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The Billingham Buoy

Sail Feed - Wed, 2014-03-26 18:10

It’s all in the Bs.

The B Buoy on the cityfront of San Francisco.

Bob “Buddha” Billingham. And I know Bob’s not in love with that nickname . . .

Just as he knows he can’t quite escape it. This comes up because the renaming of the B Buoy became official on the night of March 25, at the St. Francis Sailing Foundation’s 2014 auction fundraiser—think Olympic sailors, disabled sailors, underprivileged youth—where the lion’s chunk of the $300,000+ take came, not in the form of bidding on stuff to take home, but in contributions in honor of said renaming.

Now we have the Billingham Buoy.

It’s out of the water for painting at the moment, but soon it will be back in the water in the traditional spot just off the windows of the St. Francis Yacht Club, a familiar sight to thousands of sailors. What would prompt such an outpouring? Well, it’s more than Bob’s list of successes in business or sailing, that’s for sure. It’s somewhere in a realm that you can’t quite put your finger on, somewhere between incredible physical power and a quiet, self-effacing regard for everyone around him. And the successes. And the contributions. Long service on the St. Francis Foundation. Long service with the US Olympic Committee. Winning AC crew in 1992, and so on.

As a project manager, Bob has run America’s Cup campaigns, and he was the facilities manager for America’s Cup 34—meaning that his job description was to produce miracles. But my favorite Billingham moment goes back to 1988, when he was middle crew and, yes, project manager for an Olympic Soling campaign with John Kostecki driving and Will Baylis on the bow. Not long before it was time to take off for the Games at Pusan and a silver medal, Kostecki and Billingham were in front of an audience on the SF cityfront.

Someone asked them if they needed more money.

In the same breath, John said “No.” Bob said “yes.”

There are plenty of people who have strong feelings about the Bs and the new Billingham Buoy. Further contributions can be made via the St. Francis Sailing Foundation web site.

Bob, thanks for saying “yes” again. To the renaming—Kimball

Lowrance Elite 5/7 cheap CHIRP, the sonar wars rage on

Sail Feed - Wed, 2014-03-26 17:00

Written by Ben Ellison on Mar 26, 2014 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub

Lowrance just launched Elite-5 and -7 CHIRP fishfinders and plotter combos today, but they showed off working prototypes during the Navico writer’s event I attended in January. What seemed to particularly excite the product managers was the Elite’s new ability “to produce low, medium and high CHIRP sonar ranges and display two user-selected ranges simultaneously” using just an “affordable” HDI Skimmer transducer. Apparently they didn’t realize that this tranducer could usefully CHIRP until they tried it, and now they think they have a edge in the sonar battle that’s taking place both on the water and in law offices…

In December I hailed the Elite-4 HDI as a lot of fishfinder and plotter technology at a low cost, but of course a 7-inch screen can reveal a lot more information, especially when you can put a long scroll of CHIRP sonar right above the same track imaged with high-frequency DownScan. The Elite-7x CHIRP fishfinder — which will retail for $649 in April, with a 4-frequency transducer — also includes NMEA 2000, as will the Elite-7 fishfinder/plotter at $849 with quite a bundle of Navionics salt and freshwater cartography.

Raymarine was arguably the first to offer cheap CHIRP sonar when they introduced the 5.7-inch Dragonfly early last year, and Lowrance had one installed for comparison. Ray doesn’t offer the same level of CHIRP sonar control but does purportedly apply CHIRP to what it calls DownVision. As noted in my entry about the writer demos, the DragonFly above did not seem as sharp as what I’d seen in Miami a year earlier.

Raymarine is also cleverly running a Dragonfly Screen Capture Competition, and you can find out what’s happening on winning screens like the ones above. Yes, that is a jet plane at lower left, and that’s an underwater statue quite sharply imaged at lower right (and there are more Dragonfly screen captures here.)  I can’t find a screenshot library at the Humminbird site anymore but a Google search definitely brings up lots of memorable images from their long history of sonar innovation.

And along comes Garmin! Above are some screenshots from the simulator that came as part of a huge recent GPSMap 741sx software update. So now the 741 and other Garmin displays can show CHIRP-assisted DownVu and SideVu networked from the various new sonar products introduced last November. And note the nice multi-window split control that also came with the update. I think that Bill Bishop is intalling his first Garmin down/side sonar this week and hopefully he’ll soon be sharing the results with Panbo readers.

