Our latest Virgin Islands trip saw people brushing up on how to sail a yacht and how to kick it on a kewl cruise.
Our (typically) annual trip in the British Virgin Islands was spectacular. Winds were surprisingly consistent, especially for this time of the year. The group got along like Kool and the Gang. There was less traffic than in the high season, and therefore parking, playing and getting dinner reservations were all easier.
For newcomers to our ramblings and Rants, these trips are instructional sailing vacations. People get a tour and vacay, but also can train at all the aspects of bareboat charter cruising. Those with the prerequisite background can earn one level of ASA cruising certification (either 103 or 104). On rare occasions, a student might pursue their 105 (coastal navigation).
This trip was full and waitlisted for any cancellations. Our last BVI trip was literally the week before the pandemic lockdown in early 2020, so we skipped two years in paradise. We did manage an Italy trip last fall which had been postponed for the same reasons. On this BVI trip, we had one couple who’d taken their beginner course with us last summer, one single guy, and three single women (one of whom had gone to Italy with us as well as sailed in our club and taken a course or two).
So, what was new in BVI? What was the same? We skipped the “new” stuff. For example, we know peeps who played there a month earlier. They reported that Cooper Island, Bitter End & Saba Rock, and the restaurant above The Baths had all over done it. A few places had rebuilt bigger and badder than ever after the back to back hurricanes that preceded the pandemic. Others never rebuilt. Others were simply the same. It therefore felt like it always had, in a good way, and often felt as if we had it to ourselves.
I’d anticipated some dead zones where motoring was required to get anywhere. March had been like that a few times. Not so this early May! Winds were consistently about 12-15, and sometimes into upper teens. One day was honking as we got started, and we very conservatively double reefed the main. When it diminished somewhat, we shook out one reef but that was all I could get a basically lazy crew to do. Their party; their time. It was our last full day so they were kinda chill.
And, of course, it’s all supposed to be “island time.” There are some exceptions, of course. Want a guaranteed mooring? Have to be on the special app for that at 7am. Maybe not in the shoulder season, but certainly in the winter and early spring. Want a dinner reservation at Pirates Bight restaurant on Norman Island? Better make one early, especially if you want to choose your table time. How about dinner at all on Anegada? They do things different there. Call in your boat’s name and exact dishes (plus any choice of sides) by 4. Better yet, do it by 3. How many lobster? How many Mahi? Etc, etc.
We were on a nearly new Jeanneau 40 (Sunsail 40, as that’s who we chartered from). Nearly new here means 4 months. We paid extra for the privilege, and always do if they’re available. The sails were therefore perfect, and almost everything else showed new. There were some strange small failures that weren’t fixed before we set out on charter, such as the strut to hold up one of the top-load cabinets, and one door handle kept coming off for the aft head. But we dealt easily enough. The engine and electronics were all perfectly functional, and the boat performed.
It did poorly under the double reef; the boat needed to heel over and power up. The sail plan must have been inherently small, requiring reefing higher up on the wind dial. The crew had their chance to shake out the single reef when even that was too little but were enjoying it nonetheless. We got to our destination with plenty of time to do other activities despite that.
Turtles were doing well, and we saw them daily. Rays were a little down in the count. Snorkeling got us into all kinds of parrot fish, and numerous other species. One decent sized shark was spotted: almost the size of the 10-foot dinghy (so perhaps 7-8 feet, although it was an experienced snorkeler who’d seen sharks in the past, so maybe 9). That client asked for a pick up from the dinghy, as we were snorkeling off the boat close to shore, and he backed himself up almost onto it to keep an eye on the thing. He did say that the shark seemed to spook when they got close to each other and take off, but due to its size he wanted to play it safe. We drove over to the other snorkeler and advised. He wanted to see if he could see the shark! So, we let him be. Shark attacks in the Virgin Islands: how many documented attacks? One, in the 1970’s, on a diver in over 200 feet of water far from shore. Statistically insignificant, as I often say.
Food: better! I’m often less than impressed with the local food, sorry to say. Having said that, there are several places worth dining at. We ate out for dinner half the time, and every meal was excellent, with the possible exception of the first night before we took off on our adventure. I ordered duck that was under cooked, and when it came back, it was still undercooked and everyone else had finished their meals. I rejected it and ordered a salad, which came back way too complicated after I’d asked for greens with dressing. I’d go back despite that, as we’ve been there before and it was top tier.
Sadly, my personal favorite, and always a favorite of clients, is still not back up and running after the hurricanes. That’s Fat Virgin’s Cafe, not surprisingly of Virgin Gorda. Unpretentious; cheap; excellent. Slow, which might be to get more drink orders or, more likely, because they take their time to cook things right. Dinghy up to the dock; the picnic tables are two feet away. Limited seating; never full; hard to tell if reservations are ever needed or taken seriously. If a pro captain brings a group, he or she eats free. But, don’t be bringing no high-maintenance people late in the evening. Yup; we sort of did that once.
It can be fun to cook on board, and everything just tastes better on a boat. We did stove top and barbecue grilling for some of our dinners. Simple stuff, and it came out great. No complaints here. One woman’s pasta dish caused me to totally overeat with healthy seconds heaped on. Plus, ice cream she’d gotten at the last port and somehow managed to fit into the tiny freezer! That was a feat of modern engineering.
Next trip? September. Where? Europe: either Croatia or Italy, both of which we’ve visited before. Excited to go back to either, so I’ll basically let clients choose assuming comparably good boat availability with doable pricing at both locations.
Hope to see some readers on that trip! Get in touch if that might be you. You never know; you might dial up the delightful experience you want for yourself.
Until it isn’t… or is that Brighton, Utah? The weather has been wild all over, but we’re starting to teach people how to sail in Brooklyn and ignoring the powder out yonder.
We started on April 4, did a few lessons, resume this week with a private on Wednesday, and take a break for our Virgin Islands Sailing Vacay (BVI). After that, our first full Start Sailing course of the season kicks off on May 6.
