Saturday, December 27, 2008

10 Weird Aspects of Our Universe

There are so many cool things about our universe that scientists are just beginning to understand. From dark matter to the formation of planets, to the origin of our solar system, we are just scratching the surface. The Discovery Channel has put together a list of amazing discoveries that boggle the mind.

From the Archives: CG Rescue


Last Sail of the Year

Our 1981 Newport 30 - "Addiction". Click the pic for a much larger view.

We are heading up to the snow in few days and alas my last sail of the year took place today. And what a fine day it was in the Bay Area. Blue skies, light winds and in the low 50's. A perfect, crisp, clear winter day. My father in law loves boats and so I took him up to the boat along with my old college friend Dave ( he sailed with me over 15 times this year). The wind was 12-14 when we started heading out towards Treasure Island. Dave was at the helm and I was talking story. The breeze was down a bit so after our tack, I suggested we lock the wheel and let the boat do the driving. We have such a well balanced boat that she can be set and she will do the rest if the sails are set correctly. Sure enough, we made only one or two adjustments on the helm for the next 30 minutes. We sailed a bit more and the wind really died just as it was time to head in. I contemplate throwing up the kite but thought better of it. After further review and the wind was down to about 6-8 knots, I decided what the hell lets put her up. We rigged her up and she is a beautiful sail. Once we hoisted her, we were off on a broad reach and the boat quickly shot up to 6 knots on the meter. It was an hour of terrific sailing down the bay and we were cooking! Once around the pier we headed toward the channel and had a perfect take down and the end of our sailing year was near. We have had the Addiction for eight years now and this 27 year old boat continues to amaze me with her speed, balance and forgiveness. And I need alot of forgiving! We look forward to another great season in 2009!!!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

2008 Darwin Awards (aka: Biggest Bonehead Moves on the Planet)

The Darwin Awards are given out to those individuals who are helping the gene pool by removing themselves from it. This years awards have been awarded and you can see them here.

Happy Holidays from Outer Space

Hope you'all have a cool yule and a very happy 2009! Been a while since we did a post from the new frontier so here are the top 10 space photos of 2008 according to National Geographic.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Amazing Sail!

Went out yesterday with my buddy Kona and had a fantastic sail in a 16-18k breeze. Rain was to the south of us and then to the north near Mt. Tam. Then we got a little rain, but the sun poked thru and from where I was (between Angel and Treasure) there was an brilliant double rainbow over the bay. I could see the full 180 and it was such a cool sight. It gave me a chill and hope for the New Year! The boat was sailing very flat so my buddy Kona went up and spread out on the dodger. He was loving the breeze and so was I. It has been a fantastic year of sailing and enjoying friends on the bay and in the delta. From my sail in February with gusts over 50 knots, to 5 days in the delta, sailing on a 58 foot cat in the BVI's for a week, fireworks on the boat after a Giants game, KABOOM on the bay, a few spinnaker runs, taking Kona out on his first sail, spreading Sierra's (our former Golden) ashes out near the Golden Gate Bridge, and tons of solo sails that recharged the soul. 2008 has been another awesome year on the bay!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Dolphin Stampede

Dolphins Clip - video powered by Metacafe

Stolen from Mr Boat.

Sven Travels the World on a 19' Sailboat

Sven Lundin started cruising before cruising was cool. He has been fascinated by boats since he was a small child in the 40's. He would design and build a boat at the drop of a hat. He would pull into port, meet a fine lady and sail away to Cape Horn or wherever he liked. Keeping it simple allowed him to travel the world without a care. In 1980, he was awarded the Seamanship Award from the Royal Cruising Club on their 100th anniversary. Check out his pics page and then read his journal for a amazing story of a man who lived life to the fullest by living simply and as one with his boat.

l'Hydroptere Hits 61 Knots, Then Capsizes!

We have been following this boat for a long time and they finally hit the big time. Only a little too big! After a spectacular run well past the 50 knot barrier, the boat capsized in spectacular fashion and will be towed in for repairs. Luckily no one was hurt seriously and they should be back at it in January. No video of the massive wipeout yet but this will wet your appetite.

172 Foot Dive

That Sinking Feeling

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Robin Williams on the Election

We don't do much on politics on this blog, but this was too funny. Enjoy!

Bonehead Move of the Year (and maybe the decade!)

Click the pic for a better view.

This award is not given out without a lot of thought and attention to detail. We do not give it out on an annual basis, but only when an act that is deserving and truly bonehead in nature. The 2008 Bonehead of the Year goes to: The sailors on the boat "Stand-By" who ran into one of the largest sailing yachts in the world, the Maltese Falcon (at 289 feet) in the San Francisco Bay in October. The Falcon was cruising the bay one glorious afternoon when Stand-by inexplicably rammed the Falcon. Here is what the owner, Tom Perkins, and others had to say about the incident, "A few minutes before this photo sequence was taken, the Falcon had turned to port, to give the right of way to the smaller yacht, which was to leeward on the starboard tack. The Stand-By was originally on a roughly reciprocal course to that of the Falcon. Prior to the photos shown here, Stand-By was bearing away, and the two yachts were on safe courses to pass roughly with a distance of 200 feet separation. After Stand-By had sailed past the Falcon's bow, the smaller vessel suddenly rounded up, possibly to tack in order to follow the Falcon, when she lost control. With her main sheeted hard in, the smaller boat was unable to bear away to avoid a collision. A San Francisco Bay Pilot was on the Falcon's bridge overseeing the Falcon's course at all times. The pilot is also an experienced sailor and sailboat owner. Because of the Falcon's tonnage, a licensed pilot is required whenever the yacht is underway, approaching, or inside the Bay. The Stand-By did not stop after the collision. The Falcon furled her sails and pursued the 40-footer under power, in order to determine her name and registration number. The pilot radioed the U.S. Coast Guard, which intercepted Stand-By and boarded her. The accident was caused by Stand-By's sudden change of course, which was much too quick to permit the Falcon to respond. The Falcon sustained damage to hull, capping rail, superstructure and main lower topsail, but fortunately there were no injuries to persons aboard either vessel."

We spoke to others who were aboard Falcon, such as Tad Lacey, who has been sailing and racing the Bay for more than 50 years, and they were dumbfounded at what happened. Lacey and the others said the boats were passing with no problem until Stand-By suddenly luffed up.

