Thursday, October 31, 2013


I used to have a boss who confessed to me one day that he had a prejudice against men with beards. There was a young man in my department who sported a magnificent black bushy beard and, although this man was very good at his work, my boss was finding it very difficult to relate to him, to trust him.

"I just don't 'see' Sam," he explained to me. He needed to see all of a man's face when he looked him in the eye. With more than half the face hidden by the beard he found himself unable to assess Sam's character and decide what to make of him. At least he was self-aware enough to realize that it was as much his own problem as it was Sam's.

It's not an uncommon problem in our culture. There's even a name for it. Pognophobia. Fear of beards.

There was a bit of a kerfuffle at the BBC earlier this year when Newsnight presenter Jeremy Paxman came back from his summer holidays sporting a beard. The reaction from the public and his employer led Paxman to accuse his employer of pognophobia.  Why shouldn't a news presenter have a beard? Does a beard make him less credible?

Jeremy Paxman

Is this just a fashion or is there a significant part of the population who find men with beards less trustworthy, less credible?

Politicians are generally distrusted in our culture but they must somehow find a way to convince some people to believe them and to vote for them. How many politicians have beards? Not many. Do politicians think they appear more trustworthy by being clean-shaven?

Quick, without looking it up, who was the last American president to have a beard?

Well, judging by the thumbnail sketches of presidents on Wikipedia, every president for the last 100 years has been clean-shaven. Taft and Teddy Roosevelt had rather magnificent mustaches but the last bearded president, as far as I can tell, was Benjamin Harrison (1889-1893) and before that it was James Garfield who served only a few months in 1881 before being assassinated.

James Garfield

Of course fashions were different in the 19th century, but in our culture today is it easier or harder for a man with a beard to get away with a lie? Why do we say "bare-faced" lie? "Bare-faced" clearly implies "open" and "unconcealed" and apparently the expression dates back to 1592. Is a lie told by a bare-faced man somehow more bold or shocking than a lie told by a bearded man? How strange is that, possum?

Why are some people prejudiced against men with beards? I must admit to a mild case of pognophobia myself.  Living so close to Boston I really would like to support the Red Sox baseball team, but I find the current obsession of most of their players with wearing straggly long beards somewhat ridiculous, so I find it hard to take them seriously. (Even though they did win the World Series yesterday.)

Two Red Soxes

I did try to grow a beard myself once. It wasn't very impressive. Maybe that's why I'm a pognophobe? Perhaps I'm just jealous.

Of course there is a long tradition of beards in sailing, and the popular image of the grizzled sea dog is kept alive today by such famous sailors as Robin Knox-Johnston (first man to sail single-handed non-stop around the world) and Bruce Kirby (designer of the Laser.) I don't find myself the least bit prejudiced against these two gentleman because of their beards.

Robin Knox-Johnston

Bruce Kirby

On the other hand, the US Navy currently bans beards. How weird is that?

Why is Tillerman writing about beards? Didn't this used to be a sailing blog? When are we going to hear some stories about Tillerman's adventures at the North American Laser Masters or some dirt on the whole Laser/ Torch debacle? Has Tillerman gone off the reservation? And when will Tillerman stop this annoying habit of referring to himself in the third person?

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

I'm A Sailor Peg And I've Lost My Leg

It's going to be a wild night in Boston tonight.

The Red Sox have a chance to clinch the World Series at home for the first time since 1918.

And the national anthem will be sung by Dropkick Murphys, who will also play their hit song “I’m Shipping Up To Boston.”

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Austerity in Britain

Living in the Unites States as I do, I don't see much economic and political news from my home country, the United Kingdom.  But I am aware that Prime Minister David Cameron's government has been pursuing a program of austerity in an attempt to bring the UK deficit and debt under control.

I wasn't really aware of how badly this austerity program has been affecting ordinary folk in the old country until I read this post on Captain JP's log this week. Apparently things are so dire that the ladies on the rowing team at the University of Warwick can't even afford to buy any clothes in which to go rowing.

If you doubt this shameful truth then go and check out a whole series of similar photos here which document the sad state that Britain has reached as a result of Cameron's misguided economic policies.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Tiwal 3.2

The Tiwal 3.2 is supposedy the "very first high performance inflatable sailing dinghy."

What do you think?

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Where am I?

OK. I am cheating slightly with this question.

I am not currently where this picture was taken.

I did not take this picture.

I am not in this picture.

But I have sailed at this place before.

And some of my readers have too.

If you have seen this actual photo before, then please don't give away the answer just yet.

Where was this photo taken?

When was it taken?

What is going on?

Some clues... 

1. There was a time when I sailed at this place almost every year. 

2. The photo was taken this year but I was in Minorca at the time.

UnitedHealthcare Newport Half Marathon 2013

On Sunday I ran in the UnitedHealthCare Half Marathon in Newport, Rhode Island.

