31 December 2009

Got Crew?

Now that the little boat is gone, sailing requires a bit more planning and coordination. Yeah, I could singlehand the 25 footer but it's a lot safer and easier with company. So, when it came time to deliver Lapras to her new berth in Richmond, a 22 nautical mile trek across San Pablo Bay, I put the call out for crew. Holiday week, everybody's just sitting around the house with nothing to do, right? Surely I'd have more crew than I could affordably feed. As responses started to come in, however, it wasn't looking too good: the guy with the new job had to work; more than one was out of town for the holidays; one was consumed with dad responsibilities; another was closing the books for the year; and the family as crew was not a good option for a cold day on the water with the little one just recovering from a Winter cold. What to do?

So, what about Iain? He's old enough now, 10, to cover the basic crew requirements, right? Right. Iain would have cabin boy duty--managing all the food and communications responsibilities (hourly check-in with Mom), spell the captain at the helm occasionally, and keep a general lookout for ships and high speed ferries. I would stay clipped in with the harness all day and had Iain practice shutting down the motor several times. Off we went . . .

And what a great trip it was. Brought back memories of helping my Dad transport Scotch Mist to Ventura for the start of the Sledgehammer race. We swapped watches as we motored on through the night. Only hit one unlit tanker mooring buoy . . .

27 November 2009

Forecast says rain, but it looks OK to me.

Turned out to be very nice on the water this afternoon--for November, that is. Clouds blew off, sun came out, and wind settled in at about 8 kts. Sailed around for a couple of hours with the fam in the big boat. Got her tucked away just as the hail started to fall. Nice.

24 November 2009

Our little (censored)

I guess I had better be more careful with my blog titles. Seems the last one encouraged some cross linking that wasn't exactly about the same kind of "old (censored)". Our latest sailing adventure also being about (censored), little (censored), I'll be more careful this time. Dean and I both needed to do some sailing, and both of our big (censored) needed a little break without our little (censored). So, time for Father-daughter sail day. Wind and tide chose not to cooperate making our outing more of a father-daughter motor-sail, but it was delightful nonetheless. Dads chatted about dad stuff up in the cockpit while little (censored) played little (censored) games down in the cabin. Fun time. We"ll have to do it again.

Thanks to Peggy, who was enjoying some quiet time along the river bank without little (censored) in tow, for the picture. First live action shot taken from off the boat. That's us to the left furling the mains'l before returning to the harbor.

16 October 2009

My Old Girls

Mothra has been gone for some time now. She was a great little boat--just needed a little more love. Well, she's found it. Current owner, Jim, is doing just what I had imagined doing, but didn't quite get to. He's continuing the restoration process, taking lots of friends out for fun days around Santa Cruz, and taking advantage of the easy trailerability to extend his cruising grounds--all the way to Puget Sound, for example. If you squint, you can just see the little lady waiting her turn among the big boys to get lifted into the chilly Northwest waters.

And, the latest news: Feraligatr has a new home. Another Jim towed her on down to the peninsula last week. Seems he's starting his own little Megabyte fleet. He bought one a few months back, and he and his buddies liked it so much they went looking for another. Hey, local fleet building! Maybe I ought to think about getting a Megabyte?

Farewell, ladies.

15 October 2009

Family Big Boat

Yep, definitely more room on here than on the little boat. Great time out with the fam, sister Carol, bro-n-la George, and best bud Dean.

And capped off with a great dinner at Asian Confusion. Funny story there. Carol and I had gone over to BevMo and while picking out beer for our day cruise, a man approached and asked what kind of beer we liked to drink with spicy Asian food.

"Well, I like the Sapporo that comes in these big cool cans, and Singha is pretty tasty, too." "What kind of food are you having?"
"We just got the liquor license for the Asian fusion restaurant I'm opening. It's called Asian Confusion. You should come try it."
"Um . . . (who is this guy?) . . . OK."
"Call me in the afternoon before you come and I'll make you my special black bean crab. Do you like crab?"
"Yeah, sounds great!"
Well, we called, we went, we tried to order crab. It wasn't on the menu. No problem. He made is special just for us. Best crab ever.

And surprise surprise, had had my favorite Japanese beer chilled and ready.

26 September 2009

Thanks, Fleet 3

It was just over two years ago that I crewed for my longtime sailing buddy, Dean Fulton, in the Vanguard 15 Nationals on San Francisco Bay. The boat was just a few months old, and neither of us had done any competitive sailing since when we were teenagers banging around in a Lido 14 having outgrown our Naples Sabots. We didn’t do well that regatta, but the intensity of the competition and the pure thrill of punching through, planing over, and occasionally crashing into the tortured waters off Crissy Field had me hooked on dinghy racing again. Gotta get me a racing boat.

A Laser would have been the natural choice, but after seeing how much money people wanted for their old ‘70s beaters, I started to look elsewhere. Poking around the Internet, I stumbled upon the Megabyte. Now that looks like a good boat—maybe what the Laser would have evolved to had it not been a one design (turns out Ian Bruce was responsible for creating both of them.) I discovered a boat for sale in Seattle and luck would have it I’d be up there on business in a couple of weeks. A quick email to the captain of Fleet 3 was promptly returned by Dean Eppley with info about the local fleet and some tips on what to look for in an old boat (the plastic bailers were the only concern). Saw the boat, bought it, shipped it home, and two weeks later I was on the starting line for the Lake Washington Turkey Shoot. I met Fleet 3 that day--very welcoming and enthusiastic about their fledgling Megabyte fleet.

All told, I think I hooked up with Fleet 3 for about seven different regattas, and from the time Dean introduced me to the rest of the guys at that first Turkey shoot right up to the end when they all knew I was on the way out of the class with my boat up for sale, they made me feel most welcome. A chest bump from Mack, a warrior’s grip handshake from Charles—I always felt included. It’s not always like that in sailing. My family often came to watch the races—usually my Mom and her husband, Bill. In other classes/fleets I might have felt a bit silly with the full entourage—maybe more “appropriate” when I was a kid getting shoved off the Mission Bay beach by Mom and Dad for the Sabot Nationals. But, they were welcome, too—invited to pull up a chair at Whiskeytown or join the potluck at Huntington Lake. My sweet Mom reciprocated with her famous shortbread boat cookies customized with sail numbers for each competitor. Of course, other Fleet 3 family were integral to the onshore camaraderie. Sharon and Daria were always there providing encouragement and shore support for all of us.

It’s not all hugs and kisses with these guys, though. On the race course, every one of them will fight hard to get to the front. That’s a good thing. Have you ever sailed against people who don’t try hard? It turns out that it’s not much fun. Give-it-your-all competition is what makes this sailing such sport. I’m grateful for that challenge. It was almost always Charles out front for us all to chase, but everybody had a good look at the front at least a few times. The finishes have been more mixed than ever this year, proof that the skills of the whole fleet have improved, and if Dean had only started droop hiking a year earlier, we might all have been chasing his transom by now! I’ll miss racing with these guys but hopefully will cross paths in the future as I find my way back to the typical regattas as crew on that Vanguard 15 or who knows what.

