, evidently set off their EPIRB and placed a sat-phone call to Swedish authorities as they feared the boat would be holed by its rig.

They were taken off by a tanker, M/V Stena Paris, that diverted 150 miles to reach them.

Siv and Stig Bodin with the crew of Stena Paris after their rescue. The Bodins were en route to Tahiti when they abandoned their boat

Last but not least we have the yacht Oboat, a 30-year-old Beneteau, with a Swiss skipper and three other crew aboard, including two children, that crashed on a reef and sank two weeks ago while trying to enter Bonbonon, a hurricane-hole harbor on Negros in the Philippines. Oboat lost her engine and got her main ripped up while crossing the Sulu Sea and tried to enter Bonbonon under sail at night in strong conditions. Unfortunately, it’s a tricky entrance, and she was caught by large seas and was thrown on to the reef nearby.

Cruisers from the 35 or so yachts anchored inside the harbor came to their assistance. One dinghy reportedly was lost and the crew of another was injured when theirs overturned. The crew of Oboat, fortunately, managed to scramble safely up a cliff, but poor Oboat herself was completely destroyed by a squall that ground her to bits on the reef that same night.

All told, not a great score for the boats–four down and only one recovered. So far. Since Walkabout was upwind of Hawaii when she was abandoned, I’m thinking she may turn up again (if she can stay afloat with that open hatch). The good news, of course, is that all the peeps in all four boats survived. Many kudos to all the rescuers!

59 North Podcast: Cary St. Onge

Sail Feed - Mon, 2014-08-11 23:00

Cary St. Onge took an ex-America’s Cup training boat – an 80-foot maxi racer called ‘Falcon’, used for the ‘Young America’ team leading up to the 2000 AC – and converted it into his ideal notion of a fast cruising boat! Andy chatted with him on Skype from his home in Boulder, Colorado. He’s outfitting the boat to sail in the Caribbean 1500 this coming fall, and is offering 10 crew berths onboard for what should be the sail of a lifetime! Check out Falcon in detail on force10sailing.com.

Siren Marine cellular boat monitoring long test, reliable & powerful

Sail Feed - Mon, 2014-08-11 14:00

Written by Ben Ellison on Aug 11, 2014 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub

Boat theft is very rare in Maine, but on a recent Saturday night someone apparently “borrowed” a big twin outboard off a local dock for a “joy ride” during which something was hit hard enough to hole the topsides, and then they put the boat back on the dock and vanished! To my knowledge the mystery remains unsolved, but it sure jogged my memory about the Set feature on the Siren Marine cellular monitoring system I’ve been testing for over two years. The partial phone screen above shows what happened when Gizmo moved more than about 15 meters several days after I texted the “SET” command to the Siren. First I was notified that she’d TRANSGRESsed the geofence set up by the SET command and then the Siren started texting me every five minutes with GAT (Geofence Automatic Time-based) reports that included course, speed and a lat/long link to Google Maps. I could have guided the Maine Marine Patrol to the transgressor pretty quickly, if the “villain” hadn’t been myself…

Click on the screen above for more detail on the same geofence test, including an inset of a Google Map link (showing Gizmo near a granite breakwater testing the now functioning EchoPilot FLS). Here the messages are in email form because one of the four phone numbers the Siren can text is set to be my Google Voice account, which can pass along texts as emails. By my count the Siren delivered almost every 5 minutes a GAT report until I disarmed it with the NOSET command, and that’s been a key finding in my long test. The Siren system is wonderfully reliable, even in the very odd texting situation found here in Camden. Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and other cell phones work pretty well here in all regards, but devices that use GSM SMS messaging often do not. I couldn’t get the Maretron SMS100 to work here, though I tried both AT&T and T-Mobile SIM cards, and I couldn’t get a C-Pod AT&T-based system to work here either. In fact, the Siren had trouble at first, too, but as I described in my first Siren review, founder Dan Harper dug into the problem and solved it with a service plan that’s worked fine just about every day Gizmo has been in Camden or anywhere else during the last two years.

