Sunday, November 30, 2008

Both Leeward and Both Starboard

Here is a question about the Racing Rules that has been bugging me since it happened to me in a regatta over a year ago.

Here is the situation...


Boat 1 (Blue) is a Laser on starboard tack sailing by the lee.

Boat 2 (Red) is a Laser on starboard tack in the same race who has already rounded the leeward mark and is sailing close-hauled.

Neither boat changes course.

The two boats make contact when the end of the boom of the Blue boat brushes the sail of the Red boat.

Applicable Definitions and Rules

When boats are on the same tack and overlapped, a windward boat shall keep clear of a leeward boat.

Tack, Starboard or Port A boat is on the tack, starboard or port, corresponding to her windward side.

Leeward and Windward A boat’s leeward side is the side that is or, when she is head to wind, was away from the wind. However, when sailing by the lee or directly downwind, her leeward side is the side on which her mainsail lies. The other side is her windward side. When two boats on the same tack overlap, the one on the leeward side of the other is the leeward boat. The other is the windward boat.

OK. Here is why I am mystified by this one.

The Blue boat is sailing by the lee and so her leeward side is the side on which her mainsail lies, the port side. Therefore she is on starboard tack.

The Red boat's port side is her leeward side because it the side away from the wind. Therefore she is also on starboard tack.

(Note: the previous paragraph has been corrected from the first version of this post. In the original the fourth word of the first sentence was "starboard" which is clearly wrong. But it doesn't affect the sense of the rest of the post.)

Clearly the boats are overlapped so Rule 11 applies.

But which boat is windward and which is leeward?

Both boats could claim that they were the leeward boat because contact was made with the the leeward side of the other boat. On the other hand both boats would also have to concede that the other boat is on their own leeward side.

So have both boats infringed Rule 11? Or neither? Or if only one has, why?

This situation is a bit similar to the one posed by Jos Spijkerman on his blog, Who Has to Keep Clear? My example may also be the answer to the question posed by John Doerr in Scuttlebutt Newsletter 2733 last week, "Of interest to some will be the situation where both boats are leeward and on starboard. Now neither of them has any obligation to keep clear (but they must avoid contact). Can you construct that situation?"

Update: In the example above the two boats make contact with their leeward sides. A similar situation could be imagined where it is the windward sides of both boats that make contact. See Bigger Crunch. Same issue. Both boats could legitimately claim that they were the leeward boat and protest the other under Rule 11. Is the other example fundamentally different in any way?

It Is A Rock

On Wednesday I completed my 89th sail of the year, launching from Independence Park in Bristol, sailing upwind in a brisk southerly, around Castle Rocks in the harbor mouth, and then riding the waves back downwind. For some reason I seem to be channeling Paul Simon again..

A winter's day
In a deep and dark November;
I am alone,
Gazing from my Laser to the harbor mouth
There through the waves rolling from the south
It is a rock,
It is an island.

I've built a blog,
Of words too long and flighty,
That none may penetrate.
I have no need of hiking pants; hiking pants cause pain.
Their neoprene and their battens I disdain.
It is a rock,
It is an island.

Don't talk of gloves,
I left them on the shore;
They're in my bleeping SUV.
I may not make it to back to the beach
As I cannot beat the tide.

But if I never sailed I never would have tried.
It is a rock,
It is an island.

I have my hiking boots
And my PFD to protect me;
I am shielded in my armor,
Hiding in my drysuit, safe in it I assume.
I see no one and no one else sees me.
It is a rock,
It is an island.

And a jock feels no pain;
And a Rhode Islander never cries.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Hazy Shade of Winter

I should have completed my 88th sail of the year by racing with the Newport Laser frostbite fleet last Sunday. But on Sunday morning I woke up with bubonic plague or a brain tumor or food poisoning or a cold or a hangover or all five or something, and it was windy, and I wussed out. So on Monday, on a chilly dark gray cloudy afternoon I went for a solo sail on Bristol Harbor. Paul Simon was on the television box thingie the other day and for some reason this song kept going through my head...

Time, time, time, at the weekend it was blowing a gale
While I looked around
For my eighty eighth sail
My quest for one hundred is bound to fail
But look around, leaves are brown
And the sky is a hazy shade of winter

Hear the wind whistling on the strand
Down by Bristol harborside, its bound to be a better ride
Than what they had planned
Carry my tiller in my hand
And look around, leaves are brown now
And the sky is a hazy shade of winter

Hang on to your ropes, my friend
That's an easy thing to say,
but if your ropes should fray away

Simply pretend
That you can splice them again
Look around, the waves are high
This song is tripe, its the cold time of my life

Ahhh, seasons change with the scenery
Stealing days from this mad quest, you see
Wont you stop and remember me
No? What a joke!
Funny how my memory slips while looking over old posts
Of unintelligible smoke
Drinking my rum and coke

But look around, leaves are brown now
And the sky is a hazy shade of winter

Look around, leaves are brown
There's a patch of snow on the ground...

Thursday, November 27, 2008


Today is Thanksgiving Day in the USA, a day when Americans rest and feast in preparation for getting up the next day at 4am to hit the malls and shop 'til they drop. Historians differ as to the origin of this custom. There is no record as to where the Mayflower Pilgrims did their Christmas shopping on the first Black Friday, as the day is known, so the real genesis of the tradition must remain forever lost in the mists of time.

Anway if I do any shopping this weekend it will be on the Interwebs, probably on Cyber Monday, named in honor of the day when the early Americans, who did not have broadband connections at home, returned to work after the Thanksgiving/ Black Friday holiday to do their shopping on the Interwebs while pretending to their boss that they were actually preparing that report on price elasticity in the cranberry market.

Where was I? Where am I? Oh yes. Thanksgiving. What a strange word. Sounds like it may have had, once upon a time, something to do with giving thanks. So that's what I'll do today...

I give thanks for health, and family, and friends. What else is worth having?

I give thanks...

That I still have the health and fitness to go out and sail my little Laser board boat in all sorts of winds and weather, except when I'm too much of a wuss because NOAA say there's a Small Craft Advisory, or I have a hangover, or my toe hurts.

For my sturdy little 13-year-old Laser that still keeps going and going like the little engine that could.

For all the other people I sailed with this year. For tough but fair competition on the race course. For sportsmanship. For friendly advice. For fun practice sessions in small groups. For companionship and a good laugh after sailing and a promise to meet up again next week.

For all the people who worked to organize the sport of sailing so that I could enjoy it. For regatta organizers and race committees and safety boat drivers.

For the guys who build boats and make sails and all the other gear and gizmos we need.

For coaches Rulo and Kurt and all their feedback and advice. Sorry I'm such a slow learner.

For Tillerwoman, who never complains about all the days I leave her to go sailing, never complains even when I drag her to Australia or Spain or Florida so I can go sailing.

I give thanks...

For all the writers of sailing blogs who have entertained, informed, educated and amused me this year.

For all the folk who stopped by Proper Course. Writing this blog would be pretty pointless without you. Come to think of it, it's pretty pointless anyway. Never mind.

