Tuesday, February 28, 2006


Methinks I could have lots of fun at the beach this summer with this remote control robotic shark.

What would you do if you saw the fin approaching you while swimming?

Bernie and Arvel

I have to confess I was mildly disappointed in the response to my two recent posts questioning why or, more precisely, how sails work. I was hoping to trigger a discussion on the topic on a number of levels.

On the most straightforward scientific level I wanted to explore the question I was specifically posing: how is it that wind flowing past our sails generates the force that makes our boats move. None of the initial respondents came up with what, to me at least, is a completely satisfactory explanation. More on this later.

But I was also hoping to explore some mental aspects of this. What are the models that we sailors carry in our heads to explain this phenomenon? After all we spend countless hours adjusting our sails to try and extract another smidgen of boat speed from the wind; surely we must each have some explanation in our head, perhaps even an unconscious one, as to what is happening. I wanted to find out whether all we have the same or different theories.

I'm also interested in the question of whether it matters if our mental picture is the "correct" one as currently accepted by the scientific establishment. When a fielder runs to catch a ball in cricket or baseball I suspect he's not consciously thinking of Newton's explanations of motion and gravity to help him. So why should sailors care about the physics behind the generation of lift? I'm not sure of the answer to this one. Part of me wants to believe that the better we understand the physics the better sailors we will be. But I could be wrong. I often am. Especially when sailing.

The thing that set me off on this quest was that I am fairly certain that the model I carry in my head for everyday use for how sails generate lift is actually wrong. I'm deceiving myself. My "everyday" model is the one I advanced in my first post - the one about wind being accelerated on the leeward side of the sail because it has to go further to catch up with the wind on the windward side and because of the Bernoulli effect this generates a pressure difference which causes lift. This is, as they say in the best scientific circles, a load of old cobblers. Some of the reasons are discussed here. (Warning 453k pdf file). But if one of my sailing students asks me how sails work I will mutter something along those lines - airplane wing, air going faster, lower pressure blah blah blah.

Dan from Adrift at Sea responded that he's not a physics major so can't comment on the physics directly. At first I was annoyed at this ducking of the question. But then I realized that the lack of curiosity by most of my readers to these questions was telling me more about myself than about them. Yup - I was that little nerdy kid who was always driving his parents and teachers crazy asking why, why, why? Why is it possible to balance on a bicycle? Why does the moon get larger when it's nearer the horizon? What happens if I poke this fork into the electrical outlet? Why shouldn't I eat the yellow snow? Why do I have to learn Latin? (Never did get a satisfactory question to that last one.)

Yup. I was a little scientist from as early as I can remember. Indeed my earliest memory of boating was the day I conducted an experiment in flotation using a water-soaked log and another family member in the river next to the house where we lived. I must have been around four or five years old at the time. I fondly recall that day as The Day Of My First Scientific Experiment In Which I Independently Discovered Archimedes' Principle. Eureka! My mother (who sadly did not encourage my early experiments) recalls it as The Day You Tried To Drown Your Baby Sister. Aaah - the sacrifices we make for science.

So, yes, I realize now. I have an unnaturally developed curiosity about how things work. And I mustn't expect all my readers to share it. Except litoralis of course who apparently has the same recessive gene.

But today I discovered another reply to my questions -- in a comment appended inadvertently to another post. And it's actually closer to the kind of answer I was looking for than any of the other replies.

Here is part of what Sailingaray has to say ..

Oh, a very timely question. I'm not sure how we ended up talking so quickly about sailing boats on a reach when trying to answer such a fundamental question. Although the bloggers do mention other very increasing factoids, they play a role much later in understanding the concept. There are two camps these days. In my opinion both camps play a role in helping us to understand the ways of wings and/or sails. Why should we keep two theories around? Maybe an analogy is handy. Einstein proposed that light acted both as a particle and as a wave. So far, no one has proved him wrong and both are used.

The first aerodynamic explanation is the good 'ole Bernoulli concept. You nailed the description. Lift is generated by the change in the speed of air as it moves across the two sides of the sail or wing. On one side, the pressure lowers and the other side sees ambient pressure, or slightly higher. Differentially, a force is created in the direction of the low pressure on the leeward side.

The second theory is the Circulation Theory. In this theory the apparent wind approaching the lifting body (sail or wing) sees a low pressure area and bends dramatically to get to that low pressure. It is this bending motion that transfers energy to the sail -- conservation of energy. Circulation theory seems to have it biggest value in explaining slot effect. Slot effect? On a wing, slots are found as either leading or trailing surfaces. On sails, the jib forms a slot with the main sail. Forming a good, efficient slot is apparently a black art. However, the circulation theorist will show you wind tunnel results to prove that the Bernoulli (Bernie) Law falls apart when used to describe a slot. Typically Bernie says the air speeds up even more in the slot, producing more lift. Circulation theory predicts, "Nope, it slows down." Wind tunnel results say, "It slows down."
I especially like his or her explanation of why having two opposing theories may have practical value (even when one of them actually fits much better with the experimental data.)

The circulation theory of lift is explained at more length in Arvel Gentry's article on The Origins of Lift. Not all that simple to follow for those of us, including myself and Dan, who are not physics majors. And I suspect that even after you've read it you may not be any faster on the racecourse. But are you prepared to risk it? I'm not.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Not So Crazy

I know you all thought I was crazy for raising the question of helmets for sailors in my post Blood on the Decks.

But here's a pic of some dude wearing one in the Volvo Ocean Race.

Easy Foiler?

Check out the M4 - a new hydrofoiling sailing dinghy. According to the designer the main brief was that "the design could be given to a good club sailor for an afternoons foiling so more people can enjoy the thrills and spills of this new form of dinghy sailing’."

He's Back

For everyone who enjoyed Skipper Johnson's tale of woe in his first Laser race, check out his equally hilarious story of Race 2 on the Laser Forum.

Anyone else remember having the same problems?

I just wish I could write stuff as funny as this.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

In Search of My Six-Pack

If, like me, you're a sailor in northern climes needing to get fit for the 2006 season and in desperate need of some sun then check out Phil Hogan's highly entertaining article in today's Observer, In search of my six-pack about The Body Holiday in St. Lucia. Along with workouts in the gym, t'ai-chi, yoga and various other activities he even manages to try out some sailing. Although apparently new to the sport he does find it to be "not bad".

I go for another quick roast in the sun until it's time for my sailing lesson with Jerry, as laid-back as his magnificent dreadlocks suggest. He laughs when I tell him I hate boats. You'll be fine, he says. And actually it's not bad. He drags it into the water and does most of the driving. Then he shows me how to get the sail going with the rope and we are soon whizzing along, turning the corner (as, perhaps, they don't say in the Round the World Yacht Race), and whizzing back again. Yes, there's some technical detail about prevailing winds, which blows in one ear and out of the other, and confusing moments with the tiller, an apparatus that defies all human intuition unless you happen to drive a car with the steering wheel at the back. But I must admit it is quite exhilarating, even with my hamstrings.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

How The Other Half Lives

If you've been here before you know my idea of a good day on the water is some Laser frostbiting in 15-20 knots of breeze followed by beer and pizza.

