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Miracle on Marinship Way

Sail Feed - Mon, 2014-10-27 16:27

It began as you see it, above.

By Kimball Livingston Posted October 27, 2014

I don’t mind telling you, the first time I heard about a plan to build a 132-foot wooden brigantine to serve as a new school ship, I thought,

“Uh oh.”

But dreamers can be doers.It’s been a quarter of a century since Alan Olson first began using sailboats on San Francisco Bay as an outreach to at-risk youth. Today, on a much-expanded teaching mission, the nonprofit Call of the Sea reaches 5,000 students a year with the schooner, Seaward, but can’t keep up with demand. The brigantine-to-be, Matthew Turner, is intended to expand that compass to 17,000 kids a years experiencing first-hand the ecology, wildlife, and interconnections of things around them often seen but “unseen.”

On the evening of October 25, during Game 4 of the 2014 World Series, true believers and former doubters gathered under a tent—a huge tent—to celebrate a “Blessing of the Bones.” That is, completion of the framing. Would you believe . . .

By golly, think they’re going to make it.

The mood was up as people explored . . .

The angels are in the details, and they don’t have to be pretty, yet . . .

And this . . .

Leads to this . . .

Yep, it’s going to be a long way above the water. Jackson Pollack was here?

The volunteers were eager . . .

Alan Olson was in form, and he still is not a fan of pirate parties . . .

Now it’s back to the workaday project—but this workaday project has its volunteers inspired. And they’re friendly.

Here’s what they say at Educational Tall Ship:

Visit the Matthew Turner build site by the Bay Model in Sausalito – See history come alive!

We are located at 2330 Marinship Way in Sausalito CA. You really can’t miss the huge tent, so please stop by and see what we’re up to! You’ll find someone here from 8-4, Monday-Saturday, and, if you’re so inclined, sign up to volunteer and join us as we construct the first tall ship to be built in this area in over 100 years,

Wood from sustainably-managed forests.

Propulsion when needed from regenerative electrics.

That’s the Matthew Turner to be.

Every sailor should know the name, Matthew Turner. Not to try to improve upon the writing at Educational Tall Ship, Turner

. . . immigrated to the Bay Area from his home on the shores of Lake Erie in 1850. He came to California to try his luck in the gold fields and, finding success, he traveled back to the East Coast to purchase a ship, for he saw more potential in the shipping business than in the gold trade. He began his career in the booming coastal lumber trade but quickly found that he needed more ships. Not impressed with the available vessels at that time, he pulled together what he had learned from his father about ship design and building on Lake Erie and his experience with contemporary vessels in the Pacific to build his first ship, the Nautilus, in 1868. The Nautilus out-performed all other ships of the time, raising the bar in sailing ship design. At that time on the East Coast, design innovation in commercial sail was at a standstill, as steamships became the focus.

But on the West Coast, long distances, lack of coal and the industrial capacity to produce large steam engines gave sailing vessels the edge until the turn of the century. The Nautilus launched Turner’s career and he is considered the most prolific builder in history, with 228 vessels built by the end of his career in 1907.

His vessels were responsible for the success of many entrepreneurs of his time. Matson Lines began their operations with the Lurline. Spreckles Sugar had a fleet of Turner’s ships, as did C&H Sugar. His ships moved between San Francisco and Hawaii at record speeds, making 13 round trips in one year, including loading and unloading. Only the largest and fastest modern sailing yachts can hope to beat the 8 days and six hours trip From SF to Hawaii by the Lurline and the 9 day trip from Honolulu to SF by the W.G. Irwin. Turner himself discovered the Alaska cod industry and owned and operated the first packet ships between San Francisco and Tahiti.

A DISABLED SPEED RECORD AT LUDERITZ

WORTH NOTING

In San Diego, CA, the Maritime Museum’s building project, a replica of the Cabrillo’s 1542 galleon, San Salvador, was the subject of a “near completion” celebration in September. The project’s web site doesn’t have much to offer regarding this stage of construction, but the pictures are looking good.

STUDENT YACHTING WORLD CUP

Congratulations to the UK team that ran away with the regatta last week in La Rochelle, France. The standings tightened up below second, behind Italy and Norway, with the USA team from Cal Maritime finishing sixth out of twelve. Here’s Cal Maritime after the wind finally came up, and below, the happy podium threesome . . .

Live from the 1500: More German Bier & the start of the Seminar Program

Sail Feed - Mon, 2014-10-27 14:24

Day two at the rally wrapped up last night back at the Bier Garden in Portsmouth, VA. Several boats had arrived throughout the afternoon and evening, so we had a larger crowd than the night before, which kept the Kolsch flowing.

Tom Tom and Serenity made their arrival later in the evening. Tom Tom made their way into the marina around 7pm last night, with Chris and his British crew arriving in time for the staff at Ocean Marine to catch their docklines and welcome them ashore. Serenity, on the other hand, had to resort to more drastic measures.

Merrill Brown and his wife Mary had left New England late last week just as the fury of that nor’easter was winding down off the coast of Newport. Serenity was based at Block Island.

“In the midst of it all, we wound up having to grab a mooring when it was blowing 40 knots,” said Merrill as Serenity pulled into the fuel dock last night around 10:30pm. The big Shannon ketch must surely have been unwieldy under power in those conditions (though she would likely have fared just fine under reduced canvas father offshore), which made for an exciting exit from New England.

“Otherwise we had a good, if not a bit rough, sail south over the past few days,” added Merrill. “Although Silas didn’t fare so well. His stomach quickly decided it did not like ocean sailing, so he was pretty miserable most of the way.”

“I did manage to eat some chili on that first day,” Silas said, “but after that, I’ve basically been on a hunger strike.” 

The crew was lucky then to find an open pub on High Street last night, as it was 11:00pm until they got off the boat and made their way into town. Thanks to the NFL’s late Sunday game, and Game 5 of the World Series, the town wasn’t entirely shut down, so the Serenity crew – Silas especially – enjoyed a meal ashore in the stationary comfort of a restaurant booth.

Despite their late arrival, the Serenity crew made it out to Roger Brown’s in time for this morning’s seminar program, which got under way at 0900 with Mia’s ‘Provisioning’ chat. The takeaway from that? All crewmembers love chocolate!

Bill Cullen, who will ironically be crewing on Serenity for the voyage south from Portsmouth, followed up Mia’s chat with his new-to-the-program talk on ‘Gadgets & Gear to Have Onboard.’ 

“I’ve basically come up with a list of the top-25 best bits and bobs to have on the boat on both the ocean crossing and once you get in the islands,” Bill explained as his presentation got underway. He talked about everything from mosquito nets and sun shades to spearfishing, dinghy ladders and glass bottom buckets to a very receptive audience (who by then we’re livened up with their morning coffee, which was flowing from the back of the room). 

Visit Bill Cullen’s website on thebookofsail.com.

Rally leader Andy Schell rounded out the morning seminars with his popular talk on ‘Mentally Preparing to go Offshore,’ with the focus geared towards the 1500 and what to expect in the last few days leading up to the start.

Andy stressed the importance of what it’s okay to get anxious about – the ‘mission critical’ components of the boat like the hull, rig and sails and safety of the crew – and what’s not worth worrying about, like watermakers and electronics, which you can certainly live without offshore (if you’re properly prepared). 

“Landfall is the most exciting part of the voyage,” he finished with. “Remember to savor it, take photos, and notice the smell of land after you’ve been in the sea air for so long!”

The rally program continues this evening with the official ‘Welcome Reception’ hosted by the City of Portsmouth and Ocean Marine Yacht Center, set to kick off at Griff’s on High Street at 1800 this evening.

Stay up to date on the Carib1500 Facebook page, including links to today’s presentation slides, at facebook.com/carib1500.

Sickness and Children Running Free

Sail Feed - Mon, 2014-10-27 00:29

There is something particularly galling about suffering a head cold in the tropics. All this warm weather is supposed to keep the germs away – isn’t that what I told myself every miserable February as the kids stumbled home in -20 C weather, shooting phlegm out of every orifice? I was certain all this would be solved by a week in the sun.

Well, guess what. No. This head cold has swept through town like a hurricane, and now it is my turn to run through tissues and fight to keep the virus out of my lungs by sheer force of will.

All of which makes me cranky. And what is the lady about town to do with her crankiness when she wants to air it out? Why, lay it at the feet of her children, naturally! So let’s see how I’ve done.

You never have to wonder where your kids are on a boat. If you can’t lay hands on them within fifteen seconds of commencing a search, then they aren’t aboard.

Not so in PNG. Would you believe that this town is safe enough, quiet enough, and car-free enough that any child over the age of five can roam the streets with impunity? They play hide-and-seek between the houses. They go bike riding. The visit friends without a parent in tow. And, since there aren’t any kids over the age of 13, they don’t have any pesky, sullen teenagers harshing their mellow with angst and wispy beard growth. This is truly a wholesome tween paradise.
Pleasantville: the tropical version.

And I’m all for the girls running off to a friend’s house to look at baby chicks, or helping to run a “disco” (read: kids playing in the park to the sound of someone’s iPod) the odd Friday night. But when I am clogged with mucus, I would like to hide under my covers, thank you very much, and pretend I don’t have any responsibilities. But I can’t. Thus, the cranky.

On Sunday, we were invited to a birthday party at the beach. Erik was in Australia, and I had a firm appointment to drink hot tea and feel sorry for myself, so I arranged for the girls to go with a neighbour.
The party was exactly like this, except with more kids and less Erik.

The girls wanted to drop their present off early, so it wouldn’t get ruined at the beach. We wrapped it in beautiful aluminum foil (multi-purpose!), and the girls carefully taped their homemade cards to the front.
“It is nine fifteen,” I said, “and your ride goes at eleven. You can drop off your present, but then you have to come right home again.”
With a chorus of “Yeah, yeah, okay, bye Mom,” they were gone.
Nine thirty.
Nine forty-five.
Ten.
Ten fifteen.
By now, I was packing – fins, masks, sunscreen, towels, swim shirts, bathing suits, water shoes, drinks, food. Anything they could conceivably need at a beach barbeque with ten other families. I could feel my fever rising again. I looked at the clock. Ten thirty.

Grumbling and muttering like a crazy person, I set off down the driveway. The girls’ friend lives, of course, at the opposite end of town. And she, like us, is new, so I didn’t have a phone number to call back my wayward children. About halfway there it occurred to me that I could have phoned a friend who lives two houses down, but by now it was too late. I shuffled on, and tried to ignore my t-shirt sticking to my back.

