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April Photo of the Month: Spring Launch

asa logoIt is a tradition that, like the changing of the seasons and the imminent filing of tax returns, is an inevitable part of the circle of life. I’m talking, of course, about our monthly Sailing Photo Contest on ASA social media. The best amateur sailing snapshots coming pouring in to our Facebook page from around the world and our online community elects one among them to stand above all the others. I receive entries and votes via Twitter, email, and I wouldn’t be surprised if one of these days I get a telegraph.

Votes come in from all of these methods too (well, not telegraph), but most of the votes are cast by the time-honored ritual of clicking the “like” button on Facebook. Did you have a chance to vote this month? If not, make sure you’re a fan of our Facebook page so you won’t miss out next time. We’re all about the sailing lifestyle, and we always want to hear new voices and perspectives.

Without further ado, I present the top entries from April’s “Spring Launch” photo contest:


Terry Keller submitted this frigid-looking photograph of a very determined sailor launching his boat on California’s Lake Tahoe. He says: “She’s a ’68 Oday 23, breaking through about 2 ” of ice. Only a couple hundred more yards to go till clear water!” Our voters were clearly impressed with the fortitude and passion for sailing required for Terry to launch his sailing season no matter what the conditions, and by the swath of destruction in his wake! Congratulations Terry, you’ve earned publication here and in the American Sailing Association “Sailing with Style” E-Newsletter.
april winner


It came right down to the wire, and the votes cast by unconventional methods (email, Twitter) made the difference. Derek Hath’s photo of the “fleet at RC44 in San Diego taking off on fleet race 2, Saturday 03/06/2011,” finished a strong second.
april runner up


How can you say no to the beagle? This photo was submitted by Randy Crawford.
editor's choice april

You can view the full album of contestants by clicking here.

Thanks again to everyone who submitted this month, and of course to all the voters. Keep a weather-eye out for our next contest!

Traditions in Launching Spring Sailing Season

Sailors are a superstitious lot. We don’t just hop on a boat and cast off–certain rituals must be observed. Most of these are simple: Don’t leave on a Friday for a long passage, don’t whistle on board, always wear a certain lucky garment, etc. Some of them are practical. For example, a boat needs to be thoroughly inspected and maintained before it is sailed, and of course the people handling the boat need to have quality sailing training.

And then, once in a while we go in for something a little more elaborate. At the launch of a new sailing season, many people take some time to mark the occasion in a special way. One tradition that goes back centuries is the Blessing of the Fleet. This practice began in the predominantly Catholic fishing villages of the Mediterranean Sea, where a priest would say a blessing over the town’s fishing fleet in hopes of a prosperous season. Immigrants from Europe brought this idea to America, and over time it has grown to be a less denominational ritual and more of a festival or pageant, featuring¬† a number of odd and interesting performers.

Some notable annual “Blessing of the Fleet” events in the U.S. are:

  • Darien, Georgia. This small town near the Atlantic coast throws a 3 day festival complete with a 5k River Run and country singer Rhett Akins performing his hit song “I Brake for Brunettes.”
  • St. Mary’s County, Maryland, where they’ll have a reptile house and a “comedy magician.”
  • On March 13, sailors in both Detroit, MI gathered at Mariner’s Church, built in 1842 and formerly a mission for sailors, stop on the Underground Railroad, post office, bank and grocery store.

I asked some of our members what they did to celebrate the start of spring sailing, and “margaritas on the waterfront” was a popular answer, while others had small lucky rituals. Did you, or are you planning to, attend a Blessing of the Fleet or some other kind of celebration? Do you have your own way of getting ready for spring sailing? Leave us a comment.

Also, make sure to join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter. This month’s social media photo contest theme is going to be “Spring Launch.” You could submit a snapshot of your first sail of the season, getting together with some friend to see the boats off, or (if you’re unlucky) shoveling snow off of your boat. However the start of sailing season looks to you, we want to see it.

The Times They Are A-Changin’ (On Facebook)

You may have noticed that the computer whizzes over at Facebook, mysterious and secretive as they are, have been slowly but surely rolling out some major changes. We lowly Facebook users don’t usually get much of a heads-up on these kinds of things. But here at ASA, social media has become a large part of how we connect with our members, get new people interested in sailing, and spread the word about our sailing schools. So we don’t want our friends and fans sailing upwind. To that end, I’m going to try to explain some of Facebook’s quirks and get us all onto a nice broad reach.

1. The New Profile
asa new profile
Over the course of the past two months, Facebook has been switching everyone’s personal profile over to the “new” profile. If you’re a Facebook user, you’ve certainly seen this happen to your page. Now they’ve made the same change to business pages, such as ours. That’s it on the right. The new profile is (in my opinion) elegant, efficient, and kind of confusing. The tabs that used to be along the top are now on the left – Wall, Photos, Videos, etc. The posts on the Wall now appear “out of order.” Why they did this, and how they choose what order the posts should appear in, I have no idea. But when you come to our page and want to post something on the wall, don’t get upset if your post doesn’t appear immediately at the top. The Wall may look different to everyone, so you never know who might see your awesome sailing photo from the Bahamas, and really, that’s the magic of social media!

