Sunday, December 31, 2006

A new book!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Gasoline Fumes Cause Litigation

John Lagana would like to ride his WaveRunner around the shores of East Hampton, but can't, thanks to the wealthy beach town's ban on water scooters.
Mr. Lagana prefers to travel by WaveRunner, heading out into Gardiners Bay and zipping from Sag Harbor to Greenport to Shelter Island to meet friends for lunch. Water scooters are allowed in the bay, but banned in Hog Creek, which Mr. Lagana must cut through to get there, and Three Mile Harbor, where he stops to get gas.
So, after breathing exhaust fumes for too long on his silly and pointless craft, Lagana is taking the matter to court. And he has an interesting historical argument:
The case is now pending in state appellate court, where a panel of judges must decide if an obscure 17th century charter known as the Dongan Patent does indeed protect a man’s right to buzz around the waterways on a machine its signers could hardly have imagined.

When King James II deeded the eastern tip of the South Fork — which now includes East Hampton, Amagansett and Montauk — to a group of settlers in 1686, the governor in chief of the province of New York, Thomas Dongan, drew up the patent, granting “freeholders and inhabitants” of the area the right to “enjoy without hindrance” recreational activities like “fishing, hawking, hunting and fowling.”

The legal power of such deeding documents, which exist throughout Long Island and in other early-settled places, has been upheld by courts including the United States Supreme Court.

Lagana continues his argument with constitutional contentions:

Among Mr. Lagana’s arguments is that a passage in the federal Constitution prohibiting the creation of “any law impairing the obligation of contracts,” and a provision in the original New York State Constitution protecting “grants of land made by the authority of the king,” gives Dongan power in perpetuity. “If you’re going to ignore the Dongan Patent, you might as well throw out the Constitution,” he said.

But the town has several counterarguments. Their main point is that "the patent is too vague and out of date to govern a modern municipality." But they also have historical contentions of their own:

[Gary] Weintraub, the town's lawyer, pointed out that if East Hampton were to live by the centuries-old patent, it would have other obligations, including the annual tax to the king of “the Sum of one Lamb Yearly and fourty shillings, curant money.”

Assuming East Hampton was not in arrears at the time of the American Revolution, that would amount to 230 lambs and 9,200 shillings the town owes, payable to Queen Elizabeth.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Sailing Photo of the Day: New Island in the Pacific

The crew of the yacht Maiken discovered a new volcanic island in the Pacific. Pretty amazing stuff:
"We left Neiafu and Vava'u yesterday after some tedious checking out procedures and set sail for Fiji, passing the north side of Late island as first way point. After five miles we noticed brown, somewhat grainy streaks in the water. First we thought that it might be an old oil dumping. Some ship cleaning its tanks. But the streak became larger and more frequent after a while, and there were rocklike brownish things the size of a fist floating in the sea. And the water were strangely green and "lagoon like" too. Eventually it became more and more clear to us that it had to be pumice from a volcanic eruption. And then we sailed into a vast, many miles wide, belt of densely packed pumice. We were going by motor due to lack of wind and within seconds Maiken slowed down from seven to one knot. We were so fascinated and busy taking pictures that we plowed a couple of hundred meter into this surreal floating stone field before we realized that we had to turn back...
A couple of hours ago we identified the active volcano as the one close to Home reef, and we are on our way there now to take a closer look.
We are two miles from it and we can see the volcano clearly. One mile in diameter and with four peaks and a central crater smoking with steam and once in a while an outburst high in the sky with lava and ashes."

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Sailing Photo of the Day - Schell 2006

Tillerman found some photos of the Schell Trophy regatta, held October 28-29th at my alma mater. Some of my best memories from my college years involve sailing on the Chuck. I once windsurfed in the remains of a hurricane on the river, I have fallen into it while shoveling snow off the dock to go sailing, and I have won regattas there. Even so, a Tech dinghy planing with a storm sail is not something you see everyday.

In the words of MIT Sailing Master's Franny Charles: "This event will be remembered for a lifetime by all who saw it."

Monday, October 30, 2006

Too Windy

I spent most of the last two weeks looking forward to it.

Tillerman helped me install a new hiking strap to be ready for it.

When I saw the weather forecasts I got even more excited about it.

I bought a new spray top to be ready for it.

I packed up the car and took the tarp off the boat the night before to get ready for it.

I emailed the organizers begging them not to cancel it.

I got up early, switched baby seats between cars and hooked up the trailer so I could get there early for it.

But in the end they cancelled it because it was too windy.

