Thursday, May 31, 2012

Playtime is Over

You may have noticed two odd things about this blog in the last month....
  1. There were a lot of posts
  2. Many of the posts were to do with "play."
The reason was that I was participating in National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo for short) in which I tried to post every day and to write posts on the theme of "play."

Totally pointless but it passed the time until June arrived.

I actually posted more than one post some days, but I did succeed in writing one post about "play" every day (counting this one.) Here they are...

  1. Sailing Families at Play 
  2. Baydog and my2fish playing and sailing with their families.

  3. Play with Intensity
  4. Laser sailors are playing with Intensity - in more ways than one.

  5. Bloggers at Play
  6. Blogging is playing. Participation in a group writing project is playing too.

  7. Don't Stop Playing
  8. A tribute to Great Grandmaster Laser sailors from George Bernard Shaw.

  9. Silly Laser Tricks #1
  10. One silly way to play with a Laser is to tack it by running around the front of the mast.

  11. Silly Laser Tricks #2
  12. An even sillier way to play with a Laser is to tack by stepping between the mast and the boom.

  13. Playing with Grandkids
  14. I had promised a couple of friends that I would go sailing with them but decided that playing with my grandkids would be more fun.

  15. Plato on Play
  16. Plato knew a thing or two about play but did he know sailing?

  17. Scary Play
  18. 30 knots! I was totally out of control. Thank god there was beer afterwards.

  19. Silly Laser Tricks #3
  20. Or if you want to play in a really really silly way you could go wakeboarding on a Laser daggerboard.

  21. Playing Monopoly
  22. Is the Laser game going to end the same way a game of Monopoly does?

  23. How to Play Sailing
  24. A guitar lesson!

  25. Playing with Mum
  26. Remembering my Mum on Mother's Day.

  27. Playing with Friends
  28. Some of my blogging friends came out to play in May!

  29. Playing Hurt
  30. I'm too old to play hurt. I'm going on the 15 day DL.

  31. Kids Learn by Play - Duh!
  32. The Knitting Sailor learns the 3 secrets to teaching kids to sail: fun, competition and bribery.

  33. (Sailing) Games People Play
  34. A link to a whole range of sailing games invented my my former mentor at Goose Poop Beach Sailing Club.

  35. Big Boys Playing
  36. Big boys sail Finns!

  37. Play Safe
  38. A video of a boating accident that was food for thought.

  39. Play Sailing By
  40. A nostalgic tune from the BBC.

  41. Playing Politics
  42. Some advice for windsurfers.

  43. The Play's the Thing
  44. Seriously, are there any good plays about sailing?

  45. Too Old to Play?
  46. If this lady can set a world record for the shot putt at 100 years old, how many more years of Laser sailing do I have left in me?

  47. Go the F**k Home
  48. If you can't name at least two things you are doing outside work then you don't have a life. Go the fuck home.

  49. Playing Tacti-Crack
  50. I'm as bad at SailX as I am at real sailing. I'm doomed!

  51. The Seriousness of Play
  52. WTF was Heraclitus talking about? Would you trust anything said by a guy who self-medicated with liniment of cow manure?

  53. Never Leave the Playground
  54. An amazing old man who never stops playing.

  55. Playing with Dad
  56. Remembering my father on Memorial Day.

  57. Playing (with) a Spinnaker - Part 1
  58. Sailing with one of those big flappy things.

  59. Playing (with) a Spinnaker - Part 2
  60. Playing games with the evil sailing instructor who wanted to kick me out of his class.

  61. Playtime is Over
  62. Seriously. It's over. Go back to work.

I think I'll take a nap now.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Playing (with) a Spinnaker - Part 2

RS100s at Minorca Sailing

After two days in the Basic Asymmetric Class at Minorca Sailing last year I had eventually managed to refresh my skills to the point which they had reached the previous year: I could sail a heavy stable boat like the RS Vareo upwind and downwind without capsizing (much.)

Now I was ready to try out the RS100.

I had a bit of a shocker when I arrived for class on the third day of my holiday. My instructor informed me that they wanted to put me in the Advanced Asymmetric Class!! What?? Just because I can sail a Vareo up and down for an afternoon without capsizing (much) I now qualify as an advanced asymmetric sailor? I don't think so.

To be fair to the instructor I think the other students in the basic class needed a lot more attention than I did. I've always been happiest learning a new sailing skill by hearing some brief instructions from a coach and then going out and practicing that skill by myself for a couple of hours. I guess the instructor wanted to bounce me up to the advanced class so he could focus 100% on coaching the real beginners.

But I was not going to go gentle into that good night.

I asked what the advanced class was doing that day. Starting drills, I was told. OK. That's it. I don't want a lesson in all that stuff about line sights and favored ends and gaps to leeward etc. etc. I've been doing starts badly in a Laser for 30 years so I don't need to learn all over again how to do bad starts in an RS100. I want to learn how to sail around with that big flappy sail without the big flappy sail tipping me over (much.)

So they let me free sail an RS100 all morning and I have to say it was a real pleasure. Light, responsive. Handled much like a Laser upwind and it was a huge thrill when you got the big flappy sail drawing downwind.

And in the afternoon I signed up for a sail on the Laser SB3 so that was all good too.

On day four the instructors had a different strategy. Instead of trying to kick me upstairs to the advanced class they said they would merge the two classes. Hmmm. I guess I can't argue with that one. I said I would sail an RS100 again.

It was a day of boat-handling drills. You know how that works. The evil instructors devise drills that require the maximum amount of effort by the students and the minimum amount of zooming around in RIBs by the instructors.

The most devilish drill was one where they dropped a windward and a leeward mark a short distance apart from each other and then parked their RIB halfway between them. We poor students, all sailing those Evil Capsizing Asymmetric Spinnaker Boats had to...

  • bear off around the windward mark 
  • hoist the big flappy sail 
  • gybe 
  • drop the big flappy sail 
  • do a 360 around the RIB 
  • hoist the big flappy sail 
  • gybe 
  • drop the big flappy sail 
  • round the leeward mark 
  • do three tacks 
  • do a 360 around the RIB 
  • do three more tacks 
  • repeat ad infinitum

I was doing pretty well compared to the other students (even the exalted ones from the advanced class) even if I do say so myself, but after a couple of hours of this, and similar, torture I was totally knackered. So I had a long nap after lunch. Beer may have been a factor.

