Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Sailing on the Cheap in a 30 foot Sailboat

Let me tell you my story of sailing on the cheap. I bought my first boat in 1999. She was a 18' wooden sailing dory with a nice sloop rig on her. The Hunky Dory was purchased for $450, along with it’s trailer. I did a huge sanding and painting project on her as she needed it badly. Once she was ship shape, we hit the local lakes in Fremont. Soon, I was taking her out in the bay (not the slot, however). A few years later I was ready to move up to a keel boat in the 30′ range. A boat of this size in SF can easily cost $10k per year to operate and maintain. I am a frugal guy and did not see myself spending that much cash on an annual basis. I decide to see if I could find some friends to share the cost of ownership. I quickly found 2 friends that wanted to put together a partnership. We found a great boat in short order for $16,500. She was a 1981 Newport 30. Once we paid the initial price, we have been sailing the San Francisco Bay for $3 per day per person. We now have 6 partners and we all sail as much or as little as we want. There are times when we have to kick in extra $$ for big repairs or projects. It’s worked well for the last 17 years! I just ended my partnership to purchase a larger boat for a year long adventure to Australia!! Don’t even ask me what that is going to cost. However, it is a journey that I have been dreaming about for 30 years!

Why do we measure boat speed in knots?

As you know, sailors have been doing their thing for thousands of years (the first known rendering of a boat is from 5500 BC ). From the primitive animal skin that may have been used to propel a man on a log across a lake to modern day yachts that can approach 40 knots on the open sea, we have some very archaic sailing terms that have been with us for a long time. How did they originate? Simple terms like cockpit (origin obvious), shroud and cunningham. Let's take a look at a term we all use when we go sailing. "How fast is the boat moving?" "14 knots, Captain", comes the reply.  Knots refers to nautical miles (knot is one nautical mile per hour (1 knot = 1.15 miles per hour)) . It corresponds approximately to one minute of latitude along any meridian. Knots per hour was originally derived from a practice used in the 17th century.  To guage the speed of the ship, the crew would use a coiled length of line with uniformly spaced knots every 47' 3" (or 8 fathoms). The chip log (a piece of pie shaped wood) would be thrown into the water and the rope was allowed to payout freely as it trailed off behind the ship. The number of knots that passed off the stern of the ship and into the water in a given time (sand glass for 30 seconds) would determine the speed of the ship. Is that cool or what? It's fun to tell your sailing friends this story when out on the water as most donot know this piece of history. They will be amazed at the depth of your sailing knowledge!

Five Days in an Overturned Boat...In the Southern Ocean

Friday, August 18, 2017

Pics of the Week

Up on a Reef

The islands of the the South Pacific hold many mysteries.  Many a boat has made a navigation error and ended up damaged or high and dry on a reef.  Recently, a catamaran was sailing at night and way to close to a reef they were well aware of.  Their Navonics Chart did not show a portion of the reef that sticks out a bit.  Their boat hit the reef and was left high and dry.  They lost the boat and will now have to pay $35k to have it pulled off the reef and sunk in deep water.  Is Navonics to blame?  Maybe, however, the prudent mariner will always have two sources for navigating in close quarters.  In addition, they should have given themselves a mile or two leeway from the outer reef of the island.  Read more about this avoidable accident here.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Bioluminescence will blow you away!

We were 600 miles south of San Diego and sailing a catamaran to Cabo San Lucas. We were anchored in a beautiful bay called Santa Maria. I had just returned from dinner on another boat and was amped up from the dinner with friends. It was 9pm and all my mates were asleep. It was pitch black out and I decided to go for a skinny dip in the bay. I jumped into about 15 feet of water depth. Then, the most amazing thing happened. There was light all over my body. Blue, green translucent colors that blew my mind. The bioluminescent phytoplankton had attached to my body and I was glowing super bright after the dive in. When these microscopic creatures get excited by water movement, they light up in a similar color to lightening bugs. In this case, millions of them where glowing on my entire body.