The little guys above are Sunnies! That’s a nickname for Sunfish, one of the world’s most well-know sailboat classes. There are a ridiculous number of them worldwide accumulating since they were born in… 1947!!! I most certainly did NOT know they went back that far. By the time the Sunfish turned 50, there were over 300,000 of them. They’re a competitive racing class with well attended world championships. I’ve sailed them once or twice, along with the similar Sailfish.
That shot was posted to promote the Sebago Canoe Club‘s spring regatta, which involves Sunnies and Lasers (which I’ve raced extensively). Sebago is in Jamaica Bay, a short ride away from our Sheepshead Bay location at Miramar Yacht Club. Like Miramar, Sebago is a cooperative and all members give service to the club to help run it and keep costs down.
So, the Sunnies will be out in force. How about us?
We’ve been sailing off Brighton Beach. That’s next to Manhattan Beach. But… it’s not in Manhattan. We don’t do Manhattan for sailing. Brighton is on Coney Island, facing south toward the Atlantic, and almost there. Directly across Rockaway Inlet is Breezy Point. If Montauk is “The End,” as the bumper stickers say, Breezy is the beginning. It’s the very start of continental Long Island, and where New York Bay meets the Atlantic.
Brighton was a bit cloudy and more than a bit foggy the last time we were out. It happens. There was enough wind to sail after being almost becalmed briefly. That’s super rare here. Remember… Breezy. The area has its own micro climate, with fair weather far more often than foul. Last season, we did five full learn to sail schedules there, spread out over the whole summer and early fall. We also did numerous private lessons. How many times did we cancel due to thunderstorms? Zero. Not so with our old digs at City Island. “It’s (almost) always sunny at Breezy and Brighton.”
How about Brighton, Utah? Still snowing!!! They just got some more, and have little more on the way. As of this writing, they’re still 100% open. Every. Single. Trail. And, all the glades. 65 big runs, at the little big mountain in Big Cottonwood Canyon.
Who cares? Anyone interested in both sailing and snowsports; anyone concerned about climate change. The Wild Winter that Was out West broke many records. We might not be glad that it did. Add in the drought we had on the East Coast this winter, and the spring tornados that have wrought havoc on the southeast, and who knows what to expect going forward.
Down around Breezy and Sheepshead Bay, for at least the foreseeable future, we can count on afternoon sea breezes most days, with virtually no risk of thunderstorms. It is known. We’ll take it, and take our chances with what happens when the next winter comes.
Our season for teaching people how to sail a boat, or get better at it, is underway.
Actually, it began on April 4, one of our earlier outings! We started off conservatively with a private lesson for an experienced student who has a new boat arriving soon. He’s been a regular private lesson client for awhile, and has come down to our new location in Sheepshead Bay a few times now despite plans to keep his boat on the Sound.
Due to the vagaries of spring weather, as exacerbated by global warming and climate change, we stopped our long standing tradition of kicking off learn to sail courses in mid April. Now, it’s early May, with an occasional advanced course starting earlier as well as private lessons.
Next up after that lesson: I brought our Carolina Skiff down from City Island. I ran it down the East River, which is not necessarily for the faint of heart, and then NY Harbor (even less so) before getting through the Verrazzano Narrows and on to Rockaway Inlet and Sheepshead Bay. I knew I needed to not only time the current properly, but also the weather. Our skiff is very open, so spray can be an issue. It’s also more flat bottomed than deep-vee’d, so it has serious limits to how much of a pounding it can take in chop. That said, it’s super stable and can handle rolling/yawing extremely well.
I settled on a Sunday with a forecast for very light north winds, switching to light from the southwest late in the day. If all went well, I’d have a gentle wind at my back on the way down and no worse than a gentle one from on one side toward the end of the trip. The slack current at Hell Gate was predicted for exactly noon, and I love the ‘high noon’ thing. I assumed a 10-knot average speed, and based on the distance, figured it would take 2.5 hours non stop. Of course, I’d stop for various reasons a number of times, including potentially for a fuel top-off, so guesstimated 4 hours dock to dock.
It was a milk run. Sunny most of the way to take the edge off the chill; flat calm due to light winds. There were occasional wakes, but I barely reacted to most of them and none were dramatic. I almost skipped the fuel stop, but heeded the advice of one our instructors who’s and ASA Instructor Evaluator, and super knowledgeable and experienced in that area. “You’re right there – how long a detour is it? 30 minutes? Just do it.” He was speaking from both experience and common sense. Most very experienced boaters have, at some point, had a fuel fiasco.
It was around 30 minutes. I also did numerous very short stops for grabbing a bite to eat, adding clothes, doing something on the phone, or taking pics. Total time dock to dock? 3:08. So, my 2.5 was damn close to exactly right. Score one up for the great navigator! Turns out… I didn’t need the extra fuel, but better to have to add stabilizer to that than wonder if a tow boat service could do a fuel drop half way between Hell Gate and Schitts Creek.
Next? A quick sail with two instructor candidates. Chilly and wet – but fun! See a sample in the clip above.
We did another private lesson for a City Islander soon afterward. She booked weeks in advance and didn’t realize we had moved to Sheepshead Bay! But, she decided to make the trek anyway. Her sister and she had taken lessons together previously, and wanted a better progression at a pace that suited them. They tried, we supplied, and they had nearly perfect conditions that helped that happen. They’ll be back.
We also got out two students who had different backgrounds, but were both in need of a similar lesson. I grouped them and also brought along a new instructor we’re ‘onboarding’ for his second orientation session. We got becalmed just as we entered the Inlet, but then the wind picked up enough to fight the current. Soon, we didn’t need to consider the current.
Full courses begin on May 6, and our first Sailing Vacay Course of the year ends the day before down in the Virgin Islands (BVI). In the meantime, we’ll continue with privates as the weather allows. Spring weather up here is too volatile to plan on multi-day beginner courses for people with busy schedules. Some schools do it anyway and graduate people who haven’t learned to sail. We’ve paid attention to the weather trends and decided to start a little later, so students who Start SailingSM with us can get it done the first time.
Using your phone to take pics and clips while learning how to sail, or sliding down a mountain? Don’t do it without a leash.