Sure enough, our friends were already packing up their truck by the time I arrived. “I tried to suggest to your girls it was time to go, but they were having so much fun.”
I nodded and tried to smile through my dizziness. I’m fairly sure it wasn’t convincing.
Stylish and Indy slowly sauntered into view.
“Come on, chop chop, you’re going to miss your ride!”
Stylish lifted her eyebrows. “Really? Is it that late?”
“But I was playing on the iPad!” complained Indy.
I reminded myself that laws against smacking children exist for these very circumstances. Reaching instead for inner peace, I propelled them down the driveway. “Look. You know you weren’t supposed to stay. And now you might miss your ride.”
The vaguest hint of concern flitted across their faces. “Oh?”
“Yes. Your friends are going to go to our house, find it empty, and decide we got another ride. So let’s hustle.”

We trotted down the street. I tried to keep up with the kids, but I was definitely on my last legs.

*beep beep*

And there was our ride.

“Sorry!” I called. “The girls got distracted. I have their bags all packed – meet us at our house?”
She nodded. My girls broke into a run. I also broke into a run, although it was really more of a zombie shuffle.

We gasped up the hill to our house. The girls beat me by a wide margin. “Grab the two bags inside the door!” I shouted.
They flung open the door, grabbed the bags, shoved their way into the waiting car and I waved them all goodbye.

I barely made it to bed before I fell asleep.

Three seconds (read: four hours) later they were back. Minus a pair of flip flips and one water shoe, but still.

I tried to maintain my sick person crankiness as they jumped on my bed and got sand in the sheets, but I just couldn’t do it. Maybe I was too tired; maybe they are just too sweet.

How could I resist these people?

So we’ll try a little reminder on following instructions, and I’ll keep turning them loose to play. They should enjoy kid heaven while they can.
Indy flying a rainbow.

Day 1 at the Carib1500: German Bier, Trick-or-Treat & Safety Checks

Sail Feed - Sun, 2014-10-26 09:35

Maybe it’s because it’s a special year in 2014. Maybe it’s because folks are excited about the large fleet. Maybe it’s the beautiful weather on the Chesapeake. For whatever reason, a larger-than-usual number of boats have already made their way to Portsmouth and are tied up in Ocean Marine Yacht Center, ready for the week’s festivities.

Click here for a PDF of this week’s Carib1500 Portsmouth Program of Events.

25 years ago this week, the inaugural Caribbean 1500 fleet assembled on the southern Bay and prepared to head offshore on one of ‘the last great adventures’ available to ordinary people who decided to become extraordinary if only for a short period of time as they crossed a large stretch of ocean. Back then, late rally founder Steve Black wouldn’t have had to worry about writing news stories for the web. Or about satellite tracking or sending emails to the fleet at sea. 1986 was a simpler time perhaps, at least technologically, for the rally organizers, but no less of an adventure.

But it’s 2014 now, and as we look back on the last 25 years of ocean passages that the 1500 fleet has made, we also look ahead to this year’s event and how it’s shaping up. 

15 boats are now berthed in Ocean Marine for the week’s activities, which kicked off last night with the first happy hour at the Bier Garden in Olde Town Portsmouth, sponsored by Hanse Yachts. High Street was hopping. Each year they close down the main drag in town to vehicle traffic and put on a ‘safe’ trick-or-treating event for the local kids. Vampires, mummies, zombies and a Dracula or two roamed the streets looking for candy that the local businesses were passing out along the sidewalk while the rally crews swilled Kolsch and ‘Schwarzbier’ at the Bier Garden.

‘Mom’ and ‘Dad’, as their known to their loyal local patrons, proprietors of the Bier Garden, hosted the crews in the outside garden area. It was a lovely evening for a few beers, with temperatures falling into the 60s and stars poking out in the clear sky above the tress that shrouded the garden area in ambiance. Crews shared stories of their plans for the coming winter cruising season, and exchanged ideas for the passage south.

“We brought our boat all the way up from Florida just to the 1500!” exclaimed Frank and Patti from the catamaran Sunsplash. They’re not alone. Corsair, a gorgeous dark-blue Bristol 57 (and thus far, the leader in the clubhouse for my ‘Most Beautiful Yacht’ vote), made a similar trip north from Florida just to join the rally. 

“This has been a 5 or 6 year dream of ours,” said Frank of Sunsplash. “We’ve followed the rally very closely over those years and just had to be a part of it, even if it meant bringing the boat a few hundred miles up the coast just to make the start.”

Frank and Patti are new to the offshore game. Speaking with them last night brought up an interesting point about the 1500. Naysayers put down the event as a ‘rally for newbies,’ implying that somehow the folks new to ocean sailing don’t know what they’re doing. It begs the age-old ‘chicken or the egg’ questions – i.e., how does one get experience without ever having an experience? But Frank and Patti are proving that while they might be new to the game, their crew certainly is not. They’re here to learn from the real Salty Dogs, the tight band of crewmembers who have at least 10,000 miles sailing in the 1500. And that makes the 1500 very cool indeed.

“We’ve got Loren Thompson and Dave Hornbach onboard as our crew,” Frank told me. Loren and Dave have both done the 1500 over a dozen times combined, and have many thousands of miles on the route between the Chesapeake and the islands, in both directions. “Patti and I brought the boat up the coast by ourselves, but we realized that a few hundred miles was enough for us to handle as a couple. We did it, and we’re proud of it, but we realize we’ll need the help once we go ‘off the deep end.’ I’m still going to be the captain and ultimately responsible for the boat, but I’ll be leaning heavily on Loren and Dave for their advice on how to handle specific situations. I’m hoping to learn from the best.”

Frank is a pilot in real life, and understands that sometimes the guy in the left seat – the captain of the plane – actually has less experience than the guy in the right seat (the copilot). “In those instances, you’ve got to understand that the guy next to you might know more than you do,” Frank explained. “You’ve got to balance the notion that as the left-seat guy, you’re ultimately responsible. But with that responsibility comes the responsibility to actually take the guys advice that’s sitting to your right. It’s a team effort.”

Frank and Patti are by no means alone as newcomers to the offshore game, a fact that makes the 1500 unique. This year about 1/3 of the fleet are veteran sailors who’ve done the route before, and you can be sure that knowledge and expertise will be spreading around the docks at Ocean Marine this week like wildfire, the goal being that after a week of intense preparations, the knowledge base of the entire fleet has stepped up a level.

Peter Burch and Lyall Burgess are adding to that knowledge base, roaming the docks conducting the safety equipment checklists, which are taking on an even higher level of importance in 2014 given the Salty Dawg Rally incident from last year that saw 6 boats issue Mayday calls to the coast guard. Pete has many thousands of ocean miles on various boats over the years, and has done so many inspections that he’s sure he’s seen it all. 

“One time, a catamaran argued against the need for a liferaft,” Pete told us yesterday. “He claimed ‘with two hulls and a foam core, how could I possible sink?’ I asked him what he’d do about a fire. ‘Oh, I hadn’t thought of that!’ he said. Amazing!” 

Lyall, though younger than Pete, holds and RYA Yachtmaster certification, and has crossed the Atlantic and Pacific several times, and adds his own level of experience as the ARC Europe event manager. The two make up a formidable team when it comes to the safety checks, and thanks to their experience, their advice is taken seriously.

The program in Portsmouth continues today as we welcome more new arrivals – as I write, 1500 veteran Moonshadow just pulled into their slip on A dock. Miles & Anne Poor arrived last evening on their veteran Tayana 55 Karina, and handful more boats are due in over the course of today. 

We’re back at the Bier Garden tonight for some more ‘steins of lager’, sponsored again, appropriately, by German boat builder Hanse Yachts, before the first day of the seminar program begins at Roger Brown’s tomorrow.

Follow the hourly updates of what’s going on at Ocean Marine on the Carib1500 Facebook page, and check thegallery daily for new photos.

The hardest part of cruising

Sail Feed - Sun, 2014-10-26 05:15

I don’t want to be here right now.

We’re living in Totem on the hardstand, on stilts in the shipyard. There is a lot of noise, and a lot of dirt, and a lot of chaos. Chunks of Totem’s interior are torn up. We climb a wobbly ladder with a rise that must be double a normal step to get on board. We have no refrigeration. It is hot, under tropical sun during the day and in the breeze-less yard at night. We share communal bathrooms in the yard and try desperately to avoid needing them at night.

But our present circumstance has nothing to do with my discontent. I don’t want to be here right now because I lost someone I love, and today her memorial service was held back at home on Bainbridge Island.

We met as two moms, first crossing paths at preschool flanked by a pair of similarly aged daughters, later bonding at knitting guild meetings (best followed by a trip to the pub!). In the chaotic year of boat renovations and radical downsizing during the year before we left, Joan was diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer, and our friendship shifted and deepened on the unstable path of an uncertain journey.

I wish I could be back there to honor her, and share that grief with others who loved her. And as much as my sadness today is for the passing this resolute optimist, it also mourns the hundreds of times I couldn’t help her. I couldn’t help in all the little ways that friends make life easier for each other, as she fought one battle after another with her traitorous body.

This, for me, is the hardest part of cruising. Our funds don’t include the kind of cushion that can absorb traveling home. Leaving on our adventure meant making peace with this very significant trade-off. We miss big events like this, and the weddings and graduations. We cannot be present for the many other milestones in the lives of our friends and family.

Last year, my parents flew me home to help them filter and pack up thirty years of memories from a house, and thanks to them I had the gift of many hugs from people I love- including getting to spend time with Joan. Knitting, making bad jokes, tucked under a blanket, sharing our hopes, I know she was so happy for me to follow my dreams. That just doesn’t make it easier at this moment.

She indelibly marked my life. How lucky we are, pure and simply just LUCKY, all critical stars of our world aligned to make our family’s journey possible. Because for all our plans and dreams and intentions, this life is incredibly fragile, and Joan has made me grateful for every day we get. And it’s this I tried to remember as I sat in the anchorage with with news on my lap of her passing, the sting of salt water on my cheeks. That she was happy for me, and didn’t resent the absence I lament.

It’s always appreciated when you click through to read this on the Sailfeed website.

