Which North are you? North 1 or North 2?

Scientists struggle to model the movement of the magnetic north pole. In our live, online ASA 105 coastal navigation course, a real instructor teaches you about this, and why you can basically ignore it.

We’re having a lot of fun with our “Live 105” classes on Zoom! Real instructor, real time, real students – in the same, small manageable class sizes we have for in-person courses. One of our current students sent a link to a BBC article related to the content of a 105 course, which is of course all about…

COASTAL NAVIGATION.

The link Cristina sent? A BBC piece about the movement, or wandering, of the magnetic north pole. We link to the piece at the end of this Rant. For now…

In that pic: the thin aqua line traces the approximate motion of the magnetic north pole from 1840 to 2019. It’s accelerated recently, creating a scientific buzz. (Pic is a still frame from a video in the BBC piece we link to below.)

THE IDEA: the magnetism of earth is both consistent and inconsistent. Compasses point to the same place on earth with minor wiggles. This is close to the geographic north pole, or the rotational axis of earth. If Atlas stopped shrugging, and spun earth on the tip of his finger like a Harlem Globetrotter, it would be on the South Pole, with the North Pole exactly at the other end – or “top.” But, “top” is arbitrary, ain’t it? Space has no direction. We’re floating in space. And, what’s more…

It might flip! Yup. Magnetic North and South have reversed from time to time. Maybe every few hundred thousand years. The question is whether this could happen within our lifetimes. And, partially due to accelerated movement of the Mag North Pole, scientists suspect it might.

1, 2, 3… SWITCH! Oops…

THE ARTICLE’S PATH: Scientists studying this have noted the acceleration of the drift of the Mag North Pole recently, and have updated the global model used for that as it relates to GPS, which is critical to precise navigation. That’s not always super critical itself; as we teach in Start Navigating ( ASA 105), it’s almost more important to check progress in real time than plan the path perfectly to begin with. Basically, they think they’ve identified two molten “hot spots” in the earth’s outer core that are having a tug of war over the magnetic north pole. Kewl! Or, very hot…

That gets into some chart nitty-gritty: the compass rose. It’s a tool to measure direction, and it looks pretty kewl too. Check it…

In that pic: a section of the 12363 chart of Western Long Island Sound, with City Island (“City I”) on the right, which is home to the Sailing Center. It’s about half the length of Manhattan away from it; northern MannyHanny is on the bottom left of the chart. It has a nice, large compass rose, or rings that measure direction. The outer ring is for true, or geographic, north – with a star at the top for Polaris, the actual North Star. The inner ring is for magnetic north, which is where compasses point more or less. In navigation classes, we teach how to use these to plot out a course to steer a boat.

THE CONVENTIONAL WISDOM: look at the annual increase/decrease in the variation as listed in rose (the pic below blows it up for you). It’s usually a few “minutes” a year. Each minute = ..? It’s a measly 1/60th of 1 degree of the compass. Yup; slicing hairs with razor blades. Anywho… if your chart is out of date, the idea is to multiply the number of years of ‘stale’ by the number of minutes of change, and add or subtract accordingly. And, get the +/- right!

ABOVE: blown-up crop of the compass rose from the same chart above. Variation: 13 degrees West as of 2016. Annual decrease: 2 minutes (2 out of 60, with each compass degree having 60!). Splitting hairs…

NYSC knows better… our Director and HBIC (Head Bozo in Charge), Captain Card, had a suspicion about something years ago. He compared every training chart the government produced, which are all frozen in time going back a far as the early 1980’s, to the updated, real-life versions of those charts. The conclusion? It’s silly to try to project any annual increase or decrease into the future. We expand on that and reveal the goods in class, and in our own in-house text book that we supply to students (and sell on the side). Despite what other books say, just skip this step. Much smarter move: get a current chart, for all the more obvious reasons.

Maybe we’ll be lucky (?) enough to see the poles flip in our lifetimes! Will planes drop from the sky, and cars run off the roads? Well, if they can’t figure that their GPS and compasses are basically pointing backward, we can’t help them.

Your takeaway? Use updated charts to plot courses to your destinations, and casually follow along with the progress of Mag North Pole’s wanderings across cold areas most of us will never visit.

And now, as promised, the link to the BBC piece…

https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-52550973

Happy hunting!

We’re not just IN the news… we help produce it!

When media needs a captained boat rental for tv, film, ad & photo shoots, we often get the call.

In that pic: USA Network journalists/drone pilots in action from our Carolina Skiff on Long Island Sound. The foredeck is like a drone heliport, and the open profile of the stable skiff facilitate shooting in any direction from on board. Here’s a sample of what they captured before their drone landed:

Still frame from video aired by USA Network on northjersey.com – an aerial piece about burials at NYC’s cemetery (potters field) on Hart Island, adjacent to City Island.

This isn’t anything new for New York Sailing Center. We’ve been featured on cable, network TV, and in print since soon after we opened in the fall of 1997 with on-water classes starting in April of 1998. And, we’ve helped produce the full spectrum of the same things for other purposes.

Our Director and HBIC (Head Bozo in Charge), Captain Stephen Glenn Card, is a solid photographer if slightly shakier on the video front. However, he’s an all-around rock star on setting things up – and then keeping clear – so pros get their shots: by still lens, video, and anything attached to a drone. Somehow it just comes naturally to him.

In that pic: a glassy calm photo session from City Island Harbor, looking out over Long Island Sound. That’s the ‘Gold Coast’ of Nassau County, Long Island in the background. This was a lengthy piece in New York Magazine last summer. We took NY Mag out for stills from our Carolina Skiff and aerials via drone, ranging from the Brother Islands in the East River out to some small islands off Westchester in the Sound. Foreground of pic: the Chimney Sweeps, large rock islets off City Island.

When the shoot calls for talent on a boat with a particular look and lighting, we can supply the boats and time the lighting. For one shoot, Captain Card was hired to captain a 40-foot sailboat for a few days that was the main location for a short independent movie. Departing Sag Harbor each morning, he drove the boat to wherever the director wanted the background to be, and oriented the sailboat for the best lighting. There was a go-fast chaseboat available for some of the shooting, and some crew and talent transfers, but most of it was from right on board the sailboat, and Captain Card brought them along from the dock

At anchor for one scene, the lighting wasn’t quite working out. So, he rigged a bridle from bow to stern which the anchor line could be slid along, letting him instantly and exactly change the boat’s angle to the sun as the DP needed in the moment. Brilliant! Idea, that is… the lighting was more subtle on purpose.

In that pic: New York’s Channel 5 did a series a few summers ago called Closer Than You Think,” about things to see and do in NYC that were, well… yeah. Closer. They did a piece on City Island, and we got most of the air time as well as a lengthy thanks/mention in the studio segment with the reporters. We were featured, of course, but we were also very involved in all aspects of setting up the shoot: scenes from our pier (as in this pic), chase boat, and video from both. It’s a fun video; check it out here!

We absolutely love doing this stuff, whether it’s zooming around in our go-fast Carolina Skiff to chase down a sailboat in a shoot, cruising to a destination for scenery, or whatever actually. We still love just being on the water. Never grows old.

Zoom. Boom. Learn nav live!

We’re rolling live with Zoom! Our interactive on-line Start Navigating courses (ASA 105, Coastal Navigation) are officially a hit. They have 100% social distance, are fun, and as if we’re right there with you.

(…but, of course, we’re NOT.) IN THAT PIC: Two tools! Err… instruments. ‘North:’ a pelorus we recently scored on eBay. They’re antiquated to obsolescent, but still critical to understanding radar. ‘South:’ hand-bearing compass, or “hockey puck.” Critical to taking bearings for proof of position on the water… and dealing with deviation on the boat’s steering compass! Yup. We teach you how to use both.

Students have been tending to sign up in groups for some reason. No problem! One group and done, and always room for singles and pairs. Some people are arranging social study-sessions in between classes to do some of the practice plotting together.

How does it work?