I picked the Megabyte North Americans as my final regatta before switching my sailing focus to adventures aboard the family cruiser. Dean did a great job getting the event on the West Coast and very well organized. Mack and Charles were ready to go having arrived the previous day and gotten in a test sail on the venue. John who is always a delight to sail with could only stay for Saturday, but it was great to have him out there. Fleet 3 was ready! One might think that the North American Championship would be a huge event, but in reality there just aren’t that many of us Megabyters to go around. Nobody from the West went east for last year’s championship, and this year the opposite was true. We did, however, finally get to meet “Big Joe” from Arizona and also discover that Chuck Hawley had been hiding out in Santa Cruz with a Megabyte for some time. These two guys flew the retro rig and competed well in both the light and heavy air. Back at the dock, they were both full of great stories to share, the likes of which we don’t hear too much of in Fleet 3—like singlehanding a 24 foot boat to Hawaii or “cruising” to Catalina in a Megabyte! I hope Chuck will find the time to fit in another regatta here and there and I like Joe’s idea of a California/Arizona event swap starting with a big regatta in January.

Well with the Megabyte up for sale, it’s off to keelboating with the family. (Geez, this is sounding like a sappy retirement speech!) I’m looking forward to that. If I’m lucky, my kids will take to sailing as I did growing up on my dad’s boat.

I will miss Fleet 3. It’s been a great two years on the Megabyte circuit. I wish each of them best of luck as they continue to build the fleet, connect with other regions, and attempt to reel Charles in! Go for it!

21 September 2009


We got it all: 20 gusting 30 to end Saturday and 2 gusting 3 to start Sunday. I won both those races; so I guess I can't make excuses as just a heavy air guy or just a light air guy. I really only had one bad race and one significant mistake all weekend if you don't count the capsizes on Saturday (everybody went upside down and/or broke something that day.) After sailing my throwout in race 5--a lot of little screw-ups just made me slow--I still had a one point lead with just one race to go. Charles would hold the tiebreaker if he won the last race, and since he and I had collectively claimed the first 5, it all came down to who would take this last one.

Pin end of the line was favored as it had been all weekend, and the wind had built enough to make boat speeds a bit more normal. With the rest of the fleet bunched up at the boat end ready to run the line with about 30 seconds to go, I came in from the left looking for just the right spot to slot in. Ah, there it was. I tacked in to leeward of Charles. All looked good except for Big Joe to leeward of me and the pin coming up fast with the clock ticking down slow. As I tried to stall, Big Joe came up to leeward forcing me to sheet in and move out. Joe finding that he was now early and out of room gybed around leaving me right at the pin (where I wanted to be) . . . and praying that my watch was slow. Was it the perfect start in the do or die race? I was the left most boat on a left favored line, and I'd been successfully outpointing the other boats already this day. Two boat lengths after the gun came the dreaded, "OH FIVE OH OVER EARLY." Ugh. Circled back and took up my spot at the back of the fleet. I managed to climb back to third, but that was it.

Three bullets in all to close my final Megabyte regatta, but it wasn't enough as Charles collected the other three and his 2-2 (after one throw out) edged my 2-3. Yeah, it's disappointing to have been that close to winning the North American championship regatta, but I know it was the best regatta I've sailed and I finished just one point behind a truly great sailor.

I'll miss Fleet 3. More on that later . . .

19 September 2009

Wind Wind Wind Wind

My little chant this morning to change the conditions in my favor. It worked. Forecast said 8 to 10. We got this instead.

I'm fast in big air. Guess all that weight I've put on is good for something. 2-1-1 today before the race committee called off race four on account of too much carnage on the course impeding safe navigation. I only capsized twice :-)

Three more tomorrow. Wind Wind Wind Wind

17 September 2009

Last Practice

I know I'm going to miss racing the Megabyte. It's a great boat after all, and the competition is always good. But I also can't help feel a near euphoria as the Megabyte era draws to an end. With one last regatta just days away, I went out mid-week for one last practice session. Practice is good. Better than simply "day sailing" in many ways. Practice is purposeful. It makes perfect sense to tack sixty times in an hour if that's what you're working on. Capsize the boat on purpose? Sure, if that what it takes to eliminate the fear of doing it accidentally. And, where you go only matters relative to how it supports your particular training objectives that day. Well, this day I didn't tack sixty times, flip, or go to my usual venue. Instead, I just sailed hard on the wind on The Bay working the boat around, over, and sometime through the chop. A deep meditative breath, a face full of spray, and a minute or two to lock in the rhythm soon had me hollering out loud. "Whooop whooop whooop, %$*# yeah, this is sailing!"

I'll be back at this spot Saturday noon ready for whatever The Bay serves up. Two days of racing--the purpose for the last day of practice.

12 September 2009

Fleet 76

A stolen outboard engine, more crew than boats to go around, one boat upside down. Might have been a bummer night if not for the seven Vanguard 15s out with perfect racing weather. Nice to be back in the crew spot on Dean's boat. Racing from the front of the boat is different from the back. Same intensity, different responsibility. And compared to singlehanding in the Megabyte, same level of tactical chatter, but with two extra ears on the boat, my lips were moving. These 76ers are tightening up the ranks,too. Other than poor Jorge who was sailing injured, everybody had a good look at the front and was in the hunt at least half the races creating just enough inter-boat proximity to raise the on-course yelling to the serious-but-fun level. It's great sailing with these guys--in a matching boat. Maybe I won't miss the Megabyte so much after all.

08 September 2009

And the Loser Is . . .

. . . Feraligatr. After a most excellent sail on The Bay yesterday in the Megabyte, I've decided it's time for her to go. I appreciate all the votes I got on this topic, and it was looking like Lapras (the "lead mine") was about to get voted off the balance sheet, but despite my wonderful time in the little boat navigating the bay chop on a 75 degree day with the Golden Gate Bridge as a backdrop, I realized I was missing something--crew. Yeah, the MB can carry a passenger, but it's really a one man (or big woman) boat. I want to share the experience with my family, with my friends. That's the same reason I unloaded all the windsurfers and bought my first sailboat so many years ago--so that I could take my girlfriend with me. Time to dedicate my precious few sailing days to the big boat, and that girlfriend who eventually married this sailor is still game.

Of course, even single-handed sailing isn't an entirely lonely pursuit. I will miss all the great friendships among the other racers both on the course and in the bar or around the campfire afterward. Then again, maybe I can beg Dean for my Vanguard crew spot back and talk him into hitting a regatta or two on the inland lake circuit.

Feraligatr is on sale here.

