Feed aggregator

LIVE Podcast: Caribbean 1500 Mental Preparations

Sail Feed - Thu, 2014-10-30 23:06

Andy gives a seminar on Tuesday at the Caribbean 1500 on mentally preparing to go offshore. This is similar to the one that was up previously, but is specific to the Caribbean 1500 and more generally the route from the Chesapeake to the Caribbean, regardless of whether or not you’re with a rally. This was recorded at Roger Brown’s on High St. in Portsmouth during the pre-departure program in front of a live audience. Follow the 1500 on carib1500.com.

Direct download.

Preparing for Tropical Hallowe’en

Sail Feed - Thu, 2014-10-30 20:44

Sorry, no time to talk. It’s Hallowe’en, and I am trying to get ready. I have a very busy schedule of ordering/receiving proper treats from North America (check), making decorations (check), and explaining what Hallowe’en is to people who run the gamut from “oh, yeah, that’s an American thing,” to “never heard of it and why are you torturing that watermelon?” (ongoing).

Like all immigrants, I am appalled that my deeply cherished traditions are not immediately understood and embraced by my new land. It rocks me to my core that there are people out there who don’t understand Hallowe’en, best of all the holidays, night of imagination and unlimited chocolate. I would have thought that Hallowe’en was about as high-concept as a holiday could be: children become actual monsters to rule the night. Where is the confusion? Plus, Hallowe’en boasts more apostrophes than any other holiday, and that is just plain fun.

I have put my shock and dismay behind me and have moved on to Phase II of the Immigrant Holiday Experience: how do I adapt the crucial parts of my traditions to suit this new place? For example, what to do about a jack o’ lantern? (See, another apostrophe.) Pumpkins aren’t exactly thick on the ground, here.

As a public service, I hereby present this handy primer on celebrating Hallowe’en in the tropics:

How to Make A Watermelon Jack O’ Lantern

1. Grow a watermelon. Since seeds sprout even in the gravel here, that shouldn’t be any trouble. I found mine growing under the stairs.

2. Scoop it and drain it.

This watermelon was never going to stand up on its end, so I turned it on its side. It’s called being flexible, people, and it rules my life.

3. Save the tasty parts; toss the rest. Keep draining.

See that pool of water in the bottom? It is going to keep coming back. Watermelons are wet. (I’m just as surprised as you.)

4. Plan a face.
Adorable!

This part was easy. I’ve carved the same face on every jack o’ lantern I’ve made since 1985.

5. Alter the face slightly to irretrievably muck it up.
I just had to mess with that eye, didn’t I?

6. Stop to look out at the lovely view. Oh, it’s snowing where you are? Sorry (not sorry.) Let me ease your pain with a picture of my kids on a cold Hallowe’en many years ago.
Fake fur is essential for night-time trick-or-treating.

7. Drain the watermelon again. (Yes, I’m getting tired of it too, but at least this thing was 1000x easier to carve than a pumpkin. I think I could have managed it with a ballpoint pen.)

8. Insert lit candle.
Spoooookyyyyyyyyy!

And, you’re done!

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m a little concerned those mini chocolate bars might have gone funny in transit. I think I’d better test a couple of peanut butter cups just to be sure – for the sake of the children.

8+ at 93+

Sail Feed - Thu, 2014-10-30 16:25

Does anybody really think that America’s Cup 35 belongs anywhere but San Francisco Bay?

San Diego, a great sailor town, has released its final promotional video, as if Russell Coutts or anyone else in AC management could care.

Better San Diego than Bermuda, I’d say, but the phrase that jumps out at me is the enthusiastic promise of winds “over eight knots, 93 percent of the time.”

Yes, the next-generation cats will foil in that, but they won’t thunder, baby, they won’t thunder.

Tick, tick, tick: Time is running out until the start of the 25th Carib1500

Sail Feed - Wed, 2014-10-29 17:10

The weather at Ocean Marine has been downright summery. Temperatures touched 80º both yesterday and today. Despite some mid-afternoon clouds and the threat of rain, it’s cleared again this evening and the setting sun is casting a golden glow over the rally fleet.

Click here to see the gallery of photos from last night’s happy hour at Skipjack Nautical Wares.

“What a cool sight!” exclaimed onlookers walking by the docks and admiring the code flags on the boat’s that are ‘fully dressed’ in the marina. The atmosphere is certainly festive for the new arrivals. At least three boats checked in today, bringing the grand total to 31 of the 41 boats set to depart on Sunday. Despite the preparations, time is running out!

So what goes on during the hectic week leading up to the start of a long offshore voyage? Lyall Burgess and Pete Burch have been focusing on completing the safety inspections as efficiently as possible for those boats that have arrived early. This got off to a great start on Saturday, with Lone Star, the veteran ARC Rally participant, having the honor of the first safety check to get completed on the first try.

“While you can’t really ‘fail’ a safety check, oftentimes getting signed off requires a second or third visit to the boat,” said Peter Burch, longtime head inspector for the 1500 and experienced ocean sailor himself. “The first visit takes the longest. This is where we go over all the required safety equipment with the skipper and ensure everything is in order. We’ll also talk about how they might handle different emergency situations offshore. Many times we’ll come up with things people haven’t ever thought of.”

One example, and it’s a big one, is the liferaft requirement. In the past, we’ve had multihull owners insist that they didn’t need to carry a raft, as their foam-cored boats were ‘unsinkable.’ “That’s an easy one,” says Pete. “I just ask them what they’d do if they boat caught on fire 300 miles offshore and they were unable to put it out? That usually gets a big ‘Oh. I see.’ And the issue is solved.”

Most times, the re-checks take only a few minutes, as the items are usually small ones. Rigging jacklines, for example, or sticking retro-reflective tape on the MOB equipment.

The safety checks are central to the Caribbean 1500, and skippers are made aware of the required equipment well in advance. “It’s nothing that a properly outfitted ocean-going boat wouldn’t want to have onboard anyway,” continued Pete. “We’ve seen a lot of successful first and second-time checks this year, with very little major items missing, which is a sign that people are arriving prepared.”

But while most boats have arrived properly prepared, time is indeed running out as we pass the halfway point in the pre-departure program. The focus now shifts from outfitting the boat to provisioning food, refilling propane tanks, doing the last few loads of laundry, that sort of thing. 

Tensions are certainly rising around the docks as well, and there’s a definite spring in most people’s steps as they hurry around Portsmouth working down their every increasing checklists. It’s a classic axiom that a sailing boat is never truly ready to leave the dock, so the priority lists are getting re-arranged and the things not at the top, and not critical to the safety of the boat, simply won’t make the cut.

For some, life this week has been easy and stress free. Tom, Colin and crew aboard Corsair were looking mighty mellow, even as early as Monday afternoon.

“You guys look way too relaxed!” I remarked when I visited the gorgeous Bristol 57 on B dock that afternoon. The crew was lounging in the cockpit listening to orchestral music and reading, cool drinks not far from their reach. Corsair’s code flags were flying, the decks were sparkling and the crew was smiling. 

“We’ve been ready for a week!” Tom said. “All we’ve got to do is load up some food, do some laundry and leave the dock! It’s a nice feeling.”

Corsair, as it were, indeed was as ready as they felt, passing their safety inspection on the first go just like Lone Star, their neighbor on B dock. 

Corsair had spent nearly a month at Ocean Marine prior to this week’s pre-departure program getting some teak deck work done and finishing up any last major projects. Having the boat already in town certainly saved them some added stress of making the long passage down from New England, or the overnight sail down the Bay, as some other boats have had to contend with this week.

On the fun side of things, the events program has been a big hit, and a definite improvement on 2013, our first year in Portsmouth. The City hosted the Welcome Reception on Monday night at Griff’s on High Street. Nearly every participant that could have made the event was there, filling the room with laughter and storytelling while the beer and wine flowed from the bar. David Schulte, head of the City of Portmouth’s tourism department, hosted the event, alongside Jim Bento of Ocean Marine. 

Colonel Crawford, the ‘founder of Portsmouth,’ was along to greet folks through the door in full 18th century regalia, and introduced the 8-year-old Colin, who played a few numbers on his fiddle. Colin is a true prodigy. He got the crowd going with his version of the classic ‘Drunken Sailor’ chanty, then continued with a few bluegrass numbers and some traditional Scottish music, making the kilt he was wearing even more appropriate.

Wednesday was an off day on the program. Tomorrow Mike Meer of Port Annapolis Marina kicks off the day with his ‘Offshore Riggging’ seminar, followed by Davis Murray’s classic fishing talk. The evening will wind up with Davis and his steel-pan band playing a tribute night to Carib1500 founder Steve Black at Roger Brown’s.

Don’t forget to follow the hourly action at the 1500 on facebook.com/carib1500.

Android app with boat data: Memory Map Pro & Naviotab

Sail Feed - Tue, 2014-10-28 17:30

Written by Ben Ellison on Oct 28, 2014 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub

The partial screenshot above shows Gizmo in the BridgePointe Marina slip where she’ll likely spend the rest of 2014. I’m a bit sad about tying up long term, but also looking forward to the Fort Lauderdale Show and especially being back in Maine with my family for the holidays. And while I haven’t made winter plans yet, it will be nice to have the boat staged for further cruising, or at least repairs and projects afloat. But more relevant to this entry is the new version of Memory-Map that I tested during the trip down from Baltimore. I believe that it’s the first Android charting app that can integrate boat data like GPS, depth, wind, and AIS coming over WiFi…

Memory-Map is a good standalone charting app, as I detailed when their Android edition first came out in early 2012. Going down Chesapeake Bay I still would have had constant GPS plotting on a well-rendered NOAA raster chart as well as easy route making and the right data displays to follow one (even if I have more than a mile of X-Track error in this particular case). But isn’t the tablet a much better navigation tool when it also displays AIS targets, depth, and even the wind speed/direction that motivated me to alter course? On Gizmo it was relatively easy to add all this info as shown in the dialog boxes to the right. I simply set up a TCP/IP connection using the address and port # that’s listed in the setup software that comes with the Vesper XB8000 AIS transponder multiplexer under test. I could have the Nexus7 tablet talking directly to the Vesper’s WiFi, but a bonus feature of the latter is its ability to join an onboard network; thus, the tablet remains connected to the WiFi router named “M/V Gizmo (Ranger)” and if that’s online I can download charts to Memory-Map if needed, check the weather forecast, etc.

