Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Zen and the Art of Writing on Sailing

We're coming up on my daughter's second birthday which means, by default, that Zephyr's two-year anniversary is nigh as well. The two coincide and though she's our second child and I can't claim, necessarily, that this blog stemmed entirely from new baby angst - the intersection of these two dates prompts reflection. I'll leave thoughts about the joy in seeing our little girl grow and thrive for another place. Certainly in two years Zephyr has grown and, in it's own small way, thrived as well. But, I wonder, to what end? You'll not see any advertisements on the surrounding spaces and I'm a far cry from a household name.

I take satisfaction in the recognition I've received from my blogging peers. From the comments I've received from readers worldwide. From the readers who have remained consistently interested. I'm glad to have a chance to learn more about sailing and to be able to write regularly, if briefly, amidst the more mundane aspects of day-to-day life. In a way writing Zephyr has helped alleviate the frustration that I don't get to sail as regularly as I once did. Or that with all of the expenses that come with supporting a family, I've yet to own an sailing boat (though having worked on boats for years my knowledge of hidden costs tempers this regret somewhat).

Zen - says the all knowing Wikipedia - is a form of Mahayana Buddhism that places great importance on moment-by-moment awareness and 'seeing deeply into the nature of things' by direct experience. I'm not a practicing Buddhist but I've always been attracted to this concept of "Zen" and it's implications in terms of awareness and experience. And I think that - when looking back on two years of writing about, " Sailing culture for voyagers, zealots, poets and populists" - being aware of the sailing realm through covering it on a near daily basis coupled with the chance to relive and relate my past experiences as a boat bum to an audience, however modest and ephemeral, have been the two most rewarding aspects of the past 24 months.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Sailor Missing, Bound for Farallones

According to news reports, Jim Gray, 63, founder and manager of Microsoft's Bay Area Research Center is missing after he left Sunday morning for what he told family was a day sailing trip to the Farallon Islands to dispose of his mother's ashes.

Gray left early Sunday in his 40-foot C&C yacht, Tenacious, from a marina near San Francisco's Fort Mason. A U.S. Coast Guard spokeswoman said Gray called a family member on his cell phone about 10:30 a.m. to say he was sailing out of cell-phone range and would call when he returned in range. His wife reported him missing shortly after 8:30 p.m. Sunday when he did not show up and calls to his cell phone went unanswered.

The Farallones are 27 miles west of the Golden Gate Bridge and are known not only for their desolateness...but as well for the rough, shark infested waters that beat upon the few, barren rocks that make up the lonely outpost. The islands are the site of many shipwrecks, including the liberty ship SS Henry Bergh, a converted troop carrier that wrecked in 1944, pieces of which can still be seen from the island today (all hands were saved).

The coast of Northern California makes for tough sailing when compared with gentler Northeastern U.S. cruising grounds like the Chesapeake or Narragansett Bays. Though the day was clear and sunny when Jim set off...who knows what he encountered out there. My thoughts and prayers are with his family for his safe return.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Dominica II


Following excerpted from an email dated 1/27/07 - S/V Red Admiral anchored Dominica, W.I.
We've had a wonderful stay here. This is a special place. Before, when coming to the Caribbean, the reason was simply to change the weather and our environment. We came, enjoyed and left, over and over during the years. Our visit this time, and never more so than to Dominica, has allowed us to understand something of the cultural history of the area. Its a completely different orientation and an unexpected benefit of the trip.

I can't convey the substance of what we've learned and understood in this medium. But I may be able to share a few of our encounters here and give you an idea of why this island is unto itself.

First, it is tremendously rich in natural beauty and resources. As our driver said, "anyone who does not have enough to eat here is lazy." Almost every vegetable, fruit, nut and spice you can think of grows here freely among the natural forest. At one time there were slave plantations dedicated to this production. Since then, the slaves have gone, the plantations have fallen into disarray for the most part, and the forest has reclaimed the land around the crops. So they now are attended to by families and are interspersed among the native flowers and trees. It all seems so natural and uncultivated. Yet Dominica supplies most of the Caribbean and much of the world with its produce.

Second, the people are very forthcoming and friendly with one another and with strangers. They speak English, which of course helps from our point of view. But despite extremely simple, basic living conditions, there is laughter, music and good humor almost without exception. The children wear clothes that are pressed and clean. They may live in our notion of a hovel, but you would never know that from their appearance.

