|NEWSLETTER -- August 2005|
Sudden death on the deck?
Musings by Karen Larson
What looks like chalk outlines from a police investigation on the deck of our home are really just little reminders to me about reading directions and being satisfied with the status quo.
It started when a sailing friend mentioned a wonderful cleaning product that had removed all the mildew and most of the mildew stains from her foul-weather gear. I realized that our foul-weather jackets and bibs weren’t cheap. And they’ve seen better days. I figured I’d try the OxiClean product my friend recommended. Fortunately, for Jerry anyway, I started with just my suit.
While the reminder on the deck remains to tell this tale, a few months have passed so some of the details have lost sharpness. I think I began by testing a small patch on my foulies for colorfastness. Nothing terrible happened. The spot did look cleaner than the surrounding area. So I threw the suit into a very, very hot cauldron of OxiClean detergent in the washing machine, let it churn a bit, and then turned the machine off so the whole shebang could have a good soak for an hour or so.
Later I let the wash cycle finish up and removed my — now much cleaner — foulies for inspection. They looked great! I was ready to do the same to Jerry’s suit. But wait! A rubber sealant tape had been applied to the inside of each seam. These tapes were now melted globs, stuck together like sticky bundles of Scotch tape here and there between the liner and the waterproof covering material. I had to find ways to go inside the lining of the jacket and pants to remove these rubberized wads. Not good.
And the navy blue wool collar of the jacket had been vulcanized by the addition of bits of red rubber. Not soft and snug anymore. Probably not good. Certainly not good looking. In addition, there were some “colorfastness issues” at the zippers, seams, and on some of the materials built into the suit for long wear (particularly the white lower band of the jacket which is now vulcanized to a red hue reminiscent of the blue collar).
It was then that I became interested in the washing instructions on the suit itself (on my behalf, though, I would like to point out that I did read the directions on the container of OxiClean). These directions on the suit, wrinkled, but still legible, state: “Shell: 100% Nylon with PVC coating. Washing instructions — machine washable, warm water, gentle cycle, drip dry only, do not bleach, do not dry clean.” (In retrospect, it would appear that steeping the suit in a very hot bleach solution was a bad idea.)
Since so much rubber coating had transplanted itself to the white band and collar of the jacket and to the zippers and seams, I began to wonder whether the suit was even waterproof anymore. Jerry had his doubts, too, so at his insistence I climbed into the shower fully attired in my foul-weather clothing. I did not get wet, yet the doubts remained. So I bought a can of the finest waterproofing spray Sailrite has to offer and laid the suit out on the deck to receive a “touch-up treatment.” (This was done after testing the spray first on a small spot, I might add, although the size of the potential loss from a chemical failure was becoming smaller all the time.)
Finally, I sprayed the suit jacket and bibs liberally, front and back. I used the entire can of spray. The overspray on the deck would indicate the remains of two dead persons: two pair of legs and two upper bodies.
But it’s really the outline of the front and back sides of just one set of somewhat revived wet gear there to tell the tale. Each time it rains (and it has done so quite often this year!), the waterproofing on the deck where the overspray hit the wood is a gentle reminder to leave well enough alone . . . and if you can’t do that, read the instructions first. (Wait a minute! On the other hand, I may have discovered a new preservative for unfinished wood!)
What's coming in September
For the love of sailboats
• Yankee Dolphin
• Pearson 28-2
• Whitby 42
• Nicholcon 31 refit
• Cabot company: history and resurrection
• Rope 101
• Marine corrosion
• What do you do when the engine quits?
• LED projects
• Low-cost outfitting
• Mast step repair
• Replacing the cabin sole
Just for fun
• Swiftsure Classic yacht race
• Prayers over a Princess stove
• In the doghouse
• Apostle Islands photo spread
• Reflections: Beyond the breakwater
• Quick and easy: Retrieval belt for your boat, Space-saving bolsters, Curing mast rattle
• Simple solutions: Replacing those dreaded cigarette lighter plugs
In the news
Joe Rahn of Lakeland Boatworks, Inc. is pleased to announce the introduction of their latest model, The Charlevoix, a 32 ft. shoal draft trailerable sailboat that will be launched in Ironton on August 9, 2005, for her maiden voyage to the ports of Charlevoix, Bay Harbor, Beaver Island, Mackinaw Island and arriving for the Le Cheneaux Islands Classic Wooden Boat Show on August 13, in Hessel, MI. For more information call Joe Rahn -269-795-9441.
Here’s something new that might catch on: an eBay-type site for boaters. As we write this, the site is in the test mode. When you read this, however, it should be running live. A quick look now reveals little about sailboats and a lot about powerboats (just like in the real world). Still, if you’re an eBay addict, you might want to keep an eye on http://www.boatergaragesale.com.
Progressive Epoxy displays “true grit”
Paul Oman of Progressive Epoxy Polymers writes, “After a year of thinking about how to do it, I created a non-skid grit page comparing size and textures with coffee grounds being the common denominator size. I don’t know if you can do anything with it, but it gives some idea of grit sizes and uses. We went to Paul’s site to have a look. See what you think: http://www.epoxyproducts.com/grit.html.
Own locally, sail globally
In the April issue of this newsletter, we mentioned a new boat-exchange site called Boatswop.com. These things seem to be popping up all over. Now there’s another one called Yachtingswap.com. As an incentive, this new site is offering free registration for the year 2005 until the end of September. Check them out at http://www.yachtingswap.com.
The Great Lakes Wooden Boat Society
will hold their 23rd Annual Wooden Boat Regatta at the Huron Mini Boat Basin, August 12-14, Huron Ohio. For information see http://www.geocities.com/glwss or call 743-675-4786 or 440-871-8194
23rd Annual Antique and Classic Boat Festival
August 20-21, Hawthorne Cove Marina, 10 White St., Salem, MA. For information, http://www.by-the-sea.com/bacbfestival or 617-666-8530, 617-868-7587
The Cape Dory Rendezvous
is scheduled for August 2-4 at the Conanicut Marina, Jamestown, RI. For more information contact Fleet Captain Cathy Monaghan, 732-381-3549 or email or go to http://www.capedory.org.
35th Annual Newport International Boat Show
September 15-18, Newport Yachting Center, Newport, Rhode Island. Contact: 401-846-1115 or visit their website, http://www.newportboatshow.com.