On the fourth day, the instructor told me that I was now in the Advanced Asymmetric Class. Didn't even give me a choice. Bugger this, I thought. Who do they think I am? I am the famous Tillerman, totally crap blogging sailor. I am not advanced at anything. "So what is the advanced class doing today?" I asked.

It turned out that the Advanced Laser Class and Advanced Asymmetric Class were both doing the Sea Sail that day, when you get to sail outside the bay on the wide and wild Mediterranean Ocean. As last week's Sea Sail in Lasers had been a bit of a non-event on account of very light winds, I decided that I would take a Laser on the Sea Sail this day so I could get some practice sailing a Laser on the huge waves on the wide and wild Mediterranean Ocean. Ha ha. Foiled 'em again. You can't make me an advanced asymmetric sailor that easily.

On the fifth day I finally relented and let them kick me out of the Basic Class. I sailed the RS100 with the Advanced Asymmetric Class. It was actually quite interesting. All to do with comparing high and low angles downwind and seeing which was faster. Then we did a race around the island and back to the beach for lunch, which I won by a huge margin. I always try to win the race when there's beer at the end.

In the afternoon I went out and played in the RS100 on my own and capsized it for the first time and then had a very painful experience when I discovered that those wings make the distance from centerboard to gunwale on an RS100 longer than my inside leg measurement by a few (very critical) inches. I don't want to talk about it.

After a suitably mellow couple of hours at the hotel (rum may have been involved) the pain from my capsize recovery had eased somewhat, and it was off to Ca Na Marga with the beautiful Tillerwoman and my new Best Friends Forever from the Advanced Asymmetric Class for a dinner of fillet steak with goat cheese salad, washed down by a bottle (or several) of Rioja.

Life is good.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Playing (with) a Spinnaker - Part 1

RS Vareos at Minorca Sailing

Regular readers of this blog will know that 99% of my sailing is done in Lasers. But occasionally I like to challenge myself by sailing in other kinds of boats with devilish contraptions designed to confuse the poor, innocent, ususpecting Laser sailor... like another sail. Yikes!

Such was the case on my vacation in September at Minorca Sailing last year. I spent the first week working on my Laser skills (i.e. attempting to fix my general lack of Laser skills) with an excellent coach. Then the second week I joined what was laughingly described as the Basic Asymmetric Class where they sailed boats like the RS100 which are basically Lasers on steroids with all sorts of extra goodies like carbon fiber spars and a mainsail made of that crinkly see-through stuff and wings sticking out the side of the hull (what's all that about?) and OMG! some extra sail called an asymmetric spinnaker, a big flappy thing up front which looks about twice the size of a Laser mainsail and which, I learned, you actually have to pull up and down while you are still sailing the boat and steering and looking where you are going and all that other stuff.

I didn't mention to the staff that I had sorta kinda done a bit of the Basic Asymmetric Class at Minorca Sailing back in 2010, so on the first day they put me in a double handed asymmetric boat. My partner was a lady who had crewed a lot in asymmetric dinghies and wanted to learn how to helm. So they kind of figured we would make a perfect team. One of us (her) who knew a lot about spinnakers and a little about helming; and the other (me) who knew a little about helming and absolutely nothing about spinnakers.

It was a good theory...

I discovered how to get a spinnaker up and down and how easy they are to gybe if you have someone else handling the steering. She learned that if you let go of the tiller during a tack you will go around in circles several times while your crew cowers in the bottom of the boat trying not to get his head knocked off by the boom twice on every circle and screaming incoherently something about grabbing the tiller. I think it was a learning experience for both of us.

On the second day the instructor determined that I was ready to go solo in an RS Vareo, an older design of asymmetric single hander than the RS100, and supposedly a bit more stable than the RS100. (Clearly he had not been watching closely how badly I had been sailing on Day 1.) It was a nice gusty Force 3 to 4 kind of day, perfect for having fun on a Laser. I quickly discovered that my Laser sailing instincts did not work in an asymmetric single-hander. I managed three successful gybes and five gybes that ended in capsizes. I did not consider this a successful morning.

Over lunch and a beer or two I gave myself a good talking to. I had to rid myself of old Laser habits like heading up if overpowered. This is absolutely the wrong thing to do when gybing an asymmetric boat and will usually end in tears. That bloody spinnaker thing will tip the boat over every time. The old dinghy sailors' mantra of "Tiller Towards Trouble" has to be unlearned.

So I decided that the afternoon would be spent sailing up and down the bay in the Vareo doing as many spinnaker gybes as I could on each downwind leg, preferably without capsizing.

The first run I took it fairly cautiously and managed three rather timid gybes (and zero capsizes.)

The second run I was feeling a little more ambitious and scored five slightly less timid gybes (and zero capsizes.)

On the third run I was really feeling my oats and pulled off seven rather stylish gybes if I do say so myself (with zero capsizes.)

On the fourth run down the bay I had the bit between my teeth and executed thirteen quite slick gybes (if I may be so immodest) and absolutely no frigging capsizes.

I finished off the afternoon with a victory lap including fifteen absolutely superb gybes (it's just a shame I have no video to show you) and, of course, nary a single capsize.

So that was the score for the day...
Morning: Me 3 - Evil Capsizing Asymmetric Spinnaker Boat 5.
Afternoon: Me 43 - Evil Capsizing Asymmetric Spinnaker Boat 0.

By now the sun was over the yardarm/ I was feeling it must be five o'clock somewhere/ insert own metaphor for "it's time to find that bottle of rum in the hotel room" and so I declared victory and headed in.

Then, after a suitably mellow hour or two of relaxation, it was off to El Pescador with Tillerwoman for a plate of Fried Whitebait followed by some Sea Bass Menorcan Style washed down with a suitably celebratory quantity of White Spanish Plonk.

Life is good.

Coming soon: Playing (with) a Spinnaker - Part 2 in which our intrepid hero attempts to sail the RS100 and is kicked out of the sailing class.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Playing with Dad

A couple of weeks ago I posted in Playing with Mum, a picture from the mid-1950s of my mother and me having fun together. This picture from the same era, maybe a year or two earlier, is of my Dad playing on the beach with me. It would have been the beach at Ingoldmells in Lincolnshire on the east coast of England. I know that because that's where we went for a week or two every summer. That's the only place we ever went to the beach in those days.