Some years ago, in the 1980's, Dominica had a bad reputation in the cruising community. There were thefts, at least one case of murder, and other events which led most guides to say "stay away." Fifteen years ago a young man (now 35) named "Martin" persuaded everyone preying on visiting yachts to form an Association. He secured government support. Membership required going through an education program in Dominica's history, resources, etc and certification . The group organized security patrols at night. The thefts stopped. Prices were posted for different tours led by informed people. Boats arriving to Dominica did not have to take advantage of this, but if they wanted to see the Island (which is big), it was the natural choice. The guide books changed their advice about coming here. They named and recommended the Association. Now today, many young men are gainfully employed, have come to take great pride in their Island, and make visiting here a unique experience.

At some point I'll put together some pictures which will give you a sense of the area. We'll be here another two days and then turn North, beginning our journey home.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Lex Lian. Bow Man


Riding the bow aboard Jacqueline Trudeau’s new “Trucordia Yawl"
January 27, 2007 - Second Life New England

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Here Now, Gone Tomorrow.

If you've been reading Zephyr for the past several months you'll know that my folks are cruising this winter (click the "Voyagers" tab to recall the postings) in the Caribbean aboard their 46' Morris sloop. They had a rough passage down in November, recovered in St. Maarten, spent the holidays in Antigua and are now making their way to Dominica by way of Guadeloupe...which will be their southernmost point for the season. From there they'll turn back north and make their way to the Virgins where they'll take aboard crew and make the passage back to the Northeast U.S. in mid-April. I recieved an email titled "Here now, gone tomorrow" from my father via satellite yesterday and - as it's not only well written but paints a very clear picture of their experience - I'm posting an excerpt below.
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From an email dated 1/24/07 "Here Now, Gone Tomorrow"
S/V Red Admiral anchored Iles des Saintes, French W.I.
Thought I would give you a sense of where we are. Things have settled out. Mechanical issues seem distant. We've now been at the "Saints" a week. Tomorrow we leave for Dominica.

We've slowed down a lot. Mentally. And in fact. We still get up at 6:00. One of us rises to turn the coffee on. Then the generator. Any work gets done before 10:30. After that, the sun's too hot and the shade too scarce.

Our boat gets prettier and prettier the longer we are on it. We completed a full clean and waxing three days ago. Yesterday afternoon we completed the last of the toe-rails, re-varnishing. A Captain in St. Martin introduced us to a new product called Awlbrite Plus. Its a three component mixture. Costly, but lasts and lasts. This morning, we started the cockpit combings and coach roof beads or eyebrows. We can do two coats a day so it doesn't take long. Need to miss the rain showers though. That could ruin a lot of preparation.

This has been a different window on the world, for sure. We have rented scooters, seen beaches and botanical gardens etc., but we don't go out at night generally, preferring our cockpit watching the sun go down. So far we haven't put on any of our movies--not one since leaving Oxford (MD). Its just too pretty. Hard to trade in for a DVD. There is no inclination whatsoever.

Dinners are over candlelight in the cockpit. We listen to music of all kinds every night. Drinks start at 6:00. By 10:00 we've generally retired. In some ways, this trip seems more about our own experience together than seeing the Islands, as such. A boat environment is a very good way to get close to your lady. And both of us, I think this is right, love being afloat. It is very simplifying. Challenging but renewing. We got used to rum punches at noon at Mill Reef and have been bothering them now for a week to get their recipe. "Settles out your thinking. . . ." BBC for news or not. No big deal.

Truth is, we don't care all that much about seeing every Island. So, we’ve slowed down considerably. The water is unbelievably clear. I've run the water maker 60 hours since arriving, making 18 gallons an hour. Still, the filters need no cleaning.!

