Depends where you are and what you’re doing, but learning how to sail or sailing in a club is right around the corner!
So, yesterday evening, I was double checking the temps and precips at several spots to juggle competing concerns… fleet prep and launching, and also a potential last shot at some snowboarding. Interesting stuff! Had to double check to be sure… don’t take my word for it!
Yup… we are totally inverted temp-wise. Partly sunny everywhere, although it had just rained a bit in NYC.
Hunter NY (Catskill Mountains): 56° (nb: it was 59 shortly before I screen shot these)
Killington, Vermont (about 1/3 of the way up to Canada): 66° (and yeah, it was at least 67 shortly before)
This weekend is the last of the season for Hunter and Windham in the Catskills. Stratton in Vermont hasn’t announced a closing date yet, but they’re getting kinda close. Magic is already done. But Killington? 83 trails open yesterday – a few more than just a few days ago due to moving snow around and grooming. With a little luck, I might still get up for a day and a half or so without neglecting anything here in the colder south!
The cherry blossoms are popping. That means the fishing picks up, and it means that sailing weather gets more consistent soon. Sailing Club sessions are available almost as soon as we splash the first boat! Classes start in a little over a week, with Start BareboatingSM (ASA 104) on the 17th. Start (ASA 101, learn to sail) begins May 1. We used to always start in April with that: mid month. We took some bruises with weather delays, but it worked. Until, of course, it didn’t.
Global warming and related climate/weather changes have made April too iffy to jiffy reef (reduce sail) and suit up/show up for April beginner lessons. It’s not so much a matter of cold; that can factor in, of course, but most students who come for lessons have done some skiing or snowboarding, and many are regulars. They have the gear. But, too much wind is counterproductive or even unsafe for beginners. Add cold and rain, and it’s freakin miserable sitting in a boat with cold wet hands on ropes and steering sticks (tillers). Plus, hard to keep a dry butt.
June is arguably the single best month for beginners to learn to sail. It averages out two key variables: volatile weather, and time to continue practicing and enjoying as the season goes. Having said that, people learn successfully throughout the boating season. Any month can have a few stinker days that aren’t productive enough, and lead to a make-good. Our courses aren’t over until they are – when students have the skills they need to go skipper the same boat they just learned on! Otherwise, what’s the point?
Or, lose their fishing rod… or, catch COVID. But we can all prepare well to avoid or mitigate any of that. We mitigate every time you come to learn how to sail with us.
The inspiration for this post? A recent funny a/f Instagram clip we came across and reposted. Fishing fails. Four different clips of people failing spectacularly at fishing.
I have free license to laugh. I’ve lost rigs to hooked fish twice in my lifetime, and came damn close another time. I’ve paid my dues; I know what can happen.
The first time was in my teens. The fam was in the BVI (Virgin Islands), and I was at least as interested in fishing as sailing at the time. I caught some live bait that afternoon and kept the little fish alive in a bucket pending live lining for something larger off the dock that night. Lo and behold, some other kids down there had the same idea and we were all tossing our bait to the shadow line off the dock to see what came by. It was quiet. One kid was having trouble with his tackle, so I offered to help. I put my rod down and went to help. As I walked back, I saw my pole torpedo off the dock out onto the surface of the water, where it didn’t sink – but actually glide along teasingly for a moment, leaving s little wake. Then it suddenly shot off into the night so fast it just disappeared. Gone. Done. Had to laugh; I had that kind of humor even back then.
And, no… no one actually EXPECTS to fall overboard. But we do sometimes, and that’s why we wear life jackets or PFD’s. During our Start SailingSM courses (learn to sail / ASA 101), students always wear PFD’s. What if it’s hot out, light wind, warm water, and everyone can swim? You STILL wear them. We invest in high-quality automatic inflatable jacket with manual overrides. That way, you don’t even know you’re wearing them.
We sail in very controlled settings, with an eye on the sky as well as the radar and weather apps. We don’t take you out when bad weather is approaching, and we get off the water before conditions deteriorate if we’re the slightest bit concerned. But, developing good habits during class carries over into the future of your sailing. Hard to get separated from the boat if you’re tethered to it; hard to drown if you’re wearing a personal flotation device.
The second time I lost a rig overboard? I was in my 30’s. I was on a private fishing charter with a friend from my saltwater fly fishing club, the Salty Flyrodders of New York. It was out of Montauk, and we were on a Boston Whaler Outrage (large rig; probably over 20′). Captain Ken Turco (RIP) was putting my friend Mark and me on the fish. It was wall to wall false albacore, and it was easy to hook up. They were bombing small bait on the surface, so there was really no surprise about what would happen: see fish, drive over to fish, don’t actually run through the fish, cast to the fish, hook and fight the fish.
So, we did. Fish on with each cast. We decided to experiment with how quickly we could bring each one to the boat to release it and catch another. The quicker it’s done, the better it is for the fish, as stress and oxygen debt can later kill a fish that actually swims away apparently unharmed. So, we started tightening down our drags more and more with each fish released. (Drag on a fishing reel is the braking mechanism that allows controlled slippage of the line from the reel so a fish doesn’t simply snap the line or the rod.)
