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Contents Issue #243


September/October 2017

Features Ocean Voyaging

26 Exploring Borneo

 west coast passage of the island reveals A trim cities and wild jungle by Patrick Childress


Special Section


34 MOB recovery tools From the basic MOB pole to

electronic fences, there are a variety of approaches to dealing with a crew overboard

Chartroom Chatter

4 Storm decimates OSTAR and TwoSTAR Fleet 6 Bradish wins Marion Bermuda Race 7 Fitzgerald collision under investigation 8 NTSB urges better hurricane forecasts, data dissemination 9 Remotely piloted tug 9 Cruisers to get technical 9 Rocket company changing marine communications

by John Kettlewell

38 Between the folds Servicing facilities deal with the


complexities of life raft inspection and repacking


by Casey Conley

Voyaging Interview

10 Boat recycling master by Ben Heselton-Clements

Marine Tech Notes 12 Iridium to join global safety system by Tim Queeney


Power Voyaging 14  Alarming considerations by Jeff Merrill

Correspondence 18  A visit to the life raft factory 20  Broken anchor snubber 24  Recurring weather patterns

Voyaging Tips

44 Easy-to-make fender covers by Marcie Connelly-Lynn

Nav Problem

14 For more on voyaging, follow us on:

26 On the cover: The sloop Janis enters the port of Cairns on the northeast coast of Australia, one of the gates to the Great Barrier Reef. Photo by Tom Zydler.

48 Ghost ship of the Outer Banks by David Berson SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2017 OCEAN NAVIGATORÂ 1


Ocean Nav­igator Marine navigation and ocean voyaging


Steve C. D’Antonio (Correspondence, “A visit to the life raft factory,” page 18) is a marine systems expert as well as a writer and photographer. He was formerly vice president of operations at Zimmerman Marine, a custom boatbuilding and repair yard on Mobjack Bay, Va. In 2007 D’Antonio started his own marine consulting business, Steve D’Antonio Marine Consulting, Inc. (SDMC, SDMC provides support for those buying and having boats built, for overseeing repairs and refits and offers support while voyaging. He has taught celestial and coastal navigation, as well as yacht systems with the U.S. Naval Academy’s sail training program.

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


West Coast US & canada,

international Susan W. Hadlock 207-838-0401

Patrick Childress (Ocean Voyaging, “Exploring Borneo,” page 26) is a retired professional yacht captain. Childress and his wife Rebecca, an experienced sailor, set sail from Newport, R.I., on a four-year circumnavigation aboard their Valiant 40, Brick House. They have now been voyaging for nine years and they have sailed only half the world. Now, according to Childress, “…there is no end in sight.”

east coast US & Canada, international Charlie Humphries


publisher/ advertising director Alex Agnew


Events & marketing coordinator Jody Gould




Marcie Connelly-Lynn (Voyaging Tips, “Easy-to-make fender covers,” page 44) and her husband, David, have lived aboard their 45-foot 1986-built Liberty cutter Nine of Cups since 2000. After departing Kemah, Texas, in May 2000, the Lynns have sailed more than 65,000 nautical miles and are currently in Suva, Fiji. The name Nine of Cups comes from a tarot card signifying “dreams come true.” The Lynns have creatively modified their boat including converting one leaky water tank into a canned goods storage area by cutting off the top of the tank. Their website is 2 OCEAN NAVIGATOR SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2017   

PHONE 1-207-822-4350

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, 30 Danforth 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 © 2017 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





Bay Bridge Marina, Stevensville, MD SEPT. 26 - 30 Seminars

SEPT. 28 - 30 Boat Show


• The Nation’s Best In-Water Display of Cruising Powerboats • First-Class Boating Seminars and Demonstrations • Latest Marine Products & Services Presented by • Rendezvous Style Evening Events


Chatter Chartroom



Storm decimates OSTAR and TwoSTAR Fleet Italian sailor Andrea Mura’s boat at the dock in Newport after winning the OSTAR.

Regaled by the blaring of air horns and cheers, Italian sailor Andrea Mura, on his flag-bedecked Open 50 Class race boat Vento di Sardegna, swept into Newport Harbor on Thursday, June 15. Being the first racer to cross the finish line of this year’s calamitous OSTAR/ TwoSTAR race gave Mura both a first in line honors and the overall winner title of the OSTAR. His time was 17 days, four hours and six minutes, beating his 2013 time by seven hours. OSTAR stands for

Ben White


“Original Single-Handed Trans-Atlantic Race,” (early runnings of the race were sponsored by the Observer newspaper in the U.K. and were called the Observer Single-Handed TransAtlantic Race) while TwoSTAR is the Two-Handed Trans-Atlantic Race. At least one boat sank and three had to be abandoned or scuttled during this harrowing race due to damage incurred by what Mura referred to as the stereotypical “perfect storm.” Others turned back before they were overwhelmed by the heavy seas and strong winds. Sixty-knot winds hit the rest of the fleet much harder than those that struck Mura. Once in Newport, he described sailing into the eye of the storm, where the waves were only 33 feet high versus the 50-foot waves that later hit some other racers. Mura confirmed that the wind reached 54 knots. Mura had to make a couple of pit stops along the

rocky coast of Nova Scotia to perform necessary repairs to his keel box’s hydraulic system. Mura just missed besting Giovanni Soldini’s record-setting run 21 years ago of 15 days, 18 hours and 29 minutes. On Friday, June 9, the U.K. Meteorological Office recorded a deep depression of 964 millibars crossing the middle of the fleet — only 15 mb lower than the one that hit the 1979 Fastnet catastrophe. This was to be some of the worst weather ever seen in an OSTAR or TwoSTAR. The fleet encountered the severe storm in the western and middle North Atlantic early that Friday morning. According to CBC News, soon after three maydays were received, two Royal Canadian Air Force planes and a helicopter stationed in Gander, Newfoundland, were en route to the vessels in distress. Around the same time, a Portuguese Air Force P-3 Orion took off from the Azores to join

E. Marcus

British skipper Mervyn Wheatley’s 40-foot cruising yacht Tamarind was rolled during the storm. The boat suffered heavy electrical and steering damage when a portlight was pushed out, causing its EPIRB to automatically activate. Wheatley was picked up by one of Queen Mary 2’s lifeboats. This was the 73-year-old

after it had pitchpoled. The next day witnessed Italian skipper Michele Zambelli, of the sinking Illumia 12, being airlifted from the frigid Atlantic by a Canadian helicopter. British skippers Keith Walton on Harmonii and David Southwood on Summerbird retired from the race and headed south to the Azores. With nine OSTARs under his belt, Peter Crowther in Suomi Kudu and American Kass Schmitt, in her first OSTAR aboard her Britishflagged Zest, turned back toward the U.K. Like Andrea Mura, Schmitt also encountered 30-foot seas, but the worst of the storm was south of her. Nevertheless she was streaming her drogue while surfing down the humongous waves. With the boat’s baby stay broken, its taffrail generator torn apart and the self-steering vane knocked out of commission, Schmitt decided it was time to steer a more prudent course. She made landfall in Kinsale, Ireland. At the awards ceremony on June 21 at the Newport Yacht Club, Andrea Mura received the club’s stunning BOC OSTAR Silver Plate award for win-

Ben White

Wheatley’s 13th OSTAR and 19th Atlantic crossing. The next day, Wheatley took part in a standingroom only presentation with the ship’s captain about the rescue effort on the high seas. Wheatley disembarked when the ship put in to Halifax, Nova Scotia. Incredibly, his understanding wife has reportedly encouraged him to purchase a new boat for another crossing and maybe more OSTARs. After striking a floating object, possibly a small iceberg or growler, the Bulgarian crew of Furia weren’t quite as fortunate as Wheatley. They were picked up by the OSV Thor Magni en route to St. John’s, Newfoundland. Lastly, the containership MSC Anzu and the huge oceangoing tug ALP Forward, on its way from Scotland to Mexico, came to the relief of two exhausted Dutch sailors, Wytse Bouma and Jaap Barendregt, who were in their dismasted boat Happy


another aircraft from the U.K. A Canadian naval vessel and two Canadian Coast Guard ships were also dispatched from Halifax, Nova Scotia, but in the end it was several commercial vessels and a world-famous ocean liner, Queen Mary 2, that performed the rescue operations.

Mura all smiles with the OSTAR winner’s silverware.


A Queen Mary 2 lifeboat assisting OSTAR racer Tamarind, and the rig of Tamarind through the window of QM2.

ning line honors. This new award will be presented in perpetuity to the winner of each OSTAR. According to the Royal Western Yacht Club’s commentary, this win, combined with the one from four years ago, make Mura “one of his generation’s most accomplished single-handed yachtsmen.” The only other sailor in this league is Loick Peyron, who has also won two OSTARs. Mura also won the TwoSTAR, now run concurrently with the OSTAR since they share the same starting and finish lines. The official prize ceremony will take place at the RWYC in October. B.L.White


Chatter Chartroom

Photos courtesy G.J. Bradish

Bradish wins Marion Bermuda Race Armed with traditional navigation equipment and


Selkie, a Morris Ocean 32 heads for Bermuda. Right, Chip Bradish with his sextant and Selkie’s crew with their banner.

a working knowledge of the celestial bodies, G.J. Bradish and three crew took top honors in the 2017 running of the Marion Bermuda Race aboard the 32.5-foot Selkie. Selkie, a 1988 Morris Ocean, was the smallest among 49 yachts that


departed Marion, Mass., on June 9 for the race to Bermuda. Selkie finished at 0051 June 15 with a provisional elapsed time of 131 hours, 40 minutes and 30 seconds. With ORR handicap scoring, its corrected time was 90 hours, 44 minutes and eight seconds. Selkie earned a 3 percent bonus for its crew relying on celestial navigation throughout the 645-mile course. Just nine yachts celestially navigated during the 2017 race, which was the 21st overall running in the race’s 40-year history. Line honors awarded for the first overall finisher went to Jambi, a Hinckley Bermuda 50 skippered by John Levinson. The vessel finished about 23 hours ahead of Selkie but had a corrected time

of 127 hours, 32 minutes and 38 seconds. In all, 41 boats finished the race. Bradish, who goes by Chip, has competed in three previous Marion Bermuda races although never before as skipper. This race also was the first for Selkie, which Bradish acquired 12 years ago. He grew up racing small boats in Barnegat Bay, N.J., and now holds a 100-ton Coast Guard license. “For several years I have crewed for different skippers,” Bradish, 52, said in a recent phone interview from his Boston home. “It was time

for me to take my boat to this race. It took me a long time to get her ready.” Max Mulhern, George Dyroff and Peter


The damaged Arleigh Burkeclass destroyer USS Fitzgerald arrives in Yokosuka,

water assisted during the Marion Bermuda race. Mulhern passed along the basics of celestial navigation, including the use of a sextant. “We practiced our celestial navigating all winter, and our charting and plotting skills, and we got on the water this spring and practiced,” Bradish said. “The conditions for the race favored a small boat like ours. They were generally light conditions.” Selkie was by itself for much of the voyage. The crew spotted a couple commercial ships each day but otherwise was alone in the ocean, except for the first and last day of the race. Along the way, they spotted dolphins, whales, sharks and flying fish. Bradish considers Marion Bermuda an appropriate entry into offshore racing. Organizers emphasize preparation among the competitors and conduct thorough inspections before the race begins. “They make sure you are ready for offshore, and that is what is so great about it,” Bradish said. “They really support ocean racers.”

