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Contents Issue #248


May/June 2018

Features Ocean Voyaging

18 Rolling down the fickle trades



Special Section 24 Six steps to satcom Understanding usage data rates

by Dave Brengelmann

27 Atlantic HF radio net formed Four stations collaborate on net

Chartroom Chatter

4 Ocean Star dismasting 5 M  ultiple containers fall from ship 6 Group brings Google Maps to Florida waterways 7 Notable New Titles 8 Sailor makes four distress calls before leaving boat 9 Tangling with ICW bridges 10 Coast Pilot and COLREGS together at last

North Star’s Atlantic surprise by Rick Meisner

sponsored by Seven Seas Cruising Association by Glenn Tuttle

31 All backed up?

18 24

Marine Tech Notes 10 Antenna challenges by Tim Queeney

Getting your most valuable voyaging data into the cloud by John J. Kettlewell

Power Voyaging



38 Common-sense navigation

13 Exhaust system design by Steve D’Antonio

The most important nav tools are a voyager’s eyes and brain

16  Using the Iridium GO satphone 17  Thoughts on bilge management

Voyaging Tips

36 Fitting a new SSB antenna by Richard de Grasse

Nav Problem 48 La Amistad by David Berson

by Bonnie Wagner

7 On the cover: Catherine Hockley stands bow watch as Dream Time, a 1981 Cabo Rico, enters an atoll in the Tuamotus. Neville Hockley photo.

For more on voyaging, follow us on:

42 A penchant for the primitive

Voyaging without all the comforts of home by Ellen Massey Leonard



Ocean Nav­igator Marine navigation and ocean voyaging


Baxter Gillespie (Correspondence “Using the Iridium GO satphone,” page 16) and his wife Molly live aboard their 1982 Valiant 47, Terrapin, with their border collie/lab Kala. After spending last winter in the Caribbean,and returning to the U.S. via Cuba, they sailed to Nova Scotia and Newfoundland before crossing the Atlantic to Spain. They are currently spending the winter in Plymouth, U.K., and planning to sail north to the Arctic Circle this summer. Terrapin was designed by Bob Perry and is one of 17 Valiant 47s built. The 47 was later replaced by the Valiant 50 with the addition of a 3-foot bowsprit. To follow Terrapin’s travels, visit

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


Dave Brengelmann (Special section “Six steps to satcom,” page 24) has worked in the satellite phone industry for 25 years following life at sea on factory trawlers and processors in the Bering Sea. He is considered the West Coast expert for maritime communications and provides an unbiased overview of communications at sea. Brengelmann actively cruises with his family in Puget Sound, the San Juan Islands, Gulf Islands and Desolation Sound on his Beneteau 411 and is a marine park host at Blake Island. Email for more information.

international Susan W. Hadlock 207-838-0401


east coast US & Canada, international Charlie Humphries


publisher/ advertising director Alex Agnew


Events & marketing coordinator Mary Mildren


Ellen Massey Leonard (“A penchant for the primitive,” page 42) voyages aboard her 40-foot cold-molded wooden cutter with her husband Seth. The pair recently made a voyage to the Alaskan Arctic and have been grateful for the sponsorship of several companies, including Katadyn, Zeal Optics, OCENS Satellite Systems, Rolls Battery, Platypus Marine and Mantus Anchors. Ellen is a regular contributor to Ocean Navigator and other publications and was honored to be the latest recipient of the Cruising Club of America’s Charles H. Vilas Literary Prize. She chronicles her adventures at

West Coast US & canada,



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 © 2018 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

Attention All Boat Owners:

Power & Sail

We Are Seeking Philanthropy Partners

DONATE YOUR BOAT TO BENEFIT THE EDUCATION OF YOUTH AT SEA A boat donation has many benefits: • Stop the expenses of storage, maintenance, insurance and costly repairs. • Receive the full appraised value of your boat as a charitable tax deduction. • Proceeds from your boat donation will directly support the education of youth at sea. • Our partners will take full responsibility for the boat including the processing of all documents for the donor, the IRS, accountants and lawyers. • A boat donation can be implemented within a few days.

Tall Ships Portland is a Maine-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit and first official chapter of Tall Ships America®. We are dedicated to providing youth with enriching opportunities to voyage aboard tall ships; providing immersive, life-changing education and career development under the power of traditional sail.

• Our partner will manage all aspects and minimize the complexities of the charitable boat donation process for you while adhering to strict IRS rules and regulations. To become a partner contact: Matthew Oates Program Director Tall Ships Portland 207-619-1842 TALL SHIPS PORTLAND P.O. Box 517, Portland, ME 04112, USA

Chatter Chartroom

by casey conley

Travis Yates

Ocean Star dismasting <<

Ocean Star in Tortola after being dismasted by Hurricane Irma. Right, the schooner’s new masts being stepped at Port Manatee. Below, the masts in place.

When Hurricanes Irma and Maria blasted through the British Virgin Islands in September 2017, they damaged or destroyed a fleet of vessels. One of those was the schooner Ocean Star, on which many Ocean Navigator readers have learned


navigation and seamanship. The schooner was dismasted, but Seamester Programs, which offers educational and seamanship programs and owns Ocean Star, got repairs underway quickly and had the schooner rerigged by late January of this year. Seamester home ports Ocean Star in Tortola, British Virgin Islands, and the boat was there when Hurricane Irma barreled toward the island. According to Travis Yates, Seamester’s managing director, the decision was made not to put the 88-foot steel schooner

on Seamester’s hurricane mooring off Peter Island. “Because it was a Cat 5,” Yates said, “we didn’t put her on the mooring.” Yates and crew obtained a shallow slip in Road Harbour at Village Cay. “She was up in the muck,” said Yates, “secured with 2,000 feet of 2-inch line

and eight shots of anchor chain.” This setup was severely tested by the power of the hurricane. “As the storm went through,” Yates said, “wind speeds were recorded as sustained at 205 mph with gusts in the 240s.” According to Yates, these wind speeds were tearing the roofs off of buildings at Village Cay. As the storm approached, Ocean Star took the wind on the bow and weathered it well. As the storm passed, however,


tola quite so hard. Yates and crew cut away all standing and running rigging as well as the broken spars and moved Ocean Star to Seamester’s hurricane mooring off Peter Island, where the schooner rode out the second storm. Ironically, a re-rigging of Ocean Star was on the docket for the ship’s December work period. Yates said Seamester was interested in rebuilding Ocean Star’s rig in aluminum but couldn’t find the proper stock tubes in that metal. Ultimately, the correct size steel was sourced out of Texas and the masts were rebuilt using that material. The schooner was brought to Port Manatee Ship Repair and Fabrication in Tampa Bay, Fla., for the rig repairs. The new spars were fabricated and stepped by Jan. 16, and Ocean Star has resumed its regular schedule this spring. “This rig will go another 30 years with Ocean Star,” Yates said. As for further work on the vessel, Yates said a full hull restoration and a repowering is still on the horizon. Tim Queeney

damage on Maersk

Svenborg illustrates how containers can be lost overboard.

Juan Carlos Cilveti

the wind shifted to the schooner’s stern quarter and the backstay was doing most of the work supporting the rig. Yates isn’t sure of the exact sequence of events, but potentially a flying object struck the backstay and parted it. With the backstay gone, even the steel masts of Ocean Star couldn’t withstand the force of the wind and they crumpled. The failure zone for both masts was at the goosenecks. Both the fore boom and main boom were still rigged but stripped of sails. “They both went down just off centerline,” said Yates. “The fore mast hit the bowsprit and the top section broke off at a butt weld. The main mast hit the staysail boom and turned it into matchsticks. Neither mast did any damage to the deck houses.” While the rig was leveled, the hull was in good shape and Ocean Star was the only boat that floated off B dock at Village Cay. The other vessels at the dock were not so lucky, with some multihulls flipped over by the wind. Following Irma was Hurricane Maria, which wasn’t forecast to hit Tor-


Multiple containers fall from ship At least 76 shipping containers fell from a Maersk cargo ship underway off the Outer Banks in early March, adding to the debris problem in the world’s oceans. The boxes fell from the 1,063-foot Maersk Shanghai on March 3 some 17 miles off Oregon Inlet, N.C., during a “heavy roll,” the U.S. Coast Guard said. Nine days later, just two containers remained afloat. The other boxes are presumed to have sunk. “Those two containers are still floating, they are still at the surface, and as of now they have been pushed by wind in an easterly direction and they are 120 to 130 nautical miles offshore,” said Coast Guard Petty Officer Corinne Zilnicki, who is based in Portsmouth, Va. One of the missing containers carried sulfuric acid. The Coast Guard said the chemical dissolves in salt water, posing no threat. Depending on the

source, between 1,500 and 10,000 shipping containers fall overboard each year, often in shipping lanes used by recreational boaters. These containers and other unidentified floating objects, or UFOs, have been a recurring problem for voyagers as well as competitors in major sailing events. During the 2016-17 Vendee Globe, for instance, at least six sailors reported striking unidentified floating objects. The two floating containers off North Carolina have been lighted and are being tracked by satellites, and the Coast Guard is warning mariners via regular radio broadcasts, Zelnicki said. Maersk is working with contractors to locate sunken containers using side-scan sonar. As of mid-March, she said there was no evidence the floating containers had impacted any commercial or recreational vessels.


Chatter Chartroom

Courtesy MIASF


The Waterway View vessel gathering data. Right, the app will run on smartphones and tablets.

Thanks to Google Maps’ “Street View” feature, anyone with a smartphone or computer can take a digital tour of the world. Some of South Florida’s busiest waterways will soon be visible through a similar lens. The Marine Industries Association of South Florida (MIASF) has partnered with a Google Street View vendor to create Waterway View. The smartphone app aims to replicate the visual benefits of Street View on the Intracoastal Waterway and other nearby waterways from Palm Beach County to Key Largo. The organization, which represents marine-based businesses, hopes boaters


Miami-Dade and parts of Monroe counties. That region is among the busiest in the U.S., with countless vessels and more than a dozen bridges. Google Virtual Reality partner Jim Hilker will collect the imagery for the MIASF aboard boats made available by local vendors. “Florida leads the country in boat registrations and its waterways are used by locals and tourists every day of the year. This will be a very useful platform for experienced boaters, newcomers and tourists looking to access the many locations available to them by water,” Hilker said in a statement. Powerboats equipped with special cameras began mapping waterways in Broward County in February. The effort should wrap up this summer in Key Largo, and the app is slated for release in June.

Courtesy MIASF

Group brings Google Maps to Florida waterways

will use the app to connect with waterfront and shoreside businesses in addition to trip planning and familiarization with the region’s waterways. “Just as Google Street View is a valuable instrument and a trusted way for businesses to connect with customers, Waterway View has the potential to be the most exciting new resource for the boating lifestyle,” MIASF CEO Phil Purcell said in a statement. The app, he added, can connect boaters with “restaurants, marinas, fuel docks, service and sales centers, and all the other resources they may need.” Waterway View will be offered as a free download available on the Apple and Android platforms. Users can follow a “blue line” on the map through the ICW and major feeder waterways in Palm Beach, Broward,

Notable New Titles Shakedown Cruise: Lessons and Adventures from a Cruising Veteran as He Learns the Ropes by Nigel Calder Adlard Coles Publishing 208 pages

I approached Nigel Calder’s latest book with the usual trepidation. Once again, the Grand Master of boats and systems had chosen a topic — in this case, his first real seagoing adventure — and put it into book form. It’s hard to get one’s mind around Calder’s world, so thorough is his process and so seemingly omniscient his point of view. It’s useful, certainly, but it’s also intimidating. He knows all things. This is an extraordinary book, however, since he pulls back the curtain on how he came to be Nigel Calder, takes us back to 1987 when he was a novice — a hippie who wanted to go sailing but didn’t know much about the subject. Calder wrote

this book shortly after he returned from his first extended journeys on Nada with his wife Terrie and their young children. But the manuscript sat in a drawer for 30 years only to be “dusted off” this past year and revisited by the author. If the book had been published shortly after the Calder family’s return, the result would have been just another sailing book about a family’s adventures and misadventures at sea. But it’s because we know how the story turns out, that Calder would spend the next 30 years devoted to the subject of cruising boats and attain the status of an expert, that this beginner’s story is so valuable and intriguing. We learn that sailing is not easy for the Calder family. Each member suffers from seasickness on rough passages. When Terrie and Nigel sailed from Louisiana in 1987, their daughter was only a year old, and Terrie was three months pregnant. What follows is one hardship after another: rough seas, broken gear

and nearconstant adverse winds. They intended a circumnavigation; they only made it as far as Venezuela before turning back, realizing the dream was simply not worth the trouble. At one point, Calder describes transiting north from Venezuela to St. Lucia. Their infant son is running a fever from infection, their 2-year-old daughter is seasick and vomiting — which soon provokes the same in Terrie — and soon everyone is throwing up. The winds are adverse (of course), and a 2-knot current is pushing them off course. Calder himself is soon sick and barely able to control the boat. The situation gets worse and culminates in a scene that is so awful he somehow finds humor. Again

and again, Calder admits to foibles and mistakes, which make the journey sound horrible but also true to life. This is no pleasure cruise, but what emerges is a story and a narrative voice that is at turns thoughtful, funny and brilliant. After this journey, it’s incredible that Calder stuck with it. His subsequent devotion to his subject and his prolific body of published work are remarkable because of his ability to slowly and methodically work through a puzzle and not become deterred by adversity. Just as inspiring, however, was his realization that, by giving up his dream to circumnavigate and devoting himself to shorter sailing adventures and then writing about boats, he could be an even better father and husband. Twain Braden


Chatter Chartroom


Sailor makes four distress calls before leaving boat A sailor in distress 700 miles off the coast of Mexico was rescued by the AMVER-participating ship Express Berlin.

