November 30, 2009

In Memoriam


As it must to all of us, death came to my last surviving sweet basil plant this past weekend.

In the end, passing to the eternal life came as a blessing, as Mr. Basil suffered from an extended debilitating illness that had left him pale, and a mere shadow of his former, robust self.

A lifelong resident of the O Docker kitchen, Mr Basil was sometimes encouraged to relocate to a climate where he might establish deeper roots, but confinement to a flower pot precluded that.

He is survived by seven narcissus bulbs, two philodendrons, numerous Christmas Cacti, and one of those generic houseplants that everyone recognizes but no one can identify. He was preceded in death by an overwhelming number of fellow basil plants.

He will be remembered as a generous soul who gave freely of himself. He was a frequent contributor to salads, omelettes, and to countless fish and chicken entrees. His very presence was often enough to lift the spirits of anyone around him.

It was the decedent's wish that his remains be composted and scattered in the bed of an azalea bush that gave him much joy in life.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that fresh hearts of romaine, green onions, bell peppers, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes or pesto be sent to O Dock, preferably via FedEx Next Day service.


November 26, 2009

The Lucky Ones


Along the American River, the wild turkey that have been making a raucous comeback over the past few years have been conspicuously quiet this week.

They know.

While they're protected by local law, they must be thinking about their relatives, who haven't been so lucky, and who will be served up on our tables today in celebration of our prosperity and good fortune.

It's easy to forget the role fortune can play in prosperity. If things have worked out well for us in life, we tend to think we've been justly rewarded for our years of hard work. For many, though, lives of hard work have led only to more hard work, and to uncertain futures.

For my wife and I, our boat has become a reminder of just how lucky we have been. Sailing on San Francisco Bay, we often think about how most people will never have the chance to do that, or even to enjoy many of the other comforts we take for granted.

More than candied yams, stuffing, and cranberry sauce, today should remind us of all the empty plates there are in the world.

If you have a boat, be thankful. Sail it as often as you can.

But is there someone without a boat you could ask to go sailing?

And are there other empty plates out there you might help to fill?


November 24, 2009

Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam


Two days ago, I got a comment from a 'Sanjay' who claimed to work in a busy spam writing center in India. As I'm a basically trusting soul, I took Sanjay at his word, although I'm sure some of my cynical readers might suggest that particular comment was a hoax actually written by someone in Rhode Island who sails a Laser.

Be that as it may, I'm choosing to ignore any such cynical allegations as the comment sets me up very nicely for this post, and frankly, I didn't have anything else ready to go today, anyway.

I've mentioned before that I work for a newspaper. I probably haven't mentioned that it's a fairly large one which employs over a thousand people (that number used to be much higher, but that's the subject for another post).

What does this have to do with Sanjay the spam writer? Well, large organizations like the one I work for tend to get a lot more spam than individual users, for various technical reasons I won't go into here - mainly because I don't understand most of them.

Our efficient IT department has set up sophisticated (their word, not mine) spam filters for capturing all of this spam, but those filters don't immediately discard the spam. This is so that users can review what has been caught in the filter in case something important was mistakenly identified as spam.

A summary of the spam caught in the filter is sent to us every day for our review. We see the subject line and sender for every item, without actually receiving the e-mails (which is good, since most of them contain computer viruses or links to web sites that will infect your computer with all the viruses you could ever want, free of charge).

So where am I going with this? Oh right, the daily list of spam I get from good folks like Sanjay. I thought I would share some of this with you as a public service so that you will know how to recognize spam when you see it. Here are the subject lines from some spam that was sent to me recently and how our sophisticated spam filters were able to recognize them as spam.

Perfect Presents For Perfect Season (from hemorrhoidUW)

On the surface, this looks like an innocent enough offer. Since the holiday shopping season now begins on October 1st, by now we're all looking for nice presents for family and friends. The problem with this e-mail is the name of the sender - hemorrhoidUW. It's not likely you'll find holiday presents that are perfect for anyone from someone named hemorrhoidUW.

If You Don't Feel Like Just Being Average, Try Some Enlargement

These spammers can be very clever. I don't know how they figured out I used to be a photographer. But what distinguished serious photographers from amateurs in the old days before digital cameras and inkjet printers was that amateurs took their pictures to the drugstore for processing, while real photographers made their own enlargements in darkrooms. That's darkrooms, not dark rooms. I'm even more amazed that the spam filter was able to figure all of that out.

