June 28, 2012

These are the cruisers

A LETTER FROM “CURIOUS,” of Venice Beach, Florida, says: “I’m not a sailor but I read your blog now and then and I see you often refer to cruisers. What are cruisers and what do they do?”

Well, “Curious,” if you stand on a beach in Baja California at sunset, you'll observe beings arriving in small craft, attracted like moths to a large fire of driftwood. These are boat people, humans, Homo sapiens, hairless vertebrates, mammals walking upright on two legs and engaging in a ritual of bonding and feeding on meat burned over a fire.

Within moments of their arrival they’re drinking the fermented juice of grapes, mashed barley, and rye. But these are not the hunter/gatherers of bygone years. These are the wanderer/spenders. A few are wanderer/spongers, admittedly, but mostly they use money — a form of storing rewards for past work.

The younger ones, when the flames of the fire grow low, will pair off and disappear into the bush where they will eagerly divest themselves and embrace.

The older ones, particularly the males, will continue to drink from containers of glass or metal, talking all the while about their exceptional accomplishments and rhythmically rocking on their heels until they fall over sideways in the sand, whereupon their grumbling females will drag them off, tumble them into their small boats and transport them back to the mobile floating shelters they call yachts.

This scene repeats itself on deserted beaches in tropical regions all over the world — the Bahamas, the Florida Keys, the West Indies, the islands of the South Pacific, the lagoons of Madagascar and South Africa, wherever there is warm water deep enough to float a yacht.

These are cruisers, a peripatetic subspecies of Homo sapiens known to naturalists as "yachtsmen" and "yachtswomen" or "pleasure boaters," and generally acknowledged (in their own circles at least) to be the highest order of evolution of mankind.

Today’s Thought
Alone among all creatures, the species that styles itself wise, Homo sapiens, has an abiding interest in its distant origins, knows that its allotted time is short, worries about the future, and wonders about the past.
— John Noble Wilford.

“Waiter, there’s a fly in my soup.”
(6)“Yes, would you prefer it on a side plate, sir?”

(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday for a new Mainly about Boats column.)

June 26, 2012

Bligh? Not I

THERE HAVE BEEN TIMES in my life when a certain person referred to me as Captain Bligh. A hurtful remark, and quite unfounded when I think of how kind and lenient a skipper I have always been, compared with some I’ve read about. It’s true that I might have been a little tense in the middle of a close race now and then, but I doubt very much that I actually screamed  and swore at her, as she maintains.  Swearing does no good, after all, and in fact it was a punishable offense in the old days of sail.

Just the other day I was reading some of the rules for the regulation of the Navy of the Colonies, in 1775, and came across these examples of punishments that today’s spoiled crews never have to worry about:

Article 3:

If any shall be heard to swear, curse, or blaspheme the name of God, the Captain is strictly enjoined to punish them for every offence by causing them to wear a wooden collar or some other shameful badge of distinction for so long a time as he shall judge proper.

If he be a commissioned officer he shall forfeit one shilling for each offence, and a warrant or inferior officer, sixpence.

He who is guilty of drunkenness (if a seaman) shall be put in irons until he is sober, but if an officer he shall forfeit two days’ pay.

Article 4:

No Commander shall inflict any punishment beyond twelve lashes upon his bare back with a cat of nine tails.

But even in those days, punishment was tempered with mercy.  Take Article 22 for example:

The Captain is frequently to order the proper officer to inspect into the condition of the provisions, and if the bread proves damp to have it aired upon the quarter-deck or poop, and also to examine to flesh cask, and if any of the pickle be leaked out, to have new made and put in and the cask made tight and secure.

In any case, next time my crew has the temerity to call me Captain Bligh, I shall have to ask her if the bread be damp, or any of the pickle be leaked out of the flesh cask. If so, there may be hell to pay.  (Including a shameful badge of distinction.)

Today’s Thought
One thinks of boats in terms of a language which is foreign to those who have never used the sea.
— T. C. Lethbridge

“Waiter, there’s a fly in my soup.”
(5)“Yes, sir, it’s the bad meat that attracts them.”

(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday for a new Mainly about Boats column.)