In an apparent first for the Automated Mutual-Assistance Vessel Rescue System (AMVER) a yachtsman off the coast of Mexico called in four ship visits before finally abandoning his boat. In January, AMVER — a 60-year-old U.S. Coast Guard system that directs commercial ships to vessels in distress — processed four

Michael Schindler

distress calls from a 76-yearold solo sailor with engine trouble on a journey from Cabo San Lucas to Los Angeles. Coast Guard search and rescue personnel in Los Angeles received a notification in January from the Garmin/inReach Emergency Call Center that the sailor — on a 45-boat with no EPIRB — was disabled and adrift approximately 700 miles 8 OCEAN NAVIGATOR MAY/JUNE 2018

west of Cabo San Lucas. He requested a mechanic to help him repair the boat’s engine. Benjamin Strong, the civilian director of AMVER Maritime Relations, said that when no Coast Guard assets were available nearby to respond, the service turned to his system. The closest vessel was the 587foot bulk carrier Indigo Lake, which was 340 miles from the sailboat. The captain of the Hong Kongflagged ship agreed to divert and began heading for the location. When Indigo Lake arrived, it rigged a safety net and pilot ladder and provided a lee for the disabled sailboat. The sailor, who was never identified publicly, declined to abandon his craft and instead requested help repairing his engine. The captain of Indigo Lake decided he could not safely put crew aboard the sailboat, and he was released by the Coast Guard to continue his journey after spending 32 hours on site. The sailor reported to the Coast Guard that he would be able to sail to Los Angeles even though his boat's sails were tattered.

AMVER personnel were still concerned and located the 646-foot Norwegianflagged general cargo ship Star Gran. It agreed to divert. Star Gran was able to secure lines to the sailboat and lower its chief engineer to troubleshoot the engine. Star Gran also brought the sailor on board, where he was given breakfast and was able to sleep and talk to the Coast Guard via satellite phone. He decided to continue his attempt to reach Los Angeles, and Star Gran was released by the Coast Guard after 14 hours assigned to the case. The following day the sailor again contacted the Coast Guard, saying that while trying to tighten a belt, he had turned off the boat’s engine and could not restart it. AMVER located the Greek-flagged containership Express Berlin and the captain agreed to divert to help. Express Berlin put a team of engineering crewmembers on the sailboat to troubleshoot the engine and install new batteries. For the third time, the sailor refused to leave his vessel. Express Berlin was then released, only to be recalled several hours later

Coast Pilot and COLREGS together at last

Tim Queeney

when the sailor stated he now was ready to abandon ship. The sailor safely embarked the containership and was to remain on board until it reached its next port in Taiwan. Express Berlin spent 10 hours responding to the case. Having to direct assistance to the same vessel four times “is unique in my experience” of running the system for 13 years, Strong said. Typically only one interaction is required. Strong said that often a diverted ship will take the crew of the distressed vessel on board and abandon the craft because it’s impractical to tow a small vessel behind a large ship for long distances. But if the sailor is not in life-threatening distress, he said the usual response is “let’s get him fixed up and on his way. It’s not uncommon for a commercial ship to provide food, water, batteries or fuel if a vessel is capable of getting underway. We can’t force them off the boat.” In this case, Strong said, after the first interaction “things started to spiral (and go) terribly wrong.” More than 22,000 ships from hundreds of nations are enrolled in AMVER. Bill Bleyer

The collision regula-

Tangling with ICW bridges Editor’s note: Former Ocean Navigator finance guy Ken Koehler is currently at Marathon Key aboard his Tayana 37, Surrender, after a passage south that included both the Intracoastal Waterway and segments offshore. Here is his take on the sometimesfrustrating experience of dealing with the drawbridges on the ICW. From West Palm Beach to Fort Lauderdale is, in my opinion, the worst part of the ICW. I did it at night to avoid other boats. I had 20 bridges to open, many of which were on restricted schedules. But my luck ran out in Fort Lauderdale. Florida has so many opening bridges in such a small area that bridge operators and boaters can be confused about who they are talking to. I had an incident where I knew the 17th Street Bridge was opening in five minutes, so I radioed them for permission to pass through and I gave them my position. I got a response from a

tions can be a useful tool

woman that called my vessel’s name and said to come on. I watched the bridge open and gave it more throttle. Some megayachts in the 120- to 160-foot range were passing through. When I got about 500 feet from the bridge, however, it started to close. I radioed the bridge tender and got no response. I had a 3-knot current behind me and a 10-knot headwind — it took all I could to stop. With all these big boats and a bunch of small ones, I had to try to turn around so I didn’t get sucked under the bridge. I finally got turned around while continuing to hail the bridge. Finally, someone on the radio said, “I don’t talk while I’m operating the bridge, and I didn’t give you permission to go through.” I asked if he had seen me, and he replied that yes, he saw me, and I would have to wait a half-hour until the next opening. That’s when I decided I was going offshore. Ken Koehler

when dealing with other vessel traffic, and the Coast Pilot publications contain plenty of useful info as well. But that’s two books you’d need to stock on your nav bookshelf. Now the Coast Guard and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have teamed up on a consolidated publication that will help mariners save some time and money. The Coast Guard Office of Navigation Systems and NOAA Office of Coast Survey will incorporate the amalgamated International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea 1972 (COLREGS) and the Inland Navigation Rules into NOAA’s U.S. Coast Pilot publications. To access the Coast Pilot, visit https://www. nauticalcharts.noaa. gov/publications/coastpilot/index.html. n Tim Queeney


MARINE tech Notes

Antenna challenges

BY Tim queeney

This installation at Glenn Tuttle’s KPK station is an example of a highly directional, Yagitype antenna.

hether it be VHF, HF SSB or satcom, radio communications is impossible without an antenna. Marine electronics installers and ham radio enthusiasts know this and will pay particular attention to getting antenna installations correct. Why are these elements so important and will the increasing use of satellite-based communications make the antenna issue a thing of the past? Any electrical conductor can act as an antenna — you just need electrons flowing through it. Depending on its size and the material used and some other factors, this antenna may be well suited or a complete bust at the task of efficiently radiating a particular radio frequency. The length of an efficient antenna is tied to the frequency you’re trying to radiate; the accepted rule is that a quarter-wave antenna will be in the sweet spot of efficiency and manageable size. In the case of marine very high frequency (VHF) radio, the frequencies used are short enough so that the small antenna you place at your boat’s masthead is good enough to fulfill the quarter-


Glenn Tuttle


wave requirement. For example, for 156.8 MHz, which is marine VHF channel 16, the full length of a single wave is 6.27 feet and the quarter-wave is 1.56 feet. When we move on to the marine high-frequency (HF) band, which is roughly 4 MHz to 26 MHz, we’re talking about lower frequencies than VHF and thus longer wavelengths. A 1.56-foot antenna clearly won’t be suitable for our quarter-wave antenna. Take the lower end of the band: 4 MHz. The full wavelength at that frequency is 246 feet, and a quarter-wave is 61 feet. A 61-foot long whip antenna

might prove unwieldy to mount on a voyaging boat. Not only that, but we will probably want to broadcast and receive at more than just that one frequency. We can get close to the proper length by using a nice long wire. One of the longest wires on a voyaging boat is the backstay — few boats are big enough, however, to have a 61-foot backstay. The way around this problem is to use an antenna tuner. This is a way to change the electrical length of the backstay antenna and allow us to transmit on a variety of frequencies. When we transmit from a boat, whether at VHF or HF

frequencies, we are sending radio energy out in all directions. This omnidirectional approach makes sense because as our boat moves and changes course, the direction to other boats and receiving stations on shore will change. What if you’re a small HF coast station like one of the members of the new Trans-Atlantic Cruisers’ Net sponsored by Seven Seas Cruising Association (see this issue’s special section on communications for more on this) and you want to send your radio energy out over the ocean and not toward land areas? The solution for these intrepid radio operators

The driven element radiates the signal; the other elements radiate it as well but slightly later so they are out of phase with the driven element. The two elements are set up such that when their signals combine they are in phase. The signal going to the other end of the antenna with the single cross element ends up out of phase. The result is that a very strong signal goes in one direction and a weak signal goes in the other direction (check out the excellent animation at Yagi–Uda_antenna). This is the way that stations like KPK can use their Yagi antennas to send their

is to use a directional antenna. An insulated backstay element is officially considered a dipole antenna. Coast station operators like Glenn Tuttle of KPK in Punta Gorda, Fla., often use a type of antenna called a Yagi. This antenna type looks like an old-fashioned TV antenna on steroids. It has a long central beam crossed at 90 degrees by several shorter elements. One of those cross elements is fed by the hot antenna lead from the radio. This driven element is usually offset from the center so that there are, for example, two elements on one side of the feed line and one element on the other.


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signals out over the ocean and better serve their marine users. What about antennas used for satellite communications? The sight of fiberglass domes on ships and large yachts has become standard. Inside those domes are stabilized dish antennas, a different animal entirely from the long wire HF antenna or even the multielement Yagi. Since most satcom services — such as Inmarsat — make use of geostationary satellites, they are attempting to pick up signals from 23,000 miles away. That means a simple dipole isn’t enough for sending and receiving

a high bit rate; they must use a dish to concentrate all the available signals to the receiving element, and stabilizing motors are needed to keep the dish aimed at the satellite. What about satellite phones? Inmarsat, the Iridium satellite system and Globalstar system all offer satellite phones with simple antennas. One reason is that these services use UHF signals, which allow for a shorter antenna. In Inmarsat’s case, the signals do go out to geostationary satellites and back again. But Inmarsat is able to keep the antenna small by keeping the data rate low compared to its

Rumery’s Boat Yard On the Saco River for the past 50 years

dish-stabilized services. Iridium and Globalstar also use small antennas on their phones. But in the case of these two services, they make use of low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellites that are only in 500-mile-high orbits. There are a several companies, such as SpaceX, that have announced global Internet satellite service. These services will make use of thousands of LEO satellites to provide high data rates to users worldwide, which will include voyagers at sea. It will be interesting to see how these companies will solve the antenna challenge. n

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Communications expert Gordon West reports

