NEWSLETTER -- OCTOBER 1999
It's a beautiful fall, however . .
- As we write this in mid-September, the loons have left our
northern sailing waters, their summer chick-raising completed for
another year. The geese are making noisy practice flights from
watering hole to food source, their admirals ranting on all the
while at the troops about proper formations. Soon they'll be gone,
too. The smaller birds are flocking together and emptying our
backyard feeders at a phenomenal rate as they stock up for their
trips south. We've noticed colorful leaves in a few maple trees.
It's a beautiful time of the year, except for just one thing. The
sumac will burst into vibrant color, and we'll know what our
sailing spirits are denying: another sailing season is coming to
an end. Only yesterday, it seems, we were completing the launching
maintenance and seasonal preparations. As we prepare for haulout,
we'll be envious of our southern neighbors, and we'll dream of the
sailing season to come.
- News fit to print
- Herewith the news from the International Headquarters of
Good Old Boat magazine. (The World HQ, in case you
wondered, is the former family room of our home. The boardroom
table is our dining room table. These are modest beginnings. There
is no bank loan or group of investors behind this launch. . . just
a pair of sailors with a passion.)
In the June issue of the newsletter, we responded to the many
suggestions we were receiving about the quality of the magazine's
paper stock. We told you then that since we weren't on a web
press, like the big guys, the paper had to be a bit heavier. We
were able to cut that paper weight back one notch with our
September issue, however and still be a sheet-fed magazine.
Perhaps you noticed the difference. The lighter-weight magazine
even saved us a bit on postage.
- For the past four to six months, we've been evaluating
printing costs and going through a heavy-duty bidding process. We
loved our printer, but not the prices. So we selected a new
printer beginning with the November issue. Even though our
quantity is still too small for most web printers, we have found a
Canadian web printer who can take on smaller jobs such as ours. So
the production of Good Old Boat has moved north of the
border with the coming issue. We're keeping the lighter page
weight and wrapping the pages with a heavier cover to help the
magazine travel through the mail in one piece. We hope you like
the result. Let us hear from you.
- What's coming in November
- The November issue is at the printer. Here's what's
- Boat review: Pacific Seacraft Flicka, by John Vigor
- Boat feature: Bayfield 40, by Ken Miller and Ted Brewer
- Repowering: Preparing to replace your diesel engine, by Don
- History retold: The Pearson Era and birth of fiberglass boats,
by Steve Mitchell
- Small wonders: Moving immovable objects, by Ken Textor
- Cooking under pressure, by Theresa Fort
- Holding tanks, by Mark Parker, Norman Ralph, and John
- Helm balance (Part Two of Brewer's ratios/ designers'
formulas), by Ted Brewer
- Picture spread, by Scott Kennedy
- Why? by Bill Sandifer
- Welcome news for Bristol Yacht sailors, by Hope Beecher
- Simple solutions: Pushpit seats, by Bill Dimmitt
- Christmas Eve on Kinery Rock, by Don Launer
- Vessel in the fog, by Larry Carpenter
- Reflections, by Brian Backstrand
- We need book reviewers
- We're looking for a few more book reviewers. The job pays a
little bit, it's fun, you get to keep the book, and you'll be
published. Too good to be true? It sounds like some of the spam we
receive these days: Easy money for life. No work involved. Do it
from your home. Your sex life will improve. You'll lose pounds.
Perhaps you'll increase the size of certain body parts. Your hair
won't fall out. It won't turn gray. Your wrinkles will
So what are you waiting for? Email or mail us with your interest
in becoming a book reviewer, and tell us what sorts of books you
like to read. We'll slip that note into a file and match notes up
with books as they come in for review. We'll ask you for
reconfirmation before mailing a book in your direction.
Ahoy Texas, California,
- And while we're on the subject, where are all the sailing
writers from Texas and the West Coast? And from Alaska and Hawaii,
too? We've heard from a few of you, but our strength appears to be
along the East Coast, Great Lakes, and Gulf Coast. This is
unintentional; we'd welcome voices from Texas and ports inland and
farther west. Writers' information is available to anyone who
asks. It's a rather informal sheaf of papers listing what we've
got tentatively scheduled for the next several issues, what we'd
like to find, and what we pay for this. Send a mailing address,
and we'll mail a writers' kit to you. Then get in touch with ideas
or completed articles. We'll respond as quickly as we can. Timing
varies, due to production schedules. We do get swamped from time
A word to photographers
- A note to those of you who are taking photos to illustrate
articles for Good Old Boat or other magazines for that
First, if your camera has a date stamp, please turn it off. The
date stamp has to be cropped out of your shot (or cleverly erased
using Photoshop whenever possible).
Second, please don't write or stamp your name on the back of your
photos, if you are sending prints. Dozens of people have sent us
photos recently which were ruined by the ink which rubbed off from
the photo in front of them on the stack. If there is already ink
on your photos, slip a piece of paper between each, please.
Otherwise we can't use the shots, and they won't be much good to
you when you get them back, either. We haven't found anything that
takes the ink off, and we've sure tried!
We, and all other publishers, prefer slides to prints, because
slides are the original, while prints are already one generation
removed from the original negative. As you know, each generation
experiences the loss of some detail.
Also, electronic files seldom work for our purposes. The new
digital cameras are really cool, but they work best for the
Internet where 72 dpi is all the resolution you need. We need 300
dpi for printing, and that generally translates into very large
files and very expensive digital cameras. That technology is
changing rapidly, but it's not quite there for print production
Maybe you saw us in
- Sometime ago we were asked to write a piece for Sailing
magazine about using a kayak for a dinghy. Jerry did this, and it
just came out in the October issue. Unfortunately they thought I
(Karen) wrote it, and have given me the byline. Now, when you see
it, at least you'll know the truth. And by the way, we use a
two-person kayak, not two kayaks, as the story indicates. (You
know what happens when someone else gets your article and "fixes"
it up for you.)
