"There is nothing more pleasant than cruising on a boat with the whole family."
Letter from Empress Catherine the Great

Monday, October 29, 2012

End Of The 2012 Sailing Season - Hurricane Sandy

The Club's annual Going Out of Commission dinner dance was held last week. Here are all the flags at the top of the flagpole, and then after the ceremony of our Flag officers backed up by all of the past Commodores and the firing of the cannon, the same flags after being lowered.

Good food and less excessive than in prior years. I commended the Club's cruisers and got a pewter thing thing announcing ILENE's third place finish in the "Sprint to Louie's" race. Met up with Richard and Rosemary, who having sold their boat, will continue to commute between New Jersey and Florida, but no longer by sea. They sailed to Nova Scotia a few years ago and have promised to help me plan a route.

I sailed five more days during the second half of October, mostly with men and women of the Old F__ts, though not necessarily on Wednesdays. Some with more wind and others with less. One memorable sail was under the Throggs Neck and Whitestone Bridges in good wind beating and against the strong tidal current, followed by a quick return with the wind and tide at our back. Because ILENE was one of the few boats still operational, I had little difficulty finding companions.

A sixth sail, with Cynthia, was prevented by lack of wind; overcast grey skies but no wind. We ate our lunches aboard and were talking when I asked if she minded if I did some work in the cockpit while we continued our conversation. I removed the dodger and bimini. This was made difficult by the fact that these blue canvas covers had not been put up last October. Normally they are not up for more than six months. The metal parts of their plastic zippers has corroded somewhat and liberal application of lubricant was required to get them off. Cynthia was happy with a day out on the water despite the absence of sailing and, noticing some rust on the stainless, asked if she could help remove it. I broke out the Never Dull (cotton padding impregnated with an anti-oxidant solvent) and she did a good job.

The last passage of the season was with Rhoda and Lloyd, from the Harlem to the Huguenot Yacht Club, where ILENE will be hauled this winter. I had planned to move to the Huguenot next week but the imminent arrival of Hurricane Sandy sped up the time table. We motored the five miles, except I put out the small jib on the longest stretch, a starboard beat from Hart Island to the channel into New Rochelle Harbor, which heeled us a bit and gave us an extra knot. The only disappointment on this passage was the thwarting of my plan to fill ILENE's  diesel tanks, en route, for the winter (to prevent condensation of water on their empty insides which means water in the fuel tanks). Both of the fuel docks in New Rochelle had been rented out to boats trying to find a safe place during the coming storm, preventing access to the docks. So several trips between local gas stations and the boat with jerry cans are in my near future. I had helped Lloyd and Rhoda bend on and remove their two smaller sails from "Jazz Sail" several times and they eagerly helped me remove ILENE's.  But while I can do their sails alone in 20 minutes, it took 3.5 hours with their help to remove and fold ILENE's three large sails.   So again, as with Cynthia the day before, I was the grateful recipient of several hours of unexpected free labor.

ILENE is currently on a floating dock at the Huguenot in a narrow strait, protected from the winds by the mainland to the north and Glen Island to the south. None of the huge waves that the Hurricane will kick up will bother her. She is tied to this dock with seven dock lines. All of her canvas has been removed as well as blocks, and lines -- thus further reducing windage.

But unfortunately she is not safe as of this writing. The floating dock to which she is tied is held in place by pilings -- telephone poles driven as piles into the earth beneath the water. Reinforced holes through the dock's surface surround the pilings. Thus the dock slides up these poles when the tide rises and falls when the tide goes out, and the boats tied to it rise and fall with the dock so that adjustments in the lengths of the dock lines are not necessary.  The problem is that these pilings stick up about eight feet above the surface of the water at normal high tide. The problem/risk is that the water could rise A LOT MORE than eight feet above normal high tide. If this happens, the dock will slide off over the top of the pilings and, with ILENE attached, and her keel sticking down 5' 8", the combined unit will go where the winds blow it, onto rocks or other boats or docks. The largest cause of an abnormal high tide is the hurricane's winds which have been blowing from the northeast for several days and will intensify as the storm's center gets nearer. These winds blow ocean water into the Sound's eastern end, and with no place to go (Hell's Gate is too narrow), causes the water level to rise several feet above the normal tidal level. Three other factors aggravate the problem. (1) low atmospheric pressure (they call them tropical depressions or troughs) cause higher tides; (2) the full moon was only two days ago and full and new moons cause higher highs and lower lows; (3) all of the heavy rain falling into the Sound itself and on adjacent land and flowing from the rivers will further raise the water level in the Sound.

