“Location, location…” Yup: we now have two!

Now you can learn how to sail a boat with us out of Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn as well as City Island – the best locations in NYC and the Tri-State Region!

IN THAT PIC: an Ensign sloop, full and by as they say, off Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, approaching Breezy Point, Queens!

We’ve had a lot going on this spring & early summer. We moved the school down the street on City Island. I wrote a textbook (separate post coming on that). And, we explored opening a satellite branch in Brooklyn. And did it!

Now, we’re at the Gateway to the Sound and the Gateway to the Atlantic! The northern and southern extremes of NYC both offer ideal sailing – and learning – conditions. Your hardest decision might just be which Borough to book.

IN THAT PIC: the NYC Subway Map, with black stars at our two locations – the Bookends of the Boroughs, and the Gateways to the Goods! City Island is at the top, just off of NYC’s largest Park (Pelham Bay). Sheepshead Bay is at the bottom, close to Gateway National Recreation Area, in green – like, you know… parks.

Our new host is the Miramar Yacht Club. It’s a wonderful cooperative that’s been around since 1905. It’s in Sheepshead Bay, a super protected port that allows sailing straight off the mooring before exploring Rockaway Inlet, Gravesend Bay, the Verrazano Narrows, and even the Atlantic. Have a little time? Head into very large Raritan Bay, with Sandy Hook creating a natural barrier to ocean swells when they occur.

While nearby Jamaica Bay and parts of Rockaway Inlet can have decent currents, most of this area has the mild currents that make for great sailing in general, and learning in particular. Miramar has a sizable fleet of Ensign sloops, and they race on Wednesday nights. A large majority of them never use engines to get out and about, and also back. That was a huge checkmark in the right column for me.

And, Ensigns are what we’ll be sailing on initially (and possibly also their Tartan Ten). Here’s a fleet!..

IN THAT PIC: Ensigns racing out of Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, from the Miramar Yacht Club.

If Montauk is “The End,” as the bumper stickers say, Breezy Point is “The Beginning.” Clear waters are flushed between Jamaica Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, with an abundance of fish and birds. How about marine mammals? Dolphins are regular, common visitors.

You can expect to see dolphins.

David Shin, Commodores, Miramar Yacht Club

Whales? They occur too, says David, albeit not as commonly. While all this could be a bad sign from a global warming perspective, at least we can enjoy it while we pursue sailing – something with a low carbon footprint that’s not exactly a guilty pleasure.

How does one get there?

Driving, public transit, or even bicycle. There’s good street parking in the area (sorry, no on-site parking due to limited space for members). Subway? Take the B during the week and the Q on weekends. Bus transfer, or grab a drink from Starbucks and walk. Have a bike? Bring it aboard and shoot over. Or, we can pick you up from the subway.

Speaking of pick-ups, here’s one of the Club’s launches at dusk (I shot this pre-season before it splashed)…

IN THAT PIC: dusk at the Miramar Yacht Club in April. The boat? One of their two diesel launches. The tower on the left? Their hoist to dry-sail boats and to haul for winter. The waterway is Sheepshead Bay, with Coney Island behind.

Expect to see an announcement from us about an Open House soon. In the meantime, if you want to explore this exciting new option for learning to sail, just contact us and we’ll discuss scheduling or just a tour!

To see more about our host there, the Miramar YC, follow this link…

https://www.miramaryc.com/

“It’s like the Autobahn!” And not in a good way.

That’s Jennifer Connelley’s take on trying to learn how to sail a boat in New York Harbor in preparation for “Top Gun: Maverick.”

IN THAT PIC: still grab from the sailing scene in the flick. Jennifer Connelly, driver (at the helm).

We taught David Letterman how to sail back when Late Night was actually Late Morning. A looooong time ago. (This was during Dad’s school; I worked sweeping up for child’s pay.) Of course, when Ted Turner was on Late Night not that long ago, David didn’t work in any Q&A about sailing despite Ted being one of the best. I was disappointed. I half expected him to say, “You know, I took a sailing course. It was on City Island. New York Sailing School, I think it was.” Didn’t happen.