Certain creatures both on land and sea can produce light through chemical reactions taking place within their bodies known as bioluminescence. The bioluminescence results from a light-producing chemical reaction also called chemiluminescence. Certain types of chemicals when mixed together produce energy which ‘excites’ other particles on vibration and generate light which causes the glow. The group of chemicals involved to make plankton glow are broadly termed luciferins and the light is produced by a series of oxidation reactions set off by a catalyst called luciferase.

I am super excited and start swimming in the bay. I have my goggles on so I can see perfectly. I swim out towards another boat that some other friends are on. Every time I take a stroke, my arms light up. Wow! I reach my friends boat, but they are sleeping too. I head back to our boat after a good half hour swim. What a rush! I have a hard time falling asleep due to this magical experience in the dark of night.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Sailing is a metaphor for life!

Whenever you're going sailing, regardless of whether you're racing or just going cruising, a great amount of preparation has gone into it. Your boat needs constant care and maintenance, you need to buy supplies and see that everything is in shipshape. In that context, there's the typical satisfaction in getting a job well done. When you're finally done with that and head underway, there's the anticipation of adventure, at least the possibility of one.

When you're done with the preparations, you leave the harbor and hoist up the sails. You turn off the noisy, vibrating engine, after which there's no sound except for the wailing of the wind and the sound of the sea. I always start smiling at that point. The boat speeds up, starts to list and everything comes to life. At that point, the boat doesn't feel like a clump of glass fiber or wood with lines, metal wires, and sailcloth stacked on top of it, but instead like something truly alive and with a personality of its own. Sometimes it's is in a good mood, providing a laid-back experience, whereas sometimes it feels more excited and slightly frightening, going up to the point where it feels like you're trying to rein in a blood-crazed stallion on some really bad acid.

You're constantly barraged by an abundance of information, from wave shapes and currents, wind vectors and sail trim, to the feel of the rudder and helm and keeping the boat on the desired course, along with a myriad of other variables. All of these things change constantly, and you learn to internalize them to the point where reacting to them isn't a conscious process. It would be impossible to react to them otherwise, as there are literally thousands of variables at play and going through them logically is too time consuming; by the time you've gone through any check-list, the conditions will have changed again. Instead, things might just somehow feel or look a bit wrong, and oftentimes you react to such stimuli without even thinking. When you manage to hit that sweet spot, where everything just aligns perfectly, you feel a strong sense of elation. At it's best, it's like being in a constant flow-state of mind, where you lose your sense of self, and the lines between you, the boat and the prevailing elements get blurred. You feel connected to something outside yourself, namely the boat and the sea, both of which have their own will. At that point of realization, you stop wondering why sailors throughout the ages have anthropomorphized both boats and the sea.

When you're on the water, you have an unbridled sense of freedom and opportunity, as you can always continue to see what lies on the other side of the horizon. Not only do you feel a strong connection to the elements and nature, but to the entire world. I suppose one could say that about walking in the forest as well, but it just isn't the same, as practically every time you're out sailing, someone suggests (mostly in jest) that "you do realize that we could just point the bow ten degrees westwards and continue on to the other side of the Atlantic" or something equivalent. That sense of freedom just doesn't exist on land.

In addition to all of that, somewhat oxymoronically you feel isolated from everything else. The rules and routines of everyday life just don't apply in the same way anymore. One example of this is that as most vessels are small enough to be called cramped, you're in constant contact with the other people on board. You learn to know those people well, as being on a boat will inevitably reveal the true nature of your shipmates. I've seen fights erupt due to absolutely trivial matters, but more often than that, I've seen everlasting friendships forged through working together in order to fulfill a common purpose. If you sail long enough with someone, you internalize their thought-processes as well, to the point of almost being able to having a telepathic link. The only time I've experienced something similar is while playing music with other people.

All in all, to me, it's about being removed from a mundane environment, feeling fully mentally connected with something else, be it the sea, the boat or the crew, with a constant state of shared Flow going on and realizing that everything stated above can take you most of the way to anywhere on this planet of ours.

