Zensekai (zen's world under sail)

The sailing adventures of s/v Zen and crew

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Tai Chi, Sailing and Laser racing

Yup this is one of those post. I read the Tillerman's, a well respected sailing blogger's post about racing and taking snapshots views instead of video . What he started doing, by seeing "snapshots" is what I will expand on but, I will to speak on it from different perspective and another level. Anyway he got me to thinking, sometimes that is dangerous an old girl friend use to say, one reason why she is an old gf, remarks like that, but I digress...

Once a upon a time not so long ago the T-man asked for suggestions on what he should so to help his training. I said Tai Chi. He no doubt thought I was being humorous. I was not. Explanation to follow later...

We say Kung Fu helps with everything you do , it is not just about fighting. That is the smallest part of the training.

One of my old teachers who was not a Tai Chi Master but a Arnis /Kali Master, that knew Taichi at least the principals & fundamentals, many of which were used in Kali ( A Philippine martial art). He was hired to work with the Dallas Cowboys at one of their camps. Why you may ask, because he could help them move and deal with energy.

Now that is only one part of expanded use of Tai Chi, which I have spoken of before. As in dealing with wind energy and the transfer of that to the boat and sailing.

Now, we have another saying the Kung Fu makes you more "aware". As in, aware of yourself and your environment as well as others around you. Feeling the "vib" as I call it, or as they said in Star Wars the "force" Tai Chi is a form of Kung Fu. In Tai Chi we start with that awareness training internally, within ourselves and learn to expand that to others. To know your opponent first you must know yourself.

We start with the single form, learning about our body, how to balance it. Then we move to partner practice, where we learn more about ourselves and balance, our weak points our strong points. Next step is expanding that "awareness" to your partner their balance their weak points when they move, & when they are still. Using that expanded awareness you learn to contract or expand that awareness, extending the force field you can say. Expanded, walking through a strange area, looking , feeling for something strange, danger or in the case of sailing feeling the wind, looking/feeling for shifts, feeling the boat, the water. Is it balanced, am I balanced in it, if I was sitting in another position would it be better balanced with itself, with the water, with the wind. Same as if using a weapon or a double weapon, the weapon is no longer something that you are holding it/they is/are part of you. You and it/them must be in balance, the old be one with the weapon saying. In this case, being one with the boat, wind and water.
With a partner feeling their weight shift, the balance change, tension. Learning to read their body. In awhile you can do that without touching them, seeing how the body is set, weighted to move.

So, in racing and sailing we need to be aware of the wind changes, patterns. Taking in the environment, feeling and seeing not just what is in front of us, but small changes in the water, the body of the competition. Looking feeling, sensing, seeing small things while looking at big things...
Not only the wind, but the feel of your boat & yourself everyday we are a little different. The training, forms, breathing, drills helps us stay as centered, balanced as much as possible...aware. Add to that the mind/mental state of being in meditation, calm, but actively aware.
The more aware you are and better able to use that on multi levels the better you sail.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Post Thanksgiving Sail

Post Thanksgiving Non-sale sail

It was a good day, Mild temps, in the 60's light wind.

I headed to the Marina.

My first encounter with the owner of the Choy Lee ketch . Great looking boat, 30 ft, teak decks, desiel motor, full keel. Nice I would love to have this boat!

We chat a bit and I head down to s/v Zen and get her ready to sail. I was set for cool weather, I had my silk Long John's on, and my heavy Zen sweat shirt. However the weather so far was perfect, cool but not cold. Wind about8-10 knots.

I cast off easily and raise the sails...

Casting off is so much easier these days, once I figured it out.
I think it helps having a taller boat, I could never quite get the hang of it with Kuan Yin.

Not much going on a very easy sail, only one tanker to dodge. There are only a couple of other sailboats out today. It is generally quite in this area except during the summer months when we get a few racing yachts passing through. Beig that this is the first day of wind on the weekend I thouhgt there would be more boats out. For the most part the water is mine...

Easy sail around for an hour or so then head back to the marina...

It is starting to get cool, as the sun is behind some clouds and going down. The few others that are out are also heading back in now.

Now I'm glad I wore the long johns.

So back to the marina and an easy dock.

I'm putting sailing away and shockingly another sail boat come in to my dock. For the most part I am the only one of the four sailboat there that goes out.
I go to chat with him a bit turns out he is new.