Starcraft Seaflite 12.5
We recently purchased a Starcraft Seaflite 12.5 sailboat at a garage sale. The owner said it was built in 1966. We have done multiple searches on the Internet trying to locate any information about the boat. We know it was rigged wrong and would like to see how it was originally rigged. If you know of any resources for information, we would greatly appreciate the lead.
Dave and Carrie Reid
I have a Peterson 30.5 ton designed by Doug Peterson. I really like the boat but haven’t been able to obtain any information about it: strengths, weaknesses etc. Any help?
Texas Marine 22
I am buying a 1981 Texas Marine 22-footer. I can’t find anything on the Internet. It has a swing keel but it doesn’t hide into the hull. Any ideas?
Mast for a Bristol 29.9
Dimensions 4.5"x7.25" by 42'2". Original mast was produced by Metalmast but the extrusion is no longer available. Mast from the Northeast preferred due to shipping costs.
Barnett Boat Company
Do you know anything about the Barnett Boat Company of Kenosha Wisconsin? I am restoring a little 16-foot sloop — looks like about 1970s vintage — for a friend and would like some info on it if at all possible.
Take your dog along
I read Jill Knight’s article (May 2005) on cruising with pets on our 5-week vacation sail — our first extended cruise with our dog, Quiche Lorraine, aboard. Jill gave many tips for cat owners and long-term voyagers. May I offer a few for vacationing cruisers considering taking the dog along?
Our dog, a 35-pound lab mix, is approaching 15 years old. She had never been a salty dog, but taking an elderly, vision- and hearing-impaired, arthritic dog aboard a 30-foot sailboat was the better choice than kenneling her. Sadly, we knew from experience the effects of prolonged kenneling on old dogs, no matter how posh the “dog spa.”
First bit of advice: choose cruising grounds the dog will take to. This year, we cruised the Florida Keys and Florida’s west coast, coming across the state via the Okeechobee Waterway and back to Miami, rather than our original Bahamian destination. Dogs do like time on the shorelines, though even on this trip there were days when she could not go ashore. (Yikes, look at all the alligators!) However, the days without land were fewer, and the sailing gentler than the Eleuthera option. An added benefit was that our vacation was more relaxing for not buying into the “farther and faster” mentality.
Second: dogs will adapt and will relieve themselves when they need to. Until Q understood the system, there were long stretches where she did not void, which made us almost as uncomfortable as she must have been. Even old dogs eventually learn new tricks, including voiding in the cockpit (our choice given her mobility limitations) or other space you provide.
Related to this, don’t judge the dog un-cruiseworthy from weekend sails. We had our doubts, based on our weekend excursions. For the first week or so, Q was out of sorts. Once she learned her new tricks and realized the benefits of frequent swims, three meals a day, and lots of attention, she had as good a time as we did, and we had a better time for having her with us.
Third: think beyond commercial dog food. Dogs are similar to humans in their nutritional needs. Q ate primarily leftovers. When cruising undeveloped keys and near shore, garbage disposal is a problem and canine “garbage compaction service” is an asset. Additionally, moist leftovers reduce the dog’s need for water, which can be in short supply on a boat. (Ask your veterinarian for advice; we have fed each of our dogs vegetarian “people food” all their long lives, and neither the vets nor the dogs have objected.) However, even with “wet” food, Q drank (and spilled) her share of water, so plan accordingly.
Fourth: a “super soaker” pool toy aids in cleaning dog messes. We purchased the longest barreled water-shooting pool toy available. When we needed to clean out the cockpit (sometimes just from dog hair), it was as simple as reaching overboard to load, and shooting the cockpit clean. The super soaker was also great for cleaning the anchor, when it came up muddy.
Fifth: Q wore a harness at all times. Ours was purchased online from Ruff Wear and is designed for securing and lifting search and rescue dogs, but it comes in smaller sizes as well. It has two underbody straps and one running along the chest, distributing the dog’s weight when she is lifted. For those of us without sugar-scoop transoms, a safe, convenient way of hauling the dog in and out of the boat and dinghy is imperative.
Sixth: dogs like beds. We cut up an inexpensive closed-cell foam pad that goes under a sleeping bag when camping and put a grommet in the corner to allow easy overboard cleaning.
Last: I’m happy to report that the shedding does subside. It is worst in the first week or two, then the frequent swims and loving brushings help. We used a plastic cat brush with good results. The circular disk has teeth that extend with a twist of the wrist, and retract, cleaning off the hair with the opposite direction twist.
Go on. Your dog deserves a vacation too.
Biodiesel for automobiles
“Biodiesel for Sailors,” by Durkee Richards (July 2005) was a well-done article on this potential boat fuel. I have recently converted my diesel Mercedes car to run on used vegetable oil (UVO). UVO can be the raw material for biodiesel and with proper filtering and using the engine’s coolant to heat the oil to reduce viscosity, it works like biodiesel. I can report that in a car, where the tank is filled often and the expense and effort of a conversion and collection/filtering setup is easier to justify, it makes more sense than in a sailboat that might only use 20 gallons a year.
To convert an engine properly to run on UVO requires two separate tanks, a 6-way valve, a heat exchanger for the fuel and possibly a 12-v fuel heater as well to make sure the UVO is the proper temperature for efficient burning. In addition, a collection/settling/filtering setup has to be put together in a garage or shed for cleaning up the UVO. I burn through 100 gallons a month in my car, but it doesn’t make much sense to go through the effort if your sailboat will only use 20 gallons for the year. A trawler might be a different story.
One advantage not mentioned is that biodiesel, like UVO, tends to make engines run quieter. If I run 100 percent UVO in my car, the difference in the noise level is astonishing; I would say the normal diesel clatter is cut in half. The engine also idles more smoothly on UVO than it ever did on diesel. One disadvantage is that since I get my UVO from a variety of local restaurants and my exhaust smells like hamburgers, I’m afraid I may inadvertently be contributing to the country’s obesity problem!
