Friday, October 16, 2015

Learning to sail is as laborious as learning a foreign language.

The basics are really simple if you have a knack for mechanics. However, you can go into a tailspin as you learn and understand the specific language.  Terms like fore, aft, head, jib, port, and starboard are pretty simple but halyard, stay, sheet, spreaders, Jibe and Tack might make your head spin right of your shoulders.
First, let’s talk about the directions or making your way about sailing vessel.

Directions around a sailboat


Aft - Is towards the rear of a ship. If you are walking aft, you are walking to the back. The end of aft or the backmost part of the boat is called the stern. If you get seasick easy, this is a great place to be on a motor yacht, it is the most stable due to the engine holding the water. However, on a sailboat, that doesn’t apply so much.

Bow - The front of the ship, also known as fore. Knowing the location of the bow is important because fore or the bow and aft are used to determine the other directions on a ship. The bow is always the front or the direction of the ships movement. Well, at least it should be but in sailing losing ground or going backward isn’t out of the question.

Port - Port is always the left-hand side of the boat when you are facing the bow.  And knowing the bow is important because you need to know which way to go or you are forever lost at sea. Remembering is easy because port and left both have 4 letters. On the port side the lights are red and port wine is always red.

Starboard - Starboard is the right-hand side of the boat when you are facing the bow. Right side is green and right is never green. “S” for starboard is closer to “R” Right. Lots of crazy ideas how to remember these rights and lefts and the associated colors. To make matters more confusing, or hopefully to simplify, I have paraphrased from Wikipedia. At night, the port side of a vessel has a red navigation light and the starboard side has a green light. these lights help to avoid collisions. The International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea state that a ship on the left must give way to a ship on its right. If the courses of two boats are intersecting., the helmsman or persona steering the boat usually gives way to a red light by going around the stern of the vessel. A mnemonic for this is "If to starboard red appear, 'tis your duty to keep clear. Green to green, red to red perfect safety, go ahead."

Leeward - Also known as lee, leeward is the direction opposite to the way the wind is currently blowing, this is also true of islands, and the leeward side is calm because winds across the island.

Windward - The direction from which the wind is currently blowing. Windward. Sailboats tend to move with the wind, making the windward direction. On an island, the windward side is usually windier and has rougher waters.

Parts of a sailing vessel

Deck – Pretty much self-explanatory, the deck is the topside of the boat. The idea is to keep the deck above water unless you happen to own a submarine. Walking around the deck is usually ok but it is a good idea to check with the captain.

Hull – This is the underside of the boat. Most often you cannot even see the hull. However, fiberglass hulls need to be shielded from oceanic sea life that likes to "hitch a ride" to it. Or osmosis, a process where water slowly infiltrates the fiberglass resins and causes blistering. There are many ways to protect a boat's hull but, it is recommended the boat be hauled out of the water every few years, cleaned, inspected, and repainted with protective paint. Some paints contain high levels of copper which act as a repellant for sea life wanting to hitch a ride. The paints slowly wear away protecting the hull and are called ablative paints.

Cabin – This is the main living area of a yacht. Typically the cabin contains seating area, the Navigation station and the Galley.

Head – A pretty common term that many know but it deserves recognition. This is the room where seasick travelers spend a lot of time and most guests visit a few times a day. This is the restroom and may contain a shower if the boat is so equipped.  

Berth – This term, as do others, has multiple meanings. The most common is the room where beds are located. In layman’s terms, the bedroom or stateroom. Berth can also mean a ship's allotted place at a wharf or dock.

Galley – Simple, this is the kitchen, this is where I work my magic.

Stowage – Another word taken from the sailing language, stowing an item means to store it and you stow an item in the stowage or storage area of the yacht. Basically a locker or closet area. Since sailboats are small in comparison to other living spaces, stowage is hidden under and behind just about anyplace that can be found.

Some terms will be the topic of later conversations.
See, I told you it was confusing.

Spar - A stout pole, a stout rounded usually wood or metal piece (as a mast, boom, gaff, or yard) used to support rigging. See this is easy… or not. Think of a strong pole and you are golden.

