Wednesday, September 30, 2009


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Staying Alive

You may have read on the Scuttlebutt Forum the story of Thorsten Cook who fell off his boat during the recent Star North Americans and (according to Mr. Cook) "nearly drowned". Notwithstanding that he was wearing one of those inflatable life vests that didn't inflate and that he forgot how to inflate it manually, his account seemed to pin a lot of the responsibility for his near drowning on the race committee and focused on various issues associated with communication between competitors and the RC by VHF or cell phone.

Now I don't want to rehash Mr Cook's case here. If you want to join that debate please feel free to do so at the Scuttlebutt forum. But it did start me thinking about my own approach to making sure that I come back alive every time I go out Laser sailing. I do feel it's largely my own personal responsibility to look after my own safety and have made a list for myself of Tillerman's Top Five Tips For Making Sure I Don't Die On My Laser. Some of my advice might even be useful to other small boat sailors...

I was going to write a post on that topic. But then I realised that I had so much to say about each of the Top Five Tips that it would make more sense to have a separate post about each tip. So that's what I will be blogging about over the next few days... unless one of my anal commenters provokes me to address some other random topic.

Big River

I read a lot of posts on sailing blogs every day. Some are funny; some are thought-provoking; some teach me something; some even inspire me. And a lot are pretty mundane.

Then occasionally a blogger finds a subject that stimulates their own creativity to a whole new level and they write a jewel of a post that gives the reader whole new insights into their world. Such a post as the one that Pat, of Desert Sea - New Mexico Sailing, submitted for Captain JP's World Rivers blogging challenge this week.

It's all about Pat's early life growing up by the side of the Rio Grande, and his life today a thousand miles upstream on the same river. A very special post...

Baja y alta, un rio, dos republicas, dos capitulos de vida

Don't worry. The rest of the post is in English!


Tuesday, September 29, 2009

7 Signs That I May Be Anal-Retentive

  1. I have a picture of a Flemish coil on the wall in my dining room.

  2. I have kept an accurate running diary since 24 December 1990, with details of how long I ran each day, route, weather etc. etc. etc.

  3. I once wrote to the editors of the Oxford English Dictionary to point out an error in their definition of "water".

  4. I have a copy of every version of the Racing Rules of Sailing going back to 1981.

  5. I once wrote to Dick Rose to point out that there was a logical error in the wording of one of the US Sailing Prescriptions to the Racing Rules.

  6. I've just looked up "anal-retentive" to see if it needs a hyphen.

  7. I always leave one blank line at the end of every blog post. Never less than one. Never more than one. Just one. I have no idea why.

Monday, September 28, 2009


Tillerwoman and I went for a walk this morning along the side of our river, the Sakonnet, and came across a boat for sale on a trailer on someone's front lawn. To be honest this is not an unusual sight in these uncertain economic times but this boat really caught my eye.

At first glance it looked like a classic wooden boat but on closer examination I realised it was constructed of GRP, but in a way that avoided that "plastic boat" look. And the spars that appeared to be wooden were really carbon fiber. Hmmm.

It was a Nigel Irens design, a Romilly. I'd never heard of it before. A 22 ft. lugger yawl. Cast iron centerboard. Small two-berth cuddy cabin. I guess you could call it a family day sailer but it would be a pretty cool family day sailer.

Hmmm. I envisaged sailing around the bay with family members. Hopping over to Jamestown or perhaps a longer trip around Buzzards Bay. Sleeping on the boat overnight would be like camping for sure but that would be half the fun.

As I examined the boat and dreamed of what I would do with a Romilly, Tillerwoman was making comments like, "The beds must be be very small," and, "It won't fit in the garage." She doesn't find boats very romantic, it seems...

I was tempted, very tempted. This would be a fine boat for taking grandchildren for sailing trips. The asking price was more or less equivalent to four new Lasers. But even so....

We carried on with our walk. I must resist the temptation. Repeat to self, "I am a Laser sailor. I am a Laser sailor. I am a Laser sailor."

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Sakonnet River

Today, the last Sunday in September, is World Rivers Day.

Celebrate World Rivers Day and celebrate the greatest little river in the whole world, the Sakonnet River.

The Sakonnet River is only 14 miles long and, strictly speaking, it's not a river at all; it's a tidal strait. But all the modern maps and charts call it the Sakonnet River so I'm submitting it as my entry for World Rivers Day.

The Sakonnet is my river. It stretches from Mount Hope Bay (aka My Bay) in the north to where it meets the open ocean at
Sakonnet Lighthouse on Rhode Island Sound. On the river's west side is Aquidneck Island, and on its east side are the mainland Rhode Island towns of Tiverton and Little Compton. It is the easternmost of the three north-south waterways that form the southern part of the Narragansett Bay system.

Of those three passages it is arguably the most beautiful, being bordered on both sides by some of the most rural scenery in Narragansett Bay. And, of the three, it is certainly the least crowded with hardly any commercial traffic, except for the occasional fishing boat, and usually only a handful of pleasure boats. For most of its length the river is between one and two miles wide. In the northern half of the river the water is usually flat, but near the mouth of the river in a southerly or southwesterly breeze there can be some long rolling waves that create perfect downwind surfing conditions. All in all, one of the best spots in the world for dinghy sailing.

