Until it isn’t… or is that Brighton, Utah? The weather has been wild all over, but we’re starting to teach people how to sail in Brooklyn and ignoring the powder out yonder.
We started on April 4, did a few lessons, resume this week with a private on Wednesday, and take a break for our Virgin Islands Sailing Vacay (BVI). After that, our first full Start Sailing course of the season kicks off on May 6.
The little guys above are Sunnies! That’s a nickname for Sunfish, one of the world’s most well-know sailboat classes. There are a ridiculous number of them worldwide accumulating since they were born in… 1947!!! I most certainly did NOT know they went back that far. By the time the Sunfish turned 50, there were over 300,000 of them. They’re a competitive racing class with well attended world championships. I’ve sailed them once or twice, along with the similar Sailfish.
That shot was posted to promote the Sebago Canoe Club‘s spring regatta, which involves Sunnies and Lasers (which I’ve raced extensively). Sebago is in Jamaica Bay, a short ride away from our Sheepshead Bay location at Miramar Yacht Club. Like Miramar, Sebago is a cooperative and all members give service to the club to help run it and keep costs down.
So, the Sunnies will be out in force. How about us?
We’ve been sailing off Brighton Beach. That’s next to Manhattan Beach. But… it’s not in Manhattan. We don’t do Manhattan for sailing. Brighton is on Coney Island, facing south toward the Atlantic, and almost there. Directly across Rockaway Inlet is Breezy Point. If Montauk is “The End,” as the bumper stickers say, Breezy is the beginning. It’s the very start of continental Long Island, and where New York Bay meets the Atlantic.
Brighton was a bit cloudy and more than a bit foggy the last time we were out. It happens. There was enough wind to sail after being almost becalmed briefly. That’s super rare here. Remember… Breezy. The area has its own micro climate, with fair weather far more often than foul. Last season, we did five full learn to sail schedules there, spread out over the whole summer and early fall. We also did numerous private lessons. How many times did we cancel due to thunderstorms? Zero. Not so with our old digs at City Island. “It’s (almost) always sunny at Breezy and Brighton.”
How about Brighton, Utah? Still snowing!!! They just got some more, and have little more on the way. As of this writing, they’re still 100% open. Every. Single. Trail. And, all the glades. 65 big runs, at the little big mountain in Big Cottonwood Canyon.
Who cares? Anyone interested in both sailing and snowsports; anyone concerned about climate change. The Wild Winter that Was out West broke many records. We might not be glad that it did. Add in the drought we had on the East Coast this winter, and the spring tornados that have wrought havoc on the southeast, and who knows what to expect going forward.
Down around Breezy and Sheepshead Bay, for at least the foreseeable future, we can count on afternoon sea breezes most days, with virtually no risk of thunderstorms. It is known. We’ll take it, and take our chances with what happens when the next winter comes.
Our season for teaching people how to sail a boat, or get better at it, is underway.
Actually, it began on April 4, one of our earlier outings! We started off conservatively with a private lesson for an experienced student who has a new boat arriving soon. He’s been a regular private lesson client for awhile, and has come down to our new location in Sheepshead Bay a few times now despite plans to keep his boat on the Sound.
Due to the vagaries of spring weather, as exacerbated by global warming and climate change, we stopped our long standing tradition of kicking off learn to sail courses in mid April. Now, it’s early May, with an occasional advanced course starting earlier as well as private lessons.
Next up after that lesson: I brought our Carolina Skiff down from City Island. I ran it down the East River, which is not necessarily for the faint of heart, and then NY Harbor (even less so) before getting through the Verrazzano Narrows and on to Rockaway Inlet and Sheepshead Bay. I knew I needed to not only time the current properly, but also the weather. Our skiff is very open, so spray can be an issue. It’s also more flat bottomed than deep-vee’d, so it has serious limits to how much of a pounding it can take in chop. That said, it’s super stable and can handle rolling/yawing extremely well.
I settled on a Sunday with a forecast for very light north winds, switching to light from the southwest late in the day. If all went well, I’d have a gentle wind at my back on the way down and no worse than a gentle one from on one side toward the end of the trip. The slack current at Hell Gate was predicted for exactly noon, and I love the ‘high noon’ thing. I assumed a 10-knot average speed, and based on the distance, figured it would take 2.5 hours non stop. Of course, I’d stop for various reasons a number of times, including potentially for a fuel top-off, so guesstimated 4 hours dock to dock.
It was a milk run. Sunny most of the way to take the edge off the chill; flat calm due to light winds. There were occasional wakes, but I barely reacted to most of them and none were dramatic. I almost skipped the fuel stop, but heeded the advice of one our instructors who’s and ASA Instructor Evaluator, and super knowledgeable and experienced in that area. “You’re right there – how long a detour is it? 30 minutes? Just do it.” He was speaking from both experience and common sense. Most very experienced boaters have, at some point, had a fuel fiasco.
It was around 30 minutes. I also did numerous very short stops for grabbing a bite to eat, adding clothes, doing something on the phone, or taking pics. Total time dock to dock? 3:08. So, my 2.5 was damn close to exactly right. Score one up for the great navigator! Turns out… I didn’t need the extra fuel, but better to have to add stabilizer to that than wonder if a tow boat service could do a fuel drop half way between Hell Gate and Schitts Creek.
Next? A quick sail with two instructor candidates. Chilly and wet – but fun! See a sample in the clip above.
We did another private lesson for a City Islander soon afterward. She booked weeks in advance and didn’t realize we had moved to Sheepshead Bay! But, she decided to make the trek anyway. Her sister and she had taken lessons together previously, and wanted a better progression at a pace that suited them. They tried, we supplied, and they had nearly perfect conditions that helped that happen. They’ll be back.