But there is another potential problem with biodiesel — one marine surveyor reported that what is believed to be an orthothalic polyester coating in the fiberglass tanks of a Cheoy Lee motorsailer became hard and brittle after 100 percent biodiesel was used. The coating flaked off and apparently dissolved in the biodiesel and damaged the engine’s injection pump (epoxy resin may stand up better to biodiesel). This is an isolated example, but it serves to point out that biodiesel is a very aggressive solvent. (I was amazed at the cleaning power of UVO the first time I spilled it on my greasy hands; it was superior to diesel or kerosene). Care should be taken when using it in high percentages, especially in non-metallic tanks. Additionally, many biodiesel sources recommend avoiding copper, brass, and zinc (as in galvanizing) in fuel systems.
Biodiesel, like gasoline, is designed for non-marine applications — it is to be expected that a few unforeseen problems will crop up in boats, especially in blends with a high percentage of biodiesel. That doesn’t mean that B20 or even B5 doesn’t have many advantages for engines as well as the earth.
My car has not been converted completely and I am taking a bit of a chance on coking the injectors, combustion chamber, and piston rings — all in the name of furthering the knowledge base. Cold UVO is much more viscous than diesel and will not burn completely, though I believe some engines can tolerate it. In a true conversion, the engine is started on diesel (or biodiesel) until the engine and UVO is warmed and then the fuel supply is switched to UVO. A few minutes before shutdown, the engine is again run on diesel to purge the lines so that the next start-up will not be on UVO (and in the winter, UVO has a much higher cloud point and will solidify in the fuel system — a coolant-heated tank and fuel lines are used to reliquify the UVO before it’s ready to burn). This is still experimental technology, and I would have some concerns about the stability of UVO sitting in a sailboat tank for months. So far, research has shown that straight vegetable oil (pure, virgin oil, also known as SVO) will increase the stability of marginal diesel, but there are too many variables in UVO supplies due to the different ways restaurants use their oil.
As the biodiesel article was going to press in late May, we learned that The Chandlery in Eagle Harbor, Washington, noted in the article as a source of biodiesel for Seattle sailors, was no longer able to obtain biodiesel. Things may improve for Bob Schoonmaker at The Chandlery, but check before assuming that fuel will be available. It’s still an evolving technology, after all.
Does my dream boat exist?
Two years ago I brought my new-to-me acquisition (’79 Seafarer 26) into the boatyard for 30 days. Two days ago it went into the water. A joyous day . . . but there were mixed emotions. Once I discovered the abuse and neglect by previous owners and corner-cutting by the boatbuilders in the sunset of their day, I learned a bitter lesson in the art of boat buying. Once I understood the nature of my fiberglass nightmare I could not, in good conscience, sell it to anyone else until it was right. Nor would I endanger my family or friends until it was seaworthy.
The past two years have taught me a range of skills, but most of all when to ask for help. I am asking now. I would appreciate a consensus of opinion on the best affordable and comfortable older (late ’60s to ’70s sailboat in the 30-foot range. The desirable features would include an aft head (why anyone would place it forward is beyond me), an inboard diesel engine, wheel steering, and headroom above 6 feet. She should be quick and agile, yet graceful to those aboard. Ideally, the vessel would have accessible bilge and wiring chases, unlike the pre-fitted line style that makes a major task out of the simplest repairs.
The ideal interior layout, I’ve discovered, is the Hunter 33, but they yaw and wallow terribly; the best sailing characteristics on a Morgan 34, but the tiller steering leaves one with a sore neck and shoulders, and the interior layout doesn’t make much sense.
Does such a seaworthy boat exist in an affordable ($20-30K) range?
We’ll welcome and publish responses to this and the next letter. Please continue, gentle reader.
Price discrepancy questions
I currently own and sail a beautiful little Compac 16 around the marshes of South Carolina. Like most small boat owners, I eventually dream of moving up to something larger and more capable as time and income allow. My question stems from a rudimentary understanding of “boat economics” and the stinging realization that I could never fiscally justify any boat (thank goodness that’s not what it’s about). I wonder what constitutes the often huge discrepancy in prices of vessels of similar vintage, size, design and construction?
For example, consider a late 1960s Pearson Vanguard, Morgan 34, and a Hinckley Pilot sloop. By many calculations and mere casual observation, these boats are very much alike and equally beautiful, though they demand anywhere from $15,000 for a ragged Pearson to more than $150,000 for a cream-puff Hinckley. Is there, in reality, something about the construction of the Hinckley (and like builders) that actually merits these stratospheric bids, or does hype and brand name warrant a tenfold increase in asking price?
Next, if one were to purchase any of these boats and put x dollars into improvements, would any one brand hold that value better than the next? Why?
The long answer
Your last question first: improvements made to a boat will probably not be fully recoverable at the time the boat is sold. Neither will repairs, although if you were able to push the price down below market value based on the need for repair, they will be at least partially recoverable. The upgrades you do for your own enjoyment and should be written off as soon as the last installation screw is tight.
There is a “carpeting and wallpaper budget” aspect to improvements. Party A buys a home, tears out all the carpeting and papers the walls because Party A likes wood floors and wallpaper. Party A hopes to have increased the value of the home with these “upgrades.” Party B buys the home from Party A and puts carpets over the wooden floors and steams off the wallpaper and paints the sheetrock. Party B also thinks the value of the home has been increased.
I know of no particular boat brand or type that would carry the cost of her repairs and upgrades through to her resale better than any other. Plan on losing money on any boat you buy, including most of the upgrades and even some of the repairs. If you are dealing with hulks that cost almost nothing and are not in usable condition you might lose mostly time and actually make some money, but figure on a lot of time.
As for the wide variation in market value of otherwise similar boats, the boat market is a good example of a free market. Very free indeed compared to the situation in the European Union. Buyers and sellers haggle around to establish a price. There is a mystique associated with boats built by builders like Hinckley which commands a higher price. This mystique is perpetuated if the builder is still in business and still spending money to establish and protect his brand name.
In addition to the mystique, boats that were built “to a price,” like Pearson and most other boats you can think of, may not have gotten the most expensive components nor the most extensive and labor-intensive interior finishing. The quality of the fundamental aspects of construction such as design, builder’s skill, and such seems to be all over the map, with no clear favorite, no matter the original cost.
