MARINE LIGHTNING PROTECTION: Getting Z-Z-Z-Zapped on a Sailboat

Lightning strike

I have to admit I don't normally think about this too much. As is true of many sailors I suspect, I have subscribed to the philosophy that lightning and its effects are so random and poorly understood that you can get royally screwed no matter what you try to do about it. Which is a great predicate, of course, to going into denial and doing nothing at all. But the death in Florida last summer of Noah Cullen, a most promising young man who presumably was killed in a lightning strike while out singlehanding on his pocket cruiser, got me pondering this in a more deliberate manner. On doing some research, I found there are some hard facts out there that are well worth knowing.

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CLEAT OF THE YEAR AWARD: Antal's Sexy New Super-Handy Roller Cleat

Antal Roller Cleat

I don't know if you guys have noticed or not, but deck-cleat technology, once a mundane and very static science, has become increasingly sophisticated in the last few years. Most developments have swirled around the concept of the retractable cleat, which are increasingly common on new boats I see at shows. Their utilitarian justification is that they won't catch working lines or wandering toes when you're sailing and/or strolling about on deck. Which is a worthy attribute. But in a world where designers are trying to make sailboats look more and more like sleek out-of-this-world spaceships, with as little evidence of working parts on their decks as possible, it would seem these cleats are also part of a larger not-necessarily-functional nautical fashion trend.

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KNOT OF THE YEAR AWARD: The Obscure But Ultimately Very Useful Halyard Knot

Halyard knot

That's right, sports fans: it's awards season! In the always hard-fought Cordage Utility category the ballots have been counted and the surprise winner this year is the mysterious halyard knot. Unknown to many sailors, the halyard knot is nonetheless an elegant compact knot that is particularly handy to know about if you need to bend a line on to some sort of shackle or clip (a halyard shackle being the eponymous example) on a more-or-less permanent basis, but are too lazy (or ignorant) to be bothered with actually splicing the line on to said bit of hardware.

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RIO GUADIANA CRUISE: Between Time and Portugal

Guadiana aerial

I was sitting in the cockpit of Crazy Horse, my old Alberg 35 yawl, toes contracted in the thin film of cold dew that clung to the boat, cup of hot coffee in hand, watching the sun struggle to emerge from behind the distant hills and fill the river with light. Instinctively, I groped for my watch, a habit remembered from my life ashore, and wondered: what time could it be now? And at once I was struck by the absurdity of the question.

It said something of the nature of cruising under sail, I realized, that it was only the previous day, after having spent nearly a week on the river, that we finally discovered that the clocks on the west bank (in Portugal) were an hour behind those on the east bank (in Spain). It was appropriate, too, that we had learned this from a village drunk, although now I understood it didn't really matter much. Time in its conventional sense had little meaning aboard a boat afloat on a river like this, except as it pertained to the tide, and one hardly needed a clock to keep track of what it was up to. A glance at the riverbank and at the silky brown water flowing past our anchor rode was all the data required to gauge its progress.

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STANLEY PARIS: Foiled Again

Kiwi Spirit in Cape Town

I get the sense some people out there are waiting for me to opine on the fate of Dr. Stanley Paris, who again decided to abandon his attempt at a non-stop circumnavigation and put into Cape Town aboard his custom performance cruiser Kiwi Spirit (see photo up top) a little over a week ago. As discussed previously, the good doctor was never entirely forthcoming about the gear damage he suffered during his last abortive voyage. He has been even less forthcoming this time. All we know is that "the top quarter of [his] mail (sic) sail separated along a seam from the rest of the sail." There has been no description of any causative weather or event, no indication at all of what might have precipitated this.

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POST-CHRISTMAS WEST INDIES CRUISE: High Maintenance Vacation

Una and Lucy

Truth be told, I originally resisted the idea of basing Lunacy in St. Maarten this winter, primarily because she previously spent two other winters there, and I was hoping to check out someplace new. Also, I've always found the island to be a bit over-developed, with too many people, too much traffic, and too many big-box stores. Inexorably, however, it was the place that made the most sense for the sort of winter cruising we do (in short bursts of a week or so), because the airfares are reasonable and there are often direct flights from Boston. And during our just completed post-Christmas cruise, the island's over-developedness in fact turned out to be a blessing, as we spent an inordinate amount of time attending to boat maintenance (a price one often must pay when wandering about on one's own boat), and St. Maarten, if nothing else, is a great place to buy boat gear.

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FRIVOLOUS BOAT GEAR: What I Didn't Get for Christmas

Amphibious drone

I did drop some broad hints this year about maybe getting an aerial drone from Santa Claus, thinking I might like to shoot some aerial video of Lunacy under sail, but these seem to have fallen on deaf ears. Instead I got unguents. Which is fine by me, as by the time I do finally get around to (maybe) getting a drone, the ongoing drone wars no doubt will have led to the marketing of even cheaper, better drones with more advanced capabilities. Consider, for example, Exhibit 1: the brand new soon-to-be-released amphibious HexH2o drone, which can not only land on water, but can also shoot video of what's going on under the water after it has landed.

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VESTAS WIND SHIPWRECK: Post Mortem With Embarrassing Personal Recollection

Verbraak navigatin

You know something really big has gone on in the sailing world when even The New Yorker magazine feels they have to say something about it. The grounding and abandonment of Team Vestas Wind has been a major publicity coup, for both the Volvo Ocean Race and the boat's sponsor, Vestas Wind, made all the sweeter by the fact of the happy ending: no one was seriously injured. The cause of the accident has been pretty clearly identified. The Cargados Carajos Shoals were in an exclusion zone that was opened to the fleet the night before they started leg 2 of the race out of Cape Town. Vestas navigator Wouter Verbraak (see image up top) wasn't aware that the shoals were directly on the route north to Abu Dhabi, didn't have time to fully scope out the new track before the start, and assumed he'd be able to do so while racing the leg. In the end he never zoomed in close enough on his electronic chart to see the shoals, and the crew sailed right on to the reef at night having no idea it was there.

This obviously was a stupid mistake, and Verbraak, to his credit, has openly confessed to it. The boat's skipper Chris Nicholson likewise has accepted full responsibility for what happened and recently gave two long interviews—one in print with Sail-World (a big three-parter that starts here) and one on video with Sailing Anarchy. These are both well worth your attention.

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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.

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    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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