Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Church Sign Tuesday

Small Town Run

I went for one of my favorite runs yesterday.

It's only three weeks since the marathon so I'm still taking it fairly easy. But the temperature is 50 degrees, positively balmy for New Jersey in January. So I put on my shorts and T-shirt and set off along my road which runs along one side of the largest lake in town. It's only 79 acres but this is where the local sailing club meets, where I sailed Sunfish with my sons for many years, where I tried and failed to teach my wife to enjoy sailing, and where I spent three summers teaching kids to sail. The road winds around the lake and, after a mile or so, crosses the main drag through town and then starts to ascend.

The original 600 or so houses in town were built between 1910 and 1923 by one developer. He was particularly influenced by the Arts and Crafts movement, at the height of its popularity when he started building, and he used many features of Gustav Stickley's Craftsman architecture and philosophy. The houses are solid and boxy in appearance, good-sized but not ostentatious homes, with variations of colonial or neo-classical detail. There is much use of natural stone and stucco and they fit well into the landscape, located on natural rather than graded terrain with narrow roads curved to fit the contours of the land.

Now a new generation of
builders is busy everywhere in town. Renovations, re-modeling, extensions, tear-downs ... It seems that this town must be supporting the businesses of building contractors from a 50 mile radius. Folks that have made their money on Wall Street or in New York law firms, and guys with mysterious businesses in waste management or the like, are moving in and demanding more space in their homes, more modern amenities, whirlpool baths for him and her and the nanny, acres of granite counter tops, media rooms with 200 inch screens ... Little by little the town is being turned into a cluster of huge McMansions fit for Tony Soprano. On the left is one new home just being finished. On the right of the road another new house is being framed. Both replace older homes that were demolished.

I run up the hill and over a dam between two more lakes. Already it is more peaceful and I can hear the birdsong instead of the contractors' saws and hammers. The path over the dam is soft where the borough employees have spread woodchips. There is still some ice covering the surface of the higher lake. These two lakes and the one above them supported a thriving natural ice business in the late 19th and early 20th centuries -- before the availability of domestic refrigerators put an end to such activities.

Out on to the road again and still climbing. My legs are feeling good. Best run since the marathon. I go past a plumber's van with a sign saying, "Real Men Love Jesus". And then up to the highest lake in town, a popular spot for walking dogs. I see the mother of one of the kids that I taught to sail and wave to her. He was one of the first kids in town that I encouraged to attend junior regattas. I remember taking him when he was about 10 years old to a foggy, cold Sunfish regatta up in the hills of north-west Jersey. He's in college in Boston now.

I approach the highest lake and jog past the town's 911 memorial, a large boulder with simple carving. This small town lost two of its own that day, both workers in the World Trade Center. As chance would have it they were both parents of kids that I taught to sail. Sad and happy memories mixed together.

As I head into the woodlands I pass a notice warning that as part of the town's "deer management program", bow hunters will be in the woods culling the deer. (God forbid that the deer might eat the plants in the gardens of the McMansions.) But I don't think the archers will be aiming their arrows at middle-aged runners puffing along the track so I keep running.

I head into the woods on the trail round the lake. This is where my youngest son won the Trout Derby one brisk spring day and had his photo taken with the mayor and an enormous trout. The trail ascends and I see that there is ice covering about half the lake. In the summer this lake will be covered in water lilies but they are all dormant now. I reach the highest point of the run and start the gentle ascent down the woodland trail to the beach where the swim team meets in the summer. This is also the start and finish point for the town's annual 10K Woods and Lakes Run that I enter most years. Even though it's only January the sun feels amazingly warm on my body as I run out of the woods.

Now I'm retracing my steps. I pass the Jesus loving plumber's van and see that the plumber even looks like Jesus with long hair and a beard. Well, a blonde Jesus. Than as I head back over the dam I hear geese honking and see some Canada geese. Another species for which the town has a "management" program. In a few weeks they will be taking goose eggs from their nests and addling them. And in the summer any geese that survive that will be rounded up into vans and gassed. Got to keep those town beaches clean.

It's relaxing running down the hill and then out on to the main road through town. There is a wide, fairly level, well-surfaced sidewalk separated from the road by a strip of grass. The sidewalk used to be the route of a trolley track in the old days and is a popular spot for runners. A man and a woman running together slowly overtake me but that's OK. I'm still taking it easy. I pass a couple of women walking. One says to the other, "I'll live in it and leave it to you in my will." I pass an elderly lady admiring two small children and talking to their nanny.

Around the north end of the lake and past the school and the town club, two of the older buildings in town. I still have some bounce left in my legs for the final hill in the north-east corner of the main lake and I'm home.

Mmmm. A good run. Just under 5 miles, I'd guess, though I've never measured it. One of my favorite routes.

Monday, January 30, 2006

If I Had An Old Laser ...

It's winter in the northern hemisphere and many of us Laser sailors are suffering from cabin fever. One symptom is a very silly thread at the Laser Forum about what the writers would do with an old Laser. Here are some of the ideas so far.

If I had an old Laser I would ...

make a mold out of it, and then lay the mold with carbon fiber and make a Laser that a kid could lift with one hand

saw the boat in half from bow to stern, put it on a stand and put glass on top, and use it for a bar

chop it up and use it for a hiking bench

put wheels on it and sail around the parking lot

attach ice skates on the bottom for the November to April sailing season

play around with some foils

attempt to surf at a beach on my Laser

go in a Laser Demolition Derby in 25 knots

go out in the ocean in 30 knots and see how well I can cartwheel the boat by nosediving

sail it in front of a ferry on Sydney Harbour and watch it get demolished

get a bunch of those small rocket motors and see what happens

chuck it off a really high bridge and see what happens

Come to think of it forget what I said about cabin fever. Some of these comments are from the southern hemisphere and those guys have absolutely no excuse for their insanity.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Anna Wins Gold

Congratulations to USA's Anna Tunnicliffe, who at last week's Miami Olympic Classses Regatta won the gold medal in the Laser Radial class as well as US SAILING's Golden Torch Award, given to the American sailor deemed to have the best overall performance among all classes.

More on Miami OCR at Yachts and Yachting.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

High and Dry

Talking of boats out of their element -- in particular boats built to race around the world -- here is a picture of the final resting place of the Teignmouth Electron, rotting away on the Caribbean island of Cayman Brac -- picture by Cayman Net News.

This trimaran was built for the 1968 Sunday Times Golden Globe Race, the first single-handed round the world yacht race. Indeed the Golden Globe Trophy was offered for the first person to sail non-stop single-handed around the world, a feat never before achieved. And there was a separate money prize for the fastest non-stop single-handed circumnavigation.

Nine competitors took up the challenge. Only one, Robin Knox-Johnston, finished. The skipper of Teignmouth Electron, Donald Crowhurst, was at one time thought to be leading the race. But it was subsequently discovered that he had been reporting false positions in his radio reports and had never left the South Atlantic. (This was, of course, in the days before GPS, Virtual Spectator and almost real-time video reports from round the world racers.)