  1. You sign up. Imagine the Bobble Head version of Ray Liotta in “Goodfellas,” when he’s describing all the excuses people give when his character would go on his collection rounds. Any excuse… his answer’s the same: “F&%$ YOU PAY ME! F#@$ YOU PAY ME! F%*$ YOU PAY ME!” (Parenthetical aside, our Director and HBIC, Captain Card, who runs the Zooms sessions by the way, went to College with someone who was an extra in the movie and got listed in the cast. “Bar Patron.” If you have enough time on your hands, and send us his name, you get $25 off the course!)
  2. We send you the materials: chart, plotting tool, and dividers (nautical drafting compass). We also email the text book in advance as a PDF, although there’s no reading or other prep required. You might want to, however: our Director wrote it. It’s fun, easy to read, well illustrated with photos, color, and step-by-step diagrams. And, it’s effective.
  3. You log on with the invitation before class starts, and BOOM. ZOOM!! You’re learning live, and laughing too.

IN THAT PIC: Real-life, real-time. And, it was recent! From our Feb/March trip in the BVI (Virgin Islands). We were heading back to the main island chain from Anegada, barely visible top right. Anegada is barely above sea level, and can’t be seen from the rest of the BVI – not until almost half way across the passage to it! Critical to get it right… it’s surrounded by coral reefs except for a very small approach that must be made at the one safe angle. Or… boom. Aground and unhappy. We often use the example of plotting the passage to Anegada in our Start Navigating course.

What exactly is this course, anyway? “ It’s all about how to navigate a boat for day trips, overnights, and even extended cruises along a coast. You can even lose sight of land for awhile. Soup to nuts: you’ll be able to navigate in pea-soup fog once you’ve practiced on the water for awhile in more sane conditions.

“Who can take it?” Anyone who wants to learn. It’s great for getting stoked / psyched about going boating and sailing. No, there’s no experience or prior study or training required. It’s helpful to have done some boating for perspective but that’s about it.

“Who SHOULD take it?” Anyone who’s intrigued about boating and sailing, and wants to get a flavor of things to come right NOW. Even if you don’t yet sail. If taking this course now doesn’t compete with time or funds for more important things, just do it. If you plan to eventually do longer day sails, and/or overnight trips, especially chartering for a week abroad, then DEF do it. If you already sail, but have no short or mid-term plans to do anything more involved than you already do, then you’re fine skipping this course for now or maybe forever (unless you’re currently having trouble finding your way around). But, it’s fun… and might jump start the next phase of your sailing career.

What’s covered in this course?” Everything from… “this is a chart. We call it a chart, not a map. That’s for landlubbers!” to… proving position underway, compass deviation, proving what the current did to push you off course and fixing that going forward.

Very importantly even for day sailors, we break down the misleading oversimplification that is called “Red, Right, Returning” and prove what that’s “wRong!” Yup. We just said that; you just read that. It’s total BS, and we’ll prove it to you.

IN THAT PIC: From less socially distant times… early winter 2019, Manhattan: Start Navigating course. Of course, we had a surplus of hockey-puck compasses to play with that day as one sailor brought one from home! Yup – even with the on-line course, we can teach you how to handle the hockey puck.

“How is the scheduling done?” If you’re a group of two or more, THAT’S a schedule (unless of course it conflicts with one in progress). Joining alone? No problem. We’ll discuss what’s in the queue now, and if that doesn’t work, we’ll create another schedule. We don’t have to set the entire schedule in advance either.

The course takes 3-5 sessions to complete depending on how long each one is, and how quickly people pick up what we’re putting down. Sessions are typically between 2.5 and 3 hours with a break. We can do them any time of the day or evening, any day of the week, subject to existing obligations. (We are, of course, readying our fleet, with two boats in the water so far, and doing very limited on-water activities.)

“What does it cost? What’s included?” $275, which is $120 less than our normal full tuition for in-person courses. It’s all-inclusive: materials, tools, and certification.

“How do I pull the trigger?” Here are some links: one for the Start Navigating 105 page to learn more about the course, and one for just signing up. Feel free to call or write with any questions first; here’s how to hit us up.

Slipstreams & Slipping Sands

IN THIS RANT: the ‘slipstream’ phenomenon, and why we need to keep much greater social distance when exercising outside – sprinkled with beach pics and boating right-of-way bits.

I’m still driving to Breezy Point from time to time to slip the park crowds on nice days. Why? Social distancing doesn’t seem to apply to bikers and joggers.

Maybe it’s self-centered laziness. Maybe it’s a healthier-than-thou attitude. Hopefully, it’s lack of awareness of what I’m going to write about below. But regardless, just like “Red, Right, Returning,” it’s WRONG. No, that’s not about right-of-way, but still…

Cute birds slipping the surf at Breezy Point the other day. Even at high tide, when the surf encroaches on our social distance space, it’s easier to get in a good walk and maintain social distance than at some NYC parks… and this is still in NYC! Steve Card, photo.

The image below is from a post by Jurgen Thoelen on Medium, which describes how studies in Belgium and The Netherlands conclude we need to allow MUCH more distance between us when exercising in public by biking and running. Even just walking. Jurgen sums it up well:

When someone during a run breathes, sneezes or coughs, those particles stay behind in the air. The person running behind you in the so-called slip-stream goes through this cloud of droplets.

Jurgen Thoelen, “Belgian-Dutch Study: Why in times of COVID-19 you can not walk/run/bike close to each other.”
The slipstream effect: social distance has to increase exponentially (a LOT) when people are moving at jogging and particularly at bicycling speeds.

I’ve been bitching about bikers and runners zooming (or slogging) right past pedestrians since this crisis got real. They often don’t take any care to pass at any distance, breezing – literally – as close as a foot or two past others. They’re breathing harder, and exhaling it onto those they pass.

As a lifelong sailor and angler, I’m acutely aware of the breeze at all times. I take care to try to stay upwind of anyone talking, breathing harder for any reason, and now – at the near apex of the infection and body count in NYC – not wearing facial covering or a mask. I mostly walk for exercise, but when weather favors it I ride my bike in Riverside Park on the mid-level esplanade. That way there’s room to see what’s ahead, and astern – with no surprises. I had to all but give that up with the extra crowds on nicer days as more people have more time to get to the park. It’s the only bright side of things for many people.

One’s upwind of the other; the one-footed boob is in the ‘slipstream’ of the other as the wind is head on (from ‘bow’ of far bird coming back toward ‘aft’ or ‘astern’ bird and camera. But wait, you say – no slipstream as they’re not moving. Wrong… wind. Steve Card, photo.

So, when I’m to windward of them (upwind), I’m also aware of the breeze carrying my breath in their direction. I stay farther away. Same for walking down the street. Windward sailing vessels give way to leeward ones (downwind) when they have the wind coming from the same side. Right or left; starboard or port… doesn’t matter what you call it as long as they both have it on the same side of their vessel. The problem is that on the pavement or in the park, people aren’t meeting me – or others – half way in return.

(Meeting, for right of way, is when two power driven vessels are approaching each other head-on or nearly so. This rule doesn’t apply to sailing vessels.)

One day in Prospect Park, that caused me to politely call out a passing pair of peeps (couple) who didn’t make any effort to walk in-line rather than side by side, forcing my other half and I to leave the road and walk in the dirt. The response I got was inappropriate, and so the convo degenerated. Who needs that when trying to maintain social distance while maintaining mental and physical well-being? Sheesh…

Breeze blown surf foam at Breezy Point, with a few random peeps for perspective. Steve Card, photo.

I’ve actually given serious thought to speaking softly and carrying a social distance stick with a fuzzy soft end (like a long handled duster). That can’t be construed as a weapon if aimed at a crossing biker or runner who won’t keep clear, right? Eh… let’s not go there, and so I don’t take the stick with me. Yet.

(Crossing is when two power driven vessels encounter each other, and they’re not meeting. So, they’re each to the other’s side. Even if one is coming slightly from behind; just not mostly. Yes, this gets technical; no, we don’t need to fully elaborate here. If you’re coming mostly from behind, you’re overtaking and you keep clear of what’s ahead. Guess what? That applies to sailboats coming up on power boats! Yeah. Back to our health…

6 feet away, or 6 feet under!

