Friday, September 22, 2006

Patience and a Bittersweet Race

It's been a while since I posted. There is some news that I hope to let you follow in, but more on that later.

Last weekend, September 16 and 17 was like an August weekend, sunny, hot, and nearly breeze-less. Still, because of my new sails, I could noodle along at three or four knots in eight knots or so of breeze. And so, on my way to where else, Oyster Bay to meet Jack, I got to sail for six hours. Slowly - Oyster Bay is really only about three hours away!

So, patience was the day's keyword. But it was so lovely, how could one complain?

As I passed Greenwich, CT, I noticed several very pretty boats in something of a race. As I drew closer I recognized them - a fleet of 12 Meters. Before the bastardization of the America's Cup with catamarans and other stupid stuff, 12 Meter yachts were the fleet. They were built to follow the rule that a competitor must be able to sail to the course from their home.

The new IACC (Internation America's Cup Class) yacht is a pure racing machine - a class boat engineered specifically for the race. You can check out for more information on them. And in some cases, perhaps not engineered well enough (see New Zealand's boat failures).

But the 12 Meter was/is a boat completely capable of crossing an ocean. They typically didn't, but they were capable of it. True, they had reached the end of their design cycle, but that's what match racing is about. The rule allowed differing dimensions. To compare, 420s aren't changing, and neither are Stars, Lasers, Sonars, or any other number of class racers.

That said, I'm sure we're not going back to the 12 Meter rule. But they were the graceful ladies of the America's Cup. Stately, sure footed, strong, and mostly swift. They were the three-leg masters, that is beat, reach, and run. The new IACC yachts are windward/leeward racers. I say, "Feh!". Talk about boring. Up, down, up, down, up down. Whatever.

Ok, so maybe there are others who feel the IACC boats are beautiful, but to me, they're big racing dinghys. Totally useless for anything else.

But the 12 Meters. They are the Marilyn Monroe of racing boats, curvy, sweet, and beautiful. They take your (well, my ) breath away.

Ok, well, enough of that, since I could go on. So the sweet part of seeing the race (remember the race?) was all those lovely ladies sailing stately around the marks. The bitter part was seeing how low they had fallen. Crappy sails shown, conservative sailing. No longer the belle of the ball, sort of floating amusement parks.

Oh, sure, I know it takes money to keep them up, and one way is to rent them out, like the J-Boats. Still, to have fallen from the pinnacle to this. It would almost be better to have converted them to cruising yachts. Ah, well.

Ok, now the news! I have decided to find a new boat and move aboard. This is a whole new project, and one I look forward to with great glee. Also, I hope to change career. So if you've gotten tired of hearing about projects on Inertia, then be prepared for totally new projects on whatever the new vessel's name will be (probably 'Inertia' as well as I'll make that a condition of selling the boat).

So, all the trials and tribulations of finding and buying the new vessel, the projects and everything else. It'll be fun for me. Maybe you'll all get something out of it, too.

'Til then, I'll see you on the water!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Fall Sailing Is Fun!

Finding a fall day that is perfect is always a surprise. This weekend I had planned to work on a new server install, but it went totally well and I finished Saturday. So Sunday I got up early and headed down to the boat.

I got there around 9 am, and it was lovely with a terrific breeze, and overcoming my natural inertia, I decided to see if I could go the whole day without the engine!

Clearly, if you're a powerboat owner, going a day without the engine is, uh, well, not going. But for a sailor, it's a day of challenge and a rosy feeling when successfully accomplished. Rosy in a very different way when not so successfully done.

Anyway, I sailed off the mooring through the mooring field around the island and off to infinity and beyond!

Almost a guilty pleasure, this found sailing time. A fluke, a gift. Perfect weather, perfect seas, perfect wind, perfect temperature. Another one of the days that makes owning a sailboat such a pleasure.

One of the things I did notice, however, is that my rig needs adjusting. So I'll have a bit to say about that later. It's ok if the leeward shrouds are a bit loose, but they shouldn't be flapping about.

Still, I sailed about for a few hours with nowhere in particular to go and then returned to the mooring to pick it up under sail. Only two tries!

I strongly recommend anyone with a sailboat learn how to perform four activities - sail up to and away from a dock (oops! ran out of fuel!), sail off and back on a mooring. There's books about that, but you know what? I think there are at least two more entries here on those subjects. And no, the day's activities were not experiments. I really do know how to do them.

Clearly sailing into a slip is a bunch harder, but it can be done if there's room to tack or jibe. But most marinas, with good reason, don't allow it. It's one of those activites that lead to good judgement. (Good judgement comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgement.) Definitely and emergency type of thing.

Anyway, more on that later.

And since there's still some great weekends left to the year, I hope to see you on the water!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Labor Day 2006

Here in the Northeast U.S. summer is delimited by Memorial Day and Labor Day. Between those two dates, slips are hard come by, moorings are iffy, and the Long Island Sound is thick with boats on weekends. Before or after, one has most of all facilities to themselves.

This Labor Day weekend started with the remains of Ernesto which left a number of moored boats on lee shores. Saturday was consistantly rainy with winds out of the east. On the Sound, east and west winds are absolutely the worst. There is nearly 100 miles of fetch and the Sound shoals at either end. It can get very nasty with waves in the 10-15 foot range but very close together. I've been in 10-12 foot waves that were little more than 60 feet crest to crest. That's short, steep, and very uncomfortable.

