Sunday, August 30, 2009

No Blow Go

Sailed with Jared and Nathalie with an H for a brief moment or two on Saturday morning. We drifted a little, worked on our sculling skills, and practiced our bowlines, all while Nathalie teased us with descriptions of wonderful breakfasts we could have been enjoying, rather than sitting and watching the club anemometer's impression of a stone.

We learned two or three things. First, you can't make the wind blow just by wanting to go sailing and launching your boat. Second ... I don't remember what was second. Third was something about remembering to bring a slicker, since it rained and we got wet at the end.

Come on wind.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

One More from the Road

Shot over the shoulder with the iPhone on the way back down to Portland. Drive was beautiful!

I wish I had a blog about bridge ties. Then this shot would be perfect.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Rednecks, Maple Bars, A-cats, Leeward Marks, and Blue Suede Shoes

We arrived in Cougar, Washington last night about 10p, after driving up from Portland; it's a short drive from our home to this series of three reservoirs on the Lewis River. The middle lake is named Yale and that's where the regatta was today. There's another Yale, somewhere in Connecticut, if I recall. This place is as far as you can get from Connecticut without being in Newark.

We camped in the Lone Fir RV park in Cougar, which may sound exotic, but if you live in the Great Northwet (sic) you probably recognize this for the call sign of the redneck patch'o'grass that it is.

We were up early and down to the Cougar group campground where the sailors were staying, with our lifejackets and boater safety card in hand. We arrived in time to get our pick of the morning donuts, which is a very important thing if your hair is red and you're six years old. Maybe it's important if you're forty-six, also.

Ted was putting on the show and Tony was his executive officer and they were the guys we were looking for; so, we made our plans, enjoyed a second donut and hauled the whalers down to launch.

The girls and I set the windward and leeward marks and then spent most of our time at one or the other. The 7 y/o went on the start-line boat for a while and helped with flags and horns. After some discussion with the more experienced race committee fellas, and after the fleets made their way around the leeward mark in the second race, the 6 y/o and I hauled up the downwind bobber and moved it about 300m toward the windward mark to shorten the course a smidgen (that's Latin for 600m).

The wind blew great all day and the four A-cats were a blast to watch. They really fly on the reaches. The Lido fleet was the largest and very competitive; they also looked inspiring as they made their downwind runs with whisker poles engaged.

I missed the one bit of naughtiness, but apparently, one of the V-15s got mad at the committee for having the first race go as a two-lapper and then shortening the remaining races to one. He huffed, puffed, demanded a refund, and then left mad for Seattle. Really? A freakin' beautiful day in the Cascades and this is your worry? Not to mention, you were wrong, Sailor John McEnroe.

The one other sort of sailory thing that went on was the protest from another V-15 sailor regarding a competitor's use of a spinnker. The boat in question was a homemade jog and instead of the red and blue V on the sail, there appeared to be a feather of some sort. The protest filed was stated as a class rule violation. I'm not sure how this will turn out, but it seems if you're flying a kite and nobody else in the fleet is, you're probably the one in violation, yeah?

The sailors I spoke to and/or overheard were raving about the day and made positive committee comments, including "they started right on time and then got the next race going within ten minutes of our finish. No waiting around." The glow at the evening BBQ was only partially from the propane fired lava rocks; the brightest lights shined from the tired, sunburnt, happy sailors.

Ted gave us a WSC bag and two pint-glasses for helping out. A great day. I'm ready to come to one of these with our boat and get spanked by the one-designers.

My one regret for the day is not having a camera. The mountains were beautiful and the grey rim of Mt. St. Helens sticking up like an ashy bas-relief behind the green hills was amazing.

I have a picture of this guy who played fifties tunes in the campground, mere yards away from my trailer window, instead.

Yeah, it's a sad substitute.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Of Racing and Regatta-ing

The hope was to race this past Wednesday night, but the wind did not cooperate and they called it off around 6:30.

We sat around and visited with our friends from Spain who are in town for the month and we might have had a beer, or two, also. Wienies on the Water cruised in and provided delicious bbq'ed meat tubes for dining pleasure.

I'm taking the girls with me to Yale Lake on the SW slope of Mt. St. Helens tonight and we will camp and help out with the Al Morris Memorial Regatta. I've got a boater card, so will drive a chase boat with the girls providing navigational aid.

