Archive for the ‘sailing’ Category

Christopher Columbus.

Monday, October 9th, 2017


Today is the second Monday in October and, since 1934, it has been celebrated as “Columbus Day.” The original celebration was political, to honor Italian immigrants who had come during the previous 40 years. However, Columbus was from Genoa, which was an independent republic until Italy was unified in the 19th century. He sailed for Spain after having been turned down by the Portuguese royal family, which was content with its African routes to India.

The best history of Columbus was written by Samuel Elliot Morrison, Harvard historian and sailor who would write the history of the
the US Navy in World War II.

His Columbus history is a great work and involved a number of voyages by Morrison and colleagues who repeated Columbus voyages relying on original documents to duplicate his routes as best they could.

To research a biography of Christopher Columbus, Morison spent five months aboard a three-masted sailing ship, retracing the explorer’s routes 10,000 miles across the Atlantic and around the Caribbean. The resulting book, Admiral of the Ocean Sea: A Life of Christopher Columbus (1942), made Morison’s name as a scholar who was not content to dwell in the archives. It also gave him entree. “That Columbus book…brought me a welcome from sailors everywhere,” he once said. “It did me more good than the [naval] commission. Columbus was my passport.”

It helps to be a sailor to understand what Morrison was doing with Columbus. He was already a sailor and knew enough about the sea to recognize how Columbus would go about his task.

In 1940, Morison published Portuguese Voyages to America in the Fifteenth Century, a book that presaged his succeeding publications on the explorer, Christopher Columbus. In 1941, Morison was named Jonathan Trumbull Professor of American History at Harvard. For Admiral of the Ocean Sea (1942), Morison combined his personal interest in sailing with his scholarship by actually sailing to the various places that Christopher Columbus explored. The Harvard Columbus Expedition, led by Morison and including his wife and Captain John W. McElroy, Herbert F. Hossmer, Jr., Richard S. Colley, Dr. Clifton W. Anderson, Kenneth R. Spear and Richard Spear, left on 28 August 1939 aboard the 147 foot ketch Capitana for the Azores and Lisbon, Portugal from which they sailed on the 45 foot ketch Mary Otis to retrace Columbus’ route using manuscripts and records of his voyages reaching Trinidad by way of Cadiz, Madeira, and the Canary Islands.[8] After following the coast of South and Central America the expedition returned to Trinidad on 15 December 1939.[8] The expedition returned to New York on 2 February 1940 aboard the United Fruit liner Veragua.[8] The book was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1943.

He drew the outline of islands as they approached them and compared his drawings to those of Columbus that could still be found. The same technique in recognition is still used in cruising publications for amateur sailors.
GPS has replaced a lot of the navigational methods used by tradition but the US Navy has returned to training deck officers in celestial navigation.

But now the US navy is reinstating classes on celestial navigation for all new recruits, teaching the use of sextants – instruments made of mirrors used to calculate angles and plot directions – because of rising concerns that computers used to chart courses could be hacked or malfunction.
“We went away from celestial navigation because computers are great,” said Lt. Cmdr. Ryan Rogers, the deputy chairman of the naval academy’s Department of Seamanship and Navigation. He told Maryland newspaper The Capital Gazette: “The problem is there’s no backup.”

Most of Columbus’ navigation was “Dead Reckoning” as celestial navigation was primitive at the time he sailed. Latitude sailing was the most reliable method before longitude could be determined. The navigator would sail, often by coastal methods, until reaching the latitude of the destination, then sail east or west along that latitude until the destination was reached. Columbus used this method although his latitude measurements were greatly in error.

Middle-latitude sailing combines plane sailing and parallel sailing. Plane sailing is used to find difference of latitude and departure when course and distance are known, or vice versa. Parallel sailing is used to interconvert departure and difference of longitude. The mean latitude (Lm) is normally used for want of a practical means of determining the middle latitude, or the latitude at which the arc length of the parallel separating the meridians passing through two specific points is exactly equal to the departure in proceeding from one point to the other. The formulas for these transformations are:

DLo = p sec Lm and p = DLo cos Lm.

