Lit Bits

LEE QUINN: He Sailed to Tahiti With an All-Girl Crew

Lee Quinn

Sailors of a certain age will remember seeing this B-movie title in TV listings for certain low-budget UHF stations back in the day: I Sailed To Tahiti With an All-Girl Crew. I certainly remember it, and I've used the title as a throw-away line most of my life, but I don't think I ever actually sat through the whole movie. Quite recently I learned there was a real person and a real story that inspired the making of that film, and (as is so often the case) the real story is actually much more interesting than the one Hollywood told. This concerns a professional steeplejack, Lee Quinn (see photo up top), who had a strong adventurous streak and sort of inevitably fell into the sport of ocean sailing starting in the 1950s.

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CRASH TEST BOAT: Eight Simulated Emergencies All in One Book!

Propane explosion

Those of you who don't follow the British sailing comics may have missed the Crash Test Boat series of articles that ran in Yachting Monthly a few years back. It was a brilliant premise, cooked up by then-editor Paul Gelder: lay hands on an average plain-vanilla cruising boat and test it to death, carefully documenting everything that does and does not work when coping with various simulated emergencies. Over a period of eight months, YM systematically "tested to destruction" a 1982 Jeanneau Sun Fizz ketch and created an extremely useful series of articles and videos. All that material is now available in one book, appropriately titled The Crash Test Boat, published by Adlard Coles.

In all the book covers eight carefully crafted simulations: running aground, capsizing, a dismasting, creating a jury rig, sinking (hull breach), major leaks (failed seacock or through-hull fitting), fire onboard, and a propane explosion. The last, inevitably, wasn't really a simulation. They actually did blow up the boat (see photo up top), sort of like blowing out the candles on a birthday cake, as a magnificent denouement to Paul's career as a yachting journalist and editor.

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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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SYDNEY-HOBART RACE: Chundering to Tasmania

Hobart Race deck scene

Editor's Note: Tis the season. The dreaded materialistic frenzy that is Christmas is nearly upon us, to be immediately followed (thank God) by the big race to Hobart. The early forecast this year is for a downwind sleigh ride, and Bob Oatley's super-maxi Wild Oats XI may have a good chance at breaking her course record, set just last year, of 1 day, 18 hours, and change. Course records aren't that easy to come by in this race, and two in successive years would be a notable achievement. So I'll be watching developments with interest. Meanwhile, I thought I'd share this account of my one-and-only Sydney-Hobart experience, circa year 2000.

MY RIDE, appropriately enough, was named Antipodes. She wasn't a racing boat, but a dedicated cruiser, a Taswell 56, built in 1991 to a design by Bill Dixon. I had first met her in the Canary Islands in 1992 while bumming around the North Atlantic as pick-up crew.

During my tenure aboard, her owner, Geoff Hill, generous to a fault, shared with me his unique Australian essence, taught me the words to several songs whose lyrics cannot be repeated in polite company, and promised he would one day lure me to the Land of Oz. Her skipper, Glenn Belcher, an unreconstructed rebel from South Carolina, took good care of me and learned me a thing or two about sailing as we voyaged across the Atlantic from the Canaries to the Bahamas.

When Geoff finally decided to keep his promise eight years later, he cut right to the chase. Just a one-line e-mail flickering at me like pornography from across the Internet: Could you would you should you dare do the 2000 Hobart race with me and Cap'n Ahab Belcher and a motley crew of Aussies on good ship Antipodes?

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