Monday, September 12, 2011

Cold Turkey

I'm giving up the Internet for a while. Going cold turkey. Just to prove I can.

I'll be doing a bit of travelling and a lot of sailing.

Normal service will be resumed some time when I feel like it.

In the meantime... be kind to each other, read some of the best blogs on the planet over there >>>>> in my blogroll, floss, and get out on a boat at least once a week.

See ya!

Thursday, September 08, 2011


Some sailors have goals. Qualify for the Olympics. Win the club regatta. Learn how to do roll tacks.

Some sailors accomplish those goals. Good for them.

I sometimes set goals for my sailing. Sail 100 days in a year. Sail one regatta in every New England state in a year. Cheat the nursing home, die on my Laser. I never achieved any of those goals.

Back in 2008 we even had a group writing contest about sailing goals, and I tried to inspire readers to participate by mentioning the stated goals of various sailing bloggers. One of these was Christy Davis who writes a sailing blog called Central Air. Christy had quite an unusual sailing goal for 2008. Unfortunately she didn't achieve her goal in 2008. Or 2009. Or 2010 as far as I can tell.

But she recently reported on her blog that she achieved her goal a few days ago. Good for her. She said it was "magical". Achieving a goal often is. Especially a goal like Christy's...

Oh, I forgot to mention what her goal was....

A Clever Pig

When gathered with fellow sailors for a few beers I sometimes try and stimulate the discussion by throwing out the question, "Why aren't US sailors doing better in the Olympics (and other major international regattas in the Olympic classes) lately?" If anyone should challenge the premise of my question I will point to a recent example, such as the fact that at the Pre-Olympic Regatta last month in Weymouth (the site of the actual Olympics next year) the US team only scored one medal in the fleet racing - and that a bronze. What is going on? The USA has a team of sailors who are campaigning full-time for the Olympics, they travel to all the major international regattas, they train hard, they are supported by a team of elite coaches etc. etc. And they can only achieve one bronze?

My friends typically have all sorts of theories. My contribution to the discussion is usually to blame college sailing. Most young US sailors go to college and I have a strong suspicion that the kind of sailing in which they participate in college is poor preparation for Olympic competition. My theory is that if a sailor really wants to win a gold medal at sailing they should skip (or defer) college and start training full time for the Olympics as soon as they leave high school. Of course no coach would dare to tell a kid not to go to college, would they? So the mediocre US Olympic sailing performance continues.

I was surprised to read some validation for my theory from Gary Bodie today. Bodie knows a thing or two about Olympic sailing having coached the US team to winning eight Olympics medals in his time. In an interview on he encourages young sailors to consider different styles of boats such as the multihull or the skiff and is quoted as saying...

If you are truly one of the elite youth sailors in the USA, then you don't need to spend eight years roll tacking an FJ in High School and College. Move on already. And finally, don't expect to win the US Trials or an Olympic Medal in a two year campaign after college, no matter how good you think you are.


Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Try to Remember...

Labor Day has come and gone. The kids are back at school. Summer is over (and the cool rainy weather today only serves to emphasize that fact.) September always seems like a time of transition, one season ending and another beginning, one phase of life ending and another beginning. I browsed through the dusty old archives at Proper Course Worldwide HQ to see what was happening in my life in September in other years...

In 2005, I was looking back on completing six wonderfully rewarding, totally exhausting summers working as a junior sailing instructor and saying goodbye to all "my" children. I wonder where they are now?

That was also the year that we were eagerly awaiting the birth of our first grandchild. Emily arrived, all in good time, in November.

Today she starts kindergarten. Sniff, sniff!

In September 2006 it seems as if I was in a very serious mood about my sailing. I was threatening to turn Proper Course into a much more focused blog about how to improve sailing performance and cutting out all the trivial, funny stuff. (Thank god that resolution didn't last long!) But while I was still in "serious" mode I set myself a goal to finish in the top half of the fleet at the 2007 Laser Masters Worlds (still a year away) and then headed off to Europe to do some Laser training at Minorca Sailing.

In September 2007 I sailed in the first week of the Ponce de Leon Dinghy series at Eastern Yacht Club in Marblehead and surprised myself by finishing in second place! Woo hoo!

I also wrote a post Ocean Grandad about how my greatest pleasure that summer had not been all the Laser regattas in which I had sailed or even settling into our new house by the sea. It was the opportunity to spend much more time with my granddaughter now that we were living much closer to her.

Did I mention she started kindergarten today? Sniff, sniff.

