Home A blog about cruising sailboats and other aquatic miracles http://www.wavetrain.net/component/content/frontpage Wed, 16 Apr 2014 22:44:07 +0000 Joomla! 1.5 - Open Source Content Management en-gb REBEL HEART UPDATE: Rescue Team Press Conference http://www.wavetrain.net/news-a-views/580-rebel-heart-update-rescue-team-press-conference http://www.wavetrain.net/news-a-views/580-rebel-heart-update-rescue-team-press-conference Kaufmans return

OK, I lied. I'm doing one more post before taking off today. I just watched this press conference with members of the California Air National Guard team who rescued the Kaufman family off Rebel Heart and wanted to make a few points about the rumpus this has inspired.

We still don't have a lot of answers to questions worth asking, but it is clear from this video that Rebel Heart need not necessarily have been abandoned and scuttled. Apparently nothing was wrong with the steering, she was taking on minimal water, and the rig was at least serviceable. What it came down to, from the skipper/father's point of view, as one member in the rescue team states pretty explicitly in the video, was whether he was going to stay with the boat or with his sick child and family.

I've now been in the bluewater cruising game for over 20 years, both sailing and covering it as a journalist, and I've never heard of anyone being put in this position.

I know of and have met many, many people who have gone on major bluewater cruises with very young children (including James Burwick and his young family aboard an Open 50, Anasazi Girl, who were recently rescued off the coast of Chile after being dismasted en route to Cape Horn, all without attracting major media attention). The vast majority of those cruisers, in my experience, have very positive experiences and the children are better off for it. This is the first time I have ever heard of a cruising family having to call in outside support to care for a sick child while on passage.

I also know of and have met several people who have abandoned boats at sea. As some of you know, I recently became one of them. In many cases, I know, too, the reasons for evacuating have been, shall we say, questionable. For example, I once interviewed, at some length, a skipper who evacuated a perfectly functional vessel only because he had received a bad weather forecast.

But I have never heard of anyone having to make the choice that Eric Kaufman had to make. As a father and sailor I know this much: it's pretty much a worst-case scenario. Which ever way he went he was guaranteed to be criticized, and I am sure he had many more variables to consider than we will ever know about. One of the big ones, of course, was that this bluewater cruise was a dream he had worked many years to fulfill.

Bottom line: I have nothing but respect for the man and the decision he made. I only pray I am never put in the same situation.

I should note, too, that Eric has made a public statement on his blog that is perfectly anodyne and offers no substantive facts about his family's situation then and now. Both Eric and Charlotte have been very honest in the blogs they have maintained on their website--it is one of the best cruising sites out there, IMHO--and unfortunately now they have only been punished for it. I would not be surprised, and would not blame them, if they now decided to keep their story to themselves.

Also, I need to correct a statement I made in my last post on this subject. The sailing community not been as unanimous as I would have hoped in their support of the Kaufmans. The primary locus of sailorly vitriol against the Kaufmans, not surprisingly, has been the Sailing Anarchy website, not just in the forums there, but in editorial commentary on the front page. All I can say about that is that it is a sad thing that a website with such a negative, bitter spirit is so popular with sailors.

One mainstream media organization has taken the trouble to tabulate a price tag for the Kaufman's rescue, $663,000. The impression I get from the press conference is that most of this money would have been spent on training anyway. I do still think it is fair to ask whether those calling for unnecessary rescues should have to help cover costs, but I do not think this was an unnecessary rescue. Whether Eric stayed with the boat or not, the child needed help. Many laypeople have questioned whether taking children on such a voyage is unreasonably dangerous, but the fact is Eric's kids were safer on that boat than they would be strapped into car-seats in a minivan on the freeway.

Finally, I can't believe that none of the reporters at the press conference thought to ask my question: why so many rescue swimmers? I can see sending two, but why four?

charlesdoane@comcast.net (Charles Doane) frontpage Fri, 11 Apr 2014 14:08:49 +0000
MAINE CAT 38: Minimalist Performance Cruising Cat http://www.wavetrain.net/boats-a-gear/579-maine-cat-38-minimalist-performance-cruising-cat http://www.wavetrain.net/boats-a-gear/579-maine-cat-38-minimalist-performance-cruising-cat Maine Cat 38 quarter view

Speaking of catamarans, this is a new Maine Cat launch coming up this year that I'm looking forward to. I love cats like this--lean and mean and simple, with enough accommodations that you can really go somewhere in them, but not so much that the boat gets fat and slow. This is an open bridgedeck design, similar to the Scape 39 Sport Cruiser I sailed across the South Atlantic a few years ago, but not quite as severe, with some serious hardtop shelter on deck. Basically it looks to be an open-air saloon. Or a huge pilothouse. Take your pick.

The in-hull accommodations, as you can see, are also clean and simple.

Maine Cat 38 interior

I love that they have the cojones to put just one head on the boat. I've never appreciated multiple heads on boats under 50 feet long. It just doesn't make sense to me. Space on a boat is limited, always, and how much time do you really spend in the head?

Maine Cat 38 bow view

This will be a very versatile boat, as all the foils (daggerboards and rudders) are retractable, as are the twin 20hp outboards that provide auxiliary power. With everything up, draft is just 19 inches (the outboards are fully enclosed, with fairings that seal the leg apertures when the engines are raised), so you can easily hit the beach if you want.

