Monday, July 31, 2006

The West 79th Street Boat Basin

People around these parts love a sordid summer sleezefest and this year they're being obliged by the sad tale of Brooke Astor and her lowdown, ungrateful scumbag son who has allowed his evil wife to, horrors, sequester Ms. Astor's prize pooches in the butler's pantry (and steal the Astor summer cottage in Maine). If this was that kind of blog I'd continue ranting but it ain't...though driving into midtown today down the Henry Hudson Parkway I passed up something I've been meaning to write about for a long time...the West 79th Street Boat Basin. I'm sequestered in a hotel on 54th Street with the air conditioning blasting and some mindless corporate fool droning on, perfect opportunity to write about sailing.

Owned and operated by the NYC Department of Parks & Recreation, the boat basin provides seasonal dockage, Transient Dockage ($2.50/linear foot/day), passenger pick up and drop off, moorings, pump out, electricity and a special "dock and dine" rate (four hours) in the event that you wish to take sustenance at the 79th Street Boat Basin Cafe. Manhattan Island is flanked by the East River and the Hudson River...both of which meet in NY Harbor. The 79th Street Boat Basin is on the Hudson River, far enough "uptown" on the west side to be pleasant and certainly a better choice for picking up a mooring than, say, Hoboken. My favorite part about the boat basin? It's one of the very few places in the city you can actually see real live sailboats at anchor. As well the sun sets very nicely over New Jersey. No offense Tillerman ;-)

Friday, July 28, 2006

the reflection of the summer sky in the water

I too many and many a time cross’d the river, the sun half an hour high;
I watched the Twelfth-month sea-gulls—I saw them high in the air, floating with motionless wings, oscillating their bodies,
I saw how the glistening yellow lit up parts of their bodies, and left the rest in strong shadow,
I saw the slow-wheeling circles, and the gradual edging toward the south.

I too saw the reflection of the summer sky in the water,
Had my eyes dazzled by the shimmering track of beams,
Look’d at the fine centrifugal spokes of light around the shape of my head in the sun-lit water,
Look’d on the haze on the hills southward and southwestward,
Look’d on the vapor as it flew in fleeces tinged with violet,
Look’d toward the lower bay to notice the arriving ships,
Saw their approach, saw aboard those that were near me,
Saw the white sails of schooners and sloops—saw the ships at anchor,
The sailors at work in the rigging, or out astride the spars...

- Walt Whitman "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry" Leaves of Grass (1900)

Thursday, July 27, 2006

If I Had Ten Million Dollars (I'd be rich)

Readers from my generation (known as "X") will recognize the title of this post as a bastardized version of a song from the Barenaked Ladies. A big part of being a corporate wage slave is dreaming and so along those lines, if I had ten million dollars I'd buy a Hinckley Sou'wester 70 designed by now retired naval architect, Bruce King. Big dream, yes...might as well aim high while wandering about the land of make-believe.

If I bought the Blue Muse, a Hinckley Sou'wester 70 Center Cockpit Pilothouse Ketch (see above) built in 2003, I'd have roughly four million left from my original ten...enough to pay a captain and the annual maintenance fees for a number of years and enough (assuming a conservative 6% return annually) to have a hell of a good time cruising the world in luxury and style. If you doubt click on the Blue Muse link and take the tour...she has everything including several self contained waterproof bulkheads, the absolute latest in sat comms, wireless Internet throughout, a nav station to die for, an owners suite befitting a king, a clothes washer & dryer, a fricking dishwasher (can you believe it), icemaker, watermaker, self contained engine room, marble, granite, a crotch mahogany table with a custom inlay border in the main saloon, the list goes on and on.

I know, I know...I should be more of a purist and I am, in reality. But when it comes to dreaming why not go for broke? After all, "broke" basically describes my financial situation...

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

A Rockville Regatta Disclosure

I emailed a friend of mind, let's call him "Tony," about a visit we're planning to Richmond, VA, where he now lives with his family. Tony is a Charleston, SC native and a former member of the Sea Island YC, so naturally I directed him to my recent post on the world-famous Rockville Regatta.

Here is his response, verbatim.

any mention of the masses of rednecks mud rasslin' on the bank? any mention of boats dodging beer cans in the water. any mention of the throngs of young girls losing their virginity this weekend. how about the schools of jellyfish making urinating a hazardous endeavor? we were members of the Sea Island Yacht Club back in the day and spent many a weekend in Rockville. the regatta was quite the proving ground for young (too young) kids

Thank you Tony for adding your native flavor to my admittedly mundane perspective. This (really) sounds like my kind of party. So why can't New England unclench and get a hoedown along these lines on the books? I'm not certain Block Island Race Week quite measures up...

