Tag Archives: sailing


The day began for one of my crew at 0200 when hurricane Hermine blew through the Tampa area.  Brooksville, FL is near sixteen miles inland and on a rise above sea level around thirty-feet.  The winds were fierce enough to blow over her shed and lightning knocked out power.  Remarkably, when the shed went over it did not blow into the minivan sitting just beyond it and all the contents stayed where they were placed within it.

The coming storm was to be severe enough to last for several days and foul air travel up the east coast along its path.  She had made arrangements to change her flight to Ohio and come earlier, hoping to avoid all the delays expected to result from the storm’s turbulent trek.  Her effort paid off and the flight was delayed only by thirty-minutes.  She arrived to sun, blue sky, and temperatures in the mid-60’s.  What a remarkable change.

Still, a day that begins at 2am becomes a long day when it includes the displacement of a cross-country flight, hauling even a small bag, and shopping to buy an Ohio State jersey for the game.  After all, that’s what this trip was supposed to be about; coming to her first Ohio State Football Game in Ohio Stadium!  Sailing was only a side activity she hoped to enjoy as part of the extended weekend with us and her sister.  Coffee and an hour relaxing in our living room and she and her mother were ready to take a ride on Lifeline.

We went by the grocery store and picked up a supper of submarine sandwiches, potato salad, pretzel chips, hummus, and sodas.  Packed into a paper bag to help keep all cool we were off to the dock.  The steady northerly breeze predicted was on time and brought others to the docks as well.  There was a sense of anticipation at the marina and a growing activity as the Labor Day holiday weekend was beginning.  Lifeline lay ready to work with us at her slip and was quickly made ready for getting under way.

We motored out around ‘B’ docks and out the channel.  The wind on the water assured us of its northerly direction.  There was no doubt it was blowing at 10+ with some ‘white’ caps noticeable; not too noticeable I hoped, else my crew might beg off.  As we cleared the point of the east-west channel, the wind bumped us over on a bit of a heel.  I had my daughter steer us into it and my wife and I raised the mains’l full.  It would be enough for this ride up Alum Creek Lake.  The sail climbed the mast easily, showing the adjustments I made to the mast worked well and the sail slides remained in their channel as designed.  We fell off to starboard, set the main for a close reach.  The motor was stopped and raised up.  We were a sailboat now.

There was one northeasterly tack upwind.  The wind was such that when we came about I could point Lifeline north and setting the main for a close-hauled starboard tack, I ‘rode the groove’ for the three miles to the causeway.  The girls chatted and had supper, laughing, watching the sun, watching the other boats, and enjoying their ride.  I ‘ate up’ the time I had at the helm, watching the tell-tales, the pennant at the masthead, and the luff of the sail to hold our course.

The wind was still steady from the NNE and bringing the boat about I could set the sails for wing-on-wing, main to starboard and a whisker pole for the jib.  She was quite a site as she ran down wind and the other boats on the water simply parted as we neared.  One, though, a 21′ speed boat decided to take a closer look.  It’s driver circled us a hundred feet out from our hull and waved as he speed up the lake.

A wonderful sail concluded as the sun set and we entered the channel on a beam reach. The trees did the shadowing of the wind as I hoped, and we furled the sails as momentum took us into the harbor.  We tied Lifeline up as the last streams of twilight faded from behind the trees.


Siphoned Off

It’s been three years since I began a formal program of study in theology.  The longer I have engaged in it, of course, the deeper and more involved the work has become.  It’s not that I’ve written less, rather my concentration and activity have been drawn away from the whimsy and self-expression of this web log to more detailed and directed works.  Some of those I posted here early on, however I have been sparing any followers from the fifteen- and twenty-page theological works of the last couple of years.  The reading for these alone has stretched my mind to limits I didn’t know I had and coming closer to completion (in May ’17, with some hard work) these limits are being pushed back further and further.  All this reading and research precedes that which will accompany an eighty-page thesis.

