The Mystery of Jim Gray

Three years ago next month, Jim Gray sailed out of San Francisco Bay aboard his C&C 40 >Tenacious, bound for the Farallon Islands to scatter the ashes of his dead mother at sea. Conditions were utterly benign. Gray made cellphone calls to his wife and daughter, described the dolphins playing in the water around him, and then... just disappeared.

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Longest Solo Voyage

 

As of Saturday December 12 this past weekend my friend Reid Stowe has broken the record for the longest non-stop solo ocean voyage ever made.  The previous record (658 days) was set by Australian Jon Sanders when he completed his non-stop triple circumnavigation over 20 years ago in 1988.  Reid's "Mission Control" shore team, which administers and maintains his 1000 Days at Sea website, has also more-or-less officially announced that Reid will finally be returning to dry land in late June of next year and is taking the first steps to organize a homecoming welcoming flotilla.  If you want to participate, just follow the link in the previous sentence and get in touch with Mission Control.

For those with short memories, allow me to refresh your recollections.  Reid first set out from New York City aboard his home-built 70-foot schooner Anne way back in April 2007.  He had one crew-member aboard, a young female photographer, Soanya Ahmad, who had exactly zero sailing experience.  Reid's stated purpose was to stay at sea for 1,000 days.  As of today he is up to Day 966, thus is a little more than a month away from reaching his original objective.

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Langskip 55

 

Wanna-be Viking voyagers daunted at the prospect of having to plunder and pillage in open boats can now heave a huge sigh of relief.  At last someone has had the vision to both design and build a modern-day Norse longship with comfortable i nterior accommodations and contemporary amenities.  The visionary in question is Sigurjon Jonsson of the Skipavik shipyard in Stykkisholmur, Iceland, which has been building fishing boats ever since 1928.  This beautiful and extremely unusual Langskip 55, the first yacht ever built at Skipavik, was conceived by Sigurjon as a versatile world-class cruising boat that can both cross oceans and wander up shallow rivers and inland waterways with impunity.  Cruisers with a sense of history please note: these are the very same attributes that allowed Norse sailors to make such a nuisance of themselves during the Middle Ages.

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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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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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