Liberty is being free from the things we don't like in order to be slaves of the things we do like.--Ernest Benn

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Heavy Boat, Light Airs

In unbelievable flat seas and light air - I'm talking 2-4 knots - our Team turned in a very creditable result for a short, 1.77 nm, course. We didn't trophy, but we scored a 6th place in corrected and elapsed time. That's better than it sounds because that's 6th out of 26 starters!

Again, my tactic was to turn the motor off at minus 5 minutes to start time, coast to a creditable - not perfect - start on the windward end, and then park the crew on the leeward rail. I didn't expect much out of the day's efforts so I, early-on, swapped the helm off for the Rock Box's remote. Gave up on Roxie shortly thereafter in order to sit on the boom. Our windward position, patience, unique spinnaker, and attentive sail trim permitted us pass lighter and longer craft.

I think small-ish spinnakers work well for air flow in light airs. How else could we have out-drifted a J-46? Only sleds and multi-hulls finished before us. Except there was that one pesky Ranger-33 sailed by a bunch of old coots older and smarter than me. Why are they always there, taking the water and glass to which we are entitled?

Nevertheless, maybe it was enough to be able to look back and remember that 21 of the boats we saw behind us were in our class!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Roxie's On Board to Stay

Roxie the RockBox is the latest addition to our crew. MVP put her through her paces with the remote yesterday. It's clear that Mainsheet Trimmer, being a good old-school - if low-tech - sailor, detests her presence as a distraction to the skipper. Others are indifferent to her presence. As a crew diversion she definitely works for me. Roxie at least keeps her voice down when things get tight! It will take some time for us to understand how best to integrate her with our racing program.

In Sunday's pursuit race, we started 13th out of 20 competitors, and finished 1st. We started exactly five minutes behind the 2nd place finisher, beating her by two minutes. We passed her by establishing an inside overlap at the leeward mark by virtue of the fact that we were able to carry our spinnaker, longer and stronger, to within one length of the mark! Along with perfect execution by all members of the crew, the steady 14-16 knot breeze was a factor.

After the race, we conducted a short victory sail with Son-of-Foredeck at the wheel for a photo opportunity. In return for bringing us luck and wind, Dusty collected the day's glass!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Clippers Are Finishing from Across the Pond!

Don't be looking for Vigilance: she's still on the rocks of Scatarie Island where I left her during the last Leg.

I'll be updating Open Container III's standings on the leader board as the Leg progresses. Racers who comment on these pages will have their boats added. (Click chart to enlarge image!)
Notice the determined emergence of Gilliano into the top 5,000. Gilliano, who usually beats me on the real water, was notified of the start two days late. What a comeback!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Rock On!

Tonight's twilight beer can race was the first occasion for my recently installed RockBox GPS. Mounted on the port bulkhead to the side of the companion way (with industrial Velcro), it was extremely visible and legible from the helm whenever I found myself on port side. When I was on the starboard side, I had to remind Mainsheet Trimmer to lean/crouch forward so I can see my latest birthday present in action. That's a negative, but unavoidable.

Another negative for the RockBox is its complex menu which requires navigating through a labyrinth of options. This can only be done with a remote device, presumably hung around one's neck. It works. But....

All this country boy (thinks he) needs is a split screen display of Speed and Velocity Made Good (VMG). I didn't think that was too much to ask for the price. I didn't need time to start line. But I have it. I didn't need a count down. I've had that on my $20 watch for the past two decades. All I wanted was the capacity to store a dozen waypoints and the functionality of being able to dial any waypoint up for the real-time computation of evolving VMG's. What would have been even better would have been the storage of even half a dozen routes around waypoints. What I got was seven intermediary menu stops along the way to selecting waypoints, each of which is capable of inadvertently erasing any default waypoint.

All of which goes to the point as to why it was a prudent decision to mount the RockBox on the bulkhead instead of the skipper's tabernacle. It doesn't seem possible for the helmsman to manipulate the RockBox's remote device while sailing, once the race committee announces the course. I need all my attention on the time remaining, the water around me, and the feel of boat and wind.

