Thursday, February 4, 2016

Morris 29 Review




As you may know, Morris Yachts was recently acquired by the Hinckley Company. When I learned of the sale I thought it was another example of smaller boatbuilders in the US being swallowed up by the bigger ones. In  my opinion this is a necessary evolution, a sign of the changing economic times. It takes deep pockets to survive in this business, and this is true not just because boatbuilding is becoming more and more technology driven. These days environmental regulations demand expensive equipment and methods, the cost of industrial space continues to rise, qualified labor is both scarcer and more expensive, insurance costs are going up every year, and the list of challenges for boatbuilders continues on. So I was not surprised to see that Morris was taken over by a bigger and financially stronger company. In fact, you may recall that Hinckley itself was acquired a few years ago by Scout Partners, LLC an investment firm based in New York. It could be argued that absentee ownership of these companies does not bode well for the creativity and innovative drive of these companies, but I don't think that is necessarily so. It takes money to innovate, experiment and develop new products, and I think enlightened ownership that is dedicated to preserving and supporting companies like Hinckley and Morris can help them maintain the levels of excellence they have been known for. At least that's my hope. 

I thought it would be fun to take a critical look at one of Morris's current products, the M29. This boat was designed by Sparkman & Stephens in 2008 and is the smallest of Morris's M line, which includes 36, 42 and 52 foot models. I have to say I'm partial to this baby sister of the bunch because in  my opinion, it comes closest to delivering the pure, undistilled essence of sailing pleasure.    

Morris 29
Could anything be sweeter than sailing this little gem on a Sunday afternoon?

Here are some numbers:

LOA:         29'-2"
LWL:         20'-10"
BMAX:      7'-4"
Draft:         4'-6" or 3'-8"
Disp:          4,735 lb
Ballast:      1.958 lb
Sail area:    395 sf
D/L:           214
SA/D:        23.6

In studying the hull of the M29, notice that the waterline length is about 70% of the overall length. Those long overhangs in the bow and stern, combined with the narrow beam will give this boat a very easy motion in a seaway, but more importantly in a boat of this type, give it lovely proportions. It will not sail nearly as fast as a modern 29 footer with a plumb bow and wide transom, but it will sail more beautifully. And while speed is important, so is beauty.

M29 reaching under mainsail and asymmetrical spinnaker.
Photos courtesy of Morris Yachts

The M29 looks like a classic yacht above the waterline, but below it has fairly racy features including a deep fin keel and carbon fiber spade rudder.  The mast is also made of carbon fiber, clear indications that Morris is taking performance seriously in this boat.

The deck is of classic proportions, with a short cabin trunk and graceful coamings around the generously proportioned cockpit. With such a small cabin trunk, a sliding companionway hatch becomes problematic.  There's just not enough room for it, so it has to be made removable. I've grappled with this problem on several of my smaller designs over the years.




Morris has done away with winches on the M29, using 2:1 purchase on the main halyard and a block and tackle system for the jib sheets. This limits jibs to the small self tacking unit shown in the drawing above. This is probably a good trade-off, given the boat's very generous sail area. The jib sheet is led under the deck to a bank of cam cleats built into each cockpit coaming. I have not used this type of arrangement before so I can't attest to its efficiency, but it does make for a very clean deck layout.

Headsail controls built into the cockpit coamings
Back in the 1970's, when I was in the early years of my career as a yacht designer, I was commissioned to design a similar boat and it was amusing to pull the old drawings out of my archives and compare them to the M29, The design brief was for a traditional sloop of 26 feet, to be built of cold-molded mahogany. The client wanted the boat to have classic lines but was not particularly concerned with what it might look like below the waterline. So I designed the boat with traditional looks and a fast underbody. 
Gryphon 26, "Cinnamon Girl" circa 1979







Deck Plan
The M29 embodies the same approach as the G26 about thirty years later.

The Morris M29 has a basic accommodations plan that includes a pair of settee berths and a Porta-Potty, which is all that's necessary for this daysailer. I like the reliability of the inboard diesel.


Just enough accommodations for an overnight




Cinnamon  Girl
The boat was given a deeper keel and rudder in 2003




Cinnamon Girl
Still going strong in 2014

Color Profile
M29x
The deep keel is probably a bit much for this boat. 
Morris also offer an M29x version, which includes a bowsprit, deeper keel and more sail area. According to data I've seen, the model x is about 18 seconds per mile faster than the standard M29. This boat reminds me of 1969 Jaguar XKE roadster. It's exquisitely beautiful with plenty of horsepower straight out of the box. The extra deep keel and tall rig are a bit like replacing the Jaguar's beautiful 3.8 liter engine with a Chevy 327 V-8. It'll be faster but not quite as perfectly balanced as the original.

The M29 a wonderful example of classic design and very high quality execution. It's expensive, but what a sweet ride! 

