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!
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.
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!..
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)…
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…
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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:
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!
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.
(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.
My book? It started out as Dad’s book redux, but became more mine than his. I did keep parts of his prose intact. I augmented other parts. I deleted some others. And, of course, I wrote several sections from scratch.
Our new book is going out digitally to people as a PDF. That way, it can be easily corrected, but also searched, viewed on any mobile device, and updated easily. Also, instead of putting painful step-by-step photos of knot illustrations, for example, we can have one good reference photo plus a link to quality step-by-step videos! And the book can easily evolve as photos are added, better ones are found, an idea comes to mind for a better explanation or ordering of content, etc. Of course, if anyone prefers, it can be printed.
What better way to celebrate writing a book on sailing than with sailor drinks? Dark ‘n Stormy: Reed’s ginger beer, Gosling’s Black Seal rum, oversized ice balls and cubes, and a mini-anchor bottle opener. It’s made by Lewmar, and a replica of their Delta Fast-Set anchor. That anchor is on the bow of most charter boats around the world. Why? It holds best in most seabeds. We’re all about the “why’s” of things.
Yes, I wrote about anchoring in the book. I left the illustrations to others; I explained what one is really trying to do when anchoring, and how to get the job done on the water.
We revisit our roots in learning how to sail at City Island’s Consolidated Yachts, New York’s oldest boatyard.
We’re back! Or, will be very shortly. We’re moving down the street to Consolidated Yachts on the southeast end of City island.
We’ve been there before. Twice. (Third time’s the charm?)
Round One: Dad did it for awhile back in the 1970’s. My first job as a kid was sweeping up the floor of the classroom and workshop for $1/hour. Remember when David Letterman started out as Late Morning With David Letterman? Before he was really, really famous with Late Night. Well, he was a student at dad’s New York Sailing School! I remember him walking back in from one of the sailing sessions all decked out in his yellow foul weather gear and a smile on his face. Later in life, I was disappointed when Letterman had Ted Turner on the show, who is a world class sailor (Olympics; America’s Cup; etc). Sailing didn’t come up once, much less New York Sailing School.
Dad lost his lease due to construction on the property’s border with a vacant lot that became a retirement community (still there now).
Round Two: I moved my school there in 2007 and we ran it there for 3 years. There was too much going on at the yard and it didn’t work out at that time, with several sub-tenants competing for space and resources. Chief culprit was an auto-body shop. At one point, they were going to publicize a bikini car wash and basically shut down our ability to operate. Eye candy not withstanding, we moved the school more or less to where we’re now going to be in the yard, but it was the beginning of the end of Round Two back then.
Consolidated is simpler now and better suits our needs than in the past. It remains the oldest continually operated boat yard in the State of New York, dating back to the late 1800’s if memory serves. No location is perfect, but here we’ll be getting a few key benefits…
Large slip for docking our skiff (launch) and sometimes our cruising boats, and also the smaller ones for ‘pit-stop’ maintenance. Also good for docking practice for cruising courses!
Large waterside area for classroom sessions, meet & greet, and just hanging out for lunch, breaks, or nothing at all except watching the birds and boats go by. It’s under an elevated storage shed so we have sun and rain protection. Plus, when you want sun, you got it- the patio extends out beyond toward the water.
Indoor storage of life jackets and other gear, plus enough room to use as a ‘foul weather’ classroom. In fact, this used to BE the classroom. Yup; where DL did his course with us.
Super-quick access to Western Long Island Sound, and also Eastchester Bay which is now literally around the corner. This increases our flexibility to adapt to different wind and weather conditions, and also makes it easier for our Sailing Club members to take advantage of the area’s inherent versatility.
Large, full-service boatyard that can handle anything we can’t for maintenance, including two Travelifts (marine hoists) to get boats in and out of the water.
Quick access to great breakfast, lunch and dinner options.
Classroom sessions, field-trip style: walk to the end of the pier above. Use real-time examples of sailboats doing stuff wrong… and right. And, right in front of your face. Available 7 days a week.
When we walk back from that, the view looks like this…
Consolidated looks a little bare in those pictures, right? It’s because we weren’t shooting the boatyard, and the slips are empty-ish in the off season. Here’s one shot of how dense the yard itself can be with pleasure boats and yachts, and smaller commercial vessels…
And, here’s some serious gear – anchor and chain rode for something huge…
How soon do we start up then? Very soon. We’re splashing our 23′ Carolina Skiff next week and it will be at the slip you can see in the pic above whose ramp to the pier is already in place. From there, we prep the two boats we already have in the water (our two Pearsons), and also the first Beneteau 21 to be launched ASAP. Moorings will be moved just off Consolidated. We can give you the tour of the boats and the digs almost on demand, but please do make an appointment with us so you don’t just show up to a locked gate or no signs of life.