In short, boaters now have a LOT of CHIRP/down/side sonar choices, even at the low end of marine electronics pricing. And I’m optimistic that the patent disputes going on behind the scenes will not throw a wrench in any company’s developements. No one will talk about the details, even off the record, but here’s what I think is going on. Humminbird’s parent Johnson Outdoors has a side scan sonar imaging patent (perhaps two) that they once used to sue Navico regarding StructureScan. But Navico had a downscan imaging sonar patent (perhaps two) that Humminbird wanted to use and the two companies probably swapped rights, which may have strengthened both their claims. The settlement was not explained, but both now offer both types of scanning. Plus Navico then sued Raymarine over downscanning, which was just somehow settled last week. If my presumptions here are correct, Garmin may soon be sued by both Johnson Outdoors and Navico, though I suspect the parties already have agreements in mind or maybe already in place.

I don’t like seeing money that could be used for more R&D or lower product prices going to patent lawyers — and some claims at least look ridiculous (like Briartek’s) — but reasonable trades and/or fees shouldn’t create major problems. And while Navico’s Leif Ottosson told me that something like 20 million dollars may exit the marine electronics industry this year due to (non sonar) patent litigation, he is asking his fellow chief executives to at least talk to each other before filing suits. It’s fascinating to look at these patents, screenshots, and demos trying to figure out who has the best sonar technology. Lets all hope that every company gets a crack at producing the best views of the structure and wild life in the waters around our boats.


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Time Running Out to Nominate to the Sailing Hall of Fame

Sail Feed - Tue, 2014-03-25 14:27

Preserving America’s Sailing Legacy * Engaging Sailing’s Next Generation

The deadline is April 1 for nominations to the National Sailing Hall of Fame, Class of 2014.
The only way your favorite sailing great can be added to the list is with your nomination.

These sailing greats are already in. Who’s next?

Betsy Alison Peter Barrett John Alden
Hobie Alter Bob Bavier, Jr. Tom Blackaller
Charlie Barr F. Gregg Bemis Bill Buchan
Paul Cayard Stan Honey Starling Burgess
Dennis Conner Bruce Kirby Frank Butler
Nathanael Herreshoff John Kostecki Runnie Colie, Jr.
Ted Hood Mark Reynolds Dave Curtis
Gary Jobson Rod Stephens, Jr. Timmy Larr
Buddy Melges John Cox Stevens Morris Rosenfeld
Bus Mosbacher Stu Walker
Lowell North
Joshua Slocum
Olin Stephens
Ted Turner
Harold Vanderbilt

View the easy instructions and file your nomination at the NSHOF web site

Peer to Peer Boat Rentals NOW

Sail Feed - Mon, 2014-03-24 13:53


By Kimball Livingston Posted March 24, 2014


“Because you can only talk to so many crazy brides”

So there was Aaron Hall outside Dallas, at Lake Ray Roberts, one of those manmade lakes that mix fishing, skiing, sailing and the like in a not-quite-flat, rolling countryside interspersed with farms and freeways and clumps of forest and bees and junebugs and honeysuckle. That is to say, its own kind or paradise. And Aaron Hall was trying to rent a boat because this corner of paradise on this summer day was “Texas-hot and Texas-humid.”

Nothing doing.

“The marina had a few clunkers,” Hall relates, “and even those were rented out.”

So there was Aaron Hall making a picnic of it, shoreside, with the parental units and bro and bro’s twins. Anyone who was serious about bass fishing had been off the lake for hours. Now the wake boarders were roaring and hooting. The lake level was low, so there was plenty of room along the bank, but did we mention that the day was Texas-hot and Texas-humid? Sitting on the bank going nowhere just wasn’t the same as being out there on a boat. And right over yonder, in the marina, hundreds of boats sat, ignored by their owners on a fine summer day, likewise going nowhere. Why should it be so?

“I leaned over toward my dad and I told him, ‘There ought to be something like Airbnb for boats.’
Airbnb being the peer-to-peer online service that lists over 500,000 residential rentals, from modest private rooms to castles.

