Blog

Air National Guard Rescues One-Year-Old at Sea

I am hesitant to weigh in on the current news item of a one-year-old needing to be “rescued” off a sail boat hundreds of miles at sea when she took ill. “What were the parent thinking of” and “Totally irresponsible” are some of the many comments. One person wrote: “I saw this coming — I saw the potential for every bit of it, I don’t understand what they were thinking to begin with. I’m sorry, I don’t even like to take my kids in a car ride that would be too dangerous, and it’s like taking them out into the big ocean?”

No surprise I have a different take. I grew up with no cycling helmets…it was okay to ride in the back of a pickup truck, and somewhat related, there was no such thing as a Breathalyzer. I have written that “life is not without risk…it’s just a matter of how much are you willing to take and what will you do to prepare for it.”  Are we to become a nation of wimps and those that are faint of heart?  Will we lose our spirit of adventure or challenge, so that no one climbs mountains or even hikes a trail for fear of falling to one’s death or being mauled by a bear?  Certainly I am in favor of using technology to enhance safety, but we have so much of it we have to draw the line somewhere – I am in favor of Breathalyzers. But in my sailing of more than 100,000 miles, I have met many young families with children of all ages being home schooled on yachts. My experience is that they grow up independent, self-reliant, well-educated, very polite and respectful, extremely capable and unafraid of risk – just what I like to see in my children.

However, there are limits, and I support that there should be limits to how old you must be to take part in certain activities, such as flying a plane solo across the country or attempting to swim the English Channel. But let us have as few limits as possible and encourage real life, not “reality TV” adventurism. I say “good luck” to those parents and “don’t give up.” They will have learned and they will prepare even better next time – I know for that’s what I am doing with Kiwi Spirit. And yes, thanks to all the rescue services that were involved – a great piece of training for them.

Blog1 comment

Kiwi Spirit Reached Home Port in St. Augustine, FL on Saturday

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe made great time from Antigua in the Caribbean to St. Augustine, some 1,320 miles. The winds were 14-22 knots and around 100 degrees true most of the time, so boat speed was some 9 and often 12 knots. No squalls-clear sky and fine sunsets.

Along with me was Steve Pettengill, a fellow St. Augustine resident and extremely experienced solo, off-shore racer. His presence and knowledge will contribute greatly to changes planned on the boat and to my ability to sail faster. Steve has done some 315,000 miles at sea, which has included 15 solos across the North Atlantic, one circumnavigation with crew, and three times around Cape Horn.  I am fortunate to have his assistance.

Having two on-board meant that someone was always awake and on watch. Through the night (12 hours) we took three-hour watches, so we could each get an hour or two of sleep. Then, during the day, we each took a 6-hour watch, and thus the other had another chance to nap. It’s when fatigued that jobs are put off and accidents occur.

While in St. Augustine, Kiwi Spirit will be docked at my home, just opposite the City Marina and will be clearly visible from the Bridge of Lions.

The boat will remain in St. Augustine for a month to six weeks, then will have some work done on her at Lyman Morse before heading north to Maine for some of the bigger jobs that need doing. Then to Newport, Rhode Island for sail work and testing, and finally back to St. Augustine in August for a planned circumnavigation departure circa November 8th. Incidentally, had the first attempt not been abandoned, my arrival Saturday was the intended date of arrival and celebration – ah well

(Photo Credit: Jaye Lunsford)

Blog0 comments

Kiwi Spirit arrives in Antigua

Fred delivered Kiwi Spirit to Antigua for handover on Sunday at 2:00 pm, just as I was touching down in Antigua on a flight from Miami… great timing.  The debriefing was extremely helpful for here were three experienced sailors, led by Fred, who has previously soloed the North Atlantic. Getting to Antigua they spent 30 days at sea thinking about how best to sail this boat well. Their ideas for improvements to strengthen and for safety were much appreciated, and will be part of the planning going forward. The list of breakages, failures and about-to-fail grows.

 

Chief amongst the failures was that of the primary autopilot, which despite the three on-board and shore-based communications, they were unable to fix. Another breakage was that of the snuffing gear that snuffs the spinnaker before it is brought down into the deck. It really takes three to manage it well, and you might recall my snuffer broke upon raising it and then it blew out the sail. My efforts at getting it down resulted in a fall that cracked two of my ribs. Well, the second snuffing hoop broke on Fred’s voyage, so that points more to a failure of the gears than of its handling – makes me feel a little better. One hydro-generator also failed, as did all the blades on one of hydro propellers, which again got stripped bare – it was plastic, so we shall revert back to aluminum.

 

I speak of these breakages for they were only the principal ones on a trip of 30 days, with modest weather and three crew. I will have some 150 days with just myself as crew, and thus can expect continued breakages. The need for spare parts is obvious. Redundancy is essential. Shore-based assistance crucial and still it will be a tough challenge, even in fair weather.

