What’s in this issue
This newsletter is available as an MP3 audio download at AudioSeaStories.net. It is read by Michael and Patty Facius. We recommend a broadband Internet connection to download, since it is a large file.
Download a PDF version of this newsletter here.
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Back To TopWe'll be celebrating
Next summer Good Old Boat will pass a major milestone along the highway to longevity: we will have been publishing for 10 years. That’s six issues per year on time and (mostly) under budget. We take great pride in that accomplishment.
As we’re thinking of the past 10 years and looking ahead to at least another decade, we’re asking our readers to think about your earliest days as sailors. How did you get started sailing? We’ll publish your letters in the next several newsletters as we head into our anniversary year: 2008. Let’s celebrate together.
Free brochure about surveyors
Navtech Marine Education, a training school for marine surveyors, is offering free marine surveyor hiring advice to recreational boaters who are buying or selling a boat or purchasing insurance for their boat and want to understand the marine surveyor hiring process. Call the headquarters at 800-245-4425 and ask for a free copy of “Straight Talk About Your Marine Surveyor.” The brochure outlines what boatowners should look for in a qualified and certified marine surveyor.
Navtech Marine Education and US Surveyors Association was founded in 1986 in the U.S. Virgin Islands as a captain’s license school and relocated to Ft. Myers, Florida, in 1987. If you want to learn more about this organization go to http://www.navsurvey.com.
If a boat could talk, what would it tell you?
The BoatU.S. Consumer Protection Bureau has maintained the only nationwide database of consumer complaints and safety information reported by boatowners, the U.S. Coast Guard, manufacturers, marine surveyors and marine technicians. The database contains thousands of specific reports about boats, marine engines, boating products, dealers, marinas and related boating services as well as the responses, if any, to the complaints. It also includes manufacturers’ recall notices and much more. The database is located at http://www.BoatUS.com/consumer. If you’re not a BoatU.S. member, the site also gives the option to sign up for a special online rate of $19.00.
Free hurricane preparation guide for boats
BoatU.S. also offers a free 12-page downloadable guide, Preparing Boats and Marinas for Hurricanes, with up-to-date information based on the firsthand experiences of boaters and marinas learned from recent hurricanes. You can get a guide from http://www.BoatUS.com/hurricanes. Hard copies of the guide can be found at your local West Marine store.
This boat needs a home immediately
We just got this in and know there’s someone out there who will want to save this project boat.
I need to quickly find a new owner for my 1956 Danish-built, Cy Hamlin design, Controversey 26 sloop named Sunrise. I have attached a photo, taken about 10 years ago, at a mooring in Mystic, Conn. She needs work, but it is doable. She is now located in Simsbury, Conn. Had I the time, money, and a couple friends, I believe I could have her looking pretty spiffy in a couple of weeks, though the engine may be more of a project.
Sadly, my circumstances changed substantially a year ago and both time and money are scarce. Even sadder, if I can’t find a home for her soon, the storage location will require that she be cut up. She needs to be moved quickly. The idea of scrapping her is heartbreaking! Free to a good home.
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What’s coming in September?
For the love of sailboats
• Contessa 35 review
• The creation of a brand-new catboat
• Pearson Ensign review
• All-season boat canopy
• Winter tarp
• Beth Leonard on bluewater boats, Part 2
• Redo your non-skid
• Carved wooden nameboards
• Fire Extinguishers 101
• Building a hull liner
• All about engine coolants
Just for fun
• One boat seeking romance
• Sparrow finds a nest
• The vibe factor
• The cruising life center spread
• Trekka Round the World book excerpt
• Simple solutions: Cockpit floorboards; Simple mainsail upgrades
• Quick and easy: Keeping the books on the shelf; Navigation tool rack; Cockpit sunshade
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We'll wonder about Sparrow no more
I got an interesting phone call last night from one of your subscribers. He told me of an article or letter from Bob Walkinshaw [May 2007 issue] asking where his Rhodes Bounty, named Sparrow, is. I have not been able to get a copy of your wonderful magazine yet. Before anyone else can reply to this subject, I’d like to say that I’m the proud owner of Sparrow now.
