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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can expect to see dolphins.

David Shin, Commodores, Miramar Yacht Club

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

How does one get there?

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

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

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

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

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

https://www.miramaryc.com/

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“That’s busy!” (Colbert)

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

Jennifer Connelly

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I Wrote a Book! Dad helped.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No one ever EXPECTS to fall overboard…

Or, lose their fishing rod… or, catch COVID. But we can all prepare well to avoid or mitigate any of that. We mitigate every time you come to learn how to sail with us.

The inspiration for this post? A recent funny a/f Instagram clip we came across and reposted. Fishing fails. Four different clips of people failing spectacularly at fishing.

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

I have free license to laugh. I’ve lost rigs to hooked fish twice in my lifetime, and came damn close another time. I’ve paid my dues; I know what can happen.

The first time was in my teens. The fam was in the BVI (Virgin Islands), and I was at least as interested in fishing as sailing at the time. I caught some live bait that afternoon and kept the little fish alive in a bucket pending live lining for something larger off the dock that night. Lo and behold, some other kids down there had the same idea and we were all tossing our bait to the shadow line off the dock to see what came by. It was quiet. One kid was having trouble with his tackle, so I offered to help. I put my rod down and went to help. As I walked back, I saw my pole torpedo off the dock out onto the surface of the water, where it didn’t sink – but actually glide along teasingly for a moment, leaving s little wake. Then it suddenly shot off into the night so fast it just disappeared. Gone. Done. Had to laugh; I had that kind of humor even back then.

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

And, no… no one actually EXPECTS to fall overboard. But we do sometimes, and that’s why we wear life jackets or PFD’s. During our Start SailingSM courses (learn to sail / ASA 101), students always wear PFD’s. What if it’s hot out, light wind, warm water, and everyone can swim? You STILL wear them. We invest in high-quality automatic inflatable jacket with manual overrides. That way, you don’t even know you’re wearing them.

We sail in very controlled settings, with an eye on the sky as well as the radar and weather apps. We don’t take you out when bad weather is approaching, and we get off the water before conditions deteriorate if we’re the slightest bit concerned. But, developing good habits during class carries over into the future of your sailing. Hard to get separated from the boat if you’re tethered to it; hard to drown if you’re wearing a personal flotation device.

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

The second time I lost a rig overboard? I was in my 30’s. I was on a private fishing charter with a friend from my saltwater fly fishing club, the Salty Flyrodders of New York. It was out of Montauk, and we were on a Boston Whaler Outrage (large rig; probably over 20′). Captain Ken Turco (RIP) was putting my friend Mark and me on the fish. It was wall to wall false albacore, and it was easy to hook up. They were bombing small bait on the surface, so there was really no surprise about what would happen: see fish, drive over to fish, don’t actually run through the fish, cast to the fish, hook and fight the fish.

So, we did. Fish on with each cast. We decided to experiment with how quickly we could bring each one to the boat to release it and catch another. The quicker it’s done, the better it is for the fish, as stress and oxygen debt can later kill a fish that actually swims away apparently unharmed. So, we started tightening down our drags more and more with each fish released. (Drag on a fishing reel is the braking mechanism that allows controlled slippage of the line from the reel so a fish doesn’t simply snap the line or the rod.)

False albacore are small tuna. Small, but strong. They do one thing when hooked: swim away fast and far. Hence, proper drag tension. We were getting tired fighting one after another with tight drags. And, my hands were very stiff and tired. And so, after hooking the umpteenth fish, I bobbled the rod. And almost caught it; but not quite… and it bounced off the gunwhale and into the water. I hesitated; could have jumped in and grabbed at it before it sank. But that’s not an easy reflex. I lost the opportunity, and the rod.

I just stood there for a moment. Ken and Mark eventully looked around to see how I was faring and to make sure our respective fish didn’t cross lines and tangle. They saw I had no rod. “No…” said Mark. Ken was slack jawed. I said nothing. I turned to Ken’s rod rack, grabbed one, started stripping line off, and was soon onto another fish.

Awhile later, I almost dropped THAT rod as well. That one I would have had to pay for. That’s how non-stop the action was with albacore, bluefish, and even a nice striped bass for me to score a ‘northeast slam.’ Made the cover of the following week’s Fisherman magazine, Long Island/Metro NY edition, for which I wrote a column and some articles at the time.