The mean latitude (Lm) is half the arithmetic sum of the latitudes of two places on the same side of the equator. It is labeled N or S to indicate its position north or south of the equator. If a course line crosses the equator, solve each course line segment separately.

This is more complicated as it assumes two latitudes, origin and destination. Columbus knew that the Canary Islands were on the same latitude as China, where he planned to end his voyage. His estimate of longitude was far off, by about 30 degrees. He did not know of the existence of America but began, by his fourth voyage, to realize that he had discovered a New World.

His navigational skills were incredible, given the time. He was able to return to Spain, although his first landfall was Portugal as he encountered heavy weather on the return. He made a total of four voyages and returns. He was less successful as a colonial administrator than navigator but his accomplishments as sailor and navigator are enormous.

Jim Kilroy died today at 94.

Friday, September 30th, 2016


Jim Kilroy spent 40 years sailing his maxi-boats and setting records.

At 66, Kilroy’s wavy hair is snow white, but he is tall, lean, energetic and well established in style through 32 years of campaigning the Kialoas. At Long Beach, an onlooker was startled to see the 79-foot aluminum sloop leave the dock without him.

Later, on the 45-foot tender, Kilroy explained: “I never take over the boat until the sails are up. Allan takes the boat out and Allan takes the boat in.”

Allan is Allan Pryor, a New Zealander whose job it is to take care of Kilroy’s boat, wherever in the world it is.

“It’s Allan’s boat when we’re not racing,” Kilroy said.

His New Zealand crews were famous in ocean racing for many years. I was in a bar in Mazatlan in 1976, the first time I heard the Kilroy crew chant for good competitors. No, it wasn’t for me but I was there and heard it.

I knew him casually in sailing. Once, when he was building one of his yachts, he sailed in the Ensenada Race with Alan Puckett, who was the president of Hughes Aircraft Company and who owned Blackbird, an Ericson 46.

The Ericson 46 was not an easy boat to sail, especially if the wind was up, but Kilroy would rather crew for someone else than stay on the beach. Puckett, himself, was a well known sailor in an era when none of us were professionals.

Allen was an avid yacht racer and cruising sailor. Over the years, he raced on 4 boats of his own, including a Lapworth 36 “Alsuna,” a Cal 40 “Alsuna 2,” an Ericson 46 “Blackbird” and finally a Farr 55 “Amazing Grace.” When he was not skippering his own boats, he was also a highly sought-after master navigator, in the days when a sextant, compass, wristwatch, and paper charts were primary, and sometimes only, equipment used. When the first portable personal computers became available, Puckett was one of the first to develop software to assist in navigation and sailing performance analysis.

Vale, Jim Kilroy and Alan Puckett. Smooth seas and fair winds.


Saturday, April 9th, 2016

I’m tired of politics again and here is a bit more on sailing.

My first Sailboat that I owned was an Ericson 28 that looked just like this one.


It was just right for our small family and we spent many days at Catalina. Mike Jr went with us but the others were still small.

Than, in 1975, I bought a bigger boat, a Yankee 38.

2094-C2 Yankee 38 sailing2

Here is the Yankee on the day we had open house.


The Yankee had a very nice interior and I began to get involved in racing. The boat was a classic design by Sparkman and Stephens but the IOR had changed the world of racing sailboats and the design was never very successful. Still, it was bulletproof and I had a lot to learn. We sailed it to Mexico several times,including one experience with a small Mexican hurricane. In 1978, I was ready for something with more potential and bought an aluminum boat designed by Doug Peterson, who had designed a world One Ton champion boat named Ganbare, Japanese for “Good Luck.” The boat I bought was built in San Diego by Carl Eichenlaub who had been building wooden race boats for years. He had recently gone to aluminum and this boat was owned by the same man I had bought the Yankee 38 from.


That was the Peterson 35 that I owned in 1977 to 1979. I was a very good light air boat and needed new sails that I could not afford at the time due to a divorce. It also rolled a lot in heavy air downwind so I did not want to take it in long races. Eventually, it ended up in San Francisco and did well in a single handed Transpac with a new owner.

