Friday, December 31, 2010


Woman is a mysterious creature.

I have written before - for example at Tillerwoman and Tillerwoman's Rules - about my wife's aversion to sailing.

To be honest, she is not very fond of the water at all. She can swim but she is not at all that confident in the water. She has a morbid fear of deep water which is totally resistant to my repeated rational logical explanations that you can just as easily drown in 7 feet of water as 70 feet. She will occasionally ride on a boat with me if the conditions are perfect - but not if she is expected to be responsible for any action concerned with actually sailing the boat such as holding a jib sheet or assisting in picking up a mooring. For many years she has consistently refused to race with me under any circumstances.

Like many men faced with the mysteries of woman and her strange likes and dislikes I have often pondered if this is somehow all my fault...

Could it be that she just hates sailing with me but might enjoy it more in other company? Maybe. But she has always resisted my suggestions to take some of those Womyn Only sailing lessons where "nobody shouts"?

Could it be that I put her off sailing for life because I shouted at her to put the centerboard down in the race at the end of our beginners' sailing course in Minorca in 1981? Maybe. But I only shouted once. Well... maybe twice. But I didn't call her any bad words. And it was almost 30 years ago. And we did win that bloody race, didn't we?

I dunno. Truly woman is a mysterious creature.

This month we had a breakthrough. We went back to the Bitter End Yacht Club in the BVI again. Same time as last year. For ten days. Actually it was largely her idea that we visit there again this December after our excellent vacation there last year.

But this year it was different.

My wife sailed in the races with me. Three times. For the two Sunday regattas and the mid-week beer can races. She laughed and smiled a lot and seemed to be having a good time. (See photo above. Does that look like a woman who doesn't like sailing?) And we even won one of those regattas!

She sailed with me on other days just for fun, including sailing on boats where she actually had to do stuff like holding a jib sheet and picking up a mooring. And she didn't once complain.

We took two long trips together in a kayak where we crossed open water to other islands and paddled further from land than she would ever have been comfortable doing before. I even broached the subject of how we could perhaps kayak together around the various ponds and creeks and bays of Rhode Island next summer, and my suggestion was at least left open for further consideration and discussion.

I have no idea why she suddenly became so enthusiastic about participating in water sports with me, after thirty years of my unsuccessful attempts to interest her in boating. I didn't suddenly discover a killer argument in favor of sailing or behave any differently towards her. As far as I know.

I just know that I am a very lucky man.

Woman is a mysterious creature.

Update: My Jan/Feb 2011 issue of Sailing World arrived today. Before I had a chance to look at it myself, Tillerwoman had grabbed it, skimmed through it, and was making intelligent conversation over dinner about Ken Read's article on the Pro-Am Regatta at BEYC and Dave Reed's article about Sailing World's selection of the RS/100 as Boat of the Year.

This is getting seriously weird.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Impossible Voyage

The National Center for Science Education has a thorough and fascinating analysis demolition of the story of the voyage of Noah's ark as expounded by modern creationists at The Impossible Voyage of Noah's Ark. There's some interesting stuff about the real state of shipbuilding techniques at the time of Noah, not to mention the inherent challenges of designing a vessel to cope with all those animals.

Before any of my British friends scoff at the need for such an elaborate effort to prove that the beautiful and inspiring myth of Noah's ark is exactly that, a myth, please reflect that 40 percent of Americans still believe that humans were created by God within the last 10,000 years, and that in Kentucky the state is backing the building of a $150 million creationist theme park which, among other things, will teach visitors that men and dinosaurs existed at the same time, and that unicorns were real.

There's a battle for the minds of the next generation going on out there people... and I'm not sure who is winning.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Top Ten Boating Blogs of 2010

Here is my own personal and idiosyncratic list of the Top Ten Boating Blogs of 2010 based entirely on my own opinion of which blogs I enjoyed reading the most.

1. Best kayaking blog on the planet - Frogma.

2. Best rowing blog on the planet - ROWING FOR PLEASURE.

3. Best boating blog on the planet written by a sailor under 18 - sailfast13.

4. Best blog on the planet about the Racing Rules of Sailing - Unruly.

5. Best hand-grenade journalism blog on the planet - Rule 69.

6. Best blog on the planet about how to sail the Laser - How to Sail the Laser.

7. Best thinking man's Laser sailing blog on the planet - Laser Sailing Notes.

8. Best sailing blog on the planet by sailors from Lake Massapoag - Apparent Wind.

9. Best boating blog on the planet by a Brit - Captain JP's Log.

10. Best in show - O Dock.


Monday, December 27, 2010

Twelve Drummers Drumming

2010 was a strange year for me: so many of my sailing adventures had unforeseen outcomes. What might have been expected to be highs turned out to be disappointments; but then, to compensate, rewarding experiences were found in unpredictable places.

