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Women Sailors Complete Mumbai-Oman

Sail Feed - Thu, 2014-03-20 16:16

March 20, 2014, from Oman Sail

Although they crossed the finish line in Oman last night, the official welcome took place at The Wave, Muscat earlier today. A huge gathering turned out to honour the two girls who now hold records for the first ever severely paralysed woman and the first Arab female sailor to make a trans-oceanic crossing.

The 850-nautical mile journey across the Indian Ocean started from Mumbai, India on Tuesday 11 March and took nine days to complete. The course generally took them up wind with winds reaching no more than 10-15kts, and the average boat speed was 5-6kts. They did however, encounter a 36-hour stop to refuel and carry out a repair to the Code Zero sail, which delayed their overall finish time.

Lister, who suffers from a degenerative disease – Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy – and who is paralysed from the neck down, can now add this record to the already impressive solo round Britain disabled record she set in 2009.

Lister commented: “I am delighted to have set this record with Nashwa. It was a truly amazing journey, particularly the arrival into Oman. More than anything, however, this trip has highlighted that longer offshore legs are a lot easier for me than shorter legs where I am constantly getting on and off the boat.”

The team, powered by Oman Sail and sponsored by Mistal and United Engineering Services, with support from Oman Air, GAC Pindar, Harken, Ocean Safety and Raymarine, were sailing a specially adapted Dragonfly. This boat incorporates a unique sip and puff sailing system that sends signals to a device using air pressure. By inhaling or exhaling into a straw Lister is able to steer, trim sails and navigate.

Lister continued: “Thanks to Roger Crabtree’s simple ‘plug and play’ sip and puff system, I think we proved that a long distance oceanic passage is highly achievable. This particular creation means I can transfer it from one boat to another, which has inspired me to think about future challenges. In the short term, however, it will be a case of trying to help other people with similar difficulties to me, get on the water by making this system available.”

Commenting on the highlight of the voyage, Lister said it has to be the phosphorescence: “Being on the ocean at night was simply sensational. I will never forget the amount of phosphorescence.

“The funniest moment I had was when a flying fish hit me slap, bang in the middle of the face. It was a hilarious moment, and we still laugh about it now. As well as the serious sailing, we had a lot of fun.”

Lister’s teammate, Al Kindi believes that becoming the first Arab female to set a new sailing record will hopefully inspire other women to follow their dreams. Al Kindi, who is a dinghy sailing instructor at Oman Sail, only started sailing in 2011 but instantly adopted the sport. In a short period of time she was recognised as the “Coach of the Year” in Oman Sail’s Sailor of the Year Awards 2013, and presented with the ISAF President Development Award 2013 for outstanding achievement.

As she stepped ashore she said: “I am very happy and proud to achieve this goal. It was always my dream to sail offshore in a big boat. I am sure, and I hope that what we have done will be an inspiration for Omani and non-Omani women to go for their dreams and goals. For me personally, it has strengthened my ultimate goal, which is to sail solo around the world one day.”

Commenting on the trip’s most memorable moments, Al Kindi said: “I will always remember the chats I had with Hilary on deck at night. She is a good, experienced sailor and she taught me a lot and she is my biggest inspiration.”


Oman Sail is a national initiative established in 2008 that uses the power of sport to contribute to the development of the Omani people. The equal opportunity project runs sailing programmes for thousands of young Omani men and women, inspiring a new generation to discover sailing. It encompasses a national sailing squad and high achieving inshore and offshore racing teams, all of which benefit from world-class coaching and whose ultimate objective is to win an Olympic medal for Oman. The programme has pledged to teach 70,000 Omani children to sail by 2020 at eight sailing schools, four of which are already operational. The goal is to rekindle Oman’s maritime heritage while raising the country’s regional and international profile as a high-end tourist and foreign investment destination, through competitive sailing at home and abroad. Oman Sail seeks to instil confidence and to teach valuable, transferable life skills to a generation of Omanis.

First Monos Finish PV, Others Park

Sail Feed - Wed, 2014-03-19 13:18

San Diego Yacht Club’s 1000-mile race to Puerto Vallarta opened for the first time this year to official multihull entries, and the two that answered the call both found the conditions they needed to obliterate the existing course records held by monohulls.

Tom Siebel’s Mod 70, Orion, pictured at right, was first into PV at the blistering pace ot 2 days, 8 hours 33 minutes. And how does that compare to the monohull times? Well, son, the breeze on the course was cruelly slowing down for the monohull end of the fleet. In the early hours of Wednesday, March 19, Bob Pethick’s Rogers 45, Bretwalda, became the first monohull to finish. The time: 8:20:25. Meanwhile, Blue Planet Times received this dawn missive from the crew of Bill Helvestine’s Santa Cruz 50, Deception . . .

It is 0630 here in Mexico – Cabo to be exact. After drifting through another never-ending wind hole, with forecasts of even less wind, a turtle doing laps around the boat, and Expedition telling us we would arrive in PV sometime in August, we decided to withdraw from the Vallarta Race so that we can make it to the MexORC start. All is well onboard our slightly delirious boat of smiles, we poked into Cabo for fuel and a few cervezas (that conveniently come in 8-packs)and we are now headed to PV.

More at SDYC’s race site.

Sailors for the Sea: Pollution in Rio

Sail Feed - Wed, 2014-03-19 12:58

Can one hundred years of pollution be cleaned in two?

By Tyson Bottenus, Clean Regatta and Marine Education Coordinator, Sailors for the Sea

“Talk not of Bahia de Todos los Santos – the Bay of all Saints; for though that be a glorious haven, yet Rio is the Bay of all Rivers – the Bay of all Delights – the Bay of all Beauties. From circumjacent hill-sides, untiring summer hangs perpetually in terraces of vivid verdure; and embossed with old mosses, convent and castle nestle in valley and glen.” Herman Melville, White Jacket (1850)

Last December Alan Norregaard, a Bronze medalist from the 2012 London Olympics, was just barely edging out Nico Delle Karth for first place as he approached the windward mark in the 2nd race of the 2013 Intergalactic Championships in Guanabara Bay, a rather large protected bay outside of Rio de Janeiro.

