Friday, September 30, 2005

Grey Goose ISAF World Championship,
Newport, RI - September 24-October 1, 2005
(Photo Credit: Emily L. Ferguson

215 Years of the Coast Guard

I obviously missed this one but back in early August the Coast Guard celebrated its 215 year anniversary. According to this blurb I came across this morning, the CG officially began in 1790 when Congress authorized the construction of a fleet of “revenue marine” cutters. Essentially tax nazis under sail, the cutters were responsible for enforcing “…the nation’s tariff and trade laws..” as well as protecting the collection of federal revenue. The Coast Guard as we now know it received its name in 1915 when the Revenue Cutter Service merged with the Life Saving Service. I’ve been boarded by the Coasties…underway no less. I was on the maxi Javelin as first mate making way through the C&D canal (between the Chesapeake and Delaware Bays) under power when suddenly a tender roared up out of nowhere. Before we knew it three very serious and polite young men were standing on the deck. Our only real concern was an open seacock down in the port head…the Captain had the sense to speak loudly enough for our chef (she was making a pot of coffee below decks) to hear what was going on and initate the emergency “boarded by Coasties” drill – which consisted of closing the seacock and stowing a dummy porta potty in the head. High drama, yes. But when you’re actually in need of them (and they’re there)…it’s surely a welcome sight. Have a great weekend!

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Hell Hath No Fury

I tend to stay away from tabloid fodder but this was just too good to ignore. According to an article in the Gulf of Bahrain Daily News, a London couple’s marital spat dissolved into destructive mayhem (as they often do) – the wife put their allegedly £100,000, 35 foot sailboat code named Rebel up for a fire sale at the low, low price of £40,000. They had apparently sailed the Med together in the craft and the husband, incensed that his wife was selling, took an axe to the seacock and sunk it. No background on the cause of their marital distress - but it’s not hard to imagine that she discovered him in flagrante delicto with her best girlfriend aboard the good ship Rebel after coming home with a headache mid shift (she’s a waitress) and proceeded to freak out, demand a divorce and all the other things a wife does when she finds her husband helming an illicit vessel…now disgusted by the boat upon which they’d once enjoyed romantic moments under sultry Mediterranean breezes (and needing money for her lawyer) she decided to screw him and sell it. He reads the ad in the paper over morning coffee and reaching for his trusty axe swears that he’ll see Rebel at the bottom before she’ll get one blasted dime…something like that.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

J Class S/Y Ranger - Antigua Race Week 2004
(Photo credit: Carlo Borlenghi)


As a deskbound wage slave I’m a sucker for stories of wandering gypsy sailors. Here’s a good one from the local Annapolis, MD paper about New Zealanders Dilys and Deyal McKenzie. According to the article the couple retired, sold everything and headed off to sail around their corner of the Pacific. Bravo, you say. But how did they end up in Maryland? After 48 months cruising the Pacific they headed west and haven’t stopped for nearly 12 years. The United States is the 40th country they've visited aboard their 25-year-old sailboat, Ravangi since May 14, 1994. They have, of course, a list of ideal destinations. Annapolis was on the list, as was sailing down the East River in New York, past the Statue of Liberty. Mount Desert Island, in Maine was another recent item they checked off. Venice was on the list, as were the Aegean Islands, Crete, Athens and the Corinth Canal. Israel, Sudan, Egypt, Cyprus and Turkey have been checked off, too. People like this send faint rays of hope filtering through to my air-conditioned cubicle hell hole (it’s all not that bad really but you know what I mean).

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

The Need for Speed

It’s not often that sailing makes it into a publication like Popular Science but when we’re talking about breaking the speed sailing barrier of 50 knots, it makes very good sense. One of the tremendous things about writing this weblog – a labor of love essentially – is that I learn more about my sailing passion every day. In this case I was not aware that the record for speed of any wind-powered craft on water was 46.52 knots as set by the Australian trimaran Yellow Pages over ten years ago. Hell, I get excited when we break 7 knots on a reach….I shudder to think what would happen if I was on a craft making nearly 55 miles per hour by sail alone. Certainly a change of underwear would be appreciated. Anyway read on. According to the article the most promising record seeker are small single-pilot craft that are propelled with solid wingsails. Many take advantage of hyperlightweight composite materials; some are as much airplane as traditional sailboat. They will vie for the record at Speed Week, held off the coast of Weymouth in the south of England each October. Anyone owning a sled and lacking the basic sense of self preservation, come on down...

