Volunteer Spotlight: Stel Lababy

Volunteer Spotlight: Stel Lababy

Cal Sailing Club's explosive financial growth is entirely due to the passionate leadership of our Treasurer, Stel Lababy, who shared a few insights.

Have you always sought leadership roles?

Oh goodness yes!  Even as a puppy I led my team in teat-chewing and runt-killing.  I was always at the front of the pack harassing the pigs on the farm where I grew up.

What shaped your passion for leadership?

Adversity.  When the farm's meth lab blew up, I had to refocus and map out my career goals again, putting in long hours as a rescue dog, then as a lowly family dog, before realizing my passion to succeed as CFO at CSC.

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Tony To
Fav Volunteer Spotlight by far. Stella FTW!
Tuesday, 24 February 2015 02:22
Michael Sherrell
Surprisingly obscenity-free.
Tuesday, 24 February 2015 07:12
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Volunteer Spotlight: John Bongiovanni

        In an era perma-jacked to the information mainline, where your phone can think, where apps get you laid, and where the hive mind sees everything you do from a dingy room in Utah, the Cal Sailing Club is a bastion of the if-it-aint-broke-don’t-fix-it mentality. We fear change on an institutional level, and nowhere is this more apparent than our presence on the internet. The club built a website only in 2009, and up until recently it had that retro DOS look you could imagine Mathew Broderick mistakenly launching a nuclear weapon from. In the past year, however, the site has undergone not one but two cyber makeovers: it now glistens with a slick sheen, flaunting an intuitive layout and drop down menus which ooze e-credibility.  

        Like most large CSC undertakings, the push to modernize the form and function of the club’s virtual façade arose from the concerted effort of a few key players. One of the largest contributions came from member John Bongiovanni, a fairly recent addition to the club who, along with working on the website, has put in an astronomical amount of time volunteering in other ways. For his valiant efforts John “Goodjohn,” as his name works out in Italian pseudo-translation, was awarded a lifetime membership at the latest GMM. I ventured down to the club this past Saturday to talk with John. True to form, he was skippering the only boat out for lessons. I managed to corner him as he came in, and we sat down to discuss his life, his work on the website, and his time at the club.

 

Young John Heeds the Call of The Wind

        John began sailing in the mid ‘80s at none other than the only club in the world which can even start to begin to want to think of itself nearly half as cool as CSC: Community Boating in Boston.  He recalls that the club operated along similar lines to our own, where members teach members, and cut his teeth sailing their Mercury 15s on the Charles River. Upon moving to the San Fransisco Bay, he expanded his sailing palette. He began renting lasers from a club at Shoreline Park, and would venture up to Sausalito to sail keelboats with Dave Garrett’s ASA certified program. He began flirtations with cruising, chartering a boat in Southern California to sail to Catalina, and doing many overnight voyages around the bay.

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Michael Sherrell
John, you're blessed to have a Boswell of Antony's talent. Only Krusty compares. The club is thrice-blessed.
Tuesday, 10 February 2015 06:53
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A Sea Tale

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Unaware of what was about to transpire, the young woman on the bouncing bow clung grimly to the flailing pulpit, searching the horizon for a glimmer of hope. The young man knelt on the pitching foredeck behind her, fishing desperately into his bespoke West Marine foulies pockets for the unique object he believed would end the nightmare of uncertainty. Farther back, in the luxuriously appointed cockpit, the skipper and crew -- all ruggedly handsome -- fought to keep the Pierson Commander from broaching as the famed Emeryville abrolhos wind smacked the vessel, threatening to crush it into an equivariant toric bundle like you see in Macaulay 2. The man on the bow stumbled, lost his balance, and, crying out in what may have been Old Extremely Panicked German, tipped with his secret cargo toward the dark, beckoning waters off the port gunwale, unprotected by any Loos and Company lifelines, with nary a Harken chafe protector in sight.