30 August 2009

Time in the Boat

Somebody ("they"?) said to be proficient in handling a boat one needs "time in the boat." That sounds right to me and makes any time in the boat, whether it all comes together as planned or not, an opportunity to learn more, to improve one's skills. So it was last Friday.

With the Megabyte North American Championship now just three weeks away, I've been trying to find a time to get down to the venue for some practice driving the boat in a good blow over some steep Bay chop. Last attempt was thwarted by a little two much of the good stuff. So with Friday afternoon free, I checked the wind indicator at RYC and saw that the wind strength was steadily building. Add to that a lot of heat east of the foothills where I live, and things were shaping up. I guess I should have checked the temperature on the Bay, too. As I dropped down to sea level on Richmond Parkway, It occurred to me that my air conditioning was still humping. That's weird. Let's see . . . whoa it's 95 degrees here by the Bay. And, hot equals still. Crap. This is going to be a waste of time. Or, maybe time in the boat is time in the boat?

So, no, I didn't get to practice driving in waves, but I did get to calibrate my senses that will come together in some way to help me when I do see waves. I felt the spring in the carbon mast as I raised and stepped it; I measured the all up weight as I walked the boat down the ramp into the water; I learned where the boat catches itself when rolled deeply to one side; I saw the effect of fore and aft trim on my wake; I discovered the asymmetrical technique required to quickly turn the boat with rudder alone; I recalibrated the tug required to set the outhaul just so; and I built on the excitement of sailing this boat on that water.

Of course, in the more typical summer conditions on the Bay, the dynamics of all this will be different. Then again, maybe the North Americans will be a sloppy drifter, and I'll be perfectly prepared. ;-) Either way, I can't help but think I know my boat a little better than before.

28 August 2009

Fastest Shape?

Aerohydrodynamically balanced or skinny and low wetted surface? The Megabyte will steer itself downwind with just a slight heel to weather. Feels fast without any drag induced by corrective rudder action. With that slight heel, however; there's still a lot of flat aft section dragging along the water surface. Would it be faster to crank the boat way over to weather like the Laser sailors do? This would indeed reduce the wetted surface of the hull, but the asymmetrical shape would then need some rudder to keep on course. Last Friday, I decided to give "excessive" weather heel a try while out chasing the Fleet 76 Vanguards around. First challenge was learning the balance point with the boat that far over and close to capsize. The boat is definitely more prone to rolling when positioned up on its edge like that, but of course that's an indication that those big flat sections are no longer dragging water. I found that putting some firm pressure with my hand on the lee rail would quickly suppress a roll to weather. Good to know. As for speed differences? Don't really know--only had V15s to run down, and a Megabyte can do that without much trouble no matter what the boat's attitude.

An unusually strong ebb tide running counter to the prevailing wind, meant that the downwind legs were effectively much longer than the upwind legs. That worked to my advantage as I beat the Vanguards round the windward leeward course two out of three times.

22 August 2009

Somebody's got to go

Too many boats.

Which one goes?

Sail to Live Another Day

The trees were already bent over by 8am. No worries, it's just a morning blow. Should ease up by mid-day. And no problem finding a place to park the trailer at the office complex I was visiting for my meeting Tuesday morning--a consequence of the recession, no doubt. Turns out the guys I was meeting with where sailors, too, and more than accommodating to move the dialog along quickly and allow me to get out on The Bay for a good practice session in Feraligatr. By one O'clock I was around the corner at the marina anticipating the thrill of punching through and surfing over the chop on the open bay. But wait, how come the wind is still howling? Shouldn't there be a little letting up before the afternoon fog comes back in? Whatever the cause, it was blowing hard through Richmond's Marina Bay. Do I go out and get some high wind practice? Learn to manage an already overpowered boat in overpowering conditions? Not via this marina, and not by myself. A quick mental zoom through at least four things that could go really wrong, given the wind strength/direction and the particulars of the marina layout, and leading to visions of damaged property and reputation, convinced me that this was not a good day to go sailing by myself.

So, I packed it in, and got back on the road for home. Disappointment and second guesses filling my brain, I cranked some Metallica to help sour my mood further. But then halfway up I-80 it occurred to me that a slight detour would have me presently in Benicia, another Bay Area micro climate. What the hey, let's go check it out.

And, it was perfect. Warm weather, moderate breeze, slack tide. OK, none of the waves I had hoped to get some practice on today, but perfect otherwise. Out I went. Just a few days before, I had finally installed my tactical compass and was looking forward to what it might tell me. Instead of the typical down the strait, today the wind was dropping in over the South bank hills making for very shifty conditions as each gust dropped to the water and decided which way to scatter. Recognizing that a shift has occurred is not hard to do in these conditions. Each seemingly random switch is a recipe for a capsize either to weather or to leeward. But with the compass, a repeatable pattern emerges. 3 3 3 3 6 -tack- 6 6 6 6 3 -tack- 3 3 3 3 6 -tack. (Yes, it really was shifting 30 degrees--not unusual when Benicia gets this Southerly wind.) After syncing up, it's easy to determine just which wind you are in at any given moment (and anticipate what is coming next and when.) Stay in phase, and the absolute tacking angles are only 60 degrees--a huge advantage on the way to a weather mark. Out of phase, and it's effectively 120 degrees. For you geometry buffs, in these big shifts, the out of phase boat sails 1.7 times as far as the in-phase boat. Wow.

31 July 2009

Excuse Me. I'm Going to the Front, Slowly.

2009 Dinghy Delta Ditch: The 2009 DDD was one for the record books but not the sort one usually shoots for. After the regularly scheduled breeze failed to develop the boats were towed about 4 miles up river from the launch site before starting in a weak northeasterly breeze. It took nearly two hours for the wind to clock around to its normal southwesterly direction. Add to all this that the flood tide was late in arriving and it made for the longest DDD in history. The majority of the fleet finished well after dark and the last boat arrived at the finish well after 10:30 PM. It was one for the record books...

That was the official report. A weird year for a very weird race--30 miles one way up the deep water shipping channel to Sacramento. Not normally something you would think of doing in a dinghy, or any boat for that matter.

After a great start I managed to run aground, catch some weed, and do other bonehead things that had me slowly moving to the back of the pack. Then, thanks to Banshee Bob, a favorable current was revealed on the South side of the slough. With the morning easterly shutting down, I crossed the river and put the boat into that fast water. Ah, back in the mix. As we approached the confluence (I swear, this is the only context that that world sounds just right) of the Prospect and Miner Sloughs (Yeah, this was the route to the Gold Country), the wind completely shutdown. Figuring that I was now the river expert after finding the eddy after the start and taking a ride up the South shore as the tide switched, I spied an unusual current line and slid the boat across it certain that it would be another favorable eddy. Oops. Whirlpool! I guess a confluence does this sort of thing. Lost all steerage and just bobbed around watching boats go by. It took some rather vigorous sculling to get myself free. That was the end of bad times, for me anyway.