Monday, September 26, 2005

My Kingdom for One Pound and a G&T

The BBC has news of the 53 foot ketch Gipsy Moth IV – the boat used by Sir Francis Chichester on his record-breaking journey around the globe. After a nearly $600,000 refit the boat is getting ready to repeat the 29,630 mile passage courtesy of the United Kingdom Sailing Academy (UKSA). According to the article the UKSA bought the vessel, which has been in dry dock since the completion of Chichester’s voyage in 1967, for one pound sterling and a gin & tonic. Sir Francis stopped only once, in Sydney, Australia to refurbish the yacht and replenish supplies, but this time his yacht will stop at 25 countries and take 22 months to complete the voyage covering more than 30,000 miles in the process. Tally ho lads!

Friday, September 23, 2005

Rolex Big Boat Series - San Francisco, CA -
September 15-18, 2005 (Photo Credit: Chris Ray)

Landing Gear

Flying back east today on jetBlue out of Oakland. Pray my landing gear deploys...

oh and by-the-bye

hold fast said...

i've double-checked, and it seems that they've reformatted their blog, with more/better photos, and a new url.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Sailing Guadeloupe in August

Savvy bareboat charter sailors have known for quite some time that the summer season in the Caribbean offers opportunity in the way of significant discounts on boats, uncrowded anchorages, room at the beach bars, cheap flights and the undying gratitude of islanders who depend on you through the slow summer months. Here’s a great read from a UK man who chartered a 45’ sloop through Sunsail for two weeks in Guadeloupe. Guadeloupe is French speaking territory and through some of the adventures he recounts – including anchoring challenges, poisonous berries and close encounters with still active volcano, La Soufrière – it’s clear that if you have a few pounds, a rudimentary knowledge of sailing and some willing hands Guadeloupe in the summer can be a delight. Not to mention there’s room for a history lesson – the author discusses their sail to the Iles des Saintes (lushly green and mostly uninhabited). They sail through the Passe de la Baleine to the main island of Terre de Haut, “…where the French General de Grasse saw his entire fleet wiped out by the British on 4 April 1792. The British and French fought frequently for control of Guadeloupe for 200 years, at one time the French surrendering their rights to Canada in exchange for these islands.”

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Panerai Classic Yachts Challenge 2005
(Photo Credit: Max Ranchi)

Concours d'elegance

The Museum of Yachting recently held it’s 26th annual Classic Yacht Regatta…according to this first hand account, “…a boating version of a classic auto "Concours d'elegance," The event was held off Fort Adams in Newport, RI over Labor Day weekend September 2 - 4. According to the official results sheet, the 1935 Herreshoff ,”Osprey" dominated the contest. Though I was not fortunate enough to attend I agree with the reporter, there’s absolutely nothing like witnessing a fleet of these classic boats competing under sail. We owe a debt to organizations like the Museum of Yachting for promoting and driving classic regattas.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Missing Pride Blog

Blogging from the JetBlue terminal at JFK. Hold Fast says Pride II crewmembers have (had) a blog with plenty of photos of the dismasting carnage (see earlier post "Pride II Goes Down). The url doesn't work though - does anyone have update?

On a Plane

I'm on a plane all day today bound for the west coast. Surf over to Mark Rosenstein's sailing pages in the meanwhile...a terrific sailing resource...and please come back tommorow.

Monday, September 19, 2005

WH-15 under sail in Watch Hill Harbor - September 3, 2005

Pride II Goes Down (but not out)

A good read here in the Portsmouth Herald on the recent dismasting of the Pride of Baltimore II on September 5. I wrote about the Pride II last spring – she’s a 108-foot topsail schooner owned by the state of Maryland and built to the lines of an 1812-era Baltimore Clipper. The original Pride was lost in 1986 off the coast of Puerto Rico to a sudden force of wind deemed a “microburst squall.” As the article discusses…following suit Pride II was also caught in a violent squall…in this case she was southbound off the coast of France. Three people, including the Captain, died in the first accident…in the more recent disaster no one, fortunately, lost their lives and despite the carnage from the dismasting, Pride II was able to motor 80 miles into St. Nazaire, France for repairs. Strange how history repeats the reporter points out, one constant is the inherent danger of going to sea.

