Friday, March 30, 2007

AC 2007 & the New Media Explosion

The America's Cup hype is getting hard to ignore...already! One thing that has surely changed since the 2003 AC Race is how, where and why people get their news and information. From YouTube to RSS feeds, it's a whole new media world out there and we can expect that coverage of the cup will reflect this emerging landscape. This means more bloggers, video podcasters, etc feeding the channel and - for junkies like me who are unable to take the trip to sunny Spain this summer - more choices, richer content and a better opportunity to get close to the action from afar.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Go John Gage Go

Cruising World ran a story yesterday about John Gage, 74, who is anticipated to be one of the oldest people to have circumnavigated the globe when he sails into Raritan Bay on the New Jersey coast in early May.

Now we all agree that age is generally no barrier to sailing as long as one remains in good form...just ask Tillerman a top notch sailing blogger (and Laser cowboy) up in years who flogs the motto, "Cheat the nursing home. Die on your Laser." But sailing round the world is no mean feat for even the fittest and most stolid of sailors. John Gage may still have a few miles to cover...but I'm paying my respects in advance.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

International Rolex Regatta 2007 - St. Thomas YC
Sunday, March 25 (Photo Credit: Dan Nerney)

Monday, March 26, 2007

Sailing Podcasts

This morning on the way to work I listened to a sailing podcast via an iPod wired into the car stereo. What the hell am I babbling about, you may wonder. The "podcast" continues in the vein of new media channels with very odd names (blog, wiki, etc) but don't be's cooler than it sounds. Essentially an audio segment (thought they can be video) of a specific topic or set of topics, podcasts are downloadable clips that can be replayed on your computer or your iPod-type music player. I use iTunes and a 30 GB 5th gen video iPod but you can pretty much work with any combo of computer/listening device. If you go to iTunes, search the term "sailing" through the podcast channel and it will return about a dozen or so options you can then "subscribe" to. I've listed the best ones I've heard to date. Remember that this technology is just beginning to catch on to the broader masses so expect new channels to come on line...particularly as the AC ramps up in Spain this summer.

1) Full Sail Radio (audio/good tactics)
2) (audio/great interviews)
3) (video but in French)
4) good old boat newsletter (audio/great content but not updated frequently)
5) PodCastAway: Liveaboard Cruising (audio/terrific cruising podcast)

Friday, March 23, 2007

Two Years Old

My daughter is turning two today and, as I've mentioned before, I began Zephyr while waiting for my wife and our new little girl to come home from the happy birthday to the blog as well!

I'm going to pass on the introspection and navel gazing I'd usually indulge favor of a look to the future. The other day we received a packet from the Tred Avon Yacht Club in Oxford, MD. My parents have a house there and we've talked about putting the kids through the TAYC sailing program - which is known to be very good. Our son is five and has recently learned to swim so I thought maybe this was his summer to brave the Opti's, but the TAYC program begins them at he'll wait another year.

One of the things that I enjoy about being a parent is being able to pass along experiences and opportunities that are close to my heart. Sailing is one such activity. Our boy has been aboard his Granddad's sloop and, though we don't currently own a sailboat, he is well aware of my passion. I should mention that our little girl - talker that she is - can readily identify a "tailboat."

As our children grow I'm looking forward to the moments we'll have on the water. It will be very nice to have this touchstone...a way to spend time together that transcends the hue and cry of this busy world.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Acura Miami Grand Prix - March 8-11, 2007
Miami, FL (Photo credit: Amory Ross & Walter Cooper)

Springtime Sock Burning

It's a welcome sign of spring...sort of a sailing Groundhog Day for east coast boaties...the annual Annapolis Sock Burning which took place tonight in the nearby Republic of Eastport. Thanks go to the Annapolis Maritime Museum for hosting this bit of ritual "Ode to the Equinox" pageantry. If the wind is right and they can smell fragrance de burnt sock across the water on the dock of the AYC then the racing season begins two weeks earlier...according to local lore ;-)

Monday, March 19, 2007

A Love Affair

You're likely not in my demographic if you're on the hunt for a classic yacht to restore - it's not so much a questions of money (though I have none) - as it is one of the luxury of free time (I have none) and a patience and purpose (again, none) to labor at the service of a dream that may never come to pass. Such is the standard formula for a classic yacht love affair, in many ways not all that different from the human variety. But what do I know? I'm only a married-with-two-little-kids and a dream sucking corporate-desk-job slob. I'm not the throw-it-all-away to render beauty and classicism real type yachtsman.

Problem is that I actually am. But I'm way, way undercover. Shhhhhhhh...

Take a look here at the 72' Rhodes-designed "Escapade." She's ripe for a lover with grand vision and deep pockets. Perhaps one of you will woo her?

