About Charles Doane

Charles Doane is an editor-at-large for SAIL, where he previously was a senior editor. He also served as managing editor at Offshore and associate editor at Cruising World. Charles has logged more than 40,000 miles as an offshore sailor, including six transatlantic passages and some single-handed passages. His blog posts appear courtesy of his website www.WaveTrain.net.

Lunacy Assaulted by Schooner Harvey Gamage


Schooner Harvey Gamage at PYS

This could be one of those Twilight Zone triple-coincidence stories that once upon a time kept me up to my armpits in pulpy comic books. Cue orchestra; dial up the basso profundo Rod Serling voice-over: “And there’s the signpost, straight up ahead…”

Coincidence #1: While bringing Lunacy back from Bermuda, you may recall, I had one Jeff Bolster aboard as crew. A fellow SEMOSA member from here in the hood in Portsmouth, he is, among other things, a very experienced ex-schooner skipper. The schooner he spent the most time commanding, back in the day, was the vaunted Harvey Gamage.

Coincidence #2: While en route from Bermuda to Portsmouth Jeff and I spied a large spread of sail on the horizon. On hailing the vessel via VHF, we learned it was none other than the Harvey Gamage.

Coincidence #3: Just this past Monday, just a few days after I at last got Lunacy settled down on her summer mooring at Portland Yacht Services, the schooner Harvey Gamage came browsing through the PYS mooring field, hoping to land on one of the PYS docks. In doing so, she gave poor Lunacy a very hard rap on her nose.

Damage Report: Bow nav light destroyed. Forwardmost starboard stanchion post severely bent. Welds on two forwardmost starboard stanchion base sockets cracked.

Damaged bow light on Lunacy

Damaged stanchion post on Lunacy

Which isn’t too bad, really. A fiberglass boat, I wager, would have fared much worse. One of the great advantages of sailing an aluminum boat, I’ve learned, is that you can bounce off hard objects without suffering grievous damage.

I stopped by to inspect the carnage yesterday morning and had a short conversation with the Gamage‘s current skipper. The complicating factor in replacing any stanchion post on Lunacy, I noticed, is that you must also replace both lifelines running through it. These have heavy swage fittings on either end that will not fit through the narrow holes piercing the solid aluminum posts. So in the end I decided it would be best to file an insurance claim. So far the Gamage‘s insurer has been very cooperative, particularly as they reckon my claim won’t exceed the policy’s deductible and they won’t have to pay me a dime.

I also tried to get Jeff stirred up, hoping he’d make provocative and incendiary comments about the competence of those currently running his old boat that I could share with you here. Jeff didn’t rise to the bait, but he did note that he never hit any boats back when he was driving big schooners. He did have a lot people fall overboard, but that’s another story.

BoaterMouth link: here




Rembrandt rescue painting

Should taxpayers have to spend large sums of money rescuing overzealous sailors who get into trouble they might easily have avoided? Should they pay to rescue sailors who don’t actually need rescuing in the first place? Questions like this are bubbling up into the public consciousness, thanks to teen sailor Abby Sunderland, who was recently plucked at great public expense from her dismasted boat after she foolishly tried to transit the southern Indian Ocean during winter.

Coincidentally (or not?), French legislators last week started debating a new law that would enable the French government to seek compensation from “people who have deliberately exposed themselves, without a legitimate motive stemming from their professional situation or a situation of emergency, to risks of which they could not have been unaware.” This, evidently, in reaction to a spate of expensive rescue operations financed by the French government, including the launching last year of a full-on commando raid to liberate bluewater sailors on a French yacht that was hijacked off Somalia.

In Abby’s case, rescue costs (born by the Australian and French governments, and by private French fishermen) are estimated to be on the order of $300,000. Abby’s family have frankly admitted they can’t afford to reimburse anyone, and Australian SAR authorities, who flew planes out to check on Abby’s status, have graciously announced they aren’t expecting any compensation.

Those with long memories may recall the Australians weren’t nearly so gracious back in 1995, when they rescued French solo sailor Isabelle Autissier after she was dismasted during the BOC Challenge round-the-world race. The Aussies back then made lots of grumpy noises about charging for their trouble (though, ultimately, they did not press a claim). This is more than a little ironic, considering that Autissier was an exceedingly competent, internationally known ocean racer participating in a internationally recognized event being run at an appropriate time of year. Abby, on the other hand, was simply an underage neophyte doing something blatantly foolhardy as a publicity stunt.

I suspect the public at large doesn’t really understand how often we sailors ask to get rescued. My guess is the number of idiots, as a percentage of the total sailing population, who get themselves into trouble unreasonably has probably remained fairly constant. But the fact that it is now so easy to call for help, thanks to modern satellite distress-signalling technology, has surely increased the number of distress calls made by such people. Satellite communications have also greatly increased the number of relatively inexperienced people engaged in more-or-less reasonable voyages who call for help when they don’t really need it. I can cite any number of examples here. The most compelling, from my own experience, involves a cruising rally participant who once pressed the panic button and called for an offshore evacuation from his vessel simply because he was intimidated by a weather forecast.

Lest the public wake up someday and start demanding that recreational bluewater sailing be banned, or some such nonsense, I think it behooves us to get a handle on this situation. Though I would hate to see any sailor preemptively prohibited from setting out on a passage, I don’t think it is unreasonable to evaluate a situation retroactively when a sailor asks the public to spend money to pull his or her butt out of trouble.

I propose then that an adjudicatory body be formed within the International Maritime Organization, and that said body be empowered to rule on a case-by-case basis as to whether mariners are liable for rescue costs. Liability would be appropriate, I think, in situations where a mariner embarks on an unreasonably unsafe voyage and/or where a mariner initiates a distress call without truly being in a life-threatening situation. Yes, of course, these are not purely objective standards, but courts often answer such questions in other contexts. The concept of the “reasonable man” (ah, I remember him well) is a useful myth that has informed jurisprudence for centuries. There’s no reason why a well informed admiralty judge can’t make rulings like this in a fair and consistent manner.

It obviously would be burdensome to adjudicate every distress call. Claims therefore should be brought only at the discretion of rescuers who feel they have shouldered an unreasonable burden and are therefore entitled to compensation. It might also be prudent to impose liability on third parties who sponsor, finance, or manage and supervise the voyages in question.

If such a system were put in place, I suspect the poor Sunderlands might think twice before sending any more of their many progeny out on a world tour. It should also make it harder for all those tempted to play this lamentable youngest-sailor-to-circumnavigate game to launch such voyages in the first place.

BoaterMouth link: here

MIKE HARKER Update: Should Have Had A Gun?


