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

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Happy Holidays and Season's Greetings

To all my friends, sailing, non-sailing, and would-be sailing friends for the holidays and the coming year: Fair Winds & Following Seas!

Wherever your venue may be.

(That's a hint to click on the link provided!)

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Putting 2013 to Bed with a BOPP

It started as another one of those dreadful race days. If it weren't for there being a race you would never dream of going down to the harbor. To uncover your sails, anyway. Nothing but a big flat mirror outside of breakwater. Not having your full crew for another. Having a whole day of English Premier League soccer games saved on your teevee, for another.

I was late to the boat. Rookie-of-the-Year and friend had already uncovered Das Boot's sails. Still, I hesitated. We sat in the boat and discussed what other uses to which we could devote this sunny and warm Sunday. Suddenly, someone started the engine. (I guess that would be me.) Everyone sprang into action.

Leaving the harbor, we found a steady 6-7 knots blowing over a smooth sea. We timed our start in this pursuit race perfectly. Right on the port pin, maybe five seconds late. I immediately turned the helm over to Trophy Wife (TW), who is our light wind specialist (LWS).

TW put Das Boot up to her best optimal performance possible (BOPP) in the day's adverse conditions. I made my own optimal contribution by just applying my ample beer muscle to the leeward rail.

Race Committee chose D-11, a course which I contrived years ago to (a) avoid the hideously boring triangle track regularly dealt to our fleet, (b) requiring two spinnaker sets, (c) setting up a rare downwind cluster finish under the colorful chutes.

Only today Das Boot found herself in few clusters. The Fleet spread itself over the sparkling surface, every crew trying to find and harness its own fresh, un-deflected wind.

We sailed smart. And had a lot of fun. It did not matter that we finished 11th out of 17. We had already evaded the biggest mistake possible today by raising sail.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Oil Platform C? (Not so much...)

The day's race was supposed to be a delicious 10.6 nm circumnavigation of Oil Platform C, subject to wind conditions. Wind was at 6 knots, but steady, at the warning horn.

Despite the day's glorious sunshine, the race committee sadly elected to shorten course to another boring triangle race around the buoys. Dumbfounded, disappointed, and disgusted! That's what we were! The RC was obviously intent on shortening their duties. As for our prospects, we realized our agony at the back of the fleet would be also shortened. Nevertheless, light airs were offset by their steadiness and flat seas.

We had a perfect start but were predictably next to last at the weather mark. Mid-way, Mastman took the helm to the crew's delight. Spinnaker hoist & douse were flawless. In between, we benefited from guest helmsman (Catalina-30 owner fresh in from the East coast) and a guest spinnaker trimmer (M-2). Das Boot worked her way to the front end of the 2nd half of the fleet.

Given the day, a perfectly satisfactory result.

Sunday, November 10, 2013


I can play all the excuse cards I dealt Das Boot today:
  • Crew absenteeism: missing both members of my foredeck crew because of vacation (or hang-overs?).That took our spinnaker out of the game.
  • Replacement crew was composed of somebody's mother (a good photographer), neighboring boat owner (a good back-up driver) and a crew from another boat (excellent mainsheet trim).
  • Totally late to the start line. (Yeah. That was a factor.)
  • Blind-sided by wind change right after the start. Wind dropped from 18 to 10 and veered to the south long after I committed to the Kelp straits.
  • Maybe too closely trimmed on beats. But that's who I am. I'd rather point than foot.
All-in-all an enjoyable day on the water. Especially for November.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Newman . . .

. . . is gone.

Newman's new, undisclosed location
Early in August, Newman joined our crew. He has sailed his last race with us. He has flown out of our paradise and landed into another paradise. He emailed me this picture from his new front porch only this morning, confirming a safe touchdown.

In return email, I reiterated how much we would be missing him, and how much we were hoping this new paradise would work out for him.

After our first rocky race experience with each other, we quickly synched in together. I know I felt more relaxed having his expertise aboard. Das Boot has never been more competitive.