US Sailing obviously agrees with me. The last US Olympic Trials for Lasers and Laser Radials were held near the mouth of the Sakonnet, launching from the nearby sheltered cove of Third Beach. This was also the site of one of my best regattas last year, Not Throwing in the Towel, and where Fat Boy and Little Man had some fun in awesome waves a few weeks later.

The middle section of the river is dominated by the peninsula of Fogland which sticks out from the eastern shore like a huge fist on a skinny arm. This provides two great options for small boat launching. Fogland Beach on the south side of the peninsula is a gently sloping pebble and sand beach perfect for launching a Laser off a dolly. But if the winds from the south are too stiff to make it tricky to launch from this side, then I just drive over to the rocky north side of Fogland where I can launch into a sheltered cove. Accounts of sailing both sides of Fogland can be found at Fogland Fartlek and David Atlas, J.S. Marshall, R.H. Douglas, Walter Palmer 79th Sail.

At the northern end of the Sakonnet River there is a narrower, busier section between the towns of Tiverton and Portsmouth with a large mooring field, several marinas, shops, cafes etc. The tides run faster here and there is none of the more rural atmosphere of the southern stretches. I don't bother with Laser sailing around here.

The river is steeped in history being the site of an historic amphibious invasion and the home of a famous queen. On its shores are three vineyards, and I can personally recommend Sakonnet Vineyards as a perfect spot for a picnic lunch on a summer Sunday. The rural lanes on the eastern shore are some of my favorite places around here for running and cycling.

The river is popular with windsurfers (especially at Fogland) and with kayakers. One of the most interesting spots for kayakers to explore is Seapowet Marsh just north of Fogland.

The river has two yacht clubs, Tiverton Yacht Club and the Sakonnet Yacht Club. They don't have much of the kind of sailing that interests me right now, but it's good to know that they are there if I want to try something different. There is even a Model Yacht Racing Club right at the north end of the river. I ran into them one day when I was out cycling and found a dozen or so old geezers like me racing RC Solings around some buoys. Looked like they were having a lot of fun.

There are also (at least) two blogs, not counting this one, about living the good life here on the shores of the Sakonnet. Sustainable Sakonnet has a focus on environmental issues and Sogkonnite Living is mainly about cooking our delicious local produce.

How's that for 14 miles? What other river has so much packed into such a short stretch?

Thanks to Captain JP for challenging us to blog about our favorite river for World Rivers Day.

Lighthouses on Saturday

On Monday, the day after my disastrous encounter with the Little Weed, I decided that a gentle walk would be good for my injured back. So Tillerwoman and I drove down to Little Compton and went for a walk along the beach at Sakonnet Point, the southernmost tip of this part of the Rhode Island mainland.

In the afternoon sunshine Sakonnet Lighthouse, several hundred yards offshore on Little Cormorant Rock, looked spectacular. Not only does Sakonnet Light have an interesting history, it even has its own poem...

The lighthouse, like a soldier dressed,
Looks out into the glowing west,
With shining helmet, coat of mail
By day, by night, he greets each sail,
And, Hail, Sakonnet! each replies
Across the waves, 'neath arching skies.
If on these rocks you did not stand,
Death signs would mark the peaceful strand.
So hail! bright beacon of the night,
Hail, aud thrice hail, Sakonnet Light!

The walk was good for my spirits... but did my back no good whatsoever.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Off With Her Head

As I was saying before I was interrupted by the weed incident, one of my favorite local runs is around Nanaquaket Pond. One of the reasons that I enjoy running so much is that it frees up the mind to wander in all sorts of directions. Hell, you have to think about something while you are pounding out the miles.

Running along Nanaquaket Neck, the narrow strip of land between Nanaquaket Pond and the Sakonnet River, always seems to trigger off some weird chain of thought for me. Must be all the ghosts...

In the mid-1600's most of this whole area was was heavily wooded, but on Nanaquaket Neck the local Native Americans, the Pocassets, had cleared the trees and were cultivating maize, beans and pumpkins and pasturing their cattle. The leader or sachem of the Pocassets was a woman, Queen Weetamoo.

Weetamoo might have led a untroubled life with her people here on the shores of the Sakonnet if it hadn't been for those dastardly English. Relations with the colonists had started off well enough. Massasoit, the native who participated in the first Thanksgiving feast with the Pilgrims, was in fact Weetamoo's father-in-law.

But those dastardly English messed things up, as usual. Having escaped England to find religious freedom in a new land, they immediately set out to impose their particular brand of religion on others. In some places, not too far from here, the native Americans were "encouraged" to renounce their native language, ceremonies, beliefs, traditional dress and customs and to effectively become "Red" Puritans living in so-called Praying Towns where they had to live by special "Rules of Conduct for the Praying Indians" which forbade such simple pleasures as a woman letting her hair hang loose or walking around with naked breasts. Those Massachusetts people are such killjoys!

Of course the dastardly English also wanted access to the best land, and Nanaquaket Neck with its fertile gardens and pastures must have been extremely tempting. Some English dude called Richard Morris apparently "bought" some parcels of land around here from the Indians during a downturn in the local real estate market and then (by the usual political machinations one assumes) managed to persaude the government of Plymouth Bay Colony to recognize him as the owner of all of Nanaquaket Neck by 1659.

