John’s Thoughts & Photos—November


The Vendee Globe started last week. For the next three months or so I will be following the race every day, as I did four years ago, and four years before that.

And this from a guy who has exactly zero interest in being a sports spectator…no, not even hockey, my adopted country’s favourite. As for baseball and cricket, they put me into a coma. Even watching “the beautiful game” is a total snore to me.

But there’s just something about the Vendee Globe that reels me in.

Maybe it’s because I think that completing a Vendee Globe, never mind winning it, is the toughest challenge that any person can take on in any sport or discipline. Yea, tougher than Everest, tougher than man-hauling a sled to the North Pole…well, maybe that comes close…if you do it alone and unsupported.

By the way, the Vendee iPad app is a great way to follow along.

Cutless Bearings


I do this a lot these days: When I need measurements, instead of taking them and writing it down, I get a couple of people to hold a tape and I take a photo.


You can do this with a phone, but it works even better with a higher res camera. This came from my Sony RX-100 Mk4 and is a crop of the one above, quite legible down to 1mm on my screen.

Now, if I had just had them hold the tape the right way up, I would be really smart.


I needed the measurements to build this cutless bearing extraction tool. There’s a disk of 1/2″ G10 on the inside end (up inside the stern tube) of the 5/8″ fine thread rod. Just wind on the wrench and out she comes…except it didn’t work, much to my amazement.

Tightened as much as I dared…no movement. Think about how much load that is! I’m sure the engineers around here could calculate it, but I suspect the answer is one $%#@!! of a lot.


Back to the drawing board to design and build this tool. The long handle required because the bearing had managed to wind itself way up inside the shaft log—that’s a story for another day.

Nearly burst a blood vessel putting two cuts in the bearing at full reach. But then it just dropped out—go figure. If it was easy, everybody would be doing it.

Prime Lenses

Those of you who hate it when I go off topic should stop reading now. Not to worry, this post is in addition to our normal content, so you are not missing out.

Still here? Cool.

A couple of years ago I sold both my prime (no zoom) lenses. One because it was a bad example of a good design—happens in boats and lenses—and the other because it focused slowly on my OMD-EM1.

And generally I have been pretty happy with three fast 2.8 zooms covering 24 mm to waaay out to 420 mm. But every so often I get a serious jones on for a fast prime…or maybe two—there is simply no way to get “that special look”, particularly in people photography, other than a fast prime.

Yesterday I had to drive to Halifax. By the time I finished my errands it was rush hour. So what could I do but go and visit my pusher…er, favourite camera photo store, while the traffic died down. Cue the eye roll from Phyllis.

So I spent a happy hour, at least it was happy for me, making the sales people open boxes…lots of boxes…while I tried out lenses on my Olympus body.

I shot all wide open and used the long-suffering sales staff as models. This is not a lens review…I do have a life. But I thought the different looks that focal lengths produce would be of interest…well, I’m interested anyway.

Let’s start wide. The numbers in brackets are 35 mm equivalent. Click on the images to see them bigger.

None of this is great art, or scientific, and the light in the store is for shit, but still…

I like the 17 mm (34) Oly for environmental portraits and the 45 mm (90) Oly for emphasizing the person over everything else. I expected to like the Leica/Panasonic 15 mm, but turns out it’s just a bit wide for me, and the 25 mm (50) Oly did not grab me, although I thought it would. Maybe I should try it again…cut to shot of camera sales people screaming and running for the hills.

The Pany 20 mm is really nice, but like its predecessor, which I owned and loved, it focuses slow on my Oly body, so that’s out.

To me a test like this is a heck of a lot more useful than spending hours on the forums and reviews reading tech specs. Bottom line, a lens must give you images that please you, and that pleasure can’t be completely quantified—bit like boats.

So what did I buy? Nothing…yet.

What about you? What focal length(s) just work for you?

Let’s finish with the obligatory oversaturated evening shot. This one of Mahone Bay. Shot at 1/4-second hand heldjust amazing what modern in-body image stabilization can do and Oly are the masters at it.


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John was born and brought up in Bermuda and started sailing as a child, racing locally and offshore before turning to cruising. He has sailed over 100,000 miles, most of it on his McCurdy & Rhodes 56, Morgan's Cloud, including eight ocean races to Bermuda, culminating in winning his class twice in the Newport Bermuda Race. He has skippered a series of voyages in the North Atlantic, the majority of which have been to the high latitudes. John has been helping others go voyaging by sharing his experience for twenty years, first in yachting magazines and, for the last 12 years, as co-editor/publisher of AAC.

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