Ahoy Thimble Islands!!

Ocean Sailing: Sound Sailing Center | Norwalk, CT

Captain’s Log: Thimble Islands

My kids and I sailed from New London back to Norwalk, stopping at one of my favorite spots, the Thimble Islands off Branford.  Unlike the Norwalk islands, which for the most part are glacial sedimentary deposits, the Thimble Islands are granite outcroppings, like much of the Maine coast, with all their rugged beauty.   The base of the Statue of Liberty is constructed of granite from the surrounding area.
Up to quite recently, all the symbol islands or private and you could not go I sure on any of them. Several years ago Outer Thimble was donated to the National Park Service and is now a public island.
Sound Sailing Center Learn to Sail

Anchoring is tricky in the Thimble Islands, given the shifting currents.   2 anchors set 180 degrees to each other with a weight to keep the rode down will do the trick.  However, there are generally several unoccupied moorings available. If you arrive towards the end of the day it’s often a safe bet to grab one of these.  If the owner shows up they will certainly let you know!  We then dingied over to Outer Thimble and spent a few wonderful hours climbing all over and just laying on the rocks.


Heading out, I was surprised at how unuseful the GPS was for navigating between the various clumps of rocks. Paper charts with plotted courses are essential.  I am always glad to review possible destinations with our members based on my many years of experience. We hope you will get out there soon!  Memberships are filling up rapidly so let us know if you want to get out there this year.


learn to sail sailing membership


The Thimble Islands are not the easiest destination, but they are, to my mind, the most beautiful one in all of Connecticut.  

January 8th Newsletter


Adventures on VAruna (our VAr37) – CT to USVI

Crossing the Gulf Steam in Varuna.

On November 28th we left Old Saybrook for Bermuda, sailing in convoy with Bermuda High.  Conditions looked good, although a significant low pressure system would make the stream unpassable if we did not make good time (which of course we did).  The Zoom jib boom helped make us faster than the larger Hanse 400, Bermuda High.  Alan Suhonen captained Bermuda High assisted by Mark Robinson and Frank the owner. Alan was amazed at how quickly Martin and his crew on the 37 took off.  Here is a report from Fred Williams, one of our members on Varuna on the first leg;

Dave and Fred on watch as we leave.
“The offshore training was fantastic.  What an adventure to be so far offshore!  Martin’s diligence on weather awareness made me feel safe.  We tested the waters while in the Gulf Stream and I was really surprised at how incredibly warm the water was just 200 miles from Montauk!  Caribbean water delivered up North.  I really enjoyed being at the wheel while sailing over huge deep blue waves.  On several occasions, we saw dolphins tagging along with us.  We enjoyed their company as much as they seemed to enjoy ours.  After five days with no land in sight we were treated to landfall and then enjoyed the St George walkabout celebration!  I would recommend this trip to anyone seeking an adventure.  Remember to get a seasick (Scopolamine) patch though!”

Pierre looking good (and well over 70!).
A high point for everyone was the Bermuda Walkabout, with some of the oldest and more exquisite houses in St George open to the public, along with lots of song and dance numbers performed in the town square.
For more pics of this leg go to;

Dave, Audrey, Tim and Fred at the St George WalkAbout.

We all love a party!  Was huge fun.

