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Eric Forsyth

Sail Feed - Tue, 2015-01-20 00:17

Listen Now.

Eric Forsyth, legendary ocean voyager with over 300,000 sea miles and whose visited both Antarctica & Spitsbergen on his Westsail 42, joins the podcast! Andy and Eric chat about his days in the 1950s flying the first fighter jets with the Royal Air Force, how Eric got into sailing, navigating on Celestial only in the Newport-Bermuda Race in the 1970s and what it’s like to endure a 75-knot gale in the Southern Ocean.

Eric is a very humble man with extraordinary achievements beneath his keel, and bumps along the road in his life. “I have no regrets,” he says about it all. Eric’s now going on 83, and is planning on going back to Fiona this spring to sail, well, who knows where. Thanks to Eric for this inspiring conversation! Read all about Eric and his travels on yachtfiona.com.

Want to go ocean sailing with Andy? Book a berth on Sojourner, Serenity or a soon-to-be-announced Swan at 59-north.com/events.

KNOT OF THE YEAR AWARD: The Obscure But Ultimately Very Useful Halyard Knot

Sail Feed - Mon, 2015-01-19 19:15

That’s right, sports fans: it’s awards season! In the always hard-fought Cordage Utility category the ballots have been counted and the surprise winner this year is the mysterious halyard knot. Unknown to many sailors, the halyard knot is nonetheless an elegant compact knot that is particularly handy to know about if you need to bend a line on to some sort of shackle or clip (a halyard shackle being the eponymous example) on a more-or-less permanent basis, but are too lazy (or ignorant) to be bothered with actually splicing the line on to said bit of hardware.

The knot most people use in these situations is, of course, the perennial and ubiquitous bowline, which is not quite ideal in this application, as it is bulkier than it needs to be (a drawback, for instance, when you have to hoist a halyard shackle up close to masthead sheave) and involves a fixed bight or loop of line that necessarily must be larger than necessary.

The halyard knot is very easy to tie. Pass a line through the shackle in question, take two full turns around the standing part, then slip the bitter end up through the turns alongside the standing part. The result is a low-profile slip knot that will snug down tight and neatly against the shackle.

The halyard knot is very secure and is very unlikely to come undone after it has been loaded up. Unlike a bowline, however, it is not that easy to untie once it has been in service for a while. In the end, when you want to get your shackle back, you may have to cut it off. At a minimum you’ll need a nice marlinspike to pick it apart.

In bestowing this year’s award, Horatio P. Nimblefingers, head knot judge, stated: “Though it is always preferable to splice a halyard to its shackle, particularly when using high-modulus line, the sad fact is many so-called experienced sailors don’t know how to splice multi-braid rope. And those that do know may sometimes find themselves in situations where splicing a line to shackle is not practical or feasible. In those instances where a knot is, or must, be used, our judging panel agreed unanimously that the halyard knot is by far the most qualified candidate. It is attractive, easily executed, and easy to remember. In short, it is everything we like to see in knot.”

The halyard knot, renowned for its shy, retiring habits and character, declined to appear at the awards ceremony and afterwards could not be reached for comment. Accepting the award in its place was the more flamboyant hangman’s knot, which declared: “That’s my buddy Hal! He’s a real winner, but he hates to admit it. What he is at heart is a utilitarian minimalist.””

KNOT OF THE YEAR AWARD: The Obscure But Ultimately Very Useful Halyard Knot

Sail Feed - Mon, 2015-01-19 19:15

That’s right, sports fans: it’s awards season! In the always hard-fought Cordage Utility category the ballots have been counted and the surprise winner this year is the mysterious halyard knot. Unknown to many sailors, the halyard knot is nonetheless an elegant compact knot that is particularly handy to know about if you need to bend a line on to some sort of shackle or clip (a halyard shackle being the eponymous example) on a more-or-less permanent basis, but are too lazy (or ignorant) to be bothered with actually splicing the line on to said bit of hardware.

The knot most people use in these situations is, of course, the perennial and ubiquitous bowline, which is not quite ideal in this application, as it is bulkier than it needs to be (a drawback, for instance, when you have to hoist a halyard shackle up close to masthead sheave) and involves a fixed bight or loop of line that necessarily must be larger than necessary.