Construction looks to be impeccable: infused vinylester resin and thermo-formed Core-Cell foam throughout. The standard rig features a Selden aluminum mast, a self-tacking jib, and a protrusion for a screecher. A rotating mast, flat-top main, overlapping jib, and a screecher to fly from the protrusion, are all optional.

The prospective standard equipment list has most everything I'd want on the boat (electronics, including an autopilot, fridge and freezer, 150-watt solar array, and an 510AH house battery bank) and the introductory price, $321K, is extremely reasonable.

Hopefully I'll be able to sail one in Maine this summer. I'll also be looking for it in Annapolis in the fall. And here's another enticing test-sailing option if you're seriously interested: Maine Cat will have one available next winter for bareboat chartering in the Bahamas.

Man... if I had a boat like this in the Bahamas, I might never come back.

WARNING: I'm going missing for a while, without my computer, so this will be the last post for a week or more. Very nice gig this. I look forward to telling you about it when I get back.

charlesdoane@comcast.net (Charles Doane) frontpage Thu, 10 Apr 2014 22:30:10 +0000
REBEL HEART EVACUATION: Another Internet Sailboat Rescue Tornado http://www.wavetrain.net/news-a-views/578-rebel-heart-evacuationanother-internet-sailboat-rescue-tornado http://www.wavetrain.net/news-a-views/578-rebel-heart-evacuationanother-internet-sailboat-rescue-tornado Eric Kaufman with children

Goodness gracious. Do I feel sorry for Eric and Charlotte Kaufman! Not only have they lost their home, Rebel Heart, the Hans Christian 36 they've been cruising on for two years, which they had to abandon yesterday when they boarded a U.S. Navy warship about 900 miles west of Mexico, and which the Navy subsequently scuttled and sank. Not only have they had to cope with the unthinkable stress of having their 1-year-old daughter, Lyra, come down with some mysterious illness in the middle of a long Pacific passage. But now they have a good chunk of the global population lambasting them online for getting into all this trouble in the first place.

Isn't modern technology wonderful?

No doubt you've heard about this on some level already. I started following the story Friday online and heard it on National Public Radio yesterday, which doesn't happen very often with bluewater cruising news.

But let's review what we know:

1) Eric and Charlotte left Mexico on Rebel Heart about three weeks ago with their two young daughters, Cora (3) and Lyra (1), onboard. Eric is an experienced sailor and lured Charlotte into the cruising game. They bought Rebel Heart and started planning a circumnavigation 9 years ago; left San Diego and started actively cruising Mexico 2 years ago. Lyra was born after the cruise started (you can read an exciting account of her birth here). This big passage west to French Polynesia was the family's first major ocean crossing.

Rebel Heart

Rebel Heart in slings

Charlotte Kaufman

Charlotte with Lyra on the inside

Kaufman family

The whole family, with Lyra on the outside

2) Judging from the accounts of the passage posted separately on Charlotte's blog and on Eric's blog, they were having a challenging trip. Variable winds, too light for a while (they weren't carrying enough fuel to motor), and also strong enough to move the boat fast, but with lots of motion. Seasickness and some minor repairs needed.

In other words, basically normal ocean-sailing conditions, but with having to mind the kids on top of it. On Charlotte's blog, in particular, you can get a good sense of how hard this was. She does a lot of arguing back and forth with herself about whether it's worth it or not and seems to come out on the "yes, it's worth it" side, but only barely.

3) About a week ago something major went wrong with the boat, though we really have no idea what. Various reports mention the boat taking on water, steering problems, and a loss of communications (presumably also power), but nothing confirmed by the Kaufmans themselves. The last blog post, from Charlotte, was on April 1 and was very terse: "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all."

At about this same time, though we don't know which happened first, Lyra came down with a big rash and fever that did not respond to medication. She reportedly had suffered from salmonella prior to the family's leaving Mexico, but had been cleared by a doctor to depart.

4) The Kaufmans somehow contacted the U.S. Coast Guard via satellite on Thursday (several reports refer to a satellite "ping," but I suspect it had to be more than that) and asked for help, and that same night four California Air National Guard rescue swimmers parachuted on to the scene, boarded the boat, and stabilized the child.

5) All eight persons onboard abandoned the boat yesterday and boarded a Navy frigate, USS Vandegrift, and Rebel Heart was scuttled.

Rebel Heart from air

Rebel Heart from the air

USS Vandegrift

USS Vandegrift underway

Vandegrift boat crew

Evacuating Rebel Heart

On the basis of this relatively slim narrative, many non-sailing laypeople, including Charlotte's brother, have seen fit to criticize them for recklessly endangering their children. You can peruse the comments on their Facebook page for an idea of how this has been going, or check the comments section to any relevant news story.

The sailing community, I am pleased to say, has countered all this criticism with nearly unanimous support.

Ironically, I must note, when I had my little rescue adventure in January with Hank Schmitt and the owners of Be Good Too, this worked exactly the opposite way: laypeople supported us and the sailing community mostly criticized us.

Moral of that story: if you have to abandon a boat and want other sailors to sympathize with you, take some children along.

I actually had been following the Kaufmans via their website for a while, as Pat Schulte, former SAILfeed blogger of Bumfuzzle fame, had tipped me off to them. He and his family encountered them while they were knocking around Mexico on their boat. (Now they are boatless, cruising on the hard in their antique motorhome.)

