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A few words on rigs

Sail Feed - Wed, 2014-04-02 10:05
I wrote this for my buddies blog.  www.SailFarLiveFree.com I have done several entries for him and he lets me use them here. Rigs are always fun to discuss. Everyone is an expert. I think I am an expert too. Like any discussion of yacht design elements I engage in, my first piece of advice is not to generalize. There are good sloops and bad sloops. There are good cutters and bad cutters. You get the picture. We can discuss efficiency and we can discuss personal preferences. The two can be at odds and often are. We can talk about evolution of rigs and why they became popular in the first place, i.e. handicap rule influences. I’ll also try to talk about the advantages to each rig when I think there is an advantage. And, like many other aspects of yacht design, simply saying, “I like this rig because I just like the way it looks” is a good attitude. So long as you don’t endow your favorite rig with a bunch of bogus positive attributes. I did a schooner for a client and I tried very hard to convince him that a cutter would be the better rig for what he had in mind. In the end he said, “I like schooners because I like the way they look.” End of discussion. Yoni is a custom 50′ cutter with all headsails carried
on roller furling. That’s a lot of windage forward when
you need to dock the boat in a blow. It’s pretty obvious today that the most efficient rig is a single, wing sail with variable segments that allow camber and twist control. We saw this type of rig at work in the last America’s Cup. So that is one extreme end of the rig efficiency spectrum. I’m not sure what goes at the other, far end. Maybe it’s a loose-footed sprit sail catboat?  Sliding gunter? Not sure. There are so many inefficient rigs that I shouldn’t generalize. It’s probably safe to say that none of us own boats with wing sails. However, I know that Beneteau is playing around with some wing sail models, so who knows? Maybe in a year or two wing sails will be seen on Mom and Pop boats. But not yet. The simplest rig is the catboat with one mast, one sail, one halyard (two if it’s gaff rigged, peak and throat) and one sheet. This simple rig was made famous by the Cape Cod catboats in the US. Some Cape Cod cats flew very small jibs from short bowsprits but I still think of them as catboats. I like catboats and I have sailed a few. I have spent a lot of time sailing a 12′ Beetle Cat. The downside to a cat rig is that as the boat gets larger the single sail on a long boom can become difficult to handle. Jibing a big catboat in a breeze can also be a challenge. Sometime you just have to bite the bullet and tack the boat rather than risk a flying jibe. The other quirky attribute of many catboats is that they can build up massive weather helm when pressed on a reach. We’ll talk a lot about helm balance in this entry. I always prefer a boat to have a delicate helm feel and have the ability to be driven hard without having to fight too much rudder angle. Weather helm on a traditional catboat is just part of the picture. Kind of like a bumpy ride in a Morgan sports car. Mark Ellis designed the Nonsuch series as modern catboats marrying the convenience of a one-sail rig with a modern hull form. The Ellis catboat hulls have moderate beam as opposed to the exaggerated beam of the Cape Cod type catboat.  Extreme beam can be one cause of weather helm. I have sailed the big Nonsuch, a 36′er as I recall, and I thought it balanced beautifully and had a good turn of speed. Another feature of the Nonsuch rig is that the mast is free standing, i.e. no standing rigging. This allows the mast to bend off to leeward in a breeze “depowering” the sail to help keep the boat on its feet. But the real negative side of the cat rig is its lack of versatility. When you just have one sail, the only options you have are reefing the sail.  Downwind you will not be flying a spinnaker from a Nonsuch. Although I suppose with some fussing with hardware and a bowsprit it’s possible.  If you want a rig that is truly versatile, you need to look at the sloop rig. The term “sloop rig”  includes a wide variety of types with a mainsail and a jib. The two basic sloop types would be gaff rigged and Marconi rigged. But today gaff rigs are pretty rare so let’s confine our study to the Marconi rigged sloop. I like gaff rigs but it’s hard to find a Mom and Pop production GRP boat that came with a gaff rig. I can’t think of any. So, confining our discussion to the Marconi rig the two basic sloop rigs would be masthead with the headstay going to the masthead, and fractional with the headstay going up some portion of the mast but stopping short of the masthead. The spot where the headstay hits the mast is called the “hounds”. Amati is a modern fractional sloop with a large mainsail
and small fore triangle. This is a very easy boat to sail. The masthead sloop rig can be very simple and strong. On older boats you will probably have single spreaders, fore and aft lowers, inline cap shrouds and a standing backstay. If your boat is newer and more performance oriented, you may have two sets of spreaders with inline single lower shrouds. You may even have a forward “baby stay” to help stabilize the middle section of the mast fore and aft. The more spreaders you have the lighter the mast extrusion or “section” can be. But as you reduce the mast section and add spreaders you increase the complexity of tuning the rig and at the same time you increase the scrutiny required to keep the bendier, light section in column. The mast can see a compressive load equal to the displacement of the boat so the mast must be kept “in column”. The benefits of the masthead sloop are its simplicity and strength. The drawback is that the fore triangle will most probably be large. If your boat came out of the IOR era you will have a large fore triangle and a small, perhaps even IOR minimum, main. We called these IOR mains “blades”. Not to be confused with “blade” jibs. Blade just means a tall and skinny, high aspect ratio sail. With a big fore triangle your options for reducing sail are reefing the main or changing to a smaller jib. The masthead sloops of the last 30+ years generally carried genoa jibs with overlap as high as 160% of the “J” dimension, front side of mast to headstay tack location. Overlap is measured as LP or luff perpendicular and is expressed as a percentage of the “J” dimension. So, a 153% genoa on a boat with a 16′ “J” will have an LP of 24.48′. Overlapping sails can add a lot of useful sail area but they can be a nuisance to handle and tack. There is also quite a bit of controversy over just how effective overlap is once you get beyond about 124% LP. For a full and versatile headsail inventory, your typical production masthead sloop would need to carry at least three headsails to be ready for a range of conditions. That does not include a spinnaker or a storm jib. I would guess a 150% genny, a 120% genny and a 95% jib would be a reasonable headsail inventory. But today with almost everyone using roller furling I see a lot of sailors trying to get by on one all-purpose jib. It works, sort of. But in many conditions you are going to be compromised if you try and make one headsail fit all conditions. I grew up changing headsails to fit the conditions. Modern, matrix type sail fabric can help a lot if you are after a multi-purpose genoa. As part of the trickledown effect from racing classes, cruisers soon realized that the fractional sloop rig with its small fore triangle and large mainsail was a far easier rig to use than the old masthead rig. For one thing, the big sail, the mainsail, is on the boom so that alone makes it easier to handle. With a small fore triangle, jib size is no longer so critical. Now you can get by very comfortably with two jibs. With the mast moved forward for the fractional rig and the headstay hounds dropped, the fore triangle is reduced in size so jib overlap is no longer so  important. Your main is now the important sail. Now jib LP’s can be reduced to 120% of “J” or even less. The less overlap the easier it is to tack the jib. On my own boat with a fractional rig, I used a 100% jib for heavy air and a 120% jib the rest of the time. If you fly an asymmetrical spinnaker (i.e. cruising chute) from the masthead, the gap between the hounds and the masthead makes it easier to fly the chute as it gets it away from the headstay. Another benefit of the fractional rig is that now the mast has been moved forward. The “frac” rigged boat will sail much better under mainsail alone than will most masthead rigged sloops with their masts further aft. The frac rigged boat will also have a better helm feel under main alone. You still need your jib up to get the most out of the boat but sometimes we feel lazy and we may not feel like reefing or changing jibs. Free Range Chicken is a modern frac rigged sloop for long distance cruising Regarding this “fraction”; you will hear a “7/8th‘s rig” or an “80% rig” This is the percentage of “I”, mast height, up the mast to where the hounds are located. But it’s not important. I never calculate it. I just use target sail areas and distribution of sail area to determine the height of the headstay. I don’t think I’ll talk about styles of standing rigging this time. Needless to say almost every new Mom and Pop production boat has swept spreaders. This means one set of chainplates so it’s a cheaper boat to build than the old fore, cap and aft shroud, inline rig. It’s a better rig as it is cleaner and easier to tack the jib around. The Baba 30 is a typical bowsprit cutter. She was always well balanced. I think I have designed more cutter rigs than any other living designer. I won’t count them for you but trust me. I know the cutter rig. I have sailed many different cutters. The cutter has been around forever. I think the current popularity of the cutter rig comes from the early 70′s when the Westsail was introduced.  Prior to that, the knee jerk rig choice for an offshore cruising boat was the ketch rig. I followed the Westsail 32 with the Valiant 40 and the Tayana 37 and in no time the cutter rig was the automatic choice for the cruiser. Why? Having three working sails gave you more options than having two. Instead of reefing the main you could drop the outer jib, sometimes a Yankee jib, and fly a staysail and mainsail. Often this loaded up the boat with weather helm as the center of pressure moved aft. A better way to reduce sail would be to reef the main first. Then drop the Yankee. Obviously this sail reduction sequence will vary with the boat’s handling characteristics and your personal sailing style. But in general, getting the main reefed moves the center of pressure of the rig forward and in so doing, reefing the main first will reduce weather helm. A bad way to reduce sail on a cutter is to drop the staysail first. This leaves you under full main and Yankee with a big hole between those two sails. It is not efficient. Your headsail and your main want to function basically like one big foil. Most Yankees have high clews so their center of pressure is high and this adds to heeling moment. I’m not a huge fan of high clewed Yankees.  My rule of thumb is that the clew of the Yankee should be no higher than I can reach when the boat is heeled over. If I were going to rig a cutter for myself to use in the PNW I would have the outer jib cut more like a 135% genoa with the clew maybe just a bit above the top lifeline. It would be more of a genoa than a Yankee. I would not use the staysail for beating. I’d only use the staysail for reaching in conjunction with the genny or alone in heavy air. In most cutters your best performance to weather, i.e. your best VMG (velocity made good) will be achieved without the staysail. Trying to get three sails lined up and drawing well hard on the wind is only possible on a fat, non weatherly hull where your AWA (apparent wind angle) would be 40 degrees or more. The staysail can work. But if you are looking for an AWA closer to 34 to 32 degrees, as I would on a Valiant 40, then the staysail is not going to help. It will just suffocate the mainsail. A trick I do with the staysail when running downwind is to pole out the genoa or Yankee to weather. Then drop the staysail and unhank it from the inner forestay. Next I move the tack of the staysail forward to where the tack of the genoa or Yankee is. I hoist the staysail “flying” – not attached to any headstay or inner forestay. I trim to leeward. Doing this gets the staysail out from the bad air of the mainsail. I’m not sure this would be good for your staysail if you were running downwind for three days, but cruising around the Sound I can’t imagine it does any harm. Downwind the loads on the luff are relatively light. I’ve mucked around racing cutters for years and this is what my own experiments in sail choice and trim have taught me. In last year’s Race Your House race, for liveaboards, I raced my pal Donn’s Baba 35, pilot house model. This is hardly a race boat and is about as cruisy as it can get. We had good sails and I had Donn, his wife, Kerry and an Australian buddy of mine for crew.  We were racing against a diverse class of boats and many were newer fin keel types. We placed second in class and beat a lot of boats boat-for-boat that should have beaten us. We had a good breeze for most of the race and we drove the boat very hard. We made that traditional cutter go. We did not use the staysail except off the wind. White Eagle (now Wild Horses) is another modern version of the cutter rig I’ll tell you what annoys me a wee bit. I hate those cute names like “slutter” and “cutter rigged sloop” or the worst one, “cutter rigged ketch”. We already have all the terms we need to describe rigs that have been around for 200 years.  A sloop is a sloop. If someone chooses to add a staysail it’s still a sloop. If someone has a staysail on their ketch the boat is still just a ketch. I’m not in favor of adding a staysail to a sloop. Generally the mast of a sloop is further forward than that of a cutter so there is little room in the fore triangle to jam another jib. But I understand the appeal of the staysail for heavy air. It’s very convenient. I also like to see the sail area forward for a blow. When the boat is on its ear it will build up weather helm. Keeping sail area forward will help. If I owned a sloop and I wanted to carry a staysail for heavy air I would locate the tack of the staysail as far forward as possible, right on the stem fitting if there was room for it (There usually isn’t). I’d locate the hounds for the staysail at the upper spreader if I had two spreaders. This would be what I call a “Solent rig”. It’s pretty much changing the rig from masthead geometry to fractional geometry and it keeps the center of pressure forward. I said “don’t generalize” then I spent 2,300 words generalizing. But I think there are some nuggets of rig wisdom here. I’ll take a look at “split rigs”, i.e. ketches, yawls and schooners in another follow-up blog entry. -BP Want more of Bob Perry’s perspective on sailing and sailboat design? Get it here:

