Thursday, September 28, 2006

Les douaniers français peuvent embrasser mon âne

Anyone who has been boarded by the Coast Guard under suspicion take a read here...admittedly it was French customs who treated three Brit yachtsmen like common criminals (waving guns in their faces, drug dog searches, talking banned, refusal to explain charges, etc). Given that there's been no love lost between these folks for centuries it makes sense that the French cheerfully seized upon an opportunity to harass British sailors...but in this day and age of guilty-until-proven- innocent (thank you George Bush) it pays to take heed. Leave the head stash on land.

From the Archive

Circa 2004 off Tiburon, CA

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Blow Your Mind

I worked on yachts for nearly five years and was privy to some amazing displays of what $$ can buy. But I have never, ever, seen anything like this. So go ahead, blow your mind.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Wash My Feets and Drive Me to Valencia

Busy times at my day job so a short post today. The SF Chron carried a story in the last Sunday edition on Valencia's new status as a tourist destination - thanks to the upcoming America's Cup. I once spent a month in the late 90's traversing Spain and the city of Valencia - known widely as a dump - was not a highlight of the tour. But according to the article the government is spending $637.5 million to spiff up the city with most of the money going to the waterfront..."in a spasm of pride about being the first European city to host the cup since 1851." A sailor can make themselves at home in just about any port with a bar...but the verdict is out on Valencia as far as I'm concerned.

In case you're wondering the title of this post is in reference to the much debated refrain of a certain Phish tune...

Monday, September 25, 2006

Under Sail, Under Wraps

The New York Times published a great article this past Friday in the travel extreme and unlikely example of counterintuitive sailing journalism...all the more notable for its source. The feature is titled, "Under Sail, Under Wraps" (registration may be required to view) and discusses at length the appeal of Lake Sakakawea, a deep reservoir of the Missouri River in western North Dakota. According to the author, Sakakawea, which is perpetually windy, is regarded as a hidden gem by the sailors who frequent its empty and open waters.

My heart beats more quickly when I cross the Pell Bridge into Newport and it thrills me to uncover discrete anchorages in well known cruising grounds like the Chesapeake Bay...but between these two ends of the spectrum - widely known and accepted sailing destination like Newport and lesser known spots within these places like Trappe Creek off the Tred Avon River near Oxford, MD - are frontier outposts like Sakakawea. I really enjoy learning about spots like this...even though my chances of sailing North Dakota are slim to none.

"...Sakakawea’s myriad channels and bays prompt a lifetime of exploration. Tight, long arms of the reservoir, which spread inland like tentacles off the body of the lake, let sailors float into the remote canyons that were flooded a half-century ago when the Garrison Dam was completed. These nautical badlands — scenic and unique to North Dakota — are strange Martian seascapes of tiered and multicolor hills, canyons, hoodoos and ash. Lines of lignite coal lace the hills. Cactuses dot the land. Fossils and petrified trees bake in the summer sun. The pumice stones of the region, airy and million-holed volcanic creations, actually float on water."

Friday, September 22, 2006

Rolex Swan Cup

Rolex Swan Cup - September 11-17, 2006
Porto Cervo, Sardinia, ITA
(Photo credit: Carlo Borlenghi)

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Might Makes Right

In a graphic example of what can happen when a sailboat tangles with big iron, the A.P. is reporting that one person was killed and two others rescued after a sailboat and a coal freighter collided in Long Island Sound early yesterday. Though the sailboat was 92' LOA - no dainty daysailer by any definition - the freighter was 600' and likely as not failed to register the bump as it mowed the good yacht Essence down. My parents sail offshore in their Morris 46' and when they're passing through shipping lanes at night, my mother is known to sit for hours in the cockpit, eyes glued nervously to the horizon...determined to ferret out the lurking freighter with the dozing watch captain. I admit...I've poked fun at her before.

