The Art of Motorsailing

 

This is a common sight at Dowling's fuel dock in St. Georges, Bermuda, both in the spring and the fall when the seasonal stampede of migrating yachts passes through.  It never fails to amaze me how many jerry jugs of fuel some bluewater sailors are willing to carry.  In this case I counted 16 jugs open on the quay waiting to be filled and another four on deck.  At five gallons a pop that's an extra 100 gallons of fuel this crew will somehow lash down on the deck of their 40-foot sailboat.  At 7.3 pounds per gallon (the most generally accepted average weight for diesel fuel) that's an extra 730 pounds this boat will be carrying well above its center of gravity.  Or to look at it another way: that's like sailing around with over 900 feet of quarter-inch high-test anchor chain stored on deck.

Is this necessary?  In most cases, I suspect, it really isn't.  On Lunacy, for example, making the same passage this boat was preparing to make (Bermuda to the West Indies), I carried just one 5-gallon jerry jug on deck for insurance.  I probably have about the same tank capacity as this boat (70 gallons), did lots of motoring on the way down (82 hours), and still had about 25 gallons of fuel left aboard (including what was in the jerry jug) when I arrived in St. Martin.

Over the years I've noticed that a lot of cruising sailors aren't nearly as savvy as they might be about using their engines to get where they're going.  I can't count how many times I 've seen sailboats bashing violently into big head seas with their sails down and their engines running close to full out, burning tons of fuel while crawling along at ultra-slow speeds with their crews experiencing maximum discomfort.  Sometimes I wish I might be magically transported aboard one of these vessels so I can slap its skipper upside the head and ask: "Do you really enjoy paying more money and creating more pollution just so you can waste more time and be more miserable aboard your boat???"

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Pearson Alberg 35



It seems whenever I visit Bermuda I almost always run into people I know.  One big surprise I had while passing thru last month was bumping into Brad Sellew, who sold me Crazy Horse (ex-Wanderlust), the Pearson Alberg 35 yawl I sailed to West Africa aboard back in the mid-1990s.  Here you see her anchored out in the Cape Verdes, where I stopped en route to the W'Indies in February 1997.  Designed by the Swedish emigrant Carl Alberg, who also conceived such iconic fiberglass production boats as the Pearson Triton and almost all of Cape Dory’s product line (including the Cape Dory 36, 40, and 45, which are still built today by Robinhood Marine), the Alberg 35 is a prime example of a CCA-era cruiser-racer that is still a very viable low-budget coastal and bluewater cruising boat.  Over 250 were built over a six-year period starting in 1961, and the majority are still in service.

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Wounded Boats (And Folk) In Bermuda

 

As I mentioned in the last edition of the Lunacy Report, sailing to Bermuda from New England in the fall is always the hardest part of getting south for the winter season in the Caribbe an.  This year was no exception.  Though Lunacy made it in good form after a delayed departure (knock on wood for that), I encountered a few other vessels in the anchorage at St. Georges last month that weren't so lucky.  At the top of the list was a strong 52-foot steel cutter, Cha Cha, skippered by Rich Littauer.  If you examine today's lead photo closely, you'll notice Rich is sporting a rather scraggly scar on the upper portions of his noggin.  It represents only one bullet point on the long list of his misfortunes.

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Off The Boat, Boy

 

In yesterday's post on the boats abandoned in this year's ARC I mentioned how improved comms technology has made it easy for modern ocean sailors to bail out when the going gets tough.  In most cases, as with the ARC boats, the question is whether the crew instead might reasonably repair or jury-rig the vessel in question.  But better communications at sea can have all kinds of weird implications.

Take, for example, Bernt Luchtenborg, an extremely competent German solo voyager who was five months into a projected non-stop double circumnavigation aboard his 52-foot cutter Horizons when he smacked into something, probably a whale, and broke off his rudder on November 24 about 430 miles west of New Zealand.  Luchtenborg is the real deal.  He didn't believe he was in any danger and went straight to work building a new rudder out of a cabin door.  But he also let folks on shore what was going on and in the end was brow-beaten into abandoning ship by his wife and insurance company.

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ARC Boats Abandoned

 

Organizers of the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers, the Big Daddy of all cruising rallies, with 223 boats currently en rout e from the Canary Islands to St. Lucia, announced Tuesday that a participating boat, a 53-foot Bruce Roberts cutter named Pelican (pictured here prior to the rally start), was abandoned Monday about 325 miles west of the Cape Verdes.  This is the second ARC boat abandoned so far this year, the first being a 53-foot one-off race boat, Auliana II, which was abandoned November 23, just 36 hours after the rally start in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria.

I always hate to second-guess decisions like these, because you never really know what the situation was unless you were right there onboard.  But I also know that modern communications technology can make it easy to get off a boat before it might really be necessary.  This is definitely one of those hard calls I pray I personally will never have to make.

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Southbound WX And Marina Thoughts

 

I'm just back from sailing Lunacy down to her winter berth in St. Martin.  For this year's passage I had a professional weather-router, Rick Shema of WeatherGuy.com, give me advice on how to finesse the notoriously dodgy conditions that plague any boat trying to get from New England out to Bermuda and thence south to the W'Indies in th e fall.  As Andy Griffith once put it in his famous comedy spiel "What It Was Was Football," the name of this game is to get from one end of the field to the other without either getting knocked down or stepping in something.  Which is none too easy, what with late hurricanes and early winter storms to contend with, particularly on the first leg to Bermuda, where the Gulf Stream, perhaps the most significant climatological feature on the face of the planet, gets to play the role of the proverbial 800-pound gorilla.

I've been commissioned to write up the details for my print comic SAIL (they promised to pay Rick's bill; a tip of the hat to Peter Nielsen on that one), so I'm not going to spill too many beans here, but I thought I'd share some general impressions.  Plus, of course, I urge you all to read the full write-up when it appears on newsstands sometime in the hopefully-not-too-distant future.

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Rudder-Skeg Leak And Corrosion

While Lunacy was hauled out last June to have her new engine installed, I became aware of some other problems.  The most perturbing ones concerned her rudder skeg, which is a rather high-aspect alum inum structure that is welded on to the main structure of her aluminum hull.  Problem number one was that somehow, during the course of the year and a half since Lunacy was last hauled, about two pints of clean seawater somehow contrived to get inside the skeg.  Problem number two was that a bizarre corrosion pattern, seen here, appeared on the lower part of the skeg after the boat was out of the water for a couple of days.

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Lash It Up

 

In its own way this may have been the most important in-the-water exhibit at this year's Annapolis show.  No salesmen, ho hype---just a team of riggers changing out the standing rig on a 30-year-old Westsail 32.  What was significant was the material they were using.  No wire, no toggles, no turnbuckles.  Instead all the new standing rigging was Dynex Dux braided fiber rope (from Colligo Marine) secured in place with old-fashioned deadeyes and lanyards.  Just how ironic is that???  Let us count the ways.

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Subcategories

  • 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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