September 18th

Gearing Up

Posted by // September 18, 2015 // COMMENT (0 Comments)

Boats and Gear


Having spent many years sailing in England, where there is no climate as such, just weather (as the Brits love to say, with just a touch of bitterness), transitioning to coastal sailing in the United States came as a pleasant surprise to me. It took a year or two before I stopped toting my ocean-grade foulweather gear around and became acclimated to sailing in shorts, T-shirt and (sometimes) a light jacket. I’ve so seldom worn long pants on the boat that when I sailed in jeans the other week it felt decidedly unnatural.

Of course, pride precedes an inevitable fall, and after a couple of years of fair-weather daysailing I had been lulled into such a sense of false security that when invited to race from Marblehead, Massachusetts, to Halifax, Nova Scotia, I packed only the lightest of gear, the dog days of summer having brought 95-degree temperatures to the coast.…

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September 10th

How to Choose the Best Pair of Sunglasses for You

Posted by // September 10, 2015 // COMMENT (1 Comment)

Boats and Gear

Revo’s Guide S sunglasses are built with “fast-flow” vents on the arms to keep your head cool and the shades where they need to be (i.e. on your head), and they come with high-contrast polarized lenses. $189. Revo,

Revo’s Guide S sunglasses are built with “fast-flow” vents on the arms to keep your head cool and the shades where they need to be (i.e. on your head), and they come with high-contrast polarized lenses. $189. Revo,

In a past life when I was working as crew for America’s Cup Charters in Newport, Rhode Island, sailing tourists around Narragansett Bay for up to 10 hours a day, the captain on one boat told me my sunglasses, well, sucked, and that if I didn’t want to cause permanent damage to my eyes I had to upgrade. So I ponied up for a pair of polarized sunglasses (my first pair ever) and never looked back.…

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July 6th

Just Launched: Carbon Beauty

Posted by // July 6, 2015 // COMMENT (0 Comments)

Boats and Gear

Brenta 80 DC

When Hanse Yachts founder Michael Schmidt sold his company a few years ago, it seemed the European boatbuilding community had lost one of its canniest operators. Not only did Schmidt build the company from a startup in a disused East German furniture factory to a multi-brand powerhouse at a time when many other builders were struggling, he is a true character and an innovator; witness how widely copied the trademark Hanse big mainsail/self-tacking jib combo has become.
With a boatbuilding background going back to the 1970s it was unlikely that Schmidt would stay away from the scene for too long, and sure enough, he is back with something completely different—a new line of sleek carbon-fiber bluewater cruisers designed by Italians, styled by a Brit and built in Germany.…

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February 27th


Not long before leaving Malaysia, we purchased an Iridium GO!. This was somewhat unexpected because Totem has long been a radio centric boat. Since we started cruising in 2008 we’ve relied solely on our HF radio for long distance communications: it has met our needs, we value the community of an informal radio net at sea, and we are grateful the safety net of land-based hams such as the awesome Pacific Seafarers Net.

What changed?

But this past year, paying close attention to the progress of boats along our intended route in the Indian Ocean, we were dismayed to hear how much trouble they were having connecting to land-based stations for the purpose of receiving updated weather data over PACTOR modems- to the point that we know radio-centric boats that relied upon sailing in company with those carrying satellite based systems on board so that they could to receive updated weather forecasts.…

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November 6th

Kedging in the ICW

Posted by // November 6, 2014 // COMMENT (12 Comments)

Boats and Gear, Cruising

Photos Courtesy of Mon Iker
After a bit of an absence I would like to return with a bang, or at least a soft thud. I am currently cruising South from Maine with a crew of friends, headed for New Orleans. We’ve made it as far as Florida, always a good place for adventure.

I (maybe unfairly) tend to think of the ICW as slow, expensive, and often dull, so we’ve been staying offshore most of the time. But there are exceptions, most recently the stretch between St. Augustine and Lake Worth when we decided, for once, to avoid one of the big cold fronts which are usually our mile-makers.

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October 21st

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


It was easy to gather a slew of devices currently on board Gizmo that hunger for a USB power supply at least occasionally. Heck, when the Verizon Android Galaxy phone is providing an LTE WiFi hotspot and also streaming Bluetooth audio to the Fusion IP700 stereo as it is now — I’m online while listening to a Maine radio station — it needs to be charged almost constantly. The hard-working phone is also why I keep those two USB charged/charging batteries topped up for shore trips (and, yes, they do make great press event swag, thank you Simrad and FLIR).…

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October 19th

Garcia 45 sailing

Day two of this year’s test-sailing program looked to be a bit snotty weather-wise, with the forecast early on showing wind gusting to 30 knots, rain, and a good chance of thunderstorms. Great conditions, in other words, for trying out the new Garcia Exploration 45. As things turned out, the weather was actually a bit more moderate than that, but we still enjoyed sporty conditions out on Chesapeake Bay during our first test sail, with the wind blowing about 20 knots true.

We sailed the whole test with two reefs in the Garcia’s mainsail and tried out both working headsails.…

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October 17th

Bavaria 46 stern

Just back from test-sailing boats après-show this past week at Annapolis. Five boats in two days in fairly strong conditions, with the wind blowing 20 knots at time. Once I even saw gusts to over 30. This is ideal! Normally we get light wind, which makes it harder to get a good sense of how boats behave. My first boat on day one was the Bavaria Cruiser 46, which really is just a new updated version of the Bavaria Cruiser 45. The hull and underwater appendages are the same, but the deck and interior have been modified. As you can see in that photo up top, she has a very wide butt and an enormous fold-down transom.…

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October 15th

Written by Ben Ellison on Oct 15, 2014 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub

Furuno_DRS4W_WiFi_Radar_cPanbo.jpgOne of many technologies I was glad to learn more about at the NMEA Conference was Furuno’s unique DRS4W 1st Watch Wireless Radar. While it was introduced in Europe last March, FurunoUSA still hasn’t listed it online and for a while I thought they might not carry it at all. Furuno’s regional distributors seem to have some leeway in this regard, which apparently is why the Furuno MaxSea PC Radar system that Kees Verruijt covered for Panbo is not available in North America. In recent comments to that same 2013 entry you’ll find some strong reservations about the DRS4W concept and even myself writing “I don’t see the problem the Furuno WiFi Radar is solving.” My skepticism wanes as I learn more but still 1st Watch seems like a confusing bundle of limitations and possibilites.…

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October 12th

2014 ANNAPOLIS BOAT SHOW: Jimmy’s New Boat

Posted by // October 12, 2014 // COMMENT (5 Comments)

Boats and Gear,

Garcia 45

Not surprisingly, one of the big draws at this year’s U.S. Sailboat Show in Annapolis has been the new Garcia Exploration 45, developed by French builder Garcia Yachts in cooperation with bluewater sailing guru, author, and ARC founder Jimmy Cornell. I’m a big fan of Garcia, which has been building boats for 40 years now, both because they build in aluminum and because they do it exceedingly well. In the last several years most of their boats have been large stratoshperic custom jobs, well beyond the reach of mere mortals with less than a couple of million to spend, so it’s heartening to see them again building something a bit more accessible.…

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