Martin – tired & relieved to be past the cold front / low.  Was a long night.
Martin – tired & relieved to be past the cold front / low.  Was a long night.
Audrey and Tim flew down in time for WalkAbout.  The next day, the forecast showed the cold front we had followed down stalled at 30 degrees north.  A low pressure system would form on it just south of Bermuda in 48 hours.   We left as quickly as possible on Saturday, and soon had 25 knot NE winds, and were making over 10 knots. By 8pm Bermuda High, with Frank as Captain, had some problems.  Her jib was destroyed (a. never release the jib sheet completely before rolling it up.  b. in stronger winds, the farther off the wind you are the easier it is to roll up the headsail) so they decided to head back.
At midnight, I dropped the main to the third reef and started crawling back and forth to the bow to untie and hoist the storm jib before rolling up our 110% headsail as the winds built to much more than forecast.  Took me an hour, mostly clipped in up on the bow to get everything sorted.  By 2 am the winds were gusting to close to 40 knots true.
By 5am Sunday morning the winds started dying, and by 7am we were motoring in under 10 knots, but not for long.  3 hours later the winds were SW 20-25 knots for another 8 hours.  The Low had already formed, well ahead of schedule, but with blue skies ahead, I knew we finally were past the front that had been dogging us for the last 6 days. The wind backed to the SE but stayed on the nose for the rest of the trip.  With beautiful sunrises, sunsets and warm sunny days, there was not much to complain about!
Ok, running out of tank water was a bit of a drag!   So we washed dishes of the transom and showered in, what else, showers!   Rain squalls became frequent as we got into the lower 20′s, and were not unwelcome.
And then, that magic moment when Land Ho is called out!   Audrey, Tim and I enjoyed a well deserved drink.  By nightfall of the 11th we were on a mooring in Caneel Bay, St John.   The next morning we cleared in, I went for my run, and we all enjoyed breakfast at the Caneel Bay Resort before heading back to St Thomas and 2 days of removing the offshore gear, emptying and scrubbing the interior and every cushion.   More pics of this leg at;
I flew home with Audrey and Tim, grabbed the kids, and 2 days later returned for 2 weeks of sailing, hiking and exploring all over St John, with a quick trip out to the Baths for a day of boulder climbing and rock jumping.   I’ll be posting more pics of this trip on the SSC Facebook page soon.

Christmas with the Van Breems gang!

Time for the beach.  The electric motor is great!  Varuna behind us in Maho Bay.

Alexander examines the Petroglyphs above Reef Bay.  Note the waterfall!

Honeymoon Beach, Caneel Bay – aka Paradise!

Land Ho!
So if 83-85 degree temps, great sailing and fabulous beaches, hiking or snorkeling sounds good, send us an email.  Of course SSC big boat members can simply reserve the VAr and make use of their membership in St Thomas and St John.   

Time to celebrate with Tim and Audrey!

Cleaning Day at Frenchtown Marina
 We will also be offering the following Flotilla Cruises and are planning on 2 Racing Events, either together with the Flotilla.  You can also just do the racing.

Our favorite jumping off point- Spring Bay, next to the Baths!
Varuna Calendar 2016
Jan 25-30th – Bareboat Cruising / Flotilla $2,400 forward stateroom, $2,200 aft stateroom per couple / one student / one certification.  We sail from St Thomas, around St John and through the BVI’s
Feb 28-March 3 – Bareboat Cruising / Flotilla $2,400 forward stateroom, $2,200 aft stateroom per couple / one student / one certification.  We sail from St Thomas through the BVI’s, then offshore to St Maarten.  One overnight passage.  Includes the St Maarten Regatta.  (accommodations onboard extra).
March 4-6 – St Maarten Heineken Regatta.   Cost is $580 members / $690 non members.  Limited accommodations onboard available at an extra cost of $60-$140 a night, depending on the cabin.  For more info on St Maarten goto;
March 7-March 11 – Bareboat Cruising / Flotilla $2,400 forward stateroom, $2,200 aft stateroom per couple / one student / one certification.  After racing, we sail from St Maarten to St Barts, Saba (Dutch) and back to St Thomas.  One overnight passage – ocean sailing conditions.  Includes the St Maarten Regatta.  (accommodations onboard extra).
Mar 28 – 31th – Bareboat Cruising / Flotilla $2,400 forward stateroom, $2,200 aft stateroom per couple / one student / one certification.  Includes the BVI spring regatta (accommodations onboard extra).  We have not decided yet if we will participate in the BVI Sailing festival, which takes place at the same time, or focus on the class.
April 1-3 – BVI Spring Regatta.   Come a day before for a prep and practice session  Cost is $580 members / $690 non members.  Limited accommodations onboard available at an extra cost of $60-$140 a night, depending on the cabin.  We sail back to St Thomas on April 4th.
May 1-12 – Varuna sails North, probably via the Bahamas
June 17 – Newport Bermuda Race Start!  We will be there either on Varuna or Monhegan, our J44!
Join SSC for skiing at Catamount!