Sailing ‘Lifeline’ on Alum Creek Lake has also been affected.  Classes have been held on Wednesday evenings at the same time the boat club races are held.  As I’ve been attending school year ’round it has meant missing race night for the second year running.  And this year, I haven’t trailer’d ‘Lifeline’ out of the lake to the larger venue of Lake Erie.

All this to say the experiences that have driven half of my essays on FaithandFlag.Wordpress.com have been siphoned off to other efforts and for the foreseeable future will continue in the same manner.

That’s not to say I haven’t been writing, just posting shorter works on other venues.  If you’re interested, you’ll find professional commentary in a series of fifty essays at www.linkedin.com/in/johnzoll where I’ve been sharing both industrial notes and managerial content.  Also, By-Dawn’s-Early-Light at www.facebook.com/By is a site dedicated to the 200th anniversary of the Star-Spangled Banner.  The recent posts there include comments on the controversy of whether our National Anthem is a racist poem, with links to CNN stories concerning the same.

(photo credit to the author.  1812 National Ensign is signed by the National Park Ranger who hoisted it over Ft. McHenry in June 2014.  Signal flags are Charlie Mike and Bravo Zulu, welcoming grandchildren to our annual summer camp)


Weaving the Canvass

sunset behind sail 061214It had been over a week since the last time I stepped on deck.  That evening was for a ‘full moon sail’.  It occurred to me (finally) that I was between semesters at school and there was no book that needed read and no paper that needed writing.  The lawn was mowed Monday.  The rest of the chores could wait.  Let’s see what wind is predicted.  Ah…taxpayer dollars at work, the National Weather Service report for 43035, Lewis Center OH.  Scroll down to the predicted atmospheric conditions (wind, humidity, dew point, rain, and lighting) and the typical August summer night numbers appeared; high eighties, high humidity, chance of rain and storms, and… ah ha!  Winds south east at 5 diminishing to 3 by sunset.

Let’s go SAILING!

It was race night at the ACSA marina on Alum Creek Lake and I hadn’t been racing for over two years.  I didn’t want to get out and get mixed in with those boats so I planned to arrive at 6:30.  The boats and crews would be angling for their starts at the line by then.  It proved to be so when I arrived at the marina.  The docks were quiet except for one other crew.  Lifeline, my Catalina 22, was resting at the slip quietly.  She was all snugged up with her sail covers, motor tipped up and out of the water, and lines lying just slack.  There wasn’t much more than a breath of air in the cove.  I wonder if the winds died out earlier than predicted.  The only way to find out was to get under way.

Lifeline loosed her sail covers and lines easily enough.  It was stuffy down in the cabin, her having been closed up for ten days in 90 degree plus temps.  Opening the forward hatch while motoring out scooped fresh air in and cleansed the dankness of the ‘down below’.  The motor purred as we rounded the ends of the docks and headed for the channel.

The racing fleets’ sails proved the predicted direction of the more than ample breeze.  The spinnaker boats were already rounding the first mark and the cruising fleet was surprisingly close behind.  Somewhere in the mix was the Catalina 22 fleet with the ‘cruisers’ just coming to the line.  The course was a ‘down and back’ on the east side of the lake.  I would stay from center to the west side.

I already had Lifeline into the wind coming out of the channel.  The sails leapt up the mast and forestay.  They billowed out gently in the breeze and I turned left away from the fleets, onto a starboard tack.  Lifeline responded and inched up to a two-knot pace over the water.  Up the lake we went, and across, ‘til the wind was nearly shadowed by the eastern shore and a half mile north of where the fleets were rounding ‘B’ mark on their first leg.  Time to come about and head down the lake.

There were an ample number of other watercraft on the water and these ‘motor-boaters’ were respectful of the sailboats, whether it was Lifeline and a few others cruising toward the Cheshire Causeway or the four fleets on the racing course.  Most were not aware of how their wakes affected the sailboats’ steerage.  When the light breeze we had died down, or if we steered into one of the many lulls, the wakes from the motor-boats brought some to a complete halt.  Those missing the signs on the water and braked by the wakes had some time to contemplate their attention skills while waiting for the wind to freshen.  Still, there were no close approaches by either type of boat to the others.  It made for a safe evening.

