Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Long rambling discourse on the nature of all things of the last week or so.

I wish I had some exciting reason to give for not being as frequent a blogger as in the past. Sadly the opposite is true, nothing to blog about, so I don't blog. Weak, I know, but...

Lets get the dog stuff out of the way early... Ajax is doing well, and is responding to training. He is also consuming peanut butter at a rate which is truly impressive. We use the Trader Joe's organic kind and we give it to him to distract him when we lock him down in his cage. Works great.. No doubt Dina will do a full post with pictures and such very soon.

We spent last weekend catching up on boat maintenance and such. A full cleaning of both the interior and the exterior. We also fixed the forward head which has been acting up again. We had friends over every night over the weekend, starting with Rich and a visit to the Tiki bar on Thursday night, Steve and Rich Friday night, and then Tom, Sylvia, and Steve on Saturday night. It was good mellow weekend with some good food, and good friends.

One thing that did happen last week was our triumphant return to the Hobnob for Tuesday night trivia. Cecca, Dina, and I got a very well deserved second place, behind a much bigger team that took it way to seriously. My finest moment was getting the answer to the name of the little purse thing that a Scotsman wears with his kilt. Anybody else out there know that? Our team was the only one that did.

School is going well enough. I had another chemistry test today and felt as if I didn't do as bad on this one as the last one. That's good, right? I did get nailed at formation for the hair on the back of my neck being too long however. So between that and missing a formation earlier this semester I now have officially received my first demerits at CMA. Still it is not as bad as it sounds as I gave blood at school on Monday and received thirty merits for that. So I think I am still ahead on the whole merit/de-merit thing.

Sadly not a whole lot of sailing going on at the moment. I have been dog training on Saturdays so I had to turn down a couple of rides because of that. But the mid-winters start next Sunday here on the Estuary so look for us to get out on the 525 for those. Hopefully I will have finished the new spinnaker by then and we will have that to put up for the race.

I think it is about six months that I have been doing this blog. It is definitely a work in progress but there has been some interesting things going on with it. There is a blog tracker that tells you how many hits and where they come from. It seems that there is about four or five people who look at this a lot, and the rest is people who drop in due to various reasons, usually from Google searches about things I have written about, restaurants or sailing events for instance. It only tells me about the last fifty people that visited, but right now that includes visits from Algeria, Switzerland, and Luxembourg. Mostly of course it is visits from California, but there are a few from the mid-west and the east coast. More of you should leave comments so that I can see who you actually are. All I get to see is an IP address, it doesn't really show a lot of other details.

I think that for today I will put up a picture of the French Trimaran IDEC. IDEC is currently attempting to capture the solo trans-Atlantic record from Cadiz to El Salvador. The reason I am putting this picture up is because if I had to pick someone as my hero it would be Francis Joyon, the skipper of IDEC. What Joyon has done in the world of solo sailing is just fucking cool. So is the boat... The picture truly does not do this thing justice, the boat is something like a 100ft long and to push it as hard as joyon does single handed is bloody impressive.Oh, and a final shout out to Torben Grael and the crew on Ericsson 4 for getting the new 24 hour mono-hull record while racing in the Volvo. Torben was always cool to me when we worked at Prada so congratulations to them.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Still not a puppy blog

I am sitting here on the aft deck of the Lobster T watching the dog remove the squeaky part from a chew toy. I have to stay with him on the aft deck as he still is not yet completely housebroken yet. Still it is not bad sitting back here as the sun goes down, enjoying the view, and putting off doing my homework.

It has been a pretty mellow week for the most part, we are at that point where the mid-week beer can races have finished, but the mid-winter races have not started yet. Yet it still stays light for a few hours after work or school. I should probably be making use of the time to do something productive like work on the 525, or go for a bike ride. But for some reason that never seems to happen.

School is going well enough, hard to believe, but I am almost half way through the semester already. This Wednesday should be interesting, I have volunteered to participate in some kind of maritime security exercise that has me being on the Larkspur ferry for some kind of "incident" Not sure what it is all about, but they are telling us to bring a change of clothes and expect to get wet. As an added bonus they are paying us $25 for the days work, plus it's an excused absence from school.

We had a few folks over on Thursday of last week. Tom, Barbara, and Dave and Lora came by the boat where Dina gave Tom a $400 bottle of Rum for his help with some stuff at her work. We had a glass or two of that before heading off with Steve, who we picked up in the parking lot, to Havana, a Cuban restaurant here in Alameda. I like Havana, and can highly recommend the pork loin, and the Ten Cane Rum Mojito's.