Aerial view of Simpson Bay Lagoon

Here’s one interesting weirdness about this tragic Mike-Got-Mauled-On-His-Boat tale: initial reports, which basically came verbatim from the victim himself, had the location all wrong. First it happened in Martinique, or in Guadeloupe, then finally it was St. Martin. The Aussie Sail-World site (which I believe originally reported the location as Guadeloupe, though they seem to have covered their tracks on this) has just posted another missive from Mike, in which the ex-paraplegic thrill-seeker shares a few more details re the attack. Turns out Mike was in fact anchored inside Simpson Bay Lagoon, near the Witch’s Tit (aka Mt. Fortune, which is identified in the photo above). This is not exactly the most heavily trafficked area of the Lagoon, but it certainly isn’t the most remote either.

Seeing as how I’ve kept Lunacy in St. Martin the past two winters (though not in the Lagoon) and have frequently cruised and raced there with friends and family, this is a sobering piece of news, to be sure.

Map of Simpson Bay Lagoon

Harker’s fate, predictably enough, has also added a few logs on the fire of the never-ending should-cruisers-carry-guns debate, so I thought I may as well toss in a small faggot of my own.

If you read Harker’s account, both the latest one at Sail-World, and the original one at Latitude 38, you’ll note that the reason he got beat up so badly is because he resisted. Indeed, it seems he got in some pretty good licks and drew a bit of blood himself, which isn’t too surprising if you know anything about Mike Harker. When push comes to shove, however, most people have no idea how they’ll react in situations like this, unless they’ve been trained to deal with them. I remember, for example, one friend of mine from when I lived in the wilds of Brooklyn–a real overweight marshmallow of a guy–who got beat senseless after he put up a huge fight against four guys who tried to rob him on the street one day. Considering he only had 35 cents in his pocket at the time, it wasn’t exactly a percentage move.

You may or may not be able to refrain from struggling with people who try to steal your stuff, but you certainly have a great deal of control over what weapons you might have at your disposal. If a gun is one of them, you are raising the stakes in any fight considerably and are greatly increasing the chances that someone (including you or someone you care about) will be mortally injured. Exhibit Number One here is the legendary Peter Blake, who was shot to death one night on the Amazon River in December 2001, after he brandished a gun against armed bandits who had boarded his boat.

So you have to ask yourself: just how important is your stuff??? Me personally… I’m not that attached to mine. Indeed, the lesson I take away from Mike’s story isn’t that I need a gun on my boat, but rather that I need to keep enough cash onboard to make any thieves feel I was worth robbing in the first place.

Although, again, I can’t say for sure I won’t put up a fight. The one time I almost got robbed while cruising, standing in a huge crowd after attending a concert in Banjul, Gambia, I was very surprised at how aggressive I got. I really went after the guy I caught trying to pick my pocket and was lucky I had a crowd around to chill me out. If I’d been alone, or if I had a gun in my hand, I might have done something really stupid.

Big gun on boat

Of course, sometimes a gun is in fact just what you need. If you are underway and are approached by a threatening vessel, being able to brandish a firearm and perhaps fire off a warning shot or two could easily save you much unpleasantness. But this is really the only situation I can think of where a gun makes any sense at all. Once an intruder is actually aboard your vessel, I believe you are much better off without one.

NOTE: In my original post on this I, too, had the location of the attack as Martinique. I changed the text of the post as soon as I learned otherwise.

BoaterMouth link: here


ROCKWELL KENT: Voyages to Greenland and Tierra del Fuego

Rockwell Kent print

FROM AN EARLY AGE it was this image in particular, by artist Rockwell Kent, and a few others like it, that were pressed into my mind as nearly Jungian archetypes of what a life afloat must be like. There were several of Kent’s dynamic high-contrast wood-block prints hanging about our house while I was growing up, most of them of nautical subjects, and they made an enormous impression on me. Later, when I was older, my grandfather presented me with one of Kent’s books, N by E, which had just been reissued by the Weslayan University Press. This made an even bigger impression.

It helped, of course, that several of the prints I’d long admired turned out to be illustrations from the book. It helped, too, that Kent’s prose style is just as muscular and dynamic as his illustrations. The art in the book takes up nearly as much space as the text, and the two complement each other exceedingly well. Together they today seem a tad archaic and mannered (delightfully so, IMHO), but they also present a unique account of cruising under sail in what almost amounts to a very modern “graphic-novel” format.

The cruise documented in N by E was, if anything, spectacularly unsuccessful. Kent at the time was in his late 40s and served as navigator and cook on the voyage; his two shipmates, the skipper, Sam Allen, Jr., and first mate, Lucian “Cupid” Carey, were both in their early 20s. Their intended destination, Greenland, was an ambitious one, particularly in that their vessel, a 33-foot cutter named Direction that belonged to Allen’s father, was both relatively small and carried no engine.

The crew dynamic, as on any cruise, was very important. Kent in his account is openly critical of the boastful, lazy Cupid, but is much more circumspect with respect to his skipper. (Presumably this was because Sam Allen died in a car accident soon after the cruise was completed.) In retrospect, his summation of Allen’s talents seems generous indeed.

The first serious hint of trouble was on June 23, 1929, when the crew of Direction found themselves fogbound far too close to shore while en route between Newfoundland and Labrador and nearly lost their boat in a maze of reefs and shoals. The very next day they were beset by ice in the dark of night in a rising gale and again were too close to shore:

Rockwell Kent print

As if the furies rode our wake we now drove westward through that darkness. Soon we could see the contour of the land, blacker than night; the mainland long and low to starboard, and, off the port bow, the island looming large. Owing to sunken reefs and shoals the navigable channel between them was confined to a narrow passage close to the island’s shore. Our speed as we entered the channel must have been seven knots; the illusions of the darkness doubled it. Suddenly from everywhere huge, livid, ghostly forms appeared around us; ice. We were powerless to check our speed or change the course; we bore straight at it.

The mate sprang to the bow. He screamed out, “For God’s sake luff! Keep out of there! You can’t–”

“Shut up,” said the skipper.

Close crowded as the bergs appeared, somewhere some passage opened just in time, and we drove through; and the white water of the ice surf churned around us. There were a hundred bergs, it seemed, pale green and livid in the darkness. I had my chart to watch; I ran below to hide my eyes a moment from the horror.

Then we passed through them so that again only the night confronted us, and the black lee shore. And all at once the light of Greenly Island broke from behind the island’s hill. Now the fine moment of maneuvering was near! The land sloped gradually down–nearer and nearer to the water. It became a low spit almost indistinguishable against the black background of the sea. Where did it end! How could we get the bearing of the light! It was impossible. I waited until the land ahead loomed close. “Ready!” I called out, “Now!” We shot up into the wind. There was a wild fierce flapping of canvas, a whipping and slapping of foresail sheets along the deck, a furious clattering of blocks–a pandemonium of noise. She hovered there in stays. Then a big sea struck her starboard bow. She fell away again. We’d failed.

By the time we had gathered headway for a second try we were close to the lee shore of the mainland. Again we came up into the wind; again the furious clamor. And now, added to it, was the roar of the surf. The mate with his legs twisted around the port shrouds clung desperately to the struggling staysail sheet. A squall struck and hove us down to port; and the mate, still clinging to the staysail, was buried in the water to his neck. Again we’d failed.

