Thursday, March 31, 2005

Where's the color in sailing today?

Here’s an interview with the author of “Black Jacks - African American Seamen in the Age of Sail.” It’s an interesting topic and one that, admittedly, I've a lot to learn about. The author W. Jeffrey Bolster says that African American mariners are a lost history for many reasons. According to Bolster, pirate crews in the late 17th century (late 1600s and early 1700s) were African Americans or African men. Once the U.S. colonies were established in the new world and commerce there was thriving, black men were put into service roles aboard ship. They were primarily at first as cooks, cabin boys, stewards, drummers, fifers, etc. Around the era of the American Revolution more black men became involved in this commerce as able bodied seamen.

“And today, looking at sailing yachts, often the toys of the wealthy, people of color have felt estranged from a sailing heritage. It's important to point out that sailing yachts today are not necessarily the lineal descendants of sailing ships in a previous age.”

In this modern age where 98% of all sports are multicultural endeavors – many defined by black athletes (basketball, football, etc) – how has sailing remained so stubbornly whitebread? The easy answer is, of course, that it’s expensive, only the very wealthy can afford it, etc. To be fair, sailing is also arcane and outside the mainstream. More complex than money or sailing lingo – this has to do with our sailing culture. We all recognize that today's sailing culture is not as open and inclusive as it should be. Our modern age is diverse in most every aspect of society, politics and business, etc – so how will sailing survive if it doesn’t do a better job of reflecting the real world? Many sailors are committed to diversity or causes like enabling poor children to learn to sail (see this post). Many nautical organizations support worthy initiatives, check out Challenged America. But when was the last time you looked down the windward rail and saw a group of people that collectively look like the folks you see every day in supermarkets, libraries, ballgames, business meetings, beaches, ski slopes, golf courses, schools, parks, churches, Starbucks, the local deli…as a group we can do better.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

A blowy June day off Oxford, MD - Summer 2004 Posted by Hello

Sailor plows down beach cat, flees the scene, leaves crew to swim

Quite a tale about a man and his daughter who were racing a 19-foor Beach Cat in the annual St. Thomas YC Rolex Regatta this past Saturday and were the victims of an apparent hit and run on the water. Luckily they were unharmed, although their Cat was smashed and they were set adrift in open water. The story interests me on many levels – the first of which is that their rescuer was the day charter boat Happy Hour owned by a Captain Spencer. When I was in St. Thomas (1994-1996) the Happy Hour sailed out of the old Yacht Haven marina. I lived on a boat in that area of Charlotte Amalia harbor (Earth Base) and got to know Spencer pretty well. He runs a solid outfit, very popular and great fun – I’m not surprised he (or his crew) rescued the victims. The other area of interest is that the attacking boat appears to have been a day charter bound for, possibly, Buck Island. One of my first sailing jobs was crewing on these day charters – we’d pick up cruise ship passengers for a half day sail out to Buck Island, anchor and snorkel and sail back. It’s a tight knit community and I imagine that the hit and run captain’s name will surface and he’ll be summarily ostracized. There are few worse things in the sailing community then smashing a boat that has starboard tack right-of-way (and is smaller) - and then leaving her crew to swim for it in open water. It’s the sort of thing box stocks were invented for. I’ll bet they still have a set kicking around the island somewhere...I hope they dig them out for this guy and string him up in the public square.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

40 years of Hobie Cat

Good article here about the 40 year reign of the Hobie Cat. The article mentions the Worrell 1000, a Hobie race up the east coast...Florida to Virginia. The reporter says the race is not run anymore…is this true? Research dug up the 2004 site here. Back to Hobie Cats. I have a close friend who’s always been a Hobie freak and despite a growing family, an office job and all the other trappings of "real" life still owns a 21 (parked in a garage somewhere). My very first pitch pole was aboard his Hobie 16 in the Delaware Bay off Cape May, NJ back in the mid 80's. He stuck me in the trap and pointed the bow to a darkening cloud gathering across the Bay. As the wind gusted we rode the edge, skimming close to disaster, hearts in our throats. In my mind this is what makes the Hobie such sheer fun – in a breeze the speed and constant proximity to a wipeout provide unmitigated thrills. Sure enough he buried the windward hull in a swell and sent us ass over can. I have flashes of flying through the air, smacking into the water, a brief struggle to free myself from the harness and kick for the surface. The Hobie is celebrating its 40th year and, for those of us who either are approaching or have surpassed the same landmark - it is a good feeling to share it with such a fine example of pure sailing enjoyment.

