Friday, January 23, 2015

Don't Get Scammed

The Internet has now become the way that most of us keep in contact with our friends and family, no-matter how far apart we are. There are few places left in the world that we are unreachable by this web of fibre optics, wires, electrical pulses and radio waves that digitally  brings so much convenience to our lives. Even in the middle of the ocean or on top of the highest of mountain peaks we are able to connect to anywhere else in the world, as long as we have the right equipment and the power source to energise it.

Even 10 years ago most people had some doubts about doing business on-line, mainly over the safety of sending money to companies via the Internet and concerns about the ethics of business people in foreign lands. Those doubts have gradually faded and it is now common to pay for international transactions via the web. It is much simpler and normally cheaper to pay by credit card than to do a wire transfer between banks.

I must say that Americans are generally more reluctant to deal with foreign Internet companies than are people from other countries, preferring to buy from American sources. Even with that self-imposed limitation, Internet transactions continue to grow exponentially in USA as much as elsewhere.

Most businesses that trade on the Internet want to expand their markets and build long-term growth amid ever-increasing competition. To do this they must prove that they are trustworthy and build a good reputation. After they have been around for a few years they will have a base of support from people who have had a good experience and will help to spread the good vibes about them.

Occasionally we all come across a really bad company that exists only to rip off their customers for profit, or we have a very bad experience with the item not being up to the marketing hype that enticed us to buy it. Such an experience tends to colour our attitudes toward future dealings. If it was a small item we may shrug it off and just not do business with them again. If it was a considerable amount of money then we should do what we can to spread the word, to cut that company's market share down to what they deserve. Such companies take away business from those that do trade fairly, in the process reducing their profitability.

A client of mine in Australia, building a Didi 950, recently ran foul of a scammer when searching for an engine at a good price. He sourced a Yanmar 3YM30 inboard diesel motor with saildrive for about half the price of buying the same package from other suppliers. The supplier, Inbond Limited (also known as Inboard Limited) was ostensibly a Canadian company, based in Calgary, Alberta but selling through the Chinese on-line gateway Alibaba. Note that this is not the British logistical company InBond, which is a legitimate company.

This scam became deeper and more complicated as time passed, eventually including a fake shipping company as well, that was going to transport the purchase by air. A fake supplier shipping a non-existent engine via a fake transport company; the only realities in the chain were the buyer and his hard-earned cash.

It is very easy to be wise after the fact but most of us look for the lowest price that we can find when shopping, whether for large or small items. When we can save as much as a few thousand dollars on an item then it is even more enticing, tough to resist. But, the bigger the saving the more wary we need to be. We know the old saying, "If it seems too good to be true then it probably is". A price that low indicates that it is likely an item that has "fallen off the back of a truck". This is South African terminology for "stolen". If not stolen then it may be a fake copy or doesn't exist at all.

Alibaba is a reputable gateway doing transactions for many, many millions. However, this company Inbond Limited was unverified by Alibaba, noted at top left of the company listing. That means that Alibaba cannot vouch for the supplier and that you haven't any chance of a refund from their payment system. If you buy through Alibaba make sure that the supplier is verified, so that you have the full backing of Alibaba if things don't go the way that you planned.

Look out for other clues as well. There are errors in the product listings, for example they call it a gasoline engine instead of a diesel engine. A reputable supplier is unlikely to make such an error.

Once we were aware of this scam it developed into a lengthy discussion on Facebook. If you want to read it, go to my Facebook page and scroll down to January 12th 2015. A Google search showed that the premises where they were supposed to be located are actually occupied by a signage company.

Realising that the buyer had become aware of his scam and refused to send more money, the scammer sent a shipping notice with tracking number and said that shipment was waiting only on the shipping payment. It all looked very authentic until we dug deeper. The tracking number even pulled up a form with all the right details on it. But, there was no way to contact the shipping company, Highonshore, except through their on-line contact form; no telephone, no fax, no email and no physical address. Claiming to be a long-established UK company, there was no record of the directors named and described on their About Us page when I did a web search of British company directors. Their website looks very impressive but has no real substance and is full of grammatical errors, written by someone who does not have English as their first language.

Now the Highonshore website has gone dead. Registration details for the domain show that it was only registered in mid-December, by someone in New Hampshire So much for the long-established British shipping company.

The buyer also had someone dig deeper into Inbond Limited and found that it isn't a Canadian company at all. The payment was deposited into a California banks but the scam is run by a Russian. The Internet helps us all, whether we are good or bad people.