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

SAFETY FIRST. When we teach sailing, and when I used to teach some snowboarding as well, we’d discuss safety first. Then, the idea was to have fun. Finally, maybe people would learn something: but nothing happens without the feeling of security, and most people aren’t learning if they’re not having fun.

On snow? I’d teach people how to fall safely before they even got to strap one foot onto their boards. (For first-time lessons, at any rate.) Seriously: I’d demonstrate how to fall both forward and backward, and then they’d do it. I made it fun. They knew they were going to fall sometimes learning; we brought that out into the open. Once they learned that they didn’t have to fall hard and get hurt just taking a basic lesson, they relaxed about it. Then, they didn’t fall. (Not much, anyway!)

We take the same approach to sailing lessons.

What about the pandemic? We sail – with MASKS!

THE PANDEMIC IS GETTING WORSE. Yes, we have vaccines. Yes, more are likely to be developed. But, there are mutated strains now that are far more transmissible, and also now understood to likely be more dangerous once we’re infected by them. There’s a chance that one or more current or future mutations will be resistant to current vaccines. That, plus pandemic fatigue, and blatant disregard for proven science and math, is why the United States is the world leader. Not in response to the virus, but in mashing up its response and leading to a ridiculous number of deaths, most of which could have been avoided.

The simplest things remain true:

  1. Keep your distance from others. You can’t infect, or get infected by someone whose breath you’re not breathing, either in the moment or shortly afterward. That’s the social distance thing and avoidance of crowds, or entering &/or remaining in areas where many people have been.
  2. Use a proper mask, and wear it well. The CDC has yet to change their public guidelines, but many health experts are now saying it’s time to up the ante on the mask front. Either double up the cloth masks (wear 2), or upgrade the masks being worn (N95 or KN95). Personally, I’m back to a respirator for the laundry/mail room in my building, in Uber/Lyfts, and for the rare times I’m on a subway. Otherwise, I use multi-layer cloth masks that fit well, have an adjustable nose section, and a FILTER in between the cloth layers.

On a few occasions last year, we denied enrollment to students who expressed in advance that they were either uncomfortable or unwilling to wear masks. We rode herd on people who did attend and got sloppy about using masks, including the threat of kicking them out with no recourse or refund. We take this deadly seriously.

Are there times people can take their mask off? Yes – but only when it’s abundantly safe to do so based on where they are in relation to other people and what the wind is doing. What about inside? We spend almost no time inside, even with learn to sail. (It’s a sport learned by doing, not hearing people talk about it.) But when we are inside, we distance, ventilate, and WEAR MASKS PROPERLY.

I’m not yet eligible for the vaccine due to age and occupation. It worries me. But, just as with mitigation measures for activities I choose to do, I can mitigate the risk of exposure and infection with distancing, masks, and in some cases, just NOT doing it.

DON’T DO THIS

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

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

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

Cat got your Rhumb?

Pandemic living has some interesting scenarios for learning how to navigate or sail on Zoom.

“The Cat ate my homework” starts to sound reasonable! While I haven’t heard that (or by dog) from a student in our “Live 105” Coastal Navigation courses on Zoom, I’ve seen some strange stuff. Strange is purely subjective and relative, of course.

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

First: what’s this course? It’s our Start Navigating course, ASA 105 Coastal Navigation. It has no prerequisites, and no prior navigation experience or training is necessary. (It is helpful to have done some boating or sailing for better perspective, but we assume none of that when we teach you.)

PC (Pre COVID), we taught this in small group settings both in Manhattan and New Rochelle. Last March, we switched to Zoom: the first school doing it, and the only one I can actually verify as doing so. It’s gone quite well! It’s almost as if we’re all in the same room together, and allows people in different locations and time zones to navigate together and make new friends and potential sailing buddies.

Anywho, as most people are doing this from home, we get a glimpse of what home looks, sounds and feels like. That includes critters.

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

So far, we haven’t seen the proverbial pirate parrot perched on anyone’s shoulder, or carrying off plotting tools as a prank, but a number of cats and dogs have scored some screen shots.

I host and teach all our Zoom sessions. It comes naturally to me, and is fitting as I wrote the book we use for the course. Why not use the ASA book? That’s a loooong story, but short version: got tired of waiting for them to revise and professionally print their very good old book. Had to write supplements for it for topics covered on exam but not in book, for example. Started drafting my own. Almost done; needed a few final copies for first course of a winter season. They gone went and published an entirely new book by another author rather than revise the old one, and instead of the expensive price going down, it actually went UP further. But wait – there’s more! They also had a separate companion book that wasn’t just practice problems or resources, but also part of the text.

