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

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Man In the Shadows at Sunset ...

... is my oldest son, doing foredeck OPB.

Needless to say, I'm immensely proud of him. He is good enough - he didn't have to buy the fiberglass under his feet. Like I did.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

September is Finally Over

Conceptually anyway, if not chronologically.


Gone is the fog, the doldrums, and the pick-up replacement crews. Back were my hard-core homeboys and homegirls, baaaaack from their poorly-timed vacations and medical treatments. Back, also was the steady summer wind and balmy temperature. 18 knots on flat water. What was confusing was that only 14 boats showed up. Had they given up on September? Were they just waiting for October to come?

The Good Guys were 14 seconds late to the mark but on the favored end. After rounding the weather mark we knew we were in danger of winning this thing. Which we did, on a horizon scale. That's what happens when you have the A-Team show up to sail on the same day the wind shows up.

That's when I have a 38-foot Laser under my feet.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Skipper Finally Wins an Argument!

News at 11:00!
The thing about your regular crew leaving you in the lurch at the end of the summer to go on vacations (2!) or to buy their own boats (3!) is that the pick-up crew that replaces them yields certain surprises. You never know what you're getting until you are out on the course in full race mode. The pleasant surprise is, unlike in the case of the still absent hard-core crew, you don't get arguments about strategy and tactics. What you do get are unforeseen disputes about politics and economy, which is not nearly as critical. Of course, how could you have had time to vet people you are begging to get onboard to help you muscle your huge yacht through a becalmed chop?

Well, that was the case Wednesday. Among my replacement crew for the day were Ewan and Irwin. They were so young and handsome I couldn't tell them apart initially. That's because I'm such an old fart that I only realized at the end of the day that they were father and son (but that's another story). It very quickly became clear that Ewan had substantial big boat experience as he mastered every line & task assigned and suggested sail trim to boot.

Wednesday's race was short in nautical miles but lasted two hours because of poor winds. In the middle of the 3rd of four legs, we were short a few boat lengths of tacking onto port for the mark. I overheard Ewan in the companionway, lecturing Irwin (his college-aged freshman son) and Spinnaker Girl about California tax reform. He was taking a Blue-Dog Democratic position and saying that - like supposedly JFK advocated - tax relief for the very rich floats all boats. I checked the course for a second and thought to myself, "We got time for this, why not?"

So I go,

Ewan, I gotta question: [waiting for his assent]: If you could spare $1,000 in tax revenue to put in either a rich man's bank account or in a working man's wallet, which would you do, if you had to choose?
Silence. Ewan eventually protested that you could/would/should do both. I would have none of it:
Wait a minute: You are a small businessman. Doing your part to restore the economy requires that you put more money in your inventory of widgets or hire more hamburger cooks for your restaurant. Which would have a more direct effect encouraging you doing so? More money in my richboy's bank account [OK-I lied] or bucks in Spinnaker Girl's purse? Don't businessmen need to see or to anticipate a market -- presence of spending money -- before they withdraw from their bank accounts and invest?
Again silence. We had to tack. We did so perfectly, and attention became riveted on tactical considerations of a starboard tack boat Santa Cruz-27 trying to get an inside overlap at the mark. After we rounded the mark, set the spinnaker and hooked up a preventer, Ewan abruptly spoke.
Okay. After having thought about it, I guess you're right. If I had to choose, I would cut taxes for middle class.
Well, even though tax-cutting was not really what I had in mind, I nevertheless inwardly celebrated an unexpected win (capitulation) in an on-board argument discussion.

But I can't take credit for my rhetoric because (a) like all good sailors, Ewan had a lot intellectual integrity and (b) I had chosen the correct side of this issue.

Only today did I get around to reading yesterday's newspaper which had a column by two college professors, Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson, Too Rich to Last, in which they argue that tax policies that benefit the wealthy pose a danger to American democracy:

The richest 0.1% of Americans have seen their share of pretax national income rise from less than 3% in 1970 to more than 12% in 2007 -- the highest proportion since the creation of the income tax in 1913. Yet even as the rich grew vastly richer, Washington decided they needed more help. Since 1995, the top 400 households have enjoyed a 45% cut in their income taxes (they paid 30% of individual income tax in 1995 and 16.6% in 2007). In 2007 alone, that saved the top 400 filers $46 million -- per household .....