Be A Stallion In Bed (from Margery)

I don't know why Margery thinks I'm a fan of the original Godfather movie, but that certainly wasn't my favorite scene, and I don't know why Margery spells her name that way, either.

Review Annual Social Security Statement (from

Wow, look how easy the government is making it for us to review our social security accounts online. Just enter your name, home address, and social security number on the website and they'll tell you anything you need to know. I wonder why this got tagged as spam. It says it's from the gov, right?

No Fraud Or Hoodwink In Our Enterprise! Never-losing Rules of Gambling!

I can't believe how lucky I was to get this. For years, people have been trying to figure out how to win at gambling, and here's everything I need to know on one website. And it must be legitimate - they tell you right up front there's absolutely no hoodwink.

Made From High Quality Materials So It Not Only Look, But Feels Like Genuine Too

I'm not sure exactly what they're selling here, but it came from the same folks who know I'm experienced at enlargements.

Any e-mail sent to me that is also from me.

One of the latest spammer ploys is to use your own e-mail address as the sender's e-mail address. Isn't this kind of a tip-off that this may not be a legitimate e-mail? I send very little e-mail to myself, and hardly ever is it anything about products that look and feel genuine.


I don't understand why none of the people who sell Viagra or Cialis online know how to spell the names of their own products. What I really want to know is whether women receive spam for Viagra and Cialis, too.

If you're a woman and receive more than four of these spams in the same day, call your physician at once.


November 20, 2009

Snug Below


I've just completed one of the most harrowing ordeals any mariner ever faces.

Dodging icebergs in the Southern Ocean?

Rounding the Horn in a gale?

Trying to figure out if it's a better deal to order from West Marine's web site and pay for the shipping or to go into the store where the web-only discount doesn't apply but there's no shipping charge?

No. No. No.

I got my boat back from the yard in one piece. It didn't get bumped off the stands by a delivery truck. It didn't get dropped out of the travelift slings on its way to getting splashed. The topsides didn't get sprayed green by the next guy over. And the final bill was less than fifty per cent more than the original estimate. That's quite a few bullets to dodge in one week.

Of course, Mr. Neptune had to throw one last curveball at me. The splash was scheduled for just after lunch. But one of those Pacific squalls was coming through, and by mid-morning the wind was starting to scream. I just had to motor across the marina and make it back into the slip, but even that can get interesting in 40 knots. And the last storm that went through here had gusts that were higher.

I asked the yard to do the splash early and got under way with winds only around 20. And I made it back to the slip before the skies opened. Two more bullets dodged.

By the time I got things put away and closed the hatch above me, though, the rain was coming down in torrents. The wind was up around 25, and the O Dock Philharmonic was tuning up. Up and down the fairways, every unsecured halyard was clanging away like mad. Sailcovers and tarps thrummed through major and minor scales. Finger piers grinding against wooden pilings added a bass beat. And the flutes and piccolos of the rigging section were running through arpeggios in the fresh wind.

But I was enjoying one of those rare moments every boat owner savors. I was snug below in the storm. Any deck cleaning chores I had planned were cancelled. There was no place to go. The heater was heating. The coffee was going. Tunes on the stereo. Lunch in the fridge. And, should my spirits sag, there were spirits handy.

Let the Philharmonic play on.

I have my boat to keep me warm.


November 19, 2009

It's A Rock!


A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing, especially when it comes to navigation.

A certain story has endured in the O Docker household from my early days as a navigator. As circumstances require, my wife uses this story as a lesson, an allegory, a narrative poem, a warning, a chastisement, or a tool of discipline (although, I swear, there are no whips or leather garments involved). The story is always invoked with a signature phrase. When I hear that phrase, I know what is to come. And always, that will be painful and humiliating to me.

The phrase is "It's a rock!". Three simple words that will probably be inscribed on my tombstone - if I go first.

The day had started so well. It was our first trip to the BVI, about 20 years ago, and we had been playing for several days in what is now one of our favorite spots on the planet - a quiet anchorage in North Gorda Sound, far enough from commercial commotion, but an easy dinghy ride from all the barbecued shrimp we could peel. And, if we dinghied the other way, there was a little, deserted beach with the secret grotto where the technicolor fishies swim.

