Thursday, October 27, 2011


The glassy waters of Lake Union reflect the lights of the city.
They reflect my dreams.
Long ago, I drew pictures of a sailing craft that I would build,
to sail away.
Those dreams were slain, silent, in the indifference of my family, of my then love.

Today, I live in a yacht there that is possible.
Where I can sail the whole world if it is my desire.
I am grateful for that.
For my dreams.
In Reality.

The wakes of passing boats gently rock my Brigadoon.
Reminding me of the bosom of the waters that cradle me.

It is home.
With my love,  it is home.

Friday, October 21, 2011

"Allowed...." Allowed!

Disclaimer: Yes, I know everyone should read every word of every document from every company from which it is received. Sometimes we don't.

So a "friend" of mine found the following in his boat insurance policy:

"It is warranted that a USCG licensed captain must be aboard your yacht whenever it is being operated and whose license and resume must be on file with us. This warranty will remain in effect until we have received and reviewed a Proficiency Letter which should include the number of hours logged jointly, from the USCG Captain and written notification of the removal of this warranty has been issued by us."

"WTF? Logged training hours? This isn't a general aviation aircraft." says the owner of the boat (who also has a PP-ASEL certificate from the FAA), who has been operating it for almost a year, in fresh and salt water, raising bridges, going through locks, docking in challenging conditions, sailing in all sorts of conditions, navigating shipping lanes, etc -- just fine.


It's me.

I'm not happy about this. Frankly, it pisses me off.

I wasn't aware this was in my policy.

I learned to sail when I was nine. My father taught me.

I was sailing a myriad of daysailers all my youth, from sunfish to hobie cats, to larger boats.

I've rigged and sailed an El Toro, a Sunfish, a Sailfish, Hobies 14 and 16, a Luger Leeward, built a kit boat, including mast and sails, and owned and sailed a San Juan 21 for half a decade, sailing it in weather that would scare the shit out of most sailers. I have even single handed the thing through both the small and big locks in Seattle, in 1995.

I *taught* people to sail, in Fremont, Califorina, in Biloxi, Mississippi, in Lake Washington.

I helped a friend of mine, who really didn't know his O'Day 30, take it through the Snohomish Channel to Lake Washington.

I helped another friend, take his power boat from Everett, through the same channel, to Anachortes, stopping him from running it aground entering Cap Sante' because he cut the first buoy,

I've never capsized a boat, after my father taught me how to right one after he did it to me.

I've never lost a person overboard.

Never hit a dock, a piling, or another boat.

Never run aground.

I know this may jinx me but, I'm a pretty damn cautious sailor.

I'll make mistakes, I'm sure but, they are going to be pretty unique and out there and, get this; I'll learn from them.

When I read the "you are not allowed...."

I have operated police vehicles at high speed on a EVOC course, I've driven a one-ton pickup truck with heavy armor at 90mph in total darkness in Iraq, I have set good times at Sears Point on both cars and motorcycles, I have a goddamn Private Pilot Single Engine Land certificate for god sakes and you are questioning my right to "operate" my sailboat?

I can't tell you how entertaining it was to watch the damn power boaters smash into boats and docks in Pt. Townsend on my last trip. Where is their Captain's Signoff?

How dare you? Not allowed? You may say I'm not covered if I damage the boat. You may say that you may purchase coverage at high expense if I don't but, how dare you write that I am not *allowed* to operate my boat? Not allowed?

Brigadoon is *my* goddamn boat and and I'm the f'in Captain. Period.

Well, I got pissed.

I think this got missed, screwed up, in all the activity of finding, offering on, financing, buying and insuring Brigadoon.

I think it's time to write a goddamn sailing resume.

Ya prove I can handle my own damn boat.

Can you tell this bugged me? I might apologize for my language; tomorrow. 

Safety Decisions: Knives

As a sailor, motorcyclist, motorcycle safety trainer, camper and security
professional (not credential-ism here, just letting you know from whence my
opinion springs), I have always supported making the best decisions on what
safety gear to use.