For all the folk who actually took the time to leave a comment on Proper Course. You make it all worthwhile. You even make me laugh some times.

And a special thanks to all the folk who contributed something to my various group writing projects. I've really enjoyed reading all your tales.

I give thanks...

For the people of Rhode Island who welcomed us to their state. For good neighbors. For the farmers and growers and fishers and winemakers of Rhode Island. And for the guys who clean the roads and pick up the garbage.

For our home by the sea.

For the view of the bay when I wake up every morning, always different, always changing. And for the magnificent sunsets over the bay every evening.

For Tillerwoman's garden and for all the health-giving vegetables she has grown for us this year.

I give thanks...

For my family.

For my two sons who make me proud every day.

For the two amazing young women who have chosen to spend their lives with my sons.

For my two grandchildren, Emily and Aidan, the source of so much pleasure as I watch them grow and change and learn new skills week by week.

For Tillerwoman, my lovely wife, who didn't know she was marrying a sailor, but who is still here after 35 years of married life. Waking up every morning at her side is the first thing that I give thanks for each day. Sure beats the alternative.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Rhode Island Beats Detroit

So while the Big Three automakers' CEOs were jetting off to Washington to ask for several billion dollars of our money, they were also fighting a rearguard action in the courts to stop my adopted home state of Rhode Island from seeking stricter standards on greenhouse emissions than those set by the federal government.

Rhode Island just won the case

Yay. One more reason why I love this place.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008



Continuing the new theme of this blog... no more crap about Laser sailing in the cold, it's all about pirates from now on... it seems that the story about the Indian Navy firing on and sinking a "pirate mother ship" a few days ago may have been slightly exaggerated. Apparently, according to the latest reports, what really happened was that the boat sunk by the INS Tabar was actually a Thai trawler that had just been taken over by pirates.


But it raises the question of when is a ship a pirate ship. If it's in the control of pirates, and there are scary-looking dudes wandering around the deck with RPG launchers, and said scary-looking dudes fire at a naval vessel that challenges them...

Of course Mr. Sirichaiekawat who owned the trawler and the families of the sailors on the trawler, most of whom are now missing or dead, might not see things quite that way.

What a mess.

Meanwhile the Germans are sending 1400 troops to somehow help with the problem.

So now we have several navies, some privateers, and the German army all cruising around off East Africa looking for something to shoot at.

Hmmm. Anyone see any potential problems here?

The Answer to Somali Pirates?

How Should We Deal With Pirates?

I'm sure we are all aware of the news about the attacks on shipping off the coast off Africa by Somali pirates. There have been over 90 attacks this year and the pirates are currently holding 17 ships and more than 250 sailors.

It wasn't until I read this article Why Don't We Hang Pirates Any More? that I realized how the efforts of various navies to deal with this issue are hamstrung by the current laws on piracy. Current international law "enjoins naval ships from firing on suspected pirates". Apparently they are required to send over a boarding party first to inquire if they are in fact pirates. Hmmm. That sounds like it should work.

And if pirates are captured there is the problem of what to do with them. US law establishes a sentence of life in prison for a foreigner captured in the act of piracy, but only for attacks against US-flagged vessels, of which there are few these days. And the British foreign office has recently advised the Royal Navy not to take pirates prisoner lest they seek asylum in the UK. Yikes.

So it's not at all like the good old days when a "more robust attitude" to dealing with pirates prevailed. What do you think? How should we deal with pirates?

Monday, November 24, 2008

Dinner Wrap

Thanks to everyone who contributed to this month's group writing project, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner. Once again I was amazed at the creativity and the variety of your ideas, in this case about which sailors you would invite to a dinner party. It was also very gratifying to see some new folk submitting entries this month. There are clearly some very talented sailing writers out there.

Here is the final list of all the entries. If you wrote about more than one dinner guest (as was allowed and even encouraged) I have usually just selected the one that I thought most interesting in this summary list.

Wavedancer wants to invite
Michiel Adriaenszoon de Ruyter, some dead Dutch admiral, who created havoc and terror among the residents of London with a raid on English naval ships in the River Medway back in 1667, thereby starting a soccer rivalry between England and Holland lasting over 300 years.

Pat, the Desert Sea sailor, considers a wide range of possible invitees, but ends up concluding that he should invite the kids.

By way of contrast, Pat's other half, Carol Anne, wants to invite Zorro as guest of honor at her garden party. Yikes.

M Squared ruminates about the intersection of wind and bytes and chooses as his guest of honor Jim Gray a pioneering computer scientist, and sailor too, who went missing last year while on a solo boating trip from San Francisco to the Farallon Islands to scatter his mother's ashes.

Em Dy would like to have dinner with Captain Jack Sparrow. Whether he would enjoy her menu I'm not sure. It includes balut, unborn duck fetus.

Andrew Sadler wants to use his dinner party to set up a meeting over a hamper and Italian wine between Simon Payne (of foiling moth fame) and that famous Renaissance sailor, Leonardo da Vinci.

Redwing invites a whole raft of famous explorers and sailors, needing two posts Parts 1 and 2 to tell the whole tale of his dinner party. My own hero among his invitees is the Antarctic explorer Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton, CVO, OBE, Kt. Here is his ship Endurance trapped in the pack ice which eventually crushed it.

Adam would also invite Shackleton's ghost, along with some other sailing luminaries including Rear Admiral Sir John Aubrey, KB, MP, JP, FRS.

O Docker would invite The Pied Pipers of Newport Beach a.k.a. Lin and Larry Pardey.

David Anderson invites a mixed bunch of characters to his crazy party including Nick Scandone who was diagnosed with ALS in 2002 and who, with his crew Maureen McKinnon-Tucker, won the SKUD 18 gold medal at the Paralympics this year.

Some geek wrote a post Cheers about inviting to dinner various unsavory characters with weird names who play with him in some computer game. Here's a photo of the most normal guest...

Walter Mondale envisages a summer picnic by the side of the River Thurne in Norfolk for his party. I think he wins the award for most diverse guest list which includes the Duke of Edinburgh, the delightfully named Emily Fabpants, and Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson, 1st Viscount Nelson, 1st Duke of Bronté, KB.

Greg and Kris called their dinner The Studs Terkel Memorial Sailing Supper and invited some sailors slightly less well known than Admiral Lord Nelson. I didn't know any of the guests but I assume that Kris will be the hostess of the party, which is a great excuse to use this photo.

Captain JP chose William Dampier has his guest of honor. Old Bill doesn't look like much fun in the portrait below. But he has been described as the "greatest nautical explorer-adventurer, British or otherwise, between the Elizabethans (notably Sir Francis Drake and Sir Walter Raleigh) and James Cook" so I'm sure he would have some fascinating tales to tell.

Edward is a Serious Ocean Going Racing Sailor and writes about a dinner he actually hosted with two Even More Serious Ocean Going Racing Sailors. One of them is called Phil. Here is a picture of some guy called Phil from Edward's blog who is so cool he is actually yawning while doing some Serious Ocean Going Racing. It might be the same Phil. Probably is. Whatever.

