Thursday, October 21, 2010

Blog #24 10/21/10 Wildlife and barges in the river

So this blog has taken a little hiatus since my last posting on Sept. 4 about American Airlines.  Sadly my effort to elevate AA's social conscience has fallen a bit short. it goes....  But now I have many better things to write about including strange creatures and a large object in the Charles River.  You may have heard that late in the summer a 4 foot alligator was captured up river.  This is ominous for someone who occasionally swims in the river, either through capsize or the Charles River One Mile Swim (  I am comforted that it was only 4 feet long.  However what about it's mother or father?  That's what really concerns me. 
Another visitor to the Charles River was spotted numerous times over the past week - a harbor seal.  We've seen him/her several times as have many other folks at MIT and the Duck Tours.  I spoke with the NE Aquarium (as have others) and yes the seal probably belongs on the other side of the locks.  This isn't the first seal to wander up river from the locks and hopefully it will find it's way back out to the harbor soon on it's own. In the meantime the NE Aquarium is aware of the seal and is monitoring the situation to see if they will attempt to capture and remove it to where it more properly belongs.

Now onto barges.  The demolition/construction barge/crane has arrived and is parked alongside CBI's docks. The  barge arrived today only a couple of hours after the official "ground breaking" for the dock project, where Secretary Ian Bowles, having received extensive training by your truly, fired CBI's world famous signalling canon to initiate the demolition of the dock.   The canon's mighty bang was awesome and thunderous, a show of explosive force, truly terrible and magnificent all at the same time. After the smoke had cleared, and the smell of gun powder lingered briefly, the windsurfing shed met it's demise at the hands of a large tractor.  As you may realize by now, all this is to say, in as long winded a way as possible, that the dock demolition has begun in earnest.  We've shifted the web cam ( to face down the dock so you can watch the progress of the project online.
Here's a picture of the barge and crane today. 

Tomorrow I'll review the status of the project and the  financial support from both the state and private partners which are making the new docks a reality.


Saturday, September 4, 2010

American Airlines, Can't we just be friends?

With this blog I'm going a little bit out on a limb and I hope it is not a big mistake.  Has anyone not seen one of those beautiful pictures of CBI and our sailboats on the Charles River with the Boston skyline behind? Recently some sailing friends showed me a great picture of CBI from an American Airlines advertisement. It made me want to come to Boston, and I'm here every day!  It's an image which has become iconic to Boston - as it should be.  CBI is a Boston original -the first community sailing program in the nation and the largest too.  Volunteerism and community are the core values which drive our organization .We serve thousands of children with outreach to inner city neighborhoods, and hundreds of individuals with disabilities through our Universal Access Program.  At the core, CBI's programs use sailing as a vehicle to bigger and better goals as articulated in our mission statement. See our mission statement here.

As is often the case when we see a great image of CBI in a commercial advertisement there is a  little voice inside that says, "Hey! that's us!" And almost immediately after, "That company should support CBI some how. After all they are in fact using us to help market their business!". Regardless of how sensible that sentiment might appear to us it apparently doesn't hold a lot of  water in the corporate world.  Many corporations have used the picture of CBI  for their own marketing purposes.  And we are still waiting for them to send CBI a little something for the holidays. 

So my friends wrote a note to American Airlines suggesting that a little corporate support might be a good idea. If I were a large corporation like American Airlines I would want to associate myself with a fine organization like CBI, especially when CBI has such a highly visible and iconic image.   Well maybe not.  Since I have a pretty big soft spot in my heart for CBI I thought the tone of American Airlines response to us was mean. AA explained that they purchased  the image from a reputable third-party online vendor and claimed that using the CBI image was not an attempt to convey to viewers that AA sponsors, endorses or is affiliated with CBI.  They conclude "As such, American also declines Community Boating, Inc's request to contribute to it's organization.  This letter is sent without waiving any of American Airlines rights or remedies all of which are expressly reserved." 

Ouch! I think they missed the point.  Maybe they are just not nice? maybe they just woke up on the wrong side of the bed that morning? We teach kids to sail. We charge a buck. We teach individuals with disabilities to sail. We charge a buck.  We're a pretty nice organization. They ought to support us.  They could do worse.

So here's my idea.  Forward this blog onto friends and let's all just pull at their heart strings a little and see if we can interest American Airlines in "Sailing for All' especially for children and individuals with disabilities.  I'm sure once they think on it for a moment they'll recognize a pretty good idea.  American Airlines - you can contact me directly at  Look forward to hearing from you soon.


Thursday, September 2, 2010

Hurricane Earl and the 1-2-3 rule.

