When I was with Mark Ellis Design in the mid and late 1980s and early 1990, Mark was in the process of successfully incorporating more powerboats into his design portfolio. I expect that was the reason we started to receive copies of Power & Motoryacht magazine. That’s how I was introduced to the writings of Tom Fexas. When the magazine arrived each month, I immediately went to his column. He was always refreshingly irreverent and an enjoyable read.
Most of us know Tom Fexas through his very distinctive powerboat designs, most notably a sleek black 44-footer named Midnight Lace that debuted at the Fort Lauderdale Boatshow in 1978. She was a striking departure from all the motor yachts of the day, employing design elements that Fexas admired in the commuter yachts of the 1920s. She was uncompromisingly black, narrow, low, and sported a large amount of varnished mahogany on her rounded contours. She was a showstopper and established Fexas as a designer of international renown. It was when Power & Motoryacht magazine entered the scene in 1985 that Fexas’ articles started to appear. It was in that very first article in February 1985 that he established his irascible tone that would continue in all his writing for the magazine. That first article, and the first article in Articles: Volume 1, was entitled “Sailing is Silly (or, sooner or later one must face the fact that a so-called “sailboat” is merely a powerboat with a funny cabin and masts).” How’s that for an opening salvo! Volume 1 covers all Tom’s monthly articles for Power & Motoryacht from February 1985 to March 1987, and Volume 2 covers April 1987 to the December 1991. For reasons unknown, Volume 1 is the slimmer of the two books, at 163 pages, compared to 313 pages for Volume 2. My understanding is that future volumes will contain more of his prodigious output. (Articles, Volume 3 was released on January 26—Eds.)
Tom passed away at the far-too-young age of 65 in 2006. These articles have been collected for independent publication by Tom’s widow Regina Fexas, who is often mentioned in Tom’s writings. Articles provides an interesting glimpse into the powerboating industry of the past 30 years, told from the perspective of someone writing at that time. The articles are easily and quickly read and are as entertaining now as they were when they were written, though some of the writing may not ring with the modern ear, including his rants against holding tanks and the computerization of engines and boat systems. That said, having lived through it, his riling against the Luxury Tax of 1990 certainly hit home!
Among my favorites of Tom’s articles are those in which he talks about his own upbringing, growing up as part of a Greek immigrant boating family in Queens, NY, and his early exposure to the type of boat he would grow to love and that would become an inspiration of his future design career. In one series of articles, in response to the question from a young reader, he documents his own journey to a successful yacht design career. Oddly enough, it is only through these glimpses contained in his own writings that we get any background on who Tom Fexas was. There is a short biography on the last page of Volume 1, but neither book presents anything close to a full description of his remarkable life and design career. (For that, you need to go to Wikipedia.)
Rob Mazza is a Good Old Boat contributing editor. He set out on his career as a naval architect in the late 1960s, working for Cuthbertson & Cassian. He’s been familiar with good old boats from the time they were new and has had a hand in designing a good many of them.
Jimmy Buffett, the novelist. Who knew? Well, apparently a lot of people. After all, this is his third book for adult readers, including his autobiography, A Pirate Looks at Forty. But, in a way, Jimmy Buffett, the novelist, makes a lot of sense. His music is about telling stories, creating characters, taking listeners away to another place and experiencing people and adventures far different from their normal lives. A Salty Piece of Land is all of that.
Through the voice of cowboy Tully Mars, his protagonist, Jimmy takes us from the foothills of Montana to the dark streets of the American south and eventually to the salty waters of the Caribbean…all the while in the company of a faithful horse, Mr. Twain, in tow, even if it means being lashed to the deck of a 30-foot sailboat venturing out from the coast of Florida. As unlikely as that sounds, it all starts to make sense as you get to know the naively pleasant Tully.
Tully’s departure from Montana was not without complications and as he moves from one adventure to another, there’s always the prospect of hired bounty hunters capturing him and taking him back to Montana justice—or injustice, depending on your point of view.
Many of the characters Tully encounters are unlike people you’d ever meet in daily life: a retired country singer who loves to fish, a Crow medicine man dying in a veteran’s hospital, a rich and spoiled young beauty who sets her sights on him and won’t let go, and a ninety-year-old woman in command of a wooden sailing schooner plying the southern trade winds in search of a rare, obsolete bulb for her ancient lighthouse. These characters moved the story along and kept me turning the pages.
There’s more I want to tell, but to do so would be to rob you of the joy of discovering the narrative story-telling magic of Jimmy Buffett. I found A Salty Piece of Land a delightfully decadent way to spend time aboard my boat, wasting away in the cockpit, swept into the vivid, humorous, engaging imagination of Jimmy Buffett. Jimmy Buffet the novelist—yes, indeed!
D.B. Davies is a sailor and writer who is a frequent contributor to Good Old Boat. He sails Affinity, his 1974 Grampian 30, around Lake Ontario. After extensively researching the men and sailing schooners of Canada’s Maritime provinces, Don wrote a dramatic screenplay about the famous Bluenose and her skipper, Angus Walters. You can find out more at www.thebluenosemovie.com
I could not believe that you published this short article (“Easy Charting,” February, The Dogwatch). Taking a picture of a chart on a smartphone? Really? While I’m not sure, I strongly suspect that this same publication has written articles on chartplotting apps for a smart phone. They are cheap! And far more accurate than a not-to-scale picture, and far more useful!
Yes, I can see that a shot of a chart that one is familiar with may make one feel better, but it’s use as a navigational aid is highly questionable.
Thanks for the feedback, Kirk. We assume you don’t object to Allen using whatever tools he uses to get to where he’s going, but that you object to us publishing Allen’s story because it amounts to a tacit endorsement of Allen’s approach to navigation. For the record, our decision to publish anything should not be considered our endorsement of anything.
That said, we salute Allen’s sense of thrift and fully endorse his navigation hack. Why not? It’s just another tool, as Allen makes clear, in his arsenal. And he spelled out the advantages it offers him. Reading his story, we don’t think Allen’s under any delusion that his navigation hack is superior or on par with even a smartphone navigation app, it’s just another tool.
Frankly, Allen’s hack impressed us, but we’re easily impressed. We’re the type that would leave the cold drizzle topsides to duck into the cabin for the third time in 30 minutes to again read the description in the guidebook about the pass we’re about to enter, and never once would it occur to us to take the damn phone out of our pocket and take a picture of the description. Thanks to Allen, maybe we will in the future. –Eds
Books to Booze
I expect you’ll hear from more than one of your readers that “Minding your P’s and Q’s” has only recently been twisted to serve as a salty and boozy reference. Some of us are old enough to have suffered through typesetting class in our youth. The lowercase letters b, d, p, and q are all mirror images flipped on one axis. The letter is necessarily backwards when viewed in your hand before being placed in the composing stick upside down, from left to right. The letters b and d were used frequently enough that mistakes were rarely made, but the p and q were quite often reversed and need a second look. Backwards and upside down. It’s a case of publishing trivia pirated by the wet set!
Thanks, Bob. We only heard from you on this, but we love it! –Eds.
Coming to an Ocean Near You
The sail drones are also in the mid-Atlantic (“News From the Helm,” February, The Dogwatch). Here is a photo of one taken from my boat during the West-to-East Transatlantic Race 2019.
As a 76-year-old avid sailor of limited experience, it’s unlikely that I will ever do offshore sailing, or even sailing in unfamiliar waters. In large part due to my personality (and age), I lean toward the paper chart side. Those who are strongly on the GPS side should read Ghost Fleet by Singer and Cole. It is a story set during WWIII and regardless of whether a reader is tech-reliant or not, I think they’ll find it a great, even frightening, read.
Thanks Cary. We’re still planning to dive deep on this topic in “The View From Here,” in the May issue of Good Old Boat—stay tuned… –Eds.
Starboard, Sterbord, Blada Bord, Laddebord
I expect you have received numerous comments regarding port and starboard after the letters in the February and January Dogwatches (Nautical Trivia in January’s The Dogwatch). For what it’s worth, following is my take on the subject.
Starboard is the right side of a vessel when facing forward. Viking ships had their steering oars on the starboard side. The earlier terms are recognizable today in the old northern languages with stearbord, the Anglo-Saxon word, and later sterbord in Middle English.
Port, the left side of the vessel when facing forward, was the side to the dock to avoid damage to the steering oar or its fittings. The Old Norse word was blada bord or loading side and in Middle English it became laddebord. Because of the risk of confusion in spoken orders in the 1840s, the Royal Navy changed larboard to port. They were followed a couple of years later by the U.S. Navy. Port, in the sense of an opening in a rail or bulwark for loading cargo, can be traced back to the Old French and Middle English porte, and earlier to the Latin porta, a gate or an opening.
An aside : On my Old Town 20-foot sailing canoe, the paddle was required to assist in tacking until I fitted a Viking-style steering oar, to starboard of course, that could be swung up for beaching. The high-aspect ratio, deep-draft oar made tacking a breeze.
Good to hear from you, Jay. We’ve got one more this month in addition to you (below), but we love it, the more trivia, the better. Anyone else? —Eds.
This might be the answer to your query. In navigation, the terms port and starboard are used to qualify the left and right of a boat, respectively. The origin of these terms comes from the Dutch: port side means that we have our back to the side (bakboord, bak meaning “back” and boord “side”) and starboard (stierboord) facing the scull (right). In the 15th century, when the French appropriated the terms, ships were still often maneuvered from the stern with a scull. The scull was indeed used on old boats and located on the right side as most sailors were right-handed. The helmsman facing this scull therefore turned his back to the left side. Possible?
Lost and Found
Last month, I put it to the readers about lost items overboard, about things recovered, things not. About things found while diving. I knew there had to be a few good stories out there, on par with our recovery of the FBI agent’s gun. And there are. I’ll give Bill White the first word because with his last name, he’s already endured a lifetime of going last…
—Michael Robertson, Editor
It was December 5, 1977. We were anchored in Francis Bay, off St John in the U.S. Virgin Islands, enjoying pre-sundowners after a great sail from St Thomas. Coming our way was a sport fisher with a massive tuna tower and a huge bow wave. We were the only boat anchored in Francis Bay, but the sport fisher was aimed right at us. This got our attention, all of it.
Now, in those days, all of us in the Caribbean carried a conch horn because, well, it was the 1970’s, and canned-air horns didn’t last and the conch never wore out. We started blowing that conch as if our lives depended on it, which looking back, they kind of did. At the same time, I started the engine and spun the wheel to port. I was just getting ready to hit the throttle, hoping he would go to starboard of us, when a head popped up on the fly bridge and the sport fisher turned to starboard and pulled the throttles off.
As we rolled gunnel to gunnel in the wake, we stared down the sport fisher with disbelief. A man aboard the sport fisher walked to the bow, picked up a huge Danforth, yelled back and forth with someone on the bridge, then heaved the anchor overboard, almost exactly where our anchor was lying 150 feet off our bow. Our mouths agape, the sport fisher started backing down, fast, right by us.
They continued for quite the distance before they must have realized there was a problem. They put the boat in forward and motored back up to us. That’s when someone aboard started shouting questions at us, in a language none of us could speak, despite having English, French, Vietnamese, and German between us. We guessed it was Spanish.
Fed up with us, they motored around for a while before hitting the throttles and heading back for St. Thomas. We got the snorkels and fins out and hit the water. We followed our anchor chain out to our 45-pound plow and lying right next to it was that big old Danforth. We rigged up a life jacket to it and got it back to the boat. With another round of sundowners in hand, we examined our prize. It was a 65-pound high-tensile Danforth anchor with a label on one of the flukes and a price tag wired to the shackle hole.
I carried that anchor from one end of the Caribbean to the other until 1982, when we sold the boat. I used it only twice, once for Hurricane David and a week later for Fred.
As a much younger man, after taking a lovely young woman out for a sail on my home-built Atkins Economy Jane, a 21-foot gaff-rigged sloop, she dropped her sunglasses into the murky water of the Long Beach Marina in Southern California.
“You’re a diver, aren’t you?” She asked coyly. I explained that I had no scuba gear, that the visibly was near zero, and the bottom was a cloud of muck. But she was a good prospect for whom a heroic recovery might just be the icing on the cake that was the beautiful afternoon of whale watching her intrepid captain had just given her. So, against all odds, I leapt.
Diving awkwardly between the dock and hull, I gave a few strong kicks and arrived at the bottom sooner than I expected, and which, given the murk, didn’t see coming. My hands plunged into the silt, stirring up a cloud that reduced the visibility to zero. About to pull up, already preparing my apologies and excuses, I felt something beneath my right hand. I closed my grip, shook off the muck and was amazed as I started toward the surface to realize that I was holding her glasses.
I emerged, handed them to her and took full credit for fickle fate as I basked in her admiration.
I was diving on a wreck off the coast of Pensacola many years ago. On the sandy bottom, some distance from the wreck, I found a wallet with a driver’s license and a hundred-dollar bill. It belonged to a local restaurant owner. When I returned it to him, he offered me a free meal (I never returned to claim it) and told me the story.
He had tied his motorboat off to the wreck (which at low tide had parts of it exposed) and went diving. Unfortunately for him, he had very little “scope” on the rope he used to tie off with. When he surfaced, the tide had risen, pulling his runabout under, sinking it. Fortunately, others were in the area and got him home. His boat was eventually recovered, but his wallet had remained missing, until I turned up.
I was a liveaboard on Oregon’s Willamette River, rowing back to my boat. I had my outboard with me and, where better to stow it than the transom? And why dog it down if I’m only going to remove it when I get back to the boat? Well, the wake came out of nowhere and my outboard slid off the transom and into the drink, the beginning of a quick 30-foot trip to the bottom. It happened as though in slow motion, but too quickly for me to save it. I was devastated and ashamed of myself, but had the presence of mind to toss overboard a small stern anchor and a line attached to a fender, to mark the spot.
I lived on a section of the river labeled a Superfund Site by the EPA, and I knew from experience that local divers charged a fortune for recoveries here.
After several days of mulling over solutions, I decided to free dive for my motor. The only problem was that I had never free dove deeper than to the bottom of a swimming pool, and even then I would get painful pressure in my ears. How did free divers do it?
I looked online and learned that equalizing was the key. I was ready.
My friend Daniel came by to assist. “If you drown, I’ll make sure the authorities pull your body out for a proper burial.”
I made the first free dive attempt and practiced equalizing at around ten feet down. What a difference it made! My ears and head didn’t ache. The second dive I went a little deeper but got spooked out by how dark it was around 20 feet. It was the third attempt that I finally reached the bottom. Even though it was a bright, sunny day, the visibility nill. But I swam back to the surface with a newfound confidence that I could go back to the bottom and begin the search.
On the next dive, I brought with me a 100-foot length of ¼-inch line that I secured to the boat. Once on the bottom I started exploring. It didn’t take long before I spotted my outboard sitting on the bottom, on its side. I quickly ran the line through its handle and swam back to the surface. Then, from the dinghy, I pulled my outboard to the surface, hand over hand.
