Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Golden Bear in Golden Light

A golden bear is bathed in golden light. The training ship TS Golden Bear is owned by the California Maritime Academy and normally is moored in Vallejo, adjacent to San Francisco Bay. Here she is seen visiting San Diego. The ship was originally built as a US Navy oceanographic research vessel.

Various Views at the Maritime Museum of San Diego

Prime view of lofty spars from south of the San Diego Maritime Museum. Vessels in the foreground and background combine to make an interesting array of tall masts, yards, and rigging. From left, you can tease out the traditional two-masted rig of the Californian, then a single streamlined mast for the International America's Cup Class racing yacht Stars and Stripes (USA 34 from 1995), then the similar stick for the IACC yacht Abracadabra and the traditional rig for the replica yacht America in background. In the center foreground is the cold-war-era Project 39 Russian submarine and a partial view of the ferryboat Berkeley.

Wheelhouse of the double-ended ferry Berkeley. Signal flags are I (black dot on yellow), 6 (black and white triangular pennant), H (red and white), G (yellow and blue vertical stripes), 3 (red, white, and blue triangular pennant), Z (four-colored quartered flag)

Rowing boat between ferry Berkeley and Surprise frigate. The small rowing boats carried on old sailing ships could weigh a few tons and require the efforts of a large crew to hoist on and off the ship.

experimental submarine Dolphin conning tower. Signal flags are modern International Code Flags; they appear to be arranged in a decorative pattern to dress ship. They represent the characters 6 (black and white triangular pennant, H (red and white), G (blue and yellow vertical stripes), Y (red and yellow diagonals), X (blue cross on white), K or 5 (yellow and blue), 3 (red, white, and blue triangular pennant), E (red and blue), K or 5, and F (red diamond on white).

Conning tower of experimental submarine "Dolphin", which was initially used to test firing a torpedo from very deep water, and then became a research vessel. Code flags are assigned various meanings depending upon how they are arranged; single flags have meanings both to merchant mariners and different meanings to sailboat racers. Groups of flags can combine to make messages either according to a code or by spelling out words.

Stern of submarine Dolphin, with background view of bow of steam yacht Medea.

View beyond stern of museum submarine toward boats moored in San Diego Bay

Admiral Nelson's Victory at Trafalgar exhibit on board the Star of India

Model, HMS Victory, at the Maritime Museum of San Diego, in an exhibit hall on the main deck of the Star of India (Euterpe). The real Victory was launched in 1765 and thus was already 40 years old and the survivor of many sea battles by the time the battle of Trafalgar occurred in 1805. With 104 guns and three decks, she was a great and powerful first-rate ship of the line, but not as immense as the four-decker Nuestra Señora de la Santísima Trinidad that was built by Spain. (Although the Spanish ship was considered to be the largest warship in the world, her sailing qualities were reflected in the nickname "El Ponderoso". She was captured and then sank after the battle of Trafalgar.)

model of HMS Victory, three-decker first-rate battleship that was Vice Admiral Nelson's flagship at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. This battle, along with Nelson's actions in Egypt and Copenhagen, essentially ended France's serious claims to rivalry with British naval power. Napoleon would have to try for imperial dominance on land hereafter.

Diorama and exhibit about the battle of Trafalgar, off the Spanish coast, with a representation of Nelson's famous message to his fleet, using a flag signal code of the era.

Another ship represented among the exhibits on board the Star of India is the Swedish royal ship Vasa. The original Vasa foundered on her maiden voyage not far from land and was relatively well preserved by cold water until recent times.

US Navy vs. Army in San Diego

While we were near the north end of San Diego Bay, we saw a small reminder of the US Navy's presence in the city. I couldn't see any flag or markings on this ship, but will venture way out on a limb and guess that it's some sort of amphibious assault support ship, such as maybe a dock landing ship or amphibious command vessel. Does anyone know just what this is?

Of course, San Diego is a major US Navy home Pacific Fleet home port, supporting everything from landing craft and stealthy submarines to gigantic aircraft carriers.