Fast forward to earlier this week, and actress Jennifer Connelly appeared on A Late Show With Stephen Colbert. (We link to that below.) I didn’t realize there was a sailing scene in the flick, but Connelly did and decided to prepare for it. She took sailing lessons in several locations in preparation, as she had no background with it.

IN THAT PIC: JC driving and Tom Cruise bringing up the rear. Apparently, he wasn’t satisfied with the pace of things off San Diego so they did some sailing out of San Francisco- a renowned heavy wind region. This was there.

Being from NYC (Brooklyn), she did a course in NYC and did what too many people do: she did it in NY Harbor, as accessed by the East and Hudson Rivers. Train wreck conditions, but maybe they saved 15′ on their commute!

“I was taking lessons in the Harbor, which was interesting…”

“That’s busy!” (Colbert)

“It’s kinda like learning to drive on the Autobahn, you know? I don’t recommend it as a first way to sail.”

Jennifer Connelly

We link to the full clip below. As mentioned above, she took lessons in a variety of areas, so this wasn’t an isolated perspective.

Sailing in NY Harbor and the Rivers is difficult with challenges that are not the good kind…

  • Currents strong enough to stop a boat in its GPS track;
  • Lots of random commercial traffic including high-speed ferries, barges, and cruise ships;
  • Narrow waterways and, where they open up, with large obstructions;
  • Confused winds with shears from geography and high-rise buildings.
IN THAT PIC: a rather large Norwegian Cruise Lines ship about to block out the W hotel in Jersey City as seen from the shore of lower Manhattan.

This isn’t a recipe for success. Expert sailors can have a lot of trouble there. Why try to learn how in such an environment? The perception is that it’s close and convenient. It might be quicker; depends where you live, and your actual commute time. (Two schools that sail in NY Harbor are located in New Jersey, including one with Manhattan in its name. There is one in Brooklyn.) More importantly is the education and skillset you get. If you can’t skipper the boat after the course, you didn’t sail in a good location and/or get enough training.

IN THAT PIC: the same Norwegian cruise ship about to totally dwarf the rather large classic sailing vessel. It’s a schooner rig, normally only found on larger vessels.

We don’t go there, literally or figuratively. There’s a reason Columbia and Fordham Universities have had their sailing teams practice out of City Island for so long. (Columbia moved recently, but only about a mile or two as the bird flies). There’s a reason why there are 3 ASA sailing schools on City Island, and also three yacht clubs that are almost all sailboats (used to be four before Hurricane Sandy closed one down).

It’s the beginning of Long Island Sound, and the beginning of a proper sailing foundation. And, one never outgrows it!

Here’s the link to the Colbert segment with Jennifer Connelly:

I Wrote a Book! Dad helped.

More accurately, I largely re-wrote his textbook on how to sail a boat from the 1970’s but kept the best parts, which inspired the project in the first place.

In a previous Blog Rant, I wrote about how both my Dad and I wrote books for our respective sailing schools. I’d been meaning to resurrect his for awhile, and that post put me over the edge. I gone went and did it!

IN THAT PIC: the cover of NY Sailing Center’s new learn-to-sail/101 textbook.

That’s one of our Beneteau First 21.0 sloops flying along upwind, with Teacher John as he’s known on the transom where he’s known to love perching or propelling himself. Yup; that’s a class in progress.

Dad’s textbook, The Masters Course, was brilliant: pithy, funny, effective. Well illustrated. Nothing is perfect; his wasn’t. In fact, a few of the diagrams on piloting and navigation left a lot to be desired. But, these weren’t important to this level of training. I left them out of the new book.

As well as wanting Dad’s book to be resurrected, I also just wanted a better learn to sail book than ASA was putting out. I disagree with some of the content in their book, completely disagree with the order and emphasis of the material, and can’t deal with a defective diagram in it that’s a very important and which is very fucked up. It’s so bad, that after our first day of instruction, we challenge students to figure out “what’s wrong with this picture.” Some do on the spot after pondering briefly, most take a little longer. A few don’t figure it out. But, to a person, once they see it or are told it, they get it. And, they can’t believe it was allowed to go to print that way.