There's something ineffable about watching a classic yacht under sail. It scratches a place deep down in me that nothing else can seem to reach. That's a love affair, truly. Hurts so good.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Take the Corporate Stiffs Sailing

I completed management training today despite the spring snowstorm that's whacked the Northeast U.S. and though I learned a great deal through the week and appreciate the opportunity, I'll be glad to be back to my regular program. Sitting in a class eight hours a day is no fun at all if you're not accessing the pressure relieving "extracurricular" activities we enjoyed as college students. Which brings me to the topic of this post...earlier in the week I had written about the unsung role of the grinder in the context of the larger team on a racing yacht. I noted at the time that the lessons one learns as part of the crew on a big sailboat have more than a few similarities with the things I was being taught during the management courses.

The post spurred a lively conversation between Tillerman and Carol Anne, the gist of which you can read here. They both make good points and I have to agree that if I was learning these management lessons aboard a sailboat - as opposed to spending eight hours in the classroom - not only would I be personally thrilled...but I think that my fellow students (once past their fear of tipping over on heel) might actually get more from the material. Does anyone know of organizations that do this sort of corporate training? Sounds like a tremendous business opportunity.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Rat Haven No More

If you are old enough you'll remember the tune "Big Yellow Taxi" by Joni Mitchell...the refrain goes something like, " They paved paradise...and put up a parking lot."

Give a read here and you'll see it's coming to pass. It seems that the Caribbean is running out of parking space...for yachts! When I first moved to St. Thomas I lived on a derelict sailboat in the harbor of the Ramada Yacht Haven Marina. We boaties may have nicknamed it "rat haven" but dammit, it was home (for a little while). The hotel and marina were destroyed by a hurricane in the late 1990's...but now look what they're doing to the old girl. Lipstick on a pig...she's going upscale.

"Leading the pack is Yacht Haven Grande in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, which is being upgraded at a cost of $200 million in a part of Charlotte Amalie harbor once so blighted that boaters called it ''rat haven.''

Promoted as the largest mega-yacht facility in the Caribbean, the marina has hosted Rising Sun, a 452-foot, five-story behemoth with 82 rooms and a generator capable of powering a small town. The mega-yacht, the world's fifth largest, was built for Oracle Corp. co-founder and CEO Larry Ellison."

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

27th St. Maarten Heineken Regatta - March 1-4, 2007
St. Maarten, West Indies (Photo credit Amory Ross)

An Ode to the Grinder

I am deep in "management training" sessions this week for my company and generally away from my computer so posting will be spotty. I did want to point to this tremendous article concerning the unsung hero of big boat sailing...the Grinder! For many years I was "head grinder" aboard the maxi yacht Javelin and though I attribute this honor to my bad back now that I am well out of my invincible 20's...I have to agree with the journalist that grinders are the "...power behind the challenge." And for those of you high hifalutin mast men or bow monkeys who want to sneer, remember that the success of your job depends on how we execute ours. This is, in fact, the key take away of big boat team sailing and ties right into the management team leadership training I'm being subjected to for the rest of the afternoon. Sailboat racing and the corporate world...who knew they taught so many of the same lessons ;-)

Friday, March 09, 2007

Update from S/Y Red Admiral

As regular readers know, my folks have been cruising this past winter in the Caribbean Islands aboard their 46' Morris sloop. I just received an update via satellite email and am posting it below. It was 10 degrees this AM in the Northeast U.S. Though I spent many years living and sailing in the islands through the mid to late 1990's...I sure could use a dose of it now!

Following from S/Y Red Admiral - 3/4/07 (Homeward Bound)

Hello to All from Anguilla:
Yesterday Mike and I left St. Martin where we first arrived in November and began the first leg of our homeward trip by sailing to Anguilla. We had been in St. Martin resupplying etc. for the better part of a week and had even been able to enjoy a bit of the Heineken Regatta. There are three major regattas in the Caribbean during the season: Heineken in St. Martin, the Rolex in the Virgin Islands and Antigua Race week. We will be in the Virgins for the Rolex and so
will be able to enjoy that too. It was fun to be at anchor surrounded by 300 plus racing boats all with flags flying in the breeze - very festive!

Since I last wrote, as we were leaving Dominica and Guadalupe, we have also visited both St. Kitts and Nevis as well as Antigua again.

We have had some adventures. We dragged twice while we were off the boat and when rescued by some very nice people were on the way to Panama. Needless to say we now not only back our anchor in, but also swim over it with a mask to make sure that all is well.

We have met some nice people. The English couple who rescued our boat the first time have become sailing buddies and have introduced us to other friends of theirs. We all spent 5 days waiting for a weather window in a lovely cove on St. Kitts where the sheep and cows grazed all over the hillside and the snorkeling was good. The fourth boat in the cove turned out to be an 80 year old Hungarian/American and his 72 year old wife who have made this trip from their home in Falmouth, Mass. for the last four years - amazing!!

