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Sailor’s Wisdom
for Aug 20


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Adventures
January 11, 2010

Once Sailing Monster’s new format is up, the front page will spotlight news articles about events that involve youth oriented organizations and young sailors. There will also be a number of new column headings. In the next few days we will go over each of these columns and explain what to expect under each one.

The first of these columns will be the Adventures Column. This column, like its name suggests, will spotlight opportunities for adventure on the high seas. Included will be ideas about places to go on your own adventures as well as organizations that offer high seas adventures as part of a group.

If you want to write about your own adventure to be considered for inclusion, please send it to submissions@sailingmonster.com. A submission guidelines page will be posted when the new web site is up.


Sailing Monster Mission Statement
January 10, 2010

The mission of Sailing Monster is to encourage youth seamanship programs across the United States and around the world from single handed sailors to crews on square rigged sailing ships.

Leadership skills, self confidence and teamwork are just a few of the benefits that can be obtained from sail education at all ages but there is nothing more fulfilling than watching a young man or woman light up when they learn a skill that few of their peers know. Sailing provides a venue for young people to challenge themselves and they can find great adventures both real and imaginary when they loose themselves from the bonds holding them to dry land.


New Years Resolution
January 1, 2010
By Bruce D Kuehn

New Years Day is always a great time for us to reflect on the past year and to make plans and commitments for the year to come. "Experts" tell us that the best way to reach any goal is to begin by writing it down. So I guess I can go a step further and publish my goals here on Sailing Monster.

For 2010, I will start with the same new years resolutions that most people make. I want to exercise more, do better at my budget, eat healthier and be a better husband to Allyson. But beyond all of these I intend to make some significant changes to SailingMonster.com. First of all, I will be committed to add something of interest to my readers at least on a daily basis. Secondly, and I think more importantly, Sailing Monster will shift focus. Instead of being a general "catch all" web site for everything about sailing in Galveston Bay, I will narrow the focus and expand horizons by making Sailing Monster a site dedicated to Youth Seamanship in all of it’s forms, from the sailing of Optimist Dinghies to the articles you’ve already been reading about the brave teens who seek fame and fortune by sailing around the world singlehandedly. It will be a site for teenagers and young adults and those responsible for their sail education. By the end of January, I will have a mission statement in place to detail what exactly Sailing Monster intends to become.

So in the weeks to come, Sailing Monster will begin a transformation. Some of the links will no longer be necessary and I will update the look based on things that have been learned during the development of the current version of Sailing Monster and to reflect the new goals.


Jessica Experiences her First Storm
(From A Press Release)
December 30, 2009

The fearsome Southern Ocean has provided Jessica Watson with her toughest challenge to date on day 73 of her solo circumnavigation, with a low pressure system passing through over the past 24 hours.

Jessica battled wind gusts of up to 44 knots and over 5 metre (16 foot) swells, but we are pleased to report she has come through with flying colours, as her yacht Ella’s Pink Lady sped along at up to 10 knots at one stage. The wind has since dropped back to 25-30 knots, but the swell remains constant at over 5 metres.

Jessica and the team were well prepared for this low pressure system, as Bob’s (Jessica’s meteorologist) prediction from yesterday was very accurate.

"When the barometer dropped from 1014 to 995, we knew we were in for some strong winds. Fortunately Bob was spot-on with his forecast, so we were well prepared for this and had cross-checked everything in advance. It was a good one with some gusts hitting 44 knots, but everything went well," said Jessica.

A buoyant Jessica was pleased to have finally encountered the inevitable storm and she also had a friend join her during it.

"When the wind started to pick up, a dolphin swam right up along side Ella’s Pink Lady. Then every time I looked out the porthole, it was still there with me. The amazing thing is, I had not seen a dolphin for weeks – even more amazing was that this one stayed with me for over 6 hours, all the way through the storm."

