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On Sailboats with Dieter Loibner

A relic’s lasting impact on ocean voyaging

Winslow Homer's 1886 oil painting Eight Bells depicts two sailors using sextants, the modern navigation instrument of the day.I recently caught myself swinging the cat-o’-nine-tails. Hard and fast I brought it down on my own back — virtually, of course — punishing myself for doing stuff that was fun when I should have applied myself to serious matters, such as weeding the yard or contributing to the bottom line. The culprit was David Barrie’s new book Sextant, which is subtitled A Young Man’s Daring Sea Voyage and the Men Who Mapped the World’s Oceans (HarperCollins).

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A wing and a promise: less fuel and cleaner air

Trillizas is a test platform for wing technology that could be adapted to passenger ferries on San Francisco Bay.Ah, the blessings of San Francisco Bay: sunshine, sparkling water, brisk breezes, a multihull and a wing. In remembering the last America’s Cup, these could be the trimmings for a heart-thumping ride on foils at 40 knots. But this is a different show. No speeding. No grinding. No foiling. No body armor, crash helmets or cameras. And no profligate billionaires. This is not about speed.

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Perfect balance: an older boat and the latest 4-strokes

“You show this to anybody, and I’ll kill you,” says Jon Lyons, absently, as he bears down on one very busy page of my notebook with a green Sharpie.

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A yacht named Witch and a cauldron of intrigue

Witch, designed in 1902 by Charles Sibbick, caught the eye of a man who has become a shipwright so he can restore her.It was a sad day on the Cowes waterfront in January 1912 when an empty dinghy without oars was brought in from the Medina River. Sailors, tradesmen and ordinary citizens talked in hushed voices about what might have happened. Few entertained hope that the rower was alive, but without a corpse, speculation ran rampant. Was it an accident? Suicide? Foul play?

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Disappointed, yes, but in no way defeated

Heading west: Glenn Wakefield in the Strait of Juan de Fuca after the start of his solo, non-stiop circumnavigation in Victoria, British Columbia.It was Dec. 26, 2013, Boxing Day, and the position was 32 degrees, 55 minutes south and 80 degrees, 17 minutes east. That’s a nowhere spot in the Southern Indian Ocean, far from anything or anyone. Australia was 1,800 miles astern, South Africa 2,800 miles farther west. A cyclone had moved out of the area, and seas were getting calmer, yet it was then and there that Glenn Wakefield’s dream came unraveled, strand by cruel strand.

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