Peaceful co-existence might still have been possible if it had not been for the unfortunate incident in 1662 when Weetamoo's husband Wamsutta went off to Plymouth to discuss some treaty issues with the dastardly English and then mysteriously died on the way home. The conspiracy theorists in the local population immediately assumed that Wamsutta had been poisoned by the dastardly English, and Weetamoo was naturally pretty ticked off about the whole situation. Apparently nobody thought to call in CSI to solve the case.

Wamsutta's brother, who went by the rather quaint name for an Indian of "King Philip", was pretty pissed off too and some years later things erupted into all-out war between the local natives and the dastardly English. King Philip secured naming rights for the war and, somewhat selfishly, decided to call it King Philip's War.

Weetamoo led a band of 300 warriors in King Philip's War and for a while things were going well for the home team. But then the dastardly English got their act together and started beating the natives by pioneering such counter-insurgency strategies as no-bid outsourcing to military contractors, bribing the opposition to change sides, and running up a huge tax deficit for future generations.

Weetamoo was drowned in the Taunton River in 1676 while trying to escape from the dastardly English. When her body washed ashore in Swansea they chopped off her head and displayed it on a pike in Taunton for a while. This was not as brutal as it sounds as it was fairly standard operating procedure in those days among the dastardly English to chop off the heads of kings and queens they didn't like, often while they were still alive...

Where was I? Where am I? What the hell is this story doing on a sailing blog?

Oh yes, I was running along the same ground where Weetamoo and her people grew their beans and pumpkins all those centuries ago. I thought you might be interested in the story. I mean, how many other small New England towns have their own headless queen?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Cheat the Chiropractor - Get High on Your Laser

Thanks to everyone who kindly suggested remedies for my recent back injury. Given the title of that post, Little Weed, I guess it's not surprising that a couple of commenters suggested that "a little weed" might indeed provide some relief for my condition.

Hmmm. I suppose it might work. And, as chance would have it, I do have the good fortune to live in one of the US states where medical marijuana is legal. On the other hand, it does not appear that "painkiller for lower back injury sustained doing light gardening in order that patient may go Laser sailing" is yet on the list of conditions for which a prescription of cannabis is approved.

I might have to lie to my doctor to obtain the weed.

According to Wikipedia (which is never wrong) cannabis has been found to be helpful for patients suffering from a variety of conditions including "alcohol abuse" and "obsessive compulsive disorder". Hmmm. Maybe I could fake alcohol abuse or OCD... or both?

No wait. I don't need to fake anything. There are several members of my family who would probably come with me to the doctor and confirm that I am indeed suffering from both of those two conditions.

Sounds like a plan.

So if you are a member of the Newport Laser Frostbite Fleet and, when the season starts in a few weeks, you see this old geezer in the corner of the boat park at Sail Newport furtively smoking a joint, do not call the cops.

It's legal.

It's for my back.

My doctor says it's OK.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Little Weed

When I was a little lad growing up in England in the early 1950's, one of my favorite TV programs was Bill & Ben The Flower Pot Men. This was in the classic days of television, before color ruined everything and things started going downhill all the way to Tom DeLay on Dancing With The Stars.

The real star of Flower Pot Men was, of course, not Bill or Ben, but the much more complex and interesting character Little Weed. I always had a soft spot for Little Weed. I don't know how she tolerated for so long those idiots Bill and Ben talking in that ridiculous Oddle Poddle language.

Perhaps my youthful fondness for Little Weed is responsible for my attitude to weeds now. At the side of my house for the last two years I have been cultivating an amazing garden of American native wildflowers. People come and look at it and say, "What are all those weeds doing there?" And I say, "Those are not weeds. That is my prized collection of American native wildflowers."

Some of my native wildflowers were growing wild in that patch when we bought the house; others are from a collection of wildflower seeds that I sowed; some are perennial wildflowers that I bought as plants. Some, I confess, are plants that I "liberated" from the vacant lot next door where they were growing wild. My collection is coming along very nicely.

Unfortunately some of my "American native wildflowers" spread more vigorously than others. At this point they become known technically as "weeds" and must be removed. So, on Sunday afternoon I went out to my American native wildflower garden to remove some weeds. I saw a little weed that needed to be removed. I leaned over slightly, grasped the little weed's stem and tugged gently...

Aaaaaargh. I felt a stabbing pain in my lower back and collapsed in agony. Felled by the little weed.

Three days later I am still in pain. This feels like exactly the same stupid injury that I did to myself two years ago while attempting the foolhardy and dangerous act called "putting my socks on". I wrote about it in Old.

I hate Little Weed.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Americans Invade Rhode Island

One of my favorite local runs is the loop around Nanaquaket Pond starting at Stone Bridge. There's something especially refreshing about running by the water and this run offers plenty of water views... of the northern end of the Sakonnet River and of Nanaquaket Pond, an almost-landlocked saltwater pond.

As I said, the run starts at Stone Bridge. Or at least it's where there used to be a stone bridge. Unfortunately, back in 1954 a hurricane came through here and demolished our stone bridge which connected Tiverton (on the mainland) to Aquidneck Island
(aka Rhode Island just to confuse it with the colony and future state of the same name). Now, all that remains of the bridge are two stone piers.