False albacore are small tuna. Small, but strong. They do one thing when hooked: swim away fast and far. Hence, proper drag tension. We were getting tired fighting one after another with tight drags. And, my hands were very stiff and tired. And so, after hooking the umpteenth fish, I bobbled the rod. And almost caught it; but not quite… and it bounced off the gunwhale and into the water. I hesitated; could have jumped in and grabbed at it before it sank. But that’s not an easy reflex. I lost the opportunity, and the rod.
I just stood there for a moment. Ken and Mark eventully looked around to see how I was faring and to make sure our respective fish didn’t cross lines and tangle. They saw I had no rod. “No…” said Mark. Ken was slack jawed. I said nothing. I turned to Ken’s rod rack, grabbed one, started stripping line off, and was soon onto another fish.
Awhile later, I almost dropped THAT rod as well. That one I would have had to pay for. That’s how non-stop the action was with albacore, bluefish, and even a nice striped bass for me to score a ‘northeast slam.’ Made the cover of the following week’s Fisherman magazine, Long Island/Metro NY edition, for which I wrote a column and some articles at the time.
SAFETY FIRST. When we teach sailing, and when I used to teach some snowboarding as well, we’d discuss safety first. Then, the idea was to have fun. Finally, maybe people would learn something: but nothing happens without the feeling of security, and most people aren’t learning if they’re not having fun.
On snow? I’d teach people how to fall safely before they even got to strap one foot onto their boards. (For first-time lessons, at any rate.) Seriously: I’d demonstrate how to fall both forward and backward, and then they’d do it. I made it fun. They knew they were going to fall sometimes learning; we brought that out into the open. Once they learned that they didn’t have to fall hard and get hurt just taking a basic lesson, they relaxed about it. Then, they didn’t fall. (Not much, anyway!)
We take the same approach to sailing lessons.
What about the pandemic? We sail – with MASKS!
THE PANDEMIC IS GETTING WORSE. Yes, we have vaccines. Yes, more are likely to be developed. But, there are mutated strains now that are far more transmissible, and also now understood to likely be more dangerous once we’re infected by them. There’s a chance that one or more current or future mutations will be resistant to current vaccines. That, plus pandemic fatigue, and blatant disregard for proven science and math, is why the United States is the world leader. Not in response to the virus, but in mashing up its response and leading to a ridiculous number of deaths, most of which could have been avoided.
The simplest things remain true:
Keep your distance from others. You can’t infect, or get infected by someone whose breath you’re not breathing, either in the moment or shortly afterward. That’s the social distance thing and avoidance of crowds, or entering &/or remaining in areas where many people have been.
Use a proper mask, and wear it well. The CDC has yet to change their public guidelines, but many health experts are now saying it’s time to up the ante on the mask front. Either double up the cloth masks (wear 2), or upgrade the masks being worn (N95 or KN95). Personally, I’m back to a respirator for the laundry/mail room in my building, in Uber/Lyfts, and for the rare times I’m on a subway. Otherwise, I use multi-layer cloth masks that fit well, have an adjustable nose section, and a FILTER in between the cloth layers.
On a few occasions last year, we denied enrollment to students who expressed in advance that they were either uncomfortable or unwilling to wear masks. We rode herd on people who did attend and got sloppy about using masks, including the threat of kicking them out with no recourse or refund. We take this deadly seriously.
Are there times people can take their mask off? Yes – but only when it’s abundantly safe to do so based on where they are in relation to other people and what the wind is doing. What about inside? We spend almost no time inside, even with learn to sail. (It’s a sport learned by doing, not hearing people talk about it.) But when we are inside, we distance, ventilate, and WEAR MASKS PROPERLY.
I’m not yet eligible for the vaccine due to age and occupation. It worries me. But, just as with mitigation measures for activities I choose to do, I can mitigate the risk of exposure and infection with distancing, masks, and in some cases, just NOT doing it.
DON’T DO THIS…
Here’s a smart, pithy article on the latest about masks, with some historical quotes and some links for more info…
We hope you’re all enjoying the holiday season despite the encumbrances bestowed/inflicted upon us. We do what we can.
@mariebarrue decked out and rocking the deck of her Laser. This is a screen-grab from a clip we re-posted on our Insta). We’ve said it before, and will keep saying it: there’s nothing like a Laser, one of our top favorite designs of all time.
“There’s nothing you can’t do on a Laser!”
Captain Stephen Glenn Card
What makes them so special? Versatility, impeccable sailing characteristics, highly transferable skills, and just sheer fun. Everyone who can ought to spend some time on one. And, it’s not as difficult as some pics and clips portray it. Just like skiing and riding, one doesn’t need to do icy double-diamonds to have fun on the surface.
A Festivus for the rest of us!..
Who hasn’t seen this facade? Okay; but who’s seen it with an actual freakin’ Festivus pole?! Your correspondent did, last winter… and cleared people away for this shot.
Still don’t get it? It’s Tom’s Restaurant near Columbia U, the facade made famous by the Seinfeld series. Festivus is an alternative holiday created by character Frank Costanza (George’s father). It includes the pole, of course, plus airing of grievances, followed by feats of strength. Example: the man who schlepped this pole down from Washington Heights to pose it properly.
“Have your boots and your rifle? Good – you can walk into combat!”
