Thursday, May 23, 2013

Volunteerism, New Course Offerings

One of the hallmarks of CBI's sailing programs is "member teaching  member" and  informal instruction.  Most of our classes in the adult program are taught by other members who volunteer.  Many of our volunteer instructors initially  learned to sail at CBI, some of them many years ago.  All of them bring a wide range of experience and most importantly a love and passion for the sport of sailing.  In addition to our volunteers who  teach scheduled classes, CBI relies on our members to take out new sailors for informal instruction. This is a great way to learn - more like the playground  than the classroom.  I recommend it highly.

Starting in 2013, we have added a new layer to our cake.With the goal of providing the best possible instruction in our advanced sailboats (Lasers, 420s, Sonars, Rhodes 19s, and Windsurfers) we are pleased to offer more comprehensive courses which will meet over 3 two and a half  hour class sessions.  The courses will be taught by highly experienced instructors and will have a fee of $25.     I think these courses will be a great addition to CBI and help to advance your skills..

I am also excited to announce that CBI is launching the new "Harbor Navigation and Seamanship" course built on the model we have used in the Junior Program for the past two years.  Steve Porco, who many of you know from his work in our maintenance department, will be teaching  the  new Harbor Trip Course.  There will be three class sessions where you'll gain  essential skills and knowledge, and then sail on an actual Harbor Trip.    Steve will escort his class on Rhodes 19s  through the locks, and out to one of the harbor islands, and then back to CBI at the end of the day.  If you've got the bug to sail to horizons farther away this is the way to get started.


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

What Is Incorporated About Community Boating Anyway?

From time to time I have the  opportunity to explain what Community Boating Inc. (CBI) is to someone who has never heard of us.  Usually my description includes our programs, our charitable mission, our volunteers, our sailors - youth, adult and accessible,- and snippets of our colorful history. I love talking about CBI this way.  If time allows I might get into a description of our corporation.   "Corporation" is an unfortunate word for a charitable not-for-profit organization.  It sound like a business.  It's hard to avoid because CBI stands for Community Boating INCORPORATED. While some facets of CBI are similar to a business, instead of delivering  financial returns to owners, CBI delivers services and programming for the benefit of society.  CBI provides a nationally recognized Universal Access Sailing Program to hundreds of sailors at no charge.  CBI also provides youth sailing memberships at $1 to close to 700 kids from families of limited financial resources, and also to adult individuals with special circumstances.

So back to the word "corporation".  Community Boating's  corporation is a group of approximately 200 folks who are corporation members. Upon application to CBI's board of directors, individuals are appointed corporation members. Corporation members are committed to supporting the mission of Community Boating.  Our board of directors is elected from the corporation. Only corporation members may be directors of CBI. A corporation member is like a shareholder, holding just one share of CBI,   with none of the  benefits of ownership and all the responsibility of stewardship and governance.
CBI's corporation meets annually on the third week of October during which elections for the board of directors are held.

CBI always needs to bring new folks into the corporation to refresh, rejuvenate, and inspire.  If you are already a member of the CBI community, perhaps you volunteer in some way and share our passion for "Sailing for All" and a desire to support CBI's mission, I hope you will consider applying to join CBI's corporation.  If you would like more information please contact me directly at



Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Welcome CBI 2013 Sailing Season

Welcome one and all to CBI's 2013 sailing season.  Perhaps you've heard the phrase "the more things change, the more they stay the same?" That describes CBI pretty well.  We have some pretty significant changes happening this year..   We've got a new database.  It allows us to sell memberships online. Soon we'll be able to sign up for classes online too.  We can keep track of who is sailing when, and that is important for keeping everyone safe on the water. We've got new classes and curriculum. Most of our changes over time are incremental.  Small bits of evolution which add up over time to big differences.  In 1998, my first year as CBI's adult program director, we sometimes had only two or fewer safety launches in working order. Today our fleet of launches includes a total of 10 vessels and I can state for the record and  unequivocally that our great staff today are just spoiled rotten by having launches that work all the time!  In 1998 we had no connection to this thing we've all grown completely dependent on - the web.  When the weather forecast called for a chance of thunderstorms we watched the sky.  When we heard thunder or saw lightening we knew it was time to evacuate the river - usually too late for comfort. Today we monitor weather web sites and can evacuate the river before the lightning is upon us.

