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J’s Perform In Bayview Mackinac Race

Sail Feed - Wed, 2014-07-23 08:00

(Mackinac Island, MI) – This year’s Bell’s Beer 90th Bayview Mackinac Race began on July 12 in Southern Lake Huron, with 9-11 knots of breeze offering the 227 boats in 14 classes a swift downwind leg along the two courses offered, either to the Presque Isle Lighthouse (on the Michigan shoreline), where the Shore course begins taking a left, or the Cove Buoy where the Cove Island Course does the same (about 130 miles away from the start).

The shorter Shore course covers 204 nm along the Michigan shoreline before heading west to Mackinac Island Bell’s Beer finish line. The longer Cove Island Course is 259 nm and takes sailors around a buoy off the tip of the Bruce Peninsula in Canadian waters before heading west toward the finish line.

A westerly breeze of 9-11 knots allowed an initially mellow downwind spinnaker run to the first turning points in each of two courses. During the evening, however, “a lot of everything” happened when it came to weather and wind, including rain, dense fog and gusts up to 36 knots.  The front continued to move and produced a brisk westerly breeze that kept the fleet “on its nose” throughout Saturday evening and into Sunday. That meant the Cove Island course had the unfortunate task of playing windshifts for nearly 90nm upwind to Mackinac Island after rounding the Cove Buoy.

This year, the J/120 one-design fleet sailed the longer Cove Island Course with a big fleet of ten boats participating.  All the usual suspects from the Great Lakes J/120 fleet were sailing, including most past winners in class.  The big class winner was HOT TICKET (Mike & Bob Kirkman), beating the next set of boats by over one hour!  No question there was a duel all the way to the finish for the next two boats, both finishing within 45 seconds of each other!  Taking second was FUNTECH RACING (Charlie Hess) and at the short end of that stick was CARINTHIA (Frank Kern).  The balance of the top five was NIGHT MOVES (Henry Mistele) in fourth and FLYIN IRISH (Bill Bresser) in fifth.

In PHRF A on the Cove Island Course were also two J/111s, Tim Clayson’s UNPLUGGED took 5th and Don Hudak’s CAPERS took 7th.

The Short Course had the largest contingent of J’s sailing.  In the Level 35 Division, there are nine J/35s sailing in the fleet of eleven boats!  Taking the class honors was PAPA GAUCHO II (Keith Stauber) with the Bayer/ Bayer/ Barnes trio on FALCON only 1:50 sec behind them!  In fourth was MR BILL’S WILD RIDE sailed by Bill Wildner and fifth was MAJOR DETAIL (Bill Vogan).

Sailing into fourth overall in the 12 boat PHRF C Division was the classic navy-blue J/44 SAGITTA sailed by the team of Jon Somes and Larry Oswald from Bayview YC.

PHRF D division had an eclectic, diverse group of boats in their fleet of 16 entries.  The J/105s swept the class. The resounding winner by over 1.5 hours on elapsed time was the J/105 PTERODACTYL (Mary Symonds).  A country furlong behind was the J/105 SEND IN THE CLOWNS (Terry Timm) in second place.  Fourth was SNAKE OIL (Don Harthorn) and a J/92 took 7th- KOHATSU (John Stromberg).

Top J in the PHRF E division was the J/33 SHENANIGAN skippered by the team of Dick & Dan Synowiec from North Cape YC, placing a respectable third place.  Then in PHRF G, the J/30 CONUNDRUM skippered by Donald King from Lake Shore Sailing Club took 4th place.

On the Shore Course Cruising (white sails) division, Cruising A class saw the J/42 DOS MAS sailed by Gary Gonzalez from Grosse Pointe YC finish second!  Then, in the Division IV Shore Course Double-handed group the J/29 PATRIOT led by Lyndon Lattie took second place followed by the J/100 VANQUISH sailed by Don Fick in sixth.   For more Bayview Mackinac sailing information

Pacific Cup: Winning Isn’t Everything

Sail Feed - Tue, 2014-07-22 14:45

Kaneohe Bay, HI, July 22, 2014 – Winning an ocean race feels great, but three boats – Mirage, Thirsty, and Free Bowl of Soup – are competing in the 2014 Pacific Cup race from San Francisco Bay to Hawaii with a goal more rewarding than just coming in ahead of the other competitors.

The father-daughter team Stan Perkins and Kerry Hallyburton have been competing in multiple sailing events since 2013 to publicize and raise funds for Remember Nhu, an international nonprofit dedicated to preventing the exploitation of children in the sex trade industry. More specifically, through their “Sail for Remember Nhu” campaign, Perkins and Hallyburton hope to raise $160,000 to build a new safe house for 60 children rescued from sex slavery. “When my husband, Rick, and I first heard about Remember Nhu, we heard how children as young as three years old were being sold into the sex trade,” Kerry told the Hood River News in an interview earlier this year. “We had a baby at the time and couldn’t imagine the thought of children just like ours being sold and the horrific things that would be done to them. We knew at that moment that we needed to partner with Remember Nhu.”

Racing in the Pacific Cup was the ultimate goal of the team’s two-year fundraising mission but is also a dream-come-true for father and daughter alike. Stan was introduced to sailing more than 30 years ago. Kerry learned to sail with her father on the windy Columbia River Gorge and has dreamed of doing an ocean race with him for many years.

Aboard Thirsty, a Beneteau First 30, the double-handed team of Charles Devanneaux and Fred Courouble are raising awareness for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease) while paying tribute to sailing partner and friend Gilles Galeme, who lost an eight-month battle with the disease in 2012. Charly and Fred, two Frenchmen who now call Marina del Rey home, won first place in their division in the 2012 Pacific Cup. However, “our boat partner Gilles was supposed to be waiting for our arrival in Hawaii with mai-tais, but he never made it because he had been diagnosed with ALS,”

Charly said. “We decided to return to the Pacific Cup race this year, with the ALS Association’s logo on the hull and sail, and name our voyage ‘Sailing for ALS’” to honor Gilles’ memory and all the good times we have had together.” Those good times included enjoying good wine together, so Charly and Fred made sure they had plenty of excellent wine aboard when they departed San Francisco for Kaneohe Bay. The ALS awareness and fundraising effort of the Thirsty team will support research, public policy initiatives and families touched by the disease.

As their boat name might suggest, the team racing on Free Bowl of Soup, a J105 hailing from Portland, Oregon, and skippered by Eric Hopper, is on a sailing quest to raise funds for Oregon Food Bank. It’s a quest the team began over a decade ago to redeem a bit of bad karma after joking that their boat name (a line from the classic 1980 film Caddyshack) was serious (it isn’t). They turned the joke into a fun way for friends and supporters to help raise funds for a good cause, setting a lofty goal to raise the equivalent of 50,000 free bowls of soup.

Thirsty and Free Bowl of Soup crossed the finish line on Kaneohe Bay, Oahu on Monday, July 21. Mirage should follow them within a day. A “Sailing for ALS Aloha Reception” is being held on Tuesday, July 22 at noon at the Kaneohe Yacht Club.

J’s Love CORK Week

Sail Feed - Tue, 2014-07-22 14:30

J/109s Dominate IRC 3
(Cork, Ireland)- Thrilling conditions welcomed the international fleet of yachts from all over Europe and the United States to Volvo Cork Week. 100 yachts racing in Cork Harbour produced a magnificent spectacle. Cork Harbour is one of the largest natural harbours in the world and provides stunning scenery and tricky wind and tidal conditions. The gusty northeasterly breeze tested the boat handling skills of the international fleet, with several yachts reporting boatspeeds of up to 20 knots on the surf.

The first race of Volvo Cork Week started just outside Roches Point, the wind speed piped up to 17 knots with a short sea state. The beat into Cork Harbour had the fleet swapping tacks past Spike Island, before negotiating close tight reaching legs along the picturesque town of Cobh. For many it was a race of over three hours, before returning to the Royal Cork Yacht Club to enjoy the full facilities of the exclusive race village. Victory in IRC Three went to Pat Kelly’s J/109, Storm (Rush YC). It was a long day on the water in IRC Five, but Dave Lane & Sinead Enright’s J/24, YaGottaWanna took second.

The second day saw more fresh wind conditions for the fleet.  Fleet B, consisting of IRC 3, IRC 4, and IRC 5 Classes enjoyed three races on the Windward-Leeward Course, three miles south east of Roches Point. Warm sunshine and stable conditions prevailed, with blue skies and fresh breeze coming off the land to provide a classic racetrack. “Champagne sailing,” described one sailor. “12 knots of breeze, a great course and really competitive racing. I just love Cork Week and today was a very special day to be out on the water.”  In IRC Three, Pat Kelly’s J/109, Storm (Rush YC) was in impressive form scoring a win and a second in today’s races to open up an 8.5 point lead at the top of the class.

Unsettled weather provided changeable conditions for the third day of racing at Volvo Cork Week. The day started with bright sunshine and balmy conditions causing a short postponement for many classes and light rain (honestly!) and a stiffer breeze was encountered during the day. With many classes now completing six races, the discard has kicked in and front-runners have become more apparent. What is plainly obvious from the results is races and places are being contested by mere seconds.

Fleet B, consisting of IRC 3, IRC 4, and IRC 5 Classes enjoyed three races on the Olympic Course, near Roches Point with over 40 yachts racing on a tight triangular course.  In IRC Three, Pat Kelly’s J/109, Storm (Rush YC) still leads the class after an intense battle.  Last year’s class champion, Ian Nagle & Paul O’Malley’s J/109, Jelly Baby (Royal Cork YC) was the winner of Race 6 by just 23 seconds from Storm. However, the Kelly family racing Storm, finished the day on top by winning the last race of the day.

“The Olympic Course is a real test, especially the gybe mark, where yachts are converging for a maneuver all at the same time. Just a few seconds can make the difference between first and fifth.” Explained Joss Walsh, trimmer on the J/109 Storm. “The overall game plan was to keep with the yachts around us and try and compete with them for speed and avoid errors, which would be very costly. Pat Kelly has four sons on board, Storm is a real family boat but we are quite a heavy crew, which has made racing difficult in light conditions. We are all here to enjoy very competitive racing and a few pints at the club afterwards. We are here to win but having fun is just as important.”

Storm leads IRC Three by 10.5 points points from Paul O’Higgins Corby 33, Rockabill V, (Royal Irish YC). Jelly Baby is just half a point behind Rockabill V in third.  In IRC Four, Ronan Fenton’s J/35, Sky Hunter (Blackwater SC) finished the day in style, taking their first win of the regatta in Race 7.

The fourth day started out ashore under harbor postponement. Marvin Gaye’s song “Let’s get it on” and The Stranglers “Something better change” rang out over the air waves as the Volvo Cork Week fleet waited for the breeze to set in for the final day of racing. However, the wind was sufficient to allow for a full racing programme to decide the winners for the regatta.

In IRC Three, Pat Kelly’s J/109, Storm (Rush YC) had a shaky start to racing on the final day, placing 12th but a 2nd place in the last race secured the all Irish team the class win. Ian Nagle’s J/109, Jelly Baby (Royal Cork YC) was third. Liam Shanahan’s J/109 RUTH took 7th and another 109 took 9th- Chris Moore’s POWDER MONKEY.  The J/88 JONGLEUR sailed by Andrew Creighton and James Davis claimed the 10th spot, making for 5 J/teams in the top 10!

In IRC Four, the J/35c SKY HUNTER sailed by Ronan Fenton took 6th place and fellow J sailor Patrick Beckett placed 7th on his J/92 JOSTLER.

In IRC Five, the J/24 YAGOTTAWANNA skippered by the duo of Dave Lane and Sinead Enright sailed a great last half of the series with all scores posted in the top five to claim 4th overall!

Volvo Cork Week Racing Chairman, Anthony O’Leary was quick to praise both the race management team and the staff of the Royal Cork Yacht Club. “To conduct such magnificent races in difficult conditions was highly commendable, congratulations should go to the Race Officers, Jack Roy, Robert Lamb and Peter Crowley and all of the management team out on the water. The Royal Cork Yacht Club has welcomed competitors to the club with open arms and Gavin Deane, all of the staff and volunteers have worked tirelessly to make sure the competitors have had a memorable time. That result is ably assisted by good race management, sailors coming off the water happy are much easier to please at the bar!”

The Volvo Cork Week Prize Giving was well attended, the music and the drinks were flowing long into the night. “Souldriven” playing live at the Volvo Cork Week Marquee followed by DJ – Bar with a bar extension until 2.00am! The legendary Craic of Cork Week went on long into the night.  Thanks for the contribution from Louay Habit/ RORC.   Sailing photo credits- Tim Wright/ Photoaction.com  For more CORK Week sailing information

The America’s Cup, Explained

Sail Feed - Tue, 2014-07-22 14:09

By Kimball Livingston Posted July 22, 2014

There’s a movie I’ve seen too many times.

Scripts vary, but in movie-talk, the “arc of the story” is the same.

First, there is an America’s Cup match that is riveting, thrilling, inspiring and enthralling to a huge audience. It can’t get any better than this, you think. The sequel will be just as good, meaning great.

Then everything goes to hell.

In 2013 we went from (former San Francisco Supervisor) Aaron Peskin’s assertion that, “There is no record of a crowd showing up for a sailboat race” to race seventeen on September 25, when so much of San Francisco tried to pour out onto Pier 17 to watch the finish that the fire marshall closed the gates.

America’s Cup 34 is still the first thing that “civilians” in San Francisco want to talk about when they find out that I sail a bit. And the sequel?

Heh.

Twenty-seven years ago, America’s Cup racing shot the moon as Dennis Conner retrieved the Cup from Australia in an all-timer of a drama. There were big winds and waves and flying spray and—get this—characters that the audience cared about. Conner came home to a ticker tape parade down Fifth Avenue, a reception at the White House, a spot on the Tonight show and his face on the cover of Time (eclipsing Gorbachev and the biggest political upheaval since WWII). Even though the TV broadcast from Fremantle was primitive, and even though they lost 0-4, Australia’s team leaders Iain Murray and Peter Gilmour emerged from the 1987 match recognizable and marketable.

Then everything went to hell.

The repair process was nearly complete twenty years later as a scrappy Team New Zealand shocked Alinghi in the waters off Valencia, Spain, won two races and could have won more. The U.S. audience did not run more than sailor-deep, but Europe stood at attention and all of New Zealand was quivering. More than one of 2007′s record 11 challengers was dogmeat, but there was a future that seemed to rise up, bright and beckoning.

Then everything went to hell.

That mess had no hope of repair until some point around the middle of the 2013 match, when the match went from glum and desultory to “the greatest ever.”

All we had to do was do it again and . . .

Iain Murray in SF, 2013. Photo by Chuck Lantz

And there we were. And here we are. Where is “here” is a question to be partially answered on August 8, the entry deadline for challengers for AC35, 2017. One hard fact, however, is that Iain Murray has left the building, and Murray (yep, same Iain Murray; he’s been around a while) is on the short list for the most trusted man in sailing. As CEO of America’s Cup Race Management, AC34, he kept things from falling apart during one stress fest after another. Everyone knew who you meant when you mentioned “the big guy.” His authority drew upon a quiet manner, perceptive decision making, and acknowledged integrity. If Iain Murray, having taken on the job of leading an Australian challenge into the role of Challenger of Record, has now folded the tent and declared, as he has, that the timeline is wrong and the structure is wrong, that is a huge no-confidence blow. It goes direct to the Oracle Racing/Russell Coutts agenda for reinventing America’s Cup competition on a professionalized, normalized platform. Britain’s Ben Ainslie has expressed his willingness to stay the course, but what will be that course? Amidst all the declarations laid out thus far, I can see the smoke, reflected in . . . something.

Far be it from me to say that the Cup cannot rise above this.

Far be it from me to predict anything short of a brilliant match in 2017.

Boom and bust is us.

THE STATE OF PLAY

Despite some initial hand-wringing fears (or lip-smacking hopes) that the withdrawal of Murray’s Hamilton Island Yacht Club would obviate the unpopular protocol it had agreed to, the lawyers did their part right in the crafting. What HIYC has actually done is give 90 days notice, as the Protocol requires, that it is withdrawing. The Challenger of Record therefore continues in that role through the entry deadline of August 8. There is a fundamental stability built in, but with certain questions newly pressing. Who will be the new Challenger of Record? Oracle Racing (Golden Gate Yacht Club) knows who has actually crossed the T’s and dotted the I’s and anted up to formally challenge for AC35. Who was next in line after Hamilton Island? Are they scrambling (probably not) to secure the next Challenger of Record? I can double-dog guarantee you they wish it could be a British challenge under the banner of Ben Ainslie Racing. The celebrated Olympian, Sir Ben, was part of the Oracle defense team in 2013 and shares the Russell-Vision of a commercialized Cup. He wants to play ball. But even with royal patronage, the loosey-goosey state of affairs has hamstrung his efforts to finalize a team.

Richard Gladwell at Sail-World.com speculates that Italy’s Luna Rossa is next in line for CoR. If so, Coutts is in for tough sledding. Luna Rossa boss Patrizio Bertelli was confrontational in his dealings in 2013 and, despite his base in the fashion industry, won’t be changing his spots. The only worse news for Coutts would be Team New Zealand in that role. I don’t think that’s happening, but it would be fodder-rich for the likes of me. Artemis is the other theoretically-possible CoR, and the Swedish-backed team would be a much cozier player than Luna Rossa. Having taken on that role the last time around, when the original CoR, Mascalzone Latino, folded, would the Artemis folks want it again?

