Monday, February 29, 2016

Sailing Without My Trousers

There is no doubt that I am beginning to forget things as I get older.

A few months ago I was convinced I had lost my wallet along with all the stuff in it like cash, debit card, credit cards, driving license and really important stuff like my US Sailing Membership Card. I went to all the trouble of calling the liquor store where I thought I might have lost it, notifying the police, notifying my bank and credit card companies, getting a replacement driving license, and of course notifying US Sailing. Then a few weeks later Tillerwoman found my wallet in a drawer in the dining room - a different drawer in the dining room from where I normally put my wallet so I won't forget where I put it.

I must have forgotten which was the drawer where I normally put my wallet so I won't forget where I put it.

When I am blogging I sometimes forget how to spell words like defense, aluminum and analyze.

When I go sailing I sometimes forget to check the tide.

But on the Sunday before last I did something I have never done before.

I forgot to put my trousers on when I went sailing.

The usage of the words "pants" and "trousers" is a bit different in American English and Real English. So let me explain for my three American readers.

In Real English "trousers" are an item of clothing worn from the waist to the ankles, covering both legs separately.

In American English this item of clothing is called "pants."

Whereas in Real English "pants" means underwear.



I didn't go sailing without my pants. I went sailing without my trousers.

No, wait. Those pictures are a little misleading.

When I go sailing in the winter (defined as any time between October and April in these parts) I usually wear three layers, a Gill drysuit and underneath two layers

1. Long thermal underwear - pants.
2. Highly technical "mid layer" sailing clothing from Gill - trousers.

My Gill highly technical mid layer trousers are a few years old. The current equivalent Gill highly technical mid layer trousers are these...

Gill highly technical mid layer trousers

According to the Gill website these trousers have "a smooth technical face fleece with a brushed waffle interior providing excellent stretch and warmth while incorporating wicking and breathable properties." Gill call them "Thermogrid" trousers.

Don't they sound toasty?

Anyway, a couple of Sundays ago I went down to Newport and rigged my Laser and put on all my sailing gear and launched my Laser into the frigid waters of Narragansett Bay. And then on the sail out to the start line I noticed a strange coolness in my nether regions - not to mention a distinct lack of padding in my nether regions - and realized I had forgotten my trousers.

No brushed waffle interior. No smooth technical face fleece.

I have no idea how I forgot to put on my trousers.

I may be getting old.

Of course it wasn't as embarrassing as, say, going out to a restaurant without my trousers. Or even going to the mall without my trousers. Or riding the Underground (subway in American English) without trousers.

No Trousers Day on London Underground

I was wearing my drysuit so none of the other sailors could see I was sailing without my trousers. So I decided to tough it out. What's a bit of cold in the nether regions?

I didn't sail well that day.

I only had one good start and that turned out to be a general recall. (Why does that always happen?)

I seemed slower than the rest of the fleet and was making bad technical and strategic decisions.

I couldn't really blame it on not wearing my trousers.

Or could I? I have heard some women claim that men's brains are not in their heads, but instead they are in a part of the body normally kept warm by trousers.

Maybe some women are right?

On Monday last week I went sailing by myself in Newport.

I remembered to put on my trousers.

It was a very pleasant hour or so of light wind practice.

Yesterday I didn't feel like going racing with the Newport Laser fleet.

I can't remember why.

Has my bad experience of sailing without trousers put me off Laser racing?

Am I pining to get back in the RS Aero?

I forget.

What is your most embarrassing moment of forgetfulness?

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

New Age Junior Sailing

Is this the future of junior sailing?

What do you think?

Thursday, February 18, 2016

The Weather is Here - I Wish You Were Beautiful

In the pre-dawn hours on Sunday morning at Proper Course World Headquarters, the temperature fell to almost 40 degrees below freezing. When the sun came up we were treated to this unusual view of "sea smoke" over the bay.