Monday, March 28, 2005

One addition to top ten rums

Yes - windsend is right...Mount Gay deserves to be on the top ten rums list. Let's knock the Austrian mountain sauce off and add the Barbudan jungle juice. It tastes fine, just not exceptional, and they do funnel a lot of $$ towards racing. More importantly - love or hate those red caps - they are an integral part of sailing culture. I vote in favor of the Mount Gay Extra Old.

Top ten fine rums loved by voyagers, zealots, poets and populists...who :
* Goslings
* Pussers
* Bundaberg Gold
* Anejo (Anniversario)
* Ron Zacappa Centenario
* Cockspur
* Cruzan Gold Reserve
* Lambs Rum
* older Dominican rum
* Mount Gay (Extra Old)

The Excalibur tragedy revisited

Offshore voyagers will recognize this as a very specific nightmare - much like a frequent flyer reading about a plane going down...even though you know rationally the plane is not likely to crash that still doesn't stop wondering what it would feel like if it happened to you. On Monday, September 16, 2002, the racing yacht Excalibur capsized 40 nautical miles off Port Stephens, on the mid-North Coast of Australia. Excalibur was a 15-meter racing yacht with six crew aboard returning to Melbourne after taking part in the annual Hamilton Island Race. The wind was strong gusting up to 50 knots. Fifteen foot waves cresting, a three-quarter moon providing the only light. In other words it was a good blow, nothing a well found vessel with experienced crew should have trouble managing. Only two of the six survived the capsize (skipper, Brian McDermott and crew, John Rogers) and this past week both of them were called to testify in a court inquest concerning the death of their crewmates... evidence was given about how the boat's keel was cut while it was being built and welded it back again so badly that it was only a question of time before it snapped off. Read a recap of their ordeal here and here.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Canine crew

Rich takes the tiller in the San Francisco Bay. Dog contemplates high side Posted by Hello

Still more comments on rum (new top ten)

More excellent feedback on the original rum post – two or three from various anons and one from geoff. We start out with thumbs down on “Lambs Rum” (is that Lambs Navy, Demerara Rum?) in favor of aged Bundaberg Gold from North Queensland, Australia. The gold brand of Bundaberg was passed by way of an Etchells sailor. Had to look the Etchells class up, it's worthy of a seperate post. Bundaberg is sssmooth with a fruity taste like a Demarara or older Dominican rums. Our aficionado goes on to note that the closest taste to Bundaberg Gold in the States is Myers Planters Punch or some of the lighter Appleton rums. He also reminded me of rum a college friend turned me on to - Anejo (this poster had a flavor called Ron Anejo Anniversario.) Our Boulder friends called it “rat bat” after the logo and made it a legend many miles from the Bahamas. Ron Anejo Anniversario (from Venezuela) is cask aged for at least 12 years. Somebody wrote recommending Austrian rum, of all things. It was introduced to him by one of his Austrian girlfriends and they drank it in gallons to get themselves cross-eyed and naked. Another wrote to add Pyrat and Ron Zacappa Centenario. Nice, dark and a great “sippin” finish on both of those. So on sheer enthusiasm as a measure (mixed with a little research) this is the list. Feel free to add/subtract through comments. We've only scratched the surface.
Top ten rums loved by voyagers, zealots, poets and populists...who sail:
* Goslings
* Pussers
* Bundaberg Gold
* Anejo (Anniversario)
* Ron Zacappa Centenario
* Cockspur
* Cruzan Gold Reserve
* Lambs Rum
* older Dominican rum
* austrian mountain sauce gets my lady naked-type paint thinner rum

