Saturday, August 28, 2010

Do sailboat racers have to stay between the nav buoys?

One misconception that continues to haunt sailboat racers is whether they are required to stay inside navigation markers. Frequently, navigation aids are used to mark the boundaries of "safe water". They also have implications for liability for the authority that is responsible for an area of water and for boat operators. In general is is not actually illegal for a boater to go outside of the markers but the boater is responsible for any damage that occurs as a result. For example, if an big ship strays outside of a channel, hits a rock, and leaks fuel and oil, that is certainly the operator's fault and civil and perhaps even criminal responsibility.

Navigation marks are often divided into two general categories. The first are the lateral aids, such as green and red channel marker buoys. The second are the non-lateral aids, including regulatory markers such as do-not-enter areas (dams, power plant intakes, swimming beaches), speed or activity limits (5 mph, no visible wake), information markers (marina 2 miles), and hazard markers.

For the most part, navigation aids are not defined as "marks of the course" and do not usually have any implications within the Racing Rules of Sailing. Sometimes they are so used, in which case the RRS do apply with respect to them.

I would make a distinction between ordinary risk taking -- going outside of channels or navigation aids that are not designated as marks of the course -- and doing something actually illegal, such as cutting off a restricted-maneuverability ship in a deep channel, cutting through a buoyed-off swimming beach, shaving by a moored warship, etc. I think a fair case can be made that doing something that is actually illegal and dangerous to others does not fit within the bounds of fair sailing and good sportsmanship.

But as for ordinary risk taking, that is within the rules of the game wherever it is not explicitly prohibited by the SIs or other rules. It is appropriate, reasonable, and right for the organizing authority (OA) and race committee (RC) to make provisions against any course features that may be particularly unsafe or unfair to some boats. If a race committee were to make it actually impossible for some boats to sail a race (i.e., something as egregious as putting a drop mark in three feet of water in a race with deep-keel boats entered) I would certainly expect a yacht to be able to win redress against the RC. And at least part of that RC would certainly be up for some remedial training.

Yet, no matter whatever the OA/RC may or may not do, it is the responsibility of each skipper and navigator to know the course and how it is likely to affect their race. Early this year, Gary Jobson told an anecdote about sailing out east in an international regatta in which the boat he was on was behind a rival. Gary's boat took a route around an island (I believe to get current relief against a flood tide) and came out ahead of their competition. The next year, they were in the same race in a similar situation, and a boat that they were competing against decided to take the same route that Gary's boat had taken the previous year. However, what the other boat's crew didn't know was that, in the meantime, a low bridge had been built to that island!

Rightly pointed out, navigation aids do not always provide reliable guidance as to where safe water is for your particular boat. If the navigation aids are primarily focused on guiding commercial traffic, they may be in very deep water. But in some remote areas, private or public aids may be placed in water that is unsafe for even smaller keelboats, especially at low tide or in special weather situations. And some authorities lack the capability of keeping up with buoy positions and maintenance (such as in reservoirs with radical seasonal changes in water levels) or have insufficient resources to mark hazards adequately. Breakwaters often accumulate shoals that extend well beyond any marks or lights placed on or near them. Of course, navigation aids do sometimes come adrift, sink, drag, or get beached. And, even in developed countries, some features are poorly charted and many hazards remain uncharted and unmarked.

In some congested harbor areas and approaches, it is actually good seamanship or even required by regulations for small craft such as sailing yachts to remain OUTSIDE of shipping channels or traffic separation lanes except when necessary for their own safe navigation. Vessel traffic control does NOT want a bunch of yotties hogging and clogging the shipping channels and endangering themselves and hindering heavy commercial traffic! And yachts crossing separation lanes are instructed to cross quickly at right angles and without getting in the way of the big boys. Ditto for obstructing traffic in naval ports; in our country if you dawdle in a channel that a naval vessel or a commercial vessel with naval security escort is using you will be faced with loudhailers or even aggressively driven patrol launches with large machine guns and they are authorized to use force to eliminate you as a hazard!

In these cases, it's quite appropriate for OAs/RCs to write SIs that DSQ people for creating hazards by violating navigation regulations and interfering with shipping.

While the OA/RC can do much to promote safety and have real responsibility in setting and restricting the course, safe and efficient navigation is first, last, foremost, primarily, and always the responsibility of the skipper and crew and a vital skill for anyone who pretends to be a sailor.
/end rant

A few reasons to sail at Heron Lake, New Mexico, USA

17. Heron Lake has all the basics for sailing, including a marina, dry storage, concrete boat ramps, and a very solid sailboat mast raising pole, yet it's missing one thing: crowds.

16. With minimal light pollution in the region and a high mountain location (7100 ft. elevation), Heron Lake has beautiful sunsets and sunrises and gorgeous clear skies for stargazing.

