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Monday, November 28, 2011

UNSOLVED MYSTERY

The Great Storm of 1913 struck on November 9th. Storms had been raging for days preceding November 9th and a lull that day tricked ships into coming out of port only to be hit with sudden hurricane force winds and waves of over 30 feet. Ten ships went down that day with 248 lives lost on Huron, Georgian Bay & Superior. One of the bodies washed ashore was the Chief Engineer of the Charles S. Price wearing a lifejacket from the ship Regina. The supposedly unsinkable newly built steel ship Charles S Price (28 victims) was found upside down in different part of Lake Huron than the Regina (20 victims). How the lifejacket ended up on the Chief Engineer so far away from it’s ship no one knows for sure. Perhaps he picked it out of the water before his boat capsized or perhaps the boats went down close together and the Charles S Price was pushed some distance before it dragged bottom upside down when it was turtled by waves and wind.

Posted by at 9:01 AM
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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

SERIOUS CRUISING

 You’ve done the great loop – you’ve cruised the Caribbean – you’ve crossed the Atlantic – you’ve crossed the Pacific – you rounded the Horn – you cruised through the Northwest Passage ... say what? ... you did the North West Passage? Yes increasingly private yachts are taking a shot at the Northwest Passage. Suicidal or extremely capable are the two types of sailors who choose to do this trip. Since 2007 ice conditions have become more favorable in the far north. Since the Franklin Expedition perished 150 years ago, only a handful of private yachts (mostly steel hulled sail) have made the 3,200 mile journey through perilous conditions of ice and cold.

When you’ve done the Northwest Passage, you have real bragging rights that less than 60 private yachts in human history can lay claim to. In the last few years, as ice conditions improved, more have taken the gamble, with over twenty boats a season rolling the dice - and less than half of those successfully making it through (and an even smaller portion that didn’t need help from a Canadian ice breaker at some point). Some seasons only a few boats can make it through and can claim their spot in history. It is a perilous, wicked journey and only the most experienced and well prepared crews would even consider taking the risks. In a “difficult scenario” you have to be prepared to be trapped in ice for a season or more and in a “worst case scenario” your yacht will be lost and probably your life too.

I recently looked at a blog of a sailboat that had made it through from east to west and it was sitting in Alaska covered with a foot of snow and ice in late October about to go on it’s way south down the Pacific coast. I guess sailing in gales with a foot of ice on your boat is a piece of cake in Alaska when you’ve done the passage eh? While most boats have long ago been hauled out for winter storage it’s is a testament to human adaptability that some cruiser is steaming down the Pacific coast in a blizzard happily enjoying the company of the wind howling in the rigging. Some people have such an overwhelming sense of adventure that bungee jumping off a bridge would be downright boring and predictable. If you check around the web, every once in a while there is some Captain planning the Northwest passage looking for crew. There is not exactly a lineup of capable people wanting to do this trip!

Posted by at 7:58 AM
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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

WEST MARINE SUPERSTORE

West Marine will open a 50,000 sq. ft. superstore in Fort Lauderdale Dec 11th/2011. The store will be about five times as big as a standard store and will stock over 30,000 marine products. You might have to fly their to do some Xmas shopping!

Posted by at 7:27 PM
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VOLVO PENTA GROWS

Did you know that Volvo Penta is the fastest growing marine engine company in the world? It got there by being innovative and they have shipped more than 10,000 IPS units worldwide since 2005. Here’s a timeline history of Volvo Penta’s growth:

1907 founded

1922 first outboard engine

1946 first diesel engine

1959 first stern drive

1982 first duo prop

2005 IPS inboard performance system

You’ll notice by these dates that like many companies that get huge, it takes a while to get the ball rolling. Same can be said for boat builders and automotive. On the boat building side, many builders that were seeded for development perished in the economic zero sub prime collapse a few short years ago. They just were not strong enough or big enough to fight it off. The affect of that down turn has far reaching long term affects because some very good companies were at the wrong place in the wrong time and got wiped out. Lets face it, if not for the US and Canadian governments coming to their aid, GM and Chrysler would be gone now too. For a company like Volvo Penta to grow significantly in times of turmoil ... that is exceptional performance that only an innovator can achieve.

Posted by at 7:21 PM
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TORONTO BOAT SHOW CRYSTAL BALL

I’m predicting that the Toronto Boat Show that runs January 14th – 22nd will be a big success for vendors selling boats in the 30’ – 40’ range. Smaller boats have been selling and although larger boat sales are lower volume they have been selling up from previous years. The mid size boats or as some say middle class boat sales have been frozen for the past few years. My prediction is based on pent up demand due to sought after innovations with IPS, fuel economy, large outside/inside living areas for sport yachts and in general the notion that a lot of folks are tired of waiting for the next shoe to drop economically and have come to terms with the concept that things are different than they were three or four years ago ... and they will never be the same again.

People want to have fun and if they are already boating they are ready to trade up. Remember after 9/11 how quickly yacht sales shot up. People wanted their own recreational escape from all the stress and commotion – they wanted to travel in a controlled environment where it was safe and they wouldn’t have to be looking over their shoulder. There are lots of people who feel good about their jobs and have been sitting on the side lines with money at hand. People are not as worried about interest rates going up to finance as they are about boat costs rising as the market takes hold and the affect on US built boat prices if our dollar falls because of gold bugs and other countries flocking to the power and safety of the US dollar.

