Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Is olc an ghaoth nach séideann do dhuine éigin


I admit it.

I am just as bad as predicting the winners of sailing regattas as I am at sailing in them.

As of now I seem to be only 1 for 3 in predicting who will do well in the singlehanded classes at the Olympic regatta.

The one I got right was Slingo in the Lasers.  After 4 races, Tom Slingsby of Australia is leading the standings but he only has a 4 point lead over Pavlos Kontides of Cyprus who won both races today. Who? Sorry. Never heard of him, but I see he was in the top ten at the 2010 and 2011 Worlds. Only 22 years old. Good for him.

But based on results so far, I was totally wrong in my prediction that Big Ben Ainslie would dominate the Finn class. He has been completely upstaged by Jonas Hogh-Christensen of Denmark who has beaten Ben in all 6 races so far and leads him by 10 points. That virtual person Noodle who only exists in some imaginary reality Second Life is virtually peeing her virtual pants with virtual excitement about Jonas. With only 4 races left until the medal race, Big Ben is going to have to turn on the jets if he is going to win a gold medal this year. It's going to be interesting.

In the Radials I hedged my bets and implied that the Olympic regatta was going to be a closely fought competition between a group of women who have all been doing well internationally in the last year or two. I didn't expect anyone to dominate the regatta. Wrong! Surprising all the pundits (well surprising me anyway) Annalise Murphy of Ireland has won every single one of the 4 races held so far. Trailing by 12 and 14 points in 2nd and 3rd are the ladies from Belgium and the Netherlands whom I did pick as favorites. And Alison Young of Great Britain whom I also picked is only 3 points further back in 4th.

Pause for patriotic singing of Jerusalem, God Save the Queen, Hey Jude, celebrations of the industrial revolution, the National Health Service, the World Wide Web and Mary Poppins, and a sketch by Mr. Bean... and frenzied chants of "GBR GBR GBR!"

Oh sorry. Got carried away a bit there. Still haven't got over that opening ceremony.

Where was I? Where am I? Oh yes, Annalise Murphy from Ireland.

To be fair I did sorta kinda give her a tip of the hat as one of "a few others I could mention... who probably also have a good shot at a medal this year." Let me honor her properly in this post by including a couple of pictures of her too.

As sailors say in Ireland, "Is olc an ghaoth nach séideann do dhuine éigin."

It's an ill wind that doesn't blow somebody some good.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Taking the Rough with the Smooth

Well, it's been a quiet couple of weeks in Lake Wobegon...

A few of my Laser sailing friends from Massachusetts who mainly sail on an inland lake have been hankering after some sailing in waves. They tried Buzzards Bay but they said the buzzard was dead. I told them the buzzard wasn't dead, he was just resting. But I also talked up the excellent waves that you can experience at the mouth of the Sakonnet River, either launching from Third Beach Newport (not actually in Newport) or Sakonnet Harbor Little Compton (actually in Little Compton.)

So one afternoon just over a couple of weeks ago when the wind was in the south I drove down to Little Compton to check out the conditions, but the wind was only about 6-8 knots. There was certainly some swell coming in from the ocean (nothing between here and Cuba) but it was just a little too small to be able to catch any decent rides downwind. It was big enough to need some attention to the waves upwind and big enough to rock the boat on a run, and I kept feeling that if it were just a little more windy I would have caught rides. Maybe lighter people would have done so. It was a very pleasant afternoon but probably not exciting enough for my friends to drive all the way down there from Massachusetts.

I tried again on Monday last week and had more success. The swells from the ocean and the wind were lined up pretty well. The wind was a little stronger than on my earlier visit, whitecaps just breaking on the tops of the waves, so I'm guessing it was around 11-12 knots, The swells were also bigger, about 2-3 feet compared with 1 foot the previous time. It all added up to ideal wave practice conditions.

The waves weren't so big that you caught every one every time anyway downwind - you had to work at it a bit. But one well-timed pump and you took off. I found myself moving forwards and backwards in the boat a lot - forwards to help the boat down the face of each wave and then back to stop it submarining into the back of the next one. You had to have your wits about you as the swells weren't totally regular. Sailing by the lee I was going straight down the waves for the most part but occasionally one would come at a different angle and I could catch a ride by heading up on to it quickly. Upwind I really had to work the boat hard with body movements to stop the boat crashing on each wave. Great workout! So I think the next time the winds are forecast to be from the south and this strong or stronger on a weekend I will encourage my friends to give it a shot.

