“Cape Shark! Or, you’re gonna need a bigger drone…”

More about the spate of attacks at Cape Cod and other New England spots over the last decade. No, no sailing or cruising or yacht or such involved here. It’s just something we predicted awhile ago.

A student of ours from quite awhile ago, Tyler Hicks, did the still photography for the article we link to here, coincidentally. We hope he’s kept up with his sailing!

Why am I writing about shark attacks on a Sailing Club/School site? Because I can. This is our Blog Rant section and I do what I want. But, there’s relevance and it’s more than the fact that one of our students took some photos. Everywhere we travel for our destination Sailing Vacation courses, we snorkel and/or swim. And, anywhere people choose to swim, there can be sharks.

IN THAT PIC: The cover of a recent Sunday NY Times Magazine. Excellent pic, poorly re-captured by yours truly. The article title & sub title differ from the online version, which you can link to below.

First thing to know: it’s safe! True, every year around the world there are a number of shark attacks and a few fatalities. But compared to the number of times humans enter the water each year, it’s a ridiculously rare occurrence for anyone to be bitten, far less killed. Even in the places that statistically have more attacks than others, it’s extremely rare. That’s why people continue to go surfing, snorkeling and diving in those areas. In fact, most people who survive shark attacks (the overwhelming majority do) get back on the horse, so to speak. They go back in the water.

“Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water…”

the crap they used to hype JAWS 2

Another reason I choose to write about it here is it’s something I know something about. I’ve been fascinated with sharks since I was a little boy. One day, my father took me to the South Street Seaport. When we were done exploring the waterfront and vessels, we ducked into the gift shop. I wound up walkIng out with a book called “Shark: Unpredictable Killer of the Sea.” Author: Thomas Helm. I read it. I watched documentaries. I read other books and articles. I read statistics via the International Shark Attack File. I went fishing… sometimes for sharks. I snorkeled a lot. On rare occasions, I would see a shark.

And, yes – I saw sharks on our trips! They weren’t “man-eaters” on the prowl to eat anything they saw, or tear up hapless swimmers for sport and then spit them out so they could chomp more chumps. They were minding their own business, and had no business with us.

IN THAT CLIP: the author films a lemon shark while snorkeling on one of our trips.

Now, about those great whites on Cape Cod…

They’ve been there for awhile. They started showing up near shore and even in the surf. As the article discusses, the sharks were almost certainly responding to increased stocks of gray seals that were migrating seasonally to the Cape. Fish follow food, as do marine mammals. All this was a sign of a healthy ecosystem that had been recovering from overfishing and pollution. Well before there was any discussion of great white sharks near swimmers and surfers on the Cape, light tackle sport fishing enthusiasts (another hat I’ve worn on and off most of my life) became aware of striped bass and bluefish coming in closer to shore more consistently in the summer and fall on the flats of the Cape, and sight-feeding. One photo in the article shows a great white with a striped bass in its mouth.

When the sharks become public knowledge, and attacks began, a cottage industry sprung up with shark paraphernalia and such. Also, the parks department put someone in charge of trying to ensure some balance of public safety awareness and preparedness on the one hand, and allowing people to continue getting in the water on the other. That’s been evolving, especially after something that I’d predicted for years finally happened: someone was killed by a shark in the Cape Cod surf.

As people were continuing to swim and surf, and the sharks were arriving in more numbers, as well as slowly growing as they returned season after season, it was inevitable. If nothing changes, then inevitably there will be the occasional attack and possibly a fatality. But, what would change? Can’t kill the sharks. Can’t kill their food supply. Can’t stop the sharks from swimming where they will. Can we stop people from going in the water? Cue up the scene from the original Jaws, which became a popular meme during the pandemic:

Some residents in Cape Cod think that locals should be able to decide if and how much to cull the seal and shark population to protect those who play in the water and therefore the economy. Others think that’s ‘playing god.’ My takeaway? I’ve never been attacked by a shark, nor known anyone who has. However, those who survive attacks – and those who survive those taken from us by shark attacks – mostly, if not vastly, side with the sharks. They believe that we’re entering sharks’ territory, at our own slight risk, and that sharks are just doing their thing: going about their simple lives surviving. Therefore, leave them alone.

I happen to agree.

“We’re dressing up like their food, and swimming among their food, and we still hardly ever fool them. People will drive down to the beach while they are texting and then they worry about getting bit by a shark?”

