Really just taking it easy this week. No writing, not a lot of pictures, a 15-3 lead in cribbage tournament with Grandpa, and a lot of time in the water with the kids.
It might look like a bus stop, but it is actually the town library.
Yes, that is indeed the wheel of death. Ali’s dad tried to spin me around but I couldn’t hang on. I used duct tape to hold Lowe on.
Heading into the fog in St. Pierre, Eddie Vedder on the headphones.
I forgot to mention that that last post was an old one. I wrote it back in the spring of 2011, before I got married and before we took Arcturus across the Atlantic. I was dreaming about that crossing then. Now it’s reality. Strange how that happens (or perhaps not so strange at all).
Mia, my Dad and I came back to Pennsylvania from Annapolis last evening. We’ve been refitting my dad’s Wauquiez Hood 38 Sojourner in anticipation of him sailing in the Caribbean 1500 next fall (which is another story). When we got home I took the dogs out for a short run around the block. The Vansbro Marathon in Sweden is quickly creeping up on us, so we’ve really ramped up our training. The race is July 4, and its off road through the forest, so we’re both expecting a slow course with lots of hills.
Mia and Clint en route to St. Pierre. This is what July is like up north.
But I feel great. Mia and I ran 16 miles in Annapolis a few days ago, and I did another 10 around the Bay Ridge development, the run I used to do with my friend Tiffany when we both worked on the schooner Woodwind. And I felt great last evening with the dogs, and part of that reason was the music I had on. And during that run last evening, I got the inspiration to write something about it.
I wrote that human’s must indeed be creatures of the land. After 23 days at sea and landfall in Ireland, the smell of the earth was incredibly powerful. It literally brought tears to our eyes. Music, for me, does something similar, and has provided a soundtrack for some of the most important and memorable events in my life, adding a layer to those experiences that boost the whole thing to another level entirely.
On my run yesterday it started with David Byrne & St. Vincent. Ice Age came on as I ran down the driveway and added a spring to my step. David Byrne is one of my favorite artists (he’s the former lead singer of the Talking Heads). The beats layered in the background of that song in particular, and the horns overlaid on top literally gives me goose bumps when I hear it. Combine that with the adrenaline flowing from the exercise, and I’m transported to a higher level.
It’s not just running either. That thought – while I was listening to the Arcade Fire’s Sprawl II -
Sometimes I wonder if the world’s so small,
That we can never get away from the sprawl.
Livin’ in the sprawl, dead shopping malls rise
Like mountains beyond mountains
And there’s no end in sight
I need the darkness, someone please cut the lights!
- came to me yesterday during that run (I’m affected enough by music that I got chills just writing the lyrics to that song just now).
Music is not a modern thing. Music in a recorded state is modern indeed, only around for the last 100 years or so (incidentally, David Byrne wrote a fantastic book called How Music Works, that basically offers a history of music as a cultural entity over the centuries and how it’s changing now in the digital age).
Back in the clipper ship days, sailors had their chanties. Haul Away Joe must certainly have gotten the blood flowing amongst the crew as they hoisted the mainsail. I bet they weren’t just singing it to pass the time. They probably had chills too during their favorites.
We had a soundtrack on Arcturus as we headed across the Atlantic. Approaching St. Pierre off the south coast of Newfoundland, I was hand-steering late in the evening listening to my headphones. That far north, the sun doesn’t set in July until 10pm. The sky was aflame, just settling towards the horizon behind us as we sailed east. I had my headphones on and was listening to Eddie Vedder’s Far Behind from the soundtrack to Into the Wild:
the conscious mind
to be so inclined
Oh the price
My shadow runs with me
underneath the Big Wide Sun
My shadow comes with me
as we leave it all
we leave it all Far Behind
Empty pockets will
Allow a greater
Sense of wealth
Why contain yourself
Like any other
Book on the shelf
Oh man! The shivers were tingling on my neck with that one! How freaking appropriate, given our circumstances. There we were heading towards the horizon, both physically and mentally, sailing towards points unknown in the world and in our minds, and I had THAT to listen to as we’re doing it.
And just like smells trigger old memories, music does the same. I’m very careful when I listen to music I like to ensure that I’m listening to it while doing something I want to remember. A bad experience can ruin a good song, but a good experience can elevate that song to an entirely new level.
The whole way across the Atlantic, we got into a routine with the music. The Smashing Pumpkins’ Adore album became a repeat during the crossing. As we approached Ireland we started playing the Dropkick Murphys and the Irish Rovers to get us in the mood (which it did, tremendously).
Landfall in Ireland. Shippin’ Up to Boston was the soundtrack for this one.
There’s an album, Dreams by a band called The Whitest Boy Alive that immediately transports me to Sweden, where I first heard it and got to like it (I’m even careful now only to listen to that album in Sweden, for fear of it taking on a new persona if I hear it elsewhere). The White Stripes Black Math is my favorite song to run hills to.
And now, each time I hear that Eddie Vedder album, I’m mentally transported to that evening on Arcturus as we began our journey, and man what a feeling! It’s cemented in my brain, and will (I hope) always be that way.
Written by Ben Ellison on May 23, 2013 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub
I’m embarrassed about how shabby Gizmo’s fly bridge electronics panel has gotten, but isn’t it great that with the arrival of the Garmin GMI 20 all four of the major manufacturers now have similarly large, bright NMEA 2000 all-in-one instrument displays? Oh, there are subtle differences on view — like how the Raymarine i70 seems to have a little less black/white contrast but also seems to have a slightly larger active screen, and how it and the B&G Triton nicely de-emphasize decimal depth — but the main thing is that many boaters can have a highly versatile display that matches your other Big Four brand gear. Or, since most of the data displayed arrives in a standard protocol, we have four quite competitive all-in-ones to choose from (plus N2K displays from Maretron and others). Of course there are many, many more subtleties and that’s what I looked for on the test GMI 20. I discovered some mysteries too…
Above is the GMI 20 set to green night mode, which I find quite attractive (and which can be used during the day too since brightness is controlled separately). I like how the white needles stand out and I appreciate that some developer realized that I care about three of the tanks getting low and one getting full. But I was especially impressed with how Garmin handles the naming of tanks beyond the generic categories provided in the N2K standard…
The GMI 20 not only gave me a long list of possible fuel tank labels like ‘Port’, ‘Center’ and ‘Aft’ but also summarized the finished labeling with N2K source manufacturer and instance info. This is the sort of nuance that will make installation and trouble shooting a lot easier, especially as more and more systems sensors get on the N2K bus. Of course the ideal is custom labeling, preferably done with a keyboard, but I’ve only seen that so far with BEP CZone, source of the tank level info, and with Maretron gear, which is doing digital switching and much more on Gizmo these days. But those custom labels only show up on the displays of the specific developer or partner, and even the fuel tank “Port” and “Starboard” designations possible with the Garmin GMI 20 and Furuno TZT (just discussed) do not travel around the network well. I believe that custom labeling is built into the NMEA 2000 standard but hasn’t been utilized; can anyone elaborate?