The plan is to turn north after Dominica There are several stops, St. Kitts, Nevis, maybe Anguilla, before reaching the Virgins the first week in March. April 15 is our planned departure date.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Not for the Masses

Most of us are decidedly not in the market for a Hinckley Yacht but somewhere someone must be...news of the Hinckley empire expansion just crossed the wires. They're extending their reach into Annapolis citing the revelation that A-town is, "...a boating mecca and it's also a wealthy community." Gee. It just might be chock full of the folks who can afford one of these outrageously expensive, finely crafted sailing yachts. Cynicism aside...it's notable that Hinckley is one of the few boating companies that not only builds yachts, but also provides a service component. The new office in Annapolis will focus on the service...you'll still have to travel up to Maine to actually buy one. Bring your childs college fund. And the 401K. And a second mortgage.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Lowcountry College Coach Fields Sailing Champs

The city of Charleston, SC might not come to mind when you are naming off sailing hot spots but the truth is - as this article on the retirement of George Woods, the 31-year director of the College of Charleston's sailing program details - the region has produced a host of competitive solo and team sailors...the proof of this resides in no less than 16 national championships....not to mention the 60 All-Americans and four Collegiate Sailors of the Year (now former) Coach Woods has fielded. I've written about the annual Rockville Regatta which takes place slightly south of Charleston and, though it sounds like great fun for all involved, in the final measure it's just another sailing Bacchanalia. But George Woods' track record of generating champion sailors and champion sailing teams is a true legacy that reflects years of dedication. Good luck in Newport Beach, George!

From the article..."He is proud that what's been built at the College is not just a sailing team, but a sailing program that provides 12 physical education classes per year, 10-12 adult non-credit courses, has hosted countless youth and collegiate sailing events, and has a community sailing program that's open to the public."

Monday, January 22, 2007

Stuck on Gorgeous in the Conch Republic


Acura Key West 2007 - January 15-19
Key West, FL (Photo credit Sharon Green/Ultimate Sailing)

Key West 2007 has come and gone and. from all reports, the weather was "...stuck on gorgeous" (as per ESPN commentator Gary Jobson). Not to mention the sailing terrific, the bars overflowing and the general vibe just about pitch perfect for this annual sailing extravaganza. I haven't competed in a Key West Race Week in nearly ten years but every time since I've followed from afar and, more than any of the other annual regatta's I've done (from the Rolex St. Thomas to Block Island Race Week) - I miss being part of this one. There's just something about it...the proximity to the U.S. (we all know Key West is not really part of the U.S.) attracts some of our most competitive sailors as well as flocks of the better and more organized weekend warrior from all over the country. Sure Key West has become a world class tourist trap...but the island feels designed from the ground up for the sort of carnival sideshow that naturally proceeds from hoards of hard partying sailors overflowing with tropical sunshine, rum, racing and revelry. And to make those of us who stayed behind even more envious Jobson is filing video reports...damn the man!

Thursday, January 18, 2007


Voiles de St Tropez - September 30-October 8, 2006
Saint Tropez, France (Photo credit: Kos)

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Zephyr Adds Snap Preview

I'm going to interrupt the regularly scheduled program to announce a very cool technology upgrade. Called "Snap Preview," the feature brings up a snapshot of an embedded link when the reader hovers his or her mouse pointer over the linked text. For example the annual Key West Regatta is taking place this week and every link in this sentence (not to mention every link in this blog, now) should give you a mini-window pertaining to the week long competition. Forgive me if this is old hat to you...but I'm always impressed with cool new features that enrich blogs...another example is the Zephyr ZoomCloud (scroll down this page and look to the left.) Yet another is the Zephyr Clustermap page.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Rudder Magazine for Yachtsmen

I recieved one of those Borders gift cards in my stocking this year (thank you ET) and was browsing the "sports" section in my local store on Saturday looking for a good sea tale to tide me through the winter season. Something called "The Rudder Treasury" caught my eye...a paperback with a good heft to it. I cracked the preface and thus began my education on "The Rudder Magazine for Yachtsmen" which was - unbeknownst to me - one of the most important yachting and boating magazines in publication from it's founding in the 1891 to it's demise in the 1950's. Though I've just begun sifting through some of the excerpts compiled in "The Rudder Treasury" I can tell that I'm in for a real treat...what a discovery!

The forward is written by contemporary boating writer/editor, Peter Spectre who asks (rhetorically) what was so special about The Rudder and then cites founding editor Thomas Fleming Day as the reason. Day “knew what he was talking about. He was an enthusiast with a deep knowledge of the subject and a well-founded point of view. He treated his readers as intelligent human beings. He didn't pander to advertisers. He recognized yacht design as an evolution, with a connected past, present and future...he was a literate, literary man of strong opinion.”

