The Offshore Voyaging Reference Site

Tips, Tricks & Thoughts:


  • Beware of Ocean Options, Tiverton, Rhode Island

    We just got ripped off. Here’s the story in the hopes that it will save someone else from the same fate.

    Some 25 years ago we bought a D8 Espar heater from Mike Bowden owner of Ocean Options of Tiverton, Rhode Island.

    And over the years that we owned the McCurdy and Rhodes 56, Eddie, the excellent technician at Ocean Options (since left) maintained the heater for us, and even advised me over the phone on the single occasion it needed repair while cruising.

    Given that long relationship, when we decided to install a small Espar heater in our new-to-us J/109, I called Mike and was particularly happy to hear that they had installed the same heater in a sister ship.

    Over a couple of weeks I sent Mike photos and measurements so he could quote on everything we needed. The total came out at US$3,207.10, a lot more than we could have bought a kit for right here in Nova Scotia.

    But, on the other hand, we needed a bunch of additional stuff to do a good installation that does not come in the kit, and Mike also promised me one of the new S3-version heaters with a brushless motor that are way quieter and also hard to get, or at least that’s what he told me.

    And most important of all I felt I owed Mike for his advice—I clearly remember how much it stung when, back in the day, I would advise someone on selecting a computer, only to have them buy it from a discounter.

    So I called Mike with a credit card just before Christmas, and he assured me that the whole order would ship in the first week of January.

    January came and went, I was super busy, but every so often I would check with Mike and he kept telling me that the problem was that Espar had not shipped due to issues at their end.

    Finally, in mid-February, Mike said that since Espar was still having issues, he would send me everything I needed to do all the installation work, and then send the heater, fuel pump, and control panel as soon as it arrived from Espar.

    Soon we received a huge box, only to find that Mike had cleaned out his storeroom, dumping all kinds of stuff on me that I did not need and much of it wrong for our boat: wrong fuel fitting, wrong transom exhaust fitting, to name two.

    The whole reason for going to Mike was that he said he knew what I needed, and could save me all the agro of sourcing it.

    That was when the alarm bells really went off. I called Mike and told him I suspected he was on credit hold with Espar and had used our money for other things. He admitted I was exactly right. He had been lying to me for weeks, saying it was an Espar problem.

    But he passionately promised to make it right and that if I just held off for a week he would find the money to pay Espar and ship the heater.

    I didn’t believe him and filed a credit card dispute that day. That was six weeks ago and, although I was properly documented and even complimented by the dispute department representative at our bank on the thorough presentation of our case, we have not heard a word from Mastercard nor received a credit.

    Given that I’m fairly sure that Ocean Options won’t be able to make Mastercard whole, I have a nasty feeling there may be a “reason” found to deny our claim—what a cynic I am.

    And even if Mastercard refund us for the parts we didn’t get, the bank advised me not to claim for all the stuff Mike did send me, even though much of it was wrong, because, since Ocean Options could prove they had sent it, Mastercard would likely use that as an excuse to deny the whole claim.

    So there you go:

    • Don’t give your credit card to Mike Bowden of Ocean Options.
    • Once we have established that we have been lied to, file a credit dispute immediately. One lie is always followed by others. And the best liars are always the most credible sounding.
    • Never assume you are fully protected by using a credit card…or maybe protected at all—I will update this when we see what Mastercard does.
    • At least I had the sense not to use a debit card, or a service like Wise. There would have been no hope of getting any money back—a less-known fact about debit cards.
    • No good deed—being a loyal customer to Mike—goes unpunished.

    On that last one, I still think longterm relationships and expert advice are important and worth paying for, and so would do the same again in the same circumstances. I won’t let one rogue turn me into an ungrateful wretch…OK two rogues…both in Rogue Island.

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  • RIP Good Old Boat Magazine

    I have been a subscriber to Good Old Boat magazine ever since I had lunch with Mike, the then editor, while attending the 2019 Annapolis Sailboat Show.