Daniel was ready. “Ya know, I think those Honda fish are catch and release.”
—Justin (aka Captain Cupcake), Portland, Oregon
My wife, Marty, and I were vacationing in East Boothbay in the early 1970s and took a drive out to visit my childhood summer home on Barter’s Island. We stopped at a small beach area, nestled near the road on the Back River. The sun had warmed the water to the point that we were able to enjoy a swim, splashing around. When I discovered that my wedding ring was missing from my finger, we both search the bottom below the murky water with our toes until we were sure it was hopeless. Disheartened, we departed for our rental cottage.
Later that day, on a whim, I suggested we go back, reasoning that maybe we’d see something at low tide. Pulling into the small parking lot next to the beach, we saw a couple sitting together. As we walked past them to the water, one of them asked, “Did you lose something?”
We explained, and they pulled the ring out, said they had discovered it and were waiting there, hoping the owners would return. Wow! Fifty years later, I still have same ring, somewhat loose on my finger, but now I always put it in a safe spot before any outdoor activity.
We want your help, and we’re willing to offer you something for it.
We want to hear from as many readers as possible about the products or services you’ve discovered/purchased/used that are advertised (or advertised in the past) on the pages of Good Old Boat magazine. Tell us your story, about learning about the product and about using the product. We give bonus points to readers who include a photo of themselves with the product. We’ll send (for free!) a Good Old Boat hat or shirt to any reader who sends us all of that, plus a photo of an aid to navigation from the area they sail, the more interesting the better.
We appreciate it. Our advertisers provide a chunk of the revenue needed to make our magazine; by sharing reader feedback, we hope to remind them that their ad budget is well spent in Good Old Boat.
BWI Scholarship and Awards
Have you all seen the excellent video on the Good Old Boat YouTube channel, a 12-minute pre-departure documentary about Jeanne Socrates, the oldest human to have ever sailed non-stop, unassisted, around the world? The film was made by Cavan Lyons, a former cruising kid who lives and studies in Washington state. Since he was a kid, Cavan has been interested in storytelling via video. Heck, Cavan’s been more than interested, that’s why we tapped him to make the Jeanne Socrates film.
Well, that film became part of Cavan’s application for the Boating Writers International (BWI) scholarship contest, to be awarded to an undergraduate student who demonstrates a passion for the field of boating media. On February 13, BWI announced Cavan Lyons the winner of the $2,000 scholarship at the Miami International Boat Show.
But wait, there’s more.
Also at the February 13 show, BWI (a professional organization of writers, editors, publishers, photographers, and others in the communications profession associated with the boating industry) recognized two Good Old Boat writers for their work: Contributing Editor Drew Frye and contributor Craig Moodie.
Drew won a third-place cash prize in the Boating Issues category for his July 2019 Good Old Boat article, “Living with Ethanol.” Drew was also recognized in the Seamanship, Rescue & Safety category for his May 2019 Good Old Boat article, A Drogue by Another Name is a Rudder. Writing for Practical Sailor, Drew was recognized yet again, in the Gear, Electronics & Products category. Craig was recognized in the Boating Lifestyles category for “Drifting or Driven?,” an article that we published in the May 2019 issue of Good Old Boat.
Finally, BWI recognized Good Old Boat Senior Editor, Wendy Mitman Clarke, three times (including two cash awards) for her articles in Soundings and Chesapeake Bay Magazine.
Congratulations to all!
Free Subscription for Active Duty
Know a US or Canadian active-duty soldier who sails? Who may be deployed and missing sailing? Are you an active-duty US or Canadian soldier who would enjoy a free subscription to Good Old Boat? Whether you know one or are one, contact Brenda to get that subscription started. She’s super nice and can be reached by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
This one is new to us. Apparently, the word posh, which we know to be a synonym of luxurious, began as an acronym, POSH, meaning Portside Out Starboard Home. Why? Because wealthy Colonial Americans, traveling by sailing ship back to England, would want care to be taken with their goods, packed in trunks. Heading from Boston to Portsmouth, for example, they’d want their trunks stowed on the port side, avoiding weeks of sun exposure. Heading home, they’d want their trunks stowed on the starboard side, for the same reason. With POSH stenciled on the outside, the ship’s crew knew just what to do.
We looked this one up and found a variant that rings more true. Rather, the wealthy passengers themselves were POSH (standing for the same thing), as it indicated their preferred accommodations aboard the ship in either direction.
On February 21, Good Old Boat lost its undisputed biggest fan. Tom Wells died peacefully and unexpectedly aboard his boat in Florida; he laid down for a nap and never woke. His public obituary is here.
I stood alongside Tom (and his wife, Sandy) in front of the Good Old Boat booth at the 2017 and 2018 Annapolis sailboat show. His love of the magazine was contagious and I referred to him as The Closer, for his ability to convey to anyone who stopped and talked to him the merits of our magazine. Most of the time they asked to subscribe on the spot.
And that’s when he wasn’t playing. For years, and long before my time, Tom was Good Old Boat’s Official Troubadour, a fixture in our Annapolis booth, singing and playing original compositions on guitar, putting a smile on passersby.
As much as he was a cheerleader, Tom was a valued contributing editor. Over the years, in addition to other stories, he wrote reviews of 18 different boats. My guess is that on the day before he died, Tom could have told you the names of all 18 boat owners, because he and Sandy became friends and stayed in touch with each one. It’s just the way they were. Tom was big in stature, gentle in demeanor, with a disarming wit. He was a lover of words and puns. When his Tartan 37 needed a name, only Higher Porpoise would do (his previous boat was On Porpoise). Tom was the author of Superior Run, the story of a writer and sailor who uses his Tartan 37 to help a friend escape a ruthless adversary, a deadly game of cat and mouse on the Great Lakes… Many reviewers on Amazon expressed an interest in a sequel. Tom was working on one, but his time ended.
I’m grateful that I got to know Tom, but our window was short. Good Old Boat founders Karen Larson and Jerry Powlas share a deeper knowledge and connection with Tom and their remembrances follow.
Karen writes, “Tom Wells was a big man with a big voice and an enormous personality to go with it. He was a big crewmember with big muscles who could winch in the sheets and budge the traveler car no matter the wind conditions. He sailed like there was no tomorrow.
“He was a big teller of jokes and always the one with the fastest and wittiest repartee. His creativity was legendary. He could write music and lyrics, author books, play any tune on his 12-string, write a boat review or technical article, and judge the safety of buildings and other structures. He was a big friend to all he met. This was possible because he had a very big heart.
“He was one of our closest friends. He was a big presence in our lives and in those of others. And with his quiet and unexpected departure, so out of character, he has left behind a big empty space.
“We will miss him always.”
Jerry writes, “Tom Wells saved my life at least once and he saved my bacon many times. He was a dedicated member of the Good Old Boat crew, writing reviews and doing “booth duty” at boat shows.
“Tom made a daylight crossing to Fiddler’s Green on February 21, 2020. Just to show off, he made the whole crossing in his sleep. Tom didn’t play the fiddle. He played the 12-string guitar. Nonetheless the fiddlers will be glad to have him. I’ve seen him write a song, music, and lyrics in less than half an hour.
“When ashore away from boats, Tom was a structural engineer, father of a daughter and son, grandfather to one lucky little girl, and husband to his best friend Sandy. He had a preference for dark and stormys when the sun was below the yardarm. The rum had to be Gosling’s Black Seal, and the ginger beer had to be Vernor’s. I got the rum brand wrong once and he let me know. He was a sport though, he drank up even though the drink was a bit off. I still have a bit of the rum left. It was waiting for Tom’s next visit.
“If the fiddlers can’t play in tune or they don’t have the correct rum and ginger beer there, perhaps he will come back for a tuning fork, Gosling’s Black Seal, and some Vernor’s ginger beer.
“If you hear the faint sounds of a well-played 12-string, playing a song you can’t quite place, you are being haunted by an old sailor who is good to have on your side.”
My previous boat was a traditional cutter with an outboard rudder and boomkin, precluding the use of a common stern swim ladder. The wooden side ladder she came with was cumbersome and difficult to store. I replaced it with a simple step which hung over the topsides, and life was good. I eventually sold that boat and bought Nurdle, a 1979 Bristol 35.5 equipped with a conventional transom-mounted swim ladder. All was well until, in preparation for extended cruising, I decided to install a windvane self-steering device and the ladder had to go. Drawing inspiration from that simple step, I decided to make an improved version.
The original was a 2 x 12 plank, sturdy but very heavy. For the new one, I selected a piece of ¾” mahogany plywood, salvaged from a bulkhead replacement project on a friend’s Alberg 30 (“No Time for Perfection,” Good Old Boat, November 2014). The gate stanchions are 24 inches apart, which determined the step’s width. I had considered making it deep to fit a telescoping swim ladder, but that would require a depth of about 18 inches, which seemed excessive. I selected a generous 12-inch depth.
I started by drilling ¾” holes in the corners to fit the ½” suspension lines. The scrap ply I was using was already varnished and I left it this way on the bottom. But on the top, I wanted a nonskid surface. Having used KiwiGrip on my deck and been pleased with the results, I decided to try a homemade equivalent. I bought a pint of rejected latex paint at the big box store for $1.25. I removed the lid off it and let the contents dehydrate for a week or so, until it was goopy. I then laid this goopy paint on thick, using a texture roller to create a pattern. The result was acceptable, but I think the paint could have been even thicker at the start. Next time, I may try adding wood flour as a thickening agent.
After painting, I attached fender material to the front and back edges. I created this by splitting a pool noodle from the dollar store and removing a strip ¾” wide strip longitudinally. Pipe insulation may have been a good alternative and comes in different diameters. Satisfied with the size and shape, I cut strips of 10-ounce cotton duck I bought from Sailrite, hemmed the edges for easier handling, and applied them to the foam with contact cement. Next, I tacked them in place with small bronze ring shank nails, typically used to install brass weatherstripping. (Note: when purchasing these nails, bring a magnet with you, as some are only plated steel and will rust.
Next, I ran the suspension lines thru the holes with a stopper knot below. A loop at the appropriate level allowed hanging from the braces on the gate stanchion via a bow shackle. I use stopper knots to adjust the height so that it hangs where I want it, usually about 18 inches above the waterline, level with the top of the inflatable dinghy tube. When we have dogs aboard, I hang it higher so they can use it to help get themselves aboard. For swimming, I hang it much lower, closer to the water.
A friend expressed concern about the force the step is exerting on the stanchion bases, but given that the force is aimed nearly directly downwards, I think the force is less than might be created when leaning on the lifelines underway.
John Churchill grew up a boat-crazy kid in Indiana. He built a raft at age 6, sailed Snipes as a teenager, and worked his way toward saltwater and bigger boats as an adult. He has singlehanded a Cape Dory 26 to Bermuda and back, and sailed a Bristol Channel Cutter transatlantic with his father. Now in Florida, John races and daysails Nurdle, a Bristol 35.5 (and former repo) that he’s rehabbing for extended post-retirement cruising.
It begins on the water. Daniel Parker and his 18-year-old son, Quentin, are well-weathered Americans long into a circumnavigation aboard their 46-foot sloop, Renaissance. Such an epic endeavour always begs the question…are they sailing to or from? Daniel hit his mid-life crisis and walked away from a lucrative legal practice in Washington after realizing that his obsession with his work was costing him his marriage and his son. Quentin is sailing from a life skewing toward drugs and disillusionment with a man who has been a stranger throughout his childhood. They tiptoe around the cockpit, salon and each other, while ashore a wife and mother fears for their safety and ponders her feelings for a man who deserted her for a law practice. Soon, their conflicts will seem all but meaningless.
As the voyage unfolds, other lives emerge and soar and eventually collide in a page-turning adventure tale that keeps churning relentlessly toward an unexpected conclusion that shatters the entrenched morals and dogmatic beliefs of everyone caught in the aftermath. The book took me places I’ve never been nor imagined existed. It made me question beliefs and perceptions I thought were hard-wired into my soul.
Corbin Addison’s prose is silk and seduction…it flows swiftly and smoothly like gentle waves beneath a gliding hull. His research is exhaustive and revealing. His canvas of Somalia…the land…its people…the past and daunting present is riveting and disturbing. You don’t want to see it but you can’t turn away. His clinical examination of the United States military response to piracy on the high seas exposes a stark contradiction. Addison gives us no cookie-cutter villains or heroes. All of his characters are real people with desires and doubts and emotions and insecurities they can never escape, but must follow to a destiny that is as eminent as the next sun rise.
Every novel is a voyage and the reading takes the reader to places they’ve never been. The Tears of Dark Waters took me to a new understanding of the disparities that exists in our world today, and the tsunami that is coming if we don’t expand our horizons and seek to embrace the cultural differences and basic human needs that drive all our lives—for better or for worse.
Don Davies is a sailor and writer who is a frequent contributor to Good Old Boat. He sails Affinity, his 1974 Grampian 30, around Lake Ontario. After extensively researching the men and sailing schooners of Canada’s Maritime provinces, Don wrote a dramatic screenplay about the famous Bluenose and her skipper, Angus Walters. You can find out more at www.thebluenosemovie.com
There’s more to going offshore than buying a boat and outfitting it. It’s also an unbelievably emotional journey. It turns your world inside out. Often, books about going offshore will only broach the nuts and bolts (which are very important). Gina deVere, on the other hand, doesn’t shy away from the human side of the equation.
In Blue Water Women, de Vere shares pragmatic information in bite sizes for aspiring female cruisers. She effectively draws the reader’s attention to important aspects of cruising by touching on a wide range of topics. She offers advice while giving it context through the personal stories of women who have first-hand experience with offshore sailing.
Stories fed my hunger for adventure when I was planning my first offshore voyage. Reading about others’ experiences provided motivation and inspiration. In that sense, the book is successful. Knowing that someone else has experienced a challenge like what she’s facing, and learning how they coped, can be validating to any woman heading out on her own journey. It can also give her tools and perspectives to cope when faced with similar situations.
The book flows well, and there is plenty to hold interest. Though some of the writing didn’t resonate with me. The section that directly addresses the male counterpart of a cruising couple was somewhat problematic. The author primarily addresses women in established relationships, yet out of the blue, she directly lectures men on how to behave and support their partner. While well-intentioned, this appears out of place. It would have been more effective had she tackled this topic by showing helpful ways for a woman to ask her partner for what she needs.
Because if there was one recurring theme in the book—which I wholeheartedly support—it’s that as an offshore sailor, you must take responsibility for your own learning. That’s how you build confidence. Take ownership of your life and you can immerse yourself in a lifestyle that can be at times harsh but also filled with some of the most incredible experiences only this kind of voyaging can offer.