Gizmo Siren3: Siren Backup batt % : 100 ; Ext batt volt: 13.47 Siren Current temp 41F, Highest recorded temp 46F, Lowest recorded temp 39F. 12:41 PM

I just got the text above and hence know that Gizmo’s solar panels are working well today and the refrigerator temperature (where I installed the Sprint’s included probe) is just where I’d expect when no one has been on board using it. I left this running all winter even when the boat was hauled, because it turned out that the panels could keep the batteries up even under white shrink wrap, except for about one dreary dark week around Christmas when I felt obliged to run the shore power cord, thanks to Siren monitoring. Recently, I changed the reporting to twice a day, about midnight and noon, so I can also see the battery bank level at rest with no solar input. The number of messages is not a concern because these days Siren’s plan is unlimited to all four possible phone numbers (for $180 a year if paid that way).

So I remain impressed with the Siren system, and it continues to eliminate some anxiety from owning a beloved boat (an anxiety you may be in denial about until the boat starts texting you “all is well” messages). On the other hand, I’ve been lazy about trying other Siren features and so last week I fooled around with bilge level and entry alarms and even a relay. It was no surprise that everything worked well (when I had the right sensor), and it was good to see that Siren’s install documentation has gotten truly refined. I still hold out hope for a monitoring system that integrates my boat’s existing NMEA 2000 sensors — and plan to try the Maretron SMS100 again once I get out of Camden — but must admit that the Garmin GDL 40 that I once imagined as evolving into a great multi-purpose N2K cellular link isn’t even offered anymore..

I am disappointed that Siren hasn’t yet released the Android app that would make texting commands to the device as easy as it is for someone with an iPhone, but I note that they have gathered an attractive stable of sensors and relays that are proven to work with their system. They’re also willing to help customers design a particular boat’s system and can even create custom commands, as illustrated below. The diagram and spreadsheet forwarded by Dan Harper show a system where either a motion or a snap sensor can fire off a horn as well as text the owner, among other features like keeping an eye on shore power. There’s something to be said for a marine electronics company that does one thing well (even if it goes against my “glass bridge” vision of the future).

Siren Marine only covers U.S. waters, but are they the best cellular monitoring choice given that limitation? I believe that GOST offers remarkable security systems for big boats and also have deep experience outfoxing the professional thieves who lurk around south Florida and the Caribbean. But who besides Siren is offering security and system monitoring to smaller coastal boats like mine? Please share your thoughts. Also, if you are interested in a Siren system, there’s now a 15% hardware discount — “Pixie or Sprite and any accessories” — if you enter the code “PANBO SUMMER” and also purchase a service plan. Thanks, Dan!

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

Podcast: Log of Arcturus: Into the Baltic

Sail Feed - Fri, 2014-08-08 04:46

This week’s essay Friday is an excerpt from the Log of Arcturus, which I keep onboard the boat. Written by hand, as it’s happening, the log is a diary of sorts about our travels. This was written in August of 2012, almost exactly two years ago, during the 3-day passage from Malmo on Sweden’s southwest coast to Visby, on the island of Gotland. It’s good timing, as starting after work today, we’ll be on vacation for the next three weeks, heading this time out of the Baltic and essentially retracing our steps from this here trip. It’s fun to read what I’ve written and see what goes on in my head on those late, solo night watches. Hope you enjoy listening as much as I enjoyed reliving it!

DOUSING THE MAINSAIL: Do It After You Park The Boat

Sail Feed - Thu, 2014-08-07 22:11

I do a fair amount of singlehanded coastal cruising during the summer, usually just going out for a quick overnight whenever an opportunity presents itself. When departing my mooring at Portland Yacht Services (or any mooring for that matter), it has long been my practice to raise the mainsail before dropping the mooring pennant. That way I can get sailing ASAP, usually immediately. When anchoring or picking up a mooring, however, my habit for many years has been to douse and stow the mainsail first, then secure the boat.

But when you’re sailing singlehanded this is often stressful, particularly on the Maine coast during the summer, when there are lobster pots everywhere waiting to catch a turning propeller. Sometimes I’ve felt like a Keystone Cop, running back and forth between the cockpit and the main boom to make adjustments to the autopilot to dodge pots while stowing the sail. Even when there aren’t pots around, there are usually other things to keep an eye on–rocks, shoals, other boats, etc.–unless you play it super-safe and stow your main a mile or more before you really need to.

This year it finally dawned on me to try it the other way around: pick up the mooring, or drop the anchor, then drop the sail.