June 24, 2012

The Birkdale's big broach

The barque Birkdale

THOSE OF YOU who know the difference between a ship’s being in irons and being in stays will know that it boils down to speed through the water.  Without speed the rudder has no control.  So when a sailing vessel is in stays, her headsails are shaking as she goes about from one tack to the other.  But when she’s in irons she is pointing into the wind and has lost way.  Usually this is the cause of great excitement, for there is often no telling which way her bow might fall off, or if sternway might be involved.
The bigger the ship, the greater the excitement when control is lost in this way, or in another way that I first read about in Frank Wightman’s wonderful book, The Wind is Free.  Wightman sailed as a rookie on the large three-masted steel barque Birkdale before World War II. Down on the 45th parallel in the great Southern Ocean, the Birkdale blew out the fore lower topsail in a fierce gale. With the only sail left on her so far aft she took a sheer as her stern rose to a wall of water. She broached to, roared obliquely down the face of the sea and lay on her side.
She staggered up and fled, reeling along in the troughs with her rudder hard over but having no effect. In the hollows between the distant crests of the mountainous seas, her stern would start driving to windward in an attempt to bring the wind and sea aft, but every time one of the huge breakers would slam her on the weather quarter and fling her stern back into the trough.
The crew battled to get more sail area up forward. The struggled to raise the inner jib but as it started to climb the stay it was blown to pieces in a few convulsive shakes.
A few picked hands were sent aloft to loose the lee clew of the forecourse and inch by inch the group at the capstan dragged the clew down to the deck as the sail shook the whole ship like a terrier shakes a rat.  This gave her the speed the rudder needed and her stern swung round to meet the next sea.
“As we all held our breaths, watching and willing her to do it, her counter started to rise steeply on the face of the sea,” Wightman said, “There was perhaps a hundred feet before the crest struck her—and her stern was still swinging. Suddenly her tail leaped skywards and the snarling crest broke in thunder square under her counter. From the staggering crowd a ragged yell went out and was snatched away by the wind.”  At last she was able to run safely at speed and under control, driving east before the chasing seas and roaring wind.
Every time I read that book my mind boggles at the thought of how big the seas must have been to make a ship that big broach to, to throw her around as if she were a lightweight racing dinghy under too much spinnaker.
The Wind is Free is a beautifully written tale of how Wightman escaped from the rat race, built his own wooden yacht, and sailed her from South Africa to Trinidad after World War II, when small-boat voyages were still rare. It is a classic that deserves to be better known.
Today’s Thought
In fancy I used to see her running in the big seas. Under a lowering sky and through a welter of angry water she fled, rising and falling, outlined in the whiteness of her speed, magical and swift.
Sometimes she slept upon her own reflection off golden beaches which palm trees barred with shadow. And in fancy I was always with her. This was my refuge from the long littleness of life.
— Frank A. Wightman, The Wind Is Free
“Waiter, there’s a fly in my soup.”
(4) “Shame, sir, it must have committed suicide.”
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June 21, 2012

The silence of the fans

A FRIEND remarked recently that I haven’t said much lately about Vigor’s Silent Fan Club, the biggest fan club in the whole wide world. The reason for that is simple. All my communication with the club comes through the president, Ivor Tungin-Cheaque, and I haven’t heard from him for several months. I don’t think it’s his fault. I have an idea they’re not letting him out of his padded cell as often as they used to.

No matter, I’m sure he will manage to contact me in due course, when he has some important news to impart.

Meanwhile the club forges ahead under its own impetus, the only restriction on membership being this, in the words of the president himself:

“As everybody knows, members are forbidden to contact you, or praise in any way your unmatched wisdom, your gracious manners, and your unrivalled literary skills. Because membership is automatic until a member is expelled for overtly admiring you, you have the biggest fan club the world has ever known.”

It’s extraordinary how good people are about complying with the rule. For instance, I’ve not heard a word from Queen Elizabeth, bless her heart, although she must have been busting a royal gut to include me in her diamond jubilee address to the nation.  President Obama has kept himself under tight control, too, much to his credit, and has manfully refrained from congratulating me on my unmatched wisdom and gracious manners. Aung San Suu Kyi must have had me foremost in her mind when she collected her Nobel Prize the other day, and it was probably all she could do to prevent herself from proclaiming my magnificence in her beautiful, precise English accent.

I must say I am most grateful to them, and to the billions of other members of the Silent Fan Club all over the world who, when pressed, will pretend never to have heard of me rather than forfeit their membership.

Actually, for me the most wonderful thing about the Silent Fan Club is not having to handle fame. Nobody recognizes me in the street. No curvaceous blondes rush up to me and say: “I want your children.” Well, very few lately, anyway.