On Tuesday the winds were from the west and around 10-15 knots so I headed over to Colt State Park in Bristol. On the drive over the weather radio was talking about a Severe Thunderstorm Watch for the area. But, hey, that just means you have to keep a watch out, right? The sky was clear when I launched but after sailing for 20 minutes or so the sky started to get darker and darker from the north and the wind picked up. By the time I had sailed back to the boat ramp the wind was around 25-30 knots and big juicy waves were crashing on to the ramp. It was a challenge getting the boat back on to the dolly by myself on a lee shore in those conditions but somehow I managed it. I turned on the weather radio in the car and it was talking about a nearby storm which had the possibility of 60 mph winds and giant hailstones not to mention continuous cloud to ground lightning. Actually I never saw anything like that but decided that discretion was the better part of the valor and headed home for a quiet dinner with Tillerwoman.

On Wednesday the front had gone through, the winds were in the north, the humidity was low, and the sun was shining so I went over to Bristol again and launched from Independence Park. What a superb day! It was probably one of the most delightful days of the summer. I sailed out of the harbor and around Hog Island and back upwind again. There was just enough wind to need to hike. There were hardly any other sailing boats out on the bay and I kept thinking, "This is why I retired - to be able to go sailing on days like this."

This weekend, three of the Tiller Extensions are staying at our house.

It's been a quiet week in Lake Wobegon.

Life is good.

Friday, July 27, 2012

I Can See Massachusetts From My Backside

From my back garden in certain spots I can just see Brayton Point Power Station in Massachusetts, four miles away at the north end of Mount Hope Bay.

Brayton Point produces more carbon dioxide than any other source in New England and New York - almost 5.9 million metric tons of greenhouse gases in 2010 and 2011. Brayton Point also tops the EPA list of the largest emitters of chemicals in Massachusetts in 2010,  with more than 1 millions pounds of chemicals.

The two 497-foot-tall cooling towers have the capacity to pump more than an Olympic-size swimming pool worth of water each minute, and the concrete in both towers is enough to pave a sidewalk 250 miles long. They are the tallest buildings in Massachusetts outside Boston.

I live in Rhode Island.

But I can see Massachusetts from my backside.

And in other sailing news...

Laser Girls Kick Ass

If it's easy to pick the favorites in the Finn and Laser classes at the Olympics this year, it's impossible to be so definite about the women in the Laser Radial event. There's a fairly large group of ladies who have been doing well in all the big international regattas over the last year, but no single sailor has been dominating the Radial class the way that Big Ben and Slingo have doing in the Finns and Lasers.

There's Marit Bouwmeester from the Netherlands who was the 2011 World Champion, but couldn't do better than fifth at this year's Worlds and Sail for Gold.

Marit Bouwmeester

There's Evi Van Acker from Belgium who was second to Marit at the 2011 Worlds, and who has been in the top three at pretty well very major event she has sailed in the last year. But she slipped to sixth at Sail for Gold in Weymouth last month.

Evi Van Acker

And you can never ignore Lijia Xu from China, the Olympic bronze medallist in 2008, second in this year's Worlds, and the winner in major regattas at Miami, Hyeres and Melbourne in the last year.

Lijia Xu

The Olympic silver medalist from 2008 is also returning this year. Gintare Volungeviciute Scheidt from Lithuania won the 2012 World Championship in Germany a couple of months ago. And if that last name sounds familiar, yes she is also Mrs Robert Scheidt, so she probably gets lots of Laser go-faster tips in her pillow talk.

Gintare Volungeviciute Scheidt

The gold medalist in the Radials in 2008 was, of course, Anna Tunnicliffe who is representing the USA as part of the women's match racing team this year.  Judging by this photo from the ESPN The Magazine: Bodies We Want 2012 feature, Anna is still pretty hot in a Radial.

Anna Tunnicliffe

Sari Multala of Finland is one of the most experienced sailors in the fleet. She was fifth in the women's singlehanded class at both the Sydney and Athens Olympics, Radial World Champion in 2009 and 2010, and is definitely on form again this year with a third at the Worlds and second at Sail for Gold.

Sari Multala

Update: July 28. The original photo I posted was not of Sari Multala and has been replaced by the one above..

And let's not forget Alison Young of Great Britain who took first place at Sail for Gold in Weymouth last month. Maybe she has peaked at just the right time?

Alison Young

Pause for patriotic singing of God Save the Queen and frenzied chants of "GBR GBR GBR!"


Paige Railey of USA may not have had quite the stellar results in the last year or so as the women above, but look at this face. Wow! Does she want it bad? Do not underestimate this lady.

