Go to the Antarctic via Bellingham Tonight

Go to the Antarctic via Bellingham Tonight

Mike Powell, a professional photographer and damn fine big and small boat sailor, will be presenting UHURU 65 Degrees South or How I Learnt to Sail tonight at the Bellingham Yacht Club. It’s his tale of an epic cruise to the Antarctic. Powell’s also the BYC Youth Fleet Captain and suggests a $5 donation to the program. Mike is very entertaining, and an extremely talented photographer, so it would be a great way to spend a Wednesday evening. Here’s a description of the program:

In 2011 Mike Powell a landlubber with a camera went aboard his brothers boat UHURU, an Oyster 62, for two months and headed South from the Falkland Islands, across the Drake Passage to the Antarctic peninsula, around the Horn and up into Chilean Patagonia. During the trip the crew used all their toys, great sailing, scuba, ice climbing up mountains, skiing down them and fly fishing in Chile via horseback

This is the story that has been shown multiple times before, to multiple sailors and yacht clubs both in the USA and UK and featured on the cover of UK’s Yachting Magazine. If you missed it last time please come and watch it this time or come again.

Bellingham Yacht Club, Dec. 13th at 6.30pm. Suggested $5 donation at the door goes towards local youth sailing.

Why Don’t They Make Boats Like These?

Why Don’t They Make Boats Like These?

Craig Horsfield has a whole lot of miles under his various keels, and in various places around the world. Locally to the Salish Sea, he had a successful Olson 30 program with Wild Turkey for several years. He’s done the Cape to Rio Race. Most significantly, he’s completed two Mini Transat races in the Open 650 class. One thing he hadn’t done was cruise with his wife Carolyn and (6 year old) daughter Anna. 

That changed this summer when he chartered a Pogo 30 from Fast Downwind Charters. This company specializes in chartering Pogo boats on the Baltic. Having owned a Pogo II Mini, Horsfield was eager to see what they could do with a 30-foot fast cruiser. Joined by Carolyn’s sister Jen and her husband Mark, the crew of five braved the Baltic, cruised some really interesting waters most of us will never see, and got to experience a truly modern fast cruiser. First up, Carolyn on the cruise. Then Craig drools a bit over the Pogo.

The Cruise (Carolyn Hutcheon)

We flew in and out of Hamburg, Germany, which is a 2-hour train ride from Rostock, where the boat was based. Andreas of Fast Downwind Charters picked us up at the train station and we spent the next day going over the boat with him and stocking up on supplies. The dock was was close to a grocery store and restaurants, bars and even a discotheque. But it’s a 1-1.5 hour motor down a dredged channel from the Baltic Sea. At the mouth of the channel is the town of Wärnemunde, where we went for dinner on our first night. With its white sand beaches and old architecture, it was a favorite Communist-era resort town and is still alive with restaurants and shops, cruise ships and summer festivals.

There are many options when sailing out of Rostock and the secret is go where the wind takes you. July and August are the best times to go because the days are long and the winter storms have passed. Unluckily, we arrived right before an unseasonable storm was coming. 

If the wind is southwest or easterly then head to the islands south of Fyn, with a stop over in Heiligenhafen. Here are islands to hop and 1000-year old Danish villages to visit, as well as the stunning Alsen-Sund which is well protected in case of rough weather. With a northwest situation, sail up to Copenhagen with a stop over in Klintholm and spend a few days visiting the city. You can then sail around the big Danish islands with their quaint fishing villages, leaving Sweden to your right. This is a longer trip, and requires wind and longer sailing days to cover the distance. It wasn’t in the cards for us this time.

With a storm coming in, we had only 12 hours to sail out and get to safe harbor where we would wait the storm out for the next two days. We decided to sail on the westerly to the island of Hiddensee and the protected waters of the West Rügen Bodden (lagoon) in North Eastern Germany.

The Pogo 30 is fast downwind. It is easily sailed single-handedly, which was good when there is one experienced sailor and 3 (and a half) inexperienced ones.

Everything on the island of Hiddensee is close and accessible by bike or on foot. From Kloster, we spent a morning walking to the neighboring town of Vitte. With the only motorized vehicles on the island being one ambulance and some farm equipment, there was no need to watch for traffic and we could admire the wildflowers and pastures, wetlands, and dunes from along the roadway instead. Visitors can also rent bikes to take them from Kloster to Vitte to Neuendorf.

From the marina in Kloster, it was a 2 km walk to the Dornbusch Lighthouse and the highest point on the island. Along the wooded trail were open areas with wooden sculptures – a bed, a window frame, a giant caterpillar – that put the views across the Vitter Bodden to the Island of Rügen and across the Baltic Sea to Denmark into perspective.

