Peter Nielsen

15 Minutes of Fame

1 May

Andy Warhol may have been a little wide of the mark when he famously said, “in the future, everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes,” but given the merciless advance of social media his words are starting to ring true. How else do you explain the rise to internet stardom of Tanner and Nikki, an unremarkable young couple from Colorado, who, despite never having set foot on a sailboat, decided to forsake the mountains for a life on the water?

They sold up, moved to Florida, bought an old boat for a few grand and spent a few more ...

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Pass the Bananas

21 Feb

Photo by Mike & Robin Stout

We sailors can be a superstitious lot, and who can blame us? We head off into terra incognita every time we hoist our sails, in the sense that we can never be entirely sure what’s going to happen next. We have a much better idea, of course, than our forebears: meteorologists of the world, take a bow.
But for most of human history, going to sea was a leap into the unknown. Those who did so knew there was a solid chance they would not return, so who could blame them for a little ...

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Chain of Events

2 Feb

In sailing, as in life generally, there are things that are fun to think about, and then there is everything else. The subject of safety most definitely falls under the umbrella of “everything else.” I was ruminating about this while pondering the upcoming windlass installation on my project boat. Now, the words “windlass” and “safety” are seldom mentioned in the same sentence—indeed, I may be a pioneer here—but when you look at the various ways or hurting yourself on a boat, anything that involves machinery is right up there with rope burns and stubbed toes.

I have had a ...

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A Sailor’s New Year’s Resolutions

2 Jan

What was that about reefing sooner, and just look at that dinghy…

Things undone, things still to do; what are your resolutions for the New Year? Here are some of mine.

1. Deep-clean the engine

OK, so this one was held over from 2017. And 2016.

2. Make it a rule to reef earlier

The screams and crashing of crockery from belowdecks get tiring after a while.

3. Don’t tow the dinghy in open water

Those oars were expensive.

4. Install a holding tank gauge

Do I really need to explain why?

5. Go up the mast to replace the ...

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A Singular Cup

6 Dec

The news that the America’s Cup is going back to monohulls for its 36th edition comes as no surprise to Cup insiders. I do not count myself among these, but even back in 2013, when the big AC72 cats were gearing up to transform multihull sailing forever, the whisper on the San Francisco docks was that if the Kiwis won, they’d do away with the multis.

Well, we all know how that turned out. Pride, fall, etc. Anyway, it came as no surprise to yours truly when, shortly after they took Oracle Team USA to the woodshed in Bermuda, ...

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A Cruel Blow

4 Nov

The trio of hurricanes—Harvey, Irma and Maria—that killed more than 200 people and made tens of thousands of people homeless in the Caribbean, Texas and Florida also did heavy damage to many wonderful sailing areas. Marine communities and infrastructure from Guadeloupe to Georgia were devastated, and it will take time and money to rebuild them.

The Florida Keys had just been reopened to tourists as we went to press, and the resilient Conchs were doing what they’ve always done, cleaning up and carrying on.

In the Caribbean, though, the picture was gloomier. Most of the charter businesses that have ...

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Informational overload?

13 Jun

I recently acquired a 30-year-old project boat whose systems are mostly original, except for the electronics, which had been updated in the early 1990s—the Jurassic era as far as modern electronics are concerned. In fact, I well recall installing that selfsame make of instrument on the boat I owned back then, and marveling at how wonderful it was to have a digital depth readout instead of a whirring dial and a couple of flashing lights to warn of impending collision with the sea bed.
This presented me with the rare opportunity to specify a new instrument and nav system from ...

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Sailing with Others

18 Apr

Sunset-on-our-cat

long time ago in an office far, far away, I received a typewritten manuscript that told a harrowing tale of a transatlantic voyage gone horribly wrong. The author and his girlfriend had answered a magazine advertisement for crew (yes, it was that long ago) for a bluewater passage on a 40ft sloop owned by a genial Slav. All was well at first, but then, as the tradewinds failed to materialize and the daily runs dropped into double and sometimes single digits, the skipper grew increasingly morose and spent most of each day in his cabin, emerging only to eat ...

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A Kindly Boat

8 Dec

recent offshore delivery on a high-performance catamaran got me thinking about the things that really matter in a sailing boat—specifically, the design, build and equipment elements that combine to make a boat a pleasure (or not) to sail. For a cruising boat, especially, these attributes are encompassed by the term “seakindliness,” which is not quite the same as “seaworthiness.”

When creating a new boat, a naval architect first provides a hull form that will give the best all-round performance possible under the terms of the design brief provided by the builder. The builder then makes sure the ...

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Cruising or Racing?

14 Sep

We’ve all heard the old saw that all it takes to turn a cruiser into a racer is the sight of another boat catching up to us. Sometimes true, sometimes not. Casting a critical eye up the sails to check the trim is hardly racing, it’s sailing your boat well. In fact, the very mention of the R-word leaves many sailors cold, which is a shame because you can have an awful lot of fun getting out on the water in the company of like-minded souls.
Plus, not all races are created equal. More and more clubs are responding to ...

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