Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Valentine's Day massacre...

The weather around these parts has been how do you say... Crap, lately. One thing about living aboard a boat is that weather really hits home (ha, get it?) much more so than living on dry land.

Probably the biggest drawback of our new slip is the fact that we now have the longest walk of any boat in the marina. Which, at ten at night, after just getting home, then leaving the boat again to walk the dog, in the pissing down rain, gets old quick. Still it isn't that bad and the view from the new slip is almost worth it. The worst is when we get a big southerly storm like we had last weekend. Lot's of rain, and a gusty wind that pushes the boat away from the dock, and against the springiness of the dock lines. It got uncomfortable enough that Dina actually moved up to Tom's house for the night Sunday night. As for me, I don't even notice it that much anymore. I do seem to sleep better with a little motion though.

We did however get enough of a break on Saturday to get out for a while. We were sitting around the boat and Dina suddenly suggested that we should go to the zoo. For a spur of the moment call it sounded pretty good, so off we went to the Oakland Zoo.

It must have been almost thirty years since the last time I was at the Oakland Zoo. But, I must say that I enjoyed the day out. As far as Zoo's go Oakland is kind of small, but they have all the basic Zoo stuff. Plus due to the bad weather it wasn't crowded at all. The weather however probably didn't help keep the animals themselves that active.Some of the highlights of observing these animals in the dignified natural captivity of the Oakland Zoo, included the Giraffe's. Which are just cool looking animals, long necks, and a kind of mellow disposition, worked for me. The Elephants drinking from a stream of running water through their trunks was cool,
as was the Lion's roaring at each other. One thing that I noticed was that the list of sponsors for the Lion pen included Oakland Hells Angel's founder Sonny Barger and his wife.
Still the highlight for me was probably the Bat's. Big, evil looking things hanging upside down in a big room. They would scramble around the wire mesh ceiling on these hooked feet, and then spread out there wings, which are translucent and full of veins and stuff.

We also checked out the Chimps, Deer, and Meercats, all very cute but not nearly as cool as the Bat's. The petting Zoo had just closed so sadly we missed the chance to play with the Goats, and to take a picture of a Sheep for my friend Mike who likes it when I send him pictures of Sheep for some reason.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Old sailing story, with video...

It doesn't seem like that long ago, but apparently this all happened in 2006.

The Friday before memorial day weekend is when the Spinnaker Cup is usually held. The Spinnaker Cup is a race from San Francisco bay down the coast to Monterrey. There are a couple of really nice things about the Spin Cup, one it is usually a downwind run all the way, and two it short enough that sometimes you can be in by dark. My ride this time was the Santa Cruz 52 City Lights with most of the usual suspects aboard. Well, kind of... We left the dock in Alameda and set out on our way to the start. About half way down the Estuary we realized that we had left Nick behind. Doh! A quick turn around and trip back to the dock got a surprisingly not upset Nick on board and off we went again.

I remember that we started with one head sail and changed to another as we went under the bridge. I remember getting slammed around really hard during the change and soon afterwards somebody noticed that one of the forward stanchions was badly bent. I guess I was so amped up during the change that I never realized how hard I had been washed down the bow at the time. Still despite being pretty wet everything was good. We then set off down the coast jib reaching with the number two, having no problems with hitting boat speed around ten knots.

As the wind went further aft we decided to put up the stays'l under the head sail. Somehow I managed to get the thing wrapped around the spinnaker pole as we set it and when they went to grind the luff tight we almost shattered the pole. I remember tripping the tack off, thinking that Hawk would be able to hold the sail down while I reset it. That didn't work and the stays'l immediately blew out to Leeward and after a bunch of yelling and curses we managed to get it down below and out of the way. I think that even to this day that counts as one of my more spectacular fuck ups in my sailing career.

Shortly after that we put the spinnaker up and settled in for a nice run down the coast. It was kind of grey, with occasional bursts of sunshine, but we where doing just fine going down the coast at a good rate of speed. We had a bunch of boats around us and seemed to be doing ok in relation to the rest of the fleet. Our closest competition the DK-46 Zephra gybed into the shore at one point and that seemed to take them out of the race as they had some problems when they came back out. At one point I looked back from the mast where I had been sitting and was surprised to see that a lot of the crew had gone down below to nap. I remember Tom driving and one or two others on deck and that was it.