But I digress. Another nice nuance I noticed on the GMI 20 is Profiles, which let you pick a whole set of screen pages by boat type or your main data interest. Then when you customize a profile you can select from pre-built “fancy” screen pages related to surface, wind, etc. and you can also reorder pages within a profile. I’m not sure that any other manufacturer has made it so easy to set up the screen selection(s) you want.
I don’t yet have Gizmo’s engine sensor data translating into NMEA 2000, but it’s getting toward the top of the to-do list and I suspect that the GMI 20 may be the easiest display to see it on. For one thing, the list of engine related data that it can display is long (which I also noticed on the Raymarine i70). Plus when I put an N2K engine simulator on the backbone (thanks again, Lowrance), the Garmin offered to adjust its fancy gauges screens (which were discussed when the GMI 20 was introduced). And when it saw RPM information, it asked if I’d like to enter the full throttle value so it could built its digital tachometer gauge to suit. Nice! (In my experience Maretron is the king of highly custom digital gauges, by a long shot, but they do take work and you won’t get fancy gauge clusters.)
How about engine and/or trim tab pop-up windows, so the information is only taking up screen space when it’s changing? I think they were available on the original GMI 10 — as other of these 2nd generation display features may be, since it received LOTS of firmware updates — but does any other display have them? I also noticed that you can specify how much angular change triggers the pop-up and how long it stays up once you’ve stopped changing the angle.
Now to the surprises. I’m pretty proud of sleuthing out the screens above. In regular mode the GMI 20 with its current software doesn’t mention its NMEA 0183 port. But in Demo mode there’s a setup routine for an anchor windlass and if you dig around you’ll also see related display values. So let’s be clear: the GMI 20 does not yet support windlass rode and speed display. But the evidence is strong that it will, and I’ve got a good hunch about the specific hardware/software that will make it possible. Check out the AutoAnchor 601 “Black Box” from Kiwi Yachting Consultants and recall that Garmin bought Nexus from the same company. So I’m also guessing that the 0183 port will eventually be used to integrate the wide world of Nexus sailing instrumentation with at least the GMI 20 and maybe beyond. (Unfortunately, it seems that the appropriate boast — “Elementary, my dear Watson!” – may be mythical.)
The last screen I don’t understand at all. What the heck is Clubhouse Wind? And if it’s a wind value from shore, like it sounds, how would it get to the boat? Will the GDL 40 cellular NMEA 2000 connection, as I’d hoped, finally be used for something besides weather (which it does well)? And why would you care what the wind was doing at the clubhouse anyway, if you have a clubhouse? I’ll close with a photo showing some of the fancy screens the different N2K displays are capable, some of which are unique (and should perhaps be copied on the others). If it ever stops raining here, I am going to do some cleaning and touch up that black paint.Click here to read comments about this Panbo entry, or add your own.
Yesterday my marina neighbor John was watching me climb around in the cockpit locker of my boat, tangled in battery cables and covered in engine grease. It was the 18th day in a row that I’ve put over ten solid hours of work into the boat. He asked me where I got my motivation; it was an easy answer – in two months, I’ll be sailing towards Sweden, and the boat just has to be ready.
As I write, it’s late in the evening and I’ve just finished yet another 10-hour workday, the 19th now since returning from Sweden on April 1 (‘nothing goes to weather like a 747!’). I left my fiancé Mia back in Stockholm to finish up her university degree and plan our wedding (!). Returning April 1 would give me exactly one month to finish fitting out the boat, a project we started in earnest last summer in Annapolis where we spent three long months living in the boatyard while we took the boat apart just to put it back together again.
Arcturus – our 35’ Allied Seabreeze yawl that is going on 50 – needed some shoring up for the North Atlantic. But we’re almost there, which is a good thing, as I’ve barely a week and a half left before ‘real’ job obligations finally take over and I have to leave town again.
The plan to sail to Sweden has been evolving ever since we bought the boat in 2008 on the Chesapeake Bay. The story of the sale is an emotional one, filled with serendipitous moments (which I live by). Mia and I took delivery only two or three days before heading to St. Martin for the summer to skipper a boat full of teenagers for Broadreach. Since then, Arcturus has gone through stages of being lived on, worked on, and left under a cover for long periods as Mia and I bounced around between Sweden, St. Martin and Annapolis, trying to figure out how to sustain a life without real jobs. We’d always dreamed of going ocean sailing, but never really had a destination in mind, and didn’t really put much effort into fitting out our boat in earnest, as we had no specific plan. Then we got engaged. As the wedding would be in Stockholm, that became the obvious goal.
I’ve always believed that once you make a decision to do something, the world sort of lines things up in such a way as to make them possible, even probable. Ideas take on a life of their own once they leave your subconscious. Thus began a two-year period of strange coincidences and opportunistic meetings that have given us the confidence to even attempt this voyage.
It’s only recently that I’ve begun studying charts for the route which, serendipitously, were given to me by Yves Gelinas – the inventor of the Cape Horn windvane who circumnavigated via the Southern Ocean in his Alberg 30 – after we met and took up a correspondence. We’ll sail north from Annapolis towards Halifax. If time permits, we’ll cruise the Nova Scotian coast before setting off towards Ireland, the west coast of Scotland and the North Sea. The pilot charts indicate a 50% chance of fog along the Canadian Maritimes in June/July (not to mention potential icebergs) when we’ll be passing through. Once off soundings east of the Grand Banks, we’ll be sailing generally along the path of the Gulf Stream as it branches towards the UK, which may give us half a knot or so. But the frequency of gales is a bit higher that far north, and the sustained westerly’s we should experience are in the Force 4-6 range. I spoke to a friend of mine who sailed that route single-handedly a few years ago; “there’ll be plenty of wind, and get ready to get wet,” was all he said. We hope to cross the North Sea by September before the winter (and the gales) kick in. People ask why we don’t stop off in Bermuda and the Azores, the more typical route across the pond; well, because that’s the more typical route, and we’re up for a challenge.
