Thursday, November 24, 2011


Thank you to all the people who have read this blog at some time or other since I started it almost 7 years ago. There wouldn't have been much point in writing 2,143 posts if nobody ever read them.

Thank you to everyone who has left comments on this blog, even to those of you who chose to remain anonymous and even to those of you who chose to insult me. Hey, at least I got a reaction. But a special warm "Thank You" to all of you who entertained me with your helpful suggestions and amusing comments and provocative arguments.

Thank you to all the people who have subscribed to the blog in one form or another. It has amazed me that so many people have wanted to read my drivel.

Thank you to all the people who write the blogs that I read. Some of you have been acknowledged in my blogroll. A few of you were even honored in one of my occasional Top Ten Blog lists. I have learned so much about boating and blogging and writing and life generally from reading your blogs.

Thank you to those who have become friends over the years. I've met a few of you, but there are so many more that I only know through our online interactions. Maybe we will meet in person one day soon.

Thank You.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Larry Looking Cool

Even Larry Ellison wears a helmet when they let him steer the boat!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Dreaming About Laser Sailing

I have been searching for a while for a photo to illustrate what I was talking about a few days ago in my post about how to hold your hands when sailing a Laser upwind. The recommendation from my instructor in Menorca was to keep your hands in front of you, with the sheet hand high so that you can easily dump the sheet in a puff by straightening then arm while still holding the sheet.

My friend Antolin pointed out that this picture of my new granddaughter Isabel Grace (born on Wednesday) illustrates it perfectly. She is a natural! She must be dreaming about Laser sailing!

If the Laser Class doesn't self destruct in the next 20 years I see a bright future for her on the Laser Radial scene.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

New Tiller Extension

The suspense is over. A new tiller extension was delivered just after midnight. Heading down to Connecticut this morning to check her out. Details and photos will be posted later.

Update: Isabel Grace. Born 12:18am 11/16/11. 8lbs 3oz. Mother and baby doing fine. My second granddaughter and fourth grandchild.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Oh The Suspense

Photo credit: Bird's Eye View Helicopters

The Newport Pell Bridge is the longest suspension bridge in New England, and perhaps one of the most recognizable landmarks in Rhode Island. It spans the Eastern Passage of Narragansett Bay between Jamestown and Newport. According to Wikipedia, which is never wrong, its overall length is 11,247 ft, its main towers reach 400 ft above the water surface, and the roadway height reaches as high as 215 ft. Didn't know that, did you?

It's not usually open to pedestrians or cyclists but today, very early today, it was open for the Inaugural Citizens Bank Newport Pell Bridge Run, a 4 mile road race from Jamestown to Newport. I signed up for this run almost as soon as it was announced, for three reasons I guess...

  1. I thought it would be cool to run the bridge.
  2. It would be a chance to cross the bridge without having to pay those damn tolls, and, as I am a mean old bastard, that appealed to me.
  3. If I signed up very early I would get a low bib number and all the pretty girls doing the race would wonder if I was some superfit elite runner and would come and chat me up.

So I got up at o'dark thirty this morning, ate some breakfast (a banana, a bagel and some coffee) and said goodbye to Tillerwoman...

"Sorry to wake you up so early, dear. You must be crazy for putting up with me."

"No. You're the crazy one."

She was right. As usual.

Drove down to Newport in the dark on empty roads. Took the shuttle bus to Jamestown in the dark. Stood in queue in the dark for porta potties. Used porta potty in the dark. Grabbed another coffee in the dark. And it was time for the start.

According to Newport Betty, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse addressed the 2,500 runners before the start of the race and told us that, "Anything worth doing is worth getting up in the middle of the night for," or words to that effect. Somehow I missed those words of inspiration. Maybe that was when I was in the porta potty doing what I usually get up in the middle of the night for. Or perhaps when that pretty girl was asking me why I had such a low bib number.

I was so far back in the pack, I hardly heard the starting gun, but eventually we stragglers ambled across the start line and started jogging up the approach road and up through the toll booths (no charge today - woo hoo!) and up on to the bridge and up to the crest of the bridge. There did seem to be a lot of "up" involved.

