June 1, 2011

Last Call for Heroes

We’ve received lots of well-deserved nominations for local ‘unsung heroes’ since we recently put out a call (here and in Latitude 38 magazine) for nominations. If you’re unclear on the concept, let us clarify that we’re interested in spotlighting sailors who quietly make a difference in our sport with little or no recognition — folks who, out of the goodness of their hearts, volunteer their time and expertise to introduce novices to our sport, mentor young people, nurture disabled sailors, endure long hours bobbing around on committee boats, or teach the time-honored skills of marlinspike seamanship.

Throughout the Bay Area and beyond there are mentors — like this young skipper from Treasure Island Sailing Center — who volunteer their time to introduce newcomers to the joys of sailing.

TISC
© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

If you know of an ‘unsung hero’ you’d like to nominate to our honor roll, shoot us an email and tell us why you think they qualify for this special recognition, and if possible please also send a few photos of your nominee in action. Many thanks.

Sailing Into the Zen Zone

The Oakland Estuary is the first ‘Zen Zone’. It’s actually a wonderful place to sail, as the water is always flat and it’s often warm on the downwind sail home. And for those willing to look, there is certain industrial ‘beauty’ to it.

latitude/Richard
© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Auuuuuummmmmm.

Those of you who read the ‘Sailing Into The Zen Zone’ article in the most recent Latitude 38 probably understand what the first sentence means. For those who haven’t read the issue, we’re delighted to report that the La Gamelle Olson 30 syndicate is not only alive and well, but the boat has been acquired, put into sailing condition and, as of Memorial Day Weekend, was getting a workout. Indeed, the 31-year-old ultralight was sailed in the rain on Saturday, under brilliant blue skies on Sunday, and in half-cloudy, half-sunny conditions on Monday. We had so much fun that, had there been a fourth day of the three-day weekend, we would have sailed La Gamelle that day, too. Indeed, if the weather doesn’t go too far south — literally — we’ll be racing her in the 67-mile Delta Ditch Run to Stockton on Saturday.

After mostly sailing the 63-ft cat Profligate and the 45-ft cat ‘ti Profligate for the last bunch of years, we can’t tell you how different the 30-ft ultralight sailing experience is. In the big cats, you basically aim the boat where you want to go, trim the sails, and sit back and relax. Because monohulls are constantly changing how much they heel, the helmsman has to constantly make adjustments. This is what’s fun, at least for an afternoon of sailing. In the case of a tippy monohull, such as an Olson 30 that displaces just 3,600 pounds, even slight changes in wind speed and wind direction require quick and significant responses, which makes it really fun for the helmsman. The Olson, like other ultralights, reacts like a nautical Porsche.

In Huntington Beach, the surfers ‘shoot the pier’ for kicks. The Oakland Estuary equivalent for Zen sailors is ‘scraping the docks’.

latitude/Richard
© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

And such ultralights are nimble. We had so much fun seeing how close we could come to cement walls before tacking. Fifteen feet is nothing. Or how long we could ‘end-plate’ a cement wharf before having to flop over. It’s also cool to see how long you can sail downwind with your boom no more than five feet from a cement wall. While we wouldn’t want sail so intensely while cruising, what a blast it is for afternoons. It’s something we’ve really, really missed. And when you lie in bed at night, your body feels as though it got a terrific workout.

There are actually a lot of interesting things to see on the Estuary. And on some days, some interesting things to hear, too. These folks are members of a band who practice by playing out over the water. They were doing a pretty nice cover of a Tom Petty song. If they’d held out a tip hat at the end of a pole, we would have contributed.

latitude/Doña de Mallorca
©2011 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

If you’ve read the Zen Zone article, you know that we’re establishing four Zen sailing courses around the Bay, to be meditated on over the next four months for qualification for membership in the San Francisco Bay Zen Sailing Federation. The first of the Zen courses is from the Encinal YC in the Oakland Estuary, to the mouth of the Oakland Estuary, and back to the Encinal YC. Using just a main and #4, the Wanderer and Doña de Mallorca completed the 8-mile course in a pouring rain in two hours on Saturday. Our lessons that day were not so much Zen, but that you’re an idiot if you wear Levis on a boat in the rain and don’t get your foulies on in time, and that ancient foul weather gear isn’t really all that waterproof. We sailed the same course on Sunday in five minutes less time, under brilliant blue skies. Lordy, isn’t it sweet to be warm when sailing in Northern California — as is often the case when sailing down the Estuary at the end of the day.

When you buy a boat that’s a few decades old, corrosion on metal parts is a major concern. As you can see here, the top of the bolt that keeps the rudder from falling out the bottom of the boat simple fell off. Hmmmm, better get out the magnifying glass and go over the rest of the boat.

latitude/Richard
©2011 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Monday’s sail was under partly cloudy and partly clear skies, and was a mix of success and gear failure. Thanks to some south in the wind, we didn’t have to tack as much, and completed the course in 1 hour and 38 minutes, our current PB. This despite the fact that we heard the always anxiety-inducing sound of a metal fitting falling to and rolling down the deck. Upon investigation, it turned out to be the badly corroded top half-inch of a bolt. The bolt wasn’t all that important, as all it did was prevent the rudder from falling out of the boat. Something you don’t want to happen when you’re 15 feet from a cement wall and need to tack.

Then there was a giant whooshing sound. It was reminiscent of the jets that landed at the Naval Air Station, but that base shut down years ago. Then we turned around and saw that de Mallorca suddenly looked like Danny DeVito’s daughter on account of her automatic life vest having gone off under her jacket. "Help me, help me, I’m being choked!" she managed to shout. After getting a couple of photos for ‘Lectronic, we came to her rescue.

Doña de Mallorca having a Zen experience broad-reaching down the Oakland Estuary.

latitude/Richard
©2011 Latitude 38 Media, LLC
Doña de Mallorca looking a bit like Doña de DeVito after her automatic life-vest went off automatically. She had to be extricated from her jacket.

latitude/Richard
©2011 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

It’s hard to express how much pleasure and satisfaction we got from those three days of very active, but enjoyable days of sailing La Gamelle in the Oakland Estuary. And it’s pleasure that doesn’t stop once the race is over. We used to wake up in the middle of the night and worry about insignificant things such as how long the United States can continue to borrow 40 cents of every dollar that it spends. To heck with that rubbish. Now we wake up, pull out our iPad for a graphic review of the course we sailed that afternoon, and relive the fun all over again. Oh yeah, we’re loving it!

Speaking of the Estuary, we plan on having something of a feature on sailing there for the July issue. So if you have any good tales or lore that you think should be included, you know who to write. And by the way, the same goes for any stories about life vests going off accidentally, too.

Auuuuuuummmmmm.

Whether you’ve got a ride for the big event or are simply observing from the sidelines, the Regatta is an eyeful of nautical history.
As recently as a few months ago, it was looking like the Bay Area would miss the the spectacle of the AC 45s altogether.
In the March 7 ‘Lectronic Latitude, we reported that a couple of moorings at Angel Island’s Ayala Cove had gone walkabout — thankfully with no boats attached to them — and that boaters should be cautious when planning an overnight stay.
The Bay has some of the most productive charity events on the West Coast, not the least of which is the Sequoia YC’s Hannig Cup.