We were now so close to the rocks there was no room to wear. One hope was left: the anchor. Over and down it went, and ten fathoms of hawser followed it. It found bottom. We payed out two fathoms more. We held–and lay at anchor in a tide rip forty feet from a lee shore; a gale and a heavy sea. What next!

Now I possessed a certain pair of mittens on each of which was knit a heart. The skipper had worn those mittens that night; and I had somehow seen him in the flurry of the recent crisis pull one off and throw it to the deck. And the thought that it might wash overboard had tortured me. No sooner had we lowered sail than I contrived, carefully hiding my concern from the others, to look for it. I found it! And with that my soul was snug in port.

The next day Direction and her crew made it safely to Bradore Bay in Labrador, but Kent’s faith in his commander had indeed been shaken a bit:


Now the events of the past forty hours had increased my respect for our skipper’s seamanship and lowered my opinion of his judgment. Lowered it to the point that, valuing my life no more or less than most men, I ventured to address him somewhat as follows:

“Say, Sam! We’ve been almost wrecked twice in two days. That’s too high a run of almosts. We want to get there–and get back.”

“I think so too,” said the skipper seriously.

At Bradore Bay is a post office. “We’ll be wrecked before we finish this trip,” I wrote–and tore the letter up.

Rockwell Kent print

Sure enough, Kent was right. Three weeks later, having at last successfully crossed the Davis Strait from Labrador to Greenland, Direction was lost in a fjord in a violent gale just 40 miles shy of her destination at Godthaab, after her skipper declined to follow his navigator’s advice regarding the final approach.


IT WAS JUST A FEW YEARS AGO that I finally obtained a copy of another of Kent’s books, Voyaging: Southward From the Strait of Magellan, which recounts an earlier cruise he made in Patagonia in 1922. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I only got around to reading it this spring.

Voyaging does not seem quite as powerful to me as N by E. It, too, is well illustrated with Kent’s bold wood-cuts, but the art is not as predominant as in the later book. I should note, too, that none of the prints in Voyaging were familiar to me. I am sure one of the reasons N by E resonates with me so is because I absorbed so many of its illustrations during childhood.

Still, the journey recounted in Voyaging is, if anything, more remarkable than the one described in N by E. It’s really not so much a cruise as a quest. In this instance Kent acted as his own skipper, with one very colorful, vaguely disreputable Norwegian seaman, Ole Ytterock, as crew. His goal was to sail around Cape Horn. Having arrived by steamship at Punta Arenas, Chile, on the Strait of Magellan, he at once set out with an almost ferocious single-mindedness to achieve it.

The first challenge was to procure and outfit a vessel. Kent immediately bought a 26-foot lifeboat off a wrecked freighter for $20, then spent two months working furiously to refit it as a cruising sailboat. He named it Kathleen, after his wife. On her very first day out sailing, however, the little gaff cutter proved to be extremely leaky and almost sank. She was hauled out again, and another three weeks was spent making her sound. Then at last Kent and his crew set forth down Admiralty Sound on a shakedown cruise.

Rockwell Kent print

Unfortunately, Kathleen never made it out of Admiralty Sound. The ungainly engineless vessel was unable to make progress to windward against the relentless westerlies, so Kent and Ytterock anchored her in a cove, then hiked southward overland across a mountainous portion of Tierra del Fuego that had never before been traversed by white men. Arriving on foot in Ushuaia on the Beagle Channel, they finally succeeded in chartering another vessel. In the end, however, as in his later cruise to Greenland, Kent failed to reach his objective. Kathleen II, as he dubbed her, proved even less seaworthy than her predecessor. Though he did get close enough to spy Horn Island from a distance, Kent was ultimately forced to turn back and could not round the Horn due to weather.

Though ultimately thwarted in both his sailing adventures, Kent as an artist found them incredibly nourishing. The barren wildernesses of Patagonia and Greenland were a great inspiration to him. Greenland in particular was important to him, and he returned there twice, in 1931 and 1934, to paint and live with a local woman he developed a relationship with. Through out his life Kent was always seeking out raw, isolated environments in which to live and work. Curiously, it was in Voyaging, the earlier of his two sailing books, that he spelled out most specifically why nature was so important to him:

Rockwell Kent landscape painting, Greenland

Is it mere chance that the forms and humors of nature appear as symbols of the moods, experiences and desires of the human spirit? The unbroken pathways of the wilderness are reminders of the hard and solitary way that ardent souls must travel. The glittering, virgin whiteness of high mountain-fields of snow, untrodden, maybe unattainable, their mist-veiled beauty neither earth nor cloud, remote serene and passionless, picture the spirit’s aspiration. Can it have been the fervid imagination of man that has endowed these mountains with an aura of symbolism? Rather is it the reality of mountains and plains, the sea and the unfathomable heavens, unchangingly forever dominating man, cradling him in that remote hour of his awakening into consciousness, forever smiling, brooding, thundering upon him, that have imposed their nature upon man and made him what he is.


Kent had a very successful career, both as a commercial illustrator and fine artist, during the 1920s and ’30s. After World War II, however, his socialist leanings and stubborn nature got him into trouble politically. The witch-hunts of the McCarthy era were not kind to him (though a famous 1958 U.S. Supreme Court decision did resolve a passport dispute with the State Department in his favor) and the new wave of Abstract Expressionism then sweeping the art world made his sort of direct representational artwork seem dated and facile. For many years, ironically, he was best remembered in the Soviet Union. In 1960 he donated a large amount of his work to the Soviet people, and in 1967 he received the Lenin Peace Prize.

Portrait of Rockwell Kent

But none of that need trouble us now. The Wesleyan University Press is to be commended for keeping both these books in print, and I urge you to take a look at them. I suspect there are few cruising sailors who cannot relate on some level to Rockwell Kent’s very visceral, yet romantic approach to life.

BoaterMouth link: here


Hunter Marine’s Mike Harker Beaten Senseless in St. Martin


Mike Harker

Some very ugly news from the W’Indies. Latitude 38 has just published a grim first-person account by bluewater cruiser Mike Harker, who was recently assaulted aboard his Hunter 49 Wanderlust 3 while anchored at St. Martin. Mike, who was grievously injured in a hand-gliding accident two decades ago and was told he would never walk again, has long been a poster-boy for Hunter Marine and has been an active cruiser for several years. Any who have met him while hanging around Hunter’s booth at the big national sailboat shows will, I am sure, remember him as an exceedingly gregarious and unpretentious fellow. According to his Latitude account, which you can read here, he was woken in his berth at 4 a.m. by two thugs who swam out to his boat. They threatened him with a harpoon, beat him senseless, and plundered the boat.