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– Sail Magazine


power voyaging

Exhaust system design Story and Photos by STEVE D’ANTONIO


here are two approaches to marine exhaust setups. “Wet” exhausts, the type that inject seawater into the exhaust gases to cool and quiet them, are by far the most common. Dry exhaust systems, on the other hand, utilize a stack or pipe not unlike those seen on large commercial vessels and trucks for that matter. The reason for wet exhaust’s popularity, however, is not because of its reliability. It is, in fact, quite the contrary: Wet exhaust systems are known not only for their propensity for failure, they are also renowned for their complexity and expense. To be fair, however, nearly all of the failures I’ve seen are a direct result of poor design and incorrect material selection. If wet exhaust systems are so trouble prone and costly, then why, you might ask, are they so common? There’s essentially one reason — vessels need to be designed around a dry exhaust. The exhaust gases, which can be as hot as 1,000° F, must be conveyed from the engine room to a high point on the vessel as directly as

sible, which usually necessitates passing them through saloon, galley or other living areas, taking into consideration both temperature and acoustic issues. Conceiving and building a structure that incorporates this “plumbing” is no small task and it needs to be taken into account early on in the design process. Builders who utilize dry exhausts know this all too well. The wet system Wet exhausts, on the other hand, carry no such requirements and it accounts for their popularity; they are flexible designs that allow builders the freedom to place them without the concerns that accompany dry exhausts. However, they have their own set of concerns and requirements. Because the water cools the exhaust gases shortly after they leave the engine, they can be routed aft and low through the vessel and to the transom, or to an underwater discharge compara-

tively easily and with little concern for heat generation or insulation using hose or fiberglass tubing. While that sounds straightforward enough, accomplishing it in a manner that is reliable, safe and meets engine manufacturer requirements can be quite challenging. Fundamentally, the goal of a wet exhaust system is to cool and expel exhaust gases Above, exhaust risers allow water to be injected into the dry exhaust stream above the waterline, preventing

while preventing water from backing up into and ruining the engine. This usually involves utilizing an injected elbow or riser, a device that injects water into the exhaust gases. An integral aspect of a wet exhaust sys-

water from backing up into the engine. Left, if the injection angle is too shallow, water may back up.


power voyaging

tem involves the injected elbow’s height above the vessel’s LWL, or loaded waterline. The required height varies from engine manufacturer to engine manufacturer; however, in the case of Cummins Diesel (their engine installation manual is a respectable 161 pages long, and the section on exhaust systems alone fills 17 pages) the bottom of the exhaust manifold or turbocharger outlet must be a minimum of 12 inches above the LWL. If this is not the case for a given design, then a riser may be added to increase this height. Whichever approach is used, a number of caveats will apply. Water injected into the exhaust gas stream should be in a diffused or spray pattern through a series of holes that are about fivesixteenths of an inch in diameter (about the size of a pencil), and

Above, unlike this one, wet exhaust runs between the injected elbow, and the water-lift muffler must always be a downward slope. Above right, exhaust hoses can overheat, burn and be pierced if water flow to the exhaust system is interrupted or if the injection angle is too shallow. 14 OCEAN NAVIGATOR MAY/JUNE 2018   

the injection should be parallel to rather than perpendicular with the flow of exhaust gases. The number of holes is a function of the water flow rate. In this manner, the water surrounds the exhaust gases, cooling them evenly and avoiding hot spots that could lead to hose or fiberglass tube failures. Unless a water-lift muffler is used (more on this below), the flow of water from the point of injection until it exits the vessel must be on a continuous downward slope (quoting Cummins’ guidelines again) of two degrees or one half-inch of drop for every 12 inches of run. The angle of the elbow itself is especially critical: 15 degrees from horizontal is the bare minimum for Cummins, others specify 25 degrees; more is better and vertical is best. If the angle is too shallow, not only is there a risk of water backing up into the elbow through the turbo or exhaust manifold and exhaust valves and into the cylinders, the injection water also tends to pool in the bottom of the hose or fiberglass tube, leaving the top exposed to hot exhaust gases, which leads to localized overheating and possible failure. Counterintuitively, this problem often manifests itself at lower rpm, when less water is being pumped by the engine.

Right, all exhaust components should be insulated or protected to prevent touchable surfaces from exceeding 200° F. This elbow’s insulation is insufficient to meet this goal.

Temperature guidelines While on the subject of temperature, in order to comply with ABYC guidelines, no portion of the exposed exhaust system — dry or wet — may exceed 200° F under any operating conditions, and dry portions of the exhaust system must be no closer than six inches to combustible materials such as wood or fiberglass. Typically, in the sea trials I conduct I rarely see the wet portion of an exhaust system with a temperature exceeding 150° F; anything higher than that is cause for concern. All wet exhaust systems should be equipped with high-temperature alarms. It’s a requirement for ABYC compliance, and these should be tested annually. Clearly, this means that the dry portion, the section before the water injection elbow, requires insulation or at the very least

rect simply because it works, or because the vessel is new.

mum of 12 inches above the LWL when measured to the bottom of the riser hose or tube. Exhaust system design and installation compliance is critically important. Never assume it’s cor-

a guard or shield, which must cover all surfaces that exceed this temperature. The insulation itself must be durable and fireproof and it must resist absorption of fuel, oil and coolant. Had I not seen it with my own eyes, I never would have believed it possible, however I once witnessed exhaust system insulation catch fire moments after it had absorbed spilled coolant. Obviously, fuel and oil are of equal or greater concern. If the necessary rise above the LWL and the continuous downward slope cannot be achieved in an exhaust system installation, an alternative exists. The aforementioned water-lift muffler provides installers an option for achieving a compliant wet exhaust. The waterlift muffler provides an artificial waterline of sorts to which the exhaust is then referenced. However, the water lift’s own internal resting waterline must still be a minimum of 12 inches below the bottom of the engine’s exhaust or turbo outlet, and the discharge from the water-lift muffler must still form a riser that is a


Steve D’Antonio is an ABYCcertified master technician and owns Steve D’Antonio Marine Consulting.

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Using the Iridium GO satphone

Baxter Gillespie has his Iridium GO unit mounted at his nav station below the SSB radio.

To the editor: A few years ago we purchased an Iridium GO satphone unit. We’ve had excellent results getting email, using voice and downloading weather (both gribs and updating our weather routing). Since there is so much information about the Iridium GO, here was our approach for researching and buying: First we read voyager Behan Gifford’s post on the Iridium GO, “Iridium GO

with PredictWind for weather and more,” which can be found at her blog, Sailing Totem. We also met and spoke to Behan at the Annapolis Boat Show before buying. Her post is really great and answered many of our questions, such as where to buy, best service plan options and how to use the GO. 16 OCEAN NAVIGATOR MAY/JUNE 2018  

We then subscribed to PredictWind so that we could get its weather forecasts. If you watch some of the YouTube sailing shows, Sailing SV Delos has a cool video of using PredictWind.  We bought PredictWind’s ~$129/month Iridium GO sat package. This was a good choice for us because it came with unlimited data and you can move down in the packages on a month-to-month basis in case you’re not using the GO or cruising actively — which is great for when we’re sitting out the winter in the U.K. We then downloaded the GO apps from Apple’s App Store (there are Android apps too) as well as the PredictWind app so that we have the Web features on our tablet.  From a practical perspective, here is our pre-departure method for using the GO and PredictWind for weather routing, email and voice: 1. Before we leave, we use the departure planning feature to compare four days of weather. We use the Internet connection of PredictWind to do this. 2. When we’re offshore, we use the GO to get daily weather via PredictWind and to update our automatic weather

routing. We also get email and make calls if necessary. 3. Email is simple to use. You flip up the antenna, make sure the Wi-Fi on your device is set for Iridium, make sure you are logged into the Iridium GO app, open the Iridium mail app and click the cloud on the very bottom left that says “Send/Receive.” 4. I would suggest typing emails before you turn the GO on, as it will save battery. Once you type them, they’ll go in your outbox and then you can flip it on and send when you’re ready. 5. You will be assigned an Iridium email address that’s different than your current offshore email, so you’ll need to give that email to anyone who wants to contact you offshore. We have never had the GO not connect or have it lose a connection. We have the railmount antenna and have it situated near our SSB antenna. The GO is charged by a separate battery so you don’t need the antenna, but we thought it would be nice and allow a semi-permanent mount of the GO. —Baxter and Molly Gillespie live aboard their 1982 Valiant 47, Terrapin, and are currently in Plymouth, U.K.

Thoughts on bilge management To the editor: The recent article by 4. If even the slightest drop or Jeff Merrill on bilge maintenance teaspoon of water is seen during a (“Tasteless bilge water,” March/April bilge inspection, you know you have 2018) was well written and provided a problem somewhere and you need some excellent details and suggesto find it and fix it. tions. 5. If or when our My take is that if dry deep bilge alarm your bilge is not bone goes off, I know I Tasteless bilge water Y dry during normal have a major problem operations, then here is since that bilge should what you need to do: always be bone dry and 1. Identify all posclean. That has only sible “normal” minor happened once in the drips — engine shaft last 12 years, and it was seal, rudder shaft seal, a very high adrenaline air conditioning conmoment.   densate, refrigerator 6. No well-designed box or ice box drain, boat should be without large dorades — that might allow a water catchment system to handle water into the bilge. the routine minor drips, completely 2. Build a catchment system for separate from the primary bilge all these normal drips and lead them pump systems.  n  to one or more small “bilge boxes”   with a dedicated small float switch —Marilyn Kinsey sails a Bristol 35.5C named and pump. This system should norAdena. mally maintain a dry bilge, which does not smell, does not risk oils Jeff Merrill responds: Thank you very being pumped overboard, requires much for your suggestions. My artilittle power consumption, etc. It is cle ran much longer than I originally not expensive to install a small box, intended and I’m actually outlining a sensor and pump.  second related piece on bilge pumps 3. Clean the bilge thoroughly of and was going to include “water all residue, dirt, oil film, etc., and boxes” — I’ve seen them used for dry it with towels or a fan. The bilge shower sumps and air conditioning should always be dry, smell clean condensates.  and have a really big bilge pump It is difficult to write an alland sensor designed to eliminate encompassing article that applies to any major leakage. The large pump every situation, given the many difshould always be ready to operate, ferent hull shapes and bilge arrangeand the float switch pristinely clean. ments. power voyaging


ou could argue that there are many “most important” systems on your trawler: diesel fuel delivery systems, firefighting systems, head and holding tank systems, electrical systems, etc. These are obviously all essential. Yet, there is one system that is often overlooked and should always be “on duty.” Bilge water is undesirable and, as such, your bilge pump system is critical. It needs to be ready 24/7 (whether you are aboard or not) and may need to be placed in service at a moment’s notice. On an active trawler, the ability to empty unwanted water from inside your bilges should be considered a performance feature right up there with being able to stop (anchor), steer and run your engines. Your bilge water removal system isn’t as glamor-

11_15_ON246_pow_voy.indd 11

ous as your hydraulic, electric or diesel systems, but from a practical standpoint bilge pumps for safe operations simply cannot be ignored. Dialing-in your trawler’s bilges starts with a few questions: How long has it been since you cleaned out your boat’s bilge? When was the last time you added some fresh water to your bilge to confirm your pumps are discharging? Do you have a “bilge boom” to absorb errant fuel and water? Periodic maintenance and regular inspections, including practice flush runs, will confirm operational status. Don’t assume anything. Like most systems on your boat, regular exercise keeps the parts ready

and will let you know if there is anything that needs attention. My priorities when I board a trawler are to first go to the electrical panel to determine the status of battery voltage, and then to check the bilge level. I can relax after confirming there is power coming in and we aren’t sinking. Similarly, when I depart a trawler that will be away for an extended period, I confirm that the bilge pump breakers are on and that shore power is coming in to power the pumps. Bilge pumps will evacuate all fluids, including oil and fuel. There are heavy fines for discharging diesel; any fuel/oil discharge from your trawler is an offense and the authorities

Above, the bilges on a

power voyag-

ing vessel like this Selene

55 need to be treated as a

critical system. Left, a typical trawler bilge with pump,

float switch,

shoe and tide stick.