Monday, January 15, 2007

Larry Says...Shorten the Cycle

Bloomberg News ran a story on Friday about a push by Larry Ellison to stage the America's Cup every two years instead of four. The piece quotes Tom Ehman, a director of the BMW Oracle Racing team, saying, " Most of the 12 teams competing this year are ``strongly in favor'' of a two-year cycle because it would cut costs and provide a more regular revenue stream..."

According to the story...the change would be the latest innovation aimed at increasing the exposure of an event that dates back to 1851. Teams in this year's cup have competed in a 2 1/2-year series of qualifying regattas, hosted by ports around Europe and watched by 1.3 billion television viewers. A biennial event could turn the cup into a nonstop global roadshow.

Is that what the America's Cup is supposed to be? A "nonstop global roadshow" would likely mean an entrenched group of contenders with a lock on sponsorships and talent. On the other hand, a tighter turn-around would mean a higher profile for the contest. One thing for certain...it's no suprise to anyone that Larry is in the mix here. The guy likes to shake it up. Next on his list? Drafting a new AC Deed of Gift.

Friday, January 12, 2007


Audi Etchells Worlds - November 8-12, 2006
Fremantle, Western Australia
Photo credit: Andrea Francolini)

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Congrats Jud Smith & Paige Railey

I don't often post press releases but the stories behind these awards are well worth reading...click on the link in the first sentence to get the full picture...Page is 19 years-old by the way! Jud won the 2006 Audi Etchells World Championship in Australia.


JUD SMITH AND PAIGE RAILEY ARE US SAILING's
2006 ROLEX YACHTSMAN AND YACHTSWOMAN OF THE YEAR

PORTSMOUTH, R.I. (January 10, 2007) – Jud Smith (Marblehead, Mass.) and Paige Railey (Clearwater, Fla.) today were named, respectively, US SAILING’s 2006 Rolex Yachtsman and Yachtswoman of the Year. From a shortlist of nominees determined by the membership of US SAILING, a panel of noted sailing journalists selected the two sailors for the distinction.

Established in 1961 by US SAILING and sponsored by Rolex Watch U.S.A. since 1980, the Rolex Yachtsman and Yachtswoman of the Year Awards recognize outstanding on-the-water achievement in the calendar year just concluded. The winners will be honored and presented with specially engraved Rolex timepieces during a luncheon on March 2, 2007, at the New York Yacht Club in Manhattan.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Bound for Guadeloupe

Until now I've been able to follow my parents path - they're cruising their sloop in the Caribbean Islands this winter - with some degree of understanding. They made landfall in St. Maarten. I'm a veteran of no less than three St. Maarten Heineken Regattas. They proceeded to St. Barths for a brief visit. I've made numerous "on charter" visits to the sparkling port town of Gustavia. From there they took a sail by St. Kitts. I've never been ashore but have anchored off. And they spent the holidays in Antigua, an island I've been visiting since I was a boy. But now they're going off the map - at least my somewhat limited map - bound for Guadeloupe, an island deep in the heart of the French Caribbean. In reading through the wikipedia article I came across an interesting fact about Guadeloupe...it's culture is probably best known for the islanders' literary achievements, particularly the poetry of Saint-John Perse, the pseudonym used by Alexis L├ęger. Perse won the 1960 Nobel Prize in Literature "for the soaring flight and the evocative imagery of his poetry which in a visionary fashion reflects the conditions of our time."

"The Sea . . . on its confines, under its falconry of white clouds, like a tax-free domain and like entailed land, like a province of rank weeds that was wagered on the dice." - Seamarks (1954 )

Monday, January 08, 2007

Warmbiters

This past Saturday in the Northeast U.S. the winds was up and the air was warm...nearly 70 degrees, perfect weather for a sail. Unfortunately, most of the sailors round these parts have put their boats up...with the notable exception of the frostbiting contingent (for the '06 - '07 season now renamed the "warmbiters") . I was on errands with my four-year-old Saturday morning and wherever we went - from Lowe’s to the liquor store - the topic of conversation was the warm weather and it's relation to "global warming" as well as dark mutterings about the "revenge" Mother Nature would exact in the form of April blizzards and dead Polar Bears. From a sailing perspective I wonder, will the climate shift mean sailing all the year around for Long Island Sound waters? Given that I've lived nearly a third of my life in the temperate climates of the Caribbean and California the shortened season is one of the least appealing facts of living in the Northeast. I’m not foolish enough to cheer global climate change…but if I was forced to look on the bright side I’d say the ability to reach off to Shelter Island in the middle of January without freezing my ass off might be something I could adjust to...

