Monday, December 31, 2007

Solar Power

Adam from Messing About in Sailboats has a New Year's resolution to do one thing every week to save the planet. These guys are already doing their part by sharing their boombox and using solar power to avoid using batteries:

Friday, December 28, 2007

Married to the Sea Cartoon

I am pretty sure that the folks who create Married to the Sea comics were completely unaware of the current America's Cup legal battle when they used Ernesto as a name in the cartoon above.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Fairytale of New York

After dating and eventually marrying an Irish-American girl (and her extended Irish family) I have a soft spot for Irish music. This Pogues song, which was apparently voted best Christmas song of all time three years running in 2004, 2005, and 2006 in polls by music channel VH1 UK, is a really good example of modern, Irish-influenced rock music. I rediscovered the song when I heard it played on WBCN earlier this week (listen at least to about 1:25 when the band comes in).

Unfortunately, Kirsty MacColl, the female vocalist in the song, was killed by a speeding powerboat while diving in Mexico. She was able to save her son's life by pushing him out of the path of the powerboat, but she was hit by the boat and killed instantly.

Fish on Friday

Crash of the Week: Princess May

The ship above is the steamer Princess May, hard aground on Sentinel Island, Alaska, in August, 1910. She was part of a fleet of passenger and freight haulers operated by the Canadian Pacific Railroad Company along the West Coast of North America at about the turn of the century.

The Princess May was built in 1888 in Newcastle, England. She measured 249 feet in length so was a formidable sized vessel when you consider what happened to it. As the story is told, she stranded on the island’s rocky outcrop on August 5, 1910, within full view of the lighthouse on the island. She was steaming at full speed in the early morning in heavy fog, southbound from Skagway, Alaska, when the accident happened.

The lifeboats were lowered and some 80 passengers and the 68-member were safely evacuated to the island. It was said that the ship also was carrying gold, which also was taken ashore for safe keeping. Then the tide went out and the ship was left high and dry, as it appears in the classic picture snapped by W. H. Case.

Believe it or not, the Princess May was salvaged about a month later by Captain W. H. Logan and his salvage tug Santa Cruz, from Seattle. Logan managed to get the steamer lighted and re-floated during high tide.

The other interesting thing about this ship was that it probably had more names than any other vessel that ever sailed the high seas. The steamer was originally named the Mei Shih when it was launched. Before it came to the American coast, the ship was renamed Cass, then Arthur. After that it was renamed Cass, then Ningchow and finally the Hating before the railroad company bought it in 1901 and gave the vessel its final and infamous name.

The May remained in service for nine more years before she was sold to new owners, the Princess May Steamship Company in the Caribbean. In the end the vessel was scrapped and then scuttled off Jamaica in 1930.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

A Dream Job (Almost)

Tracy Usher, the North American Chairman of the Laser Class, posted a link to a job on the LaserForum today. The job is ILCA Technical Officer, and I would be really interested...if my current employment situation were a little more flexible.

The Position

A Technical Officer, to fill a current vacancy, providing technical support to the International Laser Class Association (ILCA). The support will be in 3 main areas:

1. Manufacturing (including construction manual maintenance and compliance, quality control, material specifications, recommending and implementing policy) reporting to the Chairman of the ILCA Technical and Measurement Committee.
2. Measurement (including drafting of rules and interpretations, maintenance of the measurement manual, measurers communications, recommending and implementing policy) reporting to the ILCA Chief Measurer.
3. General Technical (including technical drawings and illustrations on various aspects of sailboat racing).


On a part time basis (50%). The function holder will be working from his/her home.
Administratively he/she will report to the ILCA Executive Secretary stationed in Falmouth, Cornwall, England.
Travelling abroad (several weeks per year) is inherent in the job.

The Candidate

The candidate will have a technical/engineering degree or similar qualifications. He/she will be highly proficient in written and spoken English and familiar with marine technical language. Experience in the manufacture of small GRP boats and familiarity with mast technology and sail making may be an advantage although training will be provided. The candidate should also be familiar with popular office computer software, technical drawings and CAD packages. Current involvement with small boat racing would be an additional advantage.

