Mailport October 15, 1999 Issue


South Pacific: Then and Now
What a pleasure to read Nick Nicholson’s excellent account of his trans-Pacific crossing. My wife and I made the trip 30 years ago in our Piver 28' trimaran, Undine, and I see that while technology has changed, sticker shock in Tahiti hasn’t. An ice cream cone was $1 in Tahiti 30 years ago. I wonder what it is now.

I’m not surprised that everyone has a watermaker. Finding potable water and transporting it to the boat in places like the Galapagos was a constant headache. We purified it with iodine and then added bleach to get rid of the blue scum that grew on the sides of the containers. The water tasted hideous and probably accounted for the fact that we drank very little water at sea. My next boat will have a watermaker, too—hang the cost.

We didn’t have any problems navigating the Tuamotus without GPS, but did schedule our departures for daytime passages through problem areas. If we got close to a destination at night, we’d drop the sails and then continue on at first light. We’d get our position at dawn and dusk with star shots if land was near, or just do a noon sight if we were hundreds of miles from land. We only carried 6 gallons of gas and would use the engine only if it would get us in to a port before nightfall.

Nick’s next boat will have a protected pilothouse. So will mine! How come boats still don’t have pilothouses? Do the designers think we like to sit out in the sun and spray?

And for those of you who think that after your trip is completed and you sell your boat, that it’s all over—well, it’s just not so. The sailing adventure becomes burned into your psyche. Two or three nights a week I will have a sailing dream…my boat is in desperate need of repair, or my boat is as big as an ocean liner, or everywhere I look are black rocks yet the boat keeps sailing without running aground (my view from the cockpit sailing into a Cook Island while my wife gave steering directions from the bow) or we are sailing through a land of indescribable beauty. Even though I remember the boredom, the heat, the cold, the weevily stores, the constant worry when ashore that the anchor is dragging, the longing for fresh bread and butter or a shower—still, I want to be back there. Maybe when the kids are a little older.

Karl Redell
Annapolis, Maryland

My wife and I circumnavigated the Pacific in 1987-89 on a Southern Cross 35. On that trip we sailed through the Tuamotus, stopping at both Makemo and Tahanea, both of which are well off the beaten path. While we appreciate the recognition of the challenges of such cruising, we think Nick’s reference to cruising the Tuamotus as being “staggeringly difficult just a decade ago” is a bit of an exaggeration. Challenging, absolutely. Staggeringly difficult, no.

People seem to have already forgotten that prior to GPS there was the SatNav system. When we were in the Pacific, probably 99% of all cruising boats had SatNav. It provided very accurate fixes every two to six hours. Not as nice as the continuous fixes of GPS, but far easier than being limited to sextants. So, with SatNav, good dead reckoning, and good watch keeping, cruising the Tuamotus presented a quite reasonable level of challenge. And, it’s a lot easier to do good dead reckoning for two to six hours between fixes than over several days waiting for clear sky for a sun shot, as those cruising another decade earlier had to do.

In addition, perhaps 50% of the cruising boats in the Pacific a decade ago already had radar. We found radar to be the single most valuable instrument, even compared to SatNav. We could pick up the atolls in the Tuamotus at 4-8 miles very clearly, which is reassuring when you’re making a night passage between two of them that are only a half dozen miles apart.

We’re not implying that one should take such cruising lightly; it is one of the more challenging stretches of the Pacific, and good navigation is essential. But it was as realistic cruising a decade ago, as it is today.

The other interesting change we observe is in attitudes about water. A decade ago, only very large yachts had watermakers. We all jugged water, and caught rainwater, which enabled one to avoid relying on shore sources, not to mention avoiding jugging. In one stretch, from Raiatea to Guam, we went over 6 months on nothing but rainwater caught in our awning. And conservative water use! Nonetheless, our new boat will have a watermaker, and we look forward to somewhat more frequent showers, while still remembering how to catch rain.