Update: A late entry from tugster 1941 Ship.

Michiel Adriaansz de Ruyter

The final entry in our group writing project, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, is from Wavedancer...

I would really like to have Michiel Adriaenszoon de Ruyter over for dinner. Why him? When I was a kid in the Netherlands, and long long before I knew anything about the sport of sailing, de Ruyter became one of my heroes. No, he never won any Laser races, and didn't go to the Olympics, but he was one smart sailor. Especially with guns on his ship. No 720s or protest committees for him.

So what would we be talking about while having dinner? I would ask him to tell me about the most fun he ever had on the water. Was it chasing the Spaniards, the English or the French? Privateering when he was younger? Or reaching the West Indies after a rough transatlantic crossing?

I imagine dinner time would pass quickly, perhaps energized by a 17th century microbrew. But just in case our conversation would stall, I might ask him to expand on one of his major victories, the Raid on the Medway (1667). Some background for those who aren't Dutch or naval historians. Around the middle of the 17th century, the Dutch had freed themselves from Spanish occupation, and the economy was going strong. Trading was a mainstay, and the Dutch Republic was trying to establish maritime footholds around the world. However, the English aspired to be the dominant power on the seas as well. The two countries are separated by the North Sea and several naval wars resulted.

It was in the second such war that de Ruyter gained his best known victory. He had retired from sailing a few years before, after rising from first mate to commander, but was asked to start a second career as vice-admiral of the Dutch Navy. Early in the summer of 1667, the Dutch obtained intelligence that a significant number of English Navy ships were docked along the River Medway, a tributary of the River Thames. de Ruyter got instructions to cross the North Sea and enter the Thames estuary with the ships under his command. At the last minute the English put a chain across the river, but that proved to be futile. de Ruyter's fire ships destroyed a number of warships at the dockyards and took the flagship Royal Charles in tow as their major bounty. Peace ensued; a feat that my guest was justifiably proud of.

By now dinner is over and it's time to open up that bottle of 300+-year old brandy, and bring out a toast to victory. After emptying our snifters, the vice-admiral reminds me that it has gotten late. Therefore, I will call for his carriage to take him back to his residence.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Still Even Yet More Dinner Invitations

It's the final day of our group writing project Guess Who's Coming to Dinner in which you were invited to write about which sailors real or fictional, living or dead you would like to invite to dinner. Here are two more entries...

Pat, who sails the Desert Sea, discusses a whole range of possible dinner companions ranging from sailors of ancient legends; the great sailors of history; sailing artists, authors, poets and minstrels; contemporary racers and cruisers; and then on to sailors who have influenced him; volunteers who support our sport... and concludes with a thought to the future of the sport. A post that is simultaneously thoughtful and inspiring. Check out Sailors' Rondy.

M Squared steers a very different course and focuses on a recent mystery, a missing sailor from a similar profession to his own, in Dinner with Jim Gray.

Thanks to everyone who has contributed so far to this project. You have surpassed my expectations in the creativity of your posts and the amazing diversity of sailors you have chosen. If you haven't sent in an entry yet you still have until midnight today (Sunday). Full details at Guess Who's Coming to Dinner.


I've decided I need to invent a new system of numbers.

You see, Mr Brian Raney was so excited by my posting in the sidebar of two images of a young lady wearing number 43 to commemorate my 86th sail, that he seriously said that he was hoping that I would not get any further than 86 in my quest for 100 days of Laser sailing in 2008. But I have already completed sail #87 and hope to do sail #88 soon, so I am going to have to disappoint Mr Raney by changing the images I use to count "# Days Laser Sailing in 2008". Ms 43 has to go.

Or does she?

I started thinking about the French language. Did you know that the French don't have words for "eighty" or "ninety"? The number after 79 is quatre-vingts or four-twenties. And then they go on counting in that fashion. Four-twenty-one for 81, four-twenty-two for 82..... and then 90 is four-twenty-ten. And they keep going in that crazy way... four-twenty-eleven for 91, four-twenty-twelve for 92.... Come to think of it, they don't have words for 17, 18 or 19 either, so they have to say four-twenty-ten-seven for 97, four-twenty-ten-eight for 98, and four-twenty-ten-nine for 99. (And for 100 they have stolen a word from American and say "cent".)

How weird is that? Oh geeze, now I'm going to get a rude comment from my one French reader. Sorry Frankie.

Anyway, I was thinking... if the French can count in "four twenties" why can't I count in "two forty threes"? That way I can leave those two pictures that are so treasured my Mr Raney (and I dare say other gentlemen who are fans of Mr Polamalu) and just add other images below them to keep counting towards 100.

So 87 is hereby renamed two-forty-three-one. Etc. Etc.


Saturday, November 22, 2008

Batty Old Geezer Spotted Sailing on Small Town Lake

On Friday I went back to Lake Whippersnapper for another afternoon of small town small lake sailing, just like the sail reported in Real America. Same place, pretty much same crazy wind and same cool weather. But no two sails are ever the same, and this was no exception...

At the launch ramp on Friday, I didn't meet any non-sailor small town citizens like the ones who looked at me like I was nuts the day before and who stood by while I sailed, cell phones at the ready, prepared to call out the emergency services when the crazy old dude sailing that silly little board boat got himself into trouble in the frigid waters of their small town lake.

No, on Friday I ran into the coach of the small town high school sailing team, a guy about my age, and himself another Laser sailor to boot. In fact he was one of the sailors from the Just Six Laser Dudes Racing Round a Sausage practice sessions at the end of the summer, and one of my closest competitors at my one regatta win of the year Just One of Those Days.
He was waiting to meet some of his team to prepare some of their boats for the winter. The team had stopped regular practices at the beginning of November.

The coach was a bit more understanding of why I wanted to go sailing in such cold weather than the concerned small town citizens that I met on Thursday were. But he did check that I had a drysuit. As I rigged my Laser, we chatted about our experiences in teaching kids how to race, what the other Laser sailors from the small town sailing club were up to these days, and swapped ideas on cold weather sailing gear, especially gloves.

As I sailed out for a bit of Lasering practice in the middle of the lake I was thinking that it was no bad thing that the coach and some of the sailing team had seen me. No doubt I will have to come back here next year and defend my title as Small Town Annual Laser Regatta Champion. Now the word will spread that that batty old geezer who won the 2008 regatta was out practicing on our lake in icy weather, weeks after the high school team had packed it in. They will exchange tales all winter about how that weird guy with the English accent just never stops sailing. If they think I am totally bonkers about Lasering it will definitely give me a psychological advantage at the 2009 regatta.

The coach and I had agreed that neither of us had good gloves for cold weather sailing. I was wearing a pair of three finger gloves and, as expected, after twenty minutes or so the four fingers not gloved were unbearably painful, and the six gloved fingers were merely
excruciatingly painful. I stopped in the middle of the lake for a while and sucked my fingers and waved my hands about wildly to try and restore the circulation. The strange thing was that once the blood was flowing to my finger tips and I started sailing again my fingers didn't get cold any more. Anyone else had that experience?