The author’s simple and direct delivery reminds me of conversations I enjoyed over a glass of wine with my female mentors as I prepared to sail offshore. Blue Water Women may not speak to all women, but many will benefit from its nuggets of wisdom.
Kyra Crouzat has lived aboard Nyon, a 60-year-old strip-planked yacht, for over 12 years. She and her husband, Rick, sailed away from Canada in 2011, spending 16 months in Mexico before crossing the Pacific and making landfall in New Zealand. Now based in the Bay of Islands, Kyra manages a Trust that takes young people on voyages aboard a square tops’l schooner.
“You knew it was coming…” is the message Good Old Boat contributing editor Allen Penticoff sent me with a link to saildrone.com. Maybe we should have, seems to be the era of the drone, from robot vacuum cleaners to unmanned aerial warfare. Apparently, a Bay Area tech company is endeavoring to launch fleets of autonomous sea-going drones such as the one pictured above, onto the oceans of the world to collect empirical data in the service of science, specifically meteorologists and oceanographers. This data could be a boon to our ability to forecast weather with better precision, according to scientists.
We think it’s great, but these aren’t little toys, they’re significant craft. The one pictured above is over 21 feet long and weighs about 1,500 pounds. They sail autonomously for up to a year and can hit 9 knots. Hate to have so many out there that we someday read about a collision that disables or sinks a manned craft. Though, assuming these are transmitting, or could transmit, an AIS signal, probably not a big concern.
Free Subscription for Active Duty
Know a US or Canadian active-duty soldier who sails? Who may be deployed and missing sailing? Are you an active-duty US or Canadian soldier who would enjoy a free subscription to Good Old Boat? Whether you know one or are one, contact Brenda to get that subscription started. She’s super nice and can be reached by email: email@example.com
This one is relatively common knowledge, but it’s not universal, so let’s spread the word…or the letters, specifically the P’s and Q’s. When we tell our kids to mind their P’s and Q’s, we’re telling them to be polite and to behave. But if the etymology is correct, we may as well be asking them to settle their bar bills. Back in the day, sailors were responsible for minding their P’s and Q’s, that is, come payday, to pay for the pints and quarts they’d ordered and consumed on credit at the local pub.
After reading Lee Brubacher’s story about anchoring with two anchors (“Twice Hooked,” The Dogwatch, January 2019), I think that, in addition to his conclusion about when to use two anchors, an important lesson would be to not use a bow roller as a chock for the anchor rode once the anchor is set. Most boats, and I assume this includes his Luger 26, have bow chocks meant as fairleads for the anchor line. Typically, a bow roller should only be used to stow, launch and recover the anchor.
—Dave Sharp, Newport, Rhode Island
Thanks for the feedback, Dave. We think this really depends on the boat and rode.
We sailed a 1978 Newport 16 for years that came with neither an anchor roller nor chocks. We didn’t anchor often, and the ground tackle was light enough that we didn’t need an anchor roller, but we did install a single chock to run the rode through.
We spent even longer with a 1980 Newport 27 that we anchored often. She had an anchor roller (without a bale) and no chocks. Our ground tackle consisted of a 22# Bruce anchor attached to 125 feet of half-inch chain attached to 200 feet of half-inch 3-strand. For four years, we regularly anchored with all the chain out, along with whatever rope portion of the rode conditions warranted. The rope portion of the rode absorbed all shock loads, so we had no need for a snubber. We always used the anchor roller as a chock for the rode—until that fateful day anchored off the coast of Maria la Gorda, Cuba, when a storm kicked up waves and the bow pitched so much that the taut rode jumped off the roller and quickly chaffed through. We lost the Bruce and our chain, but we were aboard and were able to save the boat.
Aboard our 1978 Fuji 40, we dropped the hook roughly 300 times. She had a windlass, chocks, and an anchor roller with a bale. Our ground tackle consisted of a 66# Bruce and 350 feet of 3/8-inch chain. About 95% of the time, we used a bridle/snubber that ran through the chocks and took the load off the roller. We never experienced any problems.
Our experience aboard the Newport 27 would seem to support your assertion that it’s best to not use the bow roller as a chock, but with the rode we were using, we can’t imagine how (or why) we’d deploy on the roller and then move the rode to a chock given that on this boat and most, there is usually a pulpit and the pulpit is usually between the bow roller and any chocks. We think in our case, having a bale on the roller would have been the better solution. And even if we endeavored to remove the rode from the roller post-deployment, and run it through a chock, that adds a step to anchor retrieval that we would consider dangerous, such as in a situation like Lee found himself in, in which being able to quickly retrieve the anchor is necessary.
If we were to offer a going-forward remedy to Lee, it would be to replace the existing roller with a more robust one that includes cheeks and a bale, and deploy from and swing from that, assuming his rode includes line (all-chain rode is another story, but uncommon in a boat that size). –Eds.
Starboard, Larboard, Tribord, Bâbord
Regarding the Nautical Trivia in January’s The Dogwatch, the French words for port and starboard are bâbord and tribord, respectively. I read somewhere, a long while ago, that the origin of these terms came from warships. Aboard these ships, batterie (pronounced batuh–ree) indicated where the guns were. One side of the ship was the “ba” side and the other was the “terrie” side. Verbally, this came out as the “ba” side and “tri” side. In French, side is “bord.” Maybe you can get validation of this!
—David Salter, Bath, Ontario
Thanks David, we love it. We don’t have validation, but maybe some other readers do. We suppose this theory for the French terms, and the English-terms theory we presented in January, are not mutually exclusive. Does anyone have insight on the Spanish- or Japanese- or Russian-language terms for port and starboard? –Eds.
Charts No More?
Last month, I put it to the readers about charts, about the oft-heard, oft-repeated sentiment that prudent sailors wouldn’t sail without back-up (or primary) paper charts aboard. I asked for your stand on the question of whether it’s important, whether it’s good seamanship, to have paper charts aboard for navigation, or whether you’ve concluded that paper charts are no longer necessary. I mentioned that my asking was prompted by NOAA’s recent call for public comment on their plan to stop—after 200 years—creating/updating even the data currently used by third parties to print nautical charts.
I’m not going to share my personal thoughts on carrying paper charts aboard (I’m going to save that for my editorial in the May issue of Good Old Boat), but I do want to make something clear about the NOAA announcement.
I got it wrong. (And thank you to readers Marilyn Johnson and Barry Stompe for first letting me know this.) And other reporting media outlets got it wrong. SAIL magazine’s headline was, “A Farewell to Paper Charts,” and included a subheading, “NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey is currently working out plans to completely phase out the production of paper charts and associated products within the next few years.”
To be fair, NOAA’s press release was equally misleading: “NOAA is initiating a five-year process to end all traditional paper nautical chart production.”
This isn’t clear. I’ll tell you what’s true.
Traditional NOAA paper charts, as you know them, are going away. NOAA paper charts are not going away. Here’s what this means.
Traditional NOAA paper charts have long been numbered and titled and each has covered a defined area at a defined scale with a specific publication date. For example, NOAA chart 16204 is titled Port Clarence and Approaches and covers that defined area at a scale of 1:100,000. It looks like this:
Over the next 5 years, NOAA is going to stop producing the rastorized data used to print pre-defined charts like this. Your children (assuming they’re young or unborn) will not know a paper chart as a fixed, defined, titled, dated thing. But your children will still retain the option of using a paper chart. How will that look for all of us?
It’s pretty cool, and a good next step. The future paper chart consumer will decide how large a chart they want to print, where they want it centered, and the scale to which they want it printed. All the data used to produce the chart will be current as of the time of printing. Every chart will be custom and unique. Chart notes and other marginalia will not be printed on the chart, but on a separate page. It’s akin to zooming in on exactly the area you want to see on your chart plotter, and then printing that view on whatever size paper you like. Here’s how the new NOAA chart would look, covering roughly the same area as above, but at 1:80,000 scale:
We don’t see anything to complain about. Onward, NOAA!
And I’m sorry for contributing to the misinformation. But enough about this, let’s hear what you think about the imperative of sailing with paper charts aboard. We’ll give Alfred Poor the first word because he has an idea we’re surprised hasn’t been implemented…
—Michael Robertson, Editor
NOAA is planning to stop updating chart data? I didn’t know that they were still doing that. On the Chesapeake (where we sail out of the Bohemia River) the NOAA charts appear to be using soundings that are 40 years old (unless you’re in the shipping channels).
I had the idea to crowd-source depth data. Lots of boats are now equipped with digital radios connected to their GPS and navigation systems. Couldn’t we have a system that would report time, date, location, and depth on a voluntary basis as boats moved around the navigable waters? A little artificial intelligence and clever algorithms could adjust for different placements of the depth transducers and tidal changes, and probably come up with an accurate mapping of the waters in a relatively short time. (Certainly, no less accurate than what we’re dealing with now.) Maybe it will take a private mapping company such as Garmin to make this work.
I know our home waters well, but I still insist on having paper charts on board. In the event of a nighttime power failure, I’ll still be able to identify the lighted marks and find my way to safety. Cheap insurance, even if I never use it.
—Alfred Poor, 1973 Tartan 34C Jambalaya
I recently took a Power Squadron course in Ontario, where the instructors insisted that the law requires paper charts. This is not the case, and when I quoted chapter and verse, they maintained the “better safe than sorry argument.” The law says you need a backup, so I have a small Garmin handheld with marine maps on it, which I also use for an anchor alarm.
[Carrying paper charts as back-up] is too expensive, and frankly, the risk of error inherent in plotting manually on paper are greater than the risks/errors using GPS. Paper charts tell you where you are. GPS tells you how to get somewhere easily without hitting anything.
If something causes the entire GPS constellation to fail, I have a bigger problem to worry about.
I use paper charts. I have a handheld GPS that I use for position, as a track follower, and for speed over ground. Other than that, I use paper charts all the time. Even when I’m in home waters, I have the local charts out (Thousand Islands in the St. Lawrence River), comparing my position to what’s on shore and the bottom. I don’t think I would buy a chart plotter as I like being able to read small-scale charts in one pass, and I don’t want the battery drain.
I have extensive charts for my voyages, including chart books and NOAA and Canadian Hydrographic charts. Some of my old charts of the Thousand Islands (the large scale charts) give me more information than the current NOAA charts. They moved away from issuing the large scale charts, and the ones they currently issue leave out detail. Charts are also a nice way to remember a trip and the adventures along the way.
—Mark Fontaine, Lady, 1947 40-foot Owens Cutter
We sail (mostly) on Lake Ontario and have a chart plotter and laptop on board. It has been a long time since I had a real paper chart on board, but I have been using the next best thing: Richardson Chartbooks for the Great Lakes. I use the chartbook for two purposes: first, for planning and getting an overall picture prior to going to unfamiliar places, and second, as we often used to sail non-stop from Bronte to Kingston when heading to the Thousand Islands, I would mark our position every hour in order to keep track of where we are.
The bottom line is that although we don’t use actual paper charts, the chartbooks are based on them. Technology is a wonderful thing (as a CPA, my business is built on technology), but in addition to our electronic back-ups we still have paper back-ups for everything. We cannot let ourselves be seduced into becoming entirely dependent on computer chips. I am almost 65 and, being the luddite I am, I want my paper chart books and NOAA charts when the apocalypse comes, the satellites come down, and the lights go out! (Hopefully I’ll be in the Caribbean, South Pacific or some other suitably warm and sunny place at that point!)
—Brian Miller, Oakville, Ontario
I applaud this NOAA decision, and I always have paper charts aboard. My multifunction display is too small to give me the overview I want when I am approaching an unknown or tricky area. I study the paper chart before the approach, and then decide how I will use the electronic chart during the tricky navigation. For example, do I need to draw a course through reefs and rocks? Do I need to highlight navigation risks better than the ENC currently does? Do I want to drop a mark in the best anchoring area?
With NOAA’s new custom chart creator app, I can print just the area of interest, at any scale I want (presumably within the limits of the available bathometric data). Since I decide the boundaries of the region to print, I can choose to avoid splitting an area into 2 charts, or skip printing big areas of open water in preference for printed charts of areas with navigational complexity.
I am 70 years old and grew up with paper charts. I never cruised without them—even got the Admiralty charts for Mexico and Central America when we went there. We cruise summers in British Columbia and always have paper aboard.
But then I went to Polynesia and acquiring and storing detailed paper charts looked less appealing and less affordable. So, I got Garmin BluCharts for my plotter and backed those up with Navionics charts loaded on my iPad (on which I could also run iNavX). I had only small scale charts of chunks of the Pacific Basin on which I could track progress on long passages.
So, I guess I have succumbed to the convenience of electronics, [I’m happy] as long as I have two electronic charts of everywhere I travel. But I still prefer paper spread out on the chart table when I can.
—Terry Thatcher,Adavida, Morgan 382
I think paper charts should perpetually be available at every ship chandler and marina. I plot my courses on paper charts with traditional tools and mark them with graphite pencils. Every fix gets plotted to make course corrections. I only use GPS to confirm my own findings.
I especially use GPS data to back up my sextant readings and calculations, just so I know I got it right; or if I was way off, figure out why (I’m still learning, and it’s complicated).
Screen devices are not great when in a pinch, like a stormy approach in a narrow channel and an accidental screen swipe moves the view to an unknown place and you can’t find yourself before you hit a jetty; a paper chart will never move with a paper swipe. I also don’t have radar, but I wish I did (with a C-MAP overlay and GPS and MNEA0183 Autopilot integration), but even if I had all that, I would still start with the paper chart, plot my course, waypoints, turns, etc. In bad weather, I fold the chart to fit in a gallon Zip-Loc bag and use a grease pencil to mark changes on the bag.
As a Coast Guard Licensed 100-ton Master, and a Florida-state-licensed yacht broker, and a taxpayer, and an avid recreational boater, I think the idea of doing away with paper charts is idiotic. Would you set sail without an anchor? Do you really believe that electronic forms of data delivery are 100 percent reliable? (The U.S. Navy doesn’t think so, which is why it is requiring Academy grads and ship watchstanders to learn about sextants again.) The sea will not forgive such foolishness.
—David Hipschman, Fort Myers, Florida
Regarding paper charts, I’m with you. For years I faithfully kept my paper charts on board until I noticed they were never used and getting moldy. Between a dedicated chartplotter and a portable phone or tablet with electronic charts, I feel very safe. Oh yes, plus eyes on deck!
—Andy Vine, Cortes Island, British Columbia
Do I carry paper charts for the waters I sail? Of course I do! But then I’m of that age where I don’t trust electronics in a marine environment. I’ve seen them fail too many times. Most of my paper charts are from the early 90’s (1991 to be precise, the first circumnavigation of Vancouver Island) and hopelessly out of date regarding navigational aids. But the rocks, reefs and/or headlands have yet to be moved, so I think I’m good to go. Back in 1991, electronic aids were minimal and expensive. I paid close to $2,000 (in 1991 dollars) for a top-of-the-line Loran set that seemed to crash every time we approached a dangerous area. The old paper charts and Mark I eyeball had to take over! Lots of things have changed since then and the reliability of marine electronics has improved many times over. However, I carry two chart plotters, one at the helm, and the one it replaced below deck in storage. Both are multifunction (chart/depth/speed/AIS) and use the same sensors. I replaced the old one because of the occasional screen freeze (turn it off, turn it on again). So far so good.