Friday, March 25, 2005

Hatashita's Voyage

I read an amazing story in The Wall Street Journal this morning which, unfortunately, I can't link to as it's subscription only. The story is about an 81 year old former Japanese fisherman, Sakae Hatashita, and his solo voyage across the Pacific to bring his wife's ashes home to Japan. As Zephyr is dedicated first and foremost to "voyagers" I think that Mr. Hatashita stands to mind as a particularly strong example of that category. You can read some brief news reports about him here and here, but the WSJ tells the full story. Mr. Hatashita was born in the 20's to immigrant parents and made his living as the captain of a tuna fishing boat. He met and married his wife in 1960 and they made their home near Anaheim, CA. When tuna became scarce and the fishing life too hard, Hatashita and his wife opened a plant nursery. They worked nonstop, their only luxury a Sunday morning trip to Orange County to shop. During one of those trips they were in a car wreck and his wife, Shizako, was killed. Hatashita carried on by himself until, at the age of 80, he retired and decided to do something to honor his wife. He sold the nursery for $200,000, bought a 39-foot sailboat with some of the proceeds, learned to sail and crossed the Pacific Ocean with his wife's ashes, bringing her home to Japan. According to the WSJ - when the wind died he sang Japanese navy songs he had learned while serving in World War II "to bring my fighting spirit, " he said. "At times like these," he said, "I always thought: I've been here six or seven times before. The Pacific Ocean is my sea, and I know I won't get in trouble here." Now having made the voyage and recovered, his yacht Miya is being readied for his next adventure...what could the champ be thinking? He'll sail back to the U.S.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Windward runs the line off Stonington, CT - August 2004 Posted by Hello

The common sense approach to yacht piracy

Post-tsunami the Asian pirate scene has picked up - check out the report here. This topic raises all sorts of issues...the most obvious being should one carry a weapon aboard. I had a captain who swore by one of those sawed off "line throwers" designed to fire a lead line to a towboat. I believe Mossberg makes them. It's a trade off, like anything else - if you read this account in Latitude 38 of the attack on S/V Ocean Swan in the Gulf of Aden you'll note that they were attacked by five armed Yemenese men in their 20's. Would a shotgun be enough to fend that off? And is it worth the extra attention from law enforcement and customs? One solution might be not to sail around sketchy Asian and Middle Eastern countries...we call that the common sense approach. This is a good bit on the pros and cons from a resource called "Yacht Piracy." They even have a list of yachts attacked based on press reports.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

More comments on rum & sailing movies

A couple more comments to call out. One from anon on top sailing movies suggesting Wind. I overlooked Wind for the exact reason anon pegged (weak storyline) but he's right, the racing footage was outstanding. Another from kelpcowboy on favorite rums. He says the "extra old" from Mount Gay is terrific and touts the smoothness of Lamb's Navy Rum. He says the stangest rum he has ever run into is Bundaberg (sp?) from Australia. Anyone vouch for that one? Thanks guys for commenting!

Thank you Jerry!

I have to thank Jerry from St. Thomas, for posting a comment (below in blue) RE Neil Pryde. I lived on Water Island for a few years, left not long after Hurricane Marilyn, so I think it's appropriate that the first real ripper on Zephyr come from down that way. I don’t think the rich are synonymous with all that's distasteful in the world, but examples are plentiful and great sport (as well as worthy of discussion). I do agree that air & water purity are important issues for the sailing community and plan to post on them. As far as cheap labor, it drives affordable goods for the percentage of the world that has a disposable income. I guess whether you think that’s good or bad depends on where you’re coming from. How does this all relate to sailing? Ask Jerry ;-) He'll be glad to tell you that the rich are the ones who make sailing exciting. Maybe "exciting" would not be the exact word I'd choose...but Jerry is more than entitled to his opinion. It's a free country (unlike China).

Oh, get real !! There are more important and appropriate things to write about than an effigy lynching of a Sail maker hiring cheap Chinese labor in the age old quest to earn a better profit and alluding to the rich being synonymous with all that's distasteful in the world. You sound like the hollow liberals in Congress.

How about crusading for air & water purity instead of spewing the worn-out altruistic protection of the so-called disadvantaged prolitariat. Let the workers decide their own fate and where and who they want to work for. Neil may be a jerk, I don't know, but his employees are probably happy to even be working at all. And for sure they are not forced to work for him.

Futhermore, are you going to rail against the untold numbers of other businesses doing the same thing? Are going to begin a crusade against the rich too? The rich are the one's who make the sailing world exciting as well as donating to alot of worthy causes.

I don't earn much, but I'm certainly not going to bite the hand that feeds me, and I suggest that you waste thousands of hours researching manufacturers and that you stop buying the thousands of products they make affordable by using cheap labor.