Some racing sailors live in a different world.

Over at the Scuttlebutt Blog, some guy called Jim Madden is writing about a so-called race from San Diego to Puerto Vallarta
in his new J/65. After rounding up the local catholic priest for a boat "christening" (does an unchristened boat have original sin?), Mr. Madden then watches as his suitably glamorous (blonde of course) wife fails to break the champagne bottle on her first try but gets it on her second try "with only minor gelcoat repair needed". Mr. Madden's response to this incident is not recorded.

Jimmy and his buddies then set sail for Mexico on their floating palace complete with media room, a chef and a modest 28 bottles in the wine cellar. It gets really hairy in the early going when they have the major psychological trauma of having to reset an electrical breaker and then have to make a strategic decision whether or not to motor, which is apparently allowed in this rich man's form of "racing". After sushi and sashimi and pecan pie (accompanied by a fine Syrah of course) things really go to pieces when the crew can't agree on who should push the buttons to trim the kite.

Ye gods. Is this man for real? Or is this some made-up fantasy by some frustrated Canadian Laser sailor trapped in the ice-bound north for several more months?

And if he's for real, who is this Madden guy anyway? Is he the same Jim Madden who founded Exult, Inc. which according to this site "offers tailored solutions to a diverse client base by leveraging its customisable and scalable Multi-Process Outsourcing(SM) operational platform, which includes Multi-Client, Multi-Center, Multi-Channel, Multi-Shift and Multi-Shore capabilities"?

Geeze, if he talks like that on the boat he is welcome to the other 27 bottles of wine.


Friday, February 24, 2006


What are these guys doing?

I'll give you a clue. They are (mostly) Spanish.

Not much help? OK - here's another clue. They are learning how to work together "confined in a very small space during many hours".

Give in? The answer is here.

Holy Cow!

I get most of my sailing news these days on the web, but I do still subscribe to that venerable magazine of yacht racing, Sailing World. It serves up fascinating articles and insightful go-faster tips that are worth the subscription. And then occasionally in its pages you find a real stunner - one of those titbits you have to read twice to make sure your eyes haven't deceived you. Sometimes the story is so astonishing that you have to check the date just to make certain it isn't an April Fool joke.

The March 2006 issue arrived a couple of days ago. By the way, why is that every print magazine always mails out its monthly issues before the month named on the cover? Are we supposed to think we are getting some special sneak preview edition because of our exalted subscriber status?

Where was I? Oh yes, some of the nuggets of noteworthy nautical news in the March 2006 issue of Sailing World.

There's a Winner's Debrief interview by Stuart Streuli with James Spithill and Jonathan McKee about their recent win at the Melges 24 Worlds in Key Largo. The crew list also includes Jonathan's brother Charlie, Manuel Modena and "11-year-old Optimist star Mac Agnese".

What? I don't care how brilliant an Optimist star he is, what's he doing with a bunch of sailing rock stars on a contender for the World Championship of one of the hottest boats around?

But what do I know? Turns out that having the kid on the boat made a lot of sense. Spithill and McKee explain in the interview that they wanted to be at maximum crew weight and they were a bit under with four people. Also, having one lightweight crew on the boat meant that he could attend to such jobs as adjusting the traveler and clearing weed off the rudder without taking too much weight off the rail. You learn something new every day!

Then there's an interview by Bob Ross with Aussie speed merchant, Sean Langman. In between the discussion of canting keels, rotating and canting wingmasts, and Sydney Hobart races, Langman shares his plans for building a foiler to break the 50-knot barrier. When I hear foils I think International Moth like the ones we can read about on Rohan Veal's and Scott Babbage's blogs. But no - Langman is thinking bigger. A lot bigger. He is planning to build a 55 feet foiler with 40 feet between the foils. But wait, it gets better. This is really a three-stage rocket like the Saturn V. Stage one the boat is floating, stage two it's up on it's "first set" of foils. At stage three it gets up on a very small foil "over which we are injecting air to super-cavitate the foil". Wow! But here is the final trick. Once up to speed, they are planning to jettison part of the wing's tail flap to reduce drag. I really had to check it's not April 1st on this one!

But the WTF award this month goes to Dick Rose for another excellent article on racing rules. In this one he discusses Rule 18.5 Passing a Continuing Obstruction. He reviews all the nuances of the rule with a practical well-illustrated example. But the kicker is in the penultimate paragraph in which he recalls a time when he was team racing in England on the River Trent and "had the distinct pleasure of calling for room to pass outside of a surprised cow that had waded into the river to drink".

Beat that!

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Master's Report

It is with regret and haste that I write this letter to you, regret that such a small misunderstanding could lead to the following circumstances, and haste in order that you will get this report before you form your own preconceived opinions from reports in the world press, for I am sure that they will tend to over dramatise the affair.

We had just picked up the pilot, and the apprentice had returned from changing the “G” flag for the “H” and, it being his first trip, was having difficulty in rolling the “G” flag up. I therefore proceeded to show him how. Coming to the last part, I told him to “let go”. The lad, although willing, is not too bright, necessitating my having to repeat the order in a sharper tone.

At this moment the Chief Officer appeared from the Chart room, having been plotting the vessel’s progress, and, thinking that it was the anchors that were being referred to, repeated the “let-go” to the Third Officer on the Forecastle. The port anchor, having been cleared away but not walked out, was promptly let go. The effect of letting the anchor drop from the “pipe” while the vessel was proceeding at full harbour speed proved too much for the windlass brake, and the entire length of the port cable was pulled out “by the roots”. I fear that the damage to the chain locker may be extensive. The braking effect of the port anchor naturally caused the vessel to sheer in that direction, right towards the swing bridge that spans the tributary to the river up which we were proceeding.

The swing bridge operator showed great presence of mind by opening the bridge for my vessel. Unfortunately, he did not think to stop the vehicular traffic, the result being that the bridge partly opened and deposited a Volkswagen, two cyclists and a cattle truck on the foredeck. My ship’s company are at present rounding up the contents of the latter, which from the noise I would say were pigs. In his efforts to stop the progress of the vessel, the Third Officer dropped the starboard anchor, too late to be of practical use, for it fell on the swing bridge operator’s control cabin.

After the port anchor was let go and the vessel started to sheer, I gave a double ring Full Astern on the Engine Room Telegraph and personally rang the Engine Room to order maximum astern revolutions. I was informed that the sea temperature was 53 degrees and was asked if there was a film tonight; my reply would not add constructively to this report.