Clint Eastwood’s Marine drill sergeant cum battle commander in “Heartbreak Ridge”
The Burton Kilroy snowboard. Note the face doodle at the letter ‘N.’ This iconic image dates back to WWII, where it spread wherever the US Armed Forces went. A similar graphic adorns the transom of our Pearson 10M, Kilroy Was Here. There are two basic variations on the them. We chose the one that was chosen for the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. There’s a narrative of the doodle’s history, to the extent it’s fully known, and visitors are invited to find the Kilroy tags at the monument.
Christmas ain’t complete without a wreath…
The socially-distant, mask-compliant pig outside the lodge at Windham Mountain Resort, the ‘other’ mountain in the Catskills! (Well, there’s also Belleayre, but who’s counting…) Hunter is better known; Windham isn’t exactly a secret however. They seem to go toe-to-toe. Windham had more acreage until Hunter leapfrogged it with a 5-trail and 1-lift area expansion. That lift is a high speed 6-pack, so one can seriously lap that area. However, it gets little to no direct sun so stays icy/scratchy longer. (Personally, I like to see where I ski. Or board, which is what I actually do, but more often than not I board with skiers.)
One foot or two; always woo-HOOOO!
Vrinda Hamal (@vrinhamal) one-footing almost on the beach at Los Roques, Venezuela. Note the beach umbrellas! She’s on a kiteboard, and she’s quite extraordinary on one.
Kiteboarding is on our backburner list of things to try. We almost pulled the trigger on one of our Virgin Islands trips (BVI) not long ago, but the next season saw it all wiped out with the hurricanes. It’s coming back; one outfit on Anegada was doing it this past winter but we discovered it too late to try it out. Another time, perhaps…
Whatever you’re doing during this holiday season, stay safe – and have fun. Cheers!
Women just steer better, but 3rd time’s the charm for Joe Biden.
…where are we going with this? Well, the obvious announcement as called by all news outlets on Saturday is, well – obvious. Assuming no legal challenges affect anything (and so far, they appear to be non-starters), Biden will be the next President and Harris the next VP – and first woman in the role.
This post came about initially as I searched for a ‘skipper’ reference. “Hey, Skip!” “You got it, Skip.” Whatever. But nothing like that came up. Instead, when searching on Biden & ‘Skipper,’ I found this:
Magdalena Skipper, the Editor at Nature, did that post. Guess what? She’s the first woman to head up the journal! Took the helm in 2018. So, there’s that.
All this reminded me of a time-proven fact: women learn to steer better. They just do. I’ve been teaching sailing since 1981, and observed it before then. Women take naturally to learning to steer a boat than men do. Not every woman, but the overwhelming majority. Why ? Probably because…
They don’t try to force things when they should be finessed.
Here’s a clip from our Instagram of a woman solo-tacking. She’d never tried it before…
Look through our Insta for more pics and clips of women steering and sailing in general.
One of the world’s premier watch manufactures, Ulysse Nardin, has an artist’s series that are largely on the provocative side (shown in a previous Blog Rant of ours about timepieces and the history of determining longitude at sea). Here’s one apropos to the topic at hand…
To any women who wonder whether they can learn to sail, and might be feeling any apprehension about it – DON’T! You got this. And when you come to us, we got you. You’ll be a skipper in a few days, and we’ll prove it to you by letting you out to solo on your own.
Well, they never really left – but our classic full-keel Swedish design and Friday afternoons are resurgent. If you know how to sail, come have some fun in our Sailing Club with either/or, or both.
We hadn’t launched our International (‘Swedish’) Folkboat last season for various and boring reasons. But it’s back! Demand dictated it.
Friday afternoons are also demand based. We had some regulars for Friday afternoon and evening sails. These Sailing Club members could only break free then, or just needed to as a way to end their work weeks on a high note and begin the weekend early. Life changed and so did demand. We tended to get out of Dodge early on Fridays to beat traffic and have a break before busy weekends.
Last Friday? All the boats went out at once! Busy afternoon. Delightful conditions, too. That can’t be predicted, but on average, there’s more wind in the afternoon and temperatures cool down in the evening. Beat the traffic to go TO sailing, not leave it. Always made sense. We have more weekday pass members in our Sailing Club this season and that’s part of what’s driving Friday sessions.
The Folkboat? It dates back to WWII! Not ours, of course – it’s a fiberglass one built by the premier manufacturer Marieholm in Sweden in the 1970’s. But the design was from a contest in Sweden. Three different designs were chosen as ‘winners;’ one man was tasked with taking the best of those designs and amalgmating them into one fnal boat – the Nordic Folkboat, which became the International Folkboat we now know.
It’s popular wherever there’s wind. Over 5,000 have been built, and that number probably only reflects major production from established builders and doesn’t even count kit or home-built boats that were off the radar.
Silent Reach basically fell in our lap and we couldn’t pass up the chance to have one of these in the fleet. Despite their rep – eats up heavy weather; countless trans-Atlantics; a few well documented circumnavigations – these boats are fine in Long Island Sound! They do well in light breeze, and point surprisingly well. Go figure. Better yet; go sailling!