And then disaster struck when his 49er shuddered to a halt. He and his crew watched helplessly as the entire fleet passed by. Backwinding their mainsail, they peered into the murky water to see what had happened and what they saw was both infuriating and outrageous: their 49er was stopped dead in the water by a large plastic bag wrapped around their centerboard, floating haphazardly in the bay.

“I have sailed around the world for 20 years and this is the most polluted place I’ve ever been,” Norregaard told reporters after the race. Read the full story

Reading the Shifting Sands (etc) of the ICW

Sail Feed - Wed, 2014-03-19 11:55

By Kimball Livingston Posted March 19, 2014

With snowbirds counting the weeks until their migration north along the IntraCoastal Waterway—assuming this winter really does have an end—their transit of the ICW will include all the challenges of navigating shallow waters and shifting features. But with new sources of help from technology.

It’s very 2014, incorporating crowdsourced data generated by the users of Navionics electronic cartography products for chartplotters and mobile devices. The result: daily updates for near-real time news you can use. The benefits are obvious along a route notorious for its changeability. Or, as Navionics’ Shaun Ruge pegs it, a route fraught with “soon-to-be-suspect data, as in anything that was true yesterday along the ICW.”

NOAA’s traditional magenta line, marking the suggested channels, is becoming a lot less important. At one point last fall, NOAA announced that it was going to drop the magenta line altogether. Now it speaks of improving the performance of the magenta line. But there’s a but.

Navionics, ahead of NOAA’s announcements, had begun developing a framework for a two-part updating process in which their users’ opt-in shared information plus data from their aggregated under-way sonar logs (recorded through the company web site) can be used to crowdsource exactly the sort of information that matters in the moment, on the water. Quoting from Navionics, ICW data will include: “Up-to-date commanding depths, vertical and horizontal bridge clearances, accurate speed limits, vertical overhead cable clearance, updated coastlines, freshest-data bottom contours and suggested routes.”

Simply put, there is a need for a charting and routing system that is as up to date as a continually-changing waterway. This NOAA statement gets to the heart of the problem: “Last year, Coast Survey investigated problems reported with the magenta line. After receiving reports of groundings by boaters who followed the line into shoals, Coast Survey started to remove the magenta line from Intracoastal Waterway nautical charts.” The magenta line as in . . .

At its inception in 1912, the magenta line was state of the art, however fallible. As of now, NOAA has brought back the magenta line, but at the pace of government: “Resolving chart discrepancies will take . . . up to five years or even longer. In cases where information is lacking and the line depiction can lead to risky navigation, Coast Survey will remove that portion of the line.”

Editorial aside not required.

The world is moving on. “With the number of contributors that we already have,” Ruge says “we can synthesize the most frequently-traveled routes with timely updates. We had planned to develop this, because we saw the sheer numbers of people contributing and the capabilities it offered. Then NOAA motivated us to move faster.”

With Raymarine becoming a compatible contributor to Navionics’ sonar-log data, the user base in 2014 will grow. The “community edits” option allows users to add information about fuel prices, random flotsam, whatever they think might be useful, and the process is open-ended. “We don’t mind being contacted by anyone who might want to contribute more than sonar data,” Ruge says. “Maybe there’s something in it in exchange for an open dialogue.”

And with that as an invitation, Shaun, the editor in me just has to let you know that I appreciate viewing the Navionics web app online, but when I pull up my home waters of San Francisco Bay and look at the listings for Sausalito, I can’t help thinking you want to send somebody in to correct Item 22, “Clipper Yatch Harbor.”

Happy to help.

Staying in touch while cruising

Sail Feed - Wed, 2014-03-19 11:00

What a gift it is to be so far away, but so readily in touch with people we love.

Just today, we were able to Skype several times, to see and hear familiar faces and voices. Early in the morning we connected with my parents back in the USA, while they got ready for dinner. The girls could show their grandparents our new pet hamster through the camera on the ipad- it was better than a phone call! The bandwidth wasn’t good enough to hold a connection with two-way video feed, so we took turns.

At midday, we Skyped with friends we love: two different boat families, formerly of MV Oso Blanco and SV Mulan. They have shaped indelible parts of our cruising experience from Mexico to across the Pacific. They’re both well settled back in North America now, but we can catch up as if it were only yesterday…old memories shared, new ones related, and our hearts filled to be reminded that ties in the cruising family run deep. People we haven’t seen in nearly two years, and nearly four years, respectively- yet they feel as familiar as if it were only yesterday.

Later, Niall and his boat kid friend Josh (who is with his family in Thailand) caught up over Skype again, working out when our respective cruising tracks would cross so they could catch up for more fun and games (literally, as the boys play epic multi-day strategy board games when they’re together).

Good connectivity is unusual for us, to be fair. Even with the growing ubiquity of mobile internet, being on the move makes access unpredictable, and every country is different. We’re parked in a single spot for while, and there’s a great signal from the anchorage- so I expect to make the most of it as the coming weeks unfold. Not without some cost, as data isn’t cheap here, but so worthwhile!

Using technology to stay in touch like this is a marvel. Our cruising mentors circumnavigated in pre-internet days. Much of the literature we were reading to prepare for our cruising life in the early 2000s was written without the filter of the internet. Staying in touch meant poste restante mail to hear news from home, and dodgy slow boats to send word back. This is just wildly different than what they had to experience.

Oh, there are times it is blissful to be disconnected: to let the simplicity of clear nights at sea to free our minds from any detail except to marvel that the North Star and the Southern Cross are concurrently visible on opposite sides of an inky sky. Or to spend an evening paddling between boats in our watery neighborhood, as the sunset turns high clouds into firey waves and tints the world pink.

The remote experience dominates our lives by comparison to the super connected one, and bears a gift: it brings a sweetness to the chances we do have to connect.

Connected readers know we love it when you stay in touch by reading this on the Sailfeed website.

GEMINI 3000: A Very Affordable Cruising Cat

Sail Feed - Tue, 2014-03-18 18:28

The Gemini, the first production cruising catamaran ever built in the United States, was born from the ashes of a terrible fire that in 1981 destroyed the molds for the successful Telstar 26 folding trimaran that multihull enthusiast Tony Smith had just brought over from Great Britain. Eager to save his new Maryland-based business, Performance Cruising, Smith immediately started building catamarans instead, using molds for an old British cruiser, the Aristocat, designed by Ken Shaw back in 1970.