I must confess that I don’t think I could handle the pressure of being lauded, and hounded by the paparazzi, like a Hollywood star. I prefer the smug anonymity that allows me to sup my beer without some damn nuisance asking for my signature every couple of minutes.

Today’s Thought
Even those who write against fame wish for the fame of having written well, and those who read their works desire the fame of having read them.
— Pascal, Pensées.

“Waiter, there’s a fly in my soup.”
(3)“Goodness, sir, but he’s a slow eater. His friends are on the entree already.”

(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday for a new Mainly about Boats column.)

June 19, 2012

The useful hockey puck

ONE OF THE MOST VALUABLE navigation tools here in the Pacific Northwest is the little hand bearing (“hockey puck”) compass you can wear on a cord around your neck. It’s an essential part of chart navigation, of course, because it’s what you use to take magnetic bearings of prominent features on land. Two or more of those bearings allow you to plot your position on the chart.

But the hockey puck compass is also valuable if you navigate by GPS. Let’s presume you’re heading for an anchorage on Flybutton Island, one of many in the Trousers Archipelago. As usual, with islands overlapping, covered with pine trees, and all looking alike, you can’t see any obvious entrance to Zip-Up Cove on Flybutton Island.

However, you have programmed a waypoint into your GPS; and now your GPS is telling you to steer a course of 250 degrees magnetic to Zip-Up Cove. All fine and good, but because of currents and leeway, your main steering compass is not going to take you to Zip-Up Cove if you steer 250 degrees. If you’re beating, your boat will be making leeway, so she won’t be going where she’s pointing. And if you’re in a current, as you mostly are around here, you have to allow for being set sideways.

An experienced navigator knows how to compensate for all this, naturally, and your GPS will tell you how much you’re going off course. But there’s a simple trick that’s very reassuring to Nervous Nellies:

When the GPS says the direction to your destination waypoint is 250 degrees, get out your hand bearing compass and sight through it until it shows 250 degrees. Now you are looking at the actual place on land that you are aiming for. Make a note of any landmarks you can see, such as a tower or a tall tree, or a mountain with a cleft.

When you can actually see a place to aim for like this it’s a great help with the steering. You still need to compensate for being set off course, but it’s reassuring to have the GPS course confirmed by your hand bearing compass.

Another thing — if you stand in the cockpit to take your bearing, you’re usually well away from any ferrous metals and current-bearing wires, so your hockey puck compass is not affected by the ship’s deviation, and will show a true magnetic course. (If you wear glasses, just make sure the frames aren’t magnetic.)

As you probably know, there are many other uses for this little compass; too many to explore in this limited space, but they include the ability to warn you of impending collisions with other vessels, and to reveal the deviation of your main steering compass. Your hockey puck can also help you stay clear of charted (but not visible) underwater dangers, and by giving you two quick bearings, it can tell you how far you are off a prominent landmark. In addition, it will tell you in an instant if your anchor is dragging.

Furthermore, if you take it ashore with you, it will help you find your way back to the boat in a dark anchorage, or in thick fog. And so on ... for 150 bucks or less, it’s a great safety aid for any sailor and a particularly valuable tool for the navigator.

Today’s Thought
The sea never changes and its works, for all the talk of men, are wrapped in mystery.
— Joseph Conrad

“Waiter, there’s a fly in my soup.”
(2)“Don’t worry, sir, he’ll sink when he’s dead.”

(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday for a new Mainly about Boats column.)

June 17, 2012

A gastro-navigation course

ARE YACHTSMEN LIVING LONGER than they used to? This question occurred to me when I was reading an article written in the middle of the last century by Robert Neilson. It described how to make a five-course dinner on a yacht in 30 minutes with a minimum of actual labor.
All the equipment required was one burner of the stove and a two-gallon pot half filled with sea water, to which was added:

Ø A can of soup;

Ø A can or sealed jar of meat balls with spaghetti and tomato sauce, corned beef hash with a boiled egg atop, spaghetti and cheese, or any number of similar items;

Ø Any canned vegetable as desired;

Ø Any fresh vegetable that can be cooked in salt water, such as potatoes, onions, squash, carrots, corn, turnips, and green peppers;

Ø For dessert, a couple of bananas can be thrown in and eaten as a vegetable if desired, or with brown sugar and milk.