    I signed up first because I liked Mike and felt that he was a genuine guy who had done real cruising and really wanted to help get other people out there.

    That said, I did kid him mercilessly about the magazine encouraging the inexperienced and unsuspecting into years-long bank-account draining refits. He kinda agreed by saying:

    Yeah, I’m an enabler.

    But, on the other hand, GOB inspired a whole generation to find an old boat that would otherwise end up on the scrap heap, fix it, and get out there sailing and cruising.

    And, best of all, the boats they wrote about were simple, small, and mostly wholesome—that was my second reason for paying my annual subscription every year.

    I’m guessing that literally thousands of people, who wouldn’t have otherwise, experienced the joy of sailing and cruising thanks to GOB.

    There is so much cheap classic plastic out there that it’s now possible to buy a functional 30-foot sailboat for $1500 that will take a couple out for a weekend, and even as far as Catalina Island.

    Michael Robertson, then editor of GOB, at lunch

    And now it’s over. Another victim of the glib YouTube channels and, I suspect, today’s fixation on having it all, and living large, rather than just getting out there in what we can afford. I’m saddened.

    But here’s a bright spot. Good Old Boat went out with class. Instead of just walking away from those who had unused time left on their subscriptions, like most mags that go bust do, they just sent us subscribers a huge 4GB Zip of every single issue of GOB since the beginning in June of 1998.

    Worth every penny I have left in my subscription, and then some. The boat reviews alone are gold. I will treasure the archive.

    Thanks to Good Old Boat, a class act to the end.

    Further Reading

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  • Is Boat Electric Drive Green or Greenwashing?

    Here at AAC we are all over anything that will reduce carbon emissions, but we also don’t like the pretengineering so prevalent in the electric drive business.

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  • Just What The World Doesn’t Need

    I generally don’t get political around here, and we have a rule against that in our comment guidelines, but sometimes a situation is so egregious that I simply can’t keep my opinion to myself:

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  • What It’s Really All About

    A beautiful full-moon-lit evening in a lovely anchorage rafted up with good friends for a fine dinner.

    Not a lot more to say, really.

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  • Take a Racer Sailing

    I have long argued that one of the quickest ways to become a better cruiser is to go racing as crew.

    It also works the other way around. Brooke (on the left) owns and seriously races a J/109 on Narraganset Bay. So while she was visiting with our friend Ed, she came out sailing on our J/109 and taught me a huge amount.

    This was particularly good because she owns the same boat, but even without that added advantage it’s well worth persuading a skilled racer to come sailing on your cruising boat. You will learn a lot.

    Pro tip: Racers love beer.

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  • When is Enough, Enough?

    “Enough” is realizing that the opposite—an insatiable appetite for more—will push you to the point of regret.

    Morgan Housel

    I have quoted this guy several times before. Even though he writes about investing and finance his thoughts are often relevant to life and cruising.

    A great thought to keep in mind when we are deciding how much gear to add to our boats.

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  • A Required Skill to Go Voyaging

    “The capacity to tolerate minor discomfort is a superpower,” Oliver Burkeman wrote. “ It’s shocking to realize how readily we set aside even our greatest ambitions in life merely to avoid easily tolerable levels of unpleasantness. It is possible, instead, to make a game of gradually increasing your capacity for discomfort, like weight training at a gym. The rewards come so quickly that it soon becomes the more appealing way to live.”   

    Oliver Burkeman and Lin Pardey

    Phyllis on the same subject

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  • Mental Liquidity

    I have quoted Morgan Housel, one of the smartest people in investing as well as one of the best writers, before.

    His thoughts about investing often make sense for life, and offshore voyaging.

    Here’s Morgan again:

    A question I love to ask people is, “What have you changed your mind about in the last decade?” I use “decade” because it pushes you into thinking about big things, not who you think will win the Super Bowl.