To add to this bonehead move, the folks on Stand-By tried to run and were tracked down by the Coast Guard and arrested. They were seen being taken away in handcuffs. Amazing! To my knowledge the folks on Stand-By never came forward to tell their side of the story. If anyone heard it, please pass it along.

If you are interested in seeing some interior pics of the Falcon, click here.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Head is in Cali, Heart is in BVI

Still thinking about our amazing trip to the BVI's last spring. The warm azure waters, the cold beverages and the sailing on a beautiful cat with my wife and family. This vid takes me back to the times we shared and loved!! Let's go back soon!

Linux Based Sailboat to Cross the Atlantic

Few types of transport require as much thinking per mile as sailing. The sailor has to measure the speed and direction of both the water and the wind, which can constantly change, and then manage an array of sails and underwater hydrofoils at the correct angles to create motion in the desired direction. Navigation is its own challenge too, as it's impossible to sail directly into the wind and boats must 'tack' forward in zigzag patterns to make progress. All of which makes it quite remarkable that a group of European enthusiasts have created a Linux-brained autonomous sailboat bristling with sensors and capable of working its way around pre-set race courses or sailing to pretty much any nautical destination without any human intervention. Earlier this year, the ASV 'Roboat' became the first world robotic sailing champion at an event in Austria.

The ASV Roboat is a 3.75m Laerling - a beginner's sailboat that has been adapted to become a completely autonomous sailing vessel Boats-for-Busy-Sailors . The Laerling design was chosen because of its 60kg keel ballast and large, buoyant foam-filled body, which combine to make it very difficult to tip over and virtually unsinkable.

The 800MHz/512 MB Mini-ITX computer controlling the Roboat runs a Linux operating system and a control software suite using Java and C++. Onboard sensors bring in GPS Global Positioning System data for position and speed over ground, speed through water, ultrasonic wind speed and direction data, tilt-compensated compass , humidity, air and water temperature and water depth.

Solar panels make the Roboat largely energy-independent, although there's a direct methanol Charging-Ahead fuel cell to top up the batteries as a backup.

Once destination parameters are entered, the Roboat calculates and recalculates its route depending on the constant stream of data it receives. Chain-drive motors operate the mainsail, jib, rudder and boom to sail the boat to its destination.

The device has already proven itself able to take on short course race circuits effectively, winning the first World Robotic Sailing Championship against entries from Britain, Canada and Portugal earlier this year in Austria. The ASV team are planning a more ambitious voyage in the near future, looking to set the fastest time between Europe and the Caribbean, an eight-week journey of around 4,000 miles.

Competitive sailing is a highly intellectual sport that requires competitors to take all the available information and make solid decisions and calculated risks against what the opposition is doing. It's almost like a game of chess on water - and now that computer-controlled boats are proving themselves able to navigate the seas, it's only a matter of software and hardware upgrading until we see the first 'Deep Blue' of the deep blue sea, a boat capable of autonomously defeating the world's best sailors in an ancient battle of wits and wills. Could the America's Cup one day be taken by a robot entry? It seems an outrageous idea, but perhaps it's only a matter of good coding.

Loz Blain

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Winter Cruise

I just returned from a wonderful three day sojourn on the bay with my 5 month old puppy, Kona. The weather was due to get rainy and cold but we managed to stay dry and out of the wet stuff for the most part. We arrived up at the boat on Sunday evening and I turned on our little heater and it was cozy in no time. Watched the movie Wall E but soon was drifting off to sleep. It rained very hard a few times during the night. Kona was up and ready at 7am so we went for a walk in Emeryville. I could see the rain coming in and soon a big bolt of lighting greeted us and with it crashing thunder. We headed back to the warmth of the boat as it started to rain. After breakfast, another walk to get Kona tired. The wind was up and we cast off our lines bound for Sausalito. The wind was from the north so we were able to raise the sails quickly and head out. Once around the 2 mile long Berkeley Pier, we really took off and headed towards Racoon Strait. There was some big dark clouds headed our way so we headed north to avoid them. As I looked back, I could see the rain falling on the central bay but not on us. We headed towards Sams in Tiburon so Kona could take a little walk. As soon as we were back on board, it rained very hard. I had a little lunch and then the rain passed and we headed out again. We were able to sail right into the channel and very close to the slip I had on hold for the night. As soon as we tied up...rain again. We dodged the bullet twice in the last hour. After the rain ended, I took Kona to the beach and he loved it. Fetching his favorite ball was a treat. We headed back to the boat before more rain came and settled in for the night. I was tired and so after dinner took a nap that lasted to midnight. I need to get Kona out so we went for a little midnight stroll. Up in the morning, we took a nice walk to the next marina. It was blowing so we headed back to the boat to take off. Got out in the channel and put up the sails for a very nice sail towards the Gate. The wind direction changed and we bore off towards the city. I had been wanting to check out a new pier near the Ferry Building. We found Pier 1.5 and tied up. The wind was coming from the north east so it was very bouncy inside. We took a short walk and then returned. I was to meet with my sail buddy Dave at 5:30 so I needed to head back to Emeryville. The wind was blowing 25-30 and the waves were big. Had to tack many times but finally worked my way back. Kona was so good. Got back in and rested before Dave arrived. We talked and had some wine and then headed off to dinner at Chevy's. Had a very good time and was back in bed by 10pm.
It was crystal clear and the wind was blowing when we went for our morning walk. I had thought I would have a restful morning getting the boat back in shape. With such a beautiful day and wind, let's go sailing. We headed out in a light breeze at sunrise and soon we were doing over six knots in 10-12knot winds. We made it to Racoon in no time and set the hook just of Tiburon Point. Had a nice blueberry pancake breakfast and then headed back. Not much wind at first but then we were hitting 7 knots on the speedo. So glad we went out as it was so nice to be on the boat in such nice winds. Got back around noon and cleaned up and then headed home. This was my fourth winter cruise and one of the best! Kona you were awesome except when you got spooked by a bird and almost tripped me to the ground!

