Category: Firefly


This past weekend’s Titanic Series Race 1 results are in.

Saturday was a bright, sunny day and unseasonably warm for much of the race. The Race Committee was kind enough to delay the start of the race until Firefly got to the start, since we were late leaving the docks. Skipper Dave made a great start over the line. So, although there was quite a bit of jockeying behind us, we were able to get to clean air quickly. Over the next 4.6 nautical miles, we lost some ground to Shadowfax and Wiz, but we were all never far apart, which always keeps the race interesting. After corrected time, we still placed in the same order we finished – third.

Congrats to Wiz on the first place finish this week. We’ll get you next time!

Titanic Series Race 1 - Jib

Sneaking Up On The Competition Wing On Wing (No Spinnaker Racing In The Winter)

Firefly Titanic Race One - Hank Trimming
Hank Trimming On The First Downwind Leg

It appears that last weekend’s DISC Titanic Race has been rescheduled for this Saturday on the Potomac River. Hopefully we won’t have freezing rain or snow again.

Fortunately, I just finished compiling tips for winter sailing for my monthly blog at TopDekk.com.

Read my tips for staying safe, if not dry, this winter sailing season How To Be A Frostbite Sailor – Safety First!

Or just check out this video uploaded by DISC member Wayne Williams of folks mostly breaking the rules on New Year’s Day, when Firefly competed in the annual Hair Of The Dog (aka Hangover) Race.

Don’t worry, it was an unusually warm day.
Hopefully it will be just as beautiful this weekend.

I was very excited to start off 2012 on the water. When Skipper Dave sent an email about the annual Hair of the Dog Race on New Year’s Day, I thought it sounded like fun. Dragging myself out of bed on the morning of January 1, after partying with friend on New Year’s Eve, was not fun.

Hair of the Dog: Ben Takes The Tiller

Hair of the Dog: Ben Takes The Tiller

Greasy McDonald’s breakfast in hand, I met up with the team at the marina. Fortunately, or not so fortunately, I wasn’t the only one with an unintended hangover that day. With that in mind, we started the race cautiously, choosing the conservative jib #3.*

The course was to be three laps on the the Potomac River between the boat house north of Old Town and the Woodrow Wilson bridge (marks 6 and 2).

With only about a dozen boats on the water, we enjoyed a less hectic start than usual, and were able to sail our intended course. By the time we rounded the first mark, we had hit our stride and were feeling more confident – and less hung-over thanks the cold, fresh air. We switched to the larger jib #2 and started gaining on the competition.

The race results aren’t in, but I think we finished in the middle of the pack.

It was a beautiful, sunny day and temps were probably in the high 50’s, though it was darn cold when we were beating upwind on the water. Thanks to the Daingerfield Island Sailing Club for organizing the race – it was a great way to start the New Year.

*The jib is the smaller, ‘front’ sail on a boat. The jib contributes to speed and power. Jibs come in many sizes, and most boats will carry several for different conditions. The larger the number of the jib, the smaller it is. The largest jib, called a Genoa or Jib #1, will be so large that it will overlap the main sail behind it when you view the boat from the side.

A smaller jib would be desirable in strong wind when you may be worried about being overpowered. It may also be a good choice when when your crew is hungover.

A Smaller Jib Means Less Surface Area To Catch The Wind

A Smaller Jib Means Less Surface Area To Catch The Wind

The holiday season is always a blur so I have fallen behind in blogging, but I wanted to be sure to share this fun night with you all.

The Firefly crew competed in the 12th annual Old Town Alexandria Parade of Lights earlier this month.

This was our first year entering the popular holiday event, and so we were not quite sure how to compete. With no generator, and only the sailboat’s regular boat battery, we were most anxious that we figure out how to tap into this power source and that we not drain it before we finished the parade.

Volleying emails, we settled on a design that was simple enough for us beginners and appropriately holiday-inspired. Check out the final draft design, and a fun runner-up design I made that we just don’t have the skills for (yet).

After we picked Let It Snow, Hank volunteered to bring a converter for the battery and we were on our way. Until he mentioned we should use LED lights. The efficient lights would conserve power and, I realized sadly, not something any of us had. After all, you don’t buy new Christmas lights every year. We all had the old, power-sucking kind of lights. After trying family and friends, I went to Micheal’s and bought out their entire stock of LED snowflake lights, and bought hundreds of feet of white LED lights at Target. (it turns out we only needed 60 ft).

It Worked! Snowflakes Falling

It Worked! Snowflakes Falling

We were feeling confident until we went to the Parade of Lights planning party/meeting. The night was nearly ruined when the captains began to introduce themselves and their boat’s theme. The first boat introduced had our theme! Sure, we knew weren’t original and we weren’t trying to win this year, but still… You don’t want to see someone in your dress, you know?

Then, after the party we were talking with the captain of Miss Appropriate and he scared the beejeezus out of us with tales of other boaters who tried the parade of lights without a generator.

Confidence shaken, Firefly crew regrouped the morning of the parade to cut out the letters and the shape of a snowman in cardboard. We covered everything with tin foil and lights, for max shine effect, and attached them to the starboard side of Firefly. The snowflakes were hoisted up the mast and we held our breath as Hank connected the converter, battery and lights. Everything worked! We had lights… for now.

That evening, we filled the sailboat with friends, hot chili and sausage balls, and warmed booze. We sailed up the Anacostia stealthily with our lights off. We waited until we were near the judges stand in DC to announce ourselves and light up the night with our super bright LED lights. We sailed down to the 14th street bridge and back again, waving at the crowd that had gathered on the waterfront.