S/V Mister Magoo maneuvers at the line, SFYC Winter Series 2004, Tiburon, CA
 Posted by Hello

Sailor Neil Pryde’s swollen ego gobbles China, beats down the working man

Neil Pryde is Asia' top racing class sailor according to, get this, Neil Pryde. Take a look at his article about himself here. This is a sport where “ego” has been elevated to an art form but I think old Neil has set a high water mark. He apparently interviewed himself about himself...maybe it’s something they do in Hong Kong, can’t say, never been there. No doubt Neil is a pretty good sailor but hey, is there any kind of ethical standard for flagrant self-promotion. The answer is no. What he failed to ask – a pitfall of interviewing yourself - were hard questions he didn’t want to answer. Such as “What are (my) your thoughts about the challenges your (my) company (NeilPryde Sails) has faced with labor relations in Asia? Or how about, “Are you (am I) actually guilty of exploiting poor and uneducated Chinese to make sails and sportswear for rich people?” Of course we’d all rather hear about Neil’s “best sailing memory” as opposed to his oppression of the proletariat. I mean indentured servitude is such a bummer. (credit to Anarchy forum for finding this gem)

Part Two: Eluding Davey Jones

If you haven’t read part one click here before you continue...Eyes bleary I followed Captain Tom up the companionway to the deck. The crew was standing around in the cockpit talking in low voices. “Get the life raft,” Tom ordered. Two people lifted the port seat in the cockpit and begin fishing it out – it caught and not knowing better one of them yanked it, the cord pulled and bang, it began inflating. Startled they dragged it into the pit where it hissed until it filled. Tom swore and grabbed me by the shoulder, dragged me back down below and aft, to the owners cabin. Water was up to my shinbones. I could hear the pump muttering and chugging. It smelled damp and sweaty, airless. Strange to hear water inside - slapping against the cabin walls, gurgling through the bilge as we shifted on the long, rolling swells. “It’s coming up through here,” Tom said. He shoved his flashlight at me and reaching down, tore up the teak floorboards and heaved them onto a bunk. “It’s the shaft,” he said. “Shook the plate loose. We’re taking water through the hull.” We looked at each other in the dim light for a second and then the pump whined and quit. Burned out. “This god damned tin can will sink like a stone,” he barked. No wind. We didn’t dare motor. Our only hope was Puerto Rico. Tom splashed back to the main cabin and picked up the VHF radio at the nav table...Stay tuned to Zephyr for the final chapter (and send me your sea tales so I can post them)

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

A day at the dance circa '97

Your editor (in his glory days) winds the port drum on the S/V Javelin - St. Maarten Heineken Regatta, 1997

Hollywood stars crew for Volvo (and fave sailing movies)

It's official, Keira Knightley, Johnny Depp and Orlando Bloom are crewing in the Volvo Ocean Race aboard the Walt Disney sponsored S/V Black Pear. The Scotsman broke the story here. This is, of course, a marketing stunt to promote the sequel to Pirates of the Caribbean. According to a spokesperson, the stars will have special Hollywood-style berths that include Egyptian cottons sheets, freshly cut flowers and special menus. Sounds like tough duty. The news did make me consider favorite sailing movies. I have a top five list (Pirates of the Caribbean is not on it), and comments are welcome. My all time favorite is Dead Calm, a masterful piece of sailing suspense with the added benefit young Nicole Kidman. The remake of Mutiny on the Bounty with Mel Gibson and Master and Commander are way up there. White Squall is a winner, great action shots of a schooner under sail, terrific story marred only (slightly) by the ending. How about the Caddyshack of sailing movies, Captain Ron endless source of hilariously quotable lines. Yes, most landlocked people didn't get it but it still deserves a nod. The last one is not truly a sailing movie but it gets a huge nod on character - Jaws and the grizzled old salt Quint (Robert Shaw). His guttural sea chantey with the creaking boat and the flickering lantern light is one of my all time favorite sea scenes. Have one to add? Comment below.