I could have been doing this:

and this:
Hopefully some of this:
Or this:
And probably a lot of this:

And this:

But instead I unhooked the trailer from the car, put the tarp back on the boat until next weekend and went for a run instead.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Sailing Video of the Day - Extreme 505

Courtesy of

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Sailing Video of the Day - Cherubs

Some excellent video of Cherubs racing on a very windy day.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Sailing Video of the Day - 18 Foot Skiffs

A great video from Ronstan of some of their best footage of 18 foot skiffs.
Includes a skiff being run over by a ferry, and some amazing wipeouts.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Sailing Video of the Day - 1977 Laser Worlds

1977 Laser World Championships

Entries: 104 Countries: 23
1st John Bertrand USA
2nd Peter Commette USA
3rd Mark Neeleman NED
4th Tim Alexander AUS
5th Gary Knapp USA

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Sailing Video of the Day - Laser Sailing

"Reaching Higher"

Is this the best Laser sailing video on the web?

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Sailing Video of the Day - Streetsailing

Streetsailing on Mission Beach, San Diego.

Looks like this would be a fun thing to do when the water turns solid up here in the Northeast.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Cheat the Nursing Home...Die on Your Sunfish

Tillerman has a sticker on his trailer that says, "Cheat the nursing home, die on your LASER!" Well, it seems that David Thompson of Bridgton, Maine has unfortunately achieved this dubious goal, albeit on a Sunfish at the ongoing Sunfish World Championships.

From the Charleston Post and Courier:

What was supposed to be a festive gathering for sailors at the end of the second day of racing at the Sunfish World Championships became a memorial of sorts, a race official said. One of their competitors had died.

The race started Tuesday about 2:35 p.m. near Castle Pinckney in the south channel of Charleston Harbor.

Within less than a minute, sailor David Thompson, 55, of Bridgton, Maine, collapsed and fell into the harbor, race spokesman Dan Dickison said.

Another sailor, Andres Cano-Alva of Peru, jumped into the water and tried to keep Thompson's head above water, Dickison said. A female judge for the competition also entered the water to assist.

A U.S. Coast Guard boat soon arrived and took Thompson to a nearby marina, where he was met by emergency medical workers and transported to East Cooper Hospital.

Thompson was pronounced dead at the hospital at 3:38 p.m., Charleston County Deputy Coroner Judy Koelpin said. She said the cause of death is under investigation.

"He had a series of medical issues that he had been dealing with in the last couple of years," Dickison said.

Dave also has a website that has some photos of him sailing and an interview where he discusses why he sails. His answer is particularly poignant:

That’s like asking, “Why do you breathe?” “Why do horses gallop across their paddocks?” “Why do dolphins surf bow waves?” Every answer I can think of is inadequate. I know that I can become a master sailor, but never master sailing. The challenges are endless and fascinating. Every sail is different and never what you expected. To sail well, you need a “seat of the pants” understanding of the physics involved that transcends mere numbers and formulas. It is not enough to know which course is probably best, or have a feel for what the wind will do next. It is not enough to out think your competitors and choose the right tactics. You must dance with wind and wave, hull and sail until the magical moment when everything is balanced just so and the boat starts to hum and then virtually leaps from the water and flies. Freedom. Undiluted joy. That’s the secret that sailors share and probably why we can never get enough of it.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Horton and Nichol Lead after Day 3

Here's another report from the Star Worlds by Andy Horton and Brad Nichol:

San Francisco gave everyone a "head fake" on Day 3 of the Star World Championship. With a forecast for little to no wind we were once again postponed ashore for an hour. After a slow tow down to the racecourse and lunch on a glassy bay, the forecast seemed right on target. But a break in the cloud cover beyond the Golden Gate fooled the weatherman, and the breeze came on quickly, building from zero to twelve knots in just a few minutes. We were quick to make adjustments to our setup transitioning from light to medium air and got down to business.

Again, it took three tries to get a race off and we had good start all three times in the middle of the line. With the Z-Flag flying on the last attempt, a number of the top competitors pushed the leeward end of the line too hard and saw their OCS numbers posted at the weather mark. We held our course off the line until most of the fleet cleared away and had plenty of good open lanes as we worked our way to the top of the course. We rounded the first mark in second place behind Mark Reynolds, with the Italian and German teams hot on our heals.

Down wind we decided to sail a higher course than Reynolds for more wind and when we got to the bottom we were dead even. Rather then splitting with Reynolds through the gate we felt confident in our boat speed and chose to follow him around and battle it out upwind.

