HAX AND FLAX: Navico Electro-Junket in the Florida Keys

Junket boats underway

I spent much of last week at the Hawk's Cay Resort in Florida hobnobbing with a large clutch of my fellow marine journos (a.k.a. the "hacks") and an even larger clutch of brand and tech gurus from Navico, the marine electronics conglomerate, courtesy of PR mavens Rus Graham and Andrew Golden (a.k.a. the "flacks"). It was, I think, the largest marine-industry junket I've ever attended, with a total of 24 hacks running around in nine different test boats being chased by two different photo boats. And, yes, of course these chaperoned love-fests are inherently incestuous, but they are also exceedingly educational.

Navico, in case you hadn't noticed, has been in serious PacMan mode and has gobbled up a number of marine-electronics companies over the past several years. In the process it has made itself into the largest player in the recreational market and has distilled what were once seven rather diffuse brands into a pure nucleus of three well-established power brands: Lowrance, Simrad, and B&G. The idea moving forward is that each of these will develop and market products specialized for their respective niches, as in Lowrance = smaller fishing boats, Simrad = larger power cruisers and sport-fishing boats (and also commercial vessels up to 300 gross tons), and B&G (of course) = sailboats.

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SOUTH ATLANTIC CATAMARAN DELIVERY: Busted in Brazil

Doubletime underway

Given recent events, I thought maybe I should tell you about what happened last time I did a cat delivery with Hank Schmitt. This was seven years ago, in January 2007, and the short version of the story is that I ended up getting arrested. The boat--a brand new Scape 39 Sport Cruiser built in Cape Town, South Africa--belonged to a man named Wayne. He had hired Hank to skipper the delivery all the way across the South Atlantic to Grenada and was willing to pay airfare for one extra crew member to fly into Cape Town, which is where I came in.

Hank and I crawled off the plane, nearly jet-lagged to death, to be greeted by Wayne and a litany of his woes: 1) the boat, already over six weeks late, was not finished yet; 2) Wayne's wife, who had come to attend the launching and sea-trials, had broken her leg and had to fly home again; and 3) the apartment they were renting had just been destroyed in a fire.

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BE GOOD TOO: Answering Critics

Internet dogs

Silly me. I thought publishing my account of abandoning Be Good Too would decrease rather than increase speculative and critical commentary among the baying dogs of the Internet. I suppose I should have known better. Unlike some folks out there, I don't have the free time to write multiple screeds on all the sailing forums, so I thought I'd address some issues that have been raised here.

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HELICOPTER EVACUATION: Abandoning Be Good Too

Helo hoist

"I can say for certain that was the best helicopter ride of my life. It was also the best shower." --statement by Gunther Rodatz to U.S. Coast Guard airbase personnel; Elizabeth City, North Carolina; Jan. 14, 2014

THERE HAS ALREADY BEEN a lot of buzz about what happened Tuesday morning approximately 300 miles off the Virginia coast, when owners Gunther and Doris Rodatz, together with delivery skipper Hank Schmitt and myself, abandoned the 42-foot catamaran Be Good Too courtesy of a U.S. Coast Guard Jayhawk helicopter crew. As is usually the case, much of it has been speculative, and some people have complained that we need not have left the boat. True facts have been a little hard to come by. Here on my own blog, at least, I can do what I can to correct that.

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WEIRD SCIENCE AND GADGETS: Saildrones, Jet Packs, Dog Poop

Saildrone under sail

Here's a trifecta of odd news that has lately teased my nautical mind. May as well lead with the Saildrone, an autonomous sailing robot that has recently completely a passage from San Francisco to Hawaii and is now sailing around in circles about 800 miles south of Oahu. To date it has covered some 6,000 miles at an average speed of 2.5 knots

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SWIMMING WITH DOLPHINS: Dying in the Wild, Festering in Captivity

Dead dolphin

Dolphins on my mind. First, this great plague that has visited them. In the past year, over 1,000 dolphins on the U.S. East Coast have been documented as having died of a measles-like morbillivirus (see photo up top). The last time such an epidemic swept the coast, in the late 1980s, it is believed the virus wiped out about half the population of coastal migratory dolphins, and this time it only promises to be worse. Already documented deaths have exceeded the toll in the 1980s, and the epidemic shows no signs of abating.

We stopped at the Dolphin Research Center (DRC) on Grassy Key during our ongoing post-Xmas Florida vacation, and the folks there are clearly concerned. I had signed up our girls for a so-called "Dolphin Encounter," and the very first question they asked during the pre-swim orientation was whether anybody had recently been handling dead dolphins on beaches.

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ONLINE VISUALIZATIONS: Melted Ice Caps, Global Wind

Flooded Florida

There seems to be a mild proliferation lately of cool online weather and climate toys to play with. I quite like the Ocean Currents Map I recently mentioned here, and now comes two more visualization gadgets to help hone your procrastination skills. The more alarming one is a Rising Seas interactive map from National Geographic that shows where the land will and won't be once the polar ice caps have finished melting.

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CHEMINEES POUJOULAT: A Broken Monohull and Flipping Trimarans

Trimaran capsize

Even if you leave out the America's Cup, there's no way you can say sailboat racing is boring these days. The fastest boats are now so powerful and so fragile, you never know what's going to happen. Witness this year's holiday season disaster in which Bernard Stamm and Damien Guillou were rescued off the British coast on Christmas Eve after their Open 60 Cheminees Poujoulat broke in half and sank. Stamm and Guillou, who just finished fourth in the Transat Jaques Vabre, were delivering the boat back to France and were sailing conservatively in a 45-knot gale when the hull slammed off a steep wave and cracked open just forward of its daggerboards.

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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.

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    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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