Here’s an article from Practical Sailor, a sailing review rag that predated all this internet stuff and still goes strong… scroll down past blank image to link:
Here’s a link to Amazon to check listings for the book – new, used, or Kindle…
The new Clinic from NY Sailing Center; it fills in the gaps left by the sailing school you went to instead of ours to learn how to sail a boat. Oops…
Years ago, we basically stopped offering rentals to the outside public, and restricted it to our own graduates. Anyone can join our Sailing Club, but before they can skipper one of the boats, they must prove they can handle it. We include one short private lesson for new members to help get them skippering.
Here’s an example: someone who joined our Club, who had 101 training and had other experience. What he didn’t do? Includes but not limited to…
Sailing a boat without an engine;
Sailing off or back onto a mooring;
So, in the clip below, you’ll see him doing the singlehanding part. roughly, but safely. We coached him through this after teaching him how to get off a mooring without a motor. When he was ready to come in, we coached him on that. Roll video:
So, why did we stop renting to gen-pop? They were all failing the rental checkout. Most schools had transitioned to courses that were only two days long, and it just isn’t enough. That’s a time-tested fact.
The other day, I chimed in on the ASA Private Instructors’ Forum on Facebook. (ASA is the American Sailing Association, the industry association we belong to for accreditation and certification. All legitimate schools in the US belong to ASA or US Sailing; most are ASA. ) There was a post relevant to this topic. The original poster mentioned that a school he had worked at did their learn-to-sail course in only 2 days, and he felt that 3 days was necessary. An ASA staff member commented, indicating that 3 to 4 days or sessions are typical for a proper learn to sail course. (Half day sessions can be quite productive.) I added this:
The trend toward 2-day courses has devalued the certification. I stopped renting to the general public years ago out of frustration with rental checkouts and wasted time due to this. Students who attended 3-day programs, where each day was spent mostly sailing, usually passed our checkout. NO student who did a 2-day course EVER passed our checkout. We wanted them to succeed and become rental customers. None of them passed muster. 2 days just isn’t enough, especially when the “unofficial” official industry standard is 4 per boat (we do 3 and some other schools do as well). We gave up; we don’t rent to the outside public. They can join our club program, get a free private lesson, sail with others, and be re-assessed.
Captain Stephen Glenn Card, Director and HBIC,* NY Sailing Center.
(*HBIC – Head Bozo in Charge.)
Two other members of the forum ‘liked’ my comment. No one disliked or commented on mine.
At least 2 schools in our region claim to have a 3-day course that is actually only 2 days of instruction. One does a few hours of classroom the night before the weekend of the course (after work; tired; bored after a few minutes). But, they only give 2 days of on-water instruction and sailing. Another does 2 days of mostly on-water, then lets students practice on a 3rd day. But, there’s no instruction going on after their 2-day 101.
So, where’s 102? Doesn’t exist. Not yet; not formally. But we’re going to offer a new clinic: “102: for when their 101 wasn’t enough for you.” This will be a clinic to have fun filling in the gaps left by other schools. It will be at least a day’s worth of time, probably broken up into two shorter sessions on two visits to the Sailing Center. Tuition? Not sure yet. We’ll debut it later this summer.
If you want to do it right the first time, here’s what we provide in 101:
3 full days of instruction, each mostly to entirely on the water.
2 half days of supervised and coached practice. An instructor is around the whole time, and is alongside during sail hoisting and ‘take-off’ before coaching as needed via radio and chase boat for the remainder of the practice. But, the instructor isn’t aboard. Students are sailing without one. This is the logical progression.
More time if needed for either instruction or practice. For example, if weather delays eat away too much time from a scheduled course, we simply schedule a free make-up session. If students aren’t feeling confident after the first practice, they can get more instruction for free before doing more practice. (This has NEVER happened.) If they want more supervised practice before renting or joining our Club, that’s fine – they get it. (This happens rarely; less than once per season.)
We also get people who join us for their next course, 103, after not taking 101 with us. They’re rarely ready for 103, and it becomes remedial. They weren’t done with 101!
You can pay a lot less at other schools to take their ASA 101 course. Of course, you get what you pay for. And then you pay more later. Or, you can just get it right the first time with us. Your move!
For more about our Start SailingSM 101 course, navigate your way here…
IN THIS RANT: the ‘slipstream’ phenomenon, and why we need to keep much greater social distance when exercising outside – sprinkled with beach pics and boating right-of-way bits.
I’m still driving to Breezy Point from time to time to slip the park crowds on nice days. Why? Social distancing doesn’t seem to apply to bikers and joggers.
Maybe it’s self-centered laziness. Maybe it’s a healthier-than-thou attitude. Hopefully, it’s lack of awareness of what I’m going to write about below. But regardless, just like “Red, Right, Returning,” it’s WRONG. No, that’s not about right-of-way, but still…
The image below is from a post by Jurgen Thoelen on Medium, which describes how studies in Belgium and The Netherlands conclude we need to allow MUCH more distance between us when exercising in public by biking and running. Even just walking. Jurgen sums it up well:
When someone during a run breathes, sneezes or coughs, those particles stay behind in the air. The person running behind you in the so-called slip-stream goes through this cloud of droplets.
Jurgen Thoelen, “Belgian-Dutch Study: Why in times of COVID-19 you can not walk/run/bike close to each other.”
I’ve been bitching about bikers and runners zooming (or slogging) right past pedestrians since this crisis got real. They often don’t take any care to pass at any distance, breezing – literally – as close as a foot or two past others. They’re breathing harder, and exhaling it onto those they pass.