Also last week there was a fatal attack against a cruising boat on the south coast of Panama. Reportedly the 70-foot sailing vessel Altares was boarded by five pirates near Bajo Pipon and the skipper, “Bo” Olsen, a Danish national, was shot and killed. His son, an American named Zach Olsen, suffered a gunshot wound, and a Panamanian woman, Sugey Rodriquez, was beaten in the face. A few more details are available here and here.

I’ve found no information on how the pirates boarded the vessel in the Panamanian incident. But Mike’s story sure makes you think twice about the virtues of having a sugar-scoop transom on your boat.

We here at WaveTrain wish him a rapid recovery and look forward to buying him a beer at the fall shows.

BoaterMouth link: here


DODGING POTS: The War Between Sailors and Lobstermen

Sailing among lobster pots in Maine

Having spent a full day of my July 4 weekend moving Lunacy north from Portsmouth, NH, to her summer quarters in Portland, ME, I was reminded for the umpteenth time of several things I love about sailing in this part of the world. I was reminded, too, of a few things I don’t love so much. Number one on the latter list: lobster pots!

Having learned boats as a child in these parts, I am very familiar with these. I have always appreciated the convenient omnipresent current reference they provide and was taught from an early age to always respect the fact that they represent someone else’s livelihood. But starting about 15 years ago, when I returned to Maine after a few years absence cruising the North Atlantic on Crazy Horse, my attitude toward them changed markedly.

Never before had I seen so many pots in the water. It seemed as though during my absence some mighty pill-popping deity had spilled an enormous stash of brightly colored fun-filled capsules all up and down the coast. Anchorages I’d visited in the past and remembered as being open and empty were now so clogged with pot buoys it was hard to lay a hook anywhere without fouling them.

I definitely experienced a catharsis that summer. This began in a small cove off an island at the mouth of Muscongus Bay. Anchoring there one afternoon I went to great trouble to stay clear of all fishing gear when planting my hook and thought I had succeeded in finding a nice open pocket of water to lie in. Next morning, however, though the wind had not shifted, I found my anchor rode had tied itself in a fearsome knot round some pot warp leading to a bright blue-and-white buoy.

I spent an hour trying to untangle the mess from on deck, then reluctantly stripped down, jumped in the water, and spent another 20 minutes unknitting things before finally freeing my rode. I was positively hypothermic when I came back aboard.

I reanchored the boat in what I thought was another open spot and had no problems with pots for the rest of that day. Next morning, however, I woke early to the distinctive air-jacketed rumble of a lobster boat’s exhaust and was surprised at how close it sounded. Peering out a porthole I saw the boat was in fact right off my bow. I was both shocked and dismayed when I saw the lobsterman aboard drop a trap tied to a blue-and-white buoy right on top of where my anchor had to be.

Setting lobster traps

Prior to that moment I had believed it was a sin to cut a pot warp. But this changed everything. I went back to sleep, calmly made breakfast when I reawoke, and when it was time to hoist anchor I went forward with a knife, cut free my rode, and went on my way. Even as the anchor came aboard that morning, I realized my world view had been permanently altered; I realized, too, that a wetsuit was now pretty much mandatory equipment when cruising the Maine coast.

I duly purchased a wetsuit, stored it in a hanging locker, and have always carried one since. I wish I could report I’ve never had to use it. On many occasions while sailing in Maine I’ve caught traps on my keel or propeller and have had to don the suit and go swimming to get them off. This is never a sublime experience. One time–in a narrow rock-strewn channel with a 25-knot breeze blowing–it in fact seemed positively life-threatening.

I’ve also done battle with bug hunters in mooring fields. Ask any New England harbormaster if he or she believes that buoyed harbor channels and clearly defined mooring fields should be off limits to lobster pots, and they will heartily agree with you. Ask them to actually enforce such a rule and they will quickly change the subject.

I remember in one harbor where I once moored a boat there was a lobsterman hell-bent on stationing a pot right off my mooring ball. Every time a cold front passed through and the wind shifted northwest, the pot inevitably fouled my propeller. So we fell into a little game. Every time I left my mooring, I picked up the pot buoy, tied off the warp to a bow cleat, and dragged the whole rig 100 yards down harbor clear of the mooring field. Every time I returned to my mooring, I found the buoy floating next to my mooring ball again. I finally called it quits when I went out to the boat one day and found my deck covered with rotting lobster bait.

The lobster fishery is unique in many respects and, at least in Maine, is well regulated. Much as I have prayed for the lobsters to run out, there is in fact little chance this will ever happen. After a huge unprecedented boom in the late ‘90s, the population did finally shrink a bit after 2001 and the number of buoys in the water significantly declined. In recent years, however, the pots have slowly been getting thicker again.

There is, I have found, a distinct threshold when it comes to pot density. If you can sail a course pretty much as you like and need only occasionally dodge a pot to maintain it, the density is comfortably low. Past a certain tipping point, however, it is no longer possible to maintain a course. Steering your boat you are instead forced to move like an NFL running back, constantly dodging and weaving, always on the look-out for an open lane to move forward in. Even worse, the pots will dictate where and when you can tack, gybe, hoist sails, leave the helm to relieve yourself, and so on.

There are tools we can use to ameliorate these problems. It is, for example, foolish these days to transit the Gulf of Maine under power at night without a sharp line-cutter on your prop shaft. I’ve also seen advertised some nifty-looking razor-edged halberds that make it possible to slash away lines under a boat from on deck. Such a weapon might also come in handy when racing and could be used to cut up an opponent’s rig during tight mark roundings.

Spurs line cutter in action

Mention devices like this to a lobsterman, and you can be sure you’ll get a long lecture on the price of traps and line and the economics of fishing. All I can say to that is: my friends, you reap what you sow, in more ways than one. Besides, I’m very sure the fellow who dropped his gear on top of my anchor that morning all those years ago wasn’t thinking about what the gear cost him. I’m sure he was concentrating much harder instead on just ignoring my existence.

BoaterMouth link: here


WITH THE FLOW: Escape From Bermuda


Charlie Doane on the sat phone

You’ll recall we left the good ship Lunacy pining on a mooring in Bermuda (with a perfectly good starter), waiting for me to welcome home Reid Stowe AND preside over my mother’s memorial service, so I could AT LAST return to the Onion Patch and sail her home. Stalwart crew member Jeff Bolster and I flew in Tuesday, June 22; we sailed out early the following morning. Not long after raising sail, even as we watched incoming Bermuda Race boats reaching for the finish line off St. David’s, I got to enjoy my proverbial 15 minutes of fame and checked in via sat phone to participate in a National Public Radio call-in show (WBUR’s On Point with Tom Ashbrook) about Reid’s amazing voyage. These are my just desserts, I suppose, for being the only sailing journalist on Earth who has been truly interested in Reid and his odyssey. Said desserts also include getting savaged by the peanut gallery over at Sailing Anarchy.