About this time was when the guy on the Force 5 started yelling at the chase boat, "Hey, this sucks! Shorten course!". They ignored him. Yeah, sailing in crappy wind and swirling current pretty much does suck, but this is racing. Get your boat through it as fast as you can. As most of the fleet was bobbing around in the confluence (a pair of Thistles and a pair of Flying Dutchmen had made it into the shipping channel before coming to a halt), hints of the typical afternoon westerly began to show. A puff from astern, a whisper from abeam. Gotta catch these, and with my big twisty sail, I did. I was sitting in the forward cockpit cross-legged around the dagger board. Westerly puff--yank the board up and ease the sail. Northerly puff--push the board back down, trim in fast, and hang my upper body over the side. Walked right through the fleet passing Lasers (who had started 10 minutes ahead), C15s, and a bunch of other stuff like they were standing still. "Excuse me. Coming through. Pardon me." I soon had all the little boats behind and was gaining on the big guys ahead who couldn't take advantage of their spinnakers in the light, shifty winds.

Eventually, the westerly "filled in" (maybe 5 to 8 knots) and it was a near dead run for a few hours. With spinnakers now flying, the big boats pulled away, but the damage was done. That transition period is where the race was won--stayed in contact with the fast boats and gapped the slow boats. From that point, it was just a few more hours of focus, trimming the mainsheet directly off the boom, fine tuning the attitude of the hull, and sliding left or right to stay in the wind groove down "The Ditch" to Sacramento. All paid off with an overall (and surprising) corrected time win.

But before I finish, I need to express my thanks to the race crew from Lake Washington Sailing Club. What an amazing bunch of volunteers. This is an exceedingly difficult event to coordinate with the shuttling of skippers and trailers, unpredictable finish times, and wide range of boats entered. Sure, some folks were frustrated by the lack of wind, but the chase boats took great care for us all and the shore crew stayed into the late evening to make sure we all made it back safely and had a good party at the end. Thanks, LWSC!

29 July 2009

Like Tarzan. Well maybe George O'Jungle

Huntington Lake is a tricky place to sail. Easy to make a lot of mistakes without really trying hard. Good speed up the lake depends, apparently, on a lot more than just local "knowledge." After all, Charles' knowledge has been posted on the regatta web site for all to see, and yet nobody has beaten him, not even a single race, in like, forever. Why is he so fast? Well, first, he's just plain fast on any water, but he really seems to have the feel and instincts for this particular lake. After being mostly frustrated by what seemed to be just screwy winds last year at the High Sierra Regatta, this year I caught some glimpses of what it must feel like to grok the winds, to understand that they are not screwy, they're just a little complex. (In case you're wondering, I'll get it out right now: No, I didn't beat Charles. Not even close, but at least this year I was close enough to see the color of his boat!)

After finding several ways to mess up an otherwise fine regatta at Whiskeytown, I was determined to keep it simple at Huntington. No fancy strategizing, just good clean tactics. Let others beat me. Let the lake beat me. But, don't let me beat me. After a good fast downwind leg to recover a 2nd in race one, race 2 started with a long beat all the way up the 7 mile lake. Without trying to get fancy, I just focused on the wind patterns revealed by the texture of the water and the sailing angles of all the Lasers who had started with us. It was about half way up the beat that I stumbled upon a rhythm, a strangely graceful feeling that I can only describe as swinging from vine to vine. The puffs behaved just as Charles had described them--they sort of fan out to the sides. Catch a lift up the right side of one, watch for the next, tack over and catch a lift up the left side of that one. Repeat. Holy cow, this is how to make tracks up this lake! Huge gains, that is until you miss one, and then, "watch out for that . . ." Wham! Sailed right into a header or a hole. Back to hunting and grasping for that next vine.

So, the racing was good, but what made the weekend great was the same as last year--fun with family and friends on a beautiful mountain lake. I was blessed to have the full entourage: Mom (with her now famous sailboat cookies), Bill, Kecia, and the kids. This year we stayed in the cabins. Ah, beds and showers (Thanks, Mom and Bill!!) Only problem was figuring out which party to go to. The Folsom crowd had their usual great spread at lake side, and this year Vanguard Fleet 76 out of Benicia made the trip and had quite the campsite cuisine themselves. Didn't want to miss out; so, we went to both!

So that's it. Definitely an annual event now. Racing gets better every year, and the fellowship is always second to none.

27 July 2009

Father's Day Shakedown

Dinghy Delta Ditch was epic, but that entry's gonna have to wait. Deano has been waiting for this cruise video for a long time. Way out of date here, but this is what 4 dads did back on father's day weekend instead of . . . racing in the Catalina 250 Nationals. As explained earlier, Lapras is a cruising boat and we already have other boats for racing. So, cruising we went. In fact, this was the shakedown for young Lapras (for the new owners anyway.) Benicia to Pittsburg and back. Wow, that's exciting. Actually, it was.

Four adults on board was very doable. Plenty of room in the cockpit. Decent sleeping arrangements. Got a little crowded down below trying to get bunked down, dressed in the morning, etc. Food was great. Potluck worked well. Snackmaster Mitch brought all six of the tasty snacks Trader Joe's sells, Jorge a bucket of meat, and Dean all the normal food. I just brought the beer. Next time, more Racer 5, less heifer. Walking into town for dinner and finding great Mexican food was perfect. Could have definitely sailed deeper into the Delta. With favorable tides and strong winds, we made both passages with plenty of sunshine to spare, and the crew felt like sailing some more. Next time . . . Overall, the boat performed beautifully.

For a first trip up the Delta, I think we got really spoiled: great weather, strong wind, fine Mexican food ashore. Gonna be hard to top that. We ate well and sailed well. Sitting at home the next day I had the urge to get right back out there. Alas, racing the little boats is consuming weekends again. Late Summer Cruise #2. That sounds about right.

09 July 2009

I am Alive!

I know because I've spent way more time sailing than blogging lately. Remember when I almost gave up Megabyting? Well, I decided to do one more season. And not that anybody actually keeps up with this blog, but if you did, you should be wondering what happened at the Catalina Nationals. I have no idea. I wasn't there. Turns out I had an epiphany sometime during the long drive back from Whiskeytown. It didn't say, do more Megabyting or race Lapras. It said, "Go cruising in Lapras. That's what you bought her for." Damn right. As for the Megabyte, I was so frustrated after my regatta screw-ups that my first inclination was to sell the boat and check-out of the racing scene by diving exclusively into cruising the big boat. After some time I came to my senses. Cruise Lapras. Race Feraligatr. There it is. Even the names make sense--if you know your Pokemon.

