Hurricane Sandy, the hangover

Newport, The day after Sandy.

By and large Newport missed the big hit that Long Island Sound,  New York City, New Jersey-and other areas- were pummeled by.

I am just back from a tour around town and apart from the trees & branches down, it looks remarkable normal. As far as I can tell, no boats got washed off their moorings. According to several news sources around town, there was about 2 feet of water in the Bannisters Wharf & Bowen’s Wharf area, America’s Cup Ave. Thames St., south to Wellington Ave. and Lower Thames St. Driving along America’s Cup Ave. this morning past the Wharfs, it was hard to tell by observation that this was the case.Regardless the Newport Daily News has a picture of a guy paddling a kayak with the south side of the Seaman’s Church Institute in the background.

Out at Sail Newport & Fort Adams, it looked like this:

The dinghy boat park at Sail Newport-Usually jam packed with Lasers, Vanguard 15’s, 420’s and some other skiffs- was fairly empty. The “V” shaped weed debris marks the high tide line.

The weed got to these Vanguard 15 spars too.

This R.I.B. was the only boat I saw washed ashore.

On the north side of Admiral’s Pier (the one with the cranes) the water washed a pile of gravel ashore.

The high tide line from the Admiral’s Pier extended north towards Fort Adams.

Most of the Sail Newport J-22’s made it OK.

A grand use for your old high test running rigging.

Sail Newport Executive Director Brad Read and his kids pulling a spar from a J 22. This one capsized on its cradle and sustained damage on the starboard gunwale.

Alofsin Piers-one of the big baulks of timber from the side of the pier was washed into the corner.


The shore end of the Alofsin Piers, some damage to the decking.

The Alofsin Piers would have been under water at some point. At the peak, about 1500, the Piers and Ft. Adams were dead down wind, with about a one mile fetch across the harbor. Buzzards Tower reported a peak gust of 65 knots about then.

I was out at this time yesterday taking some pictures. I could not post them because I arrived to home to no power and some very wobbly trees.

Sandy from Goat Is to SE to S to Rebecca  Is a video I shoat yesterday.  I could not post it then due to power outage in Middletown.

A still shot from Goat Island docks to the SE across Newport Harbor towards I.Y.R.S. This lovely big cutter was one of a few boats in the harbor. Shot about 1500 or so when Buzzards Bay tower reported a gust of 65 knots.

Sandy from Goat Is to SE to S to Rebecca This is another video from Goat Island again looking to I.Y.R.S. and panning to the South.

A view to the south from the entrance to the Goat Island Docks showing the back wash up against the Goat Island bulkhead. Tide wise this was all just after low tide….About 1500 or so. High tide on Monday night was @ 2023



Hurricane Sandy, from Newport RI

Newport RI,

Monday 29 October 2012

11:45 eastern.

Just went for a ride around town, out to Sail Newport, Narragansett Ave. at The 40 Steps and back. Town is largely eerily quiet. Basically everything is closed especially along Thames street. The right turn to Wellington ave, at Team One is blocked off although it is possible to get onto Wellington Ave by other routes. Ocean Drive is blocked off at Castle HiIl and likewise Harrison Ave, next to the Golf Club. I did not try any of the other routes- The wind is from the NE so the ferocity will be limited to the ground swell.

Fort Adams/Sail Newport is generally pretty empty except for the keel boats in the fenced off boat park. The eastern lot where the Lasers and V15’s live is pretty empty except for a couple of I-14’s and 49’ers that have capsized on their trailers. Several cars were outside the SN offices. I recognized them as belonging to the Staff.

I drove back along Wellington ave., which will be under water at the next high tide, about 2023 this evening, the breeze was coming on in a significant way, solidly over 40 with higher gusts.

Last stop was the 40 Steps at Narragansett Ave. Several cars were lined up with the passengers having a look at the conditions and several Salve kids getting wet in the light, misty spray of a rain. When I pulled up there was a Newport Police Supervisor SUV there. A second police car arrived and all three officers got our,  put their yellow vests on, with purpose and hustled off to the south along Cliff Walk. I got in the car and drove home….