Jessica today passed the 8,500 mile mark of her 23,000 mile voyage and is now less just 1,300 miles from rounding Cape Horn. Jessica’s days now consist of only about 5 hours of darkness, as she heads south to the Cape.

Drizzling rain continues and the temperature has dropped, with Jessica’s cabin temp now down to 10 degrees (50F), water temp 8 degrees (46F) and wind chill 5 degrees (41F).

SM Note: Those of us living on the Texas Gulf Coast will recognize a pressure of 995 Millibars as one we normally see in the eye of a Category 1 Hurricane. Impressive Jessica!


Jessica Watson Crosses the Line
November 20, 2009

Teenage adventurer Jessica Watson crossed her first milestone Thursday when she and her S&S 34, Ella’s Pink Lady reached The Equator in an effort to become the youngest ever singlehanded circumnavigator on a sailing vessel. According to her website, crossing The Equator is one of the requirements for the record last set by fellow Australian, Jesse Martin in 1999. She intends to round the island of Kiribati before heading southeast.

Following tradition, Watson tossed some chocolate into the sea as an offering to King Neptune and poured seawater over her head. She joked with readers of her blog that " Un-tangling [The Line] from the keel was quite a challenge!"

Watson’s next milestone is passing through Drake’s Passage, an area that is usually besieged with heavy winds, high waves and icebergs and is referred by sailors from the early days of sailing ships as the dreaded "Cape Horn."

Drake’s Passage is located between the southern tip of South America and Antarctica and is in a part of the world where the prevailing winds blow west to east. Because of mountain ranges that run the length of South America and mountain ranges in Antarctica, there is what is known as a Venturi effect that causes the force of the wind to be multiplied in that area. This will be the most dangerous passage Jessica faces and the primary concern for her critics. She expects to arrive at Drake’s Passage in about a month.

Meanwhile California teenage adventurer, Abby Sunderland is preparing for her own attempt at the same record.


Sail Balance
November 4, 2009

For those of us who train on classic sailing vessels such as Elissa, one of the first things that impresses us is the large number of steps that have to be taken in the simple process of tacking (or turning) the ship. We learn early on that there are so many more factors than just turning the wheel and the ship does the rest, like we are used to doing when, say, we drive a car. The first two sail handling commands that are given in Elissa’s tacking procedures are to the two ends of the ship: "Haul Spanker (the large sail furthest aft) Amidships" and "Ease the Headsail (the three fore and aft sails that are on the jib-boom) Sheets."

The way we always explain these two commands to new crewmembers is that it is like turning Elissa into one massive weathervane, forcing the stern away from the wind by pulling the large Spanker toward the wind, and relieving wind pressure from the bow so that the stern can go down away from the wind and the bow can come up into the wind. If it hasn’t dawned on you yet, we really do more steering on Elissa with the sails than with the rudder.

But the real reason for this lies in sail balance. Sail balance is achieved through two main forces. These forces are called "Center of Resistance" and "Center of Effort."

Any object in water naturally resists moving relative to the water. The hull of any sailing vessel is designed so that there is less resistance going forward and backward than there is when going side to side. Because of this, the ship or boat will more easily go forward than it will go to the side. The physics involved create a central point for this resistance. Ship designers engineer this center to be at a spot where a ship in a current will neither turn into the current or away from the current. This center is called "Center of Resistance."

There is another such center in the sails, where the wind creates a "Center of Effort" This is the center of all of the combined effort the wind places in the sails. Each sail has its own center of effort but the combination of all sails on a sailing vessel give the vessel itself a combined center of effort as well.

If the center of effort is immediately above the center of resistance, the ship is in perfect balance and sails forward in a straight line. If the Center of Effort moves aft, the vessel will tend to turn toward the wind in an effort to bring the two centers back into line. If the center of effort moves forward, the ship will tend to turn away from the wind.

That is exactly what we are doing by easing the headsails and hauling in the Spanker; both of those actions, even by themselves bring the center of effort aft. Done together, the center of effort is brought even further aft. When we want to turn away from the wind, we either ease out the Spanker or completely dowse it, allowing the center of effort to move forward.