And if we are down to a tiny handful of challengers, the whole agenda of an expensive AC45 tour to seed those challengers for semifinal and final eliminations in AC62s in separate venues hauls us straight into a theater of the absurd.

So, ten months after an America’s Cup is the time for renegotiating a Protocol? Just may be.

Ten months after an America’s Cup is the time for discovering that none of the challengers want to race in Bermuda or San Diego? (They of course want to come back to San Francisco.)

Sigh. I have no idea how many times I’ve been asked to explain the America’s Cup over cocktails or dinner.

And failed.

Here I am again.

I should have stopped where I started, and left it at this.

Simrad RS35 VHF & HS35 wireless handset, testing pretty well

Sail Feed - Tue, 2014-07-22 11:10

Written by Ben Ellison on Jul 22, 2014 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub

It’s taken a while but I am becoming quite fond of the Simrad RS35 VHF radio and HS35 wireless handset accessory. Panbo first covered the RS35′s nice combination of full Class D VHF DSC capabilities, NMEA 2000 interface and built-in AIS receiver in late 2012. But when I received a test unit last summer, it was quickly apparent that the radio had trouble interfacing with many N2K GPS sources (as you can read about in the comments to that 2012 entry). I was slow to return the radio for the software fix, but now it’s installed at Gizmo’s lower helm and has no problem with the three GPS sources shown above and a lot more I threw at it. I’ve also seen it output AIS info over NMEA 2000 to every MFD currently on Gizmo (though there is a glitch if you also have a transponder, explained below). And while some interesting radios have come to market in the last year, the RS35 at about $300 to $350 seems the VHF/AIS/N2K value leader (except for its sibling Lowrance Link-8 if you don’t care about the wireless handset option)…

At first I was disappointed that the RS35 does not have the channel tagging feature I’ve enjoyed on Icom, Standard Horizon and Garmin radios. I like to eavesdrop on VHF, especially when alone on the boat, and tagging is the ultimate way to scan all the channels you want and none of the ones you don’t. However, I’m pretty happy with the Simrad’s 3 CH ALL SCAN mode, which actually flips through 3 favorites and channel 16. TRIWATCH gets you one favorite plus 16 and 9 (if you’ve set up Watch Mode that way), and there’s also an ALL SCAN mode that checks 16 every 2 seconds and has a handy SKIP feature to temporarily eliminate open channels. The speaker sound is good and the RS35 seems as good at bringing in distant stations as any recreational VHF I’ve tried.

Now about that screen. The RS35 manual warns that screen viewing is optimal only within 20 degrees up or down, left or right. I find it better than that if you push backlighting and contrast to their maximum values. But photographing the display well is hard, as illustrated above, and you may need your reading glasses for some screens like AIS. It is big, though, and I’m enjoying how much nav info it’s showing, including bearing and distance to Gizmo’s float since I input the waypoint.

The AIS screen is informative and you can quickly select targets and get even more info on them with the main rotary/click knob (great to have volume and squelch knobs, too). You can also zoom in and out of the graphic target plot with the 3CH and SCAN keys. Note, though, that you can not scan while viewing the AIS screen, and that the RS35 cannot place direct DSC calls to AIS targets. That feature is planned for a future software update, though, and the update will be possible over NMEA 2000 from a Simrad MFD. Also slated for that update is the ability to ignore your own vessel if you are running an AIS transponder. As shown, the test RS35 constantly sees Gizmo as a very nearby target and would be sounding loud CPA/TCPA alarms if I hadn’t turned them off completely. The same issue was true of Garmin, Furuno, and Raymarine MFDs, where I was always closely followed by my own AIS target, but is not a problem on a Simrad or Lowrance MFD because they’ve long had the ability to accept and filter out an “own vessel” MMSI. You can also simply turn off the RS35′s AIS receiver, keeping it in reserve until your transponder fails or the update comes out.

I tried every type of direct DSC calling possible between the RS35 and the ever wonderful Standard Horizon HX851 handheld (850 reviewed here), but they both have the same MMSI number, which may have affected the results. Individual calls worked fine both ways, as did position requests. But the RS35 would not accept a Position Send from the HX, and would not enable “Buddy Tracking” with it. The Simrad manual doesn’t say that Buddy Tracking only works with other Simrad radios, but then again, it doesn’t say much about the feature. Anyone know? Sorry for another poor photograph but it does suggest the nice key backlighting on this radio.

When I requested a position from the HX851, the Simrad radio placed a waypoint for it on the Simrad NSS7 evo2 that’s on the same NMEA 2000 network, and I’m confident that it would do something similar if I received a DSC distress call. However, I don’t know why “Grounding” was placed in the waypoint notes. I hope to do further experimentation, particularly to see if DSC positions are sent to other MFDs and am hoping other users will chime in.

In my view, one of the main reasons to consider a Simrad RS35 — or maybe the newer blackbox RS90 premium model — is the chance to use the HS35 wireless mic. My habit now is to turn on the base station with volume down and work around the boat with HS35 clipped to my pocket or sitting nearby. It, too, has good sound as well as a complete set of fast-acting keys, and I’ve yet to experience any wireless issues anywhere on this 37 foot boat (which has lots of other wireless activity). I was a little skeptical about the inductive charging, especially as I can feel the heat generated, but a meter check indicated low amperage drain and the fact that the charger seems to shut down completely when done. The AIS screen below definitely calls out for my reading glasses, but then again, you can put a wireless mic like this right up to your eyes or ear and mouth. We’re day one on a week-long cruise during I which I plan to use this radio and mic a lot, so I may be adding more observations in the comment section.

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

DAZZLING Bacardi Sail Newport Regatta

Sail Feed - Tue, 2014-07-22 08:00

Terhune Tops 70s, Mollicone Dominates 24s
(Newport, RI) – Sailors from 21 U.S. States and eight countries gathered in Newport for Sail Newport’s annual Newport Regatta on July 11-13, featuring Bacardi Newport Race Week with long-term sponsors Heineken and new sponsor Helly Hansen.  The mammoth event on four circles of racing on Narragansett Bay, in its 31st year, required over 100 volunteers and partnerships with New York Yacht Club, Ida Lewis Yacht Club, Newport Yacht Club and Barrington Yacht Club.

The fleet was blessed with three straight days of absolutely gorgeous weather.  Friday started out slowly for some fleets with light northerlies dying out and the classic Newport seabreeze built into the 6-10 kts range.  Saturday and Sunday were nearly perfect sailing conditions for both the offshore fleets in Rhode Island Sound and fleets inside Narragansett Bay; winds were SSW both days with Saturday seeing 6-12 kt breezes and Sunday was blessed with even more sun and fun with breezes building from 10-15 kts and ending in the 18-25 kts range for the last race.

The event featured two large, competitive fleets of J/24s and J/70s.  The 33-boat J/70 fleet was by far the largest in the regatta and the competition was perhaps the deepest overall as well.

The 70 fleet saw competitors having remarkable roller-coaster experiences each day; such as Dave Franzel’s SPRING, Brian Keane’s SAVASANA and Jud Smith’s AFRICA all in the top five but dropping down the ladder quite far due to their finishes on the heavy air day on Sunday.  Conversely, Allan Terhune’s DAZZLER raced up the ladder on the last day to take the overall win.  In fact, after the first day, DAZZLER sailing with rock star Moose McClintock on board as tactician weren’t even in the top ten with their 5-3-23 record.  But, their blistering “big breeze” performance Sunday with a 1-3-4 record enabled them to win class with just 16 pts net (after toss race).  Sailing the most consistently all weekend was Martie Kullman’s TOUCH2PLAY, scoring 3-7-9-8-1-5 to easily take second with 24 pts net.  Third was Will Welles sailing RASCAL, posting an 8-1-6-13-6-9 for 30 pts net.  Rounding out the top five were BLACK RIVER RACING sailed by Doug Strebel & Jay Lutz with 31 pts net and in fifth was Tim Molony’s JOUST with 33 pts net.

The world of J/24s was subjected to a “clinic” by the current World Champions in the form of Tim Healy & John Mollicone joining forces on Team HELLY HANSEN. Taking three 1sts in six races sealed the deal for their team with a total of 8 pts.  Up and coming J/24 hotshot, Mike Marshall, sailed PIPE DREAM into second by winning the first and last races and keeping Team HELLY HANSEN honest by keeping the racing close- accumulating just 10 pts.  This was Mike Ingham with a total of 14 pts with three 2nds in their scoreline for 14 pts.  After these “three musketeers” dominated the top three finishes nearly every race, the 4th to 7th place boats were only spread apart by 6 pts.  Taking fourth was the Japanese entry, SOKOKUMARU skippered by Sumio Shimoyama, with 24 pts and fifth was Kevin Coughlin finishing with 25 pts.   Sailing photo credits- Cate Brown Photography   For more Bacardi Sail Newport Regatta sailing information

Matt Rutherford, Landfall in Japan (Podcast)

Sail Feed - Tue, 2014-07-22 00:10

Regular guest & sailing legend Matt Rutherford is back on the podcast to discuss his recent landfall in Japan, climbing Mt. Fuji, making his own saki, what it’s like to complete a 7,000-mile nonstop ocean crossing in a 30-foot daysailor, and why he’s so determined to do what he says he’s going to do! Matt & Nicole Trenholm were in Japan when they recorded this, their last day there before returning to the USA, and Andy Skyped them from Sweden, so another international interview. Check out Matt & Nicole’s latest expedition on oceanresearchproject.org.

RORC Ladies Victorious

Sail Feed - Mon, 2014-07-21 14:00

J/80 2+2 Team Racing at Royal Yacht Squadron
(Cowes, Isle of Wight, England)- Congratulations to the RORC Ladies Team that finished in First Place at the Royal Yacht Squadron Inter-Club Sailing Regatta in Cowes on Saturday 12th and Sunday 13th July 2014.

Here’s the report from the RORC Helm/Team Captain and RORC Member Laetitia Mason:

“The Royal Yacht Squadron invited various yacht clubs from around London and the South Coast to participate in the first event of its kind- all women, 2 boat team racing. Upon invitation, I jumped at the chance to pull together a team of girls with (and some without) team racing experience for what seemed to be a fun event. The RYS is opening its doors to women members and alongside that, all women events as well.

We turned up on Saturday for the brief (after a rather raucous brief of our own at the Pier View the previous evening) and received a warm welcome from the race committee, Jonathan Peel and our fellow competitors. . The race officers explained the schedule for the day and off we went down to the pontoon to find our J/80s with brand new jibs, kindly supplied by the RYS and the RTYC.

The wind looked very light on the first morning and appeared to be quite shifty as we sailed (and got towed) out to the start. We sailed a practice race, which set the scene of things to come! Upon the completion of 6 more races and 4 wins for team RORC, we felt very satisfied with our first days racing results. The race officers and umpires did a brilliant job setting a box course in Osborne bay that provided very interesting team racing with the tide and eddies constantly challenging us.

Upon our return to the RYS, we were supplied with a much needed cup of tea and a slice of cake; all very civilized and sat down with our fellow competitors to chat about the day and plan our social event in the evening together.

Christopher Sharples, the Commodore, invited us to a fantastic 3-course meal at the Squadron, to which we attended in our frocks and heels. It was brilliant to get to know the ladies and gentleman of the RYS discussing many elements of yachting life including the evolution of both our clubs, which we are all embracing.

Sunday’s sailing conditions were expected to be about 12-15 knots with light drizzle; but it turned out sunny and around 10 knots; perfect conditions for more idealistic team racing in the Solent. There was a little more consideration today as we had swapped boats and were racing for double points so by no means was this a done deal! Team racing proved to be very successful again for team RORC as we nailed down another 4 wins to put us safely into the lead of the regatta.

I would like to thank the RYS for generously hosting this event, making us feel very welcome and putting on some truly enjoyable sailing. Thank you to Commodore Christopher Sharples who was on the race committee on Sunday alongside the Richard Acland and Mrs Boyd. Thank you to Chris Mason who ensured the J/80s were in peak condition and for umpiring alongside Graham Bailey. Thank you also to Ally Acland for making us feel so welcome and relaxed at the RYS.

My team and I had a fantastic weekend and we would love to participate again in this event next year. I would like to extend my thanks and appreciation to my brilliant team for racing with me and showing skill and commitment to the team.”

The winning RORC team was comprised of Laetitia Mason, Marianthe Evangelidis- tactician/mainsheet, Carol O’Kelly, Sachi Sault and Ellie Aarons on jib trim.  The other RORC boat was comprised of skipper Josie Glidden, Mugs Gohl on mainsheet, and Lizzie Chellew and Stephanie Hensley on jib trim.  For more RORC Ladies sailing information

MODERN MARINE ELECTRONICS: My Obsolete Chartplotter

Sail Feed - Sat, 2014-07-19 16:36

I’ve been hustling a bit to get ready for this jaunt to Nova Scotia, which starts Monday. As noted earlier, I’ve been fretting about the charts. Thanks to Landfall Navigation, I now have all my paper charts in hand, plus tide tables and a 2014 Nautical Alamanac, just in case the world as we know it comes to an end and I have to exercise my sextant. But the really hard part, it turned out, was getting electronic charts for my 7-year-old Raymarine A65 chartplotter.

Landfall’s website, you’ll recall, purported to have a relevant chart card that was compatible with my machine, and I tried to buy that, but afterwards they confessed via e-mail that their website lied to me and the card really was not compatible. What you need to buy, I was told, is a blank Navionics Plus CF card, and then load it with the charts you want at the Navionics website. So I bought that instead, and they delivered it to me very promptly. And I went out and bought a card reader at Radio Shack, so I could plug the CF card into my desktop computer to download my charts… AND the very first thing that happened when I tried to do that was a prompt telling me these charts would not be compatible with my plotter.

So now I was ready to put a cap in my head. Fortunately, I do not actually own a handgun, and my finger tips do not emit bullets, so I called Navionics instead. Even more fortunately, I got a smart guy on the phone.

“Actually, your plotter might be able to read those charts,” he told me.

And he talked me through the download, advising me to load as little data as possible, so as to increase the chances of my plotter being able to cope with it. I took the card to my boat to slot it into the plotter… and LO! It displays the charts (see photo up top), but any function that involves moving around the chart–zooming in and out, scrolling hither and yon–is incredibly clunky and slow.

It’s better than nothing, but I am still gnashing my teeth over the fact that a device I paid well over $1,000 for, and the suite of chart cards I bought for several hundred dollars to plug into it, is now all on the verge of becoming useless crap, not because there is anything wrong with it, but simply because the manufacturers who sold it me are no longer interested in those products. In fact, I learned, the last charts that were truly compatible with my plotter were released in 2009, just two years after I bought the plotter.

In the world of modern electronics, marine and otherwise, this is not at all unusual, but it is still EVIL. And wasteful. And irresponsible.

In this modern miracle age I assume it would be a relatively simple matter for electronic chart manufacturers to allow consumers to download old versions of charts that are fully compatible with antique machines that are more than a few years old. Indeed, I would pay A SIGNIFICANT PREMIUM to be able to do that, and I suspect many others would too.

Hint, hint.

Meanwhile, last weekend I made a more concerted effort to get the hang of navigating on my iPad while noodling around Casco Bay on my own. In the photo there you can see Lunacy beating out of the north end of the bay, past Little Whaleboat Island, in a relatively light breeze.

I have to admit I am now a little more comfortable with the concept of iPad navigation, but I will never trust it completely. My iPad is constantly refusing to do things I want it to do, and misbehaving generally, so it is hard to consider it a serious piece of navigation equipment.

To give you an idea of what a Luddite I am, another major chore in preparation for this mini-voyage was manufacturing the little wood chips I need to connect my Aries windvane to my tillerpilot ram.

These chips are effectively sacrificial fuses for my “electronic autopilot,” in that they are the first thing to break when things get too loaded up. I reckon I could create an unbreakable metal chip, but then I worry I might harm my antique pilot ram, or worse the windvane itself, when things get crazy. So instead I’ve been experimenting, trying to make a chip that is as strong as possible, but still sacrificial.

My latest experiment was to make a chip out of plastic Starboard (bottom item in this photo), but it didn’t last very long and broke last weekend after just a couple of weeks of service. In the photo you can also see an abortion of a teak chip (upper left), that I thoughtlessly cut with the grain aligned the wrong way (and immediately broke in two with my bare hands), and one properly cut chip (upper right).

Here’s the good chip installed at the end of my tillerpilot ram. After a bit more sawing, and filing, and drilling, I also have two good spares to back it up.

I also decided to remark my anchor chain. I marked it with paint last time, but paint wears away pretty quickly. This time I’m trying bright orange wire-ties instead, which you can now see peeking out of the chain pile in the peak.

Finally, this is something I’ve been meaning to do ever since I bought the boat. A simple way to secure the linen that tends to get stuffed in the alcove under the side lockers up forward. Three little padeyes, a couple of hooks, and a length of bungee cord was all it took.