The fleet captain of the Newport Laser fleet cancelled our racing on Sunday because he felt it would be a bit too chilly for racing.

On Monday morning, it was only just below zero degrees Fahrenheit at sunrise and we could see that Mount Hope Bay was covered in ice.

On Wednesday the sailing team from Roger Williams University posted the photo below on their Facebook page, with this comment...
First day of sailing at home last year: March 17.
First day of sailing at home this year: February 17.
And it was awesome!
(Not confirmed, but possibly the earliest start date in the last decade.

Good for them. RWU is on the other side of the bay from us. Proper Course World Headquarters is somewhere on that ridge, a tad to the right of the dinghies.

I went sailing "at home" (i.e. in Rhode Island) on Wednesday too.

I sailed my Laser in Newport along with a friend in his RS Aero.

I was hoping to stage a repeat of this epic photo of the first launch of an RS Aero in New England waters in 2015.

Sadly, although the first splash of the RS Aero in 2016 was almost a month earlier than in 2015, there wasn't enough snow left to re-stage the photo.

So we blasted around Brenton Cove enjoying the balmy 45 degree weather in a chunky 12-17 mph south-westerly.

At least I was blasting around in my Laser. My companion in the RS Aero spent a lot of time doing something more useful like practicing his starts by holding station on buoys and sailing slowly and sailing backwards and other such nonsense that he thinks will help him beat me on the start line at the RS Aero US Nationals in the Gorge this year. Ha!

Life is too short to sail slowly on purpose.

There was another guy out sailing a Laser too. Apparently he likes to come down to Sail Newport one or two afternoons a week for some Laser practice at this time of year, so I may well go sail with him some days over the coming weeks.

It was an exhilarating afternoon. Especially exhilarating when getting splashed in the face by the icy cold water on wild planing reaches. Even more exhilarating when I realized the neck of my drysuit has stretched a bit and the icy cold water was going down my neck. O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!

And so to the Coddington Brewery for some French onion soup and a pulled pork sandwich with curly fries washed down with a couple of glasses of IPA.

Gratuitous photo of 
pulled pork sandwich with curly fries 
at Coddington Brewery
stolen without permission from Yelp
purely to keep Baydog happy.

I felt a bit achy when I woke up this morning.

I went for a 6 mile run on the East Bay Bike Path this morning.

I think I'll take a nap now.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Happy Birthday

Happy 11th Birthday to Proper Course.

Yes, it's 11 years ago today that I published the first post on this blog, Opening Lines.

I said in that post that it would be "a voyage with no destination and no charts."

I guess I got that bit right.

So, after 11 years of insane ramblings and random rants in 3,153 posts, here we are.

Where are we? I have no idea.

Was it worth it? I had my moments.

Maybe it's time for a change?

Monday, February 15, 2016

Why Do Top Sailors Have Hairy Ears?

I read a lot of blogs and books and watch a lot of videos about sailboat racing.

To be honest, I don't often come across a tip or piece of advice which is totally new and that I haven't heard, in some form, before.

But I did learn something totally new today in this US Sailing Team Sperry (USSTS) video about Brad Funk.

"I make sure that now I don't shave the hairs in my ears. So now they are super long because I can feel the wind shifts better. It's for real... I am going to let these suckers grow so I know when to tack."

The good bit starts at about 1:40.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Sailing Photo Quiz

What is the connection between these three photos?

Clue #1 - this is a sailing blog

It's Miller Time!

Thursday, February 11, 2016

February Made Me Shiver

Special Weather Statement for Newport County, Rhode Island

"Potentially life threatening wind chills."

"Temperatures will fall below zero."

"Gusts up tp 40 mph."

"Wind chill values between 15 and 25 degrees below zero."

"Frostbite in 10 minutes or less on exposed skin."


I guess I won't be sailing on Sunday.

Throwback Thursday - Emily - Sailor, Kayaker, Dancer

10 years ago, in February of 2006, I posted this picture of my granddaughter Emily, who was then a couple of months old.