Photo credit: Newport Betty

I kept a steady pace up with no walking and passed a lot of fat girls walking up the bridge and a few fat boys walking up the bridge. It must have really hurt to see this old geezer, three times their age, jogging past them with only the occasional wheeze and snort.

The sun was rising as we ran and was shining in our eyes. There were spectacular views of the natural amphitheater of Narragansett Bay and the iconic Newport waterfront. You never really get a chance to stop and smell the roses and admire the view when you are driving over the bridge. Actually I didn't spot any roses today either.

After what seemed like only about 13 miles of uphill we were at the top.

Photo credit: George Ross Sports Photography

Woo hoo! It's all downhill from here.

Photo credit: Newport Betty

Actually it wasn't all downhill from there. There was another small hill after we exited the bridge, but then it was round a bend to be welcomed by the massive cheering crowds on the ironically named Farewell Street. There must have been dozens of spectators. I was overtaking other runners again on this stretch. I guess I must have saved a bit of energy for the last mile, and the finish came up faster than I expected. Always better than the other way round.

Grabbed a bottle of water and walked the few yards back to the car which was parked opposite the Brick Alley Pub, the traditional location for the Newport meet-ups of watery bloggers. And so home to see the beautiful Tillerwoman (who was just getting up) and a second breakfast of a bacon and mushroom omelet.

Life is good.


I don't know much anything about rowing... but isn't there something wrong here?

What's It All About Alfie?

Sometimes in all the discussion on this blog about disputes among Laser builders, and class rules, and Racing Rules, and tactics, and strategy, and boat-handling tricks, and fitness etc. etc. it's easy to forget what sailing is really all about.

This picture (which I stole from the Facebook page of a friend of a friend of a friend or something) reminds me.

My first Laser had a sail just like that.

I never had a yellow Laser but I did have an orange one.

I used to take my sons and random kids we met on holiday for rides just like that.

Though I never took a dog on a Laser.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Am I Nuts?

Am I nuts?

A few months ago I signed up for the Inaugural Newport Pell Bridge Run, which is a four mile run from Jamestown to Newport across the East Passage of Narragansett Bay via the two mile long Newport Pell Bridge (which is normally not open to pedestrians.) It seemed like a pretty cool idea at the time. The bridge is one of the best know landmarks around here. And the views from the top of the bridge of Narragansett Bay and Newport are spectacular (not to say iconic.)

I guess I didn't read the small print very closely. The start of the race is at 6:30 am, I have to pick up the shuttle bus from Newport to the start at 5:30, which means I will have to leave home around 4:45, which in turn means I will have to get up around 4:00 am.


But wait. It gets worse.

The race is tomorrow. A Sunday! A Sunday during the Newport Laser fleet frostbiting season! I never thought of that complication.

So let's see, if I can run the race and get back to the car by 7:30 say, I can be home and showered and ready for (a second) breakfast by 8:30-9:00, rest for an hour or two, and then head back down to Newport at 11-ish to be in time to rig and launch my Laser in time for the first start at 1:00 pm.

Not a problem.


Let's see. What's the weather forecast for tomorrow?

SW winds 10 to 15 kt with gusts up to 25 kt. waves 2 to 3 ft.

Pretty good Laser sailing weather. But it's sure to be a little... ummm... strenuous, to say the least. Not exactly a relaxing Sunday afternoon's doddle round the bay. And I will be doing it after getting up at 4am and slogging across that bloody bridge. That bloody, iconic bridge.

Is this a good idea at my age?

Am I nuts?

Friday, November 11, 2011


Quote of the Week

"I sat down and wrote the two versions of my own obituary, the one that I wanted, and the one that I was heading for, and realized that working in an office cubicle was definitely not the legacy I wanted to leave to the world."

Roz Savage - explaining why at the age of 33 she decided to give up her humdrum life as a management consultant and go break all kinds of records for solo rowing across oceans. From this article by Tim Zimmerman.