But this post is about the passage. It was filled with those minor, but meaningful events that make ocean sailing a very special sport. Cetaceans were a major feature. On the second day, while I was on watch, a series of minor squalls passed through. Just as the last of these was dying away, I heard the distinctive PUFF of a mammal exhaling, hard on the starboard quarter. I saw the spout, then came a very large, very tall, very black dorsal fin. It passed astern, close by, then was gone.

A killer whale, perhaps? It was the only thing I could think of. I’ve spent some time studying wildlife texts since getting home and have yet to come up with any alternative conclusions.

Soon afterwards a huge pod of dolphins appeared. As I crept forward to the bow to enjoy their company, a large flying fish suddenly flopped on deck right in front of me. I at once scooped it back overboard and prayed it would not immediately be eaten by the dolphins. Later, when I told Jeff about all this, he at once mourned the loss of the fish. He assured me they make fine eating and later, after another errant flying ace crash landed on deck, he demonstrated how they can be consumed sashimi style.

Jeff Bolster eats a flying fish

We also enjoyed lots of positive current. We caught the northbound side of a cold eddy south of the Gulf Stream, then caught a big northbound meander in the Stream itself. Later, coming through Great South Channel, we also enjoyed mostly positive tidal current. And finally, the tide just happened to be coming in when we entered the Piscataqua River here in Portsmouth in the early afternoon yesterday. A trifecta plus one, if you will.

Gulf Stream currents week of June 21 2010

The Gulf Stream, we found, was full of very warm water. Readings via the depthsounder peaked at 88 degrees Fahrenheit, which is the warmest ambient ocean water I’ve ever seen anywhere. We had a cold front pass over us while in the Stream, which led to what the Weather Guy, Rick Shema, predicted would be “Enhanced Inclement Weather.” Fortunately, it wasn’t too enhanced. The wind was very fluky, but there was only one gust as high as 30 knots. We had to do lots of trimming and reefing and unreefing, but only for an hour or so.

Trimming the jib during a Gulf Stream squall

During the worst of it we had lightning all around. As is my habit, I took the back-up handheld GPS receiver, stuck it in a plastic Tupperware container, then put that inside the oven. The theory being the GPS, thus isolated, just might survive a lightning strike.

Can anyone tell me whether this makes any sense at all???

The best part was getting to fly the spinnaker a lot. All told we had it up nearly 18 hours. This included the entirety of a day east of Cape Cod, after we cleared the Great South Channel, when it was foggy as hell. Call me crazy, but flying a spinnaker in the fog is about as sublime as sailing can be.

Flying a spinnaker in the fog

An act of joy. Or faith, at least.

The worst part was having problems with the engine (again!). Imagine my horror on discovering that the top of my brand new engine (we motored, in all, about 40 hours through some lulls in the mostly southwest wind) was caked in dried salt. This was due to a small leak in the forward galley sink drain, directly over the engine. This sink receives a small, steady flow of engine raw water through the top of the siphon break on the raw-water side of the cooling circuit. Effectively the engine was pissing on its own head, via the sink, and the piss was evaporating, due to the engine heat, leaving behind an ugly salt pan.

My engine the towel-head

I cleaned this up as best I could, then put a towel over the engine to keep it from happening again.

BoaterMouth link: here

Pacific Seacraft 37: Crealock’s Creation

Pacific Seacraft 37 undersail

Originally dubbed the Crealock 37 after its designer, “Gentleman Bill” Crealock, this boat is now deemed a conservative cruiser, though when first conceived it was considered a more cutting-edge performance cruiser, thanks to its long fin keel and skeg-hung rudder. Molds to produce the boat were originally created by Clipper Marine, which went bankrupt before building could begin. The molds were acquired by a firm called Cruising Consultants, which launched 16 hulls in 1978 and ’79 before selling out in turn to Pacific Seacraft. Pacific Seacraft produced the boat in Fullerton, California, for 27 years before closing its doors in 2007, whereupon a marine archeologist, Stephen Brodie, acquired the company name and tooling for several boats, including the 37, and shifted production to North Carolina.

Pacific Seacraft has long been renowned for quality work, and this is reflected in the contruction of the 37, which has been steadily upgraded over the years. Prior to 1993 hulls were solid laminate composed of mat and woven roving and decks were cored with plywood; subsequently stitched bi-axial fabrics have been employed and decks have been balsa-cored with plywood interposed anywhere hardware is installed. All hardware is through-bolted on backing plates with fastener holes carefully sealed in epoxy beforehand. More recently the hull laminate has also included a layer of Kevlar fabric to increase impact resistance and since 1988, to resolve issues with blistering, vinylester resin has been used in exterior layers.

In some cases PSC 37 hulls also have layers of foam or balsa included in the laminate as insulation. These optional insulation cores are added on top of the regular lay-up, so these boats, besides having slightly less interior volume, are both somewhat heavier and stronger than their siblings.

The hull is stiffened with a molded pan riven with apertures that allow it to be securely glassed in place. The pan incorporates major furniture components, the engine beds, and also the sides and bottoms of the water tanks, which are covered with Formica-faced plywood lids. The main bulkhead is tabbed to both the hull and deck and is also through-bolted to a teak deck beam. All partial bulkheads, cabinets, and shelving are likewise glassed to the hull.

The ballast is external lead, which is epoxied and bolted to a solid keel stub with stainless-steel keel bolts supported by stainless-steel backing plates that are also bedded in epoxy. The rudder skeg also has a stainless-steel plate molded into its leading edge for extra strength. The deck joint, meanwhile, is on an inward flange atop a 4-inch high bulwark, is bedded in adhesive sealant, secured by stainless-steel bolts and backing plates, and topped by a heavy teak caprail.

Besides being reasonably heavy, the PSC 37 is relatively narrow with long overhangs and consequently has an easy motion and is not inclined to pound in head seas. It also tracks very well and has great ultimate stability. Reportedly it doesn’t bury its rail until heeled to 35 degrees and achieves maximum righting moment at 75 degrees, with only a small decrease at 90 degrees, when its mast is parallel to the water.  Its AVS is an impressive 140 degrees. It is also a very attractive boat, with well balanced lines that appeal to a broad spectrum of sailors.

Like any boat with a short waterline, the PSC 37 sails faster than its D/L ratio suggests and is certainly faster than old CCA designs of similar size, thanks to its split underbody and somewhat lighter weight. In spite of its stern overhang and narrow canoe transom, many owners report hitting 10 knots or better surfing down big waves. The boat’s shrouds are secured to outboard chainplates through-bolted to the hull (a very strong installation), but its narrow beam still allows for decent sheeting angles, so apparent wind angles when closehauled can usually be kept within 40 degrees sailing in flat water. Note however that boats equipped with the optional (and quite popular) shoal-draft Scheel keel, which features a flared ballast bulb, are slightly less closewinded. Most boats have cutter rigs, though a few were also built as sloops and yawls. Most also have wheel steering, though the original design called for a tiller.