Cruising World, too
- Cruising World also has a piece coming out in an
upcoming issue which you'll recognize. Remember our "Onboard
Equipment Hall of Fame" dialogue in the February and April
newsletters? We asked people to tell us three pieces of equipment
that they consider important to have aboard. We listed three for
us - the big beam light, radio headsets, and our lifejackets. Not
long after that, Cruising World did a mini-survey of people
they know, asking for a list of three important pieces of
equipment. We sent them the information we'd printed in February.
It will be interesting to see what (if anything) they do with
that. Stay tuned.
Renewals have been terrific!
- Those who subscribed to Good Old Boat from the very
beginning were asked to renew their subscriptions a couple of
months ago. Their checks are still coming in, but it's been
heartening. We hear our current resub rate of 76 percent is
outstanding in the publishing world. And as more of them respond,
we expect that rate to move even higher. The folks who
subscribed with the second and third issues of Good Old
Boat are also in the renewal process at this time. We
appreciate you - each and every one - for having the confidence to
subscribe the first time and the commitment to come back and watch
us grow for another year. Many of you are sure enough of what we
are becoming to send checks for the next two years. We thank you
for that vote of confidence.
More new names on the
- In the last issue of the newsletter, we told you about
Brent Ostbye, a part-time staffer who races to our office
between classes at the University of Minnesota and sailboat races
in the Midwest, pounds out a couple of hours of work keeping our
mailing list and database up to date, and vanishes again in a
cloud of exhaust from his trusty old pickup.
Let us introduce you to a couple more helpers who work from their
own homes but are very much a part of our organization
nonetheless. Hope Beecher Wright has just signed on to sell
advertising for us from her Douglaston, N.Y., home, bringing a
distinctive East Coast accent to our magazine. John Vigor balances
that by doing most of our copyediting from his home in the Seattle
From a country place an hour north of the Maple Grove
headquarters, Ann Dorsey manages our newsstand sales
through independent retailers and other special projects primarily
involving distribution of magazines.
The guy who taught us how to make our own webpages and who gets
credit for that on our homepage, Jerry Stearns has just
become our webmaster, since we can't seem to stay on top of
ongoing webpage changes either. Jerry lives and works in the heart
of Minneapolis, whereas we're really "way out here" just outside
the Minneapolis outer belt.
And Mary Endres who lives across the street, has been doing
some of our mailing list development and, in a more creative vein,
the development of some ads for our advertisers. She's also
managing our list of sailboat associations and contacts, and
she'll be doing more page design in upcoming issues.
Pat Morris, another Minneapolis suburban dweller and a
stickler with a red pen, is our primary proofer, although everyone
gets a shot at saving us from our own goofs.
All in all, it's an impressive list of people who make things
happen. Our thanks to each.
We're on the newsstand now!
- Good Old Boat is now available (beginning with the
November issue) on West Marine bookstands and at a handful of
other book and marine retailers. Be sure to visit these folks, if
you live nearby:
- The Armchair Sailor, 42 Caledonia Street, Sausalito, CA
94965 · 415-332-7505
- Bingham and Associates, 701 South L Street, Pensacola,
FL 32501 · 888-432-1512
- The Boat-House, 937 West 7th Street, St. Paul, MN 55102
- Lido Book Shoppe, 3424 Via Opporto # 1, Newport Beach,
CA 92663 · 949-675-9595
- Maryland Marine, 3501 Red Rose Farm Road, Baltimore, MD
21220 · 410-335-3898
- Mystic Seaport Museum Store, 47 Greenmanville Avenue,
Mystic, CT 06355 · 800-331-2665
- Sailboats, Inc., 250 Marina Drive, Superior, WI 54880
- Sailors Exchange, Inc., 222 West King Street, St.
Augustine, FL 32084 · 904-808-0667
- Scuttlebutt-Nautical Books, 433 Front Street, Beaufort,
NC 28516-2126 · 252-728-7765
- Seabreeze Nautical Books, 1254 Scott Street, San Diego,
CA 92106 · 619-223-8989
- Westin Sports & Marine, 747 East Lake Street,
Wayzata, MN 55391 · 612-449-0388
- More boat
My Catalina 25 is named Noname (pronounced no nam' e). A
friend of my wife corrected a number of people at a Japanese
restaurant about the No Name Special listed on the menu. "I have
been to Japan," she told them, "and they have a meal called the
noname!" Later, when ordering that meal, we were corrected by the
waitress, using a very American accent, who said, "Oh, you want
the No Name Special."
- I got a big chuckle when I saw Erie Feeling, a
powerboat on Lake Erie.
- At Cooper Harbor, BVI, the launch selling various boat and
food goods is called Deliverance. The tender for people to
get ashore is Legal.
- Another boat name that caught our eye in Apalachicola, Fla,
was on a lovely old boat: Piece of Ship. Try hailing that
on your VHF.
(Sorry, your note got separated from your subscription
- The Walns, who wrote the Project from Hell story in this and
the previous issue of the newsletter, have named their Freedom 40
Bright Star. Her RIB is Broad Stripe. Her red-decked
Dub Dam sailing dink is Red Glare, the yellow kayak is
Dawn, and the orange kayak is Early Light.