Courtesy USN


Fitzgerald collision under investigation Seven American sailors died after a loaded containership

slammed into the destroyer USS Fitzgerald in open waters off Japan, and investigators from three countries are trying to determine how it happened. The collision occurred at about 0130 on June 17, roughly 56 nm southwest of Honshu, Japan, in a busy shipping lane. The Philippines-flagged cargo ship ACX Crystal’s bow struck the Navy destroyer on its starboard side, roughly amidships. Seawater flooded a mechanical space, radio room and two crew berths after the impact, which opened a gash below the waterline and collapsed a section of the destroyer’s superstructure. Cmdr. Bryce Benson, whose cabin caved in, was hospitalized with two other sailors. ACX Crystal sustained hull damage to its port bow. Capt. Mark Woolley, a former Navy destroyer

captain who is now chief of staff at SUNY Maritime, said something clearly went wrong aboard both ships. “Whenever you have a collision, I was always taught that both captains are at fault,” he said in a recent interview, noting that he was not familiar with details of the Fitzgerald accident. “The biggest rule of the road is, if you don’t think the other vessel is taking sufficient action to avoid a collision, you are obligated to take sufficient action to avoid one.” The U.S. Coast Guard is leading the marine casualty investigation focused on safety and causal factors. The Japan Transport Safety Board and Philippine Maritime Industry Authority also are investigating. The U.S. Navy is conducting at least two separate probes. ACX Crystal departed Nagoya on June 16 at about 1730 and steamed east toward Tokyo. The

Navy ship appears to have been heading south when it crossed paths with the eastbound cargo ship at about 0130. U.S. officials said the accident happened at about 0220, and the Coast Guard declined to comment on the discrepancy. Navy Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, commander of the U.S. 7th Fleet, described widespread damage to the 22-year-old Arleigh Burkeclass destroyer. “The damage included a significant impact under the ship’s pilothouse on the starboard side and a large puncture below the ship’s waterline, opening the hull to the sea,” Aucoin said in a June 18 news conference, according to transcripts released by the Navy. “The ship suffered severe damage, rapidly flooding three large compartments that included one machinery room and two berthing areas for 116 crew. The Commanding Officer’s cabin was also directly hit, trapping the CO inside,” he said. Fitzgerald returned to Yokosuka late on June 17 under diminished power. The seven sailors’ remains were found in the ship’s damaged berthing spaces after Fitzgerald returned to the base.


Chatter Chartroom

NTSB urges better hurricane forecasts, data dissemination

Courtesy Mark Kelly via Twitter


Above, photo taken from the International Space Station of Hurricane Joaquin, the storm that sunk the merchant ship El Faro off the Bahamas.

The National Transportation Safety Board is urging other federal agencies to improve hurricane forecast accuracy following several high-profile forecast errors in recent years. The agency issued 10 safety recommendations last month that emerged during the ongoing probe into the El Faro merchant ship sinking. Foremost is the request that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) develop new hurricane prediction models and new technology to sift through various scenarios. But, the NTSB also urged the National Weather Service to make storm forecast updates issued in between the standard advisories more available to mariners. Currently, these


so-called intermediate advisories are not transmitted to certain satellite services — including the one used aboard El Faro. Twenty-eight American sailors and five Polish technicians died when El Faro sank on Oct. 1, 2015, in the North Atlantic Ocean roughly 40 miles northeast of Crooked Island. The NTSB expects to complete its investigation and release its findings later this year. It issued these initial findings to allow agencies a head start in implementing the reforms. “Storm avoidance is a life-saving skill at sea,” NTSB Acting Chairman Robert L. Sumwalt said in a statement. “And having frequent, up-to-date and reliable weather information is key to effective storm avoidance — and to saving lives.” The 790-foot El Faro, operated by a Tote Maritime subsidiary, departed Jacksonville, Fla., for San Juan, Puerto Rico, before 2300 on Sept. 29. Around that time, the National Hurricane Center issued a forecast for Hurricane Joaquin. It suggested that by Oct. 1 the slow-moving

storm would be within 45 miles of San Salvador Island in the Bahamas. Joaquin’s trajectory did not follow that original projection. At 0800 on Oct. 1, roughly 20 minutes after El Faro likely sank, the storm was 104 miles south of that initial position. Its winds were 35 knots higher than initially predicted. Early forecasts for Hurricane Matthew and Tropical Storm Julia in 2016 and Tropical Storm Erika in 2015 also proved inaccurate, the NTSB report said. The report urged NOAA to improve predictions for tropical cyclones such as Julia and Erika, which had characteristics making their movements harder to forecast. It also called for better forecast models. NOAA spokesman Chris Vaccaro acknowledged the agency has work to do. “We appreciate NTSB’s analysis and recommendations,” he said in an email. “In particular, we agree with the need for better forecast tools to improve our understanding of how tropical cyclones respond to moderate levels of wind shear, a particularly challenging forecast scenario.”


Marine systems guru Steve D’Antonio instructs a class on diesel engines.

Courtesy Steve D’Antonio

Remotely piloted tug

For ocean voyagers, the probability of encountering a

commercial vessel with no one on board appears to be increasing. Earlier this year, the captain of the 90-foot tugboat Svitzer Hammond made shipping history when he maneuvered around the tugboat without setting foot on the vessel. The Svitzer Hammond captain was sitting in the remote control station at Svitzer company headquarters in Copenhagen, piloting the vessel using an array of sensors. Svitzer and Rolls-Royce partnered on the development of the remotely controlled tug. “[It] was a world first,” said Mikael Makinen, president of the Rolls-Royce marine sector, “a genuinely historic moment for the maritime industry.” The tug captain docked the tugboat again near Svitzer headquarters, demonstrating that the time of autonomous shipping was becoming a reality. Rolls-Royce and Svitzer plan to continue the development of this technology and construct remote-controlled and autonomous vessels. Ben Heselton-Clements

Cruisers to get technical For cruisers who want to become better attuned to

the technical aspects of their boat, Brewer Yacht Yards’ Cowesett Marina in Warwick, R.I., will be hosting a Cruisers’ Workshop led by Steve D’Antonio and assisted by Ralph Naranjo on Oct. 20-21, 2017. D’Antonio is an ABYC Master Technician, technical journalist, lecturer and marine indus-

try consultant. Naranjo is an ocean voyager, former Vanderstar Chair at the U. S. Naval Academy and author of The Art of Seamanship. The workshop will include formal presentations and hands-on mechanical and electrical training and demonstrations in both boatyard shop and classroom settings. Attendees are encouraged to bring their own

digital multimeters. Multitrack power and sail session subjects include diesel engine service and troubleshooting; weather for mariners; avoiding common systems failures; navigation technique; multimeter use; sailing vessel selection; power vessel fuel system design, installation and failure avoidance; oil analysis; and cruise planning. Contact or call 804-776-0981 for additional information or to register, or visit the event website at cruisers-workshop. Ben Heselton-Clements

Rocket company changing marine communications SpaceX is working with several satcom companies to

launch satellites that will continue to change communication options for mariners. The space technology company successfully launched a satellite for Iridium Communications on June 25, which will join a constellation of satellites that, when completed, will provide global shipboard Internet access. SpaceX and Iridium are also working together with AIS provider exactEarth to improve AIS technology.

“We live in a real-time world and we’re deploying a major global real-time maritime data infrastructure,” said Peter Mabson, CEO of exactEarth. “ExactView RT provides global continuous coverage, which literally opens up a world of new application possibilities that are limited only by our imagination.” SpaceX has already influenced the marine industry with its development of autonomous spaceport drone ships — self-driving, barge-like landing pads for

returning rockets — which are stored at the Port of Los Angeles and Port Canaveral. The director of Port Canaveral, Captain John Murray, called the developing industry a valuable addition to the port’s operations, and expects the new line of business to grow as more rocket companies join SpaceX. He has received inquiries from several other companies in the space industry, according to Maritime Executive magazine. n Ben Heselton-Clements



Boat recycling master

Ben Heselton-Clements

into our store. The rest of the metal that comes off the boats we sort into the different uses, pump the fuel off the boats and clean the fuel, pull the water out of it, then the diesel fuel heats our warehouse and the gas runs our yard equipment. ON: Your environmental practices are impressive. How much of the boat are you able to recycle? JH: We recycle 99.9 percent of a boat. We get them cleaned off and cut them off at the waterline and all of the topside material gets shredded into

C Above, Jim Harkins runs a marine salvage business in Portland, Maine. Right, the operation removes and resells old gear and recycles the hulls of old sailboats.

aptain Jim Harkins is a Portland, Maine, native who runs Captain Jim’s Marine Salvage & Nautical Antiquities ( It’s an unorthodox company that heats its warehouse with salvaged boat fuel, but then Jim is an unorthodox man, working 15-hour days, seven days a week, and calling that his “retirement.” Unsurprisingly, he spoke to Ocean Navigator while on a salvage job.

BY BEN HESELTON-CLEMENTS fiberglass, which we sell to concrete plants [that] buy it to use in their concrete. The bottom paint gets ground up and burnt and used as fuel. ON: How much of your operations run off recycled fuel? JH: One hundred percent of our warehouse’s heating comes from recycled diesel fuel and our gas for yard machines is recycled gas. We buy very little fuel. ON: Is that common for a salvage company? JH: No, we’re one of the only places in New England that does this. There are a lot of bad things on boats for the environment, fuels especially. Boats run aground and sit there for 20 years and the fuel ends up on the ground; some paint has arsenic in it; lead from the

Ocean Navigator: How does your business work? Jim Harkins: Boats get wrecked, people run aground, they get storm damaged and we go out and recover the boats and bring them back to our yard and decommission them. We take anything off them that can be resold and that goes 10 OCEAN NAVIGATOR SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2017

batteries. Boats really need to be disposed of properly. Our motto is, “If it didn’t come from nature, it doesn’t belong in the ground.” Our boatyards are always clean and healthy. There are just so many derelict boats, it’s almost at an epidemic level, and something had to be done to protect the environment. ON: You are also a dealer in antiquities, how did that get started? JH: My grandfather ran the bombmaking plant during World War II, then after the war he ran the Spring Point Decommissioning Yard. He ended up with a lot of artifacts I inherited. It was sad; after the Gulf War, the scrap prices were through the roof and a lot of these beautiful brass and bronze artifacts went to the scrap yards. Beautiful, priceless stuff went to scrap, and I wanted to try to save this stuff. ON: Do people buy it? JH: A lot of times people buy it to furnish their homes. I had a stainless steel prop cage that an interior decorator from New York bought to use as a stainless steel nautical kitchen for a client. ON: You also haul boats? JH: The boat hauling is seasonal. We have about 600 costumers we haul for spring and fall. We’re pretty busy hauling from early May to early July — we’re nonstop boat hauling. The boat hauling phone rings again right after Labor Day and then we haul right up to early December. ON: When you remove someone’s boat, do you buy it or do they pay you? JH: It’s expensive to decommission a boat, so it all depends. It’s a case-bycase thing. If the salvage cost exceeds the decommission cost then we charge them for the difference, but

every case is different. ON: Any last thoughts? JH: A lot of calls are older people who are selling their boat before going into retirement or who can’t afford to keep them anymore. It’s more than giving up the boat; it’s about growing old and not being

able to do the things you want to do, so we’re very sensitive on calls like that. We always bring a bottle of champagne and the couples stand out in the street and wave goodbye. You’ve got to be really sensitive on a job like that — it’s emotional. Every salvage boat has a great story. n

