bluewater sailing

  • 2014 SOUTHBOUND LUNACY: Goodness Gracious Great Mats of Weed!

    Wrongway sunrise

    As I had expected, we encountered mostly headwinds after we finally left Bermuda bound for St. Maarten on the morning of Saturday, November 8. Even worse, early on in the passage, when our headwinds were most vigorous, we spent about a day and a half pounding our brains out sailing continuously in the wrong direction. The photo up top says it all. When voyaging south, you do NOT want to see your bow pointed at the sunrise with deep reefs in your mainsail. This never smells like progress and is very bad for crew morale. At first, as skipper, I felt rather virtuous, getting all my easting in early in the game, regardless of the pain, but then later I got nervous. I started wondering: what if we NEVER get a chance to turn south?

  • 2014 SOUTHBOUND LUNACY: Hard On the Wind Forever

    Lunacy under sail

    Sorry I've been AWOL from the blog for so long, but I've been struggling to get Lunacy south to the W'Indies for the winter. This process actually started nearly two weeks ago, on October 20, when Phil "Snake Wake" Cavanaugh and I brought Lunacy down from Portland to Portsmouth during a long daysail, motorsailing into a light, but contrary southerly breeze. Then there was a gale, and after that my brother Peter and I sailed the boat from Portsmouth down to Newport, during which we spent one day reaching and one day beating into vicious headwinds. Then there was a gale, and after that OPO crew-member Richard Holden and I spent five days sailing from Newport here to St. George's, Bermuda, during which we spent one day reaching and four days beating into sometimes rabidly vicious headwinds. Right now I'm sitting in St. George's, riding out a gale at anchor, waiting for the next crew to fly in.

    Perhaps you've noted a pattern here. And yes, looking at the forecast right now, it appears I will again be confronting mostly headwinds when we leave here for St. Maarten later in the week.

  • 2014 SOUTHBOUND LUNACY: Waiting on WX in Bermuda

    Bermuda rainsquall

    Right now I'm sitting out my second gale-force WX feature since arriving here last Saturday morning. I had had some hope of getting out before it arrived and taking off Wednesday afternoon as soon as all my crew were onboard. A few boats left on Monday, bound south for the islands, and one took off Tuesday, but when that one came right back less than 24 hours later, saying their weather-router had threatened to disown them if they didn't turn around, I could see the writing on the wall. No choice but to wait for this gishy low-pressure cell grafted on to a front to move through, and the plan now is to leave tomorrow morning, Saturday, exactly seven days after I arrived here.

  • 2016 VENDEE GLOBE: A Mob Scene and Then Some

    Vendee dock

    About 16 years ago I wrote a story for SAIL Magazine about sailing in the Sydney-Hobart Race and dropped a line about having died and gone to heaven, as at last I’d found a place where ocean sailing was considered a top-tier sport. Well, this week it’s like I’ve died all over again and heaven is even grander than before. It's also very French. Before I left to travel here to Les Sables d’Olonne I told some non-sailing friends of mine I was going to the start of the world’s most popular sailboat race. “Like the America’s Cup?” they asked. “No, this is much bigger than that,” I answered. And it is, and it’s a shame the French get it mostly to themselves.

    I hope I don’t really have to explain this to anyone who reads this blog, but just in case: these guys are racing non-stop around the world all alone. It's a very simple concept, but also a very large one.

  • BERMUDA TO NEW ENGLAND: Solo Passage With Underpants (A Performance Comparison)

    Masthead shot

    Phase Two of this experiment began with a grand round of socializing in the harbor at St. George's, in which I was ably assisted by my bride. Clare also assisted refueling the boat and in spotting me as I ascended the mast to see if I could get the tricolor light interested in being a light again. (You can't see her in that photo there, peering up at me from on deck, because actually she was down below flipping the anchor and tricolor lights on and off countless times at my command.) I spent a good deal of time up there, and that foot you see in the maststep went numb from carrying all my weight for so long, but ultimately I wasn't able to figure out why the light was unhappy.

