Thursday, January 29, 2009

Women in Charge

The Captain calls it mutiny......but here we go for an important update to the Roles and Responsibility Log on Maitreya: as of today, Corine is our Chief Docking Officer and Jak will serve as male deck candy or human fender if needed :-)

And a warm thanks to Captain Tim Sanders who actually made it happen! This week he and I have been practicing docking our lovely, but very heavy lady who, even with the new engine, does not turn anything remotely like those newer fiberglass boats. So, we got in and out of our transient slip at the Kona Kai Marina and played around the big powerboats (and we even thought our old slip in Berkeley has a decent amount of tight turns but that's nothing compared to the small fairways over here in San Diego).

Back to some Women in Charge subjects and some of the ladies/websites that make that happen:
- a few years ago I sailed a Morgan 41 in the Florida Keys with Captain Jen, which was great fun
- of course there's my sister Jolanda who started the women's sailing program at the Cal Sailing Club in Berkeley
- our new home base yacht club in Alameda, the Island Yacht Club has a great 2-day womens sailing seminar every October
- and if you want to add any great websites or experiences with womens sailors, please e-mail me and I'll add them to the blog.

SS France Parts Up for Auction

The French ocean liner SS France (later SS Norway) is being scrapped and parts are being auctioned off next month. The liner was built in 1961 and is only 48 years old. It was the largest cruise ship in the world for many years until the Queen Mary II was finished in 2004. It is also one of the last things to be the biggest to come from France.

She is Gonna Blow

Mt. Redoubt may be set to erupt at any moment. The volcano is 100 miles from Anchorage, but looks closer to Homer, Alaska. Homer is the home port of our friends on Amikuk.

We sure hope that is far enough away to avoid earthquakes or Mt. St. Helens type damage. Portland was only 53 miles from St. Helens, so it should be alright.

Might be an interesting stopover after it is all done.

Handy Email for Cruisers

Air travelers and cruisers make up a large part of the intermittently or occasionaly connected. This is a term used by computer nerds to describe people that don't always have an Internet connection. This group keeps shrinking due to wireless technologies.

Google has recently announced that GMail will allow access to messages while you do not have an active internet connection. This can be handy as more and more critical information is being stored in email messages. This feature has always been in non-web based email such as outlook. The problem is that the cost and effort to use such a program is high.

Cruisers that use Airmail with Sailmail for SSB email transfer usually have another email account for non-critical, non-passage related messages. It would be really cool to coordinate the mail queues with Gmail, but that can be complicated since neither party documents the internals yet. Airmail can check an online GMail or other mail account now if you have an active connection.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Jeff Hawkins' Schooner

Palm Computing's and Handspring's founder Jeff Hawkins built the schooner Jakatan. It is quite a bit smaller and more practical than the majority of the recent Silicon Valley vessels. He has a really nice website documenting the design and construction. As you might expect, there is an amazing attention to detail and clever innovations throughout. Here is an article about Jakatan in CruisingWorld .

Jeff is a very diverse thinker. Here is a talk he gave at the TED Conference on brain science and computing.

Friday, January 23, 2009

The Rest of the Video and Story

This video was shot on the third rescue attempt by the Turkish carrier. The first two times they had not gotten close enough. The encounter with the whale had damaged both engines and there was water in both pontoons. The full story is at Latitude 38

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Gulser Ana - Courtship Collision

In a previous post there is a video of a collision between a freighter and a catamaran. The Royal Gazette claims that the Gulser Ana was rescuing the two French crewmen from the catamaran after their vessel hit a whale.

The vessel did not look in bad condition, though it was said to be taking on water and a gale was forecast.

It may be pretty difficult to get close to a small boat for a rescue. Normally, the freighter would stop an then the catamaran would attempt to move toward it.

The Turkish press gives more detailed reports, but I found no translator for them.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


This is a video of the 600-ft cargo carrier Gulser Ana hitting a Venezia 42 catamaran Courtship about 350 miles west of Bermuda on November 18. 600 feet is kind of medium-sized for a cargo vessel. You don't really get the scale of the thing until you see the crew run down the deck.

Latitude 38 claims that this was done on purpose. They won't tell why until Friday.

