The Boat and Its Captain
25 June 2006 | La Paz, Mexico
First some comments about the boat. It is a 1988 Fair Weather Mariner 39, aka Westsail 39 or 11.8 meters, named Altaira that has spent some time in the Mediterranean. It was designed orginally by Robert Perry as the Westsail 39 or 11.8 because Westsail, tired of having its boats called "wet sails," finally wanted an offshore cruiser that was not only seaworthy and comfortable, but that was also fast and could go to wind as well. Unfortunately, Westsail went out of business soon after the boat was designed (only 8 Westsail 39s were built, all finished by their owners). The design and molds were then bought by Fair Weather Mariner and the boat emerged as the Fair Weather Mariner 39. About 45 of the Fair Weather Mariners were built before the boat priced itself out of the market with its expensive light Burmese teak interior. John Neal has included the boat on his famous list of worthy offshore cruisers, calling it "sturdy" and "rare and attractive."
As to performace, it has a comfortable motion even in heavy seas and a PHFR of 132. With a steady three knots of wind, it can make a knot and a half (115% genoa) and it can get four knots out of a steady eight knots with calm sea conditions. It can reach past its hull speed of 7.8 knots without putting its rail in or near the water and it can make decent headway at 30 degrees off the wind, but it is most happying reaching between 35 and 38 degrees. My own experience is that the more you sail, the more you appreciate a boat that can sail well.
ALTAIRA displaces 19,200 lbs, draws 6', has a longish fin keel, a skeg hung rudder, a length on deck of 38' 10", an overall length of 42.5' including anchors, a length at the water line of 34' 5", a beam or width of 11' 10", a higher aspect sloop rig (6:1) with a removable innner forestay, lead ballast of 8400 lbs, 90 gals of fuel capacity, 105 gallons of water capacity, a Village Marine 160 watermaker, an Alpha Spectra autopilot, a Monitor windvane, much electronics to be described later, a refrigerator, a separate freezer, a true high-end stereo system, complete with Von Schweikert loudspeakers and a subwoofer, a 630 amp gel battery system, a 400 watt, 25 amp solar panel system, a wind generator, a 180 amp alternator, a Freedom Wilderness System kayak and the other amenities typical of an offshore cruiser. By deliberate design, it is almost a perfect boat for a single handing cruiser. It balances up extremely well. All lines are lead aft, even both first and second full reefing lines, and it is an easy boat to set up and sail on all points of sail.
A Fair Weather Mariner 39 (aka Westsail 39) came in second overall and first in its class in the 2002 Transpac race to Hawaii against many larger boats, yet a FWM 39 survived undamaged, a terrible gale in the north Pacific that destroyed three much larger commercial fishing vessels in the same area, causing the loss of the entire crew on one, where rescue help could not get in to do its job. ALTAIRA is a stiff, but comfortable boat that balances very well up and down the Beaufort scale, with a very low center of gravity.
The vessel's hailing port is "Lake Pleasant, Arizona" because, although the boat has never been in Arizona, that is where it first ocurred to me that it would be much more fun to actually sail somewhere in a boat than to sail one up and down that lake.
Anchors on board are a 44 lb steel Spade with 330 feet of all chain rode (a truly wonderful anchor), a 55 lb stainless steel CQR as back up with its own 350 feet of chain and nylon rode, a Fortress FX-23 for the stern with 10 feet of chain and 200 feet of nylon rode, and a 55 lb aluminium Spade 200 anchor as a storm anchor with 350 feet of 3/4" nylon and chain rode (Spade's biggest anchor; rated for boats up to 82 feet LOA and 66,000 lbs displacement).
I am Kimball Corson, the single handing captain. age 64. I am a retired lawyer, educated some time ago as such and also seriously as an economist (both at the Univ. of Chicago, with degrees too at the postgraduate level). My interests, expansively viewed, including those foreclosed by my current adventure and somewhat by age, are photography (see website), kayaking, road biking (have two aboard), hiking, sailing (of course), breeding Morgan horses (had 24 head at one point), breeding bullmastiffs and rottweilers, reading (junk, in the form of NY Times bestsellers, and great literature, history, current events, biography, etc. but not law), Olympic style shooting (was once a very good shot), astronomy (have two telescopes aboard; ready for the southern sky), cosmology, ham radio (general license, call sign K8KIM), high end audio, optical design , econometrics and statistical modeling, ballet (have a son who danced for New York City Ballet and a daughter who was invited to join the Bolshoi), opera, listening to other classical music and a little popular music, too (a real Bach and Shostakovitch fan), electronics (much training there in the military), the Seth books, fishing (much equipment aboard), mountain climbing (much more when I was younger), travel (obviously), oceanography, learning new languages by immersion (working now on French grammer to get ready), social commentary, economic policy, writing, public policy (particularly economic related), biography, cultural anthropology, theology (know more about Cathlolicism than most all Catholics, but am not religious), philosophy (I am a Nietzsche expert and that is hard to be), art (catch what showings I can), poetry, somewhat, and diesel mechanics (to keep my hands dirty and my sailboat engine humming) are the ones that come quickly to mind.
I have been sailing off and on since high school and more regularly for the last 10 years, but started my official world circumnavigation effort, after having serious improvements made to the boat in both the southeastern US and California and after getting my boat launched from San Diego about two years ago. I deem my real circumnavigation effort to start from San Deigo into the Pacific and do not count the efforts I made earlier to get my boat to that point. While in San Diego, I bought a serious digital camera and have just now (a bit belatedly) taken up photography again to document my trip and record what interests me.
My central problem with cruising is dawdling too long in one place, getting to know some locals well and then not wanting to leave them. I must try to do better as I go or as someone said I will be 90 years old by the time I reach Acapulco. I have picked up fluency in Spanish and have now started working on French but with no opportunity to practice here in Mexico. That must await at the earliest, French Polynesia. I love the cruising life and being free of ringing telephones, noisy kids, people clawing at me, wanting me to do things for them, and people busying themselves around me providing "support." Freedom is now the supreme value. I can do what I want, when I want, with whom I want, if I want and the way I want. I have not had these luxuries before. Not even as a small child was so little expected of me by others. I also enjoy socializing with people, especially with those who have had different experiences than mine or who are passionate and knowledgeable about one or another subject.