At this point I feel the real raison d'etre for the RockBox is crew information. When disagreement rears its ugly head on deck, it's usually over a perceived lack of speed over the water. I want Crew to become more aware of speed over the ground. I need to get one or two members of the Team to buy into VMG as relevant information and to become proficient with its remote. Once that happens, RockBox will have proven worthy of its price.

Wednesday night, we finished 8th out of 25 in elapsed time. (That's a decent-sized fleet!) In 13 to 17 knots steady, I loved every minute of it except for the five minutes it took the lads to sort out the spinnaker. Time to bring back the turtle? Maybe.....

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Last Night Chris Matthews Was Playing Hardball

And threw a hard slider across the heart of the plate:
Let me finish tonight with this emerging embarrassment on the right.

Joe Barton reminds us that sometimes, politicians get what they deserve. In other words, they get caught saying exactly what they wanted to say. Someone once said that the late Spiro Agnew had about the same depth of political belief as the tired guy on the 5:00 commuter train after his third drink. Well, maybe they don‘t have bars on the trains any more, but you get the point, and you also know the mentality.

This guy picks up the newspaper but all he ends up talking about is he doesn‘t like taxes, he doesn‘t like government regulations because his boss says they‘re bad for profits. He doesn‘t like government at all because that‘s the way the guys talk in the executive dining room—guys who get their talking points, by the way, from the editorial pages of “The Wall Street Journal.” And, oh, yes, he thinks jokes about climate change and environmental concerns are really a hoot.

And here comes the embarrassing part: Joe Barton and Michelle Bachmann elected members of Congress—they‘re out there talking BP‘s side of this public debate. Why? Because they have been kennel trained to do it, bark at regulation, bark at government and if you can reach it, lick the hand of big corporations.

Rand Paul has called the president‘s pressuring of BP “un-American.” Barton, the top congressional Republican on energy policy, said the president was shaking down BP for getting it to set aside $20 billion for the people they‘ve hurt. Bachmann called the $20 billion a redistribution of wealth, a slush fund.

Pay no attention to Mr. Barton‘s apologies and Ms. Bachmann‘s endless regurgitations. They got—well, they got it right the first time the way they really think.
I'm calling this for what it was. A strike.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

BP CEO Tony Hayward Races his Yacht in Clear Blue Water

News Item
Saturday June 19, 2010, near Cowes, Isle of Wight, off the south coast of England
The sun rises before the 5am start during the JP Morgan Asset Management Round the Island Race, and includes the yacht "Bob" (left), co-owned by BP Chief Executive Tony Hayward.

Mr. Hayward took time off Saturday to attend a glitzy yacht race around England's Isle of Wight. Hayward took a break from overseeing BP efforts to stem the undersea gusher in Gulf of Mexico so he could watch his boat "Bob" participate in the J.P. Morgan Asset Management Round the Island Race. The 52-foot yacht is made by the Annapolis, Maryland-based boatbuilder Farr Yacht Design.
Tony Hayward, center,
sits aboard his yacht Bob, during the JP Morgan Asset Management Round the Island Race, Saturday June 19, 2010.

Hundreds of yachts take part in the 50 nautical mile clockwise circumnavigation of the Isle of Wight.

No troubled waters there!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Beer Can Fridays

Don't have the results yet. 
Strangely, they are no longer available. 
But this Friday we were very much into it, 
as this shot demonstrates.

The drive down in Friday afternoon traffic 

is still the nail-biter aspect to this 
once-a-month event. 
The race 
is almost anti-climatic, 
even if sublimely enjoyable.

After the race I scored some time at the tiller!

USA vs Slovenia

Time Out for the Real Game!


Thursday, June 17, 2010

Pouring Oil on Troubled Waters: A "Redistribution of Wealth Fund"?

The Quote of the Week is an unbelievable and incredible statement.

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) is emerging as a fierce critic of the Obama administration's proposed escrow fund to handle damage claims against BP.

Bachmann spoke Tuesday to the Heritage Foundation, and badmouthed the idea.
The president just called for creating a fund that would be administered by outsiders, which would be more of a redistribution-of-wealth fund. And now it appears like we'll be looking at one more gateway for more government control, more money to government.