Chris and Janet Waln
- Dammed if I Know was a small wooden cabin cruiser which
approached me after riding around in circles for 20 minutes. On
board were three intoxicated gentleman who asked where the hell
they were. They were WAY out of the tight channel in a shallow
body of water I was traversing on my way to Florida. I told them
where they were, and they just turned around and continued
circling until I motorsailed out of sight.
My father's beloved old wooden motorsailer, a classic 1936 William
Atkin design, was named All's Well, and the dinghy on
davits was named Ends Well. Many a happy childhood summer
was spent cruising the Northeast Coast and messin' about in that
lapstrake dinghy in the wee hours of the morning.
Hope Beecher Wright
Douglaston, Long Island, N.Y.
do you do this?
- Rattling pots and pans
Our C&C 30 has a small locker next to the engine and to port
of the companionway ladder. We keep our pots and pans there. It's
deep and tall and not much good for anything else. We don't carry
a lot of cooking implements: two sizes of frying pans, two cooking
pots, one pressure cooker, lids for these, a muffin tin, and a
small cookie sheet. No matter which implement these we want, it's
at the bottom or back of the heap. This causes a lot of banging
and clanging, which I imagine is particularly annoying for the
animals living in the water nearby. I find myself apologizing to
any nearby loons for the disturbance.
Do you have a way to store your pots and pans that makes them
accessible and keeps them quiet? If so, please tell us, and we'll
spread the word.
- Dishwashing process
On a related subject, tell us your process for dishwashing. We've
seen boats with two sinks, which make it possible to manage the
process pretty much the way you might at home with one sink for
washing and one for rinsing. We've also seen one process in which
a sudsy washcloth substitutes for the soapy sink and rinsing is
done in the normal way.
- On Mystic, we've gotten in the habit of heating a pot
of suds on the stove in one of the pans we've just used for
cooking. This container becomes the soapy sink, and rinsing is
done with a spray bottle over the sink. When finished, we pour the
dishwater into a large laundry detergent bottle and conserve the
gray water for flushing water. It's one method. What's yours?
- About these auction sites . . .
At Good Old Boat, we barely have time to make magazines,
brush our teeth, and go sailing these days. So we don't "surf the
web" often. However, we're hearing rumors of wondrous auction
sites (particularly the BOAT/U.S. and E-Bay ones) for new and used
boating gear. Write and tell us how these things work and the
addresses of your favorites, and we'll pass the information along
for the rest of us.
- Thanks to Lenny Reich
We spent the spring and summer hastily retrofitting our boat (a
Morgan 384) for liveaboard coastal cruising. The mandatory
mechanical upgrades are nearly finished, but we have a lot of
lower priority cosmetic projects to work on as we go. We've gotten
a lot of good, practical insights and ideas from your magazine and
laughed and cried with your correspondents who've "been there,
done that" and lived to tell the tale.
One of our best resources, particularly since he introduced us to
your magazine, has been our Morgan 38 Owners' Group led by Colby
College Prof. Lenny Reich. In addition to being able to go on the
web with any problem and get nearly instantaneous responses from
other Morgan owners with solutions, we can find sources for parts,
communicate with the boat's designer, Ted Brewer, and the
production supervisor who built her, Pete Brown. Warren Pandy, at
Catalina/Morgan also provides support to owners of Charlie
Morgan's boats -- not bad for 15- to 30-year-old boats in an
From time to time members gather at boat shows and exchange ideas
(and hold local rendezvous with their boats). We had a very lively
forum in Chicago, photos and retrofit ideas were flying all over
the place. Lenny sends quarterly newsletters with more ideas and
has archived at least two bulletin boards so far. We've heard from
other non-Morgan owners that our group is exceptional, but I'm
sure there are many other good ones.
Barb and Walt Trela
Garden City, Mich.
- What a neat resource!
Please sign me up! I "found" my boat because of your article in
the September issue on Joe Palmer. I recently purchased a 1967 Ted
Hood Tartan Blackwatch 37. This was all the information I had, but
thanks to your magazine, I now have:
- Customer service/support for a 32-year-old boat
- An owner's group/webpage
- History of this beautiful classic boat
- Design specifications and sail specifications for my
- Answers specific to my boat's quirks developed by other
Tartan Blackwatch owners
When I found your site on the Internet, all I was hoping for
were general answers to those problems that older sailboats have.
Looking forward to more issues.
- Lowering the mast
Hope you can help, I have a US 25 sloop and have never lowered the
mast. I bought the boat three years ago and keep it in the water,
but plan on trailering it home for the winter to do some needed
maintenance. I can't find any information on how to accomplish
this, but it doesn't look too difficult, as the mast is hinged at
the base. I was thinking of building a tripod of sorts on the bow
and attaching a winch to the forestay and lowering it toward the
transom. Any ideas, thanks.
David and Raelee Polda
You've got the basic idea. I've never lowered the mast on a
boat like yours nor on one quite that large, but I used to raise
and lower the one on my Flying Scot often. A Scot is just under 20
feet on deck.
This is what I remember to watch for: The mast loses athwartship
control as it is lowered and needs to be controlled so it does not
fall off to the side. A person in the boat usually "catches" the
mast as it comes down to prevent this.
What starts out with really great control when the mast is
vertical turns into a handful as the mast gets nearer to
horizontal. The mechanical advantage of the line to the forestay
goes from very good to infinitely bad as the mast goes down. This
puts a high load on the butt of the mast, pin, or whatever. All
this starts at about the point where the center of gravity of the
mast gets behind the "catcher person," since the butt tries to
lift out of whatever has been holding it.