We also got out two students who had different backgrounds, but were both in need of a similar lesson. I grouped them and also brought along a new instructor we’re ‘onboarding’ for his second orientation session. We got becalmed just as we entered the Inlet, but then the wind picked up enough to fight the current. Soon, we didn’t need to consider the current.
Full courses begin on May 6, and our first Sailing Vacay Course of the year ends the day before down in the Virgin Islands (BVI). In the meantime, we’ll continue with privates as the weather allows. Spring weather up here is too volatile to plan on multi-day beginner courses for people with busy schedules. Some schools do it anyway and graduate people who haven’t learned to sail. We’ve paid attention to the weather trends and decided to start a little later, so students who Start SailingSM with us can get it done the first time.
Using your phone to take pics and clips while learning how to sail, or sliding down a mountain? Don’t do it without a leash.
Instagram is a boon and a bane. And, it’s incessant. It’s like the Terminator. It doesn’t stop; it doesn’t reason; it doesn’t care. It just does. Insta? It’s newer digital tech, but it uses an old school ad trick. It makes sure you see the ad enough times to have a chance that you’ll take the bait.
I took it. Despite being leery of Insta ads, this one looked good and I needed something like it. I needed a leash for my iPhone for snowboarding, and potentially for on-water this sailing season. The closest thing I had in the past was a bulky foam protective wrap that went around the phone’s case, and would both cushion and float it. It came with both neck and wrist lanyards. I took the phone on chairlifts; I took it snorkeling (waterproof case). That was the Lifeproof case and Lifejacket accessory. But, their quality control eroded and I lost a phone to water intrusion, so was done with that.
Anywho, fast forward to early/mid winter. I was seeing ads like the one above for the Hangtime Koala. It’s a one-piece silicone leash and holster. It straps around the corners of various phone models and interferes little to not at all with functions. It attaches to ones clothing with a choice of carabiner or spring clip. I removed the clip and tried the carabiner, which isn’t perfect (I popped it off a few times but didn’t lose my phone). Upgrade the carabiner, add an extension to the short leash, and I should be good to go.
It works! Like everything, nothing’s perfect, but it’s a solid product. I’ve taken clips on the hill, and also while doing runs. I fell; I tumbled. The phone stayed with me (possibly because I had a death grip on it; can’t remember if I dropped it during any of my falls).
The last time I used it was around 2 weeks ago at Stratton Mountain in Vermont. It was a true powder day; I’d driven up the previous afternoon to avoid driving as the snow fell that evening and through the next day. That was a good move – few people got to the mountain the next day due to the storm, so the overnight snow held up well and we were all treated to free refills all day. And, it kept snowing into the evening and next morning! Stratton reported a total of 41.” No one got to ride or ski 41″ of course as people started getting at it the first morning, but it was already 2+ feet by then and building. That’s almost as good as it gets for a Northeast powder day. (I had a better one once, with 2.5-3 feet overnight, and also at Stratton. Killington does get more snow, and better quality on average, but Stratton seems to get the bigger dumps albeit rarely.)
I posted that run in the previous Rant, but here’s one newly posted from a Utah trip two weeks beforehand using the Koala. Click pic to play…
During a break in the mid mountain lodge, a guy approached me and asked what I was using to hold onto the phone. It was still attached to the Koala. I told and showed him. He said he owned the patent for it, and that the guy from Hangtime was knowingly violating it. His company? Smart Catch. Similar product; less expensive; patents shown on the web site. (And, yes – there are other similar products out there including one aimed at those who go fishing.)
His wife apparently came up with the idea while on a chairlift, and the idea became a reality. This fellow (very nice; didn’t get his name) actually said that the Hangtime product was very good – but also that it was a patent infringement. I felt bad, but what did I know. Hangtime’s Koala has “patent pending” printed on it. I reached out through their Insta ads but didn’t hear back. The Smart Catch products are sold directly on their site, and also on Amazon.
Anyway, I was an unsuspecting purchaser in good faith, and the guy who might have the intellectual property rights signed off on the quality of his competitor. I’m keeping it unless I find something significantly better, and who knows? I might very well try the Smart Catch for the lower price and out of pro curiosity.
For a few years in a row, we had at least one client each season lose a phone overboard. I cringe every time someone is about to step from dock to boat, or boat to boat, holding an unsecured phone in their hand. I warn them against it if I can do so without risking them dropping it right at the edge as they try to pocket it. I’ll be updating our “What to bring and wear” list that we send to everyone before their course, which we do seasonally. I’ll be adding a phone leash to this (and that we’ll laugh like Cartman if they lose their phone stepping off the boat with it formerly in hand).
Climate change is affecting weather everywhere, but when we learn how to sail or cruise, new apps give old (and new) dogs kewl tricks
It’s all about the weather… whether we’re skiing, riding, or sailing. And while the weather is more volatile, the apps to check it are more robust.
I was getting a bit of a rep for forecasting on City Island. I’m no meteorologist. My experience, history and insight (if any) range from “red sky at night; sailor’s delight” stuff from back in the day to “which app is that?” Patterns have changed, and technology has taken strides. Anyway, I’m on the water a lot so there’s that.
With everyones smart phones come apps. However, what’s included stock is sketchy. We all have some kind of basic weather app. But, how does it work? What’s it good for? Do we trust it for snowsports in the winter, sailing in the summer, or neither?
The answer is probably a little of both, and not neither. But, those basic apps need to be used judiciously, and paired with something more robust and specific to the sport at hand.
First, a story…
As you probably know, I’m a snowboarder. I got tired of not getting fresh pow, even when traveling out west to do so. I used to think that out west, they didn’t get ice, and a ‘bad’ day there was like a packed powder/hardpack day on the Ice Coast (northeast). Not soooo… EVERYONE gets ice! Everywhere. It’s just a matter of how often. I learned the hard way: we booked a trip to Solitude (& Brighton) in Utah and not only got skunked (no fresh while there), but ICE. Crappy conditions. It hadn’t snowed in over a month!!!! I call it the Great Drought of ’22, and it affected much of the west in between great starts and finishes to the season.