But coastal navigation is more than just following the cursor or plotted line on electronic charts. A skipper needs to be able to visually translate observed terrain and headlands into the vessel’s position. GPS isn’t always right. I think skippers should learn basic navigation from paper charts and become proficient in identifying their position using eyeball navigation. Once the skipper understands coastal navigation, I can see leaving detailed charts at home. I don’t think I’ll ever get away from having at least the small-scale paper charts on board, but that may be just me. In Canada, the carrying of the actual paper charts is not a requirement, so long as Canadian Hydrographic Charts are carried in an electronic format. (https://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/regulations/SOR-95-149/page-1.html#h-6)
—Bert Vermeer, Natasha, Sidney British Columbia
I just finished a circumnavigation. I have several boat buddies that are circumnavigators, or soon to be. Fairly consistently, we each carried rudimentary small-scale charts. These were insufficient to explore an area, but sufficient for plotting our way to a safe landfall.
Two of the circumnavigators I know experienced lightning strikes last year, in both cases taking out every bit of electronics onboard, shy of whatever anyone thought to stick in the microwave ahead of time. In one case, the sailors were on their last leg back to England from the Azores, the GPS and IridiumGO worked perfectly to get them to port. The other vessel was docked and had no immediate navigation issues.
I’ve spent a couple nervous nights at sea watching nearby lightning storms, stuffing the microwave, and considering fallback options. Paper charts always gave me that ultimate, zero-electronics back up.
The potential to lose electronic navigation aids is very real. I never pulled the paper charts out, but I never climbed into my liferaft either. I carried both.
—Norm Facey, Dream Catcher, currently Campbell River, British Columbia
I like the changes being made in this great magazine. I’ve been a subscriber since almost the beginning. I was turned onto the magazine by an old salt who was teaching a celestial course for US Power Squadrons.
I am on the downhill side of coastal sailing in that I’m about to turn 77 and we are building a new home on a lake in western New Hampshire where my trusty Catalina 30 would be a bit too much boat. Having said that and having learned my boating skills in the 50’s (long before GPS or even affordable LORAN), paper charts are a requirement for me.
Paper charts allow the sailor to view the bigger picture easily so that markers, shoals, and other hazards can be visualized. It’s hard to keep several steps ahead when you can’t easily see what’s coming up. Not that a chart plotter can’t do some of that, but most sailors don’t have 24-inch monitors and/or the ability to quickly change the view.
I wonder how many boating accidents take place while a sailor is struggling with the electronics?
My current chart plotter is a 4-inch Garmin, terrific for close-in work, such as following a 30-mile narrow channel. But I still use paper charts to help me see what’s coming, despite however many times I’ve made the same trip. I also carry two spare handheld GPS units, just in case. I wouldn’t consider entering an unfamiliar harbor in broad daylight without paper backup, let alone in the dark or tough weather.
If one had a very big monitor, and could instantly change the scale from small to large and back again, without fail, had insurance, and was willing to take chances with their boat and their lives, then more power to them. Not for me.
I suspect that there are a lot more older sailors who feel as I do, that having every navigational tool available is the correct course of action. We were always taught not to put ourselves and our boats at risk by depending on a single navigation method.
I had one of the early handheld LORANs on a trip from Boston to Narragansett Bay on a new-to-me good old boat. I also had paper charts which came in handy when the LORAN got stuck in an electronic loop just as darkness fell with rising wind and already sporty seas and the sea bouy at the Sakonnet River nowhere in sight. Paper charts and the compass kept us out of serious trouble (barely). Without the charts I would likely have ended that trip on the rocks.
—Bill Crosby, Tranquility, Tolland, Connecticut
I love a good old discussion about the meaning of life.
First, we will have paper charts aboard when we are cruising away from our most intimate sailing grounds. Second, is it imperative for everyone to have paper charts? Our thought is a strong “probably,” especially if you want the ability to get to safety when everything fails.
This issue is a personal and hotly debated topic in our area. Older sailors will likely have paper charts aboard and newer sailors may not. But it’s each sailor’s choice. With the current trend to boats being more complex and more “condo” styled, a question to ask is: You have everything on your boat including a trash compactor, why not spare a little space and money for some basic paper charts? (Of course, that would require the captain having the ability to read the charts!)
A good reason to have paper charts is that they are a much more user-friendly tool for route planning than a small device screen.
I depend heavily on paper charts. There have been too many times when the chartplotter has been misleading for one reason or another and paper charts have saved the day (along with the magnetic compass).
The only time I don’t refer to paper charts is when I’m out on day sails from Guilford, Connecticut, where I’ve sailed for 15 years. But I always have aboard a full complement of paper charts, as well as both a helm-mounted and handheld GPS. When I sail out of that area, I always navigate using paper charts, backed up by my two GPS units. I can’t imagine not having paper charts to refer to as they give overall perspective of an area and provide harbor detail when required. I embrace technology, but paper charting should never be discarded.
I’ve started using electronics. I like them for speeds and distances and general up-to-dateness. But paper charts I can take into the cockpit, see even in bright sunlight, and they are not dependent on power.
GPS is wonderful, until it is not. There are times when GPS is off by some margin and other times intentionally off due to adjustments the US Government makes during war time. This creates a navigational problem for recreational sailors as they are not informed of these offsets. Paper charts and radar make it easy to confirm a vessel’s location when close to shore. In the case of electronic failures, paper charts provide insurance to navigate back to land safely. Years ago, the maritime schools stopped teaching celestial navigation due to reliance on GPS. Celestial navigation is back, and one needs paper charts to administer and use celestial navigation successfully. Paper charts are critical for proper route planning.
—Captain Richard Frankhuizen
My vote is for having paper charts onboard as back-up.
Many years ago, around 1981, I left Bermuda as crew aboard a 33-foot ultralight with two other sailors headed for Newport, Rhode Island. We never checked for a forecast, we just decided it was time to go (youthful ignorance). About halfway across, we hit a serious Gulf Stream storm that broke the boom in half, took out the main, and destroyed the one small battery we used for powering the LORAN. Only one person onboard knew how to use the plastic sextant. With that sextant and a paper chart, we made our way to just south of Montauk Light. The experience has stayed with me all these years. Today I have multiple GPSs, a chartplotter, and a computer to navigate with. But, one lightning strike or GPS spoofing event, and the GPS signal can be history. If that happened, a paper chart would be very nice to have aboard. I guess you can always just turn east or west and sail until you hit land, but my preference is to have paper, even old paper charts will do.
It is foolish to sail without paper charts. GPS is fine until batteries die, electronics fail, or the satellite signal is scrambled (as it was after 9/11). Also, there is no GPS that can give the big picture to help with trip planning. That said, I almost exclusively rely on GPS, but I know how to dead reckon if all else fails.
My wife and I race and cruise our S&S designed, Hughes 48 yawl, home base San Francisco Bay. We’ve cruised the west coast from Canada to Panama, French Polynesia, and Hawaii. We love our Garmin chart plotter, we are quite aware of some of its drawbacks, and we wouldn’t think of going anywhere without paper charts. On passage, we use paper charts to plot our position every hour, because you never know when the power might go out.
—Barry Stompe, Iolani
Thanks for the link to NOAA. I wrote a couple of points in favor of physical charts with the display presentation of the old-style charts. Coastal charts, especially, should have representations of shore features, including topography, as a matter of assisting pilotage. Of course, all the points regarding redundancy are also relevant.
—Stefan Berlinski, Hamachi, Santana 22
I’m an old timer and I feel paper charts for backup are essential. Even when the data on those charts is from the 1800s.
When I left New York to move to the west coast of Florida, I bought a Garmin GPS. It was extremely helpful finding the dock I had rented for my 30-foot Hunter. During the first year I lived in paradise, I sailed around Charlotte Harbor, up to Venice, and down to Ft. Meyers. On one trip, late in that first year, on my way back to Charlotte Harbor, the Garmin died. It just stopped working. Luckily, I had sailed this stretch of water before, but had this happened during an earlier trip, I would have been lost. As soon as I returned to the dock, I drove to West Marine and bought maps for the entire Florida west coast. I’ve never relied fully on GPS since.
I’m for the continuance of paper charts. Plotting and marking waypoints and headings on my GPS screen is scratching the heck out of it!
All my sailing thus far has been aboard a dinghy without paper charts. This year, aboard my new-to-me Paceship 23, I’m looking forward to setting off with second-hand paper charts. That said, my wee portion of Georgian Bay is deep and easy to navigate without charts, but if I venture further from home, such as a two-week cruise across the bay, I’ll do so with current paper charts.
—Tom van Aalst
I keep paper charts for the same reason I have a manual bilge pump: electrical things fail. I’ve been sailing off and on for 56 years, most of it long before GPS was practical and affordable. I’ve always understood that I sail with the wind, on the water, but near land. I need to know something about all three. All three times I’ve gotten lost—disoriented, really—were within a couple miles of my home port, waters I knew like the back of my hand. Once it was due to fog; I could hear a bell and the paper chart told me the characteristics of the bell off the entrance to Seattle. Once it was on Suttons Bay, a little notch in West Traverse Bay, Michigan. The chart let me figure out which lights were which from their various colors and flashing and figure out where I was, where safe harbor was. Once was coming into Baltimore Harbor when I’d stayed out too long and again, I needed to not just see the lights, but to know which one was which to make safe landfall.
I use an iPad and an iPhone with iSailor and iNavx with good charts. But I’ve seen the iPad overheat in the sun. I’ve seen the iPhone run out of power just when I needed it most. So even day sailing on Curtis Bay, my home waters, the paper chart is out, on the chart table, and I note my position on it from time to time.
Safe sailing is taking care of the just-in-case things. Paper charts are needed because they are the last line of defense in case the power fails, the satellites don’t speak, or the pixels don’t shine. Paper charts are the life preservers of navigation.
—James Eaton, Pendragon, Baltimore, Maryland
We use both paper and our chart plotter. The paper charts give the better overview/big picture and make planning a course easier, as well as provide a very functional back up if we lose power.
—Jeffrey Boneham, Pegu Club
I believe the paper charts should still be printed and updated. Electronics can fail or be rendered useless. It is good to have a way to navigate an area if all else fails.
I’m in the camp of wanting to have paper charts as backup. I sail a Catalina 30 and use an iPad with navigation software as my primary chart plotter, and basically love it. That said, it could fall in the drink, or lightning, or whatever else. So, I also have a waterproof paper chart book in the nav station. The book mostly doesn’t see light of day, but it’s there just in case.
—David W. Cory
My answer may be different in remote areas of the world (Pacific islands, Indonesia, etc.) However, given the reliability of modern electronics and the ability to obtain replacements in the Mediterranean and Caribbean, for example, I am comfortable relying on electronic charts, so long as I have the following:
A mounted chartplotter (connected to a NMEA network) with an integrated GPS antenna and Wi-Fi module
A mounted GPS antenna serving the AIS, and connected to the NMEA network as a backup antenna for the chartplotter
An iPad with integrated GPS antenna that can be synced through Wi-Fi with the chartplotter OR operate stand-alone
All combinations exercised regularly to ensure crew familiarity and to test equipment/connections
However this investment anticipates a fairly large sailboat. For a smaller daysailer, an iPad and basic paper charts may be better. The key principle in all cases: more than one source of location/charting information.
Please place me in the YES category for carrying paper charts. I’m old-school on this one and would rather rely on them than the GPS. Traditional skills rule. Thanks for asking!
Regarding setting sail without paper charts, the following might be useful to consider:
the better one knows the waters, the less the need for charts (paper or digital)
the shorter the trip, the less the need for paper charts
Perhaps the real danger is the loss of electrical power resulting in a loss of all non-paper charts. One might have charts on a MFD, a handheld GPS device, a tablet, and a mobile phone. Loss of power aboard would leave one dependent upon the batteries in the handheld devices. Once those batteries are depleted, all charting is lost. Depletion depends upon amount of charge at the start and rate of use. Longer-duration trips mean that there is more opportunity for mishap, including loss of power, and more time to deplete the batteries.
I often day sail and race out of Annapolis. Aboard is a Garmin chartplotter connected to the house bank, a mobile phone with iNavX and NOAA charts, and charts from MapTech (water resistant. water proof?). I have no wish to be caught out without charting capability. Despite having sailed for years out of Annapolis, I do not know every shoal, and the location all along the Severn where enough water becomes too little as one approaches either bank. Furthermore, the water is too opaque to see the bottom. The depth sounder reports depth under the keel, is not forward looking, and needs electrical power (house bank), so it is of no use to avoid running aground suddenly.
—Jonathan M Bresler, Constance, Alberg 30, Annapolis/Eastport Maryland
I sail a MacGregor 26D. It does not have a chart table. We don’t even carry much in the way of charts, because using charts in the cockpit takes a lot of room and just when we need to look at details closely…well, it’s hard to do that and steer at the same time.
But I came up with a charting hack. I found that if I use my smartphone to take high-resolution photos of a chart, or even the relevant pages of a chartbook or guide, I can later use these photos to great advantage while underway.
My phone is easy to hold with one hand, and close to where my eyes can best read it. I can zoom in on the photo for a very intimate look at each hazard or detail (such as reading buoy identifications) or zoom out and scroll along a coast line or get an overview of my course. I’ve used this hack for both large-scale and small-scale charts.
In addition, I’ll also use Google Maps on my phone to pin-point our location in satellite view and obtain an aerial perspective of a new harbor we are about to enter—this is great for spotting potential shallow areas. It always makes for safer, easier approaches when I have advance knowledge of what I’m about to encounter.
The phone does not blow around the cockpit. It does not need to be rolled up to put away or flipped through to find the right page. Most phones tolerate getting a little wet. My technique could be used to bring to the cockpit all sorts of resources needed while navigating underway, even if they’re simply redundancies to information stowed below.
Allen Penticoff, a Good Old Boat contributing editor, is a freelance writer, sailor, and longtime aviator. He has trailer-sailed on every Great Lake and on many inland waters and has had keelboat adventures on freshwater and saltwater. He owns an American 14.5, a MacGregor 26D, and a 1955 Beister 42-foot steel cutter that he stores as a “someday project.”
Self Sufficient Sailor, by Lin and Larry Pardey (Pardey Books, 2019; 332 pages)
Review by Michael Robertson
There’s no questioning or disputing the sailing (and writing) creds that made Lin and Larry Pardey household names among sailors and dreaming-to-be sailors. Their successes—in both sailing and writing—have been huge and enduring. They’ve earned the respect of all sailors, including the vast majority who do not sail engine-less, who do not sail simply, and who do not go small (and thus, in not a few cases, don’t go). And even the vast majority who don’t follow the Pardey ethos and approach have long nonetheless found relevance in the books they’ve written, on subjects ranging from provisioning to storm tactics.
