Cruising (and lecturing) Under Four Masts

Cruising (and lecturing) Under Four Masts

Northwest sailors Chris and Randy Shuman are putting another spin on cruising into retirement. They wrote the following from their trailer en route or in Mexico. It’s an appealing form of cruising for sure.

About a month ago, in one of their first post retirement adventures, Chris and Randy took to the high seas for two voyages in one of the Star Clippers Sailing tall ship fleet, first a 22-day transatlantic crossing and then a 6-day Caribbean passage. Far from having to climb the yardarms, they were the onboard honored academics. Randy is an oceanographer, and was asked to give some lectures along the way. Chris taught a potpourri of creative classes. Not bad work, especially since Randy’s enthusiasm for the waters haven’t waned since entering retirement.

So, for those who could do with a little learning, relaxation and warm waters , give it a read and close your eyes. And no worries about the yardarms. The furlers up there are push-button.

The Particulars

The ship: 4-masted barquentine Star Flyer

Built 1992,Belgium

Length: 366 ft

Beam: 50 ft

170 passengers, about 70 crew

She has a sister ship, the Star Clipper, and the company has a larger full rigged square rigger, the Royal Clipper and a new ship the Flyer Clipper that is under construction.

The Star Flyer and the Star Clipper are barquentines: square rigged on forward mast, fore aft rigged on other 3 masts. 5 jibs, 5 square sails on forward mast. Square sailed are set and struck by horizontal furlers in the yards, controlled from the deck by a push button remote. The two middle masts have a staysail and a fisherman, aft mast has a triangular jigger or spanker. These are controlled from the deck by hand by the sailing crew of about 8 sailors. There is a full time rigger/sailmaker who mends sails on deck with his machine. Sails are Dacron, many built by Doyle Sails. 

Life on Board

The ship almost always has sails up but also often has the main engine running. The ship needs to meet tight schedules at ports for the guests but also wants to sail for economy and pleasure of the passengers. Most of the passengers chose this ship to experience sailing on a big square rigger.

Passengers are often longtime sailers with many Americans, Germans, Brits.  French, English and German are the official ship languages and announcements and printed materials in all three. 

The food is generally upscale, served in one dining room in one sitting. Excellent table service for dinner, great breakfast and lunch buffets.

Activities: there are basic exercise classes, shore excursions when in port, talks by the captain, mast climbing, lots of book reading, cards, beer and cocktails, lying in the sun……  The ship has on board paddle boards, a small sailboat, snorkeling gear and inflatables to take passengers to isolated beaches for water activities and barbecues.

When the weather is good passengers are able to climb out on the bowsprit netting and go aloft on the forward mast. When you go aloft you have a climbing harness and are belayed by a crew member. 

Chris and Randy

We did two cruises. Our job was to provide entertainment on sea days when there are no port visits.

The first:  22 day TransAtlantic in November 2011, starting in Malaga Spain and ending in Barbados. There were 16 sea days, including 12 days on the crossing. Ports included Malaga, Tangier, Madeira, Cadiz, Tenerife, Gran Canaria and Bridgetown. In the afternoons Randy taught oceanography and marine biology every sea day, topics such as waves, tides, currents, winds, birds, plankton, and plate tectonics.

Chris taught arts and crafts in the mornings, including drawing, paper bead making, card making and digital photography.

Second:  6 day Caribbean transit, Panama to Grand Cayman, December 2017. We were scheduled to stop at San Andres and Providencia, two Columbian island off the Nicaraguan coast. However strong wind and seas from the north slowed our progress making our course a dead beat and compromising the island anchorages. So we spent 4 days beating and finally reaching as the trades reestablished. 

On this trip Randy taught coral reef geology and ecology, waves and tides. These were relevant topics as many of the guests planned to snorkel on the trip, the large waves that we faced for days, and the contrast between the large tide range on the Pacific side of the Canal and the very small tide range on the Caribbean side.

From Chris…..

Chris at the helm.

On the transatlantic crossing the sails stabilized the ship but it still rolled a lot.  It generally was a comfortable motion and lulled us to sleep but at times we would be in the dining room and feel a big roll coming.  It was entertaining.  Everyone at the table would pick up their wine glass in one hand and water glass in another and wait until the roll subsided.  Conversation would hardly pause and then we would all put them back down.