Steve Card, frequent recent rant. I penned it, but later saw that someone else came up with a slight variation so I’m sure many others have.

…for walking, the distance of people moving in the same direction in 1 line should be at least 4–5 meter, for running and slow biking it should be 10 meters and for hard biking at least 20 meters. Also, when passing someone it is advised to already be in different lane at a considerable distance e.g. 20 meters for biking.

Jurgen Thoelen, in the Medium post we’ve referenced and will link to below.

So, 6 feet ain’t nearly enough! Not unless we’re walking slowly with no wind, or stationary.

That’s the takeaway. I bike; I get it. It’s hard to keep distance when people are everywhere, often moving at different speeds and directions, on foot or on a ‘vessel.’ That can’t be an excuse; it’s potentially dangerous to others…

  1. You might be infected and contagious and not know it.
  2. You might pass someone else who is.
  3. Forget SARS/COVID-19: you might hit someone!

So, if you can’t Overtake, Meet, or Cross responsibly… JUST DON’T DO IT.

Surf scenery, social distance style. Breezy Point. Steve Card, photo.
Here’s a link to Jurgen’s post on Medium with more insight into that study…

https://medium.com/@jurgenthoelen/belgian-dutch-study-why-in-times-of-covid-19-you-can-not-walk-run-bike-close-to-each-other-a5df19c77d08

Newton, Navigation, & the Plague

What would Newton do? (In a modern day pandemic.) Well, he actually did it, if one considers London’s Great Plague of 1665-66 modern enough. He did several things in fact.

Isaac Newton, eventually Sir Isaac, basically quarantined himself during this catastrophe, having recently completed undergraduate studies at the ripe old age of 23. He, like all privileged Londoners at the time, fled the city. At his family’s countryside retreat, he was a busy boy! What did he do that was relevant to navigation?

Newton, with some social distance from an apparently alarmed observer, as he experiments with prisms to understand the composition of light. Image shamelessly copped from stock.)

Well, truth be told, that’s a stretch – but we do need to stretch our imaginations to keep ourselves occupied during our social distancing and quarantining. We’ll try to get there. First, here is what Newton did with his time:

  1. He studied gravity. Yep; that apple crap. This led to his eventual creation of the laws of motion and his career-defining work, Principia.
  2. He started working on optics, proving that “white” light consisted of the complete color spectrum using a pair of prisms;
  3. He picked up where Descartes and de Fermat left off with universal equations of fluctuating quantities, solving that dilemma with a series of papers and formalizing what we now call Calculus!

That was Newton. And that was then. And now, we have to find things to do and learn while keeping social distance and isolating. One option: Start Navigating SM: ASA Coastal Navigation (105). But we have to do it with social distance. So, we have to do it from home via Zoom, FaceTime, etc. That’s the Staples part (where we get some of our 105 supplies); that’s easy.

But what about the math? Newton did some complex math during his tenure away from town. How much math is involved with Coastal Navigation? That depends on who you learn it from. It can be fairly complicated – or, you can do it our way:

Plot the path without the math!

Path; no math. No arithmetic or math used to plot this set & drift ‘triangle.’ The geometry is built in. This is our preferred method. Cuz, you know… trig sucks on a boat! 1210 Tr chart (training; not updated), Block Island to Martha’s Vineyard. This is the solution to a practice plot submitted to us to refresh a memory on this technique.

We use as little math as possible when doing – and teaching – navigation. We teach the little bit of algebra needed for deduced, or ‘dead,’ reckoning, and we make it easy with a visual aid that’s intuitive to use. We refresh peeps on their long-hand division when they forget how. Can’t rely on a calculator on the water. But for the serious stuff? Set and drift of current while underway with no current tables to consult?

That’s where we plot the path without the math. Not even basic arithmetic. Just draw lines based on the concept, representing what the boat and the current do, and measure the final answer: course to steer! We even give you some toys to play with in the process…

People plotting in one of our Start NavigatingSM courses this past winter. Pre-Corona. He’s working with a triangular protractor, or plotting tool. She’s manipulating the world’s finest one-handed dividers. Yes; she’s using two hands. Sometimes that’s helpful to set one point quickly and accurately. Then one rocks ’em with one hand! All being done on a real chart, not a training chart frozen in time to the 1980’s with incorrect coloring and needless extra clutter.

Here’s how it works – think of it as a sample of the 105 Nav course. Yes, it’s an advanced topic; no, there will be no quiz to you as the reader afterward, and I’m sure you can follow along!..

Step 1: Draw a line from “point A” to “point B.” That’s the path you want to sail. It’s like drawing your own road on a map; your only job after that is to stay on it. In the chart pic above, it’s the top line labeled “DR Course” (not A to B, but think of it that way).

Step 2: Now, draw a line from point A showing the path the current will flow. How do you know? Let’s just assume you knew how to look it up and find its speed and direction. (Yes, we teach you all that in the course.) Draw it in that direction, for the distance it moves in one hour. Tool used? Any straight edge such as a ruler, or the nautical plotting tool we send you in advance! Distance? Use the dividers, or nautical drafting compass, to mark this. (No math – we promise!) In the chart pic, it’s the bottom right line labeled “Set/Drift.” So, for example, if the current is 2 knots, set the dividers to 2 nautical miles – the distance it flows in one hour.

That shows were your boat will be if you just let it drift helplessly from point A for one hour. We don’t want that, do we? Of course not! So, we have to figure out how much to offset our course to fight the current and stay on our intended track. How?

Step 3: Figure out the boat’s speed in knots (nautical mph). Then, we set the dividers to that speed. How? Same as with the current in step 2 above. It’s all based on one hour: an hour of the current’s motion, and an hour of sailing (or motoring) while in that current.

Step 4: Now, set one point of the compass/divider on the spot where the current line ends. Swing the other end over to the DR, or nautical road map line, you drew from A to B. Set the point down; draw in that line. In the pic, that’s the third leg of the triangle formed, labeled “heading” and “boat speed.”

Step 5: Boom. That line is also the angle to steer by the boat’s compass to fight the current! Measure that with your plotting tool. Steer that when you sail, and you’re on track to point B.

Is it slightly more complicated than that in real life? No… but you do need to work up to it by starting with more basic info and practice, and then the steps above are very straightforward… just like your boat’s trajectory over ground in real life/real time to arrive at your point B!

And, yes – we can teach this to you live and interactively. We’ll do that for now; eventually, we’ll be cleared for takeoff on taking off the masks, cutting the social distance, and resuming life as normal as it gets post-pandemic. In the meantime, if Newton played with prisms, here is a prism for you to ponder navigationally…

Remember the porrtait of Newton playing with prisms? No? It’s literally at the top of…
Nevermind. Here’s a hand-held compass that’s one of the most popular models in use. It uses a prism! The funny metal thing on the right is a fancy-lad pair of dividers. Elegant but not as practical as the ones shown above. We teach you how to use a hand-held compass like this in the course.

For a nice piece about one author’s current state of isolation in the context of annus mirabilis, or year of miracles (yup, that’s what they called Newton’s time), here you go… https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/03/20/newton-formulated-his-theory-gravity-time-plague-we-need-miracle-too/

For a bit more context and detail on Newton’s topics above, check out this one… https://www.biography.com/news/isaac-newton-quarantine-plague-discoveries

And, finally… for more about finding your path on the water, and our on-line navigation course, see our Coastal Nav page here…

Social Distancing? Yeah. We got that.

Sort of; kind of. A boat can be a small piece of real estate, but people certainly don’t have to be in each other’s laps. And, you can drive to us and avoid public transit. Which, we’re hearing, is often pretty empty. That alleviates the concern that it’s supposed to be a big petri-dish whirling cesspool of infectious spread. If we’re few and far between, we’re further from infectious.