As a lifelong sailor and angler, I’m acutely aware of the breeze at all times. I take care to try to stay upwind of anyone talking, breathing harder for any reason, and now – at the near apex of the infection and body count in NYC – not wearing facial covering or a mask. I mostly walk for exercise, but when weather favors it I ride my bike in Riverside Park on the mid-level esplanade. That way there’s room to see what’s ahead, and astern – with no surprises. I had to all but give that up with the extra crowds on nicer days as more people have more time to get to the park. It’s the only bright side of things for many people.
So, when I’m to windward of them (upwind), I’m also aware of the breeze carrying my breath in their direction. I stay farther away. Same for walking down the street. Windward sailing vessels give way to leeward ones (downwind) when they have the wind coming from the same side. Right or left; starboard or port… doesn’t matter what you call it as long as they both have it on the same side of their vessel. The problem is that on the pavement or in the park, people aren’t meeting me – or others – half way in return.
(Meeting, for right of way, is when two power driven vessels are approaching each other head-on or nearly so. This rule doesn’t apply to sailing vessels.)
One day in Prospect Park, that caused me to politely call out a passing pair of peeps (couple) who didn’t make any effort to walk in-line rather than side by side, forcing my other half and I to leave the road and walk in the dirt. The response I got was inappropriate, and so the convo degenerated. Who needs that when trying to maintain social distance while maintaining mental and physical well-being? Sheesh…
I’ve actually given serious thought to speaking softly and carrying a social distance stick with a fuzzy soft end (like a long handled duster). That can’t be construed as a weapon if aimed at a crossing biker or runner who won’t keep clear, right? Eh… let’s not go there, and so I don’t take the stick with me. Yet.
(Crossing is when two power driven vessels encounter each other, and they’re not meeting. So, they’re each to the other’s side. Even if one is coming slightly from behind; just not mostly. Yes, this gets technical; no, we don’t need to fully elaborate here. If you’re coming mostly from behind, you’re overtaking and you keep clear of what’s ahead. Guess what? That applies to sailboats coming up on power boats! Yeah. Back to our health…
6 feet away, or 6 feet under!
Steve Card, frequent recent rant. I penned it, but later saw that someone else came up with a slight variation so I’m sure many others have.
…for walking, the distance of people moving in the same direction in 1 line should be at least 4–5 meter, for running and slow biking it should be 10 meters and for hard biking at least 20 meters. Also, when passing someone it is advised to already be in different lane at a considerable distance e.g. 20 meters for biking.
Jurgen Thoelen, in the Medium post we’ve referenced and will link to below.
So, 6 feet ain’t nearly enough! Not unless we’re walking slowly with no wind, or stationary.
That’s the takeaway. I bike; I get it. It’s hard to keep distance when people are everywhere, often moving at different speeds and directions, on foot or on a ‘vessel.’ That can’t be an excuse; it’s potentially dangerous to others…
You might be infected and contagious and not know it.
You might pass someone else who is.
Forget SARS/COVID-19: you might hit someone!
So, if you can’t Overtake,Meet, or Cross responsibly… JUST DON’T DO IT.
Here’s a link to Jurgen’s post on Medium with more insight into that study…
We got back from the trip on Saturday and loved it. All a bit of a blur and a blend, and we detoured slightly from the plan. But, for what it’s worth, here’s the answer to the challenge we put to you: identify the “default itinerary” for our BVI trips.
Same chart as in last post- this time, labeled with the spots. Go ahead; zoom it up! See some detail. In the meantime, here’s the list:
Virgin Gorda: Spanish Town.
Anegada. There’s just the one anchorage.
Marina Cay. Again, the one spot.
Jost Van Dyke: east end, between Jost and Little Jost.
Norman Island: the Bight
Cooper Island: just the one – Manchioneel Bay.
We deviated on this trip. Not by fucking up our compass, no. We just stayed two nights at Norman and skipped Cooper this time around. We adjust based on what the people who paid to play had to say. And, sometimes the weather. Here’s a synopsis of this trip!
Spanish Town, Virgin Gorda. We anchored there after a snorkel and lunch stop at Great Dog. Then, we dingied into the marina and called a taxi to the Baths. Always breathtaking; never disappointing (except when super crowded. Several in our group were first timers and blown away by it. We grilled aboard that night.
Anegada. Our personal favorite, where we often spend two nights. One did the trick on this trip as all were eager to see as much of the BVI as possible. We anchored, lunched, and went ashore to explore the north side beaches (mostly by bicycle; one sailor opted for a taxi). The bikers did a beach crawl. Dinner: Anegada Reef Hotel on the beach. Various dishes were accompanied by a nice NZ bottle of Sauv Blanc. Chess match: competitive game with Gregor, but Captain Card managed to find a way to win despite a kibitzing (but entertaining) audience.