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Evolution of Tow-in Surfing According to Laird

There are extreme athletes and then there is Laird Hamilton. The king of tow in surfing, he has circled the world in search of the biggest, wildest waves on the planet. Turns out they were in his back yard on Maui at Jaws. Laird is an icon of surfing and is thriving in big wave surf. He goal is to successfully ride a 100 foot wave...or two.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Mav's Goes Off

As most of you know, Maverick's (about 30 miles south of San Francisco) is the home of some of the heaviest, meanest waves on the planet. A pacific storm brought an immense swell to the region the last weekend of November. It was a great day for all and you can watch it here. Mav's is also the site of the big wave contest "Men Who Ride Mountains". The contest is in jeopardy due to lack of sponsors. I'm sure they will pull something together but there may not be a paycheck at the end of the day. Anywho, enjoy the waves and here is your tip of the day: Never turn your back on the ocean! We lost a few that weekend on the coast as the waves were very dangerous.

The Gate

The Greatest Sailing Stories Ever Told

Google is archiving thousands of great books for your reading pleasure. Many of them are still in copyright mode so you won't see the whole book. You can get a taste with some great stories from the sea in the above titled book. With authors such as Tristan Jones, Joshua Slocum, William F. Buckley and many more.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

How Titanic was Filmed

King Of The World - Titanic - Watch more amazing videos here

She is the Lifeboat of my Mind, Body and Spirit

As I watch the value of my investments wither, lament my diminishing net worth, and listen to news of worse to come, I am gladdened to remind myself that, among my many ventures, I deigned to own a little boat. Though her value tallies poorly on my accountant’s balance sheet, whenever I cast off from the dock under a press of sail, the dividends come tumbling in. The follies of greed, avarice and envy vanish in her wake. I am lifted free of all petty concerns. She is the lifeboat for my body, mind and spirit. As for the accountants, financial advisors and other bean counters, I say damn their eyes! She is my one truly recession-proof investment.

Marc Hersch
Songline, J/42
Santa Cruz / Ventura

From: Latitude 38

King of the World.....Not


Monday, December 08, 2008

America's Cup 1977

Watch CBS Videos Online

100 Goals in 100 Weeks

What if you wanted to change your life and completely start over. Sell everything you own, move from where ever you live, leave the people you love. He is one man's attempt. So instead of doing nothing he decided on 100 Goals in 100 Weeks. From visiting famous places to learning the harmonica, he has an impressive list. See it here.

Top Ten List of Everything - 2008

Time Mag has put together and amazing array of top ten lists for this year. From pictures to videos, photos, you name it they have the list Check it here.


Saturday, December 06, 2008

Shreddin' St. Mark's in Venice

If you have ever been to Venice, you know St. Marks is the place for some music, a gelato and an espresso. This week, the town was hit by high tides that took the water up to knee high levels. Check out this vid of a wakeboarder taking advantage of the high tides.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Classic Plastic - Catalina 30

Designer and builder Frank Butler is in many ways a contradiction in terms. On the one hand he ís an innovator and a risk taker. On the other, he takes those risks and uses those innovations to build boats for the common man; good solid boats that combine performance and comfort without costing an arm and a leg.

This design philosophy is perhaps best expressed in the Catalina 30, a racer-cruiser that set the trend for many of today's most successful lines and is itself still going strong after a production run of 25 years and more than 6,500 boats.

Introduced in 1975, the Catalina 30 was intended to "offer more for less" in a way that had never been done before. Butler gave the boat extra beam and freeboard for accommodations as well the option of a standard or tall rig, and deep and shoal-draft keels for different performance characteristics.

Inside, he used the then cutting-edge practice of installing hull liners with premolded berths and seats to create even more space, and moved the engine compartment closer to amidships to open up room for a large double quarterberth on the starboard side.

Compared to today's performance cruisers, the dimensions of the Catalina are fairly conservative. But at the time, Butler was venturing into unknown territory, and in doing so pulled off a real coup, creating a boat that was new and different but still "yare."

He also created, in many ways a dark-horse speedster, a boat that, while comfortable, is winning races in both one-design and handicapped fleets to this very day.

Within months of its introduction, one of the very first Catalina 30s sailed to back-to-back victories at the Newport-Ensenada and Marina Del Ray-to-San Diego races, under the old LOR rule. The Catalina National Regatta regularly draws up to three dozen boats. The Catalina 30 La Maria won its division at the 2000 Southern California PHRF Championship regatta held by the Southern California Yachting Association (SCYA).

"The boat has probably been out designed with new materials on newer boats, but we're still pleased with its performance," said Catalina's long-time production chief Gerry Douglas. Thousands of Catalina 30 owners couldnít agree more.

Todays Catalina 30 Mark III comes equipped with a walk-through transom, a redesigned rudder, and 1-shaped cockpit; the earlier shoal-draft fin has been replaced with a shallow winged keel. Beyond that, however, the 21st- century version of the Catalina 30 is essentially the same as the boat that rolled off the production line a quarter century ago, with an identical canoe body, deep keel and rig that makes it class compliant for one-design racing against other boats that are more than two decades old.

Catalina Yachts has a policy of never discontinuing a model as long as there's a demand for it, which means this milestone in yacht design is far from a museum piece.

"As long as people keep buying them, weíll keep building them," Douglas said, of Catalinaís attitude toward the venerable 30. Butler himself said he never likes to "kill" a design unless absolutely necessary."The boat has always been one of my favorites," he said. "You can make a lot of mistakes on her and she'll forgive you. She loves heavy air."

Clearly, it's a good thing the practical and affordable Catalina 30 will be introducing sailors to both cruising and racing for years to come.

-Adam Cart, SAILING Magazine

Thursday, December 04, 2008

50 Thousand Hits

My Golden Retriever Kona at four months in the hills near my house at sunset. Click the pic for a better view.

Looks like the old counter will hit 50k in the next week or so. Thanks to my many readers for checking out the site and for all the comments and encouragement over the years. I have had a ton of fun putting together this blog and have learned alot too. Sailing (and blogging).... has been berry berry good to me! Keep the bonehead moves coming!

It's a Bird, it's a Plane....

No it's the Vestas Sailrocket just after they had set the world speed record for a sailboat of 47.4 knots over the 500 meter course. Their high speed was 51.7.