This was the nightmare scenario. As it turned out, on a recent Monday, Anthony Lunnis, Paco Bellam, and I picked up CSC Senior Skipper Nathan Ilten and his guest Robyn Gee at San Francisco's Pier 1.5 and headed back to Berkeley without incident or wind, silencing the motor as we slipped past the Bay Bridge on a glassy sea as he proposed and she accepted on the foredeck of Portugal Princess.

 

 

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Michael Sherrell
May it be a long and happy one!
Thursday, 12 February 2015 10:31
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Leaving J-Dock

Leaving J-Dock
So, you're getting ready to take a keelboat out for a sail.  You have three goals in mind for getting the boat ready and departing the dock:
1) Safety of you, your crew/guests, and other marina users;
2) Avoiding damage or excessive wear and tear to your boat and others nearby; and
3) An efficient and enjoyable preparation and departure so that you get out sailing quickly and without unnecessary stress.  

It might seem that these goals conflict, and that in order to prioritize goals 1 or 2, you might have to sacrifice goal 2 or 3.  Sometimes, that happens. But that should be the exception, not the norm. The point of this post is to offer a big picture framework for how you can meet all of these goals at once.  Note that this is NOT a comprehensive checklist - your checklist fits within these steps (mostly in step 2).  

  1. Choose your equipment (boat, jib) based on conditions, your crew members, and the goals of the trip.  You probably have thought about these factors before you even get to J-dock, but be ready to reconsider your plan if conditions are different than you expected.  Remember to consult the maintenance log.  
  2. Prepare the boat and your crew while doing everything except raising the sails (raising the sails comes last).  While you and your crew are doing safety checks and getting everything set up, you should be thinking at least as much about your crew as you are about the boat, especially if you have not sailed with the crew much on the keelboats.   
    1. Ask questions about each person’s experience and comfort with the boat and conditions.  
    2. Give each person tasks to help with preparations.  Watch how they complete these tasks, and ask questions.  Do they demonstrate skill and familiarity with the equipment?  Are they comfortable moving about the boat?  Are they clumsy?  Give pointers as needed.  Evaluate who your most and least skilled crew members are.  Is there anyone that you will need to pay extra attention to in order to ensure their safety and comfort while sailing?  
    3. Does everyone have appropriate gear (foulies, whistles, lights, water, etc) for the activity and conditions?  
    4. Do you need to change the plan, equipment, etc based on what you’ve learned about your crew?  Do you need to get one (or more) skilled crew members?    
  3. Include everyone in a brief discussion about safety on the boat and the departure process.  Consider asking one of your more experienced crew members (any senior wannabe) to give the safety talk and propose a plan for departure.  Give feedback.  Make sure that everyone understands their role for the departure plan.  Does the dock person know how to step on?   Encourage questions! Take your time answering.  It’s best to handle questions before the sails are up because it is quieter, calmer, and avoids unnecessary wear and tear on the sails.  
  4. Take off all dock lines except for the one(s) you’ll need to keep the boat in proper position while raising any appropriate sail(s), given the wind direction.  Reposition the boat, if needed.  Raise the sail(s) and cast off.  Have crew help to avoid rubbing the boat against the dock while repositioning and raising sail(s). Be safe and have fun!  
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Low Tide Launching/Docking

Low Tide Launching/Docking

We've all experienced this, either as sailors or instructors.

You're going away from the dock, parallel to it, but somehow you're getting pushed sideways into the middle dock. Or you're docking, and you have a huge amount of leeway, pushing you into the seawall.

What I learned in the Advanced Dinghy class from Yves is that it's all about sail trim. Even with the centerboard completely down, you have a huge sideways force if you oversheet. Not only is the sail not as efficient as it could be, but the force is more sideways than forward. With the centerboard up (for low tides), the effect is worse.

This is the season of rip-roaring tides (it can go from more than 6' at noon to negative '1 at 6 pm, and the dock time has been as early as 3:30 some weeks).

