Wednesday, April 27, 2011


There are those people in the region, even on council, that can only see miles of docks in Whitby harbour or in Oshawa harbour, as being, wall to wall pavement with traffic to match that of the 401, the inevitable result of allowing pleasure vessels to use small harbours such as Whitby or Oshawa.

Sailors on the other hand dread the thoughts of those same beautiful harbours, lying waste just so a few ducks and geese can be comfortable.

Speaking of the comfort of the ducks and geese, there are still a few of us around that recall Whitby Harbour when is was mostly a bullrush swamp, and the water covered over with green vegetation, and Oshawa harbour being mostly a coaldust basin. Both were void of wildfowl.

That changed In 1967 when seven men of vision looked over the little used inner portion of the harbour beyond the main turning basin, with its abondoned barges, no access roads, and much silted shallow water. They saw a wonderful location for a yacht club.

In the early years there was a problem with the green vegetation growing on the surface of the water. Dr. Fred Vincent, club veterinarian member, said the problem was that the harbour was completely void of wildfowl. If we could, somehow, attract wildfowl, they would clean up the bay for us. That green stuff was like caesar
salad to some wild geese.

Dr. Fred obtained a permit for the club to acquire six wild Muscovite Ducks with their wings clipped. They swam around the bay, cleaning up the floating menace. They also walked on the club property. One Sunday afternoon, Mel Goreski, John Vickery, and a few of the “originals” (maybe Jim Stewart was there, ask him) had a contest to see if anybody could walk from the old club house to the end of the gas dock and back, blindfolded, in barefeet. I leave the rest of that story to your imagination.

The last of the original flock of Muscovites, “Old Bill” died off a couple of years later, but as promised, by that time, Canada Geese had been attracted to the bay, and they are still with us. We haven’t had a problem with the floating green stuff for nearly 30 years.

But we have had a problem with Canada Geese, a beautiful and intelligent bird.

To day they are a nuisance. In the springtime we see nests hidden everywhere, in the storage piles of winter boat cradles, in long grasses, wooden thickets, around the Gas Dock. As the days grow longer little fleets of five, six, eight bits of fluff' swimming in formation with one parent leading and one bringing up the rear, or little clusters poking at the grass or weeds along with shore, one parent or the other constantly on the watch for danger. The bits of fluff soon grow to scraggy imatures and flying lessons begin. Somehow it never quite happens, but often formations come so close that skippers wonder how they manage to avoid flying right into their sails.

At Christmas we witnessed a huge flock of those beautiful fowl busily fertilizing the lawn for next spring, Instead of being down south distracting the attention of the Texans from war with Iraq.

The problem is that about six or seven years before Fred Vincent introduced Muscovite Ducks to the Whitby Yacht Club, in 1965 to be exact, despite concerns about the increasing dependence of the birds on artificial feeding by humans and the environmental imbalance which might result from their presence in ever increasing numbers. the wings of six pairs of Canada Geese, the originals of the present colony, were clipped to encourage them to nest on Toronto’s Centre Island.

A little arithmetic indicates why concerns were justified. Geese mature in about two years. They can live and are able to produce for close to thirty years.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Why not race your Alberg 30

Historically the most famous race was Aesop’s tale of the Tortoise and the Hare. But that was a race between unequal participants.

To put it simply, in sailboat racing there are three types of racing sailboats: the One design (i.e. Alberg); the Restricted design, i.e. vessels built under the Universal and International Rule; and the Open Class with boats of different design with handicaps.

In open class races, to be real fun it often becomes a matter of outbuilding the other fellow. So often the trophies being given to the person with the biggest pocketbook. Matching pennies and working at the other guys bankroll.

One of the joys my family had in the 1970s, was class racing with the Alberg 30s, both on Lake Ontario and in the Chesapeake Bay area. And one great Alberg race at Newport R.I. in 1980. This was the best of racing because all the boats were built in the same mold, and were identical, Of course they are not absolutely identical to the smallest detail .

From the spectators point of view there is no comparison, seeing about 12 or more vessels, heading to the starting line with the same wind, the same sea, and the same mechanical equipment. From the skippers point of view he gets the maximum competition per dollar of expenditure.