The point of this post is not to discourage you from doing business on-line, it is to ask you to please be careful. And please, please please don't do business with Inbond Limited, Inboard Limited or Highonshore. Please also spread the word about these ripoff artists and their scam.

Friday, January 16, 2015

New Plywood Garvey Design

I have been working intermittently on a new 16ft design for awhile, the start of a range of small powerboats for protected water use. The design is still a way off being complete but the prototype is already being built by Kevin Agee in Hampton, Virginia and is progressing well.

I am using a garvey-type hull that can be easily built from either plywood or aluminium. It has Vee'd sections forward to soften the ride in a bit of a chop, with twisted bottom panels that run out to a shallow V at the transom for easy planing.

The version that Kevin is building has a self-draining wet deck with swivel seats on bases bolted to the deck. It has integral floodable tanks under the deck to hold bait and catch.There will also be a "sit-inside" version with bench seats, with the tanks under the seats.

Kevin is building from okoume plywood, cut from full-size paper patterns that we have supplied. When the design is complete then we will also offer plywood kits, cut by CNC machine. The photos below show the basics of construction as far as it has gone to date.

Bottom panels with slots for bulkhead tabs
Glass-taping joints in panels.
Bottom panels stitched together & bulkheads set up
Sides added and stitched to bottom
Foredeck added and stitched in.
Turned over and laid flat, ready to epoxy seams.
Now Kevin is doing the epoxy bonding of the chines and centreline joint with filled epoxy, prior to removing the copper wire ties, then glass-taping.

This design will be added to our design list in a few months when the plans are complete. See our current design list at

The Governor, the Saint, the Cat & the Cup

The 2014 Governor's Cup Race from Simonstown, South Africa, to the South Atlantic island of St Helena, is all done and wrapped up. The results have all been sorted and the crew of the Didi 38 "Black Cat" have been presented with the magnificent glass floating trophy.
Sophie Pages, owner Adrian Pearson, Cathleen Hughes, skipper David Immelman & Shaun Cooper
The race started out in strong conditions that stayed with the fleet for much of the race, then disappeared. In battling through the extensive calms, most of the racing division boats chose to use their motors and defaulted into the cruising division, inflating the cruising fleet and decimating the racing fleet. Those who stuck to the ideals of yacht racing under wind power alone are to be congratulated for staying there to the end. In doing this, "Black Cat" and her crew won both line honours and on handicap.

For those who wonder where this place is, St Helena is the island to which Napoleon Bonaparte was exiled in 1815 after being defeated at the Battle of Waterloo. He was interred there in a tiny home until his death in 1821. The island is home to a small population of "Saints" under a governor who answers to the government in Great Britain.

The Governor's Cup Race occurs each year in the Southern summer, except for years when there is a Cape to Rio Race. It starts in late December and finishes early January, after crossing 1720 miles of open ocean. In past years boats have been able to ship back to South Africa on the RMS St Helena, a combined cargo and passenger vessel that has been the major physical connection between the island and the outside world in the past. Now the island has an airport that is nearing completion and which will soon be operational.
RMS St Helena offloading cargo.
The RMS St Helena service will be cut back considerably now and shipping of boats back to Cape Town may not be possible. It will be interesting to see what effect this has on entries for the Governor's Cup Race in the future.

This is a worthy race to enter if cruising around the world and passing through Cape Town. Also for kicking off a long distance or world cruise with South Africa as departure. From St Helena, the next stop of the trans-Atlantic leg would likely be the island of Ascension, another weeks sailing NW of St Helena, then on to Fernando de Noronha and mainland Brazil.

I have not yet visited St Helena but it is high on my bucket list.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Didi 950 Keel Build by Howdy Bailey

Howdy Bailey Yacht Services in Norfolk, Virginia, is building the keel for the Didi 950 project in Ohio. This one has a fixed keel that is supported by a steel box on the inside of the hull and which is bolted to the grid structure. The box also forms the engine beds, to concentrate these major weights in a tight area for low pitching characteristics in lumpy water.

Howdy and his staff are doing a masterful job of building this keel, which is assembled over a rigid skeleton of schedule pipes between end plates. The side plates are wrapped over the skeleton and plug welded.
One of Howdy's staff welding the keel structure.
Completed keel skeleton with pre-formed side plates awaiting fitting.
Same stage, looking at the top plate.
The tubular internal skeleton, instead of transverse plate spacers, has multiple benefits. The pipes make the skeleton very rigid to resist twisting when fitting the side plates, they have soft surfaces to minimise hard spots that can distort the side plates, they present broad surfaces for plug welding the side plates and they serve as efficient heat sinks to draw heat away from the plug welds, minimising heat distortion.

