Our Director is the guest expert on choosing where to learn how to sail for Iconic Alternatives’ summer series
I’ve been a Bond fan since I was a boy. My folks had all the original print books by Ian Fleming, and they took me to a double feature of Goldfinger and You Only Live Twice when I was too young to be knowing anything about Pussy Galore. @parenting!
Fast forward to this summer. Iconic Alternatives, a lifestyle site themed largely around certain screen actors (including the major players in the Bond market), is doing a summer series on relevant activities, and how to best get started in them. They chose our Director, Captain Stephen Glenn Card (yup, me), as their Expert for learning how to sail. Fair.
Might not be fair to put my image on the same web page as Daniel Craig as Bond, but he was driving a boat and had a smug, confident look on his face. So did I…
More importantly, this series is worth taking a look at if you’re contemplating taking up any of those actvities. The first two: learning to sail, and SCUBA diving.
My family has owned and operated two sailing schools over the course of about 52 years. I know a thing or two; not my first rodeo. I was more than happy to share some thoughts about choosing a sailing school.
Rather than be redundant, I’ll link you to the feature on Iconic Alternatives’ site…
Up-in-flames incident proves that stoopid and boating still don’t mix.
A Tik-Tok video gone viral apparently shows a motorboat anchored up, displaying Pride flags, being circled by another motorboat that might have been saying hi…
Until it was apparent that they were doing the other thing. Flipping them off, and yelling slurs. So, the recipients of this unwelcome attention started recording it in case it went from ‘really!?’ to Realz.
Then, it went red hot! The offended/offending motorboat literally burst into flames. The occupants wound up in the drink, and apparently were rescued by the targets of their vitriol. The local Sheriff’s Department was investigating the facts to determine if any charges would be filed.
It’s sad and unfortunate, not to mention exasperating, and any number of other gerunds, that “people” still behave like this. But, at least it’s fun when they get their comeuppance.
Road rage on the water is, well… stoopid. Boats handle less predictably than cars, so despite floating in and being surrounded by stuff softer than asphalt, it’s a recipe for disaster.
Here’s a link to The Washington Post’s piece about it, including the video itself embedded…
Depends where you are and what you’re doing, but learning how to sail or sailing in a club is right around the corner!
So, yesterday evening, I was double checking the temps and precips at several spots to juggle competing concerns… fleet prep and launching, and also a potential last shot at some snowboarding. Interesting stuff! Had to double check to be sure… don’t take my word for it!
Yup… we are totally inverted temp-wise. Partly sunny everywhere, although it had just rained a bit in NYC.
Hunter NY (Catskill Mountains): 56° (nb: it was 59 shortly before I screen shot these)
Killington, Vermont (about 1/3 of the way up to Canada): 66° (and yeah, it was at least 67 shortly before)
This weekend is the last of the season for Hunter and Windham in the Catskills. Stratton in Vermont hasn’t announced a closing date yet, but they’re getting kinda close. Magic is already done. But Killington? 83 trails open yesterday – a few more than just a few days ago due to moving snow around and grooming. With a little luck, I might still get up for a day and a half or so without neglecting anything here in the colder south!
The cherry blossoms are popping. That means the fishing picks up, and it means that sailing weather gets more consistent soon. Sailing Club sessions are available almost as soon as we splash the first boat! Classes start in a little over a week, with Start BareboatingSM (ASA 104) on the 17th. Start (ASA 101, learn to sail) begins May 1. We used to always start in April with that: mid month. We took some bruises with weather delays, but it worked. Until, of course, it didn’t.
Global warming and related climate/weather changes have made April too iffy to jiffy reef (reduce sail) and suit up/show up for April beginner lessons. It’s not so much a matter of cold; that can factor in, of course, but most students who come for lessons have done some skiing or snowboarding, and many are regulars. They have the gear. But, too much wind is counterproductive or even unsafe for beginners. Add cold and rain, and it’s freakin miserable sitting in a boat with cold wet hands on ropes and steering sticks (tillers). Plus, hard to keep a dry butt.
June is arguably the single best month for beginners to learn to sail. It averages out two key variables: volatile weather, and time to continue practicing and enjoying as the season goes. Having said that, people learn successfully throughout the boating season. Any month can have a few stinker days that aren’t productive enough, and lead to a make-good. Our courses aren’t over until they are – when students have the skills they need to go skipper the same boat they just learned on! Otherwise, what’s the point?
