Chicago Boyz

                 
 
 
What Are Chicago Boyz Readers Reading?
 

 
  •   Enter your email to be notified of new posts:
    Loading
  •   Problem? Question?
  •   Contact Authors:

  • Blog Posts (RSS 2.0)
  • Blog Posts (Atom 0.3)
  • Incoming Links
  • Recent Comments

    • Loading...
  • Authors

  • Notable Discussions

  • Recent Posts

  • Blogroll

  • Categories

  • Archives

  • Celestial Navigation

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 25th October 2015 (All posts by )

    I’m tired of doom and gloom so I thought I would post something a bit different. Sailing !

    CatalinaLaborDayRace

    In 1981, I sailed my 40 foot sailboat to Hawaii in the Transpacific Yacht Race. That year some large yachts had what were called “Sat Nav ” receivers aboard to track a system of satellites that required continuous tracking and took quite a bit of electrical power. It is now called “Transit” or “navSat”

    Thousands of warships, freighters and private watercraft used Transit from 1967 until 1991. In the 1970s, the Soviet Union started launching their own satellite navigation system Parus (military) / Tsikada (civilian), that is still in use today besides the next generation GLONASS.[10] Some Soviet warships were equipped with Motorola NavSat receivers.

    My small sailboat could not use such a system. It drew about an amp an hour, far too great a drain on my battery. For that reason I used a sextant and sight tables like these, which are published for the latitudes to be sailed.

    sight reduction

    That volume is published for latitudes 15 degrees to 30 degrees, which are the ones we most sailed. Hawaii is at about 20 degrees north and Los Angeles is 35 degrees north. The sight tables provide a set of observations that can be compared with an annual book called a “Nautical Almanac.” As it happens, the Nautical Almanac for 1981 is used for training and is still in print.

    Nautical al

    The third component, besides the sextant, of course, is a star finder, like like this one, to aid with navigational stars.

    The whole system is called Celestial Navigation.

    The first thing one needs is an accurate clock. This is the reason why sailing ships need a chronometer in the 18th century.

    Harrison solved the precision problems with his much smaller H4 chronometer design in 1761. H4 looked much like a large five-inch (12 cm) diameter pocket watch. In 1761, Harrison submitted H4 for the £20,000 longitude prize. His design used a fast-beating balance wheel controlled by a temperature-compensated spiral spring. These features remained in use until stable electronic oscillators allowed very accurate portable timepieces to be made at affordable cost. In 1767, the Board of Longitude published a description of his work in The Principles of Mr. Harrison’s time-keeper.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Holidays, Personal Narrative, Sports, Video | 28 Comments »

    Nautical Book Review- Overboard

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 21st June 2014 (All posts by )

    Overboard by Hank Searls

    This is one of several cover designs for this book, written in 1977. Much of the non-sailing information in the book is dated badly. The protagonist is a lawyer who wins a medical malpractice judgement of $1.5 million, “The largest judgement in California history.” Obviously that is dated.

    The novel opens when the wife falls overboard. She gets up to check for traffic in the night and does not fasten her safety belt although she knows she must. A simple moment of carelessness and she is in the water. They are between Tahiti and Bora Bora in the Society Islands. They have been cruising for months. The backstory is told in flash backs.

    Mitch the husband is a sailor who navigates for her father, a racing skipper who is getting old and is too competitive for Mitch. Mitch was a pre-med student in college who switched to pre-law and graduated from Boalt Hall, the UC law school. Lindy, his wife, did not finish college as she became pregnant with their oldest child at age 18. The two children are rather aimless in the way many college age children were in the early 70s.

    Mitch is sailing with her father on San Francisco Bay, the author is rather contemptuous of racing, when he sees a Colin Archer ketch crossing the race course and nearly colliding with them as her father refuses to give way to the right-of-way boat until Mitch forces the helm over. He is entranced with this beautiful cruising ketch and spends considerable time searching for it and the owner.

    A Colin Archer ketch under full sail.

    As a racer myself, I am not enamored of Colin Archer designs as they are very slow sailers. San Francisco with its 25 knot afternoon breeze, would be a good place for one. Mitch searches for the ketch and, finally, Lindy’s father Shawn tells Mitch he knows where the boat is in a yard in Sausalito. Mitch goes to the yard and finds the owner, a salty old boatbuilder who looks like he has lost weight, possible due to illness, and who is very reluctant to sell. The discussion of what a buyer should look for and how a builder might feel about his boat are all authentic. The discussion ends with a tentative decision to sell.

    Mitch is a trial lawyer and is suing a young doctor in a case where the patient suffered catastrophic injury but the doctor may not have been at fault. He is tortured by his conscience as his father was a surgeon (as was Searls’ father) and he dreads the censure of other doctors. The malpractice crisis was just arriving as this book was published. He wins the case but decides to quit and go cruising with his new boat. His wife is a reluctant first mate but is gamely enthusiastic.

