JUST ADD WATER: Human Evolution and the Sea

Swimming baby/Nirvana cover

IN THE SUMMER OF 2008 I had the great pleasure of meeting James Wharram and Hanneke Boon in Mystic, Connecticut, where, during the course of a free-ranging discussion on boat design, neurotheology, and bluewater sailing (among other things), they recommended I read a book entitled The Aquatic Ape, by Elaine Morgan. I couldn't help but be intrigued, for I have long marveled at the human affinity for seafaring and have always felt there must be some deep connection between our species and the ocean. In spite of being terrestrial creatures, it seems we do have a very primal desire to get down to the shore and, if possible, to travel over the distant horizon we find there.

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LABOR DAY MISHAPS: Racing & Cruising

Drascombe Dabber under sail

I INFLICTED BOTH FORMS of sailing on the family over the long weekend, with rather mixed results. First, on Saturday, we attempted to campaign our 15-foot Drascombe Dabber Mimi in the Round Island Regatta (RIR) in Portsmouth. The photo up top (snapped by a friend on shore with a phone) shows us in our moment of glory, with sails drawing nicely, actually going somewhere.

It certainly was a struggle getting to that point. Very soon after we pulled away from the dock, located just a few short yards from the start line, I knew something was wrong. The jib wouldn't trim properly, and the mainsail and the tiny mizzen (a mere afterthought of a sail) between them could not develop enough power to fight the strong current that was running. In only a moment it was obvious we would be swept into the low-hanging maw of the Pierce Island bridge if action were not taken.

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AEGEAN TRAGEDY: U.S. Sailing Final Report Preview

Aegean SPOT track

I WAS THINKING Thursday morning it was about time for more news on the awful fate of Aegean, the Hunter 376 that slammed straight into North Coronado Island during the Newport Ensenada Race in April. And bingo! Up pops a post from my fellow SAILfeed associate, the mysterious Mariner, describing how a pair of divers from San Diego, Russell Moore and Ed Harris, have found the wreck of the boat right where it should have been, under the cliff where Aegean's SPOT track ended.

Googling around a bit, I see another private team, led by one John Walton, also dove on the wreck, and though this was reported over month ago, few remarked on it at the time. In my last post on Aegean, you may recall I also mentioned that an anonymous poster on Sailing Anarchy who called himself "Anarchist Russell" said he dove on the site and found nothing there. But now it seems likely this is the same Russell Long who got ink this week for finding the wreck, as he and Ed Harris claim to have visited the site three times since May 2, which is when "Anarchist Russell" made his announcement. Presumably they came up empty the first time. For the record, John Walton reportedly made his find on May 7.

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MOTORSAILING: Making the Most of Your Iron Genny

Dowlings fuel dock

THIS IS A COMMON SIGHT at Dowling's fuel dock in St. Georges, Bermuda, both in the spring and the fall when the seasonal stampede of migrating yachts passes through. It never fails to amaze me how many jerry jugs of fuel some bluewater sailors are willing to carry. In this particular case I counted 16 jugs open on the quay waiting to be filled and another four on deck. At five gallons a pop that's an extra 100 gallons of fuel this crew will somehow lash down on the deck of their 40-foot sailboat. At 7.3 pounds per gallon (the most generally accepted average weight for diesel fuel) that's an extra 730 pounds this boat will be carrying well above its center of gravity. Or to look at it another way: that's like sailing around with over 900 feet of quarter-inch high-test anchor chain stored on deck.

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BILL McCOY: The King of Rum Row

William McCoy

I GOT INTO THE SUBJECT of Prohibition a couple of years ago on reading Daniel Okrent's excellent popular history, Last Call. I'd always understood, of course, that Prohibition was the product of the unique power of highly motivated single-issue minorities in American politics. But prior to reading Okrent's book I'd never grasped what a perfect storm of political trends (the suffrage movement, allowing women to vote, plus the advent of income taxes, to replace revenue from liquor taxes) was required to make it possible for temperance fanatics to highjack the U.S. Constitution. What I also never realized was that there was ever such a thing as Rum Row, a floating city of oddball sailing and motor vessels that lay perpetually anchored in international waters just a few miles off the U.S. coast peddling booze to all comers day and night.

Since then I've also discovered Flat Hammock Press, a small independent publisher based in Mystic, Connecticut, that has reissued a series of non-fiction books first published during Prohibition that all tell the story of Rum Row from the smuggler's perspective. The most important of these is The Real McCoy, by Frederic F. Van de Water, which recounts the career of a rather personable and flamboyant Rum Row pioneer, William McCoy, from a first-person autobiographical point-of-view.

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ROUND ISLAND REGATTA: Wicked Good Family Fun

Round Island Regatta

ATTENTION ALL OWNERS of small sail and/or paddle craft within easy driving distance of Portsmouth, New Hampshire. You are hereby commanded to bring said craft to Portsmouth next Saturday, September 1st, to participate in the Second Annual Round Island Regatta. After racing your vessel in an informal and somewhat hilarious manner twice around a short course presenting some interesting but hardly daunting challenges, you will be regaled with beer and food and fun will be had by all.

Guaranteed.

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MAN OVERBOARD RECOVERY: Testing the Sea Scoopa

Sea Scoopa

YOU MAY RECALL we ran some SAIL magazine MOB drills aboard Lunacy back in early June. Hopefully you also read the article that ran in the comic in the August issue (which, of course, came out in July) and have viewed the video posted on the SAIL website, narrated by yours truly. Since then I've been in touch several times with Robert Wright, inventor of the Sea Scoopa, one of the MOB recovery products we tested. In light of the comments he has made, I thought it wise to expand my evaluation of the Scoopa here on the blog.

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OLYMPIC SAILING: Does Adams Have The Remedy?

Olympic sailing

THIS ISN'T BREAKING NEWS, I know, but it bears repeating: the U.S. Olympic sailing team were super-big losers at the London games this month. Not one single medal. First time this has happened since the Berlin games in 1936. (Little known historical theory: some believe it was the poor performance of U.S. sailors in '36 that inspired Adolf Hitler to attempt to conquer Europe. Just to give you an idea of how serious this is.) What is breaking news is that Josh Adams, publisher of SAIL, has been anointed as the man to set the team straight again.

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Subcategories

  • Boats & Gear

    Evaluations of both new and older sailboats (primarily cruising sailboats) and of boat gear.

  • The Lunacy Report

    Updates on what’s going on aboard my own sailboat Lunacy: breakdowns, maintenance jobs, upgrades, cruises and passages undertaken, etc.

  • News & Views

    Updates on what’s going on in the sport of sailing generally (most usually, but not always, relating to cruising under sail) and in the sailing industry, plus news nuggets and personal views on all manner of nautical subjects.

  • 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.

  • Techniques & Tactics

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

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