IN THAT PIC: the best Points of Sail diagram I’ve ever seen. From Dad’s book, and now in mine.

(Not long ago, I found an error in The Annapolis Book of Seamanship by John Rousmaniere. Now, this is perhaps the best single all-around sailing reference available. I highly recommend it to all beginners and intermediates; most advanced (and some pro) sailors can learn at least a little if not a lot from it. I corresponded with John about it; I don’t think he realized the error was there. “After all these decades, you’re the first person to spot this,” he wrote. I see EVERYTHING. It is known.)

Truth be told, Dad’s book had what I consider to be an error in one of the illustrations. But, I left that one out and used many of the good ones! Almost everyone will eventually err in an explanation or illustration. However, when it’s caught, it ought to be corrected.

IN THAT PIC: modern diagram of heaving to. Jennie Wilde, illustrator. Text: Steve Card.

My book? It started out as Dad’s book redux, but became more mine than his. I did keep parts of his prose intact. I augmented other parts. I deleted some others. And, of course, I wrote several sections from scratch.

Our new book is going out digitally to people as a PDF. That way, it can be easily corrected, but also searched, viewed on any mobile device, and updated easily. Also, instead of putting painful step-by-step photos of knot illustrations, for example, we can have one good reference photo plus a link to quality step-by-step videos! And the book can easily evolve as photos are added, better ones are found, an idea comes to mind for a better explanation or ordering of content, etc. Of course, if anyone prefers, it can be printed.

What better way to celebrate writing a book on sailing than with sailor drinks? Dark ‘n Stormy: Reed’s ginger beer, Gosling’s Black Seal rum, oversized ice balls and cubes, and a mini-anchor bottle opener. It’s made by Lewmar, and a replica of their Delta Fast-Set anchor. That anchor is on the bow of most charter boats around the world. Why? It holds best in most seabeds. We’re all about the “why’s” of things.

Yes, I wrote about anchoring in the book. I left the illustrations to others; I explained what one is really trying to do when anchoring, and how to get the job done on the water.

We’re moving!.. just down the street.

We revisit our roots in learning how to sail at City Island’s Consolidated Yachts, New York’s oldest boatyard.

We’re back! Or, will be very shortly. We’re moving down the street to Consolidated Yachts on the southeast end of City island.

We’ve been there before. Twice. (Third time’s the charm?)

Round One: Dad did it for awhile back in the 1970’s. My first job as a kid was sweeping up the floor of the classroom and workshop for $1/hour. Remember when David Letterman started out as Late Morning With David Letterman? Before he was really, really famous with Late Night. Well, he was a student at dad’s New York Sailing School! I remember him walking back in from one of the sailing sessions all decked out in his yellow foul weather gear and a smile on his face. Later in life, I was disappointed when Letterman had Ted Turner on the show, who is a world class sailor (Olympics; America’s Cup; etc). Sailing didn’t come up once, much less New York Sailing School.

Dad lost his lease due to construction on the property’s border with a vacant lot that became a retirement community (still there now).

Round Two: I moved my school there in 2007 and we ran it there for 3 years. There was too much going on at the yard and it didn’t work out at that time, with several sub-tenants competing for space and resources. Chief culprit was an auto-body shop. At one point, they were going to publicize a bikini car wash and basically shut down our ability to operate. Eye candy not withstanding, we moved the school more or less to where we’re now going to be in the yard, but it was the beginning of the end of Round Two back then.

IN THAT PIC: partial view of the patio area for hanging around, lunch/snacks, and outdoor classroom sessions that allow using real boats in real time to often be the props!
IN THAT PIC: Prefer sun? We got you… here’s the unshaded portion of the patio on the way out to the pier. “The Sun Deck,” as it probably ought to be called, has direct rays all day.

