Friday, November 27, 2009

Shopping for Rope?

It is shopping season in the US.  Don't get between people and their stuff. Here is a story from the BBC about a man in Fall River, Massachusetts who locked his young sons in his car trunk while he went shopping in a chandlery.  The boys 3 and 6 and apparently OK and now with their mother.  I wonder where she is shopping this year?

Awesome Antarctica

Our good friend, LaVonne, is spending another summer on the ice in Antarctica. She took these pictures.  They really deserve to be viewed full size.

Ice Cave

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


It is Thanksgiving time here in the US and where would we be without the Mayflower?  The ship brought 102 pilgrims to Plimoth (later Plymouth). There is an interactive page on the Mayflower and the first Thanksgiving aimed at kids here.

A little more history describing the origin of the ship and the financing of the voyage can be found here, here and here.

More serious readers should check out Nathaniel Philbrick's excellent book Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War.  The book goes much beyond the 65 day crossing as it discusses the politics, religion and sociology of the settlement.  The colony had provocative interactions with both the local Indians and neighboring colonies.  It is still surprising the degree of influence these Puritans had on American culture and values up to this day.

As for the ship itself, it was a 90 to 110 foot cargo and wine carrier in so, so condition.  It turned out the be far better equipped for the journey that the Speedwell, another ship used by the Puritans.  The ship had a crew of about thirty, that included John Alden. John Alden's son of the same name was later accused in the Salem witch trials.  It is unclear whether these gentlemen were any relation to the naval architect of the same name from Boston.

In any case, I have found this facinating story to be, as usual, a bit more complicated than I was taught in school.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Beautiful Pictures, Stark Warning

New Scientist has put up a gallery of pictures called Final Warning From the Arctic.  The sobering truth of global warming is there for all to see.

The other night, the Berkeley Yacht Club hosted a screening of An Arctic Journey in a Changing World.  This is David Thorsen's documentary of the the transit of the Northwest Passage by the yacht, Cloud Nine.  The footage shows dramatic changes that have occurred in the ice density over the last 15 or so years.  This is an interesting fairly short film that is available for web viewing from Iowa Public Television.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Cruising Gadget: Watch Snuggie

I was only half kidding about the Weezer Snuggie as an aid to long night watches in northern waters.

Corine made me this heavy duty bag for sitting out in the cold.  It is lined with fleece.  The outer cover is a tough, waterproof, synthetic canvas.  It is roomy enough to fit over sea boots and foulies.  This will be a lot better than blankets that fall off and get wet.  Thanks honey.

A New Obstacle

UC San Diego and the Scripps Institute have received a grant to develop swarming robots to patrol the oceans. These device will be known as AUEs (autonomous underwater explorers).  The robots will monitor events such as algal blooms and oil spills.  There is a story posted on

Self and Emergency Steering

The Single Handed Sailing Society (SSS) hosted a seminar the other night on options for self and emergency steering systems on small boats.  This was one of a series of seminars in preparation for the next Single Handed Transpac in June 2010.  This series would be useful for anyone interested in that race, the Pacific Cup or a long distance cruise.

Hans Bernwall from Scanmar International presented on three products.  The Monitor Windvane is a servo-pendulum self-steering device.  These are excellent units that are driven by apparent wind.  With no electrical components that can be much more reliable than electronic autopilots.  We have used an for runner of the Monitor, an Aries, with great success on Maitreya.

The MRUD is an emergency rudder conversion for the Monitor.  It operates by locking the lower rudder on the vane in a fixed vertical position.  A larger blade is fitted to the lower rudder.  The blade then pivots on it's axis like a normal rudder steering the boat.

Lastly, Hans discussed the SOS Emergency Rudder.  This has a rudder blade that is similar in construction to those of the Monitor and MRUD.  A separate set of mounts are provided to fit to the transom.  The tiller arm can be custom bent to work around a back stay or other permanent gear that may be between the transom and the cockpit.

All of the Scanmar gear has seen thousands of miles of use in races such as the SHTP, BOC, and Pacific Cup.

