Posted by: somerville61 | February 15, 2011

Why do they do that?

From my office windows, I can watch the annual migration of boats in the ICW, 90% plus are powerboats. But – every day and twice on weekends, I see ‘cruising’ sailboats outfitted with all of the ‘stuff you must have’.


Now, I’m only speaking of those items that may be noted from outside the vessels, not what has been installed in the non-visible locations. Those items for comfort and safety which the cruiser simply must have if they are to enjoy that lifetime dream of sailing over the horizon to some far distant exotic paradise. Well, at least that is the way those items have been sold to the boat owner and his/her partner in the adventure.

First and perhaps the biggest faux-pas in my estimation anyway, are dinghy davits on boats less than about 60 ft LOA. I have seen them on boats between 30 and 35 ft long. Sure, the davits do provide a convenient way to carry the required dinghy, required if the cruiser actually anchors out although most seem to stay in marinas. Almost always the dinghy being carried is an inflatable type, some with rigid bottoms but many without. What’s so hard about deflating the bloody thing and lashing it on deck until needed?

MY primary objections to davits on smaller boats are safety related:
ONE) On many of the boats when the dinghy is hoisted and secured for motoring along, it obscures the crew’s vision sternwards, so in the ICW such boats are often surprised when that obnoxious pro-skipper delivering a sportfish comes blasting up to the stern.
TWO) The weight of the davits, dinghy and dinghy motor depresses the stern of the vessel affecting the handling under power.
THREE) and most important if the small cruising sailboat with davits does go out into the ocean. The davits with dinghy and motor secured, substantially raises the centre of gravity of the craft which decreases the VAS as it is known by a few folks who read geeky papers. VAS = Vanishing Angle of Stability, also known as the Angle of Positive Stability or the Oh, my gawd!, the mast is in the water. We’re all going to die!! heel angle.

Here’s a shot that shows some of the problems one will encounter when sailing with a dinghy in the davits.

boat with davits

The photo shows another of my pet peeves – lots of fuel jugs on deck. If the owners of the boat in question are using the fuel containers properly, we see three gasoline (red) and one diesel (yellow). I have seen boats less than 35 ft LOA with 12 of these 5 gallon containers on deck. Does not make it easy to move from the cockpit to the foredeck. Each of the fuel jugs when full will weigh between 30 and 35 lbs. Add ’em up and then think about how much weight that is, located several feet above the CG and the centre of flotation – whoops, the WAGTD! angle is even worse

Now add in a bicycle or two, four or more fenders and one has to wonder what the folks onboard such a craft do when they come into the dock or try to pick up a mooring on a breezy day, much less how it affects the boat’s motion at sea.

Finally, on my list of things you should do without if you want to actually sail across blue water safely, full cockpit enclosures. WTF? If you have one of these on your boat, I must ask why you didn’t buy a powerboat, you know, a nice Grand Banks or similar? The first time I saw such a contrivance was a boat on Lake Ontario. Could not believe what I was seeing because you couldn’t sail when all of the curtains were up, the crew could not trim sails because they were unable to swing the jibsheet winch handles in a full circle and nobody in the cockpit could see the main at all and only the bottom portion of the headsail. Sitting in the bar at the National YC, I asked a friend what the hell the owner of such a structure was thinking about to have it installed. “Black flies” was the answer. I in my freshwater cluelessness, answered, “Whaaa?”

In Georgian Bay and the North Channel, beautiful cruising grounds by the way, the local insects just love to feast on humans so the local sailors countered with full screen cockpit enclosures, kind of like a screen porch on your old country house. So, when I see one of these boats passing by, 9 times out of 10, it will be flying a Canadian flag or its homeport will be in Michigan.

UPDATE: (sort of )
reading thru my browser bookmarks recently and came upon an article written by Jon Eisberg for Cruising World in Sept, 2004. The following paragraph is rather obviously relevant to what I have posted here.

To a very real extent, the ICW is increasingly defining how many East Coast sailors are going off cruising. Most of the ICW boats I see are better performers under power than under sail. Maximizing a cruising boat for 1,000 miles of motoring cramps its sailing style and fortifies habits that sailors carry well beyond the ICW. Many ICW boats have decks awash in gear that inhibits on-deck movement; monstrous S.U.V.-dinghies swing from arch/davit configurations that appear to defy gravity. To actually sail some of these vessels would barely be worth the effort.

Jon Eisberg has run the ICW more than 200 times. He divides his income-making days between car racing photography and yacht deliveries on the East Coast of the US. His non-income producing days are spent on his Allied Chance 30-30, Chancy.

Posted by: somerville61 | November 3, 2010

Heritage 1 Ton; pt 2

A few more thoughts about the Heritage 1 Ton design.

One problem that almost all of the boats exhibited involved the way the headstay chainplate was originally installed – the chainplate itself was the right size, the bolts were appropriate but the builder didn’t lay enough glass into the stem and everyone that I personally inspected had to have some repair work done in the area. Morgan was good about following up and had one guy who flew all over the States doing nothing but fixing the problem. A problem that was a lot harder to repair with the deck on than it would have been to lay in enough glass while the hull was still in the mold.