Consolidated is simpler now and better suits our needs than in the past. It remains the oldest continually operated boat yard in the State of New York, dating back to the late 1800’s if memory serves. No location is perfect, but here we’ll be getting a few key benefits…

  • Large slip for docking our skiff (launch) and sometimes our cruising boats, and also the smaller ones for ‘pit-stop’ maintenance. Also good for docking practice for cruising courses!
  • Large waterside area for classroom sessions, meet & greet, and just hanging out for lunch, breaks, or nothing at all except watching the birds and boats go by. It’s under an elevated storage shed so we have sun and rain protection. Plus, when you want sun, you got it- the patio extends out beyond toward the water.
  • Indoor storage of life jackets and other gear, plus enough room to use as a ‘foul weather’ classroom. In fact, this used to BE the classroom. Yup; where DL did his course with us.
  • Super-quick access to Western Long Island Sound, and also Eastchester Bay which is now literally around the corner. This increases our flexibility to adapt to different wind and weather conditions, and also makes it easier for our Sailing Club members to take advantage of the area’s inherent versatility.
  • Large, full-service boatyard that can handle anything we can’t for maintenance, including two Travelifts (marine hoists) to get boats in and out of the water.
  • Quick access to great breakfast, lunch and dinner options.
IN THAT PIC: “The Red House.” No, there isn’t a Red Woman (G.O.T. in the HOUSE!) Easy landmark from anywhere in City Island Harbor, which is shown almost in its entirety here. The length of neighboring Hart Island brackets the Red House, and the pier ends on the right in line with it. Beyond? The Gold Coast of Long Island – at the quickest crossing of LI Sound!

Classroom sessions, field-trip style: walk to the end of the pier above. Use real-time examples of sailboats doing stuff wrong… and right. And, right in front of your face. Available 7 days a week.

When we walk back from that, the view looks like this…

IN THAT PIC: looking back (west) from the sun deck patio into the shaded classroom/meeting area. Above it is the end of the locker and storage area, which is our dedicated space for ‘foul weather’ classroom sessions and also hanging our sou’wester hats, or Tilleys, or Supreme beanies, or whatever you’re sporting and rocking.

IN THAT PIC: the door to our indoor storage and classroom. Note the lettering from the 1970’s!

Consolidated looks a little bare in those pictures, right? It’s because we weren’t shooting the boatyard, and the slips are empty-ish in the off season. Here’s one shot of how dense the yard itself can be with pleasure boats and yachts, and smaller commercial vessels…

IN THAT PIC: Montgomery 17 sloop, owned by graduates of our school from around 15 years ago. They got it soon after learning to sail with us and have kept it at Consolidated ever since. Behind it? Some large 40-something footer with an aft cabin and center cockpit being refinished. Note the beat-up rudder: Consolidated specializes in difficult structural, fiberglass, and marine woodwork repairs. And they can haul boats as small as this (17′) and as large as upwards of 70!

And, here’s some serious gear – anchor and chain rode for something huge…

IN THAT PIC: Serious ground tackle, or anchoring stuff. View is southeast from north side of yard. Top right: our new digs in pale blue!

How soon do we start up then? Very soon. We’re splashing our 23′ Carolina Skiff next week and it will be at the slip you can see in the pic above whose ramp to the pier is already in place. From there, we prep the two boats we already have in the water (our two Pearsons), and also the first Beneteau 21 to be launched ASAP. Moorings will be moved just off Consolidated. We can give you the tour of the boats and the digs almost on demand, but please do make an appointment with us so you don’t just show up to a locked gate or no signs of life.

This ain’t no 9 to 5!

IN THAT PIC: “The Red House” pops in contrast to the background: Hewlett Point on the Gold Coast of Long Island’s North Shore. The yacht at the dock? Well, that’s less than half of it… and we’d love a tour but it’s private. We’ll try to score an invite for a party.

Welcome aboard the new home of the Sailing Center! Please come visit soon. Hit us up through our contact page (in main menu here on this and every post and page of the site).

Sh*t My Dad Wrote (and I too) about Sailing

Dad and I both wrote textbooks for our sailing schools over the decades. What better way to help teach people how to sail or navigate a boat than to write your own rather than rent?

I followed in my father’s footsteps. He’d be like, “rolling over in my grave!” But, also, I’d like to think, proud all the same.

Learn-to-sail textbook authored by my father, Glenn F. Card, Jr, a Coast Guard licensed captain, for New York Sailing School which he founded in 1970 or earlier. This one’s from 1978, and the boat is the Olympic class Soling that was the most common boat used for adult sailing education in the US from the mid-’60’s through the ’70’s.

