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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Down for the count on Friday

Resurrected on Sunday with some help from a barge and crane

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Down for the count on Friday

Resurrected on Sunday with some help from a barge and crane

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

59 North Podcast: Cary St. Onge

Sail Feed - Tue, 2014-08-12 00:00

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

Siren Marine cellular boat monitoring long test, reliable & powerful

Sail Feed - Mon, 2014-08-11 15:00

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Podcast: Log of Arcturus: Into the Baltic

Sail Feed - Fri, 2014-08-08 05:46

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

DOUSING THE MAINSAIL: Do It After You Park The Boat

Sail Feed - Thu, 2014-08-07 23:11

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DOUSING THE MAINSAIL: Do It After You Park The Boat

Sail Feed - Thu, 2014-08-07 23:11

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When the Army Runs a Carnival

Sail Feed - Mon, 2014-08-04 22:46

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

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

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


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

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

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

Subject: zomfg best day ever!!!

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

We started with the obstacle course:

Followed by some light mine sweeping:

A quick trip through the night vision obstacle course:

Down a zipline from three stories up:

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

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

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

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

AUTOPILOT FAILURE: Back Across the Gulf of Maine

Sail Feed - Mon, 2014-08-04 15:44

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

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

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

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

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

My old and new Autohelm 2000 units side by side

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

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

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

Closehauled in the Gulf, before the pilot failed

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

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

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

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

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

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

AUTOPILOT FAILURE: Back Across the Gulf of Maine

Sail Feed - Mon, 2014-08-04 15:44

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

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

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

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

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

My old and new Autohelm 2000 units side by side

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

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

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

Closehauled in the Gulf, before the pilot failed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sail Feed - Mon, 2014-08-04 00:10

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

How do you stay fit while cruising?

Sail Feed - Sun, 2014-08-03 07:53

Cruising is a healthy lifestyle, where exercise is a natural part of every day. What a great lifestyle to stay fit and feel great! Right? Right?


Yeah…it’s not quite like that. There’s truth in it, but staying physical fitness doesn’t just happen: it still takes effort, and commitment.

Before we left

Pre-cruising, I was in pretty good shape: jogging and practicing yoga a few times a week, and walking a lot (my commute to work involved a few miles every weekday). I traveled routinely for work and just tracked down local yoga studios or explored a new place on an early morning run. Traveling and fitness were easy, so I thought the segue into cruising would be a breeze too. I’d just stay in decent shape without having to think about it too hard. More time for running, and yoga, and lots and lots of walking, right?

My shorts shrank, I swear

That’s not how it worked out for me at all. We had been cruising for about a year when I looked very jealously at Jamie’s six pack, and my encroaching pudge, and though… huh.  What’s happening? And whoa, is HE looking so good! Jamie’s had gone from trim surburban dad to hot cruising husband. Why him, and not me? We were both walking a lot, but he did the brunt of heaver physical labor on Totem. I wasn’t running (have you seen the roads and sidewalks in Mexico?!). I wasn’t practicing yoga (it turns out having a class to participate in is a big motivator for me). On the other hand, I was eating a lot of fantastic Mexican food washed down with icy Pacifico beer. He was exercising more than previously. I was exercising less and definitely not fitter than our “old life.” Flabbier. It was a sobering realization.

possibly afternoons of cards with calorie-laden snacks and a cocktail had something to do with it, too

Fitness equipment

Should you get equipment to help you with fitness on board? I don’t know; do you have a dusty NordicTrack in your basement? Before leaving, I had gotten elastic bands. They seemed like a great way to get some exercise in a small space, especially on a passage. I finally gave them away after they sat virtually un-used for two years.

If you can add gear and will actually use it, there are options ranging from portable stair-steppers that fit in the cockpit to kettlebells- some cruisers even manage a TRX system. I think it’s mostly superfluous: as Jan Irons (Commuter Cruiser) shows, your boat IS a gym: her companionway makes a fine built in stair-stepper. Or, take a look at the Facebook page for fitness afloat wonderwoman, Rebecca Sweeney: she knows how to get a workout anywhere, whether it’s the deck of a boat or the beach (while her charter guests are in the beachfront bar no less). She has some workout-specific gear, but overwhelmingly, simply uses what’s around her. She’s a phenomenal role model for fitness afloat, and I especially love how much she just looks like she’s having so much FUN- if/when we get to the Caribbean, I want to do workouts with Rebecca!

Now what?

It took me a while to find what worked best, and even then, it takes regular adjustment based on our location, or the weather, or other factors. Sometimes, there just aren’t roads to run on. Other times, we’re in places where it’s inappropriate to show a lot of skin by wearing a tank top and shorts to workout public.

It’s not socially acceptable to show a lot of skin here, and I can’t imagine working out in one of these tents

What works for me

I still run, although not as much as I’d like. My MP3 player and our ipod have both succumbed to salty air (RIP, but they did last more than seven years each!), and I don’t do well without a soundtrack. On the other hand, being tune-less gives me even more motivation to find running partners, because the best advice EVER is “if you’re running too fast to talk, you’re running too fast.” It’s a two-fer: good exercise, and time to catch up with a friend. And, it’s a huge motivator. When Kathy says she’s picking me up in the dinghy at 7:30 so we can hit the trails at the bottom of this mountain in Langkawi, I am ready to go at 7:30. I might be barely functional and toting my coffe mug, but I’m decent and I’ve got my shoes.

I practice yoga whenever I can. We have a perfectly mat-sized spot on the bow, but it’s often covered with an awning- great shade to cool the cabin below but no room for me. So, I’m always looking for the alternatives: here in peninsular Malaysia, there’s a paucity of anchorages but many reasonable marinas, and those marinas often have attached hotels with fitness facilities. We’re currently at Puteri Harbour, Malaysia, where I can sign up for gym and pool time. My standing “booking” for a morning slot in the Fitness Center is another excellent motivator: I can’t miss it, so I don’t, and I get a great practice in with a pretty view besides.

I walk. A lot. I’m always looking for an excuse, whether it’s for fun or to get a job done. Is there a hill near the anchorage? I must climb it and see the view! No special equipment required, and often a new friend or two to make- like the two guys below who helped me find an obscure trail to a temple above Jayapura, Indonesia. And then, there are groceries to lug. Since we’re not piling them into the back of the van on a run from the grocery store, but carrying everything by hand, we shop more often and in smaller quantities. Little bits of exercise, all the time.

I get in the water: swimming is great exercise, and kayaking is good too. Sometimes (and lately, a lot) the water isn’t exactly conducive to a swim, like in a marina (stray current, and lots of nasty stuff being pumped over, deliberately and inadvertently), but we spend most of our time at anchor. Laps around the boat are a great way to burn up some energy and have fun at the same time. Maximizing down time on a pretty reef is even better: when we’re in a place with cool marine life, we all spend hours underwater most days, tearing through calories. Adding a SUP to Totem is high on my wishlist, in great part because it looks like such a fun way to stay fit on the water (bonus: additional yoga platform!).

What works for you? You’ll find out. And maybe, like me, it will take a learning curve, and some tighter shorts, before you find the routine and habits that work best for you.