I bought her from Tim Anderson’s estate about four years ago. He’s the fellow who bought her from Bob. She was in an advanced state of disassembly when I found her. The full story of her renovation in my hands is at http://www.tintiger.net. I’d like to respond to Bob in your magazine when I’ve read the article and know what to say. This email is just a heads up that Sparrow is not lost; in fact, she is being cared for in a manner befitting her worth. I would very much like to talk with Bob and hear his stories from the decades he sailed her.
We, of course, put Bob and Kenn in contact. And Kenn’s recollections are featured in the September 2007 issue of Good Old Boat. Watch for the new issue to learn “the rest of the story.”
An ode to the patient mates of boatbuilders
I’ve just read and enjoyed Bob Walkenshaw’s short piece on his love affair with Sparrow. Bob only touches on what agonies, angers, and frustrations filled the days before the comment “my wife left,” but any boater afloat knows the picture.
Restoring the Sparrows of life is, in many ways, as serious an addiction as alcohol or cocaine. You can’t tell a besotted boatbuilder, “You need help.”
There is no Boat Restorers Anonymous where we can admit, in some cathartic way, “My name is Joe and I rebuild old boats.”
Meanwhile, our spouses and girlfriends, puzzled by the manic light in our eyes and overwhelmed by the exuberance of our cause, think it’s their fault that they feel inadequate, unloved, and ignored by the sweaty problem-solver scurrying about the yard.
Oh yes, all this hyperactivity generates a heightened level of intensity so that at the day’s end, this maniac — who should, by all rights, be exhausted — continues to ply her with dreams of a fabulous voyage on that final magical launching day. Thus is she beguiled into contributing her labor for another day.
It’s no wonder some of our mates never make it to launch day. And one has to give them credit. It’s OK to wake up in the morning and say, “You need help. It’s me or this damned boat.”
Incidentally, I delivered that old Triton that Bob is now working on. I had never met Bob and Nellie, but when I arrived in Blue Rocks I was given royal treatment. They’re wonderful folks; Joyce and I have seen too little of them since.
Boatbuilders’ Rehabilitation Centre
Warren Milberg's report to Ted Brewer
At the end of Ted Brewer’s comments and analysis in the July 2007 issue regarding the Hunter 28.5 and other boats I’ve owned over the years, he asks whether I agree with him.
I think he has it mostly right in comparing four of my previous boats. The Columbia 28 was the only one of the four that I thought had some bluewater potential and I did some ocean sailing in her. She was a superb sailer . . . as long as there was wind. The cranky Atomic 4 notwithstanding, this was a bulletproof boat.
All the others were, in their own unique ways, great Chesapeake Bay sailers. As I was quoted in the article “Flirting with a Hunter 28.5,” knowing where and how you sail are the most important things to understand when buying a boat. While I won’t comment on the very popular Catalina 27, as I only owned and sailed that boat a mere seven weeks before it was totaled by Hurricane Isabel in 2003, I think Ted has somewhat underrated both my current Hunter 28.5 and the C&C Niagara 24. Neither of these designs are, or pretend to be, bluewater boats and I think it somewhat unfair to rate them as such. I’ve actually delighted in sailing circles around a number of heavy displacement bluewater boats (with great ratios . . .) while at the helm of my Hunter and the C&C, in the notoriously light winds of the Chesapeake. These relatively light and beamy boats will really get up and go in light winds and smooth water, while their bluewater cousins wallow as their skippers grind their molars and winches when I whiz by them . . . a favorite sailing activity of mine.
And I have been really impressed with just how fast the Hunter 28.5 will accelerate when light winds puff up just a bit. The same was true of the C&C 24. But if you are going upwind against a nasty chop, these boats will certainly pound. So, in addition to his other ratios, I think Ted ought to develop a “Satisfaction Ratio,” as all of the people I know who’ve owned these boats (and sail them in ways for which they were designed) rate them quite highly.
