Monday, July 31, 2006

Red Hook Yacht Club?

During a recent visit to the Fairway Market in Red Hook, we noticed a sailboat docked adjacent to the parking lot, or right next to the Red Hook Waterfront Museum and Showboat Barge.

According to our sources in The Hook, this is property private owned by Greg O'Connell, who's been reported to be the largest property owner in Red Hook. And while there may be a few boats rafted or moored in this area, it is, unfortunately, not a burgeoning boating scene or nascent yacht club.

Locals in the know about this spot, particularly the owners keeping their boats in the lee of Fairway, are very hush-hush when asked how they obtained these coveted moorings, particularly in light of the fact that there is a battle for the future of Red Hook where private developers are planning to displace the local shipping industry and a part of Brooklyn's storied waterfront history.

Our sources tell us that part of the silence around theses coveted boat slips is the fact that these Red Hook-based boat owners know they are on borrowed time. Its inevitable that this spot will be re-developed for different use, perhaps public use like a marina (we would champion that idea).

Regardless, we're still giving props to these renegade sailors, who are continuing more than 300 years Red Hook maritime tradition.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Weekend on the Water

Following is a list of weekend activities on or around the Brooklyn waterfront:

Or hit one of the many fine beaches in Kings County.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

2006 Around Long Island Regatta: Starts in Brooklyn on Thursday

On Thursday afternoon, more than 50 sailboats, ranging in size from 27 to 50 feet, will gather off of Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn to race more than 200 miles around the perimeter of Long Island. The regatta takes the fleet past Breezy Point around Montauk and finishes off Glen Cove, New York.

Since 1977, sailors have been coming to Brooklyn to race in the Around Long Island Regatta, sponsored by the Sea Cliff Yacht Club. Whether they come for the party at the Sheepshead Bay Yacht Club or come for the racing, for close to 30 years they've shown up to put their boats and crews to the test. This regatta is also one of the races that counts (or scores) for the prestigious Northern Ocean Racing Trophy.

This year's race starts on Thursday, July 27th with the first gun going off around 1:00 p.m.,, with starts continuing until 3:00 p.m. There is also a starting line ceremonies taking place in Sheepshead Bay prior to the start. For those who want to watch the race, there are many viewing spots around Long Island where land-locked spectators can view the action. Based on past results, the regatta should wrap-up by Saturday afternoon.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Photo of the Day

Plumb Beach, Brooklyn
July 2006

Kiteboarding in Brooklyn

The sport of kiteboarding is more closely associated with Hawaii, Australia and New Zealand, but we're glad to report that the sport is alive and well in the Borough of Kings, specifically at Plumb Beach.

Over the weekend, there were a few kiteboarders, and many more windsurfers taking advantage of the 10-to-12 knot winds off Plumb Beach. When the wind is between 15 and 25 knots, more kiteboarders emerge from the shores of Plumb Beach.

The kiteboarders we spoke with said they lived in Manhattan and head to Plumb Beach in Brooklyn "because its close." One of the guys owned a car. They also told us they prefer to go kiteboarding if the winds are in excess of 15 knots. "Its much more fun," a kiteboarder told Sail Brooklyn. "If there is less wind, you need a bigger kite," he added.

As far as how much experience one needs to start kiteboarding, one kiteboarder told us he had never windsurfed and only wakeboarded before he started kiteboarding. He added that it was a lot less hassle and less expensive than campaigning a J/120 sailboat.

If you want to try it out, there are many spots in Long Island to rent gear and take lessons. Two places on the East End are Hampton’s Windsurfing: (631) 283-9463 and Main Beach: 516-647-0678. Hampton's Windsufing and Main Beach both have kite gear for sale and kite lessons available. There is also a local kitesurfing instructor, Skatoor, who supplies gear with all his lessons: 203-984-1097.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Free Sailboat in Brooklyn!

Just off Plumb Beach in Brooklyn, there is a sailboat waiting for a new home. Best of all, its free. The catch is, the dismasted 20-something footer is aground and she looks to be in pretty bad shape.

