News & Views

HMS BOUNTY: Final NTSB Report Released

Bounty sinking

The National Transportation Safety Board released its report on the infamous October 2012 loss of HMS Bounty yesterday, concluding "that the probable cause of the sinking of tall ship Bounty was the captain's reckless decision to sail the vessel into the well-forecasted path of Hurricane Sandy, which subjected the aging vessel and the inexperienced crew to conditions from which the vessel could not recover." No real surprise there. But on reading the report in full, I did find one bit I hadn't expected, which is that the five-member review board also determined that the captain, Robin Walbridge, was not actually under any pressure to make the ship's next appearance in Florida and that the ship could still have reached St. Petersburg on schedule if it had waited out the storm in Connecticut.

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STANLEY PARIS: What Really Happened On Kiwi Spirit?

Kiwi Spirit under sail

Thank goodness I was off having my own misadventure when Stanley Paris announced in his blog that he was abandoning his solo circumnavigation attempt and pulling into Cape Town. Otherwise there's a good chance I might have stepped in it like my SAILfeed compatriot Andy Schell did when he read the news. It seems that what set Andy off was a single phrase in Paris's announcement: "that the design of the rigging attachments to the yacht were inadequate for ocean sailing." My reaction when I read that was pretty much WTF too.

Andy made some critical assumptions and statements based on that statement and promptly got slapped down by Patrick Shaughnessy at Farr Yacht Design, the firm that designed Paris's boat, Kiwi Spirit. The implication in Shaughnessy's response, as published by Andy, is that the phrase in question refers not to the original design of the "rigging attachments," but to the design of some jury rigs created by Paris.

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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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UNTIE THE LINES: Weekly Video Series for Sailors With a Dream

Nike Steiger

Here's a bit of holiday inspiration for those of you thinking of blowing off the rat race to go cruising. Nike Steiger, a 32-year-old German woman, recently quit her marketing job, bought a 37-foot aluminum Reinke Super 10, and has been fitting it out for an open-ended adventure that may (or may not) take her to the fjords of Chile. She has been maintaining a well-produced video diary and posts short updates each week on her YouTube channel. So far the plot line has focussed mostly on the process of cleaning up and refitting her boat Karl (and its very recalcitrant engine) and on cutting ties with her old life, but now it seems she's about ready to move on.

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