I know that many boaters roll their eyes when this stuff comes up, and I have to agree that an onboard LAN (Local Area Network) sometimes connected to a WAN (Wide Area Network — aka the Internet — via WiFi, cellular, or satellite comms) can be a bit daunting to all but IT experts. The benefits can be significant, though, and ways to make the boat-data-to-WiFi part work are proliferating. iNavX maintains a good list of NMEA 0183 & 2000 muliplexers and I’ve seen it and other iOS iPad apps work well with Simrad GoFree as well as the Vesper XB and Vision devices. But up until now I didn’t have an answer when people asked about an Android charting app that worked with boat data.

I don’t know if there’s something about Android that makes it harder to enable a WiFi data stream or it’s just that many more developers are working on iOS marine apps. The Android AIS app Boat Beacon can display a boat’s own AIS data (as well as Internet AIS), but the same developer’s SeaNav charting app is iOS only. So I think — corrections welcome — that Memory-Map is the first full nav app to integrate boat data and one immediate beneficiary is the Android-based Argonaut A615 Smart Monitor, which already shipped with Memory-Map, but now can be even more of a complete nav solution. Richard Stephens also sent along this image of a Sony Android SmartWatch displaying a notification generated by Memory-Map Pro running on a Bluetooth connected tablet. AIS targets can also trigger tablet and smart watch notifications, and the parameters can be set differently for Class A and B vessels, though I should note that in the iPad world SeaNav’s interface with the Pebble watch is at least as impressive.

The Memory-Map Mobile apps — besides Android, there’s also iOS and Windows Mobile versions — are “free” with large area topo maps but after the demo period it costs $10 per year to download their form of NOAA raster charts. These charts have always been fast acting and good looking, but are now even better at high zoom levels because they take full advantage of the 400 dpi (dots per inch) digital format NOAA moved to this year. I’ve appreciated the difference in my testing but Stephens sent the Camden Harbor comparison screenshot above made with the Memory-Map PC program that can be used in conjunction with the mobile apps. The new NMEA WiFi data connection is so far only in the Android app and does require a one-time Pro license costing $50.

While I also did a lot of radar and sonar testing on the way to New Bern — which you’ll be hearing about eventually — I spent further Android time with the Naviotab “Future of Marine Navigation” seen above. What seems to be happening here is that an established California “weather gadgets” distributor has sourced a high-spec IP67 waterproof Android tablet from China, which it’s marketing to boaters with a year warranty, tech support, bundled apps and appropriate accessories. One included app is Boat Beacon, seen above with the optional Naviotab mount. It’s great to see that this app and Marine Traffic both have much better online AIS coverage of this area than they did two years ago — thank you, onshore volunteers! — but much of the coast still lacks dense enough coverage to use Boat Beacon reliably without its boat connection.

This shot compares the Nexus7, Naviotab and iPad mini, all running some form of the Navionics Boating app but with each showing a different type of chart. The Nexus has had Navionics US & Canada on it for a couple of years, but in early September the app was auto updated to Boating US & Canada 4.1 with a year of Freshest Data and SonarChart (shown) downloads. Nice! The Naviotab is running the free version of Boating with US “Gov” charts that serve pretty well, and finally the iPad Mini Navionics USA HD app also got a free Boating update and thus is showing an up-to-date Navionics chart.

Meanwhile, I believe that the iPad is a tad brighter than the two Android screens and that the two waterproof cases both have anti-glare screen protectors, but frankly none of these tablets is easy to use in bright sun. The Naviotab case — which is not easily removable, if at all — seems a lot more rugged and heavily bumpered than the Lifeproof frē case (which I like for its slimness but which is obviously falling apart after a long, hard test life). In fact, the Naviotab seems a bit heavy for their suction mount option, though the mount is stronger than it looks (and RAM offers an alternative).

Naviotab also offers a sun shield but while I had found this simple idea very effective with laptop screens in bright wheelhouses, the concept doesn’t work as well with a touch screen. The rugged tablet’s $600 list price is also daunting, though I’ll note that it does include 4G cellular abilities — you supply the SIM card — and when I called the Naviotab tech line, an informed human answered immediately. If I were shopping for an Android boat tablet, I’d also check out the new Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact, which has built-in waterproofness and claims a screen “sharp even in bright sunlight.” Thanks to Memory-Map, Boat Beacon, and Navionics Mobile — and maybe others? — pretty sophisticated nav tools can be had in the Android world.

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

LIVE Pocast: Matt Rutherford, Jamin Greenbaum & Nicole Trenholm

Sail Feed - Mon, 2014-10-27 23:00

Andy sat in on the Ocean Research Project’s two-year anniversary party and ‘friendraiser’ at Heavy Seas Brewery in Baltimore. He got to sit next to Senator Tom Harkin and Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley during the ORP’s presentation! Matt, Jamin and NIcole talked about the ORP’s last two years and what happening next summer in Greenland. Jamin’s part of the presentation was exceptionally interesting – they’ll be using drones to study the glaciers in Arctic Greenland, and Matt is understandably excited to be heading back to the ice! Thanks to Zack for getting the audio.

Click here for the direct download.

Miracle on Marinship Way

Sail Feed - Mon, 2014-10-27 16:27

It began as you see it, above.

By Kimball Livingston Posted October 27, 2014

I don’t mind telling you, the first time I heard about a plan to build a 132-foot wooden brigantine to serve as a new school ship, I thought,

“Uh oh.”

But dreamers can be doers.It’s been a quarter of a century since Alan Olson first began using sailboats on San Francisco Bay as an outreach to at-risk youth. Today, on a much-expanded teaching mission, the nonprofit Call of the Sea reaches 5,000 students a year with the schooner, Seaward, but can’t keep up with demand. The brigantine-to-be, Matthew Turner, is intended to expand that compass to 17,000 kids a years experiencing first-hand the ecology, wildlife, and interconnections of things around them often seen but “unseen.”

On the evening of October 25, during Game 4 of the 2014 World Series, true believers and former doubters gathered under a tent—a huge tent—to celebrate a “Blessing of the Bones.” That is, completion of the framing. Would you believe . . .

By golly, think they’re going to make it.

The mood was up as people explored . . .

The angels are in the details, and they don’t have to be pretty, yet . . .

And this . . .

Leads to this . . .

Yep, it’s going to be a long way above the water. Jackson Pollack was here?

The volunteers were eager . . .

Alan Olson was in form, and he still is not a fan of pirate parties . . .

Now it’s back to the workaday project—but this workaday project has its volunteers inspired. And they’re friendly.

Here’s what they say at Educational Tall Ship:

Visit the Matthew Turner build site by the Bay Model in Sausalito – See history come alive!

We are located at 2330 Marinship Way in Sausalito CA. You really can’t miss the huge tent, so please stop by and see what we’re up to! You’ll find someone here from 8-4, Monday-Saturday, and, if you’re so inclined, sign up to volunteer and join us as we construct the first tall ship to be built in this area in over 100 years,

Wood from sustainably-managed forests.

Propulsion when needed from regenerative electrics.

That’s the Matthew Turner to be.

Every sailor should know the name, Matthew Turner. Not to try to improve upon the writing at Educational Tall Ship, Turner

. . . immigrated to the Bay Area from his home on the shores of Lake Erie in 1850. He came to California to try his luck in the gold fields and, finding success, he traveled back to the East Coast to purchase a ship, for he saw more potential in the shipping business than in the gold trade. He began his career in the booming coastal lumber trade but quickly found that he needed more ships. Not impressed with the available vessels at that time, he pulled together what he had learned from his father about ship design and building on Lake Erie and his experience with contemporary vessels in the Pacific to build his first ship, the Nautilus, in 1868. The Nautilus out-performed all other ships of the time, raising the bar in sailing ship design. At that time on the East Coast, design innovation in commercial sail was at a standstill, as steamships became the focus.

But on the West Coast, long distances, lack of coal and the industrial capacity to produce large steam engines gave sailing vessels the edge until the turn of the century. The Nautilus launched Turner’s career and he is considered the most prolific builder in history, with 228 vessels built by the end of his career in 1907.

His vessels were responsible for the success of many entrepreneurs of his time. Matson Lines began their operations with the Lurline. Spreckles Sugar had a fleet of Turner’s ships, as did C&H Sugar. His ships moved between San Francisco and Hawaii at record speeds, making 13 round trips in one year, including loading and unloading. Only the largest and fastest modern sailing yachts can hope to beat the 8 days and six hours trip From SF to Hawaii by the Lurline and the 9 day trip from Honolulu to SF by the W.G. Irwin. Turner himself discovered the Alaska cod industry and owned and operated the first packet ships between San Francisco and Tahiti.

A DISABLED SPEED RECORD AT LUDERITZ

WORTH NOTING

In San Diego, CA, the Maritime Museum’s building project, a replica of the Cabrillo’s 1542 galleon, San Salvador, was the subject of a “near completion” celebration in September. The project’s web site doesn’t have much to offer regarding this stage of construction, but the pictures are looking good.