“Shots and masks, masks and shots, and shots and masks!”
what George Carlin might have said about the state of things. I’m sure he’d have referenced those shots being in asses, too, but who knows.
Two of our most prolific instructors have gotten their first shots now, and it’s all on the near term horizon for those who haven’t, so there’s that. Masks have become readily available, and it’s easier to find something that fits you. As warmer weather approaches, we soon transition from actually liking the masks on cold days to probably wishing they could come off on the warmer ones.
We’re still offering our “Live 105” coastal navigation courses on Zoom, but it’s transitioning soon to Sailing Club and courses.
Last season, we went through this with the masks. We started sailing in March! True, it was a private client here and there and group lessons began later this season. But, we had the whole spring-through-fall experience with them so can offer some thoughts.
Buffs and competing products are not so good for this. True, they offer good sun protection. But, they don’t work as well at filtering air, and they don’t shape around the nose. That means COVID in, COVID out. But, they can still be used as a neck gaitor. Just keep them down and put a proper mask on in their place, or put the buff over a proper mask if it’s not too tight.
Surgical masks: in our humble opinion, they suck! They are ill fitting and only good for blocking direct spray. They usually leave gaps on the cheeks and around the nose.
N-95 and K-95: depends on the fit. At least they’re white, so they don’t get as hot as anything dark. Obviously, the material has proper filtration. So, if they fit, and don’t leave gaps at the nose, you’re golden.
Cloth masks: good if they conform to the bridge of the nose. That requires a metal fitting that can pinch over the bridge. No got? No use.
Cloth or other fabric with an inner pocket for disposable filters: these are the ultimate in our opinion, as long as the filter used is good in filtration and fit. I found a style from Ski The East that have more breathable fabric – tighter weave on the outside, and the inside layer is a little too breathable. But, there’s a large inner pocket for a filter, and a large seam that goes around the edge of the chin and jaw. The filter area starts there and goes up to the nose clip. Strangely, they supply a filter that doesnt’ fill the space and is too small. But, if you get packs of filters from another source that fit the area, you get comfortable masks that can fit properly and balance breathability with protection.
They come with elastic ear pieces that are adjustable, and one can tighten the top and bottom independently or together to customize the fit.
I liked my first pair so much I bought two more. I even used it snowboarding: I put it on, then put my balaclava helmet liner on around it and keep the face part down. I now need to re-order filters. I found ones at REI that are for an Outdoor Research mask product that I do not recommend (Adrenaline Sports Face Mask), having tried it as well as observing another masker’s successes and failures with it, but the filters will fit the Ski the East masks and probably many others of similar style. See links below.
Why worry about this when outdoors? Well, remember the Rose Garden super spreader event? remember there’s this thing called wind? It’s when the air blows – sometimes your way? Yeah. Being outdoors is better.. until it isn’t. Indoors, with proper ventilation and filtration, can be better (although it usually isn’t). One of our clients is a Delta pilot and says he feels far safer in the confines of a plane than in any other indoor scenario, given the turnaround time on filtering air: every 3 to 4 minutes!
And more about air travel, versus driving: some experts are going out on a wing and saying it’s MUCH safer. And, we’re talking Covid context. Here you go…
Or, lose their fishing rod… or, catch COVID. But we can all prepare well to avoid or mitigate any of that. We mitigate every time you come to learn how to sail with us.
The inspiration for this post? A recent funny a/f Instagram clip we came across and reposted. Fishing fails. Four different clips of people failing spectacularly at fishing.
I have free license to laugh. I’ve lost rigs to hooked fish twice in my lifetime, and came damn close another time. I’ve paid my dues; I know what can happen.
The first time was in my teens. The fam was in the BVI (Virgin Islands), and I was at least as interested in fishing as sailing at the time. I caught some live bait that afternoon and kept the little fish alive in a bucket pending live lining for something larger off the dock that night. Lo and behold, some other kids down there had the same idea and we were all tossing our bait to the shadow line off the dock to see what came by. It was quiet. One kid was having trouble with his tackle, so I offered to help. I put my rod down and went to help. As I walked back, I saw my pole torpedo off the dock out onto the surface of the water, where it didn’t sink – but actually glide along teasingly for a moment, leaving s little wake. Then it suddenly shot off into the night so fast it just disappeared. Gone. Done. Had to laugh; I had that kind of humor even back then.