2. Why You Only See Updates From SOME Of Your Friends

This is Facebook at their most tricky. Ever wonder why the same group of people always comments on your posts and updates? Or why you never see updates from Bobbi Sue, but Joey is in your News Feed twelve times a day? Here’s the answer: Facebook only shows you updates from the people you interact with most. They try to whittle your hundreds of friends down to a manageable amount–and this can be good or bad. What if you like reading somebody’s updates, but you never comment or “like” them? Well, they might start to disappear. BUT NEVER FEAR! You can fix this. In your News Feed, scroll all the way to the bottom and click on “Edit Options.” A box will appear, and you can change the setting from “Friends and Page You Interact With Most” to “All Friends and Pages.”
edit options bar
3. Photos

Facebook has just launched a new way of viewing photo albums, involving a “pop-out” screen, which I can only describe as “bad.” It’s confusing to look at and every time I see it I think for a minute that my computer is broken. Sadly, as far as I know, there’s nothing we can do except hope that they improve it eventually. Viewing individual photos seems to be the same as ever, which is fine by me.

I hope this has helped you navigate the stormy seas of Facebook. Rest assured that whatever those crazy guys up in Silicon Valley dream up next, we will continue to provide a relevant, fun and interactive place for sailors. (And we’re doing the same thing on Twitter, too!)

If you have any questions about Facebook or anything else related to social media, drop me a comment and I’ll do my best to help!

2010: The Year in American Sailing

2010 has been a year of drama on the high seas, and one of change and excitement for ASA. Here’s a rundown of some of the big news from the past year:


Wild Eyes adrift
Photo courtesy of Australian Search & Rescue, via http://soloround.blogspot.com
Nothing else in the maritime world even came close to equaling the notoriety (and controversy) of this 16-year-old Californian sailor’s odyssey. Sunderland departed from ASA’s home port of Marina Del Rey, CA in January, attempting to become the youngest solo circumnavigator ever (a record previously held by her older brother Zac). She successfully rounded Cape Horn, but on June 10, in the stormy Indian Ocean, she lost radio contact, and shortly afterward activated her emergency beacons. It was widely feared that she was lost at sea. However, she was found alive and well by a search & rescue aircraft and retrieved by a French fishing vessel on June 12. The event sparked a massive debate in the media and among sailors about the wisdom of this, and other, similar, world record attempts, as well as who should be responsible for the cost of the rescue, estimated to be between $200,000 and $300,000. Sunderland has been criticized as reckless by some, and praised for her courage and fortitude by others.

For her part, Sunderland is undeterred and has stated her desire to attempt another circumnavigation in the near future. She also has a book about her experiences due out in 2011, and apparently there is a documentary in the works (just announced today). (ASA’s Meghan Cleary covered the incident as it happened here and here.)

OTHER NOTABLE STORIES: The Gulf Oil Spill, Laura Dekker embarking on circumnavigation at age 14, Jessica Watson completing solo circumnavigation at age 16.

BIGGEST NEWS FOR ASA MEMBERS: Sailing Made Easy and ASA Social Media
sailing made easy
In March, ASA released Sailing Made Easy, the official textbook for ASA 101, the Basic Keelboating course. A great deal of effort and expertise went into creating this book, a full-color introduction to the essential skills and lifestyle of sailing. It’s an indispensable manual for new sailors and a handy reference even for experienced salts, featuring beautiful photography from Bob Grieser and edited by sailing legend Peter Isler. Heck, it even has waterproof covers. (Available through our store.)

2010 also saw the emergence of ASA’s Social Media Gateway. Meghan Cleary was brought on as our first Social Media Coordinator and got us off the ground. In October Meghan moved on to become ASA’s writer-at-large and, more importantly, to cruise the tropics in her 35′ cutter Velella. I (Ben Miller) replaced her and it’s been a blast getting to know ASA members and immersing myself in the sailing lifestyle (even if most of that immersion has taken place in an office). My New Year’s Resolution? To get out on the water with ASA! (You can find my “Introduction” post here.)

NOT TO MENTION: The launch of the ASA iPhone App, flotillas to a number of alluring locales, and our ever-increasing membership, to whom we want to say a huge THANK YOU!


Short answer: Who knows?
sailing away
ASA certainly has a number of exciting projects in the works, including the continued expansion of our Local Sailing Clubs, more fantastic flotillas, and other things I’m not even at liberty to talk about yet! My personal goal is to get as many people as possible press-ganged into our scurrilous crew on Facebook and Twitter, in addition to reading this blog.

However, as all sailors know, the true adventure often lies in the things you can’t plan. So here’s to 2011 and the mysteries it may hold. We’re crowding sail toward the horizon, and very glad you’re with us.

January Photo of the Month: Holiday Edition

Christmas only comes once a year, but our monthly Facebook photo contest is always right around the corner. This time our theme (as chosen by you) was “Holidays on a Boat.” From the many great submissions via Facebook, Twitter and email, one was voted the best by the discerning ASA readership. (You can view the full album of entries here.)

This is the boat that just can’t seem to STOP winning things. This was SailTime Channel Islands’ WINNING entry in the Parade of Lights – Over 30′ sailboat in the commercial division. Not to mention they’ve won 3 years in a row! Photo by STCI member Randy Bush, submitted by Chris Tucker.

This charming scene was captured by Lisa Batchelor Frailey, who describes it thusly: “On the Kent-Avon Canal, Semington, UK. What a cozy place to spend Christmas! The most wonderful pub is just up the path…” Sounds good to me!

One of these pictures was not like the others, so I have to give a nod to our “most magical” entry, from Janet Gunn via her brother Wayne.

We hope you enjoyed these and we’d love for you to come join the conversation with us on Facebook and Twitter!