Well toned followers know we love it when you read this on the Sailfeed website.

 

The DIY lithium battery bank; Bob Ebaugh has 330 cycles so far

Sail Feed - Fri, 2014-08-01 15:09

Written by Ben Ellison on Aug 1, 2014 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub

Bob and Elaine Ebaugh did it, leaving Florida in April, 2011, on their DeFever 44 Mar Azul and spending more than two years cruising a big Caribbean loop. Their blog, Mar Azul Adventures, is a good read, but you might miss the fact that during the cruise Bob managed to research, assemble, test and install a 1,200 amp hour do-it-yourself lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4) battery bank to replace the 12 golf cart batteries they’d worn out. He also wrote a thorough white paper about why he chose DIY lithium and how he put the system together…

Here is Bob’s lithium battery blog entry, but you really should download the 14-page PDF mentioned there. Even if you’re not ready to build your own LiFePO4 battery bank — and most of us probably shouldn’t at this point — Bob seems to have done a fine job of analyzing the pros and cons of different battery types, particularly for fairly heavy power users like Mar Azul (at 400-600 Ah per liveaboard day on the hook).

This photo shows the DeFever’s “workshop” (forward cabin). Bob’s first task was to assemble forty-eight individual 3.2V cells made in China by GB Systems into twelve 100 Amp hour 12V batteries, and here I believe he’s bench testing the Elite Power battery management system (BMS) whose components are seen below. His PDF gives specifics about where he sourced the GBS cells and BMS and why, as well as a link collection for further research.

There’s a lot to managing lithium batteries properly, and there’s a definite safety concern. Their wonderful ability to take a large charge quickly, thereby reducing generator and/or alternator times, also means that they can release their charge very quickly, which means intense heat in the wrong circumstances. There have apparently been boat fires that originated in lithium battery banks, though the facts usually seem hard to come by (possibly because most marine lithium installs so far have been high-end projects).

At any rate, I’d suggest that anyone (including myself) who doesn’t thoroughly understand Bob’s well-written explanation of how he set up his BMS, diagrammed above, and adjusted his various charging sources for their new LiFePO4 target should not consider a DIY lithium bank. But I’m really glad that guys like Bob are trying such things and sharing their findings. Note also that since coming back ashore, Bob has been doing marine electronics professionally and hopes to write a Panbo entry about a substantial ePlex distributed power system he’s working on, which will join his earlier pieces on bridging NMEA to Ethernet, his Chetco engine monitoring system, and testing various sat phone systems. Meanwhile, here’s the latest on Mar Azul’s lithium batteries:

The lithium bank is still functioning well. But I have not done any cruising for almost a year now, maybe 2 Saturday nights. I really like the operational characteristics, but the cards are still not all on the table.
About the only thing additional I completed {since writing the white paper} is a benchmark test on capacity. My theoretical 1200 Ah bank is really more like a 1050 Ah bank. So in one year of cruising, theoretically I lost about 15% of rated capacity. What I don’t have is an actual pre-installation benchmark, though the importer suggested that as shipped, and tested the way I did, they would have shown 95% of the rating; so maybe we only lost 10%. We did have 330 cycles in that timeframe.
Some research indicates capacity loss is also very related to calendar life and storage temperature. The end of August gives me another 12 months so I will run another test and see what we have now, with the bank essentially in storage.
There is so much we don’t know. Not only about “life”, but exactly how volatile they are if severely overcharged. This winter, I may buy a few 40Ah cells and do some destructive testing.

RC Collins is apparently also testing lithium marine batteries and he, Bob, and several other marine power luminaries sit on a ABYC subcommittee studying LFP (another name for LiFePO4) battery technology under the chairmanship of Bob’s current boss/mentor Charlie Johnson. Thanks to them all, and don’t we look forward to hearing the results?

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

Podcast, Essay Friday: Lessons from 2 Atlantic Crossings

Sail Feed - Thu, 2014-07-31 16:30

Essay Friday – What I learned in two Atlantic crossings. The first, of course was in 2011 aboard Arcturus, which I  discussed at length with Clint Wells in Tuesday’s episode. The second, which I haven’t written much about, was the following year, on Kinship, a Saga 43 that Mia and I skippered in ARC Europe, crossing the Atlantic via Bermuda-Azores-Portugal. Both were very different experiences and taught me valuable lessons. This is what I wrote following the second crossing in July 2012. Enjoy!

Edson Marine: old school, new school

Sail Feed - Thu, 2014-07-31 13:35

Written by Ben Ellison on Jul 31, 2014 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub

I visited Edson Marine headquarters while Gizmo was in New Bedford, Massachusetts, during my cruise home in May 2013, and one vivid memory is this old catalog that co-owner Will Keene showed me. My old sloop Alice had one of those Mahogany Steering Wheels, and while I’m sure it cost more in 1946, it’s amazing to realize that you could once buy one for $15, Ebonized Rim included. I also enjoyed seeing how well Edson has kept on keeping on since Jacob Edson invented and started manufacturing the first diaphragm pump in 1859…

Edson still makes traditional wooden wheels but also super lightweight carbon ones, too — see their wheels site here — as well as all sorts of other hardware. They also apply their 155 years of experience to repairs and custom solutions. When I noted how much cable room is in the helm pedestals being assembled above, Will Keene sighed knowingly. He wishes electronics manufacturers would make narrower cable connectors and would also like to see more right angle adapters for easier fits into display housings. I know that a lot of boaters, especially sailors with skinny pedestals, agree.

Now that is a drill press! And notice the heavy duty (rudder?) shaft arms in the background. Some of the machinery at Edson is vintage, but certainly not all…

You can see that this Matsuura CNC machine was turning out pretty complex aluminum parts while I was visiting, and next to it was a neat stone tumbler finishing them. By the way, I was reminded of my Edson visit because I’m working with some beautifully machined Vision Series electronics mount components that I will detail soon.

Jacob Edson would probably be proud that his company is still making pumps. In fact, Edson has diversified into industrial pumps and when you get your boat pumped out, it’s quite possibly one of theirs is doing the job. But this was the work of the Keene family, mainly Will and his brother Hank, who grew up in the business (and in boats) and purchased it from their dad in 1989. The prices aren’t what they used to be — and if Edson does discount, it’s probably to their many boatbuilder clients — but the company has a tremendous reputation for quality and customer support. The Keenes have also actively supported the marine industry and related organizations like the first class New Bedford Whaling Museum. (And you can enjoy some Off Center Harbor videos thanks to Edson support.)

Also classy, I thought, is how Hank (left below) attributed his recent retirement to his advancing Parkinson’s disease. Such honesty may encourage others to deal with their symptoms sooner and hopefully, some clever genetics engineers will find a fix.

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

Coast Guard Boardings and Your Fourth Amendment Rights, Part 4: Longer and Legaler

Sail Feed - Wed, 2014-07-30 15:05

…continued from Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

The Coast Guard Boardings and Your 4th Amendment Rights posts have been spawning some lively discussion ever since I wrote them, nearly two years ago. Most recently I hear a Coast Guard Facebook page linked to the posts, so there’s been a renewed boost of comments from the Coast Guard side of things. Thanks to all who commented. I’ve been largely silent because I already had my say, but of course I’ve read what all of you had to say, most of which was constructive, and I investigated where I could.

