Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Which finish line is correct for this weird shorten course scenario?

Monday, December 22, 2014

View from San Diego's San Salvador ship re-creation at Spanish Landing.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

If the Marshall Islands castway, Jose Alejandra,travel as described, his route would have looked something like this.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Boating History, 1942: War-Time Regulations Applicable to Boats

Within an old (1942) copy of Chapman's Seamanship textbook was a summary of special rules that pleasure boaters had to follow after the USA's entry into World War II. They make for interesting reading, so I've summarized some of the bits here. In the wake of 9/11, some of these may look familiar; sometimes what is old becomes new again. Try to imagine what it might have been like to have operated a small boat under wartime conditions.

No craft can be operated on territorial waters of the United States without a license. The only exceptions are rowboats, sailboats under 16 feet, and outboards under 16 feet with not over 10 h.p.

.... Before departure from "local waters" of a Naval District, bots must have a departure license...

The owner, operator, and every member of the crew must have on board with him a personal identification card issued by the U. S. Coast Guard....

Pleasure boats are not allowed in restricted areas. They must not operate within 100 feet of a Navy Yard, shipbuilding plant, power plant, oil terminal, marine terminal... except on legitimate business. Operation at night prohibited, except on legitimate business. Boats authorized to go to sea must not leave before 1/2 hour before sunrise or return later than 1/2 hour after sunset. Boats must not land at private property or proceed to sea without permission from the guard vessel. Cameras and enemy aliens are not permitted aboard.

...For the duration of the war, and for six months thereafter, registration numbers painted on both bows of a boat must be of a larger size than the 3 inches originally prescribed. On boats up to 20 feet in length, numbers must be 6 to 8 inches high;... The registration number must also be painted, same size, on the cabin or deckhouse top so as to be visible from the air...

Sale of a boat to any person not a citizen of the United States is void, without the approval of the U. S. Maritime Commission.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

It would be great to find some very old copies of Chapman's "Seamanship", especially something affordable from 1922 through the early 1930s, or even one of the 1917-1921 original "Practical Motor Boat Handling...." several editions. Does anyone know of any floating around?

Charles F. Chapman was the original author of the boating textbook that has been maintained through many editions of what is now the Chapman Piloting, Seamanship, and Small Boat Handling compendium, with the 2013 67th edition outweighing some small boat anchors.

It started out as more modest 6x9" book of 144-ish pages or so in 1917 when then-Secretary of the Navy Roosevelt asked the editor of MoTor Boating and Sailing for an instruction manual on small boat handling as the US's involvement in WW I neared. It was then titled "Practical Motor Boat Handling, Seamanship and Piloting: (A Handbook Containing Information which Every Motor Boatman Should Know. Especially Prepared for the Man who Takes Pride in Handling His Own Boat and Getting the Greatest Enjoyment Out of Cruising. Adapted for the Yachtsman Interested in Fitting Himself to be of Service to His Government in Time of War)"

From what's published about the book, that original book went through six editions until 1922, when it was renamed (A Course In) Piloting, Seamanship, and Small Boat Handling.

Original are rare; there is a supposedly cheesy, hard-to-read modern print on demand reproduction of the 1917 book, and I've seen the 1917 book as a download (Google books). I'd love to find some of the very old editions that are affordable.

p. 98: "It is not permissible to fly more than one flag from the same hoist, nor a flag with a name spelled out thereon. This is a most terrible breach of etiquette for which there is no excuse."

p. 101: [An open boat] "shall fly the owner's private signal at the bow staff, while the boat is underway, and the club signal while she is at anchor."

pp. 131-132. A well-equipped boat should have provisions such as "jars of sliced bacon, smoked beef, and codfish", miscellaneous supplies such as "fire arms", a "graphaphone and records", "hatchet", and "caulking irons", and china and glassware service for eight, including "One cream pitcher", "twelve high ball glasses" and "three decanters".

p. 133, The galley should have a "fireless cooker", "One large and one small preserving kettle", "Six pie plates", and a "Cocktail shaker".

Following a page and a half of tools are the Navy's recommendations for Medical Kit on p. 134, including, "Lead and opium tables", "Cathartic tablets", "Mustard plasters", and "Whiskey".

And in Navy Signaling, p. 137, K is for "Kink" and L is for "Love". Of course, S is for "Sail".

Monday, November 04, 2013

Sailing at Lake Pleasant; view from the mark set boat, 2 November

Several Vipers were part of the action at Lake Pleasant this past weekend.

A J/80 looks good in the sunlight.

Trimaran "Moonsoon" enjoy steady breezes during Arizona Yacht Club racing.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Following are some thoughts about Heron Lake in far northern New Mexico. For many New Mexicans, Heron, the largest no-wake lake in the region, is a peaceful oasis and a wonderful escape from urban life. The area is rich in wildlife, including bald eagles, osprey (fish hawks), bats, coyotes, rabbits, mule deer, elk, mountain lions, and bears. The lake hosts a breeding population of cold-water fish, notably Kokanee salmon and huge lake trout. It is a great place for trolling anglers, paddling kayakers enjoying the quiet and views of wildlife, and for sailors, including many who usually keep boats in a marina maintained by the New Mexico Sailing Club but open to all.

Heron Lake was built as a means to store water acquired by New Mexico under the San Juan-Chama project. Simply told, the idea was to give New Mexico water from southern Colorado in exchange for water falling in the northwest corner of the state that flowed into the San Juan and Colorado River basins. The project brings western slope water from the vicinity between Chromo and the back side of the Wolf Creek ski area via tunnels and Willow Creek to Heron Lake. The cities and tribes that paid for the water are called the contractors, and have the right to 96,200 acre feet of water per year, without regard to how much snowmelt water enters the lake in the spring. Albuquerque is the largest of these contractors.