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MARINE tech Notes

Iridium to join global safety system BY Tim queeney


As the Arctic opens up to increased commercial traffic due to melting ice, there will be an increased need for better highlatitude communications.


t’s safe to say that most voyagers dream of tropical sailing. Yet the changing Arctic has made Greenland, the Northwest Passage and other northern destinations more cruiser-friendly and will likely draw more voyagers northward. As always, connectivity and communications are a consideration and one satcom firm, Iridium, is well positioned to garner more of this traffic as it heads to certification as an internationally approved communications service and as it updates its satellite constellation. The Iridium satcom system starts out with an advantage for use in the Arctic: It is set up to operate there in a way that its competitors are not. Unlike other satellite systems that require an Earth station in view of the satellite in order for it to send


and receive signals, Iridium satellites can receive signals from a user at the surface; if there is no Earth station in range, it can forward that message to other satellites in the constellation. The message bounces along until it gets to an Iridium spacecraft that has an Earth station in range. Then, that satellite will transmit the relayed message. This system is well suited for use at the poles because there are few Earth stations in the Arctic and Antarctic, which limits other systems but not Iridium. Recreational voyagers are keen, of course, on having good, reliable communications and navigation tools. Their decisions about what to actually carry on their boats is ultimately up to them. Commercial mariners, on the other hand, must comply

with regulations agreed upon by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and other regulatory bodies. One of these international agreements is the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS). This is a “set of safety procedures, types of equipment and communication protocols used to increase safety and make it easier to rescue distressed ships, boats and aircraft.” The types of equipment that GMDSS-required ships (more than 300 gross tons) are required to carry include: EPIRBs, Navtex, HF and VHF DSC radios, search and rescue radar transponder (SART), and at least an Inmarsat C satcom unit. When GMDSS got started in the early 1980s — and for a long time after that — the only company offering satellite communications to mariners was Inmarsat. So, naturally, Inmarsat was included in the provisions of GMDSS. Since that time, however, other satcom options have arisen, such as Iridium, Globalstar and Orbcomm. Like any international protocol devised by government agencies, changes to

the GMDSS requirements haven’t happened quickly. In April 2013, Iridium made a request to become a recognized GMDSS satcom provider. According to Iridium, IMO will likely certify Iridium in 2018 and the company expects official GMDSS service to start in 2020. Another way that Iridium is becoming a more attractive satcom choice for far northerly (and far southerly) voyagers is the upgrade of the 66-satellite constellation with new Iridium NEXT satellites. This latest generation of satellites will have increased bandwidth and higher data speeds. They are being launched by Elon Musk’s SpaceX company with two of eight launches already complete. Iridium calls its new higherbandwidth capability Iridium Certus. “With the availability of Iridium Certus and GMDSS recognition,” Wouter Deknopper, vice president and general manager of maritime at Iridium, wrote in an email, “we will be able to provide real choice to mariners when it comes to broadband communications and critical safety services all from one terminal.” Another way GMDSS can be improved in the future is to expand the automatic identification system (AIS). AIS makes use of VHF DSC radio technology to exchange information about vessels in VHF signal range. With its robust ability to track vessels, AIS provides critical collision avoidance information like the name of the ship, its speed, course and the time and point of closest approach to your own vessel. AIS is a superb

augmentation to radar and provides more information than radar alone. Like the equipment mandated for GMDSS, AIS is required by the Safety Of Life At Sea (SOLAS) convention for commercial vessels greater than 300 gross tons. There are three classes of AIS: Class A devices that transmit at 12.5 Watts and are used on large commercial vessels; Class B with a less powerful 2-Watt signal and for use by smaller vessels; and AIS receivers that don’t transmit at all but can be used by smaller vessels like voyaging boats to monitor traffic for collision avoidance. The benefits of AIS, along with the legal requirements, have made it a widely used system. One interesting development is satellite AIS, in which satellites are equipped to pick up AIS signals. This allows vessels to be tracked beyond normal line-of-sight VHF range. AIS has become so omnipresent, however, that technical experts are concerned that the system will be overwhelmed by too many AIS transmitters. The result is a proposed new system called VHF Data Exchange System (VDES). AIS makes use of two VHF radio channels to send short data messages to radios in range. VDES takes this technique and expands it by using a higher data modulation rate, more VHF channels and assigns specific channels for satellite use. This development will allow AIS to continue as an invaluable tool, even in crowded harbors and in remote areas like the Arctic and Antarctic. n

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For 35 years nv charts has produced charts of Europe, the Mediterranean, the Caribbean, the Bahamas, the US East Coast and Cuba. In cooperation with Atlantic Cruising Club’s Digital Guides to Marinas ©. nv charts are relied on by cruisers, racers, the Germany Kiel Pilots and the US Coast Guard. SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2017 OCEAN NAVIGATOR 13

power voyaging

Alarming considerations STORY AND PHOTOS BY JEFF MERRILL

Above, modern power voyagers are equipped with plenty alarms for various systems. Below right, a safety panel with lights for indicating alarm status.


very morning, I awaken to Hawaiian music that provides me with a smooth transition from deep sleep to facing the day. This sure is more pleasant than the shrill alarm that used to scare me awake and have my heart pumping. I suppose we are predisposed to be on guard when an alarm sounds because it usually portends something bad has happened. On board our trawlers, especially underway, we have a lot of systems running simultaneously and it is not easy to keep track of every detail. We have displays and


gauges to provide pressures and temperatures so that we can measure and determine if we are operating in the norm. All is well until something falls out of the proper threshold and then we get a warning, typically in the form of an audible alarm. Boat alarms have a little more volume so that the announcement can be heard over the thrumming of the engines. Every system alarm

has a distinctive sound and one of the first things you will quickly understand is matching the alert noise with the specific equipment making the signal. One of the first training steps I like to review with a person who has just purchased a new or used trawler is a controlled “concert” in which we set off the alarms so that we know what the sound is indicating as well as how to respond to the mute or reset to clear the announcement. Fire and smoke alarms are about the easiest to hear, and they have a “test” button to confirm battery status. Another easy one that you can control is the high water bilge alarm; there is an “auto/ off/test” three-way toggle, and the test mode will sound the alarm. It’s good to know that this common alarm is powered by two 9V batteries and wired to the bilge pump switch, so if you don’t hear the alarm

during a test, it may be time for new batteries. On a trawler with active fin stabilizers, most systems are set up to have the hydraulic pump powered from the main engine. If you shut down your engine without first depowering the stabilizers, you will get an alarm — the fins are not getting power from the main and will squawk to let you know. I’d call this one a reminder alert. In addition to reminders, there are warnings that come

both visually and audibly that serve as alarms. On vacuum toilet and holding tank systems, it is common for only one pump to operate at a time. If there is more than one user and one vacuum pump is engaged, a red light will come on at all stations indicating that you cannot flush until it resets and you get a green light (be sure to explain this to your guest up front).

Main engines have alarms if the thermostat indicates you have exceeded the safe operating range, and if you have an issue with your oil pressure, a siren will sound. Your navigation and communications suite has a number of built-in adjustments that can be used to set alarms. AIS will sound when in close proximity of other boats. There are programs that will alert you if a target enters your predetermined radar range and/or if your vessel drifts outside of your anchoring parameters while at anchor. When you are on a route and arrive at a pre-programmed waypoint, you may be prompted by an autopilot alarm

A bilge pump status unit with both a light and an audible alarm.


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Above, a propane alarm unit. Right, a fire suppression status panel for monitoring the engine room.

to accept the change of course to the next waypoint. Autopilot alarms will also chime if they lose their GPS heading. It can get pretty interesting when you have more than one alarm talking to you while underway in the pilothouse — don’t worry, this doesn’t usually happen until 3 a.m. when you are on a solo watch and there are boats approaching and passing you at the same time! Knowing what buttons to push to acknowledge or accept an alarm sound is also important, and it’s best if you have figured this out while safely tied up at the dock instead of while you’re on the job training with a tight passing lane and oncoming traffic.

Nothing will get your attention or surge your adrenaline like an alarm, especially if you have no idea what is wrong or what problem the noise is identifying. Take a breath and calmly try to find out what your trawler is telling you, make the correction, quiet the alarm and proceed with caution. What could possibly go wrong? Don’t ask, since it could be just about anything, and if you think about it too much you will never go anywhere. If you are super sensitive and have deep pockets, Maretron offers a broad scope monitoring program that will give you tank levels, stuffing box temperature — anything you want to track. Whatever you use, think of each alarm as a “heads-up,” an advance notice when something changes. Don’t forget to use your commons senses; if there is an unusual smell, sound or vibration, this could be an early warning sign. Don’t ignore it, as most often things get worse before they get better, and alarms are your first line of defense. Some common trawler alarms and popular monitoring devices are: • High temperature warning in engine coolant • Low oil pressure


• Water in fuel alarm (this will send you a warning if your diesel fuel has water in it) • Racor vacuum clogged (an alert if your filters are getting dirty and not allowing fuel to screen through) • Pyrometer temperatures on exhaust runs to check for overheating • Fire suppression • Shore power connection and battery level • Microwave cooking bell/laundry done (these are friendly reminders!) • Bilge level/high water alarms • Propane sniffer alarms • Carbon monoxide/smoke detector alarms • Security (burglar/intruder alarms and apps that stream live video footage) GOST provides wireless security alarms and cameras that include boat positioning, and Siren Marine offers monitoring for shore power connections (if you lose power it can damage your batteries and spoil your food), bilge levels and more, and is a nice service for remotely monitoring your vessel. What else can you do? Circumnavigator Bruce Kessler has a

A probe set into the exhaust system for monitoring exhaust gas temperature.



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Jeff Merrill, CPYB, is the president of Jeff Merrill Yacht Sales, He is a veteran yacht broker. Merrill is active in the cruising community as a public speaker and writer and enjoys spending time at sea with clients. Jeff 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 email Merrill at:

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rotating orange light similar to an ambulance flasher in his engine room to communicate with anyone doing inspection that they should leave the compartment immediately (this makes sense since alarms can go unheard, especially if you are wearing earmuffs). Several high-end trawler builders equip their new yachts with profile panels that light up when certain areas are “active.” These at-a-glance panels will tell you if running lights are on, if bilge pumps or freshwater pumps are working, etc., and are prominently mounted overhead in the pilothouse for unobstructed monitoring. An important aspect of “dialing in” your trawler is learning all of your alarms and warning indicators, what they sound like, where they are and how to reset them once you address the issue. Of course, once you figure out how to handle all of these buzzers, what you really want to achieve is the “Garfunkel Equilibrium” — the sound of silence — with a quiet ride that is uneventful and alarm-free as you sail into the sunset on the way to wake up in the Hawaiian Islands... n

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Recently while cruising in Norway, I had the opportunity to visit one of the Viking company’s manufacturing and R&D facilities located in Straume on Norway’s southwest coast. When you hear the name Viking in connection with yachting gear, it’s only natural that life rafts come to mind. The family-owned firm, now entering its 58th year, is well known for the rafts it manufactures; however, its pallet of safety equipment and related services is significantly broader. Viking’s range of products runs the gamut, with the largest sectors in the offshore

To the editor:

Below, the work floor at Viking’s facility at Straume. Right, one of the company’s Safety Evacuation System units.