Here I’ll revisit the topic, make some corrections and clarifications, and add what I’ve learned through relentless research of case law and law review articles, which contained many words I had to look up.

First of all, the point of the posts was not to criticize the Coast Guard, but to inform boaters and to question Title 14 section 89 of the United States Code (and associated laws, more on this later). Many boaters, at least many I’ve spoken with, simply aren’t aware that they can be boarded at any time. It’s safer for all involved if we’re informed and on the same sheet of music.

It’s hard to separate the message from the messengers, and I realize that my posts, from the title on, are guilty of this. The message is the law and the messengers are the US Coast Guard boarding parties. Don’t shoot the messengers! It’s not their doing, and as I’ll point out later, it appears that the Coast Guard’s policy is actually to be less intrusive than the law allows. Many commenters – former Coasties, Coast Guard wives, et al – pointed out the dedication and good intentions of Coast Guard personnel, which certainly isn’t in doubt. “We’re not the Gestapo, man,” was one comment. We know you’re not the Gestapo! The worry is that these laws give the authorities the right to behave like the Gestapo if they want to, and they might want to someday, and certain bad apples might want to behave that way right now, on my boat of all places.

Department of Corrections

I said, “By the way, the average Coast Guard vessel has advanced optical equipment and digital cameras: When you can barely make out individuals aboard their cutter, they’re reading the numbers off your iPhone.”

This was obviously an exaggeration, and perhaps a bad choice of words. I know they can’t actually read the numbers off your iPhone, but I also know that powerful optical equipment, digital cameras with extreme telephoto lenses and image stabilization, and night vision scopes have become fairly cheap, and are common equipment for all law enforcement these days. Every day I look at a photo of a certain vessel that was taken from a Coast Guard cutter on the open sea, at a distance of one mile. You can’t read numbers off an iPhone, but you can see the expressions on people’s faces (worried).

I also said, “They can look through your bedsheets, in your lockers, in your bilges, in your jewelry box, or in your pockets,” and many took issue with this, saying the Coast Guard boarding parties can’t or don’t do this.

The short answer is that under the law they can, but most of the time they don’t…but there are exceptions.

Coast Guard officers are also Customs officers, so in addition to the grant of authority they have under Title 14 Section 89, they also have full powers under Title 19 Section 1581:

“Any officer of the customs may at any time go on board of any vessel of vehicle at any place in the United States or within the customs water of, as he may be authorized, within a customs-enforcement area established under the Anti-Smuggling Act, or at any other authorized place, without as well as within his district, and examine the manifest and other documents and papers and examine, inspect and search the vessel or vehicle and every part thereof and any person, trunk, package, or cargo on board, and to this end may hail and stop such vessel or vehicle, and use all necessary force to compel compliance.”

Did you get that part?: “…examine, inspect and search the vessel or vehicle and every part therof and any person, trunk , package, or cargo on board…” (My italics added).

They also have the full authority of Fisheries officers, Immigration officers, et al, but I think we’ve clearly established that Coast Guarding boarding parties have “one of the most sweeping grants of police authority ever written into US law,” and we don’t need to belabor the point further.

Coast Guard commenters (by which I mean mostly former Coast Guard officers) said that spaces with a “reasonable expectation of privacy” are not searched without probable cause or a warrant, and they said this is the directive from the Commandant. I haven’t seen the directive, which is an internal Coast Guard document and not public, and I probably won’t see it unless somebody wants to be Edward Snowden (ha ha). But I’ve heard about it enough times that I believe it exists, and I applaud the Commandant for respecting our privacy and scaling back from what the law might allow.

Also, several said, essentially, please don’t give us any reason to go beyond a routine search (Hide the weed, people!) because we don’t want to get into your personal spaces. I also applaud this attitude, but unfortunately it’s not the attitude or the Coast Guard policy in question here, but the boundless search and seizure powers they have under current laws, which contradict our Fourth Amendment protections and subject law abiding seafarers to unreasonable searches.

And this reasonable expectation of privacy is sort of moot on a small boat. On a big freighter the boarding team might search the bridge, decks, etc., and check documents and safety gear, but treat staterooms and offices as private. On a small boat like mine everything’s in plain view right from the get-go: The moment the boarding party steps into the cockpit they’ve got a clear view to where we sleep, where we eat and prepare our meals, my wife’s clothes, and our kid’s dirty diapers. If they check the Y-valve on our toilet, then they’re in our bathroom, the holiest of holies. I suppose I could close the hatches and companionway doors before my next boarding, but I’m guessing this would look suspicious and be grounds for further investigation.

As to the exceptions to respecting personal spaces within the context of Coast Guard policy, my guess is that the main exception is if they’ve received a tip. Once on our family boat we were boarded a mile or two off the backside of Catalina Island. It was just my dad, a friend, and me, and we certainly weren’t doing anything suspicious, but the boarding party looked in drawers and searched our bags, definitely places with a reasonable expectation of privacy. My guess is that they’d received a tip that there was going to be a drug rendezvous on the backside of Catalina, and were shaking down the vessels in the area. If the police received a tip about such activity on land they’d have to convince a judge that the tip was valid enough to issue a search warrant. We’ll never know what happened on the backside of Catalina, and we got the ubiquitous “I’m not at liberty to say,” when we asked.

Coast Guard commenters said that boardings are limited to safety inspections – that’s it – and they won’t do anything but check for safety gear unless indicated otherwise. This is probably the case much of the time, but in the Coast Guard’s own words, “Of particular interest are laws dealing with the 200-mile Fishery Conservation Zone, drug smuggling, illegal immigration, and safety and water pollution.” My boarding a few months ago was strictly an anti-terrorist sweep, and they didn’t do any safety check whatsoever. And of course they’re always interested in your level of sobriety.

Several pointed out that the Coasties don’t like these boardings either, that most of them dread boarding private boats because it’s uncomfortable to intrude on people’s day, and boarding strange vessels is fraught with uncertainty and risk. They don’t like it. We don’t like it. Nobody likes it. We can all agree on that, but what good comes from it?

I still maintain that 90% of what is accomplished through surprise boardings could be accomplished without trammeling our 4th Amendment rights. The other 10%, the surprise safety inspection part, would have to be covered somewhere else, like a scheduled inspection, or my preference, personal responsibility. There is no doubt that these surprise inspections, or the potential for these inspections, keep boaters safer, and reduce the number of distress calls to some extent. To what extent, we don’t know. Some boaters have never been boarded their entire lives, while I’ve been boarded seven or eight times over the years. It’s hard to say what the effects of such random, willy-nilly searches are on the public, much of whom isn’t even aware they can be boarded in the first place.

What is the most dangerous place in America, the place where you are most likely to die from an accidental death? Okay, it’s your car, but second to your car it’s your home, and within your home it’s your bathroom. Many thousands of deaths could be averted by surprise inspections of our homes for proper and up-to-date smoke alarms, fire extinguishers, carbon monoxide detectors, safe wiring, adequate railings, grab bars in showers, tripping hazards, etc., but we place a value on privacy in our homes, especially in our bathrooms.

