Tuesday, May 31, 2005
This morning on NPR I heard a story that demonstrates, at least to me, why sailing cloth is some of the best engineered fabric in the world. The piece is about entrepreneur Cindy Whitehawk (and her husband) – for seven years they’ve been selling wallets made of spinnaker cloth, a choice of fabric that allows them to claim billfolds as “thin as a dime.” Not only does the sailing fabric make wallets of distinctive thinness, it also “breathes” and repels body moisture, rain, spills, etc. Listen to the replay on NPR here – some recent publicity has overwhelmed their two person “All-Ett”shop and now they have more order than they can fill. Sailmakers have made wallets and duffels for years but these two have obviously perfected the form. File in the “I wish I thought of that” folder.
Posted by Zephyr (Sail) at 9:23 AM
Monday, May 30, 2005
Be sure to read about the latest news from the Rolex Transat here – over the last 24 hours several crew members have sustained injuries, non fatal fortunately. Mal Parker on the GBR Challenge had his arm pulled into a winch. Bill Buckly on Maximus fell and dislocated his shoulder. With the summer officially beginning it’s appropriate to mention the Figawi race (where-the-f%@k-are-we) – a summer sailing tradition in
Posted by Zephyr (Sail) at 9:43 AM
Thursday, May 26, 2005
Posted by Zephyr (Sail) at 3:57 PM
We’re heading south to the Chesapeake Bay for the holiday weekend where I plan to get out on the water at long last. My parents have a house near St. Michaels on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. For those not familiar with the area, it’s a true blue sailor’s haven. When the weather is warm, sailboats of every stripe disembark from port towns like Oxford and St Michaels. From a sailing culture perspective there’s a special class of dinghy, the “Chesapeake Bay Log Canoe”, equal part rightful terror and delight. So wildly unstable you need to run a plank to weather and move bodies out to keep the boat upright – makes short tacking a nightmare. All of these vintage boats have a solid history – check out the Chesapeake Bay Log Sailing Canoe Association and the links to biographies and pictures of the fleet. Silver Heel, for example, was built in 1902 by Eugene Thompson on Kent Island, Maryland as a workboat for John Wesley Dickerson. Island Bird, the smallest of all log canoes now racing, was built in 1882 at Tilghman's Island, Maryland by "Captain Sid", a man of many talents. Not only did he build log canoes, but he also operated a canning factory, acted as an agent for the steamboats that regularly called at Tilghman, served as the local magistrate and taught Sunday School .
Posted by Zephyr (Sail) at 3:15 PM
Wednesday, May 25, 2005
It struck me today that for a sailing blog dedicated to “Voyagers, Zealots, Poets and Populists,” I’ve been overlooking any direct correlation to the “Poets” segment. When I wrote the tagline I wanted to capture what I felt were some of the better attributes of sailing culture – traveling to far flung anchorages (or dreaming of doing so), a fanatical dedication to sailboats, the importance of access as opposed to elitism and, through the term “poets” a sense of the wild-eyed romance of the sea. Maritime poetry gives voice to human themes that the ocean evokes - loss and longing, loneliness and death, awe at the vast power of nature, a love for the water. History and tradition also play a strong role in maritime poetry; the sea chanteys sung aboard tall ships are prime examples. A well known classic is the Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Coleridge. Other poets include Michael Drayton and John Masefield (one of my favorites). Here is a link to a whole page of them for your reading pleasure. Please post with your favorites.
"A WIND'S in the heart of me, a fire's in my heels, I am tired of brick and stone and rumbling wagon-wheels; I hunger for the sea's edge, the limit of the land, Where the wild old Atlantic is shouting on the sand."
