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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Mainsheet Block Swivel: Should Have Been A Shackle?


Broken mainsheet block swivel

I have long marveled at how light some of the hardware found beneath a sailboat's mainsheet tackle can be. Here you see the decidedly fragile swivel that previously secured the bottom end of Lunacy's mainsheet tackle to her traveler car. Fortunately, I detected the fracture before the bit let go altogether and all hell broke loose. It was one of those odd distracted moments during our recent SEMOSA cruise where my eyes were wandering and noticing things that might have otherwise escaped detection. What I noticed specifically was that the angle of the bottom block on the mainsheet tackle was slightly altered. It took only a brief inspection to discover the cause.

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Lesser Antilles Cruise: Becoming Better People


Chas. Lassen aboard Lunacy

The first annual SEMOSA Winter Cruise aboard Lunacy was unfortunately cancelled due to the death of my mother, but we were able to schedule a Spring Cruise in its place. Participants included myself, Phil "Snake Wake" Cavanaugh, and Chas. "May I Cast Off Now?" Lassen (pictured above). Regrettably, Martin "The Geek" Hansmann, who had signed on for the earlier event, was unable to attend the later one.

I should explain about SEMOSA. The acronym stands for South End Men's Ocean Sailing Association, and its emblem, an S contained within the biological symbol denoting the male sex, was devised by Mr. Lassen during a passage south aboard Lunacy the year before last. In but a short period of time, the organization has become an exemplar of civic virtue and sportsmanship in the South End of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, where most members reside. SEMOSA bumper stickers and flags are commonly displayed through out the neighborhood, much to the amusement of our wives, who insist the club emblem looks like a logo for a sperm bank. We hoped to capitalize on this during our cruise and displayed the club flag whenever possible, but, alas, were approached by no women soliciting donations.

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Wylie 66

Wylie 66 color art

Tom Wylie, as we all know, has long been designing and building high-performance sailboats. In the latter part of his career, he's focussed on perfecting the unstayed wishbone rig, and his line of una-rigged Wyliecats, ranging in size from 17 to 48 feet, are certainly among the most exciting alternatives to conventional Marconi-rigged boats.

The Wylie 66, one of Tom’s few dedicated cruising designs, evolved out of a purely speculative project in which he designed and started building a motor-sailing ocean-research/school vessel with a wishbone rig. Randy Repass, founder of West Marine, became a partner in the project, and financed completion of the vessel, Derek M. Baylis, which launched in 2003 and is now active in various environmental projects on the West Coast. Repass also commissioned the construction of a slightly reconfigured sistership, Convergence, launched in 2004, for he and his family to cruise on. The end result was a comfortable, spacious bluewater cruiser that is very fast under both power and sail.

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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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