My father would have been in his early 30s in this picture. He must have thought he had it made. A wife, two children, good health, a steady job with a pension, large circle of friends and extended family living in the same town (the town where he was born), a home (rented), and a chance to get away to the seaside every summer to play with his kids on the beach. I don't think he ever really wished for much more.

There are pictures somewhere of me playing with my own kids on a beach in Brittany at about that age. Life doesn't change much. Or does it?

My father's early adult life was dramatically different from mine. He was part of the "greatest generation." His 18th birthday was exactly one week before Hitler's tanks rolled into Poland. Not long afterwards he was in the Royal Air Force, and he wasn't demobilized until 1946. So he basically spent all the years from when he was 18 to 25 years old serving in World War 2.

18 to 25! I try to avoid referring to any years as the "best years of my life" but if I had to choose one period it might well be those years when I was 18 to 25. Leaving home and going to college. Making so many new friends. Having so many new experiences. Starting one career and then changing to another. Meeting my future wife and marrying her. (Actually Dad did manage to fit that part in towards the end of the war.) Traveling all over France with a college buddy one summer (without having to storm the beaches of Normandy first.) Spending another summer with my then girlfriend hiking in the Austrian Alps. (Not exactly an option for my parents in the summer of 1945.)

I often feel that those years were "stolen" from my parents. But I don't think they saw things that way. They, and all their generation, just did what needed to be done. The world would have been a very different place for my generation if they hadn't succeeded. Mum and Dad's most vivid memories in later years were certainly from the years of "the war." It was always "the war" for them. As if there hadn't been any other wars before or since. I guess wars do that to people. 

This Memorial Day weekend my sons, my father's grandsons, have been the Dads playing on the beach with their own children, my father's American great grandchildren whom he never lived to see.

The play goes on.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Seriousness of Play

"Man is most nearly himself when he achieves the seriousness of a child at play" - Heraclitus.

Seriousness?  WTF is Heraclitus talking about?

Or is he being ironic, like some bloggers we know? Does he mean that man is most nearly himself when he is not serious at all? That our true nature is to be frivolous?

Surely not. By all accounts he was a miserable old sod, sometimes being known as the "weeping philosopher." He got the dropsy and treated himself with a "liniment of cow manure." Then he died. It doesn't sound like he was a barrel of laughs to me

So is he saying that children's play is deadly serious and we grownups should play seriously too?

My play is sailing a Laser and regular readers will know that from time to time, about once very three or four years or so, I threaten to get serious about it. Get fit. Train. Work hard. Keep a training log. Learn from my mistakes. Sail 100 times a year. Actually try to win regattas and stuff.

But that mood doesn't last very long, and pretty soon I'm back to being happy as a fat, lazy, dumb, totally useless, back-of-the-fleet, crap sailor again.

What do you think? Should we be serious about play? Is play more fun if you take it seriously?

And if you got the dropsy would you self-medicate with liniment of cow manure...  or rum?

Friday, May 25, 2012

Playing Tacti-Crack

What else I am supposed to do?

I did my back in last week from a combination of too much running, sailing in too much wind, too much gardening, and too much Facebook and Twitter.

Or something.

It's getting better. But slowly.

It's not better enough yet to risk Laser sailing with it.

And this is the best time of the year to go sailing.

It's killing me.

So today I played SailX the best online multi-player sailboat racing simulator on the planet.

Hey, it may be the only online multi-player sailboat racing simulator on the planet, for all I know.

Back in the day, I was pretty good at SailX, formerly know officially as Tacticat... or Tact-Crack for the addicted.

Hey, I was even interviewed about one regatta by the famous sailing interviewer, Barry Dobson.

But now I'm crap.

I'm out of practice.

I fouled other sailors at the start. I was OCS all the time. I fouled other sailors at the marks. It was awful.

Also I have a different computer now. The Shift key is where the arrow keys used to be. This means that every time I try to put the bow down I accidentally let go of the sheet instead. Not fast!

I did see some of my old sailing buddies. Sailing_Rugger. Bluenose. Litoralis.

Geeze those guys are fast. They probably "sail" on Tacti-Crack every day.

The worst thing is that I know that when my back is better and I do get back into real Laser sailing again, I'm going to be so out of practice that I will be as bad as I was today on Tacti-Crack.

Getting old sucks.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Go the F**k Home

As regular readers of this blog will have gathered, the theme of the blog for this month has been PLAY. Every day in May (so far) I have written a post on this topic.

It's been pretty easy really. Since I decided to give up working for a living a few years back, pretty much everything I do is play.

Sailing is play.

Running is play.

Blogging is play.

Gardening is play.

Playing with grandkids is playing with grandkids.

Sitting on our deck with my wife on a Wednesday evening, enjoying a bottle of wine while we watch sailboats racing and the sun setting is...  well, it's a lot better than being at work.

But I realize that many of my readers are still working to make enough money so that one day they can go home and play.

I also know for a fact that most of you read this blog during the hours you should be working.

This video is for you.

The bit of it I like best is the part where she says if you can't name at least two things you are doing outside work then you don't have a life.

And the way she keeps saying, "Go the F**k home!"

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Too Old to Play?

Is there any game or sport you feel you are too old to play now?

Good question.

I guess I'm probably not going to play rugby again. Had to play it at school. Hated it even then. Seemed to be all about bigger boys running at me and knocking me over. And I never quite got into enjoying that whole homoerotic thing about sticking my head between other boys' buttocks in the scrum.

American football. I might throw a pointy ball around with my grandsons one day, but I'm never going to play a real game of this strange and mystifying sport. Does anyone over 40 play it?

Scuba diving. Hang gliding. Parachute jumping. Never done any of them. Probably never will. Given my general clumsiness and propensity to make stupid mistakes when I am playing any game, I tend to avoid sports where stupid mistakes are likely to end in death of aforementioned clumsy, stupid individual.

Skiing. Used to ski a lot. Was totally crap at it but enjoyed it. I don't think I'm too old to do it again if the opportunity presents itself, am I?

Grand Prix motor racing? Round the world yacht racing? Tour de France? Don't be silly.

Marathon running. Did it three times. One was OK but it was really tough to finish the other two. But I did finish them. I proved something. Don't need to prove it again, do I? But you never know.