On another note...does anyone doubt the existence of giant squids? Have a gander at Wingsail's blog.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Built for Speed

Sailing World reviewed a new cat yesterday, the Reynolds 33 – pinning it as a multihull version of the current market trend towards fast, classy monohull daysailors (Morris M36, J/105, etc). According to the review the builder, California-based Rand Reynolds, worked with Morrelli & Melvin Design over a couple of years developing prototypes before finally settling on a 48-foot aluminum rig and a 14-foot beam. Reading through the review the Reynolds 33 sounds like a truly exciting boat to sail, “…speed is what makes this former windsurfing sailmaker's blood move…” but I have to admit a purist dislike for Cat’s and Tri’s. Yes, I know they’re quick, the center saloon layout with berths in the pontoons can be nice, love hanging in the trap upwind or lounging in the netting in the bow while ripping along at 14 plus knots. But I have never, ever, seen one and had the same longing to possess that, say, the Friendship 40 elicits. It's just not there. Like that hot 24-year old I spy on the streets of midtown Manhattan - she's different yet the same every time. Dressed to kill, tight body built for speed, struts down the sidewalk like she knows it pert nose tilted to the sky. Sure I'd like to take her for a sail...but I don’t want to pay the maintenance (not to mention I'm happily married ;^)

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Winter series race off Angel Island
San Francisco Bay, February 2003

The Fall Season

I was driving to work today and despite the humid air from the hurricane, the trees are turning on the edges, a pile of yellow and russet colored leaves stirred as I took a turn on a country road. I love the fall and when we lived out in California missed the shift of seasons – it’s always provoked a bittersweet nostalgia which, I would venture, has a lot to do with letting go of the summer. As a sailor on the east coast I can still look forward to some weeks of sailing (when the hurricanes are passed) but the end is near and soon it will be time to put things away. It got me to thinking about letting go; specifically how I didn’t have to in San Francisco…we sailed through the winter on the Bay. Though I very much miss sailing year round I find that I appreciate the time I have on the water more living on the east coast. I don’t take continuity for granted given the imperative of the seasons. I savor the moment. And when the weather begins to warm again…that first day of sailing after a long winter of thinking about it is so very sweet. There was a time that I lived like a migratory bird and lit out for Florida bound for the Caribbean come October. But I’ve let go of that life too, at least for now. I guess there’s a theme here...

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Ten Years Passing

Hopefully all North Carolina sailing brethren have battened down the hatches for Ophelia – seems that the southeastern U.S. is a brutal place to be for boaters these days…on the other hand if you own a boatyard and a crane you’re doing a land office business. I was blown by Hurricane Marilyn in St. Thomas, USVI on September 16, 1995 (ten years ago from this Friday). The strongest part of the hurricane, the eyewall to the east and northeast of the center, passed directly over St. Thomas. Maximum one-minute surface winds at that time were close to 95 knots and from a reasonably safe location on land in the lee of Water Island I huddled with friends and listened to people on the VHF plead for rescue – either they’d been anchored and blown loose of they’d taken to sea to ride it out. Hard to believe that it’s been ten years…the memory of that time is indelibly etched in my mind. A few years ago I wrote a short story loosely based on that experience from the perspective of a man taking refuge on his sailboat in Hurricane Hole on St. John. As I review it could use some tightening…but in honor of a decade past here is an excerpt…

At sunset the light succumbed gradually to a churning darkness - a malignant cloud swallowing the horizon. The wind continued to build and patchy squalls swept through before turing to steady rain. The air was heavy and humid, steeped in thick brine. Christopher sat in the cockpit and kept a wary eye on the surrounding boats, tried to fix their location in his mind. If any of them broke loose they’d smash through the lagoon like deadly pinballs. As he turned to find the boat anchored behind him the half-light was suddenly cut off, no dusk, just an abrupt passage into a violent night. He pulled his hood over and cinched it tight, checked to be sure the safety tether attached to his harness was clipped to the rail.

