Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Newport to Catalina...

We’ve wanted to sail from somewhere on the southern California coast to Catalina for a while now. It’s not a long trip, but for northern California sailors it’s a warm one with an inviting destination, and not nearly as barren a destination as the Farrallones off the coast of San Francisco.

So, this past weekend, we chartered a Jeanneau 36.5 from Marina Sailing in Newport Beach, and were joined by our friends Hilary and Layne for an overnighter to Catalina. What fun!

On Thursday, before our charter began, Deb and I jointly took a “sail test” with Bill, an “old salt” who checked out non-members for the Marina Sailing Club. Of course, we almost immediately forgot any verbal responses to questions like “what are the five points of sail,” but we managed to pass the test and learn a thing or two from him as well. And, Deb backed Pretty Naho into her slip as though she’d done it a million times.

Next morning, after finally loading what seemed like a week’s supply of stuff into our friends’ SUV, we all drove down to the marina in Newport Beach and loaded our things and ourselves aboard Pretty Naho. We discovered that some of the items supposed to be on the boat were not – working radar and GPS – and some things were not in working order – the autohelm. We went by the charter office, reported the problems to Charlie, who knocked a little off the charter price for us. Then, undaunted, we pushed off for the twenty-six miles to Catalina.

The weather was beautiful, no fog, lots of sun, but alas, not much wind. So we motor-sailed our way, making five to six knots, one long tack northwest to make a southwesterly tack to Avalon. It was a good trip, and we arrived in some six hours, racing another sailor in for one of the last moorings available, which was not in the main harbor, but up the coast a couple of thousand meters at Hamilton Cove, just off an impressive condominium complex. After the obligatory celebration of our successful passage and mooring with a bottle of wine and a bunch of good cheeses, we briefly (very briefly) debated whether or not to inflate our dinghy, and instead called the shore boat for a ride into Avalon. A bit of wandering let us to the Ristorante Villa Portofino for more libations and great dinner.

Before midnight, however, we all were worn down, and got the shore boat back to Pretty Naho. The mooring field was amazingly roily all night. Deb and I had never experienced quite so roily an anchorage, but somehow managed to sleep without becoming seasick. Next day we realigned the boat, moving the bow and stern mooring lines to give sufficient angle and slack to take the waves off the beam and more on the bow. Our second night at the mooring was much more comfortable.

Saturday, I awoke to make coffee for us all, after which we took a shore-boat ride into Avalon for a glorious breakfast at (inevitably for a breakfast place), the Busy Bee. After followed a day of wandering the shops and sightseeing. Great fun, and after another turn back to the boat for a swim and relaxing, we returned to Avalon for another glorious dinner, this time at the Channel House.

Sunday morning we awoke to see Bill and Charlie tie up alongside a Catalina moored near us and set about doing repairs. We found out later that the boat's steering system had broken down at what was the start of a five-day charter. Bummer. Meanwhile, we decided just to nosh on whatever we had aboard for breakfast – and there was lots of noshing stuff aboard – and we left for Newport late-morning. We had a nice, although gentle sail back to Newport, to discover a literal traffic-jam of boats coming in and out and crisscrossing the harbor. Just like southern California’s freeways, its harbors are jammed at the end of the day. Nevertheless, we got safely into the slip, Deb again backing Pretty Naho in without a hitch. What a helmsperson she is!

And what of southern California sailing? Well, it was pretty tame compared to San Francisco Bay, but we’re looking forward to more and are sure the winds can pick up a little more than ten knots. Meantime, Deb thinks it's nice to be warm. More photos

Monday, August 22, 2005

What to do on the weekend...

san francisco from the corinthian yacht club in tiburon

Another wonderful weekend on San Francisco Bay (for more).

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Stirring up odium...