Some images from this foray:

The view from the top of The 40 Steps. I reckon the swell is around 12-14 feet. As always a picture does not do justice to the actual conditions.

Looking north across the entrance to the M.O.Y. small boat basin

Seagulls hunkered down at the north end of Ft. Adams-Looking to the N and Rose Is. Wind is about 40 from the NE….

The situation at the Alofsin Basin at Ft. Adams, 3 hours after high tide….

View from Howard Wharf at the Vanderbilt Condos dock, looking to the NW over to Newport Shipyard

Newport Harbor looking to the SW across to Ft. Adams from Howard wharf at the Vanderbilt condos. Artemis is to the south of Whitehawk, or maybe Ti. Rebecca is to the north a bit.

This just in from Ralf Steitz, the very salty Head Offshore Guy at Kings Point concerning the Bounty situation. Not good, at least for two crew

It is blowing a solid 45 outside my window now. A tree just fell in the woods south of me… Looks to be a long couple of days

More as it happens.

Single handed sailing, old style

For those of us of a certain age, or with a passion and interest in long distance ocean-sailing, alone, the name Commander Bill King will trigger a ding in the dark recesses of the mental lazarette. Commander King was among the earliest sailors to attempt and subsequently, after the third attempt, successfully circumnavigate alone.

Picture of Commander King cut from an obituary in the British paper, The Guardian. The image was not attributed.

I remember reading his book “Capsize” as a teenager & being fascinated with the story. He had survived World War two as a submarine commander and apparently, according to various obituaries (he died in September at aged 102) was the only sub-captain to be in command of a sub on the first day of the war and still in command of (his third) sub at its conclusion.

His boat was designed by Angus Primrose, a Junk rigged Schooner, built in cold molded wood and unique, today, in having no life lines. He did have a jack line down the centerline of the boat though.

Galway Blazer was designed by Angus Primrose.  She was Junk Rigged-Image from the Junk Rig Association

I do remember reading, or perhaps surmising from his writings, that the mental toll taken as the Commander of a Submarine for 6 years was a major motivator in his interest in going to sea, on the surface, for a long time, alone. On his first attempt he was capsized in the vicinity Cape Town to which he was towed. He tried again in 1971 but adjourned to Fremantle due to illness. He subsequently tried again but ran into, or was run into by a large sea creature.  He finally left Freo. and made back to Plymouth UK on the third go.

That King is part of the very small pantheon of the pioneers of solo circumnavigation is without doubt but, he seems to have been a private man and did not pop up later  to become a public figure in sailing, or writing about, sailing.

Image of Commander Bill King

King in later life. Image from Yachting Monthly

My memory of King was re-ignited by an email I received last weekend from another circumnavigator, Scott Kuhner.  Scott and his wife, Kitty, have done I think two laps of the Blue Marble, the first in the early 1970’s, right about the time King was at sea of Cape Leeuwin, the SW corner of Australia. Scott is a recipient of my short-handed sailing emails and had sent me an email with a link to a video on King. I watched it and it confirmed my impressions from 40 plus years ago. In the video he makes reference to his reason for going off alone and the look in his face tells me he was reflecting back on what must have been an unbelievable 6 years.

If you think you are having, or have had, a bad-hair day, or even if you are not, watch this video.

Second Single handed sailing event in November

The second event in November is the start of the Vendee Globe. Without question the Vendee Globe is, hands down, the hardest sporting contest on the planet. It might even rank in the top ten of the hardest things to complete on the planet. “Climbing” Mount Everest is a relative cake walk when viewed alongside the Vendee Globe.
For such a hard thing to do, the rules are simple, rather like the old gag about the simplicity of the rules for the Sydney Harbor 18 footers:

“They’re 18 feet long and they start at two o’clock”.

An open 50-Same idea as the IMOCA boats but 50 feet long

For the Vendee Globe the gag might run:

“The boats are 60 feet long and the start is in November”.

Realistically there are four rules.
•    The Boats: IMOCA 60 footers.
•    Crew: Single handed
•    Course: Around the world, France to France, under the Great Capes, Antarctica to starboard
•    Rules: Non-stop, no assistance.

