If you had been sailing or motoring on the Oakland Estuary during the past few weeks, you might have imagined you were seeing an apparition — not just one 19th-century tall ship in dry dock, but two. Your eyes were not playing tricks on you. Hauled out at Alameda’s Bay Ship and Yacht were none other than the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park’s 1895, 219-ft schooner C.A. Thayer, and Call of the Sea’s 132-ft tall ship Matthew Turner. It would have been easy to imagine the same scene in the late 1800s. But this is not the 1800s, it’s 2020. Both ships are 19th-century designs, but built 125 years apart.
C.A. Thayer was in dry dock for a million-dollar-plus refit, including a new deck house forward, a chain locker, some plank and structural work, and paint throughout. Matthew Turner was in for a basic haulout and Coast Guard inspection.
Most Latitude readers are familiar with Matthew Turner, launched April 1, 2017, in Sausalito after four years of construction by an ‘army’ of mostly volunteers. Following the launch were three years of work fitting out the mast, spars, rigging, sails, interior, electrical, plumbing and safety equipment, and several Coast Guard tests, including a stability test. Despite delays due to the pandemic, it was three years almost to the day after the launch that the tall ship passed her final USCG crew-overboard drill in April and received the coveted COI — US Coast Guard Certificate of Inspection. Following the COI were six months of sea trials, and limited-passenger trips to comply with social-distancing and COVID-19 protocols.
Due to the pandemic, a planned winter voyage to Mexico had to be postponed. But before the winter layup, it was time for a haulout, and also the first dry-dock inspection since Matthew Turner got its Certificate of Inspection. The ship’s last haulout was in May 2019, but judging by the condition of its bottom, planks, rudder and paint, one would never have known. The planks and seams were still tight, fair and smooth, there were no leaks, and the hull was found to be in excellent shape. A thorough inspection of the bottom could only find two almost inconsequential items — a small spot the size of a quarter where a few teredo worms had had a ‘snack’, and a similar-size spot at the bottom of the rudder where a small fiberglass seam had opened. Both were noted, readily treated, and repaired.
Examining a traditional wooden ship like this is good practice for the local Coast Guard inspectors. An inspected passenger-carrying sailing vessel like Matthew Turner is a rarity these days, especially on San Francisco Bay. The Coast Guard inspectors actually welcome the opportunity to come out and examine the vessel. As Matthew Turner project director Alan Olson pointed out, “They learn a lot on Matthew Turner.”
After the brief but thorough inspections were complete, and all systems inside and out checked by the Coast Guard inspectors, the yard crew set about to work on the sanding, prepping and painting. Dry-dock protocol called for the bottom prep and paint to be done by the shipyard, and judging by the results at launch last Friday, the capable crew from Bay Ship and Yacht did themselves, and Matthew Turner, proud.
Whitall Stokes and his Open 50 Sparrow are well on their way to Cape Horn and the Southern Ocean. If you haven’t been keeping up with the story, Whitall is attempting a solo circumnavigation by taking the Great Capes to port. He left San Francisco on November 8. If all goes well, he’ll be back in San Francisco sometime in April.
After doing some repairs in the lee of the Big Island of Hawaii, he set off heading due south. Whitall wrote, “Sparrow was greeted with 30-40+ knots, and some problems emerged.” Emerging problems seem to go with sailing. “The jib halyard cover ripped apart, so the clutch and self tailing winch at the mast are rendered useless. The nut on top of the gooseneck pin (a long 1/2-inch bolt) that held the mainsail clew has sheared off, taking the top 1 inch of the gooseneck pin with it.”
More problems emerged while they beat upwind in the South Pacific. “With every problem, I first wonder if this is finally the show-stopper, the one I can’t overcome and have to make for port or turn around. So far I’ve been able to keep going.” Whitall has set up “Bailout Points” for the trip, and if he can’t keep up with the problems he’ll head to a port. But the bailout ports are getting fewer as he heads south. Once he passed the equator, he needed to make more repairs, so he sat out in the lee of an atoll named Raroia.
