Monday, June 29, 2009

Multimedia of the weekend

Here's a few pictures and videos to compliment Tim's earlier post.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Sporting rides at 50 and 5

Friday was hot. Brutal hot. The kind of hot that interrupts normal thoughts. I was riding along, heading for the lake and watching some SUV or truck who looked like they might be about to do something stupid and dangerous when suddenly my brain would misfire and, "Damn its hot!" would echo inside my helmet. The marina was just as toasty.

I was opening up Nomad, hanging sun covers and such, when I noticed friend Jeff unloading two wave runners off a trailer, putting them over to Gale Force and tying them off in his slip. A little while later and I was cooling off by following him out into the lake on one of them. I've never been on a wave runner before but every time I tried to slow up and figure out what I was doing Jeff would blast past with a evil grin on his face. What else could I do but thumb the throttle lever to full and keep up? The lake was choppy and the ride at 50+ miles an hour might be best descried as "sporting." We ran the length of the lake to the marina at the dam, (free gin & tonics awaited us at the boat of old friends of Jeff) had a fun visit and then headed home before dark. Another "full throttle blast" the whole way. I'm guessing I will be sore for a couple of more days!

On Saturday afternoon Nomad slipped her lines and we headed off for the raft up and fireworks show. It was a slow drift across the lake in light winds and when we turned south we drifted to a complete stop; sails limp in the still air. We tucked them away and brought our little diesel on line. It might be a bit of a stretch to suggest that we "powered" down the lake, but the little engine that last year couldn't, this year can. It thudded away for more than an hour to deliver us to cove 1. Rafted up the party ensued and the fireworks were great. Around midnight mother nature provided a second display of fireworks as a cold (well cooler anyway) front swept through. This morning all the boats were facing NW rather than SE and the winds were peppering the lake with whitecaps.

Though nowhere near 50 mph, the sail back to Boulder could also be described as "sporting." With a reef in her main and flying the working jib Nomad danced for home at better than 5 knots. The lake was lumpy indeed and soon we were tossing spay all the way back into the cockpit. Even with a reefed main there were moments when we heeled close to 30 degrees. Nearing home we started to plot how to get the sails down. As well as our little engine has been running we didn't think it could push us against the wind and waves that had really built at the north end of the lake. We would need the sails to get us home. In addition the boats that got home ahead of us, (that would be all of them) were clearly struggling a bit as they stood well off the point, trying to hold bows into the wind, to get their sails stowed. Instead of following the crowd we sailed close to the point, dropped the sails as quickly as we could using the engine to basically hold us still against the waves and wind, and spun the bow toward the calmer waters of the cove as soon as the canvas was secured. It worked well and a few minutes later Nomad motored serenely into the marina and back into her slip after 24 hours away from home.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

It's cool in Cape Cod...

Tim once read that the single biggest reason people don't follow through on their plans to go cruising is grandchildren. After spending 10 days with mine, I do understand that. The big difference for us is that our grandchildren don't live near us, and the boat will be a way to get to them. Two weeks ago we had the chance to offer both my middle daughter and our 2 oldest grandkids the chance to experience their first sail. (My daughter's one comment was that it seemed like a lot of hard work.) It was a wonderful peek at the life I'm working towards by living on Nomad. I'm hoping one day in the not too distant future to be anchored out off their beach and to be able to take the dinghy in to shore to spend the evening with them on the beach, or to be able to go for a Saturday afternoon sail up to P-town, or to be able to meet my oldest daughter's family in Florida for their annual vacation. In the mean time, I'm enjoying the practice on our little lake and the occasional (thought not often enough) visit of our grandkids. Here's some pictures and a video for you to enjoy.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

A year goes by

Little Nomad spent the weekend on her own. Amber, Catherine and Mary aren't leaving until early tomorrow morning so we spent this last weekend playing. I suspect grand babies grow up even faster than Daughters. Each day spent with each one (Daughters and grand babies!) is a day not to be missed. Of course some day we hope to spend lots of days lounging on a boat with Daughters, Son-in-Laws, and grand kids. But it is always best to treasure all the time we get to spend with the people we love the most.

It looked like this was not a prime weekend to be on the boat anyway. Temps around here are nudging painfully close to 100 degrees and (if the flags hanging around town were any indication) there was barely a breath of breeze flowing anywhere. It is not completely insufferable outside so long as one stays in the shade and doesn't really even move.

