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BUILDING MOORINGS: Yachtie Appreciation Week Postscript

Cement guys

I have just moved into Phase Two of my OPB Caribbean cruising season, of which more later, but wanted to share this last glimpse of the scene back in Prince Rupert’s Bay on Dominica. This occurring yesterday, as PAYS folk and various yacht people gathered on shore outside PAYS HQ to construct new mooring blocks, to witness said construction, and to enjoy a big pot-luck lunch together. This all being preceded by the inevitable island-time delay, as we waited around twiddling our thumbs for the cement-mixer guys to show up with their equipment, which did finally happen (see image up top), whereupon everything got rolling both figuratively and literally.

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OPB CARIBBEAN CRUISING: Making the Scene With PAYS and Company in Dominica

Ranger out

Phase One of my OPB (Other People’s Boats) Caribbean cruising season this winter begins in St. Maarten, where I flew in to meet Hank Schmitt and my old friend, the Swan 48 Avocation, which I once delivered to St. Maarten many moons ago after Hank first started managing her. Faithful readers will recall that I ran out of fuel at the very end of that trip waiting for the bridge to open to enter the Simpson Bay lagoon. So I considered it auspicious this time when we not only didn’t run out of fuel exiting the lagoon (which would have been extremely alarming, considering we had just left a fuel dock), but also got to queue up behind the big J-boat Ranger going out through the bridge (see photo up top).

Our passage southeast to Dominica went very well, as the easterly tradewinds had just a whiff of a northerly slant to them, which allowed us to sail the whole course on port tack in just one board. This with only a bit of cheating with the motor--from St. Maarten up to St. Bart’s to dodge some squalls, and through the lee of Guadeloupe and its sister islands. We did lose our autopilot, but we had a large crew (myself, Hank, our mutual sailing buddy Johnathan Ishmael, and two of Hank’s OPO members, Janet Schuhl and Eva Gross) so hand-steering was not onerous.

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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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