1/19/18 3:06 PM



Rick Meisner

Rolling down the

fickle trades O

Above, the start of the ARC is a crowded affair as boats in Las Palmas ready for departure.

n my way out of the door to join my two shipmates in Las Palmas, Canary Islands, for a trans-Atlantic passage, I ripped out the November page of the North Atlantic Pilot Chart. The chart clearly showed that 70 percent of the time the wind blew from the northeast or east-northeast, and only 1 percent of the time were there calm conditions. Translation: We would have wind —and from the right direction — and a becalming was a remote 100-to-1 shot. Also, there was a long-standing sailing plan for this voyage (think Christopher Columbus), with no Gulf Stream or other testing


North Star’s Atlantic Surprise BY RICK MEISNER

obstacles. The upshot? Let’s not overthink this thing. Like they say in the islands, let’s go “dat way, mon.” The assumptions Here’s what we assumed we knew going into the voyage. Pilot charts are a good indicator of what will likely happen on a given voyage, and at its core, Las Palmas to the Caribbean is a simple trip governed by simple truths. There is a classic route, which we would take, sailing southwest to reach the trade winds and then hanging a right for St. Lucia (our destination). The trade winds would blow — because that’s what they do and have

done for centuries to earn their name, and we certainly would not be becalmed. There would be no need for radical course deviations, and certainly no need to be significantly south of St. Lucia’s latitude (14° N). And now I write these words after a very surprising trans-Atlantic crossing during which I came to recognize the following: • I should have burned the November pilot chart rather than take it along. Nothing it said had validity for our voyage. • Las Palmas to St. Lucia is not so simple; it may, in fact, require a most convoluted course. • The trade winds may stop,

Birute Juodeniene

The scene Las Palmas and the World Cruising Club host arguably the most exciting and wellattended sailboat rally in the world, the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC), first envisioned by Jimmy Cornell. Now in its 33rd year, and with more than 200 boats of all

Above, North Star crew in Las Palmas; from left, Rick Meisner, Ted Rice and Henry DiPietro. Below, becalmed in the trades north of the Cape Verde Islands.

systems. But no change was necessary to North Star’s solid, overbuilt, seakindly nature. She was designed for long-distance ocean sailing, pure and simple. Ted has come to know his boat like a book, down to every bolt and hose. He is an affable yet serious man, befitting his U.S. Navy career as a ballistic sub captain. Ted had sailed North Star across in 2014 with the help of Henry DiPietro, a fine and experienced ocean sailor with an infectious laugh who brings a wealth of creativity and good spirits to any boat he’s on. Both Ted and Henry have joined me for voyages on WildHorse, my Valiant 42 cutter, so we know each other’s moves and complement each other’s skills. We get along, and boats like us. The start The parade of 183 boats to the starting line on Nov. 19th was a mix of spectacular and manic. There were, in fact, two marching bands, and it seemed like all of Las Palmas

Rick Meisner

for nothing in this ocean world is constant. • That 100-to-1 bet? You should take those odds, for you will be becalmed and more than once. • The route you take will be anything but “classic.” • You will learn to love the sailing at 12° N, well south of your destination. I always try to ask myself after a major voyage, “What’s the lesson? What have you learned?” Well, how about this: If you want to look smart, keep your mouth shut and sail the conditions presented. If you are determined to look like a meathead, go ahead and make a host of assumptions about a voyage yet to happen. Now here’s the story.

nationalities, makes, sizes and experience, the weeks preceding the rally see a steady influx of boats and crew, all with one key intent — to sail across the Atlantic Ocean. The fact that the rally ends on a gorgeous Windward Island in the Caribbean just before Christmas makes for exciting and exotic holiday prospects. There is tremendous organization to this event, including all manner of seminars, weather briefings, safety inspections and parties, parties, parties. The waterfront becomes transformed into a beehive of frantic boat and crew preparations. Arriving in the last week before the start, we enjoyed the dockside adrenaline, but for me and my mates it was all about making a trans-Atlantic passage with close friends that I’d sailed with for years. Our skipper was Ted Rice, the owner of North Star, a stout, seaworthy 1983 Shannon 38 pilothouse cruiser. Ted is the third owner of the boat and has worked hard to improve and update all her


Henry DiPietro

civility and good sense reigned (the ARC is a “rally,” but with a racing undertone. Times are taken, handicaps applied and there is an actual racing division. Cruising boats can race as well, and can use their engines with corresponding time deduction factors applied at the end in St. Lucia). So we were off — Sunday at 1300 in a light northeast breeze, all in good spirits with

had turned out to cheer on each boat. There is a natural squeeze point at the harbor entrance that demands single file and provides a fine spectator area that was overflowing. Outside the harbor, the start line was guarded by a large Spanish CG cutter, impossible to miss. All skippers had been advised against aggressive start tactics and seemed to comply. With nearly 3,000 nm to go,

Above, all systems shut down,

North Star is becalmed. Below left,

North Star’s route through the less-thansteady northeast trades required them to sail farther south than expected.







10° W

Las Palmas 30° N

A t l a n t i c O c e an

St. Lucia





Becalmed in the Trades



North Star’s Route



10° N

smartphones snapping and my GoPro recording. It was a grand and festive sight with 183 sailboats spreading their wings, all heading to the New World. Soon, however, we were alone on a big sea, the other boats reduced to radar and AIS images. It had looked like the first 24 hours would allow us to gain our sea legs, boats and crews gradually adjusting to the rhythm of the sea. But that was not to be. The first night The first night just beat the hell out of us. We had been warned of an “acceleration zone” when heading south along the east side of the island. This zone had often spurred winds to twice their gradient strength, and it did so for North Star, turning a pleasant 15 knots into a mean-spirited 30-plus knots, along with a nasty 6- to 8-foot short period chop. Everything and everybody got tested at once — and it just would not quit. We kept reassuring each other, “It’s just the acceleration zone,” but it would not quit. The first major loss was our electric autopilot, and the next was our Auto-Helm wind vane, leaving us with mandatory hand-steering in a rainy, windy, bouncy mess. No one slept and we were left at dawn a cranky, salty, wounded crew cursing everything but ourselves. So much for gaining our sea legs. The next surprise was how suddenly the wind departed — almost as if it had been sated with our pound of flesh and

Becalmed in the trades When after a significant investment of fuel we thought it safe to turn west and find the trades, we did so — and ran smack

dab into the most amazing, profound “Great Blue Windless Hole.” It was heartbreaking but it was also gorgeous: perfect weather for what looked like hundreds of miles, with not a ripple in the sea. Just an extraordinary zen-like, midocean experience that brought us to another fateful decision.

our becalming, a breath of air steadied up from the east, followed by the trickling sound of North Star’s full keel on the move, and by morning we were under full sail heading west in what felt like the return of the trades. And now a rhumb line to St. Lucia? Wrong. Our breeze was the

We had learned from the ARC daily net that a number of boats were diverting to Mindelo in Cape Verde to refuel and carry out repairs. We could do the same and start anew, with our modest payload restored. But one of us boiled the decision down to its core: “Are we a sailboat, or not?” Well, when you put it that way! We elected to shut everything down and enjoy the amazing conditions, rest up and wait for the wind. We were now a pure sailboat the rest of the way (more than 2,000 nm), with only enough fuel for twice-daily charging and a small emergency supply. By late on the second full day of

equivalent of fool’s gold, and soon revealed itself as an imposter.

Ted Rice and Rick Meisner enjoy fast sailing at 12° N.

Henry DiPietro

had crept back into its lair to sleep off its binge. And so, we were left with no wind but also a very active seaway yet to settle down. What to do? Well, it was so early in the trip we knew we should just suck it up and wait for some wind (after all, it blows northeast most of the time, so why not just wait?). Then came a series of weather reports: There would be no wind, or spotty at best, until a good distance south and east of the Cape Verde Islands. It is fair to note there was a “northern route” option that some boats took that skirted a forecasted low and promised more initial wind. But it looked chancy to us and given that you needed to be fast to stay ahead of the front or face significant headwinds and heavy conditions, we decided that was not within our “polars.” So after nearly two days of bobbing around with scant progress, one among us said, “You know, this is a rally, not a real race.” Within a few minutes of that subtle call to arms, our trusty Perkins diesel came to life and we pointed due south to “20/20” (20° N by 20° W). We were promised wind along that course closer to the African continent, and we did have it in fits and starts, engine off and sailing, engine back on, motorsailing.

The weather The weather itself was generally good, but the winds were quixotic and anything but the steady predictable winds expected. The trades were being deflated by a large trough to the north, strong enough to cut a windless swath along the traditional trade routes. We were in the middle of the prime area affected, and all traditional weather patterns had gone AWOL. The result was that any rhumb line sail to St. Lucia was hopeless. Instead, our own gribs, PredictWind and our OCEAN NAVIGATOR MAY/JUNE 2018 21


Rick Meisner

daily weather advisor, Chris Parker from Marine Weather Center (, were in agreement on a more tortuous path. The issue now for North Star was that we had to sail; we could not just motor across a calm area to fetch wind. Yes, we had enough fuel for charging but not much more, and we were still on the fat side of 2,000 nm to go. When Chris Parker first said the most consistent, strongest wind was at 12° N, we all scoffed (St. Lucia lies at about 14° N). “No freakin’ way we sail 120 nm out of our way, then have to make up the same 120 on the return northward.” This attitude reigned for a day or so of measly westward progress before we succumbed. We picked up a SSE breeze that we could put on our port beam and rode the apparent air all the way down to 12° N — and there found five straight days of incredible hull-speed sailing, which meant 140 nm each 24 hours (big mileage for the 38-foot North Star). We were heading dead west and tearing a big chunk out of the course. Chris was right, as usual. Back north, another Big Blue Windless Hole was forming and we wanted no part of it as it moved westward and to the north of us. Against all odds and our initial doubts, we were happy to be sailing the hell out of 12° N. But inevitably, those who go south of their destination must turn north, and so we did, reluctantly at 12° N by 53° W,

Above, Henry DiPietro works the bow on a downwind run.

and like someone slowly choking off a hose, the wind became spotty, then light, then nothing. Becalmed in the trades again! That 100-to-1 shot was sure haunting us. We were still more than 400 nm SSE of the island and needed to move. We tried all our light-air tricks, but on 3 to 5 knots of air our stout vessel was virtually at rest. Our gribs showed east wind overtaking the area in a day or so. We groaned. Our previous becalming had been unique and enjoyable; this would be painful. Mr. Perkins to the rescue Capt. Ted went off in a corner with his log, a sheet of graph paper and a calculator. After an hour or more of analysis, he announced we had enough fuel to motorsail 12 hours at 1,100 rpm, barely above idle, but yielding 3.5 knots. We targeted where the wind would first return, switched on and (slowly) got the hell out of there.

We and the wind arrived at the targeted coordinates together — a minor miracle. Out came the whisker pole to windward and out went the main to leeward and North Star picked up her skirts and took off at a steady 6 knots, right on course for St. Lucia, dead downwind on the ESE breeze. “Yeah!” I heard in a chorus of three. This was it for us, sailing straight for the barn. The crash We sailed true and fast for the next two days, closing in on St. Lucia Channel, where we would gybe our way down to Rodney Bay and the finish line for an estimated 0300 landing. The wind was fine and steady, but we could feel a clammy humidity in the air for the first time — “squally,” we called it. Then Chris Parker confirmed a greatly increased chance of squalls on approach to St. Lucia. We had discussed our squall tactics, especially as we were closing the coast with

no moon; murky and hostile was the feel, dead black was the night. The St. Lucia Channel is broad, but if you want to carve a coastal route, great care must be taken. On any east air at least one gybe must be taken to head down the west side of the island. We had the best of intentions. We discussed squalls and our still-rigged whisker pole. We vowed two men in the cockpit at the first whiff of trouble, and all three of us on deck if any doubt. But good intentions are often defeated by something sinister and evil. A nasty, fast-moving squall overtook us with one man on deck. The result was calamitous. We were knocked down by the second big gust, port cabin top and portlights in the water. A major miss on our part: Three portlights were open for ventilation and on the knockdown spewed ocean water like fire hoses. There was a malicious roaring sound as we

Below, with laundry flying,

North Star at the dock at Rodney Bay Marina in St. Lucia.

conditions out on the bowsprit, the genoa still would not furl, and overhead the untethered whisker pole continued its assault. Overrides in the furler! With enough slack and by working the furler from a sitting position on the rail, the override broke free and we were able to furl the genoa, then drop and lash the pole. My God, it was a bad situation and left us with dry mouths and pounding hearts. At some point, Capt. Ted had started the engine (fuel supply be damned) and, after triple-checking for any sheets in the water, put her in gear to regain our control and heading. By now we were nearly at our gybe point, and we waited patiently to execute a controlled maneuver so as not to overstress the rig.