The lake can hold a little more than 400,000 acre feet, so the expected annual inflow and outflow would exchange a quarter of its water. Contractors are subject to a use-it-or-lose-it rule, don't have multi-year storage rights at Heron, and forfeit water they don't take in a given water year. In years past, though, the contractors tended to take most of their water out near the end of their water year, because they weren't charged for evaporation losses until the water left the lake. Because of Heron's deep water, high altitude, cool climate, and frequent winter ice covering, evaporation losses are minimal and Heron is an ideal water storage lake.

After the dam was completed in 1971, Heron Lake spent the remainder of the decade gradually filling. During this era, the New Mexico Sailing Club came into existence, initially using Cochiti and Navajo lakes. A few years later, probably near the end of the decade, the club built a small, simple marina on the north side of Willow Creek cove, using oil drums as floats. The State Park also constructed a marina on the east side of the cove, at the present marina location and in the place of the eastern half of the marina's A dock, with room for about 16 boats.

The following decade, the 80s, were very good years for Heron, with few poor snowmelt years and many years of abundant water. Near the end of the decade, the sailing club made an agreement to take over the state parks marina and expand it six-fold. Even so, during the 1990s, the club wound up with a long waiting list of would-be slip tenants, including both sailboat and power boat owners who enjoyed the peace and quiet of a no-wake lake with a unique population of cold-water fish among other wildlife.

The 96,200 acre feet that the contractors take in a year is undergirded by the estimated so-called "firm yield" of something like 110,000 acre-feet of water that the San Juan-Chama is expected to be able to produce each year. The amount of water that is actually delivered each year depends mostly on the nature of the snow melt in the collection area, but it is also subject to the need to allow the collector streams to keep some of their water, and by the capacity of the Azotea Tunnel and other diversion structures. There are also regulatory limits placed on how much water can be delivered in a given year, and during a ten-year period. Essentially, assuming a long, even snow melt, about double the normal annual water is the most that can be expected.

Unfortunately, in 2003-2004 and again from 2011 through this year, the area has suffered drought and its origin in poor winter snowpacks. The contractors have taken their allocations each year, so the lake has shrunk during the past couple of years, and is now much less than a quarter full. As scientists study the records of the past, many are becoming convinced that the estimated water yields for many western water projects were over-estimated, and even our San Juan-Chama project may be in this category. The "firm yield" may not be sustainable in the long run, in which case Heron Lake is going to have more low-water years than high-water ones.

In addition to climate change or bad luck or El Nin~o whatever cause one wants to blame for the poor snowmelt years, we have more factors that contribute to our perfect drought. There's been a time shift in when the contractors take water -- they no longer tend to wait until the end of the water year, so that means lake levels will tend to average a few feet lower during the summer boating season. And, the largest cities are now using their water and not merely selling it to the feds (for everyone's dear friend, the silvery minnow, or otherwise) or other contractors. For the marina, one last big whammy is silt deposition in Willow Creek Cove, perhaps three feet since the drought of 2004.Unfortunately, Willow Creek cove makes an excellent settling basin for sediments to fall from the water coming in from the creek as the creek bed takes a sharp turn into the Narrows before heading into the main lake.

During the years past of recent memory (1980s and 1990s), Heron Lake was typically 75% to 100% full during summers. An occasional isolated shortfall year was not a big problem because the marina and boat ramps to could accommodate quite a bit of loss. The marina cove wouldn't dry out until the lake was two-thirds empty, and the ramps, with some cleaning, would also function. But, with the lake now down to less than a quarter full, and headed for maybe half of that, there's no cushion to protect the marina and boat ramps from being knocked out of service, and multiple high-flow years will be needed to restore them... not the most likely scenario.

For lake users in general, the news may not be so terrible, provided the state parks department is able to get funding to extend and maintain the existing ramps and perhaps to convert the low-water ramp into a paved ramp usable for larger boats towed by normal highway vehicles. That's still not easy, given the tight budget limits and multi-year planning process of the parks. But, it is something the lake users had best get organized to accomplish, because the low water problem isn't likely to vanish and stay vanished.

For the bordering neighborhood of Laguna Vista, a couple of adjustments could help residents enjoy the lake at lower levels. One would be to negotiate an understanding with the Bureau of Reclamation to secure or confirm access right down to the contemporary lake levels. This has been no problem for concessionaires such as marina operators at other BOR lakes in the state. Another would be to re-initialize whatever old agreement was in place to allow for the installation of a mooring field, and to update this to allow field to follow the available water. This could be a valuable service to Laguna Vista residents, quite a few of whom are or have been recent members or customers of the sailing club and marina.

For the marina, which is owned and operated by the New Mexico Sailing Club under a concession contract with the State Parks, the future is uncertain. It now seems sadly likely that there will be repeated future instances of the marina's Willow Creek cove location becoming too shallow for use by a marina.

Aggressive changes would be to either dredge or excavate the cove, or to move the marina to a deeper part of the lake. However, both options are extremely expensive. Dredging/excavating is probably the most horrendously expensive choice, possibly costing multiple millions of dollars and requiring heavy and specialized equipment. And, even then, the amount of dredging that is feasible and consistent with the cove's topography and the amount of silting, would not be enough to guarantee that the marina would be usable during very low lake levels such as we are experiencing this year. Dredging or excavating would also require environmental reviews and permitting. And, it would be a temporary solution, not permanent.

The move option, which would secure the marina in a deepwater location, would also be fairly expensive to accomplish. As a nonprofit group, the club historically did not have a large budget surplus, and only paid off its borrowing to build the marina during the last big drought. Since then, the club has saved some money for structure replacement, but the amount available is tiny compared to the cost of a new marina or the cost of establishing floating wave barriers to protect the marina if it were to be moved to a deep-water, open-water location that lacks the wave protection of Willow Creek Cove.

It is possible that floating wave barriers could be constructed with mostly donated materials and volunteer labor, but this would be a large undertaking, and all the more difficult to achieve with active membership falling off during a prolonged drought. Construction of a floating wave barrier would likely require the transportation, assembly, and placement of about 5,000 passengers tires or about 1,000 very large (~6' diam.) truck tires, each tire with supplemental flotation, assembled with on the order of a mile of steel cable or conveyor-belt material, and anchored by a few dozen tons of concrete.