Since moving to Rhode Island in 2007 I had only dabbled in the local Laser frostbiting scene. But then in January and February, in the depths of a cold New England winter, I suddenly uncovered a masochistic streak of enthusiasm for sailing in the chilliest of weathers, and found myself loving it. The wind chill was in the teens on the day that I decided that I Love Winter, and I found I could even laugh about the day I got Brain Freeze. What's wrong with me? Am I Strange?

In the last thirty years I've raced my Laser at every level from local regattas to world championships, but some of the most fun I've had in Laser racing was this summer with the small group that does informal racing on Tuesday evenings in Bristol Harbor. Sometimes I surprised myself and had some good races as in The Rabbit and the Old Dog; sometimes I learned something (or re-learned something I had somehow forgotten) as in Work; and other times I was just reminded again that when all is said and done... Laser Sailing is Fun.

I didn't sail many regattas this summer, but I think the one in which I had the most fun was the classic Buzzards Bay Regatta. I have serious doubts about my fitness for sailing in heavy air these days, but on each of the two windy days at BBR I found my results improving from race to race. I guess it's all about Stamina.

When you write a blog almost every day you never know which posts are going to click with readers. And I was certainly puzzled one day in September when people who were almost complete strangers to me were coming up with broad grins on their faces and congratulating me on that day's blog post. What? I hadn't even written a post that day. I finally discovered that Scuttlebutt had republished a post I had written a week or so before called Irish Coffee, which seemed to have tickled the funny bones of some of my fellow sailors.

And then there were the sailing experiences where disaster struck. The day when a potentially beautiful day for sailing was spoiled because one of the tiniest components on my boat broke: Keyed. The day I was stranded in the middle of the Sakonnet River when my mast broke: Broken. And the day when what is usually one of my favorite regattas, the New England Laser Masters, was ruined for me when my brand new mast Bent. Laser sailing is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you're going to get.

Sadly, I suspect I will remember 2010 for a sailing experience which should have been a high point but which turned out to be a huge disappointment. Due to a combination of illness and my lack of preparation, the Laser Masters Worlds at Hayling Island ended up being a god-awful misadventure for me. The whole sad story is at Half a World. It was a real wake-up call for me and made me face some tough questions...

At the age of 62 am I committed enough to Laser racing to put in the necessary effort to train properly for major regattas in strong winds and big waves on the open sea? Or do I reconcile myself to being a puddle sailor for the rest of my sailing career? We will see...

So there you have twelve posts that are a sample of the ups and downs of my sailing adventures this year. But there is one more surprise that I haven't written about yet. Earlier this month I went back to the Bitter End Yacht Club in the BVI, where my wife and I had enjoyed a vacation last year. And something happened there which certainly surprised me and which was a culmination of something I have been striving for, on and off, with little success before, for all of my thirty years of sailing.

But that's another story for another day...

Friday, December 24, 2010

Santa is Innocent

It turns out that my post on Monday about Santa robbing a local yacht club was wrong. Police now say that the bartender made the story up.

Sorry about that Santa. I believed in you all along. Honest.

PS. The cookies and brandy are where the Christmas tree would have been if I weren't allergic to Christmas.

Yule Log lll (Director's Commentary)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Old Man

It might not seem like it for a while, but this post really is about the America's Cup. Please hang in there...

A few weeks ago Tillerwoman and I were visiting one of my sons and for our entertainment he had his TV playing back-to-back episodes of a TV reality show called Pawn Stars. I have no idea why my Tiller Extension thought we would be interested in a reality show about a pawn shop in Las Vegas but I have to admit it was vaguely addictive. The plot, if you can call it that, is that a series of real people each come into the pawn shop with some treasured object and attempt to negotiate a price to sell it to one of the family members who operate the shop.

The attraction of the show, as far as I could work out, is three-fold...
  • what would be the real value of the treasured object?
  • how would the seller and buyer handle the negotiation?
  • the characters of the three principals in the show.

