Friday, October 23, 2015

Petrochemical-Free Cruising

Last month at the Wooden Boat Festival in Port Townsend I attended an interesting presentation by Capt. Peter Wilcox, Master Mariner and President of Columbia Riverkeeper. His subject was "NOAA's Green Ships Show the Way for Northwest Boaters", subtitled "Long-term test results of 100% biodiesel and biolubricants, state of the art electric power and the future of low impact, low carbon boating".

Capt. Wilcox started by detailing what the effect is on the oceans and their inhabitants from the acidifying effects of the carbon dioxide produced by burning fossil fuels. Most of this carbon dioxide ends up in the ocean either directly or via rivers. This upsets the balance of nutrients, oxygen and clean water that most marine life needs to survive. Some of that marine life is under threat of extinction.

in 2009 he launched the motor-sailer "Ama Natura" for cruising and exploring the inside passage, built for him by Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding. His boat was equipped to operate totally free from petroleum derived products. He followed the example and practices developed by NOAA for their fleet of green ships on the Great Lakes. NOAA have also assisted in the conversion of other vessels and the program now covers more than 200 NOAA and commercial vessels across the USA.
"Ama Natura" - Photo courtesy of Capt. Peter Wilcox
The NOAA green ships program was initiated in 1999, through the NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory (GLERL). Their vessels run on B100, biodiesel derived 100% from soy, a renewable energy source. In addition to the fuel, all of the lubrication and hydraulic products used on these vessels are plant-derived, from soy, rapeseed and canola oils.

Benefits that NOAA has seen from this program are numerous.

 Environmental & Social Benefits
✦ Decreases emissions of fossil fuels that contribute to climate change and air pollution
✦ Lessens risk of environmental harm in the event of a fuel spill
✦ Reduces dependence on imported oil
✦ Supports agriculture and the U.S. economy
Operational Benefits
✦ Improves engine performance
✦ Extends engine life
✦ Reduces need for engine maintenance due to cleaning properties of biodiesel
✦ Reduces operating and maintenance costs by 20-40% vs. petroleum-based fuels
Human Health Benefits
✦ Reduces exposure to harmful and cancer-causing chemicals
✦ Reduces seasickness due to less offensive odor

Biodiesel is cleaner than petroleum-based diesel, which is behind many of the benefits. These show in longer lifespan of injectors, fuel pumps and filters, also in reduced or disappearing cleaning costs for tanks, fuel lines and other components of the fuel system.
Washington State ferry "Spokane" runs on biodiesel
The emissions reductions of biodiesel compared with diesel, as reported by NOAA, are impressive.
✦ Total unburned hydrocarbons -77%
✦ Carbon monoxide -48%
✦ Particulate matter -59%
✦ Nitrogen oxide -7%
✦ Sulfates -74%
✦ Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon -66%

Biodiesel can be made from many plant sources, so can be adapted to the most suitable renewable crop or waste material. Used cooking oil can also be filtered and reprocessed to produce biodiesel, for a very cost-effective fuel. GLERL has seen a 20-40% reduction in operating costs on its fleet since converting to biodiesel and other bio products.

For more information on the NOAA program, read the NOAA Green Ships Initiative.

Biodiesels continue to be developed. Second generation formulations offer longer stability, higher octane ratings and lower waste. Biolubricants are also improving, allowing 100% improvement in oil life.

The NOAA clean ships program appears to be a good one, with major long-term benefits for the world in general and for boaters in particular.

Dudley Dix

Sunday, October 18, 2015

GCBSR Report Back

As described in my previous post, a big fleet of schooners (35 of them) of all types and styles, sailed from Baltimore at the northern end of Chesapeake Bay to Portsmouth at the southern end. Starting on Thursday lunch time, after a big Wednesday evening dinner party at the Polish Home in Baltimore, most boats were in Portsmouth by early Saturday in time for the big lunch-time oyster, clam and pig roast and prizegiving.

On the Shearwater 45 "Apella", owned and skippered by Dan Hall, we acquitted ourselves quite well with second in Class B behind the 65ft "Tom Bombadil". In a schooner fleet quoted length includes the bowsprit, so our Shearwater 45 is listed at 54ft. Winner in Class C was "Adventure", the Hout Bay 40 gaff schooner (listed at 42ft) on which I sailed this race about 5 years ago. I don't know why she only gains 2ft in her listing, her bowsprit is considerably more than 2ft.