Short-term forecasting doesn’t help when you have to plan a trip months in advance. I’d done the right thing; I picked a place that’s hard to get a drought, and which gets a ton of snow each season (annual average of around 500,” as opposed to 175-250 in Southern Vermont). Plus, a ‘minus:’ subtract rain (and add that the snow is light and dry). While it didn’t work out on that trip, at least it didn’t rain. Plus, the trip was still very enjoyable. Just no fresh snow. Historically speaking, it was a not a gamble but a good idea.
Next trip? We still had to plan in advance, and decided that variety plus consistency were good ideas. ‘Variety’ was a totally different area with unusual terrain, scenery, etc: Revelstoke, B.C. Also, it’s known for good annual snowfall averages of good quality, and consistent smaller amounts of fresh snow (“free refills”). It delivered – sort of. Compared to their previous season, they were about 2 metres below when we arrived, and there hadn’t been much recent snow. Bottom of the mountain was icy. Top was zero ice and some soft powder to be found, but no bonanza. Fine; it was still a good trip and half way through, we got some fresh that fixed the lower mountain. Lesson: a little fresh goes a long way at Revelstoke!
By then, I was looking around for better apps for the mountains. I had a new strategy in mind, and needed new last minute tactics. Strategy? “The Formula.” Basically, identify two, maybe 3 mountains or areas where the following conditions had a chance to all align at the same time…
Lots of fresh snow in the forecast (on top of good recent snowfall and no drought);
Good flight itineraries with low risk of weather delays;
Cheap, practical lodging
Safe, reliable and affordable transit to the mountain.
Lodging and transit could be figured well in advance. Snowfall was mid and short term dependent on weather. Same for flights. But, how to forecast the upcoming snow reliably? I had to do better than try to extrapolate from weather dot com (which I do use for some boating), and NOAA forecasts, neither of which are comprehensive enough at the local mountain scale.
I searched around and found two candidate apps to use and cross reference. If they were reasonably in agreement, and the trend looked good, I could pull the trigger.
They were; I did.
It worked. Third time’s the charm! I got 3 powder days in the Wasatch Mountains of Utah (Brighton and Snowbird). Conditions were anywhere from excellent to epic (heli-quality), with the exception of later in the day on one of the faces of Snowbird where it had been heavily trafficked and skied off with horrible visibility due to fog. Almost a problem! But, I took another route out through chopped up pow, another lift to top, and the tram back down to the base.
Open Snow, primarily. It’s a paid app with a 2-week trial period. For $29/year, you get detailed conditions report, regional forecast narratives, and super detailed forecasts for snow, wind, temps, etc at just about any ski hill you’d care to go to. Turns out the guy I met on the UTA ski bus, who had the same “Formula” as I, had been using Open Snow for some time.
Cross reference? On The Snow. Not as robust, but serves the double-check purpose. I also follow Powder Chasers, although there’s no app involved but the option of a paid concierge service (that could be well worth it in the context of the cost of an actual trip).
“What if I don’t ride or ski? What about on-water weather?”
First, let’s talk about some forecasting basics -what you’re looking for in evaluating weather for boating. Once you know that you can narrow down the app choices.
Marine forecast. It’s at least somewhat different from the standard weather forecast most people use on a day-to-day basis (including me). Marine forecasts focus on wind direction & strength, sea state (waves), and risk of precipitation – particularly thunderstorms. That’s what you really need. If you do nothing else, consult the NOAA / NWS Marine Forecast for the general area you’ll be boating, and also keep checking a radar app if there’s any risk of thunderstorms.
Radar. The greatest risk for most people boating inshore and along the coast is thunderstorms. In the northeast, for example, most people do most of their boating in the warmer months, which incurs risk of thunderstorms (especially mid afternoon and later). So, using some app to track potential approaching storms is critical. In the old days, we relied on the morning’s published forecast and our trained eye on the sky. Eventually, Marine VHF radio helped, but when it did, it was almost too last-minute. Radar can see what you can’t, and when real-time stuff changes, so does the radar imagery. It’s not perfect- it can’t always keep pace with small pop-up squalls at water’s edge, but large, seriously bad-ass systems don’t get missed.
History and trend. Don’t just open your iPhone, look at the included weather app, and see what the current temperature is. Look at what happened for at least a few hours prior, and what will happen into that evening/midnight. This applies to temperature, wind direction & strength, and if the area is exposed, the wave heights. Also, look at the forecast and the actual radar imagery for risk of precip and especially thunderstorms. If the forecast for later doesnt’ make sense in the context of the recent history/trend up to ‘now,’ the forecast could be stale or just plain wrong.
Of course, there are many apps and sites to choose from. Personally, I have mostly used weather dot com, searching for stations that most closely reflect the area I plan on boating. Example: I cross reference Brooklyn and Long Beach when evaluating conditions for classes out of Sheepshead Bay. (See top photo in post for an example.) The reality is somewhere in between, but favoring Long Beach which is close and also most similarly situated: an Atlantic Ocean inlet. Weather dot com gives hourly breakdowns and, for the very short term, 15′ breakdowns. To get the full suite of features and skip adds, it costs around $30/year. Annoyingly, it logs one out too frequently so choose an easy, short password.
I also cross reference that with the NOAA NWS Marine forecast for the area. No app here – just find the right web site starting point, bookmark it, and return often. Important: to get the history/trend, one must go to the NDBC page (National Data Buoy Center). This is a list of stations on and off the water that give frequently updated live data feeds for wind direction, strength gusts, wave heights, etc, etc. This, plus the forecast for the area (linkable from the NDBC pages) gives a good overall picture. The history of the live feed remains up, revealing the trend up until the user checks it.
What else is popular?