But today, the North Sea might as well be the moon. Arcturus is coming along, for sure – the engine is mounted again (though not connected to anything), the steering system is on the re-assembly phase, the new sails are being stitched, the Cape Horn windvane is installed (well, almost), and I nearly have a working electrical system. If I think about it, the work that still remains to be done seems overwhelming and impossible. And yet when I think back on the last 19 days, I’ve already achieved the impossible.
At the moment, I’m exhausted. When we set off in June, I’ll be ecstatic. The idea lives – there’s nothing to stop it now.
We walked around Loreto today. There really isn’t much to this town, which is fine because walking around towns with an entourage is always slow going anyway. There is a main road through Loreto that consists of a grocery store (where you will find quite possibly the only Mountain Dew in Mexico) a few restaurants and half a dozen car rental agencies. A block behind that is the pedestrian friendly road with the old Mission and a bunch of knick-knack shops. The kids always like to explore churches but if there are people inside whispering into their folded hands like there was today we keep them out. We did pop into a few of those shops, but I honestly don’t know why—we never buy anything. Who does? Overhead must be dirt cheap.
In the afternoon we drove down the road from the house to a golf resort where we thought we’d poke our head in and see if we could hang out on their beach and drink their booze. We walked into the lobby and were warmly greeted and told we had the run of the place. A nice beach, good food and drink, and an okay pool. And of course about the only people there were the cruisers who just recently discovered this friendly place.
That’s the question cruiser Jeff Southworth has no doubt been asking himself ever since January, when local police and U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents popped him in Puerto Rican waters and found 33 boxes of putatively Cuban Cohiba and Romeo y Julieta cigars on board his boat Janice Ann. Southworth claimed his cigars were actually cheap Dominican knock-offs, but CBP went ahead and seized both the cigars and his boat anyway.
One does have to wonder about the government’s sense of perspective. Evidently they’ve been telling Southworth since January 3 that one of their cigar experts will be able to determine where his cigars came from, but here we are over four months later and said examination has yet to take place. They’ve also valued his boat at $90K, which is a puzzler. Go and search Yachtworld, and you’ll see the current lowest asking price for a used Catalina 470 of the same vintage as Janice Ann (1999) is $158K. Most are going for around $200K.
Southworth’s Catalina at rest. Is it a boat, or an instrument of criminality?
Even if Southworth’s cigars are knock-offs, the government might still be entitled to keep the boat, as smuggling counterfeit goods into U.S. territory is apparently also grounds for property forfeiture. What’s interesting about that angle is that both Cohiba and Romeo y Julieta, as any cigar smoker knows, are brands existing in both Cuba and the Dominican Republic. The legal Dominican brands enjoy trademark protection in the U.S., but what about the illegal Cuban brands? Southworth wasn’t carrying counterfeit Dominican cigars, he claims he was carrying counterfeit Cuban cigars that were manufactured in the DR. Can the government legally prosecute someone for a violating a trademark they don’t legally recognize?
Dominican Cohibas. The U.S.-based General Cigar Company, which produces these babies, in fact ripped the name off from the Cubans in the first place. The company that originally made Romeo y Julietas in Cuba, on the other hand, shifted production to the DR after the Cuban revolution. The Cuban government ripped the name off from them (i.e., nationalized it) and now puts it on cigars they produce
Lawyers could make a bundle dancing around that question for a while, but they probably won’t get the chance. CBP recently offered to give back the boat so long as Southworth signs a release and promises not to come after them for attorney’s fees or damages. Not exactly fair (assuming the cigars are in fact fake Cubans), but he’d be a fool not to go for it. Fighting with the government on its own turf is generally a bad idea, especially when they’re already holding the key to your boat.
It’s official – the 2013 Atlantic Cup has come to a close, and Mia and I are back in Annapolis. Yachts in the Old Bahama Channel fleet are making their way north after having finished in Ft. Lauderdale a week or so ago, and the Bermuda fleet has made their landfall in the USA.
And with that landfall, the Lagoon 380 Southern Cross has closed the loop on a circumnavigation that began in 2011, touching soil in the USA for the first time since that November. Normally the news items on the World Cruising Club webpage are devoid of any hint of who wrote them. In this case, I’m inserting myself in the story because I have a connection to Steve and his boat that started in the fall of 2011.
Southern Cross participated in the Caribbean 1500 in 2011, sailing with the fleet from Hampton to Nanny Cay. At the time, the boat was already entered in the next World ARC in 2012. After a very slow, light-air passage in the 1500 in 2011, Steve was particularly concerned that he wouldn’t be able to keep up with the World ARC fleet, struggling with the idea of a circumnavigation and thinking of dropping out altogether. True, his Lagoon 380 was one of the smaller boats in the fleet, but then World ARC follows the Tradewind route round the world, and catamarans fare pretty well off the breeze. We did our best to encourage his participation, but when I left Tortola that year, it felt as if his decision had already been made. He’d stick around the Caribbean and do some cruising, then head home again to the US East Coast when he’d had enough.
Fast forward a year, and I’d found out through the grapevine that Southern Cross actually did take the start in St. Lucia in the 2012 World ARC and was somewhere in the Pacific. Steve had come around, and was indeed keeping up with the fleet and pursuing that long-term dream of his.
When he arrived in Tortola this April for the Atlantic Cup – finishing World ARC in St. Lucia earlier this year where he started over a year ago – and checked in to the Rally Office for the event, there was a noticeable change in his personality. Something was lifted from Steve, a stress that had been there prior to the start that fall of 2011. He’d been over the horizon with Southern Cross and conquered his dragons, those dragons that plagued him in 2011 after finishing the ‘1500’, that doubt that had crept in and clouded his dream. And he returned again to tell about it.