The West Rügen Bodden or lagoons are shallow and ports are accessed through a network of dredged channels that are at least 3.7 m deep. The Pogo 30 has a lifting keel, but even with the keel up it draws 1.05 m. We were hesitant to sail through the shallow waters, and not terribly excited about motoring, so chose instead to take one of the many ferries to the nearby island of Rügen, where we spent a day exploring the village of Schaprode. A longer ferry ride would have taken us to the town of Stralsund, with its eclectic maritime museum and old town UNESCO (United Nations Educational Scientic Cultural Organization) heritage site.

With calmer seas, we crossed the Baltic to the village of Klintholm, on the island of Møn in Denmark. As we approached the harbor entrance, we joined what seemed like a caravan of cruising boats. We docked, and watched as the cruising boats kept coming. Klintholm is a popular and convenient stop for Baltic cruisers. Our dock neighbors were a German couple who were heading towards Sweden and were planning to “keep sailing north until they stopped.”   There are several restaurants, but we nevertheless took the opportunity to stock up on groceries and herbs from the marina’s free herb garden and had a least one dinner on the marina picnic bench in the long mid-summer twilight.

Klintholm Havn (Harbor) is about 5 km away from the chalk cliffs of Møn, the highest point in Denmark. We rented bicycles at the village grocery store and cycled out to see the cliffs. There is geological museum that we didn’t go into – it was crowded, as were the walkways to and from the beach. More secluded was the walk down to the beach at the base of the cliffs from the Møn lighthouse. Here the cliffs aren’t as tall, but there is room to breathe and to explore.

The days passed too quickly and we were due back in Rostock, so we once more crossed the Baltic Sea to Germany. We sailed back in a light east to south easterly breeze of less than 10 knots. With the code 5 spinnaker and full mainsail, we maintained decent speed.

Compared with other 30 foot cruising boats that I have seen, the Pogo 30 is surprisingly spacious. The boat is wide, with little rocker, which means not only more room below decks, but also no need to add a floor, which adds a few inches of headroom. There are an aft and forward cabins, which provide more than enough room for 4 people. Our 6-year old daughter slept comfortably on a settee in the main cabin; however I don’t know how a grownup would fare. On deck, all of the control lines and halyards are led into the cockpit which makes it easy to change sail configurations, especially with inexperienced crew. An aft cockpit locker provides for easy access to dock lines and fenders.

I was worried that the long mid-summer days would make it difficult for us to sleep, but I shouldn’t have worried. The boat gently rocked me to some of the best sleep that I have had in a long time and no 4 am dawn was going to wake me – or, happily our daughter – up.

 

 

The Boat

I had a nice chat with my old skipper Craig about the Pogo 30. Craig’s experience on the European Mini circuit has certainly opened his eyes to boats seldom seen in the Northwest. Knowing Craig, it’s a rare cruising boat that can get his blood pumping, but the Pogo is clearly one. 

“Why don’t they make boats like these in the U.S.?” Horsfield wondered. “It feels like it has the same amount of space as a J/109.” So, the wide angle lenses used in the promotional interior apparently don’t lie, and certainly the cockpit is huge.

“I was surprised at how comfortable it was,” Horsfield added. He and Carolyn took the forward berth, leaving Jen and Mark to take the more comfortable aft cabin. Curtains, not doors, are used to separate the cabins, but that was enough for this hardy bunch. Anna slept on the settee, “but kept falling off.” Happens to the best of us.

While the Baltic is not the warmest place to sail, the dodger and what I’d call “coaming cloths” keep things warm enough for the crew. Craig explained the designers kept the winches on the cabin top, and in fact just about everything can be done from the forward end of the cockpit. And looking at that cockpit, there’s room for everyone, and their friends. The open transom makes getting in and out easy when tied stern-to.

The Fast Downwind Pogo is equipped with the NKE autopilot system, with which Horsfield was familiar from the Minis. These systems are outstanding. It enabled Craig to do everything on the boat, which was necessary as he was the only experienced sailor.

This Pogo had the lifting keel, which meant draft was either 8.2 or 3.4 feet. The keel pivots but remains external to the boat. A hydraulic ram (“the size of my two arms together”) does the heavy lifting with the engine on. There’s a manual backup as well, but that would be a very slow alternative. The boat can motor with the keel in the up position, but obviously stability and efficiency take a hard hit. (NOTE: An earlier version mistakenly said one can sail with the keep in the up position. The manufacturer made it clear this is not the case and could be dangerous.) The double rudders give the boat excellent control, and are really necessary with that much beam at the transom.

Craig fought the temptation to “send it” with the Pogo. With it’s powerful shape, squaretop main and asymmetrical chute, the Pogo can, without a doubt, lay down some impressive miles when reaching. However, Craig reports a top speed of 15 knts running at 150 true in 25-28 knots with a reef in the main and a jib. He also reports she reached comfortably at 10 knots in 25 knots of breeze. “In light air we had fun with the kite moving well in winds above 6- 7 knts,” he reported. 

 

The Cruising Class Act

As I was writing the wrapup of Seattle YC’s Tri-Island series it occurred to me that the cruiser-racer class, which continues to grow, gets short shrift. With few exceptions, most of the major series around the Salish Sea set aside classes where anchors on the bow, kids in the forepeak and blown out sails are welcome. Sometimes, getting that last 1/10th of a knot is just not that important. 