The halyard knot is very easy to tie. Pass a line through the shackle in question, take two full turns around the standing part, then slip the bitter end up through the turns alongside the standing part. The result is a low-profile slip knot that will snug down tight and neatly against the shackle.

The halyard knot is very secure and is very unlikely to come undone after it has been loaded up. Unlike a bowline, however, it is not that easy to untie once it has been in service for a while. In the end, when you want to get your shackle back, you may have to cut it off. At a minimum you’ll need a nice marlinspike to pick it apart.

In bestowing this year’s award, Horatio P. Nimblefingers, head knot judge, stated: “Though it is always preferable to splice a halyard to its shackle, particularly when using high-modulus line, the sad fact is many so-called experienced sailors don’t know how to splice multi-braid rope. And those that do know may sometimes find themselves in situations where splicing a line to shackle is not practical or feasible. In those instances where a knot is, or must, be used, our judging panel agreed unanimously that the halyard knot is by far the most qualified candidate. It is attractive, easily executed, and easy to remember. In short, it is everything we like to see in knot.”

The halyard knot, renowned for its shy, retiring habits and character, declined to appear at the awards ceremony and afterwards could not be reached for comment. Accepting the award in its place was the more flamboyant hangman’s knot, which declared: “That’s my buddy Hal! He’s a real winner, but he hates to admit it. What he is at heart is a utilitarian minimalist.””

TorqTrac: Torqeedo electric outboards get app monitoring & more

Sail Feed - Mon, 2015-01-19 08:05

Written by Ben Ellison on Jan 19, 2015 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub

I declared my love for the Torqeedo 1003 electric outboard in 2011 and the feeling only deepened after two seasons of long testing, despite a glitch or two. Well, wow, the same motor has run like a top ever since, and as of a few days ago, it has a very cool accessory. The TorqTrac Bluetooth module and apps were announced some time ago, but apparently the $149 kit is only becoming available now. The version 1.0 app does not look like what was originally announced, or even what’s shown at Torqeedo USA right now, but my first underway tests suggest that TorqTrac is going to add some nice spice and utility to my Torqeedo 1003 relationship…

First I did a dry run in Gizmo’s salon. It’s always been possible to connect the tiller to the battery to see its state of charge, but I was pleasantly surprised that the TorqTrac app found the Bluetooth module without any pairing hassle whatsoever. It just worked and has every time since. This may be because the wireless module uses Bluetooth 4.0, which may also be why TorqTrac for Android isn’t compatible with my three-year-old Samsung Galaxy Phone. Note that the photo, even if you click it bigger, makes the tiller screen look harder to read than it really is. In fact, during some sunny testing conditions the tiller LCD was easier to see than my oldish iPad Mini. But the tiller screen is often not where I want it to be. While it’s fine if I have passengers and am sitting on the tender’s aft seat, I often drive solo with an extension tiller (seen here).

So, while most of the data on the left-hand iPad screen above is already on the tiller display, my first TorqTrac run was also the first time I got to see that the wide open 1003 throttle can push my latest tender at 8.6 km/h or 4.6 knots (which seems pretty good for a decidedly non-planing 9-foot Fatty Knees that’s 4.5 feet wide). If I had stepped back to the tiller at that speed, it would have knocked the boat way out of trim, or worse. It’s also nice to see the live battery range shown as a graphic circle on a map, though a chart would be better, and the device must be online to get these maps. The distance and time to Home is another unique TorqTrac feature, though I obviously hadn’t figured out how to use it during test #1.

In fact, I did a lot of “testing” during the recent balmy days here in New Bern, North Carolina. I learned that simply tapping on the units of speed/distance cycles through km, m, and nm. And one tap into the Range screen makes the map zoomable and lets you long tap waypoints, one of which can be designated as Home. This feature could be useful for kids or guests using the tender, and I wonder how long it will be before a drunken sailor uses this feature to find his boat at night in a crowded anchorage. Note how much lower the power draw is at just over 3 knots and how much the range increased even though the battery is down from test 1. I’ve never felt the need for a second battery and I generally use the boat many times between charges.