The one previous boat of mine that was noted in the main article, but was not included in Ted’s analysis, was the boat I believe to be the best sailer of all the boats I’ve owned: the 23-foot Alberg-designed, C.E. Ryder-built, Sea Sprite. This tiny boat, with a full keel and attached rudder, was a boat I sailed all over the bay and in all kinds of wind and wave conditions. With only about 18 inches of freeboard, it certainly was the wettest of all the many boats I’ve owned, yet it was probably the most fun to sail. While initially tender, it would heel to 25 degrees quickly, but once there, would steady and get into a very comfortable and stable groove. The history of the Sea Sprite also claims to have at least once Atlantic crossing to its credit — a feat even an ardent admirer like me finds hard to imagine. But the literature also makes no mention of how the brave sailor who made that crossing, whoever he was, returned home. So in the end, I do agree with most of Ted’s comparative comments about these boats, all of which have given me a lot of sailing pleasure. And that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?
Ted gets the last word
Warren Milberg’s comments on my article were interesting. I don’t think I was unfair to the Hunter or C&C, though, as I did point out their performance advantages while stating they were inshore cruisers.
Or does he?
In my recent note to you in response to Ted Brewer’s comments on four of my previous six boats, I noted that I thought the Sea Sprite (while not reviewed) was probably the best sailer of the lot. I went on to note that the literature on that boat claimed an Atlantic Crossing. I posted those comments on Sailboatowners.com and got the reply below from Robert Gainer of Beacon, New York, which I find amazing!
Trans-Atlantic with a Sea Sprite
As far as I know I am the only one to take a Sea Sprite trans-Atlantic so they are probably referring to my trip. And for a short time after that first trip I had the record for being the youngest one to solo the North Atlantic. The age has crept downward since then and now a 14-year-old from England has that record.
The 22-foot Sea Sprite is a fine design that has several characteristics that make her a great cruiser and offshore boat. She is small and can survive anything, and I mean anything. You would cringe if you knew some of the things I did to my first Sea Sprite while learning to sail. In fact most of the adventures I had were kept quiet then and the better (worst) ones are still a secret even today. If my parents knew what really went on while I was sailing, my sailing days would have ended that first year I went cruising with the family boat. I have managed to swamp my daysailer and later knock down my weekender with no ill effects. You can grab any line and trim without needing a winch in an emergency. You can step and unstep the mast by yourself (as a teenager) as needed for repair and the loads are small enough in the rig that when I lost a spreader on one of my early coastal trips in the daysailer I could just push the upper shroud out with a boathook and sail into Boothbay Harbor in Maine and borrow a ladder to go up and square things away.
I sailed without an engine most of the time and she was light enough to row and make good progress. She also drew only 3 feet and if I ran aground while exploring I just needed to get out and push her into deeper water. I did the trans-Atlantic without a windvane, outboard or electric system.
She sailed the trip by herself; self-steering was easy on the Sea Sprite by just using sail trim. Alberg was educated in Europe and the boats there carried the center of buoyancy farther forward than was the practice in the U.S., and that was the hull form he used for his early boats. The curve of area is symmetrical forward and aft and when she heels she doesn’t trim down by the bow as modern American boats do. She is the best-balanced boat I have ever sailed.
The Sea Sprite is not very heavy — compared to your weight — and the boat will change trim as you move forward and aft. This makes it easy to push the boat into deep water if you run aground. For self-steering I would balance things and trim everything and then sit or stand where I was going to be for a while and do the final trimming. Otherwise, the boat would wander after I moved. If I were going below to sleep I would do the final trimming while standing just aft of the cabin bulkhead because my center of gravity would be in that spot when I was lying down in my bunk. Her sensitivity to weight was a lifesaver on my first trans-Atlantic. I started out sailing when I was 13 without a harness and tether to the boat. That became my habit. One day, some 500 or so miles out to sea on my first crossing, when I was 21, I had the boat sailing herself and I was in the cockpit. I decided to get a picture and walked to the stern. While framing the shot, I lost my balance and fell overboard. Thrashing about and cussing my stupidity, I was hit in the head by something solid and, as any drowning man would, I grabbed at it and came up with a handful of line. I hung on for dear life and was slowly dragged in the water. When I came up I was surprised to see that I had hold of a genoa sheet on someone’s boat. I was hollering for them to get on deck and help, but no one showed up. Being on the lee side and the boat not having much freeboard I was able to get onboard. As I lay on the deck and caught my breath, I realized I was on my own boat and the genoa was backwinded.