We have had some fun. We snorkeled for a lost anchor that had fallen off one of the boats as they were anchoring in the cove on St. Kitts. The prize was 10 EC and I won! In addition to anchors we saw turtles and rays and many small reef fish. We all hiked to the beach down the road and had lunch at a fun beach bar. We cocktailed back and forth and had lunch on our boat. We toured St. Kitts and Nevis and had wonderful lunches at former plantations. Such is the
cruising life!

We will be in Anguilla with our buddies for the next three days or so and then will leave for St. Croix and the rest of the Virgins. Sandy will be joining us for the last week in March (his 60th
birthday present) and then we will begin to provision the boat for the trip home. We have 3 other men coming down to help us with the trip back. We are allowing two weeks for the return trip so hope to be picking up our mooring in Maryland by the end of April.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Bruce and Jan Smith

I had a tremendous comment from Mike Bernstein of the restaurant chain Bahama Breeze come through yesterday...he was writing on behalf of his friends Bruce and Jan Smith, who are currently anchored aboard their hand-built 34-ft. gaff-rigged ketch, Woodwind off Santa Barbera De Samana in the Dominican Republic. The Smiths are celebs du jour in the cruising world...for very good reasons. I won't bore you with the details because you can read all about it in far more vivid prose on their blog! Thanks Mike for writing...I visited the Bahama Breeze in Tampa Bay recently and had a very tasty dinner ;-)

Following posted by Mike Bernstein:
As a cruiser/sailing enthusiast who blogs about boats and sailing, you might be interested in another sailing blog by Bruce and Jan Smith, who are sailing to the Caribbean aboard their hand-built 34-ft. gaff-rigged ketch, Woodwind. They started the journey from their home in Gig Harbor, Washington, last summer and are now on the northern coast of the Dominican Republic. Along the way, they’re keeping their friends, family and fellow cruisers updated on their adventures with their Web site and blog.

Speaking of adventures, you might have seen the news story about the two American cruisers who rescued some Haitian migrants last week, after their boat had caught fire and blown up at sea. Bruce and Jan Smith are the two Americans! They tell the story of the tragic event and emotional rescue on their blog, including some photos.

It’s really an amazing and heroic story, and ponders a question every cruiser has probably thought about at one time or another … with the threat of piracy and other dangers when sailing miles offshore, would you risk your own safety to save someone else? The Smiths’ story provides food for thought. Hope you find it interesting!

Posted by Mike Bernstein of Bahama Breeze for Bruce and Jan Smith, who are currently anchored off Santa Barbera De Samana, Dominican Republic.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

27th St. Maarten Heineken Regatta - March 1-4, 2007
St. Maarten, West Indies (Photo credit Amory Ross)

Monday, March 05, 2007

Tall Ship "Spirit of South Carolina" Launched

Since a visit - nearly two years ago - to Charleston, SC for a wedding I've been interested in and posted on the lowcountry sailing scene. South Carolina is a sailors mecca, allbeit not as high profile as Newport or Annapolis...and so it's with great pleasure that I point to news of Sunday's launch of South Carolina’s only tall ship - a 142-ton, wooden schooner aptly named "Spirit of South Carolina." The project is sponsored by the South Carolina Maritime Heritage Foundation which is itself the repository of a wealth of SC Maritime history.

According to SCMHF, the Spirit of South Carolina is a pilot schooner reminiscent of the Frances Elizabeth, a vessel that was originally built by the Samuel J. Pregnall & Bros. Shipyard in Charleston in 1879 and served pilots in this city's harbor for 25 years. Plans for the Frances Elizabeth, from which the new ship has been adapted, were found at the Smithsonian Institution within that organization's extensive collection.

Friday, March 02, 2007

In Search of a Good Seagoing Flick

I'm no Kevin Costner fan but I took a chance the other night, fortified by a good bottle of red wine from Washington State (2002 Stella Maris) and slapped "The Guardian" on the tube. For those unfamiliar, the movie - billed as "Top Gun" meets "An Officer and A Gentleman" for the U.S. Coast Guard - is about a long time rescue swimmer Ben Randall and his upstart successor, played by Ashton Kutcher. The ocean rescue scenes were very cool...though I don't recall any that stood out involving a sailboat...but the plot was a real snoozer. Even hotty Melissa Sagemiller struggled but ultimately failed to "rescue" it.

I'm sure I'm not alone when I wonder come nobody can make a modern sailing/seagoing movie (Master and Commander, Captain Ron & Dead Calm excluded) worth a damn? I mean "Wind" was abysmal (1992 w/ Matthew Modine). Is it just that sailing doesn't translate to film? Or maybe it's so niche that good film makers aren't attracted to the topic? Or maybe I'm's happened before.

Thursday, March 01, 2007