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Contents Issue #228

September 2015


Features Ocean Voyaging

22 Boxcars in the Gulf Stream

by Rick Meisner



Special Section 27 Weather data from an unexpected quarter The ARC Rally to Newport meets a surprise


Chartroom Chatter

S ailing north from the Florida Keys to R.I., voyagers get thumped by changing conditions

gale and tests a new communications tool

4 Transatlantic Race 2015 5 Wind farm off Block Island 5 New imagery allows tour of WWII shipwrecks 6 Getting ready for an offshore race 7 Maine boatyard developments 8 Discovery Yachts offers a smaller package 8 Transpac 2015 8 Garmin sponsors Clipper Race Team 9 Notable New Titles

by David H. Lyman

35 Should I stay or should I go? Picking a weather window for a challenging passage

by Nadine Slavinski

42 Pre-passage rigging checks

Marine Tech Notes

10 A  dded offshore safety via HF DSC by Tim Queeney

by David Lynn

Power Voyaging 12 In charge by Jeff Merrill

Correspondence 16 Sardine harbor 18 The St. Barts breakaway 21 Timer helps keep the boat afloat

Nav Problem 48 Aboard Sagres by David Berson

9 For more on voyaging, follow us on:

22 On the cover: The 48-foot McCurdy & Rhodes-designed sloop Carina at June 28 start of the Transatlantic Race 2015. Carina finished in 14 days, 11 hours, 46 minutes, 16 seconds for fourth in IRC Class 4. Daniel Forster/Transatlantic Race 2105.



Ocean Nav­igator Marine navigation and ocean voyaging

CUSTOMER SERVICE: 1-866-918-6972

Rick Meisner (Ocean Voyaging, ”Boxcars in the Gulf Stream,” page 22) is a former corporate executive who sails his Valiant 42, WildHorse out of Watch Hill, R.I. He has captained WildHorse in several NewportBermuda and Marblehead-Halifax ocean races and has cruised WildHorse from Nova Scotia to the Eastern Caribbean and beyond. He has become a student of the Gulf Stream as it has played an important role in many of his voyages, crossing it countless times and sometimes riding it for hundreds of miles (see ON #180, “WildHorse Rides the Stream”).

EDITORIAL Editor Tim Queeney 207-749-5922 Copy Editor Kate Murray Art Director Kim Goulet Norton contributing editors Scott Bannerot Twain Braden John Snyder Nigel Calder Harry Hungate Eric Forsyth Jeff & Raine Williams David Berson Ken McKinley Wayne Canning


Nadine Slavinski (Special Section, “Should I stay or should I go?,” page 35) is a parent, sailor and Harvard-educated teacher. She recently returned from a three-year cruise aboard her 35-foot sloop, having sailed from Maine to Australia together with her husband and young son. She is the author of three sailing guides: Pacific Crossing Notes: A Sailor’s Guide to the Coconut Milk Run, Cruising the Caribbean with Kids, and Lesson Plans Ahoy: Hands-On Learning for Sailing Children and Home Schooling Sailors. Her next project is The Silver Spider, a novel of sailing and suspense. You can see more at David Lynn (Feature, “Pre-passage rigging checks,” page 42) and his wife, Marcie, have lived aboard their Liberty 458 cutter since 2000 when they sold up and sailed off. Since that time, they’ve put over 80,000 nautical miles under the keel and visited 35+ countries on five continents. Their philosophy of “just a little further” has taken them from the Caribbean, twice across the Atlantic, around the five Great Southern Capes and across the Pacific and Indian Oceans with lots of stops to explore along the way. They completed their first circumnavigation at Cape Town in 2015 and are currently en route from Africa back to the U.S. They blog daily at and maintain an extensive website at 2 OCEAN NAVIGATOR SEPTEMBER 2015   

West Coast US & canada,

international Susan W. Hadlock 207-838-0401

east coast US & Canada, international Charlie Humphries


publisher/ advertising director Alex Agnew




FINANCE Ken Koehler


Customer Service

PHONE 1-866-918-6972


ISSN 0886-0149

Ocean Navigator is published in January, March, May, July, September, October and November, with an annual special issue of Ocean Voyager in April, for $27.95 per year by Navigator Publishing LLC, 58 Fore St., Portland, ME 04101. Periodicals postage paid at Portland, Maine, and additional mailing offices. Postmaster: Please send address changes to Ocean Navigator, P.O. Box 461468, Escondido, CA 92046. Copyright © 2015 by Navigator Publishing LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reprinted in any way without written permission from the publisher. Subscription rate is $27.95 for one year (eight issues) in the United States and its possessions. Canadian subscription rate is $31.95 U.S. funds. Other foreign surface is $33.95 U.S. funds. Overseas air mail is $62.95 U.S. funds per year. Distribution: Newsstand distribution, domestically and internationally: Coast to Coast Newsstand Services LTD., 5230 Finch Ave. East, Suite 1, Toronto, ON M1S 4Z9. Phone (416) 754-3900; fax (416) 754-4900. Contributions: We solicit manuscripts, drawings and photographs. Please address all material to Editor, Ocean Navigator, P.O. Box 569, Portland, ME 04112-0569. Unfortunately, we cannot guarantee the safe handling of contributed materials. All other departments, 207-772-2466. Printed in the United States by the Lane Press

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Chatter Chartroom

by JOHN SNYDER Forster

Transatlantic Race 2015 <<

On board Comanche. Jim Clark and Kristy Hinze-Clarke’s 100foot maxi Comanche working out the crew in preparation for the 2015 Transatlantic Race. The Maine-built yacht set a new monohull 24-hour record when it covered 618.01 nm; an average speed of 25.75 knots.

Line honors for the 2015 Transatlantic Race go to Bryon Ehrhart aboard Lucky, which crossed the finish line at The Lizard off the south coast of England after eight days, 22 hours, five minutes and three seconds at sea on a 2,800-mile eastbound crossing of the North Atlantic, sailed mostly in strong winds. Jim Clark and Kristy Hinze-Clark’s 100-foot Comanche crossed the finish line at The Lizard on Monday at 5:49 UTC (01:49 EDT). Rival yacht


Rambler 88 followed at 11:08 UTC (07:08 EDT), winning on corrected time by seven hours, two minutes and 49 seconds over her larger opponent. Comanche set a new monohull 24-hour record when she covered 618.01 miles over Friday-Saturday (subject to ratification by the World Sailing Speed Record Council). Noted Bay area navigator Stan Honey was reported to have fallen and hit his head during the end of the race. According

to reports, he never lost consciousness but was slated to undergo concussion protocol at a local hospital. Lloyd Thornburg’s MOD70 trimaran Phaedo³ also put in a resounding performance. Toward the end of the race Phaedo³ reportedly recorded a peak speed of 41.2 knots when navigator Miles Seddon was driving. The classic favorite, 53-foot Dorade, which won the 2013 Transpac Race, hoped to repeat its 1931 Transatlantic victory. Sailing conditions, however, favored newer, more powerful boats. Despite Dorade’s efforts it was unable to beat the biggest boat in the fleet, Mariette of 1915, to victory in the Classic division and IRC Class 4, but finished a respectable second in both. Dorade actually finished in a little less than 14 days, 23 hours — taking more than a day off Olin Stephens’ 1931 time.


Researchers employed sophisticated remotely operated vehicles to capture stunning images of the two vessels where they lay on


the seafloor.

Western Australian Museum

Wind farm off Block Island Voyagers sailing past Block Island’s south shore will soon catch the sight of construction of one of the first offshore wind farms in the U.S. Called Deepwater Wind, the line of five wind turbine towers, each with a sixmegawatt capacity, will be sited three miles southeast of Rhode Island’s Block Island. The first phase of construction will involve installing the five foundations of the towers in approximately 60 feet of water. Construction began the week of July 20 and was expected to take approximately eight weeks. Vessels are prohibited within the Coast Guard’s 500-yard safety zone around each foundation during construction. Cable and wind turbine installation will occur in 2016, and by the end of 2016 the wind farm is scheduled to be in operation.

Below top, German auxiliary cruiser Kormoran’s No. 2 15-cm gun forward, port side. Below bottom, light cruiser HMAS Sydney’s pierced starboard side armor and A turret.

New imagery allows tour of WWII shipwrecks A recent expedition to survey historic World War II shipwrecks has produced stunning imagery of sunken warships HMAS Sydney II and the German raider Kormoran off the coast of Western Australia. Both ships were lost in the Nov. 19, 1941, battle that resulted in the complete loss of Sydney’s 645 crew. The incident is regarded as Australia’s greatest naval tragedy. The recent expedition is a follow-up to a 2008 mission, which first photographed the previously undiscovered Sydney and Kormoran wrecks in 8,200 feet of water, 11 nautical miles apart and about 107 nautical miles west of Shark Bay, Western Australia. The current survey, which took place in April 2015, used Kongsberg Maritime’s OE14-530

3DHD video camera and six OE14-408E digital stills cameras on two ROVs operated by DOF Subsea to collect quality video and images of the historic wrecks. As the lead underwater camera partner for this work, Kongsberg Maritime helped collect images and data during the survey that will form the basis of several exhibitions at the Western Australian Museum, which will feature digital 3-D reconstructions of the wreckage area that can be toured digitally. The 3-D reconstruction will be predominantly created using images from the OE14-408E digital stills cameras,

which feature Ethernet operation that allowed immediate transfer of the images to the surface. In addition to contributing to the museum’s exhibitions and online galleries, the new footage will also be seen in a television documentary.


Chatter Getting ready for an offshore race

competing in Class A, 10 competing in Class B, 11 in Class C and 11 in Class D. In addition, there were 15 yachts racing in the celestial After months of preparation, division this year. Celestial division competitors abanskippers and their crews from all across the East Coast set don their GPS systems for the entirety of the race until sail on Friday, June 19, to the finish line is within 50 begin the 2015 Marion to Bermuda race. Participants miles of the yacht. Last year, scrambled to put everything Hotspur II (Columbia 50) won in this category. together up until the last Class D contained the minute, in the high hopes two smallest yachts, which that all of their hard work were Wisper and Roust. would produce a coveted Wisper was a Victoria 34, trophy in Bermuda. With skippered by Peter Hel46 yachts in the race, the start of the 37th Marion to metag of Wilmington, Del. Bermuda cruising yacht race The other, Roust, was a Sea Sprite 34. Although small in put the competitors into size, Roust — and her skipdecisive positions. per Ian Grumpecht — won This year, 46 yachts, last year’s race to Bermuda. ranging from 34 feet to In 1977, when the race over 100 feet competed in was first run, the average the race. The yachts were boat size was a mere 38 feet. divided into two divisions: Fast forward to today, the Founders and Classic. The average size of the 46 boats Spirit of Bermuda, which came in at 118 feet, was the is 47 feet, according to the race’s website. Despite the largest yacht in the entire race and solely made up the overall increase in the size of the yachts over time, classic division. The other Roust showed that any boat, 45 boats were divided up amongst the Founders divi- regardless of her size, can sion, in classes A through D. win the Marion to Bermuda race. There were 13 yachts Editor’s note: Below is a look at preparation for and the start of the recently completed 2015 Marion Bermuda Race.

Courtesy Spectrum Photo/Fran Grenon


Ti, skippered by Greg Marston, was the overall winner of the 2015 Marion to Bermuda Race, Founders Division.

Courtesy Spectrum Photo/Fran Grenon



Friday morning began somewhat chilly for a June day. The weather in Buzzard’s Bay was cloudy and only in the mid-60s. As the starting times neared, the temperature increased to about 78 degrees and the skies cleared. It was a beautiful day for the race, except that the winds did not act as predicted that morning. The wind was predicted to come from the southwest, and to be light. Instead, by the beginning of the start time at 11:30 a.m., the wind blew much stronger and from further south than supposed before. According to Robert Raymond, a navigator aboard Hotspur II in a previous race, “Light winds [mean] there won’t be many accidents at the start.” The strong southerly winds had slowed and disheartened many of the participating crews. As of Monday, three days into the race, many of the yachts were off to a slower start than hoped. One example was Spirit of Bermuda, which usually sails far ahead of the other yachts, being enormous in


The crew of Ti: skipper Greg Marston (with thumbs up), others from left, watch captain Peter Stoops, navigator Andrew Howe, race official, crewmembers John O’Meara, Jake Marston and Chase Marston.