Costco Knows

We have more provisions on the boat than we can usually keep track of. Corine has some detailed lists, but we still cannot find some items when we want to. Today, I got a voice mail from a very friendly computer at Costco. It knew that we had purchased some Clif Bars that have been voluntarily recalled. These bars are suspected of having Salmonella tainted peanuts from the PCA (Peanut Corporation of America). We found our bars and what do you know? Costco was right.

Wireless Green Inauguration Video

Yesterday, we watched Obama take the oath via the PBS Internet video stream. The stream came to us wirelessly and was powered partly by solar energy. We take these things for granted, but it is pretty amazing when you look back.

Yesterday was Cara's 18th birthday and I am so proud of the young lady.

This milestone gives me a mark to look back at what was going on back then. In 1991, we were still pre-Web. The Internet was mostly used for email and ftp. I can remember that it was an effort to send one megabyte Sun UNIX kernels by email. We has some shell scripts to cut them up into about twenty pieces and put them back together on the other end. I was working a lot with Sun Microsystems on tuning the Sybase server back then. Sun provided me with a one gigabyte hard disk array to work with. This was very expensive; in the five figure range. The array was about twice as big as an average tower personal computer. We have come quite away technically.

Politically, things have not changed that much. When Cara was born, the US was in the air phase of the Gulf War. George H.W. Bush was bombing Iraq into the stone age. Saddam was firing SCUD missiles at Israel. There was a lot of fear that the SCUDs might be carrying nerve gas as the fell randomly on Israeli cities. I wondered what kind of a world Cara was being born into. Were we entering a new phase of chemical warfare? Would Israel retaliate with nuclear weapons?

Fortunately, all of this did not come to pass. The problems still exist and have drug out for almost two decades costing many thousands of lives in Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, New York, Madrid, London, Mumbai, Bali and many other places.

Let us hope that we can use the current moment as an opening, a turning point for real change.

Exciting Stuff

We have been racing to use the hot weather to get a couple coats of paint on the deck. Some of the work we have done over the last year has dropped metal shavings from drilling on the mast and boom gallows. These have caused rust spots where the metal has caught in the non-skid.

I scrubbed for a while with phosphoric acid to remove the metal and neutralize the oxidation. Then I went at it with some gray Brightside polyurethane with flattening agent. This should cut the glare off the deck.

Today it is supposed to rain. As you might have guessed, we are watching the paint dry.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

San Diego Boat Show

We went by the San Diego Boat Show last Sunday. Attendance seemed light but not terrible. The indoor portion of the show was dominated by small powerboats, the outdoor area by large powerboats.

There was not much in the way of gear. There were almost no manufacturers of aftermarket equipment present. Electronics and other items were shown only by local San Diego dealers.

West Marine had a section on green boating. Three or four dealers were showing electrical boats and engines.

The interesting items that I saw included:
  • Soda Blasting - Sandblasting with baking soda. Apparently, this is not new. The sodium bicarbonate has a multi-sided structure that increases the effect of the force. This is gentler than sand or beads and more effective than walnut shells or corn cob bits. It is supposed to be green, though it seems about the same as other materials. You still end up with your substrate mixed with toxic paint chips.
  • Dyneema webbing used for secondary anchor rode, European stern ties or high latitude shore lines. Quickline is switching from nylon to dyneema webbing on their reel products. This looks like it might be a good general solution without the reel
We had never seen boat prices as low. We saw several new 36 to 40 foot sailboats for under $250,000. Most power boat dealers had signs out saying they would take any trade-in no matter how much was owed on the loan. The cost of holding inventory must be getting very heavy.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

4th Generation Tiller Pilot to Wind Vane Linkage

There are not a lot of autopilot options for a 15 ton vessel with an externally hung rudder controlled by a tiller. The simplicity of the steering setup is it's appeal. The largest tiller pilot is rated for a boat of about half this weight. Autopilots for larger vessels are intended for installation under the deck where they can integrate with steering cables or arms attached to the rudder post.

The solution most often chosen for this problem is an attachment of a tiller pilot to a wind vane. This takes advantage of the wind vane's natural mechanical advantage design. The solution, like the wind vane itself, is rather Rube Goldberg-esque.

My first couple of attempts involved mounting the standard ball-pin on a custom vane blade on the wind vane. This worked about 95% of the time. It would tend to fail when the pilot ram would bounce off of the ball in rough weather with the vane blade was at an extreme angle. This is caused by the rough weather and unbalanced sail trim. It is difficult for a singlehander to adjust sail trim at the same time the selfsteering fails. The distance of the wind vane from the tiller could also make it difficult to re-attach the linkage without letting go of control of the boat completely.

