JEFF & MOLLY'S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE: An Engineless Cruise Through the W'Indies

Chanticleer sailing

Editor's note: Attention WaveTrain riders! I have just received a most excellent missive from my erstwhile skipper/crew (it's a symbiotic relationship) Jeff Bolster, featured here previously, regarding his long-planned much-looked-forward-to entire winter of cruising with his bride Molly through the length and breadth of the Caribbean islands aboard their Valiant 40 Chanticleer. Long story short: they broke their prop strut three days out of Bermuda and are just now getting around to fixing it. I'll let Jeff fill you in on all the gory details (this from an e-mail dated March 10).

Good thing we like Martinique: we might need to get French citizenship and live here forever. The boat has already been on the hard for 10 days and the "A-Team" has barely begun to work. It's the Caribbean, mon.

As some of you know, we broke the propeller shaft strut on the third day of the voyage and essentially have had no use of the engine since then. It's that Old Timey Sailing Ship stuff that I live for. As Joni Mitchell once wailed, "It's suffering, makes me feel that I am alive..."

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WINDBOUND IN SXM: More Sailing With the Family (Or Not)

Lunacy aerial

The better part of valor, and all that. When we arrived here on St. Martin Saturday evening it was blowing a bit, and all day Sunday--as we provisioned Lunacy, adjusted to the pleasant weather, and diddled around at the pool while watching Heineken Regatta boats stream up and down the coast outside the entrance to Oyster Pond--it was blowing a bit harder. And by Monday morning, as post-Heineken bareboats started streaming like locusts into the docks here at Capt. Oliver's Marina in a just-as-stiff breeze, it occurred to me that an idle family cruise might not be so idle in conditions such as these. Checking the weather (finally), I discovered the forecast was for the wind to increase a bit more still and hold there for the rest of the week. Fortunately, the family wasn't too disappointed when I told them I thought our sailing vacation would be much more vacation-like if we morphed it into a dock-based event.

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CRUISING SAILBOAT RIGS: Ketches, Yawls, and Schooners

Yawl quarter shot

I like to use the term "split rig" to refer to any sailplan on a boat where sail area is divided between two (or more) masts, rather than crowded all on to one mast, as with a sloop or cutter. On ketches and yawls, as I'm sure you know, the taller mainmast is forward and the shorter mizzenmast is aft. What distinguishes a yawl from a ketch is more a matter of debate, but I'm firmly in the camp that believes that a yawl has her mizzenmast abaft her rudder. Mizzens on yawls also tend be rather short. On a ketch the mizzen is forward of the rudder and is usually significantly taller. In a classic schooner rig, the taller mainmast is aft and the shorter foremast is forward. On some schooners, however, the masts may be the same height.

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FOOD BOAT: Pizza Pi to Go From a Rebuilt Motorsailer

Take out window

Gourmet food trucks are very trendy these days. Witness last year's popular film Chef, about a gourmet chef who rebuilds his reputation peddling Cuban sandwiches out of a truck after getting into a debilitating social-media spat with a powerful food critic. So why not a food boat? Enter Sasha and Tara Bouis, a young couple who spent two years fixing up a hulk of an old motorsailer and rebuilt it as a floating pizzeria, called Pizza Pi (as in the mathematical term). They just started peddling pies this past November at Christmas Cove off Great St. James Island, between St. Thomas and St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Bareboat charterers and transient cruisers take note. You should grab a bite here if you are in the vicinity.

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STEVE JOBS SUPERYACHT VENUS: Barely Escapes From Simpson Bay Lagoon

Venus aerial

And now for something completely different. Steve Jobs' 256-foot superyacht Venus, built by Feadship and completed in 2012, a year after his death, has been out and about this season and was most recently drone-videoed as it squeezed through the Simpson Bay drawbridge in St. Maarten. According to the Insider's St. Maarten Island Guide, the yacht had been in SXM for two weeks and on Saturday headed out on a private charter.

In superyacht lingo, I guess Venus is what you'd call a "Simpson-Max" vessel, as in there is no possible way it could be any bigger and still fit through this bridge:

Got hand it to the skipper: he (or she?) has got some cojones for sure.

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CRUISING SAILBOAT EVOLUTION: Multihulls and Other Alternatives

Jim Wharram

Our most recent ruminations on this topic focused on some of the popular dedicated cruising-sailboat designs that dominated mass-production boatbuilding as the industry started growing and maturing through the 1970s. It is important to remember, however, that even as fiberglass production techniques were thrusting sailboats into the heart of the 20th-century consumer economy, some cruising enthusiasts, as always, were determined to stay outside the mainstream. Many of these modern alternative cruisers favored unusual offbeat boats. One of these was James Wharram (see photo up top), who in 1954 designed and built for himself an extremely crude 24-foot plywood catamaran he called Tangaroa.

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BLACK SAILS: Pirates on TV

Black Sails combat

One thing I particularly like about the age in which we live is that there are lots of great TV shows to watch. An astounding number, really, with gritty adult themes such as we never dreamed of back in the days of straight broadcast TV, well-written scripts with subtle, involved plots, and fantastic performances from actors and actresses who can now develop truly multi-dimensional characters over the course of protracted detailed story lines. It really is putting the film industry to shame, as cable TV shows (some of them, anyway) are now far superior to most of the pablum you see in cinemas. Another thing I really like is that digital special effects have made it possible to create quite convincing action scenes involving ships under sail (see, e.g., the image up top, from the TV series in question). Gone are the days, thankfully, of blatantly fake scenes staged with models in placid swimming pools.

Given these two serendipitous trends, it was only a matter of time before someone thought to put together a cable TV series involving pirates. Given the great success of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, one might reasonably fear such a show would be just as goofy and frivolous. But the Starz Network, in its TV pirate series Black Sails, has instead steered a much more intriguing course, blending fictional characters from Robert Louis Stevenson's classic tale Treasure Island with historical characters from the golden age of piracy in the early 18th century. I just finished watching season one (now available on iTunes, as season two just started up on cable last month) and by the end was totally hooked.

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MID-BLIZZARD EVACUATION: Australians Rescued Off $10K eBay Boat

Sedona hoist

Yet another mid-winter North Atlantic Coast Guard helicopter rescue. Not off a new boat this time, but off an old 43-foot Carroll Marine racing sled, Sedona (built in 1995), that an Australian, Jason McGlashan, age 37, bought on eBay for $10,000 US. Apparently the price was too low to resist, and Jason and his dad, Reg, age 66, flew into Rhode Island a while back to prep the boat for a delivery back to Oz. The eyebrow-raising bits are that a) they departed from Jamestown last Friday, right in front of the huge blizzard we endured this weekend, and b) apparently the Coast Guard, as well as someone who had worked on the boat, strongly warned the duo not to leave.

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