Pacific Seacraft 37 galley

Thanks to its narrow beam and pinched hindquarters, the PSC 37 has limited interior space and a rather straightforward lay-out. The forward stateroom does seem large and boasts a very comfortable offset Pullman double, but beyond this berthing is limited to settees in the saloon (the dinette table on the starboard side can be converted to form a double berth) and a roomy quarterberth that is nowhere near wide enough to be a double. The nav table just forward of the quarterberth has its own dedicated seat, so at least the navigator need not sit on anyone’s head while working. Headroom throughout is well in excess of 6 feet, courtesy of the rather tall cabinhouse, and ventilation is very good. The interior finish is neat and traditional, with lots of teak trim. Joinerwork is high quality, but not flashy.

Over the years the PSC 37 has been equipped with various engines, all of them diesel fueled. The smallest was a 24-hp Volvo, which probably isn’t strong enough in some situations; the largest, standard since the late 1980s, is a 50-hp Yanmar, which is probably more powerful than necessary, particularly given the boat’s rather small fuel tank. This, it should be noted, is aluminum and is situated in the bilge, where it reportedly suffers corrosion over time. Fortunately, the tank is relatively easy to access and can be removed without dismantling or destroying any joinery.

Engine access is also superb, as the cockpit floor can be unbolted and removed, putting all parts of the engine and the stern tube within easy reach. On early boats with wheel steering the pedestal must first be removed before lifting the cockpit floor, which is a huge hassle, but later, after wheel steering became standard, the floor was redesigned to make this unnecessary. On all boats the engine can also be accessed at the front through the companionway and via a panel on the port side.

To sum up, the PSC 37 is an extraordinarily strong, well built ocean boat and is priced accordingly. It makes an ideal bluewater cruiser for a couple and also works well as a coastal cruiser for a small family. For those interested only in a coastal boat, it may be a bit heavy and expensive, but compared to many other lighter, less expensive boats it does hold its value well over time.

Pacific Seacraft 37 profile and plan


LOA:  36’11”
LWL:  27’9”
Beam:  10’10”
-Standard keel:  5’6”
-Scheel keel:  4’5”
Ballast:  6,200 lbs.
Displacement: 16,000 lbs.
Sail area
-100% foretriangle:  573 sq.ft.
-Cutter:  708 sq.ft.
-Yawl:  619 sq.ft.
Fuel:  40 gal.
Water:  95 gal.
D/L ratio:  335
SA/D ratio
-100% foretriangle:  14.41
-Cutter:  17.80
-Yawl:  15.57
Comfort ratio:  33.71
Capsize screening:  1.72
Nominal hull speed:  7.1 knots

Typical asking prices:  $100K – $230K
Base price new:  $336K

BoaterMouth link: here

JOSHUA SLOCUM: His Family Cruise Aboard Liberdade

Joshua Slocum and family aboard Liberdade

Before Joshua Slocum could become the man we remember today–the one who invented bluewater cruising by sailing around the world singlehanded in a rebuilt oyster smack named Spray–his prior life first had to be unmade. Identifying such turning points is sometimes an arbitrary business, but in Slocum’s case there is little doubt about when his world was first turned upside down. The date most certainly was July 25, 1884, when his first wife, Virginia, age 34, died after a brief illness aboard the family’s 138-foot bark Aquidneck in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Slocum had met Virginia Walker in Sydney, Australia, 14 years earlier when he was a young, up-and-coming commercial sailing-ship skipper. They married after a short whirlwind courtship and she at once joined him at sea, living with him aboard his commands and, in one instance, in the jungles of the Phillipines after he accepted a commission to build an inter-island trading ship. They were more than just partners. Their life together was an adventure and a love affair, and when Virginia died, as their youngest child Garfield later described it, Slocum became “a ship with a broken rudder.”

Suddenly a widower with four children to care for, Slocum coped as best he could. He left his three younger children–Benjamin, Jessie, and Garfield–with his two sisters in Boston and with his oldest son Victor as first mate continued to carry cargo aboard Aquidneck between the U.S. East Coast and South America. Eager to restore some semblance of normalcy in his life, he then married a young cousin, Hettie Elliott, age 24, in February 1886, less than two years after Virginia’s death. Just six days after the wedding, he again set out for South America aboard Aquidneck, this time taking his new bride and 5-year-old Garfield along with him.

Joshua Slocum and family

At the end of the following year, after some disappointing misadventures in the South American coastal trade, Slocum’s career abruptly ended when he lost Aquidneck on a sandbar at the mouth of Paranagua Bay in Brazil. In more ways than one it was a mortal blow to his fortunes. He never again was offered a commercial command and Aquidneck, his sole asset, was uninsured. He was now in all respects–financially, professionally, and emotionally–a ruined man.


An exit strategy

Did Slocum immediately grasp that he now had to reinvent himself? It is tempting to think so. He could easily have got his family home aboard one of the ships on the coast commanded by friends of his. Or he could have accepted the offer made by the U.S. consul at Rio de Janeiro to repatriate the family at government expense. Instead he decided to sail them home himself in a new craft of his own devising.

In part, no doubt, this reflected a stubborn independent streak in his nature. He may also have nurtured a genuine academic interest in the sea-keeping ability of small boats. But implicit in the scheme, too, was a realization on Slocum’s part that he now needed to find new ways to stay afloat as a sailor. The age of commercial sail was coming to an end, the age of steam was well underway, and men such as he were quickly becoming irrelevant.

Legend has it that Slocum built his new boat from scratch on the beach where he lost Aquidneck, but in fact the circumstances were much more civilized. The boat, a new tender for Aquidneck, construction of which had already begun prior to the shipwreck, was assembled in a small shipyard on the west side of Paranagua Bay. The shipyard owner graciously put the family up in his house while work on the boat was completed. Much of the heavy labor, particularly the sawing of planks for the hull, was performed by local workers hired by Slocum with funds raised from the sale of the wreck.

Slocum, ably assisted by Victor, did display much ingenuity in creating his escape pod. The supply of tools was limited, and the two were often forced to improvise. Charcoal pounded to dust and mixed with water served as chalk for marking lines. Holes were burned instead of drilled with a heated jack-stay iron. Clamps were made from wedges and twisted bits of guava trees. Fasteners were salvaged from the wreck, or, very often, forged from scratch or manufactured from cheap copper coins.

Lines of Liberdade

The design itself was utterly unique. Measuring 35 feet overall, with a draft of 2’6” and a beam of 7’6”, the boat’s hull form, as Slocum described it, was “got from my recollections of Cape Ann dories and from a photo of a very elegant Japanese sampan which I had before me on the spot.” The rig consisted of three fully-battened junk sails. The cabin house was of bamboo and canvas. This slim, quite stylish craft, called by Slocum a canoe, was launched on May 13, 1888, the day on which Brazil emancipated all its slaves, and hence she was named Liberdade, which is Portuguese for “liberty.” Slocum himself never remarked upon it, but the term might have referred just as easily to him as to the slaves.


