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OCC Seminars contents

Wednesday, December 25th, 2013

February 20 and 27 and March 6, 2014

Night 1 – Afford To Cruise?? You Can’t Afford Not To.
You will learn how much cruising really does cost, whether to Catalina for the weekend, to Mexico for the season, through the Panama Canal, or across the South Pacific .
Find out what money and credit cards to carry.
You will be healthier that you have ever been, but Carole and Laurie will tell you why you will still need medical insurance for physical health – and boat insurance for financial health.
Affordable cruising starts with deciding what type of Cruiser you want to be, selecting the right boat to suit that, and equipping it properly.
Laurie and Carole will tell you how to do this, including how to compromise – both of you.
You will learn how to protect your boat from lightning, and what to do when you are hit (they were).
All this information is delivered with terrific pictures and great stories.

Night 2 – Planning for Good Luck.
Ever notice how some sailors are just plain lucky, avoiding bad weather, never having major equipment break or malfunction, and having happy co-captains and crew? Ever take the next step and notice how these “lucky” sailors are also the ones who plan ahead?
Proper planning includes ensuring your boat is properly maintained at all times, that your boat is set up to be as safe as possible, that you have properly done your passage planning, and that your preparations to leave port are thorough and complete. Laurie and Carole put all their experience into informing you how to do this.
Proper anchor selection and anchoring techniques are covered in detail, and will almost certainly save many marriages.
Laurie and Carole sailed around the world for more than 6 years without ever striking sustained winds at sea of more than 35 knots. One goal of this seminar is to provide you with bad-weather avoidance skills such as patience, knowing what superstitions you should not ignore, and where to get the right information.
They provide practical solutions to standing watches and how to use radios and radio nets to the best advantage.
All this is interlaced with great pictures and gripping stories.

Night 3 – Things you never knew you needed to know
Whether you are going out for a couple of hours, overnight, to Mexico, or around the world, the real trick is to accomplish this while maintaining cordial relationships with the members of your family. This is not easy, but Carole and Laurie will tell you how they did it. Further counseling by way of a discussion on how to allocate blue and pink jobs will prove vital.
This seminar also covers the miscellaneous aspects of sailing and cruising, the ones that you don’t necessarily think of, but which have the ability to rise up and cause severe interference to your plans.
You will be advised of a list of stuff you never thought of, but which is essential equipment to have on board.
Laurie will provide the skills needed to sail safely in coral filled water, to avoid going aground, and explain how to get off when you do (and you will).
By way of light relief, Carole and Laurie will cover flags and flag etiquette, cocktail time etiquette, crazy cruisers they have met, and what can be learned from them, clothing optional and why it shouldn’t be, and the realities of carrying guns on board.
All this information is delivered with terrific pictures and great stories.

Latitudes & Attitudes Seminar Biloxi

Friday, April 13th, 2012

We will be presenting again at the annual Latitudes & Attitudes advanced cruising seminar in Biloxi on April 28 and 29. This is a great couple of days full of information from a wide variety of experts and a lot of fun besides. sign up by going to the Latitudes & Attitudes website.

Seminar on July 28

Monday, July 20th, 2009

Carole and I will be giving our very informative and entertaining seminar at Book Soup, 8818 sunset, West Hollywood on July 28 at 6:30pm. you can register to attend at:

or just show up

There will be free wine and a lot of Australians and New Zealanders there. Registering will ensure there in enough wine for everyone.

Part of any book sale receipts will be going to charity.

Young circumnavigators

Friday, July 17th, 2009

My son Ryan was 8 when we left, and 14 when we completed our circumnavigation.  He, my wife and I were the only crew for the whole time.  When we returned, Ryan was a very experienced blue-water sailor.  He wanted to go on.  “Dolphin Spirit” was fully set up to be single-handed, completely equipped, proven, loaded with all the right instruments and charts.  Ryan knew the boat intimately, he had experienced three major ocean crossings and had dropped anchor in hundreds of foreign spots, many uncharted.
In all of these ways, and in many others, he and his boat were far more well prepared than were Zac and his boat.  Ryan would have easily been the youngest to solo circumnavigate, but we decided not to for a number of reasons:
1. The circumnavigation Ryan had just completed was fun, the one being contemplated was not going to be that.

2. Sticking to a timetable meant disregarding almost every lesson I had taught him about being weather-wise and cautious.  There is simply no way to circumnavigate in less than 18 months and stay out of problem weather areas and times.

