Monday, October 29, 2012

The sailboat never offends the senses of fish, fowl or man.

Brigadoon and the air.

"To one who has turned lifeless materials into a thing alive and forced it to do his bidding against the resisting forces of nature in silence, without fuel and without defiling air or water, there can never be anything more wonderful than the sailboat. "The sailboat never offends the senses of fish, fowl or man. To make it move faster is to make it more a thing of freedom and beauty."
--Bernard Smith, "The 40-Knot Sailboat," 1963

That's all it takes, the puff of the breeze, driven by the heat of the sun, to give us the ability to slip the lines at the docks and cross Oceans.

We move silently, in concert with the water, the weather or engine, the sails our wings.

That is why I love sailboats. No noise, no pollution, no disruption, no discordance.  Just a boat, gliding across the waves, sliding trough the water, driven by something you cannot see.

The wind.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Race Your House 2012

Hi - this is Kerry.  We decided we'd write a dual post about our amazing day in the "Race Your House" race, sponsored by the Sloop Tavern Yacht Club.  My writing will be in normal and Donn will be posting in italics.  :-)

I've never been that much into competition for competition sake. I have found that 'winning' brings out aspects some people's personalities that I don't enjoy.  In short, some people, in order to 'win' turn  into assholes.  I don't like assholes.  While I have enjoyed pushing myself, be it in martial arts, on a motorcycle, or in a sailboat, I've never really sought racing, per se.  Oh yeah, I've teased Kerry that we'd sail Brigadoon in the local Seattle Duck Dodge (mostly just to hear her object), I was never really serious.

Do I like competing?  Well, yes.  If I'm in a boat and there's another nearby going in the same general direction, I'll be more than glad to see how I do against her.  I've done this on motorcycles and bicycles too.  There's nothing wrong with friendly competition.  It's the organized sort that I've tended to avoid.

However, Kerry sent the notice to the Race Your House announcement.  She actually wanted to do it and, well, who was I to deny her.  

I mentioned this on Cruising Anarchy and, rather quickly, my good friend, Bob Perry said, "I'll crew for you."

I was stunned.  Sure, Bob, you can 'crew' for me on a boat you designed.  The boat I have just outfitted with brand new sails.

So with that incentive, we were on our way to Race Your House.

Friday afternoon we set out from Lake Union to Shilshole around 2:45 pm in an effort to get under the bridges before they close down for rush hour at 4 pm.  We made it through both bridges and the locks and found a guest slip by 4:15 pm.  Had a nice dinner over at Ray's Cafe and got a good night's sleep.  In the morning, I cooked breakfast with some talented use of the spatula as a microphone in the process.

Kerry making Moonstruck Eggs.
While we were at Shilshole, I ran into a good friend of Bob's.  James has purchased Eclipse, a boat we had looked at originally, back in 2010.  Eclipse is an amazing boat.  It just wasn't what we were looking for.  James was interested in my Ultra anchor and my Strongtrack installation.  While he was over looking at that, we mentioned we were in the Race Your House regatta.  When he heard Bob was going to be there, he volunteered right away.  We had another crew member.

As our amazing crew gathered, we got the boat ready to go and I gave the composting head speech, the safety "We'd really like you to wear your PFD's" speech, and then got busy with the laptop inside the pilot house to make sure we could accurately navigate around the course once we knew what it was going to be.  We left the marina and headed toward the committee boat to check in and get the course layout.  This was my first sailboat race EVER, so I had a bit of trepidation, but I also knew we were in great hands with Bob Perry at the helm and James trimming the sails.  I hunkered down in the pilot house for the ride and tried to offer as much navigational support as I could.

The first downwind leg to Pt. Madison

Rounding the first point, off of West Point, was an eye opener.  I started to realize just how close we were going to be sailing to the other boats - as everyone tried to round the points as closely as possible and head toward the next one.  Made the first one just fine and headed north to Port Madison.  This was the slowest leg, as we only had 5 or so knots of wind.  "The calm before the storm" if you will.

Right off the bat, I made it clear that Bob and James could have the boat,  if they wanted.  They were driving her any way they wanted.  I wanted to learn from them.  To that end, I volunteered to work the bow.  That's right, I was the going to be the bowman on my own boat.  I wasn't even going to drive her or trim.   

Bob and James soon had a good idea of what Brigadoon could do with the new sails from Carol Hasse and her crew at Port Townsend Sails.  While we had a slow start in light airs, we soon discovered that we were second across the line with most of the fleet spread out behind us.

I'm bowman on my own boat.
I must say - Donn was amazing all day.  He had the rough job of being on the bow, helping the genoa through on the tacks, deploying the whisker pole, making sure lines didn't get caught up.  He was good about clipping in to our jack lines, which made me feel a lot easier about him being up there when the wind started picking up.