The change of trim when I fell off was enough to upset the steering and the genoa became backwinded so the boat turned around and ran over me. I don’t think that would happen again if you fell off your boat another million times, so I now wear a harness and, when offshore, stay attached to the boat even if I am on a boat with crew. Just a word to the wise: stay on the boat.
Just like I said
I found Bud Suter’s article in the June 2007 newsletter, “Runaway Diesels,” to be very thorough. I was especially pleased to see that his suggested “fix” — having a rubber plug handy to put in the air-intake — was the same as the one I suggested in my “The Runaway Plug,” which appeared in the July 2003 issue of Good Old Boat.
Missed out on the T-shirt
I guess I’ve procrastinated too long to meet the September 2006 deadline for a free T-shirt. That’s OK. I finally got the pennant up and send along a picture so you can see a non-conventional use of your burgee. We live near Galesville, Wisconsin; the nearest sailing water is Lake Pepin, 50 miles away. The picture is taken from a second-story window of our home, about 200 feet off a rural road. Even the few passers-by can’t see the Good Old Boat logo. No PR value here, not even a T-shirt’s worth. The second picture is a readable close-up of the sign you see under the pennant.
Our boat, AnaMeg, came home in the summer of ’03 when injuries prevented us from sailing. We intended to do some moderate work late in the summer and spend an intense spring working on her prior to floating again . . . the best laid plans of mice and men? The moderate work turned into a complete gutting and refitting. Each year we have said, “I think we’ll get it in next year . . .” But enough is enough! Now we are committed to get it in the water next year . . . even if some things are missing.
The articles in Good Old Boat, along with some excellent info in email replies from Jerry Powlas and Bill Sandifer, have been a great help to us. We’ll send a picture when it’s finished. Look for it next spring!
On dinghies and life rafts…
I read with interest the article, “Seeking the Perfect Dinghy,” in the May 2007 issue of Good Old Boat. In the article was the suggestion that the dinghy could double as a sailing life raft. Your observation in the editorial in the same issue implies that, “…in those moments, good preparation, training, and seamanship will tell and in almost all such situations the vessel and crew will return to harbor…” I believe the implication here is that self-reliance and skill are the greatest lifesaving factors so that the vessel and crew can return under their own power.
Self-reliance begins with the attitude that, even as the planning for a voyage is undertaken, it must be approached with the attitude that no one can be relied upon for the safety and survival of the captain and crew…except the captain and crew. The sidebar by Dan Spurr attempts a comparison of the passive life raft with the active sailing dinghy. While pointing out some interesting data, in my opinion Dan achieves nothing significant in the piece.
Any meaningful discussion of the topic requires inclusion of the facts related to the 1952 Atlantic crossing by Dr. Alain Bombard in a 15-foot inflatable dinghy with sail, and the 1974 voyage of the 15-foot sailing inflatable, Courageous, undertaken by Navy pilots George Sigler and Charlie Gore from San Francisco to Hawaii and documented in George Sigler’s well written and informative book, Experiment in Survival. To quote from a July 2002 book review in Good Old Boat by Karen Larson, “This isn’t a book to read once you’re adrift in a life raft. It’s one to read in advance . . . one to take very seriously sometime soon.” How very true and appropriate, Karen!
All of the bluewater voyagers I have met are self-reliant people to whom entrusting their lives to anyone else is unthinkable except at the point that they can no longer physically or mentally direct their own activities. Consequently, while these people may carry an EPIRB-type device, they would never make it their first line of survival equipment. Personally, I would rather drift with the currents, sailing downwind with any old piece of rag up and reach land in 60 days than bob around for 117 days hoping someone hears my EPIRB before the battery quits.
