Monthly Archives: January 2012

The Evolution of the Sail

wing on wing sailingNo one knows quite how sailing began, though it’s certainly been going on for thousands of years. For example, way back in 1200 BC the Greeks launched 1,000 ships and sailed to Troy, and subsequently Odysseus went on one of the worst Mediterranean sailing charters in history trying to get home again.

Like most things, the creation of a sail probably started as an accident–someone somewhere held a piece of cloth up to the wind and noticed that it made their canoe/raft/piece of driftwood move faster. From those humble beginnings, the idea of using a sail to move through the water went on to change the world forever.

So how did it happen?

For at least a thousand years, the primary type of sailing ship was the square-rigger. A square-rigged sail is, not surprisingly, square, and is designed to have the wind push on it from the back and propel the boat forward. A simple and effective idea, and square-rigged ships drove world travel, commerce, and warfare for hundreds of years. But it had its limitations. The main problem was that you could ONLY sail running with the wind at your back, or at a very limited angle to it. Not very convenient if your destination lay in the other direction. The only answer was to start rowing (or in the case of the Romans and Egyptians, have your slaves do it).

As technology improved, sails began to be cut differently, into the more familiar triangular shape we see today. The materials also changed, from natural fabrics like hemp and cotton to nylon and polyester. But it wasn’t actually anything to do with the sail that caused the massive change from square-riggers to modern boats with more points-of-sail. It was the hull design. Shipwrights in the 18th and 19th centuries improved upon their design, taking them from wide, ponderous tubs to sleek and efficient keelboats. So the next time you’re flying along close-hauled, spare a thought for those hardworking ship designers of yesteryear!

It was a long process of incremental changes and innovations that got us where we are today. Of course, an airplane wing works on the same principles as a sail, so all those centuries of messing about in boats laid the groundwork for human flight. Now airplanes are returning the favor: Fans of the America’s Cup look on in awe as AC45 catamarans slice through the water at speeds above 30 knots. The mainsail of an AC45, which resembles a spaceship more than a sailboat, is made of rigid plastic, and is referred to as a “wing sail.” Whether or not these sails have any mainstream future for the average sailor remains to be seen, but it’s proof that there is still plenty of room for innovation.

Sails conquered earth’s watery frontiers, and space could be next. With the field of solar sails growing, who knows where sailing will take us next? Want to know more about the sail and other parts of a sailboat? Enroll in a local, basic sailing course at an ASA sailing school near you!

A Look Back at ASA’s 2011 Greek Islands Flotilla – Part 2

hydra sunsetIn Part 1, the flotilla departed Athens, sailing, swimming and feasting their way to the islands of Epidaurus and Poros.

By Capt. Valerie Weingrad

Tuesday morning, time to sail to Ermioni for a traditional Greek bar-b-cue and toga party! We motored through the Poros channel and past the ruins of an ancient Roman fort that used to guard the entrance to the island. Sails went up as we made our way down the Hydra Channel on a broad reach that slowly backed around to a close haul. We sailed the 24 miles to Ermioni. Before heading to port we stopped for a swim and lunch at a little known island surrounded by reef. We anchored in white sand in 4 meters of crystal clear water, unlike any I have seen. No matter how many times I have stopped here I am always in awe of the beauty of this particular place. It’s owned by a dive shop on the mainland and when the dive boats aren’t there you are welcome to anchor. (Otherwise it’s off limits.)

After a wonderful meal of roasted chicken in the oven with lemon potatoes, Greek salad, rich kalamata olives and crisp cold wine we weighed anchor and made our way to Ermioni, historically known as the site of the very first recorded regattas. We headed not to the port but the small fishing village on the outside of the peninsula. As we motored in the short mile from our swimming spot we passed a picturesque light house and Don Quixote style windmills on the hill. This is a tricky port but well worth it for the view and hospitality of our friends at the Millennium Café.