Thanks to what I learned from Yves, I've been doing the following in my lessons when we had to dock with less than full centerboard. As soon as we get away from the dock, I raise the centerboard, and we sail, completely focused on sail trim. Jib is easy, mainsail more difficult (but more important). I try to get the students completely focused on sail trim. I tell them "They'll tell
you that you can't tack without a centerboard, but they're wrong" after they've tacked without a centerboard.

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Main Sail Trim by the Tell Tales

Main Sail Trim by the Tell Tales

There's a great book called Mainsail Trimming by Felix Marks that goes into this in great detail. A lot of it doesn't apply to dinghies (travelers, for example). But one thing does - trimming the mainsail using the mainsail telltales.

The telltalls are on the leech (back edge) of the sail, and when sailing upwind from a beam reach  and forward (when the sail is a wing), the tell tales should be streaming, just like both of the jib telltales. But what if they aren't? For the jib telltales, we have the guidelines "move the sail toward the telltale that isn't streaming" or "move the tiller toward the telltale that isn't streaming", and students seem to get that. But I don't think we talk enough about trimming the mainsail using the telltales (I could be wrong here, just my observation).

So (on a beam reach and above), if the mainsail telltales aren't streaming, they're curling to one side--windward or leeward. That's just like one of the jib telltales not streaming while the other one is. Move the sail that direction (as in, ease out if streaming to leeward and trim in if streaming to windward), or move the tiller that direction. Essentially the same thing as you would do to trim the jib.

I've seen a tendency in students to oversheet the main, so I think it's useful to sensitize them to this, and the mainsail telltales are one way to do this.

You can also use the mainsail telltales in a gybe. I went on the water once with Stefano Maffuli and a friend of his who had been head instructor at St. Francis Yacht Club (grazie, Stefano). He said that the mainsail telltales were the best indicator of when to pull the main across in a gybe. They show exactly when the main is back-winded--a much better signal than the jib coming across.

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Volunteer Spotlight: Michael Sherrell

Volunteer Spotlight: Michael Sherrell

[Photo courtesy of Seamus Vaneckohttp://www.seamusvanecko.com/gallery/sailors/]

Have you ever taken a dinghy lesson at Cal Sailing? Then chances are you have met Michael "Mike" Sherrell. He has been teaching lessons every Monday, Thursday, and Saturday for as long as I can remember. On innumerable occasions, he has saved the day, being the only instructor to show up. And as many club members can attest to, Mike is very serious about learning as much as he can about sailing, and then passing that knowledge on to his  students. 

Mike is a Berkeley native who, after retiring from biotech-related business, has the luxury of splitting his free time between sailing and his other passion, horses. In fact, he has four of them, and loves to go camping out with them. If you haven't seen him around the club recently, it's because he just got back from an epic camping trip in Oregon and Utah.

Mike was kind enough to answer some questions about sailing and his dedication to CSC

When did you start to sail, and what convinced you to try it out?

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Check it out! SF Sketchers at Nov Open House

Check it out! SF Sketchers at Nov Open House

The SF Sketchers group joined us for our Nov. 9, 2014 Open House, to sketch and paint the scene. Here are the results. More at the link!

http://www.meetup.com/SF-Sketchers/photos/25729234/431485165/#431357192

 

 

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Sailing North of the Border

Sailing North of the Border

As many of you know, I recently moved to Vancouver. First order of business: find someplace to sail. Vancouver has lots of sailing options, but if you are looking for dinghy sailing on the cheap, the place to go is the Jericho Sailing Center Association, a non-profit community center for all types of non-powered watersports. Jericho hosts a number of clubs, as well as providing individual boat storage and launching. They have a truly amazing facility with a restaurant and bar, and a balcony providing stellar views of the English Bay and the North Shore Mountains. I'm afraid to say that, at least in terms of view, it beats CSC's bench.