Life was good.

As with all pleasures of the flesh, though, too much can dull the senses. It was time to leave the sedentary life of the anchorage and to sail this little rented pleasure dome of ours. Today, I would show off my mastery of the Sir Francis Drake Channel. Gentleman's sailing - off the wind all the way to Soper's Hole - 24 glorious, sun-soaked miles, riding 18-knot tradewinds and bright blue bathtub water, untroubled by any swells.

Life was good.

We droppped off the mooring, got the sails up, worked our way around the reef, and slid out the entrance in one long reach. Outside, we gybed to turn left, set a preventer so I could let my attention wander, and settled in for a warm summer's nap. In islands known for their easy, line of sight navigation, this was maybe the easiest run of all - straight down the main channel. No reefs, no shoals, and certainly no rocks.

Maybe those who were not fully certificated by the American Sailing Association through the Bareboat Chartering Level with intensive three-hour emphasis on chart reading and interpretation would worry about rocks.

But not I.

Like generations of seasoned mariners before me, I watched the undulating hills of Virgin Gorda slide gently by, off to starboard. Uh no, I mean off to port. There's really not much to do on that run, other than sit back, stay out of the tropical sun under the bimini, and watch for the gybe as the three-foot wind waves rolled under the transom. Navigation? Nah, just keep an eye on the coastline and make sure you don't get in too close. There was nothing to get tripped up on. And there were no rocks.

Spanishtown drifted by after not too long and a little while later, the Baths. I'd closed on the coast a little to get a better look, but nothing to worry about. Did I mention, there were no rocks?

As the Baths disappeared astern, we continued along the coast of the island and my wife was focused on the water ahead.

"There's a rock up ahead and we're headed right for it."

"A rock?" I mocked her. "Can't be."

I reminded her that I was fully certificated by the American Sailing Association through the Bareboat Chartering Level with intensive three-hour emphasis on chart reading and interpretation, and that I had determined there were no rocks anywhere in our vicinity that we need be concerned about.

She told me what she thought of my certification in general, and, in particular, of the part about chart reading and interpretation and announced, "Well, I'm putting on my lifejacket."

She knew how to push my buttons.

"Lifejacket?," I scoffed, don't you know anything? It's not a lifejacket, it's a PFD. Were you fully certificated by the American Sailing Association through the Bareboat Chartering Level with intensive three-hour emphasis on chart reading and interpretation, you would know that.

Her gaze was now fixed on the spot in the water where she imagined there was a rock.

"We're almost on top of it, you'd better do something."

Oh, alright, I'll humor her. Where, I asked is this 'rock' of yours?

"Right ahead, right there!"

Holy crap!

My weekends of intensive training had taught me to recognize rocks and this was, indeed, a rock. A mysterious, obviously misplaced rock, but a rock nonetheless. Some sort of skippering action was called for, and pretty soon.

I seized the wheel, I mean helm, or fell on it, actually, and executed what must have been one of the quickest roundups in the history of the Beneteau 32s5. In a wild scramble, we managed to tack and head off in the opposite direction of the misplaced rock.

But, as any navigator who discovers a misplaced rock will tell you, avoiding that rock is not the worst of it. It's that awful, sick feeling that follows that's worse - the sudden realization that you have no idea where you are and that there might be other misplaced rocks anywhere around you. I started to wonder where my lifejac.., uh, I mean my PFD was.

My normally chatty wife was no longer chatty. Already, I was beginning to sense this tiny, minor, inconsequential event might some day come up in conversation. I casually glanced at the chart I'd stuck under a cushion a few hours ago.

"Just updating our position, dear."

Where the hell were we?

We reached our way back to the safety of the main channel as I started to put the pieces together, but it would be a while before I fully realized the nature of my blunder. Or, blunders, actually, as I had learned many lessons that day.

I learned that most misplaced rocks aren't misplaced at all, they're usually right where the chart says they are. It's the navigator who's usually misplaced.

I learned that memory is a poor navigational tool and that the chart usually remembers much better than I do.

I learned that no matter how lovely the weather and pretty the water, no matter how familiar you might think you are with the depths around you, that Mr. Neptune can jump up and bite you in the buttocks faster than you would ever believe and that the holes he leaves in your underwear are more apparent to those around you than they are to you.

