Friday, July 23, 2010

Who Died and Made Me a Boat Reviewer?

This week I received the August 2010 issue of Cruising World and was surprised to find my review of the Newport 27. I submitted the piece more than a year ago and was paid upon acceptance. One thing I've learned about writing magazine articles is that you never know when something you've sold will be published. Unfortunately, they didn't use a picture of the first Del Viento (I didn't really have any good, representative pictures of her to send).
Now I'm inspired to write reviews of two boats I've learned a lot about in the past year: the Fuji 40 and the Fantasia 35, both relatively obscure boats that I'm sure Cruising World has not featured.
What is so cool about the review is that the information I documented now becomes part of a very small body of available knowledge about the Newport 27. Very little information is available about many older fiberglass sailboats. Granted, companies that are still around, like Catalina Yachts and Beneteau, maintain records and specifications and histories of their old designs. But many more companies are no longer around and the scant info available about the boats they produced, is prized.
For example, our Fuji 40 is one of only 13 to 16 (nobody seems to know for sure!) that were ever built, over a two-year period in the late 1970s. The company that designed her (S&S) is still in business, but they retain only architectural drawings (and these are available only at a high price). The Japanese company that built the Fuji 40s is long gone. The California company that imported them is long gone. I suspect all of the paper records of these defunct companies are gone.
Now that we are in the digital age, and because these fiberglass hulls will likely outlive us all, it is a good thing to document as much of their history as we can. Fortunately, magazines like Cruising World and Good Old Boat dedicate a portion of their publication to do just this.
-- MR

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Cruiser’s Car

As our cruising kitty will be very small, we don’t plan to spend more than a few days a year tied up to land…be it a slip, dock, or quay. Instead, we’ll pass our days and nights swinging on the hook. While this arrangement limits our access to shore side services, it affords privacy, offers better water to swim in, and keeps our bow pointed into the wind for better ventilation down below. We prefer this.

However, when anchored out, we’ll need a safe and dependable, non-swimming option for getting ashore.

Everyone’s got one. The dinghy is like the cruiser’s car. As on our first trip, we’ll use our dinghy to shuttle ourselves, our groceries, our computers—everything—ashore, and back again. Like a car, it must be reliable. Like a car, flashy ones are prone to theft. Like a car, it must be big enough to serve our needs. Like a car, there are hundreds of configurations to choose from.
The primary distinction among dinghies is the material they are constructed from: hard dinghy or soft dinghy. As the names imply, hard dinghies are made from hard materials (fiberglass, wood, aluminum, plastic) and soft dinghies are made from either hypalon or PVC. While soft dinghies are all inflatables and share a similar tube-based structure, hard dinghies come in all different shapes, sizes, and configurations.
On our last cruise, we used a 1970s-era inflatable I bought well-used at a marine swap meet for about $50. It was an Avon Redcrest and more akin to something you’d use in a swimming pool than the dinghies in service today. The floor was unsupported rubber and the motor mount was a rusted bracket that wrapped around the aft tube. It didn’t row well, it didn’t sail, and could accept nothing larger than my 2-hp Evinrude.
But, inflatables have come a long way, baby. Today’s inflatable dinghies are incredibly stable wonders that carry massive loads and plane with a 4-hp motor. They feature rigid bottoms, inflated bottoms, or slatted bottoms. They are built with a sturdy transom to which a motor may be attached. In a calm anchorage, it is not uncommon to see cruisers using their dinghies to tow wake boarders. I’ll bet 98% of folks cruising today use the standard inflatable dinghy.
In fact, the new Del Viento is equipped with an 11-foot Mercury inflatable and two outboards, one 2 horsepower, one 9.9 horsepower. Assuming this set up is serviceable when we arrive (neither the surveyor nor I checked the dinghy and motors out as they were not included in the original listing, but thrown in during the price negotiation), we’ll use this dinghy and her motors until shortly after we arrive in California.
What then? Once back in the States, we plan to purchase a new hard dinghy and new motor…a very specific hard dinghy and motor. More on our dinghy plans and rationale in a future post…

Friday, July 9, 2010

California Dreamin'

While visiting friends and family on our trip to California, we scoped out future sites at which to anchor when we head up the coast after beginning our cruise.

24-foot sailboat in Sausalito
Green Dragon in Sausalito
Before I arrived, Windy and the girls checked out Richardson Bay off Sausalito. This spot is occupied by a few cruising boats as well as anchored-out derelict boats, some of them home to liveaboards--all of whom are bohemians, a few of whom are miscreants. For some reason, there is no code enforcement on these vessels, even though a few occasionally sink or drag in winter storms. It is a topic discussed often in Latitude 38. The consensus seems to be that no agency has jurisdiction over these boats when they are not underway, and these boats are never underway. That doesn't sound right to me, but I am happy to hear that this may be an attractive and inexpensive spot to hole up while in the Bay Area. Windy also spotted Green Dragon (pictured), at one time her father's boat, in its Sausalito slip.

Windy and I took off on her dad's motorcyle and rode out to Tomales Bay. The mouth of this bay is about 50 miles north of the entrance to San Francisco Bay, around Point Reyes. Tomales Bay is narrow (1-2 miles) and cuts southeast for about 10 miles along the San Andreas fault in west Marin, close to where her folks live. It is a relatively shallow bay with a tricky bar at the entrance, but based on accounts I've read and boats we saw anchored, we should be able to squeeze in there with Del Viento. It is a beautiful place populated with a few quaint B&B towns and bordered by the Tomales Bay State Park and Ecological Reserve, and Point Reyes National Seashore.

rowing boat in King Salmon
Windy and the girls in King Salmon
While in Humboldt County, we stayed with our dear friends the Stewarts at their home in King Salmon, just at the entrance to Humboldt Bay. Dr. Stewart took us out in his skiff, pointing out potential anchorages at the southern end of the bay. The girls also got some boat time rowing about in the Stewarts' dinghy and explored for hours on the beaches and dunes of King Salmon. We also walked the docs of the Woodley Island Marina off Eureka, much further north. Once over the bar at the entrance to Humboldt Bay, shallow water poses a challenge to heading into the King Salmon area of the bay (and taking a slip behind the Stewart's home). The Fuji 40 draws 6-feet unladen. We will likely draw several inches more in a cruising configuration. Dr. Stewart told us of a neighbor in a comparably sized boat who ties up behind a King Salom home and settles into the mud at low tide. That may be us.

I imagine we'll revisit all of these sites as we head north. This trip made us (perhaps including the girls) wish it was sooner than it will be.


Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Sailing Fortune

Check out Frances's fortune according to a cookie she opened at the Kate Wolf Festival in California this past week. I don't know what it is lately with fortune cookies and our cruising plans...

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