The largest club hosted by Jericho is the University of British Columbia (UBC) sailing club. While Jericho has some other good options as well, I knew that this was the club for me. Like CSC, they are an affordable non-profit cooperative. Lessons are run a little differently: students must register (and pay) for courses offered by professional instructors. Their sailing fleet is very exciting: lots of FJs, Vanguards, and Lasers, 4 RS500s, 2 RS800s, some Hobie Cats, and some Nacra F18 catamarans.  The club also has windsurfers and kayaks.  After boring their head instructor with all the details of my sailing career, I got checked off for their beginner and intermediate boats, and for the RS500 as well after a quick sail with the high performance fleet captain.
 
I really miss two aspects of CSC, though. First of all, the wind. It is a windy day here if we've got ten knots. Since moving here, I haven't even come close to capsizing an RS500; if you've sailed with me in Berkeley, you know that you can't just attribute that to my skill. Secondly, I miss the CSC social scene.  While everyone at UBC sailing is very friendly, there isn't as much natural space for interaction. Since UBC shares the Jericho yard (as opposed to CSC's dedicated facilities), it is difficult to pick out UBC sailors from the others. Also, the formal lesson system doesn't seem to foster as much social interaction as CSC's piecemeal approach.
 
In summary: there are some really sweet boats up here (and nice people, too). If you are here and want to sail, drop me a line. But enjoy CSC while you can, because it is one of a kind!
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David Brown
I actually came to CSC from the UBC Sailing club. I loved the Jericho sailing center's facilities, having a hot shower or grabbing... Read More
Tuesday, 23 September 2014 17:52
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Tips for skippering with crew on the wire

Tips for skippering with crew on the wire

Almost all of Cal Sailing's dinghies are equipped with a trapeze kit, and with good reason: our typical stiff summer breezes make it all but a necessity to send someone out on the wire. Having crew out on the wire  can be tons of fun for both you and your crew, but can also be quite a challenge. Here are some tips which can help.

Let's assume that you as skipper have two goals:

  1. Move the boat upwind as quickly as possible.
  2. Make your crew feel comfortable on the wire.

Now, your crew will probably be most comfortable if the boat is kept relatively flat, sudden changes to heel angle are avoided, and the crew is not required to shift her weight. In other words, she can calmly stand on the rail doing nothing but admiring the view (and calling out gusts and lulls).

On the other hand, in order to make your boat move upwind as quickly as possible, you want to keep the boat flat, and to keep  your close-hauled jib at the proper angle of attack to the wind, so that it neither stalls nor luffs.

You, the skipper, have three controls at your disposal: tiller, main sheet, and your body weight. So how do you keep both your crew and the boat happy? Firstly, steer with the tiller to keep the jib at the proper angle to the wind. Secondly, use a combination of body weight and main sheet trim to keep the boat flat. In practice, it is a good idea to hike out moderately and then trim the main accordingly. Indeed, the more you power up the main (while keeping the boat flat), the faster you go. Furthermore, if the wind comes up or down, you still have two controls at your disposal: in a gust, dump the main and hike out hard, and in a lull, sheet in and shift your weight leeward.

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Michael Sherrell
So this technique requires you to distinguish between a wind puff and a wind shift when you suddenly get an increase of heel, does... Read More
Friday, 05 September 2014 14:08
Michael Sherrell
Gives me something to work on, for sure.
Friday, 05 September 2014 14:13
Stefano Maffulli
Waves also play a role in changing the apparent wind: when the bow nose dives into a wave the boat may slow down changing the appa... Read More
Friday, 05 September 2014 14:38
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Video of a CSC Open House at Berkeley Bay Festival


Ten times a year, CSC offers Open House introductory sailing lessons to members of the public for free. It's a great introduction to safely sailing on the Bay!

Check out this neat video from the Berkeley Bay Festival, where CSC offered CSC Open House rides!

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A Couple of Capsize Recovery Tips

Appropriate capsize recovery techniques vary by wind speed, and there are several methods available for righting the boat  in situations where the wind is high and you are unable to keep the boat from re-capsizing. However if you can recover without setting the anchor or having a crew member swim around to the bow to line the boat up into the wind, the recovery will be quicker and easier.