Paige Railey

And there are a few other I could mention, like Annalise Murphy of Ireland And Krystal Weir of Australia, who probably also have a good shot at a medal this year.

It's going to be interesting...

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Training Hard

I was so inspired by writing this week about such great Olympic sailors as Ben Ainslie, Tom Slingsby and Paul Goodison that I've stepped up my own training efforts.

 I've been working hard all week.

 I'm already up to page 83 of Goodison's book.


Continuing my series of posts about the upcoming Olympics, it's time to decide who is going to win the Laser class.

Well, you would have to say that Tom Slingsby from Australia is the favorite. World Champion in 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011 and 2012. Winner of Sail for Gold at Weymouth in June (this year and last year.) Winner of the Olympic test event last year.

But he was also the favorite going in to the 2008 Olympics in China, and he finished 22nd there. What was that all about?

The gold medal winner in 2008 was, of course, Paul Goodison of Great Britain.

Pause for patriotic singing of God Save the Queen and frenzied chants of "GBR GBR GBR!"

So can Paul Goodison beat Slingo in this year's Olympics too? That is the question.

According to my sources, Goodo and Slingo have a bit of a feud going...
The rivalry stems from Beijing where Goodison won the gold medal and Slingsby slumped to a shock 22nd place. 
Then in 2011, at a world cup event in Mallorca, Goodison accused Slingsby of colluding with another GBR Laser sailor, Nick Thompson, to try and prevent him qualifying for the 2012 Olympics. 
Goodison then had a heated argument with Slingsby, a cage fighting fanatic, after June's Sail for Gold world cup event in Weymouth, southwest England. The Briton accused Slingsby of blocking him during the race - something Slingsby flatly denies.
Wait. Did they say CAGE FIGHTING?

This could get interesting...

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Wednesday Dinner at the Tillercottage

I went sailing today.

After I came home, Tillerwoman prepared a delicious dinner for us.

The first reader to name all of the ingredients for the main course wins.

The first reader to name all of the ingredients for the dessert also wins.

The first reader to name the inspiration for the main course wins.

The first reader to identify which ingredient was grown in our own garden wins.

The first reader to identify the one ingredient that could not have been grown or harvested or manufactured in Rhode Island wins.

Everyone can be a winner!

Every winner earns the right to select a topic on which I will be required to write a blog post.

Big Ben

Wait. It's almost the end of July?  Sailing at the Olympics starts in a few days?  How did that creep up on me so fast?

I need to do some research on who the top sailors in each class are, and who is going to win the medals, and which country will win the most sailing medals. My friends, ace reporters Buff Staysail and Sassi Tweet, who are covering the Games for Team JP, are depending on me.

Let's see. There are boys and girls in 470's, and boys in 49ers and Stars, and boys and girls on windsurfers, and boys and girls on keelboats. It's so confusing. Who are all these people?

Maybe I should just stick to what I know best. Singlehanded boats. The Finn, the Laser and the Laser Radial.


OK. Call me crazy, but I'm going to stick my neck out and say that Ben Ainslie will win the gold medal in the Finn, thereby confirming his reputation as the greatest Olympic sailor of all time on the planet in the history of the universe.

"But what makes Ben so good?" I hear you ask.

After extensive research (aka as Googling "What makes Ben Ainslie so good?") I see that the BBC has the answer at this link - London 2012. What makes GB sailor Ben Ainslie so good?

Wait. All I get is this message: "Cannot play media. Sorry, this media is not available in your territory. Available to UK users only."

Ah ah. Those Brits are devilishly clever. They are not telling all the world Ben's secrets before the Olympics. Take that you Aussies!

Let's see what the Guardian has to say. They have an article - Ben Ainslie: "There are 12 guys who could beat me to London 2012 gold."

What?  The Guardian reporter rambles on about how good Ben's competition is, how old Ben is, about Ben's bad back, about Ben's bad ankles, etc. etc. etc.

Oh, I get it. This is just a classic piece of disinformation designed to lull Ben's competitors into a false sense of security. These British sailors will stop at nothing to win.

So what does make Ben so good?

Maybe YouTube has the answer.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Photo Quiz

Tillerwoman and I went out to lunch today at our favorite restaurant by the bay.

I'm not going to tell you where it is. I don't want 2,000 people there next time we go for lunch.

I could have taken photos of the food.

But I didn't.

Instead I offer the above photo for your pleasure.

The restaurant had one of these.

What is it?

I thought it might be an industrial strength margarita blender.