Our friends, Dean and Susan, of "Autumn Borne" are also on a floating dock in Portsmouth Virginia. They are living aboard during the storm and we are praying for each other. Our boats are insured, but that is not a claim anyone wishes to make. The highs of the tidal cycles in New York will be between 1 and 2 AM and PM these stormy days and nights. There is nothing else we can do for ILENE until the storm passes. We can't get to her by foot or by boat. Yesterday afternoon I joined with many other members in hauling several boats and finally hauling the launch itself. We also took the ground floor furniture upstairs. A six foot above normal tide will flood the ground floor.

We are home, on the seventh floor, far from the edge of Manhattan, with food, water, flashlights, portable radios and phones. Let's read a good book. Will let you know how it ends.

Donnie Cahn, Rest In Peace

Donnie Kahn died last week at 87, from the cancer that had attacked her body. She was a member of the Harlem Yacht Club for 40 years and though I met her when I joined, 22 years ago, I didn’t get to know her until 2006 when I retired and joined the “Club Within The Club” (See Blog, 7/26/12), of which she was a charter member. 

Donnie was born in Prague, Czechoslovakia and escaped when the Nazis were invading. She continued to sail her boat, a lovely and well built and very well maintained Bristol 36’, “Dido,” after her husband died, before I joined the Harlem, and up to and including 2011, after which her illness sapped her strength this summer. 

I attended her funeral service on Manhattan’s upper west side, her burial in Mt. Carmel Cemetery near the Brooklyn-Queens border, a Shiva call in her apartment overlooking the Hudson River and a small informal dinner in her memory at the Harlem. She was always cheerful and always game. She will be missed.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Rendezvous with "Autumn Borne"

We met up with Dean and Susan of "Autumn Borne" in South Carolina and Maryland. They are live aboards, this being their sixth year without a land base. I had hoped to visit with them by auto in Hop-O-Nose Marina in Catskill NY where they spent this summer during a projected trip to the Berkshires, nearby. But best laid plans ....  We're having too much fun so the Berkshire weekend hasn't come off yet and they are headed south. They are holed up at the Atlantic Highlands YC on a mooring behind the seawall, on their way south, waiting for a good weather window So I drove to Atlantic Highlands (just a bit over an hour) to spend  a few hours telling stories and what else, oh yes, eating. And having a car, I was able to take them to West Marine (for a fresh water pump -- and how could I resist picking up a few little useful things for ILENE?) and later to the supermarket -- the two sites that cruisers sometimes need a car to get to. Their plans this winter, past Florida, are up in the air. I guess the obvious meaning of that idiom would be wind related -- important for sailors, but in their case it also depends largely on what the friends who they plan to meet there will decide to do. Dean and Susan have promised to stop by at the Harlem on their way north next summer. Fair winds, AB!
OK I admit it. With this visit and reading the blog of our friends on Pandora (southbound and currently in the Dismal Swamp canal -- sailpandora.com),  I am a bit jealous of my southbound friends. Even Lene has expressed a longing to be back afloat!

Monday, October 15, 2012

A Fun-Filled Non-Sailing Weekend

Saturday was "work weekend" at the Harlem. This event is held each spring and fall to get a lot of projects done at the Club with free labor -- except that a delicious "free" lunch is served. "Will work for food" is what my sign reads. If you don't show up you are encouraged to pay $25, but this "rule" is not enforced and I do work on other days for the Club so I did not pay when we missed the event the last few years. But I like work weekends because they are a great way to meet our members - working alongside them and talking. Such members, co-workers really, become friends in the process.