STUDENT YACHTING WORLD CUP

Congratulations to the UK team that ran away with the regatta last week in La Rochelle, France. The standings tightened up below second, behind Italy and Norway, with the USA team from Cal Maritime finishing sixth out of twelve. Here’s Cal Maritime after the wind finally came up, and below, the happy podium threesome . . .

Live from the 1500: More German Bier & the start of the Seminar Program

Sail Feed - Mon, 2014-10-27 14:24

Day two at the rally wrapped up last night back at the Bier Garden in Portsmouth, VA. Several boats had arrived throughout the afternoon and evening, so we had a larger crowd than the night before, which kept the Kolsch flowing.

Tom Tom and Serenity made their arrival later in the evening. Tom Tom made their way into the marina around 7pm last night, with Chris and his British crew arriving in time for the staff at Ocean Marine to catch their docklines and welcome them ashore. Serenity, on the other hand, had to resort to more drastic measures.

Merrill Brown and his wife Mary had left New England late last week just as the fury of that nor’easter was winding down off the coast of Newport. Serenity was based at Block Island.

“In the midst of it all, we wound up having to grab a mooring when it was blowing 40 knots,” said Merrill as Serenity pulled into the fuel dock last night around 10:30pm. The big Shannon ketch must surely have been unwieldy under power in those conditions (though she would likely have fared just fine under reduced canvas father offshore), which made for an exciting exit from New England.

“Otherwise we had a good, if not a bit rough, sail south over the past few days,” added Merrill. “Although Silas didn’t fare so well. His stomach quickly decided it did not like ocean sailing, so he was pretty miserable most of the way.”

“I did manage to eat some chili on that first day,” Silas said, “but after that, I’ve basically been on a hunger strike.” 

The crew was lucky then to find an open pub on High Street last night, as it was 11:00pm until they got off the boat and made their way into town. Thanks to the NFL’s late Sunday game, and Game 5 of the World Series, the town wasn’t entirely shut down, so the Serenity crew – Silas especially – enjoyed a meal ashore in the stationary comfort of a restaurant booth.

Despite their late arrival, the Serenity crew made it out to Roger Brown’s in time for this morning’s seminar program, which got under way at 0900 with Mia’s ‘Provisioning’ chat. The takeaway from that? All crewmembers love chocolate!

Bill Cullen, who will ironically be crewing on Serenity for the voyage south from Portsmouth, followed up Mia’s chat with his new-to-the-program talk on ‘Gadgets & Gear to Have Onboard.’ 

“I’ve basically come up with a list of the top-25 best bits and bobs to have on the boat on both the ocean crossing and once you get in the islands,” Bill explained as his presentation got underway. He talked about everything from mosquito nets and sun shades to spearfishing, dinghy ladders and glass bottom buckets to a very receptive audience (who by then we’re livened up with their morning coffee, which was flowing from the back of the room). 

Visit Bill Cullen’s website on thebookofsail.com.

Rally leader Andy Schell rounded out the morning seminars with his popular talk on ‘Mentally Preparing to go Offshore,’ with the focus geared towards the 1500 and what to expect in the last few days leading up to the start.

Andy stressed the importance of what it’s okay to get anxious about – the ‘mission critical’ components of the boat like the hull, rig and sails and safety of the crew – and what’s not worth worrying about, like watermakers and electronics, which you can certainly live without offshore (if you’re properly prepared). 

“Landfall is the most exciting part of the voyage,” he finished with. “Remember to savor it, take photos, and notice the smell of land after you’ve been in the sea air for so long!”

The rally program continues this evening with the official ‘Welcome Reception’ hosted by the City of Portsmouth and Ocean Marine Yacht Center, set to kick off at Griff’s on High Street at 1800 this evening.

Stay up to date on the Carib1500 Facebook page, including links to today’s presentation slides, at facebook.com/carib1500.

Sickness and Children Running Free

Sail Feed - Mon, 2014-10-27 00:29

There is something particularly galling about suffering a head cold in the tropics. All this warm weather is supposed to keep the germs away – isn’t that what I told myself every miserable February as the kids stumbled home in -20 C weather, shooting phlegm out of every orifice? I was certain all this would be solved by a week in the sun.

Well, guess what. No. This head cold has swept through town like a hurricane, and now it is my turn to run through tissues and fight to keep the virus out of my lungs by sheer force of will.

All of which makes me cranky. And what is the lady about town to do with her crankiness when she wants to air it out? Why, lay it at the feet of her children, naturally! So let’s see how I’ve done.

You never have to wonder where your kids are on a boat. If you can’t lay hands on them within fifteen seconds of commencing a search, then they aren’t aboard.

Not so in PNG. Would you believe that this town is safe enough, quiet enough, and car-free enough that any child over the age of five can roam the streets with impunity? They play hide-and-seek between the houses. They go bike riding. The visit friends without a parent in tow. And, since there aren’t any kids over the age of 13, they don’t have any pesky, sullen teenagers harshing their mellow with angst and wispy beard growth. This is truly a wholesome tween paradise.
Pleasantville: the tropical version.

And I’m all for the girls running off to a friend’s house to look at baby chicks, or helping to run a “disco” (read: kids playing in the park to the sound of someone’s iPod) the odd Friday night. But when I am clogged with mucus, I would like to hide under my covers, thank you very much, and pretend I don’t have any responsibilities. But I can’t. Thus, the cranky.

On Sunday, we were invited to a birthday party at the beach. Erik was in Australia, and I had a firm appointment to drink hot tea and feel sorry for myself, so I arranged for the girls to go with a neighbour.
The party was exactly like this, except with more kids and less Erik.

The girls wanted to drop their present off early, so it wouldn’t get ruined at the beach. We wrapped it in beautiful aluminum foil (multi-purpose!), and the girls carefully taped their homemade cards to the front.
“It is nine fifteen,” I said, “and your ride goes at eleven. You can drop off your present, but then you have to come right home again.”
With a chorus of “Yeah, yeah, okay, bye Mom,” they were gone.
Nine thirty.
Nine forty-five.
Ten.
Ten fifteen.
By now, I was packing – fins, masks, sunscreen, towels, swim shirts, bathing suits, water shoes, drinks, food. Anything they could conceivably need at a beach barbeque with ten other families. I could feel my fever rising again. I looked at the clock. Ten thirty.

Grumbling and muttering like a crazy person, I set off down the driveway. The girls’ friend lives, of course, at the opposite end of town. And she, like us, is new, so I didn’t have a phone number to call back my wayward children. About halfway there it occurred to me that I could have phoned a friend who lives two houses down, but by now it was too late. I shuffled on, and tried to ignore my t-shirt sticking to my back.

Sure enough, our friends were already packing up their truck by the time I arrived. “I tried to suggest to your girls it was time to go, but they were having so much fun.”
I nodded and tried to smile through my dizziness. I’m fairly sure it wasn’t convincing.
Stylish and Indy slowly sauntered into view.
“Come on, chop chop, you’re going to miss your ride!”
Stylish lifted her eyebrows. “Really? Is it that late?”
“But I was playing on the iPad!” complained Indy.
I reminded myself that laws against smacking children exist for these very circumstances. Reaching instead for inner peace, I propelled them down the driveway. “Look. You know you weren’t supposed to stay. And now you might miss your ride.”
The vaguest hint of concern flitted across their faces. “Oh?”
“Yes. Your friends are going to go to our house, find it empty, and decide we got another ride. So let’s hustle.”

We trotted down the street. I tried to keep up with the kids, but I was definitely on my last legs.

*beep beep*

And there was our ride.

“Sorry!” I called. “The girls got distracted. I have their bags all packed – meet us at our house?”
She nodded. My girls broke into a run. I also broke into a run, although it was really more of a zombie shuffle.

We gasped up the hill to our house. The girls beat me by a wide margin. “Grab the two bags inside the door!” I shouted.
They flung open the door, grabbed the bags, shoved their way into the waiting car and I waved them all goodbye.

I barely made it to bed before I fell asleep.

Three seconds (read: four hours) later they were back. Minus a pair of flip flips and one water shoe, but still.

I tried to maintain my sick person crankiness as they jumped on my bed and got sand in the sheets, but I just couldn’t do it. Maybe I was too tired; maybe they are just too sweet.

How could I resist these people?

So we’ll try a little reminder on following instructions, and I’ll keep turning them loose to play. They should enjoy kid heaven while they can.
Indy flying a rainbow.

Day 1 at the Carib1500: German Bier, Trick-or-Treat & Safety Checks

Sail Feed - Sun, 2014-10-26 09:35

Maybe it’s because it’s a special year in 2014. Maybe it’s because folks are excited about the large fleet. Maybe it’s the beautiful weather on the Chesapeake. For whatever reason, a larger-than-usual number of boats have already made their way to Portsmouth and are tied up in Ocean Marine Yacht Center, ready for the week’s festivities.

Click here for a PDF of this week’s Carib1500 Portsmouth Program of Events.

25 years ago this week, the inaugural Caribbean 1500 fleet assembled on the southern Bay and prepared to head offshore on one of ‘the last great adventures’ available to ordinary people who decided to become extraordinary if only for a short period of time as they crossed a large stretch of ocean. Back then, late rally founder Steve Black wouldn’t have had to worry about writing news stories for the web. Or about satellite tracking or sending emails to the fleet at sea. 1986 was a simpler time perhaps, at least technologically, for the rally organizers, but no less of an adventure.

But it’s 2014 now, and as we look back on the last 25 years of ocean passages that the 1500 fleet has made, we also look ahead to this year’s event and how it’s shaping up. 