struggled to gear up and slosh through several inches of seawater flooding the cabin sole. If the scene was ugly below deck, it was our worst nightmare on deck. The whisker pole was out of control and clanging the forestay like it was determined to batter it down. The genoa, along with its sheets and foreguy were a tangled, torqued-up, volatile mess. The main, distended and prevented by two stout lines, was trying to gybe but could not. Our first reaction was to stare in wonder at the apocalyptic scene. The offending squall had departed as quickly as it came, but there were still 25-plus knots of gradient wind, enough to keep huge forces in the billowing canvas. One of us crept low and slow along the starboard gunnel to the bow and found the pole downhaul had wrapped tightly around the bowsprit and was preventing any effort to furl the genoa. After clearing that tangle under god-awful

The finish So on full main alone we skirted Burgot Rocks, made the turn at Pigeon Island and crossed the ARC finish line at 0345 local. We had sailed nearly 3,200 nm on a 2,700nm rhumb line course. We were exhausted but ebullient. The violence of the squall had left us chastised but whole, and with that strangely exhilarated. Later, we slept the sleep of thankful men, knowing that we might have done better, but with full realization that we had done pretty damn well. n Rick Meisner

Rick Meisner, a retired exeutive, sails his Valiant 42 WildHorse out of Watch Hill, R.I. OCEAN NAVIGATOR MAY/JUNE 2018Â 23


Understanding usage data rates

Stacy Payne/Network Innovations photos

Six steps to satcom BY DAVE BRENGELMANN

S Above, an Iridium satphone. Right, using a satellite Wi-Fi hotspot/ firewall like the RedPort Optimizer allows for using satcom data with a variety of devices.


atellite telephone airtime pricing has dropped considerably since Inmarsat launched the first communication satellites more than 30 years ago. In the 1980s, voice and data calls used an analog channel that was billed at $10 or more per minute. On board, crewmembers using a payphone to talk with loved ones had to pay $30 for a three-minute minimum. Now, however, most services are data based and prices have fallen. You still need to know what various services provide to make the right choices in satcom for your boat. The move toward data started with the rise of lowbandwidth data services like AOL, and commercial custom-

ers were able to take their messaging to sea using 2,400-baud modems at $8 dollars a minute. Taking advantage of this messaging convenience but trying to save money, users would compose their messages offline and then complete batch transmissions online. Times have changed, and so have technologies, services and costs.

In the 1990s, Inmarsat, Iridium and other carriers introduced new digital services and the rates slowly started to drop. Price models changed from per-minute billing to pricing by the bit. Service providers adopted technology that used satellites more efficiently, allowing users access to greater bandwidth. Even with

improved technology, highspeed data had only progressed to speeds of 64 Kbps and was still expensive. There have been megayachts that spend $7 dollars per minute for highspeed data with a monthly bill exceeding $300,000. Today, satellite data rates have come way down while data speeds have increased. Users on leisure boats are able to add satellite connectivity for greater safety and communication. Even with these price and speed improvements, one should never expect the same 4G speeds at sea that are achieved on land. How do cruise ships, commercial vessels and megayachts receive faster speeds and greater bandwidth? They have VSAT (very small aperture terminals) services utilizing C-, Ku- or Kaband networks. While VSAT systems offer lower airtime costs and unlimited data packages, huge expensive radomes (antennas) are required. These large domes, ranging in size from 60 cm to 1 meter, are not practical for recreational/longrange cruisers. Using L-band terminals and networks such as Inmarsat and Iridium can save long-range cruisers thousands and still provide connectivity anywhere. Most satellite airtime plans still charge by the megabyte, not the minute, and can exceed $25/MB. You need to take measures to protect yourself from unwanted data use. If you’re not careful, you will spend $75 dollars to send that selfie or thousands of dollars

for an automatic computer. Follow these steps to minimize your risk: Step 1: Get the right satphone Both Inmarsat and Iridium offer inexpensive phones, from hand-held to radomes. You may be fine with a hand-held phone and docking station, giving you flexibility to take the phone on the go. If your communications needs are more important, consider an external antenna mounted in your rigging. Look for hardware that features favorable service plans like the Iridium GO for global unlimited messaging or the Inmarsat Fleet One for the new unlimited data plan for coastal cruisers. Step 2: Find the right airtime plan based on anticipated usage The more you pay, the more you can play! If high data usage is anticipated, larger plans can be a smarter investment. The larger the plan, the less charge per bit and byte. You need to work with a trusted service provider so that plan can save hundreds of dollars. Step 3: Talk to your service provider and keep track of usage Many service providers can send usage alerts and cap your monthly spending. Have your service provider set a monthly maximum amount by volume or dollars. When the monthly limit is reached, service will be

suspended. Some items to consider: • Make sure that voice service is not included in the automatic suspension or you won’t be able to call and reactivate. • Once the monthly cap is set, have the service provider send a couple of test alerts to see how the reminders work. For example, for a $300 cap, set a reminder alert at the $150 threshold and another at $200 as reminders before the final suspension at $300. • Find a service provider that has online access to review bills, make payments and order airtime products. Warning: Some service providers will not stop a data transmission that is in progress. If you are not careful, your computer will be online for hours using the active connection to update software.

Above, an Inmarsat satellite phone.

Step 4: Install a firewall One of the most important safeguards is the installation of a firewall to prevent unwanted data usage. A firewall, if properly configured, will stop rogue data usage. Newly installed computers are pre-programmed to install automatic updates. Data traffic without a firewall can turn a simple afternoon software update into a $2,000 airtime bill. In the satellite communicaMAY/JUNE 2018 OCEAN NAVIGATOR  25


tions industry, two firewall providers are very popular — the Optimizer from RedPort and Sidekick by OCENS. Both offer built-in Wi-Fi and are compatible with most smart devices. Install one of these firewalls in between your satphone and computer, tablet or smartphone. Step 5: Web acceleration/ passwords Web acceleration is provided using on-the-fly data compression and can significantly reduce data volume. A compression service will strip out advertising and reduce picture resolution. Remember to secure your Wi-Fi with a password so neighbor-

ing vessels cannot hop on your network and run up bills. Step 6: Set up email Most satellite service providers provide email clients that are efficient and automated. These programs work well with modern smart devices, tablets and laptops. Email will be compressed prior to transmission, and email polling will be automated. For more information, check out SpeedMail (free for Network Innovations’ customers). With a little research and the right partner, satellite communications at sea are no longer just for commercial vessels. Anyone can have connectivity

on the water just like on land. With the proper compression, acceleration and security processes, hundreds of messages can be sent and received without destroying your cruising budget. Satellite Wi-Fi devices enable the access of personal smart devices for greater convenience and ease of use. For long-range cruisers, weather, email, texting, voice and tracking connectivity lets you get away from it all without leaving it all behind! n Dave Brengelmann has worked in the satellite phone industry for 25 years. He actively cruises with his family on his Beneteau 411. Email for more information.

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Four stations collaborate on net sponsored by Seven Seas Cruising Association

Glenn Tuttle

Atlantic HF radio net formed BY GLENN TUTTLE


even Seas Cruising Association ( and Marine Weather Center ( have announced the formation of a new high-frequency radio net specifically designed to assist trans-Atlantic cruisers. The net will begin operation on April 15, 2018, utilizing SSB frequency 12.350 at 2130 UTC (1730 Eastern Time) and will immediately precede Chris Parker’s scheduled weather broadcast on frequencies 8.137 USB and 12.350 USB at 2200 UTC. The back-and-forth migration of cruisers crossing the Atlantic occurs during just a few months of the year when

weather conditions favor the passage. Cruisers cross from the Caribbean or U.S. to Europe from April through June and from Europe heading west from November through January. These men and women range from solo sailors to crews of two and more, some crossing for the first time and others with years of transoceanic passages under their belt. Regardless of one’s experience level, all such passages may be challenging should weather, mechanical or medical issues arise. HF radio nets are the lifeblood of the long-distance cruising community. They

exist to keep cruisers connected, allow them to pass along vital information and call for assistance in the event of an emergency. Aside from an EPIRB, an HF SSB radio is the most effective means for long-distance cruisers to issue a distress call, as it enables them to reach multiple stations with one broadcast. A mayday call on an HF radio will be reported to the USCG, as well as heard by those on other vessels who may be able to assist.

Glenn Tuttle, left, and Dick Giddings, two of the coast station operators participating in the new Atlantic radio net, at Tuttle’s KPK setup in Punta Gorda, Fla.

A valuable resource In 2015, I approached the SSCA Board about initiating a dedicated HF Cruisers’ 27


Radio net. As a longtime cruiser, SSCA Commodore and amateur radio operator, I thought this would be a valuable resource for cruisers. Now operating seven days a week and licensed by the FCC as coastal station call sign KPK, this net allows cruisers to communicate with each other and with friends and family on shore. “SSCA is America’s largest and oldest cruising association and while we have members cruising around the world, the majority of them cruise in the Atlantic and Caribbean oceans,” said Kathy Barth, president of SSCA. I was delighted that the board agreed to sponsor a dedicated HF radio net. There were plenty of times while cruising in the Caribbean when we did not have Internet access or cellular service and needed some information or non-emergency assistance. Now, we could give our fellow cruisers that help. Chris Parker and associates

at the Marine Weather Center are widely regarded as experts in marine weather forecasting and routing for cruisers. Several years ago, Chris profoundly upgraded his HF radio capabilities with the installation of high-quality directional antennas and the ability to broadcast simultaneously on different marine frequencies. Over the years, Chris Parker has fielded countless calls for assistance and handled emergencies over the HF marine bands. The most recent case involved a single-handed sailor and subscribing vessel with the Marine Weather Center on passage from Bermuda to St. Thomas who lost his forestay and was in peril of being dismasted. Chris expertly guided this sailor through twicedaily radio contacts, providing him with essential weather information and advice on jury-rigging his standing rigging. In addition, Chris coordinated with the USCG, giving them daily updates on the sailor’s progress. The sailor sur-

vived gale-force winds and high seas and made it safely to San Juan. HF radio relies on propagation for effective communication. Fortunately, Chris had good propagation during this recent sailor’s situation in the Atlantic Ocean, but when there are propagation issues, relay stations play a crucial role as part of effective HF radio communications. Coastal stations KPK, KJM and KNC monitored Chris’s daily communications with the disabled vessel, prepared to assist should HF propagation disrupt their communications or if Chris experienced radio problems. Cruisers who follow Marine Weather Center and KPK have benefited from multiple stations working together to provide relays and enhanced communication — particularly during an emergency. Curt Barth, a longtime cruiser and SSCA commodore understood the importance of multiple stations working together, saw an opportunity to assist trans-Atlantic cruis-

Active Atlantic and Caribbean radio nets partnered with SSCA ers and asked the SSCA Board to authorize and support these efforts. “When any vessel has an emergency at sea, it’s vital that they have support and contact with people who may be able to help them, either by getting to their location or by providing valuable information,” said Barth. “Having four radio stations working together could certainly provide cruisers and their families with peace of mind and may save lives.” Other forms of communication As a result, four FCC coastal HF radio stations have collaborated to form this new Trans-Atlantic Cruisers’ Net. They are: Chris Parker on WCY in Lakeland, Fla., representing the Marine Weather Center; Glenn Tuttle on KPK in Punta Gorda, Fla., representing Seven Seas Cruising Association; Dick Giddings on KNC in Dover, N.C., representing the Cruiseheimers and Doo-Dah nets; and

Jim West on KJM in Ellijay, Ga., representing Maritime Mobile Service Net and SSCA. Coastal stations have a distinct advantage because they can utilize other forms of communication to effectively coordinate rescue efforts through telephone, email and fax, and do it consistently. For years, the popular Cruiseheimers marine SSB net and its follow-up Doo-Dah net have relied on a series of relay stations and vessels to maintain communications with boats from Nova Scotia to the Caribbean. Dick Giddings, also known as “St. Jude,” holder of FCC License KFR, operates a base station from his home in Dover, N.C., and is a frequent net controller for both the Cruiseheimers Net and his afternoon Doo-Dah Net. The Cruiseheimers Net begins at 0830 Eastern Time on SSB frequency 8.152, while the afternoon

Trans-Atlantic Cruisers’ Net sponsored by SSCA

This net begins April 15, 2018, at 2130 UTC on SSB frequency 12.350 and will be monitored by the following: from SSCA, Glenn Tuttle and Jim West; and from Cruiseheimers and Doo-Dah nets, Dick Giddings. Chris Parker with Marine Weather Center’s trans-Atlantic passage net will follow at 2200 UTC, also on SSB frequency 12.350. U.S. Coast and Caribbean nets

• WCY: Chris Parker representing Marine Weather Center. For Marine Weather Center’s East Coast and Caribbean schedules, see www. • KNC: Dick Giddings representing the Cruiseheimers and Doo-Dah nets. - Cruiseheimers: 0830 Eastern Time on SSB frequency 8.15 - Doo-Dah Net: 1700 Eastern Time on SSB frequency 8.152 • KJM: Jim West representing Maritime Mobile Service Net. • KPK: Glenn Tuttle representing Seven Seas Cruising Association. - SSCA Safety and Security Net: 0715 and

Below, a panoramic view of the communi-

0815 Eastern Time on SSB frequency 8.104

cations gear at Tuttle’s KPK station. Glenn Tuttle


Left, Dick Giddings with his radio gear for station KNC in Dover, N.C. Below, the view of the Georgia mountains


KJM station in Ellijay, Ga.