Saturday, January 06, 2007


The Superyacht Cup 2006 - December 13-16
Nelson's Dockyard, Antigua (Photo credit: Amory Ross)

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Solo Sailor Barnes Near Rescue

Today is a lucky day for American voyager Ken Barnes. The A.P. is reporting that a Chilean navy search plane has spotted the solo sailor on his storm-battered yacht off the southern tip of South America. According to the report, a trawler was heading to rescue him. Barnes, 47, set off from Long Beach, Calif., on Oct. 28 in a 44-foot ketch called the Privateer in hopes of sailing around the world. His girlfriend, Cathy Chambers, said he called her Tuesday in California on his satellite phone to say he was in trouble due to a storm. He told Chambers he had lost engine power and steering and had two broken masts and broken hatches. The Privateer was also taking on water in 46-mph winds and 25-foot swells, she said.

Down but not out, Ken. Hang in there buddy...the Chilean navy is coming to the rescue :-)

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

January Blossoms & Three Cheers for Michael

Enough navel gazing say the readers...get back to writing about sailing. Despite news that the cherry blossoms are blooming in Brooklyn, it was 27 degrees this AM when I climbed into the car and I'm no frostbiter...so the chances of me getting out on the water any time soon are fairly slim. Luckily I have stories like the near triumph of 14-year old Michael Perham who today - any moment now - is expected to become the youngest person to sail single-handedly across the Atlantic. He'll make landfall at Nelson's Dockyard in Antigua after an arduous six-week crossing 3,500 miles of open water from Gibraltar. In comparison Robin Lee Graham - sailor and author of Dove - was sixteen when he set out to make his now famous circumnavigation aboard a 24' sloop. Makes me wonder what's next for Michael. I can't imagine sitting in a schoolroom is going to be all that appealing.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Sitting (not sailing) By the Virtual Dock of the Bay


Ok sportsfans...what YC burgee is stuck on the shack behind the reposing Lex Lian?

Monday, January 01, 2007

Happy New Year!

There is no question that - as Edward, the writer of the excellent EVK4 blog recently discovered -I take this blogging thing seriously. Maybe at times a little too seriously, I freely admit. After all, it's just a blog...and I'm just one voice amongst many at this point focused on sailing. But there are a few reasons for my earnestness that I'd like to touch on as we welcome 2007.

The first is that I very much believe in the medium of blogging…as silly as the word might sound against a more staid outfit like "The New York Times" or "The Nightly News with Jim Lehr" or even "SAIL Magazine." By this I mean that I believe in the power of a group of passionate, dedicated writers using a self-publishing Internet tool called a "weblog" to deliver insight, entertain, create dialog and knit together a community of like-minded people who share a passion for a particular topic. I've said more than once in this space that the proliferation of sailing bloggers and the collective contribution of their perspectives have made for far richer coverage that the "dead tree" sailing publications can hope to provide alone. For proof of this I'll make a prediction for 2007 - look for mainstream sailing pubs to increasingly pop weblogs of their own as publishers recognize they risk being left behind.

The other reason is that I've put an awful lot of damn work into this thing over the last 22 months. And though I've been blessed with a steady stream of readers from all over the world, some of who comment and at times recognize me in their own weblogs...thoughtful directed feedback is rare.

All of which leads me to publicly express gratitude for being, once again, listed in the "Top Ten Sailing Blogs" of the year by the "Granddaddy" of sailing bloggers, ProperCourse. Not only has he captured some of the most exciting new (and re-nominated a few old) voices in the still nascent world of sailing weblogs...he has also paid me a tremendous compliment that is all the more encouraging in so much that it comes from a writer (and sailor) who I respect deeply.

Happy New Year to you all! I have a feeling that 2007 is going to be quite a year.