While Newman was on board, I had an experienced skipper with me who could take on mainsheet trim and tactician roles. Not to mention backing me up on helm. He also brought on board his own wind guides and GPS. Experienced with the digital technology of sailing, his second-guessing of my decisions silenced other 2nd-opiners aboard. That's because Newman always had a reason for what he said. And I was gratified to have someone aboard who wanted to win even more than I did.

In a very short time, Newman jelled with Das Boot and everyone aboard. He will be sorely missed.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Lady at the Helm Race

Trophy Wife took the helm from wire-to-wire today. In fact she took over at minus 10 minutes to the start.

I relegated myself to chief beer-drinker, photo-taker and rail-meater. It was hard work, believe me. Keeping my mouth shut? Are you kidding? I wanted to see what the unfettered wisdom and judgment of my team would produce in terms of everything from game plan to tactics and sail-trim.

Okay, okay, I opened my mouth sometimes, but I was only askin', not tellin'!

This was a pursuit race in a steady 12 knots building to 17 with flat seas with the tide moderate and down-coast current about 0.2 knots.

What did I learn? People had radical different approaches to the day's conditions than mine:
  • Das Boot started on starboard close to the starboard pin where I would have selected port tack on the port end.
  • Das Boot went out, tacking up the outside of Kelp Island, where I would have selected the beach route.
  • When Das Boot tacked, sheets were eased until speed was regained. That's not for me in two-digit wind: I like to bang 'er over and bow down until that speed gets back up. (I know I'm in a minority here.)
  • On the last leg, crew believed the closest end of the line was the windward end.
  • One of the reasons old men gravitate toward helming duties as opposed to sail-trim tasks is that they prefer to be assigned to holding on to something stationary with both hands for the duration. I found myself taking refuge in the campanionway., as opposed to either rail where I could at least make myself somewhat useful monitoring tell-tales.
As crew, I botched the spinnaker take-down. Some. Nevertheless, Trophy Wife finished 9th out of 16 boats.
Photo taken from Sirocco (not racing) during the 2nd leg

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Repairs . . . . .

I hate not being able to fix things I am able to break.

Returning after Sunday's race we waited until we reached flat water in the elbow of the harbor before dropping the mainsail. That's S.O.P.

But there was less space & time there because of the wind direction and other returning boats. I was not able to hold my into-the-wind position long enough for the battens to clear the lazy jacks and I jacked-up one batten. Shredded out one Luff-Box. I think that's what it's called. I not only can't fix it myself, I barely can muster the correct nomenclature to describe my problem. My mechanical problems, anyway.

My seamanship problems? Alas, they are somewhat easier to diagnose.

Another problem is that my rigging failure soes not fit neatly into the schedule of my local rigger, who is also having maintenance problems of his own having to do with close friends and family.

So, with a race on this coming Sunday, I don't think I can do what I always prefer to do which is to keep it local. With a two-day delay and working with an out-of-town rigger of very good reputation and helpful attitude, I am hopeful of getting out on the water again Sunday. Not at all certain, but hopeful.

I need to practice my seamanship.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Trophy Wife Helms from Start to Finish

While I just doubled as photographer and rail meat.
For this pursuit race, the Race Committee assigned us a short, 2.41nm windward leeward course on account of the wind showing only 3 knots at start time.

Things didn't look too rosy for Das Boot for the first leg. We drifted across the startline 30 seconds late and eventually found ourselves ensnared in kelp just short of the lay line. At one point we were even dragging a crab pot.

But windward-leeward courses really agree with our self-gybing rig and we caught up with a slew of boats on the 2nd leg. A stiffening breeze helped. Lots of close tactical encounters for TW to deal with, and she handled them very nicely. Ultimately, I figured our start cost us one place at the finish. MB went home with a 8th place glass (out of 18).

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Fall Beer-Can Series Ends

We had a steady 10 knots at the start, leaving us a bit under-powered for contesting at the starboard end of the line. Consequently, I opted for clear air & water somewhat down the line. The breeze started a slow deterioration mid-way up the first leg. With the tide out and the breeze light, I chose not to go into the beach.