The shifts and gusts were just as random and vicious as on Thursday but I seemed to be coping with them better. Considering that much of my small boat sailing experience has been on small lakes at Where It All Started and Goose Poop Beach Sailing Club, I'm really bad at dealing with typical small lake shifty winds these days. But, as with all things, the more you practice the more you reinforce your own bad habits. No wait, that can't be right. Can it?

It might have been a tad colder. Or maybe it was because I sailed a bit longer on Friday than on Thursday. Because, after a while, I noticed that t
he sheet and the control lines were becoming rigid, and the ice on the sheet was starting to accumulate in the block on the boom. I know from experience that it's only a matter of time after this that there will come a point when you want to sheet out in a gust and you release the sheet ... and nothing happens. The boom block is jammed with ice and you're toast. Very cold very damp toast usually.

So I called it a day and sailed into the ramp.

87 days of sailing this year. Time to replace the Mr Troy Polamalu #1 fan picture gallery in the sidebar for something more sober. Or maybe not for a while.

Oh Captain, My Captain

Most of the folk who stop by this blog are sailors. Or at least they are interested in sailing or know something about sailing. But not always.

Occasionally I receive a visit from someone who confesses they know nothing about sailing. Such was the case for Em Dy, who left a comment here a few days ago. Em is a Filipino physician who has a blog where she writes mainly about shopping and movies and food. Judging by the pictures on her blog she must be one of those people you see in restaurants taking photos of every course they eat.

Mmmm. Looks delicious.

Anyway Dr Dy decided to participate in this month's group writing project Guess Who's Coming to Dinner. As is fitting for someone interested in food, most of her entry is about the menu for the dinner which includes caviar, balut and lechon. Even if some of the food is unfamiliar to many of my readers, I think you will all know her guest of honor. Check out Oh Captain, My Captain.

The group writing project is still open until close of business on Sunday 23 Nov. Find out how to participate at Guess Who's Coming to Dinner.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Real America

On Thursday I went Laser sailing on the lake in a small Massachusetts town near my son's house, the same lake that I wrote about in Lake Whippersnapper, Just Six Laser Dudes Racing Round a Sausage and Just One of Those Days. The air temperature was in the low 30's. The wind was blowing around 10-12 knots with gusts from various random directions at somewhat more.

During the recent US election, one candidate made much of the virtues of small towns, "real America" as she called it. I'm quite partial to sailing on small lakes in small towns myself; but I suspect my my reasons are somewhat different from those of the "real America" lady. (I wonder what happened to her?)

The good things about small town small lake sailing are...
  • If you're on your own sailing in cold conditions you have the comfort that if something bad happens it won't be long before you drift into some nearby shore.

  • Small town folk are looking out for you. Before I launched, some guy at the ramp came over and chatted to me about my plans and was obviously somewhat concerned for me until I told him in answer to his questions that yes I would be wearing a drysuit, I did have 25 years experience of Lasering, and yes I have sailed a Laser on the ocean. He still looked at me like I was nuts and hung around for a while while I was sailing. Then when I returned to the ramp after sailing there was another guy there who looked even more concerned. He told me he had been "counting the time" when he saw me capsize in the middle of the lake and was swimming for a while before righting the boat. I wondered how long he was going to count before dialling 911 and causing an incident like the one Greg had in DR 1.

  • Fresh water freezes at 32 degrees. So you know that you can't sail if the water is colder than that. At least it's some kind of check on the lunacy of some crazy old geezer trying to squeeze in 100 sails before the end of the year.

The bad things about small town small lake sailing are...
  • When the wind is blowing across the short axis of a small lake, and when it's coming over houses and trees, and especially when it's a northwesterly, it will be crazy gusty and crazy shifty. There will be random slam dunk headers and other nastiness. Stuff that's evil enough to cause a capsize even for a dude who has sailed 86 times already this year and who never (well hardly ever) capsizes. Thank god for my efficient new drysuit.

  • Fresh water freezes at 32 degrees. I noticed that while I was derigging all the water on the Laser deck froze into a nice thin smooth sheet of ice. Hmmm. 14 more sails to go to 100. Will I make it?
It has been brought to my attention that a number of gentlemen who read this blog are fans of a certain Mr Troy Polamalu. Apparently the young lady whose image I chose to celebrate my 43rd sail was also a fan of Mr Polamalu, and so those gentlemen were looking for an opportunity to show their appreciation for Mr Polamalu by seeing the young lady here again. It was suggested that perhaps I could show two images of the young lady to commemorate my 86th sail.

Prior to this request I was unaware of Mr Polamalu's existence. I have since learned that he plays for one of those American football teams and is quite good at something called a "blitz" which I think means that he goes and knocks over that handsome white chappie holding the ball. It is also reported that one of Mr Polamalu's hobbies is "growing flowers" and that he hasn't cut his hair since the year 2000.

Anyway, I'm always happy to oblige Mr Polamalu's fans, so please note that there are two images of the young lady with the 43 painting on her chest in the sidebar today.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Yet Even More Dinner Invitations

The pace of entries for our group writing project Guess Who's Coming to Dinner is really hotting up now, with two more submissions in the last few hours.

Andrew Sadler muses over the relative merits of old-fashioned open keel boats and various more unstable craft, before deciding to invite to dinner two innovators from very different ages, Simon and Leonardo.

Redwing's entry, like Postel's Law, is in two parts. In Part One he channels Herman Melville to set the scene for his party; in Part Two in comes a "wild set of mariners" who would surely have some amazing tales to tell.

You have until Sunday to share your own ideas on which sailors, alive or dead, real or fictional, you would invite to a dinner party. Full details of how to participate at Guess Who's Coming to Dinner.

Thanks to everyone who has submitted their invitation lists already. Looking forward to many more before the closing date.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Yet More Dinner Invitations

Four more bloggers have responded to my challenge to write about which sailors, living or dead, real or fictional they would like to invite to a dinner party.

Adam Turinas has taken a break from messing about in sailboats to write a short and sweet post about his invitees, OK Tillerman, here's who I would have to dinner.

O Docker waxes lyrical in The Pied Pipers of Newport Beach as he tells us why he would invite a well-known sailing couple to have dinner with him.

David Anderson of David Anderson's Small Boat Sailing Adventures has let his imagination run wild, and after drawing up his guest list concludes, "Now that would be a crazy party!"

And some dude who sounds like one of those guys playing online games and blogging in his pajamas while living in his parents' basement has contributed a weird post entitled Cheers.

There's still plenty of time for you to share your ideas on which sailors you would invite to a dinner party. Full details of how to participate at Guess Who's Coming to Dinner.


So who should I invite to my own imaginary dinner party for sailors real or fictional, living or dead, my own version of the dinner party I asked other bloggers to write about for this month's group writing project Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?

Should I go for famous real life sailors I admire like Robin Knox-Johnston and Ben Ainslie, or should I sail off into the lands of myth and legend and invite Ulysses and Erik the Red? Should I get together with some of my real life sailing pals like That Guy and The Other Guy, or should I invite some of the friends I have made through blogging?