When you drop anchor here you’re in 18 to 22 meters of water so you have to time the dropping of the anchor and the backing down to the quay so that you have almost all of your rode out and still have enough to make it to the quay. Usually the wind is on your nose so you must have out enough scope to keep your stern from hitting the wall; the wind dies down as the sun sets so no anchor watch needed. With some coaching everyone was securely moored and ready to do some exploring.

med moored
Photo by Jo Anne Richardson

Stepping off the boat, the café with its comfortable chairs was literally steps away. Cold drinks and wifi beckoned us. Yiasou! Our hosts, Fanny and Necktarius greeted us with a warm welcome and a tray of pink colored shots of some tasty fruity concoction. While some explored the town others lounged in the café and checked email. I met with Fanny and discussed the evening’s activities and sampled some of the treats planned for the bar-b-que. It was going to be a fun night and it was rumored that some people had brought appropriate clothing for the occasion. Later sailors strolled across their passarellas dressed in togas! We had everything from Grecian Goddesses to Elvis in a toga complete with pompadour and all! An amazing feast commenced, it was truly an epicurean delight! After polishing off the last waffles with ice cream and chocolate sauce, we danced into the wee hours to work off all that food! Maria was the first to start dancing on the tables and soon, with encouragement from the Greek crew, everyone was in the opa-opa mood!

The next morning we made our way across the channel for Hydra, one of my favorite islands and home to the Hellenic Merchant Marine Academy, artists and a Hollywood film or two. Hydra is also one of the most beautiful islands in the Saronic as well as a challenge for the captains. Coming into Hydra harbor you view stone buildings rising up from the port and a monastery high on the hill. Shops and cafes line the port. As we made our way in, green to starboard, there were ferries coming and going, water taxis, sailing boats, fisherman and large motor yachts all vying for space. It can be unnerving, but once safely moored it’s all good! Now time to explore Hydra.

This island is unique in that it has no motorized vehicles and everything is transported by donkey. Donkey rides anyone? There are no beaches close by, but there are huge tiered slabs of rock that have ladders going down to the sea. Dive off and float in the salty sea, swim into a grotto and listen to the echo of your voice. Climb the ladder and stake out your spot on the rocks where you can bake in the sun like a lizard or walk up to the cliffside café for a cold frappe, the national iced coffee drink of Greece. We did some swimming and then made our way to cafe Hydronetta, where it’s a tradition to watch a spectacular sunset while sipping a cool drink and listening to an eclectic mix of music that always seems to be perfect for the moment.

hydra swimming
Photo by Jo Anne Richardson

After watching another perfect sunset we went back to the boats to dress for dinner and the ASA sponsored party at the world famous Pirate Bar. Our host at the Pirate Bar, Zeus, greeted us and showed us to our tables. From our vantage point we could see the boats gently rocking in the harbor and people promenading around the small horseshoe shaped port. Just as the party was starting to pick up I noticed the wind and the boats’ rocking also becoming a bit more lively. I went back to check the boats and my anchor as the wind built to 25+knots. I called Maria on the cell phone and asked her to get everyone back to their respective boats…just in case.

The wind continued to build and we prepared for the worst case scenario, which would have been leaving the port at night and sailing back to the protected bay of Poros. We got out the PFDs, harnesses and tethers and secured everything down below and waited. It was a bumpy ride at anchor for about an hour and then the storm passed as quickly as it arrived. All the ASA boats were still where they were before the storm, but others were not so lucky. Because of the forecasted winds for the next day, we changed our plan from heading to Aegina and opted to raft up in a lovely cove between Methana and Poros where we would be protected from the high winds. Thursday mid- day we left on our 3 hour sail tacking up the channel in 15 to 20 knots of wind.
swimming underwater
We arrived at the bay late afternoon, dropped anchor one by one and took lines ashore to the rocks. The boats were rafted up together taking care to stagger the masts and placing fenders where needed. One boat chose to anchor out and one decided to head to port. Everyone was in the water for swimming and I led a few divers on the hunt for clams in the secrete clam bay. An impromptu progressive dinner began as the sailors hopped from boat to boat. Christos and Apo both cooked and Maria turned out another award winning meal on board the “girlie boat” featuring the fresh clams. That night on deck there were millions of stars. I counted at least 7 shooting stars which equals lots of wishes!

The next morning was Friday and we reluctantly headed back to Athens. Our consolation was a great beam reach sail until the wind died down as we got closer to the mainland, time to turn on the motor and dock the boat one last time Mediterranean style.

Back in Athens our week had ended too quickly. We all exchanged emails, addresses and Facebook pages with our new friends. It was a wonderful week with a little bit of everything and plenty of memories and stories to take back home. Flotilla sailing is a great way to meet new sailors, learn, and experience new cultures and destinations all within the comfort of a guide and group.

