Monthly Archives: December 2009

>A bit of background on Dilip Donde and his solo sail around the world.

>Yet again, YouTube comes to the rescue with a bit of background on the sailor from Mumbai that is sailing around the world.  The video gives a good feel for the yacht, which looks like a good one to make such a voyage.   This is certainly a more powerful boat than the older design that Jessica Watson is aboard.

Dilip has been thrashing into unusual easterlies for the last few days, making for a very uncomfortable ride. It seems that the weather forecast will have a shift to more normal westerly winds soon. 

>Where did a certain sailor from Maumbai spend his Christmas?

>Today, when doing what I do most mornings, checking out a few blogs including Jessica Watson’s, she mentioned that she had been corresponding with a member of the Indian Navy who is sailing around the world on the first fiberglass boat built entirely in India.  What’s interesting, is that they have been communicating and are currently closer to each other than they are to any other person on the planet, or at least to anyone that they are aware of.  They are both so far from land that it’s each others boats that they are closest to.  I checked out the other blog and it turns out that the skipper is Dilip Donde who is sailing around the world, with a number of stops, on a custom made 47′ sailboat.   His blog is interesting and I have been reading some of his past posts.  He left last August from Maumbai India sailing south and then to the east making his first stop in Fremantle Australia.  After a week he headed back out and is now closing in on Cape Horn as is Jessica.

It must be wierd to be so far from everything and yet so close to someone that you have so much in common with.  Dilip’s blog includes a daily posting of position so check his out and see how it compares to Jessica’s

Jessica’s location is east of him but I am not sure how far as her map doesn’t have latitude and longitude lines on it.  Check her location here.  One way or the other, they are close.  I wonder if they will try to pass within sight of each other.  I expect that they will.
Dilip’s boat is a lot faster than Jessica’s so it won’t be long until he reaches and passes her.

>Where will you be for Christmas? How about Point Nemo?

>For those who enjoy following blogs of sailing exploits, like me, today is somewhat notable as it was today that Jessica Watson, the young girl trying to circumnavigate the world in a small sailboat, reached the point in the ocean called “Point Nemo”.  That point was named for Captain Nemo the fictional hero of Jules Verne’s “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea”, 1869″.  It is the point in the ocean that is the farthest from land of any place on the planet.    This position was computed by drawing lines between three points, in this case islands.  These points are…

s48:52:31.748 w123:23:33.069
This point is exactly 2 688 220.580 meters (slightly more than 1 450 nautical miles) away from the following three coastline points:
s24:40:39.360, w124:47:25.872 Ducie Island (Pitcairn Island Group, South Pacific)
s27:12:29.304, w109:27:33.120 Motu Nui / Rapa Nui (“Easter Island”, South Pacific)
s72:57:57.024, w126:22:30.793 Maher Island / Siple Island (Antarctica)

Jessica is probably less than two weeks from passing Cape Horn, what is likely to be the toughest part of her voyage.   Interestingly, she has been sailing in fog for some days now and I have to wonder what it’s like being in reduced visibility of only a few hundred feet and yet being 1,450km from the nearest land.  Sounds a bit surrealistic to me.

When she was leaving port for a test sail months ago, she had an accident that made headlines when she collided with a huge ship. This video also has an interesting interview with a fellow long distance sailor who attempted such a voyage with disastrous results.

When Brenda and I were in Key West last week we saw an IMOCA 60,  a really terrific ocean racing boat.  This video is in French but does have some footage of Bel, the big red French boat that we saw sailing near the docks.  What an amazing boat, and so fast.   What a contrast from Jessica Watson’s Ella’s Pink Lady. 

>Sailing in Key West, vicariously.

>While we were in the Keys last week with our friends, we took a day trip down to Key West.  Grassy Key, where we were staying, is about half way between the bottom of Florida to Key West so the drive down to the end of the island chain and Key West was about two hours and a world away.  Unfortunately, much of the Keys Highway is just one long strip of small motels, dive shops and a mess of generally unattractive roadside real estate.  However, once you enter Key West the world changes and you enter an amazing world of blue water, eclectic lifestyles and wonderful 1800s architecture.

It was fun to stand and have our picture taken at the southern most point in the continental US. It’s only 90 miles from here to Cuba.  Needless to say, the Navy has a major presence here as well.   They don’t want Fidel to forget that we are here.
This is the southern most Christmas tree in the continental US.

This is, you guessed it, the southern most Menorah in the continental US.  Yes, there is considerable competition for the “southern most in the US” designation. 

There’s loads of boat traffic all around the tip of Key West with dive boats, private sailboats and this amzaing IMOCA 60, a state of the art ocean race boat out for a day sail.  I think that they must have been taking out sponsors or paying clients as a chase boat went out to it and changed passengers.  I took this photo from the deck where we had lunch.