    I am always so suspicious of people who say, “nothing.” They act like it’s a sign of intelligence – that their beliefs are so accurate that they couldn’t possibly need to change. But I think it’s the surest sign of ignorance and stubbornness.

    Morgan Housal, read the whole article

    I struggle with staying open and flexible every day, but at least I can answer Morgan’s question in the positive:

    That’s all that comes to mind right now, at least around sailing. Maybe I need to work harder at this!

    What about you? Tell us what you have changed your mind about in the last 10 years, in a comment.

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  • Updated Norwegian Cruising Guide, Volume 3

    Many of you may not be aware, but Phyllis and I have a second job as publishers and editors of the Norwegian Cruising Guide.

    Actually, that’s a bit of a stretch in that Phyllis, together with our friend and Norwegian partner Hans Jakob, do 95% of the work on that project and I get my name on the cover because…I’m good looking?

    OK, I do do the technical stuff like maintaining the NCG site and figuring out the latest upgrades and insanities in Adobe Creative Cloud when Phyllis starts to tear her hair.

    Anyway, in case you are thinking of Norway as a cruising designation (highly recommended), we just released a massive update to a massive and very cool Guide…No, I’m not even slightly biased.

    Shameless plug over, back to our regular programming.

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  • Thoughts on The Golden Globe Race 2022



    Member Jim asked:

    So now that GGR 2022 is in the final stretch – What do you think? Seems like the later start had some benefits – if I recall correctly one boat sank (auto-pilot broke off?) otherwise barnacles seems to be the biggest issue… and kudos to Kirsten!


    Yes, the later start was a great change. That said, I’m still not a fan of Don McIntyre playing God as the sole dispenser of weather information, other than SSB.

    And given the amount of damage from broaches, it still would have been a good idea to require a Jordan Series Drogue, in my view.

    All that said, I’m following the race avidly and rooting for Kirsten to be the first women to win a round-the-world solo race, although if Abhilash were to win after showing such incredible grit to go back out there after the last race, that would be cool, too.

    And if Simon Curwen was first home that would be a fun and just result given the disappointment of having to make a stop.

    Incidentally, it’s now pretty certain that the boat loss was due to a structural failure even though she had been almost totally rebuilt. To me this calls into question sending people into the Southern Ocean in boats that are over fifty years old, no matter how well refitted.

    My suggestion for future races would be a GGR one-design class of new boats designed and built for the race—might even be less expensive than trying to bring an old boat up to a safe standard.

    More on the GGR and the benefits of requiring a JSD.

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  • Is Reading Time a Good Addition to AAC?

    Please advise

    Early this week we added a reading time estimate to the header of every article (but not these Tips).

    The idea is to show how much information you can get from a small investment in time at AAC, particularly when compared to trying to get technical information from YouTube, podcasts, or the biggest time sink of all: webinars.

    And also to reassure you before you start an article that we have worked hard to make it as brief as it can be, but still get the job done.

    For example, you could learn pretty much everything you need to know about how to choose between lead-acid or lithium batteries in 8 minutes.

    Or how to make sure your boat’s underwater metals are not being eaten away in 7.

    So does this work for you and, more importantly, enhance your perception of the value of AAC for your money?

    Or is it just a distraction or, worse still, make you wonder why you are paying for such a short read?

    Please let us know in a comment.

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  • A Not Boring Accountant

    Mark Goodfield was our accountant and tax advisor, both personally and for AAC, for some ten years until he retired from public practice, and he never steered us wrong.

    He has blogged about personal finances, investing, tax planning, and accounting for some 15 years (guess) as the Blunt Bean Counter.

    Given that, if we want to go cruising and stay out there, we need to get this stuff right, reading Mark’s blog is well worth your time.

    He makes the complex simple to understand, and even makes accounting and tax planning interesting, which is no easy task!

    He does say that he focuses on “High Net Worth Individuals”, which could be construed as only the very wealthy, but that would not include Phyllis and me by any stretch and we have still found his writing very useful.