Classes B and C started 10 minutes behind the bigger boats of classes A and AA. The fastest of the first start boats sailed away from us but we had the opportunity to view some of the others as we sailed through the back end of the bigger fleet, with opportunities for good photos.
"Mystic Whaler", out of New London, Connecticut. She is a regular in this race.
A few boats fell out of the race along the way. The weather turned out to be considerably less favourable than the 8-10mph westerly breezes with smooth water that were forecast. We had those conditions for the first 6-8 hours of racing but then the breeze started to head south and continued that trend until it was pretty much on the nose and increased to about 25 knots (about 3x the forecast). With wind against tide most of the time, the seas were short and sharp, rather uncomfortable. This was too much for some crews, who retired from the race.
Hauling in "Lady Maryland"
I succumbed to the uncomfortable seas and donated my dinner to the fish, crabs and clams of Chesapeake Bay for a few hours from about 4am Friday until we reached smoother water south of our finish at Windmill Point. My own fault of course, I believed the forecast and didn't take my usual precautions until after we hit the rough water. By then it was too late to do much good.
Some of our crew. L-R Joe Miller, Dudley, Scott Page. Owner Dan Hall at the helm.
I really enjoy sailing among these boats, particularly the big ones like "Pride of Baltimore", "Mystic Whaler", "Lady Maryland" and others that are dedicated to educating people from all walks of life and of all ages. They do so in the interests of the community, teaching skills that will be lost to humanity without such dedicated people serving as stewards, to look after and pass on the crafts and skills of traditional schooners and the coastal waters in which they operate.
"Pride of Baltimore" docked in Portsmouth, other big schooners in the background.
I have sailed many thousands of miles and sailed most of my life but my skills are insignificant beside these true watermen and women. Some of these boats are skippered and crewed by women and they are well-respected by the men among whom they sail and compete. Being female is no disadvantage in the world of schooners, all must prove themselves on an equal basis.

Overall, this was another memorable Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race. This event was the brainchild of the late Capt. Lane Briggs, who sailed in most of them in his steel gaff schooner "Norfolk Rebel", a sail-assisted tug. The innovative Capt. Briggs was a sturdy pillar of the community in Hampton Roads, initiating many events to support, educate and entertain residents and visitors alike. The many volunteers involved in creating and hosting the Schooner Race every year do a wonderful job of keeping alive the aspirations of Lane Briggs, ensuring that they will continue for a long time into the future.

Dudley Dix

Monday, October 12, 2015

Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race 2015

I will be away from my desk from Wednesday morning early, through to the weekend. I won't have my laptop with me, so you won't get me by email for a few days. The reason for this gap in my connectivity is that I will be preparing for and sailing in the Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race.
"Apella" approaching the start line for the 2014 race.
The race connects the two port cities of Baltimore at the northern end of the Bay and Portsmouth at the southern end, both of which throw excellent parties for the crews. The course is actually a bit shorter, starting  just south of the Bay Bridge that spans Chesapeake Bay north of Annapolis and finishing at Thimble Shoals off Hampton Roads. That is for the bigger boats but the smaller and slower boats get to finish at Windmill Point about 50 miles further up the Bay, then choose to either sail or motor the rest of the way to Portsmouth in time for the festivities.

I will be sailing on the schooner-rigged Shearwater 45 "Apella", the same boat on which we won Class B last year. She is owned by Dan Hall, who lives aboard and keeps moving up and down the coast wherever schooner events and whim may take him.
Some of the "Apella" crew showing off the silverware in 2014.
It was as we crossed the start line last year that, sitting astride the cockpit coaming and grinding the Genoa winch, I dislocated my left knee. I'll have to be careful about my body placement when grinding this year.
I was wrapped up because it was chilly last year, after a stormy party night.
Great news is that twin sister to "Apella", "Moonbeam", has been bought by a friend of Dan Hall and she is being brought north from Florida for a refit, after which I anticipate that the two boats will get together often. I look forward to match racing these boats down the Bay in future years.

To view our range of designs of all types, please visit or

Opportunity to Own an Aluminium Shearwater 39

Looking for a classically-styled cruiser that has the robust strength that will allow you to sail anywhere in the world that your cruising thoughts might take you? An aluminium Shearwater 39 might fit your bill nicely. It has the ability to bounce back from altercations with rocks, coral, ice or logs as can only come from a metal boat.

We can navigate our way around solid bits if they have a precisely known location but when they are not where the charts show them they can eat most boats. Heavy flotsam that drifts right at the surface can be anywhere on the ocean, lying in wait for boats at night when even the most vigilant watch won't spot them.
"Skylark II" in idyllic setting in the Pacific.

An aluminium Shearwater 39 has come available, one that appears to be well-worth the asking price. She is "Skylark II", the very first Shearwater 39 that started construction. Her first owner was to have the first GRP boat out of the moulds but production delays led to him commissioning the aluminium version, which was built for him by Jacobs Brothers in Cape Town.

"Skylark II" is fully equipped for world-cruising. Her first owner sailed her from South Africa to New Zealand via the Caribbean and Panama. Her current owners have cruised the North and South Pacific and Indian Oceans, the Red Sea and much of the Med. Their transit through the pirate-controlled waters of the Indian Ocean was particularly scary and is recounted in the book "A Harrowing Journey : Sailing into Danger".
"Skylark II"

Now they feel that they have achieved everything that they wanted to when they bought "Skylark II" and need to get back home. They have her priced for a quick sale, which makes her really good value, at US$110,000.