A new kind of sailing

After spending more than a month provisioning Liberdade and shaking her down in Paranagua Bay, Slocum and family struck out for home on June 24. They at once encountered challenging conditions, as there was a large breaking sea on the coast left over from a strong pampeiro gale.

Slocum, it seems, was not undaunted. “It required confidence and some courage to face the first storm in so small a bark, after having been years in large ships,” he later wrote in Voyage of the Liberdade, his account of the journey. But the boat behaved well, and Slocum quickly learned not only to trust her but to revel in handling her. “The old boating trick came back fresh to me,” he wrote, “the love of the thing gaining on me as the little ship stood out: and my crew with one voice said: ‘Go on.’”

Liberdade also proved suprisingly fast. On the very first leg of the journey, a jump up the coast from the Paranagua bar to Santos, she made good 150 miles in 24 hours. Soon afterwards she logged one 180-mile day, her very best effort of the voyage, and subsequently did better than 170 miles on at least one other occasion. The robustness of the boat’s construction was quickly confirmed, too, on the second leg, from Santos to Rio de Janeiro, when Slocum accepted the offer of a tow from a friend, Captain Baker, who ran the local mail steamer.

Hettie and young Garfield rode aboard the steamship, and Slocum and Victor stayed with Liberdade–Slocum tending the helm, while Victor crouched forward under a tarp with an axe, ready to cut the tow rope on an instant’s notice. Tearing along at 13 knots at the end of a 500-foot tether, Liberdade rode safely over a “high and dangerous” sea. In spite of the fact he ended up thoroughly drenched in oil that Captain Baker had cast on the water in an effort to quell the waves, Slocum pronounced this “the most exciting boat-ride of my life.” As he later explained it: “I was bound not to cut the line that towed us so well: and I knew Baker wouldn’t let it go, for it was his rope.”

Soon afterwards the crew of Liberdade suffered what seems to have been the most anxious moment of their journey. While anchored near Cape Frio, north of Rio de Janeiro, the family was disturbed while at dinner by a 50-foot whale that surfaced right under the boat. “We expected instant annihilation,” wrote Slocum. “The voyage, I thought, was about ended, and I looked about for pieces of bamboo on which to land my wife and family.” But the whale soon disappeared, and apart from a lost anchor and a damaged keel that was soon repaired, no harm was done.

Slocum and family aboard Spray

By mid-August Liberdade had climbed in short stages up the Brazilian coast as far as Bahia, where she was hauled out for a quick refit. From there her route around the continent’s easternmost extremity at St. Roque and on to Barbados took her through a region of steady trade winds and her passages grew longer–5 days non-stop from Bahia to Pernambuco, then 19 days, the longest single passage of the entire cruise, from there to Carlisle Bay in Barbados.

During these passages Slocum and Victor stood alternate four-hour watches. The only hard part, according to Slocum, “was the intense drowsiness brought on by constantly watching the oscillating compass at night.” To make sure he could rouse Victor to relieve him at the helm, Slocum tied a line to the boy where he slept in the cabin and led it out to the cockpit. One pull meant it was time for the watch to change; three quick pulls meant Slocum wanted help shortening sail.

In most other respects, Slocum’s account of the cruise seems almost unremarkable. The details on which he most often dwells–the stranded flying fish collected for breakfast, the encounters with friends aboard other vessels in port, the telling exchanges with locals ashore, the clever things uttered by the child aboard–are no different from what one might find in an account of a modern family’s cruise through the tropics.

Which is, of course, the genius of the thing. Slocum was palpably aware that what he and his family was doing was quite unusual, but he likely never guessed they were blazing a trail down which many other families would later follow.



After laying over at Barbados for over a month, Liberdade again sailed north on October 7 and in 5 days, after a very pleasant transit of the Lesser Antilles, arrived at Mayaguez, Puerto Rico. From there she struck out direct for North America, pausing only briefly to take on water at a small Bahamian cay overseen by an officious but friendly lighthouse keeper. She made landfall at Cape Roman, South Carolina, on October 28. In all, Slocum and his family had spent a little over 53 days underway aboard their little ship and had covered just over 5,500 nautical miles.

That this had not been some survivalist ordeal, but in fact a proper cruise, was pointed up by the fact that the crew did not immediately bolt their vessel on reaching native soil. Instead they did what families often do after they return from a season of living aboard in the tropics and are uncertain of what comes next–they just kept cruising for a while.

Drifting north through the Carolinas in coastal waters, Slocum discovered Liberdade’s virtues as a shoal-draft gunkholer and very much enjoyed the folks he met along the way. At Southport, North Carolina, perhaps anticipating the construction of the Intracoastal Waterway a few decades later, he gamely resolved to borrow a shovel and dig his way through the marsh from New River to Bogue Sound. Fortunately, he was spared this labor when he met a friendly man who offered to pilot Liberdade across the marsh down a ditch dug by his grandfather.

Christmas was spent cruising Chesapeake Bay, after which the family wintered over in Washington, D.C. The following spring they sailed Liberdade north to New York, where they attracted much attention from the press.

It may have been at this point that Slocum first realized he might make a name for himself as a small-boat voyager. If nothing else, he must have learned by now that his second wife Hettie would never be the companion Virgina had been. Asked by a newspaper reporter whether she had enjoyed the journey, Hettie replied simply: “It is an experience I should not care to repeat.”

She was as good as her word. Three years later, when Slocum proposed that she join him in his latest venture, a voyage around the world aboard a hulk of an oyster boat he planned to rebuild, Hettie’s reply was short and to the point. “Joshua,” she told him, “I’ve already had my voyage.”

Joshua Slocum aboard Spray

And so it was that Joshua Slocum, like more than a few of the men who have since followed in his wake, resolved to go sailing anyway, with or without his wife.


Liberdade: An ocean-going canoe

Liberdade’s construction, particularly as to the distribution of weight aboard, was carefully considered. To ballast the boat, her bottom was laid in ironwood, a very stiff and heavy hardwood, and her topsides were constructed of cedar, which is much lighter and more supple. To help keep weight low, Slocum also used bamboo above the waterline where ever possible. The cabin house was a simple bamboo frame with canvas stretched over it, the battens on the junk sails were all bamboo, and, more significantly, Slocum installed large bamboo sponsons along the gunwales of the boat. These, he believed, made the craft absolutely buoyant and self-righting.

Liberdade section drawing

Great care, too, was taken in the storing of gear and provisions aboard. Light items were stored in the ends of the boat; everything heavy was placed below the cabin sole, as low as possible. The accomodations, therefore, were quite cramped, and inside the cabin itself there was only sitting headroom–4 feet at most. As the child Garfield noted at the time: “Mama! This boat isn’t big enough to pray in!”

