Monday, August 14, 2017

Manfred Ruhmer and Valentino Rossi

It was on a hillside in Italy I first met Manfred Ruhmer. I had just finished rigging my glider and was waiting for my launch slot when I was introduced to a skinny Austrian kid who was asking about the run down the valley to the castle turnpoint. He had never flown the site before but that did not stop him winning the competition. Oh yes I was amongst the also rans. The difference was the I would be picking my landing field when I was at 400 ft and setting up to land at 200 ft.

The ones who win hang gliding competitions are those that think up all the time and only think about landing when their toes are in the grass.

That was back in the mid 80s, 30 years later Manfred Ruhmer has just won the Class 2 Hang Gliding World Championships for a record seventh time. Some people are just special.

I read this morning of his win and was transported back to days in the 8os when I shared the same air over the mountains.

Reading about Manfred was the second big nostalgia hit as I had just watched the Austrian Motogp race and marveled at how competitive Valentino Rossi still was at age 38.
Again I remembered the first time I saw Rossi. It was at Silverstone and Valentino had just moved up from the 250 cc class onto the bucking nearly unrideable 500 cc 2 stroke monsters that were the premier class. Lap after lap I watched him come through the corner hit the apex and get on the throttle so hard he was spinning the rear wheel and using opposite lock to control the thing all while he was hanging off the side of the bike with sparks coming of his knee and elbow slider, smoke coming off his rear tyre as he left a big black stripe of rubber on the track. After watching him for several laps I realised that the rubber stripes were superimposed as he held the same line through the corner each lap.

He has won more premier class races than anyone. He nearly won the world championship last year only losing it to some dubious penalty.

I could fly back to the UK at the end of this month and join the rideout from Luton to Silverstone for the British round of the Motogp championship. An old motorcycling friend has been bending my ear to do this and has offered to lend me a bed and a bike and promised we would stop for a bacon butties en route.. It would be like old times as he was there the first time I saw Valentino.

Now if I could be sure it would not rain, maybe just maybe.

Meanwhile it is August in Grenada, the parties are all nighters and the great Cabo Verde hurricane factory has just spat out two possibles.

Oh yes for the non bikers in the picture above Rossi has a lean angle of 60 degrees and is in part holding the bike up using his knee and elbow sliders.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Turning a million dollars into one dollar and the great sargassum flush job.

The story starts with a million dollar 60 ft charter catamaran

coming into Canouan harbor for the night with a professional female captain on board. Rather than anchor they picked up a mooring, probably one of the old Moorings Charter fleet moorings.

During the night in light wind conditions the mooring failed and the catamaran finished up on the reef where the port hull was damaged.

It is alleged that the Captain turned off the automatic drag alarm after false alarms had repeatedly woken the charter guests. It is also alledged that the charter company immediately fired the captain.

Mike and Julie are fellow liveaboards but rather than choosing a sensible 44 ft monohull like Elephants Child they bought a Clyde built steam tug. Flying Buzzard is a 105ft ocean-going ex-steam tug. She was built on the Clyde in 1951 by Ferguson Brothers of Port Glasgow and was one of the last rivetted steam ships to be commissioned. They finished off the job of removing the dead boilers and the 36 ton steam engine replacing it with a Callesen 5-cylinder 575hp diesel driving a variable pitch propeller. The diesel engine was found in Denmark at a ship-breaker's yard.

The initial plan was take her across the Atlantic, through the Caribbean, the Panama Canal and up to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. But like so many of us they fell in love with the Eastern Caribbean and when word got around that there was a 105ft ocean going tug available for the odd job he became the go to guy for salvage jobs.

Now there are many stories flying about but one suggests that he bought the catamaran on the reef for one dollar.

It was full of sand as well as being mostly sunk.

Using the simplest of tools and some considerable ingenuity they got it ashore, dug out the sand, retrieved the engine that had dropped out the bottom of the port hull and started thinking about how they would move it to Grenada.

They made it down to Grenada supported by lots of barrels and every flotation device that Mike could beg borrow or steal. [ temporarily ]

Here it is on the hard in Clarks Court Bay boatyard.

It gave me a chance to see just how lightly built a modern catamaran is. No wonder the hull was shredded by a simple reef grounding, it is 1 inch of foam with about 1/8th skins inner and outer.

OH YES all that sargassum well it got flushed out the next day much to the relief of all who might have been afflicted by the stench of rotting sargassum.