Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Swan American Regatta - July 15-20, 2007
Newport, RI (Photo credit Daniel Forster)

Talking Turkey

We all have dream sailing destinations that we know deep down, were we to have the pleasure of experiencing them, would meet our every expectation without fail. Of course one sailing ground is more or less like another in so much as elements of risk and challenge remain a part of the sailing environment no matter where you are. Sure the shoals are not as rocky in the B.V.I. compared to Down East Maine. Certainly the Chesapeake Bay in the summertime sees decidedly less steady wind than Rhode Island's Narragansett. But we all know that an anchor can drag no matter where you are... Regardless, I'm dedicated to my dream of one day sailing the Turkish coastline. Any of you who may share this fantasy than here's a story that will send you. Enjoy!

Friday, July 27, 2007

Up the Tred Avon River (a lesson)

We had an amazing summer sail on the Chesapeake Bay this past Saturday - we being my father, myself and my five year old son (above). We were on Dad's 46' Morris sloop, which was being hauled the following Monday for maintenance, and exceedingly blessed with wind, blue skies and moderate, humidity-free temperatures. Not a typical mid-summer day on the Bay. Beyond the delight I had in the all too rare experience of being under sail on a perfect day...I came off the water profoundly grateful to have been able to share such a pleasant time with two of the most important people in my life. Our family is not given to platitudes, but for a few short hours the world was my father and my son and a steady breeze. Three generations of us short tacking together up the Tred Avon River.

I know that my son fathomed - in his own way - the special quality of our time together that afternoon because of something that happened later, after the sail. When we picked the mooring back up I let him know that I'd take him to the dock and then come back in the dinghy for "Big Dad" as he calls his Grandfather, who was busily putting the yacht to right. I dropped the boy off and told him to go find his Mother then joined Dad back on the boat to help as I could. Back at the house the boy asked why we'd taken so long to come off the boat.

"I was helping your Granddad put the Red Admiral to bed," I said. Instantly his jaw set and he angrily stomped into the other room. I followed. "What's wrong?"

"Dad," he said, trying to hold the anger but now on the edge of tears. "That's not fair. I wanted to help too. Why did you drop me off and go back without me?"

"I'm sorry," I said, understanding. It had been the three of us together on the water and it should have been the three of us coming off of it. He knew, perhaps instinctively, that you don't give something like that up before you absolutely have to.

And I knew, with the perspective of accumulated years, that when we were no longer able to spend time together in this way, I'd be thankful my son had taught me this lesson.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Inside the High-Tech Hunt for a Missing Silicon Valley Legend

You may remember the tale of Microsoft researcher & computing legend Jim Gray...whose MIA status after leaving for a day sail off San Francisco in his red 40-foot sloop Tenacious spurred Silicon Valley luminaries and fellow techies to mount an inexhaustible search. Theories abounded. He split for old Mexico. A rogue wave swamped the boat and took it down. He had a heart attack and drifted unconscious or dead into the fierce currents that sweep the often treacherous Pacific Ocean. No matter the speculation or the swelling cast of high-tech elite scouring the waters...Gray was gone and not a trace could anyone find.

If you have twenty or so minutes, WIRED Magazine has published an in-depth look at the incident and it's a great read from the perspective of how high technology can be applied to an ocean search that, despite it's breadth and assistance from..."some of the best minds in science and technology, among them Amazon.com chief technologist Werner Vogels and top executives at Microsoft and Oracle, including Bill Gates and Larry Ellison..." has been utterly fruitless to date.

Monday, July 23, 2007

A blustery day in Oxford Harbor
Saturday, July 21, Oxford, MD

Carleton Mitchell Dies at 96

Carleton Mitchell died last Monday at the ripe old age of 96 - below is the NYT obit in its entirety. Those of you who are offshore sailors and have not read Mitchell order a copy of "Passage East" and give it a read...

In “Passage East,” Mr. Mitchell wrote about the mind-set of ocean racers:

“Here we are, nine men, driving a fragile complex of wood, metal and cloth through driving rain and building sea, a thousand miles from the nearest harbor; no one to see or admire or applaud; no one to help if our temerity ends in disaster. We are driven by our own compulsions, each personal and secret, so nebulous we probably could not express them to our mates if we tried. But in our own way, we are about as dedicated as it is possible for men to be.”


Carleton Mitchell, 96, Sailor Who Wrote About Yachting, Is Dead

Carleton Mitchell, who won the prestigious Newport Bermuda Race a record three consecutive times, and chronicled the joys and challenges of sailing in his books, magazine articles and photographs, died Monday at his home in Key Biscayne, Fla. He was 96.

His death was announced by John Rousmaniere, a family friend and a writer on sailing.

In the early Depression years, Mr. Mitchell was working at Macy’s in Manhattan, a dropout from Miami University of Ohio who was collecting rejection slips for Western novels. He had sailed as a youngster on Lake Pontchartrain, and he vowed to pursue his dream to be a sailor.

With a $500 stake from his mother, he got a job as a stevedore in Miami. He later worked as a photographer in the Bahamas, taught combat photography in the Navy during World War II, then turned to sailing and writing.