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

500 Posts & the Newport Bucket

Yesterday was the 500th post on Zephyr...a mark that speaks, at least, to consistency over the past 18 or so months if nothing else ;-) ANT thanks for your comment yesterday on the Royal Cork and Crosshaven. I can't wait to try the seafood-chowder, on the terrace with a pint of irish brew.

I had the good fortune to crew on Tom Taylor's Ron Holland-designed yacht, Avalon (formerly Gleam) during the Newport Bucket Invitational Regatta last July. I wrote about it extensively and, as well, covered the sad news of Tom's death back in February. I was not in attendance at this years race (held last weekend) but you can click through the web site to get a sense of the event - limited to sailing yachts above 80' - view race results, photos, history, etc. During the cooler part of the year the organizers hold the St Barth's Bucket in the islands which, according to reports, was utterly becalmed...not good news for sailboats this size. Hope they had a good blow up in Newport last weekend. Highlights of my experience last summer include racing with Ron Holland himself, having the charter chef for the classic J-class yacht Endeavor as a crew mate (and getting a tour of the beauty), meeting yacht designer Ted Fontaine on one of his Friendship 40's dockside...and generally having a hell of a good time at the races and parties.

Monday, July 24, 2006

The Royal Cork YC

My folks - who are retired - just landed in Manchester, England this morning for the start of a five week sojurn through Ireland by motorcycle. No, my mother will not be piloting her own "hog" - they'll ride tandem and she will, ideally, hang on for dear life. They're both avid sailors who regularly partake in ancillary pursuits...including travel via means other than the wind and water, motorcycles and, the larger point of the Ireland trip, fly fishing.

I've never been to Ireland but when I do go I'll be certain to stop in Crosshaven (on the southern coast nestled on the hillside at the mouth of the Owenabue River overlooking the wooded headland of Currabinny) and pay a visit to the world's oldest yacht club - The Royal Cork. Posesssed of a history so illustrious that they've published their own book (written by the eminent historian Dr. Alicia St Leger) - the RCYC was established in 1720 by William O'Brien, the 9th Lord Inchiquin, a great-grandson to the 1st Earl of Inchiquin, who was a courtier of King Charles II.

The Cork Harbour One D's - designed by William Fife Jr. - took to the water in June of 1896 and since then have provided outstanding sailing enjoyment for the better part of the last 100 years. Of the ten boats built originally, five or six are still in service today.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Mike Winston & Captain Thomas W. Motley aboard S/Y Javelin. Inbound New York Harbor... sometime before 9/11.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Skip Etchells & the Summer of '79

My friend Joe (who grew up in the NYC area) emailed this morning - I assume partly in response to yesterdays post on the one design Shields Class - with detail on his first "real" sailing experience back in the summer of 1979. Joe reads Zephyr and we've discussed sailing before...but little did I know that between his junior and senior year in high school he worked for Skip and Mary Etchells.

Damn Joe! You suprised me. That's sort of a big deal.

Says Joe - "Mrs. Etchells hired my friend Randy and I to work in her small clothing business where she designed and produced woman’s clothing. Often Skip would come by and ask me to help him work on his boats. At the time I did not really know what a renowned sailor he was, but spending days working with him was always a great way to make a few bucks. I still remember being on the water with him while he told me stories of his career. On a number of occasions he would call me on the weekend to see I would like to go sailing. The few times I did go, we didn’t go sailing – we were racing. During these so called “sailing” excursions Skip was all business and being a novice sailor at best, Skip would quickly get frustrated with my limited skills. None the less, I have very fond memories of that summer."

Fond memories, yes! And what good fortune to have spent that time with an individual who's contributed so significantly to the world of sailing.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

International Shields Class

In the background the Oxford/Bellevue Ferry - in the foreground is a Shields Class sloop. A crew member is swilling a post race cold one, origin unknown.

The Shields is a prime example of the timelessness of well-founded yacht design. Conceived as a modern follow-up to the International One Design Class, the Shields was designed in the 1960's by Olin Stephens (of Sparkman & Stephens). There are about 250 still sailed and raced today. Under the heading of "most notable gathering," the Shields 2006 National Championship Regatta will be hosted by the Beverly Yacht Club in Marion, MA on August 12.

You can view video of last years 40th Anniversary Shields National Championship (held in Larchmont, NY) by clicking on here.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Tred Avon Yacht Club, Keeper of the Flame

You may have noticed the below picture tagged "TAYC" - which stands for "Tred Avon Yacht Club." I've posted on the Tred Avon River here and folks have a place down that way and are participants in the TAYC program, located in Oxford, MD.

