All things that are not categorized anywhere else (catchall category).

Your Anchor is your Friend

Your Anchor is your Friend

I admire David Fraser's willingness to share his "less than optimal" sailing experiences in these blogs so that others can learn from his mistakes. They say there are those who don't make mistakes (I don't believe that), those who learn from others' mistakes, those who learn from their own mistakes, and those who never learn. Aiming at the second category, I want to imitate David's example by offering a recent experience of my own.

The other day I got to the Club a little early, and thought I'd play with jib-only sailing on a Quest before lessons started.

I left the (Cal Adventures) dock under jib only, having done nothing with the mainsail. I was planning to go out and dock under jib alone a few times before students showed up. That was the plan, at least.

The wind was pretty much westerly, so I was leaving on a beam reach. I knew that jib trim was really important, and that I shouldn't start out pointing too high. But for whatever reason, I couldn't point high at all. No matter what I tried, I was going slowly downwind, toward the rocks. Maybe I wasn't handling it correctly, maybe the Quest can't point high on jib alone, who knows? Sometimes it's you, sometimes it's the boat, sometimes... who knows what it is? What mattered then was that I couldn't do it.

I decided to heave to and get the main up, admitting failure (better than landing on the rocks). The mainsail doesn't always go up easily on the Quests (especially on this one), and it looked like getting the boltrope into the mast track might take some doing. When you're properly hove to, you have some sideways way on--that is, you're slideslipping--and I was going slowly, slowly toward the rocks. I had no idea how long it might take to get the main up.

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The two-handed drill for puffs and lulls

The two-handed drill for puffs and lulls

A while ago, James Clarkson recommended one of Frank Bethwaite's books on sailing to me. I forget which one, as I now have three of them. They're incredible but incredibly dense, so I'd only recommend them to the "quants" of the sailing community. And even then, you'll read a lot more about  weather systems than you ever wanted to learn, and more detail on everything than you can comprehend. That's how Frank was. He was a pilot (of commercial flying boats, think about that), a meteorologist (the official metereologist of the Austrailian Olympic team in several Olympics in the 1970s), and a sailing fanatic as coach and designer. Three of his kids (sons and daughter) won Olympic medals, and one of them may have invented the gennaker (as always with inventions, there are priority disputes). Frank died in his 90s in 2012.

For the patient reader, there's really wonderful stuff in his books. One is an explanation of why sail twist needs to be very different in light winds than in higher winds (another post?). And there are many others.

One very practical thing I got out of his books was a technique and a teaching technique of how to respond to puffs and lulls. We all know how to do this, we do it, and we teach it to some extent. You have three controls: weight placement (out in a puff, in in a lull), tiller (pinch in a puff if the boat can do it, fall off in a lull), and sheet (easy in a puff, trim in a lull, not just mainsheet, but also jibsheet if you're really concerned about speed). I tell basic students that they have these three controls, and to use one or more  of them when they get a puff (at this point in their development, they're not so worried about lulls).

Frank was obsessed with keeping the boat flat and as fast as it can go (these are correlated). Assuming a decent wind, you're hiked out. We're assunming you have the tiller extension in one hand and the mainsheet in the other. A puff will heel the boat to leeward, and a lull will heel it to windward if you don't move your weight in either case. His technique is this: when the boat heels, don't move your weight, but move both hands to the down side, the sheet hand more than the tiller. Never luff.

So in a puff, you're easing the main as you're pointing slightly upwind. In a lull (or in the recovery after a puff), you're doing the opposite - sheeting in the main and pointing slightly downwind.

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Ready, Set, Wear It! Life Jacket World Record Day

On May 20, 2017, Cal Sailing Club members will gather with boating safety educators, marine enforcement officials, politicians, media, and the general public across North America and throughout the world to try to beat the 2015 world record of 10,917 life jackets worn and inflatable life jackets inflated. Ready, Set, Wear It! Life Jacket World Record Day aims to raise public awareness of the importance of life jacket wear and general boating safety practices.

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Please join us starting from 10am: wear a life jacket, take a picture and help us break the record! A Cal Sailing Club volunteer will help with questions about the value of life jackets and collect your picture.

The event will officially launch National Safe Boating Week, which occurs from May 20 – 26 this year. This timing positions the campaign just before the Memorial Day weekend, the “unofficial start of summer” when in the upper states the water is dangerously cold and throughout America, historically, many boating incidents occur.

Ready, Set, Wear It! events, including inflatable life jacket demonstrations make for great TV and photo opportunities, but it is just the beginning of the North American Safe Boating Campaign message. The purpose of the event and the yearlong campaign is to raise public awareness of the importance of life jacket wear and general boating safety practices. The event is coordinated by the National Safe Boating Council (NSBC) in partnership with the Canadian Safe Boating Council (CSBC) along with their respective members and affiliated organizations.