I learned that Mr. Neptune does not give a rat's ass about you being fully certificated by the American Sailing Association through the Bareboat Chartering Level with intensive three-hour emphasis on chart reading and interpretation. And, if he's not impressed by that, maybe you shouldn't be, either.

I learned that, on a boat, four eyes are better than two.

And I learned that, when you least suspect it, your wife may very well be right.


November 16, 2009

The Slings That Cost An Outrageous Fortune


I really wasn't going to write a post about having my boat hauled out.

Unless someone falls in the water, these posts usually tend to be of more interest to the boat owner than anyone else. There is this ridiculous investment up in the air where boats have no business being, hanging by... what are those slings made of anyway?

The boat owner is both petrified and fascinated to see the side of the boat he or she would never ordinarily see. Wow, look at the through-hulls and the propshaft and the zincs and the crud on the waterline and the...well, you get my point. If it isn't your boat, none of this is terribly interesting, especially when there's the new Sarah Palin book out that you've been dying to read.

But this post isn't about any of that. It's about a truly remarkable occurrence that happened to me today, just before all of that.

A funny thing happened to me on the way to the boatyard.

I'd been planning this whole business for two weeks now. Take the day off from work, get all of the stuff out of the boat that I woud need this week, sleep on the boat the night before so I'll be there in time, check in with the yard to make sure all signals are 'go', and a million other dumb details.

So, there I was, a half hour to H-hour, lines rigged, fenders set, crosswind gauged, my delicate back-down-the-long-narrow-channel-and-turn-at-the-very-last-moment-gracefully-into-the-travelift-slip maneuver thought out and cleverly planned to the nth degree. I turn the switch to start the engine and - no, not the old dead battery cliché, this was a new twist. The engine starts, but, oh no, only a trickle of water dribbles out the exhaust where torrents should be. The dreaded cooling water interuptus that has struck terror into the hearts of diesel owners for generations.

But even that is not the point of this post (please be patient, there is a point). When the engine absolutely, positively must start because you've got to get to an appointment you can't reschedule, it almost never does. No cruising boat sailor will be at all surprised by that.

What happened next is the truly astounding part.

I recognized there was a problem (for me, quite an accomplishment in itself), CORRECTLY diagnosed the cause on THE FIRST guess, had the correct frommet wrench already on the boat, IN THE CORRECT SIZE, managed to get the hose off the through-hull without destroying the through-hull or all the skin on the back of my hand, had a screwdriver the right diameter AND length to clear the clog, got the hose back on the through-hull and both hoseclamps re-connected without destroying the through-hull or all the skin on the back of my hand, restarted the engine - and water shot out the exhaust! A 100 per cent successful repair on the first attempt!

I slumped back into the cockpit, stunned. In five years of working on this boat, that had never happened before. The perfect repair! By myself! No trips to West Marine. Not three trips, not two trips, not one trip! None! Did I mention there were absolutely no trips to West Marine?

I backed the boat very carefully out of the slip and cautiously worked my way over to the boatyard. I was especially focused on the tricky crosswind maneuver backing down to the travelift, with that sneaky little turn at the very end. I nailed the boatspeed, executed a perfect dead-slow backing turn, stopped the boat inches from the dock, lightly stepped off, bow line in hand, and shot my best nonchalant 'hey' to the travelift operator. Two perfect guy-stuff maneuvers back-to-back in the same day!

I have now used up all of my good Karma through the end of the year 2027.

If I were smart, I would declare victory and make this my last blog post ever.


November 15, 2009

To Sand, To Varnish, To Wax, Perchance To Sail


Today is another work day on the boat.

Well, tomorrow, actually. My boat will get its regular haulout, bottom job, topsides buffing, cutlass bearing inspection, and other expensive attention from people who actually know what they're doing.

I'm down on O Dock late today to get the boat ready for the move over to the yard. As I leave the gate to run an errand, I look out across the bay towards the Golden Gate and see this:

And it occurs to me that I see this view so often that I've become a bit jaded by some of the remarkable sights that surround me constantly on San Francisco Bay - sights that some people travel half-way around the world to see.

In other parts of the country, boats have been hauled out for the winter for weeks now. Determined dinghy sailors are gritting their teeth and diving into frostbite sailing seasons.