Maritime "law of finds" states that if find a wreck, you're welcome to salvage it.

Who's boat is it? How did it get there? Why didn't the owner try to salvage it? How long has it been there? These questions and the story of the boat remain a mystery.

Give a Hoot, Don't Pollute!

In the 1970s, public service announcements featuring Woodsy the Owl and the Crying Indian made us think twice about polluting. Perhaps its time to bring those PSAs back.

Today we were at Plumb Beach and after taking a short walk on the garbage strewn beach, we felt like the Crying Indian. There was a line of garbage in the sand that ran about a mile along the beach, caused by polluters and the ebbing of the tides. We can only assume that the trash was a combination of stuff left on the beach and garbage thrown into the water (whether intentionally off a boat, or unintentionally blew into the sea).

The trash didn't prevent about a dozen windsurfers, a couple of kiteboarders and a group of beachcombers from heading to plumb beach. It was just sad to see such a beautiful beach polluted. On the flip side, it doesn't seem like it would take much effort to turn this place around.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Brooklyn Sails the Great Lakes: 2006 Bayview Mackinac Race Wrap-Up

We have returned to Brooklyn from the 2006 Bayview Mackinac Race in Michigan. While we didn't place well (6th of 7 boats in our class), the experience is one that we'll never forget.

For those of you who've never sailed on the Great Lakes, its vastly different than sailing in Brooklyn. First, there is no smell of brine or salt-air -- there is practically no smell. Second, there are no tides or rolling waves as we have in the ocean. A lack of tides makes some tactical decision easier because there isn't a need to factor in what the tide (ebbing or flowing) will do to your course. However, the waves on the Great Lakes can be down right difficult to navigate and predict. In the ocean, waves build over thousands of miles, which cause ocean surf or the rolling waves we get off of Brooklyn. Even in a storm or strong blow, the ocean waves are predictable -- even though you may ride up and down a 40-foot wave. In the Great Lakes, the water may be smooth, but if the wind starts to build, the water gets very nasty. Instead of long, rolling waves, the lake gets filled with short, square waves that knock the boat around. Particularly, when the wind is at your beam or back, steering is difficult, because the waves push the boat around. Lastly, the aesthetics are much different. Sailing in Brooklyn is truly urban, with views of the NYC skyline, Coney Island, Staten Island and New Jersey. Sailing in Lake Huron you feel as though you are in an open sea, with small ports offshore. There is also much more greenery on the shoreline compared to the BK. Its also a lot cooler, with temperatures dropping into the 60s during the evening.

The race can be described a few ways: two large parties with a boat race in the middle; a large regatta with parties before and after the race; a test of endurance. (Our pals at Sailing Anarchy had a nice write up of the race.) We like to view it as a race, with some tradition thrown in. Upon leaving, there is a parade of boats that go up the Black River out into Lake Huron. When riding up the River, the boats are cheered on by an enthusiastic audience, some of which put up numbers, like Olympic judges, to rate the different boats (we got a 10), and sent off properly by a bagpipe and drum corps. Very cool stuff.

The start is also amazing. As our start was a bit later, we got to watch hundreds of boats and thousands of sailors head up the lake. We were joined by tens of thousands of people who viewed the start from Canada, Michigan and from hundreds of boats on the water. Following the start, the crews which are running on adrenaline, start to settle down and get into a flow. The race is a challenge of endurance, tactics and teamwork. Without all three, its guaranteed that your boat will not finish well. We faced challenges of digging ourselves out of holes with no air, multiple sail changes (we'd put up a spinnaker, only to bring it down and put up a genoa 10 minutes later when the wind shifted) and staying focused. We had a great finish, where the winds increased to more than 20 knots. It was thrilling to have 8 guys on the rail as we rode into the finish.

Once you reach Mackinac Island, the party starts. We arrived at 8:30 a.m. on Monday morning, and there were many, many crews uncorking champagne and cracking cans of Labatts Blue (which is known locally as Blue Milk). The official "awards party" takes place on Tuesday. The party starts at noon and runs until bottles of Bacardi rum (the sponsor) are emptied. Crew members, owners, and their families tend to get a bit saused at the party, which continues at some local bars and on the boats until the wee hours of the morning. They know how to party in the Midwest.