Half-marathon running. Have run a few. Would like to run a few more. Actually I am signed up for one this weekend but I hurt my back a couple of weeks ago. It's on the mend now but I don't think I'm going to be ready to run 13.1 miles on Sunday.

Laser sailing. Talking of the back injury, there was a day or two when I really wondered whether my back would ever be up to sitting on a Laser again. Which would have made that sail I wrote about at Scary Play my last time ever sailing a Laser. A big deal. The Last Time.  That would have been a sad way to bow out because I was freaked out by those 30 knot gusts and was sailing very defensively. I hope the last time will be a day when I give it my all, 110% effort, and go out with a bang. So I can't give Laser sailing up just yet. Maybe in another 20 years or so.

What about you?

Is there any game or sport you feel you are too old to play now?

Caption Contest

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Play's the Thing

This blog is a sailing blog.

No. Don't laugh. Really. It is.

I do write about sailing.

Well, sometimes I do.

But this month I've set myself a meaningless challenge, to write a post every day on the topic of "play."

One meaning of the word "play" is a dramatic composition or piece, a dramatic performance, as on the stage.

So I ask myself, "Are there any plays about sailing?"

I can't think of any.

But then I am not very knowledgeable about the theater.

I do know there aren't many good movies about sailing. But there are some. Well, at least one.

But my readers are much smarter than me.

So tell me, are there any good plays about sailing?

Monday, May 21, 2012

Playing Politics

Earlier this month, ISAF voted to kick the sport of windsurfing out of the Olympic games in 2016, and to replace it with kiteboarding. They effectively said that windsurfing should go the same way as other former Olympics sports like...



and Lacrosse.

For the record, this is the tally of votes at the ISAF meeting...

For kiteboarding 19: United States (3 votes), Canada, Qatar, India, Finland, Norway, Spain, Dominican Republic, Cayman Islands, Bulgaria, South Africa, Ireland, Venezuela, Singapore, Italy, Puerto Rico, Australia. 

For windsurfing 17: France (2), Poland (2), Argentina, Britain, Turkey, Slovenia, Germany, Canada, Greece, Italy, Brazil, Belgium, New Zealand, Russia, Japan.

Of course, the windsurfing community is up in arms about this decision. What are those Olympic people thinking? Controversial. Awful. Ill-informed. Dreams crushed. There is a petition. There's even a Facebook group to Keep Windsurfing Olympic. Wow!  These people are really serious. 

Meanwhile there are wild reports circulating about what really happened at the ISAF meeting. The Venezuelans don't like the way their representative voted. Israel say some of the delegates were "napping" and didn't know what they were voting for. The Australians are accusing the Spanish of "incompetence or bribery."

It's politics, people.

This is how every democratic organization works. Delegates vote in favor of their own interests, or their voters' interests, or the interests of people who shovel them money, above or below the table. Deals are made and broken. Compromises are made. People agree to vote a different way on one thing to win votes from others on another issue.

It's called playing politics.

Some people think that "playing politics" shouldn't happen.

Get real. It happens.

If you windsurfers want to overturn this decision you had better learn how to play politics better and harder than the kite boarders do. Get stuck in. Twist some arms. Bend some ears. Do some deals. Apply pressure. Threaten. Cajole.

Play politics.

Shipping Forecast

Some of my friends not blessed to have lived in the British Isles may not be familiar with the tradition of listening to the Shipping Forecast on the wireless, and so will have totally failed to appreciate the delicious nostalgia for the land of Marmite on crumpets and Melton Mowbray pork pie with Branston Pickle that is conjured up for expats like me by the tune in yesterday's post.

So, for you, here is the Shipping Forecast...



You don't get British humour (sic) either, do you?

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Play Sailing By

Sailing By is played every night on BBC Radio 4 at around 00:45hrs before the late Shipping Forecast.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Play Safe

Thanks to Craig Russell of H2uh0 - Bonehead Moves on the Water for drawing our attention to this amazing video of a boating accident and the subsequent rescue attempts.


It is, of course, a reenactment, from an "informational reality-based television series" called Rescue 911 which apparently was hosted by Captain Kirk of the Starship Enterprise before he landed the gig with that made him famous.

I am sure that my eagle-eyed readers with their wealth of boating knowledge will, like me, be cringing at the various mistakes that led to this accident and that could easily have caused a real tragedy.

It's a gorgeous early summer weekend in my part of the world that is certain to bring many boaters, experienced and novice, cautious and reckless, out on to the water.

Please feel free to contribute your wisdom in the comments.

Help boaters learn the lessons from this video.

Tell them how to play safe.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

(Sailing) Games People Play

Fifteen sailing games you can play can be found at the website for Mountain Lakes Sailing Association.

Hint. Click on the link in the line above to go to real videos of these games. The picture on this page is only a screenshot of the page with all the videos.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Kids Learn by Playing - Duh!

Another brilliant post today by The Knitting Sailor - Five Go Sailing - in which she documents the ups and downs of teaching five kids "RYA stage three." According to the RYA website this involves getting the kids to the point where they can "launch and sail a dinghy around a triangle in moderate conditions."

Hmmm. This is about the stage I have been stuck at for the last thirty years but, apparently, kids in England master this level after about six days of instruction. No wonder the little bastards are winning so many Olympic medals these days.

I had a good chuckle at this post because the knitting sailor (I think her real name is Victoria) experiences in the one day of teaching these five kids to sail many of the perils that I faced too when first working as a junior sailing instructor. These included...

  • Kids with a limited attention span not paying attention to my very limited briefings.
  • Kids launching their boats and scattering to all five corners of the lake. (Coincidentally Lake Hopatcong where I taught sailing is almost exactly the same area as Kielder Water where Victoria is teaching. Five kids going in five different directions can spread a long way in 10 square kilometers!)
  • Multiple kids (by now spread out in 10 sq kms) needing simultaneous urgent safety support from the one available safety boat.
  • Little kid unable to right capsized boat because little kid's weight on centerboard is insufficient to right the boat even with instructor trying to lift the top of the mast so instructor has to jump into the water and right the boat. (I have to give Victoria extra points here. I'm sure Kielder Water in May is a lot colder than Lake Hopatcong was in July.)

