Friday, October 23, 2015

Petrochemical-Free Cruising

Last month at the Wooden Boat Festival in Port Townsend I attended an interesting presentation by Capt. Peter Wilcox, Master Mariner and President of Columbia Riverkeeper. His subject was "NOAA's Green Ships Show the Way for Northwest Boaters", subtitled "Long-term test results of 100% biodiesel and biolubricants, state of the art electric power and the future of low impact, low carbon boating".

Capt. Wilcox started by detailing what the effect is on the oceans and their inhabitants from the acidifying effects of the carbon dioxide produced by burning fossil fuels. Most of this carbon dioxide ends up in the ocean either directly or via rivers. This upsets the balance of nutrients, oxygen and clean water that most marine life needs to survive. Some of that marine life is under threat of extinction.

in 2009 he launched the motor-sailer "Ama Natura" for cruising and exploring the inside passage, built for him by Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding. His boat was equipped to operate totally free from petroleum derived products. He followed the example and practices developed by NOAA for their fleet of green ships on the Great Lakes. NOAA have also assisted in the conversion of other vessels and the program now covers more than 200 NOAA and commercial vessels across the USA.
"Ama Natura" - Photo courtesy of Capt. Peter Wilcox
The NOAA green ships program was initiated in 1999, through the NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory (GLERL). Their vessels run on B100, biodiesel derived 100% from soy, a renewable energy source. In addition to the fuel, all of the lubrication and hydraulic products used on these vessels are plant-derived, from soy, rapeseed and canola oils.

Benefits that NOAA has seen from this program are numerous.

 Environmental & Social Benefits
✦ Decreases emissions of fossil fuels that contribute to climate change and air pollution
✦ Lessens risk of environmental harm in the event of a fuel spill
✦ Reduces dependence on imported oil
✦ Supports agriculture and the U.S. economy
Operational Benefits
✦ Improves engine performance
✦ Extends engine life
✦ Reduces need for engine maintenance due to cleaning properties of biodiesel
✦ Reduces operating and maintenance costs by 20-40% vs. petroleum-based fuels
Human Health Benefits
✦ Reduces exposure to harmful and cancer-causing chemicals
✦ Reduces seasickness due to less offensive odor

Biodiesel is cleaner than petroleum-based diesel, which is behind many of the benefits. These show in longer lifespan of injectors, fuel pumps and filters, also in reduced or disappearing cleaning costs for tanks, fuel lines and other components of the fuel system.
Washington State ferry "Spokane" runs on biodiesel
The emissions reductions of biodiesel compared with diesel, as reported by NOAA, are impressive.
✦ Total unburned hydrocarbons -77%
✦ Carbon monoxide -48%
✦ Particulate matter -59%
✦ Nitrogen oxide -7%
✦ Sulfates -74%
✦ Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon -66%

Biodiesel can be made from many plant sources, so can be adapted to the most suitable renewable crop or waste material. Used cooking oil can also be filtered and reprocessed to produce biodiesel, for a very cost-effective fuel. GLERL has seen a 20-40% reduction in operating costs on its fleet since converting to biodiesel and other bio products.

For more information on the NOAA program, read the NOAA Green Ships Initiative.

Biodiesels continue to be developed. Second generation formulations offer longer stability, higher octane ratings and lower waste. Biolubricants are also improving, allowing 100% improvement in oil life.

The NOAA clean ships program appears to be a good one, with major long-term benefits for the world in general and for boaters in particular.

Dudley Dix

Sunday, October 18, 2015

GCBSR Report Back

As described in my previous post, a big fleet of schooners (35 of them) of all types and styles, sailed from Baltimore at the northern end of Chesapeake Bay to Portsmouth at the southern end. Starting on Thursday lunch time, after a big Wednesday evening dinner party at the Polish Home in Baltimore, most boats were in Portsmouth by early Saturday in time for the big lunch-time oyster, clam and pig roast and prizegiving.

On the Shearwater 45 "Apella", owned and skippered by Dan Hall, we acquitted ourselves quite well with second in Class B behind the 65ft "Tom Bombadil". In a schooner fleet quoted length includes the bowsprit, so our Shearwater 45 is listed at 54ft. Winner in Class C was "Adventure", the Hout Bay 40 gaff schooner (listed at 42ft) on which I sailed this race about 5 years ago. I don't know why she only gains 2ft in her listing, her bowsprit is considerably more than 2ft.