We took it fairly in the britches, that first leg. Good crew work got the chute up and pulling soon after rounding the weather mark. Seas were flat, so sailing in 5-6 knots off the wind did not put us at as terrible a disadvantage as in the windward leg. We found ourselves in the back end of the front half of the fleet. Pretty normal. However, the still steady breeze dropped to 2-3 knots and boats in front of us lost their way and boats behind us dropped out. Carrying the chute up on three of the four legs, we finished an incredible 5th (corrected) place out of 20 boats!

Maestro's shirt displays the attitude what got us through. Newman collected his 2nd glass!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

A Strong, Jolting Dose of Realism

This was my dream boat, something which I thought would make me competitive in all conditions (2-20 knots of apparent) which we experience in our venue.

But here is Das Boot.

After much loss of sleep and cash, we decided today to stay with the rig what has brought us thus far through the dance.
Undated photo of one of our recent starts published in Sailing Anarchy

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Ides of September

This J-100 was the only boat that finished before us, but she wasn't officially qualified. Neverthless, her name
sums up the day for us: 1st out of 17 boats. 19 steady knots of wind  will do that for us

Wednesday, September 11, 2013


Perfect start in 15-19 knots. I don't know how it happened, exactly. There was no element of desperation, as my mind was clear on what I wanted to accomplish as it has been on all my starts this year: no exchange of paint or skin. Today, we didn't even exchange words with other crews.

There was a lot of congestion and traffic on the starboard pin. I approached with care from a slightly barging position. TW was aboard for the first time in memory and was giving me a perfect countdown. I recall feeling content with a plan B that allowed me to take the escape route: take sterns of the leading echelon, cross the line and tack off on to port to the beach. Instead, a clump of boats clustered around Bon Marley and maybe the Beneteau and the Hunter. I don't know who else was there. All I could see was the huge hole opening between them and the pin. Das Boot was able to slide right in, going full-bore, right on the gun! Snatched triumph from the jaws of defeat! Crew work was flawless. We even got a thumb's up sign from Bob Marley! We had captured and were in control of the entire fleet off to port.

Newman took the helm for a couple of tacks on the final leg. He did
 so with far more competence than I did taking this photo.
I should have stayed there. But I couldn't think outside of my own, self-constructed box. Instead of tacking off toward the beach for the Kelp Straits, I should have run the leaders out to sea. Newman is my 'nagavator' now, but he was quiet. I need to get him back into the nagging mode. I sail better when there is talk on the boat. I was so full of myself, I guess, I couldn't reassess.

So I took the formulaic approach, tacked off to port and to the beach. There was the Ranger-33. Eventually he tacked back on to starboard and we had a port-starboard situation. I thought I had it wired like I had the start. But a huge shift occurred. He got the lift and we were headed. He had to alter course and we had to do our penalty turns. I probably lost more than a half of the 18 boat fleet in the process. The only way we caught Bob Marley was when they had trouble gybing under their chute.

A very good day on the water. It could have been a so-perfect day. I'm still trying to assess the learning(s) to take away from this day.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

On Coming in First!

Reaching start on port, at the port end of the line. Actually, a near perfect start with only one hull between us and the pin. In the 3-7 knots of easterly, I executed my momentum starting tactic perfectly: on the correct angle to the pin and at a correct distance from the start line I cut off the engine which had given us 3 knots of speed over the ground with a little more than 4 minutes to the start.

Everyone (who counts) was aboard except for Trophy Wife and Mastman. But our combined talent was wasted because the wind could not prevail over the current which sucked much of the fleet in to the Sargasso Sea of kelp next to the cliffs. I promised everyone that when it came time to tack out on port, I would turn on old sparky if 4 knots of wind didn't show up in time. It didn't and we did. We were the first of 15 to see the light and abandon.