Up to now I have confined my report to the activities at the forward end of the vessel. Down aft they were having their own problems. At the moment the port anchor was let go, the Second Officer was supervising the making fast of the after tug and was lowering the ship’s towing spring down onto the tug.

The sudden braking effect on the port anchor caused the tug to “run in under” the stern of my vessel, just at the moment when the propeller was answering my double ring Full Astern. The prompt action of the Second Officer in securing the inboard end or the towing spring delayed the sinking of the tug by some minutes thereby allowing the safe abandoning of that vessel.

It is strange, but at the very same moment of letting go the port anchor there was a power cut ashore. The fact that we were passing over a “cable area” at that time might suggest that we may have touched something on the riverbed. It is perhaps lucky that the high-tension cables brought down by the foremast were not live, possibly being replaced by the underwater cable, but owing to the shore blackout it is impossible to say where the pylon fell.

It never fails to amaze me, the actions and behaviour of foreigners during moments of minor crisis. The pilot, for instance, is at this moment huddled in the corner of my day cabin, alternately crooning to himself and crying after having consumed a bottle of gin in a time that is worthy of inclusion in the Guinness Book of Records. The tug captain, on the other hand, reacted violently and had to forcibly be restrained by the Steward, who has him handcuffed in the ship’s hospital, where he is telling me to do impossible things with my ship and my person.

I enclose the names and addresses of the drivers and insurance companies of the vehicles on my foredeck, which the Third Officer collected after his somewhat hurried evacuation of the forecastle. These particulars will enable you to claim for the damage that they did to the railings of the No 1 hold.

I am closing this preliminary report, for I am finding it difficult to concentrate with the sound of police sirens and their flashing lights.

It is sad to think that had the apprentice realised that there is no need to fly pilot flags after dark, none of this would have happened.

For weekly Accountability Report I will assign the following Casualty Numbers T/750101 to T/750199 inclusive.

Yours truly,


Thanks to Netley Sailing Club for the above.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

For The Man Who Has Everything

OK, I know it's still over four months until my birthday but I figure it's never too early to start dropping hints. So check out Private Islands Online.

If you need a suggestion for a present then Thatch Cay, one of the last undeveloped islands in the BVI, would be very acceptable. Or maybe Tilagica Island described as one of the last "affordable" South Pacific islands for sale.

Just in case your definition of "affordable" is a little different from regular island buying folk then there's no need to be extravagant. Little Turtle Island would be a nice gesture at a mere $65,000. (Though I am a bit worried by that description of its area as "0 acres". Is that at high tide or low tide I wonder?)

Anyway, it's just a suggestion. You can always surprise me.

Blood on the Decks

Carol Anne at Five O'Clock Somewhere recounts a scary incident she experienced while sailing this weekend in which she and one of her crew ended up in the emergency room with head injuries.

It's an aspect of our sport that is not often discussed. But we all know that a whack on the head from a boom is not uncommon. I vividly remember one occasion in the early 90's when racing my Laser at Devon YC on Long Island. A gybe in 25 knots - boom caught my head - a capsize - a recovery. No big deal I thought. But when I put my hand up to rub the sore spot on my head through my cap, my hand came away covered in blood which was soaking through the cap at a prodigious rate.

Then there was the case of Herve Aubry, a Mini boat skipper participating in a qualifying race for the 2001 Mini Transat race. After sending a MAYDAY an RAF Sea King helicopter was sent to pick him up. When it arrived at the yacht the skipper refused to be evacuated. He claimed that he had been hit on the head by his boom which caused him to become disoriented and had mistakenly sent the MAYDAY. The RAF helicopter returned to base just in time to be sent back to the Mini boat by a second MAYDAY call. The mini skipper this time abandoned his yacht and was picked up from the stormy English Channel......Disoriented? I should think so.

What's to be done? In an article on SailNet, John Rousmaniere discusses the question Should Sailors Wear Helmets? and cites a Boston neuro-surgeon who has tracked sixteen boom related fatalities in a dozen years. Yikes.

I'm not advocating compulsory wearing of helmets for sailors. We all love the feelings of freedom and independence that sailing brings us. But in a sport that appeals to similar types of folk - skiing - we do see more and more participants of all ages wearing helmets since Sonny Bono hit his head on a tree in a skiing accident and died. Skiers, climbers, cyclists, skateboarders ... the list goes on. Outdoors enthusiasts who now recognize that, at least in certain circumstances, wearing a helmet is just plain common sense.

What do you think? Will helmets ever be commonplace on sailing boats? In what situation does it makes sense to wear a helmet? Are helmets only for those who think their skull isn't very thick. Or do you think that it is only people with thick skulls who are stupid enough (like me) to hit their head on the boom?

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Cup Half Full

There's a small, narrow lake across the road from my house with a boat launching ramp about 100 yards from the house. It's not a great lake for sailing as it's surrounded by houses and trees and a large hill to the west. When the wind's from the northwest it's unstable and gusty. When the wind's from the west it swirls around each side of the hill in turn and comes in from alternate ends of the lake at random intervals. When the wind's from the east it's weak and damp. On the rare occasions when the wind blows from the south it's sorta kinda OK for sailing.

A Sunfish fleet races on the lake in the summer. I used to race with them, as did my sons before they left for college. At the time it was so convenient it was too good an opportunity to miss. Roll out of bed on Sunday morning, grab some breakfast, wheel a boat down to the lake and you could be sailing in less than 30 minutes after leaving your bed. But it was frustrating. If the wind blew down the length of the lake you would have a beat; but you had to tack repeatedly to avoid going aground at each shore. If the wind blew across the lake then you had reaches all day. We raced around 3 fixed buoys which were cleverly positioned in sheltered corners of the lake where there was no wind so that the first boat to attain each buoy had to wait becalmed while the rest of the fleet caught up and we could all drift round the buoy in a giant pinwheel.

Local knowledge was key. I never mastered it. The lake produced some excellent light wind sailors. I wasn't one of them. After the boys left for college I started racing at other clubs.

But if I could sail on that lake today, I would. But I can't. As you can see from the picture it's still half frozen.

But that means the cup is half full. I live in hope.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Grandma's Gone Surfing

As my profile says, I'm a grandfather that sails a Laser. So I just had to add Grandmas Gone Surfing to my blogroll as soon as I discovered her. Turns out that the author isn't really a grandmother at all. (Why couldn't she have just lied like all successful authors.) But she is another aging water sport fanatic living in the next state over and writing about her watery experiences, so I wish her well and look forward to reading about more of her aquatic adventures.