What all this means to you is another matter. There will often be a lot more wood both inside and outside on the upscale boats. This wood will need maintenance. The more wood, the more maintenance. If the wood has been kept up, the boat will be more valuable. The upscale boats are more likely to have teak decks. These were a mixed blessing for the original owner. Teak decks are very attractive and have good traction wet or dry. They are also hot in direct sunlight and add considerable weight topside. As they age, some subsequent owner will eventually be faced with wear, leaking screw plugs, deck leaks, and replacement of the deck, in that order. With “proper care,” this deck failure can be avoided to some degree, or at least delayed, but I think this is fairly rare. An older upscale boat with a teak deck is probably not a good choice unless the deck has already been replaced or is known to be in excellent condition with little wear. I doubt market prices reflect this reality because teak decks are very pretty.
On boats that do not have teak decks, most are cored with balsa or plywood. I do not know of a single builder who treated holes in cored decks correctly, which is to say filling them with oversized epoxy plugs and redrilling them for the intended fastener. As a result, when the original caulking fails around fastener holes these areas get wet core. Depending on the method of manufacture the water migrates to pretty well ruin the core in other locations. This can make many low-end boats worth less than the cost of deck repair. Naturally, boats that command a higher market value can withstand the logic in this situation better. By the way, I don’t know if builders even today do any better.
Notice that teak makes a deck heavy, while coring makes it light. The irony may be found in a boat with a teak deck and a balsa core. What were they thinking?
Cores were not considered practical in hulls under 30 feet in length, and some builders did not consider cores advisable below the waterline. There is merit to this reasoning because there are problems with cored hulls too. Again, expensive boats withstand the cost of repair better than low-end ones, but I’m not aware of any difference in the incidence of repair.
Proponents of the use of cores to increase stiffness and still keep the boat light claim that, if the boat is built properly and maintained properly, cores are not a problem. I think this is true, and I also think that the boat repair industry probably goes home at night and says a little prayer of thanks for teak decks and cored decks and hulls.
An extensive but aging electronics suite, which can be found on both-low end and high-end boats, is not necessarily a positive feature either. Better advice would be to assume that you will replace the VHF, depth sounder, and knot meter if you still want one, now that GPS gives you speed over ground. The rest of the electronics suite shouldn’t be considered too exciting either because electronics suppliers have generally not been good about supporting older equipment. (I chose those words carefully; they were kind.)
For what it is worth, when you go shopping for that larger boat, here are my — admittedly very extreme — opinions: a boat that is doing what she does well can have a happy crew. Coastal cruisers are better for coastal cruising. Bluewater boats are more expensive, and should be chosen when bluewater cruising is intended in the fairly near future. The larger a boat is, the less it will be used, and the harder it will be to work on.
Personally, I don’t like encapsulated ballast, and I don’t like steel, iron, concrete, or scrap steel/cement ballast. The best ballast is lead, attached with keel bolts. None of these alternatives is without problems, but I dislike the external lead keel problems least.
Hull shapes that have been distorted by racing rules are not a joy to sail. The IOR gave us such shapes. Unless you are racing, the less the designer had his eye on the racing rules of the time, the better the boat will be. Having said that, I should also say that, in general, faster boats are more desirable. (Faster here meaning faster through the water, not faster on handicap.) This is because all boats are pretty slow, and the slower among them can be really slow. Too slow.
My last comment would be that extreme characteristics of any kind come with a price in terms of other characteristics, which will suffer when something is “optimized.” That can’t be gotten around.
You are already sailing a boat model which enjoys considerable devotion from her owners. If you can find a larger boat that does as well, you will have another good boat.
So this is how we lose subscribers
The good news is that I’m starting to cruise. The bad news is that I am letting all my subscriptions lapse. I wish I could let the credit cards, phone bills, etc., fall into the same category.
I will look for Good Old Boat on the newsstands and make a fuss if it s not there. Your magazine has been a great resource to me. Even though I “sail” a Grand Banks 36, my roots were in Dyers (frostbiting), one-design racing, and some great cruises on a J/30, Sabre 38, and a JonMarie 40.
Additionally, I’ve found lots of resources in your advertising and am very pleased with the products I’ve bought: New Found Metals, American Rope and Tar (I swear by Letonkinois), Good Turns (the folks who make the disconnect coupling), and the guy who makes fenders out of rope.
I’ll miss the look, feel, and content of your magazine, and when I resubscribe, you’ll know I’ve swallowed the anchor.
And she’s a beauty!
Thanks for all the help you have been to me over the past four years as I have reconstructed a 1968 Sea Sprite 23 named Sundance.
Marvin Vander Vliet
An article about ME!
First copy of Good Old Boat that I’ve picked up: May 2005. I was very pleased. I really enjoyed the review of the Rhodes 22, since it’s on my short list of a possible future boat. Then an enjoyable read about Hal and Margaret Roth, followed by an interesting article about pets aboard while cruising. All in all, I’m finding much of interest. Then at the very back on the, Reflections page, you had an article about ME! Well, not about me personally, but it could be me . . . 23.5 feet paid for, day or weekend sailing but knowing I’d be back in the office on Monday. It’s not a second-class affair, though, and I won’t be looking for a larger boat. I love my day sails, and I love to trailer off to visit other lakes and inevitably meet new people. Thanks for having me in your magazine. (Well, you know what I mean.)
These are my people!
I was just at the Annapolis Maritime Heritage Festival and a fine gentleman offered me two issues of Good Old Boat. It was a revelation! I was so sick of the three major sailing mags I have subscribed to for years (“We did extensive sea trials of the new $768,000 Conspicuous Consumer 61, and it’s a honey...”) that I read them in about 3.75 minutes each month. I read every article in your January and May issues like a man who has been dying of thirst. These are my people! These are the boats I love! My subscription request was sent in immediately. From a proud owner of a 1986 Com-Pac 27 who is actually satisfied and wants nothing else!
Some favorite books
Upon reading the reviews already published in Good Old Boat, I ordered a copy of the Storm Tactics Handbook, by Lin and Larry Pardey, for myself. I tore into the book when I received it and had it devoured in a few days. What a fabulous read! The information was well laid out and clearly explained. The mix of anecdotes and technical information was well done by the Pardeys. I especially enjoyed the appendix added at the end, an excerpt from The American Practical Navigator, by Bowditch. It provided a clear explanation of cyclonic storms and tactics to deal with them. When I talk weather with another sailor, I’ll be recommending this handbook. Thumbs up! (Note: The Pardeys have developed a video version of their Storm Tactics Handbook. It’s also very good. –Ed.)