“I’m someone who uses Airbnb a lot,” Hall says. “Right there on the beach, I started googling, and the more I searched for a service for boats, the less I found. When I came home to San Francisco, I brought that thought with me.”

Your moment here?

Boatbound.co would naturally be founded in San Francisco, where Airbnb and so many other technology companies are based and where peer-to-peer took off immediately with ride services such as Uber and Lyft. “In San Francisco, it’s hard to miss P2P, so I took the idea to my business partner, Matt Johnston. He said, ‘I love it. Let’s take it to the team.’

“And they liked it. Our business was in the wedding space, but we weren’t necessarily committed to that. We were five guys and a girl, and we’re all outdoorsy types, and, frankly, you can only talk to so many crazy brides.”

The 54′ Sea Ray, Sundancer, rents for $3,000 per day out of Miami Beach

Over the next six months, the team partnered with the boat owners association, Boat US, to survey the receptivity of their membership. The response was positive, and why not? According to the data they collected, most boats are used only 14 days a year while together dragging down billions of dollars a year in storage and maintenance fees.

As long as their boats are in good hands, most owners would be more than happy to let someone offset part of the cost. But “good hands” is a sticking point.

“The number one thing was that nobody was going to put a boat out for rent unless there was insurance protection,” Hall relates. “We discovered that four or five companies had already taken a shot at this, but when they couldn’t solve the insurance problem, they folded. In a different life, I ran an HR insurance consulting company, and that positioned me to make the insurance side work.” The short course on making it work is that every Boatbound rental is covered by $1 million in insurance, with towing coverage by Boat US.

In February, 2014, Boatbound announced a partnership with the American Sailing Association providing two-way benefits on learning, certification, and resources. Boatbound qualifies renters by experience, but certifications clarify and streamline the qualification process while removing subjectivity. Over the next two years, the company plans to build a captains service so that an owner unwilling to put his boat out to rental without a licensed skipper will have a bank of captains to choose from, and anyone, skilled or not, can go boating under the care and guidance of a competent captain. That can be a great way to learn from a professional, or to try something completely new.

If you can charter the 288-foot Maltese Falcon at €350,000 per week (THAT is the Falcon) you have people who can tee that up. For the rest of us, here’s where a service like Boatbound comes in.

Hall says, “We’re not really about boat rentals. We’re about helping people get money out of the boat they already own. We’re about getting more people into boats. We’re about having an experience on the water, and we’re giving Everyday Joe a way to get out there. Or maybe there’s a particular kind of boat you’ve always wanted to try. Or what’s in a charter fleet just isn’t what you’re looking for.” Or there is no charter fleet, as such. That would be a lot of places where boats are popular.

As Hall describes it, the company is making an effort to grow carefully, not letting its marketing get ahead of its ability to deliver: “There’s no rush to have thousands of listed boats. This is about delivering hundreds of good experiences to good people, and turning owners and renters into advocates for the brand. We’ve seen marinas where one person lists a boat, and it works, and pretty soon there’s another boat on the same the dock that is listed. And then there’s another.”

Boatbound officially launched nationwide in June, 2013, but that was a soft launch, with a small number of boats and an intentional focus just on San Francisco Bay, looking for the proof of the pudding, evidence that this wouldn’t turn into a game of bumper boats, evidence that the business model was viable. “We were testing small-scale,” Hall says, “but we got press coverage, and we blew right past our goals for the season.” Viable? Apparently. The soft launch turned into a fast rollout and accelerated fundraising to scale up. Boat owners in nearly seventy countries have entered their boats for listings, but that is beyond capacity for now. The company is focusing upon developing selected markets. The good news for consumers is that those selected markets are, logically, a handful of places where lots of people want to get out on the water.

CASE STUDY

Dan Knox sails his Islander 36, Luna Sea, where Boatbound first went beta, San Francisco Bay. He was wanting to upgrade his racer-cruiser experience and had it in mind to sell Luna Sea and go to a different fleet when “Boatbound called me.”

Knox bought the pitch and signed up, but the first time his boat went out on rental, he admits, it was a little like sending a daughter out on a first date. He recalls, listening to the pitch, “I was thinking, if I can cover slip expenses, maybe I can keep Luna Sea and I won’t be an idiot for having two boats.” Three months on, “I’ve had 14 charters, and they cover a big chunk of my expenses. That’s why I’m a Boatbound guy.”