I’ve found it makes an enormous difference. With both the main up and the engine running I can make a perfectly controlled approach to a mooring or anchoring spot. There’s no juggling act, where I need to both mind the approach while simultaneously stowing the sail, and in most cases I actually only need to put the engine in gear briefly at the very end of the process. In many cases I needn’t put the engine in gear at all, and it is running only as a precaution.

If I’m picking up a mooring, I usually douse the sail immediately afterwards, to keep the boat from sailing around on it. But once the sail is down (see photo up top) I can just leave it there and tidy it up and tie in the stops at my leisure. If I’m dropping an anchor, what I usually do is back the main by hand by pushing the boom up to windward to get the boat backing down on its anchor rode. Then I drop the sail and focus on perfecting my set before putting the stops on.

I’m sure some of you are now slapping your foreheads, remarking on what a dope I am for not figuring this out earlier, because you, in your infinite wisdom, have been doing it this way all along. But I don’t guess there are too many of those. I’ve been watching sailboats come into anchorages and mooring fields for decades now, and most people have their mainsails stowed long before they park.

Many more of you, I’m sure, are thinking what I really need to do is install lazyjacks, so I can just release the main halyard during a parking approach and worry about tying in the stops whenever, or maybe even never. But personally I’ve always found lazyjacks to be a major nuisance when you’re doing anything with a mainsail other than dropping it.

Others, of course, may be patting themselves on the back for having in-mast furling mainsails, but I am even more prejudiced against those than I am against lazyjacks. Crippling your sail’s performance just so you can put it away easily seems like a non-starter to me, unless you’re dealing with a very large mainsail on a very large boat.

One big advantage of mooring or anchoring a boat with the mainsail up is that it makes you look competent. Like maybe you’re Don Street or Larry Pardey and don’t even need an engine to park your boat. If this is what you actually aspire to, this is a very good way to practice before you do in fact throw your engine overboard.

There are certain provisos. First, you should in fact be reasonably competent at picking up a mooring or setting an anchor before trying this, particularly if you are sailing singlehanded. If parking is always a fire drill for you, having the mainsail up during the drill won’t make it any less exciting. I’m now accustomed to having the main up during a normal head-to-wind approach, but in an unusual situation where, say, due to strong current I had to come in downwind or across the wind I would probably take it down first.

Second, you do have to pick your moments. When making an approach, if I can’t see clearly where I’ll be ending up–i.e., if I obviously will have to hunt around for a mooring or a spot to anchor–I still drop the main beforehand. I also still do this if the mooring field or anchorage in question is crowded and the wind is blowing hard.

With competent crew aboard you can cut your provisos much more closely, perhaps even delete them, but if you’e singlehanded I think it’s still smart to be cautious.

DOUSING THE MAINSAIL: Do It After You Park The Boat

Sail Feed - Thu, 2014-08-07 22:11

I do a fair amount of singlehanded coastal cruising during the summer, usually just going out for a quick overnight whenever an opportunity presents itself. When departing my mooring at Portland Yacht Services (or any mooring for that matter), it has long been my practice to raise the mainsail before dropping the mooring pennant. That way I can get sailing ASAP, usually immediately. When anchoring or picking up a mooring, however, my habit for many years has been to douse and stow the mainsail first, then secure the boat.

But when you’re sailing singlehanded this is often stressful, particularly on the Maine coast during the summer, when there are lobster pots everywhere waiting to catch a turning propeller. Sometimes I’ve felt like a Keystone Cop, running back and forth between the cockpit and the main boom to make adjustments to the autopilot to dodge pots while stowing the sail. Even when there aren’t pots around, there are usually other things to keep an eye on–rocks, shoals, other boats, etc.–unless you play it super-safe and stow your main a mile or more before you really need to.

This year it finally dawned on me to try it the other way around: pick up the mooring, or drop the anchor, then drop the sail.

I’ve found it makes an enormous difference. With both the main up and the engine running I can make a perfectly controlled approach to a mooring or anchoring spot. There’s no juggling act, where I need to both mind the approach while simultaneously stowing the sail, and in most cases I actually only need to put the engine in gear briefly at the very end of the process. In many cases I needn’t put the engine in gear at all, and it is running only as a precaution.