    The story alternates flashbacks with the present crisis of the wife overboard. Part of the story is told from her point of view in the water and part from his point of view as he searches desperately for her. There is an undercurrent that she was not enthusiastic about going cruising and she has had a probable affair with a fictional character who is obviously Bernard Moitessier, a famous yachtsman who circumnavigated several times, most notably in a single handed round the world race which he was leading near the finish when he decided to quit and sail to the south Pacific instead of to the finish in England.

    The author, who lived aboard his own yacht for many years, has many novels to his credit and many movies including Jaws2. Searls also wrote the novelizations for the films Jaws 2 (1978) starring Roy Scheider and Murray Hamilton and Jaws: The Revenge (1987) starring Michael Caine and Lorraine Gary.

    His meticulous research is famous among writers. Born in 1922, he is too old to be living aboard although he was when he wrote “Overboard.” In 1988, he was ashore, probably for good.

    The couple now share a cozy, two-bedroom condo overlooking a golf course in Newport Beach. One bedroom serves as Searls’s office, and there he begins work each day shortly after 6:30 a.m. A nearby garage holds cartons of research materials, and a rented storage room several miles away contains 700 cubic feet of carefully labeled files—enough for “five different novelists,” he says. Although Searls is “easy to live with,” says Bunny, “he’s always researching, even if we go away on vacation.”

    The story is authentic in every respect I can find and I have been sailing since the 1950s. I even gave serious thought to taking six months off from my medical practice to go cruising in the late 1970s, about the same time as this story. The story is a bit of a downer compared to “Trustee from the Toolroom” but the details of sailing are excellent and the story is very plausible, which “Trustee” lacks a bit. A view of the movie I made of the 1981 Transpac will show that we were almost completely negligent in the matter of safety harnesses but we were a full crew. A single or double handed boat crew at night is almost suicidally careless to ignore safety gear. When we were in heavy weather, we always wore safety harnesses. In a small hurricane in 1977 off Mexico, we spent the night in swim trunks and safety harnesses with the wind at 60 knots plus like a hot shower.

    The book is an authentic tale of sailing in the days before satellite telephones and GPS.

    Posted in Book Notes, Nautical Book Project | 6 Comments »

    Nautical Book Review- Trustee from the Toolroom.

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 12th June 2014 (All posts by )

    Trustee from the Toolroom By Nevil Shute

    This novel tells of a lifetime adventure by a man whose life had avoided adventure thus far. Keith Stewart spent the Second World War working as a “fitter” or machinist in defense industry. There he met his wife Katie and they bought a home in West Ealing, a suburb of London where Shute the author once lived and which he uses often as a setting. After the War, they settled down and Keith eventually quit his job and began a career as a technical writer for a small magazine that catered to hobbyists who made miniature machinery, like small steam engines. The magazine was called “Miniature Mechanic” and developed a world wide circulation and many devoted fans of Keith’s writing.

    Keith had come from an impoverished childhood in Scotland and had one sister named Jo. Jo had raised herself socially by marrying a Royal Navy officer who came from a noble family that was quite wealthy. They had a daughter, Janice, who, at the time of the novel is nine years old. Jo’s husband, John Dermott, has taken early retirement from the Navy and they want to emigrate to Canada. Post-war England is a dreary place, a theme in several of Shute’s novels. One problem of post-war England is that currency controls severely limit funds that may be taken out of the country even on holidays. As late as the 1960s, I remember friends of my in-laws who were dependent on their American friends for travel to the US. Jo and her husband, John, have decided to smuggle their assets out of the country to Canada by converting them to diamonds and secreting the diamonds in the keel of their small sailboat, which they will sail to Canada. Keith helps them, not knowing the purpose, by setting a jewel case into the keel for them. They tell him that this just contains a few of Jo’s jewels they want to take. While they are gone, a matter of six months or so, they will leave Janice with Keith and Katie who have no children of their own. They don’t like the fast life of John’s relatives even for six months and know that Keith and Katie will always be living in the same house and will provide a quiet place for their daughter until they can send for her.

    They leave England a bit later than they had planned because they had to get Janice settled and they want to visit Tahiti on the way. Small boat sailing does not follow a great circle course like a ship and Shute knows about sailing from his own experience with his sailboat before the war. A course from the Panama Canal to Canada could very well include Hawaii on the way. The side trip to Tahiti should add a month or so but is well within the capability of a small sailboat. The problem with the late departure is that they have gotten into hurricane season in the southern hemisphere. They encounter a hurricane in the vicinity of the The Tuamotus archipelago a very large group of small islands and atolls east of Tahiti. The islands are low, just above sea level and were a terrible hazard before GPS made navigation more exact. The description of the hurricane and how they deal with it is quite good. I have sailed a small boat (38 feet) through a small hurricane off Mexico. The one they encounter is much larger and it forces them down onto the lee shore of one of the Tuamotus islands. As they realize their predicament, they reassure themselves that Keith will take care of their daughter but then they also realize that all her inheritance is in the sailboat with them.