Other options for the marina might be to do nothing and hope for the best, but this, too, has risks, both of losing membership, and if prolonged, of risking the club's concession contract. Without a marina to provide services and a safe haven, lake boaters would find themselves at greater risk during rough weather, and the state parks department would be well motivated to seek some sort of on-the-water boat service provider. Additionally, the club has fixed expenses, including insurance that is required by the club's concession contract with the state. During a prolonged drought, the loss of membership and marina income would force the burden of the fixed expenses upon a smaller membership base. The club does not have any other significant sources of income; for example the mast-up storage lot is owned and operated by the state parks, although at one time the state asked the club to consider taking over operation of the lot, but the club declined.

Another might be for the club to seek a concession contract change to allow it to establish a mooring field, courtesy dock, dinghy park, and perhaps a mast-up lot near the La Laja or primitive boat ramps, which allow use of the lake at lower lake levels than the Willow Creek ramp. A limited wave barrier would still be needed, but it would not need to provide as high a level of protection as one for a marina structure, and the moorings themselves would be relatively inexpensive to establish.

What does all of this mean? It does mean that the lake is likely to be different than in the past, and that lake users can expect to be faced with ongoing challenges and adjustments. The future Heron Lake will go up and down with drought cycles, and users will need to be very flexible in order to enjoy the lake as it changes. Hazards will appear and disappear, keeping boaters on their toes... or else they may be on their tows.

The boat ramp and marina issues will need leadership, planning, community and volunteer support, and funding in order to provide boaters with facilities that can be used at a broader range of lake levels than is now the case. There will be periods of good years, such as we enjoyed from 2005 to 2010, but also dry years, and we who love the lake need to be prepared for both the good and the bad and respond to the challenges of change.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

A bit of silliness sparked by a discussion of a conceptual regional map of the United States of America. Some commenters zeroed in the unusual nature of Texas. If Texans could draw maps, perhaps they would created something like the following:

Monday, July 01, 2013

The opposite of water is fire... thoughts on the deaths of brave wildland firefighters.

As many of our friends know, our son, Gerald, is off fighting wild fires as part of a Coronado National Forest crew in southern Arizona. He and his crew were not anywhere near the tragedy at the Yarnell Hill fire in central Arizona where almost an entire fire crew were wiped out in what appears to be the worst disaster ever to befall wild land fire fighters in the USA. Instead, Gerald was part of a crew fighting the "W 2" fire on the USA-Mexico border about 10 to 15 miles east of Nogales, Arizona.

However, Gerald is part of a crew in which many of the longer-serving members had actually worked with and knew members of the Granite Mountain Hot Shot crew, one of about 85 elite fire crews that are available to fight fires nationwide, and the only crew sponsored by a municipal fire department, the Prescott, Arizona, fire department. These fire fighters had been fighting the Thompson Ridge fire in the Jemez Mountains of northern New Mexico and then the Doce/Dosie fire close to home just west of Prescott before becoming one of the first crews to fight the Yarnell Hill fire north of Wickenburg and southwest of Prescott.

Information about exactly what happened is sketchy and may come in bits and pieces throughout the investigation and fire-fighting period. It appears that local thunderstorms made winds unpredictable, and that winds became strong and gusty. The result seems to have been that the fire changed direction and probably speed of advance, charging into part of the town of Yarnell, destroying buildings, and perhaps entrapping the members of the Granite Mountain crew before the crew could evacuate or prepare to survive the flashover. Terribly much is unknown. And, time is needed for mourning, even though the answers to the questions about what happened might help save lives and prevent future tragedies.

One question to me was about our son's motivation and commitment to the fire fighting and whether that would change in the light of this disaster. It's hard to speak for others, but my guess is that it won't change his interest or resolve. Here's some of our correspondence trying to get a grip and understand all of this:


Gerald and all of his crew are saddened tremendously by the loss of life of their fellow Arizona wildfire fighters, but that isn't likely to make any of them want to quit their jobs.

Two of the three native Californians who perished in the Yarnell Hill fire were the sons of fire captains and wanted nothing more than to emulate their fathers and work with them in the future. Former wildland forest fire fighters tend to remember their years of service fondly, knowing that they did something that not everyone can do, that they got the chance to be authentic heroes, and that their work probably saved lives as well as homes, and wildlife and ecosystems as well as towns.

The fire fighters also enjoyed intense camaraderie from sharing their work and lives with a tight-knit group of people with whom they willingly and necessarily trusted their lives. And, unlike soldiers, who share much of the same tight bonds and camaraderie, there is no moral hesitation or compunction in fighting destructive wild fire unto death to save lives and land.

Although Gerald's described career path is to be a park ranger or similar wildland resource person, and not to spend all his career fighting wildfires, fighting wildland fires is one of the skills that park rangers need to have, along with many other skills. And, many park rangers who focus on administration, resource protection, wildlife, environmental management, emergency medicine, search and rescue, historic protection, interpretation for visitors, and routine park maintenance, still are on call to fight wildfires when their parks, their wildlife and ecosystems, and the public are threatened.

For someone who has the love of wilderness and wildlife and the land deeply ingrained, the urge to preserve the land is a deep calling. I suspect that the horrific deaths, of brave men who were personally known to many of the members of Gerald's crew, will not shake the resolve of Gerald or his crew to do what they are doing. I thing what Gerald is doing is much more serious to him than an "experiment" and believe he has a significant commitment to it.

What I do hope is that ALL of our wildland fire fighters will truly renew and deepen their commitment to the very hard and tragically earned lessons of the past, and commit them and the basic safety precepts to heart, mind, and soul. It is sometimes found, and particularly sad -- and no slur upon the courage, intentions, bravery, or intelligence of the fire crews -- that when there are multiple casualties incurred directly in fighting a fire, that the safety principles are too often found to have been compromised in one way or another and that the lessons of the past have not been transmitted as well as they should. That worsens already horrid tragedy. A "can do" attitude and courage are only admirable when they are coupled with very cool calculation, intelligent following of safety rules, and an immediate willingness to change tactics or disengage when conditions turn unfavorable.

