SHAKEDOWN CRUISE: Nigel Calder's First Cruising Narrative

Book cover

I’m feeling some vindication here. Several years ago when I was Nigel Calder’s regular editor at SAIL Magazine he told me the story of the first time he ever went sailing with Terrie, his future wife. To impress her he’d suggested they borrow (without permission) a small wooden boat that belonged to his brother and take off on a cruise together. She suggested they sail across the English Channel to Amsterdam (they were in the UK at the time) and he readily agreed, though he had little idea what he was doing. Terrie temporarily jumped ship once they got there (to visit with another boyfriend), and on the way back they got run down by a ship.

On hearing all this I immediately suggested that Nigel should write it up for the magazine, but he demurred. Though he’d built up an enormous reputation as the marine industry’s most popular technical writer, he told me he didn’t really feel comfortable writing a simple narrative. And now here we have an entire book of it: the (mostly) unvarnished tale of Nigel’s early days as a bluewater cruiser.

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NORTHBOUND LUNACY: Jacksonville, FL, to Morehead City, NC

Nat on wheel

We’ve had a brutal spring in New England this year. March brought four nor’easters, one a week like clockwork, each with heavy snow and blizzard conditions. April, once it finally got going, was mostly just too damn cold. So I was looking forward to getting back to the boat in Florida and doing some sailing. But sailing all the way back home, given the treacherous season, seemed like it might be a bad idea. Much better, I thought, to do this in stages.

For crew on this first leg I enlisted one Nat Smith, a recently retired geologist from Houston, Texas. He’s pondering whether he might purchase a boat like Lunacy, a Boreal or perhaps some other Francophilic aluminum centerboarder. That’s him steering in the photo up there, head wrapped in a sensible sun hat, during our first short daysailing leap from Jacksonville to Fernandina Beach. A pleasant close reach in a moderate westerly wind.

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CRUSHED BY HIS BOAT: Brit Dies in Bizarre Spring Commissioning Accident

crushed by boat

Every time I work on a boat hull propped up on the hard I think of this: what if it falls over? Even worse, what if it falls over on top of me? Then I chase that errant bit of evil paranoia from my mind. Nah, can’t happen! But apparently it can. Witness this alarming news-bit from Great Britain. Kevin Keeler, age 56, crushed to death on Monday by his new-to-him 29-foot Westerly, Ginny Kwik, at the Weymouth Sailing Club in Dorset as he was preparing to launch it after a quick haul-out. He’d only bought the boat three months earlier. It was the first he’d ever owned.

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OYSTER RESURRECTED: Online Casino Gambling Magnate Buys Builder Out of Bankruptcy

Oyster website screenshot

Well, this didn’t take too long. The big news in the boatbuilding world last week was that Richard Hadida, co-founder of Evolution Gaming, has purchased Oyster Yachts, scraped clean of its Polina Star III liabilities, for an undisclosed sum. Hadida is an active sailor who has chartered Oysters in the past and is a frequent guest on Lush, an Oyster 885 owned by Eddie Jordan, a regular columnist for the super-yacht comic Boat International. Hadida has said his immediate priority is finishing the 26 boats currently in build, including Oyster’s first super-yacht, the 118. Moving forward, however, he reportedly would like to de-emphasize big boats and work more on introducing smaller boats in the 40-foot range to make it easier for new owners to join the (now not-so-blue) Oyster cult.

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GEORGIA MARSH CRUISE: From Hilton Head to Jacksonville

Lunacy underway

I did take the family down to Hilton Head to visit Lunacy over the Christmas vacation, but we did not take the boat anywhere. It was far too cold for that. Instead we used the boat as a hotel suite (thank God for the Refleks diesel heater!) and toured the surrounding environs. Savannah, Beaufort, Charleston, and of course the island of Hilton Head itself. To get home we had to drive to Jacksonville (the airport at Savannah was closed) through a vicious ice storm, and I swear I saw more car accidents in those few hours than I’ve seen in my entire life. True fact: people in the South cannot drive on slippery roads to save their lives.

We tried again last week, in much nicer weather, but still there were complications. Daughter Lucy, who likes horses much better than boats (go figure), had first to be deposited in the Florida horse/cattle country outside Gainesville, so she could indulge this preference. Which perversely meant getting stuck overnight in Charlotte, North Carolina (where family vacations go to die), due to the ineptitude of American Airlines. Which meant the wife and I, once we finally arrived in Hilton Head, really only had a handful of days to fool around on the boat.

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THE TALK OF MIAMI: Big Motors & Oyster Rumors Confirmed

Boats and skyline

I put in an appearance at the Miami International Boat Show last week for the first time in a few years. My first visit actually since the main part of the show moved out of Miami Beach and consolidated all its bits in front of the old Marine Stadium on Virginia Key. While roaming the ever-shrinking sailboat side of the show (it didn’t take long) I had a few conversations about the demise of Oyster Yachts. Word on the docks had it that the Polina Star III keel disaster was indeed the proximate cause of the boatbuilder’s sudden liquidation. And now today we find that Alexander Ezhkov, the aggrieved Russian owner of Polina Star, has unveiled a full barrage of information pertaining to his ongoing dispute with the builder on a website appropriately entitled How It Went Down.

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SEA NYMPH SIGHTED: Volvo Race Boat Spots Derelict Vessel Abandoned by Jennifer Appel and Tasha Fuiava

Sea Nymph sighted

She has risen again to infest the newsfeed of unsuspecting sailors! The good vessel Sea Nymph--belonging to controversial bluewater sailor Jennifer Appel, abandoned by her and shipmate Tasha Fuiava and their two dogs last October--was sighted yesterday approximately 360 miles east of Guam by skipper Dee Caffari and her crew aboard Turn the Tide on Plastic, a VO65 racing in Leg 6 of the Volvo Ocean Race.

Caffari in her text report couldn’t help remarking on the irony of the situation: “I just hope now we have given authorities her position there is a chance for salvage or for scuttling her to prevent a far worse disaster in our oceans. We are asking you not to litter the oceans with plastic and here we have a whole yacht floating aimlessly in our oceans!”

Not only a yacht, but a plastic one at that.

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ELVSTROM BLUE WATER RUNNER: Modern Interpretation of Downwind Twin Headsails

Runner downwind

Here’s an interesting item my neighbor and erstwhile shipmate Jeff Bolster recently pointed me at. You may recall his Valiant 40, Chanticleer, was unfortunately parked last summer in Road Town, Tortola, and was dismasted in Hurricane Irma last September. He now has the boat in Kittery, Maine, for a refit (she motored on her own bottom from Tortola to St. Thomas, traveled by ship to Florida, then by truck to Maine), and he was thinking this new headsail system from Elvstrom might be worth trying out.

The basic concept, a symmetric pair of matching headsails for flying wing-and-wing at deep downwind angles, has been around a long time and was once considered de rigeur for bluewater cruisers running down the trades. It’s much easier to get a boat to sail itself downwind with a rig like this, and in the days before reliable self-steering gear this was an important feature. What’s new about the Elvstrom system, dubbed the Blue Water Runner, is these twins are set together on a single torque rope and are controlled with one continuous-line furler.

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Subcategories

  • Boats & Gear

    Evaluations of both new and older sailboats (primarily cruising sailboats) and of boat gear.

  • The Lunacy Report

    Updates on what’s going on aboard my own sailboat Lunacy: breakdowns, maintenance jobs, upgrades, cruises and passages undertaken, etc.

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    Longer articles by me that treat sailing and the sea in a more literary manner, short reviews of nautical books I think readers might enjoy reading, plus occasional excerpts from nautical books that I’d like to share with readers.

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