 

Ocean Research Project announces plans for aerial drone glacier mapping and oceanographic survey in Greenland

Sail Feed - Fri, 2014-10-24 10:12

ANNAPOLIS, MD – Following a recent ocean science expedition that took record-setting sailor and Ocean Research Project (ORP) founder, Matthew Rutherford, and ORP field operations scientist, Nicole Trenholm, to the waters of Yokohama, Japan for a first-ever continent to continent marine debris survey – ORP marked its two-year anniversary at Heavy Seas Brewery on October 17th, asserting plans to use drones to survey a major outlet glacier in Greenland while collecting nearby ocean heat information by ship to distinguished guests, including Senator Tom Harkin and Governor Martin O’Malley.

According to Rutherford and Trenholm, it’s “the next natural step in the future of ocean research” and a mission they intend to carry out. In their continuous efforts to reduce costs and maintain a “green” sailing-based data collection program, the burgeoning nonprofit has teamed up with Intuitive Machines – an engineering solutions company from Houston Texas, and chosen polar geophysicist Jamin Greenbaum, from the University of Texas Institute for Geophysics, as principal investigator in preparation for an oceanographic and glaciological survey planned for 2015.

“Together, Ocean Research Project and Intuitive Machines stand to disrupt the way sensitive arctic coastal areas are monitored by applying highly-capable autonomous vehicles [drones] and inexpensive surface ships with long dwell times and low carbon footprints,” said Greenbaum. “I believe they stand to become a model for how baseline monitoring will be done in the coming years.”

Greenbaum, said Rutherford, is no stranger to data collection in the Arctic, having previously managed flight operations and equipment integration for polar geophysical surveying. “Jamin joins us at a very critical time, not just for our organization but for the prospect of ocean science research and education at large… By employing drones for long-term monitoring of changing glacier systems,” Trenholm explained, “we will be able to observe glacial behavior on timescales that are unattainable with traditional platforms.”

ORP’s next expedition to Greenland’s east coast will see the enterprising threesome conducting a near-simultaneous oceanographic and glaciological survey of the Sermilik Fjord–Helheim Glacier system in Southeast Greenland. Using unpiloted aerial vehicles and hydrographic survey equipment, the team will collect data that they hope will help relate coastal glacier retreat to oceanographic heat.

Rutherford explains that Ocean Research Project is actively seeking sponsorship but is happy with their progress, to date. “We now have the aerial and marine platforms that can do the job so with only a little more support for operational costs we’ll be ready to deploy them. We have more work to do before we can sail but we have already won the trust and support of key organizations and individuals that share our belief that we should be monitoring the health of the ocean where climate change threatens to make lasting change.”

The team’s progress can be tracked online at www.oceanresearchproject.org.
 
PHOTO CAPTION: (Left to right) Videographer Zack Nissan Shields, Senator Tom Harkin, Ocean Research Project (ORP) field operations scientist Nicole Trenholm, ORP founder Matthew Rutherford, ORP principal investigator Jamin Greenbaum, and Governor Martin O’Malley, pictured on October 17th at Heavy Seas Brewery in Halethorpe, MD.

Podcast: Offshore Weather Essay

Sail Feed - Thu, 2014-10-23 23:00

Andy discusses his way of getting and interpreting weather forecasts offshore, and why he thinks people tend to overanalyze it to the detriment of their enjoyment of ocean sailing. This is apart educational, part rant, and part just what works for Andy & Mia. What works for you when it comes to offshore weather?

Click here for the direct download.

MARINE INSURANCE: Scoring New Coverage for Bluewater Cruising

Sail Feed - Thu, 2014-10-23 16:31

As I may have mentioned, I am in the midst of getting Lunacy ready for a run down to the W’Indies. This is always a fraught process, what with the normal anxieties of worrying about whether the boat is truly ready to go offshore, putting together crew, and watching the unruly fall weather unfold. Historically for me this anxiety has always been compounded by my fussy insurance company, ACE, which insists on vetting my crews and making me fill out lots of forms before they’ll give me an endorsement for a passage to the Caribbean.

Marine insurance, of course, is how the whole concept of insurance first got started. Hedging against the potential loss of a vessel and its cargo is a financial game that dates as far back as the ancient Greeks and Romans and was institutionalized in its modern form as early as the late 17th century in Edward Lloyd’s famous coffee house in London (see image up top), where shipowners, merchants, and skippers all gathered together to mull over the perils of ocean-borne commerce while getting hopped up on caffeine. As such, it is fair to say that marine insurance has played a very important role in the development of our global economy, but in the context of recreational bluewater cruising it is another animal entirely.

After all, what is it exactly that an insurance company sells to you? The answer, plain and simple, is fear. When you buy a policy what you’re really doing is making a bet that your own vessel will sink, because you’re afraid it will. This is a smart move, I suppose, when you’re talking high finance and need to protect a big investment, but when you’re talking about a boat that you sail with friends and family it has always seemed to me to be inappropriate. Bad luck. Almost evil, frankly.

When I first went offshore in a boat I owned myself, in my old Pearson Alberg yawl Crazy Horse, I looked into buying some bluewater insurance and the only quote I got was ludicrously high–$3,600 a year to cover a boat I’d bought for only $28K. This was in the mid-1990s, remember, back when I could live on my boat and cruise around full-time for only $10K a year. I did just that for over two years, without any insurance at all, and earned enough not paying premiums to stay out cruising for many extra months.

Back in those days no one ever asked you if you had insurance, and after I made the decision not to buy any I never thought about it again. But now most marinas and boatyards everywhere in the world absolutely require that you have insurance, and quite often they do insist on seeing proof of coverage. Some people I know have solved this problem by simply forging insurance certificates, which is not that hard to do. All you need is a computer and a printer. Others I’ve met buy common coastal policies, so they have an honest piece of paper to show off when necessary, but then “self-insure” when they go offshore, which fact they fail to mention to the foreign marinas and boatyards they visit.

When I first bought Lunacy back in 2006 I looked into insurance and bought a policy from ACE that cost $2,000 a year, this for a boat for which I’d paid $115K, which seemed fairly reasonable. When I was ready to take her offshore in 2008 they wrote me an endorsement for the Caribbean, for which they charged an extra $1,300, and also pestered me with forms and spurious requirements regarding the passage there. Over the years these premiums have steadily increased (though the pestering has never decreased), and when the last boost took my annual “fear payment” (as I think of it) to over $5,000, before the offshore and Caribbean endorsements were factored in, I knew it was time to do some shopping.

On doing some research I realized just how badly I was being gouged by ACE. Friends with boats just as old as mine (1985), with about the same value, are paying less than $2,000 a year for coastal coverage in the United States. But getting a new policy that would allow for a trip to the Caribbean wasn’t easy. I was hoping, for example, to get coverage from Pantaenius, which now writes policies for U.S. boats and is the recognized premiere insurer for offshore cruising vessels, but they wouldn’t even give me a quote. As was the case with Crazy Horse, it seems Lunacy is too old and cheap to be of interest to many marine insurers.

For a while I was thinking I’d have to become a forger or a self-insurer to go south this year. I told one broker what I really wanted was coverage while in the Caribbean, with exclusions for the passages back and forth, but was told in response that no insurer would ever agree to that. Which seems crazy to me. If I was an insurance company I’d jump on a deal like that. I was also thinking I might cancel my ACE policy, sail down south, and then buy another local policy in the Caribbean and cancel that in the spring before sailing north again.

In the end, however, I did get two decent quotes. One was from New Hampshire Insurance Company, for $2,600 a year, including offshore and Caribbean coverage, but with lots of hoops to jump through and forms to fill out when actually going offshore. They also were insisting on a rigging inspection and full audio-gauge report on the hull, on top of the survey I just had done, before they’d issue a policy. The other was from Seaworthy Insurance Company, for $2,700 a year, including offshore and Caribbean coverage, but with no hoops and forms to deal with and no more inspections required.

Can you guess which one I went for?

Meanwhile, what I’m really stressing about is the weather. Of course. Right now I’m waiting for this low that’s sitting just south of New England to go away so I can sail Lunacy down to Newport. It’s a pretty impressive system. The UNH Marine Lab Field Station here in Portsmouth was reporting gusts to over 60 knots as of 9 this morning.

I’m hoping to leave for Newport tomorrow, and then depart Newport for Bermuda on Monday. Right now that seems feasible… but that assessment, as always, is subject to change.

Gaming the weather this time of year really is like playing Russian roulette. It seems there’s no way to get all the bullets out of the chamber before you pull the trigger. One thing I’m wondering now is whether it’s good luck or bad luck for me that both places I’m going, Bermuda and then St. Maarten, just got pasted by the same hurricane.

You may recall my friend and erstwhile shipmate Jeff Bolster, who has been taking his Valiant 42 Chanticleer south to the W’Indies the last few years. He’s tried the sail-south-from-New-England strategy and the sail-down-to-the-Chesapeake-first-and-then-sail-south strategy and found both wanting. So this year he developed a whole new strategy: he sailed Chanticleer out to Bermuda in August and put her up on the hard. Come December he was then planning to launch her again and sail down to the Caribbean.

That was seeming very clever until Bermuda took a direct hit from Gonzalo last week. For four days Jeff couldn’t get through to his boatyard in Bermuda to find out if his boat had survived. Then finally he received this happy snapshot of his pride and joy:

Safe and sound. But many other boats in the very same yard (in the Dockyard, on the island’s West End) weren’t nearly so lucky.

So it seems Jeff really did dodge a major bullet there. I was wondering what his insurer thought of his new transit strategy, and he tells me they did specify a “Windstorm Deductible” of over $17,000 before giving him permission to store his boat in Bermuda during hurricane season.

MARINE INSURANCE: Scoring New Coverage for Bluewater Cruising

Sail Feed - Thu, 2014-10-23 16:31

As I may have mentioned, I am in the midst of getting Lunacy ready for a run down to the W’Indies. This is always a fraught process, what with the normal anxieties of worrying about whether the boat is truly ready to go offshore, putting together crew, and watching the unruly fall weather unfold. Historically for me this anxiety has always been compounded by my fussy insurance company, ACE, which insists on vetting my crews and making me fill out lots of forms before they’ll give me an endorsement for a passage to the Caribbean.

Marine insurance, of course, is how the whole concept of insurance first got started. Hedging against the potential loss of a vessel and its cargo is a financial game that dates as far back as the ancient Greeks and Romans and was institutionalized in its modern form as early as the late 17th century in Edward Lloyd’s famous coffee house in London (see image up top), where shipowners, merchants, and skippers all gathered together to mull over the perils of ocean-borne commerce while getting hopped up on caffeine. As such, it is fair to say that marine insurance has played a very important role in the development of our global economy, but in the context of recreational bluewater cruising it is another animal entirely.