While I was on the subject, I remembered a book I’d received for Christmas. The Seaworthy Offshore Sailboat, by John Vigor, does a great job explaining all aspects of offshore sailing. John uses a common-sense approach and utilizes a good mix of humor and descriptive detail to get his points across. His unique method of “Think Inverted” captions drive home his “be prepared” mentality. The use of his “cost of materials” vs. “cost of a beer” relationship borrows from a yardstick I’ve used for years!
John’s book allows the sailor to assess his offshore fantasies and transform them into reality. For sailors like me, fantasizing about offshore adventures, it puts a valuable and practical spin on the notion.
Thanks for a well crafted, grammatically dignified piece of entertaining and informative writing . . . this in a world of increasing web-dreck, meaningless verbiage, incomplete sentences and nonsense.
What a pleasure to find a publication that still takes the time to encourage and publish “a good story well told.” I’m looking forward to the “Get Fleeced gag” in the next issue. I promise not to cancel my subscription.
There is a reassuring and friendly air about your no-nonsense newsletter and the magazine that makes all the difference to a fledgling sailor. The diffidence that attends on those first years of sailing sometimes cringes at the sneers of weathered pros who populate some other pages and websites.
Yipes! That was expensive!
You should know that your 2001 cover story on the Dana 24 cost me $65,000 that I never wanted to spend. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts!
Clever, intended or not
This morning, I ordered my husband’s yearly birthday gift subscription and copied down the order reference number using “gob” for Good Old Boat for my information. That way, he wouldn’t have a clue if he found it. Interestingly enough, not only is the word “gob” the initials for Good Old Boat, but also the slang expression for a sailor! Intended or not... how clever!
Furling line requirements
I enjoyed the article by Gregg Nestor on cordage (May 2005). It provided a thorough, yet succinct, overview of the topic. However, I did have one concern about his recommendation that furling line can be a standard performance double-braided polyester. I suspect that the most common failure for furlers is one in which the characteristics of the line can be a contributing factor. It begins when the jib is deployed rapidly without holding some tension on the furling line as it is spooled onto the drum of the furler. This results in a loose, poorly formed spool of line. Later, when the wind pipes up and an attempt is made to furl up the jib, the high tension required for the first few turns of the furler may cause the line to bite into the spool and jam the unit.
This failure mechanism is primarily prevented by appropriate technique. However, a furling line with a hard hand can also help resist jamming. Conventional double-braid polyester generally has a soft hand and thus will not effectively resist this type of jam. This desirable characteristic for a furling line is a combination of materials and construction. The usual descriptions of cordage in catalogs provides little guidance in this regard, and therefore a sailor may need to handle each line under consideration. However, the Layline catalog — http://www.musto.co.uk or call 800-543-0487 — now includes a measure of the natural bending stiffness of lines that they call Natural Diameter Factor. I would expect that any line with a hard hand would also be relatively stiff for its diameter and would thus rate high on this Layline scale.
Durkee suggested that we confirm his suspicions with master rigger, Brion Toss. Read on.
Regarding the furling line hardness question, you might want to contact Jim Bourne at Harken. By remarkable coincidence he tried different kinds of lines for this application very recently and reported, near as I can tell, that there was no significant difference, given a firm wind-on. It might be interesting to see how different lines do with loose wrapping, but I think I’d recommend easy grip and handling (soft-ish line) combined with relatively low stretch, so double-braid makes sense. As long as it goes on tight, that is.
However, since tightness is an issue with typical cruisers, who don’t have a crew in the cockpit, Durkee maintains his earlier conviction. Read on.
But tightness is the issue
I happened to encounter Brion last Thursday morning when I helped a friend ferry his Cal 29 over for some rigging enhancements. Brion shared with me the findings from Harken that the type of line did not matter so long as it is wound on firmly. I think this is not a surprising result. However, I’m still concerned about that one time that a new crew lets the furling line run as the big jib unfurls and then the furling line jams in the ill-formed pack when they try to furl in the jib during a blow. If nothing more, it is probably worth pointing out this hazard with furling jibs, and the standard technique for preventing it.
Have another drink . . .
Good Old Boat is the greatest. There’s no better boating magazine at any price. I haven’t found my good old boat yet. A Falmouth Cutter 22 and Pacific Seacraft Dana head the list. After two drinks I’d settle for a Cape Dory 25D, PS 25, PS Flicka, Folkboat, or Stone Horse.
J. C. Stamm
Back To Top
Fair Wind and Plenty of It, by Rigel Crockett (Rodale, 2005; 392 pages; $23.95)
Review by Jim Daniels
Port Townsend, Wash.
“This is the pleasure of life at sea — fine weather, day after day without interruption — fair wind and plenty of it — and homeward bound.” So begins this story, A Modern-Day Tall Ship Adventure. The quote is from Two Years Before the Mast, written in 1840 by Richard Henry Dana, Jr. The significance of that book, A Personal Narrative of Life at Sea, is explained by Henry Dana in a preface: so many stories (such as J. Fenimore Cooper’s) were told by naval officers or passengers. A common sailor has “a very different view of the whole matter.” Rigel Crockett gives us that view in our own time, the “light and the dark together.”
A year and a half at sea, completing a square-rigged barque while maintaining and repairing her on her maiden voyage is like no cruise you’ll ever take aboard your boat. The author and other seasoned professionals are joined by fare-paying crew who work the ship day and night themselves — only one of the many points of dissension to come. They go through 13 ship’s cooks on the way. From broken steering to mutiny, there are plenty of hardships. Ten crewmembers wanting refunds (when jumping ship) threaten the whole project. And yet, through it all, this is more than a romantic adventure; it’s a love story.
The details, whether of furling a square mizzen topmast stays’l or how the fire in the galley is fought, make this trip a visual and physical experience. The personal insight into the lives and personalities entwined before the mast and on the quarterdeck make it real. As for the “claustrophobia brought on by this incestuous community,” well, “it just goes to show that sometimes misery can permeate the adventure of a lifetime.” Can logging 232 nautical miles under sail in one day make up for the misery? Does day after day, week after week, and month upon month of one tropical paradise after another count for more than the drudgery of painting over rust on wet steel? Yes.