Here, we're seeing some of the best sailing we'll have all year. The summer's boisterous winds have relented down to the 10-15 knot range. On a clear day like this, temperatures can be in the sixties. All across the bay, reluctant spouses are being coaxed out onto boats to see what sailing can be like. No foulies. No chattering teeth. No icy spray. Pleasant conversation in a quiet cockpit as the city front glides by.

Well,  for some of us, maybe. So much of my time on O Dock is spent working on the boat, not sailing it, I sometimes forget why I'm doing this at all. Some have given up on bigger boats and returned to the simplicity of dinghies that you can sail pretty much whenever you want to.

But, I'll have my time on the water, too, just like these sailors on one of the sailing school's J24's this afternoon. Doing penance in the boat yard or in the engine compartment makes you appreciate the time on the water that much more.

And on the bigger boat you can sail out that gate and keep going, chasing that sun. It's looking like next summer, we'll sail to Monterey again. There's something very primal about sailing a boat out of sight of your home port and arriving at a completely different place. You can't really describe the sense of satisfaction to someone who's never done that, but anyone who has will understand.

For today, it's enough knowing that at least someone is out there enjoying the freedom you feel under sail.

My day will come.


November 13, 2009

Type The Characters That You See In The Picture


What is going on with the Blogger verification words, lately - you know, the little supposedly 'nonsense' words you have to read and then type in when you post a comment on someone's blog?

Everyone is noticing they're starting to get really weird. Yesterday, Tillerman left a comment on my pottery post (yeah, sailing blogs are getting pretty weird, too), and his verification word was urnal, as in referring to an urn.

Coincidence? I think not. I'm starting to get really pissed at the guys who make up these verification words.

What? You still think they're generated automatically by some computer program? Well, I thought so, too, at first, but I'm now convinced that can't be so.

First of all, these are obviously not just random strings of letters, or you'd end up with totally unpronounceable things like xrfjzmx or kqrlmn or, even worse, actual Welsh words.

What we get instead are 'words' that are friendly to English speaking mouths but still have no meaning - groups of letters like wanam or moopy. It would take some serious programming time to write a program to do that. Today, it's much cheaper to hire a roomful of people in India and have them just punch up some letters on the screen whenever you open a comments page in Blogger.

I was skeptical at first, too. Nah, can't be, I thought, - I'm just being paranoid. No wise guy in India is watching what I type and then making up some curveball of a verification word.

Until a few months ago, that is. I'd read a post on JP's blog about a program that lets you do full marine GPS navigation on an iPhone. This was pretty cool. I made some sort of reply about the software and then, there it was, the verification word:


iMatey, fer Chrissakes!!! I swear to Tillerman, I'm not making that up. I'm not clever enough to make that up.

But my point is that no Blogger software program is clever enough, either. Here, finally, was proof positive that some drones in India actually are reading our comments and making up verification words on the fly.

Besides the requisite lower case 'i' that's de rigeur for an iPhone app, 'matey' is a word that's both nautical and cutesy in a marketing kind of way. iMatey would be the perfect product name for the GPS iPhone program in JP's post. There's even the play on words of 'aye, Matey'. It's just too damned perfect. There is a human mind at work here - I'm convinced of it. Some guy in India is bored out of his tree and is messing with me.

After that, I started doing screen grabs of this guy's witticisms.

Here he is having some fun with the old Dan Quayle potato misspelling:

Sometimes, he lowers himself to adolescent bathroom humor:

I make the mistake of revealing in a comment that I work for a newspaper, and he throws this at me:

And just a little too much flip alliteration in a comment on Tillerman's blog and he starts getting critical:

One of my brilliant remarks goes completely over his head, and he tells me this:

But about two weeks ago, he must have had a really bad day. When I left a comment on JP's blog, my jaw dropped at the verification word. This guy is very good. He knows there's no way I can track him down and he knows that Blogger would deny, deny, deny that there is any such room full of Indian word verification typers.

So, he's gotten really brazen. He wasn't cute or witty anymore. He was just crude. There it was, in red and white, sticking it to me in no uncertain terms, the verification word of ultimate defiance:

If this continues, I'm switching to Wordpress!


November 10, 2009

It's Pottery Wednesday


This is a full-service blog.

We try to be very responsive to customer complaints around here.

Joe was whinging unmercifully yesterday about not seeing enough posts about pottery on O Dock. Well Joe, I've got your pottery, right here.