Above: his, not mine. Circa 1978, this was the text book students received when they signed up for The Master’s Course. This was the learn to sail/refresher course offered by New York Sailing School, which my dad founded in 1968 we believe. (It could have been ’70, but more likely ’68.) I was either 4 or 6 at the time!

The photo above was sent to me recently from a graduate of that program who is getting back into sailing after an absence. He learned to sail from my dad, and will continue on with me. We get this all the time; it’s one of the best feelings about being in the sport and the industry.

I can’t find a copy in our family’s stuff! I have the following cover from a slightly newer version of the same book…

The Master’s Course text, a few years younger than the one in the previous pic. On this cover is a Sonar, which we introduced to sailing instruction and were dealers for. It’s widely used to this day.

Before I continue, I’m calling on anyone who has a copy of this text book, regardless of which cover is on it, to get in touch with us! I have a scan of the contents but I want to get an original hard copy for sentimental reasons.

And, now, back to the Blog…

The textbook was low-tech and photocopied. It was either stapled together or 3-hole punched and bound. But, it worked: students found it simple, effective, fun, and a great resource. He wrote it because, well… he was a writer amongst other things. He did a lot of advertising copy-wrighting as part of his first career, becoming a Creative VP in several boutique firms from the Mad Men era (does the name Benton & Bowles ring a bell?). Eventually, his side hustle in sailing became all consuming and he launched New York Sailing School after more modest beginnings with rentals and what was perhaps the country’s earliest seasonal time-share/fractional sailing plan: Sail-A-Season.

He also wrote it as it was needed. The American Sailing Association (ASA) didn’t come around until 1983. That year, both my Glenn and I became ASA instructors: I’m # 830701, for those who get how those numbers work. US Sailing didn’t add a adult sailing school/instruction arm until 1993. So, there wasn’t an industry association text book series available. Yes, Colgate’s Basic Sailing Theory (Steve Colgate, Offshore Sailing School) existed. It was rather expensive and also written by the competition. And, I don’t think dad liked it on it’s merits, honestly.

Fast forward to 1986/87. Dad sold the school that winter while I was in college. He remained an advisor to them for a few years and I helped out with that. Gradually, they edited and changed the book until it wasn’t the Sh*t My Dad Wrote. End of era. Just after that, I wrote this, which I include not just to pat myself on the back but in the context of the geo-political climate of the times…

Stephen Glenn Card’s Senior Thesis at SUNY Purchase. Undergraduates had to submit substantial senior projects at Purchase. For those in the arts and music, it was quite literally a project. For those in the Liberal Arts, it was essentially a thesis. Mine was around 100 pages. Seniors had a thesis advisor and it had to be read and approved by a second faculty member in the department to be officially approved. A copy of each is professionally bound and maintained at the college’s library. My copy: went missing over the decades. But, they scanned the library’s copy and sent me the file! I’ll print and bind myself.

Dad passed of lung cancer in the summer of 1995.

Skip forward a few years to late summer of 1997. For various reasons, I started a new sailing school. I actually went into direct competition with the former family business. I had taken back management and operation of dad’s New York Sailing Center & Yacht Club the year before, which at the time was simply a small marina with mooring storage and launch service. When dad sold the sailing school, he didn’t see the marina. I simply added a sailing school to it. I started off by affiliating with US Sailing that year, and in the spring of ’98, also affiliated with ASA. New York Sailing Center & Yacht Club was one of only a handful of schools in the country to certify students through both organizations. Later, it came to be that no school could be an affiliate of both ASA and US Sailing for other boring reasons. (Schools can be affiliates of ASA and also organizational members of US Sailing, as we have been, but no school can offer both systems of certification.)

The author’s coastal navigation textbook, the companion to our ‘Live 105’ coastal nav courses on Zoom. Eventually, we hope to be offering them live in person again! Captain Card wrote the book in 2002. So… happy 20th!

