Are safety regulations really protecting us?

3 Aug
When we think rescue at sea we often picture an heroic airlift of desperate people 
stranded on a reef or in heavy seas. But is this really where our SAR dollars are going? (From the Courier-Mail)

Now that my boat is launched I’m in the process of getting up to code on certain safety regulations. So I’ve got to go and equip myself with flares, and USCG approved fire extinguishers (not one, but two, I believe, for my 28ft boat!), and a “Pollution Placard’… Even though most of this is stuff I would buy anyway before going offshore, I find ...

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AUTOPILOT BACK-UP: She’s Gotta Have It

2 Aug

Aries windvane in action

WHEN IT COMES TO AUTOPILOTS it is always best to divide your affections. No sense in being monogamously faithful to just one unit, giving it names and all, only to have it crap out on you in some less than sanguine circumstance. One reason I fell for Lunacy was because she came equipped with three different self-steering systems, each quite a bit different from the other two.

First, there is the Aries windvane in pure windvane mode (see photo up top), its air blade waving above its head, seeking the direction of the wind.

Second, there is the body ...

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Return of the Baggywrinkle

26 Jul


Baggywrinkle. Go ahead, say it. You know you want to. Baggywrinkle, baggywrinkle, baggywrinkle! Silly name; excellent solution.

Baggywrinkles have become a rarity in the modern sailing world, but I’ve found one place where they should make a comeback: Full-batten mainsails are increasingly popular, but when you let the sail out the full battens come in contact with the lower shroud:

You can see how the full battens are resting on the soft baggywrinkle, instead of a metal shroud. This is on my boat–a traditional ketch–and the main isn’t even let out very far. On a modern boat with swept-back spreaders, ...

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SIMBO SAILING: Modern Twin Headsail Rig

25 Jul

Simbo sailing rig

I’VE RECENTLY RECEIVED an e-mail from Iain Simpson advising me that he has just launched a website dedicated to what he calls the “Simbo,” or Simple Bow Rig. In plain English this is a twin headsail rig, very similar to what bluewater sailors used to advocate for downwind tradewind sailing back in the 1950s. Iain has updated the concept for modern roller-furling systems and employs it on his Najad 570 Song of the Ocean. He is quite keen on it and has been proselytizing on the subject for a few years now.

The concept is really very simple. Instead ...

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How to Name a Boat

13 Jul

Or rather, how not to name your boat.

Every year BoatUS posts the top ten boat names based on orders they receive for decals. Frankly, these names are crap. Here are the 2011 winners. You just know that these lean heavily toward the powerboat market, as they have no common sense anyway, but they give a taste for just how sad a state most boats are in when it comes to their owners naming them.


#1 Seas the Day

#2 Nauti Buoy

#3 Aquaholic

#4 Dream Weaver

#5 Pegasus

#6 Serenity Now

#7 Second Wind

#8 Liquid Asset

#9 ...

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FITTING UNDER BRIDGES: View From the Masthead

23 May

Sailboat under bridge

FUNNY THING ABOUT SAILBOAT MASTS and bridges: no matter how much clearance you actually have, when you’re standing in your cockpit looking up it always looks like you’re not going to make it. Of course, the people who think to put bridges in our way do try to provide information on how much space is under them, even at various states of the tide. But still every so often the situation is ambiguous, and you’re not quite sure your mast will fit.

Some people just hold their breath and take their chances when confronted with this dilemma. For example, check ...

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Boat Crane and Lift Accidents to Make You Cry

22 Apr



These are really aweful. The second one, where the strop slides off the bow, almost happened to me, and they  dropped my boat back in the cradle before disaster. Now I always have them tie a line between the two strops, so they can't slip fore or aft.

The main thing we can learn from these is don't be anywhere near a boat when it's being lifted. I don't think anyone was killed in these accidents, but it looks like a few injuries. ...

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SUICIDE OCEAN TOW: Drake Roberts on YouTube

17 Apr

Many moons ago I blogged about a fellow I met in Bermuda, Rich Littauer, who was aboard a derelict 52-foot steel boat, Cha Cha, that had been towed into St. Georges after losing her engine and sails during a rough passage from Newport, Rhode Island. More recently I’ve been in touch with Drake Roberts, the singlehander who found Rich and his crew, Gail Alexander, adrift and towed them most of the way to Bermuda with his Westsail 42, Paragon. Drake has launched a YouTube channel and has posted a complete video account of his own voyage to ...

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Clipperton Island Still Uninhabited

26 Mar

I’ve just returned from Clipperton Island, a French atoll lying 800 miles off the Mexican coast. I went as part of the Clipperton Project, an art/science/environmental/documentary expedition, but I was involved more with boats, landings, and communications. They tasked me with a survey of sea turtle nesting sites, but I walked around that whole island (about seven miles) and there didn’t seem to be any nesting sites, or I’ve got really bad eyes.

Masked Boobie with chick

I left La Paz on the mother ship, the Lucia Celeste, a 48-foot expedition dive boat. I returned to Baja on a Downeast ...

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