This is something that we’ll never all agree on. Some people believe in safety at all costs; others, like one of the commenters, say “I’ll take my dangerous freedom over your safe slavery any day.”

Now, on to the case law that has brought us to this state of affairs. If, from our courts, you’re hoping for a careful analysis of constitutional law and an even-handed balancing of our freedoms versus the public good, get ready to be disappointed. Some of the comments on these posts could be swapped for the courts’ opinions and nobody would know the difference. The legal opinions are just that, opinions, and don’t seem to be anchored in any cost-benefit analysis. And to establish case law you must have a case, and to have a case you must be a drug smuggler or rum runner (for the case law established during Prohibition).

The law review papers all have pithy titles like “Smugglers Blues or Boater’s Nightmare?,” “Constitutional Barriers to Smooth Sailing,” “Reasonableness Gone Overboard,” and “At Sea with the Fourth Amendment” and they all seem to love the quote about the shield against unreasonable searches not rusting on exposure to salt air, which is attributable to Judge Alvin Benjamin Rubin in his concurring opinion on United States v. Williams (1980). There doesn’t seem to be a single law scholar who supports suspicionless searches. My favorite law scholar, Megan Jaye Kight, even adds in a footnote, “I wish to express my appreciation to the United States Coast Guard for stopping me and my family in the middle of the night in order to search our vessel and sparking my interest in the subject of this Note.”

The Coast Guard says, “The courts have consistently upheld this authority,” but that’s not quite true. (I said it too, in Part 3…oops.) There has been a lot of flip-flopping over the years, and the courts have often found in favor of a defendant on constitutional grounds (the Fourth Amendment litmus test of reasonableness) but again, we’re just dealing with drug smugglers and not the rest of us.


Image Courtesy of US Coast Guard

It troubles me that the constitutional freedoms of 75 million American boaters, and the day-to-day job requirements of innumerable Coasties, are being decided by a small handful of criminals and judges, most of whom probably aren’t seafarers of any flavor. Whether the boardings are a good idea in general has never been the question: The question is always limited to whether the evidence is admissible in a particular bust. Why and how this translates into nationwide policy seems strange and a bit, well, crazy. And supposedly “no act of Congress can authorize a violation of the Constitution,” but here these laws are, in the Federal Code.

In United States v. Villamonte-Marquez a Coast Guard search uncovered 5800 pounds of marijuana on the 40-foot sailboat Henry Morgan II. The defendants’ motion to suppress evidence under the Fourth Amendment was denied at trial. The decision was reversed by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, which allowed the motion to suppress, but then the Supreme Court overturned this and the defendants were convicted of too many crimes to list. This happened in Louisiana in 1981.

In United States v. Piner a Coast Guard boarding party found 4000 pounds of marijuana aboard the 43-foot sailboat Delphine. The 9th Circuit Court upheld the defendants’ motion to suppress the evidence under the 4th Amendment, as did district court before that, and the defendants went free. This happened on San Francisco Bay in 1978.

First lesson, if you’re going to get caught with thousands of pounds of pot on your sailboat, do it in San Francisco where you fall under those free-wheeling hippies on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Those 5th Circuit Court of Appeals guys are hangin’ judges! The Circuit Courts of Appeals are regional (The 9th Circuit covers the nine Western states) and they are the second-highest courts in the land, second only to the United States Supreme Court. Usually the buck stops at the Circuit Courts of Appeals, as the US Supreme Court selects only about 100 cases per year to review.

The Piner decision mainly dealt with whether a boarding was more intrusive at night than in the day, which seems like a red herring. Later decisions reversed this, and nighttime boardings are now treated just the same as daytime boardings. But the Piner court opined (per Greg Shelton) that “the law enforcement stop is a “subjective intrusion” that results in a “particularly unsettling effect upon the ordinary person.”

Much of the legal discussion hinges on Delaware v. Prouse, which held that the random stop of an automobile by state police for a driver’s license and registration check was an unreasonable intrusion on the automobile traveler, and therefore violated the Fourth Amendment. Prouse established that police may only stop a motorist if they have “an articulable and reasonable suspicion” that the motorist is in violation of the law.

Comparing Piner to Prouse, the Piner court reasoned: “If the stop of an automobile upon a public highway by an identifiable police car is felt to create such subjective intrusion as to require the use of potentially less intrusive alternatives, surely the stop of an isolated boat after dark, followed by a physical intrusion upon the boat itself, would have an unsettling effect immeasurably greater, placing a far greater demand upon the government to come forward with balancing factors.”

At least somebody’s taking into consideration the “particularly unsettling effects” of surprise searches by armed men.

Back to United States v. Villamonte-Marquez, an often-cited watershed case. In his excellent paper in the St. Johns Law Review, Searching the Parameters of the Fourth Amendment Requirement-Reasonableness Gone Overboard: United States v. Villamonte-Marquez, Lawrence A. Levy provides a complete analysis. Keep in mind that throughout these analyses the terms Coast Guard officer and Customs officer are interchangeable:

“The circuit courts have upheld warrantless boardings that fell within two categories: (1) a border search at the functional equivalent of the border if the officers are reasonably certain that the vessel crossed the border; and (2) an investigatory stop if the customs officers have a reasonable suspicion that there is unlawful activity aboard the vessel. These criteria are not mutually exclusive and the Court could have adopted both, thus affording the necessary protection to fourth amendment rights. Instead, the Court held that the exercise of unlimited authority pursuant to the plain language of the statute was acceptable under the fourth amendment. Creating an exception to the warrant requirement permits customs officers unlimited discretion to stop and board any vessel they choose. The Court may have overlooked the dangers of improper use of such authority as a device to circumvent the protections of the Constitution. Under the facade of a section1581(a) documentation check, overzealous customs officers may board vessels indiscriminately with vague hopes of obtaining evidence of such serious violations as smuggling. Never before has the Court permitted law enforcement officials such unlimited discretion to conduct “fishing expeditions.” Indeed, Villamonte-Marquez represents yet another extension of the recent trend of Burger Court decisions weakening the fourth amendment.”

Levy goes on to say, “As the dissent (in Villamonte-Marquez) observed, a vessel commonly serves as a dwelling for its occupants. Therefore, if a distinction is to be made between automobiles and vessels, it should be recognized that the occupants of a vessel have a greater expectation of privacy than those of an automobile. Although this expectation of privacy must be balanced against the Federal Government’s interest in enforcing the smuggling and vessel documentation laws, it is suggested that the Government’s interest in recreational vessels is less compelling than its interest in commercial vessels. It is further suggested that the correct balancing of interests mandate that the standards employed for the stopping and boarding of pleasure vessels at least be set at the level of those governing automobile stops.”

Judge Anthony Kennedy dissented in Piner: “Vessels are not entitled to the same Fourth Amendment protections as their landlocked counterparts.” It was a dissenting opinion (he lost) but there it is in black and white from a current Supreme Court Justice.