“I found a little respite in the lee of an atoll to effect repairs. When pounding out the gooseneck pin, it didn’t feel good the way it was fighting coming out, so I tapped it back in, cleaned up the top gudgeon and poured epoxy into the small cavity on top of the bolt. I don’t think the epoxy will do much, but it’s something.”
After some other repairs he continued on. “Not seeing much of a reason not to continue the journey, so on we go to the Horn. Last night was boisterous, with many scary-looking clouds, lightning and 30- to 35-knot winds. The whole deal. Sparrow handled it all like a champ. 60 degrees off the wind under three reefs and a piece of jib unfurled. So on we go.”
Not all the days have been ugly. “The Trades have relaxed a bit today, now 10-15 and shifted just a bit north. This has made a huge difference aboard Sparrow, as I’m able to open some hatches to dry out the boat! I may even bathe later…”
He also reported about the distance covered and the distance still to come, as of December 6, Day 28:
- Stage 1 (GGB to Hawaii): 2,131 nm (100% Complete)
- Stage 2 (Hawaii to Cape Horn): 6,310 (40% Complete)
- Stage 3 (Cape Horn to South Cape, NZ): 9,836
- Stage 4 (South Cape, NZ, to GGB): 6,348
- Total Distance: 24,624 (19% Complete)
“I’ve seen exactly three vessels on 48-mile range via the AIS. Nothing on VHF. There is just no one out here. Next bailout point, Falkland Islands. Cape Horn 4,000 miles distant. Here we go.”
Follow the adventure at https://svsparrow.com.
In the December issue of Latitude 38, Max Ebb and Lee Helm debated sailing rules as they appear in the new 2021 rule book. Did you take the quiz? If you haven’t yet, go check them out, then come back to mark your answers — no cheating!
Rules Quiz Answers:
Yes, because neither boat is clear astern and they are on the same tack.
Yes, because neither boat is clear astern, even though they are on opposite tacks, and because they are sailing below a true-wind beam reach. (Before 2009 they would not be overlapped on opposite tacks unless subject to mark room.)
Yes, because they were overlapped when the first boat reached the 3-length zone.
NO!! Because they are not overlapped, and because one of the boats has to tack to round the mark. (This counts for triple points; it’s the cause of the worst boat-to-boat crashes among newbie racers.)
Room at the Starting Mark
NO!! Mark-room does not apply at a starting mark surrounded by navigable water. (Forcing room at a starting mark is known as “barging.”)
Definition of Starting
Change for 2021: Now it’s the hull only, not including the crew, sails, and equipment.
Definition of Finishing
Change for 2021: Now it’s the hull only, not including the crew, sails, and equipment.
Proper course is whatever course a boat would sail to finish as soon as possible in the absence of other boats. It does not have to be the rhumb line to the next mark. There are two tests for proper course: 1) There must be a plausible rationale for sailing that course; and 2) the rationale must be applied consistently. That is, you can’t change your proper course for tactical advantage when other boats are nearby.
The “Mast Abeam” hail is long gone. Since 1997, the boat that established a leeward overlap from astern can only luff up to its own proper course, but no farther.
Proper courses often converge at marks, and proper courses might be different for different boats. A boat might be forced to sail above its proper course by a leeward boat that came from astern, even though the leeward boat does not have the right to luff above its own proper course.
Normally we wouldn’t start happy hour until 5 p.m.; however, we do make exceptions and, as Jimmy Buffett sings, “It’s 5 o’clock somewhere ….” Today is one of those exceptions. Spinsheet magazine, located on that other great US coastal bay, the Chesapeake, has invited Latitude 38, Scuttlebutt editor Craig Leweck and Sailing World’s Dave Reed to join them for an East Coast happy hour. West Coast time, 2 p.m. We’re going to try some rum from Spinsheet sponsor Mount Gay with a great Mai Tai recipe we learned during a digital Christmas party last weekend. Click below to join.
Starting at 2 p.m. local time should make our other evening digital Christmas party that much more fun. And we don’t have to take Lyft home.