When Mandy decided that we should buy Odyssey instead of a new ultra design racing-cruising design, The Alberg was outdated, there not having been any change in the hull design, or the sail plan, in nearly` 10 years.

Well now the Alberg is ?? years old, and still no change in the hull design or the sail plan, and for one design racing, she is still a beautiful and competitive one design sailing vessel

One remarkable feature of the Alberg is that they still maintain their value. Some of the older boats were considered to be crude and unfinished compared to the newer vessels, (no’s 400 and up) but the evolution was gradual, and the owners of the older boats had no problems in keeping pace with the new boats. Odyssey #253, was an older boat, and is now considered one of the finest vessels on Lake Michigan.

Bobs Nautical Dictionary

Bob’s Nautical, A Nautical Dictionary and Glossary by Robert B. Townsend. Definitions and Descriptions , 111., 8 1/2 x 11”, 190 pages, soft cover for only $24.95.

Cover design, printed and bound in Canada by Visual Impact Marketing Inc. Published by Robert B. Townsend, Odyssey Publishing, 3320 Rednersville Rd., R.R.I, Carrying Place, On. KOK ILO.

Why, we ask has this book been so long in coming? It is absolutely crammed with useful and seldom found information so that we move from one area to the next, reluctant to put it down and get on with what we should be doing.

The dictionary flits the first half of the collection of literary marine treasures.

So you’re playing with your children and with them look up animals from a marine point of view, there’s horse and hounds, dog and cat—oh,oh, catamaran, cat ketch, cat-o-nine tails, cat’s paw and cat’s whiskers and that’s not all , but move on to monkey and lizard, bull and buck. By now the kids are laughing and giving their own ideas!

Suppose you’ve got that little talk to give at the club and want some ideas. Browse through the definitions and come up with wharves and piers, which are structures—and find these are quite different from docks—which are the waters beside them where the boats float when secured.

And then there are all the items that go into sails, rigging and fittings,especially on the old square rigged sailing ships. Yup, they’re here, all neatly set out for your convenience and help in understanding a story or clarifying a discussion.

You want to spice up a conversation or lecture with a bit of controversy? Are there tides on the Great Lakes? Well, look up the word seiche for what it tells you.. Then move to the second half of the book, to the section Low Water—High Water. There you find notations on Lunar Tides, Spring Tides and Neap Tides as well as something on Great Lakes Tides. Do these qualify as actual tides? There are opinions that can lead to some probing conversations!

If you’re interested in the measurement rules for racing, you’ll find summarizations of the more well known rating systems, with purposes, plus their advantages and disadvantages, elsewhere in the second half of the book.

There’s a section on Vessels and Their Rigs, where mention goes back to the Chinese junk, the Arab dhows, the Greek and Roman galleys and the Viking longships—all is meaningful and interesting.

But, we must not forget our own traditions—and here they are. Sections on the vessels of the Great Lakes as they sailed from towns and ports that are familiar to us. The timber droughers, picturesque craft that were built strong and tough and shaped to carry the huge timbers from hardwood forests to the end of the lakes. Here the timber was turned into “drains” to run the St. Lawrence River.

The stone hookers carried the materials from which Toronto was built. Usually they were square ended, wide and of shoal draft, although yachts were often used for the job. They hoisted shale from the bottom of Lake Ontario between the ports of Oakville and Whitby, mostly from Port Credit. They were designed to get close to shore to reach the shale and to carry the whole load of stone on deck. To deliver six toise of stone a week was good for a two man crew— here we learn what a toise is and how it was brought on deck.

Schooners and scows were also an important part of early Great Lakes
commerce. Often an owner started out, sometimes on his farm or in a little lakeside villages, building a small craft for local deliveries, and from there expanded to many or larger vessels.

Because of the creek-mouth bars in so many lake ports, centreboard vessels were used. These were not considered adequate by salt water sailors but, somehow, from the lakes, they turned up in various European ports and even around the horn.

The part played by steamboats, barges and tugs also takes a place in
this book, as do many other important aspects of sailing life.

And, of course, a sailing venture is never complete without a mix of song and two of these, working songs, are provided at the end of the book.