Mast - Main vertical spar used to support sails and their running rigging and in turn is supported by standing rigging. Maybe we need to talk about rigging next

Rigging – From dictionary.com “the ropes, chains, etc., employed to support and work the masts, yards, sails, etc., on a ship.” Hmm, a bit dry, how about the lines, wires, pulleys or rods which hang all over sailboat and serve many purposes from raising and lowering sails to tuning the way sails operate.

Boom - The boom is the horizontal pole or spar which extends from the bottom of the mast. Adjusting the boom towards the direction of the wind is how the sailboat is able to harness wind power in order to move forward or backward.

Rudder - Located beneath the boat, the rudder is a flat piece of wood, fiberglass, or metal that is used to steer the ship. Larger sailboats control the rudder via a wheel, while smaller sailboats will have a steering mechanism directly aft called a tiller.

Anode protecting the prop.

Anode – When dissimilar metals are placed in a conductive liquid, like salt water, electrical current is formed. As current flows from one metal to the other small molecules are lifted from the source metal and transmitted to the target metal. This is a very simplistic view of the way items are chrome plated. This removal of material is called "electrolysis".  To prevent metal object on your boat such as Motor, shaft, propeller from decaying due to electrolysis, you place a softer metal in the water attached to the metals you want to protect. This softer metal in most cases is Zinc or Magnesium and it corrodes protecting other metals. The term to describe these metals is sacrificial anode.

I hope this works as a starter point for someone to navigate the seas of sailing language. In my next article, being that I am in the process of buying a boat, we will talk about the process of surveying boats. A boat survey is very much like a home inspection and there are a lot of skills you can apply before hiring a surveyor to look at a boat that will give you problems.


May the winds always fill your sails and the sun and moon light your passage.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Met one of my heroes today - Matt Rutherford

Not too many people have made my hero list, my Dad, Einstein, Richard Feynman, David Gilmore and a few others, but the latest to the list is Matt Rutherford. Here is a guy that was, in his own words a bit of a troublemaker as a kid yet he found a purpose, taught himself to sail and made several transatlantic trips solo. But, that was the primer.


Matt and I at US Sailboat Show Oct 2015 

In 2011 Matt, who says he isn't an adventurer, set out on a record-breaking journey. In fact, a journey never completed before as he sailed through the Northwest Passage circumnavigating both the North and South American continents. Starting in the Chesapeake bay and heading north through the treacherous Northwest Passage across the top of Canada, around Alaska through the Bering straight, down the west coast of Americas to the southern tip of South America and around Cape Horn then all the way back to Annapolis Harbor. Sounds like a challenge? He did it Single-Handed in a 27-foot sailboat, 27,000 miles in 309 days. Mind blowing! and he says he isn't an adventurer. Humility seems to be a trait. 

So to take this back a little, when I started getting into the whole idea of sailing, I started watching sailing movies. All is lost, Wind, and yes Captain Ron. But I heard about a movie/documentary called Red Dot on the Ocean, the story of Matt Rutherford and started researching him and watching youtube and Vimeo clips about his adventure. it was exciting to hear about his journey, but I never saw the movie. I soon learned that he did his sail to rais money for Chesapeake Region Accessible Boating (CRAB), CRAB is dedicated to making the thrill of sailing a reality for physically and developmentally disabled individuals. So just a few weeks back I decided it was time to buy the movie and I searched for it. I found it for sale on Amazon and at The Sailing Channel but procrastination set in and I waited.  I knew that I needed to refrain from frivolous spending because the purchase of a boat was imminent so I waited. 

Karla and I were planning to attend the US Sailboat Show in Annapolis and as we were looking for a head, I walked past a booth selling books and movies and there was "Red Dot on the Ocean". I asked the person How much and said I'd been really wanting to buy the movie and that Matt was one of my Sailing heroes, he looked at me and said, "well here he is, say hi" and there in front of me stood Matt. Well, when you meet a hero, it isn't always as expected and I wasn't sure what to expect but he was warm, friendly and just wanted to talk about Sailing and CRAB. A really pleasant guy.

On April 21st, 2012, Mat returned to Annapolis Maryland a local hero.