As far as stability of life rafts goes, it is an oxymoron; testing in a controlled environment cannot compare in validity and usefulness to actual field testing, which Bombard and Sigler did at the risk of their lives. As a Navy veteran I can state with the certainty of having been there that standing on the deck of a ship 20 feet off the water and looking up at the crest of a wave 30 feet above you will alter your thinking about the ocean and your relationship to it!
I respect your opinions and those of Dan Spurr. I would like to see a serious in-depth follow-up article about this topic.
Jerry Powlas responds
I had a friend who was in a car crash with his whole family. Three were belted; one was not. As it turned out, had the one who was in the backseat been belted he would have died. Instead, he was thrown clear just before that area was destroyed by the other car. Had the three in front not been belted, they might have done much worse since the car was rolled.
What I’m trying to say is that you never really know how misfortune will come your way and what form it will take. You also can’t carry enough gear to be really completely safe, so you make your choices and take your chances. Ever thus.
I’ve seen green water over the second turret of a heavy cruiser too many times to count. Nothing in the way of small dinghies or life rafts would have withstood any of that.
Another rubrail improvement
Over the winter I made removable rubrails for my Bristol 32, using the idea and plans from the article by Fred Siesseger in the November 2006 issue. Fred mentioned that while he used 1/4-inch steel rod inside the cushions that make up the rubrail, he thought plastic tubing might be a better alternative. However, he was not able to find suitable tubing at his local hardware store.
I used 72-inch fiberglass rod, which has reflective material at one end and is marketed for use as a driveway or roadway marker. I found it at Lowe’s and the price was reasonable: less than $3 per unit (six were needed). I had no problem cutting the rod down to 70 inches as required. It is lightweight, very stiff, and will never rust.
The removable rubrail was one of those great ideas I wish I had thought of.
Good old compared with brand new
I read your article (Last tack, May 2007) after returning from six weeks in the Sea of Cortez. It reminded me of a recent conversation I had with Cecil Lange, the builder of Cape George Cutters. Cecil lives in La Paz, Mexico, where he surveyed my boat.
Cecil is 82 years old. He is strong-willed, opinionated, engaging, and very knowledgeable about boats. During one conversation he opined that older boats, on average, were built better and more seaworthy than the general crop of new boats.
Cecil is a hard man to disagree with, so I didn’t. However, I had an additional take on older boats. It is that they make financial sense and they can be customized to meet your sailing needs.
We typically hear that it doesn’t make financial sense to buy an older boat and put a lot of money into it. The old bromide is that you will never get your money out of it. While that can be true, it only makes sense when comparing it to the alternatives. Compared with the purchase price of a new boat, fixing up an old boat may make financial sense.
We can take my Bristol 35.5 as an example. The recent survey indicated that the replacement cost for this boat was $322,000. That seems an absurd price to pay for a 35-footer, so let’s assume that I bought a new 35-footer for $250,000. Not counting the additional money that I would have to put into the new boat to properly equip it, the new boat will depreciate by at least 5 percent each year. Just like the money you put into an old boat for upgrades, I won’t get the depreciation back. Over a five-year period I will lose about $56,500 in depreciation. That means that I can put $56,500 into my old Bristol over five years to equal the loss that I would have had on a new boat.
There are other considerations so the $56,000 figure isn’t exact and may be more or less. Another issue is that an old Bristol is about $50,000. That leaves $200,000 I wouldn’t have to pay interest on, or could earn interest on. The idea is that you can spend a lot of money on an old boat that you won’t get back, but money can be spent on a new boat that you won’t get back .
Cruising search engine
I recently launched a new custom search engine dedicated to the Cruising Lifestyle. Based on Google, instead of searching the whole World Wide Web, it only searches selected websites of interest to sailors and cruisers. Initially we searched 230 sites that I selected over the past five years. Based on sailors’ and cruisers’ suggestions, we are up to more than 320 sites.