After this boat was sold, I bought a J 24 for local racing until I recovered financially.


It looked a bit like that one but Orange and I named it “Cheap Trick.”


This is it racing off Dana Point taken through a telephoto lens.


There it is rounding the windward mark and setting a spinnaker. Eventually, I recovered financially and was still interested in racing.

The next boat was a Scott Kaufman design that was built by Dennis Choate who I had known for years.


It was light for the time and fast and very strong. We tested the strength with a windy Transpac. I would have been better advised to keep the Yankee and stay with cruising but the divorce was based a bit on issues of professional satisfaction and racing provided some ego gratification I needed.

Here we are motoring out to the start of the 1981 Transpac.


The start and most of the race was recorded on a movie I made. I still watch it once in a while.

That is a clip from a longer movie I made. It is a spinnaker change 1000 miles offshore.


Here we are turning into the slip in Ala Wai Harbor after the finish. Next to our slip is the schooner Spike Africa, which had raced in a schooner race and carried our cruising gear for the trip home. We unloaded the racing sails to Spike Africa and the delivery crew used only cruising gear to go home.

The crew looks like they have been up all night because they have been. It’s about 6:30 AM. We finished at 6:10, nine minutes later than we needed to win the whole thing.

hawaii 1

We had won second place in fleet and only missed first overall by 9 minutes.


That pretty much ended my racing career.

Eventually, another divorce led to another boat sale and I ended, several years later, with a nice cruising boat, a Cal 34.


This was nice for Catalina and I had finally given up on races, about two boats later than I should have. Still, if they offered to give me back the money, I probably would decline the offer. I had a lot of fun and some great experiences.

Cal 35

Claire and the kids liked the boat. It was big enough for the family.

Claire Cal 34

I had a 13 foot Whaler and the older kids could even go to Avalon although I worried when they went after dark. I had a mooring at the Isthmus and later at Emerald Bay. I should have stopped there. I replaced the Atomic 4 engine but balked at spending the money to put a new diesel in the boat for about $10,000. That was a mistake.

Eventually, the kids grew up and nobody was into boats just then. I sold it when I should have kept it and replaced the engine with a diesel.

My next adventure was a few years later and very, very expensive. I decided to buy a Cal 40 and restore it. Boy was that expensive !

After the whole project was finished, we had a few nice trips to Catalina.


The LA Yacht Club is the one I had been member of since 1977 and they have a nice facility at Howland’s Landing on Catalina.

Howlands view

There is a nice barbecue pit and tables plus a shower. The view is good and it is a pleasant mooring spot except on big holidays when it gets crowded. I eventually had my own mooring around the corner in Emerald Cove.

Howlands Memorial Day

I finally figured out that I was not up to handling the Cal 40 by myself and should have stayed with the smaller boat. I sold it in 2010 and now my only boat is a Lido 14 on Lake Mission Viejo. I will probably get some use of it this summer. No Catalina trips, though.

lido 14

It looks like this one but is light blue.

Transpac Race 1981.

Thursday, October 30th, 2014

I’m sorry to intrude with a bit of light relief but the news is so depressing that I tend to regress to my younger days when life was simpler and Reagan was president. The Transpacific Race is held in odd numbered years from Los Angeles to Honolulu. The only mark of the race course is Catalina Island, which has to be taken to port. In 1981, my boat was new and I took a crew of kids.

My 16 year old son (Now almost 50) was the youngest. I was, of course, the oldest and one other crew member was in his 30s. The rest were less than 23. The race began in 1906 and has been held alternate years except for the Second World War. A guy named Richard Rheem served in the Pacific during the war and, after the war, revolutionized the race by understanding the weather in the north Pacific and the Pacific High, which dominates the race. He set a record in 1949 which stood for many years, Until broken by Ticonderoga in a famous race in 1965. Books have been written about that famous yacht and I have several in my library. Ticonderoga is 32 feet longer than my own boat yet we finished the race only a day slower.

Here is a clip of a movie I made as I expected that I would only be able to do this race once.

We came within 9 minutes of winning over all and I watch the video of the race once in a while to remember the pleasure.

