Thursday, May 20, 2010

If I Could Just Accomplish One Simple Thing Today...

So often, owning a boat feels like a chicken fight with Entropy.

The other day I was stomping around in the dark, perhaps on my way to change a crappy diaper, perhaps on my way to do some other chore. My foot caught a piece of wood trim near the base of the companionway ladder and cracked a big piece right off.

That was weeks ago. Work, grad school, baby all intervened. I just got around to gluing and clamping it today. Ah, the small satisfaction of a day where I fix more than I break!

Now going to attempt a rescue mission for a kerosene jug that was glassed into the stern anchor chain locker when we had the cockpit redone. It won't fit through the access hatch, so I've got to cut it into tiny chunks, then mount a strong eye down there so we can secure the bitter end of our rode. Any chore that can be done with a Sawzall is typically a good chore!

- Ari

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Yemaya's First Sailboat Race

Ever since Yemaya was even tinier than she is now, she has laughed whenever she gets a gust of wind in her face. She closes her eyes and puffs out her cheeks and sputters and chuckles. It was so funny that we made up a rhyme to go with it:

Breeze in the face
Breeze in the face
Just enough for a sailboat race!

Last night Yemaya got introduced to the thrilling white-knuckle world of sailboat racing... which for her was much the same experience as the thrilling world of sitting in the backseat of a car on land...

Our courageous crewmember had all the latest high-tech sailing gear:
  • Stuffed dog. Check!
  • Rattle ball. Check!
  • Jingle bell bracelet. Check!
  • Soggy Ak-Mak cracker to slowly masticate into paste and rub into carseat. Check!
  • Mama's sunglasses to open. And close. And open. And close.... Check!
  • Jammies in case I fall asleep. (Don't worry, I won't) Check!

We weren't planning to fly the spinnaker, but Yemaya held onto (and chewed on) the pretty yellow pole topping lift just in case.

Since beer can racing on the Oakland Estuary is such a serious, competitive pursuit, I diligently printed 2 out of 3 of the available documents on the web site:
  • Course Map. Check!
  • Sailing Instructions. Check!
  • Fleet Assignments. We'll never need that...
Flash forward to 6:25pm. We are circling the starting line with a few dozen other boats of varying sizes trying to find other boats that look "like us." I see a Santana 25. That's gotta be similar rating to a Santana 22. I sail close enough and ask "Do you know when we start?" He replies "Are you racing non-spinnaker? You guys are all Fleet A. That was your warning gun." Doh! We were kinda slacking because, being slower, we're usually among the last boats to start. We are nowhere near the start.

Minutes after our starting gun, I'm still singlehanding the boat towards the line while Sarah breastfeeds Yemaya down below. It's a little dodgy trying to steer and trim both sails while peeking underneath our 155% Genoa. The two boats that started on time are miles ahead of us, but miraculously there are boats behind us too!

In light wind, less-wetted surface trumps longer waterline. In our small, stripped-down boat, slowly but surely we pull away from the pack of longer, heavier keelboats. The wind is coming over Alameda instead of down the Estuary, so what would normally be an upwind-downwind course is a reach both ways. The wind direction favors a genoa over jib+spinnaker, and later we even pace some of the spinnaker fleet.

Some of the racing highlights were slaloming the narrow gap between two Columbia 5.5's, rolling one to windward and one to leeward, while the baby shrieked "DADADADA" (I'll never get tired of hearing that!) and the other yachtsmen looked on in horror at being overtaken by a floating pack-n-play.

We finished just as we started, with Sarah down below breastfeeding Yemaya. The race instructions specify two laps around the course, but we heard a horn as we finished our first lap. "Hmm, I guess that's it." We looked around and kept sailing just in case, but it seemed the other boats are dropping headsails and going home.

In the end, we came in just ahead of the middle of the pack. But I think we won a moral victory for proving we could sail well with the baby, and enjoy almost every minute of it!

562 Joey Hansen Magic Mercury 234 19:22:10 0:52:10 0:41:15 1

18686 Fred Minning Svenska Peterson 34 123 19:17:49 0:47:49 0:42:05 2

53 Ari Rubenstein Mardi Gras Santana 22 237 19:27:56 0:57:56 0:46:52 3

3674 Robert Hamner Pequod Catalina 27 Tall 189 19:33:31 1:03:31 0:54:42 4

18020 Roger Mystic Newport 177 19:35:56 1:05:56 0:57:40 5
157 Leroy Gilles Summerplace
198 19:37:27 1:07:27 0:58:13 6
285 Warren Taylor Kiwa Ericson 32-2 183 DNC : : 8
535 Paul Mueller Iskra Mercury 234 DNC : : 8

It was amazing how Sarah multi-tasked between sailing and mothering. At one point she was literally trimming a genoa sheet with one hand and a putting on a puppet show with the other. Damn. There are moments in any marriage where you think, "If I wasn't already married to this woman, I'd get down on one knee right now..."

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Great Vallejo Race

I think Craig said it best: "These two sailing days are ones to remember as the good old days!"

The intrepid crew of Chorus raced downwind from Berkeley to Vallejo on Saturday, and back upwind Sunday.

Conditions on the first day were gorgeous: warm sun, flood tide with us, just enough wind to move the boat at a good clip, but light enough wind to make spinnaker handling drama-free.

When we arrived, we saw the entire boat population of the Vallejo Municipal Marina had been emptied out. (Where did they all go?) which left room for hundreds of race boats of every size, shape, and age to raft up in every available slip (and even rafted four deep in the fairways.)

We stayed for a few beers and deadly Tequila Sunrises. Toby the dog ate about 30 leftover sparerib bones, to his later intestinal distress.

The single and childless among us rocked out in Port Costa at a bar and former-brothel-turned-hotel, while Sarah and Yemaya and I headed back to Macha for bedtime stories and diaper changes.

Sunday morning's low tide was VERY low. On the way out of the marina, boats were getting stuck in the mud left and right.

Anticipating problems, we pre-emptively warped the boat around so she'd be pointed straight out the fairway. We moved all crew to the shrouds, and gunned the engine full forward. (Hey, isn't this blog supposed to be about engineless sailing?!?!?! Well, I'm not so purist as to refuse rides on beautiful sailboats with engines!) Another boat was already stuck in the middle of fairway, so we aimed for the narrow space between the boat and the dock. With about a foot of clearance on either side, the skipper of the other boat started yelling "What are your intentions?" In fact, I think our intentions were all too clear!!! Despite our strenuous hiking, we slowed slightly as we dragged the tip of our keel in the mud. Rock the boat slightly, we inched slowly, slowly forward. Freedom.

The second day's race opened with an exciting downwind start under spinnaker, followed by a run down the channel between Vallejo and Mare Island. Bain, our mast man, re-injured his knee, so he went below for Ibuprofen and beer while the remaining three crew members multitasked for the douse.

The finish was amazing. Latitude was reporting that about 200 boats finished within 20 minutes. Ahead of us, we caught sight of Kame Richards on Golden Moon and our moral and spiritual advisor Peter English on Sunda, so we figured we were headed towards the line even if we couldn't see it through all the traffic!

We finished 2nd for our class, 3rd overall for PHRF boats. Not bad for a bunch of Uzbeks!

- Ari