Marina Cay. Got a mooring early; had to move when crowded by anchoring cats. No problem. Then, off to snorkel the Coral Gardens which didn’t disappoint beyond slightly silty water column. The fish didn’t seem to care. No one on board had been to the relatively new and, post-Irma, refurbished Scrub Island Resort. A friend on another charter supplied intel on the merits, so we hopped in the dinghy. No one on board had been to the relatively new and, post-Irma, refurbished Scrub Island Resort. A friend on another charter supplied intel on the merits, so we hopped in the dinghy. Nice spot; very expensive drinks that were disappointing to decent, but, hey – it’s a brand new fancy joint so we should have expected it. Dined aboard once more. Gregor whupped Captain Card’s ass at chess, straight up. So it goes. (nb: the fuel/water dock was supposed to be open, despite the rest of the island not offering anything anymore. The hurricanes totally trashed MC. However, it was closed all afternoon, and again in the morning. Two yachts had parked on the pier overnight after seemingly waiting all afternoon.)
Jost Van Dyke. We did a quick snack/snorkel stop at Monkey Point on Guana Island first; surf wasn’t up too much, but water clarity sucked. Nothing special in the fish life department, but it was fun to see them regardless and the cave had a school of likeminded fin fish on display as well.
On to Jost/Little Jost, which gave us a downwind sail in swells and a few jibes for good measure and balance. We moored at the back of the bay, close to the shallows and flats and also the dinghy dock at Foxy’s Taboo (yes, offshoot of the famous Foxy’s around the corner x 2 at Great Harbor). We usually anchor here, but there was a prime mooring spot so we took it.
After some lunch we dinghied in to shore and made dinner reservations before trekking to the Bubbly Pool, a must-see spot that’s a light walk/hike from the dinghy dock. BVI Tourism aptly calls it “the East End’s natural sea-formed Jacuzzi.” I agree! As usual, we had it to ourselves briefly upon arrival before the hordes arrived. Just the way the luck rolls for us here.
Dinner was only for us. They’d let us know when we reserved that we were the only boat/table thus far, and to be sure to advise if we changed our plans. We negotiated a time of arrival, and we showed up. This is rare for this spot; it’s usually somewhere between happening and hopping. Easy night and early closing for them. But they took great care of us. Food was exceptional for BVI; we’ve eaten there before and enjoyed it, but everything was top notch including my baby backs, which were some of the best I’ve ever had.
Norman Island. Before stormin Norman, we stopped at Sandy Cay right off Jost. We had it to ourselves briefly as usual being the first to arrive. We did a hot drop with the dinghy, and Sir Gregor volunteered to drop it off at the yacht and swim in. nb: it’s seldom calm enough to safely beach the dink here; don’t risk it. Swim or snorkel in from the day moorings. The attractions here are to beach comb and hike the path up through the woods to several elevated plateaus with stunning vistas. It’s way higher up than it looks from shore or afar. Pro tip: hit it early in the AM before heading to your next destination. The alternative, late afternoon, is often too late for securin’ your berthin.’ (This works at many popular BVI day stops before the crowds arrive.)
We enjoyed Norman itself enough to stay two nights! That’s a first on our trips. Anegada and Virgin Gorda are other spots where we’ve lingered an extra day & night sometimes. We anchored at the Bight in a spot we can usually get away with that strikes a nice balance of serenity and equal opportunity to get to where we want to play here. We snorkeled, chilled, etc and then BBQ’d for din din.
The next day, we chose to do the moderate hike up the ridge for amazing vistas, and then day sail around Norman before grabbing a mooring at Benures Bay for the day. Yup; both Benures and Soldiers now have some moorings; this wasn’t the case when we were last here a year ago.
We enjoyed the day here; Gregor did a second hike to another location. Then, back to our anchor spot and drinks and Danger Jenga ashore at Pirate’s Bight before a last supper aboard.
The next morning was both gloomy and beautiful as we motored back to the base and prepared to head home. We got lucky; as soon as the boat was docked and the engine off, it rained. But, as is usual, it was brief and we didn’t get soaked before we departed, and we wished we could have stayed just a little longer.
As we’re deep in the throes of a cold start to the winter – polar vortex/arctic blast kind of cold – thoughts are somewhat removed from sailing. But not entirely.
While on the slopes enjoying fresh pow over the holidays, and warming back up to techniques shelved during the boating season, I was reminded of the concept of turn initiation. Don’t ski or ride? Don’t even sail yet? No problem – we’ll break it all down and maybe even get you stoked in the process.
“Turn initiation” is the technique used to get a ski or snowboard to go from flat on the snow to beginning a turn to one side. Anyone who can link turns on either kind of plank knows what I’m talking about. It’s like this: we make certain motions to suggest to the equipment that we want to turn instead of going straight. After it starts listening, we add more motion to shape and complete the turn to the extent we want. Regardless of what kind of turn we make, we have to start it – and eventually end it.
Same with boats! Techniques, and consequences for ignoring them, are different. Thankfully for sailing, there are usual no real consequences.
If you ski or ride, but are beginner to intermediate, it’s time to think about this again as you begin your snow sliding season. You experts out there don’t think much about it, but warm up your technique and self-critique as you get your form back each season.
Back to sailing and turning a boat. Let’s leave special techniques like steering with sails, and with body weight, out of it and focus on the thing we all use all of the time: the rudder. (Don’t even sail yet? That’s the fin that we turn back in forth behind the boat to make the boat turn, like a paddle stuck in the water and angled to one side. Makes the boat turn.)