I will tell you, working the bow is hard work.  However, it's a good deck with high bulwarks.  My mid-line designed jack lines worked perfectly.  Sure, I had to step over them but, I sure wasn't going to forget they were there.  In at least one instance, when a jib sheet wrapped around my arm, while trapping my tether, I was close to being pulled overboard.  However, the crew heard me call to ease the sheet so I could get loose.  The tether and jack lines kept me at the center of the deck until I could sort it out.  I'm happy with the design.

Because Bob is driving.

Having Bob aboard was awesome.  He friggin' designed this boat!  So he knew her well, knew what she could do and was having fun rediscovering that.  As the race progressed, he seemed impressed at how she was doing.
I think Bob likes driving.

On our 2nd time on the north leg, Bob asked me to make him a sandwich (part of my job as crew), so I hustled below and got to experience sandwich making in our galley while on a pretty steep starboard tack.  Never has making lunch involved so many muscles, timing and adrenaline.   :-)   For the record, he seemed happy with the roast beef, mustard and hummus sandwich I was able to produce.

The best part about this was how much fun my friend had.  He and James worked like a well oiled machine.  They knew what needed to be done and, when we were on our first close reach, beating back towards West Point from Port Madison, I could tell Bob was having a great time.  It was awesome.

Brigadoon hard on her ear, beating back towards West Point.

Yeah - it was quite an experience having her rail in the water so much.  She seemed pretty dang solid.  However, I might have been swearing like a sailor a few times during this part....

Now the rail is completely buried!
Yes, it's not usually the fastest point of sail for any boat but Brigadoon seems happy with the rail in the water.  Her weather helm is controllable and she is stable as hell, galloping along like  some war horse headed for battle.  She seemed pretty damn solid and, if I may say, happy in heavy airs.   This boat was made for the tradewinds.

"Hey Ray, hold the boom out on this reach."

Having Ray on board was wonderful.  He was happy to be there, willing to help with whatever was needed, and seemed to really enjoy the ride.

Ray was a great addition to the crew.  He isn't very experienced but, he's smart, listens well and does exactly what you tell him to do.  I'm looking forward to sailing with him some more.

"We just might win this thing."
When I first spoke to Bob about this on the phone, we talked about what I wanted to do.  

"Bob, I just want to have fun.  It doesn't matter if we win or even do well.  I just want this to be fun."

"Well, it's not worth doing if it's not fun.  But it's nice to win too," he replied.

And that is exactly what he wanted to do.  On our broad reach/run from West Point to Port Madison, as we were rolling along at over seven knots, with the fleet arrayed out behind us, he said, "you know, we just might win this thing."

I believed him.  Then he really started pushing the boat.

"Puff ten seconds out....five....and...."

James brought a lot of experience and a great attitude.  His tactics were spot on.

James read every puff, every gust, trimming the main for all it was worth.  His skills were way above mine.  I learned a lot from how he handled the main, trimming for gusts and shaping the sail.  It was great to have him on board. 

Can we really get her to go?

With more than a little blood lust in their approach, they pushed and pushed Brigadoon. I did my job on the bow, Kerry did her job navigating in the pilot house, and Ray helped out all over the boat.  Soon, we were tearing along, close hauled, a little over seven knots -- upwind.  

Apparently, Yes!  Yes, we can!

Steady, steady...

So - there were 2-3 times when we were rounding points where we came REALLY close to other boats.  This was something I wasn't used to at all and it was pretty stress inducing.  I didn't get any pictures of those moments because, well, for a lot of it, I had my eyes closed until the scary part was over.  At one point, we were coming up to the buoy from the NW on a starboard tack.  Another boat, on a port tack, was heading for the same spot from the N.  Bob called out "STARBOARD" about three times to remind them we had the right of way... oh my god, until they finally veered away at the last minute, I was holding my breath and swearing all at the same time (it's possible, trust me!)  My adrenaline hasn't been that high in years.  It took me awhile to get my breath back again after we had safely rounded the point.

Then a little while later I heard Bob say, "Don't tell Kerry about that boat".  "WHAT BOAT?" I yelled, and turned to look out my port window just in time to see the full bow of another boat coming right at me.  We passed it's nose and it whizzed past our stern a couple of seconds later.  I actually tried to get the camera up for that one, but didn't have time.

Yeah!  That's it!

We did have fun - even me.  I loved feeling Brigadoon galloping across the Sound.  As Donn said, this was a taste of what it might be like out in the ocean in the trade winds someday...    fun to dream about that.

Now just keep going.

I felt useful, which was nice.  I wasn't sure if I'd really be that much help, other than staying out of the way, and making sure folks had food.  But yeah, James and Bob called on me quite a bit to help with our headings and check if we were on track toward each point.

Kerry was great.  She was crew in every sense of the word.  Bob and James depended on her for tracking our course, checking our leeway, and providing them with what they needed to decide when to tack, and how well we were doing regarding the course.
Meet, Ray.  Happy rail meat and all round great hand.

Head for the pin to maybe win.

We won 2nd in our class - missed 1st by 22 seconds (corrected time).  Donn will supply the details of all that, but I was really impressed with our boat and our awesome crew.  We kicked some serious ass out there.  Not sure I need to do this again, even annually, but I am happy and proud that we did it.  If nothing else, we had fun and proved to ourselves that we have a damn fine boat on our hands.

