Monday, March 3, 2008

First Sail of 2008

For those of you living in the Southeast, you may have noticed some strikingly beautiful weather this past weekend - Wonderfully fitting for the first couple of days of March. The weather guys nailed this one and true to their predictions we had temps in the mid-60's and winds out of the Southeast in the 10mph range - for our style of recreational boating, that's about as perfect as perfect gets.

So with hot water in the thermos and a wife, dog, and good friend along, we headed on down to the boat for the first sail of 2008. For all you snow bird boaters out there, you might want to cover you eyes for the next part... we get to 'winterize' our boat on the water, our power plant keeps our little sailing lake warm year round... So there's not much to do but open her up and head out...

And head out we did. We had the sails up in short order and after a quick adjustment from Genoa to Jib we settled in to seriously relaxing afternoon of sailing. The conditions were a welcome sight to more than a few other sailers in the club, and a lot of the fun was watching the other boats in the stiff breeze shake free the cob webs of our short off season.

Of particular note was a Catalina 22, flying a Genoa and making some serious speed for a small cruiser. There's a craft where the lines of hull combine with the sweep of sail to create something truly beautiful in motion. No less beautiful was an open Flying Scott with a crew of five (including dog) scooting along at a raucous clip with just a hint of abandon... her baby-boomer crew hiking out to off-set heel as if they spent their teens in the 90's instead of the '50s. For the record, they completely smoked us.

There was a Laser out there too, single handed and shooting for a spot up on plane which I'm sure he made a time or two in just the right puff. Where I saw him make the best action though was back at the docks with a few friends gathered around a charcoal barbecue... Sails set loose across the dock and idle in the wind... smiles everywhere.

I'm quite sure I wouldn't have changed a single thing.

Sailing is the Destination

Every since I was a little kid, I've always loved boats in a marina. Even now that I'm older and I know a thing a two about conservation and the environment, I still just can't help but love boats in a marina. On this one I have no preference for Sail or Power boats except that to say the clacking of Halyards against mast is one of my favorite sounds of all time.

I can't take credit for coming up with 'Sailing is the Destination' but I'm not sure anyone has claimed the dock as the destination - I don't know, maybe the house boaters have me beat there... Let me tell you, those guys have recreation figured out! But if you like to unwind with a drink or spend some time with friends when it's time to kick back, a boat at the dock makes for a memorable setting to say the least. It's definitely one of those things where you just can't anticipate the different experiences in store for you.

An inability to predict the realities of experience is something we're all familiar with from time we've spent outdoors, sailing or no. Most of us spend most of our time inside and it's all too easy to forget how much we need to be outside. For me sailing has added a new dimension to the whole affair as I'm constantly aware of what the wind is doing - even when my next sail might be days away. Wind direction and strength and approaching storms... Around here the sailing conditions are best with winds out of the south... who knew such a small thing could make a fellow so happy.

Another thing that'll make a guy happy is owning a finely tuned function-specific machine like a sailboat. Sailboats are dauntingly complex even at a quick glance and to come to know one is an intimate and personal thing. Just like with people, there's always something new to learn and think about... It's exciting to hold confidence in your machine and your sailing skills too.

Having that confidence in hand when you bring other people aboard is wonderfully unique. My informal observation is that most people have never been sailing. They've never felt that quiet rush of a slipping along under full sail - awash in wind and experience. It's something for everyone and not to be missed. I've yet to come across someone who says - no, I don't want to go sailing. Should be easy enough to straighten out if I ever do - Even if our journey takes us no further than the marina.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

One thing I didn't learn in pre-school

OK, yes, I took Recreation and Leisure in college. Got an 'A' too in case you're wondering. Most of the class was what you might expect - it counted as a gym credit and was even held in one of the rec buildings on campus - Might have been only a half credit now that I recall...

But recreation and leisure did pass on to me a little tidbit of information that has always stuck with me. Turns out that if you wait your whole life to get into recreation, say like when you retire... That you will never quite get it right. At least according to some studies anyway... To get it right, to really enjoy yourself and have the kind of fun that is good medicine for everyday life, you have to work that recreation in everyday - right now.

That's right folks... you have to act now. You have to go for walks - ( especially if you have a dog... ), you have to treat yourself at lunch occasionally, you have to make plans with friends, and you have to pursue interests in fun. Plain old American fun.

Do this and you will be healthier, kinder, and a better person for yourself and everyone around you. Make the time and take the time and look for ways to share the time with other people. Put yourself in motion now and that motion and those skills with be with you when you do retire and your retirement will be the richer for it. Best of all you will avoid ignoring your life until you are 65 in the process.

Take my word for it and have fun while you're at it. Today is a great day begin.

