Monday, January 21, 2019

Keeping kids in sailing

Sailing 'fun'damentals!

Yesterday I made a prediction that the next generation of sailors is already in the making through the effects of the new Disney classic Moana. I also made a plea not to turn kids off when they show up to sail training by forcing them into racing.

Today, I am going to continue to expand on my writings about the shortcomings of how sailing is taught for the most part in sailing clubs around the world. In 2015, I wrote a piece for Yachting World about how making sailing programmes fun can help keep more kids sailing. I'd written similar pieces for magazines on both sides of the Atlantic before that. It's sadly not a localised problem. Somehow, we've allowed racing to define sailing.

Last month, a series in Scuttlebutt tackled the issue of keeping kids in sailing and gave several great examples of how some clubs have managed to increase retention significantly through "Adventure Sailing" programmes. Can it be true? Is the concept catching on?

I'll start with my usual rant about the bodies that represent sailing on a global and regional level. No, US Sailing is not about sailing. It is about racing, the sport end of the pursuit. There is no body that I know of that represents sailing in all its forms. US Sailing does not represent cruising because cruising is not a sport - it's a pursuit. It's the same with World Sailing. They actually host a page about cruising on their website, but does it really do anything for cruising? Under events, they list all the global racing events, but do they even mention the World ARC? Of course not. Cruising is just not sexy enough or monetarily rewarding for them to mention.

Just think about the US National Sailing Hall of Fame. Do they honour cruisers? I rest my case. They don't even mention cruisers on their website.

Thanks to the Ocean Cruising Club, cruisers can get access to information and Port Officers that can help with sailing almost anywhere in the world. To become a full member, you must have sailed 1000 miles nonstop port to port in a small boat, but Associates can join if they aspire to qualify one day. There's a mentoring programme and a youth sponsorship programme that enable young people to pair up with experienced members for an offshore passage or to learn from those that have come before. Why can't we model youth Adventure Sailing programmes in the same way?

How did we ever let competitive racing take over sailing so fully?  I can only hope that the younger generations are going to sway the vote and go cruising in offshore canoes. And that messing about in boats will eventually win out.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Moana inspires a new generation of sailors

A Polynesian island

I have a theory based on my grandnephew Ziggy's propensity to navigate the seas to Te Fiti, the legendary island from which the demi-god Maui stole the heart gemstone. Ziggy gets in his boat (a cardboard box with a noodle mast) and uses his oar (a plastic shovel) to navigate to the place where the sky meets the sea. Ziggy is not quite three years old. We haven't figured out a sail yet but he wants the sheets to pull on like Moana does in the movie. The entire time  we are 'sailing' he sings the last two lines of the refrain in an indistinguishable language ad nauseum until he reaches the far shore.

Polynesian canoe
When we reach the destination (I am his navigator but he says I can't be because I'm Nana not an alligator!), we get into the dinghy (a wooden box) and I have to paddle ashore and beach the boat. Then Ziggy has to run around the island searching for the place where the heart fits before we set off and do it again.

Half the time he tells me I'm doing it wrong. When I ask him if he'd like to go sailing with Nana he lights up and says 'yes' emphatically. But when I show him our boat, it's clearly not adequate. A 57-foot ketch does not compare with a Polynesian canoe with outrigger. Oh no.

So here's my theory. There are thousands, if not millions, of little kids hooked on Moana watching the movie over and over and dreaming about crossing oceans to save their people. And when these kids grow up, they are going to want to learn how to sail. So let's not screw it up. Let's not teach them to go around in circles around race marks. Let's teach them to sail off to the place where the sky meets the sea to find that far away land of our ancestors. Let's not kill the dreams with lots of yelling. After all, Moana was self-taught. Let's remember that it's still possible to become a sailor without first being a racer.

By the way, Disney is about to launch their own channel so they are letting all their contracts with Netflix and other streaming services expire. They caused a run on CDs of Moana when it disappeared from Netflix just before Christmas. Apparently, the CD was selling online for $75. You see, there's a force unleashed here. Disney will be the salvation of sailing one generation from now. Yes! Let's go with the flow.

Monday, December 31, 2018

Susanne Huber-Curphy - today's Moitessier!