After the success of this year’s flotilla we have added another ASA flotilla in the beautiful Greek Islands for June 9- 16th. If you missed this one, please join us in 2012. Details are on ASA’s website or contact Valerie at

Captain Valerie Weingrad owns Custom Sailing Worldwide and holds a USCG 100T Masters license and is an ASA instructor. She is a traveler and just completed her 9th summer sailing in the Greek Islands.

2011 Outstanding Instructors

ASA’s Outstanding Instructors are selected each year solely as a result of student surveys.  Based on the volume of student feedback received throughout the year, instructors are placed into one of three groups.

The award then goes to the top ten highest average scores in each group.  Considering that there are over two thousand active ASA instructors, this places the Outstanding Instructors in the top 1½% of their peers for quality education as judged by their own customers.

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A Look Back at ASA’s 2011 Greek Islands Flotilla – Part 1

sunrise in greeceWining, Dining, and Sailing Our Way Through the Islands!

By Capt. Valerie Weingrad

For information on ASA’s 2012 flotillas, including Greece June 9-16, click here.

Our flotilla began on July 16th, a warm and sunny afternoon. My boat, Maya, known as “the girlie boat,” was ready, as were the other 5 boats. We met in Alimos Marina in Athens at a café at the end of the pier. Alimos is one of the largest marinas in all of Greece and perhaps the Med, with hundreds of boats lined up Med moored on numerous piers. There are several cafés and tavernas on the marina grounds as well as grocery shops and markets within walking distance. Announcements and introductions were made; questions were answered; now it was time to find our floating homes for the week.

Each group of sailors boarded their yachts which ranged in size from 41’ to 54’. Several of the boats opted to have a Greek skipper come along and take the stress out of sailing in an unfamiliar and challenging sea and really enjoy their holiday. If you’ve never sailed in the Med before it can be a bit daunting, especially when it comes to Med mooring in the small ports. That’s when flotilla sailing and local expertise really comes in handy. As I was told on my first trip to Greece, “This isn’t the Caribbean my dear!” Meaning it’s a bit more of a challenge than I was used to. Everyone got settled in, and that evening we had a brief skipper’s meeting at the Skipper’s Yacht & Roll Bar and determined that we would sail to Epidaurus, which is in the Peloponnese and about a 4 to 5 hour sail from Athens. We would head out at 0900.

We awoke to light winds and a sunny day. Everyone was ready to go and we filed out one by one through the narrow exit of the marina. In Greece they are on the Lateral A buoyage system, red is on your starboard when leaving for sea, something to keep in mind for the week!

Epidaurus here we come, but first we stop for swimming in the clear turquoise water off the small green island of Angistri. We anchored and took a line ashore to an even smaller rocky island across the narrow channel from Angistri. Apo (short for Apostolles), one of our Greek skippers, arrived first. He was in the water and helped the other boats tie off their sterns to the rocks once they dropped the hook. This is a common practice in Greece and allows more boats to fit in limited space.

After a refreshing swim everyone devoured lunch. We had some brave swimmers come by to sample lunch on board “the girlie boat.” Maria, my first mate and Greek chef makes the most wonderful dishes, and this was no exception. Everyone agreed that we were going to be spoiled this week! After lunch in the warm Greek sun it would have been easy to lounge about, but we had to get to Epidaurus and find a parking space!

Late afternoon we arrived in Epidaurus to find a small crowded port. Luckily we had called ahead and reserved a few spaces; it helps to know someone on the islands. The boats were moored, now it was time to do a little exploring. There are orange and lemon groves lining the north side of the bay. Several years ago a farmer was digging near his home when he uncovered the ruins of a small amphitheater. Currently there is a dig going on where they are excavating an amazing intact theater overlooking the bay. It’s a great hike up to the area to observe the dig and grab a few oranges off the tree!
in port
In the port vendors were setting up booths along the quay for a festival that was taking place that evening. The Peloponnese with its rich volcanic soil is known for its fruits, veggies and wine. There were all kinds of food products produced and sold by the farmers in the area. We bought the most amazing olives, honey, and hand- made olive oil soap, local wine and more. After strolling through the vendors stalls, we made our way to a nearby taverna where we dined on simple Greek food and homemade wine while listening to the sounds of live music wafting over us from the port. Watching as the townspeople young and old promenaded along the quay, the sun setting over the sea and the full moon rising, I heard someone say, “This doesn’t suck.”

