Thursday, December 7, 2017

National Sea Rescue Institute Does It Again

I have written before about the very capable National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI), the privately-funded rescue service that protects mariners all around the coasts of South Africa. Crewed mostly by volunteers, they rescue users of the sea wherever and whenever they are needed, when possible saving their vessels as well. Much of their work is not seen by the public, happening in pitch darkness way out at sea in storm conditions but occasionally the man in the street, more accurately on the beach, gets to see them doing their work from up close. Such was the case recently at the beautiful Santos Beach in the lovely town of Mossel Bay, on the Indian Ocean side of the extreme southern tip of Africa, Cape Agulhas.

This rescue was of the yacht "Day Off", a steel Dix 43 Pilot built in Cape Town by Randle Yachts. Her crew had brought her into Mossel Bay to shelter from an approaching storm. For reasons unknown to me at this stage, her anchor chain broke and she was carried ashore by wind and seas.
Dix 43 Pilot "Day Off" well and truly aground on Santos Beach, Mossel Bay.
Mossel Bay Harbour is in the background.
Santos Beach is just outside of Mossel Bay Harbour, where NSRI Station 15 is located. Although just around the corner from their base, "Day Off" was very securely on the beach and would have required a large amount of power mixed in with a big load of skill from very capable people to get her off the beach and safely afloat again.
The NSRI boat is at left, turning "Day Off" head-to the waves before pulling her off.
"Day Off" was pulled off the beach, then towed into Mossel Bay Harbour to a safe mooring. No doubt they will have discovered why the anchor chain broke and will remedy the problem.
"Day Off" almost afloat and on her way off the beach.
Thank you to the NSRI for another successful rescue operation.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Shearwater 39 Classic Cruiser for Sale

The Shearwater 39 is one of our most popular cruising designs, a classic cruiser with good performance and wonderful manners. These boats have been built from wood or aluminium as custom builds but most have been moulded fibreglass from female moulds.

These boats don't often come onto the used boat market but last year there were a few owners needing to sell for various reasons. I think that all of those boats now have new owners, so they are once again scarce on the used market.

We do have a new brokerage listing for one, just come available. "Windward" was moulded by Nebe Boats, then completed to a high standard by her owner. He launched her in 2008 and has cruised her since then. "Windward" is now in Trinidad, convenient to the Caribbean cruising grounds and an American buyer.
Shearwater 39 "Windward"
A classically-styled and vary capable ocean cruiser.
Modern underwater, great performance and wonderful manners
Beautifully finished and maintained. A floating home with character.
Windward is very well equipped, ready for world cruising. She can take you to tropical islands, or where-else  you want to go. See her listing for more photos and info.

To see more of this and our other designs, go to our main website or our mobile website.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

New Photos of Dix Designs

Photos of boats that I have designed often come into my hands through various routes. Sometimes it is the owner proudly showing the boat that he had created with his own hands, sometimes it is a friend who took the photo from an interesting perspective or for some special reason. When I can I show some of those photos. Here are a few recent ones.

This first one is the steel Dix 43 Pilot "Sea Bird" that was owner-built by Andre Siebert in South Africa. She is on her maiden cruise on the West Coast of South Africa.
Dix 43 Pilot "Sea Bird" in Port Owen marina.
Ryerson and Annie Clark had Big Pond Boat Shop in Nova Scotia build a Cape Henry 21 for them and did the finishing work themselves. They launched earlier this year and have been doing short cruises as they learn to sail their new boat, named "Elvee".
Cape Henry 21 "Elvee" enjoying a beautiful Nova Scotia sunset.
David Edmiston owner-built his Didi 40cr2 "Passion X" in Sydney, Australia. It differs from the standard Didi 40cr by having a wider stern, deeper keel and more powerful rig. This photo of Passion X" was submitted to the Greenwich Flying Squadron photo competition.
Didi 40cr2 "Passion X" in Sydney, Australia.
Joop Mars built his Didi 26 "Black-Out" in Netherlands. In the photo below he is racing her single-handed and loves her sailing characteristics.
Didi 26 "Black-Out" sailing in Netherlands.
Michael Baccellieri of Portland, Oregon, bought an owner-built Cape Henry 21 that had some builder-created problems. Michael fixed the issues, did what he could to get her closer to the original design, refinished her under the new name of "Slough Coot" and went sailing. He and a friend cruised Puget Sound for 2 weeks, then exhibited her on the Wooden Boat Festival in Port Townsend WA
Cape Henry 21 "Slough Coot" relaxing on Puget Sound.
To see more of these and our other designs, go to our main website or our mobile website.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Updates on the DH550 Catamarans

