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, March 30, 2011

1st Beer Can of 2011!

I was rusty. Got a mediocre start But the wind strength favored us and allowed us to get back in the game at the first mark. For the first half of the race we had 14-15 knots; but then it dropped to 1-3 knots; and for the last fourth we had a steady 2-3 knots.

We couldn't get the spin to full hoist; I may have to go up the mast and lubricate the shiv. We tried out a new crew. I wish we could have everyone we liked, but it's not a good thing for anyone not to have enough to do. Then you have to trade jobs around. Like I have to give up the helm, for instance. We had three different people on the helm, which gives me a chance to take some photos.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Velux 5 Oceans Solo Yacht Race: 4th Leg

Punta del Este, Uruguay to Charleston, S.C.

Starting Tomorrow, 0900hrs PDT.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The 1970's & 1980's

When we were courting, Trophy Wife and I shared 14 feet of fiber glass. It was a Schock International 14 which we named Wet & Wild. Of course, it is not like the current INT-14's: our boat had only one trapeze and no open transom. Strictly for race, it gave us lots of thrills & spills racing on lakes and Newport Beach, Alamitos Bay, del Rey, King Harbor, and San Diego, etc. Just learning 'the ropes', we never were competitive in our local fleet, and were crushed by sailors from San Francisco and Seattle. However, we did have our share of days and triumphs over another boat skippered by "Break'em-off-by-the-Neck-Johnson". It was fun.

We also had lots of on-board disputes about tactics as to who should be the skipper and who should be crew. So, we parked the I-14 in the back yard and bought two 13-foot Kites and had a tandom trailer built. Big mistake. Those boats were so heavy, I dropped one the first week I had them. Trophy Wife had been arguing all along for Lasers. She had just read about them in Sports Illustrated. Happily, our Kite dealer was also a Laser dealer and we swapped them out, pronto.

Lasers to resolve this issue as to which of us was to be the boss (on the water). We raced and raced and raced and raced. Eventually, the two Lasers were replaced by three new ones as my 2nd oldest took up the sport and joined the fleet.

By the time we became adults and bought our first keel boat, and until this very day, we have not resolved which of us is the best helmsman. (er, Helmsperson!)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

George O'Day Changed my Life

How I Became an Addict

It actually occurred when I was quite young. I'm thinking I must have been about twelve. Dad order a 12-foot sailboat in a huge kit from George O'Day Fairey Marine, as I recall. Maybe it was a Penguin class. Either that, or that is what we named it. But something tells me we might have named it "Flying Saucer" or "Gull". I don't remember. But the first one was built the same year I was born.

So, I remember putting a little token assistance in its building: holding, gluing, counter-sinking, screwing, shellacking, painting - that sort of thing. The Gull was a sturdy, 12-foot, V-bottom plywood boat with wooden floorboards and no deck to speak of. We must have had a trailer for it. Boat and trailer took up half the garage. The Penguin was big enough for Dad and I or Dad and my brother to sail around in. We sailed it in Prospect Lake and Monument Lake, two small puddles very close by.

A friend of my father's about whom I have yet to write about, Vernon Seifert, went out with me in it on Monument one day. He sailed it very close-hauled, causing considerable healing and allowing for an alarming amount of lake water to rush in over my bare feet. I have to say I probably screamed and maybe even cried. A memorable day. But that little Penguin never capsized; not while we owned it, anyway.

Dad was not satisfied. He bought another boat kit. This one was also from Fairey Marine but also came to us via George O'Day. This was to became a 15-foot cold-molded sloop with deck called a Swordfish. The whole craft looked like a shortened Thistle with a deck. It had that International 14 plumb bow with the hull rounding to a flat transom. I think it was cold-molded mahogany. Is that possible? This took a lot more creativity than the Penguin. 

This time around, Dad availed himself of additional help from an accomplished wood-worker and neighbor who lived on the other side of Mesa Road. Col. Hunt was his name. I think they did a good job. I think we named it "Teal". I remember watching its maiden voyage. Dad and Col. Hunt had some kind of a misadventure at the dock. Maybe they hooked the mainsheet on the dock's cleat or something. But after that, it was smooth sailin'!

I wasn't that much into sailing at the time, I guess.

Sailing was pretty much a family activity. Enjoyable? Yes, when we went on vacation for ten days or so every summer up at Grand Lake and Shadow Mountain Lake, northwest of Denver. We car-topped the Penguin and towed the Swordfish. Maybe after my brother's death in '55 we mostly stopped going. I did tow the Swordfish up to Grandby Reservoir once by myself, which is next to Shadow Mountain Lake. But that wasn't too much fun. That was the last time I sailed in Colorado. Actually, playing baseball became my preferred summertime activity once I had my own car.

I sold the Swordfish in 1961 just before coming to California. Because I wouldn't have time for it with my studies and everything! Right?

That would have been it for me as far as sailing is concerned except for one August day back in 1953, as near as I can place it. We were on our regular family vacation with the two boats. On a whim (I guess), Dad entered me in a race sponsored by the Grand Lake Yacht Club. At that time GLYC called itself the 'world's highest yacht club'. Small center boarders such as Snipes, Comets, Lightnings, Thistles, and Scows race under its burgee. Dad entered our Penguin in the smallest category, maybe 12ft and under.

The only other boat was a 11 1/2 foot Moth which in those days, looked just like the shortest varnished mahogany Scow you could imagine. I was to sail against another kid who was two years older than me. I have no idea how long a course it was except it basically was to circumnavigate the lake. We were the last class to start. I was all set. At the last moment prior to shove off, Dad jumped into the boat with me. He saw signs of a approaching rain squall and thought I might need some ballast.

