Thursday, December 31, 2009

Interview With Buff Staysail

Thought you might like to read my recent interview with world-famed roving sailing reporter Buff Staysail. He caught me earlier today, not long after I had completed sailing a regatta in the online sailing simulator SailX.

How does it feel to win the gold medal at the last SailX Euro Regatta of 2009?

I'm very pleased with my overall result, and am looking forward to repeating on my success in the 2010 SailX season. Going into the event my goal was not make any fouls and hopefully to finish in the top ten, so the win exceeded my expectations. I've been training hard over the past couple of weeks by ignoring real sailing and practicing on my computer at least an hour a day so it feels rewarding to see all of my work pay off.

What were your strengths in this regatta? What were the keys to your success?

I think I did a good job of processing the conditions and making quick decisions. Some races the current was the major factor; some times it was the shifts; some times the gusts. Having good starts also helped me, as I had the freedom to go where I wanted. I aced the start in the first of the two Laser races and went on to win the race in spite of pressure all round the course from Spanked1. That gave me a lot of confidence for the rest of the regatta... especially for the four races in cats and skiffs in which I'm less experienced.

What were your challenges?

Racing at 3pm was tough for me as my mind is usually much sharper in the morning. It was also stressful racing against such good sailors as 249, paulprotocol and Blackdog824 currently ranked 3rd, 16th and 23rd in the world respectively. The young Peruvian 249 won three of the six races... but he also had to count a 15th which hurt his overall score. Going into the final race in skiffs I knew I had to put two boats between me and the cat sailor from Colorado paulprotocol. I just did it, but only after a thrilling tussle on the last downwind leg with Blackdog24 from Toronto. I beat him by three pixels and took the regatta by one point.

How were the conditions in Lisboa?

Excellent. It was snowing outside at home but we had sunshine and winds between 10 and 20 knots in all the races, with none of the crazy strong stuff that always makes me capsize in skiffs.

Anything you would do differently?

Yes, I need to keep my head out of the computer and be more aware of what's going on in the house. Just as the regatta finished I heard the garage door open and assumed it was Tillerwoman going out to shovel snow off the drive, so I went out to help her. But I was wrong. It was Tillerwoman coming in after shoveling the whole drive on her own. Now I'm in the doghouse. What a way to start the new year!

Divers Do It Deeper

As I mentioned in Snorkelers Do It Through A Tube, the Bitter End Yacht Club is not just for sailors. If you want to "do it deeper" you can go scuba diving. You can learn to dive there and they run trips every day to "beautiful dive sites" and "exhilarating wrecks".

Hmmm. I'm tempted to make some off-color comment about "exhilarating wrecks" I have met... but I won't. This is a family blog.

Anyway, the BEYC website says you can go scuba diving there. And there is a Kilbrides Dive shop in the resort. But here's what's really weird: to the best of my knowledge, I have never met any divers in my four stays at BEYC.

I wonder why that is? Are divers naturally standoffish people? Don't they mingle with other guests in the bar and at meals? Are they so knackered from "doing it deeper" all day that they just crash out in the evenings? Or do they look down on us non-divers so much that they are too modest to talk about their diving even when you do meet them? It's a mystery.

I've never done any scuba diving. I tend to avoid pursuits like parachuting, or flying gliders, or scuba diving where one stupid clumsy mistake can kill you. In my other sports I make stupid clumsy mistakes quite often. When I'm sailing my Laser and make a stupid clumsy mistake it usually means I will get wet. My suspicion is that if you make a stupid clumsy mistake when you are diving you could quite easily end up dead.

I bet diving is fun... but probably not as much fun as sailing.

And that's all I have to say about diving.

Because Every Year Counts

At Bitter End Yacht Club (BEYC) earlier this month we saw a guy with a T-shirt that said


I think it was from some anniversary of BEYC's a few years back. I guess the commercial message of the slogan was "come to BEYC every year" but I thought it would be a good "thought for the day" as we look back on 2009 and look forward to 2010.

Because Every Year Counts. It really does. I become more aware of this the older I get. How many more years of good health and fitness are left to me to enjoy Laser sailing and travel and running and skiing and other active outdoor pursuits? What will I do to make the best of 2010?