Windy. This was recommended during our Croatia trip at the skippers meeting to go over weather for the week, itineraries, etc, etc. The First Mate of record for our trip, Dave, and I both downloaded it immediately. Personally, I find it counterintuitive and annoying, and seldom use it. Having said that, many if not most people disagree with me and it’s certainly a robust app. Plus, it’s supposed to be good for snowsports!
And… there are two. Yup; two Windy apps. A good friend and client of the school, who’s a United pilot by profession, uses Windy.com as opposed to Windy.app. the dot com is an app for mobile as well. (I have on rare occasions used the other one, so now I’ll play around with the one the Pilot uses.)
How about a Radar app? For the Northeast, I use not an app, but a bookmarked site few people know about. My dentist, who’s a sailor, turned me onto it. It’s called CT Precip, and more commonly just called PLUFF. (pluff dot com) A University, in conjunction with Accuweather, arranged a feed of images for the northeast and much of the continent, plus other evaluative feeds that I don’t understand and probably don’t need. The first two screens take care of all my local and regional needs. When I travel out of the range, and need radar, I figure that out in the moment.
VHF Marine Radio. Apps aside, one should understand how to get weather updates that are broadcast on VHF radio, including ‘push’ severe weather alerts where available. If your smart phone dies or falls overboard, VHF could save the day proverbially – or literally.
On the water, the stories aren’t the same. We either get the green light to go, or we don’t. It’s not the same as a serious powder day at a mountain. But, it lets us go out when the sky looks doom n gloom, but nothing shows on the radar or in the forecast. And, more importantly, it lets us know when conditions favor the development of thunderstorms, or they’re strongly predicted – and lets us see them beyond the horizon when the weather looks just fine. For now…
And, now that you have more of an idea what to look for, start comparing history/trend with both forecasts and what actually happened for the local area you do most of your boating in. That will teach you how to forecast based on trends, and not totally rely on the apps. It will also show how reliable your choice of forecasting app is. And, it will make you a safer and more confident boater.
UPDATE: storm chasing with the app worked again… this time for Southern Vermont. This was a week ago. For the second time, I hit Stratton when it was likely to get the most snow in the region during a big storm. It did, and so did I. Car was socked in so deep I couldn’t see anything but the side view mirror. But, I was at the mountain snowboarding when most people couldn’t get there. It dumped overnight, and kept nuking as the day – and night – went. Free refills. And, it was Open Snow that made it a go, letting me see that I could safely drive up on Monday and get there before driving was not a good idea. 2-3 feet. Enough left over the next two days to keep hitting pow on side hits and in the trees, plus two incredible runs at Magic Mountain on Wednesday when they opened just because of the storm. Maybe they looked at Open Snow…
If you made it this far, here are links two a couple of Insta clips I posted. Come take part of a run with me down Brighton and Stratton Mountains from those recent trips! In the Brighton clip, I’m shooting Jack drop before I follow. It’s me, myself and I at Stratton.
Brighton: dropping into the double diamond bowl off the top of Great Western…
Whether learning how to sail a boat, advancing your ski skills, or flying a kite from a board, it’s seldom too late to learn a new trick.
Bucket list: heli skiiing. In my case, snowboarding. It was on the mental list of things I really wanted to do but wasn’t sure about the cost or logistics.
It can be done for just a day, and less expensively than I’d imagined. So, when our trip to Revelstoke, B.C. was fast approaching, and snowfall had been somewhat subpar for awhile, I figured the best way to guarantee pow was to fly to it. And, if there were enough on the resort, maybe I could try my first cliff drop.
So, I booked a private lesson for Sunday, and a heli day two days later so I could rest up in case I needed it. Yup – I needed it. Both: lesson and rest.
I’m pretty experienced, and get out more than most people I know. I was a certified instructor, too. (Lapses if you don’t keep paying dues and doing the occasional continuing education course. Re-ups as soon as some back dues and course are done.) When you’re an instructor, you get paid to TAKE lessons. Not much, but it’s better than paying a LOT to take them. Plus, in a group clinic with other instructors, you are with peers and, in my case, superiors. It pushes one to pick it up and ride with it.
I didn’t take the lesson to work on general skills or techniques. I wanted to have a shot at doing a cliff drop. I had no idea where to go on the mountain to do it, nor where it was reasonable and safe based on conditions. I booked a Level III snowboard instructor who was also Level IV alpine ski. Plus, he knew the mountain intimately. This was my guy! Mike M.
First thing we did was work on the popping off small natural terrain hits and drops in the trees. Fun; hard; scary in some spots. Mike knew where to find exactly the kinds of terrain that would imitate cliff drops, enabling me to work on the physical skills and let him assess my progress. He also took me through the small terrain park a few times to hit certain ramps without doing the features, as they’re very structured for the purpose.
My progress? Didn’t do no cliffs. So, apparently not so good. But, I did get time in and repetition on similar terrain. One piece had a basically vertical drop, but a perfect runout. I got my head around it due to Mike’s explanations, and also the fact that I’m happy in a half pipe. I did that one just fine, which gave me hope.
Almost more importantly, when we were heading back down through the lower mountain and had some icy groomers to contend with, Mike picked up on something that wasn’t quite right with my edge angles and balance that was costing me heel edge hold. One suggestion and the problem was solved. No, I wasn’t carving heelside on ice on demand, but as close as one could expect. The general idea and specific fix both carry over into riding in general, so that’s a lifelong benefit from a 2 hour cliff lesson with no cliffs!
And, later in the week, I stumbled upon some small cliff drops and did them. One time was perfect. Exactly what Mike had worked on with me. Another time? Lame, but I didn’t get hurt. I found this stuff in the middle of the mountain, in the last place I would have guessed. I know where to go back to warm up for a proper ridge drop into a bowl. When I’m ready…
And, so on to heli! I booked with Selkirk Tangiers Heli. In Revelstoke, there are almost more storefront heli ops than there are coffee shops – and they like coffee. Three of the major players are here plus others: CMH, Eagle Pass, and Selkirk Tangiers. I went with Selkirk as they’re owned by Revelstoke Mountain Resort, have been around for 40 years, and have the largest tenure (exclusive territory) in the area. Solid operation; I’ll be back.