After what feels like a wasted morning, Victoria rethinks her approach over "a luxury lunch of a tin of Pea and Ham soup," (more bonus points to Victoria here - the lunches at Lake Hopatcong YC were definitely more luxurious) - and comes up with a plan for the afternoon involving...

  • Fun
  • Competition
  • Bribery (a prize of chocolate for the winner of a tacking competition.)

And it worked. The kids were engaged and actually learned something.

Sooner or later everyone teaching kids to sail learns these lessons (or goes crazy.) Kids like to play. Kids like to have fun. If you can make it fun, kids will learn faster.

At first I struggled a bit to balance Safety and Fun and Learning.

Safety is important but if all you do is focus on safety then the kids don't have fun and don't learn anything either.

Learning is important too. (Isn't that what the parents are paying me for? No wait, they are really paying me to look after their kids while they go shopping and out to lunch with their friends. But hey, they call me a sailing INSTRUCTOR so I'm damn well going to INSTRUCT the little bastards something.) But if all you do is teach boring theory lessons and then run boring sailing drills the kids soon lose interest and don't learn anything either.

Fun is easy. Kids will have fun on and around the water even without your help. But they won't learn much. They might even drown themselves or their friends. The secret is to organize safe structured play that is fun that will also help them to develop their skills.

After a while you realize that you don't really need to make trade-offs between safety and fun and learning. They actually complement each other. Create a safe environment, and organize fun activities on the water and on the land that help the kids to develop specific sailing skills. And they will learn. The little bastards had better learn.

I think it took me the best part of six years to figure all this out. Victoria seems to have got it right on her first day.

Check out her story at Five Go Sailing.

Bonus points if anyone can figure out WTF the kids in that picture are doing and WTF it has to do with this post.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Playing Hurt

The only American sport that I follow at all regularly is baseball. My wife is somewhat disdainful of my interest in baseball, and even more disdainful of how baseball players come out of games and miss games for the most minor of injuries (in her view.)

"Poor diddums. He has a sore pinkie. He can't throw the ball any more."

"Ridiculous! He earns $10 million a year and he can't run because he has a bruised leg?"

"What? He pulled a muscle so he takes 15 days off work? What is an "oblique" anyway?"

Apparently, modern day baseball players are not made in the same mould as Cal Ripken Jr. who played 2632 straight games without missing a single one. That's more than 16 seasons. He must have played through injuries on numerous occasions.

If you want to read about a Laser sailor who has been playing through an injury, check out the blog of top flight Australian sailor Ashley Brunning.  Since June last year he has been battling a serious problem with his lower back, originally triggered by cycling but surely related to all that Lasering too.

But Ashley didn't give up. He missed some regattas last summer in Europe as he worked to rehab his injury. He was still "managing" his injury when he placed 7th in the Laser Worlds in Fremantle last December. In January he was receiving some scary sounding treatment for his back and then after getting back into training (gingerly at first) he placed 13th at the recent Laser Worlds in Germany.

Reading of how Ash has been "playing hurt" over the last year made me think that if I ever had that serious a back problem I would probably give up Laser sailing. But his perspective as a young guy with so much talent for the sport is probably different from mine.

Last Tuesday, after that epic Laser play session in  30 knots Bristol with my friend, my back was hurting a bit. To be expected, I thought, after not sailing for a month. While gardening at the weekend it hurt a bit more. Then while doing something totally crazy and dangerous (sitting at my desk using my computer) it started hurting a LOT more. I hope I haven't done in my back like Mr. Brunning did.

I'm too old to play hurt. I'm placing myself on the 15 day disabled list.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Playing with Friends

A few weeks ago I mentioned that this month I was going to be participating in National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo for short). My self-imposed challenge was to to publish one post a day on the theme of "play."

So far so good. 13 days and counting and I've managed to post something sorta kinda vaguely related to play every day.

I didn't invite others to participate with me in this pointless quest but, intentionally or unintentionally, some of my blogging friends have been writing about play too...

Captain JP wrote a somewhat philosophical post Playing at sailing in which he mused on the purpose of children's play and the value of "pain, cold and tiredness."

Bonnie at Frogma has been Playing with a New Toy! and sharing the results with us.

Baydog of 829 southdrive committed a Fowl Play in which he showed us some chickens before and after.

Keep Reaching at Reaching Broadly wrote The Play's the Thing where he ventured into etymology, whatever that is.

And Doug of Improper Course pointed me to some videos on Wednesday Night Fun from May 2010 which showed him doing some very playful things with a Laser including sailing it like a windsurfer (top and bottom left.)

Did I miss anybody?

Update: I knew I missed one: The Wisdom of Play also from Improper Course.

Sunday, May 13, 2012


My mother never had the chance to meet her great-grandson Owen before she died.

I love this little guy.

Who wouldn't?

Playing with Mum

I wonder what I did to my Mum to provoke her to hang me upside down over the veranda railing? She looks like she's having fun, so it couldn't have been anything terribly bad.

The picture was taken at the bungalow that we used to rent for a week every summer. It was in the Lincolnshire village of Ingoldmells on the North Sea coast of England. We went to the beach every day, played on the sand and in the chilly sea, ate lots of fish and chips, and generally had fun together as a family. That picture of me playing around with my Mum must have been taken some time in the mid 1950s.

Today is Mother's Day in the USA. But I didn't send flowers and a card to my Mum this year. She died on New Year's Day, only a few weeks before what would have been her 90th birthday. Today is my first Mother's Day without a mother.

Mum spent the last few years of her life in a nursing home in England. It was a good nursing home as nursing homes go, but it was sad to see Mum's slow mental and physical decline. Dementia is an ugly word for an ugly condition. Nothing about watching what happened to my mother motivated me to change that subtitle on my blog. 

Cheat the nursing home - die on your LASER. Indeed.

My sister chose this poem to be read at Mum's funeral. It sums up precisely what I wanted to say too about her life and death.

You can shed tears that she is gone
 or you can smile because she has lived. 

You can close your eyes and pray that she will come back
 or you can open your eyes and see all that she has left. 

Your heart can be empty because you can’t see her 
or you can be full of the love that you shared. 

You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday 
or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday. 

You can remember her and only that she is gone 
or you can cherish her memory and let it live on. 

You can cry and close your mind, be empty and turn your back 
or you can do what she would want: smile, open your eyes, love and go on. 

