Peter Nielsen

Going small, going now

25 Aug

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Aside from one rather unfortunate dinghy-sailing adventure as a teenager, I have managed to steer clear of smaller boats for most of my life. This was a conscious decision; I didn’t defect from power to sail till my late 20s, and since I learned on a J/24 and not a dinghy, I quickly became accustomed—not to say addicted— to the feeling of security engendered by a large lump of lead counteracting the forces of wind and waves. The boats were sporty enough to be exciting, especially in a big breeze, and there seemed little chance of going for an involuntary ...

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Gone Sailing

15 Jun

As far as I’m concerned, June is the best month of the season—with the usual caveats, familiar to all who sail in the Northeast. First, the boat must have been launched on time, which presupposes a mild winter; all it takes is the usual January/February freeze followed by a couple of late snowstorms to throw everything into disarray. Watching your launch date come and go when there is still a couple of feet of snow in the boatyard is a mortifying, but sadly not uncommon, scenario. Worse still is the knowledge that you’ve not even had a chance to paint ...

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Repairing Your Boat in Exotic Places

26 Apr

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The definition of cruising as repairing your boat in exotic places entered the realm of clichés long ago, but that doesn’t make it any less true. There’s no end of irony in the fact that while you can pay $20,000 for a new car and be shocked and upset if it breaks down a few days later, no one is really surprised that a boat that costs as much as a house, in some cases a mansion, can have technicians swarming over it for weeks after it’s launched.

The aptly named punch list—so called because an owner feels like he’s ...

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Old Guys and Girls Rule

11 Mar
Photo by Rolex/Carlo Borlenghi

Photo by Rolex/Carlo Borlenghi

Even people who couldn’t give two hoots about sailboat racing have heard about the brutal beatdown that is the Rolex Sydney Hobart race. Every year, on the day after Christmas, a hundred or so boats thrash their way down the Australian coast and enter the Bass Strait separating Tasmania from the mainland. There, they almost inevitably receive the kind of spanking that breaks boats and spirits and occasionally kills people.

It’s the kind of sailing that landlubbers just cannot get their heads around. Nor can many sailors, come to that. It’s one thing to deal with ...

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Call of the Sea

15 Jan

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Do you remember how old you were when you first dreamed about running away to sea? Me neither, though I expect it was after some parental discipline regarding tormenting younger siblings or eating all the cake. What I do recall is gazing out to sea during beachside camping vacations, watching ships and sailboats disappear over the horizon, wondering where they were bound and wishing I was going there too.

It seems to me that the call of the sea is heard more strongly by some than others. Had I grown up in a Midwest farm town, with the wind blowing ...

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Push-Button Sailing

24 Nov
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Image from Jeanneau

My thoughts on labor-saving devices a couple of issues ago didn’t go down too well with a few of our readers, who all but accused me of encouraging slothfulness among sailors. Too much button-pushing, they opined, would turn the lot of us into stick-legged, slack-muscled, beer-bellied slobs barely able to unbutton a sail cover, let alone hoist a mainsail or lift a case of rum over the lifelines from a bouncing dinghy.

Which is why I had to stifle a grin at the U.S. Sailboat Show in Annapolis this past fall, when deck gear makers Harken and ...

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The Purist & the Pragmatist

28 Sep

Way back in the dark ages of the early 1980s, when I first happened upon a skipper foolish enough to take me offshore, there were few labor saving devices on your typical cruising sailboat. In fact, I was one of them.  There was no roller furling on that particular 47ft cutter, just a seemingly bottomless stack of hanked-on sails that lived in a dank lazarette reeking of mildew, turpentine and diesel, the kind of cocktail that only wooden-boat lovers find intoxicating.

The boat was “handraulic,” as the skipper loved to say, and a heavy beast she was to work, too; ...

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Gearing Up

18 Sep

Having spent many years sailing in England, where there is no climate as such, just weather (as the Brits love to say, with just a touch of bitterness), transitioning to coastal sailing in the United States came as a pleasant surprise to me. It took a year or two before I stopped toting my ocean-grade foulweather gear around and became acclimated to sailing in shorts, T-shirt and (sometimes) a light jacket. I’ve so seldom worn long pants on the boat that when I sailed in jeans the other week it felt decidedly unnatural.

Of course, pride precedes an inevitable fall, ...

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Einstein on the Water

4 Aug
We can all be grateful that Einstein was a better physicist than he was a sailor

We can all be grateful that Einstein was a better physicist than he was a sailor.

While the academic community celebrates the 100th anniversary of Albert Einstein’s presentation of his theory of relativity in August 1914, the sailing community should not forget that the great scientist was one of us.
Although the wild-haired mathematician could not swim, he had a great love for the water. He learned to sail on a Swiss lake as a student in the 1890s, and in 1929, on his 50th birthday, a group of wealthy admirers presented him with a custom-built sailboat. Tümmler, German for ...

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Just Launched: Carbon Beauty

6 Jul
Brenta 80 DC

When Hanse Yachts founder Michael Schmidt sold his company a few years ago, it seemed the European boatbuilding community had lost one of its canniest operators. Not only did Schmidt build the company from a startup in a disused East German furniture factory to a multi-brand powerhouse at a time when many other builders were struggling, he is a true character and an innovator; witness how widely copied the trademark Hanse big mainsail/self-tacking jib combo has become.
With a boatbuilding background going back to the 1970s it was unlikely that Schmidt would stay away from the scene for too long, ...

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