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Beneteau Oceanis 38 Review

A few weeks ago we were sailing off Long Beach, California and noticed a new Beneteau Oceanis 38 sailing along on a similar course to ours. It was the first time I had seen one under sail and I must say it moved along nicely on a close reach in about ten knots of wind. We bore off onto a parallel course and sailed for a quarter mile or so with them. The boat looked good and moved well under what appeared to be a 105% jib and roller furling mainsail. I regretted that I didn't have my camera at the time.

In studying the hull, the first thing I noticed is that it's quite beamy and slab sided with hard chines running nearly the length of the hull. The sheer is straight and it appears that the waterlines below the chines are finer than the plan view of the boat would suggest.
With its straight sheer,  vertical transom and stem, the Oceanis 38 looks husky and seaworthy. Unless otherwise noted, all photos courtesy of Beneteau.

The hull was designed by the firm of Finot/Conq which has vast experience with this basic hullform, including the Pogo 12.50 and other very successful offshore racers with very wide beam and hard chines.

Pogo 12.50, also designed by Finot Conq.Notice that the boat is heeled about 15 degrees and the starboard rudder is almost completely out of the water. Photo courtesy of Finot-Conq.  
The stern of the Oceanis 38, a more conservative approach to hard chines than the Pogo.

The Oceanis 38 is offered with shoal, deep and lifting keels. Upwind performance will suffer with the shoal version. Both of the fixed keels are cast iron with a molded-in bulb. This is another boat with a very large fold-down transom panel. I like the looks of the Pogo a bit more, but given the intended purpose of the 38, it's probably better to have the "Tailgate".

This view shows the slippery proportions of the hull below the waterline along with those of the shoal keel. The rudders look bigger than shown in the drawing. I like the way the boot stripe is terminated about four feet forward of the transom.  Photo courtesy of Yachtworld.com
The deck design of the Oceanis 38 incorporates some interesting innovations. The cabin trunk is fairly low and sleek, with hard edges and squared off windows that complement the squarish proportions of the hull. The arch at the aft end of the cabin trunk provides a base for the mainsheet and support for a dodger and bimini. With this arrangement there is no need for a mainsheet traveler and the sheet is led to a cabintop winch.

The Oceanis looks husky under sail. I think it will show good speed reaching and running, but suffer a bit going hard on the wind.
With over 13 feet of beam there is lots of room on deck and the cockpit is huge.
The cockpit is a study in straight lines and hard edges. Notice the cockpit table. It's massive and incorporates large drop-leaves and plenty of storage capacity. Instrument displays and engine controls are located at the helms. Having the mainsheet blocks located up on the arch opens up the cockpit for lounging and entertaining. It could also be considered a safety feature since there is no chance that a guest would get fouled in the mainsheet or hit by the boom. Jib sheeting angles are wide, but that's probably alright on this boat because its proportions are designed more for comfortable cruising than sailing hard on the wind.

The mast is deck stepped and, with the chainplates out at the sheer, it will accommodate jibs of up to about 105%. The standard mainsail is set up with a stackpack arrangement, with in-mast furling optional. Notice that the backstay is split with an adjuster on the port side. The stemhead fitting is designed with the anchor roller about 18 inches forward of the stem of the boat,  which probably isn't far enough to prevent the anchor from bouncing off the hull occasionally.

Beneteau offers three main interior options, Daysailer, Weekender and Cruiser. The daysailer includes a V-berth, galley sink and refrigerator but no stove, a head, chart table, a large quarter berth platform without a mattress and plenty of storage space. There are no bulkheads between the companionway and the forward end of the v-berth, so the boat is pretty wide open. I'm not sure who this configuration would appeal to, but it does offer the possibility of starting out with a bare bones interior and adding more later.


The Weekender comes in two or three cabin arrangements. The galley is the same as the Daysailer, but I believe you can order the stove with this version. The major difference is the inclusion of the quarterberth. Again, this is a wide open layout.


Weekender version is wide open from  the companionway to the bow.







Two-cabin Cruiser version incorporates a bulkhead between the salon and V-berth as well as a full galley
The cruiser version also comes with a single aft cabin or twins. I'm not sure who would buy the fairly sedate Daysailer version of this boat. At 38 feet, I would want my boat to be capable of spending at least a week at the island, and I don't see why you couldn't day sail the Cruiser just as easily as the Daysailer. It would be interesting to know which version of this boat is the best seller.



In the Oceanis 38 Cruiser version a bulkhead divides the forward cabin from the salon. 
The Oceanis 38 offers an interesting contrast to the Varianta 37. In this boat Beneteau seems to be trying to appeal to a variety of customer types, ranging from bare bones to full cruise by the use of multiple furnishing and outfitting options. The Varianta went for a basic but fully outfitted boat with much more limited options. As the number of choices for boats in this size range increases, each brand must find ways to differentiate itself from the competition. It will be interesting to see how the Oceanis fares in this competitive market segment.