Old School vs. New School; Reynolds had the advantage up the course but after a few well-timed tacks we arrived at the top of the course ahead of him. Meanwhile, Marc Pickel, the German, was free to sail alone and passed us both.

Down the second run we gained a few boat lengths and were even with the Germans at the bottom, but this time we split with them to sail in clear water on the right side of the course. We made good gains working the boat and with a few good shifts we took the gun with a solid lead over both the Germans and Mark Reynolds.

While today's win puts us in first place three points ahead of Rohan Lord (NZL), and seven ahead of Flavio Marazzi (SUI) but a lot can happen in three races. Tomorrow will prove to be a challenging day with a forecast for rain and a southeasterly gradient.

We will try to get some pictures up on the web site Wednesday shot by wonder-host Donna Wotton and if you get the Valley News in NH or VT check out the sports section Wednesday.

Andy & Brad

Tip of the Day: Don't get caught up in a battle when you are trying to win the war. Sometimes it feels good to be able to pass the boat next to you but if you focus on one boat, you can let a dozen pass you while you battle it out. It is better to work together with the boats around you so everyone goes fast!

Standings after three races (no discard) -- 66 boats
1. Andy Horton/ Brad Nichol (USA) 12 pts
2. Rohan Lord/ Miles Addy (NZL) 15 pts
3. Flavio Marazzi/ Martin Kozaczek (SUI) 19 pts
4. Robert Scheidt/ Bruno Prada (BRA) 23 pts
5. Xavier Rohal/ Pascal Rambeau (FRA) 24 pts
6. Hamish Pepper/ Carl Williams (NZL) 25 pts
7. Daniel Stegmeier/ Beat Stegmeier (SUI) 39 pts
8. Mark Medelblatt/ Mark Strube (USA) 49 pts
9. Ian Murray/ Adrew Palfrey (AUS) 54 pts
10. Jim Buckingham/ Mike Dorgan (USA) 55 pts

Monday, October 02, 2006

News from the Star Worlds

Although the story below is from the Sailing Anarchy frontpage, I thought I'd post it here because it has a really good description of tactics for shifty breeze. Andy Horton and Brad Nichol are two young hotshots in the class. I had the opportunity to get beaten by them in the Sunapee Open last year. Their website has some of the best photos of Star sailing I have seen. Here are some examples:

Here's their report from the first day of the Worlds:

It is nice when your hard work and preparation starts to come together. After a week of training, long days for our coach measuring the currents on San Fran Bay, and months of planning we kicked off Day 1 of the Star World Championships with a solid second place finish. There is still a long list of things to improve upon and we still have our debrief before bed, but we are off to a good start.

After being postponed for 90 minutes due to no wind, the first start gun sounded just after 1:30pm. The westerly breeze proved very shifty all afternoon, ranging from as much as 13 knots to as little as 5, with the wind strength varied all over the course. We sailed a course with two mile long legs up and down the bay for a total of ten and a half miles over three hours.

Our plan was to start in the middle of the line where we would not be forced over the line early and sail up the middle playing the shifts. This conservative approach does not win races but if executed well will get you in the top ten as someone will always pass you on the corners of the course. We played the shifts like good lake sailors and hedged towards the favored side of the course. With good boat speed and concentration during the light tricky phases we managed to round the first weather mark in third place.

We played the puffs and concentrated on boat speed through the middle of the course on the first leeward leg which again proved to be a good conservative choice. We rounded the gate in second place and were able to hold the position through the remainder of the race.

The light wind is unusual for San Francisco but we think it will prevail for the next few days before the weather pattern changes and brings the strong winds everyone expects. We have one race scheduled to start at noon tomorrow. We will keep you posted on how it goes!


Andy & Brad

Tip of the Day: Start at the favored end of the line in big fleets. Today the start line was nearly a mile long with 80 boats. In the first general recall, the pin was 10-15 degrees favored. The boat at the pin, Andy MacDonald, was able to start and tack onto port crossing the whole fleet by 20 boat lengths!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Surf City Here We Come...

Where is California's real Surf City? Is it the hippie college town of Santa Cruz, south of San Francisco, where three Hawaiian princes first introduced surfing to the continental United States in 1886?

Or is Huntington Beach, in the suburbs south of Los Angeles, whose board-riding party lifestyle was celebrated by the Beach Boys and Jan and Dean? Ask the average Californian surfer, and you will probably get a shrug of the shoulders. Ask the lawyers, though, and you'll get an earful.

Huntington Beach, which has the harder time drumming up tourist business, took the controversial step a few months ago of trademarking the name "Surf City USA" as its exclusive property. Now its lawyers are firing off cease-and-desist letters to shops and small businesses in Santa Cruz, and triggering a classic Californian north-versus-south showdown.