“As soon as the whole nose lifted I thought ‘oh s**t... we had discussed the possibility of this and here we are’. The nose just kept coming up and I was pure and simply flying. No noise, no spray... she just kept going up until I was vertical. I waited for an impact but there was none. When she went fully inverted and there was still no impact I knew I was a long way least the height of the rig. At this stage I thought ‘when she hits upside down... get out as soon as you can’. She slammed down hard and despite a few bruises and a smashed helmet... I was out of that cockpit in a flash. It was pretty gutting but then it comes with the turf. We are sailing prototype craft to new extremes here. The team will gather round and we will be back in action as soon as possible. I have no doubt that with a few tweaks to the geometry we could have absolutely smashed the outright and nautical mile records(having done 1000 meters at 46.4 knots). The dream is real!”

For more info including pictures and vids, click here.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Gettin' Some Air

Click here for an amazing video of a snow kiter getting some airtime in the mountains.

Sign of the Day

Click the pic to read the sign.

Edmund Fitzgerald, November, 1975 - A Dedication

Airplane Hits Sailboat!

They say good seamanship means good preparation - but there are just some things a sailor can't prepare for! 'It was a really strange experience,' said the Skipper in a masterpiece of understatement. An aircraft had just hit the mast of Edward Allen's 37ft yacht Windseeker, as he sailed it south to the David Island Yacht Club in Tampa, Florida yesterday.

A local plastic surgeon and his nineteen year old companion were injured when their aircraft crash landed on the Peter O. Knight airport on the islands. After hitting the sailing boat, the aircraft hit the seawall and flipped, landing on grassy airport property, shy of the runway, according to local fire rescuers.

'The first thing I knew anything was wrong was when the rig started coming down,' Allen said. 'At 5 or 6 knots of boat speed, you can't do a lot of maneuvering.'

He said the plane struck the mast of the the 1984 built Windseeker about 10 feet down. No one aboard the boat was hurt, but the crash caused significant damage to the mast, the sail and other equipment.

Allen said he often sees planes fly overhead when passing the airport, but 'they're normally a couple hundred feet higher.' Allen said it appeared the plane's nose or wheels hit the seawall. 'It flipped upside-down and just slammed into the grass,' he said.

A crowd gathered as the two occupants of the aircraft crawled out of the wreckage, one with an injured hand, the other with a broken leg. 'They were very lucky,' observed one of the onlookers who came to their assistance.

Editor's note: I don't make these stories up...I just report them!

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Fish Story

Bill Driver, who lives in Wichita, KS, saw a ball bouncing around kind of strange in the lake and went to investigate.

It turned out to be a flathead catfish who had obviously tried to swallow a basketball which became stuck in its mouth!!

The fish was totally exhausted from trying to dive, but unable to because the ball would always bring him back up to the surface.

Bill tried numerous times to get the ball out, but was unsuccessful. He finally had his wife, Pam, cut the ball in order to deflate it and release the hungry catfish.

You probably wouldn't have believed this, if you hadn't seen the following picture...

Simpsons Poke Fun at Apple

How Many Do You Count?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Saturday, November 22, 2008

From the Archives - Meaning of the Song: American Pie

Russian Billionaire Adds to Fleet

Russian billionaire and Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich plans on building an armor-plated, bulletproof-glass-installed super yacht complete with anti-missile radar systems, a private submarine, and two helicopters for more than 200 million euros, or almost $300 million.

With his personal fortune of 16 billion dollars, the tycoon plans on constructing an impenetrable floating fortress with a full defense system against sea pirates. Pirates are becoming more common in the waters around Africa; should Abramovich decide to sail to the 2010 World Cup in Africa, he will be ready to defend. Over 269 vessels were attacked and 300 hostages taken last year by pirates according to the International Maritime Bureau.

Under maritime law, non military ships are forbidden from carrying lethal weapons and firearms. Yacht owners are more commonly equipping their vessels with high powered water cannons, ear-splitting klaxons, and lubricant foam to deter walking.

It’s no wonder that Abramovich’s new ship, called the Eclipse, will include a radar system to warn the crew of 70 former SAS members of incoming rockets. Armored plating and bulletproof glass make the ship hardened against gun fire. There are also two helipads and equipment to deter bugging.

Should intruders make it on board the ship, Abramovich can escape with his 26 year old girlfriend Daria Zhukova in a yellow submarine which can dive to 160 feet.

The Eclipse — overshadowing all other boats at sea – stretches 550 feet and is being secretly built in Germany at the same shipyard that produced the World War II battleship the Bismarck. Abramovich will be adding this new boat to his existing collection of the 377 feet Pelorus, 282 feet Ecstasea, and 160 feet Sussurro.

The mega yacht will also have cabins for 24 guests as well as a movie theater, aquariam, disco, and hospital. Let's go cruising!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Boxee/Hulu and Apple TV

If you have an AppleTV this is a must have "hack". The ATV is great for watching movies from iTunes or listening to your music collection. You can even watch Youtube on your flat panel TV. Recently some very clever folks have built a little hack that gives you access to thousands of shows and movies both old and new that are free and legal online. The hack is pretty simple (if I can do it, anybody can!) and once you load it, it is simply amazing. I flipped through some of the offerings the other night and you too can check them out at I watched an episode of "It Takes a Thief" from the the late 60's with Robert Wagner which was hilarious. Other old shows include Flipper, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Bewitched, and all the new shows as well. Even if you don't have an ATV, you should go to hulu and start looking around for some of your favorite programs and movies to watch on your laptop. All free!

Boxee is an open source media center, with social networking features, currently in an invite-only alpha stage. It is a fork of XBMC, a media center initially designed for the Xbox, but then ported to run on all major platforms. Boxee runs on Linux, Mac, and now Windows. You can put it on your AppleTV with a grandma-simple “hack“, with no adverse effects. It also includes access to CBS, Comedy Central, movie trailers, and many more. Musically, you can listen to thousands of stations on Shoutcast, Last.FM and Jamendo. This is just the beginning and development is moving quickly. If you want to rid yourself of those nasty cable bills, this is a cheap, safe and fun option. If you are interested in learning more visit youtube and search for boxee or go to the source at and get a free invite. Free your TV!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Spirit of Mystery

Pete Goss, that ocean hero with a quarter of a million miles under his belt and who earned the admiration of the watching world with the incredible feat of turning his downwind racer into a storm in the Southern Ocean, retracking his path, and locating and saving the life of fellow competitor Raphael Dinelli in 1996, has a bit of a problem with some storms off the coast of Africa.