The Barque Picton Castle, the spectacle of flying fish hitting sail and the allure of swimming with sharks are not the only elements of romance. “To Ariel” is the dedication, and it’s the beginning of many a letter written between exotic ports of call. And to Ariel this able-bodied seaman returns, while six others of the crew become three married couples at the end of their voyage — “and homeward bound.”
Stikky Night Skies, no author listed, (Lawrence Holt Books, 2003; 234 pages; $12)
Review by Karen Larson
Heavenly. That’s the way I would describe night sailing. Since seeing the book, Stikky Night Skies, now I know why. (“Stikky” is the name of a growing series of books because each book offers “Essential stuff that stikks in your head.”) Night sailing is about being able to see the stars as never before. Night sailing is about getting away from the city skies and the marina lights. Night sailing is about being up in the middle of the night when it’s dark outside. On a clear night on the water the stars are diamonds on a velvet cloth.
But which ones are which? I’ve always wanted to know. So when we received a copy of Stikky Night Skies, I gave it a whirl and was extremely impressed . . . so much so that I have been carrying this book around for two months (to the East Coast and back while traveling, even) in an effort to find a sky dark enough to practice what I have learned.
This book will get any kid or adult beginner star-seeker instantly involved. With the help of this book I’ve learned to identify six constellations: Orion, Big Dipper, Cassiopeia, Taurus, Cygnus, and Pleiades. I can find these four stars: Betelgeuse, Polaris, Vega, and Sirius. I know where to look in the night sky for the planets and the Milky Way. I know how to find north using Polaris. It’s a heck of a start for a beginner and (as I write this in early summer) I can’t wait to go night sailing where the stars are at their best!
This book is a series of practice pages with stars depicted and useful and fun information every so often. The sky rotates on you (just as the real sky will do) so you don’t get complacent, and the scale is changed from time to time to include more or fewer of the heavenly bodies. This last part is a bit disorienting (I don’t expect the real sky to do that to me), but I was able to catch on.
The Stikky folks are right: they have a way of presenting this information so that it stikks in the reader’s head. Since I’ve always wanted to know more, I’m grateful for the opportunity. They impart this wisdom to their readers, and it’s worth sharing here: “You would not have gotten far in ancient times without knowing your way around the night sky. Indeed, it may be the only thing your distant ancestors would recognize today.”
A Mariner’s Miscellany, by Peter H. Spectre (Sheridan House, Seafarer Books, 2005, 289 pages, $19.95)
Review by George Zimmerman
The romance of the sea is a strange thing. It manages to cling to some extent to every thing that floats. – C. Fox Smith
On a rainy spring night, I received a package from Good Old Boat. I figured it was the book I had promised to review. Opening the package, I saw on the book cover an illustration of a three-masted sailing ship, making her ways in a heavy sea. I smiled, ready to spend time on a ship, with salty characters, and an intricate plot . . . the perfect way to spend a rainy night.
Instead, I was greeted with chapter after chapter of boating and marine-related trivia, facts, quotes, poems, and chronologies. Where was my engaging novel? Surprised and intrigued, I sat down and read the first few chapters. Here, I realized, was the answer to all those questions you have as you learn about sailing. Questions like: Where in the world did the term “starboard” come from? Or, if a wind is blowing from the north toward the south, do you call it a north wind or a south wind?
A Mariner’s Miscellany is a compilation of all things nautical. Do you want to know the how and the why of signal salutes during the age of sail or what L. Francis Herreshoff thought were the four most important qualifications needed to undertake long-distance voyaging? Do you know the difference between natural fiber and modern synthetic rope? This book will tell you. You can even find a recipe for making grog. These and thousands of other facts — practical, informative, or just interesting — can be found in this book.
Author Peter Spectre is well-qualified to undertake such a massive undertaking. He’s editor of Maine Boats & Harbors magazine and former editor of WoodenBoat magazine. The Mariner’s Book of Days, A Passage in Time, A Goodly Ship, and several other marine-related books are among his literary credits.
This is not a book you sit down and read in one setting. Rather, it is a resource you consult when you want to find the why or where an expression came from or to find out what other sailors thought when they encountered a similar problem or situation. A Mariner’s Miscellany will also prove useful for writers; it is an excellent source of facts, quotes, and their historical origins
I have a tough time reading poems so the abundance of poetic passages caused tough sledding for me at times. The absence of a detailed index was another surprise. With an index I would be able to look up the subject being argued, cite the reference, and end those crazy arguments that sailors so often have when they get together. In the hands of those of us with sea lawyers as friends, this compendium of knowledge could be the lawyers’ undoing.
A Mariner’s Miscellany is a delightful and interesting book for those who value the intellectual side of boating. It deserves a spot on the dedicated mariner’s bookshelf.
The Affordable Yacht: How to Buy a Sailboat on a Budget and Sailing on a Shoestring: How to Enjoy Your Yacht More for Less Money, by Susan Peterson Gateley (no publisher needed, you’ll see why, 2005, 30 pages each; $3 each)
Review by Karen Larson
Susan Peterson Gateley, a frequent contributor to Good Old Boat magazine, is amazing in her ability to make money in and around and through her love of sailing. She has supported her sailing habit since 1981 through writing and since 1997 with charters. She’s also an expert at not spending much of the money she earns. Her newest and very novel approach, which combines both skills, is the sale of eBooks. These $3 books are printed pages, rather than official bound books, but they offer a lot of information and the price is right.
The first, The Affordable Yacht: How to Buy a Sailboat on a Budget, is about 30 pages focused on helping dreamers and doers get afloat and go now. This booklet helps readers find an inexpensive boat and evaluate her condition and value. Sections include information you’ll need before you buy, the purchase itself, and getting started sailing on a budget
The second eBook is Sailing on a Shoestring: How to Enjoy Your Yacht More for Less Money. This is a guide for people with large dreams and modest incomes. As Susan tells us, there’s a boat out there for every budget, and this 30-page booklet gives you the Cliff Notes overview of many years’ worth of Susan’s experience and expertise. She’s completely qualified to tell us what she knows.
Susan has more than 30 years of experience as a budget boater sailing on a 19-foot Lightning for 10 years, a 23-foot wooden sloop for 17 years, and currently on a 32-foot Chris-Craft sloop. She and her husband just bought a fourth boat, a fixer-upper, on eBay. There will be a book or a booklet on that subject in the future, guaranteed!