But I was wrong.

I'm sure one of my incredibly smart readers will know.

What is it?

I think I'll go sailing now.

Monday, July 23, 2012

A Love Story

I love rivets.

Rivets make me very happy.

In fact, I think rivets have probably given me more pleasure during my lifetime than any other inanimate object.

Think about it.

Laser sailing is my passion.

And every fitting and attachment on the Laser's spars is attached by rivets.

The gooseneck and the vang fitting on the mast. The blocks and the vang fitting on the boom. The end caps on the spars. The collar on the upper mast.  The whole frigging boat is held together with rivets.

Without rivets the Laser wouldn't exist and my life would be empty. Lonely is a man without love.

I love rivets.

Of course, like any objects of our affections, some rivets can abuse your trust and let you down. Like the day when I was all set to win a race for the one and only time in the centuries (or so it seems) I raced in the Cedar Point frostbite fleet and I was betrayed by a rivet.

But there are plenty more rivets in the toolbox.

Yes, rivets are not perfect. They are fallible. They are vulnerable. But that just makes them more lovable.

Sometimes the (almost) human weakness of a rivet can make you feel like the luckiest man alive.

There's nothing like a rivet. Nothing in the world. There is nothing you can name that is anything like a rivet.

When a man is tired of rivets, he is tired of life.

I love rivets.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Blue Water, Green Skipper: Book Review

This book is described on the front cover as "A Memoir of Sailing Alone Across the Atlantic." My main issue with the book is that it is nothing of the kind. Truth in advertising!

Stuart Woods is apparently a bestselling author although I confess I haven't read any of his books before. In 1976, as a relatively inexperienced sailor, he sailed in the OSTAR solo transatlantic race. (The book was originally published in 1977 and is now being re-published.) This book claims to be his story of the race.

When I was asked to review the book I must admit I thought I would enjoy it more. I am a single-handed racer too (although in a somewhat smaller boat than Stuart's). The idea that someone would learn to sail in dinghies and then immediately take on the challenge of a transatlantic race appealed to me. If things had taken a different turn in my life I could imagine myself doing that.

I did find the first few chapters fascinating, and highly amusing in parts, as our hero learns to sail in dinghies on the west coast of Ireland. In the process he manages to make all the same mistakes that all of us did. He starts off in Mirror dinghies and goes off to the Irish National Championships where he and his mate won the prize for being the oldest and heaviest crew.

Then he discovers the joys of cruising and racing in small yachts, and when his grandfather dies and leaves him some money, Stuart hatches the idea of buying a yacht and entering the OSTAR.

So far so good. But, for me the book got considerably less interesting from this point on. This book is NOT about racing in the OSTAR. Only the last 40 or so pages are about the actual race. From the point where Stuart hatches the idea of entering the OSTAR to the day when he actually crosses the start line of the race there are about 200 pages of how Stuart prepared for the race. I found this section very dull.

They say that cruising is just another word for doing "boat maintenance in exotic locations." Well, if you believe this book, racing in the OSTAR is all about doing boat maintenance in not very exotic locations. If you are interested in all the things that can go wrong with a boat and how to fix them, then I guess this book might appeal to you.

Stuart orders a boat. Stuart goes sailing on some other boats. Stuart goes sailing on his own boat. Stuff breaks. The boat leaks. Stuff gets mended. The boat still leaks. More stuff breaks. More stuff gets mended. The boat still leaks. Then Stuart pulls something in his back and is in excruciating pain! I have to confess I actually enjoyed that bit. Not because I took any pleasure in Stuart's pain but because it was actually something I could relate to at last. Human interest! Much better than broken gearboxes, failed navigation lights and all the problems he had with something called a Dynafurl.

In the acknowledgements section at the start of the book, Stuart says that he believes he has mentioned everyone who helped his project in the text of the book. Too right he did! That's another problem I have with the middle 200 pages of this book. Name after name of people and companies who worked on his boat or gave him a sextant or helped him fix that damned Dynafurl. The whole bloody section reads like an acknowledgement section at times. And who reads them?

So I was excited when Stuart finally solved most of the issues with his boat and crossed the start line of the race. I love races. Strategy, tactics, close tussles with other competitors.

And so it was just after the start. But soon our hero is on his own in the middle of the Atlantic and stuff starts to break again. His engine won't start which apparently is a major problem in a sailing race like this because without his engine he can't charge his batteries. And without his batteries he can't use his VHF radio or his navigation lights, or his instruments or other quite useful stuff like the stereo system.

