Peter Nielsen

True Solitude

17 Apr

The expedition yacht Seal lies at anchor in a shallow bay on Isla Navarino, on the Chilean side of the Beagle Channel, while its crew of charter guests explores an isolated homestead. In the background, on the other side of the narrow channel named after HMS Beagle, loom the mountains of Argentina. Captained by Robert Fitzroy, the Beagle charted this remote part of Patagonia in the 1830s before heading up the South American coast to the Galápagos Islands. It was on this voyage that the ship’s naturalist, Charles Darwin, developed his theory of evolution.

Fitzroy too made a singular ...

Read More

Home is Where the Boat is

7 Apr

New England can be a cruel place to sail. You never can tell just what the months of March and April will bring, so you have no idea when your boat will actually touch the water. Woe betide you if you dare dream of an early launch date; like as not, you’ll find your spring commissioning plans thwarted by April snowstorms and lingering sub-Arctic temperatures, and you’ll be lucky if you’re in by Memorial Day, let alone the Fourth of July. Only twice in the last decade can I recall being fully prepped and launched by mid-May, and both times ...

Read More

The Great Escape

12 Jan

cruisAs yet another year draws to a close I am reminded once again of what a great sport, pastime, call it what you will, we sailors enjoy. A late fall delivery from Bermuda to the Caribbean proved the perfect antidote to the continuing gloom that dominated the airwaves last year; I found there’s nothing like a bracing beat into 25-knot headwinds and a rambunctious seaway to banish thoughts of Ebola-infected ISIS militants swarming across the border to behead us in our sleep. Politics, fracking, climate change, none of these meant anything compared to the struggle of merely climbing out of ...

Read More

A Grand Day Out

17 Jul

Back in the day I had a yen to do a Whitbread race, as it was then. I envisioned myself steering resolutely down towering Southern Ocean swells, setting new boatspeed records to the acclaim of my crewmates, and sipping champagne from stilettos in the post-race parties. Of course a lack of skill and ambition in that direction scuppered any chances I had of doing a round-the-world race, and now of course the last thing I would contemplate doing is exposing my middle-aged self to the frigid wastes of the Roaring Forties, let alone the Furious Fifities or the Shrieking Sixties. ...

Read More

Romance Reborn

27 Mar

One hears over and over again of the “romance” attendant to boats, sailing and the sea, but if you ask someone why he or she sails, I’ll bet that the R-word pops up a respectable distance down the list, in back of the F-words (freedom, fun) and the A-words (adventure, activity). Still, I am positive that a romantic streak is an integral part of every sailor’s make-up, even if we might not like to admit it’s there. There is no other way of explaining some of the irrational things that sailors do.

For instance, I was once possessed by a ...

Read More

Why Sailors are Highly Strung

17 Mar

Show me a boat that doesn’t have a bag of assorted offcuts of sheet, halyard, warp and string buried in a cockpit locker, and I’ll show you a powerboat. It’s impossible to separate sailing from rope, and I don’t know why you’d want to. Separating sailors from rope can be nearly impossible too. Rummaging around at the bottom of other people’s lazarettes, I’ve more than once dredged up some scruffy, diesel-stained, ratty bundle of rock-hard ancient anchor warp or a prehistoric genoa sheet that’s fossilized into the form of a nightmare pretzel. “Ah,” the owner says sheepishly, “Thought that might ...

Read More

Winging It

17 Feb

Wingsail tech is going mainstream

PN-Trickle-down economics might not have worked out so well for most of us, but the technological trickle-down from the most recent America’s Cup seems to be falling on fertile ground. First there was what you might describe as the legitimization of foiling; the idea that a boat can rise above the waves and proceed at thrice true windspeed is no longer the province of the sort of wild-eyed evangelistic character you wouldn’t want next to you on the subway. Production-built foiling catamarans are already available. There’s plenty of experimentation going on with foiling monohulls too....

Read More

Group Think: a Rough Rally Passage and the Questions it Inspired

12 Feb

It’s old news by now that back in early November, a half-dozen boats entered in the Salty Dawg Rally from Hampton, Virginia to the British Virgin Islands got into all sorts of trouble in the Gulf Stream. A couple were abandoned, and others were dismasted or had steering problems. I remember that night vividly (though certainly not as vividly as those who suffered through it), because while the proverbial stuff was hitting the fan a few hundred miles south, I was sitting in a multiplex watching a lethargic Robert Redford trying to save his damaged boat in the movie All ...

Read More

Showtime in Germany

31 Jan

showleadpic

If it’s January in Germany, all roads lead to Dusseldorf. At least they do if you’re a boat person or any other kind of watersports person. Sailors, powerboaters, kayakers, scuba divers, fishermen and anglers flock here by the hundreds of thousands to take in the delights of the world’s biggest boat and accessories show.

You could look over a hundred-foot motoryacht that’s been plucked from the adjacent Rhine river and deposited in a hall that would swallow a dozen such, go paddle a canoe on an intricately landscaped mock river, cast a fly on an alpine stream, be rescued from ...

Read More

No Place Like Home

17 Jan

There’s nothing like a story on the best places to sail to start a bit of a debate. Last time we ran one, some SAIL writers weren’t too happy that their own home waters were not included. Doubtless a lot of readers will feel the same way. You’d think that predictable breezes, ample sunshine, plentiful and attractive anchorages, and interesting topography would comprise irrefutable proof of one region’s superiority over another, but sailors mostly being independently minded, stubborn people, that would be too easy. Of all the elements that shape a total sailing experience, these are only the tangible ones....

Read More

More from the AIM Marine Group