Please give The Cruising Life Custom Search Engine a try: http://cruisinglifecse.com/.
If you like it, please tell the cruising community about it. You might also think of using it on your search page.
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McNish Classic Yacht Race
August 4, 2007
Channel Islands Harbor, Calif.
This race will mark the third decade milestone for “woodies” on the water. Sailed just outside Channel Islands Harbor, the race is one of four gingerly contested regattas on the western seaboard. Contact: Dick McNish: 805-385-2482; Fax: 805-385-2483; firstname.lastname@example.org. More information can be found at http://www.pcyc.org/mcnish_flyer.jpg.
Metal Boat Festival
August 17-19, 2007
The 20th annual Metal Boat Festival is open to all, members and non-members of the Metal Boat Society. The festival, which will be held at the Bellingham Yacht Club facility at Squalicum Harbor in Bellingham, will feature Ted Brewer, Brion Toss, John Simpson and Margo Wood. For more information contact Candy Larreau at 360-695-4100 or visit http://www.metalboatsociety.org/festival.htm.
Good Old Boat Regatta
October 6-7, 2007
The Regatta is open to boat designs whose first hull was laid before 1975. It is a celebration of the old solid boats and the laid-back, fun-loving people who run them. Note: For one-design racing, three boats of one design will make a class. Entries will be limited to the first 80 received. For more information go to http://www.goodoldboat.com/regatta_gob.html or contact Alfred Poor, email@example.com, or Charlie Husar at 410-266-6216.
If you have a Tartan 34 classic ready to race, contact Deane Holt, firstname.lastname@example.org, for more information.
Heritage Series for Good Old Boats
Aug. 12-13, Corinthian Classic Regatta, Marblehead, Mass.
Aug. 19-20, Opera House Cup, Nantucket, Mass.
Sept. 1-3, Classic Yacht Regatta, Newport, R.I.
Sept. 8-9, Governor’s Cup &Cats ’n Gaffers, Essex, Conn.
Sept. 15-16, Mayors Cup, New York, N.Y.
Sept. 29-30, Race Rock Regatta, Stonington, Conn.
Go to http://www.heritagemarineinsurance.com or http://www.woodenboat.com for more details on each regatta.
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Small Boats on Green Waters, edited by Brian Anderson (Breakaway Books, 2007; 340 pages; $15).
Review by Sylvia Horvath
Subtitled “A Treasury of Good Reading on Coastal and Inland Cruising,” this collection of excerpts from well-known to as-yet- unpublished authors is enjoyable cover to cover. Although they are excerpts from larger works, they have been chosen so well that they stand alone. Nevertheless, you may find yourself making notes of titles and authors that pique your interest for more.
As fellow “boat nuts,” we may enjoy in this collection everything from the whimsical adventures of Mole and Rat to historical naval battles. We are taken through the experiences and imaginations of a wide variety of people who have loved “messing about in small boats.” We can share the appreciation of fine craftsmanship in descriptions of small-boat building, the hardships of explorers, and the childhood discovery of the pleasures of boating.
One of the editor’s goals was to choose from the works of good writers, many of whom may be quite familiar to the average reader. However, he shows himself to be a good writer, also, in his informative and apropos introductions to each story. In his own readable style, he sheds light on the authors and the circumstances surrounding the stories, so that even familiar tales may be read with fresh enjoyment.
Small Boats on Green Waters would make a treasured addition to anyone’s library, especially on board where a short story at the end of a long day is just the thing to relax the mind. There is a danger, however, for you may even begin to long for the simpler life of sailing a small boat in shallow waters as you read of the pleasures to be found in less ambitious and less costly journeys. On the other hand, if you, like the editor in his boyhood, are “boatless, reading everything you can on the subject, and waiting for the day when you can lay your hands on something that will float,” perhaps you will be inspired to start out in a small boat and on the greenest water you can find near home.