First in the firing line was a popular Santa Cruz beachwear shop called Noland's on the Wharf. The lawyers from down south noticed that one of its items was a T-shirt with the slogan "Surf City Santa Cruz California USA". That, as far as they were concerned, constituted trademark infringement, and they warned that if Noland's did not stop selling the shirt by the end of this month it would find itself on the receiving end of a lawsuit.

That was when things got interesting. Noland's knocked 25 per cent off the price of the $17 shirt to make sure all 85 in its inventory would sell before the deadline. But publicity over the flap with Huntington Beach caused them to sell out within an hour on Saturday morning. Another 600 people are on a waiting list for more shirts, which may or may not arrive in time.

Quite a few of the T-shirt buyers told reporters they intended to wear it as a badge of honor. Some talked about travelling to Huntington Beach and wearing them there, specifically to taunt their rivals.

Other local businesses with names such as Surf City Produce and Surf City Coffee expect to be next in the firing line. Not that they are entirely defenseless: under US trademark law, challengers have two years to make their case before the trademark is declared final. One California state legislator sympathetic to Santa Cruz also introduced a motion to try to knock down the trademark - a motion that was withdrawn last week.

After the threat to take Noland's to court, a news release by the Santa Cruz tourist office offered Huntington Beach wry congratulations for having "wrangled its first outlaw". But spokeswoman said she wasn't displeased. The controversy, she told one reporter, "put Santa Cruz on the map. We couldn't have bought that kind of publicity."

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Far Side of the World

The recent lapse in posting was caused by a trip to England and Ireland for a family wedding, and the beginning of my law school semester. While I was in England I stopped by Rutland Water; it still looked the same as it did when I was learning to sail...there was even a fleet of Optimists on the beach at RSC waiting for a thunderstorm to clear.

In honor of my return to North America, here's a contest. Can anyone identify the beach in the photo below? The winner will get instructions on how to make a duct tape wallet.

In other news, I actually did some sailing back in August at the Sunapee Open in New Hampshire. We did fairly well, coming in 8th out of 30 boats. There were two races in good breeze on Saturday but there was no wind on Sunday. Here's a good photo:

I am crewing in 7101...notice anything strange about this picture?

Friday, July 28, 2006

Stripey Sails II

A while ago I wrote about my past experiences with sail stripes. It seems like sail stripes are getting more and more inventive these days. From Alinghi's new windsurfer-like main with red stripes and contrasting white stripes which I assume are still designed to aid in digitizing the sail shape:

to a boat called Onyx from Switzerland, which is sponsored by a printing company that specializes in extra large printing.

Very different usage of stripes!

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Where you at??

LiveSailDie has posted a thread in their forums asking people to post a photo of where they sail. Like Tillerman, I don't really have a home club, I sail wherever the sailing is at. I do sail Stars out of Cottage Park Yacht Club in Winthrop, MA. Here are two satellite pictures:

I also occasionally sail Lasers at the now famous "Lake Whippersnapper":

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Kite Surfing Cargo Ships

I found this story on the internet and it appears that the company has tested their system and it works. There is some kind of automated mechanical system that keeps the kite flying but it looks like it still has some issues (see video below) because the kite weaves around quite a bit.

A German company is introducing sails it says may help propel ships across the sea cheaper and faster than modern engines. SkySails' system consists of an enormous towing kite and navigation software that can map the best route between two points for maximum wind efficiency. In development for more than four years, the system costs from roughly $380,000 to $3.2 million, depending on the size of the ship it's pulling. SkySails claims it will save one third of fuel costs. It recently signed its first contract with Beluga Shipping of Bremen, Germany, for one kite, but says it expects to sell 300 more within five years. Beluga says that the giant kite will help the company meet environmental regulations as well as cut fuel costs.

The sail systems are meant as a retrofit technology that can work with any cargo ship as well as yachts of more than 79 feet. Ships can use their engines to begin and end voyages and use sail power in lieu of engines for the middle portion. Use both, and you go even faster.

Here's an actual photo:
And a link to a video.

There are some interesting patent applications from SkySail on this technology if anyone is interested:

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Tryin' to Reason with Hurricane Season

A big thunderstorm hit the north shore of Boston yesterday. The Flying Scot fleet in Marblehead at the Corinthian Yacht Club for their North Americans was caught by the storm and many boats were damaged. There were 3 inch hailstones! Here's a link to a video with some images of the damage at the yacht club (about 30 seconds into the video).