Steve D’Antonio

A visit to the life raft factory oil and gas industry as well as commercial shipping and the defense sector. These include life rafts; personal protective equipment such as chemical, dry and exposure suits as well as flight suits for aircrew and passengers; aviation life jackets; smoke hoods; rescue boats, lifeboats and launching davits; firefighting suits and equipment for both shipboard and terrestrial use; and offshore evacuation equipment, including slides and chute systems. At Viking’s Straume facility, the Safety Evacuation System (SES) is manufactured. The SES is an ingenious design, one that can be

Steve D’Antonio


deployed from either a ship or drilling platform, from a height of up to 265 feet and up to sea state 6. Once the cylinder-like fabric device is deployed, it automatically launches rafts at its base station, which remain in place until released by escaping personnel. Those using it do so by sliding in a zigzag pattern, thereby enabling a controlled, if somewhat uncomfortable, descent speed. It is both fire and blast resistant before being deployed, fire resistant after deployment, and capable of evacuating 200 persons in a little more than 12 minutes. Watching testing videos of the SES in use at the Straume facility, the speed with which people can move from an oil rig or ship to the rafts is impressive. I’ve often wondered why lifesaving equipment like rafts and immersion suits are so costly. While touring this facility it became apparent why, at least in part: Much of this gear is handmade, and it is then tested and re-tested to ensure it works properly. In addition to the SES, one

of which was being tested during my visit, the Straume facility also manufactures, tests and recertifies immersion suits, wherein each suit is pressurized within a specially made assembly and then checked for leaks. Repairs are also carried out onsite. Viking has more than 2,000 employees worldwide, located at 260 service stations and 71 branch offices, with four manufacturing facilities in Denmark, Norway, Thailand and Bulgaria.

The 76,000-square-foot facility I visited employs 50 people, a mixture of engineers, sales, R&D and manufacturing/service positions. Viking claims their equipment has saved more than 4,000 lives — their website contains a “Survivors’ Tales” section, which makes for interesting reading. Much of Viking’s efforts are in support of the petroleum industry. With its widely varying needs, Viking has developed regionspecific research and development

for the North Sea, Gulf of Mexico, Africa and other regions south of the equator, as well as the Arctic. Viking was the first to offer a life raft specifically designed for use in the Arctic, and their SES escape system is also designed for highlatitude applications, with a heated option to prevent freezing on oil rigs operating in the winter Arctic. —Steve D’Antonio is a marine system expert, writer, photographer and consultant. Visit his website at


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To the editor: I’ve anchored in Cuttyhunk Harbor, Mass., hundreds of times over many different seasons. I like to joke that I just drop my hook in one of my old holes and I know all will be well no matter what. I’ve ridden out one full hurricane, Bob, and numerous close brushes by other hurricanes, tropical storms, nor’easters, etc. Knowing a lot about this harbor, its bottom characteristics and what it has meant for various generations of my own anchoring gear, this is a nearly ideal testing ground for new (to me) Anchor snubber Anchor chain

anchoring equipment. A few years ago, I acquired a Mantus 45-pound anchor for my 38-foot motorsailer, and I have been gradually testing it during my cruises in southeast New England. I have been impressed with its nearly instant setting and its ability to reset when the wind shifts. It holds well on shorter scope, is reasonably easy to handle on deck due to the hoop that forms a nice handle, and it is easy to break out once you get right over the anchor. Of course, the ultimate test of an anchor is how it performs in a blow. That test came over the Columbus Day weekend in October 2016. 20 OCEAN NAVIGATOR

We were the only boat at anchor in the north part of the pond, though there were a few boats on moorings downwind of us. One advantage of Cuttyhunk as an anchor testing ground is that the nearby Buzzards Bay tower provides an accurate report of wind speeds. The Columbus Day gale showed peak speeds reaching into the low 40 knots — not a survival storm, but a good test of a main anchor. I like to know my main anchor and typical anchoring setup are easily capable of holding my boat in a real gale of wind, without the need to resort to special storm techniques. Having this capability covers 95 percent of the nights at anchor an average cruiser will experience, and provides a good base to build upon when you find yourself in a more serious situation. Even in a comfortable anchorage with good shelter in the summer, there is always the pos-

sibility of a thunderstorm popping up; with the ability to hold into the 40-knot range, you will usually be fine. Backing up the well-dug-in Mantus was 100 feet of 5/16-inch HT chain, then another 200 feet of 5/8-inch three-strand nylon rode. I have found that 100 feet of chain means that I am nearly always on an all-chain rode in the shallow anchoring typical along the East Coast of the U.S. We eventually had out most of the chain in only about 10 feet of water, so scope was not an issue. I have various snubbers available, but for the night we started out with a 3/8-inch threestrand nylon line, tied to the chain with my own version of the rolling hitch, and leading back to a bow eye just above our waterline. This takes the load off any deck equipment, provides plenty of bounce to prevent snatch loads and also lowers the angle to the anchor. In this case, we had more than enough scope out for maximum holding.

Above, an anchor snubber deployed


to absorb shock to rode. Right, the shattered snubber on Kettlewell’s boat.

John Kettlewell

Broken anchor snubber

I have used a similar arrangement for decades with various other anchors, so I know what to expect. Fortress aluminum anchors, genuine CQR plow anchors, Danforth steel anchors and a Bulwagga have all held us securely in similar conditions, backed up by similar equipment. The 3/8-inch nylon snubber would be considered undersized by many, but I have found it provides the right combination of elasticity, strength, ease of deployment and knot security — I have tested one so much I know it will work. A similar rig held firm in winds up to around 100 mph in Hurricane Bob. In the October gale, the Mantus did fine. There was no perceptible movement, and when we hauled the anchor up it was so deeply embedded in the bottom that something would have had to break for us to move. As it turns out, something did break — the anchor snubber! Of course, the snubber snapped in the middle of the night (which is often when anchoring snafus happen). The sound of the anchor chain working hard on the bow roller and the boat jerking back a bit on the bar-taut chain was enough to alert me. Working by flashlight on deck, I quickly deployed another snubber using a chain hook, let out a bit more chain and we were back to riding comfortably. Using a boat hook, I fished over the side to pull up the broken end of the snubber that was still attached to the bow eye of our boat, and I discovered that the line had snapped in the middle. I was

surprised by that, since I assumed that if the line were ever to break, it would do so at the knot on the anchor chain or where it was spliced onto the bow eye. Nope, the line

just exploded in the middle! I couldn’t recall that ever happening before, indicating this was a pretty strong blow. The line was not the best to begin with, having



been purchased on clearance at a bargain store. Plus, it had lived on the bow in the sun for several years, though it had also survived numerous lesser blows and even several


pretty intense thunderstorms of unknown strength. My guess is that there must have been a tiny nick in the line of some sort that led to the failure at that point.


The breaking strength of quality 3/8-inch three-strand nylon is north of 3,000 pounds, but I suspect my crummy rope was much lower. My guess is the strain might have been in the nature of 1,500 pounds or so. I do find it interesting to be able to get some idea of the loads involved, even if the measurement is quite crude. I know the max load that line should be able to hold is up around 3,000 pounds, setting the upper boundary, and I suspect the lower limit would be about 50 percent of the line strength due to the knot holding the line at one end, the splice holding the line at the other end, and the age and condition of the line. Also, a 1,500pound load is reasonably close to the old ABYC calculations for a 40-foot sailboat in a 42-knot gale (2,400 pounds). Some have reported that rolling hitches are prone to slippage under high strain. My destructive test proved that to not be the case, though my rolling hitch is not typical. Mine is sort of a cross between the icicle hitch and a rolling hitch. I take multiple wraps around the chain, then multiple half-hitches to secure the knot. Using traditional three-strand nylon, this type of knot has been slip-proof for me. This gale taught me a few things. First, I was very happy with the holding provided by the Mantus anchor — no muss, no fuss, no dragging. It did its job. Second, my old standby 3/8-inch nylon snubber proved once again that it is plenty for a 38-foot motorsailer up to gale conditions, but it

would be better to use quality line in good condition. I am convinced that if the line had been of a better quality then nothing would have happened. No-name line purchased at a bargain store, used for many days at anchor in all conditions and left in the sun for several seasons is not the best! Third, tying on a snubber line works well, even in high winds, if you use the right knot. My modified rolling hitch once again performed well. Yes, chain hooks can be more convenient and would probably work well in most conditions — I frequently use one

myself — but when things get bad, I prefer the proven reliability of a knot that will hold the snubber on the chain no matter what without damaging the chain. Using a knot eliminates several points of failure, and it also means it’s easy to come up with snubbers of various lengths, strengths, etc. It is easy to tie on another during a storm. Fourth, loads experienced during a gale can be quite significant, though I believe they are somewhat lower than what is predicted by the ABYC guidelines. Fifth, once again I learned that having multiple backup snubbers

is critical, along with the means to deploy them. I now have rigged up a very heavy-duty snubber good for more than twice the breaking strain and for more than gale conditions, but I still like using that lighter line off the bow eye for typical anchoring. If it does break for some reason, it is relatively easy to tie on another from deck level and let out some more chain until the strain comes on the line. —John J. Kettlewell is a freelance writer and photographer and the author of The Intracoastal Waterway Chartbook: Norfolk, Virginia, to Miami, Florida.



Recurring weather patterns We are currently in New Zealand aboard our Tayana 37 cutter Anna. We pay close attention to the weather and have observed some interesting patterns. Weekly frontal systems and their complex spin-offs occur here with uncanny regularity. It is one of the elegant, albeit chaotic, algorithms found in nature, which in essence describes a recursive function embedded into our global weather patterns. It is a truly remarkable natural phenomenon, yet frustrating for a small sailboat trying to get from point A to point B at the wrong instant in time. For anyone interested in the dynamics of global weather patterns, you can take a peek at and see how these patterns integrate as they morph and endlessly recur. We use Windy as one of our weather-planning tools when we have Internet access. Windy displays the grib (gridded binary file) output from both the ECMWF (European) and GFS (NOAA) computer-generated weather models. We have found both models quite useful — and increasingly more accurate — as long-range planning tools. We have found the European model somewhat more accurate in its output for short-range localized projections, possibly because it is a higher-resolution model and that helps with localizing weather. Nevertheless, we are talking about mathematical models that are

To the editor:


A screenshot from showing a fast-moving storm hitting New Zealand.

tasked with trying to interpret and interpolate what is often unpredictable (nature’s extreme chaos) and that should be kept in mind when relying on mathematical models with 10-day projections of highly complex global weather systems. If you look at a series of outputs from any of the global models (e.g., you download a grib file once every six hours) as a frontal system is approaching your area of the world, chances are that each instance in the series over the next 24 hours will look surprisingly different than the previous one. We would expect some difference between runs, but we also would expect some overall consistency in the model output in order to have any level of confidence in its projections. Models can let us see


something forming or growing in intensity (like a cyclone) 1,000 ocean miles away, and models can project how that system will develop and where it might be, more or less, at a given point in time based on a combination of real-time surface and upper air flow data as well as historical analogues of data that resemble the current conditions. But these are still only projections; it’s highly educated guesswork when it comes to complicated weather system predictions. It’s still a broad brushstroke when it comes to pinpoint accuracy. We’ve been out in conditions we never would have gone out in had that high-confidence forecast got it right. You learn pretty quickly that complex weather is still pretty much unpredictable. Very small variations in the paths of distant weather systems can result in inaccurate local forecasts. But thanks to mathematical computer modeling of global weather, we can now at least see a broad representation of what may be coming our way, which definitely helps us to plan a reasonable departure date when setting out on a passage, or determine which anchorage may be best suited for riding out a potential storm. When all the models agree (not something that occurs often), we have a higher level of confidence in what may be in store. n —Rich Ian-Frese, a retired research engineer, lives aboard Anna with his wife Cat. They are currently at New Zealand’s North Island and plan to venture to the South Island soon.