3. Solo long-distance sailors are a danger to themselves and to everyone else on the ocean.  There is simply no way to keep a proper watch and we and almost every solo sailor I know understand that audio alarms do not wake an exhausted person. A solo sailor has to rely on other boats to avoid him, and this is contrary to my teachings to Ryan about being in control of your own destiny to the greatest extent possible. Others certainly do not agree with me on this subject, and that is their right.

4. Ryan had nothing to prove about himself or his skills.

I understand that others don’t share my point of view, but I repeat that I am really concerned that this competition to be the youngest circumnavigator will get out of hand and felt that something had to be said, not to denigrate Zac’s accomplishments in any way, but to put them into a perspective.

My concern is that his exceptional feat be put in proper perspective and that the almost inevitable trend to younger and younger record-seekers that new technology makes possible be staved off.  As Zac has proved, sailing around the world on a timetable, even with all possible personal and technological assistance, is dangerous process and I don’t want to see sailing and cruising tarnished by the death of a child trying to break another child’s record.

I wrote the above before the report in the July 17 LA Times which said that a 15 year old was about to set sail. I rest my case!

Zac’s Circumnavigation

Friday, July 17th, 2009

Zac Sunderland should receive every accolade for his voyage and record setting, but the litany of problems he had should not be taken as typical of a circumnavigation.  The bad weather he encountered was almost completely a direct result of his having to sail to meet a schedule, rather than sailing to suit the conditions.
When my wife, son (eight years old when we left, 14 when we returned) and I completed our almost seven year circumnavigation, we did so without encountering sustained winds at sea of more than 35 knots, and this was not exceptional for most long-term cruising sailors we knew. We did this by simply waiting for the
right weather window, or sitting out hurricane and storm prone months.  Zac did not have this luxury of time.
As a result, we never broke any major gear or equipment, and I stayed married, as my wife gets sea-sick, and therefore calm sailing is almost essential.
Long-term cruising is very safe, much, much safer than living on land, and considerably more pleasant. It really is very nice to be able to say, on any given day, let’s move our house to another place.  If the new place proves to be less than wonderful, we can move again to one that is.
Try doing that on land!


Wednesday, November 19th, 2008

Laurence Sunderland advised his 16 year old son Zac (LA Times “Adventure on the high seas” 11/9/08), who is sailing solo around the world, to load his pistol and shoot to kill if threatened by an approaching vessel.

This is seriously bad advice. Assuming the approaching vessel did contain pirates, there would be 20 or so automatic weapons and most probably a 50 caliber machine gun and a couple of RPG’s, all pointing in Zac’s direction. Firing at them would be the fastest way possible of committing suicide.

Fear of pirates can be a bigger problem than the pirates themselves. A solo sailor, asleep in an anchorage on the Venezuelan coast, woke to hear footsteps on his deck. He opened fire with an automatic weapon, and the people on deck returned fire. The boarders then identified themselves as Venezuelan Coast Guard, the sailor was arrested, and his now seriously leaking boat impounded.

The truth about pirates is that they make for great headlines, are a real danger to some vessels, but are not interested in small private yachts. Why should they bother when they can capture a small freighter or tanker with about the same effort, and gain a multi-million dollar return? There was a recent report of a French yacht boarded by pirates off the Somali coast. Research the details and you will find the yacht had a crew of 30, not your typical small sailboat.

I sailed around the world for six and a half years with my wife and son (8 when we left, 14 when we returned) in a small sailboat, traveling more than 40,000 miles and visiting 56 countries. We spent more than six months sailing in Indonesia, mostly in places very few yachts had visited. Not once did we feel threatened. Not once did we feel we had to chain our dinghy to the yacht, as we later had to in the “lock it or lose it” Caribbean. Our dinghy and outboard were left unsecured, simply pulled up in front of many a village, and were always there when we returned hours later. The fishing boats and small inter-island trading vessels often came close to us for a look and a cheerful wave of greeting.

The story was the same in Thailand, Sri Lanka, Yemen, Eritrea, Sudan and Egypt, some of the poorest countries in the world, and all on the US government Advisory List of countries not to visit.

Pirate attacks are increasing around the world, but most occur in well defined areas, Nigeria, Somalia and the Gulf of Aden, Indonesia (Malacca Straits), and Bangladesh. Regardless of pirate preferences for larger vessels, sailing a yacht in those regions is not to be taken lightly.

The Malacca Straits, between Malaysia and Indonesia, has to be traversed to get from Singapore to Thailand, so we sailed through in company with another yacht, anchoring at night without lights and restricting radio communication. Knowing Socroto Island, in the Gulf of Aden at the bottom of the Red Sea, was a pirate source, we diverted from our direct route to sail no closer than 150 miles from it.