One bummer was that the real sailors at the club let my crew know that the skipper is supposed to supply the beer to entice the crew into sailing with him. I had a pretty sweet deal going there, until Shannon the Real Sailor spilled those beans.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The White Fleet

Jared and Nathalie with an H are coming down to the club tomorrow night and we are going to race.

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

RC 1, This is RC 2, Can you Pick up the Leeward Mark, Good Buddy?

Low tide at Willamette Park in Portland was around seven p.m. tonight. When the girls and I got down to the club, about four, the mudflats were exposed and the girls went exploring, mucking around, screeching and giggling at the sensation of stepping in the silty tidal flats.

By the time we left for home, just before nine, the tide had swung around, covering up the flats and heading for high ground. Well, as high as it gets in August, anyway. Interesting fact I learned recently; the weather and streamflow folks who predict waterflows for use in managing the hydroelectric power system, divide the water year into fourteen segments. There are the regular twelve months, but then April and August are split in half, owing to the rapid changes that occur those months. In August flows are dropping quickly and in April they are rising.

I hadn't planned to go the club tonight. After work I took the girls to get a new battery for Kris's motorcycle. She apparently left her key on, which meant the headlight stayed on, and the battery was completely drained.

Fortunately, the Harley store swapped it with me for no charge. On the way home the girls requested to go to the sailing club. Joyeux! Or something. We stopped by the house so M could put on her jeans. She was wearing shorts and explained that she just feels "better if the fish can't bite my legs."

I picked up a sixer of Anchor Steam and cracked a couple while watching them play on the boat launch. Things were pretty quiet until around 5:30 when the Wednesday racers began to show. The first Thistle to launch ran into problems. As the boat slid into the water, off it's trailer supports, and began to drift sideways, the car driver tried asking the crew if the "Anderson bales" were closed. His window was shut to their side, so they couldn't hear him. By the time the window was opened and the communication succeeded, the boat had begun to drift back up the ramp, hovering perpendicularly over the submerged trailer.

As the driver pulled up the ramp the rear support rose up and caught the boat sideways, resulting in much "Woah!" -ing and "Wait!" -ing. After backing the trailer back into the water, the boat floated free and the team inspected for damage.

End result was that the formerly closed Anderson Bales were now open, in a bad way. So, the boat was reloaded and the Ho'opono Aukai was put away for the evening.

Not too much later, I got recruited to help with the Race Committee. Since I have my boater card, the girls and I went along on RC 2 and set the starting line. I drove and the girls operated the air horn, while we all assisted with flags.

It was my first RC experience and I found it to be pretty fun. We had four groups sailing in 12+ kts of wind. The Thistle fleet had nine participants and the there were about fifteen other boats split into nearly equal fleets of V 15s, Snipes, and Lido 14s.

Fortunately, I had spent some time catching rays on the signal bridge during my Navy stint, so the concept of flags for communication wasn't completely foreign to me.

The one thing I still don't quite get is the course setting. Apparently there was the starting line, which doubled as the finish line, and then there were both windward and leeward marks. So how the hell did the fleet do a triangle when we put the TM up on the back of the whaler?

I guess I'll find out soon enough, since I'll be doing it all weekend long at Yale Lake, just SW of Mt St. Helens in ten days at the Al Morris Regatta.

Wienies on the water showed again and we enjoyed two W.O.W.s and one Screamin' Weenie.

It was a good night.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Best Night Ever

I was down to the dock early on Monday evening and launched the dinghy in prep for sailing later in the evening. I floated around a little by myself and was surprised at how absolutely still it was. Even the three little cups on the club's wind gauge were overwhelmed by ennui to the point that they couldn't rotate for a while. You know it's still when those little tiny cups are too heavy for the air to move.

A little after five, some slight puffs arose and about five-thirty it felt like something was moving, so I went out again and sailed up and down a little under a little 3-5 kt breeze.

By the time Jared and Nathalie (Jared and Nathalie of Do You Know How to Sail? fame) showed up to sail with me, it had begun to fill in. We wasted little time on formality, hi, how are ya, and away we went.

The breeze was picking up and blowing a steady 5+ as we made our way across the river and then down toward the Greenway Marina. When we fell off and began the upriver/downwind run, the Lasers were out, swarming the midriver section outside the club docks. One guy sailed some circles around us, for whatever reason.