After all, what is it exactly that an insurance company sells to you? The answer, plain and simple, is fear. When you buy a policy what you’re really doing is making a bet that your own vessel will sink, because you’re afraid it will. This is a smart move, I suppose, when you’re talking high finance and need to protect a big investment, but when you’re talking about a boat that you sail with friends and family it has always seemed to me to be inappropriate. Bad luck. Almost evil, frankly.

When I first went offshore in a boat I owned myself, in my old Pearson Alberg yawl Crazy Horse, I looked into buying some bluewater insurance and the only quote I got was ludicrously high–$3,600 a year to cover a boat I’d bought for only $28K. This was in the mid-1990s, remember, back when I could live on my boat and cruise around full-time for only $10K a year. I did just that for over two years, without any insurance at all, and earned enough not paying premiums to stay out cruising for many extra months.

Back in those days no one ever asked you if you had insurance, and after I made the decision not to buy any I never thought about it again. But now most marinas and boatyards everywhere in the world absolutely require that you have insurance, and quite often they do insist on seeing proof of coverage. Some people I know have solved this problem by simply forging insurance certificates, which is not that hard to do. All you need is a computer and a printer. Others I’ve met buy common coastal policies, so they have an honest piece of paper to show off when necessary, but then “self-insure” when they go offshore, which fact they fail to mention to the foreign marinas and boatyards they visit.

When I first bought Lunacy back in 2006 I looked into insurance and bought a policy from ACE that cost $2,000 a year, this for a boat for which I’d paid $115K, which seemed fairly reasonable. When I was ready to take her offshore in 2008 they wrote me an endorsement for the Caribbean, for which they charged an extra $1,300, and also pestered me with forms and spurious requirements regarding the passage there. Over the years these premiums have steadily increased (though the pestering has never decreased), and when the last boost took my annual “fear payment” (as I think of it) to over $5,000, before the offshore and Caribbean endorsements were factored in, I knew it was time to do some shopping.

On doing some research I realized just how badly I was being gouged by ACE. Friends with boats just as old as mine (1985), with about the same value, are paying less than $2,000 a year for coastal coverage in the United States. But getting a new policy that would allow for a trip to the Caribbean wasn’t easy. I was hoping, for example, to get coverage from Pantaenius, which now writes policies for U.S. boats and is the recognized premiere insurer for offshore cruising vessels, but they wouldn’t even give me a quote. As was the case with Crazy Horse, it seems Lunacy is too old and cheap to be of interest to many marine insurers.

For a while I was thinking I’d have to become a forger or a self-insurer to go south this year. I told one broker what I really wanted was coverage while in the Caribbean, with exclusions for the passages back and forth, but was told in response that no insurer would ever agree to that. Which seems crazy to me. If I was an insurance company I’d jump on a deal like that. I was also thinking I might cancel my ACE policy, sail down south, and then buy another local policy in the Caribbean and cancel that in the spring before sailing north again.

In the end, however, I did get two decent quotes. One was from New Hampshire Insurance Company, for $2,600 a year, including offshore and Caribbean coverage, but with lots of hoops to jump through and forms to fill out when actually going offshore. They also were insisting on a rigging inspection and full audio-gauge report on the hull, on top of the survey I just had done, before they’d issue a policy. The other was from Seaworthy Insurance Company, for $2,700 a year, including offshore and Caribbean coverage, but with no hoops and forms to deal with and no more inspections required.

Can you guess which one I went for?

Meanwhile, what I’m really stressing about is the weather. Of course. Right now I’m waiting for this low that’s sitting just south of New England to go away so I can sail Lunacy down to Newport. It’s a pretty impressive system. The UNH Marine Lab Field Station here in Portsmouth was reporting gusts to over 60 knots as of 9 this morning.

I’m hoping to leave for Newport tomorrow, and then depart Newport for Bermuda on Monday. Right now that seems feasible… but that assessment, as always, is subject to change.

Gaming the weather this time of year really is like playing Russian roulette. It seems there’s no way to get all the bullets out of the chamber before you pull the trigger. One thing I’m wondering now is whether it’s good luck or bad luck for me that both places I’m going, Bermuda and then St. Maarten, just got pasted by the same hurricane.

You may recall my friend and erstwhile shipmate Jeff Bolster, who has been taking his Valiant 42 Chanticleer south to the W’Indies the last few years. He’s tried the sail-south-from-New-England strategy and the sail-down-to-the-Chesapeake-first-and-then-sail-south strategy and found both wanting. So this year he developed a whole new strategy: he sailed Chanticleer out to Bermuda in August and put her up on the hard. Come December he was then planning to launch her again and sail down to the Caribbean.

That was seeming very clever until Bermuda took a direct hit from Gonzalo last week. For four days Jeff couldn’t get through to his boatyard in Bermuda to find out if his boat had survived. Then finally he received this happy snapshot of his pride and joy:

Safe and sound. But many other boats in the very same yard (in the Dockyard, on the island’s West End) weren’t nearly so lucky.

So it seems Jeff really did dodge a major bullet there. I was wondering what his insurer thought of his new transit strategy, and he tells me they did specify a “Windstorm Deductible” of over $17,000 before giving him permission to store his boat in Bermuda during hurricane season.

Welcome to the shipyard

Sail Feed - Wed, 2014-10-22 20:57

PSS Satun, a Thai shipyard just a hop over the southern border with Malaysia, sits at the edge of a small village up a winding muddy river. Because we can only enter the river at high tide, we spend the night before our haulout at a bend where the depth drops enough to keep water under the keel through a full swing. Surrounded by mangroves, we watch fishermen wade knee-deep in the mud at low tide, pushing boxes and collecting something- crabs?- from the flats.

Crossing into Thailand to this spot retraces the same route that brought us here nearly a year ago. This does nothing to dampen our enthusiasm: if anything, it is lifted, knowing what lies ahead. Jamie and I sit in the cockpit, watching sea eagles wheel and cry overhead, and imagine the possibilities.

This is our calm before the shipyard storm. Last year, we spent about a week in this same yard to put new bottom paint on. Our only hindsight regret was that we didn’t fully appreciate the breadth and depth of skillsets, and how much more we could have done. Not this time!

Here’s a sped-up view of our trip up the slipway:

We still aren’t sure what we’ll do. Like many things, it is a pushme-pullyou between what we’d like to do and what our meager budget allows. But even little budgets like ours can stretch far with the good value for quality work available here. We’re already in a mindset to spend a little more than we probably should, because it’s hard to find these skills at such good rates. Still, there’s always a limit! once we have all the estimates, we’ll prioritize projects based on importance and cost. The wish list, however, is extensive.

The essential projects

New water tank. Our stainless steel primary tank (it’s backed up with a bladder tank and jerry cans) has growing leaks. We patched it up in Mexico, five years ago; this time, it needs to be replaced and are weighing whether to go with stainless or fiberglass. You do kind of need water, so this has to be fixed.

New stanchion bases. Like our water tank, these are original to Totem. They’ve served well for more than three decades but show some signs that their strength is compromised. This is a safety concern, so it’s non-negotiable; we’ll replace them.

New refrigerator box. At the moment, we don’t have any refrigeration beyond a cooler with a bag of ice. The compressor stopped working some weeks ago, and I’ve since been expanding my repertoire of Meals From Stuff That Doesn’t Need Refrigeration. That’s coming along nicely, thank you, but I am not the kind of hard core cruiser who can go without any refrigeration at all. We could replace the compressor- we’ll have to- but the bigger underlying problem is that fact that our fridge box, is insufficiently insulated. It’s also original to the boat (sense a theme here?), and the 32 year old open cell spray-in foam of insufficient thickness is definitely more of a conductor than an insulater. For this bit of fun, we get to RIP OUT THE GALLEY. Hoo boy!

Full rudder inspection. We’ll drop the rudder and skeg to inspect bearings and any signs of corrosion and wear. This may have been done by a prior owner, but it may not have been done since Totem was built in 1982: we just don’t know, and that’s not good enough. With big blue water ahead, it’s important for our peace of mind and the safety of our little crew.

New bottom paint. Unfortunately, the paint we put on last year didn’t do as well as we hoped. It’s intended for commercial vessels that have more constant (and higher speed) motion. We proceeded to spend half of this year being relatively stationary dealing with our engine. Boats don’t move very well when they host barnacle farms underwater, so it’s something else we simply must do.

The wish list

Next begins the wish list, in no particular order, of projects we hope to undertake…depending on what time and budget will allow.

Awning frame. We don’t have enough shade in the cockpit. It can be pretty hot and uncomfortable underway, as whoever is on watch looks for a patch of shade under our hard dodger. With a frame, we’ll be able to stretch fabric that extends the shade footprint we can have while sailing- and give us more options for even larger shaded areas at anchor.

Dodger reinforcement. We added this hard dodger after buying Totem in 2007. It’s great to have easier access to the boom, but is a little thin to carry adult weight and has developed some stress cracks. A little strengthening will go a long way.

Stern rail / arch modifications. Our current stern arch was an awkwardly placed addition by a prior owner that doesn’t integrate with the original stern rails. It includes davits that are hugely helpful for lifting our outboard, use in a potential man overboard situation, and short-term dinghy hauling- but are not quite the right size, creating chafe on the dinghy. Stuck between the arch and the rails is a pole that hosts the wind turbine is yet another add-on. While we love each of these independently, it’s a poor overall design that isn’t at all integrated, and creates a lot of dead space on the aft deck. The yard has skilled stainless workers: with minor modifications, we hope to have better davits, reclaim usable space, add social space (aft deck seats! wooo!), an improved turbine mount, and a stronger mount for the outboards.

Anchor roller. Minor modifications will better lock the anchor in place when stowed, and provide better control of chain exiting the roller when Totem is swinging at anchor and the chain angles off to one side.

Bow rail. We’ve done our fair share of leaning out over the bow, and Totem’s bow pulpit is small. We’d like to extend the stainless rail back to the first stanchion. Whether it’s looking at dolphins or trying to get a mess off the anchor, it will give us a safer, more stable base.

Waterline stripe. Since we have to paint the bottom, it’s a good time to work on the waterline stripe. Our current blue stripe is half gone from bottom cleaning and wear and tear.