Crowhurst's boat was eventually found abandoned in mid-Atlantic along with logbooks showing his increasing irrationality of mind. It is assumed that he committed suicide by jumping overboard once he realised he could not succeed in his gigantic hoax.

Oversize Load Ahead

I guess the crew of Brasil 1 thought they were going to sail around the world in the Volvo Ocean Race. Instead the boat is making the 2500 mile trip across Australia from Freemantle to Melbourne by road after she lost her mast 1500 miles off the west coast of Australia.

Yachts and Yachting quotes Charlie Mills the guy responsible for the transport as saying, "I have not transported a boat before but I have transported wind farm blades."

Good luck to him.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Ask the Tillerman #3

Dear Tillerman,
Every time I sail my Laser I get these terrible pains in my knees and thighs and back. I've tried doing stretches before and after sailing but it doesn't help. My girlfriend who has a cousin who used to date a guy who knew a girl who was training to be an orthodontist says I might have chrondomalatia patella and spondylolisthesis. I'm not getting any younger -- I'm 40 years old. Do I need to sell my Laser and find a keelboat?
Pained in Peoria.

Dear Pained in Peoria,
Don't be such a wuss. Laser sailing is meant to hurt -- just suck it up. And of course you are not too old for a Laser. I know two guys of 75 who are still sailing Lasers and one has an artificial hip and the other an artificial knee. Get yourself in shape for the 2006 North American Laser Masters that are just up the road from you in Milwaukee in September. And never ever mention the K word in my presence again.

Disclaimer and Irony Warning: Tillerman is not a doctor, a psychiatrist or a sports therapist. He is not qualified to diagnose your condition via email. To the fullest extent permitted at law, Tillerman is writing this blog and its contents on an "as is" basis and makes no (and expressly disclaims all) representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied, with respect to this blog including, without limitation, warranties of merchantability and fitness for a particular purpose. In addition, Tillerman does not represent or warrant that the information accessible via this blog is accurate, complete, current or even interesting.

Except as specifically stated on this blog, to the fullest extent permitted at law, neither Tillerman nor any of his affiliates, directors, employees, family members, pets, grandchildren or other representatives will be liable for damages arising out of or in connection with the use of this blog or the information, content, or materials included in this blog. This is a comprehensive limitation of liability that applies to all damages of any kind, including (without limitation) compensatory, direct, indirect or consequential damages, loss of data, income or profit, loss of or damage to property, death, injury, pain, discomfort, boredom or eye strain. For the avoidance of doubt, Tillerman is full of crap and often says the exact opposite of what he really thinks.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

5-4-3-2-1 GO!!!

Start line at the 2005 Laser North Americans in Seattle.

Racing Rules Discussion

So Liam, have you read the new racing rules?

Um ...

They've been out a year. I thought you'd be up to speed by now.
After all, you are four years older than me. And I wasn't around much last year.

But Emily ...

I hear that if you touch a mark you only have to do a tack and a gybe, not a complete 360 degree turn?

Well, I ...

And that you're allowed to scull when you're above close-hauled and have little steerageway and are trying to turn back down to close-hauled. Is that right?

I'm just ...

And they've changed the rule about "hunting". I don't really understand that one. You're my big cousin, can you explain it to me?

Not really, I ...

What's up Liam? Why are you so quiet?

I was just trying to say that you look really cute Emily.

You too Liam. Just hold my hand and smile at the camera.


Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Sailing Nutrition

What you have for breakfast prior to a day of sailing will have a real impact on your performance and your enjoyment of the day. The goal of your pre-sailing diet should be to optimize fuel stores and hydration levels while relaxing your mind; sailing will provide plenty of excitement and stress so you need a nutritious vitamin-packed breakfast that will loosen you up for the challenges to come. Thankfully it is possible to meet all these needs in one easily digestible liquid meal.

Mimosa Recipe
2 oz orange juice

Pour orange juice into a Collins glass over two ice cubes. Fill with chilled champagne, stir very gently, and serve.

Do not forget that as the day progresses your energy stores can become depleted. The provision of additional sustenance at lunchtime is essential if you are to minimize the performance-sapping effects of fatigue. Psychologically at lunchtime you will need something refreshing and cooling. Once again modern sports nutrition technology has delivered the perfect mid-day liquid supplement.

Margarita Recipe
8 oz tequila
2 oz triple sec
6 oz limeade frozen concentrate
Juice of one fresh lemon
2 cups ice

Put ingredients in blender

At the end of a hard day's sailing it is important to refuel and rehydrate your muscles before the next day. The choice of fluid may vary with individual preferences but Tillerman recommends this recipe from our sailing friends in Bermuda.

Dark and Stormy Recipe
2 oz Gosling's Black Seal Rum
8 oz ginger beer

Pour rum over ice, add ginger ale and stir

Essential Sailing Equipment

Some people have an image of what their perfect boat needs to have. These people write blogs like Adrift at Sea and Shoestring Budget.

Following a discussion on EVK4's comment page yesterday, I have decided that the only essential item on my perfect boat is this hand-powered blender.

No wind? No power? No problems.


Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Phinn Phun

Apparently there is some friendly rival in the UK between the sailors in two classes of single-handed boats -- the Phantom and the Finn. The Finn class magazine has a page dedicated to Phantom bashing and the Phantoms actually have a page on their website devoted to "Phinn Phun". Both classes seem to believe that their opposite numbers are "a bit thick".

Yachts and Yachting report that the two classes are to meet for some challenges over the next few weeks -- some racing at Northampton and my old stomping ground, Rutland, followed by arm-wrestling and beer drinking at the RYA Dinghy Show in March.

Phinn Phun has a whole bunch of jokes at the expense of Finn sailors, most of them variations on the classic Irish, Polish or blonde stories. Here's my favorite ...

There are three Finn sailors washed up on an island. Suddenly a genie appears and offers to grant each one of them one wish.

The first asks to be intelligent. Instantly, he is turned into a Laser sailor and he swims off the island.

The next one asks to be even more intelligent than the previous one, so he is turned into a Contender sailor. He builds a boat and sails off the island.

The third Finn sailor asks to become even more intelligent than the previous two. The genie turns him into a Phantom sailor and he walks back across the bridge.

Monday, January 23, 2006


OK. Enough of all this flippancy of late ... making fun of people who own boats, people who read church signs and some kid who had more balls than me and actually went Laser frostbiting on Sunday. Now that I've pissed off every demographic that reads these ramblings, let's get serious. It's time to return to the real subject of this blog ...

Me. Yes, me. And how to make me a better sailor.

What? You find that a trifle egocentric? Get over yourself. All of us bloggers are essentially under the illusion that the minutiae of our daily grinds and our inner ramblings are of interest to someone else other than our mothers and our cats. You included.

So back to me. A few days I wrote about some ideas for getting fit for sailing. Now my problem is not that I don't know what I should be doing to get fit. It's that I haven't yet established the habit of doing something every day of working on a fitness routine. I'm just too damn lazy.

So what can I do when faced with a character flaw like that? Consult Google of course.