Mr. Mitchell sailed through the Caribbean in 1946, and, at a time when it was only lightly visited, wrote of his experiences in “Islands to Windward” (1948). After competing in a trans-Atlantic race, he wrote on ocean racing in “Passage East” (1953). C. B. Palmer wrote in The New York Times Book Review that Mr. Mitchell’s photographs in that book were “among the most moving ever made of that beautiful object, a vessel under sail.”

Mr. Mitchell reveled in the approach to life that sailing provided.

“No 20th-century man can really escape, but a boat gives a man the opportunity to get away from the turmoil and into direct contact with nature,” he told Gay Talese of The New York Times in 1958, after he won the Miami-to-Nassau yacht race. “Somehow the detached life on the sea gives me the ability to think. It’s a life of action, yet contemplation.”

Mr. Mitchell was best known as a competitor for his victories in 1956, ’58 and ’60 in the 635-mile race from Newport to Bermuda, winning in his 38-foot yawl Finisterre.

“His innovation, with the assistance of yacht designers, was to be able to make a wide boat competitive in racing as well as roomy for cruising; that was the real insight,” said Mr. Rousmaniere, the author of “A Berth to Bermuda” (2006), a history of the Newport Bermuda Race.

Between the 1950s and 1970s, one of the most popular and successful boat models was known as the Finisterre-type yawl, Mr. Rousmaniere said. Mr. Mitchell’s 1960 victory in the Newport Bermuda Race was his last major competition.

He is survived by his second wife, Ruth. His first wife, Elizabeth, predeceased him.

In “Passage East,” Mr. Mitchell wrote about the mind-set of ocean racers:

“Here we are, nine men, driving a fragile complex of wood, metal and cloth through driving rain and building sea, a thousand miles from the nearest harbor; no one to see or admire or applaud; no one to help if our temerity ends in disaster. We are driven by our own compulsions, each personal and secret, so nebulous we probably could not express them to our mates if we tried. But in our own way, we are about as dedicated as it is possible for men to be.”

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

A Real Life Offshore Primer

This past spring saw several rescues and disasters-at-sea off this coast of North Carolina...for a refresher you can read in the Zephyr archive here and here. If you have a few minutes take a close look at this posting in the Kittyhawk Free Press - it recounts in detail the blow-by-blow of experienced transatlantic sailor Jean Pierre DeLutz's struggle to weather high seas and a sustained 75 knot wind about 200 nautical miles off the coast. He and his two crew were rescued by the Coast Guard. His beloved yacht, the Sean Seamour II, sunk.

The account should be a must read primer for any sailor making an offshore or coastal passage...whether an old or new salt. Though Jean Pierre did all he could to deal with the situation in a measured and deliberate way...a series of unlucky events combined with exhaustion and the unrelenting weather resulted in the decision to abandon ship. Kudos to Jean Pierre for sharing his ordeal with the sailing community in such excruciating detail.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Heads Up: CBS AC Special Airing Tommorow

CBS will broadcast a one hour highlight show of the America’s Cup on CBS Sports Spectacular called, America’s Cup, A Sailor’s Story. The show will air this Saturday, July 14th, 2007, from 2-3:00 PM.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Swan 45 Gold Cup - July 2-8, 2007
Cowes, England (Photo credit: Ingrid Abery)

Setting Sail on a Sea of Sales

Anyone in the market for a sailboat would do well to review Eric Sorensen's' article published this past June, "Setting Sail on a Sea of Sales." Eric reads Zephyr once in awhile and drew my attention to his article in a comment...he ended up with a Yankee Dolphin 24, "...small but fit for travel, with a great four-stroke engine, teak trim and a seaworthy Sparkman & Stephens design." And he learned a few things along the way that will stand any yacht shopper in good stead.

On another note sorry for the dearth of posts lately. I'm on a summer schedule which means more time outside (on the water) and less in front of the computer. Hopefully you will relate and stick with me ;-)

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Back on Board

I've been on a bit of a summer holiday break from the blog...spent some time down on the Chesapeake with the family (see below pictures) and enjoyed some terrific cool and sunny weather that reminded me more of New England than Maryland in July. We managed to get some sailing on the Laser in under a gorgeous 15 knots (yeah Tillerman) and as well attended the Friday night "Sails and Ales" at the T.A.Y.C. where we had the pleasure of watching a number of Shields Class one design sloops move about the buoys....see a shot of one in the photo group below. The boats are absolutely breathtaking under sail!

As per WikiPedia...In 1963 Cornelius Shields, one of the foremost proponents of one-design sailing in the U.S. conceived of a modern follow up to the International One Design. The new boat would have the balance and beauty of the IOD while incorporating modern trends such as fiberglass construction. Shields commissioned none other than Olin Stephens for the design. Over 250 have been built and many are actively raced in fleets around the U.S. Shields are sloop-rigged and usually sailed by a crew of three to five. No hiking straps are allowed, keeping athletic demands on the crew to a minimum.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007