    And, after all, anyone who owns a cruising boat is “High Net Worth” in a world sense, or is at least aspiring to be that.

    Mark also went to a lot of personal trouble to keep the fees we paid the accounting practice he was a partner in under control, which tells you something about the way he thinks.

    He just published a post on some simple financial rules of thumb that’s worth reading.

    And those planning to go cruising will find his series on how much we need to save to retire useful.

    All that said, if you prefer someone who will sugar-coat stuff for you, Mark is not for you. He is not kidding about the “Blunt” part. But then you read AAC, so I’m betting you are okay with that.

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  • New Year’s Resolution

    While dealing with all of the expense and aggravation, it’s easy to forget what a wonderful privilege it is to own a sailboat and be able to go sailing any time we want.

    We took quite a few people sailing last summer, but my New Year’s Resolution is to share sailing with even more people in 2023.

    Here’s a link to a great article on just that, and why it matters:

    Hey, wanna go sailing?

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  • Quote Of The Day

    The reason that ‘guru’ is such a popular word is because ‘charlatan’ is so hard to spell.

    William Bernstein

    I strongly recommend keeping this quote top of mind when watching YouTube.

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  • On Vacation (Holiday)

    Phyllis and I are on the road visiting our families this week and next, so there will be few, or maybe no, Tips, Tricks and Thoughts until late November.

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  • Ocean Racing Back In The Day

    If you raced offshore back in the seventies and eighties you probably wore Line 7 foul weather gear and a Lirakis harness.

    The less said about the non-breathing heavy PVC former—it was waterproof but that did not help much since we stewed in our own juices—the better.

    But the latter was the first widely available harness that stood a chance of not breaking under load, or maiming the wearer.

    Stephen Lirakis, the deeply experienced ocean race crewman who designed, and for many years made and sold this harness, has a very cool website of photos from back in the glory days of Ocean Racing between amateur crews, and some from more recent races, too.

    A highly recommended way to waste an hour when you should be doing something else…I would know.

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  • The End of Skill?

    Two companies have just announced that they are going to build an autonomous motorboat. Yes, the crew will be able to sit aboard and do absolutely nothing…except drink their faces off…while the boat runs itself.

    Never mind whether or not this is even doable (way past my pay grade to judge). The thing that gets me is said companies tout this as a huge advance in boating enjoyment.

    But, to me anyway, the greatest enjoyment I have gotten over my 65 years in boats, and continue to get, is in learning, and then mastering, new skills.

    The thought that I will learn something new today, and maybe make, or do, something better on my boat (or at AAC), is literally what gets me up in the morning.

    And that never changes. In fact, the more I learn, the more I realize how much more there is to learn, and the more pleasure I get from that realization.

    For example, in the past year:

    • I finally got my head around how bolted joints work and the relationship between bolt pre-load and and the forces the joint is designed to take. No, not to the level of understanding an engineer has, but way better than I did, and enough to be a better boat technician. Thanks, Matt and Eric.
    • I’m learning, all over again, how to trim and drive a high-performance boat. Still a long way to go there.

    That’s just two of the scores, maybe hundreds, of things I have learned this year, on and off boats—at my age I have to relearn a lot, too!

    Maybe I’m just an old stick-in-the-mud, but why on earth would anyone want to expend the money and time on boating without getting that pleasure of learning? Why not just stay home and watch a YouTube video of boating…and drink your face off? Way less expensive.

    All that said, I can see benefits in this tech for people who are disabled.

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  • Favourite Upgrade to Our J/109

    It’s so easy to get fixated on expensive updates to our boats, like cool electronics or new electrical systems, but sometimes things that cost relatively little deliver big benefits.

    Phyllis and I were chatting during our last sail of the season about our favourite upgrades to our new-to-us J/109 and both agreed that the Blue Performance pockets at the companionway was a big contributor to our enjoyment.