Damn those Mount Gay caps

Unidentified Beneteau sizes the competition day two, Fall 2004 - NOODS Regatta, Larchmont, NY. Posted by Hello

Three Cheers for Southbound Herb

Let’s have three very loud cheers for southbound Herb Hilgenberg. Herb is a prime example of true blue sailing culture and therefore a good point of reference for what Zephyr is all about. If you don’t know who Herb is then I’m willing to bet you’ve never made a bluewater passage from the eastern coast of the U.S. bound for the southern latitudes. If you have made a passage south and still don’t know who Herb is then you were 1) not concerned about the weather 2) too seasick to care about the weather 3) not in charge of anything that had to do with the weather 4) on one of those (rare) offshore voyages where no one cared about the weather. Why three cheers for this man? For 15 years Herb has spent 10 hours a day, seven days a week, providing personalized marine weather forecasts (for free) on marine HF/SSB frequency 12359.0, starting at 2000 UTC until 2200 UTC (or until completion of traffic). If you’ve ever been in a blow – and I mean that in the real sense of the word, then you can probably guess the inestimable value of having a calm, controlled, knowledgeable voice on the horn tracking your vessel and feeding your navigator information critical to your survival. Read Herb’s interview with Peter Jennings here. While you’re at it check out this Coast Guard story here. And if you point your bow south mate, be damn certain you’re on Herb’s radar.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Anyone know this guy? HINT: he has a day job.

A co-owner (luckily) takes his ease off Tiburon, CA. Posted by Hello

A Carribean regatta in my Easter basket

It’s spring regatta time in the Caribbean – the perfect opportunity to contemplate the misery of a late winter in the Northeast U.S. Here is a good article on the recent St. Maarten Heineken Regatta, a rollicking blow out sailing event if there ever was one – seems this year they had a problem with light winds. I remember absolute carnage on the course - multiple tbones at the line, blown sails, even a man or two overboard. The Heineken's I attended always had steady winds in excess of 20 knots. The party on the French side (usually second night) for reasons that you can probably guess, is hands down the best scene. Those of us who can’t book a ticket and jet off to the races will have to be content to read about the BVI Spring Regatta, the St. Thomas Yacht Club’s Rolex Regatta and of course the venerable Antigua Racing Week – more and more resembling Mardi Gras for sailors. If you're over 30 I'd consider the “Jazz Fest” of Caribbean racing, the Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta. I’ve never actually been but in my mind racing yachts of such historical beauty and grace in a setting like Antigua is a strong contender for heaven on earth.

I'll wager this fella is chained to his desk right now

MAR takes the S/V Red Admiral through her paces in 15 knots off Oxford, MD Posted by Hello

109 year old Thelma sure is Purdey

All voyagers have heard of Lin and Larry Pardey – they've been the quintessential cruiser advocates for many years and developed, from their lifestyle, a cottage industry of seminars, books (the Capable Cruiser, etc), videos and other assorted guide material for those who may dream of the cruising life, but have not yet managed to leave the dock for more than a long weekend. You can read more about them here – but be sure and check out this article about their purchase of one of the oldest racing yachts in New Zealand. S/V Thelma was designed and built near Auckland by C. and W. Bailey in 1895 - built of Kauri wood and fastened with copper rivets she was a 60th birthday present from Larry to Lin. You can read Lin’s account of their purchase and subsequent refit on their weblog here. These people are modern day sailing sages. And kudos to them for turning their adventures into well-found resources for the rest of us (as well as $$ for their cruising kitty).

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Big apple Bruce finishes Vendee, spins sea yarns

I recycle old sea tales (tharrrr I was) for the general amusement of readers but also stay current. In that vein check out this story in the Portland (Maine) Press Herald about Bruce Schwab, the first American sailor to finish the Vendee Globe, a single-handed, nonstop, 'round-the-world race, on Feb. 25. Bruce made the first public appearance since he finished the race at a high school in Brunswick, ME this past Friday..spinning sea tales, he discussed bouts with monster waves and storms, struggles to repair his boat, etc. Schwab logged 23,680 miles and spent 109 days at sea. He was among 20 skippers who raced in the Vendee Globe, 13 of whom finished. According to the article sailing in the South Sea was like "rolling the dice." Here is an example of a modern day sailing hero who has not as much scratch as the scions of the Moet Cup ’03 (see last post)...but who has a bigger set?