 David Harkins, © 1981

Friday, May 11, 2012

Playing Monopoly

Last weekend I played Monopoly with my 6-year-old granddaughter Emily. She beat me, of course.

You know how Monopoly goes. At first you are cruising around buying properties and building houses and feeling fat, dumb and happy. Then in the middle of the game you are collecting rent from your fellow players but also paying rents to them and the money is coming in and going out and you are still feeling fat, dumb and happy.

Then the game reaches a tipping point...

Maybe one of the other competitors secures an edge of some kind, buying a group of those high price properties and putting hotels on all of them. Or a couple of the other competitors do some side deals to help each other at your expense. And before you know what is happening your money is going out faster than it is coming in, and you are selling houses to the bank and mortgaging properties until... wham, you have no money left and some other player gobbles up everything you own.

I could be wrong, but the news over the past few weeks has made me feel that the Laser world is near one of those tipping points.

1. The Laser SB3 is a popular sports boat built by LaserPerformance Europe. Tony Castro, the designer of the SB3 recently announced that the Laser SB3 will henceforth be known as the SB20 (no Laser in the name), he has appointed White Formula in the UK as the licensed SB20 builder, and global sales and marketing of the SB20 will be carried out by a new organisation Sportsboat World.

2. US Sailing and Zim Sailing (a North American manufacturer of one-design sailboats) announced a multi-year sponsorship deal. Beginning this summer, Zim will be providing Byte CII sailboats to the U.S. Women's Singlehanded Championships and the U.S. Junior Championships (which were formerly sailed in Laser Radials.) So the hotshot young sailors in the US will be training in Byte CIIs and the not so hotshot junior sailors will want to sail in Byte C IIs (instead of Laser Radials) as well.

3. The long time Asia-Pacific Laser manufacturer Performance Sailcraft Australasia (PSA) has, after receiving permission from ISAF, acquired the copyright and worldwide building and marketing rights to the single handed Byte and Byte CII dinghy from its designer and builder, Canadian Ian Bruce.

4. Ari Barshi, owner of the Laser Center at Cabarete, recently published a newsletter summarizing the results of a an earlier survey on how to make the Laser a better class. One of the suggestions was...
The class should be opened to ALL builders and sail makers, rather than regional monopolies. Local class approved builders should be in place, with very strict measurement procedures thereby allowing price competition.
The newsletter also announced a competition to chose a new name for the Laser. In the FAQ for the competition was this question...
Are you sure the Laser will have a new name? 
No, but in order for this name change not to happen some of the current key players have to invest a lot of money at once. For the past two years these players had not shown any interest in investing much smaller amounts of money. It will surprise many if they start spending now.
5. And this week, Ari circulated a letter from Heini Wellmann, President of the International Laser Class Association, saying...
In the name of the International Laser Class Association (ILCA) I would like to thank Ari Barshi and all the participants of the survey for their efforts and interesting proposals. In 10 days there is a ILCA World Council meeting and we have put all suggestions / proposals on the agenda. We will obviously come back to you and report on the decisions taken at that meeting.

So what does all this add up to? Is there any pattern in these various news items? Does 2+2+2+2+2+2 equal 11?

Am I crazy if I say that this feels like the tipping point in a game of Monopoly?

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Silly Laser Tricks #3

Once you have mastered Silly Laser Tricks #1 and #2, you can play another way by wakeboarding on your Laser centerboard.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Osprey - Ultimate Fisher

Amazing! Check it out. You won't be disappointed.

Scary Play

Sometimes play can be scary. In a good way. Why do we like play that scares us?

Regular readers will know that in past years a group of us have had a lot of fun doing some informal practice in Lasers on Tuesday evenings in Bristol Harbor although last year, for various reasons, it was hard to persuade my friends to come out and play with me in Bristol on Tuesdays on a regular basis. So, when one of my friends emailed me and suggested that the two of us kick off the Bristol on Tuesdays season this week I was very ready to agree.

He let me choose the time we would sail. In retrospect choosing to go sailing around 5pm may not have been entirely wise.

I hadn't sailed since early April and hadn't been out in heavy air since early March. Let's just say that I was a bit rusty. The wind graph shows the wind at 15-18 knots gusting to 28-30, but it felt to me as if it were nearer to the top end of the range for most of that time.

I wimped out before we even launched by choosing to wear a drysuit. I didn't regret that choice. I did not feel in control while we were sailing. My friend was faster than me upwind and a lot faster than me downwind. On our first downwind leg I did get the boat on a course approximating a run and did succeed in executing one gybe. After that I confess I sailed all the downwinds on broad reaches and did chicken gybes (tacked around) at the end of each reach.

After what felt like more than enough out of control sailing my friend waited for me at our windward mark. We couldn't hear each other in the wind so he indicated with much waving of arms the suggestion that we sail down, up, down, up, down, up, down, up and then in. (I may have miscounted how many more laps he wanted to do. It might have even been more.) I indicated with much waving of arms that down, up and then in would be fine with me.

So that's what we did. Only he sailed way further upwind than me, way past our windward mark. Then on our downwind he sailed way past the beach where we launched, down into the northern end of the harbor. He is a bit of an overachiever.

As we sailed back to the beach, I noticed something strange about his (nearly new) sail. Apparently even an overachiever can occasionally get his mast stuck in the mud.

And so to Redlefsens for some hot food, good conversation and several glasses of Pilsner Urquell which tastes much better than Bristol Harbor water.

I think I'm going to write off yesterday's sailing as one of those Nietzschian experiences. That which does not kill us makes us stronger.

I just hope Nietzsche was right.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Plato on Play

"You can discover more about a person in an hour of play 
than in a year of conversation." - Plato

Discuss in 50,000 words or less. Do not attempt to write on both sides of the paper at once. Bonus points will be given for obscuring the essential relevancy to sailing of your answer.

And now I am off to play for an hour or so at Lasering with an old friend. I wonder what I will discover about him?

Monday, May 07, 2012

Meet Bob Keese, Scalloper

Playing with Grandkids

This weekend I did something that I have done before, but not very often.

I chose to spend the weekend playing with three of my grandchildren instead of going sailing with my friends.

And now I'm going to blog about playing with my grandkids.