Pete has built his boat Spirit of Mystery to shine a light on the bravery of the seven Cornishmen who made the heroic journey to Melbourne in 1854to escape poverty, follow the gold rush – gold had been discovered in 1851 and the gold-fever had spread around the world - and seek out a new life in Australia. Sail-World Cruising has been following the journey, which will end in Australia's southerly port of Melbourne sometime in 2009.

Like the original crew, who were all related by either blood or marriage, it it is a family affair with the crew comprising: Pete Goss; his younger brother Andy; Pete's youngest son Eliot, 14; and Pete's brother in law Andy Maidment.

So with such a complete crew, you'd think a few doldrum (or ITCZ if you're acronym crazy) storms wouldn't worry him. However, while he reports that they are all 'happy', the latest blog from the Spirit of Mystery as they sail towards the equator off the coast of Africa doesn't sound like the same sailor. Not only that, the boat, manufactured with care over many months back in the U.K., is apparently leaking.

"This is going to be a very short blog as I need some kip. The last 24hrs have been non-stop with huge storm clouds every six hours or so, and when I say huge they are something to both behold and experience. In a sense they are potential hurricanes in the making, for if the conditions are right these are the sort of things that go on to grow into a self generating force of destruction. You can watch them grow, sometimes very quickly as a number of clouds merge as if under the hand of some hidden conductor. Then they grow vertically as if reaching for the sky and you just know that there's trouble on the way. They don't necessarily follow the prevailing winds so a 360 degree watch is important.

They are so big that they appear stationary until quite close and then it happens very quickly with a burst of cold air preceding, anything up to a thirty to forty knot wind line that is so distinct that you can watch it tearing up the water as it bears down. 'All hands on deck', 'all hands on deck' and we tumble up with the sole aim of getting the big lug down and secure as fast as possible. Just throw off the halyard and let it run for if it's not down by the time the screeching wind and heavy rain arrives the other end of the boat can start to get obscured, damage will be done.

In most cases we have then had to rush aft and drop the mizzen and run off under the jib alone as we marvel at the power of the thing. They are completely unpredictable in that we had one blow for four hours and another lost its puff in half an hour, and yet made up for it by dumping such heavy rain for a couple of hours that it flattened the sea. The problem is that once they have past there is just this great void of energy, they just hoover it up. We are then left to wallow in a confused sea to await the return of a gradient wind. Up go the sails and off we go again, the next squall cloud already in site and so we go through the routine all over again.

Rest is impossible as she wallows, sometimes scupper to scupper as the crew on deck secure the mast to save it being torn out of her. Everything is wet above and below decks so it's a case of snoozing, working and eating. Funny thing is we are all as happy as ever as we work for every mile that we can - there's nothing else we can do!"

For more info, visit his blog.

Friday, November 14, 2008


Here are some actual maintenance complaints submitted by UPS ‘ pilots (marked with a P) and the solutions recorded (marked with an S) by maintenance engineers.

By the way, UPS is the only major airline that has never, ever, had an accident.

P: Left inside main tire almost needs replacement.
S: Almost replaced left inside main tire.
P: Test flight OK, except auto-land very rough.
S: Probably because auto-land is not installed on this aircraft.
P: Something loose in cockpit
S: Something tightened in cockpit
P: Dead bugs on windshield.
S: Live bugs on back-order.
P: Autopilot in altitude-hold mode has a 200 ft. per min. descent.
S: Cannot reproduce problem on ground.
P: Evidence of leak on right main landing gear.
S: Evidence removed.
P: DME volume unbelievably loud.
S: DME volume set to more believable level.
P: Friction locks cause throttle levers to stick.
S: That’s what friction locks are for.
P: IFF inoperative in OFF mode.
S: IFF IS inoperative in OFF mode.
P: Suspected crack in windshield.
S: Suspect you’re right.
P: Number 3 engine missing.
S: Engine found on right wing after brief search.
PS: Aircraft acting funny
S: Aircraft warned to straighten up, fly right and be serious.
P: Target radar hums.
S: Reprogrammed target radar with lyrics.
P: Mouse in cockpit.
S: Cat installed.
And the best one for last
P: Noise coming from under instrument panel. Sounds like midget pounding on something with a hammer.
S: Took hammer away from midget.

First Undersea Restaurant

This is the first ever all-glass undersea restaurant in the world opens its doors for business at the Hilton Maldives Resort & Spa. It will sit five meters below the waves of the Indian Ocean, surrounded by a vibrant coral reef and encased in clear acrylic offering diners 270-degrees of panoramic underwater views.

“We have used aquarium technology to put diners face-to-face with the stunning underwater environment of the Maldives”, says Carsten Schieck, General Manager of Hilton Maldives Resort & Spa. “Our guests always comment on being blown away by the colour, clarity, and beauty of the underwater world in the Maldives, so it seemed the perfect idea to build a restaurant where diners can experience fine cuisine and take time to enjoy the views - without ever getting their feet wet.”

Created by MJ Murphy Ltd, a design consultancy based in New Zealand, Ithaa’s distinctive feature is the use of curved transparent acrylic walls and roof, similar to those used in aquarium attractions. “The fact that the entire restaurant except for the floor is made of clear acrylic makes this unique in the world,” continues Schieck, “We are currently planting a coral garden on the reef to add to the spectacular views of the rays, sharks and many colorful fish that live around the area.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Summer is Afoot!

It's mid November and it looks like we are headed for a heat wave in the SF Bay Area. This weekend promises to be in the low 80's with bright sunshine and warm nights. Not good news for sailing on the bay as the winds will come from the hills instead of from the ocean. Hopefully our readers in the bay area will be out basking in this last bit of summer. We are so politically correct out here, instead of an Indian Summer as it used to be called, they now call it, Indigenous People's Summer!

Deep Thoughts from a Cruising Skipper

I have been trying to find a Baja Ha Ha blog and finally found one with a blow by blow account of the trip down the coast of Baja Sur. Found one!