Friday, December 4, 2015

ClubSwan 50 Review

For roughly the last fifty years Nautor's Swan yachts have represented the epitome of quality and performance. Their yachts tended to be a bit heavy for my taste but always embodied classic elegance of design, very respectable performance and very high quality construction. In 1998 the company was acquired by an investor group led by Leonardo Ferragamo, a director of the fashion empire of the same name. I think that since he came aboard, the Swan brand has reached new levels of style and elegance.

In the early years Swan relied on the firm of Sparkman and Stephens to produce their designs. Later they turned to German Frers for the majority of their boats. It was a good choice since Frers had been with the S&S firm at the time they were engaged with Swan, and was arguably their best designer.

Frers left S&S in 1968, eventually returning to his native Argentina where he took over the family design firm while Swan engaged Ron Holland to design their boats.  In the 1980's Frers reconnected with Swan and since then has produced a long string of beautiful designs for them, including the 45' and  42' one-design racer/cruisers and the elegant Swan Regatta 60. So it is somewhat of a surprise to me that Swan turned to Juan Kouyoumdjian for their newest design.

Interestingly, Juan K, as he is known, is also an Argentine, although his design firm is located in Valencia, Spain. I had heard a few months ago that he was working on a new design for the company and expected it to be an incremental development of their current design trend of lighter racer cruisers with plumb bows and elegant appointments. I was wrong.

Swan unveiled the new design a couple of months ago with a series of drawings and renderings which I downloaded and include below. As you can see, the new boat is a significant, one might even say radical, departure from what we think of as the Swan Style. The ClubSwan 50 is intended to be a high performance one-design racer with accommodations for distance races and, as Swan calls it, sports cruises.

Let's start with the hull. The first thing that catches the eye is the reversed bow and sheer. Students of yacht design know that reversed bows have been used on racing catamarans for the last fifteen years or so. The purpose of this shape is to maintain maximum waterline length while reducing the weight and windage of the bows. This makes a lot of sense on boats that frequently fly the weather hull or, as in the case of the AC72 cats, simply fly.  This shape is harder to justify on a ballasted monohull, especially when it is fitted with a large bowsprit that pretty much negates any weight or windage savings. Regardless of any performance benefit, the reversed bow profile is certainly a strong aesthetic statement that is complimented by the reversed sheer. The reversed sheer enables the designer to keep the freeboard at the bow and stern minimal yet still provide enough headroom amidships with a cabin trunk of minimal proportions. This is a design feature more often found on smaller boats than the CS50. There is a pronounced chine aft that appears to run nearly to the bow in the renderings. Bear in mind that we are dealing with renderings and not photos of an actual boat, so the finished product may be different from what we see here. Notice the flare in the aft topsides. I don't know what hydrodynamic principle would require this shape but, again, it makes a strong aesthetic statement.



New Club Swan 50. A bold step forward for Nautor.
The fairbody line of the the CS50 shows a very shallow hull with the knuckle of the bow just at the waterline, while the stern is lifted slightly above it. In the stern view, notice the arc-like shape of the hull at the transom. I think this boat will surf easily and leave a very clean wake when driving upwind. I'm not a huge fan of twin rudders unless they make a meaningful contribution to the performance of the boat. In the CS50, they are relatively small so that when heeled, the weather rudder will usually be out of the water, so at least it won't be much of a drag most of the time.  Still, if I were to order a CS50 for myself, I'd ask them to show me the hydrodynamic data that prove twins are better than a single centerline rudder. The keel is exactly what we would expect on a boat of this type, a deep steel fin with a lead torpedo shaped bulb.

Here are some numbers:

LOA:  50.00'
LWL:  45.93'
BMAX;  13.78'
Draft (deep): 10.50'
Draft (shoal): 7.22'
Disp: 20,503 lb
Ballast: 7,496 lb
Sail Area (upwind): 1,527 sf
Sail Area  (downwind): 3,185 sf
D/L: 94.47
SA/D: 32.74

With a SA/D of nearly 33 and a D/L of 94, there is no doubt that the CS50 will be as fast as it looks. I am intrigued by the rig proportions. Notice that the three-spreader carbon mast is located significantly further aft than we usually see on high performance boats. I don't have any rig numbers but the "J" dimension is clearly longer than "E", which means that the jibs on this boat will be quite large relative to the mainsail. In the sailplan below, the boom doesn't quite reach the transom and the traveler appears to be at least a couple of feet forward of it, but in other drawings and in the literature, the traveler has been located all the way aft. Either way, this is a powerful rig that will take a full crew to get the most out of. On the other hand, the brochure states that when it's just the husband and wife aboard, they'll hoist the main to the second reef and unroll just the small jib, which should provide adequate performance for a leisurely daysail. Of course all the winches will be electric so the hoisting and trimming will all be done by pushbutton. With the main hoisted to the second reef the square top of it will pass inside the twin running backstays so you won't have to ask the wife to scamper over and tend them when you tack. Sounds pretty civilized to me.





Interesting proportions of the CS50 rig.