- from “A Wanderer's Song” by John Masefield
Posted by Zephyr (Sail) at 10:32 AM
Tuesday, May 24, 2005
An important component of any strong culture, sailing is no exception, are foundational institutions that develop warriors and leaders for the next generation. In the case of sailboats and sailing three primary institutions make up the front line – yacht clubs (naturally), high school teams (if you’re lucky enough to go to high school on or near the water) and sailing camps. I’ve experience with two of the three – I learned to sail at the Stone Harbor YC in
Posted by Zephyr (Sail) at 4:34 PM
Posted by Zephyr (Sail) at 3:08 PM
Monday, May 23, 2005
As the 2005 Transatlantic Challenge begins and we follow the competitors and their daily progress (here and here) it’s a good time to consider the offshore racer, a special breed of sailor injured to the hardships and discomfort of pushing aggressively across the water 24/7 with no regard to personal safety in the high hopes of ultimate victory. In this vein read about 46-year old Duran Duran rocker Simon Le Bon and his next adventure (besides taking his aging act on the road). Simon nearly died in the 1985 Fastnet aboard Drum when her keel came off, a story in and of itself that is partially recounted in the article. Simon is going to take his life in hand once again and enter Drum in the next Fastnet race scheduled to begin August 7. It’s hard to say that I was a “fan” back in the 80’s and I’m certainly not now but you have to give this guy points on chutzpah. Name another popstar who’d willingly put themselves in this environment again after nearly being killed. He admits to a serious case of the shakes after the Drum disaster…"I had lost my nerve. I found it hard to sleep on the boat. I had my feet crushed up against the end of the bunk…” But now he’s back on the horse, slapping on face cream, eating sensibly, confining his post-show excess to a “glass of wine and a bite to eat” and sailing in a 608 mile offshore race. And by the way, he has the balls to compare Duran Duran to the Rolling Stones. An offshore racer is, in part, someone possessesed of enough hubris that they see a low pressure wave on the weather fax as opportunity. Tighten those keel bolts Simon!
Posted by Zephyr (Sail) at 1:56 PM
Friday, May 20, 2005
Posted by Zephyr (Sail) at 10:39 AM
The 2005 Rolex Transatlantic Challenge begins tomorrow, a very good topic to wrap up the week. This article in Sailing World by Tony Bessinger is a good read – in particular his quote from Carleton Mitchell’s book, “Passage East.” Before I read this and did research I didn't know much about Mitchell...his words are, as Bessinger notes, an inspiration. I wrote about the Transatlantic Challenge in April here and as you know, this is a race of immense historic significance. Bessinger will be reporting from the 130-foot S&S ketch Sariyah, sending daily reports to Sailing World. Sariyah is under charter to New York YC member Cortright Wetherill Jr. If you’re in New York City this weekend, at 9:00 AM a parade of sail begins down the Hudson River, past the Statue of Liberty, and out to a starting line that's roughly between Sandy Hook, N.J., and Ambrose Tower off New York Harbor. The first gun goes off at , and Class 1 starts at . Class 2, Performance Cruising (Sariyah’s class) will start at , and Classes 3 and 4 will follow in 10 and 20 minutes, respectively. Fair winds and safe passage to all competitors. Have a great weekend!
"Racing a yacht across the North Atlantic is not entirely a technical feat nor even an adventure in the classic sense; but it is a great emotional and physical experience for those involved—moments of exhaustion and exultation, of cold fog and blazing sunshine, of hard driving and maddening drifting. And always watch after watch the routine of living and ship keeping goes on, day and night, with never a sense of monotony." - Carleton Mitchell
Posted by Zephyr (Sail) at 10:19 AM
Thursday, May 19, 2005
Busy day so a brief posting on sailmaking. Sailmakers, as many of you may know, are not just providers of essential cloth and repairers of ravaged spinnakers – they are an intrinsic part of sailing culture. May of them are professional racers and otherwise skilled aboard a sailboat. Their profession brings them in touch with the big guns of the sport and their knowledge is valued on anything propelled on the water by wind. Unfortunately, many of them can be arrogant pricks, no names mind you but true enough to generalize. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t more than a few good apples out there – Ocean Navigator has a very interesting article here about Doyle Sailmakers' project for Ron Holland’s super-sloop Mirabella V, the largest single-masted sailing yacht yet built. Doyle is a great shop in my experience - staffed with folks who know and love the sport and don’t let that swell their heads. And that would be easy to do if you landed a project like this. Enjoy the article...
Posted by Zephyr (Sail) at 4:08 PM
Wednesday, May 18, 2005
I once entertained the idea of opening a “fractional” yacht ownership business somewhere in coastal CT but other things - diapers and pre-school tuitions, health care costs – intervened. I still think it’s a great idea…back in April I wrote an “Ode to Owning” that covered some of the issues around yacht ownership and mentioned Sailtime, the franchise that I’d linked up with for initial discussions around the business. They have a great model but I have to give it to 28-year old entrepreneur Ian Treibick from
"A sailboat is a sinkhole in the water," said Treibick, who grew up racing small Laser boats on the Long Island Sound. "The cost is pretty overwhelming for a lot of people."