I’m trying something new today

Sail Feed - Wed, 2014-04-02 09:24

These wonderful; photos of FRANKIE were taken by our pal Boomer Dep. He and his lovely daughter spent the day on a chase boat covering every angle of FRANKIE. Thanks Boomer. Thanks Boomer’s daughter.

Here are some photos of FRANCIS LEE on her first sail. It was a wonderful day, with no rain and just a light breeze. Maybe we saw 8 knots of wind at one time. There was a race starting so we sort of tagged along without getting on anyone’s air. Frankie is very fast, well balanced and very close winded. As far as I can tell in less than 8 knots of wind anyway.

Take the Long Way Home

Sail Feed - Wed, 2014-04-02 07:29

It’s 0600 on Wednesday morning. April 2nd. Sojourner is in position 33 28 N, 77 53 W, motor sailing ENE and headed straight for Cape Hatteras, which lays about 100 miles over the horizon ahead. Venus, now the morning star, is about ten degrees above the horizon off the starboard now, to our east. A glimmer of sunlight, the new day dawning, is visible just below. But to me, in the dark cockpit, it’s still night, and I’ll savor it’s last death throes while all remains quiet on board. While my dad and Tom sleep, this is my time. The time at sea I treasure the most.

We departed Charleston yesterday around 1100 after seeing Billy off for his long drive back to Chestertown, MD. His work schedule, combined with our longer-than-expected journey home forced him to bail. But he wasn’t leaving us in the lurch by any means – three people offshore is really my ideal number anyway, and Tom has proven himself a more than capable ocean sailor and, more importantly, fantastic, friendly company. He first sailed with us up from St. Croix to Marsh Harbor in February, and we quickly invited him back for the leg home. He and his wife Darlene plan on accompanying me on the return delivery aboard Sleijride after the Newport-Bermuda Race.

My plan when I set the calendar back in January didn’t include a stopover in Charleston or a twelve-hour day motoring up the ICW. Dad wanted help bringing Sojourner home from St. Lucia, his farthest landfall since leaving the Bay with the Caribbean 1500 in the fall. For the last seven years or so we’d always planned to do that trip together – hell, it’s part of the reason he bought the boat he bought, a Wauquiez Hood 38 and an eminently capable ocean sailing yacht. But life interfered, in the worst way. My mom, his lifelong partner and first mate – they’d been married for 37 years – died after a protracted experience with brain cancer in the spring of 2012. Our family has never returned to normal since then, and it never will. But we make the best of it in mom’s honor and live on.

But Dad persevered, and with a dogged determinism and renewed vigor, set about to do the trip anyway, which my mom undoubtedly would have encouraged him to do. As I was now running the event, we wouldn’t be able to sail together. In a fitting twist of fate, his cousins, both experienced sailors, and a friend agreed to join him and they had a hell of a run south in one of the rougher Caribbean 1500′s in recent memory. Early on, I committed to helping him bring the boat north, planned around my busy travel schedule, and here we are, 1800 miles from St. Lucia with still about 350 to go.

I did not plan to take this long way home from Marsh Harbor. Up until the last week, we’d been able to make a beeline from St. Lucia. Besides the brief stop in St. Croix to change crew (which I need to mention included my dads new girlfriend Marcia, whose new to sailing but is remarkably keen. It’s still strange seeing my dad with a different woman, but he’s happy and I’m supportive. I think it’ll always be strange – it has to be – but that doesn’t mean it can’t also be good. Life goes on and we do our best to enjoy the time we have. My mom would no doubt approve, and therefore, so do I). ANYWAY, the nine sailing days it took to go 1200 miles from St. Lucia to Marsh Harbor were arguably the best nine consecutive days I’ve ever had offshore. We broad reached ahead of 20 knot winds, clear, dry skies and a long regular swell. We should have known better that I couldn’t last.

It’s decidedly early in the season to be sailing north, particularly with this crazy winter we’re having, what with the par vortex and all. Billy and I flew south from Dulles only a week ago, and as the plane took off the snow was still coming down. Such an early-season passage requires conservative planning. Instead of going direct to Hatteras offshore, like I would have preferred, we aimed instead for Jacksonville, 300 miles NW but really in the wrong direction. But we had to, for another low was brewing and we were only offered a 48 hour window.