People have this image of what living on a sailboat and cruising is: endless beer, endless iced drinks, lounging day in and day out in the cockpit while the wind gently cools the afternoon sun, and so much time with so little to do. Well let me expunge that bogus image from your head right now! It is work my friends and at times hot, dirty, and hard work. It's the side of cruising that cruisers often don't share outside the cruising circles because in doing so, it would make people question the sanity of cruisers even more than they already do. Every boat we know that came down with the Baja ha-ha has a huge list of boat systems in need of repair. This phenomenon isn't limited to old boats, new alike have their lists and there wasn't a captain in the group that hasn't spent some quality time in the last few days folded into some small recess of their boat. I didn't spend the day lounging in the dingy under the shadow of the famous Cabo San Lucas rock with a Coconut drink in my hand, no, I spent the morning in my port sail locker working on boat systems. I was covered in sweat, so much so that it carried the sunscreen into my eyes with a burn. In the afternoon I visited the Port Captain followed by the Bank to pay the $18 check in fee and then back to the Port Captain's office to finalize the process. The Port Captain's office and bank were of course on opposite sides of town and being a cheap cruiser, I wasn't about to blow precious cruising funds on a cab ride, so Jason and I walked. Lori and Amy spend the day finishing up the provisioning process and ended up waiting about two hours at the dingy for us to return form our Government office death march through the streets of Cabo. When I returned to the boat, I discovered that our solar charger was dead so out it came and off I went to ship the unit back to the manufacture for repairs. The work continued as we prepared THIRD DAY for our early morning departure from Cabo. Fuel tanks topped off, equipment stowed and secured, boat organized for sea and the next thing I know the sun is down, dinner is on the table and another day of cruising is over.

So now the natural question is why? Why in the heck are we out here when from this blog report and others you see so much WORK? It's hard to explain but today and days like this are a total blast because it's think on your feet, make it work or else time and I love that. That's the aspect I loved about my first job out of collage at Aeros Environmental traveling around from site to site and dealing with things that would make some people go crazy all day long and then on the way back to the office after a 14 hour day getting a call that would send the test team out to another location with even more challenges and dragons to slay. There's also the aspect of family time and priceless kid education opportunities. Through all of today's challenges Amy and Jason were there to see it and were evolved in getting around the obstacles. Sure it was hot and tiring walking all over town but the kids see on a daily basis that if something is broke or needs to be done, it must be handled and that often the best way to resolve a situation is to do it yourself or at least take responsibility to see that the task gets completed correctly. If you leave the boat water running, then our tanks go dry and we are out of water. If we run out of diesel fuel, we can't motor. If we drop something overboard in deep water, no matter how much we cry, the item we dropped is gone. Cruising is a classroom where the bell never rings allowing you to put off that hard task until after recess. If you have an oil leak, you have to deal with it now or evaluate what the consequences are for putting the repair off. There multiple decision/consequence tests every day on a sailboat and some of them don't just result in a C- or D grade, that the teacher will allow you to take home and redo to save you from a mortal self esteem blow. Getting some of these decision/consequence test wrong can cause you to literally sink.

A great example of the kind of responsibility cruising teaches kids came from a kids-boat potluck just last night. There were 7 kids from 4 boats all playing on the bow and in and out of the boat while the parents sat in the cockpit. The kids ranged in age from 7 to 13 years old and not one of them was wearing a life jacket. child protective services immediately many in our society would scream, but all of these kids understand the consequences of falling overboard form a sailboat at night and they all used the understanding of that consequence to make good decisions about how they moved around on deck. Sure we were watching them, but not hovering over them to ensure that we were taking out all risk from their lives. I don't think I even owned a bike helmet when I was a kid, but perhaps that's what's wrong with me now?

In the last few days the kids have learned first hand how the Mexican system of government and civil service works and that isn't something they can get form a school book. Heck, now that I think about it, if the situation the kids experienced first hand was even discussed in a public school these days the teacher could lose their job for making racially and/or culturally insensitive remarks! The kids watched their dad get rolled for an extra $80 at the immigration office and spend a total of 8 hours processing paperwork from office to office that in any sane system would take no more than 30 minutes, so maybe when they get old enough to make their first trip to the DMV, it will appear a model of efficiency by comparison!

We will be up with the sun tomorrow morning as we leave Cabo and start working our way to La Paz. We will stop for a few days each at two anchorages to break the trip up into easy 40 to 50 mile legs and the kids watches will start right after breakfast. Responsibility 101 will begin with the course syllabus being the Sea of Cortez.

Read the Third Day blog here.

Friday, November 07, 2008

From the Archives: What is a Sailor?

By Paul Watson

A delightful young lady once asked me a very simple question while I was being interviewed by her as a prospective date. "So, what is it that makes you claim that you are a sailor?" she asked.

It seemed the easiest definition at the time was to tell her simply that I liked sailing and anyone who enjoyed just "being there" was, at the very least, a sailor.

On the drive home that evening I began to probe the answer I had given her and began a tally of the reasons that could be applied to completely define 'a sailor'. In the more than a year since the probe began I find myself still unable to totally make a clear definition. In some ways it left almost as many questions as it did, answers.

I would be hard pressed to deny that anyone who gazes across a body of water and feels a drawn fascination to the graceful, silent movement of a sailboat beneath its towering pyramid of sail certainly fits that first, offhand description that I had offered that young lady.

Any absolute neophyte who steps aboard a sailboat at the invitation of the owner and comes away with a sense of fulfillment is also a sailor.

The choice to 'book' one's first sailing vacation aboard a charter yacht or a tall-ship adventure must be driven by some thirsty fantasy. The romance of the sea may have danced vicariously for some time. This person is a sailor.

Is the professional sailor one who performs the more mundane duties and chores aboard a ship any less a sailor?

Just how much experience within the limitless horizons of simply enjoying sailing is required to define someone as a sailor?

Sailing, in my observation, is likely the most archaic mode of transportation left in the world today.

No one will ever know the exact moment that the first human found that they could be propelled across a body of water solely by the force of wind. Perhaps it was an early man who clung to a log with a leafy bough protruding into a gentle breeze and was carried across a small body of water. We may never know but we all know that they did it again.

The sailor of today still finds the challenge of moving the boat through the water by using the timeless energy of the wind equally fascinating.