Next weekend is the Fireworks raft-up which will mark exactly one year since we really started sailing Nomad with a bit of purpose. It hardly seems like a year has gone by. It is a bit amazing to go back and read some of our earliest entries in this blog and note the difference. We have learned a bunch, had a minor adventure or two, and are now pretty confident on our little boat in our little lake. Ocean cruisers will not be impressed with our modest gains, but I'm feeling pretty good about our first year as sailors.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Windows of Opportunity

We had done the pre-flight inspections and loaded the baggage in the rain. Dark green, yellow and killer looking red splotches moved across the RADAR in the Pilot's Center. Out in the lounge a plane load of company VIPs asked repeatedly about the upcoming flight to Denver. It was going to be an interesting departure.

Passengers reassured, on board and settled in, the cabin door secured and start checks run and done; we called ground control for taxi. Heavier rain blurred the windshield as we swung west onto taxiway "Alpha" and splashed our way to the end of the departure runway. The airplane's RADAR doesn't work on the ground, (to keep us from pulling up on the ramp while blasting the ground crew with 4 GHz of energy) but the lightning detector was giving us a good read on the incoming weather. We could also see a serious rain curtain and dark clouds moving in from the west. Behind us, east and south, was a lighter sky and a way out. Once airborne we could find a path westward. But to do so we seriously needed to get while the getting was good.

I tried to get the tower controller on board by letting her know we were ready for departure while only half way down the taxiway. But it was not to be. The weather was dictating which way all the airplanes leaving the St. Louis area could go, forcing the Air Traffic Control system to reissue full route clearances. By the time we had copied ours the weather had moved over the airport. Lighting flashed on the nearby hills and we could hear the thunder over the engines and through our headsets. Shifting, gusty winds tugged at the flight controls causing the yoke and rudder peddles to thump against my hands and feet. Sheets of water pounded our aluminum hull and the runway faded from view as rain dancing off its surface turned into a storm driven mist. The runway lights came on.

We had missed our window of opportunity.

Windows of opportunity are constructs of circumstance. Sometimes they are so wide we can't see the framework. Sometimes they are narrow; moving targets in time that are easily missed. Sometimes they come in sets. (We missed one departure window yesterday morning but caught the next that came by.) Sometimes there is just one. (Do I take this job or that one, or maybe I blew the interview for the one job I really wanted.) Sometimes hitting one is a matter of convenience. Sometimes it is a bit more serious. (Like launching for Denver between potentially lethal thunderstorms.) Sometimes windows of opportunity are clear, open patches in the dark skies. But sometimes they are not so clear; just lighter gray patches in darker gray clouds.

Moving onto a boat will be such a thing. Right now Deb and I both make pretty good incomes doing jobs we don't mind getting up in the morning to do. (Which puts us in the category of "people who are pretty lucky!") We could force our way onto a boat, pry the window open if you will, by putting everything up for sale, moving Nomad to the river, moving on board and heading south. But some inner sense says that will not work out the way we want.

Yet I am sure the real window is out there, moving in our direction. The trick will be timing the jump so we land on the boat and not in the water.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

A short and special sail

Yesterday afternoon Deb backed Nomad gently out of her slip and turned for the lake. I scrambled around the decks securing lines and getting ready to hoist and set sails. Though the winds were light we decided to go with the working jib instead of the drifter, keeping the speed down. With the engine secured Nomad ambled off across the lake with barely a heel, making maybe 3 knots. A little while later we tacked and made for the dock to insure we got back in time for the Tapas on the Dock party.

Totally routine, right? Even a little dull maybe. So what was so special about it? The crew, which consisted of two of my daughters and both of my grand daughters. For the first time Nomad set sail with grand babies on board. Catherine and Mary decided their favorite perch was standing at the aft rail. The cockpit was the perfect depth to give them a secure place to stand and gaze out over Nomad's slight wake. Mary discovered that the swim ladder could be pushed back and forth against its restraining cable, making a most satisfying "thunking" noise. Catherine also found that the big chrome wheel was fun to hang onto, helming the boat (with a little help from Deema).

Making for a short but oh-so-special sail.

Friday, June 12, 2009

A thought for all you men.

This has absolutely no bearing whatsoever on sailing, but I caught a little snippet of NPR this morning that I found quite amusing and I thought I'd pass along.

Morning Edition, June 12, 2009 · Two brothers from Indiana declared Monday to be "National Man Day." They say that on Man Day, participants should play football, go hunting or watch Rocky movies. And a quarter of a million people pledged to "stand up and do manly things."

So all you manly men can grill manly hunks of meat (yes, Michael you too), drink beer without a coaster, chug the milk carton right out of the fridge, leave the toilet seat up and the empty toilet paper roll on the holder and we women won't say a word.