None of the above.

Here is my guest list...
  • aestela
  • CAN_2809
  • Dogwatch
  • Enterprise
  • LaserManDan
  • Sailing_Rugger

Never heard of them? Let me enlighten you. The sailors on my list are some of the leading lights in the online multi-player sailing tactical simulator known as Sailx.

I've never met any of these guys in the flesh. (At least as far as I know. You never know who the people you are sailing against really are in Sailx. And I'm assuming they are all guys, not gals. They sound like guys.) But I have "interacted" with them all in various ways within the Sailx universe and so, although I only know them as little groups of pixels looking like toy sailboats, I do feel I have learned something about their personalities.

Sailing_Rugger is currently leading the Sailx rankings so I'd want to pick his brains about how he manages to sail so well. We "met" quite a while ago during the wild and woolly early days of the game when it was still known as Tacticat so he feels like an old friend.

CAN_2809 is a pretty fine sailor too, and I'm inviting him because he's also a software engineer and, judging by what he's written in the Sailx forum, he's super smart at working out ways to "hack" Sailx like finding ways to see the start line or the wind over the course better. Hey, a duffer like me who is as bad at virtual sailing as he is at real-life sailing needs all the help he can get.

LaserManDan is one of the Sailx regulars, and founder member of one of the top teams on Sailx. I'm inviting him because we discovered while chatting in between races that he is the son of one of the guys I used to sail with at my first (real-life) sailing club, the one I wrote about in Where It All Started. Hey Dan, bring your Dad to the party too.

And then we have Dogwatch and Enterprise. I'm inviting them because they were the main players in a couple of virtual protest hearings I recently got involved in on the Sailx protest forum. Yeah, I know I complained before about how the "sea lawyers" have ruined the game. But Dogwatch took the trouble to protest me in a couple of races, so I entered into the spirit of the game by doing a bit of sea-lawyering to defend myself.

Neither of the protests were clear cut so I argued my case with every technique I could devise. When the facts were against me I argued the rules. When the rules were against me I argued the facts. I introduced various side-issues to muddy the waters. I pounced on the slightest mistake made my opponent and used his own words against him. Emotions ran high. The arguments raged on and on as Dogwatch turned out to be as fierce and as devious an advocate as myself.

Enterprise was the "moderator" who effectively volunteered to be the protest committee chairman for us, to hear all the arguments from the protagonists and any other players or moderators who wanted to express an opinion, and then to make a decision. I probably drove him crazy with my persistence and verbal diarrhea. In the end he exercised the wisdom of Solomon and decided to leave one protest "unresolved" (effectively a win for me in its scoring impact) and decided the other one in Dogwatch's favor.

So I'm inviting Enterprise and Dogwatch to the party to show there are no hard feelings and because they both sound like chaps who are extremely knowledgeable about sailing and the racing rules. I'm sure we'd probably all be enjoying another heated argument after a couple of beers.

Last but not least, we couldn't have a Sailx party without aestela. Aestela is the founder, creator, chief programmer, chief moderator, chief "everything" behind Sailx, a.k.a as "god" within the game. Sailx wouldn't exist without his drive and vision. I'm sure the rest of us would raise a toast (or three) in his honor at the party.


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Pied Pipers of Newport Beach

Thanks to O Docker for this entry in our Group Writing Project, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner.

They've launched more ships than Helen of Troy. They may have been the original sailing bloggers, years before blogs were invented.

Their voyages weren't the fastest or the farthest or the first of their kind, but their words would inspire thousands.

They have an infectious, down-to-earth way of convincing us that, no matter who we are, we can follow our dreams out to sea. But when they set out 40 years ago, few would have imagined the size of the fleet that would follow the wake of Lin and Larry Pardey. Their lamps were kerosene, their engine was a wooden oar, their navigation was by the stars, but they were out there doing it, while most of us were not. They'd made good their escape.

The young couple in their early photos hardly resembles the graying pair still signing books in harbors around the world, but they're still getting around that world in the little boat they built with their bare hands.

I was lucky enough to see that boat a few years ago. It was open for tours while they were speaking at a boat show. It sat in a marina surrounded by the latest zillion dollar floating plastic marvels, but was the only one that had a line in front of it stretching all the way down the dock. The faithful had come to Mecca. It's really more a work of art and of love than a boat. And when any part of it needs replacing, Larry doesn't go to West Marine, he just makes a new part. He didn't build the boat from a kit. He started with trees.

There's no need to tell the Pardeys' story here - they've already done that far better than I ever could. And most who are passionate about sailing have read at least one of their books.

They'd probably ask me to dinner before I had a chance to ask them. That's just their way. Cruisers tell of chance encounters with them in remote anchorages or at the Pardeys' own New Zealand dock and of their warmth and graciousness and energy and humor and joy.

Some day, I'll make it to that dock.

Both Sides Now

Things I learned on sail #85 yesterday...

  • When you don't sail for almost two weeks it takes a while to become familiar with the boat again. How can you forget something as basic as how to sail a Laser flat in 15 knots in a couple of weeks? Do you forget to walk in a straight line in that time? Do you forget how to ride a bike? Weird.

  • It all comes back in a few minutes.

  • It's interesting to sail upwind when you are sailing straight into the waves on one tack and straight across them on the other tack. The body movements to keep the boat balanced and moving well are so different.

  • OK. It's not all that interesting really.

  • Sailing alone on the Sakonnet River on a cold fall day with not another boat in sight for miles and miles in either direction is kind of awesome.

  • And a bit scary too.

  • With the water temperature in the 50's and the air temperature in the 40's it's quite comfortable to sail a Laser in a long wetsuit, spraytop and neoprene hiking boots. No need for the drysuit yet.

  • But three finger gloves leave two fingers painfully cold. Ouch.

  • The picture for 85 under # Days Laser Sailing in 2008 is kind of lame. Something to do with running your car on booze. But it turns out that bio-fuels like E85 can be even worse for the environment than fossil fuels. Who would have thunk it?

  • But you're gonna love 86. Think twice 43.

Monday, November 17, 2008

More Dinner Invitations

Two more bloggers have responded to my challenge to write about which sailors, living or dead, real or fictional they would like to invite to a dinner party.

First of all we have the suggestions of the author of The random doubts of Walter Mondale, who, I am pretty sure, is not the Walter Mondale, and for that matter I don't think he is called Walter Mondale at all, and in fact I have no idea why his blog is called that. Anyway, his post Guess who's coming to dinner describes an idyllic summer picnic on the banks of the River Thurne in the English county of Norfolk. His invitation list includes several of his real life sailing chums, a dead peer of the realm whom he derides as a "social climber", and the First Dude of the United Kingdom. Oh, and you're invited too if you bring "a good bottle and good cheer".