MODERN MARINE ELECTRONICS: My Obsolete Chartplotter

Sail Feed - Sat, 2014-07-19 16:36

I’ve been hustling a bit to get ready for this jaunt to Nova Scotia, which starts Monday. As noted earlier, I’ve been fretting about the charts. Thanks to Landfall Navigation, I now have all my paper charts in hand, plus tide tables and a 2014 Nautical Alamanac, just in case the world as we know it comes to an end and I have to exercise my sextant. But the really hard part, it turned out, was getting electronic charts for my 7-year-old Raymarine A65 chartplotter.

Landfall’s website, you’ll recall, purported to have a relevant chart card that was compatible with my machine, and I tried to buy that, but afterwards they confessed via e-mail that their website lied to me and the card really was not compatible. What you need to buy, I was told, is a blank Navionics Plus CF card, and then load it with the charts you want at the Navionics website. So I bought that instead, and they delivered it to me very promptly. And I went out and bought a card reader at Radio Shack, so I could plug the CF card into my desktop computer to download my charts… AND the very first thing that happened when I tried to do that was a prompt telling me these charts would not be compatible with my plotter.

So now I was ready to put a cap in my head. Fortunately, I do not actually own a handgun, and my finger tips do not emit bullets, so I called Navionics instead. Even more fortunately, I got a smart guy on the phone.

“Actually, your plotter might be able to read those charts,” he told me.

And he talked me through the download, advising me to load as little data as possible, so as to increase the chances of my plotter being able to cope with it. I took the card to my boat to slot it into the plotter… and LO! It displays the charts (see photo up top), but any function that involves moving around the chart–zooming in and out, scrolling hither and yon–is incredibly clunky and slow.

It’s better than nothing, but I am still gnashing my teeth over the fact that a device I paid well over $1,000 for, and the suite of chart cards I bought for several hundred dollars to plug into it, is now all on the verge of becoming useless crap, not because there is anything wrong with it, but simply because the manufacturers who sold it me are no longer interested in those products. In fact, I learned, the last charts that were truly compatible with my plotter were released in 2009, just two years after I bought the plotter.

In the world of modern electronics, marine and otherwise, this is not at all unusual, but it is still EVIL. And wasteful. And irresponsible.

In this modern miracle age I assume it would be a relatively simple matter for electronic chart manufacturers to allow consumers to download old versions of charts that are fully compatible with antique machines that are more than a few years old. Indeed, I would pay A SIGNIFICANT PREMIUM to be able to do that, and I suspect many others would too.

Hint, hint.

Meanwhile, last weekend I made a more concerted effort to get the hang of navigating on my iPad while noodling around Casco Bay on my own. In the photo there you can see Lunacy beating out of the north end of the bay, past Little Whaleboat Island, in a relatively light breeze.

I have to admit I am now a little more comfortable with the concept of iPad navigation, but I will never trust it completely. My iPad is constantly refusing to do things I want it to do, and misbehaving generally, so it is hard to consider it a serious piece of navigation equipment.

To give you an idea of what a Luddite I am, another major chore in preparation for this mini-voyage was manufacturing the little wood chips I need to connect my Aries windvane to my tillerpilot ram.

These chips are effectively sacrificial fuses for my “electronic autopilot,” in that they are the first thing to break when things get too loaded up. I reckon I could create an unbreakable metal chip, but then I worry I might harm my antique pilot ram, or worse the windvane itself, when things get crazy. So instead I’ve been experimenting, trying to make a chip that is as strong as possible, but still sacrificial.

My latest experiment was to make a chip out of plastic Starboard (bottom item in this photo), but it didn’t last very long and broke last weekend after just a couple of weeks of service. In the photo you can also see an abortion of a teak chip (upper left), that I thoughtlessly cut with the grain aligned the wrong way (and immediately broke in two with my bare hands), and one properly cut chip (upper right).

Here’s the good chip installed at the end of my tillerpilot ram. After a bit more sawing, and filing, and drilling, I also have two good spares to back it up.

I also decided to remark my anchor chain. I marked it with paint last time, but paint wears away pretty quickly. This time I’m trying bright orange wire-ties instead, which you can now see peeking out of the chain pile in the peak.

Finally, this is something I’ve been meaning to do ever since I bought the boat. A simple way to secure the linen that tends to get stuffed in the alcove under the side lockers up forward. Three little padeyes, a couple of hooks, and a length of bungee cord was all it took.

Invisible Hand Visible at Hanalei Bay

Sail Feed - Fri, 2014-07-18 20:13

The latest from our friends at the Pacific Cup—

Kaneohe Bay, HI, July 18, 2014 – Frank Slootman’s R/P 63 Mini Maxi Invisible Hand (formerly Limit) is the first boat to finish in the 2014 Pacific Cup with a unofficial finish time of 12:44:11 PDT. The Hand has an all-star crew comprising America’s Cup and Olympic champions, sailmakers, and others with significant ocean racing experience.

Invisible Hand left San Francisco Bay on July 11 as part of the last group of starters on the 2,070-mile crossing.

To see how the race is progressing, use the Yellowbrick race tracker on PacificCup.org. You can also check the website’s Daily Standings and Position log, which shows rankings based on the mandatory morning check-in, data from the a boat’s last two days of progress and the official Pacific Cup algorithm.

Aussies Pull Out of America’s Cup 35

Sail Feed - Fri, 2014-07-18 19:47

AND THE AUSSIES WERE THE CHALLENGER OF RECORD

By Kimball Livingston

Let’s start here.

The Hamilton Island Yacht Club/Oatley family issued the following release on Friday, July 18, 2014:

Hamilton Island Yacht Club today announced its withdrawal from the 35th America’s Cup.

The Hamilton Island Yacht Club became the Challenger of Record for the 35th America’s Cup upon the completion of the 34th America’s Cup in San Francisco in 2013.

In commenting on the decision not to proceed with the challenge, Sandy Oatley said “When we entered the Cup we had the intention of trying to change the Cup in many ways. Our position as Challenger of Record gave us the opportunity through the drafting of the protocol to affect this change. Central to these changes, was the desire to make the participation in the Cup more affordable and more sustainable.

Bob Oatley said “The Challenge was initiated with a view to negotiating a format for the 35th America’s Cup that was affordable and put the emphasis back on sailing skills. Ultimately our estimate of the costs of competing were well beyond our initial expectation and our ability to make the formula of our investment and other commercial support add up. We are bitterly disappointed that this emerging team of fine young Australian sailors will not be able to compete at the next America’s Cup under our banner”.

And there is this.

I have every reason to believe that Oracle Racing was in a lather to find a Challenger of Record in that last, desperate week of September, 2013 as Spithill and the boys began to eat away at their points deficit, and winning began to look less and less impossible.

With a win would come the urgent need for a partner/challenger with a document waiting at the finish line—the customary-since-1988 hip pocket challenge—to keep the Defender in the driver’s seat for planning the next match.

I have every reason to believe that Oracle thought they had a Canadian club ready to go, and then at nearly the last minute had to go “shopping” for an alternative.

And there, right there, was Iain Murray, CEO of America’s Cup Racing, longtime lion of Australia’s Cup efforts, a man with a direct line to his well-heeled friends the Oatleys, big time ocean racers and owners of the Whitsunday Island resort, Hamilton Island, and, not coincidentally, the resort feature known as the Hamilton Island Yacht Club. Ideas were tossed out, and a Challenger of Record was named.

Temporarily.

Considering the length of time involved, I have every reason to believe that subsequent negotiations regarding the terms for the next match—the Protocol—were difficult if not downright prickly.

It was Hamilton Island Yacht Club (Bob Oatley being the “Commodore”) or, more directly, Iain Murray, who called last weekend’s meeting in Los Angeles of six challengers and Oracle Racing. Reports first published in Britain’s The Independent have it that the challengers expressed a widespread dissatisfaction with the state of affairs and with Oracle Racing’s plans for the staging of events leading to a 2017 match. In particular, they said they want to race on San Francisco Bay.

Perhaps they believe what was so broadly touted the last time out, that there is no better place to play?

The rumors were hot through Friday, then, ahead of the Oatleys’ statement, came this announcement posted on AmericasCup.com:

The America’s Cup organizers have received notification from the principals of Hamilton Island Yacht Club of their intention to withdraw Team Australia from the 35th America’s Cup.

“We are very disappointed to be receiving this news,” said Russell Coutts, Director of the America’s Cup Event Authority (ACEA). “We were excited to have Australia as a challenger and we were also looking forward to the prospect of holding America’s Cup World Series events in Australia.

“But our focus going forward is with the teams that have already submitted challenges and the teams that have told us of their intent to do so before the entry deadline on August 8th.

In the meantime, ACEA is continuing its work to select a host venue for the America’s Cup in 2017. The selection process is progressing well with an aim to announce the final venue in October.

Ben Ainslie Racing (BAR), which revealed its America’s Cup team in a gala ceremony in London last month, had this comment:

“We remain supportive of the Defender’s continued drive towards a more commercial event format, along with a more sustainable future for this historic trophy. BAR will be bidding to host two America’s Cup World Series events in 2015/16 at our new home in Portsmouth; as a key part of the road to the 35th America’s Cup. While the withdrawal of the Challenger of Record is regrettable, it is also not unusual and we will continue our own preparations for the 35th America’s Cup and look forward to an exciting future.”

The relevant Protocol items are shown below. Whether the Deed of Gift trumps the Protocol is now a point of debate—are we back to square one, and anyone could challenge—or did Larry’s lawyers cover his bases? I bet I could hire a lawyer who would take either of those on.

14.2. Withdrawal of challenge: Unless GGYC has previously accepted at least
one other challenge for AC35 pursuant to this Protocol and such other
challenge has not been withdrawn (in which case, the provisions of Article
14.3 shall apply), the Challenger of Record must give to GGYC no less than
ninety (90) days prior written notice of an intention to withdraw its challenge
(or such shorter notice period as GGYC may accept). The Challenger of
Record’s challenge shall remain valid until expiry of the notice period.
Withdrawal of the challenge without giving proper notice of an intention to
withdraw the challenge in accordance with this Article shall be deemed to be a
notice of intention to withdraw the challenge in compliance with this Article.

14.3. Replacement Challenger of Record: If at any time the Challenger of
Record ceases to be a Challenger, the replacement Challenger of Record
shall be the Challenger whose Notice of Challenge was received by GGYC
first in time after the previous Challenger of Record and whose challenge is
still current.

14.4. List and order of Challengers: Following the close of the Entry Period,
ACEA shall publish a list of Challengers accepted by GGYC and the order
in which (and dates/times on which) their Notices of Challenge were
received by GGYC, and thereafter keep the list updated.

15. ENTRY
15.1. Restrictions: Subject always to Article 15.3 below, GGYC will accept
additional challenges for AC35 where the Notice of Challenge (in each
case) is received by GGYC pursuant to Article 16.1 from June 9, 2014
through August 8, 2014.

Social Media is alive as I write with people hoping that other challengers will withdraw, to force the Defender’s hand for a new Protocol.

One winner? Aussie Jimmy Spithill, who did not leave Oracle Racing to join an Australian challenge.

And Tiny Tim said, God bless us every one.

Ocean Sailing Rules: The Salty Dawg Incident of 2013

Sail Feed - Fri, 2014-07-18 00:10

Another essay episode for your Friday! This one is a bit more serious than last week, and looks at some of the ‘rules’ of ocean sailing from the perspective of two events from last fall – the Caribbean 1500 rally, and the Salty Dawgs. You’ll recall that six Salty Dawg boats issued distress calls last year, two of which were later rescued by the Coast Guard. The incident made national news, and was a hot button issue among the offshore sailing community. I wrote down my own thoughts immediately afterwards, but didn’t publish them until now, after lots of time to think it over and make a fair assessment of what happened. There’s a lot of opinions in here, so buckle up! What did you think about the incident and what lessons did you take from it?

See below for the full text of this week’s episode if you’d rather read it, plus links to many of the news stories that appeared last year. Lastly, I wish no ill-will towards to the organizers of the Salty Dawgs. I think there is room enough for the Caribbean 1500 and a group like theirs, though I think the two are more different than they are alike. I hope the SDR organizers and sailors learned some valuable lessons from last year’s incidents. I know I did.

Links to related articles:

Cruising World

WAVY News

Virginia Pilot Online

VA Pilot Online (via Sail-World.com)

NBC News

Sail-World.com (C1500 Article)

Sail-World.com (SDR Article)

Island Free Press

You’ll recall that the Salty Dawg Rally garnered loads of criticism last fall after six boats issued MAYDAY distress calls, and countless others were hampered with various gear failures and other problems (links to the various news articles appear in the show notes on 59-north.com).

It’s time now for me to provide my own criticism. Before I get into it, to establish some basic facts and a brief history, hear this.

In 1990, Steve Black started the Caribbean 1500, an annual cruising rally from the Northeast US to Tortola in the BVI. He was following in the footsteps of Jimmy Cornell, who had corralled the annual trans-Atlantic migration into the first ARC rally in 1986. Like the ARC, Steve’s 1500 became very popular.

I first got involved in 2007, sailing as crew on a Jeanneau 40 from Charleston. We were the last to arrive in Tortola, but it established my relationship with Steve, who had referred me and my dad to the boat’s owner. (Steve would later be integral to my working with the World Cruising Club, and now, following Steve’s retirement and much-too-soon death this year, managing the Caribbean 1500 and running World Cruising Club’s USA’s office with my wife Mia).

2010 marked the last year that Steve ran the 1500 – with a record 79 entries – with World Cruising standing by to take over in 2011. By 2012, a core group of Carib 1500 sailors who participated annually left the rally (in my opinion because they disliked the changes that came with a new organization at the helm) and formed their own non-event, christened the Salty Dog Rally (with an ‘o’). The ‘real’ Salty Dogs, crewmembers who had sailed at least 10,000 miles with the 1500, were rightfully upset at the new chosen name. It changed then, and is now known, as the Salty Dawg Rally ( spelled ‘d-a-w-g’).

I call it a ‘non-event’ because the rally allows departure from any port in the NE, sailing to any port in the Caribbean. There are no safety guidelines since “it is the responsibility of each skipper to have proper safety equipment and to ensure that the vessel is prepared for the passage. The core group meets in Hampton, as the 1500 did in its last years under Steve, and sails now to the Bitter End Yacht Club on Virgin Gorda.

The Salty Dawgs were initially free, but they’ve now started charging ‘membership’ fees and call themselves a nonprofit organization. How they got that designation is beyond me. I’ll get further into detail about what exactly defines a rally – and why the Salty Dawgs do not meet that definition – further on.

Steve Black was, let’s just say, less than thrilled seeing the core folks he’d mentored, trained, sailed and partied with break off and do their own thing. The legacy of the 1500 he was leaving behind in retirement (and now death) was tainted in his eyes by the hasty departure of people he assumed were on his side. Perhaps he treated them too well – offering annual discounts and special privileges for coming back year after year – and his kindness backfired on him.
Many of his most loyal friends and cohorts did stay – Rick & Julie Palm, Miles & Anne Poor, Davis Murray and Peter Burch to name just a few who I work closest with (and apologies to those I’ve left out – you know who you are). It’s now thanks in part to them that the 1500 continues on and is starting to grow again.

The 25th anniversary of the event is coming up this fall. It’s a shame Steve won’t be there to see it, but we’re planning lots of special events, our new hosts the City of Portsmouth & Ocean Marine Yacht Center are providing even more support than last year, and we’re happy to see a few of the wily veterans who initially supported the SDR coming back to  1500.

What follows are my opinions and mine alone. I have very specific ideas on seamanship offshore and ocean sailing in general, and I believe strongly in those ideas. The Salty Dawgs last year broke a lot of rules, so to speak, when it comes to ocean sailing, which I’ll get into.
But there is also an ulterior motive in me publishing this now – for anyone starting to make plans to head south this coming fall (or in the future), I hope that the following is a convincing argument for joining the Caribbean 1500 over the Salty Dawgs, and if you go it alone, I hope this helps with your preparation.

I believe everyone involved was acting with the best intentions – but I do believe they acted wrongly. Both the organization behind the Salty Dawgs and the skippers of some of the boats that got into trouble.

Ultimately I felt badly about what happened for those involved, and understand that from my perspective as a rally organizer and a sailor myself, an event like what happened in the SDR last year is something I fear. When an ‘8816’ number appears on my cell phone in the middle of the night while there are boats at sea (indicating an incoming sat phone call), my heart rate definitely increases.

I intend to summarize what happened last fall in the Salty Dawg Rally, why it didn’t happen to the 1500 fleet, and just what the differences are between the two groups of sailors and boats. While I haven’t altered any of the facts, this story is told from my perspective and includes lots of my own opinions. I know I’m going to put some people off – that’s okay. I think there will be many more who agree with me.

So before we get into it, know that I understand that it’s impossible to make ocean sailing 100% ‘safe’. However, with proper knowledge and preparation – and a heavy dose of respect for Mother Nature – it’s possible to mitigate the risks we must live with offshore.

With that said, here goes…

So What Happened?

2013 was the second straight year that the Caribbean 1500 departed one day ahead of the scheduled start – on Saturday, November 1 – to take advantage of a narrow weather window. We timed the start around the passage of a weak cold front – due to arrive in the Portsmouth, VA area sometime Saturday afternoon – allowing the fleet to start in lights airs while a high pressure area moved in, bringing stronger winds from the NW, forecast to shift N and NE over the following 48 hours. It’s always our intention to get the fleet across the Gulf Stream and well offshore while the weather is favorable. In the fall season, and on a passage of usually longer than a week, finding a weather window longer than 2-3 days is next to impossible.