Then stuff started growing in his drinking water. Then his eggs went bad. Then his radar reflector fell off. One of his shrouds came loose and had to be reattached.

Then while he was playing with the bloody Dynafurl again he broke the forestay. Uh oh. More frigging boat maintenance ensued - something to do with stopping the mast falling down involving a Barlow, a pad-eye, a deck-eye, a reefing line, a clevis pin, a split pin and a very large screwdriver. I didn't understand a word of it, but it all sounded very exciting if you're into that kind of thing.

Eventually our hero reaches Newport and crosses the finish line. Phew!

So sorry, not my kind of book. If you are into stories about what can break on a boat and how to fix it you might like it more.

It's probably too late now but I do have one suggestion for the author. He seems to be a very charming chap, and from time to time he mentions in passing that he calls some lady or other and she drops everything and comes and stays with him for a few days while he works on his boat or hassles other people to work on his boat. I lost track of how many times he did this with different ladies because, as best as I can recall, all of the ladies had names beginning with A. We never get much detail about his relationships with these ladies but I was always intrigued to know more.

So this would be my advice on how to make this a better book: Less boat maintenance. More sex.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

RKJ Carrying the Olympic Torch

After being greeted by crowds all over Britain, the Olympic flame started its first full day in London today at the Prime Meridian in Greenwich. Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, the first person to sail solo non-stop around the world, ran the torch around the Cutty Sark to delighted cheers from the crowds.

Makes me proud to be British.

I think I'll have a little weep now.

Friday, July 20, 2012

When Daddy Was a Little Boy...

Continuing the story of Sailing with Grandkids...

So we all went off to the lake last Saturday. Two Laser sailors - me and my son, the blogger formerly known as Litoralis; my two eldest grandkids, Emily (6) and Aidan (4 years and 1 day); and Tillerwoman.

Conversations since that day have elucidated that Tillerwoman thought the kids were only going to watch Litoralis and me sailing. But I had no doubt in my mind that we were going to offer the kids the opportunity to come sailing with us (for the first time ever in their young lives) and that there was a pretty damn good chance that they would actually do it.

When we arrived at the lake, Aidan saw a Laser with the mast up and made some remark about how tall it was and how that must be "much bigger than your boat Granddad." It then dawned on me that although the kids had known  for ever that Granddad was a sailor and that Daddy has a Laser under the deck (which hardly ever sees the water) these kids had not grown up hanging around yacht clubs. I'm not sure they have ever actually seen a rigged Laser before.

So, while Tillerwoman took the kids for a tour of the waterfront, Litoralis and I rigged our boats.

Aidan watched.

His face says it all. He's not sure what to expect but he's darned if he's going to miss out on some fun that his big sister is going to have.

I was ready to launch first and asked Emily if she wanted to come and sail with me.

Of course she said yes. I knew she would.

I said the words that are a catchphrase in our family, "When Daddy was a little boy...."

The kids always cringe when they hear these words from me. They expect that I am going to tell the story (for only about the 429th time) of when we took their father camping in Spain when he was one year old and how he ate too many grapes and of the unfortunate and painful gastric consequences of his intemperance (which we don't need to describe in detail here.)

So now I say those words at every opportunity just to watch their little faces crumple up in pain as they remember the story about Daddy's dreadfully distressing grape indulgence outcome ... I really am a very bad Granddad!

But today I had a very different story about when Daddy was a little boy. About how he and his brother used to sit in front of the mast of my Laser and how they used to have sooooo much fun sailing with me in France.

So I lifted Emily on to the bow of my Laser and showed her where to sit and how to hold on to the mast. I rocked the boat a little just to give her a feel for how it would move while we were sailing and make sure she was comfortable. She hung on to the mast with grim determination.

But I think she was happy with the arrangement. It really is much better than being in the cockpit and getting tangled up with the sheet and with that crazy long tiller extension and getting trodden on by Granddad every time he tacks or gybes.

So we sailed off to the the middle of the lake.

I pointed out the other Lasers racing and then we sailed towards the north end of the lake. I reminded her that that was where the public beach that she had visited several times was. We came close to a couple of Sunfish sailors out having fun and watched them for a while.

Then she spotted something down the southern end of the lake that she wanted to see. Some kind of beach club by the look of it. As we sailed more she relaxed and released her death grip on the mast. She splashed her feet in the water and laughed at the effect.

We hit a bit of a lull and she told me she wanted to go faster. I took this as a good sign, but gave here a boring lecture on gusts and wind lines and all that stuff anyway. She splashed her feet in the water some more.