The instructions were to place all cans in the pot on their sides with their labels removed. “If placed on end, the boiling will make them rattle like a dozen castanets,” said the voice of experience. “On top and in between, place the vegetables and, later on, the bananas, all with their jackets on. Bring to a boil, cook for 20 minutes, and dinner is ready.”

Now, I could hardly suppress a shudder when I read that list. It seems fairly innocuous at first glance, but I couldn’t help feeling that some of this (maybe a lot of this) was mighty unhealthy fodder according to modern thinking.

Times have changed. How would we get along these days without gluten-free cookies, fat-free milk, and cholesterol free meatballs — in fact, meat-free meatballs? Where would we be without organic vegetables and calorie counts on everything?

Which leads me to another questions: Will we still die if we stop eating the stuff that’s killing us, and eat healthily instead? In other words, what is our excuse for dying now that we don’t derive our meals from cans boiled in a two-gallon pot? All I can say is that anyone who dies from now on has got some explaining to do.

Today’s Thought
I want a dish to taste good, rather than to have been seethed in pig’s milk and served wrapped in a rhubarb leaf with grated thistle root.
— Kingsley Amis.

No doubt you’ve heard a “fly-in-my-soup” joke. Well, I have 30 of them, and I’m not going to waste them by using them all at once. No sir, I’m going to dole them out over the next 30 columns. So stand by with your groans, here goes:

“Waiter, there’s a fly in my soup.”
(1)“It’s all right, sir, he won’t live long in that stuff.”

(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday for a new Mainly about Boats column.)

June 14, 2012

That lopsided feeling

HAVE YOU EVER HAD THE FEELING that your boat sails better on one tack than the other? Does she always point better on port than on starboard?  Or are you just imagining it? Maybe not.  Boats do vary from side to side  because of differences in temperature, humidity, and general exposure to the elements when they’re being built.

This affliction affects even the best and most careful boatbuilders.  One man who used to work for a prestigious California boatbuilder commented: “Sometimes the variance is minimal and sometimes it is quite noticeable. When I worked for Sam Morse building the Lyle Hess-designed BCCs (Bristol Channel Cutters)  it was quite obvious that the hull mold was asymmetrical. One had only to stand behind the boat and look forward along the garboards (where the lower part of the hull joins the keel) to see the difference between the port and starboard side of the boat. I noticed this difference quite readily when installing the ballast. The lead castings for the ballast reflected the hull’s asymmetry.”  

It’s not only hulls that suffer asymmetry, either. Decks are often different from side to side on fiberglass production boats and it’s not unknown for owners to discover that the mast(s) are not exactly centered, or that the rudder head does not come up through the exact center of the cockpit.  It’s because the deck tooling is usually built on the first hull to come from the hull mold. Slight differences in expansion and contraction of all materials involved during the tooling phase are there forever once the molds are laid up on the tooling.

The differences in sailing performance, from tack to tack, are likely to be absolutely minimal, however, and there’s no suggestion that the ordinary asymmetry resulting from normal boatbuilding practice could cause any danger under way.  Nevertheless, if you do consistently get the feeling that she performs better on one tack than the other, or if your helm always pulls one way more than the other, it wouldn’t hurt, next time she’s out of the water, to take a good long look, or even photographs, from ahead and astern, to see if you can spot any substantial differences. Then you can look forward to lots of sleepless nights figuring out what to do about it.

Today’s Thought
Error is a hardy plant; it flourisheth in every soil.
— Martin F. Tupper, Proverbial Philosophy: Of Truth in Things False.

“Doc, is it true that if you don’t drink, smoke, or chase after women, you’ll live longer?”
“Well frankly that’s the theory — but we’ll never know until somebody actually tries it.”

(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday for a new Mainly about Boats column.)

June 12, 2012

What's adrift? Far too much

FOR HUNDREDS OF SAILORS making their way around the world on small yachts, there could hardly be anything more distressing than the sight of a large concrete floating dock that was cast up recently on a beach in Oregon. It had apparently come loose in the earthquake/tsunami in Japan in March last year, and drifted 5,500 miles across the Pacific.

Can you imagine hitting that thing in stormy seas one dark night?  And how many other bits and pieces are out there, threatening small boats?  From time to time we hear of containers being washed off the decks of ships, huge floating steel boxes with sharp edges.  I know of at least one boat that struck a floating tree a couple of hundred miles off the mouth of the Amazon, and the inshore waters of the Pacific Northwest are often stuffed with almost invisible deadheads and logs that have escaped from rafts being towed to the sawmills. 