The 1500 fleet experienced 3 days of winds in the high 20’s, gusting above 30 at times, but it was ‘fair weather windy’, the wind was aft of the beam, and importantly, everyone knew it was coming.

The majority of the Salty Dawg fleet, on the other hand, departed on Tuesday and Wednesday last year, November 4th and 5th, on a southwesterly breeze ahead of a forecast cold front. The front stalled and intensified in the Gulf Stream, wreaking havoc amongst the fleet. Seven boats experienced “serious gear failures.” Two boats were abandoned and their crews rescued by the Coast Guard, two boats were dismasted, and several had severe rudder problems. For the remainder of the fleet (many of which diverted to Bermuda for repairs) there were reports of several torn sails and damage to deck gear and sailing systems.

I first heard the news from a voicemail I received as I stepped off the plane in St. Thomas. In the media – indeed the national news picked up the story of the rescues as it was unfolding – and in online sailing forums, the banter began almost immediately, with armchair critics and experienced sailors alike chiming in.

On Preparation & ‘Shaking Down’

One long-time Carib1500 crewmember, who sailed aboard a Salty Dawg boat in 2013 talks specifically about some of the troubles the Salty Dawg fleet experienced offshore last year. He puts it down to an untested boat.

This crewmember, an experienced ocean voyager himself who’d crossed the Atlantic single-handed, surveyed the boat before departure and found several things not right.

Once offshore, the front came on Thursday, stalled, and stayed 12 hours longer than expected. The crewmember tried to set the staysail but the running backstays were frozen in the stowed position. The owner had bought the boat new 7 years ago – over that time, he had never learned what the running backs were for. Apparently, he had never even set the staysail. Ultimately, the crewmember managed to beat the snap shackle open with a hammer and set the windward backstay.

They finally managed to set the staysail in 30-35 knots of wind from the SW, with heavy rain. Ten minutes later it failed, the head tearing out due to sun rot. They had a very long night cleaning up the resultant mess.

And the problems continued. Charging issues, an overheating genset. A mainsheet tackle that blew up. A loose gooseneck fitting, separating from the boom.

The crewmember admitted that they easily could have been one of the casualties reported on in the paper, but in the end, they managed to pull it together and arrived in Virgin Gorda after ten days at sea. The fact that they did so safely is a testament to the crew work in what was obviously very poor situation in relation to the condition of the boat.

The bottom line is, anyone making a November voyage off the northeast of the US needs to be mentally and physically prepared for heavy weather. They need to have full awareness of what they’re getting into.

On the ARC, crews with less experience are given a survey on downwind sailing gear and ability, as that 3,000 mile passage is firmly in the trades. I’ve modified that survey for the 1500 to focus more on heavy weather gear and sails. In my opinion it’s a huge mistake to go offshore with only one headsail, regardless of how robust your roller reefing system is. Boats leaving the northeast in November ought to have at least a smaller, heavier headsail they can hoist on the furler, or ideally a second stay – Solent or inner forestay – where they can hank on a small jib or a storm jib. Simple redundancy and easy insurance against heavy weather.

Furthermore, these redundancies and any systems installed on the boat need to be checked and shaken down long before you set offshore. Dave Hornbach, a crewmember on the Saga 43 Kinship last year, notes that  he’d been working with Kinship’s skipper since May the previous spring. Kinship, by the way, is as experienced as they come, completing an Atlantic Circuit and having sailed in half a dozen Carib1500 passages. In fact I skippered the boat in ARC Europe in 2012, and Mia sailed as crew on the return trans-Atlantic in January. We know the boat and the owner well. He did not rest on his laurels.

Critical questions ought to include the age of the rig, the sail inventory and heavy weather gear, the experience of the crew, your ability to work together with the crew as a team and what the plan of action is going to be when the wind starts building.

The point is, for whatever reason it quickly became apparent by the sheer number of casualties with the Salty Dawgs, that the organizers had not made these points strongly enough. Certainly some if not most of the ultimate responsibility falls on the skippers themselves, but it was obvious that there was a lack of leadership from the top – this was not one isolated incident we were talking about, and from the outset of the creation of the Salty Dawg’s concept, many people feared this day would come. Thankfully everyone’s still around to talk about it.
The next section will be about distilling all the ‘banter’ surrounding the event and what it all means.

Armchair sailors and experienced cruisers alike quickly chimed in with their own thoughts immediately following the news of the rescues. The Internet, as per usual, took no prisoners in it’s criticism of the Salty Dawgs or the skippers. But eventually there came some backlash against that criticism, with some folks defending the Salty Dawgs.

Most notable was the chatter that revolved around the ‘luck’ – or lack thereof – of the weather that the Salty Dawg fleet experienced. The forecast changed, and the fleet got slammed, it was as simple as that they said. But it’s not as simple as that. What happened out there was not then, isn’t now, and never was about the weather.

The 1500 departed on a tight window, and our fleet had winds gusting over 30 knots for 3 days, with 12-foot seas. But the wind was from the ‘right’ direction (ie: aft of the beam).  We took a calculated call on that weather window, knowing full well the fleet would have strong winds and heavy seas (WRI, our forecasters, acknowledged conditions were “far from ideal”). But we took the ‘devil we knew’ with the long-term forecast of high-pressure ridging and northerly sector winds (and importantly, no frontal passages in the Gulf Stream), and people were ready for it – no surprises. Boats were prepped at the dock with heavy weather headsails on the foredeck, sheet leads secured and foul weather gear on hand. Indeed the 1500 fleet got through without any major mishaps.

While the Salty Dawg fleet experienced worse weather for sure, it was far from survival conditions, with Coast Guard rescuers reporting winds in the 20s and 8-12′ seas. It made the newscaster who was attempting to be dramatic about the whole thing sound rather silly. Boats going offshore ought to be prepared for and able to handle conditions two or three times worse than that. The Salty Dawg organizers admitted as much themselves, saying that experienced sailors should be able to handle those conditions, despite the unexpected change in the weather.

(As a short aside, when, particularly in the fall, does the weather ever do what’s expected of it? Offshore sailors need to be prepared for the worst conditions possible during the given season, not for what the weatherman says. Furthermore, it’s why folks sail south after November 1 – statistically anyway, you’re much less likely to encounter a hurricane that late in the year, though early winter gales can get rather unruly themselves).

I’ll return now to the point about responsibility. While I maintain that the skipper is first in line to take the blame for a failed voyage, the main difference between the Salty Dawg’s and the 1500 is that we as organizers have a series of checks in place to help skippers mitigate the worst-case scenarios when going offshore – boats must meet a certain standard of seaworthiness (and are advised to these standards in the months leading up to the event), skippers are expected to comply with the highest in offshore safety protocols (namely ISAF’s Special Regulations, which are used as a basis for all WCC rallies regarding safety equipment), and crew and boats are expected to have undertaken a passage of at least 250-miles to shakedown the boat and the crew, and learn how best to sail with one another. Ocean racing crews submit to these types of checks year in and year out – I myself just competed in the 2014 Newport-Bermuda Race and saw it firsthand – and yet for some reason, certain cruising sailors seem to think they are above these safety guidelines and somehow ‘know better’.
The Salty Dawgs website proudly states that “there is no formal inspection of each boat, since it is the responsibility of each skipper to have proper safety equipment and to ensure that the vessel is prepared for the passage.” The Salty Dawgs rely on the so-called ‘experience’ of their skipper’s, and claim (though it’s proven to be false) to only accept entries from folks who have been offshore at least once before.

I don’t doubt that the majority of the Salty Dawg fleet are in fact experienced (implying that they do in fact know what they are doing) were prepared and had no trouble at all. But, as Andy Chase, Master Mariner and instructor at Maine Maritime Academy so eloquently put it in an article about the sinking of the tall ship Bounty, “Every voyage carries a degree of uncertainty,” experience or not.

“In everything we do,” he wrote, “and even when we do nothing, we assume a level of risk. So we manage risk everyday. But when we are in a position where we are managing other peoples’ risk, especially when we are engaging in activities that carry significantly elevated levels of risk, it pays to get more organized about it.” Therein lies the crux of the issue. The Salty Dawgs, while claiming to be organized enough to call themselves an event, accept none of the risks of their fleet as a whole and refuse to get organized about it, opening the door for exactly the type of incidents that occurred last year.

Furthermore, as Chase puts it, “Experience in a vacuum doesn’t make us smarter. Experience has to be processed. It has to be considered with full disclosure.” He goes on to say that un-distilled experience often simply leads people to become “bolder,” or do things they might not otherwise have done in similar circumstances. (Read the full article on www.woodenboat.com/lessons-bounty).

A perfect example of the fallacy of experience was seen prior to last year’s Carib 1500. Rick and his wife Julie Palm have circumnavigated and been back and forth to the Caribbean over a dozen times, and yet he still submit to the safety check each year in the Carib1500. Last year, the inspection paid off. The liferaft aboard Altair was being checked, and had been stowed aft in the transom in a hard case. When they went to pull it out, it wouldn’t budge. When they finally did manage to shimmy it free, the painter wasn’t attached! Altair’s raft had been packed away by the boatyard back in Maine – a very reputable one at that – but they’d forgotten a small detail that could well have cost Rick and Julie their lives. Rick had taken his experience for granted, and simply accepted that the work the boatyard had done was good enough. “That second set of eyes can be priceless,” said Rick, “no matter how many times you do this stuff, no matter what your so-called ‘experience.’”

On Responsibility & Defining ‘Rally’

“We give the fleet advice,” said Linda Knowles, founder and organizer of the Salty Dawg Rally with her husband Bill, “but the decision as to when they depart is totally up to them, and they’re responsible for that decision.”

Therein lies the biggest problem that I have with the Salty Dawgs calling themselves a ‘rally’. The Salty Dawg organizers can claim to take no part in what happened to the boats that issued distress calls. In fact, the organizers go so far in saying that “the positive take on this unfortunate situation is that these sailors might have been out there anyway not affiliated with any rally.”

Knowles misses the point – they were with a ‘rally’, and the organizers failed to properly inform those boats of the risks they were undertaking and how to mitigate those risks with proper preparation and training. Had the Salty Dawgs really done their job, they’d have advised those boats before ever leaving that maybe they ought to think twice. As it turned out, they put themselves and, importantly, their rescuers at a very high risk.

To nonsailors and nonralliers, I like to compare sailing rallies, and the 1500 in particular, to a marathon, which most humans are at least familiar with. A course is set up, a start date set, entries fees paid, and competitors show up at the starting line for the festivities and the big send off. The gun goes off, the crowd cheers them on, and the pack is off on what for most will be the challenge of a lifetime. For the elites at the front, it might be their 5th, 10th or 100th marathon, and they might be gunning for first place (and the most ‘experienced’ runners among them are just as excited to be there). But for the majority of the participants, it’ll be a race against only themselves, a personal quest to see what they’re made of. They’ll have spent months, even years, preparing their bodies for the test, and success on that single day will ride not on what they’ve done in the moment, but what they’ve done to prepare. By joining a marathon you’re setting a goal for yourself, putting a deadline on your training and committing to join to group of like-minded people for a grand challenge. You’re taking a risk that the weather on the start day won’t be perfect, but then that’s the nature of an organized event. You can wait all year to run in perfect weather, but you might be by yourself.

Rallies, to me, are just like marathons. They’re about completing challenges – namely, crossing oceans – with friends; feeling confident and prepared on departure day; having support and friendship at sea; and providing a welcome to salute your achievement on arrival. What founder Steve Black called “one of the last great adventures of our modern times.”

In the Carib1500, participants pay a fee, then become part of an active community that begins months before the trip with full-day safety seminars, preparation lists, safety requirements and resources. They receive free dockage at the marinas at the start and end of the rally and in between, they have professional guides employed to contribute to safety, camaraderie and intelligence.

Marathoners pay anywhere from $100-200 to take part in a one-day event that’s over before you realize it. For whatever reason, in the US there has been a backlash to event fees for cruising rallies. The 1500 now costs $1250.00, but you’re getting three weeks of events and support. Including crew fees, entry for a boat of four would total $1750.00. Break that down, and it’d be like running a marathon for less than 85 bucks.

But if it’s money you’re concerned about, skipper Bob Woods on board the Morris 46, Lexington, sailing in this year’s Carib1500, offers an interesting perspective.

He claims he’s essentially a cheap person, but concedes that the cost of the rally is fairly miniscule when compared to the cost of the whole trip and the cost of keeping your boat in the Caribbean for the winter. Furthermore, the entry fee gets you four nights dockage, nearly nightly happy hours before and after the ocean passage, several dinners on either end, weather forecasting, satellite tracking, 24/7 at-sea communications with rally control, a comprehensive handbook on all things ocean sailing and Port Supply pricing at the Annapolis West Marine! That last item alone can very quickly make the entry fee more than pay for itself for boats undergoing big refits.

That, friends, is what a rally is about.

On ‘Groupthink’ & Leadership

Another Salty Dawg crewmember mentioned that he thought they had hit similar weather as the Carib1500, but that he had seen it before and acted accordingly. Most of the heavy weather was sailed with a triple reef in the main and the inner forestaysail flying.

He also noted that “if you had walked the docks [in Hampton] and observed the crews and their preparation you can understand the resulting ordeals. They falsely believed waiting and sailing with a large group was going to make everything easy.”

This ‘safety-in-numbers’ sentiment crops up every time something bad happens in a rally. A Practical Sailor article from 2011 (http://www.practical-sailor.com/blog/rethinking_rally_concept-10665-1.html), commented on the NARC Rally disaster, when they got caught in late-season Hurricane Sean, and one crewmember from an Island Packet 38 was lost overboard. Practical Sailor wrote that “While the collective wisdom of a group of sailors ashore noodling a navigational challenge generally offers a helpful fountain of knowledge, it is easy to be lulled into thinking sailing with a large group will offer a great measure of safety in a storm.” In a true emergency this can be the case, but in my opinion yachts still must prepare to be completely self-sufficient.

Furthermore, the concept of ‘groupthink’ is often misunderstood. Chris of brilliantstarcruises.net says that  “groupthink in the negative sense arises when a dominant person or idea and social pressure to conform, or be accepted, or avoid criticism have led to problems and tragedy.”

He notes that there is a huge difference between the ideas of ‘safely getting there,’ and ‘got there safely.’ One is forward looking and emphasizes safety. The other is retrospective and emphasizes having gotten there. The problem arises when the group members begin to merge these concepts in a way that getting there takes precedence over safety without the group realizing it. Dominant members of the group with more experience and/or self-confidence (justified or otherwise) take control of the thinking for the group — some of that thinking is willingly surrendered to them.

This brings up another very important point regarding rallies. The Salty Dawgs, being loosely organized with bottom-up decision-making creates a group that is only as strong as its loudest voice.

The Caribbean 1500, conversely, has a core leadership team of professional sailors, weather routers, safety inspectors and others. Not to say that being professional makes you any more knowledgeable than someone who has spent a lifetime at sea for pleasure – but it forces you through certain standards along the way as you gain qualifications. Nobody is going to give you the helm of a ferry boat or daysail schooner just because you’ve got lots of experience. The dominant voices in the Carib1500 – at least prior to departure – are the organizers, and ‘groupthink’ is kept largely at bay.

In Summary

I want to finish by emphasizing the sentiments of proper seamanship – essentially, that it starts long before you ever leave the dock. A successful voyage ought to be uneventful and free from drama. The best passages are the ones with the least sea stories. I’m very proud to say that I personally have few of these. My longest passage to date, 23 days across the North Atlantic from Newfoundland to Ireland on our 35-foot yawl Arcturus, was drama free and wonderfully enjoyable. It wasn’t by accident that it went that way.

I’ve been put in a position as manager of the 1500 where I have an opportunity to shape the way people learn about offshore sailing, and I take that responsibility very seriously. I hope that my own experience and qualifications make it clear that I do actually know what I’m talking about, and I hope people take some of my advice whether they go with a rally or not. And we’re not selling any illusion with the 1500 – dreams of a lifetime? Yes. But we’re not promising anything.

You’re only as safe on the ocean as your knowledge, skills and most importantly your preparation make you. When someone gets in touch with me about ocean sailing questions, whether they’re signed up for the rally or not, I feel a responsibility to SET THEM UP for success as best I can. Once they head offshore, their preparation will determine their success and their enjoyment of it, and at that point I no longer have any control over it.

Finally, I’ve learned a lot myself about ocean sailing and how to best organize a fleet being involved with the World Cruising Club since first working on the ARC in 2009. I’ve got a new perspective on rally sailing that I didn’t have when I first started, namely a much more positive one.

Last year, my 5th on the ARC, saw nearly 300 boats cross the Atlantic between the ARC and new ARC+ fleets combined. That’s over 6 years of the average Caribbeean 1500 fleet, and there were few incidents. There is a method to the madness, that’s been tried and tested over the past 30 years of running events, a lot of which goes on far behind the scenes in the months before the event ever starts. The ARC, and all World Cruising Club rallies have historically had very good track records, and that’s no accident either.