And now let's hear it for the US Army in San Diego. Although one never thinks of San Diego as an army town, I did find a slight US Army presence at the San Diego Maritime Museum, of all places. So, here goes:
Kit, US Army, Outboard Motor, in case, with accessories

Exhibit label for "Army Outboard Motor"

Two views of top of motor

Pilot Boat "Pilot"

One of the attractions at the San Diego Maritime Museum is the former pilot boat "Pilot". When we went to the museum, however, it wasn't there with the other museum ships. We learned that it had been taken to Spanish Landing, on the north end of San Diego Bay, for maintenance and repairs on her hull. On our last day in San Diego, we went to Spanish Landing to see Pilot and the beginning of work on the San Salvador, a replica being built of the ship that explorer Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo sailed when he was the first European to explore San Diego Bay.

In addition to the temporary presence of the Pilot, and the beginnings of work on the San Salvador, the site had educational exhibits about the era (1500s) in which Cabrillo reached San Diego, including this replica representation of a local native american home.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

What is a Notice of Race?

Recently, I received a brief race announcement that was labeled as a "Notice of Race".

The announcement did, in fact, cover some of the requirements of a valid Notice of Race (NOR), giving the date, time, place, and entry fee.

However, it omitted many of the details required by US Sailing (and by equivalent International Sailing Federation member national authorities in other countries) to constitute a NOR. Ironically, one of the missing pieces was telling prospective sailors what rules would apply -- I say ironically, because the so-called NOR didn't meet many requirements of the Racing Rules of Sailing, placing the club in violation of the RRS. Before the regatta even happened, this yacht club was already not running its regatta according to the rules.

The NOR is supposed to give a prospective race crew all the information they need in order to decide whether to participate in a regatta. Besides the when, where, and how much, it needs to describe applicable rules, the name of the organizing authority, classes racing, handicap system used, any rules that may be changed (and these must meet strict requirements), and other information. Similarly, Sailing Instructions must also be provided and must likewise meet various requirements.

What does this mean to the club that doesn't publish or post a proper NOR?

Of course, it means that the club isn't meeting the expectations of racers, especially knowledgeable ones. It leaves the club open to the impression that the race committee is untrained or possibly operating unfairly; without the right paperwork racers can't tell if the playing field is going to be level and which rules and procedures will be in place. By issuing proper documents, the club's racing committee fulfills one aspect of following best practices. (Others include race committee training according to national standards, and following proper protest and hearing procedures.)

But, it does get much more serious than this from the club's perspective.

The NOR and SIs for a race are part and parcel of the framework of the Racing Rules of Sailing. They NOR and SIs are required and defined in the RRS. They all have to work together.

The Rules, when agreed to and acknowledged on a properly written disclaimer and sign-up form, are part of a binding contract between a skipper and a yacht club. This contract sets out expectations and requirements for both the skipper and the club. It defines liability. It tends to give the club legal protection in the event of a lawsuit. It is expected by the club's insurance providers, and by US Sailing (or the appropriate national authority outside the USA) and US Sailing's appeals process.

With the right paperwork, procedures, training, documentation, and actions by volunteers, a club obtains maximum protection for itself in the event of a tragedy or lawsuit. Lawsuits are more easily defended, avoided, or dismissed. And, with a competent race committee that enforces proper procedures, disasters are less likely to occur in the first place.

Without the right paperwork, a club puts itself and its officers, directors, and volunteers at heightened risk.

Unfortunately, for smaller club, Directors and Officers liability coverage (D&O insurance) may be prohibitively expensive. Prospective officers and volunteers may be well advised to seek umbrellas liability coverage from their personal insurance agents after discussing their situation with the agents.

Aye, sometimes ye wear the red shirt, but...

"On Deck There! Two sail ahoy, two points off the larboard bow!" cried the lookout from the maintop.

His skipper, Commander Sir Jeffrey Ronald Hawke (Bart.) of His Majesty's Brig of War Gryphon, took a glass from the duty midshipman and sprang up mightily into the mizzen shrouds. The ships came hull-up over the horizon and then, the crowded decks, numerous gunports, and death-head flags revealed them to be dreaded pirates.