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

But wait – there’s MORE!!! There was also a companion DVD . Took a look at that for about 30 seconds, couldn’t take it any more. Tossed it like a frisbee for the cat who pounced on it. Never saw it again. (Ultimately, after breaking their own arm patting themselves on the back for this rollout, they gone went and did what they said they were originally: revised the OLD one. And, they published that as well, offering both texts. At that point, I’d been using my own for a few years, and have simply tweaked that and never looked back.)

So, cats, and dogs. Here’s one pic in an Instagram post from a live class, PC of course. The pic is a link…

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

My cat attends each Zoom session. He interferes while lounging across the chart, or gets annoyed if he senses I’m paying him no mind and talking to a computer screen that is talking back. Then, he gets very intrusive and has to be escorted out.

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

Just before our most recent session, I had the chart spread out to review one of the practice plots. Buddy jumped up on it, but it was draped over the side of the coffee table, and he didn’t land cleanly on the table. So, the slash-n-scramble routine ensued. End result: I needed oxygen and the chart looked like this:

BUT WAIT – there’s MORE!… It’s like an actual cartoon, where the Warner Bros’ Looney Tune tears ass through a wall leaving the outline…

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

Pets are optional, of course, for this course. But if you’re managing work, family/kids, or those perpetual 2 year-olds… pets… bring it! It’s all manageable on Zoom.

For more about our “Live 105” sessions on Zoom for Start Navigating, here you go…

Lighting up a Light House

A client of ours is originally from Canada, and two buddies and he did 103 and 104 with us one season before doing their first bareboat charter in the BVI.

Adam’s uncle got involved with a latent lighthouse in Ontario, Canada. He’s on the local preservation committee, and had been trying to get it lit back up. Apparently, it was a somewhat uphill battle as there were concerns about the light shining on shoreside homes at night and being intrusive.  The major’s office was involved and favored the light being back on, so that helped.
Here’s an excerpt from the original Notice to Mariners in 1917 that announced the construction of this light!..
For its return, the compromise was to aim the light across the bay at another peninsula rather than sweep across the shore or just aim 360 all around.  Our mission: confirm the exact bearing, and show/explain why we came up with the magic number.
(Truth be told, Adam was more than capable of doing this himself, having successfully taken and passed 103, 104 and 105 with us and then applied it in the BVI. But this had to come from us as the outside experts.)
Anywho, Adam enlisted us to be the alleged experts to plot the angle of the light and show how we’d done it.

Dividers (nautical drafting compass) set exactly on the two points; protractor triangle was laid carefully against them to be on the correct bearing. Then, triangle was carefully moved to a meridian of longitude to read the bearing in true degrees. This was converted to magnetic so bearings could be taken from either point in real time to confirm.
1. Get the right chart.  Adam took care of this: NOAA #14832, Upper Niagara River, ending in Lake Erie.

2. ID the light in question: “Light House,” on Point Abino.  No characteristics shown as it’s idle.

3. ID the exact spot the new light is supposed to be aimed at: SW corner of the peninsula across the bay at the other end of Crystal Beach.
4. Measure the bearing painstakingly several times with at least two methods and get a consistent answer: 61 degrees magnetic.

There you have it.  And thar she glows…

The light house at Point Abino, Ontario, with its beacon aimed back across the bay.

10 Kayakers versus Ferry, Hudson River. And the winner is…

On August 30th, a group of 10 kayakers was basically run over by a NY Waterway ferry that was backing out of its Manhattan slip into the glare of the sun in the western sky.  Several were injured; two seriously.  It’s all under investigation of course.  Not many other facts have been reported so far and thus it’s hard to piece it all together.

The kayak company involved claims to not have had a collision before in its 20-year operating history.  But the incident does beg some questions…

  • Was the kayak group being reckless, passing close by an active ferry dock?
  • Did the ferry sound a proper signal and post a proper lookout?
  • Are New York Harbor and the Hudson & East Rivers even suitable environments for kayaks and stand-up paddleboards?

There’s been a large increase in kayak and even paddleboard activity around Manhattan recently. It’s cheap, easy access to the water.  But the water moves – fast.  There are strong currents that make real sailboats stand still against the skyline while sailing full tilt.  Then there’s the traffic.