But over the past few years, Lin has voyaged like she never has before, aboard a larger boat with an engine and many of the electronics and amenities that were never aboard the two cruising boats she and Larry built and sailed so many miles. In short, she’s recently been sailing in the way that most of her readership has for a long time. The revised and expanded edition of Self Sufficient Sailor is the product of her past couple years cruising.
This edition is 40% bigger than the previous edition. The themes of the book—cemented in the first 1982 edition—are unchanged. In fact, the original material is all there, revised and updated, but then enhanced by the addition of new material borne from Lin’s exposure to and perspectives on her recent experiences. In this edition, she offers her take on the advantages and disadvantages of this equipment; some of her thoughts might surprise readers. The sailboat cruising world continues to evolve and Lin is on top of it all.
I had breakfast with Lin in October, at the Annapolis sailboat show. We sat outside eating crepes and the septuagenarian told me about her fountain of youth: young sailors. She engages with them at every opportunity. They challenge her, keep her sharp. She is encouraged by all the young cruisers—sailing the boats they’ve got on the budgets they’ve got—with whom she’s crossed paths on her recent Pacific voyaging. In November, I invited Lin to offer words of wisdom (in writing) to a young couple I know who were traumatized by a near-death (and near boat-loss) experience. They were defeated and I didn’t have much to say to help them gain perspective on the incident or resolution of their feelings. Lin responded with words that were sensible and compassionate and empathetic. Here letter was both instructive and encouraging. It was true and perfect. It was evidence of the value of both her experience and her ability to communicate it.
It’s the same value Lin offers in a big heaping portion in this new edition of Self Sufficient Sailor. Even sailors who have read a previous edition of this book, should read this edition. It’s a chance to be reminded of all that made it an enduring classic, and to discover all that makes it better than ever. This isn’t a half-hearted, publisher-requested update of a title, it’s a revision and expansion of a beloved book by a woman driven to share what she knows will make it better and more worthwhile and more relevant.
Michael Robertson is editor of Good Old Boat magazine.
Good Old Boat uses affiliate links and may earn a small commission if you make a purchase after clicking one of our links. This comes at no additional cost to you.
Falling, by Brion Toss (C-Star Press, 2018; 52 pages)
Review by Michael Robertson
Maybe you’ve met people doing what they’re born to do? People who early-on embraced a vocation that was perfectly aligned with their interests and aptitudes? Not only are these folks usually the best in their chosen fields, they’re also happy, and balanced—at peace. I would put my master-electrician brother-in-law in that category. I would put Nigel Calder in that category. I would also put master-sailmaker Carol Hasse of Port Townsend in that category. And I would Carol’s good friend, Port Townsend master-rigger Brion Toss firmly in the club.
Last month we put it to the readers to learn what parts of Good Old Boat magazine you looked forward to most, and least. We didn’t get as much feedback as we’d hoped, maybe it’s because The Dogwatch landed in email boxes on a Sunday. But the feedback we got was thoughtful and…much more difficult to quantify than we imagined. There was some consensus in the feedback, but not much. We don’t see ourselves making any changes based on this feedback, as it’s hard to draw conclusions from it. But you be the judge.
The feedback was a mix of generalized statements, ranking the list of magazine columns we provided, and short blurbs about each column. Below, we’ll provide most of the feedback sorted by magazine column. Many people sent lists of their favorite columns, or gave feedback like, “I love the Reflections column!” For each of those “votes,” we’ve given the respective columns a “Like,” to use a parlance most familiar to everyone on the planet. And we’ll include the “Dislikes.” The generalized comments we listed are mostly excerpted. –Eds.
Learning Experience: +9 Likes
As not-too-experienced sailors, the stories of other boaters pulling themselves out of serious predicaments are extremely valuable.
Mail Buoy: +11 Likes
At times in the magazine’s history there have been too many letters printed praising it. Print only a few of the representative ones and be done with it. If you do screw up, continue to print a correction. Sailors admire honesty and value.
I love the design articles! Having old designers reflect on what makes boats great and not so great is great winter reading and puts one more in tune with their own boats, something I think this magazine does better than any other. And you should aspire to keep doing it.
If there is a part of the magazine I love least, it is the boat reviews; I am completely content with my 1987 O’Day 272 LE, not thinking about replacing her.
I don’t know how you do this, but it would be good to add variety to the review articles. There is a strict formula and I feel like I know the outcome before I read them sometimes.
I’ve owned a 1980 Cal 25-2 since 2002 and we are a good fit going forward, yet I read and reread the boat reviews and comparisons. I enjoy the histories of the designers and builders as well as the boats.
Sailing Tales: +1 Dislike, +5 Likes
Sailor Profile: +2 Dislike, +5 Likes
I really enjoy the human factor in sailing and [really enjoy the articles that focus on people].
Short Voyages: +1 Dislike, +1 Like
Simple Solutions: +6 Likes
I love the good ideas that folk have discovered to achieve one end or another.
The View from Here: +1 Dislike, +5 Likes
Websightings: +4 Likes
I like the odd sites you find.
Excerpted general comments:
So what do I read first when the magazine arrives? I go for the editorial and letters first (interested in responses to articles I’ve previously read) and then go for the boat reviews next. I really like the boat comparison and the professional opinions regarding strengths and weaknesses. Then comes the technical articles because that’s what I do, work on boats. I’ve garnered many useful tips that make my work both easier and result in more professional finishes. When that’s all out of the way I go back for the cruising stories, not so much for the destinations, but more for the human interaction and learning on small boats. Last, but certainly not least, I review the commercial content for resources that I can use. It’s unfortunate (for me) that the magazine is based on the east coast and the majority of the advertising is east coast based, but there is still useful information there and it’s a global marketplace. Overall, I really like how Good Old Boat publishes articles from non-professional writers willing to share information! That’s what makes the magazine what it is.
Keep the balance of practical, how to, repair, knowledge and technical articles with a few ‘softer’ cruising, sailing pieces.
I like the new team and approaches you are investigating, and wish you good luck. Please keep up the good work!
I think sometimes the stories go off the mission spectrum. While he may be a known writer, a guy who turns his ketch into some form of brigantine doesn’t really reflect most Good Old Boat
Keep the focus on older boats, sail techniques, and projects.
Many of these boats are turning over in ownership. I am seeing more long-time owners moving on. I’ve had my 1982 Cape Dory 33, 18 years and I am the third owner. It behooves us all to help the next generation get in tune with their boats. Good Old Boat should try to find younger owners and ask them what they need from the magazine and try to add those elements in. I know you’ve started already with the couple on the old Dufour.
My gentle spouse and I, owners of Certainty, a 1984 Rhodes 22 Continental, are in a constant battle with entropy and always must repair, replace, or refit something. I love reading about equipment performance, what works and what doesn’t, easier and cheaper ways to do things, and so on; and reading about comparable boats and how they are built.
The work you guys do is just awesome, thanks for being there for good old boat enthusiasts.
We made it clear last month that we’re offering free Good Old Boat magazine subscriptions to any active-duty servicemember. We failed to make it clear that we were talking about US service members. Regrettably, the photo that we used with this offer has nothing to do with the US armed forces, it’s a photo of a Turkish coast guard vessel, Sahil Guvenlik.
We learned about our error after receiving a flood of free-subscription requests from Turkish soldiers. (Okay, that’s not true. We learned about this thanks to reader Jim Perry, the first to point this out.)
But, it is true that we slapped our forehead so much it hurt and so much that we realized we’d made another error. Accordingly, we’re running this offer announcement again (see below) and we’ve made the necessary changes to the text and we’ve got the photo right this time…
Another Panama Story
Last month, I wrote in this space about the steep fee increase for small pleasure boats transiting the Panama Canal. Since then, I’ve learned that the Panama Canal is running out of water.
For those who don’t know, the way the canal works is fascinating. There are no pumps used to move water in and out of locks. Not a one. When it’s time to raise a ship in a lock, a 4- by 4-foot gate opens at the bottom of the lock and water floods the lock from the body of water outside the lock. The same thing happens to lower a ship, only that 4- by 4-foot hole becomes a drain. It’s simply elegant.
Of course, all that water used to raise and lower boats disappears into the oceans. Of course, re-supply comes from rain. It’s only because the area receives an average of 16 inches of rain a month (yeah, not a typo—visit Panama in July or August and you’ll see what 27 inches of rain per month looks like) does the canal have enough water to work this way.
But the climate is changing. And Panama has seen a significant decrease in the amount of rain falling and filling its lakes. In a case of unfortunate timing, Panama recently opened an additional set of locks to accommodate more traffic, thus using more water just as less water has begun to fall.
Free Subscription for Active Duty
Know a US or Canadian active-duty soldier who sails? Who may be deployed and missing sailing? Are you an active-duty US or Canadian soldier who would enjoy a free subscription to Good Old Boat? Whether you know one or are one, contact Brenda to get that subscription started. She’s super nice and can be reached by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Our friends over at Spinsheet magazine (a regional Chesapeake Bay sailing magazine) came up with a great idea: the Century Club. In short, they challenge sailors to log 100 days a year on the water, either sailing or something else involving watercraft (swimming doesn’t count). And if you’re stuck in the yard working on the old gal instead of sailing her, 10 days working in the yard counts as one day on the water. So, join the club! More info here.
Get this: The Old English term for the right side of a boat was starboard. Okay, you knew that. But did you know that the original Old English term for the left side was larboard? It’s pretty clear why one term was changed to sound more different from the other, even before radio communications were a factor.
But did you know that it’s thought the origins of these words have to do with what distinguishes each side of a boat? Steerage on the right loading on the left? And it’s suspected that the term port was an evolved substitute for larboard because it referred to putting that side of the ship against the dock.
We’ve got some poorly lit areas aboard (as you can see above), and they’re where we most need bright light: our under-the-bridgedeck galley sink and our chart table. Early on, we’d use a flashlight to clean the dishes or navigate. Reticent to drill holes in the overhead surfaces, I cleverly hot-glued some large washers to these surfaces and stuck magnetic puck-style lights to them. The light was good, but the lights were easily knocked off, usually into the dish water. I tried a bunch of Velcro-based solutions, but these never lasted long. I think I’ve finally come up with a solution I’ll be happy with for a long time.
It seems all the hardware stores are selling cheap, wall switch-style LED light fixtures that emit an astonishing amount of light. They use 4 AAA batteries for power and can be affixed using magnets, Velcro, or two screws into captive slots. I was done with the first two approaches, and I knew that screws would be really stable, but how could I mount it that way without making holes overhead?
From a piece of scrap Plexiglas, I cut several plates about the size of the base of wall-switch lights. Then I used a wall-switch light as a template for screw placement and marked the plates before drilling and tapping for the appropriate screws. (By appropriate, I mean screws that are just long enough to penetrate the thickness of the Plexiglas, but then leaving only enough of a gap beneath the screw head to later slide on the fixture so that it’s snug.) Before turning the screws into the plates, I applied some glue inside the holes to increase the holding strength. Next, I wiped down the overhead with acetone, exactly where I wanted to mount a light. In the same spots, I used hot glue to attach the plates to the overhead.
After installing the batteries and sliding the lights into place, all that was left to do was flick the switch.
Jim and Barbara Shell cruise the Texas coast in their 1981 Pearson 365 Ketch, Phantom.
For me, there are few experiences as satisfying as finding a quiet, secluded anchorage where I can enjoy the freedom of a peaceful sunset and lazy morning. You’ll recognize my boat because there’s an over-sized galvanized anchor on the bow, perpetually coated with dried mud from the last night I spent on the hook. This sailor is firmly planted in the cruiser garden, where I till the watery thoroughfares of the Great Lakes.
So it was that I was on a week-long cruising vacation, exploring the northeastern shore of Lake Ontario. Past Presqu’ile Point sits Prince Edward County and miles of beautiful sandy beaches. The area is dotted with quaint towns and wineries, promising a slower pace of life that draws cottagers from far and wide, including friends of ours, whom we decided to pay a visit.
Because there are no keel-boat marinas near, we decided to anchor off the beach at Pleasant Bay Camp. All that separated us from our friends’ cabin property was a few hundred yards’ tromp over a sand dune.
The day was sunny, bright, and warm. A moderate south-west wind was kicking up 2-foot waves on the white-sanded shore. Because of a very gradual seabed slope, we anchored quite far out. We sunk the Lewmar-made Bruce-style anchor from the bow. As the family packed beach toys and towels in our kayak, I noticed a slight wind shift, causing Nomad, our Luger 26, to drift broadside to the waves. In that moment, my inexperience allowed a dangerous syllogism to form in my mind.
Major premise – Anchors secure boats.
Minor premise – You can’t have too much security.
Conclusion – Two anchors are better than one.
So, before we went ashore to meet our friends, I pulled our secondary anchor (a Fortress), from its cozy slumber in the lazarette, tossed it off the stern, and pulled on the rode to orient Nomad perpendicular to the waves, bow pointing to deeper water. After I cleated the stern anchor rode, we disembarked for some fun with friends.
An hour later, having returned to the boat alone, I stood staring with absolute terror at the foredeck, where the anchor roller was bent and twisted and nearly ripped off the boat. Two of the four bolts that were securing the roller were severed.
One or both anchors had shifted and now both worked to keep Nomad positioned so that she was broadside to the increasing wind and waves. She was being pounded mercilessly, each wave hitting with brutal strength. Then in a moment I realized that the anchor roller is the deck fitting to which the forestay is attached. Nomad was simultaneously at risk of being beached and dismasted!
With the rest of my family watching helplessly from the faraway shore, I spent the most terrifying 30 minutes of my life trying to save Nomad. This meant starting our reluctant Mercury outboard and retrieving both anchors, on a pitching, heeling boat without the benefit of a tiller pilot. At some point, I managed to cast off the kayak so it would wash ashore and could be used by the family to reach me.
With everyone back aboard, we threw a long nylon rope over the spreaders and tied it forward to support the mast. For the next two hours, the mood was somber as we limped back to the marina at Brighton, Ontario, from where our week-long sailing holiday had begun the day before.
The next morning, we tore apart the front of the v-berth and the anchor locker, removed the severely damaged anchor roller, pounded it back into functional shape, and re-attached it to the bow.
Having since completed a few Canadian Power and Sail Squadrons boating courses, I have come to learn my syllogism was entirely faulty. One anchor is nearly always the best solution. Securing a boat at the bow allows the hull to flow freely with the natural forces of wind and wave, minimizing the forces on the ground tackle. In my case, adding the stern hook served initially to orient the boat in a manner which pointed the bow into the seas, but doing so raised the danger that should either anchor drag and reset, the boat could wind up trapped as she was. There are limited cases when anchoring with a bow and stern hook makes sense, but it’s not accurate to surmise that two is always better than one, not even if both are set off the bow. In fact, I might never have reason to deploy more than one anchor for the rest of my sailing career.