Dealing With Bureaucracy, French-Style

Sail Feed - Thu, 2014-07-17 20:15

It is a strange truth that, the longer you stay in a country, the more irritating their bureaucracy becomes. Maybe the French are just tired of me and want to speed me on my way.  Maybe I’m just burnt out on doing taxes and taking ever-more-hideous passport photos for visa applications.  Or maybe I just don’t see eye to eye with these upholders of the Napoleonic Code.

A few weeks ago, I found a notice in my mailbox that a registered letter was waiting for me at the post office. I was bound to need some iron-clad identification, so I scooped up my passport and carte de sejour, waited for the designated pick-up time, and wandered over.

I eventually found my way to special guichet 15, where, as all the world knows, registered letters reside.  I handed over my notice and my ID, and waited to be sent home.

It is an ironclad rule of French bureaucracy that you are sent away at least once for even the simplest of tasks. You might need to provide a power bill, or a letter from your employer, or a used ticket stub from when the circus came to town when you were six. It doesn’t matter.  The formula remains: you go, you get sent away, you return with a nonsense item, you get your service/letter.

The woman at the desk quickly found my letter. She frowned at it, checked a binder, then consulted with her colleague. They both returned to me, shaking their heads.

“I’m sorry,” said Postal Clerk 2, “We can’t give you the letter.”
“Oh?” I asked, not surprised in the least. “Why not?”
She pointed to my notice. “It is addressed to Mr and Mrs Schaefer. You and Mr Schaefer need to pick up the letter together.”
I stared at her for a moment. “Together? Really? We both have to show up?”
“Yes.”
“Even though my name is on it,I can’t have it.”
She pointed again. “It is addressed to both of you.”
I took a deep, calming breath. “The problem is, Mr Schaefer is out of the country for work.”
Postal Clerk 1 consulted the binder. “We will keep the letter until the 15th.”
As luck would have it, Erik was due back very late on the 10th. If we could get in on the 11th we would make it – the 12th and 13th being the weekend (closed), and the 14th being Bastille Day (extra super 10x closed). But, considering how often Erik is forced to change his travel arrangements, this was by no means a sure thing.
I explained his schedule. “Could you put a note with the letter to indicate that my husband is out of the country, but we will come back?”
“No.”
“Could you at least tell me who sent the letter?”
“No.”
Service at its finest.

I won’t leave you in suspense – we did get the letter, but it was a close thing.

But this was a mere warm-up in the French Administrative Wars.

While Erik was home, we had to fill out a massive packet of forms for a visa application.  I knew this was going to be a tricky bit of business, as we were Canadians temporarily residing in New Caledonia applying to enter Papua New Guinea by way of the consulate in Australia, and that is at least two countries too many for most people to deal with.  

But these things need to be done.  Even though my hours of work were destined to sit in a filing cabinet until the apocalypse comes, unlooked-at, uncared-about, still, the hoop needed to be jumped through.

I perused the checklist, and discovered a number of documents needed to be certified copies.  When asked, my Australian contact breezily told me: “Just go to a Justice of the Peace.”  Which is fine if you are in Australia, but such an animal doesn’t exist here.

A lawyer friend in town directed us to the town hall.  He knew they used to be in charge of that sort of thing, although maybe the police were taking over the service.  Erik and I packed up everything we could think of, and marched off to the mairie.

We were pointed through the labyrinth.  The nice lady at the desk barely glanced at our stack of papers.
“Where is your letter?” she asked.
“What letter?” asked Erik.
“You need a letter translated into French stating that you need these documents for a visa application.”
Erik and I must have both made the same face, because the woman called her supervisor over.
“You need a letter,” repeated the supervisor.
“Because…”asked Erik.
The supervisor snapped her fingers; the subordinate at the desk instantly produced a photocopy of Décret no. 2000-1277 du 26 décembre 2000 portant simplification de formalités administratives et suppression de la fiche d’état civil. It wasn’t very illuminating.
“We are only allowed to certify documents for foreigners obtaining a visa from a non-French-speaking country,” she snapped, as though this were obvious to everyone. “And to do that, we need a letter.”
“That makes no sense,” said Erik.
As he and the supervisor got into a heated discussion, I turned to the subordinate.  “Will an email do?” I asked.
“An email is fine,” she whispered.

And so we went home to obtain a letter.

When we got back a few hours later, the new woman behind the desk gave our letter 0.03 seconds of attention, handed it back, and started patiently certifying our passport scans.  Erik and I chatted with some (French) friends who were there on attempt #3 to do something regarding an old and battered identity card.  Suddenly, the stamping and signing stopped.  The woman walked away.

“I think we have a problem,” I said, watching her go.
The supervisor swept back into the room.  She stalked over to us, quivering with barely-suppressed rage.
“These are birth certificates!” she spat.
Erik and I exchanged a look. “Yes.”
The supervisor huffed. “We can’t certify those!”
“Why not?”
“It is against the law. They aren’t in French. They aren’t passports.  They are birth certificates.” She was rattling off excuses like she was reading a list. “When you were here this morning, you only said passports. Nothing about this.”
“We had the very same documents this morning,” said Erik. “And all of these are Canadian.” He pulled out a birth certificate.”Everything here is in English and French.  All of it.  Numéro de certificat.  Bureau du registraire général.  French.“
The supervisor started stabbing the page. “There is English on there!  We can’t be expected to translate English!”
“Now, hold on,” said Erik.  “No one is asking you to translate anything. All your stamp does it certify that this is a true copy of that. It doesn’t matter what it is. No one is asking you to assert this is a legal document.  Just a true copy.  It could be anything.  I could give you a photocopy of my arse and then show you my…”
I’m a little surprised the building didn’t blow up right then.

“Nice, Erik,” I said as we left the town hall. “I don’t think that poor woman is ever going to get the adrenaline out of her system.”
“She was pretty mad,” he agreed cheerfully.

Our lawyer friend helped us out with the forbidden birth certificate copies. And hopefully the next functionary down the line won’t have a heart attack that these copies weren’t signed by an Australian Justice of the Peace.  Frankly, I have visions of cooling my heels in Australia for weeks on end while this all gets done.

And then, when the last stamp has been stamped and the last approval signed, when the last staple pierces the stack, our precious certified copies can finally retire to their little corner of a storage facility to molder quietly until the building comes down around them.

(Simpsons still from You Only Move Twice, season 8, episode 2, aka Best Episode EVER.)

Pac Cup Tracker Goes Live

Sail Feed - Thu, 2014-07-17 19:40

Via Pacific Cup
Kaneohe Bay, HI, July 17, 2014 – It’s the moment many have been waiting for: the first of Pacific Cup’s 55-boat fleet, Venture (a Jenneau 49 in Cruising Division) is expected to cross the magical line, 200 nautical miles from Hawaii late this afternoon, and you will be able to follow the race online, in real time, on the Pacific Cup website. Until then, position data, which is transmitted via satellite by the Yellowbrick devices, is being delayed by six hours to prevent, to some degree, a racing boat’s ability to view what its competitors are doing at the moment. Prior to the implementation of tracking systems, the only information racers, friends and family received about other boats was at the daily morning check-in, a once-a-day snapshot of competitors’ positions. Trackers have proven to be a game-changer especially for the shore-based crowd who can now follow the race in detail throughout the day. As Blade Runner’s blog warned, “Try it, pretty addictive.”

The past 24 hours have produced numerous lead changes and some unintended drama. Steve Stroub’s Santa Cruz 37, Tiburon, reported losing its rudder yesterday afternoon. Cayenne, a Passport 40 and one of the communications boats, skippered by Michael Moradzadeh, suspended racing and provided extra water and their emergency rudder. Tiburon is in the process of finalizing their alternative method of steering. They anticipate continuing to sail under a double headsail rig with the their alternative steering system. Morale on-board is reported to be good, there are no injuries, and they have adequate food and water for their remaining passage. The Yellowbrick tracking data suggests that Tiburon can now hold a course in the direction of Hawaii.

Many of those who drove north of the rhumb line have now gybed over onto port and are close to their heading for the finish. The fleet is now spread out over 450nm from north to south and the leaderboard has once again seen some changes.

Snafu in the ‘Iwi Division appears to have a firm hold on the lead with only Blade Runner and Green Buffalo in striking distance. Wolfpack has a similar grip in the Kolea Division, again posting a remarkable 219nm day. Thirsty is the only other boat in this division with a shot.

California Girl has wrestled the lead away from sister-ship Azure by a slim margin – watch for these two to swap the lead all the way to the finish. Both of these boats trail Green Buffalo for the Cal 40 One-Design trophy, and collectively they are currently in 3rd, 4th, and 5th positions in the PHRF Rating Division.

Sweet Okole continues to lead the Weems & Plath Division, and Free Bowl of Soup will need magic to catch them. Time is running out for Encore to overtake Por Favor in the Matson Division and the rest of the group is not a threat.

Hamachi has solidified her lead in the competitive Sonnen BMW Division, moving into 4th in the ORR Rating Group and 7th overall. Swazik and Surprise are pressing hard but may not have enough time to reel Hamachi in before the finish.

In the Latitude 38 Division, Scarlett Runner has a bowsprit-length lead over Pyewacket, but this race is far from over – both are extremely well sailed boats, so watch for many lead changes here. Invisible Hand will likely be first to finish, overtaking Venture in the last 200nm.

Access to the tracker is provided on PacificCup.org.

Navionics SonarCharts, now via SonarPhone or GPX file, plus the Lowrance autopilot

Sail Feed - Thu, 2014-07-17 17:00

Written by Ben Ellison on Jul 17, 2014 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub

Wow. Combining the Navionics Boating apps and the Vexilar SonarPhone WiFi fishfinder seems like an obvious development now, but there are so many marine electronics integration possibilities these days that even the ripe low-hanging fruit can be surprising. Announced yesterday at ICAST (PDF here) and available for iPhone/iPad in August (and Android later), the combined Navionics SonarPhone app means that a small boater can have a fairly sophisticated plotter/fishfinder for about $200, phone or tablet not included (and note the issue of screen visibility in an open boat). I was impressed with the SonarPhone bobber-style T-Pod in April and suspect that SP200 T-Box small boat model works even better. And there’s more: the users of this system can very easily contribute their sonar logs to Navionics’ SonarChart collection, which they can access (along with chart updates) with an additional $25 Navionics+ annual subscription.

I first mentioned nearly effortless Raymarine sonar log uploading when Navionics Boating 7.0 came out and then bragged about how neatly the data had come back to me as a SonarChart during a June shakedown cruise. The subject deserves more discussion. It helps, for instance, to see the before and after images that Navionics sent me after I uploaded a sonar log that included the Barred Island anchorage above. You can also see how the improved SonarChart next to the NOAA chart on the Raymarine gS12 here. I’m tickled that I was able to improve charting of that neat spot, but I must add that it seems like Navionics made a lot of soundings presumptions from just a track or two of my sonar. I also wonder where the heck all that other SonarChart detail comes from…

When SonarCharts first came out on Navionics+ cards last summer, I was somewhat disappointed because almost all the data seemed to be what Navionics used to call Fish’n’Chip, which I first saw in 2006, and not based on soundings recently collected by cruisers. I have no idea where the Fish’n’Chip data came from or how old it is — which is also the case with the “hi def” bathymetry offered by Garmin, Furuno, C-Map, etc. (I think). And when I looked at the SonarChart data for some difficult places I know firsthand, it didn’t look right. One spot I remember not liking is the Callabash River anchorage above, which is vaguely charted by NOAA and has confusing nav aids to boot. But I failed to take a screenshot last summer and when I just looked again, the SonarChart (above and live here) is looking like what I remember. In fact, it might have been updated with my data (you can see Gizmo’s 10/2012 track line on the inset NOAA chart).

At any rate, I recommend using SonarCharts carefully and wish they included some source/date info. It’s also telling that the chartplotters that can show SonarCharts do not overlay them with aids to navigation (as you can see on the Ray gS12 screen). I hope that will change but will certainly understand a prominent disclaimer about how the soundings are not official data.

Now let’s note that you don’t need the Navionics app and a tablet to upload sonar logs, and you don’t need a Raymarine MFD to create sonar logs either. On July 8th, Navionics announced that they are also accepting sonar logs in GPX and other formats used by Garmin, Simrad, Lowrance, and Humminbird. You upload them using a plain SD card (or Navionics card) and the Chart Installer software that will download under the Navionics website’s Downloads & Updates button. The screen shot above shows Chart Installer working with a Navionics+ card last summer when sonar logs were being beta tested (and were hard to set up). I’ve found Chart Installer to be a little flaky sometimes, but it is getting better and it’s generally pretty easy to upload sonar logs and/or update a card with an associated + subscription.

Using the Navionics Boating app with a Raymarine MFD is by far the easiest way to contribute sonar logs, but I’ve successfully tried the SD card method and also GPX files. One neat feature of the system is that once Navionics has checked out the file and added it to the SonarChart database, they sent a KMZ file of your track that opens Google Earth nicely. So the track above began after lunch on the day I’d already seen an improved SonarChart of Barred Island harbor, and this track’s data hopefully improved on what I’d already uploaded. I’m looking forward to collecting sonar logs and KMZ tracks as far as South Carolina this fall, and hoping that others will be doing the same before I get there.

Navionics is trail blazing crowd-sourced depth charting, but who will be surprised if other companies also make this possible? Actually Navico, who already offer the private Insight Genesis custom charting I tested a bit last summer, just announced a Social Map layer that sounds a lot like SonarCharts. It’s based on existing contour data with fresh user-collected soundings added by Insight users willing to share their data, and it can be viewed on Lowrance and Simrad MFDs. Judging from the NSS16 evo2 screen above, it also includes information on bottom composition. Meanwhile, Humminbird is out with its AutoChart system, which lets you make your own custom MFD charts at home, no subscription needed.

Mapmaking is particularly important to freshwater fishermen, and some of them want to keep the data to themselves, but maybe Humminbird will eventually allow the others to share with the world. And before I go, I’ve heard about a couple of other fishing-related electronics announcements at ICAST. Garmin announced a DownVü/SideVü thru-hull transducer to be shipped 3rd quarter, which can also be installed in a pair so most any big boat will be able to use the technology Bill Bishop told us about. And Lowrance announced an outboard autopilot that won’t be available until November but sounds intriguing. It can, for instance, switch from controlling an outboard to running a MotorGuide Xi5 Pinpoint electric-steer trolling motor, and as shown inset below it can do all sorts of automated maneuvers. Plus, it seems reasonable at $999 for the hydraulic model and $1,499 for cable steering, with Point 1 heading sensor included.

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ABANDONING BE GOOD TOO: The Skipper Responds to the Builder’s Response

Sail Feed - Thu, 2014-07-17 16:57

As many of you know, I served as crew on Be Good Too, the Alpha 42 catamaran that was abandoned approximately 300 miles east of Chesapeake Bay in January. I published an account of the episode here on WaveTrain (which was also syndicated on SAILfeed) and also wrote a feature story for SAIL Magazine. In May I also published, without comment, a response from Gregor Tarjan, president of Aeroyacht, builder of the Alpha catamaran. (Gregor’s statement was also published on SAILfeed.) Hank Schmitt (see photo up top), the paid skipper aboard Be Good Too, contacted me from Bermuda as soon as he read Gregor’s statement and asked if I would publish a response from him. Hank’s delivery schedule has now simmered down a bit and he found time this week to draft the following statement:

STATEMENT OF HANK SCHMITT, SKIPPER OF BE GOOD TOO

I have been very quiet over the last few months. Losing a new boat is never easy for anyone involved. Losing Hull # 1 of a promising new line of boats can be devastating to the owner of the boat, but even more so to the builder, whose reputation and livelihood could be at stake. However, the builder’s response on your blog, quoting me from an internal report to the insurance company, has eroded my well intentioned resolve to remain quiet, breaking the unspoken code of “Do no harm.”

If a delivery skipper ever has to leave a boat he can be thankful if the owner of the boat is aboard, and even more thankful if he has an experienced first mate, a skipper in his own right, who also happens to host a professional blog site. I was thus saved having to explain to the owner why we left his boat out at sea. I also did not have to repeat the story over and over to the many people who wanted to know what happened. The entire episode was chronicled on the Sailfeed.com blog detailing the cascading list of problems that resulted in the final decision to abandon the boat. For posterity there is a Coast Guard YouTube video that shows us being reeled us out of the ocean like dead fish. My post-abandonment week was simple. All I had to do was write up a report for the insurance company. As a final goodwill gesture I did meet with the builders at the factory. Charlie and I also wrote a “punch list” of concerns to address for future boats.

My two employers, the boat owner, and indirectly, the insurance company, were both satisfied and moved on. The owner bought a used catamaran in the Med and has plans to sail her to the Caribbean. I was content to ignore the “armchair sailors” and let them rant if it makes them feel like better sailors. However, when the owner of Aeroyacht decided he needed a scapegoat, he made a foolish move in writing without consulting the person who best knew what went wrong. He either forgets, or does not care to remember, that we had the services of a weather router that gave us the OK to depart. We had a Spot tracker recording our route. The insurance company paid off because of the rogue wave that bent the rudders. The USGC found no fault with the crew’s decisions. That should have been enough said, but since the builder felt his entire future hinged on the loss of hull # 1, he had to find someone to blame.