So we went cruising instead of racing on the weekend of the Catalina 250 Nationals, but I'm not going to get into all that right now. (I promise, Dean, I'll post something, video, etc. before I blog about Huntington.) Where was I. Oh yeah, I am alive! Just got back from one last Megabyte practice session before this weekend's High Sierra Regatta. I can't say I'm now nailing all my roll tack and gybes, but I just felt so alive out there. It was windy enough to get into a full hike, choppy enough to require some boat man-handling, and just scary enough to nearly dime my attention. This is something my non-sailor friends have a hard time understanding. How can something that is barely faster than walking be so invigorating? It just is.

And, it feels good.

20 June 2009

Balance Update

As I'm preparing to head out for the weekend to generate blog content, I'm realizing just how far behind I am. I think I did some racing. What day was that? There's a broken tiller on my workbench. Where did that come from?

It's starting to back to me. Two weeks ago. Crewing on Dean's V15. Warm and windy. Two bullets, three seconds, otherwise unremarkable. Wait, except for that funky current. The tide had just started to switch and an unusual current line developed right down the middle of the course. To the right, slack. To the left, strong ebb. It was like stepping on and off one of those moving sidewalks. Express lane right to the weather mark. We found it first. By race 3 the others had discovered our trick.

And that tiller? A different kind of balance problem. Had the Megabyte out for a practice session with the Vanguards (thank goodness). Big wind. Big gybe. Big crash. No problem. Had the shiny side down again in a minute or so, but wait, something's missing. Crap! Where did my tiller go? Must have fallen on it and broke it clean off. Thanks to Jamie for pulling Big Red off station to render assistance, and apologies to the V15 fleet for the delay incurred.

All good. A day sailing can balance out just about anything.

04 June 2009

Have You Ever Been Boarded? Uh . . . No

Didn't really know what to expect as the bright orange rigid came screaming up along side apparently to conduct a training exercise, er, I mean a safety inspection. Actually, the Vallejo based Coast Guard was most courteous, save for the muddy boot prints left on my white cockpit cushions, and did a very nice and speedy job of making sure we were prepared for a safe outing on the water.

Just five minutes clear of the Benicia breakwater we had settled in on a close hauled course to check for sea lions sunning on buoy G25. My Cousin, Caroline, whom I hadn't seen in about 15 years was at the helm and her delightful, but nonswimmer husband, Jon was looking about for just the right spot to sit to minimize any chance of falling overboard. The port side "princess seat" was commanded by six year old, Olivia, from where she could issue commands had she known which commands to issue. A great beginning to a midweek adventure on the Carquinez Strait.

"Uh, better let me take the helm," I said as the Coasties came along side. "Good morning, Sir. Have you ever been boarded?" "Uh . . . no . . . and good morning." After granting my request to tack away from the near shore before being boarded, the skipper of the pursuit vessel backed down to leeward. "Does this happen often?" Caroline asked. Visiting from England, this might be a daily occurrence for all they knew. "Um, actually, this is my first time." "Do you have any firearms on board?!" came the next shout. "No, sir." I guess I should have checked with my guests before answering, but turned out I was correct anyway. Two men then jumped aboard--I didn't get their rank--and proceeded with the inspection. "Are you the owner?" "Registration, please." "May I see your horn?" and so on. Actually, the one doing the questioning had to refer to his official book a bit more than I would have thought. Made me nervous at the time--what question might he find in there that I wasn't ready with an answer for? Over beers later we concluded that we must have been the easy target for a training exercise. But hey, if that's what we can do to help train our Coast Guard to help keep us safe, that's cool. The two men went about their work quickly, were very polite, and just chatty enough to keep us at ease.

Inspection complete, the big orange boat came along side again and the two men jumped across. With a wave, they were off and we put Lapras back on the wind. We had a bit of work to do to climb back up to G25 having been set quite a ways to the West while hove-to, but before long we were within flipper waving range from the princess seat.

29 May 2009

Four Successes at Whiskeytown

Alrighty, Dean, I'm finally gettin' to the good stuff, the good racing stuff that is (the bad stuff probably makes for gooder blog reading.) I know you've just been dieing to know since Saturday "what I learned about the wind on the South side". And after I gave my self a lashing for being "too strategic", you must think I'm losing it--bet our call the other night didn't help much either. You see, this particular regatta was such a mix of really good and really bad that I got things confused. So here are the good things I can remember:
  1. My first beat strategy actually paid two out of four, not just one as previously reported. (The second one was quickly forgotten as it preceded the course screw-up.) That practice session on Friday did give me the insight needed. I had found that there was significantly more pressure in a band down the South edge of the lake. Venture just a few hundred yards "offshore" and it would really drop off. On Saturday, we appeared to have the same pattern. This is why I was happy to duck starboard tack boats at the start to get to the right (South) first. In the two races Saturday, I was first and second at the top mark. I also used the extra pressure on the downwind leg of race 2 to catch one boat and almost two others after my course blunder. (This pattern was gone by Sunday, but I didn't recognize that . . .)
  2. I was fast in light air. I was fast in light air. I was fast in light air! WooHoo. I usually suck in the light stuff. My two best finishes, a first and a second, were actually in the lightest air races. Being really diligent about good boat trim, staying quiet in the boat, and playing the sheet all the way really seemed to help.
  3. I was fast down wind, too. A similar focus to the upwind sailing along with proper positioning relative to the fleet helped me catch a boat or two after screw-ups and hold off pursuers after the good beats. Maybe my downwind tactics are better because I'm not distracted trying to figure out the more complicated upwind strategy.
  4. And finally, this had to be the best Fleet 3 Megabyte sailing, yet. A couple of other Megabyters made similar observations. The racing was much tighter with more mixed places than usual. I think this is the most boats, six, we've had finish all races in a regatta, and we found a new guy. Don from Lake Shasta who bought a Megabyte last year from somebody in Arizona showed up probably figuring he was going to be the only Megabyte there and subject to sailing in the open class. He was as surprised as we were. Hope to see him again soon.
Well, Huntington Lake is next. Hopefully I can create more successes and fewer screw-ups.

28 May 2009

Thank You, Phil Bolger

With great sadness, I learned yesterday that Phil Bolger had committed suicide. It's been said he "went on his own terms." That's troubling for me to try to understand, and I can't help but think he wasn't really "done", yet. After all, he was still producing some of the most deceptively innovative boat designs and continuing to share his remarkable insights through his writings. Here's the scoop.