Just off of the city marina dock there were tremendous tuna and tarpon.  No kidding, the tarpon were five feet long and the tuna three to four.  It seems that these fish are fed at the docks as if they were ducks in a city park.  These fish were just amazing and the biggest that I have ever seen in the “wild”.  That’s if they can still be classified as wild given the fact that they get fish kibble tossed to them daily. 

The area is jammed with all sorts of amazing old homes.  Given the hurricanes that come through this area nearly every season, it’s hard to imagine that they still are intact after 100 plus years. 

Another wonderful tree lined street scene with Brenda and Port walking and taking in the sights.

You have to wonder who lives here.  Clearly, there is a lot of money in Key West.

Quite a few wonderful historic hotels.  In fact Key West served as the Winter White House for Harry Truman.   At that time, the Navy had a massive presence and took very good care of the visiting president.  Today there is a section of the town called the Truman Annex, and it’s very, very exclusive. 

Well, what would this be? It is a drug running boat captured by the Coast Guard off of Key West with 10 tons of cocaine.   It’s over 60′ long and was built in the Columbia jungle out of fiberglass.  It’s very roughly constructed and obviously built for a single use.  It’s designed to float almost submerged with just the deck showing a above the water’s surface.  What a miserable trip that must have been.   Not as miserable as getting caught, I would think.
You have to wonder how many of these have been built as this was one that just happened to be caught.   Notice the massive prop, it’s about four feet in diameter.  The grey pipe on the back deck is an exhaust for the engine. It’s so large that I expect that it was quite quiet, but not quite quiet enough.  The air intakes stick up high so that the engine can run even though the decks are awash under the weight of the cargo.  You can see the line just under the deck that must have been the waterline when fully loaded. There’s a small hatch midships that looks like a conning tower on a sub for the pilot to see out of while steering the boat.  Not surprisingly, no evidence of running lights.
Of course, what posting of a visit to the Keys is complete without a picture of a sunset?  Setting aside the no-seeums that come out each evening but held at bay (sort of) by bug spray, the view is just amazing.
Hopefully, the winter will be short and the end of March, and the launch of Pandora will be here soon.  The snowstorm that we had last evening makes me less optimistic as I am told that Annapolis is covered with two feet of snow.   Not encouraging at all.

>A bit of summer in December. The Keys anyone?

>About a month ago good friends from our yacht club, Port and Kathy invited Brenda and me to visit them in Grassy Key Florida, a long drive out into the Keys and about 40 miles short of Key West.  Port is a retired architech and high end home builder in CT.  About 20 years ago they purchased some land in the Keys and spend about 4 days a month here enjoying the great weather.  Well, here we are visiting a wonderful warm place, with 80 degree water and air temperature to match.  Not bad as we have had snow twice in NJ already.  Forgive this post as it has much of nothing to do with boating.  Well, perhaps it does as we are surrounded by water.

It is such a treat to be here and enjoy a really amazing place on the warm Gulf when it’s so cold at home in New Jersey.

We came down late on Saturday night, landed in Ft Lauderdale and drove 2 1/2 hours south arriving at their home shortly after midnight.  Imagine our reaction as the lights came on revealing this magical place.  This is a view of the entrance area as viewed from the stairs leading up to our room.

A view of our room looking out on to the water.
A view of our room.  Below is an area storage and is left unoccupied in the event of high water during a storm.

The main house in the center with two story bungalows on both sides.  The building furthest to the right is for the caretaker.  For 10 hours of work a week the caretaker couple can live here rent free.  I understand that when Port runs an ad looking for help he gets over 100 responses and an amazing cross section of humanity, much of which is from the bottom 5%.  The current couple that watch over the place have been here for three years and beyond looking after the place don’t seem to do much.  I can relate to that as the environment certainly would lull anyone into a stupor after a few weeks.  No such thing as a New York minute.  It’s more about manana.

A view in the late afternoon of the main living room area.  It’s on the ground floor and is surruounded on all sides by sliding glass doors.  This shot doesn’t begin to do justice to the view.  In fact, you can only see a single home from here.  There are other homes on the street but Port designed it so that the view is totally private.  The compound sits on about two developed acres with nearly 20 more of undeveloped area that he has bought over the years to ensure that he will not have to worry about someone messing up his view. Across the water are mangroves so there will never be any development there either within view.  Not bad at all.  A number of years ago a hurricane swept the lower living area clean and removed all of the furniture and doors as water and wind ran through.   What a mess that must have been with 14 sets of double sliding doors smashed to bits.   Those doors make for an amazing view of mangroves to the south a clear view of the Gulf to the west and a beautiful view of Florida Keys woodlands to the east.   To the east is the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf Stream.  Because the water is so warm there is a perpetual row of big cumulus clouds across the horizon marking the Stream.
All of the living areas are connected by wood walkways.  These connect you with the driveway, each building and down to the dock.   The water isn’t that clear with about 10 ft visibility.  There are some fish but mostly snapper and barracuda. 
Hard to believe that it’s December.  Imagine the sunset over the mangroves.