Early on in the new school’s development, we started offering Start Navigating,SM the ASA 105 Coastal Navigation course. We had a consistent volume year round, offering it typically once a week for a month, 1x monthly. While ASA’s original textbook was excellent in many ways, it was missing material covered on the exam and also badly out of date on tech (RDF/Loran versus GPS). So, Captain Card (a/k/a Me, Myself and I) wrote a few short supplements to fill in those gaps. It was fun, but more needed to be done.

So, headphones on to the tune of “I, me, my” by The Beatles, he set to work one winter. During trips to Vermont for Thanksgiving and Christmas, he started drafting a comprehensive book. It sort of flowed organically, and it was fun, and it was good. So, whether it would ultimately be completed and used or not didn’t matter at the time. Over time, it became clear that ASA’s book wasn’t going to be revised anytime soon, despite them saying they’d send a draft of it soon.

Long story short: I finished my book and have used it for our Coastal Navigation course, Start Navigating,SM ever since. It’s had some minor updates over the years, but is essentially as written back in 2002. One topic needed revision when I stumbled in stages on something no one else did. The conventional wisdom about applying magnetic variation when plotting courses is misunderstood. It assumes something that isn’t true. I updated my book accordingly.

ASA? Nah. I was working with another ASA school owner on revising the answer key for the 105 exam. We agreed on the true courses for all the plotting problems, with one exception. After we both revisited this one, he ultimately agreed with my solution for it. However, we didn’t agree on the variation and therefore the magnetic course to use. (We address all this in the Start Navigating course, of course.) Upshot: I updated my book and he swept it under the rug.

In the meantime, ASA didn’t revise the first book. They introduced an entirely new one, to much self-generated fanfare. Later, they did in fact add a revised version of their first book. For awhile at least they continued to sell both. I never looked back. Neither did one of the authors, who didn’t update his book with the mathematical truth concerning magnetic variation. Not my problem; not my students’ either.

My book hasn’t been formally published. It did get its foot in the door at a major publishing house awhile ago: one of our former students was a literary agent and pitched it to an acquisition editor there. He caught it and re-pitched at an editorial meeting. They thought the book was worthy but not the sales projections and passed on it. So it goes…

But, Dad’s will be resurrected. I’m going to add things he didn’t include that now need to be there, and use it from that point forward for our Start Sailing course (ASA 101, learn-to-sail/Basic Keelboat).

Sh*t My Dad Wrote. It aged well.

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.

Mask up; show up!

We’re not out of COVID country yet, so protect and then play.

IN THAT PIC: Melody, Sunday, October 18, during a Start Cruising course (ASA 103). She did 101 with us this season as well!

It’s been a strange season, but as usual, we improvise, adapt and overcome. In March, we didn’t know if we’d have a sailing season at the Sailing Center! By June, we knew it would be closer to biz as usual on the water, in addition to our innovative and popular “Live 105” courses on Zoom for Coastal Nav (which no one else seems to be running). We figured we just had to play it safe.

We did. We limited class sizes beyond (below?) our normal capacities, further reduced classroom time for learn to sail courses, and mandated masks. Sometimes, people could take them off, but only when it made sense. Most people arrived at the Sailing Center pre-conditioned to wearing their masks all the time. (One or two prospective students were not invited to sign up after expressing a distaste or unwillingness to wear masks.)

Video clip for ya ! Mike and Kelly “deal with the heel” on a windy day…


We got through the season, which is winding down. It ends by early November for us. But, the country, and much of the world, is NOT through the pandemic. Politics aside, numbers don’t lie. People lying in ICU beds in hospitals are not faking it. Many countries are in their second or third waves or spikes, and winter is coming which will almost certainly make the pandemic worse. (And don’t forget the flu!!!) A COVID-19 vaccine is not immediately around the corner, nor is worldwide distribution of it when it arrives. So… wear that mask!

IN THAT PIC: Laura, behind all that mask and hair, joining two lines with a rolling hitch in tandem with Chris’ hands. Start Sailing, ASA 101, in September.

So…. it’s not over ’til it’s over. That sadly applies to the pandemic, but I’ll gladly take that this sailing season isn’t quite over and despite that, and eager anticipation of sliding down snow, we’re already looking forward to the next one!

Living with Thunderstorms – & Not Dying in Them.