Maine boatyard developments Morris Yachts of Trenton, Maine, announced that it is opening a new service yard in Southern Maine’s Casco Bay. In the new endeavor, Morris is partnering with Handy Boat of Falmouth Foreside, Maine, just north of Portland. For decades Handy Boat has served as a full-service boatyard complete with dockage, fuel, large mooring field and launch service. The yard is also home to the Dockside Grill restaurant and bar and Hallett Canvas and Sails. “Handy Boat’s location in the heart of Casco Bay is the ideal addition to Morris’s service facilities for our customers,” said Cuyler Morris, owner of Morris Yachts. Morris added, “Casco Bay is the gateway to Maine’s world-class cruising grounds. With the combination of these two facilities and their dedicated service teams you can begin and end your journey with

Marinemedia/John Snyder

glad we’re done preparing for it. I’m ready to go racing.” Ballyhoo has sailed in the Marion Bermuda Race three times, but this is her first time with McMichael as the yacht’s skipper. Katie Hall, a first-time racer aboard Ballyhoo, said, “I’m really nervous and excited with anticipation.” Her sentiment was shared by many of the competitors, as well. An atmosphere of such a nervous excitement spread throughout the dock as crewmembers scrambled to complete last-minute preparations. On board Hotspur II, the racers were abuzz trying to get everything ready to sail. Crewmember Matt Correira had his young son, Nobere, on the docks helping to load up the boat. Additionally, Hotspur II’s cook Mark Chomiak raced to find his passport in time, which had gotten lost in the rush of preparations. When it came time to sail to the starting line, all was in place for skipper Ron Wisner. Hotspur II, as well as Ballyhoo and Escapade II, put all of their hard work together to produce excellent starts. Bridgit Higgins


size and manned by many people. On Monday, the classic yacht instead was flanked by several competitors. Although one cannot prepare for an unpredicted, opposing wind such as this, the crews and skippers of the 46 boats did their best to prepare for all else coming their way. The pier outside of the Marion Yacht Club held many instances of months of preparation finally coming together. “The art of preparation can’t be rushed. You have to do it one step at a time, starting last year,” said Tom Bowler, the skipper of Escapade II (Morris 46). This year marked his third time racing in Marion to Bermuda. However, this was his first one skippering Escapade II. According to Bowler, he expects his yacht to do respectably in the race. “We have high hopes for Escapade.” Preparation for the race can also be quite stressful for the participants. When the start of the race arrived, much of the stress disappeared for some racers. Wes McMichael, who skippered Ballyhoo (J 44), said, “I’m

Lyman-Morse Boatbuilding has purchased the iconic Wayfarer Marine in Camden, Maine. Lyman-Morse is not alone in expanding its service capabilities. Morris Yachts has partnered with Handy Boat of Falmouth to offer service to customers in southern Maine.

Morris service.” Meanwhile, LymanMorse Boatbuilding of Thomaston, Maine, has acquired Wayfarer Marine Corporation on Camden Harbor. The new marina and service facility has been renamed Lyman-Morse at Wayfarer Marine. The facility is situated on more than nine acres and includes 37 slips, 846 feet of wharf, 47 moorings, fuel, launch service and a 110-ton Marine Travelift. 7

Chatter Chartroom


Discovery Yachts is now offering a scaled down, 48-foot version of its

Discovery Yachts

successful Discovery 55.

Discovery Yachts offers a smaller package U.K.-based Discovery Yachts, known for its Discovery 55, is now offering the popular cruising yacht in a smaller package. The Discovery 48 will come with a choice of a two- or three-cabin layout, twin- or single-helm steering and an oversized cockpit. The new, smaller Discovery will retain the raised saloon and nav area. The Discovery 48 will appeal to those who sail short-handed, but are unwilling to sacrifice the

appointments of a liveaboard cruiser. There are two variants of the new Discovery 48. The Ocean version offers singlewheel steering in a large center cockpit and two en suite cabins. The Discovery 48 Riviera version has been designed with twin wheels, a huge open cockpit and three double cabins — two aft and an owner’s cabin forward. Both yachts will feature a fold-down bathing platform and twin headsails.

Transpac 2015 The 2015 Transpac Honolulu Race got underway on July 13, 2015. This year the 2,558-nm race from Point Fermin, Long Beach, California to Honolulu, Hawaii, boasts a fleet of 61 boats: 57 monohulls in eight divisions and four multihull yachts. The race comes on the heels of the 2015 Transatlantic Race during which the 100-foot Maxi Comanche, designed by France’s VPLP Design-Verdier and built by Hodgdon Yachts of Maine, established a new 24-hour speed record. Comanche’s navigator Stan Honey had planned to follow up his success aboard Comanche by sailing Wild Oats XI in the Transpac but sustained a concussion after a fall during the Transatlantic. Unfortunately, Honey was forced to bow out of the Transpac while he recovered. He has been

replaced as navigator on Wild Oats XI by New Zealander Nick White.

Garmin sponsors Clipper Race Team For a second time, global technology company Garmin will be a team sponsor for the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race, a 40,000-mile long contest between 12 teams competing against each other on the world’s largest matched fleet of 70-foot ocean racing yachts. The leader of the Garmin sailing team will be British skipper Ashley Skett. The crew will use and test Garmin products such as its marine navigation equipment, VIRB action cameras and fitness trackers during the circumnavigation. The race starts from London on Aug. 30, 2015. n

Ocean Navigator videos: Steering system maintenance, pART II Few systems are more important to a voyaging yacht than its steering system. Without the ability to steer, even the best equipped yacht becomes little


more than a barge. To help boat owners maintain this essential system, contributing editor Wayne Canning presents part II of an instructive video, spon-

sored by Edson Marine, on basic steps you can take to keep your system running smoothly. Go to: www.ocean

Notable New Titles Celestial Navigation: A Complete Home Study Course (Second Edition) by David Burch Starpath Publications March 11, 2015 294 pages e-book 19.99, print $39.00

David Burch, founder of Starpath Navigation School in Seattle, should be a well-known name in the community of celestial navigators. His contribution to the understanding of navigation and marine meteorology extends to classics like Emergency Navigation, Celestial Navigation with the 2102-D Star Finder, Modern Marine Weather, Hawaii by Sextant, and others that should be in the library of every sailor. His latest volume, Celestial Navigation, published by Starpath Publications, is the second edition of a

home study course that Burch has created that enables students to learn not just the theory, but the practice of sight reduction and plotting. It is true that there are other books of this type that are notable for their clarity. Francis Wright’s book Learn How to Navigate and, of course, the late Susan Howell’s Practical Celestial Navigation come to mind. It also must be said, though, that every author communicating information has their own style and some of these home study manuals are easier to understand than others — hence the reasoning behind yet another navigation instruction guide. Burch is one of those really smart people who has a complete grasp of things celestial. He knows, as all good teachers know, how to communicate information in a manner that is not didactic, leading the student over the intellectual hurdles to confidence and, one hopes, understanding.

The progression of information leads the student from LAN sights, plotting and very clear instructions on the use of the sight reduction tables in the Nautical Almanac. Burch is not a Luddite and doesn’t believe that celestial navigation is more valuable than GPS. He posits, though, that the learning of celestial is a welcome exercise for the mind that could keep the mariner out of trouble should there be a snafu with the power supply aboard a vessel at sea. What makes the study of celestial navigation so interesting is that it is a subject full of nuances and subtleties that appeal to a curious mind. The understanding of celestial navigation can be a portal to a greater appreciation of astronomy, the natural world and a deeper respect for the minds that created its constructs. Far from being a waste of time or a drawing room exercise, the study of celestial navigation can be both practical and enlightening. Certainly David Burch has contributed much to removing the mystery surrounding the subject. David Berson

Water Power! — Short Stories by Robert Beringer e-book: Download price: $5.99 Published 2015, 91 pages

If you are looking for a collection of fast-moving short stories, 20 to be exact, Robert Beringer’s recently published e-book collection of waterthemed tales fits the bill. With water as the common element among these brisk little jewels, Beringer explores the timeless themes of man against nature, survival and journey — inward and outward. Although he is still honing his craft, his stories are generally tight and engaging for a first book. They contrast wonderfully with one another in style and storyline and cover a wide range of geography and emotion. Most of all, they are connected by the endless aqueous thread that in turn connects all of us.


MARINE tech Notes

Added offshore safety via HF DSC BY Tim queeney

M Screenshots from Personal DSC show, top, sending a distress message and, below, a message log. The highlighted message was acknowledged by WLO in New Orleans.

ost voyagers are familiar with digital selective calling (DSC) on their VHF radios, but many may not be aware that DSC is available on high-frequency (HF) marine SSB as well. Most HF DSC equipment adds thousands of dollars to an HF SSB installation. Now there’s a PC software-based product that adds HF DSC to your marine SSB for

have no such requirement and, since few voyagers wish to spend the money required for such a setup, HF DSC is a rarity on most live-aboard vessels. Yet the safety aspect of HF DSC is a valuable one. HF DSC is part of the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS), a set of international requirements for communications gear and protocols designed to improve the ability of search and rescue forces to aid mariners in distress. The main thrust of GMDSS is for large commercial

vessels, yet voyaging boats can also take advantage of parts of the system. The elements of GMDSS are: • Emergency position indicating radio beacons (EPIRBs) • Navtex (an automated text-based warning and information system via radio at 518 kHz) • Inmarsat satellite communications capability (either Inmarsat B, Fleet 77 or Inmarsat C) • Search rescue radar transponders (SARTs) • Electrical power requirements • MF, HF and VHF DSC radio gear Few voyaging boats have Navtex gear, Inmarsat

less, giving ocean sailors added safety benefits in a distress situation. Called Personal DSC, the product from High Seas Radio ( is priced at $599. Commercial vessels larger than 300 gross tons are required by international law to carry HF DSC equipment. Voyaging boats 10 OCEAN NAVIGATOR SEPTEMBER 2015

installations, SARTs or the type of robust electrical generation and battery storage systems large ships are required to carry. The two most common elements of GMDSS employed by voyagers are EPIRBs and VHF DSC. With a product like Personal DSC, voyagers can add HF DSC to their vessel’s arsenal of safety gear less expensively than with HF DSC hardware found on larger vessels. To use VHF DSC, voyagers need a maritime mobile service identity (MMSI) number. This MMSI is attached to the vessel, so employing HF DSC doesn’t require a second MMSI. One of the elements of DSC is the way DSC radios relay messages. “The primary advantage of HF DSC is safety,” said Richard Duncan, founder of High Seas Radio LLC, which offers the Personal DSC product. “It sends a digital distress message that is relayed by the radios of other ships and shore stations until it gets to the Coast Guard. It can relay a message all the way around the world.” There is no special training required to use HF DSC, and you don’t need to have a ham radio license. “This has nothing to do with ham radio,” said Duncan. “This system operates on marine HF SSB frequencies.” To use Personal DSC, you need a Windows-based PC (it won’t run on a Mac) equipped with a sound card and an interface box that connects the PC to the radio (you also need a GPS position input). According to High Seas

Radio, a typical interface box is a Signalink USB unit that provides the sound card for the computer and radio transmit control to the transceiver. The speaker out/mic in can also be used with other interface boxes. It’s also important that the transceiver and antenna must be capable of operating on the desired DSC frequencies. The actual Personal DSC product is a software program that is installed on the PC; there is also a dongle box that connects via USB. It holds the software license and your MMSI number. This means you can install the software on multiple PCs and just transfer the dongle to whichever PC you want to use (although MMSI numbers are specific to a particular vessel so you can’t use the same MMSI on different vessels). Other uses for HF DSC beyond safety involve sending messages to coastal stations requesting communications (such as a connection to land telephone number), or sending a message to, say, the Coast Guard that you would like non-emergency info or communications and, of course, calling other vessels via their MMSI number. The moderator of an ad hoc cruising network can call a number of boats at once using the DSC group call feature. HF DSC joins other safetyrelated tools available to voyagers when they are sailing offshore, including EPIRBs, satphones, non-DSC HF radio and satellite communicator units like the inReach. n SEPTEMBER 2015 OCEAN NAVIGATOR 11

power voyaging

In charge

Story and photos BY JEFF MERRILL

Cecil Rhodes

batteries come in several sizes and configurations. One thing they all have in common is that they are heavy. Be sure you have marinegrade batteries as there is a difference — more robust construction since they are expected to be shaken around under way, but primarily more accepting of deeper discharges that are more common on boats and designed for regular recharging.