So I kind of feel I know these guys, and my heart goes out to them. Having to cope with a major illness or injury has always been one of my biggest fears when sailing offshore. Having it be a sick child only makes it a hundred times scarier. As for the boat, I won't be too surprised if it turns out it was uninsured, which would be a huge bummer. But I'm very glad Lyra and the rest of the family are OK.

Plus, of course, I'm dying to know what actually went wrong with the boat. Also: why so many rescue swimmers? Hopefully we'll get answers later this week when the Vandegrift makes port in San Diego.

Other sources: CBC News, NBC 7 San Diego, Old Salt Blog, Washington Post

charlesdoane@comcast.net (Charles Doane) frontpage Mon, 07 Apr 2014 21:34:51 +0000
CAT PPALU: Great Salvage Video http://www.wavetrain.net/news-a-views/577-cat-ppalu-great-salvage-video http://www.wavetrain.net/news-a-views/577-cat-ppalu-great-salvage-video Ppalu sunk

Gotta hand it to Randy West. He knows how to bounce right back after getting slapped down hard. You'll recall his classic 75-foot Peter Spronk catamaran, Ppalu, sank last month in St. Maarten during the Heineken Regatta. (This right after Randy got done with a 7-month refit of the boat.) Now you can watch a properly produced Rick Moore video on how the old girl was salvaged:

You'll also learn a bit about the history of the boat, starting with when Randy was one of 200 people who helped pick her up and walk her into the water when she was first launched in St. Maarten over 30 years ago.

Launching Ppalu

The salvage operation was pretty dicey, as the boat couldn't be refloated on her hulls in situ. In the end they had to tow her with nothing but float bags holding her up, through the bridge into Simpson Bay Lagoon, right in the middle of the Heineken Regatta.

Towing Ppalu

If she had slipped off the bags and sunk in the channel, that would have pretty much mashed up the regatta... and the whole Dutch side of the island, too!

The damage turned out to be extensive, as the bottom of much of the starboard hull had been ripped out.

Ppalu hole

Ppalu repair

Repairs, as you can see, are well along. For more on that, and to help with finances if so inclined, you can check out Randy's Project Ppalu Facebook page.

Really, as noted, the most impressive thing about the viddy is Randy's attitude. He's cool as a cucumber throughout. My favorite bit is a sanguine little flashback he experiences in the middle of the operation: "Never salvaged a boat before. Oh, no. Sixty-eight in the Bahamas. A freighter that went aground on James Point. We salvaged a Cadillac off the deck. Wasn't anything like this."

charlesdoane@comcast.net (Charles Doane) frontpage Fri, 04 Apr 2014 14:57:28 +0000
MYSTERIOUS DESTROYED YACHTS: Wrecks Found in West Indies and Off Australia http://www.wavetrain.net/news-a-views/576-mysterious-destroyed-yachts-wrecks-found-in-west-indies-and-off-australia http://www.wavetrain.net/news-a-views/576-mysterious-destroyed-yachts-wrecks-found-in-west-indies-and-off-australia Burning boat

I started following both these stories last week when they broke, and now I'm pretty curious to see how they play out. First: an apparently exploded 49-foot Jeanneau Sun Odyssey that was spotted on fire (see photo up top) a few miles west of St. Vincent last Wednesday. A local dive-tour operator, Kay Wilson, was first on the scene and found the boat's British owner, John Edward Garner, 53, floating in the water in a life jacket with serious injuries to his face and legs. A burning liferaft and a waterproof ditch bag with a passport and other documents were also found floating near the burning yacht, which soon sank. Garner was rushed to a hospital ashore, but did not survive.

Authorities on St. Vincent suspect foul play and claim they are searching for Garner's Norwegian partner, Heidi Hukkelaas, who may or may not be his wife and departed St. Vincent by plane two days before he died. She has been located back in Norway, but according to authorities there no West Indian authorities have sought access to her. According to Kay Wilson and Garner's daughter, Elizabeth, there seems no reason to think the death was anything other than accidental. Meanwhile, according to a report by Yachting Monthly's Dick Durham, there is some evidence that the yacht, named Asante and registered in Gibraltar, may have been involved in some kind of tax avoidance scheme.

Asante at anchor

Asante at anchor with a Norwegian flag flying from one spreader

John Garner

John Garner reportedly was a sailing instructor and British special-forces trainer

From the wee bit of info available, I'd say this very probably can't have been a murder, but I suppose there is some small chance it might have been an Insure-and-Burn scheme gone wrong.

Mystery No. 2 involves the rig of a sunken yacht that an Australian trawler hooked into in 90 meters of water about 170 kilometers west of Darwin. The trawler, operated by Australia Bay Seafoods, spent six hours clearing its gear and found a mast, which may have been manufactured in New Zealand, and a sail that had been built in Sydney. Experts believe the rig had been submerged for 8 to 10 months, and local authorities are now planning to search for the rest of the wreck to see if there are bodies onboard.

Wreck map

Presumed location of the wreck

Aussie trawler

An Australia Bay Seafoods trawler

There has been some speculation that this might be the missing American yacht Nina, which disappeared west of New Zealand some time ago, but this seems a fairly preposterous notion.