I mention it because the TAYC is the type of sailing club I really appreciate. It's unfussy, dedicated to sailing, conscious and respectful of its history...and the broader history of the sport. It's competitive without being obsessed. Committed to introducing youth to sailing. An active participant and sometime host of regional Chesapeake Bay sailing events. Despite not being a member, I can step up to the bar during Friday night races and feel completely at ease. There are a lot of activites offered to members and I bet 95% of them have something to do with sailing. Along those lines there is no pool, no tennis courts, no "members only" bar, no summer mansion in Newport. I do also appreciate the "historic" clubs in this country, NYYC comes to mind, the St Francis YC in San Francisco, in the Chesapeake region the Annapolis YC...there are a handful of others.

But the TAYC's of the world are the true keepers of the flame, in my mind.

This is why the picture below - with our four-year old son (in the middle) watching a racing sloop come downwind at the TAYC this past Friday - gladdens me.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Sails & Ales, TAYC - July 14, 2006


Heading back from Eastern Shore, Maryland time to post but I'll catch up tommorow or later tonight.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Friday, July 14, 2006

Mackinac Island, Great Lakes Yachting Mecca

Ward commented recently on the mecca post..."For the next two weeks (between the Port Huron-Mac and Chi-Mac races) Mackinac Island is some form of yachting Mecca, let me tell you."

He's right. Tommorow as many as 250 boats and 2,500 sailors set off in the 82nd annual Port Huron to Mackinac race -- among the world's longest fresh-water races with one of the largest fleets on the international circuit. The following Saturday is the start of the historic Chicago to Mackinac, which I wrote about earlier in the month...check that post for more detail.

Race details aside, Ward makes a valid point...too often coastal sailors neglect to give due respect to mariners from North America's "Inland Seas." As copy on the "Great Lakes Cruise" web site says: Over the centuries, these huge inland seas—which contain more than one-fifth of the world’s standing fresh water—have fascinated humankind. Voyageurs and homesteaders, poets and storytellers, missionaries and mapmakers, Native Americans and pioneers have all been drawn to the timeless beauty of the region.

All that being what it is - the Great Lakes are also home to some very good sailors. Thanks for the reminder Ward!

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Newport, RI - the "world-wide" Mecca of Sailing?

My blogging mate and fellow tri-stater Tillerman (who writes "Proper Course") has been racing at the annual Newport Regatta. Tillerman sails Lasers and writes one hell of a good sailing blog. One of his recent Newport-oriented posts waxes rhapsodic about the star quality of Newport, proclaiming that it is "...the Mecca of world-wide yachting."

For the sake of conversation let's start with a public admission that Newport rocks. It is, hands down, one of my favorite spots on the entire planet. And it is, indeed, the dominant sailing town in the U.S. - both from a historical and contemporary yachting perspective. As well it is so firmly identified in the American popular culture as "the" sailing town that despite other contenders mentioned in a comment I made to Tillerman's original post (including but not limited to: St Michaels, Bristol, Marblehead, Annapolis, Eastport, Sausalito, Southwest Harbor, Portsmouth, Charleston, Ft Lauderdale, Key West) - there is just nothing that compares reasonably to Newport.

But is it the "mecca of world-wide yachting?" I think not. Given that competitive sailing is rather competitive uI'm not sure that one could ever be definitively named. Certainly there are more historic sailing towns than Newport. There are grander sailing towns. The America's Cup hasn't been held in Newport in many a year. Consider Auckland, Sydney, Saltsjöbaden, Crosshaven, Cape Town, Cowes, Hong Kong, Singapore, the Solent, Perth, Hamilton, Malta. On the other hand, how much should nationalistic pride define something as expansive as a sailing "mecca?"

mec·ca (mµk“…) n. 1.a. A place that is regarded as the center of an activity or interest. b. A goal to which adherents of a religious faith or practice fervently aspire. 2. A place visited by many people.


Tuesday, July 11, 2006

STORM SURGE The chief engineer of the Stolt Surf took photographs as the tanker met a rogue wave in 1977. The deck, nearly 75 feet above sea level, was submerged. (Copyright 2006: The New York Times Company)

Rogue Giants at Sea

Register for the New York Times web site and you can click and read a very interesting article published yesterday concerning "rouge waves." As anyone who has been offshore recognizes, rougue waves are amongst the many hazards that mariners have endured for centuries. As the article points out, sailors and seamen who lived to tell the tale of a giant wave were often met with a healthy degree of skepticism when safely regaling their audience at the local marina watering hole.

But (capital "s") Science has now confirmed what we all suspected..."rougue" waves are not quite as rougue as you might like to think. In fact, they can be tracked and measured and even, holy shit, predicted (eventually). We have the technology! Or will in a decade.