This works on small modern sloops as well. If a small boat sailor eases the sheet on their one headsail (their jib) and tightens in on their main sheet, this brings the center of effort aft. If they tighten up on their jib and ease away on their main sheet, the center of effort moves forward and the boat tends to turn away from the wind.

This can be practiced on a modern vessel by running what is called a serpentine pattern (in long bends like a snake slithering through the grass.) With the boat on a broad reach (the wind coming roughly from the side) you should make sure both sails are trimmed and the boat is sailing in a straight line. Lock down the helm or lash down the rudder so that it doesn’t move. Then tighten up on the main sheet and ease up on the jib sheet. The boat will steer toward the wind. Then ease the main sheet and tighten the jib. The boat will steer away from the wind. Keep alternating until you have a feel for how the boat handles. In a good breeze and not too heavy a sea, you should even be able to tack your boat without even touching the helm.

Wind speed also has an effect on center of effort. If the wind speed picks up, the center of effort moves aft. If the wind slows down, the center of effort moves forward. Skilled sailors, especially racers watch for a telltale sign of wind puffs on the water and steer the vessel into these puffs to take the most advantage of them.

You can also adjust your center of resistance using your rudder or if your boat has a centerboard, raising or lowering it will also adjust center of resistance. You can play with center of resistance by sticking an oar in the water at an angle on the windward side or the leeward side. But adjusting center of resistance is not quite as common as adjusting center of effort, simply because the tradeoff tends to be boat speed.


Good Luck Jessica Watson
October 30, 2009

Last week, 16 year old Jessica Watson of the Gold Coast in Australia set out to become the youngest person to circumnavigate Earth singlehanded on the 34 foot sailboat Ella’s Pink Lady. She intends to make the entire 23,000 nautical mile journey unassisted, meaning she will not be stopping at any ports to take on provisions, but will make the journey only with what she had when she started the trip and will have to make any repairs along the way on her own.

As of her latest blog post, Jessica has left the Tasman Sea and is sailing the South Pacific roughly northeast toward Fiji and toward the equator. In order to secure the record, she must cross the equator during her voyage. This will be done in the Pacific Ocean, before heading southeast to face Cape Horn, the southern tip of South America and some of the nastiest waters in the world.

On a trial run voyage before Jessica left, she collided with a Chinese cargo ship, dismasting her and causing quite a bit of damage. She had the damage repaired and left Sydney harbor last Sunday. But not before many prominent Australian politicians and sailing experts advised her not to go. It seems there is a great deal of debate as to whether or not Jessica is ready for this trip and a larger debate about how young is too young to sail singlehandedly around the world. Jessica however is confident that the issues that have caused the collision have been dealt with and is determined to follow her dream.

Jessica will be followed sometime early December by Californian Abby Sunderland, the sister of Zac Sunderland who recently completed his assisted ’round the world voyage. Sailingmonster will be following her voyage as well.

You can follow Jessica’s journey by going to her web site at www.jessicawatson.com.au and following her blog. The site also explains her voyage and the rules she will be following.


Talk Like a Pirate Day
September 14, 2009

Ahoy thar me scurvy mateys and greet’ns from me wench. September 19, 2009 be talk like a pirate day, arrgh!

Talk like a pirate day is the brainchild of John Baur and Mark Summers who on June 6, 1995 were playing a game of racquetball (badly, apparently) and their language devolved into pirate lingo. They realized that it made their game much more fun and thought they should spread the joy and spend one day a year talking like pirates. Not wanting to take away from the already hallowed day of D-Day (June 6th) they decided they needed to pick another date. They chose September 19th because it is Summers’ ex-wife’s birthday. In 1992 it was picked up and popularized by nationally syndicated humorist, Dave Barry and has been celebrated internationally every year since.