“You have every single marine traffic situation that is known to man, every single day.  You have high speed ferries of different sizes that have different routes, you have pleasure craft, you have ocean liners, you have commercial dredges.  It all exists here.  You see kayak and paddleboard people on the Hudson River with a 3- or 4-knot current at dusk — it’s insane.”

-Captain Frank Crescitelli, fishing charter captain (“Fin Chaser”) based in New York Harbor.  (As quoted in the NY Times article referenced below.)

Meanwhile, back at the ranch (New York Sailing Center’s location on City Island, half the length of Manhattan away from it but light years away as far as the boating and sailing environment), we have the Touring Kayak Club near our moorings.  They launch from their own ramp in City Island Harbor.  Sometimes, I think they stray a bit far from their base, but the traffic conditions are far more manageable and predictable here.  Plus, currents can usually be swum against, so paddling against them is a cinch.

TKC is a private membership club that no one seems to know much about. The last time I checked, they were wait-listed.  At New York Sailing Center, we are planning to introduce kayaking and perhaps boardsailing (“windsurfing”) in 2017.

As for NY Harbor and the Rivers, it’s hard even for non-capsizing sailboats to manage all the logistics and stay safe on, much less enjoy, the waterways.  We keep hearing of collisions and capsizes – yes, capsizes with non-capsizing sailboats!  Why?  They push it.  They fly spinnakers without enough experience, training, or regard for weather.  So, they flip ’em.  And, sometimes sink ’em.  Seriously?  Yup, so just say no to SUP…

“It’s a super-accessible way to get exposure to the waterways, where there is a really undiscovered part of New York City; there’s a mystique to it. But if you’ve never experienced a 40-knot vessel coming at you with a kayak, that’s a problem.”

-Elias Vaisberg, who runs kayak fishing tours out of Staten Island.  (As quoted in NYT article referenced below.)

The quotes above were from the NY Times article about it on August 30 titled “Recreation and Commerce Collide on New York’s Crowded Waterways” by 

Design Review: Beneteau First 21.0

We recently came across this review of our learn-to-sail boat, the Beneteau First 21.0.  It’s sometimes called the First 210.  Many Europeans call it the Baby Ben.

Beneteau First 21.0 sloop sailing fast upwind.
One of our Beneteau First 21.0 sloops at New York Sailing Center.

It’s the smallest sailboat made by the largest (and oldest) sailboat manufacturer in the world.  It’s two and a half editions, or generations, or models old depending on how one defines that.  Started with the First 21.0; became the First 20.  (Boat didn’t shrink.)  Then, Beneteau and ASA (American Sailing Association) teamed up to produce a slightly modified version – that’s the “half” to which I refer – called the ASA Trainer or First 22.  (Again, the boat didn’t grow.)  The chief difference on this one is that they made a smaller cabin and larger cockpit.

asa first 22 pair
A pair of ASA First 22 sloops duking it out somewhere. Note sail number: “20,” same on both, leftover from Beneteau’s standard production model – the First 20.  They’re all the same size boat.

But, all versions have these things in common:

  • Hull.  (Boat body)  The size and shape are the same.
  • Keel.  (The fin that stops the boat from going sideways and from flipping over.)
  • Rudders.  (Steering fins.)  Yes, plural.  There are two.
  • Rig.  The spars (poles that hold the sails up, out, etc), and basic sailplan, are the same except for the squared-off top of the mainsail on the newer boats.

Bob Perry, a highly esteemed naval architect and author, with a regular column on design in Sailing magazine, penned this article some time ago. Here are his words, and some pics we saw fit to slip in…

Perry on Design: the Beneteau First 21.0.

(Bob’s prose appears below in quotes.  Any editorial notes I couldn’t resist are indented in parentheses as I’ve done here.)

“Let’s go small and look at a trailerable boat. This one is from the board of Group Finot and built by Beneteau. It is a very different approach, abandoning tradition and going after speed and convenience with modern design features.

ben blueprint
ABOVE: Blueprint of the Beneteau First 21.0, showing the swing keel in both extremes of its range. This is a ‘high aspect’ design: the sails and the keel (foils) are tall up and down, and short fore and aft.