I was obviously very thrilled at being a new grandfather. In that month I posted an imaginary conversation about Laser sailing with her, Hiking, and also a story about how I learned to play Twinkle Twinkle Little Star for her on an Octopus.

Well Emily didn't turn out to be a Laser sailor, at least not yet. But I have taken her sailing on my Laser a couple of times, the first time being this occasion in 2012.

More recently she has been showing some interest in kayaking. See Emily the Kayaker.

But her real passion these days is dancing. She goes to dancing lessons several times a week and competes in competitions sometimes too. Even at home it seems like she is always practicing her "moves."

She's come a long way in 10 years...

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Top 5 Sailing Blogs of 2015

Is it too late to write a review of the top sailing blogs of 2015?

If it is, then let me say in my defense that Monday was the Chinese New Year so this is actually the perfect time to review the top sailing blogs of last year, the Year of the Goat.

1. First up we have The Final Beat.

I used to promise my readers that I would teach them how to "cheat the nursing home - die on your Laser." Lord Damian, who writes the Final Beat, has a much more challenging aim for his blog, promising that it will help dinghy sailors "Sail Faster, Quicker."

I have been following The Final Beat for quite a while now and I have picked up a lot of great advice from it such as smile - it'll make you sail faster and pulling the elastic on your toe strap can make you go faster. There was something about how George Clooney is a better sailor than me and another post on how to improve your sailing by lolling around in chairs and fondling balls.

Some guy 
who apparently would improve his sailing quicker than me

And if that's not enough there are interviews with top sailors about my feet and even a post by Lord Damian's Auntie Gill on confessions of a failed OppieMum. Brilliant!

There's no doubt about it. The Final Beat is the best sailing blog on the planet about pulling on your elastic and fondling your balls. And Auntie Gill is pretty cool too.

2. Second on my list of top sailing blogs in the Year of the Goat is Improper Course.

What's not to like about a title like that? Someone once asked me which came first, Proper Course or Improper Course. Well that's a great question.  Do you have to be improper before you can be proper? Which came first, Yin or Yang?

There's even a video about proper and improper fractions on Improper Course
You don't find that on many sailing blogs

Anyway, Improper Course is written by a guy called Doug who is a seriously good Laser sailor and by his wife /Pam, so the blog is full of a lot of seriously good advice about Laser sailing from Doug and a lot of entertaining stuff by /Pam about Laser class politics and Valentine's Day. I love the variety of Improper Course. All human life is here. From a photo quiz about a stick in Korea to a fascinating post about offshore leaks. Improper Course is by far my favorite blog about sticks in Korea and offshore leaks written by a lady with a "/" in her name.

3. The third blog on my list is also written by a seriously good Laser sailor, but more to the point he is also a seriously good RS Aero sailor. Michael has been sharing his experiences sailing the RS Aero at AeroNautic. I've been picking up lots of great tips on this blog - everything from how to sail the Aero upwind,  to how to mount a GoPro on a RS Aero, to what to do about a f@#%$d outhaul.

RS Aero outhaul before Michael f@#%$d it up

If you want to learn how to sail an RS Aero well (and who doesn't?) then you need to read AeroNautic. It is undoubtedly the best blog in the solar system about what to do about a f@#%$d outhaul.

4. And while we are on blogs about singlehanded boats from RS Sailing, I must include RS300 393 - adventures of a boat and her incompetent skipper by Chris. As a very incompetent skipper myself, I love blogs by other incompetent skippers. Chris began the difficult journey from RS300 owner to RS300 sailor in July of 2014 and has been blogging about it ever since.

He went to the RS300 Inlands in 2014 and had a good time because he discovered that the RS300 sailors were "at least as friendly and certainly as alcoholic" as his old mates in the OK class,  he achieved his goal of respectfully finishing behind most of them, and he "probably felt less ill than Steve Bolland on Sunday morning."

