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CruiserPort returns to Rhode Island with a 'bluewater edition'

CruiserPort University is in session at the Newport International Boat Show this fall with a seminar series designed for New England boaters.

My soul is full of longing

for the secret of the sea,

and the heart of the great ocean

sends a thrilling pulse through me.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The sea, the snotgreen sea, the scrotumtightening sea.

James Joyce, Ulysses

Hark, now hear the sailors cry,

smell the sea, and feel the sky.

Let your soul & spirit fly, into the mystic

Van Morrison

There comes a time in a man's life when he hears the call of the sea. If the man has a brain in his head, he will hang up the phone immediately.

Dave Barry

CruiserPort returns to the 2017 Newport International Boat Show Sept. 13-16 with a seminar series designed for New England mariners who are seeking to extend their horizons. “CruiserPort University: The Bluewater Edition” features a package of 11 seminars to hone the offshore skills of sailors and powerboaters alike.

New England boaters never had the substantial network of inland waterways enjoyed by much of the East Coast and the Gulf of Mexico. Cruising anywhere usually meant exiting through jetties. I grew up on Buzzards Bay.

This seminar series is designed for boaters who want to build on their existing New England skill sets. It will give attendees an idea of whether they should consider, for example, piloting their boats to the Caribbean via Bermuda, rather than the long haul down the Intracoastal Waterway before making a 1,200-mile slog east to the Virgin Islands.

The seminar series is brought to you by the Active Interest Media Marine Group and the producers of TrawlerFest boat shows. Despite the trawler connection, all classes are “propulsion-agnostic,” valuable to anyone who cruises under power or sail. Even if you don’t intend to go past the sight of land, these classes will benefit coastal cruisers who want to boost confidence and a sense of independence.

Nearly every speaker, a list that includes well-known figures such as Nigel Calder, John Clayman and Chris Parker, has extensive cruising experience. “I have a modicum of experience offshore,” Swanson says. “My goal was to try to ensure every presenter had more bona fide sea time than I do.”

Calder’s books Marine Diesel Engines and Boatowner’s Mechanical & Electrical Manual have saved many a mariner wise enough to carry them on board as references. A protégé of the late Ted Hood, Clayman is an accomplished offshore racer and has hundreds of long-range deliveries under his belt. Parker, a former Bahamas liveaboard, is a popular weather router.

The seminars, two and 3½ hours in length, will happen from Wednesday through Saturday, Sept. 13-16, at the Blues Café across from the entrance to the show. Here are summaries:

“Troubleshooting & Repairing Diesel Engines Underway”

Circumnavigating Cuba and sailing the high-latitude waters of the British Isles and northward, often beyond the range of towboat services, have honed author and researcher Nigel Calder’s mechanical skills to a fine edge. Calder spends an entire morning teaching troubleshooting, repairs and preventive measures.

“Troubleshooting & Repairing Systems Underway”

As is the case with his diesel engine seminar, Calder spends 3½ hours discussing common failures of onboard systems that can happen when you’re outside the sight of land or in far-flung cruising grounds. He will share solutions and proactive failure-prevention measures.

“Offshore Weather”

Weatherman Chris Parker’s lively and informative seminar is aimed at those who want the knowledge to make their own passage decisions with whatever information is available, including GRIB patterns. He also will discuss forecast delivery services.

“First Aid & Emergency Preparedness at Sea”

A technician for DAN Medical Services, the go-to company for emergencies at sea, will help prepare attendees for almost any medical emergency, covering sources of information, first-aid kits, medical manuals, medical equipment and supplies, prescription medications, over-the-counter medical supplies, first aid and medical training, communication, 24/7 tele-med support, personal crew responsibilities and pets on board. There also will be an opportunity to practice first-aid skills and hemorrhage control, and learn hands-only CPR.