  • BERNARD MOITESSIER: Sailing Mysticism and The Long Way

    Long Way cover

    It is interesting that our three major monotheistic “revealed” religions--Judaism, Christianity, and Islam--are all the fruit of mystic transmissions received by prophets who isolated themselves in the desert. And in Buddhism, of course, though it is not really theistic, we have a belief system based on the enlightenment of a man who isolated himself beneath a tree. But curiously, though humans (as we have discussed before) have long wandered across the watery part of our world, an inherently isolating experience, from the very beginning of our existence, we have in our history no real prophet of the sea.

    I think most would agree now that the man who most closely fits the description is Bernard Moitessier, the iconoclastic French singlehander who became notorious in 1969 after he abandoned the Golden Globe, the first non-stop solo round-the-world race, so as to “save his soul.” Most sailors probably would also agree that the book Moitessier wrote about his experience, The Long Way (La longue route in the original French, 1971), though it obviously has never spawned any sort of religion, is the closest thing we have to a spiritual text.

  • BLOG WARS: Linus Wilson of Slow Boat Sailing Sues WaveTrain, Active Interest Media for Slander and Copyright Violation

    Lafayette City Court

    This pertains to my earlier post regarding the infamous Sea Nymph rescue. You’ll recall I mentioned Dr. Linus Wilson and his coverage of the controversy, and in the comments he complained because I posted an image of him from a video he created. This image was credited as having come from his video and depicted him wearing a ball cap that said CAPTAIN on it in big letters and also a shirt that had tiny little anchors all over it. Wilson also complained I had defamed him by calling him “the king” of those asserting that Jennifer Appel and Tasha Fuiava, the crew of Sea Nymph, were perpetrating a hoax. He complained as well to SAIL Magazine, which republished my post on their blog aggregation site SAILfeed. After hearing from Wilson, SAIL immediately took down my post from SAILfeed, and I took down the image in question from WaveTrain.

    Wilson nevertheless filed suit against me, Active Interest Media (AIM), which owns SAIL, SAIL’s editor-in-chief Peter Nielsen, as well as two AIM officers, Andrew Clurman and Efram Zimbalist III, in the Small Claims Division of the City Court (see image up top) of Lafayette, Louisiana (Wilson’s hometown), on November 21. He is seeking $5,000 in damages, which is the maximum recovery allowed in a Louisiana small claims court. I will not editorialize here on Wilson’s character and behavior and instead will only post the pleadings and let you draw your own conclusions.

  • BOREAL 47: New Lunacy Afloat and Lying (Also Flying) en France

    New Lunacy under sail

    In fact I have been in Treguier here in France for a week now, grappling with the project of getting to know the new Lunacy while simultaneously studying printer’s proofs for the new book. The book now has been irretrievably committed to the press, and just yesterday Jean-Francois Eeman of Boreal Yachts joined me for a maiden sail on Lunacy. We had a broad range of wind to work in, from 8 to 25 knots apparent at various angles, and exercised all the sails, including the spinnaker, which has, as you can see, quite the modest color scheme.

  • COLLISION AVOIDANCE: Ratting Out an Errant Freighter

    Ship too close

    I’ve had some correspondence recently from an old sailing buddy of mine, Patrick Childress, who got a bee in his bonnet a while back after he almost got run down by a freighter while cruising Indonesia with his wife Rebecca aboard their Valiant 40 Brick House. It was a pretty typical situation: an alert cruiser aboard a small sailboat has to take last-minute evasive action after a large commercial vessel on a collision course, apparently with no one on watch, fails to respond to repeated radio calls. In these days of AIS this happens less often than it used to, but in this case the perpetrator wasn’t broadcasting an AIS signal.

  • CRUISE INTERRUPTED: Young Swedes Shipwrecked on Easter Island

    Frivarv wrecked

    Ah, to be young again. That's what I'm wishing after reading this account of two young Swedes, Melvin Svensson and Emil Warme, who were shipwrecked on Easter Island (called Rapa Nui by locals) this past August after their Carter Concubine 33 Frivarv was driven ashore at Ahu Tongariki (see photo up top). I was shipwrecked once in my younger days, but that was in Spain, a very civilized, well populated place. These guys lost their boat literally in the middle of nowhere. Easter Island is one of the most remote inhabited islands on the planet. The nearest inhabited land, Pitcairn Island, with a population of just 50, is almost 1,300 miles away, and the nearest continent, South America, is about 2,220 miles away.