If there is a gin pole around where you are doing this, it is a
nice alternative. If not, I recommend having three people for the
process: the catcher, the winch cranker (this can be the trailer
winch normally), and the person holding the butt down or up or
against whichever way it wants to go at the moment. (In a typical
situation, a fourth person could be employed to rain confusion on
the actual workers by making unproductive suggestions as per
common practice at any worksite. This is, of course, optional but
Support the mast for travel more than you think is the minimum,
especially if it is to be transported any distance. The bouncing
will tend to harden the metal if there is much deflection. Fair
down the shrouds and stays and make sure none of the running or
standing rigging can possibly escape the boat and get under the
wheels of the trailer.
Repack the wheel bearings, and make sure the tires are up to the
task. If at all possible, don't put the wheel bearings under
water. If you must do this, get bearing buddies and let the wheels
cool a little before putting them in the water. Hot bearings tend
to suck water into them when they cool. An extra shot of grease
just before the bath will also help keep water out.
It is a luxury to be able to bring a boat home in the off
- Trim tabs
We asked Hiro Nakajima about his use of a trim tab. Jerry
asked: How you use it? Do you like it? Would it be on the boat of
your dreams? He replied:
- The trim tab was so effective, the late IOR racing rules
banned them outright. The trim tab, when used in moderation,
provides hydrodynamic lift similar to a flap on an airplane
I've used the trim tab on my boat and must say it is very
effective in not only providing lift to the keel but also reducing
the amount of rudder I use to counteract the small amount of
weather helm I induce with sail trim. I use the trim tab
independently of the rudder, and it is effective when going to
weather or close reaching in moderate to heavy air. I don't use it
on other points of sail because it creates drag and slows the boat
down. I also use it to make extra tight turns during starting
maneuvers on the race course.
The trim tab control is located along with the main rudder
control. The helm station consists of three destroyer-type wheels
of differing diameter. The outermost wheel controls the main
rudder, the middle wheel the trim tab, and the innermost wheel is
a clutch mechanism that allows each wheel to operate individually
or locked together to work in unison. It works well, and I can see
why this was banned from competition.
The trim tab would definitely be on the next dream boat.
- What are these blocks and cleats
- I am a new Triton owner. I'm looking for information on how
the mainsail was set and the boom mainsheet rigged. There seem to
have been two small blocks and a cleat added to the starboard side
of the boom on this boat for which I don't know the purpose. Any
info you can supply will be appreciated.
I'd guess the parts you're looking at that don't make sense are
actually part of a slab reefing system. You can see sketches of a
slab reefing system in publications that deal with sail
The missing line runs from the port side of the boom to the reef
cringle in the leech of the sail, back down to the block, and
finally to the cleat. There would be two lines, one for each reef.
In use, the leech reef line is pulled up and cleated after the
main halyard is lowered and a cringle in the luff is attached to
your cunningham tackle or a reef hook on the boom. The halyard is
tightened or the cunningham hauled in until the wrinkles are out
of the luff. The reef line need not be bar tight. Fiddle with it
until it looks like the lower sail shape is right with the reef
There are a lot of Triton people out there. Try these connections
for more or better information: From our website:
- Pearson Triton Association (National)
300 Spencer Ave.
E. Greenwich, RI 02818-4016
- Triton One Design Fleet of San Francisco
- Bill responds:
Thanks so much for the info on the reef system. I met a man on the
dock last Saturday as we were checking things out after the storm,
and he explained it to me just as you did. It's great to be able
to ask for help and get it.
- Good old powerboats, too
Just FYI, I don't have a sailboat, rather a 1981 Crosby motorboat
. . . but so much of your information is relevant to me that I
really enjoy your magazine.
New Orleans, La.
OK, Paul, but don't let that news get out around the
marina. Do you have any idea how many powerboaters there are out
- What is this Blackwatch?
I have been looking at a cruising hull that is a 24 footer. She
looks like a catboat-style hull but the mast is more aft mounted.
She is used and has been in a yard for about eight years. The rig
is cutter/sloop and is a shoal draft keel drawing approximately
three feet. The present owner says she is a Blackwatch, and I
cannot find anything anywhere on a Blackwatch sailing hull. Do you
know anything about such a boat and what it would be worth?
The Blackwatch is a very nice little boat. It was designed
and manufactured by Dave Autry, who, as it happens, is one of our
readers. We published an article about one but that issue is out
of stock. We would sell you a reprint for $2.50 if you want
The following contacts will help you.
Dave Autry, firstname.lastname@example.org
Gerry Cotter (owner of a very nice Blackwatch and the subject of a
feature article on the boat), 604-898-5709
I don't know how you can put a value on a boat like the
Blackwatch. We can't help you with that. BOAT/U.S. has an
evaluation service, but this might be a difficult one for them,
too. Maybe Gerry Cotter can help with that.
Good luck; it's a good boat.
- Lessons learned by the
- Reader Nathan Kirby sent the text from a speech given by
U.S. Coast Guard Admiral James Loy at the U.S. Naval Institute in
Annapolis, Md., last April. We reprint it here with the permission
of the Coast Guard. When passing this speech along, Nathan
observed, "Admiral Loy's message should give all recreational
boaters a renewed respect for the perils of the sea and how it is
unforgiving of any carelessness or neglect."
- . . . We're all full of heroic stories about response: The
Perfect Storm . . . the fishing vessel Le Conte case in the
Bering Sea last year told so well in a series run in the
Washington Post lots of Coast Guard and Air National Guard
cases where magnificent professionals saved lives at sea.
Sadly, we often learn more dramatic lessons when lives are
tragically lost. In the midst of such losses, we must take the
time to learn lessons and keep the losses from recurring the next
time similar circumstances occur . . . My remarks will focus on
the loss of the Morning Dew near Charleston, South
Carolina, the winter before last. My goal is to learn, take stock
and encourage prevention skills for all of us who have parts to
play in making going to sea a safer experience.
