That Crazy Italian Guy

I first met Alessandro di Benedetto on a dock in November 1992 in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, as we were both preparing to sail across the North Atlantic from the Canary Islands to the Bahamas to commemorate the 500th anniversary of Columbus' voyage to America. I was crewing on an Australian-owned Taswell 56 called Antipodes that was enrolled with 145 other yachts in Jimmy Cornell's America 500 rally. Alessandro planned to cross with his father on a 18-foot Hobie Cat called United States of the World.

As I remember, Alessandro was the quiet one; his father, Federico, was the voluble, talkative one. They roamed the docks where all the rally boats were tied up handing out photocopies of a letter they had sent to the Secretary General of the United Nations. In the letter they explained that the purpose of their voyage was to help establish a new democratic international order based on economic justice and environmental responsibility. Not surprisingly, they were often referred to casually as "those crazy Italian guys."

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Strange Sand In My Water Tanks


While sailing Lunacy south in the fall of '08 my crew and I noticed there was some white sandy grit in the fresh water running out the taps when the boat was sailing in rough weather. The operative theory at the time was that this crud was just what it appeared to be: sand. We reckoned at some point in the boat's long cruising career (including a westabout circumnavigation), some sandy water had been taken aboard in some remote tropical port, and that the sand had settled to the bottom of the tank, where it sometimes it gets stirred up when things are bouncy onboard.

Before bringing Lunacy south again last fall, I decided to open up all three water tanks and hopefully remove the sand. Cracking open the fuel tank (which had been part of the summer's ongoing engine drama) had been a major production, as some joinery first had to be removed to access the inspection plate. But opening the water tanks was easy. The inspection plates are under the settees and nav seat in the main saloon, with access hatches right over them.

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Windvane Variations


I am a huge fan of self-steering windvanes. They work extremely well, are perfectly energy efficient (i.e., they draw ZERO power), and are easy to service and maintain. They truly are as simple as bicycles, and as you may have gathered from my recent Zen of DIY post I like simple gear. I also like bicycles.

Windvanes aren't nearly as popular as they used to be, primarily because electronic autopilots are now reasonably reliable, surprisingly energy efficient, and amazingly versatile. Back in the day, when I first started ocean sailing, this was not the case. I gained a lot of valuable experience steering in big waves when I was crewing around on other people's boats precisely because every time I went sailing the autopilot on whatever boat I was on always broke. Once I crewed on a boat with two autopilots, and they both broke. Consequently, the first thing I did when I bought Crazy Horse and prepped her to go offshore was remove her autopilot. I replaced it with a Monitor servo-pendulum windvane that never gave me a lick of trouble during two-plus years of wandering the North Atlantic.

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Too Much Teen Spirit?


So now the fat is in the fire. We have two pubescent girls on the loose bound non-stop around the globe via Cape Horn and the Southern Ocean with all the world watching and cheering them on. Abby Sunderland, age 16 (in the photo above), departed Marina del Rey in Los Angeles on Saturday, and as I write is west of Ensenada heading south down the Mexican coast. Meanwhile, her rival, Jessica Watson, also 16, of Queensland, Australia, who already cleared Cape Horn on January 13, suffered multiple knockdowns over the weekend while riding out a 70-knot gale. During the worst of these her boat, an S&S 34 called Ella's Pink Lady, was reportedly inverted at a 180-degree angle. Jessica's EPIRB was ignited, though not intentionally, and both she and her boat are purportedly in good shape.

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The Zen of DIY

One thing I learned early on in my bluewater sailing career is that there are, in fact, just two sorts of bluewater sailors: there are poets, who become engineers in spite of themselves, and there are engineers, who become poets in spite of themsel ves.

I count myself among the former. From the very beginning, one of the things that most attracted me to sailing was the simplicity and elegance of its apparatus. When we were boys, my brother could amuse himself--and confound me--by tinkering with the innards of such things as lawn mowers and outboard engines. Meanwhile I prided myself on being able to get a boat to move with just some sticks, rope, and canvas. To me this was beautiful. It wasn’t until much later, while pursuing the dreamy poet’s ambition of sailing across an ocean, that I realized how complicated sailboats could be.

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The Subject Was Winches



While discussing the care and feeding of Lunacy's winch menagerie last week I neglected to mention that both Harken and Holmatro have recently introduced new winches that are markedly different from what has come before. Both companies have attempted to "reinvent" the modern sailing winch. Though their products seem quite similar, there are in fact some subtle but important distinctions between them.

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Global Plumbing


Here's an oceanic news flash from the realm of geoscience: the Bering Strait is a valve that can play an important role in global climate trends. Open the valve (its current position; see photo) and the northern hemisphere tends to get cooler. Close the valve and it tends to get warmer.

No, this intriguing bit of climatological wisdom will not prove useful next time you have to dismantle your marine toilet...

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Surfing Cat in Oz


This is a Perry 43 catamaran named Saltonay coming in over the bar at the Southport Seaway entrance to Queensland's Gold Coast in Australia. If you watch the whole video you'll see these guys had one hell of an exciting ride.

Bulletin boards on the net have been crackling with critiques of the skipper's seamanship. Having studied the situation a bit, I've come to the conclusion he knew what he was doing, though I'm not sure I would have done the same thing in his position.

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  • Boats & Gear

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

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

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



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