Boats & Gear

HANS KLAAR: Ontong Java II Video

Speaking of Gambia, here's a very cool time-lapse viddy documenting the construction there during 2012 of Han Klaar's new crab-claw-rigged double-canoe Ontong Java II (a.k.a, OJ II). Hans is out and about cruising the planet aboard this intriguing vessel and is looking for pay-to-play crew to join the adventure. Check here for info on how to do that.

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CRUISING SAILBOAT EVOLUTION: Early Trends in Yacht Design

Early yacht race

We'll recall that the advent in the early 19th century of what might be called the first purpose-built cruising boat, Cleopatra's Barge, was nurtured by the vast personal wealth of one individual, George Crowninshield. And as the 19th century progressed, yachting, not surprisingly, continued to be the domain of the wealthy. The vessels and the egos behind them only grew larger and more extravagant.

Yachting was very much about social status, and this led to the formation of exclusive clubs. The two most prominent were the Royal Yacht Squadron (RYS), formed in England in 1815, and the New York Yacht Club (NYYC), founded in 1844. Neither, however, was the first of its kind in its respective continent. The Water Club, formed in Cork, Ireland, circa 1720, is believed to have been the first yacht club in Europe, while the Boston Boat Club, circa 1830, was the first in North America. The activities of these clubs centered on racing and wagering, and the racing could be quite vicious. Competitors in early RYS events, for example, would effectively wage combat against each other, wielding weapons of various sorts in efforts to cut away their opponents' rigs. Like their Dutch predecessors, RYS members also staged mock naval reviews in which large groups of yachts sailed in formation.

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WOMEN IN SAILING: Have They Ruined or Improved Cruising Boat Design?

Natalie Wood on boat

Women have long complained about how the world is dominated by men. To most men, meanwhile, it is perfectly obvious that modern civilization is little more than a plot to make women comfortable.

The truth, of course, lies somewhere in the middle. If it were true, as men aver, that it is women who rule the world, such things as pornography and the Three Stooges would probably be outlawed. On the other hand, if men really ruled the world, as women insist, society no doubt would be organized very differently. The men most likely would live in nomad biker gangs, and all the women and children would live in villages. The men would ride from village to village, impregnating women and fixing anything that was broken before moving on.

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2013 NEWPORT BOAT SHOW: Dock Walk

Alerion 41

Ah, yes. Hype season is upon us once again, and I spent all day yesterday walking the show in Newport. If you visit the same shows every year, they start to assume a sort of timeless quality, as though they are frozen in capsules where nothing ever changes. In reality, of course, they are constantly changing. Some of these changes jump out at you; others are more subtle.

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CORSAIR F-27: A Fast Folding Trimaran

Corsair F27 sailing

First introduced in 1985, this trailerable trimaran quickly became a seminal boat in the world of multihull sailing. Designed by Ian Farrier, a Kiwi who emigrated to California (by way of Australia) with the specific goal of perfecting his concept of a production-built trimaran with folding amas, the F-27 is both an excellent high-performance coastal cruiser and a competitive one-design racing machine. During a 12-year production run that ended in 1997, a total of 453 hulls were launched, making this by far the most successful boat of its type to date. Arguably, the boat is still in production, as Corsair's successor design, the F-28, though it has a rotating wing mast and is generally more sophisticated, is quite similar and is built with much of the same tooling.

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POOL TOYS: Aquatic Drones and Submarine Automobiles

Ziphius drone

Nearly 10 years ago SAIL magazine asked me to write a speculative story on what cruising sailboats might be like in the year 2040. In response I created a boat I called the DreamAway 408, which was equipped with, among other things, a mooring and anchoring exploratory probe named MAX. This was a little remote-controlled submarine robot that could roam into a harbor or anchorage ahead of its mothership to hunt for vacant moorings and anchoring spots--a critical function, I figured, in a future world with a much more crowded coastline. Once MAX found you a likely place to park, it would save the spot by surfacing there and flashing a strobe light on its back until retrieved.

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CRUISING SAILBOAT EVOLUTION: Cleopatra’s Barge

Barge model

In the beginning, what we now call "yachting," or sailing for pleasure, was practiced solely by a wealthy elite. Indeed, the first leisure craft were owned by monarchs and were profligate in their construction and appointments. Ptolemy IV of Egypt, we are told, lolled about the Nile aboard an immense 300-foot catamaran whose hull stood 60 feet high and was propelled by thousands of galley slaves. Cleopatra is said to have bewitched Mark Antony aboard a luxurious barge that had silver oars, purple sails, and a gold-encrusted hull.

As Shakespeare described it in Antony and Cleopatra: "The barge she sat in, like a burnished throne/Burned on the water."

Even centuries later, when the industrious and more egalitarian Dutch took up pleasure sailing in the shallow waters of the Netherlands aboard their sturdy all-purpose jaght schips, the ancestors of what we now properly call "yachts," they could not resist lavishing their vessels with ornamentation.

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GULFSTAR 50: An Affordable Big Boat

Gulfstar 50 under sail

Gulfstar Yachts was founded in 1970 by Vince Lazzara, an industry pioneer who in the early 1950s helped make a success of Aeromarine, one of the very first fiberglass boatbuilders. In the early 1960s he did the same at Columbia Yachts, which became the world's biggest sailboat builder in its day. Early on Gulfstar emphasized low price and maximum interior space over build quality and sailing ability, but in the mid-1970s the company shifted gears and worked to deliver a more high-end product. The most notable manifestation of this was the Gulfstar 50, a large center-cockpit cruiser first introduced in 1975. The GS 50 was the best boat Gulfstar ever built and also the most popular, with 172 hulls launched during a six-year production run that ended in 1980. Designed by Lazzara himself, the GS 50 boasts superior interior joinery, generous accommodations, robust construction, and a well proportioned hull and rig. These days it is one of the best values on the brokerage market in a larger center-cockpit boat.

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HAUNTED SAILBOAT: Up For Auction

Endeavour 37

I remember when I lived in New York City there were some people who used to read the obits every day, looking for what might be good deals on newly vacated apartments. Apartment ghouls, I called them. Here's an opportunity for any boat ghouls out there. The city of Newburyport, Massachusetts, is currently auctioning off an Endeavour 37 that used to belong a local liveaboard who is now presumed dead.

The boat's owner, Richard Decker, a German national who was living on the boat in the Merrimack River off Newburyport, went missing last November. His dog was found tied to a post on shore; his swamped dinghy was found tied to the boat's stern. All assumed that Decker somehow fell overboard, but authorities found nothing when they searched the river for his mortal remains.

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