No longer.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

STC Write-Up on the 2006 Vineyard

I wrote about the annual Stamford/Vineyard race a few weeks ago...the push to the Vineyard (and back) was notable this year for the stiff breeze thanks to Ernesto. A competitor and member of The Storm Trysail Club, Rich duMoulin, has detailed his experience, making several larger and well taken points on ocean racing in general. He covers watches, prep for a rough seaway, keeping the crew hydrated and other salient factors when offshore in a breeze...

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Monday, September 18, 2006

Old Lady and The Sea

We were on Maryland's Eastern Shore this past weekend...the below photo captures the Sunday light air start of the 2006 Naval Academy Race to Oxford...the fleet was heading back to Annapolis. Thanks to Tillerman here's a link to an account of the race from The Old Lady and the Sea.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

2006 NASS Race to Oxford

Sunday Morning Start - Tred Avon River, MD

Thursday, September 14, 2006

The Maltese Falcon & Her Freaky Masts

If you've been following the recent HP debacle (they hired a security consultant to snoop through journalists phone records) then you may have heard mention of former HP board member, Tom Perkins (of the VC firm Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers). Tom owns one of the world's largest private sailing yachts, The Maltese Falcon - a 289-foot Perini Navi vessel sporting three 57-meter tall masts.

A friend passed me this link from CNET...great pictures of the big girl underway after she formally set sail this past July 14 from a port in Italy. From a high-tech perspective the masts are her most notable features. As per CNET blogger Michael Kanellos...

The masts rotate to maximize speed and make the boat more aerodynamically efficient. The rotating mast concept was first conceived in the 1960s by German hydraulics engineer Wilhelm Prolls, but only became feasible later on with the advent of new composites, such as carbon fiber.

Insensys, which specializes in sensors for wind turbines and fiber optic cables, embedded its technology into the masts to provide the crew with data on the structural forces and other strain placed on the mast to ensure that they are not pushed to the breaking point.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The Future

Young Will Stands a Watch (Easton, MD - Summer 2005)

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Messing About in Sailboats

I like to feature new sailing's a small community with more than enough room for a diversity of voices. So when you have the chance please give a click over to "Messing About in Sailboats" authored by Adam Turinas. He's a fellow tri-stater located in New Jersey (move over Propercourse) and, though the blog is still in its infancy, he's thrown up several very interesting posts on his sailing exploits. Not to mention he has a wife who sails! Lucky bastard.

Welcome Adam!

"There is nothing - absolutely nothing - half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats." by Kenneth Graham. --- There are lots of blogs and web sites dedicated to racing, the Americas Cup, Transatlantic sailing, Round the World and all that serious stuff. This blog is for the rest of us. It's about the joy of messing about in sailboats. My hope is that it will be more Latitudes and Attitudes than Sail Magazine. I read both but I love the former.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Kozlowski Sells Endeavour for $13.1 m

Many of you have seen this by now but given that the remaining J/Class yachts are the sailing equivalent of floating altars, I thought that I should mention Kozlowski's $167 million legal bill, and his attempt to make good on at least 13 m via the sale of Endeavor. When I wrote this post last summer I actually had no idea Dennis owned the craft, but now it's quite clear that despite what the man lacked in moral fiber he at least had a sense of nautical aesthetic...

Bluejeans heiress Elizabeth Meyer, president of Newport, Rhode Island-based J Class Management, discovered Endeavour rotting at dock in England in 1984. Meyer spent five years and $10 m to restore the yacht before selling it to the Tyco chief executive for $15 m.

The identity of the purchasing party has not been made public.

Friday, September 08, 2006

These Days

I've been treading water in "reportorial" mode for the last week or so of posts but in advance the weekend I thought I'd turn reflective. My so-called commute is a 20 minute drive across the CT/NY border down beautiful winding country roads. The local NPR station fades as I leave town so I usually have music from the ipod playing...this morning it was Ray LaMontagne's new album, Till the Sun Turns Black. When the weather is nice, as it was this morning, the sun roof is open and I thoroughly enjoy the drive...even though it culminates in a parking lot full of cars and the inevitable tread to the windowless office for nine hours of canned air and computer screen. Poor me.