Steve’s buoyant personality lifted our spirits for sure in Tortola as we organized the event, and it was fantastic to see him getting excited to complete the final part of his long journey, the journey home again to the USA and back to the Chesapeake where it all start in the fall of 2011. And his positive attitude created opportunities – when he was short on crew only one day before the start, he quickly found 4 more to join him, and suddenly one turned into five.
And after a five-day passage back from Bermuda, I got this message from one of Southern Cross’ crew (who only flew out to Bermuda the day before they departed) this morning at 4am: “Hi Andy…Steve, Stefan and me are arriving into the Chesapeake!”
With that, the long journey home was complete. Congratulations to Steve Spracher, Southern Cross and the people that helped him around the world. Dreams do come true.
This is a piece of our hull. Looks a little on the thin side, wouldn’t you say? Not quite as much meat as you might like between you and the deep blue sea? Well, you’re right. And that is why that delicate piece of Aluminum is in Erik’s hand instead of on the port side of the hull.
One of the first things you learn as a boatowner is not to wait. This is funny, because most of cruising is about waiting: for weather, for customs officials, for provisions, for Godot. Patience is a virtue.
Except when it isn’t. When you start to think, “Hmm, the wind is coming up, maybe I should reef the main,” you don’t ponder or debate further - you reef the main. And when a funny noise crops up, or you see a blister in your paint, or something sticks, you don’t decide to leave it for another day. You track it down right now. Because little problems become catastrophic problems very, very quickly.
Months ago, Erik tracked down an issue to a weeping exhaust hose. The hose was buried behind the head in the aft cabin, and whoever built that cabinetry didn’t leave any access panels. This is the other side of “don’t hide”: if you can’t find the problem, you can’t fix it. You cannot have any dead corners or hidden places on a boat. It is begging for trouble.
Erik got back there and we fixed the issue (over several iterations.) But the weeping had done its job, and we wondered what that salt water had done to our hull. Trying to stay ahead of the game, we decided to ultrasound the hull at the next opportunity.
That turned out to be in New Zealand. And lucky we did, because our hull was down to a couple of millimeters in that spot.Better I make a hole now than you get one later.
The rest of the hull looked good, and now we have a shiny new patch on our bad spot.
Will this keep us problem-free for the next year? Ha, ha, of course not! We will have different issues to contend with. But, hopefully, we won’t sink because of a hidden, preventable problem.
It’s official – the 2013 Atlantic Cup has come to a close, and Mia and I are back in Annapolis. Yachts in the Old Bahama Channel fleet are making their way north after having finished in Ft. Lauderdale a week or so ago, and the Bermuda fleet has made their landfall in the USA.
And with that landfall, the Lagoon 380 Southern Cross has closed the loop on a circumnavigation that began in 2011, touching soil in the USA for the first time since that November. Normally the news items on the World Cruising Club webpage are devoid of any hint of who wrote them. In this case, I’m inserting myself in the story because I have a connection to Steve and his boat that started in the fall of 2011.CruisingWorld ARC
I remember when I lived in New York City there were some people who used to read the obits every day, looking for what might be good deals on newly vacated apartments. Apartment ghouls, I called them. Here’s an opportunity for any boat ghouls out there. The city of Newburyport, Massachusetts, is currently auctioning off an Endeavour 37 that used to belong a local liveaboard who is now presumed dead.
The boat’s owner, Richard Decker, a German national who was living on the boat in the Merrimack River off Newburyport, went missing last November. His dog was found tied to a post on shore; his swamped dinghy was found tied to the boat’s stern. All assumed that Decker somehow fell overboard, but authorities found nothing when they searched the river for his mortal remains.
This scenario kind of reminds me of a North Jersey politician with legal problems I used to know who faked his death while scuba diving in the Bahamas many years ago, but I really don’t want to speculate here about poor Mr. Decker.
You can check out his boat and bid on it at this municipal auction website here. Right now the current bid is $10,200, but the reserve has not been met. The auction closes on May 29.
My understanding is the boat has the “B” accommodation plan shown here, and it seems the original bowsprit has been removed. Noodle around on Yachtworld, and you’ll see asking prices for these boats range from $27-65K, so you can improve on the current bid quite a bit and still have plenty of room to get a bargain.
I sailed on an Endeavour 37 many years ago on a short passage from Fort Meyers to Key West and Fort Jefferson and back and can report they are very comfortable cruising boats. Not the fastest boat you’ll meet, but plenty sturdy enough for some bluewater sailing. You’ll find some more info, including specs and a link to the original owner’s manual, here.
I remember when I lived in New York City there were some people who used to read the obits every day, looking for what might be good deals on newly vacated apartments. Apartment ghouls, I called them. Here's an opportunity for any boat ghouls out there. The city of Newburyport, Massachusetts, is currently auctioning off an Endeavour 37 that used to belong a local liveaboard who is now presumed dead.Categories: Boats and Gearboat auctions
Act Now, Think Later. This has always been my mindset—for better or worse. I’d like to think that I intentionally choose to be this way, but it is probably more of a genetic defect.
To give an idea of how this works with me let me explain what I did today. Ali’s parents are visiting, so we moved off of the boat for the week and into a rental house down the road a few miles. Ali and I packed most of the stuff we would need on the first trip over and then I came back later to wrap up a few things on the boat like emptying the fridge and grabbing that pet of ours, Vanilla Ice Cream Goldfish (or Mango, the pet betta).
Now a normal person would think to themselves, “Hmm, what would be the best way to transport a fish in a bowl? Option A…B…C…”
Me? I don’t think. I grab the bowl, climb in the dinghy, wedge it between my feet, and take off. Worked pretty well on the dinghy ride. Then we got in the car. Not so good in a car. A mile down the road the water was sloshing all over the place and I was driving with one hand on the wheel and the other hand reaching to the floor of the backseat to cover the bowl as much as I could. I had it in back because I could reach it while it sat on the rubber floor mats. See, I was thinking. Anyway, that was the best I could do then, and my hand did cover 90% of the opening so I was 90% sure I’d have a fish in the bowl when I arrived at my destination. And that is how I think. I act now and think later—in other words, instead of trying to avoid problems, I deal with them as they happen. Very little forethought is involved in this method.
Of course a normal human being would have been on our boat thinking about transporting that fish and come to the simple conclusion that they could just dump the water in a ziploc bag, drop it back in the bowl like that, drive the ten miles, open the bag back up, dump the fish back in, and wah-lah, crisis averted.