The investigation will have already started, and it may be grossly early to speculate on what happened and why. Time is needed to mourn the horrible loss of so many brave, talented, heroic people. But those of us who know wildland fire fighters, or who spend time in the wilds, or who live or visit in the urban-wildland interface will very strongly want to know what happened, why it happened, what lessons can be learned, and whether anything could have been done to reduce the tragedy. So this is my guessing about where questions MIGHT be asked by investigators and what they might be trying to learn. And, remember, I am not a professional wildland fire fighter, and neither do I play one on televison:

"LCES", the "10 standard orders", and the "18 watchout situations" are safety precautions and ways of thinking taught to all wildland fire fighters. They are likely to be mentioned in the report on the investigation of the many deaths of fire fighters in the Yarnell Hill fire.

Lookouts - Communications - Escape Routes - Safety Zones

10 Standard Orders
Keep informed on fire weather conditions and forecasts. [possible issue]
Know what your fire is doing at all times. [possible issue]
Base all actions on current and expected behavior of the fire. [possible issue]
Identify escape routes and safety zones and make them known. [possible issue]
Post lookouts when there is possible danger.
[possible issue; did crew get timely enough info when thunderstorms were in the area?]
Be alert. Keep calm. Think clearly. Act decisively. [We may never know with the crew almost wiped out.]
Maintain prompt communications with your forces, your supervisor, and adjoining forces. [possible issue; loss of communication with the crew has been mentioned]
Give clear instructions and insure they are understood.
Maintain control of your forces at all times.
Fight fire aggressively, having provided for safety first. [possible issue]

18 Watch-Out Situations
Fire not scouted and sized up. [hard to do with rapidly changing and growing fire]
In country not seen in daylight.
Safety zones and escape routes not identified. [possible issue]
[safety zones may have been inadequate or too distant]
Unfamiliar with weather and local factors influencing fire behavior. [possible issue]
Uninformed on strategy, tactics, and hazards.
Instructions and assignments not clear.
No communication link with crewmembers/supervisors. [possible issue]
Constructing line without safe anchor point. [possible significant issue if fire was able to get around crew]
Building fireline downhill with fire below.
Attempting frontal assault on fire.
[change of fire direction may have turned flank attack into frontal confrontation; did crew realize this in time to attempt to evacuate??]
Unburned fuel between you and the fire. [issue]
Cannot see main fire, not in contact with anyone who can.
On a hillside where rolling material can ignite fuel below.
Weather is getting hotter and drier. [possible issue]
Wind increases and/or changes direction. [major issue]
[fire may have very rapidly accelerated in direction of crew, and gusty winds or possibly unburned gases may have prevented successful deployment of emergency shelters as well as denying crews time to reach, improve, or construct safety zones]
Getting frequent spot fires across line.
Terrain and fuels make escape to safety zones difficult. [very possible issue]
Taking a nap near the fire line. [not an issue]

For the investigation of the Yarnell Hill disaster, it's a wild guess/speculation that there might be questions about the adequacy of communications, whether the fire crew were fully aware of the impending risk of wind shifts from thunderstorms, about whether they had adequate look-outs and information about the changing fire behavior, about whether they had adequate safety zones and escape routes,about whether they should have prepared or improved safety zones prior to or earlier during handline construction, about whether there was any sort of strong anchor point for their hand line, about whether they should have fired their hand line sooner to strengthen it and provide a "black zone" for potential refuge, about whether the area in which they deployed their emergency shelters was too close to large amounts of combustible materials with the potential to degrade and delaminate shelters or impose excessive convective heat loads on the shelters, and about whether they had any knowledge or warning of changed fire conditions in time to disengage, perhaps drop packs, and find or make a better safety zone.
Perhaps the two big questions are: (1) Did the crew have adequate communications and warning of changing fire behavior, and
(2) did the crew have adequate and accessible safety zones?

On Mon, Jul 1, 2013 at 4:29 PM, Dorothy .... wrote:
Dear Pat and Marie,
Thank you so much for keeping us up-to-date on the Arizona fires. Thank God Gerald was not involved in this incident! But it surely is a good heads-up that the work is very dangerous. This is the worst fire-fighting episode I have every heard of. I really hope this will be Gerald's one experiment with fire-fighting!
With love,

On 7/1/2013 8:33 AM, Marie wrote:
Dear Pat,
Thanks so much for the update. This horrible incident is a reminder of how things can go wrong so quickly, even though it seems that overlapping systems were in place. Our thoughts and prayers are with Gerald for a safe summer and with the families and friends of the firefighters who lost their lives.
We have been hearing out East here about the soaring high temps in the West and Southwest, while we will be experiencing the 90s around the Fourth of July weekend, with thunderstorms happening every day, and saturating humidity making it very uncomfortable. But this is nothing to really complain about compared to the Southwest's unrelenting heat.
Our best to all,
Marie and John

Sent from my iPad

On Jul 1, 2013, at 2:51 AM, Pat Byrnes .... wrote:
We heard from Gerald (text messages and facebook) this evening. Gerald is fine.
His fire is the W2/Washington Peak fire eight miles east of Nogales on the USA - Mexico border, in rugged terrain grass land.

The fire with the horrific loss of fire fighter lives was about 200 miles away in central Arizona, north of Phoenix and Wickenburg and southwest of Prescott, the Yarnell Hill fire. The Granite Mountain hot shots from Prescott were one of the early responding crews. The lighting-caused fire grew rapidly and was blown into the small town of Yarnell, where it burned many homes. Apparently something went very wrong or the fire accelerated very rapidly; it seems the lost crew were in or getting into foil-like shelters when the fire hit them. Normally, fire crews have escape routes and safety zones available, and have people watching out for changes in fire behavior, but for some reason safety steps didn't work in this instance. Perhaps the fire accelerated or switched directions quickly, or the firefighters got caught trying to protect buildings when the fire swept through part of the small town of Yarnell.