Even with ample generating capacity, an energy-hungry power voyaging boat like this one still needs dependable batteries.


he battery bank on your trawler is the foundation for your ship’s electrical system and is equally important at rest or under way. A reliable source of electricity is easy to maintain if you understand the basics and periodically take some time to ensure your batteries are ship-shape. This article will review some simple, introductory level concepts to review as a refresher and to get you thinking more seriously about batteries to help make sure your 12V system is “dialed-in” and that you remain in charge. Direct current (DC) 12V


Three chemistry types The three basic chemistry types are wet cell (flooded), gel cell and absorbed glass mat (AGM). Lithium-ion is another story and not commonly embraced by the boating world … yet. You have both a house bank and starting batteries to look after. Most modern trawlers are outfitted with AGM technology because they require less maintenance

and are more forgiving, but they are also more expensive and typically require a smart charger/voltage regulator set up. One of the first things you should confirm is what type of batteries are installed on your trawler. You also need to know where every battery is located on board and how they are connected. Many boatbuilders use the weight as a trim advantage and often batteries are installed low or outboard and difficult to access. It is not uncommon for batteries to be tucked away out of sight, making them less likely to benefit from regular inspections. This can be particularly problematic if you have flooded batteries, which require regular topping off with distilled water. If you have a choice and enough cable, it is better to have the terminals inboard for easier inspection and cleaning. Inspecting your batteries needs to become part of your regular maintenance routine. Keep them clean by wiping down with a soft cloth and look for cracks or bulges in the cases. Your battery terminals (positive and negative) should have rubber boots

to isolate them. Your terminals should be viewed periodically to make sure the cables are properly connected. Lift up the boots to look for corrosion. If you see crud developing, disconnect the cables and clean off the posts using a wire brush and a baking soda/water paste (turn off power using the master disconnect switch before cleaning). Finish off with some sandpaper then wipe clean and dry. Finally, apply some petroleum jelly (like Vaseline) to the clean terminals. Tighten the cables to the terminals and confirm you have a snug connection — don’t use wing nuts to secure cable ends

as they can loosen. Use hex nuts and lock washers. Once things are clean and tight, give one last tug to make sure the cables are firm. Protective gear It’s a good practice to wear protective goggles and nitrile gloves when working around batteries. You also need to make sure your batteries are secured in place, either with threaded rods and a crossbar or in a specially fabricated battery box with a securing strap so that they will not jostle in place when your boat is underway. Batteries have a limited life cycle and you can extend that

by monitoring the voltage levels and keeping them fully charged. In general terms, at an average 80-degree temperature, a 12-volt battery will be fully charged at approximately 12.7 volts for a wet cell, 13.8 volts for a gel cell and 14.4 volts for AGM. Most trawlers make charging voltage easy to track via an analog or digital An absorbed glass mat (AGM) battery secured by a hold down bar so it can’t shift at sea.


power voyaging

battery monitor gauge typically installed as part of the electrical panel in the pilothouse. As a rule of thumb, if you get a reading below 12 volts you may be more than 50 percent discharged and it is time to re-charge. Try not to let your voltage drop below 50 percent for better performance and longevity. You can verify the accuracy of your battery voltage meter by confirming the readings from a multi-meter. There are products that can be installed like the Link Pro battery monitor series, which shows the percentage of voltage remaining in your batteries. This type of display is easier for many boaters to understand than reading an analog or digital voltage level gauge.

Remember to mark the installation date when replacing batteries.

The average battery will last for a couple of hundred cycles and realistically do a good job for four to five years, but you need to keep them clean and charged. I recommend that you put an installation date label on your batteries and keep the receipts for reference so you know when they are getting near the age of replacement. When one battery goes down it is better to replace all of the batteries in the system with the same type and at the same time — this is a 14 OCEAN NAVIGATOR SEPTEMBER 2015   

case where one bad apple can spoil the whole bunch. When it is time to change them out, remember they are heavy. A common 8D battery weighs 150 pounds alone. The handles are not always to be trusted (one of my good service tech friends had a handle rip and the battery fell, causing damage to the boat and breaking his ankle) so be careful when repositioning. Trace the charging circuit Your engine alternator is designed to charge batteries while you are underway. Depending upon your setup, this may only charge the house bank or may only charge the starting battery. Check your owner’s manual or trace this down so you know how your system is designed. You may also have a parallel switch that will allow you to charge starting and house banks simultaneously. If you have a parallel switch, learn how it works so that if you do have a low battery you can bring it back up to charge. Most trawlers also have a battery charger (sometimes as part of an inverter) that also helps add voltage. Chargers and alternators do a good job of replenishing the voltage, but a lot also depends upon the number of amps you are using to power various onboard appliances. If you are consuming more amps and reducing voltage faster than you are recharging, you may need to use some energy management techniques like turning off the breakers of non-essential circuits to conserve juice. Shore power systems are often

Make sure your battery selector switches are set properly for the situation, whether it be charging the house bank or the engine start batteries.

taken for granted, but it’s a good idea to understand where the breakers are. Land breakers are typically easy to find on the dock shore power tower, but aboard your trawler they may be hidden in a locker. If you trip your onboard shore power circuit breaker you will cut off the dock supply until you reset the breaker (sometimes both shore and onboard need to be reset). Knowing where your onboard shore power circuit breaker is and knowing how to reset it is something you should be familiar with. I like to put a label “UP is ON” on the breaker as a quick reference

Shore power and generator breaker boxes located in the engine room of a power voyager.

reminder. Some of the newer shore power cords have light diodes on the connecting ends that illuminate when power is flowing. If your current cord is getting tired and it’s time to upgrade, I recommend looking into this type of cord. Your ship’s electrical panel should have a meter or gauge that shows the voltage coming in. Many inverter panels have a light A welllabeled 12-volt DC panel helps in managing battery use.

on the panel that will indicate AC-IN letting you easily confirm that shore power is indeed bringing power into your boat. One exercise to consider that will help you become more familiar with your electrical loads is to determine what the amperage draw is for each individual breaker on your panel. Pick a quiet time when you are at the dock, your batteries are fully charged and you have shore power coming in. Start by turning all of the breakers off and then selecting one breaker at a time and look at your amperage indicator to determine draw. You will quickly see where your biggest draws are. Be wary of turning off your bilge pump and don’t forget to turn that breaker back on after this exercise. Your electrical panel is a

lection of breakers selecting equipment to be powered up, and gauges displaying voltage and amperage. Your DC breaker panel is typically supplying power to your nav/com electronics. Some larger trawlers have a dedicated 12V battery and separate charger just for nav/com. Other common 12-volt breakers are; battery charger, cabin lights, refrigerator, 12V round cigarette lighter charging, fans, etc. The back of your breaker panels should be regularly inspected for loose wires and some spare breakers and fuses should be kept aboard for fast replacement when needed. Take your time and become familiar with what each electrical component does. 12V or DC (direct current) power will only operate a select set of equipment. Items requiring larger electrical loads, like duplex outlets, run off of 120V AC (alternating current) typically supplied through an inverter — the subject of a future article. n Jeff Merrill, CPYB, is the president of Jeff Merrill Yacht Sales — Merrill is active in the cruising community as a public speaker and writer and enjoys spending time at sea with clients. Jeff has written a series of “Dialing-In” your trawler articles for Ocean Navigator and is constantly looking for new ideas to improve and simplify the trawler lifestyle. If you have a suggestion or want to get in touch please e-mail Merrill at: trawlerspecialist@

Here are the key points to remember to ensure your 12V DC power is “dialed-in.” • Keep track of the age of your batteries by labeling them and retaining receipts. Expect them to last four to five years with proper care. • Know which type of batteries you have and what maintenance is required (top off flooded cells with distilled water only). • Know where ALL of your batteries are located and inspect them regularly. • Wear safety goggles and nitrile gloves when working with batteries. • Learn where the battery bank disconnect switch is so you can shut off power for maintenance purposes. • Regularly inspect your batteries for signs of corrosion and monitor their temperatures. A hot battery (relative to your others) is a sign that things are changing internally and a good clue to discover before your battery goes flat. • Keep your batteries clean, especially the terminal posts. • Make sure your batteries are secure in place. • Keep your batteries charged up and understand how to monitor when they are getting low. Shallow discharges will improve the life span of your batteries. • Before you leave your boat, make sure all batteries are fully charged, but don’t overcharge. • If you are using an inverter, make sure the settings on the control panel are correct for the chemistry type of batteries you are using. • Learn where your onboard shore power breaker is so you can reset it if it trips. Jeff Merrill SEPTEMBER 2015 OCEAN NAVIGATOR 15


Sardine harbor To the editor: On the NOAA chart it looked fine, albeit a little small: an almost square dredged anchorage just north of Plymouth, Mass., that services the Pilgrim-founded hamlet of Duxbury. Sailing a tight serpentine path up

Robert Beringer

Harbors with many moorings and docks can be a challenge for the reduced ability of a sailboat at low speed.


boats, that’s where! It was the marine version of every man for himself. Just when you think you’ve seen it all as a sailor: We tiptoed into the floating village, wending our way through the minefield, keenly aware that each mooring had a pennant or chain that could catch our prop. We zigged, we zagged, looking for some kind of lane that would lead us in; a nice man waved us over and then “kachunk!” the sickening sound of the prop slicing through something thick.

oystermen, too, had staked their claim in this sardine can with floating shacks that preserved and processed their catch. The chart showed a final pair of nav aids, but where were they? Well, mixed in with the

We approached the dock and Harbormaster Donald Beers spritely marched down the ramp and grabbed our line. Sheepishly I asked him for a pump out, fully expecting a public upbraiding for damage to the

Robert Beringer


the sprawling sand flats we sought a pump out, a mooring and a lobster roll at the Snug Harbor Fish Company. I was sailing along with my friends Dana and Craig as they took their maiden voyage aboard Hypatia, a Hunter 37, bound for a summer in Maine. Perhaps I should have reviewed the cruising guide more carefully, reading between the lines when they warned that the 150 moorings of Snug Harbor made

it, “a tight fit with a tide that can easily leave the careless boater aground.” We would soon discover how appropriate this name was. But life is for learning, and the dogs needed a walk, so in we went on the afternoon flood with hopes there would be room for us. We came out of the last turn and what I saw still shocks me to the core: the moored boats proliferated in virtually every nook and cranny within — I’ve seen football game parking lots that had more empty space. The

mooring. But he just grinned, waving his hand. “Forget it,” he said, “happens all the time. It’s so crowded in here.” Yeah, no kidding. He went on to explain that dredging funds had been delayed and it’s really shoal at low tide. After requesting a mooring, he not only gave it to us gratis but insisted on escorting us out there, and when a neighboring powerboat strayed too close as the tide changed, he returned to move it.

What a guy! But the guide wasn’t exaggerating — the spring low left all but the shacks and the small boats in the middle hard aground. But at that point we didn’t care. The town was charming, with stately mansions dating from the early 19th century. Bayside Marine loaned us a truck for supplies, the lobster rolls were great and the croissants at French Memories were delightful.

As the tide neared its peak the next day and the last of the fog burned off, we fired up the diesel and cautiously made our way out of this tight but hospitable place, reminded of the old sailing saw that the worst thing about a port is leaving it. —Robert Beringer is a marine journalist and college administrator who holds a USCG marine merchant officer license, and sails his Catalina 34 Ukiyo out of Jacksonville, Fla.

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The St. Barts breakaway

After the dinghy

To the editor: So here we are sitting


recovery in Peurto Ferro. Eric Sanford

on board our catamaran Indigo, all alone in our own private anchorage in Puerto Ferro on the south side of Isla de Vieques. It’s a barren island off the southeast end of Puerto Rico‚ a place I can’t imagine more than a dozen or so boats visiting a year. Soon we’re not alone: A sleek powerboat comes through the narrow entrance. It anchors perhaps 150 meters from us, and we go back to doing whatever it is we’re doing (nothing). A couple hours later we decide to launch our tender and go for a cruise around the bay. As we pass by our

visitors, someone appears on deck and waves wildly for us to come over. In a thick French accent he indicates that he needs a ride to shore. I look where he is pointing and there, out of view from our catamaran, is a group of six men all dressed in orange lifeline25v 11/8/10 shirts (federal prisoners?), a guy with an official-looking green uniform (the warden?), and a truck with a

trailer. On the trailer sits an inflatable yacht tender. This is all very strange, so I ask him what is going on. “Well you zee, I have lost zee tender in St. Barts 10 days ago and here it is.” Debbie and 8:50 AM Page 1 I exchange glances. “Excuse me?” His name is, of course, Pierre and he tells us the tale of the wandering

just shipped a 39-foot boat he bought in Italy to St. Thomas. Would Pierre mind helping him drive it to St. Martin? This is just too good. So Pierre flies to St. Thomas, meets his friend and they take his

tender. Pierre owns a small charter boat company in St. Martin. He tells us that he has five boats in his “fleet” and adds thoughtfully, “I need to learn to tie better knots.” Apparently one of his tenders decided to take a midnight swim from St. Barts when it discovered only a very poorly tied knot holding it to the mother ship. So off goes the tender — a very nice 14-foot AB inflatable with a 70-hp outboard — searching for bluer waters and greener pastures. Sure enough 10 days and 135 miles later, it washes up on a tiny beach on the south side of Isla de Vieques —in itself a miracle, since the south coast is 95 percent ringed with jagged reefs, rocky cliffs and crashing waves.

new boat the 30 miles over to Puerto Ferro to meet the officials there and claim his tender. Which is where our story begins. Pierre and his friend are on their boat in the middle of the bay with

Eric Sanford

The wayward dinghy at the start of its 135mile tow back to St. Martin.