I was very happy with this day.  The only thing we broke was a tiny cordial wine glass.  Brigadoon held strong and sailed well.  My crew was awesome.  The best part, the best part of the day, was when Bob said this is the best time he's had in a long time.  It was great having him along.  I only wish that we had actually taken 1st and that he would have been there to help me accept it later that evening at the sloop tavern.

I learned a lot racing.  Bob says that if you don't race, you never know how hard you can push your crew and your boat and, someday, that might be an important thing to do.

Thanks to Bob and James for driving Brigadoon so well, to Kerry for her great navigation and cursing skills, and to Ray for being there to do anything he was asked.  

It was a great first time out and 2nd in class and, that ain't bad.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Port Townsend Sails: a followup on performance.

The new main, just bent on.

I have to say that, when I was considering new sails for Brigadoon (I won't say shopping as that implies getting a deal), I heard a lot about how to get inexpensive (cheap) sails. 

I did get some good advice to go with other lofts from people I trusted. Those were about quality and service for the most part. I appreciated that feedback.

When I posted my decision to a sailing group or two, including links to the above articles, the howls of protest and criticism of my decision were evident. Someone said I didn't need to spend that much money. Another said that I was denigrating the work of local sail 'lofts' who happen to farm their work out to Signapore or Phuket - "not that there's anything wrong with that". Another said I'd get a better deal (cheaper sails) if I went with loft X or loft Y.

Some people took my decision as some indictment of their business, personal preference, or their religion as far as I can tell. That's like saying I'm knocking a Hyndai because I decided my BMW Z4 suited my needs better. I'm not knocking anything. One meets my needs more than the other.
It's not about money or status. It's about getting the best quality for the money. 

By the way, I don't shop at WalMart either.

The simple fact is, we wanted the best sails we could afford. We wanted the loft and sail construction to be *local*. We wanted to be able to resolve problems in a short drive, not a six week turn around to the loft in southeast Asia. 

And that is why I chose Port Townsend Sails. I'm seriously happy with these sails so far and, our performance in the Race Your House event, along with the satisfaction and praise from Bob and James, tell me all I need to know about this decision.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

On Returning to the Real World

This is the sunrise that greeted us as we left Friday Harbor, departing the San Juan Islands at the end of our trip.  As I looked into the sunrise, with the still waters before us, I contemplated what the last few days have brought to us; what they have been about.

Our trip outward bound was filled with a sense of adventure, one that foretold of accomplishment, one of extending ourselves and our experience.  We were going to make the big crossing of the Strait of Juan de Fuca to Canada.  We were going to visit the first of the Gulf Islands.  We were going to another country on Brigadoon.  Our home, our shelter, our haven was taking us somewhere else; somewhere wonderful.  Somewhere we have never taken her, nor her, us.

We had worked our way from the wonder of Pender Island, the beauty of Poet's Cove and Otter Bay, to Stuart Island, Deer Harbor, then Friday Harbor.  Our Nexus cards, and all the preparation that they required paid off.  We literally cleared into the good old USofA by phone, in the middle of the Sound, on our way to Deer Harbor.

It was here, as we left Deer Harbor and Orcas Island, one of my most favorite places in the world, that it hit us.

We didn't want to come back.  Not ever.  We didn't want to come 'home'.  We were home.  We didn't want to return to Lake Union, to Seattle, to our J.O.B.s (hammer nails, collect paycheck), to all the mundane, work-a-day world that we have lived for forty-three and fifty-three years.

We got a taste of that going out, that seeking new places on Brigadoon and, to be honest, we didn't want to return.  There was a point, somewhere out there, somewhere on the trip, maybe between Pender and Stuart Island, where we turned to each other and said, "what if we just kept going?"

A good question.

What if we just kept going?

I've worked all my life at jobs that I didn't like, had to work, had to endure, for the pay, for my family, for to pay the bills, for...what?

Responsibility?  Yes, then, it was responsibility for my wife and two daughters.  Keeping up with the Jones's, who I don't even feel any sense of kinship?  For obtaining stuff?  Maybe yes, misguided though it may be.

No, this is about the Freedom Project.  It's about being Out There with Her, my lovely Kerry, on Bridadoon.

We have some time, to pay down debt (it's good Karma to keep your word, even to the robber barons of the banks and the credit card companies that prey on society), to settle our affairs, to clean up loose ends, to get ready.

To get ready.  I like how that sounds.  To get ready, for the rest of my life, whatever that may hold.

Today, I held a dear friend and said, "I'll have to say goodbye to you one day, you know."

She said, "I know."

But that is OK.

So, as we sailed into the sunrise, the early morning fire scorching the waters of the Puget Sound, we returned here, now.  We returned to continue our goal, our determined quest for freedom.

On that quest, there will be a day when Brigadoon passes the mouth of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, we turn left and can realize the answer to the question as we turn left, "what if we just keep going?"