Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A Time to Reflect on 2009

Yacht Pals has compiled a list of the major steps (and steps backward) of sailing in 2009. Check out their article, and reminisce about the WYC's own steps forward. 


Now that 2009 is rapidly coming to a close, it's fun but also beneficial to look back on events of the past year that were both good and bad. Yacht Pals did so for the entire sailing community, you can read it here.

It got me thinking about the past year here in the Washington Yacht Club, and some of the high points throughout the year. I talked to a few members and consulted my own memory to come up with this list, and I encourage you to add your favorite WYC moments of 2009.

1. The launch of the new website.
2. The addition of the Hobie 20 to our fleet.
3. The increase in student participation at meetings. As Andrew C. said, "This is the first time I've ever seen more than two students show up at meetings regularly, ever."
4. Fall Snooze n' Cruise; even though we didn't get to Blake, we still had a great time.
5. The continual effort to share sailing knowledge and enthusiasm and, similarly, an obvious love of sailing and teaching in our members.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Cool 49er Skiff Video

Take a look at this video of the 2009 49er World Cup!


Monday, December 21, 2009

The Redneck Yacht Club

Just outside of Ocean Shores, lives a yacht club to be reckoned with.


This weekend, on a trip out to Ocean Shores, we ran across this yacht club and I felt I had to share this picture of it.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A Smelly Slip-Up

A sewage spill at a treatment plant in Magnolia early this week makes dinghy sailing in the vicinity sound like a smelly situation. 


About 10 million gallons of raw sewage spilled into Elliott Bay on Monday night and Tuesday morning because of an equipment failure at the West Point treatment plant in Magnolia.

Photo taken August 2002, by Ned Ahrens, King County photographer.

More information here: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2010513686_websewage15m.html

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Thanksgiving BlastCruise Report

Idefix and Waka celebrate Thanksgiving on the Sound. 


On Thanksgiving weekend, a couple WYC affiliates decided to make a run for the Sound to flee the Apple Cup madness. We met up at the WAC on Friday night after boat moving. A number of would-beblastcruisers came to their senses and stayed home, but at 7 o'clock there were five of us standing on the dock ready to go. We kicked around a couple destinations and settled on Pt. Madison for Friday night andBlakely Harbor the next, coming back Sunday morning. Aimee and Kregg joined Matt on Waka, while Greg and I would chase them on Idefix.

We quickly made our way through the usual ship canal-bridge-lock circus and hit the Sound around 2100. We were greeted with a light southerly, got our main up, and started a beam reach across the sound. I was mulling over what to put up on the bow, when I heard Waka ahead of us put up a headsail. I couldn't tell what they were doing in the darkness, but it sounded like they were hoisting something big, so the racer in me went below, rummaged around, pulled out a light spinnaker and went to work getting it rigged.

Greg turned down onto a broad reach, the moon came out, the chute went up, the wind picked up, and we were soon cruising along, enjoying the last mild, clear night of the year. We reached up to Waka and I tried to take a couple pictures (hard to do in the darkness on a moving boat...), then practiced a couple jibes, and before we knew it we were in front of Port Madison dousing the spinnaker. We went close hauled to get back up to the entrance, but the wind soon died and left us drifting just outside the anchorage.

Time to start the motor and follow Waka in. I had been planning on just rafting up to Waka and letting Matt go through all the hard labor of selecting a spot, putting his anchor down, making sure it's set, and retrieving a mud-caked hook the next morning, but after a bit of meandering around the harbor, it was apparent that Matt wasn't really enthused by this idea and both boats pulled up to the dock at PMYC instead. The night was getting chilly so we regrouped on Waka for a late snack and drinks to warm ourselves up before bed, and ended up turning in rather late.

Saturday morning found us back on Waka for breakfast and coffee. Aimee ran off for her routine marathon practice while the rest of us sat lazily around talking about boats and eating. We made a plan to make a reconnaissance sail to Blakely Harbor and have an afternoon get-together there, then sail back to the WAC at sunset and get in after the football game. It was slowly getting windy in the harbor as we got the boats ready for sailing. Stations on the sound were reporting winds in the twenties, and the forecasts were for 20-30 all evening, so we pulled out our small jibs and put in reefs, but by the time we got off the dock and made it to the sound, there was nothing left but a nasty chop and a light southerly.