Last year the DH550 "Friends Forever", built by JJ Provoyer and his team, was launched in Cape Town, South Africa. For a few months "Friends Forever" day-sailed locally, then set off trans-Atlantic (South Atlantic) to cruise the Caribbean. Then back across the Atlantic again (North Atlantic this time), headed for the Med, final destination Israel. Last that I heard she was cruising France.
DH550 "Friends Forever" on Table Bay.
Easy sailing in beautiful conditions.
While "Friends Forever" was in France, she was visited by Kevin Bream of Exocetus Marine, supplier of CNC kits for the DH550, Dix 470 and the Dix 430 (currently in the design phase). Kevin did a drone fly-around video and sent some photos and a sailing report. He said "We went for a sail for one day. We were on a close haul tacking out from Cogolin past Saint Tropez, and making better speed than all the mono hulls, tacking speed was impressive as well. Overall very impressed."
"Friends Forever" sailing off St Tropez.
Back in South Africa, Sea Tribe Catamarans is building a DH550 in Durban. They are building from a kit supplied by Exocetus Marine and are moving at a fast pace. They have a series of time-lapse videos of their project on the Sea Tribe blog, showing the build process. I wrote earlier this year about the kit that was shipped to Southern Africa.
Sea Tribe turning one of the hulls of their DH550.
To see more about this and our other designs, go to our main website or our mobile website.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Clipper Race & the National Sea Rescue Institute

The Clipper Round the World Race fleet departed Cape Town, South Africa, on Tuesday this week, starting the third leg and heading for Western Australia. The Cape of Storms was on its best behaviour, with fine weather and calms seas. There is a short sail of about 40 miles from the start line to the notorious Cape of Good Hope (Cape Point to the locals), after which it is all wide open Southern Ocean.

One of the fleet, the yacht "Greenings", didn't make it to that open ocean, instead running aground on Olifantsbospunt (Elephant Bush Point) about half-way down the coast. If the Cape of Storms had been howling through the rigging as it so often does, the sea would have been very boisterous and the yachts would have stayed well clear of the dangerous hard bits. Instead the calm seas lulled them in pitch darkness and lured them into the kelp beds and onto the rocks. We all have to wonder how that could happen in a very well-equipped one-design racing yacht, with the very best of modern electronic navigation equipment and a full crew of 18 pairs of ears and eyes. No doubt an investigation will tell us in a few weeks or months exactly what went wrong.
"Greenings" on the rocks the following morning.
There is no Coast Guard in South Africa, no state-financed rescue service. All that there is to help in a situation like this is the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI). The NSRI was started by private individuals in 1967 and has grown to become a very well organised and capable rescue service, crewed by more than 1000 volunteers working from more than 30 bases around the country and operating a wide variety of powerboats, from rubber ducks to purpose-built offshore rescue vessels.

NSRI vessels and shore crews were despatched from four bases around the Cape Peninsula. Within a few hours and still in darkness, they had rescued all 18 crew from the "Greenings" and had them safely ashore in Hout Bay, my home before moving to USA. Read more about the rescue.
Crew of "Greenings" met by race officials at Hout Bay NSRI base.
This was another very efficient rescue, executed by a vary capable rescue service with very dedicated crew who go to sea at any time of night or day. This time their rescue was on calm seas with a good moon. At other times they are out in the worst weather and seas imaginable but they are always out there when lives are at risk. NSRI has always been funded by donations from private individuals and commerce. They also used to receive funding from government, which knew that this organisation supplies a critical service and has saved many hundreds of lives. That funding from government was very important to maintaining the costly craft, equipment and bases, as well as training the crew members.