Mid Mountain on Jan 7th – perfect!
Catamount Ski Mountain is owned in part by a fellow SSC member and lifetime sailor Tom Gilbert and he has provided us with coupons for a great deal on weekend ski passes at only $48 / $44 for SSC members.  Catamount regular rates are $65 for adults – still a very reasonable price for a real mountain.  I have been skiing at Catamount long before I met Tom, and it’s always been my favorite mountain less than 2 hours away (which is also Tom’s commute to SSC to use our boats). You need to physically have the coupon, so email us asap. Lars and I skied there on Thursday, Jan 7th (on Thursdays and Mondays Catamount offers $20 e-tickets…).  There were 4 main runs open, all were great and the snowcats were busy with additional runs.    Sean and I will certainly head up on a few mondays if you want to catch a ride with us, and we are also planning on heading up on Saturday, January 23rd.  For more info on Catamount go to;
Last Chance for 2015 prices in 2016
Prices will be going up soon, but there is still time to sign up for 2016 at 2015 prices.  We are planning for some great fleet changes in 2016.  Stay tuned.

Is the Caribbean calling you?  Call or email us!

November 6th Newsletter

Still lots of Sailing at Sound Sailing Center!

With the warm weather so far this fall, we have kept all the boats in service, except for the Contest 36 in Mystic.  Even better, a warm winter has been forecast, and unlike the past 2 winters, we will likely be sailing all winter.   Of course, Frostbiting on the Ensigns is another option, and the VAr 37 membership has 1-2 spots available and will be doing the Offshore Passage to Bermuda and St Thomas at the end of November (see below).  While in St Thomas, we will offer several Flotilla cruises for members this winter.    Of course, VAr 37 members have the option of using her in the Virgins this winter.

Bosun Chair flying as demo’d by Martin jr. off St Thomas, USVI
Memberships make a great gift, and by signing up now, you pay 2015 rates for 2016.  Rates will go up 6-8% next year, and students or returning members get an additional 5% off.
Audrey back in the thick of it!
Frostbiting every Sunday
SSC is pleased to offer Frostbiting again on every Sunday from October 25th to December 27th, with a New Year’s Race on January 1st 2015!  Rigging starts at noon with the first start at 12:30.  The final race will start by 2pm.
We had 4 Ensigns on the line last weekend, with some really close finishes.  We were glad to see Audrey Nohre back out on the water, after a long summer of rehab following a foot injury, with several bullets out there.  Dave Fergemann as usual was super competitive and finished in second overall, except for his last race where he was on the wrong side of a big wind shift.  Mark Cooper is moving up, and finished 2nd in the last race.  Our newest member, David Ashcroft did his check out with Sean while racing, and they managed 2 second place finishes.
 As before, members can race for free as crew.  Non-members can race for $20.   Kids race for free.  All crew who are not your kids would still need to fill out a registration form and pay the $20 per person fee. 
One design racing is the best way to refine your sailing skills, and learn what makes a boat fast.  We guarantee you will become a better sailor, and of course, the thrill and excitement of racing is great fun.   We look forward to seeing you out there.  Please use our MeetUp page to sign up for racing;

Sound Sailing Center MeetUp Page

Ocean Passage / Basic Cruising Class
Last call to sign on for our Ocean Passage south 2015!  Please get your registration form in this week.   Our Var 37 will be Captained by Martinus van Breems.  Frank Finoglio will Captain his  Hanse 400 ‘Bermuda High’ (formerly owned by SSC). The cost for the Ocean Passage (including food) is $2,350, or $1,980 for members.   You will have to pay transportation expenses, along with custom / immigration fees. Note that repeat students pay 1/2 price, and those who have done it more than 2x pay just a share of expenses.
10-12′ Ocean Swells are the norm.
The VAr 37 Northbound Crew 2015
We will meet on Saturday, Nov 21st from 9-3pm to review weather, the boat, and head out to practice reefing and man over board drills.  Bring appropriate sailing gear  (there is a list below) and lunch.   We may make a run to West Marine, where you can buy gear at our discounted prices.
Friday, November 27th  - Basic Cruising Class, Norwalk to Mystic.  The passage from Norwalk down the Sound will be run as a Basic Cruising Class on the VAr 37, with stops in 4 harbors per student to practice the Basic Cruising drills.  We have space for one more student.  Bermuda High will depart from Norwalk and head straight to New London or Mystic.   All crew should drop off their gear by thursday if they can not join us on friday.
Saturday, November 28th.  Earliest departure from Mystic.  Note that we often have a 2-3 day delay (or longer) to find an appropriate weather window.
Thursday Dec 3rd.  Earliest arrival in Bermuda.
Friday, December 4th  Likely arrival in Bermuda,  2nd leg crew should arrive if possible.  Of course, we will have a very good idea if we will be leaving on Nov 28th by Nov 24th, allowing a week in advance to purchase tickets.  An incentive to arrive by Friday evening is the massive party in St George from 6-9pm, with many events including lots of the finest homes open to the public and serving all sorts of amazing food and libations!