So someone finds the tender and rather than thinking, “Wow! I just found an abandoned $16,000 boat!” they contact the police who discover the registration papers in the forward locker (along with the keys, still in the ignition) and track down Pierre in St. Martin. Since it’s a full 135-mile open ocean crossing, Pierre has to find a way to get to Vieques, retrieve the tender and bring it back to St Martin. His phone rings: A friend of his has



to shore and the officials not able to unload the tender. With 100-to-1 chances of there being another boat in the bay (us), I’m not sure what he would have done. Even if he swam to shore, the battery in his tender was

no way to get to shore to meet the officials who have his tender on a trailer on shore. Had we not happened to launch our tender to go for a ride, it might have been a Puerto Rican standoff: Pierre not able to get

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dead and there was no way to get it back to his friend’s boat. We bring him to shore, he thanks the officials profusely and we tow his tender back out to his friend’s boat. Everyone is happy except perhaps the tender, which, much like an escaped horse, saw this as a chance to see the world. Pierre casually loops the frayed polypropylene tow rope from the tender around a cleat at the back of the boat. “Uh, you’re not really going to tow it back like that, are you Pierre?” I say with a frown. “No, no, no,” he insists. “I am going to make zee knot, of course.” “Oh good,” I say, “because I don’t think you’d make it 500 meters out of this bay without losing it again.” I glance out into the frothing seas at the entrance to the bay just as another 30-knot gust rips through. Outside it’s howling, and with 8- to 10-foot seas, their planned voyage straight into the wind and seas is going to be nasty. Indeed, it will be a miracle if the tender isn’t swamped and sunk. Pierre spends the rest of the afternoon cleaning his tender and, I assume, scolding her profusely for her wayward odyssey. Personally, I’m impressed. One hundred thirty-five miles of dangerous ocean in 10 days with no GPS, chartplotter, radar, depth sounder or even a compass — not to mention a soft beach landing ... I don’t know many captains who can do that well. I know I couldn’t. —Eric Sanford is an inventor, sailor and writer whose book The Buena Vista Diaries documents his many adventures on land and sea.

Timer helps keep the boat afloat To the editor: Jeff Merrill’s recent

article on the care and feeding of onboard freshwater systems (“Wanderer’s water,” September 2014) was most excellent. His comments about connecting directly to shore water were particularly pertinent to those who find a range

Dick Stevenson

of shore power pressure, some quite strong, outside U.S. waters. When we are wintering over (we live aboard and have been in Europe), we connect to shoreside water directly. This is very convenient, allowing the tanks to be empty and thereby getting the waterline a bit higher as well as other benefits. Jeff is absolutely correct in suggesting that one of the more embarrassing ways to sink your boat is to fill

it with shoreside water through an internal broken fitting or loose hose. We made this less likely by fitting a common “sprinkler” timer into the hose from the shore. In this way we can flip the timer on for a few minutes and the boat’s accumulator will “charge” up. This amount of water can last a half-day or so. If it’s time for showers or evening dishes, flip the timer on for an hour. In this way, for a large bulk of the time (and all the time you are off the boat) the shore water is blocked by the timer before it gets into the boat. n —Dick Stevenson and his wife Ginger live aboard their Valiant 42 Alchemy.

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Box cars in the Gulf Stream Sailing north from the Florida Keys to R.I., voyagers get thumped by changing conditions Story and photos by Rick Meisner

Above, WildHorse owner Rick Meisner in the Gulf Stream. Right, Henry DiPietro, Meisner and Janet Garnier were the crew of WildHorse.


e had a perfect plan for returning WildHorse, our Valiant 42 cutter, to her home port in Watch Hill, R.I., after a winter in the Florida Keys. We took our time moving north in Florida, with even a side trip up the St. Johns River to Jacksonville (a long way, but a beautiful city). But nearing late May it was time to switch to offshore mode and get ready for the 900-nm passage to Rhode Island. The issue was how to deal with the Gulf Stream. This ocean river is a hot-blooded


beast with no conscience. Each encounter with it, no matter how well planned, is like a game of Russian roulette — sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. And when you lose it’s bound to be a mess. The stream does not care. Luckily I had two fine friends joining me for the voyage, Janet Garnier (“JG”) and Henry DiPietro, both with terrific sailing

resumes and both veterans of previous WildHorse voyages. And I had made this exact trip several times before. My confidence was high. A simple plan The sail plan was straightforward enough: Sail northeasterly to intersect the Gulf Stream south of Frying Pan Shoals, N.C., and ride it around Cape Lookout and Cape Hatteras and as far north as logic and weather dictate. Then cut for Rhode Island. The speed boost from the stream makes the risk worthwhile, plus the natural wonder of it never fails to captivate the whole crew. Watching the ocean temperature rise into the 80s as speed over the ground follows — first a knot or so, then 2, 3, 4 more knots favorable! The experience never gets old; it is always first-rate excitement. But the excitement and advantage bear penalties — woe to the mariner caught in the stream with any really bad weather. And even with good

Left, WildHorse at her home port of Watch Hill, R.I. Below, WildHorse’s route took it into the Gulf Stream before conditions forced seeking refuge at Cape May, N.J.

Chesapeake Bay

Unexpected motorsailing But then the Cape May wind went south and 38° N light, making apparent air nonexistent. WildHorse’s Route To make any progress, we M had to do more A 36° E motoring. R T Cape Hatteras On day three, S F approaching L U Cape Fear and G Frying Pan Cold Eddy Shoals, I began 34° to officially worry about fuel range. All 78° W 76° 74° 72° our weather information was in alignarbiter of all who pass and ment — there was an extended the study of the weather on frontal boundary along a line approach is intense. What we from Nova Scotia to the Chesasaw was unusual: a light air, peake. North of 38° N was smooth sea rounding was in blustery weather and northeast store. And influencing my deciwind. But south of that line, sion to go for it was the prosincluding WildHorse, there was SEPTEMBER 2015 OCEAN NAVIGATOR 23

Ocean Navigator Illustration

weather, only a fool needs to experience the wrath of the stream when a north component wind blows against the north flowing stream. And the worst scenario of all: squally weather with a northeast wind as the Gulf Stream makes its turn to the northeast. This makes that nice, hot water stand straight up into square giant-sized waves that quickly turn excitement into rank, sweaty fear. So with our course laid and sailing strategy made, we departed north Florida on light ENE air, hoping just to sail generally north until the wind consented to a more northeast course to clear Savannah, Charlestown and Cape Fear, then intersecting the stream anywhere the conditions would allow. I never mind light conditions when starting a long trip. It gives captain and crew a chance to get into the rhythm of the sea and boat, and the enjoyment of homemade dinners at sunset on the open ocean is just flat-out wonderful. So we motorsailed happily for

the first two days, interspersed with periods of decent sailing.

an uncommon lethargy to the weather, with light south wind and very benign sea state — i.e., more motoring. I did some calculations from our consumption record and felt if we could make it to the stream by motorsailing, we could nurse along at very low rpm, letting the Gulf Stream do the work and be left with enough fuel to make port should the wind die at the other end. Cape Hatteras is the ultimate pinch point. It is the

ocean voyaging

Gathering weather info I am an omnivorous weather consumer when headed to sea. I use a number of sites, including: • Ocean Prediction Center (for the big picture) • BuoyWeather. com (have been a subscriber for years) • PassageWeath • NWS Offshore Marine Forecasts • DEOS Current Velocities of the Gulf Stream (the best color picture of the Stream) • Gulf Stream Tools (OPC/ NCEP) • A professional Wx router I have used for years When they don’t all agree I am suspicious. When they do all agree I am suspicious. When at sea I pare it down to BuoyWeather, GRIBS and the pro, all via SSB. Rick Meisner

pect of an 80-nm roundtrip into Beaufort, N.C., to get fuel, with two days lost and maybe nasty conditions by then at Hatteras keeping us in port. So we made a logical gamble. We would make the stream with enough fuel to employ our strategy, and then let the Gulf Stream do the work as we headed for the Stream’s most northeastern point at 38° N by 071° W, just before it made a big meander to the southeast on its way to the shores of Europe. WildHorse entered the Gulf Stream southeast of Cape Lookout, at 34° 10’ N by 076° 20’ W. We reduced rpm as the big ocean river pulled us ever faster along its axis. Rounding Cape Hatteras is always an awesome and humbling experience. Rounding in flat seas and light air is downright surrealistic. I should have known right then that there was big trouble ahead. We proceeded northeast on a course of 60° M, aiming for the exit point 38° N by 071° W, which would leave 190 nm due north for Block Island and home. The stream’s configuration showed a straight-line sail at 60° M would keep WildHorse centered in the stream and the fastest current. And every single weather station I could access, including the professionals (via SSB) confirmed the front would lift and move west, leaving us with easterly air once we exited the stream,


promising a close reach in 18 to 22 knots heading for the barn. Piece of cake. Sudden wind change At 1300 on Wednesday, June 3, I stood in the companionway staring into the wide eyes of my surprised and worried crew. I did not know what just happened, but I knew life was about to change. I looked over my shoulder and saw what had startled them. The south wind had disappeared and in its place was dead northeast, along with the start of northeast seas. “When the hell did this happen?!” I asked. “Just now, just like that,” came the reply. In the space of this exchange I watched the wind build to 15 knots with suddenly larger seas. We reefed the main and tacked over, rolling out a reefed jib but finding we could only make 90° M course over the ground (COG). So over we tacked, trading the jib for the more closely sheeted staysail, finding the ride smoother and COG around 20° M. But we needed the engine to maintain that course. Not good. Why was this happening? We were a safe 100-plus nm from our turn point and the frontal boundary at 38° N. Was this transitory? A bleed over

from the front? How could all the weather info be wrong? We decided to sail the course we could make good and just be patient and see. We traded tacks and did our best to maintain our strategy, but by 1700 our condition became plain. With mounting wind and steep seas WildHorse was getting clobbered. It was an untenable position and we needed to abandon our 38/071 strategy — and fast. Back at the nav station, I felt the cold grip of anxiety as I realized that our carefully reasoned game plan was in the toilet, worthless. And worse, we had committed ourselves so far north and east that most of our secondary ports were now unreachable. First things first, I thought, we must get out of the stream. And any course to the east was a no-brainer-no-good as it would require fighting the stream’s southeast meander as well as a full crossing of the stream down the line. We fell off the wind enough to sail fast on starboard to the west and took note of the

course made good — 330° M. I drew a vector line along that track and found it split the breakwaters at Cape May, N.J. “We’re going to Cape May,” I shouted with as much confidence I could muster. JG and Henry were quick to agree. But now we had to sail out of the Gulf Stream and across the frontal boundary. I knew it would be nasty all the way to Cape May, some 170 nm, and I told my crew. They did not blink. Desperate to escape The stream was now having her way with us and we were desperate to escape. Towering waves had built up in 20-plus knots of northeast air. WildHorse is normally a dry boat, but not now. She got hit hard on the starboard beam by waves the size of boxcars. Green water was arcing up and over our dodger, sometimes missing the whole boat, sometimes just nailing the cockpit. The wind rose with a vengeance and the seas followed, making an awesome, terrible sight. Below was a shambles — and I had put a homemade chicken potpie in the oven. Guess what? No takers. Instead the three of us had a measly, pitiful meal of Matza crackers and peanut butter. The only thing in our favor was the Gulf Stream’s narrowness at its far northeast point. When we cut and ran I figured two hours at the 8.5 knots we were making would get us close

to the western wall. It was two hours of agony, and I swear it was like a living thing had awakened and realized some trespassers had almost gone unpunished. JG had sailed across the Pacific and the Atlantic. She had done the Caribbean and the Panama Canal. But she had never been in the Gulf Stream in northeast air. She did not like it and retired below to her sea berth, which she referred to as “sick bay.” We hacked and slashed our way, with reefed main and staysail, WildHorse pushing forward in 20-foot breaking seas, doing what she was made to do. And when we reached the edge of the stream, we entered the world of gray we had been planning for days to avoid: the front. The Gulf Stream waves began to lose their monumental force, but we were now in just plain bad weather. Here’s the log from 2200: “Wind up; seas rough; white water everywhere. We are dead on course for Cape May, but gray, windy, menacing conditions prevail. Wind forward of the beam at 25kts. Boat fast and okay; crew not.” And for 0000: “Thurs. 5/4 — Crashing, banging, and muscling through wind & waves on course 330M @ 7.5kts; Wx shows no sign of abating; crew just hanging on.”