This was not my first delivery south. In fact it was my third trip of this past 2013/2014 season. In November I made my 14th annual passage south in the NARC Rally (North American Rally to the Caribbean), skippering a Swan 46. In December I replaced a skipper with a sick pet who declined to deliver an Outbound 52 to St. Thomas.

This was also not my first delivery south in the winter. Three of the past four years I have departed with a boat after Christmas. It is called making a living. Delivery skippers are hired to move a boat when the owner does not want to. Two years ago I departed December 27th on a Jeanneau 40 from Oyster Bay NY to the Panama Canal. That year we did sail offshore to Norfolk, inside the ICW for three days, then offshore to Miami, and then next stop Panama. The year before, it was another Swan 46 out of the Chesapeake. We had to clear the snow and the ice off the deck to get down the Chesapeake, but after that it was an easy passage. So two of these trips were offshore passages, and one was inside Cape Hatteras, since we were not going to the Leeward Islands, but rather to Panama in the Western Caribbean. It is a fact that many delivery crews find better weather in December and January than in November since things by then have settled down some.

I have over 200,000 miles at sea. I have sailed a 39-foot catamaran from South Africa to Grenada and did a solo-Transat to Europe in 1992. I have also spent many months working offshore in the North Atlantic. I saw my first 50-foot winter wave in 1979 when I was working aboard one of five oil rigs drilling south of Long Island, NY. I also commercial fished out of Montauk, NY between October and April each winter for three years from 1990 to 1994. We would go out three-handed on an 81-foot longliner for 10 days. In November and early December we would wait for a winter gale to go by, steam out to the sea-mounts South or East of Montauk, and fish for three days before the next gale. When winds got over 30 knots with 12- to 15-foot seas, we would lay ahull and catch up on sleep and watch videos or read until it calmed down enough to fish for three more days. Then we would try and get into port before the next gale and last call at the Liar’s Saloon. So when the builder and armchair sailors say we did not know what we were doing at this time of year, I can only reply that I have spent many more months at sea in the North Atlantic than most sailors.

Track of Be Good Too

When one departs from Chesapeake Bay in winter heading to the Caribbean, there is a well-known phrase that says “go East until the butter melts and then head South.” With my previous delivery in December and with the Swan 46 fours years ago out of the Chesapeake, I did just that and sailed East for three or four days to a waypoint just Southwest of Bermuda. Then one heads south to look for the Easterly tradewinds that take you to the Caribbean on a beam reach. I take the time to explain this, because it was suggested that we should not have turned East once we were abeam of Chesapeake Bay. We had made decent progress down the Jersey Coast and were pretty far offshore, with a Southerly breeze forecast to hold. It was a good time to scoot across the Gulf Steam quickly on a reach. We would continue East for two or three days until the butter at least thawed. Anyone suggesting a course down the coast in winter and then trying to get to the Caribbean from points south of Cape Hatteras has never made the trip at this time of year.

Now is also a good time to explain a little about the boat delivery business. In this business it is normal to step aboard a new boat to deliver her as the builder is stepping off. Twice I have moved aboard a boat the same day the factory crew moved off.

Many people get a captain’s license, which is easy to do in the United States, and make some extra money doing deliveries. Anyone can deliver a boat when the weather is right and the boat is in good working order. Where we earn our money is by moving boats at the wrong time of year and when the boat has issues. There is a short migration window when boats get moved, followed by long periods when it is either hurricane season or when no one wants the boat moved because it is the middle of the winter or the middle of the summer when boats stay put.

In our case, the builder in his statement kept mentioning that the crew was on a tight schedule. The only deadline I had to cope with was a self-imposed deadline to meet a flight I booked for 12 days after we departed. I often buy my return plane ticket before I depart because I have found that you can save the owner some money by buying a ticket in advance rather than buying a ticket a day or two before your flight and that owners appreciate when you treat their money like your own. Neither Charlie nor the owner had a deadline. Losing a $250 plane ticket does not dictate a tight schedule.

1) TESTING

The boat was months past its original delivery date. The owner had flown out twice to take possession of the boat and had to stay in a hotel and then fly back home to reschedule again. The builder may like to remember that he took the boat out on many sea trials, but every time I saw the boat in December she was covered in snow and was still being built. This is normal with new boats and especially new designs. The three times I have flown to Europe or South Africa to pick up new boats they were always at least a week late. There is not much one can do.

While it is easier to stay “casual” while still at home (which was the case for me here, since I live in Long Island), the owner was not near his home. I have found even when you are in another country and the boat is not ready, it is best to stay “casual,” not get upset, and stay out of the way so the builder can complete the boat. Jumping up and down and getting “non-casual” does not work and only delays the workers since they want to show you who is boss.

The builder’s description of his big sea trial makes it sound like they went all the way around Long Island, but they in fact went around less than half the island, from Moriches Inlet to Port Jefferson around Montauk. A three-day sea trial. Here is what Gregor said about the test sail:

“Alpha Yachts tested the boat for weeks before handover. On the final test I, personally, sailed the boat under very harsh conditions by sailing it shorthanded, counterclockwise around Long Island in blizzard conditions. Outside temp’s averaged -20 Fahrenheit (-28 Celsius) winds were up to 40 knots and (short) seas about 10′ high. My plan was to test to the breaking point. A constant sheet of inch-thick ice covered the deck and at one point the boat was buried under 30″ of snow. The generator, engines and all the systems ran, non-stop, for 14 days to avoid freezing and becoming inoperable. Every system worked flawlessly.”

From this paragraph one would believe that the builder sailed the boat for a couple of weeks rather than two or three days on this first passage for the boat outside of Great South Bay. I have no doubt it felt like 20 degrees below zero as they sailed around Montauk between Christmas and New Year. But to then add the boat performed flawlessly, coupled with this description of the temperatures and the seas, is, to put it mildly, incredulous. No hull number one, five to nine months behind on delivery, on her first winter passage, performs flawlessly. In fact, he then states:

“There were issues: minor leaks (not dribbles) appeared through the seals of the saloon windows, emergency hatch seals, forward deck hatch seals and forward starboard to crossbeam attachment.”

Flawless, to him, does not mean she was not leaking in a number of places, by his own admission. How he thinks these leaks were dealt with in Port Jefferson in freezing conditions with a few tubes of caulk is questionable.

And if the boat was flawless why would he add:

“Subsequently boats to be delivered this year by the builder have been altered to eliminate these shortcomings. When I short-stopped in Port Jefferson, NY, all these issues were attended to so that I felt secure to continue the test and hand over the boat to the new owners in New Jersey”.

Since we know that caulk does not set in freezing temperatures, we must conclude that the boat still had leaks from all the above mentioned by the builder. The last thing that was installed by the builder was a manual bilge pump in the center of the boat with a 30-foot hose to reach any compartment in the boat. This pump got a lot of use on our trip south after the bilge pumps did not work correctly and would not shut off. Instead we had to use the manual pump for all four holds, the two engine compartments and the two main hulls.

The builder ends his post by stating that he thinks the boat will become a home to a Portuguese fisherman on the other side of the Atlantic. Charlie and I were sure that there was no need to scuttle the boat as a hazard to navigation since she would sink on her own if we were not there to bail. I am sure she would be home for fish well before she would have a chance of making it across the Atlantic to be a home for a fisherman. The insurance company did fly a plane out to look for the boat shortly after we left it. Even though they had our Spot tracking positions, which were less than 24 hours old, they were not able to find the boat. In addition to the leaks, there was ingress from bilge-pump outlets that had no vented loop or rise in the hose to stop water from coming in. Many multihulls drain water above the waterline without a shut-off valve. Water splashes in and once the hull sits down even a few inches the water comes in faster with each wave. Sink a little lower and water will flood right in.

While on the subject of EPIRBs and Spot trackers, the builder looks to some sort of conspiracy as to why we did not leave the EBIRB or Spot tracker onboard. Before we left the boat we asked the Coast Guard about leaving the EPIRB in the on position, but they told us to take it with us. When you have a captain’s license and the Coast Guard tells you to not leave the EBIRB on the boat, that is an order and you do as you are told. As for the Spot tracker, Gregor is not familiar with how they work. If you are not there to punch a button once every 24 hours they stop working, so leaving the Spot on board would not have done any good. If Gregor had simply asked us about the EBIRB and Spot tracker, we could have told him why they were not left aboard instead of him thinking there was some sinister plot to sink his boat. Also, we were not sure what the insurance company would have to say if we had scuttled the boat and they wanted to try and retrieve it. As it turned out, they did try.

2) SCHEDULE

I have already talked about Scheduling. We had a weather window from a well-known weather router. No one was disputing this as we left the builder and team at the dock in New Jersey. Too often people wait for the perfect weather window, which means that you are motoring for the first two or three days and then are low on fuel.

Catamarans do not have two things: gimbaled stoves and big fuel tanks. Although we did carry 4 extra fuel jugs, we did not have enough fuel to run both engines for more than two days at full throttle. Since the boat only had 30 HP engines, we had to run the engines at a full 3000 rpms to get us near cruising speed. Of course, when making long ocean passages on a cat it is customary to run one engine at slower rpms to try and extend your range and to have charging capability for your batteries for the entire passage. This was the main reason we were a little behind the weather router’s projected plot, since we were doing closer to 5 knots under power than the assumed 7 knots.

3) PREPARATION

Gregor states that he knew the inventory of the boat, and this was true. The owner had been to the boat more than once to take possession of it. Since she was so far behind schedule they could not load the boat, since it was still being built and the owner’s gear would be in the way. So when they were finally getting near delivery, Gregor decided to make the test run on the trip to deliver the boat to the owner outside of NY waters. This meant that Gregor had no choice but to load the owner’s gear from his sheds and office onto the boat.

Many new boats are delivered from factories to charter companies and new owners many miles from where they are built. Often the delivery skipper will only have the tools that he brings and little else, as the boat manufacturer does not sell boats with spares and tools. If the skipper is flying to the boat, he will have even fewer tools, unless the owner has authorized him to buy tools, which in many cases is not practical or affordable. Unless you are going to be doing major engine repair, there are not a lot of tools you need.

In this case, if I had foresight, I would have thanked Gregor for recommending that we take a battery-operated saws-all with spare batteries and a 12-pound sledge hammer. That is what we needed to cut away and jettison the bent and useless rudders so we might be able to get some control over the boat. Criticizing the crew for not have enough tools on a new boat is like blaming smokejumpers for arriving on scene with just a shovel and an axe. I did buy a bosun’s chair and a few other items for the owner before we left, unknown to Gregor, but then again he did not ask before writing his rebuttal.

3) JIB LEAD

Two things should look very funny here. The builder admits the boat was already five months late. On his test sail, two days before delivery, he discovered that the single Jib Sheet Block had a bad lead and would not last in a blow. So picture this: we are at Liberty Landing Marina in January and the owner has flown in for a third time. Gregor now says we should wait another week for a single Jib Sheet Lead from Selden. The owner can A) Fly back home for a week or more and wait for the block while paying transient dock fees. Or B) Stay in a hotel while they finish the boat and pay transient dock fees.

I am a rigger by trade and any sailor with any idea of Jib sheets and leads and how they control a boat can rig a new set when a single block fails. As seen in the picture on the Sailfeed Blog, we rigged a system superior to what was provided. What we needed was a set of barber haulers to have full control of the jib clew position to help us steer the boat. We needed to be able to backwind the jib well beyond the allowance of the short self-tacking track. So not only was this block not needed, but we had a better jury rig to try and get steerage.

The jury-rigged jib-sheet system with barber-haulers

The second thing that should jump out at you is that the builder contends that we were sailing too slow and should have been sailing faster, as he writes:

“Theoretically, because of the jury rig of the jib, the boat could not sail efficiently under the main alone. Had the boat been sailed with a proper jib lead and double reefed main, she could have been sailed with more speed up the wave face. Since she was slow (the skipper estimates 4-6 KNOTS) although I guess much slower, the boat was easily shoved backwards by the large rogue wave that hit them squarely. The disastrous effect was purely a matter of seamanship”

Here Gregor is making the mistake of believing his own marketing ideas. He suggests that if we were sailing faster into the waves then his “wave piercing” bows would have pushed us through the wave and we would not have been pushed backwards. If you ask me, a boxer stepping into a left hook is much worse off than one stepping away from that same left hook. Why he disparages the seamanship of the crew and suggests we should have had more sail up and been going faster is something I do not understand. Most experienced sailors would want to slow the boat down in bad weather, not sail faster upwind into the waves. It is his belief we should have been going faster so we would have walked into that left hook of a rogue wave.

We have all experienced rogue waves. You might have been sailing along on a near beam reach and suddenly get slapped square by a wave two feet higher than the rest. The wave slaps the hull at a different angle, and a small deluge of water wets the crew sitting in the cockpit. Everyone looks at each other and says: “Where did that come from?” Well imagine a wave also bigger than the rest and just out of sync enough in direction to lift up the bows of this 42-foot cat, exposing the bottom square-footage to the wave as the bow climbs and the wave washes over the boat and punches her backwards. A hit big enough to blow out a thick teak seat at deck level having climbed up the steps of the transom. This was not a teak step down at the bottom of the steps, but a strong thick teak seat at deck level.

Missing teak seat/step after the wave hit

In Charlie’s article in SAIL magazine Charlie says:

“There was a horrendous explosion and water fired-hosed into the cabin all around the edges of the window frames. A large piece of trim was blown right off a central vertical frame, but the windows, thankfully, held up. The enormous impact stopped the boat, which had been moving forward at 4 or 5 knots, dead in its tracks and even seemed to back us up a bit. A counter-wave surged up our stern and (as we later noticed) blew a large teak step right off its mounting posts.”

Why Gregor wanted us to have more jib up and to be moving faster into this wave is something I cannot answer. Past experience would dictate to most sailors to slow down. Some armchair sailors suggested deploying a drogue or sea anchor to help slow us down or stop the boat. Proper seamanship would be to slow down in bigger seas and not go faster as Gregor admonished us to do. (The use of drogues and sea anchors are a whole other chapter into themselves. Most new boats do not carry them and most delivery skippers never deploy them as they want to be more proactive and do not want to stop.)

4) RUDDER CONSTRUCTION

The builder spends a lot of time on the rudders. After all, they are the reason that we could only sail (or motor) in circles. The loss of the rudders was the problem. Everything else we could deal with. We spent two days after “the wave” making progress when the conditions were optimum to move. We could make progress when the wind was blowing over 25 knots sailing on a close reach only. At any other time we could not make progress. Since we could not steer an accurate course towards Bermuda, a very small target in the Atlantic with no ocean-towing services, we ruled that out. The next option was to recross the Gulf Steam, heading north to Long Island at 280 miles away, or heading West 300 miles to Cape Hatteras. Since we could only sail at less than two knots on a close reach, we would not have been able to make enough speed to get across the Gulf Steam. We also knew we could not count on the perfect wind direction for any length of time to get us across the Stream and to land. With no steerage and a southerly breeze blowing us north, we only had another day before we would be blown back into the Gulf Stream, which would then take us on a quick ride towards Europe.

Gregor writes in his statement:

“Edson suggested two types: one with two locking bolts which affixed the rudder stock to the tiller arm, the other with a single smaller bolt and a key as is traditionally seen. The builder opted for the twin bolt set-up.”

and

“The rudder post is locked to the tiller arm by the use of two 3/8″ threaded bolts (not set screws, as they were identified in the article) with a 3/4″ bury that act as a lock, but also serve as a safety mechanism in case the boat is pushed backwards, so they could theoretically shear and leave the rudder undamaged.”

I got pretty intimate with the separated tiller arm and rudder post spending several hours in the steering flat wrestling with an allen wrench, rubber mallet and spinning rudderpost articulating to scissor off fingers or worse. Be Good Too did have one 3/8″ bolt on the back of the tiller arm to tighten and compress the tiller arm to the rudder post, but this does not go through the rudder post. The ¾” bury that he is talking about was a small set screw sunk two threads into a hole drilled into the rudder stock. It was neither a ¾ set screw, nor buried ¾ of an inch. There are two pictures on Charlie’s blog that show the starboard rudderpost connection that has the one 3/8″ bolt on the back of the tiller arm. The repaired allen wrench photo shows that we had a good fixed solid ferrous piece through the hole connecting the tiller arm to the rudder post, but not before.

Damaged port-side rudderstock/tiller-arm connection before repairs

And after repairs

When we finally got the tiller arm and rudder post to line up, we thought we were good to go. After one last circle under sail, we realized that the rudder must be permanently bent and we were out of options. The missing picture that Charlie chose not to print shows the small set screw broken off at two threads that was all that was holding the tiller arm to the post other than the 3/8 bolt on the back of the arm, which pinches the metal around the rudder stock, but does not go through the rudder stock. A picture is worth a thousand words, so if Charlie wishes to print the picture he has showing me holding the broken set screw, we can say case closed on this issue. If Charlie wished to save builder further embarrassment by not printing the picture I can also understand that.

