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 [http://www.thefreedictionary.com/logical+positivist] 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:   http://bit.ly/9lc22z

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 Sailgroove.com
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 ( http://nyti.ms/dfrenP ),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 charlie@community-boating.org 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.