Tuesday, 12 March 2019


 Written for RTE radio program Sunday Miscellany.
October 18.
Illustrations from Exhibition called 'Sailing to Stromboli'.

Sailing to Stromboli

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There are many islands off the coast of Italy.  Some are large - Sicily and Sardinia – but there are many smaller, from the mud bank that is Venice to topical Lampedusa, currently on the front line of the influx of refugees fleeing North Africa.  By chance, rather than any grand plan, I sailed in my yacht with my family to another famous Italian Island this summer - the volcanic isle of Stromboli, known down through the ages to mariners as the Lighthouse of the Mediterranean.
Stromboli, one of the Aeolian group of islands, guards the approaches to the Straights of Messina.  This is the narrow band of water between the toe of Italy and the island of Sicily.  Stromboli is an active volcano, a tall cone of smoking and at times flaming eruptions.  In such a prominent position it earned the title ‘Lighthouse of the Mediterranean’.   It guides the wandering mariner into the mouth of the famed passage between Scylla and Charybdis.


No one wanders around the ocean these days on board boats looking for lighthouses.  One knows exactly where one is thanks to modern methods of navigation - GPS, radar and other communication devices.  But we espied with excitement the distinct cone of Stromboli while we were yet far off and it was not long before we could discern the wisp of smoke emitting from its summit.
We dropped anchor off the village.  There is no safe harbour on Stromboli, it being symmetrically round in shape as it rises from the depths to its smoking cone. Our party of five landed in our rubber dinghy and sought out a pizza joint, which we had found online.  Night was falling.
The rest of the Aeolian Islands are crowded and busy with tourists and holidaymakers.  This is the summer playground of the Italian cities, Rome and Naples.  Not so Stromboli.  It has a small population, narrow streets, no cars, little boxy houses and, island like, no street lighting.  We stumbled up dark lanes to find our supper.  As we sat down on a large outdoor terrace we could look up and see the head lamps of the trekkers who nightly make the guided climb up to the crater to view the action.  They make the six hour trip wearing helmets, lights and strong boots to see the bubbling cauldron.

Our party were more interested in food and we were not disappointed.  I looked around the restaurant.  There was a big group of sophisticated elderly Italians eating, drinking and gesticulating.  On the walls was a large collection of black and white photographs.  On closer inspection they turned out to be stills from the famous movie Stromboli which Robert Rossellini had made on the island in 1949 starring his then lover, Ingrid Bergman.

I was reminded of another island and another movie.  Man of Aran was filmed by Robert Flaherty in 1934.  It was a considerable critical success and won a prize at the Venice Film festival.  It seems impossible to think that Rossellini had not seen it.  There are many similarities between the two movies.  Both directors use the local people as actors.  Each movie has dramatic fishing scenes.  The rugged faces of the locals, the weather and the harsh terrain are a big part of both movies.
Rossellini almost invented the genre of Neorealism in the movie business with his use of nonprofessional actors and actual locations.  But into this harsh landscape and primitive population of Stromboli he casts the most beautiful woman in the world and proceeds to kill her off in a dramatic eruption. Viewed today it is almost comic in its storyline.   While Flaherty’s film was a worldwide success, Rossellini’s was less so.  Apart from a critical drubbing, in the United States the romantic affair between the director and his world famous star, both being married to others at the time, was considered too scandalous.  The director fell out with his American backers and the movie was called out as evil on the floor of the United States Senate.  But it also won a prize at the Venice film festival.
We returned to our anchored yacht through the unlit alley ways of Stromboli picking up our rubber dinghy on the black volcanic beach.   We had our pre bunk refreshments in the cockpit.  It was a beautiful calm night.  We could look up at the groups of climbers as they snaked their way up the cone of the sleeping volcano, each with a head lamp on their helmet.  Back and forth they went on the switchback trail.  On these slopes, Ingrid Bergman, in the movie Stromboli, had met her fate.



Friday, 22 February 2019


Short speech written as introduction to talk given by Gregor McGuckin  in Poolbeg YC in Feb 2019.

The Golden Globe Race, 1968. 
by
Pete Hogan .

The original Golden Globe race was organised by the Sunday Times in 1968.  In competition to the Observer newspaper which had the very successful OSTAR race, the Times decided it wanted to get in on the sailing sponsorship game.  They realized that following Francis Chichester’s famous round the world one stop voyage it was only a matter of time till somebody sailed around non-stop.  They identified a few sailors who had plans to try and corralled them into a loose competition and called it the Golden Globe.  It was loose in that there was no start, just the stipulation that you had to begin in the summer of 1968 from an English port, sail around non stop, unassisted and return to an English port.  There were very few safety rules or restrictions on the type of boat you could use.  There would be a prize, The Golden Globe, for the first to succeed and then a cash prize for the fastest circumnavigation. RKJ won both.
There were 9 starters.  I will list them and give a short summery of what the race did to them.  Some of them are now famous, others forgotten.  All of them I think were profoundly changed by the experience. Some for the better others tragically.