It’s that time of year; weather is warming up, and thunderstorm activity is heating up as sailing club, school and rental activity opens up. We revisit this topic every year as a public service. One reason: people still don’t seem to ‘get it.’

In that pic: screen capture of radar images on Wednesday, June 3, in the late AM. We had a private lesson booked that day with an experienced sailor. The forecast was for thunderstorms – not a chance, or a likelihood, but just… thunderstorms. And, they warned of potentially damaging winds and hail. Not a garden variety summer forecast, which is “chance of showers and thunderstorms” or similar language.

Oh, no… it’s ON!!!!

Below, I’ll share how the day of June 3 unfolded forecast wise, and also stories about two needless tragedies in the past that happened when people didn’t pay attention to the forecast.

The first step of the day is to check the forecast. That should be done several times as the day progresses to look for updates. The next step is to check the radar. Easier than you might think; just look at the pic above. Pretty clear that something is brewing. And, even if the forecast winds up being off, the radar doesn’t lie. It doesn’t take a meteorological degree to read a radar app. It just takes a little time and experience.

On two occasions since I’ve been operating New York Sailing Center, which I founded in the fall of 1997, there were particularly violent thunderstorm systems that passed through the region and resulted in a fatality at some other school/club. NOT AT MY SCHOOL/CLUB. At others.

The first was in 1998, before we all had smart phones and radar apps at our disposal. It was old school; check the forecast, check the sky, and listen to the VHF radio weather band for updates. The forecast was doom n gloom: thunderstorms, some of which could be severe, and which had a large outer perimeter of strong wind (meaning no way to see it coming). And, the storms had already started upstate and killed a few people.

Make no mistake; winter is coming…

Sky getting gray as we return to the mooring on Wednesday, June 3. Radar? Showed rain passing to north and east, and squalls approaching in the distance from the west and south. Might miss; might not. So, we cut the lesson short and played it safe.

So, I kept everything on a super tight leash that day in 1998. We had one class with a veteran instructor. We talked about it and decided to confine the boat to the anchorage. No further than the outskirts of the anchorage. The anchorage is small. More maneuvering, then! Marina customers were warned of the storms if they showed up. A few did and just turned around and went home. One woman chose to sit on her boat at the mooring for awhile and then go home.

Eventually, after frequently checking the sky to the north and west, I didn’t like the look and feel. I started radioing the instructor to come in, and saw he was already approaching the mooring. They took one shot, and fell short… and then it hit. BAM. Nothing to be seen in advance. Just wind laying the boat over and flogging the sails. They didn’t have a chance to sail back to the mooring; no way. The boat was basically blown down onto the next pier, and the instructor wisely off-loaded the students and left the boat. I went out with a few experienced people and two solid motor boats, and towed the sailboat off and moored it. It took two boats just to pull it off and suspend it into the winds, which were at least 60 knots and possibly as much as 70. When it subsided a bit, we moored the boat.

It was over quickly. It always is. But it takes little time to cause mayhem. We got away with a torn sail and a fright. Down in New York Harbor, they weren’t so lucky. One large club/school had allowed at least one member to go out with his family. The boat took a complete knockdown, and the man was in the water and separated from his family. He wasn’t wearing a PFD. His body was found a few days later in Gravesend Bay, Brooklyn.

Fast forward to August, 2010. Morning forecast: about the same as the 1998 incident. Thunderstorms. Severe. Moving fast. Clear band of strong winds. This time, however, we had smart phones and radar.

I kept the one class we had that day pretty close for our morning sail. I intended to do a short n sweet lesson, get off the water way early, and watch it all blow through during lunch and some extra classroom. While on the water, I got a call from a recent graduate hoping to come out for one of his practice sails that afternoon. Sorry; no. Bad forecast. He pushed; I explained the severity of the forecast. He tried some more.

“No fucking way! I’m not going to let you come out here just to die in some violent thunderstorm! You’ll come out another time – live to sail another day!” The first sentence is an exact quote; the second is approximate. The message is clear.