Social distance: one knee and done! We had this beach side restaurant to ourselves that night (rare occurrence, as it’s popular and excellent). The ‘runway’ is a fixed pier for larger vessels and also dinghies. Our yacht is out there somewehre! Jost Van Dyke, BVI, from our March 2020 trip.

At least out on a boat with us, or on your own if you already know how to sail, you’re doing a relatively safe, healthy, outdoor activity in the scheme of all this. Brooklyn bier gardens and rave parties: they be gone. My GF and I pretty much closed down a kewl bar we discovered on Sunday night… Bier Wax. No one’s going in no time soon now. But you should check it out when things are stable. NY Sailing Center post-virus celebration? Yup.

The exterior of Bier Wax in Brooklyn. New York brews from Brooklyn to Upstate, all surrounded by shelves of vinyl that they play. First link on their front page? “Featured DJ’s”. Turntable spinning and taps spilling. Miguel Rivas, photo, with link on their site on the gallery page.

So, what to do with the spare time? Sailing does start soon. We hope it will start on Friday, with temps at or above 70! But the updated forecast spoke of rain, wind, and maybe some thunder. We’ll have to see.

The author is a fiend for snowboarding. All the mountains closed for coronavirus. So? He sold one his boards on eBay that had proven a little too large for him. It took three auctions, including one where the buyer basically blew off the purchase. But, on the third, people being home seemed to increase viewing, bidding, and in the end, the sale price. So, there’s that!

From the eye of the Orca! Lib Tech T.Rice Orca snowboard. Super popular board that can do almost “it all.” It’s an alternative freeride board that’s excellent in powder, but it also has magnetraction edges (wavy) for solid grip on hard pack and icy snow. Short/wide/surfy style board.

Right from home, people can learn navigation. We prefer to teach that as a classroom course with practice plots in between sessions as homework. But, we have one class in progress that might switch from classroom to video conference, and we will be doing that going forward on a super flexible schedule. Let us know if you want to discuss getting in on that stay-in option!

Plot the distance… recent Start NavigatingSM course (ASA 105, Coastal Nav). Two men. Current course? Two women. We always have low class density; helps with social distancing now in the age of coronavirus. And now, we’re going remote!

Most of us are at least a little concerned about the COVID-19 coronavirus thing. Some are very stressed and panicked. We’ll get through it as a communities and countries. Some thoughts to share on prevention efforts:

  • Put straight isopropyl alcohol into a simple spray bottle. Boom. You have a very efficient surface and object sanitizer. The broad mist spray gets a little of it all over. In my (not so often) humble opinion, that’s all that’s needed. No need to wipe down and rub around. My GF and I came up with that; no doubt others did as well.
  • Re-think all brick and mortar and in-person transactions, especially paying with cash in person. I love a coffee n bagel break in my hood, but had decided to cut this out of my routine. Today, I was sorely tempted in the late afternoon. I walked over, and there was only one other customer. The staff were using gloves. I paid with singles and said to keep the change. I disinfected. I felt safe.
  • Be prepared to walk away from any environment when you see careless behavior or lack of adherence to suggested safe practices. See someone touching their face in the store when they’re ahead of you, or the hired help doing that (especially without gloves)? Walk away. Leave. And disinfect.
  • Don’t just wash your hands “for 20 seconds” and use sanitizer. Consider how thoroughly your’re actually doing it, and the order in which you’ve touched things. We wash our hands to get rid of stuff on them. So, once we’ve touched a faucet or container of liquid soap, it’s contaminated! Wash those as well. Then, wash your hands with more soap. THEN turn off the faucet. Apply that “last touch” mentality to every relevant scenario.
  • Exercise, eat well, and take some supplements. It can’t possibly hurt. It will boost your immune system and may well be the deciding factor as to whether you get this virus, and if so, how severely. For example, I’m taking vitamin C, zinc, and echinacea. I’ve been advised that the echinacea ought to be one week on and one off so I’m putting that into play. I’ve also ordered some bio-active silver hydrosol by Sovereign Silver based on a recco from a trusted health care professional. The list could go on as far as reccos; do what you’re comfortable with. No point in stressing over it and defeating the purpose.
Keep your social distance – stroll alone on a deserted beach. Two other people you don’t see: me, the fotog, and Kalindi. We had a very bowl of a beach to our selves for the price of a fun bike ride. From our March 2020 BVI trip. This is on the north shore of Anegada in the late afternoon.

So… about that sailing. We got back from our March BVI trip (Virgin Islands) on the 7th as we previously wrote about. Advanced courses start in late April, and learn-to-sail in early May. Sailing Club sessions could start as early as… Friday? We shall see. But it’s coming soon!

If you join the Club, and you haven’t yet learned how to sail, we’ll find ways to get you out with us or other Club members. If you can sail, then you know how it goes.

The author, our Director and HBIC (Head Bozo in Charge) often drives out from the Upper West Side, and sometimes from Park Slope, Brooklyn. If that sounds better than public transit, he might be able to give you a ride. Of course, you’ll be asymptomatic and will have taken your temperature regularly for a few days leading up to that (and again that morning). Fever is by far the most common symptom, in the upper 80’s percentile wise. That’s why the White House had started taking temps of reporters and turning away those with spiked numbers. The second most common, in the 60’s, is a dry cough. Duane Reade was due to get more thermometers in. Find or order where you can.

Social distancing: boats spread out (except for the harmless dinghy). People spread out. Plenty of room to breathe and roam. Quick lunch/snorkel/swim stop, first day of our March 2020 Virgin Islands (BVI) trip.

We’re all put out by this as well as freaked out. I’m a silver-lining kind of guy. I deal with the harsh reality of some things. I accept what I can’t influence or change. And, I look on the bright side. What can I do with the time I have, in the place that I am, that’s productive and maybe even makes me happy? What can I appreciate that’s different about my surroundings or microcosm of existence? There’s usually something.

Welcome to the Irish Riviera! Dog took a walk with its human apparently. Back side of Breezy Point, Queens – the exact opposite of Montauk: The End. This is the Beginning. Great place to walk off the beaten path. The ocean side beaches had a fair amount of peeps that day, but social distancing was superb. This beach ends in a long jetty. If you go there, only walk on the dry parts. Once you see any sign of slime, DO NOT GO FURTHER. Unless you’re wearing cleats you’ll go down. Author used to rock hop out to the end wearing cleats and sporting his fly rod to catch striped bass and false albacore. It’s not for the casual caster.

If you’re not finding enough of that… come out sailing! We’ll be open soon. And we’ll keep our distance.

More on navigation courses, from your own private isolation situation, or in small groups: https://newyorksailing.club/start-navigating-asa-105/

More on all that we do, including private and small group sailing courses and club experiences: https://newyorksailing.club/what-we-do/

And our BVI Itin was…

We got back from the trip on Saturday and loved it. All a bit of a blur and a blend, and we detoured slightly from the plan. But, for what it’s worth, here’s the answer to the challenge we put to you: identify the “default itinerary” for our BVI trips.

Here’s that same DMA chart of the Virgins, with our default ITIN spots marked with my grandfather’s chess pawns (cuz, why not).

Same chart as in last post- this time, labeled with the spots. Go ahead; zoom it up! See some detail. In the meantime, here’s the list:

  1. Virgin Gorda: Spanish Town.
  2. Anegada. There’s just the one anchorage.
  3. Marina Cay. Again, the one spot.
  4. Jost Van Dyke: east end, between Jost and Little Jost.
  5. Norman Island: the Bight
  6. Cooper Island: just the one – Manchioneel Bay.

We deviated on this trip. Not by fucking up our compass, no. We just stayed two nights at Norman and skipped Cooper this time around. We adjust based on what the people who paid to play had to say. And, sometimes the weather. Here’s a synopsis of this trip!

Spanish Town, Virgin Gorda. We anchored there after a snorkel and lunch stop at Great Dog. Then, we dingied into the marina and called a taxi to the Baths. Always breathtaking; never disappointing (except when super crowded. Several in our group were first timers and blown away by it. We grilled aboard that night.