He is only been around for a few weeks and has been disappointed about about the lack of winds over the last few weeks.
Sound like he ia a regular sailor. So now there are two if us.

It was a good day. Thankful to get my sail-on.

Trees stilll show their colors
Sky is blue and fluffy white
My sails are full, life is good

Sunday, November 12, 2006

The Water Course Way

The water course way is another name for the way of Tao, it was coined by the late philosopher Alan Watts. Life has many paths and crossings, like streams and rivers making it's way to the sea or to put in street terms, Life is a Trip...

When I was younger one of my favorite series of books was by someone called Tuesday Lopsang Rampa. They were purported to be Rampa's autobiographical tale of his study and mastery of Tibetan Buddhism. He underwent many hardships and lessons in his life. I never took it for real however the thought behind it...I always was intrigued by the stories and the Philosophy that came with it. He was in the course of his waterway (Life path at least in these stories) to have much contact with the spiritual leader of Tibet, the Dali Lama ...

Back when I was beginning to put all this trip together about going to Japan, toying with the birth of this journey. I thought...hmmmm I can study some ceramics there, teach some Kung Fu, do some sailing around the islands, perhaps study some Zen teachings...

Later when doing some research on sailing to Japan I came across stories on a couple of Japanese sailors who had made the trip from Japan to S.F. and beyond. I read some of their stories and was impressed...

A one point I wanted to find a Japanese book for my wife so she could read about sailing basics and I could pickup some Japanese terms. I did not have much luck , well really none...

Later on this watercourse I came across a Gentleman in Japan who knew one of these famous Japanese sailors. It also turns out he is there near where we are planning to move. I also find out later he is a Zen master and lecturer. Talk about things that make you go hmmmmmmmm...

After a while of doing this blog I write a piece about Zen, Sailing, Taichi and the Tao or something near that. It inspired me to write this Zen master and introduce myself. I figured why not, he is a sailor, I would like to meet him on my next trip to Japan and speak of Sailing and Zen. He was receptive and responded, even said he would look at my article and respond if he thought it was called for. He never did so I guess he thought I was on the right track or full of it :-) ...

Time passes...

I progress with my sailing studies and seek another teacher to move to another level. I come across a lady, who started the program where I had my basics, but she moved on to start and run her own school. I contacted her about training and testing. After a few discussions, she surprises me with the statement she not only knew the Zen Sailor but taught him as well. He was responsible for having the ASA Standards manual done in Japanese...

Times passes...
I complete my ASA teaching basic level. I figure hmmmm I should really teach the Lady Zen, I can having her challenge the ASA Basic Keel Boat to get certified as well. She will know what she is doing and can help when I get some students who speak Japanese, Like her Brother-in-Law and any other friends. Mostly she will be able to know what to do and be helpful when sailing and not feel so helpless, if something happens. I remember there is something in Japanese print by the Sailing Zen master ...

I contact him again, hoping he will remember me and I'm not being bother ( eg: pain in the butt). I ask about a lead to a book, he remembers me and informs me he has 2 available via Amazon.com. I mention about speaking with his teacher and the Universes way of having paths cross...

He replies likewise and adds the meanings show up later.
He also mentions he had just spent 3 days with the Dali Lama & found him also a great Taoist...

Life is a trip.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Zen & the ASA the Teaching certificate

As I start this entry I'm sitting in Tradewinds sailing school. Just across from San Fransico, Ca.It is Sunday, I have just finished the final module of my ASA teaching certificate class for Basic Keel Boat.
I am waiting for the instructor to return with the last of the candidates instructors doing their afloat teaching modules. I'm glad I got mine done early.

So lets use the Wayback machine and start from the beginning on Friday Nov 3rd. This has been a Long weekend! It started on Friday @1600 hrs it is now Sunday @ 1500hrs.

Fri . 11/03/06

I took the day off. Things were slow at work, again. I figured to using the day to get some extra study in for the test coming over the weekend. There were 3 at home test to complete. This was nice I can use my books to make sure I am correct and as a study aid for the big test at the class.

It started as a cloudy windless day, there had been a lot of that happening lately.
I had to go to the marina to let in the Phone Guy so I can have a land line down at s/v Zen. This way I can use it an an office for my Shaolin Enterprises.
It turned out to be a complicated affair, but I use the time while waiting to study.