No cliffs for us here – just open alpine and trees. But, those trees were a train wreck half way through and most, if not all, of the 9 person group had trouble with that section. It was so bad I gave up riding out of it and started hiking after radioing the lead guide that I was safe and hoofing it. After a few too many times sinking one leg hip deep, I resorted to laying half on/off the board and doing some combination of kick boarding, surfing paddling, and army crawling which led the tail guide to get me back up using her ski poles. That worked, and gave me enough rest to finish riding out on my own at the end. Whew!
More to the point of the post, my tree-buddies for this section. Once we were about to hit the trees, we stopped and the guides explained how we were to ride and ski them: in pairs or threes. We were to call out regularly so if we DIDN’T hear our buddies, we knew to stop and figure out what was going on. I buddied up with two guys who came together who I’d befriended already. They were also snowboarders (as were all but three in our group despite having two ski guides).
And, here’s the fun part. They are both kiteboarders. No, I’m not, but I’m a boardsailor (windsurfer). And, that’s not even the best part.
They each own their own kiteboarding/surfing school in Aruba! They’re competitors – but friends, who go off on snowboarding trips together each winter. How kewl is that!? Plus, they sail. Armando has a lot of time on Hobie cats and we were comparing notes (I have a tiny bit of time on those and a funny story or two.)
Armando and Lysander. Both rocking Jones Mind Expander snowboards they rented from the heli outfit (included in package price). I rode my own Sims Solo, a sick powder board that’s also surprisingly good on groomers and can handle tight trees.
We got those two runs in. I was late to lunch but didn’t matter. As we wrapped up, the pilot radiod Makunda to advise that due to poor visibility, the only run we could do next was the same damn one. He announced this to us, saying we could try to stay more to the right and avoid the worst of the bottom half. I said, “If that’s all we can do, I’m bailing out.”
Armando: “I’m bailing too.”
Lysander: “If he’s out, so am I.”
So, I’d started a mini revolt. The whole group had trouble, and not just the snowboarders. At least one skier wound up on his back, head downhill, and had to be helped up and out of his landing by the tail guide. Evian was basically a goddess that day, cleaning up the mess as we all tumbled our way through the variable pitch, irregularly spaced, can’t see around the corner and don’t want to race-track the lead guide’s path like the Baker Banked Slalom terrain. I fell a little too often and got a little too tired. Conditioning is very important for this. While I didn’t expect tight trees and cross-country sections, we got them. I had planned on being in shape, and I’d been trying. But a knee injury had been talking loudly to me, and I’d backed off the intensive stuff and started PT for awhile leading up to the trip. It helped the knee, but cost me the conditioning.
We sat it out. They flew us to another staging area and we eventually spoke with the head guide for the day so he knew where we were at, got feedback, assessed damage control, and made a plan.
The rest of the group opted to do that run again. A good snowboarder in that group reported back: “it was cross country skiing all over again.” Translation: sucked.
Again, if I were a better rider, and in better shape, I would have managed it. Even at my current level, if I were in much better shape I could have done it better the second time as I knew what to expect. I wouldn’t have relished it. But, the first section of that tree run was actually spectacular, and what one signs on for with heli: great powder, good tree spacing, steep enough to move, and beautiful.
After that 3rd run, visibility hadn’t improved despite a brief tease of extra sun. (It was a powder day, so mixed blessing of extra snow and reduced vis.) They called it and brought us all back early.
And, to their credit, and probably due to my bailing and complaining rightly or wrongly that they shouldn’t have taken us on that run in the first place (and certainly not again), they refunded everyone’s money for not just the missed 4th run, but also the 3rd that most of us took. That was excellent management of the situation. I bought some merch. The Arubans? Tried to apply the refund to a 2-day heli trip later in the week! And, they got the trip. Great time; 4 runs each day and tiring.
So, back to sailing… or kiteboarding! I’ve been interested in this for awhile. We keep seeing it on our Virgin Islands trips. On one trip, a younger client and I came damn close to booking our first lessons at Bitter End Yacht Club on Virgin Gorda. We had the time. It was just too damned expensive; not a fair deal in our opinions. Then, the back to back hurricanes that fall which ended it. They destroyed much of the Virgin Island, and obliterated the areas around Bitter End. A lot of it’s been built back, but a fair amount didn’t survive or rebuild. Hundreds of charter yachts were destroyed, and the repercussions of that were many, including consistently and vastly higher trip charter fees going forward.
Anywho, there’s plenty of kiteboarding around the Caribbean basin, and in the Virgin Islands (including our favorite Island, Anegada).
And, there’s regular kiteboarding right next to the Sailing Center in Brooklyn! Plumb Beach, part of the Gateway National Recreation Area, is almost adjacent to Sheepshead Bay and a few minutes sail away. There’s wind here, so there’s boardsailing and kiteboarding. We see it all the time. I won’t try it here for the fist time, however. I’ve got a standing invitation to Aruba, and I’ll learn from my tree buddies. As soon as I can squeeze it in without interrupting powder chasing!
Want more info about learning to sail, cruise or navigate with us? Start here…
Want more about kiteboarding and surfing in Aruba? Check these guys out… Armando’s school and Lysander’s school in that order:
No, not the yacht ensign flag – the little yacht called an Ensign, on which we teach people how to sail a boat properly in Brooklyn, NYC.
ASA recently rolled out an on-line study course for learning to sail. It’s intended to help people get ready for on-water lessons by previewing the concepts and terminology. Schools pay a monthly fee to have access for their students; students pay whatever, if anything, schools charge them. Or, anyone can just purchase and peruse (see link at bottom of post).