Here are a few phrases you could try on for size:

   Ahoy thar matey, whar be ye bound? = Hey buddy, where are you going?
   Shiver me timbers, set yer gaze over thar! = Wow, look at her!
   Avast ya scurvy sea dog! = Stop you sick sailor!
   Arrgh, that thar bilge rat criped me grog! = Darn! That gentleman took my drink!
   That thar wench is a fine judy fer a lubber. = That lady is ok for a non-sailor.

A celebration is planned in the Galveston Bay area at Katies Bar in Bacliff this Saturday (yep, September 19th) from One PM on.

You can find more information at talklikeapirate.com.


Basic Sail Trim
September 8, 2009

I received my first and most valuable lesson in sail trim in 1996 on what we on the crew of the Tall Ship Elissa affectionately refer to as "The Voyage to Nowhere." One of our officers, Se’an Bercaw then of the SEA maritime program was the officer on watch with me late one night. I had just spent my first year as a Mast Captain on Elissa’s Mizzen Mast and our training up until that point had basically been little more than, "just put the sails where the officers tell you to put them and leave it at that." So, even though I had understood the basic principle of how sails worked, I had never been given an in depth understanding of how to properly trim a fore and aft sail. That was supposed to be the sole realm of the officers.

I’ll never forget the lesson because we had just tacked the ship just outside the Galveston jetties and in the backdrop of the Gulf of Mexico lit up by the lights of Galveston Mr. Bercaw pulled me aside. He told me that if I were to ever amount to anything as a sailor on any fore and aft rig, I had to learn how to properly trim a sail. He taught me that night that in order to get the best amount of power from Elissa’s spanker (a large fore and aft sail at the stern of the ship,) all I have to do is to ease the sheet out until the leading edge of the sail (AKA the luff) just begins to flutter a little bit. This is called surprisingly enough "luffing." Then you haul the sheet back in just until the luffing goes away. When you have done this, your sail will be working at its most efficient.

I’ve experimented with my own sloop Morning Song and have found that method quite accurate even with modern rigs. You would be surprised at how many even experienced sailors believe that as long as you have a full belly of wind in your sail, your boat is going to go forward. The problem with that theory is that all you are going to end up doing is getting way too much heel on your boat (in other words, your boat leans way too far away from the wind.) You will get some motion forward but if the sail is sheeted too tightly, all you are really doing is stall the sail and you will go much more slowly than the wind could potentially carry you and the sail will be somewhat more uncomfortable for the crew.

You could also use pieces of yarn secured at strategic locations around the sail called telltails but this is the fastest and simplest way of properly trimming a sail without those aids. I will write about using telltails in a future post.


Baja Adventure
September 4, 2009

I’ve never been a big fan of fishing. My experience with fishing has typically been sitting on the bank of a pond, getting eaten by mosquitoes and ants while the fish just laugh at my bait.

When Tom, my father-in-law invited me to join him and some friends of a college buddy of his in Cabo, I was at first hesitant but then thought maybe this experience might be different. When we first arrived at Rancho Leonero on Saturday, members of our group met us with stories about some storm off Acapulco that seemed to be heading our way. We didn’t take it seriously at all.

Sunday morning we went fishing on one of the pangos provided by the resort. The other two guys on the boat were catching a few fish (not very many) but the fish were just laughing at my bait. Guillermo, our captain kept trying to move us around to find better spots but we just weren’t catching much. Tom finally caught a decent sized tuna and I finally caught a bonito (which I threw back.) Then Guillermo asked if we wanted to go fishing for dorado (aka Mahi Mahi.) We agreed and so we went trolling with lures for them. Not 5 minutes after we started, Tom’s line went tight and he caught a nice sized dorado. A few minutes later, my line went tight at the same time Tony’s line went tight. We both reeled in dorados, not quite as large as Tom’s but a decent size. We went in hoping for better luck the next day.

