17 June 2017 | Shelburne, Nova Scotia
16 June 2017 | Shelburne, Nova Scotia
15 June 2017
13 June 2017
11 June 2017
08 June 2017
21 April 2017 | Manhasset Bay, New York
07 February 2017
22 December 2016
06 November 2016
12 July 2016
22 June 2016
18 June 2016
14 June 2016
08 June 2016
28 May 2016
25 May 2016
22 May 2016
20 May 2016
18 May 2016

The Fog

17 June 2017 | Shelburne, Nova Scotia
Seemingly never far away, fog is frequent in Nova Scotia (at least on the Atlantic Ocean side).

Cruising Nova Scotia, one needs to always be thinking about what if the fog comes? Do I know my position and what hazards are nearby and ahead well enough? Can my planned port entrance or exit be made safely without being able to see more than a few boatlengths away? Issuma has radar, which is a huge help, but entering an unfamiliar port in fog is nowhere near as pleasant or safe as doing it with good visibility.


16 June 2017 | Shelburne, Nova Scotia
There are a lot of old, restored houses in Shelburne, which has an interesting history

Shelburne Harbor

15 June 2017
We had fair winds from the time we cleared Cape Cod until only a few miles away from Shelburne, Nova Scotia, when the wind became fluky and then completely died.

We had a pleasant motor into Shelburne, where we tied up at the Government Dock, and then cleared Customs.

T.S. Europa

13 June 2017
It was great to be back at sea.

After motoring clear of Cape Cod, the wind filled in and we had nice, favorable winds to take us to Nova Scotia.

Sailing along in a light mist, crossing the Gulf of Maine, the barque Europa appeared, sailing close hauled. I altered course to go behind her, close enough for pictures.

Cape Cod Canal

11 June 2017
We sailed out Long Island Sound, along the coast, up Buzzards Bay and thru the Cape Cod canal and then to Provincetown, MA. Cape Cod canal is very pretty, with bike trails, parks and historic buildings along the sides.

Anchored the first night, and then again the day after for a few hours to retrieve a halyard from aloft, but mostly just kept going. Winds were light, but the weather was pleasant.

Anchored in Provincetown in a fresh breeze, too rough for dinghying in. Dropped most of the crew at a dock the following morning, and Jon and I sailed offshore towards Nova Scotia.

Towards Nova Scotia

08 June 2017
After a few weeks getting Issuma ready, we left Port Washington.

We were escorted from Port Washington in grand style by friends from North Shore Yacht Club on Osprey.

Building an Oar to get Ashore

21 April 2017 | Manhasset Bay, New York
The plan was simple. Move Issuma from the marina in Jersey City that she wintered in, to anchor in Port Washington (the winter docking contract was ending).

I invited a few people, who invited more people, and suddenly I had nine crew. The plan was to motor off the dock in Jersey City, take the East River to Long Island Sound, do a bit of sailing, and then anchor. I was hoping the Water Taxi would then take my crew off, but it hadn't started up yet this season. The forecast was moderately windy, dying down in the evening. I warned everyone before leaving the dock that it might be a long time before they could get off the boat, as the Water Taxi wasn't running and it was windy enough to make dinghying difficult.

The trip was pleasant, and, other than some technical issues, uneventful. The tide was falling, and I wasn't comfortable approaching any shallow docks to drop the crew off. I temporarily anchored within a few hundred metres of the beach, intending on making it a shorter row to dinghy people ashore.

There were whitecaps in the bay, and conditions for ferrying people with my (hard) rowing dinghy were marginal. We put the dinghy in the water and prepared it while monitoring the conditions, which were slowly improving. That's when I discovered that one of the oars was broken!

Phil went to work on splinting the broken oar back together.

I considered inflating the inflatable dinghy, which has an outboard motor which would handle those conditions well. But the motor not been run since it had been winterized, and it wasn't a good time to be relying on the motor, as if it failed, the inflatable dinghy would not row in those conditions (it has its own oars, which are not compatible with the hard dinghy), leaving no choice but to anchor and sit out in the cold wind until it moderated enough that rowing would be possible.

I had bought a couple of pieces of Okoume (an African hardwood) in South Africa for making another pair of oars, so, not sure the repaired oar would be strong enough, I got Stephen to work on a new oar. Stephen (mostly), I and Phil hand-sawed the oar out from the wood, then rounded the shaft enough with a rasp to make it functional as an oar.

By that time, the wind had died down, so rowing everyone ashore was much easier.