What a boring way to go through life.
And yes, the fish was still in the bowl, though she gave me a good scare when I picked it up and couldn’t see her for a few seconds (long enough for me to scan the floor of the car) before she came out from under a rock.
Leading up to Grandma and Grandpa’s visit Ouest had been asking us if Grandma was going to bring her a mermaid’s tail. She’s really into mermaids lately, so much so that she tells us almost daily, “I really want to be a mermaid. A real one, not pretend.” She says it with so much sincerity that we both wish we could turn her legs into one giant flipper.
Anyway, we just kept telling her that we didn’t know if Grandma would bring a mermaid tail, that we weren’t sure if Grandma knew how badly she wanted to be a mermaid, and so on. We also tried to reinforce the idea that Grandma didn’t have to bring anything. Of course when every time a grandparent arrives they show up with a suitcase full of goodies for the kids that lesson is a little harder to teach.
And show up with a suitcase they did. And I think Grandma may have been even more excited to open up the goodie suitcase than the kids were.
So they dug in and wouldn’t you know it, Grandma knew about mermaids and did bring a mermaid tail. Exciting times.
A while later it was bedtime. While getting ready Ouest smiled and said to Ali in a voice filled with magic, “Grandma did know. Now I don’t need no more mermaid stuff.”
What about Lowe? He’s a boy—we all know boys get nothing. He ran around in a new pair of shoes and was thankful to get even that much.
Alongside the still-sore tragedy of the loss of Andrew Simpson in the Artemis crash, Prada boss Patricio Bertelli has stirred his own drama by going public with a demand for lower wind limits, and by sending Luna Rossa out sailing rather than wait out the one-week grace period requested by the newly-appointed safety review committee. Lower wind limits would be an inevitable conversation regarding over-horsed boats, but Bertelli in his press conference on Saturday also injected the new notion of wind limits during racing of “a couple of knots” higher than the numbers for starting. Hitting those numbers during a race would trigger automatic abandonment.
Would we ever complete a race?
The San Francisco Bay seabreeze builds through the day. Luna Rossa skipper Max Serena and his team know this. Why else would they have been out there at 1000, on the West Bay waters where the racecourse will be laid, and gone by 1100 on their first day of toe-in-the-water testing?
Seabreeze at 1000 Saturday, 12 knots from the west. Seabreeze at 1500, 19 knots from the west, and the locals who were sailing their own races remember it as a warm, mild, golden day on San Francisco Bay. Not the bear, much less the big bear.
Presently the wind limits for starting a race are 25 knots for the Louis Vuitton Round Robin and Semi-Finals, 28 knots for the LV Finals, and 33 knots for the America’s Cup match. Bertelli proposed lowering the starting limits to 20 knots throughout the challenger eliminations for the Louis Vuitton Cup, and 25 knots for the match. Offhand, that doesn’t sound problematic, but automatically pulling the plug at an additional “couple of knots” sounds highly problematic.
Meanwhile, one surface ripple of deeper currents flashed in Bertelli’s comment, “We will not tolerate a bending of the rules using the fatality as an excuse.”
Other writers have undertaken to tell of Andrew “Bart” Simpson, his young family, and his friend from childhood, Artemis sailing team director Iain Percy, partners in winning two Olympic medals. I can’t add to what has already been well said, but I can say a word for at least some of the sailors of San Francisco Bay who greeted the arrival of the America’s Cup with so much joy and hope and who haven’t let go of the hope even in the midst of mourning. Mourning for Simpson; mourning for the ideal America’s Cup that now cannot be. For three years I have experienced the enthusiasm of the Bay Area for the Cup. Sailing audiences, general audiences, no matter, peaking in the crowd-pleasing AC45 races of August (especially) and October that converted many old-school thinkers to the new order. Converts who are wavering now. Nonetheless, for most, hope and enthusiasm have survived among compounding disappointments. Volunteers are still volunteering. And now this. In the space of 24 hours, Friday night to Saturday night, I witnessed two full-house turnouts. The Saturday-night screening at the Sausalito Film Festival of The America’s Cup: 150 Years in the Making was dedicated to the memory of Andrew Simpson and attended by a range of people, from a few who just wanted to know “something” to wooden boat enthusiast Alan Olson of the educational nonprofit, Call of the Sea, who wouldn’t let a thread of carbon fiber anywhere near the tall ship that he’s beginning to build. But all of these people care. All of them want to welcome the world to this wonderful patch of water. All of them want to see a good competition. All of them, hope.
A week or so ago, when we were reading “might be cancelled” stories, people needed assurance that it wasn’t so. Now there are questions about whether individual challengers will drop out, and—
The Italians might make threats, but they didn’t come to leave. The Kiwis have been quiet (since coming to town) but they are in the mindset of warriors in a hostile country, outgunned but spoiling for a fight. If you don’t already know that the Kiwi-Kiwis don’t like the “American” Kiwis, you’re missing essential backstory. That leaves Artemis, Challenger of Record, the question mark.
Artemis CEO Paul Cayard once partnered with now-Oracle Racing CEO Russell Coutts to attempt to launch an international circuit in large cats, along the lines of the ORMA 60 trimarans that were then racing, and occasionally cartwheeling, around Europe. It’s worth noting that the then-presence of the ORMA 60 circuit was part of the reasoning to go a step bigger than 60 feet to create a catamaran class for the America’s Cup. We’ve said before that the 34th America’s Cup is the biggest gamble ever undertaken in any sport, not just by fielding boats that reach near-freeway speeds but by attempting to revolutionize every aspect of the event. Cup historian John Rousmaniere is no fan. Talking to NPR’s Richard Gonzales on All Things Considered, Rousmaniere called the AC72s “Indy cars without brakes.”
Well, choices were made early on that have taken us to the edge or beyond. The boats did not need to be this powerful to make their point. Ellison and Coutts both have been saying so for months, but the AC72s can be sailed and surely will be sailed. Post-2013, we won’t see them again in this form, if at all. Safety matters are one thing, but there’s also the fact that, because of those powerful and (to me) fascinating wings, it takes a small army and a lot of time to launch or retrieve an AC34. They’re each a marvel, but at this scale the wing is a hassle.
