HANS KLAAR: Iconic Cruiser Jailed For Rape

Hans Klaar aboard Rapa Nui

Many moons ago, while toiling in the salt mines at Cruising World as an associate editor, I procured and edited for the magazine an amazing story about a man named Hans Klaar. Written by James Baldwin (you can read the original manuscript on his website here), the story told of Klaar's unusual childhood aboard a Thai cargo junk. It was like something out of The Swiss Family Robinson… on steroids.

It told also of Klaar's adult life. Of how he'd purchased a 51-foot Wharram Tehini catamaran, sold off its aluminum spars, and re-rigged it with Polynesian crab-claw sails. Of how he had wandered the Indian Ocean making a living as an itinerant cruising trader. Of how he hoped someday to build his own 75-foot Polynesian voyaging cat and explore the Pacific.

Just two years ago, when I met James Wharram and Hanneke Boon for the first time in Mystic, Connecticut, I had merely to mention Hans Klaar in passing… and the three of us fell into something like a collective swoon.

So you can imagine my surprise, and dismay, when I learned this week that soon after the story I prepared appeared in the July 1998 issue of Cruising World, Klaar was convicted of rape in South Africa and was sentenced to six years in prison. Ever since August 1999, when he lost his appeal, he has been on the run, sailing the world, and was finally taken into custody again in South Africa just last month.

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SCAPE 51: New Performance Catamaran from Cape Town

Scape 51 under sail

Kevin Knight at Scape Yachts in South Africa just dropped me a line to let me know they've recently launched their biggest boat yet, a new 51-footer. This is a big sister to their Scape 39, a boat I delivered across the South Atlantic a few years back. Like most boats built by Scape, hull number 1 of this new design, dubbed Quality Time, will be used for day-charter work. It can also, however, be tricked out as a performance cruising boat.

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WAYNE'S WORLD: Sailing the Beneteau Sense 50

Beneteau Sense 50 on Tampa Bay

I'm just back from a jaunt aboard the new Beneteau Sense 50, which is still on the boat-show circuit and is currently en route from St. Petersburg to Miami under the command of Wayne Burdick, President of Beneteau USA. Wayne and his lovely bride, Joyce Harvey, are using this between-shows delivery as an excuse to engage in a little honeymoon cruising (they've been married little more than a year) and are also showing off the boat to interested parties like yours truly.

Also aboard as crew for Leg 1 of this odyssey was Stanton Murray, of Murray Yacht Sales, which represents Beneteau throughout the east side of the Gulf of Mexico. Together the four of us motored out of Tampa Bay under the Sunshine Skyway just as the sun was setting on Monday evening (fantastic aesthetics; see photo up top) and pointed the boat's bow south toward Naples, about 120 miles away.

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ALESSANDRO DI BENEDETTO: Snags CCA Seamanship Award

Alessandro di Benedetto completes his voyage

At last, here's some serious recognition for my man Alessandro di Benedetto, who set a world record back in July for smallest boat used in a non-stop solo circumnavigation. Setting the record was one thing, but you'll recall what was truly remarkable about Alessandro's voyage was that he sailed the last three months on his modified 21-foot Mini 6.50 Findomestic Banca--from west of South America, round Cape Horn, and all the way home to Les Sables d'Olonne, France--with a jury-rigged mast. Though much of the sailing world made little or no fuss about this, the Cruising Club of America was duly impressed and has announced that Alessandro will receive their Rod Stephens Trophy for Outstanding Seamanship at a ceremony next month at the New York Yacht Club.

I spoke with Alessandro recently and he was pretty nonchalant about having been dismasted during his approach to Cape Horn. "I was already prepared in my mind to be dismasted five or six times during this voyage," he explained. "So I was ready to rebuild the mast and had everything I needed. I was disappointed, of course, but I was not injured and I was ready to go to work."

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BOMB SQUAD: Atomic-4 Gasoline Engine

Universal Atomic-4 engine

It seems hard to imagine now, but for about 50 years most auxiliary sailboat engines were gasoline-powered. By the mid-20th century the majority of these (in North America, at least) came from just one source, the Universal Motor Company. From 1947 to 1985 Universal’s famous Atomic-4 engine (aka the Atomic Bomb) was installed in over 40,000 sailboats ranging in size from 25 to just over 40 feet. At its peak in the 1960s and 1970s, Universal controlled about 85 percent of the market for sailboat auxiliaries.

Some 20,000 Atomic Bombs are still in service today. For cruisers who favor older, less expensive sailboats, it is still quite common to find these antique power-plants lurking inside engine compartments. Learning to live with a Bomb is thus, for some, still an important part of owning and maintaining a boat.

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NOSE JOB: More Bow Sprit Fantasies

Designing a bow sprit for Lunacy

Project Proboscis is lurching ahead. On Wednesday afternoon I met with Brian Harris, Jeff Stack, and Will Rooks at Maine Yacht Center and we spent a good hour noodling over the design of Lunacy's new bowsprit. After much debate with myself and some consultation with others (including Scott Alexander at Selden Mast and Doug Pope at Pope Sails), I've decided not to adopt the bold plan proposed by Lunacy's original designer, Yves-Marie Tanton, which I described in my last post on this subject.

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POPPA NEUTRINO: Dead in the Big Easy

Poppa Neutrino

Ah, mortality. It says something of the sort of man he was that I first learned of the recent demise of my old cruising acquaintance Poppa Neutrino while reading the Wall Street Journal this morning. You'll recall I blogged about him in November, when his attempt to circumnavigate the world on a raft made of trash came to an ignominious end on Lake Champlain. He was, in one sense, little more than a vagrant homeless man, but this never stopped him from living large.

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TALL SHIP MUTINY: Crew Refuses To Go Aloft

Tall ship Gorch Fock crew aloft

I'm surprised this doesn't happen all the time. I've never been aloft underway on a yacht, much less on a square-rigger. But I've watched square-rigger crews swarm aloft in harbor and, even with the ship firmly tied to a dock, my testicles have instantly shriveled at the thought of climbing out to the end of a yard-arm. The idea of doing it while a ship is sailing, and of leaning way over a spar to haul in canvas with nothing but a little footrope for support, I find simply staggering.

So too, apparently, do a number of naval cadets who were serving on the German sail-training ship Gorch Fock. Word is out that Gorch Fock's crew refused orders to go aloft after Sarah Schmidt, a 25-year-old cadet, fell to her death from the rig. The incident has mushroomed into a full-blown political scandal. German defense minister Karl Theodor zu Guttenberg has come under severe criticism; the ship's captain, Norbert Schatz, has been summarily relieved of his command; all the cadets have been flown home to Germany; and a professional crew is bringing the ship home from South America. There have also been whispered allegations of sexual abuse.

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