Later, I finished the oar with a sandpaper disc on an angle grinder, and built a second oar from the other piece of okume. Now the dinghy has a matched pair of sturdy oars.

When the weather warms up, I will paint the oars white so they can be seen better at night (and perhaps paint the dinghy, also :) ).

Upcoming Presentations

07 February 2017
I'm giving two public presentations in Toronto in March:

Presentation: Sailing the Northwest Passage
Date: Wednesday, March 15, 2017, 1215
Location: The Shellbacks Club, meeting at the Royal Canadian Yacht Club downtown clubhouse, 141 St George St, Toronto, near St George subway station. Open to public, free admission, but you must buy lunch, which is about $24. Aim to arrive about noon, presentation starts about 1245.

Presentation:The Cold South
Date: Thursday, March 23, 2017 7:00PM
Location: World Cruising Club of Toronto, meeting at the upstairs bar in Ashbridges Bay Yacht Club, Ashbridges Bay Park Road, Toronto. Admission is $5 for non-members. Bar serves food and drinks.


22 December 2016
I've made many changes to Issuma in the nine years that I've owned her. The change that I liked the most was replacing the lifelines with a higher liferail. I'm a tall guy, 188cm/6'2", so my center of gravity is higher than most people's. Taller people need higher lifelines.

Forward of the pilothouse, Issuma is flush-decked, with a lot of camber (curvature) in the deck. With no trunk cabin, when one is forward of the pilothouse, there is little to hold onto except for the liferails.

When I bought Issuma, it had typical yacht lifelines--two wires going through too-short stanchions. Going forward of the pilothouse at sea was scary--all there was to hang onto was the thin lifeline wire, which wasn't far enough off the deck.

Issuma's lifeline stanchions were made of pipe, welded to the steel bulwarks. In Argentina, I had the stanchions sleeved and extended, and then tubing was welded to the top of the stanchions instead of using wire.

A continuous liferail around the boat, welded to every stanchion is vastly stiffer than wire lifelines (it distributes the load among multiple stanchions), and the larger diamter of the liferail's tubing hurts much less when one falls onto it.

People get aboard Issuma by climbing over or under the liferail. I considered, but did not install, a gate (opening section to allow easier access from the dock). The lack of a gate may not be yachty, but it is very functional--the continuous liferail, welded to all stanchions, is stronger, stiffer and simpler than one having a gate would be.

The lower lifeline wire was replaced by 8mm rope, tied with clove hitches or round-turn-and-two-half-hitches to the stanchions. Amidships on either side, there is a section of rope that I untie when at a dock to make it easy for people to climb under the rail (tall people climb over the rail). The rope requires occasional retightening.

The result:

I've sailed Issuma about 50,000 miles after replacing the lifelines with the liferail. The liferail makes a great handhold, feels much safer, and takes much of the apprehension out of going forward of the pilothouse at sea. Unlike wire lifelines, which require periodic replacement, a liferail requires no maintenance.

Higher liferails or lifelines result in more chafe on sheets. On Issuma, the mainsheet, jib sheets and spinnaker sheets all rub against the liferail. The smooth surface of the tubing results in very little chafe--the mainsheets have about 100,000 miles on them and are still going strong, the other sheets show no signs of chafe. Chafe would be greater if I was using wire lifelines (thinner diameter, not as smooth as tubing) instead of stanchions.

I got the idea for the liferails from two books, Brent Swain's Origami Metal Boatbuilding, and William G. Van Dorn's classic Oceanography and Seamanship.


I made the mistake of painting the liferail and stanchions. I used two-part epoxy followed by two-part polyurethane, but rails are pretty difficult to avoid scratches, and once the paint gets a scratch, moisture gets in. Moisture freezes, expands, and then lifts large areas of paint. Without frequent repainting, painted rails look awful. I am letting the paint fall off and one day will have nice, unpainted rails with no maintenance.

I increased the height from the original lifelines, so the liferail is 90cm / 35" from the deck. I did a lot of thinking about this, wondering if I was making it too high, as the normal ones are much lower. After sailing extensively with it, I think that higher would be even better, and if I was to do it again, I'd make the liferail 1m / 39" from the deck.


06 November 2016
David Anderson of The Sailing Podcast interviewed me last week. The interview is online at
Vessel Name: Issuma
Vessel Make/Model: Damien II, 15m/50' steel staysail schooner with lifting keel
Extra: Designed for Antarctica. Built in France by META in 1981. Draft 1.3m/4.5' with keel up, 3.2m/10.5' with keel down. More details at
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Survey pictures taken of Shekin V
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Created 29 April 2008