The next morning we all boarded an air conditioned coach and made our way to one of the most well-known and ancient amphitheaters in existence. The sanctuary of Asclepios (the God of healing) at Epidaurus is a spiritual place worth traveling around the world to visit! In fact the ancient Greeks did just that in order to pay tribute to their spiritual entities in the face of Asclepios, and to ask the gods for remedies for their physical ailments. It was a healing center as well as a cultural center in ancient times. Epidaurus was built around the 3rd century BC and is adorned with a multitude of buildings most famous of which is the ancient Theater of Epidaurus.

This is one of the very few theaters that retains its original circular “Orchestra” and it is a rare aesthetic sight. During Roman occupation of Greece, most theater “Orchestras” were changed from a circle to a semicircle but luckily the theater at Epidaurus escaped intact. The view, aesthetics, and acoustics of the theater are breathtaking, as is the feeling I got when I sat on the ancient limestone stone seat–high up–and thought of all the ancients that might have shared this seat with me.
singer at epidurus theater
After roaming the grounds, the museum and taking turns speaking and/or singing on the ancient stage, we boarded the bus and headed back to port. We were headed around Methana a volcanic peninsula, to the island of Poros in the Saronic Gulf–a good 4 to 5 hour sail. Pame, let’s go!

Later that afternoon after sailing and then motoring in light winds Poros was dead ahead. Poros town faces the Peloponnese main land, separated by a narrow channel less than two hundred meters wide in some spots. It’s a tricky navigation. In ancient times it was home to an asylum dedicated to Poseidon, the ruins of which are still accessible on a hilltop close to the town. As you enter through the channel and round the point and head towards Poros town the famous clock tower greets you and under it the whitewashed houses on the hillside which cascade down to meet the water. It’s a view that say, “This is a Greek island!” We found space along the quay for all 6 boats and started with the Med mooring experience. Dinghies were deployed and I or one of the Greek skippers- Christos or Apo, would ride out to assist those who needed our help in docking their boat. We were positioned in front of the Yachting Café which made it convenient for picking up wifi from onboard and having an afternoon frappe and ice cream!
Poros is a great island with everything you need, from lovely beaches, scooter rentals, cafés, tavernas, shops, etc. It’s also where my friends, Michalis and Sakis, are proprietors of a fabulous fresh fish taverna aptly named Oasis. It’s right on the water and we had reservations for a group dinner. We dined on abundant appetizers or meza, Greek salads, a grilled whole fish complete with head and tail for everyone. Fresh carpoozi and peponia (water melon and melon) with semolina (a Greek sweet) completed the feast. Dinner was wonderful and the atmosphere festive. After dinner some of the girls from my boat led the way for dancing at Club Malibu, while others slowly meandered back to the boats. The nice thing about sailing in Greece and Med mooring is that you don’t need the dinghy to go back to the boat, you simply cross the passarella (gang way) and you’re home!

Stay tuned for Part 2!

Captain Valerie Weingrad owns Custom Sailing Worldwide, holds a USCG 100T Masters license and is an ASA instructor. She is a traveler and just completed her 9th summer sailing in the Greek Islands.

ASA to offer free on-the-water lessons and advanced clinics at Strictly Sail Miami

miami boat showStrictly Sail Miami, from February 16-20, 2012, is always a popular event–a chance for sailors from around the country to escape winter gloom–and this year’s version should be the best one yet. Why?

Because ASA will be partnering with the Discover Sailing Resource Center, and that means FREE on-the-water sailing lessons and clinics taught by experienced ASA instructors! These clinics are expected to fill up very quickly, so pre-registration is highly recommended! See below for details.

There will be opportunities for all skill levels, from absolute beginners to seasoned hands. All training is based on ASA’s internationally renowned training and certification programs and will be taught aboard 30’ to 40′ sailboats.

In addition to the free lessons, there will be an Advanced Cruising Skills Seminar for those looking to hone their bluewater sailing skills, and an exclusive Introduction to Cruising Catamarans. You’ll find all the details below!


Basic and Intermediate Hands-On Training Clinics

  • Introduction to Sailing
  • Intermediate Coastal Cruising
  • Docking Under Power

When: Held daily beginning Friday, February 17th

Requirements: Must be 18 or older and capable of participating as an active crewmember while underway.

Register online at  Please note: a $4 online registration fee will be added to the cost of your boat show ticket.