Chris Fischer, founder of the non-profit research organization OCEARCH.

So, what happened on the Cape? I’ll let you read the article as it’s a good one. It covers attacks on the Cape, as well as one along the coast in the Bay and one up in Maine in 2020. Two out of the five encounters were fatal. Strangely, despite referencing “Jaws” appropriately on several occasions, the article doesn’t point out that the book by Peter Benchley and the subsequent movie (and sequels) were inspired by real events. What were they?

“12 Days of Terror,” according to one author. In the summer of 1916, there were five shark attacks in New Jersey in the span of 12 days. All but one were fatal. Three of them happened basically back to back in the same one small body of water, Raritan Creek. The other two, which preceded these, were separate attacks at different beaches along the NJ coast. There’s been a lot of conjecture over the century since those attacks about what happened. However, one fact remains: a juvenile great white shark of around 7.5 feet was caught in Raritan Bay shortly after the last attack, and it had human remains in it’s digestive tract, including some positively identified as belonging to one of the attack victims.

After it was caught, the attacks stopped.

Two of those attacks were likely survivable had proper 1st aid been administered and if infrastructure and logistics existed for rapid transport to a trauma facility. Two were not. The fifth and final attack was when a group of kids swimming were warned that there had been an attack further down the creek, and they all scrambled out. The last boy climbing out was struck on the leg by a shark and badly wounded. It’s not clear whether his leg was amputated to save his life; reports conflict. But, he survived.

What about drones?

Obviously, the cover shot for the Times piece is spectacular and the work of a drone. As the piece discusses, drones might be the future of preventative measures along beaches. My takeaway? We’re seeing more and more images like this, where people are in the water blissfully unaware that sharks are quite close by. In many if not most cases, this peaceful coexistence had always been the case. Now, drones are letting us see it for ourselves. That’s not the case on the Cape, where the increase in shark numbers is well documented. But, I wouldn’t be surprised if we keep seeing pics and clips from drones that show how often people are in close proximity to “man-eating” great whites that clearly know the people are there – and clearly don’t care. Until they do, of course, but the drones might very well get people out of the water in advance and reduce the already very slight risk that a shark might bite someone in the water.

And, finally… here’s a link to the entire and very worthwhile article!..

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2021/10/20/magazine/sharks-cape-cod.html

Italia 3.0!

Our third trip to the country and second to Campania for bareboat sailing vacation courses did not disappoint.

Not much, anyway! Winds were kinda light. By light, I mean sometimes nonexistent, often very light, and sometimes sailable. But, we sailed. And we toured. We swam. And we wined and dined like the Medeci.

IN THAT PIC: the United Colors of Procida! Typical scene on the streets of this old and stunning little island, where the locals seem far more prevalent than the tourists.

This trip was booked for last September, but by that April, we called it for obvious reasons. We eventually rebooked and kept a close eye on things, and it all worked out with the exception of some missing luggage for one couple. (I avoid checking bags, especially for boat trips.)

We first did this itinerary in 2010. It was a private trip booked by three friends (a fourth had to drop out). This time around, it was the same deal but with addition instead of subtraction, so five passengers plus yours truly. The ‘ringleader,’ Jay, had taken our Start Sailing course years before and had also been on BVI and Croatia trips with us.

IN THAT PIC: part of Procida with a pleasure yacht bustling by.

Sailing out of the Naples area gives a few options:

  1. The islands off the Golfo di Napoli (Bay of Naples). These are Procida, Ischia, and Capri. Procida is the start of it all for Sunsail/Moorings charters.
  2. The Pontine Islands, further west. These are Ponza and Ventotene. Next to Ventotene is Santo Stefano but it’s off limits.
  3. The Sorrentine Peninsula, with Sorrento on top near the western tip, and the entire Amalfi Coast and “Amalfi Drive” leading to Salerno to the east.
IN THAT PIC: Lisa getting her steering chops early in the trip.

It’s not hard to do some of each in a 1-week charter, especially if, when the wind is light, one is willing to turn on the engine to get there. On our first trip 10 years ago, we seldom had to motor to a destination. On this one, we seldom got to sail all the way to one. That meant sailing when there was wind, and motoring when there wasn’t. Simple. When there wasn’t, we could cover much of the distance to a destination and allow potential back-end sailing time as we got closer.