This ain’t no 9 to 5!
Welcome aboard the new home of the Sailing Center! Please come visit soon. Hit us up through our contact page (in main menu here on this and every post and page of the site).
Dad and I both wrote textbooks for our sailing schools over the decades. What better way to help teach people how to sail or navigate a boat than to write your own rather than rent?
I followed in my father’s footsteps. He’d be like, “rolling over in my grave!” But, also, I’d like to think, proud all the same.
Above: his, not mine. Circa 1978, this was the text book students received when they signed up for The Master’s Course. This was the learn to sail/refresher course offered by New York Sailing School, which my dad founded in 1968 we believe. (It could have been ’70, but more likely ’68.) I was either 4 or 6 at the time!
The photo above was sent to me recently from a graduate of that program who is getting back into sailing after an absence. He learned to sail from my dad, and will continue on with me. We get this all the time; it’s one of the best feelings about being in the sport and the industry.
I can’t find a copy in our family’s stuff! I have the following cover from a slightly newer version of the same book…
Before I continue, I’m calling on anyone who has a copy of this text book, regardless of which cover is on it, to get in touch with us! I have a scan of the contents but I want to get an original hard copy for sentimental reasons.
And, now, back to the Blog…
The textbook was low-tech and photocopied. It was either stapled together or 3-hole punched and bound. But, it worked: students found it simple, effective, fun, and a great resource. He wrote it because, well… he was a writer amongst other things. He did a lot of advertising copy-wrighting as part of his first career, becoming a Creative VP in several boutique firms from the Mad Men era (does the name Benton & Bowles ring a bell?). Eventually, his side hustle in sailing became all consuming and he launched New York Sailing School after more modest beginnings with rentals and what was perhaps the country’s earliest seasonal time-share/fractional sailing plan: Sail-A-Season.
He also wrote it as it was needed. The American Sailing Association (ASA) didn’t come around until 1983. That year, both my Glenn and I became ASA instructors: I’m # 830701, for those who get how those numbers work. US Sailing didn’t add a adult sailing school/instruction arm until 1993. So, there wasn’t an industry association text book series available. Yes, Colgate’s Basic Sailing Theory (Steve Colgate, Offshore Sailing School) existed. It was rather expensive and also written by the competition. And, I don’t think dad liked it on it’s merits, honestly.
Fast forward to 1986/87. Dad sold the school that winter while I was in college. He remained an advisor to them for a few years and I helped out with that. Gradually, they edited and changed the book until it wasn’t the Sh*t My Dad Wrote. End of era. Just after that, I wrote this, which I include not just to pat myself on the back but in the context of the geo-political climate of the times…
Dad passed of lung cancer in the summer of 1995.
Skip forward a few years to late summer of 1997. For various reasons, I started a new sailing school. I actually went into direct competition with the former family business. I had taken back management and operation of dad’s New York Sailing Center & Yacht Club the year before, which at the time was simply a small marina with mooring storage and launch service. When dad sold the sailing school, he didn’t see the marina. I simply added a sailing school to it. I started off by affiliating with US Sailing that year, and in the spring of ’98, also affiliated with ASA. New York Sailing Center & Yacht Club was one of only a handful of schools in the country to certify students through both organizations. Later, it came to be that no school could be an affiliate of both ASA and US Sailing for other boring reasons. (Schools can be affiliates of ASA and also organizational members of US Sailing, as we have been, but no school can offer both systems of certification.)
Early on in the new school’s development, we started offering Start Navigating,SM the ASA 105 Coastal Navigation course. We had a consistent volume year round, offering it typically once a week for a month, 1x monthly. While ASA’s original textbook was excellent in many ways, it was missing material covered on the exam and also badly out of date on tech (RDF/Loran versus GPS). So, Captain Card (a/k/a Me, Myself and I) wrote a few short supplements to fill in those gaps. It was fun, but more needed to be done.
So, headphones on to the tune of “I, me, my” by The Beatles, he set to work one winter. During trips to Vermont for Thanksgiving and Christmas, he started drafting a comprehensive book. It sort of flowed organically, and it was fun, and it was good. So, whether it would ultimately be completed and used or not didn’t matter at the time. Over time, it became clear that ASA’s book wasn’t going to be revised anytime soon, despite them saying they’d send a draft of it soon.