I've been corresponding with Susanne Huber-Curphy who is sailing solo in the Longue Route. A few days ago. I noticed she was heading way east in the South Atlantic. So I asked her if she was heading to France with the rest of the fleet. I got an answer yesterday. She is following the track of the Longue Route as Moitessier did in the original Golden Globe Race when he continued sailing to Tahiti, even though he was winning the race, 'to save his soul'. She is heading into the Pacific. She is just short of crossing her track off South Africa today, which is her 200th day under sail. Keep in mind that she and s/v Nehaj started from Maine so she's already sailed more than a circumnavigation and she's been leading the pack the entire way. She's pulled a Moitessier!!! Or maybe a Nehaj!!! The name Nehaj comes from the Croatian term Ne hajati [nɛ xajati] which means as Susanne puts it, "I named her NEHAJ, that translates to: 'Feel safe here, Do not be afraid'".

In Susanne's words, "Really, it's the most obvious thing to do, isn't it?"

Saturday, December 29, 2018

New Year's Resolution for Safer Sailing in 2019

We have all made New Year's resolutions that we have more often than not given up on. But the best resolution for cruisers is to remind ourselves not to be complacent and to refresh our diligence about safety consciousness aboard. So here's my list of resolutions for cruising in 2019. 

1. Adopt the 'astronaut training' mentality when underway. Always ask yourself 'what if' in preparation for the worst things that could happen. For example:
  • What if someone falls overboard?
  • What if the mainsail halyard jams while hoisting?
  • What if the anchor drags on a dark and stormy night?
  • What if the engine quits in a busy thoroughfare or crowded marina?
  • What if a windward shroud snaps while beating?
  • What if the backstay parts while sailing downwind?
  • What if the spinnaker jams while dousing?
  • What if we hit an object in the water?

Monday, December 24, 2018

Christmas at Sea (on a Lee-Shore)

The sheets were frozen hard, and they cut the naked hand;
The decks were like a slide, me boys, where a sailor scarce could stand;
The wind was a nor'wester, blowing squally from the sea,
And cliffs and spouting breakers were the only things a-lee.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Poem for everyone setting sail across the oceans

This is so interesting. It was used in an ad to promote National Book Tokens and giving books as gifts in Ireland. It took me a while, but I realized that it's written mostly with the titles of books. How clever!  The copywriter has to be a sailor to have crafted something so meaningful to adventure sailing.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Life Afloat vs Ashore: 10 Ways Lifestyles Differ

The life of a cruiser is 'slightly' different from a landlubbers'

Sarah Steenland, the Cruising Cartoonist, just released a comic for Christmas that accentuates the differences between living on a boat and living in a house. It made me think back to the time when we took a year to sail the Atlantic circuit. While sailing, we missed our home in Ireland. When back in Ireland, we missed being aboard our boat. Which of course made me reminisce about the differences between cruising and land dwelling. They are such different lifestyles. Both have their merits. I now find it very compatible and satisfying to live half and half. Here are some differences to think about if you're thinking about heading out there.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

STEM Education through Sailing

You may have heard about wonderful success with early experimental STEM Sailing programs. I have been following the STEM sailing concept since I first heard about it through the VOR. It enables learning Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) through a sailing curriculum. 

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Gifts for Sailors

It's December 1st and the day I usually sit down to create a list of gifts I might consider for my sailing buddies. No one really wants just practical gifts, so I've concentrated on going beyond pure utility and have selected a few items that have some bling or tech gizmo appeal. Fortunately, sailing is often associated with gadgets that do evolve over time into things that make things easier and more fun. So here goes.

1) Luci Light from US$19.95, €18

Friday, November 30, 2018

Whale blow

I saw this photo of a humpback whale in Norway on Facebook yesterday and it rekindled the moment when a fin whale surfaced right next to Aleria off the Azores. The stench of rotting fish was overwhelming and clung to our clothes all day afterwards. It was a magic moment. We got a photo, but not like this one, capturing water on fire. Beautiful.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Single-handed sailing

2018 is a remarkable year for sailing around the world. There are scores of vessels out there crossing oceans in the Golden Globe Race, the Longue Route, the Route du Rhum and the Transatlantic Race as a start. These are all the folks that are racing. There are plenty of stories going around, too, with carnage befalling most of the fleets. On top of that, Randall Reeves has embarked on a second try for his Figure 8 Voyage and Jeanne Socrates has joined the fray aiming to be the oldest woman to sail solo nonstop around the world. You can follow them all on the Longue Route Fleet Tracker.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Happy 50th Birthday, Hobie Cat!