Two women enjoying the largest of the natural pools at the Baths of Virgin Gorda.
Ah, The Baths… this is the largest of the natural pools amongst the famous boulders randomly arranged aeons ago along the south shore of Virgin Gorda. It’s a delightful spot when it’s not crowded.
Not even done with the first day, and we have happy campers! Enjoying drinks at the bar atop the Baths National Park. That’s our Director up front with a Bush Slide (Bushwhacker with drizzels of choc syrup). Mmmmmm….

Anegada. Our personal favorite, where we often spend two nights. One did the trick on this trip as all were eager to see as much of the BVI as possible. We anchored, lunched, and went ashore to explore the north side beaches (mostly by bicycle; one sailor opted for a taxi). The bikers did a beach crawl. Dinner: Anegada Reef Hotel on the beach. Various dishes were accompanied by a nice NZ bottle of Sauv Blanc. Chess match: competitive game with Gregor, but Captain Card managed to find a way to win despite a kibitzing (but entertaining) audience.

Steering… nailing it… and loving it! Kalindi taking a turn at the helm en route to Anegada.
The stunning north side of Anegada. Shallow lagoon area behind the outer reef; plenty of little bommies to explore before that. Choose solitude or manageable shared areas where drinks and food (and some shade) are available. Excellent swimming and snorkeling; diving possible; care to kiteboard? They have that and SUP too!

Marina Cay. Got a mooring early; had to move when crowded by anchoring cats. No problem. Then, off to snorkel the Coral Gardens which didn’t disappoint beyond slightly silty water column. The fish didn’t seem to care. No one on board had been to the relatively new and, post-Irma, refurbished Scrub Island Resort. A friend on another charter supplied intel on the merits, so we hopped in the dinghy. No one on board had been to the relatively new and, post-Irma, refurbished Scrub Island Resort. A friend on another charter supplied intel on the merits, so we hopped in the dinghy. Nice spot; very expensive drinks that were disappointing to decent, but, hey – it’s a brand new fancy joint so we should have expected it. Dined aboard once more. Gregor whupped Captain Card’s ass at chess, straight up. So it goes. (nb: the fuel/water dock was supposed to be open, despite the rest of the island not offering anything anymore. The hurricanes totally trashed MC. However, it was closed all afternoon, and again in the morning. Two yachts had parked on the pier overnight after seemingly waiting all afternoon.)

Kalindi and Gregor plotting as we begin the sail back from Anegada to Marina Cay.

Transoms 🙂 Our home for the week moored at Marina Cay. We had just returned from snorkeling the Coral Gardens. Note the change in water color toward the shore of Great Camanoe in the background, and also the starboard of our twin rudders. This boat was BALANCED heeling over in a breeze! Very light helm. Just like our Beneteau 21 sloops back home.
The swim-up at Scrub Island. Worth a shot at least once to see how they’re pourin’ em on any given day. Nice spot!

Jost Van Dyke. We did a quick snack/snorkel stop at Monkey Point on Guana Island first; surf wasn’t up too much, but water clarity sucked. Nothing special in the fish life department, but it was fun to see them regardless and the cave had a school of likeminded fin fish on display as well.

On to Jost/Little Jost, which gave us a downwind sail in swells and a few jibes for good measure and balance. We moored at the back of the bay, close to the shallows and flats and also the dinghy dock at Foxy’s Taboo (yes, offshoot of the famous Foxy’s around the corner x 2 at Great Harbor). We usually anchor here, but there was a prime mooring spot so we took it.

My college fencing coach tried hard to get me to put my back hand on my hip when swinging sabre. He gave up. Here? It just works. Chie sailing us part of the way with wind and some swells to Jost Van Dyke by way of Guana Island.

After some lunch we dinghied in to shore and made dinner reservations before trekking to the Bubbly Pool, a must-see spot that’s a light walk/hike from the dinghy dock. BVI Tourism aptly calls it “the East End’s natural sea-formed Jacuzzi.” I agree! As usual, we had it to ourselves briefly upon arrival before the hordes arrived. Just the way the luck rolls for us here.

The Bubbly Pool, about to be replenished! Still frame from a clip we shot upon arrival. For the full effect, see our Instagram with a video last year (and possible another to come from this trip!).

A wave crashes into the “hot gate” leading to the Bubbly Pool, which is behind the fotog, and sends a geyser up at him.
Gregor and Chie heading back toward the dinghy dock and anchorage. Our yacht is the monohull to the right of two cats (3rd out from the point that’s roughly center pic).

Dinner was only for us. They’d let us know when we reserved that we were the only boat/table thus far, and to be sure to advise if we changed our plans. We negotiated a time of arrival, and we showed up. This is rare for this spot; it’s usually somewhere between happening and hopping. Easy night and early closing for them. But they took great care of us. Food was exceptional for BVI; we’ve eaten there before and enjoyed it, but everything was top notch including my baby backs, which were some of the best I’ve ever had.

Rough group selfie while riding the dink after drinks at Scrub Island. You get the picture… happy campers.
Kate and Chie having hammock antics and shenanigans before dinner at Foxy’s Taboo.

Norman Island. Before stormin Norman, we stopped at Sandy Cay right off Jost. We had it to ourselves briefly as usual being the first to arrive. We did a hot drop with the dinghy, and Sir Gregor volunteered to drop it off at the yacht and swim in. nb: it’s seldom calm enough to safely beach the dink here; don’t risk it. Swim or snorkel in from the day moorings. The attractions here are to beach comb and hike the path up through the woods to several elevated plateaus with stunning vistas. It’s way higher up than it looks from shore or afar. Pro tip: hit it early in the AM before heading to your next destination. The alternative, late afternoon, is often too late for securin’ your berthin.’ (This works at many popular BVI day stops before the crowds arrive.)

Sandy Cay, almost in its entirety, as seen from under our Bimini on the boat. Some beach at each end is cut off but this is the whole island. Flat, right? It’s higher than it looks. Check it…
Open water as far as the eye can see… right after that little Island to the left! View from most of the way up Sandy Cay.
Looking down at the moored yachts, and out toward the western Virgin Islands, from part way up Sandy Cay. Our yacht is one of the last two on the right.

We enjoyed Norman itself enough to stay two nights! That’s a first on our trips. Anegada and Virgin Gorda are other spots where we’ve lingered an extra day & night sometimes. We anchored at the Bight in a spot we can usually get away with that strikes a nice balance of serenity and equal opportunity to get to where we want to play here. We snorkeled, chilled, etc and then BBQ’d for din din.

Captain Caffeine, or just a true Coffee Achiever? Either way… totally works. En route to Norman Island, which was an upwind leg with plenty of tacking practice through Thatch Cut and then Sir Frances Drake Channel, and eventually right up to the entrance to the Bight. Boom.

The next day, we chose to do the moderate hike up the ridge for amazing vistas, and then day sail around Norman before grabbing a mooring at Benures Bay for the day. Yup; both Benures and Soldiers now have some moorings; this wasn’t the case when we were last here a year ago.

Sir Gregor at the helm as we circumnavigate Norman Island for a fun sail. We’re on the south side, looking south here, with some swells. This is a still frame from a video clip we’ll probably post on our Instagram (links to all social media are on all pages and posts).

We enjoyed the day here; Gregor did a second hike to another location. Then, back to our anchor spot and drinks and Danger Jenga ashore at Pirate’s Bight before a last supper aboard.

The next morning was both gloomy and beautiful as we motored back to the base and prepared to head home. We got lucky; as soon as the boat was docked and the engine off, it rained. But, as is usual, it was brief and we didn’t get soaked before we departed, and we wished we could have stayed just a little longer.

Looks like a heart, right! Well, those who came for the first time did fall in love. Those who returned, rekindled. Final ride: back to the base at dawn and sunrise, looking roughly east.

For more about these trips…

see our Sailing Vacation Course page, and visit our Instagram!

“ITIN” Challenge, BVI!