Advanced Cruising Skills Seminars

Some of the American Sailing Association’s most experienced blue water instructors will conduct hands on seminars geared toward sailors interested in chartering and offshore sailing. These intensive 3 ½ hour sessions cover skills and techniques that are part of ASA’s Bareboat Cruising (ASA 104) and Advanced Coastal Cruising (ASA 106) programs.

Advance registration is REQUIRED, and participation is limited to 5 persons per boat. The cost is $125 per person, which includes 2 days boat show admission (a $36 value). To register, click the following link:

Requirements: Participants must be at least 18 years old and capable of participating as an active crewmember while underway.

Here’s the schedule so you can plan your time at the show!

Miami Exclusive — Introduction to Cruising Catamarans

American Sailing Association instructors will cover Cruising Catamaran fundamentals including techniques for tacking and jibing in light air, correct sail trim, steering a compass course, line handling and winch safety, crew overboard recovery, maneuvering in tight spaces under power and much more.  All learning elements are taken directly from the ASA Cruising Catamaran certification course (ASA 114).

Advance registration is required

Space is very limited for the Cruising Catamaran clinic, and advance registration is required.  Participants must be at least 18 years of age and capable of performing as an active crew member while underway.  Cost for this exclusive seminar is $125 including 2 days boat show admission.  You can find out more details, register online and get your boat show ticket in advance at the follow web link –

The History of the ASA

asa burgeeBeginnings

Until 1983, the United States had no nationally recognized set of standards for sailors. This made it very difficult to tell who was proficient and who wasn’t–a big problem for anyone renting or chartering sailboats, and for people who wanted to learn to sail but didn’t know where to start. That all changed when Lenny Shabes, a charter operator in Marina del Rey, CA, decided to found the ASA.

Frustrated with the lengthy exams he had to give everyone who asked to charter a boat, and inspired by the certification agencies of countries such as France, Canada, and Germany, Lenny set about adapting a set of comprehensive standards, based on those of the Canadian Yachting Association, that would be recognized across the nation. The system was based on having professional, highly qualified instructors teach classes at independent, ASA-accredited sailing schools. Each level of certification a sailor earned would be recorded in their ASA Log Book and could be used as proof of competency.

But that was only the beginning. ASA grew steadily to become the leader in sailing education, issuing more than 800,000 certifications to date, welcoming all types and levels of sailors. ASA’s courses are designed to help anyone reach the level of sailing they desire.

For example, some folks are looking to sail a small boat on their local bay or lake for pleasure. ASA 101, Basic Keelboat, gives them the basic training they need to sail safely and confidently. But for those seeking to bareboat charter, cruise the coast, or even make a major ocean passage, there’s an ASA course for them too! You can even begin your sailing adventure online.

The introduction of standards had a profound effect on sailing in the United States. It made sailing more accessible by connecting people with great teachers they may never have found otherwise. It also made it safer, by helping to ensure that boat skippers had the proper training. Finally, it made sailing more fun! Whole new worlds of sailing could be opened up through quality education, which leads us to…

ASA Today

As ASA has grown, it has become one of the biggest boosters of the sailing lifestyle. With over 300 schools around the U.S., and in several foreign countries, ASA is a gigantic community of people who love sailing. This has led to a number of great opportunities for ASA members, including ASA flotillas in exotic destinations, ASA Sailing Week in St. Petersburg, Florida, and a lively online community.

Now, you can find ASA members in every corner of the globe, ASA burgees flying proudly in ports from the British Virgin Islands to the Pacific Northwest, and an ASA school is never far away. Perhaps most importantly, the ASA certifications in your Log Book (in hard copy and online, of course) are respected and recognized as coming from the authority in sailing education.

2011 Outstanding Schools

  • Black Rock Sailing School, MA
  • Blue Moon Sailing, PR
  • California Sailing Cooperative, CA
  • Cape Fear Sailing Academy, NC
  • Florida Keys Sailing Academy, FL
  • Florida Sailing & Cruising School, FL
  • II Dolphins Sailing, NC
  • Island Bound Sailing Academy, TX
  • Lanier Sailing Academy, GA
  • Nautilus Sailing, CO
  • Reef Runner Sailing, FL
  • Sail Solomons, MD
  • SailTime San Francisco Bay, CA
  • Sag Harbor Sailing School, NY
  • Sea Safaris Sailing School, WI
  • Sea-Time Sailing School, Israel
  • Stockton State Park Marina, MO
  • True North Sailing School & Club, NJ
  • University of Dallas Sailing Club, TX
  • West Coast Multihulls Charters, CA