They have to lift the liability cap. But if I was the head of BP, I would let the signal get out there -- 'We're not going to be chumps, and we're not going to be fleeced.' And they shouldn't be. They shouldn't have to be fleeced and make chumps to have to pay for perpetual unemployment and all the rest -- they've got to be legitimate claims.
I am too stunned to say anything more. Have to go run Doberwoman and reflect...

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


A steady carpet of 13-16 knots and a rare windward-leeward course greeted us. We responded with a perfect start that allowed us to snuff a 46-footer to leeward and to repeat the gesture at the end of the first windward leg. "Hang in there", was the mantra: scalloping bow down and bow up in the tight moments.

On the next leg, gybing down wind, we had many more fish to fry and forgot about him. On-board discussion revolved around whether we should be off DDW by 5-10º or by 10-15º. (I'm hoping that issues like these can be discussed rationally once we get VMG/CMG displayed on deck.) Regardless, our boat's superior off-wind performance and our crew's seamless gybing technique allowed us to out maneuver opposing boats.

On the final beat to the finish, some of them were able to pass.One of these we were fine with because she was over-early and never went back. (Don't blame him!)

On the last leg, I again experimented with sharing the helm as a way to work with restive crew members. However I blew an opportunity - just flat didn't think of him - to get Mainsheet Trimmer at the helm as it was his birthday. (Took him out to dinner later.) Took some pictures; not many turned out.

Later, on the dock, is when I should have been clicking away. It's a favorite pastime of mine to watch small craft swiftly crossing tacks sans motor, up the narrow harbor and into their slips, under sail all the way. Today it was a grip of J-24's, with a J-22 and 11-Metre mixed in. These scenes take me back decades when my boats were small enough to be pure-sail.

One shot I particularly regret not getting to capture was that of a lithe, tanned and bare-armed 20-something, nursing a bottle of beer while perched nonchalantly backwards on the bow-pulpit. An apotheosis? Exemplar? But ....

Youth shall (may) be served, but no one gets beer in a bottle on my boat.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Monday, June 14, 2010

Flag Day in Sozadee, CA

This is my Birthday. I'll mention the day, but not the year.

I'll also mention this is the day that I received into my arms, 38 years ago, my fourth son. Within 180 degrees of separation, I also will disclose it is exactly two years ago today that I received my fourth Dobie, 'a rescue'. Both gifts of infinite, sunlit blessings were bestowed upon me by Trophy Wife, who, herself, previously rescued me (from salvage) four decades ago. 

Tonight, I plan to run Doberwoman for 30 minutes; Friday night, I plan to share a 90-minute beer-can race with #4. 

And, week in, week out, I continue celebrate life with my number one life companion. 24-7. She is no afterthought.

Life is good.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Today's Pursuit Race

The wind was steady at 16-20. We finished 16th out of 21. Recent successes in light airs punished us with our adjusted handicap. We were flawless in boat handling, but not flawless at the helm. I could have benefitted greatly, I maintain, with a VMG display visible from the helm. That's especially true on the downwind leg.
But these speedsters would have passed us in any event.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Abby Sunderland

The lure of single-handing one's yacht definitely pulls me. I understand the joys of solo-racing. It feeds the ego, rewarding it with the satisfaction of being able to do everything on one's boat in terms of boat handling, sail trimming, and tactical steerage. Win or lose, one's accountability is clear. Plus, you have that feeling of solidarity and solitary intimacy with your boat. When I was younger and tended to have smaller boats I much enjoyed solo-sailing.

However, the negatives surpass the positives as one contemplates larger boats and longer races or voyages. Derek Lundy addresses this parameter in his Godforsaken Sea, a discussion of round-the-world solo racing:

The inescapable problem of solo sailing, now or in Slocum's time, is that it is fundamentally unseamanlike, in both the traditional and legislative sense of the word. Traditionally, the ideal sailor has been the "prudent mariner" methodically and carefully working his way across the sea, taking what comes, avoiding risk as much as possible, getting his vessel and his crew where they are supposed to go with minimum fuss …. Contemporary cruising sailors by and large aspire to the same model: get across the seas as fast as you can with a minimum of trauma to boat or crew.
That's where you can start to count me out: when, whilst afloat, I'm called upon to fix any broken part of my rig, sails or hull! Count me out of any event where I can't come in off the water and dial up my rigger or sail maker on the spot!