A couple of hours of this got us most of the way to Davenport, just north of Santa Cruz. The wind had picked up a little so we had peeled up to the 1.5oz, which was the the very first time that I had ever done a peel while going to the end of the pole. I had coached people doing these kinds of peels for years, but this was the first time that I had ever done it myself.

An hour or so later we where just about to enter Monterrey Bay and as near as we could tell the wind ahead was going to get lighter. We peeled down to the .75oz, only this time Brian did the peel. Billy then called a nearly perfect gybe angle which would get us across Monterrey Bay and into the finish. Through all the crew rotations and switching off etc I found myself trimming the spinnaker out of the gybe and into the Bay. Only instead of the wind getting lighter it started to build.

For about the next hour or so it was some of the best sailing that I have ever done. Nick was driving and I was trimming and for whatever reason we just got really in sync with each other. By now the wind was really up and we where hauling across Monterrey Bay at power boat kind of speeds. Soon we were hitting twenty knots regularly and really just reveling in the conditions, relatively flat water and strong late afternoon breeze. We still had the .75oz up which was causing some worry, but as long as we kept everything under the kite I figured we would be ok. What was cool for me was the focus of everyone on the boat. Weight aft, someone calling puffs, Baxter grinding like a mad man.

After about an hour of that my hand started to cramp up from trimming. I handed off the sheet to Tom who did a great job and actually got us the high speed for the trip at 22+ knots. After chugging a couple of Gatorades to get my hands open again I pulled out my video camera and took the video that you see here. Shortly after I took this I had it posted by both sailinganarchy and the Santa Cruz Yachts websites.

As we got in close to Monterrey the wind died off and after a change to the number one headsail we finished just around sunset. We easily corrected out to first in our division after averaging almost exactly 10kts down the course. To this day this might still be the best day I have ever had on the water.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Workin it..

It's been a good few days on the entertainment front here for the Lobster T clan. Maybe not so good for house cleaning, and homework but definitely good times.

Monday night Dina managed to score a couple of very good tickets to the Warriors-Spurs game. By very good I mean courtside club 5th row, $350 a piece tickets. Oh and VIP parking passes also. Despite being up front with the really well dressed rich people we had a really good time. Our seats where close enough behind the visitors bench that when members of the spurs stood up we couldn't see the game.The game itself was really good. The Warriors played the Spurs well the whole game, despite some very questionable calls by the refs. They were actually up by 12 in the fourth quarter but let the Spurs tie it up to send the game into overtime. The spurs scored the first couple of baskets in overtime, but then Tim Duncan fouled out and the warriors looked set to make a game of it. However it was not to be, once again it seemed the refs made a couple of questionable calls and that was the game.
Then last Friday night Dina, Jeff, and I went to see Social Distortion at the first show in 42 years at the newly reopened Fox Theatre in Oakland. Jeff has connections with Social Distortion through his brother so we got free tix, as well as backstage/after party passes.

First off, the new Fox Theatre is pretty cool. They did a really nice job of doing the place up. I read somewhere that the renovation cost something like $75 million and took quite a few years to do. At one point they had planned on calling the place the Babylon, or the Baghdad (I forget which), so there is a kind of Arabian theme to the place.The show itself I thought was very good. There was some sound issues, especially early in the set, but otherwise it was a really good set. We had seen Social D last year and this set was much different than that show. Last time they led off with a few roots rock, acoustic stuff, not this time. This time they came out rockin. They played four or five songs right off, and in general there wasn't as much banter between Mike Ness and the audience. The band seemed a lot more into it this time also. Maybe it was because this time the show might have been a one off gig as opposed to the second night of three nights in a 6 month tour or something. Anyway, they put on a good show.We never did make it to the backstage after party even though we had passes to it. Mainly because we couldn't find it. The people we asked didn't seem to know about where to find it either. Part of the downside of going to opening night at a new venue I guess. However here is a picture of the backstage area I took as we wandered around looking for the party.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Overbearing in Victory... Surly in Defeat...

