Monday, January 30, 2006

Now We're Talkin'!

Saturday, January 28th, was a gorgeous day on the Hudson - 60 degrees, wind between 8 and 12, gusting to 18 maybe. In other words, perfect for trying out all my new sails.
Since Laura is in Ecuador with Healing the Children ( ) and Herb and Gina were doing the home stuff, I invited Jack and Lou.

Jack is a friend from the Harbor House Marina in Connecticut. He's a singlehander, too, and has terrific taste in boats. Currently, he's the proud owner of an Olsen 38 that he's rebuilding. Well the wood part, anyway. Incredible patience.

Funny story about Lou - He's actually the one responsible for my being in boating in the first place. I'd like to say he tutored me in the ways of the sea and slowly drew me into a sailing life. But it wasn't like that at all. He owned Mudlark at the time and had invited my first ex-wife and I sailing. We thought that a splendid idea!

So off we all went. Over the afternoon, Lou allowed me to steer the boat. As I was merrily tacking and jibing, we came to a point we were close hauled and sailing for all the little boat was worth. Lou, being Lou, was fooling around. One of his little tricks was to lay against the jib. Well, since it was a small boat, the only thing holding the sheet was a jam cleat - And as we had been sailing about for a while so the sheet was wet, as Lou put all his weight against the aft end of the jib, the cleat released the line.

I still carry the look on his face as he realized that there was no recovery from this and that as the jib released, he was going for a swim. His glasses went in one direction and he in the other
and all in the drink.

Mudlark and I continued on, trying to decide whether to return to Haverstraw Marina to get help (certainly an hour or more) or to jibe and get back to Lou and recover him. And so, my first jibe on Mudlark ensued and my first (and hopefully last) man overboard recovery.

Lou and I became partners in Mudlark. We sailed her throughout the Long Island Sound, Block Island Sound and Gardiner's bay/Shelter Island. I learned a lot from Lou, and Mudlark singlehanding. I've said this before and I'll reiterate it now: A boat like Mudlark is the perfect boat to learn on. She was forgiving, strong, fun to sail, and no matter how badly I personally screwed up, she'd get me back to the dock.

But I digress.

Back to Saturday - as you've been more or less kept aware, I've gotten a full set of new sails and it was the perfect day to try them - new jib, new spinnaker, and new main (although the main had been inaugurated on January 1st). As you'd expect, I have some pictures that Lou took - that would be Lou Spitz Photography.

Jack who has been sailing Long Island Sound for, well, for ever. His observation of sailing the Hudson was that between the currents, shifting winds, shallows and so forth, it's pretty difficult sailing. You could, without much trouble sail an entire circle without tacking or jibeing. No kidding. Makes racing very interesting!

My friend Renee in England, you know the one that lives on a narrowboat, has sent me some pictures that I will use in an entirely new post. But I have to tell you - the length is 55 feet, not 35 as I mentioned. Oops. Sorry, Renee!

All that said, these 55 or 60 degree days during the winter weekends are terrific! Too bad they presage global warming.

Well, I hope I see some of you on the water!

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Woo hoo! A New Spinnaker!

Today was magnificent! My friends and I flew my newly received asymmetrical spinnaker. Yesterday it was 60 degrees, but it was also blowing to 50 mph! Not a particularly good day to test new light air sails!

But first, I had to provide a mounting point for the tack - I chose to drill a hole in the centermost side plate of the anchor roller/stemhead fitting as close to the bow as possible without interfering with the roller furler. The fingers you see in the picture are Herb's. Of course Laura was along for the trip!

It was like 5 knots wind today, so it was perfect for this - I also installed my new jib. Both sails are from Somerset Sails, in Butler, NY. Look- if you need sails, call Martin and talk to him. You may end up somewhere else, but I'm guessing you're not going to.

Ok, so I drilled a 3/8" hole in the side plate and mounted a shackle and block - as an aside, when I moved the mainsheet back to the new traveler in the cockpit, I ended up with a crapload of Schaeffer blocks. Like five or six of them. I saved them and kept them on the boat for over two years. Finally, my packrat ways have paid off! I have the block for the tack and the two turning blocks aft for the sheets!

It's so seldom you get to save money on a boat!

So, all is rigged with 5/16" polypropylene line, yellow and black to match the spinnaker, of course. Well, here are the results. Of course in 3 or 5 knots of wind, the excitement isn't there, but you get the idea!

On another tack, last night I was fooling around with Skype and did a kind of random search for people. It was a slow TV night.... Anyway, I found a person with similar beliefs, that is, atheism, and in Chicago where I got stuck last week. Anyway, on a lark, I emailed them and here you go: Browse at your leisure.

If you communicate, let her know you heard of her here!