The Islander 36, Luna Sea, rents for $350 per day on San Francisco Bay

THE MARKETPLACE

Cruzin.com also offers peer-to-peer boat rentals. It too promises $1 million in insurance and towing through Boat US, and it too went live in June, 2013. And Cruzin.com too was founded in San Francisco, though it now lists its headquarters as Dania Beach, Florida. Its partners include the giant marina facilities operator Westrec.

Jaclyn Baumgarten, Cruzin co-founder and CEO, has described the company this way: “The internet platform allows Cruzin to reach a wide audience while keeping the experience personal. Boat owners and renters get the opportunity to engage and get comfortable with each other prior to meeting at the boat for the handoff. Cruzin is building a community of boaters even before they get out on the water.”

But the point, of course, is to get those boats out there.

RUDDER SKEG REPAIR: Getting Ready for Spring

Sail Feed - Mon, 2014-03-24 12:05

IT’S HERE! Spring, I mean. Though there is still snow in the forecast up here in New England, and even in Annapolis, from which I returned last night after holding forth at the World Cruising Club Ocean Sailing Seminar over the weekend. I have an awful feeling I will actually succeed (for once!) in getting Lunacy launched in early to mid-May this year… and there will then be a HUGE BLIZZARD the day after she splashes.

We are forging ahead regardless, so I stopped by Maine Yacht Center last week to see how the old girl’s rudder-skeg repair is coming along.

The welder was on site and stuff was happening! I love it when that happens. You’ll recall this is actually the second time we’ve made this repair. Last time, over four years ago, there was a small crack at the back of the skeg and we just focussed on fixing that. This time we’re taking a more global approach.

In addition to repairing the crack that has reappeared at the back of the skeg, I also asked the welder to lay on extra metal all the way around the base of the skeg.

And then I asked that fillet plates be welded on to either side of the skeg. Here you see the welder holding one of them in place. The idea, of course, is to spread the load imposed on the root of the skeg.

The skeg doesn’t fully support the rudder. Most of that job is done by two big bearings on the transom. But there is a rudder heel at the bottom of the skeg that connects it to the rudder, and the rudder is quite deep. The skeg is also a very high-aspect structure, with a short root, and is simply welded on to the bottom of the hull. Side loads from the rudder are evidently transmitted to the right-angle joint at the base of the skeg, and that I reckon is what keeps cracking the weld at the back of the joint.

Jean-Claude, owner one of Lunacy‘s sisterships (there are in fact five of them), advised me that he solved this problem (you can read his comment to my last post on this subject) by building a new skeg that comes up eight inches into the hull of his boat and is tied into the interior framing. Which sounds very strong, indeed, but also quite expensive. I’m hoping by adding structural support outside the hull I can save some trouble and money.

Note: there will also be end-plates welded on to the back of the fillets to keep wildlife from inhabiting the voids.

Here’s another mini-project involving metal. Two surveyors and various service managers have complained over the years about the simple wood plug I use to secure the drain hole in Lunacy‘s keel. The plug has always worked well enough, but at last I let the guys at MYC fabricate an aluminum plug to take its place. There are two, actually–one on the inside and this one on the outside–so now I can stop worrying about teredo worms chewing up the soft pine plug that used to live down there.

After fussing around with my boat, I took a quick tour of the MYC shed and found a few other interesting projects going on:

This is the canting keel from Rich Wilson’s Open 60 Great American IV, which is currently being refit at MYC to run in the next Vendee Globe.

In the foreground here you see part of the bridgedeck and the house of a home-built high-performance cruising catamaran that MYC’s service manager, Jeff Stack, has been creating in his spare time. In the background that’s Mike Hennessey’s Owen Clarke Class 40 Dragon, which will soon get splashed so it can compete in this year’s edition of the Atlantic Cup.

And this is Mike Dreese’s Akilaria RC3 Open 40 Toothface 2, which is also being prepped for the Atlantic Cup.

Lunacy may be a funky boat, but you can see she does keep good company.

Love and Marriage Aboard

Sail Feed - Sun, 2014-03-23 19:11

One of the questions I get with some regularity is: how has cruising affected your marriage?  And I understand why people want to know.  I do.  People are awed by the prospect of spending 24/7/365 with another person, even someone they love.  But this is a question I have avoided so far, because usually it comes from about-to-be-cruisers, and what they are really asking me is, “Is cruising going to be great for my marriage?  Please reassure me.”