Hurricane Earl is looking like a nice visit to the Carolina's is in order.  And then maybe a little romp up our way.  Fortunately I have no experience sailing in, around, or about a hurricane.  I will be content to keep it that way and I believe this is a widely and wisely accepted course of action for most folks.  However, if you sail enough distance over enough time, you  will probably come in contact with situations that should be avoided, a hurricane being the most obvious and extreme example.  So have you heard of the 1-2-3 rule?  Sailors have lots of little rules, saynings, and kernals of wisdom to keep them from getting themselves into trouble. The 1-2-3 rule helps you avoid bumping into a hurricane.  Since that seems like a good idea I am sharing it with you here.

1  -  100 miles / 24 hour forecast
2  -  200 miles / 48 hour forecast
3  -  300 mile / 72 hour forecast

How to apply the rule:       1)  Look at the 24 hour forecast for the track of the hurricane.  Stay 100 miles away from the track.  2)  Look at the 48 hour forecast for the track of the hurricane. Stay 200 miles away from the track. And last but not least 3) Look at the 72 hour forecast for the track of the hurricane. Stay 300 miles away from that track.  This is a little bit simplified so check out this web site for more information.


Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Check Out Next Issue of Basin Breeze for Information About the Fall Season, Great Weather Book, Dock Project, Sail a Twelve Meter in Newport.

Keep your eyes peeled for the next Basin Breeze newsletter.  We'll be posting information about the fall season.

Here is an outstanding book about weather designed to give you the basic tools of forecasting with a focus on sailors, mariners, and aviators.  Might come in handy as a big  hurricane is just starting to barrel it's way up the east coast.  Should pass us us on Thursday.

Weather Predicting Simplified  by Michael William Carr, published by International Marine.

CBI has chartered the classic 12 meter yacht Weatherly, on Sept 19 in Newport RI.  We've got 14 crew spaces available.  The cost is $200 per person.  This is truly a unique sailing experience you shouldn't miss.  I know I won't. Sign up at the front desk before all the spots are taken.

Next Tuesday,  September 14, construction work begins in earnest on the front office. For 14 days showers will be offline and we'll have portable toilets available.


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Kids Sail The Stars" and Racing Under the Stars on Block Island Sound.

I recently sailed in two sailboat races which I will remember for a long time.  The first was CBI's "Kid's Sail the Stars". As a guest "star" I was paired up with two junior sailors and charged with offering as much support, advice, and wisdom as I could to help them get around the race course as well as possible.  I was not allowed to steer, trim or otherwise physically put my hands to the task.  Neither of the juniors I was sailing with had raced before.  We sailed 4 races. What I enjoyed most about the experience was that while our finishes were generally near the back of the fleet, their enthusiasm was at the top of the fleet.  Half way through the evening, one of them just blurted out, "This is so cool. I love this".  What I percieved was that they both had great instincts, and a fearless love of trying to make the sailboat move faster.  They loved being on the water. I don't think they will find themselves near the back of the fleet too much longer.

The second race was the Ida Lewis Long Distance Race.  We started at 1:00 PM last Friday and finished a bit after 12 noon on Saturday.  Generally light winds prevailed and the wind forcast was only about 50% correct (what a surprise).  We sailed well, made good decisions, and finished near the top of the fleet.  But what a night.  Clear clear skies. A brilliant sunset. Light from the moon glistening on the water.  The moon set early in the morning and the milky way came out in all it's splendor. Sunrise was like one more encore of a virtuoso performance. Through out a sailboat race you are constantly focusing on VMG (velocity made good), proper sail trim, having the right sails up for the wind conditions, and keeping your focus positive even when things go wrong. You fill in the gaps with good food and a brief nap (if you're lucky).Working together in a single minded effort with your crewmates ties the whole experience together.   It does my heart good to know that CBI  opens the door to sailing for so many, especially  kids.  I know that the two juniors I sailed with will one day find themselves sailing, maybe racing, under the moon away from land.  I hope they will remember their experiences here at CBI.   I also hope that they will adopt an attitude of giving back to others, having received much themselves.  Then I'll know that CBI did what it's supposed to do.


Monday, August 23, 2010

"Go Sailing Young Man/Woman, Go Sailing"

This morning I listened to a talk show on NPR.  The topic was about 20 something's - the phenomenon that more young adults are living at home longer, becoming fully independent later in life, and delaying casting off their last dockline and setting sail on their own.  I've no idea if this is a good thing or not. I think maybe not.  Social scientists have started studying these young adults, comparing them to past generations and will let us know what the data suggests soon.  I'm hoping that they will discover that leaving the nest (mooring) sooner rather than later is a better way to go about life.    I also hope that they take a look at kids who sail and discover that sailing fosters the qualities of independence which make for strong, individuals and young adults who are likely to leave home sooner rather than later.  Maybe a whole generation will hear the words "go sailing young man/woman, go sailing" much as the generation after the Civil War heard the phrase made famous by Horace Greeley, "Go west young man, go west". 