At the most basic level, we angle the rudder to one side or the other when we want to turn a boat. Some boats have a stick attached called a tiller, found on smaller boats and almost mandatory to learn with. Once the boat is in the upper 20-foot range, and especially at around 30 feet, it tends to have a wheel instead. As the rudder is angled more to one side, the pressure of the water hitting it pushes it back the other way, taking that end of the boat with it. The boat pivots in the middle, and turns. (The direction the fin aims is also where it want to go once it gets moving.)
So, to make a slight or narrow turn, the rudder does not need to angle much to the side. To make a sharp or tight turn, the rudder needs to move pretty far over. Turn initiation is really the rate of motion to get it started, so that the whole process works better.
On a board or skis, if we suddenly wrench the plank over to the side, we often catch an edge in the snow and catapult or slam. No fun. But if we get the edge to gently start engaging, and then add more edge and pressure, we can smoothly get the plank on its edge and into a turn. Can’t usually skip steps: have to START the turn before shaping and completing it, before ending it.
I haven’t skied since I as a boy, but I’ve watched a lot of skiers. Good skiers are graceful in their transitions. I’m a pretty solid boarder – somewhere in the advanced range by objective standards I’ve come across. I’ve watched a lot of boarders too. I won’t pretend I know how to turn skis. But Im supposed to be expert at understanding how to turn a board, as I’m a certified instructor. So, I’ll talk about boards.
For most turns on a snowboard – and some experts say all – we initiate by twisting the front of the board slightly so one edge is pressing into the snow and the other starting to lift. Think of holding the ends of an ice cream stick with your thumbs and forefingers. Now, think of holding one end level, but rotating or twisting the other end slightly. That’s the general idea. In the air, this does nothing but flex the stick. But on snow, one edge of that stick presses into the snow, and starts to take the rest with it to that side.
Of course, we add some at the other end, and make more of a turn. And, release. And, rinse and repeat, maybe mixing it up from time to time to not get bored.
How do we translate this to turning a sailboat?
Think of the rudder as the edge. initiation is turning the rudder ever so slightly to suggest to the boat that it should stop going straight, and to pivot. Once it listens, we gradually increase the rate of turn but angling the rudder more. But at what rate? And how far?
This is the beautiful part, elegant in its simplicity.
We slowly, steadily, move the tiller to the side. One simple, steady motion. Easy. How far? Until we like how much the boat is turning. For how long? Until we’re half way through the turn, at which point we reverse the motion at exactly the same rate.
What if we need the turn to happen quickly? Well, there is no shortcut here unless we’re throwing the boat around with our body weight, and/or using sails to help turn the boat. Again, let’s leave it at rudder only for this discussion. (And even when we’re using other techniques, rudder action doesn’t change.)
Too many sailors just jam the rudder over hard when they want to make a quick and/or large turn, especially for tacking (crossing through the wind quickly and ‘catching’ it again on the other side). Jamming it over skips the initiation. Consequences?
Drag. The rudder is now sideways to the water, creating lots braking resistance. Imagine gliding along in a canoe or kayak, and suddenly jamming the paddle in the water off the back end, with the flat side perpendicular to the direction of travel. Sea brakes! Craft slows down. Think of air brakes on a plane. Overuse them at the wrong time, and the plane starts to drop.
Stalling. Because it’s angled too aggressively to the flow of water, the water doesn’t flow around the far side of the rudder, and and bottlenecks against the near side. Water flow around the rudder allows the rudder to take the back end of the boat with it in an arcing turn, and therefore makes the front go the other way, pivoting around the middle. Stall the flow, and we stall the turn. (This also increases “leeway,” both when turning and when trying to go straight, for those with more sailing savvy. It’s why excessive rudder angle has to be dealt with one way or another when going straight.)
It’s slightly counter-intuitive at first. “I want to turn hard, so why not just turn the tiller/wheel hard?” Doesn’t work that way. You’ll get there sooner by starting slower. A slow, steady, linear motion of the tiller (or wheel) gives you everything you need:
Turn initiaiton. Suggests to the boat what you want to do, and it gently begins.
Shaping. We turn the rudder enough to get the turn shape/speed we want.
Completion. So simple – half way through the arc of the turn, we just reverse what we did with the rudder at the same steady rate!
The tiller moves in a linear fashion, but the boat turns in a crescendo/decrescendo. See? We’re teaching to both logical learners and musical/rhythmic ones! If we graph it out, we’ll see different patterns for the tiller and the boat…
The more rudder angle, the greater the turn. To get there, we simply move the tiller steadily to gradually increase rudder angle, and therefore the rate of turn. Your boat will take over, and the rudder will follow. When you feel that, you’ll know you got it right.
Then, you’ll be ready to shred!
Want to learn more about turning a sailboat? See us at NY Sailing Center in the spring. We start in April.
Want to learn how to snowboard?Already ride, but want to improve or take it to the next level? Our Director, Dockmaster and rambling Editor at Large, Captain Card, is a certified snowboard instructor who loves to teach. Hit him up to discuss getting out on snow. This can be as close as Mountain Creek, NJ (an hour from the GWB), as far as South/Central Vermont, or mid way at Hunter or Windham in the Castkills.