Fashion Question for the Tillerman

Dear Tillerman
Today while getting dressed for sailing I tucked my cute pink and white Magic Marine Lycra Rashguard into my pretty red and white flowery Water Girlie Wave Slave Boarding Shorts and put on my darling Aqua/Grey ExtraSport Cienna PFD. I tucked in my top because I remembered how chilly I'd gotten last week on the small of my back, in the small gap between my appropriately lowish-rise shorts and my top, every time I leaned to duck under the boom in a tack or a gybe. The gap wasn't big and there was no inappropriate undergarment exposure -- nothing shocking going on here. It just got cold after a while. But when I looked in the mirror at my tucked in shirt, I thought, "So dorky. Nobody tucks things in anymore."

Question 1: am I right? Is tucking in of rashguards out of style? I think so, but I'm hoping that I'm wrong.

Question 2: If tucking in is a no-go, what's a girl to do about the small-of-the-back gap? My top and shorts are the right size, and otherwise reasonably flattering and fashionable. I feel like all the other sailors are staring at me. What's to be done?

Yours in embarrassment
Water Girlie

Dear Water Girlie, The guys sailing with you are way too busy to stare at the exposed skin of the small of your back. They are concentrating on the wind and the waves and the competition and how much longer can I keep hiking this hard and is the cramp in my arm ever going to stop and will I need to pee before this race is over ... So just forget about how you look and concentrate on your racing.

But what is that tattoo? Do I detect the tops of butterfly wings? What were you thinking?


Sunday, February 19, 2006


Back in the summer, when I told the commodore of my sailing club that I was expecting to become a grandfather in November, he told me that it would be a "life changing event".

He was right. On Saturday I learned to play Twinkle Twinkle Little Star on an octopus.

On Saturday night, Tillerwoman and I with our son and daughter-in-law had Chinese food. When we had Chinese last time, exactly twelve weeks ago, my daughter-in-law went into labor. Thankfully this time it didn't have the same result.

Only 21 days until the start of the sailing season.

Really -- I need to go sailing.

If I keep writing posts like this one my blog deserves to be attacked by a giant text sucking machine.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

How Do Sails Work

A couple of regular readers took the bait offered by my post asking Why Do Sails Work? (On second thoughts it should really have had the title of this post: the question is how not why.) How is that air blowing at, over or around a sail generates lift? After all it's the forwards component of the lift that drives our boat through the water on a reach or a beat, and without it there would be no sport of sailing. We ought to be able to understand how it works, don't you think?

I raise the question because I think all sailors have some idea of how their sails work. But, as I suspected when I wrote the original post, we don't all have the same idea. And the explanations in sailing books and websites are sometimes different from each other too.

Dan from Adrift at Sea made some other observations on downwind sailing but addresses my key question by reference to a site on the physics of sailing. The author of this site Joe Wolfe, a professor at the University of New South Wales, offers an explanation of how wind generates lift in a sail by using simple mechanics and Newton's Laws of Motion. According to Wolfe, the curved sail changes the direction of the wind. This change in velocity can be considered as an acceleration which is caused by a force that the sail exerts on the air. By Newton's Third Law, there is an equal and opposite force on the sail: the lift.

, once a student of the legendary Jerry Milgram, has a different answer to my question. He says that a "sailboat on a reach and especially upwind generates lift more like a paper airplane than a conventional airplane. What I mean is that most of the lift is generated as a result of the angle of attack between the sail and the wind." If this were anyone other than Litoralis I would take this to imply that even a perfectly flat sail will generate lift. I'm sure he's not saying this. Or is he? For the sake of argument let's assume that's what he means.

So now we have three different explanations of how sails generate lift.

1. The curved shape of the sail causes the air on the leeward surface to travel faster than the air on the windward surface which generates a pressure difference because of the Bernoulli effect.

2. The curved shape of the sail exerts a force on the air that changes the wind's direction and through simple Newtonian mechanics the air exerts an equal an opposite force on the sail.

3. A sailboat works like a paper airplane so a flat sail would generate lift because of its angle to the wind.

So which of these are right and which are wrong? Are two -- or perhaps all three -- of these explanations actually equivalent to each other? Or are all three, as they appear to be on the surface, totally different explanations?

I think I could poke holes in all of these three theories but I'm no expert on this subject so I'd be interested to hear some other views. But please, no calculus. What I'm looking for here is a simple physical explanation that would make sense to, say, an average intelligent thirteen-year-old.

Friday, February 17, 2006


So Grandad, can you explain something to me please.

Sure Emily ...

Well, I saw this picture of Anna Tunnicliffe sailing her Laser Radial on your blog. It looks like it might be a lot of fun.

It is and ...

Did you know that my height is at the 95th percentile for babies my age? So if I'm still at the 95th percentile when I'm twenty then according to this chart I'll be 5' 9". That's a good height for a Radial sailor, right?

Yes but Emily ...

But hiking like that looks like hard work. So I did some research and I saw that on the Rooster Sailing site, Steve Cockerill has a lot of advice about straight leg hiking.

I see ...

He says that research has shown that when the knee is fully straight the load placed on the patella is minimal. However if the knee is bent 30 degrees twice the body weight is exerted on the joint and at 60 degrees the load exceeds ten times the body weight.

That's quite ...

Steve says that if the leg is straight then there is no need to hold the toe up to grip the boat. In fact holding the foot up only makes the hamstrings work against the quadriceps, which are trying to keep the leg straight.

Yes and ...

I would imagine that you have to pretty fit to be able to hike like that. So I found a website that has some pictures of some things called hiking benches. If I had one I could practice. Maybe my Daddy could make me one.

I expect he could ...

Grandad you're not saying much. What are you thinking?

I'm thinking you should learn to swim before you learn to sail.

Good idea Grandad. Will you teach me?

Sure Emily. It will be a pleasure.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Watching Boats

I know this is totally mindless but did you know that there's a live webcam where you can watch boats going through the locks on the Panama Canal?

Keep on Rockin'

This blog is not about sailing.

Oh, I know it occasionally seems like a sailing blog when I'm not diverted into discussing quails, elephants, the wattle or why old farts in their fifties like the Rolling Stones. But really it's just another of those personal weblogs by an aging baby boomer. And it so happens that one of this blogger's passions is sailing.

So on the theme of growing old the baby boomer way -- and in no way wishing to turn this blog into a fan-zine for the Rolling Stones -- let me refer you to an article on WebMD, about the health secrets that enable Mick Jagger et al to keep on going on they way they are doing.

When the Stones burst on to the UK music scene in the early 1960's nobody, least of all they themselves I suspect, imagined that one day they would be lauded as role models of healthy living by members of the medical community. But forty years later, here we are.

Of course the author of the article is not recommending heroin, groupies, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption and eardrum-splitting noise as a recipe for good health. (Unless you really want to look like Keith Richards). But he does point to Jagger as an example of how my generation is redefining what it means to grow old: follow your passion, remain engaged, stay active, keep fit ...