In the world of wants vs needs, my big “wish” is for the stern modification. It would make this part of Totem so much  more functional, and fun! Still, adding shade with an awning would be pretty huge too. OK, I could actually talk myself into any of these being important! But we’ll see what we can manage. If we only get our essentials done, we’ll be happy. If we can nip a couple on the wish list, we’ll be thrilled. If we get that stern area done, I might even add ecstatic! But basically: this is a win/win proposition, and I’m really excited to see what the coming weeks bring.

It’s a big list, and of course, there are things we don’t even know about that will undoubtedly float onto it- it’s a boat!

Shipyard veterans past and future know we love it when you read this on the Sailfeed website.

Andy’s Biased Review of ‘Red Dot on the Ocean: The Matt Rutherford Story’

Sail Feed - Tue, 2014-10-21 20:30

Note: The movie makes it’s theatrical debut this Friday in New York City at the Quad Cinema. Click for tickets. Click here to watch the trailer.

Mia and I watched ‘Red Dot on the Ocean’ last night, the film about Matt Rutherford and his historic ‘Solo the America’s’ voyage. In a word: inspiring. If you don’t read any further, just take my advice and watch the film. It deserves to become a classic, and I hope it will.

Matt is one of my closest friends in the sailing industry, and so this review will absolutely be biased. I know Matt’s story, I’ve heard it countless times, I’ve written about it countless times and I’ve been one of Matt’s biggest fans since I first met him in 2009. And still, I was mesmerized by this movie, and surprised by what I didn’t know.

In short, the movie follows the fairly formulaic style of switching between his journey around the American continents on his 27′ Albin Vega St. Brendan and his troubled upbringing. If you’ve read Between a Rock and a Hard Place, about Aron Ralston cutting off his arm in that Utah canyon, you’ll know what I mean. The style works for this movie, and nicely balances the dramas unfolding in each storyline, leaving you in a bit of suspense each time they flip back and forth in time. And both narratives are so compelling – unlike Ralston’s childhood, which was way more ‘standard’, and I found boring (I just wanted to hear about his hiking trip) – that the style works particularly well.

Matt had a surprisingly troubled upbringing, beyond anything he ever told me. I won’t ruin it, but to give you an idea of what I mean, he was a recovering drug addict at age 13, a convicted felon at 14, grew up in a cult, and at times contemplated suicide. Only some of this I knew about Matt. He’d hinted at it over the course of our friendship, but never went into detail and I never asked. It doesn’t change the way I think about him, but it certainly changes the way I think about his story and his accomplishment. He’s suddenly elevated to another level entirely. It makes you think though, could he have done this without those kinds of traumatic childhood experiences?

The portion of the film that focuses on the sailing was remarkably well put together, especially considering what the filmmakers had to work with. Matt set off by himself in 2011, with no money and only basic supplies. The fact that he had a camera at all, and managed to take some compelling footage, both above decks and underwater is incredible. He’s good at talking to himself and to the camera, and giving you a feel of what it’s like to be at sea. And to be clear, all of the sailing footage is completely authentic – at times it almost felt stages, but I assure you, having seen his still images, that it’s all authentic. When Simon Edwards sails alongside Matt towards the end of his journey, it’s so calm it looks like they’re on a pond – they’re not. In fact, they’re 600 miles offshore, in the heart of the ocean wilderness, and the fact that Simon was able to track him down at all is incredible. The movie doesn’t touch on this, and to the layperson I think that might seem ‘normal’ at sea. Trust me, it’s not. That Simon had a camera with him was a good call on his part.

To the non-sailors, and even the sailors who have never been offshore, what Matt accomplished was absolutely extraordinary. If there is one thing the film didn’t do, it was emphasize this fact. Perhaps they hoped that just by showing it, folks would realize the enormity of it, but I’m not so sure. Ocean sailing is hard. Like most endurance sports, it’s probably 20% physical and 80% mental, especially once you go beyond a certain point (and especially alone), and Matt’s mental fortitude throughout the voyage and the movie puts him in the company of some of histories great explorers. Matt would sign all of his blog posts he sent in via sat phone with Ernest Shackleton’s family motto, Fortitudine Vincimus, and it’s Shackleton that Matt most wanted to emulate. He certainly came darn close.

I put Matt in the category of the great solo sailing pioneers of the 1960’s, the sailors and writers we all grew up reading about, Matt included. Francis Chichester, Robin Knox-Johnston, Bernard Moitessier. He doesn’t seem it on the surface, but Matt is probably most like Moitessier in that he’s almost a creature of the sea himself, so at peace with the elements and his own mind (which, once you see his childhood, you’ll find perhaps the most remarkable part of the film) that he could thrive out there on his sailing boat indefinitely, if only the boat wouldn’t fall to pieces beneath him. Matt’s voyage was every bit as incredible as Knox-Johnston’s first solo circumnavigation of the world, or Moitessier’s one-and-a-half-times around loop via the Great Capes.

In many ways it’s even more incredible. Matt was sailing a boat that was originally conceived around the same time those guys were making history (the first Golden Globe race was in 1968), and aside from his satellite communications and robust furling gear, he had mostly the same technology. Moitessier and Knox-Johnston had a bit of an edge, in that at the time, nobody thought what they were doing was even possible. Their successes made people change their minds, and suddenly what was impossible became possible. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that we landed on the moon around that same time.

Matt, almost 50 years later, set perhaps an even more remarkable record with his voyage. He sailed the equivalent of a circumnavigation – he basically circled the globe from top to bottom, rather than left to right – and did so through the world’s most treacherous stretches of ocean, through the NW passage which even this year was deemed impassable by the great Jimmy Cornell. And he did it with no money, in an old boat, and for no glory. His was as honest an endeavor as can be, and this the film recognizes very well.

The movie was very personal to me. That same summer, as Matt was heading north, Mia and I were heading east, sailing from Nova Scotia to Ireland in Arcturus, on our way ultimately toward Sweden. When we set off, on July 31, 2011, Matt was up in Baffin Bay, writing about his insomnia as he stood 50-hour watches in the fog, dodging icebergs and foul weather. I’d exchanged a few sat phone emails with him, wishing him well through the Arctic and on his journey. Matt wrote me back, via sat phone, the day we set off ‘the deep end’ from St. Pierre:

“Have a good trip. Godspeed. Let me know when you get to the other side I would love to hear about it.”

On August 13, when Arcturus was still 8 days from making landfall in Ireland, Matt wrote again:

“How was the crossing?  Im deep in the Northwest passage by this point. Drink a Guinness for me.”

A week later, I got this from Matt, after I’d emailed him to tell of our successful 23 day Atlantic crossing:

“Sounds like you had very little wind. I hate being becalmed! Funny thing is im becalmed right now as I write this. I loved Ireland. Be careful going up the coast the cliffs are a hazard. You will see more wind in Ireland then you did crossing the Atlantic. I was on anchor in the Kenmare river (bad spelling?) and I had 45kts. I was just in a gale the other day. It was blowing 40kts in the Amundsen Gulf. Send me some questions and ill be happy to answer. A follow up article would be good. I’m afraid we are not going to raise much money.”

The fact that he was curious and concerned about us, even in the midst of the biggest challenge of his life, is telling. And that is biggest concern was not raising much money for CRAB, which was the point of the voyage in the first place (he needn’t have worried – he ended up raising $120,000). Maybe he was yearning for human contact, but I genuinely think he was hoping we’d be okay and were having fun. There are lots more of these emails. Digging back through my inbox, I can nearly recount Matt’s voyage through the emails he sent me. Ocean sailors are kindred spirits, and these gestures from Matt meant a lot. 

Oddly, despite all the naysayers (one editor at a prominent magazine refused to publish a story I’d written about Matt’s upcoming trip, claiming he was nuts and would never make it), I never had any doubt in Matt. I’d been on the boat in Annapolis before he left, and I was a small boat sailor myself. I know the fear that you get out there at the start of a passage, and the nagging doubt that creeps in and tries to stop you. But I knew, somehow, that Matt would make it. 

This is a rambling review, and I’m not a movie reviewer, but I hope the point comes across that you ought to see this. Even knowing the story inside and out, I found myself on the edge of my seat, my heart racing with inspiration as I watched Matt on the screen making a life for himself that he and only he made the rules for. I knew what the outcome would be, but it didn’t matter. As cliched as it sounds, it’s the journey that Matt had along the way that is so inspiring.

Andy’s Biased Review of ‘Red Dot on the Ocean: The Matt Rutherford Story’

Sail Feed - Tue, 2014-10-21 20:27

Note: The movie makes it’s theatrical debut this Friday in New York City at the Quad Cinema. Click for tickets. Click here to watch the trailer.

Mia and I watched ‘Red Dot on the Ocean’ last night, the film about Matt Rutherford and his historic ‘Solo the America’s’ voyage. In a word: inspiring. If you don’t read any further, just take my advice and watch the film. It deserves to become a classic, and I hope it will.

Matt is one of my closest friends in the sailing industry, and so this review will absolutely be biased. I know Matt’s story, I’ve heard it countless times, I’ve written about it countless times and I’ve been one of Matt’s biggest fans since I first met him in 2009. And still, I was mesmerized by this movie, and surprised by what I didn’t know.

In short, the movie follows the fairly formulaic style of switching between his journey around the American continents on his 27′ Albin Vega St. Brendan and his troubled upbringing. If you’ve read Between a Rock and a Hard Place, about Aron Ralston cutting off his arm in that Utah canyon, you’ll know what I mean. The style works for this movie, and nicely balances the dramas unfolding in each storyline, leaving you in a bit of suspense each time they flip back and forth in time. And both narratives are so compelling – unlike Ralston’s childhood, which was way more ‘standard’, and I found boring (I just wanted to hear about his hiking trip) – that the style works particularly well.

Matt had a surprisingly troubled upbringing, beyond anything he ever told me. I won’t ruin it, but to give you an idea of what I mean, he was a recovering drug addict at age 13, a convicted felon at 14, grew up in a cult, and at times contemplated suicide. Only some of this I knew about Matt. He’d hinted at it over the course of our friendship, but never went into detail and I never asked. It doesn’t change the way I think about him, but it certainly changes the way I think about his story and his accomplishment. He’s suddenly elevated to another level entirely. It makes you think though, could he have done this without those kinds of traumatic childhood experiences?