Most economists agree that extending Bush-era tax cuts for the highest-income Americans would do little to stimulate the economy. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office recently ranked extending the 2001 tax cuts last among 11 options for creating employment. It noted that even within that option, extending tax cuts for the rich would be the least helpful because wealthy people would be likely to bank their tax savings rather than spending them.
That was exactly what I said from the helm on Wednesday afternoon, wasn't it? More or less?

But why were some of the best of the eleven options

for putting Americans back to work running into a wall of Congressional opposition in the face of deficit worries? ... the same members of Congress who denounce deficit spending are ready to find vast sums for the idea that ranks dead last.
That's really weird, I thought. Had Jake and Paul been my pick-up crew instead of Ewan and Irwin, I would have asked them why that is. And they would have explained,
For awhile pundits chalked this up to election-year pandering. Yet multiple polls have confirmed that by large margins, Americans don't favor keeping the high-end cuts. This means that politicians are flocking towards a proposal that is at once ineffective and unpopular.
That's weird. Why would politicians of both parties deliberately blow-off voters? Well, the behavior of Republican politicians is as almost as old as the hills and never too complicated to understand:
... the roots of [their] tax-cutting campaign go back  more than a generation. In the wake of a major political mobilization of corporate America in the 1970's, the GOP forged a coalition bringing together anti-government libertarians, social conservatives and powerful business backers. Tax cut increasingly proved to be the glue of that coalition, feeding into the conservative cause by starving government (at least in theory) while showering very specific largesse on the GOP's deepest-pocketed supporters.
I really didn't need Paul and Jake onboard to explain Republican voters' behavior. But their presence would have been necessary to explain Blue Dog Democrats' enabling obfuscation:
The real puzzle is why Democrats, the putative party of the little guy, offer cover for these top-heavy initiatives ..... Tax-cutting Democrats sometimes reflect the pull of local economic interests. But they also reflect the post 1980's shift of the party as a whole toward business and affluent donors in an increasingly money-driven political world. During his time directing the campaign efforts of congressional Democrats, Rahm Emanuel, now Obama's chief of staff, reportedly offered this wisdom,
The first third of your campaign is money, money, money. The second third is money, money, and press. And the last third is votes, press and money.
For those keeping score at home, that's Money 6, Voters 1.
Don't misunderstand me. As I suggested above, we were very fortunate to have Ewan aboard this week. But for the previous month of fog, having Paul and Jake aboard with their GPS loaded with waypoints would have been a game-changer.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Last Beer Can?

End of the twilight racing for The Good Guys for this year. A Lamentable season for several reasons:
  • Quirky weather. Foggy drifters. I should be able to deal with this. A good racer should be able to compete in a wide variety of conditions. 
  • Quirky Crew: People go on vacations. (Go figure!) People buy their own boats. (There's lesson in that! Several lessons!) Replacement crew is irregular. You try to retain the trainable; jettison the other. Regardless, crew chemistry oscillates. Will the return of the hard-core in a week improve things? Maybe, unless even they return resolved to buy their own boat.
  • Same Ol' Boat: As I have said, many times, your dependable,retainable crew is part of your boat's equity. I have just not been getting much R.O.I. recently. And this big boat is not teaching me much anymore. 
  • Getting older (me): Maybe that goes to not learning anything. Maybe that goes to my diminished capacity to process a wide variety of inputs: changes in wind, currents, water, boats. Maybe it goes to a lowered level of expectations. As I began the 2nd leg yesterday, I heard my inner self ask me, "What the hell's point?" My inner self answered, "FIIK!"
What now? 

Every end is a beginning.

Maybe the old crew can be restored and we resume our Sunday voyages of lowered expectations? Maybe I will sense that I can no longer competitively and safely sail a boat this large? Any size? Maybe I will myself to become boatless, because I can't afford a suitable boat? 

If that happens will I console myself by acknowledging that my circumstances are now identical with 99% of humanity?

That's the only consolation imaginable.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Lady-at-the-Helm Race

The dense fog lifted just before the start even as the winds held back. Trophy Wife executed a near perfect start, maybe 15 seconds late. But the key was she was close enough to the weather pin the scrape paint. We had over-loaded boat (had to get as many ladies on board as possible) with mixed experience. And our numbers helped provide movable ballast and human preventers to leeward. Yesterday proved again my old, old adage that the less the wind blows, the more there's work in store for the Good Guys. And yesterday, we 'left it all' out there on the water.