This would be the point in my post where I throw some barbs at the Tillerman and maybe invoke the Force 5 gods in their blogging persona (aka: Joe), however, those little Lasers looked kinda fun. I'm going about 275 (don't click that link ... really) these days, so wouldn't be competitive in the racing, but they look like they would be a great workout and exciting to zip around in. One of Shannon the Real Sailor's buddies, Tim, took one out when they were all done and he looked pretty thrilled. (See, I told you not to click that link.)

Shannon was serving on Race Committee tonight; he and Tim were plotting potential Laser ownership in the last conversation I overheard. Apparently, Thistle sailors aren't cursed with the same loyalty issues as some other one-designers.

We decided to try for the Sellwood Bridge, since it looked to be blowing just as strong down there. As we made our way down, only needing to jibe twice, the breeze filled in and was blowing a steady 10+. The downwind run was the first I've made in L & C in which I could feel a gusty apparent wind and the boat was throwing a nice double-vee wake.

We jibed under the bridge and tried to turn into the wind, but it seemed the jib was holding us up. I think it was probably a combination of me turning the boat too slowly and the crew attempting to pull the jib across too quickly. Whatever the case, after two attempts at turning through the wind on our port side, I changed course, fell off and came about the other way.

We tacked toward the center bridge support and scared Nathalie when the swirling winds wreaked havoc with the sails and our rapidly shifting and varying angle of heel, which all sorted itself out once we cleared the support.

We made two tacks back downriver/upwind and decided to furl the jib since it was hella blowing now, probably 12-13 kts. At one point, all three of us were up on the rail leaning out and hanging on.

This was truly the most fun I've had on the dinghy since we got it. Great night for sailing, which started so inauspiciously.

Back at the club we put the dinghy away and watched the Lasers finish their last race and head in. The club folks brought out the BBQs and we enjoyed a couple of beers and some burgers on the dock with the race committee and some other folks who showed up.

A stellar moonrise brought in a beautiful night. Nathalie was in France for a couple of weeks, visiting family and friends and at some point on our sail she said to Jared, "OK, I love you, Portland." I took it to mean that she had been a bit homesick for things French and she was just starting to come around. Later, on the dock, she said, "This is the best night since I got back."

Then I made her explain why French people express their affection by calling each other cauliflower.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Sailing with the Blind

Okay, who saw the title of this post and excitedly clicked through in hopes of hearing about another of my misadventures? Tell the truth ...

Kris and I were asked by the club if we would be willing to come down on Sunday and help out with the Oral Hull Foundation's Adventure Camp. Sight-impaired people from all over the U.S. come to this camp outside of Portland for a week and experience a range of adventures, including sky diving, bungy jumping, white water rafting, and sailing.

We had a discussion about cleaning the boat up that went something like this:

Greg: We should take the powerwasher down early and clean up the boat.

Kris: Why? It's not like they can see if it's dirty.

Greg: Well, that's true. Wait, though, they can still feel if it's dirty.

Yeah, our life is pretty mundane, when we aren't flipping the boat over or ramming into houseboats. The most striking thing about this exchange is the role reversal. If you know Kris, you know OCD. It took me a minute to figure out she was messing with me.

So, off we went this morning, bright and early to clean up the boat and prep for sailing with the blind. There was a moment of worry when I wondered if the blind folks followed Love and Coconuts online, and if so, then how closely. However, that worry passed, since I don't think the internets or the google are braille-ready yet. If we're lucky, we won't have to defend any of our past actions to a board of nautical inquiry, or whatever.

There was a brief introduction to the assembled sailors, where us captains talked a little about our boats. Questions were mostly of the how-wet-will-we-get variety. With light winds, we assured the crew it would be a gentle day. Surprising to me, there were quite a few who were disappointed. About half wanted to really crank it out there.

Dorothy and Kat ended up in our boat. They were our age or a bit older and we had a wonderful time working up and down the river for about an hour-and-a-half.

We got passed by the Thistles, which have about twice the mainsail as us, and we were able to outpace the Day Sailers, which probably weigh twice as much as us.

We had a nice little fifteen minutes toward the end of the session where a healthy NE breeze filled in and pushed us down river at a good clip. When we made the turn to come back to the club, the breeze died out and we had a drifty, light air meander back to the dock.

The sight-impaired enjoyed lunch in the clubhouse and we said our goodbyes.