Instagram is a boon and a bane. And, it’s incessant. It’s like the Terminator. It doesn’t stop; it doesn’t reason; it doesn’t care. It just does. Insta? It’s newer digital tech, but it uses an old school ad trick. It makes sure you see the ad enough times to have a chance that you’ll take the bait.
I took it. Despite being leery of Insta ads, this one looked good and I needed something like it. I needed a leash for my iPhone for snowboarding, and potentially for on-water this sailing season. The closest thing I had in the past was a bulky foam protective wrap that went around the phone’s case, and would both cushion and float it. It came with both neck and wrist lanyards. I took the phone on chairlifts; I took it snorkeling (waterproof case). That was the Lifeproof case and Lifejacket accessory. But, their quality control eroded and I lost a phone to water intrusion, so was done with that.
Anywho, fast forward to early/mid winter. I was seeing ads like the one above for the Hangtime Koala. It’s a one-piece silicone leash and holster. It straps around the corners of various phone models and interferes little to not at all with functions. It attaches to ones clothing with a choice of carabiner or spring clip. I removed the clip and tried the carabiner, which isn’t perfect (I popped it off a few times but didn’t lose my phone). Upgrade the carabiner, add an extension to the short leash, and I should be good to go.
It works! Like everything, nothing’s perfect, but it’s a solid product. I’ve taken clips on the hill, and also while doing runs. I fell; I tumbled. The phone stayed with me (possibly because I had a death grip on it; can’t remember if I dropped it during any of my falls).
The last time I used it was around 2 weeks ago at Stratton Mountain in Vermont. It was a true powder day; I’d driven up the previous afternoon to avoid driving as the snow fell that evening and through the next day. That was a good move – few people got to the mountain the next day due to the storm, so the overnight snow held up well and we were all treated to free refills all day. And, it kept snowing into the evening and next morning! Stratton reported a total of 41.” No one got to ride or ski 41″ of course as people started getting at it the first morning, but it was already 2+ feet by then and building. That’s almost as good as it gets for a Northeast powder day. (I had a better one once, with 2.5-3 feet overnight, and also at Stratton. Killington does get more snow, and better quality on average, but Stratton seems to get the bigger dumps albeit rarely.)
I posted that run in the previous Rant, but here’s one newly posted from a Utah trip two weeks beforehand using the Koala. Click pic to play…
During a break in the mid mountain lodge, a guy approached me and asked what I was using to hold onto the phone. It was still attached to the Koala. I told and showed him. He said he owned the patent for it, and that the guy from Hangtime was knowingly violating it. His company? Smart Catch. Similar product; less expensive; patents shown on the web site. (And, yes – there are other similar products out there including one aimed at those who go fishing.)
His wife apparently came up with the idea while on a chairlift, and the idea became a reality. This fellow (very nice; didn’t get his name) actually said that the Hangtime product was very good – but also that it was a patent infringement. I felt bad, but what did I know. Hangtime’s Koala has “patent pending” printed on it. I reached out through their Insta ads but didn’t hear back. The Smart Catch products are sold directly on their site, and also on Amazon.
Anyway, I was an unsuspecting purchaser in good faith, and the guy who might have the intellectual property rights signed off on the quality of his competitor. I’m keeping it unless I find something significantly better, and who knows? I might very well try the Smart Catch for the lower price and out of pro curiosity.
For a few years in a row, we had at least one client each season lose a phone overboard. I cringe every time someone is about to step from dock to boat, or boat to boat, holding an unsecured phone in their hand. I warn them against it if I can do so without risking them dropping it right at the edge as they try to pocket it. I’ll be updating our “What to bring and wear” list that we send to everyone before their course, which we do seasonally. I’ll be adding a phone leash to this (and that we’ll laugh like Cartman if they lose their phone stepping off the boat with it formerly in hand).
Climate change is affecting weather everywhere, but when we learn how to sail or cruise, new apps give old (and new) dogs kewl tricks
It’s all about the weather… whether we’re skiing, riding, or sailing. And while the weather is more volatile, the apps to check it are more robust.
I was getting a bit of a rep for forecasting on City Island. I’m no meteorologist. My experience, history and insight (if any) range from “red sky at night; sailor’s delight” stuff from back in the day to “which app is that?” Patterns have changed, and technology has taken strides. Anyway, I’m on the water a lot so there’s that.
With everyones smart phones come apps. However, what’s included stock is sketchy. We all have some kind of basic weather app. But, how does it work? What’s it good for? Do we trust it for snowsports in the winter, sailing in the summer, or neither?
The answer is probably a little of both, and not neither. But, those basic apps need to be used judiciously, and paired with something more robust and specific to the sport at hand.
First, a story…
As you probably know, I’m a snowboarder. I got tired of not getting fresh pow, even when traveling out west to do so. I used to think that out west, they didn’t get ice, and a ‘bad’ day there was like a packed powder/hardpack day on the Ice Coast (northeast). Not soooo… EVERYONE gets ice! Everywhere. It’s just a matter of how often. I learned the hard way: we booked a trip to Solitude (& Brighton) in Utah and not only got skunked (no fresh while there), but ICE. Crappy conditions. It hadn’t snowed in over a month!!!! I call it the Great Drought of ’22, and it affected much of the west in between great starts and finishes to the season.
Short-term forecasting doesn’t help when you have to plan a trip months in advance. I’d done the right thing; I picked a place that’s hard to get a drought, and which gets a ton of snow each season (annual average of around 500,” as opposed to 175-250 in Southern Vermont). Plus, a ‘minus:’ subtract rain (and add that the snow is light and dry). While it didn’t work out on that trip, at least it didn’t rain. Plus, the trip was still very enjoyable. Just no fresh snow. Historically speaking, it was a not a gamble but a good idea.
Next trip? We still had to plan in advance, and decided that variety plus consistency were good ideas. ‘Variety’ was a totally different area with unusual terrain, scenery, etc: Revelstoke, B.C. Also, it’s known for good annual snowfall averages of good quality, and consistent smaller amounts of fresh snow (“free refills”). It delivered – sort of. Compared to their previous season, they were about 2 metres below when we arrived, and there hadn’t been much recent snow. Bottom of the mountain was icy. Top was zero ice and some soft powder to be found, but no bonanza. Fine; it was still a good trip and half way through, we got some fresh that fixed the lower mountain. Lesson: a little fresh goes a long way at Revelstoke!