Apple iOS TorqTrac is like the Android version and the third main screen you can swipe to lets you start and stop tracking, which could also be useful for harbor navigation, not to mention electric-quiet gunkholing. But it took me a while to figure out that it uses the mobile device’s GPS instead of the one built into the Torqeedo tiller. Maybe that has something to do with the long time it took to get the app through the Apple approval process. At any rate, once I fired up the Bad Elf Pro, the tracking got very accurate.

The lower window on that All Trips page shows the crazy tracking the iPad did when just connected to my phone’s WiFi (for the map downloading). Yes, I ended up using three wireless devices plus the TorqTrac module for this testing and was impressed that they all got along, but a user with a compatible Android or iPhone won’t have any of these issues as the phone has its own GPS and is probably online. So many current Torqeedo owners will find TorqTrac very easy to set up and use, and probably very desirable. And I imagine that Torqeedo will start building the Bluetooth right into the tillers soon, plus perhaps the controls for their ever larger systems (Deep Blue Hybrid is on its way).

Here’s a look at the test tender, which may deserve the name Gadget. That is a Vexilar Sonar Phone T-Box transducer attached to a board that’s about to be clamped to the transom, and I did indeed use it with the Navionics Boating live SonarChart feature. It all worked fantastically well, but there are some data interpretation issues to iron out, and I’ll be writing about all that soon.

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

Cuba – What’s Really Changed?

Sail Feed - Sat, 2015-01-17 13:02
The net is just buzzing with talk about Cuba since the release yesterday (Jan 16, 2015) of the new US regulations regarding the embargo. Everyone wants to go to Cuba – nothing new there – but just what do the new regulations actually say? That’s the real question, and it’s not being properly answered by most of the people discussing it.
For those of a legal bent, I’m going to include links to the new regs at the end of this article, so you can nitpick to your heart’s content. For the rest of us, it’ll be a bit more ad hoc.
First of all, what has actually changed in regards to taking a boat to Cuba?
The short answer? Everything…and nothing. Recreational boating to Cuba has not been approved. In fact, ‘recreational’ tourism outside of the person to person tours has not been approved. You still cannot legally go to Cuba and swill mojitos on the beach.
Here’s what senior administration officials have said: [the new regulations] “…are not meant to facilitate tourist travel to Cuba, as tourist travel remains prohibited by statute.”
Well, isn’t that a bummer? But remember, I said “legally”. We’ll come back to that comment.
The big change and the one that’s going to bring more Americans to Cuba are the changes in the ‘general license’ structure.
Prior to yesterday, certain individuals were permitted to go to Cuba if they fit certain criteria placing them in either a ‘general’ or ‘specific’ license category. Those groups included Cuban Americans with family in Cuba, those on official U.S. government business, including some intergovernmental organizations; journalists; professional research; educational and religious activities; cultural including public performances, athletic and other competitions.
The specific license category required that you file an application with the Office of Foreign Asset Controls (OFAC); the general license category was by declaration, subject to proof of qualification if demanded.
Here’s how it works: an American journalist can legally go to Cuba for work purposes under a general license. That hasn’t changed.
So there you are with your sailing blog. That’s journalism, isn’t it? Well, yes, but not in this case.
Unless you have a significant and verifiable presence as a journalist, which includes getting paid for your work, you don’t qualify. The devil truly is in the details, and there are lots of them.
But let’s say that you really are a journalist – and you want to sail to Cuba (are you listening Peter S?) or otherwise qualify legally…can you now sail there? That’s not clear. You couldn’t do so previously, and there appears to be nothing in the new regs changing that. The answer to that one will have to wait until someone asks the question, but given that travel by boat is largely seen as recreational, I don’t see it changing in the immediate future.
Now, I did say ‘legally’…here’s what I think is going to happen. A lot of Americans are going to find some way to travel to Cuba by ‘fitting’ themselves into the legal categories. That wouldn’t be particularly hard to do as a quick read of the new regulations will show you.
It won’t be a good fit and in many if not most cases, it won’t be legal. But if the US government doesn’t care, and doesn’t bother with verifying those individuals – accepting in good faith people’s declarations that they are a bona fide writer for the Podunk Daily Chronicler, or the Grand Supremo Guru of the Church of the Book of Jib – then it’s going to happen. That means that some people are going to choose to travel to Cuba by boat. I don’t doubt that a half dozen set off today from Key West actually.
The real test will be in the reaction of the government to those doing this. I suspect there will be no reaction, that the government has no intention of prosecuting anyone for traveling to Cuba, no matter how they get there, or why. In that way, they can create pressure to totally lift the embargo, which is this administration’s apparent goal. Time will tell. My next blog, I’ll discuss what it’s like to actually travel in Cuba by boat….in the meantime, for your viewing pleasure, and because I’m such a tease…here’s a video about a Saturday night in Cuba – enjoy, and stay tuned, there’s more to come! Oh yes, I did promise some links for the nitpickers and the legally savvy amongst us, if that’s not being redundant… – http://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Programs/Pages/cuba.aspx and also http://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Programs/Documents/cuba_faqs_new.pdf