Applications close 31st January 2008

For further information (including a detailed job description) please contact:

The Executive Secretary
International Laser Class Association

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Party Like a Sailor

In honor of the "holidays" (as they are known here in the politically correct US) and the requisite "holiday" parties, here's a historical example of a remarkable party.

At an officer's party in 1694 (an officer's party, not an office party, but close enough), the British Lord Admiral Edward Russell commissioned history’s largest cocktail.

That's the Admiral above.

The "cocktail" used a garden fountain as a punch bowl. The concoction included 250 gallons of brandy, 125 gallons of Malaga wine, 1,400 pounds of sugar, 2,500 lemons, 20 gallons of lime juice, and 5 pounds of nutmeg.

A series of bartenders actually paddled around in a small wooden canoe, filling up guests’ cups. Not only that, but they had to work in 15-minute shifts to avoid being overcome by the fumes and falling overboard.

The party continued nonstop for a full week, pausing only briefly during rainstorms to erect a silk canopy over the punch to keep it from getting watered down. In fact, the festivities didn’t end until the fountain had been drunk completely dry.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Fish on Friday: Fish Escape

Down on the fish farm, workers could not understand why the number of brown trout had suddenly taken a dive. But close observation revealed the reason - an aquatic version of the Great Escape.

The resourceful fish are leaping 3ft out of the water and into an eight-inch pipe which brings fresh water into the farm near Alresford, Hampshire.

Following their instincts, the trout, cousins of the Atlantic salmon, then swim against the flow for 30ft before finding freedom at the other end as they plop into a tributary of the River Itchen.

Simon Johnson, director of the Wild Trout Trust, said: "Brown trout do have migratory tendencies and swim upstream, especially in November and December.

"The water coming down from the pipe is oxygenating the pond and this could be kicking in their natural instincts.

"They might well think it is a waterfall and are trying to head up it to find a place to spawn."

Friday, December 07, 2007

Sailing Photo of the Day

This great photo of an Optimist was taken at Glacier Waterton National Park in Alberta, Canada by K. Chisholm.

There are many other photos of sailing in spectacular scenery at the photographer's Flickr page.

I wonder how the wind is affected by all those mountains...I'd better re-read Tillerman's Lake Winds posts.

Friday, November 30, 2007

The Best Sailing Post of the Year

Tillerman asks for nominations for the best sailing post of the year.

My nomination for this honor is this post from Stan Schreyer. I remember sailing against Stan on the Charles River back in college. At the time, Stan was a hotshot dinghy sailor for the BU Sailing Team (known as the BUDS). Stan was easy to spot because he had an unusual green lifejacket. Anyway, following a Tornado Olympic campaign for the Atlanta Games, Stan is now skippering the Tommy Hilfiger Extreme 40 catamaran.

Stan's nominated post is about the Centomiglia Race. The post combines great descriptions of racing action:
We had some equipment problems during this part of the race, as our jib sheet ripped off of the clew board on the sail. We were able to put it in another hole on the clew board, which quickly ripped out. So we lashed it through the remaining 5 holes in the clew board, and hoped that this would spread the load out. Fortunately, our fix held for the rest of the race. But our jib issues did not stop with the clew board. We were also ripping the jib luff out of the foil on the forestay. Only about the bottom 6 inches had gone by the time we noticed, and we were able to punch some holes in the luff of the sail, and sew it to the forestay before it ripped out any further. This was not an easy job though, as it required us to send someone out onto the spinnaker pole, and climb up the forestay bridle to the point where the sewing needed to be done. We were fortunate that we were able to get this fix done without incident. About the time were doing the fix, we were sailing through the bulk of the monohulls in the race, which had started before us that morning. While sewing the job to the forestay, I would catch an occasional glimpse of a monohull on its ear, or struggling with their own breakdowns. The race had gone from boring to out of control in only a few short minutes.
Great photos:

Photo by Roberto Vuilleumier/

And even some interesting discussions of wind on lakes to keep Tillerman happy:
We had a light (about 4 knot) southerly as we started the race, which meant we had our spinnakers up as we crossed the starting line. After about 15 minutes, the northerly overpowered the southerly in one of the fastest 180 wind transitions I had ever seen. There was virtually no transition zone between the two breezes, one instant we were in a 4 knot southerly, the next, we were furling our gennekar because we were going upwind in a 4 knot northerly. The 4 knots became 8 knots, which became 12 knots, and in about 8 minutes time we were sailing upwind in an 18 knot Northerly breeze. The breeze continued to build as we sailed up the lake, and it probably topped out over 25 knots sustained (and puffs that were higher) as we sailed through one particularly narrow area on the lake.
Stan doesn't post that often, but his post deserves to be nominated as a top ten post of the year.