 I was assigned first to pull weeds on the north side of the clubhouse. This was a solo job and damned hard work. The last stage was pulling little ground weeds like the ones a person would find in a garden. These did not become visible until the huge vines, growing through the chain link fence, were cut away. The vines blocked the narrow passage between the property fence and the refrigeration equipment hidden away near it and removal of this thicket was the purpose of the project. I would have been well served by a pair of pruning shears; lacking such, wearing work gloves, I ripped the damn things out. All except one vine that looked to me like poison ivy.  Then, before and after lunch, I worked with two others on scraping, priming and painting the wrought iron outdoor deck furniture. After washing all the green paint off my hands (when will I learn to wear rubber gloves?), I helped Rhoda and Lloyd remove their sails, it being such a windless day.

Finally a Club membership meeting from 5 to 7. I rather enjoyed the civility of it all, especially compared to the past, when ad hominem attacks were regrettably common.

Sunday I worked from 6 am to 6:30 pm, cooking a “gourmet dinner for six”  that I had offered to the Club in a "Goods and Services Auction". The auction was held last winter while we were away. In the past, for other organizations, I have offered a ride on our boat, perhaps a dozen times, but such an offering would not work at the Club because we all have boats.  This dinner had been "won" by three of our past commodores, Ernie, Stu and Mark, and their wives. The guests were all friends who we have sailed with and hence people who I would have liked to have invited to a dinner party even absent the auction. 

Today's work (may I call it a labor of love) was after more than a day of planning the menu, shopping for ingredients and doing the cookie baking beforehand. But the folks came and enjoyed so the challenge was worth it. Lene helped with preparing some of the ingredients, printing out the menu, setting the table and serving and clearing, tasks which would have been quite difficult for me without her. Unfortunately for Lene, her current dining plan precluded her from joining in the eating part of the evening  -- enjoying the fruits of her labors. 

The menu:

 Dinner for Three Past Commodores and Their Commodorables
                                          October 14, 2012
                                            Theme:  Circles
         Shiraz  --  Nine Stones --  Mclarenvale, Australia – 2008
         Pinot Grigio – Bollini – Fruili Grave, Italy – 2008
          Green olives, Dates with edible pits, Pate of truffled livers
     Bread, home baked, with butter
     Soup:   Peach and Pumpkin
     Salad:  Beet, Orange, Fennel and Calamata, vinaigrette
          Pork Loin stuffed with Drunken Prunes
          Garlicky Mashed Potatoes
          Stir Fried Snow Peas, Scallion, Ginger, w/ Pecans and black and white Sesame Seeds
         Roasted spiced pineapple a la mode (pineapple and Vanilla) over Strawberry Coulis
         Rugelach and Biscotti
     Coffee or Tea
     After:  La Grenade Liqueur -- product of Grenada

I always search for themes for our dinner parties. This time the theme of "Circles" came into my mind 
when I realized that many of the dishes were round: olives, dates stuffed with almonds, soup (in 
bowls), beet and orange slices, pork and pineapple. So I cut little circles of the pate with an apple 
corer and portioned the mashed potatoes in a half-cup measure to form timbales, to augment the theme.
The salad:
Altogether a very fun filled weekend, without being aboard a boat, other than a boat on the hard in removing sails.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Warm Feelings About a Good Deed

 Enjoyed a very pleasant day with Nick and others. Nick is a member of the Harlem who has been placed in a nursing home, probably for the rest of his life, as a result of memory issues.  But his non-recent memory is fine. While visiting a while ago, he expressed a keen desire to go sailing again. I thought: Why not?!  And the nurse said "Sure, you can take him out for a ride as long as you do not keep him out overnight." I am a member of a group who is trying to look after Nick's interests. The leader of this group, Alan, "cleared" me with the authorities there, viewing the need for such a clearance to prevent strangers from "taking Nick for a ride,"  in the slangy sense of that phrase