2008 was the year I was attempting to sail my Laser 100 days in the year. In September I was still doggedly plugging away at this goal, and this was also the month I surprised myself (again) by finishing second in my age group in the highly competitive New England Laser Masters Regatta! Woo hoo!

Towards the end of the month the US Congress decided that the economy didn't really need George Bush's bailout bill, so they voted it down and crashed the US stock market... so I went sailing. Not much has changed, it seems.

2008 was also the summer I turned 60, I really surprised myself by actually winning a Laser regatta (woo hoo!) and we welcomed my first grandson, Aidan, into the world.

He starts pre-school today. Sniff, sniff.

In September 2009, I had to cancel my plans to sail in the 2009 Laser Masters Worlds in Canada in order to attend my younger son's wedding. But I did get my own back by writing about the bridegroom a.k.a. Little Guy and also embarrassing him by publishing this photo.

Last year we were battening down the hatches in preparation for a hurricane (Earl) on Labor Day weekend and I was posting a video of Pete Seeger. It was also the summer we celebrated the birth of my second grandson, Owen, who seemed to master an essential gesture for sailors at a very early age.

And so the world turns, and September comes around again. Another hurricane. Another Pete Seeger song. My wife and I are off to Minorca Sailing again in a few days. And I am thinking of how to prepare for another Laser Master Worlds next year (in Queensland.)

My son (the one that got married two years ago on Labor Day weekend) and his wife came to visit us this weekend. It was good to see them and especially to anticipate with them the birth of a new grandchild in November.

Life is good.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

A Day Without Caffeine?

As soon as I woke up I knew it was going to be a decaffeinated day.

It was dark. Pitch black. "That's not right," I thought. "Where are those big red digital numbers on my alarm clock?" It took me a moment or two to collect my thoughts. Then I got it. Another damn power cut. We had two last Sunday, but that was during a hurricane. There was no hurricane today. How could we have a power cut without a hurricane? "Uh oh," I said, apparently out loud. "Yes, it went off at five o'clock," said my wife from the darkness beside me. How would she know that? She must have been awake looking at her clock when the power went off, I guess.

I lay in the dark. I wasn't going to go back to sleep now. I needed a cup of coffee. The first think I do every day when I wake up is make some coffee for both of us and we drink it in bed while she reads her book and I do another couple of puzzles in my MENSA Absolutely Nasty Level 4 Sudoku book. Hey, use it or lose it! But how am I going to make a cup of coffee with no power? Hmmm. I guess I could boil some water in a pan on the gas stove and make some instant coffee. But then I would still have to open the fridge to get the milk out, and someone told me last weekend that you should never open the fridge when the power is off because you never know how long it is going to be off and once you have let warm air into the fridge all the food will spoil. Damn!

I lay in the dark and thought about how much I needed my cup of coffee. Maybe we should get up and drive around until we find somewhere open that sells coffee and possibly breakfast too? I wondered how extensive the power cut was. Are our neighbors off too? I got up. I looked through the curtains. There were no lights on in any of the houses around us. But it was only just after five o'clock so what did that prove? Maybe the power company doesn't know about the outage yet? Maybe I should report it? Where's the flashlight?

My wife found a flashlight and I went off to find an electricity bill to find the phone number to which to report power outages. I looked in my office filing cabinet. Duh! Of course I don't have any electricity bills. I went to paperless billing years ago. All my electricity bills are on the Internet. And the cable modem is down because we have a power cut. Duh! Eventually I found the number to report power cuts on another notice from the power company and dialled it. I was really needing my coffee by now...

I spoke with a very friendly machine at the power company's phone number. I pressed "1" in answer to one question and then "8" in answer to another. Then the machine wanted to know the phone number associated with this account. Hmmm. I wonder which of our several numbers that would be? Or failing that I could tell the friendly machine the account number that is printed on the electricty bill (which of course I don't have.) I guessed which phone number we had used when we opened the account and I guessed right. Now the friendly machine wanted to know if my neighbors had power cuts too. "Please say Yes, No or I Don't Know." I said, "I Don't Know." The machine didn't understand me. I said, "I Don't Know," again. The machine still didn't understand me. I really needed my coffee by now. Eventually the machine let me press "3" to indicate that I had no clue as to whether my neighbors had power and that I wasn't going to call them at 5am on a Sunday morning to find out. The friendly machine thanked me and wished me a good day. Hmmm.

I went back to bed and daydreamed about coffee. I wondered how long we would be without power. My son was without power for four whole days this week. Maybe we would have to go and move in with him if it's going to be that bad? My other son and his wife and my minus-two-month-old grandchild are coming to visit us today. If power doesn't come back soon I will have to call them and tell them not to come. Maybe we should go and visit them instead? I was desperate for coffee by now.

