STEVE JOBS SUPERYACHT VENUS: Barely Escapes From Simpson Bay Lagoon

Venus aerial

And now for something completely different. Steve Jobs' 256-foot superyacht Venus, built by Feadship and completed in 2012, a year after his death, has been out and about this season and was most recently drone-videoed as it squeezed through the Simpson Bay drawbridge in St. Maarten. According to the Insider's St. Maarten Island Guide, the yacht had been in SXM for two weeks and on Saturday headed out on a private charter.

In superyacht lingo, I guess Venus is what you'd call a "Simpson-Max" vessel, as in there is no possible way it could be any bigger and still fit through this bridge:

Got hand it to the skipper: he (or she?) has got some cojones for sure.

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CRUISING SAILBOAT EVOLUTION: Multihulls and Other Alternatives

Jim Wharram

Our most recent ruminations on this topic focused on some of the popular dedicated cruising-sailboat designs that dominated mass-production boatbuilding as the industry started growing and maturing through the 1970s. It is important to remember, however, that even as fiberglass production techniques were thrusting sailboats into the heart of the 20th-century consumer economy, some cruising enthusiasts, as always, were determined to stay outside the mainstream. Many of these modern alternative cruisers favored unusual offbeat boats. One of these was James Wharram (see photo up top), who in 1954 designed and built for himself an extremely crude 24-foot plywood catamaran he called Tangaroa.

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BLACK SAILS: Pirates on TV

Black Sails combat

One thing I particularly like about the age in which we live is that there are lots of great TV shows to watch. An astounding number, really, with gritty adult themes such as we never dreamed of back in the days of straight broadcast TV, well-written scripts with subtle, involved plots, and fantastic performances from actors and actresses who can now develop truly multi-dimensional characters over the course of protracted detailed story lines. It really is putting the film industry to shame, as cable TV shows (some of them, anyway) are now far superior to most of the pablum you see in cinemas. Another thing I really like is that digital special effects have made it possible to create quite convincing action scenes involving ships under sail (see, e.g., the image up top, from the TV series in question). Gone are the days, thankfully, of blatantly fake scenes staged with models in placid swimming pools.

Given these two serendipitous trends, it was only a matter of time before someone thought to put together a cable TV series involving pirates. Given the great success of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, one might reasonably fear such a show would be just as goofy and frivolous. But the Starz Network, in its TV pirate series Black Sails, has instead steered a much more intriguing course, blending fictional characters from Robert Louis Stevenson's classic tale Treasure Island with historical characters from the golden age of piracy in the early 18th century. I just finished watching season one (now available on iTunes, as season two just started up on cable last month) and by the end was totally hooked.

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MID-BLIZZARD EVACUATION: Australians Rescued Off $10K eBay Boat

Sedona hoist

Yet another mid-winter North Atlantic Coast Guard helicopter rescue. Not off a new boat this time, but off an old 43-foot Carroll Marine racing sled, Sedona (built in 1995), that an Australian, Jason McGlashan, age 37, bought on eBay for $10,000 US. Apparently the price was too low to resist, and Jason and his dad, Reg, age 66, flew into Rhode Island a while back to prep the boat for a delivery back to Oz. The eyebrow-raising bits are that a) they departed from Jamestown last Friday, right in front of the huge blizzard we endured this weekend, and b) apparently the Coast Guard, as well as someone who had worked on the boat, strongly warned the duo not to leave.

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LEEWARD ISLANDS CRUISE: St. Kitts and Nevis

Kitts cruise under sail

This was my primary personal goal for Lunacy's winter season in St. Martin. Together with fellow SEMOSA members, Phil "He Of Many Nicknames" Cavanaugh and Charles "May I Cast Off Now?" Lassen, I had previously sailed Lunacy south from St. Martin to explore Saba and Statia. Also, of course, I have voyaged with the immediate family north and east to the more immediately neighboring islands of Anguilla and St. Bart's. But this year I wanted to get to St. Kitts and Nevis, to the southeast, which are probably the furthest islands you can easily reach from St. Martin during a one-week round-trip cruise.

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RAINMAKER ABANDONED: Gunboat 55 Hull No. 1 Dismasted, Crew Evacuated by Helo

Rainmaker rescue

For me this is like déjà vu all over again. All this month I've been thinking about where I was a year ago, dangling from a wire beneath a Coast Guard helicopter many miles offshore with a busted catamaran beneath me. This year's victim, unfortunately, is an award-winning Gunboat 55, hull no. 1, Rainmaker, which got dismasted yesterday after getting raked by a 70-knot whiteout squall about 200 miles southeast of Cape Hatteras. The five-member crew elected to abandon the vessel and was evacuated by a Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter operating near the limit of its range.

Gunboat CEO Peter Johnstone broke the story late yesterday on his Facebook page and described the incident to me in more detail early this afternoon.

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TOPPLED: Sloop Providence Replica Falls Off Jackstands in "Historic" N.E. Blizzard

Providence toppled

Ouch! This happened yesterday in Newport, Rhode Island, at the Newport Shipyard, where Providence was blocked up for the winter. Though the yard staff evidently stuck in some extra jackstands before the storm, they weren't up to the job. The vessel's mast is busted and her fiberglass hull has been punctured. She also, coincidentally, is for sale, so now's the time to come in with a super lowball bid if you're interested.

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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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