Seems like that's what I've been writing about here for a year now.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The Saucer Too

Live Sail Die has an interesting story reporting that, in a poll conducted by a Melbourne radio station, “Australia II” winning the Americas Cup in 1983 was voted the most memorable sporting moment in Australian history. I can't say I'm totally surprised. When Tillerwoman and I visited Australia in 2000 her 85-year-old aunt in Perth, who had never had any direct connection with sailing, was still excited about Australia II. Aussies do love their sailing.

The reaction to the event in the USA was, of course, somewhat different, and not just because America was on the losing side for the first time in 132 years. I think Tom Paxton perfectly captured the feeling of the average American in his satirical song, The Day We Lost The America's Cup. (You'll find it on Paxton's CD One Million Lawyers and Other Disasters.) Reflecting the esteem (or rather lack of it) in which the sport of yachting is held in the USA, the song has the classic line uttered by the dude who is told that we have lost the America's Cup ...

"Oh no, don't tell me. Did we lose the saucer too?"

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

First Race

We've all been there. The first race in a new boat. Some of us may be too old to remember it well. Some of us may still remember it with embarrassment.

Over at the Laser Forum Skipper Johnson captures the experience of that first race perfectly.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Memory Error

Why Do Sails Work?

Why do sails work?

In particular why does the air flowing around a sail generate lift?

The usual answer given to this question is that a sail is like an airplane wing and that it generates lift for much the same reason. Because of the curvature of the upper surface of the wing, the air passing over that side has to travel a greater distance than that passing under the wing. Since it has to go farther, it has to
go faster in order to reach the trailing edge at the same time as the air flowing past the underside of the wing. Because of the Bernoulli effect the faster flowing air on the upper surface has a lower pressure than the slower moving air on the underside of the wing; and the pressure difference generates the lift.

Does this makes sense? Is it the correct explanation? If not, why not?

Quails and Elephants?

I know what you're thinking.
Tillerman has finally lost it.
Yesterday, quail hunting.
And today ... elephants?
What is it?
Cabin fever?

Well, maybe.

Yesterday we had the biggest blizzard of the winter so far. And this morning I've been digging out cars and shoveling, shoveling, shoveling. It's two months since I went sailing and will likely be another month before I go racing again.

So I just couldn't resist that story about quailing yesterday. I know quailing ain't exactly the same as sailing. But it's not every day that the guy who is one heartbeat away from being the emperor of the free world (including Iraq) gets to shoot a major Republican party donor.

And the elephant picture is from a sailing website. I know you don't believe me but here it is, the official website of the 2005 Enterprise Worlds now taking place in Sri Lanka. No, that isn't a typo. It actually is the 2005 Worlds. They were originally scheduled for last February but, as you will recall, Sri Lanka had other worries this time last year. So the 2005 Worlds were rescheduled for 2006.

Sri Lanka's largest circulation English newspaper, the Sunday Observer, has a story on the regatta but I haven't been able to find any results online yet. Antony Clay one of the Top 10 Sailing Bloggers of 2005 is sailing in the Worlds so perhaps he will be able to give us some accounts of the racing in his own unique style at SoulSailor.

The Observer article notes that, "This year, the event has won personal support from President Rajapakse, who has taken a close interest in sailing ever since he casually happened to meet the national Optimist youth sailing about a year ago."

Wow, that's the kind of politician I would vote for. Wouldn't it be healthier if our own leaders would take an interest in sailing instead of spending their weekends shooting quails and Texas lawyers?

On second thoughts, Mr Cheney, please disregard that suggestion. Stay away from sailors. At least until your aim is better.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Stop Laughing

Thanks to John Nichols at The Nation for the following ...

Sure, it's been fun joking about the fact that Dick Cheney obtained five -- count them, five -- deferments to avoid serving in the military during the Vietnam War. Sure, its been amusing to recount his limp claim that the man who served as George Bush I's Secretary of Defense had "other priorities" than taking up arms in defense of his country. Sure, it was a laugh when the chief cheerleader for the war in Iraq mocked John Kerry for having actually carried a weapon in a time of war.

But it is time to stop laughing at Dick Cheney's expense.

Now that the vice president has accidentally shot and wounded a companion on a quail hunt at the elite Texas ranch where rich men play with guns -- spraying his 78-year-old victim, er, friend, in the face and chest with shotgun pellets and sending the man to intensive care unit of a Corpus Christi hospital -- it has become clear that Cheney was doing the country a service when he avoided service.

The man Cheney misstook for a quail, millionaire attorney Harry Whittington, was in plain sight, wearing a bright orange vest at the time the vice president blasted him.

U.S. troops had enough problems in Vietnam without letting a trigger-happy incompetent like Dick Cheney start shooting things up from behind the lines.

Those deferments were well and wisely issued.

Hunkered Down

We traveled up to Massachusetts on Friday for the christening of the cutest granddaughter in the world, planned for today. Guess we should have checked the weather forecast earlier. The north-eastern US is now hunkered down as the blizzard of '06 sweeps through the area. I can barely see across the road outside and the local TV station is promising 20 inches of snow before it's all over. The christening has been postponed until next Sunday.

Meanwhile sailors in warmer climes are torturing us with news of their sailing adventures. Carol Anne at Five O'Clock Somewhere in New Mexico is doing some serious training for her Adams Cup qualification event in a few weeks; OG at Live Sail Die is doing a spot of night racing in Queensland; and the Handleys are preparing to transit the Panama Canal prior to crossing the Pacific. What am I doing here?

Well, at least I can research Laser regattas to sail in the spring. Day by day more and more regattas are being posted on the North American Laser class website. Cedar Point YC starts their frostbiting season four weeks today on March 12 and their spring regatta is on April 29. That's the easy option as I have left my Laser there this winter but I may be digging it out of the snow before I can sail. Wonder if there are any good regattas further south?

Ahah. Down in North Carolina the District 12 Championship is at the Carolina Yacht Club at Wrightsville Beach on April 22 and 23 with a clinic the day before. And then there's another two day regatta, the North Carolina State Championship at Lake Norman Yacht Club the following weekend. Maybe I could do a road trip to take in both events?

I sailed for the first time at Wrightsville Beach last April. Notable for being one of the few locations on the east coast to host dinghy sailing out on the Atlantic Ocean, as opposed to a sheltered bay or sound, it could well be a weekend of strong wind and big waves. I haven't sailed at Lake Norman before but it's always good to try new places.

Hmmm - a week of sailing and seafood, beachcombing and barbecues ... And warm(er) weather. The snow continues to fall outside. Tempting. Very tempting.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

The Curmudgeon

Every sailing club has one. An old curmudgeon who complains about the way the club is being run now, how it's not the same as when he was commodore back in the 30s, writing obnoxious notes to the committee, how dare they charge such exorbitant fees for regattas, blah blah blah ...