An Imoca 60 in heavy weather near New Zealand

Simply reading this summary of the race does not do justice to the magnitude of the event.
Consider for a moment the following:

The record for this circumnavigation is 84 days set in the last race in 2008-2009. And that was of course for the winner. The last finisher crossed the line FORTY TWO DAYS after the winner taking 126 days. Another month and a half at sea! This is an average of just over 8 knots or about the time it used to take the fast BOC boats to sail from Newport to Cape Town.

Think about that for a minute.

What are you going to be doing for the next four months beginning 10 November 2012?

•    Will you be doing it by yourself?
•    Will you get, oh, 4-5 hours of sleep per 24, on a good day!
•    Will you be burning through 6,000 to 8,000 calories per day?
•    Will you be burning these calories on a diet largely fueled by freeze dried food?
•    Will you be trying to fix equipment that ranges across the industrial spectrum from chemistry, electricity, hydraulics, electronics, mechanics, composite fabrication, sail repair?
•    Will you have the skills, thinking, the determination to finish have to deal with all alone
•    Will you have to repair yourself in the event of injury?
•    Will you have the courage and skills to beat the record for a 24 hours run of 439 miles set in 2004? An AVERAGE of bit over 18 knots.
•    The 24 hour run record in the last Volvo Ocean Race is 565 miles in 24 hours, on a 70 foot boat with 10 guys…..

I could go on but you get the idea.

The Vendee Globe is much more than a sail boat race. Even after following the race for years, I still find it hard to precisely define what it is. Ultimately it is probably only possible to define it if you have done it. Only two American sailors, Bruce Schwab and Rich Wilson have successfully finished this race. A third, the late Mike Plant, completed the course but was not scored as a finisher because he accepted assistance south of New Zealand.

The blistering pace that defined the 2008 race bears comparison to another bench mark circumnavigation, the Trophy Jules Verne.

In 1992 my wife and I were in France looking at Mini Transat boats. Driving along the Brittany coast one afternoon, we had the car radio on and I heard the words “Commodore Explorer”. My wife had enough French to tell me that it was a interview, live at sea (well it is France after all)  with Bruno Peyron skipper of this  90 foot cat of the same name. The gist of it was they were hours away from completing a circumnavigation of the globe in less than 80 days the basic premise behind the Trophy Jules Verne-Around The World in 80 Days

•    16 years ago
•    10 or so guys
•    90 foot multihull
•    79 days.

By any standard the Vendee Globe is one of the most compelling events ever organized. The depths to which the human spirit needs to be plumed are mind boggling. A fantastic insight into this condition is a first person story of the race by one of the two US Vendee Globe sailors, Rich Wilson, is in his book- “France to France, Antarctica to Starboard”. Wilson, well known for his combining educational programs and sailing activities for school kids finished the 2008 race.

While not the fastest boat around the Big Blue Marble, Rich was:

The lone America, the oldest skipper, sailing one of the oldest boats, with one of the smallest budgets and he suffers from Asthma to boot.

The only thing I can think of that surpasses the Vendee Globe as a test of ones ability to overcome relates to Commander Bill King. Commander King was one of the original sailors to attempt the Grandfather of the Vendee Globe, the Golden Globe race in the late 1960’s. Commander King, a Royal Navy Submarine commander in the Second World War lets us see just a glimpse of the stresses he had to bear in that role, in this brief video on Vimeo.

Thanks to Scott Kuhner for the link.

If you are moved by that which moves the human spirit, watch the Vendee Globe this winter. Millions of Frenchmen and women do.

Single handed sailing in November

For those students of single-handed and double–handed sailing, November has two
“don’t miss” events coming up. One is in Newport RI, the other in La Rochelle, France
Save the date, especially if you live in the Northeast. On Saturday 03 November 2012 at Newport Yacht Club, on Long Wharf in Newport, RI. NYC hosts the annual gathering of the Bermuda 1-2 group. From 1530 on.