More photos are on the Sail Brooklyn Flickr Page.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Brooklyn Sails The Mac

Mackinac (pronounced Mack-in-aw) Island is a very small island that sits in the Mackinac Straits between the Upper and Lower Peninsulas of Michigan and between Lake Huron and Lake Michigan. The island doesn't allow cars, so transportation is limited to horse and buggy, bicycle or walking. Mackinac Island is also the finish line to two of the largest, most challenging regattas in the world -- the Mac Races (or more formally known as the "Race to Mackinac" sponsored by the Chicago Yacht Club and the Bayview Mackinac (or Port Huron to Mackinac) Race sponsored by Bayview Yacht Club of Detroit.) The Mac races are also the largest fresh water regattas in the world.

On Saturday, July 15, Sail Brooklyn will be taking a little hiatus to participate in the 82nd running of the Bayview Mackinac race. More than 300 boats, ranging from the 86-foot Windquest to 27-feet (there are two that size), comprising 20 classes in two divisions will race the distance of Lake Huron to Mackinac Island. And while sailing cogniscenti may not recognize the Midwest as one of the most active sailing scenes in the country, the proof is in the data: more than 20-percent of the fleet are sailing in one-design classes, including eight GL-70s; seven J-105s; eight NA-40s; nine J-120s; 12 J35s; and 17 C&C 35s (Mk-I), warhorses from early 1970s.
We'll be racing on Bananas, a 1978 North American-40 (NA-40). The NA-40, designed by Dick Carter, was commissioned by Detroit sailors in the late 70s who wanted their own one-design racer. Our fleet of eight NA-40s is racing on the Shore Course (aka the Ladies Tees), which is 204 nautical miles up Lake Huron. (The other course, the Southampton Course, is 253nm and is named for the Southampton light you round before heading north). The NA-40 class, while small, and somewhat disrespected by the local Detroit fleet, is very competitive. Two years ago in the Bayview Mackinac Race, after more than 200 miles from Port Huron, it came down to a tacking duel between three boats for second place. The winning NA-40 of that year, Majic Star, beat the class by a good margin and was first overall (corrected time) among the Shore Course fleet.

The majority of participants are Midwestern, but it also draws sailors from across the country and around the world to compete in the challenging conditions of the Great Lakes, where sometimes the breezes are fickle and 30-minutes later, a storm, out of nowhere, builds to incredible strength. Last year's race, the fastest race on record, had a Sunday night squall producing winds over 30-knots dismasting one boat and tearing countless sails.

In addition to unpredictable conditions, the Mac is known for its parties. The first is Boat Night, which is the party the Friday before the race. Thousands from metro Detroit head to Port Huron to see the fleet rafted up on the Black River and to have a good time. The second race is the Awards Party, taking place on the Tuesday. The party is on a beautiful piece of land, off Mission Point on Mackinac Island, which overlooks the majestic Staits. Typically a somewhat raucous, but very fun event has a mix of drunken sailors, in various states of drunkenness, their drunken wives, some kids and a mix of others. When the official party ends, the party continues at the Pink Pony Bar until the wee hours of the evening.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

A 6-Year Old Driving in Force 4 Winds Off Coney Island

"Start 'em young."

That's what the so-called experts will tell you about any child you'd like to transform into a sports prodigy. We're no experts on creating the next Tiger Woods or Martina Hingis, we do think its pretty cool to take a 6-year old on his first sailing voyage, notably, when he lives in Tennessee -- not exactly a sailing Mecca.

Over the weekend, we were honored to accompany him and his father out for their first "father-son sailing experience" in the Rockaway Inlet.

