Showing posts from March 15, 2015

There Be Dragons (but they aren't where they used to be)

Maps (and their maritime versions, charts) are abstractions of the places we travel.    They project geography, history, technology, politics, commerce, and even art.

The very definition of explorer rounds to traveler without maps.   We celebrate those who traveled the uncharted world and secured it with soundings, but dismiss as imprudent those who would travel without a chart today. The term itself -- unchartedterritory -- remains a primary abstraction for the dangerous unknown, though few regions of our world have remained uncharted in the lifetime of any living person.
Today's recreational boater may have few paper charts.  Traveling close to home, especially in the Pacific Northwest, you're seldom far from visible landmarks, and the shoal waters are the exception rather than the rule.  The electronic surrogates for charts are rich in functionality and reduce the complexity of navigation, telling you your heading, orienting you on a chart that moves with you, and zoom ea…

Chart Plotter: physical installation

There are many mounting options for chart plotters, some of which have fancy swiveling armatures which allow the device to be swung out of the way when not in use.  My diminutive cockpit is not well suited to such solutions, and in any case they are expensive options.

Two possibilities seem suitable.  One is to mount the device on a companionway board that slides into the companionway, but this makes access to the cabin problematic.  I also have a compass so mounted, and while I use it only rarely, a long trip in unfamiliar waters mitigates in favor of its use.

The second option is to take advantage of the port-light in the cabin bulkhead.  I fashioned a wooden plug, (4 7/8" diameter  x 1 5/8" depth) that is sandwiched between two discs slightly larger than plug and the rim of the portlight.  The plug is thus captured securely in the port-light housing (hanger-bolts and wingnuts), and the swivel base of the chart plotter attaches to the plug.  The cabling will pass through …

Un-race to Alaska

Race to Alaska
I'm sailing to Alaska this Spring/Summer.  That's the plan, anyway.  I have friends who will be rendezvousing [is that really how you spell that?] with me for various parts of the journey.  People who have spent cold, hard cash on plane tickets.  So... this is real.

But I am NOT racing.  I hate racing, and have, since the summer of '68 when my father and I campaigned an aging Star class sloop (sail # 1500, christened Surprise) through a summer of racing in the Kaneohe Yacht club.  Our racing confederates were state sailing champions in Hawaii, and raced Stars to keep their hands busy between TransPac seasons.  Dad and I were dwarfs, without the experience or the mass to keep Surprise on her sailing lines, and our single victory that summer was that we avoided finishing last in a single race, by a single second.  [insert pump fist here].

But others, of course, ARE racing to Alaska this summer, and it just may be that we will arrive in Ketchikan in the same c…

All Rodes Lead to Where I Stand

I travelled to Victoria a few weeks ago to buy a stash of used charts for the Inside Passage, and the fellow who sold them to me recounted the story of the worst night of his life.  Anchored in a cove out of the 50 knot winds in one or another strait, he found himself at the mercy of 70 knot katabatic winds -- Williwaws.  As a landmass cools at night, the air cools, grows heavier, and slides down towards the water, converting potential energy to kinetic energy.  His 40 foot steel sloop was sailing on her anchor, describing smiles on the chart plotter, a pendulum on a 300 foot tether, rolling through 90 degree arcs.  THUNK.  His anchor let go, but mercifully reset itself.  More than once.  Those smiles were getting closer to the lee shore, until finally when all was said and done, his margin of safety was a scant 6 feet.

I've been boning up on ground tackle ever since.

The guidebooks to the Inside Passage talk about 15 fathom anchorages in some places.  Multiply that by even modes…