The deck of the CS50 leans more toward racing than cruising. There are minimal coamings from the companionway to the aft end of the seats.Aside from that, I don't see any concessions to cruising comfort on this deck except for the short cockpit seats.  The transverse jib tracks are located on the cabin top and the chainplates are all the way out at the sheer, leaving the decks uncluttered. There doesn't appear to be a provision for leading jib sheets to the cockpit winches so I assume they are led to the cabintop winches. I was aboard a  new Swan 60 a few months ago and on that boat many functions such as vang, outhaul, traveler controls, etc. were managed by pushbutton. Indeed, the panel of buttons at the helms was extensive. This kind of arrangement might free up those cabintop winches for the jib sheets but I think a better solution would be to move the tracks to the deck and use barber haulers to move the jib clews inboard and out, and lead the sheets back to the cockpit winches.
The cabin is wedge shaped and somewhat reminiscent of the old Swan wedge decks. Somehow I can't quite picture an inflatable dinghy stored on that foredeck even though there is certainly plenty of room for one.

 The cockpit is huge, with plenty of wide open space for the working crew. The companioway hatch is sloped at about 45 degrees. I'll wager that the production model may well end up with a more conventional sliding hatch and seahood. The aft part of the deck is basically cantilevered out from the hull with sharp radii where it joins the hull.  This is not a particularly strong arrangement and there appears to be a strut that that supports the aft-most part of the deck. Notice that this bit of deck supports the mainsheet and spinnaker sheet winches. I'm  sure J&J Design, who are listed as the project engineers, carefully analyzed this area and designed the laminates and geometry to resolve the high loads this area will experience when the boat is pressed.

The transom is wide open with the traveler  located as far aft as possible. The companionway hatch is set at an angle and the aft end of the weather deck appears to be supported by a strut near the transom. 
Beam is carried straight aft to the transom. 
Notice how small the rudders are relative to the keel. They appear to be no more than about 50 inches deep and are angled outboard about 20 degrees. They will probably be deeper than that in the production boat.  In this drawing the boom extends well beyond the twin running backstays. 


Accommodations in the CS50 are Spartan by Swan standards but I would feel quite comfortable spending a month or two living aboard this boat. The head runs the full width of the boat, or more precisely, is split by the centerline passageway, with the toilet and sink to port and a nice large shower to starboard. I really like this arrangement. In the bow you'll find what appears to be a queen size berth along with lockers and shelves. Notice that it is set roughly eight feet aft of the bow, forward of which appears to be a crash bulkhead and lots of empty space. Swan states that all of the forward cabin furnishings can be easily removed for racing.



Simple, efficient accommodations.
The main salon is wide open, with very large settees to port and starboard, and a decent sized dining table on the starboard side. If I owned a CS50 I'd want to entertain a lot, so I'd have Nautor make sure the table will accommodate at least six diners. Aft to port is a smallish galley suitable for basic meal preparation. Notice the generator just aft of the galley. I think it might be a good trade-off to eliminate it and expand the galley a bit. Opposite the galley is a quarter-cabin with what looks like a king size berth and a hanging locker. This will be the nicest place to sleep when the boat is underway. The nav station is...well, there doesn't seem to be one on the CS50. I think this is because in a daysailer and weekender, you really don't need a nav station because all your navigation tools are in the multi-function screens at the helm stations. Still, I'd like to see a chart table/desk on the boat. I don't use the nav station aboard my Beneteau 423 for navigating, but it's a perfect all purpose place to work the SSB radio, manage ships papers and do all those mundane things I do at my desk at home.

I really appreciate that venerable, conservative Nautor has gambled on a truly new design for the 50. Having been a lifelong fan of German Frers' designs, I would like to have seen what that firm's answer to this design brief would have been, but Juan K got the nod instead. This is a bold step for Nautor and my hope is that it will be a huge success for them. I can't wait to see hull number one hit the water. For more information about this boat visit www.clubswan50.com.



Saturday, November 7, 2015

Sydney GTS43 Review

The GTS43 was designed by Jason Ker and is intended as a racer/cruiser. It's pretty clear that by racer/cruiser they mean racer that has enough amenities below to accommodate the family for an occasional weekend cruise. But make no mistake, this boat is really all about performance. It caught my eye because the designer and builder have collaborated to create a unique and distinctive yacht that I think is going to attract a lot of attention among those who need a few amenities in their race boats.

The GTS43 looks fast under main, kite and stays'l.

Jason Ker is not a household name in the USA but over the last twenty years this British designer has built an enviable reputation with his IRC racing yachts. The builder, originally based in Australia, has contracted with AD Boats in Split, Croatia to produce the GTS43 as well as the new GTS37. As you may know, this company also builds the Salona line of yachts. AD is owned by the Prevent Group, a multinational manufacturing corporation based in Wolfsberg, Germany that serves a variety of commercial and industrial markets. I think this is a business structure that we will see more of in the future. Yacht building has become so technology driven and capital intensive that for all practical purposes, the small independent boat builders are finding it harder and harder to survive.