Back on the quarterdeck Sir Jeffrey called to his cabin boy: "Lad! Fetch me my red shirt!"

In the savage combat that ensued, Sir Jeffrey and the crew of the Gryphon took one pirate ship, with the other outlaw ship escaping, but with great damage and chastisement. Although the combat was desperate, with grievous losses on both sides, the crew of the good ship Gryphon prevailed and many pirates were slain in combat or hung from the yardarms afterward. Afterward, Sir Jeffrey's men wondered about the meaning of his calling for the red shirt. Was it some sort of ritual or good-luck charm? Finally, the youngest midshipman timidly asked the captain about the shirt.

"My lad, you wondered about that red shirt?" replied Sir Jeffrey. "Ah, I was concerned that, were I to be wounded in battle and seen to bleed, my crew might become fearful and lose heart. So, just as the deck is painted red to hide the sight of blood, so too was my shirt red that I could receive wounds without fearing for my men's courage."

Later during that same cruise, again the lookout cried out when swift pirate ships again came into view and raced downwind toward the still-battle-scarred Gryphon. But this time, the heroic Sir Jeffrey was faced with not two, or even three or four, but rather a great, devastating fleet of ten pirate ships!

"Boy!", he roared. "Fetch me my brown trousers!"

Monday, August 29, 2011

Former Cup Racer seen from the Maritime Museum

Wednesday afternoon we caught up with sailor and museum volunteer Brad Holderman at the San Diego Maritime Museum. While we were chatting, we saw a former America's Cup racing yacht sailing out on the bay. I'm pretty sure it was "Stars and Stripes" but not the 1995 USA-34 International America's Cup Class (IACC) Stars and Stripes that is moored adjacent to the barge shown in these pictures, but rather a slightly order IACC boat, USA-11. So, we seemed to be looking at Stars and Stripes and Stars and Stripes. Part of the confusion is that there have been several "Stars and Stripes" even during the IACC era of the America's Cup... see list below.

It seems that the one out sailing was the "Stars and Stripes" that is IACC USA-11, based out of Shelter Island. In any case, it looked good!

Visitors to the Maritime Museum of San Diego often can view two former America's Cup racing yachts, Abracadabra and Stars and Stripes, which are usually moored on the left (south, or port in some of these views) side of the museum barge, plus a replica of the historic yacht America that gave its name to the America's Cup. In these views, the America is not in her usual berth on the right (north, starboard in this view) side of the barge, but the Californian can be glimpsed beyond.

If the 1995 "Stars and Stripes" is the one at the southeast corner of the barge, with the blue sail cover and rig partially visible in some pictures, then the IACC Cup boat out on the bay might be another -- IACC USA-11, the 1992 defender, as identified by sail number and by a partial telephone number visible on the sail. It's confusing because there were several "Stars and Stripes" during the IACC era. According to the AC website:

USA-77 Stars & Stripes (USA) 2003 LVC.
Sank while in testing in San Diego. Raised and sailed in LVC quarter-finals repechage Mascalzone Latino, location unknown.

USA-66 Stars & Stripes (USA)
Crew training and tuning boat for USA-77

USA-55 Stars & Stripes USA
Finished 3rd LVC Semi-finals
Owner Mascalzone Latino, on display in Naples, Italy at the Port of Naples

USA-54 Abracadabra (USA)
Sailed in LVC R-R 3, finished 9th
Sold by Aloha Racing (Waikiki Yacht Club) to BMW Oracle racing as training boat, later acquired by Team Dennis Conner as trial horse for USA 66 and heavily modified. Currently in San Diego for charter.

USA-50 Abracadabra
Sailed in LVC R-R 1 & 2
Acquired in 2005 by Next Level Sailing (San Diego, CA) for competition in local regattas. Currently sitting in south San Diego Bay in dry dock at Knight and Carver Marina, National City, California next to USA-49.