The keel bolts bear on the keel box inside the hull, sandwiching the hull skin between the the two. Howdy Bailey Yacht Services fabricated the box as well, then shipped it to the builder. He has test-fitted the Beta 15hp motor on the beds ahead of installing the box into the boat. The following photos show the box with engine standing on the integral engine beds.
Didi 950 keel support box front view.
Beta 15 being test-fitted on the engine beds.
Aft view. The holes are for shaft, exhaust and ventilation.
Finding a suitably qualified engineering company to make the keel is often a worry for people considering building an offshore boat. Howdy and his staff have the experience and are available for this work.

To see more of our designs, visit our website at

"Black Cat" wins Governor's Cup Race

Yesterday "Black Cat", the Didi 38 prototype that I built in my back garden in 1994/95, finished the 1720 mile Governor's Cup Race from South Africa to St Helena. At the time we had not yet seen any photos of her finish. Now some nice photos, taken by Trevor Wilkins Photography, have been posted on the Governor's Cup Facebook page. Here is one of them, see the others on the Governor's Cup pages.
"Black Cat" finishing the Governor's Cup Race. Photo courtesy of What The Saints Did Next.
When I wrote my piece yesterday I was still seeing the breaking news about "Black Cat" being the true line-honours winner instead of "Avanti", which finished ahead of her. I was concerned that there may have been a measure of speculation in the reports and that they may prove untrue. Now we know that the reports were correct and "Black Cat" is the true line-honours winner in the racing division and likely handicap winner as well. We won't know for a few days yet if "Iechyd Da" can catch her on handicap.

Don't let the small size of the racing fleet at the finish detract from the achievement of Dave Immelman and crew. All boats in the original racing fleet were well behind them and most jumped ship when the breeze went light and their sailing progress became too slow, deciding to change to the cruising class and motor through the calm patches. The NOR, as amended, did allow the racing class boats to do this but they had to notify Race Control of having motored at the "earliest opportunity" as well as in their declaration at the finish.

"Black Cat" was committed to racing and that is what they did, battling through the calms. It must have been soul-destroying to see another competitor in their class sail around them, apparently in stronger breeze, then continue to take line-honours in monohulls and racing class. Declaring hours after finishing that they had in fact motored and then being allowed at that late stage to drop down to cruising class is just wrong on all levels.

Did they in fact advise race control in the next daily position report after motoring and race control forgot to move them into the cruising class? This would seem odd because they would have seen themselves still in the racing class in the daily results and should have again told Race Control of the change that they had made. If they didn't tell race control then the act of motoring was an immediate DSQ from the racing class. If they didn't transfer correctly into the cruising class in the way permitted by the amended NOR then they should not be allowed to do so after finishing the race either. My opinion is that they are DSQ in the racing fleet and did not join the cruising fleet because they did not act according to the amended NOR. It follows that they didn't complete the race even though they completed the course.

Their continued listing as apparent leader of the racing fleet added interest to the race but skewed the daily results of both monohull fleets. It also had considerable effect on the moral of other competitors. I believe in absolute fairness and sportsmanship in yacht racing and all other sports but there appears to be something lacking in that regard with this situation.

I will watch with interest to see the final results.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

"Black Cat" in the Governor's Cup Race

In my last post I wrote about how well the Didi 38 "Black Cat" was faring in the Governor's Cup Race to the South Atlantic island of St Helena. I am writing this post based on information that I have read on the official web sites of the race and False Bay Yacht Club.

They were going like a train in showing the way to all of the monohulls. Then they sailed into a hole in the otherwise good tradewind sailing breezes. This was created by a rather odd shape to the South Atlantic high, as an elongated sausage running east/west and in two parallel bands of calm not far apart.

Skipper Dave (Wavy) Immelman was kicking himself for having missed a crucial weather download that may have helped him evade the holes. They sailed slowly through the first calm then the winds started to pick up and they thought they were through, only to be trapped by the second calm.
"Black Cat" rounding the Cape of Good Hope en-route to St Helena.

We watched in dismay as the Vickers 41 "Avanti" sailed a big arc that took her right around the hole in which "Black Cat" languished, at pretty much twice the speed. We despaired for the chances of "Black Cat" even catching "Avanti" before the finish line, let alone getting far enough ahead to beat her on handicap. In the end "Avanti" crossed the finish line about 7 hours 10 minutes ahead of "Black Cat".