Not everyone spoke English well. But, who cares? We’re in THEIR country. And they were all very helpful and nice. That’s 3 for 3 with our Italy trips. We were always able to communicate. On our trip to the Isole Eolie dal Sicilia (Aeolians), we were lucky enough to have a fluent speaker aboard so we had an edge. The point is, you don’t need it.

IN THAT PIC: Our HBIC, Captain Card, accidentally capturing his reflection as he shoots the doorway with kitty sentry while alleycatting around Ventotene. Don’t know what an HBIC is? Haven’t been following us long enough? Ask us!

Foodie? Sommelier? You’d like this trip. It was hard to get a bad dish or a bad glass of wine. We managed with wine once. On our second night at Procida, we tried the house wine. It was pretty bad. Everything else was excellent however. We did dare to try the house wine at another joint: on our last night on Procida, albeit at another restaurant. This one was fine.

We had a few foodies on the trip, and they scoured Google and Trip Advisor reviews to find our dinner spots. They did their jobs well: back-to-back Michelin rated restaurants on Amalfi, for example! One had a standard menu format and the other was strictly tasting menu options. Dishes at both ranged from solid to amazing. For the tasting menu, we opted for wine pairings with each course. That cost. But, it was worth it.

IN THAT PIC: polpetti, or baby octopi, in a simple sauce of capers, olives and tomatoes.

The water was absolutely delicious for swimming. Warm; clean and clear; smelled good enough to taste, although we passed on it. We had the same experience in the Eolie off Sicily. Something about that clean, super salty water. Seldom anything to see by snorkeling, as it’s not a coral-reef kinda place, but we leave that for the Caribbean anyway. Ventotene is a diving hot-spot, but it’s less suitable for snorkeling. On our prior trip, the gang was invited along last minute to go along with some divers and they had a good time with it. One can also just snorkel from the beach and if not a snob about it, it’s decent.

IN THAT PIC: smile: we’re watching! They were randomly rowing by as we prepared to swim to that platform just because we could. Anchored off Amalfi.

Our itinerary for this trip: it evolved as it evolved. We didn’t show up with a pre-set plan, but rather some general ideas about what we wanted to do that would be dictated by weather and logistics. The first logistic was… Lufthansa. They lost some of our luggage. It never got to the boat or the base, until the day after we returned to New York. But, it was supposed to arrive by courier the next morning, so of course we didn’t head off to Capri or Ventotene or anything. We simply did a day sail on the first full day and returned to the base at Procida.

IN THAT PIC: just one example of scores you can score by just walking around the ports and looking.

That was almost a blessing in disguise, as it allowed for some exploration that we would’t otherwise have gotten. What a stunningly beautiful little island! Very good, and very local, food too – including spaghetto with sea urchins. Yes, I spelled it with an “o.” That’s what the local restaurant did, and not just for that dish.

NEXT ISSUE: we’ll do the day-by-day play-by-play.

IN THAT PIC: moon over Procida with the town coming to life for the evening.

“Summer of Adventure:” Learn to Sail, James Bond-style!

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!

Daniel Craig as James Bond, at the helm of a sailing yacht in Italy. Another thing our Director has in common with Craig’s Bond: been on boats in Italy twice, with our third trip coming up in September!

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…

No, I’m not in typical Bond attire. I cover up more from sun, and the missing hat would be due to strong winds that were blowing back Marc’s hat while he was steering. Aboard Kilroy Was Here, our Pearson 10M, on a lengthy leg from Oyster Bay to City Island. We were sailing upwind in around 20-25 knots that built up to around 30 by the time we arrived at CI.

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…

Pride and Karma: Going Gangbusters on Haters

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…

https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2021/06/02/video-boat-fire-harassing-prideflags/

Spring has (sort of) sprung

Depends where you are and what you’re doing, but learning how to sail or sailing in a club is right around the corner!

IN THAT PIC: old and new, workboat and racing sloop, City Island Harbor. Late March. It’s ON!

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.

NYC: 51°

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!

No…. not cherry blossoms, but who’s counting? Still beautiful. If anyone knows what they are, prove you read this and chime in! Riverside Park, April 8.

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.

Late March, Killington Resort, Vermont. We had fog, wind, rain, and thunderstorms on and off all day. The next day was bluebird by comparison! And, most of the mountain was still open. As of this captioning, they have 79 trails open (yesterday ended with 83). That’s still more than 50% of Killington minus Pico!