A second problem was corrosion of the steel framework that was used to spread the keel loads. It almost seemed to be a ‘Monday/Friday’ problem as some boats had real worries with rapidly corroding frames and others showed no corrosion at all. Seemed to depend on what type of coating, if any, had been put on the steel framework before being installed in the boat. If none was applied before installation, it meant the surfaces lying against the hull skin were bare steel and bilge water quickly began the rusting process.

There were a couple of other items to worry about in those far distant days, hopefully not today if you are thinking of buying one of these old girls. The big errors in construction should have been corrected during the past 35 years – hopefully.

Insufficient laminate in the deck, combined with inadequate tabbing of the main bulkhead to the deck could allow the deck to flex between the chainplates and the mast partners. On the boat I sailed, we installed a laminated wood deck beam that ran from the chainplate to the mast partner on each side of the boat. It was epoxied to the underside of the deck and thru bolted to the bulkhead. Always a bit bothersome, after a hard beat to find vertical scratches on the mast where the deck had been pumping up and down while you were sailing. The deck beam stopped that little fun thing.

to be continued, as I remember things

Posted by: somerville61 | November 3, 2010

Laura Dekker still in Canaries

to read the latest from Ms Dekker, go to her website

She writes that she will be sailing for the Cape Verde Islands within a week, once she has fueled up and bought more provisions for the passage.

Guppy at anchor in the Canaries, 03/11/10
Her boat, Guppy at anchor off the port of Anfi, Canary Islands

Posted by: somerville61 | November 2, 2010

Heritage One Tonner, pt. 1

While contemplating the sorry state of this little blog, totally due to my ignoring it over the past few months, I came upon an interesting item in the site stats – someone has been searching for info on the Heritage 1 Tonner design.

The boat was built by Charlie Morgan in St Pete Florida, after he had sold/left/been booted from, the company he had founded, Morgan Yachts. It was an interim boat project while he worked on various cruising designs that were produced in the late 70s, early 80s.

Although it was sold as a Morgan design, the Heritage 1 Ton was really a Doug Peterson. The lines taken from a one-off Peterson built by Morgan and a few guys in 1975, the year before he launched Heritage Yachts.

While commissioning the Morgan-built Peterson in Stamford Ct, I met the guy who is my oldest friend in this silly business of sailing boats for a living. An Australian, like many other BNs of that era, he recently swung by for a visit on his most recent trip back to the States. A late night of tales and rum ensued – too bad we had no one but ourselves to tell the stories to.

The first Heritage 1 Tons were launched in ’76. The changes, that I recall, from the earlier Peterson design were as follows: a slightly extended stern that added perhaps a foot to the LOA without affecting the LWL, double spreader mast instead of single spreader set-up and a keel with a large fillet to the leading edge where the lead met the canoe body. (not sure why Morgan added the fillet as all the studies at the time showed a sharp transition between canoe body and keel was more efficient) The boat I raced on, the one in my previous post, had a slightly taller rig than the earlier boats, and a larger rudder – it was also the first Heritage with wheel steering.

To be continued:

Posted by: somerville61 | October 31, 2010

Virtual Regatta: update

Doing better, as the fleet passes Ile d’Ouessant, I’m in 2093th in the fleet, sailing on starboard gybe with the kite up, steering 275 with wind at 131 off the bow. Soon to bear away a bit as the wind ahead backs 13 degrees and increases to 16.2 kts.
2250 UTC

Posted by: somerville61 | October 31, 2010

Virtual Regatta

Off we go yet once again!

This online multi-player game is just a bit addicting for the land-locked sailor. This morning we set sail on the 2010 Route du Rhum La Banque Postale, racing from St Malo in France to the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe. Unlike last year, I’ve decided to only sail one boat, a mono-hull, PetitBateau2.

At 15:23 UTC, I am in 9743th(sic) in a fleet that numbers over 70,000 participants using only the standard sails and without any of the other niceties that the fleet leaders (and others) are willing to pay for – little things like auto pilots that can be set to a desired course and wind angle with automatic sail changes when required. Makes it much easier than sailing without those little items, they each cost 9.90 euros.

Check it out and drop me a ‘Friend’ note on the site.

Posted by: somerville61 | October 29, 2010

Laura Dekker is doing it the right way

While I’ve not been keeping up with my blog, the young Dutch sailor has been enjoying her time in the Canary Islands. Unlike a certain California teen sailor, Ms Dekker is planning a much more reasonable circumnavigation, stopping in nice places to check out the scenery and local people, sailing in company with other cruisers – no rush. As my buddies in the Caribbean used to say, “It soon come, mon!”, whatever “It” might be.

I will be posting about her voyage on an occasional basis

Posted by: somerville61 | April 28, 2010

Why not more?