And, no… no one actually EXPECTS to fall overboard. But we do sometimes, and that’s why we wear life jackets or PFD’s. During our Start SailingSM courses (learn to sail / ASA 101), students always wear PFD’s. What if it’s hot out, light wind, warm water, and everyone can swim? You STILL wear them. We invest in high-quality automatic inflatable jacket with manual overrides. That way, you don’t even know you’re wearing them.
We sail in very controlled settings, with an eye on the sky as well as the radar and weather apps. We don’t take you out when bad weather is approaching, and we get off the water before conditions deteriorate if we’re the slightest bit concerned. But, developing good habits during class carries over into the future of your sailing. Hard to get separated from the boat if you’re tethered to it; hard to drown if you’re wearing a personal flotation device.
The second time I lost a rig overboard? I was in my 30’s. I was on a private fishing charter with a friend from my saltwater fly fishing club, the Salty Flyrodders of New York. It was out of Montauk, and we were on a Boston Whaler Outrage (large rig; probably over 20′). Captain Ken Turco (RIP) was putting my friend Mark and me on the fish. It was wall to wall false albacore, and it was easy to hook up. They were bombing small bait on the surface, so there was really no surprise about what would happen: see fish, drive over to fish, don’t actually run through the fish, cast to the fish, hook and fight the fish.
So, we did. Fish on with each cast. We decided to experiment with how quickly we could bring each one to the boat to release it and catch another. The quicker it’s done, the better it is for the fish, as stress and oxygen debt can later kill a fish that actually swims away apparently unharmed. So, we started tightening down our drags more and more with each fish released. (Drag on a fishing reel is the braking mechanism that allows controlled slippage of the line from the reel so a fish doesn’t simply snap the line or the rod.)
False albacore are small tuna. Small, but strong. They do one thing when hooked: swim away fast and far. Hence, proper drag tension. We were getting tired fighting one after another with tight drags. And, my hands were very stiff and tired. And so, after hooking the umpteenth fish, I bobbled the rod. And almost caught it; but not quite… and it bounced off the gunwhale and into the water. I hesitated; could have jumped in and grabbed at it before it sank. But that’s not an easy reflex. I lost the opportunity, and the rod.
I just stood there for a moment. Ken and Mark eventully looked around to see how I was faring and to make sure our respective fish didn’t cross lines and tangle. They saw I had no rod. “No…” said Mark. Ken was slack jawed. I said nothing. I turned to Ken’s rod rack, grabbed one, started stripping line off, and was soon onto another fish.
Awhile later, I almost dropped THAT rod as well. That one I would have had to pay for. That’s how non-stop the action was with albacore, bluefish, and even a nice striped bass for me to score a ‘northeast slam.’ Made the cover of the following week’s Fisherman magazine, Long Island/Metro NY edition, for which I wrote a column and some articles at the time.
SAFETY FIRST. When we teach sailing, and when I used to teach some snowboarding as well, we’d discuss safety first. Then, the idea was to have fun. Finally, maybe people would learn something: but nothing happens without the feeling of security, and most people aren’t learning if they’re not having fun.
On snow? I’d teach people how to fall safely before they even got to strap one foot onto their boards. (For first-time lessons, at any rate.) Seriously: I’d demonstrate how to fall both forward and backward, and then they’d do it. I made it fun. They knew they were going to fall sometimes learning; we brought that out into the open. Once they learned that they didn’t have to fall hard and get hurt just taking a basic lesson, they relaxed about it. Then, they didn’t fall. (Not much, anyway!)
We take the same approach to sailing lessons.
What about the pandemic? We sail – with MASKS!
THE PANDEMIC IS GETTING WORSE. Yes, we have vaccines. Yes, more are likely to be developed. But, there are mutated strains now that are far more transmissible, and also now understood to likely be more dangerous once we’re infected by them. There’s a chance that one or more current or future mutations will be resistant to current vaccines. That, plus pandemic fatigue, and blatant disregard for proven science and math, is why the United States is the world leader. Not in response to the virus, but in mashing up its response and leading to a ridiculous number of deaths, most of which could have been avoided.