I realize that this blog entry treads very close to waxing philosophical.  For this I ask for your indulgence.  Also I want you to know that CBI's IT department is working night and day on upgrading this blog so comments can be submitted and we can start having dialog.   I'm worried about this. I'm concerned that my blog honeymoon is about to be over.  Ah well, time to cast off the dockline.....


Saturday, August 14, 2010

Guest Blog -Irving Itzkan Explains Some Sailing Terminology

I am pleased to have Irving Itzkan write today's blog.  If any of you have ever been fortunate enough to have Irv as your instructor then you will understand my enthusiasm.  A life long sailor, volunteer and instructor at CBI, Irv also dabbled, on the side I think, in physics having held research positions at MIT and Harvard, just to name the two I am familiar with. Regardless of Irv's interests outside of sailing I am thrilled to have  Irv offer today's blog which I'm sure you'll find interesting.   Thank you Irv!-c

Sailing Terms
In my sailing classes at Community Boating, many students are often fascinated by those sailing terms that are completely new to them and some want to know their origin. The one that seems strangest is “boom vang”, the tackle that keeps the boom from riding up, and I usually have to repeat it and even spell it. I explain, using the very old joke, that the boom did not get its name from the sound it makes when it hits your head, (slipping in an oblique cautionary note), but is actually Dutch for “tree” (in German, “baum”), and that “vang” comes from the same Germanic root as “fang” and the root means “to grab” hence “boom grabber”. The device was originally used on the aftermost fore-and-aft sail on large ships which is called a spanker. The spanker is stretched between two spars, the lower one is called the boom and the upper one is called the gaff.  The original vang was attached from the end of the gaff on the spanker to the rail, and its purpose was to act as a preventer to keep the gaff from accidentally gybeing (crossing over to the other side of the ship) and causing the sail to “hourglass”, that is, to have the boom on one side and the gaff on the other.

“Painter”, the line attached to the bow of a small boat, always seems strange because of its English meaning of “artist”. However it comes from the old French “pendoir” (modern French “pendre”) which means something which hangs, as in pendulum or depend.  The pendoir was a line that was hung from the stern of a ship at anchor to enable the crew of arriving small boats to grab it and tie up, and from this a line which ties up a small boat became a painter.

The origin of starboard and port is always of interest. In the early days of sail, ships were steered with a steering board, which was mounted on the right side of the ship, and that side of the ship became the steering board, or starboard side. Then, in order not to have to unship the heavy steering board, ships were always parked with the unencumbered, that is the left side, towards the port. A board to facilitate the off-loading and on-loading of cargo, called the lading board, was then rigged on the left side, and that side of the ship became the lading board, or larboard side. However larboard and starboard sounded too much alike, and created dangerous confusion, especially when shouted orders competed with strong winds howling in the rigging. So “larboard” was changed to “port”, since it was the side of the ship towards the port.

Irv Itzkan

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Dock Construction Project - Show Time! Best Weather Web Sites

After almost 7 years we finally get to stop talking about the "new docks" and see project move forward for real.  Here are the most important dates effecting our sailing operations  this fall..

August 23    420s decommissioning and storage begins. Plastic docks returned to "Head of the Charles" with our thanks.  Hauling and storage of keel boat, mercuries, launches begins.
Sept. 7      High Performance dock closed. Lasers and Windsurfers decommissioninfgand storage begins.
Sept. 7     Front Office construction begins.  Office closed.  We will access the dock next to the building and set up a makeshift office in the mainbay.  This last 3 weeks.
Oct. 4      Demolition and piling removal begins at high performance dock.
Oct 11     Last day of 2010 sailing season.

Once the fall gets here I  feel a little down when mention of the last day of the sailing season is made.  Not this year.  This year October 11, our last day of the sailing season, feels more like a well anticipated birthday with a special present long hoped for.  The dock we stand on today have given us every last measure of it's engineered life, then a bit more, then quite a bit more, and finally, through some force of nature not fully understood by science, the 2010 sailing season.  If one can feel gratitude for an inanimate object then our dock is a good candidate for that. Perhaps it would be more appropriate to thank those who built it many decades ago.  It has served thousands very well. I hope folks 50 years hence will think kindly towards the efforts of CBI , the DCR, The Esplanade Association, The Solomon Fund, and the many supporters of the project.

Best weather web sites     For those of you who missed Isaac Pato's weather talk "Extreme Weather Forecasting for Sailors" here are the best weather web sites you should know about.      -easy to use graphics, easy to check every day      -excellent non-government weather website, has the best free radar data on the web
http://adds.avia/     -best free satallite data     -medium and long range models     -Thunderstorm models     -good starting point to answer your questions.


Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Tornado Chaser

In case you didn't fully appreciate my statement in Blog #15 that Isaac chases tornadoes (Really!),  here is a snippet from a recent email conversation I had with Isaac when I asked him about his first tornado experience.