No wait. This really is about the America's Cup. Stay with me...

The three principal characters in the show are the patriarch of the family Richard Harrison, his son Rick Harrison, who opened the shop with his father in 1988, and Rick's son Corey, who has worked there since childhood.

The middle Harrison, Rick, is a tough negotiator but he will have a smile on his face and a glint in his eye as he sticks it to you.

Rick's son Corey, at least on the episodes I saw, is presented as a bit of a doofus. He bought a second-hand boat without a sea trial or a survey. His father and grandfather abused him severely. "We don't buy boats. They are just holes in the water into which you throw money." Etc. Etc. But it turned out that Corey knew a thing or two about boats and he had picked up a vintage Cris Craft at a good price and they did sell it for a profit, even after paying for minor repairs.

Personally, it was the grandfather, Richard, known on the show as The Old Man, whom I found most interesting. He dresses like some kind of mortician in a Johnny Cash song or a New Jersey mafioso. It's hard to tell whether he is gruff, doddering, demented, or just hamming it up for the cameras.

If you were unfortunate enough to have to negotiate with The Old Man the conversation would go something like this...

The Old Man: What do you have there?

You: It's a 1960s Les Paul custom guitar that was owned by Jimi Hendrix's brother-in-law. Look it's signed by him.

How much do you want for it?

Well, I'm told it's worth at least $25,000. But I'm prepared to sell it for 20 grand.

I'll give you $2,000.

What? Didn't you hear me? It's worth over $25,000. Look, can you give me $15,000?

I'll give you $1,000.

Did you see what just happened? You are negotiating in good faith, trying to reach some middle ground between the two opening positions. But The Old Man is moving away from you. As you lower your offer, he lowers his opening low-ball position even more.

How do you deal with someone like that? Do you say, "OK. I'll take a thousand"? Even though he offered you twice that a minute ago? Or do you say, "Thank you very much, I'll sell it somewhere else"?

Of course, you take the second option. You take your guitar and go to another pawn shop, or even better a specialist guitar shop who will understand guitars and how valuable this one is.

This is where we get to the America's Cup stuff. Honest.

My contention is that the current America's Cup debacle is because the mayor of San Francisco has been acting like The Old Man from Pawn Stars in his negotiations with Larry Ellison and BMW/Oracle about hosting the AC34 in San Francisco.

A few months back, San Francisco made an offer to Larry Ellison. In return for his agreement to host AC34 in their beautiful city by the bay, they were prepared to give Mr. Ellison some long term leases on a few run-down old piers. It seemed like everyone was happy and there were the makings of a deal.

But then the highly influential and esteemed San Francisco Bay blogger O Docker wrote a couple of posts, The Thrill Of Victory and Setting The Record Straight in which he gave a brilliant financial analysis of the real value to Mr. Ellison of these leases, especially the potential for developing the famed Pier 50.

Oops. The mayor and supervisors of San Francisco read O Docker's brilliant financial analysis and had second thoughts. So they lowered their offer. I think the call to Mr. Ellison went something like this...

"Ummm. Larry? Ummm. Hi! You know we didn't really mean it when we said you can have those leases on piers 30-32 and 50. How about we hold the Cup on some other piers further north and you can have a lease on the parking lot for Red's Java House?"

OK. What is the difference between this and The Old Man negotiating strategy in Pawn Stars?

None at all.

So what do you think Larry did?

He said he would go and have a chat with some other folk who might know a bit more about hosting the America's Cup than those crazy dudes in San Francisco. Which is why the big guns from Larry's sailing empire have been in Rhode Island the last couple of weeks, talking to the big guns from Rhode Island about holding AC34 in Newport.

I have no idea how this is going to turn out.

Maybe Larry is just using the threat of taking his boat and going to play in Newport as a way of putting the squeeze on San Francisco to offer him something more valuable than the right to put up some condos on the parking lot for Red's Java House. It could well be. Nothing would surprise me.

But I do think the History Channel or ESPN is missing an opportunity. We all know that the actual America's Cup match is going to be another boring procession of two pontoon boats, just like the last one. So why doesn't someone make a TV reality show about the interesting part of the America's Cup - the negotiations, the legal battles, the interplay between fascinating, eccentric old characters?

It's got to be better than Pawn Stars.

Chipmunks Roasting on an Open Fire

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


I really should stretch more. Do yoga or something like that. I did drop a hint about some yoga DVDs for Xmas, so you never know.