Idefix and Waka bounced around uncomfortably for a little while by the south end of Bainbridge, wondering where the forecasted winds were, before the chop let up a little and a 10kt breeze picked up. We then split ways, with Waka going East to try and pick up more wind in the middle of the Sound, while I tried to hug the Western shore to stay out of the strong ebbing current. Neither boat made much progress, and when sunset came we were still a bit south of Eagle Harbor.

I wasn't very excited about going into Blakely Harbor in the dark, and was starting to think about an alternate plan, when Waka hailed us on the radio and declared their intent to set sail for a happy hour at Ivar's. Greg and I agreed this seemed like a perfect alternative to beating up the sound in the cold darkness. We turned onto a broad reach and tried to catch up to Waka, but with the short sail back and no moonlight to help with the rigging, we didn't bother to put up the chute. Nevertheless, we covered the 3 or 4 miles to the locks pretty quickly, did the locks & bridge thing once more, and parked at Ivar's for a delicious wind-down to our day.

Matt even wrapped up "Thanksgiving 2009 Apple Cup BlastCruise" in style by scoring us a free appetizer from the manager with his display of docking skills, and securing our fame as "The Boat People" for at least a couple hours!

If any of this sounded appealing to you, be on the lookout for the next BlastCruise...

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A Rough Guide to Buying Your First Wetsuit

This guide is intended to provide new sailors with information they need before buying their first wetsuit for cold-weather sailing in Seattle. 


So, you want to sail through the chilly months of the Pacific Northwest? Congratulations! By making this choice, you join a relatively small group of sailors who realize that some of the best sailing to be had in this part of the world happens during the cold time of the year. No matter though, with a little bit of gear and some common sense, cold-weather sailing can be as safe and as comfortable as warm weather sailing.

The biggest difference between warm weather sailing and cold weather sailing is this: the margin of risk in cold weather sailing is vastly greater than it is in warm weather sailing. The risk of drowning is present in all sailing, but the risk of exposure is greater when sailing in the cold.

The gear that keeps you warm is as important to your survival as your pfd, so make your purchases wisely and bear in mind that no gear is absolutely guaranteed to keep you safe. Good luck and have fun!

Part one: The golden rule of choosing a wetsuit.

Question: What sort of wetsuit should I get for sailing in Seattle in the cold months of the year?

Answer: 4mm minimum thickness full body wetsuit that fits you the best and which you wear with a hat and wind breaking layer. 

There! Wasn't that easy? this is all you really need to know and you *could* go out to a surfshop and buy a perfectly good wetsuit with just this information. But I know you are more curious than that, which brings us to part 2.

Part Two: The golden rule, elaborated.

Question: No really, what sort of wetsuit should I get for cold weather sailing in Seattle? What do you mean by "4mm thickness full body wetsuit that fits you best and which you wear with a hat and wind breaking layer"?

Answer: Let's unpack the golden rule bit by bit.

"4mm minimum thickness": 4mm minumum thickness means that the neoprene of the wetsuit is four millimeters thick on your torso. Printed on every wetsuit there will be two (and sometimes three) numbers. In surf shops around here, most of the wetsuits will be 3/4, 4/5, and possibly even 5/6.

Why two numbers? Because you need the insulation to be thicker in some places than in others. Neoprene is pretty stretchy stuff, but the thicker it is the more difficult it is to move around. For wintertime sailing around here, you should not go thinner than 4mm for your torso and 3mm for your limbs.

You can go as thick as you like, but most of us agree that 6 is pretty darn thick for these parts, unless you are really cold blooded. Almost all sailors in the WYC, and indeed the majority of pacific northwest surface water sports enthusiasts (diving is a different game entirely) use 4, 5, or 6mm wetsuits.

Your choice is individual. get cold easily? Get a 6mm. Total polar bear? Go for a 4mm and you will probably be just fine, provided the thing fits, but let's not get ahead of ourselves just yet.  

"Full body wetsuit": Full body wetsuit means that you are covered from your ankles to your wrists and your neck. There are multiple ways to achieve this requirement for cold weather sailing. Wetsuits come in different styles.

One style is the full-body wetsuit or "steamer" and the bulk of wetsuits sold in surfshops around here are steamers. If you buy a steamer then you meet the full-body requirement and do not need to know anything about the other styles.