To recover on the first attempt (without re-capsizing) with the least effort in the broadest range of conditions, here are two very useful tips.

First, uncleat the gnav/vang (in addition to the mainsheet & jib), as this will reduce the effect of the wind on the sail when the boat comes back up.

Second, while up on the gunwhale, before stepping onto the centerboard, consider what effect the wind direction will have on the boat once it comes up, and plan the effect the arrangement of your and your crew's weight will have on the boat's balance at that point.

  • If the mast is pointing away from the wind/hull is towards the wind, the crew will be on the downwind side when the boat comes up. Tell the crew to just hang on to the bungees under the gunwhale when the boat comes up, and then come around to the stern to get back in afterwards; when the boat comes up, the person on the centerboard tries their hardest to at least get half way over the gunwhale so as to keep the upwind side weighted down.
  • If the mast is pointed towards the wind (a situation in which a double capsize is very common), the crew will be on the upwind side when the boat comes up. Have them hang onto the hiking straps as the boat comes up so their bodies are draped over the gunwhale. If they  weigh enough--taking the wind's power into account changes the meaning of 'enough'--the person on the centerboard can dry recover, particularly if he/she scrambles quickly across to the upwind side. If the crew is lighter than the person on the centerboard, the person on the centerboard should plan to go down into the water and get back into the boat from the stern (holding on to the boat at all times). 

Under almost all capsize conditions where you're not right by a lee shore or dock, the person on the gunwhale can take as long as they want to consider the situation and to discuss it with the rest of the crew. 

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Yves Parent
In addition, Seamus's trick to easily board from the stern works very well. In this push yourself down in the water and use the mo... Read More
Monday, 18 August 2014 23:21
Francisco Kattan
Nice post, thank you. What is the ideal position of the outhaul during capsize recovery? Tight or loose? and why?
Wednesday, 20 August 2014 09:30
Michael Sherrell
Francisco, never gave the outhaul any thought. It is only tensioned under full sail, of course. If blowing the gnav/vang helps, I ... Read More
Wednesday, 20 August 2014 10:28
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How to Trap Single-Handed (video)


1. Wear comfortable, non-restrictive gear and as many temporary pirate tattoos as possible.

2. Get a really, really long tiller.

3. Have awesome background music. 

4. Get out there.

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Camille Antinori
Nice video. Like the weight placement. I would add that nice grippy trapezing boots are really handy. I am wondering if my new ... Read More
Saturday, 23 August 2014 12:52
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How to Dress to Impress When Dinghy Sailing

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Sailing in the Bay in a Dinghy can be challenging, to put it mildly. You're exposed to brutal wind, waves, and cold weather. Summer is often colder than spring and fall! And you look like a fashion disaster.

I often get asked about what to wear. Now a wetsuit is key, as we all know. I prefer to wear foul weather gear over my wetsuit to keep the wind chill off and keep the wetsuit from snagging on sticky-out bits on the dinghy.

But where is the style, you say? The panache? What if you're trying to dress to impress? Unfortunately, Armani doesn't make wetsuits. Which these guys took to heart:  http://youtu.be/0e_rDFy6VhI . They don't let the fact that they're sailing a 49er get between them and looking good. Brown shoes with a black suit, though? Ouch.

But what if you're not into suits? I've done a bit of field research, and here are my suggestions for your summer dinghy dress style.  I did all of my testing in one of our more challenging dinghies, the RS 500. And much of the field research was conducted solo. For maximum science and stuff.

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Michael Sherrell
Fabulous!
Tuesday, 05 August 2014 08:10
Randolf Klein
High fashion for the high sees. You are now in the same league as those 49er sailors and Alex Thomson (https://www.youtube.com/wat... Read More
Tuesday, 05 August 2014 10:24
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Single-Handing in High Wind

Single-Handing in High Wind

Most senior dinghy tests involve assessing the skipper's ability to single hand a dinghy in high winds. And indeed, this is an essential skill. Imagine that you're out in the South Sailing Basin on a beautiful summer afternoon. It's blowing 15 knots, and you and your crew are hiked out all the way when suddenly the hiking strap breaks, and your crew ends up in the drink. (See e.g.  http://youtu.be/ZZTwH8C5bjo for an excellent demonstration by our current Commodore). If you can't pull off a single-handed crew overboard maneuver, your crew will end up on the rocks by Emeryville while you wait for the rescue skiff to arrive.