The simplest things remain true:
Keep your distance from others. You can’t infect, or get infected by someone whose breath you’re not breathing, either in the moment or shortly afterward. That’s the social distance thing and avoidance of crowds, or entering &/or remaining in areas where many people have been.
Use a proper mask, and wear it well. The CDC has yet to change their public guidelines, but many health experts are now saying it’s time to up the ante on the mask front. Either double up the cloth masks (wear 2), or upgrade the masks being worn (N95 or KN95). Personally, I’m back to a respirator for the laundry/mail room in my building, in Uber/Lyfts, and for the rare times I’m on a subway. Otherwise, I use multi-layer cloth masks that fit well, have an adjustable nose section, and a FILTER in between the cloth layers.
On a few occasions last year, we denied enrollment to students who expressed in advance that they were either uncomfortable or unwilling to wear masks. We rode herd on people who did attend and got sloppy about using masks, including the threat of kicking them out with no recourse or refund. We take this deadly seriously.
Are there times people can take their mask off? Yes – but only when it’s abundantly safe to do so based on where they are in relation to other people and what the wind is doing. What about inside? We spend almost no time inside, even with learn to sail. (It’s a sport learned by doing, not hearing people talk about it.) But when we are inside, we distance, ventilate, and WEAR MASKS PROPERLY.
I’m not yet eligible for the vaccine due to age and occupation. It worries me. But, just as with mitigation measures for activities I choose to do, I can mitigate the risk of exposure and infection with distancing, masks, and in some cases, just NOT doing it.
DON’T DO THIS…
Here’s a smart, pithy article on the latest about masks, with some historical quotes and some links for more info…
Pandemic living has some interesting scenarios for learning how to navigate or sail on Zoom.
“The Cat ate my homework” starts to sound reasonable! While I haven’t heard that (or by dog) from a student in our “Live 105” Coastal Navigation courses on Zoom, I’ve seen some strange stuff. Strange is purely subjective and relative, of course.
First: what’s this course? It’s our Start Navigating course, ASA 105 Coastal Navigation. It has no prerequisites, and no prior navigation experience or training is necessary. (It is helpful to have done some boating or sailing for better perspective, but we assume none of that when we teach you.)
PC (Pre COVID), we taught this in small group settings both in Manhattan and New Rochelle. Last March, we switched to Zoom: the first school doing it, and the only one I can actually verify as doing so. It’s gone quite well! It’s almost as if we’re all in the same room together, and allows people in different locations and time zones to navigate together and make new friends and potential sailing buddies.
Anywho, as most people are doing this from home, we get a glimpse of what home looks, sounds and feels like. That includes critters.
So far, we haven’t seen the proverbial pirate parrot perched on anyone’s shoulder, or carrying off plotting tools as a prank, but a number of cats and dogs have scored some screen shots.
I host and teach all our Zoom sessions. It comes naturally to me, and is fitting as I wrote the book we use for the course. Why not use the ASA book? That’s a loooong story, but short version: got tired of waiting for them to revise and professionally print their very good old book. Had to write supplements for it for topics covered on exam but not in book, for example. Started drafting my own. Almost done; needed a few final copies for first course of a winter season. They gone went and published an entirely new book by another author rather than revise the old one, and instead of the expensive price going down, it actually went UP further. But wait – there’s more! They also had a separate companion book that wasn’t just practice problems or resources, but also part of the text.
But wait – there’s MORE!!! There was also a companion DVD . Took a look at that for about 30 seconds, couldn’t take it any more. Tossed it like a frisbee for the cat who pounced on it. Never saw it again. (Ultimately, after breaking their own arm patting themselves on the back for this rollout, they gone went and did what they said they were originally: revised the OLD one. And, they published that as well, offering both texts. At that point, I’d been using my own for a few years, and have simply tweaked that and never looked back.)
So, cats, and dogs. Here’s one pic in an Instagram post from a live class, PC of course. The pic is a link…
My cat attends each Zoom session. He interferes while lounging across the chart, or gets annoyed if he senses I’m paying him no mind and talking to a computer screen that is talking back. Then, he gets very intrusive and has to be escorted out.