  • DESPERATE VOYAGE: John Caldwell's Catastrophic Introduction to Bluewater Sailing

    Desperate Voyage cover

    I have met several comically unprepared bluewater sailors over the years, both in person and in the pages of classic cruising accounts like this one, but there are none can top John Caldwell. It is tempting to dismiss the title of this book of his as provocative hyperbole, like some Interweb click-bait headline, but really it is not. If anything it is understatement, and a more accurate title might run something like Insanely Desperate and Foolish Voyage.

    Unlike most of us Caldwell did not come to ocean sailing through romantic aspiration, but through rank expediency. Having served in the U.S. Merchant Marine during World War II, he found himself stranded in Panama at war’s end with no obvious way to get back to his new wife Mary in Australia, whom he had met and hastily married during his wartime wanderings. And in fact it wasn’t originally his idea to sail across the Pacific in a small boat. He got that from his cell mate after he was arrested for trying to stowaway on a ship bound for Indonesia.

  • EDWARD ALLCARD (1914-2017): A Life Well Lived

    Edward 1958

    Sad news from the mountain fastness of Andorra: Edward Cecil Allcard, born October 31, 1914, died last week on Friday, July 28, at age 102, of complications related to a broken leg he suffered on July 3. He was the very last of what some have termed the “Ulysses generation” of bluewater sailors, which included such notables as William Robinson, Miles and Beryl Smeeton, Bill Tilman, John Caldwell, and Ernle Bradford, among others, who took up the sport in the immediate aftermath of World War II. Edward, who I had the honor of visiting with last year, was himself quite notable. He was the first to sail across the Atlantic singlehanded in both directions, the first to race across the Atlantic singlehanded (against Peter Tangvald in 1957), and was, I believe, the last of his generation to swallow the anchor, as he didn’t give up his last boat, Johanne Regina, an old Baltic trader, until 2006, when he was 91 years old.

  • GHASTLY REMAINS: Mummified Solo Sailor Discovered Adrift Off Philippines

    Mummy remains

    This is an incredibly grim photograph, but it belies an end-of-life scenario more than a few cruising sailors might actually welcome. These are believed to be the mortal remains of a German cruiser, Manfred Bajorat, age 59, whose boat, a Jeanneau Sun Magic 44 named Sayo, was found about 40 miles off the Philippine coastal town of Barobo by two fishermen over the weekend. The current best guess on a cause of death is a sudden heart attack, and so far no one has any clear idea when this might have happened. According to published reports, Bajorat was last heard from either one or seven years ago, take your pick.

    Me, I’d guess one year is more likely. What I’m really wondering is why the body is so well preserved. Most published reports are citing “dry ocean winds,” but in my experience there really is no such thing. Life on a boat at sea is always moist in some respect, and I would have thought that a dead body in a moist tropical environment would decompose very quickly. But then there’s a lot about corporal decomposition I do not understand. Maybe the condition of the corpse has something to do with a lack of microorganisms in the environment.

  • GOLDEN GLOBE RACE: Windvane Politics

    GGR tracker

    Here we are a shade more than a month into Don McIntyre’s Golden Globe retro tribute race and already the pot is stirring nicely. There are three distinct leaders, Jean-Luc van den Heede (an older but highly experienced solo ocean racer), Philippe Peche, and Mark Slats, all sailing Rustler 36s, with the main peloton not too too far behind. Meanwhile, three sailors have already quit the race altogether, two of them complaining of windvane problems. Another competitor, Antoine Cousot, stopped to regroup in the Canaries, complaining of his windvane and mental stress, then continued sailing in the non-competitive Chichester Class. Another, Istvan Kopar, meanwhile broke communications protocols (i.e., he turned on his sat phone) to also demote himself to Chichester status, complaining (you guessed it) of windvane problems. Istvan intended to stop and swap vanes in the Cape Verdes, but then thought better of it and successfully lobbied to be allowed to continue racing.