HOUSEKEEPING NOTE: I had to turn off the comments I'm afraid, as the site was getting swamped by spam comments. Hopefully I'll have my web guru updating everything starting later this week so we can regain control and let you have your say again.

charlesdoane@comcast.net (Charles Doane) frontpage Mon, 31 Mar 2014 19:21:39 +0000
CRUISING BOAT EVOLUTION: From Work Boats to Yachts http://www.wavetrain.net/boats-a-gear/575-cruising-boat-evolution-from-work-boats-to-yachts http://www.wavetrain.net/boats-a-gear/575-cruising-boat-evolution-from-work-boats-to-yachts Colin Archer ketch

In our last episode in this series, we described the genesis of the Cruising Everyman in the mid- to late 19th century. These were sailors who were not aristocratic bluebloods looking to flaunt their wealth, but a simpler breed of more middle-class sailors who enjoyed cruising under sail for its own sake. These are cruisers we can easily relate to today, and what most interests us, of course, is the sort of boat they most often went cruising in.

For many sailors of more modest means who wanted vessels that were both substantial enough to survive a bit of weather and large enough to live aboard for limited periods of time in some comfort, the easiest and cheapest thing to do was simply to buy an old working boat and refurnish it. Some paint, some furniture tacked in down below, and perhaps some rig alterations could quickly transform many such boats into perfectly serviceable cruisers. It helped, of course, that working sailboats everywhere were steadily being replaced by power vessels, and thus were available at reasonable prices in ever-growing numbers.

Fishing boats were probably the most popular candidates for conversion. Indeed, some types established secondary reputations as cruising boats that ultimately eclipsed their previous identities. We tend to forget, for example, that two popular American craft now considered classic coastal cruising vessels--the Cape Cod catboat and the Friendship sloop--were both originally designed and used as inshore fishing boats.

Friendship sloop drawing

Sailplan of a typical Friendship sloop. These were working fishing boats that morphed into coastal cruisers as cruising under sail became more popular

In Britain, lifeboats were also seen as ideal vessels to make over into cruising boats. This practice, which continues to this day, started at least as early as 1886, when E.F. Knight made a name for himself cruising from England to the Baltic and back aboard Falcon, a converted ship's lifeboat he purchased for just 20 pounds.

Pilot boats were another logical choice, as they were usually designed to be both fast (so they could compete with other pilot boats racing out of a harbor to do business with inbound vessels) and seaworthy enough to go out in any weather. Several types were pressed into service as yachts on both sides of the Atlantic. Bristol Channel pilot cutters became particularly popular as cruisers in Britain, but by far the most influential type was a beamy double-ended 47-foot pilot and offshore rescue boat designed by Colin Archer in 1893 for work along the coast of Norway. The simple symmetrical lines of these boats, known as Redningskoites (see photo up top), were explicitly copied by others seeking to create durable all-purpose cruising boats. The best-known example was Eric, a scaled-down 32-foot Redningskoite designed by William Atkin in 1925. Meanwhile, the design for another very influential double-ended cruising boat, the Tahiti ketch, conceived by John Hanna in 1923, was explicitly based on boats sailed by Greek sponge fishermen.

Pilot cutter

A British pilot cutter under sail

Tahiti ketch drawing

For a generation of cruisers John Hanna's Tahiti ketch, based on old sponge fishing boats, was considered an ultimate "get-away boat"

By far the most famous converted working boat was Joshua Slocum's Spray. Slocum does not at all fit the template of the amateur cruising yachtsman described in our last installment, but his influence on the sport was extraordinary. Ironically, he did have something in common with George Crowninshield, the owner of Cleopatra's Barge, which we discussed at the very beginning of this series. Like Crowninshield, Slocum gained his nautical expertise as a professional merchant mariner. Unlike Crowninshield, he lived in the latter part of the 19th century, when commercial sail was being driven into extinction.

Crowninshield took up cruising because it amused him, and he had been successful enough as a commercial mariner that he could indulge his fancy in a grandiose manner. Slocum, on the other hand, became a cruiser mostly in desperation. His professional life had been destroyed, and he was shorebound and down on his luck when, in 1892, a fellow ship captain, perhaps as a joke, gave him a decrepit 36-foot Delaware oyster smack that had been left in a field to rot. With characteristic tenacity Slocum rebuilt the boat and, after a brief attempt to earn a living fishing her, set out on a protracted singlehanded cruise around the world. This voyage and Slocum's book describing it, Sailing Alone Around the World, not only helped to legitimize "alternative" cruising, it also spread the seed of the cruising dream much farther than before. Indeed, Slocum's book is still in print today and still works its magic in the minds of most cruising sailors.

Spray photo

Joshua Slocum aboard Spray

Spray sailplan

Sailplan of Spray

Spray lines

Lines of Spray

What perhaps is most significant about Spray is how anachronistic she was. Even at the time of her circumnavigation, which Slocum completed in 1898, she was in many respects completely obsolete. She was, by Slocum's account, approximately 100 years old when he acquired her, and her hull form reflected this. Her shape tended toward the old "cod's head and mackerel's tail" school of naval architecture, with a fat entry, maximum beam at or a little forward of amidships, and a finer run aft on her waterline. She was wide (over 14 feet) with a relatively shoal draft (about 4 feet) and short ends--her waterline length (about 32 feet) was just 4 feet shy of her length overall. She was also immensely heavy for her size, displacing 24,000 pounds, and carried all her ballast in her bilges, with none at all in her keel.