If I’m picking up a mooring, I usually douse the sail immediately afterwards, to keep the boat from sailing around on it. But once the sail is down (see photo up top) I can just leave it there and tidy it up and tie in the stops at my leisure. If I’m dropping an anchor, what I usually do is back the main by hand by pushing the boom up to windward to get the boat backing down on its anchor rode. Then I drop the sail and focus on perfecting my set before putting the stops on.

I’m sure some of you are now slapping your foreheads, remarking on what a dope I am for not figuring this out earlier, because you, in your infinite wisdom, have been doing it this way all along. But I don’t guess there are too many of those. I’ve been watching sailboats come into anchorages and mooring fields for decades now, and most people have their mainsails stowed long before they park.

Many more of you, I’m sure, are thinking what I really need to do is install lazyjacks, so I can just release the main halyard during a parking approach and worry about tying in the stops whenever, or maybe even never. But personally I’ve always found lazyjacks to be a major nuisance when you’re doing anything with a mainsail other than dropping it.

Others, of course, may be patting themselves on the back for having in-mast furling mainsails, but I am even more prejudiced against those than I am against lazyjacks. Crippling your sail’s performance just so you can put it away easily seems like a non-starter to me, unless you’re dealing with a very large mainsail on a very large boat.

One big advantage of mooring or anchoring a boat with the mainsail up is that it makes you look competent. Like maybe you’re Don Street or Larry Pardey and don’t even need an engine to park your boat. If this is what you actually aspire to, this is a very good way to practice before you do in fact throw your engine overboard.

There are certain provisos. First, you should in fact be reasonably competent at picking up a mooring or setting an anchor before trying this, particularly if you are sailing singlehanded. If parking is always a fire drill for you, having the mainsail up during the drill won’t make it any less exciting. I’m now accustomed to having the main up during a normal head-to-wind approach, but in an unusual situation where, say, due to strong current I had to come in downwind or across the wind I would probably take it down first.

Second, you do have to pick your moments. When making an approach, if I can’t see clearly where I’ll be ending up–i.e., if I obviously will have to hunt around for a mooring or a spot to anchor–I still drop the main beforehand. I also still do this if the mooring field or anchorage in question is crowded and the wind is blowing hard.

With competent crew aboard you can cut your provisos much more closely, perhaps even delete them, but if you’e singlehanded I think it’s still smart to be cautious.

When the Army Runs a Carnival

Sail Feed - Mon, 2014-08-04 21:46

One of the first rules of cruising is: accept every invitation. (This is also one of the first rules of life, especially for an introvert like me.) So, when a friend invited us to the local military open house, I said yes.
“It’s lots of fun,” said Camille. “They have lots of activities for the kids.”
I nodded, and wondered what that meant. I was a little surprised that Camille, of all people, was suggesting this outing.  This is a woman who steadfastly refuses to let her kids watch violence on television, play mock-battles, or otherwise engage in any aggressive activity.
“If Camille thinks this is a wholesome family activity,” I thought, “then it must be okay.”
So, on a cloudy Sunday morning, we headed out to Camp Broche, more properly known as Régiment d’Infanterie de Marine du Pacifique Nouvelle-Calédonie.

We have seen a lot of signs of the military over our four years on the water.  As we travelled down the East coast of the USA and through the Caribbean, we saw Coast Guard ships, aircraft carriers and submarines. We heard notices on VHF 16 warning us away from certain zones while exercises were being performed. As we sailed down the ICW toward Norfolk, Virginia, a very polite young man on the enormous warship behind us asked if they might sidle past. 

Ma’am, would you mind if we passed you?


Most of our military experiences have been with Americans, and I can sum them up this way: always polite, always correct, always at arm’s length. If you want cuddly, don’t go looking to the US. If you want a tour of a naval vessel, you’re far better advised to snag a Kiwi captain in the ice cream shop, as we did.

When we first arrived in Noumea, we anchored in Baie d’Orphelinat, which, in French style, doubles as a practice area for the military. As we enjoyed a morning cup of tea, we watched troops jump out of planes, swim across the bay in full gear (rifles at the ready), and practice the shoreline obstacle course. With that in the back of my mind, I wondered just what these tough men and women had planned for us at Camp Broche.

I shouldn’t have worried. I think I put it best in an email to Erik later that evening:

Subject: zomfg best day ever!!!