Way, way back before anyone built a bridge here, there was a ferry crossing, known as Howland's Ferry, the site of an important event in the Revolutionary War. I'm sure you must have heard of it.

Anyway, back in the summer of 1778 the British were occupying Newport over on Aquidneck Island. I expect they were doing what tourists always do in Newport... hanging out at the beach, visiting the mansions, getting stoned in the bars on Thames Street etc. etc.

Meanwhile the Americans (aka the good guys) were camped in Tiverton doing whatever American soldiers do when they have too much time on their hands. On 9 August 1778 the brave General Sullivan led 11,000 American troops across the Sakonnet River at Howlands Ferry and marched to attack the dastardly British in Newport.

Unfortunately the aforementioned General Sullivan didn't have access to Accuweather and didn't know that a hurricane was about to hit the area. (What is it with this place and hurricanes? Did I make a wise decision to move here?)

The Americans were relying on the French fleet to land some more troops to help in their attack on Newport but the Frenchies got spooked by the hurricane and buggered off to Boston to mend their petits bateaux. In the ensuing Battle of Rhode Island (you must have heard of it) the British, with some unfair help from a few German Panzer Divisions, drove the Americans off Aquidneck and back to sunny Tiverton.

A completely unbiased local historian has written of the Battle of Rhode Island, "Even though the Americans totally failed to take the island, and were in full retreat when the battle occurred, it is often considered an American victory." Yeah right.

Where was I? Where am I? Oh yes, I was telling you about my run. But there is even more history on the rest of my route, so I will save that story for another day...

Shocking News

Anyone who follows sailing blogs is well aware of the mysterious hit-and-run commenter known only as "O Docker". He has been leaving comments all over the sailing blogosphere since bursting on to the scene in May last year with a comment on the EVK4 superblog fantasizing about the "lush life" he leads on the O Dock of Berkeley Marina. Since then his wisdom and wit have become legendary among readers of sailing blogs. I am convinced that the rise in popularity of my own blog in the last year has been driven totally by people who come here only to check out O Docker's brilliant, quirky comments.

In April of this year O Docker won the prestigious Sailing Blog Reader of the Year Award for his funny and provocative comments on various sailing blogs and his active participation in group writing projects.

Now the inscrutable O Docker has taken a bold new direction. He has started his own blog O Dock. Sailing bloggers are trembling in their Sperry Top-siders. How will we withstand the onslaught of the competition from this king of the keyboard, this professional punner, this doyen of the double entendre, this ace of alliteration?

Please do not read O Dock. It will be seriously addictive. You will embarrass yourself in the workplace by spitting coffee through your nose as you laugh at O Docker's jokes. Your spouse will become suspicious of your involuntary chuckles as you recall his witticisms. You will leap out of bed each morning as soon as you awake in order to see if O Docker has written another masterpiece of mischief. You will lose all interest in lesser blogs such as this one...

You have been warned.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Olympus Stylus 1050SW 10.1MP Digital Camera

An excellent example of the quality of photograph that can be achieved with the waterproof Olympus Stylus 1050SW 10.1MP Digital Camera. Note how well it captures the contrasting underwater and above water light, the variety of blues and greens, the slightly blurry look caused by the water and the bubbles...

Don't you agree?

Photo from Latitude 38 via Tim Zimmerman (Wetass) on Twitter.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Why I Didn't Sail the Laser Masters Worlds

I think I mentioned before that the reason I didn't sail in the 2009 Laser Masters Worlds in Nova Scotia earlier this month was that my second son had, quite astonishingly, failed to consult the International Laser Class Association website for the schedule of major Masters regattas before setting the date for his wedding!!!

So instead of drifting around St. Margaret's Bay a couple of weekends ago, clad in lycra and neoprene with a few hundred other old geezer Laser sailors waiting and waiting for wind to materialize and races to happen, quite fruitlessly as it turned out, I was....

... sitting at Guilford Yacht Club by Long Island Sound drinking a Dark and Stormy and having a laugh with my two favorite girls.

Yes, all was not lost. I brought my son up to be enough of a sailor to know that the best place for a wedding reception is a yacht club. And please note that, although I am not dressed in the aforementioned lycra and neoprene, I am wearing a very yachtie outfit of blue blazer and khakis.

Damn it. It may be a wedding but I am a sailor.

My two grandchildren (my other son's kids) Emily and Aidan were at the wedding, and of course they stole the show...

Emily was the flower girl. She had been told to walk very slowly down the aisle of the church... and she certainly complied. I was beginning to worry that the organist would run out of tunes before Emily completed her slooooow walk down the aisle, basking in the rapt attention of the congregation.

I think it was my job to keep Aidan occupied through the ceremony. I must have got distracted by something... perhaps my little guy making his wedding vows... and somehow Aidan escaped. Uh oh.

Talking of my son, here is a picture of the bridegroom. Yes this is the same kid from the Little Guy post a couple of weeks back. Cleaned up nicely didn't he?

And here is Aimee, my new daughter-in-law. Isn't she gorgeous?

And here is the happy couple together...