Blowhard billionaire buddies battle and bluster

There are few things more hubristic than two billionaires match racing their multi-million dollar America’s Cup yachts just for pleasure. In case you didn’t catch it (back in 2003) Larry Ellison and Ernesto Bertarelli, respectively the sixth and 64th-richest men in the world did just that in San Francisco’s Moet Cup. We were living in the city then and walked down to the St. Francis Yacht Club on Saturday afternoon to watch them finish that days match. It was only Alinghi and Oracle on the course – two ridiculously expensive toys dueling on a cloudless, late summer afternoon in 20 knots of breeze. The waterfront was crammed with sightseers, yacht freaks, champagne revelers (it was a Moet event) and more pompous windbags per square inch than I’d seen in quite a while. Cynicism aside it was a beautiful sight. These boats are glorious to watch and they were being pressed to the edge by the conditions. You felt your heart beat quicker just watching them. You can read a very well written account here but what you won’t read about is Ernesto’s champagne soaked yammering at the victory ceremony – he ultimately lost to Larry which mattered not a whit as there wasn’t anything at stake. “We’re bad ass billionaires..” he reportedly exclaimed to the crowd, arm around his buddy Larry. It’s pretty easy to take a potshot at an ego that size and hey, this sort of posturing is not exactly a revelation but it still sets my teeth on edge. I think it’s a damn shame that these people end up being the ones representing sailing to the world.

USA 76- ORACLE/BMW sails past Alcatraz during the Moet Cup, September 15, 2003 (Courtesy Thomas Judge) Posted by Hello

Saturday, March 19, 2005

We miss Marmadukes (and homeless in Annapolis)

A great article from the Washington Post here about Eastport, MD and the demise of Marmadukes, replaced by a Ruth Chris steakhouse in 1998. I lived in Annapolis on College Avenue across from St. John college, a block from the U.S. Naval Academy for nearly a year and have hazy memories of Duke's Dark & Stormy cocktails - often imitated never duplicated. When I first arrived in Annapolis the spring of 19997 it was off of a yacht delivery up from the USVI. I was paid my delivery fee, the captain took us out to dinner at the Middletown Tavern and there I was, no job, no car, no place to live. I spent the first week looking for work an apartment and, when it came time to sleep, crashing in the cockpits of various sailboats in the local marinas. It was still early in the season so their owners were not around, particularly during the week. I packed up at first light, used a passcode to let myself into the marina showers to clean up, stashed my bag and hit the pavement. It's the sort of life you can lead in your 20's without too much consequence. I eventually ended up sharing an apartment with a buddy from the islands (unstable, drunk Captain Dave), landed jobs waiting tables at Pussers Bar and Restaurant and crewing on daycharters for the beautiful Schooner Woodwind. Annapolis is a hell of a place and when I lived there I fully participated. I left the following fall after the Boat Show on a yacht bound for Bermuda and the Caribbean islands.

Friday, March 18, 2005

The many faces of demon rum

You know that feeling you have after a long race under the summer sun - in the case of New England in August suffering from humidity, light air, the overripe scent of your mate next to you on the rail. Moments like these the thirst for rum crawls forth from deep in the throat, a bitterness on the tongue slaked only by rum & tonic, a rum and grapefruit, maybe a rum rocks with a wedge of lime, an ice cold Mojito... Rum and sailing are synonymous and even if I disdain those ugly red Mount Gay caps, thousands of sailors covet them, swear by Mount Gay, etc. Put Mount Gay aside. Many, particularly those who have enjoyed the USVI or BVI, have discovered the delights of Pussers Rum (made famous by the Painkiller). The recipe for Pussers stems from the original “grog” rations distributed to the sailors in the British Navy. Always nice to combine drinking with history. I’m a fan of Cruzan Rum from St. Croix (the dark not the light). Goslings is another must for the rum locker, particularly tasty when mixed “dark & stormy” with ginger beer. Cockspur from Barbados deserves a mention. If you get down to the Windward Islands (St. Vincent and the Grenadines) keep your pirate eye out for a rum called Captain Bligh. Anybody have a favorite?

Headed downwind to dock (and drink) after a long hot summer afternoon off Watch Hill, RI - August '04 Posted by Hello

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Part One: Eluding Davey Jones

I almost sunk off of Puerto Rico in 1999. We were on our way back from St. Thomas on the S/V Javelin (77’ Frers maxi) with a delivery crew, bound for Annapolis, MD and there was no wind. So we were motoring on the first night, moonless, flat and black. I came off watch at 2300 and bunked down, had not been asleep for much more than an hour when my captain, Tom Motley, came barging into my cabin with a flashlight, grabbed me by my shoulder and pulled me out of the bunk onto the floorboards. I splashed. That’s never a good sign. We were nearly 100 miles (160 km) northwest of Puerto Rico, floating above the deepest point in the Atlantic Ocean, the Milwaukee Depth which lies within the Puerto Rico Trench, at a depth of 27,493 feet (8,380 meters) in the western end of the trench. Did I mention that Javelin had an aluminum hull? Stay tuned to the blog for details on how we survived that fateful night.