“Characteristics of Offshore Boats, Sail & Power”

What does “seaworthy” really mean, and what are the characteristics that distinguish a sailboat or powerboat for offshore work? John Clayman’s entire life has prepared him to answer these questions. A native of Marblehead, Mass., and an ocean racer, Clayman describes himself as a “water rat” who went on to earn an advanced degree in naval architecture and marine engineering from MIT. Clayman worked for the legendary Ted Hood, first in the Little Harbor design office and eventually as Hood’s general manager. As the East Coast distributor for Selene Ocean Trawlers, he was instrumental in introducing and refining these displacement powerboats. He is the president of Seaton Yachts.

“Old School Navigation”

You’re offshore, and lightning strikes. You’re offshore, and the U.S. government shuts off GPS for civilian use because of an impending terror attack. Pick your scenario. The upshot is no GPS. Would you be sufficiently skilled at “old school” navigation to get to your destination? Instructor Bob Sweet is a senior navigator and author of The Weekend Navigator, GPS for Mariners, Using GPS and Using GPS with Charts. He’s a consultant to OceanGrafix, an on-demand provider of nautical charts. Sweet's 3½-hour seminar is for novices who have no idea how to navigate with pencil or paper. It’s also a refresher for more experienced boaters, who have become perhaps too accustomed to the ease of chart-plotter navigation.

“To Bermuda, the Caribbean & Beyond”

Offshore mariners John Clayman and Ryan Gettler take attendees down island and through the Panama Canal to the South Pacific. Clayman, president of Seaton Yachts, is a boatbuilder and a Bermuda Race veteran. Gettler, of Pantaenius USA, is no ordinary insurance executive. As a younger man, he and his brother circumnavigated in a production sailboat. Clayman and Gettler discuss all aspects of getting a boat from New England to southern waters.

“Radar & Electronic Navigation”

Marine author/illustrator Bob Sweet and Furuno senior product manager Eric Kunz will discuss the recent and rapid rise of solid-state multi-frequency radar and the demise of pulse technology. They will share navigation techniques and how to get the most from today’s modern multifunction displays, regardless of brand. Do we still need to carry paper charts?

“Survival at Sea”

Forget anything you may have seen in Robert Redford’s movie “Lost.” Surviving a crisis at sea happens because of preparation, the right gear, seamanship skills and a good attitude. Among the topics that trainer Bob Arrington and Nordhavn yacht broker Ben Sprague will discuss are: heaving to, storm anchors, drogues, ditch bags and communicating with rescuers. Brian Kinsella, of Viking Life Rafts, will focus on life rafts, one of which will be deployed during the class. Sprague brings his own insight. When he and fellow crewmembers tried to abandon ship during an Atlantic Ocean passage in 1978, their life raft blew away. They spent days in a dinghy until a Cuban freighter rescued them.

“Troubleshooting Electronics at Sea”

First of all, note “electronics,” not “electrical.” This new seminar will prove that when marine electronics fail, there are remedies available to a boater other than surrender and making a telephone call to the technician, especially if you are beyond cellular range. Eric Kunz, senior product manager for Furuno, takes a nonpartisan look at how to troubleshoot hardware, systems and NMEA 0183 and 2000 networks, using a meter and common sense.

“Storm Tactics: Power & Sail”

Anyone whose passagemaking will extend beyond normal forecast windows faces the possibility of encountering foul weather. John Clayman (see “Characteristics of Offshore Boats Sail & Power” and “To Bermuda, the Caribbean & Beyond”) is a veteran of ocean racing and many, many bluewater deliveries. Clayman will talk about dealing with high winds and big seas. There will be ample time for audience Q&A.

Participants can purchase all 11 sessions for $799, which includes box lunches. Seminars also may be purchased à la carte — $75 for two-hour classes and $150 for four-hour classes. Whether they subscribe to the entire series or purchase individual courses, participants will receive appropriate certificates of completion that can lower insurance rates.

Click here for more information on CruiserPort University at the Newport International Boat Show or call (410) 990-9086, Ext. 22, or email

Click here for the registration/ticketing site.