Monday, February 25, 2008

The $75.00 Gold Mine

It's out there, just waiting for you, you own personal gold mine - only you may find it's made of aluminum. You guessed it, I'm talking about a second hand canoe... the greatest leisure investment you will ever make - if you know where to find one.

Now, a discussion on boating safety is in order and you'll want to do some reading or enlist the aide of a friend if canoing is new to you. Proper retail stores can outfit you for a reasonable fee but if you are already comfortable with the water and small water craft - do yourself a favor and start reading the classifieds... Canoes come up all the time, sometimes at give away prices... My favorite - an all aluminum Grumman canoe for $75.00 - it's one I've seen more than once.

There're no moving parts to a canoe and when they are made in plastic or aluminum they will basically last forever. Other materials can have their issues so do some research if you are so inclined. You should also make sure you have some boating areas handy - I prefer the relative calm of lakes or 'flat water'... Other than that it's just up to you to go have some safe responsible fun.

For my family of 3 (wife + dog), that will usually take the form of a day trip to one of Western North Carolinas mountain lakes with some food and our digital camera. We'll take it easy on the paddling distances and depending on the weather we might spend 3 hours or so on the water. Our own personal favorite? Family Float Time... Find a secluded cove, stretch out in the bottom of the boat, and drift and snooze while the breeze pushes you about. Not the best activity for a busy marina, but you'll know the spot when you find it and trust me, it really is pure gold.

So what are you waiting for? You've got some prospecting to do!

Standing Breakfast

We all do it, we all eat breakfast. And sure it's fun to whip up some pancakes on a snow day - maybe even a mimosa or two... but when it comes to combating the daily grind, there's few things that'll brighten your week more than a Saturday breakfast with friends.

Something special happens when still-sleepy heads arrive at a comfortable table - foggy perhaps and ready for that first cup of coffee. All of a sudden, everyone is on the same page - the specials page - and look there... Chocolate Mousse stuffed French Toast... Pure magic. Now that's something I can really use at weeks end.

So where does all this good leisure come from? A standing breakfast with a few like minded friends. No need to call around Friday night - just sync-up with a text in the AM and meet-up at your favorite place. It's all too easy and it's a great way to open up some last minute plans for your precious days off.

It's also a fine way to set yourself up for an afternoon nap. You choose, it's your weekend after all!

Friday, February 22, 2008

GT4 Racing Club

Some folks set aside time for golf, I set aside time for GT4 Racing. New for this year is a host of good friends who are like minded and to be honest, we've had some excellent racing. Now we are talking a video game here and some folks will consider that time ill-spent but I think of GT4 for the PS2 as a racing simulator and when I'm neck and with a friend at the finish line in a pair of 700hp M5 BMWs, I'm not thinking about Ms. Pac-Man or Gorf, I'm thinking about winning.

GT4 is anything but new, in fact there's an entirely new version of the game available for the PS3 - which is in my less-than-immediate future. GT4 does a bang up job of simulating the cars and the tracks, so much so that you can come to know some of the worlds greatest autos and their relative strengths and weaknesses on real tracks - depicted with a degree of reality that has no trouble with suspension of disbelief. GT4 does not fake the difference between a GT40 and a GTi.

Take it to the next level with a force feedback wheel and you'll feel the steering tighten as speeds exceed 200mph, along with suspension chatter, curbing texture, and everything else happening in your virtual front end. You can hone your skills to the unique characteristics of front, mid and rear engine drive cars... as well as master the differences between heavy high powered cars and the nimble and lightweight machines that enjoy similar horsepower to weight ratios.

So how fun is it? Fun enough to get your heart racing. It's fun when you are taking it easy and working on your lines and it's crazy fun when your competitor looses it in a turn and spins just inches from your front bumper. It's also fun when you come to realize you've mastered driving techniques that professional drivers only get to exercise like using the gas to over come understeer. It's fun when you win, it's fun when you loose, and it's fun when you practice.

I've you've ever loved cars, give GT4 a try. My guess is you already know someone with a complete set-up.

Almost Sailing Season

Transparent Gold Beckons

Well, here it is, late February 2008... In the mountians of North Carolina that means sailing season has almost begun. The days are getting longer - daytime highs in the 50's and 60's... If this were New England, this would be some fine April / July type weather.

While we've had days with good wind, and then days with warm weather, we've yet to have that magic combination of drop everything and go sailing weather all on the same day. Not that we haven't been down to visit the boat, she's slipped on our power plant lake - which is heated - so she's in the water all year round. Besides a little condensation here and there, she's been holding up well.

We're still in our first year of boat ownership and so far so good. We've trailered and camped, day sailed and projected. Hard to say which part is my favorite... but taking friends out definitely heads up the list. This year our goal is to rally some like minded friends and do the raft-up... We'll keep you posted!