We all get less flexible as we get older. Some days these old bones feel really stiff. And you need some degree of flexibility to sail a silly little boat like a Laser. That boom is so damn low.

Kids are flexible. My 6 month old grandson Owen can even suck his own toes. His brother and sister could suck their toes at that age too. Actually I challenged his sister (now 5 years old) at the weekend to see if she could still suck her toes. And she can. But it wasn't very elegant or ladylike. So I didn't take a photo.

But Owen sucking his toes looks cute. At least, I think so. But then I'm biased.

I can't suck my toes.

I don't think I'll ever be able to suck my toes.

Cross Training

Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas Autocomplete Quiz

Google any word, and the search engine will suggest a longer word or phrase, based on the popularity of current searches starting with the same word.

Just for fun I entered some names of popular sailing boat classes into The Google to see what the great search engine in the sky would add to those names in its efforts to be helpful. See how many you recognize...

  1. hair removal
  2. er teresa
  3. bolt
  4. tuna recipes
  5. bucks
  6. egans wake
  7. ic
  8. hartley
  9. mouth
  10. whiskey
  11. car rental
  12. in oregon
  13. rise to candleford
  14. storm
  15. cottage studio

Santa Robs the Yacht Club

According to police, a man dressed in a Santa Claus suit and armed with a gun robbed the East Providence Yacht Club in Rhode Island last night.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Hi - it's Robbie

Tillerman has left the keyboard quiet this month. He hasn't touched a computer for almost two weeks. He has been away on one of those yotting vacations he likes to take from time to time.

I don't know why he doesn't want to write blog posts when he is off doing his yotting thing. But he doesn't. Last time I caught a glimpse of him he was muttering that it's something to do with trying to prove to Tillerwoman that he is not addicted to the Interwebs. Ha! Fat chance of that! She is a smart cookie and is not so easily fooled.

So he has left me in charge of this Proper Course thingy since the beginning of the month. I am Robbie the Robo-Carp and I have just been figuring out how this Interblog stuff works. Apparently I was supposed to use my automated robotic powers to read Tillerman's mind and post something in his style every day or two.

I hope I did OK. Tillerman will be back soon and if he doesn't like what I did I'm afraid he might disconnect my batteri...

Monday, December 13, 2010

Periodic Table of Stuff

Today's Map on Monday is not exactly a map, or perhaps it is in a way. Click here for larger version.

I don't know what you think but this version of the periodic table makes a lot more sense to me than that one we had in school chemistry, the one with elements like Gadolinium, Terbium and Dysprosium. I mean, who has to deal with Gadolinium, Terbium and Dysprosium in everyday life? Whereas Tears, Vomit and Blood are the stuff of normal existence if you are a parent (or grandparent) of little kids. And I am sure we will all see enough of Snow, Frost and Ice before this winter is over.

The only thing I am bit confused about is where are Wd and Dt?

Friday, December 10, 2010

Face-Painted Fish

For more face-painted fish in a relationship check out Think or Thwim.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Winter Break in Chicago?

Continuing the series of posts in which readers dream of where they would like to escape to this winter...

Some are dreaming of St. Lucia, San Juan or Sydney... but others are more practical. Captain Puffy Pants says that the best that he and Honey Bunny can muster up is a trip to Chicago in January "to bask in the warm glow of a boat show."

Good luck sir. Make sure Honey Bunny brings her snow shovel.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010


We human beings live by cycles.

Ever since our remote ancestors crawled out of the seas (and maybe before) our lives have been governed by the astronomical cycles. The annual journey of the earth around the sun and its impact on the seasons. The annual rotation of the moon around the earth and the complex cycle of tides that result. Summer and winter. High tide and low tide. Up and down. Round and round.

Some religious dudes invented the week. I never did quite understand why all the world's major religions decided that one rest day in seven would be a good idea. I prefer two rest days. Actually I prefer seven.

Athletes live by cycles too. Those Olympic sailors training all year have some kind of plan involving cycles of different kinds of training at different times of year, all aimed at peaking for that one big event. The Olympic Trials. The World Championship. Whatever.

All the experts agree (or, to put it another way, I read it somewhere on the Internet) that you should work on different cycles in weight lifting too. Strength. Power. Endurance. Hypertrophy - whatever that is. Is the America's Cup a hypertrophy?