Here's ours, sitting by his trailer after racing, filling out a request for redress for some imagined error by the race committee that screwed him over once again.

But at least he had the nouse to do it right away. Unlike Neal McDonald and his professional crew on Ericcson in the Volvo Ocean Race. They filed for redress because they claimed the race committee incorrectly recalled them for an early start in the in-port race in Melbourne. But they took 30 hours to do it and had their request thrown out by the International Jury for being too late.

Neal, if you want to hire a protest expert we would be glad to make the curmudgeon available. More than glad. Really.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Winter Project

Want a project for the remaining weeks of the northern hemisphere winter and a cool boat to sail in the spring?

Then check out Greg Wise's photos of building a plywood over styrofoam Moth.

Go for it.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

A Typical Day at the Forum

You just have to chuckle at the characters who post on Sailing Anarchy's forums. The way this thread developed today is typical. (For the sake of brevity, I haven't listed all the posts).

4:26 am: The Editor posts a question about the headlines over the photos on SA's front page today Birth, School, Work, Death asking which band and song inspired those titles and offering some SA swag for the first right answer.

4:29 am: Shorthanded has the answer. Thanks to a quick Google one suspects.

4:38 am: Fluffy posts a wrong answer! You don't have too be smart (or even be able to read) to post here, it seems.

6:03 am: redlola accuses the editor of trivializing the fatal accident covered in one story by making a competition of it.

6:11 am: MetricOClock posts another wrong answer. Duh!

6:40 am: boatschit weighs in on the appropriateness of running a quiz that partly depends on a picture of an accident in which several sailors died and scores the first use of the F word in this thread.

12:35 pm: Apology from the editor saying no disrespect intended. Don't often see one of these in SA!

2:05 pm: clubsailor has a go at the editor. Another F bomb.

3:39 pm: Knothead congratulates the editor for "pissing people off again" and notes it is "good for the website business".

4:03 pm: The Pope posts, "Surprised that folks still get surprised by what goes on here. Really, check your standards at the door when you login, as this ain't no place that momma wants you to go."

Well said your holiness.

And this is one of the more restrained threads!

Update 5 hours later. I spoke too soon! The tough guys at SA have now lost all restraint and are throwing barbed posts at each other in an orgy of language escalation. "Sanctimonous pr*ck" is one of the kindest terms used. SOME PEOPLE ARE SHOUTING and others are thumping the table. STFU is being uttered more frequently as tempers rise.

Along the way someone took the obligatory swipe at competitor Scuttlebutt. And even that started a side argument about whether the swipe was accurate. It's like a bar in one of those old western movies when everyone is throwing punches and occasionally someone is thrown bodily out of the door.

A typical day at the forum indeed!

Perfect Partner

There's one of those silly "tag" games going around challenging those tagged to list 8 points that their perfect partner would have. Malaysian kayaker fh20 answered on his blog kuching kayaking with a twist I wish I had thought of first.

In any case I already have my perfect partner and it's her birthday today. She claims not to like sailing but I have several pictures to prove otherwise. There's one photo of her on my desk, tiller in hand, sun sparkling on the water behind her, with a huge smile on her face. But I have to confess all such pictures are the results of tricks I played on her.

You see my wife enjoys sitting on a sailboat if someone else does all the work. "Don't expect me to pull any of those strings!" is the usual condition she makes before she will step on to the boat. (Yes, after being around sailors and sailboats for 25 years she still says things like that.)

But if I trim the sails and steer the boat -- and make sure the boat doesn't heel more than five degrees -- she will come out for an hour or so. So the trick I play (and I can get away with it about once every five years) is to take her out for a sail in something like a Rhodes 19 on a beautiful, sunny, not too windy day and then, once out in the middle of the bay, pretend that there's some task I have to do up near the mast.

"Just hold the tiller for a second dear while I fix this." Then before she knows what has happened, I pull out my camera and take a shot of her steering the boat and laughing all over her face once she realizes she has been fooled again.

Happy birthday dear.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Moses Lovstad

In a week when Denmark is in the news for all the wrong reasons, check out the website of Danish sailor Moses Lovstad.

Starts out in Danish in 2003 with him racing his Contender, switches to English in 2004 and most recently has him sailing the RS:X, the new Olympic windsurfing equipment, as he sets his sights on Beijing in 2008. In between lots of fascinating stuff on training, keeping fit, running a marathon, racing a Dragon, trying out a Moth and even a long distance sail in a Laser. Plenty of pictures of sailing, friends, skiing, and his cute daughter Naomi.

Fascinating stuff. Much much better than ranting about cartoons of Mohammed.

Annapolis Performance Sailing

I don't normally use this blog to promote particular vendors but I do have to put in a good word for APS, Annapolis Performance Sailing. This is the first place I go to whenever I need sailing clothes, equipment, line, books etc. etc. etc. Their website is superb, their prices are good, the service is flawless -- stuff I order on the web is usually delivered to my home the next day via standard UPS Ground even though I live about 200 miles from the shop.

Check them out. You won't regret it.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Sticky Toffee Pudding

Did you catch the Rolling Stones concert in Detroit on Sunday night? Great that ABC showed it on prime-time TV. (Shame that it was preceded and followed by several hours of coverage of overweight, overpaid, overexcited, overdressed men in tight pants running into each other and falling over.)

Keith Richards is five years older than me. It actually makes me feel young to think of that and then watch and listen to him and Ron Wood jamming away at the end of an old classic like Satisfaction. OK, he may look like a dead man walking but the guy still has amazing energy. Rex Hammock was dead right in his post yesterday about why old farts in their fifties like the Rolling Stones.

I have Start Me Up on my CD of "get hyped up for sailing" songs that I play in the car on the way to races. Of course that's without the censorship of the lyrics that apparently was necessary for the tender ears of all those shy, sensitive football fans in the USA.

And for the best take on the censorship issue check out the Times Online on What the Rolling Stones really meant to sing.


I came across an Italian blog sNIPEOUT that is about sailing so, as I don't read Italian, I used good old Google Translate to check out what he (or she) is saying. A recent post liNKS (what is it with this mixing of upper and lower case characters) appears to be an article about the links from my Top 10 Sailing Blogs of 2005. (Except one is missing and one is in twice.)

Anyway, for what it's worth here is what Google made of it ..

succulento a directory of blog that they deal of sail!

it is clear: They do not only deal of sail, best ONLY SOME ONLY deal of sail, but ce they are also various that face the argument with a cut say. more heuristic?
In any case the sail guesses there always, a lot that are agonistica sail, cruise, bricolage, photography, etc, but other guesses also a lot there, therefore the heterogenous offer e quantomai, without to count that with all the connected ones link, can be gone to ravanare goodness knows where.
Those under are already active here, how much before will be available also in bottom to the right column, therefore good travel, to how many will attempt!
OK. I'm off to "ravanare goodness knows where" for a spot of "agonistica".