Oh wait... I forgot to put the last sentence of the NPR report in here...

Organizers didn't realize Monday is also "Sneak a Kiss Day," when sweethearts are supposed to be a little romantic.


Monday, June 8, 2009

Random thoughts

Deb and I had a wonderful weekend sailing Nomad and two other boats. But other events surrounding the weekend's activities sparked some "random thoughts."

Thought 1) Powerboat drivers and sailboat drivers really are two different kinds of animals. Powerboat drivers spend huge sums of $$ on boats, trailers, and big pick-up trucks to drag the boat to the lake. They put more $$ in the fuel tanks of both boat and truck. Hours are spent getting to the lake and launching the boat. Once on the water they push the boat as fast as it will go in an absolutely straight line - directly to a shore. Once there they beach or anchor the boat and then get out; as if the whole purpose of the exercise is to spend as little time on the water as possible. Sailboat drivers, on the other hand, will take 6 or 8 hours getting to the dam and back just as an excuse to stay on the boat and out on the water. I've also noticed that sailboats tend to stay as far away from shore as they can, not so powerboats.

Thought 2) Marine diesel engines are implements of De Debbil. Friend Barry was set to leave Boulder to register for the Moonlight Regatta when his engine spat, shuddered and died. Trouble shooting, tool borrowing and general dockside hackery ensued in an attempt to make the deadline. An hour or so later the evil diesel coughed and shook itself to life as if to say "Who me?" Barry headed down the lake under power, (said diesel now purring like a kitten) but too late to make registration. Fortunately he ran across the Race Chair setting marks and was assured that he could take his place on the starting line; the paperwork could be finished up later.

The Moonlight Regatta is a staggered start, meaning the slow boats go first and placing the race is easy, first one home wins. Juno's start time was more than 1/2 hour after the first boat headed off. Hitting the "lap around the lake" course on a beam reach and just as the full moon was rising, Juno caught a straggler or two before the first mark. The second leg was a straight, down-wind run. With her sails set wing-on-wing and the jib poled out, Juno became a near silent apparition. Barely making a sound in the night waters she crept up on a boat, slipped it a place down, and then moved on. Boat after boat fell behind as the second, strobe lit mark loomed out of the night. The last leg of the race was a lake long, tight-to-the-wind run of pure speed. Tacking to weather Berry had his crew sheet the sails in tight as drums as the bow split the oncoming breeze in two. Juno threw off any pretense of stealth. Spray flying, sheets humming under the tension, she heeled over and displayed her thoroughbred status, daring the fleet to try and keep her in sight. None could. With the finish line looming, one lone boat still leaned hard against the wind, straining to keep Barry and his hard-charging Albin at bay. It was a lost cause. With 1/4 mile to go Juno slashed past this last challenger and swept across the start / finish line at full song.

Alas, at the awards breakfast the next morning Berry was denied his win. The West Access Race Committee clung to the letter of the law, declaring that Juno had not been properly registered after all.

Which sparked Thought 3) With this petty act of gamesmanship the West Access Race Committee won themselves executive status in the Kingdom of WEENIES. As penance they should haul Juno out for free and clean her hull spotless, with toothbrushes.

and Thought 4) The Captain of the second place boat who, it is reported, was more than glad to accept the trophy and then boast of "winning" the Moonlight Regatta, thus won janitor status in the Kingdom of WEENIES. His penance should be to spend the rest of the season sailing a leaking dingy with rags for sails, bailing with a rusty coffee can.

Friday, June 5, 2009

The Cockpit Duel

For those of you wanting to know what it is that Tim looks at when he's in the other cockpit (see previous post), here's some pictures.

Hmmmmmm...cockpit #1....

Hmmmmm...cockpit #2...

Hmmmmm...cockpit #1...

Hmmmmm...cockpit #2...

Well I guess you can figure out why we're not ALREADY on the boat full time!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

8 seconds vs 15 minutes

One nautical mile in 8 seconds. We were hotfooting it east at 37,000 feet after spending a night on the lee side of the Rocky Mountains. I knew that in just a few minutes Denver Center was going to hand us over to Kansas City Center. A little while later we would actually get to Kansas City and be handed over to another Controller. That controller would start us down, give us over to a lower sector controller, and somewhere around 16,000 feet that controller would have us talk to Mizzou Approach. Mizzou Approach would give us a 5000 foot crossing restriction somewhere around 40 miles west of the Spirit of St. Louis Airport. Upon reaching 5000feet he would have us start working with St. Louis Approach who would give us a right turn. Then we would drop to 2400 feet, be given a slight left turn to intercept the localizer to runway 8 right, and be cleared for the approach. We would sniff out the electronic path to the runway, turn inbound, and just outside of a point in space called SNOOP we would get handed over to the tower and given permission to land. At SNOOP the glide slope would center. We would drop the gear, hang the last of the flaps and noodle down hill. Around 1200 feet above the ground we would fuzz out of the bottom of the clouds, spot the runway, flop our little jet onto Mother Earth, hang the buckets, turn Left on Alpha 5, coast straight into the ramp and call it a day.