15 boats are now berthed in Ocean Marine for the week’s activities, which kicked off last night with the first happy hour at the Bier Garden in Olde Town Portsmouth, sponsored by Hanse Yachts. High Street was hopping. Each year they close down the main drag in town to vehicle traffic and put on a ‘safe’ trick-or-treating event for the local kids. Vampires, mummies, zombies and a Dracula or two roamed the streets looking for candy that the local businesses were passing out along the sidewalk while the rally crews swilled Kolsch and ‘Schwarzbier’ at the Bier Garden.

‘Mom’ and ‘Dad’, as their known to their loyal local patrons, proprietors of the Bier Garden, hosted the crews in the outside garden area. It was a lovely evening for a few beers, with temperatures falling into the 60s and stars poking out in the clear sky above the tress that shrouded the garden area in ambiance. Crews shared stories of their plans for the coming winter cruising season, and exchanged ideas for the passage south.

“We brought our boat all the way up from Florida just to the 1500!” exclaimed Frank and Patti from the catamaran Sunsplash. They’re not alone. Corsair, a gorgeous dark-blue Bristol 57 (and thus far, the leader in the clubhouse for my ‘Most Beautiful Yacht’ vote), made a similar trip north from Florida just to join the rally. 

“This has been a 5 or 6 year dream of ours,” said Frank of Sunsplash. “We’ve followed the rally very closely over those years and just had to be a part of it, even if it meant bringing the boat a few hundred miles up the coast just to make the start.”

Frank and Patti are new to the offshore game. Speaking with them last night brought up an interesting point about the 1500. Naysayers put down the event as a ‘rally for newbies,’ implying that somehow the folks new to ocean sailing don’t know what they’re doing. It begs the age-old ‘chicken or the egg’ questions – i.e., how does one get experience without ever having an experience? But Frank and Patti are proving that while they might be new to the game, their crew certainly is not. They’re here to learn from the real Salty Dogs, the tight band of crewmembers who have at least 10,000 miles sailing in the 1500. And that makes the 1500 very cool indeed.

“We’ve got Loren Thompson and Dave Hornbach onboard as our crew,” Frank told me. Loren and Dave have both done the 1500 over a dozen times combined, and have many thousands of miles on the route between the Chesapeake and the islands, in both directions. “Patti and I brought the boat up the coast by ourselves, but we realized that a few hundred miles was enough for us to handle as a couple. We did it, and we’re proud of it, but we realize we’ll need the help once we go ‘off the deep end.’ I’m still going to be the captain and ultimately responsible for the boat, but I’ll be leaning heavily on Loren and Dave for their advice on how to handle specific situations. I’m hoping to learn from the best.”

Frank is a pilot in real life, and understands that sometimes the guy in the left seat – the captain of the plane – actually has less experience than the guy in the right seat (the copilot). “In those instances, you’ve got to understand that the guy next to you might know more than you do,” Frank explained. “You’ve got to balance the notion that as the left-seat guy, you’re ultimately responsible. But with that responsibility comes the responsibility to actually take the guys advice that’s sitting to your right. It’s a team effort.”

Frank and Patti are by no means alone as newcomers to the offshore game, a fact that makes the 1500 unique. This year about 1/3 of the fleet are veteran sailors who’ve done the route before, and you can be sure that knowledge and expertise will be spreading around the docks at Ocean Marine this week like wildfire, the goal being that after a week of intense preparations, the knowledge base of the entire fleet has stepped up a level.

Peter Burch and Lyall Burgess are adding to that knowledge base, roaming the docks conducting the safety equipment checklists, which are taking on an even higher level of importance in 2014 given the Salty Dawg Rally incident from last year that saw 6 boats issue Mayday calls to the coast guard. Pete has many thousands of ocean miles on various boats over the years, and has done so many inspections that he’s sure he’s seen it all. 

“One time, a catamaran argued against the need for a liferaft,” Pete told us yesterday. “He claimed ‘with two hulls and a foam core, how could I possible sink?’ I asked him what he’d do about a fire. ‘Oh, I hadn’t thought of that!’ he said. Amazing!” 

Lyall, though younger than Pete, holds and RYA Yachtmaster certification, and has crossed the Atlantic and Pacific several times, and adds his own level of experience as the ARC Europe event manager. The two make up a formidable team when it comes to the safety checks, and thanks to their experience, their advice is taken seriously.

The program in Portsmouth continues today as we welcome more new arrivals – as I write, 1500 veteran Moonshadow just pulled into their slip on A dock. Miles & Anne Poor arrived last evening on their veteran Tayana 55 Karina, and handful more boats are due in over the course of today. 

We’re back at the Bier Garden tonight for some more ‘steins of lager’, sponsored again, appropriately, by German boat builder Hanse Yachts, before the first day of the seminar program begins at Roger Brown’s tomorrow.

Follow the hourly updates of what’s going on at Ocean Marine on the Carib1500 Facebook page, and check thegallery daily for new photos.

The hardest part of cruising

Sail Feed - Sun, 2014-10-26 05:15

I don’t want to be here right now.

We’re living in Totem on the hardstand, on stilts in the shipyard. There is a lot of noise, and a lot of dirt, and a lot of chaos. Chunks of Totem’s interior are torn up. We climb a wobbly ladder with a rise that must be double a normal step to get on board. We have no refrigeration. It is hot, under tropical sun during the day and in the breeze-less yard at night. We share communal bathrooms in the yard and try desperately to avoid needing them at night.

But our present circumstance has nothing to do with my discontent. I don’t want to be here right now because I lost someone I love, and today her memorial service was held back at home on Bainbridge Island.

We met as two moms, first crossing paths at preschool flanked by a pair of similarly aged daughters, later bonding at knitting guild meetings (best followed by a trip to the pub!). In the chaotic year of boat renovations and radical downsizing during the year before we left, Joan was diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer, and our friendship shifted and deepened on the unstable path of an uncertain journey.

I wish I could be back there to honor her, and share that grief with others who loved her. And as much as my sadness today is for the passing this resolute optimist, it also mourns the hundreds of times I couldn’t help her. I couldn’t help in all the little ways that friends make life easier for each other, as she fought one battle after another with her traitorous body.

This, for me, is the hardest part of cruising. Our funds don’t include the kind of cushion that can absorb traveling home. Leaving on our adventure meant making peace with this very significant trade-off. We miss big events like this, and the weddings and graduations. We cannot be present for the many other milestones in the lives of our friends and family.

Last year, my parents flew me home to help them filter and pack up thirty years of memories from a house, and thanks to them I had the gift of many hugs from people I love- including getting to spend time with Joan. Knitting, making bad jokes, tucked under a blanket, sharing our hopes, I know she was so happy for me to follow my dreams. That just doesn’t make it easier at this moment.

She indelibly marked my life. How lucky we are, pure and simply just LUCKY, all critical stars of our world aligned to make our family’s journey possible. Because for all our plans and dreams and intentions, this life is incredibly fragile, and Joan has made me grateful for every day we get. And it’s this I tried to remember as I sat in the anchorage with with news on my lap of her passing, the sting of salt water on my cheeks. That she was happy for me, and didn’t resent the absence I lament.

It’s always appreciated when you click through to read this on the Sailfeed website.

 

Ocean Research Project announces plans for aerial drone glacier mapping and oceanographic survey in Greenland

Sail Feed - Fri, 2014-10-24 10:12

ANNAPOLIS, MD – Following a recent ocean science expedition that took record-setting sailor and Ocean Research Project (ORP) founder, Matthew Rutherford, and ORP field operations scientist, Nicole Trenholm, to the waters of Yokohama, Japan for a first-ever continent to continent marine debris survey – ORP marked its two-year anniversary at Heavy Seas Brewery on October 17th, asserting plans to use drones to survey a major outlet glacier in Greenland while collecting nearby ocean heat information by ship to distinguished guests, including Senator Tom Harkin and Governor Martin O’Malley.

According to Rutherford and Trenholm, it’s “the next natural step in the future of ocean research” and a mission they intend to carry out. In their continuous efforts to reduce costs and maintain a “green” sailing-based data collection program, the burgeoning nonprofit has teamed up with Intuitive Machines – an engineering solutions company from Houston Texas, and chosen polar geophysicist Jamin Greenbaum, from the University of Texas Institute for Geophysics, as principal investigator in preparation for an oceanographic and glaciological survey planned for 2015.

“Together, Ocean Research Project and Intuitive Machines stand to disrupt the way sensitive arctic coastal areas are monitored by applying highly-capable autonomous vehicles [drones] and inexpensive surface ships with long dwell times and low carbon footprints,” said Greenbaum. “I believe they stand to become a model for how baseline monitoring will be done in the coming years.”

Greenbaum, said Rutherford, is no stranger to data collection in the Arctic, having previously managed flight operations and equipment integration for polar geophysical surveying. “Jamin joins us at a very critical time, not just for our organization but for the prospect of ocean science research and education at large… By employing drones for long-term monitoring of changing glacier systems,” Trenholm explained, “we will be able to observe glacial behavior on timescales that are unattainable with traditional platforms.”

ORP’s next expedition to Greenland’s east coast will see the enterprising threesome conducting a near-simultaneous oceanographic and glaciological survey of the Sermilik Fjord–Helheim Glacier system in Southeast Greenland. Using unpiloted aerial vehicles and hydrographic survey equipment, the team will collect data that they hope will help relate coastal glacier retreat to oceanographic heat.

Rutherford explains that Ocean Research Project is actively seeking sponsorship but is happy with their progress, to date. “We now have the aerial and marine platforms that can do the job so with only a little more support for operational costs we’ll be ready to deploy them. We have more work to do before we can sail but we have already won the trust and support of key organizations and individuals that share our belief that we should be monitoring the health of the ocean where climate change threatens to make lasting change.”

The team’s progress can be tracked online at www.oceanresearchproject.org.
 