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Exploring Borneo

Patrick Childress

A west coast passage of the island reveals trim cities and wild jungle BY PATRICK CHILDRESS


Patrick and Rebecca Childress’ Valiant 40, Brick House while underway.

arge sails and diesel fuel pushed our Valiant 40, Brick House, northward from Indonesia along the western coast of Borneo. Eventually Rebecca, my wife and shipmate, and I threaded our sailboat inland following an ever-narrowing bay where we dropped anchor in a wellprotected, tannin-colored estuary named Santubong. Most everyone has heard of Borneo, but few could spin a globe and quickly put a finger on it even though Borneo is the third largest island in the world! It sits 1,100 nautical


miles north of the western tip of Australia and 300 nm east of mainland Malaysia. Northeastern Borneo extends into the Sulu Sea with the Philippine islands not far away. Indonesia claims the largest chunk of real estate, dominating the southeastern two-thirds of Borneo. Malaysia’s part of Borneo, often referred to as East Malaysia or Malaysian Borneo, takes up the northwest coast and northerly quarter of the island except for the speck of a country called Brunei, which covers some acreage on the northwest shore.

We were surrounded on two sides by thick tangled mangrove. This was the beginning of a brackish river that cut northeasterly into the mangroves for scores of miles. At low tide, our only neighbor was a long gray crocodile stretched out on a soft mud shore. On a higher tide, the local crocodiles straddled the knotted mangrove roots keeping their bellies elevated above the water. It seemed the nearly white Irrawaddy dolphin, which rolled in the estuary, had a truce with those snaggletoothed eating machines.

Often obscured in the clouds a few miles away, was the highest bit of land to be seen: a volcano-shaped mountain with a finale of vertical peak called Mount Santubong. It seemed much too steep near its peak to climb, but we would one day take in the view from there.

Right, Brick


ceeded north-


118° E


Pulau Tiga

Kota Kinabalu


Route of Brick House

Borneo coast,

Muara Brunei


finally getting hauled out in Kudat. Below,



near SantuEquator


a s i a y l a




a s i n e o d I n




Philippines Brunei Malaysia




m at ra











Patrick Childress



easterly along

a crocodile

A modern floating dock To our surprise, in this seemingly remote area there was a modern floating dock where only one small fishing boat was tied. Having secured our dinghy and wandered up the shore, we were caught off guard by what we heard from the caretaker, spoken in accented English: We were free to use the dock for our dinghy, the city water at the dock was safe to drink, we could walk across the property to get to the main rural road and nearby residential area, and there would be no charge! The property and adjoining fish hatchery were owned by a wealthy Malaysian who visited only occasionally, yet he had instructed his employees to make visiting cruisers welcome.


House pro-

Santubong is a quiet tourist community surrounded by nature attractions, but first we had to catch the morning minibus for the 35-minute $2 trip into the city of Kuching (“Cat,” in English) to find the immigration and customs offices. Kuching seemed a mirage, a sprawling modern city equal to anything in America. The sixlane highways were crowded with new cars. The lack of motorcycles was testament to the country’s wealth, much of which is derived from the offshore oil wells. The city streets and sidewalks were clean of rubbish, and throughout Kuching the municipal grounds were manicured like an estate. We were quickly becoming impressed with Malaysia. Sensitized by customs and


immigration corruption in Indonesia and the Philippines, we were uneasy with the smoothness by which the Malaysian officials processed our papers. It seemed these officers were setting us up for a backlash, but they in fact did their job properly. They did not eye us suspiciously nor dig through our documents, searching for some imagined irregularity, and they even seemed happy to see us! No one needed to come to our boat and rip into every cabinet and inspect labels on cans and count ounces of liquor. Malaysia is an oasis of normalcy, civility and educated people, and no official was on the grubby side of greed. Brick House spent over six weeks swinging with each tide change in the estuary. Rather than sailing 15 miles up a dif-



Bruce Balan

Rainforest World Music Festival, featuring off-brand musicians from around the world playing music from jungle to jazz. There are sandy beaches on the ocean side of Santubong and several comfortable hotels that fit into the rainforest environment. Throughout the nearby forest, hiking trails wind through the mountainous terrain, across streams, past waterfalls to overlooks, then past hardwood trees of such enormous width and straightup height that loggers would love to chainsaw this place.

Above, Alene Rice and Patrick Childress climbing the rope ladders of Mount Santubong. Below, Brick House was moored in the river.


Bruce Balan

ferent river to a $5-per-day marina in the city of Kuching, we preferred the country living of Santubong. Everything we needed to be a perpetual tourist was here. The well-known Sarawak Cultural Village was close by; tourists traveled a long way to see the native longhouses, thatch buildings elevated 8 feet off the ground. The short, dark-skinned native men with bowl-shaped haircuts and women demonstrated poison dart blowing and daily jungle living skills. Reenacting their jungle life for tourists is far easier than the reality of struggling as a speck in the web of life in the rainforest. But not all at the village is jungle tradition: One weekend a year, the open, grassy grounds of the Cultural Village becomes an outdoor concert arena for the annual three-day

Mount Santubong With two other newly arrived cruising friends, we slipped from the road onto the damp leaf-carpeted trail threading through the rainforest. The goal was to climb the steep Mount Santubong. Macaque and sometimes silvered leaf monkeys rattled through the leaves in the upper tree branches, cautioning each other of our approach. Poisonous snakes and other animals

normally hide away in daylight hours, but biting ants and flying skin piercers wait in the shade near the streams and are often the motivation to keep a hiker’s feet marching. Short steps are needed to chug up the slippery steeper inclines of loose soil and marble-sized gravel. In these areas, the park service has tied thick ropes from tree to tree so the hikers can help pull their way up and keep from slipping down out of control. Up close, the most vertical rock faces near the summit were as challenging as imagined when viewing from the estuary. Rope ladders with round wooden rungs are secured in place for those fit enough to climb their way straight up. After two hours of heavy muscling of legs and arms with rope-burned fingers, the final elevation was conquered to stand on a spacious flat-topped pinnacle. In the tropics, it is rare to have a horizon clear of humidity, but the reduced visibility at the top of Mount Santubong still gave a com-

Patrick Childress

manding view of our neighborhood and our speck of a yacht far below. One day, along with our two cruising friends, we jumped at the chance for a nautical jungle adventure to race a bamboo raft 16 miles down the Padawan River through the forested mountains deep inland from Kuching. Paying our entry fee gave us our pick of a freshly made brown and green bamboo raft, which we dragged into the river and tested for buoyancy. With the morning sun rising higher, we jumped on board and balanced the raft like a wide surfboard as it supported us just above water level. Who knew if the raft would slowly submerge with each mile, or if the vine lashing would stay taught and keep all the tubular stalks in a flat bundle or scatter from under us like discarded straws. Our “Tourism” class was called and the race was on. We paddled hard with our own dinghy paddles and poled Huck Finn-style with long, skinny bamboo poles. The poles against the river bottom is what kept our river yacht bow-first through the sets of rapids. Other rafters who were caught in the white swirls spun sideways and flipped right over. But the water was warm and the river shallow, so there was little danger. We passed a few rafts and shouted words of motivation to our competition, but far more of the late

starters, who were in the more experienced classes, passed us by and we received their words of amusing encouragement. Malaysians know how to have fun on a Saturday. After four hours on the river, with clothes thoroughly soaked, “Team USA” spread a wake across the finish line in the middle of the pack. The jungle vine lashings on our race machine held together, but our platform was sloshing more under the water than above as we slid onto a sandy bank. There, it would be stacked and, the following weekend, become the fuel for a tremendous fire and another celebration sponsored by the nearby town. The awards ceremony filled the modest town hall at the finish line, with speeches, smiles and much applause. Visiting the orangutans Of course, you cannot leave the Kuching area without visiting the orangutan sanctuaries.

“Team USA” at the start of the raft race on the Padawan River.

Orangutan — it is not pronounced with a “g” on the end — comes from orang, meaning “person,” and hutan, meaning “forest.” One zoo-like facility, called Matang Wildlife Centre, raises or rehabilitates orangutans, preparing them for release. The other facility is a rainforest reserve called Semenggoh Nature Reserve. At the reserve, the orangutans are free to roam the miles of surrounding forest and are offered food twice a day. Well before the feeding and the appearance of the orangutans, a park ranger gave an orientation to the 50 or so cameratoting tourists about the wildness and unpredictability of the animals. This place is not a zoo. These apes (apes have no tails) are far stronger than any human, so they need to be treated with great respect. There have been occasions when large males have come out of the forest in a feisty mood and have wreaked



Patrick Childress

havoc, attacking and maiming tourists. If the orangutans have not found plenty to eat on their own, they will swing in from afar, climb through tree branches or along ropes webbed from the trees leading to the elevated feeding platforms. There, they take their time nibbling and posing for pictures. When they have had enough, they slowly, individually, disappear back into the foliage until none are left for the tourists to snap pictures of. In the jungle, the orangutans forage once again and build their nest for the night high in a tree, far from people. Eventually the day came for us to pick up anchor and move northward along the west coast of Borneo. We drifted with the outflowing current of the river when a major problem occurred: Our motoring speed was low. We limped along and only when we were well offshore in clearer water, well away from the crocodiles, did I go over the side and chisel the mass of

Above, two orangutans and a proboscis monkey show up for handouts from tourists at Bako National Park. Below, the Rafflesia flower rarely blooms and can smell like a dead animal when it does.

Patrick Childress


barnacles from the propeller and drive shaft. Millions of years ago, large areas between Borneo and the mainland to the west were well above sea level. This not only made for valuable oil reserves but also created a shallow mud bottom that extends well away from shore. To visit the national parks along our route, we often anchored two miles offshore in 12 feet of water, fully exposed, then played the tides to land the dinghy high up on the shoreline. In the Malaysian rainforest, there are many kinds of animals like deer, bearcats (a kind of civet), porcupines, clouded leopards and all sorts of snakes and colorful birds, like hornbills and parrots. The problem with hiking park trails, like at Bako National Park, is that at the end of the day, you usually see only a lot of trees and some very nice waterfalls to cool off in. We found it best to be near the ranger station around 4:00 in the afternoon. That is when the wild pigs, monkeys, birds and other animals wander out of the jungle and into the open to look for food dropped by the tourists.

We were determined to search Borneo to see the rare Rafflesia. This is the largest and one of the rarest flowers in the world. For the Rafflesia to bloom, the conditions must be exactly right, as it is a parasite that blooms on only the tetrastigma vine. The largest Rafflesia can be more than 3 feet across and weigh 22 pounds. The reddish flower can stink like a dead animal and has the spongy texture like a thick mushroom. We had to visit several national parks where these flowers occasionally bloom before we found one at Gunung Gading National Park. Normally, a tourist has to be escorted by a park ranger down a narrow trail completely canopied by trees to the site of the Rafflesia. It was around lunchtime when we approached the ranger who was fully relaxed at his little wooden office near the trail. The ranger saw my head of white hair and our naturalistic demeanor, then pointed Rebecca and me to the flower. This park also had other hiking trails with so many waterfalls that we usually had a swimming hole to ourselves.

