January/February Issue 245: Sailing aboard Su Shan


In 1975, Marty Sarandria was a typical 15-year-old — long hair, rock and roll guitarist, going through high school — when his parents pulled him from school. It wasn’t because Marty was a bad student; they liberated him because the family was about to embark on a yearlong sailing trip.

Marty’s stepfather, Ardell Nelson, was a successful aeronautics engineer and test pilot who had, when he was a younger man, built a sailboat in Okinawa and sailed it back to California. He had caught the sailing bug and, as soon as circumstances were favorable, he and his wife Peggy decided to build a boat and go cruising with their children.

They went to Sparkman & Stephens to design the boat. It was to be built of aluminum. Su Shan was 50 feet LOA with a beam of 14 feet, 8 inches, and a draft of 5 feet, 9 inches. Because they planned on cruising shoal waters, the vessel was built with a centerboard. Su Shan was constructed at the Walter Huisman Shipyard in Holland. The family moved to Holland and the intention was to cruise the world, and certainly the vessel was designed to do just that. Su Shan was a center cockpit vessel designed to sail long distances with a family of four. It was a significant enough design that it is included in Francis Kinney’s book about Rod and Olin Stephens, You are First.

The family departed the shipyard for Amsterdam at the end of September, late in the season, and sailed through the English Channel, the rough Bay of Biscay and then to Vigo, Spain, where they stopped for repairs. From Vigo they voyaged on to Madeira and the Canaries. From the Canaries, they made a passage of 19 and a half days for landfall in Grenada. They then proceeded to cruise the Caribbean and Bahamas, heading north to the Keys and finally into the Gulf of Mexico to Galveston where the family settled down. In total, they spent about a year aboard the boat.

Back in the 1970s, before the complete reliance on GPS, Nelson installed a loran C and a satellite navigation system that Marty remembered as “a big box with funny knobs and buttons that never worked. My father finally got so disgusted that he ripped it out and threw it overboard. We used celestial almost exclusively and it always got us where we needed to go.”

Nelson and Peggy divorced, but Peggy — who Marty said was essential in making the whole sailing trip happen — began teaching at Womanship, a group focused on helping women learn how to sail, and later co-founded a similar organization, Sea Skills. “My mother was a sailor’s wife in the beginning and then became an excellent sailor on her own,” Marty recalled. As for his memories of the sailing experience, Marty said, “It was definitely worth the effort. It was an eye-opening experience, thanks to my mother and the adventure of it. I learned a sense of being and how to relate to the real and natural world.”

Let’s join the family on the way from the Canary Islands to Grenada. Captain Nelson is going to take an observation of the sun, lower limb. The dead reckoning position is 22° 15’ N by 30° 35’ W. There is no sextant error and the height of eye is 10 feet.

Time of the observation is 10:35:15 GMT on Oct. 1. We will be using the 2017 Nautical Almanac. The HS of the sun is 35° 15’.

A. Find the Ho.
B. Plot the intercept.
C. Establish the EP.

A. Ho is 35° 26.8’
B. Intercept is 23.2 miles away
C. EP is 22° 18’ N by 30° 42’ W

By Ocean Navigator