People ask how we felt being so far from land in the middle of the Atlantic.  You don’t feel the vast space of the whole ocean because all that you can see is a 5-6 mile radius around the ship.

My favorite thing was being out on the bowsprit netting, 20 feet ahead of the ship, watching dolphins play in the bow wave. 

I also liked the early mornings when no one was on deck and as we neared the Caribbean, the occasional squalls.  We would sail into one, the wind would blow hard, the rigging would strain and the warm rain gave everything a fresh water rinse.

From Randy. . .

Randy roughing it on a square rigger.

I enjoyed being on deck and watching the crew handle the sails and rigging. Trimming the sails or setting a new sail took several crew between 5 and 20 minutes. The deck crew were mostly from the southern Indian state of Goa. I also enjoyed spending long stretches in the bowsprit netting, suspended over the waves and watching the whole ship charging ahead behind me.

One added benefit of being the lecturer was that most people knew who I was and were always stopping me with questions on deck and at meals about what they had seen on the ocean that day.


Fair winds in your land cruising, friends. We’ll have nice cold Puget Sound water waiting for you when you get back.  

Duwamish Head Race Delivers, Mist is Coming up to Speed

Duwamish Head Race Delivers, Mist is Coming up to Speed

It was an auspicious start to racing in 2018. Three Tree Point YC’s Duwamish Head Race, which has had it’s weather/finishing/shortened difficulties over the years came through with a fine day of racing last Saturday. It was a fast race, especially for the big boats, but there wasn’t a lot of a maneuvering and a limited number of tactical decisions to be made.

A strong current was pushing boats over the line, but soon the fleet was flying along the West Seattle waterfront beaches. The boats gave the Saturday morning walkers at Alki a bit of show as they headed to, and then from, the Duwamish Head Light. A medium air reach across Puget Sound was straightforward.

After rounding Blakely Rock, the larger boats that managed to stay west enjoyed a more westerly angle and came into the finish without tacking. Any of those that footed off found they needed to tack up around Three Tree Point Point. Many of the later, smaller boats had more of a beat.

The fast race combined with the time on distance scoring skewed some of the results, with the advantage going to the slower-rated boats. Keep reading to get a report from Image in the middle of the fleet. Results here.

Here are some of Jan Anderson’s photos. See more and buy them here.


The newest (and oldest) of the Northwest’s three-boat TP 52 “fleet” is Steve Johnson’s Mist (formerly Braveheart and Valkyrie). Johnson put many miles under his old White Cloud‘s keel, and wanted a new challenge. A TP 52 is certainly that.

The Duwamish Head race was part of that learning curve. Mist was over early at the start (“I’m not used to a boat jumping up to 12 knots that fast,” Johnson explained) and then had to chase Crossfire around the course the rest of the way. And the way the time on distance handicaps worked out both boats found themselves down in the standings.

At this point in the Mist program, that hardly matters. “Sooner or later we’ll learn how to sail it to its rating,” Johnson says. Right now he’s still adjusting to the TP52 speeds. One of the adjustments is the challenge for driving the beast – it demands laser-focus. As Johnson puts it, “there’s not a lot of forgiveness.” Another adjustment Johnson has to make is the flat out speed. “It changes your perception of how big Puget Sound is.” Indeed.

The team, basically the same White Cloud crew with some additions, is learning jib trim with the in-hauler set as close as 5° off center line, which is about 2 degrees less than White Cloud. The current crop of TPs on the Mediterranean are set at about 4.5 degrees.

One of the more interesting aspects of a TP52 program is access to sails. Johnson hopes to set up “a relationship” with a Med TP program to have access to their “old” sails that might have as little as a few short hours of use. Mist‘s inventory was already pretty good thanks to one of those relationships with Sled.

Mist is in relatively good condition, but there have been some annoying breakdowns including a broken outhaul in Round the County. Built as a late first-generation/early second-generation TP52 as Braveheart, the stout boat was built for ocean racing with ring frames and a sturdy rig. But as with any boat, there’s maintenance and modifications to be made. One of the first things on Johnson’s list is to set the galley up with a foot pump to fill water bottles from the water tank, as opposed to lugging aboard (and disposing of) water bottled in plastic. Environmentalism is in, folks.

Currently the long range plan is to do the usual Northwest races with an eye toward the Van Isle 360 in a year and a half.