Then we began to see 25 to 30 knots with stronger gusts, all just forward of the beam. The concussion of WildHorse hitting the walls of water sounded like cannon fire. There was virtually no visibility and we knew we must pass the busy mouth of Delaware Bay to reach Cape May. We expected big traffic but even as dawn broke we could see nothing. Radar and AIS revealed some big boys who did not answer our calls and caused mounting anxiety. But what I was most worried about was seeing the stone jetties at Cape May. An easy entrance, I’d heard, but I’d

Left, a still image from a video shot during the height of the rough conditions in the Gulf Stream. Below, JG in her lee-clothequipped “sick bay.”

never been there before. By mid-morning we were as spent as a crew can be but still had an ETA of 1730, which seemed like a long time to go with no let up. Here’s the log: “1630 — On approach — absolutely nothing visible; no land mass, nothing. Only 7nm off, nothing but gray & white spume. Wind now topping out SEPTEMBER 2015 OCEAN NAVIGATOR 25

ocean voyaging

Janet Garnier celebrates WildHorse’s Cape May landing.

at 30kts. Cannot get too close with no visual.” 1700: “We see hazy land, all gray monocolor; some tall tanks; no evidence of a stone breachway, nor the major mark, R”CM.” We are fast, fast and should reduce sail, but need power for the seas.” What about the jetties? My mind was now racing with nervous energy. How were we going to land the boat? What if we never got a visual of the stone jetties? Would I have enough faith to shoot the breachway on electronics alone? Bailing out at this speed and no visibility was not so simple. I decided on a compromise: We would abort if we got within 1 nm of the entrance without seeing a mark. We would strike


the staysail and bear off with just the main along with an engine assist. From downwind of the entrance we would tack and head back for a second try. I had no other plan. Posting Henry and JG as lookouts keyed to the range and bearing of the jetties, I took the helm. We were just 2 nm off when suddenly, out of the mist and spume, emerged R”CM,” the safe water buoy that aligns with the entrance, only 1 nm beyond. But we still had no visual on the jetties. “Let’s strike the staysail,” I yelled to JG and Henry and they did so quickly. As I started the engine I heard JG exclaim, “There!” Through the mist came the scratchy indication of dark shapes in the water extending ahead of us. A stone jetty for sure, but which one? We could make out a tall mark but it was colorless in the conditions. Closer, closer and finally just at the point of no return came the second jetty, smaller and with just a single small green can as its marker. “We have them! We’re going in.” There was an ominous line of white water just inside the jetties that seethed with turbulence. We trimmed the main and applied full throttle and WildHorse blasted through. We were in. The seas abated, the boat righted and for the first time we knew we were clear. We rejoiced. With WildHorse safely docked and the crew still limp

with emotional exhaustion, I turned to the next most important matter. “What can I get you to drink?” Henry did not hesitate. “Jack Daniel’s Manhattan, light on the vermouth and skip the cherry.” I laughed and said that sounded good to me. I looked at JG who said, “Make it three, boys.” If you are really out there, all sailors know there is always risk, especially when weather misbehaves — and if you can count on anything, it is that the weather will not do what it’s supposed to do. If you are in the Gulf Stream (or some other notorious ocean waters) and determined to have it all, you have doubled down and must accept your fate if you happen to roll snake eyes. The key question: Was the risk worth the potential gain? The answer can only come from the individual mariner. I’d say I feel a strong affinity for the majestic power and beauty of the Gulf Stream, and to harness this natural wonder and ride it to personal advantage is one of life’s most satisfying adventures. Risk accepted. n Rick Meisner is a former executive who sails his Valiant 42, WildHorse out of Watch Hill, R.I. He has captained WildHorse in several NewportBermuda and Marblehead-Halifax ocean races and has cruised WildHorse from Nova Scotia to the Eastern Caribbean and beyond.


The ARC Rally to Newport meets a surprise gale and tests a new communications tool

Weather data from an unexpected quarter Editor’s note: When a group of voyagers participating in the ARC Rally to Newport, R.I., departed Bermuda, little did they know that a new way of grabbing weather data would be such an important element of their passage. The following is the first of our practical weather stories in this issue’s special section on weather. It’s a “handson” account of how voyagers made unexpected use of satellite communications to obtain a key forecast during the trip.



t looked like a delightful, fair-weather voyage to Newport, R.I., as eight boats departed from Bermuda on Tuesday, May 19. I was the navigator radio net operator and “embedded” journalist aboard Aphrodite, a Swan 46. Most sailboats over 40 feet can make the 640-mile voyage in four days, but weather forecasts are accurate for only the first two or three days. Then there’s the Gulf Stream, with all its eddies, meanders and countercurrents to deal with. Hit the stream wrong and you can add half a day to your

trip; hit it right and you shave off 12 hours. Trying to predict what the wind might be doing as you enter the stream is a crapshoot. Sailing to or from Bermuda is a navigator’s dilemma. Add to the uncertainty of the weather and Gulf Stream the fact that once offshore, new information is spotty, expensive or non-existent. Options for offshore weather are limited: Call up a weather router on satphone. If you have an HF SSB radio you can download weather fax or the GRIB files, and/or listen in

A group of ARC Rally to Newport boats at St. Georges in Bermuda.



Satellite tracker and communicator

NOAA chart. You and others at home

There was a time when being at sea

as you travel. Your own MapShare

meant you were totally out of touch

website is connected to your inReach

with the rest of civilization. Not any

and displays your trail, all your mes-

more. While some may regret the

sages sent and received, along with

loss of anonymity, modern technol-

information on your speed, direction,

ogy does provide

elevation and lat/long. You can even

an excellent safety

add other inReach owners to your

factor. The inReach

screen to follow your fellow climbers,

Explorer, built by

hikers, bikers and yachts.

the map-making

can follow your breadcrumb trail

The inReach Explorer, the upgrad-

credit right

and navigation

ed version of the inReach ($379 plus

company DeLorme,

a monthly data package) is also a

saved us a lot of

communicator. You can send and

grief on a recent

receive text messages (limited to

Bermuda to New-

160 characters) to and from anyone

port delivery. With it, we could ask

worldwide. Now while the tiny screen

for weather advice and get it.

and keypad is a pain to use for tex-

The inReach is larger than a

ting, you can connect your inReach

smartphone and smaller than an

to your smartphone or iPad via

EPIRB 406, with features of both. It

Bluetooth. All the inReach functions

uses the Iridium network of satellites

then appear on your larger screen.

for worldwide coverage. There is an

The inReach itself can now be parked

SOS button that sends your location

on deck, with a clear view of the sky,

to GEOS, a 24/7 SAR monitoring

serving as the antenna for your hand-

center that will coordinate a rescue.

held. You can download topo maps

GEOS will even verify they have

from DeLorme, or NOAA charts, to

received your request, and you can

your handheld, allowing you to fol-

text them the nature of your problem.

low your own voyage — similar to a

The inReach unit is also a compass, an altimeter and a tracker

chartplotter. DeLorme will be adding a weather

that up-links your lat/long every few

alert function for the inReach,

minutes or hours (you choose) to

expanding its group plan for fleets,

a website called MapShare, show-

races and rallies.

ing your position on a topo map or

David Lyman

to Chris Parker on Caribbean Weather Net on 12.350 MHz USB. If you have a modem connected to your SSB, you can wait for a daily weather alert from the ARC Rally Team ashore. Our little fleet had a hodgepodge of radios and communications options: SSB, VHF, limited email and text messaging via DeLorme’s inReach tracker. But sailors are resourceful and we managed, through ingenuity, to solve the weather information problem. The pre-departure briefing from the ARC Rally staff was favorable. The wind and Gulf Stream charts from showed a southwest breeze for a day or so, motoring sailing up to the Gulf Stream, then stronger winds to get us into Newport — four days at the most. “It’s going to be a delightful trip,” I told the crew on Aphrodite. I’ve made this voyage more than two dozen times.  I should have known better. We were one of more than 50 boats in the spring ARC Rally. We’d all left Tortola in the BVI on May 9, and had a fast five-day, 860-mile trip straight north to Bermuda. From there, the vast majority of the boats (40 or more) were headed east to the Azores, the Med or Northern Europe. A few headed to Florida, three headed home to the Chesapeake and eight of us, Aphrodite included, were bound for

Routing planning Following the arrival of the ARC’s 50-odd boat fleet into St. Georges, Bermuda, on Friday, May 14, crews gathered at the St. Georges Dinghy for a weather briefing. The club and the Yacht Service Center in town both have free Wi-Fi and we were able to download a set of seven-day weather charts from PassageWeather. com and Gulf Stream current predictions. For the skippers on the north-bound boats, the direct route on the rhumb line to Newport had a lot going for it. It was direct, therefore the shortest route, and there was a north-flowing meander in the Gulf Stream that would push a boat along with 2 knots of current, but next to it was a south-flowing meander with an even stronger south-flowing current. The exact waypoint to enter the north-flowing meander would be elusive.

Three boats, Mystic, Catch 22 and Morning Haze, elected this direct route. The other five boats, Aphrodite included, planned to head northwest to a waypoint 300 miles east of Cape Charles, where we’d turn north and enter the stream at its narrowest. Then, if the wind did go northwest, we’d have the wind on the beam heading northeast to Newport. It didn’t quite work out as planned. We all departed Bermuda on the morning of Tuesday, May 19. We rounded Mills Breaker marker, passed Kitchen Shoals and were off the Northeast Breaks tower by 1 p.m. Bermuda Weather on the VHF said we could expect light winds all day with southwest winds of 15 to 20 knots on Wednesday. We raised the main to steady us and motorsailed in a gentle swell for the rest of that day and into the night.  Day 2: Wednesday, May 20 By Wednesday morning, winds were SSW to SW, 15 knots. We were heading northwest, wind on the beam. It was overcast and muggy and the seas had become uncomfortable. While listening on the SSB that morning I heard the following conversation between two megayachts still in Bermuda. Our dream of fair winds and a pleasant voyage

David Lyman

Newport. The boats in this Newport-bound fleet make the trek south and north each year, so the skippers all knew each other. The ARC Rally to Newport this May included five Swans: Aphrodite (46); Naia (65); Catch 22 (48); Tango (46); and Boonasta (57); as well as JoJo Marie, a Beneteau 50; Mystic, a Shannon 43; and Morning Haze, a Hunter 410, with a Canadian couple and their two young children on board.

began to fade. First Skipper: You get the update from Commander (Commander’s Weather, a routing service)? Second Skipper: Which one? First Skipper: There’s a low developing off the Carolinas on Thursday. Second Skipper: Yes. It’s supposed to turn into a gale center off Hatteras on Friday, but at least it’s a fast mover. Should be out of the way by Saturday. A gale? There was no indication of a gale in yesterday’s report before leaving Bermuda. JoJo Marie was within sight astern, so I called the skipper, Tania Aebi (author of Maiden Voyage, a young girl’s solo voyage around the world), on the VHF (JoJo had no SSB). Aphrodite: Just heard two boats still in Bermuda discussing a possible gale off Hatteras on Friday. JoJo Marie: That’s where we’re headed, isn’t it?

The crew of Aphrodite enjoy dinner in the cockpit before the weather turned. From left, skipper Maurizio Ricchiuto, Tim Walters, Eric Crouch and Matt Johnson.