By then, I was looking around for better apps for the mountains. I had a new strategy in mind, and needed new last minute tactics. Strategy? “The Formula.” Basically, identify two, maybe 3 mountains or areas where the following conditions had a chance to all align at the same time…
Lots of fresh snow in the forecast (on top of good recent snowfall and no drought);
Good flight itineraries with low risk of weather delays;
Cheap, practical lodging
Safe, reliable and affordable transit to the mountain.
Lodging and transit could be figured well in advance. Snowfall was mid and short term dependent on weather. Same for flights. But, how to forecast the upcoming snow reliably? I had to do better than try to extrapolate from weather dot com (which I do use for some boating), and NOAA forecasts, neither of which are comprehensive enough at the local mountain scale.
I searched around and found two candidate apps to use and cross reference. If they were reasonably in agreement, and the trend looked good, I could pull the trigger.
They were; I did.
It worked. Third time’s the charm! I got 3 powder days in the Wasatch Mountains of Utah (Brighton and Snowbird). Conditions were anywhere from excellent to epic (heli-quality), with the exception of later in the day on one of the faces of Snowbird where it had been heavily trafficked and skied off with horrible visibility due to fog. Almost a problem! But, I took another route out through chopped up pow, another lift to top, and the tram back down to the base.
Open Snow, primarily. It’s a paid app with a 2-week trial period. For $29/year, you get detailed conditions report, regional forecast narratives, and super detailed forecasts for snow, wind, temps, etc at just about any ski hill you’d care to go to. Turns out the guy I met on the UTA ski bus, who had the same “Formula” as I, had been using Open Snow for some time.
Cross reference? On The Snow. Not as robust, but serves the double-check purpose. I also follow Powder Chasers, although there’s no app involved but the option of a paid concierge service (that could be well worth it in the context of the cost of an actual trip).
“What if I don’t ride or ski? What about on-water weather?”
First, let’s talk about some forecasting basics -what you’re looking for in evaluating weather for boating. Once you know that you can narrow down the app choices.
Marine forecast. It’s at least somewhat different from the standard weather forecast most people use on a day-to-day basis (including me). Marine forecasts focus on wind direction & strength, sea state (waves), and risk of precipitation – particularly thunderstorms. That’s what you really need. If you do nothing else, consult the NOAA / NWS Marine Forecast for the general area you’ll be boating, and also keep checking a radar app if there’s any risk of thunderstorms.
Radar. The greatest risk for most people boating inshore and along the coast is thunderstorms. In the northeast, for example, most people do most of their boating in the warmer months, which incurs risk of thunderstorms (especially mid afternoon and later). So, using some app to track potential approaching storms is critical. In the old days, we relied on the morning’s published forecast and our trained eye on the sky. Eventually, Marine VHF radio helped, but when it did, it was almost too last-minute. Radar can see what you can’t, and when real-time stuff changes, so does the radar imagery. It’s not perfect- it can’t always keep pace with small pop-up squalls at water’s edge, but large, seriously bad-ass systems don’t get missed.
History and trend. Don’t just open your iPhone, look at the included weather app, and see what the current temperature is. Look at what happened for at least a few hours prior, and what will happen into that evening/midnight. This applies to temperature, wind direction & strength, and if the area is exposed, the wave heights. Also, look at the forecast and the actual radar imagery for risk of precip and especially thunderstorms. If the forecast for later doesnt’ make sense in the context of the recent history/trend up to ‘now,’ the forecast could be stale or just plain wrong.
Of course, there are many apps and sites to choose from. Personally, I have mostly used weather dot com, searching for stations that most closely reflect the area I plan on boating. Example: I cross reference Brooklyn and Long Beach when evaluating conditions for classes out of Sheepshead Bay. (See top photo in post for an example.) The reality is somewhere in between, but favoring Long Beach which is close and also most similarly situated: an Atlantic Ocean inlet. Weather dot com gives hourly breakdowns and, for the very short term, 15′ breakdowns. To get the full suite of features and skip adds, it costs around $30/year. Annoyingly, it logs one out too frequently so choose an easy, short password.
I also cross reference that with the NOAA NWS Marine forecast for the area. No app here – just find the right web site starting point, bookmark it, and return often. Important: to get the history/trend, one must go to the NDBC page (National Data Buoy Center). This is a list of stations on and off the water that give frequently updated live data feeds for wind direction, strength gusts, wave heights, etc, etc. This, plus the forecast for the area (linkable from the NDBC pages) gives a good overall picture. The history of the live feed remains up, revealing the trend up until the user checks it.
What else is popular?
Windy. This was recommended during our Croatia trip at the skippers meeting to go over weather for the week, itineraries, etc, etc. The First Mate of record for our trip, Dave, and I both downloaded it immediately. Personally, I find it counterintuitive and annoying, and seldom use it. Having said that, many if not most people disagree with me and it’s certainly a robust app. Plus, it’s supposed to be good for snowsports!
And… there are two. Yup; two Windy apps. A good friend and client of the school, who’s a United pilot by profession, uses Windy.com as opposed to Windy.app. the dot com is an app for mobile as well. (I have on rare occasions used the other one, so now I’ll play around with the one the Pilot uses.)
How about a Radar app? For the Northeast, I use not an app, but a bookmarked site few people know about. My dentist, who’s a sailor, turned me onto it. It’s called CT Precip, and more commonly just called PLUFF. (pluff dot com) A University, in conjunction with Accuweather, arranged a feed of images for the northeast and much of the continent, plus other evaluative feeds that I don’t understand and probably don’t need. The first two screens take care of all my local and regional needs. When I travel out of the range, and need radar, I figure that out in the moment.
VHF Marine Radio. Apps aside, one should understand how to get weather updates that are broadcast on VHF radio, including ‘push’ severe weather alerts where available. If your smart phone dies or falls overboard, VHF could save the day proverbially – or literally.