Along the country road this morning there were the first tinges of color on some of the trees and though the days are still warm and at night the crickets sing, before long we'll feel the advancing chill of winter...which means, among other things, the end of the sailing season around here.

In my past life as a boat bum we'd be gearing up for the push down to Florida, a nice point from which to make the jump to the Carribean for the winter season. We'd make every effort to time departure on the heels of a low pressure which would mean a lumpy sea under clear skies and a stiff breeze...not the worst combination.

These days I have the country road commute to look forward too, the pleasure of arriving home after a day of work to my young children and wife and, of course, the weekends. Not to mention that this time of the year is hands down the most glorious season to sail Long Island Sound, should I be so fortunate. It will soon be time for raking leaves and lighting fires in the fireplace and apple cider.

Not the worst combination.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

A Blowy Stamford/Vineyard

Clicking back down to the local level...this past weekend was the occasion of my favorite eastern seaboard race, the Stamford/Vineyard hosted by the SYC. Thanks to Ernesto the competitors had a stiff wind this year. In the late 90's I did the race a few times and just as often as not coasted through the Gut at 3:00 AM on the current and a prayer. Barring a hurricane, late August is not known to be the blowy season on the Sound. According to the re-cap on the club web site...the weather was the story of the weekend. Twenty six boats started Friday but all but three dropped out by noon Saturday, unable to continue in the easterly breezes. Steady winds of 30 knots were reported in the Sound Friday night with steep 6 to 8 foot seas from the east making the leg out to Buzzards Bay a rough one.

The Vineyard Race is the final race of three in the Northern Ocean Racing Trophy. The 238-mile course sails east out of Long Island Sound, past Block Island, R.I., to the light tower at Buzzard's Bay off Martha's Vineyard, and back.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The Velux 5 Oceans

Huh, what's that? Sounds like a new saltwater vacuum cleaner...

The race formerly known as the BOC Challenge - now called something else entirely - will begin October 22. Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, the first person to sail non-stop around the planet (Moitessier abandoned the race) when he won the Sunday Times Golden Globe in 1969, will be at age 67 the oldest and most experienced competitor.

Departing 10/22 from the Port of Getxo in Bilbao, the first leg will be to Australia via the Doldrums, around the Cape of Good Hope, and across the Indian Ocean.

After a short stopover in Fremantle, the skippers face probably the toughest leg: around the legendary Cape Horn to USA’s eastern Seaboard. The skippers take a break in Norfolk, VA before the final sprint across the Atlantic back to the finish, in Bilbao in the spring of 2007.

Whatever they call it, it's one hell of an endurance push and well worth following. Stay tuned!

Monday, September 04, 2006

Friday, September 01, 2006

Agassi's Spirit

I rarely go off topic to this degree but I had the privilege to be courtside at Arthur Ashe stadium in Flushing Meadow, NY last night for the Agassi/Baghdatis men's singles tennis match and, though I could not stay through the fifth set because of the late hour, I have to say that it will forever be one of the highlights of my sports event-attending life. In most cases I'd prefer to be watching a sailing race...and while I can swing a racket, I'm much more proficient around the buoys. But the tenacity and sheer grit of this 36-year old champion athlete was amazing to witness.

In tennis years Agassi is an old man contends with a bad back along with the loss of speed and agility he enjoyed in youth. Nonetheless he turned back the clock and played a game of consumate skill against a 21 year old battering ram. He had a greater reservoir of experience to draw upon and a 20 year career chock full of triumphs. But his indomitable spirit took him to victory last night.

This spirit is the defining characteristic of a champion and be it offshore racing, tennis, mountain climbing or's hard to cross the finish line a winner without it.

Have a great holiday weekend. I hope you have the opportunity to get out on the water.