Aphrodite: I think we need some more information. Do we call up Commanders Weather on the satphone and pay for a report?

credit right

The message is simply: ‘A low is forming off the Carolinas, passing NE over the GS on Thursday and Friday, wind 18 to 30 kts.’ He recommends we C B A stay below Our detour to avoid the worst of the gale Our intended route Rhumb Line: Bermuda to Newport 34° N until it is out of the area. Later that afternoon on the rally radio net, five yachts checked in. The conversation was about this new bit of information. How serious will the low be when we run into David Lyman/PassageWeather it? Will it develop into a gale? Might it JoJo Marie: Let’s wait until linger for a few days as the last the 4 p.m. radio net. See if A chart of the one did a week ago? Should anyone has an update from the Gulf Stream for we head west, or southwest or ARC office. May 24, 2015 turn back to Bermuda?  Aphrodite: Gotcha. from PassageA lot of this sailing stuff is Later that morning, Tania about making good decisions radioed back with a text messhowing A) and you can’t make those sage she had received from a the rhumb line decisions without good inforsavvy friend and sailor in New from Bermuda mation. Five boats, all facing York State. to Newport, a gale, with no way around Aphrodite: How’d you get B) Aphrodite’s it, linked by VHF and SSB, a text message? You have no intended route shared the flow of information SSB radio. and C) actual as it became available. JoJo Marie: The inReach route. We were already at 35° N, tracker has a text function — so our Italian captain Maurizio limited, but it works. and I, along with Tania on Aphrodite: How, without a JoJo half a mile off our starshort wave link? board quarter, agree: We will JoJo Marie: It up-links to continue cautiously west. We the Iridium satellite system. 30 OCEAN NAVIGATOR SEPTEMBER 2015   

had a day and a half before we got close to the low’s center. We proceeded northwest in a southwest wind. Day 3: Thursday, May 21 At 5:30 a.m., I couldn’t sleep. It was nearly my watch, so I pulled on my foulies and climbed on deck. Things looked better up there. The seas had moderated and the wind was now out of the northeast, on the starboard beam. We were scooting along at 7 knots in 20 knots of wind under half the jib and two reefs in the main, heading toward our waypoint. That morning’s radio net provided more details. John on Bonnasta, reported that the ARC email had warned us to stay south of 34° N to avoid the low. Murray on Naia, reported the same. We were already at 35.5° N so I made the suggestion: “Why don’t we just stop and wait? It’s a pleasant day, sunny, warm and the winds are dropping. We’ll only have to make up all those miles later.” By noon the wind had gone light. We were parked at 35° 28’ N and 68° 59’ W. JoJo Marie was along side within hailing distance. Tania and I discussed waypoints, the stream and options. “May as well go back to Bermuda,” she said. I could hear the frustration in her voice. Tania wanted to keep moving. The 4 p.m. radio net gave

us little new data, so Tania volunteered to text her Vermont contact for more information. By 5:30, we were back underway, motoring WNW toward our waypoint at 5 knots. At 6:30, ahead of us I saw JoJo Marie change course to the south. I called her on the VHF. “What’s up?” “I have a new weather report. I’ll read it to you. Are you going to record it? It’s pretty long and detailed.” “I’m recording. Go ahead.” Tania read the six-minute report. It was extensive, full of details on the gale center’s locations, wind direction and speeds. “The one point the router made,” she injected, “is to turn WSW now. Do not go further north. Wait for the gale to move north of you, then turn north toward Newport.” (You can listen to Tania’s weather report and see video of this voyage on Ocean Navigator’s website.) “How did you manage to get such a detailed report?” I asked Tania. “The inReach text function is limited to 160 characters.” “My sailor friend ashore knew what we needed to know, so he called up the weather router for a full report and recommendations. He broke down their email into 160 character segments and sent those to us in multiple texts. Jay, our technological wizard on board here has the inReach linked to his iPad. He stitched the texts together and that’s what I just read to you.” Her report was extremely detailed and a useful. Boiled down it came to:

1. A gale center with winds to 40-plus knots will move up and off the coast on Thursday and Friday. We had the lat/long plots for every few hours. 2. There is a cold eddy just south of the Gulf Stream at 36.34° N by 68.24’ W. 3. Do not continue northwest. Head southwest to skirt around the back of the gale center. The winds will clock from southwest to west to northwest, and be gone by the time we reach the southern edge of the stream on Saturday. I penciled in the gale’s track, the north and south walls of the Gulf Stream and the position of a cold eddy on National Defense chart No. 108. To visualize the gale’s wind pattern, I cut out a small square of paper, on which I drew the counterclockwise wind arrows around the gale’s center. As I moved the slip of paper along the path of the gale I could visualize wind directions as we moved to the southwest, west and evidentially northwest then north.  The cold eddy had me worried. If we turned north too soon we’d wind up sailing into a foul current — with a southerly wind blowing against it. We’d be facing steep, uncomfortable and dangerous seas. I wrote in my journal “Into the Valley of Death ride the 600 . . .”  I called up the other boats and shared the info and recommendations. JoJo Marie had access to the weather via the inReach, but no SSB. On Aphrodite we had a SSB and could contact the rest of the fleet. Our VHF range was limited to a handheld (our masthead antenna

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was not working) so JoJo Marie and Aphrodite agreed to remain within sight of each other through the gale. We dined on beef stew in the cockpit as gray storm clouds filled in the western sky ahead of us. By midnight we were in the thick of it. Our green crew of three, Tim, a communications consultant; Matt, owner of personal training gym; and Eric, a college senior, were all making their first serious offshore voyage. They’d come aboard to learn what it’s like to sail offshore. Each appeared excited about the prospect of riding through a gale. They had all been through skipper Maurizio’s training course of

along under a small bit of jib and full-reefed main. It was wet on deck and uncomfortable below. Day 4: Friday, May 22 As I came on deck at 7 a.m., blearyeyed, from another night of bouncing around, JoJo Marie was a quarter of a mile to the east of us. She’d kept station all night, not an easy task given these seas and gale winds. But Tania is a sailor with consummate skills. The seas, on our beam, were huge, some 20 feet and breaking. I grabbed my cameras and photographed the waves. By 8 a.m., winds were blowing 415-526-2780

JoJo Marie, one of seven boats in this year’s ARC Rally to Newport, under reduced sail following a night of 40+ knot winds David Lyman

watch-standing, steering, sail-setting and line-handling. With more than 1,000 miles behind us as a team, we knew the boat, its limitations and quirks. By 11 that night we were under half the jib, full-reefed main, in 18 to 22 knots of wind from the SSW, steering slightly north of west and making 6 knots. Throughout the night the wind increased, gusting to more than 40 knots. We slogged

200 miles east of Cape Hatteras.

30 to 35 knots from the southwest. We were steering 340 degrees, making 2 knots; waves were nine to 15 feet. I made a note in my journal. “We must be on the western edge of the cold eddy that is flowing south, against the wind, hence these steep breaking seas and just 2 knots forward over the bottom.” The Swan 44 is a heavy boat and with much reduced sail she rode well, with little heel and erratic






motion. Waves still broke against her sides and bow; sheets of water rattled down on the dodgers and blinded the helmsmen. But overhead the sky was beginning to break up. Slivers of blue sky poked through the gray clouds. We were past the worst of it. But this detour, this gale, eddy and route added two more days to what should have been four-day trip. 10 a.m.: The wind moved into the northwest and we came over to northeast course to keep the sea on the beam. On the radio net other boats checked in. All were kicked around during the night, but all were safe and moving either northeast or west. Naia was behind us by 60 miles, Boonasta was within 20 miles. JoJo was next door. Mystic and Catch 22, both on the direct route to Newport, were hundreds of miles to the east with NNW winds of 32 to 35 knots. 2:30 p.m.: I pulled up the Gulf Stream chart on my laptop, the one I’d downloaded from PassageWeather in Bermuda. I marked our location and discovered: If we kept heading northeast in this NNW wind, we’d end up running into the Gulf Stream, but it would be 2-plus knots flowing southeast. Better, Maurizio and I concluded, to turn west now, and continue west until we ran into the northeast flowing body of the stream. We called JoJo with our plans, and tacked over a westerly course. Boat speed over the ground leaped from 2 knots to 6, then 7 knots as we exited the effects of the eddy. The boat quieted down, the motion became enjoyable. The sun was out! 34 OCEAN NAVIGATOR SEPTEMBER 2015   

Day 5: Saturday, May 23 Winds were light, still northerly at 12 knots. We began the day heading west making 4 knots under full sail. By 10 a.m. we were 240 miles due east of Cape Henry. We altered course as the wind moved into the northeast and began to drop. The morning radio net brought even better news. Boonasta had an email report: winds would be north, then northeast and dropping to light, then filling in on Monday from the southwest, 15 to 20 knots. Ideal! By this time tomorrow, I told the crew, we’ll be through and past the Gulf Stream. And we were. We motored over the stream in calm conditions, led by a pod of dolphins. We picked up the southwest breeze on Sunday, lost it mid-day on Monday and motored into Newport Harbor at 8:30 that evening, just as it was getting dark. Six and a half days out of Bermuda.  Oh, yes. Catch 22 came in on Sunday ahead of us, but they paid a price. They experienced the full force of the gale on the nose, battling a 40-knot headwind the last day out. Morning Haze, the 40-foot Hunter, had turned back toward Bermuda when they heard of the gale, but came back on the rhumb line course and arrived a few hours after us. n David H. Lyman is a photographer, filmmaker, writer and former college president. He has made the Maine to the Caribbean voyage and back more than two dozen times on his own boats as well as delivery trips. His website is at


Picking a weather window for a challenging passage

Should I stay or should I go? Story and photos BY NADINE SLAVINSKI

Editor’s note: This is the second of our practical weather stories for this issue’s special section on weather. Here a voyaging couple must decide on when the weather is best for a passage in the South Pacific.


n Tonga with an idyllic season of Pacific cruising behind us, we were watching for a weather window to make the 1,100-mile trip to New Zealand. We warily eyed lows spinning eastward off Australia — southern hemisphere lows spinning clockwise, that is. Timing was everything. Too early in the season meant that potential gales south of 30° S would be at their peak; too late, and we could be chased

by an early cyclone above that imaginary line. Naturally, we weren’t the only sailors eager to get our timing right. A seasoned fleet of international cruisers had gathered in Tonga, all fixated on the figurative beacon of New Zealand shining ahead. After months of relatively carefree tropical sailing, signs of obsessive-compulsive behavior were cropping up in every tanned, weather-beaten face. On beaches, in cafes, on the radio, we scrutinized weather reports and compared notes. For most of us, it promised to be an eightto 10-day passage, plus or minus a possible stopover in North Minerva Reef, nearly 300 miles out of Tonga.

Many crews had signed up for the All Points Rally, an informal event that offered the benefit of pre- and postpassage information sessions as well as social gatherings and general weather advice — all for a price irresistible to any cruiser (namely, free). A number of crews were also plugged into professional weather services based in New Zealand and beyond, faithfully awaiting their sage advice. The question in everyone’s mind was, which window was the window? So when the pros gave the green light for a Thursday through Saturday departure in the first week of November, exactly coinciding with the general time frame of the

Boats at Tonga, securely tied within the harbor at Nuku’alofa awaiting the forecast storm.



Online weather resources Navigators are blessed

get to the “Radar & Satel-

for Android, iOS and

Tracks: (

with numerous helpful

lite Image.” The sat image

Windows Phone. This app


online weather sites. Here

provides a really big pic-

is one of the single big-

Go to the link and

is a sampling:

ture of what is happening,

gest reasons to have a

you can select your spot

which can be great when

smartphone! I use it often

to see all the hurricane

Center: (www.ndbc.noaa.

dealing with major sys-

when ashore to check out

tracks that have crossed


tems and hurricanes, but

upcoming weather spe-

the area. You can click on

You’ve just got to

usually I’m focusing on

cific to my location.

each track to see more

bookmark some of the

the local weather radar.