In common with most cruisers, we started out armed, in our case with a shotgun. Almost every country we visited required that we surrender the gun and all ammunition on entry to the country, returning it when we left. That meant most of the theoretical value of having a gun on board was negated. Any non-declared weapons or ammunition, even a single bullet, found during a Customs search, could result in immediate seizure of the yacht, and the certainty of severe penalties.

On arrival in the Cook Islands, when we declared our shotgun I asked if it could be sealed in a locker, instead of being taken off the boat. The Customs official agreed, but had no seals with him, so promised to return the next day. I saw him on the dock a couple of days later, and asked about the seals.

“Can’t find any,” he said. “Promise me you won’t shoot anyone and we will forget about it.”

He was alone in his tolerance in the 56 countries we visited. Soon after, we got rid of the shotgun.

We were not totally naïve about the possibility of personal attacks, so the boat was well stocked with pepper spray and equivalent non-lethal protective materials. I had my wife and very young son on board, so was not about to take any unnecessary chances, or expose them to dangers.

There may be lots of reasons for people not to go sailing around the world, or in parts of it, but the threat of pirates should not be one of them. As with all things, information, precautions and caution are very effective.

Anchoring Etiquette

Thursday, July 31st, 2008

There is an etiquette to anchoring. Vessels already at anchor have precedence, so the place you choose has to be clear of them. Do not be like the yacht that anchored right on top of us, and when I indicated that we would hit, responded, “Don’t worry, we will put out fenders.”

If the boats in the anchorage have dropped a stern anchor, you must also. Do not be the only boat without a stern anchor, or the only boat with one. Yachts with all-chain rode will swing differently from those with rope; ketches will be different from sloops; full keels are different from fin. It is polite to ask the boats nearest you how much rode they have out, and what type, as this will, in part, determine how they will swing.

We discovered a delightful little bay in Southern Spain, with room for about five boats, dropped anchor all alone, went below for a nap, and came back on deck to find we were in the middle of about 20 charter boats. They had limited knowledge of scope, apparently believing that, as long as the anchor was on the bottom, all would be well. Thankfully it was a low wind night, and creative fendering got us through without damage. Up-anchoring was not an option as we had at least three anchors on top of ours.

Anchoring Without a Divorce Following

Thursday, July 31st, 2008

Carole and I began our anchoring life together heading straight for a divorce. I shouted; she shouted; it was ugly. We tried voice-activated two-way radios, but these were useless in any sort of a breeze. Finally we hit on the technique that has made us the envy of the cruising world, and restored tranquility to our lives. Carole drives; I stand in the bow and with not a word spoken, just use of six simple hand directions, we have anchored flawlessly many hundreds of times, in almost every weather condition.

Perhaps the most stringent test of our technique occurred in the Red Sea. The weather got really bad about midnight one night, so we decided to try for the Ras Gharib anchorage, which is behind a projecting reef. There were no navigation aids, just the way points provided by the Red Sea Pilot, which on my charts plotted as right in the middle of the reef, and the darkness was almost total. Deciding to trust the Pilot, we gingerly felt our way in—if the movement of a blind, bouncing cork can be so described. I was in the bow with a spotlight to see if I could see the reef, perhaps by waves breaking on it. Carole was driving, shining a flashlight on me to see my signals, watching GPS and radar, holding on to stop being thrown about the cockpit, and totally distracted by two huge black cockroaches which chose that moment, and our cockpit, to mate. No other system but ours could have coped. The morning light revealed that we had dropped anchor on the reef, but were swinging over sand.

Spend five minutes learning the hand movements. It is much more effective than a marriage counselor, and much cheaper than a divorce.

Marking The Anchor Chain

Thursday, July 31st, 2008

Anchor chain does no good in the locker, but it is important to know how much chain is out, hence the need to mark the chain.

Paint, and those commercially available markers, last about three drops, and in any case can’t be properly seen at night. We finally settled on using plastic wire ties – one at 30’, two at 60’, three at 90’, one at 120’, two at 150’ and so on. They do not interfere with the anchor winch, last many months, can be distinguished at night and can be easily replaced in seconds while pulling up the anchor on a calm day.

I usually let out a lot of anchor chain at times, when I am uncertain about the bottom or the weather – how does 250 feet in 20 feet of water sound. The aim of anchoring is to allow you to wake up in the same anchorage you went to sleep in. After many thousands of anchorages, I am very happy to say that we have dragged only three times, two of those because I went brain-dead.

One of my anchoring errors occurred in Sicily, when I let out 60’ instead of 150’. I lost count, and my only excuse was that the two women sunbathing on the boat next to us were totally naked.


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