Long story short: I finished my book and have used it for our Coastal Navigation course, Start Navigating,SM ever since. It’s had some minor updates over the years, but is essentially as written back in 2002. One topic needed revision when I stumbled in stages on something no one else did. The conventional wisdom about applying magnetic variation when plotting courses is misunderstood. It assumes something that isn’t true. I updated my book accordingly.
ASA? Nah. I was working with another ASA school owner on revising the answer key for the 105 exam. We agreed on the true courses for all the plotting problems, with one exception. After we both revisited this one, he ultimately agreed with my solution for it. However, we didn’t agree on the variation and therefore the magnetic course to use. (We address all this in the Start Navigating course, of course.) Upshot: I updated my book and he swept it under the rug.
In the meantime, ASA didn’t revise the first book. They introduced an entirely new one, to much self-generated fanfare. Later, they did in fact add a revised version of their first book. For awhile at least they continued to sell both. I never looked back. Neither did one of the authors, who didn’t update his book with the mathematical truth concerning magnetic variation. Not my problem; not my students’ either.
My book hasn’t been formally published. It did get its foot in the door at a major publishing house awhile ago: one of our former students was a literary agent and pitched it to an acquisition editor there. He caught it and re-pitched at an editorial meeting. They thought the book was worthy but not the sales projections and passed on it. So it goes…
But, Dad’s will be resurrected. I’m going to add things he didn’t include that now need to be there, and use it from that point forward for our Start Sailing course (ASA 101, learn-to-sail/Basic Keelboat).
They’re clever at Killington! They’re copying our swagger: the longest sailing season in the northeast where you can learn how to sail a boat or do a rental year round. Almost.
Killington Resort, in Rutland Vermont, has the longest ski/ride season in the Eastern US. The place is pretty large… they call it The Beast (of the East). Lots of acres; lots of lodges & lifts; lots of trails. Decent amount of snow (most in the lower half of Vermont, anyway). And, they throw snow. Big time. As recently as… ? Late March, this time!
And, they just announced that they’re going for a 52-week ski/ride season. Sure, if they want to build one of those indoor snow sliding contraptions. They’re talking about a multi-sport facility at the base of their Superstar lift, which is where the guns don’t stop blowing in the spring until it’s just too warm to make snow. This trail is one of the earliest to get snow blown in the fall, and always the last in the spring. Skiing and riding go on into May in most years, and on rare occasions, into June.
How about sailing, then? Well, we don’t operate much up here in the winter. Too temperamental. But, we often have one or two boats in the water all winter and it’s occasionally available to members. We’re not into frostbiting, or racing once a week in the winter unless it’s just too freaking cold or windy. Or, frozen over. Been there; done that. A long time ago. When I moved next door to a yacht club in Connecticut at one point that did frostbiting, I almost pulled the trigger on getting back into it. Before I could, I decided to take a snowboarding lesson. BAM. Done. I knew I’d never have time to do frostbiting. I snowboard in the winter and I sail in the other seasons. And I’ve been back in the Big Apple for awhile now.
As for Killington, here’s a link to their YouTube clip with the announcement…
As we get ready for the season, we paint bottoms, replace washers and flange bushing bearings, dry out bilges, wax topsides, check engine fluids and impellers, etc, etc. If you want some experience with that sort of thing, hit us up! Start Bareboating (ASA 104 Bareboat Cruising) kicks off the season, followed by Start Sailing (learn to sail/ASA 101) and Start Cruising (ASA 103, Basic Coastal Cruising). Live 105 Coastal navigation continues on Zoom.
And, of course, Killington is still open with over 100 trails for skiing and snowboarding. Truth.
Depends where you are and what you’re doing, but learning how to sail or sailing in a club is right around the corner!
So, yesterday evening, I was double checking the temps and precips at several spots to juggle competing concerns… fleet prep and launching, and also a potential last shot at some snowboarding. Interesting stuff! Had to double check to be sure… don’t take my word for it!
Yup… we are totally inverted temp-wise. Partly sunny everywhere, although it had just rained a bit in NYC.
Hunter NY (Catskill Mountains): 56° (nb: it was 59 shortly before I screen shot these)
Killington, Vermont (about 1/3 of the way up to Canada): 66° (and yeah, it was at least 67 shortly before)
This weekend is the last of the season for Hunter and Windham in the Catskills. Stratton in Vermont hasn’t announced a closing date yet, but they’re getting kinda close. Magic is already done. But Killington? 83 trails open yesterday – a few more than just a few days ago due to moving snow around and grooming. With a little luck, I might still get up for a day and a half or so without neglecting anything here in the colder south!