Scots on the the dock, such as 34 in the photograph above, were flipped 8 to ten feet in the air, with results like those seen in the photo. Out of 63 Scots a conservative count would say 30 of those boats were turtled, with damage to many more. Fortunately, all Scot sailors and Corinthian people were injury free. The damage to Flying Scots and other boats in the harbor is severe and is being assessed. The Corinthian staff have dedicated their efforts to making their waterfront operational, along with supporting the Scotter's retrieval efforts admirably.

Friday, July 07, 2006


Does anyone know what's going on in Arizona? Carol Anne are you O.K.?

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

If I Could Just Get It On Paper

"The rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated"
- Mark Twain

The weekend after my previous post I sailed Stars on Saturday and then Lasers on Sunday at the local lake. The wind on Saturday was supposed to have been about 10 knots, so it seemed to be a perfect day for our first practice and club race of the season. The 10 knot forecast was true up until we rounded the first windward mark in second place. Then the breeze suddenly built to about 20 knots and we were planing downwind with the mast forward and the jib poled out to windward.
For those of you who have not had the pleasure of crewing on a Star, I must explain that sitting on the foredeck with your legs around the mast watching the mast tip above you flex foward of the bow while 1500lbs of keelboat planes downwind is quite an experience. Jibing in a Star requires a whirlwind of activity in any conditions, but when the breeze is on it all happens much faster: jump back in the cockpit, pull in the leeward backstay as the skipper bears away sheets in the main, make sure the leeward (new windward) backstay is cleated in the right location for the wind conditions as the stern goes through the wind, duck under the boom as it swings six inches above the deck, uncleat the old backstay to allow the boom to go out, jump back up on the foredeck to jibe the pole, and then check the rig to make sure it looks OK.
We managed to survive the day without any breakages but decided to drop out of the last race as a result of the skipper fouling 3/4 of the fleet on the first beat.
On Sunday it was still really windy and so I headed over to the local lake with my Laser. I was able to show the locals what a 240lb Star crew can do going upwind in 20 knots in a Laser. They could slowly reel me in on the downwind legs of the windward-leeward course, but upwind I was fully powered up while they were struggling to keep upright. I had a very good day of sailing within 10 minutes of home, not bad.

On the next Sunday, I returned to the local lake with Tillerman. The conditions were much calmer, and Tillerman gave the local fleet, including me, a masterclass in medium-breeze lake sailing. I was definitely not "in the zone" and consistently forgot about the persistent rightie shift at the top of every beat.

Last Saturday I went to my second Laser regatta of the season (the first was Tillerman's Collander Cup) and the first Laser regatta in more than ten years on the sea. The regatta was sailed out of the Bass River Yacht Club in South Yarmouth, MA. I was wary of driving down to Cape Cod on a holiday weekend, but the weather forecast was exceptional so I decided to risk it. There was no traffic on the way down and I made it to the club by 8:30am. The club is a small, casual place on the Bass River; a small tidal river just wide enough for a navigation channel. When I arrived most of the boats were already rigged, so I hurriedly put the boat together and waited for the skipper's meeting. Most of the other sailors were either juniors/college kids or Masters (35+). I was the only 20-something to be seen.
The date of the regatta was chosen for the favorable tides, so we sailed out of the river, with the tide, into Nantucket Sound. On shore, some of the younger sailors had changed out of their hiking pants into boardshorts because the wind seemed to be light at the club. However, when we reached the open water of the Sound the wind was blowing on-shore at a steady 15-20 knots. The race comittee was already about a mile offshore, so getting to the starting area gave me an opportunity to get used to sailing upwind in waves again. The first race was a windward/leeward, once around. I started conservatively in the middle of the line and headed out to the left of the course. There was a strong current heading downwind evenly across the course, so even though the windward mark seemed close the beat was probably the equivalent of a 3/4 of a mile. I found that my weight allowed me to sail the boat much more powered up than most of the rest of the fleet and so I was able to point higher by sailing the boat flatter with more power in the sail than the other boats. At the windward mark I was in third and was able to hold my position on the downwind leg. On the second upwind leg to the finish I was holding my own, but when I tacked on the layline to the pin end of the finish line I caught my PFD on the boom and capsized. I was able to get the boat up quickly and ended up seventh.
The second race was more of the same without the capsize, so I actually did end up with a third. I tried for a pin end start in the third race, misjudged the current and had to gybe around and start behind the fleet. I managed to catch up with the leaders but the wind had died down a bit and so the race ended up to be my throwout.
The last two races were my best of the day. The wind picked up to 25-30 and the waves got bigger. I was first at the windward mark in both races and then lost boats downwind again. I was getting better at surfing the waves going dead downwind and picking low spots in the waves ahead to make gains, but my weight was slowing me down compared to the rest of the fleet. Luckily, because of the current, the downwind legs were alot shorter than the upwind and so I was able to gain back most of the places I lost. Upwind I was still pointing higher and going faster than the other boats and by this time the waves were big enough to make some body torquing necessary just to stop the bow from digging into the waves. I ended up second in both races and then had a great screaming broad reach back to the river where the current was now heading upstream, making the trip back to the club easy.
The top three in the regatta were within 1 point of each other with throwouts and tiebreakers deciding the trophy order. I ended up fourth and was the first non-Master; the top three were all local Master's sailors.