Those first two days were good sailing, but tough on the crew, who all, except for dad, were seasick, myself included. I wore a scopolamine patch for the first time, and though I never puked, I wasn’t real comfortable. As we approached Jacksonville, the SW wind was holding steady. A couple thunderstorms passed north and south of us ahead of the cold front, with strong lightning all around and heavy rain – but no wind. It quickly cleared and a gentle breeze filled in behind it, so we decided to press on and try to make Savannah, another 12 hours distant.

All was well as we sailed in a port tack with a nice westerly breeze. Until about 0100, when the front, a strong one, finally overtook us. I was in the vee berth an was woken to crashing and banging and bouncing about an hour before my watch was set to start. I laid there for a little but knew we were really overpowered and that I’d have to go up and help Billy shorten sail. I geared up – by now it was into he low 50s at night – and emerged on deck to a howling northwesterly. The skies were crystal clear as a cold winters day, and the stars were out in force. The loom of the mainland USA was visible to the west. And Sojourner was taking a beating. Billy and I struggled to furl the genoa, which rolled so tight in the string wind that we ran out of furling line, leaving a tiny scrap of headsail exposed. With two reefs in the main and now beating, thanks to the wind shift, we motor-sailed the last eight hours towards Savannah, crashing into steep waves that continually found there way into the cockpit. The water temperature read 57 degrees and felt colder.

Dad was on watch as we entered the inlet, now aiming directly upwind. I furled the mainsail, and with the nine screaming, we pushed on at barely 3 knots through the northwesterly gale, the waves finally abating as we found shelter in the ICW. Had the wind been from th east there is no way we’d have been able to make that inlet, as the seaway it would have created would have been dangerous. The NW wind, though howling, was coming off the land, and the water was more or less protected inshore. Not wanting to backtrack up the river to Savannah, we called customs and arranged for the to meet us the next day in Charleston. We spent that first night on the ICW cooped up at anchor with the Q flag flying, and it wasn’t until 7pm the next day that we could finally get off the boat after dealing with the authorities.

So now we are nearly on the home stretch, though its taken longer than I’d hoped. I miss my wife Mia and am anxious to get home, but I want to see this trip through to the end with my dad. It’s kind of fitting that after we drop Tom off in Deltaville it will just be the two of us for the last bit up the Bay. I’m pretty happy with how our plan played out. You’re always at the mercy of the weather offshore, but particularly in the margins of e seasons, you’ve got to play it safe. Hatteras remains a daunting obstacle, but it’s just over the horizon now.


San Francisco Bay, Still the Wilder West

Sail Feed - Tue, 2014-04-01 18:16

Illustration © Kiteboat Project

By Kimball Livingston Posted April 1, but we’re not joking

Four hundred sixty square miles on the surface at high tide, two trillion gallons in volume, more or less, twice a day, on the exchange of tides, that is San Francisco Bay. And a why-not ethos. As in, why not use kites to power boats? At the Kiteboat Project, the answer is, why not, indeed?

Going far beyond theory from its skunkworks on Alameda Island, on the eastern reach of San Francisco Bay, the Kiteboat Project has dazzled everyone who caught a glimpse of the results. The thing looks fast just sitting still, but it doesn’t have a mast and . . .

Former pro windsurfer-kitesurfer/sail designer Don Montague has been at this for a few years now, but it’s a fellow named Joe Brock who usually gets to drive.

Here is the thesis, as developed at the Kiteboat Project web site:

“The advantages of a kiteboat over a traditional sailboat are manifold. As a kite pulls a boat, it does not also heel the boat over or pitch it forward as a sail does. This fact means that a kiteboat does not require large counterbalancing forces which, in opposing the heeling and pitching forces of a sail, create drag and present practical problems. The absence of this behavior means that the only limit on kite size is kite control, since increasing the power made by the kite does not require increasing ballast or beam, for example, which are limiting factors on a sailboat. Kites can fly higher than sails, too, which grants them access to stronger, steadier, higher-altitude winds, and kites can be maneuvered through the air to create more apparent wind. This maneuvering generates extra power, which is not possible with a fixed sail on a mast.

“Finally, a kite lifts the boat out of the water as it propels it forward, which effectively reduces the displacement and decreases drag. While any boat would benefit from this boost, a hydrofoil benefits especially, because the kite reduces the amount of lift required from (and drag created by) the foils, and the lack of heeling and pitching forces makes reliably maintaining trim and ride height much more practicable. It is not necessary for a kiteboat to be a hydrofoil boat, but for us, this configuration represents a perfect marriage of technology.”

This, btw, isn’t necessarily the wildest thing these folks are into, but the wraps are off of this baby.

Check the video at the Kiteboat Project

Myself, weather permitting, I’m hankering to take a ride on Friday on San Francisco Bay aboard a wing-powered boat whose developers have quietly gone their own way with their own unique purpose. Maybe I’ll even file a report.

Managing power on a cruising boat

Sail Feed - Tue, 2014-04-01 17:00

Living off the grid, providing your own power, is a tremendous feeling. On Totem, it’s one of the compelling aspects of life afloat, hand in hand with a more simple life and a lighter carbon footprint. Relying on our solar panels and wind turbine to supply power needs instead of plugging in is liberating.

That good juice from the sun and the wind is stored in our house battery bank. Currently, that bank has 660 amps total from six 220aH 6v AGM batteries.  When we have steady trade winds, and sunny days, these meet our needs pretty well. For a long stretch, that’s been enough. We’re all power-watching hounds: even the kids understand the numbers on our electrical panel that show the voltage level in the house bank, and the net amperage being used or added at any given time.

Lately,  we’re falling short on power needs. Part of it is generation. Part of it is use. Part of it is storage.

- On the generation side: as it happens, the equatorial zone where we find ourselves often has a lot of clouds- part of this whole convergence zone thing that produces squalls that increase seasonally, as they are now. Not great for solar power generation. It turns out isn’t known for having a lot of wind, either (you’ve heard of the doldrums?). There are windy squalls, yes, but they don’t last long; the steady trades aren’t here. The moniker “land below the wind” is well earned. We do have wind and sun and make power from both, just not at the level we’d like- but that’s relatively short term. Once we leave these low latitudes, we can more consistently generate green power.

- On the usage front: we’re simply using more energy now than we were back in 2008. Our biggest power hog is the refrigeration, which suffers mightily in the tropics: the 32 year old insulation is ineffective. Our needs are changing, too. As the kids get older, we’re losing more power to the #2 use after refrigeration: digital devices, primarily powering computers. That’s not going to change, so we have to.

- On the storage side: Totem’s house battery bank has been declining for a year. When marine batteries start to go, it’s possible to have a slow demise, but things can happen very very quickly. For a while, it was worrisome- juggling a lot of different projects on the boat, we weren’t sure when we’d be able to have the magic nexus of time and money to get a new set of batteries installed… but we had to. You don’t get a card to Pass Go wait once the batteries are dead.

The next few months are bringing a really exciting trifecta of power change to Totem. I never thought twice about our power use when we had a conventional land life, but I am positively tingly thinking about what’s coming up:

1. A Silentwind wind generator will soon significantly upgrade Totem’s wind power capability.
2. We are adding a solar panel. I big hearkin’ panel. It will double our solar-powered amps.
3. New batteries to replace our house bank are on on the way, and will increase our capacity by 50%.

This is huge. It’s going to take some work, but nothing we (or any self-sufficient cruiser) can’t handle, from building the box to hold the 600+ pounds of new batteries to installing the turbine and panels and wiring everything up.

What do you want to know about power on board? Who has solar, wind, or generators helping meet their needs? In the coming weeks, I’m going to get into detail on the work we’re doing and the changes that are happening to our own mini power grid, and want to make it as useful as possible.

Green energy fans like the Totem crew always like to read these posts on the Sailfeed website.

RIP Hobie Alter and Bob Billingham

Sail Feed - Mon, 2014-03-31 18:07

By Kimball Livingston Posted March 31, 2014

The news hit me when I was living life to the full and feeling every minute of it.

Somehow, that seems right.

The last time I saw Bob Billingham, he was setting up to do America’s Cup commentary in a setting that, as Project Manager, he had orchestrated. He showed no sign of the cancer or the treatments that had been in his foreground for years, and I never heard a word out of his own mouth about them. Nothing slowed Bob down until he hit the wall, and he hit the wall fast forward. In 2013, I heard a friend say that the America’s Cup was keeping him alive – to fill its demands – but Bob disappeared over the winter, and I started hearing of a fast slide, not to be talked about openly. Bob was never afraid of having a public presence, as long as it wasn’t “about” him.

Only a week ago I was writing about the naming of a racing mark in his honor, the Billingham Buoy, a mark on the cityfront of San Francisco. But I was fully briefed to not say what many of us knew, that Bob had run out of time. He died only five days later at home in Grass Valley, California, surrounded by family.