First crew to the bar, wins!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Some Days You Just Don't Feel Like Going Sailing . . . .

. . . . you go anyway and have a great time!

I was not looking forward to today's sailing. Lack of energy factored in. Also, I never look forward that much to sailing without Trophy Wife being aboard. But I took most of the day off from work and caught a good mid-day nap. That helped me get down to the harbor an hour earlier than I usually do. I staggered down to the slip, carrying ice in my backpack. The middling wind seemed overwhelming. Put the boat together with all deliberate speed. The crew arrived on time. So, off to the races we went. Without TW aboard, I could not feel relaxed at the helm.

The weather leg turned out to be exciting. Wind was steady, 13-16 knots. Das Boot started on starboard in clean air. 90 seconds after the gun, the Hunter ducked us on port. Fine, I thought. But inexplicably he flopped over into our bad air. The result was he trapped us into on long starboard tack, preventing us from tacking on to port side and going into the beach. Conditions were optimal for blasting through the kelp straits: high tide and a decent breeze.

Nevertheless, it was interesting: a number of close tacking situations with the C&C. At the weather mark we trapped the C&C and the Tri on the mark. The latter had to do a penalty turn and the former had to re-round the mark.

Then my mood changed: I was free from tactical stress & drama on the beat.  On the miraculous reaching legs, I reached for a beer and wondered who wouldn't want to go for a sail? Crew was delightful. The day was beautiful. What more could be asked for?

Then the wind dropped to 10 knots. Bob Marley caught up to us, but couldn't break through our overlap to leeward. A smooth tack at the leeward mark gave me confidence we could force Bob to tack out, away from the beach. When he did, I thought we had a chance to hold him off. But in the falling breeze, he caught us.

We finished in the middle of the fleet (Again!)

I skipped the bar and went home to TW and barbecued dinner.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

A Sea Change?

This morning the sun comes up over my
porch & a swatch of sea water, as it does
every morning.
Life intercedes when you're making big plans. Yesterday we were planning to race with Rookie's brother and father as well as two Swedish friends of Mastman. Rookie's brother was supposed to be a V.E.S. (very experienced sailor). But I was only 50-50 on it until Spinnaker Maestro called and said he wasn't feeling all that well. That tipped the scales. Karma wasn't right.

After all, it was (only!) the day after TW's surgery. I wasn't ready to be away from her side, out of earshot, especially for a couple of hours or more. What was I thinking? If I had been on the water, I certainly would not have been thinking about boat tactics or sail trim.

So, what did I do instead? A little housework. A little scheming on my Rotisserie entry in our English Premier League fantasy group. A little shopping for our salmon dinner. A short walk on the soccer fields with Doberwoman.

No, I didn't want to take her along the shoreline where I could have had to watch my friends dueling it out on the water. They would have had a decent 13-16 knot breeze and a very easier time with it, too, without Das Boot to contend with.

Truth is, my right Achilles heel is out; my back is out; and even a walk down to our slip would have been a chore. Plus, we have an offer on Das Boot. It's not at all attractive enough to amount to an offer I can't afford to turn down. Or is it?

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Syncing-Up with my Taxi Squad

Of late, I've been unsure what I've been dealing with here. Maybe what I have is ½ crew and ½ taxi squad. As I understand it, a taxi squad are not really members of a (football) team but are lower-paid extras retained to fill out a roster for practice scrimmages. That sounds like the best way to describe our people.

Out of Das Boot's hard core, today we only had TW, Spinnaker Maestro, Rookie-of-the-Year, and Newman. These four are assuredly first stringers. Additionally, we had Rookie's mother along. Which was good. She handled the camera well and brought down the spinnaker into the sewer without a hitch or a tear. What more could one ask?

In today's pursuit race we started, maybe, seven seconds late. More important, we were right on the highly-favored, weather pin on port tack. In the 13-17 knot breeze, I took this advantage to sail out of the current, close to shore, tacking up the Kelp Straits. Right away I knew we were in a groove when we crossed our first starboard boat. On that first leg of this windward/leeward course we basically passed the entire fleet.

