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!
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!
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.
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:
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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: https://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.
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. https://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.
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!!
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.
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.
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.
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!
What gets a bunch of sailors out of bed before 8am on a weekend? The annual cruise to angel Island of course! 30 CSC members and guests poured into Commanders and Merits for a gorgeous sail to the aptly named Island, for a sizable feast that would make your grandmother proud.
Creaking at the seams, some of us chose to hike off the calories, others napped, and many took the short hike/quick nap combo that capitalized on the best of both worlds.
The sail back was mostly uneventful, with half of of us sailing down Raccoon straits, around the Island and into Berkeley, and the other half taking a straight shot back to Berkeley. It was scorching in the wind shadow of Angel Island, but cooled off nicely with a 5knt breeze as we cruised into the Berkeley Marina.
Sailing in the Bay is rough on equipment, including our club's fleet of dinghies. These boats are kept operational through volunteer work spearheaded by our co-first vice commodores, Dan Rolinek and Seamus Vanecko. They were kind enough to take a break between the never-ceasing boat repairs to fill us in on the state of our fleet.
What is the current state of our dinghy fleet? How much life do our dinghies have left in them?
The Ventures and 500s are new and holding up well. The Bahias are starting to show their age. The biggest issue is that they develop cracks in the cockpit floor. We’ve developed a fix for this (you may have notices a few with big platic pieces glued and screwed to the floor), but we don’t know how long that will hold up. Not much will stick to polyethylene, you need a special epoxy. It’s a somewhat complicated process that involves flame treating the plastic so that the epoxy will adhere. We just found a new product that may be simpler, but we haven’t had a chance to test it yet. The JYs are showing their age too, but they seem to keep going.
We've just got a number of new exciting RS boats, but what about our older workhorses? Is it possible to purchase replacement JY15s and Bahias?
Unfortunately the Bahia manufacturer is not doing well, and it’s not possible to buy new Bahias currently. It’s also difficult to get things like spars and foils. We probably won’t purchase more JYs as they are fairly expensive for an older design that doesn’t have a kite. They don’t get sailed a whole lot except for racing. Seniors want to fly the kite, and juniors for the most part are more comfortable on the boats they first learned on. That’s too bad though. I think the JY is a better boat if you’re a junior and can’t fly the kite.
Anthony Lunnis and I organized the May Fast Track for our senior project. We spent two months putting it together by asking volunteers to teach, cook, and/or test, as well as blasting the Cal Sailing listserv. We suggested to every potential Junior that they should join in to get their rating. And sure enough, our excel lists soon filled up with potential participants and volunteers.
Fast Track went off without a hitch…until the last day…when the fire department showed up. They had responded to a call about lots of capsized dinghies in the south sailing basin. Yves is bent over the window of a fire truck in front of the Yard. “Well, Joel here, the Fast Track coordinator, contacted Berkeley Fire Department to let them know we would be doing drills, including capsizing, and not to worry.” I speak up, “I even spoke with a supervisor.” The Fireman nods, “Oh, well there is no supervisor on duty tonight, that’s why. This is our first call all week. No worries.”
I scamper away and down to the dock just in time to hear Jennifer shout, “Be careful, don’t kill another puppy!” as Nathaniel steers a Bahia toward the dock, going a little hot and then S-turning to blow off speed and gliding to a soft landing. “Killing puppies?” I ask. Jennifer responds, “People have been coming in too fast for docking” as if it makes perfect sense to equate hitting the dock with killing cute baby animals. Maybe they’re supposed to picture a puppy between the boat and the dock? Those poor, poor puppies! “We will be working on slow sailing and docking at the next advanced class,” she warns. For the sake of the puppies, of course.
Soon, the sun has set behind Mt. Tam and Hs. Lordships restaurant, making the water radiate a deep blue. The air feels a bit cooler and the last dinghy is on the hoist and swinging around to face its trailer. As it is pushed into the yard I tell the shivering, exhausted, future Junior sailors, “go change out of your wetsuits. We will take care of the sail covers.”
“Are you sure?” they ask, hesitant, as if this still part of their junior test.
Thursday, November 21st, 2013. After days of poor wind, the forecast finally calls for winds of above ten knots, with things getting pretty crazy later in the evening. I decide that it is time to skip out early on work and head down to the club. I ask my sailing buddy (and co-2nd vice) Chris Lalau Keraly if he’s up for a sail, to which he replies “Screw science, I'll be there at 3:30!” Chris is good to his word, and right as he arrives at 3:30, a Bahia pulls up to the dock, with gennaker rigged and ready to go. I take over the boat, and after putting our foulies on and picking up an aspiring junior as our third crew member, we’re ready to go!
The wind is coming from the north, so as soon as we get away from the dock, we hoist the gennaker and take off towards the toilet basin on a broad reach. Before getting too close, we jibe and start making a beeline for the southwest corner of the senior dinghy area. The windspeed seems to be varying between 10 and 15 knots, pretty patchy at times, but we get in a good enough run with me at the tiller.
Stepping on and off a dinghy with style can be an art. One of the best pieces of advice I received early on in my CSC career (after making it onto the dock still dry by sheer luck) was to commit to stepping off and never looking back! We all fear the dreaded plunge into the murky waters of our beloved dock...to inevitably be witnessed by the many bench sailors and commentators who collect like barnacles around the club house. The key, as beautifully demonstrated here by our soon-to-be Junior sailor Phillipe (and gif-elated by our very talented Jennifer Kroon), is to stay low/keep some bend in the knees, keep hold of the boat to steady yourself as you move forward, and let go as soon as you're ready to step off. Anything else leads to wobbly do-the-splits-ville...and doom. Okay, not really. You're not a full-fledged sailor in my opinion until you've fallen into the water at the dock at least once to wash yourself clean of any dignity you may have been clinging to.
Click the image below for the brief video.
Any other tips for looking like a boss at the dock?
If you are looking for Steve Burchik on a Wednesday evening, chances are that you'll find him down on J-dock, getting ready to teach keelboat lessons for the Cal Sailing Club (CSC). He's also a regular volunteer for the Open House and Youth Ride events.
Steve moved to the Bay area in 1978 for a job, and hasn't left since. Apart from his dedication to helping out at CSC, he is known for promoting the use of safety whistles: during a keelboat study group class, he brought a shopping bag full of plastic whistles to distribute among aspiring senior skippers. Steve especially values the diversity and depth among the ranks of CSC members.
He took a break from the tiller to answer a few of our questions:
How did you hear about CSC and when did you join?
I first heard about CSC from my son. He suggested a family picnic in Berkeley and had heard about the Open House. He thought I might enjoy an opportunity to go sailing. I had an exhilarating sail in a dinghy, got soaking wet and immediately walked over to the club house and signed up in April 2007. During my first year of sailing, I kept a simple log each time I went sailing. I just checked it to confirm the dates and was surprised to see that Todd Price was the Skipper on my introductory sail. Our paths would cross many times in the ensuing years.