PHOTO CAPTION: (Left to right) Videographer Zack Nissan Shields, Senator Tom Harkin, Ocean Research Project (ORP) field operations scientist Nicole Trenholm, ORP founder Matthew Rutherford, ORP principal investigator Jamin Greenbaum, and Governor Martin O’Malley, pictured on October 17th at Heavy Seas Brewery in Halethorpe, MD.

Podcast: Offshore Weather Essay

Sail Feed - Thu, 2014-10-23 23:00

Andy discusses his way of getting and interpreting weather forecasts offshore, and why he thinks people tend to overanalyze it to the detriment of their enjoyment of ocean sailing. This is apart educational, part rant, and part just what works for Andy & Mia. What works for you when it comes to offshore weather?

Click here for the direct download.

MARINE INSURANCE: Scoring New Coverage for Bluewater Cruising

Sail Feed - Thu, 2014-10-23 16:31

As I may have mentioned, I am in the midst of getting Lunacy ready for a run down to the W’Indies. This is always a fraught process, what with the normal anxieties of worrying about whether the boat is truly ready to go offshore, putting together crew, and watching the unruly fall weather unfold. Historically for me this anxiety has always been compounded by my fussy insurance company, ACE, which insists on vetting my crews and making me fill out lots of forms before they’ll give me an endorsement for a passage to the Caribbean.

Marine insurance, of course, is how the whole concept of insurance first got started. Hedging against the potential loss of a vessel and its cargo is a financial game that dates as far back as the ancient Greeks and Romans and was institutionalized in its modern form as early as the late 17th century in Edward Lloyd’s famous coffee house in London (see image up top), where shipowners, merchants, and skippers all gathered together to mull over the perils of ocean-borne commerce while getting hopped up on caffeine. As such, it is fair to say that marine insurance has played a very important role in the development of our global economy, but in the context of recreational bluewater cruising it is another animal entirely.

After all, what is it exactly that an insurance company sells to you? The answer, plain and simple, is fear. When you buy a policy what you’re really doing is making a bet that your own vessel will sink, because you’re afraid it will. This is a smart move, I suppose, when you’re talking high finance and need to protect a big investment, but when you’re talking about a boat that you sail with friends and family it has always seemed to me to be inappropriate. Bad luck. Almost evil, frankly.

When I first went offshore in a boat I owned myself, in my old Pearson Alberg yawl Crazy Horse, I looked into buying some bluewater insurance and the only quote I got was ludicrously high–$3,600 a year to cover a boat I’d bought for only $28K. This was in the mid-1990s, remember, back when I could live on my boat and cruise around full-time for only $10K a year. I did just that for over two years, without any insurance at all, and earned enough not paying premiums to stay out cruising for many extra months.

Back in those days no one ever asked you if you had insurance, and after I made the decision not to buy any I never thought about it again. But now most marinas and boatyards everywhere in the world absolutely require that you have insurance, and quite often they do insist on seeing proof of coverage. Some people I know have solved this problem by simply forging insurance certificates, which is not that hard to do. All you need is a computer and a printer. Others I’ve met buy common coastal policies, so they have an honest piece of paper to show off when necessary, but then “self-insure” when they go offshore, which fact they fail to mention to the foreign marinas and boatyards they visit.

When I first bought Lunacy back in 2006 I looked into insurance and bought a policy from ACE that cost $2,000 a year, this for a boat for which I’d paid $115K, which seemed fairly reasonable. When I was ready to take her offshore in 2008 they wrote me an endorsement for the Caribbean, for which they charged an extra $1,300, and also pestered me with forms and spurious requirements regarding the passage there. Over the years these premiums have steadily increased (though the pestering has never decreased), and when the last boost took my annual “fear payment” (as I think of it) to over $5,000, before the offshore and Caribbean endorsements were factored in, I knew it was time to do some shopping.

On doing some research I realized just how badly I was being gouged by ACE. Friends with boats just as old as mine (1985), with about the same value, are paying less than $2,000 a year for coastal coverage in the United States. But getting a new policy that would allow for a trip to the Caribbean wasn’t easy. I was hoping, for example, to get coverage from Pantaenius, which now writes policies for U.S. boats and is the recognized premiere insurer for offshore cruising vessels, but they wouldn’t even give me a quote. As was the case with Crazy Horse, it seems Lunacy is too old and cheap to be of interest to many marine insurers.

For a while I was thinking I’d have to become a forger or a self-insurer to go south this year. I told one broker what I really wanted was coverage while in the Caribbean, with exclusions for the passages back and forth, but was told in response that no insurer would ever agree to that. Which seems crazy to me. If I was an insurance company I’d jump on a deal like that. I was also thinking I might cancel my ACE policy, sail down south, and then buy another local policy in the Caribbean and cancel that in the spring before sailing north again.

In the end, however, I did get two decent quotes. One was from New Hampshire Insurance Company, for $2,600 a year, including offshore and Caribbean coverage, but with lots of hoops to jump through and forms to fill out when actually going offshore. They also were insisting on a rigging inspection and full audio-gauge report on the hull, on top of the survey I just had done, before they’d issue a policy. The other was from Seaworthy Insurance Company, for $2,700 a year, including offshore and Caribbean coverage, but with no hoops and forms to deal with and no more inspections required.

Can you guess which one I went for?

Meanwhile, what I’m really stressing about is the weather. Of course. Right now I’m waiting for this low that’s sitting just south of New England to go away so I can sail Lunacy down to Newport. It’s a pretty impressive system. The UNH Marine Lab Field Station here in Portsmouth was reporting gusts to over 60 knots as of 9 this morning.

I’m hoping to leave for Newport tomorrow, and then depart Newport for Bermuda on Monday. Right now that seems feasible… but that assessment, as always, is subject to change.

Gaming the weather this time of year really is like playing Russian roulette. It seems there’s no way to get all the bullets out of the chamber before you pull the trigger. One thing I’m wondering now is whether it’s good luck or bad luck for me that both places I’m going, Bermuda and then St. Maarten, just got pasted by the same hurricane.

You may recall my friend and erstwhile shipmate Jeff Bolster, who has been taking his Valiant 42 Chanticleer south to the W’Indies the last few years. He’s tried the sail-south-from-New-England strategy and the sail-down-to-the-Chesapeake-first-and-then-sail-south strategy and found both wanting. So this year he developed a whole new strategy: he sailed Chanticleer out to Bermuda in August and put her up on the hard. Come December he was then planning to launch her again and sail down to the Caribbean.

That was seeming very clever until Bermuda took a direct hit from Gonzalo last week. For four days Jeff couldn’t get through to his boatyard in Bermuda to find out if his boat had survived. Then finally he received this happy snapshot of his pride and joy:

Safe and sound. But many other boats in the very same yard (in the Dockyard, on the island’s West End) weren’t nearly so lucky.

So it seems Jeff really did dodge a major bullet there. I was wondering what his insurer thought of his new transit strategy, and he tells me they did specify a “Windstorm Deductible” of over $17,000 before giving him permission to store his boat in Bermuda during hurricane season.

MARINE INSURANCE: Scoring New Coverage for Bluewater Cruising

Sail Feed - Thu, 2014-10-23 16:31

As I may have mentioned, I am in the midst of getting Lunacy ready for a run down to the W’Indies. This is always a fraught process, what with the normal anxieties of worrying about whether the boat is truly ready to go offshore, putting together crew, and watching the unruly fall weather unfold. Historically for me this anxiety has always been compounded by my fussy insurance company, ACE, which insists on vetting my crews and making me fill out lots of forms before they’ll give me an endorsement for a passage to the Caribbean.

Marine insurance, of course, is how the whole concept of insurance first got started. Hedging against the potential loss of a vessel and its cargo is a financial game that dates as far back as the ancient Greeks and Romans and was institutionalized in its modern form as early as the late 17th century in Edward Lloyd’s famous coffee house in London (see image up top), where shipowners, merchants, and skippers all gathered together to mull over the perils of ocean-borne commerce while getting hopped up on caffeine. As such, it is fair to say that marine insurance has played a very important role in the development of our global economy, but in the context of recreational bluewater cruising it is another animal entirely.

After all, what is it exactly that an insurance company sells to you? The answer, plain and simple, is fear. When you buy a policy what you’re really doing is making a bet that your own vessel will sink, because you’re afraid it will. This is a smart move, I suppose, when you’re talking high finance and need to protect a big investment, but when you’re talking about a boat that you sail with friends and family it has always seemed to me to be inappropriate. Bad luck. Almost evil, frankly.

When I first went offshore in a boat I owned myself, in my old Pearson Alberg yawl Crazy Horse, I looked into buying some bluewater insurance and the only quote I got was ludicrously high–$3,600 a year to cover a boat I’d bought for only $28K. This was in the mid-1990s, remember, back when I could live on my boat and cruise around full-time for only $10K a year. I did just that for over two years, without any insurance at all, and earned enough not paying premiums to stay out cruising for many extra months.

Back in those days no one ever asked you if you had insurance, and after I made the decision not to buy any I never thought about it again. But now most marinas and boatyards everywhere in the world absolutely require that you have insurance, and quite often they do insist on seeing proof of coverage. Some people I know have solved this problem by simply forging insurance certificates, which is not that hard to do. All you need is a computer and a printer. Others I’ve met buy common coastal policies, so they have an honest piece of paper to show off when necessary, but then “self-insure” when they go offshore, which fact they fail to mention to the foreign marinas and boatyards they visit.

When I first bought Lunacy back in 2006 I looked into insurance and bought a policy from ACE that cost $2,000 a year, this for a boat for which I’d paid $115K, which seemed fairly reasonable. When I was ready to take her offshore in 2008 they wrote me an endorsement for the Caribbean, for which they charged an extra $1,300, and also pestered me with forms and spurious requirements regarding the passage there. Over the years these premiums have steadily increased (though the pestering has never decreased), and when the last boost took my annual “fear payment” (as I think of it) to over $5,000, before the offshore and Caribbean endorsements were factored in, I knew it was time to do some shopping.