The list of changes over time seems quite large and I'll save more reminiscences for another time.   However there are some really big things that stay the same at CBI and they are more important than what changes.  CBI is first and foremost a community of members as opposed to consumers.  Most of our classes in the adult program are taught by other member volunteers. Volunteer members offer informal instruction daily. Volunteers work on special projects and serve on committees helping us to manage our affairs. Volunteers help organize harbor trips, Sunday morning  racing, Tuesday night racing, Wednesday night racing, and Friday night racing.  Sometimes volunteers organize swing dances! Without the hundreds of volunteers who join our spring and fall work parties I don't know how we would get our fleet hauled and stored in November and then launched and rigged again in March. CBI thrives because of volunteer engagement.  So I encourage you folks who are new to CBI this year, to get your helmsman rating, get sailing and then lend a hand. Maybe start off by offering informal instruction to other new members who are following along behind you. BTW we teach a "How to Give Informal Instruction" class to help you out.

"The mission of Community Boating, Inc.  is the advancement of sailing for all by minimizing economic and physical barriers to the sport of sailing.  In addition, CBI enhances the greater Boston community by using sailing as a vehicle to empower it's members to develop independence and self-confidence, improve communication, foster teamwork, and acquire a deeper understanding of community spirit and the power of volunteerism."

Welcome and Cheers!


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Marty Nakashian - Volunteer,Teacher and Navigator

I first met Marty Nakashian in the spring of 1998.  I was CBI's new Program Director and feeling some sense of trepidation as I tried to figure out how CBI worked.  It was and is a unique mixture of personalities worthy of some literary description far beyond my skills.  Marty epitomized much of what makes CBI special. Here are a few of my recollections. 

On Friday nights Marty set up the grill, put on the apron and cooked burgers and dogs for everyone at sunset.  He'd charge enough money to cover the cost but no more.  Then on Saturday or Sunday if the weather was nice he'd set up an information table in front of the boathouse.  He would answer questions all afternoon managing to  communicate a sense of love for sailing on the Charles and CBI.  Marty helped CBI's harbor trips by using computer programs to create tide charts for the purposes of trip planning.  This was before the time of the internet explosion.  I don't know the exact time frame but Marty served on CBI's board of directors for many years. Marty may have been most renowned for his navigation classes.  Marty taught two navigation classes at CBI over many decades, Coastal Piloting, and Celestial Navigation.  Anyone who took one of these courses was in for a treat.  Marty was a brilliant teacher.  He distilled the complex into the easy to understand. I can honestly say he made many Charles River Mercury sailors into navigators.  Marty maintained the compass rose on the dock next to the dock house.  When the dock was replaced in the winter of 2010-2011, Marty volunteered to paint a new compass rose  for CBI.  Today you can see the last compass rose Marty painted.   It's quite beautiful.  I always find something comforting in navigational things such as charts and compass roses. They orient the universe. They help people find their way. In many ways in life Marty helped CBI find it's way.  The family of Marty Nakashian has requested that donations in memory of Marty may be donated to CBI for the purpose of maintaining his compass rose.  It will be comforting to know that Marty will be keeping CBI on course in the future.


Monday, July 9, 2012

How to dock when the breeze is up and blowing from the water towards CBI

A couple of Sunday's ago I had an opportunity to help some folks get back to the dock.  Their problem was that the wind was blowing directly onto the dock.  This meant that even when they let their sail out all the way and turned their boat alongside the dock, the sail was still catching the wind and they weren't slowing down.  This meant a landing more resembling  crashing into another boat already secured to the dock.  If you can't bring your boat to a stop in breeze then your dockings will always be crash landings.  Is this just fate that we accept and stoically endure or is there a better way? I am happy to say that there is clearly a better way which is easy to execute.

Here are the easy to follow steps.

1) Before you pass the tip of the island have your halyard ready to run free and loosen your boom vang a bit.

2) As soon as you pass the tip of the island (hopefully 10 to 12 boatlengths from the island - let's say mostly in front of the dock house)  push your tiller toward your sail hard and go "head-to-wind".  You are essentially going into"irons". You are looking sharp now! Lower your sail all the way down.  You have plenty of time so just make it neat enough so you can steer using the tiller without the boom blocking it's range of motion.

3) You now find yourself with no sail up, practically dead in the water, and the wind is blowing your boat to the dock (Isn't that where you are trying to get to?).  You will be pleasantly surprised that your boat will very soon have enough way on so you can steer. Aim for the best parking space you can find. The beauty of this is that no matter where your boat finds the dock, it will be a gentle engagement - No Damage!  Even if you bump into another boat it will will be gentle as well.

4) If you are skeptical and would like to see this in action then come down to CBI on a late Sunday morning when the breeze is piping up out of the west (Cambridge to Boston).  CBI's Tiller Club racers always take a break.  They sail back to CBI en masse.  You will see all of them dropping their sails before landing.  They are racers and  do it with a bit more finesse than I just described.  However, the fundamental technique is the same. When I see someone executing a docking like this in breeze I know they have some miles under their keel..



Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Gybing - Friend Or Foe?

Gybing is definitely your friend.   Here are quick pointers for successful gybing SIDES - HANDS - STEER - CONTROL.

First, Gybe when you are going as fast as possible.  By sailing fast downwind you minimize the apparent wind speed and this minimizes the force of the wind "felt" by the sails.  In 15 kts of breeze, if your hull speed is 3.5 kts then the wind felt by the sails will only be11.5 kts.  A veritable calm!

Here are the four steps to gybing and NOT capsizing.

1) "Switch sides"  
While sailing dead downwind, and paying close attention to maintain that point of sail, stand up facing forward and straddle the  aft end of the centerboard trunk.

2) 'Switch Hands"
Hold the tiller with whichever hand is to leeward. If you are on a starboard tack then you will switch from your left to your right hand.  If you had been on a port tack then you will switch from your right to your left hand.

3) "Steer"
Steer by using your weight and the rudder together.  Slightly shift your weight, and push your tiller to windward . If you are on a starboard tack this means weight  and tiller to starboard.  On port tack - the opposite. The boat will now turn "away"  from the wind such that the wind will catch the 'back side" of the leech and quickly push the sail across the boat.  4 letters spell a very important word at this point.  D-U-C-K.

4) "Control"
Moments before the gybe, I hold the mainsheet such that I am feeling the pressure exerted by the sail.  At one particular moment the pressure gets light just before the wind will grab the back side of the mainsail and push it across the boat..  You will also notice just before that moment that the jib will start switching sides on it's own.  Then I pull the mainsheet hard (even jerk it) to expedite moving the sail across the boat and simultaneously straighten the tiller (bring it to the middle of the boat).  The tiller should ALREADY be pointing directly down the middle of the boat when the boom crosses overhead. This is one of the more important fine points that will prevent you from spinning out, heeling far over, and filling up with water as you capsize. Additionally since prior to gybing you already "switched sides and hands" you are perfectly positioned to hike out hard on the new windward side.  If you need, when the boom is crossing the boat, you can even push the tiller slightly past mid position as you and your crew hike out hard on the new windward side.

There are still a few fine points to this process which involve more aggressive rolling of the boat and engaging the crew in helping to throw the main over.  These will become important on the race course.  However, for now start practicing what I have outlined here and you will be on your way to fast fun gybing in any wind condition.

Gybe early, gybe often.


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Apparent wind/True Wind and US Sailing New sailing textbook

I wanted to write about gybing a sailboat.  But one point I need to make in that discussion early on is that speed is your friend and that safe and secure gybing should be executed when sailing at max speed. This is a little bit counter-intuitive at first.  So I need to explain.  However, before starting I realized that you need to understand the difference between true wind and apparent wind. So I'll make a few comments here about wind and my next blog will go into gybing. 

True wind - it's the actual wind.  Just stand still and feel the breeze.  That's true wind.  Now start moving in a direction and then you feel the apparent wind.  Apparent wind is what you feel when you are moving. Apparent wind and true wind are exactly the same if you are stationary.  They are different when  you are moving.  Let me illustrate.  You are parked in your car, perfectly still.  The wind is blowing at 10 mph in exactly the same direction that your car is pointing.  The true and apparent wind are both 10 mph.  Now you start driving at 5mph (BTW you have a nice little convertible).  Since you are going in the same direction as the true wind you will feel an apparent wind of only 5mph (10 minus 5). The true wind is still 10.  Now accelerate your car to 10 mph.  The apparent wind (what you feel)  is 0 mph.  The true wind is still 10.  Now accelerate to 20  and you will begin to feel an apparent wind of 10 mph apparently moving in the opposite direction(20-10) .  Once you've got this basic concept down  then it gets a bit more interesting if the true wind is moving either left or right in relation to the direction that you are moving.  Remember using vectors is high school math class?  Thank goodness because using vectors make sit all come clear. Now it will be easy for me to explain an important reason why,  when you gybe,  you should be going as fast as possible. When gybing speed is your friend.  More on gybing in my next blog

US Sailing has a great new book called Learn Sailing Right, Intermediate Sailing.,675.html.  We are selling this latest offering at our front desk.  I highly recommend it.   Even if you already have your CBI  JIB rating this book is full of great information in detail that can help you improve your sailing skills. It follows on US Sailing's excellent Learn Sailing Right, Beginning Sailing.   

Next time - Gybing, Friend or Foe?