My post-Annapolis test-sailing dance card had a great mix of boats on it this year. At the total opposite end of the spectrum from the simple and diminutive Paine 14, I found this high-end sweetheart. Like many of you, I've been reading about Gunboats for years and have walked through a few tied to docks, but I've never actually sailed one, so I was looking very forward to this test. It is, however, an ineluctable law of sailing journalism that the more you look forward to test-sailing a boat, the less wind there will be during the test. Case in point: when Peter Johnstone plucked me off a dinghy dock in Eastport in one of his fancy Pure tenders and swooped me out to the Gunboat 60 way out in the middle of Chesapeake Bay, the true wind was only blowing about 5 knots.
I studied the bay's glassy surface, and my heart sank, but Peter didn't seem particularly concerned. Sure enough, as soon as we boarded the boat and unrolled its big black carbon screecher, we were trundling easily upwind at speeds in excess of 6 knots. A little later, when the true wind piped up to 7 knots, we were running off under an A-sail at 8 knots.
Boats & Gear
You may have seen this video a couple of years ago back when the collision, during Cowes race week, took place. They're having a trial about it now, as the skipper of the yacht, a Corby 33 named Atalanta of Chester, insists that he was not negligent. Watching what happened per the viddy, I'd say what it was, in law-school lingo, was negligence per se. As in: you should never try to cross in front of another vessel, particularly one that is much, much larger than yours, unless you are about 1,000 percent sure you're going to make it.
But the skipper on trial, Royal Navy lieutenant Roland Wilson, presumably is not a total punter when it comes to boathandling. His defense seems to be that the ship, the Hanne Knutsen, a 120,000-ton tanker, gave confusing sound signals as it was turning while trying to avoid another disabled boat.
Techniques & Tactics
Pardon the void in my personal blogosphere here, but I'm just back from Annapolis, where I was test-sailing boats for the comic after the big show closed down. By far the most relaxing test I did was with designer Chuck Paine (see photo up top) aboard his new Paine 14, a sweet little daysailer based on the old Herreshoff 12-1/2. We had a great time ogling moored boats and chatting up a storm as we ghosted up and down Spa Creek in the few cat's paws of wind that presented themselves--exactly the sort of thing a boat like this is designed for.
The big in-the-water show here in Annapolis is featuring a lot of the in-the-air water this year. We suffered a biblical downpour yesterday morning that continued sputtering on and off through the day. I was forced to invest in new Helly Hansen boots and an umbrella on the sperm of the moment...
Speaking of Gambia, here's a very cool time-lapse viddy documenting the construction there during 2012 of Han Klaar's new crab-claw-rigged double-canoe Ontong Java II (a.k.a, OJ II). Hans is out and about cruising the planet aboard this intriguing vessel and is looking for pay-to-play crew to join the adventure. Check here for info on how to do that.
IT IS AN UNWRITTEN RULE that every cruise up an African river must have a Greater Purpose--some guy named Kurtz to chase after, a lost explorer to rescue, a legendary city of gold to loot, some palpable goal to lure you ever onward into regions where you might not otherwise venture. My partner Carie and I by now had spent nearly two weeks cruising up the Gambia in my old Alberg 35 yawl and decided finally we had two of these: we wanted to see a hippopotamus and we wanted to attend a dance.
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