How well will catamarans prove out as match-race vehicles? I’ve heard predictions here and predictions there. Call me in October.
In the run-up to 2013, Emirates Team New Zealand boss Grant Dalton has criticized Cayard and Coutts for having a chummy (my word) rather than adversarial relationship—challenger versus defender—and the description is true enough. Were Artemis to stand aside, the Kiwi team, next in line, would become the Challenger of Record, and challenger-defender negotiations would become darker and much more complex. About a month ago, as the Kiwi team was packing up to ship out of Auckland, Dalton told me, “The America’s Cup is a very nasty place right now.”
And that was then, and this is the new now.
OTHER BIG GUYS
Still the fastest go-places boat in the world, though the 500-meter and nautical mile records now belong to hyper-specialized Vestas Sailrocket (65.45 knots and 55.32 knots) Alain Thébault’s trifoiling l’Hydroptere has spent more than half a year on San Francisco Bay/ The French record hunter is now preparing to sail south for an attempt on the Transpac course. Not to sail the Transpacific Yacht Race, mind you, but to take a start and finish from the Transpac Yacht Club from the familiar start to the familiar finish, Point Fermin to Diamond Head, whenever the weather lines up. This was the look in the summer of 2012 . . .
Also soon to launch in Alameda is John Sangmeister’s Tritium Racing, the ORMA 60 that Artemis Racing used for trialing its first wing, the one that broke in early testing in Spain. It is possible that the two boats will sail south together, and however that goes, it is likely they will tie up together at the pier in Rainbow Harbor in front of Gladstone’s Long Beach. Sangmeister, a veteran of Dennis Conner’s Cup-winning crew in Australia, is a restaurateur, a business pioneer (Rainbow Harbor once was a blighted neighborhood) and multihull enthusiast. He does plan to race Transpac in July. This is the boat sailing in a previous incarnation—
Editor’s Note: Those studying my recent account of Lunacy‘s passage from Puerto Rico to Bermuda may have noticed that we did NOT find that abandoned Swan 48, Wolfhound, ex-Bella Luna , that I blogged about earlier. Ah, well… You can’t always find that needle in the haystack, but I can deliver on my promise to tell you about the time I delivered a Swan 48 down to the islands.
I HAD OFTEN delivered boats from the northeastern U.S. to the West Indies in early November. I had also done northbound trips from the Indies to New England in the spring. But I had never before been asked to take a boat south to the Caribbean in early April. Why, pray tell, would anyone want to do this? The answer, not surprisingly, involved a racing schedule.
The boat in question, Avocation, a Swan 48 that had recently changed hands, was now being managed by Hank Schmitt, of Offshore Passage Opportunities, and he planned to campaign the boat at Antigua Race Week. He needed to have it in St. Maarten by Thursday, April 21 (this was in 2005), so he could fly in and take it to Antigua in time for the start of Race Week on Sunday, April 24.
I met Hank and the boat at his home base in Huntington, Long Island, early on the morning of Wednesday, April 6. Hank had already assembled a pay-to-play crew, the members of which slowly trickled on to the scene as we attended to a few last-minute chores that afternoon. They were an excellent mix. We had two young deck-apes, Jordan and Nathan; two middle-aged sailors, John (a member of the U.S. Army Special Forces) and Keith (a small-business owner from Florida); plus one seasoned offshore veteran, Jim.
The weather charts I downloaded that evening were pretty bleak. The forecast was for a deep low generating gale-force winds to appear in the waters between Bermuda and the eastern U.S. on Saturday, April 9, right about the time I expected we’d be crossing the Gulf Stream. If I were in cruising mode, of course, I would have waited patiently for this low to pass, but since we were in delivery mode, and a no-go decision now meant that Hank could not possibly race at Antigua, I felt we had no choice but to set out as planned early on the morning of Thursday, April 7.
We screamed down Long Island Sound. Though conditions were initially light, by 1400 hours a moderate southwesterly had filled in. Flying full sail on a broad reach, we maintained speeds of over 9 knots all through the afternoon into the early evening. By 1640 hours we had cleared Plum Gut; by 1800 hours we had cleared Montauk and were reefed down in open water, close-reaching into what had become a quite brisk 25-knot breeze. The sea was very lively, and by sunset most of the crew was seasick.
The wind stayed strong until about noon the following day, moderated as it shifted south, then shifted southwest and became very light late in the day. Through all of this, we motorsailed aggressively, as I wanted to keep our speed at 7 knots or better in hopes of crossing the Stream before the arrival of the forecast gale.
The Proverbial Fan and What Hit It
The crew member who suffered the most from seasickness was John (or “Johnny Army,” as Nathan called him), our Special Forces man. A veteran of tours in both Afghanistan and Iraq, he later paid me what I considered to be an immense compliment when he described our voyage together as one of the most miserable experiences of his life. In spite of his malaise, however, he did everything I asked of him. He also anointed himself weather-data specialist and made repeated attempts to download charts en route via his government-issue Iridium satellite phone. He had practiced doing this on shore before joining the boat, but for some reason was unable to download data while offshore.
As a result, we didn’t know what to expect when Saturday, April 9, arrived. Would the gale materialize, or not? We had rain and a light southerly all through the day and, again, motored to keep our speed up. After midnight, however, the wind shifted southeast, dead against us, and started building. Soon it was blowing 30 knots, and again we reefed the boat down. It wasn’t quite a gale, but it was bad enough. There was still a lot of Gulf Stream current flowing under us, and the seas were very lumpy. Sailing closehauled on port tack under a double-reefed main and staysail, we had the starboard rail well buried and nobody aboard felt very happy.
In the midst of all this, not long after we shortened sail, I was awakened from a fitful sleep by a cry from the cockpit: “The instruments are out!”
I shouted up to the watch on deck to cope as best they could, then rushed to the nav desk, on the lee side of the boat, to check the electrical panel. My heart sank when my right foot landed in a large puddle of water as I slid in behind the desk. Then came the telltale scent of smoldering wiring. After lifting several floorboards, I soon figured out what was going on. We were taking on quite a bit of water, which was pooling up all along the lee side of the boat. Under the nav seat, low down on the starboard side, there was a collection of small step-down voltage converters, several of which were now submerged.