Today, blogger Thomas Armstrong of 70.8%, a rather interesting continual boat ramble, has called for "readers who have built, bought or commissioned a Bolger boat to send me an email with your story and some photos." Although I have built four boats, none was designed by him. But, two were certainly influenced by him. After all, I've read Bolger's "Boats With an Open Mind" through and through many times studying his words carefully, skipping from chapter to chapter to compare related designs all the while thoroughly enjoying the read. Those who know Bolger know that he had a remarkable ability to make what would normally be a truly ugly boat beautiful and not just in a utilitarian way but in an absolute way. His "square boats" are perhaps the most recognizable example, but the skill shows up in other types, as well. His portfolio was particularly broad

I spent countless hours rereading his descriptions of what made good boats from flat panels--the kind easily assembled in garages from plywood, translating what I learned into creations of my own using rudimentary design software, building and testing scale models as described by "Dynamite"Payson who is responsible for teaching thousands of us how to build to Bolger's designs, and ultimately building two at full scale. The first, was a sort of box boat, warped to get the aesthetic I was after. It was commissioned by my Mom and her husband Bill to fit exactly in a virtual box, the space just behind and no higher than the roof-mounted air conditioner on their motorhome. Twelve and a half feet long, thirty inches or so wide, and fifteen inches deep. Stable with capacity for two. The result was a modifed punt.

The second boat shows the Bolger influence perhaps a bit more directly. Ironically, I ended up strip planking this boat despite its design for sheet construction and with no beveling required on account of the plumb sides. In fact, I glued up the strips in panels on the floor and then wrapped them around a jig as if they were plywood. The result was an "Electric Slipper Canoe." Dig it.

Mr. Bolger's influence will surely carry on for many years to come and thousands more will build, buy, or just noodle on the wonderful boats he designed. Bye Phil.

26 May 2009

Four Screw-ups at Whiskeytown

First, in response to Tillerman's musings on list posts, yeah, I do think they're kind of lame. Play to both the lazy blogger and the lazy reader; but whatever, I'm going to do another one anyway. Second, I'll do this in two parts. A list of lists? I suck.

So, on with the Four Screw-ups at Whiskeytown
  1. Too much (attempted) strategy, not enough tactics: I focused too much on picking (guessing?) the best strategy for the fickle lake winds and then trying relentlessly to execute. I started each race with an all-in bet. It only paid once. Only way I recovered was to dump the ill fated strategy and start picking my way back through the fleet with a sharp tactical focus taking every opportunity as presented rather than seeking ones that really weren't there.
  2. My starts suffered for the same reason. I kept trying to make my own start, thinking I had some kind of strategic advantage. For example, I would run the line on port ducking boats as needed to get the the right first. Would have been better to make a more tactical start, driving others back, and staying in the mix instead of committing early to what would ultimately be a bad choice. Get a strong start, hold my lane, and see how things start to play out.
  3. I misread the course chart. Race two was one of those lake tour courses where they send you off all over the place. From the weather mark three quarters of the way up the lake we were to angle off somewhere towards the upper corner of the lake. The hand sketched "not to scale" chart wasn't much help, and small white marks were impossible to pick out at such a distance. Charles rounded first and headed off on a close reach to the corner of the lake. I pursued, but by the time we were half way cross I could tell there was no mark there. I then spied a mark up to weather. Hoping that was it, I hardened up, sailed into a nice puff, and and soon had the rest of the fleet astern. That is, until I saw Charles, now down to leeward, gybe. He had seen the class behind us, Snipes and Lasers, cutting directly across the lake on a beam reach apparently lead by some locals. Extrapolating their course, the speck of a white mark appeared along the shore half a mile dead downwind from my current location. After letting fly some salty language, I headed off to take up my position now at the back of the fleet. I manged to climb back to fourth, but that score doomed me.
  4. I blew a close cover on the last leg of the last race giving up second place for the regatta. I had Dean to leeward when a Snipe from another class tacked right on me. As I was sucking bubbles, Dean started to get away. I chose to tack out of there and hope for the best. Bad move. Dean got into the right hand shift to the right of me and that was the end of it. In hindsight, I should have footed off out of the lee of the Snipe and down over Dean’s bow to maintain cover even if it would have put me right on top of him.
OK, enough of the ugly stuff. Good stuff in the next post . . .

23 May 2009

Four Things My Dad Did That I'm Too Chicken To.

Here you go, Tillerman.

1) Take the family cruising down the West Coast of Mexico in a thirty-two foot boat for seven weeks. Wow, what an amazing trip that was. I was about eleven or so, but still remember so many parts of it as if we did it yesterday. Would I do this with my family? Hard to imagine. Too soft. Too busy. Too I don't know.

2) Take the family (save for my sister) on the Guadalupe Island Race--a notoriously wild one. This was the three leg version: San Diego to Guadalupe, Guadalupe to Ensenada, Ensenada to San Diego. On the first leg we managed to blow out both the three quarter and the ounce and a half chutes. One just went bang, the other managed to shred itself on the masthead instruments somehow. On leg two, most of the other boats broke something and/or dropped out, and we filled the boat with so much water that I was floating in the lee quarterberth.

3) Send my son, me, 12 or 13 at the time, the smallest of the crew, up the mast to retrieve the bits of the blown out spinnaker. I made it about to the spreaders before just about crapping my pants when I looked down to see the boat swinging to and fro in the heavy seas.

4) Leave my daughter, my eighteen year old sister at the time, home alone while the rest of us were gallivanting around some rock three hundred miles offshore. Upon returning home, little brother found all the evidence of what all had happened. From stories leaked by the neighbors years later it sounds like it was quite the party.

My sister still won't say how the banana ended up smeared on the ceiling.

Worth the Drive

It just felt like it was time for a road trip. Whiskeytown is three and a half hours away. It's a beautiful lake, and their annual regatta is this weekend. So I made The Drive. I made it up here early enough yesterday afternoon to get out for a practice session on the lake. 85 degrees, clear sky, clear water. truly beautiful. I sailed nearly up to the end of the lake, and on the way back, sitting comfortably in the boat downwind, I had the feeling that if I just packed it in and drove all the way back home it would still have been worth it. Just perfect.

Of course, I did stick around for the regatta, and what I learned about the wind on the South side of the lake yesterday paid off today :-)

21 May 2009

One Sheet, Two Sheets, This Way, That Way

I guess sailing a boat doesn't seem all that complicated until you try to do it in the most efficient way. I had thought through, even written down, all the various boat handling moves prior to hitting the water for our first race practice session in Lapras, but that all changed once we got into it. What had played so well in my mind just looked whacked as Dean tried to execute each maneuver on the foredeck. But no problem when you have a mechanical engineer up there. He just re-engineered the process, ran a couple of tests to check it, and then moved on to the next problem. By all was said and done, we'd switched to a 2:1 jib sheet obviating the need to fuss with the winches, extended the whisker pole considerably, changed its attaching point at the clew, and reworked the whole cane dance gybe thing.

With the Catalina 250 National Championship Regatta fast approaching, we'll need a couple more days of practice to at least feel competent if not fast. Still trying to line up an extra crew or two. If need be, Dean and I can double-hand it, but better to have help.

No practice in the big boat this weekend. Off to Whiskeytown to defend my title in the Megabyte. More on that later . . .

