MAINE COAST CRUISE: Up and Down the Damariscotta River

Lunacy under sail

During our “adult cruise” (i.e., sans offspring) last summer, Clare and I harbored wild ambitions of ascending the Damariscotta River, but suffered a lack of breeze (and an intolerance of motoring) so settled instead for a perambulation about Knubble Bay and the lower reaches of the Sheepscot River. This summer, having once more disposed of children, I was determined to try again, and we were fortunately favored with some brisk wind early on.

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SEASCAPE 18: Evangelist Test Sail With Andraž Mihelin

Andraz astern

How’s this for convenience? I get the word from SAIL HQ that I should look into test-sailing the Seascape 18 from Slovenia, recently revealed on these shores, and it turns out the new U.S. rep is based in Kittery, Maine, mere footsteps from my home. Even better, on arriving at the anointed moment last Friday at Pepperell Cove, where said rep, Toralf Strand, a tall gangly Norwegian fellow, has assembled both a Seascape 27 and 18 for test-sailing by prospective buyers and this one journalist, it turns out I’ll be sailing with Andraž Mihelin (see photo up top), one of the masterminds behind the whole Seascape concept.

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MELONSEED SKIFF: Successfully Deployed as Secret Weapon (Sort Of) in 2015 Round Island Regatta


There’s a rumor going around that the only reason I’ve been looking to sell Mimi, my beloved Drascombe Dabber, is because she’s not competitive in the Round Island Regatta, an anarchic free-for-all involving small sailing and paddle/rowing vessels that is convened each summer on the back channel here in Portsmouth. And yes, it is true we did very poorly in Mimi last year. And I will confess it had crossed my mind that the Melonseed skiff I had set my heart on as Mimi’s successor might just get me on to the podium.

And, in fact, it almost turned out that way. In that photo up top (taken by my crew, daughter Lucy) you see me helming our new Melonseed, MiMi2, at the Class 1 start of this year’s regatta this past Saturday. We did well off the line and were in the top three (out of 27 boats in Class 1 Sail) after one lap round the course. And by the end of the second lap, we had a firm lock on second place. But then the anarchy factor took hold.

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OPEN 60 DELIVERY: From Portland to Marblehead with Rich Wilson

On deck GA4

I narrowly missed my last chance to sail on an Open 60, way back in 2001 at the Heineken Regatta, when Josh Hall and Gartmore turned up a last-minute no-show due to family issues, so I was pretty psyched about getting aboard Great American IV (ex-Mirabaud) with her skipper Rich Wilson late last week. This was his first outing on the boat this summer, a delivery jaunt from Maine Yacht Center in Portland to her home mooring in Marblehead, a distance of about 100 miles. Also onboard was Jonathan Green, a local Massachusetts racing sailor (on the left in the image up top) who is assisting Rich in tuning up the boat for next year’s Vendeé Globe start in France.

Unless something pretty dramatic happens, Rich, who last ran (and finished!) the Vendeé Globe in 2008-09, will (again) be the only American sailing in the race. At age 65, he will also be the oldest competitor in the race’s history, a fact he doesn’t necessarily like to dwell upon.

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HAUTE BOAT CUISINE: How to Eat Well on a Cruising Boat Without Really Trying

canned food

Yes, I have done this, and that is me in that photo up there, eating cold ravioli straight out of a can. That's my old buddy and shipmate Dave Lankshear (he got shipwrecked in Spain with me many moons ago) spoon-feeding me; this during a small gale we sailed through on a 15-day passage from Bermuda to the Azores on my old Alberg 35 yawl Crazy Horse. But no, I have not done this very often, because usually, even on a boat as primitive as Crazy Horse, it is possible, and not too hard, to eat pretty well while cruising.

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NEWPORT 12-METER JUNKET: With A Little Help From My Friends

American Eagle deck

I should have learned this lesson a number of years ago, but now I'm quite certain I have learned it for good. For the second time in my life this past Friday I was lured aboard one of the several 12 Meters that sail out of Newport as part of a business team-building/schmoozing exercise and made the grave mistake of raising my hand when our skipper asked if anyone coming aboard had any sailing experience. Never again!

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CRUISING SAILBOAT RIGS: Converting a Sloop to a Slutter

Sophie as cutter

I mentioned the concept of a "slutter," a sloop that is converted to a cutter by adding a removable inner forestay, in my last post on this subject and thought I should expound a bit on the process of the conversion. It is a popular upgrade, particularly on bluewater boats, and of course being able to hoist a staysail can also be handy on a coastal boat. My old Golden Hind 31 Sophie was a sloop when I bought her, and I converted her to a cutter rig with a removable inner forestay, although she became a true cutter, as I also increased the height of the mast and added a bowsprit to enlarge the foretriangle. In the photo up top you see Sophie post conversion, during her very first test sail, flying both a large genoa and her staysail, which in fact was something I rarely did, as it was difficult to tack the genoa around the staysail.

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FOURTH OF JULY CRUISE: The Father-Daughter Variation

Lucy navigating

For reasons we need not go into this year's father-daughter cruise fell on the July 4th weekend rather than on Father's Day. Our big breakthrough this time out was that Lucy got interested in navigation, courtesy of the Navionics app on my iPad. This on day two of the cruise, when we were tediously motoring most of the way from Cliff Island in Casco Bay to Popham Beach at the mouth of the Kennebec River, our traditional July 4th destination.

After Lucy asked for the hundredth time, "How long until we get there?" I just handed her the iPad and said: "Here, you figure it out."

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