Do I regret my own ignorance which led to this near-disaster? No. It was this experience—this mistake—that led me to learn what I’ve learned. I’m a wiser and safer captain today.
Lee Brubacher is the husband of one, father of three, and has been the Director of Worship at West Highland Church, Hamilton, Ontario, since 2001. He is an avid sailor who enjoys refurbishing older boats and then cruising on them.
Lee Brubacher and 17 other volunteers from the West Highland Baptist Church of Hamilton, Ontario are our Dogwatch Sailors of the Month. In September of this year, these folks partnered with Oceanwise and The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup and spent a day picking up garbage from the Hamilton Harbour waterfront. Says Lee, “We were glad to do our part to clean up the water where we all sail, kayak, and canoe.” We’ve included some additional pics below that tell the story.
And we want to remind everyone that happily, this story is not unique. There are regular coastal cleanup efforts nationwide and we salute everyone who pitches in, and we encourage all Good Old Boat readers to be among them.
Have a favorite sailor you’d like to nominate? Get a good picture of them and send it to me; maybe they’ll be chosen. As always, I’m at Michael_r@goodoldboat.com
Close your eyes and climb aboard your little sailboat. Hoist the sail and drop off the mooring and slip across the deepening waters, mainsheet and tiller in hand. Feel the worn cedar planks and sand grains against your bare soles and hear the thrum of sail as it tautens in the breeze and lifts the boat across the water, wavelets clucking against the carving hull. Smell the cool salty broth of sea air and the fishy funk of the sea. Keep heading outward. Settle back against the cockpit coaming and nod to the terns chittering and peering at you as they flick past.
The sun settles toward the far shore. You squint at it, its rays warming your face. Tilt your head skyward and watch the angled shape of the sail and the gaff and the masthead arc and pivot against the heavens. Keep heading out and watch the sun alight on the horizon, then melt away, leaving the scattered puffs of cloud ablaze with electric pink that cools fast to purple and then charcoal. A planet blinks on, and red and green and white navigation lights of vessels appear. The water reflects the last of the sky’s inky blue. Shore lights mingle with the lights on the water. Soon you slip over a darkening sea, the white sail above you offering a pale glow against the growing star population. Reach for the chamois shirt you stow beneath the foredeck. Shrug into it and thank it for its warmth.
Skim onward into wider waters. You know you’ll never turn around now. A hush embraces you. The shore lights diminish, the lights of vessels disperse. Quiet now. You sense the outer shell of you dissolving to leave you open to the wind and the stars and the dark presence of the sea. You have passed through a zone in which you have given your entire being to the world. You open up your soul like a great pair of wings to let the quiet enter you and cleanse you. You become the boat and the sea and the night.
The moon raises its brow above the horizon, unfurling a glittering ribbon across the water. You adjust your course to point moonward, your bow scissoring the shimmer.
The moon whispers words you first think originate from wind or wave, sibilant syllables sweet but nonsensical. You know the words are meant for you. You strain to parse these lunar phrases, these moon murmurs, and soon you find that the nonsense sounds transform into a message as if you have tuned through the static of a shortwave radio to land on a clear signal.
“Steady on, steady on,” you hear the moon intone. Will you allow this beacon of beyond to guide you onward, outward, moonward?
You know you will. You know you’ll never turn around now.
Craig Moodie lives with his wife, Ellen, in Massachusetts. His work includes A Sailor’s Valentine and Other Stories and, under the name John Macfarlane, the middle-grade novel, Stormstruck!, a Kirkus Best Book.
I want to express my appreciation for a tip I got in The Dogwatch today (“LED Light and RFI Feedback,” November 2019). I had seen the earlier RFI/LED article and had made a mental note to check if my LED tricolor interfered with my masthead VHF. Reading the readers’ feedback, a note from Brent Putnam triggered a light bulb in my head. My cheap and infrequently used AM/FM stereo had developed a bad static problem. I had pulled it, checked the antenna, power and speaker leads, and gave it a gentle whack. No better. My troubleshooting skills exhausted, I resigned myself to replacing it someday. After reading Mr Putnam’s mention of USB chargers giving RF interference, I unplugged the Chinese panel mount unit I had installed nearby. Problem fixed. Thanks to Good Old Boat and your readers.
–John Churchill, Nurdle, 1979 Bristol 35.5 CB
Reading about ancraophobia and anemophobia in the November issue of The Dogwatch makes me wonder whether these anxieties can also apply to dogs. It’s ironic, but the little starving puppy we found on an uninhabited island in the Kuna Yala, and who sailed more than 8,000 miles with us for two years before we returned to land, is now clearly experiencing this problem. Thunderstorms don’t alarm her, but when there’s a big wind blowing, she’s a mess. It’s especially bad if the breeze randomly slams a door shut in the house, so if a big wind is forecast, I go around propping doors with workboots to preclude this source of terror. I don’t want to medicate her with the typical drugs that would make her all dopey. I’m considering CBD oil for dogs as a possible alternative. It makes me sad to see her so scared, and especially to think that she grew up on a sailboat in big water. But, maybe we all gain a few weird fears as we grow older. Does anybody else have a dog who suffers ancraophobia?
–Wendy Mitman Clarke, Good Old Boat senior editor
Some Advice for Capt. Rob
Regarding the letter from Capt. Rob in the November issue of The Dogwatch, about the starting problems he is having: I have a Yanmar SB12, which is also a small, single-cylinder diesel. When you turn your motor over by hand with the compression release engaged, each time the piston passes through top dead center, you should be able to hear the injector make a distinct “squoit” noise as it squirts a drop of fuel into the combustion chamber. If you do not hear this noise, the motor will never start, and you probably have an issue with air in the high-pressure side of the fuel line. It is also possible that the injector is bad, but this is much less likely and most certainly not the issue if the engine was running okay and now it won’t start. Learn to recognize this sound and you’ll always be able to tell if the motor is going to start or not.
–Homer Shannon, Cinderella, Bristol 29.9
I saw the letter in the November issue of The Dogwatch, about Capt. Rob’s diesel engine problem. I had a real interesting experience with the fuel system on my Pacific Seacraft 31. I had the marina change out my fuel lines and service the primary fuel filter (Racor 500FG). Afterward, I started experiencing air leaks in the suction side (before the electric and engine-driven fuel pumps). Soon after I’d begin to see air bubbles through the Racor filter inspection bowl glass, the engine would lug and die.
The first thing I found was the O-ring inside the filter cap had not been seated properly and was damaged. I replaced this O-ring and the engine ran for 45 minutes without a problem.
But several weeks later, it started lugging and dying again. I got pretty good at quickly bleeding the air and limping back to the marina! I started thinking I had something wrong at the fuel tank pickup, so I started removing hoses from hose barbs and inspecting the fittings.
I found that all the fuel hose was 5/16-inch and the barbed fittings were ¼-inch. Seems either the marina did not have ¼-inch fuel hose and substituted 5/16, or the previous owner/mechanic had changed to 5/16 at some time over the boat’s 29-year life. Changing to ¼-inch hose seems to have solved the problem.
By the way, in the fall of 2018 I attended a diesel teardown class in Chicago; followed by a diesel rebuild session in the spring of 2019. Best thing I have ever done for myself in regards to understanding the iron beast.
The Most Unusual Things: Feedback
Last month we said we’d share the most unusual man-made thing we’d seen from a boat, and the most unusual wildlife we’d seen from a boat—not necessarily the coolest thing, but the most unusual, the thing others are least likely to report. And we put it to the readers, wondering what others have seen while sailing. We’re surprised at the low number of responses, but we got some very good ones.
First, as promised, here are the most unusual things we’ve seen, both sightings within weeks of each other. It was early fall 2013 and we were sailing our 1978 Fuji 40 down from Alaska, on our way to Southern California. It was then two years after the tsunami that triggered Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster and reports of Japanese stuff washing up on Pacific Northwest beaches had been coming in all summer. As we sailed along the desolate coastline of the northern end of British Columbia’s Vancouver Island, we started seeing things in the water, Japanese things. In remote anchorages along that coastline, we found beaches covered in Japanese goods, nearly all plastic. There were lots of oyster floats, and lots of things we couldn’t identify, but most disturbing were the recognizable consumer goods.
On the wildlife front, it was about a week earlier and a bit further north that we saw our first and only sunfish, about 15 miles offshore. They’re the largest bony fish on earth. They’re flat and tail-less and occasionally hang out on the surface like this. They eat jellyfish, which makes sense as that part of the world is teeming with jellyfish.
Because he told the story that we can’t get out of our heads and because it must be the most unusual thing ever, we’ll give Rick Lamb the first word… –Eds.
The most unusual wildlife thing: a squirrel that must have choked while carrying a nut. It was when I was rowing an aluminum boat on an Indiana pond. The squirrel was dead and floating in the water, but the nut had sprouted and the tendrils of roots and leaves were growing from its mouth. The squirrel was turning into a tree, presuming it would wash ashore where the roots could hold.
–Rick Lamb, Carmel, Indiana
Probably about 1980 or ’81, headed to the BVI from Lauderdale, 120′ Feadship. Very calm, gorgeous, mirror sea, and clear blue sky. Making 10 knots, probably about 20 miles off Great Inagua. Something odd off the starboard bow prompted a “let’s go see” course change.
A perfect, complete, probably 8-foot-long sofa with all the proper cushions in place, including arm rest covers, dark brown leather, just drifting along. NOT sinking! Just looked like you could stroll right over, plop down, turn on the TV and grab some popcorn in time for the show!
One of the draws of being a snowbird (who heads south to Florida from Ontario to escape the cold of winter) is being able to see wildlife we don’t see up north in our neck of the woods. Alligators, dolphins, and pelicans, are all good examples—or they all were until a couple years ago. It was a couple years ago, boating in Hamilton Harbour, when I was shocked to see what looked like a single white pelican floating about. This great bird dwarfs the ducks, Canadian geese, and swans which are common in Lake Ontario. I checked in with a friend of mine who happens to be a birder. He assured me I had lost my mind. And then the local paper backed me up. Apparently, pelicans occasionally stop in our waters on their migratory journey. Who knew?
–Lee Brubacher, Hamilton, Ontario
Man-made: once came across a refrigerator floating in the Bay of Fundy, going out with the tide. No idea where it might have come from!
Wildlife: one day late this summer, I found a hummingbird doing the breast stroke a mile or so offshore. After a challenging MOB drill, managed to get it aboard. It was quite a warm day, so hoped it would dry off and warm up but the little guy didn’t make it. He (?) was buried with full honors in my wife’s flower garden.
–Gord Phillips, Lord’s Cove, New Brunswick
I spotted something while sailing a few years ago. I moor and sail my boat at a local lake in Alberta and I do frequent over-nighters on my boat to enjoy the wildlife as well as the sunsets and sunrises. After one such night on my boat, I had breakfast and a leisurely coffee before setting sail for the homeward trip. I was just getting under way when I spotted a white object floating just beneath the surface of the water about 50 meters away. I carry a small fishing net and I am in the habit of scooping up garbage that finds its way into “my” lake.
I changed my heading and went straight for this garbage. As I drew closer I could see that it was actually a dead fish, not an uncommon find on the lake, unfortunately. It looked quite large so I got closer to investigate. Turns out it wasn’t a fish, but two fishes, a smaller one was firmly lodged in the mouth of a larger one! A glaring example of “biting off more than one can chew!” Of course, I had brought a camera with me on that trip, but I’d neglected to charge the battery.
I hope this qualifies for your a most unusual inanimate object (man-made thing). Without reading further, can you guess what the photo is about?
This is a photo of the bow of a boat I spotted at Havre Polyvalent-Ste-Anne-des-Monts, on the St. Lawrence River off Quebec, Canada. I could not for the life of me see why someone would want a splash guard on the bow of their boat. Upon closer inspection, I realized it was a seat for a pedal-powered windlass! Cool or what?!
We last transited the Panama Canal in 1997, aboard our 1980 Newport 27, heading from the Pacific to the Atlantic. It was a rich and exciting experience. And it was frustratingly expensive. This was before the Canal was officially turned over to the Panamanians in 1999. Back then, our boat was boarded and measured to determine how much cargo it could carry. A guy literally came aboard our little Newport with a tape measure and a calculator. He completed lots of paperwork and we ended up with a certificate, our Certificate of Admeasurement. We were charged roughly $350 for this certificate that showed the cost of transiting the Canal with the cargo our boat could theoretically carry, was about $21. Maddening. And the effort to get the admeasurement scheduled, then pay, then obtain the certificate, and to then later show proof of the admeasurement to pay the transit fee to another office and then to pay for the bond (to cover any damage we might cause the Canal) to another office, was a whole-day affair, at minimum. Why didn’t they just have a flat transit fee for small recreational craft?
Well, after the Panamanians took over, that’s what they did, created a flat fee structure for cruising sailboats. And all was good with the world.
Until January 1, 2020.
That’s when the flat fee will skyrocket, to $1,600 for sailboats 65 feet and under.
Still cheaper than sailing around Cape Horn.
Free Subscription for Active Duty
Know an active-duty soldier who sails? Who may be deployed and missing sailing? Are you an active-duty soldier who would enjoy a free subscription to Good Old Boat? Whether you know one or are one, contact Brenda to get that subscription started. She’s super nice and can be reached by email: email@example.com
Red, right, return. It’s one of the first bits about navigation we learn when we learn to sail. It seems so absolute, doesn’t it? Universal? It’s anything but.
Red and green buoys are used universally to mark the sides of a channel, but sail away from North America and you’re bound to encounter the opposite, as in green buoys where you’d expect red, and vice versa. In fact, only in the Americas, Philippines, Japan, and Korea is red, right, return valid. Everywhere else, red is to port. Or, as a Frenchman explained to me once, “It’s easy to remember: port wine is red.”
Comfortable. Boat Sense is a comfortable book to read. And enjoyable. And informative. And don’t forget humorous. Boat Sense is likely directed at those who are thinking about buying a boat, or are relatively new owners, but informs old hands as well. Doug writes from decades of experience aboard boats (both power and sail) and marine journalism. I found his book a great combination of wisdom, stories, and what we all depend on now and then, checklists.
Nowadays, when the name Herreshoff is mentioned, I suspect most people conjure the face of L. Francis Herreshoff, not his more successful father, Nathanael, who won six back-to-back America’s Cup races from 1893 to 1920. This despite the fact that, as even Taylor admits, L. Francis Herreshoff’s design output was not nearly as great as his father’s, numbering 125 individual designs, of which only 70 were actually built. However, of those 70 designs, some, like his 1936 73-foot Ticonderoga, not only became racing legends, but to a very large extent defined the attributes that would come to define classic yacht aesthetics, most notably her clipper bow, low freeboard, and wineglass transom. The definition of what constitutes beauty in yachting developed throughout his long career, culminating in his 1956 design Rozinante, a classic canoe yawl, but with a distinctive Herreshoff interpretation
The ice from the previous Canadian winter had pushed, moved, and piled up a lot of rocks, wood, sediment, and lord knows what else, in the waterway. Above water, there was no way one could tell. No way one would suspect it would be there. No way I could have known.