This year, the Hobie Cat turned 50 years old. Developed by surfer Hobie Alter, who was credited with building the first one in 1965 with a design that could be easily beached. Since 1967, the company has been building a variety of sizes and styles, but it's the Hobie 16 that really revolutionized sailing. The Hobie 16 was easily trailerable, easily beached and didn't cost a fortune. It took a rich man's sport and made it accessible to all. Over 135,000 Hobie 16 Cats are sailing around the world. They were fun, they were fast, and they were accessible.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Camera etiquette

I paid Crazy Glue Mechanic for this photo. 

As sailors who take our vessels to distant lands, we want to preserve our memories. But the rules about what is acceptable behaviour, especially behind a camera lens, are different in many places around the world. I have the belief that if in doubt, ask permission or don't take the picture.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

What climate change means to sailing

The last few weeks were extraordinary for storms around the world. It's a strange conundrum that although weather forecasting is getting better, the weather overall is getting worse - more extreme and less stable.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Weather resources

As weather resources change and new ones are added all the time, I thought it would be useful to keep track of some favourite online sites. Most are for route planning purposes. With climate change, it's more important than ever to stay ahead of the game. 

Frank Singleton's Weather Page has everything listed and keeps it up to date. 

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Plastics in the ocean

The headline, "Plastic Can Take 500 Years To Bio-Degrade In The Ocean," caught my attention today together with an infographic that backs up the statement. The data was obtained from NOAA and Woods Hole Sea Grant and the infographic was created by statista. I'm assuming some maths genius calculated the rate of degradation of certain plastics and projected it on a timeline, otherwise no one would have actually observed the rate of decay over 500 years, unless of course he or she were time travelers. But it is a serious problem for the oceans and it seems people are finally waking up. Little did Dustin Hoffman know in The Graduate about the effect 'plastics' would have on our world.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

World record number of boats in a regatta

This past weekend, a race called the Barcolana took place in the Gulf of Trieste, Italy. It attracted a world record number of yachts - 2,689 boats crossed the start line. It was the 50th edition of this race and even the the Amerigo Vespucci,  a 270.34 ft. long tall ship, symbol of the Italian Navy, joined in. I don't know about you, but I'm a bit claustrophobic and not at all inclined to play bumper boats. The density of yachts and white sails is overwhelming. The winners were local brothers Furio and Gabriele Benussi on Spirit of Portopiccolo

Friday, September 28, 2018

Aleria on the hard

Our boat was hauled out at Astilleros Lagos in Bouzas near Vigo, Spain yesterday. The boatyard is legendary and has been hauling and launching vessels using a complex system of custom built cradles on a rail for almost a century. We were not present when they hauled her but it looks like they had good weather and plenty of water.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Marina in Bantry

An Ocean Cruising Club friend and fellow member of the Committee Bill Balme was sheltering in Bantry. Since we haven't been there since the marina opened, I asked him for a report. Here's what he had to say. 
  • Good experience at Bantry - very nice harbormaster, Michael.
  • Very small marina - I reckon with all the local small boats, there's probably room for maybe 4 - 6 visiting yachts.
  • One female and one gents toilet
  • Good security
  • Water & Electric on the very solid pontoons. Good wifi - even reaches the moorings (but slow there).
  • Cost us €20 per night.
  • We were also on one of their moorings which he charged us €5 per night - though published rate is €10.
  • Very sheltered harbour.
Looks like we'll have to plan a visit. 

Friday, September 21, 2018

Staying put - loss of ambition with age

For the first time in my life, I have experienced a loss of ambition. It happened just as we were heading off to sail for two weeks in Galicia. I had no interest in traveling or sailing, but I didn't say anything to anyone. When we got there, I had no interest in sailing off. As it happened, our 'niece' Joan was taking part in a race which was coming in to Portosin where our boat was. It suited me fine to stay put in the marina for several days, something we would never have done before.

I read books, hung out, did little chores, walked into town, answered email - nothing very stressful. We lived.