From left, Randy Smythe, Jonathon Farrar, Mark van Gelderen, At van Barneveld , Stan Schreyer, and Roberto Benamati.
Photo by Roberto Vuilleumier/

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

So, what's does "having" a regatta mean?

The Deed of Gift says:
Any organized Yacht Club of a foreign country, incorporated, patented, or licensed by the legislature, admiralty, or other executive department, having for its annual regatta an ocean water course on the sea, or on an arm of the sea, or one which combines both, shall always be entitled to the right of sailing a match of this Cup, with a yacht or vessel propelled by sails only and constructed in the country to which the Challenging Club [Challenger of Record] belongs, against any one yacht or vessel constructed in the country of the Club holding the Cup.

According to this guy, "having an annual regatta" means that the regatta has happened in the past and will continue to happen in the future. I agree. When I discussed this earlier, I noted that the important part of the dispute between GGYC and SNG/CNEV was whether their Optimist regatta would be sufficient to comply with the Deed of Gift's requirement of "having an annual regatta."

Having read many court opinions over the last four years, I am glad to see that Justice Cahn's opinion is clearly written and leaves no doubt as to the result.

"The court concludes that CNEV's challenge is invalid, and that GGYC is Challenger of Record pursuant to the Deed."

It's time for a yacht race.

Where'd the Sea Go?

I have no idea where this photo was taken. It appears to be the wreck of a large ship sitting in a desert. Anyone have any ideas?

Friday, November 23, 2007

Wind Dam

The Wind Dam is a proposed energy project by Chetwoods Associates. The sail is 25 meters high and 75 meters wide, and funnels the wind into a turbine. If the project is approved, the wind dam will be built in a gorge near northern Russia’s Lake Ladoga.

The Wind Dam Project uses a giant spinnaker sail suspended in a mountain gorge near Northern Russia’s Lake Ladoga. The £2.5 million dam will include a unique cup-shaped spinnaker sail, an original design, which will capture and harness wind to generate renewable energy by funneling wind through an attached turbine.

The spinnaker shape is similar to the mainsail of a yacht, and is thought to be particularly effective in capturing the wind with it’s kite-like properties. Project architect Laurie Chetwood stated that the shape of the sail was influenced by functionality and a desire to produce something “sculptural”. “The sail looks like a bird dipping its beak into the water, which will be much less of a blot on this beautiful and unblemished landscape…It is also highly effective at capturing the wind because it replicates the work of a dam and doesn’t let the wind escape in the way it does using traditional propellers.”

If the project is approved by next year, the wind dam will be approximately 25m high and will span 75m wide. Chetwood Associates is also looking at applying for planning permission for another project in a nearby gorge of the Lake Ladoga region. If all moves forward, we could be sailing into the future with solutions that are as poetic and imaginative as they are practical and environmentally grounding.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

No Fish for Christmas

To stop Polish and Romanian immigrants from taking fish from rivers and lakes for their Christmas dinner, the UK Environmental Agency put up this pictographic warning:

To any peckish Poles or ravenous Romanians, the message could not be clearer.

Keep off our fish.

Three roadsign-style warnings were launched yesterday to stop Eastern European immigrants from spearing, taking home and cooking coarse fish from our rivers, lakes and canals.

The initiative is timely because carp and pike are a traditional Christmas dish in Poland and officials fear an increase in fish rustling over the next few weeks.

Friday, November 16, 2007


Earth Set

The image above was taken by the KAGUYA's onboard high definition television (HDTV) for space use developed by NHK. The moving image data acquired by the KAGUYA was received at the JAXA Usuda Deep Space Center, and processed by NHK. This still image was cut out from a moving image taken by the HDTV onboard the KAGUYA at 12:07 p.m. on November 7, 2007 (Japan Standard Time, JST,) then sent to the JAXA Usuda Deep Space Center.

