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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POWER-SAILERS: When Is a Sailboat Not a Sailboat?

Nuva under power

It’s hard to believe, but there just might be enough of these atrocities now that they qualify as a boat type unto themselves. They’re not really motor-sailers, which have displacement hulls and are rather slow under power. Instead I’ve come to refer to them as power-sailers: powerboats with big outboard engines and planing hulls that can also be sailed. The latest entry into this weird niche market is the new Nuva MS6 out of Barcelona, Spain. It’s got a carbon-fiber rig, a modern square-top mainsail, a retractable bulb keel, and a plumb bow, all of which makes it very much “of the moment” as a sailboat. Or you can leave the rig off altogether and just use it as a trendy-looking runabout.

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THE INVASION OF ANGUILLA: A Comedy of Errors, Caribbean Style

Anguilla beach

I first learned of the British invasion of Anguilla, which took place in March 1969, while studying Don Street’s Transatlantic Crossing Guide several years ago. In his classic tome (which I can still recommend as a great general reference if you are cruising the islands of the North Atlantic), Don mentions the event in passing and cites two books treating it. One, The Mouse That Roared, he claims is a fictionalized account of the invasion; the other, Under An English Heaven, he cites as a factual account.

The Mouse That Roared, by Leonard Wibberley, which I read as a boy, in fact was published in 1955, 14 years before the invasion of Anguilla took place. It tells the tale of a fictional European micro-nation, the Duchy of Grand Fenwick, that declares war on the United States, hoping to garner a bonanza of foreign aid after its inevitable defeat. Instead, through a series of improbable events, Grand Fenwick ends up in control of a U.S. secret weapon, the Q-Bomb, and in effect conquers the world. Though the book has nothing to do with Anguilla, its comic spirit does mirror that of the real-life improbable events that led Britain to invade Anguilla after the tiny island rebelled against independence from the British crown.

Nope, that’s not a typo. They rebelled against independence.

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GRAND LARGE YACHTING: New Owner of Gunboat; Jimmy Cornell's Garcia 45 For Sale

Gunboat 55

This seems like an interesting development. Grand Large Yachting, a French conglomerate formed in 2003 that specializes in turning around distressed boatbuilders, was the prevailing bidder at a bankruptcy auction held this month for Gunboat, the luxury performance catamaran builder founded by Peter Johnstone. Reportedly Grand Large will put up $910K in cash and is waiving unsecured claims worth about $4.6M. The French firm, which has never before invested in a builder outside of France, has committed to continue the Gunboat brand and maintain a U.S. presence, but may or may not continue operating Gunboat’s current facility in North Carolina.

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TRANSAT BAKERLY: Peyron and Joschke Down and Out

Pen Duick II

This year’s singlehanded transatlantic race out of Plymouth, England, dubbed the Transat bakerly in honor of the title sponsor, a French snack company that evidently eschews the use of capital letters (just like e.e. cummings), is finishing up now in New York, and I’m crying in my beer because the two sailors I’m most interested in have had to drop out. These would be Isabelle Joschke, who was leading the Class 40 fleet aboard her steed Generali-Horizon Mixité, and Loïck Peyron, who was doing a blast-from-the-past trip aboard Eric Tabarly’s old ketch Pen Duick II (see image up top). Both my heroes (sob) officially retired yesterday due to damage sustained by their boats.

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A PILGRIM AMONG THE SWATCHWAYS: Chasing the Ghost of Maurice Griffiths


The name Maurice Griffiths is not particularly well known in the United States, but in England he is most certainly an iconic figure. A dapper fellow with a goatee beard, he was born into modest circumstances at the turn of the 20th century, the second son of a traveling glove and underwear salesman who had an eye for ladies and racehorses and consequently died bankrupt. At age 19, in the year 1921, not long before his father passed away, Maurice and a friend sold a much-loved model railroad set, invested the proceeds in a 50-year-old semi-derelict cutter named Undine, and the rest--as they say--is history.

Over the course of the next six decades, Griffiths bought, sold, and cruised innumerable small yachts, and wrote 15 books on sailing, one of which, The Magic of the Swatchways, is now a classic of British sailing literature. Griffiths also trained himself as a naval architect and became a successful yacht designer, drawing several pioneering designs for simple shoal-draft cruising boats. Most important, perhaps, he was one of the first on either side of the Atlantic to publicly champion the concept of sailing as a sport for the common man. During his 40-year tenure as editor-in-chief at Yachting Monthly magazine, he transformed what had become an elitist yachting social journal into a practical, but very literate bible for middle-class sailors who dreamed of getting afloat aboard boats of their own.

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VIKINGS ON THE LOOSE: Largest Longship Built in Modern Times Has Set Out Across the Atlantic

Harald under sail

Hide the family jewels! The Vikings are coming! The 115-foot Norse longship Draken Hårald Harfagre has just set out from Norway and is bound to North America via Iceland and Greenland. Ultimately Hårald and her crew plan to roam as far inland as the Great Lakes before raiding the Big Apple and Mystic Seaport in September and October.

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  • Boats & Gear

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