The défense open house was a hoot!  Imagine an elementary school carnival run by the army, French-style.  It was surreal and hilarious, and I am so sorry you missed it.  Attached is a by-no-means comprehensive selection of what we did. And then I proceeded to send Erik a thousand pictures of our day. I’m conflicted.  On the one hand, war is a serious business. You may not glamorize it. That is not cool. On the other hand, this was probably the most fun outing we’ve had in New Cal. And it was not a day of “kill, kill, kill” – it was more, “Lookit! We have the coolest gear!”

We started with the obstacle course:

Followed by some light mine sweeping:

A quick trip through the night vision obstacle course:

Down a zipline from three stories up:

And a quick ride on a police motorcycle, just to round things out:

Lest we forget where this all took place, there were some rather French-specific carnival games mixed in.  Aside from familiar stand-bys such as the fishpond and the dart throw, there was also the Egg Smash.

“What is that?” I asked Camille, pointing to the tent.
She shrugged. “Just the egg smash. You know, they put raw eggs on a stump, then you throw boules at them.”
I looked in the tent.  Sure enough, people of all ages were lined up to throw bocce balls at eggs on a stump. I still can’t get my head around it.

Is this really happening? Yep, I see it, too. People, this is why you travel.  Not just to watch your kids hurtle down a zipline into the arms of a waiting 18-year old in camo gear. But also to smash eggs for no good reason.

AUTOPILOT FAILURE: Back Across the Gulf of Maine

Sail Feed - Mon, 2014-08-04 14:44

I knew this day would come. I recently discussed having to make up new wood-chip “fuses” for the “electric vane” rig on Lunacy, and in the whole time I’ve owned the boat, about eight years now, this has been the only repair I’ve had to do to keep my autopilot system going. But the small tiller-pilot that is the brains of the operation is very old, and I did expect it would fail eventually. Which is what happened when Mr. Lassen and I were scuttling home from Nova Scotia a few days ago.

It wasn’t a big deal at the time, as I have two back-up systems and immediately deployed both, per the photo up top. There is another tiller-pilot, a larger one, that connects directly to the tiller in the conventional fashion, rather than the windvane head, and this can steer the boat when motoring or in light sailing conditions. Also, of course, the wind paddle can be installed on the vane head, so the windvane can be used in the regular way, with the wind instead of the little tiller-pilot providing course data. In the photo here I’ve locked the vane head and dropped the paddle, as the big tiller-pilot is actually doing the steering.

I always worried about having to replace the antique Autohelm 2000 unit I connected to the windvane, until last year that is, when my good friend Jay Paris, a yacht designer and SAIL Magazine’s technical consultant of many decades standing, stepped aboard Lunacy and saw my steering rig.

“I have something for you,” he said with his patented dead-pan smile.

And miracle of miracles, a week later he presented me with a brand new never-been-used Autohelm 2000 unit, still in its original packaging. He explained he had been given this many moons ago to maybe test someday for the magazine, but had never actually gotten around to it.

My old and new Autohelm 2000 units side by side

Googling around a bit I see that Autohelm wasn’t acquired by Raytheon’s recreational marine division (now Raymarine) until 1990, so I reckon my “new” pilot was produced sometime in the late 1980s.

I reckon too I’ll have to give Jay a big hug and a kiss next time I see him.

Beyond the pilot failure, our Gulf of Maine transit was fairly routine. We left Lockeport in Nova Scotia early on Wednesday and all that day, passing around Cape Sable and out into the Gulf, were motoring in heavy fog. Thursday morning the fog finally lifted and we got just enough breeze to start sailing.

Closehauled in the Gulf, before the pilot failed

It’s always a fantastic feeling, after spending many hours afloat in fog, when you can at last see again. And it is also a fantastic feeling, after spending many hours motoring, when you can at last shut down the engine. So we spent all day Thursday in a double-fantastic-feeling sort of mood.

Mr. Lassen celebrated by donning his favorite tropical holiday shirt.

And I celebrated by doing a little product placement for beer and cigar companies.

Late in the day, on toward sunset, the wind picked up and our sailing angle opened up to a close reach. We had a fast easy night and managed to reach Casco Bay just before sunrise on Friday.

I’ll let you know how it goes getting the new pilot up to speed. Initially the only problem I anticipated was finding a DriPlug connector so I could plug the new control unit’s power line into my existing deck socket. But lo, it turns out the new unit actually comes with a DriPlug connector. So no worries there.

