DRAKEN HARALD HARFAGRE: Viking Raid on Great Lakes Repelled by Ruthless Bureaucrats

Vikings at Detroit

Legend has it the first time Vikings came to North America they were driven away by irate natives, called skrælings by the Norse. Now more than 1,000 years later it’s the U.S. Coast Guard who are handling the job, wielding regulations rather than weapons. This time the Viking raiders, who’ve come from Norway on the 115-foot longship Draken Harald Hårfagre, got as far as the Great Lakes (see image up top, which depicts them cruising past Detroit) before they were stopped in their tracks by bureaucrats demanding they pay up to $400-an-hour in pilot fees.

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2016 ROUND ISLAND REGATTA: Tickets On Sale Now!

Lucy and I

The time has come for Lucy and I to wreak our revenge. We were quite competitive in our Melonseed Skiff in last year’s Round Island Regatta (see image up top), but were denied our rightful second-place finish (not that there was a trophy to win or anything) by the incompetent race committee, who sent us round the course four times and our competitors only three. (In spite of this handicap we still finished fourth!) Yes, I know that anarchic management has historically been a hallmark feature of the RIR, but it seems those days are coming to an end. The regatta, now going into its sixth year, is under new management and is being run by the Gundalow Company--people with genuine organizational experience. So this year (I’m hoping) we cannot be denied.

Mark your calendars! This year’s regatta will be held @ 10 a.m. Saturday July 30 on Portsmouth’s Back Channel, per usual, with prizes and partying afterward at the Wentworth Lear house. As in the past there will be one class racing under sail and various other classes racing in kayaks and rowboats. In spite of the enhanced structure it should be a blast. This event has sold out the last few years, so be sure to register now.

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LUNACY IS FOR SALE: Well-Maintained 39-Foot Aluminum Cutter With Recent Engine and Sails Seeks New Owner

Lunacy on dock

For reasons we’ll go into later I’ve decided the time has come to part ways with Lunacy, which I’ve now owned for 10 years. Not exactly an easy decision, as she is a fantastic boat--strong as all get-out, fast, with an easy motion in a seaway. Those of you who follow the blog should know her well. She is a seasoned bluewater cruising boat--her previous owners sailed her around the world, and I’ve sailed her back and forth between New England and the Caribbean four times. For fundamental details you can check out the initial post I wrote about her here on the Lunacy Report, and of course if you study this section of the blog in detail you’ll learn a great deal about how I’ve used her and what sort of upgrades she has enjoyed.

If you don’t feel like doing all that research, here’s the capsule version:

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TANKER MASHES UP SAILBOAT: Fun and Games in the Piscataqua River


Here’s an interesting mishap that took place mere footsteps from my home here in Portsmouth while I was off roaming the Maine coast last week. A 477-foot tanker, Chem Venus, was exiting the Piscataqua River late Wednesday afternoon with two tugs in attendance and missed the turn at Seavey Island, where the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard is located. It ran down three sailboats across the river in the Kittery Point Yacht Club mooring field in New Castle and dismasted one of them (see image up top, shot by eyewitness Glenn Kisch). The tanker ran aground on a ledge and was pulled away from the scene by the tugs.

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BECOMING A BOAT DOG: The Further Adventures of Baxter Afloat

Bax in vest

There were some suggestions after I introduced Baxter here that I needed to get him a life-jacket. I knew this, of course, and wanted one as much for the handle on the back, so I could heave the beast more easily in and out of a tender, as for the flotation. You see him here, modeling his new Ruffwear vest during our recent week-long cruise from Portland to Rockland, and as the expression on his face suggests he doesn’t really mind it a bit. Indeed, by the end of our time together he had deduced that being asked to wear the jacket while aboard Lunacy meant an opportunity to go ashore, and he eagerly wagged his tail whenever I picked it up.

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SAILING ON FOILS: Will the Latest Racing Technology Divide Our Sport?

Foiling cats

I was just stoking the antique coal-fired bunkers in my brain getting ready to write something about foiling sailboats, when I got a query from a Red Bull flack asking if I could help get the word out about their Red Bull Foiling Generation competition. Which actually is a very cool program: they are inviting young racing sailors born between 1996-99 to apply for special training with Olympic gold medalists to learn how to sail and compete in foiling 18-foot Flying Phantom catamarans (see image up top) in two Red Bull events to be held in Newport from October 11-23. Individuals or teams of two have until July 15 to submit an application to participate. (Follow this link here to throw your hat in the ring.)

Think about that for a moment. This is a major commercial sponsor of top-flight sporting events around the world (including Formula One racing and MotoGP) spending precious coin not only to promote racing on foils, but more particularly to create a talent pool of foiling sailors here in the United States, a nation where sponsorship for any sort of sailing has historically been very hard to come by. This, as much as anything else, makes it clear how hydrofoiling technology is transforming sailboat racing.

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RACING SCHOONERS: Sterling Hayden Versus Bluenose

Bluenose and Thebaud

Back in the 1930s the next most important match-racing event after the America’s Cup didn’t involve yachts but fishing vessels. The Sir Thomas Lipton International Fishing Challenge Cup had only a brief tenure in the annals of competitive sailing, but it commanded major media attention at the time. Effectively a grudge match sailed between Canadian and American Grand Banks fishermen, the event was run was just three times, and each time featured the same two competitors, the famed Canadian schooner Bluenose (on the right in the image up top) and the American schooner Gertrude L. Thebaud (on the left).

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BOAT DOG ORIENTATION: Can Baxter Hack It Afloat?


This is Baxter, a more-or-less 2-year-old male mongrel (we suspect a Jack Russell terrier mixed with some sort of pit-bull) who came north on the Underdog Railroad from Georgia last fall. We adopted him through Alpha Dog Rescue in Lebanon, Maine, after persistent lobbying from daughter Lucy, who is passionately interested in animals. Lucy has insisted that Baxter is perfect in every way ever since we got him last October, but I have remained skeptical. Yes, he had checked most of the boxes on my own personal list of family-dog criteria (doesn’t pass waste in the house, tractable disposition, willing to share bed with dog-besotted daughter, etc.), but whenever I tried to lure him on to MiMi2, our Melonseed Skiff, as she lay tied to her dock in Portsmouth’s Back Channel, he resisted mightily and looked at me like a condemned prisoner being led to the gallows.

I didn’t press the point at the time, but I did wonder if we would ever be able to make a boat dog of Baxter. His physique and coat (dense, tautly muscled, with short hair that does not dry easily when soaked) are not especially aquatic, and it seemed clear he had never spent much if any time in or on the water during his dark time in the South. I wondered: would we have to exile Baxter to some kennel while frolicking on Lunacy during the sailing season? Or would he be able to suck it up and somehow adapt to life on a sailboat?

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  • Boats & Gear

    Evaluations of both new and older sailboats (primarily cruising sailboats) and of boat gear.

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    Updates on what’s going on aboard my own sailboat Lunacy: breakdowns, maintenance jobs, upgrades, cruises and passages undertaken, etc.

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    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.

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    Tips and diatribes regarding boathandling, sailhandling, seamanship, navigation, and other realms of nautical expertise.



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