The first leg of four was uneventful. The wind steadily built, and with it the chop, and then came the rain. The Moth was always within reach. It capsized a couple of times and we gained a little. But we were fully occupied, too. We took turns sailing and bailing and felt good about not losing more way to our adversary. We were speculating as to which of us were more miserable in terms of being cold and wet: us or the kid a few boat lengths in front of us. Suddenly, he was gone: he had had one capsize too many and abandoned the race. Tucked tail and ran, he did. We sailed on a nominal amount of time into increasingly deep sheets of rain before calling it a day ourselves. Later, in the evening, we had dinner in the kid's home overlooking Grand Lake.

That day's competition represented the penultimate experience I had as a kid learning to sail in Colorado. It would remain as a seed, germinating, but still dormant in my soul for a decade and a half. Then I met a young, toned and tanned girl who reawakened the embryo and hatched it.

Monday, March 21, 2011

To Sail or not to Sail

That is the question.

Sailing may be getting old. I am, for sure. Our boat wins races only when the wind blows dogs off docks or when it doesn't blow enough to disturb cigarette smoke. When the wind is steady in the 7-11 knot range, we are mediocre at best. Therefore, I've always wanted to be sure to get out for as many races in our erratic spring months. There was a time, not so long ago at all, when I asked a neighboring boat to tow me out of my slip so I could take the advantage of 20 knot+ breezes. (This happened more than once!)  I just regretted being harbor-stuck, not being able to benefit from 'my weather' when it finally arrived.

Last Wednesday and the coming Wednesday are warm-ups to this year's mid-week beer-can races. These two races are 'fun' races. Nothing counts, trophy-wise, until 30 March. I won't take my boat out until then, when stuff counts. But I'll race on the 30th, come hell or high water, because I would regret losing any Fleet Championship points if I didn't.

That's what it has come down to: nowadays I won't take my boat out on any given date unless I think I may live to regret leaving it in its slip.

An ex-crew who now sails a Harbor-20, emailed me two days ago. He was inquiring as to whether I was sailing on the 23rd. I thought he meant that his Harbor-20 needed crew, so I replied with my thumb out & up. But I was wrong: he didn't want me on his boat; he wanted to be on my boat. No chance of that, I will tell him, for this coming week.

Reinforcing my natural disinclination to race for the fun of it, has been the week's weather. In Sunday's early morning hours, all hell broke loose as well as a couple of boats much bigger than mine. Reports are not clear as to the sequence of events, to my satisfaction anyway.

But it seems that two boats broke loose off of East Beach. One was a 70-ft tugboat with two people and a dog aboard; the other was a 45-ft sailboat name Vixen with a family of four aboard along with their 3-legged dog. (I'm not making this up!) The two boats apparently crunched together at one point. The tug made it to shore safely; Fire Department personnel helped them off, on to the beach.

Meanwhile, Vixen's crew had to be rescued.

There were some hitches. This was during the 30-40 MPH gusts at 0730 hrs Sunday, with appropriately sized seas. The first responder was a two-man Harbor Patrol boat. En route, this would-be rescue craft had one of its windows blown out; moments later it began taking on water; still moments later, a crewman became ill in the process of pumping the water. In the end, the Harbor Patrol boat needed to be rescued.

The Coast Guard responded and one of its rescue swimmers made it aboard Vixen. A plan was hatched to air-lift Vixen's crew off with a USCG helicopter. But the high seas and strong winds prevented the helicopter from approaching the sailboat, due to its mast whipping to and fro. Finally, the Alan T, a privately owned work boat was used as a shield to block the waves and the wind long enough to allow the Harbor Patrol to bring a launch alongside the distressed sailboat and to fetch all aboard, off.

Now these two craft had come to grief while they were anchored, because their ground tackle failed. This week my own boat has been enough trouble, in its slip. I spent more than 90 minutes today on my lunch hour, checking lines, and pumping out her head. We had 6.5 inches of horizontal rain yesterday. The water in the harbor looks like spinach soup. More rain is due Wednesday morning. If I start my engine in this slop and toss my lines, people will be taking pictures of my craft on the beach.

I'm glad I'm doing Race Committee this Sunday.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Waiting for the Tsunami

0645 hrs: 

Japan's Tsunami's surge is expected here in a bout 90 minutes. There will be a crowd down at the Harbor which, I have to confess, I will join. Only because it's a community event, you understand...

News at 11:

Like I said, it was a community event. I won't post photos I took of the (up to 50) small craft that played it safe by powering out to 500 yards off shore, or the people who crossed the barricades to get to the breakwater so they could witness and photograph any rise in sea level. Not worth the extra column inches.

Sailing Is at the Cutting Edge of (Transportation) Technology?

Good news is such a rarity in these days, you just feel compelled to pump up the amplifier when it comes your way:
A private company that specializes in sailboat cruises has approached the Golden Gate Bridge transit district about replacing the agency’s diesel-ferry fleet with new wind-powered catamaran vessels, starting with a possible test run of the technology in April.

Wind + Wing Technologies, a Napa company, claims it can build catamaran sailboats able to handle the passenger load of commuting ferry systems, while also reducing carbon emissions and saving the agencies money on fuel costs. One vessel proposed by the company could accommodate up to 750 passengers and travel at 17 knots (about 20 mph), and it would cut down both fuel expenses and carbon emissions by 40 percent.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Opening Day: 1st Place in 22 Knots...

...And with seas to match. We hit 10.0 knots off the wind. Two guys, ex-crew,  elected not to take their boat out and joined us. I told my sailing guru that I was surprised to have corrected out into 1st, what with a very mediocre (safe!) start and one bad maneuver at a weather mark. He said,
Yes, It may have just been a case where the weather selected the boat!
I'm okay with that. The boat and crew deserved honors if I didn't!