Monday, February 06, 2006

Word Clouds

The folks at snapshirts have a tool that lets you create a word cloud from your blog and print it in a T-shirt. A word cloud is a visual depiction of the words used in a body of text depicting more frequently used words in progressively larger fonts.

This is what my T-shirt would look like ...
And here's one for a fellow blogging sailor.
Can you spot who he is?

And this one?

How sad that the word "work" is so prominent in all three clouds!

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Proper Lookout

Ummm Sis .. have you seen this dude with the camera?


So there you are screaming down a reach in 20 knots of wind towards the gybe mark. You're trying to keep track of where all the other boats in the race are, where the next mark is, where the next wave is coming from, what the hell that idiot in the boat to leeward is going to do next, whether your crew has any clue of what he's doing ...

And then you start to approach the mark and you see THIS in front of your bow.

Do you
a) scream WTF ...

b) panic ...
c) put the helm down and do a crash tack ...
d) think, "Oh great. It's Onne van der Wal and he'll have some
cool pictures of us on his website tonight"?


Every few years a new small single-handed sailing boat is launched on the market and the hype starts. This will be the one. The one that displaces the Laser from its position as the gold standard in single-handed one design sailing. A few years ago it was the MX-Ray but it never really took off in a big way. This year there is the Hoot.

I must admit it looks pretty cool. I especially like the picture of the self-described petite brunette carrying the hull under her arm.

Who knows? This might be the one. The boat I mean -- not the brunette.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Be Prepared

Hey can I borrow a screwdriver?
Sure - take your pick.
Anybody got a knife?
Yeah - over here.

Who are these people? They come to the club without the most basic tools and then go cadging around the boat park until they find some sucker like me. Yeah, I'm that one guy that everyone seems to go to when they need to borrow something. My little box of tools lives in my car during the sailing season and I kinda hope that it contains everything that I might conceivably need to fix stuff on my Laser.

Let's see what I have ...

Pop riveter
Pop rivets
Corrosion eliminator
I don't ever recall actually replacing any riveted fittings in the middle of a regatta, but hey, you never know.

Wet and dry paper
Gotta keep your bottom smooth.

Can of McLube
Actually I have a bigger can too in the car. Spray it everywhere you can think. Could write a whole other post on the uses for this stuff. Probably will one day.

3 straight edge screwdrivers
2 Phillips screwdrivers
3 wrenches
Pair pliers

Tool that looks like a pair of pliers but is actually a gizmo for undoing Sunfish sailclips. No idea why I still carry it, except to be nice to Sunfish sailors that like to borrow it.


I feel bad about this. Always seems like an admission of failure if I actually have to whack something on my precious boat with a hammer. But there are some times when you just have to do it.

Eric Clapton cassette tape
My car doesn't even have a cassette player. But cassette tape is great stuff for a light air wind indicator.

Sail repair tape
Telltales various colors
Spatulas for applying marine-tex

Epoxy stick
This thing is supposed to be able to fix holes underwater. I've never actually needed to fix a hole underwater while Laser sailing but it sounded like a cool thing to have.

5200 silicone sealant
Tube of gelcoat repair stuff

Tape measure
Don't use it very often but this was my secret weapon for eliminating those heavy air death rolls. Another story for another day.

2 knives
Cigarette lighter
I don't smoke. This is for sealing the ends of synthetic lines.

Pens and pencils

Assorted rolls of tape
My big role of duct tape is elsewhere in the car. Which reminds me, must write a post about the sailor's best friend one day.

Spare light bulbs for the trailer
Circuit tester
Aaagh trailer electrics. Hate 'em. That's another subject ripe for further discussion.

Tire levers
Tire repair kit
Mainly for those damned dolly tires that are always flat just when you're in a hurry to launch.

This is just a backup in case I forget to throw the big bottle of sunscreen into my sailing bag.

Bag of Laser parts
Bailer, O rings, fairleads, centerboard stops ... Almost everything small on a Laser that can break. I have accumulated this mainly through a process of buying two replacements whenever anything breaks on the boat. One to replace the broken one; one for the bag for next time. Of course next time it's usually something else but over the years I've been sailing Lasers I seem to have accumulated one spare part for most bits. Could write a whole other post on "The Day I Broke My ..." and probably will one day.

So what am I missing. Comments please?

Friday, February 03, 2006

Yacht Club Websites

Peter Huston at Buffalo Niagara Sailing had an interesting post a few days ago about Club Communications. The gist of what he was saying was that yacht clubs, in his area at least, do a poor job of using the web to communicate with their members. He was in fact arguing for clubs to use the web to have a dialog with their members and, in particular, for officers to use blogs to achieve this end.

His article started me thinking about yacht club websites and their quality. What do I want from a sailing club website? Well, it depends on what my relationship with that club is. If I'm a prospective member I want current information about their range of activities, some details about membership, and an easy way to contact the club. If I'm planning to attend a regatta at the club I basically want directions or a map, and perhaps a way to contact them to ask questions. And if I'm a member of the club then I probably want to see a calendar of upcoming activities, up-to-date postings of racing results and maybe photos of recent sailing (perhaps even showing myself). Whatever my relationship with the club I will be more impressed with the club if the design and maintenance of the website look professional. After all if they can't run a simple thing like a website properly, then I will start to wonder if their approach to race management is equally sloppy.

So I decided to check out a few websites of clubs that sailed at last year.

First up was the Carolina Yacht Club at Wrightsville Beach, NC where I sailed in the Laser US Nationals in April. I wrote about the experience here. Well, their home page is pretty minimalistic but they do have links to their 2006 social and racing schedules and some notices of upcoming activities such as a tactical seminar in February and an ocean race in April. They even have a forum which should make Peter Huston happy. The forum has some recent for sale ads but only two posts on the general bulletin board since the end of September. Not exactly a hive of member/officer interaction. But there are directions to the club and a map; the list of officers is the 2006 slate and I can send them emails by clicking on their titles; and the club newsletters are online - hey there's even some pictures of us Laserites at the Nationals in the May issue. No obvious information on membership but I guess I could always email the commodore and ask. All in all, not a bad site. I'd give it 7 out of 10.

In June I was racing in our Laser district championships at Island Heights Yacht Club and waffling on about it here. Let's see. Their website home page has a cool picture of the club from the river and some news from December about a fire destroying some members' homes. So far so good. But then a link to some racing results (actually to their local YRA site) gives me the dreaded 410 error; the calendar page takes me to last year's calendar; the photos link takes me to some photos of sailing in 2000 and a golf tournament in 2003; and
the sailing link on the home page leads me to an archive of results from 1999 to 2001. There is a contacts page with the ability to send emails to officers but by now I'm wondering if the information there is any more current than the photos or results; and I see no obvious way to get directions to the club or apply for membership. Lucky I already know my way. Not good. Not good at all. Let's be generous and give them 2 out of 10.