I've been thinking about cycles a lot as I have been designing an exercise program to avoid a recurrence of my dismal, pathetic, disappointing, shameful, wimpish performance at the last Laser Masters Worlds.

Actually, I find that my motivation to go Laser sailing at all goes in cycles.

After I sailed (almost) 100 times in 2008, I hardly sailed my Laser at all in 2009.

And the year that I had my best performance ever at the Masters Worlds, 2007, I had sailed a lot of regattas that summer prior to the Worlds, probably because the previous winter I hadn't done any frostbiting at all.

So is that the key? Take the winter off. Sail a lot in the summer. Go to a major regatta at the end of the summer and do well?

It's certainly a conundrum. How to manage the amount of sailing I do in different seasons in order to maintain my enthusiasm and to peak for the event that means the most to me.

One of the first posts I ever wrote on this blog in 2005 was about Focus. In 2006 I sold my Sunfish and have been concentrating on Laser sailing ever since.

Maybe that was a mistake? The whole focus thing? Maybe I should sail different boats at different times of the year? I have a friend who sails mainly his Sunfish in the summer and does Laser frostbiting in the winter. His improvement in the last few years and his racing results have been exceptional. Perhaps we need to cycle through boats?

And so I continue to search for the cycles that will work best for me.

Any suggestions?

Monday, December 06, 2010

Sandwich Islands

In response to my post about where to escape in the winter, both bonnie and Peconic Puffin suggested Hawaii. It's a place I've never visited. It always seems such a long way from the East coast of the US when other attractive sailing destinations, even warm ones, are so much closer.

Today's Map on Monday is of the Sandwich Islands, which was the name given to the Hawaiian Islands by James Cook on one of his voyages in the 1770s. Cook named the islands after John Montagu (the fourth Earl of Sandwich) for supporting Cook's voyages. The map dating from 1868 was issued for a paper by the Bishop of Honolulu.

So what am I missing? Do I need to add the Sandwich Islands to my list of 1001 Places I Must See Before I Die?

Friday, December 03, 2010

Sailing in Sydney

Andrew is dreaming of an escape from the frozen wastes of the Netherlands to the other side of the globe. I'm not sure if he wants to watch or participate but his dream involves 18 foot skiffs on Sydney Harbor. Fine choice.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Sailing Ships in San Juan Harbor

I don't think Antolin really wants to escape. He seems quite happy sailing his Laser in Florida. But maybe he is a little nostalgic for the old days in Puerto Rico?

Hmmm. I wonder if San Juan has changed much since then?

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Running with a Cold

All the experts agree (or, to put it another way, I read this somewhere on the Internet) that it's OK to go running when you have a cold as long as the cold is above the neck. Symptoms below the neck (chest cold, bronchial infection, body ache) require time off, while symptoms above the neck (runny nose, stuffiness, sneezing) don't pose a risk to runners continuing workouts. So they say.

Regular readers of this blog will know that up to now I have ignored this rule. Basically I have taken the first hint of a cold as an excuse to go into hibernation for two weeks, avoid all kinds of physical activity during that time, and to write self-pitying blog posts about the severity of my Man Cold.

But not this time. I have a whole new attitude to exercise, thanks to my reaction to my pathetic, dismal, wimpish performance at the Laser Masters Worlds this year. Consistency is my watch word. If I say I am going to go running three times a week, then I damn well am going to go running three times a week.

About 10 days ago I felt the first signs of an impending cold. Probably picked it up from one of my darling grandchildren. At any one time it seems that at least one of them has a runny nose, a sneeze or a cough.

So I checked the location of the symptoms in relation to my neck (above - OK) and went for a run.

A couple of days later the symptoms were worse. I definitely had a cold now. Check location of symptoms in relation to neck. Tick. Go for a run.

Over Thanksgiving the symptoms got worser and worser. But still not below neck. Tick. Went for a run on Sunday.

All the experts agree (or, to put it another way, I read this somewhere on the Internet) that even if running won't make your cold any worse, it won't make it any better either. But I feel better than I usually do when I have a cold. Why would that be? Is this some mild girly cold virus and not a fully fledged Man Cold Virus? Or do I feel better psychologically because I am still getting out in the fresh air for a run several times a week instead of sitting inside writing self-pitying blog posts about my Man Cold? Or is the cold waiting its time to show me its true awful Man Cold nature?

What about you? Do you still exercise when you have a cold? Do you think it is beneficial?