15. The new owners of the Stone House Lodge still offer great desserts following Marilyn Morrison's traditions and the High Country in Chama has live bands and great food.

14. If you'd like to combine sailing with angling, Heron Lake is unique in being the southernmost point in our country with ongoing populations of cold water fish, such as Lake Trout and Kokanee Salmon.

13. Recreation in the area is varied, including paddling on Heron, taking a raft trip down the Rio Chama in the canyons below El Vado lake, horse riding, mountain climbing, hunting, and snow skiing at Wolf Creek Pass or Taos.

12. Heron Lake is a no-wake lake, but El Vado lake is only a few miles away to satisfy the go-fast motor buffs if your group has a mixture of sailors and mosquito boat drivers.

11. Sailors who want to cruise can journey to Wind Warning Island or put out the hook in one of the more remote northwestern coves.

10. History and culture buffs can enjoy the scenic steam-driven Cumbres & Toltec Railroad, local weaving and art galleries, Native American dances and pow wows. (One side of Heron Lake State Park is bounded by the Jicarilla Apache nation.)

9. Heron Lake is a mecca for wildlife fans, with ospreys (fish hawks), bald eagles, mountain lions, bears, elk, bobcats, foxes, porcupines, mule deer, great horned owls, herons, beaver, muskrats, Canada geese, cliff swallows, and plenty of other creatures around.

8. There is little danger of America's Cup lawyers interfering with any regattas in New Mexico.

7. The New Mexico Sailing Club owns and operates the Heron Lake Marina as a co-op and keeps moorage costs rock-bottom cheap, with slips for around $500 for the six-month season, along with social activities and a gathering place under the floating marina pavilion. Visitor slips are only $10 per night.

6. The New Mexico Sailing Club offers reciprocal hospitality (two nights free, half price remainder of the week) to visiting sailors from other yacht and sailing clubs, making a great bargain even better.

5. A thousand people in Heron Lake State Park on the fourth of July or Labor Day weekends would be an enormous crowd. Peace and solitude are readily available here.

4. New Mexico's no-wake Heron Lake is one of the largest such lakes anywhere, creating a wonderful haven for sailors, kayakers, anglers, and nature lovers.

3. New Mexico's lakes are at a diverse range of altitudes at climate zones, allowing for near year-round sailing.

2. The challenging wind conditions force sailors to be alert and opportunistic in making use of wind when they get it. Tacking up the Narrows will focus your crew as its quirks give them a wake-up call.

1. There are no Great White sharks to chomp on unwary dinghy sailors.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Thoughts about Sailing in San Francisco

20. With wind, fog, treacherous topography, and strong currents, the sailing conditions are so bizarre that as a newcomer you're not expected to win your sailing race.

19. The conditions are so bizarre that as a newcomer you could get lucky and win your sailing race.

18. You can visit about two hundred marinas, yacht clubs, and water front restaurants without ever having to leave the bay.

17. You might be able to get in on the spectacle of America's Cup racing.

16. There might not be an America's Cup match in San Francisco, so there'll be more room for other sailors.

15. San Franciscans might feel sorry for sailors if the city messes up on the chance to host the Auld Mug race

14. Some of the yacht clubs are having membership specials this summer and waiving or reducing initiation fees.

13. The Potato Patch is not a place to do your vegetable shopping from your Laser. "You want fries with those breaking waves?"

12. You can ask the South Tower Monster to punish bad sailors.

11. People are quite concerned about illegal immigrants in a state where the governor has a pronounced foreign accent.

10. Keelboat owners can choose to keep their boats in fresh or salt water.

9. Fish tacos are a legitimate California achievement.

8. One of the most active Etchells fleets sails out of Brickyard Cove.

7. You can anchor in the south bay and try to catch a baseball.

6. Marina slip rentals in many areas (east or south bay or delta) are much cheaper than in LA or San Diego or other major cities.

5. Occasional earthquakes provide opportunities for urban renewal even if they can't shake up the political scene.

4. The Ghiradelli chocolate factory overlooks a nearby fleet of historic ships.

3. On summer days, you have a choice of sailing to several temperature zones, from chilly to hot.

2. If you're just visiting for a short term or have a small dinghy, you can laugh at the Californians who have to pay property tax on the mud under their boats in the marinas.

1. Most of the Great White Sharks stay well outside the Golden Gate, and prefer to hang around places like the Farallon Islands and eat seals or sea lions rather than normally inverted Laser sailors.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Be Safe Because It's Getting Strange Out There

First there was the whale that landed on top of a sailboat off South Africa a few weeks ago.

Then there was the Orca that flipped a gigantic Great White Shark upside down right in front of a couple of boatloads of people and then killed the shark.