Today, I saw a cruising boat passing thru our local drawbridge on the ICW. Homeport was Jekyll Island, GA. The boat was a ’70s Morgan 41, not an OutHouse but the CCA centre-board design. Headed north, nothing unusual about that, it is April after all and time for the snowbird cruisers to head north.

Nope, what was different about this boat was the crew. They were ‘black folks’, two men and a woman, middle-aged – they waved back with smiles when I waved at them.

Why not more? Why not more African American sailors? In my years on the water, the vast majority of black sailors I have known have been West Indian or only one generation removed from the Caribbean. There was the NY surgeon, whose parents had immigrated from Bequia, the guy in England whose parents had moved from Jamaica and a woman I met on the Gulf Coast of Alabama who was going to university in that state, she was from Bermuda – oops, not a Caribbean island!

Now I have met a couple of black sailors who had no family links to the islands, one was an engineer with AT&T who took one of my offshore navigation courses and the other was a bit more famous – he was the retired executive who put together the Amistad program, but they were the exception proving the rule. Why not more black sailors? Historically, they were a large part of the crew on sailing ships. On the east coast of the US they often provided pilot services to ships entering harbour thru most of the 19th C. That was stopped when white harbour pilot families formed associations and pushed for state laws which limited piloting to those specific groups.

I have no answer, only a question but it came to mind when I saw the happy cruisers today.

Posted by: somerville61 | April 10, 2010

Why do they do it?

I sit here in my office on a grey Saturday, looking out on the ICW and ask myself – Why do people outfit their boats to sail around the world and then do nothing but motor north and south in the Waterway?

Not like I haven’t asked this question before and I think I know the answer. For many of these sailors, the ocean is a frightening place, they feel more comfortable when enclosed by land or when land is at least visible on the horizon. Part of what brought this to mind was a little passage in Abby Sunderland’s blog:

Being well over a hundred miles from any land, I can sleep with out worrying quite as much. I really do like being out in the middle of the ocean much more then being close to land. I’m pretty happy that I’ll have a few weeks before I get very close to land again.

There has been discussion online as to whether Abby is actually writing the blog, but in this case it matters not – whoever wrote those words is a sailor. Until you have the feeling of being more comfortable in deep blue water than in muddy brown stuff, you are not ready to cross oceans.

At one of my lectures on outfitting the cruising boat, a couple approached me afterwards for reassurance: for several years they had been saving every extra penny and working every free moment to outfit a boat for their dream cruise. Just one small problem, they had never bothered to extend their sailing knowledge past a basic “How to Cruise” course. Everything they were putting into their dream boat was gleaned from books, magazines and listening to idiots like me spout off, they had never sailed a mile in the dark, they had never spent more than a few hours on a boat and yet they were preparing to take off and leave the comforts not only of land but also family to fulfill a fantasy. At that point, there wasn’t much I could say to assuage the ill feelings of the wife. She knew her husband was dreaming and didn’t have the knowledge but she was hanging on in the hope that things wouldn’t be as bad as she had heard from other women. As I never saw them again, I don’t know if my advice was heeded.

Some of these couples do make it to Florida from the Great Lakes or the NorthEast and they make it back home and then dine out for years on their tales of a year living on a boat. Some make it to the Bahamas and back. Then there are the ones who accomplish, or attempt to, sail the crossing from the East Coast to Bermuda or even all the way to the West Indies – whereupon, there is often an ultimatum issued:
Me or the boat! I’m flying home!”

and now back to the question of the headline
Why do they do it?

Well they’ve usually spent a substantial sum and are losing even more by not working. So the boat, and its accoutrements, become evidence that the expenditures and losses were worthwhile. The more stuff, well then what they’ve done must be more important, more crucial to their well being, to their self-valuation.

If you have a boat outfitted to round Cape Horn, well then you must be a ‘real’ sailor. Of course, one does see ‘real’ sailors occasionally in the Waterway, their boats aren’t normally flying US or Canadian flags but even when they do fly the flag of one of those two nations, there are certain tell tale features that notify the cognoscenti of their true capabilities.

Posted by: somerville61 | December 21, 2009

Laura Dekker found in Sint Maarten

UPDATE: St Maarten Island 21 December 2009 16:39

PHILIPSBURG – Laura Dekker, a well known 14 year old Dutch sailor that went missing and was discovered on St. Maarten, was flown to Curacao on Monday morning.

She travelled to Curacao on board a InSel Air flight after which she boarded a KLM flight, headed for Holland.

When quizzed about the reason for her decision to travel to St. Maarten, the young sailor who is now in the custody of the Dutch Child Protection Agency, stated that she would just like to travel around the world.

from the Radio Netherlands website

Laura Dekker, the 14-year-old Dutch girl who caught the world’s attention with her plans to sail solo around the world at the end of last summer, has been found in Sint Maarten in the Netherlands Antilles. She went missing on Friday.

She was detained after police recognized her from an international alert photograph. Police have refused to say how she is or how arrived on the island but did say that every effort was being made to return the girl to Netherlands and her family as soon as possible.

Maybe the Dutch weather had gotten to her and she just wanted a holiday in the sunny Caribbean.

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