Tuesday, April 29, 2014

A boat I've always wished I'd had...

Once, a long time ago, I was a poor starving college student and found myself living on a CAL 20...

Fact is, living on a CAL 20 was not such a bad thing and with a little creativity/zen was actually quite comfortable. Made better because the CAL 20 is a very capable boat and could take you places when the rat race and dock politics became tiresome.

I mention this because while I truly loved my CAL 20 I lusted after a much bigger boat down the dock...

Yes, the Thunderbird.

Twenty-six feet of hard-chined plywood awesomeness.

I figured that if I had that extra five feet and change I could pretty much sail anywhere I wanted to go in a great deal more comfort than my CAL 20.

My dock neighbor in Sausalito with the Thunderbird disappeared for about six months and when he returned he'd sailed up the coast to Seattle, then did a circumnavigation of Vancouver Island followed by a voyage up to Alaska where, apparently, the salmon simply jumped right into your cockpit. He came back a happy man and last I heard he'd pointed the boat towards Hawaii...

Yeah, I really, really wanted a Thunderbird...

The thing is, it's still a really awesome design and it is more than capable of taking you where you want to go.

As it happened, I saw a fixer upper for sale on Craig's List up in Seattle the other day going for $750.

For more information on the design and its class a good place to start is the Thunderbird Class Association...

Maybe not a boat for everybody but it certainly deserves a spot in the VolksCruiser honors list.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Another book that's not about sailing but all about sailing...

There are two non-boaty books I think everyone engaged in sailing/cruising should read...

Especially for those considering jumping into the craziness that is VolksCruising.

One "How To Keep Your Volkswagen Alive" you already know about.

The other one is "Just Ride"...

It's sorta/kinda about bikes and bike riding but to be truthful it's more about cutting things back to what's important in a consumerist addicted and led world.

It's a good read.

If it helps, just substitute the word "Boat" for "Bike" as you read it and hey presto it's all about boats.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

The posse mentality...

Have you noticed that Sail Magazine is now doing a rally so folks coming down the ICW won't be so lonely?

I suspect, that most folks of a VolksCruising bent, are not the sort who sign up and pay big bucks to do rallies.


Maybe if we had a stealth/flash-mob rally?

Nah, there's no money in a stealth rally. The fact of the matter is there is all kinds of money in and around rallies and it's really all about the money in spite of what some people will tell you.

Plus a lot of the reason for cruising for a lot of us is to have as little negative impact on the places we visit.

Jimmy Cornell was a very smart guy cruising who figured out a way to charge admission for something that actually existed already and, as such, the ARC (Atlantic Rally for Cruisers) was born.

What the rally thing is for folks who have never experienced one is you go to someplace you'd be going to anyway, meet a bunch of like-minded folks doing what you're doing, make some friends, and head out to somewhere else you'd be going to anyway. Oh yeah, you also hemorrhage quite a bit of money in the process.

Which is pretty much exactly what you do if you cross the Atlantic with the ARC (or reasonable facsimile) and it's pretty much exactly what you do if you don't cross with the ARC (or reasonable facsimile). The only real difference is you pay quite a bit more to do it if you go the rally route.

The genius of the scam enterprise is Mr Cornell simply figured out how to sell tickets.

For me, the real problem with rallies is they distort the economies for anyone who travels in their wake. Rallies are filled with cash cows who are not shy about throwing silly money in all directions so anyone following the same route will find that people equate folks on boats with money signs.

Of course, it's not just about money as big groups have a greater impact on a lot of levels and most all of them negative... Which no matter how much you try and dress it up it's still some what counter to the minimal impact watchwords of "tread lightly".

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

but it's an in-between world...

We seem to live in a world of absolutes these days and, just between you and me, it drives me batshit crazy.

Take two words that come up a lot where sailing and cruising are concerned...

Easy                  Hard

Now, in the world I grew up in those were just two words on a scale but in today's no-middle-ground-at-all world it's become more of an either or case.