After checking the through-hulls, the prop shaft, and the rudder post, I concluded the water must be from some deck leak that was active only when the boat was well heeled. How to get rid of the water was another problem. Shallow bilges may help a boat sail fast, but they are nothing but trouble if you are taking on water under sail. With the boat well heeled, the intakes for both our electric and manual bilge pumps, located on the centerline in a shallow sump, were barely awash and could not pick up the bulk of the water on our lee side. The pumps could be used to keep more water from coming aboard, but they could not pump the boat dry.
As the sun rose Sunday morning, I was debating what to do about this. One option was to heave to and stand the boat up straight enough for the pumps to work. To keep the boat dry, however, I would have to do this repeatedly, which would slow us down. Another option was to re-route the manual bilge-pump’s intake line to the lee side of the boat where it could do some good. By 0900 hours, however, the question was moot, as conditions moderated and the boat’s heeling eased enough for the pumps to be useful again. Taking stock of our situation, I found we had lost all of our navigation instruments (but not the GPS, which fortunately was on a separate circuit), our autopilot, our VHF radio, and our 12-volt outlet, which we had been using to charge our two handheld satellite phones. We also found that the genoa leech was thoroughly shredded. This, presumably, happened while we were furling the sail in high winds the night before.
Jim enjoys some quality time on deck during our rough passage to Bermuda
Sunday night the sky was clear enough that we saw some stars, the first of our passage. All through Monday, we had a moderate northerly (at last!) pushing us along on a nice broad reach, really our first pleasant day of offshore sailing so far, and by 2200 hours Bermuda was in sight. During our final approach, I had a long debate with Bermuda Radio on our spare handheld VHF. Their ironclad policy was that boats entering St. Georges at night could not lie at the customs dock, but must instead anchor out in relatively deep water on the south side of the harbor and wait for customs to open in the morning. I was nervous about anchoring, however, because we were now pretty tired, we had no depthsounder, and I had a hunch our anchor windlass wasn’t working. (Hank had warned me it had not been inspected or tested since the boat was purchased.) In the end, I elected to heave to and wait outside for daylight, and Bermuda Radio apologized profusely for their intransigence.
As soon as the sun rose Tuesday morning, we eagerly got ready to enter the harbor. Almost instantly, however, one small problem presented itself. We unexpectedly ran out of fuel and had to switch tanks before motoring through Town Cut.
Damage Control in Bermuda
My hunch, it turned out, was correct. On testing the windlass in St. Georges, I found it exhibited unique symptoms. That is, it could drop chain, but could not pick it up. As soon as the windlass received power, it started merrily spooling chain overboard, and the only way to stop it, I soon learned on sprinting to the bow to seize the handheld control, was to keep a thumb firmly planted on the UP button. No matter how hard I pressed UP, however, the device refused to reel chain back in. Unfortunately, I was alone on the boat when I discovered this and so found myself trapped at the bow, unable to shut off the power, with the windlass control clutched in my hand.
Just then a tourist appeared on the wall where we had tied up the boat. “Where have you come from?” she asked in a congenial tone.
“Here, lady,” I answered eagerly, proffering the control unit. “Can you hold this for a minute???”
I also discovered the windlass could not be operated manually, which meant, in effect, we had no windlass at all. I had better luck, however, dealing with our other problems. Steve Hollis of Ocean Sails, truly a prince among sailmakers, agreed to repair our genoa leech on a very expedited basis. I also discovered the headsail furling line was very badly chafed in one spot, so I replaced it. Some minor damage to the mainsail leech was repaired with tape. Some sections of the overhead down below, which were continually falling down due to tired Velcro fasteners, were permanently screwed back into place.
St. Georges, Bermuda. We spent our visit here tied up on the bit of wall behind the red skiff
But the big issue, of course, was the electronics. At first I assumed we’d have to proceed without these, but after poking around I found the voltage converters under the nav seat could be easily interchanged. The converters were necessary, because Swans, like many contemporary European boats, have 24-volt house power systems. This facilitates the feeding of hungry devices like bow-thrusters, electric winches, and our useless windlass, but means that power for common electronics–such as depthsounders, wind instruments, stereo systems, autopilots, radios, etc.–must be stepped down to 12 volts to be useful. By engaging in some triage, I was able to reactivate useful systems, such as the instruments and the autopilot, at the expense of less useful systems, such as the stereo and courtesy lights. I also remounted the active converters higher up in the space under the nav seat in hopes they might better survive another bout of serious windward sailing.
Avocation lashed to the wall. Its concave shape presented a problem with the wind on our beam
Nathan (left) and Jordan (right) refueled the boat by jerry jug
By the morning of Thursday, April 14, we were ready to depart Bermuda–without John, unfortunately, as he had to fly home to the Army. What was also unfortunate was that we were trapped in place by a stronger than expected south wind that sprang up during the night and pinned us firmly to the concrete wall where we had tied up. Because the wall was concave, I was afraid to spring off it, for fear of damaging our flawless topsides. So that morning we watered and refueled the boat via jerry cans (we were, ironically, just a few yards from the fuel dock), and by 1400 hours, fortunately, the wind moderated and shifted southwest, so at last we were able to set off again.
Adventures in Fuel Management
On leaving Bermuda, I regaled the crew with tales of the easterly tradewinds. “Just a couple of days of motoring through light stuff,” I promised them, “then we’ll be screaming along on some kind of reach.”
But reality, as so often happens, made a liar of me. We did initially sail on a close reach out of St. Georges, on a moderate southwesterly wind, but this soon shifted dead on our nose. The following morning the breeze built briefly to over 30 knots, and again we took on water courtesy of our mysterious deck leak, but fortunately this time the converters were high and dry to windward. From that point forward, with rare exceptions, we had incessant rain and either light headwinds or no wind. As a result, we again motored aggressively, hoping not to beat a gale this time, but simply to get quickly to the trades.
Late on Saturday, April 16, we again unexpectedly ran out of fuel. In all we had about 70 gallons of diesel aboard, divided between two integral tanks, plus an extra six gallons in a jerry can. The first time we ran a tank dry, going into St. Georges, I had simply been negligent, as the fuel gauge read very close to zero. But this time I was taken aback, as according to the gauge we still had a quarter of a tank left. The gauge, it seemed, read very differently depending on which tank was engaged.