Slocum likewise was very circumspect in selecting his rig. Knowing most of his route would have him sailing off the wind, he was very willing to sacrifice windward ability for the ease of handling offered by junk sails. He considered it, he wrote later, “the most convenient boat rig in the whole world.” In this respect, he anticipated some modern designers, such as Blondie Hasler, Tom Colvin, and Jay Benford, who later installed junk rigs on more contemporary craft.

The fate of Liberdade remains a mystery. After sailing her up to New York and New England the year after he returned from Brazil, Slocum sailed her back to Washington, D.C., in 1890 and donated her to the Smithsonian Insitute. According to some accounts, she is still buried somewhere in the Smithsonian’s vaults. According to Victor Slocum, however, Slocum retrieved her from the Smithsonian in 1909, intending to use her as tender to Spray. She was, he claimed, disassembled and stored somewhere near New Bedford, Massachusetts, but then went missing after Slocum was lost at sea aboard Spray later that same year.

BoaterMouth link: here

TAYANA 37: Ubiquitous Bluewater Sailboat

Tayana 37 under sail

The Tayana 37 is the most successful of the many Taiwan-built double-ended full-keel cruisers that were conceived in the mid-1970s in the wake of the great success of the Westsail 32. Designed by Bob Perry and originally marketed as the CT 37 when first introduced in 1976, over 600 Tayana 37s have since been built. Technically it is not still in production, but Tayana, a.k.a. the Ta Yang Yacht Building Co., has all relevant molds and tooling and still fills orders for new boats on a spot basis.

This boat is quite heavy by today’s standards, but it sails remarkably well and can serve effectively as both a coastal and bluewater cruiser. It has a particularly strong reputation as an offshore boat and is certainly one of the more popular bluewater cruisers ever built. Reportedly at any given time there are more Tayana 37s out there wandering the globe than any other single type of sailboat.

In designing the Tayana 37 Perry sought to retain the color and character of strictly traditional full-keel double-enders like the Westsail while injecting as much performance into the formula as possible. The forefoot of the full keel is cut away, the rudder has a more modern, efficient profile, and the hull’s cross-section is not a classic wineglass shape in which hull and keel are a unitary form. Instead the hull is very round and the keel presents as a distinct and separate foil-like appendage.

The rig, meanwhile, is large and quite tall for a boat of this type. The original sail plan called for a cutter rig with a very raked mast, but in practice this resulted in a heavy helm. Perry therefore preferred the optional ketch rig, which is much more balanced, but overall this rig is smaller and few in fact were ever built. As it turned out, the cutter rig balances just fine if the mast rake is eliminated, and cutter-rigged Tayana 37s have proven to be both relatively fast and weatherly. One good friend of mine who made both single- and doublehanded transatlantic passages in his cutter-rigged Tayana 37 during the 1990s claims to have sailed as many as 186 miles in a day. Though the boat carries its fair share of ballast, it is a bit tender intially, thanks both to its tall rig and heavy teak-laden topsides and deck. Its motion, however, is very smooth and comfortable in a seaway.

Ta Yang is one of the better Taiwanese builders and the Tayana 37’s construction quality on the whole is quite good. It is true, however, that Ta Yang had a bit to learn as it went along and that later boats are better built than earlier ones. The hull is solid hand-laid glass stiffened with strong bulkheads and stout floors, the deck is balsa-cored, and the iron ballast, glassed into the hollow keel section, is wholly internal. All deck hardware is through-bolted and supported by robust stainless-steel backing plates.

Flaws on earlier boats built prior to 1981 include inferior electrical wiring and the use of inferior-grade stainless-steel alloys in some hardware and fittings. Also, deck joints on early boats are prone to leaking, as the joint forms a hollow raised bulwark that is pierced by several hawsepipes and scuppers that may or may not be well bedded in sealant. On later boats the bulwark’s interior cavity is glassed over from the inside, hence is more watertight. Some early boats may also have wooden spruce spars, which are overly heavy and prone to rot over time, and sloppy worm-gear steering systems that were later replaced with more sensitive pedestal/cable systems.

Almost all Tayana 37s were built with teak decks. These look very nice, but are fastened in place with screws and are therefore a likely source of leaks later in a boat’s life. Another common problem is the rudder heel, which is bronze fastened to the hull with stainless-steel bolts and is thus prone to galvanic corrosion. Prospective buyers should also be a bit wary of the laminated wood bowsprit, which tends to rot underneath over the years if not scrupulously maintained. Look for varnished sprits with no signs of moisture damage; a painted sprit is often a sign of trouble.

For a production builder Ta Yang has always offered a suprising number of options. Besides being sold as a cutter or ketch, with either wood or aluminum spars, the masts on Tayana 37s may also be either keel- or deck-stepped. The boat is also available in a pilothouse version. Tank locations are likewise somewhat variable. The original design called for fuel tanks under the settees in the main saloon, but Ta Yang instead installed one large tank under the V-berth up in the forward stateroom so as to create more storage space in the saloon, and this only hobbled the boat’s performance. Later a midships keel tank was offered as an option, and this proved far superior. In most cases fuel tanks were built of black iron, hence will eventually corrode, but the tanks in fact are relatively easy to access (this includes the midships keel tank) so this is not nearly as troublesome as it might be.

Tayana 37 interior

One of the most variable aspects of the Tayana 37 is its accomodation plan. Ta Yang effectively customizes interiors at no extra charge and owners ordering new boats have always taken full advantage of this. The standard lay-out is fairly straightforward, with a large V-berth forward, a simple open quarterberth aft, and a conventional saloon betwixt the two. The earliest standard lay-out featured a pilotberth in the saloon. In reality many boats have offset Pullman doubles forward, a few have separate aft-quarter staterooms, and custom-built storage/seating arrangements are very common. Most boats have separate shower stalls alongside the head, which is a grand luxury in any yacht this size. The interior is finished in solid teak, and the quality of the joinery work is superb, just as good as on any high-end European boat.

One of the best things about the Tayana 37 is that it is exceedingly affordable. Older boats in need of work can be had for under $50,000, while younger boats in very good condition that are crammed to the gills with all kinds of offshore equipment and systems upgrades can often be had for less than $100,000. Usually there are many boats on the brokerage market at any given time, which makes it easy for buyers to press for bargains and hard for sellers to recover money spent on extra gear and upgrades.

Tayana 37 spec sheet


LOA:  36’8”
LWL:  31’0”
Beam:  11’6”
Draft:  5’8”
Ballast:  7,340 lbs.
Displacement:  24,000 lbs.
Sail area
–Cutter rig:  861 sq.ft.
–Ketch rig:  768 sq.ft.
Fuel:  100 gal.
Water:  90-100 gal.
D/L ratio:  359
SA/D ratio
–Cutter rig:  16.52
–Ketch rig:  14.74
Comfort ratio:  43
Capsize screening:  1.59
Nominal hull speed:  7.5 knots

Typical asking prices:  $40-120K
Base price new:  $239.5K

BoaterMouth link: here