Whether it be a motorcycle helmet, a ballistic vest, or a PFD, it's best to make
decisions that are informed by facts and data. Informed decisions are,
hopefully, free of emotion, or assertions not based on any fact.

Every single piece of safety gear has a drawback that has to be dealt with.
Every single decision surrounding safety gear is an equation where we weigh the
costs/benefits in order to come to a decision. Everything has a price of

Sometimes it's cost, sometimes it's comfort (physical/emotional), sometimes it's

When making choices about safety gear, the biggest mistake I have seen people
make, is focusing on one drawback, one negative, at the expense of supporting
evidence for it's use.

I would strongly suggest that peer pressure, fashion, or worrying about looking
like a dork, should not be part of any equation. Ever.

Inflatable PFD choices are not free of this decision process.

Both of the following are true:

1) Manually operated PFDs will not open unless manually deployed. This is
considered a bonus for those that think this is important.

2) Manually operated PFDs cannot be deployed if you are unconscious (struck by a
boom, stumble and hit your head, pass out from something else) when you fall

If the contributing factors for the deaths of the sailors in the Mac race were
automatically operating PFDs, combined with being tangled in the tethers,
trapping them under a boat, one lesson may be the inclusion of an effective
knife to:

a) cut the tether
b) deflate the PFD if necessary

If you are going to get a knife to mitigate this issue, I'd suggest the
simplest, most rugged, most effective, most cost effective, fixed blade knife
you can get. I got this one for my wife. I think it's an excellent knife, for
many reasons. In my opinion, some of them are:

1) There is no opening mechanism to operate.
2) There is no opening mechanism to fail.
3) The knife is very rugged.
4) It is stored in and deployed from a very secure and rugged sheath.
5) Notice no pointy end. It's not easy to stab yourself, or others, with this
6) The serrated edge is very very sharp and, in my opinion, would be effective
in cutting.
7) It's inexpensive -- you can buy more than one.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

On Globalization

Understanding that globalization exists and choosing when and how to participate in it are two different things.

Since we are defending globalization, I'll weigh in on that subject. 

Yes, I know my cell phone is made in China by many, many very little hands, attached to bodies that never sit, who do the same little motion every day, for sometimes 18 hours a day. If I require a cell phone I have no choice in the matter, really. None of the companies that provide cell phone service make a phone locally. That choice is not available. 

Additionally if I want an iPad or an iPhone (I don't and won't own either one) I have to buy one manufactured by 300,000 to 450,000 workers (many of them very very young) who are employed in Shenzhen at the Longhua Science & Technology Park, a cramped, walled campus sometimes referred to as "Foxconn City" or "iPod City". This would be the factory where they put up suicide nets and made workers sign non-suicide pacts.

Now I'm not saying this is what your sail manufacturer is like. I'm using this as an example of being aware of where our STUFF comes from and the impact of using price as a primary driver for obtaining that STUFF.

The nice thing is, I have other choices when it comes to other things. There is a plethora of things, necessities, luxuries, that I can buy that aren't manufactured in (your words): "Sri Lanka rather than China. Labor laws are much looser in Sri Lanka and costs are a lot lower there."

I see that and I get to ask myself some interesting questions about the value of cost savings (I get cheap STUFF!) when weighed against doing business with a company that outsources to a country because the labor laws are looser than -- China. China, where Foxconn works people 18 hours a day and they sleep 15 to a room?

I get to decide if I want to live in, what seems to me, an "I gots mine" and "and damn who made my stuff as long as I save money" mentality. That's the way I look at it. Others may see it differently.

What it really comes down to is that I have choices. That means I have chosen to pay attention to where my STUFF is built, by whom, and under what conditions. I take notice of companies that talk about savings through utilizing economies of scale without mentioning *where* their STUFF is made. My choosing to purchase locally where I can, with most of that money going locally, to workers here, who work under fair labor laws is, in my opinion, a good thing. I like doing it. I can do it. It's *my* money.

