Monday, October 31, 2005

On Becoming a Man

The last few days have been the sort of picture perfect, late fall sailing weather in the northeast U.S. that finds a certain office worker nursing a deep hatred of email, forced air and pointless marketing meetings. In this vein I gladly point you to an article about a group of Tyler, Texas sailors who, by the virtue of being teenagers, exist in a world of lessened responsibility…thereby increasing their opportunity for adventure. So it is that they have constructed a Chinese Junk boat by hand and intend to sail it through the Gulf of Mexico (before hurricane season) in the spring of 2007. The project is courtesy of non-profit Foundation North Star…an organization with a supposed mission to “Make men of boys through hard work and adventure.” There’s that “adventure” word again. Funny, now that I’ve been made into a man (no credit due to Foundation North Star) I’ve plenty of hard work still…but the other comes more infrequently if at all. Enough bitching and moaning. Where can I find the blueprints for a Chinese Junk?

Friday, October 28, 2005

Volvo 70 Training Session on Team ABN Amro One
Photo by Jon Nash Posted by Picasa

Skysails Redux

The British Independent Online has a story today that revisits the idea of spinnaker-type kites for freighters – pegging the interest to the rise in fuel costs. The idea, as promulgated by Hamburg-based firm Skysails, is to turn the ocean going freighter fleet into hybrid (part wind, part nasty old fossil fuel powered) vessels, thus cutting fuel costs by an estimated 50%. I’m more than willing to support anyone using wind power…using the breeze to stay in motion is my passion. But (again) I have to question if this rather faddish sounding solution is truly practical. According to the article the Skysails system is very simple. Kites between 750 and 5,000 square meters are launched from a ship, flying between 100m and 300m above sea level, where wind power can be twice as strong as that which propels conventional sails – and are operated with a computer autopilot and can be retracted by a winch during poor weather. I’m no maritime shipping expert but I do know that reliability and consistency are the markers of profit for such a business. As anyone who has been offshore depending on the wind understands, sailing is neither. Would the cost to outfit freighters with kites, the potential risks of equipment failure and other wind powered dangers and the need to train crew to do more than sip coffee and stare at the radar be outweighed by the benefits?

Thursday, October 27, 2005


Interesting footnote to the tale of 20 year old Asher Woods – the sole crewmember rescued off the Northeast coast aboard the 41-foot ketch, Niobe. The crew of the lobster boat that rescued Asher (Amy Philbrick) has claimed salvage rights on the vessel and apparently is considering negotiating a sale with the widow of Asher’s father (who reportedly fell off the boat and is presumed drowned) and splitting the profits. Salvage law can be summed up as “if you find it, it’s yours” but there are, of course, many nuances to the ancient creed. It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Thank You

Headed out to catch a plane back east...nothing to report right this moment save a Zephyr milestone. In seven months of writing this blog we've just surpassed 20,000 total page views. Thanks to everyone for contributing to this modest success. See you tomorrow ;-)

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Online Resource for the Offshore Sailor

Very helpful info in this piece from Ocean Navigator on the care & feeding of rigging. Most of us recognize that rigging needs periodic tuning and in older or heavily used boats, sometimes a complete refit, but nothing will drive that point home more than having something go wrong with a spar under a blow. The expense and hassle of rigging makes it a prime choice to ignore - as the article points out, a quality cruising rig for a 40-foot vessel may well cost $20,000 to $25,000...but consider both your standing and running rigging to be akin to the struts on an airplane wing. You don't want to find something isn't well cared for at 30,000 feet. I've always enjoyed Ocean Navigator for their pragmatic look at some of the unsexy but necesssary aspects of sailboats but hadn't known that their content was online. The whole site is chock-a-block with good stuff.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Photo by George B. Brewster
NZL 20 power reaching from the Golden Gate
bridge in San Francisco, CA Posted by Picasa

West Coast Clipper Ship Discovery

I'm out west in Northern Califonia on biz - so a weekend story in the San Francisco Chronicle caught my eye. New evidence has surfaced of 65 previously undocumented, West-Coast-built ships of sail, including a clipper ship that set world speed records...demonstrating that west coast shipbuilders played central role in the commercial sailing industry from 1859 to 1920...big news in maritime history circles where most of the Clipper Ship credit has been handed to builders in New York and Boston. According to the article, many historians assumed that the West Coast had no shipyards capable of building clipper ships. The thinking has been that frontier-style shipyards of early California and the Northwest produced one or two ships at the mouth of a river, using the wood available, before moving to the next location to build another ship or two.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Naobi Nightmare