Matt then embarked on another journey, one that is near and dear to my heart and that is plastics in the ocean, but not just plastics alone, that was his first mission. Now Matt has launched a non-profit company, Ocean Research Project, which aims to identify new, lower-cost methods of conducting ocean research.  The typical ocean research project has run rated of $6000 to $10000 per day, depending on the organization. With Ocean Research Project, his first expedition will have a daily run rate of $73 per day. Since the ocean is my true love and I Dive, I sail and I dream of the sea, reducing research costs in areas of fish sustainability, plastics and the effects of climate are something that just make me look up to this guy even more. 


Read more on the Ocean research Project website and follow Matt on his future journies. Thanks Matt for taking the lead to being an outstanding guy and standing for our oceans. 

Signing out for now and :


May the winds always fill your sails and the sun and moon light your passage.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Dreams of white canvas, singing winds and fear of the unknown.

It's difficult defining when this love of the sea and the ships who sail her began. I have been a water lover all my life. I swim, SCUBA, Waterski, snorkel and if there is a pool, well, I am in it. But the real story starts when I walked into an Attorneys office and there, on the wall, was this noble vessel just crying to me. I inquired about the ship and he said it was his, but he had sold her. For some unknown reason, my heart sank. In that scanty moment, I could almost smell the sea spray, salty and sharp yet so comforting, and then it was gone.

I don't know what design she was, that was easily 15 years ago and my knowledge was not developed. Maybe she was a Sloop, or a Ketch, maybe a noble Schooner. I didn't know what any of that meant anyway and if you don't, well, feel at ease, I'll be catching you up on sailor jargon soon. Sailing has its very own unique language. For instance, If I say Sheet, in the context of sailing, you probably think of the sail. However, in sailing, a sheet is a line used to control the movable corner(s) or clews of a sail, yes it is confusing. I remember my friend Allen talking about Sailing, he used to sail when he was a kid, and a good friend Sam who sails and had magnificent stories to tell about floating around the Caribbean. But I was so naive and the language they used intimidated me so I just swallowed stories and never really took action towards learning more. 

Basic Styles of Sailboats
Over the years, sailing has intrigued me, When I see a sailing vessel I pause and wonder what her crew has seen, the raging seas they have endured, the perils they have endured. Sailing, I knew, was a risky sport and knowing that the people who devote their lives to sailing and the sea love every moment of that time on the sea. I knew I would sail, I just didn't know when. Even my favorite songs were sailing songs. 

Southern Cross - Crosby Stills and Nash
Got out of town on a boat goin' to Southern islands
Sailing a reach before a followin' sea
She was makin' for the trades on the outside
And the downhill run to Papeete

Off the wind on this heading lie the Marquesas
We got eighty feet of the waterline nicely making way
In a noisy bar in Avalon I tried to call you
But on a midnight watch I realized why twice you ran away

This song has inspired so many people to challenge themselves and has probably inspired many to look up words and phrases like "sailing a reach", Papeete and "before a followin' sea". Well, they are authentic sailing terms and create a sense of romance and mystery. This is likely another key principle that drove me to love sailing. 

Now I have a desire and I also have a problem, in England, I think they call this a sticky wicket, a metaphor used to describe a difficult circumstance and seemingly arose from cricket. I am intimidated by the mystery of sailing and I aspire to sail. Example: I am sitting on the beach in the Mexican Riviera;  enjoying the company of good friends on a perfect gleaming white beach and there are these sailboats sitting there all alone. Now these are Cat Boats or even Dingey sailboats and easy to capsize.



This intimidation left me hunkered down in the chair being a landlubber and not pursuing my passion. And for the next few years I would dream but not achieve. But before we get into how I achieved that first sail, Let's look at the basics of the language of sailing and parts of a boat in the next article. But for now...

May the winds always fill your sails and the sun and moon light your passage.


Tuesday, September 29, 2015

A maiden voyage, a dream and an escape

This is the maiden voyage of my blog, a recitation of a crossing. The format will be simple and yet sometimes a nomadic wanderlust of ideas, it will always come back to the principle, saying goodbye to that suburban rut of a life and sailing off into the warm mist of the unknown, the sea, the future. Here we will cover topics of the past as I reminisce of old times, “misty watercolor memories”, to steal a phrase from Barbara Streisand, and define who I am, how I got here and hallucinate about where I might end up. Often times I’ll say “I” when I mean “we” because this is a “we”, my wonderful and beautiful wife Karla who is my co-Captain, maybe even Admiral on this journey. But never lose sight of the fact that this is, even when evoking the past, a tale of the journey in the now, not the destination of someday. So let the story begin, or should I say, continue?