On the day in question, after several adjournments due to questionable weather days, Harry, a long time friend who is not from the Harlem, joined me in picking up Nick before 11 am. He was crying, literally,  when we arrived and complaining about his “prison”. We said: “Well not today; you're going sailing today!” and that was the end of tears for the day.  He drove with us to the Harlem YC where we all got sandwiches from the local IGA because the Club dining room is closed on weekdays for the remainder of the season. We ate aboard after getting underway. There had been some fear about Nick’s ability to walk the length of the dock, climb into the launch and from the launch onto the boat, but he handled these tasks as well as the six others of us. There were seven men altogether. The four in addition to Nick, Harry and me were fellow members of the Harlem: Brian, Al,  Mike and Howard, of "The Club Within The Club." Every man enjoyed the day. Both before and after the sail, Nick went over to his boat, on its cradle, at the side of the Club parking lot, and admired her lines. 

We were underway from shortly after noon until just before six pm.  The winds were moderate and we used the full main and small, self-tacking jib. Nick took his turn at the helm and handled the boat well and conservatively. We went out to close by Rye, NY and then tacked on the way back and used the motor for the final hour because our launch closes at six these pre-winter evenings so we had to hurry. Nick and all the rest of us amused each other by telling each other stories. After returning to shore, Harry, Nick and I had dinner at Artie’s Italian restaurant (Thanks Harry) and we drove Nick back to the nursing facility, arriving at about 7:30. 

I will definitely be looking forward to a repeat sail with Nick, et al.,  next season.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Nice News Today

I was at the funeral today of a good guy, who died without pain at age 83, surrounded by three daughters, their husbands and his six grand kids. But the good news is that there I met a woman who told me that eight years ago I had taken a group of Temple Youth Group kids out for a day sail. Her son, then in the fifth grade, was among them. Now he is on the sailing team of his university. It's nice to think that our little positive gestures can have such good results.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

218 Days and 218 nights

OK, I confess. Yes, I am a bit compulsive about counting things. By recording facts in a log one gains the ability to see patterns that are interesting to me -- and perhaps to some of you. Actually the "log" is more of a diary than a traditional sailing log. It is the source from which the posts to this Blog are drawn, but has a lot more detail. Many have asked where we went and what we did on a daily basis or on a typical day, etc..  So here goes. No photos this time.

The on-board portion of last winter’s return trip adds up to 218 days and nights.  This began with ILENE’s splashdown into the brownish waters of St. David Harbor, on the SE coast of Grenada on November 7, 2011.
And it ended with our arrival at the Harlem Yacht Club, City Island, New York, on June 12, 2012. The 218 exclude our thirteen days in a hotel at St. David's while preparing the boat for her voyage after her summer on land in Grenada.