These booklets can be downloaded as pdf files or sent as Microsoft Word attachments in an email message. To get the pdf file, go to http://www.brownroad.com. To get a Word document, go to Susan’s website at http://www.silverwaters.com.
The Last Voyage of the Lucette, by Douglas Robertson (Seafarer Books; Sheridan House, 2005; 372 pages; $23.95)
Review by Wayne Gagnon
Back in the late 1970s, when I first felt the need to sail, I read everything our local library had on sailing and the adventure of the sea. One book I remember particularly well was Survive the Savage Sea, the story of Dougal Robertson and his family’s 38 days afloat in the South Pacific after their yacht, Lucette, had been sunk by a pod of killer whales. Now Dougal’s son Douglas, who survived the ordeal at the age of 18, has compiled a larger edition entitled The Last Voyage of the Lucette. While the original gives an account of how the family survived after they were sunk, this larger version, which includes the full text of Survive the Savage Sea, explores the challenges the family faced in the months and years leading up to their sinking.
The Last Voyage of the Lucette begins with Dougal’s autobiographical account of his experiences during World War II as a young officer aboard a freighter that was sunk by the Japanese, killing his wife and son. After the war he remarried and eventually gave up a life at sea for that of a dairy farmer in England with his new family. We learn about their hardships while trying to survive on the meager profits that life on the farm afforded them, their decision to sail around the world, and their cruise up to the time they were sunk off the Galapagos Islands. In addition to the full text of Survive the Savage Sea, there is some follow-up information on where the family is today, as well as 16 color photographs, several line drawings, and maps of their route.
Pop psychology says that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Many of the struggles the Robertsons faced are common to any family, but they play a more crucial role on a small boat in a hostile environment where there is little, if any, room for error or privacy. When one realizes the difficulties they faced on the farm and in the early days of their cruise, one can see how the family bonds were created and how each individual acquired the deep reserves of personal strength that carried him or her through their ordeal. Sir Robin Knox-Johnson writes in the foreward that both books “should be compulsory reading for anyone planning a world cruise.” While it is true that both books contain a lot of useful information, we can learn more from them than survival skills for the open sea.
Boatowner’s Mechanical and Electrical Manual: How to Maintain, Repair, and Improve Your Boat’s Essential Systems, Third Edition, by Nigel Calder (International Marine/McGraw-Hill, 2005; 818 pages; $49.95)
Review by Jerry Powlas
This is the one book that should be aboard every cruising sailboat. When the first edition came out, I read it cover-to-cover. When the second edition came out, a flip through the pages showed some updates, but basically it was very much the same book. When I had a need, I could find what I was looking for in either one (or in some cases neither one).
This third edition parts company with the first two editions. The basic organization is still there, but the material is very different, reflecting the latest developments in equipment and changes in regulations. There seems to be a lot more material in the third edition, probably because sailboats and the equipment have gotten a lot more complicated.
If you have the first or second edition do you need to pay the big bucks for the third edition? In most cases, yes. If you have an older boat that you have kept very simple and do not plan to make any upgrades, you might get by. Otherwise you will be glad to have the third edition on your boat’s bookshelf. I’ll probably have to have two: one for the office and one for the boat.
Sir Peter Blake: An Amazing Life, by Alan Sefton (Sheridan House, 2004; 444 pages; $24.95)
Review by Jerry Richter
If you want to learn about Sir Peter Blake, who he was, what he was like, why people followed him, or anything else about what made this driven man tick, this is not the book for you. If you want to learn about New Zealand’s rise to prominence in the world of competitive bluewater sailing, how a sailing syndicate is formed and works, and other “inside information” about the international racing world, this is the book for you.
Alan Sefton, a journalist and long-time associate and business partner of Peter Blake, provides a detailed history of Peter’s sailing career, and with it the rise of New Zealand to international yacht racing leadership. He describes in intimate detail — sometimes almost hour by hour — just about every race in which Peter took part, from the 1974 Cape Town-Rio de Janeiro race in which he served as a young watch leader to his final competitive sailing venture as syndicate head of Team New Zealand in the 2000 successful defense of the America’s Cup. The details include how crew is selected, funds are raised, designers are chosen, and syndicates are formed. However, Peter Blake never really comes alive in this book. He is always there on the boat, in the syndicate boardroom, at the designer’s office, but as a cardboard cutout, not a rounded person. The closest that Alan comes to digging below the surface is in the epilogue where he touches on Peter as a person through the reminiscences of those who knew him at various stages of his life. These occur as interviews following Peter’s tragic death at the hands of bandits in the Amazon.
While this book does not, in my opinion, succeed as a biography, it is excellent as a history of the rise to prominence of New Zealand as a powerhouse in the international sailing world. If you are looking for rich descriptions of ocean racing, and/or insights into the world of the sailing “business” at its highest levels, this book succeeds admirably.
Back To Top
Did you know?
Dip of the horizon: Visible and radar
How far is the horizon?
Due to the curvature of the earth, the higher the height of your eye (above sea level) the further you can see. If you want to know the distance to the visible horizon, you simply have to know the height o f your eye above water level. If you’re in a sailboat, that might be less than 9 feet.
Visible Distance to the horizon (nautical miles) = 1.17 x square root of your eye height (feet).
Hence, for an eye height of 9 feet (above water level): Distance to the visible horizon = 1.17 x Root 9 = 1.17 x 3 = 3.51 nautical miles.
For an eye height of 7.5 feet: Distance to the visible horizon = 1.17 x Root 7.5 = 1.17 x 2.7386 = 3.20 nautical miles.
If you want to calculate the distance at which an object becomes visible, you must know your height of eye and the height of the object. You then do the same calculation for your distance to the horizon and for the object’s distance to the horizon and add the distances together.
Hence, you have the same height of eye of 9 feet so your distance to the horizon is still 3.51 nautical miles. You’re approaching a port that has a lighthouse that is shown on your chart to have a height of 81 feet. Using the same formula, you would find that 1.17 times the square root of 81 (1.17 x 9) = 10.53 nautical miles (the lighthouse’s horizon is 10.53 nautical miles).
Add the two together: 3.51 + 10.53 = 14.04 nautical miles.
You will first be able (theoretically) to see the top of the lighthouse from 14.04 nautical miles away. Of course, these calculated distances could be reduced (in the real world) by atmospheric conditions (darkness, fog, rain, dust, etc.) and/or by poor eyesight.