We’re off to the Virgin Islands this weekend for one of our Sailing Vacation Courses. We go to BVI every winter, and sometimes twice or even three times (historically in the boom days; now it’s usually once but probably as we’re now going to Europe every fall).

By the way, we can accommodate one more person. Discount off the full trip price of $1650 to offset your last-minute airfare, too! (Talk to us about this, or see our BVI/Med trip page.)

Nothing quite like having the Bubbly Pool to yourselves… with actual bubbly to boot! From our January 2019 trip to BVI. Want to see more about these trips? That was your link.

Anywho… where shall we sail to this time? We do have a default itinerary (hence “ITIN”). It works: it hits the spots we prefer to take people, especially if they have little to no prior exposure to the Virgin Islands. Of course, prior exposure, weather, etc can change our destinations and our route to get to them.

Sometimes, we spend two nights in a special spot when people fall in love with it. This was especially true before the hurricanes ravaged Virgin Gorda. Gorda Sound (when did people start calling it North Sound, anyway?) had so much going on it often took two nights and days to get it done. Anegada, a much simpler place, was so appealing in this sense that, especially if we arrived on the later side, we occasionally spent an extra night there.

Speaking of nights… two here from BVI in our Instagram, along with some dawn and daytime.

So, where shall we go this time?? We have two clients who’ve been here before. We have two who are Virgins. Tell us!.. just don’t tell us here by public reply to the post; hit us up directly. See if you can come up with our default ITIN based on your own experience, what others have posted about their trips, etc, etc. Get it right, and you get $50 toward anything we do here. (Credit; not cash.) If no one gets it right, whoever is closest gets $50. That applies to all who get the same “closest,” whether they exactly match or not. If we deem two different submissions as equally close, we’ll award them both – and anyone else who submits the same ones.

Some basis for you to start:

  1. We depart from Road Harbor, Tortola, on Sunday mid to late morning (this coming Sunday, March 1).
  2. We will spend 6 nights out in the Islands.
  3. We must return the boat by around 9am on Saturday, March 7. (The gradual dragged/kicked off screaming in protest takes a little longer…)
  4. We might make day stops along the way to our “night” anchorages. Get those right, and you get extra credit to offset any “mistakes” in your guesses! (Remember: we actually want you to win the $50 to use with us.)
  5. We must be anchored, moored, or berthed no later than 30 minutes before sunset. Having said that, we always get to our destination for the night far earlier for many good reasons: finding parking, enjoying the area, sunset drinks, getting the grill started in a timely fashion when cooking aboard, etc.
  6. 40-foot yacht; near-new; total of 5 humans aboard including our “HBIC,” Captain Card. (See below for acronym to be spelled out.)

And, here’s a photo of a chart we have often taken on our BVI trips! Just in case it helps. (Of course, we took a pic of our default ITIN laid out on the same chart before we announced any of this, and we’ll share eventually to ward off any case of the shenanigans.)

Tired old DMA (Defense Mapping Agency) chart of the Virgin Islands. This chart has the entire VI chain on it with the exception of St. Croix well to the south. See what we did there with the ? That’s a hand-held compass for taking bearings and checking the ship’s compasses for deviation. Yup; this chart has been on numerous trips to BVI with us.

To submit your, well… submission, just hit us up privately.

Happy Hunting!

Italia 2.0

Our happy get-along gang posing for a pic at Portorosa!
The gang! Our HBIC (Head Bozo in Charge), Captain Card, on the right. We’re at the base in Portorosa, Sicilia, the afternoon before departure.

(all photos in this post, for better or for worse, with the exception of the above by a passerby at the base under supervision, by Captain Stephen Glenn Card.)

We recently got back from our second trip to Italy! We were all sad to see it end, but all had to get back to make mo money for the next trip…

Last time ? Islands off the Gulf of Naples, Pontine Islands, Amalfi Coast. Sweet trip; years ago.

This time?

Sicilia and outlying islands, with the Isole Eolie forming a sort of Y pattern off the northeast coast (with Lipari labeled).

The Isole Eolie off Sicily, which are a UNESCO World Heritage protected area. The waters were perhaps the clearest any of us had ever seen in our travels, and super saline to the point of us feeling like we just floated higher when swimming and snorkeling. The islands are a beautiful combo of rugged, volcanic majesty and plush, verdant beauty. Nice peeps, plates and ports of call.

Zoomed in somewhat on the Eolie for general perspective. Ginostra, top right, is a tiny village on Stromboli. There are seven main, inhabited islands in the group, which spans about 30-35 nautical miles diagonally in any direction.

We all arrived the afternoon in advance of departure at Portorosa to get settled and prepped. The “Sunsail” base here is operated jointly by Sail Italia, which operates some or all of Sunsail’s operations on a day to day basis in Italy, and Turistica Il (il) Gabbiano Yacht Charter. It was confusing at first, but the folks there were consistent and very nice to deal with.

We made sure there was a boat (check), got our boat briefing out of the way early, and waited on an area brief/skippers’ meeting. This got consolidated into too many boats in one briefing late in the day, but we all dealt with it and managed. Afterward, and again the next morning, there was time to ask more questions.

As we paid plenty for a near-new boat (less than 1 year old), there was almost nothing to address about its condition. One hinge for one vanity adjusted, and done! Only unresolved question was what to name the boat. Seriously. No name! So new, that… no name. So, off to the make believe land of GoT to come up with something. Plus, one that came up organically in convo with one of the Italian staff. That one? Solo Sicilia (Only in Italy). The one that stuck and was put down on paperwork in port after being used on the VHF?

“A Girl HAS No Name.”

Our director going in for the high five with the boat briefing tech, Natale, after cracking him up.
Our Director and Head Bozo in Charge, Captain Card, on left goin for the high 5 with Natale, our boat briefing tech. Card cracked him up on numerous occasions.

Wonderful dinner ashore at a restaurant in the complex, with excellent local wine. One of our crew is somewhere between an connoisseur and a sommelier, so we never had to worry about wine choices.

Screen shot of pics from HBIC Card’s phone. Left: on the tine of the fork is a small local shrimp from a pasta dish. On the plate? Prawns the size of lobsters. Worth zooming in on this! Then, middle and right, are our wine selections of the evening.

DAY ONE: Coffee, breakfast in stages, and get ready to RUMBLE!
The first two or three days were forecast to be pretty calm, so we anticipated light and variable winds in the mornings that ought to become light but sailable midday or in the afternoon. (Nailed that.) Then, mid-week, we’d get a “storm” in their words. It was imperative to have a parking spot in one of the few sheltered marinas in the islands, and wise to not plan long legs during that time frame. Our imperative? Get to Stromboli and knock that out, so to speak, before getting mid-chain and hedging / assessing next steps.

So, to jump start things, we planned to bypass the first island, Vulcano, and stop at Lipari instead as a first step toward Stromboli for night two. We reserved a berth at Lipari and a mooring at Stromboli toward that end. Lipari is the largest of the Eolie, and has a protected port and plenty of sights to see while parked there.

Sicily in the background; Siciliana steering (actually more D’Abruzzi, but who’s counting??). En route to Lipari.

As predicted, the wind was light and variable as we left port, and for most of the way to Lipari. We motored the whole way. Some boats tried to sail but were standing up straight and stubbornly sailing for the sake of sailing … slowly. Very slowly. We wanted to get in the vicinity of Lipari and then maybe do a pleasure sail once there rather than a delayed delivery. That worked. The wind came up enough to be meaningful and, with Stromboli smoking in the background, we did a fun shakedown sail for awhile before radioing in to the marina for final instructions.

Pano shot off the boat. CLICK this one for full size/res! The dark gray arc above the water? That’s the smoke from Stromboli, stretching at least 25, maybe 30 miles toward Sicily! Where it starts on the left is a cloud over the island, which is a constantly active volcano.

Lipari’s chief parking spot is Porto Pignataro. It’s well protected from most directions, but it’s a bit tight inside and can require confident maneuvering in close quarters. The wind had picked up a bit, but it was off the dock so easy to back up and Med moor in our assigned spot – especially as the marina had a man on on hand to pass us the laid line (mooring line that makes using an anchor unnecessary).