• National Data Buoy

offshore buoys and lights

Even if you have radar

• Ocean Weather

about that storm in the

Services: (oceanweath-

list to the left, including

near where you do your

on board, there is noth-

the name of the storm

boating. I routinely moni-

ing like viewing NOAA’s


and the dates. It is a fun

tor what is happening

big-picture weather radar

at the Buzzards Tower,

to get an idea of what is

service and routing

be informative in your

located in the mouth of

coming your way. I use it

company is based in

hurricane planning. I sug-

Buzzards Bay, Massachu-

routinely in the summer

Florida and always has

gest adjusting the search

setts. The main page of

when there are thunder-

a fascinating article on

area radius to larger than

the website provides a

storms around and many

their “Weather Updates”

the default 10 nautical

map of the world with

times it has given me a

page concerning tropical

miles — that is too small

links to both navigational

much better warning than

systems and other major

an area to be meaning-

and environmental buoys,

listening to the marine

weather events. They

ful. Try something like 50

with the coasts of the U.S.

radio. The radio warnings

not only give you the

nautical miles in order to

particularly well covered.

will be vague in nature

satellite images, but also

get a better idea of the

and generally not specific

their own location maps,

storms that have impact-

Service: (

to your location, but on

weather maps and other

ed a particular area.


the radar you can see

useful stuff like projected

The main weather

quickly if the storms are

tracks and positions for

use this tool to predict the

page provides a map of

likely to hit your chosen

these big systems. The

course of the next storm,

the USA where you can


nice thing is it is all from a

but it is useful to indicate

• National Weather

This private weather

tool to use, and it can also

Of course, you can’t

gradually click down to

Again, there are

mariner’s perspective, so

trends. For example, I

your local area, or more

numerous phone apps

you will feel right at home

lived in Beaufort, S.C., for

conveniently just enter

available. One of my

and you know they know

several years and the local

a city or zip code in the

favorites is:

what you are looking for.

wisdom is that they get

box in the upper left cor-

• NOAA Hi-Def Radar

They also provide lots

very few direct hits from

ner. The general forecast

from WeatherSphere

of links to particularly use-

hurricanes there, and

information is great to


ful NOAA weather pages

not many close brushes

have, but I often quickly


and other great stuff.

either. I just checked it

scroll down to the right to

This app is available


• Historical Hurricane

out on the hurricane track

true. Historically, most storms stay well offshore there or track well inland. On the other hand, check out the area from Newport to Cape Cod! There must be a hurricane bull’s-eye painted on the area. • Earth: A Global Map of Wind, Weather, Ocean Conditions: ( This map is so cool I saved it for last. It is an interactive pilot chart, showing current conditions around the world. When you first open the page you see the entire globe, but then you can zoom in to see smaller regions. Click on “Earth” in the lower left to get a menu of choices as to what you see. You can choose to see the world’s current wind or current patterns, or ocean waves, all with animation. The current charts for the Caribbean are really interesting if you are planning a passage say from Key West down to Panama. The images are simply hypnotic to watch, but really informative. John J. Kettlewell

an intensified squash zone. In some ways, the general scenario — weather services underestimating a depression forming off Fiji, a highpressure system over New Zealand creating a squash zone, a cruising rally giving the feeling of a deadline — paralleled that of the infamous 1994 Queen’s Birthday Storm, which claimed seven vessels and three lives. Soon, it was clear to everyone that the storm

Markus Schweitzer

map and the local wisdom is

rally, many cruisers jumpstarted over the starting line. Some of us, however, waited to see how a mischievouslooking depression forecast to spin off the South Pacific Convergence Zone northwest of Fiji would develop. As the fleet disappeared over the horizon, I couldn’t help but feel slightly ... well, wimpy. Were my misgivings a simple case of pre-passage nerves? On the other hand, as a family with a young child, we like to play it safe, especially with any hint of trouble brewing on the horizon. And didn’t John Martin, organizer of the All Points Rally and veteran of 37 Tonga-New Zealand passages, specifically note in an early bulletin: “Keep a good lookout for anything with a closed isobar in the tropic region to your west. If you see one, DON’T leave until it passes or disappears”? Two days later, our fears were realized as the depression off Fiji materialized and developed into an unmistakably onerous system with the potential to become the first named tropical storm of the season. It was expected to track southeast toward Tonga and the very ocean sector through which the fleet was sailing. Later, it became clear that the depression would inch toward a high-pressure system located over New Zealand, creating

spelled trouble. However, theories on how to handle it varied widely. Part of the fleet resolved to stay put in Tonga. Other vessels, already well underway, calculated that they could hasten south, out of the predicted storm track. Still others agonized over backtracking to Tonga. But sailors hate backtracking, especially when the finish line to a long cruising season beckons so seductively. Several outward-bound yachts wavered, turning back for

Surface analysis showing a mature low with central pressure 987 hPa with a squash zone against the high to the southwest.



A voyaging boat that chose not to move into the protected harbor rides out the storm in the lagoon.

Tonga, then pointing their bows back toward New Zealand after all. A few even made a third course change, about-facing one more time for shelter in Tonga — a wise decision, as events were to prove. The trouble with racing to beat a storm’s predicted path is that atmospheric forces hold very little regard for human weather forecasts. The low’s expected intensity and track changed from forecast to forecast, playing with the hopes and fears of those underway. What eventually materialized was more serious than the initial warnings had suggested: A more intense low moving further south than expected and closing in on those underway. The idea of speeding south to keep ahead of the storm was complicated by light air conditions during the first


days of the passage. That meant immediately relying on engine power — all well and good for large sailboats with big fuel reserves, but smaller vessels with limited capacity had a lot of hopeful calculating to do. Many were forced to burn most of their fossil fuels early on, leaving no plan B for the latter part of the trip, a point when sailboats often motor to reach New Zealand ahead of the next low-pressure system coming across the Tasman Sea. No matter how you packaged it, the scenario was littered with some ugly possibilities. Meanwhile, back at the ranch... Those of us who had hung back in Tonga faced a different dilemma: where to seek shelter. Sailors in the Vava’u group had the straightfor-

ward choice between several secure anchorages, including Neiafu and Tapana. Down south in Tongatapu, our options were less clearcut. We were among a dozen boats anchored off Pangaimotu, a small island across the wide lagoon from Nuku’alofa, Tonga’s capital “city.” The holding in sand felt secure, but we were uneasy at the prospect of the open seven-mile fetch to the west — exactly the direction from which 12 hours of high winds were expected at the height of the storm. The alternative was to move across the bay into the Nuku’alofa harbor, but that required an extensive set-up of two anchors plus lines ashore rigged with rat preventers. Rats — ugh! In the evenings preceding the storm, we all huddled at Big Mama’s open-air restaurant on Pangaimotu to weigh our options. Several crews felt harbor-shy after a recent domino-effect dragging incident back in the central Ha’apai group of Tonga. Better to stay in the open anchorage and allow ourselves space to react, they reasoned, than be squeezed into a corner. Others favored the harbor’s superior shelter and proximity to town. Meanwhile, our children played on the beach, blissfully unencumbered by the

anxiety-producing distractions their parents suffered from. The fact that our numbers were swelled by several boats who had turned back from their passages did, however, reassure us that we had made the right decision to stay in Tonga. With two days remaining before the storm, we opted to move to the inner harbor, going stern-to the breakwater with seven other yachts (and space for several more). The muddy bottom provided excellent holding, and the breadth of the harbor allowed us to get a good 150 feet of chain out on our primary bow anchor. We also set a secondary anchor to the west on another 100 feet of rode. Once settling into a spider web of crisscrossing lines (all sporting discs to discourage stowaway rats), we sat back, watched the barometer drop and crossed our fingers for those at sea. It’s hard to put a price on safety and comfort, but consider this: One couple who sat out the storm in Tonga forfeited very expensive flights they had already booked from New Zealand. Still, they were relieved to be safe aboard their floating home in relatively sheltered waters. Meanwhile, many yachts that did brave the storm sustained damage and consequently paid for repairs

by the oh-so-obliging New Zealand yacht industry. It’s a trade-off that’s difficult to quantify, but certainly bears keeping in mind. At the height of the storm on Wednesday, the maximum wind speed measured within the harbor was 49 knots, while a boat off Pangaimotu reported a peak of 74 knots. In the harbor, our hulls lay in quiet water, while boats in the anchorage were buffeted by an uncomfortable but harmless two-foot chop. A sharp wind shift had all of us in the harbor leaning hard a-lee, while boats anchored out in the bay were momentarily knocked down, but none the worse for wear (other than cabins in complete disarray). Ultimately, all the vessels in Tongatapu weathered the storm well, whether secured behind the breakwater or anchored out at Pangaimotu. Drama at sea The same could not be said of boats at sea. Unfortunately, the storm tracked further west and built larger

waves than expected. Consequently, many sailors who thought they would be in safe territory were now directly in the path of the storm or in the squash zone. Most of the fleet on passage reported the likes of 15-foot waves and sustained 40-knot winds — taxing, but not lifethreatening. However, the worst of the storm brought 30-foot waves and 50-knot winds. One yacht, Windigo, a 38-foot Beneteau, issued a mayday, reporting injuries and water ingress after being rolled. The nearest vessel, the sturdy 37-foot Tayana Adventure Bound, endured a punishing overnight beat to windward to offer support until a diverted freighter could reach the scene and take the crew of Windigo aboard. In the meantime, an unregistered EPIRB went off roughly 100 miles south of Tonga, setting off more alarms. Later, this was discovered to originate from a fishing boat that had lost power but was able to ride out the storm safely on a drogue.

A spider web of lines keeps Namani in position as winds peak at 49 knots.



Forecast versus actual track and intensity of the tropical depression. Based on NOAA GFS model outputs from Nov. 3 (blue) and Nov. 6 (green), plus NZ MetService surface analysis (red).

Thankfully, other yachts at sea did not suffer such dramas despite miserable conditions and a number of breakages, from torn sails to broken autopilots and dislodged dinghies, not to mention frayed nerves and general exhaustion. But they were not yet home free. A calm set in after the storm, preceding yet another low sweeping toward New Zealand from Australia. Crews who had already played their fuel joker were forced to sail through the calm at turtle pace, eventually making landfall under another assault of wind, rain and heaving seas. However, most crews

Fiji Islands 20° S

1003 hPa

1002 hPa

30° S

A better window As the storm passed, we in Tonga were relieved that our friends were safe. Now our thoughts could return to our own upcoming passages. As it turned out, we had a much easier ride south. Just as the storm had exhausted many sailors, so too did it suck the energy out of the atmosphere, leaving a harmless series of disorganized high-pressure systems and weak lows floundering in its wake. We were therefore among a second batch Approximate track and intensity of southbased on: bound sailors NOAA GFS model, 03NOV forecast who set off on NOAA GFS model, 06NOV forecast Nov. 11 with NZ MetService SFC Analysis, actual track and intensity a forecast that 1006 hPa promised a slow but Tongatapu hopefully uneventful passage. For 999 hPa 992 hPa 1000 us, it was hPa exactly a year to the day 1000 hPa that we had 987 hPa left the East 996 hPa Coast for the Caribbean. 993 hPa This time, 995 hPa 1003 hPa the forecast was spot on, and our 180° E 170° E passage to


Ocean Navigator illustration


were able to view the experience in a positive light, gaining confidence in their vessels and in their abilities to deal with harsh conditions.

New Zealand proved to be a calm, even zen-like experience. On our 1981 Dufour 35, Namani, we enjoyed a few fast days, but also set new low-mileage records of 98, 54 and a wallowing 47 miles in successive 24-hour periods. On the other hand, with nothing threatening on the wider horizon, we were content to save diesel, drifting quietly along and counting our blessings. Unlike the boats one system ahead of us, we could put into North Minerva Reef for a one-of-akind, mid-ocean anchoring experience, and then resume our passage at an unhurried pace. Eventually, the wind did pick up again, propelling us toward New Zealand’s North Island on a comfortable beam reach. When we arrived to a sunny week in the Bay of Islands, one of the social organizers of the All Points Rally lamented that we had arrived too late; too late, she meant, for the post-rally events that had been held in Opua. Actually, I thought, we arrived at exactly the right time. Sailing is about bending to the will of the elements, rather than attempting to bend a forecast to one’s will. In fact, many of us are out cruising to escape a world of pressing engagements and an ever-ticking clock. But habits are hard to break, as the story of the first departing fleet demonstrates.

