RADAR LOVE: Random Tips for Singlehanders

Charlie Doane loves his radar

Lunacy is the first boat I've ever had that is equipped with radar. Initially I didn't use it much. I know some curmudgeons who still swear it's their first choice when it comes to navigation electronics, but in the age of GPS this just seems perverse to me. Interpreting glowing globular clusters for clues as to my whereabouts has never been one of my special talents. I'm also not much good at reading chicken entrails.

During solo offshore passages, however, I've come to worhsip my radar. It solves the biggest problem any singlehander must face, which is SLEEP. As in how to get some without just rolling the dice on whether some huge freighter is going to run you down like a bug.

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TORTOLA FAREWELL: It's Hard to Buy Fuel in Road Town

Stern of Lunacy as she departs Tortola

Only once before have I departed the W'Indies for Bermuda from the BVI. That was in '97, on Crazy Horse, out of Jost Van Dyke (or Just One Dike, as the famous Foxy Callwood sometimes refers to it). I remember Jost as being a perfect orifice from which to excrete oneself into the North Atlantic. It is very low key. Back then the one customs and immigration officer (who was also the police force) wore shorts and a T-shirt and was quite laid-back. It also offers immediate access to the Big Blue Yonder.

I thought briefly about leaving from there again this year. But this made little sense. Lunacy was already ensconced at Village Cay Marina in Road Town, ex post family cruise, waiting for me to take her away. Road Town not only has an immigration office, but also supermarkets and fuel docks (or so I thought). Logistically, if not aesthetically, it makes a better point of departure than Jost.

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Gusto: French & Webb 44 by Chuck Paine

Gusto under sail

Here’ s a fantastic opportunity for someone to pick up a very swell boat for a fraction of what it’s really worth. This custom one-off cruiser/racer was designed by Chuck Paine for a private client and was first launched back in 2002. I test-sailed it soon afterwards and persons involved in its creation advised me confidentially the build cost was over $800K. The boat has been listed for sale for years now, and the asking price is currently down to $399K. Even better, the original owner already has another boat.

Gusto, as she is now called, offers an excellent example of how traditional design concepts can be blended with more modern concepts and building materials to produce a very unique and appealing vessel.  She is one of several “modern traditional” cruising boats Chuck Paine helped to create in latter part of his career (he is now retired and is hard at work on a book about the boats he has designed).

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Bilge God Theology: Descent to the Underworld

Escher print

Of all the deities we sailors must cope with while messing around on our boats none are more ravenous than the dreaded Bilge Gods. As long as there have been bilges on boats, these bogeymen have been lurking down there, waiting patiently to consume any Very Important Object an innocent mariner might temporarily hold in his or her hand.

Even if you are on deck, or at the very top of your rig, as far from the bilge as you can possibly get, it is a proven fact that all you need do is let your grip on a Very Important Object slip for but an instant and said object will immediately be transported all the way down to where these greedy gremlins can have at it.

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No Record For Abby or Jessica?: More Teen Sailing Rumpus

Abby Sunderland in Cape Town

I wasn't going to blog about this again until Jessica Watson actually completed her circumnavigation, but events (plus the fact that I'll soon be incommunicado on the blue yonder again myself) have forced my hand. News Tidbit Number 1 is that Abby Sunderland has been forced to put into Cape Town, South Africa, to fix her balky autopilot. So her bid for a Youngest Solo Non-Stop Unassisted Circumnavigation (YSNSUC) record is undeniably over. Tidbit Number 2 is that, even as all of Australia quivers on the verge of an orgasm of publicity over the return of Jessica, who is now only a few days shy of finishing her voyage at Sydney, a furious debate has erupted over whether she can truly claim the YSNSUC record herself.

Seems that Jessica's shore team has screwed up badly. In mapping out her voyage, they failed to send her far enough into the Northern Hemisphere to cover the official great circle route distance necessary (21,600 nautical miles, which is the Earth's circumference at the equator) to match the achievement of Jesse Martin, who first set the YSNSUC record in 1999 and covered 21,760 miles. Jessica, it seems, will only have covered 18,582 miles. The immediate result has been a big pissing match between Jessica's PR flack, Andrew Fraser, and Australia's popular Sail-World website, which claims it first raised the question before Jessica left, but was ignored.

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Cruiser Adrift 2 Weeks After Pirate Attack

 

Coast of Venezuela

Not much information on this one, but the few details available are chilling. Evidently Don Stollmeyer, who runs the famous Power Boats yard in Trinidad, has confirmed via the local Coast Guard there that a German woman, Angelica Ropke-Wiels, was picked up on April 16 by a merchant vessel that found her alone, adrift in a liferaft, near Curacao. She and her husband, Hans Jorgen Ropke, were attacked aboard their sailboat, Spirit of Cologne II, on April 3 about one mile off the north coast of Venezuela's Paria Penisula (directly west of Trinidad on the map above). Hans was shot and killed in the attack.

According to other sources, Angelica, on being taken aboard M/V San Fernando, told her rescuers she'd been adrift for 13 days and had had her husband's body aboard the liferaft with her, but had pushed it overboard. Meanwhile, however, Spirit of Cologne was discovered afloat and reportedly in sound condition off the coast of Venezuela with Hans' body still aboard. According to Stollmeyer's secondhand report, Angelica had sailed the yacht north for four days after the attack, then abandoned it and boarded the raft for reasons unknown.

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Revenge of the All-Girl Crew: St. Martin to the BVI

 

Lucy and Una on Lunacy

Just back yesterday from another great cruise with the family aboard Lunacy down in the W'Indies. Thought I'd try a little experiment this time and subject them to a mild open-water passage twixt St. Martin and the British Virgin Islands, both so we could vary our cruising ground and to see how the girls would take to being out of sight of land. Here's a hot tip for those inclined to follow in my wake: take the trouble to get out a chart and calculate the time and distance involved before pitching such a venture to your crew. I've done the trip several times, so relied on my increasingly creaky memory and consequently told my shipmates I expected we'd take only 8 hours and a bit to get from here to there.

Even as we motored out of the Radisson Marina at Anse Marcel, Lucy the Youngest (predictably enough) immediately asked: "How much longer till we get there, Dad?"

In the interest of accuracy (for Lucy has a much better memory than me) I queried the GPS and found we in fact had about 80 miles and 18 to 20 hours to go at our then current speed of 4.5 knots. In the photo up top you see how Lucy and her older sister Una received this news.

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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.

  • News & Views

    Updates on what’s going on in the sport of sailing generally (most usually, but not always, relating to cruising under sail) and in the sailing industry, plus news nuggets and personal views on all manner of nautical subjects.

  • Lit Bits

    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.

  • Techniques & Tactics

    Tips and diatribes regarding boathandling, sailhandling, seamanship, navigation, and other realms of nautical expertise.

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