Burning Man Departure

We are setting sail for BM in a few weeks.  My bud Chris and I will be heading up to our camp of 30 burners.  Our art car is ready and so are we.  We will be there for a week of music, art and fun.  It's going to be metamorphisizing!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Fair Winds, Addiction - 17 years of pure Joy!

Last weekend was my last sail as a partner on the good ship Addiction, our 1981 Newport 30.  Here is the note I wrote to my partners:

Tex and I had a terrific sail to Sausalito on Saturday.  We stayed at our favorite marina, Schoonmaker.  It's got a great beach for bocce and a restaurant right in the marina.  We worked on the bilge for a bunch of hours and by 2pm we were ready to sail from Emeryville.  It had been cloudy all day.  By the time we reached Raccoon, it was sunny and lovely.  Best part of the day. 

Sunday was my last sail on the boat as a partner.  We headed out the Gate for a bit and I realized it had been a while since going out there.  Maybe a couple years.  Down past the city front, we gybed for home.  We had a nice run back to the barn in a warm wind.  Joked about raising the spinnaker one more time but there was too much wind.
It has been a fantastic ride!  The Addiction has brought so much fun and joy into my life.  I am one happy sailor!   And a lucky one at that!  Thanks to all of you for joining me on a fantastic chapter of my life!
And now for something completely different...a 7000 mile sail to OZ!!!

Over the last month, I have been doing the best of the bay while sailing to my favorite spots:
1 Sail to Sam's for lunch
2 Sail to Angel Island for bocce and live music (Bobby McGee)
3 Sail to Scott's Cove with John
4 Sail to Sausalito and overnight with Tex at Schoonmaker.  Great dinner! And a great way to end my time with this amazing boat.On to a bigger and better boat!

Friday, August 11, 2017

Last Sojourn on the Addiction

Tex and I are heading to Sausalito for the night on Saturday.  Kona and Carmen (dogs) will join us as well.  We are heading to a harbor we have been to many times, Schoonmaker.  It's been 5 years since we have been to this cute little beach marina.  It has been so full over the years that we have not been able to get in.  We will have a nice meal at a local restaurant and then close the boat up one last time.  17 years of memories will flood my brain.  You see, I have loved this boat from the day we got her.  She sails great, has taken care of us in some big winds and seas and hosted so many friends and family aboard.  If figure I sail about 80 times a year.  That means I have sailed this boat over 1200 times!!  That's alot folks.  Most active boats go out once a month or less.  I am nuts about sailing.

And now I am moving up to a much larger boat for our trip to Australia in 2018.  I have about 6 boats to look at in the coming month.  This is very exciting.  I will keep you posted on the hunt.  Wish me luck.

Pics of the Week

Saturday, August 05, 2017

Pics of the Week

Kona on the dodger.

Heading out with my sailing buddy John for our last sail on Addiction together.  We have had many!  20-25 knot winds should get us where we want to go.  My last weekend on the boat will be next weekend with an overnight to Sausalito with Tex.  Bittersweet.

By the way, 8-1 was World Naked Sailing Day.  I missed it but i will endeavor  to make it happen in the future.  Now why didn't I think about starting this famous day?

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

The End is Near

Happy August everyone.  My boat partnership of 17 years is in it's last month.  I took out the new partner for a sail on Sunday and it was bittersweet.  I am getting ready to purchase a larger boat for a trip to Australia in 12 months.  I have had so many excellent sailing days on this Newport 30.  Trips up the delta, Napa, ballgames and all the friends and family I have taken for a sail.  Right now I have about 3-4 sail left this month.  I am attempting to hit all my favorite spots on the boat I love.  Last Monday was Sam's Restaurant in Tiburon.  On Sunday, it was a trip to Angel Island and some bocce.  I am hoping to head to Sausalito for a weekend in a few weeks.  And then it will end.  I have a very busy next few weeks including Burning Man.  It will be a sad day when I turn over the keys.  Here's to the 1000+ days I spent sailing her around the bay.  I depart with hopes that this 1981 edition has another 30 years or more of sailing days ahead of her.  Bon voyage my friend!