I went to bed last night feeling sad that the hard sailing done by Wavy and his crew for so much of the race was thwarted by the fickle winds. I woke this morning to the news that the skipper of "Avanti" declared some time after finishing that they had motored and were dropping down to the cruising division. That leaves "Black Cat" as the likely winner of the racing division, with only "Iechyd Da" with a very distant chance of beating her on handicap.

Congratulations to Wavy and crew. You sailed an honest and honourable race. You didn't deserve the heartache that came from watching your opposition apparently sailing right around you when they had actually motored into a more favourable position.

This brings up two questions that need clarification.
  1. Why did "Avanti" wait until after the finish of the race to declare that they motored? They should have done so immediately that the motor was started. That action disqualified them from the racing division. They didn't declare at the time that they were dropping to the cruising division, so can they be considered to have been racing in that division? None of the other cruisers knew that they were racing against "Avanti" so they couldn't take her into consideration in their tactical decisions. The knowledge may not have had any effect but it should have been open knowledge throughout the fleet within hours of "Avanti" starting her motor.
  2. What is the sense of allowing boats to change their racing division on the water? It may have seemed a good idea at the time that the rules were written but has created a very unfair situation on the water, unfair to those boats that were in the cruising division at the start of the race. The entry list shows 9 boats in the racing division and 4 in cruising. As the race has progressed and the boats ran out of wind, racing boats have chosen to motor and change from racing to cruising division. The leading boat in cruising division changed class after finishing and the 2nd boat changed very late in the race. The whole balance of the event has changed, with the original 9 racers reduced to 3 and the original 4 cruisers swelled to 10 boats. Three of those 4 cruisers have retired and "Tallulah" should get the trophy. Instead she is lying 3rd, with "Avanti" and "Strumpet" having jumped in ahead of her. Maybe the rules of the race have not been broken but I don't agree that this is the right way to do it, in the interests of fairness to all on the water.
OK, I am getting off my soapbox now.Once again, congratulations to Wavy and crew on sticking it out in racing division when it looked like you had been beaten but could have had a clear win in the cruising division by simply starting your motor and changing classes.

See more about the Didi 38 and our other designs on our website at

Friday, January 2, 2015

"Black Cat" on the Ocean Blue

I am sure that most of my readers are well aware of our adventures on the prototype Didi 38 "Black Cat" in the Cape to Rio Race in January 2014. This is the boat that I built in my back garden in Hout Bay, South Africa and launched nearly 20 years ago. She was the experiment in boat construction that is the basis for all of my radius chine plywood designs, with many hundreds now on the water or in build around the world.

"Black Cat" is once again out on the wide blue South Atlantic Ocean. She is participating in the 1700 mile Governor's Cup Race from Simonstown, South Africa, to St Helena, the remote island in the middle of the South Atlantic. Much as I would like to have been there, I was unable to join the crew for this race but they seem to be doing a pretty good job of it without my interference. They have led the monohull fleet both on handicap and on the water from the first position report and remain up there. Only the trimaran "Banjo" leads them.
"Black Cat" at start of Governor's Cup 2014. Dave Mabin photo
The crew, led by Dave Immelman, has been having great sailing, with three consecutive days of 200+ mile runs in strong downwind trade conditions. Now they are working their way through the light winds of a high pressure system at lower speed but maintaining their lead. Dave is the resident skipper on "Black Cat" and was my navigator for the Cape to Rio Race 2014.

We wish Dave and his crew continued good sailing and that they can find their way quickly through the high to more good breezes.

Welcome to 2015

Whether 2014 was a good year or a bad one for you, it is now disappearing in the rear view mirror. It is time to take on 2015 and we are ready for it. Bring it on. Happy New Year to all.

We are settling into our new home and office. The number of cardboard boxes is diminishing as we find homes for things in closets and for pictures on the walls. Eventually I will have the garage organised enough that I will be able to get back to working on projects.

The office has been the most challenging. Somehow networks have a way of being disobedient when the time comes to reconnect everything after being totally dismantled. Like a happy family, the computers and printers are now all talking to each other again.

As part of this move I have phased out our trusty EnCAD CADjet 2 plotter that moved with us from South Africa 11 years ago. We still have the HP 750c Plus that joined the business 8 or 9 years ago and have added an HP 1055cm Plus plotter with automatic roll feeder. This is all intended to turbocharge our drawing printing capacity to better cope with the seasonal peaks of orders.

This is a temporary home for a year or two, a place of transition until we buy a more permanent new spot for ourselves. Time will tell where and when that will be.

All of our contact details remain unchanged. The mailing address, telephone, fax and email are all as before.

We are up and running again, ready for whenever you want to start your new boatbuilding project.