Another watershed case was United States v. Williams, about which Levy says:

United States v. Williams (5th Cir. 1977) involved the boarding of houseboat by customs agents pursuant to section 1581(a). The court held that customs enforcement applied only to vessels which normally carried cargo or persons subject to the customs laws. Indeed, the customs laws maintain a distinction between recreational and commercial vessels. For example, American vessels arriving from a foreign port or place and all foreign vessels are required to make entry at the appropriate customhouse. However, “licensed yachts or un-documented American pleasure vessels not engaged in trade nor in any way violating the customs or navigation laws of the United States” are not required to make entry at the customhouse. Nevertheless, though not required to make entry at the customhouse, pleasure boats now are subject to random boardings by customs officers. With respect to the Federal Government’s interest in assuring compliance with the federal documentation laws, it should be noted that the federal documentation law for pleasure vessels is optional.”

Levy, continued:

“Today, recreational vessels are the predominant type of boat on the water. When the Legislature enacted section 31 (the predecessor to 14, 89) it could not have envisioned the nature and extent of recreational boating as it is engaged in today; nor would the random search of pleasure crafts have been consistent with the commercial orientation of the statute. Therefore, the historical pedigree of section 1581(a) should extend, at most, only to commercial vessels.”

I pointed this out in Part 3, that the original intent of the Revenue Service Act of 1790 was to collect tariffs from cargo ships, but this argument hasn’t seen the light of day in court since Prohibition. Fish v. Brophy (1931) was illustrative:

Per Levy, “Fish involved the boarding of the plaintiff’s pleasure boat in New York Bay, and a subsequent warrantless search of the vessel. The court held that section 581 of the Tariff Act of 1922 (current version at 19 U.S.C. § 1581(a) (1982) did not apply to pleasure boats. The district court reasoned that manifests were required only in the case of vessels carrying cargo from foreign ports. In addition, the court believed that the Legislature could not have intended to place pleasure boats in the same category as commercial vessels. Two years later, in Olsen v. United States, (2d Cir.1933), the Second Circuit held that the statute applied to pleasure boats as well as to commercial vessels. Although the court acknowledged that pleasure boats were treated as a distinct class under federal law, it held that federal regulation of such vessels mandated that they be subject to examination under section 581. It should be noted, however, that the court’s holding did not address the intent of Congress in enacting the statute.”

Levy concludes, “By subjecting the fundamental rights of boaters to the unlimited discretion of customs officers, the Court has eviscerated the fourth amendment, not only as it applies in the maritime setting, but with respect to inland waters as well.”

It’s hard to say, historically, how this has played out. Most of it was before my time, but several of the law scholars cite increased intensity during Prohibition, and from the start of the War on Drugs:

“The Coast Guard’s emphasis on law enforcement changed dramatically after the end of Prohibition. The onset of World War II, the postwar emergence of the United States as an economic power with increased marine commerce, and the wars in Korea and Vietnam all forced the Coast Guard to focus on missions other than law enforcement until well into the 1970s.”

“The struggle to keep drugs from our streets and homes has fostered a judicial tolerance for the exercise of Coast Guard authority that hardly qualifies as Fourth Amendment analysis. Indeed, the trend in court cases analyzing Coast Guard boardings demonstrates that deference has increased over time. This trend stands in stark contrast to the increase in restrictions upon land-based enforcement methods in this century.” (Greg Shelton, 1993)

I have no personal sense for this, as the War On Drugs has been hot my entire life.

Again, those issues, the case law, and national policy comes from the legal wranglings of a few smugglers. As for the rest of us law-abiding seafarers, I think Shawn Hall’s story, posted as a comment, is representative of the intrusion, inconvenience, and even danger we face with these boardings, no mater how polite and routine they may be:

“Actually, from what I have seen they are boarding to see if someone is drunk or check for drugs. Honestly they endangered my whole family recently. They did it respectfully but it was a waste of time.

They pulled us over nearing dusk, I had 4 miles to go, easy 2 foot waves and sunlight. My father was driving and had had 2 glasses of wine approximately 4 hours beforehand, he is over 60 and not an often drinker.

They were very polite, asked us for all of our paperwork, checked our toilet Y valve? and everything else on the check list of safety. While of course they made a point to look in our bathroom, in our cabin, and in the engine compartment (Checking that Y Valve, or looking for drugs more likely). They then gave my father a sobriety test that took forever, then breathalyzed him, he was well under the legal limit. They also gave me the sobriety test ( I literally asked for one out of curiousity, I could not do tip to tip finger to nose perfectly, that is harder than it looks) They breathalyzed me 0.000.

It was a respectful event but it took over an hour long. The problem being that by this time dusk was to full dark and the cooling of the evening started kicking up the sea (Lake Erie goes from calm to dangerous in a blink) We can of course navigate at night but it is always easier and safer to enter harbor and dock with the sun.

The reality is that they were looking for drugs, looking for someone over the legal limit, looking for anything they could arrest someone for.

So yes, nothing bad happened to us, but I was severely inconvenienced, my family put in danger, and for what purpose? We were on a motor boat, under way, 4 miles from shore in calm waters, lights were on and visible.

Engine runs good and clean. Numbers on side of the boat are professionally done, registration is up to date.

So, how is this helping us? How is this about safety? It is true that if you haven’t done anything wrong, being stopped won’t get you arrested, but what does that matter, why is that any better? What if I just came into your home, asked you questions (you have to answer) very politely of course, but you have to answer me, you have to be polite to me, you have to let me look through all your things.

I walk upstairs in your home go through your wife’s underwear drawer. You pay taxes, you haven’t done anything wrong, you just came home from work and were getting ready for dinner.

I now politely ask you some more questions, I rummage through your bathroom, your dinner is getting cold.

An hour later I say you’re good to go and I politely leave.

Are you okay with this? Why are you more okay if it is a police officer, a DNR agent, or the Coast Guard?”

Since we recreational boaters use our boats in our leisure time, delays like Shawn’s aren’t often the focus of complaints. If we were were using our boats to get to work or go to appointments these twenty minute to one hour delays would wreak havoc with our schedules and cost us money.

For the foreseeable future, Coast Guard boarding parties will remain “America’s supercops.” It is a great power, and a great responsibility. They say absolute power corrupts absolutely, but incidents of abuse of this power are rare but present. Coast Guard personnel are well-trained, and I’m pleasantly surprised at how little abuse there is. If what’s been said is true, I encourage the Coast Guard to continue to undershoot the scope of what they can do under Title 14 section 89 and associated laws, and respect citizens’ privacy wherever possible. Meanwhile, we’ll hope the law is overturned on constitutional grounds, or by an Act of Congress.