Where did we go? We visited 17 nations aboard ILENE, which are listed below in the order we visited them. Following each is a parenthesis with numbers in it.The first number represents the number of separate ports, anchorages or marinas at which we stopped for at least one night in each nation. Then, following a dash, the second number shows the total number of nights spent in that nation. Seven of the seventeen nations, those with an asterisk following the parentheses, are nations we did not visit on our way south the winter before  -- “new” nations to us.  An 18th nation, also with asterisk, would be Saba, Dutch West Indies, but we visited this nation by ferry from Sint Maarten rather than aboard ILENE and we did not spend a night there.
          Grenada                                            (4-20)
          St. Vincent and the Grenadines         (4-8)
          St. Lucia                                            (2-3)
          Martinique                                        (4-9)
          Domenica                                         (1-1)
          Guadeloupe                                      (5-10)
          Antigua                                             (3-7)
          Nevis                                                (1-8)*
          St. Barts                                            (2-2)*  
          Sint Maarten  (Dutch)                       (1-10)*  (ILENE was in French Saint Martin last year)
          Anguilla                                            (1-3)* 
          The British Virgin Islands                (6-9)
          The US Virgin Islands                      (5-9) 
          Puerto Rico                                      (8-25)*
          Turks and Caicos                             (5-10)*
          The Bahamas                                   (14-34)*
          USA                                                (19-45)
We spent six nights “nowhere,” that is, underway, at sea.  (Two nights during which we got underway in the dark of the early morning hours are counted as if we “stayed” that night.)  All of the eight total and partial at sea nights were in the final 43 percent of the days of the trip. We stopped in 84 ports, but Lene spent 19 days in 18 of those 84 ports without going ashore. I had only 18 "stay aboard" anchorages because I went exploring at St. Louis on Marie Galante Island in Guadeloupe while Lene remained aboard there. Most of these stay aboard places were either due to high winds which would have made dinghy rides problematic, or because there was simply no nearby attractions ashore; and one was due to customs and immigration. You don't have to check in and out if you stay only one night and do not go ashore which we did in Domenica.   218 nights divided by 18 nations means an average of twelve days per nation; median - nine.    There are many other places that we would have liked to stay longer and many others that we had to skip, and any return trip would surely also include a return to some of our favorites.

How often and how far did we move?  ILENE made 83 passages which, with overnight passages taking more than one day, means she moved during 89 of the 218 days or 41 percent of the days --about two of five. So three of five days were "lay days."  When I was younger I would have despised such a lazy plan but now  ....  we had lots of sailing, thank you.
Our stays in any one spot ranged from one day, e.g. in Prince Rupert Bay, Domenica to ten days in the lagoon in Sint Maartin. Average duration in each port: 2.6 nights. Interspersed with longer stays in some ports were periods in which we made a new passage each of  four or five consecutive days, as in the lower Bahamas and approaching home.
The length of each passage (excluding the overnight passages such as 300 miles during all or parts of three consecutive days (from Boqueron, Puerto Rico to Big Sand Cay in the Turks and Caicos) ranged from 88 miles -- from Anguilla to Virgin Gorda in the BVIs -- to as little as two miles when we transited from Gustavia to Anse de Columbier, both in St. Barts.
Total mileage (measured by the shortest logical safe route from port to port (excluding additional miles spent tacking,  and searching through an anchorage for a good spot, and rounding each day’s voyage up or down to the nearest whole nautical mile) aggregated 3281 nautical miles. Not so very far – just a bit more than 1/8 of the earth’s circumference as a straight line. Our course, however, was quite jagged and generally was a gentle "S"-- shaped curve northbound up the Windward and Leewards, then west curving to WNW from Anguilla to Florida, followed by a curve to NE and North up the coast of the States. And we averaged 37 miles per day for the 89 days of travel, with a lower median because some long days skew the average.

How did we secure ILENE at night?
Six nights we were underway.              Three percent  
38 nights we were on docks.                 Seventeen percent
43 nights we were on moorings.           Twenty percent
131 nights we were on our anchor.       Sixty percent

We used docks more as we got closer to home:
First 81 nights, zero docks.              Zero percent
Middle 84 nights, twelve docks.      Fourteen percent
Final 53 nights, 26 docks.                Forty nine percent

Where did we eat our 218 breakfasts, lunches and dinners?
We ate three breakfasts off the boat, 52.5 lunches (a half is used when one of us ate out and the other stayed aboard) and  60.5 dinners (11 of the 60.5 dinners were on other people’s boats or their land homes rather than in restaurants. And we had 16 meals aboard ILENE with people from other boats: mango pancake breakfasts or dinners, in addition to many meals aboard with others during the 14 days that three sets of guests voyaged with us during the trip. These “social meals” aboard with others are simply accounted for as meals eaten aboard.)  So 26 percent of all lunches and dinners were off  ILENE, mostly in restaurants. Figure about one lunch or dinner "out" each two days.

So there you have our great adventure, statisticalized. I would be happy to try to answer any questions.