If reports are true, this appears to be the worst loss of wildland fire fighters in recorded US history, and the worst loss of emergency responders since 9/11. Many of the more experienced members of Gerald's crew had met and worked with the Granite Mountain hotshots. R.I.P., Vaya con Dios.

Recently, the Granite Mountain Hotshots had been fighting the Thompson Ridge fire in the Jemez; they were quite likely only twenty miles or so away from us during the Seeger family reunion. Apparently, one member of the crew who was over run by the fire may have survived, although grievously burned, and one other member of the crew wasn't at the fire. Prayers for both and all affected. Pat

PS, While we were in Laguna Vista, I spent part of the weekend clearing some low branches from trees to improve fire safety for our cabin -- but there's much more work to do!

On Sun, Jun 30, 2013 at 10:50 PM, Marie ... wrote:
Dear Pat,
We are praying that Gerald was not involved in the forest fires that took the lives of 19 forest fire fighters. Please let us know how he is.
Love, Marie and John

Sent from my iPad
~~~~/)/) /)~~~~~~~~~~~~/)/)~~~~/)~~~~/)~/)~~~~/)~~~~/)~~~~~~~
John MacLean, 2002 interview in Smokejumpers magazine:
"I want the mistakes from the South Canyon Fire to be indelible in the memory of every firefighter on the line and every member of the fire community. It won't happen, but you asked what I want. You get killed fighting fire if you don't do it right. Your sons and daughters die when it isn't done right. What happened on Storm King was not an act of nature; it was a human fuck up, at many levels. Get mad, get alert and never let it happen again. "
Many of those who mourn the loss of fire fighters and wish to help do their part to minimize future risk to wildland firefighters can do their part by making their homes and property more defensible against wildfire.

Unfortunately, the reality is that economic decisions DO affect how aggressively fire crew fight fires, and having to protect homes in the wildland-urban interface that are hard to defend against wildfire DOES put fire crews at risk.

Building homes with more fire-resistant materials, removing overgrown vegetation, pruning trees and shrubs, removing leaf litter and pine needles, removing weeds and other material from near trees, and generally creating "defensible space" around homes near wildland areas, can do much to safe homes and possibly the lives of residents and fire fighters as well.

Yesterday, the President made a speech eulogizing the fallen fire fighters and promising federal assistance. Beyond the usual, there are reasonable efforts we can make as a nation to make our lands safer and more secure and to save the lives of firefighters and residents, protect homes and wilderness, and reduce these horrible and unnecessary losses:

(1) Our fleet of air tankers is aging and shrinking. Aerial support, while not always an option and not without its own hazards, can make fire fighting safer.

(2) Some parts of the government have access to technology that could save fire fighter lives and make wildland fire fighting more efficient. That technology generally hasn't reached fire fighters. If, for example, drones can spy on our own citizens, why can't they or other sensor technologies spy on killer wildfires so that fire bosses have accurate, timely information day and night? Similarly, various forms of satellite-based location, beacon, and communication technology could help crews and fire bosses in areas where radios or conventional cell phones don't work, or in border areas where radio signals may be jammed or interfered with, appropriated by criminals, etc.

(3) The Administration has cut and threatened to grievously cut further the funds used for preventing and mitigating wild fires. With deteriorating conditions in our forests and wildlands and huge inventories of fuels building up to explosive levels, and years of severe drought in the southwest, this is a prescription for death and destruction on an enormous scale. Reverse this!

“They were still so young they hadn't learned to count the odds and to sense they might owe the universe a tragedy.”
― Norman Maclean, Young Men and Fire

Please be safe, whether in wildfire country or afloat on the blue stuff that fire doesn't like.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Santana 20 no. 475, "Ghost", sunset at Elephant Butte Lake in southern New Mexico. Unfortunately, with the lake being reduced to severely low levels, this is as close as Ghost will get to the lake this summer.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Saving Sailing Redux: Should racers and cruisers sing kum ba ya together?

A question asked elsewhere was whether getting racers and cruisers together might help "save sailing". Hmmm.

I wrote:

Some sailors are both racers and cruisers. And some sailors are racers and cruisers to a degree, but not to an extreme. And racing and cruising are by far and away NOT the only forms of sailing, so focusing on this continuum ignores a lot of other sailing.

I distrust any and all single, solo, isolated "magic bullets" as the one and only way to save sailing, whether the bullet in question is

getting racers and cruisers to sing kum ba yah around the campfire together,

Nick Hayes' solution of families taking other families sailing,

reforming youth sailing programs so they're not exclusively focused on competition, and have gunkholing, navigation, career, hobby, other watersports, and fun elements/alternatives to appeal to a much broader group and retain youth interest longer,

actually getting a more unified approach to promoting sailing between national sailing and industry organizations (US Sailing is more focused on racing, ASA on sailing schools and teaching, and marine industry and sailing and safety groups don't seem to talk to each other or work together to promote the sport and hobby),

having said national organizations work with local clubs and sailors to much more effectively create and support community sailing programs and centers and to make it much easier for the public to find these programs,

one or more national groups taking responsibility to provide lobbying and support for water access,

leaning on some clubs to open up more to new members and be more welcoming (aside: especially surprising how some un-welcoming some clubs can be, even when many clubs are located on public property and depend upon public goodwill to survive), and to more frequently undertake to provide club-owned craft that new members can use,

more programs, whether locally or nationally sponsored, for introductory sailing try-its, similar to intro flying lessons so often offered by flight schools

more linkage between sailing schools and clubs and local activities -- "placement",

someone to take responsibility for consumer protection and quality review for schools,

active sailors making sure that less active elements don't take over yacht and sailing clubs and re-purpose them to focus too heavily on off-water/non-boating activities.

Maybe you could think of more of these ideas?

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Random musings about safety and the Artemis tragedy

The Aegean and Low-Speed Chase losses and deaths were the result of tragic errors of prudent navigation and judgment, with no implications for yacht design and with little at all in common with this week's Artemis crash and Bart Simpson's death. This week's boat failure and violent capsize tragedy has perhaps more in common with last year's loss of Wingnuts and two of her crew in the Chicago Mackinac race or the entangled drowning death of Olivia Constants in the Severn River off Annapolis.

Some speculation can reasonably be made as to whether it might be possible to tame the AC's giant cats a bit to bring them back from the very edge of what the fittest and most skilled humans can possibly sail. Could the bows be altered or rudder and foil designs changed so that bows are less likely to dig into the water and trip the boat during a gybe or bear-away? Should the hulls be instrumented so that designers better understand the actual forces acting upon the boats? Should the rigs be reduced or re-designed so as to be able to shed some power?

Or, perhaps there might be better ways to protect and rescue the crew. For example, is it possible that an automatically activated personal locator device would have helped rescuers find Bart Simpson more quickly? Can the crew positions be "hardened" for when the crew aren't moving across the boat?

Perhaps none of these or other ideas would have saved Bart Simpson, but it would seem certain that the America's Cup authority and investigators will want to show that they have looked at all of the possibilities for making the event safer and avoiding an unnecessary race to destruction.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

The trophy dilemma for small sailing clubs

For smaller sailing and yacht clubs, traditional metal pickle dish and cup have become so expensive as to just not make sense for racing awards. Some traditional trophy items have more than doubled from 2007 catalog prices. That makes it much more challenging for race committees to find prizes that people can be proud to receive, and don't look too cheesy, without breaking the RC budget.

So, do we get things that look like traditional trophies, but are made of less expensive materials, or do we adapt all sorts of non-traditional items as trophies?


Here's a letter I sent out to my race committee this week:

In the past week, it's been an interesting experience learning about the trophy racket.

One challenge is that traditional old-style yacht "heavy metal" trophies have become breathtakingly expensive. A very small pewter cup that was $35 in the 2007 Prize Possessions catalog for example, now is $80 -- more than double the prize in just six years. These sorts of trophies are pretty much beyond the reach of a small club such as the RGYC for any sort of routine use.