    Keith is notified of their loss by the solicitor who also learns that their assets have been sold. Keith discovers from him about the law banning asset emigration and has some serious thinking to do. He is the trustee and, once he gets more detail about the wreck, suspects that the keel and the diamonds are embedded in the reef that destroyed the sailboat. What can he do ? He has only a small salary and Katie has to work in a shop to support their frugal life. If the diamonds cannot be found and returned, Janice will have to go to the council school and get a job at age 15 like other girls in Keith’s circumstances. He discusses his situation with his publisher who offers a small advance on his salary, an inadequate proposal. He is unable to ask for help because the diamonds were smuggled out of the country and would be confiscated.

    He calls on a man he knows through modeling who works for a freight airline. They offer Keith a free trip to Hawaii as an engineer “under instruction.” That will get him half way to his goal and he decides to try it. Once in Hawaii, he finds there are no commercial passages to Tahiti except airline travel which he could not afford. His only possibility is to sail with an illiterate fisherman who has sailed from Oregon in a boat he built himself. Against all the advice of the people he knows, he decides he must do this. What follows is a sailing adventure as the “pasty faced” man with no sailing experience and in the condition one would expect with a sedentary occupation, must learn to sail and navigate while concealing the true purpose of his quixotic quest for his sister’s resting place. From this point it becomes a sailing adventure and then there is more engineering as others come to his aid. It is a very satisfying novel and has been criticized because the characters are unrealistically good and help each other but I find it reassuring when I think I am getting too cynical.

    Posted in Book Notes, Human Behavior | 11 Comments »

    Nautical Book Review “The Shipkiller.”

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 10th June 2014 (All posts by )

    The Shipkiller by Justin Scott.

    This is a great adventure novel that is marred only by the fact that it was written 35 years ago when the Shah of Iran was still in power. The story is of Peter Hardin, a doctor who has invented the digital thermometer. He has retired and he and his wife, Carolyn, have decided to sail their ketch across the Atlantic to England. They are relaxing on a sunny afternoon in the Western Approaches to the Channel when their yacht is run down by a monstrous tanker called “Leviathan” which is enormous and is run recklessly because it carries millions of gallons of crude oil from the Persian Gulf to Europe, which makes it immune to admiralty law. The captain is impervious to criticism because no one else can sail this enormous ship. He and it are above the law.

    Hardin’s wife is lost and he washes up on the beach of southern England where he is found and revived by a beautiful Nigerian woman doctor. He is disconsolate and, after his recovery, decides to try to prosecute the captain for not maintaining a lookout while running his ship too fast in restricted waters. That fails and Hardin eventually tries to physically attack the captain which gets him arrested. He finally comes to the conclusion that he has no alternative but to attack the ship, itself.

    After he has recovered from his injuries he buys a Swan 38, a gorgeous and fast yacht similar to the one I sailed through a hurricane in 1977. It is fast as a witch and will withstand almost any heavy weather. I sailed mine through a small Mexican hurricane, called a “Chubasco.” Wikipedia calls them “violent squalls” but the one we sailed thorough lasted 12 hours and had wind speed above 60 knots where our wind speed indicator pegged.

    He sails it to Europe and buys a Dragon anti-tank missile from an alcoholic soldier in Germany. He conceals the missile in a pod he has constructed and attached to the keel of his yacht. He returns to England where his boat is searched by the authorities who are suspicious of him but the concealment works and it is not found. He plans to follow Leviathan to the Cape of Good Hope at the bottom of South Africa where he will kill it with the missile. All ships rounding that Cape must follow the same narrow course and he should be able to find it.

    An Israeli agent learns of his plan and offers to help with the location of the tanker. Hardin has no choice but to accept his help to avoid betrayal. The Nigerian doctor, the daughter of an senior army officer in Nigerian, asks to go with him as far as west Africa and he agrees. They develop a strong attraction during the voyage and she learns of his obsessions with the tanker. His memory of his dead wife prevents him from accepting her love and he goes on with his quest. As they near the point where he must drop her off, she finds the missile and asks to go with him. Again, he is caught between the risks to her and the risk she will turn him in. They continue and she asks him where they are going now. His answer is Winter ! The Cape in winter is a fearsome place, risky even for a ship the size of Leviathan.

    The story is gripping and will hold the attention of anyone familiar with sailing. It is probably the best sailing novel I have read. The detail is excellent and the plot is well done, although dated. The author knows sailing and fast sailboats. It has a bit of the tone of an Alistair MacLean novel where the protagonist overcomes repeated and monumental obstacles. The sailing part is great.

    Posted in Book Notes, Middle East, Nautical Book Project | 6 Comments »