Hobie Alter? The man altered our world. From surfboards to an off-the-beach catamaran culture all its own to a 33-foot monohull type than can still win races, Hobie was a man, a name, a brand and a lifestyle. He once explained himself by way of saying that his goal in life was to “never have to wear hard-soled shoes or live east of the Pacific Coast Highway.” If he turned into a mountain man later on, well, he never was much on rules, even his own.

Thank you, Bob. Thank you, Hobie.


MYSTERIOUS DESTROYED YACHTS: Wrecks Found in West Indies and Off Australia

Sail Feed - Mon, 2014-03-31 15:21

I started following both these stories last week when they broke, and now I’m pretty curious to see how they play out. First: an apparently exploded 49-foot Jeanneau Sun Odyssey that was spotted on fire (see photo up top) a few miles west of St. Vincent last Wednesday. A local dive-tour operator, Kay Wilson, was first on the scene and found the boat’s British owner, John Edward Garner, 53, floating in the water in a life jacket with serious injuries to his face and legs. A burning liferaft and a waterproof ditch bag with a passport and other documents were also found floating near the burning yacht, which soon sank. Garner was rushed to a hospital ashore, but did not survive.

Authorities on St. Vincent suspect foul play and claim they are searching for Garner’s Norwegian partner, Heidi Hukkelaas, who may or may not be his wife and departed St. Vincent by plane two days before he died. She has been located back in Norway, but according to authorities there no West Indian authorities have sought access to her. According to Kay Wilson and Garner’s daughter, Elizabeth, there seems no reason to think the death was anything other than accidental. Meanwhile, according to a report by Yachting Monthly‘s Dick Durham, there is some evidence that the yacht, named Asante and registered in Gibraltar, may have been involved in some kind of tax avoidance scheme.

Asante at anchor with a Norwegian flag flying from one spreader

John Garner reportedly was a sailing instructor and British special-forces trainer

From the wee bit of info available, I’d say this very probably can’t have been a murder, but I suppose there is some small chance it might have been an Insure-and-Burn scheme gone wrong.

Mystery No. 2 involves the rig of a sunken yacht that an Australian trawler hooked into in 90 meters of water about 170 kilometers west of Darwin. The trawler, operated by Australia Bay Seafoods, spent six hours clearing its gear and found a mast, which may have been manufactured in New Zealand, and a sail that had been built in Sydney. Experts believe the rig had been submerged for 8 to 10 months, and local authorities are now planning to search for the rest of the wreck to see if there are bodies onboard.

Presumed location of the wreck

An Australia Bay Seafoods trawler

There has been some speculation that this might be the missing American yacht Nina, which disappeared west of New Zealand some time ago, but this seems a fairly preposterous notion.

HOUSEKEEPING NOTE: I had to turn off the comments I’m afraid, as the site was getting swamped by spam comments. Hopefully I’ll have my web guru updating everything starting later this week so we can regain control and let you have your say again.

Aluminum + Copper: A Horror Story

Sail Feed - Sun, 2014-03-30 21:23

Q:  My friend has a metal boat.  I had him over for beers last night, and all he talked about was electrolytic corrosion.  I love boat talk as much as the next sailor, but I nearly threw him overboard.  What is it with you metal boat people and your corrosion issues?*

A:  Electrolytic corrosion is the worst.  The worst!  It is a creeping horror ready to eat away our hulls and leave us sad and boatless.  I’m sorry your imaginary friend bored you, but this is a real concern for us.  Why?  Because a penny and a little saltwater could send us to the bottom of the sea.

For those of you in need of a chemistry review, galvanic corrosion (or electrolytic corrosion – same thing) happens when two metals are in contact in an electrolytic solution, like salt water.  Essentially, one metal will corrode preferentially to save the other.  The bad news for us is that Aluminum likes to give up its electrons to almost every other metal.

“Really?” asked Stylish after we explained for the 8,793rd time why Copper pennies do not make good toys.  “Can we try it?”
Hurrah!  Science day!
Erik found a couple of small pieces of Aluminum.  The girls gave the surface a light sanding.

We retrieved two pennies from The Evil Copper Jar.  I scooped up some marina water from beside the boat – neither the cleanest nor the saltiest, but it’s the water we’re in – and we were ready to go.

“Wait!” said Erik as I was putting the lid on the Tupperware pot.  He ran over and plunked two stainless steel washers on the aluminum.
I stared down into the pot.  “You can’t do that!  That isn’t a proper experiment!  Now we have three metals fighting it out in there.  That is terrible science.”
“We are testing a hypothesis, Daddy,” Stylish chimed in.
Erik made a noise.  “These are the things that fall in the bilge.  You’re modelling a real-life situation now.”
I just shook my head.  Engineers, I tell you.

Day 0. Washers present under protest from the scientific community aboard.

And here we were, Day 0.  The water looks clean, the Aluminum looks clean, and everything is shiny.

That didn’t last long.

Day 3 – looking fuzzy.

Within a day, the water started to cloud.  By day 3, there was a definite snowdrift in the pot.  And what is that snow made of?  Yep.  Aluminum.

Day 19 – ugly, very ugly.

By day 19, things were downright terrifying.  The aluminum pieces had discolored, and the sprinkling of Aluminum snow was big enough to build a tiny snowman.

The Aluminum drift up close. That was less than three weeks in only brackish water, with no worries about stray currents turning the whole operation into a serious battery.  Even with the Copper/stainless steel issue (sigh), you can still see that this is Not Good.  We all agreed to pull the plug on the experiment, because no one wanted to see how much worse it would get.  Well, maybe Indy, but the damage was already obvious, and I needed my pot back. And so, dear reader, that is why metal boat owners get a little twitchy about maintaining their zincs and staying away from electrical currents.  Have a little pity on us.  And, in return, we promise to listen to you and your osmosis woes.

* Yes, I totally made up this question myself.

Vesper XB-8000 test, much more than a Class B AIS transponder

Sail Feed - Sun, 2014-03-30 15:00

Written by Ben Ellison on Mar 30, 2014 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub

I’ve had a Vesper XB-8000 installed in the lab for the last month, and I’m confident that it will do well in a long test on board Gizmo beginning in May. I will miss some features of the Vesper Vision I tested last season, but having the blue box installed behind the scenes will help me test the glass bridge concept (one MFD brand, many screens), and at $799 I think the XB-8000 is a multifunction value that could work on a wide variety of vessels. The recent testing also revealed some new features that apply to both the XB and the Vision as Vesper continues to expand on the concepts expressed in the 3-in-1 diagram above…

Let’s start with a look at XB-8000 results. The SEAiq app above is running on an iPad that’s connected by WiFi to the XB and it’s showing the same GPS and AIS data I saw coming from the Vision last summer. That’s quite useful in itself, but note the addition of depth and wind. The XB-8000 (or the Vision) can now serve as a NMEA 2000 gateway, translating data on my network into a form that can travel over WiFi and that many apps can understand. Only major N2K message types (PGNs) are supported – wind, depth, speed, heading, log and temperature so far — but the XB (and Vision) have other data gateway and multiplexer features.

Above is a screen from the much revamped Vesper PC (and Mac) Configuration and Status Utility software that owners can download here. Many of the settings aren’t available for any other transponder I’m aware of. For instance, checking those NMEA 0183 boxes above means that I could be sending the translated 2000 wind, depth, etc. data to an older MFD that didn’t have an N2K port or to a charting program running on the same PC that’s connected to the XB-8000 by USB cable (or via WiFi, as seen in the screen below).

Vesper has also significantly improved its NMEA 2000 GPS output. It’s always been confusing that while Class B AIS transponders are required to have good GPS receivers built in, their NMEA 0183 or 2000 GPS output is often unusable by other devices. This is true because many MFDs and chart plotters won’t recognize GPS as valid unless they see some or all of the secondary GPS data messages like “satellites in view,” but the standard NMEA 0183 AIS connection — though called “high speed” at 38,400 baud — barely has enough bandwidth to carry all the AIS target info for a busy area.
While charting apps and PC programs are often more liberal about GPS validity, it’s always seemed possible that a transponder with a much wider bandwidth N2K connection could provide enough GPS data to be the primary or backup GPS source for the fussier plotters on a network. As far as I know, though, Vesper is the first to do it, as partially illustrated above, and I saw it work pretty well in the lab. 

