ramblings, stories, photos, rants and ravings from James and Penelope, the skipper and first mate of Alizée, a 2001 Cabo Rico 36, who sail, mess about on boats, travel, read, write and otherwise enjoy life to the fullest, and whose skipper plays jazz piano and dabbles in the history of technology & the environment.
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Monday, October 24, 2011
Friday, October 21, 2011
Memories of sailing the bay...
Big Boat Series, which was started almost 50 years ago by San Francisco's hoity-toity St. Francis Yacht Club. It's always a great racing series, but what caught my eye was the almost full-page photo of two of the competitors sailing past Hyde Street on the waterfront. It's a particularly wonderful image for me because triggers my earliest memories of the City.
I spent most of the first four years of my life in the Humphrey House, a marvelous old house at 976 Chestnut Street on the northeast corner of Hyde and Chestnut on Russian Hill. At the time it was the oldest house in San Francisco, built by William Squires Clark in 1852, in part with materials brought around Cape Horn. A sea captain named Humphrey bought it, and in 1880 it was moved to the corner lot, a bit west of its original location. The Hyde Street cable car line was constructed during the following decade and is still operating as one of the City's only three remaining lines.
My maternal grandfather Frank Carroll Giffen rented the Humphrey House from about 1910-1928. Then, after some ten years in Hollywood where he taught singing to emerging movie stars, he rented it again from 1938 until his death in 1948. A few months later, my grandmother Sarah Jesse moved across the street into a large apartment on the northwest corner of Hyde and Chestnut and the old Humphrey House was sold and razed and replaced by the flat-roofed apartment building which I've circled in red on the photo above. There was an effort to save the old house, and although some monies were raised to move it, the wrecking ball got it before the deal could be done. The photo to the left was taken by the Historic American Building Survey in 1936 and looks north across Chestnut Street at the front of the house.
This view of the house, also taken by HABS in 1936, is looking east across Hyde Street at the back and side of the house. You can see the cable car tracks going up Hyde Street in the foreground. My grandfather drove a Model T during the 1920s, and because the fuel was gravity fed, if he came down Hyde Street to far, he had to back up and into the garage, which you can see on the right of the photo, or back up to reach Chestnut Street from the garage.
When I began sailing the bay in 2000, I made it a regular occasion to sail past Hyde Street and look up at the same view captured by Daniel Foster in this Sailing photo. I'm sorry to this day that I did not start sailing years earlier so that my mother could have joined me. She would have loved it so!
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
Ready for sailing ...
San Francisco lad that I am, I'm still having problems getting my arms around the idea that sailing season in Florida begins in October, just as sailing season in northern California is starting to wind down. And, of course, Florida's season ends as the heat builds and the hurricane threat emerges in July, just as it is hitting its stride on the west coast. Nevertheless, here it is upon us, and Penelope and I spent the past four days on Alizee, preparing her for some sailing ... in two weeks, we take a week long cruise with some of the members of our new cruising club the Dolphins.
So, this weekend was cleaning up our food storage, throwing out items that were expired or simply rancid, and making lists of what we need to restock. We found that in two months (when I'd last checked it) our dry storage had been consumed by bugs and even a couple of beetles. We chucked all the dried goods, cleaned the storage bin out thoroughly and, then, the next day found yet more microscopic crawly things and re-cleaned with 409. That seemed to get them.
We defrosted the fridge and freezer, cleaned and vacuumed the interior, got our repaired head sails out of the loft and put them up and got a new zipper on the canvas binnacle cover. We got our dinghy out of dry storage, ran the motor a bit as we re-explored the estuary near Fish Tales restaurant, washed it down to get crud out of the inside and pulled it up on the davits. We washed down the topsides, took in all the storm lines that I'd rigged in August in fear of Irene.
Our four days ended with open-mike night at the Bayboro Cafe, just outside the gate of the marina, where I was invited to play keyboards. Quite a change for me, playing rock and folk-rock, but Penelope tells me I was great, and several young musicians and listeners came up and told me so, too ... and by young, I can tell you they were twenty-somethings. All in all, a very nice weekend on the boat.
Now, for sailing!!!
Sunday, October 09, 2011
Le Boating the Garonne Canal ...
We had a quick check-out on the boat during which they failed to give us any on-the-water instruction. That was too bad, for a bit of advice on approaching and going into the locks would have been helpful, particularly since we're all sailors and used to keel boats rather than flat-bottomed buses. Oh well, we had insurance, so the dents and torn-up fiberglass would be their problem.
Once we'd signed away our first-born child for the boat, we hiked up from the canal to the village and shopped for provisions at Max Lespine's small grocery. Mostly wine plus Tony's favorite drink Ricard and a bottle of bourbon for Pen and me, and actually food: cheeses, meat, bread, condiments, vegetables and fruit, which they kindly delivered to the boat for us. Chef Lin prepared our evening meal and we had a wonderful time imagining the days to come and solving all the political problems of the world. Thank heavens we're all of the same political persuasion.