Three Weeks From Now...

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Captions Please

I know that many of my readers love to make fun of Laser sailors. So here is your chance. This photo is just asking for a snarky caption.

Go for it.

Sunday, November 06, 2011


Today was the first day of the Newport Kirby Sailboat Fleet frostbite season and my 43rd day of sailing my Kirby Sailboat this year. (I guess that's not strictly true. For the first 41 sails of the year I thought my boat was called a Laser, but apparently it's really a Kirby Sailboat. At least that's what Bruce Kirby, the boat's designer says, and I guess he should know.)

We had a crack race committee headed up by Moose McClintock so the start line was just the right length, the beat was square to the wind, and the courses kept changing to maximize the fun.

It was windier than I expected. The mark roundings were just as crowded and as chaotic as I expected. There wasn't as much shouting as I expected. I had more fun than I expected.

I had one really good race, at least one other really good start, and one really stupid capsize... and I didn't hit anybody else or any buoys, but there were one or two close misses in the latter category.

I packed it in before the afternoon was over. I wasn't totally exhausted but I was physically tired enough that I could feel myself losing the necessary focus, concentration and aggression to keep racing properly so I quit, I wimped out, I called it a day. Hey, I'm 63. I'm allowed.

The day of frostbiting left me satisfied but wanting more.. like sex, beer and sudoku and not at all like cruising and visiting Philadelphia.

This post is called Ida because our start line was just off Ida Lewis Yacht Club. The lady in the photo with 43 on her chest is not called Ida, as far as I know. She is there because a lot of my male readers get excited every year when I do my 43rd sail and I wouldn't want to disappoint them by not posting the photo of the lady who isn't called Ida.

And so home for a soak in a hot bath and a delicious meal of lamb chops and fresh veggies and gravy with Tillerwoman, whom I met 40 years ago today. Life is good.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

And They Are Off!

Woo hoo! Spanish shoe company leads German shoe company and Spanish telecommunications company as the fleet heads for the Straits of Gibraltar.

Mushroom Goes Kirby Sailboating

I wrote a couple of posts, Three Laser Classes and Messy, six months ago about the battle currently raging in LaserWorld between some of the boat builders, the class and the designer. I won't bore you with all the details but things haven't gotten any better since then.

To try and extricate itself from the mess, the class leadership proposed to change our Fundamental Rule which, depending on who you believe, was necessary to prevent the end of Laser sailing as we now know it... or would actually cause the end of Laser sailing as we now know it. The debate raged on and off for months in various forums. From my perspective we poor Laser class members were never told enough to know what the hell was really going on, and what we were told often later proved to be wrong or in conflict with other information. One of our number (a chap who is usually well informed and sure of his opinions) posted on the Laser Forum in exasperation a few days ago...

That which I thought was going on, that which I currently believe is going on, and that which is actually going on are almost certainly three different scenarios.

My sentiments entirely.

The designer of the boat, Bruce Kirby, had a letter published on Scuttlebutt a few days ago to argue his position on the issues in which he announced, totally out of the blue...

The official name for the Laser is the KIRBY SAILBOAT.

What? What the hell does that mean? Our boat has been sailing under the wrong name for the last forty years? Or you have just decided to rename it? And, if so why? No doubt it's all tied up with this complicated dispute about who owns what rights, and who owes who what, and whether a Laser by any other name would smell as sweet... or something.

Then someone posted...

We are all mushroom sailors.

Kept in the dark and fed on bullshit for anyone who doesn't get the allusion.

We sure are. So on Thursday this mushroom took his Kirby Sailboat over to Bristol Harbor and went sailing. The wind was blowing out of the SW at 10-15 knots and the water temperature was... ummm... refreshing. The spray definitely stings a bit more in November than it does in August. I played in the waves for an hour or so and tried to forget about the disaster that is happening in LaserWorld. Worst case, if the sky really does fall and Lasering as we know it dies an ugly death, I can always buy an RS100.

And so home to Tillerwoman and a steaming bowl of clam chowder. Life is good.