The crew, even if short-handed, was smooth as silk. And our chemistry was much improved. Newman and I are actually loosening up & getting along! We finished 3rd out of 17 boats. It was a beautiful sunny day with a steady breeze and flat seas.

My asking price for Das Boot just went up $5K.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Das Boot as Others See Her

Resumption of My Wednesday Afternoon Job

It's strange.

Once you think you have the hard core crew assembled on a day with perfect conditions, things would gel. But they didn't. The chemistry was missing. Maybe it was my unfamiliarity with sailing with Newman's GPS's VMG readings. Counter intuitive, they were. After years of arguing for VMG on deck they just amounted to a distraction from my seat-of-the-pants feel?

The wind was strong for maybe two-thirds of the weather leg. And then plummeted by half.

Boats passed us, one by one. Especially that lovely C&C under Bob Marley.

We corrected out to 10th out of 15. Not too different from where we finished, I'm guessing.

But the real bottom line is it was not a fun day. Not for me. I can fix my boat, but not myself it seems. Declining energy, physical conditioning. It's just trending to be too much even walking down the docks to get to Das Boot. Wednesday afternoons -- this one anyway -- what I really wanted was a longer nap with Doberwoman.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Newman and His VMG

There's a different way to sail than we have been sailing. I get it. When you have around you a small group of people who get your boat, get competing on the water, and get along together, you can approach each race day in a different frame of mind. That's the way it's supposed to be. That's the way it used to be for us. And that's the way it can again become.

Today the missing man finally showed up. We were missing someone knowledgeable to challenge my boat handling, sail trim, and tactics. Equally important, someone who can take a leg or two at the helm so that I can tip my ancient feet up and a cold beer down. In addition, New Man believes in the application of GPS to derive Velocity Made Good (VMG). Which I have never been able to turn/coerce past crews on to! I have always argued that only VMG can arbitrate all on-board disputes pertaining to DDW and pointing vs footing. Today, I was even delighted to lose a couple of debates to Newman and his VMG.

But those losses are acceptable on a day when your team loses to just one other boat on the water.
I can take it.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

It Gets Better!

A Week short of a year ago, I wrote that it "Dudn't Get Much Better than This". But tonight, it did. The wind came, topping out at 21 knots, apparent. My son and his father-in-law came along. And, creme de la creme, two of my grand kids, ages 5 & 7. They came on board.

At the dock, I was more alarmed than shocked. Am I being irresponsible? My Crew of Irregulars taking my pride & joy to sea? But these two tykes were veteran white-water rafters, and did they know how to follow orders from their dad! Nevertheless, I was major league distracted.

Very distracted, in fact. At the start, I pushed the habitual bargers up a little only to find that I maybe had 30 seconds of time left with only 15 seconds of water between me and the pin. Plus, Das Boot herself, was being pushed up. I started early, over the other boat and dipped down, finding just a teeniest bit of water to do so. Not enough, I was thinking at the time. Just short of fouling leeward boats, I turned back to the line and put the pedal to the floor. "Was I over early?" I was asking over and over.

The Race Committee displayed the Code X (Individual Recall) flag, but we could not hear anything on our VHF. Then we saw the Hunter turn back to the line. The crew wouldn't let me think about doing the same. "Go for it, Dammit!"

Sometimes you just have to say, W.T.F. We never looked back. At least I never did. We were second or third to the weather mark. We had an unbelievable fine spinnaker set after a brief delay. People who had sailed before on Das Boot, but never together, worked with unbelievable teamwork. I felt the pressure of the Hunter's pressure close astern on the last leg. But relaxed when they tacked off from our bad air. The only flaw -- a small one -- is we didn't hear the audible as we crossed the finish line. But at that point we didn't care much if we weren't accorded an official start or a finish. It had been that fine of a day.

In the bar, we checked the board. We had corrected out to first place out of 17.

It was fine. Ever so fine.