If the expression of this makes some company, or representative of a company defensive, well, that isn't my problem.

Back to boaty stuff. While I have no control over where Brigadoon was built thirty years ago, I do have some control over what I put on her now.

All things being equal in the ethical business person department -- leaving aside the ethics of manufacturing in "Sri Lanka rather than China. Labor laws are much looser in Sri Lanka and costs are a lot lower there." -- this customer sees a clear benefit in choosing the company that is located here. This customer sees an advantage in a company that manufactures their product here. This customer likes a company who will come to my boat (not ask me to measure my own sails to save money) to ensure the product is right. This customer also really really likes the fact that I can visit the actual factory/loft where my sails are being made, talk to the workers, and know that, if I have any problems, I know where to go.

All things being equal, of course.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Baby needs a new set of sails...

Brigadoon has some pretty worn out sails.  I suspect the main is actually original.  The suit is from Lee sails.  

The main is so bagged out it's hard to depower it.  It causes great weather helm in winds above 12 or so knots.  Sure the boat goes but, it's going under a canted rudder and she's not balanced.  We knew we needed sails.

I did some preliminary searching on various sail sites.  I obtained preliminary estimates of around 8-10K for a cruising set.  I looked at Mauri sails, North, and others.  All the inital bids came in around that price.  Then we visited Port Townsend in August and ran into Carol Hasse of Port Townsend Sails as she was measuring a friend's Valiant 40.  I was impressed with her thoroughness as she combed over the boat, talking to the owner about where he stood in the cockpit (to ensure the boom height was where it needed to be), where the sails would possibly chafe, his problems with hoisting his main, along with challenges he had with his roller furling.  She spent quite a bit of time with him, measuring everything, going over every detail of his boat.  She even recommended removing the self tending track for his staysail, pointing out how it was limiting his ability to sheet the sail in and control it's shape.

So we decided to visit the loft.  Kelsey Booth showed us around the loft.  We were witness to every aspect of the sail construction as women worked everywhere in the place.  Sails were being cut, others were being stitched on a machine.  We saw luff tape being installed on headsails and watched some women work on hand finishing the sails.  Kelsey showed us an example sail, with all the bells and whistles, all hand finished and looking like a piece of art.

So we got to the much?

The first estimate for main (two reefs lines, easy reefs and Cunningham included), a 110% Yankee and a staysail, in tanbark (we were considering it at the time), with full battens and a high tech strongtrack system?

It was about 15-16K, easily about 40% more than sails ordered here and made in Singapore.

We weighted the cost against the fact that these sails would be made here, in Washington, in the loft in Port Townsend.  Our sail material would come in the one end of the shop and our finished sails would come out the other end.  The sails would be custom made for our boat.  They would, by design fit Brigadoon and our needs, perfectly (one would hope).  After reading and witnessing, stories of new sails that didn't fit, sails that needed "tailoring" after being made, I thought it might be worth it to have it all done here, in one shop, by a sailmaker with a good reputation.

The only decision left, really was when to pull the trigger on the deposit and whether or not to go with tanbark sails.

With tanbark, the boat would no doubt look grand.  The drawback was that the tanbark cost more money and yet, the quality of the fabric could not match what they would normally use.  They can't get dyed dacron in the same quality.  Now, the quality is still very good. It's just not the best.  The nice thing about the shop is that they were very honest and up front about it. Kelsey was excited to make a set of tanbark for my boat, but was perfectly happy with whatever decision we made.

And that is what finally swung it for me.  It made no sense to pay more money for each sail (he dyed fabric is special order) to get a slightly lower quality material.  There was also a very good point raised about safety.   White sails can be seen better at night. I think that's worth considering.  

In the end we are going for the highest quality material available.  This means white dacron.

I call the shop today and put down a 50% deposit.  We'll schedule the measurement with Carol.  

We will have each sail made as the money flows in.  It will be all cash.

We just pulled the trigger by paying the deposit.

It will be worth it.