1.Robin Knox Johnson. Knighted. Stellar career.  He fully supported the 50 anniversary race and brought his old Suhaili to the starting line.  Other classics of the era were also there. Joshua, Pen Duick, Gipsy Moth 4.

2.Bernard Moitessier  The ultimate dreamer and lost soul.  The St Francis of voyagers.

3. Alec Caruzzo.  ill health.  Good boat, could have won. Italian Chichester

4. Loic Fougeron.  Boat a bit small. Knock down. Sensible decision to quit.  Had two other efforts at Cape Horn and in 1976 became the 4th French man to circumnavigate by Cape Horn. In bigger boat.

5.  Bill King.  Unlucky in his choice of yacht.  The Irish connection.

6.  Nigel Tetley.  Tragic normal person.

7.  John Ridgeway  Unsuitable boat.

8.  Chay Blyth  Unsuitable boat.

9.  Donald Crowhurst.  Tragic figure who stole the show.

It is an indication of how far sailing and boat technology has come in the intervening years when one looks at the motley collection of boats which set out.  Especially the boats of Ridgeway and Blythe.

The 50 year anniversary race was the initiative of one Don McIntyre. An Aussie sailor, adventurer, and entrepreneur.  His main selling point for the 2018 race was that it should be for dreamers and adventurers and in particular, affordable. For those who did not have sponsorship.  Several of the entrants were his buddies.  He came up with the idea of restricting the race to boats designed and in production in 1968.  And a length restriction of 36 ft and full keel.  And lots of other restrictions.  Very few, or none of the original entrants would have qualified for the recent race.  Entrants would also have to use celestial navigation and could not get outside assistance by radio.  With exceptions.  There were onerous safety requirements which turned out to be a good thing.  The aim was to keep costs down.

It is generally accepted that the 2018 race has been a great success and that Don McIntyre ran it with great skill, compassion and on a shoestring.  He has attempted to create a brand for the race and is going to run another one in 4 years time.

But I am sure that Gregor will tell you all about that.


Wednesday, 26 December 2018


Pete Hogan.  Short piece written for the Irish Cruising Club about the fancy boats on which I sailed this Summer.
New equipment and customs in the Tyrrhenian Sea.
Having walked away from ten years of Glen sailing on Dublin Bay I now found I had time to do some cruising with friends on their boats.  This tended to be in warm waters, that is to say the Tyrrhenian Sea and points further south.  I was struck by several new (to me) pieces of equipment which now seem to be commonplace on the well-appointed ocean cruising yacht.
Nespresso Machine
This handy little number was the star of the galley, relieving the cook from endless boiling of kettles and cleaning of coffee machines and cafeterias.  Everyone on board bemoans the terrible waste, indeed the trashing of the planet by the disposable little pods.  While happily sipping away on their double expresso or macchiato.  Apparently a Nespresso machine draws a huge electricity load.  But nowadays I never worry about that.

A TV set.
Or a really a big screen dominating the saloon.  I can remember when I saw the first TV’s on board yots anchored in the Panama Canal anchorage back in 1982.  The warm glow emanating from the cabin at night indicated their presence and large American yachts gave Super Bowl parties and film shows for the rest of the fleet.  Now they are more commonplace and combined with a DVD player or broadband must be a welcome addition to the cabin if wintering over in some out of the way Spanish marina.  Alas, we could not figure out how to get the World Cup on our TV on-board this summer so had to go ashore and find a suitable bar or restaurant to view the action.
Carbon fibre mast.
Why not?  I witnessed the transfer from Sitka spruce to aluminium.  Now it has to be carbon.  Weight aloft saved is very important when sailing, and if your propeller falls off, (as ours did this Summer) sailing became a necessity rather than an option.  Other carbon pieces of equipment which I noticed creeping in were steering wheels, passerelles, booms, battons, winches, rigging and sails.  Can foils be very far off in the future?
The mobile phone/tablet.
While one of the boats I sailed on this summer had a full complement of navigation equipment - plotters, AIS, VHF BnG etc. the professional skipper on board relied on his mobile phone for all navigation and communication.  In fact it had its Velcro attachment alongside the yachts plotter at the wheel.  He explained that it was more accurate and up to date than the on-board package and could cite instances where it had included hazards which were not included in the on-board software.  In addition he used Windy a lot to plan passages and that was available on his phone.  The VHF radio was rarely used and the old custom of keeping channel 16 on in the background was dispensed with.  On another boat much the same system applied except that a nice Samsung tablet was used to great effect.
Handy also for making Ryanair bookings while underway.
Google maps.
Essential for finding ones way from a dinghy landing point on a remote island like Stromboli to the best pizza joint in the village, in the dark.  First having read the various reviews on TripAdvisor.  Google is also useful and entertaining when checking the pedigree of the other yachts in the anchorage.  Usually superyachts, but not always, there is a surprising amount of information about your neighbours on line.
Ice maker.