USA-49 AmericaOne
Sailed in LVC R-R 1,2, & 3
Involved in minor collision in the early rounds of AC2000 with USA-55 Stars and Stripes. Acquired by BMW Oracle Racing in advance of AC2003. Acquired 2006 by Next Level Sailing (San Diego, CA). Currently sitting in south San Diego Bay in dry dock at Knight and Carver Marina, National City, California next to USA-50.

USA-34 Stars & Stripes
Won defender series, discarded for USA-36 in finals
Charter in San Diego.
The 1995 USA 34 is based at the San Diego Maritime Museum and some of the pictures here show part of the rig and the blue sail cover

USA-11 Stars & Stripes USA
Lost 1992 defender finals 4-7
Used by Dennis Conner as trial horse for 1995 campaign, sold to the US Virgin Islands America’s Cup Challenge for AC 2000. Sunk in hurricane, shipped to Miami for refurbishment in 2002, and brought to San Diego for charter.

A stroll around Shelter Island, San Diego

Koehler Kraft boatyard entrance, almost right across from our room at Humphrey's Half Moon Inn, well centered on Shelter Island in San Diego. Here and there we did see a couple of Etchells sloops on the hard. The trip was only a two-nighter, so we focused on just a few activities -- including a thorough visit to the San Diego Maritime Museum and searching out seafood.

Also across the street was the Dennis Conner gallery and museum, which we visited and shopped before leaving town.

Sunday a week ago (21 August 2011), Carol Anne and I drove from Mesa, Arizona, to San Diego, reaching the Pacific Ocean, or at least Shelter Island. Shortly thereafter I took a walk around the neighborhood.

Two sailboats moored off Shelter Island

Sailboats and San Diego city skyline in distance

Sailboats and blurred passage of a motorboat

A little later that evening, we walked a few blocks to the Red Sails Inn for dinner.

Low light photo turning outbound sailboat into a near ghostly blur

Inbound sailboat arriving at twilight

Comments on Ye Pyrats

Pirate flags are a bone of contention in a popular cruising-oriented website. Some people think the Jolly Roger is harmless fun; other think it quite offensive.

The discussion about the flag naturally leads to the nature of piracy and pirates themselves, and whether their romanticization by Hollywood and modern pop culture is appropriate or truthful, harmless or harmful.

It's complicated... and depends on context. Flying a pirate flag in place of a national courtesy flag when entering a country that potentially has real crime issues would be really stupid. Modern piracy is ugly, brutal, and nasty.

Historical piracy was mostly that way, too, but with exceptions and complexities. Some of the historical pirates were at times sanctioned by their crown as privateers. Some were disgruntled supporters of the Stuart cause who rebelled at the institution of the House of Hanover and attacked colonial commerce for partially political reasons. Some of the Bahamian pirates later accepted the King's pardon and subsequently became respected citizens. Some used terror as a bluff and actually committed little violence. But others were needlessly cruel and bloodthirsty (for example, Charles Vane).

One other slight reprieve for the historical Caribbean pirates' reputation is that they practiced a crude form of democracy and relative egalitarianism. Captains were generally elected and generally only got to keep slightly more loot than their crews. In an era of widespread autocracy and despotism (before the USA's revolution), they were among the most free of people ... until they got caught and sentenced to be hanged by the neck until dead, may God have mercy on their souls.

ALL pirates were thieves.
SOME pirates were murdering, torturing, barbarously cruel thieves.

All pirates used the threat of force to rob people. Beyond that point, the real life historical pirates of the Caribbean were diverse in their motivations and methods.

Some approached piracy purely as an economic transaction and used a minimum of violence. Others enjoyed being bloodthirsty. The most ethical pirates might merely rob their victims of choice cargo and useful supplies, but leave the victims with their ship and supplies. Other pirates would torture some of their victims, either to locate hidden plunder or for the beastly, bloodthirsty enjoyment of it. No doubt you could draw a continuum, from the relatively "civilized" Jennings and Hornigold (not to mention Drake or Morgan) to the more violent Vane or l'Olonnais.