Type "habits" into the search bar and what do you get? An examination into how different people go to the bathroom. Hmmm I don't even want to look at that site. Another site that sells Mr. Old Fart T-shirts. Not exactly what I'm looking for. But in between the sites pushing self-help books, the sites pushing personal coaches and the sites pushing religion ... there is some good advice out there.

For example the Fitness Habit Website has some down-to-earth advice on how to make working out as regular a habit as brushing your teeth several times a day.

1. Favorably alter your environment. OK, done that. I've put my weights, my hiking bench and my books about sailing fitness in the spare bedroom that we just decorated in preparation for selling the house. (Yes dear, I'll put them back in the basement when we put the house on the market.)

2. Monitor your behavior. Meaning keep a log of what exercises you have done. Oh, yes. I know the value of that. I have kept a running calendar for more than a dozen years with daily entries of weather, time, route and minutes run. Obsessive? Maybe, but it does cause some dissatisfaction when I look back and see a week when I've failed to achieve a goal. Not to mention settling arguments with the wife about where exactly we vacationed in 1993.

So I've set up a spreadsheet to record my daily exercise progress.

3. Creative thinking. Visualize myself changing into workout clothes, doing my exercises, feeling good about it afterwards. Aaaaaaaaaaaah. Almost as good as the real thing with a fraction of the effort.

4. Set up an immediate reward system. That sounds good. OK, here's the deal I have with myself. No looking at your blogs until I've done my exercises each day. No, not even you. Or you. You are my reward for my morning workout. Please write something good so I think it's been worthwhile.

Then I've promised myself another reward. If I stick at the program for three weeks then I'll buy myself that MP3 player I've been coveting.

5. Start slow. The whole point is to establish a habit. So the plan is to do at least 10 minutes a day this week, 20 minutes a day next week and 30 minutes a day the week after. For at least 6 days every week. I know that doesn't sound much this week but it's all about getting into the routine. I'll alternate days of working on postural and hiking muscles and hiking endurance with days of working with free weights for upper body strength. At least 3 days a week of each. And I'll run for at least 30 minutes, 3 days a week, and do some other outdoor activity -- walking, cycling, skiing or sailing -- on other days that the weather allows. Then at the end of 3 weeks I'll set some new goals.

I started two days ago. So far so good.

Geeze, how can 10 minutes of exercise make your muscles this sore?

Unwelcome Advice

Dude, I know it's light air but you do need to tighten your outhaul a tad ... and sit further forward in the boat.

No Deductions

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Fitness for Sailing

A number of other sailing bloggers seem to have become obsessed with physical fitness in the last couple of days. At Five O'Clock Somewhere Carol Anne has set herself a goal to get into shape and is looking for tips from her sailing coach; Litoralis also has a goal to get in shape and is consulting a personal trainer next week; Scheherezade is weighing in with advice for Litoralis via a comment to his post; and in between posts about his new boat and political rants, Dan at Adrift at Sea tells us that he has purchased a Gold's Gym membership so he can spend six months getting in shape for long distance cruising.

Some of these energetic souls even credit myself with challenging or inspiring them to these bursts of physical self-improvement. Yikes, I'm going to have to be more careful about what I write in this blog.

I'm looking forward to reading whatever these folk care to write in their blogs about their fitness programs and I'm probably going to write a few posts myself over the next couple of weeks on this topic. Not that I'm an expert -- far from it. I know I'd sail better if I were fitter but I've never found the motivation to stick to an exercise program for any length of time. Except for running, of course. But beyond providing a certain basic level of cardio fitness, running isn't a very specific training for sailing.

However, I do have a couple of good books on sailing fitness. I even look at them occasionally. So if any of you exercising blogging sailors are looking for some advice, let me recommend ...

Mental and Physical Fitness for Sailing by Beggs, Derbyshire and Whitmore. As the title implies this covers mental aspects too. But one reason I like this book is that it does provide a range of flexibility, circuit and weight training exercises and classifies which are most appropriate for different types of sailors: windsurfers, hikers, trapezers and keelboat crews.

Sail Fit by Michael Blackburn. (Actually I think there is now an updated version of this book called Sail Fitter.) Blackburn is not only an Olympic Laser sailor but also has a PhD in Sports Physiology. So he knows what he's talking about.

Here are his top seven favorite training sessions.

7. Postural and hiking muscles: crunches and reverse sit-ups.
6. Static endurance: wall sit.
5. Muscle strength: weight training.
4. Endurance: exercise bike and rowing machine.
This is an interesting one. He alternates working out on the bike and the rowing machine for an hour with roughly 20 minutes of cycling followed by 6 minutes of "sheeting" which is sitting on a rowing machine with straight legs pulling the rowing handle with each arm alternately. The idea is that this simulates a real race. The cycling sessions are the beats; and the rowing machine workouts are the reaches. (Might be a good one for burning some calories and losing those 40 lbs litoralis.)
3. Endurance: cycling.
2. Hiking endurance: hiking bench.

So there you have it. What? I didn't tell you what Blackburn's #1 favorite workout session is? Surely you can guess. No? OK. Here it is ..

1. Hiking, sheeting, aerobic, strength (everything): Sailing.
Yeah. 45 minutes to 4 hours sailing in winds greater than 10 knots.


Friday, January 20, 2006

Wet Dreams

Photo shamelessly stolen without permission from the new website for the North American Laser Class.

Ask the Tillerman #2

By special request for one of the commenters to De-Lurking Day here is another in the series of Ask the Tillerman advice columns.

Dear Tillerman, I often hear that there are very few people between the ages of 22 and 35 active in sailing. Kids, teenagers and college students do a lot of sailing; old geezers over 35 dominate your average yacht club. But the twenties and early thirties age group is missing.

I can believe it. I'm one of that group. And it's tough.

First of all there's the time pressure. We're busy getting started on our careers, finding a mate, getting engaged, getting married, buying a house, buying furniture for the house, maintaining the house, mowing the lawn, having kids, looking after kids. Where the heck are we going to find time to sail?

Then there's the money problem. What with student loans, clothes, dating, engagement ring, wedding ring, wedding, mortgage, mending the roof, clothes for the kids, car loans, car repairs, etc. etc. where are we going to find the money to afford to join a yacht club, buy a boat and enter regattas?

All of the above applies to me. Not only do I have a mortgage, a wife, a car loan, a new baby, a long commute and a full-time job, I am also going to law school in the evenings. On top of all that I've put on a bit of weight since I was a competitive college sailor. OK -- a lot of weight. And I'm not as fit as I used to be.

But I really want to take up sailing again and recently someone offered to lend me a Laser. But I'm sure I'm too heavy for a Laser and at this weight I'd be really slow in light airs not to mention a total klutz in the boat. And I'm not fit enough to sail a Laser in heavy airs. I could join a gym but when would I find the time to work out? And then the weather in New England is freezing cold and the drysuit I had in college won't fit me any more and the nearest frostbite fleet is 50 miles away. And in any case, I'm always busy at weekends with various family commitments and church and doing chores and spending time with my new baby.

So Mr Tillerman, what do you think? Should I accept the offer of this Laser and go sailing again?

Yours Sincerely, Without a Clew.