Unfortunately, the current South African government has only self-interest at heart and has decimated and even plundered most of the infrastructure of the country, themselves becoming very wealthy in the process. Along the way, many very valuable programs and charities have lost most or all of their government funding. NSRI is now dependent almost entirely on private funding.

The government seems to have declared war on private business, introducing draconian legislation that makes doing business there progressively more difficult. Many businesses are battling to stay viable or are simply closing their doors. This must all be having an impact on donations to NSRI and all of the other charities. We know that the people of NSRI will keep going no-matter what but one has to wonder how long they can keep the organisation properly equipped and operating safely when finance is so difficult.

As we have seen so clearly this week, the seamen of the world need NSRI when they are voyaging around the southern tip of Africa. This applies not only to small boat sailors; NSRI has been called into service when foreign fishing vessels, tankers, container ships, cruise liners and all sorts of other craft have got into difficulties. Without them, the seamen can't even count on the now decimated South African Navy or Air Force to help them. Those are all services that were available and ready to rescue whenever needed but their assistance is no longer as certain as it was in years gone by.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Sailing in Extreme Weather

There have been some extreme weather systems around the coast of South Africa in the past week or two. The weather around this very inhospitable coast, from Cape of Good Hope (aka Cape of Storms) through to Richards Bay, teaches the locals to be very hardy sailors who are able to handle their boats in sometimes wild conditions. This is justifiably one of the three Great Capes of the world and many circum-navigators tell of their passages through these waters being the most scary periods of their voyaging.

The first storm was from a deep depression and cold front that had come in from deep down in the South Atlantic. It hit the Cape Town area and produced very intense gales and heavy rain, unfortunately not enough to break the long-lasting drought that currently plagues the Western Cape.

The other storm was from a cut-off low in the Indian Ocean off Durban, 1000 miles from the first storm. It produced gales that broke numerous large ships free in the port, with a large container ship lying broadside across the entrance channel. It also wrecked the marinas in the yacht basin, with some yachts sinking on their moorings.

Two boats of our design sailed through these two storms. Both were in the hands of very capable skippers. Survival of any boat and crew in extreme conditions is through the partnership between a capable boat and an equally capable crew. Put the most seaworthy boat in the hands of an inexperienced or irresponsible skipper and that good boat may be doomed. On the other hand, a capable and experienced skipper has the best chance of bringing an inadequate vessel through tough conditions.

The yacht in the first storm was the steel Dix 38 Pilot "Spailpin" (ex "Bryana"), on delivery by Jeremy Bagshaw. Jeremy and wife Anita own the bigger sister Dix 43 Pilot "Jerrycan" and have sailed many thousands of miles in her in the Indian Ocean. Jeremy has written of his experience in this storm on his blog entry titled Some Thoughts on Big Weather.
Dix 38 Pilot "Spailpin" in much calmer waters under her previous owner.
The yacht in the storm off Durban  was the fibreglass Shearwater 39 "Ocean Spirit". Her owner, Neville Bransby, was out sailing on her in that storm by choice, single-handed. He wanted to prove himself and his boat in storm conditions. He did that effectively, losing only his anemometer in the process, when it blew off the masthead. Meanwhile, the catamaran moored right next to his normal berth sank on its moorings. You can read of it in a blog post authored by Richard Crockett, titled A Case of Sound Seamanship.
Shearwater 39 "Ocean Spirit" racing between Durban and Port Elizabeth in less extreme conditions.
All of us who go to sea in small boats have to accept the strong chance that sooner or later we will be caught by extreme weather. That chance goes up with every mile that we sail. If we sail trans-ocean or long coastal passages with safe havens separated by miles of rocky coast then we have to know how to handle our boats to come safely through whatever it is that is being thrown at us by Mother Nature in a foul mood. We cannot learn how to handle these conditions only by reading how in books and magazine articles while snug in a soft armchair next to a winter fire. We have to experience these things to know what we need to do to safeguard boat and crew, to have confidence in the abilities of ourselves and our boats.