A friend of mine ran into a whale one night in the middle of the ocean — and we haven’t even started to think about other sailboats and big ships that for some reason seem attracted to one another on collision courses.  You’d think that the chances of running into another vessel on the wide-open oceans are almost nil, but in fact they seem to want to find and cling to each other as two matchsticks do when you put them in a saucer of water.

The appearance of the floating dock is bad news for anyone sailing in the North Pacific. It is a 66-foot long rectangular structure, 19 feet wide and 7 feet tall, made of hollow concrete and metal, and stuffed with styrofoam.  It is obviously driven by the current more than the wind, for it lies quite low in the water,  and it is amazing to me to that it covered 5,500 miles in little more than a year.  The scary thing is that is it probably just a precursor of much more tsunami junk on the way.  It was one of four similar docks washed away in Japan and nobody knows where the other three are.  But thousands of tons of debris of other kinds, including fishing boats, were washed into the sea and we’re likely to see a whole lot more of it on the west coast soon as the prevailing current makes its inexorable way from Japan to Alaska and south along the coasts of Washington, Oregon, and California.

This is not the best time to be out there in a small yacht at night. The sea is too full of man-made perils that could sink a yacht without warning.

Today’s Thought
No one can safely expose himself often to danger. The man who has often escaped is caught at last.
— Seneca, Epistulae ad Lucillum

“Howdy, cowboy. Can I hire this here horse?”
“Sure thing, ma’am. There’s a jack in his saddlebag.”

(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday for a new Mainly about Boats column.)

June 10, 2012

Sensation of the year 1867

The American raft Nonpareil

ONE THING YOU LEARN in the journalism game is to be very, very careful about who did something first. For example, when I think of crossing an ocean on a raft, Thor Heyerdahl and the Kon Tiki spring to mind, as does Dr. Alain Bombard and his rubber dinghy l’Hérétique.

But years before these adventurers took to the ocean there was the Nonpareil, an American raft that very few people have even heard about these days. However, 145 years ago, after three men sailed her across the Atlantic, she was what one British newspaper described as the “sensation of the year among nautical men.”

The Nonpareil set sail from Sandy Hook, New York, on June 12, 1867, and arrived in Southampton, England, on July 25 of that year, having taken 43 days en route.  She was skippered by Capt. John Mikes and had a crew of two able seamen, George Miller and Jeremiah Mullane.

The raft consisted of three hollow, india-rubber, waterproof cylinders 25 feet long and 2 1/2 feet in diameter connected by what they called “waterproof sacking.” These large tubes were strongly secured by ropes to a wooden frame 21 feet long and 12 1/2 feet wide.

Her rig was peculiar to modern eyes. She had two masts, the foremast being rigged as a lugger and the mainmast as a gaff cutter.  Her accommodations were primitive, to say the least — a sort of tent formed of some waterproof cloth hung over a boom. An oil lamp was their only means of light and heat.

The Nonpareil apparently sailed reasonably well, though obviously had trouble making headway to windward. She weathered many gales by lying to a drogue, but apparently was never in any kind of danger.  She was offered help by a surprising number of ships, both steam and sail, but never needed any, although her crew did accept an invitation to dinner aboard a ship in mid-ocean one calm evening.

The Illustrated London News of August 10, 1867, said the purpose of the voyage was to test the practicability of the life-saving raft for deep-sea work, and her arrival in Britain “excited great interest with those concerned with nautical affairs.”

The Nonpareil’s crew was welcomed by the Royal Yacht Squadron, at Cowes, and she was shown to members of the royal family who were aboard one of the yachts there.

That voyage, as far as I know, was the beginning of the era of inflatable rubber life rafts that is still with us today. But who knows? Maybe the ancient Egyptians were the first.

Today’s Thought
It is the true cry of nature; wherever we are we wish to be first.
— Lacordaire, Conférences.

“Is it true that the Indians were here before us?”
“Well, naturally. They had reservations.”

(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday for a new Mainly about Boats column.)

June 7, 2012

Guilty, but unabashed

FOR YEARS I FELT GUILTY about not being able to splice double-braid line. As one descended from a seafaring family, one who has always displayed reasonable prowess in the bosun’s art, this failure to form a simple loop in the end of a rope has long been a secret blot on my family escutcheon. But I’ve finally gotten over it. I no longer give a damn about eye splices in double-braid line. I’m no good at it and I don’t care.
It’s not as if I didn’t try. Heavens, no. I have three different splicing tools and none of them did any good. I try now to forget the blighted hours I spent trying to shove those tools through, around, and under unyielding nylon and Dacron.