Dear Without a Clew,

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Quiz Answer

The answer to Monday's quiz ...

The question was
"can you think of a situation where it would be faster to gybe rather than tack when wishing to change from one tack to another on a beat?" I guess I should have made it clear that I was thinking of a circumstance that would occur while racing.

My commenters came up with some interesting answers including my favorite one describing how to dodge an oil tanker in New Haven harbor. Apparently the "yikes we can't tack, let's gybe" reaction is more common than I imagined.

But the answer that I was looking for was to be found in Project Somewhere in a post about Moth sailing in Australia. There's some exciting stuff going on in this class as the top sailors develop their techniques for using hydrofoils. According to the author of Project Somewhere, champion Moth sailor Rohan Veal actually gybes instead of tacks in marginal foiling conditions in order to keep foiling.

These beauties start riding their foils at wind speeds of 8-10 knots and, in skilled hands, can easily achieve speeds of over 20 knots.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Schemes and Dreams

Hey, wake up. It's about time you set some sailing goals for 2006. Look at Seadated -- he had his 2006 goals posted on his blog on December 29th. And over at Stay of Execution, Scheherezade is challenging her college sailors to set goals for 2, 10 and 20 weeks.

So what? Why do I need goals? Can't I just go out and sail and have fun?

You know you want to be a better sailor. Well, it isn't just going to happen. You need to set yourself some targets and work out what you need to do to achieve them.

You mean like the time back in 1996 when I set myself the goal of qualifying for the US Team for the Sunfish Worlds within two years?

Yeah. That was a good one. And you made it. Don't you feel good about that?

Well, yes and no. When I got the letter in June 1996 saying I had qualified for the Worlds I was pretty pumped up. And I had a great time that year in the Dominican Republic and at the other Worlds that I was invited to ...

There you go. You know I'm right.

No you're not. Turns out that my performance in the 1995 North Americans was what got me that invitation. So I had already achieved my goal by the time I set it. And then I discovered that the goal wasn't all that hard anyway. You don't actually have to win a Regional or be in the top seven at the NAs like the rules say. So many people who qualify turn down their invitations that they have to dig really deep in the fleets to find folk who want to go to the Worlds. Some years they practically have to beg folk to attend.

OK. So that was a bad example. But you still need goals. You won't improve unless you set goals.

Like my goal that I had in 2004 to finish in the top half of the fleet at the Laser Masters Worlds in Cadiz?

Yeah -- that was a good goal. Simple, realistic, clear and measurable. I know it was realistic because in the previous two Master Worlds you were at about the 75th percentile of your age group. So all you had to do was to move up 20 places in an 80 boat fleet. How did it work out?

Pathetic. I was totally crushed. Three quarters of the way down the fleet again.

Why was that? Did you develop sub-goals -- a plan of what you needed to do to improve your game?

I sure did. I actually made a list of 20 things I was going to do differently at the regatta and a training activity to achieve each one of them. That way I convinced myself that it was feasible to make every single one of the 20 gains in position. And I made a list of 15 new things I was going to do in preparation for the regatta.

That sounds good. So why didn't it work out as you had hoped?

Well, in retrospect I guess it was lack of focus. Too many things to focus on. And lack of commitment to work on them all. Like I said before, I really just want to go out and sail and have fun.

You're probably right. It would be better to select, say, three weaknesses and to spend a year working on them.

There you go again. Nag, nag, nag. Didn't you read the church sign? I just want to mess about in boats.

Well there's nothing wrong with that, I suppose. But I'm sure you'll feel a greater sense of accomplishment if you set some goals and achieve them. What about when you ran your first marathon?

Well, yes, I did feel good about achieving that. And I suppose to get there I had to set a goal of running the race and commit to the training program to be able to achieve it.

There you go. You know I'm right. So what about some sailing goals?

Well, it's complicated this year. You know we're planning to move to Rhode Island but I don't know when we'll be able to make that happen. So I don't even know where I'll be sailing or what regattas I'll be doing. Can't I just have a goal to do a whole heap of Laser sailing?

Hardly measurable is it? And it's just a goal to participate; not to achieve a certain outcome.

You never give up, do you? What's wrong with goals to participate in events? Like the time I set myself a goal of finishing every race in the frostbite series and I was the only one out of over a hundred sailors to do 100% of the races and I won the Ironman award. That was a good season wasn't it?

If you say so. Do you have some participation goals for 2006?

Ummm. Well ... not exactly.

See? You're just drifting along. No direction. No focus.

Hey, back off. I'm retired. All this talk of goals and targets and objectives is too much like all the crap I had to put up with when I was working.

Sorry dude. Don't get your panties in a wad. So how would you sum up what you're going to do this year?

We're going to finish getting the house ready to sell and then we're going to put it on the market. And when we've sold it we're going to buy a new house and move to Rhode Island. And wherever we are I'm going to do as much Laser sailing as I can, both practice and regattas. And I'm not going to stress out over the results. What will be, will be.

OK. Sounds like a plan. Good luck.

Wait. I haven't finished. I'm going to explore opportunities for giving something back to the sport near where we'll be living, maybe teaching kids, or helping with community sailing or disabled sailing. And I'm going to choose another marathon and train for that and try and run a new personal best.

Wow. That's almost a goal.

Don't be sarcastic. And I'm going to look into some way of having a boat that I can use to take out friends and family for day sailing on Naragansett Bay. And if there's somewhere I can do kayaking I'm going to have a go at that too.

Slow down. I can't keep up with it all. That sounds like a pretty ambitious plan.

Like I said dude. Just messing about in boats ... Simply messing ... messing ... about ...in ... boats.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Church Sign

Buffalo Sailor

Check out Peter Huston's blog Buffalo Niagara Sailing. It is rapidly developing into one of the more interesting reads in this small world of sailing blogs. In the past week he has written an account of his personal experiences watching Rolex Yachtsman of the Year Nick Scandone sailing in his younger days; a long post about encouraging participation in sailing (with a promise to write more on this subject that will make some people mad at him); and Monday's post on junior sailing where he describes the Optimist as a dorky boat.

The article about Scandone stirred a memory of something I read years ago about how to practice sailing. Huston reports that although Scandone was a prototypical laid-back California dude, he took his preparation for the 1991 470 US Nationals very seriously.
For several weeks prior to this regatta, there was almost no wind. Yet, every single day, Nick went out sailing. Many of us, myself included, kept asking him if he was getting any real value from this sailing. Nick just smiled and kept sailing, or rather, floating around, literally for weeks on end.
Scandone then went on to win the regatta by a "staggering amount". I should be more like that. My attitude to practice is way too casual. I tend to wait for one of those perfect sailing days -- blue skies, sunshine, 70-80 degrees, 10-15 knots -- and then I might go out and practice. Of course, that severely limits the number of days I actually do any practice.

The advice that I had read somewhere of which Huston's article reminded me was: if conditions are such that a typical race committee would actually hold some races then you should go out and practice. Only 3-5 knots? Practice light air sailing. Blowing koalas off tree? Practice heavy air sailing. 95 degrees and as humid as Dennis Conner's armpit? So what? 20 degrees and freezing rain? Those masochists at Cedar Point would be racing.