If you are interested in acquiring a cruiser that has exceptional sailing qualities and an international reputation as a wonderful boat, you can see more info on my website.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Paper Jet #100

Today we have shipped plans for Paper Jet #99 to a builder in Samara, Russia. To date we have sold plans for this design to builders in 21 countries, on all continents except Antarctica. This one is being built from a pre-cut kit supplied by our kit supplier in Irkutsk, in Siberia.
Another Russian Paper Jet, #65, belonging to Konstantin Denisov, near Moscow.
The next Paper Jet that we sell will, of course, be sail number 100. Who wants to be #100?

Dudley Dix

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Trans-Ocean Pedalboat

Davey du Plessis is an author, inspirational speaker and an adventurer who pushes himself far beyond the limits of us more normal people. He has ridden around the perimeter of Africa on a bicycle. He was doing a source to sea solo navigation of the Amazon River when he was ambushed and shot, then had to get himself back to civilisation. He was tested close to his limits in that adventure and still has the bullet lodged in his heart.

Davey's planned next adventure is to pedal a boat around the world. He approached me to design the boat and had his uncle, Tertius du Plessis, build it for him. The boat is now mostly complete and will soon be ready for testing.
Looks like a hi-tec starfighter but really a low-tec pedal boat.
While I designed the boat, I didn't design the propulsion system, which consists of a leg that has a conventional pedal arrangement at the top, inside the boat, and a plastic 2-blade propeller under the hull. The slow-rotating propeller has soft blades to reduce the chances of damaging marine life.
Exterior view, looking like it came from a Star Wars movie.

The styling looks very sleek and possibly intended for high speeds but high speed is not the aim. It is designed for low drag both in the water and above. A human-powered boat needs to be easily driven, to maximise the distance that can be covered for each unit of energy that goes into propelling it. That means that it must offer little resistance to the water and the air. The underbody is shaped for low drag at low speeds and to be easily steered in downwind tradewind conditions. She has a shallow barn-door type rudder, transom-hung.
Builder Tertius du Plessis with the boat during construction.

Davey is sure to find very bad weather many times on his voyaging, so his boat is also shaped for low resistance to breaking waves that strike it and it is shaped to roll back upright when (rather than if) it is capsized. Stability comes from the tankage and stowage compartments placed low down in the hull to lower the centre of gravity. The deck and cabin are shaped to float the boat high if inverted with the hatches and ports closed, to make it unstable upside-down. Davey will also be able to use his own weight inside the boat to help it roll back to upright if needed.

Construction is stitch-&-glue plywood, assembled over permanent bulkheads and partial bulkheads. The interior is divided into three compartments, separated by full bulkheads with companion hatches. Both ends are berth length, to accommodate one or two crew for a voyage.
Interior view of the cockpit. Full bulkheads separate bow and stern.

This coming weekend sees the Cape Town International Boat Show and Davey's boat will be on display.

This boat is not yet on our website but you can see our other designs at and

Cape Henry 21 Trailer-Sailer Cruising

Richard Hunter lives in Czech Republic and bought himself a Cape Henry 21 that was built in UK by amateur builder Gary Wallis. He sails it mostly on Berzdorfer See in Germany. He recently towed it 1200km to Croatia with a 1.9 litre VW Transporter to cruise in the waters of Croatia. With his wife and three teenagers on the trip, they used the van and boat as overnight accommodation en-route.
Cape Henry 21 "Ruby" reaching in great sailing conditions
Once in the water, they set off with everything needed by the 5 people and cruised for a week, without having to put into harbour to stock up. Their little cruiser took it all very well, allowing them to anchor close to shore in private spots that are inaccessible to the much bigger charter boats. Their boat is quick in the conditions normal to that area in summer, even with the big load that she was carrying. They found themselves enjoying great sailing while the big charter boats went by, motoring port-to-port.

Stowage nets for stores for 5 people.
 Richard sent me a video and photos recording their holiday, as well as some nice writing about the experience. He sums it all up in a few sentences.
We spent five days circumnavigating Ĺ olta. Maybe that sounds like a long time given the size of the place, but as the years pass I find myself focussing less on what I have done, and more on the doing itself. This is the opposite of bucket listing. How many hours have we spent on a really nice tack, not how much ground have we covered, we literally couldn’t care less. If we ended up only a couple of bays along the coast, so be it. To us they were new, unexplored bays, just as lovely as any other.
Tucked in close to the shore, well away from the charter crowds.
 Richard also sent a nice video to record their holiday and has shared it with us.

Richard shows that bigger is not always better. a comfortable little boat like this can get you to many places that are inaccessible to bigger boats. It is also much more affordable to most people and can be taken home in the off-season to minimise ownership costs. A big benefit is being able to sail waters far from home without having to sail for days to get there. Instead, cruise the highways to the cruising grounds, then cruise the lakes, seas or lagoons of your choice at a relaxed pace, before cruising home again at highway speeds.

Thank you Richard Hunter.

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