But we never had the chance. When we got in, we heard more about this storm. Now it was no longer just a storm but a full-on category 4 hurricane named Jimena. The weather maps showed it with a bead square on to Baja. Tom called Leanne (My mother-in-law) and Allyson who immediately made flight arrangements for the two of us. I told Tom that I wasn’t comfortable abandoning the rest of our group. Some of them had flights to places where the next flight was a week away. So Tom called my mother-in-law back and she made flights for 6 members of our group of 9. The other 3 had already made arrangements to get back.

The next day, we took the van to the Los Cabos airport. We arrived at 1 PM and our flight was at 4. While waiting, we talked to quite a few people. Most of the people there were cutting vacations short to escape the storm. Just as we began to board at about 3, it began to rain fairly hard. We had the distinct feeling that this was probably going to be the last flight out of Los Cabos that day. As the plane taxied to the runway the rain kept getting harder and harder. Finally we stopped at the threshold of the runway and the pilot came on the intercom telling us that it looked like there might be a break in the weather and they might give us clearance to take off. There was clear relief on the plane as we finally taxied onto the runway and took off. Tom, a seasoned traveler, was of the very strong opinion that we probably were on the last plane out before the storm.

So here I am in my comfortable house hearing that the storm wasn’t really all that bad in the area we were, but we just didn’t know it at the time and thought we would be better safe than sorry. I guess I’ll try deep sea fishing again sometime, but I think Allyson and I are going to go sailing on Victory Chimes next year. Lobster anyone?


The Sea Nymph
By Bruce D Kuehn

September 2, 2009

I fell in love with a sea nymph one bright and sunny day
Her eyes sparkled in the water her hair the foamy spray
She winked at me from a wave top
On the beach I walked that day
And her smile just made my heart stop
As I saw her flow my way

Her face just smiled with radiance as she beckoned that I come near
The gentle laugh she gave me told me I had nothing to fear
Her wet kiss gave a tingle
But on her face a single tear
For she could but not linger
Sea nymphs ne’er tarry here

We frolicked hard together with the time we knew we had
For if we had thought how short it’d be we knew we’d both be sad
And when the sea receded
The parting went off bad
But since time was what I needed
I can only cry just a tad

So I think I’ll find a wood nymph, whose love is stable and true
And every day together is good, exciting and new
A wood nymph loves forever
With a heart of oak and dew
And once in love will never
Leave one’s heart so blue


Opinion - Laura Dekker Should be Allowed to Sail
August 27, 2009

Even on the day 17 year old sailor Michael Perham succeeded in his attempt at being the youngest sailor to circumnavigate the globe, there is a battle brewing over the entire concept of youth sailing around the world in Holland. Thirteen (soon to be 14) year old Laura Dekker, with the full support of her seasoned sailor parents, made the decision to sail around the world beginning on September 1st, which will be her 14th birthday. But Dutch child protective authorities have decided to file a suit in court to remove her parent’s rights in an attempt to prevent Laura from beginning her voyage. Child welfare agencies around the world are expressing similar concerns that could put each leg of Laura’s voyage in a new court battle, even if she were to cross her current hurdle. Whatever one believes about the wisdom of Laura’s voyage, this is clearly an overstepping of a governmental agency’s authority into truly Orwellian proportions.

Laura was born on her parent’s sailboat near New Zealand while they were undertaking an around the world cruise of thier own. Growing up around boats, Laura became very adept at sailing. She began sailing singlehanded at age 6 and began dreaming of a round the world cruise at age 10. She finally convinced her parents to allow her to go but now she is having to convince an unreceptive world that is judging her based on the vast majority of teenagers that have no experience at sea at all.

The excuses are all plausable, It’s dangerous for her to go, she’s at an age when she should be developing social skills, she should be in school and a host of other reasons have been offered to exuse the Child Protective organizations bid to remove her parents’ rights and prevent Laura from fulfilling her dream.