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?

THEY DID! The couple that learns together… keeps sailing together, if they do it right the first time. With us, you do. JP and Liz, aboard Kilroy (our Pearson 10M), dusk on a fall day on City Island Harbor, gateway to Long Island Sound.

Winter and Pandemic: both winding down

“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.
COVID vaccination card for Mr. Card, on top of chart #13218, which we use in our ‘Live 105’ Zoom version of our Start Navigating course (ASA 105 Coastal Nav).

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.

Mask on left: from Ski The East. (mask on right of unknown origin)

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…

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/03/15/flying-safer-than-driving-pandemic/?utm_campaign=wp_post_most&utm_medium=email&utm_source=newsletter&wpisrc=nl_most&carta-url=https%3A%2F%2Fs2.washingtonpost.com%2Fcar-ln-tr%2F30bc362%2F604f84ee9d2fda4c880c5ba7%2F597260d49bbc0f1cdce31cf5%2F47%2F70%2F604f84ee9d2fda4c880c5ba7

Ski The East mask:

Filters from REI that fit the Ski the East masks and probably many others:

https://www.rei.com/product/183431/outdoor-research-essential-face-mask-filters-large-package-of-3

No one ever EXPECTS to fall overboard…

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.

This isn’t a MAGA joke; it’s a guy trying to manage his tackle – a trolling rig on a moving motorboat, and he’s got a fish on to boot. Looks awkward, right? It gets worse! Pic is a link to the clip.

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.

Doesn’t look like he’s heading in the right direction, do it? AND… he’s not wearing a PFD! Didn’t EXPECT to go overboard! Pic is link to clip, of course.

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.

Dinger! Upside his head. What led to that, and what comes next? Click on pic for the clip!

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.

OUR FEARLESS LEADER! Captain Stephen Glenn Card with a decent striped bass he caught back in ’97 on a fly rod, after a slew of false albacore and bluefish. All fish were released to hopefully keep swimming, eating, etc.

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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

Hopping mad? Local’s lucky fishing dance? Find out!

Here’s a smart, pithy article on the latest about masks, with some historical quotes and some links for more info…

https://www.vogue.com/article/double-masking-ask-an-infectious-disease-doctor?utm_source=nl&utm_brand=spotlight-nl&utm_campaign=aud-dev&utm_mailing=thematic_spotlight_012921_1&utm_medium=email&bxid=5e1b5bf320122e3e7a691118&cndid=59645242&hasha=261a25c23a5bbf5d8ad924c4bebedcab&hashb=c69512dba68e4247c057085991cefe91f99003d5&hashc=2b562383c7c514b41efa7e69acf96e5988a7fff1bf1e5204168e294b73b97744&esrc=replenish20200403&sourcecode=thematic_spotlight&utm_term=Thematic_Spotlight

Cat got your Rhumb?

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.

No; he didn’t eat the homework. But he got in her way…

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.

CRITTERS: cats in the two right-hand windows on this Nav Zoom. The couple also has a dog that pops up from time to time.

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.

PELORUS CONFUSEUS: cat interfering with deployment of a pelorus, to his right. A pelorus is a sighting and direction measuring tool that’s somewhat antiquated, but also important for understanding how to use radar. So, we demonstrate its use in Start Navigating! ASA’s curriculum chumped out on that and dropped it. We didn’t.

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…

Awwww….. so sad…. This is Jude! He’s a big, clingy baby. This shot is ‘PC,’ so I was working live with a couple in a custom private schedule. it’s one of three in an Instagram post; click pic to see!

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.

This is Buddy! He’s a pain… but can be sweet at times as well. He’s named after an indoor/outdoor cat who came to visit most days one summer by strolling into the Sailing Center’s yard and hanging with us for awhile. Then, he didn’t. That’s cat behavior for you!

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…

I taped up the chart for the class, as I needed one specific plot that’s on it. This seemed like a fun thing to do with the hand-held ‘hockey-puck’ compass at the time.

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…

Santa Sails! And other tall tales…

A few holiday inspired pics for our peeps.

We hope you’re all enjoying the holiday season despite the encumbrances bestowed/inflicted upon us. We do what we can.

Jingle… booms?

@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.

Kilroy sighting!

“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!

There’s a new Skipper at the helm!

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…

  1. They listen.
  2. 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.