  • GOLDEN GLOBE REVISITED: They're Off and Running

    GGR start

    It has begun! Seventeen competitors in Don McIntyre’s Golden Globe Race 2018, a highly structured tribute event honoring the 50th anniversary of the original Golden Globe, the first non-stop solo round-the-world race, took off from Les Sables d’Olonne Sunday at noon local time. An 18th sailor, Francesco Cappelletti, of Italy, is still in port working to pass a safety inspection and complete sailing trials. First across the line when the starting cannon sounded (fired by Robin Knox-Johnston aboard Suhaili, the boat in which he won the original event) was a Frenchman, Phillipe Péché, sailing a Rustler 36 named PRB. Reading the official account, it seems it was a hard-fought start, especially considering that the boats will be racing for 9-10 months over a course of 30,000 miles, give or take.

  • LUNACY STILL AVAILABLE FOR PURCHASE: Price Reduced (Dog Not Included)

    Lunacy under sail

    Given the bad luck I had when we sea-trialed Lunacy during her purchase survey (dead autopilot and massive shaft-seal leak) it’s not too surprising her putative buyers have not purchased her. The story of how the deal has gone since then has been nearly as big a psycho-drama as this year’s presidential election. I will spare you the tedious details. Suffice it to say the sales contract expired a month ago. The boat’s problems have been resolved (indeed she has been upgraded in some particulars) and she is still a simple, strong bluewater cruiser of a type that rarely comes on the market here in the United States. Even better, she did pass her audio-gauge hull survey with flying colors. For more particulars on Lunacy you can check my original “for sale” post. Her asking price is now reduced from my Optimistic Summer Season number to a More Realistic Fall Season number: $118,500. Negotiable, of course.

  • MARINE INSURANCE: Scoring New Coverage for Bluewater Cruising

    Lloyds coffehouse

    As I may have mentioned, I am in the midst of getting Lunacy ready for a run down to the W'Indies. This is always a fraught process, what with the normal anxieties of worrying about whether the boat is truly ready to go offshore, putting together crew, and watching the unruly fall weather unfold. Historically for me this anxiety has always been compounded by my fussy insurance company, ACE, which insists on vetting my crews and making me fill out lots of forms before they'll give me an endorsement for a passage to the Caribbean.

    Marine insurance, of course, is how the whole concept of insurance first got started. Hedging against the potential loss of a vessel and its cargo is a financial game that dates as far back as the ancient Greeks and Romans and was institutionalized in its modern form as early as the late 17th century in Edward Lloyd's famous coffee house in London (see image up top), where shipowners, merchants, and skippers all gathered together to mull over the perils of ocean-borne commerce while getting hopped up on caffeine. As such, it is fair to say that marine insurance has played a very important role in the development of our global economy, but in the context of recreational bluewater cruising it is another animal entirely.

  • MUMMIFIED SAILOR: Clipper Race Statement Plus Boarding Video Released

    Sayo adrift

    Clipper Race officials have today released a much more complete statement describing the discovery of the mummified remains of German solo sailor Manfred Bajorat aboard his vessel Sayo by a crew member of the Clipper Race yacht LMAX Exchange. The statement reads in full:

  • MUMMIFIED SAILOR: More Facts = Bigger Mystery

    Bajorat dad

    OK, this is officially getting extremely weird. After conducting an autopsy on the mummified remains of Manfred Bajorat, the German singlehander found by fishermen this past weekend, Philippine authorities have announced that Bajorat died of an acute myocardial infarction (i.e., a heart attack) more or less seven days before his body was recovered. Meanwhile, the folks running the current round-the-world Clipper Race have also announced that the crew one of their boats, LMAX Exchange, found Bajorat adrift and dead aboard his boat back in late January about 600 miles east of the Philippines.

    These baldly contradictory assertions raise some interesting questions.

  • NEW LUNACY TRANSAT: Phase Four to Newport; Phase Five to Portsmouth; All Done Now!

    Self in new shorts

    It’s over… at long last! My seventh transat done and dusted. This has been true for nearly a week now and still I’m waking up in a bed in a house every morning in a confused wobbly-footed fuzzy-headed daze feeling like I just stepped ashore.

    I must be getting old or something.

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