“The benefit of this type of boat is the ability to move easily to exotic or semi-exotic locations for regattas. The 210 will make a great daysailer or a camp-style cruiser. While trailerable sailboats are seldom examples of refined design, the First 210 shows design innovation aimed at sparkling performance and eye appeal. This boat is also unsinkable.

ben trailer
Keel fully retracted, a First 21.0 on its trailer and ready to roll.

“With an LOA of 21 feet, the First 210 shows a modern, round bilge hull form with a very broad transom to give it dinghylike proportions. Look carefully at the plan view, deck layout or interior. Note the location of maximum beam. In most modern designs the maximum beam is located at or around station six. If you use the same system of establishing stations and break the 210’s DWL into 10 segments, you will find the max beam around station nine! There is even a curious little hook in the deck line right at station nine. The result of this shape is extreme maximization of the small volume available in 21 feet and a wide platform aft to optimize the righting moment effect of crew weight.

(We’ve always called this boat a big dinghy with a keel on it.  A dinghy is a sailboat that can flip over and requires the crew’s weight on the rail to hold it down.  The Beneteau First 21.0 is very sensitive to crew weight, and reacts immediately to changes – but it won’t flip over if the crew fails to react.  That makes it ideal for learning and training.)

ben 20 birdseye
Bird’s eye of the Beneteau First 20 plan. Note how wide the back, or transom, of the boat is and also the twin rudders on the back. All this is the same configuration as the First 21.0.

“The extremely high-aspect-ratio centerboard (ed. note: it’s a ballasted swing keel, not a centerboard or centerboard keel) is housed in an odd shaped nacelle below the hull for a board-up draft of 2 feet, 3 inches. Almost every appendage is a candidate for “ellipticalization” these days, and I find it interesting that the designers have ended this board in a sharp point. In profile, the rudder looks ridiculously small until you realize that there are in fact two rudders. They are canted outboard at 15 degrees. With this extreme distribution of beam aft a normal rudder would pull almost clear of the water at high degrees of heel. With the two rudders, when the boat is heeled one of the rudders will still be at an effective working angle with the water. This is a slick way of reducing the required draft of the rudders. Note that the draft of the twin rudders is the same as the draft of the board housing. The rudders are linked through the member at the top of the open transom.

ben 20 sailing
A First 20 in fine form upwind. Note the rudder barely touching the water. The other one is all the way in and fairly straight, meaning it works well. When a sailboat leans to the side, its rudder loses some effectiveness and this twin rudder design reduces that.

(The design was great by itself, but what puts it over the top is the twin rudders.  Sailboats lean to the side naturally, as shown in the pic above. The more they lean, however, the less effective their rudder (steering fin) becomes.  It loses its bite on the water, so it has to be held to one side to go straight.  This creates drag and further reduces its effectiveness.  But the twin rudders on the First 21.0, each one angled outward, become straight when the boat heels a normal amount, and when the boat heels too much, the rudder angle isn’t bad. This makes for a forgiving feel that allows students to learn from mistakes rather than be confused or overwhelmed by them.  And that makes them better able to sail any boat afterward.)

“There are no overhangs on this little packet. The bow profile shows a hint of concavity to allow some flare into the forward sections. There is also a tiny amount of tumblehome in the midsection with a moderate BWL.

“The shrouds are taken to the deck edge allowing a small jib to be sheeted inside. The mainsheet sheets to a single attachment point on the cockpit sole. All halyards lead aft to jammers within easy reach of the helm. The spar is deck stepped with a hinged step. The interior is a one piece GRP molding with small sink and one burner stove. The portable head is under the V-berth. The small interior space is divided by a trunk that carries that top of the swing keel. A hinged leaf table is attached to this trunk. The four berths are all adult sized.

“On deck, the swim ladder and outboard bracket fit neatly between the twin rudders. The two cockpit lockers contain a space specifically for the outboard fuel tank. The bubblelike desk is striking and set off by a varnished mahogany toerail.

asa first 22 1 boat 1 couple
Closer view of the newer ASA First 22. Larger cockpit, smaller cabin, and Stars n Stripes graphics are the key differences between the original First 21.0 and this version.

“The First 210 appears to combine careful styling with performance and safety. The general approach to this design is similar to the Mini-Transatlantic Class, but the boat is not as radical in proportions as a true mini-transat racer. Beneteau’s tooling of molded parts is as good as any in the business and their approach to finish and style is perhaps the best in the business. These aspects combine to ensure that the little 210 will be a standout.”