Now this isn't a classy antique Greek wine mug with a painting of Dionysos like you posted. I don't have a vast collection of antique wine mugs like you do.

And this isn't a pedigreed metallic-overlayed lustre painted 15th century bowl from the freakin' Victoria and Albert Museum, like Tillerman posted, either.

Joe, mark my words. Tillerman is up to no good with that bowl. He posted and then sat back, practically mute, just waiting for us to make fools of ourselves in the comments page. I'll bet there's some very clever story behind that bowl, with a real 'gotcha' ending that he's just waiting to spring on us.

I'll bet someone like Anna Tunnicliffe got dragged to the Albert and Victoria Museum when she was eight years old, and the sight of that bowl with a sailboat on it was a religious experience for her, and she started sailing Lasers the next day and grew up to become an Olympic champion because of that bowl.

But, at any rate, my pottery isn't as fancy as yours or Tillerman's. I swiped it from my mom's kitchen the last time I visited her. It may not look like much, but it happens to have very special significance for me.

When I was a young brat, around five or six years old, back in 18th century Philadelphia, these were the plates they served me dinner on. They didn't trust me with the good stuff, figuring I might toss them on the floor.

And they always told me, "You can't leave the table until you clean your plate, children are starving in Europe." I never understood how cleaning my plate would help the starving children in Europe at all. But then, they added the kicker line: "You can't get up until you can see the sailboat.

I swear, I'm not making this up.

So fast forward several centuries. I'm all grown up, or as grown up as I'm ever going to be and I'm wondering why I have this obsession with sailboats.

Last summer, I visited my mom, and, in the back of her cupboard, there it was - this old plate from when I was five years old. Joe, I found my ROSEBUD!!!!

This plate! That's it! That's why I'm obsessed with sailing the way I am!

I can't get up. I can't leave the table. I can't do anything. I am thoroughly, completely paralyzed.

Until I can see my sailboat.


November 8, 2009

I Want Details


The last post here on O Dock got quite a few comments, most of them from Mr. Tillerman, who, for some reason, decided to delete all of his comments after I replied to them. I'm not quite sure what he was up to, but I think it was one of the following:
  • Expanding the envelope of avant-garde commenting

  • Paying further homage to his minimalist guru, Mies van der Rohe

  • Just giving me a hard time, something he seems to take a certain delight in

  • Getting even with me for all of those times I've left nonsensical, off-topic stuff over on his blog

  • Practicing his sailing knots - in this case a knot popular with many sailors - the elbow bend

There were some complimentary comments about the post, to be sure, and I certainly appreciate those. Thank you, very much.

But, oddly, there were no replies about the topic of the post. No one volunteered any of their own tales about building trust with a spouse or significant other.

I realize I've been extremely lucky to be getting the kind of response I have been in the comments pages here since I started this blog. Many bloggers who are far better at this than I am have taken a long time to attract a readership that's interested enough to leave comments.

But, to be honest, I was expecting to hear from at least a few folks who had faced similar challenges with their spouse/GF/BF/SO while sailing.

I know many have been through nautical sturm und drang with their mates - I've been a sometimes embarassed, sometimes amused witness to much of this on-the-water drama.

In particular, I remember sitting with my wife in the cockpit one day, comfortably moored in the BVI, when an older couple came up to the open mooring next to ours on a small charter boat, she obviously nervous on the bow with an unwieldy boat hook, he firmly in command at the easier job, behind the wheel. What followed was one of the greatest performances of nautical theater that I've ever seen.

It's easy to muff this simple mooring maneuver if you haven't had a little instruction in the basics, and this couple obviously hadn't. So, on their first attempt, they missed the mooring completely. But, what turned this into theater was that they missed on the second attempt, too. And on the third. And on the fourth. And on the fifth. And on the sixth. And on the...we all lost count, eventually, but it went on for an hour, and for the poor couple it must have seemed like it lasted for their whole two-week vacation.

At first there was some squabbling, which escalated with each missed attempt. Frequent hand gestures were employed, but not the ones I see discussed in sailing books. As act followed act, the audience grew throughout the mooring field. Heads started popping out of companionways like so many meerkats. The couple finally gave up, motoring off to another anchorage, I guess, on what had become a very quiet boat. I'm sure that day has been a frequent topic of conversation at their family gatherings ever since. I think I can guess which one of them brings it up.