Then she saw that her father and brother were out sailing too and wanted to sail over and see them. So we did. Aidan looked just as happy as Emily. Then she told me she wanted to "race Daddy." I took this as a very good sign.

So we raced Litoralis and Aidan for a while and I gave her another boring lecture about how I was using the bad air off my sails to slow them down but she seemed to be having enormous fun in spite of that.

We sailed near the other half dozen Lasers doing informal races and I asked her if she wanted to join in with their races. She said yes. I took this as a very, very good sign.

I did my best to explain to her the race course and where the start/ finish line was.  I lined up outside the start line and let the other boats go off first. Didn't want to spook Emily by getting involved in any of the usual start line mayhem.

I did the usual lake sailing stuff - tack on the headers, go for the puffs - and we ended up in fourth place out of eight boats at the windward mark. I was pretty pleased with that but she wanted to know how her father and brother were doing. I looked around. "They're last," I told her. She seemed pleased about that.

Downwind I didn't pull up the daggerboard because she was sitting on the daggerboard shockcord. And I didn't do my usual extreme windward heel because I didn't want her to fall off the boat. But we maintained our position and we rounded the leeward mark in fourth.

"How's Daddy doing?"

"He's still in last place."

Big smile. Her. Not me.

Up the second beat I pointed out that if we could just pass that yellow boat, we would finish third. Not too shabby considering our late start and carrying a crew and not being able to sail properly downwind. So I did the usual lake sailing stuff - tack on the headers, go for the puffs - and we did pass the yellow boat and we were third. Not at all shabby considering.

"How's Daddy doing?"

"He's still in last place."

She seemed extraordinarily happy about that.

By now we had been sailing for about an hour. She was having fun. She was relaxed. She was enjoying sailing.

Mission accomplished.

But she had had enough, so we went in.

I don't know if last Saturday was the best day of my life so far, but it was pretty damn close.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Sailing with Grandkids - The Hook

I don't know if last Saturday deserves the title of "Best Day of My Life So Far" but it comes pretty damn close.

Regular readers of this blog will know that the two passions of my life are my sailing and my grandchildren. You have followed the ups and downs of my spectacularly incompetent Laser racing life; and you have read all the stories about (and looked at all the pictures of) my four grandchildren, Emily, Aidan, Owen and Isabel.

Oh yes. Sailing and grandchildren.

It's no secret that I've been looking forward to the day when I could go sailing with my grandkids. But I haven't pushed it. There's no way that I wanted to be pressuring the kids to do anything they didn't really want to do, and in any case whether or not the kids should participate in any activity is really up to the parents, not the grandparents.

So I have waited patiently and watched as the two older kids especially have had fun in the water, and learned to swim. I've always felt that before kids go sailing in small boats they should have learned that playing in the water is all about having fun; and that they should be totally confident in, on, around, and even under the water.

OK. Maybe I didn't just wait patiently. Maybe I did nudge things along a little bit. Like when I used to whisper subliminal messages to my grandkids when they were babies about how much they would enjoy sailing with Granddad one day when they were older. Or when I used to play with Emily (now six) when she was two years old in the backyard pool at the house she used to live in. Or when I bought Aidan (who turned four last week) presents such as model boats to build and a water slide for the back lawn.

Aidan splashing into the pool at the end of his new water slide

Late last week I still had no idea how this weekend was going to turn out, or even where I was going to go sailing. I was planning to sail the Newport Regatta at one point, but other family plans meant that we ended up staying over at my son's house in Massachusetts on Friday night. So I took my Laser with me intending to meet up on Saturday with some friends for some casual racing at Lake Massapoag instead.

I thought I was going to be doing that on my own. The rest of the family including the kids had other plans. But those plans fell through.

So, after lunch on Saturday I played a board game with Emily, and then she said she wanted me to make a collage with her. (She's very much into arts and crafts. She gets that from Tillerwoman.)

I said I was sorry but that I was going sailing and needed to start getting ready to go.

"Can I come with you?" she asked.

Wow. That was a shocker. She had never been to this sailing club before. Never expressed directly any interest in sailing with me before. But my years of dropping bait had finally worked. She wanted to go sailing. It was her idea.

"Sure you can, if your Dad says it's OK," I replied.

To cut a long story short, it was quickly decided that my son would bring his Laser to the lake too, and that both Emily and Aidan would come sailing with us.

Wow. The day I had been waiting for had arrived!

So off we all went to the lake....

(To be continued.)