(“Mini-transat” refers to the Mini 6.5 class boat: 6.5 meters, basically the same as the first 21.0.  It’s a serious racer.  How serious?  They are raced singlehanded across the Atlantic – with spinnaker.  No shit. They have twin rudders like the Beneteaus.  This class is also raced doublehanded for some regattas.)

ben b & w spinn
Black & white is so timeless! Here’s a great shot of the First 21.0 flying along while flying a kite (spinnaker). Note the simple, spacious cockpit, balancing well with the open deck space making it easy to go forward to moor, anchor, rig a non-furling jib (which is best for learning to sail), etc.

We love this boat, and while they’re fewer and farther between, and much more expensive to buy than the boats more commonly used in sailing schools (J-24’s and Sonars come to mind), they’re worth it as they just work better for teaching.

“Don’t take our word for it!”  Everyone says they have the best boat.  But this is the only design ever endorsed for sailing instruction by a national sail training or sailing school organization such as ASA or US Sailing.

Here are a couple of related links…

America’s Cup and why Sailing the Hudson Still Sucks…

So, the America’s Cup came to New York earlier this season, and it was half empty.

The world’s best sailors and boats – and they couldn’t even get a series off on day one?  They lost half the weekend.  Was it sailable?  Eh….

I was at City Island.  We had a fine time.  But on the Hudson, they had strong enough currents to make it unsailable.  On Sunday, they were sometimes standing still after maneuvers.  Sure, the wind was a little light.  But not THAT light.

This is just one example.  It’s an historical conundrum.  Why do so many people (try to) learn to sail in NY Harbor and the Hudson, when pro sailors can’t figure it out?

  • Perceived proximity
  • Marketing hype
  • The ? factor (as in we just don’t get it)

Don’t take our word for it!  This shot, and the following article excerpts, sum it up nicely.  One of our instructors recently took this picture of a picture.  It was on the wall of another sailing school (down Mid-Atlantic way…)

krunch
Real? Photoshopped? Don’t know… but we know this scene has happened on numerous occasions with several schools in New York Harbor and the Hudson.

And now, back to the America’s Cup from earlier this summer…

Read the following article excerpts, or the whole article via link at bottom, and imagine trying to learn to sail or even enjoy new skills (if even acquired) in NY Harbor and the Hudson.

-from Extreme Sailing to Meet Extreme Conditions on Hudson by Cory Kilgannon (New York Times, May 5, 2016)

nb: we’ve inserted some editorial notes here and there, indented like this.

“Holding a world-class sailing race, part of the America’s Cup series, off Battery Park City may make for spectacular shoreline viewing, but it is not easy for organizers or racers, who may prefer a location farther offshore with easier winds to navigate and little interference from other boat traffic.”

“The race poses daunting logistical challenges. There is the harbor traffic — ferries, tugboats, barges and other large vessels that ply the Hudson — that must be diverted, along with a designated area for the more than 700 personal recreational boats expected to anchor for the event.”

…not to mention Circle Line, the Shark Speedboat Thrill Ride, various large booze cruise boats, etc.

“Then there is the rapid current of the Hudson River as well as effects on the wind by the tall buildings flanking the racecourse, both in Manhattan and on the other side of the river in Jersey City.”

The current is so strong that anyone who’s spent a little time sailing here has had their boat ‘in the groove,’ going full tilt, only to look at the shoreline and see that they’re just standing still.  All boats down there need engines to deal with this and usually get underway and stop under power.  Doesn’t teach how to do it under sail…

The wind sheers and downdrafts created by the buildings are neither pleasant nor productive.

“All of which complicates the task of timing the races to start precisely at 2 p.m. for live coverage of the regatta on Saturday and Sunday.  Races have been held near urban areas before, including in San Francisco and Gothenburg, Sweden, but they have never been staged this close to a downtown area.”

“Organizers have met for months with New York City officials and law enforcement agencies and other parties. Commercial shipping companies have agreed to work around the race times, and a separate lane will be established near the shoreline for ferries and other vessels.”

Sailing school activities (classes, club sails, and races), cruising boats visiting, sailing tours and charters, etc. don’t get this kind of special attention at all and must scurry out of the way of all the commercial traffic – which comes from every direction at once.

“For sailors, a major challenge will be the Hudson’s wind and current conditions. To adapt to the strong tidal current, which during the race will be running south with the outgoing tide, organizers are using heavier anchors and longer chains than usual to secure the race buoys, which are called marks.”