Back across the lake and nearing the outer marker of the channel I’d come out of I noticed Lifeline was skimming across the water faster than most of the boats in the race.  Two-and-a-half knots speed sets no record, but many of those boats racing were standing still.  Being on the east side of the lake it was apparent they were fighting with the trees for the breezed.  Too close into shore and the trees blocked the wind entirely from the sails.  In the middle and on the west side of the lake the cruisers could enjoy the evening with little thought to sailing tactics and strategy.

All the way down the lake to where the racing fleets were rounding the ‘A’ marker and past the swimmers on the beach, Lifeline moved over the water as a cloud across the sky.  Some minor adjustments to the sails were the only movement made.  As the sun slipped lower and lower into the orange and amber sky we came about again and made the trip once again.  Up the lake, then back to the channel, a quiet evening was enjoyed.  The racers joined the cruisers as they crossed the finish line and twenty or more sets of sails dotted the lake through sunset.  Lifeline surrendered her sails to their stowage and covers and I steered her into the cove to her slip.  She’d given me a fine ride once again.

It was good to be with the fleets again, even if I was observing rather than racing.  There were smiles shared across the water and on the pier.  Some handshakes, one hug, and some polite ‘hello’s exchanged let me know that through a long absence good acquaintances remained firm.  But then, this is a sailing fleet, and no matter the span of time, a shipmate is always a shipmate.  The interdependence of those that necessarily have to be independent weaves the canvass of the sailing community.

Shakedown and First Sail

Lifeline on Alum Creek Lake

Lifeline on Alum Creek

It was long in coming this season, the first raising of the ‘canvas’ over Lifeline’s deck, so very much of her master’s work necessarily being diverted to his Master’s work.  The latter provided the former with some relief, and in company with His given heart the dock lines were loosed and Lifeline made way.

Whoa…  If I write any more poetically I’ll be on my way to a novel instead of a story.  How many more readers will I lose?

Father’s Day evening turned out to be a wonderful time for shaking down the boat.  The mild southerly drafts raised and lowered as the clouds covered the sinking sun and alternately strained and slacked the rigging.  The stays are not set for the trials of racing as the slack leeward set freely dangled from the mast on either testing tack.  Downwind reaches proved the strength of the new backstay rig, though the whipping holding the ends of the lines and the eyes together showed more attention was required.  Two of seven came undone.  Fair leads spun with precision, boom tackle responded with ease, and the vang worked with the lightest touch.  Only the main halyard challenged us, and our gratitude goes out to our shipmates whose party we held up when they attempted to tack.

The weekend must have been a party for the rest of those at the docks.  Only three other sets of sails were raised while we were out, including the afore mentioned revelers.  While she was the largest of the vessels, another Catalina was sprinting about.  And, our neighbors from B31, ‘Vestal’ graced the water as well.

I put Lifeline through a rotation around the compass.  A starboard tack took us across the lake once the main was set.  Mindy flipped on the GPS and speed sensor and we watched those as we eased across toward the Galena ramp.  We came about when we reached the wake buoys and beat to port towards the spillway.  From midway across the lake I fell off the wind to a beam reach, then to a broad reach, and we jibed to the opposite tack and on around until we were close hauled to starboard again.  It was enough.  Lifeline proved ready to sail.

logo bright

The above is a ‘stock’ picture, taken north of South Bass Island on Lake Erie.  Sailors on Alum Creek lake will periodically see the Donate Life logo and know it is ‘Lifeline’.

I fell back off to a starboard beam reach, then back down to run up the lake. Back and forth I jibed the boat while Mindy took some supper.  We packed a simple fare of meat, cheese, and Ritz, a couple bananas, with water and Gatorade to quench the thirst.  We switched so I could enjoy the same and my evening was set when I heard her say, “This is fun!”  Our shakedown became an evening sail, near to the Cheshire causeway and back, and though the two hours did not quite bring us to meet the near full moon, it was enough to satisfy the long winter break.