The portion of the film that focuses on the sailing was remarkably well put together, especially considering what the filmmakers had to work with. Matt set off by himself in 2011, with no money and only basic supplies. The fact that he had a camera at all, and managed to take some compelling footage, both above decks and underwater is incredible. He’s good at talking to himself and to the camera, and giving you a feel of what it’s like to be at sea. And to be clear, all of the sailing footage is completely authentic – at times it almost felt stages, but I assure you, having seen his still images, that it’s all authentic. When Simon Edwards sails alongside Matt towards the end of his journey, it’s so calm it looks like they’re on a pond – they’re not. In fact, they’re 600 miles offshore, in the heart of the ocean wilderness, and the fact that Simon was able to track him down at all is incredible. The movie doesn’t touch on this, and to the layperson I think that might seem ‘normal’ at sea. Trust me, it’s not. That Simon had a camera with him was a good call on his part.

To the non-sailors, and even the sailors who have never been offshore, what Matt accomplished was absolutely extraordinary. If there is one thing the film didn’t do, it was emphasize this fact. Perhaps they hoped that just by showing it, folks would realize the enormity of it, but I’m not so sure. Ocean sailing is hard. Like most endurance sports, it’s probably 20% physical and 80% mental, especially once you go beyond a certain point (and especially alone), and Matt’s mental fortitude throughout the voyage and the movie puts him in the company of some of histories great explorers. Matt would sign all of his blog posts he sent in via sat phone with Ernest Shackleton’s family motto, Fortitudine Vincimus, and it’s Shackleton that Matt most wanted to emulate. He certainly came darn close.

I put Matt in the category of the great solo sailing pioneers of the 1960’s, the sailors and writers we all grew up reading about, Matt included. Francis Chichester, Robin Knox-Johnston, Bernard Moitessier. He doesn’t seem it on the surface, but Matt is probably most like Moitessier in that he’s almost a creature of the sea himself, so at peace with the elements and his own mind (which, once you see his childhood, you’ll find perhaps the most remarkable part of the film) that he could thrive out there on his sailing boat indefinitely, if only the boat wouldn’t fall to pieces beneath him. Matt’s voyage was every bit as incredible as Knox-Johnston’s first solo circumnavigation of the world, or Moitessier’s one-and-a-half-times around loop via the Great Capes.

In many ways it’s even more incredible. Matt was sailing a boat that was originally conceived around the same time those guys were making history (the first Golden Globe race was in 1968), and aside from his satellite communications and robust furling gear, he had mostly the same technology. Moitessier and Knox-Johnston had a bit of an edge, in that at the time, nobody thought what they were doing was even possible. Their successes made people change their minds, and suddenly what was impossible became possible. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that we landed on the moon around that same time.

Matt, almost 50 years later, set perhaps an even more remarkable record with his voyage. He sailed the equivalent of a circumnavigation – he basically circled the globe from top to bottom, rather than left to right – and did so through the world’s most treacherous stretches of ocean, through the NW passage which even this year was deemed impassable by the great Jimmy Cornell. And he did it with no money, in an old boat, and for no glory. His was as honest an endeavor as can be, and this the film recognizes very well.

The movie was very personal to me. That same summer, as Matt was heading north, Mia and I were heading east, sailing from Nova Scotia to Ireland in Arcturus, on our way ultimately toward Sweden. When we set off, on July 31, 2011, Matt was up in Baffin Bay, writing about his insomnia as he stood 50-hour watches in the fog, dodging icebergs and foul weather. I’d exchanged a few sat phone emails with him, wishing him well through the Arctic and on his journey. Matt wrote me back, via sat phone, the day we set off ‘the deep end’ from St. Pierre:

“Have a good trip. Godspeed. Let me know when you get to the other side I would love to hear about it.”

On August 13, when Arcturus was still 8 days from making landfall in Ireland, Matt wrote again:

“How was the crossing?  Im deep in the Northwest passage by this point. Drink a Guinness for me.”

A week later, I got this from Matt, after I’d emailed him to tell of our successful 23 day Atlantic crossing:

“Sounds like you had very little wind. I hate being becalmed! Funny thing is im becalmed right now as I write this. I loved Ireland. Be careful going up the coast the cliffs are a hazard. You will see more wind in Ireland then you did crossing the Atlantic. I was on anchor in the Kenmare river (bad spelling?) and I had 45kts. I was just in a gale the other day. It was blowing 40kts in the Amundsen Gulf. Send me some questions and ill be happy to answer. A follow up article would be good. I’m afraid we are not going to raise much money.”

The fact that he was curious and concerned about us, even in the midst of the biggest challenge of his life, is telling. And that is biggest concern was not raising much money for CRAB, which was the point of the voyage in the first place (he needn’t have worried – he ended up raising $120,000). Maybe he was yearning for human contact, but I genuinely think he was hoping we’d be okay and were having fun. There are lots more of these emails. Digging back through my inbox, I can nearly recount Matt’s voyage through the emails he sent me. Ocean sailors are kindred spirits, and these gestures from Matt meant a lot.

Oddly, despite all the naysayers (one editor at a prominent magazine refused to publish a story I’d written about Matt’s upcoming trip, claiming he was nuts and would never make it), I never had any doubt in Matt. I’d been on the boat in Annapolis before he left, and I was a small boat sailor myself. I know the fear that you get out there at the start of a passage, and the nagging doubt that creeps in and tries to stop you. But I knew, somehow, that Matt would make it.

This is a rambling review, and I’m not a movie reviewer, but I hope the point comes across that you ought to see this. Even knowing the story inside and out, I found myself on the edge of my seat, my heart racing with inspiration as I watched Matt on the screen making a life for himself that he and only he made the rules for. I knew what the outcome would be, but it didn’t matter. As cliched as it sounds, it’s the journey that Matt had along the way that is so inspiring.

USB charging on a 12v boat, fie on Apple?

Sail Feed - Tue, 2014-10-21 11:00

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

It was easy to gather a slew of devices currently on board Gizmo that hunger for a USB power supply at least occasionally. Heck, when the Verizon Android Galaxy phone is providing an LTE WiFi hotspot and also streaming Bluetooth audio to the Fusion IP700 stereo as it is now — I’m online while listening to a Maine radio station — it needs to be charged almost constantly. The hard-working phone is also why I keep those two USB charged/charging batteries topped up for shore trips (and, yes, they do make great press event swag, thank you Simrad and FLIR). The Phonak hearing aid accessory needs nightly charging and while the DeLorme InReach Explorer in the background can go for days doing satellite tracking and a few messages, I prefer to keep it plugged in so my Share Map stays complete. In short, I need multiple 12v USB power sources to keep this crew happy and thus this entry will cover several types I’ve tested. There are a lot of cables involved too, but it’s nice that all the gadgets pictured use a standard USB mini or micro size power/data plug, with one very significant exception…

Of course it’s the Apple iPad mini that uses a proprietary Lightning connector instead of a standard USB plug. The tablet does have excellent battery life and I understand that it needs more than a standard USB 5 volt 1 amp charger (or .5 amp laptop USB port) to renew the battery efficiently, but iPad charging issues go well beyond that. My experience is that even if you use a charger rated at the 2.1 amps purportedly needed by most iPads — newer models have gone to 2.4 amps — you won’t know for sure that you’ll see the charging screen above when you plug the Lightning cable in. There are endless online discussions about this and it may be that Apple uses a unique way of detecting a higher amperage charger that you’ll only find for sure in Apple Certified chargers, none of which is ideal for a boat (in my opinion).

Before describing my search for a good marine iPad charger, let me grumble a warning about the Lightning cable itself. The official Apple one above failed during my trip from Maine to Baltimore, which caused some anxiety as I didn’t have a spare and I use the iPad mini a lot. Fortunately I was able to get this connector to pass a charge again by gently sanding the contacts with fine emory paper lubricated with a little oil. But I’ve had Apple-made cables fail before, and cheap knock-off cables have done worse. The back-up Lightning cable I should have brought from home and highly recommend is Amazon’s own Apple Certified design. It seems sturdier than Apple’s and reasonably priced, especially given that Apple apparently gets a few dollar fee for every one.

By far the most common way to charge USB devices in a car or boat is with adapters like the ones above. They fit what are now called “12v accessory outlets” though oldsters like myself know that the “outlet” was originally designed for cigarette lighters. That’s a limited and very short-term use and as that Wikipedia entry rightly notes, the design has “poor contact stability” even though my boat came with four such power receptacles installed. Of course I tried them and adapters like the one at left with the 2.1A output sometimes charged my iPad. Sometimes, not always. Then one day I realized that the adapter had gotten quite hot, apparently because it was trying to draw those 2 amps through a poor contact. It was not the first time I’ve had such trouble, which is why I wonder if such “outlets” should be used untended on a boat.

First I tried the type of 12v USB power source designed to install behind a dash, which work neatly with accessories like the Tallon Ultimate iPad Mount or just a regular USB cable snaked to your favorite charging station. I couldn’t find a known brand model but both the CPT (no longer available) and the RioRand (available here at Amazon) charge every USB device on Gizmo just fine…except the iPad. Even though both chargers claim 3A output, sometimes the iPad says it’s charging, sometimes not.

I realize that iPads often charge slowly even when they aren’t acknowleging it, but I was frustrated nonetheless and was often using the Apple AC charger with Gizmo’s inverter just to be sure. And when I recently shopped for the type of USB charger that can replace an existing cigarette lighter receptical, my expectations for iPad compatability were low. So far, though, the Blue Sea Dual USB Charger Socket is working very well and the similar XYZ Boat Supplies model pretty well. Specifically, my iPad mini has always shown charge status when plugged into either Blue Sea outlet, but it failed once when plugged into the XYZ’s high power outlet (and its blue LED even went out). I’m not surprised that the Blue Sea product seems more reliable, but I don’t know how either charger will work with new iPads that would like 2.4 amp charging. Anyone?

Finally, don’t these annoying incontestabilities, worn cables, and so forth make one yearn for a universal inductive charging standard? I don’t know if that will ever happen, especially for Apple devices, but at IBEX I saw how inductive charging is coming neatly to boats, and will write about it soon.

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A 50 Kilometer Run Through the Woods / The Blues Cruise Ultramarathon

Sail Feed - Tue, 2014-10-21 08:38

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything solely for myself, let alone by hand. Feels strange to put pencil to paper, and awkwardly slow. My brain thinks these sentences faster than my hand can scrawl them down. On the computer, my typing can keep up. Still, somehow this feels better.

I ran my first ultramarathon on Sunday, October 5 over at Blue Marsh Lake, about 5 minutes from my dad’s house, the house I grew up in, outside Reading. The ‘Blues Cruise Ultra 50K’ put on by the Pagoda Pacers Athletic Club.