The key to the day was that we made no mistakes. Every time there was a choice we selected the long end of the stick. My mouth was working, but I only received one STFU from the helm; there was that much unanimity aboard. Given that we saw nothing more than, 5 knots at the end, we got as much as anyone could have out of our displacement. That we finished in the middle of the fleet was purely a reflection of tonnage. No regrets.

For us, it was a perfect day to be nestled and moving amidst sun, sea, and air. It was a perfect day to be buoyant, and not to be marred by whatever detritus of protests, disqualifications, recriminations, & disputes which may have followed it into the Club's bar. Oblivious, I enjoyed a rocking good dock party 'til sundown.

Don't ask, don't tell....

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Virtual Regatta: Hyères (France) to Istanbul

Virtual Regatta est le premier jeu de simulation de courses océaniques online en temps réel!
Maybe. Possibly. Probably. But I'm not up/down for it, this time. Just too much real sailin' and real livin' going on, right now.... Tomorrow. they will leave without me.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Saving Our Sailing...

...from attrition and strangulation via lack of access.

At last some (few) people are giving public voice to one of my private rants.

A previously - to me - obscure book, Saving Sailing by Nicholas Hayes (2007) blipped up on my radar screen in the pages of Latitude 38, thanks to Max Ebb and Lee Helm. 

According to Hayes, the future of recreational sailing is not too rosy: 
  • Participation is down by 40% since 1997 and down by 70% since 1979.
  • We have 1.8 million sailors in the USA now; in order to get back to 1979 levels, we'd have to add 4.2 million. Yacht clubs with suitable facilities for youth activities are not numerous in the USA to fill the void.
  • If only one in five sailors belongs to a yacht club, in order to stay even, each yacht club has to generate five new non-members per each current member; in order to grow back to 1979 levels, each current member would have to grow 11.7 new non-member sailors.
According to Max Ebb and Lee Helm, yacht clubs are not up to this:
For long-term growth you have to make it easy for people to get into sailing without relying on yacht club infrastructure. The yacht club pipe is to narrow and the sailboat racing pipe is even narrower.
The answer lies in land use and the long and short of it is that the sailing and paddling communities are to blamed
...for not being right there at every stakeholders' meeting and planning workshop, having it out with the enviros and fighting for access ... some of those blue-hairs who run the park advocacy show think it's more important to preserve the view of the Bay from the freeway than it is to kids the chance to sail or paddle on it.
Lee Helms is not speaking disparaging of all environmentalists. It's just,
...get them inside the city limits and they don't know how to balance things ... The main thing is that they don't seem the value of any form of boating and they do a lot of damage to urban park design in the name of open space monoculture. I see them wast a lot of resources blocking that would allow people to float on or touch the water instead of just looking at it. Those resources would be much better spent protecting the habitat where there are fewer people and it's way more cost effective.
A twelve-step plan is attached to Max Ebb's Latitude 38 article. Not sure each of them has equal merit, but they seem to be internally consistent and reinforcing.

I'm cherry-picking my favorite parts to amplify my previous written and oral ranting:

  • Show up at meetings that address waterfront land use planning. Take back the priority list from the advocates of waterfront parks habitat restoration. They seem to believe the Bay should be observed from a park bench or trail but never touched or floated on. Urban waterfront parks work best when they mix open space and water-related recreation. Carrying these principles to new park projects is critical.
  • Support on-site storage for small craft. Cars of the future will not be very good at hauling boats around. Housing of the future will be less likely to have garages or driveways and there will be reduced options for storing even small boats or sail boards at home. Rental on-site storage keeps small craft ownership viable. Note that even if on-site facilities include parking, they still reduce driving miles because after-work or other combined trips do not have to go home first to pick up the gear. Build it and they will come.
  • Infiltrate the most powerful open space and advocacy groups. It's for their own good. Audubon Society needs to realize that every kayaker becomes a birder and Sierra Club needs to realize that every sailor becomes a stakeholder in the natural shoreline. These groups should be the natural allies of non-motorized sailors and paddlers -- the trailerable power boat or Jet Ski (usually hauled around by a SUV) is the natural enemy. Join these groups and help set policies.
  • Support no-wake areas and powerboat bans. Thrill craft activities is usually preemptive of quiet and non-annoying forms of boating and reduces the carrying capacity of small bodies of water. We don't need for the next fuel price shock to divert some of the market back to sail and power.
  • Support mandatory licensing for power boat operators. Power boats are many times more hazardous than sailboats yet popular the perception is that beginners need lessons for sailing but not for power. This perception needs to be reversed.
  • Forget about big boats. It's the wrong demographic for growth. Promoting big boat events [and marketing slips] may generate short-term gains for the industry and is always valuable for its own sake. And of course its vital for people in the big boat business. But it brings in little new blood compared to small craft access.
Personally, I would refine and sharpen some of the points made above. But, in general I would feel good defending them. 