On the water, the stories aren’t the same. We either get the green light to go, or we don’t. It’s not the same as a serious powder day at a mountain. But, it lets us go out when the sky looks doom n gloom, but nothing shows on the radar or in the forecast. And, more importantly, it lets us know when conditions favor the development of thunderstorms, or they’re strongly predicted – and lets us see them beyond the horizon when the weather looks just fine. For now…
And, now that you have more of an idea what to look for, start comparing history/trend with both forecasts and what actually happened for the local area you do most of your boating in. That will teach you how to forecast based on trends, and not totally rely on the apps. It will also show how reliable your choice of forecasting app is. And, it will make you a safer and more confident boater.
UPDATE: storm chasing with the app worked again… this time for Southern Vermont. This was a week ago. For the second time, I hit Stratton when it was likely to get the most snow in the region during a big storm. It did, and so did I. Car was socked in so deep I couldn’t see anything but the side view mirror. But, I was at the mountain snowboarding when most people couldn’t get there. It dumped overnight, and kept nuking as the day – and night – went. Free refills. And, it was Open Snow that made it a go, letting me see that I could safely drive up on Monday and get there before driving was not a good idea. 2-3 feet. Enough left over the next two days to keep hitting pow on side hits and in the trees, plus two incredible runs at Magic Mountain on Wednesday when they opened just because of the storm. Maybe they looked at Open Snow…
If you made it this far, here are links two a couple of Insta clips I posted. Come take part of a run with me down Brighton and Stratton Mountains from those recent trips! In the Brighton clip, I’m shooting Jack drop before I follow. It’s me, myself and I at Stratton.
Brighton: dropping into the double diamond bowl off the top of Great Western…
When learning how to navigate or sail a boat, currents and tides sometimes have something to say. Which causes the other – current, or tide?
We ask this in each schedule of Start NavigatingSM, our ASA 105 Coastal Navigation course. I have a strong opinion on this. Apparently, it agreed with NOAA and NOS. They had a “Did you know?..” posted on one page, and it said what I thought already: one causes the other, despite the conventional wisdom being otherwise.
Of course, when this topic arose again recently, due to ASA sending an e-blast concurring with the conventional wisdom, I was ready to sink my chops into it. Here’s what they said…
Tides are the vertical movement of water caused by the gravitational fields of the sun and the moon acting on bodies of water. Tidal Currents are the result of water moving between high and low tides.
Zeke Quezada, “TIPS FROM THE TEXT ‘TIDES & CURRENTS,'” on ASA’s site and in their January 27 e-blast.
So… celestial gravity raises earth’s waters, forming currents that fill in the gap? Nahhh…. Hard no, IMHO. Where was that NOAA page? I went looking for it.
Two weeks later: still looking. They seem to have deleted that page, and / or edited it and others. And, they have mixed statements about how this all interrelates. That got me thinking again about the topic, and further researching it. Most explanations I came across seemed somewhere between lame and oversimplified. But, most of them shared a common assumption of facts that were supported by an astrophysicist who I’ll cite below. He sought to debunk the common explanations of those facts. As did I.
I wrote him but haven’t heard back yet. I also reached out to a good friend who’s a PHD candidate in climate science at Columbia. She supported my explanation, and also noted that it’s a tricky topic to teach and that her students usually have trouble with it.
Let’s try to decipher this. What are currents and tides generally? What’s the difference between them? That part is simple.
CURRENT is any horizontal motion of earth’s waters across the face of it (back and forth; in and out).
TIDE is any vertical motion of earth’s waters (up and down).
What causes this to happen? Let’s limit this to interrelated current and tide, and leave out anything about wind driven currents or those caused the the rotation of earth (both of which are separate phenomena from tide and tidal current). Back to cause and effect:
The gravity of the moon mostly, with a little less than half of the forces caused by the sun.
Yup. “It is known.”
But, that’s both the beginning and the end of what people pretty much agree on. So let’s flesh out what the author here – me – thinks. Methinks. (Yes, grammatically incorrect x 2. So sue.)
What causes the “motion of the ocean?”
The gravitational pull of the moon, mostly, with less than half the total force being from the more powerful but far more distant sun. Their combined gravity pulls the earth’s waters around, causing cycles every day. We have two high tides and two low tides each day as the waters bunch up in response to celestial gravity. Because the tides are based on the moon much more than the sun, it takes a little over one “day” for the completion of all the cycles – around 50 minutes or so. (The moon rises later each night, in case you hadn’t noticed. That’s due to the moon’s orbit around earth.)
As the water chases the gravity, it flows horizontally across the earth’s surface, which is what we call current. As water leaves one area, it drops vertically, and as it bunches up in another, it rises. Therefore, current flow causes the rise and fall we call tide.
The Motion of the Ocean, excerpt from “Navigation for Numbskulls,” or How to get from A to B Without Hitting C. Captain Stephen Glenn Card (I authored the text in 2002, updating occasionally, and it’s the companion textbook we use for the ASA 105 Coastal Navigation course, Start Navigating. )
When people say that tide causes current, it implies that the moon stretches or lifts earth’s waters vertically, and pulls in water from other areas in the form of current. Neither the moon nor the sun has the gravitational force to actually lift earth’s waters.
Analogy, for those who like them: imagine the force required to push a boat through the water at a dock with one hand on a calm, still day. It’s pretty easy. Then, imagine lifting that boat out of the water and up into the air. That requires a multi-ton hoist. The concept is the same for cosmic gravity moving earth’s waters. It’s easy to pull them across earth, and impossible to lift them up and away from it.
But, don’t take my word for it… here are two videos and a pulled paragraph that sort of resonate with what I’m saying…
And, here’s a quote pulled from NOAA’s site (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)…
If you live near the coast or have ever visited the beach, you are probably aware of tides. But did you know that tides are really big waves that move through the ocean in response to the forces exerted by the Moon and the Sun? Tides start in the ocean and move towards the coast, where they appear as the regular rise and fall of the sea surface. How much the water level changes over the day varies depending on where you are and what day it is.