BANG! And my Grampian 2-34 came to a jarring halt. She hit hard.
“What the…?” I’d been sailing this same area for 16 years without a grounding. Now, my Grampian stood firm on her keel, rocking slightly.
After some helpful souls towed me off the ragged mound, I turned the boat around and headed back to my slip at the marina. The boat seemed to handle well, but all the way home I worried and wondered about the damage that may have happened underwater.
The next day, I contacted a nearby Marina that services boats. They told me to bring her over. The marina was about an hour away by motor. Wasting no time, I headed out. The skies were sunny and windless. Not so much as a zephyr; so I threw on the iron jib and set sail to have the keel inspected.
At the mouth of the harbor, the engine began heating up. The temperature gauge needle was a hair away from the very top temperature reading. My blood pressure rose with it. I crossed my fingers, lowered the speed, and limped the rest of the way to the service slip.
A group of employees waited at the slip, a Travelift at the ready.
When she first came out of the water, I was relieved. At first glance, the hull and keel looked okay, dripping with weeds and water. But after pulling the loose weeds away, we could see that the keel had indeed been damaged. It looked as though the bottom edge of it had been pried apart. The bottom plate had become detached. There was also a stress crack in the stern part of the keel where it meets the hull. There was the overheating engine.
I left the boat with the yard and stayed in touch. It was an expensive repair and it took a few weeks to finish, but the outcome was instructive.
Before deciding to haul the boat and inspect for damage, I waffled. After the grounding, after being towed off, the boat handled fine and the bilge was dry. Was I being too cautious in hauling to inspect for damage? Why waste precious days during the sailing season? With nothing seeming amiss, couldn’t I wait to haul at season’s end? Ultimately, I decided to play it safe; I’m glad I did.
The yard foreman explained to me that 60 percent of the plate at the base of the keel was detached, ripped off by the impact. If I had left it unattended, it could have snagged something and been torn off completely, or possibly have caused me to become stuck. And the gash at the trailing edge of the keel was allowing water to penetrate the interior of the keel. Had this not been repaired quickly, further damage would have resulted. The yard had epoxied the keel with a 105 resin, coupled with a 205 slow hardener and a 405 filleting blend additive for bonding and strength, and screwed the plate back into place. They then sanded to fair the repairs and leave a smooth sealed surface. Anti-fouling with VC17 was the final step and the job was done! (The engine problem wasn’t an engine problem at all, but a faulty gauge. Whew!)
At the first opportunity, I sailed my boat to her home slip to enjoy the rest of the season. It is widely understood that to keep an older boat in ship shape, an owner can’t ignore the little projects that pop up. I now know too that when in doubt about some aspect of a boat, whether damage- or maintenance-related, it is best to investigate and attend to anything aboard that needs tending, as soon as possible, whether the solution is a DIY fix or requires a professional. Waiting is never prudent. And staying on top of things keeps this sailor’s cursing tongue quiet.
D. Renée Kelso has been sailing on Lake Simcoe for the past 16 years. She’s not a racer, but enjoys her leisurely sails. She owned a Grampian 31 for 12 years and currently sails a Grampian 2-34.
Need to replace a prop? Pull the lower unit on an outboard without pulling the engine? How about install an external strainer without pulling the boat? Working on most anything below the trampoline or bridge deck of a multihull, or near the waterline of a monohull (replacing the screws on a transom-mounted swim step, or the bolts that attach a transom-mounted swim ladder?) you’re going to be in the water and going to need tools.
I get up and check the calendar. It’s late in the season and only a few days remain before the marina’s deadline for hauling out my boat. I check the weather; 7 to 9 out of the east, sunny with temps 57 to 62, a perfect fall sailing day.
We are going sailing—we meaning Kiltie and I. Kiltie’s my boat, named after the Scottish slang word for soldier. Just the thought of getting out on the water primes my spirit.
I’ve spent a lot of time on the water, years of cumulative time, in all kinds of places and environments. I’ve seen a lot of cool stuff. Next month, I’ll share what I consider to be the most unusual inanimate object (man-made thing) I’ve seen from a boat, and the most unusual wildlife thing I’ve seen from a boat. But first, I want to hear from you. So, I put it to the readers: what’s the most unusual man-made thing you’ve seen from a boat, and what’s the most unusual wildlife thing you’ve seen from a boat? Note the word “unusual.” Not the coolest thing, but the most unusual thing, the thing others are least likely to also report seeing. And if you have photos, send them too.
Book Review: Compass & Sextant: The Journey of Peregrin Took
This is author Phil Hoysradt’s memoir, covering the span of his life that begins in a Portland, Maine, classroom in 1968, when he dropped out of college to join the Peace Corp, and ends roughly seven years later, when he sailed into the Gloucester, Massachusetts, harbor aboard Peregrine Took, capping a near-circumnavigation.
Mary Jane Young is our Dogwatch Sailor of the Month. Here she’s at the helm of the boat she grew up sailing aboard, her family’s 38.5-foot Alden Challenger, Christmas. She long ago left the nest to build a life in the big city, but still visits home in Maine to go sailing. Over the years, her father, Tom Young, has documented upgrades to Christmas on the pages of Good Old Boat.
Have a favorite sailor you’d like to nominate? Get a good picture of them and send it to me; maybe they’ll be chosen. As always, I’m at Michael_r@goodoldboat.com –MR
Poem of the Month: Georgian Bay Poem
By David Takahashi
Weigh the Anchor boys, today’s the day We’ll sail the sweet waters of Georgian Bay Red skies in the morning, sailors take warning We’ll log the most knots while the storm jib’s a soaring Sweat the main up on the morning sun Set all sails for a fair day’s run Quickly our wake clears our moorings Cause out on the bay the Nor Westers are blowing Gale warnings are out, it’s just started drizzling Heel her on over till our wake is a sizzling She kicks up her heels, all fancy and dandy For that’s all you’ll see is the wake of Carandy I tell no tales of doom and gloom, but The wind she dies in the lee of Giants Tomb On a hot summer’s night, if you care to listen You can hear the ancient spirits in the lee of Christian All hands on deck listen with delight As I hail from the cockpit, she’ll be Henry’s tonight Sou’West winds is everyone’s wish We’ll drop anchor in Snug harbor for a taste of smoked fish Fog horns a blown, the skies lack luster What’s that I see, but the lights off the Bustards Set the Anchor boys, our work is all done We’ll tap the cask for a flagon of rum
David Takahashi has been sailing his Alberg 37, Chikara-Ni, on Lake Huron’s Georgian Bay for the past 30 years. The places he references in this poem are all familiar harbors, anchorages, and islands in and around Georgian Bay. He encourages readers to find a way to visit at least a few of the 30,000 islands in the Georgian Bay.
I have a ComPac23 Diesel sailboat that I am restoring. I am having trouble getting the 8 HP 1GM10 Yanmar diesel to start. There is plenty of fresh fuel in the tank and I have replaced all the fuel filters and cleaned the injector. The batteries are new and fully charged. The compression test shows 300 PSI. Yet, it just cranks and there is no combustion. I am seeking help. Can you recommend a good Yanmar diesel mechanic I can talk to?
–Capt. Rob, Waleska, Georgia
We’re not mechanics, but we’ve lived for years with 3 diesel engines: a Universal 5411 (11hp), a Yanmar 4JH-TE (55hp turbo), and an International 7.3L IDI (in our truck).
Assuming the 300psi compression value is correct for your engine, we can think of only three possible culprits:
Air in the fuel line
Not enough pressure from the high-pressure pump
Here’s what we know about those scenarios:
On our Yanmar, we had a problem where it died and wouldn’t restart. We removed the primary (on the engine) spin-on fuel filter and it was half-empty. We filled it, it started, then died 10 minutes later. More air had appeared in this filter cartridge. The fuel tank was full. The air was being sucked in from old fuel lines that had cracks or were too stiff to get a good seal at the fittings they attached to. Replaced lines, problem solved. If you’re sucking air someplace, this will cause a no-start problem. In addition to checking the filter, do your regular bleed procedure and see if you can find air anywhere. In addition, while cranking, you can crack the nuts attaching the metal fuel line to the top of your injector–you should see fuel spitting out. If not, it’s likely a pump problem or an air problem.
You wrote that you “cleaned” the injector. Injectors are not DIY, so your problem could very well be a bad injector. But the only way to diagnose this is to send it in to a diesel injector shop. Our advice is to buy a new injector to install and if that solves your problem, have the old injector serviced and keep it as a spare. As you know, diesel will not combust until atomized, and that must happen at about 3,000 psi and if an injector is “clean” it could still have a weakened spring that’s releasing the fuel in a dribble or something.
Our understanding is that high-pressure pumps rarely fail, but the one on our truck did (it’s a 1988 with 200K miles). They are expensive and we know nothing about diagnosing them specifically, but I do know that if everything else is good, that’s all that’s left. I would discount this as your problem and focus elsewhere.
The beauty of diesels is their simplicity. If you’re getting clean diesel atomized into a cylinder with good compression, along with clean air, it has no choice but to fire. Your job is to determine which part of the equation isn’t happening. Don’t get discouraged, just cover all the bases and think it through.
Yanmar is funny about geography. Authorized parts dealers can’t sell (even by mail) outside their territory. You should be able to find your authorized parts seller from the Yanmar site. That part seller would probably be happy to answer questions and will know the best mechanics in your area–but hopefully, you can diagnose and fix this one yourself.
If anyone has better information for Rob, let us know and we’ll pass it on.
I enjoyed another excellent issue of The Dogwatch. I plan to follow up on the YouTube series on the “Great Canal Journeys” that you reviewed; the first few minutes of Episode 1 looks promising!
LED Light and RFI: Feedback
Last month we acknowledged that LED lights are taking over the world and that the incandescent bulb is dead. We made clear that not all LED lights are created equal and that in addition to quality concerns (it varies widely, in our experience) and color considerations (warm or cool temperature light?), the US Coast Guard and others have been warning of the potential for LED lights to interfere with VHF radio reception and transmission. This is especially problematic at the masthead, where VHF antennas and LED anchor or navigation lights may be mounted in proximity. So, we put it to the readers, wondering whether anyone has installed an LED light that caused problems with VHF radio reception?
Because he’s got an illuminating story—sorry—we’ll give Andy LaJambe the first word… –Eds.
Though my experience is not with LED bulbs in a marine application, it does graphically illustrate that there can be a problem. My experience was with the bulbs in my garage door opener.
One day the garage door opener remote failed to close the garage door. I figured the battery was getting low and so would not transmit a strong enough signal from in the driveway where I park the truck. But I was proven wrong because it would open the garage door when I came home.
Through multiple trials that left me more stumped than I was to begin with, I finally figured out that if the lights on the opener were off, the remote would work, and if the lights were on, the remote wouldn’t work. I took the LED bulbs out and the opener worked reliably. Then, I replaced the bulbs, after carefully wrapping foil around the base of the bulbs where the electronics were. This helped a lot, but did not solve the problem.
After a bit of research, I found some FCC-certified bulbs that worked like a charm. They were not inexpensive like the Made-in-China bulbs they replaced, but they have now been installed for 4 or 5 years and have not failed.
It is obvious that not all bulbs are created equal.
I wonder whether the FCC certifies bulbs used in marine (12-volt, non-household) applications?
We replaced all our incandescent bulbs aboard our Bristol 29.9, Pegu Club, with LED bulbs about four-and-a-half years ago, during a refit. Since that time, we have experienced no issues concerning VHF radio reception. I did read the information from the coast guard a while back and I have yet to hear any first-hand stories of any negative effect on VHF systems from LED bulb interference. For what it’s worth, we purchased our LED bulbs from both Marine Beam and Dr. LED.
–Jeff and Kimberly Boneham
We had this issue in spades with an OGM masthead light we installed right before our last cruise, in 2009. We realized it was interfering when we were on one of our first overnight sails down the coast; we had better reception using a hand-held VHF in the cockpit than we did using our installed radio with the antenna on the mast, right next to that light. When we alerted OGM, they were less than helpful, insisting the source of the problem was our installation, despite us trying everything they recommended. Weems & Plath recently bought OGM and reminded everyone that they offer a lifetime warranty on these lights. They also made clear these lights are “no-interference certified by the US Coast Guard.” We approached Weems & Plath (and the Coast Guard) about our light and Weems & Plath asked us to bring it in for testing. When I dropped it off, Weems & Plath doubted the light would be the source of the problem, but after testing it they confirmed it was causing interference and pledged to fix it. They’ve returned it to us with a Coast Guard-tested LED bulb and we’ll go back aloft and reinstall it later this fall. Fingers crossed!
–Nica Waters, Good Old Boat
I have had interference occur with LED household light bulbs on amateur radio frequencies in VHF 2M band. Turning the lights off solved the problem, and I did not chase it further, but suspect it was RF related. I was told the interference was not audible in my transmission, but it was audible on received audio from other stations.
Rig was an ICOM 706 Mark 2, with 9-element yagi tuned for 2M on a large tower fed with LMR-400 coax feedline.
I have cheap LED lights in my cabin lighting on my Corinthian 19. The fixture used a medium (household) base bulb, and I sourced LED ones online which fit and are 12-volt. These bulbs are extremely annoying due to reception interference with the VHF (weather forecast, etc). I do not know if this is audible on transmit. Of course, the solution is to not listen to the weather forecast while in the berth with the lights on, but rather to turn the lights off (for ambiance) and lay back and listen to the sultry tones of “friendly guy” on Environment Canada WeatherRadio while trying to nod off. As it happens, these bulbs also “sing” if you listen carefully to them.
–Dante McLean, Sam, Alberg 30
I’m Tom Luque, owner of MastGates.com
I have studied LEDs for many years and noticed that low-cost LEDs use a resistor to limit current and thus not generate interference. But this approach wastes power and the quality of light varies with voltage-level change.
The more expensive LED systems use Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) to control the current over a wide range of voltages. PWM is an efficient approach, using the least amount of current to provide a constant level of brightness and color temperature. You will find these circuits under “constant current supplies.” The older constant current circuits use a linear control transistor that waste power like a resistor does, and does not emit frequencies like the more efficient PWM types.
The frequency range emitted by a PWM circuit varies with the battery voltage level. I do not know and have not tested if the frequency range is a problem for other electronics.
I assume that Dr. LED uses PWM because the components I can see being used within the bulb look to be PWM circuitry. Having this type of bulb on the masthead next to the antenna may cause interference.
