Monday, October 6, 2008
Ordinary Not Applicable
Tom Perkins took me for a ride last weekend, on that boat of his. He stood at the control station, played with his touchscreen options, and sailed us around San Francisco Bay. He said, "You can learn to sail this boat in five minutes." Maybe. It would take little old me longer than that to get over being surprised by it, even though I've known the details for a couple of years . . .
Photo by Dick Enersen, Staff Commodore, SINS
If I understood correctly, Maltese Falcon had a wheel when it was launched, but the wheel proved pointless. Or maybe the wheel was merely part of the original design. Everything is high-tech mechanical and computer-controlled, so why not go the extra step? Now there's only a tiny nob to control the left-right function. Port-starboard as my nautical friends say . . .
Sails are deployed from one touchscreen panel. Stress on the free-standing carbon spars is monitored from another. Etcetera.
What's amazing is to stand on deck as the masts rotate. It's as shocking as watching a redwood forest move around. As always, if you click the pic, you get a much larger, more profound, view . . .
There's been a lot written about the technology of the boat; no point repeating it here. There's a web site at symaltesefalcon.com. On a beam reach in a modest breeze we looked at 16 knots through the water, not quite that at the moment I squeezed the shutter . . .
I call it a boat, but you could just as well call it a ship. We're talking 289 feet and 1,240 tons, well over the threshold of 300 tons that requires the presence of a Bar Pilot to operate inside San Francisco Bay.
Someone asked me later, does the boat heel? Yep, it's a sailboat. Here's the XOJET crowd hanging out . . .
Perkins likes passagemaking. That's his favorite thing. The boat has covered 50,000 miles in two and a half years, he says, 65 percent of it under sail, "and on our last Atlantic crossing, once we were under way, we didn't motor for one minute."
We were not exactly crowded . . .
Here's a point of order. Click on the image above, to enlarge it, then look at the boats in the background. They're standing almost straight up in almost no wind. Then look at the attitude of the Falcon, generating apparent out the wazoo, and we're trucking.
Below we see San Francisco Yacht Club rear commodore Ray Lynch and commodore John Swain in conference. At this point the XOJET Leukemia Cup Regatta was known to have netted over $600,000. The total would exceed $662,000, 32 percent of that raised by even chair Ian Charles after this cancer thing got personal . . .
Mr. Latitude 38, Richard Spindler, was in fine form . . .
Tom owns classic boats too, but this is a different aesthetic . . .
Sails were furled off Richmond at the end of the day, and we motored upwind through Raccoon Strait, not because the boat couldn't have sailed but because there simply was too much traffic, and many of the boats were on their final leg of the Leukemia Cup. Perkins and all hands were on full alert. Falcon brought up the rear, but cruising boats were drawn like a moth to flame. Everybody wants a close look. Here are Captain Chris Gartner and San Francisco Bar Pilot Peter Fuller at the motoring console, which is forward of the sailing console . . .
And speaking of moths to flame, we're still agog, here in our little patch of water, that a forty footer managed to t-bone the Falcon while it was carrying guests on Saturday. Peter Lyons caught the sequence and generously supplied same, but then I realized I just don't want to see those pictures here. Everyone I've talked to, from passengers aboard to observers nearby, describe a "didn't have to happen" event in which the 40-footer suddenly, inexplicably altered course and nosedived into the side of the big black boat with the helmsman of the "little" boat apparently frozen in place. Too bad for all. Scratches on the side of the big boat, a busted rail, and a torn sail that had the crew sewing on Saturday night. I'm glad my ride was less eventful. I like to remember my time aboard as an arty conversation with Telegraph Hill slipping by in the background . . .
Next, Tom picks up his new "flying sub" and heads south. The sub will nestle forward, between the tenders, and the wings can be removed in case of breaking seas. Tom was proud to note that his tenders are launched in the traditional way, from the yards . . .
Come time for Leukemia Cup 2009, this will be hard to equal. Say, are those topsides shiny or what? I bet the owners of the yawl in the reflection (either a Rhodes Reliant or a Cheoy Lee 40; I couldn't tell) never expected to see it this way, in a picture with Tom Perkins . . .