Maybe it cuts down classroom time and reduces hours/costs for schools. Maybe it lets those whose learning preference is to read up and study in advance do so. Maybe it competes with other online educational materials such as ASA’s arch rival, NauticEd. Any which way you slice it, it’s here.
And, when they did their e-blasts about it, they chose a photo of an Ensign. Why do we care? Because that’s what we teach on for learn to sail (ASA 101)! We didn’t in the past – it’s a new thing for us, although some schools have been using them for a long time. We tried them last season at our Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn branch and decided they were at least as good, and maybe slightly better, than what we’d been using since 1997 – the Beneteau First 21.0.
What’s odd is that ASA used an Ensign in this promo campaign. They actually endorse the Beneteau First 21.0. They have no relationship with the Ensign beyond the photo you see above. Sure, it’s a great shot, and ASA undoubtedly is aware of the history and pedigree of the design. But, they really got a hard on for the Beneteau when they did a collab with them- the world’s oldest and largest sailboat manufacturer. ASA thought the industry needed a new, sexier boat, and the “ASA First Trainer” as it was first named was born.
Beneteau took their First 20 (same damn boat as 21) and made a version with a longer cockpit and smaller cabin. That’s it. Same hull; same rig; same keel and rudders. True, the longer cockpit was an advantage for daysailing and teaching, but only because most sailing schools put 4 students into a boat for learn to sail. 4 plus an instructor = one too many people on average to get around when doing maneuvers. ASA has featured the First Trainer (now “22” and same damn length) in other promo stuff so it’s funny that they show an Ensign here.
But, they do!
So, why the Ensign?
Well, when we started doing a ‘sea trial’ of a satellite branch in Sheepshead Bay, we felt it was a good idea to use what was already down there to get started. Both the Miramar Yacht Club, and the boats they had (Ensigns), had reputations that preceded them. Very good ones. We were only going to try a narrow scope: teach learn to sail a few times and see how it all went. I was quite confident it would work well, based on the boat, the location, the facilities, and the weather. All of it met or exceeded my expectations. As this is about the boat, I’ll focus on the Ensign here:
STABLE. It has a full keel, meaning it’s large and heavy. (The ‘keel’ is the fin underneath the boat that stops it from flipping over and also helps it track straight and pivot evenly during turns.)
MANEUVERABLE. Surprisingly so for a full-keel design, with arguably an inefficient rudder design. In a crowded mooring field (Sheepshead Bay owns that description), the Ensign can maneuver handily through it all, which means it can handle anything.
FAST. Surprisingly fast in light winds with its large genoa jib, and with mass that keeps it moving through lulls to the next puff. When the wind picks up, switch to a basic working jib and eventually reef (shorten) the main. The Ensign can handle more wind than most people who sail them can – and it hauls ASS!
ROOMY. Super long bench seats with high backrests allow the boat to swallow up passengers, so 3 students plus and instructor can get around each other easily. (No, not 4; remember, “we give you more!”).
SAFE. Despite not having lifelines, which we were a little concerned about beforehand, the boat is super safe. As it’s very stable, it simply doesn’t heel as far over, nor as quickly. That, plus high backed benches, mean people aren’t at significant risk of falling overboard.* No need to leave the cockpit and go forward except to pick up the mooring – when we’re back inside super protected Sheepshead Bay, and the boat is level as it makes its approach. (*Lifelines can help in that regard, but people can still fall overboard despite them.)
I used to personally have a penchant for light, racy boat designs. Over time, I developed more of an appreciation than I’d had for some classic, more traditional boat designs. And now, we teach people how to sail on one.
And, for anyone interested in doing a little on-line learning before they come to us to do it for real on an actual boat, here’s the link to ASA’s online prep course!..
Boat names are often painful, but sometimes inspired. When our students learn how to sail or cruise a boat, they’re often torn between smiling and grimacing at what they see out there.
(Ed. note: be sure to at least view, if not read, to the end… but for the best experience, do it all in order.) So… what’s up with those boat names? Most people who’ve owned a boat have either named it or at least considered re-naming it (despite the superstition involved). If you’ve never owned a boat, you’ve still probably given at least casual though to naming one.
BoatUS compiles an annual list of the most common boat names. That lets one either choose something they theoretically can’t go wrong with, or avoid something overdone to death. Here’s the top 10 for 2022:
Knot on Call
I’ll note that Andiamo was also number 1 for 2021, and has made the top-ten list in half of the last dozen years. Of course, we know an Andiamo or three. One of them is an S2 8.6 that still lives at City Island and used to summer and winter with us when we had a small marina. Zephyr? We had one in the fleet, albeit briefly.
Graduates of our school, and Sailing Club members, finally got their own boat and kept it with us for one season in exchange for limited use by the school. Yup; that’s a thing we do in case you’re interested. Their circumstances changed, and so did the home for the boat. So it Goes, anyone? Also up there in popularity, but missing this year’s list? Aquaholic.
Best and worst names at the Sailing Center itself? Kilroy Was Here, complete with the face doodle as shown in the top pic, and, shown here, Second Wind (ouchie FAUCI!). We chose Kilroy and tolerated the Second without bothering to change it. At least the graphic was well done, and most students seeing it hadn’t seen countless others before. Not yet, anyway. One of our graduates got his first boat during the pandemic. Catalina 32. Very nice. “Second Wind.”
Decades ago, I started frostbite dinghy racing on a Dyer Dhow out of MFA (Mamaroneck Frostbiting Association). Temperature puns were common. My dad and I came up with what I thought were the two best Dyer names ever… Dyer Straits (me, sail #228), and Apocalypse Dhow (Dad, sail #501). Yup; boats have been gone forever but I still remember the sail numbers. “228; we have your finish.” That means you lost a long time ago; get your ass back to the line for the next start ASAP. “501; over early as usual!” Dad was overly partial to dip starts, but he certainly had the courage of his convictions, as they say.