An Affair of Honor, by Robert N. Macomber (Pineapple Press, 2006; 366 pages; $21.95)
Review by Elizabeth Bloch
This is the fifth novel in Robert Macomber’s series of historical naval fiction, which begins around the time of the Civil War with At the Edge of Honor. I have loved these books for the evolution of writing talent, the engaging stories and captivating characters. The content of the stories stimulates my sense of adventure and gives me the sense that I’m a member of the crew, a rare pleasure for a 21st century sailor who can now experience our Civil War era Navy only through great storytelling.
We continue to follow the life and career of U.S. Naval Officer Lieutenant Peter Wake as both he and the Navy navigate through some tricky politically charged waters. In the last book in the “Honor” series, A Dishonorable Few, Wake put himself on the line to protect U.S. interests and to salvage the tender political possibilities in the Caribbean. In this sequel Peter Wake receives the type of appreciation only a politically driven governmental agency can so disappointingly dole out. He is assigned to a sleepy West Indies patrol with the expectation he will be “punished” for a long enough time that the ruffled feathers in Washington will have time to recover. However, Wake’s propensity for being at the right place at the right time to save his country leaves him under suspicion of being an anti-British spy and causes him to be reassigned to a staff position in Europe where politics entangle him like a spider’s web.
Of course, our hero knows how to handle difficult situations and make them “interesting,” so his personal life and career move at a rapid pace. He has more adventures per ounce in this sequel than a reader has the right to hope for.
Amidst dangerous political maneuverings of Old World Europe, Wake must disentangle himself, and by proxy, the United States, from a multi-faceted smorgasbord of problems between the nations of Germany, France, Italy and Britain, all trying to gain position in the European continent or salvage what they can politically.
This story is intense, beautifully written, and the experience is worthy of a very slowly savored reading.
Personal Best: Chasing the Wind Above and Below the Equator, by Edward Muesch (Virtualbookworm.com Publishing, 2006; 286 pages; $14.95)
Review by Karen Larson
Ed and Helen Muesch have left a wide wake on the sea of experience. They have lived as farm workers in a commune, raising crops and animals. Later they joined the rat race of corporate America. Then, chasing a retirement dream, they sold their home and most of their belongings and went cruising.
While on that cruise they happened to be in Thailand on the beach when the tsunami of December 2004 struck the area. Clinging together, they were swept across the island and out to sea. With that resumé, perhaps it’s time for them to settle down. But that’s not a likely next chapter.
Personal Best: Chasing the Wind Above and Below the Equator is Ed Muesch’s book about their world cruising adventures and the tragedy and trauma of the tsunami. The book chronicles their discovery of sailing and the events that led to their cruising lifestyle. They sold their home, bought a 1990 Hans Christian 43 ketch, named her Tahlequah, and set out to see the world on the West Marine 1500 Rally in November 2001.
Ed’s book may never have been published if he and Helen had not been halfway around the world in the wrong place at the wrong time three years later. The book is written simply, in journal fashion, chronicling the Mueschs’ adventures abroad for curious friends and family members.
Perhaps because it was self-published, it retains that journal style in which it was initially created and, unfortunately, ignores spelling and grammatical errors. Still, it communicates to all who are willing to overlook those faults. It tells of one couple’s voyage by sea and of the big life-changing event that shaped the lives of Ed and Helen and so many others.
This book is available through http://www.virtualbookworm.com or directly from Ed Muesch: http://www.svtahlequah.com.
The Black Swan, by Christina Moore (Storm Petrel Publications, 2007; 223 pages; $14.95)
Review by Kristen Brochmann
New York, NY
The Black Swan is a stew of a novel — like the stews the narrator cooks up on the century-old stove in the galley of the Black Swan, a 90-foot steel schooner from the turn of the 20th century plying the tourist windjammer trade on the coast of Maine. No one flavor dominates; instead, we get spicy ingredients — a brutal mate, cowed crew, unseen captain and a mystery that could ruin the ship and her owners, as well as a comfort-food story of personal discovery and healing. Toss in a generous primer on the routines of a well-managed tour of the coast of Maine, and you have a hearty meal indeed.