"Go to bed wake up with a clear head
Recalling what made it a ball
If I could just get it on paper
I might make some sense of it all

If I could tell half of the stories
The funny way most things begin
Figure ways to disguise all the half truths and lies
Find the heart of my song with the point of a pen
Simple words can become clever phrases
And chapters could turn into books
Yes if I could just get it on paper
But it's harder than it ever looks." - Jimmy Buffett

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

One Particular Harbour

I am supposed to be going Star sailing on Boston Harbor this evening. Unfortunately the conditions do not look friendly for our first practice of the season:

Conditions at 44013 as of
(12:50 pm EDT)
1650 GMT on 06/07/2006:

5-day plot - Wind SpeedWind Speed (WSPD): 27.2 kts
5-day plot - Wind GustWind Gust (GST): 33.0 kts
5-day plot - Wave HeightWave Height (WVHT): 8.9 ft
5-day plot - Dominant Wave PeriodDominant Wave Period (DPD): 6 sec
5-day plot - Average PeriodAverage Period (APD): 5.2 sec
5-day plot - Atmospheric PressureAtmospheric Pressure (PRES): 29.79 in
5-day plot - Pressure TendencyPressure Tendency (PTDY): -0.04 in ( Falling )
5-day plot - Air TemperatureAir Temperature (ATMP): 52.5 °F
5-day plot - Water TemperatureWater Temperature (WTMP): 52.3 °F
5-day plot - Dew PointDew Point (DEWP): 52.3 °F
5-day plot - Wind ChillWind Chill (CHILL): 45.3 °F
5-day plot - Wind Speed, Wind Gust and Atmospheric PressureCombined plot of Wind Speed, Gust, and Air Pressure

If I do go sailing, I'm sure there will be some stories to tell, so check back to find out what happens.

Friday, June 02, 2006

The Captain and the Kid

From the Boston Globe:

Remains are identified as a boy pirate

He was a boy, no more than 11, when pirates captured the ship he and his mother were sailing on in the Caribbean. As he watched the pirates haul off the ship's cargo of sugar and tobacco, John King made a decision: He would leave his mother and join the pirate crew, led by Captain Sam Bellamy.

Now, 290 years later, King's remains -- his fibula, silk stocking, and shoe -- have been identified among the wreck of Bellamy's ship, the Whydah, 1,500 feet off the coast of Wellfleet. While teenage pirates were common in the 18th century, King is considered to be the youngest ever identified.

Researchers excavating the Whydah used 18th century Caribbean court records and modern forensics to make the determination.

Their find opened a window onto the strange and brief life of a young boy swept up in a lost world of ocean piracy.

``It's a whole touchstone to a period in history which is often misunderstood or it's been twisted around by all these novels," said Ken Kinkor, a historian at the Expedition Whydah Sea-Lab and Learning Center in Provincetown, which made the discovery. ``Even though we find treasures, the best treasures aren't always gold or silver. It's the knowledge we get from the past."

King's tale ranges through the Caribbean, to the coast of Venezuela, and finally to his watery grave off Wellfleet. It involves high-seas plundering, an appearance by the Puritan clergyman Cotton Mather, and a public hanging in Boston.

The boy's journey first entered the official records on Nov. 9, 1716. That is the date recorded in an Antiguan court deposition when Bellamy hoisted a black flag aboard his sloop, the Marianne, and attacked the Bonetta, the ship on which King and his mother were sailing, en route from Antigua to Jamaica.

The deposition, written by the commander of the Bonetta, tells how Bellamy plundered the boat for 15 days. The document also records a few of the 80 men on the Bonetta -- among them, a goldsmith named Paul Williams, a gunner's mate named William Osbourne, and an Indian boy and a black man, whose names were not recorded. Then the document, which Kinkor tracked down a few years ago in a London archive, tells of a boy, ``one John King," who stubbornly demanded to join Bellamy's crew.