Few protected anchorages Since there are few protected anchorages along the western coast, we slipped into a sparsely populated marina in the beautiful modern city of Miri. It was once a small fishing town with long, featureless three-story concrete buildings that housed specialty shops on the street level. Now the city is shadowed by tall modern architecture. It is a clean, orderly city with a long esplanade at the oceanfront. Miri is of the size where only a bicycle is needed to get most everywhere, and is the perfect city without the big-city hassles. Miri, like most Malaysian cities, has its distinct ethnic areas, which include Indian and Chinese. This makes for a surplus of national holidays that no one passes up celebrating. To balance the air of western civilization, there are still the

Below, downtown Miri, close to the border with Brunei, is busy and prosperous.

open-air markets selling everything including cooked mousedeer and thick white python meat from the jungle. As tourists, we spent half a day at the local crocodile farm/ zoo, which raises the giant animals for leather and food. Miri is the historic home of the first oil well in Malaysia and thus has an oil museum at that site. Further inland, we spent days being guided through the Mulu cave system, a tourist hotspot. It is a debate if this is the largest or second largest cave system in the world. Even though Malaysians are welleducated, modern-thinking, prosperous and friendly people, without tourism, many East Malaysians living in the lessthan-modern mountain villages would have little hope for employment. Nearly six months in East Malaysia had ripped by. We had to clear out of the country

and sail further up the coast to the tiny country of Brunei to once again reset the clock on our visas. In oil-rich Brunei, Islam is not only the singular religion but it is also the government. In Brunei, it is against the law to sing Christmas carols or for children to dress up and celebrate Halloween — and don’t even think about jokingly asking where you might buy a pork chop. The only exception to some of these restrictions is at the local yacht club in the port city of Muara. The yacht club is a small oasis for foreigners who work under contract in Brunei. As we moved up the coast, we did not intend on staying so long at yet another marina — the Sutera Harbor Resort in the high-rise city of Kota Kinabalu — but this marina is one of the most comfortable imaginable with its own bowl-


ing lanes, private movie theater, extensive workout gym and free shuttle into the nearby city. This was quite the contrast to our customary life of anchoring off remote thatch villages deep in the Pacific. The marina and the local airport became our base for exploring the northeast coast of Borneo. Because of pirates close by in the Philippines and local bandits scouting just off the coast, the east coast of Borneo is a no-go zone for cruisers on yachts.

Patrick Childress


Above, the

“Survivor Island” We sailed from Kota Kinabalu on to the island of Pulau Tiga, one of very few islands along the west coast. Pulau Tiga has recently been referred to as “Survivor Island” as this was the location for the filming of the first U.S. “Survivor” game show. In reality, Tiga Island is not very remote. Less than 10 miles away on Borneo there are a number of towns all with boats to run tourists out to Tiga for a day trip or a multi-night stay. All of Tiga Island is a national park. The game show

patio at the Sutera Harbor hotel and marina in Kota Kinabalu. Below, Malaysian navy patrol boats and yachts in the harbor at Kudat.

Patrick Childress


contestants “survived” on the north shore, while on the south shore the 200 production crew lived in park-operated cottages and two commercially operated resorts. On Pulau Tiga, tourists and yachties come to relax on the shores, snorkel the reefs, hike the trails and play in the one large mud puddle in the center of the island. The thick mud is advertised to be medicinal, but this was some of the dirtiest, clingiest mud we had basked in anywhere in the world. With the ensuing mud fight with some French tourists, everyone lost. Soaking in the ocean afterwards, it still took a soft scrubby and strong soap to free our pores and clothes of the microscopic grime. Playtime was over as we arrived at Kudat, a town at the northern tip of Borneo, where we would haul out Brick House for repairs. It is a basic small fishing town with little reason for a cruiser to visit except for the inexpensive haul-out facility. The labor rate for a general yard helper is no more than $15 per

day. It is a safe area, despite being within striking distance of the kidnappers from the Philippines. A Malaysian navy contingent is stationed in Kudat and sends out armed patrol boats each day. Just over 100 miles northwest of Kudat are the Spratly Islands, which the Chinese are making famous with their military fortifications. Malaysia Borneo is a contrast of the most desirable modern cities we have seen anywhere in the world with small, less-cultivated towns that could rank as villages. There are bulldozed rainforests skirted by well-managed nature reserves. Malaysian Borneo is one of the most diverse destinations to drop an anchor and, maybe one day for us, to permanently settle. n Patrick Childress is a professional captain with a 500-ton Master’s license. He and his wife Rebecca are in the ninth year of a circumnavigation aboard their Valiant 40 Brick House.

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safety Right, saving a crewmember in the water requires practice and planning. Here an MOB has an ACR MOB1 unit. Below, in the gloom of night, deploying gear can be tricky without practice. Courtesy ACR Electronics


From the basic MOB pole to electronic fences, there are a variety of approaches to dealing with a crew overboard


swim ladder deployed and attempt to get back on board, or try hauling each other out of the water up onto the deck. Now imagine the struggle involved in the dark of night with the wind howling, possibly just after you have rushed up from down below as a loved one disappears into the blackness astern. The first priority, therefore, is stay on board no matter what. Safety harnesses, jack lines, well-placed handholds, care and pre-planning of every move after dark are by far the most important tools in thinking about how to deal with a man overboard (MOB) — don’t let it happen in the first place! But, the unthinkable happens, despite your best precautions. What next? Man overboard procedures include three

major steps: 1) prevention, 2) location, and 3) retrieval. We briefly discussed the first step, which is by far the most important, with number 2 requiring careful thought and planning in order to be able to successfully carry out number 3. Locating an MOB is the key to initiating a successful rescue.

John Kettlewell


he old adage holds true: “One hand for oneself, and one for the ship.” Boaters spend a lot of time, money, effort and thought on preventing what is an exceedingly rare occurrence on larger cruising-sized vessels. One reason we all dread going overboard offshore is that experienced boaters recognize the extreme difficulty of first finding the victim — assuming anyone is on board to notice — and then getting that person back on board the boat. Just think of all the times you have had a hat blow off and then tried to retrieve it. How successful were you? I know I have lost a lot of hats, fenders and other items that blew off the boat, never to be seen again. Try jumping off your boat in a peaceful harbor on a warm day without the

and a small drogue to keep the whole mess from blowing away. However, as of January 2014, US Sailing also allows self-inflating MOB devices, such as the Dan Buoy, which packages all of the essential gear in a way that makes it easier to store, quick to deploy and also better protected from the weather. Of course, like all mechanical/electrical devices, inflatable units must be serviced on schedule in order to be trusted. A good primer on how to equip an offshore boat with safety gear is available from US Sailing ( The photo of my boat’s stern at sunset (see page 34) illustrates why a self-contained MOB pole/rig like the Dan Buoy has an advantage over a traditional fixed pole, flag, life ring, light, etc. Figuring out how to attach all that stuff on the stern in a way that is secure in heavy seas, yet quickly deployable, can be a challenge. In addition to the safety gear, most cruising sterns become the catch-all platform for an abundance of other boat junk like grills, fenders, flags, dinghies, etc. On many boats, that leaves everything fully exposed to the sun and weather, requiring careful annual maintenance

Courtesy Forespar

Courtesy Dan Buoy

Location, location, location On my current boat, we take a layered approach to maintaining contact with and locating the victim. The first layers are low-tech basics that every voyaging boat should have: markers, flotation devices and navigation. There are many specialty electronic devices that can be of assistance if the victim has them with him/her, but with safety gear one needs to assume that, for many reasons, any single piece of safety equipment may not be where it should be, may not work for some reason or may not even be available at the time. A couple days ago, one of my boat hooks broke off while catching the mooring — imagine if that had been the one to snag a floating crewmember! Fortunately, we already had the second boat hook on deck and grabbed the mooring with it. For an MOB, our boat plan is to instantly toss flotation cushions over the side and a couple of life rings, followed by the deployment of an MOB pole like the traditional ones from Forespar or JimBuoy with an attached life ring and flashing strobe light. US Sailing has required these for years on board offshore racing boats, along with a whistle

and frequent replacement to make sure the gear will work properly when needed. Yet, it’s also true that a standard MOB pole itself is dependable in that it doesn’t require batteries or maintenance: Get it in the water and it works. Other inflatable options include the Switlik MOM 8-A and 8-S packs that include inflatable flotation rings with integrated lifting straps, along with an inflatable spar for visibility. A flashing light is mounted on the top of the inflated spar, providing much greater visibility than a light at water level. A neat tossable option is the ThrowRaft, which is much smaller than life rings or cushions and designed for throwing. It is claimed the TD2401 unit can be hurled 40 feet;

Above, an inflatable MOB pole from Dan Buoy. Below left, the classic MOB pole from Forespar. Below, the Rescue Stick throwable device.

Courtesy Mustang



ing an inflatable PFD, like this unit from Stearns, increases your chances should you fall overboard, especially at night. Right, the classic horseshoe buoy at the stern provides a quick way to get flotation to an MOB.


Strobes are visible for miles at night. A simple but effective addition to your MOB gear would be a small, waterproof LED flashlight attached to the person’s life jacket or in a foul weather gear pocket. It is also important to frequently check the light attached to the MOB pole to make sure it is working properly and has fresh batteries. After one long offshore trip, I was horrified to find out the battery had died in our MOB strobe attached to the pole. A particularly useful light is the Weems & Plath SOS Distress Light, which is designed to replace traditional flares. It flashes only the SOS sequence, is visible for up to 10 miles and uses ordinary C batteries, which means you can easily keep it in good working order. The next steps up in technology are personal strobes and rescue beacons that emit bright lights and are extremely durable and long lasting, like the ones from ACR. Again, some careful thought must be given to how and where these are attached so that it is likely a

person will have the unit with them when they go overboard. Working the cockpit or deck at night can be difficult and every thought needs to be given to how these items can be accessible yet safe from loss, while also not impeding the crew by getting caught on rigging or other vessel components. The items are frequently shown attached to the outside of inflatable life jackets where they are guaranteed to snag constantly. One option I would like to see more of is an offshore life jacket with multiple secure pockets that can stow things like a knife, flashlight and personal locator beacon. Mustang Survival offers the EP 38 Ocean Racing Inflatable Vest that includes internal storage compartments for this vital gear while keeping the outside free of unnecessary protrusions. Combining emergency lights with EPIRBs was the logical next step, and ACR does just that with its ResQLink series of beacons that broadcast emergency signals to the 406MHz global satellite system.

John Kettlewell

Above, wear-

when it reaches the victim, they can jerk the handles to pop open a tiny inflatable raft. Another tossable item is the Mustang Rescue Stick. Fourteen inches long and weighing 15 ounces, this unit can be thrown up to 100 feet to a victim in the water. When it gets wet, it automatically inflates into a horseshoe life vest. Of course, the need for flotation is reduced if you are already wearing a PFD. Since even the slimmest PFD tends Courtesy Stearns to be constricting, the best solution for many voyagers is an inflatable unit like the Stearns FastPak 33, which also has reflective tape to make it more visible when hit by a spotlight. Unlike a solid vest, with an inflatable unit there is no material to bind across your chest or back or constrict at the shoulders, making it more likely that you will actually wear the unit while on deck. MOB accounts frequently point out how the lack of reliable light with a person in the water can be deadly. A powerful strobe attached to the MOB pole, like the Forespar WL-1 Water Light or the ACR SM-2 Marker Light, would make a huge difference.