But, this post wasn’t inspired by what we own or chose. It was about what we see out on the water, or in boatyards and marinas. So, we’ll occasionally post a good pic here in the Rants, as well as on Instagram and maybe FB. To kick things off, we’ll do one sailboat name of the punny variety, and a powerboat name of the hobo-ghetto, oh-no-you-did NOT-just-go-there-variety.
So, here’s a pretty good punny name well hung on the transom…
And, I’m closing this out with the worst name I’ve ever seen. No others going forward are even slightly likely to overtake this one, and I wouldn’t want to overtake this boat…
The internet giant sent some people to learn how to sail and do a photo shoot of it.
Over the years, we’ve attracted a lot of publicity from the media. Not sure how or why, but they show up. TV, Cable, magazines, papers… we’ve gotten quite an assortment. Sometimes it’s a feature and we’re the talent. Sometimes, we’re more behind the scenes facilitating them getting their shots.
The one that “got away?” We barely missed a shot providing a boat and logistics for a shoot with the famed portrait fotog Annie Liebowitz. That hurt. But at least they came to us. Others?..
Discovery Home Channel
CW 11 (WPIX)
Transit Transit News
NY 1 News
Fox 5 News
Fine Living Network
New York Magazine
…and so on, and so on… And, by the way, some of the better ones are on our YouTube Channel. All posts and pages have our social media links.
Anywho, it was pleasant if not a real surprise that we got an email from GoDaddy looking to do something. They proposed to send a staff (pro) photographer along with two producers to feature New York Sailing Center, and do so by getting out on the water if at all possible. It’s rarely NOT possible, especially if the group is flexible.
The weather that day was windy and gusty. But, it was still within a reasonable range, and the folks were all athletic and outdoorsy. So, I started off with shoreside shots of me giving an actual lesson using our model sloop (boat), just as we would for any first session when people are learning how to sail.
The goal? Get the shots. The secondary goal? Teach them enough about sailing in a few hours that they felt like they understood how it worked and could do it at a very basic level. That meant this:
Understanding how sails harness wind to create power to make the boat go;
Understanding where one can aim a sailboat in relation to the wind;
How to steer the boat;
How to start and stop;
How to keep the boat moving at any angle it can sail on by adjusting the sails;
Believing the boat won’t flip over when the wind picks up!
It was a success. The team got the goods, and got the boat going. They asked questions that demonstrated they were thinking about it, and basically understanding it. For a Day 1 on the water, that’s enough. Of course, the goal is to come back and do more. In our full 3-day course (one of thew few that actually exist in the region if not much of the nation), students have time. They can get comfortable and competent as they reinforce the basics and add more skills and technique.
What about a “3-hour tour?” Well, that depends: on the weather, the inherent aptitude of the students/s, and how it all comes together with an instructor. Even the boat plays a part. There are several excellent boats to use for teaching sailing, and a number of good ones. They’re all as different as they are similar, and the difference – and devil – is in the details.
Averaged out over a few days, things tend to just average out. But, over a few short hours, the weather might favor one design of boat more than another. That can make progression slower on the “wrong” boat (meaning not optimal for the current conditions, even if perfectly safe and useable for the purpose).
The challenge for an instructor is dealing with the hand they’re dealt on that day. Light & variable winds, or strong & gusty, can complicate teaching for a first sailing session. It’s not just the boat, but the students themselves, that can make it a teaching challenge. A good instructor adapts to both the students and the sailboat.
On this day, we had a boat that could certainly go out in more wind than we had. But, for a first lesson, we were already a little above the ‘ideal’ threshold for that boat. (By the way, there’s a great little boat called an Ideal 18, which we really wouldn’t want to be out in on that day – but great for more experienced sailors in club racing.) We were aboard one of our Beneteau First 21.0 sloops which are light, responsive, and reactive. All great for getting a true feel for sailing, and also developing innate physical sailing skills.
But, on this day, we’d have preferred to be aboard one of the Ensign sloops we use down in Sheepshead Bay. Why? Heavier, less reactive, and more predictable. On a windy, gusty day, it’s quicker and easier for beginning students to understand how sailing works if they’re getting surprised less by the boat.
But, both great teaching boats; both could do the job that day.
The little Beneteau did its job. I did mine. The GoDaddy team got to do theirs. And, they want to come back and do more sailing!
Did you learn how to sail on an Olympic class sailboat? Probably not, but untold thousands did!
While searching for some sailing stats (Ted Turner’s best result in the Flying Dutchman class), I came across some kewl graphics on Wikipidia of the boats raced in certain Olympiads. I’m sure there are others, but I stopped at three.
Who in the group has sailed an Olympic class boat (or board)? It’s something. Not all excellent boats make it to the Olympics… but all Olympic boats are arguably excellent. And, some of them are versatile. The Soling? One of the most heavily used designs for adult sailing instruction in the US in the past (and still in use today). My dad’s sailing school (New York Sailing School, now out of business), taught untold numbers of adults how to sail on them. Laser? Found all over the world for beach resort rentals, junior training, and all levels of racing.
The first graphic shows the 1964 lineup. Why ’64? Year I was born, and also the Olympiad I thought Turner either sailed in or campaigned for through the trials. (Still can’t verify if he was in the trials or on the Team; found conflicting info on whether he ever won the Worlds in that class.) Turner was one of the most prolific and accomplished sailors ever to race. Inshore? Flying Dutchman and 5.5 Meter chops (world level if not actual world champ, and he might have won a 5.5 Meter Worlds. Americas Cup? Won that. Offshore? How about he won the Fastnet in 1979, when 15 people died and many boats had to be rescued or at least didn’t finish?