I also mounted the new jib, although there wasn't enough wind to even unfurl it. So here's a picture of that, too. Looks pretty, good, I must say!

Anyway, now, really, I'll see you on the water!

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

A New Paradigm

Now is not really sailing season. I know, I know, that's a big surprise to me, too. When the weather here in the Hudson Valley was warm and nice, I was in California. Not three hours after I returned the temperature dropped from 52 degrees to 28, with wind and sleet/snow.

It was a perfect ending to the perfect involuntary two day trip back from Santa Monica. Why two? Apparently it was foggy at Stewart Int'l Airport. So the flight was cancelled. Ok, I can live with that - I mean, I'm not interested in a firery death in the fog. But for cripes sakes, if you're the airline - either get a bigger plane for the morning (I'm not talking about the difference between a 43 passenger plane to a 747, but to a 70 passenger one) or add a flight. You already know there's going to be a WHOLE PLANELOAD of people who want to go!

But no. The closest I could get was Westchester Airport. So my friend, Laura, came and shuttled me to Stewart to pick up my car and my bag, which did get where it was going. Kudos to her, of course. A 'What the f---?' to American Airlines.

What about this new paradigm? Well, here's the thing. I can talk and write about sailing 8 hours a day. But I'd like to write - I mean really write. So where to write? Well, here of course! I can write about anything, can't I? So even though there's always going to be a thread of sailing, I will introduce other subjects.

The Sailing Life is more than just sailing - it's music and hiking and cars and what have you. You could say it's sailing through life as well. Actually, that's exactly what I'm saying.

So now you know. I want to write, and since I can't always think of some sailing stuff, it won't always be sailing. There.

Speaking of which, I met a lovely woman in England who lives on a narrowboat. It's a really narrow canal boat. It's about 7 feet wide and 35 feet long. "Why," you might ask, "would someone make one of these, let alone live in one?"

Well, they're the size they are because when the first canals were dug in England, they were hand dug and people being people, they made them as narrow as they thought they could get away with. Hence, you could only use narrow boats in them. I'll ask if she'd provide me with some pictures so you could get an idea.

I must say, it must be fun. And you could actually go anywhere in Europe in it. There are canals everywhere from England, through the Channel, to canals that take you to the Black Sea. How do I know? There's a book about it, although the author did it in a Mirror dinghy. As soon as I find the book again, I'll let you know the real title and author.

Well, this weekend it's supposed to be nice with temperatures near 50. So I'm going sailing.

You'll be hearing much more from me now, and I hope to see you on the water!

Monday, January 09, 2006

Here In Santa Monica

Santa Monica Pier from the end
Welcome to Santa Monica!

I’ve traveled more in the past three weeks than I have in the past three years. I find myself in Santa Monica for work reasons, but I got here last night. So today, Sunday, is a day of rest and relaxation.

Of course that means I’ve got to travel!

Before that, though, I’m going to rant a little. Traveling today is an exercise in frustration – not the waiting, or the security checks or any of that stuff. The frustration comes from incomplete or incorrect information.

Now, this may be because as I get older I am more and more bewildered with the world in general, but I don’t think so.

Also, it might be because access to information is so immediate with wireless connections and devices that we get used to immediate gratification. That may be true when we’re on the web looking for a restaurant or flight or the meaning of ‘antidisestablishment’ but not in human interactions. Once again, I don’t think so.

I mentioned Heathrow Airport in London a while ago – this frustration was apparent in the lack of information around the gate area and the huge distances needed to be traversed back and forth to get to a connecting flight. I didn’t expect this to happen here in the states.

Let me give you an example or three. First, upon arriving at LAX, (Los Angeles), there are signs for baggage claims and car rentals. Easy enough. I followed them to get my baggage, also easy enough. After getting my baggage I’m looking for the car rental whatever. Any indication at all about where I might get to my car. Nothing. No signs, no arrows, nothing. To LAX’s plusses, they have ‘Airport Ambassadors’. Like greeters at Walmart, except they have information. Like how to get to your car rental company. You wait outside for a bus to take you there.

Ok, fine. At Hertz to rent a car. Once off the bus, the driver indicates with a vague wave you should enter a building at its corner. But upon walking there, it looks like it’s dark and no one is home. No signs again. The glass is tinted so you really can’t see in. It’s open. Once I got to the counter, I asked how to get to my hotel. Told to go to the kiosk for directions only to find it isn’t working. Back to the desk. Given a map. Ok, fine. Told to get my car, and that I’d get a ride to it outside. Back outside. No ride. No people, and no idea where the car is. Back inside to ask. The customer service lady asks this very nice old man to give me a ride to the car. I get outside with him shuffling along, and ask where is the car – He actually indicates it’s about 300 feet away. I thank him and walk to it.