Jim West

Dick Giddings

Doo-Dah Net begins at 1700 on frequency 8.152. Jim West, an experienced sailor and amateur radio enthusiast, recently entered the marine SSB arena from his home in the mountains near Ellijay, Ga. Jim, a longtime net controller on the Maritime Mobile Service Net as well as the Waterway Radio and Cruising Club Net, also now holds FCC Coastal Station License KJM. Jim is active on both the Cruiseheimers and Doo-Dah nets as a relay station and is a partner on SSCA’s

from Jim West’s

HF radio service nets, which operate daily at 0715 and 0815 Eastern Time on frequency 8.104. The purpose of the TransAtlantic Cruisers’ Net will be to listen for any emergency or priority traffic, to pass marine safety information and to assist any vessel with our land-based services. These

services may include radio checks, float plans, telephone contact with family and friends, boat-toboat relays, access to medical or mechanical professionals, calls to marinas, Internet searches or other assistance. All members of this net are experienced in communicating with the USCG Rescue Coordination Center in Miami, Fla. I am also a member of the USCG Auxiliary as an HF operator. Utilizing a net control station and relay stations, this net should have effective communications with vessels making the transAtlantic passage between Europe and the Caribbean. This new net will welcome all vessels at no cost. These SSB nets do not require an amateur radio license, only a Restricted Radiotelephone Operator permit for the radio operator and a Radio Station Authorization license for the vessel. No tests are required for these licenses. n Glenn Tuttle operates coast station KPK and cruises with his wife aboard their 46-foot Grand Banks, Tothill.

Getting your most valuable voyaging data into the cloud

All backed up? Story and Photos BY JOHN J. KETTLEWELL


ost voyagers depend on an array of digital assets, from the basics like email, the Internet and assorted important documents, to more nautical essentials like charts, weather information and cruising guides. Many also carry digital books, movies, photographs and other items to make onboard life easier, safer and more pleasant. It is easy to store a lot of digital stuff on board on portable hard drives, USB sticks and DVDs. You will likely also have data stored in the cloud using some service such as Google Drive or Dropbox that requires a

tions link to the Internet. The question is how to manage this storage so that the essentials are not only safe but backed up and available when your hardware fails â&#x20AC;&#x201D; and it will fail! Check your assets First, make an inventory of your onboard digital assets, where they are located and what importance they have in the safe and proper management of your vessel. There are two basic levels of importance: critical and convenient. In the critical category are things like electronic charts, cruising guides and important documents including email,

copies of passports and visas, passwords, banking information, credit card information, billing and taxes, etc. Yes, you can always manage if some of these things are lost, but can you have fun cruising and not spend your time in port shuttling between telephones, banks, post offices and copy machines? The second category of convenient digital stuff includes music, videos, photos and books. These are things that are nice to have, but the safety of your voyage will not be compromised if they go missing. In an ideal world, we wouldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t have to worry about

The laptop computer is widely used on voyaging boats, but do you have a backup strategy that includes off-site backups using telecommunications and the cloud?



land-based 3-2-1 system and you are good to go. On small voyaging boats, backups might include not just one but two separate backup devices in addition to the drive on your computer. I have found that small portable hard drives are reasonably priced, quite durable and widely available just about everywhere. They have mostly replaced other means of storage, including CDs and Backup Strategy DVDs. SSDs are are even 3-Copies (1 original, 2 backups) more durable due to the 2-Different physical locations lack of moving parts. A 1-Cloud location good compromise might Backup drive be to have a reasonably sized solid-state drive on PC Cloud your main computer with at least two regular hard Backup drive drives for backups. The or Cloud? portable backups are so cheap that you could have more Critical mass than two backups if you are paraObviously, critical assets demand noid. They are small enough to hide top priority and care. Ashore, this easily, and they make moving your problem is typically solved by folstuff to a replacement computer a lowing the 3-2-1 backup rule: You breeze. should store your data in three USB sticks make wonderful different places including two diftemporary storage solutions and ferent physical locations and one can supplement bigger backup cloud location. This is a great ideal drives. Typically sticks are not as to strive for, but how can it be done reliable for long-term storage, but on board? they are cheap enough that you can A typical setup would be a comcarry a bunch of backups. I find puter with a large hard drive or they are ideal for transporting large solid-state drive (SSD), a portable files between boats when swapping backup hard drive and then possibly information, or possibly when going a storage account in the cloud. Most ashore to download some big file voyagers will not be doing a lot of at an Internet cafe. They are a lot backup to the cloud while offshore more convenient for that than cardue to data transmission limits. rying your laptop or tablet around If you have a satellite system that with assorted cables, etc. Make sure can handle large data uploads and your antivirus scanning software is downloads, then go ahead with the set up to scan any USB devices so

losing any precious data, but we are talking about cruising and voyaging here. Many people describe voyaging as “repairing boats in exotic harbors around the world,” and today many others refer to their dream trips as “searching for Internet cafes around the world.” The reality is a mixture of both, with hopefully some unforgettable sunsets in the mix!


you don’t catch anything from the Internet cafe computers. Store the backups in sealed plastic bags somewhere safe, well away from water and magnets, that is also a place not easily found by the casual thief. Password protection will minimize that worry. Partly cloudy Despite the lack of cloud connectivity when offshore, you will be able to find Internet access in almost every port. A good strategy is to use the cloud to store all that stuff that you might need to access when in port but that is not critical when offshore. For example, cloud email like Google’s Gmail is a fantastic way to know that your inbox will be full when you reach port if you have been unable to check it when offshore. In my experience, the most reliable email services are the biggies: Gmail and Microsoft’s They both are free, have huge storage limits and do not require much in the way of handholding to function endlessly. Your favorite specialized email host might be a wonderful service for your particular needs when you are ashore, can pay its bills and can troubleshoot its occasional minor problems, but you don’t want to arrive in some distant port only to discover they have closed up shop a month previously and left no forwarding address — that won’t be happening to Gmail or Outlook. I have had both Gmail and Outlook accounts since shortly after they were launched and both have been utterly reliable. Why not use both and have your mail backed

up from one to the other? Using the IMAP protocol, you can mirror your email at other providers. This mitigates the unlikely situation of losing access to your main email account, which can be a disaster. The biggies also supply you with online storage for documents, spreadsheets, photos, etc. Google Drive gives you unlimited storage for documents saved or uploaded in the native Google Docs and Sheets formats; plus, if you select “high quality” for photo uploads, Google Photos provides unlimited storage. High quality is actually somewhat compressed, so if you want to store high-res images at maximum file

Small USB hard drives or SSDs are great for making multiple backups of important files.

size you should plan on paying for your cloud storage. A free Gmail or Outlook account includes 15 GB of storage, covering email and files. More storage can be purchased, but plan how you will establish a reliable way to pay for the space that won’t expire when you are halfway between the Galapagos and Tahiti.

Accessing Google Drive or (or Dropbox, or whatever) is not going to happen offshore for most of us, but there are some good “partly cloudy” options. Google’s Backup and Sync app can be set to automatically or manually sync your local files from your computer to the cloud once you have a connection to the Internet. You’ve already backed that stuff up to at least two extra drives on board, right? Cloud sync is just a further precaution against serious hardware catastrophe or disasters like a boat fire or sinking. Once you’ve got everything up in the cloud, it makes those trips to the Internet cafe much more productive and enjoyable. You can now file your taxes in exotic places, or balance your checking account while sipping tropical drinks with umbrellas. Simply redundant A lot of us do more and more digital work on our smartphones and iPads, and it is possible to go to 100 percent touch-screen devices if you don’t do much typing. For us writers, the keyboard and a real mouse are so important that we must have real laptop computers, but for many the touch-screen

One great thing about having your reading material on a Kindle or similar device is that it is backed up via your Amazon account.

interface is sufficient. Convertibles are very interesting. They combine the durability and versatility of a touch screen with the capability of a keyboard. You can also get tablets with attachable keyboards, like the Microsoft Surface devices. One advantage of using iPads and iPhones is that they are inherently much more rugged than anything with a hinge, spinning hard drives, multiple connection ports, etc. Waterproof cases can make tablets and phones nearly marine grade and even capable of being used while underway in the cockpit. However, keep in mind the 3-2-1 backup rule: How can you back up the data on your touch-screen devices? A possible answer is to have two or more matching phones or tablets, but even then it is not always easy to mirror the data properly on them and they tend to have very small storage limits. If you are mainly coastal cruising, cellular phone and data service makes the phone/tablet concept more reliable and possibly even more convenient and useful than a laptop computer. Using your own mobile phone connection via a bank app, for example, might be the best and safest way to conduct onboard banking, even when in port. Weather radar apps are invaluable. But, MAY/JUNE 2018 OCEAN NAVIGATOR  33


when you head offshore are those touch-screen devices going to be useful without an Internet connection or Wi-Fi? Having a variety of digital devices is the best way to go. I like to bring

a compact laptop for serious typing and work, as well as for its ability to store large amounts of information that can easily be backed up via portable drives. A Windows or Linux laptop can run almost any type of

software you could need, and you won’t be locked into limited touchscreen software ecosystems. However, a phone, a tablet or both are great supplementary devices — just don’t store all your important data on them. Maybe it is obvious, but you probably want to have two of whatever is your main computing device, and I have found it is far, far better to go mainstream here. Apple products are wonderful, but it is not so wonderful to be prowling every port looking for that rare Apple shop. Yet any city of any size anywhere in the world will have people who can work on and sell products for standard Windows/Linux PCs. If you’re going all iPad, you might be OK due to their great durability — assuming you do have at least one backup on board — but don’t plan on being able to purchase a replacement except in major cities. Think durability, repairability, redundancy and universal availability when choosing your devices. You want to be able to find a shop with the stuff, point at what is wrong without being able to speak a word of the impossible local language, and then be able to walk out with the correct accessory, dongle, cable, hard drive or whatever you need. You want to be able to do this in ports big and small all over the world. If you do choose something less mainstream, have robust backup devices and plans. n John J. Kettlewell is a voyager, writer, photographer and author of The Intracoastal Waterway Chartbook.