Others may read a more altruistic message in the slogan. What did I do to make a difference in the life of others this year? What will I do to make my life count next year?

Don't blink. Life goes faster than you think.

What will you do to make 2010 count?

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Snorkelers Do It Through A Tube

Bitter End Yacht Club (where Tillerwoman and I recently vacationed) isn't just for sailors, despite what you might think from the name. We met many guests there who never set foot on a sailboat. One of the most popular activities for a lot of these folk was snorkeling. BEYC take snorkelers out to local spots for short trips every day, and they organize longer trips several times a week too.

So, on Monday the third day of our stay at BEYC, we decided to do something different and went on the seductively titled Best of Virgin Gorda trip on BEYC's 59 foot power catamaran, Corinthian. Best of Virgin Gorda (that day) turned out to be
  • snorkeling at Fallen Jerusalem
  • snorkeling at The Baths
  • hanging out at a bar in Spanish Town.
OK. BEYC aside, that probably is the best of Virgin Gorda.

I like snorkeling. Hanging out in the ocean, breathing through a tube, looking at all the pretty fishes and the pretty coral is very relaxing. I don't know much about fishes or coral but they sure are pretty. Hanging out at a bar afterwards can be relaxing too.

I like snorkeling... but it's not as much fun as sailing.

And that's all I have to say about snorkeling.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Tillerman Beats Robert

On the second full day of our recent stay at Bitter End Yacht Club on Virgin Gorda I won the Sunday Laser Regatta.

First regatta I had sailed since the New England Laser Masters in September 2008 (I think). First regatta I had won since my famous victory in July 2008 (I think). But it wasn't really a big deal. Come to think of it, none of my rare regatta wins are actually very big deals. This is how it went down...

I signed up for the Laser regatta the day before just to make sure I would get a boat. On my previous visits to BEYC there had always been a good turnout for the Sunday Laser races. You never know who will be there. Previous time I was at BEYC there was some dude who flew over in his helicopter from Tortola just to sail in the BEYC Laser regatta and beat Tillerman.

However, at the skippers' meeting it became apparent that there were going to be about ten boats sailing in the Hobie cat regatta (a mixture of Waves and Getaways) and just me and one other dude racing against each other in Lasers.

As the race officer explained the incredibly complicated "butterfly" course I sized up the other Laser dude. His name was Robert and he had an accent I couldn't quite place. A good 20 years younger than me. Suntanned. Fit. Looked like he spent a good amount of time each week in the gym. Definitely had that air of a fast Laser sailor. Hmmm. Wonder who he is?

Wait. Robert? Late 30's? Accent? Big fit dude? Oh no! It can't be him can it? As I said, you never know who will show up at BEYC.

Well it turned out that Robert must have been a pretty experienced sailor because he aced all the keelboat races on Sunday afternoon. But his accent wasn't Brazilian. It was Wisconsinite (aka Cheeseheadian). Easy to confuse the two, I know. And luckily for me it seemed he hadn't spent a whole lot of time sailing Lasers.

The first race was sailed in very light winds. About the only time in ten days at BEYC that it was light. I stood up in my boat and tried to look like I was checking out the breeze. Seemed to me that there was more pressure on the right side of the course but then my eyes aren't as good as they used to be so I could have been mistaken. All the cats and the two Lasers were starting together so I really wanted to have clear air too. I set up for a start near the starboard end of the line and, by some fluke, won that end of the line with good speed and clear air.

After a minute or two I was ahead and to windward of the whole fleet so I resisted the temptation to tack off for the possibly illusory stronger wind out in the right corner of the course. I just stayed between the opposition and the windward mark, arrived there with a healthy lead and extended it around the track. Race 1 to the Tillerman.

The first cat sailor across the finish line after me sailed up to congratulate me and asked where I had learned to sail so fast in light airs. "Oh, I spent about twenty years of summer Sunday mornings drifting around on inland lakes in New Jersey. Must have picked up the knack there," I said with what I hoped was the appropriate mix of modesty and casual confidence.