Around 3:00pm I head out for class over in Point Richmond, CA at the TradeWinds school

I arrive shortly after 1600 hrs due to some traffic. It turns out others were MORE late than myself. Some of which were almost 2 hrs late! They, I found out had quite a ways to travel, some a 3-4 hour dr.

The evening progresses, we cover what is going to happen over the next few days, fill out papers and mark the tests we completed at home. We marked each others test. It took awhile as some answers were challenged.

I was happy to just recently done these test as a student so I was already comfortable with the correct answers to ones that were somewhat worded weird. That combined with research at home, the test was fairly easy. I got a 98 on one and 95 on the other. That one more advanced and I was never clear on a few answers even with research. No biggie! I got 95, I needed 90 to pass

The evening ended about 9:00pm with our assignment for the next day. We were to prepare a lecture on a drawn/choosen topic. Mine was on Man Overboard recovery or MOB drill as called. This was to be a 10 min lecture using whatever means we chose to help get the point over.


The day starts at 0830. I use this military term because that is what the instructor does. He is holds a USCG Master License. He turns out to be an excellant Instructor Evaluator ( IE). Helpful, relaxed,knowledgeable, a good example of teaching professional.

It is a very Foggy day over this way, foggy and low wind again. I arrive on time, but others are there before me. I get selected to do my on the water solo sailing with the morning group whilst the other half of the group does the instructor paper test and prepares for the lecture.
My group heads out.

After checking out the boat we set off. Seas are calm, as in almost mirror calm. In spite of the calmness I am surprised that another guy testing for instructor cert. gets sick and is hanging over the rail for a bit. Perhaps it was his breakfast ... bummer for him.

We pick turns to do the test. I go second, I want to get it over with. The first guy, does his almost perfect through everything.
He had been teaching for the Tradewinds school and was familair already with the boat and the teaching style. We are suppose to do everything solo but talk like we are telling students what we are doing. Meanwhile the IE is making notes...
I was nervous and glad to go second.
The drill generally takes about 15- 20 min to do everything, with no wind the first guy took almost 1 hr. That did include getting back close to our starting mooring after the current pulled us way down stream. Part of the long time lag also because we had very low wind.
My turn...gulp! Breathe...show time...

This is my first time sailing off a mooring. I did it, but had just a bit of trouble. I got dinged 5 points :-(
listed as not enough control. I had a small accidental gybe in the shifty winds. If I ever had to do that again I would start with only the jib.
The rest went fairly smooth. I was nervous about having to speak the whole time, and got a few terms mixed up, another ding. Otherwise things went smoothly considering I had light to no wind, and the little that was there kept shifting.

Now time to pickup the mooring. Again my first time, fast current and mostly no winds and shifting at that. I was able to pull it off. So I'm done, other than getting a low point for poor sail trim, something I need to watch on beam reach. Still other than that I got 95 % out of 100%, whewwww, I can breathe. It took me 45 min. Awwww yeah over! wahoooo!!

After taking way too much time and zero wind after me, we head in as it was getting late.
We have lunch and the next group goes out to try their luck with the winds. Meanwhile we get on with the HARD written test!! Gulp!
This test takes a couple of hours, hard questions, many of which I had not planned on or studied . Day signals on boats, towing questions, USCG Navigational rules, Yikes!! We do have some lead way, we only need 75% to pass.

Next phase the lecture...
I setup things.

The gent before me uses a powerpoint presentation. Smooth talker, the has all the answers type. It was polished. I followed, I did a few drawings on the board, and used some props, with a few joking remarks, it went well. No one knew I am uncomfortable in front like that.
Pick a friendly face, like the cutie in front and talk mostly to her.
Whewww that was over...

After 2 other's lectures it was time to mark the MAJOR quiz, no a test over 100 questions is not a quiz!!!! The other 4 lectures would go tomorrow for 8 total.

The big one...I was nervous. It was set in my mind I would need to come back and redo this part of the test. No one else seemed confident about it, even the other student with the USCG master Lic.
We as a class go through each other's test and check and discuss the answers. Some of the answers were direct, some were open to interpretation, others had more than one answer, there was much discussion. After another hour of that we finshed grading the test. I needed 75% to pass... I got 83.3 , wahooo!! What a relief
I'm thinking the worst is over, but no there is more...