At this point of the race we are well into the trade winds and changing to the 1.5 ounce spinnaker because it was windy and night was coming with trade wind squalls. The wind usually was about 25 knots and we were doing 15 to 18 knots most of the time. If our speed dropped below 15, crew members would stick their heads up from below to see what had happened. The really strong wind and the squalls were at night where the wind would occasionally hit 40 and even 50 knots for short periods. Looking at the video, you can see that it is evening and we are getting ready for a stormy night. The trade wind clouds are ahead and gather as the sun goes down.

The clip is my favorite because of how hard the kids were racing, doing what is called a “peel-off” spinnaker change that would typically be done in a short day race to avoid losing moments of time to a competitor. Here we are 1000 miles offshore. After the fifth day, we saw no other boats until the finish. It isn’t easy to keep racing hard when you can’t see another competitor.

Our best day was 286 miles in 24 hours. A tremendous speed for a 40 foot boat.


Here is our trophy for second in fleet. The fleet was 75 boats. We were one of the smallest.

Trophy Present

Here is me getting the trophy at the banquet. I was thinner then.


Friday, October 17th, 2014


Survival literature.

Tuesday, July 10th, 2012

I notice today that Wretchard at The Belmont Club has a post on refugees. It includes a lot of comments on survival skills. Basic requirements include guns and ammo so someone else doesn’t take your survival stores away from you. Water is important, as is water treatment supplies when you run out of stored water. The Mormons, as in so many other things, are the experts on survival skills. In the late 70s, the last time there was so much interest in survival methods, I had a Mormon office manager. She taught me a number of good facts about the way to survive a disaster. One is to have a supply of hard red wheat.

Our wheat comes in six-gallon buckets (or pails… another name for the same container.) The net (contents) weight of the grain is 45 lbs. for the conventional grain, and 40 lbs. for the organic grain. When you store grain at home, it needs to be protected in a couple of ways. First, it needs to be protected from a variety of little critters who’d like to get to it before you do. Weevils, for example. And isn’t this interesting: Chances are you’ve never seen weevils in the white bread or crackers you bought from the store. That’s because weevils put no stock in media campaigns from white-flour milling conglomerates; rather, they know what’s good for them, and they’d come after your grain from miles around if you let them. And mice have good nutritional judgment, too. Not that there’s ever been a mouse in your house, but if there was… you wouldn’t want it having access to your grain. Secondly, grain needs to be kept dry. The grain we sell is all dried to a very low moisture level that’s optimal for storage and baking and guarantees that you get the most grain for your money. You need to protect your grain from picking up excessive additional moisture, which can be drawn from the atmosphere. The buckets our grain comes in provide full protection against storage risks. They have airtight gasket-sealed lids, Mylar liners, and oxygen absorber packets that remove the oxygen from the air in the bucket after we put the lid on. The O2 absorbers leave an atmosphere of nitrogen in the bucket, because air consists almost entirely of oxygen and nitrogen. (The oxygen absorber packets themselves are completely food-safe, being made of powdered iron and salt, which are kept separate from the product itself.) Our buckets safely lock out pests, and biological processes are put “on hold” in the Mylar protected, oxygen-free nitrogen atmosphere, so your grain enjoys complete peace and quiet until you want to use it. Note: If you don’t already have a bucket lid removal tool, they make lid removal easy (see lower section of this Web page.) Super Pail packaging is the “gold standard,” the ultimate protection for your grain!

45 pounds of wheat may not be enough depending on the size of your family. The Mormons are encouraged to have a year’s supply stored.

Next you need a grain mill. It’s probably best, for survival purposes, to have this not electrical unless you have a generator available. If you are hard core, maybe the country living mill is for you. It would certainly give the kids something to do.

Hopefully, we won’t need a hand cart to transport our belongings.

In the 1970s, the last time I gave this much thought to survival skills, I was much younger and had a sailboat. The boat was stocked with some food and had room to store a lot more, especially freeze dried food. I used freeze dried as extra supplies on long races in case we had a dismasting or other disaster.

The boat I had in 1979 was a Yankee 38, a great cruising boat although a bit heavy for racing.