 

Steve, a well-established off shore sailor, and I are to head the 1,400 miles to St. Augustine. The boat will rest a little in St. Augustine before going up to Lyman Morse in Maine to begin making some very significant changes. More in a future blog.

Blog0 comments

Failure – It’s Being Talked About

There has been a lot of talk of failure as of late. Failure of equipment, of efforts to find a downed plane and to solve issues in Crimea. It seems that failure is just a fact of life, and we must recognize that and learn to live with it. Those that experience the most failure are those that take on the challenges of life, be it in business or in recreation. The fear of failure causes all too many to stay on the couch rather than to take on a challenge. Winning is not important. Taking part is. Being involved is success enough and if we should fail, then at least we tried, not letting the fear of failure stop us from really living.

With the above in mind, I shall be trying again to circumnavigate solo – that is a surprise to no one who knows me. I know, however, it will be my last attempt as time and, yes, expense limit me from a third effort. So it’s really “unfinished business.” No room for romanticism – just spending time on all issues leading up to the departure, and then planning to sail as fast and as safety I can. Staying focused will be important. That said, I do have one side bar-this August, when I shall be in a cross English Channel relay swim. But training for that will be of benefit for the circumnavigation. Physically I have set April 1st as the beginning of my physical training regime.

Incidentally, had I not abandoned the circumnavigation – I would have been arriving in St. Augustine about now!

Blog0 comments

“Unfinished Business” and “Spirit Undaunted”

“Unfinished Business” and “Spirit Undaunted” were the titles to articles in the April issues of Sailing Magazine and Cruising World respectively.  Their contents captured the essence of why the attempt was abandoned, when the attachments of the rigging which hold up the mast proved to not be up to the task, and when the repairs I made to the end of the boom that holds the mainsail were questionable (I think I did good job)!

 

So, I left Sunday for Antigua, in the eastern Caribbean, where Kiwi Spirit should arrive from South Africa along with three French sailors who have been the delivery crew. All of them are well experienced and I shall look forward to debriefing with them. I will listen to their experiences, and seek their ideas on how to further improve the yacht and its performance. They did have a breakdown of the main autopilot and one of the hydro generators (makes power for instruments and navigation) also failed. They used the engine a great deal and stopped off briefly in St. Helena (in the mid-south Atlantic where Napoleon spent his last days in Brutish captivity) before completing the voyage to Antigua.

 

I am estimating five days in Antigua before I, along with Steve Pettengill, sail to St. Augustine, where she will rest at my dock before heading to Maine for repairs in June.

 

I am fortunate to have Steve on board as he is a tremendously experienced sailor, having sailed extensively including racing a sixty foot trimaran to break the record from New York to San Francisco via Cape Horn. We will have fun and I shall no doubt learn from him.

Blog0 comments

Future Blogs – Help Wanted

From now until the departure in early November, there will be just a few blogs. I leave on the 23rd of this month to go to Antigua to greet the boat and the three members of the delivery crew who are bringing the boat from South Africa. A week later I will sail the boat to St. Augustine. Then in June, I will sail it again to Lyman Morse in Maine where the work will begin. Then to Newport, Rhode Island for additional work.  I will report briefly on each of these activities.

 

I will also be vacationing with family in New Zealand and France this spring and summer. Additionally, I am once again in a swimming relay team to swim across the English Channel in August. This will be my third relay and we are all over 70 years, a first, and of course at age 77,  I will be the oldest not just in the team, but to have ever been in across in a Channel relay.  Both my previous relays were successful, as were two of my five solo swims. I will briefly blog on these travels and events.

 

I have been very surprised at how well received my blogs became. While some of my sailing friends said there was too little sailing information, I felt that such material is in abundance elsewhere and that I was best to write for my family, friends and non-sailors in general. But I would like some help.

 

When recently speaking to a group that had English as a second language, I asked what you would like to read more of next time. The first answer was “storms.” “OK,” I responded. “How many do you want?”

 

So here I am asking for ideas. If you have any topics that you would like me to address either before I start out again or during the voyage itself, please send them to Kelly Kuecker at kkuecker@usa.edu. Kelly is the lady who manages my blogs. Understand that once “under way” I do not read Blogs or Facebook as I have enough to do, and wish to avoid distractions. However, key comments and requests are forwarded to me by email and I can respond to them.

 

Thank you for your understanding.

 

Blog0 comments

What will be different this November?

In one sense not much will be different, but in another we have learned a great deal. First and foremost, we will address the structural failures that occurred at the end on the boom and the rigging attachments to the boat.   In South Africa we re-engineered the end of the boom to better support the sheaves (pulleys) that were ripped out during the accidental jibe.  This shall be carefully checked again and the boom, as well as the mast, will be scanned with ultrasound looking for any possible structural weaknesses.  Next, we will totally replace the fittings of the rigging, which hold up the mast and sails to their attachment points on the boat.  We will look seriously at the sail inventory, and will replace and modify to the conditions experienced.