By April of 2015, Chris had advanced to training to look more glamorous which seemed to consist mainly of trying not to look like "an elderly driver heading the wrong way up a motorway or an old lady at a supermarket checkout suddenly confronted with a request from the cashier to pay for the shopping." He also discovered that he needed to "apply more sex wax to the boat - or the boots."

looking like an elderly driver heading the wrong way up a motorway

Chris is obviously moving up fast in the RS300 class because by October he was asked to write a report for Yachts and Yachting magazine about the RS300 Inlands. He refused and instead wrote a not an event report full of such stuff as insults about the "elderly, tubby, humourless jerks" in the Phantom fleet, complaints about the breakfast at the Bed and Breakfast where he stayed, and musings on what to do when you meet ten Facebook friends whom you don't recognize at a regatta.

This is definitely the best blog in the galaxy about tubby Phantom sailors, feeling less ill than Steve Bolland, and sex wax (whatever that is.)

5. And last, but not least, we have Take the Tiller by Deborah. Now Deborah doesn't sail some new-fangled plastic boat like an RS Aero or an RS300; she sails a Herreshoff Twelve, a design which has been sailed at her club for 100 years - and of course it's made of that stuff called "wood."

But we won't hold that against her because sailing is sailing and racing is racing, and Deborah has written many excellent posts about how to do better in sailboat races, and god knows I need every bit of help I can find in that department.

Lady sailors at Beverly Yacht Club 
some time in the last 100 years.

Take my word for it, Take the Tiller is absolutely the best sailing blog in the universe about swearing, singing and finding the perfect little hat.

So there you have it. The best five sailing blogs of 2015.

Of course you disagree.

There are always some readers who disagree with me.

I just Googled "sailing blogs" and got 18,500,000 results so I admit that I might have overlooked one or two sailing blogs that might be even better than these five, hard as that is to believe.

Please tell me in the comments if you would pick other sailing blogs in your Top Five.

Monday, February 08, 2016

12 Styles of Hiking in a Laser

Here's a fun video demonstrating twelve different styles of hiking in a Laser.

Thanks to @finalbeatsail and @RoosterSailing for sharing this on Twitter.

What is your preferred Laser hiking style?

Sunday, February 07, 2016

Caption Contest

To see the context of this shot, check out the video... It starts to get interesting at about 1:20.

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Sailing Photo Quiz - Throwback Thursday





Who won?

Why is this suddenly topical?

What did Tillerwoman have for dinner?

What was happening in the week before these photos were taken?

I See No Icebergs

Captain JP, himself an intrepid sailor of Arctic regions, asked me in the comments to yesterday's post for some photos of RS Aero sailing "in proper icy conditions where there are bergs in the water."

Well, I've spent at least three minutes searching the Interwebs and I can't find any.

The nearest I can come are these two photos.

The first one is of my friend launching an RS Aero in Newport Rhode Island last March.

And the second one is from some guy in Norway who had to outdo my friend by posting this picture of his RS Aero.

No icebergs to be seen.

But I did accidentally come across this picture of Kate Upton (whoever she is) taken on a ship in Antarctica where she had some photos of herself taken on the snow for some magazine called the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue.

According to Wikipedia, which is never wrong, "Feminists have expressed that the Swimsuit Issue promotes the harmful and dehumanizing concept that women are a product for male consumption."

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

Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible.

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

RS Aero News Roundup January 2016

There's been a lot of good news from RS Aero world in the last few weeks.

1. The Audacious Anglo Saxons

Those crazy English people are still sailing their RS Aero Winter Series even though the country is apparently facing its coldest winter in 58 years with forecasts of weeks of freezing blizzards, crippling snowfall and brutal winter storms.

In spite of the weather, plucky RS Aero sailors from this island nation were out in force at...
the (aptly named) Bloody Mary on January 9th

the (somewhat warmer sounding) Starcross Steamer on January 17th

and the Steve Nicholson Trophy on January 30th.