Our ‘Blessing of the Fleet’ was prayed as we beat back south. Prayers were given at the dock in the past.  This ‘first sail’ evening was made for such devotion, and together we read from Psalms and sang.  Mindy and I have been blending our voices for forty years.  On the water this night we blended them with the beating of the breeze on sails and waves on the hull.  We offered prayers for the safety of those on deck, of Lifeline and all other boats on the lake this year.

She is forty-two years old, Lifeline is.  Her wood is clean, but needs some attention again if only a bit of oil.  Her gel-coat shows the cracks of age and stress, and her deck needs a coat of wax to help keep it clean.  She sports a new tiller, the old one finally splitting from years of tension.  Each year a few new lines replace older and worn ones.  She’s a fine ‘sea bird’ as one screen writer called another vessel, and continuous attention to her will provide a few more years of calm evening sails and exciting challenges of racing.  Her crew looks forward to both in the coming months.

Sailing Instructor

I have copies of the Blessing of the Fleet aboard, should anyone be interested in sharing the same for their vessel.  Ours is a decidedly Christian prayer in the traditions of European seaports.

Retired Sailor, Hope and Lament

Sailor on sigsbridge

Alas, she’s in the boneyard
Resting quietly at the pier.
No masts, no men, no mighty guns,
no more liberty ports for fun.
The fires that drove her across the seas
are cooled and nearly dowsed.
All that remains as I grab this rail
is to shead a final tear.

A new grey hound surges forth
out bound from the channel deep.
She leaps across the mounting waves
no energy she saves,
a new threat appears across the sea
so forward to the fray
This ship, her crew, surging forth, making way.
My heart and soul new shipmates, in my prayers I’ll keep.

A former shipmate posted the photo above (credit imgflip.com) and inspired the follow-on verses.  The image reminds me of Norfolk Naval Station on  a cold, foggy day.  Both of the ships I served on, and all three of the nuclear prototype training facilities, and the Nuclear Power School location I taught at (Orlando, FL) are decommissioned.

A Favorite Poem

Third grade, Mrs. Kuhlman’s English class; she was introducing us to poetry.  I guess I had been ill recently and since I was reading about a poet who was once a sickly boy I felt some kind of kindred spirit with him.  “Block City” was the poem I read and it stirred inside me a deep, deep stirring for the sea.  Third grade was a very long time ago.  Since then I’ve spent a career in the U.S. Navy, learned to sail small boats as a Boy Scout, taken my family sailing where ever we lived, sailed “From Tampa to the Cape” and wrote the book, been a sailing instructor, and continue to sail ‘Lifeline’ on Alum Creek Lake north of Columbus Ohio.  Here’s “Block City”.<!

Block City
By Robert Louis Stevenson

What are you able to build with you blocks?
Castles and palaces, temples and docks.
Rain may keep raining, and others go roam,
But I can be happy and building at home.

Let the sofa be mountains, the carpet be sea,
There I’ll establish a city for me:
A kirk and a mill and a palace beside,
And a harbor as well where my vessels may ride.

Great is the palace with pillar and wall,
A sort of a tower on the top of it all,
And steps coming down in an orderly way
To where my toy vessels lie safe in the bay.

This one is sailing and that one is moored:
Hark to the song of the sailors on board!
And see on the steps of my palace, the kings
Coming and going with presents and things.

Now I have done with it, down let it go!
Allin a moment the town is laid lo.
Block upon block lying scattered and free,
What is there left of my town by the sea?

Yet as I saw it, I see it again,
The kirk and the palace, the ships and the men,
And as long as I live and where’er I may be,
I’ll always remember my town by the sea.

Calder, A. Ed; Robert Louis Stevenson, Selected Poems; Penguin Books, Ltd, London 1998. Print