The original Gemini 31, appropriately named the Phoenix, was rebranded with minor changes as the Gemini 3000 after the first 28 hulls were launched. In all, 153 of these boats (including the first 28) were built from 1981 to 1990, when the 3000 was discontinued and replaced by the Gemini 3200. All subsequent Gemini models built by Performance Cruising, including the 3200, the 3400, and two 105 models, though they grew slightly, have the same basic hull and deck form and interior layout as the first. A total of nearly 1,000 Geminis have been launched over the past quarter century, making them the most popular American-built cruising cats to date.

Though the Gemini design concept is archaic by today’s standards, it still works well for contemporary cruisers who want a great deal of living space in a small inexpensive sailboat. As catamarans go, all Geminis are quite narrow, just 14 feet across, which means they can fit into most standard marina berths. In spite of the narrow beam, there is still enough room inside for a queen-size double berth forward in the master stateroom between the hulls, plus two small doubles in separate guest staterooms at the back of each hull, as well as a small but serviceable raised saloon with two settees and a table that can collapse to form yet another double berth.

A modest but useful main saloon

The galley is down in the starboard hull

One of two aft double berths

What this adds up to, in the case of the Gemini 3000, is a 30-foot boat with standing headroom that can honestly sleep four couples in a pinch, or three couples quite comfortably in private cabins, or a couple with several small children (or two older children who demand some space of their own). Throw in a good-sized galley, a roomy head with a shower, a nice long nav desk, plus a large comfortable cockpit, and you have a veritable poor man’s cruising palace.

When it comes to performance Geminis are a mixed bag. They have a solid bridgedeck stretching the entire length of the boat from the stern to the bow, plus the bridgedeck is fairly close to the water, and this inevitably hampers a catamaran’s performance to some degree. The boats will pound and hobbyhorse a bit sailing into a chop, especially when overloaded. On the other hand, Geminis do have relatively deep pivoting centerboards to provide directional stability and lift underwater, rather than the inefficient shoal keels found on most dedicated cruising cats. In flat water a Gemini with its lee centerboard down could be rather closewinded for a boat of its type. On the Gemini 3000s, unfortunately, the genoa track is outboard and the wide sheeting angle makes it hard to take advantage of this potential. On later models the track was moved inboard to the coachroof.

Example of a Gemini 105Mc, the last Gemini built by Performance Cruising

Because their centerboards can be raised and wetted surface area thus reduced when desired, all Geminis are reasonably fast off the wind compared to others of their ilk, particularly if you hoist a spinnaker. Unlike most modern cats, however, they have conventional rigs with backstays, and cannot fly a large main with a fat roach. Still, as long as they are not overloaded (an important proviso aboard any multihull), Geminis do surprisingly well in light air and can generally outsail most monohulls in their size range. They also have retractable rudders housed in stainless-steel cassettes, which allows them to take full advantage of their boards-up shoal draft when venturing into thin water.

Construction quality is mediocre at best, and though a few bold souls have taken Geminis offshore, the boats are best suited to coastal cruising. The entire hull (that is, both hulls plus the underside of the full-length bridgedeck) is formed in a single mold and is laid up as a solid fiberglass laminate of mat and woven roving. In the Gemini 3000 hulls polyester resin was used, and according to one consumer survey conducted back in the 1980s about 20 percent of owners reported some blistering. All subsequent models were built with an exterior layer of vinylester to prevent this.

The deck, also formed in a single mold, is cored with balsa in all horizontal areas and is through-bolted to the hull on a flange. To save weight neither the deck nor hull laminate are terribly thick and this, combined with the free-floating bulkheads inside the hull, makes for a somewhat flexible structure. Flexing in older Gemini 3000s often leads to some crazing and spider cracking in the exterior gelcoat. This problem is usually only cosmetic, but more severe stress cracking may indicate delamination in some areas and should be carefully checked. Older Gemini 3000s may also have problems with leaky Plexiglas windows. These were later changed to Lexan, which works better in windows of this size. Other problems to look for include corroding steering cables and undersized deck hardware.

Outboard installation on an older Gemini

Though optional inboard diesel engines were available, almost all Gemini 3000s are powered instead by a single long-shaft outboard engine mounted in the middle of the transom. The outboard turns with the rudder cassettes, which greatly improves close-quarters handling under power, and can be raised when sailing to reduce drag. When the boat was in production outboard-powered 3000s were delivered with either 35 or 40 hp motors, but many boats currently are driven by 25 hp motors. Reportedly even a 10 hp motor can drive the hull along at 5 knots or better.

Because alternators on outboard engines cannot generate much electricity, most Gemini 3000s have propane-fueled water heaters and refrigerators. The refrigerators can also run on 110-volt AC power when plugged in at a dock. All other DC electrical loads for lights, pumps, electronics, etc., must be kept at a minimum, or generation capacity must be augmented with solar panels and/or a wind generator. In most cases owners prefer to cope with the undersized DC system by keeping other systems as simple as possible.

The latest iteration, the Gemini Legacy 35, under sail

The cockpit on a Legacy 35. With no backstay and the main traveler on the targa roof, the cockpit is considerably more open

If you are attracted to Geminis but are keen on buying a new boat, you’ll be glad to hear that Marlow Hunter (formerly Hunter Marine) has taken over production and has significantly modernized the design. The Gemini Legacy 35, as it is called, is more of a mainstream cruising cat, with twin diesel engines, a diamond-stayed rig with a square-top mainsail, and fixed keels instead of centerboards. Build quality and the cockpit layout have also been improved. With a base price of $175K, the Legacy is considerably more expensive than a used Gemini, but is still significantly less expensive than most other new cruising cats.


LOA: 30’6″

LWL: 27’7″

Beam: 14’0″


-Boards down: 4’9″

-Boards up: 1’9″

Displacement: 7,000 lbs.

Sail area

-100% foretriangle: 425 sq.ft.

-With spinnaker: 675 sq.ft.

Fuel: 20-40 gal.

Water: 60 gal.