But, my point (I did have a point, didn't I?) was that I know couples have been known, from time to time, to have shall we say 'differences of opinion' while sailing together. I think this watery battle of the sexes is probably a reason why many of those abandoned boats at most marinas lie idle. What once seemed like something a couple could share happily together, eventually drove them apart.

So, I wonder why there have been no volunteers here at the O Dock confessional or counselors offering sage advice. Is this subject too touchy-feely for a sailing blog? Or just way too sensitive to even discuss? Did my post put everyone to sleep, or are you all smarter than me (my leading theory for now), and wisely choosing to hold your tongues? Or choosing at least to put your tongues to better use than writing comments here? And yes, you can take that however you like.

As George Costanza once said, I want details, and I want them right now.


November 6, 2009

Who Do You Trust?


Blogger Greg, of Love and Coconuts, posted a while back about a sail in his new dinghy. He's just learning to sail it and, at the same time, trying to convince his young daughters that sailing is a survivable experience. It seems they are having some doubts.

It dawned on me that it's just that issue of trust that's bedeviled me throughout my whole sailing career. And, I suspect, Greg and I aren't the only ones.

From the beginning, I've wanted to share this whole sailing thing with my wife. She loves being by the water - you know, beaches, sunsets, a glass of merlot - but anything technical is just not her thing.

I remember how jazzed I was the first time we sailed a small dinghy - the acceleration as the sail was sheeted in. For me, this was some kind of impossible magic. But all my wife could say was:

"Be careful, you'll poke your eye out!"

Well OK, maybe those weren't her exact words, but the message was more in her tone. She just wasn't 'getting it' the way I was. She was happy to be along for the ride, if that's what I wanted to do, but she was just humoring me. And could it be she may have been just a little bit scared, too? Is it possible she may have doubted that I knew what I was doing?

Over time, we moved from rented Lasers, to a more stable 'family-style' daysailer, to a sailing club with keel boats, to chartering in turquoise water. At each step, the boats were more comfy and my wife's confidence in me was growing. One incredible day, she actually suggested it might be nice to have our own boat.

Thirty seconds later, there I was at the boat broker's, signing my life away for a slyly smiling 20-year-old Catalina 30 that knew more than it was letting on.

I declared victory - finally we had a boat that was substantial enough for my wife to feel safe on. But little did I suspect the battles that still lay ahead, some of which are still raging today.

What it's taken me years to figure out is that it's not the boat that inspires confidence. It's the skipper. And it's not enough to know how to trim the jib or how to steer through waves. Putting your crew at ease comes from a million little things.

Like knowing that the big wind is coming and getting a reef in ahead of it, sailing off the jib, before anyone goes sliding to the low side of the cockpit, while casually keeping up a friendly chat with your companions as if there were no other way to tie in a reef.

I think the casual chatter is a big part of it. If you can manage that while making the important stuff happen, seemingly all by itself, then you are truly a master of your vessel, in every sense.

A million little things.

I think I'm about half way there. I have just another half a million things to learn.

While others are working on their rolltacks, reading the shifts, and staying ahead of the deathrolls, I am learning when to just say "no" to sailing. When to say, "Today we shop, tomorrow we sail." How to make my wife feel that this is her boat, too. And that she has a say in how it is run. These are hard lessons to learn. Just as hard as backing down from a setting anchor, holding the bow up into the wind. Or figuring out what is exactly the best position for the jib fairlead.

Learning these lessons and failing to learn them has resulted in some of the best times my wife and I have shared together.

And in some of the worst.

One good thing about the small confines of a cruising boat, though, is that there is no place for either of us to run away. There are no doors to slam. We've both learned to face the little calamities and to deal with them, right then and there.

I think we've both learned that sailing together can be something so good that it's worth figuring out how to do without killing each other. I think she's learning to trust me and I think I'm learning to trust her.

How about you? Who do you trust?


November 3, 2009

Could Someone Please Explain This?


I think I'm starting to get this blogging thing worked out.

But, so far, two things have absolutely baffled me.

The first is this photo I posted as part of a Support Your Local Rivers post:

I haven't posted too many photos so far, but this is probably the least remarkable of them all. It's an image I swiped from someone's web site, just like anyone else could. And, keep in mind (this is important - it will be on the test at the end of this post), I found it by searching for 'Levi's logo'.