The GTS43 represents a very different approach to hull design than more conventional racer/cruisers such as the Beneteau First or Elan lines. In the plan view it looks similar to other IRC inspired racer/cruisers, with a fine bow and wide stern. The same can be said of the boat in the profile view. But where those boats have full, or chined stern sections, the 43 has radically flaired sections aft.



Beneteau First 40. This Farr design incorporates what we think of as a conventional stern shape.
 Photo courtesy of Yachtworld.com



Elan 400  sports the currently fashionable chines.
Flaired stern on the GTS43.  
Why, you might ask, has Ker designed this boat with a stern that is so different from the more conventional Beneteau and Elan, or most other IRC racers. I think the answer may lie with his interpretation of the IRC rating system, or he may simply like the looks of this stern. I don't have a lines plan for this hull but we can make some judgments based on the photos. Let's deal with the stern first. The hull near the waterline is actually relatively narrow by today's standards so there is not a lot of reserve buoyancy there. This, combined with the somewhat slab sided midship sections of the hull leads me to think this boat may have a lower prismatic coefficient than a typical IRC racer. This means the boat will not require a lot of horsepower to get up to speed, but is likely to generate a bigger stern wave, which we refer to as induced drag as it moves through the water at hull speed. One benefit of the very wide stern is that the crew weight can be placed well outboard and aft, where it does the most good in heavy air. Here are some statistics:
LOA: 43 feet
Beam: 13.78 feet
Draft: 9.02 feet
Displacement: 15,320 pounds
Sail area (IJ+PE): 1,029 sq. ft.
Disp/Length: 86.0
SA/D: 26.8

This view provides an indication of the fine waterlines forward and the extreme flair aft. Photo courtesy of Sydney Yachts.


Maximum beam is carried all the way to the transom. The cockpit is spacious and side decks minimal.   

The high SA/D and low D/L indicate a powerful sailing machine that will demand a good helmsman and solid crew work when the breeze is up, but in return it will deliver stellar performance. Of course when it's just you and the wife out for a sail, you may want to tuck in a reef and put the small jib up, which is a small compromise for such a high performance boat.

The cabin trunk is an interesting blister shape, with the aft ends of the cabin fairing into the wide cockpit coamings. The seats are tucked behind the cabin trunk, leaving lots of room in the aft half of the cockpit for working crew. The twin helms are located well aft, but it looks like there is enough space there for the helmsman and tactician.  The mainsheet traveler is located on the cockpit sole just forward of the helms, with the mainsheet winches within easy reach. This is another boat with an Admirals cup type mainsheet arrangement.

The rig incorporates a carbon fiber two spreader mast.  The mainsail luff length is about 60 feet and the foot is 19 feet. This is a big sail that will require some muscle to handle.  The jibs are non overlapping so tacking will actually be fairly easy. Notice the long, fixed bowsprit. It does not include an anchor roller so you may want to ask them to work on that when you place your order for a new GTS43.

I don't have any drawings or photos of the underbody of the boat, but Ker states that the keel incorporates a thin fin and bulb. My guess is that the rudder is also thin, deep and very efficient.

This is the keel on a Ker designed 46 footer. You can assume that the keel on the GTS43 is similar. Photo courtesy of Yachtworld.com




The bowsprit is not retractable.





The GTS 43 is  what I call a "live ballast" boat, which derives much of its righting moment from crew on the rail as shown here.

This boat has reasonably livable accommodations that would make cruising for a week or so tolerable for the family. The forward end of the boat has a snug v-berth which might be a good place for kids.
The dinette in the salon is smallish and offset well to port and the settee opposite is also situated well outboard. This leaves plenty of room amidships for packing chutes, which is important on a boat of this type. There are provisions for pilot berths above the dinette and settee. The nav station is large and has lots of storage space. The galley, opposite the nav station, is small for a 43 foot cruising yacht, but almost luxurious compared to the typical race-boat galley. There is a pair of private quarter cabins aft, each with a hanging locker and a pilot berth. Overall, while this is not what I would call a pretty interior, it is very functional. I could imagine spending a week or so aboard.


The v-berth looks fairly tight.


Lots of light and space in this limited but functional interior.


A single sink, two burner stove and limited counter space. 


It seems to me that the racing world is becoming more separate from cruising.  These days there are many forty foot daysailers on the market that make no pretense of being cruise-able.  This was almost unheard of twenty years ago. I give Sydney Yachts credit for attempting to bridge that gap and producing a racer that can be cruised even if it's just for a week at the island. For more information about the GTS43 visit Sydneyyachts.com



Saturday, October 17, 2015

Finisterra is For Sale

All good things come to an end eventually and after three and a half years, 18,000 miles and a zillion wonderful moments aboard Finisterra, the time has come for us to turn the page and start another chapter. So we are reluctantly putting Finisterra up for sale.