There are less-expensive trophies that are marketed more for youth sports and less upscale groups. These are pretty much all plastic or resin and can be a bit cheesy. But, at a glance they look decent and some of them may not be too awful. I'll be trying some of these and see how people react.

Another option is improvising trophies from hobby and craft stores. Unfortunately, most have very limited selection and the better sorts of things that they have and not cheap, unless you happen to catch just the right thing when it goes on sale. They do have some things that might be fun, so long as people are a bit open-minded about getting things other than pewter/silver traditional pickle dishes and cups. One disappointment was that I was looking for shadow-box sorts of items like we'd gotten before, and wasn't finding them... only one little bitty knot box with a cracked glass that I passed over.

I did find an on-line seller of model yachts that had relatively reasonable prices for some of their items. Unfortunately, their flat-per-item shipping charges made it impractical to order their less expensive models, so I only got a few of their fairly nice models for top-end series trophies.

Engraved glassware like what Stras did with wine glasses may be something we try more of in the fall -- it would be available from sources other than high-markup trophy dealers. I think you can even get a bottle full of wine that's engraved.

The Fiesta Regatta last weekend at Chatfield, by the way, went with three sizes of engraved glass beer mugs... nothing too fancy or traditional.

I still need to buy about five trophies... mostly second/third places for spring series and third and fourth for the Anniversary Cup; should be able to find something interesting and not terribly costly.

Monday, May 06, 2013

A Little Too Late... We miss an opportunity to taste a local tradition

While driving to Colorado to do race management for the Fiesta Regatta at Chatfield, Carol Anne and I decided to stop in Las Vegas, NM, for a bite of lunch. Carol Anne particularly wanted to try something local and non-national-chain-cookie-cutter, and was excited to find good reviews on-line for a little hole-in-the-wall sort of local institution of a small New Mexican restaurant in the historic part of Las Vegas. Reviewers, including some from this spring, were enthusiastic about a completely unpretentious but reliable eatery called Estella's. We arrived, parked, and got to the restaurant well before their scheduled closing time of 3:00 p.m. But we were still too late.

Perhaps a couple of weeks or several weeks too late. The restaurant was closed up, with auction notices posted on the windows. Sigh. After 63 years in business, we'd missed the opportunity to eat there by perhaps a month or less. Now, that's a pity. Probably local folks can fill us in on just what happened.

We wound up trying another local place across the street, but found it closed to the public because they were having a private funeral banquet... and yes, they had posted the name of the dearly deceased guest of honor.

So we then went to an Italian pasta and pizza place, still in part of the historic district... and did have a good meal. But, it didn't have chile verde. Oh well.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Star boat "Stargazer" enjoys a breeze at Elephant Butte Lake, 20 April 2013

Columbia 26 "Imagine" with Spirit 65 and O'Day 22 "Starshine"

O'Day 22 "Starshine" portrait on the lake.

Columbia 26 with boats and scenery at Elephant Butte Lake.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Safefy Reminders/Recordatorios de Seguridad y Salud

To the tips from the Ute Lake sign, I would add at least

Keep your speed and wake safe
Mantenga velocidad y estela seguro.

Obey no-wake zones
Mantenga zonas sin estela/sin rastro.

Watch for danger!
Mire por peligros! or Mantenga un buen mirador por peligros!

Got drain plug?
¿Hay tapón de drenaje?

Keep sailboats away from power lines.
Mantenga veleros fuera de las líneas eléctricas.

Elephant Butte Lake Race Area

This is a current example of the course/race area map we use for sailboat racing at Elephant Butte Lake.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Some people have suggested the idea of attaching a dinghy astern of a race committee signal boat in order to give it some protection from racing sailboats running into the RC boat, especially over-aggressive barging racers. Another suggestion is adding to the pin-line bias, to try to get people away from the boat end of the line. There is a problem with the dinghy-drop idea, however, in that the dinghy would count as part of the RC boat, increasing the area that racers have to avoid while approaching the line. Assuming a windward start on starboard tack, this narrows the approach lanes to the line, effectively making the line shorter. This is perhaps best shown by a drawing an example picture.

In this example, the effective length of the starting line is reduced by 20%. With more congestion and crowded comes less freedom of maneuver, less reaction time, and more chance of collision. If you drop the dinghy further astern of the RC boat, the problem becomes even worse.

While it is true that the effect would be less on a longer starting line, too-long of a line also has its problems. A long line magnifies the effect of line bias, providing a bigger incentive for boats to crowd the favored end. That brings the poor race officer back to the original problem of increased congestion, potential for collisions, etc.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Mid-winter visit to the Heron Lake Marina

Last Sunday morning, 3 February 2013, I visited the marina at Heron Lake in the mountain country of northern New Mexico. The marina was floating in about four inches of ice atop six feet of water. The main body of the lake is significantly deeper in many places, of course.

Water is still being taken from the lake, with about three weeks to go until the ice breaks up and several more weeks until significant spring runoff is likely.

I measured the water depth at a break in the ice and chopped a small hole in the ice to check minimum depth at a point closer to the shore.

Heron Lake is the home of the New Mexico Sailing Club and is owned and operated by the members. The marina is seasonally open, subject to weather and water levels, and rents overnight slips to the public as well as providing seasonal slips to members. Membership is open to all boat owners and includes some power boaters. Heron is a no-wake lake however, so the lake is primarily of interest to sailors, kayakers, and anglers who travel and fish at trolling or no-wake speed.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Rio Grande Yacht Club Race Committee thoughts for 2013

For racing, the duties of the race committee are to run a fair and fun race program:
Schedule races, get permits, write instructions, schedule and lead skipper/crew meetings, schedule race committee boat crews, train racers and RC crews, buy and maintain equipment, order prizes, handle protests and disputes, administer handicaps, score and publish results.

Races are more fair and fun when the courses are unbiased, do-able and suitable for the racers, and when the racers and race committee all know and follow the rules, and when the race committee is on hand to serve, help, and educate racers.

— Racing and cruising are vital to the health of the club, make the club visible in the area, and attract new members.
— Racing and cruising should be supported by the club, and at least partially subsidized.
Ideally, race fees would pay for prizes but the club would pay for equipment, training, and other costs.
— This is a good year to do safety and training. We have new and relatively new racers and are being met with a revised set of Racing Rules of Sailing for 2013-2016. Using the racing and safety rules and educating sailors about safety and racing is good because it will

• Make racing more fair and predictable;
• Reward good sailing;
• Help people get better at sailing;
• Reduce the danger of collision, damage, or injury;
• Meet the requirements for being allowed to run races by the State Parks;
• Reduce the chance of the club, leaders, and volunteers being found negligent and held liable in a legal action;
• Protect our reputation in the community;
• Put the club and our sailors in synch with how sailing is done throughout the world of sailing;
• Help US Sailing, SAIL Denver, and our insurance company support us in case of a problem.

To do this, we can
• Spread the race committee’s work among several people, with roles that meet all the RC’s jobs;
• Commit the club to support following the rules, running races properly to the best of our ability, providing training, supporting safety, and making a safety policy;
• Write Notices of Race, Sailing Instructions, and sign-ups that are clear, suited to our racing, and in harmony with the Racing Rules of Sailing;
• Teach racers the rules and how to use them via short talks at skipper/crew meetings, race committee training, the Foghorn and website, and being there to answer questions; focus on making the basic rules clear and on teaching “old hands” the changes to the rules;
• Train RC volunteers to set good courses that make the best of our conditions;
• Make sure volunteers have good equipment and information to run the races;
• Offer arbitration as a tool to teach the rules and prepare racers to use the protest system in a positive, low-key, less stressful way;
• Teach racers and the club to use the protest system as a teaching tool and offer alternative penalties where appropriate, and make protests less painful and more productive.