Saturday night had been later and involved more red wine that I’d have preferred. Mia and I drove home to dad’s house from Lancaster to ‘stage’ there before the race. Kaitie joined us so we could go through some of my Mom’s stuff. Lots of kitchen utensils, old jewelry and a ton of books. I took many about Native American Culture, a side of my mom I knew about – it was a big part of who she was – but never explored much on my own.  That evening, after a salmon and vegetable cookout on the very windy deck, we drank wine and my mom’s stuff brought back fond, fond memories of things I thought were long forgotten.

I realize that my pre-race routine may not exactly have been so performance oriented. Aside from the wonderful, large meal, I probably had 2 too many glasses of wine (I’d previously started a routine of drinking 2 glasses of red wine the night before any endurance event) went to bed an hour too late and hadn’t trained enough in the three weeks since my marathon in Helsingborg, Sweden. But here’s the point – I’m not out there to win. Exercise is a lifestyle for me, and in order to maintain it, there’s got to be a balance. I burned out of golf early in my career and decided I can’t fully dedicate myself to just one thing. But I love to train. I love the endurance sports especially – it’s not how fast I can go, but how far – pushing that limit is what excites and motivates me.

On to the race! The morning dawned clear and very cool. Perfect running conditions, about 50º F at the start. I wore cheap Puma socks, New Balance Minimus 10 shoes, calf compression socks, Helly Hansen running shorts, my Garage Strength singlet and a long-sleeve running shirt to keep my arms warm at the beginning. I brough a 2-liter ‘Nathan’ brand water backpack, with two tablets of ‘Resorb’ (basically Pedialyte) dissolved into it, and carried several Gu gels and a Larabar. I wore a visor to keep the sun out of my eyes.

The atmosphere around the starting area was distinctly different from a standard marathon. Very low-key and non-commericial. Something like 330 runners took the start, so it was decidedly un-crowded. An older guy with a Pennsylvania Dutch accent was making announcements over the PA system in between loud German oompa music, which I effin’ loved.

We gathered in the grass behind the start/finish line and set off with the gun at 8:35am (there was a 5-minute delay due to the long line of people at the port-o-pots who needed that one last poop, myself included. It’s amazing how your nerves will empty out your gut before a long endurance race.)

The start of a long event is always mentally daunting. Knowing that you won’t be back to the same place for over 5 hours is difficult to comprehend. That’s a very slow round of golf! Jeeze. But we were off at last.

It’s difficult to describe how hard it is to pace yourself on a long run (anything more than 13 miles, really). Especially in a race. Your blood is pumping, and with days of tapering and rest, your body (hopefully) feels amazing. You’ve got to squash the urges to go out fast at the start. In fact you’ve got to deliberately try and run slower than you think is possible. 31 miles is a long way, and any extreme effort at the start will be paid for in pain and suffering hours later.

In Helsingborg, the marathon I ran three weeks before the ultra, I went out very fast, trying to set a new PR – under 3:40:00 – and blew up with still 10 miles to go. 1 mile at the end of a marathon feels like eternity when your body hurts like mine did. 10 feels next to impossible – but then that’s why I run these long events. The impossible becomes possible.

The trails at Blue Marsh are mostly single- and double-track mountain bike trails. No super elevation changes, but not many flat sections either. And the hills, though never too long, are very steep and the terrain is a mix of packed dirt, loose shale, rocks and roots. Most of the time your vision is concentrated on each step (and I passed several people who didn’t lift their feet enough and tumbled). Several times I ran onto a stone or root directly under the ball of my foot. With the minimus shoes on, this is no fun. Might as well be barefoot.

The course was run clockwise around the lake (it alternates each year). This was a boon to me mentally, because even as a id, we always biked in that direction. The landmarks are more familiar and it’s easier for me to gauge distances. In an ultra (or even a standard marathon), it’s the mental side that gets you through the end. It was nice to have that small edge.

So, how’d it go? After the summer spent training on the small, flat islands in the Stockholm archipelago (I managed only 6 runs over 20km, 2 over 30), I was not ready for the hills. But neither, apparently, was anyone else. From the first rise heading up to the steep slope from the parking lot at the stilling basin, folks were walking. I took this as a sign of experience – these guys must know that in an ultra, you simply walk the steeper hills from the get-go to save energy, to save your legs for the miles yet to come. So I reluctantly followed suit (at times there was no choice as there were simply no passing lanes on the narrow trails).

The pack of runners very quickly strung out. I wound up chatting with an experienced looking guy wearing black shorts, a black t-shirt, a sweet headband and the minimalist running sandals called huarachas that the Tarahumara Indians wear in Mexico, and which got so much attention in the book Born to Run. I decided then and there that if I stayed with him, I’d be okay – he kept a similar pace and had done the race before, and simply looked like he knew what he was doing.

When you’re properly trained, the first half or so of any endurance event is basically ‘free.’ Meaning, you set the pace early on and just go on autopilot. The rhythm of your footsteps and breathing patterns become hypnotic. Make sure to keep eating and drinking at regular intervals (whether you feel you need it or not) and try to hold yourself back a bit. They say a marathon doesn’t start until mile 20 – those last 6.2 feel vastly longer than the first 20 (which I experienced in Helsingborg). An ultra then, really starts once you pass the marathon mark. That’s uncharted territory.

After the debacle in Sweden (my first half split was 1:52:00, right on pace for a 3:45:00 race. My second half? 2:15:00…), I decided to just run the ultra with the goal to finish in one piece. At about mile 14 (I only had a simple wristwatch, so wasn’t tracking my distance aside from watching the trail markers go by) I was still with the sandals guy. There was a steep hill up to the road where the 2nd aid station was situated. ‘You look strong!’ shouted Mia, cheering with her small cowbell on the side of the trail. ‘Too strong!’

I felt strong. I powered up the hull, running this time, stopped briefly at the aid station to fill my water backpack, scarfed a few boiled potatoes dipped in salt (my new favorite endurance snack) and got the heck out of there. It was the last time I’d see the sandals guy (who was by then behind me).

My next target was a gorgeous girl in short running shorts and a long brown pony tail. From behind, she was stunning – her long legs were tanned and fit. These are the small pleasures you get running such a long race. She was slightly faster, but I kept pace maybe ten yards behind and admired her legs for the next several miles, my rthymic breathing and strides ticking along like a metronome. I wasn’t floating effortlessly anymoe, but I felt I could keep up the pace without any issues and with just a little more concentration.

At another aid station I was still even with the leggy girl, but left her behind after my short potato break. That was a shame – those legs were really something. By mile 20, I felt I was still racing for ‘free.’ The pain and suffering hadn’t begun. Perhaps the three weeks of rest after the miserable marathon was actually needed (I trained 2-3 times, running only one longish run of 17km, and lifted weights at the gym three days before the ultra).

Mia was there at every turn it seemed with her little cowbell. It’s hard to stress how much energy you can get from cheering fans along an endurance course, especially your loved ones. But it wasn’t just me she was cheering for – Mia cheered on everyone around me, and you could just feel the energy. Others commented on it. Mia being a distance runner herself knows firsthand how much the fans help, so she made sure to keep it up.

The the final aid station, I was starting to feel it. I’d by then run more than a marathon, farthest ever. My stomach didn’t feel like eating anymore, and my legs were starting to get ‘wooden.’

‘Come on you pussy,’ I kept saying to myself over the small uphills. I’d made a point to keep running now, hills be damned. That late in the game, everyone was walking even the slightest incline, so I got some mental energy knowing I could run by them. I also knew that they’d be slightly deflated by getting passed. It’s still a competition after all, even in the middle of the pack.

I knew the trail, and I knew that with just 1 mile to go, there was one more major hil 0 not too steep, but very rutted and rocky and very long. I kept it up, and made a point to run that effin’ hill, passing maybe half a dozen people on the way. Mentally I was inspired, and physically I felt surprisingly good. Back on the road round the corner towards the finish I started sprinting, and crossed the line at full speed, 5:47:04 showing on the clock. They handed me not a medal for finishing, but rather a chair. I sat, and Mia fed me hummus and potato pancakes that the PA Dutch folks were preparing on the nearby griddle.

I was on the moon having finished. My first ultra! 31 effin’ miles! At that point, 50 miles seemed actually feasible. I was physically drained after 31, but could suddenly understand, not feeling totally broken, how 50 or even 100 was possible with the proper training. And that’s the point – keep pushing your limits, and you’ll realize that there are no limits.

Endurance sports greatly appeal to me because it doesn’t matter how fast you are, but how far you can keep going, how long you’re willing to suffer physically but stay mentally focused. Endurance sports are a lifetime endeavor – I was to be doing this when I’m 80.

I finished 99th of the men, out of 230-something, so in the top half of the pack. The winner ran an insanely fast 3:32:00, but there were only 35 of so people under 5 hours. I was a little disappointed that I didn’t feel more tired at the end – I felt maybe I had left a little too much in the tank, maybe could have run 15 or 20 minutes faster. But then I’ve got that for next time. It wasn’t worth blowing up and ruining the experience.

Who’s joining me next year?

 

Red Dot on the Ocean: Official Trailer of the Matt Rutherford Story

Sail Feed - Tue, 2014-10-21 07:01

Watch the official trailer of the Matt Rutherford story about his epic voyage around the america’s and his unbelievable childhood that put him on the path to become one of the greatest sailors of the modern world. Red Dot on the Ocean premiere’s this Friday, October 24, at the Quad Cinema in New York City. Look for Andy Schell’s full review later today, Tuesday October 21.

What’s your favorite cruising destination?

Sail Feed - Mon, 2014-10-20 04:57

With 71% of our planet covered by oceans, there is no shortage of places to explore by boat. So when I landed recently on a page for the latest campaign from LOOK, which aims to identify the world’s most exotic sailing location, well, I had two reactions. What’s their pick? And how could we possibly choose just one from among our favorites? I asked the question on Totem’s facebook page and had a slew of interesting suggestions… so we started thinking more about ours.

As we’ve done a interviews for podcasts or print, the question of a favorite place typically comes up. I’m not sure we’ve referenced the same place twice, because not only is it hard to pick one, but we don’t all agree: should it be Papua New Guinea’s Ninigo island, Suwarrow atoll in the Cook Islands, the glorious Tuamotus in French Polynesia, or Banda Neira in Indonesia? Pushed to name a selection of favorites there’s one place that all five of us bring up, especially as it falls father into hindsight. Mexico, and in particular the Sea of Cortez, is a stunning place to go cruising. By one measure after another, it is simply an epic destination. We spent about a year and a half in Mexico, and more than four months in the Sea of Cortez, between 2009 and 2010. Why do we love it? Why should you go?