Surprisingly, Blackbeard (Ed Teach/Thatch) was one of the less violent pirates; he used a terrifying appearance to overawe victims into surrendering without fighting. And, strangely, his death occurred as a result of a sort of quasi-illegal "rogue police" action.

Besides greed, motivations included the political (some pirates were former victims of the Bloody Assizes of 1685 [the back story to the movie Captain Blood]) or, a generation later, failed Jacobite supporters of the Stuarts; whereas others continued to prey upon their country's traditional enemies even after peace treaties invalidated their privateering commissions.) And, politics in the islands were quite tortuous, with some English and British officials setting up privateers who later turned pirate, and others colluding with pirates and fencing their ill-gotten goods.

Other pirates may have rebelled against injustice, poor treatment, bad food, crowding, tyranny, years at sea without reprieve, and harsh treatment in the Royal Navy, which all too often was governed by "Rum, Sodomy, and the Lash". The pirates were happy to keep the first of these.

One of the more interesting pirates was the inept, landlubberly, weak, and outlandishly dressed Stede Bonnet, who appears to have been a touch mentally ill and who made a spectacularly unlucky pirate, being hanged after a short career.

Politics had a lot to do with how some pirates survived or thrived from their careers. It could work out pretty well for a Charles Morgan or a Sir Francis Drake but not nearly so well for a Captain Kidd.

To make it all more complicated, the real pirates of the Caribbean practiced a crude form of racial equality in a time of racial intolerance and cruelty. Although the pirates tended to treat African slaves as cargo, West Indian Blacks who spoke English (or European languages) often were recruited by the pirates for their crew and became full partners on board. They took the same risks as European, Asian, or Native American pirates and received equal shares of the booty.

No, this doesn't make most pirates nice people. But it is part of a complicated picture that isn't the black-and-white (intended!) picture that some would demand.

One topic of related discussion was the rebellion by British sailors in 1797. What does this have to do with Pirates?

Okay, let's draw it out for you:


Pirates -- rebelled from bad pay and harsh treatment in conventional navies, took over ships, sometimes flew Death Head or other pirate flags, for a time created a "Pirate Republic" in the Bahamas, elected their own captains, used force on those opposed to them, might make enemies walk the plank

Rebellion at the Nore -- rebelled against bad conditions, mutinied and took over ships, flew flags of rebellion, put officers ashore forcibly, threatened to take their ships over to the French enemy or maybe even turn pirate, blockaded the Thames, for a time created Parker's "floating republic", elected their own captains and delegates, used force on anyone opposed to the mutiny, hung rope ends from the yard arms to threaten to hang anyone opposed to them

People who might try to argue that pirates were some depraved criminal class would be stymied by the fact that the mutineers had been regular Royal Navy crews -- and that most pirates had been honest Royal Navy sailors and merchantmen.

Here is an important lesson for modern times: If there's enough temptation (booty), motivation (harsh conditions at home), and few enough consequences (lack of strong international response), then regular people will turn pirate and piracy will re-ignite. Just the way it is off Somalia today. Why can't the world learn from history?

It's like the "fire triangle" -- take away either the temptation, motivation, or lack of consequences and the pirates will be extinguished. And then cruisers can sail in relative safety and not get hassled about wearing black eye patches.

Pirates and mutineers could all be seen in the friendly view as being like cruisers in escaping from harsh, land-based authority and seeking more liberty and democracy. Not to mention the rum. And those who deplore modern piracy might do well to know the history of crime at sea so as to know how to predict the behavior of pirates and know what it will take to stop them.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Heron Lake Marina, New Mexico

View with gangway leading to the marina at Heron Lake in northern New Mexico. The marina is owned and operated by the New Mexico Sailing Club and is ready to welcome visiting sailors.

B Dock at the Heron Lake Marina, with the Narrows beyond leading to the main body of the lake. These images were taken on 14 August 2011, Sunday, just before we headed south to Albuquerque and then adventures in the west.

A dock

Corner of C dock

The boat on the corner... Santana 20 in her slip, waiting for someone to sail her.