Fortunately for my clubmates and I, City Island Yacht Club is on the west side of City Island, so although there were steady east winds at 35 knots gusting to 50 (or so I've heard), our boats were well protected. The club had its Labor Day cookout, but I spent the day creatively napping.

Sunday, however was a different story. I got to the boat around 8 am. when it was cloudy and threating looking. But as someone's mother said, there was more than enough blue in the sky to make a pair of pants. Also, a nice breeze was filling in from the southwest.

I took a few minutes to install the lovely toerail cleats I purchased (pictures show why - new on top), and then started calling my friends to see if they could come out and play. My first call to Herb went something like this:

"Hi Herb, you coming sailing today? Let's go to Oyster Bay!"

"Uh, I don't know it's looking kinda gloomy here."

"Nah, it's sunny with white puffy clouds - it's heading your way."

"I don't see it - it looks like, uh, wait a minute! It's getting sunny! We'll see you there!"

Essentially the same conversation with Bob and Carol, and Jack. So a plan is afoot. My guest couldn't make it, so I had enough food for an army. (There is nothing wrong with keeping a well stocked boat. Besides, my friends all expect it from me.)

The wind was delightful as I sailed off the mooring around the southern tip of City Island, then up between City Island and Hart Island. The morning had become quite comfortable so I took the opportunity to go shirtless for a last time this year, I supposed.

I sailed through the channel between David's Island and Hart Island out towards Execution Rock Light. The wind was building out of the south southwest, so it was nearly perfect for a broad reach. And so I went. A lovely day, a lovely sail.

About three hours later I arrived at the entrance to the Cold Spring/Oyster Bay harbors. Since there was no rush at all, I sailed almost to the agreed upon anchorage. I know I could anchor under sail, but running the engine for a bit gives me hot water for later. How hedonistic...

Herb & Gina's Passport 40Jack's Olsen 38Not too long thereafter in sailed Herb & Gina on Goldeneye (a Passport 40), followed by Jack on Barefoot (an Olsen 38), and Bob & Carol on Spirit (an Ericson 35). Since we planned to all leave at different times, we all anchored seperately. Normally, I'll raft up with Jack or he with me.

Herb getting me with dinghyAnyway Herb blew up his dinghy ( I didn't bring my kyack) and came and got me with all my food and wine and so forth to instigate a party on Goldeneye. So as we waited for the others, we figured sun over the yardarm and all, it was time for wine, cheese, crackers, and anything else we could put out.

Bob & Carol show upJack showed up, followed by Bob & Carol who had gone to look for the mooring they'd be using for the night after the party. So they rafted to Goldeneye and I took the dinghy to pick up Jack, and all were there for the cocktail hour(s).

Jack ArrivesGina's neverending stream of food from belowThe official hors d'oeuvre of Inertia is hot soprasotta, brie cheese and Triskets. Although a new one is being added for variety: smoked oysters with cream cheese on Triskets. Triskets figure prominently in my boating because even if damp still retain the necessary structural integrity to contain the toppings. Your soda crackers and so forth become too mushy. But I digress.

The night was cool and as it progressed it got cloudy, almost looking as if it were going to rain. But it didn't.

Dinner, eventually, was barbequed chicken and salad and other sides - down in Goldeneye out of the cool evening. Very toasty, very comfortable, and very good. It must be the fresh air!

Eventually, even veteran partiers must give in to Morpheus' gentle prodding, and Bob & Carol dropped Jack and I off on our boats on their way to the mooring. After checking the anchor, taking a lukewarm shower in the cockpit and reading for a bit I went to sleep.

Barefoot in the morning in Oyster BayGoldeneye in the morning in Oyster BayOyster Bay in the morning

Because Laura was having a barbeque on Monday, I had to get up early to get the tide out of Oyster Bay at least and to sail back to City Island. So I got up around 6 am and made my coffee, and because of the lack of wind, started the engine, weighed anchor and started my journey back. As usual I was mildly irritated that I'd have to motor home against the tide, but lo and behold, as I got to the harbor entrance, the wind came up out of the west (feh! Nothing but tacking back and forth!).

Still, I raised the sails and off I went. The problem of going west against the tide and into a west wind is that huge tacks across the sound take lots of time but gain very little towards the goal so when the wind died about two hours later, I decided to motor the rest of the way (still over an hour away).

The surest way to get a fair wind is to lower and cover the sails. I guarantee it. After a half hour of motoring the wind veered to the northwest, a perfect point for sailing back to the club. It also increased to 15 knots or so, so being lazy, I unfurled the jib, and shutdown the motor. Woohoo! Perfect! The Best! Sunny, puffy white clouds, boat heeled in a most nautical way, speeding along with the champagne bubbles sound, breeze in what is left of my hair and flat seas.

What a perfect moment. These moments (ok, hours) are what make all the aggravation of keeping a boat worthwhile. More than worthwhile.

Eventually, I got back to City Island, cleaned up and put away the boat and headed off to Laura's party. Some pictures - all people you may or may not know, but all having a great time! The food was excellent, as was the company.

Laura's only complaint was that we should have done the Vineyard Race - from Stamford, CT. to Buzzards Bay Light and back. It started on Saturday, and all but 4 boats dropped out. She was pissed because we could have won! Yes, well, that's true. But let's see, a day racing in storm conditions or two days gently sailing about and partying? Hmmm, which shall I choose?

You know which one.

Well, Monday ended when I scooted home and toddled off to bed. The weather was so perfect for sleeping I almost didn't get up in time for work. Yech!

Still, there are a lot more weekends to be had this year! So I hope I'll see you on the water for a few of them, anyway!