Here are a couple of pointers which will help you single-hand like a pro.

Depowering the sails. Unless you have the stature of an NFL linebacker, chances are that you will have difficulty keeping the boat flat unless you take some steps to depower the sails. Reefing the main and furling the jib are good starting points. Tightening up the luff of the sail with the Cunningham and/or reefing line will help to flatten the sail, reducing its heeling force. Loosening up the vang or gnav will allow the head of the mainsail to twist and luff, all the while keeping the bottom of the sail powered up.

Balancing the boat. Balance is always key in sailing. Since you no longer have crew in the boat, you'll have to use your own weight much more effectively. Moving forward is essential; otherwise, the bow of the boat gets battered around by waves. Aggressively hiking out will help keep the boat flat. If you're lucky enough to be wearing a harness and your tiller extension is long enough, you can even go out on the trapeze! 

Tacking and jibing. Tacking a dinghy while single-handed in high wind can be quite challenging; large swells crashing against the bow of the boat tend to slow the boat before it passes through irons, causing the tack to fail. Furling the jib and loosening the vang as suggested above compound the problem, as the boat no longer points as high. In some situations, jibing the boat is the only viable option for switching tacks. For this, loosen up the vang (if this wasn't already done), and start the jibe with a maximal amount of boat speed. You'll have to aggressively use your weight and the tiller to keep the dinghy from rounding up and broaching.

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Michael Sherrell
If things look too hairy, consider capsizing immediately and hoping the COB can make his/her way to you. Although usually when som... Read More
Monday, 22 February 2016 11:02
Nathan Ilten
Great suggestion, Mike. Even better: anchor. If it really is that hairy, chances are that your capsized boat will still be moving ... Read More
Tuesday, 23 February 2016 11:10
Michael Sherrell
If you're trying to tack and nearly make it but not quite, chances are at the highest point you reach you will start being blown b... Read More
Monday, 25 July 2016 10:38
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CSC's Week in Review: Fast Track, Cruise, Open House & Windsurfing Galore

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CSC update as of 7/14, we have more than 1,000 members :)

Sunday 7/13 - we had dinghy racing, followed by an Open House and a party afterwards with the first ever performance by the CSC Band. Antony, Scott, and Kaylia serenaded their adoring crowd. Check out the video of one of their original CSC-inspired songs on Cal Sailing Club's facebook page

We had approximately 200 Open House attendees and one fearless Commander of a Pearson Commander, David Frasier, taking out eager new sailors--you're our hero, David!

July's Junior Sailing Fast Track from 7/7 - 7/11 came and went, and all we've got to show for it is a bunch of lousy pictures. Oh, and we have NINE brand spanking new juniors - congratulations!! 

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Use The Force

Use The Force

When we sail we use all our senses, but the one we rely most heavily on is our sight.  This was brought home to me when I took my first Wednesday night keelboat lesson several years ago.  I had grown accustomed to using the telltales on the shrouds to get a general sense of the wind when sailing the dinghies.  I even carried some bits of yarn in case the boat I was on didn’t have any.  I took the helm on the keelboat on a dark night and--oh crap--I couldn’t  see the tell tales.  I struggled that night, but realized that what had started as an aid had become a crutch.