D/L ratio: 149

SA/D ratio

-100% foretriangle: 18.55

-With spinnaker: 29.46

Nominal hull speed: 9.1 knots

Typical asking prices: $35-65K

Si-Tex T-760 Series radar, other ways of integration

Sail Feed - Tue, 2014-03-18 16:00

Written by Ben Ellison on Mar 18, 2014 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub

There’s more to the new Si-Tex T-760 Series radar than you’ll currently find on that product page. Those multi-speed radomes are unlike anything Si-Tex has offered before and contain digital processing that will eventually put 16-level true color target imagery on that 800 x 480 pixel touch screen (with a software update). Plus, the case is carved from solid aluminum and can be easily flush mounted. At a suggested retail of about $2,100 with the 18-inch radome and an impressive set of radar features, the T-760 looks like an interesting alternative for boaters who don’t want all their electronic navigation tools on a multifunction display. It might also work for those early adopter types who can’t get radar on the tablets they want to use for primary navigation…

Some old salts value redundancy over the easy integration and common interface of an MFD, and they might pair the T-760 with one of the new Si-Tex SVS-760 Series (though they’re sourced from a different manufacturer). The plotter only “C” model – which can run either C-Map Max or Navionics Gold cartography — retails at $799, the “F” fishfinder at $749, and the SVS-760CF combo above at $999. At 5.4-inches wide and 8.9-inches high, the T-760 display might also fit neatly next to an existing 10 or 12-inch plotter that doesn’t have a radar option. But note how close that profile is to, say, an iPad mini in portrait mode, and that the head-up, look-ahead style looking good on the T-760 screen can also work well in many charting apps.

You may also think of a tablet when you watch Si-Tex’s Allen Schneider finger tap range changes in this T-760 demo video. Apparently, you can also do many tasks with the display’s twist and push-to-enter knob and a set of “favorite” icons that appears at the bottom of the screen with a tap, but in my experience touch is great for chores like selecting a blip you want to track with MARPA or an AIS target you want more detail on. Well, that is if the touch controls are well designed and fast, and Schneider says they are…

I wish the menu system was shown in the video, but I did get the low res images above, and Schneider told me that those menu buttons are each about a small finger high and easy to tap (or knob through). What’s illustrated is the ability of the T-760 to use custom Transmit/Standby periods to save power, and also that it can display a go-to waypoint sent over NMEA 0183 from a plotter. In fact, some 0183 connections — GPS and Heading — are required before the radar can do MARPA (called ATA in the spec list below), and you’ll get the most from this device if its three 0183 ports are also listening to AIS and talking to your plotter.
I guess some graybeards can integrate raw radar and charts pretty well in their heads, but just having a simple waypoint from the plotter on the radar screen, and/or a target message from the radar on the electronic chart, can really help with situational awareness. It may be a pain to make all the NMEA 0183 connections, but it is doable, and it’s also interesting that 0183 messaging is being used to connect boat data to nav apps over WiFi. With no radar sensor available for direct use on a tablet, might some apps and multiplexor developers work on easy data integration with the T-760? Might Si-Tex — already smart to offer products the big boys don’t — eventually make a similar radar with its own WiFi data output, even radar image streaming?

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

Making instead of buying: fizzy drinks

Sail Feed - Mon, 2014-03-17 21:00

Making our own lotion lends itself nicely to cruiser self-sufficiency, but is mostly born from my skepticism about common ingredients in commercial products.

Fizzy drinks are a little different. I like a nice sharp Reed’s Ginger Beer, but I haven’t seen one in a store shelf since we left the US. Making our own has helped fill the occasional craving.

Brewing our own kombucha satisfies both self sufficiency and personal health. This fermented tea hasn’t been on the shelf anywhere during our travels except in the US and Australia. I’m not a fan of sweet carbonated drinks, and it’s just the right amount of a little fizzy, a little sweet, but not too much of either- the perfect refreshing drink or something to settle a queasy stomach. It’s also certainly a really great alternative to commercial sodas, and ascribed with a variety of health benefits. Whether you buy into those or not, the simplest of all is that it’s probiotic, and that’s good for your digestive system and general health.

Conventional wisdom would indicate brewing kombucha is not compatible with a cruising boat. Movement hinders fermentation. Sunlight is bad. Temperature fluctuations don’t help, either. Then there’s that big glass jar it sits in: breakage hazard on a moving boat!

finished product, decanted to an old Mount Gay Rum bottle

Really, it’s not so difficult, even on a leaner (as our multihull friends would say) like ours.  We churns out new brew at a considerable rate. You need a  ”starter” (this crazy mushroomy looking thing called a scoby, which is the acronym for Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast. Yum!). Then, you just need black tea and sugar, and a big glass jar to keep it all in. There are endless variations of tea types and flavors.

Kombucha brew jar hides behind the through hulls

To minimize the chance for toppling the brew, I keep it low and in the center: it lives in a little nook of space just forward of the mast. If things get really boisterous, we tie it to the mast with webbing, and I can replace the permeable (cloth) top with a screw-on cap. If I really need to (like we did those last 3 days coming into PNG), I stash it with soft goods in a locker.

There’s a spare scoby stashed in an old jam in our fridge, in case I kill the primary.

The only thing missing: people to share my starter with!

If you want more details about how to make kombucha, on board, there’s a good illustrated summary at Kaiku Lifestyle.

Well fermented readers know we love it when you read this on the Sailfeed website.

Why Sailors are Highly Strung

Sail Feed - Mon, 2014-03-17 12:14

Show me a boat that doesn’t have a bag of assorted offcuts of sheet, halyard, warp and string buried in a cockpit locker, and I’ll show you a powerboat. It’s impossible to separate sailing from rope, and I don’t know why you’d want to. Separating sailors from rope can be nearly impossible too. Rummaging around at the bottom of other people’s lazarettes, I’ve more than once dredged up some scruffy, diesel-stained, ratty bundle of rock-hard ancient anchor warp or a prehistoric genoa sheet that’s fossilized into the form of a nightmare pretzel. “Ah,” the owner says sheepishly, “Thought that might come in handy one day.”

I’ve seen people running up spanking new halyards at launching time, then carefully flaking the salt-stiffened, chafed old ones and stowing them in some dark cavity on board, just in case. I’ve seen grown men walk down a dock to throw out threadbare mooring warps and return in triumph bearing enough coils of someone else’s castoffs to re-rig a small schooner.

One weekend I was moored at a marina where several very large and serious racing boats were being prepped for a major regatta, a process that obviously involved the replacement of every line on board each of them. By Sunday night a score of small and dowdy cruising boats were sporting gaudy purple Kevlar mooring warps, iridescent orange-flecked Spectra sheets and neat cheeses of black-and-green carbon halyards, and their owners were hovering inconspicuously near the dumpster waiting to see what other manna would fall from these heavenly boats; a western version of the cargo cult.