I don't mean that you must go sailing in the meanest weather that can come your way, I mean that you must not only sail on those idyllic days when it is all sunshine and cocktails on flat seas. Those conditions teach us nothing, unless we are novices just getting into sailing. If you have plans to sail across oceans or offshore coastal then you really have a need to go sailing in 35 knots, to know that your reefing systems work in strong winds, that you know how to set your storm jib and storm tri-sail, that your jackstays allow free movement from bow to stern while always tethered in your safety harness, that you know what your boat likes if you have to heave-to or lie ahull, how it will behave, how fast it will drift or at what speed and direction it will sail under different sail combinations.

There are so many things to be learned by doing this, things that will stay logged in your brain as experience rather than knowledge, to be called into use with confidence when needed.

Lets go sailing but lets also be safe.

To see more about our designs, go to out main website or our mobile website.


Sunday, September 24, 2017

New Agent & Kit Supplier in Australia

We have a new agent in Australia. In future we will be represented by Ron Jesche of Stainless Boatworks in Adelaide, South Australia. Ron is an accomplished boatbuilder, working to a high standard. He is currently building a Cape Henry 21 for his own use.

Ron's current boat "Lioness" was his own build, to a custom pilothouse design. He saw a similar boat at the Wooden Boat Festival in Tasmania, which put him on the path that ended with him building "Lioness" for himself and wife "Carole".
"Lioness" on the hard recently for maintenance.
Nicely finished pilothouse of "Lioness".
Stainless Boatworks is able to sell plans for any of our range of designs, which will be printed and shipped by our office here in USA. They can also supply CNC kits for our plywood designs.
Ron Jesche's Cape Henry 21 build, fairing and deck in progress.
Interior of Ron's Cape Henry 21, showing nice detailing.
Ron does nice work. He has built the Cape Henry 21 from scratch. That has given him good knowledge of how our designs work, as well as the experience of building one of our designs. That makes him well-suited to represent our designs in Australia. Whether you want to build from plans or a kit, Ron can supply.

Also, if you want one of these boats and don't have the time or inclination to build it, maybe Ron will build one for you if you speak to him very nicely.

We look forward to a long and mutually satisfying relationship with Ron Jesche.

To see more about our boat designs, go to our main website or our mobile website.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Another Argie 15 Build in Russia

Our designs have been built in 90 countries, including well over 300 boats across the length and breadth of Russia, even in the middle of Siberia. They span most of our design range, from the little plywood Dixi Dinghy yacht tender through to the steel Dix 57 world cruiser. Nearly half of those boats are to our ever-popular Argie 15 design.

The most recent launch of an Argie 15 was by amateur builder Ilia Bogdanov, who lives in Khadarovsk in Far Eastern Russia, 760km north of Vladivostok. Ilia is a cardiovascular surgeon in his day-time job and built his Argie 15 in his spare time. Compared with the very delicate and intricate work of repairing a patient's heart, building a wooden boat must be a big change of scale.

Ilia has built a good boat of nice quality, in sometimes unpleasant conditions, certainly far from optimal. Seeing what Ilia has accomplished, with the help of a friend, should be an inspiration to boatbuilders in other faraway places, where finding suitable materials and build location can be a major challenge. It shows how fortunate we are if we are able to build our boats in a moderate climate or a heated/cooled/dry workshop and with a wide choice available to us of plywoods, epoxies, hardware etc to craft into a beautiful and safe vessel.

I see criticism sometimes of materials and methods used by builders in other countries but those resourceful builders have to hunt out the best materials that they can find to go into their boats. Those materials may not be as workable or as aesthetically pleasing as what more fortunate builders may choose but they are available and they do what is needed by the builder.

I will let Ilia's photos and my captions tell the story of his build, an achievement of which he can be proud.
Ilia's workshop was his garage, 2nd from left. It has water in it when the snow melts or when it rains.
Ilia started with a kit, bought from Peter Tatarinov, our Russian kit supplier in Irkutsk, Siberia. The water on the slab is snow melt.
Ilia unpacking his Argie 15 kit.
Hull completed, seat framing going in.
Scuppered gunwales with a difference, the slots are on the outside rather than the inside. 
Ilia filled the side seat compartments with foam flotation.
Home-made access covers using the details on the drawings.
Ilia and his children ready to use their new Argie 15.