And I will.  Sort of.  But I’m going to make this an inductive argument, so hold my hand and be patient.

We just wrapped up a ten-day visit with Erik after almost two (unexpected) months away.  And the four of us were delighted to see each other.  In the battle of Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder versus Out of Sight, Out of Mind (or, for Nicolas: Loin des Yeux, Loin du Coeur), Fonder won hands down.  It was positively sickening how happy we all were.

The next day, the kids went off to school, and Erik and I got down to the real business of a loving relationship.  Namely, reviewing the insurance papers and fixing the outboard.  As as we spent a romantic morning on the dock in the blazing sunshine, passing the vice grips back and forth, fetching drills and Dremels, we talked about other things.  Erik told me stories about work, and I caught him up on what the kids had been doing.  We made pie-in-the-sky plans plans about where to sail next.  I learned how to change the oil.  And we had a delightful time.

Looking back, we’ve never really excelled in the RomanticTM department.  At least, not in a way that would please anyone else.  When we moved into our house almost a decade ago, tradition (read: television) dictates we should have celebrated with a bottle of wine in front of a roaring fire.  Instead, we spent the evening in our unfinished basement trying to figure out how to convert our 50 Hz German washing machine for use in 60 Hz Canada.  (Looking back at that sentence, I see how inevitable it was that Erik I and I would someday go cruising.)  And we were perfectly happy.  And, with a little fancy footwork and a few new parts, we triumphed.

Jump ahead to Papillon: as Erik’s visit wore on, we continued with our normal routine.  Everyone worked during the day, and we had fun together in the evenings.  We read books with the girls.  We fixed stuff.  We bickered.  We dropped the kids with friends and went on a date.  And when it was time to say goodbye, we all rolled out of bed at 5 am and walked down the dock in our pajamas to wave Erik off to the airport.

Off to the beach with Dad.

So here we are, three and a half years into our new life, and I see that it is really our old life in different clothes.  We do the same things together and the same things with the kids as we always did, but we do it more often because we have the time.  Precious, irreplaceable time.

I am reminded of an old story.  A man moves to a new town.  His first evening there, he visits the local pub.  Everyone is drinking and smiling, singing songs, arm in arm. The newcomer gets into a conversation with an old man.  “What are the people like, here?” asks the newcomer, turning his back to the revelry.  “Do they make good neighbours?”  The old man takes his pipe from his mouth and gives a newcomer an appraising look.  “What were your neighbours like in your old place?” he asks.  “Terrible,” says the newcomer.  “Nosy, mean-spirited, unhelpful.  Just awful.” The old man nods slowly as his eyes travel over the happy, laughing crowd.  “Then you’ll find the people here just the same.”

The point is, the marriage you left with is the marriage you’ll carry on with, wherever you are.  Cruising isn’t a death knell for a relationship, nor is it a magic fountain of rainbows.  As for me, I have a great marriage, great kids, and I love cruising.  This has totally worked for us.  And although I can’t promise you, dear reader, that it is going to work for you, too, I will say this: if everyone steps aboard with a good attitude and a willingness to try, then you’re halfway there.  If you can embrace your common ground and be a “good neighbour”, your marriage aboard can be just as much fun as your marriage on land.  Even if you don’t like to fix washing machines.

No Workout for Kotoum’s Repaired Strut

Sail Feed - Sun, 2014-03-23 13:55

Light Air Flyers – Koutoum Wins

Even though Florida’s breeze never touched ten knots during Saturday’s edition of the US Moth Nationals at Key Largo, that was enough for liftoff. Veteran Anthony Kotoun led the standings into Sunday’s racing for these cutting-edge foilers, where the sailors continue to set standards for class spirit. Kotoun rushed off after racing to keep a commitment at a friend’s wedding, which could have been bad news for his prospects on the race course on Sunday. Sailing in after Saturday’s racing, Kotoun broke a carbon wing bar. But it was his fellow competitors who set to work repairing it so that he could shower and be on his way. And, this being not an old-time car race movie in black and white, they fixed it right.

Light-air flyers flying high, by the way. Thanks to Meredith Block for the pics . . .

