Sometime on a pitch-black night off the New Jersey coast this past November, I was having serious reservations about cruising under sail. The promised 15-20 knot northerly had morphed into a 20-25 knot easterly with prolonged gusts in the low 30s, and the sea state was, to put it charitably, confused—“a cement mixer,” as one of the cruisers who followed us into Atlantic City later that day described it. I’ve sat out 50-knot blows in the Gulf Stream that were a hayride by comparison. In those long hours between 0200 and dawn, I would have given almost anything to be ...Read More
Larry Cheek’s essay on not giving up sailing will strike a chord with any of us who are looking back at 60. Like it or not, there comes a time when, as Leonard Cohen put it, you “ache in the places where you used to play.” That’s no reason to quit, though. Sailboats, no matter their size, have never been easier to handle than they are now. Spars are lighter than ever and with modern fibers, so are ropes. Sails roll away in minutes. Sheets can be trimmed at the press of a button. Ground tackle that would give a ...Read More
Not so long ago, if ever I wanted to feel depressed all I had to do was leaf through my collection of boatyard bills. Now all I have to do is look over the side and count the bits of plastic floating by. Like a constantly unfolding traffic wreck, I can’t take my eyes off it: a plastic bag here, a drink bottle, a candy wrapper there. There is no end to it. Walk along the shore and even in a pristine New England town the highwater line is speckled with pieces of plastic.
Not ...Read More
While engaged in some heavy-duty procrastination one afternoon, surfing Google in quiet desperation in order to avoid writing an overdue article, I came across a mention of the once-famous foiler L’Hydroptère. It’s not just multihull aficionados who will remember the big trimaran—ten years ago, through the summer and fall of 2008 and into 2009, she made headlines not just in sailing magazines but in the mainstream press. She was, for quite some time, the fastest sailing craft in the world.
Her creator, Alain Thébault, was a friend of legendary ocean racer Eric Tabarly, who eagerly embraced the concept ...Read More
Hopefully, Carolyn Shearlock’s provisioning tips this month will help those of you who, like me, are useless at stocking their boats for a cruise of any duration. Bacon, eggs, cheese, a couple of steaks, a handful of onions and a loaf or two of bread, and I’m good to go. A couple of days later I’m pulling long-forgotten cans out of the lockers, wondering what culinary masterpiece I can throw together from pickled beets, artichokes, peas and a suspiciously rusty tin of Spam. In the end, it’s usually sardines on toast, washed down with the kind of last-resort boxed red ...Read More
The loss of Team Scallywag crewman John Fisher in the Southern Ocean during the Volvo Ocean Race (see Eight Bells: John Fisher) was yet another tragic reminder, if one were needed, of the unforgiving nature of the sea and the dangers inherent in top-level ocean racing, a game of calculated risks whose dramas are played out in some of the remotest, most hostile regions on the planet.
At this level, sailing is indeed an extreme sport in which any number of scenarios could lead to injury or death. You might, therefore, be surprised to hear that such occurrences ...Read More
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 ...Read More
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 ...
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 ...Read More
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 ...Read More