So that's one of my 2006 resolutions: Set up a practice schedule and then go out and practice if a race committee would choose to race in those conditions. Thanks Peter for reminding me.

I don't always agree with Huston -- for example, he seems to have an aversion to folk who don't use their real name on the Internet (like me) -- but that's OK. I agree with some parts of his post on junior sailing -- kids do need more exciting rides as they get older -- but I think he has only scratched the surface in his proposed solution. Maybe I'll write more on this on another day.

Huston is clearly committed to using his blog to help sailing grow and thrive in his region. I wish him success in this endeavor. And look forward to seeing how he is going to keep his promise to make me mad at him.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Turkeys and Chickens

First a story, then a quiz ...

A few years ago I sailed my Sunfish in the Turkey Trot regatta at Sea Cliff YC. Sea Cliff is on Hempstead Harbor on the north shore of Long Island which for the geographically challenged is a long island - duh - to the east of New York City.

The Turkey Trot is held annually in November just prior to the American Thanksgiving holiday, or as it is known in the rest of the world... Thursday. For those international readers not familiar with the tradition of Thanksgiving it is a time when American families separated for months or years will reunite from the far-flung corners of our land; and shortly afterwards remember why they separated. All joking apart, Thanksgiving is of course a holiday invented by grocers and farmers to allow them to sell huge quantities of disgusting "traditional" foods such as squash and pumpkin that taste like mud and that nobody in their right minds would normally eat. Traditionally, families will celebrate the holiday by setting fire to their deck or a wall of their house under the guise of attempting to deep fry a turkey. The holiday is called Thanksgiving because we all give thanks that we are not turkeys.

Where was I? Oh yes, the regatta at Sea Cliff. When I arrived at the club about 11 am the wind was howling down Hempstead Harbor at about 50 knots. Full disclosure: for those readers shocked about the recent revelations that some things in James Frey's best selling "memoir" A Million Little Pieces are not historically accurate, let me confess that not everything in this blog is 100%, totally, perfectly true. But, as writers say when caught in a barefaced lie, it is the "essential truth". I may not have tested the windspeed with a certified laboratory calibrated anemometer -- for all I know it may only have been blowing 49 knots -- but it was scary windy. As the Aussies say, it was blowing koalas off trees and I can confidently assert that I didn't see a single koala clinging to a tree anywhere on Long Island that day.

I entered the clubhouse to find a small huddle of members, sailors, race committee, homeless people sheltering from the wind and other assorted hangers on debating the merits of actually holding the regatta. After due consideration of wind strength and direction, the potential impact on bar profits of canceling the regatta and how to otherwise dispose of the five frozen turkeys purchased as regatta awards it was decided to proceed with the event.

The sailors unloaded their boats and swathed themselves in several layers of polypropylene, polyester, neoprene, latex and goretex. (Better Living Through Chemistry.) Meanwhile the race committee enjoyed the view from the bar. By this time the wind had moderated to a mere 45 knots (essential truth scale) and the waves weren't actually crashing over the road running past the club any more. Launching through the surf off a lee shore was the first challenge which most of the fleet achieved with the help of volunteers who waited on the shore to grab boats thrown sideways on to the gravel beach by the pounding waves and very kindly throw only slightly damaged boats and more than slightly reluctant sailors back into the foaming brine.

The course was very simple: a triangle with marks rounded to starboard. The start was a line off the end of the pier. The advantage of this starting system was that the race committee could run the whole regatta from a hut on the pier without even needing to smell the sea, never mind get their feet wet. Now I'm not saying it was actually blowing Beaufort Force 12 but the standard description of Force 12 -- air filled with foam, sea completely white with driving spray, visibility greatly reduced -- was a fair summary of the situation unless my memory deceives me. The windward mark was promised to be some indeterminate distance to windward but, due to the air being full of spray and the aforementioned flying koalas, it was actually invisible from the start.

In the prevailing conditions there was only about a 45% chance that a tack could actually be achieved without either capsizing, going into irons or being swamped by a wave. So the technique we all quickly discovered was to start on starboard tack, sail in a rough approximation of a close hauled course until you guessed you were past the layline, say a prayer, tack, continue on a close-(ish) hauled course on port tack and hope to see the windward mark soon. If you had judged it right you would be laying the mark and could round it without any more tacks. If you had misjudged it ... well you really don't want to know.

Then would come the totally uncontrollable reach to the gybe mark with spray flying in all directions and water spouting up the daggerboard trunk, as the desperate helmsman tried to avoid digging the bow into a wave. On arrival at the gybe mark, you would of course gybe. Well, if tacks had a 45% chance of success, then gybes (at least for me) had about a 5% chance of success. After a couple of capsizes I quickly realized that it would be faster to do a "chicken gybe", i.e. sail past the mark, head up, do a tack and bear off on the final reach to the finish line back at the pier.

As the afternoon wore on the fleet got smaller and smaller. Once the fleet was down to five boats the race committee called it a day and awarded the frozen turkeys to the remaining sailors and we all went home. My family ate the turkey for Thanksgiving (not deep-fried) and I mounted the wishbone on a plaque and put it on my trophy shelf.

I have never been back to Sea Cliff YC since that day.

Now to the quiz. I think most sailors are familiar with the "chicken gybe" described above: when the prudent sailor chooses to tack rather than gybe in order to turn the corner between two downwind legs. But can you think of a situation where it would be faster to gybe rather than tack when wishing to change from one tack to another on a beat?

Clue: One answer is in a blog linked from a blog in my blogroll. (Hope you have plenty of spare time if you try to find the answer this way.)

Prize: A certified pre-owned Sunfish or Laser regatta T-shirt size XL or L from my vast collection completely free (plus handling and shipping charges, fuel surcharge, destination fee, one-way charge etc. etc.) OR a post written in this blog on any sailing-related subject of your choice.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Does This Blog Annoy You?

Does this blog annoy you? Or for that matter have you ever received an annoying anonymous email or read a comment on a forum that is abusive and not signed with the author's real name?

If so, then you now have a recourse. According to the Violence Against Women and Department of Justice Reauthorization Act, which President Bush signed into law January 5, anyone who "utilizes any device or software that can be used to originate telecommunications or other types of communications that are transmitted, in whole or in part, by the Internet ... without disclosing his identity and with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten, or harass any person ... who receives the communications. ... " has committed a federal crime. The penalties are fines and prison terms up to two years.

My account of the New England Laser Masters was surely annoying to Antony Clay (whose style I was intentionally mocking),
Whisperer? was definitely abusive to Steve Cockerill, and I think even Tinkerbell has a case.

Go on. I dare you. Turn me in to the feds.

Let freedom ring.

Sad News

Emily's other grandfather died unexpectedly on Friday morning. On Friday we drove to Massachusetts to be with my son and his wife and to provide whatever practical and moral support that we can.

Please understand that if I do find the time to post in the next few days it won't be in the same flippant and breezy tone as most of my recent writings.