For the second race the conditions were totally different. The wind had strengthened considerably and had gone way left. Now the left end of the line was very favored. I watched how the fleet was setting up. All the cats and Robert seemed to be hanging out at the starboard end of the line so I thought, "What the hell. I'll try for a port tack start at the left end of the line."

Well, it turned out that everyone started on port tack because the wind had gone so far left that we were all laying the windward mark. But at least I was to windward of all the cats unlike poor Robert who was in the middle of a pack of cats and all their bad air. One Wave and one Getaway and I got away cleanly ahead of the fleet. The Wave was flying his windward hull and really motoring and he did beat me around the first mark.

At the second mark I gybed and headed up, only to discover one drawback I had forgotten about the Classic Laser. My traveler blocks weren't taped together and they collapsed and jammed. In my haste to free them I managed to detach them from each other. By the time I had connected them again the Getaway had passed me. And that's how we finished, me behind two cats but comfortably ahead of Robert.

So that's how I won the only Laser regatta I entered in 2009. Not a big deal really.

The Regatta Party and Prize-giving were scheduled for 5pm. Free beer was promised. The party would go on until all the beer was drunk, we were told.

Hmmm. Wonder what my prize will be?

Monday, December 28, 2009

Tillerwoman's Rules

I may have given regular readers of this blog the impression that my lovely wife, aka Tillerwoman, is not very fond of sailing. The truth of the matter is that really she does like sailing. Just on her terms.

On the first full day, Saturday, of our recent stay at the Bitter End Yacht Club on Virgin Gorda I reacquainted myself with the Classic Laser in the morning. Then in the afternoon I took my bride sailing on a Hobie Wave.

As I said, my wife really does like sailing. But she does have certain rules...

  1. The air and water temperature must be around 80 degrees F, or warmer. This was not a problem in the BVI, even in December.

  2. She must not have to sit anywhere near the edge of the boat.

  3. She must not be required to perform any task whatsoever associated with actually sailing the boat.

  4. She must have absolute confidence in the person driving the boat. I discovered on this first sail with her at BEYC this year that comments such as, "I've never gybed one of these things before... I think I'll give it a shot," or "Have you ever thought what you would do if I fell off the boat right now?" are not very helpful in creating that absolute confidence.

The Hobie Wave was perfect for us. About the same length as a Laser, but of course much more stable being a catamaran. Roughly the same speed and just as wet a ride. My bride was quite happy sitting on the trampoline while I handled the steering and trimming the single fully-battened sail.

We rode up and down the waves all over North Sound. Spray was flying everywhere and Tillerwoman was laughing and whooping and hollering and generally giving an impression that sailing was her most favorite thing in the whole world.

She really does like sailing. I'm sure.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Here Comes Santa Claus

Bon Nadal
Feliz Natal
Feliz Navidad
Nollaig shona duit
Frohliche Weihnachten
Joyeux Noel et bonne annee
Roomsaid Joule ja Head Uut Aastat
Hyvaa joulua ja onnellista uutta vuotta
Mele Kalikimaka me ka Hau'oli Makahiki Hou
Wesolych swiat i szczesliwego nowego roku
Prettige kerstdagen en een Gelukkig Nieuwjaar

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Three Mince Pies

Captain JP has thrown down the challenge. He wants to have something to read on Xmas Day when he is is "stuffed full of mince pies" and asks, "What better than the cream of the crop of other blogs?" He suggests that others should list "their top blog entries of 2009." So for Captain JP, one of my favorite boating bloggers of all time, here are Tillerman's Top 3 Posts of 2009.

  1. Being basically a grumpy old geezer, I love a good rant. Ban Mommy Boats NOW is a good old rant at one of the greatest current threats to the spirit of Corinthian sailing, the grossly unfair and increasingly prevalent practice of sailors bringing surrogate "mommies" to wipe their noses and change their diapers at major regattas (metaphorically speaking of course.) "I'm mad as hell about Mommy Boats and I'm not going to take it any more."

  2. I haven't sailed much this year, mainly because I'm a wimp... and lazy to boot. 10 Reasons Why I (Almost) Gave Up Sailing This Year is the sad pathetic tale of my inadequacies in this area. But it did generate a lot of very helpful comments on how to overcome my sailing funk.