Cuba – What’s Changed?

Sail Feed - Sat, 2015-01-17 11:54

The net is just buzzing with talk about Cuba since the release yesterday (Jan 16, 2015) of the new US regulations regarding the embargo. Everyone wants to go to Cuba – nothing new there – but just what do the new regulations actually say? That’s the real question, and it’s not being properly answered by most of the people discussing it.
For those of a legal bent, I’m going to include links to the new regs at the end of this article, so you can nitpick to your heart’s content. For the rest of us, it’ll be a bit more ad hoc.
First of all, what has actually changed in regards to taking a boat to Cuba?
The short answer? Everything…and nothing. Recreational boating to Cuba has not been approved. In fact, ‘recreational’ tourism outside of the person to person tours has not been approved. You still cannot legally go to Cuba and swill mojitos on the beach.
Here’s what senior administration officials have said: [the new regulations] “…are not meant to facilitate tourist travel to Cuba, as tourist travel remains prohibited by statute.”
Well, isn’t that a bummer? But remember, I said “legally”. We’ll come back to that comment.
The big change and the one that’s going to bring more Americans to Cuba are the changes in the ‘general license’ structure.
Prior to yesterday, certain individuals were permitted to go to Cuba if they fit certain criteria placing them in either a ‘general’ or ‘specific’ license category. Those groups included Cuban Americans with family in Cuba, those on official U.S. government business, including some intergovernmental organizations; journalists; professional research; educational and religious activities; cultural including public performances, athletic and other competitions.
The specific license category required that you file an application with the Office of Foreign Asset Controls (OFAC); the general license category was by declaration, subject to proof of qualification if demanded.
Here’s how it works: an American journalist can legally go to Cuba for work purposes under a general license. That hasn’t changed.
So there you are with your sailing blog. That’s journalism, isn’t it? Well, yes, but not in this case.
Unless you have a significant and verifiable presence as a journalist, which includes getting paid for your work, you don’t qualify. The devil truly is in the details, and there are lots of them.
But let’s say that you really are a journalist – and you want to sail to Cuba (are you listening Peter S?) or otherwise qualify legally…can you now sail there?

That’s not clear. You couldn’t do so previously, and there appears to be nothing in the new regs changing that. The answer to that one will have to wait until someone asks the question, but given that travel by boat is largely seen as recreational, I don’t see it changing in the immediate future.
Now, I did say ‘legally’…here’s what I think is going to happen.

A lot of Americans are going to find some way to travel to Cuba by ‘fitting’ themselves into the legal categories. That wouldn’t be particularly hard to do as a quick read of the new regulations will show you.
It won’t be a good fit and in many if not most cases, it won’t be legal. But if the US government doesn’t care, and doesn’t bother with verifying those individuals – accepting in good faith people’s declarations that they are a bona fide writer for the Podunk Daily Chronicler, or the Grand Supremo Guru of the Church of the Book of Jib – then it’s going to happen.