The Bermuda 1-2 is the oldest continually running single handed ocean race in the north east and is one year older than the Single handed Transpac, first run in 1978, according to info on the Single-handed Transpac’s website–And I am happy to be corrected on this detail. The point is the Bermuda 1-2 has been around for a long time and has acted as a proving ground for several sailors who have gone on to bigger single handed races, such as the O.S.T.A.R and the (formerly BOC & Around Alone) Velux Five Oceans.

Sail handling skills are a key element of the Bermuda 1-2

This November meeting is open to all who are interested in meeting the kind of challenge that such a voyage poses. I.E. preparing and sailing one’s own yacht from Newport To Bermuda and then Double Handed return race back to Newport. There are few, if any, activities in today’s world where the skill, cunning, experience, will, and many of the other human characteristics we all envy in those who possess them, are required, and often wished for in greater quantities, than sailing one’s own boat on this course across the Gulf Stream alone.

If you find yourself inclined to see just how good a sailor AND seaman you are, not on a sunny day on Block Island Sound but the inner you, that needs to come to the surface half way to Bermuda, in hard weather, all the while wet, cold, tired, hungry and let’s say, a bit anxious, then this race is for you. One precise reason to come to this gathering is to meet the sailors who have “been there and done that” as they saying goes. Broken spars, damaged sails, getting sails (spinnakers) down in the midst of a squall, thru hull leaks, broken rudders, engine (and so electricity) failures and so on. Without placing too much emphasis on the crummy stuff, a veteran sailor will keep close the Prussian Army’s dictum about “plans rarely surviving contact with the enemy”. The essence of this, and all sailing for that matter, is in the preparation. The sailing is easy, it is the seaman ship that is the challenge.

And you don’t need to have a large ocean going yacht, although it does need to be over 30 feet LOA.

The Bermuda 1-2 size range is 30 feet LOA to 60

Like many grand endeavors, such as a marathon or a personal best in some activity, the first successful completion of this passage is a land mark in a sailor’s life. It is a called a race but the bulk of the competitors are sailing in “normal” boats much like the boats the rest of us have.

Several boats still carry mechanical self steering systems as well as electric Autopilots

I will say that for those of us of a certain age, the camaraderie is very similar to the “Old Days” where the competitors all help each other, exchange tools, how-to tips, weather information and so on.

And even if you are, shall we say  NOT in the market, for the race proper (in 2013), it is an ideal  venue to talk with a great group of sailors, men AND women. If you want to start slowly, the Newport Yacht Club also hosts two other events for single and double-handed sailors. Thus you can come and test the waters in say the New England Solo Twin held annually in July  or the Offshore 160 held in the off years, I.E. even numbered years opposite the Bermuda 1-2 There is also a calendar (still to be filled in fully for 2013) with all the short handed races I can find between Annapolis and Maine.

So, for Saturday 03 November:

•    The  official gathering time is 1530, for a couple of beers and catch up with mates, old and new. Folks are often there from about 1500 on.
•    There is a Forum beginning at 1600 that includes an introduction around the room of who is who and their goals.
•    The Forum includes discussion of changes to the race, since 2011 & comments by the Skippers Representative, Kris Wenzel, a multi-time (female) competitor.
•    She has organized U. Conn Met man, Frank Bohlen to come and address us on the issues of weather, including Gulf Stream 101, on the course and I reckon THAT alone is worth the price of the gas and beers from anywhere on the north east coast.

The “Gam” concludes at 1700 and from then until 1900 general conviviality is the order of the day. There is a cash bar in the meeting space and Hor’s d’oeurvs are available. Frequently a few groups will wander off after 1900 to sample Newport’s restaurants too.

If you are coming, please contact Race C’ tee Chairman, Roy Guay at so he can get a head count for the munchies that the Yacht Club prepares.

The images used above were taken either by me or a long time ship mate and former (is there such a thing?) professional photographer Don Miller Photography. Unfortunately I cannot remember which ones he took-The better ones I guess.

You can see more of his fine work on his website

Used with out permission-I got to give him something to heckle me for

Hope to see you in Newport on the 3rd..