And here is a video of Emily Davis sailing at the Steve Nicholson Trophy.

Brrr! Enough of the English. I am getting cold just looking at them!

2. The Tenacious Texans

Ash Beatty

I hear that RS Aero sailing is really taking off in Texas. Ash Beatty recently announced the 2016 RS Aero Texas Circuit. Let's hope we see similar RS Aero circuits getting organized in other regions of the USA in the coming months.

April 30 - May 1 Rush Creek YC Spring Dinghyfest
June 18-19 Seabrook Sailing Club Summer Solstice
September 17-18 Houston Yacht Club HOOD Regatta
October 15 - 16 Rush Creek YC Fall Dinghyfest
November 4- 6 Wurstfest

But not everyone who buys an RS Aero is principally interested in racing. Some people buy an RS Aero just to go and have fun in the wind and the waves and the surf. One such sailor is Dion Alaniz who has been posting videos on Dinghy Anarchy of his RS Aero sailing in Texas on Corpus Christi Bay and Bird Island Basin.

3. A Boatload of Boatshows

It's boat show season in various parts of the world right now - especially in the northern part of the United States. And it is good to see the RS Aero represented at most of the shows.

4. Boats. Boats. Boats.

When I ordered my RS Aero in March 2014 (first order placed in N.America I was told later) I had to wait until May 2015 for it to be delivered (which to be fair was when RS Sailing promised it would be available.)

There wasn't exactly an over-supply of RS Aeros in our part of the world last year. I even heard one story about a local sailor who wanted to buy an RS Aero and when he realized he would have to wait several months for it, he changed his mind and went off to buy a Laser. Oh, the humanity!

But this year is different. Already, at the beginning of February, our regional RS Sailing distributor, Zim Sailing, has plenty of RS Aeros in stock, and more on the way I hear.

Just imagine! You could walk into the shop in Warren RI and leave with an RS Aero!

As far as RS Aero fleets in the USA are concerned, 2016 will be the year of growth, growth, growth!

5. Regattas. Regattas. Regattas!  And beer!

It's that time of the year when we are all scanning the regatta calendars and working out which events we want to sail.

Should I go to the UK Nationals in Torbay in England in June?

Or the RS Aero Europeans in Travemunde in Germany in July?

Or the US Nationals in the Columbia River Gorge in August?

But wait. What's this I read? The Czech RS Aero Open on Lake Lipno in the Czech Republic in May is being sponsored by the Cvikov Brewery. The event organizer promises "a lot of free beer."

No contest!

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

11 Lessons I Learned from Sailing with Fleet 413 on Sunday

On Sunday I went racing with the Newport Laser Frostbite Fleet also known as Fleet 413.

It was a beautiful day for sailing. Temperature about 50 degrees and a 15 knot SW breeze.

I would often describe those as perfect conditions for Laser sailing, but Sunday's races were a humbling experience for me.

A learning experience in all sorts of ways.

Lesson #1: Laser sailing is not like riding a bike. 

Riding a bike

You do forget how to do it (properly) if you don't do it for a while.

At least I do.

I hadn't been Laser sailing for six weeks and it felt like a strange and difficult thing to do.

At least at first.

Lesson #2: Get out to the course early.

I was at Sail Newport in plenty of time but somehow I frittered the time away and didn't take my boat down to the beach until about 15 minutes before the start. Then I spent some time helping some other people to launch. Then I launched my own boat only to discover that my evil sheet had wrapped itself around both the boom and the tiller extension in one of those triple buntline carrick bend double surgeon's clinch knots, which it has a tendency to do at times. Then I capsized my boat trying to untangle the triple buntline carrick bend double surgeon's clinch knot. Then I spent a few hours (or it felt like it) actually untying the triple buntline carrick bend double surgeon's clinch knot. O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!'

