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A repost from July 2016

Current disheartening events suggest not a lot has changed in four years other than increasing partisanship and division in the Country – the responsibility for which is broadly shared across the leadership, both political parties and the media ….. (current comments in italics)


Given the unfolding events of the past week (months) or so, I stopped to assess my feelings and have tried to ferret out the truth from all the hype and questionable reporting. Based on the responses I see from my on line community, and considering the sense of the Country, it is a remarkably unusual time. I have never seen a more disreputable or dysfunctional Presidential campaign in my 50+ years of experience. We face profoundly important choices in the near term that will affect our children’s and their children’s lives.

I shy away from the conspiracy theorists and extremists of all kind. Yet, recent events cannot be ignored. Evident, blatant campaign fraud; mishandling and destruction of classified materials; clandestine and unethical meeting crossing political and active legal interests; lying to the Congress and FBI; death of an email hacker in a jail cell; apparent conflict of interest and possible fraud in the management of a family Foundation. Granted that these stories are often spun for political gains, but in mass, and given the timing, it doesn’t pass the laugh test to believe there has been no wrong doing. I believe both political sides have their own set of troubling issues. (now add the violence and protests that have persisted, along with the Country’s response to the current virus)

Others have said it, and I believe it – we face a crisis of confidence in our leadership. Laws are being bent or ignored to accommodate the powerful, examples of inequality/injustice are pervasive – not just in race and life style, but across the spectrum of human activity. The elite behave as though they have the only truth, and the rest of us had better get with the program or be penalized – and the laws apply differently to them, or not at all. These conditions cannot persist if our Country is to survive in a form we can accept, and the Constitution and Bill of Rights promise.

I called for the FBI Director to be fired for what I believe was a breach of justice if not law. After some consideration, and further information, I retracted that statement in part. In fact, the responsibility and accountability rests higher up the chain. The DOJ Attorney General still has the opportunity to set it right however unlikely that may be. Further, the President is culpable in his enthusiastic support of a candidate whose integrity and judgement is very much in question.

I appreciate what this Country has stood for, even with some occasional warts. I have been pleased and proud to be a citizen. Yet the treatment of all our citizens by the government has increasingly restricted our personal freedom, whether in the name of safety from external threats or the imposition their ‘wisdom’ over ours to force changes in our behavior and/or beliefs. This is all very disheartening. Should this trend continue, conditions will become far worse than merely disheartening. I fear increasing and violent turmoil if our leadership doesn’t correct the path we’re on. Worse, I see little or no evidence of that correction, and strong indications that the electorate in general is unprepared and/or unwilling to act in the Country’s best interest.

From a practical perspective, I cannot in good conscience vote for either of the presumptive candidates, (still true today) leaving my only option to vote for those ‘down ballot’ who demonstrate a willingness to bring thoughtful change to a broken governmental system – I hope others will do so as well.

Cruiser or racer?

This is a story about a little cruising boat that decided to try being a racer. It’s been an interesting beginning to this new career. For those less familiar with the sailing/racing world, most clubs have regular Wed nite, Thurs nite, and/or Fri nite class races as well as special weekend races/regattas throughout the sailing season – pretty much as long as there isn’t ice on the Bay.

So, I joined the Rock Creek Racing Association (RCRA) that does Wednesday night races near my yacht club. These are described as ‘fun’ races – a relative term when applied to sailboat racing. There is a saying that ‘any two boats traveling in approximately the same direction constitutes a race’. Yes, most sailors have a competitive streak.

I also applied for my PHRF rating. That’s a system that attempts to even out the competition base on boat performance characteristics. The purpose of racing is to test sailing skill rather that boat design. The rating for Valinor II, my Catalina 34, is 165 which is  reasonably high, meaning my boat tends to be slower in the same conditions than many other boats, especially those designed for racing.

It’s not my purpose here to describe the specifics of the racing protocol, rather to share my early experience. If all goes well, there will be more stories to tell thru the season.

Well, my first race with RCRA was pretty short. Imagine a dozen boats under sail, milling about in light wind (poor maneuvering) all waiting for the time signals from the committee boat to cross the relatively narrow start line for the race around a prescribed course. For this first race, I had no crew – just me and my boat. We were close to the start line and I had a plan for how to get across as close to the start time as possible, but not early. Early, by the rules, means you have to go back around and start again – not a good thing.  Worse, when turning toward the line, the steering wheel continued to spin around, but the rudder wasn’t moving …. minor panic in traffic with the loss of steerage due to a broken steering cable.  (Note the frayed cable and chain off the drive sprocket)

Good news, another boat came by and tossed a tow line to get me out of the race area. Put anchor down, got sails down, set up emergency tiller, retrieved the anchor and headed back to the marina. It all seems deceptively simple here in the telling.

So, first race down with a Did Not Start (DNS), and a pricey fix to the boat’s steering. Weaker souls may have quit right there. Just then my perfect race got announced.

On the west coast (SanFrancisco), they have a race called the ‘3 Bridges Fiasco’. It’s a fun race, open to all classes of boats, designed to be simple so non-racers might bring their boats out for the fun. The Annapolis Yacht Club decided to emulate that race, and called it the ‘2 Bridges Fiasco’ to accommodate the course options in local water.

The race has a pursuit start meaning each boat is given a handicap (remember my PHRF rating) applied at the start, so boats have different starting times. Those times are announced before the race. That means the order of finish is, in fact, the actual order of finish. It also means fewer boat crossing the start line at the same time. To make it more interesting, boats could sail the course in either direction. Let that image sink in given we had 142 boats registered for the 9nm race.

Rules required boats to be only single or double-handed, i.e. no extra crew riding the rails. I was smarter this time and got crew. In particular, I found crew with significant racing experience. See what a quick learner I am?

The start of this race was much better. We were only a few seconds behind our designated start time, and with only one other boat crossing the start with us. Slower boats had already gone, and the faster boats were lining up behind us for a later start.

Conditions were great. We had strong 8-20kts of wind steady from the south. That was enough wind to knock a couple boats down, put Valinor’s rail in the water and top out our speed well above typical cruising speed. We made decent time around the course. Didn’t hit any of the marks or other boats. Rounded all the marks on the correct side. We finished well down the list of the 133 boats that finished, but 11th out of 23 in our class – not bad!

A few pix …


After these early experiences, I’ve registered for a couple other specialty races, and have crew for the RCRA Wednesday night races. I’m sure we can move up in placement!