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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FIBERGLASS BOATBUILDING: The Origins of Blisters

Fiberglass hull with blisters

Blisters have been the bane of many a boatowner. There are literally hundreds of causes, many of which have to do with the quality of a fiberglass boat’s construction. The primary cause is the presence of water-soluble molecules in a laminate. These impurities come from innumerable sources, including glycols in improperly cured resin, any dust, sweat, or snot that falls into a mold during lamination, trace chemicals left over from a catalyst or mat binder, as well as certain agents used to treat fiberglass fabrics.

It’s impossible to ensure that none of these pollutants will ever find their way into a laminate, but the likelihood is greatly decreased if a builder is truly fastidious in his practices. The other major factor is the presence of voids in a laminate. These can never be absolutely eliminated--there is always some air in a laminate somewhere--but as we discussed in our last discourse on boat construction, steps can be taken to keep voids to a minimum.

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BRISBANE FLOOD VIDEOS: Sinking Sailboat

Sailboat sinking in Brisbane flooding

Some spectacular videos of the awful flooding in Brisbane, Australia, have been posted online in the last week. It's one thing to hear or read about these sorts of catastrophes in the news, but when you watch home videos of what's going on you get a much more personal view of things. As a cruising sailor, the most compelling video I've seen so far is this one here of a liveaboard cruising boat that broke free and sank in the deluge last Thursday. Watch closely and you'll see there are two men in skiffs tending the vessel who almost get wiped out when it starts tumbling end over end as it goes down.

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CRAZY HORSE: Where Is She Now?

Eventide ex Crazy Horse exterior

It staggers me to think that in just a few short years my old fiberglass yawl Crazy Horse (built in 1964) will be half a century old. She's been fortunate in that she's had owners who have continually maintained and upgraded her. When I owned her, back when she was merely 30 years old, I focussed mostly on utilitarian stuff and didn't worry so much about aesthetics. I could never convince myself her hideous faux-wood Formica interior was attractive, but I did learn to live with it. My best trick was to hang lots of wild, colorful artwork to draw attention away from it. I also pretty much ignored the crazed grey gelcoat. These days the old girl belongs to Don Wilson, of Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, who has renamed her Eventide and has done her up proper.

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CRAZY SINGLEHANDERS: The Special Men of God

1995 Hurricane Season

I ARRIVED IN THE AZORES aboard Crazy Horse, my Alberg 35 yawl, in late August of 1995 already feeling kind of nervous about the hurricane situation. Earlier that summer I was caught in a tropical storm named Chantal while en route to Bermuda, and since then several other North Atlantic storms had chewed their way through much of the alphabet. The West Indies, I heard, had been blasted to bits. By late September, rumor had it the hurricane season would stretch through November into December and that the Greek alphabet was being dusted off just in case.

The Azores, however, are rarely visited by tropical storms, so I hoped I might be safe there. Together with one recently enlisted crew member, Carie, from Holland, I had cruised from the island of Faial to Pico to Terceira, and at last arrived at Ponta Delgada, the capital of the Azores, on the island of Sao Miguel. The day after we arrived, however, there came word that a hurricane named Noel was heading straight for us.

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SABRE 28: A Solid Pocket Cruiser

Sabre 28 under sail

This stylish little pocket yacht is both the first and smallest boat ever produced by Sabre Yachts, a quality production boatbuilder based in southern Maine. Designed by the company’s founder, Roger Hewson, and introduced in 1971, the Sabre 28 was the only boat produced by Sabre until 1977. Production did not cease until 1986, by which time 588 hulls had been launched.

The boat has a generous rig, is not at all slow for its size, and early in its career was often raced as a Half-Tonner under the old IOR rule. Today many Sabre 28s still sail in club races with PHRF ratings below 200, but they are primarily used as cruising vessels. Though most suitable for coastal work due to their small size and low-capacity tanks, they are certainly strong enough to sail offshore if desired.

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BECUE YOUR ANCHOR: Unsticking a Stuck Hook

Becued anchor

Speaking of fouled anchors (see the last paragraph and photo of my last post), here's a neat little trick I learned while sailing with Don Street aboard his antique yawl Iolaire in the Fastnet Race. We were becalmed off the south coast of England, confronting a soon to be extremely contrary tide, and were wondering if we might soon have to anchor to keep from losing ground. Because we’d be anchoring in very deep water in uncertain holding ground, Don absolutely insisted we “becue the anchor” to prepare it for launching.

None of the crew had any idea what he was talking about. Needless to say, he was very happy to demonstrate.

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