~~~~~~~/)~/)~~~~ ~~~~/)/)~~~/)~~~
For cruising, the race committee chairman is tasked by our club’s rules to support cruising.
In years past we had raft-ups, as well as the “Got Water?” cruises during drought years. Cruising is also supported by good relations with the marinas and other sailing groups, including adding support for the yacht club tradition of reciprocal hospitality. Safety and seamanship training and cruising programs also help cruisers. Cruising activities such as raft-ups are a good way to reach out to sailors who are most active in the summer, when our racing program hasn’t been active.

This would be a good year to revive the RGYC’s cruising program by having cruiser events such as:

• Warm-weather raft-ups, where the club provides some food and supplies for gatherings in a cove or marina;
• Cruiser events such as a treasure hunt/pirate cruise, poker run, cruise to a marina/restaurant, predicted time race, handicapped start, or creative handicap race;
• Volunteering to do on-water events with groups such as the Parrotheads, power boaters, CG Aux, Hobie fleet, Windriders, etc.;
• Hosting an open-house for prospective sailors in conjunction with a marina; • Hands-on and interesting safety demonstrations working with the state parks, volunteers fire depts., CG AUX, or similar;
• Work with marinas, other clubs, and our cruising sailors to give us a welcome when traveling;
• Host “trailer cruises” to other lakes or to the ocean, especially if water issues limit what we can do during part of the year at the Butte.

Issues for both racing and cruising are the fun factor, and helping grow the club and keep members. Ideas:
• Publicize race results, and regattas and cruises to area news media;
• Consider alternative prizes to traditional trophies, especially for cruiser-oriented classes or events;
• Find ways to add value to memberships;
• Get more pictures of events on the web site and Foghorn, and more reliably; • Your idea here….

Thoughts for the Race Committee, Racers, Cruisers, and RGYC board:
• We should stick with Portsmouth; PHRF has more potential for arguments/fights and is much harder (and more expensive) to do right, especially the time-on-distance flavor of PHRF;
• Offering arbitration as a protest alternative could defuse some issues;
• Modifying penalties/handling for the new trash rule (and alternative penalties in general) might be a very good idea;
• We need to inventory, organize, and replace equipment – and do it again and again;
• Also needed will be new rule books, plus rule summary cards and maps to give out to racers;

• We should have good ramp use and water for the spring, but fall events may need changes depending on spring runoff and summer irrigation. We may not be able to have a full-scale Sunrise Regatta 50/25-miler in the fall and might want to make the “Sunset Regatta” into something fun for people who don’t usually race.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Notice to Mariners: More penalties for trash dumping

Environmental restrictions for boaters will tighten up with the coming of the New Year 2013, and from two different directions.

