The Lunacy Report

MARINE INSURANCE: Scoring New Coverage for Bluewater Cruising

Lloyds coffehouse

As I may have mentioned, I am in the midst of getting Lunacy ready for a run down to the W'Indies. This is always a fraught process, what with the normal anxieties of worrying about whether the boat is truly ready to go offshore, putting together crew, and watching the unruly fall weather unfold. Historically for me this anxiety has always been compounded by my fussy insurance company, ACE, which insists on vetting my crews and making me fill out lots of forms before they'll give me an endorsement for a passage to the Caribbean.

Marine insurance, of course, is how the whole concept of insurance first got started. Hedging against the potential loss of a vessel and its cargo is a financial game that dates as far back as the ancient Greeks and Romans and was institutionalized in its modern form as early as the late 17th century in Edward Lloyd's famous coffee house in London (see image up top), where shipowners, merchants, and skippers all gathered together to mull over the perils of ocean-borne commerce while getting hopped up on caffeine. As such, it is fair to say that marine insurance has played a very important role in the development of our global economy, but in the context of recreational bluewater cruising it is another animal entirely.

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CASCO BAY CRUISE: Little Whaleback Island

Little Whaleback

Earlier this summer, while stopping over at the Goslings in northwestern Casco Bay, I noticed there was a small mooring field just off the north end of Little Whaleboat Island. It had never occurred to me to put in there, and I could find nothing about it in any cruising guide, or in my annual Maine Island Trail Association guide (which can be a great resource, by the way, when looking for obscure islands to visit). So of course I was intrigued. Late this past week, as I headed out on what will probably be my last solo overnight on the bay this year, I thought I might as well check it out.

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EYES ON BOATS: And Other Important Upgrades

New eyes and hole

Lunacy was on the hard last week to get her bottom cleaned and some new paint put on before she goes south for the winter, and while she was out I finally made two changes I've long been pondering. First I cut a hole in the aluminum plate (the "bob-plate" I call it) that supports her bowsprit; second I stuck a pair of eyes on her bow.

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LABOR DAY WEEKEND CRUISE: Lasers and Dogs From Outer Space

Lasers racing

As is traditional, our annual Labor Day excursion got off to a late start. But after we finally dropped Lunacy's mooring pennant in Portland harbor on Saturday afternoon, we instantly found ourselves embroiled in the Laser Atlantic Coast Championship Regatta (see photo up top), which was quite exciting. As far as I know we didn't actually get in anyone's way.

If you were there racing that day and have a different opinion, please feel free to correct me on that.

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MAINE COAST CRUISE: Mouth of the Sheepscot River

Wing-and-wing

With children fortuitously exiled in sleep-away summer activities, my bride Clare and I had a chance last week to venture out on Lunacy for several days on our own. We originally thought we might visit the Damariscotta River, but heading out from Portland last Monday we were plagued by light air and had no reasonable hope of its increasing considerably in the days ahead. This is a problem that often confronts the cruising sailor: when the wind lapses do you simply switch on the motor and go where you wanted to go anyway, or do you sail more slowly and go someplace you hadn't thought of?

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SERVICING WINCHES: A Necessary Chore

Winch service prep

I spent some time last year installing new "disc springs" on the two Andersen primary winches in Lunacy's cockpit. At that time I knew I should have also taken the trouble to clean and grease those winches, but I have exceptional procrastination skills and so managed to talk myself out of it. This season, however, the winches were screaming so loudly every time I turned them, I knew I could no longer forestall the inevitable.

Servicing winches is definitely a chore and can be a bit time-consuming if you do it properly. But it is also a pleasant job, so long as you do it carefully and deliberately and don't rush through it.

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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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