Sadly I don't have any pictures to post as for some reason I am having problems getting them to post all of a sudden. Maybe I will just post a link to a video taken during the Columbia 5.5 nationals instead.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Nightingale

Over the last two months or so my folks have been having a bunch of work done on the Nightingale. The Nightingale for those of you who do not know is a Tom Wylie designed, 24ft cold moulded design that was Tom Wylie's first ever design. Nightingale was I believe built here in Alameda by Tom and a few other local folks like Tito Rivano, and Jim Jessie. Since this was the first boat of the Nightingale class there is couple of differences from the other dozen or so that where made. First off she is the only one made of wood, and second she has a basically flush deck as opposed to the raised deck of the other Nightingales.

My folks purchased the Nightingale from Tom about 12 years ago, at the time she had been sitting in the parking lot at North Coast Yachts for as long as I could remember. The Nightingale then went down to Petes harbor in Redwood City where they used it for the occasional day sail. At one point they took the boat for a two week boat camping trip up to the Delta, which I still think was pretty brave to do in a 24ft engine less sailboat. A funny story about that trip is that I had just done the Jazz Cup race to Benicia on a boat called Insufferable and was helping to do the delivery back the following day. At one point I needed to take a piss and had gone forward to go in front of the jib so as not to do this in front of anybody on the boat. As I am doing this the Nightingale with my folks on it sails by heading in the opposite direction up to the Delta not 40ft away. So here I am with my junk hanging out as I am waving to my mom, classy...

Dina and I acquired the Nightingale in 2003. Dina had expressed an interest in getting better at sailing but not in the competitive environment that I would usually drag her out into. My mother hit on the idea of giving us the Nightingale as a way for one, for the boat to get used a little more, and two, get Dina out sailing more. Once the boat got to Alameda we replaced the standing rigging and used the boat not a lot, but a couple of times a month. We used it to take out friends, mostly on day sails on the Estuary. We even made it out onto the bay a couple of times where the boat really just feels right. When we moved up to Vallejo for my first year of school we even stayed on the boat a couple of times when we came back to Alameda. Those nights where usually pretty fun as we had Jake, a hundred odd pound black lab with us also.

A couple of years ago we started to race the boat a little bit in some of the Estuary races. We got all new running rigging that came from a Farr 40 that a friend was working on, overkill for sure, but very sexy. We also got a new spinnaker with the Nightingale logo in it. We did ok in the races, usually the pattern was we did well the race after the bottom was cleaned, but then the results would drop off as we got further away from bottom cleanings. Still we always had a good time usually racing with Virginia who used to do a very good job driving when we made her. This last spring Dina and various friends sailed the boat in the Oakland and Encinal series, while Steve, Pete, and I did the Alameda Yacht Club series.

With the purchase of the Santana 525 over the summer my folks have reclaimed the Nightingale and have put her through a pretty comprehensive refit. Tom Wylie and Kyle have been doing the work and I have to say the boat looks really good. The pictures are of some of the work done during the refit...

Ok for some reason this thing is not letting me post pictures today. I will try to get some up later, sorry about that.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

This is not a puppy blog

I am going to ignore the fact that our new dog Ajax arrived a week earlier than expected and just write about other stuff instead this morning.

The last couple of mornings have started to show some chill in the air and I fear that our Indian summer may be coming to an end. Usually I try to be on the road by 7am in order to get to my first class by 750. It has only been this last week that I find that I have to leave the lights on on the car all the way to school. Also I have started wearing my jacket to school in the mornings now. Still I do like the crispness of the mornings this time of year.

School itself is going fairly well. I have a couple of mid-terms coming up already, which is interesting as it seems that the school year just started. So far I am also keeping up with the work load and am not behind in any of my classes. The only class that really has given me any problems so far is my chemistry lab which has a heavy math component to it that I struggle through.

I had another watch this week which meant another night spent on the Golden Bear. I guess they are taking the Bear out this weekend for fleet week, which means that they are starting to the engines and other things warmed up. This made for some interesting noises and other loud clunks and bangs throughout the night, but other than that it was fine. The cabin that they give us for our over night stays while on watch is certainly a lot nicer then the one I spent two months on during the cruise, that's for sure.

Staying on the ship does have one advantage, I get to sleep in for the time it would take me to commute up to school seeing as I am already there. I did get some photos of the sunrise over the Carquinez Strait on Friday morning though.

Monday, October 6, 2008

A New Addition to the Family...

We'll be adding a new addition to the clan this time next week. We've adopted a lovely brindle coated labrador retriever/hound mix who we'll be calling Ajax.

You can check him out here...his "pound name" is Jake. (How ironic is that?!?)

He won't be released from lock up until he is appropriately altered, which will be next Monday.

Stay tuned for more details!

Old News With a Different Point of View

Dom briefly talked about our exciting spinnaker run through the Gate a few weekends ago with the crew on the big red boat (a.k.a. Maxi Pad.) Here's Tom Condi's version of the day:

After more windless but pleasantly flat conditions on our leisurely motor down the coast, we were all lulled into lazy complacency and quite unprepared for the 'fireworks' that would soon occur upon our re-entrance into SF Bay. All except for one person - Admiral Dominic - who's years of experience of coastal ocean racing on big boats has habituated him to prepare for and deftly handle the inevitable 'big blow', i.e. the turbocharged wind conditions that pipe up like clockwork through the Golden Gate and the Central Bay during sunny summer afternoons.