I think I see a keelboat in their future, maybe cruising to Block Island and the Vineyard, perhaps the Around Long Island Regatta in a few years? Who knows...

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Unreachable Bar

Susie Pegel (a real Laser sailor) sent me a number of suggestions for Laser sailing songs to help Sam Chapin build his fleet. Susie says that they used to sing a version of Impossible Dream. She didn't give me the words, so here are my suggested words. The tune is very similar to the completely unrelated song on this video...

To sail the interminable race
To beat the unbeatable foe
Knowing that I will feel tomorrow
A stabbing pain in my big toe

To sail while singing this song
To see that guy ahead and so far
To try when my arms are too weary
And I can't wait to get to the bar

This is my quest
To follow that guy
No matter how awful
The burn in my thigh

To fight for the right
Without question or pause
To be willing to bang the corner
Why? Well, just because

And I know that it's probably true
When the wind's from the west
That guy will pick the shifts like a charm
And once more I'll lose the contest

And the club will be better for this
That one man, scorned and covered with scars
Still staggered with his last couple of dollars
To reach the unreachable bar

Monday, September 14, 2009

I Got Blisters On My Fingers!

Here is my first Laser sailing song in response to Sam Chapin's request to write a Laser sailing song. Somehow this is supposed to help him build his fleet?

To be sung to the same tune as a very similar song by the Beatles called Helter Skelter.

When I get to the bottom I go back to the top where I crash
And I tack and I turn and then I go for a splash
'Til I get to the bottom and I see you again, yeh, yeh yeh

Do you, don't you want me to cross you
I'm coming on fast, and I'm going to pass you
Tell me, tell me, tell me, c'mon tell me it right
Well you may be a sailor but you ain't no Scheidt.

Now Laser Sailor,
Laser Sailor, Laser Sailor, yeah ...

a-Will you, won't you want me to beat you
I'm coming on fast, but don't let me cheat you
Tell me, tell me, tell me again
You may have a Laser but you ain't no Ben.

Look out!
Laser Sailor, Laser Sailor, Laser Sailor, oooh...
Look out, 'cause here I come ...

When I get to the bottom I go back to the top where I crash
And I tack and I turn and then I go for a splash
'Til I get to the bottom and I see you again, yeh, yeh yeh

Do you, don't you want me to cross you
I'm coming on fast, and I'm going to pass you
Tell me, tell me tell me, c'mon tell me it right
Well you may be a sailor but you ain't no Scheidt.

Look out!
Laser Sailor, Laser Sailor, Laser Sailor

Look out! Laser Sailor ... I'm coming down fast
yes he is
yes he is
coming down fast
oh now Laser Sailor ... woo hooo

I got blisters on my fingers!

Watch this space for possibly more Laser sailing songs. You have been warned.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Laser Sailing Song

Sam Chapin over at How to Sail the Laser has suggested as a Laser fleet-building idea that we should "write a Laser sailing song."

Hmmm. Now there's a thought.

Anyone want to have a go at writing a Laser sailing song?

Or failing that, any suggestions for a song that I could write a parody of and turn it into the official Laser sailing song?

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Small World

I received an email this morning with a surprising connection and an interesting suggestion...
  • It was from a reader of this blog who wrote to me some time ago with a question that gave me fodder for a couple of posts here.

  • It turns out that his father and uncle went to school with me.

  • He lives in Japan and is going to the 2010 Asia Pacific Laser Masters in Thailand next March and suggested that I should go too.

Hmmm. T
hat's a thought. Anybody else out there thinking of going? Anyone know what it's like sailing at the Royal Varuna Yacht Club? Any advice on tourism in Thailand generally?

Now let's see if this idea involves more hours sitting in planes than sitting on a Laser...

Friday, September 11, 2009

Won't Get Fooled Again


It is eight years since September 11 2001. I suspect none of us will ever forget that day.

That summer I had helped teach junior sailing classes at our small lake-based sailing club in Mountain Lakes, N.J. Two families with kids in that program lost parents in the World Trade Center. Here is an extract from the In Memoriam Online Network tribute to one of those parents, Alayne Gentul.

Asked about treasured moments, her husband offers two, years apart.

"We loved the ocean. Our first kiss was on the beach on Wildwood, N.J. It was a beautiful moonlit night, full moon, and thousands of horseshoe crabs were coming up on the beach to lay their eggs. "

"Our son is part of a group of junior Sunfish sailors and a few weeks ago, they had a junior moonlight race. A bunch of kids gathered with boats, some decorated with little glow lights, in this beautiful, still, moonlit night. We had this feeling, in this excruciating slow race, of something of incredible beauty. One of those times in life you'll remember."

Thursday, September 10, 2009


Last night on TV I watched Derek Jeter tie Lou Gehrig's long-standing record for the most career hits in New York Yankees team history. Even the players on the opposing team, the Tampa Bay Rays, applauded him.

I also watched the President of the United States address a joint session of Congress. In the middle of his speech some idiot congressman shouted out, "You Lie!"

Maybe Congress could learn something about respect from baseball?

I Need a New Hat

I need a new hat.

No, no, no. This is not another post begging for a cool sailing hat like the campaign I ran in January and February to force North Sails to send me a hat I had (IMHO) already well and truly won. North Rocks!