Just after 6 o'clock the power came back on. I got up. I made coffee. I went back to bed and drank coffee and completed a couple of MENSA Absolutely Nasty Level 4 Sudoku puzzles.

Carol Anne made me do it.

Sailing Quote of the Week

"Alaska isn’t known for its pumpkin pie." - Matt Rutherford in yesterday's post on his blog Solo Around the Americas. Matt is attempting to sail solo around the Americas, including sailing single-handed east to west through the the Northwest Passage this summer. He is currently trying to ride out an enormous storm system before sailing south through the Bering Strait.

The full quote is "Well, Alaska isn’t known for its pumpkin pie. It's known for its big mountains and big seas. I don’t think it will let me down."

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Don't Read This

Don't you just hate it when a blogger writes one of those posts that basically says not much has happened in their life in the last few weeks or in the area of their life that their blog is about in the last few weeks, and that they are sorry that they haven't blogged much but they have been too busy, too lazy or too drunk to blog, and so there's not much to report... but then they go and write a couple of thousand words whining about life in general anyway?

I hate those posts.

This is one of those posts.

Don't read it.

So... I sailed a lot in late June, July and early August. Did a lot of regattas. Didn't win any. Not a surprise. That's OK.

The last regatta I sailed, and the last one I wrote about here was Buzzards Bay which was a light air day, a windy day, and a blown-out, rained out day.

All in all I was pretty pleased with my sailing in those six weeks or so. Apart from the day of the attack of hand cramps at the Atlantic Coast Masters I managed to complete every race at the regattas I sailed. I suffered through the frustration of long light air, shifty days and I toughed it out with the best of them on windy days, and so I am starting to believe that I may not totally have lost it, in spite of some doubts on that score after my fiasco at Hayling Island last year.

Then I kinda sorta took it easy in August as far as Laser sailing is concerned (and as far as pretty much everything else is concerned.) After traveling all over the area to sail earlier in the summer - and spending a memorable week with my grand-kids on the beach in Cape Cod - on my return to this little corner of Narragansett Bay I discovered that I really do live in one of the most beautiful places in the world. I drove down to Seapowet Beach on the Sakonnet River to go for a run and was blown away by the quiet, wild charms of the middle Sakonnet. There's no place quite like it. So I went sailing by myself there the next day and soaked up the atmosphere.

The attendance at Tuesday night sailing in Bristol has been really down this year, partly because some of the key members of the fleet have been off travelling to major regattas, or off somewhere else training for major regatta, or relaxing at home recovering from sailing in major regattas. I did enjoy one evening in August of light air practice on Bristol Harbor with one other sailor. Another week the wind was flat calm on Tuesday so I went for a blast by myself in Bristol on Wednesday morning. I have been trying to drum up interest in Tuesdays in Bristol but I've been a dismal failure as a cheerleader. Excuses for not sailing with me have ranged from "I tried kite-surfing at the weekend and now I ache all over" (Duh!) to "I need to paint the house before the hurricane comes." (What difference an extra coat of paint makes when a hurricane is trying to blow your house down is beyond me.)

Ah yes, the hurricane. Irene blew through the area last weekend. Blew some boats off their moorings in Bristol. Blew over some boats on the land at the marina in Bristol. Caused a bit of flooding. Blew down lots of trees. And cut off power to hundreds of thousands of people. My wife kept saying she thought Hurricane Irene was going to be a "damp squid" (sic). It wasn't.

A damp squid. (Not Irene.)

My son and his family were some of the unlucky ones who were without power for four whole days. So they came and stayed with us, which meant that we got to look after our three little grand-kids while their parents were at work. Phew! That was harder than any of the sailing I've done this year. How do parents do it? How did we do it thirty years ago? I never realized that playing with a 5-year-old, a 3-year-old and a 1-year-old all day was so exhausting. Or so much fun.

Talking of exhaustion, I've been trying to get my half-marathon training back on schedule after slacking off a bit when I was sailing all those regattas. I tried to pick up where I had left off many weeks before. Bad idea! Attempted a 15 mile run, but could only manage 8 miles. Seems like running fitness wears off more quickly than I thought. So I scaled back my ambitions and started building up the mileage slowly again. Did a 10 mile run the next week. Then I did something totally moronic. But that's a story for another post....

You didn't really read this post did you? You can't say I didn't warn you.

Friday, September 02, 2011