Finisterra on a mooring in Catalina at the end of our last voyage to Mexico.


Finisterra has been the perfect cruising boat for us. She's been tough, reliable and extremely comfortable to cruise aboard and we are going to miss her. I've created a web site that describes the boat and equipment so if you'd like to know more about her, visit her web site at finisterraspecifications.blogspot.com


Monday, October 5, 2015

Alaska Cruise

We've been home a couple of months and the time has flown by. It took a couple of weeks to get settled back in Costa Mesa. During that time we had to contend with the the passing of Woody, our English Setter. It was a sad time around the house, but he lived to the ripe old age of 14 and  certainly enjoyed a pretty good life.


Woody
2001-2014
As soon as that little ordeal was over we took a road trip to Vancouver, BC where we met up with friends for a cruise to Alaska aboard the MS Noordam. But before we boarded the ship, we spent a couple of days touring the city. One of the highlights of our tour was hiking up Grouse Mountain. The hike is known as the Grouse Grind, 2,800 feet of vertical ascent in about 1.8 miles. There are actually two ways to do the grind. The first and most commonly used route is the staircase, which consists of  2,830 stairs. It sounded kind of boring to us so we chose the secondary route, a trail through the forest. Both routes are unrelentingly steep climbs but you are rewarded with beautiful views of the city at the summit. For more information visit www.grousemountain.com/grousegrind.
The weather was a bit hazy but the views from the top of Grouse Mountain were spectacular.
After hiking the Grind we made a side trip to the Capilano Suspension bridge.

CapilanoBridge.jpg
Capilano Suspension Bridge is 450 feet long. It spans a river of the same name, some 220 feet below.  It's privately owned and is the gateway to several nature trails on the far side. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

We boarded the Noordam on Saturday morning, September 12th at the cruise ship terminal in downtown Vancouver.

The Noordam
The Noordam was built in Italy and christened in 2006.  Here are some dimensions:

LOA: 936 feet
Beam: 105.8 feet
Gross tonnage: 82,500 tons
Power: 84,000 horsepower
Passenger decks: 11
Capacity: 1,916 passengers and 800 crew

The ship is powered by a CODAG-Electric (Combined Diesel and Gas) system of diesel and gas turbine powered generators that drive Azipods instead of conventional propellers.

An Azipod consists of a propeller and electric motor unit installed where a conventional propeller and rudder would be on the ship. "Azipod" is a trademarked name for ABB Group's version of this type of propulsion system. The Noordam is equipped with twin Azipods.  Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.


The diesel and gas turbine engines don't actually turn the propellers through shafts like a conventional boat, but drive large generators that supply power to the enormous electric motors encased in the Azipods. Pretty cool stuff.

After boarding the vessel and settling into our stateroom on deck 4, we went through a lifeboat drill while the crew cast off the dock lines and the Noordam puttered out into the channel. The stateroom was quite spacious, with a king size bed, sofa, shower/tub in the head and, best of all, the wall facing outboard was all glass, giving an excellent ocean view. Actually it was an excellent view of the 40 foot motorized lifeboat that was stowed just outside the glass, but we still had a pretty fair ocean view. Our first destination would be Juneau, Alaska, which we would reach on Monday around noon. To get there we transited most of the Inside Passage, which stretches from Washington state to Skagway.
DowntownVancouver viewed from the stern of the Noordam. The cruise ship terminal is the white structure on the left.


Lions Gate Bridge, viewed from the bow of the Noordam.

The Noordam headed northwest, passing under the beautiful Lions Gate Bridge and entered the Strait of Georgia, doing about 20 knots in fairly calm and balmy conditions. The Strait separates Vancouver Island from the mainland.  It is about 150 miles long and varies between 11 and 34 miles wide. That sounds pretty spacious but it is actually full of islands and narrow channels, especially in the northern part of the strait. I was told that the Noordam's crew includes three navigators, so the vessel trundled along at 18-20 knots night and day through the narrow parts as well as the wide parts of the channel.

The scenery in the Strait is beautiful. Evergreen forests cover the rugged terrain and surround the occasional small towns and villages on both sides of the channel. Whales were plentiful in this region and we saw orcas and what appeared to be humpbacks from the observation deck as well as from our stateroom.
Lighthouse near Vancouver. 


In the early hours of the next morning the Noordam passed into Discovery Passage, which is a narrow channel that connects the Strait of Georgia to Johnstone Strait by way of Seymour Narrows.
The Narrows is an interesting place for big ships, or small ones, because it's about 3 miles long and averages about 750 yards wide. It is a place with strong currents, sometimes up to 15 knots.