I chose to run the race for three reasons.

First of all it must be one of the most spectacular half marathon courses in the world. You start at First Beach in Newport and immediately run past the start of the famous Cliff Walk. Then after a short distance through the back streets of Newport, you emerge on famous Newport Harbor, run past Ida Lewis Yacht Club (famous as the home of Ida Lewis), past New York YC's Harbour Court (famous as the home of the 2013 North American Laser Masters), and through Fort Adams State Park (famous as the home of the Newport Laser Fleet).

Then it just gets better. After Castle Hill, you run alongside the Eastern Passage of Narragansett Bay with fabulous views across to Conanicut Island and to Point Judith, you round Brenton Point and head east along Ocean Drive with the best views in Rhode Island of the ocean and the amazing luxury homes along the coast. Eventually you leave the ocean and run along Bellevue Avenue seeing many of the Newport mansions (one of which is owned by the famous Larry Ellison.) Then, best of all, part of the final mile is downhill, back to the beach where you started.


The second reason I wanted to do this half marathon this year was that when I first attempted it a few years ago I hadn't trained properly and I ran out of oomph after about 9 miles and walked most of the last 3 or 4 miles. I needed to prove myself that I could really do this course and maintain a good pace all the way round.

And the third reason was that many months ago I had foolishly challenged my 35-year-old son to run this race with me... and he had amazed me by accepting the challenge. So then I had to do it. My son was on the track and cross-country teams in high school but hasn't done much running since. So, when I showed him the Jeff Galloway half marathon training schedule and pointed out that (a) you only need to run 3 days a week for the whole 17 week program and (b) if you can run 3 miles you can start the program, he decided he would do it.

There was a slight complication about this plan: my son's wife was due to give birth 7 days after the day of the race. But his wife was very supportive and encouraged him to complete the training and do the race.

Then there was a much bigger complication about this plan: my son's wife actually gave birth (to a son) on the day BEFORE the race. So my son had to get up in the early hours of Saturday to drive his wife to the hospital after her contractions started, and then support her through the birth and in the first few hours afterwards; and Tillerwoman and I spent Saturday looking after their other three kids and taking those kids to the hospital to see their new brother. I wouldn't have blamed him if my son had decided to skip the race, but amazingly he decided to go ahead and his wonderful wife supported his decision.

So my son and I met up at the start at some ungodly hour on Sunday, and ran the race. Based on our training times I expected that my son would be slower than me but I had offered to run all the way with him. However, he would have none of it, and encouraged me to run my own race even if that meant leaving him behind. I stayed with him the first few hundred yards but he soon told me to go ahead. We did see each other briefly as I was heading out of Fort Adams as he was heading in. I phoned him when I reached the 5 mile mark and he assured me he was OK.

I stuck to my plan to run the first 7 miles at an easy, conversational pace, and then to pick up the pace a bit. I did run faster for miles 8, 9 and 10, but then I had another slight oomph deficit and returned to my easier pace for the final 3 miles. At the finish they called my name out on the PA system and I waved deliriously at the crowd and the cameramen. I expect there will be some photos online soon of me looking like some crazy old geezer about to collapse in a puddle of sweat. I might share them here if they are funny enough.

After the finish I called my son again and confirmed he was still going well. I had time to grab some Gatorade and a banana and then to find a good spot to cheer him on as he sprinted to the finish. He was looking very pleased with himself as well he should. It's not every weekend you welcome your fourth child into the world AND run your first half marathon.

I could show you some picture of the views.

I could show you some pictures of the runners in front of me (which would probably appeal to dirty old men who like seeing photos of fat-bottomed girls.)

But I think the best picture to sum up the weekend is this one.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

We're Gonna Need a (Much) Bigger Boat!

Our fifth grandchild (and third grandson) Andrew James, arrived in the world at 8:21am this morning, weighing in at 9lb 4oz.

We hope to be taking his sister and brothers to see him later.

We're gonna need a much bigger boat!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Caption Contest

Well, everyone had a lot of fun thinking up captions for the photo of the Sunfish sailor trying to launch through the surf at Lewes Delaware a few days ago.

It's been a wet and windy week in that corner of the country. Apparently, it's even driving the kayakers crazy. This photo was posted on the Facebook page of Qajaq USA which is the American Chapter of Qaannat Kattuffiat - the Greenland Kayak Association, and was originally captioned, "The road to Delmarva."

But I'm sure YOU can think of a better caption than that!

Thanks to Bonnie for drawing this to my attention on her Facebook page.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Duff Beer 64th Laser Sailing Day of 2013

"Duff Beer - Can't Get Enough of that Wonderful Duff."

Today I went for a practice sail by myself on the Sakonnet River, launching from Seapowet Beach.

I do that a lot these days.

I guess I like being an antisocial bastard.

I worked on some of the many faults that were pointed out to me by the coaches at Minorca Sailing.