I’m guessing this will be the best year in the last four years for the mid price range 30’ – 40’ boats like Sea Ray, Regal, Cruisers, Meridian, Rinker etc. Besides the boat industry needs a break and the buyers need some fun. Life has been getting too serious over the last few years.

Posted by at 7:17 PM
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HIGH MAINTENANCE

There’s an old saying “If it’s high maintenance and it’s on your boat – let’s hope it’s in a bikini”. Now ladies don’t send me your hate mail please! First of all I didn’t write this ... some other sexist insensitive Neanderthal male did. Secondly, I do respect the Admiral on our boat and I know my place when it comes to keeping peace in the family when I am outnumbered by three women with one of my daughters being far more opinionated than myself. Having said that, I have been know to be politically incorrect and I like it when women on our boat wear bikinis. When it comes to the female persuasion ... lovely wife, old friends, new friends, casual visitors, tall, short, round, skinny - they all look better in a bikini in my opinion. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

There is nothing better than being at anchor on a sunny 80 plus degree day and having the ladies hang around in bikinis. I can’t put my finger on it, but it gives me an inner feeling of well being and it adds a relaxed more informal ambience to the cruising. All the formality and stuffiness is gone. It makes me feel that all is right with the world. I think as you get older perhaps it is a way to feel younger and the closest thing I will ever get to the Hollywood jet set, hanging about Cannes, on some mega stars yacht during the film festival. Hey ... I can imagine can’t I? I don’t see this as disrespectful of women, I see it very appreciative of the fairer sex. So if you come on our boat chill out, have fun, life’s short and if you’re female don’t forget to bring your bikini if you feel comfortable wearing one. Yah I know I’ve gone too far again, but I’m at the age where I can afford to be politically incorrect and I don’t have to answer to anyone else ... except the Admiral.

Posted by at 7:11 PM
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FORT LAUDERDALE BOAT SHOW GOOD NEWS

Even though it poured rain a good part of the boat show, vendors are reporting satisfaction because they were busy with good quality clients and most important THEY WERE SELLING BOATS. The first few days attendance was up but the last weekend attendance was down ... but luckily serious boat buyers came and braved the rain. Heavy rain actually meant more time spent inside boats by shoppers with more sales time for the vendor. One thing we hear everywhere is, folks are tired of holding off anymore for their new boat upgrade ... and given that most corporations are showing better balance sheets and turning higher profits than we’ve seen for many years, lots of them are making their move and buying while deals on new yachts are still excellent value.

Posted by at 7:08 PM
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LESSON LEARNED

It pays to do a bit of research and contemplate the outcome before committing to changes on your boat. I recently moved from a Walker Bay with a 50 Tohatsu 4 stroke to a same size Zodiac with a 50 Yamaha two stroke. I wanted a stiffer boat with more speed and out of the hole instant planning with four adults on board. I test drove the Zodiac and fell in love with the overall package & performance. I checked to make sure my Davit system would work with the new boat and became aware that it would have to go back in for some adjustments on the heavy stainless framework. Had the discussion about weight given that the overall new dingy/motor package was about 90 lbs. heavier than the old set up. Was assured no problem that the extra weight wouldn’t be an issue. Had those changes made to the davit system – bought the new boat and I thought I was set to go!

First time the new boat set up goes up the davit system I hear a lot of crinkling and cracking I have never heard before. After a second try I’m watching the one corner of the swim platform flex about an inch or two. I wondering if the take up rollers on the davit system were perhaps not set up right. They were verified to spec. So that ends the season a bit early as I have some problems with the swim platform taking the weight of the new dingy and I don’t want to wreck the whole platform. After some study what I determined the experts didn’t take into account was that the Walker Bay pontoons go out well past the motor. This factor was what also made the boat very hard to plane with four people. The Zodiac on the other hand that planned easily and was only an extra 90 lbs. did not extend the pontoons very far past the engine and hence there was far more weight on the take up end of the davit system because the pontoons are out of the water far earlier with the boat perched on the corner of the swim platform.

So I guess I could blame a lot of people:

1/ Myself for not investigating further and trusting expert advise that should know better ... given they had the new dingy set up specs and must have installed dozens and run into the same problem.

2/ The boat manufacturer for not making beefier glassed in marine ply wood struts below the swim platform.

3/ The davit manufacturer for not knowing in advance that this would happen given that this is a very common swim platform from a very common manufactured boat.

So now I know I need stainless strut’s under the platform to give it more rigidity especially on the take up side. Quotes go from one strut that I’m told will do the trick from $650 – $1200 to four to possibly six struts that will go for about $500 plus installation. I’m thinking more is better seeing as it was the expert that told me once the davit system was modified it would work and now he is the one saying one strut will do (albeit an expensive strut). To boot I now have a crack on the fiberglass skirt of the platform that needs to be repaired. Live and learn – nothing is simple ... when it comes to boats one thing always leads to another.

Posted by at 6:52 PM
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