How do you achieve adequate coverage with a non-steamer setup? By layering of course! The "farmer john" style of wetsuit is basically a neoprene pair of overalls. This style offers the advantage of easy entry and does away with the hassle of zippers. Downside is that if you do this you will need a neoprene jacket to cover your arms and neck. Neoprene jackets are just that: they are neoprene tops that cover your torso and arms. Many neoprene jackets have a sort of "beaver tail" or very short legs to keep the jacket pulled down around your bottom.

There are advantages and disadvantages to either system. The obvious advantage of steamers is their simplicity and cost. The advantage to layering is versatility. There are times when just the farmer john is adequate and you do not need the additional jacket. There are other times when a 4mm steamer is just barely enough to keep you comfortable and you will definitely see the merit of layering a 3mm jacket over a 4mm farmer john for 7mm of coverage around your torso. Once again, the choice is yours. Most of us go for steamers, but this does not mean you have to.

"That fits you best": A wetsuit is pretty worthless unless it fits you well. A well fitting wetsuit will be snug around your body, without any large folds or creases created by extra neoprene. The balance between fit and comfort is a pretty fine one. The wetsuit should certainly be tight, but not so tight that it compromises your mobility or makes you really uncomfortable.

Neoprene is stretchy stuff, and it gets even more pliable when it gets wet, so the only way to really test a wetsuit is to try it on and see how it fits dry, and then to try it on wet. If it is too loose when it is dry, it will be even worse when it is wet. Likewise, if it is really uncomfortable dry, then it will not be a whole lot better wet.

If dry fit is nice and snug, but not too tight, it will probably be just right when you get it wet. Fortunately, a lot of surf shops and paddling shops have really great return policies and will allow you to try the thing on in the store, then take it to the lake and swim around and see if it really fits. Do not test a wetsuit in a swimming pool; chlorine damages neoprene.

A note on brands: Did you notice how nowhere in the golden rule are any specific brands mentioned? This is because some brands will fit you better than others, and no one should get hung up on brands when they are buying something where fit is the most important thing.

Henderson, Ripcurl, Burley, etc. are all very good brands, but some will fit you better than others and the most important thing is to go with the suit that fits you. Pretty much any wetsuit you buy from a reputable shop will be of comparable quality to all the other wetsuits they have for the same price range. Whichever one fits you best is the one you should buy. It will keep you warm if you wear it with some other layers, which brings us to our last point.

"And which you wear with a hat and windbreaking layer"This part is pretty easy. You lose a lot of heat through your head. Wear a warm hat when you sail. Wool is great but heavy and smells sorta funny when it is wet. A good synthetic hat is fine. You could wear a neoprene hood while sailing, but this is possibly overkill.

A very good idea is a hat with some sort of drawstring around your neck or another way of securing the hat so you do not lose it in the breeze or during a nasty capsize. If you lose your hat, you will get cold. The author of this guide loves balaclavas (and also loves baklava) but does not recommend them for dinghy sailing for the following reason: Dinghy sailing is really wet, and having wet cloth over your mouth is pretty scary. Balaclavas are great for keelboats, but (in his opinion) are pretty bad choices for dinghy sailing.

Windbreaking layers help tremendously by minimizing the evaporation of water off your wetsuit. The difference in heat retention is pretty immense. What sort of windbreaking layer should you get? Whatever works. A cheap warm-up jacket will work just as well as a nice rainshell or a dinghy smock. Whatever works, really.

The windblocking layer is most important for your upper body, but many sailors also choose to wear windblocking pants too. Even if they do not wear windblocking pants, most sailors wear a cheap pair of "board shorts" over their wetsuit. This will provide a little bit of protection from the elements but will mostly protect the seat of your wetsuit from the abrasion of constantly scooting about the deck as you hike in and out.

Question: What about my hands and my feet?

Answer: Your hands can be kept warmer by wearing gloves, and your feet can be kept warmer by wearing neoprene booties or lots of wool socks (or both). Really warm gloves for dinghy sailing are a bit of a holy grail. If you find something amazing, please let the rest of us know. Boots are bit easier.

Most sailors in the WYC sail with neoprene booties. If you want to be extra warm, wear a couple layers of wool socks under your booties. Alternatively, you could get away with wearing wool socks under any boat appropriate shoe or even sandals. The author has done this several times and has been pretty comfortable this way. Experiment and find what works for you.

Here's a link to the wetsuit information page on the WYC website.  If you'd like more information, check here!