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Why Winter Sailing can be a Great Learning Experience

We are blessed in the Bay Area with incredible summer sailing conditions - 15 to 25 kts every single day from the West to South-West and waves to match. What could be finer?

Fall-Winter-early Spring is problematic. The system that creates the big daily summer winds in gone, so the winds are typically very light, except in storm systems, where they can be over-whelming (35-40 kts, typically from the South). So many just don't sail in the winter. I think this is a mistake, for at least two reasons.

One is that you learn an awful lot about sail trim and boat balance sailing in lighter winds (5 kts or less).

Everything changes, from the way the winds are produced atmospherically to how you set the sails. For example, in lighter winds the wind at the sea surface is practically zero, and difference between the wind there and the wind at the top of the mast is (relatively) large. So you're getting most of your power from the top third of the sail, which you want to keep happy. In higher winds, there isn't that much difference between surface wind and wind at the top of the mast.

In very light winds, the wind may not be strong enough to hold the mainsail and boom to leeward. So you need weight to leeward to tilt the boat enough so that gravity pulls the sail to leeward and forms the sail shape. With the sail shape formed, the wind will power it. And the battens bay not flip on a tack or gybe, so you might have to shake the sail to get that to happen.

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Ryan Alder
We had some really good 15-20knot Southerly winds this weekend, which makes for exciting docking. We get spoiled being in the win... Read More
Monday, 20 February 2017 11:40
John Bongiovanni
Great technique, Ryan. I'll add that you can practice the maneuver before you get to the dock to see how the boat will handle whe... Read More
Wednesday, 22 February 2017 19:54
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End Of Summer Delta Trip

End Of Summer Delta Trip

I'd visited the Delta 3 times previously - all for the ABK windsurfing camp; on the last two occcasions I had organized the trip - and I can tell you, trying to get more than a few windsurfers in one place at the same time with a cohesive set of gear is a challenge.  Being a sucker for punishment, and never having sailed Sherman Island outside of ABK, I organized a club trip back in September for end of summer.  This is a recap.

In the run up, I'd had interest from over 20 indivuduals.  There's usually a lot of attrition and these events, and worse, as the day drew near, the forecast was for sun, but little wind.  At the final count, we ended up with 8 - Myself, Wayne, Dora, Ceci, Christina, Zach, Jamie and Will joining us in the afternoon.   We met at the club bright and early, and loaded up with more gear than we thought we'd possibly need.  As it turned out later, we did need it.

We set off for the hour or so drive.  Even with GPS, where to go isn't completely obvious - after crossing the bidge in Antioch, you drive for about 2 miles, then turn off along a narrow road along a river embankment for a further few miles.  At the end are some new (this year) confusing one way systems and lots dirt due to ongoing construction.  The park itself is at the end, and is $5 to go into the parking area by the "playpen", which is the nominal novice area.   Only Christina and Jamie managed to get slightly lost, but not for long.

As we rigged up, the extra gear we'd broght came into use.  Ceci's sail had no pulley - oops!  Winching the downhaul on Dora's sail, on a non-matching mast, we put the top through the mast sleeve.  Oh man!  And finally, one of the booms was lacking a head.  In the end, everyone ended up with workable gear - at least as much as the wind would allow.

I had hoped to teach some beachstarting - Sherman Island is fantastic for this - but the morning wind barely topped 3-4 knots, so it wasn't really to be.  Despite that, both Christina and Ceci, with some lucky gusts and a little encouragement, did in fact achieve their very first beach start - hooray!



Ceci had graciously offered to prepare both lunch and dinner - also facilitating my vegan requirements - as it turns out, the non-vegan echiladas had been placed too close to a bunch of ants, and had to be picked out!  However, both the enchilads and later, the curry (thankfully non-spicy), despite their simplicity, proved to be a hit with everyone, after some ingeious cooking on the tiny camp stove.



In the afternoon, the wind really died, to perhaps 2-3 knots, and we were reduced to some low-wind practice.  I did venture about half way out in the river to the river marker - not something I'd attempt if there'd been much current (the delta has some quite strong tides), and we were the only sail power on the river; a couple windsurrfing in the morning had gone elsewhere.


Zach showed us some fancy backwinding, and we also saw all kinds of funky things in the river, including both live and dead fish!  Also, strangley, there was an interrmittent "burping" sound, which could not be identified - no doubt a river monster or somesuch.
Apart from the lack of wind, it proved to be a beautiful day.  Unfortunately, a vist that time of the year is always going to be subject to the capriicious wind gods; and although in recent years there has been wind at the end of September, it was not to be.



No matter.  We'll be back.  I'm already planning a trip for Spring.   The ABK California schdule for 2017 has yet to be decided, but that will likely happen at the end of summer too.

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