Mentally I was sitting in my office finishing up the paperwork and sipping on a cup of coffee. In reality we were still 300 miles west of St. Louis. I guess that's what they call being ahead of your airplane.

I have yet to get that way with Nomad, which still seems a bit weird since our little boat rarely goes much faster than 4 or 5 knots. (That would be one nautical mile in 12 to 15 minutes!) Oh we try to plan ahead, particularly when it comes to the weather. But I still find it hard to think much past the current heading I need to hold and (when I am sailing well) the next tack or jibe. (Though as Deb will tell you I still get those two confused once in a while. Remeber "tack" is going nose through the wind while jibe is butt through.)

Someday maybe I'll get a little further "ahead" of the boat. Certainly on Lady Marian, with the auto pilot engaged and an hour's run ahead, I looked alot like I do sitting in the cockpit. (Though in our pocket jet it's a bit impossible to stand up, take a stretch, wander into the galley for a coke, and take a stroll up to the bow.) But in some ways I think sailing will always be a more "moment-by-moment" thing than flying. I think that's one of the reasons I like it so much.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Brown, white, green and black.

Back on Nomad for the weekend. Though Deb missed her "Cat" I was kind of glad to be back on our little boat. Lady Marian was a great experience and someday (soon?) I hope to live on one like her. But she would be way too much boat for our little lake and, truth be told, I would be embarrassed sailing such a thing into Boulder. (That's assuming it would fit at all!)

So Saturday morning our daughter joined us to "catch a little sun." Good plan except it was raining. The clouds soon parted (as foretold) and we headed out in light breezes (also foretold) flying our big drifter. Sailing in Carlyle is like using our keel to stir a bowl of soup, particularly when it has been raining buckets. The water is brown, brown, brown, full of grass, seeds, weeds, and some really big tree limbs and lengths of trunks. As we sailed along at a nice 5 knot clip we saw a couple of patches of chewed up wood. Places (I guess) where various power boaters didn't change course fast enough, turning their Honda and Evenrudes into chain saws. The breeze was steady and we were making good speed. Melanie was impressed at the distance we traveled. Before Saturday all she had experienced was the "Carlyle Calm," flat water and even flatter wind.

We tacked back and forth toward the dam, noticing after a couple of hours that the lake was showing a lot of white. I'm getting a little better at changing the head sail and soon we were making good time on the working jib and main. The wind blew harder (not foretold at all) and the waves kept building until the lake was a washing machine of breaking waves and powerboat wakes. Melanie went from basking on the foredeck to hanging on for dear life as the boat heeled, banged spray though the waves, and occasionally rounded up. (Proving the sailor's proverb that if you think you need a reef in the sail it is already too late.) It was a carnival ride back to home port. We eventually dropped the head sail completely and still managed 6 knots downwind, flying just the main. (A new record for Nomad!) By the time we made the channel markers Melanie was a bit green and wishing for the dock. She held tough but stepped off the boat before all the lines were secure in their cleats, flopping down and much relieved to be on something not moving. It may be a while before she braves sailing with her crazy parents again.

Later Deb and I joined Barry for another night sail and another magic run. With a half moon glinting off the wavelets and a steady breeze to fill Juno's sails (It turns out Barry's boat has a name after all.) we overhauled a group of friends on Alcestis, a nice Catalina that had departed before us. She is a pretty boat but no match for Juno this night. We ghosted past doing more than 7 knots, made the dam on one reach, turned and flew home after just one tack. Occasionally a bit of lightning would flash in the distance, back lighting the pitch black sky and countless stars.

Sunday's forecast was for light winds. We made it west - east across the lake and back, then kind of half-sailed, half-drifted south toward the dam. Several miles from home the winds laid down completely and took a nap. We ended up motor sailing back up the lake and I was pretty impressed with how our little engine thudded away without complaint. Maybe we have finally made friends? We finished off the weekend giving Nomad a quick scrub and then settling into the cockpit to kill off some cold ones with friends Jeff and Jim.