Then there are many trivial items that have more to do with personal comforts, such as a greater variety of food, spices, and a wider selection of music and reading material. I will also be able to get some weight off of the boat as I was carrying some gear that I now know that I will not need.

Also, I am now a more experienced solo sailor. Prior to the challenge I had only sixteen days solo, but now I have some 65 solo days and those are in a variety of conditions. My experience, along with a stronger boat, gives me a greater level of confidence than I had before, and thus, I expect to sail more aggressively and faster.

Finally, I did not know how I would manage to be alone for those 150 or so days. Well, I survived 50 days solo, and while I found it hard going at times, it will be training for the next time so I will be better able to manage than otherwise would have been the case. Some sailors have gone bonkers after just a few days at sea and I have had a crew member approach me in the middle of the ocean saying he “wanted off.” It’s true we don’t know how we will react when out of sight of land with or without crew. But I have been tested and these are now major concerns. I am therefore better prepared and very excited to restart.

Blog0 comments

Game on – Second Attempt to Start this November

Dr. Paris appeared before the City Commission last evening and made the following announcement:

Mr. Mayor, Commissioners, ladies and gentlemen: Some two years ago I signed a letter of cooperation with the 450th Centenary Committee. I did this and became a part of this city’s efforts to promote itself nationally. I did this because I love this city. It has been so good to me and all its residents. It is a privileged to live here.

The attention that my yacht, Kiwi Spirit, gained in the media for itself and the city, especially in yachting magazines, was much more than I had imagined. I am regretful that I had to abandon the voyage one third of the way around the world, after fifty days at sea. After my team saw photos of the cumulative damage aboard they urged me to head for Cape Town.  It was of course a big disappointment to all of us, and incredibly difficult for me.

I have spent much of the month since I returned from Sth. Africa with the architects, builders, riggers, sail makers and other talented people to assess the practicality of my boat, Kiwi Spirit, being not only made whole again, but made stronger so that along with its now more experienced captain, I could more confidentially set forth again.

I am here tonight, choosing this Commission meeting, to formally announce that on or about this coming November 8, Kiwi Spirit and I shall begin again.

 

The records I wish to set are once again:

. First to sail from St. Augustine, solo, non-stop and non-assisted around the world

. To break the existing record of 150 days from Bermuda and return

. To be the first ever to have done it green

. To be the oldest to have done it solo

 

There will be a difference this time

Our start last time was postponed because of weather at the inlet and that could well occur again. But last time once I reached Bermuda the wind was mostly absent for three days and I languished during that time. Now my weather routers will be monitoring the weather for ten days out to avoid such an occurrence.  Thus, while I set Saturday, November 8th as the date, it is a “soft date,” and while I expect a sendoff again, it will be fine with me if it is much lower key than before. However, on my successful return you can pull out as many stops as you wish.

Should I fail a second time, and the odds are of course high for many reasons, in additional to breakages, know that there will not be a third try as there is a limit to my wife Catherine’s tolerance for such things.

Thank you

Blog0 comments

Coming to a Decision – Making the Yacht “Stanley Centric”

While I am hesitant to use the term “Stanley Centric,” it is indeed a suitable term for what Kiwi Spirit now needs to become single handed and for me to successfully circumnavigate the globe. No point in starting again if I cannot have a boat in which I have complete confidence, and which has been adapted in every way possible for a solo sailor of my age and abilities. The boat and I have now done a few miles- most of them solo- my weaknesses and those of the boat have been exposed.  If it’s true that you learn more from failure than success, and I support that statement, then we have learned a great deal. It is now being communicated to the key players on my team. This has been the subject for these last few weeks as I have had long discussions and visits with North Sails, Farr Yacht Design, Commanders Weather and Lyman Morse Builders. All parties have been most helpful – open minded, non-defensive and with a restart in mind.

Blog0 comments

Critical Week Ahead

Over the next seven days I shall have extensive meetings with the sail maker, designer, builder and others to determine the best course of action that will restore my confidence in the boat and its fittings, which would allow me to make a second, and hopefully successful, attempt.  Over the past two weeks, since my arrival home, I have become very aware that most solo attempts have failed and for a great variety of reasons. I have also become aware of the many who have been following my blogs and forwarding them to others. That brings me great pleasure.

The question I now most frequently get is “will you try again?”  By contrast, my close friends don’t ask that question – they know me better and they all say “when will you try again?”  My response to both is that I am proceeding as though there will be a restart this November, but I am not yet willing to make that an affirmative statement. After all, as stated above, I must regain my confidence in the boat. Additionally, there is a matter of my age and maintaining the excellent health that I now enjoy. But it looks almost certain that I shall restart, so stay tuned. I will keep updating.  In the meantime, three crew members are arriving in Cape Town Sth. Africa and will bring the boat back to Antigua, where it shall stay until the spring when it will come back to New England, most likely with me at the helm.

Blog2 comments

1 2 3 4 5 8