    Stuff that we use all the time is now close to hand:

    • Air horn—not used much, but when you need it…
    • Sun screen
    • Magic marker for marking halyard settings
    • Phones
    • Rigging tape
    • Card with target boat speeds…yea, I’m obsessed
    • On it goes

    Here’s how we installed the pockets without drilling holes.

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  • Susie Goodall Tells Her Story

    While I’m no fan of the Golden Globe Race, or at least not in its present form, I am a huge fan and follower of Susie Goodall and was absolutely gutted when she lost her boat in the 2018 race, particularly since she was one of the few competitors to fit what I believe is the correct storm survival gear, only to have it fail due to a defect.

    After the race Susie kept admirably quiet about the whole thing as she processed the huge disappointment she had suffered, rather than capitalizing on the media frenzy around her, as many would have.

    But now, four years on, she has told her story. A worthwhile read, and great to hear she has put her life back together and intends to go cruising.

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  • This Won’t End Well

    It seems like Brunswick Corporation is buying up just about every marine electrical and electronic company out there: Blue Sea, Ancor, Mastervolt, and more, and putting it all under the banner of Navico, which is a conglomerate itself comprising many hitherto independent companies.

    I know, they are on this acquisition spree with the goal of enhancing products and services and wouldn’t dream of stifling competition or price fixing…I also have a nice bridge over the East River you might be interested in buying.

    What the hell ever happened to the trust busters? Margrethe, we poor yacht owners need you…OK, maybe not.

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  • A Cruiser’s Way Stop Gets Hammered

    Phyllis and I were fortunate. Being in the safe semicircle and well away from the centre of Hurricane Fiona, we had only gale force winds with gusts to around 50 knots.

    Our power was out for just 36 hours and even our internet came back on today.

    We were lucky, others were not. We are thinking of Atlantic Canadians to the east of us who had a far rougher time of it, and particularly of the residents of Channel-Port aux Basques, a town we have visited countless times over the last 30 years, either on our boat or when taking the ferry to and from Newfoundland.

    You can search Google to see videos of significant wave height seas of 14 metres, which means there were probably waves of at least 25 metres, crashing in and sweeping parts of the town away. Truly terrifying.

    The harbour, with its many sheltered wharves, friendly people, and good provisioning, as well as fun and interesting walks, has often been both a way stop and refuge from heavy weather for us and many other cruisers. We know it well.

    A welcome haven after the tough beat south along the west coast of Newfoundland, or a crossing of Cabot Strait.

    To remember the town in better times, here are a few photos I took over the years. (Click on each to see them bigger.) The wedding appearing out of the fog is my favourite and says the most to me about good people living in a tough place and making it home. They will fix their town.

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  • Here Comes Fiona

    We are just starting to feel the outer bands of Fiona here at AAC World Headquarters…our cottage in the woods. Thankfully, it looks like we are in the safe semicircle and so will likely avoid the worst of it, but we may be “off air” for a while.

    The photo is our J/109 stripped and snugged down for the storm.

    Phyllis and I are sending good thoughts to those in eastern Nova Scotia, PEI and Newfoundland who it seems will feel the brunt of Fiona.

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  • Why We Use Knots and Nautical Miles

    A nice post over at Sailing Scuttlebutt on why we don’t use kilometres at sea and shouldn’t be using metres per second in marine forecasts.

    I couldn’t agree more.

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  • 49er, 49er FX and NACRA 17 Worlds

    A friend invited me along to watch some of the races.

    Amazing how performance sailing has changed since my days in the 505, and yet, in some ways, is still very much the same.

    Also interesting that of the few races we watched, the women’s teams in the FX seemed by far the most aggressive, and maybe skilled, too, at the mark roundings. Perhaps the smaller rigs in the FX, and therefore slower straight-line speed, puts more emphasis on boat-to-boat tactics.

    Anyway, a fun day and huge congratulations to Sail Canada and all the other partner organizations and volunteers for putting on what looked like a great regatta on St Margaret’s Bay, as perfect a body of water for closed-course racing as one could imagine.

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