- The Morning Dew case:
The week between Christmas of 1997 and New Year's Day of 1998 was
supposed to be a pleasant time for the family of 49-year-old
Michael Cornett. Mr. Cornett had just bought a used sailboat, a
34-foot Cal sloop, christened the Morning Dew. He had been
a recreational sailor for more than 20 years and had previously
owned other sailboats. He accepted delivery of Morning Dew
in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, embarked his two teenage sons and
his teenage nephew as either crew or passengers, and began a
transit to Jacksonville, Florida.
As near as we can reconstruct the Morning Dew's voyage, Mr.
Cornett's departure from Myrtle Beach on the 27th was delayed by
an electrical problem on the boat, which he corrected by buying a
new battery at an auto parts store. While he made sure that the
battery could hold a charge, he purchased some charts and planned
an inland route along the Intracoastal Waterway.
At 2200 on December 27, the bridge tender at Little River, South
Carolina, reported seeing Morning Dew in the Intracoastal
Waterway. We don't know how far Morning Dew went on the
27th or where they spent the night. At 2:30 the next afternoon,
the operator of a salvage vessel saw the Morning Dew
heading outbound in Winyah Bay, moving toward the open ocean,
cruising on engine power with the sails reefed to the boom. The
operator of the salvage vessel assumed the Morning Dew had
missed the turn into the ICW and hailed the sailboat on VHF-FM,
but was unable to establish communication. A sport fisherman also
saw the Morning Dew heading toward the open ocean, also
tried to send a warning, and also failed to make radio
No one knows why Mr. Cornett headed for sea. Perhaps he wanted to
find some sea room so he could spread some canvas on his new boat.
Perhaps he missed the ICW and decided against retracing his route
to regain his intended track. Whatever his thought process, at
some point, he knew his boat was pointed away from land and
continued out to sea.
There were small craft advisories posted from Little River Inlet,
South Carolina, to Savannah, Georgia. Winds were from the east at
25 knots and gusting. Seas were running five to six feet. Areas of
rain and embedded thunderstorms reduced visibility to less than
one nautical mile. The water temperature was 55 degrees.
We do not know what happened aboard the boat over the next 11 or
12 hours. What we surmise is that sometime around 2 in the
morning, the Morning Dew struck the north jetty at the
entrance to Charleston Harbor, right around low tide. Some time
later, it sank on the south side of the jetty, probably after
being driven over the rocks by the east wind and the incoming
tide. Mr. Cornett, his two sons, and his nephew died.
- The Coast Guard's role in the case:
Here's how the case developed from the Coast Guard's perspective.
Coast Guard Group Charleston, South Carolina, carried out its
normal watch routine on December 27 and 28, unaware that such a
boat as the Morning Dew even existed or was underway within
its area of responsibility. On the night of December 28, there was
one watchstander in the communications center, standing a 12-hour
watch from 6 in the evening until 6 in the morning. A more
experienced petty officer had turned in for the night as
authorized by the standing orders but was immediately available if
anything unusual occurred.
At 0217, the watchstander heard a rapid and broken radio
transmission on channel 16, VHF-FM. He could tell that the caller
was yelling, and he interpreted the words he heard as, "U.S. Coast
Guard. U.S. Coast Guard." He answered the call twice but heard no
return call. A few minutes later he heard the keying of a
microphone, and tried to respond again. No communication was
The watchstander did not perceive this to be a distress situation.
It wasn't unusual for boaters in open craft to yell into
microphones to counter wind or engine noise. Furthermore,
atmospheric conditions often cause radio calls from outside the
operating area to be audible in the Charleston communications
center. It could have been someone seeking a radio check. There
was no cause for alarm. However reassuring these explanations
seemed to the watchstander at the time, later analysis and audio
enhancements revealed that the call was actually the voice of
13-year-old Daniel Cornett yelling, "Mayday! U.S. Coast Guard.
Even if the watchstander had correctly understood the call, there
was very little information to go on. Without knowing the identity
of the vessel, its location, or the nature of its distress, there
wouldn't have been enough information to initiate a search. There
would have been cause for a heightened state of alertness, and
there would have been cause for some detective work to ascertain
whether a distress situation did exist somewhere. But we probably
wouldn't have launched a boat or helicopter because we wouldn't
have known where to send them.
At 0628, the same watchstander, who had been relieved by the day
watch, but had remained to perform some administrative work,
received a phone call from the Charleston Harbor pilot dispatcher,
advising him that the boatswain aboard an inbound automobile
carrier had reported hearing someone screaming for help off the
starboard side, that would be the vicinity of the north jetty. The
pilot aboard the inbound ship had already taken it upon himself to
direct his pilot boat to search the area.
The watchstander accepted the information and notified his
supervisor. Nobody made a connection to the broken call four hours
earlier. A little while later, we accepted the pilot boat's
judgment in suspending the search. At 1115 two bodies washed up in
the surf. The third body was found in the early afternoon. Michael
Cornett's body was found about four weeks later.
It was a horrible accident and one made more horrible by the
possibility that the Coast Guard missed the opportunity to rescue
one or more of the Morning Dew sailors.
As I said when I began my remarks, when we encounter a case like
this, it is important to focus our efforts on preventing
recurrences. With that in mind, I'd like to draw lessons from this
case for three distinct audiences: the American public, the Coast
Guard, and the recreational boating public.