This will bring rescuers to your vicinity, and then a 121.5-MHz signal allows them to home in on your location. Sounds great on paper, but personally I’m not sure of the worth of this for many offshore MOB situations on cruising boats, where your only realistic hope of rescue in time is to have your own mother ship find you. The Hammerhead Automatic Radio Direction Finder by RF Finding Systems is designed to solve this problem by allowing easy “homing” on the 121.5-MHz frequency put out by EPIRBs. Sea Marshall makes the small AU9 alerting unit for personal use, which transmits on the long-range 121.5-MHz frequency and has base units for onboard track-

ing and location of the signals. ACR Artex and others answer the direction-finding question with products like AISLink, which transmits a VHF AIS signal and alert to any vessels in the vicinity equipped with AIS and DSC radios. The AIS alert includes a position derived from an internal GPS unit, making locating the victim much easier whether night or day. ACR Artex explains, “The AISLink MOB also has the ability to alert your crew to the emergency by activating the DSC alarm on your Right, the MOB1 unit from ACR is a personal AIS unit with a built-in GPS that transmits your position via VHF DSC.

vessel’s VHF. All AIS receivers and AIS-enabled plotters within a fivemile radius (dependent on conditions) are alerted, and an integrated high-intensity strobe light assists with accurate positioning, even in low light conditions.” Similarly, McMurdo’s Smartfind Courtesy ACR Electronics

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Courtesy Ultimate Sports Engineering

S10 and S20 AIS devices seem like the perfect personal locator beacons for pleasure craft. These can be set up to automatically deploy in concert with your inflatable life jacket; this could be the difference between life or death if the MOB is incapacitated. The ability to plot AIS information on the boat’s chartplotter would allow you to use the GPS position to route the vessel back to the victim. Ocean Signal is another supplier of personal locator devices. They claim their MOB1 is the smallest device with integrated AIS and DSC, but it still retains a 24-hour operating life and a seven-year battery life. The small size would make it more likely to be used in the first place. Since there is always an “app for that,” the OLAS system by Ultimate Sports Engineering utilizes a small transmitter that can be worn like a wristwatch or attached to a life ring or life jacket, along with a mobile app that records the MOB position when triggered by the OLAS device moving out of range. Note that this only records the last known position and is not a continuous tracker. The app, of course, relies on the internal GPS unit of the phone or laptop, which is a limitation for those voyaging offshore.

The Overboard Location Alert System (OLAS) uses your phone and Bluetooth tags worn by crewmembers to alert you if an MOB occurs.


Another important piece of the layered approach to location is to utilize your boat’s main GPS unit to record the location when an MOB situation takes place. I’ve found that no matter how simple the operation of the unit, it is important to post printed directions next to the GPS to remind yourself or other crew of what to do in an emergency. Never assume that whatever gear the MOB has with them will actually work or that the person in the water will know what to do. Similarly, I always have a notepad and pens/pencils right next to the helm to write down whatever we need to know. I have used these simple tools many times to record safety information coming over the radio, and even to occasionally note emergency calls and positions. Even the humble hand-held VHF radio could be an important tool in an MOB situation. Choose a model that is small and waterproof, and you’ll find you use it in lots of other situations, so when an emergency happens you’ll know what to do. Dedicated emergency VHF radios offer powerful batteries that retain a charge for long periods of storage. Ocean Signal makes the V100 emergency hand-held VHF with lithium battery pack for long life. The radio can still be tested using normal disposable alkaline batteries to make sure all is working, while the main battery does not get depleted.

The golden retrieval Okay, we’ve located the MOB using a combination of skill, great equipment and lots of luck. Suddenly we realize that 200-pound Bob weighs a lot more soaking wet, and he’s not in the best of shape after bobbing around in the cold ocean for 30 minutes in the dark. Getting that sodden soul back on board can be tough. One of the more popular approaches, judging by what I observe on sterns all over the world, is the Lifesling2 package by West

MOB manufacturers ACR Artex Forespar Dan Buoy Just Marine McMurdo Marine www. Mustang Survival Ocean Signal Plastimo RF Finding Systems www. Stearns stearns-recreational-inflatables Switlik ThrowRaft Ultimate Sports Engineering www.ultimatesportsengineering. com Weems & Plath West Marine www.westmarine. com

Marine. The pack itself comes with instructions printed on the outside, which are very helpful, but the idea is simple: Throw the flotation ring off the stern with its line presumably well secured to the boat; then, motor around the MOB until the ring and line can be grabbed by the person. If the MOB can get it over their head with their arms above the unit, the victim can be pulled to the boat where hopefully you can winch them on board with a halyard or other means. Plastimo makes the Rescue Sling with similar functionality. The Switlik MOM units mentioned above include built-in straps designed for hauling a person out of the water, which is not something found on typical life rings or horseshoe buoys. Just Marine, another company that makes inflatable life ring and marker combos, also makes the innovative Recovery Ladder. The unit mounts between cleats or strong points on the side of the boat and provides both a ladder for climbing and an option to winch up a person who is floating alongside the boat. The bottom of the ladder is connected to a halyard and then the person is rolled up the side of the boat. It’s hard to describe, but easier to see — check out the pictures at The company also offers the Sea Scoopa, a mesh “sail” that can be used to net the MOB and haul them on board. They also offer a product called Reelsling that is similar to the Lifesling in operation. Again, the belt-and-braces approach is the best, and I would not rely on any single piece of gear to be the only option. For example, many cruising boats have deep scoop sterns

with boarding steps, which could be an excellent boarding location. Even if the victim can’t pull themselves up a stern ladder, it might at least give them a sturdy handhold to help remain with the boat until a lifting rig can be deployed. Typically, most sailors plan on using a halyard to haul the MOB on board. If you’ve done this to haul and launch a dinghy when in harbor, you know how difficult the task can be — even with a rig often weighing less than a fullgrown man. One option I can imagine working would be bringing the person alongside where they could be clipped or tied to a long line led from a mast cleat to the MOB and then back to a cockpit winch. The crew could then use the powerful cockpit winch to gradually raise the person out of the water (West Marine offers various Lifesling hoisting tackle packages). Needless to say, these scenarios would be well worth testing in the harbor on a sunny day with warm water. Just don’t do it! Even with the best-laid plans and a full crew on board, MOBs from race boats are not always retrieved in time. So, make item No. 1 on the list your top priority — stay on board no matter what, then set up a location plan and system utilizing gear that is easy to deploy and effective. Make sure your crewmembers all have the means to stay afloat and let their positions be known. Ensure everyone on board knows what to do, and practice getting a person out of the water under non-ideal conditions. n John Kettlewell is a freelance writer and photographer. SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2017 OCEAN NAVIGATOR  39


Servicing facilities deal with the complexities of life raft inspection and repacking


Top, life rafts in various stages of inspection at Liferaft Services in York, Maine. Right, Jon Leavitt of Chase Leavitt in Portland, Maine, unpacks a raft for inspection.



on Leavitt lifted the life raft onto the workshop floor and opened its fiberglass case. He quickly found water where it didn’t belong. Liquid had pooled at the bottom of the case. Leavitt sliced into the vacuum bag and removed this protective outer layer surrounding the raft. Again, he noticed water, this time on the raft itself. “A little bit of moisture has gotten in. You can see rust on the fittings,” he said, pointing to metal components connecting the carbon dioxide canister to the raft. “I don’t know how the moisture got in, but it did.” He figured it out minutes later: A tiny hole opened in the vacuum bag, likely from rubbing against the gas canister

during years at sea. Leavitt, whose family has run Chase Leavitt & Co. in Portland, Maine, for more than 150 years, has serviced life rafts since the mid-1980s. In a given year, the company repacks about 650 rafts, many for lobstermen and fishermen operating from nearby ports. Chase Leavitt, along with its other facility in Ellsworth, Maine, is among a handful of companies performing this work. Liferaft Services, with stations in York and Belfast, Maine, is another. But there are fewer

than 10 such facilities between Canada and Boston. Authorization required The Coast Guard and life raft makers won’t let just anyone service a raft. Approved operations must pass a Coast Guard inspection and receive authorization from the manufacturers. This authorization typically requires employees to

complete a training program, among other steps. Kent Molsted Jorgensen, Viking’s manager for rules and regulations, said the company has a “zerotolerance policy” toward unauthorized servicers. Why so much scrutiny? Jorgensen

by regulation to be done,” said Kevin Plowman, USCG Sector Northern New England Commercial Fishing Vessel Safety Examiner. Viking, Survitec and other major raft makers typically recommend servicing every three years for rafts

Sales manager Eric LaRose, left, with technician Tim Virgin of Liferaft Services alongside a raft prior to repacking.

cited several reasons. For one, life rafts are critically important safety devices that must work during emergencies. Secondly, different raft types are serviced differently, and technicians must be familiar with each. “This is not a process put in place by manufacturers to complicate things,” Jorgensen, who is based in Denmark, said by email. Rather, he continued, the process ensures life rafts dropped at authorized stations are properly inspected, serviced, repaired and packed before being returned to the customer. This ensures the raft “will function if needed until the next date of servicing.” Under federal rules, commercial fishermen and inspected vessel operators must carry life rafts and service them annually. There are no such requirements for recreational vessels, although some regattas and offshore races require life rafts. “While we would recommend servicing recreational life rafts at the required intervals, it is not required

packed in vacuum-sealed bags. There are no statistics showing how many recreational owners follow these guidelines, but raft makers and servicers acknowledge some owners don’t follow them. “Most people do not repack their rafts, or do it in a timely manner,” said Andy Hiller, a sales manager with safety gear maker Survitec Group. Hiller suggested one reason is an “out of sight, out of mind” mentality, particularly for raft owners who store them below deck. Cost is another factor. Although life raft servicing typically ranges from $500 to $1,000, standard recreational four- to sixperson raft servicing can be found for $1,200 or less. Regular service extends life On the other hand, regularly serviced rafts can last 15 or 20 years. But for boaters not inclined to service their rafts, delaying the work doesn’t typically save money, according to Eric SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2017 OCEAN NAVIGATOR 41

safety LaRose, sales director with Liferaft Services. Food, water, batteries and flares inside the raft have varying expiration dates, and pushing off service means more of these items must be replaced. At some point, repairs

Above, Jon Leavitt and technician Nicole Walsh work on a raft.

might also become necessary. “Instead of deferring that cost over two repacks, you’re doing it during one and everything has to be done to the raft,” LaRose said in a recent interview. Will life rafts not serviced regularly work during an emergency? Probably, although manufacturers and services don’t recommend the risk. Water ingress can cause mold, rust and other damage. LaRose likened long-unserviced rafts to lottery tickets. “You’re giving yourself a chance,” he said, “but


maybe not the best chance.” Back in Chase Leavitt’s 2,900-square-foot servicing bay, Jon Leavitt continued work on the eight-person Viking RescYou raft. Chase Leavitt sold the self-righting raft four years earlier to a sailing customer. This was its first service. After removing it from the case, Leavitt unhooked the painter line connected to a cable on the carbon dioxide cylinder. He sliced into the silver vacuum bag and determined the raft was in decent shape — despite modest water intrusion. Leavitt removed the vacuum bag and went to work disconnecting the carbon dioxide canister, which refused to budge. When activated, this gas can inflates the raft, usually within about eight seconds. Leavitt experimented with different tools and positions but couldn’t pry it loose from the rusted fittings. He retrieved a rubber mallet and specialized wrenches from a dedicated tool wall. Five minutes later, the can was free. “I’ve never had one of these that didn’t come off,” Leavitt said. With a smile, he added, “This is why people should bring their rafts in on time.” Technician Nicole Walsh assisted with the servicing. After unfolding the raft, she laid it on the workshop floor, connected a hose and inflated its internal chambers. The raft popped, squeaked and groaned as its rubber fabric separated.