For almost 10 years, I’ve dreamed of slowing things down, taking life a little less serious and if that means streamlining then so be it. Sailing is something, like Scuba, that always was in the back of my mind as ambitions I want to accomplish and being the person I am, if I do anything, I’ve really got to do it with fervor. Jumping off the bridge and into the water was a caprice thought in June of 2014 to screw society and the norms and buy a sailboat. It came after a crushing blow when I found out the company I had spent 20 years building decided they were better off without me and went up for sale. I was told quite coldly that my services, sale or not, would no longer be required. Some of my closest friends and 20-year companions simply turned their backs and walked away. So my mental state was one of I want to simplify, how simple can I get? The thought occurred to me in Miami, sitting in a friend’s backyard smoking a cigar, and looking at sailboats sitting in the Biscayne Bay. I thought, there is an escape, a place to slow life down and fulfill a dream. My wife Karla thought I was nuts, I thought it was pure genius! Insanity works that way. It took her almost 6 months to come around, as it did with her now favorite pastime Scuba, to my way of thinking, but she did and she tolerant the idea of living aboard and taking on a cruiser lifestyle.

So, I am going through my Midlife Adventure aka crisis! I really feel good about it, but there is this damned voice in the back of my head saying, "Don't be irrational, find a good job and keep building that retirement". You see, in many ways, I screwed up. I have a marginally decent nest egg that seems to shrink daily thanks to the economy, but it is due to the sale of my old company that I have anything, had it been my own doing, I'd be screwed. All my money was in real estate and when the market crashed in 2008, I was toasted. I have my Roatan home, but it is almost impossible to sell, besides, that is a nice escape and a great sail destination.

There are many phases in this insane plot and I liken it to cutting your way through a bramble bush with a plastic comb. Have you ever bought a sailboat? That’s another post. First we need to shed the weight of the world and that means clean house. Our home will be converted to a rental until the market value recovers enough that I can sell and make enough to pay it off. Things I own will go into storage or be sold, most will be sold. I’ll keep things like my guitars, Amps, Maybe the pool table and we have some really cool wood stuff like a single slab 4’x9’ acacia (Non-Hawaiian Koa) table from Tahiti that was given to some guy as a wedding gift for marrying the Chiefs daughter. It will be interesting seeing what I can actually sell or throw out, we do become attached to stuff in such odd ways. And as the Buddha said, “life is suffering” and that suffering comes from our attachments we create, the weight we place upon our own shoulders like Atlas carrying the world. 

Living on a sailboat and working will be interesting but I can’t imagine a better office than the bridge of a boat. I’ll contract IT and programming services, hopefully to the company I am contracting with now. As long as I have the internet, I can do what I do.

One crazy thought I’ve had for many years ever since my creative writing class at Salt Lake Community College is to write a book. I have many friends that have done so and I can pick their brains. One old school friend or associate is a freelance writer for People, Readers Digest and several newspapers. I remember her being on the School paper back in high school and I hope she will let me pick her brain. Another friend I met online, Frederick, has also written a book so that’s another resource. Several friends I have, started out similar simple lives by blogging and I thought I could blog my journey of becoming a Salty Sea Dog and use the blog posts as the basis and outline for the book.  Oh look, here we are! Chapter one.

One thing I’ve never been is boring and as afraid as I am, the same levels of excitement are there. Although, and I’ve sad it many times, it is all about the journey but the ultimate climax to the adventure could be the “Coconut Milk Run” or the “Pacific Puddle Jump”. This would entail sailing from Florida, through the Caribbean to the Panama Canal, then on to Galapagos Islands, Marquesas, Tahiti, Cook Islands, maybe Samoa, Tonga and Vanuatu and on to New Zealand or even Australia. That is if I don't stop someplace along the way and drop a permanent anchor in Some Particular Harbor, Thanks, Jimmy Buffett.

So what do I want to accomplish? Good question, Glad I asked. It is my hope that someone, maybe you, reads this journal and either finds a map for their own lives or maybe they/you see something never thought possible. What is possible? Living your dreams!!

May the winds always fill your sails and the sun and moon light your passage.

Let the journey begin.