ONE STORM, TWO MUGGINGS, A COLLISION AND CIRCUMNAVIGATION
"Money is not the answer to cruising problems" advises Ed Hart. The San Diego based cruiser speaks from experience not theory.
The 64-year-old Hart has been sailing 30 years and cruising for 15. He started in '83 when he made the first of several trips to Mexico aboard his Fiji 35. As most cruisers age, they move on to larger and more luxurious boats. Not Hart. He later sailed from San Diego to Hawaii aboard an Islander 24. "It was the only boat I had," he explains. In '88, he sailed a Cal 25 to Hawaii - in an excellent time of 21 days. "1 was really flying" he admits. Hart sold both the Islander and the Cal in Hawaii.
About four years ago Hart found his current boat, Hooligan, a Cascade 29, in the Classy Classifieds. During the last 3.5 years, it has taken him on an unplanned circumnavigation "I never planned to sail around the world," he admits. "I just kept sailing to the next easiest destination and before long I had gone around the world. To tell you the truth, it was a lot harder - mentally and physically - than I expected."
Hart bought his Cascade 29 sight unseen from her berth at San Francisco's South Beach Marina. "I figured I couldn't go wrong," he says, "because Cascade charges $5,000 for just a bare hull." He outfitted the boat with a new diesel engine, new sails, a new stove, and new rigging - and still hadn't spent $10,000.
Hooligan Before Setting Out on Circumnavigation
You know the expression "time is money." The converse is also true: if you've got time, you can save a lot of money. Hart's new engine, for example, was a 22 year old Volvo diesel that had never been used. How's that? A guy who had been building a boat in his Portland backyard had installed the Volvo, but died before the boat was completed. When somebody else bought the project, they removed the brand new Volvo in favor of a Yanmar diesel. The patient Hart was the lucky beneficiary.
When it comes to cruising gear, Hart is a minimalist. Hooligan is equipped with a GPS, depthsounder. a VHF, and an Icom receiver - but no Ham or SSB radio, no radar, and no liferaft. Hart doesn't carry an EPIRB either. 'The way I look at It," he explains, "I'm the one who decides to go sailing on the ocean, so it's up to me to get myself back. For example, my prop shaft started falling out of my boat in the middle of the Indian Ocean. I had no choice but to dive overboard and save it, because you have to do what you have to do. And I made it safely to Sri Lanka, so that was that. My attitude is that nobody who goes to sea should ever expect to be rescued. I might feel different if I were responsible for somebody besides myself, but I'm not."
Hart is adamant about his most valuable piece of equipment. "My Monitor self-steering vane."
The singlehanded sailor is the first to admit that his "minimalist cruising" hero was Don Cutty, also of San Diego and of some number of years ago. "Cutty had a Columbia Sabre, which is a 5.5 racing boat with a tiny cabin," says Hart. "He had a very simple and inexpensive boat, he didn't have an engine. He hardly had any gear at all, and he had no money. But he ate what the locals ate and seemed to have more than the cruisers with the big boats and all the gear. By sailing from California to Massachusetts on a shoestring and having such a great time, he demonstrated to me that you didn't have to spend $150,000 for a boat and $50,000 for electronics to go ocean cruising."
Hart started his inadvertent circumnavigation by sailing to the Marshall and Caroline Islands, which he found very enjoyable, and the Philippines, which was to be his favorite stop of all. "I usually do most of my own boatwork," he says, "but in the Philippines I could get excellent workers for $6 a day. This was at a place 25 miles north of Cebu City which is known as the gun-making center of the Philippines. Using nothing but a drill press and hand tools, these guys sit under trees all day long creating handmade knock-offs of Uzi machine guns, Smith & Wesson pistols and rifles - whatever you want. All made by hand. One of my workers carried a Smith & Wesson 44 magnum - that was chambered out to fire a 5.56 millimeter bullet - which is what's used in M- l6s. He offered to make me one for $80."
Hart continued on to Singapore and Sri Lanka - and in both places realized how dangerous it could be trying to sail across the shipping lanes that connect the oil rich Middle East with the industrialized Far East. "Approaching Singapore. I was almost run down four times in one afternoon - in broad daylight. I also had a difficult time on my way from Sri Lanka
While Hart had some good experiences in Africa, he considers it the worst place he visited. "All along the East Coast of Africa the paperwork was a big hassle and all the officials had their hands out. And while in Mombassa, two guys jumped me. We rolled around in the dirt for awhile, but they didn't get anything. The officials were much more efficient in South Africa and didn't ask for bribes. Nonetheless, I was jumped by three hoodlums in the middle of the day on a main street in downtown Durban. They got away with my wallet and stuff."
It was also along the dangerous coast of Africa that Hart experienced his worst weather. "My Cascade and I got beat up pretty badly by a big storm off of Richard's Bay. The top of the main pulled off the mast, the boom broke, and I ran out of fuel. But you do what you have to do, and I limped into Durban with a double-reefed loose-footed main. Incidentally, this was the only really bad weather I had on the entire trip, as other than this storm, I never saw more than 30 knots of wind."
Harts haul-out in Durban was enough to restore his faith in humanity. The haulout was $30, the bottom paint was $60 and he paid $20 to have it put on. Where else could you get a 29-footer hauled and painted for $110 U.S.? A local metalworker came by when he heard Hart needed a new boom. The guy had a used boom, and after careful measuring and a lot of custom work on a new gooseneck, sold it to Hart for less than $200.