But the reality is that Laura, although alone on her boat, would never truly be alone. She would be sailing in company of a fleet of other vessels that would be close by in case of emergency. She would also have a host of communication devices that would allow her to call for help at a moments notice. In addition, the plan is to stop in various ports along the way, never sailing a leg of more than three weeks and looking at each stop to make sure the weather forecast would be favorable before venturing off into the next leg. One of her parents will also meet her at each port as well.

And what would do more for developing social skills than meeting and making friends with people from around the world in each port she pulls into? What better education is there to have to do the complex mathematics that can be involved in oceanic navigation? How better to instill self discipline and self reliance than to require Laura to do everything for herself that everyone else takes for granted? We are talking about an accomplished sailor. Not some teenager that woke up one morning and just decided to sail around the world. Much thought and planning has gone into this voyage and it is being called into question by the simple fact of her age. This is as important to her as a gold medal is to an Olympian. She’s trained for it her entire life and now that she’s ready to go, she is being held back by people who only know teenagers whose only concern is their facebook page or Hannah Montanna.

Laura Dekker should be allowed to follow her dreams. She should not be given a painful education about the pettiness and power games of adults.


Sailing Monster Celebrates National Marina Day
August 5, 2009

Saturday, August 8 marks the seventh annual celebration of National Marina Day. A marina is more than just a place to store boats while they are in the water. It is a gateway to the great adventure that awaits us as boaters when we slip our lines and head out to sea to water ski, fish, sail or whatever floats your boat. More than that, it is a community of like minded individuals that still smile and wave at their neighbors, even if they’ve never met.

I lived at Blue Dolphin Marina for five years before I met my wife and I have to tell you that marina living is like no other experience you can have. Aside from the shore side amenities, there are people constantly coming in and out, and one stops to wonder where they are headed and what adventures await them. There is always someone there to look out for your vessel if a mooring line breaks or (as in a case I found out first hand) your vessel springs a leak and sinks.

But more than that is the people that populate the docks. They are all lovers of the sea in one form or another. There was a Father and Son that lived in their sailboat across the dock from me. Two docks over was a couple from Canada living on their motor yacht. Down the way some, a young couple spent weekends on their 22 foot sailboat but they were constantly down working or sailing. All of these people had adventures to tell and because their audience was boaters themselves, everyone could relate. This made for very pleasant living.

The Galveston Bay area has no shortage of Marinas. There are small marinas associated with condos and apartment complexes as well as the massive ones like Watergate and South Shore Harbor. There is everything in between. Galveston boasts the Galveston Yacht Club as well as Payco marina, which is close to Moody Gardens. All of these places deserve a handy salute.

National Marina Day is celebrated in conjunction with the Association of Marina Industries, the national trade association of the marina industry.


Sunrise at Sea
May 12, 2009

Yesterday was our Anniversary. So to celebrate, we set sail on the Carnival Cruise Ship ECSTACY. We set sail last Saturday (May 9th) and will reach Montego Bay Jamaica today. The problem with cruising is that there is so much structure that you have to make a decision to not do the shopping talk and the art auction and the wine tasting and the water wars etc. etc. etc. and simply take time to enjoy the sail.

I got up early this morning to watch the sunrise and got more than I’d bargained for. Just as the sky was lightning up, there was a rain shower ahead of us. I had forgotten that at sea, you can see the rain coming from miles away. I watched as the mist came closer and closer and we overtook it. Then, as quickly as it came, the rain passed leaving a beautiful red sky in its wake.

By this time, there were others watching the sunrise. It was getting more and more magnificent as it got brighter and brighter, and I remembered why I got up at the god awful hour of 5AM. Then one of the ladies watching the sunrise happened to look behind her and noticed a rainbow. This wasn’t the ordinary kind of rainbow you see on land but a full sky rainbow, unobstructed by buildings or trees or landscape. That really made this morning special.

I hope that this is an indicator of things to come. That when Allyson and I finally slip the lines that hold us to the shore and go exploring our world on our own vessel that we have many such mornings. With the gloriousness of nature showing us things that can’t be seen by mere land-walking people.