On doing some research I realized just how badly I was being gouged by ACE. Friends with boats just as old as mine (1985), with about the same value, are paying less than $2,000 a year for coastal coverage in the United States. But getting a new policy that would allow for a trip to the Caribbean wasn’t easy. I was hoping, for example, to get coverage from Pantaenius, which now writes policies for U.S. boats and is the recognized premiere insurer for offshore cruising vessels, but they wouldn’t even give me a quote. As was the case with Crazy Horse, it seems Lunacy is too old and cheap to be of interest to many marine insurers.

For a while I was thinking I’d have to become a forger or a self-insurer to go south this year. I told one broker what I really wanted was coverage while in the Caribbean, with exclusions for the passages back and forth, but was told in response that no insurer would ever agree to that. Which seems crazy to me. If I was an insurance company I’d jump on a deal like that. I was also thinking I might cancel my ACE policy, sail down south, and then buy another local policy in the Caribbean and cancel that in the spring before sailing north again.

In the end, however, I did get two decent quotes. One was from New Hampshire Insurance Company, for $2,600 a year, including offshore and Caribbean coverage, but with lots of hoops to jump through and forms to fill out when actually going offshore. They also were insisting on a rigging inspection and full audio-gauge report on the hull, on top of the survey I just had done, before they’d issue a policy. The other was from Seaworthy Insurance Company, for $2,700 a year, including offshore and Caribbean coverage, but with no hoops and forms to deal with and no more inspections required.

Can you guess which one I went for?

Meanwhile, what I’m really stressing about is the weather. Of course. Right now I’m waiting for this low that’s sitting just south of New England to go away so I can sail Lunacy down to Newport. It’s a pretty impressive system. The UNH Marine Lab Field Station here in Portsmouth was reporting gusts to over 60 knots as of 9 this morning.

I’m hoping to leave for Newport tomorrow, and then depart Newport for Bermuda on Monday. Right now that seems feasible… but that assessment, as always, is subject to change.

Gaming the weather this time of year really is like playing Russian roulette. It seems there’s no way to get all the bullets out of the chamber before you pull the trigger. One thing I’m wondering now is whether it’s good luck or bad luck for me that both places I’m going, Bermuda and then St. Maarten, just got pasted by the same hurricane.

You may recall my friend and erstwhile shipmate Jeff Bolster, who has been taking his Valiant 42 Chanticleer south to the W’Indies the last few years. He’s tried the sail-south-from-New-England strategy and the sail-down-to-the-Chesapeake-first-and-then-sail-south strategy and found both wanting. So this year he developed a whole new strategy: he sailed Chanticleer out to Bermuda in August and put her up on the hard. Come December he was then planning to launch her again and sail down to the Caribbean.

That was seeming very clever until Bermuda took a direct hit from Gonzalo last week. For four days Jeff couldn’t get through to his boatyard in Bermuda to find out if his boat had survived. Then finally he received this happy snapshot of his pride and joy:

Safe and sound. But many other boats in the very same yard (in the Dockyard, on the island’s West End) weren’t nearly so lucky.

So it seems Jeff really did dodge a major bullet there. I was wondering what his insurer thought of his new transit strategy, and he tells me they did specify a “Windstorm Deductible” of over $17,000 before giving him permission to store his boat in Bermuda during hurricane season.

Welcome to the shipyard

Sail Feed - Wed, 2014-10-22 20:57

PSS Satun, a Thai shipyard just a hop over the southern border with Malaysia, sits at the edge of a small village up a winding muddy river. Because we can only enter the river at high tide, we spend the night before our haulout at a bend where the depth drops enough to keep water under the keel through a full swing. Surrounded by mangroves, we watch fishermen wade knee-deep in the mud at low tide, pushing boxes and collecting something- crabs?- from the flats.

Crossing into Thailand to this spot retraces the same route that brought us here nearly a year ago. This does nothing to dampen our enthusiasm: if anything, it is lifted, knowing what lies ahead. Jamie and I sit in the cockpit, watching sea eagles wheel and cry overhead, and imagine the possibilities.

This is our calm before the shipyard storm. Last year, we spent about a week in this same yard to put new bottom paint on. Our only hindsight regret was that we didn’t fully appreciate the breadth and depth of skillsets, and how much more we could have done. Not this time!

Here’s a sped-up view of our trip up the slipway:

We still aren’t sure what we’ll do. Like many things, it is a pushme-pullyou between what we’d like to do and what our meager budget allows. But even little budgets like ours can stretch far with the good value for quality work available here. We’re already in a mindset to spend a little more than we probably should, because it’s hard to find these skills at such good rates. Still, there’s always a limit! once we have all the estimates, we’ll prioritize projects based on importance and cost. The wish list, however, is extensive.

The essential projects

New water tank. Our stainless steel primary tank (it’s backed up with a bladder tank and jerry cans) has growing leaks. We patched it up in Mexico, five years ago; this time, it needs to be replaced and are weighing whether to go with stainless or fiberglass. You do kind of need water, so this has to be fixed.

New stanchion bases. Like our water tank, these are original to Totem. They’ve served well for more than three decades but show some signs that their strength is compromised. This is a safety concern, so it’s non-negotiable; we’ll replace them.

New refrigerator box. At the moment, we don’t have any refrigeration beyond a cooler with a bag of ice. The compressor stopped working some weeks ago, and I’ve since been expanding my repertoire of Meals From Stuff That Doesn’t Need Refrigeration. That’s coming along nicely, thank you, but I am not the kind of hard core cruiser who can go without any refrigeration at all. We could replace the compressor- we’ll have to- but the bigger underlying problem is that fact that our fridge box, is insufficiently insulated. It’s also original to the boat (sense a theme here?), and the 32 year old open cell spray-in foam of insufficient thickness is definitely more of a conductor than an insulater. For this bit of fun, we get to RIP OUT THE GALLEY. Hoo boy!

Full rudder inspection. We’ll drop the rudder and skeg to inspect bearings and any signs of corrosion and wear. This may have been done by a prior owner, but it may not have been done since Totem was built in 1982: we just don’t know, and that’s not good enough. With big blue water ahead, it’s important for our peace of mind and the safety of our little crew.

New bottom paint. Unfortunately, the paint we put on last year didn’t do as well as we hoped. It’s intended for commercial vessels that have more constant (and higher speed) motion. We proceeded to spend half of this year being relatively stationary dealing with our engine. Boats don’t move very well when they host barnacle farms underwater, so it’s something else we simply must do.

The wish list

Next begins the wish list, in no particular order, of projects we hope to undertake…depending on what time and budget will allow.

Awning frame. We don’t have enough shade in the cockpit. It can be pretty hot and uncomfortable underway, as whoever is on watch looks for a patch of shade under our hard dodger. With a frame, we’ll be able to stretch fabric that extends the shade footprint we can have while sailing- and give us more options for even larger shaded areas at anchor.

Dodger reinforcement. We added this hard dodger after buying Totem in 2007. It’s great to have easier access to the boom, but is a little thin to carry adult weight and has developed some stress cracks. A little strengthening will go a long way.

Stern rail / arch modifications. Our current stern arch was an awkwardly placed addition by a prior owner that doesn’t integrate with the original stern rails. It includes davits that are hugely helpful for lifting our outboard, use in a potential man overboard situation, and short-term dinghy hauling- but are not quite the right size, creating chafe on the dinghy. Stuck between the arch and the rails is a pole that hosts the wind turbine is yet another add-on. While we love each of these independently, it’s a poor overall design that isn’t at all integrated, and creates a lot of dead space on the aft deck. The yard has skilled stainless workers: with minor modifications, we hope to have better davits, reclaim usable space, add social space (aft deck seats! wooo!), an improved turbine mount, and a stronger mount for the outboards.

Anchor roller. Minor modifications will better lock the anchor in place when stowed, and provide better control of chain exiting the roller when Totem is swinging at anchor and the chain angles off to one side.

Bow rail. We’ve done our fair share of leaning out over the bow, and Totem’s bow pulpit is small. We’d like to extend the stainless rail back to the first stanchion. Whether it’s looking at dolphins or trying to get a mess off the anchor, it will give us a safer, more stable base.

Waterline stripe. Since we have to paint the bottom, it’s a good time to work on the waterline stripe. Our current blue stripe is half gone from bottom cleaning and wear and tear.

In the world of wants vs needs, my big “wish” is for the stern modification. It would make this part of Totem so much  more functional, and fun! Still, adding shade with an awning would be pretty huge too. OK, I could actually talk myself into any of these being important! But we’ll see what we can manage. If we only get our essentials done, we’ll be happy. If we can nip a couple on the wish list, we’ll be thrilled. If we get that stern area done, I might even add ecstatic! But basically: this is a win/win proposition, and I’m really excited to see what the coming weeks bring.

It’s a big list, and of course, there are things we don’t even know about that will undoubtedly float onto it- it’s a boat!

Shipyard veterans past and future know we love it when you read this on the Sailfeed website.

Andy’s Biased Review of ‘Red Dot on the Ocean: The Matt Rutherford Story’

Sail Feed - Tue, 2014-10-21 20:30

Note: The movie makes it’s theatrical debut this Friday in New York City at the Quad Cinema. Click for tickets. Click here to watch the trailer.

Mia and I watched ‘Red Dot on the Ocean’ last night, the film about Matt Rutherford and his historic ‘Solo the America’s’ voyage. In a word: inspiring. If you don’t read any further, just take my advice and watch the film. It deserves to become a classic, and I hope it will.