"I saw my first tornado on March 8, 2010. We got within 500 yards of the EF-2 tornado in western Oklahoma and watched it completely demolish a family's trailer home. We were the first responders on the scene, and discovered the family safe in their storm cellar."

Need I comment that most folks run away from tornadoes?   


Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Extreme Weather Forecasting For Sailors!

What:  CBI Staff member Isaac Pato presents "Extreme Weather Forecasting for Sailors".  When Isaac is not busy teaching sailing at CBI he chases tornados (really!).  Aside from this one quirky characteristic, Isaac has always seemed perfectly mainstream to me A meteorology student at the University of Oklahoma, Isaac will combine his love of sailing and weather in this presentation.  If you've never heard of the 500mb chart then come and have your eyes O P E N E D.

WHEN: Saturday, August 7,  2:00 PM


Monday, August 2, 2010

Community Boating Inc. Presents...

Raise the Sails!

For the next 3 weeks I am going to write with some frequecncy about our fundraiser "Raise the Sails".  This will be the 20th year we have thrown a big party, celebrating our junior and accessible sailing programs, with the goal of raising money to pay for them.  Liberty Hotel will be our host and and the evening is shaping up to be one great event.
Please clear your calendar for Thursday, August 26, and join us at the liberty Hotel.   Tickets may be bought at

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Brownies - Tough Duty, Good Things at CBI, Comm. Sullivan Signs "Notice to Proceed", Water Quality-Algae Concerns.

Last week as much as I tried to convey that judging a brownie contest at CBI was a heavy responsibility, a weight to be carried on my shoulders in the service of others, I'm afraid I was not successful.  My wife sent out a tweet to some zillions of folks linking to this blog and making some sarcastic comment like "Think your job is tough?  Look what my husband is doing today!"  Well she was right.  Judging the brownie contest was awesome. There were more brownies than there ought to be.  It was one fine day at work.  There have been more than a few fine days at work this year.  We've had some windy days and we're on track to see more Junior Helmsman ratings awarded than I can remember.  You may have noticed on Monday nights that we have "family sails" when juniors bring their parents and siblings as guests and get to show-off their new found skills. This past Saturday CBI hosted a regatta for the Special Olympics where over 40 sailors competed, and .Night Sails every friday night have been busier than anytime I can recall.

Other good news which has occupied much of our attention is that DCR Commissioner Rick Sullivan signed the "Notice to Proceed" to demolish and rebuild the CBI dock.  We've met with the DCR and contractor and will be posting soon, in the next couple of days, the demolition and construction schedule starting this fall.

This summer we've had some challenges such as concerns about elevated algae levels in the river, which sometimes happens when the summer heat warms the water and there are too  many nutrients creating  an algae feast.   Some algae can be harmful in large quantities and there lies the concern.  We stay in close contact with the CRWA and DCR. They conduct waterquality  testing and post warnings when water quality concerns arise. Based on their data and recommendations, over the past week+ CBI limited windsurfing and high performance sailing.   We should soon have their next testing results and recommnedation. I am hopeful  that we will lift all limitations this week.


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Land at the Dock, Don't Crash, Use Good Judgement, Know Where the Wind is.

A large part of seamanship is about judgement.  Recently we've had some great red flag days during the junior program.  This always increases the number of capsizes, and hard landings at the dock, especially when the breeze pipes up.  One of the basic and surprisingly difficult skills to master in the first few weeks of sailing, is knowing where the wind is coming from and therefore "what point of sail am I on".  Many a novice sailor has made landing their Cape Cod Mercury seem something like a cripled jet landing on a rolling aircraft carrier. This happens when they aren't sure where the wind is coming from, and they approach the dock on a run or broad reach and land "come hell or high water".  It's hard on the boats and potentially dangerous.  So in the junior program, when the wind is piping up, and comes from the NW, which is perpendicular to the face of the dock, we teach the kids to lower their sail before passing the point of the island. That way they slow down and make their way to the dock with very little drama.  What a great concept and skill to master early on the in learning curve. So if you are not a member of the junior program but are having similar issues with landing at the dock on a breezy day, when the wind is blowing onto the dock, remember that it is easy AND good seamanship to lower your sail before landing.  Come back to us nice and slowly and in control.

A humorous footnote - This works when the wind is blowing onto the dock.  Not so well when it is blowing off the dock. One day when the wind was out of the E, blowing away from the dock, Amy Lyons, our Junior Program Director, looked out to see an entire "Learn to Sail" class drifting towards the Longfellow bridge with their sails down.  What? Why? How? were questions that went through her mind.  The day before was a strong red flag day out of the NW and the kids had been taught well how to land safely by dropping their sails.  I guess they assumed it would always work. I think it was a teaching moment and the kids had a few lightbulbs go on about wind direction.