Classes B and C started 10 minutes behind the bigger boats of classes A and AA. The fastest of the first start boats sailed away from us but we had the opportunity to view some of the others as we sailed through the back end of the bigger fleet, with opportunities for good photos.
"Mystic Whaler", out of New London, Connecticut. She is a regular in this race.
A few boats fell out of the race along the way. The weather turned out to be considerably less favourable than the 8-10mph westerly breezes with smooth water that were forecast. We had those conditions for the first 6-8 hours of racing but then the breeze started to head south and continued that trend until it was pretty much on the nose and increased to about 25 knots (about 3x the forecast). With wind against tide most of the time, the seas were short and sharp, rather uncomfortable. This was too much for some crews, who retired from the race.
Hauling in "Lady Maryland"
I succumbed to the uncomfortable seas and donated my dinner to the fish, crabs and clams of Chesapeake Bay for a few hours from about 4am Friday until we reached smoother water south of our finish at Windmill Point. My own fault of course, I believed the forecast and didn't take my usual precautions until after we hit the rough water. By then it was too late to do much good.
Some of our crew. L-R Joe Miller, Dudley, Scott Page. Owner Dan Hall at the helm.
I really enjoy sailing among these boats, particularly the big ones like "Pride of Baltimore", "Mystic Whaler", "Lady Maryland" and others that are dedicated to educating people from all walks of life and of all ages. They do so in the interests of the community, teaching skills that will be lost to humanity without such dedicated people serving as stewards, to look after and pass on the crafts and skills of traditional schooners and the coastal waters in which they operate.
"Pride of Baltimore" docked in Portsmouth, other big schooners in the background.
I have sailed many thousands of miles and sailed most of my life but my skills are insignificant beside these true watermen and women. Some of these boats are skippered and crewed by women and they are well-respected by the men among whom they sail and compete. Being female is no disadvantage in the world of schooners, all must prove themselves on an equal basis.

Overall, this was another memorable Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race. This event was the brainchild of the late Capt. Lane Briggs, who sailed in most of them in his steel gaff schooner "Norfolk Rebel", a sail-assisted tug. The innovative Capt. Briggs was a sturdy pillar of the community in Hampton Roads, initiating many events to support, educate and entertain residents and visitors alike. The many volunteers involved in creating and hosting the Schooner Race every year do a wonderful job of keeping alive the aspirations of Lane Briggs, ensuring that they will continue for a long time into the future.

Dudley Dix

Monday, October 12, 2015

Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race 2015

I will be away from my desk from Wednesday morning early, through to the weekend. I won't have my laptop with me, so you won't get me by email for a few days. The reason for this gap in my connectivity is that I will be preparing for and sailing in the Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race.
"Apella" approaching the start line for the 2014 race.
The race connects the two port cities of Baltimore at the northern end of the Bay and Portsmouth at the southern end, both of which throw excellent parties for the crews. The course is actually a bit shorter, starting  just south of the Bay Bridge that spans Chesapeake Bay north of Annapolis and finishing at Thimble Shoals off Hampton Roads. That is for the bigger boats but the smaller and slower boats get to finish at Windmill Point about 50 miles further up the Bay, then choose to either sail or motor the rest of the way to Portsmouth in time for the festivities.

I will be sailing on the schooner-rigged Shearwater 45 "Apella", the same boat on which we won Class B last year. She is owned by Dan Hall, who lives aboard and keeps moving up and down the coast wherever schooner events and whim may take him.
Some of the "Apella" crew showing off the silverware in 2014.
It was as we crossed the start line last year that, sitting astride the cockpit coaming and grinding the Genoa winch, I dislocated my left knee. I'll have to be careful about my body placement when grinding this year.
I was wrapped up because it was chilly last year, after a stormy party night.
Great news is that twin sister to "Apella", "Moonbeam", has been bought by a friend of Dan Hall and she is being brought north from Florida for a refit, after which I anticipate that the two boats will get together often. I look forward to match racing these boats down the Bay in future years.

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