Just before our most recent session, I had the chart spread out to review one of the practice plots. Buddy jumped up on it, but it was draped over the side of the coffee table, and he didn’t land cleanly on the table. So, the slash-n-scramble routine ensued. End result: I needed oxygen and the chart looked like this:
BUT WAIT – there’s MORE!… It’s like an actual cartoon, where the Warner Bros’ Looney Tune tears ass through a wall leaving the outline…
Pets are optional, of course, for this course. But if you’re managing work, family/kids, or those perpetual 2 year-olds… pets… bring it! It’s all manageable on Zoom.
For more about our “Live 105” sessions on Zoom for Start Navigating, here you go…
We hope you’re all enjoying the holiday season despite the encumbrances bestowed/inflicted upon us. We do what we can.
@mariebarrue decked out and rocking the deck of her Laser. This is a screen-grab from a clip we re-posted on our Insta). We’ve said it before, and will keep saying it: there’s nothing like a Laser, one of our top favorite designs of all time.
“There’s nothing you can’t do on a Laser!”
Captain Stephen Glenn Card
What makes them so special? Versatility, impeccable sailing characteristics, highly transferable skills, and just sheer fun. Everyone who can ought to spend some time on one. And, it’s not as difficult as some pics and clips portray it. Just like skiing and riding, one doesn’t need to do icy double-diamonds to have fun on the surface.
A Festivus for the rest of us!..
Who hasn’t seen this facade? Okay; but who’s seen it with an actual freakin’ Festivus pole?! Your correspondent did, last winter… and cleared people away for this shot.
Still don’t get it? It’s Tom’s Restaurant near Columbia U, the facade made famous by the Seinfeld series. Festivus is an alternative holiday created by character Frank Costanza (George’s father). It includes the pole, of course, plus airing of grievances, followed by feats of strength. Example: the man who schlepped this pole down from Washington Heights to pose it properly.
“Have your boots and your rifle? Good – you can walk into combat!”
Clint Eastwood’s Marine drill sergeant cum battle commander in “Heartbreak Ridge”
The Burton Kilroy snowboard. Note the face doodle at the letter ‘N.’ This iconic image dates back to WWII, where it spread wherever the US Armed Forces went. A similar graphic adorns the transom of our Pearson 10M, Kilroy Was Here. There are two basic variations on the them. We chose the one that was chosen for the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. There’s a narrative of the doodle’s history, to the extent it’s fully known, and visitors are invited to find the Kilroy tags at the monument.
Christmas ain’t complete without a wreath…
The socially-distant, mask-compliant pig outside the lodge at Windham Mountain Resort, the ‘other’ mountain in the Catskills! (Well, there’s also Belleayre, but who’s counting…) Hunter is better known; Windham isn’t exactly a secret however. They seem to go toe-to-toe. Windham had more acreage until Hunter leapfrogged it with a 5-trail and 1-lift area expansion. That lift is a high speed 6-pack, so one can seriously lap that area. However, it gets little to no direct sun so stays icy/scratchy longer. (Personally, I like to see where I ski. Or board, which is what I actually do, but more often than not I board with skiers.)
One foot or two; always woo-HOOOO!
Vrinda Hamal (@vrinhamal) one-footing almost on the beach at Los Roques, Venezuela. Note the beach umbrellas! She’s on a kiteboard, and she’s quite extraordinary on one.
Kiteboarding is on our backburner list of things to try. We almost pulled the trigger on one of our Virgin Islands trips (BVI) not long ago, but the next season saw it all wiped out with the hurricanes. It’s coming back; one outfit on Anegada was doing it this past winter but we discovered it too late to try it out. Another time, perhaps…
Whatever you’re doing during this holiday season, stay safe – and have fun. Cheers!
Women just steer better, but 3rd time’s the charm for Joe Biden.
…where are we going with this? Well, the obvious announcement as called by all news outlets on Saturday is, well – obvious. Assuming no legal challenges affect anything (and so far, they appear to be non-starters), Biden will be the next President and Harris the next VP – and first woman in the role.
This post came about initially as I searched for a ‘skipper’ reference. “Hey, Skip!” “You got it, Skip.” Whatever. But nothing like that came up. Instead, when searching on Biden & ‘Skipper,’ I found this:
Magdalena Skipper, the Editor at Nature, did that post. Guess what? She’s the first woman to head up the journal! Took the helm in 2018. So, there’s that.