Governor (I use the title lightly) Arnold Schwarzenegger and California’s rightwing Republicans are playing on the populace’s emotions again. To gain voter support, which has been slipping badly, they want to all but exorcise from the state sex offenders who have served their sentences. Since they can’t just lock up offenders and throw away the key, they want to mandate lifetime electronic tracking and open the door to lifetime state hospital commitment for them.

As odious as sex crimes, particularly against children, may be, lifetime removal of privacy or indeterminate hospital commitment for a past sex offender is abhorrent. Such punishments undermine any sense of justice and fair play in our legal system, and they are insulting to the idea of liberty that underlies America.

While America condemns this sort of “eye-for-an-eye” primitivism in other parts of the world, are we to adopt it here? Can it really be that our rightwing religiosity has brought us to become what we oppose?

Mr. Schwarzenegger and the Republicans in California who support him should be ashamed of themselves. And so should any voter who supports such hateful legislation. ...But, if such measures ever become law, perhaps Mr. Schwarzenegger should be the first offender to be shackled with a tracking device.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Time for contemplation...

Sailor Pete Goss once said: “Life hangs on a very thin thread and the cancer of time is complacency. If you are going to do something, do it now. Tomorrow will be too late.” I’m grateful to Tom Watkins, Four Guys in a Boat (2004), for Goss’s insight. And, even though it is somewhat obvious, I find myself drawn to the meter of his words whenever there is a lull in my life.

God knows, there haven’t been many lulls lately – a trip to China, a sailboat race in southern California and next week a cruise to Catalina with old friends. This along with cruise-outs on San Francisco Bay (still two to go), taking dear friends from New York out on the Bay plus a regatta last weekend ought to be sufficient to keep our adrenaline pumping.

One would think.

But, perhaps because in a few weeks, summer folds into another fall teaching term, and both my sweetie and I head back to work (although for me it’s only part-time for three months), it seems like we're drifting into a lull. So, what thing to jump up for to keep the adventure going? Could we possibly pack in more stuff?

Well, whether the lull creeping up on us is psychological or not, we just arranged to fly off to Kauai for an upcoming week, and I just picked up a new Thursday night jazz piano gig at Ragusa in Los Altos. Now I wonder if I’ll have time to contemplate much of anything?

Perhaps on the plane trip to Hawaii....

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Santa Barbara to King Harbor...

Did our first long race this past weekend, from Santa Barbara to King Harbor at Redondo Beach. We arrived Thursday evening to join others as crew on Profligate, Richard Spindler's 65' custom catamaran. Sailors will know that Richard is publisher/executive editor of Latitude 38, northern California's premiere sailing magazine. He's a great skipper, too.

On Friday at 10:30 hours, following a raucus night at the Santa Barbara Yacht Club, Richard put us on the water for a race start at 12:00 noon. We reached Anacapa Island (one-third of the 85 mile race) around 18:00 hours, did a spinnaker change, and sailed downwind toward Point Dume and Santa Monica Bay. At 00:30 hours (Saturday morning), we all agreed to bag it and motor the last 15 miles or so to King Harbor. We got settled in about 03:30 hours, and collapsed on our bunks at 04:00. Exhausting, but great fun! A wonderful sunset and a clear sky during the night sail made it all worth while.
more photos

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Beijing and Beijazz...

Hot, smoggy, adventurous, exciting, great fun! Spent the last ten days of July in Beijing, China, attending the 22nd International Congress for the History of Science.

Don’t think I can do justice to the whole experience. The Congress was intellectually stimulating, gave a well-received paper on “technology, nature, and the built environment,” climbed the Great Wall (well a little of it), saw all the required sites, and had an amazing Peking Duck dinner with best friends in a five-star restaurant. Beijing photos

Topping it off, the Email Special played it’s tenth gig -- ten years and ten countries, from Budapest (1996) to Pasadena (1997), Lisbon (1998), Belfort, France (1999), Prague (2000), Mexico City (2001), Granada (2002), Moscow (2003), Bochum, Germany (2004), and Beijazz in Beijing (2005). Email Special photos