A blast of cool air hit his face, scent of ozone and then the rain became a sheeting downpour. The boat swung broadside in the face of a shrieking gust then steadied as his anchors bit. He caught a flash of a cabin light to starboard and then it was all darkness, raging wind, the dim red glow of his instrument lights reporting eighty-knots. A dull rumble of thunder and lightening lit the besieged lagoon for an instant, a glimpse of the other boats straining against their anchors, a haze of rain and mist and ocean whipped by the wind melting instantly into darkness. The wind strengthened, howling with a renewed ferocity. Christopher tucked his chin in his collar and stood, his head scraping the canvas bimini. He reached up and touched it gingerly. A corner had ripped loose and was snapping against the metal frame. No way it would hold. He was considering cutting it free with his knife when with a roar an invisible hand landed on his chest, knocked him flat in the cockpit.

The canvas disappeared with a loud bang and the boat heeled steeply, water spilling over the rail and washing through the cockpit. Christopher hauled himself to his feet, legs braced as the boat shuddered and plunged like a wounded animal. He watched in disbelief as the wind indicator read one hundred and then slowly bled away to seventy.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Busy Tuesday

The sailing world seems to be picking up steam heading into the fall – here’s brief but interesting blurb from SF-based KRON on Egyptian researchers who constructed a 40 foot sailboat from reeds, date-palm fibers and bitumen tar and tried to sail it from the Arabian peninsula to India in order to prove that sailors plying the trade route over four thousand years ago made the trip safely in similar vessels. The boat sank on the first day so it’s back to the drawing board. The 35th annual Newport Boat Show is set to open this weekend in my favorite sailing town. More than 800 exhibitors will show about 600 boats, which will be displayed on the waterfront running along America's Cup Avenue. Last but not least the country's largest and most profitable charity regatta, the Hospice Cup on the Chesapeake Bay raised a record $600,000 for eight area hospices despite an utter lack of wind. The wrap-up in the Washington Times mentions Jim Muldoon's 70 something foot maxi Donnybrook. I believe it’s a Santa Cruz…I once crewed for Jim at the Rolex Regatta in St. Thomas in the late 90’s and recall the boat being quite the sled. Muldoon is not a man you want to disappoint…I’ll leave it at that.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Classic Chris Craft speedboat "Highland Queen"docked in
Watch Hill, RI - September 11, 2005.

Lost the Main Halyard

Back in the office Monday morning after a spectacular weekend for my niece’s baptism in Watch Hill, RI. We had amazing weather and after the service, an opportunity to enjoy swimming in the still warm Atlantic ocean as well as a chance to get out on the water. Unfortunately, though we were poised to sail yesterday afternoon under clear skies with about 15 knots…we made an error that curtailed our plans abruptly. We’d taken the launch out to our hosts Watch Hill-15, a classic Herreshoff racing sloop, and were making her ready. I was kneeling in the bow hanking the jib and our Captain was unrolling the main. He handed to the main halyard to an inexperienced crew member, she got distracted and let it loose, he proceeded to pull the halyard to the top of the mast and we were no longer going sailing. A big disappointment but that’s the nature of boats…one mistake or moment of inattention can screw the whole thing up. We made up for it by barreling out to Fishers Island on a classic Chris Craft speedboat. Not a fan of motorboats but this baby is one elegant ride (see above picture).

Some nice feedback from Zephyr reader “Jarrett” over the weekend. He suggested I add my email address ( to the site. As well he pointed me to a Wooden Boat magazine-featured design for a sea chest – a possible baptismal gift for my niece. Finally he clued us in to the Sag Harbor Charity Cup Challenge out on Long Island this past weekend. We’ll look for more info/photos. Thanks Jarrett!

Friday, September 09, 2005

2005 Louis Vuitton Act 7 (Photo Credit: Chris Cameron)


Robin please comment again on 19' sailing vessel Peter Pan. Somehow it did not come through :^(

Watch Hill Weekend

Heading up to Watch Hill, RI this weekend for the baptism of my niece Kate. Watch Hill is home of the renown WH-15, a class of Herreshoff designed sloops possessed of exceptional grace and beauty. Click on the Watch Hill Yacht Club site and the "WH-15" tab to the left for more info. One of my first posts for this blog was on the WH-15 so I won't cover old ground but I'll let you know next week if I'm lucky enough to get out on one Saturday. Reccomended weekend reading includes this article on blind sailor Matthew Chao as well as news of the dismasting of Maximus during the ongoing Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup. Have a good one and see you Monday.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

The Open

Sorry I missed a post today. Just back from the U.S. Open where I watched Lleyton Hewitt smack down Jarkko Nieminen this afternoon on center court. We'll see if Federer can pull it out tonight...what does this have to do with sailing? Nothing. Back to that tommorow but if you're interested here's a great article about 35-year old Andre Agassi's dramatic victory last night. Nice to know someone my age can still hold their own against the youngsters!