Our inaugural Kid/Parent trip is in the books, and it was a resounding success. We’d been planning to do this for awhile. It’s always nice when a trip exceeds your expectations, and that’s what happened. Now, we’re thinking of an annual Kid/Parent flotilla during the Presidents’ Week.
Meet the First Families… (Note: click any pic for full size/res – can click twice on lap/desktops)
Both Moms were graduates of our adult learn-to-sail program and continued sailing with us. One had already gone on to get her own 27 footer locally in the northeast. All the kids had some exposure to sailing, and were mostly the same age, so it was a good fit. We scheduled a slightly shorter week than normal for logistical reasons and at the end of it, we were hearing,.. ” I don’t want to leave.” That’s a good trip.
While it was mostly oriented at the kids, in this case aged 10-12, the difference between a kids’ itinerary and one for adults is mostly details. The allure of the watery and warm environment, swimming and snorkeling, and some hiking and sight seeing works for all.
We managed to get in a fairly typical itinerary of islands and anchorages, even including Anegada as the winds were relatively calm. Jumping in from the swim platform seemed to rank highest in customer satisfaction. Snorkeling and running around like banshees on the beach placed and showed respectably. One medium hike and one that was arguably a little too long went over surprisingly well.
Marine sightings included one dolphin, several large sea turtles, more large tarpon than usual, a spotted eagle ray that came flying out of the water like a bat out of hell chasing bait fish, a fairly curious ‘cuda (just for the Captain who was off on a snorkeling flyer), and numerous colorful and oddly shaped reef fish found by several of the kids and adults
Winds were light this time, and we didn’t have to reef once. We saw others with reduced sail plans on occasion but we didn’t see the need, even with kids. The boat just didn’t heel much. When it was ‘sailing for the sake of sailing,’ the kids were fond of pointing out when the boat speed dipped below a few knots, and when it made more sense, we occasionally motor sailed to keep it moving.
Day One: mid-afternoon departure, after receiving the boat at noon, so lucky to get to an anchorage at all and happy to punch it under power. Went to Marina Cay, a good jumping off point for other anchorages. Great shake-down snorkel for all, all of whom were brand new to it with one exception.
Day Two: off to Anegada. Forecast seemed to favor it, and once we poked our nose out past the main islands, it was confirmed in real time. This was one of the best sails of the trip, never needing to motor to keep up a good cruising speed. All who wanted to steer got plenty of time. Some ocean swells, but nothing we couldn’t handle from a comfort standpoint.
Made lunch and then took an open-air taxi ride to Loblolly Bay and Beach on the north shore, one of several great spots. Across the inland pond we were able to see part of the resident pink flamingo colony of the island. Far away, but they were there. Snorkeling, scrubbing energy on the beach, tightrope and hammock games, and a little ice cream didn’t hurt.
Day Three: Virgin Gorda. not enough wind to justify trying to sail back so we motored and made the time pass with games and snacks. Moored up at Saba Rock, then the kids did what they do best: jump off the boat for awhile. The Captain organized a day trip for the group to The Baths, the famous boulder formations at the other end of Virgin Gorda. They had a blast while the Captain caught up on correspondence, scoped out a new snorkeling spot, and shot some pool with pepperoni pizza for sustenance.
Day Four: on to Jost Van Dyke. Combo of sailing and motoring to get the miles under the keel, but it was a fun ride. Gentle ocean swells at times and otherwise flat. First, we moored off Sandy Cay and did a dinghy drop of passengers to play and explore the small island, which was donated by Rockefeller in 2008. It’s a delightful swim over a sandy bottom to get ashore, then one can take a short scenic hike to the top and back down the other side for great vistas and getting the wiggles out. Huge hermit crabs are scattered around the trail here.
We anchored off Little Jost Van Dyke for the evening, affording more diving maneuvers (mostly cannonballs) off the swim platform before we did a group trip to he Bubbly Pool, a moderate walk from the dinghy dock. This is a small beach almost completely enclosed with lava formations and rocks, through which the open Caribbean surf rolls in from time to time making a foamy whirlpool of things. Very fun and relaxing; well worth the walk.
Day Five: more snorkeling and swimming before weighing anchor and setting sail for Norman Island, our last anchorage of the trip. We sailed most of the way, furling up before negotiating Thatch Cut at the west end of Tortola, and then enjoying our first real beat of the trip with several tacks thrown in as we zig-zagged along St. John.
After mooring in the Bight at Norman, we dinghied in for the long hike to Money Bay towards the other end of Norman. One kid/parent turned back after making a good show of it and played at the main beach, including a kayak rental. The rest of us trudged on and made it to Money Bay for a secluded snorkeling expedition followed by lunch and a more downhill return. Followed, of course, by ice cream and virgin daiquiris…
Next up: snorkeling at the Caves off the headland of the Bight. Excellent visibility this time; not many schools of fish but plenty of large parrot fish, a few trumpets, and other individual and paired sightings. Followed, of course, but scores of jumps off the back of the boat once we returned.
What didn’t we do? The Willy T, appropriately. There’s always the March 18-25 trip (still room for two more people…).
Kids & Parents in the BVI. it was meant to be, and will be again next year. Many of you have asked about this; we’ve been preparing for it; and now it’s a reality that we’ll keep exploring with you in the BVI and elsewhere.
See some more pics and clips from this and other trips on ourInstagram!