You can read many authoritative treatises about boats and lightning, and they’re all full of crap. There is only one thing we know for sure about lightning: It is unpredictable.
An acquaintance recently introduced me to a fellow sailor, saying, “You got run over by a container ship. He got struck by lightning.”
I reflexively asked, “Did it zap all your electronics?”
“No, it blew a 2 x 3 foot hole out the side of the boat and she sank in twenty seconds.”
He was sailing solo in the vicinity of Drakes Bay, Costa Rica, also very close to Isla ... Read More
We were sailing back to the Spaulding Marine Center from a successful first charter on our 1885 gaff-rigged sloop Freda. We left the charter guests at the Ferry Building, set sail, and managed to lay Sausalito in one tack on the ebb. Volunteer crew Rob and I quaffed artisanal cheeses and fresh figs, leftover from the charter, as we enjoyed spectacular Bay sailing aboard the oldest sailing yacht on the West Coast. I was feeling so cocky about it that I suggested, “People always drop her sails and motor the last mile to Spaulding. There’s plenty of room by ...
I’m two months into my new job as General Manager of the Spaulding Marine Center, in Sausalito, California. According to Google Maps, work is 2.4 miles from my house. Have I ridden my bike to work? Of course not.
A non-profit boatyard? Yes, all proceeds from boatyard operations go to restoration projects, education, outreach, and other do-gooder stuff. We (meaning Spaulding) owns Freda, the “Matriarch of San Francisco Bay,” the oldest sailing yacht on the West Coast. She was originally built in 1885, and the subject of a half million dollar, decade-long, museum quality restoration:
I’d never sailed ... Read More
Yes, I like crossing oceans and making great landfalls, but I’m obsessed with the smaller crevices of our watery world.
My mom built a shack on the beach in Baja 35 years ago, and passed it on to me. The shack sits about 20 miles south of San Felipe, near the top of the Gulf of California (Sea of Cortez). The tidal range is over twenty feet. During the highest tides the desert floods, and what is normally dry land becomes accessible by water. It’s very bizarre and heady to paddle a kayak or sail a windsurfer across mud flats ... Read More
My original announcement of the movie is here. There has been little news since, but the production company has thrown us a few bones:
1. It’s actually happening! There is going to be a mainstream movie about Donald Crowhurst and the 1968 Sunday Times Golden Globe Race, starring Oscar best actor winner Colin Firth as Crowhurst, and Rachel Weisz as Clare Crowhurst. This is likely to be the biggest movie ever made about sailing, or at least sailboat racing. They couldn’t have chosen a more fascinating and portentous moment in our sport.
2. They released the photo above. That’s ... Read More
One of my boat’s stainless steel water tanks has always had a hole in it, and a series of patches, the last of which held for twenty years, until it failed last week. Here are the tanks, under my floors and settees, meaning replacing them is out of the question, or at least worth a lot of time futzing with patches:
After circumnavigating for ten years on an old boat with not only a water tank with a hole in it, but steel fuel tanks with holes in them, I’ve developed a more nuanced approach to patches. I made it ... Read More
The cigarette lighter plug/receptacle has long been the de facto standard to connect portable 12-Volt devices, and it sucks. Nobody smokes anymore. It’s bulky, insecure, makes poor electrical contact, and can’t carry high current. It’s got to be the only electrical connector in the history of electrical connectors with a compression spring that is constantly trying to break the connection.
I suffered many a night when the only difference between a good sleep and waking up in a pool of sweat, ravaged by mosquitoes, was a 12-Volt fan plugged into a cigarette receptacle above my bunk. If I so much ... Read More
I received sad news from my dad last night that Bill Ficker passed away last week. As a racing skipper, Bill won both the America’s Cup and the Star Worlds. For those of us who know what that means, enough said.
I knew Bill, through my dad, my whole life, and I’d see him at my dad’s coffee klatch when I visited. At this coffee klatch, which didn’t have any slouches when it came to sailing, Bill was always the alpha dog, yet patient, unassuming, and shy about his accomplishments. The last time I saw him at the coffee klatch ... Read More
Like many V-berths, mine was designed to be two bunks, but by putting a board and a cushion between them it becomes a double berth. Since the cushion in the middle is called a keystone cushion by the upholstery people, we’ll call the board the keystone board.
On my boat the keystone board and cushion are in place nearly 100% of the time, creating my captain’s cabin, roughly the size of a queen-sized bed. Below the keystone board is seldom seen, but this is some primo storage, accessed from aft, and visible looking forward from the main cabin. During my ... Read More
To be a true marine carpenter is to live in the high country of the craft, because boats are curved every which way. There is seldom a right angle, seldom even a simple beveled angle, because all those intersecting curves mean that every place two pieces of material join together is a compound angle. To put a finer point on it, terrestrial carpenters can frame a four-bedroom house in a day or two. A team of talented marine carpenters can frame a 40-foot wooden boat in a couple of months? A couple of years?
I am not a marine carpenter, ... Read More