  3. Proper Course: The Laser Experience! was a response to another blogging challenge from Captain JP. It's all about how you can come and sail with me and learn the skills of mediocrity, laziness, ineptitude and procrastination that have made me the world-renowned Laser racing failure that I am today. Surprisingly nobody has yet taken me up on my offer. Maybe in 2010?

Bah! Humbug! And get off my lawn!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Classic Laser

I must be old school. Or, maybe just old. As a result of my recent trip to see the fat virgin, I've become all warm and fuzzy and nostalgic for the good old days of Laser sailing.

To explain why I will have to give you a history lesson. You see, there have been three eras in the evolution of Laser sail controls...

In the current "Modern Era" we racing Laser sailors are allowed to put pulleys and blocks and purchases in our vang and outhaul and cunningham so that we can adjust any of the controls at any time with a mere tweak of the line with our fingertips. We can constantly adjust the sail shape to optimize the boatspeed for every little change in wind or wave conditions. In fact we can spend so much time tweaking the sail controls that it is entirely possible to overlook a huge wind shift or, for that matter, a starboard tacker barreling down on us. Oops.

Prior to the Modern Era there was the "Silly Rope Tricks and Macrame Era". You were allowed to put some extra purchases in the control lines but the powers-that-be had ordained that you couldn't use any blocks for those purchases because that would be against the "Strict One-Design Principle of the Laser Class as Envisaged by the Original Designer", or something. So you bought slippery line and tied little bowlines in the control lines and looped the lines through the bowlines to achieve the necessary mechanical advantage and then had to replace the lines about every three weeks when the lines wore out. It was really very silly. Very silly indeed.

But in the beginning, when I raced my first Laser in the early 80's, it was still the "Classic Laser Era". 3:1 vang. Outhaul led to a cleat on the boom. Minimal purchase in the downhaul. It was pretty much a set-the-controls-and-go boat. It was very hard to adjust any of the controls while sailing, though we old-timers did eventually work out one or two tricks to help us....

You couldn't adjust the outhaul on any point of sail except close-hauled (couldn't reach that damn cleat on the boom); but sailing upwind if you used both hands, one either side of the cleat, you could just about tighten the outhaul. Likewise with the vang; there was a technique for standing up, bouncing your whole body weight on the middle of the boom with one hand and snugging up the vang line with the other hand. It was quite possible to capsize during either of these maneuvers but that was all part of the fun.

I was somewhat surprised to discover that the Lasers at the Bitter End Yacht Club (where I spent my recent vacation) were still essentially Classic Lasers. (I guess this is what is sold for recreational use even these days.) They also had un-battened sails with no windows made by UK-Halsey which presumably are more durable than the class-legal sails which are made from some material rejected as too flimsy by Victoria's Secret.

At first I was mildly perturbed by this. How would I be able to sail the boat without my 15:1 vang and 9:1 outhaul and 12:1 downhaul? (I have no idea if those are the actual numbers so please don't abuse me for being a weakling if you only have a 10:1 downhaul.)

But then I rationalized it. What the hell? I'm only on vacation. And if I race a Laser in the Sunday regatta it's just the same for everyone.

Then I went through the masochism stage. It's harder when I can't depower the sail in a big gust, but it's good for me to have to hike more. It's annoying that I can't put on enough vang for upwind sailing in heavy winds but what doesn't kill me makes me stronger.

And then after a few days I accepted it. It took me back to my youth. (Or comparative youth as I didn't start sailing a Laser until I was in my early 30's.) This was how the Laser was created by the Great Designer in the Sky. Never mind tweaking the control lines every few minutes, just sail the boat. Watch for the gusts and deal with them. Less is more. Simplicity is a virtue. I learned (again) to love the Classic Laser. I found myself tuning into the wind and the waves and hugely enjoying the experience of sailing the best little boat in the world in one of the best places to sail in the world. I recaptured my enthusiasm for Laser sailing that I almost lost this year.

I must be old school. Or, maybe just old.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Dear Tillerwoman, what I want for Christmas is...