A couple of weeks ago I had written about a Sunday Brunch Race that we had done on the Estuary on our Santana 525 Gonzo. I had wrote about getting fouled pretty blatantly by some loser on a boat named Zeehond and about how I had said something to him in the yacht Club afterwards. Well this last Sunday was our first chance to meet him out on the water since then.

To be honest we have never really been thrilled with the performance of the Santana since we have gotten it. The boat has always felt sluggish and frankly not that fun. Don't get me wrong, I love the cockpit space and the comfort of Gonzo as a day sailor, but as a race boat Gonzo seemed to lack something. The place we put most of the blame has been on the rudder, which as it turns out was not bent after all. The tiller head at the top of the rudder shaft had, as Campbell pointed out when he sailed with us, a huge amount of slop in it. Thinking about this I tightened up the screws at he rudder post head and lifted the rudder itself up in the shaft. This resulted in the rudder post aligning itself back into the shaft. I then sprayed a ton of a marine lube into the thing and presto, a straight non-stiff rudder.

Next I got into Gonzo and pulled out as much extra weight as I could. This included taking out five bags of old sails, and all of the interior cushions, something allowed under one-design rules. I also removed a bunch of tools, and a lot of spare line, as well as the rest of the accumulated crap that has ended up in the boat over the years. Finally we took the engine off of the transom, figuring it is easy enough to get in and out of the slip without it. All in all I figure we took at least three hundred pounds off of the boat.

As mentioned in the last post I had also dove on the boat using a friends dive hookah setup. I had never used one before and I have to say it was a different experience. Being able to hang out at the bottom of the keel and rudder, and take my time to wipe the bottom off was really cool, I am glad that we can do that thanks to Steve.

The difference was noticeable even as we pushed the boat out of the slip. The boat felt really good in the very light air we had just getting out of the fairway and onto the Estuary. Once out on the Estuary we observed the first couple of starts and refined our plan for our race. Our plan basically came down to two things. One, in the very light breeze that we shouldn't get to far away from the start line, and two, seeing as we couldn't lay the start on starboard that we would have to do a port tack start.

Starting boats has never really been a strong point for me, I am too inconsistent in my starts, usually getting there a little late. Which is interesting, because when I am doing bow on a big boat I am usually pretty aggressive about getting a skipper up to the line, and am usually pretty good at it. This time however we seemed to get it about right. Not right on the line, but not far off, with good speed and accelerating. I promised myself that I was not going to think too much about Zeehond and what he was up to, but I did kind of smile to myself as I noticed that he had allowed himself to sail into a hole while trying to get to the line on starboard and as a result was pretty late.

The first beat went really well. Sylvia, trimming the jib kept me honest and we really just concentrated on getting to the new breeze that was coming down the Estuary first. Once we got into that we managed to lay the first mark without tacking, something that not all of our competitors managed. We rounded clear ahead by four or so boat lengths, got our spinnaker up and set off for the bottom mark. Even in the light downwind stuff we managed to stay ahead of the bigger boats in our fleet. Mostly this was because of Dina's trimming and Tom talking to me about driving and positioning. It certainly wasn't due to my downwind driving, which is average at best.

We dropped early ("No hero shit" I kept saying) and had a nice clean rounding for the beat across the Estuary to the offset mark. A good layline call got us set up for the second lap in good shape with a nice clear lead. The second lap was basically a duplicate of the first lap although we had a slower spinnaker set at the top mark. This allowed Zeehond to gain on us downwind, but their drop wasn't as clean as ours at the bottom mark so we got most of that back crossing over to the offset mark and then to the finish.

We got the gun despite being one of the slower rated boats in our fleet. As we crossed the line I must admit to a highly unsportsmanlike moment where I flipped off Zeehond. Although I did yell out to them later NICE RACE...

I have to admit it felt good to beat those guys straight up. It felt better though because it made us feel good about our little Santana and the work that we have done to it. The thing though is we still have a bunch of stuff to do to get more out of Gonzo. I got a new mainsheet, and spinnaker sheets today from Alan Prussia at Ropeline, and we will get the deck layout more dialed in and make the boat more user friendly every time we go out.