For my last site today I checked out Severn Sailing Association in Annapolis where I sailed in the Laser US Masters at the beginning of October and of which I burbled here and here. First impressions of the site are excellent: a clean, smart professional looking design. There's a prominent link to the 2006 racing schedule and notices of upcoming events such as a rules seminar by Dave Perry in February. On the "About SSA" page there are links to a lot of the stuff anyone would be looking for: directions to the club, how to join, names of fleet captains, phone numbers and emails. About the only thing missing from the website is that element of two way dialog that Peter Huston was looking for, but apart from that they're doing a superb job. 9 out of 10 I would say.

So what do you think? How does your yacht club's use of the web measure up? Know any sites that are a model for all clubs? Or any real lemons? Comments please.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

More on the Wattle

Oops. I was wrong. A commenter on today's post about Australia Day asked if there are wattle jokes. I replied that I doubted that Aussies take the wattle seriously and that there would probably be some good jokes out there.

I was wrong. Seems like Australians take the wattle as seriously as Americans do their flag, the French their wine, and the British ...

Scrub that thought, we Brits don't take anything
that seriously.

Yup. It seems that there are patriotic songs about the wattle with such stirring lines as ...

But whatever the quarrel, whoever her foes,
Let them come! Let them come when they will!
Though the struggle be grim, 'tis Australia that knows,
That her children shall fight while the Waratah grows,
And the Wattle blooms out on the hill.

And here's another that I really like ...

And we must sing a rebel song
And join in rebel chorus.
We'll make the tyrants feel the sting
O' those that they would throttle;
They needn't say the fault is ours
If blood should stain the wattle!

Apparently, during World War 1 it was customary to send soldiers serving overseas a sprig of wattle with each letter to remind them of home. And, more recently, after the Bali bombings the Australian prime minister suggested that Australians wear sprigs of wattle and plant wattle seeds as a "quiet personal gesture of remembrance and reflection".

So apologies to my Australian readers. I didn't mean to treat your national symbol so lightly. In mitigation I can only point out that I do have an Australian mother-in-law ... and there ought to be a joke there but I can't think of the punch line.

What's all this got to do with sailing, you may ask?

Good question.

Australia Day

Damn it.
You didn't remind me.

Once again Australia Day came and went and I didn't get a chance to celebrate it.

So here's a picture of Australia's floral emblem, the golden wattle.

You knew that, didn't you?

Product Endorsement

When I wrote a post some months ago mentioning a certain body part it generated way too many google hits from weirdos who were almost certainly not looking for my personal accounts of running and sailing. So I will simply say that this product BODYGLIDE has provided the necessary lubrication to enable me to complete two marathons in comfort.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006


This classic from Mike Belkin's comic strip Unfit (actually published on January 3) reminded me of all that talk last month of new year resolutions, and goals, and establishing new habits like getting fit for sailing.

So, dear reader, how are you doing with your resolutions? Comments please.

Living Slow

I see that one reader arrived at my blog by doing a google search on "live slow". I guess that's not surprising -- the phrase is up there in my title bar. I must admit that I didn't give that choice of words a great deal of thought when I started the blog. "Live slow, sail fast" after all is just a slogan on a T-shirt.

I knew that one of the major themes of the blog would be "sail fast", my often futile attempts to improve my sailboat racing skills; and as a relatively recent retiree the "live slow" slogan resonated with me after a half a century of hustle and hassle to get good grades, to get into the right college, to get the right job, to get promotions ... a hectic life of schedules and work and meetings and deadlines and business travel. "Live slow" was just a statement of rejection of that life style, a commitment to take it easier in retirement.

But following up on that google search I see that "living slow" is much, much more serious than I had imagined. It's a whole philosophy, a movement even. It seems to have got started with the Slow Food movement which was founded in 1986 as a response to the opening of a McDonald's restaurant on the Spanish Steps in Rome. Slow Food, now an international organization with over 80,000 members, has an aim to "protect the pleasures of the table from the homogenization of modern fast food and life". They promote gastronomic culture, develop taste education, and work to protect agricultural biodiversity and traditional foods.

Mmmm... sounds tasty.

The Slow Food movement in turn gave rise to a network of Slow Cities "where living is easy". These are towns "where men are still curious of the old times, towns rich of theatres, squares, cafes, workshops, restaurants and spiritual places, towns with untouched landscapes and charming craftsman where people are still able to recognize the slow course of the Seasons and their genuine products respecting tastes, health and spontaneous customs."

Hmmm - that sounds good. However, I notice that their website doesn't seem to award the "slow city" accolade to any towns in the USA. Perhaps they have just been a bit slow updating the website?

Some take it even further and argue for the virtues of slowness in almost every aspect of life. In his book In Praise of Slowness, Carl Honore reports that he sees everywhere evidence of "a great hunger for slowness". He writes not only of enjoying a four hour slow food dinner in Italy but also of a "slow school" in Japan founded by parents as an alternative to high stress classes. He tells of a group that plays music such as Mozart slowly (sounds a bit like my guitar playing), the superslow weightlifting movement (I can relate to that) and Honore even enrolls, with his wife, in a class on slow sex (no comment).

The common themes running through most of these ideas seem to be an emphasis on quality over quantity; a commitment to take the time to appreciate the finer things in life; an emphasis on paying attention to the details of each experience. It's more than a rejection of speed; it's a celebration of life by electing to live it a pace that allows one to enjoy each of its adventures to the utmost.

Then there is a blog called Slow Leadership with posts on such topics as What's So Good About the Work Ethic? and Slow Leadership in Practice which is about a company that "trusts its employees to set their own salaries and working times... (who) go to meetings only if they think they need to... The company has no official structure, no organizational chart, no business plan and no corporate strategy." Not sure how some of that would have gone down with my old employer but it sounds like a cool place to work.

Slow living is even a subject for serious academic research. Wendy Parkins of Murdoch University in Western Australia (a splendid place to live slow, by the way) has published an article in a learned journal on Fast Subjects and Slow Living. Here is the abstract.

Slow living involves the conscious negotiation of the different temporalities which make up our everyday lives, deriving from a commitment to occupy time more attentively. This article considers the significance of time in practices of slow living and the imbrication of time and speed in notions of 'slowness' where slowness is constructed as a deliberate subversion of the dominance of speed. By purposely adopting slowness, subjects seek to generate alternative practices of work and leisure, family and sociality.

Imbrication? Sociality? Geeze this is getting heavy.

As you can see some of these folk in the slow movement are very earnest in their arguments for the merits of slowness. They can seem a little too purposeful for my taste. Do we really have to work so hard at the slow life?

I think I need a break.