Thursday, January 12, 2006


Somehow I've missed seeing ABC's TV series Lost until now. But I heard the buzz and saw that on Wednesday they were showing an episode which was a linear recap of the story so far. Seemed like a good time to jump in, catch up with the plot, and start watching the series every week.

Now I do get it -- I know you are not supposed to understand everything going on. It is a mystery, a puzzle. Now, cramming a gazillion episodes into one hour was bad enough, but I was just about keeping a tenuous grasp on the plot until the phone rang. It was the woman in charge of the training program at my sailing club. From that point on I went into sensory overload and total confusion.

Ear: Hi. How are you?

Brain: Oh shit. Why does she have to ring now? Where's the remote? I'll put it on mute and try and follow the captions while she talks.

Mouth: Oh ... er ... hi. Fine thanks. How are you?

Brain: Who's that guy? Which part of the plane was he in?

Ear: So what's all this I hear about you moving to Rhode Island?

Brain: How does she know that? I only told the chairman of the nominating committee as my reason for not taking on any sailing club officer positions this year. And I told him not to tell anyone else. Where did that dog come from? Was it on the plane?

Mouth: Um uh you know ... maybe ... something we're thinking about ... don't know when ... new granddaughter ... great sailing area ... might be a while ...

Brain: Why are they on that raft? And who are they fighting?

Ear: Oh that's good. We'd hate to lose you. So you might be around this summer?

Brain: Wait a minute. Is this an advert? Why are they in that modern building with computers?

Mouth: Yeah ... um ... well we might ... you never know.

Brain: Who's she and why does she have a gun?

Ear: So I was wondering if you'd be able to run some of the beginner sailing courses this summer? I know you'd be great at it.

Brain: Whaaaaat? Didn't that guy get killed in the first 5 minutes? I'm confused.

Mouth: Um ... er .... well there is a possibility we might move ... I mean we'd like to if we can sell the house. That's why I gave up being fleet captain and newsletter editor. Clearing the decks ...

Brain: Now there's a baby? Hold on. There was no baby at the beginning. And why are they looking at a movie?

Ear: Well we'd really like you to help if you can.

Brain: Why are they fighting? Who just got shot? Is he one of us or one of them? What happened to all the kids? This is getting really weird.

Mouth: Well... er ...um .... I don't really know what our situation will be ... best not to commit ...

Brain: Why isn't that other guy around any more? Why is he driving a car? Oh this must be an advert. Or is it?

Ear: Well can you suggest anyone else?

Brain: I don't get all this stuff with the computer. Would it be any easier if I could hear the soundtrack? How much longer is she going to go on?

Mouth: Um ... well ... er .... there's ... oh maybe not ... there was that thing with her ... then there's... oh no he won't do ... you know why ... um ....

Brain: Another plane? On the same island? What's all that about?

Mouth: How about ... um ... that guy who used to be a member then left then came back ... you know ... whatshisname...

Brain: So is he from that plane or the other plane or is he one of them or one of us?

Ear: Um
Mouth: Ummm.
Ear: So?
Mouth: Ummm.
Ear: Well thanks.
Mouth: You're welcome.

I need to get a Tivo.

De-Lurking Day

I know you're out there. My stats tell me you're out there. And today you have a once in a lifetime chance to let your presence be known.

Well, okay, technically you have that chance everyday, but today is International De-Lurking Day, a special day celebrating lurkers, and exhorting you to muster the strength and bravery to click on that comment button and end the deafening silence.

So say hi, or tell me your resolutions for 2006, or what you're having for lunch, or your diabolical plan for world domination -- whatever. I am one of the worst offenders, and may be popping by your site to say "Hello, I'm Tillerman, and I am a lurkaholic."

Even better, tell me what you think of this site, what you hate, what you like, what you would like me to write about and what annoying habits I have that drive you to drink. Do you want more articles about sailing and fewer about jiggly asses; or vice versa? Can you stand any more pictures of the cutest granddaughter in the world; or are you waiting with bated breath for the next Ask the Tillerman post? Are you, like me, getting cabin fever with no prospect of sailing for a couple of months; or do you live somewhere warm and are writing about real sailing adventures in your blog every day? Feel free to tell me that I use too many semicolons; or that you don't like my English accent. Or just complain that I plagiarized this idea from Paper Napkin.

But for Pete's sake, say something. (Sorry Pete - no offence.)

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Overheard on a Run

Sunday was a good day. Things were going well for me in the marathon. I was maintaining a steady consistent pace and had powered past 20 miles with no signs of flagging. I had joked with the other runners, waved at the crowds (especially all those cute cheerleaders) and smiled at the cameras.

Now in the last two miles I have caught up with a couple of female runners dressed as fairies. Tinkerbells, I guess - after all this is the Disney World Marathon. Wings, tutu, magic wand - the whole shebang. I'm thinking, this is not good. If I stay with these two I'm going to be photographed crossing the finishing line with a couple of fairies. Not good at all.

The taller of the two Tinkerbells is talking in a loud, whiny voice to the other one as they are running
side by side. It's like one of those cell phone conversations you hear on the train - one-sided, boring, loud. And she's going on and on and on about the same subject. Her friend is just uttering the occasional grunt as acknowledgement that she is sympathizing with Big Tinkerbell's predicament.

So he said my ass was fine ...... but I told him I know it's jiggly ...... he said it looked great after all my training ....... but I know I've got a jiggly ass ....... he's just saying it to make me feel good ...... I hate having a jiggly ass, especially when I'm running ....... it's not so bad when I'm cycling ...... but I know how bad I look when I run ....... blah blah blah ...... jiggly ass ...... blah blah blah ...... jiggly ass ....

After a couple of minutes I can't stand any more so I accelerate a little and pull away from the narcissistic fairy with the vibrationally challenged buttocks.

Man, it feels so good to have some spring left in the legs after 26 miles. Only a couple of hundred yards to go. The crowd is cheering and screaming and encouraging us all. Round the final bend and I see it ... at last, the finish line. The announcer reads out my name and home state to the crowd. I wave both arms in the air at the cameras and cross the line looking like a maniac.

Wow. So much better than last year's marathon. Almost 30 minutes faster and a strong finish with none of last year's agonies in the final 6 miles. All the training and preparation have been worth it.

I know that, in the big scheme of things, my time of 4:33 isn't anything to be too excited about. But I did beat Big Tinkerbell With Jiggly Ass. It was a good day.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Boy Meets Girl

Hey Jake, this may be our first date but let's get one thing clear. I'm a 21st century woman so I steer the boat and you trim the jib. OK dude?

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Ask the Tillerman #1

Dear Tillerman, I recently took up Laser sailing but I have enormous problems every time I try to gybe. My sheet gets hooked round the corner of the transom and I capsize.
What is wrong with this stupid boat?
Yours in anger and frustration
Tangled & Wet

Dear Tangled & Wet,
There is nothing wrong with your boat. As the folks at Microsoft might say, the design of the Laser rear end is not a bug - it's an undocumented feature. Your problem is something that is quite common among inexperienced sailors that have been sailing the boat for less than, say, 40 years.