Meredith Block/US Moth Nationals

A complete absence of sail-able wind on Sunday resolved that the broken part, and repair, made no difference to the outcome. Enough races had been sailed. Kotoun takes the Nationals.

MEANWHILE ON THE STRAIT OF HORMUZ

It got reeeel windy for the final day of racing in the Oman installment of the Extreme Sailing Series, where the home team of Muscat: The Wave caught fire to pass Alinghi for the win and the series lead.

Leigh McMillan, Sarah Ayton, Pete Greenhalgh, Kinley Fowler and Nasser Al Mashari of Muscat, The Wave

Down Mexico Way
At Regata Copa Mexico a large and very international fleet racing for the J/24 North American Championship was led by the USA’s Mike Ingham. The Bahia Banderas vet was a solid winner. Lots more to come with boards, kites, etc.

Sonos WiFi HiFi tested: excellent at home, maybe for boat

Sail Feed - Sun, 2014-03-23 11:00

Written by Ben Ellison on Mar 23, 2014 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub

I knew little about Sonos wireless hifi a month ago. While the ads suggested an elegant Apple-like design, I had the impression it also came with Apple-like premium prices and was certainly not suitable for boats. But now that I’ve lived for a month with the relatively new Play:1 seen above, I may have been wrong on both counts!  Many reviewers have already praised the little speaker/amp’s hardware and audio quality compared to similar wireless speakers. I want to detail the superb Sonos audio access and control software that you can tap into with just one $199 Play:1(though adding more components will be a huge temptation) and also discuss how Sonos can make sense afloat.

There’s a lot happening in the Sonos Controller PC app screenshot above and I hope you’ll click on it for a bigger view. Starting at left you’ll see that I have two “Rooms” set up — Sonos loaned me two Play:1′s and also a Bridge for review — and that each is playing a different source. I can control either room from my desk or with any of the mobile iOS and Android apps seen running in the top photo. I can also group the two rooms to a single source or set up the two Play:1′s as a stereo pair in one location.
On the right are my primary music sources. Some are Sonos standards like Favorites, Playlists, and a remarkable selection of online Radio stations (for instance, they even list the two small community radio stations in my area plus a scanner feed for the county sheriff’s department).  I had to set up other sources like the Music Library (in my case, two iTunes libraries on my main PC), along with my Amazon and Stitcher accounts, but all that was so easy that I’ve been experimenting with Pandora and Spotify and will probably try others in Sonos’s deep Music Services list.
The middle column shows what I’m listening to in the selected room, along with a queue that could be an old iTunes playlist, a list of today’s podcasts collected in Stitcher, or a custom mix of many sources that I can save as a new playlist. I’ve messed with a lot of audio players over the years, but this is a whole new level of easy everything.

Setting up or changing the Sonos hardware system is also extraordinarily easy. In fact, the automatically collected product registration data seen on the Sonos site above suggests that once I’d registered and downloaded the iPad software, it took just seconds to get a Play:1 and the Bridge operational. Just plug the Bridge into your WiFi router and AC power, “Add a Sonos Component” in the app, tap the button on the Bridge…done. Plug the Play:1 into any AC outlet in the wide range of the Bridge, add component again… done. Note that the Bridge is not necessary if you can run an Ethernet cable to a Play:1 or any other Sonos component; they can all serve as bridges. I tried this and didn’t even have to add the Play:1 component again; it just replaced the Bridge without losing any settings except the unsaved music queue.
Note, too, that by using the Sonos Connect I’ll get a new “Line In” audio source that will be anything playing on my living room stereo and perhaps more importantly, my old but able living room stereo will become a Sonos Room that we can use with any of the Sonos app controls and digital music sources. And I say, “will,” because this indeed was one of those dangerous product tests that led to a personal purchase. I’ve ordered two Play:1′s and a Connect that should get here before I have to return the loaners. I’ve learned enough about Sonos to commit to at least a small home system, but the boat remains a question mark.