Monday, July 26, 2010

Executive Director's Job is not Without Some Heavy Burdens

One of the heavy responsibilities I carry upon my shoulders as Executive Director of CBI is to participate  in the solemn, dare I say sacred, task of judging the brownies during our junior program "Brownie Day".  Now a long tradition, Brownie Day is that annual event at CBI, and perhaps a once in a lifetime opportunity, for some of our juniors, to test their brownies against their peer's brownies.  I am of course honored to have the privilege to help judge the brownies on their many fine qualities - chocolate, chocolate swirl, chocolate fudge, chocolate caramel, chocolate peanut butter, chocolate walnut, did I say chocolate?chewy, cake like, with walnuts, with pecans, with chocolate chips, thick, thin, frosted, the list goes on and on.   How, I wonder to myself, am I going to be strong enough to shoulder this heavy burden? I don't know.  I can only say I will do my best and hope that my best is not just good enough but pretty darn good. I will also bring some cold milk to properly cleanse my palate. Please think kindly upon me and wish me well.  I will strive to not let you down. Attached - a picture of a poster recently posted at CBI.


How could anyone forget?  I will faithfully report back to you when I have fully recovered.


Saturday, July 24, 2010

Teach Kids Sailing and You Teach Them a Boatload of Science.

On the surface, sailing, kayaking, and windsurfing on the Charles River can be viewed as not much more than enjoyable recreations. But for anyone who has spent even a little time trying to master the skills of sailing, it soon becomes apparent that there’s more involved than just a pleasant float-about while a gentle breeze pushes your boat around and you enjoy being outdoors, on the water, sharing time with friends.   Sailing also teaches a lot of science in very basic ways.  This is one of many great reasons for children to learn sailing.  I’ve noticed that a lot of folks who love sailing are also engineers, pilots, and scientists, and more or less take a logical positivist** approach to the universe.  There seems to be a link between folks who like to solve problems with numbers, use equations, statistics and science with sailing.

How does a sail make a boat move the way it does? You’ve got to talk to Newton for that one.  He’ll probably suggest an inspection of his 1st and 3rd laws to start. Can you make a sail or the keel more efficient in certain situations?  Have a chat with Bernoulli.  He has some thoughts on the subject.  Did you know that a sailboat such as one of our R19s, Sonars, or Mercuries, can generally go no faster that 1.34 times the square root of the length of the waterline?  Did you know that to understand this you have to understand how fast waves can travel? Physics, math and engineering are everywhere!   So when you register your child for a summer of sailing at CBI you can take some satisfaction in knowing that they will be learning more than what’s on the surface.   I believe that one reason that learning to sail is good for kids is because it relates to things they learn in science and math classes in school.  At CBI we give tests (ratings check-outs) but they’re a lot more fun than the ones you get in school, but valuable none-the-less..

There are other folks besides the science and math geeks who like to sail, and learn, analyze, understand, and explain it in their own way. They have a different link to sailing.  I’ll offer a few thoughts on them in a future installment.

 **I went online [] and found this definition of logical positivist - someone who maintains that any statement that cannot be verified empirically is meaningless  OR- someone who emphasizes observable facts and excludes metaphysical speculation about origins or ultimate causes


Friday, July 23, 2010

The History of CBI and our Unique Place in the World.

Community Boating Inc. is the nation's oldest and largest community sailing program.  Founded in 1946, CBI brought together all interested parties who were engaged in developing a public sailing program here on the Charles River.  Joe Lee was the vissionary leader who first got children sailing on the river in the 1930's.  It took a bit of sorting out over 10 years but eventually the result is what we've got today - a true community of sailors, and volunteers.  It is a regular occurance for me to receive inquiries from individuals trying to organize  public sailing programs in their own community.  In my experience CBI has hosted delegations from all over the US, Europe, and Asia.  They want to know how we operate, how our finances work, and what our relationship to government is.  We take some pride in being an open book and sharing what we know with anyone interested.  It is no small coincidence that there are many other organizations in the world today called "community boating".  I love it. It expands the meaning of the word "community".  So while you are here I hope you will appreciate that you are part of something special in the world, and whatever it is, it is s..p..r..e..a..d..i..n..g!
For an indepth understanding about the history of CBI in the early days, you should read an article recently published in Sea History, the publication of the National Maritime Historical Society.  

PDF of article:

I'd like to also thank and recognize CBI member, sailor, and volunteer Gary du Moulin, and my wife Mari Snow, who collaborated on the article and generously included me as an author, even though they did all the work.


Thursday, July 22, 2010

A Rant Against Adolescent Whales.