The cherry blossoms are popping. That means the fishing picks up, and it means that sailing weather gets more consistent soon. Sailing Club sessions are available almost as soon as we splash the first boat! Classes start in a little over a week, with Start BareboatingSM (ASA 104) on the 17th. Start (ASA 101, learn to sail) begins May 1. We used to always start in April with that: mid month. We took some bruises with weather delays, but it worked. Until, of course, it didn’t.
Global warming and related climate/weather changes have made April too iffy to jiffy reef (reduce sail) and suit up/show up for April beginner lessons. It’s not so much a matter of cold; that can factor in, of course, but most students who come for lessons have done some skiing or snowboarding, and many are regulars. They have the gear. But, too much wind is counterproductive or even unsafe for beginners. Add cold and rain, and it’s freakin miserable sitting in a boat with cold wet hands on ropes and steering sticks (tillers). Plus, hard to keep a dry butt.
June is arguably the single best month for beginners to learn to sail. It averages out two key variables: volatile weather, and time to continue practicing and enjoying as the season goes. Having said that, people learn successfully throughout the boating season. Any month can have a few stinker days that aren’t productive enough, and lead to a make-good. Our courses aren’t over until they are – when students have the skills they need to go skipper the same boat they just learned on! Otherwise, what’s the point?
“Shots and masks, masks and shots, and shots and masks!”
what George Carlin might have said about the state of things. I’m sure he’d have referenced those shots being in asses, too, but who knows.
Two of our most prolific instructors have gotten their first shots now, and it’s all on the near term horizon for those who haven’t, so there’s that. Masks have become readily available, and it’s easier to find something that fits you. As warmer weather approaches, we soon transition from actually liking the masks on cold days to probably wishing they could come off on the warmer ones.
We’re still offering our “Live 105” coastal navigation courses on Zoom, but it’s transitioning soon to Sailing Club and courses.
Last season, we went through this with the masks. We started sailing in March! True, it was a private client here and there and group lessons began later this season. But, we had the whole spring-through-fall experience with them so can offer some thoughts.
Buffs and competing products are not so good for this. True, they offer good sun protection. But, they don’t work as well at filtering air, and they don’t shape around the nose. That means COVID in, COVID out. But, they can still be used as a neck gaitor. Just keep them down and put a proper mask on in their place, or put the buff over a proper mask if it’s not too tight.
Surgical masks: in our humble opinion, they suck! They are ill fitting and only good for blocking direct spray. They usually leave gaps on the cheeks and around the nose.
N-95 and K-95: depends on the fit. At least they’re white, so they don’t get as hot as anything dark. Obviously, the material has proper filtration. So, if they fit, and don’t leave gaps at the nose, you’re golden.
Cloth masks: good if they conform to the bridge of the nose. That requires a metal fitting that can pinch over the bridge. No got? No use.
Cloth or other fabric with an inner pocket for disposable filters: these are the ultimate in our opinion, as long as the filter used is good in filtration and fit. I found a style from Ski The East that have more breathable fabric – tighter weave on the outside, and the inside layer is a little too breathable. But, there’s a large inner pocket for a filter, and a large seam that goes around the edge of the chin and jaw. The filter area starts there and goes up to the nose clip. Strangely, they supply a filter that doesnt’ fill the space and is too small. But, if you get packs of filters from another source that fit the area, you get comfortable masks that can fit properly and balance breathability with protection.
They come with elastic ear pieces that are adjustable, and one can tighten the top and bottom independently or together to customize the fit.
I liked my first pair so much I bought two more. I even used it snowboarding: I put it on, then put my balaclava helmet liner on around it and keep the face part down. I now need to re-order filters. I found ones at REI that are for an Outdoor Research mask product that I do not recommend (Adrenaline Sports Face Mask), having tried it as well as observing another masker’s successes and failures with it, but the filters will fit the Ski the East masks and probably many others of similar style. See links below.
Why worry about this when outdoors? Well, remember the Rose Garden super spreader event? remember there’s this thing called wind? It’s when the air blows – sometimes your way? Yeah. Being outdoors is better.. until it isn’t. Indoors, with proper ventilation and filtration, can be better (although it usually isn’t). One of our clients is a Delta pilot and says he feels far safer in the confines of a plane than in any other indoor scenario, given the turnaround time on filtering air: every 3 to 4 minutes!