Approaching Isole Lipari, the largest of the Eolie. Dinghies are generally stowed on deck unless it’s a relatively short passage and also calm. The engine is mounted on the stern pushpit on the yacht and only put aboard the dinghy when about to be used. (In areas with larger, heavier dinghies, such as BVI, the whole rig is just towed behind except on cats with davits to hoist it up.)
Pic of chart from base briefing: Lipari, with our intel officer, Gianni, pointing to our port on Lipari: Porto Pignataro.

We wanted to explore ASAP, so after plugging into shore power and adjusting stern lines, off we went with yacht paperwork and passport to check in at the marina office before wandering into town. Once on foot we happened upon a friendly, professional looking driver with a Mercedes taxi-van, Danielle, who proposed a tour of the Island for a set fee after we asked for a ride into town. Sounded like a fair deal and a great way to explore efficiently, and we took it. Highly recommend this: it’s a large island and there are great vistas available if you roam around this way. Plus, Danielle was free flowing with factoids and perspective about the island and the area. We stopped several times, including an opportunity to just walk around the main pedestrian thoroughfare for a spell before moving on. This part was slightly rushed, but still worth it. Personally, I roamed up in between buildings and got a tour not unlike Old Town, Dubrovnik’s walled city. A few scenic stops later, we’d gone around the Island.

Porto Pignataro as seen from the road en route to town, shortly after we arrived that afternoon. In the background on right is the island of Vulcano.
Looking u[ a typical intersection of the pedestrian/moped area of town. At the top? The archaeological museum that’s an old fort!
Entrance ot the museum, which we later walked at night after dinner.
The gang with the testa di barca (head of the boat) taking the shot. Our awesome tour guide, Danielle, is sandwiched in the front row.
Cacti e faraglioni di Lipari.
The islands of Panarea, near right, and Stromboli, far left, matching the colors of the clouds at dusk as seen from well up on Lipari.

Dinners? To be done dockside… or more likely, a little further away. So, we took Danielle’s suggestion and went to a place up on a hill just outside town called Filipino’s. It looked like an expensive tourist trap, but it wasn’t. Everything was reasonable; fresh fish by the gram was a bit pricey but not outrageous, and it was fresh and well prepared.

Stefania pointing as she discussed fish options with the waiter.
Town church as seen from a viewing/firing port in the wall of the old fort.

DAY TWO: TO STROMBOLI

With a stop along the way to snorkel, of course! We hit the smaller islands off Panarea on the way. There’s a spot where gas is escaping from the seabed to the surface, and it’s super kewl to snorkel through the streams of bubbles. We found the suggested anchoring spot (very fussy and small area; highly weather dependent to do). Then, we found the bubble area, which is not visible easily from the surface if at all.

mountain looming behind cruising cat for scale
A cruising cat gives scale to the mountain rising from the sea here. Typical scene in the Isole Eolie.
Another typical scene: beauty in the eyes of the beholder, in this case the fotog who liked both the foreground and background here.

That, plus some bites, and we were off to Stromboli. We chose to motor to the snorkel spot to save time as, again, there was little wind. But we sailed all the way to Stromboli from there. How majestic and beautiful.

Celebration under sail. Good wine; good times.
Approaching Stromboli; several of us were mesmerized for prolonged periods.

Stromboli is a constantly active volcano with two small toe-holds of civilization. There’s a mooring field with some room to free anchor off the northeast shore, where the larger village is (and were the ferries zoom in and out creating wakes except during the night).

More scenery under sail.

One must plan carefully and visit here only when the weather is favorable as it’s exposed from three cardinal directions. Totally worth it: stunning to see up close and personal.

At the southeast end of the island; wind picking up and shifting; cruising monohull for perspective.

Our resident Italiana spoke to the locals and scoped out a sweet spot for dinner, which took some exploring to find. It was worth it. Trattoria ai Gechi. (Think GEICO gecko with his mouth shut while folks eat.)

Doesn’t get any fresher than this: local fisherman frozen after tossing his pot. What’s gonna be in it? Whatever’s the fresh fish on the menu at the local restaurants in the village, and on the villager’s dining tables. Taken while we were moored at Stromboli.

That’s a wrap for this installment; we’ll do another one or two to share the rest of this trip with you! Ce vediamo, eh?

“Watch Porn:” Horo-Erotica & the History of Telling Time at Sea

Yes, this is a serious Blog Rant! Yes – we’ll have some fun with it too. Why not? Isn’t that what this is all about?!

No… the title doesn’t mean “go watch porn.” You be you, of course, but it’s in the sense of anything that we obsess about on the internet these days and watch a lot of YouTube, Vimeo, Insta, etc about it. In this case, it’s just wrist watches. I’ve developed a minor obsession with them of late.

That’s not a watch… THIS is a watch! This is a total statement, too, to the tune of, say… $300,000? Flying tourbillon in the shape of a propeller; anchor that might or might not do something; best moonphase complication ever; something about tides too! From Ulysee Nardin, a preeminent Swiss manufacture who’ve been around since 1846, and in the same facility at Le Locle for almost all that time.

Not sure how it started. Must have seen an Insta ad that grabbed me by the second hand. I do recall that soon after college, during my first job (office, not ‘Below Deck’), I started to like watches. I figured that if I ever made it rich, I’d have a serious watch collection. I was really intrigued by the Movado Museum watch (which, of course, is still going strong with umpteen variations on the original theme).

Never did start that watch collection. Never too late, of course. Have to start somewhere; tried out a few but starting to realize how complicated it is. You know.. complications. Moonphase; chronometer; day/date; GMT; heartbeat/skeleton… etc, etc. So many complications. (In case you didn’t know, that’s the horological term for a feature or function.)

So, what’s the big deal with watches and telling time at sea? Where’s the porn I promised? (It’s coming, it’s coming…)

Tme for… some mermaid on nympho action? From the Classico series, also by Ulysse Nardin, as painted by the artist Milo Manara. They like their erotica and great white sharks, but they also like traditional and elegant watches as well as funky new design concepts. MSRP: $26,900. More to come…. you’ve been warned!

The big deal is… LONGITUDE.

Latitude and Longitude have two meanings related to this topic and the Sailing Center:

  • Latitude/Longitude was a fragrance from Nautica. They hired us to re-create realistic lat/lon coordinates from a film shoot of a TV spot. They filmed near Cabo San Lucas. Based on the time of day they sailed, the angles of the sun, etc, etc, we came up with some coordinates they could add as a screen graphic that were in the area. We didn’t represent them as the coordinates of the vessel as depicted in the shot. (They sort of did.) We told them that anyone trying to find fault wouldn’t be able to. Still have the charts lying around somewhere – Defense Mapping Agency renditions at both harbor and general scales.
  • Much more importantly, latitude and longitude form the man-made position grid that is used for navigation worldwide. It’s what GPS was built on.

What’s the relationship of watches and horology to longitude? Both latitude and longitude are position references, but they each have another property that’s mutually exclusive. For latitude, it’s distance. The parallels are equidistant. For longitude, yes- you guessed it… TIME.

Centuries ago, the concepts were well developed and understood. Ashore, it was easy enough to measure both and determine a reasonably accurate position. But at sea, while measuring latitude was annoyingly doable, it was just impossible with longitude. Why? There wasn’t a device that could keep accurate time over the course of, well…. time. Time on the ocean. The longer a voyage, and the rougher it was, the worse that got. When temperature and atmospheric pressure changed, so did the functioning of timepieces. The existing methods were difficult or impossible to use over the course of an extended sea voyage, or during certain moon phases. Add bad weather, and, well… you were aground or lost.

“She wast lost, but then was found…”

We warned you! But you kept reading… more from the mind of Milo. Shark had enough apparently. Yes – this is actually a real watch available for sale in limited quantities. All these screen snatches are straight from the Ulysse Nardin site. But there are a number of other depictions in the series that are more universally suitable for public unveiling; more examples to come.