Not too bright and early in the morning, at 10:30 and after James had hiked up to the bakery from some fresh croissants and a couple of more baguettes, we let go the lines and pulled out on to the canal. Our overall trip was 123 kilometers and through 42 locks and we six days to do it, so we were confident the days didn't have to be that long in duration. At six kilometers per hour, the speed limit on the canal, we went about ten km to a pretty little spot just below Pont la Folotte, where we tied up for a sort of picnic lunch under the umbrella topsides on the boat. On a walk along the canal's tow path (now a bike path), Penelope fell in love with the giant Sycamore trees, and we could barely tear her away!
Another ten km and a third lock brought us to Buzet-sur-Baise, where we side-tied in front of the Aquataine Navigation Capitainerie for the night. We had hoped to be able to just stop in some quiet and beautiful spot along the side of the canal some of the nights we were on the canal, but once on the water we discovered an intermittent short in the boat's charging system, so we decided to spend nights only where shore power was available. No matter, it was quite nice at every little marina, and they are indeed quite small. Perhaps if we'd been there at the high season (July-August) we wouldn't have found berths, but we never failed to find a spot.
As a side note, the locks were all automatic, and an electrical switch was activated by twisting a rubber-covered rod hanging from a wire suspended over the canal (the woman on the right has it in her hand). There were three lights in front of each lock - red, green and yellow - in a triangular pattern. Once you turned the rod, the yellow-light would begin flashing, indicating the lock process was beginning. The red and green lights were on, and boats waited until just the green showed, which was your signal to enter the lock. There was quite a bit of eddying in the water at the lock entrances, so you had to go in at a couple of km/hr to avoid being thrown on to the sides of the lock or lock doors. Hence, all the boats had dings despite their heavy rubber bumpers and being lined with fenders. Once in the lock and tied off on the bollards, one of your crew had to push a button ashore to complete the lock cycle - that was almost always Penelope.
Next morning we had our market! Oh how we wished we'd found this at the start of the boat trip, for we would have bought so much. But now, with only a couple of days left, we held back and feasted with our eyes. They had every imaginable bit of food from meats and fish to vegetables and fruit, they had a live-animal section, they sold shoes, clothes, mattresses, furniture, household goods of every imaginable type. Cafes were crowded with happy folks and every old friend in the world was meeting every other old friend. It was a potpourri of goodness!
After we'd had our fill at the market, we moved onward through the next eight locks and on into Montech, the little town where we would leave the Garonne Canal the next day and go to Montauban, our final stop, at the end of the Montech Canal. Going through Moissac, we had to pull over and wait ten minutes for the draw-bridge tender to come back from lunch. We pulled ahead of four other boats, to find a spot to stop, and then let them go past us when the bridge finally opened. I was a bit fearful they'd all be heading for Montech, but all four stopped in Moissac's marina and we went on.
At Montech we pulled in beside a couple of Brits who were settling in to spend their fifth winter there. They were most friendly, and we chatted a bit, then Tony and Lin walked into town, I took care of business with the Capitainerie and then I road one of our bikes into town to explore. As luck would have it, the chain came off have way through my ride, and I returned with greasy fingers. After cocktails and good conversation with the other boaters, we went to a little restaurant at the end of the marina quay, Maison Eclusier. Of course, the food was splendid!
On Saturday, the TGV took us back to Gare Montparnesse, where Penelope and I caught a taxi to our new hotel on Rue de Monge nearer the Sorbonne. That night we returned to join Tony and Lin who were joining us for my birthday celebration at Le Beliere Welcome, a well-known small jazz dinner club, where happily I got to play music a bit. (See photos here.)
Don't miss Penelope's slide show
Wednesday, October 05, 2011
Update on Alizee's forestay incident...
"Last leg to St. Petersburg" in April, we experienced what the Dophins Cruising Club calls an "inconvenient floundering folly" when Alizee's roller-furling forestay came loose at the foot on our sail from Key West to Florida's west coast.
In July, the Dolphins put out a call for candidates for the WIFF Award, given annually to the boater experiencing the worst folly of the sailing season. As a newly joined member, I thought it would be fun to submit something, so I wrote up our forestay adventure.
the newsletter. Wow, what a way to be introduced as a new member to a club of a couple of hundred sailors.
Penelope had decided not to drive over to St. Pete for the gathering, since we had just returned from France a couple of days before and she was too jet-lagged. I chose to go because I had to flush the water maker on Alizee anyway, and it was a good chance to meet some Dolphins members. But, I think Penelope was doubly glad not to have gone when I returned home with the trophy, which now has a proud place on our porch!
Monday, October 03, 2011
Birthday in Paris...
As part of our trip to France, I chose a jazz club in Montparnesse on the Left Bank to have dinner with Penelope and Tony Kay and Lin Hullen on my birthday. Le Beliere Welcome turned out to be a wonderful spot. The food was superb, the service great and, more important, Rene Courdacher's trio played exactly my style of jazz swing.
At my bidding, Tony managed to get me a spot playing during one of the trio's breaks. Rene was cordial about it, introducing me to the crowd, and after I played a couple of tunes the bass player Xavier Dambrun and drummer Christian Laruella came up and asked to play a blues with me.
I think we brought the place up a notch, and at the next break we played a good solid swing tune together before the night ended. Naturally, we forgot to bring cameras, but Tony did have his cell phone and managed to eke out a few hazy photos.