Yes, I know we said we wouldn't buy each other expensive gifts this Xmas, but I really think it's time I moved up to a boat that's a bit bigger than my Laser.

This Volvo Open 70, "Puma Avanti II" (Puma training boat and formerly "ABN AMRO 2") would be an ideal training boat for a future campaign, or maybe I could even use her for corporate work. She comes complete with a full VOR 70 sail inventory and containerized workshop. She gained the longest distance run in 24 hours by a monohull clocking 563 nautical miles, an average of 23.4 knots of speed! She
is listed at $845,538 and is currently just down the road at the Newport Shipyard. Maybe you could go and check her out when the snow stops?

Just a suggestion. Really, another diary would be just as much appreciated.

By the way, what would you like for Christmas dear?

Fleet Captain's Email

Due to the wind, snow and the general condition of the roads, Laser frostbiting is canceled for the day. See you all next Sunday, hopefully. Enjoy the snow and the holidays.

Damn. After racing last Sunday morning in sunshine, 80 degrees and 15 knots I was just longing for a blizzard sesh in zero visibility, 10 degrees F real feel, and 25 knots gusting 45.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Puffy Pants and Pulp Fiction

The votes are in. It's clear that you the readers overwhelmingly feel that the winner of our Love and Sailing group writing project should be Setting the Record Straight or Capt. Puffy Pants Eats Crow. I wholeheartedly concur. So, if Capt. Puffy Pants would like to email me his mailing address I will send him the prize.

I was very pleased that this entry won because, although the good captain has only been writing his blog Boat De Jour for a couple of months, I believe that he is setting a totally new direction in sailing blogs. Boat De Jour is, I suggest, the first truly "postmodern" sailing blog.

Let me first confess that, until five minutes ago, I had no idea what that term "postmodern" meant. But after extensive research using The Google and The Wikipedia I now consider myself an expert on the subject.

Actually The Wikipedia is not very enlightening on what "postmodern" really means. It just has a lot of twaddle such as saying that postmodernism is "a style and concept in the arts characterized by distrust of theories and ideologies and by the drawing of attention to conventions." Say what again?

However, I did discover that the 1994 Quentin Tarantino movie Pulp Fiction is considered by many critics as a "prime example of a postmodern film". Aaaah, now I get it. Tillerwoman and I watched Pulp Fiction for the first time a couple of weeks ago (we are a bit behind in catching up with recent movies) and right away I saw the similarity between Pulp Fiction and
Setting the Record Straight or Capt. Puffy Pants Eats Crow and why I loved so much the postmodern elements in both of them.

Pulp Fiction has a lot of swearing and killing people. I don't think that that makes it postmodern. And, in any case,
Setting the Record Straight or Capt. Puffy Pants Eats Crow doesn't have any killing people in it at all. On the other hand there is a bit of mildly foul language such as "bleep you".

Pulp Fiction has
John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson and Bruce Willis, but I don't think that this is why it is postmodern. Likewise John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson and Bruce Willis don't appear in Setting the Record Straight or Capt. Puffy Pants Eats Crow. Nor does Uma Thurman. (Which is a shame because I do have a bit of a thing for Uma Thurman.)

No. What I discovered from my minutes of research on The Google into postmodernism is that Pulp Fiction is considered postmodern because of the picture's "self-reflexivity, unconventional structure, and extensive use of homage and pastiche". Now do you see why I saw the similarity with
Setting the Record Straight or Capt. Puffy Pants Eats Crow?

Just like Pulp Fiction,
Setting the Record Straight or Capt. Puffy Pants Eats Crow has an unconventional structure. It is immediately apparent that there is a missing section from the story. The narrative abruptly jumps from Capt. Puffy taking the helm to the whole crew of the vessel swimming around in the lake. Classic postmodernism! (Can postmodernism be classic?) Thankfully the good captain posted the missing scenes a few days later in The Missing Transcripts of "Setting the Record Straight or Capt. Puffy Pants Eats Crow".

And how about that for self-reflexivity? Referring in his blog to the blog as if it were the record of some kind of court proceedings? "Missing Transcripts"! Delicious postmodernism.