It makes me wonder if I'm turning into that annoying old man who is always boring people with stories about his cute grandkids, and showing people pictures of his cute grandkids. Is this how that begins? Just how do you transition from being a hard-core Ironman Laser sailor to being a fat old geezer in a cardigan boasting about your grandkids?

Is it a gradual process? Or do you just wake up one day as a granddad in a cardigan with a bunch of photos of your cute grandkids on your iPhone to bore strangers with?

This is not at all like me. Or at least it hasn't been. I didn't even have a cardigan yesterday. Actually I don't have one today either. But I do have an iPhone.

I had promised (sorta kinda) to two separate friends that I would join them at two different Laser sailing events on Saturday and Sunday. I was looking forward to it. A Man Cold, RC duty, and general wimping out had kept me away from Lasering for most of April.

But plans changed. Late in the week it was decided that my three oldest grandkids and their father would sleep over at the Tillercottage-by-the-sea this weekend. They haven't done this for several months. I did briefly consider abandoning all the Tiller Extensions and going sailing anyway, but chose the other path. (Mommy, the serious blogger in the family, was away at a serious blogging conference in some very serious location like Miami or somewhere. But that's a whole other story.)

Captain JP wrote an excellent post today, Playing at sailing, in which he argued that kids' play is serious business because, although they do it for fun, play is how they practice at being grown up. He is right.

Hanging out with the grandkids this weekend it occurred to me that, when they play with others, kids are constantly experimenting with different strategies for how to achieve that very important grown-up skill of getting others to do what they want them to do. It took me a long time in my life to realize fully how important this skill is. For many years I arrogantly worked on the assumption that if I were smart and right, everyone else would realize that I was smart and right, and would do things my way. Much too late I discovered that life doesn't work like that.

For example in the real world you need to be able to persuade people to work overtime this weekend, or elect you as President of the United States, or to do something really hard like getting out of the damn way when you want to place your order in Starbucks. Some people are much better at persuading other people to do these things than others. And these are the people who usually end up as President of the United States, or being able to place their order for a Grande mug of organic, herbal tea and a slice of banana walnut bread.

My 6-year-old granddaughter Emily has a very direct way of asking grown-ups to play with her. But she is smart enough to select her targets based on their own interests. If she wants to do some crafts or art, or to help with the gardening or cooking, she will ask Tillerwoman. But if she wants to do anything on a computer or to play a board or card game, she will ask me. Like most men, when a good-looking female tells me directly what she wants I have a hard time disappointing her.

Her 3-year-old brother Aidan is a little shy, as I was as a boy (and still am.) He has a lot of energy and loves things like playing ball or running races with me and will never admit he is tired. We were at a local playground on Sunday morning when a pretty little girl came up to him, smiled at him and said, "Hi!" Aidan totally ignored her. So I gave him a little life lesson on how he should always say, "Hi!" back when a pretty girl says, "Hi!" to him. If I had learned that lesson about 10 years earlier than I did, my life would have been very different. Not necessarily better. Just different.

Owen, who will be 2 next month, is at the "maximum cuteness age." His main persuasive technique for getting you to do anything is to turn his huge brown eyes on you, flash a toothy smile, and ask (with one word usually) for what he wants. It works every time, but he will have to develop more sophisticated communication strategies as he gets older. He has also learned that he can make grown-ups laugh uncontrollably with certain antics. He's a funny guy.

So I skipped sailing and we played.

We went to the zoo. Emily's favorite animals were the seals, Aidan said he liked the elephants best, and Owen seemed to enjoy the giraffes the most even though he called them zebras. It wasn't quite clear to me whether he was joking with us or whether "zebra" is his word for "animal with four legs and strange markings."

We went to Evelyn's, our local clam shack, for lunch.

We hung out at the Tillercottage and played with all the toys here.

We had baths and bedtime stories. Or at least the kids did.

We played on swings and slides and did all kinds of other silly stuff.

At the end of the weekend, after they had gone home, I reflected on whether I should have gone sailing instead. But then I thought...

How many more months is Owen going to hold up his hands to me and say, "Up!" meaning he wants to be picked up and, if he's lucky, have a ride on my shoulders? For that matter, how many more months will I even have the strength to lift him up? The kid is huge and growing like a weed.

How much longer will Aidan want to trade silly knock-knock jokes with me that don't make any sense but that still make him laugh his socks off?

How many more years will Emily want to go for an early morning walk to the beach to collect sea shells with her grandfather? And how much longer before she is too grown up to slip her hand in mine as we walk back up the steep path to our house?

There will always be days for sailing.

Opportunities for days with grandchildren are special.

Besides, there was bugger all wind all weekend so I don't think I missed much.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

2016 Olympics

Silly Laser Tricks #2

Once you have mastered yesterday's Silly Laser Trick #1, you can have more fun with your Laser, playing at tacking by stepping between the mast and the boom.


Saturday, May 05, 2012

Silly Laser Tricks #1

The Laser is a superb little toy. No other toy has ever given me such pleasure.

There are many ways to play with this toy.

You can race it at very serious, official Laser regattas. Or you can race it with a few friends for fun. You can train to become better at playing the Laser game by going to very serious, official Laser clinics. Or you can play around by yourself seeing how many different ways you can mess up a roll tack. Or you can play by just noodling around for the afternoon.

Or you can do something really silly, like trying to tack your Laser by running around the front of the mast...


Friday, May 04, 2012

Don't Stop Playing

“We don’t stop playing because we grow old. 
We grow old because we stop playing.” 
George Bernard Shaw

Laser Masters Words 2012
Great Grand Master Fleet 
Race 2

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Bloggers at Play

Verb: Engage in activity for enjoyment and recreation rather than a serious or practical purpose. 
Noun: Activity engaged in for enjoyment and recreation.

Blogging is only playing, right? Well it is for me.

Sure, there are some bloggers who claim to make six figure incomes from blogging, and other bloggers who have those annoying Google AdSense ads on their blogs and who probably make 23 cents a year from them. They are not blogging purely for "enjoyment and recreation."

And there are other bloggers who are trying to push a political agenda or save the planet or whatever, so they are not playing because they have a "serious or practical purpose."

But my blog is not serious. It certainly serves no practical purpose. It is for enjoyment and recreation. Mainly my own enjoyment and recreation. If anyone else enjoys it, that's a bonus.

Blogging is playing.