I think it’s a sailor’s desire for redundancy, the need always to have a backup in case something breaks, that’s behind this love affair with rope. My wife thinks it’s a male packrat thing, but that’s not strictly true. Most people have no trouble throwing away a shackle that’s lost its pin, or a rusted-out fridge compressor, so why is that forty feet of double-braid, with the core peeking through its cover every three feet, is so hard to part with? Why can’t we be honest and admit from the outset that this old rope will in fact never come in handy, except maybe for lashing something to the roof of a car?

Oddly enough, even though everyone but the most self-disciplined of boat owners has a secret stash of old rope somewhere on board, no one ever seems to have any of the 1/8in or 1/16in small stuff lying around. That’s the kind of line that really comes in handy, for all sorts of reasons. Not only can you lash things together with it, but you can whip up some dandy turk’s heads to decorate the tiller end or the wheel’s king spoke. Try doing that with those 20 fathoms of mutilated nylon lying in the dumpster.

Swimming, Swimming, in the Swimming Pool

Sail Feed - Sun, 2014-03-16 19:58

Those of you enduring the endless North American winter this year won’t empathize, but we are sweltering out here in the South Pacific.  One day I expect to wake up to find my bones have melted, and I’ll just have to flow around the boat like Barbarmama.

Indy has a simple solution: go to the beach.  If she had her way, we would pitch a tent and live there, drifting between the water and the sand. Stylish, who is starting to show her age, is less keen for the simple reason that getting to the beach is a pain.  We can either walk 45 minutes in the blazing heat to get there, or we can take the dinghy,  which would be fine, except the motor needs a tune-up and I don’t entirely trust it right now.  I know – excuses.  Family life is an exercise in compromise.  The truth is, I don’t want to hike all the way over there every time it gets hot, which is always.

So how to help the kids cool down?
I can’t bear to let them just turn the hose on each other – just because we are in the marina doesn’t mean it’s okay to be that wasteful.  They collect water in our 5-gallon pails when it rains, but the days when they could swim in a bucket are long behind us.  Three years behind us, in fact.

February 2011.  Were they really that small when we set out?

But maybe, I thought, a kiddie pool might work out.  Just a little something for them to splash around in.  (Plus, an inflatable pool is called a piscine gonflable in French, which has such a delightfully ridiculous ring to it that I couldn’t wait to use the term at every opportunity.)

Off to our favorite bargain store.  Sure enough, they had inflatable pools.  I compared the boxes, and tried to decide what would fit on deck.  There was a cute rainbow pool; nice, but with nearly a 2 meter diameter, way too big.  I picked up one with a dragon on it that seemed more reasonable.  I turned over the box to look at the capacity.  And then I had a heart attack and died, because this pool took more than 800 L of water – that’s well over 200 gallons.  To compare, our water tanks, which we have always considered huge, hold 1000 L and generally last us about six weeks.

So, forget it, cute pool.  We can do better.  I moved on to bargain store #2.  There, like Corduroy Bear, alone on a dusty shelf at the back of the store, was a solitary kiddy pool.  It was little.  Really little.  But it was this, or 800 L.  And it wasn’t like anyone was going to swim in this pool – this was strictly a cooling-off mechanism.  So, no contest.  The little pool it was.

The girls discovered the pool waiting in the cockpit when they got home from school.  Before I had time to unlock the boat, they had already ripped off their clothes, pulled on bathing suits, and were rooting through the lazarette for the pump.  Five minutes later, the pool was ready to go, and the girls were in heaven.

I’ll admit, it is a little snug.  If I’d found one with a slightly larger diameter, even 20 cm or so, I would have taken it.  This pool is going to require the ladies get along, or it will quickly get destroyed.

Inevitably, it started to rain a few minutes later.  And since everyone knows you can’t get wet while you’re in the pool, Stylish co-opted some jugs, the boogie boards and an umbrella to make a rain shelter.  Ahh, now the girls could swim in peace.

The next day, the girls decided that the back deck was a superior location, and off went the pool to its new home.

Hmm, I thought to myself, that pool is holding up pretty well.  Considering the number of times they jumped in and out of it, I was sure the no-skid would have gotten it by now.
“Mo-om!”  chorused the girls.  “The pool has a hole in it!”
And there we go.  The laws of the universe continue unchallenged.

If you’ll excuse me, I’d better go patch the pool.

More Ray LightHouse II goodies: Sounder Select, GPX, DSC, PDF & Fusion-Link

Sail Feed - Sat, 2014-03-15 11:50

Written by Ben Ellison on Mar 15, 2014 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub

One of many features in Raymarine’s latest software update (besides the just-discussed LightHouse charts) is support for multiple sonar sources. While I didn’t have the hardware or even the working vessel to test this, it’s neat that the demo video I screenshot above is built right into the LightHouse II update (and actually more detailed than the one currently on YouTube). But who needs multiple sonar sources? I know that some readers may perceive it as feature glut, but not I, and I’m not even much of a fisherman…

The major manufacturers seem to be working hard to bring CHIRP improvements to even modest fishfinding hardware and also to the structure detail of high-frequency narrow-beam down and side scanning. I find the latter particularly useful for gunkholing and just plain interesting to keep an eye on (explanation here). And let’s hope that Simrad ForwardScan is not the only integrated forward looking sonar in the works. These new technologies are being delivered as black boxes or built right into even small MFDs — often at little added cost — and after that purchase/install it’s just a matter of installing a new transducer (like this ForwardScan or this Ray CP100 DownVision), plus having a software switch like the one shown above. Then all your MFD screens can have new ways to see underwater. 

The LightHouse II feature list also claims new support for GPX format waypoint files, and I found out that it includes importing and exporting GPX route and track files as well. Those waypoint names in the route TestWayNames, for instance, were quickly typed into Coastal Explorer running on a PC. There are also planning improvements like the ability to set a planned SOG or see leg times either as hours or as ETAs. I still don’t think that any MFD has the planning abilities of CE or other PC charting programs, though. (But then again, I think we’ll soon see a combination of Navionics Mobile auto-routing and auto-syncing with Ray MFD’s that’s going to be very attractive.)
Plus a Raymarine MFD system can also now handle up to 3,000 waypoints, 150 routes of up to 200 waypoints, and 15 tracks of up to 10,000 points. There are also more waypoint symbols to choose from, and you can search and save waypoints by area, all of which will be appreciated by aggressive cruising navigators and fisherfolk.