Motoring through the light stuff. Jordan enjoys a book while the autopilot steers
After switching tanks, we motored aggressively for another 24 hours, but as we got further and further south without finding the trades, I became more and more circumspect and ran the engine at lower RPMs for shorter periods of time. I also dug out the owner’s manual and spent some time consulting the boat’s fuel-consumption tables. Finally, as we flogged along through weak rain squalls very early on the morning of Wednesday, April 20–with some 90 miles still to go before we reached St. Maarten–I concluded, based on my study of the tables, that we had only about five gallons of fuel left. Thus, when the wind (again) died completely at about 0430 hours, I felt we had no choice but to keep the engine off and sit motionless awaiting its return. It now seemed very unlikely that we would reach St. Maarten by Thursday.
Fortunately, we didn’t wait long, as a moderate southeasterly soon filled in. Though this wind grew much weaker and more variable during the day, we were able to sail the boat closehauled more or less toward St. Maarten at an average speed of less than 2 knots. To do so, however, required very careful steering. The crew by now, after nearly a week of quarrelsome, rainy weather, was too bored to pay much attention to the helm, so I steered the boat through most of the day. By 2000 hours we were still, however, 65 miles from St. Maarten, and I was convinced we would never arrive on time.
But then, suddenly, we got lucky. The wind grew stronger, shifted in our favor, and all through the rest of the night we sailed straight at St. Maarten at 5 knots or better. Around sunrise Thursday morning we cleared the east end of Anguilla. By 0900 hours we had turned on the engine again and were rounding Pointe Basse Terre, at the western tip of St. Maarten. We figured we would, unfortunately, be just a few minutes late for the 0930 bridge opening into Simpson Bay Lagoon. But then, while monitoring the bridge’s radio traffic, we made an amazing discovery–it wasn’t 0900 after all! It was 0800, as St. Maarten, despite being well east of Bermuda, is an hour behind Bermuda time.
I felt like Phineas Fogg in Around the World in 80 Days, pulling victory from the clutches of defeat, thanks to the unexpected gift of an extra hour. We arrived at Simpson Bay with more than half an hour to spare and, after idling around a bit, started to queue up to enter the lagoon. But then, just as suddenly, our luck ran out. Just five minutes before the bridge was to open, the engine again faltered and died. Once again–literally just a few hundred yards from our final destination–we’d run out of fuel.
The drawbridge at Simpson Bay Lagoon. We got stuck (temporarily) on the wrong side
It all came right in the end, however. We anchored in the bay (with no help from the windlass, of course) and a tow boat came out to pull us into the lagoon when the bridge opened again at 1130 hours. Just an hour after we finally got the boat secure in a marina berth, Hank arrived from the airport. He was delighted to learn that the fuel tanks were empty. This meant he could take on the very minimum amount needed to reach Antigua and so would be carrying as little extra weight as possible when the racing began.
What The @#!*& Happened To The Trades???
After finishing my wrong-way delivery (it obviously would have been better to do this beforehand) I did some research on weather patterns in the Caribbean during the month of April. I found the following on page 206 of Don Street’s Transatlantic Crossing Guide (W.W. Norton, 1989):
One thing I can predict, after thirty years of sailing in the Caribbean, is what I call the April Calm. It doesn’t show up on the weather charts, but every year for the past twenty-five I have noted that sometime between the last days of March and early May there is a spell of four to eight days where the wind goes flat. April is thought of as a windy month, and so it is; but sometime in that period—during the [spring racing] regattas—will come that stretch of calm weather, which means either a few light-air races or trouble in getting from one regatta to the next on time. Don’t ask me why, but it’s true.
Need I say more? In retrospect, of course, I wished I’d carried a little more fuel on our passage south, and I now believe I should motored at lower engine speeds to conserve what fuel I had. I also wished–both because of the forecast gale on the Bermuda leg, and because of all the light air we found en route to St. Maarten–that we had started our trip a couple of days earlier. In any event, even if you are traveling north (as most sane people do) at this time of year, you’d do well to remember the April Calm when planning your passage.
PS: Avocation is still for sale as I pull the trigger on this post and is aggressively priced!
Ali’s parents arrive tomorrow and we had reserved a car for the week, but today decided we were bored enough with this place that we needed to get the car a day early and go to town.
When we got up to the marina building there weren’t any taxis around so I walked over to a group of guys sitting out front of the diver’s office and asked if they knew anybody headed towards town this morning. They didn’t, but then one of them got up and said he’d take us anyway. As we walked to his truck I asked how much for the ride and he said, “Don’t worry about it,” as in, “No charge.”
Without thinking we had him drop us off at the airport. I gave our friend some money which he gladly accepted, but I couldn’t help thinking that he would have driven off without saying a thing if I hadn’t. A thirty-mile round-trip in his rattle-trap truck would have burnt two gallons of gas, which as we all know isn’t cheap these days, yet for no reason whatsoever he offered to take us. Pretty cool, and yet not at all unique in our experience—which again makes it all the more cool.
Anyway, he drops us off at the airport and we walk through the doors to find absolutely nothing. I don’t know what I was thinking. There is like one flight a day into Loreto. They don’t man their little car rental counters all day long. If they did I probably would have given them a heart attack as I would clearly have been the first person to ever drop in on them like that.
We found a guy who told us the car rental folks show up around ten, just half-an-hour away, so we sat down in the empty cavern.
About quarter-after I walked over to where four security guards were sitting on one small bench watching cartoons together. They told me the car rental people would be in around one. Crap. I tried the number I had for the rental office but it was still disconnected (I did try to call the day before to have them deliver the car to us). Eventually one of the security guards scrolled through his phone and came up with the right number. I called and the rental guy said he’d be right over.
Ninety minutes after arriving at the deserted Loreto airport we had a car. We drove the remaining five miles to town and found a pretty hilarious playground for the kids to run around at. The baby swing seemed designed to choke, the teeter-totters sat in a mud puddle, and there was a crazy contraption consisting of a couple of automobile axles welded together, a three part chain system, and a giant metal wheel of death that spun about fifteen feet in the air—presumably with a five-year-old hanging on for dear life.
From there it was off to the book store, followed by fish tacos, and finally a grocery store run. We pretty much covered all there is to do in Loreto in two hours.
Nah, there’s probably some more to do, I’m just not sure what it is yet.