Play can be unstructured or unstructured. Some times it's just fun to kick a ball around and see if you can do crazy things like kick it up in the air and then bounce it off your head. A lot of my blogging is like that. I just toss things up in the air and see how they land or if they bounce off someone else's head. But sometimes it's fun to have a bit of structured play. Invite some friends over. Throw some sweatshirts on the ground to make some goal posts and have an impromptu game of soccer (aka football in real English.)

Our occasional group writing projects are the structured play of our blogging. Someone chooses a topic and others write posts vaguely related to that topic. It's all for enjoyment and recreation. It's play.

Last month, the topic of our group writing project was Top Sailing Destination on the Planet. We had fourteen entries in all.

There were two things that surprised me about the posts submitted. One was that many of the entries were from bloggers participating in one of our group writing projects for the first time. The other surprise was that most of the posts were actually about the writers' home waters rather than some exotic destination thousands of miles away.

Both surprises were good surprises.

Here are all the participants and their posts...

Five of the entrants chose locations in Europe...

The Knitting Sailor says in her post In which I am provincial that she chooses Kielder Water, a large reservoir in Northumberland in North East England, which is the home of her sailing club.

Captain JP says I want to sail in Scottish waters.

Kevin of Lost at Sea tells us Why West Cork is Better Than Just About Anywhere.

Peter of Blur wrote Summer Nights in Bohuslän which is about a double-handed race through the Bohuslän archipelago on the west coast of Sweden.

And the author of Reaching Broadly tells us in The Wine-dark Sea why his top sailing destination on the planet is in the Mediterranean, specifically the Dodecanese islands, the northern part of the Croatian coast and Turkey around Gocek.

Then there were five entrants who, like me, favor the eastern seaboard of North America....

Diabolo214 says his top destination is the New Meadows River off Casco Bay in Maine, his home sailing waters. It sounds delightful, especially the chance to sail over to Cundys Harbor for a Lobster Roll.

Bridget of VILLAGEHOMESTEAD also lives in Maine and wrote about Penobscot Bay: Little Bit of Heaven on Earth.

Baydog of 829 southdrive is a native of New Jersey and contributed a wonderfully nostalgic post about his summers as a kid on the Jersey Shore, the place he calls his Comfort Zone.

A little further south, Mitch of Bone in its Teeth says that the top sailing destination on the planet is the Chesapeake Bay and the surrounding coastal waters of Maryland and Virginia.

And Sam who writes about How to Sail the Laser tells us that Lasers Like Lake Eustis, his home lake in Florida. Apparently the lake is inhabited by alligators, but they do not eat small sailboats. Good to know.

We had three entrants who are from the center of the North American continent and who enjoy sailing on the fresh water lakes and rivers there...

My2fish says that Michigan is a great place to sail. It certainly looks like it is.

Dan and Michele of Follow the Horizon make a strong case that the best sailing destination is wherever your boat is floating right now, Familiar Waters, in their case the Illinois River

And Kevin of Sail Far Live Free writes about cruising Lake Huron's North Channel in Awakening from a Cruiser's Dream.

And then there was Chris...

Chris of Rowing for Pleasure wrote Rowing in the Rain which was actually about a number of destinations he dreams of rowing at such as the River Krath at Slavna; or on the Barb, the lake in the Upper City in Bekla; or up the Miskatonic River through Arkham. Fantastic!

Thanks to everyone who came out to play.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Hitler Learns His Summer Plans in Newport are Ruined!

Play with Intensity

The Laser is a strict one-design class. The Laser class rules say that "the Laser shall be raced in accordance with these rules, with only the hull, equipment, fittings, spars, sail and battens manufactured by a licensed builder."

There is also a very strong warning at the front of the class rules under the heading Cheating that says...
The ILCA takes a very strong line with Laser sailors who do not sail according to the rules. There have been cases in the past where sailors who have sailed with illegal boats have been banned from sailing a Laser. Such a ban can be for life... 
Our class is much bigger than the odd person who wants to gain advantage by illegally changing the Laser or its equipment. They can sail in other classes where the rules allow changes to a boat to get an advantage. We do not want them with us.

"We do not want them with us."

Hmmm. That's pretty strong stuff. (And by the way, that heading Cheating really is in the class rule book in super-big bold type just in case anyone is in any doubt that sailing with "illegal" equipment is cheating and we might ban you for life and we do not want you with us!)

But all is not what it seems in Laser land.

Check out that video I posted yesterday of Heavy Air Sailing with Marc Jacobi. See that label at the tack of his sail. That's an Intensity Sails logo. That is not a "sail manufactured by a licensed builder." That is a replica Laser sail from Intensity Sails.

Is anyone calling Marc a cheat? Absolutely not. He is one of the most respected sailors in the class. His fleet at Cedar Point YC in Westport CT voted a while back to allow Intensity sails in their fleet.

Maybe Cedar Point is the exception, you say? Think again.

Check out this screen shot from a video posted on Facebook of Fleet 413, the Newport RI Laser fleet. It shows the leaders of a race on a reach approaching the committee boat an a Harry Anderson course.

Boat #181855 has a legal Laser sail. The starburst logo is the Laser trademark. But the other two boats in the top three clearly have replica sails, and so does the fourth boat if I'm not mistaken. That's right. Replica sails, mainly from Intensity, are used by several sailors in this fleet too. Nobody minds. Not a big deal.

The Cedar Point and Newport fleets are probably the two largest and strongest Laser fleets in New England. And Intensity sails are becoming more and more common at other Laser fleets in this area too. There's a real disconnect here. The class rules say that people who race with such sails are "cheats" and we "don't want them with us." But the actual sailors say it's OK.

Why are replica sails becoming so popular? Various reasons are given...

  • Legal sails are too expensive.
  • Legal sails don't last long enough.
  • At times, the dealers are totally out of stock of legal sails.
  • Many potential Laser sailors (especially high school and college kids) can't afford to keep buying new legal sails. By allowing them to buy replica sails we encourage them to join our fleet and thereby grow the sport.
  • Intensity sails are close enough in performance to legal sails that they aren't an advantage or a handicap so it's no big deal.

Of course, legal sails are required at major regattas. So, sailors who travel to regattas typically have an Intensity sail that they use for local racing and practice, and a class legal sail that they keep for regattas.

Laser sailors are playing with Intensity.

Maybe it's time I bought an Intensity sail?