Posted by Zephyr (Sail) at 11:00 AM
Posted by Zephyr (Sail) at 9:35 AM
Tuesday, May 17, 2005
I’m a Scuttlebutt reader and enjoy their format, particularly the daily newsletter. The recent edition had a link to a set of pictures that rang a bell for me – take a look at how NOT to work your kite…but more telling than the photos is the appropriateness of the locale. If there's anywhere you’re going to get twisted it’s the SF Bay. I have many (not so) fond memories of kite carnage from my time sailing on the Bay – one of the most spectacular was my experience on day two of the IACCSF Sausalito Cup) in June 2002 The wind piped up over 20 on the course. I was one of two mast men on John Sweeney’s boat, USA-11 Stars & Stripes. These vintage
Posted by Zephyr (Sail) at 3:06 PM
Posted by Zephyr (Sail) at 8:46 AM
Monday, May 16, 2005
Fredrick Roswold has lived with his wife Judy Jensen on their 43’ sailboat WINGS for 19 years and, I'm honored to say, has become a frequent reader, posted many comments to Zephyr and recently wrote to let me know about his new "Zephyr inspired" blog, Wingssail. Fred and his wife typify the literate, itinerant voyagers who contribute immeasurably to sailing culture (and help a desk-bound brother out) by chronicling their experiences from the far flung corners of the world. Thanks for the heads up Fred - safe travels and we look forward to following your exploits...
Posted by Zephyr (Sail) at 1:42 PM
It’s a knee jerk reaction I suppose but say “
Posted by Zephyr (Sail) at 9:58 AM
Friday, May 13, 2005
Posted by Zephyr (Sail) at 1:44 PM
A few updates from previous stories to round off the work week but before I get to them I wanted to say that I hope all Zephyr readers have the chance to get out on the water over the weekend. It's still a bit early for the
Posted by Zephyr (Sail) at 11:28 AM
Thursday, May 12, 2005
I came across this article from Ocean Navigator about voyaging in the
Posted by Zephyr (Sail) at 10:37 AM
Wednesday, May 11, 2005
Hopefully many of you from northern climes are gearing up for your local yacht club’s Wednesday night summer racing series. Wednesday nights, as this article from the
Posted by Zephyr (Sail) at 10:21 AM
Posted by Zephyr (Sail) at 12:20 AM
Tuesday, May 10, 2005
The AP ran a story yesterday about sailors who were en route to
Eternal Father, strong to save
Whose arm hath bound the restless wave.
Who bidd'st the mighty ocean deep
Its own appointed limits keep
Oh hear us when we cry to thee
For those in peril on the sea.
- William Whiting
Posted by Zephyr (Sail) at 12:13 AM
Monday, May 09, 2005
Sailing, an endeavor that demands physicality, mental acuity and the ability to be uncomfortable for long stretches of time, has a youthful reputation. Granted the grizzled old salt is a longtime cliché but serious racing or offshore voyaging is best suited to those with a certain level of stamina and vigor. This means a lot of the content about sailing focuses on younger people – though it seems that the definition of “young” is fairly elastic (think Dennis Conner, no spring chicken) it’s not often that you come across stories about older folks going sailing – which is why this tale from the Miami Herald is so refreshing. The article is about a retired machinists search for love, and maybe just as importantly a voyaging companion for his dream sail to the
Posted by Zephyr (Sail) at 11:59 AM
Friday, May 06, 2005
During my nearly five years living and sailing in San Francisco I learned the legend of the 85-foot North Sea Pilot Schooner Wanderbird originally owned by Warwick Tompkins Sr. Both Spencer Tracy and Clark Gables famously voyaged aboard the schooner, but it was home to the Tompkins family, Warwick Sr, his wife and two children, Warwick Jr and his sister Ann. The Marin Independent Journal covers now 73 year old Warwick Jr’s “retirement,” and recounts some of the history of his family as well as his long, well established association with boats as a Sausalito-based rigger, consultant and the “most experienced delivery skipper in the world.” The sum of Warwicks life is a genuine tableau vivant of sailing. His recollection (in the article) of the watershed moment where he decides he's had enough of caring for other people’s boats, resonates with me. It’s this exact feeling that led me to quit crewing on the Maxi (and to postpone my goal of a USCG Captain’s license), though his subsequent decision to design/build his own boat "Flashgirl" in no way mirrors my descent into sterile, fluorescent lighted cubicledom. Warwick Sr wrote a tremendous account “Fifty South to Fifty South" detailing the Tompkins family's 1936 voyage in Wanderbird from 50°S to 50°S in 28 days - well worth the price of admission. Have a great weekend!