Matt is one of my closest friends in the sailing industry, and so this review will absolutely be biased. I know Matt’s story, I’ve heard it countless times, I’ve written about it countless times and I’ve been one of Matt’s biggest fans since I first met him in 2009. And still, I was mesmerized by this movie, and surprised by what I didn’t know.

In short, the movie follows the fairly formulaic style of switching between his journey around the American continents on his 27′ Albin Vega St. Brendan and his troubled upbringing. If you’ve read Between a Rock and a Hard Place, about Aron Ralston cutting off his arm in that Utah canyon, you’ll know what I mean. The style works for this movie, and nicely balances the dramas unfolding in each storyline, leaving you in a bit of suspense each time they flip back and forth in time. And both narratives are so compelling – unlike Ralston’s childhood, which was way more ‘standard’, and I found boring (I just wanted to hear about his hiking trip) – that the style works particularly well.

Matt had a surprisingly troubled upbringing, beyond anything he ever told me. I won’t ruin it, but to give you an idea of what I mean, he was a recovering drug addict at age 13, a convicted felon at 14, grew up in a cult, and at times contemplated suicide. Only some of this I knew about Matt. He’d hinted at it over the course of our friendship, but never went into detail and I never asked. It doesn’t change the way I think about him, but it certainly changes the way I think about his story and his accomplishment. He’s suddenly elevated to another level entirely. It makes you think though, could he have done this without those kinds of traumatic childhood experiences?

The portion of the film that focuses on the sailing was remarkably well put together, especially considering what the filmmakers had to work with. Matt set off by himself in 2011, with no money and only basic supplies. The fact that he had a camera at all, and managed to take some compelling footage, both above decks and underwater is incredible. He’s good at talking to himself and to the camera, and giving you a feel of what it’s like to be at sea. And to be clear, all of the sailing footage is completely authentic – at times it almost felt stages, but I assure you, having seen his still images, that it’s all authentic. When Simon Edwards sails alongside Matt towards the end of his journey, it’s so calm it looks like they’re on a pond – they’re not. In fact, they’re 600 miles offshore, in the heart of the ocean wilderness, and the fact that Simon was able to track him down at all is incredible. The movie doesn’t touch on this, and to the layperson I think that might seem ‘normal’ at sea. Trust me, it’s not. That Simon had a camera with him was a good call on his part.

To the non-sailors, and even the sailors who have never been offshore, what Matt accomplished was absolutely extraordinary. If there is one thing the film didn’t do, it was emphasize this fact. Perhaps they hoped that just by showing it, folks would realize the enormity of it, but I’m not so sure. Ocean sailing is hard. Like most endurance sports, it’s probably 20% physical and 80% mental, especially once you go beyond a certain point (and especially alone), and Matt’s mental fortitude throughout the voyage and the movie puts him in the company of some of histories great explorers. Matt would sign all of his blog posts he sent in via sat phone with Ernest Shackleton’s family motto, Fortitudine Vincimus, and it’s Shackleton that Matt most wanted to emulate. He certainly came darn close.

I put Matt in the category of the great solo sailing pioneers of the 1960’s, the sailors and writers we all grew up reading about, Matt included. Francis Chichester, Robin Knox-Johnston, Bernard Moitessier. He doesn’t seem it on the surface, but Matt is probably most like Moitessier in that he’s almost a creature of the sea himself, so at peace with the elements and his own mind (which, once you see his childhood, you’ll find perhaps the most remarkable part of the film) that he could thrive out there on his sailing boat indefinitely, if only the boat wouldn’t fall to pieces beneath him. Matt’s voyage was every bit as incredible as Knox-Johnston’s first solo circumnavigation of the world, or Moitessier’s one-and-a-half-times around loop via the Great Capes.

In many ways it’s even more incredible. Matt was sailing a boat that was originally conceived around the same time those guys were making history (the first Golden Globe race was in 1968), and aside from his satellite communications and robust furling gear, he had mostly the same technology. Moitessier and Knox-Johnston had a bit of an edge, in that at the time, nobody thought what they were doing was even possible. Their successes made people change their minds, and suddenly what was impossible became possible. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that we landed on the moon around that same time.

Matt, almost 50 years later, set perhaps an even more remarkable record with his voyage. He sailed the equivalent of a circumnavigation – he basically circled the globe from top to bottom, rather than left to right – and did so through the world’s most treacherous stretches of ocean, through the NW passage which even this year was deemed impassable by the great Jimmy Cornell. And he did it with no money, in an old boat, and for no glory. His was as honest an endeavor as can be, and this the film recognizes very well.

The movie was very personal to me. That same summer, as Matt was heading north, Mia and I were heading east, sailing from Nova Scotia to Ireland in Arcturus, on our way ultimately toward Sweden. When we set off, on July 31, 2011, Matt was up in Baffin Bay, writing about his insomnia as he stood 50-hour watches in the fog, dodging icebergs and foul weather. I’d exchanged a few sat phone emails with him, wishing him well through the Arctic and on his journey. Matt wrote me back, via sat phone, the day we set off ‘the deep end’ from St. Pierre:

“Have a good trip. Godspeed. Let me know when you get to the other side I would love to hear about it.”

On August 13, when Arcturus was still 8 days from making landfall in Ireland, Matt wrote again:

“How was the crossing?  Im deep in the Northwest passage by this point. Drink a Guinness for me.”

A week later, I got this from Matt, after I’d emailed him to tell of our successful 23 day Atlantic crossing:

“Sounds like you had very little wind. I hate being becalmed! Funny thing is im becalmed right now as I write this. I loved Ireland. Be careful going up the coast the cliffs are a hazard. You will see more wind in Ireland then you did crossing the Atlantic. I was on anchor in the Kenmare river (bad spelling?) and I had 45kts. I was just in a gale the other day. It was blowing 40kts in the Amundsen Gulf. Send me some questions and ill be happy to answer. A follow up article would be good. I’m afraid we are not going to raise much money.”

The fact that he was curious and concerned about us, even in the midst of the biggest challenge of his life, is telling. And that is biggest concern was not raising much money for CRAB, which was the point of the voyage in the first place (he needn’t have worried – he ended up raising $120,000). Maybe he was yearning for human contact, but I genuinely think he was hoping we’d be okay and were having fun. There are lots more of these emails. Digging back through my inbox, I can nearly recount Matt’s voyage through the emails he sent me. Ocean sailors are kindred spirits, and these gestures from Matt meant a lot. 

Oddly, despite all the naysayers (one editor at a prominent magazine refused to publish a story I’d written about Matt’s upcoming trip, claiming he was nuts and would never make it), I never had any doubt in Matt. I’d been on the boat in Annapolis before he left, and I was a small boat sailor myself. I know the fear that you get out there at the start of a passage, and the nagging doubt that creeps in and tries to stop you. But I knew, somehow, that Matt would make it. 

This is a rambling review, and I’m not a movie reviewer, but I hope the point comes across that you ought to see this. Even knowing the story inside and out, I found myself on the edge of my seat, my heart racing with inspiration as I watched Matt on the screen making a life for himself that he and only he made the rules for. I knew what the outcome would be, but it didn’t matter. As cliched as it sounds, it’s the journey that Matt had along the way that is so inspiring.

Andy’s Biased Review of ‘Red Dot on the Ocean: The Matt Rutherford Story’

Sail Feed - Tue, 2014-10-21 20:27

Note: The movie makes it’s theatrical debut this Friday in New York City at the Quad Cinema. Click for tickets. Click here to watch the trailer.

Mia and I watched ‘Red Dot on the Ocean’ last night, the film about Matt Rutherford and his historic ‘Solo the America’s’ voyage. In a word: inspiring. If you don’t read any further, just take my advice and watch the film. It deserves to become a classic, and I hope it will.

Matt is one of my closest friends in the sailing industry, and so this review will absolutely be biased. I know Matt’s story, I’ve heard it countless times, I’ve written about it countless times and I’ve been one of Matt’s biggest fans since I first met him in 2009. And still, I was mesmerized by this movie, and surprised by what I didn’t know.

In short, the movie follows the fairly formulaic style of switching between his journey around the American continents on his 27′ Albin Vega St. Brendan and his troubled upbringing. If you’ve read Between a Rock and a Hard Place, about Aron Ralston cutting off his arm in that Utah canyon, you’ll know what I mean. The style works for this movie, and nicely balances the dramas unfolding in each storyline, leaving you in a bit of suspense each time they flip back and forth in time. And both narratives are so compelling – unlike Ralston’s childhood, which was way more ‘standard’, and I found boring (I just wanted to hear about his hiking trip) – that the style works particularly well.

Matt had a surprisingly troubled upbringing, beyond anything he ever told me. I won’t ruin it, but to give you an idea of what I mean, he was a recovering drug addict at age 13, a convicted felon at 14, grew up in a cult, and at times contemplated suicide. Only some of this I knew about Matt. He’d hinted at it over the course of our friendship, but never went into detail and I never asked. It doesn’t change the way I think about him, but it certainly changes the way I think about his story and his accomplishment. He’s suddenly elevated to another level entirely. It makes you think though, could he have done this without those kinds of traumatic childhood experiences?

The portion of the film that focuses on the sailing was remarkably well put together, especially considering what the filmmakers had to work with. Matt set off by himself in 2011, with no money and only basic supplies. The fact that he had a camera at all, and managed to take some compelling footage, both above decks and underwater is incredible. He’s good at talking to himself and to the camera, and giving you a feel of what it’s like to be at sea. And to be clear, all of the sailing footage is completely authentic – at times it almost felt stages, but I assure you, having seen his still images, that it’s all authentic. When Simon Edwards sails alongside Matt towards the end of his journey, it’s so calm it looks like they’re on a pond – they’re not. In fact, they’re 600 miles offshore, in the heart of the ocean wilderness, and the fact that Simon was able to track him down at all is incredible. The movie doesn’t touch on this, and to the layperson I think that might seem ‘normal’ at sea. Trust me, it’s not. That Simon had a camera with him was a good call on his part.