And then there's the famous Greg, of Greg and Kris fame, the only dinghy sailor in history known to have mobilized five fire department vehicles, the county sheriff water patrol, two dudes on a jet-ski, and a mobile air command center to assist him with a capsize recovery. Apparently Greg is a fan of the recently deceased radio personality Studs Terkel who was known for covering a story "from the other end of the spectrum that's heavily weighted toward the 'great man' bias." I guess that means that all the sailors he has invited to his dinner are the opposite of "great men". The last one on his list certainly is. Anyway, check out the Studs Terkel Memorial Sailing Supper.

There's still plenty of time for you to share your ideas on which sailors you would invite to a dinner party. Full details of how to participate at Guess Who's Coming to Dinner

What are you waiting for?

Gonna Need a Bigger Boat

Yesterday morning the wind was howling across the bay and whistling around our house. The surface of the water was covered in whitecaps and streaked with wind-driven spray. And it was the third day of the Laser frostbiting season.

I went to the computer and checked out the weather forecasts. To sail or not to sail, that was the question. NOAA had a gale warning out for Narragansett Bay for the whole day. Weather Underground was predicting 40 mph gusts. Hmmm.

I could have had one of two reactions...
  • Yeehow. A chance to go and have a blast on my Laser in big winds and kick some ass on the race course.

  • A chance to hunker down inside and catch up on some chores.

Being a born prevaricator, I continued browsing around the Interwebs and checking out various weather sites for more information. For some reason I stopped by the New York Times website and saw a link on the front page for an article titled Gonna Need a Bigger Boat, so I clicked on it.

What was I thinking? Have I subconsciously conceded that to enjoy rough weather on the bay I need something bigger than a Laser? Have I started to suffer from four-foot-itis that well know disease of boat owners, the main symptom of which is always coveting a boat that is just a few feet longer than the one they currently own?

Maybe. But I was intrigued that the article was by
Thomas Friedman, the Pulitzer Prize winning foreign affairs correspondent and author. Friedman wants a bigger boat? Is he a sailor too? I didn't know that.

Of course the article wasn't about sailing at all. It was about the global financial panic and what to do about it. Friedman was arguing that the time has come for desperate measures to deal with the crisis, and that we need to throw everything we can at this problem.

He used an analogy to illustrate his point...

If you want to know where we are right now, rent the movie “Jaws.” We’re at that moment when Roy Scheider first sets eyes on the Great White Shark and comes back and says to the skipper, with eyes wide with fear: “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.”

I guess he's right. We are gonna need a bigger boat.

Where was I? Where am I? Oh yes. Whether to go sailing on Sunday.

The phone rang. It was my son. I told him about the weather forecast. He said I should get a Radial rig so I could go and blast around and have fun on days like this when it's gusting 40. Trust my son to think laterally. Gonna need a smaller boat!

Then he invited us over to his new house for the day so we could look after our grandkids while he and his wife did some unpacking and shopping for essentials for their new home. I hung up before he had finished talking, and my wife and I almost fell over each other in our haste to head for the car.

Grandkids trump a bigger boat any day.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Two More Dinner Invitations

Two more bloggers have responded to my challenge to write about which sailors, living or dead, real or fictional they would like to invite to a dinner party.

It was not a surprise to me that Captain JP chose that colorful character "pirate, buccaneer, slave trader, Naval Captain, navigator, writer, explorer, scientist and hydrographer" William Dampier who, among his many accomplishments, was the first person to sail around the world twice. JP believes he is related to Dampier and has written of him before. I'd love to be a fly on the wall at that dinner and hear Dampier's tales. Read all about it at Dinner is served.

Carol Anne takes a different tack and invites as guest of honor at her party someone she has also written of before on her blog, her mentor-coach-trainer-friend whom she calls Zorro. He sounds like quite a guy and someone I would be interested to meet too. And Carol Anne obliges by inviting me to the party, along with my wife (so she can chat about gardening with her), two of my favorite sailing bloggers Adam and Edward,
her own husband and son, and just for good measure Jimmy Buffett is also invited. Apart from persuading JB to show, that might be one party that we could actually make happen one day. Who knows? Read all about it at I went to a garden party.

There's still plenty of time for you to share your ideas on which sailors you would invite to a dinner party. Full details of how to participate at Guess Who's Coming to Dinner.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Laser Coaching

I occasionally receive emails from readers of this blog with questions such as...
  • Do you have information on places to go for Laser coaching?

  • What are the merits of individual vs group coaching?
My first reaction (which I don't voice to the questioner) is to wonder why the hell this person is asking me questions like this? Hasn't he been reading this blog? Doesn't he know that after a quarter of century of trying I am still one of the worst Laser sailors in the world, and probably getting worse?

But still the questions come. So I suppose I should have a stab at answering them. First of all a few random thoughts on the question.
  1. I've never had any "individual coaching" as such. All of the teaching about Lasers I have ever had has been in group situations. Maybe that's why I'm so bad. But I don't think so.

  2. There is so much to learn from group practice and coaching, because so much of racing is about the interaction with other boats. How are you going to learn to make killer starts if you don't have other sailors on the start line to try and beat off the line? How do you (or a coach) know if you have good or bad boat speed in any given conditions unless you are racing against other sailors? How are you going to learn race strategy, and boat to boat tactics, and mark roundings unless you are doing them with other boats?

  3. Sure there may be some value in having a coach watch you sailing by yourself and pointing out any flaws in your techniques.

  4. But at a good group seminar the coach will create opportunities to observe each student and give them individual feedback anyway.

  5. So my strong recommendation is to spend your money on a seminar involving a smallish group of students of similar ability which is run by a coach who understands how to run instructive group drills and who knows the latest tips on how to make a Laser go fast.
Since starting this blog I've been to a number of such group coaching session in various different places so let's review each of them.

Rick White Sailing Seminars

Back in April 2005 I went to one of Rick White's Sailing Seminars in the Florida Keys. The guest instructor was Brad Funk, whose name you will remember as the guy who lost out in a tiebreaker for the 2008 US Laser Olympic spot to Andrew Campbell. I was just getting into my blogging stride so I didn't write much about the seminar, except for one post Run Rabbit Run.

There was a pretty diverse group at the seminar of varying abilities, and there was a mix of Sunfish and Laser sailors. We sailed a couple of hours every morning and afternoon for four and a half days as I recall, and then there was an hour or two of review and debrief in the evenings too. It was pretty windy most of the week and some of the less fit sailors found that a bit too much sailing for them, and ducked out on some of the sessions. But as an older guy of average fitness it was fine for me.

We covered pretty much every aspect of racing. Rick has an excellent range of drills to cover every situation you will find on the race course. There wasn't a lot of time for individual coaching (apart from that Run Rabbit Run drill which I blew by capsizing). But Brad was ready, willing and able to answer any questions each of us had about Laser technique, so all in all it was an excellent week of learning and practice.

And it was fun.

Laser Training Center Cabarete

In January of 2007 and 2008 I went to the Laser Training Center at Cabarete in the Dominican Republic. In each year I attended a 4-day Laser clinic followed by the 3-day Laser Caribbean Midwinters, but they do run clinics at other times of the year too. In 2007 the coach was Brett Davis and in 2007 it was the resident coach Javier Borojovich a.k.a. Rulo. I wrote about these two clinics in several posts...