Throughout centuries of history the exploration of the world could not have been accomplished without those iron men who led the way for all of us. They have left us all a legacy that we continue to slowly refine. As sophisticated as we are today, we sailors enjoy the same narcotic response enjoyed by that first intrepid sailor.

Even the tools of modern sailing technology have done little to change the basic implements of the sailor. His boat is still equipped with a hull, some sails and sheets, if even today the additions of more modern trappings accompany them, life rings, jack lines, jibe preventers, lifelines and Man Overboard markers. Today's sailor uses the same basic items that would be so easily identified by sailors of centuries ago. Even though today most modern and technologically amazing equipment enhances many of the once mysterious rituals of the great navigators but yet we still cannot apply friction to the water with the application of a lever or brake pedal.

Cruising sailors travel countless miles in every weather condition known, most often at a placid average of merely five or six knots. The dedicated club racer urges the optimum performance from his yacht most often at not nearly double that average. Recent global yacht races find sailors marveling at circling the earth in sixty days in light weight, spindly and dangerous sailing craft, while a commercial jetliner is capable of the same feat in less than sixty hours. The more recent technology finds some sailors eager to break speed records for short, measured courses that may soon exceed a mere 40 knots while the automotive buff has recently seen the sound barrier broken in a wheeled vehicle.

The sailor needs no degree in Physical Engineering to glance at the shape of their sails to innately understand the lesson of their efficiency and inherently knows the basics of not only the endless beauty of the shape but the power they can extract from the swelling, snowy fabric above.

Regardless of the type of endeavor, the racer, the cruiser, the professional delivery crew, weekender and day-sailor have all chosen, to learn the skills of seamanship and continually add to them. They navigate, hand sails, row, cook, anchor and make repairs without seeing any of these things as more than what it takes to be a sailor.

It's not unusual to find their land-based homes decorated with nautical art, souvenirs and endless publications to remind them just how close to the art of sailing they truly are.

Not one sailor of any level has not, at some time, envisioned himself or herself voyaging afar and vicariously visiting far-flung anchorages in exotic places. Those who sail the simplest routes and achieve but the nearest destinations each anxiously await the experience of the voyage as much as they do the relaxation and solace of the cockpit while swinging gently at the anchor just as fervently as the cruiser who crosses an ocean for the same pleasure.

Even within organized or simply casual competition no sailor is ever without the appreciation of calculated tactics and the almost perfect trim of their competitor's sails.

Sailors just seem to bring out the best in each other. A casual cruise is often turned into a friendly competition when another yacht of similar size or design draws near. The casual glance at one's own trim and the always-subtle re-adjustment often brings the crews to a more alert status. A close aboard hailing might determine the destinations of each, and if similar, becomes a competitive and joint effort to sail in company while extolling the best performance from their yacht as well as her crew.

There seems no apparent or serious division of sailors either. In any port they gather, almost magnetically, and in any language they communicate with fluid perception. A glance through any anchorage frequently includes a varied blend of sailing yachts from the classic mono-hulled designs comfortably mixed into the more modern offerings.

Wood, fiberglass, cement and metal construction are only the choices of the owners and often based on a particular or combinations of reasons for their structural choice but rather than divide them, the differences provides them the endless and intense conversations of the experiences with each of their unique as well as similar selections.

Accepting the rare occasion, the sailor is more often a teacher who is inexplicably compelled to pass along their experience to another with hands-on and patient training. These teachers cross no age or gender barriers with complete acceptance. During this hands-on education they pass along the secret language and the ancient words that only sailors know.

The sailors are bonded so universally with traits of artistry, honesty, creativity and almost all are blessed with a common language that so eloquently seasons their narratives that the sailor is uniquely set apart. They so easily disclose their methods and share their resources to unanimously improve sailing and their fellow sailors.

More than any other word that carries the weight of my responsibility for description is "passion". In my observation, the sailor, even the appreciative one who simply gazes in wonder from afar or the world girdling single-handed competitor, the common appreciation of the elements has drawn out cleaner and deeper thirst to apply a universally robust zeal to everything in their lives.

Reflecting upon my own fifty years of sailing and the people who've sailed with me, I'm so aware that each touch of the experience enriches me, challenges me and rewards me. I am never left to feel that there is nothing left to learn or accomplish. The three sailors that comprise my perfect crew have all become friends with life-long bonds to literally everything else in our individual environments.

Sailors should be credited with so many virtues beyond my borderless perception that to simply be one of them is to be honored in a very special way by a community of possibly the most incredible humans on Earth.

The young lady was not short-changed at all. It perfectly describes a sailor to say that they all 'like sailing'.

But her proactive response to my question might take the rest of our lives to complete our voyage while adding more answers to the original question.

Old Man and the Inland Sea

He is an amazing story from Lake Superior where the rescuer needs to be rescued. I have never read a story as cold and miserable as this one. It just won the Boating Writers award for 2008! Here it is:

Lake Superior’s chill waters were an ominous slate gray and the lake was steaming with fog banks 40-feet high as Carl Hammer slipped into his 17-foot wooden fishing skiff and started his outboard engine. It was 7 a.m., November 26, 1958 -- the day before Thanksgiving.

The 26-year old North Shore fisherman figured he’d get to his offshore fishing nets before a storm came up, pick his catch, and get back quickly – just as he’d done hundreds of times before. He’d have to hurry.

At 8:30 a.m., his fishing partner, Helmer Aakvik – also known as the “Old Man”-- peered out the window of his cabin on the bluffs overlooking Superior and made his decision: he would not go out to the nets this morning. The 62-year-old Aakvik settled down to enjoy a second cup of coffee when his cabin door opened with a blast of wind and his neighbor, Elmer Jackson, charged in. “The young fellow is still out on his boat,” Jackson said, worried.

Aakvik looked up, troubled. A storm was coming on – one of the worst kinds – an offshore wind from the north-northwest. His fishing partner, Carl Hammer, was still out on treacherous Superior. He abruptly put down his coffee cup. “Call the Coast Guard,” he said.
As he turned to leave, Jackson looked at him carefully. “Just don’t you go out,” he warned.

* * *

Grabbing a jacket and pulling his cap down tightly, the Old Man walked down the winding path to the bluff’s edge. There was a steady wind out of the northwest, and, even in the protection of the rocky ridge behind him, the temperature was dropping. This was late November in the North Country and soon there’d be ice and snow.