At the bottom of this posting is a link to an interesting and amusing news article with a great picture.  My wife Mari suggested that I might want to use this story as a metaphor to explore how to deal with the inexplicable, unexplainable, and the plain ridicules in sailing (and by extension life).  I thought about this for a moment and all I have to say is there is no explication or explanation for an idiot whale who jumps out of the water and smashes your boat.  What was he/she thinking?! I would certainly give that whale a piece of my mind if he/she jumped on to my boat.  At the very least a stern talking to is required and quite possibly a severe timeout. I mean it's not like we don't have enough things to think about while sailing that we also have to worry about a sailboat smashing whale. Sufferin Succotash!!

I wonder, if the whale was young as was suggested in the article.  Maybe sailboat smashing is something like cow tipping or other adolescent pranks we humans are familiar with.  I hope so.  Because if that whale is one of the species' best and brightest then my estimation of whaledom is seriously diminished and I will reconsider my view of all whales moving forward.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

YouTube Index I : Videos showing CBI, CBI Sailors, Roll Tacking

Sunday at Community Boating, Boston CBI
A full day viewed from the river camera compressed into a few minutes.

Boston Community Boating
2 young sailors slowly sail back to the dock and pass off their yacht to the next kids going out.

Low Wind Rudderless Sail at Community Boating.Boston.mp4
Phil demonstrates sailing a Cape Cod Mercury on the Charles in the lightest of breezes.

Rudderless Spinnaker Run
Just to keep things simple Phil brings out the spinnaker.

Rudderless Sailing: Tacking
Phil leaves the dock, throws in a quick tack and returns.

420 Roll Tack
Do your roll tack look like this?... Practice, practice, practice….

Laser Sailing-Fred Strammer Roll Tack-from
Unique torso twisting roll tack.

Monday, July 19, 2010

A sailor’s fix for the iPhone

Recently Apple has had some negative publicity regarding a feature of the new I Phone. Apparently when you place your thumb over some part of the instrument the antenna gets blocked and the user loses connection. Very inconvenient and frustrating. Apple is in full spin control mode while everyone debates about how bad the problem is, what the problem is. Is there even a problem?  What caught my attention while reading the New York Times this morning ( ),was that Consumer Reports, after determining that Apple had a problem with it’s new product, offered up a practical solution which any sailor can appreciate.  Duct Tape!  CR found that a bit of duct tape stuck over the appropriate part of the phone alleviated the problem.  Ta Da!
This is hardly an elegant solution as far as design goes and I’m sure it is not one that Apple wants talked about. It is elegant, however, in it’s simplicity and universality, exactly the kind of solution that resourceful sailors come up with all the time.  Sailors have to deal with many variables which are out of their control all the time, wind, waves, current, the failure of hull, rig, engine and electronics all come to mind.  Managing these variables with the tools at hand is an essential part of sailing. Sometimes it’s the bit of duct tape that saves the day on a sailboat.  Remember, when sailing, keep that duct tape nearby.  When necessity calls you’ll be ready.

Other items to carry with you when sailing beyond the confines of the Charles River might include:

6’ length of 3/16th braided line.
 Electrical tape
Multi tool or knife
Handheld GPS [maybe even an I Phone or other smart phone]

A small selection of ring dings, clevis pins, sail repair tape, spare yarn, a small can of dry lubricant, sail repair tape, whistle.  I also bring sunscreen, extra glasses, swim goggles. I wear sailing gloves, comfortable footwear, and a CBI hat.


Sunday, July 18, 2010

Some Sonar Rigging Questions AND Rigging Books Now Available at the Dock House

If you sail Sonars at CBI you have noticed that we made a number of improvements to the boats last winter.  Three improvements we made that I am most happy about are installing new (longer) booms, new adjustable backstay, topping lifts and roller furling jibs.  This means that we can truly tighten the foot when sailing and take that big bag out of the bottom of the sail. [and a chorus of angels sings hallelujah!]. We can tighten or loosen the back stay for better sail trim, and the topping lift keeps the boom from bonking folks on the noggin when the halyard is released [one more hallelujah!] The roller furling jib is sooooo convenient and easy to use.
 A friend of mine mentioned that not everyone is using the outhaul and the back stay the same way and that there has developed different schools of thought.  So I want to clarify.

Outhaul - used to tighten the foot of the sail.  Most of our mainsails have stretched a bit after many years of service. In light air and when sailing downwind think about less outhaul tension.  In any breeze at all please keep the foot of the sail tight.  Generally it is not a good idea to leave the boat overnight with the outhaul tight. So my recommendation is take just an inch or two off before the launch picks you up. Then when you are rigging the boat to sail put it back on.

Backstay - The back stay should be left loose when the boat is at the mooring [not flogging in the wind]. While sailing keep it on the loose side down wind and tighten a bit when the breeze comes up and you are close hauled.
 Fortunately you don’t have to keep referring to this very brief discussion when sailing the Sonar and other boats, we now have rigging books available at the dock house.  We have the following rigging books: Mercury, R 19, Sonar, and Laser. So if you notice by observing other CBI sailors that there seems to be at least two ways to rig or unrig  any of these boats, then please take a moment to review the books now available at the dock house.