In the image, the Moon's surface is near the South Pole, and we can see the Australian Continent (center left) and the Asian Continent (lower right) on the Earth. (In this image, the upper side of the Earth is the Southern Hemisphere, thus the Australian Continent looks upside-down.)

Fish on Friday

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The Edmund Fitzgerald

I discovered this song in college when one of my friends introduced me to Gordon Lightfoot's music.

The Edmund Fitzgerald was a lake freighter that sank on Lake Superior on November 10, 1975. Gordon Lightfoot immortalized the incident in a song in 1976. Joseph Fulton made this video remix of the song in tribute to those who died on the Edmund Fitzgerald 32 years ago today.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Bananas on the Beach

Wednesday, thousands of bananas washed up in the Netherlands on two North Sea islands. At least six containers fell off a cargo ship in a storm and at least one burst open.

A half-mile stretch of beach on Terschelling island, 70 miles north of Amsterdam, was littered with bunches of unripe fruit from Cuba. Bananas also washed up on neighboring Ameland island.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Sailing in Boston

Tillerman's "sailing in the city" series is going well. So far the following cities are represented:

Sailing in Boston
Sailing in Cape Town
Sailing in New York
Sailing in San Diego
Sailing in Stockholm
Sailing in Sydney

Here's another photo of downtown Boston showing the moorings in front of Lewis Wharf and the Boston Harbor Sailing Club. The Custom House Tower is visible among the taller buildings, and in the background you can see the Charles River Basin.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Sailing in the City

Tillerman asks for some photos of sailing in the city. Having spent many years of my life (and a lot of Tillerman's money) sailing at MIT, I thought I should post some of the best photos I could find of sailing on the Charles River. This won' t be the first time I have posted photos of sailing on the River Chuck...last November I posted an image from the very windy 2006 Schell Trophy.

Here's a photo taken during this year's Schell regatta, which MIT won, showing Tech dinghies racing upwind and FJs coming downwind in front of the Prudential Tower and 111 Huntingdon on the Boston shore of the Charles River.

Next is a great photo taken from the MIT Sailing Pavilion, the birthplace of college sailing, looking towards downtown Boston. The boats on the dock are Tech dinghies, the boats in the water are FJs.

Via The Tech.

For comparison, the photo below was taken in the 1940's from about the same angle. You can see that the Boston skyline has changed considerably in 60 years. In the 1940's, the tallest feature on the skyline was the 496 foot Custom House Tower. The profile of Beacon Hill is now obscured by the skyscrapers of the Financial District.

Via MIT Sailing and the MIT Museum.

Finally, a great photo I found on Flickr of the MIT Sailing Pavilion docks taken looking towards the Citgo sign, Fenway Park, and Boston University. The boats on the dock are MIT's FJs, which are color coded for team racing.

Via Flickr.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Crash of the Week: Windsurfer

Via Flickr.

"Windsurfing off the south coast of Mersea Island, Essex, in the huge mouth of the River Blackwater estuary."

Thursday, November 01, 2007

The Ship's Cat

Tillerman's comment on my Halloween post was enigmatic: "The cat has to go." I assume he was referring to my wife's cat, which is completely useless and constantly annoys me.

Inspired to find a story of a useful cat that related to sailing, I found this story about Simon of the HMS Amethyst.
In May 1948, a gangly green-eyed black-and-white Tom cat was found wandering alone and hungry on Hong Kong's Stonecutters Island by the Amethyst's captain, Lieutenant-Commander Bernard Skinner, and so it was that two year-old Able Seacat Simon joined the ship's complement. Cats had long been popular as shipboard mascots in the Royal Navy, not least for their pest-control skills, but also because of their remarkable ability to adapt to new surroundings in a manner which will surprise only those who have never chosen to share their lives with them.
In 1949, the ship was attacked on the Yangtse River in China by communists. Simon was wounded, but not found for days. The injured sailors had been evacuated, so the ship’s doctor nursed Simon’s facial burns and shrapnel wounds. As Simon recovered he resumed rat catching, but also added the duty of visiting sick and wounded sailors. Upon return to Hong Kong, Simon was presented with a campaign ribbon and news that he would receive a Dicken Medal, an award for animal gallantry. When the Amethyst reached England, Simon had to go into quarantine. He developed an infection and died just before his planned formal medal ceremony. The veterinarian believed the young cat would have recovered if his war wounds hadn’t weakened him. Simon was buried in a specially-made casket with full naval honors.