Once inflated, Walsh took a series of readings to test its airtight integrity. Next, she removed the raft’s equipment pack and separated expired items, including batteries and

Stats from a life raft station Chase Leavitt & Co. is one of the few companies in Maine certified to service lifeboats, and they complete about 650 services a year. Jon Leavitt has been on the job since 1986 and knows the business as well as anyone. He says in one year, 90 percent of the rafts Chase Leavitt & Co. service come from commercial vessels (fishing boats, tankers, etc.) with stringent raft regulations that private yachts do not have. Rafts vary in size. Leavitt will service three or four 100-person rafts per year and 25 50-person rafts, but most of them — 75 percent — are smaller four-person rafts. The 10 percent of rafts coming from yachts are the hardest to service and repack. As Leavitt struggled to repack an eight-man yacht raft, he pointed out that the commercial four-person raft nearby had a case almost twice as large as the one he was working on. Depending on the amount of maintenance required and the type of raft, servicing costs range from $700 to $1,500 a year, and annual servicing is required. Ben Heselton-Clements

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both hand-held and parachute flares. Expired flares are a headache for most boaters, but they’re a special challenge for raft servicers. Chase Leavitt takes in thousands of unused but likely still potent flares a year. Leavitt solves this problem by driving batches of flares to a New Jersey fireworks company. If all goes well, raft servicing takes the better part of a day. The Viking raft required repairs to the emergency light system, among other components, which extended the job. In the meantime, Leavitt replaced the rusted hose and metal fittings while Walsh re-stocked the equipment bag. After comparing the various readings with Viking standards, the pair determined the raft passed inspection.

Walsh and Leavitt kneeled beside the deflated raft and began folding and rolling it into position. After bundling it together, Leavitt sensed something was wrong — the raft appeared too long for its case. He added some air, repositioned some folds and then with a special adapter sucked the air back out. The pair re-rolled and folded the raft into position, then secured its straps designed to tear away when deployed. Finally, they placed the raft inside a vacuum bag and hot-sealed the bag’s edges. With the bag sealed, they removed excess air and used ratchet straps to compress the raft further. At this stage, rafts are heavy and dense. If it won’t fit in the case, the

M No need for backstay insulators M Easy installation M No swaging, no cutting M Tough, waterproof, reusable M Highly conductive RF elements M Watertight leadwire to antenna connection M Stiff 34’ LDPE housing secures firmly to backstay wire


Communications expert Gordon West reports

“I have done numerous SSB ham and marine radio checks with this system and have found no discernible signal losses, even when used with a well-grounded backstay aboard a steel-hulled vessel. GAM Electronics, Inc. The antenna...can PO Box 305 bang out a signal Harrison, ME 04040 just as though it Phone: (207) 583-4670 were suspended in mid-air.”

– Sail Magazine

Leavitt and Walsh service rafts for both commercial and recreational vessels.

Only about 5 percent ever fail, and they’re usually older with obvious issues. Walsh attached a hose and went to work removing air to begin the repacking. Repacking challenges Recreational life rafts are designed to use as little space as possible. But small containers create challenges during the repack. Servicers must follow precise packing instructions so rafts will inflate during emergencies — and fit in their cases.

process must begin anew. But for Leavitt and Walsh, the second try was spot-on: The raft fit with room to spare. The final repacking took about 75 minutes — longer than usual. Leavitt acknowledged the raft was a struggle. “With that particular one there was lot of fabric,” he said afterward. “It was a pretty sizable raft from a small container. But we finally got it in there.” n

When everything else fails, your survival equipment won’t

Casey Conley is editor of American Tugboat Review. SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2017 OCEAN NAVIGATOR 43


Easy-to-make fender covers Story and Photos BY MARCIE CONNELLY-LYNN


Top, worn out fender covers. Middle, measuring the fender. Bottom, fitting the new covers.

enders, as most sailors know, act as bumpers to keep your boat off the dock and prevent its hull from being scratched or chafed by whatever protrudes from the dock, like cement or wood pilings. Covering fenders is partly cosmetic — they look better — and partly to keep the fenders themselves from rubbing and scuffing the hull. Our Liberty 458 Nine of Cups was in desperate need of some replacement fender covers. I searched online for either a pattern or instructions. It was David, however, who found mention of a solution on a sailing forum that made so much sense and was so easy that I’m sorry I didn’t think of it myself. There are pros and cons to using fender covers. Some argue that the cover fabric, usually fleece, attracts dirt, grime and salt, and increases the likelihood of scratching the topsides. Others, like us, find them quite useful in protecting the new paint job on our topsides. Our last fender covers, or fender boots as they are sometimes called, were purchased in Australia and they never fit quite right, not to mention they were looking pretty ratty.


I’d repaired a couple of chafe spots in the past, but their current condition was beyond repair. It was time for something new. I found new fender covers online for about $40 each in the size that would fit our fenders. We needed three of them, but $120 for fender covers was not in our budget. I looked for a pattern online and found some how-to directions, but none seemed all that reasonable or affordable. Following up on David’s lead, I discovered several mentions on sailing threads that suggested using sweatpants as fender covers. Brilliant! Here’s how: 1. Measure the circumference and length of the fender to be covered. 2. You can make two fender covers from each pair of sweatpants. Purchase sweatpants in your choice of color(s) at a thrift shop or discount store, e.g. Walmart, with the following criteria: The width of the pant leg multiplied by two should approximately equal the circumference of the fender. For example, the circumference of our largest fender was about 29 inches. We chose size 3XL sweatpants (14.25 inches wide)

for it, and a 2XL was large enough for two slightly smaller fenders. Remember, the pants have a bit of stretch and the final fit needs to be snug. Measure the length up to the crotch of the sweatpants to be sure the leg is long enough, and make sure the pants are elasticized at the leg cuffs. 3. Stuff a fender into a pant leg as far as it will go. It should be a snug fit, and the attachment ring on the end of the fender should be exposed. 4. Measure the length, allowing for a 1-inch seam at the crotch end, and mark accordingly. Remove the fender and make the cut. 5. Stitch along the cut edge, forming a 1-inch tube through which you can draw a small length of line. 6. Make a small cut in the tube and insert a piece of line attached to a safety pin (or paper clip) and work the line into the tube, drawing it through as you go until it meets the other end of the line. Then, “butane whip” the ends of the line with a lighter to keep them from unraveling. 7. Slip the cover back onto the fender, drawing it up snug and tight from one end to the

The new fender covers in place, keeping Nine of Cups off a dock.

other. The elastic cuff will keep one end in place. 8. Cinch the drawn line tight on the other end. Tie a knot and tuck it inside the fender cover. 9. Attach lines to the fender attachment rings as you normally would and make fast to the boat.

Voila! A customized fender cover that looks great and protects the hull. The only maintenance required is periodic laundering. Hint: If you don’t drag your fenders in the water, you won’t have to wash them as frequently. The total cost comes to about

$4.00 per fender cover, factoring in the sweatpants from Walmart ($7.36 each plus local tax, makes two fender covers), a bit of thread, about 18 inches of small line and 20 minutes of my time. We good old boat women are very budget-conscious and handy to have around. n Marcie Connelly-Lynn and her husband David have lived aboard Nine of Cups, a 1986 45-foot Liberty cutter, since 2000 and have sailed more than 65,000 nautical miles. “Nine of Cups” is a tarot card signifying “dreams come true.” You can check out their website at


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Nav Problem

Ghost ship of the Outer Banks BY DAVID BERSON

Carroll A. Deering sliding down the ways at the schooner’s launching in Bath, Maine.

he term “Bermuda Triangle” gets thrust into common usage from a series of disappearances of crews and ships beginning in the 1920s. One of these disappearances of crew is still unsolved to this day, nearly a century after its occurrence. Carroll A. Deering was a five-masted schooner built in Bath, Maine, in 1919 by the G. G. Deering Company as a cargo carrier for hauling freight between the East Coast and Brazil and other South American ports of call. In August of 1920, Deering sailed from Norfolk, Va., bound to Brazil, hauling coal. The vessel was skippered by William Merritt with his boy Sewall as first mate and a crew of 10. The passage began inauspiciously as the skipper took ill and departed the vessel with his son in Delaware. The company signed on retired captain W.B. Wormel and Charles McLellan as first mate. The vessel made passage, arriving without incident in Rio where it delivered its cargo. Apparently the captain was dissatisfied with the crew and shared these feelings with friends of his. The vessel departed Rio in December of 1920 and stopped for supplies in Barbados. It was in


Barbados that the first mate began complaining that he had to do all the navigation work as the captain’s eyesight was poor. He also grumbled that he couldn’t discipline the crew properly because the captain kept second guessing him. None of this was particularly unusual, just sailors and captains griping. The mate was overheard, however, threatening the captain and was arrested in Barbados. The skipper cut him some slack and bailed him out, and the vessel set sail for Hampton Roads. Deering was next sighted by the Cape Lookout Lightship in North Carolina on Jan. 28, 1921. Deering spoke to the Lightship, reporting that they had lost their anchors in a storm off Cape Fear. A few days later, Deering was aground on Diamond Shoals off of Cape Hatteras. Rescue of the crew was held up by bad weather and it wasn’t until Feb. 4 that Deering was boarded. No one was found. The vessel was abandoned. The ship’s logs and sextant were gone, as were the lifeboats and the crew’s personal effects — but there was food in the galley being prepared for the next day’s meal. Nevertheless, Deering was hard aground, could not be refloated and was

dynamited on March 4. There were a slew of government investigations as to the fate of the vessel’s crew. Long after the fact, Deering was mentioned as one of those “ghost ships” that helped propel the myth of the Bermuda Triangle. Piracy was thought to be a reason, this was, after all, the era of rumrunners. A more likely theory is that the crew mutinied, took off in the life boats and got caught in heavy seas. All investigations concerning the matter were completed by 1922 without any official conclusions as to the captain and crew’s fate. Let’s join the vessel while underway heading north from Barbados. It is Jan 2. The height of eye is 20 feet. The skipper is doing a LAN observation at a DR of 23° 34’ N by 69° 22’ W. We are using the 2017 Nautical Almanac. The Hs of a lower limb observation of the sun is 43° 23’. n A. What is the time of LAN? B. What is the HO? C. What is the latitude?

Answers A. Time of LAN at DR in GMT is 16:41:28 B. Ho for sight is 43° 33.9’ C. Noon latitude is 23° 35.1’


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Ocean Navigator - September/October 2017  

Ocean Navigator - September/October 2017

Ocean Navigator - September/October 2017  

Ocean Navigator - September/October 2017