Finding bliss in stagnant cruising

Sail Feed - Wed, 2014-07-30 09:14


A month ago we were headed to Borneo. Thanks to continued engine problems, we’ve been sitting in Puteri Harbour instead. Cruising plans torpedoed, Totem is shacked up at the monthly rate. A blog follower and friend wondered what happened to us the last few weeks. He nailed it, too, understanding that being parked makes my inner cruiser feel caged: I kind of lost my mojo, and the blog went quiet. So, what’s been happening in our non-cruising cruising world, besides getting our life raft re-certified?

dock sundowners have also been happening

If you’re following us on Facebook you probably know about the rat saga already. I wish this was a reflection with 20/20 hindsight but it’s three weeks today since I was awakened at night by a rat running up my body, and the rodent is still on board somewhere. We have deployed three live traps, two snap traps, an ultrasonic rodent repellent ipad app, invited neighboring cats on board, and distributed a variety pack of poison to catch the rat and his/her suspected friend (please don’t let them make baby rats!). They mock us making noise at night, streaking through the cabin, leaving gifts of ratty poo, and cleverly stealing bait from traps- even bait that is TIED DOWN. So sadly, I’m not here to share what worked, but to say we’re trying everything we can and just hope to evict them before they do enough damage to wiring or plumbing to drain our savings.

one of the pictures the kids took, a project to learn about Ramadan

Meanwhile, it’s been Ramadan. This month-long Islamic observance is most apparent to an outsider through daily fasting, which stretches from 5:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. in this corner of the world. That’s not just abstaining from food, but also drink, cigarettes, sex, or other behaviors that might be considered sinful. I felt for the mechanics visiting Totem, sweating in the heat down below, who couldn’t have a drink and were clearly missing their regular smoke break. They were still smiling and helpful, but their energy flagged. I had to fast for one measly half day to do some bloodwork, and was completely grumpy about it: I have nothing but respect for people who cheerfully manage this practice for a month in order to remember those who suffer, or are simply less fortunate than they are.

meeting Madrona after quite a few miles (and emails!)

Although it isolated (transportation required for anything outside the hotel/marina complex) and confining (oh, Borneo!), staying in Puteri Harbour has plenty of upside. It’s been a pleasure to meet several boats we have corresponded with, but not previously had tracks intersect.

Many memorable evenings have passed sharing nibbles on the dock while the sun sinks behind the waterfront hotel and shops. The staff is friendly and helpful, even delivering gifts of a rice dish traditionally eaten as iftar- the light meal to end fasting after sunset- to residents in the marina.

Siobhan with Jana (SV Momo) and onlookers

Three other “kid boats” mean a raft of new friends. The girls play Musical Boats for sleepovers, swing from Momo’s rigging, and race their scooters around the docks.

performance by kids from four boats

Dock sundowners have typically been parleyed into an occasion for theater, where the kids command attendance to elaborate their choreographed and costumed dance performances.

I’m taking full advantage of the managed access we have to certain hotel facilities. Yoga practice is so much easier when I have a large space, a beautiful view, a pleasant temperature, and no interruptions! When I need a quiet place to write, an air conditioned chart room has cushy chairs and a shaded view of the marina. It’s lovely.

Meanwhile, Jamie’s found more customers for rig checks and sail orders. The Indian Ocean is next for many, and nobody wants to go into that with any doubt about their setup. This is work he genuinely enjoys and a nice boost for our cruising kitty: a win all around.

Followers in flow know we love it when you read this on the Sailfeed website.

BLUE PLANET TIMES 2014-07-30 02:13:17

Sail Feed - Wed, 2014-07-30 03:13

The newest round of names now added to the National Sailing Hall of Fame cover a range from Nathaniel Bowditch, who gave the world a new standard of navigation, to Carl Eichenlaub, who gave the world a lesson, and another and another, in how to live and give. As a mechanic, this man kept one after another US Olympic team’s boats working, and he didn’t hesitate to help out the competition, either. Because Carl loved winning, but more than that he loved the game and the people who play it. As a boat builder, he worked wonders, not the least of which was constructing Doug Peterson’s debut yacht, Ganbare, for the 1974 One Ton North Americans.

(One Tonners were a big deal at the time. Trust me on that.)

Ganbare was a San Diego-home town boat with San Diego Yacht Club hosting the NAs. The boat was a touch smaller than some of the others and definitely rougher in the finish. It had the hallmarks of a hasty backyard job, and with all the celebrity names on hand, and with all the shiny new battleships on hand, Ganbare garnered little regard. I think that’s putting it kindly. Garnered little regard, that is, until the first leg of the first race, sailed in the typical light chop off Point Loma, and the Yankee 38 that I was crewing, and every other boat in the fleet, went hobbyhorsing our way toward mark one and—

Actually, every other boat in the fleet except one. Ganbare just leveled away from us, hobbyhorsing either not at all or so little that the comparison was moot. Doug Peterson’s design career was launched. At the end of the regatta, at the awards, with Peterson and Eichenlaub featuring prominently, and a lot of hair flying, one Breton red-wearing observer remarked to the Breton red-wearing fellow next to him, “They don’t look like that back East.”

Eichenlaub’s signature quote chosen by the NSHoF: “Winning sailboat races isn’t about boat handling, or tactics – you just need a faster boat.” There was also that moment when he came walking down the dock and discovered that his crew, unbeknownst to him, had given his latest Cadenza one of the very first exotic paint jobs in the history of yachting . . .

Jim Kilroy, who set a standard for how to run an international Maxi program, becomes the Hall of Fame’s first winner of a lifetime achievement award. Here’s the word:

Annapolis, Md. (July 29, 2014) – The National Sailing Hall of Fame (NSHOF) today announced the eight people
who will make up its 2014 class of inductees into the National Sailing Hall of Fame: Yachtsman, historian and
senior statesman of the sport Henry H. “Harry” Anderson, Jr. (Mystic, Conn.); mathematician and navigator
Nathaniel Bowditch (Salem, Mass.); boat builder and U.S. Olympic Sailing Team boatwright Carl Eichenlaub (San
Diego, Calif.); brothers Olaf Harken and Peter Harken (both Pewaukee, Wisc.), respectively, boat builder and
sailing hardware designer; naval architect and prolific writer L. Francis Herreshoff (Bristol, R.I./Marblehead,
Mass.); 1960 5.5 Metre Olympic Gold Medalist and boat builder George O’Day (Brookline, Mass./Dover, Mass.);
and Grand Prix yachtsman John B. “Jim” Kilroy (Marina del Rey, Calif.), the recipient of the NSHOF’s first Lifetime
Achievement Award.

“When the National Sailing Hall of Fame was formed in 2005, a central piece of its mission was to focus
attention on Americans who had made outstanding contributions to the sport of sailing,” said Gary Jobson,
President of the NSHOF. “The eight members of the class of 2014 are joining 34 previously-recognized
individuals whose achievements – whether on-the-water, at a drafting table or in the administration of the sport
– have impacted recreational boaters and competitive sailors alike. By recognizing them and sharing their
stories, the NSHOF is preserving the history of the sport and its impact on American culture while inspiring the
next generation of sailors.”

Following a two-month period this spring during which sailors from all corners of the country nominated their
choice for induction, a selection committee – made up of representatives from US Sailing, the sailing media, the
sailing industry, community sailing, a maritime museum, a previous inductee, and the NSHOF Board – reviewed
the broad spectrum of nominations.
Inductees are American citizens, 45 years of age or older, who have made significant impact on the growth and
development of the sport in the U.S. in the categories of Sailing, Technical/Design and Contributor(coach,
administrator, sailing media). Nominations of non-citizens were also considered if they influenced the sport in
the U.S., and posthumous nominations were also accepted. The undertaking to recognize Americans who have
made outstanding contributions to the sport of sailing is central to the mission of the NSHOF which was formed
in 2005 and has completed phase one of its plan to establish a permanent facility on the historic waterfront of
Annapolis, Maryland.