The Raymarine a77 and e127 (that I’ve been testing LightHouse II on) as well as the Simrad NSS8 MFD and RS35 VHF radio all see the XB-8000 as a valid source of NMEA 2000 GPS (and of course all the MFDs also displayed the AIS target data it’s outputting). The Ray and Simrad GPS diagnostic screens above suggest how thorough the XB’s GPS output is (and I assume Vision output is the same). While many GPS receivers offer extra high update rates and/or GLONASS support these days, an AIS transponder that also serves as a GPS has extra value for many boats.
(Surprisingly, though, neither the Garmin 8212 or 741sx displays installed in the lab see the XB-8000 at all, not even on their N2K device lists, but I know for sure that Vesper and Garmin are working together to figure this out. The screen above may also reveal a possibly related Vesper GPS date translation glitch that just caught my eye yesterday, but it’s conceivable that both issues are somehow related to my particular test set up. I will definitely update both situations as they unfold in the comments section below.)

Vesper’s utility software gives the XB-8000 the same flexible WiFi management that I experienced with the Vision. It’s not just easy to change its access point name (SSID), password, IP address, etc., but it’s also easy to have it join an existing onboard WiFi network (even with a preferable static IP address). The result on a boat like Gizmo is that tablets and phones can use XB data, while also being online and having app access to other onboard devices like a Fusion 700 stereo system.
I only tested WiFi client mode briefly in the lab (because my home WiFi signal is so weak there), but I did confirm that I could even use it to run AISdispatcher and thus send the XB target data to MarineTraffic (recent Panbo discussion here).  I continue to lobby Vesper to build AISdispatcher-type functionality right into the XB and Vision, which would mean that a boat could serve as volunteer station while only running the transponder and perhaps a high power WiFi system like the Rogue Wave or NautiCloud. Please speak up if you, too, would value that extra feature.

Vesper’s own iPad and iPhone app WatchMate can’t do all the deep configuration that the PC and Mac software can, but it, too, has been improved. For instance, that informative AIS Plotter screen above is new. But what you can’t see on the screen is how all those target vessel names (and underlying detail) filled in the moment the app was opened. Vesper calls this feature “Instant Target Acquisition” and both the XB-8000 and Vision can only deliver it to the app, but remember, static target data like vessel names even when powered down. Usually, it takes a while for any AIS app or display to collect all the available static target data because it’s only broadcast every six minutes.
Vesper tells me that Instant Target Acquisition from the XB or Vision is available to any developer who’d like to work with them, and they try to maintain a list of apps that already work with Vesper WiFi output. They’ve also launched a partnership with an ambitious new iOS app called NavPlay.

In my preliminary testing, NavPlay is still a work in progress, and I also tend to agree with Francis Fustier’s pricing concerns. But it does have some lovely design features — you can draw a route with your fingertip — and I’m sure we’ll see it not only mature, but add new data integration features as Vesper adds them. In the meantime, I’ll close with a Coastal Explorer 2011 screen that nicely illustrates the power and value that the XB-8000 offers right now.  CE is running on a PC that’s only connected to the lab’s NMEA 2000 network via XB WiFi, but look how many data sensors it sees.

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

Hurricane Eggs & Tornado Warnings – Day 3 Offshore

Sail Feed - Sat, 2014-03-29 10:31

Mmmm, hurricane eggs! My friend Andy Staus taught me about these last year during the delivery of Susie Q on this very same route at this very same time of year. We picked up a couple of loads of fresh-made Bahamas bread in Marsh Harbor (unsliced of course). For the last two mornings I’ve been slicing off big chunks of the stuff, cutting a hole out of the center and grilling the bread with 2-3 eggs cracked in the hole in our cast iron skillet. There is just something about the combination of grilled bread, gooey eggs and butter that creates something truly greater than the sum of its parts.

Sojourner, as of 1030 Saturday, was in position 30 10 N, 080 58 W, making 5-6 knots under power on a course of 310 degrees true.

It’s a grey, chilly and damp morning. After having to shorten sail around 0200 this morning, we are now motoring in a relative calm, the wind having gone to the EAST somehow! As I was cooking brekkie, dad tuned in the NOAA weather radio on the VHF – we are close enough to Florida now to do that – and heard them issue a thunderstorm and tornado watch for the area just to the south of us.

I’m aware that sailing north towards Hatteras in March is not the smartest idea. Particularly with this relentless winter we are having. As we were prepping Sojourner in Marsh Harbor, NOAAs offshore weather had winds blowing 70-90 knots south of Nova Scotia! With 45 foot seas! Yikes! So yeah, getting north to Annapolis in one go was probably unlikely, even with a boat as well-equipped to handle heavy weather as Sojourner. Dad and I have nothing to prove, so why be uncomfortable?!

But we have a time constraint. My dad wanted my help to bring the boat north, and I wanted to do it. We really enjoy sailing together, and this was the only week I had available all spring, so here we are. With the winter in mind, our plan is a very conservative one. Another weak cold front was expected sometime tonight into Sunday, and we figured we could get about 300 miles on the southerly winds before it passed us. This time of year is not the time of year to gamble that the front will remain weak – we are assuming the opposite.

So we’re on a course for Fernandina Beach in northern Florida, and should make it there in the next 8 hours. At which point we will reevaluate the weather and discuss continuing on up the coast, or playing it safe and riding up the ICW until a better weather pattern emerges. Ironically, due to the curvature of the US east coast, Fernandina Beach is only 100 miles closer to Annapolis than Marsh Harbor was! But well be back on home turf, and it will give us options.

Until Next Time,
Andy & The Sojourner Crew

Sojourner heading north from Bahamas

Sail Feed - Fri, 2014-03-28 17:04

Sojourner, 28th March 2014, 10.00 EST

I got a phone call from Andy this morning from the Sat Phone. The number start with 8816.. so it is easy to spot. Everyone who has been following the weather (or just looked outside the window the last couple of days) know it is not ideal conditions out there. Noting dangerous, but not as ideal as the 15kt from behind and blue sky like they had on their last passage up to the Bahamas.

They left yesterday morning so this phone call was about 24 hr out. Andy felt a bit seasick and had a patch on for the first time. He never had to hang over the side, but just could not finish making dinner in the galley. So it is a bit bumpy out there, but it sounds like they are having a good time.

When Andy called the were at the position 28° 51′ N / 078° 25′ W. You can see it better on the picture at the top of this post,  basically off Orlando, but a bit further out.

The plan is to head into Jacksonville or somewhere along the coast,maybe go on the ICW for a bit and then head out again if the weather gets better.

I will update their position if I her from them again, so check back sometime tomorrow.


Mia, the shore team :)

Kelpie of Falmouth Poised to Launch

Sail Feed - Fri, 2014-03-28 13:49

By Kimball Livingston Posted March 28, 2014

Put it in a frame and what is it? Art, accidental and un? Art, modern and traditional? A schooner in a plastic tent?

In her eighty-six years on the water, the schooner Kelpie has touched many lives. This weekend in Cornwall she relaunches as Kelpie of Falmouth in what promises to be a brilliant new chapter of her own life.

The name comes from a Scottish water horse—mythical, to certain skeptics—a water horse that will grab you and not let go. Whoever has been near Kelpie still feels the grip. And that’s no myth.

Launched in 1928 from the Gamage Boatyard in South Bristol, Maine, Kelpie was brought through the Canal from Boston soon after World War II, and we told that story as the second part of Changing Dreams in Mid-Stream. For two generations of Southern California sailors, Kelpie is legendary. They knew her outline on the water, her sailplan at a distance against the peaks of Catalina, the gleaming green topsides reflecting in-harbor. A sojourn in Northern California proved less fortunate. Kelpie was looking bedraggled when her new masters found her in Oakland, a few years ago, but their keen eyes recognized just the right bone structure, my dear. Purchased by Captain Charlie Wroe on behalf of the man who also owns the celebrated 1915 schooner Mariette, Kelpie of Falmouth is in the best possible hands.

In Southern California, where she was regarded as the fastest of her breed, Kelpie was rigged as a staysail schooner. Kelpie of Falmouth will sail with a gaff fore, per the original rig. You can follow the story at the open-group Facebook Kelpie of Falmouth and get a feel for the project with this video of the restoration.

Here she is last week emerging from the shed at Gweek Quay Boatyard in Cornwall. All images come from the Kelpie of Falmouth Facebook page.

That transom, by the way, replaces one built into earlier work and replicates the 1928 original. Proper restoration involves studying a lot of old pictures, and then it’s up to the woodbutcher’s craft.

Charlie Wroe’s account of the roll-out mentions typically wet Cornish weather, but imagine being on this deck on May 27, answering the guns for race one of Pendennis Cup 2014.