Looking back In retrospect, we couldn’t help but examine how so many crews found themselves in such a precarious situation at sea. There were a number of contributing factors. First, the difficulty in picking a weather window is that choices can’t be compared ahead of time; you can only weigh the latest forecast against very vague notions of what the future might bring. Consequently, “good enough” is often taken as a reassuring sign. Complicating this was the fact that respected weather routers gave the waiting fleet a thumbs-up to depart. But even experts make mistakes. They and many crews were aware that a depression would form, but gambled with the high odds that the tropical depression would not amount to much (indeed, many forecast lows turn out to be false alarms). In this case, playing it safe paid off. We benefited from the advice of a locally based amateur weatherman, the veteran of multiple passages between Tonga, Fiji and New Zealand. He was correct in taking a conservative approach, reminding us that the track and intensity of a

tropical system is nearly impossible to pinpoint in advance. In other words, trusting computer software that suggests a vessel can stay ahead of a tropical depression’s theoretical track five days hence is a dicey proposition at best, especially in the southwest Pacific. Instead, he heeded his own experience and intuition, and ultimately proved to be spot on. Furthermore, it seems that many crews heeded a natural urge to get moving “on schedule.” The fact that this coincided with the general timing of the rally served to reinforce a dash to the exit door, compounded by subliminal peer pressure. After all, it can be awfully hard to sit still while an anchorage empties out around you! Impatience was another factor, as some crews admitted they were just plum tired of waiting. Picking a weather window really did prove to be an exercise in disciplining oneself to scrutinize the fine print — in

both weather forecasts and in expert advice, such as that appearing in John Martin’s early bulletin. Of course, hindsight is a 20/20 phenomenon. Our observations seek to learn from a trying experience so that we can be all the wiser the next time around. That’s the theory, at least. Since one of the morals of this story is that theory and practice often differ vastly, well ... let’s just say we’ll plan for the worst and hope for the best! n

Above, those who left Tonga in the second week of November enjoyed a quiet passage south. Left, Nadine Slavinski and her son Nicky.

Nadine Slavinski is a parent, sailor, and Harvard-educated teacher. She recently returned from a three year cruise aboard her 35 foot sloop, having sailed from Maine to Australia together with her husband and young son. She is the author of three sailing guides: Pacific Crossing Notes: A Sailor’s Guide to the Coconut Milk Run, Cruising the Caribbean with Kids, and Lesson Plans Ahoy: HandsOn Learning for Sailing Children and Home Schooling Sailors. Her next project is The Silver Spider, a novel of sailing and suspense. See nslavinski. com. SEPTEMBER 2015 OCEAN NAVIGATOR 41

corrosion, so I check each of these. A sure sign is bubbling or swollen paint around the screw head. I usually go straight to the top of the mast and slowly work my way down. I use a bosun’s chair with side pockets and have a separate safety harness on a second halyard as a backup.

A thorough inspection prior to a voyage can catch potential problems

Pre-passage rigging Story and photos by David Lynn


rior to any major passage, I devote a couple of days to checking out the systems aboard Nine of Cups, our Liberty 458 cutter. We’d just completed a tough Indian Ocean passage, and after spending a few months making repairs and seeing the sights, it was time to leave South Africa and begin our crossing of the Atlantic. The engine, prop shaft seal, steering, bilge pumps, nav lights, thru-hulls, windlass and a host of other items were all scrutinized and/ or tested, but at the top of the list were the rigging checks. I divide my rigging checks into two parts – those that are done aloft and those done at deck level. As I’m doing the checks, I make notes in a small notebook, listing everything that can’t be repaired immediately and identifying whether the problem is something that 42    

checks can wait or whether it should be addressed before departing. General checks I do a close eyeball check on all the fittings and wire before cleaning the rust — sometimes the rust can point to a problem. Then I clean the fitting with a good metal wax (I like Collinite metal wax) and inspect the part again, looking for any cracks, distortions, worn or stressed parts, elongated holes, missing split pins, loose or missing bolts, etc. — in general, anything that doesn’t look right. I also look closely at the wire for any strands that look cracked or broken. We have Stalock fittings throughout, but if we had swaged fittings I would also check for cracked or swollen fittings. The aluminum mast probably has a hundred stainless screws attached to it, all of which are subject to galvanic

Tools It is always a dilemma in deciding which tools to take up the mast with me. Take too many and it’s hard to find the right one when it is needed. On the other hand, it’s a hassle when I am up the mast and realize I need another tool. My compromise is to take the minimum I’m likely to need and a small line, 60 feet or so, with a weight attached. If I need another tool, I lower the line, then tap on the mast to get Marcie’s attention, and she attaches the tool to the line. Here are the basic tools and supplies I take with me: • a large and medium sized screwdriver, both flat and Phillips • large needle-nosed pliers, large pliers and adjustable wrench • metal polish or wax, rags and spray bottle of water • pencil and small notebook for taking notes. Sometimes I also take a small digital camera to document potential problems Sailtrack Our sailtrack fits into a channel

but when we had non-sealed lights, I opened them all up and checked for corrosion inside. Our tri-color and anchor lights at the top of the mast have an ambient light detector inside, and it is sometimes hard to fool it during the day. It is also difficult to see the LEDs in bright sunlight, so to check that these are working I wait until dark, then turn them on and either check them from the jetty or the dinghy.

on the mast and is riveted in place. I check the track for loose rivets, especially where two sections join. I also clean the track as I work my way down. We often collect a lot of dirt and grime while in a marina. I use a spray bottle of fresh water and a rag — nothing else. I used to use waxes and lubricants, but I found that while they make the track really slick for a short while, they seem to collect more dirt and gum up the track up after a few weeks.

Spreaders I check the welds and the connection to the mast. I look carefully at the ends where the shrouds contact the spreaders — a good place for galvanic corrosion to occur.

Lights I check all the lights for corrosion, questionable electrical connections and whether they function. All our mast lights are now sealed LED lights,


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pins. I check all the masthead sheaves for burrs and, when possible, check that they turn freely. The time required for all the checks aloft, including the time it takes to clean all the fittings and the sailtrack, is usually two to three hours for our double spreader rig. That’s a long time to sit in a bosun’s chair. I’m usually a little “stove-up” when I finally extract myself from the climbing gear and try walking again. Make sure you have a comfortable bosun’s chair, wear a hat and have applied lots of sunscreen — and don’t forget to pee before going up. Mast, shrouds and stays I first check the mast alignment. It should be straight side-to-side, but may have a slight curve aft towards the top. I check the tension in the stays and shrouds — they should all be tight and there should be minimal or no sag in the forestay and staysail stay. I closely check all the turnbuckles to make sure none are cracked or galled, and that the legs of all the split pins are inboard. I remove the cover over the mast boot and check for cracks or deterioration in it as well as the mast collar. I check all the blocks at the mast base. Chain plates Our chain plates pass through the caprail and are glassed into the hull. Except for the very tops, which are exposed, they are virtually impossible to inspect. I check them closely, looking for any hairline cracks, elongated holes, or signs of moisture that might be making its way downward. Boom Like the mast, the boom is aluminum 44 OCEAN NAVIGATOR SEPTEMBER 2015   

and has a number of stainless screws attached to it, all of which are subject to galvanic corrosion, and I check each of these. A sure sign is bubbling or swollen paint around the screw head. I check the ends, connections, sheaves and welds for corrosion and cracks. I check the outhaul and reefing lines for smooth operation and any signs of chafe. I spend a few minutes examining the gooseneck for cracks and tightness. Halyards, topping lift, sheets I check all for chafing, check all fairleads, blocks and sheaves, and check the mainsheet traveler for cracks and general operation. I renew any worn or loose whipping on line ends. Furlers I remove the sails and check both furlers for smooth operation, then flush the bearings with fresh water.

Above, check chainplates where they are exposed above deck for cracks, elongated holes or for water intrusion belowdecks.

I inspect the lower swivel, furler drum, etc. for any signs of corrosion, especially around the stainless screws. On our Harken furlers, I loosen and re-tighten each screw, adding Tef-Gel to any that show signs of seizing or corrosion. I check that all shackles are in good shape and properly seized. I

Above, check the top swivel of the furler and also mast tangs and wire terminals.

check the furling lines for chafe, and inspect the fairleads and blocks. Rope stoppers, clutches and cleats I check all for burrs and tightness and check operation of stoppers and clutches. Tracks and cars I check all tracks for corrosion, burrs, etc., and check that all cars are secure and move freely. Whisker and spinnaker poles I check both ends for cracks, deterioration, and missing or loose rivets or screws. I check the outhaul, topping lift and guys for smooth operation and chafe. I extract and retract the pole to check operation. Lifelines Though lifelines are not considered rigging, it makes sense and is convenient to inspect them at the same time as the deck level checks. We have Dyneema (actually Amsteel) lifelines, and really like them. They have two issues, however. First, Dyneema exhibits creep, which means the lifelines need to be retensioned every few months. Second, the Dyneema should be replaced every three to five years, due to UV degradation.

So, what did I discover from my recent rigging check? Several small issues were corrected: lifelines retensioned; several split rings needed replacing; first port-side reef line was chafed, I was able to remove a few feet from the end and re-use it; a few screws were missing or loose on the stanchion bases; several lines needed re-whipping. Beyond the small, fixable issues, I also discovered a potential showstopper. The chain plates on the starboard

side were showing evidence of water ingress and possible corrosion. The chain plates are stainless steel, which is susceptible to crevice corrosion ­— a localized form of attack that starts when the metal comes in contact with moisture where there is low oxygen, such as in a crevice. Since the internal chain plates on Nine of Cups could not be inspected without dismantling the cabinetry in the saloon and grinding away portions of the hull, there was no easy way to determine the level of corrosion. I drilled a small hole in the hull Left, it’s a goodhart_13h idea to also check the life-6:50 3/20/07 lines. David Lynn uses Dyneema line rather than wire for lifelines on Nine of Cups.

into one of the suspect chain plates, and watched rust-colored, vinegarsmelling water weep from the hole. As painful as it was, we replaced the chain plates before departing. Though the rigging check is time and labor intensive, we feel it is prudent and provides peace of mind when leaving on a long ocean passage. In our case, it also averted a possible catastrophe offshore. n David Lynn and his wife, Marcie, have lived aboard their Liberty 458 cutter since 2000. They’ve sailed more than 80,000 nautical miles and visited 35+ PM Page 1 countries on five continents. They blog at and have a website at

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t was a busy time at the Hamburg, Germany, shipyard of Blohm & Voss in the 1930s. Hitler and his cohorts were re-arming the nation and Germany was flexing its military muscles. The shipyard was turning out submarines, battleships and all sorts of naval weaponry that would be soon used in WWII. Every now and then, however, an interested observer might see the sharp ends of a sailing ship under construction, amidst the ships of war. Indeed, Blohm & Voss were responsible for building some of the most magnificent sailing ships ever known. The company was the go-to builder of the famous Laeisz family of vessels — square-rigged ships of the great “Flying P-Line” like Peking, Pamir and Passat that are, to this day, considered the sine qua non of engineered sailing vessels. Magnificent workhorses of the sea whose job it was to haul freight from Hamburg around Cape Horn to Valparaiso, Chile, bringing back nitrates to Europe.

The Portuguese sail-training ship Sagres III was built in Hamburg at the famous Blohm & Voss yard.


For more information about those ships and about Blohm & Voss, see Alan Villiers’ book The Way of a Ship. It was during the late 1930s that three sister sailing ships were launched at the shipyard. They were all about the same size and all were rigged as barques (square sails on the fore and main, fore and aft sails on the mizzen). All were about 290 feet in length. Two of these sailing ships have particular interest to us. One was Albert Leo Schlageter, now known as the Portuguese tall ship Sagres III, and the other Horst Vessel, better known today as the USCG barque Eagle. Sagres is the third vessel of this name in the Portuguese Navy. She was used as a German training vessel and in 1944 slammed into a Russian mine in the Baltic. She was out of the war, and the U.S. confiscated the vessel and in 1948 sold her to Brazil for a nominal $5,000. She sailed in Brazil under the name Guanabara. In 1961 she was sold to the Portuguese and named Sagres after the peninsula to the south of Portugal where Prince Henry the Navigator had his navigational acad-

emy. In 2010 Sagres did an around-the-world voyage, covering 35,000 miles. Let’s join her on that voyage. We will be using the 2015 Nautical Almanac. On the day of July 19, at a dead reckoning position of 38° 25’ N by 62° 50’ W, the navigator is hoping to get a star sight. There have been intermittent clouds all day and he’ll be glad if he can get one shot. The height of eye is 25 feet and the sextant altitude, Hs, is 78° 20’. He is looking to shoot Alphecca in the constellation of Corona Borealis. At 00:07:10 GMT (July 20), the navigator gets a shot through the clouds of Alphecca. Find the local hour angle of the star and using Volume II of HO249, calculate the intercept. Then plot. A. What is the time of civil twilight in GMT? B. What is the local hour angle of Alphecca? C. What is the intercept? D. What is the azimuth?

Answers A. 00:01:20 GMT July 20 B. 003° C. Intercept is 8.1 nautical miles away. D. Azimuth is 193 degrees.


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Ocean Navigator September 2015

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