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Fitting a new SSB antenna BY RICHARD DE GRASSE


couple of years ago, good friends from IslesBelow, using boro, Maine, lost their rig a flag hoist overboard on their 40-foot to raise a sailboat off St. John’s, Newfoundland. Apparently the long wire HF backstay fitting at the top of SSB antenna. the mast failed. Kathy and I Right, the immediately thought of our wire is led own aging backstay on our up the radar 34.5-foot Tartan sloop. We pole and then decided to replace it during outboard on the upcoming fall term at an extension our Florida yard. arm. Our existing backstay was 1/4-inch-diameter 1x19 stainless steel wire with four Raised using swage fitflag halyard tings. As many owners have done, we

Antenna wire

Radar pole


used a portion of the backstay as an HF SSB antenna. Years ago, we cut the backstay and installed two insulated swage fittings 27 feet apart. In addition, we have about 6 feet of antenna feed wire from the antenna to the tuner, making the total random wire antenna about 33 feet long. Thirty-three feet is one quarter wavelength of the 40-meter (7.0+ MHz) ham frequency. As a result, our old backstay had four swage fittings: one at the top, one at the bottom and two insulated fittings 27 feet apart. Once we took the mast out of the boat, we had to make several decisions. While no one really knew what happened to our friends’ rig off St. John’s, we surmised the swage fitting at the top of their mast failed. Meanwhile, we experimented and discovered that our SSB automatic antenna tuner would tune up nearly any length of wire. By tune up,

I mean see a very low standing wave ratio (SWR) on the ham/SSB radio. Some sailors are convinced the new automatic antenna tuners can tune up a beer can! This meant we could forget insulator fittings in the new backstay and not be overly concerned with cutting the backstay to a specific frequency-dependent length. We’d love to use the entire new backstay as an antenna but it’s grounded at top and bottom. We still need an antenna for the SSB and there are lots of ham/ SSB aficionados out there with many sailboat antenna designs. Rather than get into an endless antenna design discussion, we used one of

our signal halyards at the top of the mast and hauled up an antenna wire connected to our tuner in the aft lazarette. I created a new backstay with the mast on sawhorses. First we used the toggle-to-toggle length of the old backstay with the swage fitting in place as a guide to cut the new wire, taking into account the different length of the new compression fittings. Cutting the new backstay to an exact length is not a problem since our adjustable backstay turnbuckle arrangement back aft can adjust a couple of inches. I increased the size from 1/4-inch to 9/32-inch 1x19 stainless steel

rigging wire because it was easy to do and made me feel better. I’m certain the breaking strength of 1/4-inch wire is plenty adequate. No more swage fittings. The top and bottom 9/32-inch compression fittings were about $60 each and can be installed with the mast out by experienced sailors without special tools. Another option that avoids having to cut the backstay is to use a GAM/McKim Split Lead Antenna from GAM Electronics ( This is a unit that press fits on the backstay wire. The cost of the new separate

signal halyard wire antenna was less than $20. The total cost of the new backstay was about $400, including the signal halyard antenna. I separated the SSB antenna from the grounded backstay by leading the antenna wire through an extension on our radar post. Both the ham and SSB channels tune up great (low SWR) and I frequently check into the cruiser nets. n Dick de Grasse and his wife Kathy live aboard their Tartan 34, Endeavour, in Florida during the winter and in Islesboro, Maine, during the summer.


Common-sense navigation The most important nav tools are a voyager’s eyes and brain


hen I learned to sail in San Diego, the running joke was that every year someone coming home from the Catalina islands would set their autopilot for a waypoint inside the harbor, and then run into Point Loma while they slept. This cruising season has seen more than one notable navigation error, leading to several cruising incidents that serve as sobering reminders that we share the oceans with many other large vessels and with the varying levels of navigation they may practice. We can take these as learning opportunities and look at the ways good sailors use both ancient and modern technology to keep themselves and their vessels safe. Basic technology As we approached the southern anchorage of Bora Bora, we realized 38 OCEAN NAVIGATOR MAY/JUNE 2018   

Story and photos by Bonnie Wagner

that all our information was wrong — there is no longer a pier, and the written directions were unclear which side of the buoy to take. From my perch on the bow pulpit, the coral looked way too close through the crystal-clear water. I put my hand over my eyes in despair, waiting for the crunch, while my husband Paul yelled frantically from the tiller, “Take your hand down and point! You need to see!” No matter what chartplotter, GPS or AIS you’re running, every sailor carries the most important safety technology in their ocular cavities. Many areas of the world are incompletely charted, and in many areas the charts are just a little off. Our electronic charts of the west coast of Mexico were based on 100-year-old charts that are often up to a mile off. This meant that the shape of the land

was accurate for planning purposes, but it was all farther east than the charts said. Our computer screen regularly showed us anchored on land. We navigated close to land by sight and by radar, both of which measure what is actually there right now — not what was there 100 years ago, or what we wish was there. Autopilots and chartplotters are like the cruise control on a car; they don’t excuse us from driving. In the South Pacific, sight navigation becomes even more important, as the discrepancies between chart and reality are more difficult to quantify. As in Mexico, the charts are frequently based on very old surveys, and sometimes even those are incomplete. Sometimes reefs have changed over time, and in a few places new islands are just spurting above the sea. Many passes are marked by ranges,

and many lighted markers on the charts do not exist in real life. These challenges do not make this area less beautiful or worthwhile, all you have to do is keep your eyes open. Since low coral islands do not show well on radar (and underwater reefs are even more elusive), plan to arrive at a new place in good overhead light. Some yachts use a fishfinder or other underwater sonar, which must be awesome when traveling slowly in winding reefs. We would warn that their small range is not intended to give fair warning when sailing at speed, so it’s still the captain’s job to slow down when near dangers. Many of the yachts that hit reefs in the last year were approaching an island in poor visibility and relied on the chart being perfect. I wouldn’t bet my floating home on it. It’s better to stand off several miles until the morning light. This can be true even of wellcharted places in questionable conditions. We were in Honolulu when the 2015 Transpac race arrived during a huge southerly swell that was

Above, even while ocean voyaging, traffic can sometimes be an issue. Left, the top satellite photo of Neiafu shows the extent of the channel. Below, a vector chart view of the same channel shows that the charted land features don’t correspond to the satellite image.


closing out the harbor entrances. The race boats grumbled about being asked to stand off for the night, but they changed their tune when they saw the huge sets of waves. New toys Modern technology has given us some great tools to make more informed decisions, assuming we’re paying attention to them. A decent functioning radar should be able to see boat traffic on flat water, the shape of the cliff around an anchorage and the density of a squall about to dump on you. Like any charting aid, it’s important that the sailor knows how to read a radar so they don’t mistake the distant hill for the nearby beach. Waves make radar less effective, and Paul has experienced really hard rain hiding even a containership at sea. This is where AIS comes in handy. When Paul was in that rainstorm, his AIS receiver told him about a large containership that would approach quite close. Because he had the name of the ship, they answered on their VHF and discussed options. When the closest point of approach was down to a quarter-mile, Paul hove to and the other ship stayed on the radio the whole time to make sure he was okay. That improved communication is the magic of AIS. We still have just that receiver, since only the big guys are required to transmit a bea40 OCEAN NAVIGATOR MAY/JUNE 2018   

con. This has led to me flood-lighting our sails in an effort to be seen by a fishing fleet one dark night. We will be upgrading to a transceiver in preparation for the Singapore Strait. Anything that improves our visibility is a welcome addition. We obviously use a GPS, as the AIS will not work without one. We actually have four independent GPS units, along with a couple “pucks” for the computers — you can never have too many spares! We also carry a spare autopilot or two so the inevitable failure doesn’t force us to handsteer for days. We use a charting program on our laptops and particularly like the GPS-aligned satellite image overlays for areas where the charts disagree (like Tonga). We sometimes create KAP files using the GE2KAP app, but most common destinations are now available online or from other cruisers. Many cruising sailors these days use an integrated chartplotter/autopilot system, though one memorable fellow was just using his iPhone. He was surprised that he wasn’t able to download new files once he was out of sight of the cell towers on land. Yep, sailors still have to plan ahead to have the charts they need before they leave. When we plan a course, we scan over the entire length of it zoomed in so we can see any notes that don’t show up when the chart is zoomed out, and I usually do the same on

a paper chart just to make sure we didn’t miss something. For instance, Beveridge Reef is really difficult to find on our electronic vector charts until we zoom way in, but it’s plainly visible on the paper charts. If I right-click on the electronic Beveridge Reef, I see the little note “Rep. to lie 3mi to the NE,” which would remind me to approach in good visibility or give it a very wide berth. Both the reef and its note are visible on the electronic raster charts, which are basically scans of the paper charts and therefore don’t have the sneaky zoom issues. We drop a waypoint on our route at the closest point to a danger — even if we won’t be changing course there — to remind us to be particularly aware as we approach that point. We plot bluewater courses at least 10 miles from any reported dangers to give us wiggle room in case the chart is a bit off or the wind shifts. We pointedly navigate using human willpower at all course changes, rather than an automatic program, to make sure we are fully alert to conditions. Those robots aren’t taking our jobs! They’re more like guidelines, really Anyone who has crossed the path of a containership knows that the “right of sail” doesn’t matter when the giant cannot physically change course or slow in less than a nautical mile.

Far left, busy shipping areas require close attention to nearby traffic. Left, a chart view and an info box warning that Beveridge Reef is reported to lie three miles to the northeast.

The rules of the road also say that motorists should not hit pedestrians, but pedestrians are still expected to look both ways before crossing. Whether we are offshore and seeing our first ship for days or sailing near a busy coastal shipping route, it is the responsibility of every person on the water to keep watch and maintain safe distances. Offshore, we scan the horizon at least every 15 minutes because a containership at full speed can go from the horizon to uncomfortably close in little more than that time. In busy shipping channels or near land, we aim to have someone physically watching every moment, though we occasionally allow bathroom breaks or a quick grab of a cookie. If this seems extreme, consider how much fun we once had motoring into a big gill net off Baja one night. Paul had to spend an hour with dive gear cutting that net off our propeller while we drifted in the open sea (and the crew watched for sharks). We’ve avoided many gill nets and some small fishing boats by keeping a weather eye open. Assuming we are keeping our usual 24/7 watch, the purpose of our AIS is to inform our decisions. “All” international shipping is supposed to broadcast an AIS signal these days, and even the fishing boats that turn theirs off near their favorite spots still run lights we can see for miles. The

question is what we can do about it, considering the limited maneuverability of our lumbering dance partners. If any ship will pass within two miles of us, our AIS alarm goes off (really, really loud, just in case we got caught up in a podcast or fell asleep). We watch their course and speed data for a few minutes and decide if we should adjust our course. The big fishing boats particularly worry me, since they work a pattern rather than sailing a straight line, and I don’t know how far behind their lines are dragging. Sure, we could play chicken and hope that they notice us, and that they feel like moving out of the way of our little sailboat. Or we could make a minor course correction miles away and not stress about it. We rarely need to do anything, but it’s nice to have the info to make an informed decision. The evil you don’t see Modern electronic charts are very useful to inform sailors who are also keeping their eyes open. AIS beacons make ship collisions ever more unlikely as long as anyone on board is awake to notice them. What keeps us up at night are the things that are difficult to predict or see. We experienced a close call in the wide channel between Oahu and Kauai because another cruising sailboat had forgotten to turn on his lights at dusk. We could see by his

AIS beacon that he was on a collision course with us, but it took nearly 20 minutes to raise him on the VHF. By the time we agreed on a course change, we were a half-mile apart and he passed within shouting distance in the dark. I think of ship’s lights as fairly old technology, but in many parts of the world we share coastal waters with local fishermen in small unlit boats. I don’t think any level of “we did our part” would console me if we were responsible for injuring or killing some person out fishing for their family, so we travel slowly and with extra vigilance in those areas. Successful sailors use all available technology to stay safe, and our eyes are still our most important tool. The awesome technological advances in global positioning, charting, weather predicting and autopilots are tools that serve the eyes and brain, but don’t replace them. Taking all possible precautions means we get to sail farther to more beautiful places, and the crew is happier because we feel safe at sea. So we follow the rules we made to keep ourselves happy: We check and double-check our routes with multiple sources, someone is always on watch to scan the horizon every 12 to 15 minutes and there are alarms set to back up our senses. n Bonnie Wagner voyages aboard the Ohlson 38 Romany Star with her husband Paul. MAY/JUNE 2018 OCEAN NAVIGATOR 41