The other day someone asked me about rowing and told me as much as he'd like to row it was simply too much like work and was "hard" while on the other hand his 15HP outboard was easy.

I pointed out that, in point of fact, rowing was often easy, occasionally hard, and mostly somewhere between the two with a lean towards the easy.

Of course, this is not the sort of answer he wanted and double downed with since it's got to be either one or the other if it's sometimes hard then it is hard.

Obviously logic not being his strong suit.

The funny thing is I hear this sort of logic all the time in a myriad of boat and cruising discussions including what sort of boat someone should cruise in, which is the best anchor, or what toy is currently flavor of the month in consumer yachting circles and put into logic deprived absolutes of best/worst, new/old, easy/hard, and winner/loser sort of terms.

The upside of all this for us in the VolksCruising cheap seats is that costs come way down if we're willing to actually think past absolutes and, dare we say it, use our brains...

Looking at the West Marine site a 33-pound Rocna anchor (recently on a lot of peoples "best" lists) costs just shy of $360 while a 33-pound Bruce (on just about everybody's best list for a decade and a half) clone by Lewmar only costs $120 (though often on sale for less). Truth is, both anchors are good and the fact that the Bruce clone is lumped into the worst category because it is simply no longer in the best category means we can buy a pretty awesome anchor for a lot less.

The real tragedy is that most of the good/bad conversation about quality or usefulness is simply smoke, mirrors, hype, and truly awful logic.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

the truth of the matter...

So, let's say you went out and bought an old cheap plastic boat, rehabbed it a bit, and are ready to cruise...

But you're a little worried about being some sort of pariah because your boat, while seashape and freshly painted, is not as expensive or hip as some of those other boats you'll come across in the anchorage.

Don't be...

Fact is, no one who matters really cares.

We've been on boats for a lot longer than I care to admit and I've yet to come across a situation where being in an old Columbia 34 or reasonable facsimile will make you a social pariah.

The rather small number of people who do care about such things are actually a lot more concerned with what people think about them and keeping up with the folks on the Swans and Oysters...

Monday, April 14, 2014

an older boat worth considering...

Someone wrote and asked me what I thought of an older Columbia 34 selling for cheap the other day...

It's not a bad boat at all.

Of course, being cheap with an asking price of less than $7K (around 62-cents a pound) makes it a whole lot more interesting as well.

Even if you needed to spend a month on the hard to replace some interior or a bulkhead, throw some new chainplates and rigging on, buy a couple of new sails and paint, it's still going to be a great bang for the buck.

From what I gather and judging from the fact that it's already been converted to using an outboard (that apparently works) with a well, has a Monitor selfsteering, and seems to have some excellent ground tackle, it's a very tempting project... Made even better by its shoal draft.

Doing a quick search of Craig's list, I see that there are actually quite a few Columbia 34's  (a couple of different models though) ranging from free (without a mast) to what appears to be a pretty much turnkey boat for $10K, So, $6500 might actually be a kiss high for the boat in question but it does show that the Columbia 34 is something of a must look at for aspiring VolksCruisers.

You could certainly do a lot worse.

Saturday, April 12, 2014


The recent quest for that ill-fated airliner over the last weeks should be something of a wake-up call for those who think speed is a goodly thing in a cruising boat,

To be more precise, a huge problem in the airliner search has been the plethora of debris viewable from satellite. There's so much of it they can't find the actual bits of airplane they're looking for amidst the clutter.

Maybe it's just me but junk floating around that you can see from space is junk I don't want to hit at speed if I can help it. I know for a fact that hitting an awash 55-gallon oil drum at 6 knots can ruin your whole week but hitting the same flotsam at say 15-knots just might leave you treading water faster than you can say...

"Honey, did you just hear something go bump?"