We  were in the Tyrrhenian Sea in mid-Summer so this handy little number stole the show.  About the size of a stack of National Geographic magazines it toiled away in a corner turning water from the water maker into lovely ice tubes.  Bliss.
Inflatable fenders.
My first experience of these giant bumpers which stow so neatly away in some remote locker.  Of course one must carry a compressor for the purposes of inflating them, but said compressor can be used to inflate the dinghy/tender and any number of other inflatable toys carried on board.
Cat’s  ( Catamaran’s) 
These vast, tennis court, layer cake, half-mast mainsail, machines seem to be everywhere.  One we were parked next to in Malta had a grand piano in its saloon. The coming thing, they don’t seem to have caught on in Ireland, yet.
Exotic lights
It’s handy now to have a lot of lights, not unlike some sort of Christmas tree adorning your mast.  This makes your boat easy to find in a crowded anchorage at night.  In addition a line of azure lights along the waterline gives a wonderful, magical effect at night, not unlike a flying saucer making a landing. And if you have an airplane type escape chute leading from high up on your bridge down to the water for the amusement of the kids on board so much the better if it is lit up.
Garbage disposal n other matters.
It was difficult to dispose of garbage which we had conscientiously collected.    Apparently one can be fined for bringing it ashore and dumping it in the municipal skips on some of the islands.  In some of the anchorages a boat calls around and collects garbage.  This is not a problem if one uses marinas frequently.  In addition on some islands it was difficult to even land with the dinghy.  The Italian custom of roping off sections of beaches for swimmers seems reasonable enough given the prevalence of high speed boats and tenders.  So one was invariably forced to use the commercial area of harbours.  The American custom of a ‘dinghy dock’ was absent.  It was a good idea to utilise a small anchor as a backup when leaving a dinghy unattended.  Once, the painter from ours was cast adrift in our absence by unfriendly natives.
 The Tyrrhenian Sea with its bounty of islands, its history and culture was a wonderful cruising ground, despite some of the above disadvantages.  While the anchorages were full to crowded, the cruising fleet was invariably interesting if not downright overwhelming.  From Wally’s to classics, from Oligarchs playthings to the latest from Beneteau and Dufour, nautical chic was what it was about.  The Italians are a stylish bunch.  In thanking the owners, I am pleased to say, the boats I was invited to crew on were able to hold their own in this august company.
End

Pete Hogan 2018


Friday, 26 December 2014

2014 review

Review of the year published in the ICC (Irish Cruising Club) annual 2014:


It was a bumper season for the Dublin Bay Glen fleet.  First the bad news.  Two Glens were not in the water this year.   Glencoral G3 is in storage (and for sale, I understand).   Glengesh G8 did not turn up this year.  But the 11 or so Glens which make up the rest of the Dun Laoghaire fleet had a very good season.  The balmy weather helped.  Numbers on the starting lines were consistently high and racing was keen.  Luckily the fleet retained their customary mooring area outside the RSTGYC.  Because of the machinations of the harbour board many of the one design classes have had to move to the marina or, in the case of Squibs, most are now being dry sailed.   Dry sailing, while having advantages, is not conducive to impulse decisions to go sailing.  It is also more expensive.  Consequently fleets turning up on starting lines suffered.  This is especially so in the case of the Dragons.  Dry sailing Glens is not really an option.  So, for practical, trouble free, traditional sailing, get a Glen!
The northern Glen Fleet came south this year to sail in our boats but the engagement was hampered by light winds.  So too was the George regatta, sailing being abandoned following one race.  At both these events an unusual thing happened.  There was a protest!  This is unheard of in the Glens.  I never learnt what the outcome of the protest was.  Normally disputes in the Glen class are settled in the bar.  Failing that, its pistols at dawn.  But never the protest room!
The boats to beat this year were the usual suspects.  Glenluce G67 and Glendun G9.   Pterodactyl G12 was a surprise contender.  Glenshane G5 is my boat and we had a better season than any previous.  So perhaps we are getting the hang of it.  We got the gun twice and got a second placing in one of the Thursday series.
Glenshane is taking a fair amount of water as she sits on her moorings and even more if she has a heavy weather race.  Several of the Glens now use solar powered bilge pumps to keep them dry as they await the twice weekly race.