The last Monday night advanced dinghy class, we worked on sailing without any sight at all.   But you don’t need a class to try it.  First make sure you have decent crew who is not blindfolded, and that you’re in an area with a lot of space (few boats and no obstructions).  Pick a day with moderate wind.   Put a blindfold on and try to hold a course.  Your crew can give you feedback.  Try to feel the puffs of wind before they hit the boat.  Pay attention to the balance of the boat.  Listen to the sound of the boat moving through the water.  Play with the main sheet.  Can you tell when the boat accelerates and decelerates?  Smell your gear, yeah, you should probably wash it.   Try sailing different points of sail.  If you’re feeling confident try a tack.

It’s as easy as bagging womp rats back home in Beggar’s Canyon.

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John DuMoulin
Thats a great idea! I used to do that when I was learning to windsurf. If I was having some inexplicable problem with sailing diff... Read More
Tuesday, 08 July 2014 16:34
John Bongiovanni
This was a great exercise in the advanced dinghy class. I figured out that the tension on the mainsheet was the clue. Head up unti... Read More
Friday, 11 July 2014 21:25
Michael Sherrell
Very useful comment, John. I was there but I didn't figure that out. By the way, Seamus, what the f*** is a "womp rat"?... Read More
Sunday, 13 July 2014 11:23
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How to buy your first VHF handheld for your CSC Senior kit

Candidate Senior sailors need to own their own VHF radio. This guide is designed to give some basic orientation on what to look for when shopping for your first handheld VHF radio. This guide is not a generic guide but designed explicitly for use at the Cal Sailing Club, for brief recreational use on dinghies and keelboat cruises inside the bay area. You need a radio for basically two things: contacting the day leader and, in an extreme situation, contacting the Coast Guard. Senior skippers need to have a radio with them in order to sail outside of the Junior area, and will often use them when cruising with other Seniors. 

Understand waterproof rating Most models are water proof and submersible, meaning they can be dropped into water and still be functioning when recovered. JIS4 means that the radio is barely splash resistant, JIS8 means the radio is submersible, it can stand for up to 30 minutes below 5' of water. Be careful when reading the descriptions when shopping because it's not uncommon to find JIS4 rated radios claimed as being 'waterproof'.

Floating or not? You  want the radio primarily for your own safety, and you want to make sure it is securely attached to you at all times. It isn't going to help you  if you leave it on a keelboat but fall off, or you lose it while  sailing but don't realize it (a pretty likely occurrence if it isn't  secured).  For both dinghies and keelboats, assume  that you'll end up in the water, so the radio has to be securely attached to  you. CSC keelboats have a radio on board, so the portable one is for extra safety. The models that also float can be easier to recover in case they get detached from you but they can be slightly bulkier and more expensive. The extra cost  of a floating one can be easily recovered the first time the radio drops in the water (which is not so unlikely, according to stories heard at the club). 

Whether you decide to get a floating or non-floating model, make sure that the radio is securely tethered to your gear so that in a capsize it won't be ripped off of you. In general, do not rely  just on the clip that attaches the radio to your life vest. In case you go for non-floating, you may want to get a waterproof case for it with enough buoyancy. You have to be careful, though, and take the radio out of the case when you're not using it otherwise the water (vapor) in the case can corrode the radio. The case needs to be securely attached to your life vest.

Power, screen, control and other features to look for 5 watt should be the minimum transmitting power. Rechargeable NiCad or Li-ion batteries are usually provided by the manufacturer, it's nice to have the possibility to put in regular AA batteries, too. Dual scan means that the radio will scan Channel 16 along with another Channel (69 for CSC). This is important because technically any boat under way is required to monitor Channel 16. Any boat carrying a VHF, whether  required to or not, is required to monitor Channel 16. So when you're  out the bay listening to our Channel 69, you have to also monitor Channel  16. The Dual Scan feature does this. Many VHFs have a triple scan feature, which monitors both Channel 16 and Channel 9 (the standard hailing channel). Squelch  is widely used in two-way radios to suppress the annoying sound of channel noise when the radio is not receiving a transmission. Most handheld radios have a separate squelch control to set the threshold to the actual noise that's on the channel, which can vary. Control knobs to adjust volume are generally more usable than push buttons: think you may be wearing gloves or have your fingers slightly incapacitated when you really need to use the radio. If you carry the radio in a case, push buttons to control the radio volume can be better. Make sure that the screen is very visible also in daylight. Backlit displays are useful in low light. Some radios have water-activated lights that should make the radio much easier to locate in the event it goes in the water in low light conditions.  A lock mode prevents the buttons to be operated when not needed.