Spray had almost nothing in common with modern turn-of-the-century yachts (a fact in which Slocum seemed to take great pleasure), but she served well enough as a cruiser. Indeed, her performance, given her particulars and the fact that she was sailed singlehanded, was extraordinary. Slocum reported top speeds on the order of 8 knots, and he routinely averaged 150 miles a day on passage--numbers more typical of 36-foot yachts built in the mid-20th century that weigh half as much. He also boasted of the boat's ability to steer herself, but credit for this, and for the speeds achieved, must in fact go to Slocum himself. He was a master mariner who had the skill and nerve to drive a vessel hard and was an intuitive expert when it came to sail trim.

What is also significant about Spray is that, in spite of her putative obsolescence, her design is still considered viable today. Contemporary cruising boats that mimic her lines, most particularly steel hulls built to plans drawn by designer Bruce Roberts, though not exactly common, are not hard to find. Some devotees, in fact, still insist that Spray represents the "ultimate" cruising boat.

Bruce Roberts ketch

Example of a Bruce Roberts ketch based on Spray

What this really demonstrates is that--unlike a racing yacht, which succeeds only if it wins races--the worth of a cruising boat can be measured in any number of ways. One good reason, for example, why some traditional designs based on old workboats like Spray are still viable is that they yield lots of interior accommodation space, which is, for many cruisers, a key consideration. Other reasons for favoring such boats may include, as mentioned above, their affordability and availability, plus they are often extremely seaworthy. But perhaps their most powerful (and most subjective) attraction is their strong romantic appeal. Traditional boats tap directly into the zeitgeist of the cruising dream, and this unquestionably influenced the development of cruising boat design as cruising became more popular.

Of course, not all early small-boat cruisers were inclined to go sailing in old work boats. Many had the resources to commission the building of modest yachts and this led to a proliferation of specialized designs. As was the case with R.T. McMullen's 42-footer Orion, which we mentioned last time, these were often unremarkable adaptations of mainstream yacht designs. It became common, however, for experienced amateur cruisers to commission idiosyncratic designs that reflected personal prejudices and preferences. Here again McMullen provides a useful example, as both Procyon and Perseus, his smaller purpose-built singlehanders, were unique vessels that must have seemed odd to mainstream yachtsmen of the time.

Some amateur cruisers acquired enough knowledge and expertise to become amateur designers as well. One of the first and most influential of these was Albert Strange, a British headmaster and art teacher born in 1855 who first started cruising the Thames estuary as a teenager in a converted workboat. As a member of the Humber Yawl Club, which was directly descended from one of John MacGregor's canoe clubs, Strange's design work followed a fascinating trajectory from small sailing canoes similar to those sailed by MacGregor to much larger double-ended deep-keeled vessels known as "canoe yawls."

Strange canoe-yawl

A Strange canoe-yawl under sail

Canoe-yawl lines

Lines of a Strange canoe-yawl with overhanging stern

Strange did not invent the canoe yawl, but he is credited with inventing the elegant overhanging pointed canoe stern that initially distinguished his boats from others and was later widely copied. Among the many amateur cruiser/designers who followed in his wake were T. Harrison Butler, W. Maxwell Blake, Fred Fenger, and Maurice Griffiths. Although the work of such men is unique and identifiable, their boats on the whole tended to be conservative, featuring moderate proportions, full ballast keels, narrow to moderate beam, and relatively short ends.

Yet another intriguing wrinkle was the advent of cruisers who sought to build their own boats. For a certain sort of fellow the notion of constructing a boat was just as alluring as the prospect of sailing it. Also, of course, for those with the time and skills backyard building could be a more economical way to get afloat.

The most adventurous build-it-yourself cruisers worked without plans and made things up as they went along. Remarkably, this was yet another trail blazed by Joshua Slocum. Some years prior to his voyage in Spray, Slocum had owned and commanded a 138-foot trading bark, Aquidneck, that he lost on a sandbar in Brazil in 1887. To get his family home to the United States, he and his oldest son, Victor, built a bizarre 35-foot unballasted junk-rigged sampan (Slocum actually called it a canoe) that they christened Liberdade. Slocum and his wife and two children not only sailed this unlikely vessel more than 5,000 miles from Brazil to the U.S., they then lived aboard the boat and cruised it on the East Coast for nearly a year.

A vessel as eccentric as Liberdade did not immediately inspire imitations, but Slocum's use of the Asian junk rig did anticipate such modern designers as Blondie Hasler, Tom Colvin, and Jay Benford, who installed junk rigs on both racing and cruising vessels. Liberdade also provided an important creative precedent, setting an example for future designers and sailors willing to think "outside the box."

The backyard builders who had the biggest impact on the development of cruising boat design were those who wanted or needed plans to build to. To meet this demand, some designers started conceiving boats with simplified lines that were easy for amateurs to put together. Often such designs were published and marketed through the several boating magazines that sprouted up on both sides of the Atlantic.

One of the earliest and most significant was an American publication, The Rudder, founded in 1891 by a fiery small-boat evangelist named Thomas Fleming Day. Day believed strongly in the concept of backyard building--"No Boats, No Sport: All Hands Build Hulls" was a favorite slogan of his--and he published many build-it-yourself designs in his magazine. He also believed in practicing what he preached and in 1911 sailed one of these boats, a 26-foot yawl named Sea Bird, across the Atlantic from Rhode Island to Gibraltar with two companions as crew.