Triple buntline carrick bend double surgeon's clinch knot

As a result I only arrived at the start line just after the three minute signal for the first race and didn't have time to do all the things they tell you to do in the sailing books, like work out which was the favored side of the course and check out the start line bias and sail upwind for a while to check out the timing of the shifts and sail downwind for a while to check out how to play the waves.

Which is one reason I didn't do very well in the first race.

Or the second race.

Lesson #3: Buy a new sheet.

This sheet is old. This sheet is evil. Any sheet which will tie itself into a triple buntline carrick bend double surgeon's clinch knot deserves everything it has coming.

 I love the smell of burning sheets in the morning

Lesson #4. I am terrible at starts.

I really should concentrate on making 2016 the year I finally get around to working out how get better at starts.

After about 35 years of Laser sailing, it's about time. Seriously!

I could even blog about it.

Not me in not one of the starts on Sunday

Lesson #5. I did learn the lesson from Dave Perry about how it's better to overstand the starboard tack layline in a large fleet than to risk tacking below the layline.

Dave Perry

Well...... maybe I did overdo it a bit. Maybe I occasionally overstood too far. Maybe occasionally I hit the layline too far from the mark.

That's OK. I can gradually work on being more aggressive about when I hit the layline and when I tack. But at least I won't be having any more nightmares about not laying the mark.

Lesson #6.  Steve Cockerill is right.  Sailing a Laser downwind in 15 knots IS like dancing with Anne Widdecombe.

Dancing with The Right Honourable Anne Widdecombe

But that's OK. Dancing with Anne can be fun in a masochistic kind of way. Once you get the feel for how she's going to react to your moves (or not) it can even be sort of satisfying.

At least I didn't capsize on the downwind legs on Sunday like certain people did. You may have sailed in all kinds of fancy big boats but, in a Laser, The Right Honourable Anne Widdecombe can still trip you up.

Lesson #7. I am not bad at leeward mark roundings.


I did it like they tell you in the books.

In a crowd, I avoided getting trapped on the outside of the pinwheel and slowed down and rounded just behind the transom of the inside boat which sometimes gave me a good lane, and if not at least I had freedom to tack.


And one time I saw a huge crowd in front of me going for the right hand gate mark (looking downwind) so I threw in a gybe and went for the left-hand gate mark and had clear air coming out of the mark and passed at least half a dozen boats on that leg.

But see Lesson #8.

Lesson #8. In a crowded fleet you need to approach the finish line on the starboard tack layline for the favored end of the finish line.

What was I thinking?

In what anyone could see would be a crowded finish I approached the finish line on starboard tack but shy of the layline for the port end of the line. As a result I had to tack on to port just a length or two short of the finish line. And it was a bad tack and I ended up in irons. And as I drifted backwards and desperately tried to get out irons, about ten boats passed me. Ugly!

Bad tack

Lesson #9. If I don't make any stupid mistakes I can easily finish in the middle of this fleet.

Apart from sucking at starts and a tendency to do stupid stuff, I have reasonable boat speed. I can hold my own downwind and (thanks to all that extra weight I put on over Christmas) I can sail faster upwind than the bottom half of the fleet in these conditions.

In the third race I did finish about mid-fleet.

I should have a goal to do at least as well as this in every race by the end of the season, and better if I can get good starts.

A goal

Lesson #10. When you don't sail for 6 weeks (and don't do much exercise of any kind in those weeks and eat too much over Christmas) you lose a lot of your fitness and stamina.

Too much Christmas dinner

After three races I had had enough. I was hiking hard on every beat and my back was feeling it.

Better to quit early than have another of those back problems which can put me out of sailing for many weeks.

Lesson #11. Sail against the best.

One of the lessons in Nick Craig's book, Helming To Win, is to "sail against the best." His advice is to "sail in fleets where the standard is high and above your own." Sailing against better sailors than yourself will sharpen you up. Observing and talking to top sailors is a great way to learn.

Sailing with Fleet 413 certainly qualifies.

I think I'll take a nap now.