In the span it took us to raise the mains'l and get the kite rigged, starting from just outside Pt. Bonita, the wind increased from 4 kts to 12. After we hoisted the kite and comfortably broad reached across the entire forebay, we jibed for the GG Bridge center as the wind quickly built to 15 kts, then 20, then 25. Under the bridge it increased even more to 30 kts and gusting higher. As the wind strength grew, so did the crew's concentration. The knotlog was spinning madly to figures we have rarely seen before 12, 14, 16, 18 kts! The big boat seemed to just gamely go along with whatever was being thrown at her. At speeds above 12, she got that 'levitation/floating' sensation that comes with surfing rather than carving a hole in the water. And yes, we also got that 'man, we sure are hauling ass' sensation as everyone's knuckles turned white.

Amidst the growing concern and high speeds, Dominic was calmly standing in the central cockpit murming small commands :'up a little'...'ok, hold'....'ok,now down a little'...'ok'..'grind a little'...'wow, this boat is stable'. Indeed it was stable, but there was a narrow steering groove of like 10-15 degrees - too low, and the asymm kite would collapse and snap wildly, trying to wrap or self-destruct; too high and the boat would surely spin out and lay on it's ear - the mast more horizontal than vertical.

There were a zillion boats out on the bay for a look at the M. Falcon, and incredibly, none were in our path as we made our own grand entrance. Well except for one boat; Red Sky! This is the first time I ever recall thinking 'I have such a narrow steering groove, that any boat in our path may just get cut in half!'. Thankfully, we safely squirted on past Red Sky, cheering, as we realized our all-time record high speed of 19.2 kts (and 37 kts of wind). As we worked our way towards Racoon Straights, we decided to relieve the 3/4 oz kite from it's punishment and drop it. Dominic, working like the champion sailor that he is, sprung to the foredeck and calmly coached the crew to a smooth and controlled 'socking and dropping' of the battered kite.

With the kite doused, nothing broken, and everyone safe, we let out a collective sigh of relief. "Damn, THAT was WILD!". "Incredible!".

Under mains'l alone and still blowing 25 kts, the ominous presence of the M. Falcon was too intense to ignore, so we were lured over for a quick 'sail-by'. An impressive ship for sure, but we were all still too amped from the adreneline rush of our unexpected little sled ride to fully take-in the MF.

So, we tacked and headed for the Bay Bridge, unfurled the 105% jib, and zoomed back across the bay with Admiral Dominic at the helm this time.The 12-14 kt sprint under white sails alone was lively and fun as we all replayed the thrilling moments of our recent rocket ride.

It's great to 'open up the throttle' on the BigRedBoat and explore the corners of her performance envelope. It's also pretty cool, as you Brian pointed out, how all of that furniture, genset, galley, and other heavy cruising acoutraments all manages to get up on a plane and go fast! Credit goes to Carl for a good boat design.

What a fantastic, unexpected thrill this bay entry was. We are already starting to anticipate the next speed record attempt! I'm not sure when the next opportunity will arise, but odds are good that it'll be when Admiral Dominic is around.

Thanks to the whole BRB crew for tight work and good times,

Friday, October 3, 2008

End of the Week Post

Two of my teachers are out today, so it means that I have a few hours between class to fill. I am for the most part all caught up on my homework, so I thought I would post a few random bits and a couple of pictures of a school day up here in Vallejo.

It is a very quiet end of the week here at school for the most part. I did have a team presentation on Wednesday, but I managed to bluff my way through that without to many problems. I find these in class presentations to be relatively painless for the most part. All you have to do is look out into the class at the beginning of the presentation and you realize that not one person in the class is paying any attention at all. Once you accept the fact that nobody is watching, the rest is easy.

As you can see we have to wear uniforms at all times, most of the time we wear the Khaki uniform, but once in a while we get to put on the salt and pepper uniform, and for really special occasions we get to wear the dress blues. Sadly I don't have any pictures of the fancy uniforms so these photos of the khaki uniforms will have to do.