Lundy continues:

The essential elements of a modern mariner's prudence include having a skilled hand on the helm when necessary to avoid knockdown or capsize in heavy weather. A vessel also needs a strong crew to handle the boat's sails and gear in all conditions without undue fatigue and to keep a lookout - for large vessels that might run down small sailboat and for ice or flotsam which might rip or slash open hull or tear off a keel or rudder.

Most of the time, the single-hander can do none of these things. That is why single-handed sailing is unseamanlike.

It also violates the international rules of the road, adopted at various conventions by the world's maritime nations. According to the Preliminary Statement to the Steering and Sailing rules, sailors must manage their boats "with regard to good seamanship." Good seamanship includes taking all precautions by the ordinary practice of seamen or the particular circumstances in which a vessel finds itself.

Often the collisions, knockdowns or dismastings suffered by the Vendee Globe single-handers occur when skippers are below - sleeping or resting, cooking … analyzing weatherfax charts … Or they were down below in their cabins because it was just too unnerving or dangerous on deck.
Of course, the need to take cover is understandable in certain marginal or extreme conditions.
There's the psychological toll of breakneck speed and terrible noise of wind and sea; the intense discomfort of seas constantly sweeping over the boat, soaking sailors in freezing water; the danger of being swept overboard by a breaking wave or being on deck during a knockdown; the virtual death sentence of being outside during a capsize.
….The image of sailors napping in their bunks as they barrel down thirty-foot waves at 20 knots under the autopilot doesn't exactly suggest good seamanship. They're not keeping a lookout; there's no hand on the helm. Indeed the race itself, the fact that the sailors are alone in the Southern Ocean, is outside "the ordinary practice of seamen" contemplated by the rule. None of the legalistic caviling matters to the racers, of course. In fact the marginality of the enterprise is part of its appeal. One of the reasons skippers go to sea is to get away from the excessive coddling and coercion or rules and regulations.

In round-the-world races, the intense competition and the boats' speed multiply the burdens and dangers of single-handed sailing. Both these factors encourage - or demand - behavior that increases rather than minimizes the usual risks of sailing alone …..
Lundy did not say anything about the unnecessary and extraordinary risks undertaken by 3rd party rescuers, drawn into the occasional misfortune of the self-willed risk-taking by the reckless solo racers of the Vendee.

I concede that solo distance sailors are good sailors. But they and Vendee skippers are not so much distinguished from Volvo Ocean Racers crews by their sailing: the Vendee distinguish themselves by their adventurism, escapism, fool-hardiness, risky stuntsmanship, and reckless endangering of others. OTOH, as far as superior performance sailing is concerned, that quality is to be found among the Volvo Ocean Racing crews. Solo sailing is not performance sailing. Unless you're in a Laser or the like.

Abby Sunderland? I'm glad she is going to be plucked from her disabled yacht. Who would not be glad?

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Getting Buoyant

After a perfectly traumatic morning at Virtual Regatta and brain-numbing day at work, I arrived at the harbor looking for any sort of salvation. As soon as I got out of my beat-up Acura, I received a buoyant sign and immediately reached for my camera. Here on the protective berm of the parking lot was this magnificent creature. He was at peace between the pounding of the surf and the parking of cars. This canine needed no stinkin' leash; his minders were off camera range in their jeep, yacking away on separate cells. As soon as I had captured his likeness on digital film, I knew my day had turned for the good.

Our midweek race was sailed in under five knot breeze overlaid with a challenging set of cross-wind rollers and a rare up-coast current. In these conditions, the race committee expected us to complete its four dog-legged course before sunset.

Got off to a perfect start in our heavy displacement performance cruiser with my hard core crew aboard. The three mark-roundings were characterized by rightaway howling and nail-biting that usually accompanies drifters sailed in chop. In the end, the team muscled our tonnage through to finish squarely in the middle of 20+ pack of boats.

That was entirely satisfying to me. After paying my respects in the bar, I returned to the parking lot three hours after I had left it. Refreshed. My day had been saved. But this magnificent creature had departed.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Not a Schadenfreude Moment!.

