First some deep background: the term “death cruise” was coined during the 1980s to describe a series of outings under sail enjoyed by the editorial staff of Offshore, a now defunct New England boating magazine. Said staff at the time consisted of three people: myself (managing editor), Michael Csenger (assistant editor), and Marc Thibodeau (proofreader). The first cruise was actually a delivery, undertaken for an advertiser, and involved a very unreliable engine (dirty fuel, mostly), hence the dark moniker. The last took place in May 1990. I remember I blew off my law school graduation to attend. (Obviously, by ... Read More
I’m just back from a cruise down the coast (of which more later) and during said cruise received the very sad news that yet another old sailing friend has passed on. I first met Mac when he was living with Nim Marsh in Middletown, Rhode Island, back in 1993. He was lying low back in those days, tinkering with a brilliant invention for removing grease from homemade soup as you cooked it. This being one of many hats he wore through a varied life. Others included yacht designer, boatwright, magazine editor, writer, and probably a few others I never knew ... Read More
We sailed over to Popham Beach for the holiday, as has been our habit the last several years, to visit friends and family, but first there was the rudder to attend to. Or rather the steering system, as there were other problems the crew at Maine Yacht Center discovered when they took everything apart and dropped the rudder. In the photo up top you see the top of the rudder tube with the steering quadrant removed and a new top rudder bushing installed. It turned out both the old bushings, top and bottom, were worn and needed replacing.
We ... Read More
This is the most interesting new cruising sailboat design I’ve seen in a long time. Currently in build at Berkeley Marine Center, as conceived by a notable client, Barry Spanier, and drawn by a notable designer, Jim Antrim. It is significant, I think, that Spanier, a lifelong sailmaker who in his heyday designed and built some record-shattering windsurfer sails, has turned in his dotage to the junk rig. I’ve always been fascinated by the concept (you can see here some prior pondering on the subject) and find it inherently attractive. I say this, of course, having never sailed ... Read More
The subject was cruise ships. In the harbor at St. Georges, no less. I promised to tell you a story. This dates back to 1992, when I arrived at St. Georges as crew aboard the old Alden schooner Constellation, having completed the first leg of what would become my first transatlantic voyage (please refer to my latest book for more detail on how we almost sank en route to Bermuda). We had tied up on one corner of the St. Georges Dinghy Club dock, which was not then the swarthy concrete pier that it is today, but an old ... Read More
This year’s seasonal repatriation began with a quick cruise down Puerto Rico’s south coast in company with my old compatriot Phil (P.T. Cav, formerly Snake Wake) Cavanaugh. Our departure from the marina at Fajardo, shortly after 0800 on Tuesday, May 7, was most serendipitous. We had very calm conditions extracting ourselves from our berth, and just outside while raising the mainsail, then the tradewinds promptly filled in and swept us westward.
My purpose here was to get a better sense of some Puerto Rican geography that was important to Thomas Tangvald, both when he was younger and still sailing with ... Read More
I’ll be giving a presentation on behalf of the Gundalow Company this Sunday at 6 pm at the home of Ida McDonnell in Portsmouth, NH. Anyone who’ll be in the area this weekend can sign up here to get a ticket and join in the fun. The event is one of a series, called Gundalow Gatherings, wherein you get fed fine food and drink while listening to marine/historical folks like me bloviate about whatever. It costs some $$$, of course, all of which are fed into the maws of the Gundalow Company’s non-profit enterprise.
Gundalows, FYI, are the sailing barges ... Read More
Decent films about ocean sailing are, alas, few and far between, so it’s worth noting there are at least three recent offerings I’ve screened that are truly worth watching. The first, unbelievably, is an A-list flick starring Colin Firth and Rachel Weisz, The Mercy, which recounts the well-worn tale of Donald Crowhurst’s tragic voyage during the 1968-69 Golden Globe Race.
I’d been looking forward to seeing this film for a long time, ever since Paul Gelder tipped me off a few years ago he’d been helping the folks making it understand what sort of boat Crowhurst had sailed ... Read More
I know I’m not the only one interested in the legal adventures of skipper Rick Smith, recently acquitted in federal district court in St. Thomas on a manslaughter charge in the death of David Pontious (see image above), one of his crew members. This truly was a horrible situation. Smith, who sails a 43-foot vintage yawl Cimarron back and forth between Maine and the Virgin Islands each year, took on Pontious as pick-up crew, and within three days of heading offshore Pontious was hallucinating madly and was effectively psychotic. After brutally assaulting Smith–both punching him in the face and strangling ... Read More
Just prior to my leaving for St. Thomas, and again soon after I arrived there, I received sad news of the passing of two old friends. The first blow was a bit more disturbing, as Phillip Anderson (see image up top), known popularly in St. Georges, Bermuda, by his “street” name Phoopa, was in fact younger than me and died unexpectedly of a heart attack. There’s nothing better, I’m afraid, to remind you of your own mortality.
I first met Phillip in 1995, when I sailed into St. Georges aboard my Pearson Alberg 35 yawl Crazy Horse. I ended ... Read More