John Atkisson was a federal government lawyer when he retired in the Spring of 2005 to begin Kestrel’s Atlantic circle. He had first sailed in San Francisco Bay at age 13. His wife, Kathy Sawyer (Atkisson), was a reporter for the Washington Post for 28 years. She left the Post in 2004 and has continued to work as a free lance writer and author. [See www.kathysawyer.com]
UPDATE: >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> In August, 2009, after returning from a summer of sailing Kestrel in Maine, John was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. He kept sailing through that fall with family and friends. Upbeat to the end and busily maintaining Kestrel in hopes of “at least one more season on the Bay,” John died at home on February 19, 2010.
A LOCAL LIFE: JOHN ATKISSON, 68
John Atkisson; After law career, he sailed across Atlantic.
John Atkisson had a 32-foot sloop, Kestrel, harbored on the Chesapeake Bay, which he loved cruising with his wife. (James A. Parcell/for The Washington Post)
By Bart Barnes
John Atkisson was at home and at ease in
a congressional hearing or a courtroom, in the offices of a federal
bureaucrat or on the deck of his sailboat. He earned his living as a
lawyer, but his friends would tell you that under his pinstripes was
the soul of an 18th-century seaman.
'Kestrel' is a 1976 32-foot Bristol sloop, continuously improved over 28 years by owners, always with serious blue water work in mind.
After a shakedown cruise from Chesapeake Bay to Bermuda and back in 2001, Kestrel was prepared for more ambitious plans. In the late Spring of 2005, she set sail for Ireland, which was the first leg of a 2 - year Atlantic circle. Since that first trans-Atlantic passage, Kestrel has toured Scotland (the lower Hebrides in June and July of 2006), then, after a brief return to Ireland, Spain (La Coruna), Portugal, Madeira, the Canary Islands, then finally back across the Atlantic to the Caribbean. For that classic trade-wind passage in December 2006, John single-handed Kestrel the 3000-odd nautical miles from Tenerife in the Canaries to Martinique, where Kathy came aboard for the ensuing five months of cruising up the Antilles and Bahamas before the final leg home from Green Turtle Cay to Beaufort Inlet in North Carolina, thence up “the ditch” to Chesapeake Bay. Kestrel has been at her home port in Deale, Maryland, since June, 2007.
The boat was listed for sale on March, 2 2011. Sale was completed on March, 12. She now has a new home in Florida.
Bristol 32 Specifications (1976)
The Cape Horn Windvane people, thought enough of Kestrel’s installation to include it in their Owner’s Manual:
"Ideal size of the
Experience has shown
that the wetted area of servo-pendulum needed to steer at 2-3 kts to
be somewhere between 8 and 12 % of the yacht’s rudder area. Closer
to 8 for a high aspect-ratio, partially balanced rudder steering a well
balanced boat, and closer to 12 (or more) for a low aspect ratio rudder,
on a boat that is not so well balanced, or has a wheel steering system
with a lot of internal friction. We normally take into account the yacht’s
rudder dimensions and the height of the horizontal axis above the waterline
in determining the length of the servo-pendulum for a given boat, but
if you find that your pendulum does not generate adequate power to steer
your boat at slow speeds, please contact us and we will provide you
with a longer one.