12 May 2009

Rethinking Sail Shape

The Megabyte has an identity crisis. No, I'm not talking about some sort of wannabe Laser complex--not worth going there. It's a case of two rigs on one boat. The Megabyte was first introduced in 2000 with a Laser-like sail--it was even designed by the same guy. OK, not exactly Laser-like with its full length top batten and cut for a much more flexible carbon mast, but not radically different either. Then, in 2007 PS 2000 introduced a new skiff-like rig for the boat with all full length battens, an even more flexible top mast, and a big fat roach (no, not that kind!). I've sailed both for a while now usually suiting up the old sail for fun and practice preserving the new sail for racing.

My initial thoughts had been that there wasn't all that much difference between the two rigs (maybe more speed downwind in light air with the new rig, but without any side by side testing hard to really tell), but that was before I saw the new coaching video that Ian Bruce put together for the Megabyte's little sister, the Byte: http://byteclass.org/ (click on "technical" link.) Watching that made me realize I was sailing the new rig in the old style. So, time to experiment and see what this new rig can really do.

I went our last Friday afternoon for some testing. My focus was on observing the sail with the traveler pulled all the way to weather and working out the mechanics of the sheet and traveler controls when tacking. I found that tacking the traveler isn't that big of a deal as long as you don't try to do everything at once--just as described by Ian in the video. As for the sail shape, yeah, sheeting to weather allows the sail to really twist, so much so that the top weather telltale is spinning circles while the lowers are streaming aft. When I'd observed this during early experiments with the sail, I thought it was a bad thing. Now, I'm not so sure. Despite the telltale direction, the leech ribbons all looked good, and the boat felt powered up and fast. I think next time I'll take a GPS with me and try to measure any speed and VMG differences between twist and no twist.

More to come . . .

08 May 2009

But We'll Get Wet

"Of course we will. We always get wet when we go sailing."

Five guys standing around the parking lot drinking beer on a rainy evening. "What, no sailing today?" I guess all they needed was a sixth to fill the third boat and make it obvious that sailing was still a good idea despite the weather. I've found that rigging and unrigging in the rain is a bit sloppy, but once out on the water, you don't even notice it coming down. Kinda weird actually.

Since the races for the night had already been called off, we decided to just go out and mess around so as not to tick off those who had packed it in and gone home. Turned out to be great fun. We had an unusual and shifty southerly whispering across the Strait and a rather strong flood. Made for some interesting tactics as we chased each other over to the Martinez Marina and back. The return trip was particularly strange. As the wind begin to wane it was nearly impossible to make any real progress out in the middle of the river. So, we footed off to the North shore where we found some current relief, maybe even a little eddy, and scooted on back to Benicia. Didn't even notice it was raining until we pulled the boats out. :-)

01 May 2009

No Going Back?

You know what they say . . . Well, I tried a trimaran last weekend . . . or, was it a skiff with training wheels? The Weta is a fourteen foot by eleven foot three-sailed fun-machine. After a quick tutorial, Dave at WetaWest let me solo this tri on Potrero Reach--my first time on any sort of multihull on any water. Three first impressions: 1) It's weird to sail a small boat without any thought of tipping it over. 2) Forget ease/hike/trim. This boat doesn't load up. With any puff, it just squirts forward. Almost makes the boat feel slow and then you look down and realize you're rippin'. 3) This fourteen footer is three feet wider than my twenty-five foot keel boat. In close quarters, wouldn't want to forget that ama is out there, but the width allows a ridiculous amount of lounging space. I found a couple of positions on the tramps that felt just like sailing from a hammock. Nice.

For what you get--a stupid-fast, fully rigged on custom dolly, ready to sail right out of the box tri-skiff thing--the Weta seems reasonably priced. But, it's still about three times what my Megabyte would sell for. Do I bite? Hmmm.

25 April 2009

To Megabyte or Not to Megabyte

Have to admit the thought of getting out of the Megabyte has crossed my mind. Is it the psychological impact of the sick economy (I'm still employed after all) or wanting to devote more sailing time to the big boat or maybe just reconsidering the kind of racing I want to do. Whichever, and until I decide, I've got some good racing planned for this Summer: Whiskeytown, family fun at Huntington Lake, and capped off with the Megabyte North Americans (10 boats would be a huge turnout, whoohoo!) in September on The Bay. The NAs is something to look forward to and at the moment is one thing keeping my interest in the boat--dedicate one more summer to improving my skills in the boat and then see what I can do. There's also the hope that having the NAs local will boost interest in the class here.

Well, either way, had a great time a week ago mixing it up with the Vanguards. I started late, kept to the edge of the course, and took wide mark roundings to avoid screwing with the boats actually racing. Still good fun and good to get some tacking and gybing practice after being out of the boat for quite a while. I was reminded that the Megabyte is a great boat to sail. Responsive, challenging, and comfortable. Maybe I'll keep it another Summer . . .

22 April 2009

Opening Day Take Two

Six eight-minute races around some weighted down hippity-hops aint much to brag about on Sir Robin Knox-Johnston day on the web, but that, plus downing a few beers and arguing about season scoring methods, is all that we accomplished for the Vanguard 15 Fleet 76 2009 Opening Day re-do (the first attempt was blown out with 40 knot gusts--Sir Robin's seen worse.) It was great to be back among a crowd of sailing friends. All were eager to get the racing started--Dean a little over eager with two over earlies to start things off--and the post-race parking lot banter picked up right where we left it when daylight wasting time put an end to last season. Should be a great new season with opportunity to improve our skills, learn the new rules (some of us are still a couple of decades behind), do a lot of yelling, teach some kids to sail, and otherwise just have a blast racing small boats. Only one can be the first to circumnavigate singlehanded nonstop, but the rest of us still can thrill from chasing our buddies around a short course to beat them by a nose at the line--nice move there, Dean.

20 April 2009


Gee, can't remember exactly when it was we last sailed Lapras. I know it wasn't that long ago, but with a lot of other distractions lately, the memory has blurred away. Let's see. My mom and Bill were aboard. We motored East against the strong ebb in very light wind until the Easterly kicked in and whipped up a steep chop over the sand bar entering Suisun Bay. Hmmm . . . maybe I remember more of this than I thought . . . With the chop making the ride uncomfortable, we ran away with the jib poled out for a quick ebb-assisted sail home.

I remember that the last time out with me mum aboard was the day before her mum passed away. Last night, I wrote this to be read by me mum at me mum's mum memorial service this week in Manchester, England.

“Hi ya” Meant

Do you remember, “Hi ya”?
That thing Nana used to say . . . with a curl in her smile . . . a glint in her eye.

“Hi ya” meant “I’m glad to be here. I’m enjoying just being with you.”
“I’m me. You’re you, and that’s just right.” That’s what “hi ya” meant.