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

The Laser in question (see last post) with Will, our three-year old, balancing on the bow.

One with the Wind & Water

I had a comment from Jarrett in my email this morning - see his sailing weblog here - about my recent post on the Laser...and why I loved the sense that the Laser gives you of being one with the wind and water. Thank you Jarrett for taking the time to remind us that "You can sail a small keelboat and be plenty close to the water." He continues, "...I have South Coast 23, Alberg-designed. It heels in a nice breeze, and when it's not heeling you can put your hand over and dip it in the water. And you can anchor, go below and get out of the sun, and actually use the head."

On the heels of that I have a confession to make. After I wrote that post I went back out to sail some more and was shocked to see that the boat (I'd pulled her up on the beach) had blown over and was drifting on her side. Luckily I was able to recover her without much trouble but the (unsecured) centerboard had floated about 15 yards offshore. I confidently climbed aboard the Laser and pointed the bow in the direction of the centerboard, reached to grab it and somehow let it slip through my fingers - shortly I found myself in the middle of the Tred Avon in a gusty 10 knots with no real ability to make way upwind...which was, unfortunately, the direction I needed to go to get back to shore. To put it bluntly I was very challenged for quite some time...and as I considered my recent post, found myself a bit too much "one with the wind & water" ;-)

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

A Mothers Misperception

We saw our 3 ½ year old off to his first day of Montessori school this morning so it seems appropriate to focus on education. Here’s a story from the AP published in the Asbury Park Press about the "Sailor for a Day Camp" aboard the A.J. Meerwald, a restored oyster schooner used as a floating classroom to promote ecology, conservation and appreciation for marine habitats. According to the article the program is operated by the nonprofit Bayshore Discovery Project. The 115-foot ship offers more than 250 public cruises, educational outings and private charters annually from ports in and around New Jersey. This is the sort of program that all communities near water could use but, of course, it takes time, money and dedication to make these things happen. We all recognize that. But what threw me was the quote from one of the students mother’s at the end of the article. "It's a great experience," said Susan Orr, 39, Orr's mother. "It's nice that they offer something like this with such hands-on opportunities. Sailing's a dying art now. Everything's motorized now; no one wants to go through the trouble of sailing."

A dying art, eh? Give me 10 minutes with Ms. Orr aboard a Swan in 20 knots…sure it’s an “art” honey but it ain’t dying.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Oracle BMW Racing leads One World Challenge at the 2003 America's Cup (Photo Credit: Max Ranchi )

Nicely Making Way

Just in off the water from a Labor Day sail on our Laser. It's a beautiful afternoon on the Chesapeake Bay...sunny and cool with just the right amount of air to get the boat nicely making way. Though I love bit boat racing there is something about being so close to the water, an ability to feel a oneness with the boat that you just don't get with a keel. My mind is gelled from the sail so nothing to point you to today...we'll be back in the swing of it tommorow.

Friday, September 02, 2005

The End of Summer

Happy Labor Day weekend! See you next week...hope you get out on the water (and there's a breeze).

Thursday, September 01, 2005

J/Fest 2005 San Francisco (Photo Credit: Glennon Stratton)

Temple to the Wind

Happy September all - today marks the start of the best sailing on the east coast of the U.S. Now through the end of October we can expect sunny fall days with plenty of breeze...warm in the daytime and cool at night. A welcome relief from August. Zephyr received fan mail of the best sort yesterday from voyager who's just sailed the southern seas over the past three months with a mate on his 42' sailboat (Australia to New Caledonia and Vanuatu). He kept his friends informed of his exploits through his blog "Robins News." The site has some great photos and overall narrative on his journey - thanks for the note Robin and fair winds.

Also worth a look is this review on a new nonfiction narrative history titled "Temple to the Wind: The Story of America's Greatest Naval Architect and his Masterpiece, Reliance." According to the author, 30-year old Christopher Pastore from Barrington, RI, his book is, “…not just about a boat. This is more about the people, namely Nathanael Herreshoff, and his evolution as a naval architect and how it culminated in one boat in 1903." Reliance was the 1903 America's Cup defender. The book will be released today by The Lyons Press.