With LH II, Ray MFDs also get some level of “DSC support over SeaTalkNG/NMEA200,” though I’m hesitant to publish this screenshot. I should not have been messing with a DSC Distress Alert, even from a handheld radio in my mostly underground basement lab, and I was so quick to cancel it that the MMSI apparently wasn’t received. But if this was real, wouldn’t that be a screen alert that could lead to a speedy rescue? The receiving radio was a Simrad RS-35, and while it seems to perform most DSC functions very well (review to come), I haven’t yet figured out if it will receive individual positions from another manufacturer’s DSC radio with its “Track your Buddy” function, or whether they’ll plot on LightHouse II.
It’s not at all new, but note how Raymarine let’s you show blue Tidal Current and/or yellow Wind vectors (as well as COG and/or Heading vectors) customized for different chart windows. Note also that fat current arrow is because the simulated boat was doing 30 knots over the ground (SOG) but only 2 through the water (Speed or STW)…

In my experience, Raymarine has always been behind the competition in diagnosing NMEA 2000 networks and selecting a preferred data source when there’s more than one. But every version of LightHouse gets better, and I was pleased to call up this detail on a small but very mixed network. The manufacturer’s names would have been nice, too, but FYI the list is Raymarine, Fusion, Actisense twice, Vesper Marine, and Garmin. And it’s the NGW-1 NMEA 0183-2000 Gateway that does the work of translating 0183 GPS, Heading, Depth, Wind, Speed and other messages from SailSoft’s powerful NemaStudio simulation software. I can cruise anywhere on the lab’s MFDs even while Maine still suffers through a too long spell of ice and frozen snow.

Now for some features that arrived before LightHouse II, but that I hadn’t tried yet, like that handsome Apparent/True wind gauge above. To get it to fill an entire window on the a77 screen, I had to put it in the preconfigured single item Rolling road window, but doesn’t it look sharp, especially now that LightHouse II can autohide the top databar? I still wish Ray offered a side databar alternative, because the autohide can get a tad annoying when you use menus much, but note also how much chart ahead you can get in head up mode with vessel offset.

I also tried Raymarine’s version of Fusion-Link, which came with LightHouse v6.27 a year ago February (revision history here). It can’t do all the deep setup tasks like naming zones that Garmin’s Fusion-Link can, and I don’t think that even the basic controls are quite as functional. Note, for instance, the tiny type on the source choosing bar, which doesn’t get any bigger even if you run the Fusion app full screen. But, cripes, it is a free stereo interface if you already have the hardware, and thanks to the Ethernet connection it does include cover art. Plus, it turned out that Ray has gotten quite liberal about how you set up Ethernet.

I thought I might need to use a switch or a Crossover Coupler, but that was old SeaTalk HS thinking. It was especially nice that I could confirm the greater flexibility of RayNet architecture and the Fusion connection specifically by searching the manual PDF on the Raymarine e127. I ran a Raynet-to-Raynet cable between the two MFDs and Raynet-to-RJ45 to the Fusion IP700 and it all just worked. I know that some advanced users also want the same network to go their boat’s WiFi router so they can also use Fusion apps without changing the WiFi source, and I learned in Miami that Raymarine wants to make that happen, too (though they made no committment to when).

So LightHouse II and the whole rapid development of Ray’s multi MFD software looks good to me. But I will close with a couple of complaints, illustrated below. For one, I’m surprised that the Navionic 3D mode still doesn’t default or even option to look ahead mode (like every other developer’s 3D mode). A prime advantage of 3D is seeing detail around and just ahead of your boat while still seeing some detail further ahead, but putting the boat in the middle of the 3D screen reduces all that and emphasizes the detail behind you. It also bothers me that the otherwise useful data overlays that you see at the bottom left of both windows below can’t be customized for each window, like many other features can. Am I in the minority for thinking that dual head-up windows are the norm in this world of wide-screen displays?

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Facing fears about raising kids on a sailboat

Sail Feed - Fri, 2014-03-14 06:00

I was not programmed to be different. If anything, my life until we left to go cruising was a careful series of practical steps designed to fulfill the American Dream. Why would we choose such a different life for our growing family?

I know that the way our children spend their days, or the way that they learn, is wildly different from the norm. This is risky, right?

Will our children be socialized? Will they get into college? Will they be able to relate to their peers? WILL THEY HATE US LATER?

I’m honored to have a guest post on KludgyMom, talking straight from the heart and venting a little about the fears I’ve faced to become an unconventional family- click here to read more on Raising Kids Dangerously.

Are you thinking about taking the leap? What do you wonder or worry about? Let me know in the blog comments or on Totem’s Facebook page, and let’s chat.

Fearless readers know that reading this on the Sailfeed website alleviates worries on Totem.

A Different Sip and Puff Party

Sail Feed - Thu, 2014-03-13 15:25

By Kimball Livingston Posted March 13, 2014

Yeah, yeah, you’ve been to the other sip and puff, but if you’re a regular reader you know the pride I take in the way that sailing, as a sport, has embraced disabled sailing. It took a while, but we’re there.

Sailing, after all, is one of the few activities in which a person reduced to not much more than the ability to breathe can get out and breathe fresh, fresh, fresh air, take action, make things happen and even compete. You can’t get much more impaired than the need to rely on what disabled sailors call “sip and puff” control. In that case, the skipper creates air pressure variations by inhaling or exhaling through one or more straws. Those variations trigger responses in the steering and trim systems. I’ve seen this in action on little boats. Now there’s an ocean voyage under way. You might want to take a closer look at the image above, to see who’s actually driving the boat.

These two women are already at sea, sailing 850 miles from Mumbai, India to Oman, a nation where sailing is officially smiled upon and supported, top down, by His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said. Arrival is expected mid-week next.

British quadriplegic Hilary Lister is half of the working crew along with Nashwa al Kindi, an instructor at Oman Sail and winner of the 2013 ISAF President Development Award for outstanding achievement. We can figure that al Kindi knows her beans, but this will be her first long voyage and, to make a point, the first recorded by an Arab female. Lister is the ocean veteran. She made her mark with a solo round-Britain voyage in 2009.