But it's the "homage" that really makes this story truly postmodern. (I think that if you are in the know about postmodernism you are supposed to pronounce "homage" with a French accent.) Pulp Fiction is full of homages to other movies and television programs. I'm sure I only "got" 10% of them. Similarly
Setting the Record Straight or Capt. Puffy Pants Eats Crow is full of homages to films and TV. The blog's name Boat De Jour is clearly an homage to the 1967 Buñuel film Belle de jour; the name Puffy Pants itself must be a reference to the famous Puffy Shirt episode of Seinfeld; and the character Honey Bunny is clearly based on the character of the same name played by Amanda Plummer in Pulp Fiction!!! How spooky is that possum?

I could go on but I leave it to the reader to discover all the vast riches of postmodern elements in
Setting the Record Straight or Capt. Puffy Pants Eats Crow the worthy winner of our grand prize. The only thing that could have made it even better for me is if it had included a dance scene with Uma Thurman.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Fat Virgin

I'm back... Tillerwoman and I have just returned from a wonderful 10 day vacation at the Bitter End Yacht Club on Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands.

Bitter End Yacht Club is not a yacht club. It is an all-inclusive water sports resort. But it does have some of the style and atmosphere associated with the better class of yacht clubs.

There is a lot to do at BEYC. There is sailing on dinghies and catamarans and keelboats. There is windsurfing and kiteboarding. There is kayaking. There is diving and snorkeling. There are blue-water excursions. There is an amazing variety of food. There is steel band music. There are painkillers. There is rum.

Virgin Gorda, as I am sure you know, means "fat virgin". It is not a fat virgin. It is an island. It was named Virgin Gorda by Columbus on his second voyage because he thought the shape of the island as seen from the sea looked like a fat virgin. It really doesn't. But I guess when you've been two months at sea with only hairy smelly male sailors for company then you start having fantasies about fat virgins and pretty much anything looks like a fat virgin, even a green hilly island.

It was our fourth visit to BEYC. We went a couple of times in the mid-90s with our then teenage sons. We all had a blast. Then Tillerwoman and I went by ourselves in 2001. I really can't recall why we haven't been back sooner. Maybe after the rum has totally worn off I will remember.

I am probably going to bore you over the next few days with some posts about our vacation at Bitter End. Other people's vacations are boring, I know. So come back after Christmas if you don't want to read any boring posts about my vacation. But some of the posts may surprise you. Some may be funny. Some may be rude. (I've discovered that rude posts tend to generate the most comments.) Some of the posts may even be about sailing. Some will probably be about rum.

So the story starts on Friday evening a couple of weeks ago as I sit on the deck of our rustic cottage at the north end of BEYC, sipping rum (of course) and looking across Eustatia Reef at Necker Island, the whole frigging island owned by some other Brit about my age called Richard Branson. Sir Richard is apparently busy this week somewhere in the world launching his new venture to sell rides in space to rich idiots. I am sitting on a veranda sipping rum and enjoying the view of Sir Richard's island and wondering what the next day, our first full day at Bitter End, will bring?
Will there be mimosas for breakfast? Will there be sailing? Will there be rum?

Friday, December 04, 2009

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Love and Sailing... and the winner is...

Our Love and Sailing group writing project closed yesterday. Thanks to everyone who contributed. As there is a very valuable prize at stake, there will be a three stage process for selecting the winner.
  1. After an exhaustive and searching evaluation process, I have selected eight finalists A,B,D,N,O,P,S and Z who are eligible for the prize. See list below.

  2. You, my expert advisers, (i.e. anyone who has stumbled upon this post) are invited to read all of the finalists' entries and make comments on which ones you prefer. While you are doing this, the beautiful Tillerwoman and I will be enjoying a well-deserved (well she deserves it anyway) break in the Caribbean. There will be rum. There will be sun. There will be wind. There will be sailing. There will be more rum.