NOAA, in their abstract / synopsis of tides and currents. https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/navigation/tidesandcurrents/
Here’s another… also NOAA: Physical Oceanographer Greg Dusek, a senior scientist at NOAA’s Tides and Currents Office…
…And that affects water levels too, because you’re pushing either water away from shore so you have a little bit of a decrease in water level, or you’re pushing water towards shore and you have an increase in water level.
…When the Gulf Stream slows down, you can see increases of water level along the Southeast coast by several inches to maybe a foot. In some cases, it happens pretty regularly. So in North and South Carolina, you get a regular increase in water level in the fall because the Gulf Stream tends to be a little bit slower during those time periods.
Greg Dusek, NOAA Ocean Podcast Episode 15, “Tides and Currents: the Motion of the Ocean” (not to be confused with this author’s identical section title from his book, as I came up with the phrase on my own. So there.) Dusek’s topic here was mostly ocean currents like the Gulf Stream as caused and influenced by earth’s rotational force.
I repeat: “tides start in the ocean and move towards the coast” (translation: current)
…where they appear as the regular rise and fall of the sea surface.” (translation: tide.)
So, on a simply descriptive basis, with or without the terms current &/or tide, NOAA’s explanations agree with mine. And, everyone agrees that current is horizontal and tide vertical.
Add all this up…
Tyson: earth revolves through the tidal bulge caused by the moon (horizontal motions of earths surface and/or waters)
Perez-Giz: the moon does not lift or stretch the earth’s waters.
NOAA: ocean waters travel toward the coasts, where they rise and fall.
Card’s Conclusion: current causes tide.
Hopefully, this clears it up more than clouding it. What do you think? Weigh in!
We moved the sailing school, and skied a new hill, so we updated one map and checked out another!
It’s official: New York Sailing Center has moved to Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn. We are no longer on City Island. We’ve given out some snippets about that, but thought we’d wait to make the full announcement until Google believed it too and updated our listing and map pin.
I tried to update that while on vacation last week in Revelstoke, British Columbia. I’ve wanted to snowboard there for awhile. Many people haven’t heard of it; many more have heard of Whistler-Blackcomb, which is also in B.C. and is larger. And, more crowded. Less Ikonic. (No; not misspelled – at least not in the sense of multi-mountain access passes that many of you know and use.)
While up there, I got the expected text: a photo of the postcard that Google sent to the new location. It had a code I needed to enter when logged in. Forgot the password, of course, so instead of risking loss of our Google account messing around, I just waited until I got back to a device Google associated us with. And, in minutes, Google believed what I’d been saying for awhile: we moved to Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn! And, it updated the map.
Why the move?
We tried out a satellite branch there last season on a limited basis. Still NYC; still sailing off moorings; still not worried about commercial traffic and strong currents. They wanted a school presence; we wanted to experiment.
Weather has become worse for sailing in much of the Tri-State region over the last few years, and City Island was no exception. More volatility in wind speeds (too little or too much, and more often the former). More consistent risk and occurrence of thunderstorms.
City Island is a great place to visit, but painful on the B 2 B side of things. We had some hope that our new hosts at Sheepshead Bay would be a welcome change of pace.
One season sold us, and that was that with that. Sailing in Sheepshead Bay, and Rockaway Inlet, with the Atlantic Ocean just beyond Breezy Point, was a game changer. Zero low-wind cancellations. One late afternoon cut slightly short when a building sea breeze became a little too much for day 2 students who’d already been put through their paces. One early evening when everyone started heading back to port when it looked like a thunderstorm was approaching. It missed – and hit the north shores of Queens/Long Island and the Sound. Other than that, no weather delays. Incredible record in this time of climate change.
Add to that a great host facility with all the parts, easy access by car or public transit, and a welcoming and super inclusive sailing environment. And, add dolphins. Yup; it’s hard to sail there a few times and NOT see some. Whales? Not uncommon further out or around the corner. All this makes us almost not want to wait for the new season to begin.
But first, another map, and another experiment! Off to Revelstoke, B.C, for a mostly ski/ride trip with a side hit to friends in Seattle on the way back.
Revelstoke has a history of timber and rail. They do go hand in hand. What many people don’t realize, even if they’re aware of Revelstoke Mountain Resort, is that skiing has a long history there… about a century of it. You can look it all up on your own. The current resort only started up in 2007, after a troubled history of trying to keep a ski hill open in that area. The new investors got permits to operate a resort on a large tract of Mount McKenzie. (There’s a Mount Revelstoke, and park named after it, nearby.)
Revelstoke Mountain Resort (hereinafter just Revy) occupies a little over 3,100 acres, which is large if not gigantic. But it has the longest vertical descent of any ski resort in North America, and also the longest trail: 5,600 in round figures, and 9.5 miles in actual ones. The 9.5 one winds back and forth a lot to be that long. But some of the straight top to bottom runs are quite long as well, especially compared to other mountains with less vertical.
it also has a lot of snow, and ridiculously stunning views and scenery (considered a rival to Telluride – or is it the other way around?). Endless rows of conifers create spectacular glades to ski or ride, and also delineate most trails Three bowls with various degrees of difficulty to access and/or ski make for excellent terrain variety. And, from the highest lift-served areas, anyone can get down. Beginners and true experts, and in between, have choices. But, not crowds. Probably due to the hassle of getting there, it just doesn’t get crowded.
I did a heli day. Had to; rare opportunity as BC in general has so much heli territory, and Revelstoke might be the capital of BC heli skiing. We almost got tired of turning corners in town and seeing yet another heli operation represented. My day was not the best example, as poor visibility severely restricted terrain options and later shut down heli ops early. But, I got blower smoke powder for a run and a half before getting into trees that started off great and became too difficult for most of my group (yes, including me) as we progressed. Taking a helicopter to two different areas to drop in and snowboard was good enough for me.
Also, in the spirit of trying new things, I figured I’d set my sight on dropping cliffs. I booked a private lesson with a highly certified and recommended instructor there (Level 3 Snowboard; Level 4 Alpine). Mike M is an excellent instructor. He knew from observation that I wasn’t ready to drop any serious cliffs (I suspected as much myself, rather than expecting to drop one.) We worked on the skill sets that I’d need on various natural terrain features, and a few in the park. I did do one steep drop that wasn’t too long and ran out nicely, despite often failing at getting off the ground for small hits. My body doesn’t do well at the motions needed, especially when locked onto a board.