I am speaking metaphorically.

In the past ten years I have worn all sorts of hats.

For six years I wore the hat of Junior Sailing Instructor... for three years as a volunteer and then for three more years in a real job that paid real money. I taught kids how to sail, and how to have fun on the water, and how to race. I was the local cheerleader and organizer for junior Sunfish regattas in northern New Jersey. It was a very satisfying hat to wear but I hung it up in 2005. I will probably leave it on the peg.

I need a new hat.

For a couple of years I wore the hat of Laser Fleet Captain. I started a Laser fleet at my sailing club in New Jersey, looked under very rock to find potential fleet members, helped people find Lasers to buy, encouraged folk to try Laser sailing, organized a new annual Laser regatta, taught fleet members how to sail Lasers better... whatever else fleet captains do. It was fun wearing that hat but I had to hand it over to someone else when I left New Jersey.

I need a new hat.

Why do I feel like I need a new hat? Maybe it's the time of year. Ever since I was in school and college, September always felt like a time for new beginnings, new ventures...

I've been wearing a hat called Laser Sailor for well over a quarter of a century. Wore it a lot last year. Not so much this year. But I like this hat. It suits me. I'm going to continue wearing it for as long as I can. Last night I even dreamed about Laser racing.

I discovered a hat with a label saying "Blogger" in 2005. I like it. It fits me well. I will probably keep wearing it for a few more years, or at least until it doesn't fit me any more.

For many winters I used to wear a hat labeled Crazy Laser Frostbite Sailor. Haven't worn it much these last few years. Want to wear it more this coming winter.

For three years I wore a Marathon Runner hat. The last marathon I ran was London in 2007. It was a tough one. For a couple of years I have been a very lackadaisical runner. But I feel the urge coming on me again. I've been running well this last couple of months. There might be another marathon left in these old legs. Perhaps in Providence RI next May. I think I may put the Marathon Runner hat on again.

But the Marathon Runner hat and Crazy Laser Frostbite Sailor hat are old hats. I need a new hat.

Almost four years ago I was awarded the best hat all... the one labeled Grandfather. Man, I do like being a granddad. It was wonderful being with my grandkids last weekend at their uncle's wedding. When I asked my three-year-old granddaughter Emily what she most enjoyed at the wedding, she said it was "the dancing." The kid danced all night long. She had more energy than any of the adults. I hope I will live long enough to dance with Emily at her wedding. I will always wear my Grandfather hat with pride.

But I need a new hat.

Why is that? For some strange reason now that both my sons are married it feels like some kind of life transition, and I have an urge to take on a new challenge. God knows why. Nothing has really changed in my life. But having seen each of my sons complete undergraduate school, start one career, go to graduate school, start a second career, buy a house and get married (not necessarily always in that order) it seems like the end of a phase of my life.

I need a new hat.

I could dig out one of my old hats. Cyclist. Guitar Player. Skier. Hill Walker. SailX Hotshot. Maybe I will, but they are not new hats.

What new hat could I try on?

Jetskier? Ugh.

Kayaker? Possibly.

Rail Meat? Looks easy.

Astronomer? Comet Tillerman?

Calypso Poet? (If it all falls down.)

Environmental Activist? Will work for trees.

I dunno.

I need a new hat.

What should it be?

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

How to Sell Sailing

How do we sell sailing? How do we communicate the excitement and fun of our sport to potential new recruits? How do we keep existing sailors fired up about opportunities to continue enjoying the sport?

Our Lasering blogging friend Yarg has provided part of the answer in a perceptive post Sailing: Reports of Its Death Are Exaggerated. Yarg finds that sailing, far from dying, is thriving in his neck of the woods. His local Laser fleet has been growing steadily and he is seeing an "explosion of interest" in the local high school sailing scene.

So what is the secret according to Yarg? It's simply the power of a few enthusiasts to communicate that enthusiasm to others.

He writes...

I find that enthusiasm for sailing is viral, but in a good way. It is spread by person to person contact, and a few carriers go a long way. When enthusiasts spawn other enthusiasts, fleets can grow very quickly.

He is damn right. Yarg, and a few others like him, are doing what is needed to develop and grow sailing in their area, by reaching out to others and advertising their ardor for the sport. Enthusiasts spawn enthusiasts. Go viral!

But how does this work on a global level? How does a class communicate that excitement about their activities on a national, continental or global level? How do they grow their class and continually attract new adherents to their brand of sailing?

Well, of course they use the web. And the reporting on the recent Laser Masters Worlds is a case in point on how to get it right.

Who best communicated the enthusiasm that surrounds the Laser Masters Worlds on the web? The answer might surprise you.

Sure, the regatta organizers did a professional job of telling the story of the Worlds. Regular reports were posted on the regatta website, sometimes while the racing was still in progress, and the results were posted promptly. There was an official photographer who took hundreds of spectacular photos of the sailing action and these photos were posted on the web too.

But remember the E-word? Enthusiasm.

The real feel for the fun of a Laser Masters Worlds and the sense of enthusiasm for the event were communicated by the sailors themselves (and a couple of their wives) via their blogs and some terrific YouTube video interviews.