Alert reader Marc-Andrea Klimaschewski chimed in with his own Duwamish Head Story, specifically PHRF-7. Sounds like the class had a close race and there was a happy crew aboard Image. Here’s Marc:

PHRF-7 had a fantastic race last weekend. Having 6 boats with similar ratings out gave the Image crew a really nice benchmark and allowed us get a good read on our boat speed.

After a port tack approach to the start line we held a position to windward of the fleet, reaching a little longer with the #3 jib up. We were the last boat to set our spinnaker which allowed the J/29s to pull away but we managed to stay close to Les Chevaux Blacs and Folie a Deux. Once we were certain we could lay Alki beach the kite came up and we had a nice reach down. About a third of the way to Alki, Absolutely and a bit later String Theory passed us to windward and we got a good look at Crossfire flying towards Alki. With the wind moving slightly more behind us, we moved the our A-kite from being bow tacked to the spinnaker pole and squared it back a little which required us to set up the reaching strut – that’s the fun of being the old school boat in the fleet. At Alki Pt, we were a tad late to jibe towards the Duwamish head mark (partially due to our pole magic) which cost us some precious boat lengths and moved us back to last place in the fleet.

After ducking the yellow trimaran Ruf Duck the broad reach towards the Duwamish head mark went without a hitch. We were a little late getting the #1 on deck and set up so we had to round the mark bald headed which got us stuck in dirty air. As soon as we noticed we would not be able to lay Blakely Rock, we did two tacks putting us to windward of the rear end of the fleet which really helped with boat speed. We reached Blakely Rock together with Folie a Deux, tacked to starboard right with them and a 20 minute drag race ensued. We managed to sail slightly higher and slightly faster than them, eventually passing them and forcing them to foot toward the middle of the course to find clear air. Shortly after this, we had a prime spot for watching the orca pod (ed. note – how cool is that?!) that was moving north.

We needed to put in two additional tacks before the finish line, probably due to the wind dying down temporarily but spirits were high, especially when we sighted Les Chevaux Blancs and Folie a Deux behind us.

All in all, the entire crew of Image enjoyed the race a whole lot. After spending more than two years building crew and skills as well as slowly converting the boat from a full on cruising boat (featuring her original 1982 sails) it seemed like to work was paying off and we got some good boat on boat action.

It’s absolutely great that readers chime in from all parts of the fleet, in particular from older boats that are enjoying the racing every bit as much as the boats with 5-degree sheeting angles! Keep sending your stories, videos and photos and I’ll keep posting them.  

Kids Sailing a Clean Regatta

Kids Sailing a Clean Regatta
A few stickers and old trophies are new again!

Kaitlyn Van Nostrand recently assumed coaching duties at the Mount Baker Rowing and Sailing Center on Lake Washington. She’s also a dedicated environmental pro, currently an account manager at Republic Services. She’s been working with Sailors for the Sea for following their Clean Regatta guidelines, and last weekend’s Milfoil junior regatta was deemed “Clean.” It sets a great example for other sailing and yacht clubs to follow, and by the sounds of it, it was more fun than chore. Here’s Kaitlyn’s report on the event, borrowed from an email to Sailors for the Sea. 

We had a great Milfoil Junior Regatta with both sun and wind last Saturday. There were 26 participants sail in 4 fleets (Opti, Laser, V15 and FJ) from 7 different clubs in the Seattle area. We had our sailors from Mt. Baker be on our green team wearing green t-shirts with me. They rocked the pins on their life jackets. 🙂

Our first place trophies were re-purposed ones that I found in the boathouse from the 1970’s! I removed the plaque on the front (may reuse them for other awards later), put a Sailors for the Sea Sticker on them and they came out great. Our participation awards were mugs for Optis and glasses for the other classes that I got from Goodwill. Stickered them as well, they looked awesome! Each participant received a sticker too. 

Our office staff was great in helping with our water bottle station, communicating to sailors they needed to BYO water bottle and we ran a nearly zero waste event since our lunch was pizza and we composted the plates and pizza boxes. 🙂 

Looking forward to passing on our Clean Regatta lessons to other clubs on the Northwest circuit to get more clean regattas registered for next summer.

Trump Dumps on Puget Sound, Let’s Work Together to Save it

Trump Dumps on Puget Sound, Let’s Work Together to Save it

The word is out. The Trump administration wants to cut 93%, that’s right, 93% of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA budget) for restoration and monitoring of Puget Sound. (Chesapeake Bay and the Great Lakes also face such draconian measures). The details of this proposed budget, and the likelihood of it being enacted, are murky at best.