And more about air travel, versus driving: some experts are going out on a wing and saying it’s MUCH safer. And, we’re talking Covid context. Here you go…
Or, lose their fishing rod… or, catch COVID. But we can all prepare well to avoid or mitigate any of that. We mitigate every time you come to learn how to sail with us.
The inspiration for this post? A recent funny a/f Instagram clip we came across and reposted. Fishing fails. Four different clips of people failing spectacularly at fishing.
I have free license to laugh. I’ve lost rigs to hooked fish twice in my lifetime, and came damn close another time. I’ve paid my dues; I know what can happen.
The first time was in my teens. The fam was in the BVI (Virgin Islands), and I was at least as interested in fishing as sailing at the time. I caught some live bait that afternoon and kept the little fish alive in a bucket pending live lining for something larger off the dock that night. Lo and behold, some other kids down there had the same idea and we were all tossing our bait to the shadow line off the dock to see what came by. It was quiet. One kid was having trouble with his tackle, so I offered to help. I put my rod down and went to help. As I walked back, I saw my pole torpedo off the dock out onto the surface of the water, where it didn’t sink – but actually glide along teasingly for a moment, leaving s little wake. Then it suddenly shot off into the night so fast it just disappeared. Gone. Done. Had to laugh; I had that kind of humor even back then.
And, no… no one actually EXPECTS to fall overboard. But we do sometimes, and that’s why we wear life jackets or PFD’s. During our Start SailingSM courses (learn to sail / ASA 101), students always wear PFD’s. What if it’s hot out, light wind, warm water, and everyone can swim? You STILL wear them. We invest in high-quality automatic inflatable jacket with manual overrides. That way, you don’t even know you’re wearing them.
We sail in very controlled settings, with an eye on the sky as well as the radar and weather apps. We don’t take you out when bad weather is approaching, and we get off the water before conditions deteriorate if we’re the slightest bit concerned. But, developing good habits during class carries over into the future of your sailing. Hard to get separated from the boat if you’re tethered to it; hard to drown if you’re wearing a personal flotation device.
The second time I lost a rig overboard? I was in my 30’s. I was on a private fishing charter with a friend from my saltwater fly fishing club, the Salty Flyrodders of New York. It was out of Montauk, and we were on a Boston Whaler Outrage (large rig; probably over 20′). Captain Ken Turco (RIP) was putting my friend Mark and me on the fish. It was wall to wall false albacore, and it was easy to hook up. They were bombing small bait on the surface, so there was really no surprise about what would happen: see fish, drive over to fish, don’t actually run through the fish, cast to the fish, hook and fight the fish.
So, we did. Fish on with each cast. We decided to experiment with how quickly we could bring each one to the boat to release it and catch another. The quicker it’s done, the better it is for the fish, as stress and oxygen debt can later kill a fish that actually swims away apparently unharmed. So, we started tightening down our drags more and more with each fish released. (Drag on a fishing reel is the braking mechanism that allows controlled slippage of the line from the reel so a fish doesn’t simply snap the line or the rod.)
False albacore are small tuna. Small, but strong. They do one thing when hooked: swim away fast and far. Hence, proper drag tension. We were getting tired fighting one after another with tight drags. And, my hands were very stiff and tired. And so, after hooking the umpteenth fish, I bobbled the rod. And almost caught it; but not quite… and it bounced off the gunwhale and into the water. I hesitated; could have jumped in and grabbed at it before it sank. But that’s not an easy reflex. I lost the opportunity, and the rod.
I just stood there for a moment. Ken and Mark eventully looked around to see how I was faring and to make sure our respective fish didn’t cross lines and tangle. They saw I had no rod. “No…” said Mark. Ken was slack jawed. I said nothing. I turned to Ken’s rod rack, grabbed one, started stripping line off, and was soon onto another fish.
Awhile later, I almost dropped THAT rod as well. That one I would have had to pay for. That’s how non-stop the action was with albacore, bluefish, and even a nice striped bass for me to score a ‘northeast slam.’ Made the cover of the following week’s Fisherman magazine, Long Island/Metro NY edition, for which I wrote a column and some articles at the time.
SAFETY FIRST. When we teach sailing, and when I used to teach some snowboarding as well, we’d discuss safety first. Then, the idea was to have fun. Finally, maybe people would learn something: but nothing happens without the feeling of security, and most people aren’t learning if they’re not having fun.