Running under power from the 6hp outboard.

And here Ilia is racing in a mixed yacht club fleet on the Amur River.
Congratulations Ilia on your project.

To see more of this and out other designs, go to our main website or our mobile website.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Wooden Boat Festival, Port Townsend

The Wooden Boat Festival in Port Townsend WA ended a week ago. Two days of off-and-on light drizzle washed the smoke from the wild fires out of the air and Sunday turned into a gorgeous day with lots of visitors. There were three boat of our design on display.

The Didi Cruise-Mini "Segue" has been at the Festival many times. Her owners, David and Nancy Blessing, have become good friends of mine over the past few years and hosted me in their beautiful home in Port Ludlow. Their boat was built by the Northwest School of Wooden Boat Building in Port Hadlock. The Festival gave me the opportunity to view some of the beautiful boats built by the school and also on display. I also spent a few pleasant hours in the company of Executive Director Betsy Davis and some of the many people who make this school a valuable resource of the boating community. The school may be available to build our smaller designs, up to about 21ft, but the bigger boats would not fit into the requirements of their programs.
Didi Cruise-Mini "Segue".
The Cape Henry 21 "Slough Coot" is owned by Michael and Jody Baccellieri of Portland OR. Their boat attracted an endless stream of visitors to visit aboard and talk about her. Michael and Jody had spent the previous 2 weeks cruising the beautiful islands and anchorages of Puget Sound and were very happy to chat about their capable little vessel.
Michael and Jody aboard their Cape Henry 21 "Slough Coot".
The Didi Mini Mk3 "Voodoo Child" was built by amateur Mark Paterson in Vancouver BC, to an extremely high standard that rivals the best produced by many professional boatyards. Visitors who talked to me after being aboard "Voodoo Child" all spoke of the incredible standard of finish and the many features that Mark built into his boat. She is very well-equipped, including carbon mast, boom and sprit. We took her out to sail in the Friday race, unfortunately into the worst possible conditions for a Mini 650 to show her paces. We had a boat, designed for windy downwind racing and trans-ocean passage-making, in a sometimes windless around-the-cans race where contrary current was at times faster than boat speed. I will have to sail on her another time to experience her speed in her own conditions.
Didi Mini Mk3 "Voodoo Child".
I had flown to the Pacific Northwest via Portland so that I could visit friends in that area. One was the owner of a Lotus Europa similar to my own, to help him to sort out some problems. That done, we took it for a spin on Vancouver WA roads, giving me even more appreciation for my own car, which I had resurrected from a lifeless wreck over a 5-year rebuild. Just a few more jobs to do to complete the total body-off restoration. People wonder when I walk up to this tiny car how a tall guy like me can fit into a car with the roof below waist level. The saying is that you don't get into a Lotus, you put it on like a pair of trousers, one leg at a time. 😊
The roof of my Lotus comes only to the bottom of the windows of my wife's Chev Sonic compact.  Seen here with my Ford Windstar and son-in-law's jacked SUV for contrast with my "toy" car.
To see our full range of boat designs, go to our main website or our mobile website.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Happenings with Radius Chine Plywood Projects

My agent in Italy, Leo Giammanco of Nautikit, sent me photos a few days ago of a new Didi 40cr. Many of these boats in the Didi 38/40/40cr series have been or are being built in Mediterranean countries, including 6 in Italy. This one is named "Mia" and was built by Stefano Consolini. She was launched at the Marina di Ravenna, east of Bologna on the Adriatic Sea.

Stefano appears to have done a really nice job of creating "Mia". He has built her as a nicely-detailed comfortable cruiser with 18mm skin and concentration on strength, rather than lightness and performance. Stefano started the project in 2006 and worked as a lifeguard to finance the build.
"Mia" gets wet for the first time.
Nicely finished as a fast cruiser.
Meanwhile, in Russia, Vitaly Ghazarayan of Krasnodar has stepped the rig on his Didi 34, with the help of a group of friends. They did this without a crane, showing that with a good dose of resourcefulness, amateur builders can do almost anything. Those of us who launch where yacht club cranes and derricks are readily available, wouldn't dream of doing this.