Actually, I feel empathy.

I do not take pleasure in the grief of others as a general principle. All of us who take our recreation on or in our local waters share a kinship, brotherhood, or sisterhood. I even include some fishermen in this community. (That's a subject for a future post!) Each of us would willing come to another's assistance.

That said, when Trophy Wife shared the following story from the local press this morning, I confess a Schadenfreude nerve was touched and sent twitch through my body. It passed, but I still have to make a comment.

First, the story:

Poor visibility may have contributed to a 37-foot sailboat running aground late Sunday evening on the beach ... in the vicinity of an automated U.S. Coast Guard lighthouse, according to authorities.

The two crew members on board, both men, were not hurt, according to a City Fire Department firefighter at the scene.

The two men, who were adamant that they not be identified, told the firefighter that this was the vessel's first landfall since leaving Hawaii four weeks ago.

Reports of a distressed vessel ... were first reported about 9 p.m. on police scanner frequencies. During a 90-minute period, personnel from city fire, City Harbor Patrol and the U.S. Coast Guard were monitoring the situation and attempting to locate the vessel and assessing crew members for any potential injuries, tasks which were made difficult due to dark and foggy conditions.

Harbor Patrol officials at the scene had no reports of damage sustained by the vessel, which was resting slightly on its side. The name of the sailboat was also not visible.
Right off the top I have to say there's got to be more to this story. I won't go there, because the list of technical details is potentially endless. But as it is, this story provides me grist for what I say (all too often) whenever my lips are lubricated with Coronas.

These two guys are cruisers. Their boat looks like an out-and-out cruiser. To have come all the way from Hawaii, they have got to be accomplished cruisers. Anything I say can't take anything from them.

Cruisers deserve their dais at the top of the food chain of recreational sailors. Sailors who race are a close second. Especially, the racing I have done, all of which is in the sight of land. Not that I haven't done a little Island cruising. What little cruising I have done has taught me a firm axiom.

You cruisers out there have to be perfect while us racers just have to be good enough.

Cruisers are on their own resources. They have to be able to plan courses and fix things that break. I can't do that. Racers just have to follow sailing instructions and finish the course delineated for them by a race committee, before turning on their auxiliary. (That last is also a major difference.) I can do that.

But I don't mind finding my station in life somewhere inconspicuously located in the second echelon, so long as it is above motor boaters and fishermen. I don't mind that at all - not so long as I can keep my boat off the local beaches and its name (and mine) out of the local papers.

That there's the rub.

Escape from New York

Leg # 11 of the Clipper Around the World Race is off and running 880 nautical miles from New York City to Sidney, Nova Scotia.

In the Virtual Regatta, the start was pretty ugly: The Many Players Race Committee issued no announcements, conducted no count-downs, sounded no audibles, or displayed any visuals. Skippers managed to start by word of mouth (forum) at an unknown interval after the start time (1300hrs PDT yesterday) announced in the Sailing Instructions.

Nevertheless, Vigilance, by being meticulously vigilant, managed a decent start! By late this morning, Vigilance found herself in 203rd position. That's her, represented by the long black hull (I think it's 10 miles long in scale). The clump of overlayed yachts under her include easily the first 500 boats in the race at this point. Nearest as I can remember, the yellowish boat behind Vigilance is in 1100th+ place. The light blue boat all by herself to starboard is in 700th+ place. And, yes, a Finnish boat flying a spinnaker has crashed into Nantucket. Parked there for most of the night, he's definitely in last (82,000th+) place now.

Boats are currently blowing by Massachusetts at 12.1 knots on a reach in 17.9 knots of wind under #2 Yankees. The wind has just now dropped and veered aft. I set a light air spinnaker.

I present this image because Vigilance will never look better than this. It's time to go to work and I have to leave everything up to Otto on the helm. If I lose 600 boats by the time I get back in the next six hours, the buck stops with Otto.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

I Found It!

News at Eleven!
Er... Make that 5 O'clock somewhere!