Somewhere I'd rather be...

A Wyliecat fetches the mark on a stunning SF Bay Saturday afternoon - Feburary, 2005 Posted by Hello

A must read example of the true spirit of sailing

I went to college in Colorado, a long way from the ocean but suprisingly, still a place where if you look hard enough you can find sailors. I was very glad to come across this article in the Denver Post about the Community Sailing of Colorado program. CSC operates a nonprofit summer program and camp for boys and girls between the ages of 8 and 17 on Standley Lake in Westminster and Cherry Creek Reservoir in Aurora . The Denver Post article talks about how the program is not just teaching sailing , but also providing children with important life lessons - essential traits that all sailors are familiar with : teamwork, patience, independence, taking responsibility, safety. It's a heartwarming piece...and a welcome break from the rock star bluster that so often surrounds the sport and pastime of sailing. Suburban kids made up about 60 percent of the 475 students last summer at CSC. The rest were inner-city youths, as well as students with physical or mental challenges. I thought one quote concerning the 40% of children not from a traditional "suburban" background was particularly powerful, and very much in keeping with the spirit of this .

"So many kids look at it (sailing) and think, 'Well that's something just people with a lot of money do,"' said Stacie Gilmore, executive director of Environmental Learning for Kids, a program for children from low-income or single-parent households. "But if they see that avenue is open to them, then they start thinking, 'Well, maybe I can go to college, too, move away and live in a dorm."'

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

The Watch Hill 15

While we're on the subject of spring coming and summer not far behind has anyone heard of the venerable Watch Hill 15? They're jib-headed mainsail Herreshoff sloops, initially a a modification of the Buzzards Bay 15-footer called the Watch Hill Class - designed in 1923 for the Watch Hill Yacht Club. Watch Hill is a beautiful place but not strong on "populism" these days. However, I've been fortunate enough, through a family connection, to have had a chance to sail on one last summer - we'll overlook (momentarily) the non-populist vibe of Watch Hill in favor of the WH 15's beauty, grace and history. If you're a sailor who appreciates works of art, it's a history worth knowing.

A Watch Hill 15 downwind on a Saturday race off Stonington, CT - August '04 Posted by Hello

California dreaming

You might wonder why somebody with a passion for sailing is doing writing a weblog. Shouldn't we be sailing rather than staring at a computer? Aren't "blogs" kind of geeky? We moved to the east coast a year ago from San Francisco and more than one adjustment had to be made. A big one was giving up year 'round sailing. It's March now and if I was still in the Bay area, I'd have been on the Bay all winter. Instead I'm just hanging on for what seems like, at the moment, a very elusive spring season. Does such a short season make me appreciate being on the water even more? I'm a huge fan of the change of seasons, but not much of a frostbiter. Of course there are a lot more places to discover, tuck in, etc on the east coast. Anyone have thoughts on this trade off?

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Voyagers, zealots, poets and populists

Culture is the totality of socially transmitted behavior patterns, arts, beliefs, institutions, and all other products of human work and thought. Other sailing sites cover racing, keep voyagers in touch, and discuss the latest nautical gear. This is a space to focus on all the myriad parts and pieces that make sailing what it is for the people who love and live it.

There are a million different ways to identify modern sailing culture...including types of music, drink, lifestyle, certain beliefs, articles of clothing, shared history, our collective dreams, communities, common stories, places, pastimes and personalities.

But nautical history, the "roots" of modern sailing, comes from people who used the power of the wind for eminently practical reasons...they were not motivated by sport or pleasure. Today there's no need to sail to conduct trade, defend ourselves, transport our families or discover new lands. Without these imperatives, what's the draw?

In part the answer can be found in the things we collectively value, the symbols that we choose to define ourselves, how we relate to one another - our identity as people who spend precious time and money trying to capture something as capricious as the wind.

"I find the great thing in this world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving: To reach the port of heaven, we must sail sometimes with the wind and sometimes against it - but we must sail, and not drift, nor lie at anchor."

- Oliver Wendel Holmes

Zephry - Sailing culture for voyagers, zealots, poets and populists.