One particularly disastrous sea voyage pissed off the British Crown to the point of offering a prize for solving the problem. In 1707, a naval fleet foundered on bad shoals off the Scilly Isles, losing four ships and almost two thousand men. A simple sailor tried to warn of the impending danger, as he’d kept his own careful deduced reckoning and was certain they were about to run afoul of the treacherous area. He was summarily executed for his trouble, as he would well have known was a risk at the time. Imagine what went through Admiral Sir Clowdesley Shovell’s mind (1; whew! 2. Origin of “shoveling shit?”). The guy he just hanged was right. Too late… Karma is tough. The Admiral was one of only two seamen to make it to shore. He was murdered for his emerald bling; the woman who did it confessed on her deathbed in a last minute act of contrition long afterward. Can’t make this shit up!

So, who solved this less than delicate debacle? Many people took stabs at it over many decades. Some tried to use celestial methods to determine longitude while at sea; others tried to make timepieces that remained accurate on ocean voyages. That’s what ultimately worked. Simple concept; hard to make. The chronometer was conceived long before it was built, and the name was first coined in 1714 by someone who hadn’t made an effective one. But it was eventually made, and further refined by himself and others who followed in his footsteps. And it was made by…

One John Harrison, an English carpenter and clock maker. And it took much of his life.

John Harrison, in a portrait depicting his chronometer on a map to the left.

Ever heard of him?  Probably not.  Heard of Galileo?  Sure you have! He was just one of many minds who tried to solve the issue of determining longitude at sea by lunar methods, or tracking the moon’s movements in relation to stars and the sun.  

Harrison?  He made a watch that could accurately tell time on extended sea voyages.  That was much simpler and more reliable.  But, it took a few large, less wieldy prototypes before his very portable time piece evolved.  Plus, he fought battles for decades against the prevailing politic and conventional wisdoms of his day, and – truth be told – himself.   Decade.  DecADES.  It took awhile.

H1: Harrison’s first marine chronometer, made between 1730 and 1735. This illustrates that he was a clockmaker, not a watchmaker – but that didn’t stop him from being the first to create an actual watch that did the trick. And, the 75-pound machine above worked! It kept time at sea in rough weather on relatively short but rough voyages. It never did the tran-Atlantic trial run that was required to claim the prize offered by the Board of Longitude. H1 and Harrison’s other creations are on exhibit for the public to see at the Royal Museums of Greenwich.

The end result?  A carpenter and clock maker who no one had heard of laid the foundation for safe navigation at sea and better timepieces.  He never even founded a watchmaking concern.  (John Arnold, who was a rising horologist, did.  But his legacy truly began after he read what was published about Harrison’s work, and took it to the next level in simplicity and efficient production.) Here is Harrison’s masterpiece…

H4; Harrison’s smallest and best piece, which he duplicated as did others. This pocket-sized watch crossed the Atlantic, keeping amazingly accurate time – besting the standards set by the Board of Longitude to claim the cash prize, which they never fully awarded him. King George III rectified the cash flow but not the insult.

Today, Arnold & Son claims that the first timepiece to be called a “chronometer” was one of theirs.  This is false. Arnold wasn’t born until 18 years after Englishman Jeremy Thacker first created a clock that he called a chronometer, in writing, and diagrams of it survive to this day. In fact, Thacker’s invention was made specifically as a marine chronometer designed to solve the longitude problem and claim the prize purse of 20,000 pounds. Did it?

No. It wasn’t good enough. It had an inherent flaw: it couldn’t deal with significant temperature changes.

Regardless, Arnold done good, chiefly by proving that chronometers could be mass produced and therefore accessible. Arnold improved and simplified Harrison’s chronometer. It must be noted that Harrison’s piece was more than good enough, and exceeded the standards set by the Board of Longitude: to determine longitude within half a degree. How does that translate into time? Plus or minus 3 seconds or less per day on average, yielding 2 minutes over a six-week ocean voyage from England to the Caribbean. Thacker’s clock came close-ish: up to 6 seconds per day, although usually less. But that wasn’t while at sea with temps changing over time, and with the motion of the ocean to boot. Still, it seems impressive now for 1714!

Redemption! Almost as many sailing depictions as soft porns. Have to zoom in a bit to see the woman in the second shot, but she’s there flying solo.

And, what of Harrison’s contraptions? His H1 clock did vey well from England to Lisbon, but never went all the way across the Atlantic. He had himself to blame for that; he could have tried to claim the Longitude prize by demanding a sea trial and taking his chances on the results. Instead, he verbally beat up on his clock to the Board, and asked for stipends to continue work on a better version. They gladly went along based on the promise the first clock held out. That was in 1735, five years after he began work on it.

And his watch? Several decades and two clock contraptions later, the H4 watch was completed went on two trans-Atlantics from England to the Caribbean. The first was in 1761/62; the second in 1764. How did it do?

  • Trial one: over 147 overall days out and back, it lost just under 2′ total time.
  • Trial two: over 156 overall days, the average error was 39 seconds. This was good enough to deduce the position of the island of Barbados within 10 nautical miles, which was 3x better than the requirement of the Board of Longitude! They noted that they were…

“Unanimously of opinion that this said time keeper has kept its time with sufficient correctness.”

Muckety Mucks of the Board of Longitude

Yet, Harrison wasn’t officially awarded the prize from the Board. Ever. He did eventually get the rest of the money, but it was only by a magnanimous act of Parliament, facilitated by the intervention of King George III himself. The King became interested after Harrison’s son, William, who went on the actual sea trials, petitioned him for an audience. George used his own personal observatory to officially monitor the accuracy of Harrison’s timepiece (along with Harrison and another individual) . He then advised Harrison on how to approach Parliament.

No one was EVER awarded the top prize from the Board of Longitude. Harrison came closest with a considerable sum of money over time, and the admission from the Board noted above. Eventually, the advent of affordable and accurate chronometers made the Board moot and it was disbanded. But it was Harrison who pioneered the path of timekeeping and navigation precision.

And, what do we have now in the way of a chronometer? What’s the modern-day standard of accuracy?

Tissot’s Heritage Navigator, a re-issue of their centennial piece from 1953. It’s a world-time mechanical watch, and it’s an officially certified Chronometer. This is just one example of a modern day chronometer. They range from inexpensive, very accurate quartz models to Breitling and Rolex standard issue fancy-lad wrist lashings.

Watches are synonymous with Switzerland. And the Swiss non-profit/industry association COSC governs the standards. The Controle Officiel Suisse Des Chronometres (Whew!) is the only entity that certifies Swiss watches to have met the accuracy and consistency standards that earn the title “Chronometer.” A small percentage of all watches bear that mark, whether because they aren’t good enough or they simply haven’t been submitted for certification. Each timepiece that passes has its actual movement engraved with a number and gets an official certificate. That applies to both watches and clocks.

How good do they have to be? It’s complicated… but it appears to currently be to -4/+6 seconds on average per day for mechanical watches. Apparently, Japanese standards are slightly more rigorous (Grand Seiko being a brand that meets them). Quartz watches are significantly more accurate with a standard of less than 1 second of error per day.

Victorinox’ Officer Chronograph – not a chronometer – atop a copy of Longitude with Harrison’s hand clutching his H4 from a contemporary portrait. This quartz watch retails for $795 unless on sale, but can sometimes be had for under $300 – as was the case with the one right here. Chronographs have stopwatch functions.

So, compared to today’s machine world, Harrison’s chronometer from 250 years ago was not only better than its time, but just better. His H1 through H4 pieces are still on display for the public to appreciate in Greenwich, England… also known as zero degrees Longitude.

Ed. note: Most of the Harrison and related references in this post were sourced from the book pictured above: Longitude: the True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time. Author: Dava Sobel. We highly recommend this book, and especially the Illustrated version The Illustrated Longitude, with substantial illustration and captioning by co-author William J. H. Andrewes. Want the video version? There’s a Nova episode which is available on DVD!