5) SAIL TRIM AND STEERING A BOAT

Almost anyone who sailed as a child spent time steering a boat without a rudder. In 1977 in the SORC when the boat I was on broke its steering cables rounding the mark north of Bimini in the dark and was drifting towards the reefs, I advised against taking the sails down. As the rest of the crew worked to get the emergency steering arm in place with the binnacle in the way, I was able to turn the boat back on course using the sails until we got sorted out. In 28 years of delivering boats I have had steering failures 7 times and on one delivery spent 5 days under emergency steering. Another time it was 8 days on emergency steering, on a center cockpit boat no less. Boat owners much prefer if you can get the boat home rather than leave her in a foreign port to get expensive repairs while paying dockage fees. It also saves the owner paying travel time for another crew.

I have also been dismasted twice (never on a client’s boat, both times on my own) more than 400 miles from land. In all cases, with seven steering problems and two dismastings, I got the boat to shore without assistance. I have been delivering boats long before there was GPS, long before autopilots were ubiquitous, long before charterplotters, long before SeaTow. There is not a lot you can tell me about getting a boat to its destination on her own that I don’t know. However, having severely bent rudders that will not let a boat steer under power or sail, when cutting the rudders away is the only option, is another story. To deliver a boat you need to keep the water out, keep the sails up and working, and have steerage. You do not need a motor, you only need enough water and food to survive, but if you cannot stay afloat, move or steer, the jig is up.

In the SAIL magazine article Charlie states: “I had sailed with Hank many times, but this was the first time I’d ever seen him rattled.” And yes, I was rattled, because I was the one at the wheel of the boat as we tried to regain control after the wave hit. After the first crash jibe I had her hard over to port, yet we turned around once more to starboard. Remember, this is a catamaran with two hulls. Common sense would dictate if you put full throttle on the starboard engine and turn to port then you will turn to port. I was rattled because we had lost control of the boat even with the starboard engine fully engaged and the wheel turned to help stay on course. When logic defies reason, you think voodoo, mysticism, and are rattled as in: “This does not compute.” I thus ran forward to get the main down before another crash jibe. We were to spend the next two days trying to find a solution to our steering issues

Also, this was a delivery in January. Not the perfect time of year, but it’s done a lot more than people realize. Do you think boats come off the assembly lines in South Africa or France or South Carolina and sit and wait for seasons to change before moving to the charter fleets? No, boats get finished every month of the year. Like new boats, trade-ins or recently sold boats have very little gear aboard, the old owner having taken it for their next boat or because they simply don’t want to give everything away. The new owner wants to work on the boat and outfit it in his own harbor and have his own team of workers. Often delivery skippers move newly purchased boats with little gear and used boats with long work lists that will be completed after the delivery to the new owner.

There are many reasons why a delivery skipper gets paid to move a boat, and most of the sailing public would not understand that we do not work in a perfect world and don’t have the luxury of charging an owner hundreds of dollars a day while waiting for a missing part and then waiting a week for another weather window. Armchair sailors are allowed their opinions and do their forensic work after the fact. Remarks should be tempered until facts are in from all sources, not just from a builder who is trying to protect his reputation. Also when something you read does not make sense, think about it and apply your own sailing knowledge and experience to a situation and follow your gut to not believe what does not seem right.

After we made landfall, courtesy of the USCG Helicopter ride, they asked permission to do a taped interview. We all agreed but were so boring that none of it even made the US Coast Guards video of the incident. In fact I was very surprised that the USCG sent a helicopter to get us. We had been told and were expecting a ship to be diverted to pick us up. Charlie and the owner were amused when I asked the Coast Guard for a ship heading West to the United States rather than take a long ride to Europe, and the Coast Guard was accommodating. However, at some point during the night they decided they wanted to send a helicopter and rescue swimmer to get us. Some people questioned why taxpayers should spend money to get sailors who went to sea in January. My response is that we were ready and willing to get off on a ship and not cost the US taxpayer anything.

Hank after getting pulled up into the helicopter

However, the Coast Guard likes to practice in real situations and the crew of the helicopter and the rescue swimmer were game on and very happy to be doing something. The PR guy at the base in North Carolina stated that their commander is very PR savvy and that is why they had footage of the rescue that many saw online. Like all Government agencies, the more they do the more funding they get the next year. So we can only surmise that they came by helicopter for the practice and for the PR. They did a great job and I respect the high skill level of everyone involved. One fact also missing in any media is that the owner and his wife had a party back in Germany after their rescue and they and their friends raised $10.000 and donated it to the Coast Guard Fund in NC. How often have you heard of that?

In closing, I wish Gregor and his company well. I live on Long Island and was proud to hear that we had boat building back on Long Island. I got involved because a surveyor friend was hired to oversee the building of the boat. I made several trips to see the boat and meet Gunther and tried to work with Gregor to do our usual professional job for his customer. Part of that is being there to answer questions and to help, but also to stay out of the way when you see they are still struggling to get the boat ready. The Alpha catamaran is a very strongly built boat. We were never in any danger at any time before or after the steering failure. I feel confident that Gregor will take the pages of recommendations that we gave him to heart. In my visit and debrief afterwards you could tell that Gregor was anxious to make the necessary changes to make sure their next boat and all boats afterwards are good boats. I wish them well.

If anyone wants to speak with me they are welcome to contact me. My number is 631-423-4988 and my e-mail address is offshorepassage@sprintmail.com.

Editor’s Note: As Hank notes, at the time of the incident I was sure Be Good Too would sink after we left her. Subsequently, I reviewed the boat’s construction specs and on seeing how much foam core is in the hull I thought she might well stay swamped on the surface. If so, I expected there was a good chance we’d hear of a sighting once yachts started moving from the Caribbean to Europe, but so far there have been no such reports.

ABANDONING BE GOOD TOO: The Skipper Responds to the Builder’s Response

Sail Feed - Thu, 2014-07-17 16:57

As many of you know, I served as crew on Be Good Too, the Alpha 42 catamaran that was abandoned approximately 300 miles east of Chesapeake Bay in January. I published an account of the episode here on WaveTrain (which was also syndicated on SAILfeed) and also wrote a feature story for SAIL Magazine. In May I also published, without comment, a response from Gregor Tarjan, president of Aeroyacht, builder of the Alpha catamaran. (Gregor’s statement was also published on SAILfeed.) Hank Schmitt (see photo up top), the paid skipper aboard Be Good Too, contacted me from Bermuda as soon as he read Gregor’s statement and asked if I would publish a response from him. Hank’s delivery schedule has now simmered down a bit and he found time this week to draft the following statement:

STATEMENT OF HANK SCHMITT, SKIPPER OF BE GOOD TOO

I have been very quiet over the last few months. Losing a new boat is never easy for anyone involved. Losing Hull # 1 of a promising new line of boats can be devastating to the owner of the boat, but even more so to the builder, whose reputation and livelihood could be at stake. However, the builder’s response on your blog, quoting me from an internal report to the insurance company, has eroded my well intentioned resolve to remain quiet, breaking the unspoken code of “Do no harm.”

If a delivery skipper ever has to leave a boat he can be thankful if the owner of the boat is aboard, and even more thankful if he has an experienced first mate, a skipper in his own right, who also happens to host a professional blog site. I was thus saved having to explain to the owner why we left his boat out at sea. I also did not have to repeat the story over and over to the many people who wanted to know what happened. The entire episode was chronicled on the Sailfeed.com blog detailing the cascading list of problems that resulted in the final decision to abandon the boat. For posterity there is a Coast Guard YouTube video that shows us being reeled us out of the ocean like dead fish. My post-abandonment week was simple. All I had to do was write up a report for the insurance company. As a final goodwill gesture I did meet with the builders at the factory. Charlie and I also wrote a “punch list” of concerns to address for future boats.

My two employers, the boat owner, and indirectly, the insurance company, were both satisfied and moved on. The owner bought a used catamaran in the Med and has plans to sail her to the Caribbean. I was content to ignore the “armchair sailors” and let them rant if it makes them feel like better sailors. However, when the owner of Aeroyacht decided he needed a scapegoat, he made a foolish move in writing without consulting the person who best knew what went wrong. He either forgets, or does not care to remember, that we had the services of a weather router that gave us the OK to depart. We had a Spot tracker recording our route. The insurance company paid off because of the rogue wave that bent the rudders. The USGC found no fault with the crew’s decisions. That should have been enough said, but since the builder felt his entire future hinged on the loss of hull # 1, he had to find someone to blame.

This was not my first delivery south. In fact it was my third trip of this past 2013/2014 season. In November I made my 14th annual passage south in the NARC Rally (North American Rally to the Caribbean), skippering a Swan 46. In December I replaced a skipper with a sick pet who declined to deliver an Outbound 52 to St. Thomas.

This was also not my first delivery south in the winter. Three of the past four years I have departed with a boat after Christmas. It is called making a living. Delivery skippers are hired to move a boat when the owner does not want to. Two years ago I departed December 27th on a Jeanneau 40 from Oyster Bay NY to the Panama Canal. That year we did sail offshore to Norfolk, inside the ICW for three days, then offshore to Miami, and then next stop Panama. The year before, it was another Swan 46 out of the Chesapeake. We had to clear the snow and the ice off the deck to get down the Chesapeake, but after that it was an easy passage. So two of these trips were offshore passages, and one was inside Cape Hatteras, since we were not going to the Leeward Islands, but rather to Panama in the Western Caribbean. It is a fact that many delivery crews find better weather in December and January than in November since things by then have settled down some.

I have over 200,000 miles at sea. I have sailed a 39-foot catamaran from South Africa to Grenada and did a solo-Transat to Europe in 1992. I have also spent many months working offshore in the North Atlantic. I saw my first 50-foot winter wave in 1979 when I was working aboard one of five oil rigs drilling south of Long Island, NY. I also commercial fished out of Montauk, NY between October and April each winter for three years from 1990 to 1994. We would go out three-handed on an 81-foot longliner for 10 days. In November and early December we would wait for a winter gale to go by, steam out to the sea-mounts South or East of Montauk, and fish for three days before the next gale. When winds got over 30 knots with 12- to 15-foot seas, we would lay ahull and catch up on sleep and watch videos or read until it calmed down enough to fish for three more days. Then we would try and get into port before the next gale and last call at the Liar’s Saloon. So when the builder and armchair sailors say we did not know what we were doing at this time of year, I can only reply that I have spent many more months at sea in the North Atlantic than most sailors.

Track of Be Good Too

When one departs from Chesapeake Bay in winter heading to the Caribbean, there is a well-known phrase that says “go East until the butter melts and then head South.” With my previous delivery in December and with the Swan 46 fours years ago out of the Chesapeake, I did just that and sailed East for three or four days to a waypoint just Southwest of Bermuda. Then one heads south to look for the Easterly tradewinds that take you to the Caribbean on a beam reach. I take the time to explain this, because it was suggested that we should not have turned East once we were abeam of Chesapeake Bay. We had made decent progress down the Jersey Coast and were pretty far offshore, with a Southerly breeze forecast to hold. It was a good time to scoot across the Gulf Steam quickly on a reach. We would continue East for two or three days until the butter at least thawed. Anyone suggesting a course down the coast in winter and then trying to get to the Caribbean from points south of Cape Hatteras has never made the trip at this time of year.

Now is also a good time to explain a little about the boat delivery business. In this business it is normal to step aboard a new boat to deliver her as the builder is stepping off. Twice I have moved aboard a boat the same day the factory crew moved off.

Many people get a captain’s license, which is easy to do in the United States, and make some extra money doing deliveries. Anyone can deliver a boat when the weather is right and the boat is in good working order. Where we earn our money is by moving boats at the wrong time of year and when the boat has issues. There is a short migration window when boats get moved, followed by long periods when it is either hurricane season or when no one wants the boat moved because it is the middle of the winter or the middle of the summer when boats stay put.

In our case, the builder in his statement kept mentioning that the crew was on a tight schedule. The only deadline I had to cope with was a self-imposed deadline to meet a flight I booked for 12 days after we departed. I often buy my return plane ticket before I depart because I have found that you can save the owner some money by buying a ticket in advance rather than buying a ticket a day or two before your flight and that owners appreciate when you treat their money like your own. Neither Charlie nor the owner had a deadline. Losing a $250 plane ticket does not dictate a tight schedule.

1) TESTING

The boat was months past its original delivery date. The owner had flown out twice to take possession of the boat and had to stay in a hotel and then fly back home to reschedule again. The builder may like to remember that he took the boat out on many sea trials, but every time I saw the boat in December she was covered in snow and was still being built. This is normal with new boats and especially new designs. The three times I have flown to Europe or South Africa to pick up new boats they were always at least a week late. There is not much one can do.

While it is easier to stay “casual” while still at home (which was the case for me here, since I live in Long Island), the owner was not near his home. I have found even when you are in another country and the boat is not ready, it is best to stay “casual,” not get upset, and stay out of the way so the builder can complete the boat. Jumping up and down and getting “non-casual” does not work and only delays the workers since they want to show you who is boss.

The builder’s description of his big sea trial makes it sound like they went all the way around Long Island, but they in fact went around less than half the island, from Moriches Inlet to Port Jefferson around Montauk. A three-day sea trial. Here is what Gregor said about the test sail:

“Alpha Yachts tested the boat for weeks before handover. On the final test I, personally, sailed the boat under very harsh conditions by sailing it shorthanded, counterclockwise around Long Island in blizzard conditions. Outside temp’s averaged -20 Fahrenheit (-28 Celsius) winds were up to 40 knots and (short) seas about 10′ high. My plan was to test to the breaking point. A constant sheet of inch-thick ice covered the deck and at one point the boat was buried under 30″ of snow. The generator, engines and all the systems ran, non-stop, for 14 days to avoid freezing and becoming inoperable. Every system worked flawlessly.”

From this paragraph one would believe that the builder sailed the boat for a couple of weeks rather than two or three days on this first passage for the boat outside of Great South Bay. I have no doubt it felt like 20 degrees below zero as they sailed around Montauk between Christmas and New Year. But to then add the boat performed flawlessly, coupled with this description of the temperatures and the seas, is, to put it mildly, incredulous. No hull number one, five to nine months behind on delivery, on her first winter passage, performs flawlessly. In fact, he then states:

“There were issues: minor leaks (not dribbles) appeared through the seals of the saloon windows, emergency hatch seals, forward deck hatch seals and forward starboard to crossbeam attachment.”

Flawless, to him, does not mean she was not leaking in a number of places, by his own admission. How he thinks these leaks were dealt with in Port Jefferson in freezing conditions with a few tubes of caulk is questionable.

And if the boat was flawless why would he add:

“Subsequently boats to be delivered this year by the builder have been altered to eliminate these shortcomings. When I short-stopped in Port Jefferson, NY, all these issues were attended to so that I felt secure to continue the test and hand over the boat to the new owners in New Jersey”.

Since we know that caulk does not set in freezing temperatures, we must conclude that the boat still had leaks from all the above mentioned by the builder. The last thing that was installed by the builder was a manual bilge pump in the center of the boat with a 30-foot hose to reach any compartment in the boat. This pump got a lot of use on our trip south after the bilge pumps did not work correctly and would not shut off. Instead we had to use the manual pump for all four holds, the two engine compartments and the two main hulls.

The builder ends his post by stating that he thinks the boat will become a home to a Portuguese fisherman on the other side of the Atlantic. Charlie and I were sure that there was no need to scuttle the boat as a hazard to navigation since she would sink on her own if we were not there to bail. I am sure she would be home for fish well before she would have a chance of making it across the Atlantic to be a home for a fisherman. The insurance company did fly a plane out to look for the boat shortly after we left it. Even though they had our Spot tracking positions, which were less than 24 hours old, they were not able to find the boat. In addition to the leaks, there was ingress from bilge-pump outlets that had no vented loop or rise in the hose to stop water from coming in. Many multihulls drain water above the waterline without a shut-off valve. Water splashes in and once the hull sits down even a few inches the water comes in faster with each wave. Sink a little lower and water will flood right in.

While on the subject of EPIRBs and Spot trackers, the builder looks to some sort of conspiracy as to why we did not leave the EBIRB or Spot tracker onboard. Before we left the boat we asked the Coast Guard about leaving the EPIRB in the on position, but they told us to take it with us. When you have a captain’s license and the Coast Guard tells you to not leave the EBIRB on the boat, that is an order and you do as you are told. As for the Spot tracker, Gregor is not familiar with how they work. If you are not there to punch a button once every 24 hours they stop working, so leaving the Spot on board would not have done any good. If Gregor had simply asked us about the EBIRB and Spot tracker, we could have told him why they were not left aboard instead of him thinking there was some sinister plot to sink his boat. Also, we were not sure what the insurance company would have to say if we had scuttled the boat and they wanted to try and retrieve it. As it turned out, they did try.

2) SCHEDULE

I have already talked about Scheduling. We had a weather window from a well-known weather router. No one was disputing this as we left the builder and team at the dock in New Jersey. Too often people wait for the perfect weather window, which means that you are motoring for the first two or three days and then are low on fuel.

Catamarans do not have two things: gimbaled stoves and big fuel tanks. Although we did carry 4 extra fuel jugs, we did not have enough fuel to run both engines for more than two days at full throttle. Since the boat only had 30 HP engines, we had to run the engines at a full 3000 rpms to get us near cruising speed. Of course, when making long ocean passages on a cat it is customary to run one engine at slower rpms to try and extend your range and to have charging capability for your batteries for the entire passage. This was the main reason we were a little behind the weather router’s projected plot, since we were doing closer to 5 knots under power than the assumed 7 knots.