Next one: 1984. Why? There was a graphic for it, and it was the year Paul Elvström just missed bronze in the Tornado Catamaran. Why would one care? Because he was 53 at the time, and his teenaged daughter was crew! Elvström, lest I let anyone forget, won multiple Olympic gold medals in the Finn and was European or World Champion (or close) in a number of other classes. Elvström, a Dutchman, was competitive in the FD. 1984 was also the first Olympiad with female sailors. Only two, but at least it finally started.
Finally… 2012. The venerable Star Class saw its last outing. At the Olympics, anyway. It’s still a super relevant and competitive class, as evidenced by the Star Sailors League invitational regatta featuring champions from many classes and always a tight tourney. Past Champions at the World and Olympic level include Lowell North, Dennis Conner, Robert Scheidt, and many other notable names. The 2012 Games were the last to have keelboat classes race.
Which Olympic classes have I sailed? I have a lot of time in Lasers and Solings, and an outing or three in Stars, with racing from the most local of club levels to regional regattas such as the East Coasts. I haven’t sailed any of them in awhile. I miss the Laser the most. It’s the simplest to get back into, so who knows. (For racing purposes, due to boring legal stuff, it’s referred to as the ILCA Dinghy, and the familiar laser logo is gone.) Most people ought to spend at least a little time in a Laser. To paraphrase that line from Risky Business, “there is no substitute.”
Our Director, and most prolific instructor, scored 3.92 out of 4 so far in 2022! THIS is how we teach people how to sail in Brooklyn and City Island.
Year to date, 2022: Captain Stephen Glenn Card, our Director, “Dockmaster” and author of our Blog Rants, has a near-perfect record thus far. Unless there’s a seriously negative ballot-box drop in the next few week, which basically can’t happen, that’s that with that.
And, we’re not talking about an average of 1 or 2 reviews. 20 were submitted, which is a meaningful amount statistically (and particularly in our industry.)
How does this work? ASA sends a confidential email survey to all students who have course certifications processed. Some students respond, and answer key question about how their course went. Their responses are strictly confidential: schools and instructors never know who said what about the where now. Instructors can only see how many reviews were done, and when, plus a breakdown of scoring for each question (not each student).
And, ASA issues Instructor of the Year awards based on these. Assuming an instructor gets a minimum number of responses (ASA doesn’t’ disclose what that is), they’re in the running based on their cumulative score for the calendar year.
Will 3.91 be enough to win one for our Dockmaster? Doubt it; he’s always scored quite highly and hasn’t won one yet. So, the margins at the upper end are tight. But, that’s splitting hairs. It’s like when the final race in a regatta comes down to a few top sailors, and they all finish within a few places of each other in the final race in a large fleet. Someone gets the win, even if there’s really no difference in their overall performance. But, Steve hasn’t won. (Yet?)
What does this mean to students looking for a school to learn how to sail, or take their sailing up to the next level? As the owner, and most prolific instructor of late, top scores translate into a top-tier program. Our Director sets the pedagogy of the school, plans the places and the props, and keeps adapting the program based on results and feedback. And, the weather! As that’s been changing, schools must adapt or decline.
“My dad started a sailing school back in 1968. He sold it in the late 80’s. Eleven years later, I started a new school. I modeled it after his program. Yes, I changed and tweaked, but cautiously and creeping, not with reckless abandon.
The new and subsequent owners of the school dad sold? They took something that wasn’t broken and tried to fix it. It took awhile, but the more they messed with it, the worse it got. They ran it into the ground. Ultimately, they just abandoned the boats. Sad.”
Captain Stephen Glenn Card
… who shall remain in first person mode for the remainder of the Rant. I guess at that point, it wasn’t fun for them anymore. True, it was a business. But if this type of business isn’t fun, you’re not doing it right. To quote one of the most highly respected snowboard instructors at Okemo Mountain resort when I was part-timing there…
“You’re going to be safe, and you’re going to have fun. And, maybe you’ll learn something!”
spoken at the start of a beginner group lesson
I’m afraid I don’t remember his name – only his face. I’m bad that way. Not so hard with groups of only 3 people max for our learn-to-sail courses (and 4 for cruising). But, when teaching up to 8 students in a group snowboard lesson, with faces often covered, and no name tags, names get lost. Yes; I taught snowboarding part time for 3 winters. It was mostly to prove I could teach better than I’d been taught (only 2 years before). It was also for instructional cross-training, getting good as fast as possible, and a free pass to a quality mountain. I didn’t do it for the money; it’s safe to say I lost money on this deal.
In my first lesson, I felt vindicated on the teaching part. From day one, supervisors were watching me intently, clearly wondering what I was doing and why. But, they just watched. My students didn’t fall (certainly not a lot, and some never fell). And, the feedback I was getting from veteran instructors who inherited my students for their next level, and later my supervisors, was super positive.
Did I figure out a new model for how to teach snowboarding? No. I picked it up from a video series! Anyone who’s even curious about maybe learning to snowboard should watch this. It’s entertaining. Highly qualified instructors, one of whom was a pro rider for Burton for a spell. Brother and sister. Their system made sense from my own experience trying to learn, and from their presentation. It wasn’t a complete departure from the conventional progression, but they made key changes in the early stages that appeared to make far more sense. So, I did it that way. It’s not what the mountains seem to be doing, and that’s why they have students falling all the time trying to learn (as opposed to occasionally). Have an open mind, and when stuff doesn’t make sense, consider rejecting it.
It took me another few years to accept something another veteran instructor said one day, but due to his experience and the respect he commanded, I kept thinking back on it. Turns out… he was right. And, he was voted Instructor of the Year by his peers! But, whether I ever earn that in sailing circles doesn’t really matter. Delivering an excellent lesson, every time, is the goal. The proof is in the people when they can sail off the mooring, do all the skills, and sail back – without brakes, without a reverse gear – and stop their boat.