Read those posts if you want to get a flavor of the group coaching at Cabarete. I would say that these sessions are not for absolute beginners. In fact you will learn something from these classes no matter how good you think you are. And if you want to work on technique in big waves I know of no finer place. Rulo is a world class coach and worked with some of this year's Olympic sailors. But he still took the time to give some individual coaching to a duffer like me.

And it was fun.

Minorca Sailing

At the end of September 2006 I went for a sailing vacation at Minorca Sailing in the Med. This company doesn't really sell itself as a source of coaching and you can certainly just go there for a free and easy sailing vacation enjoying their full range of sailing toys. But there is also a very structured group coaching program at Minorca Sailing for sailors from beginners to advanced in various types of boats and windsurfers, along with racing every afternoon. I attended three different classes there, a week in the Advanced Laser Class, a week in the Beginner Asymmetric Class, and a few evening classes on Beginner Windsurfing for Dinghy Sailors.

I don't know if I was lucky in my timing, but that year the coach for the Advanced Laser Class was a guy who was the UK National Champion in a similar singlehanded class, the Comet. So his nickname was Comet. As well as running the usual group drills every morning, Comet gave me quite a lot of individual coaching, including one memorable afternoon when it was blowing dogs off chains and racing was canceled because it was too windy. I went out by myself on a Laser to play in the waves and Comet grabbed a RIB and cruised along behind me giving me advice on wave riding.

The posts I wrote about the coaching in Menorca were...

And it was fun.

Kurt Taulbee SailFit

In March of this year I participated in one of Kurt Taulbee's SailFit sailing seminars in Clearwater, Florida and wrote about the experience in...

Kurt is one of the very few sailors who has qualified for every US Laser Olympic Trials since the Laser became an Olympic boat. Couple that with his experience coaching top Laser sailors and he certainly knows Laser technique inside out. It turned out that this particular seminar was a fairly small group so we all got lots of individual attention from a superb coach who gave me oodles of individual feedback.

And it was fun.

Hope those looking for answers to questions about Laser coaching find this useful. If you know of other places to go for Laser coaching, or have any further questions, please fire away in the comments.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Tittering on Twitter or Pouncing on Pownce?

The initial response to this month's group writing project Guess Who's Coming to Dinner has been as underwhelming as last time. What's the matter with you guys? Are you suffering from post-election poll-withdrawal syndrome? Is blogging soooo 2007, and now you are all off tittering on Twitter or pouncing on Pownce? Or are you all on a diet and not doing dinner any more?

So thank god for Edward of EVK4 Superblog fame who, once again, is first off the start line with his list of sailors he would like to invite for dinner. He considers Ellison, Conner, Cayard, Crowhurst and Joyon and rejects them all. He thinks briefly about Tillerman, but then thinks again. He even scratches his own Dad off the list. Check out Dinner at the Lady Bug Lounge to see who actually makes his invitation list.

The Ladybug Lounge? Seems an odd place for a manly man like Edward to take his even more manly sailing hero friends for dinner. Oh well.

Anyway there's still plenty of time for YOU to participate in this action-packed fun-filled group writing project. What do I need to do? Offer prizes? Full details of how to play at Guess Who's Coming to Dinner.

DR 1

Regular readers of this blog, all three of you, know that I occasionally ponder what would happen if I got into any kind of trouble when I'm out sailing my Laser alone on Narragansett Bay and local waters...

Greg, a regular commenter on this blog, found out the hard way what can happen when you take your kids out for a Saturday morning sail on the local river and have an unexpected capsize. A fisherman who saw the incident made a quick 911 call, and before Greg could right the boat at least five Fire Department vehicles, the County Sheriff Water Patrol, a mobile Air Command Center, and two Fire Department Swimmers on a jet-ski were on the scene.

Read the full story at One Step Back.

Yikes. I wonder if the Rhode Island emergency response would be as good?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Like OK God

The poll on whether this blog should be about Sailing or whether Tillerman should write about Whatever The Hell He Wants is tightening. There has been a last minute surge for Sailing but it ain't over until the fat lady sings...

If Sailing loses it will open up a door to a whole new world of blogging topics for me. To use the words of the woman who would be the 45th president of the USA...

I’m like, OK, God, if there is an open door for me somewhere, this is what I always pray, I’m like, don’t let me miss the open door. And if there is an open door, and if it is something that is going to be good for my family, for my state, for my nation, an opportunity for me, then I’ll plow through that door.

Me too. I'm like ready to plow through the door marked "Whatever The Hell He Wants" if like God calls me.

The poll is like over there >>>>>>>>>

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner

"Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" is the title of this month's group writing project.

The challenge is to tell the world (via your blog or this blog) which sailor or sailors, living or dead, real or fictional you would like to invite to a dinner party.

Maybe you would like to meet famous nautical explorers from history, or admirals who won major sea battles, or racing sailors who won epic races? Perhaps you think that sailors who made major contributions to the sport in yacht design or in various technical innovations would make fascinating dinner companions? Or perhaps you just want to have dinner with your local club champion, the old lady that runs the junior sailing program, and a few of your favorite sailing bloggers?

It's up to you. The only limit is your own imagination. I'm sure we would also be interested to hear why you selected these particular folk to invite to dinner, and if there are any particular questions you would like to ask them. Will they just be people you would like to meet, or will you be trying to set up some interesting interactions between your guests? Maybe you would even like to share with us what the menu would be at this special dinner. Take this idea where you will...

Same rules as usual...

1. Write a post on your blog on the subject of "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner".

2. Once you've posted your invitation list, let me know about it by sending an email to including a link to your post. If you don't have a blog just email me your list and I will post it here. Please let me know about your post, or send me your article, by Sunday 23 November. Choose a unique title for your article please, not just a repeat of GWCTD.

3. I will post here two links to your article. Every day or so I will write a post listing any new entries in the project. Then at the end of the project I will provide a summary post with links to all of your lists.

Please participate in this project. Do it for fun. Do it to so that new readers will find your blog. Do it to educate, amuse, inform and entertain the rest of us.

Look forward to hearing from you.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Risky Radical Agenda

The early polls indicate a win by the outsider last-minute candidate...

No, no, no. Of course I'm not talking about the presidential election. That was over ages ago. I refer to the poll causing unprecedented excitement in the sailing blogosphere, "What should Tillerman write about?"

That poll over there >>>>>>>>>

The early favorite was Sailing. But with only 4 days left to vote, Sailing is trailing in second place in the global poll with support from only 47% of the voters. Perhaps the electorate is tired of this candidate? After almost 4 years with Sailing as the lead subject on Proper Course it seems that its former supporters are deserting Sailing in droves and demanding change.

The independent candidates Yacht Club Politics, Sailing Product Reviews, Maps on Monday and Fish on Fridays are faring even worse, all hovering at around 20%. (Electors are allowed to vote for multiple candidates.) And it seems that the historical discrimination against minority water sports is still a factor with Body Surfing only capturing 6% of the voters. Will this group ever elect a body surfer as commodore?