One picture is taken in my chemistry class and is of the teacher, Jim. Jim is pretty cool and I like his class and teaching style. The chemistry itself I don't really get, but I still like the class. The other pictures are of on of our formations. We have formations three times a week, plus other special events once in a while. We usually get inspected to make sure that we meet the grooming and uniform standards at least once a week. The standards are pretty casual. Basically you have to have the correct shoes, with black socks, and have a name tag and correct collar tags. Cleanliness, and neatness are not checked. You also have to be clean shaven, and have your hair be less than a certain length. Non of this is that hard to do, yet a lot of students here still get tripped up by it. I got caught out on the very first inspection my freshman year, for my hair sticking over my ears, but have had no problems since then. The whole formation thing has been kind of a joke for the last couple of years, but we have a new guy in charge now and he seems to trying to get things run a little better. I hate to say it, but as much as a pain as a it all is I figure if they are going to do these formations and inspections, they may as well do them right. As I said that hasn't always been the case here at CMA

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Sorry about the long time between posts. It seems that catching up on school and life, and everything else seemed to get in the way.

I guess the first thing I should do is acknowledge a couple of errors in my Columbia 5.5 Nationals (see previous post) story. I said that Jaguar had been DSQed from the first two races for sailing through the start/finish line. I guess technically they had withdrawn from the races after they realized there mistake, but the end result was the same. I guess they also did not withdraw from the last race as I wrote either, despite Jaguar's skipper saying that they would after acknowledging fouling us. Anyway apparently I caused some consternation and I just wanted to set the record straight.

Early last week it was kind of full on for Dina and I as we had my parents and my cousin Julia down Monday and Tuesday nights. Monday was a very nice meal in Berkeley to celebrate my brothers birthday and Tuesday was Indian food a the always good India Palace in Alameda. Tuesday night turned into a bit of fun for Dina, Julia, and my mother as they sang Karaoke, gossiped, and did other girly stuff in the main salon. We boys, Josh and I, hid in our respective cabins till the party died down around midnight.

It's kind of funny, I really have no idea what we spent the rest of the week doing. I know we had a couple of drinks at Z's here in Alameda one night, and ate at Dragon Rouge another night, but it may have been the same night for all I remember. As they say... A mind is a terrible thing to waste.

This leads us to last weekend. We had been asked a while ago with we wanted to sail up to Drakes Bay on the big red boat with Tom, Rich, and Sylvia. For some reason I had gotten the impression that this was the Drakes Bay Race which sometimes can be a lot of fun. it turns out however that it was not in fact the Drakes Bay Race rather a cruise out with a few other boats for a weekend of fun and adventure. I have to admit to not being overly enthusiastic about spending the weekend stuck on a boat as I did have bunch of homework to do and I knew that if I went sailing that I probably would use that as an excuse not to do it. Since this homework was also part of a group project I really wanted to get it done.

Anyway we left the dock very early, before 7am, Saturday morning and ended up motoring all the way up to Drakes Bay. We got there early afternoon and rafted up to another boat that had gone up there the previous evening. As I suspected it was an day of drinking and merriment, and a very good evening meal, but of very little homework. I have to admit I was a little bit of a party pooper and fell asleep early driving everyone off of the big red boat and on to the smaller boat we where rafted up to. At some point during the evening another boat that had sailed up from the Bay also joined our party, but I didn't even wake up to see it till the following morning.

Sunday morning we had a great breakfast and started our sail back to the Bay. It was another motor back with a very slight head wind. Still around the end of the Bonita channel the wind started to shift and pick up a little so we decided to put the main up to see if we would get some drive out of it and hopefully get some sailing in as we entered the Golden Gate. It started to look like we would get some useful wind so we figured we would put the spinnaker up. This went well and we had a nice cruise across the mouth of the Golden Gate while we tried to figure out the angles for the spinnaker and to see what the wind was going to do.

We doused the kite in the sock for the gybe and then re-hoisted it on the other side for the run under the bridge. Once hoisted and heading in we started to get into more and more pressure as the wind compressed through the bridge. This meant that in about ten minutes or so the wind had built from about 1okts all the way through 2okts and then kept building as we entered the Bay. Once under the bridge itself we had a solid 30kt breeze with the boat just blasting along in the mid to high teens. All this time we were all kind of looking at each other grinning nervously as we just kept going faster and faster, Dina and Sylvia yelling out the numbers as the speedo kept going up. We eventually topped out at 19.2 kts in a 37kt puff! I will say this for the boat and crew, there was zero drama the whole time. The boat felt very stable even in the ebb tide chop and the big breeze. Tom said he had plenty of control the whole time on the wheel.

Soon after hitting our highest speed we figured it was time to get the kite down. It was one of those calls were we decided to it in a controlled setting, early, rather than wait and get our selves into a situation where we had to do it because of another boat or after a crash or something. We doused the kite into the sock, dropped it into the sail locker with no drama. After that it was a quick flyby of the Maltese Falcon which is visiting here in the Bay before a leisurely sail back to the slip here in Alameda.

The pictures are of us leaving San Francisco Bay very early on Saturday morning, some sea lions on the Duxburry Bouy on the ride home, and a picture that Brian on Red Sky took of the big red boat just entering the Bay shortly before we started our high speed run. It might not look it, but it was pretty windy and we were starting to get into some serious numbers on the knot meter.