This is Bullet, the #1 hull of the Yankee 38 and almost identical to my boat.

My spinnakers were all red, white and blue. Otherwise this is identical to my boat. I took it to Mexico several times but not to Hawaii as it was too heavy and rolled badly in a heavy down wind run.

Here is the Choate 40 that I took to Hawaii in 1981 and which would have been a great escape boat in a disaster.

The interior was rather stark and did not have as much storage as the 38 but it had a huge interior volume and could store plenty of food and water. It had 100 gallons of water tankage.

Anyway, I can’t handle these boats anymore so that option is probably not there. I thought Lake Arrowhead would be a good hideout but I couldn’t tolerate the altitude so, in my decrepitude, I guess I will wait here with my hand gun for them to come get me.

Of course, Romney could still win the election.

Extreme Sailing

Saturday, March 24th, 2012

This should be a welcome change from the political news.

That looks like great fun except that I would want my hot shower.

Those guys are going about 30 knots. Day after day.

Neville Shute Norway

Friday, July 1st, 2011

One of my favorite novelists is Neville Shute. He was an engineer, and so was I, plus he writes about people with an ability to show their humanity and their deeper motivations without a lot of explanation. He is the engineer’s novelist, the businessman’s novelist and should be on every list of conservative novelists. I have read all his post-war novels, most of his wartime novels and a selection of his pre-war novels. He died in 1960 and all his books are still in print.

I was a college student when “On the Beach,” possibly his most famous novel, came out. It scared me so badly that I have not been able to enjoy rereading it, as I have his other books. I was a college sophomore and familiar with his other work at the time. I had read his aviation novel, “No Highway,” and was aware that the plot device in that book, of metal fatigue causing a new airplane to crash without explanation, had been prophetic. Shortly after “No Highway” had come out, the British Comet jet airliners had begun to crash and, when finally identified, the cause was metal fatigue.

Shute had written another prophetic novel in the late 1930s, called “Ordeal,” which predicted the effects of the Blitz on London. Both of these books, with their predictions borne out by history, caused me to be very shaken by “On the Beach.” A rather successful movie was later made from this novel, which Shute hated because it had suggested that the two principle characters, played by Gregory Peck and Ava Gardner, had slept together while he believed it important to establish their morality, even when doomed.

I very nearly dropped out of school after that book and spent a year or two getting over the idea that I would soon be fried in a nuclear war. My reaction was based as much on my regard for his novels as for the topic, itself. A quite good movie was made from “No Highway” with James Stewart, Glynnis Johns, and Marlena Dietrich.


The 2010 Bermuda Race starts Friday.

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

UPDATE: The results are in and Sinn Fein lost their chance for the third consecutive overall win.

Place, Yacht, Owner, Origin, Results (ORR(Cls, Div) / IRC(Cls, Div))
Class 1 (11 Boats) – St. David’s Lighthouse Division
1. Belle Aurore, Cal 40, R Douglas Jurrius, Oxford, MD, 1, 3 / 1, 8
2. Sinn Fein, Cal 40, Peter S. Rebovich, Sr., Metuchen, NJ, 2, 7 / 2, 10
3. Gone With The Wind, Cal 40, William M. LeRoy, San Francisco, CA, 3, 8 / NA, NA

Gone With the Wind is a San Francisco Cal 40 trucked to Newport, RI for the race. Pretty good showing as Cal 40s sweep the class.

The last two Bermuda Races, the east coast’s premier sailing event, were won by Sinn Fein, a 45 year old Cal 40. Peter Rebovich, the owner and skipper, is almost as old as I am and yet he manages to keep winning. Here is a nice column by John Rousmanier on the team and their boat. The only other boat that has won two consecutive Bermuda Races was the famous Finisterre, sailed by Carlton Mitchell. Finisterre won the third consecutive race, a feat never equaled. Maybe this year.

See you Tuesday

Saturday, May 23rd, 2009

If anybody is looking for me, I’ll be here. That’s Howlands’ Landing, Catalina Island

And, the view is like this.

And if you don’t see me ashore or aboard, I’ll probably here with a good book. Or asleep.