The Lifetime Achievement Award will induct an American citizen, 55 years of age or older, who has had
consistent involvement in sailing for a majority of his or her life and had success in the sport while also becoming
successful and achieving noteworthy stature in a non-sailing career.

The 2014 class of inductees will be formally celebrated on Sunday, September 28, 2014. The invitation-only
Induction Ceremony will be held at the Detroit Yacht Club (Detroit, Mich.) and is sponsored by Rolex Watch
U.S.A. and Condé Nast.

NOVA SCOTIA CRUISE: Fog With Everything

Sail Feed - Tue, 2014-07-29 21:39

I am writing this in the obscure, once prosperous fishing port of Lockeport, not too many miles north of Cape Sable on Nova Scotia’s so-called Southwest Coast, which actually faces east. It is not foggy now, though it was when we came in here just before sunset yesterday. So thick we couldn’t see more than 30 yards and had to do a might bit of groping with chartplotter and iPad before we found the docks of the White Gull Marina (see photo up top), where we settled in for the night alongside a big turquoise Novi-style lobster boat named Newfie Kids.

We’ve been out eight days now and barring some unforeseen disaster while recrossing the Gulf of Maine, I can say this little voyage has been an unmitigated success. Even with the fog. And in part because of it.

It took us two and a half days to sail from Portland across the Gulf and up the coast to Lunenburg and of those for one and a half at least we were buried in the thick stuff. We were off Cape Sable, an uncomfortable place to be in the best of circumstances (due to fast current, shoal water, and vast fleets of fishing boats), when at last it dissipated. I was on watch alone, at night–a moment I’ll remember until the end of my life.

Night sky revealed, studded with brilliant stars; lights on shore visible in the distance, evidence of our arrival somewhere; lights in the water, electric, everywhere, bioluminescence so vivid that the boat carved out a brilliant deep valley of light behind it and every wavelet for as as far as the eye could see was capped with a bright brilliant light of its own. So many twinkling lights, above and below, it was impossible to say where the sea stopped and the sky began.

Clear at the outset. Crew member Charles “May I Cast Off Now” Lassen lounges sur la cockpit as we set out from Portland in light wind

Ferry sighting. The new Nova Star, now running twixt Portland and Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, is fully equipped with guest cabins, shops, restaurants, and (of course) a casino

Whale sighting! In the fog, mais oui. They have dolphin-sized dorsal fins, but the rest is much bigger. During our transit I saw three whales up close and in person, one of which went flukes up, and spotted two spouts at a distance

The day after the Revelation of the Night Lights we screamed up the coast at speeds of up to 9 knots (that’s me doing the screaming there), running down the Nova Scotia trades (20-knots-plus SW’ly) wing-and-wing under a double-reefed main and headsail

My ultimate goal during this cruise was to visit Lunenburg and Mahone Bay. Lunenburg, of course, has a vast reputation among the Nautical Illuminati, and Mahone Bay, just to the north, has the highest concentration of islands and islets per square mile of anywhere in Nova Scotia and so seems attractive by default.

Lunenburg was much what I expected, a fabulous destination to arrive at by boat. Young ladies sailing bright classic daysailers waved and bid us welcome as we entered the harbor. Inside we found all manner of traditional craft, perfectly primped, with a high preponderance of schooners.

Fortuitously, we happened to arrive just in time to witness the annual Wooden Boat Reunion, during which all types of perfectly maintained old wooden boats (many of them schooners) carom around the harbor under sail like pinballs

Now that’s what I call a bowman

The Bluenose II, a fine replica of the famous fishing schooner, was undergoing maintenance up at the far end of the harbor. Her boom is incredibly long! Nearly as long as her foremast (sans topmast) is high

Her worm-gear steering revealed

Her immaculate foredeck, with a modern hydraulic windlass. On the old boats you had to crank those puppies by hand

Lunenburg has many churches. This Anglican church is the fanciest one. It was badly damaged by fire in 2001, but has since been restored

A special surprise. I knew, but had forgotten, that my old Pearson Alberg 35 Crazy Horse currently resides in Lunenburg! She is now called Eventide and is exceedingly well cared for

Mahone Bay was something else entirely. Studying charts at home, I had marveled at its vast archipelago of islands and imagined they were all uninhabited. I pictured myself gunkholing among them, stopping often to go ashore and explore their virgin interiors.

Our first day in the bay, thanks to the fog, which rolled up and down like a tease, I was able to maintain this fantasy, as I couldn’t really see the islands. On the second day, bright and clear, with a light northwesterly that allowed us to sail in and amongst the islands with ease, we found in fact they are all covered with summer homes. Some of them quite fancy! On a par with anything you’ll see on the Gold Coasts of New England.

Charles steers with his butt as we wend our way through Mahone Bay wing-and-wing under full-blown screecher and mainsail

Some swank summer homes in Chester, toward the north end of the bay

Even the trailer parks are swank! This deluxe mini-park in Mahone Harbor features an over-the-top custom rip-rap shoreline (a very common feature on Mahone Bay) plus a brightly colored wooden lawn chair (also quite de rigeur in these parts)

The Chester Yacht Club looks like many nice clubs I’ve seen on Long Island Sound, except Mahone Bay (I have to say) is much nicer than the Sound

And yes, you can find secluded spots to call your own. Here we are anchored off Heckman Island the night before we returned to Lunenburg

The Big Experiment during this cruise was the Importation of the Ferry People. My wife Clare, daughter Lucy, and Charles’s bride Susan (the Sooks), all came via Nova Star with a car and joined us for the weekend in Lunenburg.

I had many anxieties about this–the ferry ride would be uncomfortable, the drive from Yarmouth to Lunenburg would too long, etc., etc.–but in fact it all went perfectly. The Ferry People had a fabulous time, both on the ferry and with us, and the Experiment, in the end, was popular with all concerned.

The Ferry People hang tough: Clare, Lucy, and the Sooks

Lucy climbs the mast to check out our flag display

Charles wins the Toenail Painting Contest

Alas, the Ferry People had to head out at O-Dark-Hundred yesterday morning to catch their ride home, and Charles and I sailed out of Lunenburg not long afterwards to take advantage of a southerly breeze. We didn’t know where exactly we were going, except that we wanted to get as far down the coast as possible.

It was a fantastic piece of luck–we covered 60 miles or more, closehauled the whole way on one starboard tack, in the fog, and made it in here just before dark.

Slashing through the fog

Lockeport is nothing like Lunenburg or Mahone Bay. They’ve lost their fishing industry, but haven’t managed to remake themselves as a successful touristy summer-people destination, though they are trying their best. What they do have in common with everyone else here is that they are extremely friendly, polite, and considerate. Canadians truly are NPOE (Nicest People On Earth), which is reason enough, I reckon, to sail over for a visit.