Thanks to Carol Anne for her post,

Serendipity Shopping:
Luck + Creativity = Success

Her account takes me back decades to my Laser days. I don't know why I found myself in an inland sporting good store. Was it a Big-5? Anyway, I saw this inconspicuous digital watch, Casio-like, in a locked case. The salesperson told me he didn't know what it was for and that he would sell it to me for whatever I thought it was worth. A nano-second's examination informed me that it was a count-downing yacht-timer. I snatched it up for $20! Over the years it has stood me in good stead, out-performing and outlasting multiple-function watches priced in $100's, gifted to me by friends and family.

Once, at a two-day regatta when I was racing Shields in Newport Beach, I was sure I had lost it overboard when its band separated. But on the morning of the second day, I found it a few inches from the edge of the deck: apparently it had fallen out of the sail cover! I attached its remaining band to a lanyard with duct tape and I've had it ever since. It's perfect: no bells n' whistles. It just recycles 5-minute countdowns, endlessly. (Actually, it does beep, but only my crew hears it now!)

Until the last ten days it has been with me. I have misplaced it. Without it last night, uncertain of the seconds before the start, I fouled two boats. I'm thinking/hoping that little green noisy thingy is stuck in some pocket. Annoyed by repetitive beeping, my crew is not entirely above suspicion: any one of them, seeing it on the edge of the deck as I did 15 years ago, could have given it a nudge without looking over their shoulder!

On Care & Feeding of Crew

Some Tentative Thoughts

When I played tennis (for decades), I preferred singles to doubles. My asymmetrical style of play was more suited to not having opponents encamped on the net. But more importantly, I always tried too hard at doubles and such striving occasioned more frequent injuries.

In sailing, single-handed racing appeals most to me, but I am too old now for Lasers. Still, smaller is better. I never subscribed to the old saw that a man should always own more LOA in feet than he is aged in years. Smaller boats, smaller crew. The larger the boat, the more assignments I resent not being able to perform any better than my crew.

The most anxious moment for me is always how many crew will show up for a race. It's an unreal worry. My crew is golden. They can be counted on. But these are trying financial times, and pressures on the smart people in our group can be unpredictable and unsurmountable. Otherwise, I am confident they epitomize the bumpersticker that reads,


Because of absences, I have felt it advisable to overbook crew. That's better than having to cold-call fill-ins. You owe it to the crew that shows up not to be shorthanded for ambient conditions. OTOH, crew doesn't like a crowded boat. Too many aboard one week can cause you to have too few the next. As a way to re-distribute responsibility for attaining the right boatload, I have taken to group emails ('Reply to All'). I tried a ship's log site, but most people eschew anything that rhymes with 'blog'.

Underway, I feel I am in charge. But guest rail meat might never know it. Controversy spills out over tactics, bearings, sail trim, etc. There used to be references as to a deleterious event five minutes prior, but that's a diminishing problem. Over the years with basically the same great people, I have learned to hold my counsel and remain aloof from these conversations. Being the guy who makes the call requires concentration that this separation affords. Inward personal satisfaction ultimately comes whenever a contested call is validated in the next moment: unexpectedly an adversary is crossed or a mark is fetched.

Sometimes it helps to explain reasons for what I'm trying to do. Oftentimes it helps just to give the biggest mouth a bigger assignment to keep its mind and hands busier.
Occasionally, like last night, I give up the helm on the last leg to go to the head and to secure some electronic gadget. Increasingly, it feels good to do that.

I have complete confidence in everyone aboard. Unsolicited advice, complaining and even carping - there's less of that as the years go by - are all signs of concern about the boat's performance. Would I have it any other way? Everyone aboard is a competent and competitive person in his/her own professional world. And their mutual respect for each other precludes blame-gaming. I am extremely fortunate to have them invest some precious hours or even occasionally risk their precious lives on my boat. They are entitled to their opinion.

They are not entitled to mine. That's what this blog is all about.

Now, about that clusterfook last night......

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Dodgers Win in the 9th on a 'Balk-Off'?

Turn up your speakers!

How can you have a balk if the batter's not even in his box? I couldn't believe this call. As a life-long Dodger fan, I would have to protest this call against the D-Backs. Seeing is disbelieving. Where's the rule book?