Also, I did figure out that DriPlug, a British firm, is still in business. These on-deck 12-volt fittings work great and are very secure and weatherproof. Lunacy‘s original owner, Bob Petterson, installed them all over the boat many years ago and they’ve never given me a lick of trouble.

AUTOPILOT FAILURE: Back Across the Gulf of Maine

Sail Feed - Mon, 2014-08-04 14:44

I knew this day would come. I recently discussed having to make up new wood-chip “fuses” for the “electric vane” rig on Lunacy, and in the whole time I’ve owned the boat, about eight years now, this has been the only repair I’ve had to do to keep my autopilot system going. But the small tiller-pilot that is the brains of the operation is very old, and I did expect it would fail eventually. Which is what happened when Mr. Lassen and I were scuttling home from Nova Scotia a few days ago.

It wasn’t a big deal at the time, as I have two back-up systems and immediately deployed both, per the photo up top. There is another tiller-pilot, a larger one, that connects directly to the tiller in the conventional fashion, rather than the windvane head, and this can steer the boat when motoring or in light sailing conditions. Also, of course, the wind paddle can be installed on the vane head, so the windvane can be used in the regular way, with the wind instead of the little tiller-pilot providing course data. In the photo here I’ve locked the vane head and dropped the paddle, as the big tiller-pilot is actually doing the steering.

I always worried about having to replace the antique Autohelm 2000 unit I connected to the windvane, until last year that is, when my good friend Jay Paris, a yacht designer and SAIL Magazine’s technical consultant of many decades standing, stepped aboard Lunacy and saw my steering rig.

“I have something for you,” he said with his patented dead-pan smile.

And miracle of miracles, a week later he presented me with a brand new never-been-used Autohelm 2000 unit, still in its original packaging. He explained he had been given this many moons ago to maybe test someday for the magazine, but had never actually gotten around to it.

My old and new Autohelm 2000 units side by side

Googling around a bit I see that Autohelm wasn’t acquired by Raytheon’s recreational marine division (now Raymarine) until 1990, so I reckon my “new” pilot was produced sometime in the late 1980s.

I reckon too I’ll have to give Jay a big hug and a kiss next time I see him.

Beyond the pilot failure, our Gulf of Maine transit was fairly routine. We left Lockeport in Nova Scotia early on Wednesday and all that day, passing around Cape Sable and out into the Gulf, were motoring in heavy fog. Thursday morning the fog finally lifted and we got just enough breeze to start sailing.

Closehauled in the Gulf, before the pilot failed

It’s always a fantastic feeling, after spending many hours afloat in fog, when you can at last see again. And it is also a fantastic feeling, after spending many hours motoring, when you can at last shut down the engine. So we spent all day Thursday in a double-fantastic-feeling sort of mood.

Mr. Lassen celebrated by donning his favorite tropical holiday shirt.

And I celebrated by doing a little product placement for beer and cigar companies.

Late in the day, on toward sunset, the wind picked up and our sailing angle opened up to a close reach. We had a fast easy night and managed to reach Casco Bay just before sunrise on Friday.

I’ll let you know how it goes getting the new pilot up to speed. Initially the only problem I anticipated was finding a DriPlug connector so I could plug the new control unit’s power line into my existing deck socket. But lo, it turns out the new unit actually comes with a DriPlug connector. So no worries there.

Also, I did figure out that DriPlug, a British firm, is still in business. These on-deck 12-volt fittings work great and are very secure and weatherproof. Lunacy‘s original owner, Bob Petterson, installed them all over the boat many years ago and they’ve never given me a lick of trouble.

59º North Podcast: Ret. USCG Rescue Swimmer Mario Vittone

Sail Feed - Sun, 2014-08-03 23:10

Mario Vittone is a Navy vet and retired USCG rescue swimmer with a resume that will blow your mind. Andy got in touch with him via a mutual friend, and had an interesting chat about his experience in helo rescues at sea, cold water immersion, safety offshore and more. They discussed the recent Cheeki Rafiki search, the sinking of the Bounty and how Mario’s career has recently transitioned from on-the-scene rescue ops to consultancy work and a successful writing career. Mario writes regularly on gCaptain.com and for various industry magazines and publications. Check out his own website at mariovittone.com. Enjoy episode 41!

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