Yes, I spelled all those words right. Quadriplegic. Solo. Round-Britain. But despite being paralyzed from the neck down by Reflex Sympathetic Distrophy, Lister has advantages. She gets three straws.

Photo by Oman Sail

With that behind her, I’d figure that Lister can handle pretty much anything that she and al Kindi might encounter, Mumbai to Oman, but the high-energy, high-output development outfit, Oman Sail, has chosen to load two more bodies aboard the 28-foot Dragonfly trimaran, a yachtmaster to step in, should an emergency occur, and a medical pro to back up Lister.

The story is that Lister, 42, visited Oman last year to give inspirational programs at Oman Sail, and she and al Kindi hit it off, and something had to happen. The way I read wind patterns in the Arabian Sea via bloosee.com, I’d say the team is reaching along quite nicely as I write.

And no, when it’s her turn to stand watch, al Kindi doesn’t have to blow through straws. She can switch off Lister’s system and sail the boat the way most of us would sail it—if we were sailing today, across the Arabian Sea, toward the mouth of the Persian Gulf.

FROM PRISON CELL TO THE SEA: Greg White and Jeff Bolster

Sail Feed - Thu, 2014-03-13 12:19

You remember Jeff Bolster, right? He lives down the street from me here in Portsmouth, and I’ve crewed on his boat, and he’s crewed on my boat, and he doesn’t mind eating fish raw for breakfast. He teaches history at the University of New Hampshire and in a past life was a pro schooner jockey. I’ve heard from him the story of how his first scholarly tome, Black Jacks: African American Seamen in the Age of Sail (Harvard University Press, 1997), proved to be a major inspiration to a black prison inmate, Greg White, who consequently went on to forge a career as a merchant mariner after serving out a 22-year sentence for armed robbery. As a result, Jeff and Greg formed a bond that continues to this day.

Now their relationship has been featured in a recent mini-movie produced by the National Endowment for the Humanities, which you can watch right here:


Good stuff. I’ve never met Greg, but I can assure you Jeff really does talk like that in real life.

Jeff’s most recent tome, The Mortal Sea: Fishing the Atlantic in the Age of Sail (Harvard University Press, 2012), has so far failed to inspire any prison inmates, but did win the Bancroft Prize last year.

Remembering the good old days

Jeff tells me someday he’s going to write a hot memoir of his schooner days. Tentative title: Chicks and Ships. The NEH has already optioned the movie rights.

Sacto Bee Reports Delta-Damming Plan

Sail Feed - Wed, 2014-03-12 23:11

March 12, 2014 Posted by KL

Sacramento Bee writer Matt Weiser reports that California is planning to dam a number of Delta sloughs to prevent, or slow, salt water incursion if the drought of 2014 persists—and I think we know, the drought will persist. The scheme promises positive outcomes for many, negative outcomes for a few, and, as Weiser notes, it heats up the paranoia (or maybe it’s not paranoia?) of those who fear it positions the state one step closer to shipping more water south, when the drought eases.

Recreational users of the Delta will note that one slough on the list for a rock dam (to be removed by November, officials say) is the popular short cut/scenic side trip off the San Joaquin known as False River.


Bound upriver from San Francisco Bay, turning into a transit of False River is my moment of exhaling deeply and feeling I’ve arrived . . .

Read Weiser’s story HERE

Dozens of Cars Lost from Deck of Ship in Storm

Sail Feed - Wed, 2014-03-12 11:38


a) I’m never shipping a car with these guys
b) I’m never sailing the Sea of Japan in winter

CCA Annual Awards

Sail Feed - Wed, 2014-03-12 02:47

The Cruising Club of America celebrated its outstanding sailors of 2013 during the Annual Awards Dinner on March 7, 2014 at the New York Yacht Club, where CCA Commodore Frederic T. Lhamon made presentations to the winners of the Blue Water Medal, Far Horizons Award, and Richard S. Nye Trophy.

Jeanne Socrates, left, below, accepted the 2013 Blue Water Medal from Commodore Lhamon for her completion of a solo nonstop circumnavigation of the world on her third attempt. Did we mention, third attempt?

Photo CCA/Dan Nerney

Tom and Dorothy Wadlow accepted the Far Horizons Award for an admirable 18 years and 75,000 miles of cruising . . .

Photo CCA/Dan Nerney

And, finally, Stephen E. Taylor accepted the Richard S. Nye Trophy for sharing with the club his meritorious service and extensive cruising experience . . .

Photo CCA/Dan Nerney

Raymarine LightHouse II, the chart goodness

Sail Feed - Tue, 2014-03-11 20:00

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

A demo look at the new LightHouse Charts got me excited last fall, and I feel more so now that I’ve cruised around with them. U.S. boaters who own Raymarine a-, c-, e-, or gS-Series multifunction displays will find that both types of reprocessed free NOAA charts install fairly easily, look good and zoom/pan quickly. And though no LightHouse charts for waters beyond the U.S. have been announced, Raymarine clearly has the ability to produce them or permit third party cartographers like NV-Charts to do it themselves. Finally, Raymarine’s U.S. plotter models should hopefully cost a little less with free charts, and Navionics has perhaps been motivated to up its game. (Whatever the motivation, significant new Navionics features are right around the corner.)

The most possible installation snag probably involves downloading and managing the large files you’ll find in the online LightHouse Chart libraries. The example above is fairly extreme — a 2.9 GB file containing all the paper-like raster charts for the complex northeast coast — but even the more efficient vector format for the same area is a 624 MB file. Whatever Raymarine does to make NOAA’s digital files work well on their displays is fattening, and you’ll need a good broadband connection for these downloads. However, if you’ve ever moved video files around, this is child’s play. Plus the Class 10 or better microSDHC cards that Ray recommends have gotten inexpensive, as in $13 for a 16GB model that would hold the entire US East raster and vector portfolio.
One note I would add to Ray’s well-done LightHouse Chart install instructions (PDF) is that problems unzipping the big files to a memory card can sometimes be solved by first unzipping them to your hard drive and then moving the unzipped files to the card (worked for me :-).  Remember that your Raymarine MFD must be updated to LightHouse II software (aka v9.40) before it will display the new charts (it’s a 676 MB download but will fit on that same 16GB card). And note that owners of Mercury Zeus, Axius and Outboard Joy Stick systems with Raymarine autopilots are advised to wait for the next software revision.

