VARIOUS MISHAPS: Two Abandonments and Two Boats Sunk at Harbor Entrances

Walkabout in distress

It's been a busy fortnight in the realm of sailing mishaps. Number one involves the abandoning of a 42-foot sailing vessel Walkabout (see photo up top), whose crew of three were caught in Hurricane Julio and issued a distress call Sunday about 400 miles northeast of Oahu. They reported their liferaft had been stripped off the boat, a hatch cover had been ripped off the deck, and they were taking on water faster than they could pump. Not at all a sanguine situation.

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DOUSING THE MAINSAIL: Do It After You Park The Boat

Unfurled mainsail

I do a fair amount of singlehanded coastal cruising during the summer, usually just going out for a quick overnight whenever an opportunity presents itself. When departing my mooring at Portland Yacht Services (or any mooring for that matter), it has long been my practice to raise the mainsail before dropping the mooring pennant. That way I can get sailing ASAP, usually immediately. When anchoring or picking up a mooring, however, my habit for many years has been to douse and stow the mainsail first, then secure the boat.

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AUTOPILOT FAILURE: Back Across the Gulf of Maine

Self-steering options

I knew this day would come. I recently discussed having to make up new wood-chip "fuses" for the "electric vane" rig on Lunacy, and in the whole time I've owned the boat, about eight years now, this has been the only repair I've had to do to keep my autopilot system going. But the small tiller-pilot that is the brains of the operation is very old, and I did expect it would fail eventually. Which is what happened when Mr. Lassen and I were scuttling home from Nova Scotia a few days ago.

It wasn't a big deal at the time, as I have two back-up systems and immediately deployed both, per the photo up top. There is another tiller-pilot, a larger one, that connects directly to the tiller in the conventional fashion, rather than the windvane head, and this can steer the boat when motoring or in light sailing conditions. Also, of course, the wind paddle can be installed on the vane head, so the windvane can be used in the regular way, with the wind instead of the little tiller-pilot providing course data. In the photo here I've locked the vane head and dropped the paddle, as the big tiller-pilot is actually doing the steering.

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NOVA SCOTIA CRUISE: Fog With Everything

Lunacy in Lockeport

I am writing this in the obscure, once prosperous fishing port of Lockeport, not too many miles north of Cape Sable on Nova Scotia's so-called Southwest Coast, which actually faces east. It is not foggy now, though it was when we came in here just before sunset yesterday. So thick we couldn't see more than 30 yards and had to do a might bit of groping with chartplotter and iPad before we found the docks of the White Gull Marina (see photo up top), where we settled in for the night alongside a big turquoise Novi-style lobster boat named Newfie Kids.

We've been out eight days now and barring some unforeseen disaster while recrossing the Gulf of Maine, I can say this little voyage has been an unmitigated success. Even with the fog. And in part because of it.

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MODERN MARINE ELECTRONICS: My Obsolete Chartplotter

Plotter screen

I've been hustling a bit to get ready for this jaunt to Nova Scotia, which starts Monday. As noted earlier, I've been fretting about the charts. Thanks to Landfall Navigation, I now have all my paper charts in hand, plus tide tables and a 2014 Nautical Alamanac, just in case the world as we know it comes to an end and I have to exercise my sextant. But the really hard part, it turned out, was getting electronic charts for my 7-year-old Raymarine A65 chartplotter.

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ABANDONING BE GOOD TOO: The Skipper Responds to the Builder's Response

Hank Schmitt

As many of you know, I served as crew on Be Good Too, the Alpha 42 catamaran that was abandoned approximately 300 miles east of Chesapeake Bay in January. I published an account of the episode here on WaveTrain (which was also syndicated on SAILfeed) and also wrote a feature story for SAIL Magazine. In May I also published, without comment, a response from Gregor Tarjan, president of Aeroyacht, builder of the Alpha catamaran. (Gregor's statement was also published on SAILfeed.) Hank Schmitt (see photo up top), the paid skipper aboard Be Good Too, contacted me from Bermuda as soon as he read Gregor's statement and asked if I would publish a response from him. Hank's delivery schedule has now simmered down a bit and he found time this week to draft the following statement:

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REBEL HEART: Lawsuit Against Sat-Phone Provider

Charlotte and Eric Kaufman

Charlotte and Eric Kaufman, who brought the Wrath of the Mass Media down on their heads when they evacuated their Hans Christian 36 Rebel Heart back in April, have filed suit in San Diego against Whenever Communications LLC (doing business as Satellite Phone Store), their Iridium satellite phone service provider. As they described in their radio interview with Ira Glass on This American Life in May, they were using their phone to seek medical advice for their sick 1-year-old daughter when their service was intentionally terminated by the provider. Believing their HF radio had been disabled by a deck leak and that they had no other means of seeking help for their daughter, they set off their EPIRB and so ignited the chain of events that has since made them notorious.

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MODERN MARINE NAVIGATION: Crashing the iPad

Canadian chart catalogue

Having decided that part of this summer's cruising program on Lunacy will involve a two-week jaunt over to Nova Scotia and back, it dawned on me that I needed to make sure I actually have charts for Nova Scotia. In the previous century, which really wasn't that long ago, this would have been a simple process. I would consult my ever-growing stack of paper charts, discover I had no relevant charts, and then call the Armchair Sailor in Newport. These people were personally known to me, and I was known to them. I would say: "Hi! Howzit going? I'm sailing to Nova Scotia. I need coverage from Yarmouth to Halifax." And two days later my charts would arrive in the mail.

No fuss, no muss. Alas, the Armchair Sailor is no longer, a victim of the Internet Revolution, and procuring charts is no longer so easy.

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  • Boats & Gear

    Evaluations of both new and older sailboats (primarily cruising sailboats) and of boat gear.

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