My next design, I did not implement. I have seen pictures of vanes controlled by Morse Cables. This allows the pilot ram to be mounted under the deck where it and any electrical connections can be protected from the elements. The pilot's ram and the vane blade require 8 to 10 inches of travel. Standard cables used for shifting and throttle control only allow 3 or 4 inches of travel. Added travel in these applications is provided by levers at both ends of the linkage. I felt that the complication of these levers would be difficult build reliably on a one-off basis. I believe that the correct way to implement this general solution would be to by a autopilot model that controls an rotary drive steering cable. One end of the cable could be adapted to attach to the vane. Having already purchased a tiller pilot. This would be expensive. If my current design does not work, that will be my next attempt.

My current design utilizes two Morse Cable ball joints connected by a 1/4-28 allthread rod. Dynamic Marine Machining built me a new aluminum end for my tiller pilot ram that anchors one of the ball joints. The other ball joint is attached to a new vane blade built from hardwood mounted on a 3 X 3 X 1/4 inch aluminum angle stock. The ball joints offer a a large range of movement while locking so that the linkage cannot come off. The joints have a spring-loaded quick connect mechanism that allows disconnection when we want to use the wind vane in it's normal wind-driven mode.

Oracle BMW Trimaran

We spotted the 90 foot trimaran out of the water in San Diego. The compound is behind the San Diego Convention Center on the bay. There are professional pictures and official information here.

Hot, Hot, Hot

A San Diego Union-Tribune headline today says "I'm Hot and You're Cold". It has been around 80F (27C) at the harbor and much hotter inland. This is due to a high pressure system renewing the Santa Ana conditions.

We have decided to stay in San Diego a while longer. Our project list is about 95% complete. We have added a couple items to the list including a new parachute sea anchor and possibly a new anchor hawsepipe to handle 300 feet of extra nylon rode.

We are staying at the Kona Kai Marina in Shelter Island. We be using the time for some shakedown cruises for all the new gear. We have also heard reports that the Sea of Cortez has been quite cold lately.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Zac is Packing

Here is an interesting story of 16 year old Zac Sunderland, who is attempting to become the youngest person to ever sail solo around the world. When potentially facing pirates he calls home on his satphone. His dad tells him to load his .357 Magnum and shoot to kill. Here is a link to his blog. Go ahead, make my day.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Because Its There

I went to the top of the mast today to install a new Windex. Of course, you probably won't believe me because I forgot the camera for the basic deck shot.

I was able to climb up the mast steps while Corine tailed a 3:1 purchase hooked to my climbing harness. I had some fun with a corded drill. I needed to drill a 5/16 hole and the bit would not fit my little cordless model. When I was done drilling the cord kept trying to pull it out of my tool bag.

50 feet is pretty high on a little mast.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Coral Reefs in Increasing Trouble

The Australian Institute of Marine Science has published a paper today showing a fourteen percent drop in coral growth on the Great Barrier Reef since 1990. The paper appears in the journal Science. The abstract can be found here.

We are in a new year and awaiting a new administration. Lets take the current opportunity for investment as a way to start remediating these problems.

There are various NGOs that are addressing these issues directly including the World Wildlife Fund, Reef Relief, Global Coral Reef Alliance and many others.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

S/V Marionette, An Update and Correction

In a previous post, I mentioned S/V Marionette, a yacht that had been in Berkeley for sale. I thought that she was an S&S design, but I received this email:

Aloha Maitreya,

This is the crew from the s/v Marionette, we met at the sd transient dock, and we have completed our voyage to La Paz where by now the Capt and the French cook have put the boat away and have returned to Kiwi land. I saw your blog site mention of the boat and a small detail caught my eye in your description of her heritage. She is a Cheoy Lee build but the design came from Nils Lucander, not S&S specifically, a special one off for one of the Barient winch exects.
And I must say she sails very well in light to medium air ( the only kind we encountered ) although with a tendency to yaw a bit in following seas. I have returned to Vallejo to play with my vintage British bikes for a while. Hope ya'll are well and enjoy your travels in the new year.

Jeff Scott

Happy New Year

Not much to report here. We stayed up late enough for New Years in Holland. It is now very foggy.

Did you know we have a HUGE ABBA fan on board? I would have gone for U2 or Guy Lombardo myself.

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