That means that some people are going to choose to travel to Cuba by boat. I don’t doubt that a half dozen set off today from Key West actually.
The real test will be in the reaction of the government to those doing this. I suspect there will be no reaction, that the government has no intention of prosecuting anyone for traveling to Cuba, no matter how they get there, or why. In that way, they can create pressure to totally lift the embargo, which is this administration’s apparent goal.

Time will tell. My next blog, I’ll discuss what it’s like to actually travel in Cuba by boat….in the meantime, for your viewing pleasure, and because I’m such a tease…here’s a video about a Saturday night in Cuba – enjoy, and stay tuned, there’s more to come! 

Oh yes, I did promise some links for the nitpickers and the legally savvy amongst us, if that’s not being redundant… – http://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Programs/Pages/cuba.aspx and also http://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Programs/Documents/cuba_faqs_new.pdf

2016 Bermuda Race to go All-ORR

Sail Feed - Fri, 2015-01-16 20:36

AND it will be the 50th Newport Bermuda Race. The word —

By John Rousmaniere

When the Newport Bermuda Race is next sailed in 2016, it will be scored by one handicapping system, the Offshore Racing Rule (ORR). The ORR calculates each boat’s speed potential based on its dimensions, using a Velocity Prediction Program (VPP). The ORR has been used in the Newport Bermuda Race since 2006, following many years of handicapping under other VPP systems.

The announcement was made by Race Chairman A. J. Evans (Red Bank, NJ). He noted that the 2016 race will be a double anniversary year for the Newport Bermuda Race. It will mark the 50th “Thrash to the Onion Patch” since the biennial race was founded in 1906. The nickname honors Bermuda’s agricultural history and the typical demanding sailing conditions on the 635-mile race course across the Gulf Stream.

The next race will also mark the 90th anniversary of the partnership between the race’s co-organizers, the Cruising Club of America and the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club. Evans announced the appointment of four race officials from the clubs. They are Principal Race Officer John Osmond (Osterville, MA), International Jury Chair Peter Shrubb (Warwick, Bermuda), Race Safety Officer Ron Trossbach (Newport, RI), and Chief Inspector James Phyfe (Cranston, RI).

The “50th Thrash” will start on June 17, 2016, off Castle Hill, at Newport, R.I. In the most recent Newport Bermuda Race, in 2014, 164 boats sailed in divisions for racing-cruising boats, cruising boats, doublehanded boats sailed by two sailors, and Grand Prix racing boats with professional sailors.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A handful of epoxy hints

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

an event becomes An Event

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

By Kimball Livingston Posted January 14, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I thought you should know.

Happy Birthday, Commodore.

Learn more about the project at Life On the Water.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Welcome to Wally’s World…

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

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

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

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

RIO GUADIANA CRUISE: Between Time and Portugal

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

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

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

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

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

And so, inevitably, we went.

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

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

The river entrance

The river from the entrance to Alcoutim

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Evidence of human agriculture and animal husbandry

Sailing the river

Sunset on the river, as seen from our deck

Carie makes a friend

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grappling with my new line

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

“Quick! The outboard!” I called.

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

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

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

What the river giveth, the river taketh away.

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

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

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

South to Senegal

Finding My Toma

Africa Dances

RIO GUADIANA CRUISE: Between Time and Portugal

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

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

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

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

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

And so, inevitably, we went.

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

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

The river entrance

The river from the entrance to Alcoutim

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Evidence of human agriculture and animal husbandry

Sailing the river

Sunset on the river, as seen from our deck

Carie makes a friend

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grappling with my new line

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

“Quick! The outboard!” I called.

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

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

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

What the river giveth, the river taketh away.

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

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

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

South to Senegal

Finding My Toma

Africa Dances

Webb Chiles

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

Listen Now.

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

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

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

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

Listen Now.

The Great Escape

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

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

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

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

Tradition for the fun of it

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Burling Rocks the Flying Moth

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

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

Sorrento, Australia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Racing will get underway from 1300 hours on Monday.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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STANLEY PARIS: Foiled Again

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Torn main down on the dock in Cape Town

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

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

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

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

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

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