I'll just have to read Nick Hayes' Saving Sailing. I think he's hitting hard on the need to change human behavior with introductory individual and small group instruction. That's important. But that's just retail. What's needed and called for, as Max Ebb and Lee Helm point out, is wholesale expansion of access.

Appendix to the Post Above

These are a couple of back-to-back shots of my local harbor. (Click to expand.) Notice how half (my guesstimate) of this under-used beach could be dredged down 4-5 feet deep in saltwater in order to double the space for dinghy sailing and racing for youngsters. In other words, step off 50 feet beyond the last volleyball court and start digging!

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Haves and the Have Nots:

A picture is worth 700,000,000,000 words.
Well, this one is, anyways! Especially animated as it is!

Tonight, Ezra Klein, staff writer for The Washington Post, talked to Rachel Maddow about the difference in income growth trends under Democratic presidents versus Republican presidents.

After a couple of beers, I learned how to edit this clip so that I am now able to distill the meat from this interview between Maddow and Klein: everyone does better the further away Republicans are kept from the White House!

Proof positive.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Nothing Looks Like That Natural Dobie Look...

No Comment about Last Night's Debacle

Except to say....

There's an old saw that prescribes that a man should never own a boat shorter in feet than one is in years. 

I never understood where that comes from. 

The smaller boat, the better for me. 

To be able to sail a boat in and out of one's slip (instead of turning on the ignition key), to be able to tack on the lifts when you see them (instead of watching other boats pick them off), and the capability of refining your boat-for-boat tactics.... 

That's what it's all about.

I miss it.

Here's a boat doing that last night. Owned and skippered by an older dude than I. 

And I am an old fart.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Labor Day Regatta

Starts on the 'honor system'!
This photo is taken a few feet off the shore side of the starting line. I can't see the Race Committee's deck and I am sure they can't see us or the line. After two 30-minute delays, the RC radioed that boats were supposed to start this pursuit race "on the honor system"! 

In the back-breaking effort to follow, The Good Guys never saw more than five knots of wind and we can't tack in less than four! It's a back-breaking, crew-intensive effort to move our displacement in these conditions, even if we can see! I learned to trust in the GPS, because the eyes and instincts were definitely deceiving.

In the back of the fleet, Trophy Wife at the helm made the key decision not to drop the chute at the 'leeward' mark; we were able to ghost (definitely a well-chosen word) our way out of a cluster of drifting wind-shadows. Thankfully, the Race Committee took their boat out to finish everyone. Otherwise The Good Guys, who never quit, would still be out there, circling....

Thursday, September 2, 2010


beyond my control....?

No. I am only responsible for,
  • The remaining hard core of the crew, MVP and Bubbles, going off to Greece on a 1-month sailing vacation.
  • Two boats who locked their rigging in front of me on the starting line.
  • Picking the starboard end of the line to start on despite the fact that it was blowing 18 knots.
  • The fog.
  • Using the foggy conditions and untested inexperience of my transitional crew as an excuse not to set spinnaker. (Not placing confidence in the crew or giving them enough to do is a good way to lose what I have.)
  • Losing my own path downwind in the fog.
  • Not assessing the wind patterns on the last windward leg which clearly would have indicated to any level-headed observer that this day was one of the 5% times when the wind was better (than the current) on the port side of the leg.

The Good Guys got a DFL. But I am the one who should be punished. Thankfully, Trophy Wife still loves me. (Says she does, anyways.)

Then there's Ballou: Semper Fidelis.