Racing sailors will be governed by the new Racing Rules of Sailing 2013-2016 which introduce a new Fundamental Environmental Principle and a new Rule 55, which prohibits intentional dumping of trash overboard. Someone who casually throws a water bottle or lunch sack overboard could face being protested and disqualified from a race -- or such penalty as a group organizing a regatta might wish to impose.

Organizing authorities -- i.e., yacht and sailing clubs who run sailboat races -- will need to think about how they handle this new change. This is one of the rules that can be changed by sailing instructions, so a club could choose to use alternative penalties or limit who can protest a boat under the new rule.


In addition, the actual laws that regulate offshore dumping of garbage are being changed, and made more restrictive. It used to be the case that dumping was allowed except where prohibited; now the new presumption is that dumping is prohibited, except when allowed.

Some sailors have been discussing changes in the MARPOL ANNEX V limitations on offshore disposal of waste that will take effect with this new year because of implementation of new international treaties.

One question I've asked to people who may know more:

Will these changes have an effect upon how NASBLA-trained instructors (National Association of State Boating Law Administrators, who set standards for boating safety classes) teach boaters to comply with environmental responsibilities when offshore and will this require changes in the content of NASBLA-approved boater safety courses and the dumping restriction placards that some boats display?

I'm sorry not to have more authoritative links, but here's what I've seen:

Highlights from the Antigua letter that I've tried to glean are as follows:
The latter says that the new definition of garbage "considerably extends the scope of what comes under the requirements in Annex V. "

" “Discharge of all garbage into the sea is prohibited, except as provided otherwise in regulations 4,5,6 and 7 of this Annex”. (Regulation 3(1)).

This is a different approach from the previous version of the Annex which took a more permissive approach listing what could be discharged and assuming that discharge was normal."

And: Regulation 4 "adds new limits on the disposal of food wastes and includes restrictions on discharge of cargo residues." as well as adding some very large "Special Areas" have been defined where rules are even tighter.

More (mostly commercial) vessels will have to have garbage management plans.

New placards might look something like:

(begin quote)
The placards previously required in Regulation 9 are still required but a new approved format is included in the Guidelines for Implementation. The sample placards in the guidelines are the following for most applications:

For fixed or floating platforms and ships operating within 500 m of them the following format is approved.
Discharge of all garbage into the sea is prohibited except provided otherwise

The MARPOL Convention and domestic law prohibit the discharge of most garbage from ships. Only the following garbage types are allowed to be discharged and under the specified conditions.

Outside Special Areas designated under MARPOL Annex V:

* Comminuted or ground food wastes (capable of passing through a screen with openings no larger than 25 millimetres) may be discharged not less than 3 nautical miles from the nearest land.
* Other food wastes may be discharged not less than 12 nautical miles from the nearest land.
* Cargo residues classified as not harmful to the marine environment may be discharged not less than 12 nautical miles from the nearest land.
* Cleaning agents or additives in cargo hold, deck and external surfaces washing water may be discharged only if they are not harmful to the marine environment.
* With the exception of discharging cleaning agents in washing water, the ship must be en route and as far as practicable from the nearest land.

Inside Special Areas designated under MARPOL Annex V
* More stringent discharge requirements apply for the discharges of food wastes and cargo residues; AND
* Consult Annex V and the shipboard garbage management plan for details.

For all areas of the sea, ships carrying specialized cargos such as live animals or solid bulk cargoes should consult Annex V and the associated Guidelines for the implementation of Annex V.

Discharge of any type of garbage must be entered in the Garbage Record Book
Violation of these requirements may result in penalties.
(end quote)

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

South Monticello Point -- where Elephant Butte Lake ends

Elephant Butte Lake in southern New Mexico was once the state's largest lake, with a capacity of more than two million acre feet and several dozen square miles of surface area. Years of drought have taken their toll, however, as is seen in this view of the South Monticello Point boat ramp, and looking beyond to where the lake has retreated.

Mountains on the east side of Elephant Butte Lake, and wet lands where once was a deep and broad basin of the lake.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

View forward as we head down Elephant Butte Lake on Saturday afternoon.

View aft back toward Rock Canyon.

We enjoyed a nice variety of wind conditions and managed to keep from getting too cool with kindly weather for our sail.
Panoramic view of part of Marina del Sur not long before the evening's holiday Parade of Lights.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Lake Pleasant FS Regatta 3, Saturday Oct. 20, 2012, I. Beautiful Boats

4176. Thistles 1347 and 3761 with J/80 221 Sloop Dogg.

4177. Fleet start information rail on starboard bow of race committee boat; Thistle in background.

4178. Fireball Queso Suiza.

4179. Viper and Thistle.

4180. Race mark with two boats in the sun.

4181. Portrait of Monsoon (Corsair F27).

4182. Monsoon and her wake

4183. Santana 2023 Theresa Lynn and PHRF boats.

4184. PHRF spinnaker fleet beating upwind after their race start, Arizona Yacht Club fall series day 3 at Lake Pleasant.

4185. Monsoon in lighter air.

4186. 43625 Santana 2023 Teresa Lynn followed by Merit 25 8486 Kirsten Marie.

4188. Teresa Lynn taking off toward the sun.

4190. Teresa Lynn sunstruck at Lake Pleasant.

4502. Mark set boat and Catalina 22 9873 Frayed Not.

4192. Blue-hulled Catalina 22 3627 Elena Lis.

4193. Catalina 22 15092 (Pinon)

4195. Two Thistles flying their chutes.

4196. Melges no. 533, Flashpoint by the mark set boat.

4197. J/80 sloops 54 Kicks and 221 Sloop Dogg with Open 6.50 mini-transat in background.

4198. Merit with chutes and more.