June 20, 2010

I Actually Go Sailing


I actually went sailing Saturday.

Well, I had to.

The next item on my endless list of boat maintenance projects was 'calibrate the autopilot', and, there's no getting around it, to do that you actually have to take the boat out of the slip and go sailing.

So, in yet another example of how irony is everywhere in my life, my obsession with boat maintenance finally forced me out of the slip in which it usually imprisons me.

It turns out that, as bays go, this one we've got in San Francisco is quite a fine one for sailing on.

Being in the silicon valley, it has a very web 2.0 menu-driven system for selecting windspeed. First, you ask your crew what wind speed range they would like, enter that in the web page, and up pops a chart of where to go to find that.

Today, my crew suggested, "If you put the rail in the water, thunderbolts from atop Olympus shall smite thee." I entered that in the web page and the flash animation spelled out "wind shadow of Angel Island".

So, off we went.

Of course, to get to the wind shadow of Angel Island, you must first traverse the Evil Berkeley Circle, site of Tillerman's 2011 West Coast Laser Slamdown.


We got an early start through the mild 25-knot gusts before the chop had built to a height that eats Lasers for lunch.


It was somewhere around here that my wife snapped this amazing picture of me. What's amazing about it is that I'm actually smiling - an open-mouthed, genuine, unforced toothy grin. That is actual joy on my face - a miraculous rarity.

Actual un-Photoshopped close-up view showing genuine sailing-induced joy on my face

I am normally a dark, brooding sort, caught up in the sobering social and economic dilemmas of our times, or trying to figure out why some computer user at work is seeing images from the Hubble telescope on their screen instead of today's stock chart.

But I'd managed to find the perfect balance of sail plan and trim to keep us punching through the chop at a good clip while fooling my crew into thinking we were in a 10-knot zephyr, not the raging gale that was hitting us. You have to be a sailor to understand that joy.

Eventually, we found the Angel Island wind shadow, things calmed down and warmed up. Sandwiches were eaten, and another spectacular San Francisco Bay afternoon smiled upon us.

If I were the CEO of some badass oil company that had just visited a plague upon mankind of biblical proportions and wanted to put all of that out of my head for an afternoon, I think this is exactly where I would choose to be.



  1. It is good when you can count on someone to bring sandwiches.

  2. huuuuuuuuuuuhhhhh(*)

    (*) that was as close as I could get to the sound of a long sigh meaning gosh that looks good fun and just the sort of thing I should have done yesterday i.e. join the CEO of a major oil company in sailing round an island instead of downloading software packages to predict the positions of the planets fifty years off (a long story).

    Now that is a good sailors hat.

  3. Man, am I happy to see you sailing!

  4. Thank you, JP.

    After many years of trial and error, I've found what is for me the perfect sailing hat for local conditions.

    The woven watchcap is just nautical enough without the pretension of the captain's hat. It is of sailing tradition, yet associated more with the crewman than with the officer, with the commoner, not the aristocrat. It quietly projects an aura of competence.

    It will not blow off one's head in the strongest of winds or when looking upward to check sail trim. It does not limit upward peripheral vision when coming on deck from below and has thus often saved me from cracking my head on the boom.

    But, most importantly, it rakishly conceals my baldness.

  5. Carol Anne, my gourmand readers will be duly impressed to learn that these sandwiches were not brought from land-based stores, but were actually prepared while underway in our fully-stocked galley.

    I will not, however, mention that they were PB&J.

  6. Nice going, O'Dock. You done better than me. All I did was install GPS display at the helm! Glad you found a lid you like!

  7. Doc, if you look close, you'll see my 'GPS at the helm'

    I guess I'm a Neanderthal, but I don't get the fuss about elaborate electronics on boats.

    The little handheld gizmo tells me all I need to know and even where to find a restaurant when I get to where I'm going. It'll even tell me my VMG on the way to the restaurant. I do the chartwork on a laptop and then transfer the routes to the handheld.

    This frees up a lot of money to spend on autopilot repairs.

  8. What model & make do you have? I couldn't find a hand-held GPS dedicated to navigation: all I could turn up were restaurant-finders and fish-finders!

  9. This one, although there are probably better ones out there by now.

    Worst Marine has them for considerably less than Amazon.

    I often wonder what Sir Francis Drake would have given to have one of these. He may even have found San Francisco with it.

  10. What time were you sailing on Saturday? I was out on Lady Bug from 9:30 to 11:30 messing around in the Circle.

    Then cruised by on Valis, getting to the Circle around 2P, and staying over by Southampton until about 4.