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Janu Sirsasana

This is the stretch that I have found, over the years, gives me the greatest relief from stiffness - and sometimes pain - in the lower back after Laser sailing. I also find that doing this stretch before sailing generally reduces the amount of stiffness I feel after sailing.


I sailed my Laser three times last week.

On Monday I launched from Colt State Park in Bristol by myself and sailed over towards Barrington on Upper Narragansett Bay. The winds were pretty light so I worked on keeping my head out of the boat and looking for shifts and puffs, and judging lay lines to various buoys posing as windward marks, all of which I usually suck at but didn't seem too awful at on Monday. Then I practiced some roll tacks and roll gybes and proved to my satisfaction that I still suck at them.

On Thursday I thought I had arranged a group sail at noon for four sailors out of Independence Park at Bristol, But apparently I also suck at using Facebook. I didn't know that a response of "Boo.... OK"  to my invitation doesn't actually mean, "That's not my first choice of venue but I will be there." And I didn't know that a response of, "That's good," doesn't actually mean, "I am coming." Facebook is a mysterious world for people over 60.

So in the end it was me and the esteemed blogger Captain Judy of the famous Center of Effort blog. Apparently when Judy says, "I'll be there," it actually means, "I'll be there." We did a long downwind sail down the length of the harbor and out to Mount Hope Bridge. We sailed the angles. We dueled with wind shadows. It was all good.

Then we saw how fast the tide was sweeping us past the Hog Island Lighthouse so we turned around and did a long upwind race, playing the shifts, trying to work out whether it was best to go inshore to avoid the tide or to go for more pressure away from the shore. It was all good.

I thought my boat speed was OK, holding my own with this renowned coach. But then as Judy pulled her boat up the beach I noticed that her transom drain plug was hanging out and water was pouring out of her hull. She claimed that it had been like that all the time we had been sailing. Huh? I had spent the last two hours just barely keeping up with a Laser with its hull full of water? My boat speed must really suck.

(Or had she pulled it out seconds before we hit the beach just to psych me out?)

Then on Sunday I headed over to Massapoag Yacht Club in Sharon, Massachusetts and joined the Laser fleet there for their regular Sunday afternoon racing. What a scene. Friendly crowd of people, 12 Lasers out racing that day, and good winds.

Maybe my solo session on Monday had done some good because I felt really "in the zone." It was one of those days when I always seemed to hit the shifts just right and arrive at the windward mark in the lead, or at least with the leaders. Downwind it was important to look for the gusts and get in front of them, which I almost always managed to do.

In the first three races I scored 1,2,1 but then I ran out of steam and chose to sit out the final race.

Apparently my boat speed and my strategy at sailing shifts don't totally suck.

But my stamina totally does. Hey, I'm pushing 70, you know.

Life is good. (It's better than the alternative.)

I think I'll take a nap now.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012


Tillerwoman and I went out to lunch today in Mattapoisett, Massachusetts.

We almost bought a house here back in 2007.

It doesn't suck.


Can you launch a Laser here?

Is a Laser a water vehicle?

It's just a big sailboard really.


Monday, July 09, 2012

Deja Vu?


Today's story in SailFeed, Sailors or Swimsuit Models seems vaguely familiar.

I wonder why?

Update 3:50 pm Monday 9 July.  Coming soon. Anna Tunnicliffe sailing a Laser naked.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Vera, Chuck and Dave - and Lobster Chow Mein

It was my birthday on Friday.

My son and his wife and their three kids aged 6, almost 4, and 2 came down to see us.

It was the best kind of birthday present. My grandchildren are one of the greatest joys of my life these days.

My son and his wife were kind enough to leave the entertainment of the grandchildren to Tillerwoman and me while they attended to important stuff they needed to do on their computers.

So we played and played and played.

The kids played on our swing set and picked raspberries and blueberries in Tillerwoman's garden - and immediately ate them all of course.

We played card games and board games.

We played with toy cars.

There was cooking.

There was paint.

There was drawing with chalk all over my drive.

For dinner on Friday we all went out to dinner at Evelyn's.

One of their "signature" dishes is Lobster Chow Mein.

I love lobster. I quite like chow mein. But the combination always sounded kind of weird to me and I had never plucked up the courage to try it before.

I tried it.

It was weird.

But when the waitress asked me afterwards if I had enjoyed it I gave a noncommittal answer.

"I can finally cross it off my bucket list. Now that I've had Evelyn's Lobster Chow Mein I can die happy!"

All the adults laughed.