And like a stew, the narrative is all tossed together. In the first chapter, headed by the word “tunc,” the narrator, Margaret Noonan, leaving behind a wrecked career and sinking marriage, joins the Black Swan, only to find herself isolated on an unhappy ship. In the next chapter, headed by the word “nunc,” the reader finds happy passengers, a gleaming galley smelling of fresh-baked bread, a new captain, and a happy, hard-working Margaret, captain of belowdecks. “Nunc” and “tunc” now and then alternate throughout the book; the “tunc” chapters telling the story of the mystery of the Black Swan and her strange crew, and the “nunc” chapters telling the happy aftermath.
Clearly, Christina Moore did not write a straight-ahead mystery novel. Even the murder at the climax of the book is foretold in many of its details in a story told in a shore-side bar. The heart of the story is Margaret’s journey from wounded middle-aged corporate survivor, working her way through isolation and loneliness to healing and integration, into the world of the Black Swan and its coastal homeport. The reader admires Margaret for her grit, her hard work, and the effort she makes on behalf of the paying passengers, who are sometimes as much victims as she is. In the end she does not find romantic love, but something almost better, a place where she is needed and respected, a place like home.
The Black Swan will not satisfy if the reader is looking for the direct action and struggle of a Sea Wolf, but it has some of the nitty-gritty of the seaboard life found in Dana’s Two Years Before the Mast. But the story is compelling as the resourceful and undaunted Margaret strives to deal with her personal demons, and faces the harshness of her mate and the smuggler’s mystery of Black Swan's past as well as her present.
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International Skimmer Class
I am a sailing enthusiast who has spent many hours sailing in Michigan, Florida, and California. Currently, I own a 16-foot scow. The blueprint that came with the boat says that it is an “International Skimmer Class” but I can’t find any history on it.
I’ve attached the sail logo. I was wondering if any of you recognized it?
Captains Gig information
I have just acquired a Captains Gig, 8-foot 46-inch beam, made by The Hand’s Shipbuilding Co. in Detroit, Michigan, serial #913. It has a 3-person capacity. It came with mast, sail, tiller, and oars.
I have had no luck finding information about the boat, the boatmaker, how many of these boats were made, or the year this particular boat was built. Can anyone please point me in the right direction?
To repower with saildrive or diesel?
Could we hear from people with knowledge or experience repowering their sailboats with a gasoline Honda or Yamaha saildrive? The price and performance difference between a diesel replacement and a reliable Honda or Yamaha would be interesting to hear about.
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Excerpts from The Practical Encyclopedia of Boating
Black Box Theory
Earning luck this way will help when the chips are down
You’ve probably noticed that some boaters have fewer accidents than others. Their boats survive storms in which other boats founder. Their engines keep going when others fail. And when they do get into trouble, it’s never serious. Why?
Some people call it luck, but in my opinion, there is no such thing as fortuitous luck at sea. You have to earn your “luck” by constant and deliberate acts of seamanship. If that sounds difficult and complicated, don’t let it bother you. This is how I see it:
On every boat there’s an imagery black box. Every time you do something seamanlike, you earn a point for the black box. For example, you get a point for taking the trouble to inspect the chart before you enter an anchorage, and another for having the right chart in the first place. You earn points for going forward on a cold stormy night to check your running lights, or for changing the fuel filter on your engine on schedule, or for hundreds of other menial and sometimes troublesome little tasks that you would rather not do.
In times of stress — in heavy weather or other threatening circumstances where human skill and endurance can accomplish no more to help the ship — the points are cashed in as protection. You don’t have to oversee their withdrawal; they withdraw themselves as appropriate.
Those skippers with no points in the box get into trouble. They’re later described as “unlucky” — but we know better. Those skippers with points in the box will survive and be called “lucky” although luck had nothing to do with it. However, having survived, they will need to immediately replenish the points in the black box because the sea offers no credit.
John Vigor’s book, Practical Encyclopedia of Boating, is available from the Good Old Boat Bookshelf at $29.95; 352 pages (hardcover).
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Good Old Boat Magazine
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Jerry Powlas, Technical Editor
Mary Endres, Design