On a near-vertical rock ledge jutting above the lake, he came to the ramshackle wooden fish house that he and Hammer shared. In the open end of the shed, he could see that Hammer’s boat was gone. Spruce trees swayed ominously below in the onshore breeze.

He ducked back inside the wood shack and checked around. Sure enough, the young fisherman had helped himself to Aakvik’s gas supply. The borrowing was OK – they shared supplies all the time in this close-knit Norwegian community. The problem was that Hammer had a new outboard engine that used a different ratio of oil to gas in the fuel than Aakvik’s. The Old Man had an old Lockport and an elderly Johnson, but Hammer used a newer Johnson, which needed about a half a quart of oil mixed in five gallons of gas. Aakvik’s old two-cycles required twice that amount of oil, and a too heavy oil-gas ratio would gum up his friend’s carburetor and foul his spark plugs – stalling his engine.

He peered into the can, then swirled it around. He could see the drops of water on the surface. His gas was old and had accumulated water condensation. The old man’s normal routine was to filter the water out of the gas so that it didn’t freeze in the lines and kill the engine. Hammer hadn’t filtered his gas.

Read the full story here.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

iTunes 8

Here is a sample list. Click the pic for a better view.

If you are a music fan like me, you have downloaded iTunes 8. It has a neat new feature called Genius. You play a song and hit the Genius button and it creates a playlist based on your selection. You can create small playlists of 25 songs or big ones of 100. I have a huge library of music and Genius pulls out music that I haven't heard or have forgotten about. If you wish, it will also suggest music from the store. It's a great new feature and one you should have in you bag of tricks. Go to for the free download.

Nor Cal Winter Weather Prediction

Sunday, November 2, 2008 (SF Chronicle) Lore says it'll pour - early, that is Tom Stienstra, Chronicle Outdoors Writer (11-01) 18:46 PDT -- There's a saying in nature, "Birds never lie." There's another that goes: Onion skins very thin, mild winter coming in; Onion skins thick and tough, coming winter cold and rough." And those fuzzy caterpillars: I've seen a half dozen with thick, full coats in the past two weeks on mountain trails in Northern California. There's more: A phenomenon in the ocean has formed called the Madden-Julian Oscillation. There's also a linked interface between ocean temperatures and coastal land temperatures in Humboldt County that can predict weather. And to time the arrival of storms, pay close attention to moon cycles. I've received a lot of requests for my annual long-range weather forecast/guess for winter, and this is it: Nature's signs mean a wet late fall and early winter, with significant storms arriving around the new moon of late November (Thanksgiving Day), and just prior to the full moon in early December (Dec. 8-10 looks promising). After a dry period in the early New Year, January and February will bring about average precipitation. I don't expect a terribly wet spring in March and April. The final result for winter will be about average rainfall, wetter in the beginning, a bit drier at the end, This is why: -- Birds never lie: The annual migration of sandhill cranes to the Woodbridge Ecological Reserve near Lodi and snow geese to Sacramento Wildlife Refuge near Willows is right on schedule. The timing of these migrations is often a reliable weather predictor. -- Onion skins: The thickness of skins from onions grown in the San Joaquin Valley looks pretty average. -- Caterpillars: Those furry coats indicate early, heavy precipitation is on the way. -- Ocean/land temperatures: A reliable theory I've developed is that when ocean temps and coast land temps are the same, the storms wheel right in. That's the case right now in Humboldt County, so look for wet weather. When the ocean is colder and the land is warmer, it often acts like a blockade and pushes the storms into Oregon, which creates periods of drought, like this past spring. In the mountains, the effect of global climate change probably will have snow lines higher than normal for many storms - about 4,000 feet elevation in the north state and about 4,500 feet in the Sierra Nevada. There is one piece of real science that supports this forecast: Weather experts have identified the formation of the Madden-Julian Oscillation offshore in the Pacific, which typically lasts about 50 days. This forms very wet storms propelled to the Pacific Coast. So wherever the jet stream delivers the storm highway this late fall and early winter, those storms could be very wet. Last year's forecast, published on Oct. 28, hit the bulls-eye: "The Bay Area and Northern California will get a lot of rain through December and early January, then lighten considerably, with an early, warm spring, especially in the San Joaquin Valley. Southern California will face continuing drought."

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

From a Sailor Named Cameron

"You get a lot of time to think when you are alone at sea on a small boat, with few distractions but the water rushing by, and the stars at night, standing on deck alone and insignificant on the wide ocean, naked, peeing into the full moon... The downhill run to Papeete is a classic one, sailing right into the southern cross, It took 8 days to sail from the Marquesas to Tahiti, and in that time I experienced every emotion in the rainbow, from sheer terror, to sadness, to un-controllable mirth. I purged every dark corner of my mind, with nowhere to run from the truth, and came away cleansed, lighter, and much much stronger.

I realise now that I have shed almost all my fears. I am not afraid of dying, and I am not afraid of being alone. Actually, my life is wonderfully streamlined when I am left to my own devises. I am not afraid of being judged. I am not afraid of what I do or don't have. My idea of success is not based on money, but rather on the ability to wake up and say "yes, let's go to the waterfall today". The idea that freedom IS the end goal, and that money is just a means to that end, and that if you are not careful to make the distinction, the chasing of money can actually take away from that freedom--the means becomes the end. By that measure, my life so far has been a smashing success, and the only thing that scares me anymore is letting this crazy, beautiful life pass me by. No matter how hard I try, I will only have a fraction of the adventures I would like to. I will only see so many sunsets, I will only hold so many beautiful women in my arms.

Saying yes becomes more urgent as we get older, yet harder and harder to say. Life thunders by, and dreams are crushed beneath the wheels of time. I find that not being afraid is a tremendous freedom in itself. I will remember to say yes, more than just 'whenever possible', for it is at these times when I am most alive.

Who said, 'our greatest fear is not that we are weak, but that we are powerful beyond measure?' That hits the nail on the head. I don't know where this crazy, stormy, leaky boat of a life is headed, but I sure know that its beautiful out here under these stars..."

Motion Gallery

Check this cool video from the BBC based on Flash technology.