Eyeball Navigation: The Heart of the Art

Eyeball navigation with binoculars

Quiz any curmudgeon these days on the subject of proper wayfinding and you’ll soon find yourself reefed down in a gale of conventional wisdom about the importance of paper charts, compass bearings, dead reckoning, sextants, and the like. But what curmudgeons tend to forget, as they rail on about how modern nav tools are corrupting us, is that many of their sacred cows are also just tools. They are more primitive, simpler, hence more reliable in one sense (if not more accurate), but still they are not the organic root of navigation.

Reduced to its purest form, human navigation (as opposed to more advanced forms used by migratory cetaceans, birds, and fish) is simply a matter of being able to look at something from a distance and say what it is. In a state of nature we can travel knowingly only as far as we can see.

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Comprehending Reid Stowe: Early Voyages & The Moitessier Factor

Reid Stowe aboard the schooner Anne

AS OF LAST MONTH, as documented here on WaveTrain, Reid Stowe can rightfully lay claim to a record for longest ocean voyage in history and earlier toppled the record for longest solo voyage. But unlike most sailors who now play the record-breaking game, Reid's motivations and methods are, shall we say, not entirely linear. To understand the enigma that is Reid--a man who inspires some, infuriates a few, and leaves many others simply baffled--it helps to know something of his origins as an ocean sailor.

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Nor’Sea 27: A Trailerable Offshore Cruiser

Nor'Sea 27 under sail

Legend has it the idea for this unique pocket cruiser was born round a campfire in Baja California in the early 1970s as two brothers, Dean and Stan Wixom, speculated on alternative modes of exploring Baja and the Sea of Cortez. They were on motorcycles, had tired of the dusty ride, and thought a small, but truly ocean-worthy cruising sailboat on a trailer might be a better way to travel. Dean later queried several yacht designers, but the only one who thought such a craft feasible was Lyle Hess, who allegedly took only a few minutes to sketch out the basic concept of what became the Nor’Sea 27.

Wixom built hull number one in a makeshift plant in Southern California in 1977, then three years later built himself a boat (hull number 77, as it happened) and sailed off over the horizon in it. His new business, Heritage Marine, he sold to Bob Eeg, who renamed the company Nor’Sea Marine and has continued building Nor’Sea 27s ever since. To date over 450 have been launched and many believe it to be the most seaworthy cruising sailboat in its size range.

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Assault on St. Eustatius: Caribbean Cruise Report

Approaching Statia under sail

Team SEMOSA had to beat hard to windward to get from Saba to St. Eustatius, better known as Statia, but still it was a most enjoyable sail. The breeze was blowing 18-20 knots, just a shade north of east, but the sea state was relatively flat. With one reef in Lunacy's mainsail it took us just three boards (port, starboard, port) and four hours underway to make good about 20 miles to the southeast. It was during this beat that I noticed the fractured mainsheet block swivel about which I bloviated earlier. Fortunately, it did not cause any problems.

Like Saba Statia has no proper natural harbor, but unlike Saba most of the leeward side of the island has some protection from the north, as the island is pitched on a northwest-southeast axis. The anchorage is also far superior, as there is a much larger area of relatively shallow water over a great expanse of clean sand. There are now several dedicated guest moorings in Oranje Baai (again, look for the yellow mooring balls) off the main town of Oranjestad, but you needn't despair if you show up too late to get one. You'll be just as secure and comfortable lying on your own hook.

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Ann Davison: La Navigante Solitaria

Ann Davison aboard Felicity Ann

Cast into the past to find the founding figure of bluewater feminism, the first in the line that leads to such modern-day characters as Isabelle Autissier, Ellen MacArthur, and Samantha Davies, and you bump up hard against a woman named Ann Davison. She is remembered today, when she is remembered at all, as the first woman to sail solo across the Atlantic. She is also something of an enigma, wrapped up in several ironies. Chief among these is the fact that she probably never would have thought to go to sea in the first place had she not fallen in love with a sailor.

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Sussing Out Saba: Caribbean Cruise Report


Approaching Saba under sail

I have long wanted to visit the steep little island of Saba, just 25 miles south of St. Martin, but was always nervous about taking the family, as I'd heard the parking can be tricky and it is hard to get ashore there. But the recent SEMOSA spring cruise with Chas. and Phil presented a perfect opportunity to pay a call. Though Phil had packed a complete wardrobe for schmoozing with the glitterati on St. Bart's, Chas. and I had little trouble convincing him that Better People would rather go to Saba. Having now been there, I can tell you the parking is not as tricky as I expected, and it is indeed hard to get ashore. It is, however, well worth the trouble.

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Di Benedetto Dismasted: Keeps Going Anyway


Alessandro di Benedetto on Findomestic

Seems my old acquaintance Alessandro di Benedetto, the crazy Italian guy sailing non-stop around the world on a 21-foot Mini, has run into a spot of trouble approaching Cape Horn. According to some typically brief reports on his website, Alessandro's boat, Findomestic Banca, was dismasted in "extreme weather conditions" last Tuesday (March 30) off the west coast of Chile. Alessandro originally intended to set up a jury rig and sail into Chile, but now evidently has resolved to continue and finish his voyage under a 20-foot jury mast.

Details at this point are pretty sketchy, but the last news flash on Alessandro's site affirms that he still has a 9-month supply of food, more than enough to get him back to his starting point in Les Sables d'Olonne, France, and that he is now heading for Cape Horn again.

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Stainless Steel Boat: Not

Polished aluminum sailboat

Check out these pix of a very cool boat Chas., Phil, and I found tied up at the reception dock at the Radisson Marina at Anse Marcel in St. Martin the morning after we arrived there. Talk about shiny! At first we were convinced it must be made of stainless steel. I reckon it's about 40 feet long, and though it looks much like an Open 40, it clearly is intended for cruising. The cutter rig is fairly stout, with an aluminum mast, an in-boom mainsail, and fixed twin backstays. It has short twin rudders with grounding plates at the bottom, which suggests to me it probably has a centerboard that pulls right up into the bilge, as on a sailing dinghy. This is a popular feature found on many French cruising boats, as it makes it possible to dry the boat out or drive it right up on a beach with impunity.

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  • 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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