Seymour Narrows with a rough approximation of the Noordam's course.
Unfortunately it was quite dark when we passed through the Narrows and I really couldn't see much of it. Back in the 1790's when Captain George Vancouver was exploring this region he is reputed to have described the narrows as "One of the vilest stretches of water in the world."  There used to be a serious navigational hazard near the south end of the Narrows called Ripple Rock, which consisted  of two submerged peaks rising to a depth of about nine feet below the surface. These rocks had quite a career, sinking 119 vessels between 1875 and the 1950's. By 1956 the government had seen enough of the Rock, so they spent over two years tunneling into it and packing it with 1,375 tons of high explosives. On April 5th, 1958 they blew it up. At that time it was the largest intentional, non-nuclear blast in North America.

The Noordam transited the narrows without mishap, and passed into the Johnstone Strait and then the Queen Charlotte strait, which carried us to the northern end of Vancouver Island and into Queen Charlotte Sound.  The Sound is roughly 100 nautical miles long and is exposed to the Pacific Ocean, so the Noordam rolled just barely enough to feel it for about five hours. Then we were in the Hecate Strait which runs about 140 miles northwestward to Dixon Entrance. It averages about 45 miles wide and we seemed to be going right up the middle of it so there was little to see. The Noordam passed from Canadian to US territorial waters at the northwest end of Dixon Entrance.

We headed out toward the open sea from the Entrance and reentered protected waters at the southern tip of Baranof Island. From there it was another 150 nautical miles to Juneau by way of Frederick Sound and Stephens Passage. The Noordam tied up to the dock around noon and shortly after that we went ashore.

Juneau is the capital of Alaska and boasts a population of around 33,000 people. It is located on the mainland coast of Alaska but the surrounding terrain is so rugged that no roads have been built to the rest of the state, so the city must be supplied by boat or air. Most residents of Juneau work for the government, but there are lots of locals working in the tourist trade and fishing industries as well.

Instead of signing up with an expensive tour company our group of six hiked into town from the terminal and found a taxi driver that would take us out to see the Mendenhall Glacier and falls.
It was drizzling rain most of the time we were at Mendenhall, but the grandeur of the glacier was impressive anyway. In 1958 the glacier came right up to the trees in the foreground. Since then it has receded 1.75 miles, creating Lake Mendenhall.
Growlers on Lake Mendenhall. It was here that I learned that a growler is a tiny iceberg that rises no more than 3 feet out of the water.  A bergy bit is larger,  rising 3 to 13 feet out of the water.

Mendenhall Falls.
By dusk we were back aboard the Noordam. Dinner aboard the ship was always a fun time. Our group, Wolf and Judy, Vic and Susan, and us always shared a table and usually had a pre-party in one of our staterooms. The food was consistently very good and we had each brought a couple of bottles of wine in our luggage, so the drinks were quite good as well.

The Noordam cast off at 2200 hrs. that night, bound for Skagway. It was a cold and overcast night and I was glad to be aboard a large and well heated ship instead of the Finisterra. The ship arrived around 0600 the next morning and we went ashore just after breakfast and boarded the narrow gauge White Pass/Yukon train. It's basically a tourist train that takes you directly from the dock to White Pass, which lies at an elevation of 2,865 feet. I couldn't help comparing it to El Chepe, the train that took us up to Copper Canyon in Mexico. The main difference is that there is no bar car on this train. We all agreed that it could use one.  Aside from that, it was a pleasant ride up to the pass and the narrator who talked constantly over the loudspeaker was only a little bit annoying. The train was full of tourists snapping pictures of the passing scenery. Somehow it made me not want to take any photos myself.

The town of Skagway isn't much. It has a year round population of around a thousand souls, which doubles during the tourist season. It was founded in 1887 by one Billy Moore, who thought it would be a good jumping-off place for miners seeking gold. Sure enough, gold was discovered in the Klondike region of the Yukon Territory and miners flooded into Skagway.  By 1898 the town had swelled to a population of around 9,000 and was the largest city in Alaska. That lasted a couple of years and by the turn of the century Skagway's economy collapsed.

Nowadays tourism is the primary driver of the town's economy, with about a million tourists per year arriving, mostly by cruise ship. The few streets in town are lined with tourist shops, a few bars and restaurants, and not much else. We reboarded the ship in the afternoon, having seen pretty much all there was to see in Skagway. The dress code for dinner that evening was coats and ties for the men and dresses for the ladies. I hadn't worn a tie since I retired a couple of years ago, but the formal attire did not detract from the excellent steak and lobster that was served so I didn't grumble too much about it, and the women all looked beautiful as well.

The Noordam sailed for Glacier Bay while we were  enjoying dinner. At dawn the next morning the ship came to a stop at the head of the bay and, using its rotatable Azipods and 7,500 horsepower bow thrusters, executed a 360 degree turn in place, so the passengers could all get a good look at the glaciers and sea life there. Earlier a ranger from Glacier Bay National Park had boarded the ship and she described the wonders of the region over the loudspeakers as the boat rotated. The bay is populated by fifteen glaciers, including Margerie, Grand Pacific, Johns Hopkins, and McBride.