- Lesson One: The need for investment in national distress
The first lesson to be drawn from Morning Dew is a lesson
in public policy, specifically the need for investment in a
national distress communication system. Most recreational boaters
would be alarmed to learn how fragile this weak link in our search
and rescue system is. As matters now stand, there is a vast
disparity between the communications capability that the public
thinks we have and the communications system that we do have.
The Coast Guard is working with a distress communications system
that is equivalent to what local police and fire departments were
using in the 1950s. If you dial 911 on your telephone, say the
word "fire," and run outside, a fire engine will show up at your
driveway in a matter of minutes, and you can wait at the
neighbor's house if it's cold outside. If, on the other hand, you
pick up the handset on your VHF-FM radio, say the word "Mayday,"
and jump overboard, you could very likely drown or die of
hypothermia. Our operations centers do not have the capability to
enhance and replay audio signals. And they do not have useful
direction finding equipment. Our search and rescue communications
depend on the ability of people whose lives are in immediate peril
to explain calmly their identity, their location, and the nature
of their distress. The more urgent the distress, the less likely
are boaters to be able to communicate the necessary information
and the less likely is their equipment to be functioning
In many cases, we are lucky to get a position report as specific
as "off Cape Hatteras," which may or may not narrow our search
area to a couple thousand square miles, depending on what other
information we are able to learn. Other times we initiate searches
knowing only that distressed mariners think they are "on the
hundred-fathom curve." I don't know for sure that it's true, but
it didn't strain my credibility when I heard about the operator of
a disabled vessel who reported his position in these terms: "I'm
right about at the C -- that's the letter C as in Charley -- in
"Roger, sir. Would that be the big C at the beginning or the
little C near the end?"
We need a communications system that gives our watchstanders the
ability to translate calls like Daniel Cornett's desperate Mayday
into effective action; a system that allows watchstanders to
replay calls, slowing them down and adjusting the quality until
the message can be understood; a system that determines and
preserves an electronic fix every time a signal is received.
We are pursuing Coast Guard-wide modernization of archiving,
playback, and radio direction finding capabilities as part of the
National Distress and Response System. But we don't expect to
begin to field this system until 2001, and it is not slated to be
fully operational before 2005. In the meantime, mariners must
understand that voice distress communications to the Coast Guard
may not produce an effective response unless they include the
vessel name, position, and nature of distress. Without those three
pieces of information, we're often dealing with needle-in-haystack
probabilities of success.
We must carefully guard against the possibility that video footage
of our dramatic rescues may lull some boaters into a false sense
of security, may give rise to a misplaced confidence that the
Coast Guard can bail them out of whatever peril comes their way.
We can't guarantee that we'll be there. The sea remains a
dangerous place, and it continues to cover a vast space.
The first lesson from Morning Dew is that upgrading the
distress communications system should be an urgent priority for
our national transportation system.
- Lesson Two: The consequences of stretching a Coast Guard
The second lesson is for the Coast Guard. I have no basis for
speculating whether an earlier search could have made any
difference in this case. The lesson for the Coast Guard is a
reminder that operational vigilance must come before all other
organizational considerations. We've heard a lot of dialogue this
year about shortfalls in the readiness of all military services.
It's apparent to me that we have reached the absolute limit in
streamlining our organization. Budget constraints have made us cut
and trim everywhere we could. Morning Dew tells us that
further cuts would degrade public safety if our previous cuts
haven't already done so. Streamlining may have gone too far.
Our personnel are stretched too thin. Our people are working too
hard. We have too little experience in too many crucial positions.
A more experienced watchstander might have been able to pick up
the word, Mayday. I say might because I had to hear the
tape several times before I could discern the distress proword,
and I had the advantage of knowing precisely what I was listening
Even so, a more experienced watchstander who better understood how
different the world looks when you're at sea on a stormy December
night than it does from a cozy operations center might have been
slower to accept non-distress explanations for the two radio calls
at 2 in the morning; experience might have produced more
persistence in seeking additional information; experience might
have caused a more seasoned watchstander to continue mulling over
the incident and be more ready to associate it with the phone call
from the pilots.
More experience might have enabled an immediate recognition that
our awareness of volunteer search activities should not normally
be a factor in determining a Coast Guard response. I cannot rule
out the possibility that our service-wide training and staffing
shortages affected our response to this case.
- Lesson Three: The responsibilities of recreational boaters
for their own safety
The Morning Dew case should also provoke serious
self-examination on the part of the general boating public. It is
bad form to speak ill of the dead, and so news reports rarely
recount the errors in judgment or seamanship that cause people to
perish at sea. This tendency is understandable but regrettable. We
face a moral imperative to learn from the mistakes we observe. To
my view, we show the greatest respect for those who have been lost
-- especially for those who die unnecessarily -- when we use the
occasion of their deaths to prevent others from sharing their
With that in mind, what lessons should recreational boaters learn
from the Morning Dew case? The principal lesson has to do
with the gulf between legally mandated safety requirements and
prudent seamanship. The Morning Dew case presents us with a
stark illustration that boaters have a responsibility for their
safety that extends far beyond legal compliance. Consider these
There is no federal requirement for recreational boaters to carry
distress communications devices other than flares and efficient
devices for producing noise. However, as a prudent mariner, I
would never sail without a properly registered 406 EPIRB that
would transmit my vessel name and position in the event that I
could not. Morning Dew had a VHF-FM radio, flares, air
horns, and a strobe light, but it did not carry an EPIRB. Note the
gap between legal compliance and prudent seamanship.