Installing the update and creating a LightHouse chart card was easy for me, and now I have the new charts running on both the e127 MFD model I tested all last season on Gizmo and an all-touch a77 that will become part of the boat’s glassy 2014 configuration. The a77 only has one micro SD slot, so it can’t run the LightHouse charts alongside Navionics when used by itself, but when networked with the e127 all charts are available on both displays (as in top screen), and I don’t detect any lag if a card I’m panning is in the other machine. In fact, all three formats are darn fast. I was a little disturbed not to see the Curtis Island light on the LightHouse vector chart above, but that turned out to be largely a user error…

Like all vector charts, you can control how the LightHouse vectors look to some degree, and you should be careful about how you use those controls. The Curtis Island light is mistakingly categorized as a “Land Feature” when it’s really a “Nav. Mark” but frankly, I didn’t realize that I had the Chart Display set to “Simple” instead of the “Detailed” or “Extra Detailed” that looks right to me. Note the redesigned and reorganized menus in LightHouse II, which look good, I think, though I do wish they extended further down the screen when possible (scrolling is mandatory on the a77 and reasonably easy with just touch, but it seems so unnecessary on the 12-inch screen).

But I digress, and I will be writing a second entry about other LightHouse II features, anyway. Check out the LH vector chart with better settings above. I find it quite readable. Of course, the raster charts — which are like fixed scans while the vector images are assembled on the fly from a database — can’t be changed at all. The raster format is comforting because you’ll always see whatever is on the equivalent paper chart, but can also be discomforting when, say, you make your chart window head up while going south. I didn’t illustrate it here, but Raymarine chart windows are independent in that way so you can have raster charts North Up with a Head Up LightHouse vector or Navionics chart in the other window. (You can not have more than two chart windows, but you can have one or two extra windows of data — like above — or radar, sonar, video, etc.).

Any vector chart database should be able to divulge detail on chart objects and LightHouse is no different. But this is where I found the all-touch a77 harder to use than the cursor joystick and click knob on the e127. I also think that some other developers have done a better job of deciphering obtuse NOAA lingo (like Rose Point with Coastal Explorer) and I wish that Raymarine listed the edition/update date of each chart as well as those object source dates (which often aren’t relevant). It’s unclear, incidentally, how frequently Ray will update the online LightHouse libraries, though I understand that quarterly is a possibility.

So how does LightHouse vector compare with Navionics? Well, it’s hard to compare, as Navionics has display settings like 3D and Easy View that LH vector doesn’t — not to mention Community Edits and marina data overlays, and much more to come. But that is Navionics+ at left above with much the same settings as the LightHouse at right. What do you think? And will it make a difference when the Navionics app on an iPad or similar device can easily put fresh chart data (and active routes) on your Raymarine MFD, and also pass your auto collected soundings back to Navionics to improve Sonar Charts?

The chart possibilities for Raymarine users has improved quite a bit, and they’re slated to improve even more. Plaudits to the developers involved, and I’ll close with a photo of the a77 showing both LightHouse chart types. Note how the little 7-inch screen is almost all chart because of the DataBar Auto-hide feature, illustrated here. More LightHouse II testing to come.

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America’s Cup? I Have Questions

Sail Feed - Tue, 2014-03-11 17:58

By Kimball Livingston Posted March 11, 2014

In her just-released paperback update of The Billionaire and the Mechanic, Julian Guthrie set tongues to wagging, quoting Larry Ellison on Honolulu’s wonderful attractions for an America’s Cup.

Yep, Dennis and Malin wanted to take the Cup there, back in the day, when 12-Pounders would have made a brave sight pounding upwind in the Molokai Channel. AC60-65 catamarans on foils? I don’t think so. Elsewhere off Honolulu? I’ll believe it when I see it. But it gets stranger when you look beyond location, location, location.

Julian goes on to describe Ellison’s plan for two seasons of international racing in AC45s, 2015-2016, with a Pacific division and an Atlantic division qualifying four teams for sailoffs in “AC60s” in the spring of 2017.

So, if I want to win the America’s Cup, at what point do I invest in designing and building a custom, foil-born, wing-powered catamaran for an event in which I may not qualify to sail?

How do I explain that in the sponsorship pitch?

And, unless Ellison intends to throw Oracle Racing into the mix of hopeful qualifiers—waiving the Defender’s right to automatically defend the 35th America’s Cup, and I doubledog guarantee you that’s not the intent—doesn’t the participation of the Defender in those early races risk biasing the outcome?

Perhaps even determining part of the outcome?

Wasn’t there a Swiss outfit that ran afoul of public opinion, a while back, with a scheme that shared certain aspects?

Unless Oracle Racing stands down from AC45 competition . . .

In her piece in the San Francisco Chronicle, Guthrie writes, “Ellison sees the Atlantic Division championship regatta being held in the Port of Rome and the Pacific Division championship in Shanghai. A couple of months later, the Atlantic and Pacific division winners will race their AC60s off Honolulu for the Louis Vuitton Cup. The Louis Vuitton winner would stay in Hawaii to race their AC60 against Oracle Team USA in the 35th America’s Cup.

My District 2 San Francisco Supervisor Mark Farrell is giving San Francisco a “fifty-five percent” shot at providing the next venue. What I know is, you can’t duplicate AC34 anyplace else. And the America’s Cup has been a problem for everyone who ever dreamed of reinventing it as the capper to a circuit. Love it or hate it, there’s legacy, and no one yet has shown us how to clip that ball and chain.

So, good luck with that.

Grand Prix Monos Alive & Well

Sail Feed - Mon, 2014-03-10 13:46

The 52 Super Series completed its second US event over the weekend in Florida and moves now to Capri for the first of four European events starting May 20. Entries in the two regattas in Florida were heavily US, joined by Italy’s Azzurra – which gave the 2014 leader, Quantum, its hardest push – and Sweden’s 2013 champion, Ran.

It’s a small “club” but special, and high-end monohull racing is still the nth degree for most people. Here is video of Jim Swartz’ Vesper wound up tight and on a roll.

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