At the beginning of the week I wrote about the sailing yacht Naobi - a father/son delivery gone missing off the U.S. eastern seaboard. Today brings news - relayed in the Boston Globe - of her sad and harrowing tale. According to the article, "After six days at sea the boat turned up yesterday wildly off course, 133 miles east of Provincetown. Rescuers, alerted by two bright flares shot into the sky, found just one passenger aboard the Naobi, a weary 20-year-old Asher Woods, who apparently had been adrift alone amid high winds and white-capped waves." While the details have not been released, Asher has told rescuers that his father fell overboard without a lifejacket somewhere off of Boothbay, ME. I'll follow the story as we learn more...but thoughts and prayers to Asher and his family in the wake of this sailing tragedy. For all of us who sail offshore with our family (or anyone for that matter) this is our worst nightmare.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Gentlemen, Tune Your Engines

The search is still on for the sailing vessel Naobi, reported to have left Rockland, ME this past Saturday. According to the article the U.S. Coast Guard First District Office in Boston has taken over the case. The First District covers the coastline from Maine to northern New Jersey plus Lake Champlain.

Here's a good piece from the Newport Beach Daily Pilot about saving fuel while boating - his advice applies to sailors as well a stinkpotters. Tips like tuning your engine, checking your prop and not filling holding tanks unless you absolutely need too make a lot of sense.

Finally, the AP reports that Dee Caffari will try to become the first woman to sail solo around the globe - against the prevailing winds and currents - in next month's Aviva Challenge. Caffari, 32, will begin her journey on Nov. 20 from Portsmouth, England. A former teacher, Caffari will sail a 72-foot yacht, with the circumnavigation expected to take between 120 and 170 days.

All of these open the door for comment, but I'll go with the second item as the valuable jump for the day, Rising fuel costs, and their impact, are all over the news and as winter approached in the Northeast, on everyone's mind. What I find interesting is that simple tweaks can make a huge difference in fuel economy on boats. Not something you're likely to consider unless you're feeling the squeeze...

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Congressional Cup - April 11-16, 2005
Long Beach, CA Event website Posted by Picasa

Hey bartender, slide me a Beneteau

Back to the boat show one more time – here’s an article in the Annapolis paper that says, despite the torrential rain, this year was record breaking for vendors selling everything from yachts to bedding and all matters of boating products in between. According to the article Beneteau, the largest sailboat maker in the world, sold at least 68 boats on site. Nice product movement! When I lived in A town I crewed on the Schooner Woodwind and, to make $$ on the side, held a second job at Pussers hawking Pusser’s Painkillers. This was back in the late 90’s. I’m here to tell you that Pussers made a killing selling $6.00 cocktails in plastic cups...cost to them roughly 50 cents to a dollar. It all feeds on itself…the hull thumping guy with a belly full of Painkiller steps aboard the Beneteau of his dreams and next thing you know a check is being cut. There should be a chart that tracks large purchases against the volume of booze sold dockside.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Against All Odds

Yesterday was the first weekday I’ve missed (without posting) since I began Zephyr last March. Details of my personal life that don’t pertain to sailing are not topical...but if anyone has experienced a sleepless night with a seven month old baby spiking a fever of 103 (and even if you haven’t) then I hope you’ll forgive.

A local paper in Camden, Maine reports that Naobi, a 41-foot, white fiberglass ketch, has gone missing off the Atlantic coast. The boat left Rockland on Oct. 15 and was anticipated to arrive at Rye Harbor in New Hampshire Monday morning. The missing men have been identified as Stephen Woods, 55, and the couple's 20-year-old son Asher. I’ve done my fair share of sailing in that region and know that, with the rocks and fog, it can be treacherous. Hopefully they’re tucked safely up in some seacoast harbor.

Also here is a brief report on forty-five-year-old Margaret Williams who set off from Mooloolaba yesterday in an attempt to be the first woman to sail single-handedly, non-stop around Australia. She says that says it will take about 80 days to circumnavigate the country in her 12-metre boat Against All Odds. God speed Maggie!

Friday, October 14, 2005

Kiteship & Heavy Metal

Check out some of the photos on the homepage of Kiteship, Inc. According to the corporate-speak on the site the company is, "...a group of forward-thinking sailors, designers and visionaries...exploiting the fundamental advantages of traction kites for decades."

Scuttlebutt readers will recognize this topic from today's David Culp piece that declaims "...for the first time in three decades, major industry is looking at - seriously contemplating - putting
sail power onto the world's cargo ships."