There is no federal requirement for recreational boaters to have
any protection from hypothermia. However, as a prudent mariner, I
would not venture out in 5-6 foot seas in a 34-foot sailboat with
a water temperature of 55 degrees unless I had an anti-exposure
suit for every person aboard. If I did proceed to sea under those
conditions, I would require everybody to wear their anti-exposure
suits at all times when topside, and I would require them to keep
them immediately accessible when below decks. Morning Dew
may have had the required personal flotation devices aboard, but
it sailed without a life raft for keeping people out of the water
or anti-exposure gear to keeping them warm in the water if the
boat went down. Note the gap between legal compliance and prudent
There is no federal requirement for recreational boaters to carry
particular navigation equipment. However, as a prudent mariner, I
would never undertake a coastal passage at night without a compass
whose reliability I had personally verified, without some means of
electronic navigation, or without the means for terrestrial or
celestial navigation in the event that the electronic navigation
failed. As near as we can tell, the only known navigation
equipment aboard the Morning Dew was a magnetic compass of
undetermined reliability. Note the gap between legal compliance
and prudent seamanship.
There is no federal requirement for recreational skippers to get
any particular amount of rest before or during their voyages.
However, I would not think of going to sea for an overnight voyage
unless there was someone else aboard who was capable of taking
over the helm in the event that I became fatigued or
incapacitated. When the Morning Dew went to sea, its
skipper was committed to staying on watch all night in heavy
weather after having stood watch all through the previous day.
Once again, note the gap between legal compliance and prudent
In describing this gap, my purpose is not to campaign for more
stringent requirements for recreational boaters. I'm aiming
higher. My goal cannot be legislated and cannot be regulated. My
goal is prudent seamanship on the part of recreational
Eight hundred lives are lost annually from boating accidents,
second only to the highway fatality totals that approach 40,000
annually. Recreational boaters have the ultimate responsibility
for their own safety, and this responsibility chiefly falls into
two areas. Boaters must plan to minimize the likelihood of finding
themselves in distress situations. And then, because the power of
the sea can overwhelm even the most careful efforts to avoid
danger and dangerous waters, boaters must plan to maximize the
likelihood of being rescued if they do encounter distress.
I am absolutely not picking on Mr. Cornett this morning. I am
trying desperately to generalize a single case's experience to
lessons that we can all take away to ensure that there are not any
more tragic Morning Dews.
- Contrast with Acapella case:
The Morning Dew case didn't have to turn out the way it
did. We worked a case about two weeks ago that shows what can
happen when boaters give the Coast Guard a chance to save their
lives. There's a lot that could be said about this case, which
provided a terrific example of every part of the North Atlantic
Search and Rescue system working together. But my purpose in
mentioning the case is to show what mariners can do to take
responsibility for their own lives.
The Acapella was a sailboat about the same size as the
Morning Dew, in fact it was a foot shorter. Acapella
was underway off the coast of Nova Scotia, hundreds of miles
further from search and rescue assets than Morning Dew was,
sailing in weather far worse than that faced by the Morning
Dew -- waves variously reported to be between 15 and 35 feet
high, waves so high that they capsized this oceangoing catamaran
and suddenly left it completely turtled . . . upside down with no
power. Similar sized boat, worse weather, greater distance, more
Yet the Acapella's crew survived. What was the difference?
Principally, the difference was the crew's preparation. The
Acapella was equipped with a properly registered 406 EPIRB. The
boat was outfitted with a watertight compartment and an emergency
escape hatch on the underside of the hull. The crew had
anti-immersion suits. Once disaster struck, the Acapella
sailors retreated to their watertight compartment and used the
escape hatch to deploy and tether their 406 EPIRB. Then they
showed due prudence by staying with their stricken craft in their
anti-exposure suits until help arrived, which it did. Within
minutes of deploying the EPIRB, the search and rescue system was
fully alerted, focused on saving their lives, knowing exactly who
was in distress and where.
If we know people are in trouble, if we know where to look, and if
distressed mariners can float and stay warm for a few hours, we
have an excellent chance of rescuing them.
I opened my remarks suggesting the imperative of learning from
tragic events. The Morning Dew case offers many such
lessons for those who create public policy, for the Coast Guard,
and for the boating public. Every life in danger at sea is an
opportunity. Let's all learn . . . and commit to the investments
necessary to preclude the unnecessary loss of any of them.
- Project from hell
Stop me if you've heard this one . .
. Part 2
- Remember the Walns? In the last issue of this newsletter
they'd acquired the boat of their dreams, an aft-cockpit Freedom
40 cat ketch. They'd had, um, a few unplanned engine and other
problems in the last installment, but things were looking up. Read
- The next 48 hours were bliss. As we sat in a lovely anchorage
on the Great Wicomico, I wondered where the pearlescent slick was
coming from. A quick scan showed no other boats, and I began to
hear "Tubular Bells" from The Exorcist. Looking over the
transom, I saw nothing oozing from the exhaust, but seconds later
I saw a drop of hydraulic fluid from the slave steering cylinder
on the transom grace the waters of the bay. Quickly I went over
the side and fashioned an expandable/compressible diaper from
paper towels, plastic bags, and cable ties which I then changed
every day until I could track down the defunct foreign
manufacturer of the slave cylinder. I found the company that had
bought them out, and lo and behold, they sent me the wrong parts
to make the fix. That sorted out, we then got to perform the
ballet "Swoon Lake" as we tried to reinstall the whole mess on the
transom without going to prison for polluting or being crushed by
the very heavy and free swinging barn door rudder.
RULE 9: Aged products and systems that can pollute will -
have the means at hand to deal with this.