Hart was able to live inexpensively because the extremely hospitable South African yacht clubs usually offered free berthing. In addition, he was getting asked out to dinner nearly every night. "I still get letters from friends in South Africa," says Hart.
It's not that It was ever costing the singlehander much to cruise. "I was getting by on $600 to $800 a month - everything included. One way I saved lots of money over other cruisers is that I don't smoke or drink. Since I didn't indulge in those things, I could buy the very best food."
Ed Hart in Hawaii at Journey's End
Hart sailed up the Atlantic to Trinidad, then across the Caribbean Sea and through the Panama Canal. Then, on January 8 of this year, while on the Pacific Coast of Panama, he had the most traumatic sailing experience of his long career.
"It was 0930 and I was 10 miles off Punta Mala sailing at about two knots I'd been on watch and the coast was clear, but I'd gone below for about 10 minutes to make coffee. When I came back on deck, there was a ship about a mile away on a collision course with me. I was only doing a couple of knots and he was doing about 15 knots. Before I knew it, what turned out to be a 600-ft bulk carrier's starboard bow hit my boat's port bow at about a 45 degree angle!
"There were two distinct hits. The first when the ship hit my bow roller and 25-lb CQR anchor- ripping them off my boat Actually, I think the sacrificing of those two items is what saved my boat. The second hit must have been my mast striking the side of the ship - although I didn't realize there was damage until later when I got to Hawaii.
"The next thing I knew, the bow wave picked up my boat as though she were on an elevator. The motion caused me to smash my forehead on the companionway hatch, and then threw me on my back. I was pretty much out of it, on my back and bleeding badly, so all I could do was watch a 600 foot wall of steel pass by. Fortunately, my boat was not more seriously damaged.
"I managed to contact the ship by radio but they didn't respond. So I grabbed the binoculars and read the name of the ship: Vienna Wood N. What really made me mad is that I could see two of the crew on the fantail looking at me. They didn't do anything to render assistance or find out if I was all right."
When the shaken Hart finally pulled himself together, he started the motor and continued on to Puntarenas, Costa Rica. Hooligan wasn't in the best of shape, as her bow pulpit was damaged her bow roller, Pro-Furl, and CQR anchor had been torn off, and her jib and the upper part of her main were unusable; "Never buy cheap sails," warns Hart. "as it's ultimately less expensive to buy good ones in the first place.
" Eager to continue on to Honolulu without spending a lot of money, Hart "did what he had to do," and took off on the mostly light-air route from Costa Rica to Honolulu able to set nothing more than storm jib and a double-reeled main! Prior to the damage to his sails, the little Hooligan had been averaging a respectable 96 miles a day. But his arduous trip to Honolulu - "which was either calm or blowing 30 knots" - took 54 long days.
When Hart got to Honolulu, he discovered that Vienna Wood N was a Greek owned ship flying a Cypriot flag and leased to the Hyundai Corporation. He also discovered that both the Coast Guard and Admiralty lawyers didn't have much use for such a "little guy."
"The Coast Guard's attitude was that if you're singlehanding, you can't maintain a proper watch," says Hart. "And you know, I have to admit they are correct. The Coast Guard also told me they don't investigate anything under $25,000 in damages, so they weren't of any help to me. The so-called Admiralty lawyers were worse. They said they weren't interested in anything unless there was p100,000 In damages."
Hart's boat is currently in Honolulu, where he's been getting the true aloha welcome from the Hawaii Yacht Club As soon as he gets some replacement sails, he plans on sailing back to California.
He says the lesson of his being hit by the ship is simple: "No ship is going to move out of their way for a small boat. As a result, singlehanded sailing is really nothing more than a calculated risk. I'm not going to do it anymore." In the next breath, of course, Hart mentions that he'd like to cruise Europe, so he'll probably buy a boat on the East Coast or in Europe. He admits that he may do more singlehanding after all.
Hart's lesson to everyone else is that cruising simply is not only possible, it's in some ways perhaps preferable. "I see people cruising on big boats with all the toys, but they have more breakdowns and therefore grumble more. I prefer to keep my boat and gear really simple, because the less you have to break, the more fun you're going to have."
"And I want to reemphasize that you don't need a lot of money. Don Cutty didn't. I didn't. While in Bonaire. I met a
Hooligan Hauled out for Repairs in South Africa
cruiser who had been hanging to a mooring over the most crystal clear water you've ever seen. He spent an entire year there, and all he paid for the paperwork, mooring and everything was 25 cents US! If you don't have money, you can get some breaks, too. I met a Russian guy with a big wooden former racing boat in Palau, where they charge $150 a month for a cruising permit: He didn't have any money, so he didn't pay. The officials knew he didn't have any money, so they didn't bother with him."
If you've heard it once, you've heard it a million times: the best part of cruising is the people you meet. So it's been with Hart. "You meet such great people while cruising. I know it's a cliche, but it's true. There are so many great friends I've made, but in particular, some Argentinians while I was in South Africa. They keep asking me to come down and visit them."
Any last words for our readers? "Yes." says Hart, "tell that Commodore Tompkins guy - who said Cascade 29s are the worst boats he's ever sailed on - that not many other small boats would survive a collision with a 600-foot ship and still make it back to port on their own!"
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