There’s a big “however” here. However, murkiness notwithstanding we sailors can take steps to save our Sound. We have to be ready to fight for our beautiful Salish Sea. It doesn’t take long to pollute. It does take a long time to clean it up. And sailors do know how to make noise. What we can do now is give our elected officials, particular those in support of the new administration, an earful.

Here’s the essence of it, assuming that the 93% cut regionally and 24% nationally is seriously proposed. It has nothing to do with a Washington immigrant feud with Trump, as has been suggested. It has everything to do with Trump and the Republicans trying to blow up the EPA. From their standpoint, why not? They deny global warming and have willfully forgotten what our waterways were like in 1970 and why the EPA was created in the first place. Furthermore, they believe that regulations have stifled our economy. So, why not get rid of the EPA?

And here’s a really fitting nugget: Environmental Education would be cut 94%. To my mind, those were some of the most effective dollars spent. Change people’s minds, and you change their behavior. My behavior has certainly changed as I’ve learned more about the environment.

They believe that protecting the environment is bad for business, though businesses seem to have managed. A model might be our boatyards. They’ve made changes to their business model, and many (though not all) have withstood the onslaught of dubious lawsuits. They’ve utilized new technologies and charged their customers a bit more with an explanation. And while there’s plenty of room for discussion about lawsuits, boatyards and bottom paints, there’s one undeniable fact. Boatyards have become cleaner.

This move is not about budget savings.  All of Donald Trump’s proposals regarding infrastructure, walls, and military show that he’s not cutting “here” to make more money available “there.” It’s comically out of whack. If this were about trimming the budget, there’d be a serious proposal to cut a percentage and a mandate for each department to come up with well reasoned cuts.

No, this is about diminishing our country’s dedication to the environment. It’s about declaring that global warming doesn’t exist. It’s about putting business profits ahead of all else. It’s about a philosophy that regulation is bad and that the free market can and will take care of everything. The administration is willing to sacrifice the condition of Puget Sound and kick the cleanup can to our kids’ corners. I can’t even get my kids to pick up their own socks.

It’s about putting a guy like Scott Pruitt in charge who has been in the pocket of big business his entire career and fought the EPA tooth and nail. The Republicans have even introduced a bill to eliminate the EPA.

Apparently, the idea is that by gutting the EPA, businesses will become more profitable and somehow our lives will be enhanced. Since the economic recovery from the great recession began, businesses have been hoarding their profits, making the rich richer. There’s NO reason to think that “unburdening” them will make them more civically or environmentally minded.

And here’s the clincher, and it’s an economic one. A clean Sound makes money. A dirty Sound costs money. There are shellfish beds, salmon fisheries, sport fishing, and yes, recreational boating.

Trump and the current Republicans don’t see the dollar value of a clean environment or the expense of cleaning it up when it does get polluted. Excuse me, but they’re pooping on the hard work (sometimes not efficient or even misguided, but mostly highly valuable work) of Republicans, Democrats, Independents and ordinary citizens, since the early 1970s.

I’ve always thought that the greatest environmental gains were made through cooperative efforts. Sure, industry lobbying for its interests, and environmentalists lobbying for theirs, but the workable solution always seemed to lie somewhere between the two. And the EPA was an effective arbiter. Both sides have screamed and yelled that the EPA hasn’t been doing its job. I was splashing around southern Lake Michigan in 1970. I can say first hand that it has done its job.

The Trump administration has decided Puget Sound (and Chesapeake Bay and the Great Lakes) is not worth cleaning up and protecting. It’s up to all of us in Washington State to join together and fight for Puget Sound. And make no mistake, if the EPA is eviscerated, we will have to.  Shellfish harvesters, sportfishermen, commercial, recreational, business organizations, private citizens, all of us, need to work together. Who knows, in this adversarial climate we might find some surprising alliances.

Oh, yeah, and about those salmon. Guess what eat salmon? Our Southern Resident orcas. They’re already on a dangerously thin diet.

While we have a profound history in Washington of dumping unspeakables in places like Commencement Bay and Lake Union, and damming up some of the most productive salmon runs in the world, we also have a history of learning from our mistakes and becoming champions for our environment. I hope and expect that as Trump’s government abdicates its responsibilities, we sailors can join other Washingtonians to stop the madness. At least here.