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Recent Comments
David Fawcett
Excellent Stefano, I could have used this a month ago Agree with you about gps, I looked at several vhf/gps handhelds, most of t... Read More
Tuesday, 01 July 2014 19:57
Stefano Maffulli
I ended up getting the SH HX300 in fact, it's also on sale on West Marine now with a $20 mail-in rebate.
Wednesday, 02 July 2014 11:23
Stephanie Evans
This is less about buying one as owning one and keeping it in one piece--every time you go out on the water, check your antennae i... Read More
Wednesday, 02 July 2014 08:43
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Friday the 13th Cruise to Clipper Cove

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It was Friday the 13th, and a full moon. What better time to go on a cruise; what could possibly go wrong?

Eleven sailors in five dinghies left the dock at about 4:30pm. A little later than the announced departure time, but about when I figured we would actually shove off. The wind was very light in the junior area but picked up to a lovely 10 knots or so once we got a bit past the restaurant. We had a pleasant and uneventful sail to Treasure Island, and pulled our boats up on the little beach at Clipper Cove. Of course we had the traditional capsizing of the last boat to arrive.

 

[Left: Josh Leihe and Auric Horneman taking down the last Bahia; Right: CSC boats beached at Clipper Cove]

With the boats pulled well above the water line, we made the short walk to the Treasure Island Bar and Grill. I don’t know about everybody else, but while I enjoyed my food I kept thinking: I hope the wind doesn’t die, I hope the wind doesn’t die, I hope the wind doesn’t die. After eating, kibitzing and telling lies about how fast we had sailed there, we walked back to the boats. I looked out over the water and, you guessed it, the wind had died. Now, this wasn’t the end of the world. We had the sketch motor mounted on the Venture, but it was going to be a slow slog back with a 2 horsepower motor and 5 boats. As we looked despairingly eastward at the glassy water, what did we see? Could it be? Yes, it was Michael “The St. Bernard of the Sea” Moore coming towards us on the rescue skiff! He brought the skiff up to the beach and casually asked “Do you guys want a tow?” We got the boats off the beach, and Michael maneuvered around so we could each attach our bow painters to the tow line.

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Rudderless But Not Adrift: Sailing Without Your Rudder

We covered rudderless sailing at our Monday afternoon advanced dinghy lessons last week. Knowing how to rudderlessly sail is crucial not only in the (sort of rare at CSC) event that your rudder falls off (!), but also deepens your understanding of sail trim, boat handling, and makes you look pretty epic out there on the Bay. And let's face it: if you look good, you're probably sailing gooder.

It's also a skill you need to know to pass your senior dinghy & keelboat practical tests at CSC.

One simple resource that can be useful to get your started is this rudderless e-book (click the link to download), written by CSC member Joel Brand. 

Some pointers from our rudderless practice session and discussion last week:

If in a dinghy, try and get your rudder completely out of the water. It can still affect your course if it's in the water. As with all these tips provided below, however, try all sorts of different ways to maneuver and see what happens. Try it with the ruddder up, then down and swinging freely. Wind strength, waves, sail plan, and weight in the boat will all affect how your actions impact your course corrections...much like on any given day. Experiment!

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Nathan Ilten
Great tips! Here is another: Loosening your gnav will help with jibing.
Wednesday, 04 June 2014 10:34
Peter /"Margaret"/ Kuhn
Sit down sailors--especially those of modest proportions--often don't appreciate that rudderless sailing in CSC dinghies requires ... Read More
Tuesday, 10 June 2014 08:17
Michael Sherrell
Antony's rudder fell off last week. S*** happens.
Friday, 11 July 2014 09:44
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