Personally I like going places at a leisurely pace and I find 5-7 knots a rather civilized speed for a cruising boat. Then, again, I'm not in any real hurry to be anywhere as I like the voyage as much or more than I like being at the place I'm heading towards.

I expect I should also come clean and say I actually loved the 55-MPH speed limit because I liked the idea of using a lot less fuel, enjoying the view while I did it, and having  a much smaller chance of becoming road kill/carnage on the highways of America.

For those of us of a VolksCruiserish bent, there is a real financial advantage to going at less than pedal-to-the-metal speeds because stuff lasts longer when it has less stress... Blocks don't break, sails tend not to blow out, and systems in general just keep on working. What's not to like?

Trust me, done right, cruising does not have to be speeding from one port where you had something repaired to the next place to get something fixed.

Plus, I do a lot better with less stress as well. I've never been a big fan of being in a hurry because it's stressful and too much stress makes me stupid. Do I really need to point out that stupid sailors make bad decisions?

Have you ever noticed how folks who vote republican always seem to be in a hurry?

The downside of longer passages is you need to carry a bit more water, provisions, and (if you're like me) a few more books to pass the time... None of which what I'd call a terrible disadvantage.

Friday, April 11, 2014

A question answered...

To answer an oft asked question about why I don't do more detailed critiques of boats.

I try not to be a critical kind of guy...

Given the opportunity I'm much happier to point out something interesting in a boat rather than nitpick its design flaws, issues, or failings.

That said, I have been known to go on and on about silly pricing and, I expect, will continue to do so.

The bottom line in the VolksCruising world is that most boats work. Admittedly some might work a bit better than others but providing that they happen to float right side up is a pretty good indicator that they'll get you where you want to go.

Back when I still drove, I used to drive between LA and NYC for film jobs on a pretty regular basis... It's a long drive. I've driven it in a Porsche, VWs, various pickups and an old Korean war vintage ambulance. Hell, there might even have been a Country Squire in there somewhere as well. The thing is they all got me safely where I wanted to go in a reasonable amount of comfort. Sure some were better at some things than others but I should also add that all also had their foibles as well... In hindsight they really were all just cars that got me where I needed to go and in that regard they did it equally well.

Much the same can be said of boats and comparing a Tahiti ketch derived sailboat, a sharpie, multihull, and whatever other sort of boat you care to add to the mix is that they all have advantages and disadvantages but when the dust settles they'll all get you where you want to go.

The biggest issue of getting on the water is not to find the perfect boat or making whatever boat you get perfect but simply to sort out what it takes to get out and actually do it.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

A quick link...

WoodenBoat has an excellent article online by Reuel Parker (of The New Cold-Molding Boatbuilding fame) about an interesting way to build a mast...

Really a must read.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

How not to worry about outboard & dinghy theft...

There has been something of a spike in dinghy and outboard thefts in the BVI of late... The thing is, there always seems to be a spike of dinghy and outboard theft at any given moment somewhere in the Caribbean so it deserves a certain amount of thought.

Outboards are expensive these days, times are hard, and there seems to be an unending number of people more than willing to pay cash for an outboard when the opportunity arises to buy one cheap. Just the sort of recipe to make stealing dinghies and outboards a popular and lucrative pastime.

My basic approach to the problem is to have a dinghy and outboard that do not appeal to folks who steal them. For instance, there seems little interest in outboards of 5HP or less or hard dinghies... Hence a hard dinghy with a 3.5HP outboard is pretty much theft proof. Of course, a dinghy with oars and no motor at all is sort of the ultimate no-theft rig around.

Even better if it needs some paint...

Thursday, April 3, 2014

The wooden stake for your budget woes...

I often wonder what sort of sound a vampire makes when you drive that wooden stake through his or her heart...

I expect it is not too unlike the shrill screams of consumerist junkie rage I've been hearing lately when I suggest that you don't have to spend more than $100K for a boat to go cruising on.

The need/want test is to consumer yachting what the wooden stake is to vampires...

Just saying.