I want to know what happens when a freighter broaches. Seriously...who goes forward in a blow to douse the chute? And what if there's a wind shift? A squall? Are these guys for real?

The Volvo 70 Ericsson Racing Team at speed
during a recent photo shoot off Cape Finisterre.
(Photos Credit: Rick TomlinsonPosted by Picasa

Feedback on North Carolina Sailing

Busy day...I'll post this weekend. In the is some good, detailed feedback from a reader on an earlier post that mentioned my parents plan to sail the North Carolina coast.

They might also check out Wrightsville Beach, N.C.

Beautiful anchorage in Banks channel, easy ocean access thru the inlet(Lees cut?) south of the island, between Wrightsville and Masonboro Island, and a very short dingy row to Roberts Market(food),King Neptune (Fantastic!!! restaurant) Wrightsville Beach Museum (great displays of nautical and beach related memorabilia), beautiful family beach (old style east coast). There are also quite a few top class marinas(Seapath on the cut and several more on the ICW and marine stores galore. Try it, I think you'll like it!

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Boat Show Giveaway

Question from "anon" RE the Annapolis Sailboat show giveaway: Does anyone know who was awarded the Hunter 216 which was to be given away by Sail Magazine and Hunter Marine on VIP day?

Live...the Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race

I know I seem geographically stuck on the Chesapeake Bay these days – but when the rain fianlly clears it remains one of my very favorite places to be sailing during the fall season. It’s easy to forget that Virginia’s Tidewater region is a big part of the Chesapeake Bay – on that note here’s an entertaining journal series (in the Virginia Pilot) authored by Virginian-Pilot photographer Steve Earley. Steve is aboard the Schooner Virginia as it competes in The Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race from Oct. 12-15. According to the article, he'll be posting from the deck of the ship during the 127-nautical mile race from Baltimore to Portsmouth. There are 12 entries to date and some truly stellar photographs. Enjoy this one folks...

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Porto Cervo, Sardinia, Italy: September 12-19
(Photo Credit: Carlo Borlenghi/RolexPosted by Picasa

An Offshore “Sailors” License

The two hapless New Zealand sailors aboard the good ship Encounter have received a good deal of press attention over the past few days. Now that they’ve been successfully rescued from their predicament (injured by heavy seas en route to the Cook Islands), the New Zealand Herald has found a fresh angle…how much it cost the taxpayers to save them. While this is, at first glance, somewhat offensive - if you’ve been at sea and in need of rescue your perspective is likely to fall along the lines of “cost be dammed” – I think it’s actually a useful and interesting conversation. Add up helicopters, life saving packages, medical care, rescue personal, overall costs of coordination and so on and soon you’ve tallied quite a tab. It’s not useful to actually put a price on life but, when any fool with a piece of floating fiberglass can point his or her bow towards the open ocean , how are we protected from having to bear the substantial costs of bailing them out? I’m sure this isn’t a new idea, but I think there ‘s some merit in requiring that people who want to go offshore in small sailing vessels meet a base standard of seafaring and safety knowledge. Not that Heloise Kortekaas and Bruce Cox (the Encounter crew) are necessarily incompetent but in a more general sense, we require drivers pass a test, merchant mariners pass a test, charter captains pass a test – why not weekend warriors who want to try their hand at ocean voyaging? Today we rely on a sense of self preservation to make sure ocean sailors are well prepared to meet the challenges…I don’t have any stats on the $$ the government spends rescuing people (and even prepared, experienced sailors can run into trouble) but a program to certify sailors to go to sea should be seriously considered.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Hull Thumpers

In brief (busy day here) there’s a wrap-up of last weekend’s Annapolis (Sail) Boat Show in the Washington Post. Attendance is apparently down but, in a masterful example of spin, the article attributes the downturn to a lack of "hull thumpers” …industry slang for those with no intention to buy. So less people flocking to the oldest and biggest sailboat show in the nation but more in the market to actually purchase a sailboat? "Boats are being sold. Deals are being made," said Rick Franke, the show spokesman. Thanks Rick for that insight. My guess is that the lack of boat show goers had a more to do with the torrential downpour than the elusive North American species of khaki wearing, rum swilling, gonad scratching, zero checking account balance hull thumper…but I realize I’m calling that one from the sidelines. Rick probably knows more about it.