This series of photos shows the process that they used.

Moving the mast into position.
The lift starts, using a pole fastened to the cabin roof as a spreader to gain mechanical advantage.
Up she goes, nearly there.
Securely in place, sorting out backstay, halliards, electronics etc.
To see more of these and our other designs, go to our main website or our mobile website.



Monday, July 31, 2017

Wooden Boat Festival, Port Townsend

That season is coming around again, time for the Wooden Boat Festival in the beautiful little Pacific Northwest town of Port Townsend, WA. This is the 41st edition of one of the most popular wooden boat events in the world, with hundreds of wooden boats on show and dozens of presentations on a wide range of subjects of interest to boating people. Dates are 8th to 10th September 2017. The festival website is not yet fully functional but that will come soon.

Among those many boats will be three of our 21ft plywood sailboats, all different, which can be visited on the docks.
David Blessing's Didi Cruise-Mini "Segue". This is the detuned cruising version of our Didi Mini single-handed trans-Atlantic raceboat.
Michael Baccellieri's Cape Henry 21, "Slough Coot". She was built with some deviations from our design but the current owner is working to get her closer to the original drawings.
Mark Paterson's Didi Mini Mk3 "Voodoo Child". This is the full racing version of our Mini-Transat racer, with the newer hull shape and rig. 
I will also be taking part in the presentations. I will participate in the Designers' Forum, along with other boat designers, moderated by Jay Benford. This is from 12h00 to 13h00 on Friday 8th in the Cascade Room. Bring your boat design and construction questions to this session and observe how diverse the range of opinions and solutions can be among designers with different backgrounds and design styles. This is normally a very interesting gathering.

I will have my own session in the Cascade Room from 09h30 to 10h30 on Sunday 10th. My presentation is titled "Surviving a Capsize on the Ocean". Nobody can guarantee who will survive an ocean capsize but this presentation is aimed at making boaters aware of the many factors that are working together to reduce their chances of escaping alive from a capsized boat. Armed with that knowledge, they will be better prepared to choose the best options if they do ever have the misfortune of being inside or under an inverted boat.

To see our range of boat designs, go to our main website or our mobile website.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Two New Steel Boat Launchings

Steel boatbuilding has been in a slump for a decade or so, with not many new builds starting, either as professional projects or by amateur builders. It has even become very difficult to find any professional boatbuilders who are still working in steel, in many countries. Most of the steel boats currently being built are the work of amateur builders.

I think that this was due to a combination of causes, mostly related to the state of the world economy squeezing disposable income. Fewer people able to afford spending years cruising the oceans of the world has changed cruising dreams to smaller boats of their own for coastal or trailer-sailer cruising, or chartering bigger boats for a week or two at a time from others in the islands.

That may be changing though, we have recently seen an increasing interest in our more serious cruising designs, including those of steel. There still remains the problem of a dearth of professional yards that will build in steel but it does seem that the interest in steel boats may be returning.

The past few weeks have brought two new launches of steel sailboats to our Dix 43 Pilot design. These two were built many thousands of mile apart, in different hemispheres.

Ian Edwards built his boat in Caernarfon, Wales. A 10-year project, she is now in the water and ready to start cruising.
Ian Edwards built his boat in Caernarfon, Wales
Ian turning his hull using the spit-roast method.
Andre Siebert built his boat in Gauteng, South Africa, then had her trucked 1000 miles to Cape Town for launch. I have a few more photos of Andre's boat than Ian's, so apologies to Ian for showing more of Andre's boat.

Andre's boat about to hit the highway from Gauteng to the ocean.
Andre Siebert's launch of "Sea Bird" at Royal Cape Yacht Club, Cape Town.
Beautifully finished pilothouse of "Sea Bird".
"Sea Bird" with her rig stepped.
Congratulation to Ian and Andre for their impressive projects. We wish you happy cruising.

To see more of this and our other designs, go to our main website or our mobile website.