Dave Cohan & Sharon Jacobs
via e-mail

Moisture Meters
Thanks for your July 15 moisture meter article. We are pleased to advise your readership that J. R. Overseas is the primary US distributor of the Skipper Tramex moisture meter.

The manufacturers of the Novanex meter is listed as being based in the U.K. Correctly, the Caisson Novanex is made in Holland.

Of more importance to J. R. Overseas, the US distributor, are the Novanex “Strengths.” This fine instrument features an 8-second memory with an automatic cut-off switch. These strengths were omitted in your evaluation. Under “Weaknesses” Practical Sailor reported incorrectly “no automatic off feature.”

Practical Sailor’s Sovereign Moisture Master report met with some skepticism here. This meter is in particularly strong demand on the West Coast, and is favored by the US Navy. DuPont very recently published recommendations citing Sovereign as the preferred moisture meter for use in the repair of Kevlar. Call 1-800-4-Kevlar. Additionally, the U.K. International Institute of Marine Surveyors names the Sovereign Moisture Master in their publication, “Code of Practice for the Measurement and Analysis of the Wetness of FRP Hulls, (’98).

This past month, J. R. Overseas introduced a new moisture meter at the most attractive price, $298. Unfortunately, it was not available in time for Practical Sailor’s comparative tests. It is the GRP-33 professional model. The GRP-33 assesses moisture levels in depth for both fiberglass and wood. It comes with a two-year limited warranty, users guide, calibration certificate, calibration block, reset tool, wrist lanyard, 9-volt battery installed, packed in a soft-sided compartmentalized instrument case with strap.

JRO thanks all those involved with this, the most recent moisture meter evaluation. Your constructive criticism continues to be appreciated.

Readers wishing to contact us can do so at 860/927-3808, fax 860/927-3719, e-mail: and website

John Raabe II
J.R. Overseas
Kent, Connecticut

Trouble in Venezuela
I’m semi-retired and spend November through April in the Eastern Caribbean. Recently I came across Nick Nicholson’s piece on Venezuela in the December 1998 edition. Even though this piece is entitled “Tight Security in Venezuela,” it fails to do justice to the situation there.

As to the realities of the security situation throughout the Caribbean let people know about the SSB safety/security net currently being operated by Donald on Daisy D and Melodye on Second Millenium. This net operates daily on 8104 at 0820 hours AST (just before David Jones’s weather at 0830). The operators of the net have a data base of security problems reported to the net since July 1996. Donald and Melodye take reports on new problems and respond to queries about the potential for problems in particular areas.

Periodically they broadcast a summary of criminal activity directed toward cruisers in the area. Melodye prepared an article summarizing their data that was to have been published in the May issue of the Caribbean Compass. (I left Trinidad on May 1 which was too early to be able to lay hands on a copy else I’d mail the article to you.) The gross frequency of activity has been quite stable: a bit less than two-thirds of the reports are about problems in Venezuela.

Jack McGregor
via e-mail

Where Credit Is Due
To Superfurl: About a year ago I contacted Don Blakeley of Superfurl, Fullerton, California, and purchased a furler for my Brown Searunner 37' trimaran. He shipped to me every item I would need to install it myself with clear and concise written instructions as well as a video.

I installed the system on my boat in Western Florida and subsequently sailed to the Keys and then on to the Bahamas. Unfortunately, I could never get the rig to furl properly and finally realized that my forestay (and the entire boat) is much too flexible for the furling mechanism to function as designed. During this period of six months, Don continually answered questions and made suggestions.

I finally told Don that I wanted to return the furler. I felt, since it was many months out of warranty, I would hear nothing from him. To my surprise, I received a check for the total amount less restocking charges and a nice note of concern and apology for my “frustrating experience.”

He does have a good product, I am sure, when installed on an appropriate vessel. Please check him out at

Capt. Stefan P. Galazzi
S/V Andiamo

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