One of the problems with any emergency solution is fitting it at sea.  This will be compounded by the fact that the skipper in an SHTP is alone. Hans suggested using a bosun's chair rigged with three lines.  The primary vertical lift line would be a halyard.  The halyard should be supplemented by two horizontal preventers led around the sides of the boat.  The side lines would prevent wild swinging aft of the boat.

Greg Nelson gave a talk on building an emergency rudder.  This focused on foam, fiberglass and carbon fiber.  The Scanmar offerings are meant as a "limp to port solution".  Greg was promoting the idea that a properly designed and built alternate rudder could keep you racing.

Greg's talk stressed the fact that the forces involved in steering a yacht at sea, racing or not, must be respected.  Huge loads can be placed on the mounts, shaft and blade of the rudder.  Top quality materials and construction are required.  Greg told of some SHTP emergency rudders he had seen made of solid wood or common foam insulation.  He said that these failed very quickly when put into service.

One of the race committee chairmen, Bob Johnston, gave a talk on auto pilots.  It was agreed that the best autopilots come from NKE and B&G. The only problem with these is that they are likely to cost more than your average SSS boat.

This leaves the fleet with the middle and low end offerings from Raymarine, Simrad and others.  The group for the most part had had good experiences with these.  Some people had installed the hydraulic versions which are much more powerful.

Bob talked about the need to keep all components dry.  The electric rams are not waterproof, so he has covered his with a loose fitting sunbrella booty.  Greg Nelson and Bob both underlined the need for spare parts and full backup units.  Thought and planning for easily swapping units is required.  This may dictate dual wiring and mounting systems for the primary and the backup.

The big takeaways from the seminar were planning, testing and redundancy.

Thanks to the speakers for putting this on.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Update on the Chandlers

Messing about in Sailboats posted this video of the Chandlers, the cruising couple taken off of Somalia last month.

Sadly, this looks like it is a long way from being resolved. Here is the earlier post.

Whose your Captain?

Arrgh, this was too good not to plunder from Sea Fever.  I'm looking forward to the second edition with Kirk, the Skipper, Bligh, Cook and that guy from the Love Boat. Good on you Iconic88.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Moby Nick Makes it Home

Congratulations to Nick over at Big Oceans, Tiny Boat.  After 743 days traveling by sea and land he has finished his trip from Holland to home in Australia.  The ocean crossings of the Atlantic and Pacific were achieved in his Contessa 26.  This is a small and sometimes wet boat.  Quite an undertaking.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Terra Nova: Sinfonia Antarctica

This comes from an article at New Scientist called Making Music on Thin Ice. It is about a trip that Paul D. Miller, aka DJ Spooky, made to Antarctica to make music and learn about ice.

Traditional Craft Undersail in East Anglia

Here is a nice video of traditional craft in East Anglia. I found this over at the DIY Wooden Boat Blog.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Sailing on Friday

Boaters are a superstitious lot.  Given that it is Friday the 13th, I thought I might research why sailing on Friday is such bad luck.

Friday was named after the Norse goddess Frigg, or Frigga. Apparently all was well until the Christians came along and claimed she was a witch. This put a curse on Fridays, which were previously thought to be lucky.

The bad luck of Friday, especially for sailors was passed down through the generations, growing in significance. 

This affected the Royal Navy in the 18th and 19th century to such an extent that they tried to remedy it.  The admirality commissioned a ship called the Friday, whose keel was layed on Friday, was launched on Friday, was commanded by a Captain Friday and started it's maiden voyage on Friday.  Apparently this ship was lost without a trace. A good story, but the ship did not exist.

In any case, the superstition lives on.

I once sailed from Hilo on a Friday.  Within four days, we had a plumbing failure and lost all of our fresh water.  The compass did not work properly.  The control line on the furling jib broke three times.  The mizzen mast wobbled about 12 degrees.  We nearly ran out of diesel. The boat was becalmed twice in the Pacific High. Lastly, the boat nearly caught fire from wires chafing at a site near the main propane lines.  Some people might call this a maintenance problem, though the boat had just sailed about 15,000 miles.  It would not have hurt to leave on Saturday.

Friday the 13th is a whole other story.