First of all let me explain the physics of the situation. If during a gybe the mainsheet is allowed to trail in the water then the viscous drag of the water will be greater than the tension in the sheet thereby maintaining the sheet at a lower elevation than the corner of the transom with the inevitable result that as the boom transits across the boat the excess sheet will become ensnared under the cleverly designed wrap-over transom and will be pinned below it and as the sail fills on the new side the heeling moment of the rig will exceed the righting moment of the helmsman as you attempt to get your sorry ass over to the new side with the result that the rig will adopt a new equilibrium in the horizontal plane.

Several solutions have been suggested ...

Some experts will recommend rolling the boat as you gybe so that the old leeward side is lifted into the air as the gybe commences thereby preventing the sheet from falling in the water. Unfortunately this maneuver also raises the evil hooked corner of the transom into just the right position to catch the loose sheet during the gybe. As the boat is already heeled in the direction of the new heeling force then the capsize only happens even more abruptly.

Other so-called experts recommend sheeting in before the gybe to prevent having several feet of loose sheet that can trail in the water. This method was recently debunked by Steve Cockerill in his Boat Whisperer DVD where he points out that it is bad for the boat's psyche to sheet in when you want to bear away as it is sending the beast conflicting messages that will harm its self esteem. To make a boat bear away you should cluck, "Come on gee gee!" three times and ease the reins - I mean sheet.

No. The only safe method to avoid the dreaded sheet-round-the-transom problem is to wait until the boom is coming across and then grab the sheet as it exits the boom block. Hold the sheet as you cross the boat and you will take up the excess sheet safely and all will be well. Experienced sailors can even give the sheet a little flick after it is grabbed. With practice this will create a loop in the sheet that will wrap around the end of the boom and hold the rest of the sheet well clear of the water. Of course, once the sheet is wrapped around the end of the boom you have a slightly different issue to deal with ... but we do not have time to discuss that in this lesson.

Remember, practice makes perfect.


The F Word Again

Yacht clubs are wonderful organizations for bringing together like-minded individuals for friendly enjoyment of the sport of sailing in a spirit of good sportsmanship, harmony and mutual respect. As an example, here is an email a fellow club member recently sent to the executive committee of our club ...

The tongue is like a sharp knife. It kills without drawing blood. Chinese Proverb

I no longer wish to be a member of an organization whose officers and staff condone the incomprehensible actions of a Fleet Captain who is ignorant*, slanderous,** vulgar,*** and greedy.****

*9-02-05 All-club e-mail re SUNFISH LABOR DAY CLASSIC in part stating "Entrance fee will be $5."

**9-02-05 Multi-member reply to my e-mail stating this is a no-fee event. "You're such an ASSHOLE."

***9-04-05 Sunday at the lake her response to my written proof; "Why don't you just FUCK OFF!"

****9-05-05 Bilking 25 entrants of a five dollar bill and adding it to Sunfish fleet coffers already overflowing with more than six-hundred (600.00) dollars!

(Yikes. All over five bucks and something that happened four months ago. These Sunfish sailors are scary.)

What I Missed on New Year's Day

Random Photos From 2005

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Marathon Goals

On Sunday I'm going to run the Disney World Marathon. As I seem be stuck in the mode of writing lists these days, here are my 10 goals for the marathon

1. Relax. Especially on the day before the marathon. This is where I made a big mistake last year. As we were in Disney World, my wife and I thought we'd just go over to Animal Kingdom and check out a few attractions in the morning. Of course one thing led to another and before I realized it we had walked several miles in the Florida heat. This year on Saturday we plan to hang out at our resort. I'll drink a lot of water, eat some light snacks, maybe read a book, perhaps do some people watching, but above all ... relax.

2. Socialize with the other runners, especially before the start. A marathon is really just an excuse for a party with 20,000 other idiots who share the same obsession. For this marathon we have to be in the staging area before 4:00 a.m. for the start of the race at 6:00 a.m. So there's plenty of time to hang out with other runners, chat about their plans for the day, swap experiences, learn about other marathons and just enjoy meeting folk.

3. Appreciate the start of the race, the music, the fireworks, the excitement. For me, just getting to the start is more than half the satisfaction. In late summer 2004, I decided to enter myself for the January 2005 Disney World Marathon as a way to motivate myself to get out and exercise in the fall. I know myself well; without something like this as a target, the last few months of the year can be a time of slowing down and turning into a couch potato. The sailing season winds down, the days get shorter, temperatures drop ... all good excuses for staying inside and vegetating. But the last two years I've had to go out and run longer and longer distances as the weather becomes colder. The training this year has gone well. I'm ready.

4. Start really slow. There's no pressure on me; I'm here to have fun. From the first step I'm going to relax and enjoy the endorphins. Look around. Take pleasure in the sights, the lights in Epcot, the music ... savor the moment.

5. Take walk breaks right from the first mile. I'm using the Jeff Galloway system this year which involves taking a one minute walk every mile. Jeff's theory is that this gives the running muscles a break without slowing the overall pace by all that much. So there's a much better chance of being able to complete the 26.2 miles in good shape. I hope he's right!

6. Smile a lot. Wave at all the Disney characters. Especially Goofy. Joke with other runners. Pose for the cameras. Last year when my son looked at the photos taken of me while running the marathon he commented that, "You almost look like you're enjoying it in one picture." He was right. I looked grim. This year I'm going to laugh and wave at every camera I see and show the world that I'm having fun.

7. Increase the pace a little after the first few miles. But not too much. I'm still going to store enough energy to get me through the final miles. Relish the experience of
through a Florida sunrise. Enjoy the scenery. Keep a steady pace up through the bizarre unreality of the Magic Kingdom. Relax. Keep a short stride through Animal Kingdom. Stay loose.

8. Run the last six miles in great shape. I know I'll be tired but I've done the training and I'm going to enjoy this part of the race. Other people will be more tired than me. Because of my training and because I started slow I'm planning on having plenty of strength left. Zoom up the hill at mile 22, power past other runners all the way through MGM Studios, glide around the lake from Boardwalk to Beach Club, and stay strong on the final trip round the World Showcase lake to the finish. Wave to the crowds.

9. Cross the finish line feeling good. Pump my arm in the air. Smile for the cameras. Wave to my wife. Take pride in my achievement.

10. Celebrate. Take my wife out for a celebration dinner. Drink a margarita (or two). Tell everyone I meet that I ran a marathon today. Phone my sons and my mum and tell them, "I did it!" (Blog about it too.)

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Sails without calm air slidegate valves

If you go to Technorati and search for blogs tagged "sailing", the top nine or ten blogs are either (a) very little to do with sailing, (b) blatant advertising or (c) in a language other than English. Blog #3 is Treehuggin' pussy which is in German. Just for the hell of it I used Google Translate to translate it into English. As I suspected, most of it is not about sailing but there is the occasional post that is on the topic.

Such as this gem ...