From Cape Horn Owner’s Manual, © Yves Gélenas
SELECTED 'KESTREL' IMPROVEMENTS
Please click on the thumbnails to enlarge
|1||New battery bank: the old batteries were mounted in the starboard coaming locker, putting a whopping 200 lbs high above the waterline, far outboard, at an already heavy aft end. The boat was chronically out of trim|
|2||The new 325-AH house bank is made up of six Rolls 2-volt modular cells, placed amidships, below the waterline and near the centerline. The system is fused at the batteries, and again down-stream in front of each of three branch circuits. A separate start battery (65 AH) is on the other side of the boat, close to the engine|
|3||A fan (on automatically at 14 volts) carries gasses aft to a cowl vent. Also seen here is part of the copper foil RF ground system for single sideband radio|
|4||New hatches, new opening ports, new 26-inch high stanchions & lifelines|
|5||When the deck stepped mast base was found to be sinking into the cabin trunk, serious reengineering was required. Now there is a ½ -inch thick, 2-foot square steel plate inside the headliner, on top these mahogany arches, which are rabbeted into a newly shorn-up compression post and nearby bulkheads. An Alpenglow red/white light, one of three aboard, can be seen on the heads ceiling|
|6||Interior view of a new Atkins-Hoyle opening port. Alpenglow xenon cabin light on the bulkhead|
|7||New Groco seacocks were fitted throughout. One, under the heads sink, has an integral filter to protect the seawater washdown pump from Caribbean sand. At top (out of focus), a hot water return valve gets water hot at the tap without wasting a drop|
|8||Kestrel was completely re-rigged in 1998, adding an inner stay with running backs for staysail or storm jib. Stayloks and toggles are at both ends of every stay on the boat, as here, attached to the Wichard inner stay tang|
|9||A new British product, the SeaMe radar target enhancer and detector-alarm, provided a comforting extra margin of safety on the Atlantic crossing. The tricolor and anchor masthead light contain LED clusters instead of conventional bulbs.|
|10||Closeup of the Cape Horn vane. For the Atlantic crossing we carried a spare 6 pounds of propane on the quarter.|
|11||A new power windlass for our 150 feet of chain (on 250 ft of line). To port is the seawater deck wash outlet. In the center, the Wichard double padeyes for the inner stay.|
|12||Cockpit features: ST 40 winches added, aft turning blocks for spinnaker, rigid rails instead of lifelines in the cockpit area, bulkhead instruments configuration.|
|13||Ham radio, email modem, and computer bin. This ICOM 718 ham rig has been opened up to handle marine SSB frequencies, to serve as backup to the boat’s SGC 2000 SSB radio. A Pactor modem rests under the radio. Laptop swing-out table on the left|
|15||New hatch (Hood Systems, stainless steel).|
|17||New galley. A major refit in 1998|
|18||New galley under construction|
|19||Buster Phipps (Phipps Boatworks, Herrington Harbour, Deale, Maryland), who did this work, saw 2 inches of dead space and couldn’t resist filling it with a pull-out spice rack|
|20||Bird’s eye view of the new galley and companionway area – ice box to port. Sink fixtures include taps for filtered fresh water, unfiltered fresh water, and sea water|
|21||New galley construction allowed easy access for re-plumbing the engine and hot water tank|
|22||The power plant today, with Sea Frost refrigeration system, 105-amp alternator, and backup charging regulator. Scupper seacocks at top have diverter valves for capturing rain water. At lower left, the two galley foot pumps are for separate fresh water and sea water taps|
|23||Rigid rails aft, upgraded winches and cleats, new longer toe-rail genoa tracks|
|24||Kestrel has three sets of running lights: deck level (the original, barely visible at any distance), LED illuminated tri-color at the masthead for off-shore sailing, and these new rail-level power hungry monsters|
|25||All Bristols, no matter the size or generation, share a design defect: a low-threshold companionway which, off shore, can admit huge amounts of sea water to the interior. This new bridge deck solves the problem|
|26||The “hybrid” self-steering system: a Ray Marine ST 1000 Tillerpilot hooked up to the Cape Horn wind vane’s lever, protected from weather in the lazarette. The black box is the single sideband radio’s antenna tuner|
|27||Cockpit sole with two large inspection ports. One allows access to steering systems. The other is directly over another access port in the top of the diesel tank. The custom bracket on the mainsheet traveler is for both boom crutch and cockpit table|
|28||Dodger, bridge deck, instrument configuration, including Alpha below-decks autopilot control panel|
PRE-ATLANTIC-CIRCLE CRUISE PHOTOS
Please click on the thumbnails to enlarge
|1||Kathy at the helm, reaching toward Bermuda, 2001|
Running home from Bermuda under the chute, 2001, crewman John Rayburn in the foreground. Hours after this photograph was taken, with the chute still up, Kestrel was hit by a whale.
|3||Beautiful Fall day on the Chesapeake, a light air down-bay run toward Solomons Island|
|4||The Pride of Baltimore crosses Kestrel’s bow, Chesapeake Bay, October, 2003|