So Long, Mom: Popham Beach Erosion and Rebirth

Stephanie Doane with dwarf Asian otter

My mom was never really into boats, though she had to cope with them for much of her life, having grown up on an island. She did love the water and was always happiest when in close proximity to it. So when she became terminally ill last month, it was pretty obvious where she should spend her final days. Fortunately, we managed to install her in her sister's house on Popham Beach in Maine, just across the Kennebec River from the house she had lived in as a child. It was on this same body of water that I first learned my way around boats when I was a lad, which I've always thought was a good thing. The Kennebec is a very fast, turbulent river, and one of the many things it taught me was that you should never take anything for granted while afloat in a boat. It is a lesson, I've found, that is applicable to most other things as well.

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REID STOWE: Longest Voyage in History (Undisputed!)

Reid Stowe aboard schooner Anne

The record might be broken as of today (according to his harshest detractors), or it may actually be broken less than two weeks from now on Saturday March 27 (according to my own calculations), but either way Reid Stowe is now (or soon will be) the unequivocal record-holder for longest non-stop voyage of any type ever undertaken by a human being.

You may recall I mentioned Reid last December, when he broke Jon Sanders' record for longest solo voyage. This target at least was always clearcut and well defined, though it wasn't originally one of Reid's goals when he set out from New York Harbor aboard his 70-foot schooner Anne on April 21, 2007. Back then Reid had crew (a young photographer from Queens, Soanya Ahmed, who later left the boat after becoming pregnant) and he believed he would capture the title for longest voyage (solo or otherwise) if he beat Sanders' mark of 658 days non-stop at sea. To do this he proposed to stay at sea for 1,000 days.

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Jamming GPS: Intentional Interference Increasing

Portable GPS jammer available to public

 

Even as our nascent eLoran system is being shut down here in North America, concerns over the vulnerability of GPS and other sat-nav systems are growing elsewhere. Late last month in the U.K., at a symposium hosted by the Royal Institute of Navigation and the Digital Systems Knowledge Transfer Network, several scientists and engineers discussed the increasing threat posed by those seeking to intentionally interfere with GPS signals. Just Google the term "GPS jammer" and you'll get a sense of the scope of the problem. Once GPS jamming equipment was used solely by government and military types for discrete purposes, but now it is commercially available, at prices starting below $100, to anyone who can think up a use for it. Most of these units are quite small and are only powerful enough to mask a car or truck with a GPS transponder aboard, but others are quite powerful, with effective ranges exceeding 300 meters at ground level.

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Crunching Numbers: Defining Displacement

In the interest of general enlightenment with respect to matters nautical I thought I should explain some of those mysterious numbers that always appear at the end of boat reviews and evaluations, both here on WaveTrain and in the marine press in general. Being able to intelligently interpret a boat's numbers doesn't mean you'll be able to fully appreciate its qualities and deficiencies at a glance, but it does give you a big head start.

One of a boat's most significant characteristics is its weight. This is called displacement, thanks to a fundamental law of nature (first discovered by Archimedes in the 3rd century B.C.) that states that the weight of an object is exactly equal to the weight of the water it displaces when it is placed in water.

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Strange Invaders: Negotiating with Bugs & Other Pests



One of the very first problems I had to cope with on Lunacy involved an uninvited guest who came along on the delivery trip home to New Hampshire from Florida, where I had purchased the boat. One of the other problems was that the engine stopped working, which is a theme we've discussed before. The presence of the guest became known during Phase 1 of the trip, as we were beating around Cape Hatteras, sans engine, in a frustratingly light breeze. What happened specifically was that a member of the crew happened to spot a lizard slinking about, though he did not tell me this at the time. During Phase 2 of the trip, from Atlantic City (where the engine was repaired) here to Portsmouth, another crew member also saw a lizard, presumably the same one.

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Selden's Electric Furler Back-up System

Like any good lazybones cruiser, I surely do appreciate the ease and convenience of a push-button power furling system. Being able to wind up a big sail in a matter of seconds just by exercising a fingertip is enough to make any sailor feel like an all-powerful deity. But these systems also make me nervous. All I can think about when using one is what happens if I lose power??? Will I still be able to control the sail? It is, of course, a matter of basic common sense that any such furler should have an effective manual over-ride, but in many cases they really don't. Usually you'll find a token socket for a winch handle stuck on the unit somewhere, but often there isn't room to rotate the handle through a full 360 degrees, as a deck, spar, or some other protuberance usually contrives to get in the way.

So I was very pleased when I found out how Selden Mast engineered the over-ride system for their electric Furlex furlers while poking through their booth at the Miami show last month. Instead of turning the socket for the manual over-ride with a winch handle, you just slap on one of these continuous-line drive units and start hauling away. You can run the line all the way back to the cockpit if you like, have more than one guy hauling on it, or even put it on a winch if you really have to. Whatever happens, power or no, you'll always be able to roll up your headsail promptly and safely.

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Song of the Sirens

 

The recent sinking of the Canadian school ship Concordia and the memory it roused in me of the earlier sinking, almost 50 years ago, of Chris Sheldon's school ship Albatross ties into a strong flood tide that has long flowed through my brain. It in fact first started flowing just about 40 years ago when, at age 13, I found a paperback copy of Ernest K. Gann's Song of the Sirens stashed on the shelves of a lending library in a U.S. Army field hospital in Bangkok, Thailand. The book's cover (seen here) was so attractive I at once swiped it (the whole book, not just the cover) and quickly devoured it whole. On finishing it I at once swore to myself I would one day sail across an ocean. Fortunately (or not), I eventually kept that promise, and this had all sorts of consequences, one of which is the blog you are now reading.

To put it more succinctly: I love this book. I urge you to read it, too, for there is a very good chance you'll have the same reaction.

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Scape 39 Sport Cruiser

This is another boat I saw at the Miami show, though it wasn’t actually in the show. The owner, or an enterprising yacht broker, had anchored it right off the docks at the Sea Isle Marina with a big “For Sale” sign on it, hoping it might catch the eye of some cat-happy show-goer. I smiled when I saw it, for I know the boat well, as I helped deliver it across the South Atlantic from South Africa soon after it was first launched in 2007.

There were three of us who did the trip--myself, Hank Schmitt of Offshore Passage Opportunities (who acted as titular skipper), and the owner, Wayne Gallo. He had commissioned the boat’s creation after his wife announced she was no longer willing to live aboard the fat “condo cat” that had been their home for two years. An ex-motorcycle racer, Wayne decided he wanted a much lighter, more casual cruiser to replace his liveaboard boat, something that would be both somewhat habitable and a blast to sail.

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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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