Nick Kats on Teddy

UPDATE to the UPDATE: He's on again! My cousin Nick (that's Nicolas Kats, a naturopathic doctor and acupuncturist currently residing in Ireland, depicted above on the vessel in question) has in fact decided to move back to Portland, Oregon, and wants to take his boat along with him. Having studied the charts, he has concluded that the most logical route from A to B leads through the Northwest Passage, and he is looking for crew to come along on the journey.

Here's the voyage precis he sent me:

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ENSENADA RACE: Mysterious Destruction of Aegean

Aegean SPOT track

This is pretty weird. I previously mentioned the tragic loss of Aegean in the Newport Ensenada Race off southern California last weekend, and since then have been following developments with interest. The original presumption was that the boat, a 37-foot Hunter, had been run down by a ship, and this seemed to have been confirmed by at least one eyewitness on another boat. But Aegean's SPOT track also shows the boat running directly into the north end of North Coronado Island at a speed of about 7 knots.

The debris from the wreck reportedly looks as though it has "been through a blender," with most bits about 6 inches long. To me this doesn't seem very consistent with either explanation, and some have speculated there might have been a propane explosion as the boat hit the rocks.

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JOHN GUIDER: Barebones Cruiser With a Camera

John Guider photo

Beautiful photos these. Taken by a man, John Guider, who is currently rowing and sailing his way, in stages, through a circumnavigation of eastern North America aboard a 14-foot Expedition Skerry from Chesapeake Light Craft that he built himself. Right now he's in the South Carolina sea islands, a little north of Beaufort. By July he expects to be in New York City.

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MORE CALIFORNIA YACHT RACING FATALITIES: And Deaths Averted in Melbourne to Port Fairy Race arrives in Port Fairy after rescue arrives in Port Fairy carrying survivors from Inception 

It's been an awful month for racing sailors in California. First came the well-publicized loss of Low Speed Chase in the Farallones Race off San Francisco, which resulted in five fatalities and an unprecedented Coast Guard ban on further offshore races in the area. Now this weekend comes word that a Hunter 376, Aegean, has been lost in the Newport Ensenada Race, presumably in a collision, with four apparent fatalities.

Less remarked on has been the dramatic night rescue of six crew Down Under in the Melbourne to Port Fairy Race early this month. The fleet of 14 boats was caught in a vicious gale (winds reported at 40-50 knots, with gusts to 70) and only one boat managed to finish. One competitor, Inception, a 50-foot Beneteau, sank at the height of the tempest, but fortunately its crew was rescued by another crew competing aboard, an Elan Impression 434.

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NEEL 45: Living Large on a Trimaran

Neel 45 under sail

Theoretically, I was to spend all day Monday testing boats after the "multi-cocks" show in Lorient, but the weather was so foul everyone cancelled on me. Instead I managed to cram in a couple of short tests during the last day of the show, including one on the new Neel 45, an intriguing trimaran that tries to fit cat-sized cruising accommodations into a three-hulled format.

This is not a new concept. Early cruising tris, those slab-sided beasts built of plywood back in the 1960s, tried to pull off this trick by pushing sleeping spaces into the bridgedecks connecting the main hull to the amas. These boats proved to be a bit too heavy and unwieldy to sail as well as a trimaran should and were also fragile. You might recall the disintegration of Nigel Tetley's Piver-designed Victress during the Golden Globe Race in 1969, or the less-well-publicized fracturing of a plywood tri sailed by cruisers Val and Ernest Haigh some years later.

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BAMBA 50: Catamaran Motorsailer

Bamba 50 under sail

Yo peeps. I'm tapping this out in the wind-blown town of Lorient, France, where I spent all day yesterday browsing through a small, but very interesting boat show, Les Salons du Multicoque. This is a special presentation of multihulls, containing some very cutting-edge boats, that flops back and forth between Brittany and the Med. Ironically, one of the boats I found most interesting was this new Bamba 50, a catamaran motorsailing trawler built right near here in La Rochelle. It serves as a trenchant reminder that the "edge" in boat design can cut more ways than one.

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MATT RUTHERFORD: Bay Bridge in Sight

Matt Rutherford off Virginia Beach

Matt Rutherford off Virginia Beach (photo courtesy of Mark Duehmig)

Editor's note: Andy Schell, my Matt Rutherford correspondent, shot me this report just moments ago. LET'S GO, MATT!!!

You'd think that in a voyage of now 310 days--the time Matt Rutherford has been at sea since departing the Chesapeake almost a year ago--the hardest part would be far behind him.

But in fact, the hardest part is right now.

Matt has the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel in sight, and is only a handful of miles from crossing his outward track, which would make him the first person in history to complete a solo nonstop voyage around both American continents. He's already been recognized by the Scott Polar Institute as having piloted the smallest vessel ever through the Northwest Passage, and if the weather cooperates, he'll make history again in a much bigger way sometime today.

The trouble is the weather is not cooperating.

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SUICIDE OCEAN TOW: Drake Roberts on YouTube

Many moons ago I blogged about a fellow I met in Bermuda, Rich Littauer, who was aboard a derelict 52-foot steel boat, Cha Cha, that had been towed into St. Georges after losing her engine and sails during a rough passage from Newport, Rhode Island. More recently I've been in touch with Drake Roberts, the singlehander who found Rich and his crew, Gail Alexander, adrift and towed them most of the way to Bermuda with his Westsail 42, Paragon. Drake has launched a YouTube channel and has posted a complete video account of his own voyage to Bermuda that year (2009), in which Rich and Cha Cha (not surprisingly) are prominently featured. The viddy you see up top is Episode 4, where Drake first makes contact with Cha Cha.

If you remember my previous post (or have clicked through to it), you'll know the tow ended in disaster. The situation became untenable after the weather deteriorated, and the two boats twice collided and suffered serious damage. Drake was forced to cast Rich adrift again, but he did stick around until a superyacht showed up and (somewhat reluctantly) towed Cha Cha the last 30 miles or so to Bermuda.

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