Rockland sea trials: Kiwi Spirit readies to round all five capes in Southern Ocean

Posted:  Monday, September 30, 2013 - 4:00pm

ROCKLAND — A few weeks ago, I was asked to help my friend, Gus, bring his O'Day Tempest to Rockland, from its temporary mooring in Bayside.

Gus has had a 30-foot sailboat for some years, and bought the 23-foot Tempest mostly for the four-stroke outboard that came with it. Like most sensible sailors, he chose to bring along another person to help handle the boat, if necessary. As it turned out, I'm sure he and his girlfriend would have been fine without my help. But I was glad to be along for the ride.

Every boat has its quirks, and old boats have frailties, as well. In the end, the most challenging part of our day was the reminder that there are no straight lines for sailors. We tacked from Bayside to Islesboro, from Lincolnville to Seven Hundred Acre Island, over and over as we made our way against the southwest breeze.

On a day that blew alternately light, flukey and dead calm, the motor proved its worth more than I did, getting us home before evening after a ride that showed us the beauty of an inhabited coast that remains hidden to the landbound.

A couple of weeks after my quiet adventure with Gus and Mariel, as I was heading to the Rockland Public Landing to bail the dinghies, I stopped in to see Ed Glaser. Rockland's harbormaster is a pretty dedicated guy, but seeing him in his office after 5 p.m. surprised me. When I commented on it, he told me he was waiting for Kiwi Spirit to come up to the dock.

I first encountered Kiwi Spirit in March 2012, when the 63-foot cutter was being laid out and built at the Lyman-Morse yard in Thomaston. I spent time then talking with Stanley Paris, the owner of the boat, about his plans to break Dodge Morgan's solo circumnavigation record, becoming the oldest person to make the round-the-world sail on his own, and to do it in under 130 days. Morgan made the journey in 1986, completing his sail in 150 days. Unlike more recent record-setters, Paris plans to round all five capes.

Those points of land, all in the Southern Ocean, mark the course of sailing history. They are the Cape of Good Hope or Cape Agulhas in Africa, Cape Leeuwin and the South East Cape of Tasmania in Australia, South West Cape at the southern tip of Stewart Island (or Rakiura) in New Zealand, and Cape Horn at the tip of South America.

Paris, a New Zealand native, lives and teaches in St. Augustine, Fla., and has a home in Addison. His specialty is physical therapy and he is founding president and chairman of the board of the directors at the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences. Paris completed the World Championship Ironman Triathlon in Hawaii in 1985, twice swam across the English Channel, and has sailed the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

I went with Ed to meet Kiwi Spirit, catching a dockline and reintroducing myself to her owner, who offered to bring me along the next day, when crew from Lyman-Morse would put her through some of her paces in preparation for a late-November departure from St. Augustine.

When I arrived at the landing the next morning, I met Nigel Calder, Toby Teele and Cabot Lyman. Calder is an onboard-systems specialist and marine author, called “the Guru of Sailing Systems” by Cruising World magazine. Teele is new construction systems foreman at Lyman-Morse. And Lyman is, well, Cabot Lyman. He's the owner of the renowned Thomaston boatyard where Kiwi Spirit was launched Nov. 2, 2012, outfitted for family travel, with all the comforts one might expect in a boat of her size.

Since then, Paris has completed a Newport to Bermuda race, where he was first to make landfall, and the Marblehead to Halifax run, in which he came in 18th of 75 competitors.

“Most had eight crewmembers,” he said. “I just brought a friend along who didn't sail.”

For the coming journey, Kiwi  Spirit will be stripped to the bare essentials. Even the cabin ceiling has been removed as part of the effort to lighten the cutter.

We cast off and motored out the the Breakwater, where we would spend the morning putting Kiwi Spirit's engine through its paces. When he conceived of this adventure, Paris planned to make it without a motor, using solar electric systems and other renewables to supplement the power of the wind. He still plans to keep the motor behind a wire cage, and is only carrying it on board at the advice of the builders, for emergencies. He doesn't want to be the cause of an expensive and potentially dangerous rescue, he said.

Teele monitored the hydraulic systems and Calder watched the gauges as Paris ran the boat at a variety of engine speeds, with the keel up, and with it down. For a couple of hours on that calm but rainy day, we ran a bit, did donuts by the lighthouse, and ran a bit more, until Nigel said he had all he needed. Lyman offered suggestions and Paris became better acquainted with the boat that will be his solo home for four months in the southern summer.

“I'm not a very outgoing, friendly person.” he said of the anticipated solitude. While he is looking forward to time alone, he acknowledged the challenge of that aspect of his journey.

Sailing is a different sort of adventure for every person who steps aboard a boat. For me, an afternoon in my 10-foot Emma is a thrill. For Gus, a small, trailerable sloop is an opportunity to leave the workday behind and check out new waters. Not everyone needs a solo-circumnavigation in their resume.

Even so, I think I'll follow Stanley Paris as he circles our tiny but endless home world. I'll be at Lyman-Morse on Monday when he heads south, and think about his lonely days and nights on the living ocean often, over the coming months.

The challenges he faces will likely be, as they are for us all, the ones he does not expect.

Paris will document his voyage online, with blogs at Kiwi Spirit carries a Yellow Brick tracking device that will allow people to follow the trip in real time. Those who want to support his work by donating to the Foundation for Physical Therapy will have their names displayed on the cutter's hull.


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