Sea Bird photo

Sea Bird under sail

Sea Bird drawing

Drawing of Sea Bird

Sea Bird had a simple V-bottomed hull with a single hard chine on either side and was explicitly designed for ease of construction. Her plans specified two underwater configurations; she could be built either with a centerboard or with a deep keel supporting 700 pounds of ballast. She also reportedly carried about 1,000 pounds of internal ballast. With her low freeboard, Sea Bird may not have looked particularly seaworthy, but Day's transatlantic voyage hushed many nay-sayers, while convincing others that Day himself most likely was a lunatic. Further support for the latter proposition came the following year when Day went transatlantic again, this time in a 36-foot powerboat carrying 1,200 gallons of gasoline.

Over the years, several hundred copies of Sea Bird were built by amateur cruisers. Among these was a larger sistership, a 34-foot boat named Islander built by Harry Pidgeon, a farm boy from Iowa, in a vacant lot in Los Angeles in 1917. Pidgeon, a self-taught sailor, completed a singlehanded circumnavigation in Islander in 1925, becoming only the second man (after Joshua Slocum) to perform this feat. He subsequently lived aboard for 16 years, made another circumnavigation, and was in the middle of a third (this time with his wife) when he finally lost Islander in a hurricane in the New Hebrides. Fortunately, both Pidgeon and his wife escaped with their lives.

NEXT: The Golden Age of the Cruiser-Racer

charlesdoane@comcast.net (Charles Doane) frontpage Thu, 27 Mar 2014 18:43:30 +0000
RUDDER SKEG REPAIR: Getting Ready for Spring http://www.wavetrain.net/the-lunacy-report/574-rudder-skeg-repair-getting-ready-for-spring http://www.wavetrain.net/the-lunacy-report/574-rudder-skeg-repair-getting-ready-for-spring Lunacy hull

IT'S HERE! Spring, I mean. Though there is still snow in the forecast up here in New England, and even in Annapolis, from which I returned last night after holding forth at the World Cruising Club Ocean Sailing Seminar over the weekend. I have an awful feeling I will actually succeed (for once!) in getting Lunacy launched in early to mid-May this year... and there will then be a HUGE BLIZZARD the day after she splashes.

We are forging ahead regardless, so I stopped by Maine Yacht Center last week to see how the old girl's rudder-skeg repair is coming along.

The welder was on site and stuff was happening! I love it when that happens. You'll recall this is actually the second time we've made this repair. Last time, over four years ago, there was a small crack at the back of the skeg and we just focussed on fixing that. This time we're taking a more global approach.

Skeg weld

In addition to repairing the crack that has reappeared at the back of the skeg, I also asked the welder to lay on extra metal all the way around the base of the skeg.

Skeg fillet

And then I asked that fillet plates be welded on to either side of the skeg. Here you see the welder holding one of them in place. The idea, of course, is to spread the load imposed on the root of the skeg.

The skeg doesn't fully support the rudder. Most of that job is done by two big bearings on the transom. But there is a rudder heel at the bottom of the skeg that connects it to the rudder, and the rudder is quite deep. The skeg is also a very high-aspect structure, with a short root, and is simply welded on to the bottom of the hull. Side loads from the rudder are evidently transmitted to the right-angle joint at the base of the skeg, and that I reckon is what keeps cracking the weld at the back of the joint.

Jean-Claude, owner one of Lunacy's sisterships (there are in fact five of them), advised me that he solved this problem (you can read his comment to my last post on this subject) by building a new skeg that comes up eight inches into the hull of his boat and is tied into the interior framing. Which sounds very strong, indeed, but also quite expensive. I'm hoping by adding structural support outside the hull I can save some trouble and money.

Note: there will also be end-plates welded on to the back of the fillets to keep wildlife from inhabiting the voids.

Keel drain plug

Here's another mini-project involving metal. Two surveyors and various service managers have complained over the years about the simple wood plug I use to secure the drain hole in Lunacy's keel. The plug has always worked well enough, but at last I let the guys at MYC fabricate an aluminum plug to take its place. There are two, actually--one on the inside and this one on the outside--so now I can stop worrying about teredo worms chewing up the soft pine plug that used to live down there.

After fussing around with my boat, I took a quick tour of the MYC shed and found a few other interesting projects going on:

Canting keel

This is the canting keel from Rich Wilson's Open 60 Great American IV, which is currently being refit at MYC to run in the next Vendee Globe.

Jeff's boat and Dragon

In the foreground here you see part of the bridgedeck and the house of a home-built high-performance cruising catamaran that MYC's service manager, Jeff Stack, has been creating in his spare time. In the background that's Mike Hennessey's Owen Clarke Class 40 Dragon, which will soon get splashed so it can compete in this year's edition of the Atlantic Cup.

Toothface 2

And this is Mike Dreese's Akilaria RC3 Open 40 Toothface 2, which is also being prepped for the Atlantic Cup.