Your most valuable cruising equipment

Sail Feed - Fri, 2014-03-28 06:00

Important pieces of cruising gear aren’t always obvious. A reader who hopes to go cruising emailed recently to ask:  ”When you look back at your years of sailing, what are some pieces of equipment that you brought with you that you never realized how important they would become (e.g. handheld VHF, specific spares, etc.)? ”

It’s a good question, because it’s easy to hemorrhage cash in the run up to taking off for cruising, trying to anticipate the things you might need and eyeing shiny toys in the chandlery. It’s impossible to know what’s essential because you haven’t gone cruising and don’t have a style yet. Gearhead? Ascetic? Most of us are somewhere in the middle of the spectrum between those points, and your essential is someone else’s throwaway. As much as you can, avoid discretionary purchases some until you have a better sense of what you real needs are.

  • Outboard and dinghy you can depend on. Unless you’re a marina maven, you’re going to rely on it almost every day that you’re not passage making- e.g., more than 90% of the time! Don’t shortchange yourself. We wouldn’t have a dinghy we couldn’t plane while loaded, but that’s us.
  • A spare, small outboard (not important for US/Mexico, because repairs are easy to come by). I thought this was dumb until our Mercury 15 died in Bora Bora. We borrowed a friends small outboard for the rest of the Pacific crossing, because they were way too expensive to buy mid-Pacific. Now we have a Tohatsu 18 and 3.5 (which we just used as the 18 needed a new impeller).
  • Excellent ground tackle. There was a servicable primary anchor on Totem, but we replaced it with a beefy Rocna and use 410’ of 3/8″ chain. This has served us really well, as have the 50’ of ½” 3 strand nylon snubber ties- use a rolling hitch, and lead fair. We do love this anchor, but any of the scoop type anchors (Mantus, Rocna, Manson, etc) tend to be more reliable over broader bottoms compositions.
  • Good cabin fans. If you’re spending time in the tropics (and overwhelmingly, cruisers are spending time in the tropics), cabin fans can be a lifesaver for comfort below. After trying a bunch of different brands, we’ve found the Caframo Ultimate 747s do the best to move more air and are far easier to keep clean (and wow, do fans get dirty when run all day/night!)
  • An ereader. Being on a passage without a good book is my nightmare scenario. ereaders hadn’t hit the scene when we left to go cruising, so we added many many linear feet of bookshelves to Totem to make sure we never ran out of quality reading. Now, we’re happily reclaiming that space and everyone on board has their own: don’t think for a minute that you can share one! Tablets are fine, but we like the eink readers best by far: they need much less power, and are far easier to read in daylight.
  • VHF. A setup onboard should be obvious, but good handhelds might not be as obvious. They take a lot of use and abuse: we use them to stay in touch on shore as much as ship-to-shore.
  • Scanner/printer. We’ve used this innumerable times to make copies of important documents, from passports to vessel documentation, for clearance in foreign ports.
  • Fuel filtering gear. Our Baja filter has been invaluable, and it’s priceless to have sufficient fuel filters as well. We always filter diesel and gas putting them in the tank. Despite double filtering, we still we had some dirty fuel issues after a few months in a country where most sources were questionable; having spare filters is a good thing.
  • Radar. It’s not just fog and ship traffic, it’s about invaluable use for piloting in squalls and evaluating chart error by comparing distances.
  • LED lights. If your boat isn’t LED-centric already, make it so, from running lights to deck an cabin lighting. Power saved is too significant to ingore.
  • Good basic tools. Don’t pay for high end, because most of them rust just as quickly as the middle range. We’ve gotten a lot of use from a multimeter an, surprisingly, a VSWR meter.

Off label bino use: observing a solar eclipse!

  • Good binoculars. We went a few months without functional binos in an area where eyeball nav is critical, and it was very unpleasant!
  • Large storage bags that have a port for sucking out air with vacuum cleaner. It’s not just about sealing, but the fact that they are great for reducing the space needed by bulk storage items.
  • Spare line. 6mm single braid Dyneema (Amsteel and the like) with a 6mm (1/4”) fid for splicing – very easy to splice and endless uses.

Shopping lists are convenient. Here’s the plain truth: YOU are the most valuable equipment of all. Cruising is ALL about attitude! Whether you are newer to sailing or cruising, or have a moderate level experience, we all have to tackle the mental side- regardless of your learning curve.

Go in with an open mind. Learn how to use, and re-use, and get away from the disposable economy of single-use items. Don’t try to know everything; ask those around you to help, since cruisers near you may have great experience and are often very generous with their time. On the flip side, cruisers are also full of opinions, so take it all in and then decide for yourself.

Ready yet? The last thing to remember is not to feel like you need to buy everything to reach a perfect state of readiness, because really, there is no such thing. As much as possible, hold off on discretionary purchases until you have a sense of what your real needs are- it’s a mental game, not a game of Boat Stuff.Cruisers in touch with their valuable equipment know we love it when you read this on the Sailfeed website.

CRUISING BOAT EVOLUTION: From Work Boats to Yachts

Sail Feed - Thu, 2014-03-27 14:43

In our last episode in this series, we described the genesis of the Cruising Everyman in the mid- to late 19th century. These were sailors who were not aristocratic bluebloods looking to flaunt their wealth, but a simpler breed of more middle-class sailors who enjoyed cruising under sail for its own sake. These are cruisers we can easily relate to today, and what most interests us, of course, is the sort of boat they most often went cruising in.

For many sailors of more modest means who wanted vessels that were both substantial enough to survive a bit of weather and large enough to live aboard for limited periods of time in some comfort, the easiest and cheapest thing to do was simply to buy an old working boat and refurnish it. Some paint, some furniture tacked in down below, and perhaps some rig alterations could quickly transform many such boats into perfectly serviceable cruisers. It helped, of course, that working sailboats everywhere were steadily being replaced by power vessels, and thus were available at reasonable prices in ever-growing numbers.

Fishing boats were probably the most popular candidates for conversion. Indeed, some types established secondary reputations as cruising boats that ultimately eclipsed their previous identities. We tend to forget, for example, that two popular American craft now considered classic coastal cruising vessels–the Cape Cod catboat and the Friendship sloop–were both originally designed and used as inshore fishing boats.

Sailplan of a typical Friendship sloop. These were working fishing boats that morphed into coastal cruisers as cruising under sail became more popular

In Britain, lifeboats were also seen as ideal vessels to make over into cruising boats. This practice, which continues to this day, started at least as early as 1886, when E.F. Knight made a name for himself cruising from England to the Baltic and back aboard Falcon, a converted ship’s lifeboat he purchased for just 20 pounds.

Pilot boats were another logical choice, as they were usually designed to be both fast (so they could compete with other pilot boats racing out of a harbor to do business with inbound vessels) and seaworthy enough to go out in any weather. Several types were pressed into service as yachts on both sides of the Atlantic. Bristol Channel pilot cutters became particularly popular as cruisers in Britain, but by far the most influential type was a beamy double-ended 47-foot pilot and offshore rescue boat designed by Colin Archer in 1893 for work along the coast of Norway. The simple symmetrical lines of these boats, known as Redningskoites (see photo up top), were explicitly copied by others seeking to create durable all-purpose cruising boats. The best-known example was Eric, a scaled-down 32-foot Redningskoite designed by William Atkin in 1925. Meanwhile, the design for another very influential double-ended cruising boat, the Tahiti ketch, conceived by John Hanna in 1923, was explicitly based on boats sailed by Greek sponge fishermen.

A British pilot cutter under sail

For a generation of cruisers John Hanna’s Tahiti ketch, based on old sponge fishing boats, was considered an ultimate “get-away boat”

By far the most famous converted working boat was Joshua Slocum‘s Spray. Slocum does not at all fit the template of the amateur cruising yachtsman described in our last installment, but his influence on the sport was extraordinary. Ironically, he did have something in common with George Crowninshield, the owner of Cleopatra’s Barge, which we discussed at the very beginning of this series. Like Crowninshield, Slocum gained his nautical expertise as a professional merchant mariner. Unlike Crowninshield, he lived in the latter part of the 19th century, when commercial sail was being driven into extinction.

Crowninshield took up cruising because it amused him, and he had been successful enough as a commercial mariner that he could indulge his fancy in a grandiose manner. Slocum, on the other hand, became a cruiser mostly in desperation. His professional life had been destroyed, and he was shorebound and down on his luck when, in 1892, a fellow ship captain, perhaps as a joke, gave him a decrepit 36-foot Delaware oyster smack that had been left in a field to rot. With characteristic tenacity Slocum rebuilt the boat and, after a brief attempt to earn a living fishing her, set out on a protracted singlehanded cruise around the world. This voyage and Slocum’s book describing it, Sailing Alone Around the World, not only helped to legitimize “alternative” cruising, it also spread the seed of the cruising dream much farther than before. Indeed, Slocum’s book is still in print today and still works its magic in the minds of most cruising sailors.

