Ocean Racing Back In The Day

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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.

The End of Skill?

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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.

Favourite Upgrade to Our J/109

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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.

Susie Goodall Tells Her Story

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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.

This Won’t End Well

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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.

A Cruiser’s Way Stop Gets Hammered

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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.

Here Comes Fiona

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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.

49er, 49er FX and NACRA 17 Worlds

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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.

The women mixing it up at the top mark; two boats had to do turns in the space of 30 seconds.

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.