Lunacy may be a funky boat, but you can see she does keep good company.

charlesdoane@comcast.net (Charles Doane) frontpage Mon, 24 Mar 2014 16:05:30 +0000
GEMINI 3000: A Very Affordable Cruising Cat http://www.wavetrain.net/boats-a-gear/573-gemini-3000-a-very-affordable-cruising-cat http://www.wavetrain.net/boats-a-gear/573-gemini-3000-a-very-affordable-cruising-cat Gemini 3000 under sail

The Gemini, the first production cruising catamaran ever built in the United States, was born from the ashes of a terrible fire that in 1981 destroyed the molds for the successful Telstar 26 folding trimaran that multihull enthusiast Tony Smith had just brought over from Great Britain. Eager to save his new Maryland-based business, Performance Cruising, Smith immediately started building catamarans instead, using molds for an old British cruiser, the Aristocat, designed by Ken Shaw back in 1970.

The original Gemini 31, appropriately named the Phoenix, was rebranded with minor changes as the Gemini 3000 after the first 28 hulls were launched. In all, 153 of these boats (including the first 28) were built from 1981 to 1990, when the 3000 was discontinued and replaced by the Gemini 3200. All subsequent Gemini models built by Performance Cruising, including the 3200, the 3400, and two 105 models, though they grew slightly, have the same basic hull and deck form and interior layout as the first. A total of nearly 1,000 Geminis have been launched over the past quarter century, making them the most popular American-built cruising cats to date.

Though the Gemini design concept is archaic by today's standards, it still works well for contemporary cruisers who want a great deal of living space in a small inexpensive sailboat. As catamarans go, all Geminis are quite narrow, just 14 feet across, which means they can fit into most standard marina berths. In spite of the narrow beam, there is still enough room inside for a queen-size double berth forward in the master stateroom between the hulls, plus two small doubles in separate guest staterooms at the back of each hull, as well as a small but serviceable raised saloon with two settees and a table that can collapse to form yet another double berth.

Gemini saloon

A modest but useful main saloon

Gemini galley

The galley is down in the starboard hull

Gemini berth

One of two aft double berths

What this adds up to, in the case of the Gemini 3000, is a 30-foot boat with standing headroom that can honestly sleep four couples in a pinch, or three couples quite comfortably in private cabins, or a couple with several small children (or two older children who demand some space of their own). Throw in a good-sized galley, a roomy head with a shower, a nice long nav desk, plus a large comfortable cockpit, and you have a veritable poor man's cruising palace.

When it comes to performance Geminis are a mixed bag. They have a solid bridgedeck stretching the entire length of the boat from the stern to the bow, plus the bridgedeck is fairly close to the water, and this inevitably hampers a catamaran's performance to some degree. The boats will pound and hobbyhorse a bit sailing into a chop, especially when overloaded. On the other hand, Geminis do have relatively deep pivoting centerboards to provide directional stability and lift underwater, rather than the inefficient shoal keels found on most dedicated cruising cats. In flat water a Gemini with its lee centerboard down could be rather closewinded for a boat of its type. On the Gemini 3000s, unfortunately, the genoa track is outboard and the wide sheeting angle makes it hard to take advantage of this potential. On later models the track was moved inboard to the coachroof.

Gemini 105Mc

Example of a Gemini 105Mc, the last Gemini built by Performance Cruising

Because their centerboards can be raised and wetted surface area thus reduced when desired, all Geminis are reasonably fast off the wind compared to others of their ilk, particularly if you hoist a spinnaker. Unlike most modern cats, however, they have conventional rigs with backstays, and cannot fly a large main with a fat roach. Still, as long as they are not overloaded (an important proviso aboard any multihull), Geminis do surprisingly well in light air and can generally outsail most monohulls in their size range. They also have retractable rudders housed in stainless-steel cassettes, which allows them to take full advantage of their boards-up shoal draft when venturing into thin water.

Construction quality is mediocre at best, and though a few bold souls have taken Geminis offshore, the boats are best suited to coastal cruising. The entire hull (that is, both hulls plus the underside of the full-length bridgedeck) is formed in a single mold and is laid up as a solid fiberglass laminate of mat and woven roving. In the Gemini 3000 hulls polyester resin was used, and according to one consumer survey conducted back in the 1980s about 20 percent of owners reported some blistering. All subsequent models were built with an exterior layer of vinylester to prevent this.

The deck, also formed in a single mold, is cored with balsa in all horizontal areas and is through-bolted to the hull on a flange. To save weight neither the deck nor hull laminate are terribly thick and this, combined with the free-floating bulkheads inside the hull, makes for a somewhat flexible structure. Flexing in older Gemini 3000s often leads to some crazing and spider cracking in the exterior gelcoat. This problem is usually only cosmetic, but more severe stress cracking may indicate delamination in some areas and should be carefully checked. Older Gemini 3000s may also have problems with leaky Plexiglas windows. These were later changed to Lexan, which works better in windows of this size. Other problems to look for include corroding steering cables and undersized deck hardware.

Gemini stern

Outboard installation on an older Gemini

Though optional inboard diesel engines were available, almost all Gemini 3000s are powered instead by a single long-shaft outboard engine mounted in the middle of the transom. The outboard turns with the rudder cassettes, which greatly improves close-quarters handling under power, and can be raised when sailing to reduce drag. When the boat was in production outboard-powered 3000s were delivered with either 35 or 40 hp motors, but many boats currently are driven by 25 hp motors. Reportedly even a 10 hp motor can drive the hull along at 5 knots or better.