King ``was so far from being forced or compelled" to join, the record says, ``that he declared he would kill himself if he was restrained, and even threatened his Mother, who was then on board as a passenger."

After the show of defiance, Bellamy let the boy aboard, Kinkor said. The moment has tantalized pirate enthusiasts for some time, who have struggled to understand why a pirate captain would let a boy join his crew.

``I tend to think that from what we know of Bellamy he was kind of a charismatic individual," Kinkor said. ``I think Bellamy may have admired the kid's spirit. This kid, I can almost see him begging Bellamy to let him join and Bellamy not having the heart to refuse."

Three months later, Bellamy and the boy would be dead.

From St. Croix, they sailed through the Leeward Islands, passed Venezuela, and crossed back toward America, plundering ships along the way, according to Kinkor. Between Cuba and Haiti, they attacked the Whydah, a 100-foot heavily armed slave galley, and Bellamy took the boat for his own. Up the Carolinas they sailed to Cape Cod, where a fierce storm sank the Whydah, killing roughly 140 men aboard, including Bellamy and King.

Thoreau reflected on the famous shipwreck in his book, ``Cape Cod".

``A storm coming on, their whole fleet was wrecked, and more than a hundred dead bodies lay along the shore," he wrote, referring to Marconi Beach in Wellfleet.

Six who survived were hung for piracy in Boston; two were acquitted with the help of Cotton Mather. An Indian survivor was sold into slavery, Kinkor said.

The boat, broken to bits, lay on the sea floor until 1984, when Barry Clifford, a Cape Cod native captivated by the tale as a boy, located the wreck using sonar. Clifford hauled up some 200,000 artifacts -- pistols, coins, and cannons -- and helped create the Whydah Center to display them. He hardly paid attention to King's fibula, stocking and shoe, found preserved in a lump of minerals in 1989 and put away in storage for years.

Clifford said he thought they belonged to a very small sailor, until Kinkor persuaded him recently to have them tested. ``I had been looking at this shoe and thinking, 'My God, these people were small back then," Clifford said.

Last month, John de Bry, director of the Center for Historical Archaeology in Florida, and David R. Hunt, an anthropologist at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C., analyzed photographs of the 11-inch bone and determined that it belonged not to a small man, but to a boy between 8 and 11 years old. Because King was the only boy recorded aboard the Whydah, Kinkor said he feels certain that the fibula is King's.

Although the English Navy used boys as ``powder monkeys" to haul gunpowder from the magazine to the cannons, Kinkor said he did not know of any records of a pirate so young as King.

The Whydah Center, which has the bone, stocking and shoe on display in Provincetown, plans to put them on a cross-country tour with National Geographic later this year, Clifford said.

A drawing of the Whyda, the pirate ship that John King is believed to have been sailing on when he died. (Expedition Whydah Sea-Lab & Learning Center)

The silk stocking, shoe and fibula believed to be John King's, found in the wreckage off Wellfleet. (Expedition Whydah Sea-Lab & Learning Center)

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

I Heard I Was In Town

Now that I am back from the land of milk and honey that is Tillerman's house and back in Massachusetts I guess I should write a post about the weekend. The drive down was fairly uneventful, which is good because it was the first long highway trip for the new trailer and the first long trip with Tillerman's "cutest grandaughter in the world".

OG, I wonder if you will see an increase in hits on after the prominent display of my sticker on the back of the trailer all the way down I-95 from Massachusetts to New Jersey.

We did get pulled over in Connecticut on the Merritt Parkway because apparently trailers are not allowed on that road despite there being no signage to that effect and even though Tillerman has driven it several times with his trailer with no problems.

On Sunday morning, Tillerman and I drove down to Spruce Run for the regatta. It was hot and there was no wind, but I was happy to be at an actual regatta again. As the cast of characters gradually showed up I actually recognized some of them from Tillerman's post. Since sailing in Laser regattas on the Jersey Shore with Tillerman when I was in high school, I have tried to avoid him when he tries to tell me who the hotshots are...I didn't want to be intimidated by knowing that: "that guy won the North Americans a few years ago" or "he is doing an Olympic campaign". It was usually pretty obvious who you didn't want to try to beat off the start line and who would be an easy target. The "Collander Cup" (as it is now known) was nothing like those Jersey Shore regattas. It was more like sailing Sunfish on my old home lake; the guys to watch were the old retirees and the local hotshots who had the local knowledge.