But, a good instructor can also just work on fixing bad habits or techniques observed in the student. I know; I was a Level I Snowboard Instructor for a few years, pursuing my Level II before I ran out of time to commit to teaching. I did it part time for a variety of reasons, one of which was some instructional cross training for the sailing school, and which paid large dividends in how we operate courses. Mike saw something and got me to fix it, and it was another game changer. (I was having trouble with heelside edge-hold on steep, icy trails. He fixed my problem; I’d made strides on my own in the past, but he really fixed it. That alone was worth it, yet I got so much more out of the lesson. And yes – an older dog with an open, motivated mind CAN learn new tricks!
And, I found some small cliff drops where I least expected to later in the trip – mid mountain, on a blue, under their shortest chair ride. First drop perfect! Second, not so much… but down safe. Part of the fun is looking at the trail map, poking around, and exploring a large mountain from both the chairlifts and on the snow.. You’ll find stuff you didn’t know you were looking for.
Maps new to us to look at; old maps updated for others. Still learning the areas out of Sheepshead Bay by using the new charts. Will still need the trail map at Revy to know how to get to the next glades on the next trip (yes, I’ll go back). Sailing from Sheepshead Bay, and riding & skiing at Revelstoke? Two scenarios that we can honestly recommend you bust out maps for.
Want more on NY Sailing Center and our new location? Follow our menu links from the side or bottom of this post and every other page.
Want to learn and see more about Revelstoke? Here you go!..
No, not the yacht ensign flag – the little yacht called an Ensign, on which we teach people how to sail a boat properly in Brooklyn, NYC.
ASA recently rolled out an on-line study course for learning to sail. It’s intended to help people get ready for on-water lessons by previewing the concepts and terminology. Schools pay a monthly fee to have access for their students; students pay whatever, if anything, schools charge them. Or, anyone can just purchase and peruse (see link at bottom of post).
Maybe it cuts down classroom time and reduces hours/costs for schools. Maybe it lets those whose learning preference is to read up and study in advance do so. Maybe it competes with other online educational materials such as ASA’s arch rival, NauticEd. Any which way you slice it, it’s here.
And, when they did their e-blasts about it, they chose a photo of an Ensign. Why do we care? Because that’s what we teach on for learn to sail (ASA 101)! We didn’t in the past – it’s a new thing for us, although some schools have been using them for a long time. We tried them last season at our Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn branch and decided they were at least as good, and maybe slightly better, than what we’d been using since 1997 – the Beneteau First 21.0.
What’s odd is that ASA used an Ensign in this promo campaign. They actually endorse the Beneteau First 21.0. They have no relationship with the Ensign beyond the photo you see above. Sure, it’s a great shot, and ASA undoubtedly is aware of the history and pedigree of the design. But, they really got a hard on for the Beneteau when they did a collab with them- the world’s oldest and largest sailboat manufacturer. ASA thought the industry needed a new, sexier boat, and the “ASA First Trainer” as it was first named was born.
Beneteau took their First 20 (same damn boat as 21) and made a version with a longer cockpit and smaller cabin. That’s it. Same hull; same rig; same keel and rudders. True, the longer cockpit was an advantage for daysailing and teaching, but only because most sailing schools put 4 students into a boat for learn to sail. 4 plus an instructor = one too many people on average to get around when doing maneuvers. ASA has featured the First Trainer (now “22” and same damn length) in other promo stuff so it’s funny that they show an Ensign here.
But, they do!
So, why the Ensign?
Well, when we started doing a ‘sea trial’ of a satellite branch in Sheepshead Bay, we felt it was a good idea to use what was already down there to get started. Both the Miramar Yacht Club, and the boats they had (Ensigns), had reputations that preceded them. Very good ones. We were only going to try a narrow scope: teach learn to sail a few times and see how it all went. I was quite confident it would work well, based on the boat, the location, the facilities, and the weather. All of it met or exceeded my expectations. As this is about the boat, I’ll focus on the Ensign here:
STABLE. It has a full keel, meaning it’s large and heavy. (The ‘keel’ is the fin underneath the boat that stops it from flipping over and also helps it track straight and pivot evenly during turns.)
MANEUVERABLE. Surprisingly so for a full-keel design, with arguably an inefficient rudder design. In a crowded mooring field (Sheepshead Bay owns that description), the Ensign can maneuver handily through it all, which means it can handle anything.
FAST. Surprisingly fast in light winds with its large genoa jib, and with mass that keeps it moving through lulls to the next puff. When the wind picks up, switch to a basic working jib and eventually reef (shorten) the main. The Ensign can handle more wind than most people who sail them can – and it hauls ASS!
ROOMY. Super long bench seats with high backrests allow the boat to swallow up passengers, so 3 students plus and instructor can get around each other easily. (No, not 4; remember, “we give you more!”).
SAFE. Despite not having lifelines, which we were a little concerned about beforehand, the boat is super safe. As it’s very stable, it simply doesn’t heel as far over, nor as quickly. That, plus high backed benches, mean people aren’t at significant risk of falling overboard.* No need to leave the cockpit and go forward except to pick up the mooring – when we’re back inside super protected Sheepshead Bay, and the boat is level as it makes its approach. (*Lifelines can help in that regard, but people can still fall overboard despite them.)
I used to personally have a penchant for light, racy boat designs. Over time, I developed more of an appreciation than I’d had for some classic, more traditional boat designs. And now, we teach people how to sail on one.
And, for anyone interested in doing a little on-line learning before they come to us to do it for real on an actual boat, here’s the link to ASA’s online prep course!..
Boat names are often painful, but sometimes inspired. When our students learn how to sail or cruise a boat, they’re often torn between smiling and grimacing at what they see out there.
(Ed. note: be sure to at least view, if not read, to the end… but for the best experience, do it all in order.) So… what’s up with those boat names? Most people who’ve owned a boat have either named it or at least considered re-naming it (despite the superstition involved). If you’ve never owned a boat, you’ve still probably given at least casual though to naming one.