Sometimes the “Hi ya” was silent with just the curl and the glint to hint it was there. I’m sure that was the look she had when I first tried on the browny-greeny shorts she had made for me when I visited at the age of four. What made those shorts special was the matching marble bag she had crafted from the fabric offcuts. When I got back to the states, I was probably the only boy in the entire US of A with matching shorts and marble bag. Not something to be proud of, but I was.

“Hi ya” meant “how are you?” “I’m interested in what you’re doing, what you’re thinking, how you’re feeling”
“Hi ya” meant “come talk to me. We have all the time in the world.”

A cup of tea, some “mmm, lovely” biscuits . . . Living half a world away, I don’t have a lot of memories of Nana, but characteristic phrases and images have stuck. Something about “me frock” or “me hat”. (Which like my shorts and bag, often matched, too.) Always loving. Always tender. Always Nana.

“Hi ya” meant “hi.”

“Hi ya” meant, “I love you.”

I remember Nana. I remember “Hi ya”.

“Hi ya,” Nana.

05 April 2009

Little Big Dinghy

"Hey watch out for us little guys out there," I chirped across to the I14 crew rigging up next to me in the parking lot after learning at the skippers meeting we'd have quite the diverse "open" class at the RYC Big Dinghy. "How long's your boat," came the reply. That's when I realized, "oh yeah, I guess my dinghy is bigger than yours." Still, an International 14 at speed with two on the wire is a scary site to a guy bobbing around in the "bigger" 14 foot, 3 inch Megabyte. All turned out well, however, and as far as I know there were no collisions among the Wetas, ICs, I14s, Lightnings, Johnson 18s, Osprey, Musto Skiff, Contenders, Wing Dinghy, Force 5, or the two Megabytes.

Mack piloted the other Megabyte, and we both got some great practice on the venue that will host the Megabyte North Americans in September. By race 4, we had a good blow with 15 to 20 knots gusting 25+. Keeping the boat up to speed to weather through the steep Bay chop was the biggest challenge. I could generally finesse the boat over two or maybe three big ones in a row, but more than that and I'd loose the rhythm and come slamming down off the top of one killing all speed. Off the wind, I was happy to keep the shiny side down, but not comfortable enough to really work the boat down the waves for maximum speed. A different feel/technique is required compared to the lakes where the Fleet 3 Megabytes usually congregate for regattas. Will need to get some more practice time in on the Bay . . .

21 March 2009

Lapras Digs In

Well, Dean and I finally got Lapras out for a higher wind test sail. Previously, 5 to 10 knots is about all we'd experienced with the new boat, and given some of the reports of how relatively tender these Catalina 250s are, I was eager to see what she would do. The nearest wind station trend shows that we were facing 20 knots gusting 25. Didn't seem that heavy, but it did have us on our ear a couple of times. The boat handled great. I'd read reports of Lapras' sisterships spinning out of control when they get past a certain angle of heel. We sheeted in hard and let her lay over past 35 degrees, and she just kept punching forward. Yeah, loaded up the helm a bit, but never felt like a wipe-out was imminent. Nice. Thirty-five degrees isn't particularly fast, though, nor comfortable; so, we tied in a reef (new dual line jiffy reef works great!), settled her down, and kept chuggin' West.

As the sun dipped near the horizon, the wind eased up. We shook the reef out, turned back up river, and had a beautiful evening run for home.

Overall pretty happy with how Lapras handled a decent blow. Still, a few minor tweaks to add to the project list: put a couple more turns on the lower shroud turnbuckles to take the sag out of the mast, rig an adjustable backstay to take the sag out of the forestay, and overhaul the main halyard clutch so it doesn't slip.
Posted by Picasa

03 March 2009

It's all relative

A recent post about going nowhere, but fast, by my fellow sailing blogger over at Love and Coconuts (love that name) reminded me that I hadn't yet shared the latest sailing outing on my local river. I'd been off the boat for a month what with bad weather and other commitments; so with a Friday forecast break in the weather I put the call out for would be crew hoping to find at least one person not wanting (or needing) to work that day. Joel answered the call and by two o'clock we were sailing, I mean pointing, upwind upriver bucking a max ebb. "I think I'll just crack off and duck that barge." "Uh, never mind, we ain't gonna get anywhere near it." With a wind speed on par with the current, we merely crabbed our way cross river relative to the land, and the barge. Our "tack" at the deep water side of the river resulted in another hundred yard loss. We were scooting through the water and going backwards. We were sailing and that's always better than working.

As I have one of those tank atop screwy things that O Docker describes, I wasn't too worried about progress, and we turned downriver downwind towards what looked like a stronger breeze. Now, I should describe the venue just west of Benicia. First Street bottoms out at a point around which the river hooks slightly North with the silt accumulating beyond in what otherwise looks like a beautiful open body of water. Check the charts and you'll see that you could get out and walk. Or, go clamming or something. After getting flushed halfway past this wide spot, and not finding the wind we'd seen prior, we decided to poke our nose back into it and see what we could do. Well after about three hitches of that and three times within anchor chucking distance of the same channel marker I was ready to fire up the iron breeze and bust out another beer. But Joel, the one was-be crew who doesn't need to work stopped me short and hollered, "Hey, let's bang the beach and see if we can make it." "OK, let's try it." We tacked back and headed for the shoals with a watchful eye on the sounder. "Four feet under the keel. That's enough for me," and we tacked back out into deep water and current. After a couple of tries at this and still no progress, my confidence in the sounder and trust that silt behind a point lays down in a nice smooth arc led us to progressively go farther on each successive hitch until we were tacking within a foot and a half of literally banging the beach. That was the ticket, and with a couple of lucrative wind shifts we were soon skirting the two foot contour and riding a nice eddy back home. And, busting out that beer--Joel will know what I mean.

13 January 2009

Mom's Still Got It.

Bad knee and all she hopped aboard and couldn't wait to get out into open water. Only little puffs of wind coming in from the East, but with 70 degree temps (in January!) we couldn't complain. "This is just lovely," she remarked as she put the helm down and brought Lapras up onto the wind. It's been years since she's done that, but you'd never know.

That was Saturday. This morning, Mom called with sad news: 99 years, one last cup of tea, and her mother, my dear Nana, drifted off to be with the Lord.

We love you Nana.

Farewell to Mothra

Well, Mothra went on down the road to Santa Cruz
today with a happy new owner. I had a lot of fun with that boat and
satisfaction from fixing her up and getting her sailing again. She
was just the right boat to introduce sailing to the family in a
relatively low cost, low risk way. Turns out, the family really liked
it. You know what happened next--Lapras is here.

Sailing buddy, Dean, wanted to know if I need to change the address on this blog now. Nah, Mariner #1460 was the boat that got me back into sailing again and sharing these small boat adventures with family and friends.

Farewell, Mothra!
Does she look upset with me?