At the car, I find the only way out is to try to squeeze between two busses. But I really don’t want to scratch the car. Eventually, a driver comes along and moves the bus. I find the exit. But guess what? I have to get the contract out and show the gatekeeper. Of course – I’ve packed it away. How about some warning from the desk people, like “You’ll need this to get out of the lot”.

Then, the directions to get to my hotel. With pink highlighter, the desk person indicates I make a right, a right, a left and there’s the entrance to the road I need to get to my hotel. So I dutifully follow the directions. Guess what? They’re almost correct – almost in the sense that the entrance is not just around the corner – it’s two miles down the road.

Now you may say I’m nitpicking. But all of these things and more add up to a bad customer experience (mine) and the idea that all of these services are run by nincompoops. Look, if you’re going to give someone information, give it all to them and be damn sure it’s correct. A vague wave in one direction or another doesn’t constitute ‘all the information’.

End of Rant.

Ok. Now Santa Monica. Very clean. Even the dirty parts of town are clean. Certainly cleaner than New York.

I walked down to the beach Sunday morning, and it is long and wide and there are some spectacular views – and stairs and bridges and very interesting trees lining Ocean Blvd.

Down on the beach, there’s a nice road that runs along a couple of hundred yards inland from the water. Nice white sand, and the Pacific is a beautiful blue. I arrived in sunlight about 9:30am, and walked up and down the Santa Monica pier with its amusement park and restaurant and so on. Pretty cool! The natives were all bundled up like it was winter, the tourists like myself in shorts.

I walked south to the end of Venice past the original Muscle Beach where a quite nicely shaped woman was swinging along a ring set. There are lots of runners and bikers and inline skaters. Lot’s of activity.

Venice is not so very different from Soho, in New York. Sure, it’s warmer and sunnier. But pretty much the same stuff. I’ve been told summer is the time to see it in all it’s glory. Frankly, there weren’t many strange people there.

The Pacific is surprisingly cold. You wouldn’t really want to swim very long in it – although a few brave souls were. I suspect they were tourists! But there’s a point to the observation. When I got to walking along the beach, it was bright and sunny with a breeze off the ocean. In a matter of seconds, you could not see 200 feet because of fog. I’ve never seen a fog roll in so quickly, even around Nantucket or Buzzards Bay, both of which are famous for that sort of thing.

Once the fog sort of lifted you could see sailboats plying the waters up and down the coast – the wind was probably 10 to 12 Kts. out of the west – perfect for sailing.

I spent then next few hours exploring and getting blisters on my feet, then repaired to my room for a nap before dinner, followed soon after by dinner and to sleep. A perfect day.

I’ve been keeping track of the weather in New York, and I’m missing some great winter sailing weather – I hope it holds up for my return!

Then, maybe I’ll see you on the water!

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Happy New Year 2006!

Hi All! Happy New Year! Here's hoping your new year brings great sailing, oh, and health and happiness too!

But as it is January first, nothing would do but to do the annual first sail. And so the usual group of suspects were rounded up and away we went! Ok, well, most of the suspects, and some new ones as well. Herb and Laura (Gina stayed home with Noah, the grandson), Laura's boyfriend Cory, Herb's daughter, Karyn and her friend Terri. Terri's from Texas.

New Mainsail
I figured, "Hey! It's a new year! Let's try the new mainsail!" I went down to Inertia around 10 am, and after starting the cabin heater and shoveling the snow off the deck, I took the old mainsail off and bent on the new one. Woohoo! It fits! And it's beautiful! Wow! I've included a picture here. Remember it's one of the suit of sails I've purchased from Somerset Sails - a new main and jib, a yankee, and an asymmetrical spinnaker.

Look at what Martin at Somerset did: It's 4 full battened, loose footed, draft stripes, number, and logo in green to match the cove stripe! All included. I added straps and rings in the grommets for the cunningham and reef tacks so I have a purchase with the reefing lines and I can hook them on the gooseneck. It works very well for the first reef. I have to change the slide track so that I can make the second reef work properly (otherwise, I have to remove slides from the track).

Today it was overcast and cool - around 38 deg., with a southerly breeze around 5 to 8 knots. The tide was coming in, so the river was very smooth - and with the new main and jib we were able to make about 3 knots through the water.

My friends came down around one and since I had the boat ready, with coffee percolating, off we went! Here's the ceremonial throwing of snowballs at the winter buoy. Some years, of course there's no snow. We've done this when it 60! Not many years like that!

Champagne toast, some cheese and crackers (although some of the others had egg nog and rum - mmmm).

Remember Terri from Texas? Yah, well, she was the only one there that was warm enough to continue sailing (I mean other than yours truly)! She's the one in the light green in this picture. Herb took it.

Well, that's pretty much the New Years Day sail!

I hope your season is terrific! See you on the water!