VHF radio and radar horizon
Because a radio signal is slightly refracted, the radio horizon (range or radio dip) is slightly farther away than a simple “line of sight” and is calculated:
Radar and VHF radio distance to the horizon (nm) = 1.22 x square root of antenna height (feet).
Note: the above radio range calculation also applies to radar, which explains why radome mounting height is more important than power (watts) in determining maximum radar range. To calculate radio range, we add the two (D1 transmit and D2 receive) antennae ranges together, thus:
Range = D1 + D2
Range = (1.22 x Root Hf transmit) + (1.22 x Root Hf receive)
A handheld VHF radio with an antenna height of 6 feet transmitting to a receiving base station with a mast-top antenna mounted at 45 feet.
Range = (1.22 x Root 6) + (1.22 x Root 45) = (1.22 x 2.449) + (1.22 x 6.708) = 1.768 + 8.184
Range = 9.952 nautical miles
Let’s raise the transmitting antenna from 6 feet to 45 feet (two mast-top installations communicating).
Range = (1.22 x Root 45) + (1.22 x Root 45) = 8.184 + 8.184 = 16.368 nautiacal miles.
Quite an improvement!
Take boating safety classes such as America’s Boating Course, wear your PFD when on the water and have a free annual Vessel Safety Check by the Auxiliary or U.S. Power Squadron. Not having to call out the Coast Guard for a Search and Rescue mission conserves resources – not to mention making your day more enjoyable. Consider joining the Coast Guard Reserve (http://www.uscg.nil/reserve) or the Coast Guard Auxiliary (http://www.cgaux.org). The Auxiliary is the civilian branch of the Coast Guard and is a “force multiplier” in the area of marine safety and security. They assist the Coast Guard in this area by conducting both water and air patrols of areas of responsibility.
The Coast Guard Auxiliary has set the goal of contacting and informing 3 million boaters of Waterway Watch by year-end 2006. The long-term goal is to get the majority of America’s 70 million boaters on board with the program. The best protection against terrorism is vigilance. Have fun on the water, go about your regular business, but as the Boy Scout motto says, “Be Prepared” to call 1-877-24-WATCH or 911 if you see activity that just doesn’t look right to you
For brochures, decals and pocket cards on Waterway Watch call 1-800-368-5647 or log onto http://www.americaswaterwaywatch.org.
Back To Top
In the patois of the native
In the late ’40s, I sailed with one of life’s noblemen, Captain William Whalen of the good yacht Audax, out of Jackson Park Yacht Club, Chicago. Sailing with Captain Bill was never dull; each trip containing the seeds of disaster, but never any element of boredom.
The crew of the Audax was as diverse as the various colors of mildew on the sails, including such aptly named characters as Gnome, Pu, Guano, Fig. 1, Skinhead, and assorted Ig-pays, whom the crew would recruit for individual trips. The guests aboard were equally colorful, and this story concerns one of them.
Frankie F. (F. was not his last name, but discretion and the rest of this story suggests the wisdom of a pseudonym) owned a powerboat in Jackson Park. Frankie was reputedly an “enforcer” for the syndicate, breaking arms and legs and blowing up buildings as needed. However, when Frankie was not doing his nine-to-five work, he was very good company. He was also a remarkably quick learner. The first time he went sailing with us, he absorbed sailing lore like a sponge. Everything interested him: “What’s this? What’s that? How does that work?” For several hours he questioned and learned at an incredible rate. For one instance, he wanted to know how one could tell the direction from which the wind came. The pieces of yarn were pointed out to him; he was told they were called telltales, and they indicated the direction of the wind. He was impressed.
About two weeks later, Frankie and his moll joined the Audax for another sail. Frankie was explaining to his companion the intricacies of handling a boat under sail and doing a remarkable job of demonstrating how much he had learned. At one point he said to her, “1 guess you want to know how you can tell where the wind is coming from?” She replied: “0h yeah, sure, Frankie,” and politely hid her yawn behind her hand. Frankie proudly pointed to the telltales. “That is how!” he exclaimed. “See those things? They show you which way the wind is blowing. We call them stool pigeons!”
The crew of Audax scattered throughout the Chicago Fleet and for years after, strange expressions were directed toward the survivors when they would shout out in the middle of a race, “Somebody clear that damned stool pigeon!
Back To Top
“Do they ask me what pleasure I find on the sea?
Why, absence from land is a pleasure to me:
A hamper of porter, and plenty of grog,
A friend, when too sleepy, to give me a jog,
A coop that will always some poultry afford,
Some bottles of gin, and no parson on board,
A crew that is brisk when it happens to blow,
One compass on deck and another below,
A girl, with more sense than the girl at the head,
To read me a novel, or make up me bed –
The man that has these, has a treasure in store
That millions possess not who live upon shore.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
That didn’t settle somewhere near the sea?
From the poem The Virginity, 1903
. . . picking weather in which to cross is a lot like picking through a junkyard looking for engine parts — nothing is ideal, but if you’re patient, something you can use will turn up.
Herb Payson, 1989
I had resolved on a voyage around the world, and as the wind on the morning of April 24, 1895, was fair, at noon I weighed anchor, set sail, and filled away from Boston, where the Spray had been moored snugly all winter. The twelve o’clock whistles were blowing just as the sloop shot ahead under full sail . . . A thrilling pulse beat high in me. My step was light on deck in the crisp air. I felt that there could be no turning back, and that I was engaging in an adventure the meaning of which I thoroughly understood.
The first night . . . is the loneliest of the passage. I have found when singlehanded that the longer I am at sea the less I feel the loneliness and the more company I find in the sky, the wind, the waves, my boat and even in myself.
When I am alone on an adventure, I become more efficient and become vitalized . . . It seems to me that all one’s sensations are magnified, the sensation of excitement, the feeling of accomplishment, fear, perhaps, and of pleasure. All one’s senses are more acute. One becomes so tuned up that the slightest change of conditions, of weather, of noise, or movement will be perceived and, in fact, will wake one up after being alone for a while. Another curious thing about solitude is that time seems to change its rate. Sometimes there seems to be a long interval between two words you are thinking, as if you dropped them separately into a pool.
Sir Francis Chichester
Published August 1, 2005