Because the water is so shallow, the dock goes out over 100 yards.  Yes, it’s really that narrow.  Port calls it a “one drink dock”, meaning that you can’t walk on it if you have had more than one drink.  No kidding.   Their home is so secluded behind the trees that you can hardly see it.  It blends in to the environment very well.

Lot’s of local color with loads of heron, egrets and of course, Pelicans.
Being so far south and west in the Keys puts us very close to the Gulf Stream with it’s 85 degree waters bathing the region with warm air keeping it very warm, even in the winter.  Just a few hundred miles north in Miami it’s not quite as tropical.
While not as appealing as the Bahammas for cruising, this area is very popular with long term liveaboards.  Some of the boats in the harbors don’t look like they have moved much for a long time.    In the market it’s immediately obvious who is on their boat full time and who is on a week’s holiday.    Perhaps it’s about personal hygiene, perhaps the fact that they don’t wear shoes in the supermarket but it’s certainly about all tattoos.
Today, Monday we hope to go on a dive boat out to the reef about 6 miles out east just on the edge of the Gulf Stream for some snorkeling.  The guide told me yesterday that visibility is 50 feet.  I understand that the Bahamas are twice that.  Hard to imagine.

>Who will be the youngest to sail around alone?

>Jessica Watson, sailing around the world from Australia, has crossed the equator and back in the last few weeks and is now headed south on her way to The Horn, the southern most tip of South America.  You can follow her on Google Earth.  With more than 4,000 mile to go, she won’t be there for about a month.  The good news is that she should round The Horn in the middle of summer, good timing as it’s one of the nastiest places on earth to be on the water.   Jessica’s blog is apparently the most popular one in Australia and has a very loyal following, regularly getting 200+ comments on each post.  Interestingly, she seems to have an avid following of women. Perhaps it’s just all the “mothers” out there that are fretting about her and how she is doing.  At 16 years old there are many who feel there’s plenty to worry about as she makes her trip around alone.

Another young woman, Abby Sunderland, hopes to set a record and be the youngest to do a circumnavigation alone under sail, will soon leave from Encinada Mexico.  Abby, the daughter of a shipwright,  also has an older brother Zac who briefly held the record as the youngest to sail around alone. Abby decided when she was13 years old that she wanted to break her brother’s record.   No doubt, Abby was inspired by her older brother’s voyage.  If she is successful, at least she can keep the record in the family.

Jessica is making her voyage in a 30 year old classic sailoat design and Abby Sunderland, on a refurbished Open 40 ocean race boat.   As an interesting side note, Abby’s brother Zac was briefly the youngest to circumnavigate alone when he completed his voyage a few years ago at the age of 17.  His record was eclipsed just a few weeks later by someone from England who managed to finish shortly after Zac, and who was just a few months younger.

The part of this exercise that I find fascinating, setting aside the question of how young is too young, is that Jessica is making her attempt in a 30 year old design that is not capable of going much faster than 5-7 kts while Abby is going on a very modern design that is capable of speeds upwards of 25kts.   A key issue of all this will be if they are able to complete their voyage at all. I wonder if it may turn out to be the classic tortoise and the hare question.  Will Jessica’s slow, easy going, older design ultimately outrun a much faster, but tougher to sail, Open 40?   A key consideration will be fatigue as the faster boats are very hard on crew, and keeping spirits up and not breaking gear — or worse — is a major consideration in this sort of voyage.

This is an interview with Abby in Portmouth RI when she was purchasing her Open 40, Wild Eyes.  It gives you an idea of what sort of boat it is.

And this is a tour of Jessica’s boat, Ella’s Pink Lady.  You can really see just how different these two boats are.

With regard to different designs, I can tell you that sailing our current boat Pandora, a modern SAGA 43, with a long waterline and fine entry is a very different experience than sailing our last boat, an older style design, Tartan  37′ with long overhangs and a shorter waterline.  Pandora’s motion is much less lively but does reqire more dilegence when it comes to reefing the sails to keep her sailing in her best trim.

Jessica’s boat Ella’s Pink Lady is a Sparkman & Stephens 34, a very seakindly design, more analogous to our T37, that’s been proven over many years of ocean sailing.  On the other hand, Abby’s Wild Eyes (the name certainly suggests a different temperament), is an extreme-purpose built boat designed to go as fast as possible.   Abby’s boat, built to the Open 40 class design, is a boat built to break records, but certainly not designed for comfort.  It’s all about getting there as fast as possible.  This link is an example of just what this class is all about.

Abby will be leaving soon from northern Mexico where she has moved the boat.  Her site isn’t fully functional yet but her blog is up and running. 

This will be an interesting pair of voyages to follow in the coming months.

Oh, and one more thing…

This video of the BMW Oracle new racing yacht that’s going to compete in the America’s Cup soon.  Now, this is what real money will buy.  Is this what the America’s Cup is all about?   Perhaps not, but it’s fun to look at.