  3. When we return (whenever that will be) and have sobered up, I will peruse your comments and select the winner of the grand prize, a totally free, completely original, only-read-once (well twice actually), first trade paperback edition of the blockbuster smash hit "love and sailing" book of the century the Motion of the Ocean, 1 Small Boat, 2 Average Lovers, and a Woman's Search for the Meaning of Wife by the world-famous love and sailing author Janna Cawrse Esarey!!! The book isn't signed by the author but it will be signed by the slightly famous Tillerman, once named as the writer of the "best sailing blog on the planet"!!!!! Decision of the judges (well judge actually) is final.

Grand Finalists

A. Danger Will Robinson! "Sailing has been a central pillar of our life together. I feel very lucky that we share this same passion and we have shared this since the start. It helped form the bond in the beginning, fixed the cracks later and now is creating a new foundation."

B. The Things We Do For Love "Her trust in me was implicit, that trust might have been a burden, but it wasn't, I just grew to love her all the more."

D. It's A Rock! "I learned that, when you least suspect it, your wife may very well be right."

N. Sailing - The Best Thing That Ever Happened "One day she told me that one of the main reasons she was attracted to me was that I was a sailor."

O. Who Do You Trust? "Learning these lessons and failing to learn them has resulted in some of the best times my wife and I have shared together. And in some of the worst."

P. Setting the Record Straight or Capt. Puffy Pants Eats Crow "For some reason my wife thinks this whole “story” is quite amusing."

S. Sailing Reminds Me Why it's Good to Be an Old Married Couple "Sailing brings out the arguing, which will later be followed by the apologizing and the making-up. Oh, the making-up."

Z. Love on the water, Physical, Mental, Emotional "Love and Sailing can bind a couple together better than a land bound couple’s bowling on Tues interest, or bingo on Friday."

Other very much appreciated and worthy entries that are not unfortunately considered quite good enough too be eligible for the grand prize. Better luck next time.

Atlantic Rally for Cruisers in which Cleo got shagged by the skipper.

A spat "He slipped a hand inside her blouse and she realized she wasn’t wearing a bra." Yikes!

The "Love and Sailing" non post by some English bloke who says it never happened.

Valentine's Day by some romantic fellow who bought his sailor wife a present that was much better than chocolate or flowers.

Tillerwoman by some pathetic character who apparently can't persuade his own wife to sail with him.

Con La Vela He Encontrado El Amor Verdadero! by some California dude who thinks you might need help in finding a date.

Thank you again for all your excellent posts on this topic and for sharing your stories about how love and sailing interact in your lives. Did I miss anybody?

And now it's over to you. Which of the finalists' stories do you like best? Who should win the prize? I really want to hear what you think.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009


When I was a young man I had this fantasy.

I saw myself sailing with my beautiful bride... perhaps crewing a racing dinghy together on our home waters in England, and cruising the Mediterranean and the Caribbean on bareboat charters with our young sons for vacations.

I thought it would probably be a good step for us to learn to sail first. So we dumped our young sons on their grandparents for a couple of weeks and I took my beautiful bride off to Minorca Sailing in the Med.

It was warm. It was sunny. We took sailing lessons together in a little dinghy called a 350. Some afternoons she relaxed by the pool while I played on the 350 on my own. I made lots of mistakes. I learned a lot from my mistakes. At the end of the vacation my beautiful bride and I won the beginners' race in the 350s. We had tasted the rare pleasure of winning a sailboat race. (I did not yet know how rare it would be.) We enjoyed our prize, a bottle of champagne, at the post-race barbecue. Life was good. I was one step nearer to fulfilling my fantasy. Before returning to the UK I had my first sail in a Laser. It sent chills down my spine. That was almost 30 years ago and I still remember it.

We went home. We discovered that my parents had taught our youngest son (12 months old) to walk while we were away. Bastards! We missed his first steps. Aaah, but it would all be worth it for my sailing fantasy.

Then my beautiful bride announced that she had enjoyed our trip to Minorca but, on reflection, she had decided that she didn't like sailing. It was not for her. Had I shouted at her too much during that race we won? Not more than usual, she told me. She just "didn't know what she was doing" when we were sailing. She kept thinking about "all that water under us". It just wasn't her thing.