For some cruisers like me the main problem with using Sonos onboard is AC power. While Gizmo has an efficient Victron inverter, I only have to use it when running the boat’s work/entertainment PC and monitor/TV. By contrast, the yacht seen above probably has constant AC and it makes a lot of sense to use that big Play:5 as a portable speaker that can sit at the wet bar or easily move out on the sun deck in good weather (or be stowed in a locker if there’s danger of it banging around).  When the yacht has Internet access, probably a lot of the time, all the Sonos audio sources are available and it’s also common these days for such a vessel to have a PC music library or possibly just a Network Attached Storage (NAS) device, which Sonos also supports.

Marine Professionals in Fort Lauderdale, a company that’s installed a lot of Sonos gear on yachts, also sent me a photo showing how a Fusion IP700 marine stereo can use a Sonos system as a wireless speaker zone. The possible configuration — Fusion speaker zone to Sonos Connect audio in, Sonos Connect audio out to Fusion auxilary line in — sounds complicated but the results could be easy-to-use yet spectacular source and speaker placement flexibility even on a relatively small boat. And note that the small Play:1 can be bracket mounted — though the audio design won’t suffer jammed on a book shelve either — and only uses about 8 watts at volume and 4 in standby mode. However, my boat experimentation will have to wait.

I’ll close with some shots of the new controller app that Sonos has in public beta test. For me, it sealed the deal. While I was already impressed with how well everything I’ve described currently works — it seems almost magic how quickly most sources start playing, for instance — it’s also great to see that Sonos is not resting on its many laurels. (Check this credible WireCutter “Best Whole Home Audio” review.)
The new player is lovely and intuitive, and if you want, you can dig deep into settings like managing your library (middle screen above), but what really got me is how well it supports third party sources. In that third screen above I’m able to interact directly with Pandora, and the screen below shows how the new Universal Search feature can reach across multiple sources. Suddenly, my music collection is not just more accessible than ever; it’s now the hub around which I can explore endlessly. Sonos likes the tag line “Steam all the music on earth” but their system reminds me of “To the future and beyond!”

 

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If It Looks Strange to You . . .

Sail Feed - Fri, 2014-03-21 15:03

By Kimball Livingston Posted March 21, 2014

If it looks strange to you, imagine how it looks to them.

Thanks to Lloyd Images for the pics.

A raft of AC players and would-be AC players, along with former AC player Alinghi, make up the Extreme Sailing Series, which is now in Muscat, Oman for the second installment of the series. AKA an Act.

Alinghi, the leader, is skippered by Morgan Larson, a California guy who has a number of good lines. My favorite would be: “I went to the University of Hawaii because the team travels a lot. I figured I’d study on the plane.” Yep, a good line. But I think Morgan did most of his studying on the water, and that is working out quite well. You will recognize, of course, the waters of the Strait of Hormuz.

The message from Oman goes something like, Get used to it. And that’s the message for home consumption, too, when they’re broadcasting photos like this one of Nashwa al Kindi, a sailing instructor who completed a crossing from Mumbai just in time to join the crew aboard one of Oman’s two entries.

And while we’re on the subject of contrasts, howzabout this take of Sir Ben Ainslie, who also has been having success in the Extreme 40 catamarans and claims to be well on his way to having a British Cup campaign in the works. Here, he was taking time out to stir up some enthusiasm in the youth set . . .

Freediver ‘Base Jumps’ at Dean’s Blue Hole

Sail Feed - Fri, 2014-03-21 09:25

I’ve never quite understood the appeal of competitive freediving, in much the same way that I don’t get why people choose to run marathons through a desert in the middle of summer. My friend George Stoyle once told me about his fleeting obssession with freediving quarries in England and and for a moment I was three years old again, standing open-mouthed and asking ‘Why?, Why?, Why?’ while he described diving into pitch black, freezing cold water where you only know you’ve hit bottom when your hand sinks into icy black muck, you come up with a nosebleed as often as not, and every now and then people die.
This video is a bit different. It shows a freediving ‘base jump’ at Dean’s Blue Hole in the Bahamas, which is the world’s deepest blue hole. It’s impressive enough as it stands, but while you’re watching it consider this- the video was shot by the diver’s girlfriend, Julie Gautier and she didn’t have any scuba gear either.  The ending is particularly beautiful, as Guillaume Nery vaults hand-over-hand up the side of a vertical cliff towards the surface.

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.”

ABOUT OMAN SAIL

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.

Specifications

LOA: 30’6″

LWL: 27’7″

Beam: 14’0″

Draft

-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.

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