Kim Ferguson
wrote about the exploits of her husband Scott who won the World Championship in what was the largest and probably the toughest fleet at the event, the Masters Standard Rig Fleet. If you don't think that the top guys can also have fun, read Kim's account of Thursday's racing and find out who Scott called, "Boner!!"

Marc Jacobi was also in the Masters Standard Rig Fleet. He didn't do quite as well as Scott but he had his moments. Check out his account of Day 5 for a gripping tale of how hard Marc made Scott work for one of his wins.

Dr J was sailing in the Great Grandmasters Radial Fleet. He also had his moments. Read his account of Day 4 for a terrific story of why Laser Masters Sailing is so much fun. "My best day of Laser sailing ever!" says the good doctor.

Dave Sliom
was at his first Masters Worlds and so much enjoyed the experience that he is already working out what he needs to do to improve his sailing for the next Worlds in Hayling Island in the UK in 2010.

Finally we have Tracy Usher, the president of the North American Laser Class, who also blogged about the racing at the Master Worlds. The tagline on his blog is much too modest: "Random discussions about an old and overweight guy still pounding the chop of San Francisco Bay in his Laser". Yeah right! Irony works too.

Even better than the enthusiasm transmitted by those five bloggers were the video interviews with sailors and others by LauraLee Symes. Now this is the way to tell the world about your regatta, and how much fun it is, and why you absolutely have to be there to join us next year.

I already posted about one of LauraLee's videos at Hot Laser Masters Worlds Interviews. Little did I know that this was only the first instalment.

In part 2 LauraLee catches up with half a dozen more sailors including a few who have appeared on this blog before such as Susie Pegel - a REAL Laser Sailor, Nils Andersson of Lura pensionärshemmet, dö i din Laser fame, and some incomprehensible Frenchie who looks a lot like my adversary in England Expects and other posts.

Part 3 has lots of laughs and way too much full frontal nudity.

And the Final video seems to be of a bunch of old drunks at a party desperately trying to remember something of what actually happened in the previous week's sailing. But Wolfgang Gerz did reveal the secret of how to win the World Grandmasters: run every morning at 7am, work out in the gym several times a week, sail a lot all year, and win every Grandmasters title in Europe in the year leading up to the Worlds. Piece of cake!

Seriously, these blogs and LauraLee's videos are a superb way to communicate the fun of this event and the enthusiasm that all these sailors feel for the regatta and the sport in general. Remember what Yarg said? "Enthusiasm for sailing is viral."

So this is what the old geezers in the Laser class can do to proclaim their passion for their brand of sailing. Are other classes doing as much, or perhaps even more, to enthuse sailors for their branch of the sport? More the point, what are you doing to sell sailing to the world?

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Little Guy

He was only 7 years old that summer. He had learned to sail an Optimist a few weeks earlier and so I took him and his elder brother on a week long Optimist sailing camp at our home sailing club on Rutland Water in the UK.

My role was to be a sailing instructor and coach for a group of about 8 or 10 kids. Neither of my own sons was in that group, which was probably just as well for all concerned. My little guy was in the beginners' group. His big brother was in the top group working on his racing skills and all that good stuff.

It was a fun week. One day we organized a treasure hunt where the kids had to sail from place to place around the reservoir picking up clues. For the older kids it was a good challenge; as for the little ones they probably sailed further and over more open water on that day than they had ever done before.

As luck would have it, the treasure hunt was held on the windiest day of the camp. Some of the younger kids were struggling to handle the windier conditions. At the second or third stop for clues around the lake, about a couple of miles up the lake from the club, some of the kids in my little guy's group came over to me and told me he was freaking out. He didn't want to sail any more.

I wasn't sure how to handle it. Part of me wanted to be the protective parent and tell my son that he could forget sailing and that he could ride in the rescue boat with me; part of me wanted to encourage him to face his fears and tough it out; part of me felt that the adults in charge of his group should deal with the situation as they felt best.

I probably wasn't a very good Dad or a very good coach that day. I refused to intervene and he had to sail all the way back to the club in his Optimist just like all the big kids did. He sailed straight back to the beach and didn't participate in the climax of the treasure hunt, some hokey thing to do with a ghost appearing on a moored boat to "scare" all the kids.

I don't suppose the experience did the little guy too much permanent harm. He didn't give up sailing. He went on to sail all kinds of boats, learned how to kayak and windsurf too, won his share of races, turned out to be a better sailor than me.

He's not a little guy any more. That Optimist camp was 21 summers ago. Little guy is getting married this weekend to a wonderful woman whom we all love.

I'm so proud of him.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Those Guys

I've written here at length about some, perhaps mythical, sailor I call "that guy". He's the one I'm always trying to beat on the race course but never do. (Well hardly ever.)

The truth is that there isn't just one "that guy". There are a whole bunch of them... "those guys." Old geezers like me who I'm always meeting at Laser regattas up and down the east coast. I've been crossing tacks with them for years. They are all tough competitors on the race course and good fun afterwards.

Here are photos of three of my "those guys" at the Laser Masters Worlds in Canada this week thanks to

John Bentley

Alain Vincey

Amnon Gitelson

Good luck to all "those guys".