A Rhyme for your time:
The moon and the weather
May change together,
But change in the moon
Does not change the weather,
If we’d no moon at all,
And that may seem strange,
We still would have weather
That’s subject to change.    –anon.


Thursday, July 15, 2010

Shall We Go Yachting?

Close your eyes. Imagine you’re at the helm of a classic 60+ foot long twelve meter racing yacht.  The mast reaches high in the sky and grabs the wind where only birds fly.  You can feel the power of the sails surge the vessel forward and yet the touch of the helm is light and easy.  You put the helm over for a tack and she (yes I show my age by referring to boats as female) glides smoothly through the wind.  You’ve never experienced such a narrow tacking angle (I guarantee it!) The 12 meter points higher than you ever imagined possible. The sails fill, she heels and you feel her acceleration, 7 knots, 8 knots ,9,10,…. She’s just getting started.  My words can not express the sensation.  You have to feel it yourself.  And now you can. CBI has reserved two 12 meter yachts, “American Eagle” and America’s Cup defender “Weatherly”, in Newport Rhode Island for a day of friendly sailing and racing on September 19.  There are 14 positions available on each boat. The cost will be $200 per person.  Details will be posted on the web site (soon) and at the front desk.  We did this event last year and sold out so don’t delay in reserving you spot.  September 19 is the last day of the Newport Boat show so you might want to make this into a “Newport” weekend. For more information about the boats, directions, and Newport here’s the link to the charter company’s web site.

WHEN: Sunday September 19, 2010, 12 noon to 6:00 PM (Newport Boat Show Weekend)
WHERE: America’s Cup charters, Newport, Rhode Island

For more information or questions drop me a line at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Volunteer Recognition, What's this Informal Instruction? Friday Night Sails under the stars, Lexicon

Anyone who has hung around CBI for more than a few moments will notice that volunteers do a lot of work here.  Most classes in the adult program are taught by volunteers. Volunteers work on boat maintenance, facility upgrades, and lead various projects. This past year volunteers completely replaced the crow’s nest up on the flag pole.  We have a computer network, database, and web site all thanks to volunteers. Each year CBI’s board of directors would like to recognize at the corporation’s annual meeting (3rd Monday in October) outstanding volunteers for their contributions to CBI.  Please help us say “thanks” and “atta boy/girl” to one of our outstanding CBI volunteers. You may submit your nominations in writing, [email or letter], to me.  Please include a little narrative of how the nominee made CBI a place for “Sailing for All”.

Possibly the most important piece of the sailing education process at CBI is going out for informal instruction with other more experienced members. You put your card in at the dock house and ask to go out for instruction. You won’t wait long before another member, more experienced than you, will arrive on the scene and “show you the ropes”.  Learning to sail at CBI is like learning in the playground rather than the classroom.  Our playground is the sailboat on the Charles River and your teachers are your fellow CBI members.
Many of our most accomplished instructors learned to sail at CBI. I hope you will follow their example.   Get that Helmsman rating and start taking new members out for instruction.  It is a boat load of fun. You will love it! – especially a year or two later when your students continue to revere you as a master of the nautical arts (my favorite part!)

Night sails every Friday night!  Not only does your membership include full viewing of some magnificent sunsets over the river most evenings, it also includes joining in on our Friday Night Sails.  Check the web site and with the front office staff for details.  It’s a truly unique experience and view of Boston’s skyline.

Have you ever felt like you were being kicked when you were already down? You might think someone “rubbed salt in you wound”
Salt is often used to preserve foodstuffs. It can also be antiseptic.  There are many time honored traditions in sailing, but one which has happily diminished, is the use of the cat-o-nine tails.  Apparently for even the most minor rule infraction a sailor might receive a form of education and betterment by being lashed by a multi strand whip (the cat-o-nine tails) at the whim of the Captain (those were the sailing days when being captain meant something! Yuck!).  I have noticed that my crews, even though I remind them repeatedly, don’t fully appreciate how nicely they have it today.  Once the sailor had been suitably enlightened, his colleagues would lay his possibly unconscious body on the deck, and gently, with love and tenderness (I’m sure) rub salt into his wounds to keep them clean and allow for a complete healing. The sailor may not have fully appreciated the experience.


Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Docks, Volunteering, Good Book

I)  Docks, docks, docks…..
1) September, 2003
        It starts….40’ section of dock immediately upstream of the dock house falls apart.
        Dock repaired in time for 2004 season.
2) April 15, 2010
       A light at the end of the tunnel….Gov. Deval Patrick visits CBI and announces the state’s commitment to replace the docks.
       $3.5 million of state funding contingent on CBI and The Esplanade Association (TEA) raising $500,000 private match.
        David Mugar and Solomon Fund immediately pledge $100,000 each.
 3) June 1, 2010
        CBI launches $100,000 in 100 days campaign to raise money from CBI community.
        TEA and CBI collaborate on other fundraising initiatives.
 4) June 23, 2010
        Deadline for sealed bids from contractors due to DCR.  DCR receives several qualified bids.
The next step will be for the DCR to issue a “Notice to Proceed”.  I am hopeful that we will learn about that immediately after July 4…..patience may be virtue but sometimes a little immediate gratification would be nice!

II) Volunteering
Boat sign-outs in 2010 are running approximately 20% higher than in 2009. That is a lot more wear and tear on our equipment. So a couple of reminders:
 If it’s broken report it.  There is a “Broken Boat Book” at the dock house.  It is our log of what needs fixing.
Help us fix things.  A lot of volunteers donate oodles of time over the course of the season and it always seems that we need more.  If you have time, enthusiasm, handy skills, and would like to make an impact at CBI that you can touch and feel, contact Marcin Kunicki, volunteering coordinator (among other things), or Greg Tobey, Director of Fleet Maintenance. This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

III) Good Book.
 Mary’s Voyage, by Mary Caldwell and Matthew M. Douglas, published by Sheridan House.
I didn’t know anything about this book when I bought it. I bought it for my wife Mari in the hopes it would have a positive influence on her, you know, give her focus (come on honey let’s go sailing!).  She read a couple of sections to me and I promptly stole it from her and read it quickly cover to cover. Very interesting and enjoyable story.  Mary sails across the Pacific in 1952 with her husband and two small sons, one of whom is seriously sick on a small sailboat.  Did I mention that she was also pregnant?  Things go about as you might expect, like the time it was “too quiet” down below and upon investigation dad discovered the two boys had disassembled the sextant.  Little parts rolling around the bilge. Isn’t that neat?  Aaaaaaggghhh! Oh well, it just meant island hopping across the Pacific by ded reckoning. (for the uninitiated ded (sometimes written dead is short for deduced) is simply plotting you progress on a chart based on your estimated course, speed, leeway and current.  It’s accurate for a few hours and then slowly, eventually after a few weeks you should know where you are give or take a few hundred miles. Now where was that atoll supposed to be?  They saw pacific islands, and met islanders which still had been untouched by modernity. None of us will ever be able to repeat their experiences.  It left me a envious.  Let me know how you like it.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Charlie’s gonna write a blog

For some time now I have been hearing the voices of technological progress (I hope you are hearing them too or else I may have other issues) heralding the new ways to do old things better, faster, more efficiently.  The Google on the internets perhaps best shows how our lives have changed dramatically due to the technological revolution we have all been living (suffering?) through.  A certifiable trailing-edge technology guy, I have so far managed to avoid nearly all contact with social networking media such as blogs, Facebook, and Twitter.  Skeptical, dubious, and change averse, I am clearly a late adopter.  The drum beats on however, and even I can hold out only so long. Recently I have been persuaded that I need to start using some of these tools if I am to best serve the needs of Community Boating Inc. (CBI) in my role as Executive Director.  So I boldly set out to go where I am sure I will blunder, stumble, fall and otherwise find myself in various pickles, and wondering why I’ve done this to myself.

I am going to write a blog.  In fact if you are reading this then you are reading my first one.  Lucky you! However, I have some concerns. My understanding is that blogs need to be written regularly and should be at least mildly interesting so folks will want to read the next installment. The pressure mounts already.  I worry that I could possibly have anything much to say that will interest you, let alone regularly.  What’s that sound?  The peanut gallery snickering already? But I set sail with the breeze no matter what the tide and no matter what embarrassment I may cause myself.

What to write about?.....  In order to advance CBI, I will try to focus on themes which I think are important to CBI and on which I draw inspiration - Sailing For All, Volunteerism, and Community.  If I get this right, these three broad themes will inspire, inform and generally provide the context for why this blog exists.   I will attempt to throw in some jokes, light humor, and occasionally sound like a pirate. I can also promise to  use nautical metaphors and allegory, mention a good article or two, point out some other blogs, books, movies, events, and issues important to CBI, and hopefully find something to keep you engaged  with CBI, sailing for all, volunteerism, and community here at the Boathouse on the Charles River.   I will endeavor to drum up an original idea once in a while, (although  if I were you I wouldn’t hold my breath).   I’d like to set your expectations reasonably low so that you will be kind to me.   I will try to write in a light conversational style avoiding one of my college professor’s comments after reading a long term paper, “not bad, too bad your writing style is so turgid”.

I found “turgid” in Webster’s unabridged dictionary.  It means swollen, bloated, inflated, distended, or grandiloquent, tumid, pompous, and bombastic. That was one mean professor. Grrr….
And last I will try to keep things short and to the point.