My 6 year old granddaughter, sitting right next to me, looked glum and said, "I can't laugh at that."

I had made her sad by talking about dying. She didn't know it was just an expression.

Our visitors stayed the night and all the kids came into our bed on Saturday morning and we read some books together.

Some of my friends were planning to go sailing on Buzzards Bay on Saturday but by the time our visitors left, it was too late for me to go and join them.

That's OK. My grandkids are even more fun than sailing.

By the way, my grandchildren are not really called Vera, Chuck and Dave. That's a line from the Beatles' song When I'm Sixty Four.  "Grandchildren on my knee - Vera, Chuck and Dave."

I turned 64 on Friday.

Life is good.

I think I'll take a nap now.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Only and Except

What is wrong with this picture?

No, no no. I wasn't drunk and tilting the camera at a wild angle. The sign really is tilting that way. But no, that wasn't what I was thinking of. There's something much more deeply disturbing and odd and wrong about this picture.

What does the sign really mean?

I should explain that this sign is next to the area where we park our cars and trailers when we go sailing from Independence Park in Bristol, like I did last Thursday. Everyone knows it's a parking area for cars and boat trailers. The parking slots are extra long to accommodate a car with a trailer behind it. And it's just up from the boat ramp, perfectly convenient for parking your car and boat trailer after you've launched your boat.

So why does the top sign say PARKING FOR TRAILERS ONLY

"Only" means "without others or anything further; alone; solely; exclusively." So if you can park ONLY trailers there you shouldn't park cars there too. Actually there was one trailer parked by itself there on Thursday. It was the only one compliant with the top sign. Every other trailer had a car or truck attached to it. None of them were ONLY trailers.

Perhaps it means, "Cars without trailers are not allowed to park here. This area is only for cars with trailers." But it doesn't say that.

Then how are we to interpret the second sign?


So you can park here for 5 hours, I guess. But how do we interpret "except for boat trailers"?

"Except" means "with the exclusion of; excluding." So boat trailers are not allowed to park 5 hours. So does that mean that boat trailers can't park there at all? Or that the 5 hour rule does not apply to boat trailers and they can park there indefinitely? The sign is ambiguous. You could read it either way.

But taken in combination with the top sign we now have a totally confusing, contradictory sign. Apparently only trailers can park here. But some vehicles can park here for 5 hours but those vehicles are not boat trailers. So what are they?  The only logical conclusion is that the authorities want people to park some other kinds of trailers next to the boat ramp for 5 hours. Farm trailers? Flat bed trailers? Mobile homes?

Why do does this bother me so much?

Why do I get worked up about such trivial issues of grammar and logic and word meaning?

What is wrong with me?

Friday, July 06, 2012

Laser Sailor on Friday

What is wrong with this picture?

No, wait. That was yesterday's post.

There's absolutely nothing wrong with this picture. It shows a very attractive young woman wearing a bikini. And the woman just happens to be Paige Railey, who is sailing in the Laser Radial for the US in the Olympics in a few weeks. 

Woo hoo! U S A! U S A!

Calm down Tillerman. You have a blog post to write.

The photo is from the US Sailing Team Sperry Top Sider (USSTSTS) website, from a gallery of photos of Paige titled Meet the Team - Paige Railey. There are some photos of Paige sailing, another one of her in a bikini, and one or two others.

I see that some of the the other US Olympic sailors on the USSTSTS have "meat meet the team" galleries, and Amanda Clark and Sarah Lihan, the 470 team, have a number of bikini shots in their gallery too.

Let's see. Are there any swimsuit shots of the male teams? Hmmm. Not so much. No speedos for sure! But Erick Storck and Trevor Moore do have one shot where one of the dudes has his shirt off.

Now don't get me wrong. I'm just as great an admirer of the female form as any other red-blooded (heterosexual) male. But is this a new trend? Have US Olympic female sailors been posing in bikinis for US Sailing in previous Olympic cycles? 

And what does it all mean? Are we being asked to admire and support these athletes because of their sailing achievements, or because they look hot in swimsuits? If so, who is driving that? The sponsors? The press? US Sailing? The athletes?

Is this part of the same phenomenon that led to that video Shooting Sailors I posted of some of the Oracle Team USA sailors a few days ago, the one in which a gaggle of female reporters flirted with the sailors and discussed such topics as wearing G-strings, beautiful eyes, how big their biceps were, and how "hot" they were?

Do top sailors have to be "hot" as well as fast these days? 

Did Dennis Conner have to pose for swimsuit photos?

Thursday, July 05, 2012