Stay tuned, because I’m going to weigh in on the No Discharge Zone (yes, it may be happening) and a proposed no-go zone around San Juan Island to protect those orcas.


Read more

Smartest Sailor in the Cockpit

Smartest Sailor in the Cockpit

Like a lot of other people, I find the Internet can be the best of times and the worst. I can sit in front of my computer and in five minutes find some gem of information that truly improves my life. At other times, I get sucked into site after site and an hour later have to extract myself to realize I learned absolutely nothing. So, this “Smartest Sailor” post is simply me plucking out a few stories that I found interesting and that you might too. To qualify they have to be sailing related, Salish related and pass my completely subjective relevant/interesting/amusing/useful filter. If others find it worthwhile, I’ll keep doing it.


John Harrison Doucet

Sailor Electrocuted, A Warning to Us All

20-year-old sailor John Harrison Doucet of Gulfport, Mississippi was electrocuted when his J/22’s mast hit an overhead wire and his hand was on the trailer hitch. Story here. He had both legs amputated and is fighting for his life. This happened in Gulfport, but could easily have happened here in the Northwest. Next time down at your dry storage area, check for dangerous power lines. If there are any, make sure the yard operators are aware of the problem and do something about it.


Photo: Alethea Leddy, Port Angeles Whale Watch Co.

Humpback Rescue Team

Humpbacks save sea lion from orcas. In fact, they have quite a reputation for intervention. Chris Dunagan has the story here of a recent rescue in BC waters. Yes, that’s right, boatloads of whale watchers got to see a pod of humpbacks come to the rescue of a sea lion from a pod of transient orcas. While that’d be a great scene to see play out, it’s not something we’d want to be in the middle of!




Unguided Transatlantic

Everybody seems to want to send automated, high tech boats across the pond these days. Kaitlyn Dow, a high school junior in Waterford, Connecticut succeeded with a low-tech approach. She sent a 3′ essentially unguided boat with a dubious sailplan across pond to Ireland. Young Irish girl Méabh Ní Ghionnáin (don’t you just love that name even if you haven’t the foggiest how to pronounce it) of Galway, got word through the coasts Pubnet (my name for Ireland’s pub network, which, by the way, is far more efficient than the Internet) that the boat was coming and was on the lookout when it arrived. I think it’s remarkable that an unmanned, essentially unguided, boat can do a transatlantic. I also wonder what my feelings would be if I ran into it while taking my own boat transatlantic. Regardless, congratulations to Kaitlyn and Méabh for sending and receiving that little boat.


Suhaili during reconsctruction, it wasn’t all pretty.

Suhaili Relaunched, Ready to Race without Sextant

A couple weeks ago Sir Robin Knox-Johnston relaunched Suhaili, the 32-footer he sailed around the world nonstop in 1968. She’s in great shape, and by the sounds of it Knox-Johnston did much of the work with his own hands. His 312-day voyage to win the Golden Globe Challenge was the first nonstop trip of the kind and marks the beginning of what has culminated to this point in the Vendee Globe Race. A couple interesting things here. First, Sir Robin restored Suhaili to sail in the recreation of that Golden Globe Race. This new race requires 32-36′ full keel boats that were designed before 1988 and displace at least 6200 kg. Furthermore, while they’ll have electronic navigation tools onboard in case of emergency, they won’t be using them. Yes, Virginia, back to sextants. And there are 26 provisional entrants. One of those entrants is none other than Sir Robin, who at age 79 will be sailing Suhaili. If this ironman finishes, he’s a god. If he wins with that boat, he’s a god’s god. The idea of the race is just so out there it might draw a lot of attention.


Overdue Saltspring Sailor

Finally, Saltspring Island sailor Paul Lim is way overdue from Hawaii. He left Hilo August 1 with his Spencer 35 Watercolour bound for Victoria, BC, and had not been heard from as of September 30. The US Coast Guard searched an area between Hilo and Victoria with a C-130 aircraft to no avail. The USCG continues to search and asks that  anyone with information on the whereabouts of Mr. Lim or the Sailing Vessel Watercolour is asked to call the U.S. Coast Guard at 510-437-3701. USCG press release here, Vancouver Sun article here.