There are two places on this planet that consistently bring grown men to their knees. They are places where men drop equally from exhilaration, exhaustion, and frustration. The first is Mount Everest, the highest peak in the world. The other lies at the southernmost tip of South America: Cape Horn. Two words that have for centuries served to inspire and strike fear into the hearts of sailors, and for good reason. Cape Horn is the sailor’s Everest, with its attendant risks and rewards, and many hundreds of sailors have perished in their quest to round what some refer to as the “uttermost cape.” For me it has always been a beacon of inspiration, a place steeped in history and mystery. Cape Horn is like no other sailing landfall. It’s geographically remote, located below 56 degrees south, and it’s visually striking, with steep cliffs constantly pounded by relentless Southern Ocean waves. The water has carved deep striations in the hard granite, forming giant organ pipes where seabirds nest and damp spray mingles with the souls of … Continue reading
It’s been the prevailing wisdom for decades, centuries even, that a monohull cannot sail as fast as a multihull and as if to prove the point, multihulls have been out there smashing all kinds of speed records for leaving monohulls bobbing in their leftover slop. But conventional wisdom is not always right, especially when challenged with some fresh, innovative thinking. Recently Vlad Murnikov, a Russian born engineer and designer, launched SpeedDream, a quest to build the world’s fastest monohull. Murnikov claims that his design will indeed sail faster than any multihull of the same length and has produced some compelling reasoning to back up his lofty ambitions. In the spirit of full disclosure Vlad Murnikov invited me to be his partner in this quest, but that does not alter my curiosity. Most of my sailing has been done in monohulls and I have seen (bicycles and tricycles as we mockingly called them) fly by, flying a hull, leaving us trimming our sails desperately trying to reach hull speed. It is an interesting question so I … Continue reading
Sometimes, just when you think you are a half decent writer and have something to say, you suddenly find that someone else has said it already and said it far better than you ever could. This is what happened to me today. I was about to write an end-of-the-year blog about the state of the planet when a newsletter from my friend Brad van Liew dropped into my inbox. Brad is currently deep in the Southern Ocean racing solo around the world, his third circumnavigation. Sailors have a unique view of the planet. When you are out on the open ocean you are as close to the elements and nature as you can get. When you are alone at sea, with heightened senses, you have an open window to the inner workings of the world. I have been lucky enough to witness this for myself, many times, and I have seen a sad decline in the amount of wildlife out there. Seems like the same thought was running through Brad’s mind today as he wrote his blog. So….. being … Continue reading
My friend Dodge Morgan died the other day. Well, I call him my friend but to be honest I have not seen him for over a decade. Years ago I was doing some consulting yacht design work for Ted Hood and he had a customer that wanted to sail alone, nonstop around the world. The customer was Dodge Morgan, a self-made multi-millionaire who had bummed around on boats until he was forty, decided to knuckle down and make some money and had retired wealthy at 50. With cash in hand Dodge was ready to fulfill a lifelong dream to circumnavigate solo. The challenge was that Dodge was no longer as young and as fit as he had once been and so the boat that Hood designed was completely push-button with massive built in redundancy. Two generators, entire spare winch sets, etc. Dodge was going to circumnavigate but he was not going to knock himself out doing so. At the time he got quite a bit of flack in the press. “Where was the challenge?” people … Continue reading
“I hopped back into the car and drove to the local supermarket. In a few minutes I had picked up some bread and cheese and a bottle of good wine. I stopped next door and bought a knife, plate and a decent glass and headed back to the grave. Dad may be gone but that did not stop me from having lunch with him. I spread a towel on the ground and pulled the cork on the wine. Three hadeda’s flew overhead making a racket as they came in for landing. I looked around for the monkeys but they were lying low. I poured myself a glass of wine and tipped a little onto the soft dirt alongside the grave. “For you Dad,” I said. “Cheers.”
“The summer afternoon storms were especially violent. The heat of the day would simmer and smolder until the sky turned an angry bruised blue and the wind dropped to an eerie stillness. We would hear the thunder start, the storm gathering strength on the hot plains outside the city and then it would get so dark that the streetlights came on automatically. Sometimes with the rain and thunder came hail, the white pellets of ice pounding down on the tin roof and bouncing off the green grass. My mother would gather us inside, away from any window – we were told that glass attracted lightning – and we watched as the storm passed overhead. As quickly as it had started, the rain ended, the streetlights went off and the sun came out again.