RULE 9A: Perceived sea-state is mathematically and
inversely related to the degree of calm required for the job at
- The summer went remarkably well until I realized the $2,000
worth of Rollsbatteries weren't charging properly under the
tutelage of the $2,000 smart charging system. Out came the $30
multimeter, and I quickly discovered the charging system, having
been lobotomized by 600 amps of wrong polarity, had murdered the
batteries through wild voltage swings and wilder current
wanderings. A Newport Boat Show visit with the manufacturer
resulted in, "Oh, we don't service that product anymore." "But it
is only five years old," says I. "We can't waste our time on old
technology," says they. I noted, politely, that it was under
warranty. They noted, less politely, that I had subjected the item
to abuse. I noted their wiring diagram did not call out any sort
of high current or reverse polarity protection requirement. After
a pause they said it didn't matter; I wasn't the original owner
and turned to another vict&endash; . . . er, customer, I mean.
RULE 10: Expect to be on you own when it comes to installed
equipment on good old boats, and be delighted and tell the world
when a manufacturer stands behind their product no matter
RULE 10A: L, I, E, & R is all that differentiates
batteries and ballast.
- Since it was near the season's end (not to mention wit's end
and wallet's end as well), I went to the Annapolis Boat Show and
said, "to PROJECT with it," and got out my panting, emaciated
wallet. I found the equipment that would solve our problem . . .
provided I was prepared to shell out another, yep, $2,000. As I
installed the new system the following spring, I discovered that
virtually nothing electrical added after the boat had been built
had been done to code, and so I decided to rectify the situation.
And, yes, the correct size properly tinned cable, fittings, etc.,
to rewire a 40-foot ocean cruiser cost, surprise, $2,000.
RULE 11: All things electrical cost $2,000.
RULE 11A: No one ever has all the cable sizes you need nor
the lugs to fit the cable they have.
RULE 11B: Everyone -- except the cashier -- looks at you
like you are crazy when you say you're "re-doing it to code."
- Free at last, free at last; thank God almighty, not so fast!
Our first foray with our new charging system, new batteries, and
umpteen pounds of cable would have been wonderful had the engine
temp gauge not made love to the redline. We limped through the
whole season motoring only enough to get us from puff to puff.
Post-season, I discovered that the heat exchanger was passing
about 30 percent of the water necessary to keep things cool, and
so, I reconditioned it. In the process of doing so, we discovered
the hot water heater was a permanent source of cooling system
vapor lock, and out it came. All would be well, if it weren't for
the fact I separated the cartilage between two ribs reinstalling
the heat exchanger and pinched a nerve installing the new water
heater (by twisting in an awkward way so as not to hurt the
RULE 12: Twenty-year-old diesel engines, if rare, should be
restored and displayed in a museum and, if common, should be
replaced by something self-bleeding with single side
RULE 12A: 50-year-old bodies occupied by 25-year-old souls
are in for rough sledding.
- We have reached the point where we know the boat is ours
because almost everything the previous owner added is gone . . .
at least it feels that way. Her wonderful light-air performance
and her windward ability continue to delight us and amaze our
sailing friends, both amateur and professional. Her ability to
reel off the knots on a reach is a spiritual wonder equaled only
by our wonder of . . . what next?
RULE 13: Good old boats cost 30 percent or less of what a
new boat of less appeal, capability, and endurability costs.
RULE 13A: Those of us with good old boats should have Nil
Desperandum as our motto: Never give up.
- Chris and Janet Waln
- We hope this story has ended (not that it wasn't
entertaining, you understand, but the Walns have been entertained
by the mysteries of new good old boat ownership long enough. It
must be someone else's turn for torture.)
We're looking for your stories, too. Go on, tell us yours.
We should note that in a letter to the editor, a dockmate wrote of
the Walns that Bright Star is a beautiful boat, well
maintained and sparking from bow to stern. We've also been told
that the Walns love this boat, in spite of what she's put them
from the 1998 International Marine
Daybook and Nautical Desk Reference
by John Vigor
SW to NW
1023 / 30.2
Continuing fair. Temperature remaining steady.
SW to NW
1023 / 30.2
Temperature rising slowly. Fair for 48 hours.
SW to NW
1019 to 1023 / 30.1 to 30.2
Stable temperature, remaining fair for 24 to 48 hours.
SW to NW
1019 to 1023 / 30.1 to 30.2
Continuing fair but increasingly cloudy. Rain and cooler
SE to S
1019 to 1023 / 30.1 to 30.2
Rain and warmer within 24 hours.
SE to S
1019 to 1023 / 30.1 to 30.2
Wind and rain increasing within 12 to 18 hours.
E to S
1009 / 29.8 or less
Severe storm imminent, clearing within 24 hours. Winter:
NE to E
1019 / 30.1 and higher
Summer: light winds, rain within three days. Winter: rain
within 24 hours. Slightly warmer.
NE to E
1019 / 30.1 and higher
Summer: rain within 24 hours. Winter: increasing rain or
snow within12 hours.
NE to SE
1019 to 1023 / 30.1 to 30.2
Wind and rain increasing within 12 to 18 hours.
NE to SE
1019 to 1023 / 30.1 to 30.2
Wind and rain increasing within 12 hours.
NE to SE
1016 / 30.0 and less
Extended period of rain 1 to 3 days or more.
NE to SE
1016 / 30.0 and less
Strong winds and rain imminent. Clearing and cooling
within 36 hours.
N to E
1009 / 29.8 and less
Northeast gale and heavy rain imminent. Winter:
Snow and extended
S to SW
1016 / 30.0 and less
Clearing within a few hours. Fair weather for
A rapid rise or fall is one in which barometric pressure
changes at a rate of
1 millibar or 0.03 inches every three hours or less.
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Published October 1999