All this reminded me of a time-proven fact: women learn to steer better. They just do. I’ve been teaching sailing since 1981, and observed it before then. Women take naturally to learning to steer a boat than men do. Not every woman, but the overwhelming majority. Why ? Probably because…
They don’t try to force things when they should be finessed.
Here’s a clip from our Instagram of a woman solo-tacking. She’d never tried it before…
Look through our Insta for more pics and clips of women steering and sailing in general.
One of the world’s premier watch manufactures, Ulysse Nardin, has an artist’s series that are largely on the provocative side (shown in a previous Blog Rant of ours about timepieces and the history of determining longitude at sea). Here’s one apropos to the topic at hand…
To any women who wonder whether they can learn to sail, and might be feeling any apprehension about it – DON’T! You got this. And when you come to us, we got you. You’ll be a skipper in a few days, and we’ll prove it to you by letting you out to solo on your own.
We’re not out of COVID country yet, so protect and then play.
It’s been a strange season, but as usual, we improvise, adapt and overcome. In March, we didn’t know if we’d have a sailing season at the Sailing Center! By June, we knew it would be closer to biz as usual on the water, in addition to our innovative and popular “Live 105” courses on Zoom for Coastal Nav (which no one else seems to be running). We figured we just had to play it safe.
We did. We limited class sizes beyond (below?) our normal capacities, further reduced classroom time for learn to sail courses, and mandated masks. Sometimes, people could take them off, but only when it made sense. Most people arrived at the Sailing Center pre-conditioned to wearing their masks all the time. (One or two prospective students were not invited to sign up after expressing a distaste or unwillingness to wear masks.)
Video clip for ya ! Mike and Kelly “deal with the heel” on a windy day…
We got through the season, which is winding down. It ends by early November for us. But, the country, and much of the world, is NOT through the pandemic. Politics aside, numbers don’t lie. People lying in ICU beds in hospitals are not faking it. Many countries are in their second or third waves or spikes, and winter is coming which will almost certainly make the pandemic worse. (And don’t forget the flu!!!) A COVID-19 vaccine is not immediately around the corner, nor is worldwide distribution of it when it arrives. So… wear that mask!
So…. it’s not over ’til it’s over. That sadly applies to the pandemic, but I’ll gladly take that this sailing season isn’t quite over and despite that, and eager anticipation of sliding down snow, we’re already looking forward to the next one!
Well, they never really left – but our classic full-keel Swedish design and Friday afternoons are resurgent. If you know how to sail, come have some fun in our Sailing Club with either/or, or both.
We hadn’t launched our International (‘Swedish’) Folkboat last season for various and boring reasons. But it’s back! Demand dictated it.
Friday afternoons are also demand based. We had some regulars for Friday afternoon and evening sails. These Sailing Club members could only break free then, or just needed to as a way to end their work weeks on a high note and begin the weekend early. Life changed and so did demand. We tended to get out of Dodge early on Fridays to beat traffic and have a break before busy weekends.
Last Friday? All the boats went out at once! Busy afternoon. Delightful conditions, too. That can’t be predicted, but on average, there’s more wind in the afternoon and temperatures cool down in the evening. Beat the traffic to go TO sailing, not leave it. Always made sense. We have more weekday pass members in our Sailing Club this season and that’s part of what’s driving Friday sessions.
The Folkboat? It dates back to WWII! Not ours, of course – it’s a fiberglass one built by the premier manufacturer Marieholm in Sweden in the 1970’s. But the design was from a contest in Sweden. Three different designs were chosen as ‘winners;’ one man was tasked with taking the best of those designs and amalgmating them into one fnal boat – the Nordic Folkboat, which became the International Folkboat we now know.
It’s popular wherever there’s wind. Over 5,000 have been built, and that number probably only reflects major production from established builders and doesn’t even count kit or home-built boats that were off the radar.
Silent Reach basically fell in our lap and we couldn’t pass up the chance to have one of these in the fleet. Despite their rep – eats up heavy weather; countless trans-Atlantics; a few well documented circumnavigations – these boats are fine in Long Island Sound! They do well in light breeze, and point surprisingly well. Go figure. Better yet; go sailling!
Here’s an article from Practical Sailor, a sailing review rag that predated all this internet stuff and still goes strong… scroll down past blank image to link:
Here’s a link to Amazon to check listings for the book – new, used, or Kindle…