A Fantastic Gift
March 17, 2009

Last Saturday, March 14th, Elissa's Youth Crew had their graduation. They will be sailing on Elissa on March 23rd and Saturday marked the last of their classes and their graduation. During our pre-graduation party, I was presented with a very precious gift. I was given a copy of the 2002 Bowditch (the latest revision) with the signatures of all of this year's youth crew members. I have always wanted one but never really got up the gumption to go out and purchase it for myself. Well I have one now and it is an honor to have received it from my crew.

When I was a new Elissa volunteer in the late 80s and early 90s, There were two young men under the age of 15 in sail training with me. Their names were Jeremy Rockers and Nathan Jewett. One evening, Nathan, Jeremy and I were sitting on the top of the galley house talking and I realized that these two were being shaped, in some ways bad but in many more ways good, by their unique experiences aboard Elissa. Having my Boy Scout experience fresh on my mind, I wondered if there could ever be some kind of youth service organization aboard Elissa. Over the years, I worked and reworked plans to present to the Texas Seaport Museum leadership for a program, but several incidents involving adult volunteers and even museum staff expressing a desire to not have "kids" on Elissa kept me from really pursuing it.

It was actually Phyllis Thompson who got the ball rolling without knowing what I was working on. Phyllis was not a stranger to the value of sail training to young minds since both of her sons, Bruce and Wesley Heerssen were raised as minor volunteers on Elissa. Together with then Museum Director Kurt Voss, Phyllis coordinated with the organization of Bayport Communities In Schools and started the Elissa CIS program, under the leadership of Bart and Terry Hamiter. After two years, Bart and Terry became involved in adopting children of their own and were unable to continue with the program, so Kurt asked David Steen and Me to step in and take over the program. After a few years, CIS realized that it was a great strain on their resources to keep bringing their kids to the island and they ultimately dropped out. That year with Kurt's blessing, Education Coordinator Christine Hayes and I embarked on an ambitious project. We were determined to build a youth program of our own, independent of any other organization. That year we ended up with 9 crewmembers, one parent and two volunteers. This Monday, we will sail with 19 kids, 8 youth crew parents and 6 dedicated volunteers. All of the volunteers, except my wife and I have had their own children or grandchildren impacted by Elissa as children. In 2007, with several of the Youth Crewmembers that had been part of the program for several years, we embarked on another ambitious project, teach the kids themselves to teach others how to sail Elissa. The system is set up to have careful adult oversight but the lesson plans and the actual teaching is done by members of a Youth Leadership Council. This has yielded results beyond our wildest imaginations.

This year, the Master Watch Captain (Youth Crew's highest office) is a young man by the name of Giobhan (Max) Minor. Max is 14 years old and we've known him since he was 11. It has been an honor to watch him grow up and mature as a young man and I was completely confident in giving him the reins of the Youth Crew. This trust was well placed. After Hurricane Ike, he was able to quickly adapt to the changing environment and adjusted his schedule to accommodate the changes. There were a few times I was unable to get to class because of work pressures but Max took the bull by the horns and kept the class moving smoothly without me. This year the success of Elissa's youth crew is entirely to Max's credit. It was his goal to have the youth crew kicked off of the ship like they were a couple of years ago because the Youth Crew was so well trained that they were preventing the adult crew from practicing. This didn't happen this year, but as the Youth Crew walked out of the Theater after graduation, the adult crew gave them three cheers and heartily applauded them. This is something that Max can be immensely proud of.

I hope that what the Youth Crew gave to me is a measure of something that I have given to them. I hope that what they have received from Linda Clark, from Phil Niewald, from Derrith Weiman, from Michael Wonio, from Christine Hayes and from my wife Allyson and me, are the tools they will need to navigate through their own lives. I hope we have given them the know-how to sail past the rocky shores of self-doubt, the shoals of despair and the hidden dangers of temptation, to land on the crystal clear waters and sandy beaches of a good and fulfilling life. This is my hope and this is my prayer for Max and for all of his crew.