Voyaging without all the comforts of home


y husband Seth and I seem to have a penchant for primitivism. We’re not Luddites — Seth is a computer programmer and statistician by trade — but somehow we always end up voyaging aboard unnecessarily primitive boats. Some of it has had to do with being very young and having very little money. But I think more of it has to do with us and our personalities. Outwardly it might appear that we’re a little masochistic or that we have to prove something to ourselves through needless discomfort. In reality, though, we’re just incorrigible optimists. We want to sail around the world? Sure, let’s do it! Who cares that the portholes leak so badly you could


use them to shave? Who cares that the boom looks like Swiss cheese or that the masthead is cracked? Your bunk’s soaked? Wear your foul weather gear to bed! Our second, or perhaps primary, big problem is that we both care far more about a lovely sheer line than pressure water, or even modern electronics. Again we’re not Luddites or wooden boat nuts; we don’t think that anything old and wooden is automatically beautiful, nor do we relish the idea of thousands of fasteners holding our hull together. Both of us did, however, grow up with the Wooden Boats calendar on the wall, Skene’s Elements of Yacht Design on the bookshelf and historic schooners anchored in the bays

outside our windows. In my case, that bay was a fair-weather anchorage in British Columbia and the schooners included Robertson II, which once carried fishing dories to the Grand Banks of Newfoundland. In Seth’s case, that bay was in Downeast Maine and those schooners were the windjammers that once took granite to New York City. Impractical but beautiful So, the natural result was that Seth and I set sail offshore in something a little impractical but very beautiful. Enter Heretic, our 38-foot cutter-rigged sloop copy of Sparkman & Stephens’ Finisterre. Built in 1968 of solid fiberglass to a 1954 design, she was heavy, wet and some would say

cramped. Her short waterline (27 feet), tapering stern and low freeboard, combined with her limited headroom — the cabin sole was laid on top of her centerboard trunk — made her cabin very small compared with modern 38-foot production yachts, which tend to have high freeboard, LWLs nearly as long as their LOAs, and sterns as wide as the beam amidships. But she was simply lovely with her curving bow, wine-glass transom and varnished mahogany cabin with its oval ports. At the time (summer 2006), Seth and I were 23 and 20 years old, respectively. While we had

both grown up sailing and had been taught to navigate on paper, neither of us had been offshore. So when, with the callow assurance of all 20-yearolds, we announced that we were going to circumnavigate the planet, we were met with incredulity, naysaying and even ridicule. Consequently, we rechristened the boat Heretic. She had to be rechristened something — her prior owner had called her Le Bon Temps. Try that on the VHF. Poor Heretic was rather the worse for wear and neglect. The ports really did leak enough to shave under, the bunks really were constantly wet, the propane system was so dodgy that we used a portable alcohol stove until we replumbed it, the rig really might have fallen over if we hadn’t replaced the whole thing, and the only wires we didn’t replace caught fire on one of our first passages. The holding tank was a bladder that leaked into the bilge (respirator required for that project!), the sheer clamp needed refastening and the tube through which the control line for the centerboard ran had rusted through at the waterline (it’s a miracle she didn’t sink before we found that out!). On the day we departed after months of restoration work, a mysterious fitting on the engine started

gushing oil so badly that we plugged it up with the first thing to hand — an old, disused gimbal from the galley. Then there were the many “modern conveniences” that Heretic lacked and that, because we were 20 years old and knew no better, we didn’t miss. On account of all the repairs, we didn’t leave Maine until Oct. 31, 2006, the day after the first major winter storm (60 knots recorded in the harbor) passed through, and the morning of the first very hard frost. Heretic’s solid glass hull was uninsulated and she had no heater. She also didn’t have a dodger. We simply thought that a heavily condensating hull, a drenched cockpit and cabin temperatures hovering at freezing were normal for cold-weather sailing.

Top left, Celeste in Alaska’s Prince William Sound. Left, Seth Leonard navigating. Below, Seth during landfall at Hiva Oa.

May/June 2018 OCEAN NAVIGATOR 43

Above, downloading ice charts for Alaska. Right, fifty degrees in the cabin. Below, filling the water tanks.

Hand steering Heretic had no autopilot and, for the first 2,000 miles, no wind vane. It wasn’t until we started to meet other cruising boats that we realized hand-steering as if racing ‘round the buoys was not normal. Because

we were hand-steering, we had two friends aboard with us, and the four of us (three boys and me) shared Heretic’s small, old-fashioned, open cabin. It wasn’t until we were invited aboard an Island Packet that we realized that Heretic’s layout — two small quarterberths, galley and chart table facing each other, table down the middle with two settees on either side, hanging locker facing the head and V-berth forward — and her utter lack of privacy were no longer standard issue. Seth and I also realized then that most voyaging yachts are crewed by romantically involved couples (which we already were) rather than groups of friends. We started looking for a wind vane. With a tiny battery bank (270 amp-hours) and no generator, Heretic’s power requirements had to be kept to a minimum. So, although we did nod to the 21st century with her navigation lights and a small black-and-white GPS unit, we did without (ready?): chartplotter, autopilot, refrigeration, electric anchor windlass, watermaker, pressure water, hot water, shower, communications other than radio, and even electric lights in the cabin. We like to row and we didn’t want to bother with gasoline, so we had a hard dinghy with

oars (we actually still do — we took it to the Arctic). The boat didn’t come with an oven and we didn’t install one. And, obviously, even the idea of having things like air conditioning, TV, a dishwasher or a washing machine was about as far from our minds as, oh I don’t know, settling down in a landlocked Midwestern cornfield. Of course, many sailors have girded the globe in similar conditions, but today and even 10 years ago, most cruisers think you’re some kind of grumbling old gaffer if you do, or that you’re a cash-strapped 20-yearold, which we were. But for four years that’s how we lived. New Zealand was a bit cold, and rounding South Africa’s Cape Agulhas in an unpredicted Force 10 storm in such a heavy-displacement boat was very wet and a little frightening as successive breaking waves filled the cockpit. But the voyage was, nonetheless, one of the happiest times of our lives. So when we raised Mount Desert Island, Maine, in June 2010 when I was 24 and Seth 27, it was again a bittersweet moment. We’d done what we set out to do — circumnavigate the world — but we didn’t want it to end. Then we moved ashore, reluctantly sold Heretic and Seth started his graduate studies. Soon, however, we set out to find a replacement for Heretic. It took us a long time, constrained as we were by our budget, our wish to be able to

voyage literally anywhere on Earth and our hopeless addiction to classic lines. We found Celeste in British Columbia in the spring of 2013. Once again, we fell for her lovely lines. Francis Kinney, editor of Skenes and longtime designer for Sparkman & Stephens, had drawn her in 1985 as a private project for a sailor in Victoria. She was then custom built in cold-molded wood by Bent Jespersen and, from the outside, she looked very similar to Heretic: 28 feet LWL but 40 feet LOA, low freeboard and beautiful varnished cabin with oval ports. Below the waterline, however, she was much more modern with a fin keel and separate skeg. Made of cold-molded wood rather than solid glass, she was also lighter displacement. Both these attributes meant less wetted surface and greater speed. (On the flip side, though, lighter displacement also meant a bouncier ride and thus a higher chance of seasickness.) Below decks, we were amazed to find a fairly modern layout: double quarterberth in a small aft cabin to starboard of the companionway, and galley with fridge and oven to port. Navigation station, settee, chart drawers and pilot berth faced a curved dinette amidships, followed by hanging locker, head with shower stall and V-berth as you walked forward. As for modern conveniences, wood insulates much better than fiberglass, and she already had a forced-air heater and a “bus” heater that ran off the engine. Also running off the engine was a hot water tank that, combined with a little pressure pump, made for lovely showers after puttering into an anchorage. A Cape Horn wind vane was proudly mounted on the stern

and a big canvas dodger kept her cockpit dry. So we already thought Celeste was pretty luxurious before we even started work on her. Equipping Celeste What Celeste didn’t have were electronics. We replaced her no-longerfunctional VHF, tiller pilot and radar, and we installed a little GPS unit like the one we had on Heretic as well as a chartplotter. (Both chartplotters and autopilots had gotten a whole lot cheaper than they were 10 years prior.) We redid most of her old wiring and mounted solar panels. Still conscious of power draw, we replaced her lightbulbs with LEDs and installed a Refleks diesel heater, which unlike the forced-air one uses no electricity. We also replaced her engine (which, judging from the clouds of blue smoke it emitted, was burning a lot of oil). Thinking ahead to where we’d take Celeste, we plumbed in the smallest Katadyn PowerSurvivor watermaker, which we could run off our solar panels. Finally, with the backing of OCENS, we installed an external antenna and set up a satellite phone communication system for receiving weather files and ice charts. Because what do you do when you finally own a boat that’s not primitive? Take it somewhere where it will be primitive! Yes, we planned to take our 30-year-old, cold-molded wood, low-freeboard, open-cockpit cutter with her lively motion to the Arctic Ocean above Alaska. This time, though, we knew it wasn’t normal. We knew that normal high-latitude sailors have metal boats with enclosed pilothouses. High-latitude boats can be steered from inside these heated

pilothouses. Sometimes they even have those nice Plexiglas bubbles so that you can look out “on watch” while wearing just your long undies. High-latitude boats have really big heaters and really big engines. Our little heater, by contrast, would usually get the inside temperature up to almost 50 degrees Fahrenheit if it was 35 degrees outside. Almost. Usually mid40s. And our engine was only 30 hp. But that incorrigible optimism and that willingness to suffer for beauty meant we pointed the bow north. Really north. Up past the Aleutians to the Bering Strait. Up across the Arctic Circle to Alaska’s North Slope. And then up to the polar pack ice in the Beaufort Sea. Which is where, at 72° N, we found out just how much clothing you really can wear all at once. The flashy yacht Celeste didn’t feel so flashy after all. Once again, though, we had the time of our lives. Seeing the Arctic, its people, its wildlife, its frozen ocean and its wild weather was unforgettable. And doing it on Celeste, a primitive boat for the place, didn’t put us off; we’re already scheming for Greenland someday. In the meantime we’re in Mexico’s Sea of Cortez, where we’ll feel like we landed in the lap of luxury. Maybe we’ve finally — at 31 and 35 — grown old and wise. n Ellen Massey Leonard is a circumnavigator and a frequent contributor to Ocean Navigator. MAY/JUNE 2018 OCEAN NAVIGATOR 45

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Nav Problem

La Amistad

The schooner

Amistad in a contemporary 1839 image.

a Amistad — ironically the Spanish word for friendship — was anything but that to the captured slaves forced onto the vessel in 1839. It was that year that Amistad entered into history when it attempted to transport a group of African captives, held in Cuba, to a sugar plantation on another part of the island. There were 53 slaves — 49 adults and four children — all of whom had been abducted from Sierra Leone by the Portuguese and sold into slavery in Cuba. They were of the Mende tribe. Amistad was 120 feet long, a topsail schooner of the Baltimore Clipper class that was not designed for Atlantic passages. The slaves, under the leadership of Joseph Cinque (1814-1879), rebelled against the schooner’s crew, killing the captain, cook and two sailors but sparing the navigator and another in order to guide them back to Africa. The Africans told the navigators to sail back toward the rising sun because the sun had been at their backs when they were taken. The navigator


kept the sails slack so the ship wouldn’t make any eastward progress during the day and then turned around at night toward the coast of the U.S. mainland. The ship was seized off Montauk, Long Island, after 63 days. The slaves were jailed in New Haven, Conn., on charges of murder. The Spanish government demanded the return of the ship and the slaves. Slave importation was outlawed in the U.S. in 1808, so the defense team representing the slaves claimed that they were free persons who killed in self-defense. The ensuing court case was an international sensation. The case was finally adjudicated in 1841 by the U.S. Supreme Court in United States v. Schooner Amistad, a ruling made in favor of the slaves, which was a victory for the Abolitionist movement. The defendants were represented by former president John Quincy Adams. Thirty-five of the former slaves returned to Africa in 1842, and the ship was sold in 1840. Named Ion, it sailed from Newport to Bermuda and St. Thomas with cargos of onions, apples, poultry and cheese. In 2000, a replica of Amistad was built in Mystic, Conn., for sailing programs ( There

was also a 1997 movie directed by Steven Spielberg. Let’s join this ill-fated ship. It is April 10. Height of eye is 10 feet and the navigator is doing a noon sight. It’s unlikely that Amistad had an accurate chronometer, so meridian passage sights are the most the navigator would have done to establish latitude. The ship is at a DR of 36° 25’ N by 67° 40’ W. The navigator is doing a lower limb sight. Hs of the lower limb is 61°29’. I am calculating the exact time of noon using the 2018 Nautical Almanac. It is unlikely that the navigator aboard Amistad even had an almanac. This ship, after all, was involved in coastal work. n A. Calculate the time of meridian passage at GMT at the DR. B. What is the Ho? C. In this instance, since the time is on the half-hour, I am using half the d correction for my declination. I am adding that correction as the sun is moving northward. What is the latitude? (Based on the formulas Lat = 90°- Ho = ZD +/- declination)

Answers A. Time of meridian passage is 16:31:40 B. Ho is 61° 41.3’ C. Latitude is N 36° 24.7’



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