To the non-sailors, and even the sailors who have never been offshore, what Matt accomplished was absolutely extraordinary. If there is one thing the film didn’t do, it was emphasize this fact. Perhaps they hoped that just by showing it, folks would realize the enormity of it, but I’m not so sure. Ocean sailing is hard. Like most endurance sports, it’s probably 20% physical and 80% mental, especially once you go beyond a certain point (and especially alone), and Matt’s mental fortitude throughout the voyage and the movie puts him in the company of some of histories great explorers. Matt would sign all of his blog posts he sent in via sat phone with Ernest Shackleton’s family motto, Fortitudine Vincimus, and it’s Shackleton that Matt most wanted to emulate. He certainly came darn close.

I put Matt in the category of the great solo sailing pioneers of the 1960’s, the sailors and writers we all grew up reading about, Matt included. Francis Chichester, Robin Knox-Johnston, Bernard Moitessier. He doesn’t seem it on the surface, but Matt is probably most like Moitessier in that he’s almost a creature of the sea himself, so at peace with the elements and his own mind (which, once you see his childhood, you’ll find perhaps the most remarkable part of the film) that he could thrive out there on his sailing boat indefinitely, if only the boat wouldn’t fall to pieces beneath him. Matt’s voyage was every bit as incredible as Knox-Johnston’s first solo circumnavigation of the world, or Moitessier’s one-and-a-half-times around loop via the Great Capes.

In many ways it’s even more incredible. Matt was sailing a boat that was originally conceived around the same time those guys were making history (the first Golden Globe race was in 1968), and aside from his satellite communications and robust furling gear, he had mostly the same technology. Moitessier and Knox-Johnston had a bit of an edge, in that at the time, nobody thought what they were doing was even possible. Their successes made people change their minds, and suddenly what was impossible became possible. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that we landed on the moon around that same time.

Matt, almost 50 years later, set perhaps an even more remarkable record with his voyage. He sailed the equivalent of a circumnavigation – he basically circled the globe from top to bottom, rather than left to right – and did so through the world’s most treacherous stretches of ocean, through the NW passage which even this year was deemed impassable by the great Jimmy Cornell. And he did it with no money, in an old boat, and for no glory. His was as honest an endeavor as can be, and this the film recognizes very well.

The movie was very personal to me. That same summer, as Matt was heading north, Mia and I were heading east, sailing from Nova Scotia to Ireland in Arcturus, on our way ultimately toward Sweden. When we set off, on July 31, 2011, Matt was up in Baffin Bay, writing about his insomnia as he stood 50-hour watches in the fog, dodging icebergs and foul weather. I’d exchanged a few sat phone emails with him, wishing him well through the Arctic and on his journey. Matt wrote me back, via sat phone, the day we set off ‘the deep end’ from St. Pierre:

“Have a good trip. Godspeed. Let me know when you get to the other side I would love to hear about it.”

On August 13, when Arcturus was still 8 days from making landfall in Ireland, Matt wrote again:

“How was the crossing?  Im deep in the Northwest passage by this point. Drink a Guinness for me.”

A week later, I got this from Matt, after I’d emailed him to tell of our successful 23 day Atlantic crossing:

“Sounds like you had very little wind. I hate being becalmed! Funny thing is im becalmed right now as I write this. I loved Ireland. Be careful going up the coast the cliffs are a hazard. You will see more wind in Ireland then you did crossing the Atlantic. I was on anchor in the Kenmare river (bad spelling?) and I had 45kts. I was just in a gale the other day. It was blowing 40kts in the Amundsen Gulf. Send me some questions and ill be happy to answer. A follow up article would be good. I’m afraid we are not going to raise much money.”

The fact that he was curious and concerned about us, even in the midst of the biggest challenge of his life, is telling. And that is biggest concern was not raising much money for CRAB, which was the point of the voyage in the first place (he needn’t have worried – he ended up raising $120,000). Maybe he was yearning for human contact, but I genuinely think he was hoping we’d be okay and were having fun. There are lots more of these emails. Digging back through my inbox, I can nearly recount Matt’s voyage through the emails he sent me. Ocean sailors are kindred spirits, and these gestures from Matt meant a lot.

Oddly, despite all the naysayers (one editor at a prominent magazine refused to publish a story I’d written about Matt’s upcoming trip, claiming he was nuts and would never make it), I never had any doubt in Matt. I’d been on the boat in Annapolis before he left, and I was a small boat sailor myself. I know the fear that you get out there at the start of a passage, and the nagging doubt that creeps in and tries to stop you. But I knew, somehow, that Matt would make it.

This is a rambling review, and I’m not a movie reviewer, but I hope the point comes across that you ought to see this. Even knowing the story inside and out, I found myself on the edge of my seat, my heart racing with inspiration as I watched Matt on the screen making a life for himself that he and only he made the rules for. I knew what the outcome would be, but it didn’t matter. As cliched as it sounds, it’s the journey that Matt had along the way that is so inspiring.

USB charging on a 12v boat, fie on Apple?

Sail Feed - Tue, 2014-10-21 11:00

Written by Ben Ellison on Oct 21, 2014 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub

It was easy to gather a slew of devices currently on board Gizmo that hunger for a USB power supply at least occasionally. Heck, when the Verizon Android Galaxy phone is providing an LTE WiFi hotspot and also streaming Bluetooth audio to the Fusion IP700 stereo as it is now — I’m online while listening to a Maine radio station — it needs to be charged almost constantly. The hard-working phone is also why I keep those two USB charged/charging batteries topped up for shore trips (and, yes, they do make great press event swag, thank you Simrad and FLIR). The Phonak hearing aid accessory needs nightly charging and while the DeLorme InReach Explorer in the background can go for days doing satellite tracking and a few messages, I prefer to keep it plugged in so my Share Map stays complete. In short, I need multiple 12v USB power sources to keep this crew happy and thus this entry will cover several types I’ve tested. There are a lot of cables involved too, but it’s nice that all the gadgets pictured use a standard USB mini or micro size power/data plug, with one very significant exception…

Of course it’s the Apple iPad mini that uses a proprietary Lightning connector instead of a standard USB plug. The tablet does have excellent battery life and I understand that it needs more than a standard USB 5 volt 1 amp charger (or .5 amp laptop USB port) to renew the battery efficiently, but iPad charging issues go well beyond that. My experience is that even if you use a charger rated at the 2.1 amps purportedly needed by most iPads — newer models have gone to 2.4 amps — you won’t know for sure that you’ll see the charging screen above when you plug the Lightning cable in. There are endless online discussions about this and it may be that Apple uses a unique way of detecting a higher amperage charger that you’ll only find for sure in Apple Certified chargers, none of which is ideal for a boat (in my opinion).

Before describing my search for a good marine iPad charger, let me grumble a warning about the Lightning cable itself. The official Apple one above failed during my trip from Maine to Baltimore, which caused some anxiety as I didn’t have a spare and I use the iPad mini a lot. Fortunately I was able to get this connector to pass a charge again by gently sanding the contacts with fine emory paper lubricated with a little oil. But I’ve had Apple-made cables fail before, and cheap knock-off cables have done worse. The back-up Lightning cable I should have brought from home and highly recommend is Amazon’s own Apple Certified design. It seems sturdier than Apple’s and reasonably priced, especially given that Apple apparently gets a few dollar fee for every one.

By far the most common way to charge USB devices in a car or boat is with adapters like the ones above. They fit what are now called “12v accessory outlets” though oldsters like myself know that the “outlet” was originally designed for cigarette lighters. That’s a limited and very short-term use and as that Wikipedia entry rightly notes, the design has “poor contact stability” even though my boat came with four such power receptacles installed. Of course I tried them and adapters like the one at left with the 2.1A output sometimes charged my iPad. Sometimes, not always. Then one day I realized that the adapter had gotten quite hot, apparently because it was trying to draw those 2 amps through a poor contact. It was not the first time I’ve had such trouble, which is why I wonder if such “outlets” should be used untended on a boat.

First I tried the type of 12v USB power source designed to install behind a dash, which work neatly with accessories like the Tallon Ultimate iPad Mount or just a regular USB cable snaked to your favorite charging station. I couldn’t find a known brand model but both the CPT (no longer available) and the RioRand (available here at Amazon) charge every USB device on Gizmo just fine…except the iPad. Even though both chargers claim 3A output, sometimes the iPad says it’s charging, sometimes not.

I realize that iPads often charge slowly even when they aren’t acknowleging it, but I was frustrated nonetheless and was often using the Apple AC charger with Gizmo’s inverter just to be sure. And when I recently shopped for the type of USB charger that can replace an existing cigarette lighter receptical, my expectations for iPad compatability were low. So far, though, the Blue Sea Dual USB Charger Socket is working very well and the similar XYZ Boat Supplies model pretty well. Specifically, my iPad mini has always shown charge status when plugged into either Blue Sea outlet, but it failed once when plugged into the XYZ’s high power outlet (and its blue LED even went out). I’m not surprised that the Blue Sea product seems more reliable, but I don’t know how either charger will work with new iPads that would like 2.4 amp charging. Anyone?

Finally, don’t these annoying incontestabilities, worn cables, and so forth make one yearn for a universal inductive charging standard? I don’t know if that will ever happen, especially for Apple devices, but at IBEX I saw how inductive charging is coming neatly to boats, and will write about it soon.

s

Click here to read comments about this Panbo entry, or add your own.
Syndicate content
  • facebook
  • twitter