By the way, even though an LED can produce white light, the light spectrum used by LEDs to make white contains much less of the light spectrum that bugs can see. This is why LED street and parking lights don’t have swarms of bugs around them.
–Tom Luque, owner of MastGates.com, Camas, Washington
It’s not the LED, it’s the power supply. Many electronics require some sort of power supply to convert the available power to what they can use. For example, cars and boats have 12-volt systems, but many electronic devices use 5 volts.
How do I know? I’ve been an FCC-licensed amateur radio operator for over 25 years. We’ve seen the shift from tubes, to transistors, to chips—and the corresponding miniaturization of power supplies. Modern switching power supplies are small and light (no big metal transformer), but they can be noisy. To make things even smaller, many companies skip the parts required to filter and suppress noise. Indeed, some of the most common noisemakers are the USB buttons that fit into a 12-volt lighter socket to power your phone.
If a manufacturer has cut corners, you’ll hear it.
I discovered the RFI issue when installing some LED lights on an experimental airplane. I tried all the fixes such as shielding, twisting, and grounding, without success, the static persisted. Some retail outlets have operating LED light displays and that is where I would take a handheld aviation radio to check the lights for noise. Interestingly, some lights produced noise and some didn’t, on the same display. My conclusion is that cheap LED lights do not have RFI protection built into their circuit boards. When shopping for lights, I take a hand-held radio. Turn it on to a quiet channel, then turn on the desired led fixture and see if it produces the noise over the radio. Some LED products state in their packaging whether they emit RFI or are protected against it, others don’t. Unfortunately, buying online can be hit or miss.
Eric and Susan Hiscock, Peter and Ann Pye, and Bernard Moitessier are immortals of ocean cruising in the days before electronics when sextants and good, old-fashioned DR plotting, and meticulous pilotage carried one over the horizon and along challenging coastlines. Moitessier was one of the last of these unique folk, famous for his lengthy voyages and simplicity aboard. A Sea Vagabond’s World is his last, incomplete book, completed and ably edited by his companion, Véronique Lerebours Pigeonniére. As she says, he was part fish and part monkey, “which was very useful at sea.” He merged with the sea in ways that are unintelligible to many modern-day sailors by philosophically merging himself with the marine environment, just like ancient navigators.
A couple of issues ago, we announced that Paul Koepf was giving away Bagheera, his turn-key, well-maintained 1981 Morgan 32 for a single US dollar to the writer who best makes the case why Bagheera should be theirs, in a compelling essay of no more than 1,000 words.
Well, the contest is over. Paul received lots of essays. Paul sold his boat for $1. Paul couldn’t be happier. The new owners couldn’t be happier.
But let’s back up.
This story started when Paul and his wife, Maren, decided to downsize from the Morgan 32 they loved to something smaller, a Com-Pac Horizon. They listed their beautiful Morgan for sale, but then decided to give it away, to a worthy new owner. But how? They contacted Good Old Boat to see whether we had any ideas.
“How about an essay contest?” we offered.
Paul agreed. We said we’d use The Dogwatch to publicize it.
Paul received over 30 essays. He and Maren waited to read them all in the final week of the contest. He said it was overwhelming. Paul said: “I didn’t anticipate how the stories would occupy my mind and stir emotions from decades ago!”
He and Maren chose an essay they received from an adventurous young couple about to get married, Amandine Bouhour and Tom Ben-Eliyahu of Montreal, Canada. Paul wrote, “I have decided the ownership of Bagheera will transfer to a young couple ready to go. To see the places I could have and did not; to navigate new waters and adventures.”
Following is the winning essay/letter, all 985 words:
“We are Tom and Amandine, two 26-year-old dreamers who recently got engaged. We met five years ago, and over the years we’ve realized that the combination of our personalities is one that makes projects happen. We support each other’s ideas and aspirations and work together to turn big dreams into reality.
“Amandine: Originally from the south of France, I learned to sail on the Mediterranean on Optimists, Hobie Cats, and dinghies. My mother loves to sail, so I was also lucky enough to get a taste of cruising on extended family trips. It was on a 15-day sailing vacation that something clicked and at eleven years old, my dream of one day living on a sailboat started. Since then, I have taken every opportunity to sail and I recently completed a coastal navigation course.
“Tom: My love for sailing started young as well, and was passed down from my dad. I learned the basics in Junior Squadron and then continued to race dinghies. While doing this, I also worked at a local boat repair service and eventually became a sailing instructor/race coach for the adapted sailing programs in Montreal and Ottawa (sailing for people with physical/mental disabilities). After five fantastic years working with these programs, I am still happy to volunteer in most of the local adapted sailing events still happening.
“Having both grown up sailing, being on the water is what is most natural to us. We met on the river, whitewater kayaking, and our first date was on Tom’s dad’s San Juan 24. Lying under the stars, in a hammock we had rigged on the deck of the boat, we knew right away that we had something special!
“Since then, we’ve lived many adventures together that have shaped us into who we are today. Four years ago, we decided to follow our passion, retrofit a small van to hold our windsurfing gear and ourselves, and move into it. We drove west to explore the Pacific coast and learned that travelling over long periods of time and moving slowly makes for a much richer experience. It allowed us to get fully immersed in local communities and to create strong connections with extraordinary people. One such person introduced us to the third member of our crew, Bonbon, an adorable mixed-terrier who is as adventure-driven as we are.
“Our companion on these trips, our 1997 Volkswagen van, has faithfully carried us from remote desert roads in Baja, to scenic mountain passes in British Columbia, and back to the windy lakes of Quebec and Ontario. We affectionately named her “The Mistress,” for all the time Tom has spent under the hood fixing various mechanical issues, as well as the long days we spent turning this old work van into a home. We like to keep things simple, to fix what is broken ourselves, and to take care of what we love.
“As we look forward into the future, we want to make sure we combine fulfilling work and our love for exploration. As we both value sharing and giving to others, we’ve decided to pursue careers that enable us to be of service to others wherever we are in the world. We are currently working in Montreal, Amandine as a registered nurse and Tom as a windsurfing/kitesurfing coach. We hope that these careers will enable us to enjoy a nomadic lifestyle in a sustainable and meaningful manner.
“As we prepare for our wedding next summer, we are also plotting our next adventure. We are strong believers in going with the flow and welcoming opportunities; our best experiences so far have been unexpected. How is it that, as we are questioning our next move, evaluating whether we should put our savings into a boat and make it our home, we discover your contest!? We were looking at a Morgan 32, this must be the universe giving us a hint that we are on the right path to the next phase in our lives. Bagheera seems like the perfect vessel to carry us towards our future.
“Seeing your contest makes us want to meet you, and to know more about all the unforgettable trips Bagheera has taken you on. We can see from the immaculate shape in which you have kept her and the lengths that you are going to find her a good home, that she must be more than just a boat to you. We imagine that, as our “Mistress” is to us, your Bagheera must be like an old friend, a travel companion with whom you can reconnect to nature and recharge. It seems to us that you want the best for her, for her to glide freely with full sails from one safe anchorage to the next. For her wood to never go gray and her hull to stay strong and sleek. Above all, for her to invoke as much joy, love, and excitement in the heart of someone else as she has in yours for all these years.
“If we were so fortunate as to have you choose us, we promise to take good care of her and report back with tales of the distant anchorages and people we encounter. We would spend the next year getting to know Bagheera and making her our new home. Once we are sure that we are ready, we would sail her down to the Caribbean, where we would spend the next years living aboard. We would take it slow and find work opportunities in the places the tide takes us. If all goes well, we would maybe even one day take her through the Panama Canal and into the calm Pacific. We understand the drive to make the adventure carry on, to see Bagheera continue to explore, and we hope you will trust us to be the ones who write the next chapters in Bagheera‘s vessel log.”
To Tom and Amandine, Paul wrote, “Go see the world and send me a note now and then. Bagheera has been a good friend and mentor. I wish her well as she protects another loving couple.”
We have no doubt they’ll pursue adventure in Bagheera and update Paul along the way. We have no doubt Bagheera will offer the protection we’d expect.
By the way, looking online, we see that Amandine was modest about her sailing chops. She is a world-class competitive windsurfer.
Bagheera’s in good hands.
Hats off to Paul and Maren. Paul wrote us to say that he and Maren were “SO moved by this experience. Our time with Tom and Amandine aboard Bagheera was like slipping back to when Bagheera was new to Maren and me.”
Across the Bar: Olaf Harken
It was widely reported last month that Harken company co-founder Olaf Harken died. He was 80 years old. He and his brother Peter Harken started the company in 1967; it’s impressive what it’s become over five decades. The most interesting story to come out of Olaf’s obituary is that Olaf (who studied engineering at Georgia Tech) ended up running the business side of Harken and Peter, who was an economist, took over design and manufacturing. Peter said, “Each of us was better at the other guys’ education. We kept it quiet, figuring people wouldn’t want blocks designed by an economist.”
Our hat goes off to Olaf for a job well done. Our hearts go out to his family.
Fortress Anchors Stay in the Family
In other company news, we just got a press release from Fortress we thought was interesting, because it said a lot that we didn’t know. First, that Fortress (the maker of those lightweight Danforth-style anchors that disassemble and get great reviews for holding in specific conditions) was started in only 1986; we thought they’d been around much longer. We also learned that the products are made entirely in the US. Finally, we learned that the company has always been in the Hallerberg family. In fact, Fortress was just bought by Dylan Hallerberg, from his father, D’Milo Hallerberg, who bought the company from his dad, founder Don Hallerberg. That’s all.
Do you or someone you know suffer from ancraophobia? Are you anemophobic? These are two ways of expressing the same psychological disorder. If you like to sail, you can rest easy that you probably don’t suffer this malady. And those who do suffer from this condition are likely not sailors and not reading The Dogwatch (nor Good Old Boat).
Who knew fear of the wind (and even drafts) was a thing? It is. Usually brought about by trauma caused by a negative experience with the wind. Seems to us that a terrifying sailing experience could cause ancraophobia. Good news is that all reports indicate it is very treatable.
I get up and check the calendar.
It’s late in the season and only a few days remain before the marina’s deadline
for hauling out my boat. I check the weather; 7 to 9 out of the east, sunny
with temps 57 to 62, a perfect fall sailing day.
We are going sailing—we meaning Kiltie and I. Kiltie’s my boat, named after the Scottish slang word for soldier. Just the thought of getting out on the water primes my spirit.
At the marina, the owner and I talk about where he might put Kiltie on the hard this winter. I tell him I need a spot where the boat won’t block other boats from going in early next spring, because Kiltie demands a bit more time to get ready in the spring. A 1966 Tartan 27 yawl, she’s got lots of wood trim and paint that needs attention.
Lots of bottom has passed under
my boat’s keel these past 53 years. Her first owner sailed her out of the
Hudson, up and down the northeast coast. He kept meticulous logs that make
great wintertime reading these days. Her second owner refitted and re-powered
her and sailed her around the Chesapeake. I’ve sailed her on the Chesapeake, up
the coast to the Hudson, through the Erie Canal, and as far west as the Finger
Lakes. She and I have been as far north as the Thousand Islands. One time, we secretly
sailed over the US-Canadian border.
These days, her home port is
Oneida Lake, Central New York, often referred to as the thumb of the Finger
Lakes. Oneida Lake is a bit over 25 miles long, 5 miles wide, and, unlike the
Fingers, it is relatively shallow and known for its choppy wind waves. It is
also connected to the Erie Canal.
I fire up the old diesel, cast
off the lines, and weave past many now-empty slips and through the breakwater. Outside
the last channel buoys, I assess the wind. It seems to be blowing a bit more
than forecast and it’s gusting. I decide not to set the mainsail, raising only
the genoa and the mizzen. This sail arrangement is an old fishermen’s scheme
and although a bit slower, it makes for a balanced helm that allows the boat to
pretty much sail herself in rough seas. In my case, this sail plan will allow
me to eat lunch with both hands.
We glide along between about 4 to 5 knots. Looking westward, the water and the sky meet; no land to see. Looking eastward, I see the sands of Verona and Sylvan Beach. In the summer one can hear, even this far out, the happy screams of children playing in the surf. I smile, reminded that this past summer we managed to introduce sailing to a couple of groups of kids. Today I hear only the wind, the lapping of the wavelets against Kiltie’s hull, and the occasional swoosh as she guides down a wave.
Lunch over, I look around to see
only one other sail and a few fishing boats. Clouds are rolling in and the
temperature is beginning to drop. The far shore is approaching. Soon I will
tack the bow around and head back to the marina to begin the process of hauling
her out. The winters here are long and the ice on this lake will soon be thick.
I take solace only in the fact that I will have lots of time to sit by the
stove and plan the next season’s adventure. Maybe we’ll drop the masts and head
back through the canal to go further west, or maybe north again across Lake
Ontario or maybe even east and north, locking through the 34 locks to Lake
With Kiltie, it’s all possible.
John Bailey is a retired
engineer. Before moving to Central New York, he sailed the waters of the
Chesapeake and the coasts of New Jersey and New York in many good old boats.
Need to replace a prop? Pull the lower unit on an outboard without pulling the engine? How about installing an external strainer without pulling the boat? Working on most anything below the trampoline or bridge deck of a multihull, or near the waterline of a monohull (replacing the screws on a transom-mounted swim step, or the bolts that attach a transom-mounted swim ladder?) you’re going to be in the water and going to need tools. After finding swim trunk pockets ineffective, after being unable to work because no topsides helpers were available to hand me things, and after giving too many wrenches to Neptune, a floating tool tray joined my list of favorite solutions.
I started with a good-sized dishpan and I drilled a ¼-inch hole in one corner before I attached a 4-foot length of parachute cord with a bowline. To the bitter end, I attached a small snap hook to use for clipping the tray to the toe rail, outboard, or dock line. Once afloat, the tray is stable supporting several pounds of tools and parts, saving me the frustration of wondering where to put something or where I put that screwdriver; it’s in the tray, it can’t be anywhere else. For larger jobs (the lower unit I was talking about) a mortar mixing tray creates a monster tool tray.
When I’m done, I rinse the tools in freshwater and spray with corrosion inhibitor after they’re dry. Piece of cake.
Safety Tips for Working in the Water
Before getting in, check that you’ve got a good ladder for egress.
When preparing to work in fresh or brackish waters, be aware of electrical hazards. Even minor stray current from faulty electrical installations can paralyze the muscles, making it impossible to swim. Electricity-related drownings occur every year.
Dress for the water temperature (wet suit or dry suit as needed).
Wear a PFD while working.
Stay near the boat to avoid traffic.
To solve boating problems, Drew Frye draws on his training as a chemical engineer and his pastimes of climbing and sailing. He sails Chesapeake Bay and the mid-Atlantic coast in his Corsair F-24 trimaran, Fast and Furry-ous. His book, Rigging Modern Anchors, was recently published by Seaworthy Publications.