So I asked the overall winner Phil Calvert to jot a few things down about the fleet and the series. It turns out that Phil is not only an eager racer, but an eager proponent of the cruiser-racer class as well. Take it away Phil:

Runaway

The SYC Tri-Island series has had a Cruiser/Racer fleet for 16 years now and it is fun competing against old friends and new. Thirteen boats of all types and size made up the biggest class in the series. My boat Runaway is a 1973 Norlin 34 and competing against some very good sailors with lots of talent aboard those boats. This year my crew hit it hard and got lucky enough to stay with the leaders and barely correct over them. In the Blake Island race, we corrected by 1 second.  Wow, that 1 second is very surreal as many other decisions could have changed our outcome. It does show that even an old, tired, IOR boat can still get around the course, have fun, and share in racing with all the new, light fast sailboats in the Pacific Northwest in the other classes. It is just plain fun to get out on the water with good friends for some fun competition!

I’ve owned Runaway for 17 years, bought her as a repo. She was in pretty bad shape, but the boat really caught my eye. I put a bid in and paid the broker that day. He towed me to Lake Union and on the way we hit the Ballard Bridge with the mast, oops!  The boat is built like a tank, I love showing people the hull cut-out from when I repowered her.  I showed Robert Perry the cut-out once (he had a Peter Norlin custom design boat “Perrywinkle”). His response was, “you could make four boats out if that much fiberglass.”  We had a good laugh.

She was bought at Offshore Yachts in Shilshole new in 1973.  I was told a doctor owned and raced it with the same name, but I can’t find any info, lived at Shilshole for many years. The Norlin 34 was a 3/4 ton rater, but the old IOR days were about over then.

The Cruiser/Racer Class

In this photo left to right are Phil Calvert, the SYC Rear Commodore Tyler Ellison, our lucky charm junior crew Hailey, her uncle Duane, foredeck Galan, Crew Boss Jean, and sailing whisperer Ellis

We have sailboats such as Anomaly, Santa Cruz 50; Jiminy, J42 all the way down to a Catalina 25. A lot of these skippers don’t have the time, equipment, or crew to do a full PHRF class, but still want to race and come out to play. In the past I can remember sailing in the Cruiser/Racer class with just two people on the boat, I just wanted to be sailing and everyone was busy. It’s super fun to have a crew who is new to sailing and watching them become really good at what they do, we also share in all the jobs, whether driving or foredeck, we all have each other’s backs.  

The Cruiser/Racer class is casual. You can do flying sails or elect to do no-flying sails and your rating will be adjusted. Symmetrical or asymmetrical.  In the PHRF-NW handbook “cruising credits,” you can also get adjustments for anchors on the bow, furling mainsails, old sails, bad bottoms. Of course, that is up to the club rater and organizing authority, but the goal is to get you off the docks and not to have the latest in equipment.

I have been helping with the SYC club to bring their sailboats off the docks and out racing. I’m also reaching out to CYC and Sloop to grow the Cruiser/Racer class.  I would love to help in anyway I can.

Vellela

And my good friends Ryan and Autumn Helling very actively race Velella. The 31-foot Velella has a remarkable history. She was designed by Tom Wylie specifically as a cruiser, and has done just that carrying Garth Wilcox and Wendy Hinman around the Pacific. And now she serves as home to Ryan and Autumn. My hats off to them for making sure Velella is still putting miles under the keel. For many liveaboards untying the dock lines seems a bit too much. Here’s Ryan: 

We only got out for the last race of the series but we’ve done the cruiser/racer class the past 3 or 4 years and had a great time. It has been steadily growing and it’s nice to see some new boats out there. Of course, it would be fun to see even more boats. The courses are a nice length for boats in our rating band. We’ve particularly enjoyed the Blake Island race as it wraps up with the party at Elliott Bay and we’ve generally stayed the night. We have a cruising boat, so why not? I think more races should be like this. The steel drum band and taco truck this year were great. Couple that with free beer and wine and it makes a pretty good time. We will definitely be back next year.

Final thoughts

It’s kind of odd, isn’t it, that we’re talking about the rise of the cruiser/racer class. After all, isn’t that what we’re all supposed to be sailing? In truth, it hasn’t been that way in a really long time. Much of the fleet have no accommodations whatsever, and many of the other cruising-capable boats are stripped of just about everything that’s not nailed down. There should be a place for both the racer willing to dedicate his boat to his racing passion and a place for the sailors who desire both sides of the sport. It turns out there are those places, and most clubs, seeing the troubling downward trend of participation numbers, are embracing the true cruiser-racer element as well. If your club isn’t paying enough attention, rattle their halyards.

A well placed tack is just as much fun with anchors on the bow as it is with them stowed in the bilge. If you’re interested in casual racing, feel free to email me and I’ll try to point you in the right direction.