Posted by Zephyr (Sail) at 11:47 AM
Thursday, May 05, 2005
Technology is having a significant impact on sailing culture, particularly in how sailors communicate with one another and share information about key aspects of voyaging and cruising (weather, friendly ports-of-call, sheltered anchorages). Some of the best examples of this are found in the multitude of individual sailing weblogs being published…with more popping every day. Unlike Zephyr, which focuses on a specific topic (sailing culture) and covers it broadly, these sailing blogs are written from the perspective of voyagers, boatbuilders, weekend warriors – they're mostly about the individual journey and serve as a two-way, grassroots window into the sailing world. When I was mate on the Maxi in the late 90’s I used to punch out email updates to all my desk-bound friends back in the States, compile a mailing list and send them whenever I could find an Internet café when we paused in Roadtown, English Harbor, Culebra, etc. I remember people enjoyed them, forwarded them all over their offices, to friends across the country. Sailors are intrinsically storytellers and the Internet has magnified this attribute. Consider the shift from the viral, uncontrolled mass email to a narrow-casted, self published weblog. We are witnesses to this technology proliferating, evolving and beginning to virtually knit together the larger sailing community...not surprisingly the results are (like many things in life) heterogeneous - we discover compelling content side-by-side with the trite, sublime with mundane, unique with conventional... Take a look in my Zephyr link roster for more examples and please comment with any I've missed.
Posted by Zephyr (Sail) at 12:10 PM
Wednesday, May 04, 2005
Posted by Zephyr (Sail) at 3:45 PM
The May issue of Sailing World has a piece on blind sailor Vincent Morvillo. At the Ensign Nationals in Newport, R.I. in 2004, Vince (a former Blind Sailing World Champion) beat a fleet of 40 boats all driven by skippers with sight. At the time he was 60 years old...and had been blind since his 20's. Here’s a 2004 interview with Vince on Anarchy. During the course of the interview he responds to a question about how he “feels” his way through the course by saying, “If you think about it when you feel the change in the boat, the worst has happened. Speed is a function of not letting things happen that reduce speed.” Next time you’re out on your local course close your eyes on an upwind leg and let your other senses guide you (and may the force be with you). Most of us depend on sight, but I think we use other senses more than we know. On a related note, Knowles Pittman died April 28. If you haven’t read it there’s a great tribute in Scuttlebutt from his friend Bruce Kirby. Pittman started the grass roots publication One-Design Yachtsman (now Sailing World) in 1962. As Kirby writes, “Until then there had been publications that published stories on big boat events on the east and west coasts, with perhaps an annual mention of the Chicago Mackinaw Race. The middle of the country, and the small boat sailors that swarmed over the lakes and rivers of this vast area, were pretty well ignored.” Both of these men have and, in the case of Vince, continue to contribute immeasurably to the culture of sailing.
Posted by Zephyr (Sail) at 9:47 AM
Tuesday, May 03, 2005
Posted by Zephyr (Sail) at 12:54 AM
Everyone loves a Tall Ship if you've ever seen one make way under full sail then chances are you've felt something nearly visceral tug at your heart. It's an ancient sight that harkens back to a simpler and as anyone who has crewed will tell you, more physically demanding time. Take a look at this article about the Pride of Baltimore II, a replica of a 19th-century
Posted by Zephyr (Sail) at 12:16 AM
Monday, May 02, 2005
For those of us who live in northern climes annual blessing of the fleet ceremonies signaling the start of the season are likely top of mind. Check out this story from Bowling Green, Kentucky not a town that comes to mind when we think "sailing mecca," but nonetheless a contribution that reminds us that sailing (or at least boating) can occur anywhere there happens to be water and wind...for example I once taught Hobie classes on a lake outside Boulder, CO. The
Posted by Zephyr (Sail) at 9:56 AM