FROM PRISON CELL TO THE SEA: Greg White and Jeff Bolster

Bolster and fish

You remember Jeff Bolster, right? He lives down the street from me here in Portsmouth, and I've crewed on his boat, and he's crewed on my boat, and he doesn't mind eating fish raw for breakfast. He teaches history at the University of New Hampshire and in a past life was a pro schooner jockey. I've heard from him the story of how his first scholarly tome, Black Jacks: African American Seamen in the Age of Sail (Harvard University Press, 1997), proved to be a major inspiration to a black prison inmate, Greg White, who consequently went on to forge a career as a merchant mariner after serving out a 22-year sentence for armed robbery. As a result, Jeff and Greg formed a bond that continues to this day.

Now their relationship has been featured in a recent mini-movie produced by the National Endowment for the Humanities, which you can watch right here:

Good stuff. I've never met Greg, but I can assure you Jeff really does talk like that in real life.

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CAT PPALU: Holed in St. Maarten

Ppalu at anchor

Major bummer here. D. Randy West, the well known West Indies multihull maven, is struggling to salvage his new ride, the Peter Spronk-designed Cat Ppalu (see photo above), which he bought and renovated last year after a 20-year quest.

Major coincidence here, too, as Randy was in St. Maarten racing on the Gunboat 62 Tribe at the Heineken Regatta with, among others, Tribe's creator and original owner, Peter Johnstone, who has been resolutely ignoring some e-mails I sent him last week asking questions about the new Gunboat 60. I had just figured out where Peter was, and why he wasn't answering e-mail, when I got word from Paul Gelder, ex-editor of Yachting Monthly in the UK, that Ppalu was in trouble.

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CRUISING SAILBOAT EVOLUTION: The Emergence of "Alternative" Cruising

Orion under sail

We have already discussed an early elite cruising vessel, Cleopatra's Barge, and the development of high-end yacht design in the 19th century. Now it's time to turn to the "hoi polloi," the unwashed mass of middle-class (and upper middle-class) sailors who were also determined to enjoy "messing about in boats," and who, ultimately, had a much bigger impact on the development of the sport.

One important pioneer was a stern British stockbroker named Richard Turrell (R.T.) McMullen, who, in 1850, at age 20, decided to teach himself sailing and commissioned the construction of a 20-foot half-decked cutter named Leo. Over the next 41 years he cruised throughout the British Isles and across the English Channel in a series of purpose-built vessels, the largest of which, a 42-footer named Orion (see image above), was a classic deep-draft, narrow-waisted British cutter.

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RUNNING INLETS: How Not to Fall Down and Get Hurt

Inlet 1

I'm thinking about this (again) after watching an exciting video (see below) of a sailboat wiping out trying to enter an inlet at Zumaia in northern Spain. The photo above shows a different boat entering the same inlet successfully, which should give you an idea at a glance of how hairy this can be when conditions are uncooperative.

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OLYMPIC SAILING: What Does the Josh Say?

Josh Adams

Well informed sports fans will recall that SAIL's publisher, Josh Adams, abandoned his career in sailing journalism back in August 2012 to assume command of the U.S. Olympic sailing team. Our loss was the Olympic team's gain, and they seem to be recovering nicely from their zero-medal performance in the 2012 London games. Last month they scored six podium finishes at the ISAF Sailing World Cup Miami regatta, including a gold medal for Paige Railey in the Laser Radial class.

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CHASING SHACKLETON: What Paul Larsen Did After Breaking the Sailing Speed Record

A. Shackleton under sail

PBS has aired and released its great three-part video series, Chasing Shackleton, which follows the exploits of five modern-day adventurers as they seek to recreate Ernest Shackleton's amazing small-boat voyage from Antarctica to South Georgia Island in 1916. Follow this link here, and you can watch all three 1-hour episodes for free. Don't dawdle! I'd be surprised if they leave these up for long.

For sailors, the story inside this story is that one of the five crew aboard Alexandra Shackleton, a very accurate duplicate of Shackleton's lifeboat James Caird, was Australian Paul Larsen. Just weeks before embarking on this grueling survivalist nightmare of a voyage deep in the Southern Ocean, Larsen had been in Namibia triumphantly shattering the world sailing speed record aboard Vestas Sailrocket 2. This was the culmination of a 10-year personal quest, during which many had ridiculed Larsen and his revolutionary boat.

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RED BULL STORM CHASE: Windsurfing in a Hurricane

Storm Chase

Don't know if you've been watching the North Atlantic weather charts this winter, but FYI Ireland and the UK have been taking direct hits from storms as strong as hurricanes on a weekly basis for some time now. And I don't know if you've been following the Red Bull Storm Chase series, which I blogged about when it started in Ireland last January, but the series recently wrapped up with an amazing session right in the middle of one of those storms in Cornwall, England. Thomas Traversa of France was declared the winner of this grueling triptych of events (there was another session in Tasmania last August) and is now officially the craziest, most bad-ass windsurfer on the planet.

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Subcategories

  • 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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  • 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.

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

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