Because alternators on outboard engines cannot generate much electricity, most Gemini 3000s have propane-fueled water heaters and refrigerators. The refrigerators can also run on 110-volt AC power when plugged in at a dock. All other DC electrical loads for lights, pumps, electronics, etc., must be kept at a minimum, or generation capacity must be augmented with solar panels and/or a wind generator. In most cases owners prefer to cope with the undersized DC system by keeping other systems as simple as possible.

Gemini Legacy

The latest iteration, the Gemini Legacy 35, under sail

Gemini Legacy cockpit

The cockpit on a Legacy 35. With no backstay and the main traveler on the targa roof, the cockpit is considerably more open

If you are attracted to Geminis but are keen on buying a new boat, you'll be glad to hear that Marlow Hunter (formerly Hunter Marine) has taken over production and has significantly modernized the design. The Gemini Legacy 35, as it is called, is more of a mainstream cruising cat, with twin diesel engines, a diamond-stayed rig with a square-top mainsail, and fixed keels instead of centerboards. Build quality and the cockpit layout have also been improved. With a base price of $175K, the Legacy is considerably more expensive than a used Gemini, but is still significantly less expensive than most other new cruising cats.

Gemini drawing


LOA: 30'6"

LWL: 27'7"

Beam: 14'0"


-Boards down: 4'9"

-Boards up: 1'9"

Displacement: 7,000 lbs.

Sail area

-100% foretriangle: 425 sq.ft.

-With spinnaker: 675 sq.ft.

Fuel: 20-40 gal.

Water: 60 gal.

D/L ratio: 149

SA/D ratio

-100% foretriangle: 18.55

-With spinnaker: 29.46

Nominal hull speed: 9.1 knots

Typical asking prices: $35-65K

charlesdoane@comcast.net (Charles Doane) frontpage Tue, 18 Mar 2014 22:28:31 +0000
FROM PRISON CELL TO THE SEA: Greg White and Jeff Bolster http://www.wavetrain.net/news-a-views/572-from-prison-cell-to-the-sea-greg-white-and-jeff-bolster http://www.wavetrain.net/news-a-views/572-from-prison-cell-to-the-sea-greg-white-and-jeff-bolster Bolster and fish

You remember Jeff Bolster, right? He lives down the street from me here in Portsmouth, and I've crewed on his boat, and he's crewed on my boat, and he doesn't mind eating fish raw for breakfast. He teaches history at the University of New Hampshire and in a past life was a pro schooner jockey. I've heard from him the story of how his first scholarly tome, Black Jacks: African American Seamen in the Age of Sail (Harvard University Press, 1997), proved to be a major inspiration to a black prison inmate, Greg White, who consequently went on to forge a career as a merchant mariner after serving out a 22-year sentence for armed robbery. As a result, Jeff and Greg formed a bond that continues to this day.

Now their relationship has been featured in a recent mini-movie produced by the National Endowment for the Humanities, which you can watch right here:

Good stuff. I've never met Greg, but I can assure you Jeff really does talk like that in real life.

Jeff's most recent tome, The Mortal Sea: Fishing the Atlantic in the Age of Sail (Harvard University Press, 2012), has so far failed to inspire any prison inmates, but did win the Bancroft Prize last year.

Bolster with beer

Remembering the good old days

Jeff tells me someday he's going to write a hot memoir of his schooner days. Tentative title: Chicks and Ships. The NEH has already optioned the movie rights.

charlesdoane@comcast.net (Charles Doane) frontpage Thu, 13 Mar 2014 16:19:32 +0000
CAT PPALU: Holed in St. Maarten http://www.wavetrain.net/news-a-views/571-cat-ppalu-holed-in-st-maarten http://www.wavetrain.net/news-a-views/571-cat-ppalu-holed-in-st-maarten Ppalu at anchor

Major bummer here. D. Randy West, the well known West Indies multihull maven, is struggling to salvage his new ride, the Peter Spronk-designed Cat Ppalu (see photo above), which he bought and renovated last year after a 20-year quest.

Major coincidence here, too, as Randy was in St. Maarten racing on the Gunboat 62 Tribe at the Heineken Regatta with, among others, Tribe's creator and original owner, Peter Johnstone, who has been resolutely ignoring some e-mails I sent him last week asking questions about the new Gunboat 60. I had just figured out where Peter was, and why he wasn't answering e-mail, when I got word from Paul Gelder, ex-editor of Yachting Monthly in the UK, that Ppalu was in trouble.

I gather from the blurb on that YouTube video that Ppalu somehow dragged on to a reef and was holed while Randy was out racing.

Johnstone and West

Old partners in crime. Peter Johnstone (left) and D. Randy (right) on Tribe this past weekend

Trine under sail

Tribe under sail last week. She was the Gunboat that started it all

Ppalu, when first launched in 1978 (Randy was actually on hand to help carry her into the water!) was purportedly, at 75 feet, the world's largest catamaran at the time. Like many of Spronk's boats, she was designed for the Caribbean charter trade, but was also unusually fast.

Ppalu ad

Magazine charter ad for Ppalu circa 1980

Ppalu docked

Ppalu about the time Randy bought her last year

Ppalu rehab

Randy at work renovating her on St. Kitts

As mentioned up top, D. Randy has waited a long, long time to lay hands on this boat. I'm sure he'll move heaven and earth to get her floating again.

charlesdoane@comcast.net (Charles Doane) frontpage Mon, 10 Mar 2014 17:11:33 +0000