Soak up the larger-than-life landscapes. I expected to dislike the desert; I expected to dislike it quite a bit, in fact. In truth, it is spectacular. I found it impossible to resist the lure of this stunning, majestic landscape. Anchorages in the Sea of Cortez offer these one after the other.

Dive into unforgettable snorkeling. In Agua Verde, we spent many hours taking in the beautiful clear water of the bay. There aren’t corals here to speak of, it’s too far north, but the diversity of fish and other marine life exceeded anything else we saw underwater in Mexico, especially out at the pinnacle ‘Roca Solitaria.’

That’s Roca Solitaria on the right, distant

Be utterly and completely alone. Crown yourself regent at one uninhabited island after another. Some might want to turn up the speakers, but what’s truly special is the ability to luxuriate in the glorious silence of a night uncluttered with a single other man-made sound, just the occasional howl of a coyote.

no neighbors here

Surround yourself with vibrant Mexican culture. When you’re finished with the solitude, communities sprinkled along the Baja side of the Sea are vital counterpoints to the desert space.

Lose yourself in the food. On one hand, there is the incredible food to be found in towns: from the classic fish taco with queso fresco, to one with succulent fresh shrimp, grilled and tucked into a warm corn tortilla. Should I mention the bacon-wrapped hot dogs of Santa Rosalia? The flip side of the awesome food is the utter and total lack of anyplace to buy groceries for some very long stretches. That might be a downside for some, but we loved the lessons it gave us in planning, self sufficiency, and foraging.

catching sand bass for dinner in the northern Sea

The beachcombing is insane. Byproduct of so many miles of coastline and so little of… well, anything. Fish, whale bones, agates, glorious shells, ancient artifacts, desiccated starfish, rusted industrial remnants. It’s all here and more.

You can go sailing! OK, that’s a bit tongue in cheek- this is about a favorite sailing destination, after all.  And yes, we did our fair share of motorsailing and motoring there, too, but the sails on Totem had a LOT more use during a few months in the Sea of Cortez then they have in a year and a half in Southeast Asia.

She sails! thanks to Jesse Stephens for this photo of Totem.

History lives here. From an anchorage you can spot the middens that are hallmarks of ancient settlements, long lost to memory. Walk around them and you can find arrowheads, heat-cracked stones, and more.

Mexico didn’t show up as one of LOOK’s picks, and I think it deserves a spot. But check out their favorites: the list started out feeling a little predictable, then took a left turn with an entirely unexpected destination that grabbed my interest. No spoilers, you have to find out for yourself! And then, write back and tell me your favorite.

 If you read this on the Sailfeed website, you’re surely confident in the location of your own favorite sailing destination.

When I Wake Up

Sail Feed - Sun, 2014-10-19 22:34

At 6:15 on Saturday morning, I found myself losing at Monopoly to Indy. This is noteworthy not because I was getting trounced by a six-year-old, but rather because I was up, dressed, fed and already losing a board game at quarter past six.

Truth is, I had been up for two hours already.

I have never been a morning person. I leave Disease J to those better suited to it. Still, if you do a thing long enough, you get used to it. Between Indy, sailing, and living in the tropics, I have learned to scroll back my wake-up time. But I really thought that waking at 5:45am every morning – as required to get the kids to school on time in New Caledonia – was my low-water mark. I should have known I could count on my dear husband, The Envelope Pusher, to take a job that required him at work at by sunrise.


Erik wisely waited to present his schedule to me until we were already here.
“You’re setting your alarm for when?
“4:15.”
“Because?”
“I need to get out of here by five at the latest so I have time to eat in the mess before I head to work.”
Well, that was something, anyway. At least I wasn’t going to have to produce breakfast in the middle of the night.
And I then I said it.
“Why don’t I get up with you. We can have a cup of coffee before you go.”
I heard the words leaving my lips, and I was like someone else was speaking them. Was I completely out of my mind? Get up at that time of day on purpose? Just to drink coffee with my crummy husband? Boy, I must like him more than I thought.
Erik gave me a skeptical look. He knows my views on the antemeridian hours. “Okay – if you want to. That would be really nice.”

So I got up that first day. And we had a nice, quiet, undisturbed chat. (Not even Indy recognizes the hours before 6am). I got up again the next day. And the next. And now it is my routine. Get up, prepare & consume hot beverage, boot husband out the door, enjoy 60-105 minutes of quiet work time (Indy-dependent), shovel the girls out of bed, make breakfast, and get on with the day.

Mind you, this makes my evenings somewhat dicey. Indy is always ready to go to bed, but Stylish is a classic night owl. She now tucks me in from time to time, giving me massive flashbacks to kissing my own parents goodnight as my mother struggled to keep her eyes open past 8:00pm.

During the week my new routine isn’t a problem: school nights mean everyone has to go to bed in a timely fashion. But on weekends, things actually happen in the evenings. On Saturday, we were invited to a party in the park across from our house. I looked at the invitation: 4 o’clock. Excellent, I thought. That won’t go too late.

We went, we ate,we laughed, and everyone had a good time. Eventually, Indy slouched up to me. “Mom, I want to go home.”
“Are you tired?”
She nodded.
“Okay.” I made my goodbyes and walked her home, all the while thinking: Hot dog! It must be eleven o’clock; I’m ready for bed, too.

We had hardly made it inside the house when footsteps pounded up the stairs behind us.
“They’re doing ice cream!” shouted a child’s voice.
Indy, who had been walking slumped almost in half, straightened immediately. “Mom, can we go back?”
I pushed down the whine that formed in my throat. “Of course we can. Off you go.” She raced back into the night.
I glanced at the microwave on my way out the door. 7:38pm. I shook my head. Clock must be broken.

Two cupcakes and an ice cream cone later Indy gave up for real. We were both tucked in bed by 10:00.

And the next morning? I slept in until six.

2014 ANNAPOLIS TEST SAILS: Garcia Exploration 45, Seascape 27

Sail Feed - Sun, 2014-10-19 21:41

Day two of this year’s test-sailing program looked to be a bit snotty weather-wise, with the forecast early on showing wind gusting to 30 knots, rain, and a good chance of thunderstorms. Great conditions, in other words, for trying out the new Garcia Exploration 45. As things turned out, the weather was actually a bit more moderate than that, but we still enjoyed sporty conditions out on Chesapeake Bay during our first test sail, with the wind blowing about 20 knots true.

We sailed the whole test with two reefs in the Garcia’s mainsail and tried out both working headsails. I was little surprised to learn the boat doesn’t have a true cutter rig. You can either sail with just the staysail rolled out (as in the photo up top), or with just the jib out, but not with both. Strictly speaking, I guess that makes it a “solent rig.” You can also fly a bigger Code-Zero-type headsail on a continuous-line furler, or an A-sail in a sock or on a furler, from the very beefy bowsprit.

One nice heavy-weather feature on this boat is the super-strong heavily insulated companionway hatch/door that can be dogged down tight for maximum security. Right here is the part of the test where Brad Baker and Pete McGonagle of Swiftsure Yachts closed me in down below so I could experience how quiet the interior is when things are boisterous outside. And yes! It was very peaceful in there

That’s Zuzana Prochazka on the helm and my compatriot from SAIL, Adam Cort, cowering in the shelter of the hard dodger. With her twin rudders, the boat has a very easy helm. Very soft, but still accurate. I guess you’d have to pretty much put the mast in the water to load it up much. One issue for Zuzana, however, was that she could not see over the tall coachroof when standing behind the wheel. She had to steer sitting out to one side or the other to get a clear view forward. Even for me, at over six feet, dodging small obstructions like crab pots was hard when steering from the cockpit

This is where you want to be when dodging lots of pots, or when it’s pouring rain out, as happened at the end of our sail. From the forward-facing nav desk at the front of the deck saloon you have a nice clear view ahead and can both steer and control the engine. One thing I noticed was that the nav seat was the only comfortable place to sit in the saloon when our test boat was heeled on starboard tack. Subsequent boats will have a strong backrest on the bench seat on the port side of the table to ameliorate this

Here’s the bulletproof companionway as seen from the other side. The overhead sliding hatch in the coachroof is a nice feature when it’s real stinky out. Our test boat also had a frame for a canvas dodger that can be raised to increase shelter in this area. Note too the strong integral handholds and tether attachment points

With the full jib and double-reefed main we hit speeds over 7 knots no problem and were very comfortable doing it. The boat has a smooth easy motion, which I have noticed is usually true of integral centerboard boats like this. My theory is this is because you are closer to the ballast, which is up in the hull in the bilges rather than many feet underwater at the end of a keel. I particularly liked that the side-decks are very secure. With lots of handholds on the high coachroof, moving forward while underway was a piece of cake

I was a little worried about my second test of the day, aboard the Seascape 27, a sliver of a sportboat that looked to be something of a handful in strong wind. My Slovenian hosts, however, were downright enthusiastic about our prospects, and the weather, in any event, actually moderated a bit after the big rain squall that went through during the end of my outing on the Garcia. By the time I got out on the Seascape, the true wind was blowing just 13-15 knots, though the seas were still a bit lumpy.

Here we are skating along at an easy 7-9 knots. I found the boat has a great helm–smooth, not at all quirky, and very accurate, which made it easy for me to scull the boat through the 4- to 5-foot seas

This is the reacher, as my friends called it, flying from the retractable carbon sprit up forward. It has a big positive luff and you can’t get too close to the wind with it. During the boat’s first test of the day, back when it was blowing 20 in the morning, boatspeed reportedly hit 15 knots under this sail

Later we switched to this big asymmetric spinnaker, which had stayed in the bag during the morning outing. We made 9-10 knots running off on a broad reach under this puppy

Heading back to the barn under power. The hideaway outboard well in the middle of the cockpit worked great in practice. The boat’s construction is not at all radical–just fiberglass vacuumed over a foam core, with some carbon in the center structure that carries the mast and keel loads. Plus the rig is carbon. Base price is just $70K

And here’s the trailer she rode in on. The boat has a swing keel, so can be easily hauled off to the nearest regatta. Full price with sails, electronics, and the trailer is about $120K

If you want to read more detailed write-ups on both these boats, keep an orb glued to future issues of SAIL. Meanwhile, I’m switching into offshore-passage mode and will soon start sailing Lunacy south for the winter, so if you want to read about that, keep the other orb glued right here.

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