Sails without calm air slidegate valves
On the desire list the book came, because I wanted to learn more over sails without engine (and because I devour all sail books anyway). Now, of it the book acts also, but only the first 50 pages (of 184). Power however nix, because thus is already discussed that engineless sails, as far as it differs from common ships. The remainder acts of crew management (an engine can be replaced partially by many hands), of training, of sails, the behavior as a crew, the behaviour as captain and spassigen conditions. The whole is told on loose spassige Seebaerart and supplemented by reports by others. Photos and designs complete the book. One marks the love for its boat and the bootsklasse generally (12-mR-Yacht) and also the fun, which he has with sails to the Skipper.

Unpleasantly only 2 things were noticeable to me: The lektorat could have been more thoroughly, errors as Standart should one simply not survey and the designs not work by a crude mixes by photo and illustration somewhat strangely. Altogether I can recommend the book from full heart and it after one day had unfortunately already read.

I guess Google still have some work to do on this tool ...

Top Ten Sailing Blogs of 2005

It seems like all of the mainstream media and the blogosphere are making lists. PC World's 100 best products of 2005, somebody's 10 worst toys of 2005, 20 words that should be banished ... So to stay with the spirit of the season, here are some of my favorite stories from other blogs that I have read in 2005.

1. Zephyr has a knack for discovering interesting sailing news. One of the most inspiring was his account in August about quadriplegic Hilary Lister's sailing single-handed across the English channel.

2. I am not usually a fan of cruising logs but I have enjoyed reading Mark and Judy Handley's account of The Voyage of Windbird, a Tayana 42, which they are sailing from Boston to New Zealand (and then back by a route yet to be determined). In the last few days of 2005 they have been exploring three of my favorite islands, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and Bequia. And yesterday Judy spotted Martha Stewart in the grocery store. Wow!

3. As a middle of the fleet racer myself
(on my good days) it's fascinating and educational to read the blog of one of the top skiff sailors from Australia, Scott Babbage. At a time of the year when we're all thinking of 2006 sailing goals, here's a post from Scott from January 2005 as he weighs up the pros and cons of various challenges. Choices, choices, choices!

4. Five O' Clock Somewhere is an account of the sailing scene in New Mexico and is unique, as far as I know, among sailing blogs in that every Wednesday the author, Carol Anne, publishes another installment of a novel she has written (or is still writing). The novel has a sailing background but with some supernatural twists. Here's some of the sailing action in Chapter 8 of Wizards of Winds and Waves.

5. Another female blogger, Scheherazade in Stay of Execution, doesn't often write about sailing even though (or perhaps because) she is a college sailing coach. The quality of her writing attracts a large following and she has that special ability to make the most mundane of subjects sound interesting. Back in April she was waxing lyrical about sandpaper.

6. The Skip's Blog chronicles the racing year of a J-24 skipper from Toronto. I admire his detailed accounts of each race complete with diagrams such as this write-up of a race in August. After his racing season was over he started compiling a comprehensive series of articles on boat-handling, sail trim and strategy such as this post on The First Two Minutes.

7. Claude Nix writes Seadated, and brings us news of sailing on Chesapeake Bay. One of his innovations this year was the addition of some podcasts. Here is his first podcast.

8. Then we have Antony Clay who updates the blogosphere with vivid stories of Enterprise racing in the UK at Soulsailor. You can almost hear his voice in this stream of consciousness post about winning the Brookvale Open.

9. I'm not sure I can count the horse's mouth as a sailing blog but I enjoy the author's off-beat sense of humor and ability to unearth zany pictures, mostly with a watersports orientation. This post on the Cape Cod Frosty is typical.

10. Last, but not least, one of my favorite sailing blogs is EVK4 Bloglet where Edward writes of day sailing on San Francisco Bay, buying and restoring a boat for his daughter - and even a spot of racing - with much enthusiasm and not a little self-deprecating humor. Here he tells us about a perfect day for a sail.

What a diverse bunch! Racers, day sailors and long distance cruisers. Philosophers and humorists. Masters of the written and spoken word - and of the visual image. News stories, personal musings, travel writing and fiction. World class racers and weekend warriors. Old and young, male and female. Northern and southern hemispheres, old and new worlds, left and right coasts. Sailors on oceans, bays, lakes - and even one from the desert! The only thing they have in common is a love of the sport and a passion to communicate.

Keep blogging guys.

Monday, January 02, 2006

I'm a Loser

I am a hopeless, pessimistic, gutless defeatist. A total loser. Do NOT read this blog. My attitude will infect you.

You still here? Don't say I didn't warn you.

Anyway, last week I was eagerly looking forward to the Hangover Bowl. When I sailed it on New Year's Day 2005 it was a blast -- 15 to 20 knots, wild reaches, scary runs, crowded marks and lots of capsizes. In the middle of last week the forecast was predicting similar weather this year. Yeah baby.

Then, a day or two before the regatta, the forecast changed. Snow and rain were predicted for Saturday night. Worse, the winds were forecast to be 1 to 3 knots on Sunday afternoon. That didn't sound much like fun. Especially as I have an 80 mile drive to get to the club. Bummer.

So on Sunday morning I reluctantly decided not to sail the event. During the day I checked in on Weather Underground. On WU there is a link to a personal weather station just across the river from the club. From noon onwards it was showing the wind speed as "calm". Zero. Nada. Zilch. Yeah, there was the occasional gust of 2mph but who wants to sail in that? And every other station up and down the Connecticut shore was showing the same. I congratulated myself on my good decision not to waste several hours driving to a regatta that must have been abandoned with no sailing. Smug, smug, smug.

Then on Sunday evening I checked out the club's website. Wham! I see that the regatta did happen. Results were posted on the club website with their usual efficiency. They got in 5 races. DVDs and bottles of alcohol were awarded. What? How did that happen? Damn, damn, damn.

Now I feel stupid. I could have gone sailing, had some fun on the water, hung out with my buddies afterwards and maybe come home with a cool prize and some wacky sailing experiences to write about in this blog. What a way to start the year! Oh well. Forget all those zany resolutions that I posted yesterday. First real New Year Resolution is ... be optimistic. The risk of hanging out at the yacht club in no wind and light rain and freezing temperature while a race committee vacillates about whether we will sail or not (not to mention driving for three hours to and from aforementioned freezing, rainy, windless venue) is a lesser evil than the risk of missing the only day of Laser racing round here between December and March.

You still here? I warned you. I'm a loser. A faint-hearted, indecisive, dithering deadbeat. Do NOT read this blog.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

New Year Resolutions

1. Not get deported.
2. Be a shark.
3. Get an invisible friend.
4. Flatter.
5. Try some Canadian drugs.
6. Avoid hyper-viscosity.
7. Wear spandex.
8. Not sail ugly boats.
9. Spy on the NSA.
10. Tweak less.
11. Learn how to spell Connecticut.
12. Chill more.
13. Not eat cloned meat.
14. Get unstuck.
15. Become one with my inner sociopath.
16. Not be a squirrel.
17. Learn how to juggle chainsaws.
18. Curl.
19. Play for gumbo.
20. Concentrate on something else.

Some of the above might make sense to anyone who has been reading this blog for a while; some of the above is not meant to make sense.

Live slow, sail fast and have a great 2006.