The Lunacy Report

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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MAINE COAST CRUISE: To Thomaston and Back

Phil on Lunacy

This wasn't so much a cruise as a delivery to nowhere, as the goal was to get Lunacy from Portland to Rockland, get her measured for new sails by Doug Pope, and then get her back to Portland again as quickly as possible. The scheduled window for accomplishing this was Tuesday through Friday of last week. Coming along for the ride was my old partner-in-crime, Phil "Snakewake" Cavanaugh (see photo up top), who in his dotage has taken to wearing country-western garb while sailing.

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FATHER-DAUGHTER CRUISE: On Father's Day, No Less

Lucy aloft

This is the second time Lucy and I have done this, but the first time we've done it on Father's Day. We both thought it a good a idea, though Lucy, inevitably, wanted to know why there isn't a Daughter's Day, so we could go out then, too. Of course, we all know the answer to that. Last time, you may recall, Lucy was very focussed on climbing rocks and trees. This time it was the mast. We arrived at the Goslings quite late Sunday afternoon, having slashed through a sporty 20-knot breeze on a close reach to get there, and she had me haul her up the mast in the bosun's chair five times after we got settled in. And yes, she did almost make it to the masthead a couple of times.

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SPLASHED: In Early May! First Time Ever

Lunacy launched

Lunacy got launched and rigged at Maine Yacht Center on Monday. I was up there yesterday and managed to get all the sails on before the rain squalls started up. As you can see from the photo up top, I've scored some new canvas, courtesy of Richard Hallett: a replacement purple dodger, a new bright red sail cover, and a new bright blue sunshield on the headsail. At last this is close to the canvas-color configuration I envisioned when I first got the boat, lo these many years ago. (Please note: the canvas multi colors match those of the name graphic, the logic of which I've explained before.)

Every spring I've launched a cruising sailboat in New England, I always swear I'll be afloat as early as possible in May. But something always happens--endless varnishing projects (back when I had boats with brightwork), or some awful unforeseen time-consuming repair (most commonly), or simple mission creep (stuff taking much longer than expected)--and usually I'm lucky if the damn boat is in by mid-June. So I'm feeling pretty pleased about this. Apprehensive, too. As predicted in my last post on this subject, the blizzard should be hitting any day now!

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RUDDER SKEG REPAIR: Getting Ready for Spring

Lunacy hull

IT'S HERE! Spring, I mean. Though there is still snow in the forecast up here in New England, and even in Annapolis, from which I returned last night after holding forth at the World Cruising Club Ocean Sailing Seminar over the weekend. I have an awful feeling I will actually succeed (for once!) in getting Lunacy launched in early to mid-May this year... and there will then be a HUGE BLIZZARD the day after she splashes.

We are forging ahead regardless, so I stopped by Maine Yacht Center last week to see how the old girl's rudder-skeg repair is coming along.

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CRUISING VIEQUES: Top Secret Unexploded Ordinance Map Revealed

Vieques map

The current (November 2013) issue of Yachting World contains a nice feature story I wrote about all the sailing I did on Lunacy last winter in the Spanish Virgin Islands. The theory, of course, is that this will inspire people to sail there this winter. When preparing the story, I therefore made a point of including an accurate map showing which parts of Vieques (a former U.S. Navy gunnery range) are still closed to the public due to the danger of unexploded ordinance. Believe it or not, I did have some trouble coming by this information when I was in the Spanish Virgins, and I impressed upon David Glenn, editor-in-chief at YW, that anyone visiting the area should find it very useful.

Of course, the comic didn't have space to print my map, so I thought I better post it here (see image up top), seeing as how I went to all the trouble of drawing it. If you do visit Vieques this year and somehow manage to blow yourself up, now you can't blame me. But on the other hand, if you want your visit to the island to be as interesting as mine was, you might want to forget to bring the map.

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LOBSTER YACHT VARIATIONS: Research Continues

Lobster yacht quarter

My father has been unhospitalized, and I have resumed the aborted Fall Solo Mini-Cruise aboard Lunacy. I found this lobster yacht, provocatively named, in the cove just north of Malaga Island off Sebasco and thought it made an interesting contrast to the one discussed at the end of my post on Bustins Island. I like it much better--it obviously was once a working fishing vessel, but doesn't pretend to be any longer. The huge barbecue behind the house is a nice touch and makes it clear what the current priorities are.

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