Then we cut the lights and stepped on the gas to keep up with the rest of the parade. We booked it at 4 knots an hour on our outboard engine and arrived at Old Town Alexandria to even bigger crowds. Our electricity lasted the whole night; the sausage balls were not quite so lucky. After the parade, we warmed ourselves at the after party at the Fish Market, where we toasted to LED technology.

As Hank told the crowds:

“We may be slow, we may be last, but our message the whole season will last. Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.”

We are planning to win next year.  We now know at least that the boat battery will last if we stick to LED lights, and that we need to pack more sausage balls

Got any good design ideas to share?

Firefly's Let It Snow Entry

Firefly's Let It Snow Entry

Looking for some good deals on new gear, or even a new boat?

This weekend is the 42nd United States Sailboat Show in Annapolis, MD. From October 6 – 10, more than 50,000 sailors and boating enthusiasts will gather together to, according to organizers, ‘buy, sell and dream.’

For the FilthySeaGal, that’ll be mostly ‘dream’. There are lots of beautiful boats to check out and I’ll be out there on Sunday with some of the Firefly crew. I’m not sure about my teammates, but I’ll daydreaming of sailing around the world on a multihaul. I also plan to check out some new foul weather gear while I am there.

US Sailboat Show highlights include:

  • Daily Seminars by Cruising World and Chesapeake Bay Magazines
  • Take the Wheel Interactive Workshops including Boat Demos
  • Smaller Boats From One Designs & Trailerables To Sailing Dinghies & Inflatables
  • Sailing Equipment, Rigging & Accessories
  • Maintenance Products & Services
  • Cruising & Vacation Charter Information
  • Hottest Domestic & International Racing and Cruising Boats
  • One of the Largest Collections of Multihull Sailboats on the Planet
  • Grand Prize Drawing – One week charter in the British Virgin Islands provided by Sunsail with airfare sponsored by BVI Tourism Board
At $17/adult ticket the price seems kind of steep, but I’ve found in prior years that there is so much to see that its worthwhile.
I hear too, if you are in Annapolis after the show, watching all the skippers maneuver out at tear-down time is very impressive.

Masters of the Potomac

This weekend the Firefly crew competed in the Masters of the Potomac. We got last, we think, but that’s not the important part.

At 55 nautical miles (nm), this roundtrip race from Quantico to Colonial Beach was to be our longest race as a team yet. So this weekend we strapped on our headlamps, stowed our foul weather gear and beers, and hit the river.

With a forecast of about 10 knots (kn) of wind, we expected to finish the race in about 20 hours. In the end, we finished in 11 hrs 54 mins thanks to some heavy winds, sometimes gusting up to 20 kn it seemed.

The start line was nice and wide, so there wasn’t the unusual heart-pounding chaos we experience in Alexandria races.  We started the race at 11 a.m., just off the Quantico Marina with our blue spinnaker flying strong. Then we settled in for what we expected to be a very long race, working in 1 hour shifts at the helm. I think rotating positions like this made the race worthwhile no matter the outcome.

The Firefly Crew Hard At Work

The Firefly Crew Hard At Work

We all had an opportunity to gain better perspective of what every team member does for the boat. I had the tiller as we approached the rounding (midway) mark, facing 20 kn wind gusts and very choppy water. I faired okay, learning on the fly from Captain Dave how not to take the waves head-on. One good wave though got the whole crew soaked – even me all the way in the stern! Later, in calmer waters, I got to fly the spinnaker myself, which I rarely do since I work the foredeck for the team. Meanwhile, other teammates experienced the thrill of walking on the rocking bow and manning the foredeck.

With Sheila as tactician and me as the navigator (and Captain Dave supervising) we managed to plan and keep to a course. Admittedly though, there were some unsure times. Around 8 p.m., Dave asked me where we were, but in this wide river we hadn’t been near a mark in a long time. In the dark of the night, I had to admit I had no clue. So I made my best guess looking at the chart and GPS, and then waited until we passed the next mark to confirm. Using a flashlight, we read the green can’s reflective number – G23. My guess was off by about 4 miles.

Rhonda & Sheila Review The Course

Rhonda & Sheila Review The Course

It wasn’t all work. Sheila and Rhonda prepared gourmet meals on deck with Dave as sou chef. I brought along beers for the sunset cocktail hour. And later in the night, we rocked out to some music with glow-in-the-dark Halloween necklaces and bracelets. I even broke out the strobe light on my headlamp for the impromptu disco party occasionally. All in all, it was a fun race!

The Crew Takes A Break

The Dinner Crew: Sou Chef Dave, Trimmer Sheila and Helmsman Rhonda

I volunteered this week to be the Firefly navigator for the upcoming Masters of the Potomac race. This will be our longest race as a team, 55 nm, and my longest ever. I volunteered because I am very excited about the race. That said, I am concerned about keeping my focus for 20 hours on the river. I think that working as the team navigator, I will be able to track our progress, keeping the the team and myself motivated and focused.

So, with 48 hours until the race, I googled “how to read nautical charts.” An auspicious start.

It turns out, chart reading is deceptively simple. I have some ideas about detailing for myself our course and then using the chart and GPS to confirm we stay on the course.
Tonight Captain Dave and I will be meeting at a bar (of course!) to spread out the charts and get a crash lesson on GPS and chart reading.

It’s just the Potomac River, how lost could I get us?

Preparing for Masters of the Potomac

It's crunch time

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