On snow? I’d teach people how to fall safely before they even got to strap one foot onto their boards. (For first-time lessons, at any rate.) Seriously: I’d demonstrate how to fall both forward and backward, and then they’d do it. I made it fun. They knew they were going to fall sometimes learning; we brought that out into the open. Once they learned that they didn’t have to fall hard and get hurt just taking a basic lesson, they relaxed about it. Then, they didn’t fall. (Not much, anyway!)
We take the same approach to sailing lessons.
What about the pandemic? We sail – with MASKS!
THE PANDEMIC IS GETTING WORSE. Yes, we have vaccines. Yes, more are likely to be developed. But, there are mutated strains now that are far more transmissible, and also now understood to likely be more dangerous once we’re infected by them. There’s a chance that one or more current or future mutations will be resistant to current vaccines. That, plus pandemic fatigue, and blatant disregard for proven science and math, is why the United States is the world leader. Not in response to the virus, but in mashing up its response and leading to a ridiculous number of deaths, most of which could have been avoided.
The simplest things remain true:
Keep your distance from others. You can’t infect, or get infected by someone whose breath you’re not breathing, either in the moment or shortly afterward. That’s the social distance thing and avoidance of crowds, or entering &/or remaining in areas where many people have been.
Use a proper mask, and wear it well. The CDC has yet to change their public guidelines, but many health experts are now saying it’s time to up the ante on the mask front. Either double up the cloth masks (wear 2), or upgrade the masks being worn (N95 or KN95). Personally, I’m back to a respirator for the laundry/mail room in my building, in Uber/Lyfts, and for the rare times I’m on a subway. Otherwise, I use multi-layer cloth masks that fit well, have an adjustable nose section, and a FILTER in between the cloth layers.
On a few occasions last year, we denied enrollment to students who expressed in advance that they were either uncomfortable or unwilling to wear masks. We rode herd on people who did attend and got sloppy about using masks, including the threat of kicking them out with no recourse or refund. We take this deadly seriously.
Are there times people can take their mask off? Yes – but only when it’s abundantly safe to do so based on where they are in relation to other people and what the wind is doing. What about inside? We spend almost no time inside, even with learn to sail. (It’s a sport learned by doing, not hearing people talk about it.) But when we are inside, we distance, ventilate, and WEAR MASKS PROPERLY.
I’m not yet eligible for the vaccine due to age and occupation. It worries me. But, just as with mitigation measures for activities I choose to do, I can mitigate the risk of exposure and infection with distancing, masks, and in some cases, just NOT doing it.
DON’T DO THIS…
Here’s a smart, pithy article on the latest about masks, with some historical quotes and some links for more info…
Well, they never really left – but our classic full-keel Swedish design and Friday afternoons are resurgent. If you know how to sail, come have some fun in our Sailing Club with either/or, or both.
We hadn’t launched our International (‘Swedish’) Folkboat last season for various and boring reasons. But it’s back! Demand dictated it.
Friday afternoons are also demand based. We had some regulars for Friday afternoon and evening sails. These Sailing Club members could only break free then, or just needed to as a way to end their work weeks on a high note and begin the weekend early. Life changed and so did demand. We tended to get out of Dodge early on Fridays to beat traffic and have a break before busy weekends.
Last Friday? All the boats went out at once! Busy afternoon. Delightful conditions, too. That can’t be predicted, but on average, there’s more wind in the afternoon and temperatures cool down in the evening. Beat the traffic to go TO sailing, not leave it. Always made sense. We have more weekday pass members in our Sailing Club this season and that’s part of what’s driving Friday sessions.
The Folkboat? It dates back to WWII! Not ours, of course – it’s a fiberglass one built by the premier manufacturer Marieholm in Sweden in the 1970’s. But the design was from a contest in Sweden. Three different designs were chosen as ‘winners;’ one man was tasked with taking the best of those designs and amalgmating them into one fnal boat – the Nordic Folkboat, which became the International Folkboat we now know.
It’s popular wherever there’s wind. Over 5,000 have been built, and that number probably only reflects major production from established builders and doesn’t even count kit or home-built boats that were off the radar.
Silent Reach basically fell in our lap and we couldn’t pass up the chance to have one of these in the fleet. Despite their rep – eats up heavy weather; countless trans-Atlantics; a few well documented circumnavigations – these boats are fine in Long Island Sound! They do well in light breeze, and point surprisingly well. Go figure. Better yet; go sailling!
Here’s an article from Practical Sailor, a sailing review rag that predated all this internet stuff and still goes strong… scroll down past blank image to link:
Here’s a link to Amazon to check listings for the book – new, used, or Kindle…