Hutch the Sailor


Posted 11/17/2012 :

It seems that if my dog would go sailing, then I should be Captain Ron. I mean, it’s my name, why shouldn’t I be him? Well …

Somebody could complain about a small similarity betwixt my name and a certain Captain Ron … who paired up with a star by the name of Goldie Hawn in a movie whose cast was cast adrift …

Since my dog’s name is Hutch, I would be doubly screwed … I’d be paying royalties for both names painted on the side of the boat. I was thinking “Captain Ron and Sailor Hutch.” That’s a lot of marine paint, and seems a little long winded. They’d think we were a couple of gay guys.

Even though it’s MY name, and Hutchy’s. Oh well …

This name confusion thing brings up another point. When I surf my little Haiku browser over to one of the sailing forums, I am continually bewitched by the names of the forum members. You see, they all go by the names of their boats …

Names such as “Siren of the Sea” come to mind. Of course, almost all sailboat owners are men.

So what kind of boat can you buy for the price of a very used Honda Civic? I don’t yet own a boat or a Honda Civic. As boys, didn’t we all dream of sailing? Of course! Since the mutiny on the Bounty accident a few weeks ago, I’ve been thinking about the South Pacific again … and it still seems such a romantic place …

So, what happened to the Bounty? The answer partially lies in the size of the boat that was the Bounty. The Bounty was not fast enough to outrun the storm. One thing that is not readily apparent to non-seafarers is that the larger a boat is, the faster it is. This is an effect brought on by the physics of ocean waves, and applies to all boats whose bows stay planted in the water. Such boats are known as “full displacement” boats. The Bounty was such a boat. Ski boat bows rise from the water, and such boats “plane” across the surface of the water. Ski boats can go faster than the full displacement hull speed.

Hull speed physics give rise to a strange phenomenon, that works contrary to what people think. The real Bounty – that is the one that Fletcher Christian sailed to Pitcairn Island – was only about half the size of the boat that recently sank off the coast of North Carolina. The recent boat was built my movie producers who thought the original was not big enough for the movie they made. Being twice as long as the original, the recent Bounty was a faster boat. Unfortunately, it was not fast enough.

A rule of thumb for Hull speed is:

Hull speed (knots) = sq. root of the length of boat (ft) x 1.34

This calculation implies that the real Bounty could go about 13 knots, at the maximum. The newer Bounty, at twice the length, could go about eighteen knots. Both of these speeds were attainable only with the right winds, of course. Most of the time, a sailboat goes slower than the hull speed. As an aside, we might consider what the fastest full displacement ship might be. Can you guess? Yes! You are correct. The fastest full displacement hull is that of an aircraft carrier. In fact, aircraft carriers are so fast that their top speed is still a military secret!

The rule of thumb, applied to the Nimitz class aircraft carrier yields 42 knots of maximum speed. However; the speed is further modified by the power of the engines in the ship, and so the real speed is unknown …

Hull speed is an unfortunate factor for the wanna-be seafarer with shells in his eyes …

A typical ocean-going sailboat, with a length in the area of fifty feet, would have a hull speed in the area of ten knots. f(50) ~ 9.4 knots. Given this result, it would seem highly inadvisable to try to outrun a storm that moved at twenty or thirty knots. In the old days, seamen had to smell a storm. There were no radars, and no satelite internet connections. Old salty seafarers often did not outrun storms, and many went to visit Davie Jones in his locker at the bottom of the sea.

As the recent Bounty drama unfolded, I thought again of Fletcher Christian and his choice of hideaway, the Pitcairn Islands. Take a look at some of the photos of the island! His eyes and his dead reckoning sea course charting had indeed landed him in paradise. All of polynesia is the same in this regard. (Tahiti, French Polynesia, The Gambiers … )

Check the scenery at this website!

Pitcairn lies at 25 degrees south latitude, and 130 degrees west longitude. The seas in that area are always choppy. Take a look at the wave and wind chart at

Then, click on the South Pacific block to the right of the page (between New Zealand and South America. You can see the wave heights in that area are probably high today, as on any day … typically eight to twelve feet without a storm.


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