What You Need to Know: Bring an extra jerry jug or two. For some reason they don’t have fuel docks over here.

The only waterfront fuel pump we’ve found, here at the White Gull Marina (just $37.50 a night for a 39-foot boat!), has long since given up the ghost. Even in Lunenburg, where they have many yachts, you have to schlep fuel in jugs if you’re buying less than 100 gallons, which is how much it takes to lure a truck to a wharf.

NOVA SCOTIA CRUISE: Fog With Everything

Sail Feed - Tue, 2014-07-29 21:39

I am writing this in the obscure, once prosperous fishing port of Lockeport, not too many miles north of Cape Sable on Nova Scotia’s so-called Southwest Coast, which actually faces east. It is not foggy now, though it was when we came in here just before sunset yesterday. So thick we couldn’t see more than 30 yards and had to do a might bit of groping with chartplotter and iPad before we found the docks of the White Gull Marina (see photo up top), where we settled in for the night alongside a big turquoise Novi-style lobster boat named Newfie Kids.

We’ve been out eight days now and barring some unforeseen disaster while recrossing the Gulf of Maine, I can say this little voyage has been an unmitigated success. Even with the fog. And in part because of it.

It took us two and a half days to sail from Portland across the Gulf and up the coast to Lunenburg and of those for one and a half at least we were buried in the thick stuff. We were off Cape Sable, an uncomfortable place to be in the best of circumstances (due to fast current, shoal water, and vast fleets of fishing boats), when at last it dissipated. I was on watch alone, at night–a moment I’ll remember until the end of my life.

Night sky revealed, studded with brilliant stars; lights on shore visible in the distance, evidence of our arrival somewhere; lights in the water, electric, everywhere, bioluminescence so vivid that the boat carved out a brilliant deep valley of light behind it and every wavelet for as as far as the eye could see was capped with a bright brilliant light of its own. So many twinkling lights, above and below, it was impossible to say where the sea stopped and the sky began.

Clear at the outset. Crew member Charles “May I Cast Off Now” Lassen lounges sur la cockpit as we set out from Portland in light wind

Ferry sighting. The new Nova Star, now running twixt Portland and Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, is fully equipped with guest cabins, shops, restaurants, and (of course) a casino

Whale sighting! In the fog, mais oui. They have dolphin-sized dorsal fins, but the rest is much bigger. During our transit I saw three whales up close and in person, one of which went flukes up, and spotted two spouts at a distance

The day after the Revelation of the Night Lights we screamed up the coast at speeds of up to 9 knots (that’s me doing the screaming there), running down the Nova Scotia trades (20-knots-plus SW’ly) wing-and-wing under a double-reefed main and headsail

My ultimate goal during this cruise was to visit Lunenburg and Mahone Bay. Lunenburg, of course, has a vast reputation among the Nautical Illuminati, and Mahone Bay, just to the north, has the highest concentration of islands and islets per square mile of anywhere in Nova Scotia and so seems attractive by default.

Lunenburg was much what I expected, a fabulous destination to arrive at by boat. Young ladies sailing bright classic daysailers waved and bid us welcome as we entered the harbor. Inside we found all manner of traditional craft, perfectly primped, with a high preponderance of schooners.

Fortuitously, we happened to arrive just in time to witness the annual Wooden Boat Reunion, during which all types of perfectly maintained old wooden boats (many of them schooners) carom around the harbor under sail like pinballs

Now that’s what I call a bowman

The Bluenose II, a fine replica of the famous fishing schooner, was undergoing maintenance up at the far end of the harbor. Her boom is incredibly long! Nearly as long as her foremast (sans topmast) is high

Her worm-gear steering revealed

Her immaculate foredeck, with a modern hydraulic windlass. On the old boats you had to crank those puppies by hand

Lunenburg has many churches. This Anglican church is the fanciest one. It was badly damaged by fire in 2001, but has since been restored

A special surprise. I knew, but had forgotten, that my old Pearson Alberg 35 Crazy Horse currently resides in Lunenburg! She is now called Eventide and is exceedingly well cared for

Mahone Bay was something else entirely. Studying charts at home, I had marveled at its vast archipelago of islands and imagined they were all uninhabited. I pictured myself gunkholing among them, stopping often to go ashore and explore their virgin interiors.

Our first day in the bay, thanks to the fog, which rolled up and down like a tease, I was able to maintain this fantasy, as I couldn’t really see the islands. On the second day, bright and clear, with a light northwesterly that allowed us to sail in and amongst the islands with ease, we found in fact they are all covered with summer homes. Some of them quite fancy! On a par with anything you’ll see on the Gold Coasts of New England.

Charles steers with his butt as we wend our way through Mahone Bay wing-and-wing under full-blown screecher and mainsail

Some swank summer homes in Chester, toward the north end of the bay

Even the trailer parks are swank! This deluxe mini-park in Mahone Harbor features an over-the-top custom rip-rap shoreline (a very common feature on Mahone Bay) plus a brightly colored wooden lawn chair (also quite de rigeur in these parts)

The Chester Yacht Club looks like many nice clubs I’ve seen on Long Island Sound, except Mahone Bay (I have to say) is much nicer than the Sound

And yes, you can find secluded spots to call your own. Here we are anchored off Heckman Island the night before we returned to Lunenburg

The Big Experiment during this cruise was the Importation of the Ferry People. My wife Clare, daughter Lucy, and Charles’s bride Susan (the Sooks), all came via Nova Star with a car and joined us for the weekend in Lunenburg.

I had many anxieties about this–the ferry ride would be uncomfortable, the drive from Yarmouth to Lunenburg would too long, etc., etc.–but in fact it all went perfectly. The Ferry People had a fabulous time, both on the ferry and with us, and the Experiment, in the end, was popular with all concerned.

The Ferry People hang tough: Clare, Lucy, and the Sooks

Lucy climbs the mast to check out our flag display

Charles wins the Toenail Painting Contest

Alas, the Ferry People had to head out at O-Dark-Hundred yesterday morning to catch their ride home, and Charles and I sailed out of Lunenburg not long afterwards to take advantage of a southerly breeze. We didn’t know where exactly we were going, except that we wanted to get as far down the coast as possible.

It was a fantastic piece of luck–we covered 60 miles or more, closehauled the whole way on one starboard tack, in the fog, and made it in here just before dark.

Slashing through the fog

Lockeport is nothing like Lunenburg or Mahone Bay. They’ve lost their fishing industry, but haven’t managed to remake themselves as a successful touristy summer-people destination, though they are trying their best. What they do have in common with everyone else here is that they are extremely friendly, polite, and considerate. Canadians truly are NPOE (Nicest People On Earth), which is reason enough, I reckon, to sail over for a visit.

What You Need to Know: Bring an extra jerry jug or two. For some reason they don’t have fuel docks over here.

The only waterfront fuel pump we’ve found, here at the White Gull Marina (just $37.50 a night for a 39-foot boat!), has long since given up the ghost. Even in Lunenburg, where they have many yachts, you have to schlep fuel in jugs if you’re buying less than 100 gallons, which is how much it takes to lure a truck to a wharf.

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