I practiced run to run gybes and discovered a trick that prevented that awful "sheet caught round the transom" issue.

I practiced tacks and discovered how to finally get rid of that awful "triple clutch hand swap" issue.

I practiced simulated starts and discovered how to do that "acceleration when the boat to leeward has only given you about 6 inches of room to bear away" thingie.

All in all it was a very productive afternoon.

There weren't many other boats out on the Sakonnet on a dull, cloudy October afternoon.

I like it like that.

I would like to thank the sponsors of my 64th Laser sail of 2013, Duff Beer, brewers of Duff Stout - "the beer that made Ireland famous."


All we are is...


I should have had pictures of dinghy racing for you today. Instead, here is a potato.

Here is another potato.

Bonnie made me do it.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Caption Contest

It's been a bit breezy at the Sunfish Worlds in Lewes Delaware this week with a NE wind kicking up some nice surf in the launch area. Photo credit to Sue Ingram via a Facebook posting by Eric Woodman.

There are some days when I feel quite nostalgic for my former life as a Sunfish sailor.

I think I would have enjoyed this Worlds.

Dreaming of Fish and Ice Cream

Yesterday evening I must have dozed off in front of the TV.

But then I had this really strange dream.

I was at some place that had a giant outdoor fish tank. And the tank was full of sting rays!

In a field nearby some men were playing with a ball and a bat. It looked a lot like the English game of rounders. But almost all the men on one team were wearing funny looking beards. Bushy beards, straggly beards, pathetic little pointy beards. Frankly it made them look rather ridiculous.

And then one of the men without a beard hit the ball way high in the air and it landed in the fish tank!

Was that the point of their game, I wondered?

I was worried that the ball might have hurt some of the sting rays. What would PETA say? But the men playing ball didn't seem to care. The team with beards looked all sad and dejected and slunk off the field. But the other team went wild, jumping up and down and laughing and squealing and patting the man who had hit the ball.

Then they gave him some ice cream.

Yes. Ice cream!

Bizarre, huh?

What does it all mean?

Fish. Beards. Ice cream.

What would Freud say?

PS. I do hope no fish were injured in the making of this dream.

Friday, October 04, 2013


Sailtember dude

A few weeks ago I heard about a guy who lives not too far away from me in Massachusetts who had set himself a challenge to go sailing every day in September. He had bought an old Laser and has access to a small sloop, not to mention he apparently has several friends with larger boats, so he had plenty of choices of what to sail.

As far as I could gather from his blog and an exchange of emails, he has a business that gives him plenty of free time, he likes a challenge, and he feels he owes himself doing something like sailing a lot after a stressful couple of years dealing with some family matters. So I offered to go Laser sailing with him some time before I headed off to Europe in early September.

I see now from his blog Sailtember that he did achieve his ambition to sail every day in the month, something I have never achieved in spite of having at least as much free time as he does. Good for him!

And what a lot of adventures he had along the way!

There was the encounter with the Pissing Cop.

There was the day he waited all day for the rain to clear and then went sailing around sunset in a lightning storm.

There was a day with better weather which he seems to have spent driving all over Massachusetts collecting various boat parts which he had previously forgotten to pick up. But he still managed to get out for a sunset sail in his Laser.

There was the weekend he went out on his Laser to watch the Azorean Whale Boat Racing in New Bedford that seemed to be mainly memorable for the extreme amount of boat ramp mayhem and trailer park hassle on both day 1 and day 2. He's a better man than me. I always try to go and launch somewhere quieter when I can see that the boat ramp maniacs are out in force.

And this guy has connections! He somehow managed to get himself invited to crew on something called a J-80 in a 3 day regatta on Lake Winnipesaukee. I think a J-80 is basically like a big Laser only it has cupholders and costs 7 times as much.

And one day he managed to get a ride with his girlfriend on his friend's father's 40+ foot boat across Buzzards Bay from Padanaram to Cuttyhunk. (And back.) I've always wanted to do that one day, but in a Laser of course. But hey, it all counts towards his Sailtember challenge.

So congratulations to Mason (the Sailtember dude's real name) on achieving his goal. I enjoyed the day that my friend and I went Laser sailing with him on Upper Narragansett Bay and was glad to contribute in a small way to help him with the challenge.

Maybe I should do something like that?

Go Laser sailing in Rhode Island every day in January?

Or then again, maybe not.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

The Beer Runner

I'm one of those people who likes to set themselves ridiculous and pointless personal challenges...

Sail my Laser 100 times in a year.

Run a marathon.

Write a blog post every day for a month on the subject of STRANGE.



I am almost embarrased to own up to some of the things I have attempted (and usually failed to achieve) because of this obsessive side of my personality.

But I stand in awe of Tim Cigelske, the Beer Runner, who has just completed a streak of running at least one mile and drinking at least one beer every day for three years.

Now THAT is a challenge I could get excited about.