3) PREPARATION

Gregor states that he knew the inventory of the boat, and this was true. The owner had been to the boat more than once to take possession of it. Since she was so far behind schedule they could not load the boat, since it was still being built and the owner’s gear would be in the way. So when they were finally getting near delivery, Gregor decided to make the test run on the trip to deliver the boat to the owner outside of NY waters. This meant that Gregor had no choice but to load the owner’s gear from his sheds and office onto the boat.

Many new boats are delivered from factories to charter companies and new owners many miles from where they are built. Often the delivery skipper will only have the tools that he brings and little else, as the boat manufacturer does not sell boats with spares and tools. If the skipper is flying to the boat, he will have even fewer tools, unless the owner has authorized him to buy tools, which in many cases is not practical or affordable. Unless you are going to be doing major engine repair, there are not a lot of tools you need.

In this case, if I had foresight, I would have thanked Gregor for recommending that we take a battery-operated saws-all with spare batteries and a 12-pound sledge hammer. That is what we needed to cut away and jettison the bent and useless rudders so we might be able to get some control over the boat. Criticizing the crew for not have enough tools on a new boat is like blaming smokejumpers for arriving on scene with just a shovel and an axe. I did buy a bosun’s chair and a few other items for the owner before we left, unknown to Gregor, but then again he did not ask before writing his rebuttal.

3) JIB LEAD

Two things should look very funny here. The builder admits the boat was already five months late. On his test sail, two days before delivery, he discovered that the single Jib Sheet Block had a bad lead and would not last in a blow. So picture this: we are at Liberty Landing Marina in January and the owner has flown in for a third time. Gregor now says we should wait another week for a single Jib Sheet Lead from Selden. The owner can A) Fly back home for a week or more and wait for the block while paying transient dock fees. Or B) Stay in a hotel while they finish the boat and pay transient dock fees.

I am a rigger by trade and any sailor with any idea of Jib sheets and leads and how they control a boat can rig a new set when a single block fails. As seen in the picture on the Sailfeed Blog, we rigged a system superior to what was provided. What we needed was a set of barber haulers to have full control of the jib clew position to help us steer the boat. We needed to be able to backwind the jib well beyond the allowance of the short self-tacking track. So not only was this block not needed, but we had a better jury rig to try and get steerage.

The jury-rigged jib-sheet system with barber-haulers

The second thing that should jump out at you is that the builder contends that we were sailing too slow and should have been sailing faster, as he writes:

“Theoretically, because of the jury rig of the jib, the boat could not sail efficiently under the main alone. Had the boat been sailed with a proper jib lead and double reefed main, she could have been sailed with more speed up the wave face. Since she was slow (the skipper estimates 4-6 KNOTS) although I guess much slower, the boat was easily shoved backwards by the large rogue wave that hit them squarely. The disastrous effect was purely a matter of seamanship”

Here Gregor is making the mistake of believing his own marketing ideas. He suggests that if we were sailing faster into the waves then his “wave piercing” bows would have pushed us through the wave and we would not have been pushed backwards. If you ask me, a boxer stepping into a left hook is much worse off than one stepping away from that same left hook. Why he disparages the seamanship of the crew and suggests we should have had more sail up and been going faster is something I do not understand. Most experienced sailors would want to slow the boat down in bad weather, not sail faster upwind into the waves. It is his belief we should have been going faster so we would have walked into that left hook of a rogue wave.

We have all experienced rogue waves. You might have been sailing along on a near beam reach and suddenly get slapped square by a wave two feet higher than the rest. The wave slaps the hull at a different angle, and a small deluge of water wets the crew sitting in the cockpit. Everyone looks at each other and says: “Where did that come from?” Well imagine a wave also bigger than the rest and just out of sync enough in direction to lift up the bows of this 42-foot cat, exposing the bottom square-footage to the wave as the bow climbs and the wave washes over the boat and punches her backwards. A hit big enough to blow out a thick teak seat at deck level having climbed up the steps of the transom. This was not a teak step down at the bottom of the steps, but a strong thick teak seat at deck level.

Missing teak seat/step after the wave hit

In Charlie’s article in SAIL magazine Charlie says:

“There was a horrendous explosion and water fired-hosed into the cabin all around the edges of the window frames. A large piece of trim was blown right off a central vertical frame, but the windows, thankfully, held up. The enormous impact stopped the boat, which had been moving forward at 4 or 5 knots, dead in its tracks and even seemed to back us up a bit. A counter-wave surged up our stern and (as we later noticed) blew a large teak step right off its mounting posts.”

Why Gregor wanted us to have more jib up and to be moving faster into this wave is something I cannot answer. Past experience would dictate to most sailors to slow down. Some armchair sailors suggested deploying a drogue or sea anchor to help slow us down or stop the boat. Proper seamanship would be to slow down in bigger seas and not go faster as Gregor admonished us to do. (The use of drogues and sea anchors are a whole other chapter into themselves. Most new boats do not carry them and most delivery skippers never deploy them as they want to be more proactive and do not want to stop.)

4) RUDDER CONSTRUCTION

The builder spends a lot of time on the rudders. After all, they are the reason that we could only sail (or motor) in circles. The loss of the rudders was the problem. Everything else we could deal with. We spent two days after “the wave” making progress when the conditions were optimum to move. We could make progress when the wind was blowing over 25 knots sailing on a close reach only. At any other time we could not make progress. Since we could not steer an accurate course towards Bermuda, a very small target in the Atlantic with no ocean-towing services, we ruled that out. The next option was to recross the Gulf Steam, heading north to Long Island at 280 miles away, or heading West 300 miles to Cape Hatteras. Since we could only sail at less than two knots on a close reach, we would not have been able to make enough speed to get across the Gulf Steam. We also knew we could not count on the perfect wind direction for any length of time to get us across the Stream and to land. With no steerage and a southerly breeze blowing us north, we only had another day before we would be blown back into the Gulf Stream, which would then take us on a quick ride towards Europe.

Gregor writes in his statement:

“Edson suggested two types: one with two locking bolts which affixed the rudder stock to the tiller arm, the other with a single smaller bolt and a key as is traditionally seen. The builder opted for the twin bolt set-up.”

and

“The rudder post is locked to the tiller arm by the use of two 3/8″ threaded bolts (not set screws, as they were identified in the article) with a 3/4″ bury that act as a lock, but also serve as a safety mechanism in case the boat is pushed backwards, so they could theoretically shear and leave the rudder undamaged.”

I got pretty intimate with the separated tiller arm and rudder post spending several hours in the steering flat wrestling with an allen wrench, rubber mallet and spinning rudderpost articulating to scissor off fingers or worse. Be Good Too did have one 3/8″ bolt on the back of the tiller arm to tighten and compress the tiller arm to the rudder post, but this does not go through the rudder post. The ¾” bury that he is talking about was a small set screw sunk two threads into a hole drilled into the rudder stock. It was neither a ¾ set screw, nor buried ¾ of an inch. There are two pictures on Charlie’s blog that show the starboard rudderpost connection that has the one 3/8″ bolt on the back of the tiller arm. The repaired allen wrench photo shows that we had a good fixed solid ferrous piece through the hole connecting the tiller arm to the rudder post, but not before.

Damaged port-side rudderstock/tiller-arm connection before repairs

And after repairs

When we finally got the tiller arm and rudder post to line up, we thought we were good to go. After one last circle under sail, we realized that the rudder must be permanently bent and we were out of options. The missing picture that Charlie chose not to print shows the small set screw broken off at two threads that was all that was holding the tiller arm to the post other than the 3/8 bolt on the back of the arm, which pinches the metal around the rudder stock, but does not go through the rudder stock. A picture is worth a thousand words, so if Charlie wishes to print the picture he has showing me holding the broken set screw, we can say case closed on this issue. If Charlie wished to save builder further embarrassment by not printing the picture I can also understand that.

5) SAIL TRIM AND STEERING A BOAT

Almost anyone who sailed as a child spent time steering a boat without a rudder. In 1977 in the SORC when the boat I was on broke its steering cables rounding the mark north of Bimini in the dark and was drifting towards the reefs, I advised against taking the sails down. As the rest of the crew worked to get the emergency steering arm in place with the binnacle in the way, I was able to turn the boat back on course using the sails until we got sorted out. In 28 years of delivering boats I have had steering failures 7 times and on one delivery spent 5 days under emergency steering. Another time it was 8 days on emergency steering, on a center cockpit boat no less. Boat owners much prefer if you can get the boat home rather than leave her in a foreign port to get expensive repairs while paying dockage fees. It also saves the owner paying travel time for another crew.

I have also been dismasted twice (never on a client’s boat, both times on my own) more than 400 miles from land. In all cases, with seven steering problems and two dismastings, I got the boat to shore without assistance. I have been delivering boats long before there was GPS, long before autopilots were ubiquitous, long before charterplotters, long before SeaTow. There is not a lot you can tell me about getting a boat to its destination on her own that I don’t know. However, having severely bent rudders that will not let a boat steer under power or sail, when cutting the rudders away is the only option, is another story. To deliver a boat you need to keep the water out, keep the sails up and working, and have steerage. You do not need a motor, you only need enough water and food to survive, but if you cannot stay afloat, move or steer, the jig is up.

In the SAIL magazine article Charlie states: “I had sailed with Hank many times, but this was the first time I’d ever seen him rattled.” And yes, I was rattled, because I was the one at the wheel of the boat as we tried to regain control after the wave hit. After the first crash jibe I had her hard over to port, yet we turned around once more to starboard. Remember, this is a catamaran with two hulls. Common sense would dictate if you put full throttle on the starboard engine and turn to port then you will turn to port. I was rattled because we had lost control of the boat even with the starboard engine fully engaged and the wheel turned to help stay on course. When logic defies reason, you think voodoo, mysticism, and are rattled as in: “This does not compute.” I thus ran forward to get the main down before another crash jibe. We were to spend the next two days trying to find a solution to our steering issues

Also, this was a delivery in January. Not the perfect time of year, but it’s done a lot more than people realize. Do you think boats come off the assembly lines in South Africa or France or South Carolina and sit and wait for seasons to change before moving to the charter fleets? No, boats get finished every month of the year. Like new boats, trade-ins or recently sold boats have very little gear aboard, the old owner having taken it for their next boat or because they simply don’t want to give everything away. The new owner wants to work on the boat and outfit it in his own harbor and have his own team of workers. Often delivery skippers move newly purchased boats with little gear and used boats with long work lists that will be completed after the delivery to the new owner.

There are many reasons why a delivery skipper gets paid to move a boat, and most of the sailing public would not understand that we do not work in a perfect world and don’t have the luxury of charging an owner hundreds of dollars a day while waiting for a missing part and then waiting a week for another weather window. Armchair sailors are allowed their opinions and do their forensic work after the fact. Remarks should be tempered until facts are in from all sources, not just from a builder who is trying to protect his reputation. Also when something you read does not make sense, think about it and apply your own sailing knowledge and experience to a situation and follow your gut to not believe what does not seem right.

After we made landfall, courtesy of the USCG Helicopter ride, they asked permission to do a taped interview. We all agreed but were so boring that none of it even made the US Coast Guards video of the incident. In fact I was very surprised that the USCG sent a helicopter to get us. We had been told and were expecting a ship to be diverted to pick us up. Charlie and the owner were amused when I asked the Coast Guard for a ship heading West to the United States rather than take a long ride to Europe, and the Coast Guard was accommodating. However, at some point during the night they decided they wanted to send a helicopter and rescue swimmer to get us. Some people questioned why taxpayers should spend money to get sailors who went to sea in January. My response is that we were ready and willing to get off on a ship and not cost the US taxpayer anything.

Hank after getting pulled up into the helicopter

However, the Coast Guard likes to practice in real situations and the crew of the helicopter and the rescue swimmer were game on and very happy to be doing something. The PR guy at the base in North Carolina stated that their commander is very PR savvy and that is why they had footage of the rescue that many saw online. Like all Government agencies, the more they do the more funding they get the next year. So we can only surmise that they came by helicopter for the practice and for the PR. They did a great job and I respect the high skill level of everyone involved. One fact also missing in any media is that the owner and his wife had a party back in Germany after their rescue and they and their friends raised $10.000 and donated it to the Coast Guard Fund in NC. How often have you heard of that?

In closing, I wish Gregor and his company well. I live on Long Island and was proud to hear that we had boat building back on Long Island. I got involved because a surveyor friend was hired to oversee the building of the boat. I made several trips to see the boat and meet Gunther and tried to work with Gregor to do our usual professional job for his customer. Part of that is being there to answer questions and to help, but also to stay out of the way when you see they are still struggling to get the boat ready. The Alpha catamaran is a very strongly built boat. We were never in any danger at any time before or after the steering failure. I feel confident that Gregor will take the pages of recommendations that we gave him to heart. In my visit and debrief afterwards you could tell that Gregor was anxious to make the necessary changes to make sure their next boat and all boats afterwards are good boats. I wish them well.

If anyone wants to speak with me they are welcome to contact me. My number is 631-423-4988 and my e-mail address is offshorepassage@sprintmail.com.

Editor’s Note: As Hank notes, at the time of the incident I was sure Be Good Too would sink after we left her. Subsequently, I reviewed the boat’s construction specs and on seeing how much foam core is in the hull I thought she might well stay swamped on the surface. If so, I expected there was a good chance we’d hear of a sighting once yachts started moving from the Caribbean to Europe, but so far there have been no such reports.

Big Tough Sailor

Sail Feed - Thu, 2014-07-17 12:55

Okay, maybe not that tough:

Manta Hits the Big Four-O

Sail Feed - Thu, 2014-07-17 12:16

By Kimball Livingston Posted July 17, 2014

There are huge differences between the formula classes and the one-design classes of landsailing.

Which doesn’t mean that there aren’t people who play both games.

It’s one thing to be a tinkerer and build a very-cool formula flyer, but hauling along a one-design yacht, when you head to the playa, means extra time sailing. And with something like the two-seat Manta—the Manta being the most popular class at the Landsailing World Championship this week at Smith Creek, Nevada—you can have your “cruise” time with a friend. Having been a passenger aboard a two-seat Manta with Bob Dill, past president of the North American Landsailing Association and one-time holder of the outright landsailing speed record, I can attest that there are plenty of thrills built into this visually-modest little ship. As the moment, pics of the single seater are easier to come by. This is racing at the Smith Creek Playa, and I note that unless there is a lot of dust blowing off the wheels, the camera just doesn’t show the speed . . .

And remember all that chatter about The Bear Away in the early days of America’s Cup 34? There was even one TV reporter who wanted to know why they didn’t just not do bear-away maneuvers. We won’t go there. But in a Manta as in an America’s Cup catamaran, there is that moment of truth when you want to get it right . . .

The price points are right. A new Manta single goes out the door of WindPower Sports for $1,825, the twin for $2,775. There’s a $190 ratchet block upgrade available for each, or choose beach tires at no extra cost. That’s it. That’s one-design sailing. WindPower Sports builds a range of items from kites to kite buggies to cross country mountainboards that can be used with or without a kite. Kids today, I tell ya.

But the landsailer had its peculiar origins four decades ago. I’ll let Russ Foster take it from here—

Adversity created popular 40 year-old one-design land yacht class

By Russ Foster, NALSA

The infamous 1973/74 Oil Embargo caused a big problem for Oakland, California-based hang glider manufacturers Alan Dimen and Russ Thompson. In late 1973, the shortages and rising prices of gasoline and the resulting uncertainty caused many customers to suddenly stop buying their popular Manta hang gliders.

Faced with rapidly-declining sales and a big stock of the aircraft tubing and parts used in the gliders, they needed a new product, and quickly!

Thus was born the Manta Winjammer land yacht, now commonly called the Manta Single. First produced in early 1974, it is arguably the oldest continuously-manufactured one-design land yacht in the world.

The aircraft-like quality of the Manta, with its light weight, portability, ruggedness, ease of use and reasonable cost made it popular from the outset. In the early days, hundreds were produced, and many were shipped to international customers.

The design celebrates its 40th anniversary this year and as featured as a one-design class at the FISLY-NALSA 14TH Landsailing World Championship (the Worlds) continuing through Saturday at Smith Creek Playa near the town of Austin in Northern Nevada. NALSA, the North American Land Sailing Association, is hosting the event and is the U.S. Affiliate of FISLY, the International Federation of Sand and Land Yachts, the world governing body for competitive land sailing. One design classes must adhere to strict “as-built-by-the-factory” specifications and emphasize sailor (pilot) ability, not experimental design. They are popular because the designs are constant, offer a pure test of sailing ability and do not create an expensive “arms race.”

While the Manta Single has enjoyed steady but moderate sales, its popular two-seater sibling, the Twinjammer (Manta Twin) introduced in 1976 and also a one-design, has outsold the Single by a 10-to-1 ratio for many years and regularly fields the largest fleets at U.S. landsailing regattas.

At the Worlds, Manta Singles and Twins both play important roles as charter yachts for international competitors who are unable to bring their own land yachts but want to sail in the regatta. The competition is fierce.

This Wednesday video from the Worlds shows a mix of formulas and one designs, plus a bit of Germany’s Frog Team that shipped its bus to Baltimore and then made a road trip of the 2014 Worlds adventure.

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