Our objectives were to be safe and have a lot of fun. If he learned anything, that would be a bonus. We attempted to keep the young lad informed about the parts of the boat, what we were doing and what may or may not happen on the boat. We figured, keep him engaged -- and speak to him as though he's an adult -- and he'd be into it and safe. That's what happened. While the winds started out around 10 knots, they built to a force 5 wind, before we headed back to the mooring. Winds like that can make an novice adult sailor nervous, but our young cadet took it all in stride and even drove for a little while (he drove very nicely we may add).

After the sail, the whippersnapper was sound asleep two minutes after we loaded the car and headed home.

Monday, July 10, 2006

High and Dry off Plumb Beach

We haven't met a sailor who hasn't run aground or hit rocks at one time in their sailing career, but what we saw on Sunday just off Plumb Beach in Brooklyn was insane.

Upon heading out of the Sheepshead Bay Channel (which, we'd like to add, needs a harbor master or something to slow these stinkboats down), we noticed that a sailboat, appearing to be about 30-feet, was stranded high and dry just off Plumb Beach at low tide. Anyone who sails the area knows that you don't cut the marks, particularly by Plumb Beach (unless you're in a centerboarder that draws less than a foot). While our picture does not do the site justice, if you blow it up, you can see the boat lying on her side a few hours after low tide.

We took it as a reminder to bone up on our charts. You can never have too much local knowledge.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Weekend on the Water

On Friday, July 6th, at 9:00 p.m., in historic Coney Island, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz will illuminate the historic, but now dormant, Parachute Jump. A fireworks show will follow the ceremonies. The Parachute Jump will be illuminated from dusk until midnight through October. The event takes place on the Boardwalk and West 15th St.

For those looking for more adult-oriented entertainment, you can stay at Coney Island for their weekly Burlesque at the Beach which takes place at 10:00 p.m. This weeks show is called "Starshine Burlesque."

On Saturday, July 7th, Miramar Yacht Club will host, weather permitting, a make-up of the previously washed-out Sherman Leonard Regatta. The sailing will consist of both PHRF handicap racing and one-design racing for the fleet of Pearson Ensign sailboats. MYC members are encouraged to race, non MYC boats are also welcome. Skippers meeting is at 11:00 a.m. followed by the starting gun at 1:00 For further information or to register, contact Miramar Yacht Club.

Later that evening, Coney Island , as part of its Saturday Night Film Series, is presenting Scorsese's Taxi Driver, starring Robert DeNiro. The movie takes place at the Coney Island Museum 1208 Surf Ave. between Stillwell Ave. and West 12th Street. Tickets are $5.00. Free Popcorn! Shows start at 8:30pm, doors open 8pm.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Wounded Soldiers Learn to Sail, Scuba and Water Ski July 6-9

Members of the Armed Forces who were severely wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan will have the opportunity to learn adapted water skiing, scuba and other water sports as guests at the 2006 Adaptive Water Sports Festival, from July 6 though 9 in Rockaway Point. Presented by Disabled Sports USA, the Wounded Warrior Project, Graybeards, and the Fire Department of New York City (FDNY), the Adaptive Water Sports Festival has specially trained volunteers from the FDNY, including Firefighter Tom Westman, winner of the CBS 2005 Survivor series, to teach the “Wounded Warriors.” According to Disabled Sports USA, they expect at least 35 members of the Armed Forces and their families to participate as special guests.

This is the second annual Adaptive Water Sports Festival and part of Disabled Sports USA's nationwide Wounded Warrior Disabled Sports Project.

We think this is a great way to give back to those who really sacrificed for their country.

For further information contact Disabled Sports USA.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Happy Independence Day

On July 4 in 1776, a few rogue British Colonies in North America declared their independence from England, forming the United States of America. Please, please don't call it the "4th of July Holiday," because the holiday is "Independence Day", celebrating the fact that pioneering and gutsy forefathers had enough of England's King George III and his "long train of abuses and usurpations," including:

  • Keeping standing armies in the colonies without consent of the colonial legislature
  • Obstructing the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers
  • Obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither
  • Affecting to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power
These are just a few of the gripes listed in the Declaration of Independence against King George.

While we will be out in force celebrating the birth of this nation, we think its important to take a look back at how we got here.