I made sure I was the first boat to launch and commenced drifting out to the start line. I felt really clumsy in the boat and tried to do some roll tacks to get used to the feel of a Laser again. Eventually the rest of the fleet made it out to the line and after some course adjustments the committee started the first race. There was no wind at the start but it filled in at the pin end leaving Tillerman, Local Hotshot and me at the boat end watching the Kid and the rest of the fleet ghosting along. By the windward mark I was buried at mid-fleet with little hope of catching up on the downwind in a drifter. Just as we rounded the leeward mark, a breath of breeze appeared...and the fleet started to make mistakes. My cardinal rule in conditions like this is POINT AT THE MARK, so I just stayed on the lifted tack and gained three boats on the last beat to finish third.

The rest of the morning was more of the same drifting conditions with almost no opportunities to make strategic gains except at the start and at mark roundings. Tillerman was leading the third race at the windward mark in absolutely no breeze when the race committee drove around in their skiff to take a vote on whether to abandon the race. No decision was made though, the wind filled in nicely and Tillerman finished in second. Despite the best wind of the day, the race committee sent us in for lunch; hot dogs courtesy of the Jet 14 fleet.

By the time we had finished lunch the wind had died again, so I headed back out to the course by standing on the bow and rocking the boat with the rudder flipped up. As Tillerman pointed out, I fell off the bow while circling around the committee boat waiting for the rest of the fleet to arrive...I can't wait to see the photo taken by the fleet webmaster. The afternoon conditions were more drifty than the morning but somehow I managed to find myself first at the windward mark twice...Local Hotshot was too good for me though and he beat me in both races. I managed to fall/slide off the boat again while sailing downwind...upon reflection my shiny boardshorts were probably not the best attire for Laser sailing.

I had low expectations for the regatta considering it was my first Laser regatta in 9 years, that I am easily 45 lbs overweight for Laser sailing, and that the conditions were so light but after everything was done I was somehow in 2nd place overall. Not bad...maybe I did learn something from all that college sailing that I managed not to forget since then. I have plans to attend some more competitive regattas this summer as well as my usual Star sailing. Hopefully the rest of the regattas will be as enjoyable as the "Collander Cup".

Friday, May 26, 2006

Interesting Artist

I was surfing the web and came across an artist whose work looked familiar for some reason. His name is James Niehues and he is the artist who painted the images for the trail maps of many of my favorite ski areas. I had always been curious why the trail maps for many ski areas looked so similar and had guessed that perhaps they were computer generated. It turns out that the reason they look similar is because the same artist painted them all. He also does artwork for other resorts including this image of Peter Island in the BVI:

Friday, May 19, 2006

A Quote from OG

To quote one of my online sailing friends, OG from LiveSailDie: (this was written on Friday May 12th and was probably originally intended for some other purpose, however it seems perfect for this situation...)
To feel the wind in your hair and the salt on your face is one of the most exhilarating experiences one could ever be succumbed to. Sailing into the sunset with the horizon your destination truly provides a sense of living. When no one else can be seen, no land, birds or passing ships, you know you are experiencing one of the many wonders the sea and the world has to offer…

Sadly, not everyone can enjoy this natural pleasure…

It has been a rough few months of horrible experiences, and just again today, additional bad news was cast my way. More tears fell from eyes that once glistened in the day and moonlight and the statement “if only” again passed through my mind.

Life is too short to stay dry…

Life is too short to stay grounded…

Life is too short to stay on your island so please sail the waters in and surrounding your land.

Talk of times on the water, and share with land dweller the joy of the sea. Pass on wisdom of the winds and stories of knowledge of nautical ways…

For there are far too many in this crazy mixed up world who live and die but never experience the pleasure of sail…

So please… Live each day… Sail the Seas… Then, and only then, should you rest your head and Die…

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Hans Horrevoets

Hans was only 3 years older than I am now. He also has a young daughter (his is 11 months old, mine is 5 1/2 months old).

I suppose as armchair and internet sailors we had become used to these boats sailing around the world at incredible speeds with no casualties. Given a few changes in my own sailing history I might have been in Hans' place. Perhaps my summer job with Young America could have become more than it was...maybe if I had taken that job in Maine as a sailing coach and sailmaker...I might have had the opportunity to sail in the Volvo Ocean Race.

Although Hans' tragic death makes me feel thankful for my safe life here in Massachusetts, where the most dangerous thing I deal with is the traffic on I-95 on the way to work, I am still envious of his courage in pursuing his dream.

It's tough when someone so young loses their life...but at least we can take comfort in the fact that Hans was chasing his dream.