But the real surprise of the election is the staggering success of Whatever The Hell He Wants with support from an overwhelming 71% of the electorate. This seems to be a strong voice for change. And more than that, if this result holds at the end of polling, it is a mandate for the unpredictable and quixotic author of Proper Course to actually write about "whatever the hell he wants."

But can the world deal with such a dramatic change? What might Proper Course look like if Tillerman writes about "whatever the hell he wants"? An off-the-record interview with a very senior source inside the campaign indicated that if Whatever The Hell He Wants wins the election, Tillerman has promised in the first 100 hours to write about...
  • My Big Toe
  • Arguing for the Sake of Arguing
  • The Mensa Guide to Solving Sudoku
  • I Love the Smell of Styrene in the Morning
  • Strumming my Six-String on my Front Porch Swing
This sounds like a radical and risky agenda that we cannot allow. Vote against this dangerous program while you still can. If you don't you will get the blog you deserve.

Atlantic Ocean 1474

Thanks to Strange Maps for this 1474 map of the Atlantic Ocean by the Florentine mathematician, astronomer and cosmographer Paolo dal Pozzo Toscanelli. He proposed sailing west to reach the Spice Islands and it was this proposal that inspired Columbus to make his famous first voyage across the Atlantic in 1492. Reportedly, Columbus took Toscanelli's map with him on that voyage. (The real position of the American continents has been superimposed on Toscanelli's original map. Amazingly, Columbus did not have the advantage of this minor amendment.)

Toscanelli's error, of course, was to underestimate the circumference of the earth leading him to place Cippangu (Japan) and Cathay (China) much closer to Europe than they actually are. And so on October 12 1492 Columbus made landfall somewhere in the Bahamas, believing to his dying day that he was off the east coast of Asia ... and the rest is history.

Friday, November 07, 2008


I wrote five posts here this week...

Two of them At Last and Quiet Please were actually about sailing, real live sailing, boat on the water, me in the boat, sailing stuff that really happened to me, what this blog is supposed to be about.

Three of them were sorta kinda about politics. One Man One Vote? showed a couple of maps illustrating some facts about how America elects a president. The Undecided Voter and The New Commodore were allegories about a fictional yacht club reflecting on the election this week.

Even though most of my readers come here because they are sailors, or are at least somewhat interested in sailing...
  • the posts about sailing attracted 2 comments in total

  • the posts about the election attracted 51 comments.

Hmmm. What am I supposed to conclude from this?

  • Tillerman is a really bad sailing writer.

  • It is hard to write about sailing in an interesting way but Tillerman still sucks at it.

  • Politics is more interesting than sailing, even for sailors.

  • Tillerman should quit writing about sailing and start a new fictional blog about the goings-on of the new commodore and staff at USYC.

  • Tillerman should move to Hawaii and take up body-surfing.

Update: At the suggestion of Mr Greg Andkris there is now a poll over there >>>> where you can vote on the future direction of this blog.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Quiet Please

On Tuesday I escaped from the madness and mayhem of US Election Day for a peaceful sail on the Sakonnet River. On the drive down to Fogland Beach I almost ran over several people who were randomly wandering around in the road near a church. What's all that about? Oh, I expect they were heading off to the polling station and were too busy thinking about who to vote for to keep an eye out for traffic.

After dodging all the undecided voters I eventually escaped to the relative safety and solitude of the river. As I sailed into the middle of the channel I relaxed and enjoyed the peace and quiet.

Did I say quiet? No, it's never quiet when you're sailing. I listened to the sound of my bow wave and stern wave, the rhythmic noise of the ripples splashing against the hull, the sharper slap as the hull bounced off slightly larger waves, the wind, the almost imperceptible rustle of my tell tales...

And I started thinking? How much can you tell about how you are sailing by sound alone?
I've been to clinics where they make you sail with your eyes closed to focus on using your other senses, especially hearing. I wrote about one such day at Feel on Baby.

But if all you had was an audio recording of your day's sailing what would you be able to discern? Could you estimate the wind speed? Does it sound different when you are beating, reaching and running? Could you tell what the size of the waves were? Would you be able to work out the wind speed? Could you hear the difference between sailing "in the groove" upwind and when you were pinching?

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The New Commodore

And so the yacht club has a new commodore. Many of the members are excited about his election. And it has triggered me to make an important decision...

To be sure not all the members are welcoming the election of our new leader. Some are concerned that he is a body surfer from Hawaii. We've never had a body surfer from Hawaii as commodore before and some of the crustier old members can't handle it. I say, get over it. Body surfers are sailors too. Or something.

Some even say he used to pal around with cat sailors. So what? Maybe he learned something useful from hanging out with cat sailors, though I can't imagine what.

But, as I said, most members are thrilled about our new commodore. To be sure he has a tough time ahead of him. As my friend Greg Andkris said, the previous commodore "nearly bankrupted the club over the past eight years, pursuing international domination in events that were not recognized as important by our club members." However, there's every reason to believe that, with support from all the members, the new guy will be able to correct the course the club has been sailing and steer us into calmer waters.

And now I have a confession to make. I'm not really a member of this club. Sure, I've been sailing here for twenty years but I never applied for full membership. I have one of those weird provisional memberships which lets me participate in all the club activities, and I do have to pay the same dues as the rest of you. Only difference is that I don't get to vote in club elections, which is a shame because I would love to have cast my vote for the new commodore. Here look, here's my membership card. No, it's not green. Why would you think that? It's pink.

I'm actually still a member of UKYC. That's that quaint little old club on the other side of the lake. It was quite a fine institution in its day but has fallen on hard times recently. The commodore is that doddery old girl who has been in the job for over 50 years. They say that when she kicks the bucket her crazy son with the big ears will take over. What a way to run a yacht club!

I have no real excuse for not applying for full membership of USYC before. I love the club. The members are very friendly, the grounds are magnificent, and the sailing waters are second to none. And I have long admired the ideals that led the founding members to create this unique society.

But the truth is that, much as I love the club. I haven't had a lot of faith in its leadership while I've been sailing here. At least, not until now.

The 41st commodore was an accomplished fellow, but he always seemed a bit of a wimp to me. After he promised that he would never raise the dues, and then went ahead and did exactly that, I lost all faith in him.

I had high hopes of the 42nd commodore. He seemed to have a lot of good ideas and he certainly put the club finances on a sound footing. But I could see right from the beginning that he was a bit of a lady's man. And he totally lost my respect after that unfortunate incident with the young female sailing instructor in the locker room.

What can I say about #43? I suppose the members elected him because he was a good chap to have a beer with in the club bar. But what kind of qualification for leadership is that? I think most members of the club are now relieved that his term is over. I hear that he is going to give up sailing for good and take up riding horses instead.

And so we are all looking forward to #44. He has promised change for the club. God knows we need it. I wish him well. And now that the club has a leader whom I admire personally and whose philosophy I share, I think it's time I signed up for full membership.