It was the 50 year anniversary of the Glen Class sailing in Dublin Bay or as they say on the Glen website: ‘Celebrating 50 years of the Dublin Bay Glen Class.’   That seems to have been the extent of the celebrations marking it.  A missed opportunity to promote the class, in my opinion.  Over the winter I am hoping to prepare Glenshane for a second 50 year term.

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Afloat Magazine

Piece published in Afloat Magazine website  November 14

#glensailing – The Glens are celebrating 50 years sailing and racing together as a class inDublin Bay Sailing Clubwrites 'Glenshane' skipper Pete Hogan. As a very successful season draws to a close for the 12 or so Glens in Dublin Bay there seems all prospects that the fleet can continue for a further 50 years.
The story of the Glens is worth repeating. Designed by the celebrated Scottish Marine architect Alfred Milne in 1945 the Glens were built by the Bangor boatyard over the following 20 years. Possibly 39 Glens, at least, were built which gives them claim to be Milne's most successful design and also one of the last of Alfred Milne Senior's designs. The firm still exists. He also designed the Dublin Bay 21'sand the 24's which were recently in the news on Afloat.ie
At first the Glens were confined to the North but started appearing in Dublin over 50 years ago. Glenluce G67 celebrated last year being 50 years in the sole ownership of the O'Connor family. They started racing together as a class under DBSCorganisation in 1964 and have been racing ever since.
Glens are classic little yachts, retaining their looks up to today as reminders of what sailing boats looked like before the era of plastic mouldings, high freeboards and self-draining cockpits. 25 ft. long with a full keel and sensible sail plan they represent state of the art pocket cruisers of the period.
Glens were often compared to Dragons. They are heavier, shorter and carry a bit more sail. But they were never allowed to become the development class which the Dragons became and never made the seismic shift into fibreglass construction. Their handy size however, has allowed them to survive just as the 17's in Howth survive and thrive. There is a mini wooden boat building fraternity centred on the Glens and their needs. The Brennan boatbuilding family in Dun Laoghaire, all three generations of it, being its mainstay.
Moored out in front of the Royal St George YC and each painted a distinctive different colour, the Glens have become as iconic a fixture in Dun Laoghaire as the bandstand, Teddy's ice cream shop or the fishermen casting their lines from the pier. Long may they continue.

Friday, 25 April 2014

Glenshane Season 2014

Welcome to the new Glen Season 2014.

For the past 6 weeks I have been slaving away doing up Glenshane, preparing her for the new season.  First there were a few repairs. Two sections of the toe rail needed attention.  A foot long section at the stern where we got whacked while rounding a mark last year and the second, a long section amid ship where the rail was loose and rot was starting to develop.  I removed a 6 foot length of rail, filled and painted under it and then returned the rail to its former place using copious amounts of sealant.
Then it was on to the underwater hull.  This leaks quite a bit so I went around with a chisel raking out the seams which seemed suspect in places, taking the painted hull to the bare timber.  Next was an application of all weather sealant from a hardware shop.  This seems better than silicone as it is paintable and claims to stick to damp surfaces.  On top of the sealant goes an application of polyester filler which can be sanded.  Then lots of thick primer and more sanding then at least two coats of anti foul.
But I am in danger of boring everybody.  Who wants to read about paint drying.
The old boat (built about 1951) is tired.  A bit like myself who was built about the same time.  The wood is tired and brittle.  There are patches and spots of rot under the paint almost like a body riddled with cancer.  I hope the analogy ends before there.  But she has got style (in buckets!)  which is more than I can say for myself.

I will post a couple of photos and leave it at that.
 Early Days
 Rail repair
 Diamonds.  Gone.
Launch

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Movie review

All is Lost

Off to see All is Lost, having seen the trailer and thought maybe Robert Redford had read my book.  But the timing does not match so no need for me to call my lawyer.

As a human interest movie I suppose it is mildly interesting.  If it had not been Robert Rredford out of retirement and with all the fantastic reputation he brings to the show no one would be much interested with this movie I guess.  Except perhaps single handed sailors.

So how does it stack up as a sailors movie.  Not very well.  The first scene with the sea anchor was a joke to anyone who knows about such things.  A hole in the side as depicted would have been easy to deal with -  a few screws and a piece of plywood and all would be right,  A container would not have done the amount of damage portrayed.  (There are not containers floating round out there I believe.)  All the yachts systems go down inexplicably. Why did the radio ariel become disconnected?

On the plus side the choice of boat was good an old Cal 35.  But the equipment was a bit dated compared to what a modern day cruiser would have had.  The weary way the aged sailor went about his tasks were realistic.  The liferaft scene where he rights it is realistic.  Redford at 77 looks great.

In general I would spend your money on my latest book.  Much better value.