Master rigger Brion Toss describes the splice as “a bizarre, alien construction, and one that most people find intimidating.” He got that right.

I make magnificent splices of all kinds in good old three-strand line. If I have to use double-braid line, I make my loops with bowline knots. Life’s too short to splice double-braid.

PS: Somebody told me that the mistake I made was to practice on stiff old line. “You can only splice brand-new braid,” he said. Too bad. It’s too late now. I’m put off for life.

Today’s Thought
Technology . . . is a queer thing. It brings you great gifts with one hand, and it stabs you in the back with the other.
— C. P. Snow

Confucius say man who sail like hell bound to get there in the end.

(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday for a new Mainly about Boats column.)

June 5, 2012

Speedy we are not

 LANDLUBBERS must find it hard to hide their smirks when they hear old salts referring to fast boats and slow boats. In truth, all sailboats are slow in comparison with other forms of transport. There are aged grandmas who can pedal their shopping trikes faster than most 40-footers can sail.

The very fastest sailboats have emerged in this century. In March, 2001, the record-breaking 110-foot catamaran Club Med took 62 days to circumnavigate the earth. She covered 26,500 miles at an average speed 18.2 knots. One day she sailed 650 nautical miles-—a 24-hour average of 27 knots.

But she was a highly specialized boat. Most small sailboats cross oceans at a rate of about 120 miles every 24 hours, a distance that takes only two hours in a family car (and less in a decent one).

Luckily, one of the great charms of sailing is that speed, time, and distance lose the importance we grant them on land. They mingle, dissolve, and gel into a form of joy unknown to landlubbers. Yes, sailing is slow, but that only means its delights last longer.

Today’s Thought
Ease and speed in doing a thing do not give the work lasting solidity or exactness of beauty.
— Plutarch, Lives: Pericles.

“I stayed up all night to see where the sun went.”
“And what happened?”
“It finally dawned on me.”

(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday for a new Mainly about Boats column.)

June 3, 2012

The truth about Spray

IT COMES AS A BIT OF A SHOCK to learn that the first yacht to have been sailed all the way around the world singlehanded was actually not very seaworthy. Apparently Capt. Joshua Slocum’s famous Spray, which has been copied lord knows how many times, was unlikely to right herself after a capsize. She was extremely stiff initially, but once heeled beyond a certain angle was unlikely to recover.

This assessment, which is not the best news for the many owners of existing Spray clones, came from one of America’s best-known sailboat architects, John G. Hanna, designer of the famous Tahiti ketch.

In The Rudder Treasury (Sheridan House) Hanna says:  “Since the Suicide Squad has been for many years building exact copies of Spray, and will continue doing so for many years more unless restrained, perhaps I can save a life or two by explaining, as simply as possible, the basic reason (skipping many other good reasons) why Spray is the worst possible boat for anyone, and especially anyone lacking the experience and resourcefulness of Slocum, to take off-soundings . . .

“A big lurching cross sea, that would scarcely disturb a properly designed hull, can — especially if it coincides, as it often does, with an extra-savage puff of a squall — flip over a Spray hull just as you would a poker chip.

“Many duplicates trying to duplicate the circumnavigation have disappeared without trace, just as the original Spray and Slocum did.”

Hanna goes on to say that one Spray copy that completed a circumnavigation, Roger Strout’s Igdrasil, was flipped “up to the very point of the last rollover, and for a second or two it seemed she would never come back on her bottom.” Strout told Hanna that if ever he were building again for such a trip, he would willingly sacrifice the comfort of broad decks and great initial stability for more of the ultimate stability that infallibly rights a well-designed yacht, even if knocked down with her masts in the water.

Hanna added: “I trust a little sober reflection on these facts will cause a ray of light  to dawn in the minds of another generation of would-be Spray duplicators. The famous old ship had her good points, and no one admires them more than I; but not enough to overcome some almost certainly fatal faults.”

All of which tends to reinforce my own long-held belief that a large portion of any boat’s seaworthiness consists of the skill and experience of the skipper (and crew, if any).

 Today’s Thought
None but blockheads copy each other.
— William Blake

There’s a new series of TV sets due to hit the market soon. They project in 3-D. They’ll give you height, width, and debt.

(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday for a new Mainly about Boats column.)