2016 VENDEE GLOBE: A Mob Scene and Then Some

Vendee dock

About 16 years ago I wrote a story for SAIL Magazine about sailing in the Sydney-Hobart Race and dropped a line about having died and gone to heaven, as at last I’d found a place where ocean sailing was considered a top-tier sport. Well, this week it’s like I’ve died all over again and heaven is even grander than before. It's also very French. Before I left to travel here to Les Sables d’Olonne I told some non-sailing friends of mine I was going to the start of the world’s most popular sailboat race. “Like the America’s Cup?” they asked. “No, this is much bigger than that,” I answered. And it is, and it’s a shame the French get it mostly to themselves.

I hope I don’t really have to explain this to anyone who reads this blog, but just in case: these guys are racing non-stop around the world all alone. It's a very simple concept, but also a very large one.

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LUNACY STILL AVAILABLE FOR PURCHASE: Price Reduced (Dog Not Included)

Lunacy under sail

Given the bad luck I had when we sea-trialed Lunacy during her purchase survey (dead autopilot and massive shaft-seal leak) it’s not too surprising her putative buyers have not purchased her. The story of how the deal has gone since then has been nearly as big a psycho-drama as this year’s presidential election. I will spare you the tedious details. Suffice it to say the sales contract expired a month ago. The boat’s problems have been resolved (indeed she has been upgraded in some particulars) and she is still a simple, strong bluewater cruiser of a type that rarely comes on the market here in the United States. Even better, she did pass her audio-gauge hull survey with flying colors. For more particulars on Lunacy you can check my original “for sale” post. Her asking price is now reduced from my Optimistic Summer Season number to a More Realistic Fall Season number: $118,500. Negotiable, of course.

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2016 ANNAPOLIS TEST SAILS: Xquisite X5, Solaris 50

X5 stern

Day two of my test-sailing regimen on Chesapeake Bay earlier this month involved just two boats, both a good deal larger (50-footers) than the three I sailed on day one. The wind forecast, lamentably, was for even lighter conditions overall than the day before. This worried me a bit, particularly with respect to my first ride, the impressive X5 cruising catamaran on which I bloviated at some length in my post on the Annapolis show. We approached her via water taxi in the morning as she lay at anchor off the Naval Academy (see image up top), and I noted with dismay the mostly unruffled water on which she floated.

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2016 ANNAPOLIS TEST SAILS: Allures 39.9, Seawind 1190 Sport, Fareast 23R

Allures cockpit

I had a full dance card my first day testing boats last week after the show closed down, and as often happens on Chesapeake Bay, even in the fall, the forecast was for increasingly light conditions through the day and on into the next. Fortunately, the boats I was sailing also got increasingly lighter as the day wore on, starting with the Allures 39.9, a nice aluminum centerboard cruiser from France. I enjoyed an excellent sail in 9-12 knots of breeze with these prospective buyers (seen here enjoying the comfy cockpit with high-backed coamings) as well as Pete McGonagle from Swiftsure Yachts (they represent Allures in the U.S.) and one Brian, the boat’s owner.

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SINGLEHANDER BILL SHAW LOSES HIS BOAT: A Very Different Sort of Ordeal

Galena under sail

The relevant thread at Cruisers Forum is titled Abandoned Westsail 32 Free For Taking, and it’s not just a salvage hyperbole. The gent who abandoned the boat, Galena (seen above), less than 200 miles northwest of Fiji, has declared he will make no claim on it if it is recovered. He just wants someone to get it. Which shouldn’t be too hard, as its position when abandoned is known, wasn't too far from shore, and its AIS transceiver, as of three days ago, was still transmitting.

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2016 ANNAPOLIS SAILBOAT SHOW: Odds and Ends and Just Plain Odd

X5 catamaran

I knew this would be an amusing show when I quickly deduced that this unlikely looking vessel, the new Exquisite X5 catamaran from South Africa, would likely prove one of the more interesting vessels on site. Yes, yes. I know what you’re thinking. I have sometimes complained, in a condescending tone, of how many modern powerboats are designed to look like running shoes, and here we have a sailboat that clearly falls into that same category. But really, I swear, this is a very cool boat.

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NATHAN CARMAN: Suspicious Circumstances Surrounding His Week Adrift in a Liferaft

Carman in raft

Not a sailing story this one, but it does involve boats, and it’s a fascinating breaking news item. The question raised: could a young man with Asperger’s Syndrome possibly have contrived to kill his mother by 1) luring her out on a fishing trip 100 miles offshore in a 32-foot open boat, 2) scuttling the boat, and 3) taking to a liferaft without said mother (or an EPIRB) to await rescue??? Such was the noxious cloud of skepticism that followed Nathan Carman ashore after the aptly named freighter Orient Lucky last week plucked him from the raft (see image up top) in which he’d been floating helplessly for eight days.

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PURCHASE SURVEY: Everything Right Is Wrong Again

Hauled out

I have not mentioned this, as I didn’t want to jinx anything, but Lunacy has been under contract to be sold for some time now. The putative buyers, Nico and Amy, mentioned earlier, enjoyed two test-sails back in August before making an offer and this past week arranged to have the boat surveyed. First a short sea trial so Surveyor One, Gene Barnes, could scope out the engine, then a haul-out at Maine Yacht Center (see image up top) so Surveyor Two, Mike Whitten, could probe the hull with an audio gauge while Gene poked around some more.

My anti-jinx precautions, alas, had little effect, and the sea trial proved embarrassing. First the primary autopilot (the old Autohelm 2000 tillerpilot, which drives the head of the Aries windvane) failed to work properly. Then the PSS shaft-seal (which was replaced just last year) decided to stop sealing and spontaneously filled the bilge with seawater. Fortunately, these problems are resolvable.

The third thing that went wrong was that Mike, the audio-gauge guy, simply forgot to show up. So we had to schedule a Survey Day Two, which made this the longest survey I have ever attended.

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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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    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.

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

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