News & Views

YACHTIE APPRECIATION WEEK: Good Times and New Moorings at Dominica

Prince Rupert's Bay

Attention all Caribbean cruisers! This is an event you’ll want to check out if you’re in the area. My old partner-in-crime Hank Schmitt and his organization, Offshore Passage Opportunities (OPO), have conspired with the Tourism Board of Dominica and with the Dominica Portsmouth Association of Yacht Security (PAYS) to launch the first annual Yachtie Appreciation Week (YAW) in Prince Rupert’s Bay (see photo up top) this February 14-21. During the event all visiting yachts will get free moorings and their “yachtie” crews will be eligible for discounts on island tours and will also get to enjoy some serious partying in the evenings.

My understanding is all you have to do to qualify is show up on a boat! Plus, if you’re wondering what to do afterwards, the St. Maarten Yacht Club is organizing a race/rally to feed boats from Dominica up to St. Maarten in time for the Heineken Regatta.

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LOST CHARTER CAT: Sunsail Versus Families of the Missing Crew Members

Cat plaque

This is getting increasingly intense. The overturned Leopard 44 catamaran that set out from South Africa on a routine delivery and was lost in the Indian Ocean over a year ago, then miraculously reappeared upside down off South Africa just last month, was taken in tow, and then lost again, still has not been rediscovered. Unfortunately. Meanwhile, Sunsail, the boat’s owner, and the families of the missing crew members have today released separate statements that are decidedly at odds. At this point I am not prepared to comment on this conflict. You can read the statements yourself and draw your own conclusions. The image up top is the photo referenced in the Sunsail statement.

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LONG WAY HOME: Charter Cat Lost on Delivery Returns to South Africa Upside Down One Year Later

Capsized cat

It was a little over a year ago, on December 14, 2014, that skipper Anthony Murray (58) and two crew members, Reginald Robertson (60) and Jaryd Payne (20), set out from Cape Town to deliver a new Leopard 44 catamaran into charter service in Phuket, Thailand. The un-named vessel, described variously in reports online as belonging to Sunsail or the Moorings, was last heard from via sat phone on January 18, 2015, at which time it was in some proximity to Cyclone Bansi in the Indian Ocean well west of Australia. Family members of the missing crew reported the vessel missing 10 days after it failed to arrive on schedule in Thailand in early February of last year and since then have worked tirelessly trying to figure out what happened to it. After multiple sightings of an overturned catamaran east of Mauritius and Reunion and now most recently off the South African coast, a tugboat now has what is very likely to be the missing cat in tow and is headed back to Cape Town.

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PETER JOHNSTONE: No Longer at the Helm at Gunboat

There were a lot of subterranean rumors flying around the show in Annapolis last October about big trouble at Gunboat, so I wasn’t too surprised when the company announced the following month that they were filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy (to reorganize rather than liquidate). Boatbuilding has always been a skin-of-the-teeth business and Gunboat had suffered a string of misfortunes, what with its messy legal dispute with its ex-build partner in China, the tragic abandonment of hull number one of the new Gunboat 55 series, and the dramatic capsizing while racing of the hot new foiling G4. I figured they’d cut a court-supervised deal with their creditors and get on with it. So I was a bit taken aback when I learned yesterday that the company will be sold at auction and that Peter Johnstone, its founder and sole owner, has stepped down as president.

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MARION-BERMUDA RACE: Triumphant Family Crew

I should have mentioned this earlier in the year, but now I have this great recently posted YouTube video to share with you, so I can pretend this was my plan all along. My compadre at SAIL Magazine, Andy Howe (regional sales manager for the Northeast, Upper Midwest & Eastern Canada) scored a major coup back in June while serving as navigator in the Marion-Bermuda Race aboard an antique 36-foot Alden Mistral named Ti that belongs to (and was skippered by) his cousin Gregg Marston. Navigating with a sextant, Andy plotted the course that led the crew of Ti to a veritable quinfecta of victories: first in class, first in the celestial division, first overall, plus they won the Family Trophy and Andy won the Navigator’s Trophy.

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OYSTER TELLS ALL: Statement on Polina Star Keel Failure

Grid damage

Yes, that headline is tongue-in-cheek. But just a little. That Oyster has made a public statement at all is to their credit. I cannot remember any other instance where a production builder has made any sort of substantive statement after a keel failure. This one is not as substantive as it could be, but they at least admit there is (or was) a "possible" production defect.

It is worth remembering that Oyster Marine is no longer owned by its founder Richard Matthews, who sold out to a fledgling private equity company for $50M+ British pounds back in 2008. I personally tend to doubt it is merely a coincidence that the company’s first known major production problem, after many decades of building boats, occurred after vampire capitalists took control. I would be very surprised if a boat built by Matthews ever suffered damage like this. I have sail-tested a few Oysters and sailed on one once from Virginia to Bermuda through the edge of a hurricane, and I remember pre-buyout Oysters as being reassuringly overbuilt.

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CALLING ALL VIKINGS: Volunteer Crew Needed for Transatlantic Voyage on a 115-Foot Longship

Harald under sail

Man, if I were younger (and childless) I’d be all over this opportunity like a fly on excrement. Draken Harald Hårfagre (that’s “Dragon Harald Fairhair” in English) is a modern interpretation (rather than an accurate replica) of an old Viking longship that was built in Haugesund, Norway, and launched in 2012. In May next year she will set out on a voyage from Norway to Newfoundland via Iceland and Greenland, and the project organizers have just announced they are accepting applications for volunteer crew. You need at least two months of free time to do it and presumably should have some sort of useful skill to boost your chances of being selected.

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ANOTHER MAJOR KEEL FAILURE: What Really Happened to Polina Star III?

Polina Star III hauled

The genesis of this story was an incident that occurred back in July of this year in which Polina Star III, an Oyster 825, which reportedly had been extended to 90 feet and was just over a year old, was lost off the coast of Spain. The very first report came from Oyster, but contained no details, stating only that the boat “suffered a serious incident which compromised the integrity of the moulded hull.” A follow-up report by Yachting World, published in August, added little more, noting only that Oyster believed the boat may have run aground and there were rumors it had capsized before foundering.

In the last few days the Italian skipper of the boat has been sharing his account of the event, and photos of the wreck, which was recovered and has been closely examined, have also been circulating online. Though the exact causes are unclear, it is perfectly clear that there was no grounding and that the boat suffered from major hull delamination that led to its keel suddenly falling off.

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THRASH TO WINDWARD: Swan 60 Delivery from Florida to Tortola

Foredeck in art mode

This is called going against the flow: sailing from Florida to the W’Indies against the prevailing easterly tradewinds. I did something similar many years ago, moving a Taswell 56 from Great Exuma in the Bahamas to St. Thomas, and remember it as an exercise in gross masochism. Like banging your head against a wall… for days on end. When you do it in little hops, from one Bahamian island to the next, they call it the Thorny Path. When you do it all in one fell swoop they should maybe call it the Quantum Thorny Leap.

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