Sunday, January 27, 2019

Consumerism in America

Alex and I sailed away from the US 11 years ago - amazing. We've been back for short stints to visit family but not for prolonged periods. We've always been amazed at how much things change in a short period of time - cars, tolls, supermarkets, shops, technology all march along at a rapidly increasing pace. But this time, I've been here for three weeks and I've become acutely aware of one major difference since I left - massive consumerism. I didn't think it could get more acute than it was but it certainly has.
The fruit salad display. Lots of packaging. Little work.

I've been amazed by the availability of goods in stores (Wegemans, CVS) and the quantity of stuff people buy. I am also astounded by what people throw away, just because something new becomes available. Yet all profess to be environmentally conscious.

I believe that everyone should be made to live on a boat for at least a month. Once you shlep all the ingredients, discard all the packaging and figure out what to do with the refuse, you take on a different attitude. Water consumption when at anchor teaches you to control your consumption of resources. Power shutdown when the batteries discharge teach energy conservation. And reuse of everything on board for something else stimulates creative thinking instead of sheep herd mentality.

I'm glad to live in a place where the amount of stuff available is not overwhelming.

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.