Joshua Slocum aboard Spray

Sailplan of Spray

Lines of Spray

What perhaps is most significant about Spray is how anachronistic she was. Even at the time of her circumnavigation, which Slocum completed in 1898, she was in many respects completely obsolete. She was, by Slocum’s account, approximately 100 years old when he acquired her, and her hull form reflected this. Her shape tended toward the old “cod’s head and mackerel’s tail” school of naval architecture, with a fat entry, maximum beam at or a little forward of amidships, and a finer run aft on her waterline. She was wide (over 14 feet) with a relatively shoal draft (about 4 feet) and short ends–her waterline length (about 32 feet) was just 4 feet shy of her length overall. She was also immensely heavy for her size, displacing 24,000 pounds, and carried all her ballast in her bilges, with none at all in her keel.

Spray had almost nothing in common with modern turn-of-the-century yachts (a fact in which Slocum seemed to take great pleasure), but she served well enough as a cruiser. Indeed, her performance, given her particulars and the fact that she was sailed singlehanded, was extraordinary. Slocum reported top speeds on the order of 8 knots, and he routinely averaged 150 miles a day on passage–numbers more typical of 36-foot yachts built in the mid-20th century that weigh half as much. He also boasted of the boat’s ability to steer herself, but credit for this, and for the speeds achieved, must in fact go to Slocum himself. He was a master mariner who had the skill and nerve to drive a vessel hard and was an intuitive expert when it came to sail trim.

What is also significant about Spray is that, in spite of her putative obsolescence, her design is still considered viable today. Contemporary cruising boats that mimic her lines, most particularly steel hulls built to plans drawn by designer Bruce Roberts, though not exactly common, are not hard to find. Some devotees, in fact, still insist that Spray represents the “ultimate” cruising boat.

Example of a Bruce Roberts ketch based on Spray

What this really demonstrates is that–unlike a racing yacht, which succeeds only if it wins races–the worth of a cruising boat can be measured in any number of ways. One good reason, for example, why some traditional designs based on old workboats like Spray are still viable is that they yield lots of interior accommodation space, which is, for many cruisers, a key consideration. Other reasons for favoring such boats may include, as mentioned above, their affordability and availability, plus they are often extremely seaworthy. But perhaps their most powerful (and most subjective) attraction is their strong romantic appeal. Traditional boats tap directly into the zeitgeist of the cruising dream, and this unquestionably influenced the development of cruising boat design as cruising became more popular.

Of course, not all early small-boat cruisers were inclined to go sailing in old work boats. Many had the resources to commission the building of modest yachts and this led to a proliferation of specialized designs. As was the case with R.T. McMullen’s 42-footer Orion, which we mentioned last time, these were often unremarkable adaptations of mainstream yacht designs. It became common, however, for experienced amateur cruisers to commission idiosyncratic designs that reflected personal prejudices and preferences. Here again McMullen provides a useful example, as both Procyon and Perseus, his smaller purpose-built singlehanders, were unique vessels that must have seemed odd to mainstream yachtsmen of the time.

Some amateur cruisers acquired enough knowledge and expertise to become amateur designers as well. One of the first and most influential of these was Albert Strange, a British headmaster and art teacher born in 1855 who first started cruising the Thames estuary as a teenager in a converted workboat. As a member of the Humber Yawl Club, which was directly descended from one of John MacGregor’s canoe clubs, Strange’s design work followed a fascinating trajectory from small sailing canoes similar to those sailed by MacGregor to much larger double-ended deep-keeled vessels known as “canoe yawls.”

A Strange canoe-yawl under sail

Lines of a Strange canoe-yawl with overhanging stern

Strange did not invent the canoe yawl, but he is credited with inventing the elegant overhanging pointed canoe stern that initially distinguished his boats from others and was later widely copied. Among the many amateur cruiser/designers who followed in his wake were T. Harrison Butler, W. Maxwell Blake, Fred Fenger, and Maurice Griffiths. Although the work of such men is unique and identifiable, their boats on the whole tended to be conservative, featuring moderate proportions, full ballast keels, narrow to moderate beam, and relatively short ends.

Yet another intriguing wrinkle was the advent of cruisers who sought to build their own boats. For a certain sort of fellow the notion of constructing a boat was just as alluring as the prospect of sailing it. Also, of course, for those with the time and skills backyard building could be a more economical way to get afloat.

The most adventurous build-it-yourself cruisers worked without plans and made things up as they went along. Remarkably, this was yet another trail blazed by Joshua Slocum. Some years prior to his voyage in Spray, Slocum had owned and commanded a 138-foot trading bark, Aquidneck, that he lost on a sandbar in Brazil in 1887. To get his family home to the United States, he and his oldest son, Victor, built a bizarre 35-foot unballasted junk-rigged sampan (Slocum actually called it a canoe) that they christened Liberdade. Slocum and his wife and two children not only sailed this unlikely vessel more than 5,000 miles from Brazil to the U.S., they then lived aboard the boat and cruised it on the East Coast for nearly a year.

A vessel as eccentric as Liberdade did not immediately inspire imitations, but Slocum’s use of the Asian junk rig did anticipate such modern designers as Blondie Hasler, Tom Colvin, and Jay Benford, who installed junk rigs on both racing and cruising vessels. Liberdade also provided an important creative precedent, setting an example for future designers and sailors willing to think “outside the box.”

The backyard builders who had the biggest impact on the development of cruising boat design were those who wanted or needed plans to build to. To meet this demand, some designers started conceiving boats with simplified lines that were easy for amateurs to put together. Often such designs were published and marketed through the several boating magazines that sprouted up on both sides of the Atlantic.

One of the earliest and most significant was an American publication, The Rudder, founded in 1891 by a fiery small-boat evangelist named Thomas Fleming Day. Day believed strongly in the concept of backyard building–”No Boats, No Sport: All Hands Build Hulls” was a favorite slogan of his–and he published many build-it-yourself designs in his magazine. He also believed in practicing what he preached and in 1911 sailed one of these boats, a 26-foot yawl named Sea Bird, across the Atlantic from Rhode Island to Gibraltar with two companions as crew.

Sea Bird under sail

Drawing of Sea Bird

Sea Bird had a simple V-bottomed hull with a single hard chine on either side and was explicitly designed for ease of construction. Her plans specified two underwater configurations; she could be built either with a centerboard or with a deep keel supporting 700 pounds of ballast. She also reportedly carried about 1,000 pounds of internal ballast. With her low freeboard, Sea Bird may not have looked particularly seaworthy, but Day’s transatlantic voyage hushed many nay-sayers, while convincing others that Day himself most likely was a lunatic. Further support for the latter proposition came the following year when Day went transatlantic again, this time in a 36-foot powerboat carrying 1,200 gallons of gasoline.

Over the years, several hundred copies of Sea Bird were built by amateur cruisers. Among these was a larger sistership, a 34-foot boat named Islander built by Harry Pidgeon, a farm boy from Iowa, in a vacant lot in Los Angeles in 1917. Pidgeon, a self-taught sailor, completed a singlehanded circumnavigation in Islander in 1925, becoming only the second man (after Joshua Slocum) to perform this feat. He subsequently lived aboard for 16 years, made another circumnavigation, and was in the middle of a third (this time with his wife) when he finally lost Islander in a hurricane in the New Hebrides. Fortunately, both Pidgeon and his wife escaped with their lives.

NEXT: The Golden Age of the Cruiser-Racer

Beginning the Journey Home

Sail Feed - Thu, 2014-03-27 10:58

“So go and tell the boys for me we’re leavin’ here today!”

That Blaggards song was playing on my last run in Marsh Harbor this morning, and its in my head now as we prep for departure. The short, but likely difficult, as its March, hop offshore to the US east coast and ultimately Annapolis represents the final stage of Sojourner’s journey home from St. Lucia.

We’ve got an awesome crew – me, Dad, Billy Rudek and Tom Herrington, who sailed with us earlier rom St. Croix. Plan is to depart here within the hour and aim for Charleston. Another cold front is on the way. If the forecast holds, we have until Saturday night to be somewhere sheltered. If we get caught out it won’t be dangerous, but it wont be pleasant either. They’re calling for 25-35 knots fom the N-NE off Hatteras on Monday, and that’d be unpleasant indeed. So well leave here on a nice SE’ly breeze and see where we end up!

