OK, I have bastardized Woody Allen's quote that "90% of life is just showing up" but it felt apt regarding racing.
I am a bit of a tart when it comes to racing and I have trouble settling down. Last year I raced on four boats: a J24, a friend's cruiser, a J30 and my own vessel, Cadence. I enjoyed the experience on the J30, Belle Faster best of all. It's great crew, I like the skipper and it's a competitive fleet with some exciting racing.
Now, is that time of year when skippers tear their hair out trying to figure out who their crew will be for the season. Belle Faster's skipper, Michael has a pool of 8-10 guys and is trying to figure out who the six will be who will form the core of this year's crew. In his words the three things he is looking for are reliability (showing up), consistency (knowing how to handle the boat) and talent. He will take two out of three but one out of three won't cut it. The foundation of a successful race boat is boat handling. You don't achieve good boat handling unless a regular crew shows up reliably and learns how to do things correctly each time. In my view talent is rare and overrated as compared to a well-functioning crew.
I have not been reliable to date this season, so Mike and I had a chat about this. He was rightly questioning where my head was at for the season. I have a lot going on, as it's year 2 of the new venture and things are taking off. In addition we have a fairly hectic summer including going to London for the Olympics.
After mulling on this overnight, I concluded that being part of this crew was important to me so I am making an effort to at least be reliable. Consistent? Eventually. Talented? Unlikely.
This brought to mind a great line from a highly successful skipper, now in his 80s, who was asked what his secret was to a successful campaign. His reply:
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did. Throw off the bow lines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Imagine. Discover who you really are and what is most important in your life.” Mark Twain
Today, I cracked open Poetry's manual. It is the original Sabre manual that came with the boat in 1988. The manual is a simple, cheap, 3-ring binder holding photocopied print-outs that detail every aspect of the boat. There are line-art illustrations that diagram the systems. There are notes in biro from brokers or past owners. The paper is yellow with age.
As compared with the glossy, 3-year old, highly-produced, easy-to-use, Raymarine manuals full of photos, this old technical, manual is like an ancient manuscript. Hard to penetrate. Overwhelming in detail. Laying out prescriptively what I must and must not do. I don't know where to start.
This manual was accompanied by another 3-ring binder full of thin brochures that accompanied the various pieces of equipment that were installed over the years. This includes a brochure for a macerator. Poetry has a macerator? News to me. Probably explains the problems we had yesterday with head.
Over the last few weeks, my blog has been getting a lot of spam comments, usually 3-4 a day. They are invariably selling viagra or cialis. It's very annoying and I am at a loss to know how to block them. I am curious if anyone else is having this problem.
On a side note, Bob, a crew mate on Wharf Rate, posed what it said about this blog? Hhhm. Comments anyone?
Since March I have been pretty busy on Messing About. Here is what I have done so far:
- Bottom sanded and painted - Hull compounded and polished - Deck and cockpit scrubbed - Rail, stanchions, pulpit and pushpit polished - Topside teak cleaned and sealed - Saloon/cabin cleaned and oiled wood with lemon oil - Stained and sealed the cabin sole - Prepped the portapotty - Installed cam-cleat for the Cunningham - Installed new vang eye on mast - Unblocked sink and fridge drain (VICTORY!) - Winches cleaned and greased - Installed hooks and brackets for docking lines and boat hook in lazarette - Re-bedded halyard clutch - Had the outboard bracket replaced - Bought a whisker pole for the genoa - Charged and installed batteries - Touched up a couple of spots with epoxy - Emptied and sorted out the lazarette - Bought new better sail ties for the main and rolled-up headsail
Hopefully the outboard will be fixed this week. It needed one of the carbs replacing. My last job is to get the boat to the lift at the club, step the mast and replace the win indicator. I went up the mast but could not fix it that way.
So I am almost ready to launch. Once I am in, I have a few minor jobs to do (install a self-steering line thingy and putz around down below with a pot of glue, sticking laminates back on)
The thing that has been bugging me the last few weeks is how late we launch in the Northeast. The weather has been pretty nice in the last month or so (OK with the exception of a big storm). In the UK people go out their way to get the boats in by Easter and sail over the Easter hols. In the Northeast where the weather is better we go in a month later. Makes no sense to me.
Over the weekend, I had time for a bit of self-indulgent looking-back at my personal sailing year. As I looked back on my most memorable sails, I realized that everyone of them was a "learning moment". Few of the sails were spectacular but each one made me a better sailor or at least a less dumb one.
I started the season with a sail where anything that could go wrong would go wrong.This shook out the winter cobwebs. In June, while crewing in the Leukemia Cup, I was reminded about the importance of safety and boom avoidance. Photo to the left for a hint).
In August, Alice and I learned how to sail on a lake and what an amazing experience that can be, with a wonderful day sail on Lake Dillon, Colorado. OK that sail was spectacular.
For Alice and I, sailing has been a central pillar of our life together. I feel very lucky that we share this same passion and we have shared this since the start. It helped form the bond in the beginning, fixed the cracks later and now is creating a new foundation.
When we were first married, Alice and I had spent relatively little time together. When we first fell in love there was a minor inconvenience. Alice lived in Houston and I lived in London. We had an on-and-off long distance relationship for a couple of years and then took the all-or-nothing plunge and got engaged. I made the move to Houston and for complicated visa reasons we had to get married within 90 days of my arrival in Texas. We never really talked about it but we didn't really know each other as well as most couples do when they tie the knot. We just hadn't lived together that long. It was a big risk in retrospect. Fortunately there was sailing.