Monday, October 22, 2007

The Science of Knots

Tillerman is talking about it, and the Laser Forum has a post discussing it...but scientists have already figured it out. Apparently it doesn't matter whether you use the Rooster mainsheet or the new Bzzz line, even mathematically simulated strings form knots without much provocation.

The best knotting came from very flexible, long string contained in a large box. "A highly flexible string placed in a very large container will have a higher probability of becoming knotted than a stiff one that's confined in a smaller container," Smith told LiveScience.

The researchers suggest that cramped quarters limit the tumbling motion that facilitates the string weaving through the coils. That would explain why knots were less likely to form in smaller compared with larger boxes.

But in real life, most people don't tumble cords and wires on a daily basis. Smith explained that while this tumbling is not a requirement for knots to form, some motion is necessary.

"Surprisingly little disturbance or motion is even needed," Smith said. "It's quite easy for something to get knotted." Even the act of picking up the phone and placing it back down could be enough jostling to trigger knot formation.

While there is no magical knot buster, Smith advised what all sailors, cowboys, electricians, sewers and knitters know: to avoid tangles, keep a cord or string tied in a coil so it can't move.

It sounds like a tumbling motion is what causes the worst problems...not good news for rope that is sitting in the washing machine that is a Laser cockpit.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


I have the opposite problem from Edward over at EVK4: my daughter loves the wind -- she has been saying "Windy!" when she feels the breeze on her face since she could talk -- but she is afraid of my boat. Of course, my boat is not as attractive as Edward's Lady Bug; it is just a Laser sitting on a trailer in the backyard. When we go outside she usually acknowledges its existence with a "Dat's Daddy's boat," but if I ask her if she wants to sit on it she'll just say, "No, no, no, don't like it." Anyway, I should have been sailing this past weekend. The weather was beautiful, with that nip in the air that lets you know autumn is here. Instead of sailing I spent a lot of time playing with my daughter. Here's a gratuitous shot of her enjoying the wind on our long walk at Borderland State Park.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Lovely Boating Weather

Anna Tunnicliffe (#52), Paige Railey (#53), and rising star Sarah Lihan (#47) in what appears to have been their usual order so far at the Olympic Trials. This image of three sailors emerging from the fog also serves as a metaphor for these sailors' positions relative to the rest of the fleet. The racing has been very close between Railey and Tunnicliffe, although Lihan is keeping her more well known competitors on edge:
Tunnicliffe had a 10-12 boat length lead going into the first leeward mark. Railey picked up a few good shifts up the second beat, and halved her lead at the top. Railey then worked a puff down to pass Tunnicliffe in the first third of the run. After a total of 4 lead changes down the run, they came into the leeward gate (port rounding to a beam reach leg to the finish) overlapped.
Tunnicliffe and Railey jibed onto starboard, and with the Judge boats right there to observe, Tunnicliffe surfed ahead, and Railey had no overlap at the mark. Although there were words exchanged, no flags were flown. Other Notes: Sarah Lihan led at the first 3 marks of Race 3 (second race today).

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Vikings in Boston

When I was sailing on the Charles River during college, I occasionally wondered why the Longfellow Bridge between Boston and Cambridge had Viking ships on it:

A little research reveals that the answer has a strange connection with baking powder. Eben Horsfeld revolutionized bread-making in the 1890s when he developed Rumford's Baking Powder. Inspired by a Norwegian superstar and nationalist and a mysterious stone, he became convinced that the Viking Lief Ericson had landed in Cambridge, which he called Norumbega, and funded monuments and research to that effect. The Boston elite, threatened by new Irish immigrants, quickly seized on this concept, since it showed that the cleaned-up Viking, and not Catholic Columbus, had first settled their sacred city. A century later, it was discovered that the Vikings did reach America first, though never Boston.

Statue of Leif Erikson, erected in 1887, on Commonwealth Avenue