Christmas Tree Schooners

Christmas Tree Schooners are ships that used to ply the Great Lakes from the Great North Woods to Chicago carrying trees for the holidays.  One such ship was the Rouse Simmons that sank in November 1912 off of Two Rivers, Wisconsin.  Trees were sold in Chicago at the dockside near the Clark Street Bridge. The skipper, "Captain Santa" Herman Schuenemann, also gave trees to the poor.

A musical play written by John Reeger called The Christmas Schooner retells this story. The play has been playing for a dozen years and is becoming a holiday classic in the Windy City. This year the play has move to Munster, Indiana, where they hope to keep the tradition alive.  Here is a story about the play at the Northwest Indiana Times.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Cover Girl

The 118 year old Colin Archer redningskøyte Stavanger is on the cover of WoodenBoat.  She is being retired into the Norwegian National Maritime Museum.

Here is a past post on Stavanger with some video footage of her underway.

Queen of the Manta Rays

Check out the interview with Andrea Marshall about studying Manta Rays over at New Scientist.  There is more information on Mantas at Save the Mantas.

Shark Cafe

The Washington Post has an interesting story on scientists tracking Great White Sharks.  It seems that they do spend a lot of time around the San Francisco Bay.  The shark cafe map above looks a little like the Transpac rhumbline to me.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Monday, November 9, 2009

Lewis Pugh Swims Across the North Pole

Lewis Pugh swam across the North Pole in a Speedo to draw attention to global warming.  He gave a great TED Talk about his swim.  This is very inspiring for what people will do for the environment and also what a person can overcome to reach a goal.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Lightning and Boats

There has been a discussion on the Single Handed Sailing Society message boards about lightning strikes and how to protect a boat against them. A couple of years ago, I ran across some great work done as a Sea Grant project at the University of Florida.  The authors studied quite a number of lightning strikes on boats and combined it with the meterologic knowledge to come up with a series of recommendations for boaters.

The work is summarized hereScience Daily ran this article, when the work was first published.

It is very difficult to decide how to implement a protection plan even with this type of information available.  I have heard of dynaplates that exploded due to the rapidly expanding water that instantly boiled as the lightning passed through it.  I have attempted to increase surface area on my plate by bolting several layers of wire mesh over my plate.  Such a violent explosion in a plate has the possibility of seriously damaging a hull.

Health Club - NOT

I saw this interesting seal on an old VW van/truck in Sausalito.  Looks like the door may have come off of another vehicle.   Not a club I want to join.

Open House at Spaulding Wooden Boat Center

There was a well attended open house at the Spaulding Wooden Boat Center  in Sausalito today.  The celebration was for the launch of Auroral, as well as the first planks on the multi-year restoration of Freda.

Freda is an 1885 gaff sloop that is the oldest boat on the San Francisco Bay. She suddenly sank a few years back, when she sprang a plan. Luckily she was salvageable. The San Francisco Chronicle has a story here.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Mothball Fleet Pictures

Michael Wall at the NRDC has posted a few pictures of the decaying ghost fleet anchored off Mare Island in Suisun. Artistically they are nice images.  They also show how the fleet is becoming an ecological problem.  That is not environmentally friendly paint that is sloughing off and floating into the bay.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Pulpo Gigante

Fear is a Giant Octopus is the first of six clips documenting the sailing of Gavin Atkin's Light Trow, Onawind Blue, from Spain to Ibiza in the summer of 2009. Check out Ben Tarragona's blog at The Invisible Workshop.

Captain Planet goes to Copenhagen

Let's hope that something comes of the meetings other than a special visit by Silvio Berlusconi.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

TWIC or Tweet

Passing the captains exam was probably the easy part.  Now I have to deal with the government to do all the paper work.

I went for my TWIC card today.  They fingerprint you, photograph you, look at your passport, birth certificate, driver's license and your credit card (It costs $135).  After a couple weeks the TWIC will come and then I can start dealing with the Coast Guard for the actual Master's license.

Cruising Gadget: Weezer Snuggie

This might be good for the long watches in Alaska.  Some readers may not know who Weezer is.  They are more than just an infomercial marketing company, they're a band!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Cool Ride

Here is a toy for the back of my mega yacht. is running a story on the Scubacraft, which can apparently ride waves and dive below the surface.  There are two size that will carry 3 or 6 people.  The rumored price is about $165K.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Word of the Day: Mamihlapinatapai

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