What happened then? We sailed back to be safe. Sky still looked fine. Checked the update radar while waiting for our launch ride. Whoah…. it was the largest Darth Vadar Death-Star-looking doom ‘n gloom ball of red, orange and yellow I’d ever seen – before or since – on a radar screen. It was moving south and clearly going to hit all of Western New Jersey, Westchester, NYC, and Nassau, Long Island. All of it; all at once.

Updated Radar imagery from Wednesday, June 3. Note the wall of band of red/orange just south of our area. That’s violent weather. The yellow with orange/red above? Not to be taken lightly either. Only takes a splash of red to dash your head on the rocks.

So, I shut down the operation until further notice. Told my launch operator to go somewhere inside for lunch on the avenue and stay there until I told him to return. I took my class to do the same, with some classroom props.

It did hit. We were basically done with lunch and b.s.-ing about other stuff. Suddenly, it was very dark. Stuff was flying around like that scene from the Wizard of Oz. Darker; windier. Eerily, we couldn’t really hear it as the place was well sound insulated and we were in the back looking down the hall at the front door. And, almost as soon as it started, it was over.

We paid up and walked back to the marina. None of us had ever seen so much random debris blown around by a squall. The waterfront was worse; the waterway itself was a shit show of stuff blown offshore by the storm. There was zero wind. Sun was back out. Surreal.

And then, I got a text from one of my instructors. He let me know that another school (again, not ours) had a class out during the storm. They lost one person. Literally. The body was found a day or two later. This was disturbingly close to home, in lower Westchester, within sight of my school on a clear day. it was day one of a learn to sail course (compared to day 3 for mine that day). They went out in the afternoon (as opposed to my coming in at around mid-day). No one aboard was wearing a life jacket, or PFD. (We spend extra money on comfortable automatic inflatables with manual overrides, and make people wear them.) The boat had no lifelines, which are wires or ropes that are elevated above the deck going around the boat. (Not all boat designs have them, but it’s riskier when they don’t – especially for beginners.) Everyone on that boat wound up in the water; all but one made it back to the boat.

All but one.

I knew several sailors who got caught out in that same storm. They all fared well, but got quite a fright. I heard of others who got caught as well (also survived). The common denominator? And, what was reported in the news regarding the fatality in Westchester?

“It happened so fast.” “You couldn’t see it coming.”

But, you could. On the bloody radar! And, you KNEW it was coming. Why wait to see it? Does that sound simplistic? Well, it really is that simple.

In that pic: all gone – out to sea, but I pity the fool who got caught out in that. It intensified as it neared shore and got over the water. Wednesday, June 3.

Remember the DUCK boat incident a few years ago? We did a blog rant about that. Same shit; different details. Only that time, many people died. I’ll link back to that blog post below.

The lesson: people don’t seem to learn the lesson. Here’s how I suggest you manage the risk of getting caught in a squall or thunderstorm on the water during the summer, which is when most of them happen, and also when most of you would likely do most of your boating.

  • start the day with the forecast online, cross referencing at least two sources.
  • If there’s some risk of thunderstorms, consider skipping boating that day.
  • If you go anyway, check the update forecast upon arrival at the marina.
  • Start checking the radar at that time as well. If it looks dicey, don’t go!
  • If it looks like it’s far off, or just not developed, stay close and check frequently – at least every 20′.
  • As soon as it’s looking worse, assume the worst. Head back. If you have an engine, turn it back on (yes, you should have checked it before). Stow sails.
  • Moor or dock the boat. Double check the radar and forecast.
  • If still no good go home! If the risk went away, it’s your call.

I’m not a meteorologist. I’m not a weather forecaster. I’m not a climate scientist (although I know one who’s a PhD candidate at Columbia). But, I am an expert and well-seasoned mariner. And, I have to make decisions all season that affect other people: whether they get to play or not that day. it comes down to whether they’re safe or at risk of death. And so, I check the weather and radar pretty obsessively.

“What do we say to the God of Death?”

“Not today.”

Arya was bad-ass enough to slay the Night King. But even she knew the universal truth:

“Don’t f*%! with Mother Nature!”

RESOURCES:

The Radar web site (not an app per se) that I like to use for the northeast…

www.pluff.com

Our Blog Rant about the DUCK boat tragedy…

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!

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…