The strong current coupled with light winds wound up killing Saturday. Whole day lost.  (This is supposed to be a competition of the world’s best sailors on fast, high-tech boats capable of speeds over 40 knots.)

“As for the air, the canyon of high-rises in Manhattan’s financial district and in Jersey City could negatively affect the all-important wind that is the sailor’s fuel.”

“For sailors, a major challenge will be the Hudson’s wind and current conditions. To adapt to the strong tidal current, which during the race will be running south with the outgoing tide, organizers are using heavier anchors and longer chains than usual to secure the race buoys, which are called marks.”

“Practice races on Friday will be filmed for use in case conditions on Saturday or Sunday prevent the regatta.”

Welcome to Manhattan, the Mecca of metropolitan Sailing!..   NOT.

Here’s a link to the entire article with a few pics.

America’s Cup: back across the Pond

 

IMG_5225
Looks like Team Oracle (USA) leads here, right? Wrong. Watch the video clip to see how Land Rover rolled right through this group and blew them away.  Use the link below to go to the AmCup site and get the app.

The cup action has moved to Portsmouth, England and is exciting as usual.  Local team Land Rover BAR, led by Sir Ben Ainslie, was in the lead after Saturday’s round of racing.  Ainslie is without a doubt one of the best sailboat racers in recent history, with Olympic medals and world championships under his belt in such tough classes as the Laser and Finn. Add foiling catamarans to the list, and his path to glory starts to resemble that of ‘The Great Dane’ – Paul Elvstrom.

Paul Elvstrøm 1960b.jpg
‘The Great Dane,’ Paul Elvstrom, in the 1960 Olympics in Rome. He’s in a Finn dinghy – the world’s hardest boat to sail. Period.

Elvstrom is arguably the most successful sailor in racing history.

Quick stats…

  • Sailed in 8 Olympiads
  • Won Gold Medals in 4 consecutive Olympiads, a feat duplicated by only 3 other athletes, including Ben Ainslie and Carl Lewis;
  • Medaled (1st, 2nd or 3rd) in 11 World Championships;
  • Did all this in 9 different classes of boat, running the full gamut: singlehanded dinghies, double handed dinghies, 2-man keelboats, 3-man keelboats, and catamarans.  Only thing he didn’t do was sailboards which became popular too late in his career.

Here is a list of racing classes he did all this in:

  • Firefly (singlehanded dinghy)
  • Finn (singlehanded dinshy)
  • Snipe (doublehanded dinghy)
  • 505 (doublehanded dinghy)
  • Flying Dutchman (doublehanded beast of a dinghy/boardboat)
  • Star (doublehanded keelboat)
  • 5.5 Metre (3-man keelboat)
  • Soling* (3-man keelboat)
  • Tornado (doublehanded catamaran)

*The Soling was a true pedigree racing class, but was also very commonly used in adult sailing school programs for a long time.  We used them in our first school.  Sweet ride, but not particularly comfortable or ergonomic for beginners.

On top of all that, he just missed an Olympic bronze medal by one place in the Tornado class catamaran in his 50’s with his teen daughter, Trina, crewing for him.  He also victored in numerous Pan-European Championships, including in the Dragon class keelboat which was very competitive back in the day.

On and off the race course, Elvstrom was developmental in many ways., ranging from sail and spar design and manufacturing to improvements in components (such as self bailing mechanisms), training techniques (his ground breaking hiking bench), and race organization (such as using gates, or two marks to pass between, for large fleets).  He wrote a few books too including Expert Dingy and Keelboat Racing.

Anyway, the times and boats were somewhat different, but all can agree that these are two of the greatest names in the sport of sailboat racing. Sir Ben Ainslie has the distinction of competing in the America’s Cup, the premier small fleet/match-racing event in the sport, and is doing a very good job.

CUPDATE: Ainslie and Team Land Rover (pictured below) won the Portsmouth regatta and have the America’s Cup trial series lead.  That makes them currently the boat to beat and if they maintain their lead, they challenge Team Oracle for the actual Cup.

IMG_5226
Team Land Rover foiling along during the July 23 action on the Solent. Note the stadium seating in background.

To watch previous races, both real-time with commentary and a variety of viewing angles, and really kewl virtual renditions, go to the official America’s Cup site and browse around or better still, get their app.  Racing resumes on Sunday (July 24).  Check it out…

https://www.americascup.com/en/home.html