I'm thinking today will be easy, no pressure, just do a quick bit of a teaching routine on the water and I'm home free. Turns out to be more than that! There is another classroom lecture as well.
Ok, so I get picked to go out with the first group, ok, not so bad. Get it done then relax for the most part.

I head out with the 1st group. What I was told would be a few minutes, like about 30 sec around robin turned out to be about 10 min talk rounds, on different aspects of sailing like we had a boat full of students, except there is someone watching and making notes on your performance, again yuk!

One of mine was leaving the dock for the first time. Not bad, were the comments. After another round it was me again this time, on heading up and bearing away. Comments this time were "unsure in the beginning, but got into after a bit". Heck yeah! I was nervous, then I figured I could shift the burden to the students by putting things into more of a question form. Then using the right answers & words to clearify. It was a good plan.
After another person did their two modules, and we start to head back as again there is NO wind! At least nothing to really work in. But everyone had their 2 rounds.
So we fire up the motor, go for about 5 minutes, then the outboard DIES!!
There we are with no wind and no motor!. The fuel line had fell off and we ran out of gas. Not a big deal you may think, but after replacing the hose connection, the motor still would not start. Everyone gives it a try to get the motor going. Nothing! How many sailing instructors does it take to start a motor?...We have the sails back up now but are mostly just a drifting!! A boat full of instructors, with no wind and no motor! Great!! There are a bunch of kids in Lazer like sailboat buzzy around us...There we are a bunch of grown adult instructors, for the most part stuck...priceless.

We drift for about 15 min waiting for hopefully the motor to unflood after replacing the hose. If that was the problem. Luckly after the wait the motor did start and we were off to port. We were almost 1 hour later than we had planned on being back.

So we have lunch and prepare for the afternoon lecture for my group. The second group heads out for their final on the water check.

The second lecture is easy goes smooth, I finish in 5 min. Nice! No pressure since this one is done without the IE there, the other instructor candidates grade your lecture.
and we are done!!!! Whaoooooo relief, now I can relax.

We have to wait for the rest to return before we get to the final wrap up stuff.
I take a stroll around the area.
I had no idea there were such nice, home$$$ in this part of town. More so right on the water. Some were even able to have their boats right outside the back door. Must be nice!! Of course it does not insure happiness, but it is comfrortable. :-)

There is a boat there like an old schooner, or something, made of CONCRETE at the dock. The guy took 20 years to build. His wife left him in the process. Everyday he is out cleaning it, I saw him chasing birds off of it.
That says a lot eh...

After a 30 min walk I head back the office, I start writing this and get very sleepy, so nap time while everyone else is chatting away. We are all waiting for the second crew.

Finally they return and we settle in for the final chat from the (IE).
After filling out and learning about more paperwork. We are done. The group wants to head over to a Hotel bar/cafe for the final debriefing. I was not that pleased, as I am not the bar dinking type, but went along. It was a nice place over in town. I had a glass of wine, the others had beer and shots. While the IE held separate talks with each of us and signed our official books, Yeah!!!!!! Finally I was done!!
I headed home, Lady Zen and I head out to our favorite Japanese restaurant for a celebration dinner. Stuffed and happy we returned home to relax.

So how was the class... more complex than I had thought, it was a challege, as I was told it would be. I'm glad I put in the extra study time and took it seriously. It was a good exprience and makes one feel the certificate has some real value.

A special thanks to Bill of Bliss in Kobe, Japan for turning me on to this learning/training path and his helpful study aids.

So what is next...
A bit of a rest then, onward. I should start teaching the Lady Zen to sail. Then she can challege the ASA BKB student level test and get certified to sail. Also it will help to have her knowing what do do on the water and help teach/translate in Japanese when needed.

Though I guess the next real things is to find an outlet to teach so I can stay as an active instructor. I di not know about that part until after I signed up. Well I have a shot at getting on with the city of Oakland Program. Some P/T work with them would be good.

I'm pretty sure Coastal Navigation is the next study, then Bareboat student level.
The USCG Power Squad offers Celestual Navigation & passage making classes for free to members. Since I took one of their safety classes I am able to become a member. I'm also thinking about the limited USCG six-pack. It will not be of any good in Japan, but the knowledge learned will be, since I will need to do testing there to get a Japanese License to sail.

  • Vice-Commodore - International Yacht Club
  • Join us on Yahoo groups
  • We can make a difference