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Hot Laser Masters Worlds Interviews

So far we have been following action at the Laser Masters Worlds in Canada by catching up on some of the blogs of participating sailors. But hey, look at this, now we have a YouTube video interview with six of the sailors, including some of the guys who are racing in the Grandmasters Standard Fleet, my fleet if I'd actually been able to go to the Worlds this year. Kudos to our intrepid video reporter at the Worlds, LauraLee Symes, for this scoop.

The thing that makes me chuckle about this video is the varying reactions of the sailors when LauraLee sticks the camera in their faces and asks one of those hard-hitting reporter-type questions like, "What are you going to do today?"

Mark Bethwaite is the coolest and most relaxed of the bunch. But then he has been winning major sailing championships for decades and so probably has lots of experience in dealing with the "press".

But some of the others have that "deer in the headlights" look, and deal with the question in a variety of different ways. Tracy Usher is politically correct, as always, and tells the reporter he is going to "have fun". Poor Rob Hodson is caught as he is lathering up with sunscreen and spends most of the interview trying to rub the sunscreen out of his eyes and mumbling incoherently.

But best of all is the last interview with LauraLee's husband Bill Symes. After LauraLee asks him the delightfully vague question, "What are you doing here?" he silently maintains a clenched teeth grin for all of ten seconds... what is he thinking?

But then, amazingly, he goes on to predict that he's going to beat Bethwaite and Gerz and win the race. Which is exactly what he did!

Thanks LauraLee. Maybe we will see some more video reporting before the week is over?

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Picture Contest

I found this photo on a sailing blog yesterday. Where was it taken?

Prize for the first correct answer - 5% discount off the price of the fabulous amazing awesome Proper Course: The Laser Experience!

Tuesday, September 01, 2009


I have a stupid question?

Why do people say, "he scored a bullet," when somebody wins a sailing race?

Where does it come from? Does it have anything to do with the expression "bite the bullet"? Can you only say "score a bullet" or is it OK to say "did a bullet" or "got the bullet" or other variations?

Anyway my compatriots from Laser District 7 (aka New England in non-Lasering circles) were doing bullets all over the place in the Laser Masters Worlds on Monday.

Our blogging friend Marc Jacobi (I told you he was good) made a bullet in one of the Masters Standard Rig fleets and told us all about it in Second Day - Patience (and confidence) are virtues.

Meanwhile in the other Masters Standard Rig fleet, Scott Ferguson bulleted too. His blogging wife Kim tell the story in The "bullet" Boys! Kim also gives a shout-out for fellow Newport fleet member Peter Seidenberg who has been shooting bullets every day in the Great Grandmaster Radial Fleet.

Dr J didn't make any bullets on Monday but he was racing in Peter's fleet and tells us in Second Day how Peter crossed him by inches halfway up the first beat but after that things went downhill for Dr J.

After twenty years of experience racing against Peter, I have one piece of advice for Dr J. If Mr. Seidenberg is going right and you are going left then he is probably right and you are wrong. Tack before he crosses you and lead him out to the right. Good things will probably happen.

Tracy Usher didn't bullet on Monday either. He starts his post 2009 Masters' World, day two saying, "In summary: ugh!"

Dave Sliom had a "not bad" Day 2 but no bulleting, and is looking forward to using his Chesapeake experience in the forecast light and shifty stuff on Tuesday.

So enough about the hotshots at the Worlds. Let's get back to the real subject of this blog... me. I've done a few bullets you know, had my bullet moments, shot the proverbial B thingie. If you don't believe me check out Just One of Those Days and Marblehead. Oh yeah, I can be a real bulleter some days.

So how did this expression "bullet" originate? And have I been using it correctly?

what a plonker

This blog has many uses. Some people find it amusing. Some people find it interesting. Some people even say it has inspired them to do crazy things like take up sailboat racing or writing a blog.

In the last few days, some dudes called Anonymous (or perhaps it is one dude called Anonymous talking with himself -- there are certain similarities in the writing styles of our protagonists) have been using it to abuse some other dude called Anonymous for a helpful comment that the latter Anonymous made on a post I wrote over three years ago: Taplow Lake Sailing Club. Here is the unedited conversation in its entirety...

Anonymous said...
"I've no idea why all those cars are parked on the right side."

The local Farmer has found it more profitable to use his field for car boot sales rather than grow things - it clogs up the A4 (The main road you can see in the picture) every Saturday during the summer (just about anyway)!

Thank you for the history - TSC is one of the clubs we are looking at to join as a family.
6:55 PM

Anonymous said...
to the that idiot who says he gets stuck in the car boot sale traffic every saturday i would just like to let him the sale is on a sunday!!
5:27 AM

Anonymous said...
what a plonker if he does not know his saturdays from his sundays can you imagin what it would be like to sail with him!
5:41 AM

Anonymous said...
here here
8:59 AM

Anonymous said...
i know him he does not even know the date his son was born prat
12:40 PM

Anonymous said...
i bet he supports millwall
12:42 PM

Anonymous said...
if he knew what day they play
12:43 PM

Anonymous said...
in that prats back garden
4:29 AM

Anonymous said...
where is his garden i would like to dig it up what amoron
4:31 AM

Anonymous said...
are you sure he is not related to the captain of the titanic
3:44 PM

I guess it takes all sorts...