So I bought a Laser. I learned to sail it. I bought a wetsuit. I started racing year round on the local gravel pit. We went back to Minorca Sailing a couple of years later but this time I sailed Lasers and my beautiful bride painted pictures of boats and palm trees. I won a Laser race. One of my beautiful bride's paintings of boats and palm trees still hangs in our bathroom today.

We moved to Rutland and joined Rutland SC and I sailed my Laser on Rutland Water. My sons were old enough to learn to sail, so I bought them an Optimist. My sons took sailing lessons. I bought them a second Optimist. Every weekend my sons and I went sailing, and my beautiful bride came to the sailing club and happily acted as trolley dolly and brought us our lunches and generally looked after us. She said she didn't want to sail herself; she didn't like sailing.

We moved to America and lived near a lake in New Jersey. There was a Sunfish fleet on the lake. My sons and I raced Sunfish every Sunday in the summers. My beautiful bride sat on the beach and looked beautiful. She told us that she didn't like sailing.

But one year, after our sons had left home for college, she said she would like to try and learn to sail the Sunfish. I was pretty experienced by then at teaching people of all ages to sail Sunfish. I gave her a few lessons. She was progressing well. One Saturday morning she woke up and announced, "I would like to try a capsize drill this weekend." Great! We sailed my Sunfish out to the middle of our little lake. I gently capsized the boat. She swam around to the daggerboard and did a perfect capsize recovery. Then she decided once again that she didn't like sailing. It just wasn't her thing.

I've tried everything I could think of. I suggested that she go on one of those Womyn Only sailing courses where "nobody shouts". She wasn't interested. I suggested that we buy a bigger boat, one that doesn't tip over like a dinghy. She wasn't interested. She just doesn't like sailing.

However, from time to time when we are on vacation she will come sailing with me. We sailed a Hobie cat in St. Lucia and nearly sank one off the Florida Keys. We sailed Rhode 19's once together in Maine and more than once in the BVI. My beautiful bride's usual opening gambit is, "I'll come on the boat if I don't have to do anything." But once we are afloat I say, "Hold this rope for a minute," or, "Just hang on to the tiller while I get my camera out." There is a photo in a frame on my desk of her holding a tiller with sparkling Caribbean waters behind her and a huge smile on her face. Is she smiling because she enjoys sailing? Or is she laughing because once again I have tricked her into having a photo taken that makes it look as if she enjoys sailing?

On rare occasions she will even race. She has crewed for me and for friends we have made on vacation. She has won every race she has ever crewed in. She is the perfect crew. Yet she is adamant that she doesn't like sailing.

So I have adapted my sailing to cope with the inevitable fact that I am married to a wonderful woman who only has one real fault: she doesn't like sailing.

So I sail my Laser on my own. We travel together all over the world to satisfy my need for a Laser racing fix. Australia. Europe. South America. Caribbean. She goes for long walks and sits on the beach and looks beautiful and sips drinks with little umbrellas in, and is perfectly happy. When I come off the water she brings me my dolly - and a beer if I'm lucky - so I'm perfectly happy too.

So I sail my Laser on my own. It suits me. I'm not a great team player anyway. There's no me in team. If my beautiful bride and I had sailed together I expect we would have had constant disagreements brought on by the stress of dealing with all the minor crises that sailing a boat inevitably creates. It's better this way. I go sailing. I come home to her afterwards. We are both perfectly happy with the arrangement.

Building a successful marriage is not about following the wild fantasy of one partner. It is about learning and understanding each other's likes and dislikes, and forging a relationship that plays to each other's
strengths and weaknesses. My wife has many interests and skills; I can only marvel at the many fields in which she is so talented. On the other hand, I am fanatical about sailing but am not especially good at it.

Every morning, when I wake up, my first thought is how fortunate I am to have married this amazing woman beside me and how lucky I am that she is still with me. My second thought is to look out of the bedroom window at the wind on the waters of my bay and wonder if today will be a good day for sailing.

Marriage is not about a destination. It's about savoring every moment of the voyage. It's about give and take, ebb and flow. Or as Janna said... it's all about the motion of the ocean.

Life is good.

This post is my own contribution to our group writing project Love and Sailing.