28 May 2010

A Gentleman's Bosun's Chair

The plastic base on my masthead tricolor sailing light cracked 2 years ago and I managed a quick fix while in Bermuda using sheet metal screws, electrical tape, and a climbing device called the "Mast Mate." This jury rig made the light operational and got us home but did not address the basic task of replacing the defective part. Without unstepping the mast this repair proved beyond my abilities considering the small parts, intricate fasteners, and close tolerances involved. Therefore I called in the experts.

Ocean Gate Yacht Basin on the Toms River in New Jersey ( is a family business and perhaps one of the best operations of its type. Gary, son of the founder and one of the principals, is an old friend and agreed to the job. At the time I had no idea how he would do it but I found out a few days later (photo at left).

The solution not surprisingly was a "cherry picker" type truck, but one of impressive proportions. He simply backed up to the dock behind the boat, set the various supports that stabilize the long arm of the work platform, and shortly thereafter we were back in business. While he was up there Gary, a past master of boat rigs, also gave the rig the benefit of a quick check. Now that's a bosun's chair.

26 May 2010

"Sailing Off Into The Sunset"

I sometimes get asked about this and in my opinion there's a bit more to it than meets the eye. Here are a few suggestions.

"Sailing off into the sunset" is hard these days even for people with tons of money. One of the first things to consider is where you live. For example if you live anywhere on the US East Coast, "sailing off into the sunset" is a very difficult technical accomplishment. In fact it may be impossible. You will either crash into the dock at the west end of your marina, or run aground along some sandy coast. Either way you'll probably need costly repairs to the boat, and that will cut into the old nest egg. Some of the above comments will not apply if you have an amphibious vehicle.

Until a month or so ago it was possible to "sail off into the sunset" from the West Coast of Florida. Unfortunately the activities of Big Oil and some of their fully-owned subsidiaries in DC and Crawford, Texas, have curtailed a lot of this activity. Most of this sailing destination is now closed and will remain closed for what is called "the future" as far as marine life is concerned. According to the Federal Register "sailing off into the sunset" from western Florida is now under the control of the Department of Homeland Security and is regulated using armed USCG vessels. Be careful with this. It may be safer to just head for Cuba and suffer the consequences.

US West Coast sailors are luckier when it comes to "sailing off into the sunset." The only problems they encounter (besides racial profiling by the INS and Tea Party vigilante groups) are earthquakes and the accompanying tsunamis. I haven't personally experienced one of these but I'd guess that a set of sturdy drop boards and some good oilies are a good investment if you're thinking about this.

Happily these problems do not exist in many other parts of the world. If you live on the west coast of Ireland or in the Hebrides, you're good to go. Just don't forget to release all the docklines. The same is true for a lot of Portugal and western Spain. Western Africa is another possibility if you don't mind your typical bloody revolution every 3 weeks, genocide once or twice a decade, and bad drinking water. Do not (I repeat: DO NOT) enforce "close pack" on your crew. This leaves a bad impression with local authorities.

Right now we are not recommending Thailand, and in fact I'm not even sure they have a western coastline. I hear there are some bargain slips in Greece though. I don't want to give the impression that things are terrible everywhere, but you must admit that life used to be a lot simpler.

20 May 2010

Good Old Little Boat

About 20 years ago my friend Jean Marc was cleaning out his garage and offered me 2 small derelict boats if only I would haul them away. I countered his offer of "free" with a $100 bid and took both beasts down to the boatyard. The first, a 14 foot wood rowing pram, was reconditioned and awarded to my goddaughter to encourage her explorations of the salt marshes around Brigantine NJ. The second, a Howmar 8 footer, became my knockabout hard dink. I have never looked back.

Initially the Howmar was a total wreck. I had to rebuild the transom, the motor mount, reinforce the gunwales, fit "new" hardware (actually old bronze parts lying around the yard), etc. I cruised with this dink for over 17 years when, preparing for Kerry Deare's re-entry into polite society, I decided her tender needed a face lift. The picture tells the story.

18 May 2010

Newfoundland Is A Large Island

Once the charts and guides are assembled, the enjoyable task of planning a summer cruise begins. In my case it didn't take long to realize that Newfoundland is one large and far away place, and that maintaining the relaxed pace I favor would require very specific choices. I'd originally assumed that St. John's was an obvious stop on the itinerary where my wife could visit and enjoy the sights and people. After studying the charts I realized that St. John's didn't make sense for a small boat coming from, and returning to, New Jersey in a single season. I then started looking more closely at the South Shore and once again fell back in love with the Maritimes. The present plan will, I hope, develop into something approaching the following outline. (Photo by Ty and Suzanne on Liberty)

We will "scoot" from NJ up to Boston for a short stay, visiting friends and affording my wife an opportunity to drive up and enjoy Boston and the surroundings. Next it's over to Nova Scotia, clearing probably at Shelburne. Thence quickly along the Southeast Coast to perhaps Louisbourg, where we take departure for the French Islands of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon. From there it's over to Newfoundland proper, clearing in at Fortune Harbor. Then we hope to work west along this coast to Port aux Basques, and finally back offshore to Sydney NS and home via the Lakes.

This is a seemingly workable plan for a single-handed yacht with a circumscribed time window. The plan's upside is that the South Coast is one of the most scenic and enchanting parts of the Province; the downside is that my wife will be unable to visit because many places along the South Shore can only be reached by sea. Sailing is a compromise, but probably still worth the trouble.

17 May 2010

Biker Dude Dinghy Motor

Not many people know this, but Harley Davidson is intending to make a big "splash" in the outboard motor business. They're keeping a low profile so far, but it won't be long before the news gets out and all Hell's Angels break loose. Dig the photo at left if you still have doubts. I am fortunate enough to have an "in" at the factory and have recently gotten my hands on one of the first single cylinder 3.5 HP prototypes. These little babies are really impressive, and there is at least one story going around that the two cylinder 5 HP model has already put at least one 28 foot displacement sailboat up on plane.

That's about all the news I can give right now. The phone's ringing and I think it's Harley's legal department again. Wonder what that's about.

11 May 2010

Safety Equipment - Jacklines

We have been using a system of jacklines and harnesses for many years, but a few years ago I ran across an idea that seemed to offer solutions to some of the minor annoyances of such a setup. Typically one connects one end of the tether to the harness and the other to some sort of webbing or cordage jackline running along the deck fore to aft. This usually means that the end connected to the jackline is secured with a metal snap. In order to be effective these snaps are usually quite heavy, and when moving up and back on the boat they drag on deck, making quite a racket and beating up the deck and anything else they smack into. The idea I found that addresses this problem is to permanently secure a tether to each jackline using a loop in the tether itself (click on photo at right for details).

On Kerry Deare the jacklines run up each side of the deck essentially for the length of the boat (photo at left). The permanent tethers are fitted to each jackline and once mounted remain on deck. When not in use I simply secure each tether in a convenient location aft. Besides being quite strong and quiet, the are also instantly available and can be secured very quickly to either a separate harness or a harness-equipped lifevest . They are long enough to be easily reached from below when entering the cockpit. There is also the option of using the standard tether for one's harness to temporarily secure a second tether in unusual circumstances.