The biggest improvements though will come through our boat handling, our sets need to be little bit faster, and me getting more time on the tiller. My tacks especially need work. Both of these things will get better as we spend more time in the boat though. Hopefully Tom, Dina, and Sylvia will continue to sail with me as we seem to have good thing going here.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Stop this crazy thing...

Well it was another one of those weekends where things never seemed to stop moving. It is almost a relief to get to school and get back into a slower rhythm for a while.

Having said that, knowing what the weekend had in store I was actually pretty mellow Friday night. Other than borrowing a friends dive hookah set up and diving the bottom of the Santana, which actually wasn't that bad, I took it pretty easy. Dina was out with a friend so I just decided to hang out at home and watch the Warriors game on TV. This ended up not being a bad plan as the Warriors played one of their better games of the year and beat a good team, The Hornets, on the road. After the game was over Rich dropped by with left over Pizza from an office party and we watched The Simpsons movie. Maybe not the most exciting Friday night, but not a bad one.

Saturday was one of those days where things never slowed down. First thing was a walk to the Deli with my brother, Dina, and the dog. Then it was a call from my dad over SKYPE, where Joe and I actually got a video camera hooked up and gave dad a tour of the boat and some footage of the dog. Then it was off to Ajax's final day of dog training at the Oakland SPCA. Ajax got another diploma, this time for Basic Obedience 2, which he celebrated by promptly chasing a squirrel across the yard. Then it was up to Kirsten and RT's to feed the cats and grab a bite to eat.

After coming home and doing a couple of quick chores it was off to the city to see Beach Blanket Babylon. I had never been to BBB before and I have to say I really enjoyed it. We had some good laughs and it didn't last to long. What could be better? The reason for heading to the city and seeing BBB was our friend Lora's birthday. There was a pretty good group of us, with a lot of the old City Lights crowd attending. After the show we all ate at the North beach restaurant Bacci, which was not bad at all. Then just to make sure that Lora had a really good time we headed back to The Forbidden Island Tiki bar in Alameda.

A quick note is in order here. For the last ten years or so I have Taken January off of drinking, with a couple of exceptions while in New Zealand for the America's Cup. This year was no exception. So to go from a period of sobriety into a night like this was a little harsh. In the last month I have probably lost ten pounds and saved a couple of hundred dollars. I have been sleeping really well and have been just a lot more functional than usual. It was kind of funny, on Saturday night I just stopped drinking kind of midway though the night at the Tiki bar and was actually pretty functional on Sunday. This was not the case for everyone who was out with us that night, but that is a story for next time...

Sorry for the lack of pictures, but I am doing this from school with a spotty internet connection. Maybe I will add some later.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Real Football

It may seem odd to be posting about soccer on Super Bowl Sunday, but whatever.

Wednesday evening a friend, Tom, and I went to see Sweden play Mexico in an international "friendly" at the Oakland Coliseum. I think that it is fun to go and see international soccer matches whenever possible as they are usually a lot of fun. While I enjoy watching the soccer, the real fun at these events is the crowd scene. As you would imagine the crowd at the Oakland Coliseum was almost entirely pro-Mexico. Having said that there was a smattering of Swedish fans as well as a few like us who where just there for the scene.

The game was pretty close to a packed house. I think they announced the crowd at about 45,000 or so. The only sections of the Coliseum not full where the bleacher seats above Mount Davis, and a part of the upper deck. Also, we ended up parking across the freeway from the coliseum as the lot was full. We actually got some pretty good seats in one of the end zones though, just above the level of the goal in the lower section.

The game itself was pretty good. A kind of slow first half finished nill-nill, but the second half got good after Sweden scored early and then Mexico started a series of attacks that got the crowd fired up. The crowd was actually really fun to be around, really loud and into the game, but not assholes about it. There was a lot of good natured taunting of the Swede's, especially the Swedish girls at the game, but it was all in fun. One of the things that I found amusing was that quite a few of the Mexican fans where wearing Mexican Wrestler Masks.

We had planned on leaving the game early but as the pace got a little more frantic towards the end we decided to stick around. The final score was Sweden 1 Mexico 0, but everyone seemed ok with it.

So there you are international soccer, go check it out.