As usual, ill try and keep this updated with our position as we go. Thanks for reading!

-Andy & the Sojourner Crew

Romance Reborn

Sail Feed - Thu, 2014-03-27 09:24

One hears over and over again of the “romance” attendant to boats, sailing and the sea, but if you ask someone why he or she sails, I’ll bet that the R-word pops up a respectable distance down the list, in back of the F-words (freedom, fun) and the A-words (adventure, activity). Still, I am positive that a romantic streak is an integral part of every sailor’s make-up, even if we might not like to admit it’s there. There is no other way of explaining some of the irrational things that sailors do.

For instance, I was once possessed by a wooden boat. I do not mean, “possessed” as in requiring the services of an exorcist (though on reflection, that may not have been a bad idea), but as in totally consumed by 47 feet of carvel-planked, close-seamed, mahogany-on-locust beauty. When we bought her, she had sat at her slip for five years being pumped out every few months by the marina staff, her engine was a solid lump of rust, and belowdecks she reeked of neglect and bilgewater. She was gorgeous.

Such was the potency of the spell she cast that we did not actually see the boat as she was, but as she had been years before, and as she would be again. We pictured her gleaming white hull and towering rig slicing though tropical seas, a laughing, tanned couple in her cockpit—as soon as we had attended to a few minor details. We told ourselves—and this is the mark of the true romantic – that the necessary work was “mainly cosmetic”.

Five years, two children, and a marriage-testing number of lost weekends and stinging yard bills later, this boat sailed out of our lives and into that of her next victim, a hard-nosed banker. She had won him over easily enough; as a small boy, he had watched the shipwrights planking her shapely frames, and, he confided emotionally, he had hankered after her ever since she had sailed out of the yard and out of his life. She had a soft spot in her transom and a weep from her garboards, but her flaws were nothing to the joy of a love rekindled.

We knew for sure that the proper relationship between possessor and possessed had been established when the new owner wrote a few weeks later of a hellish delivery trip during which boat and crew took a real beating. “I don’t think my wife likes sailing any more,” his litany of woe concluded dolefully, before hitting a brighter note. “I think she would look wonderful with her topsides painted red, her bottom black, and her pilothouse varnished.”

Now there’s the mark of a true romantic. I could only hope he was talking about the boat.

































Silliness: Four on a Kiteboard

Sail Feed - Wed, 2014-03-26 20:52

But it’s Richard Branson, so it came to the ‘Times as a “news alert.”

The embed code does not want to embed, so this will take you to youtube and a world record that you can judge for yourself.

Four Emmy Nominations for America’s Cup

Sail Feed - Wed, 2014-03-26 20:38

Released from ACEA on March 26

Media production for the 34th America’s Cup has received five Emmy Award nominations, including for Outstanding Live Sports Special.The five nominations come on the heels of a previous Emmy Award for Outstanding Technical Achievement for AC LiveLive.“When we started planning for the 34th America’s Cup in 2010, one of the initial priorities was to create an exciting television experience for viewers,” said Stan Honey, Director of Technology for the America’s Cup. “These nominations from the media production of the America’s Cup in 2013 are a clear signal that the America’s Cup is now being recognized as a compelling television sport.”The five Emmy Award nominations are for:Outstanding Live Sports SpecialOutstanding New Approaches – Sports Event Coverage – Official AppOutstanding Technical Team RemoteOutstanding Live Event Audio/SoundThe George Wensel Technical Achievement Award – AC LiveLine, “WingWash”The America’s Cup Official App, for iOS and Android, was nominated in the Outstanding New Approaches – Sports Event Coverage category. The Official App allowed users to follow the racing live via video, race animation, or text updates and users could select from several audio streams, including commentary, or on-board audio from each of the competing teams. Users could also post comments, chat and interact with event media and officials.AC LiveLine, the groundbreaking graphics technology that allows for information to be embedded in the broadcast, previously won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Technical Achievement. This time, AC LiveLine is nominated in the same category for a new feature that showed the flow of wind across the giant wingsails that powered the America’s Cup boats at speeds of up to 50 mph, adding another dimension of information for viewers to aid in understanding the race tactics.The 35th Sports Emmy Awards will take place on May 6th in New York City.

Brunswick Invests in Boatbound

Sail Feed - Wed, 2014-03-26 19:59

Brunswick announces its financial investment in Boatbound’s latest funding round

LAKE FOREST, Ill., March 26, 2014 – Brunswick Corporation (NYSE: BC) announced today the launch of a strategic partnership with San Francisco-based Boatbound, the leader in the peer-to-peer boat rental market space. The peer-to-peer model creates a new way to easily connect potential renters with owners willing to rent their assets, and is quickly gaining traction in the boating space.

(Read our story about peer-to-peer rentals)

This Brunswick and Boatbound partnership is based on the common belief that the peer-to-peer boat rental model encourages boating participation and trial, while at the same time allowing boat owners to offset some of their ownership costs. This partnership with Boatbound offers Brunswick a way to more closely monitor and observe developing trends in the consumer boating market. It also provides Brunswick’s dealers, through the Brunswick Dealer Advantage dealer services program, potential income from renting boat inventory and access to an emerging segment of boating consumers. In addition to the strategic partnership, Brunswick is making an undisclosed lead investment in Boatbound’s latest financing round.

“The long-term health of our industry requires us to make boating even more accessible and affordable, especially among younger, aspiring boaters,” said Brunswick Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Dustan E. McCoy. “Boatbound offers an innovative way to provide those interested in boating with actual boating experiences, which we believe will translate to boat ownership down the road. Additionally, Boatbound’s business model provides rental income opportunities to current boat owners who also gain access to boat rentals when away from home.”

“We are very pleased to join forces with Brunswick, the top manufacturer in the marine industry, to lead the way in serving millions of aspiring and present boaters interested in a convenient, reliable and affordable way to experience boating,” said Boatbound founder and CEO Aaron Hall. “The online peer-to-peer market concept is already making successful inroads into the travel, hotel and auto-rental industries. Both Brunswick and Boatbound see the boating industry as a natural next step and look forward to realizing this vision.”

Through this partnership, Boatbound gains important growth resources and support from Brunswick, the world’s foremost recreational marine manufacturer, whose leading marine brands are represented in over 4,300 sales and service outlets in North America. Boatbound initial efforts are focused on the Miami and San Francisco markets. Additional markets will be added as Boatbound expands throughout 2014.

The Boatbound service allows both dealers and boat owners to list their boats for rent to pre-screened, qualified renters. Boatbound’s easy-to-navigate online application offers transparency and convenience with no listing or sign-up fees for either owners or renters. As part of their comprehensive rental service, Boatbound provides insurance, towing protection and extensive customer service support.

Owners have full control over who rents their boat, as well as the rental price, availability and conditions of their listing. Renters will be able to choose from a wide selection of boat types and price ranges in an increasing number of boating markets across the United States. After each rental, both the boat owner and renter review each other to provide feedback that can be viewed on their Boatbound profiles by future owners and renters.

For more information please contact Brunswick through Brunswick Dealer Advantage at 1-877-462-3884 or by visiting www.brunswickdealeradvantage.com. The Boatbound team can be contacted through their website at www.Boatbound.co.

About Brunswick

Headquartered in Lake Forest, Ill., Brunswick Corporation endeavors to instill “Genuine Ingenuity”(TM) in all its leading consumer brands, including Mercury and Mariner outboard engines; Mercury MerCruiser sterndrives and inboard engines; MotorGuide trolling motors; Attwood marine parts and accessories; Land ‘N’ Sea, Kellogg Marine, and Diversified Marine parts and accessories distributors; Bayliner, Boston Whaler, Brunswick Commercial and Government Products, Crestliner, Cypress Cay, Harris FloteBote, Lowe, Lund, Meridian, Princecraft, Quicksilver, Rayglass, Sea Ray, Uttern and Valiant boats; Life Fitness and Hammer Strength fitness equipment; Brunswick bowling centers, equipment and consumer products; Brunswick billiards tables and table tennis. For more information, visit http://www.brunswick.com

About Boatbound

Boatbound™, the nation’s fastest growing boat rental marketplace, gives the over 13 million registered boat owners a way to offset their ownership costs by renting their boat to pre-screened, qualified renters. Every rental includes up to $1 million in liability protection from one of the most trusted insurers in the world, as well as on the water towing and support from Boat U.S. Whether you are looking for a boat for watersports or cruising, a fishing boat to explore a local fishing hole, or a sailboat to leisurely set sail, Boatbound creates safe and unique boat rental experiences at any price. Boatbound is free to join and has no monthly or membership fees.

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