Welcome to Sailing Monster
March 7, 2009

Welcome to Sailing Monster. Being this is a new site and all, I suppose I´d better tell those who might have stumbled on this page who it is that is putting it together.

My name is Bruce D Kuehn and I reside in Houston, Texas with my wife a dog and a cat. I am a telecommunications technician by trade but my passion is for the sea. The path I took to my love for the sea and my skills associated with sailing was a long one and some of my lessons took a long time.

I´ll leave the sordid details of my path to seamanship for a future post but that pivotal event that happens in everyone´s life that defines who they are happened to me in August of 1989 when I was introduced to the sailing ship Elissa. Elissa is a classic sailing ship built in 1877, carrying 19 sails ten of which are square rigged. For the last 20 years I´ve served Elissa in a number of capacities and for 5 years before my marriage to the lovely and talented Allyson, I lived on Morning Song, a MacGreggor 25 that I had purchased from a family friend.

I currently chair the Youth Seamanship Committee at the Texas Seaport Museum of which Elissa is the major property. Our mission is to make sailors out of kids ages 11 to 17. Knowing how much Elissa and sailing formed me into the man I am now, I am a strong believer in youth seamanship training as a way to teach leadership, self-reliance, team building and responsibility.

It is the goal of my wife and I to someday purchase a sail boat that is large enough to cruise in and explore the world.


Foul Weather Musings
March 6, 2009

During the last few weeks in Elissa's seamanship training, we've had some real-life lessons about the weather. Even though the weather reports were clearly telling us that we were expecting rain, several members of Elissa's crew hadn't come with appropriate foul weather gear. As they learned the hard way, not having appropriate clothing will make a voyage miserable.

Seamanship Committee Chairman Joe Wilhelm has been reminding the crew that there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing. This is something that I have experienced time and time again both with the right clothing and without. It's not just about keeping dry but keeping warm as well. On Elissa's 1996 voyage to Baton Rouge and New Orleans, we sailed through some pretty nasty winds and seas. The skies were as blue as can be but our amateur estimation of the seas was that they were 10 to 15 feet and the winds were gale strength. The most important thing we learned was how valuable foul weather gear is. Not only is it great for keeping the rain off our heads but it does a great job when waves are big enough to break over the side of the ship but it is also a great windbreaker. I spent most of the voyage wearing my two piece rain suit over a normal coat and a plain pair of rubber, knee length boots. I was never too cold and never felt overdressed. If you wear too many layers of clothing, it keeps you from being able to move freely. Foul weather clothing will keep you from having to overdress to stay warm.

Good foul weather gear has to be able to keep the rain off of your head and your body. The worst thing in the world is to be wet especially when it's cold. Once you are wet there is no way to get warm again. Foul weather gear for sailing has to be durable and fully covering. I recommend a two piece approach with jacket and pants so that your legs are kept dry just like the rest of your body. It has to be something that you can keep secure with zippers or Velcro. Ponchos are completely useless on the water since the wind will get water right up under the poncho. Foul weather gear should be bright colors. If you think about it a forest green color is designed to make someone harder to spot... this is not a good thing if you happen to fall overboard and want to be seen. Yellow is best but red is also acceptable. A pair of rubber boots is also highly advisable. On Elissa we use rubber boots even in good weather when we have to wash the deck down. I've worn them aloft, but I wouldn't advise it. Never under any circumstances bring an umbrella on a sailing vessel. In addition to their being bulky and block the view of those trying to keep the vessel from running into anything it is very bad luck to have an umbrella on a boat.

Foul weather gear can be found at Sailing Monster's ship's store in the Basics Aisle.

So before you go sailing, make sure you go prepared. Even if the weather forecasters tell you it will be a nice warm sunny day, you never know when you'll need it so always have a sea bag with everything you need there. And never forget, there is no bad weather only bad clothing.