Then there was the penguin some time back that hopped on a wildlife watching boat to escape from a pod of Orcas.

And, now, the latest headline is,

"Marlin goes berserk, attacks press boat during Hawaii tournament."

Do the denizens of the deeps know something we don't, like maybe this is Animal Planet Sweeps Month or something?

It's a cetacean-eat-anything world out there, so be extra careful.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Magical Night and Memories Are Like Starlight

With solar activity up tonight and tomorrow, astronomers and sky watchers have a good chance to see some interesting activity in the sky. People in the northern USA and similar latitudes elsewhere should have a good chance to see the aurora borealis -- the northern lights.

Aurora Borealis -- CW McCall

One night last summer we were camped at ten thousand feet up where the air is clear, high in the Rockies of Lost Lake, Colorado. And as the fire burned low and only a few glowing embers remained, we laid on our backs all warm in our sleeping bags and looked up at the stars.

And as I felt myself falling into the vastness of the Universe, I thought about things, and places, and times.

I thought about the time my grandma told me what to say when I saw the evening star. You know, Star light, star bright, first star I see tonight. I wish I may, I wish I might, have the wish I wish tonight.

The air is crystal-clear up here; that's why you can see a million stars.

I remember a time a bunch of us were in a canyon of the Green River in Wyoming; it was a night like this. And we had our rafts pulled up on the bank an' turned over so we could sleep on 'em, and one of the guys from New York said, "Hey! Look at the smog in the sky! Smog clear out here in the sticks!" And somebody said, "Hey, Joe, that's not smog; that's the Milky Way."

Joe had never seen the Milky Way.

And we saw the Northern Lights once, in the Bitterroot Mountains of Montana. They're like flames from some prehistoric campfire, leaping and dancing in the sky and changing colors. Red to gold, and blue to violet... Aurora Borealis. It's like the equinox, the changing of the seasons. Summer to fall, young to old, then to now. And then tomorrow...

And then everyone was asleep, except me. And as I saw the morning star come up over the mountains, I realized that life is just a collection of memories. And memories are like starlight: they go on forever.

(C.W. McCall, Bill Fries, Chip Davis)

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Rock Canyon Boat Ramp and Marina

Zoom view of boats in the Rock Canyon Marina at Elephant Butte Lake, July 27, 2010, the evening just after Richard Dittmar's memorial service and funeral.

Rock Canyon boat ramp, Tuesday, July 27, 2010

More Computing Scratch Catlet

Scratch the Cat has learned a few basic keyboard commands.

Scratch was photographed early August 1, 2010.

Boat Thoughts

Syzygy in the marina at Heron Lake, July 24, 2010.

This has not been a very sailing summer, although we've experienced plenty of boating-related activity. Syzygy has spent time in the harbor and only been out a few times, mostly with Gerald and his friends. And even then, one of the trips ended in a bit of embarrassment when the engine wouldn't start and they had trouble furling the headsail. So, we've added a couple more projects to the boating work list.

At Heron, I've been out much more on the little Perception kayak that can be seen above, with trips to the landing below our cabin and one trip all the way out the Narrows and across the lake to the wind warning island. I also taught a New Mexico state boating safety basics class at the Heron Lake Visitor Center and helped out with the New Mexico Sailing Club's booth and open house during Heron Lake's Osprey Festival.

Some non-boating related projects at our cabin have also kept me busy. And, if we ever get caught up, we have some Sunfish dinghies there and a catamaran in need of some repair and restoration.

In the mean time, we've been to Elephant Butte only a few times but not sailed on Carol Anne's boat, Black Magic, since early May, when our friend Marty Stevenson fell overboard from Constellation and died.

My trips to the Butte have been for meetings with the state park folks and representing the Rio Grande Sailing Club in working out an agreement for a new mast-up sailboat storage lot. I also went south with Carol Anne just this past week to El Paso to attend the memorial service for our sailing friend and past RGSC commodore Richard Dittmar. The sailing club has had a tough year for losing members and friends; just recently the son of Colin and Christine Dykes, Matthew, died in a freak accident, and earlier in the year Jo Petersen, who had sailed on the sloop Delfin, passed away suddenly.

Black Magic will need some attention when we can spare her some, as well. She needs work done on her outhaul (fittings on the end of the boom that pull the back corner of the mainsail back) and floorboards, among no doubt other projects.

Despite other uncertainties and pressures and projects awaiting our attention, we did recently find time to look at a boat belonging to some friends. Besame, an Ericson 35 mark 2, is for sail, since our friends have a bigger boat where they now sail in the Caribbean. Some exterior pictures are in a recent post.

Scratch the Computer Cat(let)

Scratch Catlet goes on-line

Scratch decides to chase the cursor on July 28th, 2010.