Johns Hopkins Glacier deposits massive amounts of rock and debris into the bay. It is roughly 12 miles long, a mile wide and 250 feet high at the water's edge. It is one of the few in the park that is not receding. It travels at around 8 feet per day.
The icy face of the Johns Hopkins
For a chunk of floating ice to be officially categorized as an iceberg, it must rise out of the water at least 16 feet, with an overall thickness of  98 to 164 feet and cover an area of at least 5,382 square feet. These are bergy bits.

The Noordam stayed in Glacier Bay until about 1800 hrs, then headed southeast toward Ketchikan, arriving at 1000 the following morning. We'd heard that there were lots of bears here and the shipboard tour company as well as a dozen or so tour operators on the dock were most anxious for us to see them. They were shouting at the tourists as we came off the ship offering special prices and guaranteeing that we'd see bears and eagles up close and personal for only a hundred dollars per person. They all seemed disappointed in us because we failed to take advantage of their offers.

Instead, we wandered down the street and found a taxi van whose driver who looked like he was doing nothing but texting on his I-phone, so I approached him and we struck a deal. For $140 bucks he'd take us to Herring Cove, where the bears go to catch salmon and pose for the tourists. He turned out to be an amiable sort and spent three hours with us while we lingered at the cove watching the occasional bear emerge from the forest a couple of hundred yards away. The best part of the excursion was hearing his stories of his life in Ketchikan. After an hour or so, the place started filling up with tourists so our driver took us back to town, stopping to show us various points of interest, which were not many, along the way. It was a pretty good tour at a bargain price.

Ketchikan is fairly cosmopolitan compared to Skagway, with a population of over 8,000. Many Ketchikanians fly south for the winter, but our driver stays on. He said it's much more peaceful after the hubbub of the tourist season dies down. I believe him.

We sailed from Ketchikan around 1800 hrs. bound for Vancouver. The weather forecast was for strong southerly winds and the ship veered away from a direct course and we sailed through a labyrinth of narrow channels instead of bucking bigger seas in Queen Charlotte Sound. The Noordam arrived in Vancouver at 0700 Saturday morning and we were back at Wolf and Judy's home by noon where we played Mexican Train all afternoon.

The next day we visited friends Howard and Lynn at their flat on the 33rd floor of the Shaw building in downtown Vancouver. The views from their balcony were breathtaking. By mid-afternoon on Sunday we were back on the road, headed south. I wanted to get past Seattle to avoid the traffic gridlock that usually plagues the I-5 freeway between Lynnwood and Tacoma on weekdays, so we didn't stop until we got to Olympia.

We got back on the road around 10:00 the next morning and headed south at a leisurely pace. The plan was to check out a few wineries between Portland and Corvallis in the early part of the day, then visit Lisa's alma mater, Oregon State University. With football season in full swing she needed a new flag and some flannel pajama bottoms with the OS logo on them. She's still an avid fan of the fighting Beavers. Unfortunately, they aren't doing too well this year, with a 2-2 record. She has high hopes for the upcoming game against Arizona though.

It's harvest time in the Willamette Valley.

We wanted to visit Crater Lake on this trip so from Corvallis we drove to Roseburg, where we spent the night. We had an excellent dinner at Dino's Italian Ristorante and chatted with our waitress who was a student at Umpqua Community College. As we drove back to our hotel we remarked on what a sweet small town Roseburg is, unaware of the tragedy awaiting the people here. Our hearts are grieving for them. It's obvious that no amount of senseless carnage is going to change the minds of people who treasure their guns and would rather continue on the path of killing than adopt reasonable gun laws. It's a uniquely American malady that we will probably only cure when we discover a cure for stupidity.

We turned off of I-5 in Roseburg and drove for miles along the beautiful Umpqua river. We stopped occasionally to wander along the banks of the river, where we spotted the occasional fisherman standing on a rock in midstream, fly rod in hand. Idyllic scenes. We arrived at Crater Lake a little before noon and spent the afternoon hiking and enjoying this pristine natural wonder.
Photos can't quite capture the beauty of this lake.
Wizard Island

The lake was created when a volcano named Mt. Mazama collapsed in on itself around 7,700 years ago, creating a caldera or bowl over 4,000 feet deep in the middle where the peak used to be. Over time, rain and snowmelt filled the bowl, creating the lake. No rivers or streams flow into the lake so its only source of water is rain and snow. Over the next several hundred years there were more eruptions within the caldera, creating several cinder cones, one of which eventually rose out of the water and became Wizard Island.

There is a crater in the top of Wizard Island.
We got back on the road in the late afternoon and continued south, spending a night in Redding, California before heading up into the Sierras to visit family in Nevada City. It's always fun to hang out with Brian and Karen at their beautiful home nestled in the hills above the town. We stayed long enough to spend a day soaking up sunshine as we floated on tubes in the Yuba River, then got back on the road.

We drove south to Paso Robles where we spent the night and did some wine tasting in the surrounding area, and picked up some wine that had been waiting for us since last November. From there we headed home, arriving around 9:00pm, all safe and sound.