After we sailed out to see the start of the race, we sailed over to the Ria de Aldan and dropped anchor. The next day Alex asked if it was okay to stay at anchor another day. We stayed four more.

I read books, hung out, did little chores, walked into town, answered email - nothing very stressful. We lived. I was perplexed.

We sailed around the corner to Ensenada de Barra and dropped anchor (after we managed to get the chain out of the locker where it had gotten stuck again) for one night then motored across the Ria to Vigo and tied up to the pontoon at the Liceo de Maritimo in Bouzas. We stayed there for three days.

I read books, hung out, did little chores, walked into town, answered email - nothing very stressful. We did have to pack up the boat. We took off the sails and dodger, Alex stowed the dinghy and ropes while I did the laundry and cleaned. Otherwise, we lived.

Since we've come home, I've felt that same lack of ambition, so today I decided to look into it. Seems that ambition tends to dwindle with age. It also tends to be blunted by depression. I don't feel depression coming on, but I do feel my age creeping up. One day while in Galicia, Alex and I decided we had reached the age of invisibility. People walking past us didn't even notice we were there. We weren't insulted; we rather relished the thought.

So what is it about age and ambition? In this stage of aging, I suppose that ego is losing its momentum, like an engine running out of petrol. I no longer have a goal orientation that drove me through so much of my life. Those great ambitions that raised tidal waves of energy no longer propel my life. Success means something entirely different now.

Instead, I am content with day-to-day activities that float in and out of my sphere of consciousness like flotsam and jetsam on the tide, the tide that will one day carry me out to sea and drop me on another shore. Daily chores and appointments, the short-term practical objectives of cleaning the house, paying the bills, and seeing the dentist take center stage as the constant elements in our lives. And contentment sets in. This is not depression. This is a new stage of being. Of living, not working, not rushing, not searching, not conquering, not achieving. Just living in contentment.

One day while we were on Aleria, I realized how content I was. I've never been content, always searching for more, wanting to see new things, not 'waste' any time. Instead, the present moment has become a time for contemplation, reflection, remembering and wonderment. There's a peace settling in. And an appreciation for what I have, not what I am missing. It is time to enjoy and be thankful for my amazing husband whom I cherish, my family and friends, my cats, food, drink, the boat, and the gardens. It's a time of increasing simplicity and stillness of spirit.

Gone is FOMO - the fear of missing out. Days blur together, the sky turns from light to dark and light again, rain comes and goes, and I grow a little older as the earth spins on its tilted axis. I know the embers are gradually getting dimmer, and winter is approaching. I settle in to observe the mystery of life around me, to float on a divine tide, undulating with rhythm but not a perfectly repeated pattern. It is a surprising time, one I've never heard mentioned before.

It's strange to lack motivation and ambition. As a writer, I have had the goal of writing the great American novel. Now I wonder if I will ever write anything monumental. Indeed, I wonder what difference it would make if I did? Big ideas come and go, but nothing inspires me to act. I am prone to writing poetry - short and poignant -  and indeed took the initiative to sign up for a one day poetry course. That's a short-term commitment I can live with.

It's strange to lack motivation, not to be propelled through challenges, solving problems, launching global brands, crossing oceans, always reaching for a new level of success. It's strange not to strive for some new accomplishment on the horizon as it takes shape in my mind. Perhaps this time of inertia is just a natural rest period. Perhaps I will get over it, and enter a tidal stream that sweeps me off on a new journey yet to be defined.

But in the interim, I am content to just watch the horizon; study the light playing on the hills, the clouds getting caught on mountain tops and spinning off as flying saucers, the rain blanketing the green hills in darkness as it sweeps from across the sea and over land. The present becomes etched into my soul, every moment of its beauty preserved. I wait, I watch, I remain still.

I started out grieving over my ambition's absence. I thought I had lost something powerful and profound. But now I relish the stillness and contentment. My cats snore in the chair next to me and stretch as they snuggle together for warmth. I stoke the embers of my soul, wrap myself in my warm new blanket of contentment and breathe deeply. I've never been shallow, just rushing from one activity to the next. Perhaps I am discovering something more profound. With nothing to achieve besides stillness, my life is becoming more deeply rooted in this place. I am alive. I am content. This is what I have been searching for all my life. I am home.