Neither of us had sailed much when we first met. Alice had navigated a Sunfish at camp one summer. I had been on sailboats a few times and had loved it. I had rowed for years but had no clue how to sail.
A couple of weekends after my arrival in Houston, Alice suggested we rent a Sunfish on Lake Conroe, North of Houston. The guys at the dock asked if we knew what we were doing. I nodded assuredly (lying through my teeth) and Alice oversold her camp experience. We had to sail the the Sunfish out of the marina and into the lake. We clearly had no clue what we were doing and capsized three times in the marina including in the narrow channel leading into the lake. I was laughing my ass off. The guys on the dock were enjoying the show too. It was ridiculous. But...Alice had a sense of humor failure. Danger Will Robinson!
As the proud owner parent of teenage boy, ...er young man, I have found the various accomplishments and announcements of some notable of teenagers in the sailing world a little troubling.
Back in my day any self-respecting teenager would be out getting pissed* on Specila Brew**, living off chili kebabs, looking for any opportunity of a snog**, worrying about acne or listening to the dulce tones of the Stranglers, The Jam or the anthem of my youth, Teenage Kicks by the Undertones. Ah those halcion days!
What does the youth of the day do? Sail around the world! I ask you.
First there was that young Zac Sunderland. Bloody troublemaker. Youngest person to sail round the world, doing a circumnavigation in an old Topper modified in his Dad's garage for blue water sailing.Then some English teenager, Mike Perham, whose birthday was a bit later in the year than Zac saved his pocket money, did the paper round for a few years and cashed in his savings bonds to buy an Open 70 or something like that. Then about half an hour after young Zac has made it round the world, Mike completes his first circumnavigation. Zac must have been peeved.
Next thing we hear about is that two Dutch parents, fresh from a Sunsail vacation, are being prosecuted by the International Court of Human Rights for allowing their 13 year old daughter to announce that she wants to sail around the world. Hey, she completed her RYA, parts 1, 2 and 3 in a week.
Now we hear that Jessica Watson a 16 year old Australian is being dissuaded from doing a circumnavigation when all she did was give a 63,000 tonne a freighter a glancing blow. It's not like it felt anything. Come on Australia, where's your sense of adventure.
OK, all joking aside, I was fine with all of this but I started to wonder when I heard about Mike Perham's latest adventure. He has signed up to sail on the Bountyboat.
What's the Bounty Boat? Well if you are too lazy to click on the link above I will tell you. The Bounty Boat is the adventure of salty, bearded looking Tasmanian, Don McIntyre who looks like he could handle himself in a typhoon. Don has decided to retrace the famous voyage when Bligh and 17 other unfortunate crew-mates were cast adrift by Fletcher Christian during the mutiny on the Bounty. Let me tell you, that was no week long cruise in the BVI. Here is the gist of it:
April 28, 2010 Marks the 221st anniversary of the Mutiny on the Bounty,
when Fletcher Christian cast William Bligh and 18 of his men adrift in
a 23ft open boat, which marked the beginning of one of the greatest
open boat voyages in maritime history. During the following seven
weeks, Bligh and his men sailed over 3,700 nautical miles, in an overloaded boat, with little food or water and no charts, from Tonga to Kupang in Timor.
Personally I think it's crazy enough that he is planning to reenact the voyage but taking a teenager too... Is this wise? OK Mike Perham is already probably a tougher, more experienced than most of us will ever be but it makes me wonder if things have gone a little far.
I had an idea for a group writing project. The topic is moments of blind stupidity while sailing which left you saying to yourself "What was I thinking?".
Mine goes back about 5 years or so ago when I was back in the UK. We chartered a Sunfast40 (great boat!) from Sunsail in Port Solent and spent the weekend sailing round the Isle of Wight. On the Saturday, we sailed to Yarmouth, one of the truly nicest harbors in the world. On the Sunday morning we headed off West early with the tide past Hurst Castle aiming to round the Needles by breakfast.
I had it in my head that it would be great to cook breakfast sailing round the Needles. I went below fired up the grill and stove and set to cooking up a classic English Breakfast - the Full Monty - eggs, bacon, toast, beans and a fried tomato. Some of the crew were feeling a little queazy and the smell of fried breakfast wasn't helping. In the end I think only three of us ate any of it.
I took the bacon grease-filled pan out from the grill, cooled it down by filling it with water out and laid flat over the sink. I then went up topsides to tuck in to a massive plate of fried cholesterol. It was a lovely late Spring day with a perfect breeze. With a combination of great sailing conditions, amazing scenery and a fantastic breakfast, I guess I forgot about the pan.
After heading South for about a mile past the Needles, we decided to tack and head East along the South Coast of the Isle of Wight. As the boat shifted from a Starboard heal to Port, the pan went flying.
The wooden sole was covered in a wet film of bacon grease spreading out over half the cabin. I went below to clean up and nearly slid the whole way down the boat.
It took me an hour of scrubbing with paper towels and salt to get the mess cleaned up.
What was I thinking?
If you have similarly moronic experiences, blog them and let me know and I will delight in sharing them. T-shirt to the best dumb thing done sailing.