    I actually was looking for you (you know as part of that requisite seamanlike lookout at all times). Would have been fun to have a port/starboard situation to blog about!

  11. Another thing, you sail on the low side? I'm trying to learn that skill. How high is the foot on your jib cut? Do you do it to see under or is it just more comfortable?

  12. I'm thoroughly convinced we live in parallel universes and are destined to never actually meet.

    We were on the circle around 1:00 pm, headed up to Richmond, noodled around there for a while, then crossed through the circle again around 6:00.

    It's mainly gravity that keeps me on the low side of the boat. I don't have the upper body strength to climb up to the high side, but I have noticed it's easier to see and trim the jib from there and keep a watch for boats that are in the same universe.

  13. Are you the long lost son of Jacques Cousteau? Put a red beanie on you and Bob's your uncle!

  14. Mon oncle?

    Joe, everyone thinks I went swimming with the gentle creatures, but I just got fed up with those snooty French waiters. I dropped out and retired to Berkeley.

    Do you know where there's a decent absinthe bar around here?


  15. absinthe makes the hearth crow flounder - but that's another tall tale.

    So, you actually do get to sail on ocassion! Wonderful. Happy to see you happily sailing.

    I guess the chief differences between people who own keel sailboats and people who own sailing dinghies are finances and that the latter get to sail more often. (sorry. that sounds meaner than I it to meant when I started out.)

    Glad to see you out enjoying your boat.

  16. Panda, we started on a dinghy much like your Lido, used it quite a bit, then less and less as the whole store-trail-rig-launch thing got a bit too tedious for us. We didn't have the neat store-it-where-you-sail-it arrangement you do. And we didn't have a cool restaurant near the lake like you do, either.

    We've ended up using the keelboat a lot more than the dinghy because it's both a sailboat and a place to overnight in the Bay area. I had to get past the the idea of feeling guilty if we spent a weekend on the boat without actually sailing.

    Now, my wife has a much more positive attitude towards sailing and we actually do sail a lot more than we used to.

    I wish I didn't have the maintenance hassles of the keelboat, but being able to sail on SF Bay has more than made up for them.

    Let me know when Mother's opens a branch in Berkeley, though!

  17. i LOVE this photo! where are the viking horns?

  18. The Viking horns are at the cleaners. They wrinkle in the wash.

    Few realize that what ultimately constrained the Vikings in their far-flung campaigns of conquest was an inability to find good dry cleaning.

  19. Panda, you're going to have to tell us the convoluted narrative leading up to that groaner.

  20. Maybe you should break more fixtures that can only be tested out at sea once fixed.....that way your forced to sail more

  21. I'm going to be down at my parallel universe of a dock on Saturday at some time. Marina management seems to think that I should put those 2011 stickers on my boat if I have them. So I'm not sailing but will be out and about for a while.

    Maybe Noah and I will go for a walk on O dock and see if we can actually find your boat.

  22. The new regime does seem to be persnickety about stickers. I think it's their way of making people think they're actually on the lookout for bad guys.

    Once again, you will have eluded me, though - we're in the hinterland this weekend.

    The boat's not hard to find, though - just follow the concrete.

    And I'm now convinced of this parallel universe of yours. When I look at the signage for the new docks, it says 'B and C Docks'. The 'A' is completely invisible to me.

  23. That is a fine photograph. Smiling shmyling...it would make a fine blogger ID image.

    Meanwhile the word verification thing wants me to type "sublema" so I suppose the robot thinks it's a sublema photo of you.


  24. The verification word is "furph" -- so I just have to post a comment ...

    I have to agree with PP that this is a perfect profile photo. If you don't want to use it on Blogger, you can use it on Facebook.

  25. I don't know, I'm afraid my ugly mug might frighten people away and cause them to spill coffee if viewed too early in the day. It's always 7:00 am somewhere.

    The geometry in the coil photo has been carefully calculated to induce a hypnotic trance, making the viewer more receptive to my devious suggestions.

  26. I think you're a rather handsome dude. The black cap is more complimentary than the horns, though I do like them as well!

  27. All this goes to why I will not post my likeness in the blogging world....

  28. Doc: Sometimes I can't fall asleep at night trying to imagine what you look like. Your personality makes me think of a Colonel Flagg type from M*A*S*H*.
    Show your face... wtf..I'm not gonna come stalk you, I've got too many other issues to deal with, believe me.

  29. I usually wear a watch cap (which I see I've been misspelling as one word) for sailing.

    The horns are for day to day pillaging, ceremonial occasions, and, of course, for important business meetings.