BoatUS compiles an annual list of the most common boat names. That lets one either choose something they theoretically can’t go wrong with, or avoid something overdone to death. Here’s the top 10 for 2022:
Knot on Call
I’ll note that Andiamo was also number 1 for 2021, and has made the top-ten list in half of the last dozen years. Of course, we know an Andiamo or three. One of them is an S2 8.6 that still lives at City Island and used to summer and winter with us when we had a small marina. Zephyr? We had one in the fleet, albeit briefly.
Graduates of our school, and Sailing Club members, finally got their own boat and kept it with us for one season in exchange for limited use by the school. Yup; that’s a thing we do in case you’re interested. Their circumstances changed, and so did the home for the boat. So it Goes, anyone? Also up there in popularity, but missing this year’s list? Aquaholic.
Best and worst names at the Sailing Center itself? Kilroy Was Here, complete with the face doodle as shown in the top pic, and, shown here, Second Wind (ouchie FAUCI!). We chose Kilroy and tolerated the Second without bothering to change it. At least the graphic was well done, and most students seeing it hadn’t seen countless others before. Not yet, anyway. One of our graduates got his first boat during the pandemic. Catalina 32. Very nice. “Second Wind.”
Decades ago, I started frostbite dinghy racing on a Dyer Dhow out of MFA (Mamaroneck Frostbiting Association). Temperature puns were common. My dad and I came up with what I thought were the two best Dyer names ever… Dyer Straits (me, sail #228), and Apocalypse Dhow (Dad, sail #501). Yup; boats have been gone forever but I still remember the sail numbers. “228; we have your finish.” That means you lost a long time ago; get your ass back to the line for the next start ASAP. “501; over early as usual!” Dad was overly partial to dip starts, but he certainly had the courage of his convictions, as they say.
But, this post wasn’t inspired by what we own or chose. It was about what we see out on the water, or in boatyards and marinas. So, we’ll occasionally post a good pic here in the Rants, as well as on Instagram and maybe FB. To kick things off, we’ll do one sailboat name of the punny variety, and a powerboat name of the hobo-ghetto, oh-no-you-did NOT-just-go-there-variety.
So, here’s a pretty good punny name well hung on the transom…
And, I’m closing this out with the worst name I’ve ever seen. No others going forward are even slightly likely to overtake this one, and I wouldn’t want to overtake this boat…
The internet giant sent some people to learn how to sail and do a photo shoot of it.
Over the years, we’ve attracted a lot of publicity from the media. Not sure how or why, but they show up. TV, Cable, magazines, papers… we’ve gotten quite an assortment. Sometimes it’s a feature and we’re the talent. Sometimes, we’re more behind the scenes facilitating them getting their shots.
The one that “got away?” We barely missed a shot providing a boat and logistics for a shoot with the famed portrait fotog Annie Liebowitz. That hurt. But at least they came to us. Others?..
Discovery Home Channel
CW 11 (WPIX)
Transit Transit News
NY 1 News
Fox 5 News
Fine Living Network
New York Magazine
…and so on, and so on… And, by the way, some of the better ones are on our YouTube Channel. All posts and pages have our social media links.
Anywho, it was pleasant if not a real surprise that we got an email from GoDaddy looking to do something. They proposed to send a staff (pro) photographer along with two producers to feature New York Sailing Center, and do so by getting out on the water if at all possible. It’s rarely NOT possible, especially if the group is flexible.
The weather that day was windy and gusty. But, it was still within a reasonable range, and the folks were all athletic and outdoorsy. So, I started off with shoreside shots of me giving an actual lesson using our model sloop (boat), just as we would for any first session when people are learning how to sail.
The goal? Get the shots. The secondary goal? Teach them enough about sailing in a few hours that they felt like they understood how it worked and could do it at a very basic level. That meant this:
Understanding how sails harness wind to create power to make the boat go;
Understanding where one can aim a sailboat in relation to the wind;
How to steer the boat;
How to start and stop;
How to keep the boat moving at any angle it can sail on by adjusting the sails;
Believing the boat won’t flip over when the wind picks up!
It was a success. The team got the goods, and got the boat going. They asked questions that demonstrated they were thinking about it, and basically understanding it. For a Day 1 on the water, that’s enough. Of course, the goal is to come back and do more. In our full 3-day course (one of thew few that actually exist in the region if not much of the nation), students have time. They can get comfortable and competent as they reinforce the basics and add more skills and technique.
What about a “3-hour tour?” Well, that depends: on the weather, the inherent aptitude of the students/s, and how it all comes together with an instructor. Even the boat plays a part. There are several excellent boats to use for teaching sailing, and a number of good ones. They’re all as different as they are similar, and the difference – and devil – is in the details.
Averaged out over a few days, things tend to just average out. But, over a few short hours, the weather might favor one design of boat more than another. That can make progression slower on the “wrong” boat (meaning not optimal for the current conditions, even if perfectly safe and useable for the purpose).
The challenge for an instructor is dealing with the hand they’re dealt on that day. Light & variable winds, or strong & gusty, can complicate teaching for a first sailing session. It’s not just the boat, but the students themselves, that can make it a teaching challenge. A good instructor adapts to both the students and the sailboat.
On this day, we had a boat that could certainly go out in more wind than we had. But, for a first lesson, we were already a little above the ‘ideal’ threshold for that boat. (By the way, there’s a great little boat called an Ideal 18, which we really wouldn’t want to be out in on that day – but great for more experienced sailors in club racing.) We were aboard one of our Beneteau First 21.0 sloops which are light, responsive, and reactive. All great for getting a true feel for sailing, and also developing innate physical sailing skills.
But, on this day, we’d have preferred to be aboard one of the Ensign sloops we use down in Sheepshead Bay. Why? Heavier, less reactive, and more predictable. On a windy, gusty day, it’s quicker and easier for beginning students to understand how sailing works if they’re getting surprised less by the boat.
But, both great teaching boats; both could do the job that day.
The little Beneteau did its job. I did mine. The GoDaddy team got to do theirs. And, they want to come back and do more sailing!