Truly, encountering a 90 foot wave on the 3:00 AM watch is nothing to make light of. So take a few minutes to read William Broad's very well written and thoroughly researched article. It won't necessarily comfort you, but those of us who choose to sail offshore do so voluntarily...and with a certain resignation to the fact that we may be squashed like a bug. It's part of what makes it fun, after all.

“I never met, and hope I never will meet, such a monster,” said Wolfgang Rosenthal, a German scientist who helped the European Space Agency pioneer the study of rogue waves by radar satellite. “They are more frequent than we expected.”

Monday, July 10, 2006

Sailing the Lowcountry

This is the time of year when Lowcountry sailors - meaning those whose home waters lie in the the coastal region stretching from the Georgia border nearly all the way up the shore to North Carolina - prepare for a special race weekend...the annual Rockvillle Regatta. Sponsored by the Sea Island Yacht Club and held on the Bohicket Creek from Aug. 5-6, the Rockville Regatta (NASCAR meets Wimbledon) is a family affair populated by the descendants of plantation owners and Charleston, SC city folk who have apparently sought refuge from August heat in the near seaside village of Rockville for generations. I vacationed with my wife's family down in Kiawah Island in the spring of 2005 and attended a wedding in Rockville. As a Yankee born and bred, I'd not been exposed to our Lowcountry sailing cousins but believe it when I say that not only are there crack sailors down south, but the cruising grounds have a rare and often spectacular beauty. I've written about the Rockville Regatta previously so take a click back through the archives for more detail. As well here's a great overview article in "Lowcountry Living" Magazine.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Celebrating the Opti Dinghy

The Optimist Dinghy, designed and manufactured by Vanguard, has been the introduction to a lifelong love of sailing for many a junior swabbie. This shot was taken in Watch Hill, RI last Monday - a fleet of "Opti's" were gathering for a morning of instruction and racing in the harbor. Doubtless they're associated with the Watch Hill YC...but one of the great things about these boats is that they're easy to transport and maintain, not intimidating for a newbie (stable, flat bottom), relatively inexpensive and thus - contrary to much of sailing - accessible. Accessibility is a quality we all need to do more to foster if we want new blood to develop a passion for the sport and pastime of sailing.

According to Vangaurd, over 150,000 Optimist Dinghies are actively racing in 85 nations. The Optimist is one of the largest and fastest-growing classes in the world. Young sailors can race at the club, regional, national and world levels as their skills develop.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Stormy Weather in 1937

The Volvo is over. Flags down on the Newport to Bermuda. The Transpac is a number of months away. The America's Cup? Any Americans actually racing? Regardless, it's not until next summer. France plays Italy in football but the only water in that game will be in the coolers. What's next?

The annual Chicago-to-Mackinac Island race starts July every summer for over a 100 years, it's the most challenging distance sailing race in the Great Lakes region. As you can imagine, the summer storms are a huge factor. In spite of the coastal sailors assumption that sailing the Lakes is for sissies...the microburst thunderstorms that ply the Great Lakes in the summertime can be hazardous.

According to history of the race posted on the Chicago Yacht Club's web site - the storm of 1937 was an atypically hard test of the crews and yachts. Out of a fleet of 42, just eight yachts finished. After a start in light easterlies, a fast run dissolved into fierce squalls; then the storm began in earnest Sunday night. Driven by a full gales of wind, with heavy seas of 20 to 30 feet, the yachts were sent careening south under bare poles to safety or fighting to get within the dangerous breakwaters of Ludington and other ports of shelter. The tales that have come from this storm-tossed race are of courage, skill, endurance, and, of course, humor. T here are races when just the right conditions matched the particular qualities of a yacht's design, crew, strategy, and sails.

Amorita in 1911, Virginia in '25, White Cloud in '42, Pied Piper in '87, come to mind, but few exhibited such a synergy more dramatically than S/Y Rubaiyat's incredible win in the hard blow of '37.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Aphrodite Underway

This is a shot of Aphrodite - a 74-foot commuter yacht built in April 1937 by Purdy Boats Company in Port Washington for John Hay Whitney - she is seen here outbound from Watch Hill Harbor in Rhode Island this past Monday, July 3.

Owner Chuck Royce rescued and restored her in 2005...this remains a sailing blog but sometimes I have to bow to the other side of the aisle. Aphrodite is an utterly gorgeous craft and I felt lucky to have the chance to glimpse her underway. She's been written up in Soundings and Sailing Magazine, though I could not find the articles. A thread here has some nice interior and exterior photos as well as a post from Alan Dinn, grandson of the founder of Purdy Boats (he wrote a history of the yard, Boats by Purdy, in 2003)...he says she can do 27 knots and I believe him!

Tuesday, July 04, 2006