Monday, October 10, 2005

The Crystal Coast

My parents, recently retired, were planning a cruise on their 46’ sloop to the islands this fall. They’ve had the boat for some years and sailed her up and down the northeastern seaboard…as far north as Nova Scotia and as far south as their home sailing grounds on the Chesapeake Bay. But this was to be their first true long distance voyage…an itinerary that would take them down the coast to Florida out to St. Thomas U.S.V.I. and points south. Unfortunately, family responsibilities have them delaying the trip until next year but in consolation they’re heading to Beaufort, NC …passing by Morehead City and perhaps doing some cruising in Pamlico Sound. Known as the “Crystal Coast,” this area of seaside North Carolina is severely underrated – which is good news for anyone used to struggling with crowded Northeast anchorages. And of course we can all use some of that down home southern hospitality ;-) Oriental, NC - named after the USS Oriental, a Yankee cargo ship that sank in stormy seas off the Outer Banks in 1862 - is a good sailors destination. Essentially it's the Annapolis of Pamlico without the attitude. Stormy seas are the other side of the coin...the NC coast is well known as the "Graveyard of the Atlantic."

Friday, October 07, 2005

Antigua Race Week 2004 (Photo Credit: Rick Tomlinson)

That Wicked Witchcraft

As the powers of mass consumerism surely intended when they flooded the shelves with plastic pumpkins in early September…Halloween is on my mind. So it is that the namesake in a story from the Chesapeake Bay Weekly caught my eye this afternoon. It tells the tale of Witchcraft, a 102-year old former gaff rigged yacht, now turned sloop designed by the late B.B. Crowninshield and built by the Lawley boat yard in Boston, Massachusetts. As anyone who has spent time on, around or in possession of one is well aware, antique sailboats are a labor of love. What makes this story all the more apropos, at least as far as the Chesapeake Bay is considered, is the advent of the Annapolis Boat Show...a production yacht mecca taking place this coming weekend. Think of Witchcraft as an anti-production yacht yacht. Sure I would be more than happy with a brand spanking J/105 (if I had the coin) but I still agree with the author of the article…there's something very special and rare about boats like Witchcraft...not to mention the dedication of owners & enthusiasts like Captain Paul Itzel who keep them ship shape.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Sailing Off San Francisco

When I lived in San Francisco one of my favorite times of year (as it is back here on the east coast) was fall – particularly because the fierce winds of summer caused by thermal warming and cooling of the scorching interior (the same reason for the summer fog in the city) subsided and, with a prevailing high pressure in place – near perfect sailing condition ensued. Reminding me of this today is an article in the San Francisco Chronicle on a sailing school cruise to the Farallone Islands. On clear day in the city you can see the minute bumps of the Farallones on the horizon…they’re more of a mark for day sailors to turn back for the Bay than an actual destination. When you get out near them you can see the large gathering of seals on the rocky shore, part of the reason that they’re such popular cruising grounds for shark, smell the bird shit that plasters them if you're downwind on the approach and see the remnants of the lighthouse where, believe it or not, people were actually stationed back in the days before automation. It’s a lonely, windswept place but, as is much of coastal California, a monument to raw beauty.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

WBM on the windward rail aboard vintage
AC yacht US-II Stars & Stripes. San Francisco,
Il Morro Cup July 7, 2002 (Photo Credit: John Pettitt)

Cup Boats Battle Breeze

News out of Cape Town informs us of the 20 plus knot conditions at the Louis Vuitton Act 8 off Sicily yesterday. According to the article the fierce squalls that stirred the Med caused carnage on the course – battens ripping mainsails, halyards getting stuck under load…the usual issues expected when finely tuned racing yachts battle in a strong breeze. I crewed as mast aboard vintage US-11 Stars & Stripes back in July 2002 with John Sweeny in San Francisco during the IACCSF Il Morro Cup…they called the race off day 3 when the wind rose over 15 knots. These boats, particularly older versions not receiving the day-to-day upkeep necessary, come apart at the seams as the loads build in a stiff wind. Back to yesterday’s the Louis Vuitton Act 8. What do people think about these Acts? Are they a good use of time & money? I agree that they create more visibility for the sport but do they also detract from the event itself by oversaturating the media and the fan base? What are your thoughts?

Monday, October 03, 2005


Anyone who goes to sea is well aware that there are elements of the ocean environment that can be related to everyday life. No need for me to sermonize on this…but here’s a brief piece from, of all places, the Galveston Daily News, relating the experience of Hurricane Rita to certain aspects of ocean voyaging. In my opinion the analogy holds quite well. Experiencing a hurricane is as close as a land dweller will get to knowing what any passage-making sailor intrinsically understands…namely:

• The sea teaches forehandedness
• The sea teaches accountability
• The sea teaches decision making
• The sea teaches self-sufficiency
• The sea teaches reality