What I can't figure out is why I am getting hits from all over the world for this Levi's logo. No hits from the good ol' U S of A, mind you, but from Mexico, Asia, South America, and Europe. And practically every day. Over and over. If I were anal retentive like some bloggers are, I'd probably put all of the numbers in a spreadsheet and figure out what percentage of my total hits are a result of the Levi's logo. They must be adding up.

Am I being used by those cartels that make all of that knockoff stuff - you know, Rolex watches for $19.99 and Levi's jeans for $8.99?

The weird thing is that I've tried finding this photo on my blog by doing every Google search I could think of:

- Levi's
- Levi Strauss
- Levi's logo
- Hot babes in Levi's
- Hot babes not wearing jeans

Well, OK, I wanted to be thorough in my research. But zip, nada, nothing. I have no idea how all of these people are finding this photo on my blog. And I don't have a good feeling about it at all.

Are the feds going to show up at 3 am and confiscate my laptop? And how do I tell them it's all Tillerman's fault? He's the one who got me into this blogging thing.

Of course, I may have discovered the magic bullet for drawing traffic to a blog. Maybe you just need to post photos of corporate logos and the world will click a path to your door. That would be a lot easier than actually having to write stuff.

The other thing I can't figure out is the guy or gal in the Bahamas who keeps visiting this blog - apparently to actually read the blog and not just download the Levi's logo. If I were in the Bahamas, there's no way I'd be wasting time reading this blog.

I mean, I'm trying to picture how this would work. You're lying on some pristine, white, sandy beach, which is being gently lapped by wavelets of 80-degree turquoise water, your bikini-clad companion by your side. Rainbow-colored fish are playing in the shallows just waiting for you and your bikini-clad companion to snorkel over and join them. The ice in your rum drink crackles as it slowly melts.

And you get up, brush that pristine, white sand off your shorts, walk back through the baking sun to wherever you keep your laptop, and fire it up to read some cockamamie blog that's pretending to be about sailing in San Francisco Bay?

Mr. or Ms. Bahama, if you're reading this, please leave a comment here and explain how this could be. And if you have a boat there, I'd be perfectly willing to swap with you for a few months or a few years, if you find O Dock to be such an exotic, desireable locale.

There are some mysteries in life that I think are just not meant to be solved.

November 1, 2009

Another Misunderstood Husband


This is turning into Janna week in the sailing blogs (and even here in the pseudosailing blog).

Bonnie featured Janna's book - The Motion of the Ocean - a few days ago, and Tillerman is making noises about doing a full-on review this week. I just got my review copy a few days ago and have only gotten through the first chapter, but like what I have read so far. Janna is not a sailor who decided to write a book about her adventures, she's a writer who went sailing. The difference is apparent right off. I'm looking forward to reading the book and to seeing Tillerman's take on it.

Janna's book is not mainly about sailing, although I guess you could read it just for the sailing bits. She's really looking at the realationship she's had with the guy who's now her husband but who was for many years 'the boyfriend'. And I suspect she gets into the lessons one learns about life and about one's self after spending two years with someone in the tiny space of a cruising boat.

Here's that someone, by the way:

His name is Graeme, which is pronounced like 'Graham', which is pronounced like 'gram'.

I met Graeme at a stop on Janna's book tour in the San Francisco Bay area a few weeks ago. (There's a short video from Janna's reading at the end of this post.) I'm afraid that poor Graeme has been sadly maligned by his wife in the interest of promoting her book. She begins by calling him a butthead (although she uses a more anglo-saxon term) and leads you to believe that that's her final assessment of him. I'm guessing that if you read the whole book, her opinion eventually changes.

My take was that Graeme is a nice, unassuming, mild-mannered, down-to-earth guy. Just the kind of temperament you'd want in someone you were going to go blue-water sailing with. Calm, and not overly-excited in the face of adversity. Why do our wives never see the good in us?

You may have noticed that I haven't mentioned Janna's last name yet. That's because it's extremely tough to get her whole name right all at once. Tillerman has called her 'Jenna'. Bonnie has called her 'Janna Cawrse Esaley'. I know her correct name is one of the following:

-Janna Of Course
-Janna Off Course
-Janna Causes Easterlies
-Janna With The Light Brown Hair
-Janna Janna Bo Hanna Banana Fanna Mohanna
-Janna Cawrse Esarey