Sat, Dec 5th   Earliest departure Bermuda.
Sun, Dec 6th   Likely departure Bermuda.
Friday Dec 11th – Likely arrival in St Thomas.   We normally spend the first night upon landfall moored off Caneel Bay, a lovely resort in St John, and have breakfast there in the morning.   A well deserved treat!
The Gulf Stream welcoming committee!


July 21st Newsletter

A lovely sail on the VAr 37.


Summer Sailing is Here!
Summer is here and as usual, some of the larger boats in the fleet will be making extended passages.   The Contest 36 and VAr 37 will be making several one week cruises.   The Contest is already in Mystic Shipyard East, and the VAr 37 will join her in August.  Mystic Shipyard East is a lovely, resort style marina with a pool just steps away from our slip.   From Mystic, Shelter Island or East Hampton / Montauk are less than 2 hours away, while Block Island is just 3 hours away.
The Sweden 340 is available and perfect for longer passages, with all the gear and lots of availability for that week long August cruise.   There are only 5 days reserved in August so far.  There are only 3 days reserved on the Hanse 320 in August, so lots of availability.


Martin’s kids discover new uses for the sailbags !


Sailing the Clearwater 35 back to Norwalk.


Future Key West Bow Person!


We strongly encourage members to work together to book time so you can enjoy one way trips.  From Mystic, a great spot to switch is at Marion MA, which offer a lovely harbor at the top of Buzzards Bay.    Jamestown, across from Newport, is another great spot to change over.  One way trips allow you cover far more territory without the need to change over the boat.   The best sailing of the year starts now, with warmer water and the SW breeze kicking in.  We hope to see you out there soon!


Our Ensign fleet, with the Pearson 37 and Var 37 in the background.


Summer Ensign Racing Starts this Thursday!
Our summer Ensign Racing program starts this Thursday, July 23rd from 6-8pm and runs to September 10th.  Members can Captain an Ensign for free this thursday, thereafter members can race for free or captain a boat for $20.   Non-members should go to our Meetup page to sign up.   We look forward to seeing you out there!



Class Update

Kids Camp.  Cat and Thomas are doing an awesome job with our Kids Camp.  After a very busy start, we have some spaces available in August.

Intro to Sailing and Basic Keelboat.  New classes start every week.  Right now we are booked into the 2nd week of August, but we are looking to add some classes.  Now might be the perfect time to start your passage to becoming captain of your own vessel.   We often get people for checkouts who have taken lessons elsewhere.   If the program includes a membership component, so that you can use the programs boats after the classes are done, the quality of the instructions is almost always better.  The programs with no membership component often seem to be little more than glorified 3 hour cruises.

Basic Cruising.  We have a new class this weekend with one opening (a student had to drop out).  This class starts at 10am on friday, with an evening session on thursday from 6-9pm.  We will also conduct an extra make up session for cover the material from the first evening session.   This class is taught by Martin, and is a great intro into the basics of cruising.  The pics below are from the class from last weekend.




Fleet Update
Big Fleet news is that we are getting the Clearwater 35 in shape, so Midrange (Hanse 320-Contest 36) members will have a new option available soon.  Last week we sanded and revarnished all the floorboards on the inside.  We rebuilt all the winches this week, and have done lots of little jobs.  A big question is do we keep the tiller or switch over to a wheel.  We may also go to a lifting keel but that is for next year.  The draft right now is 7′.  The Clearwater was the overall Sailing World Boat of the Year in 1988, an impressive award indeed, and is classic American yacht built by a very good yard.
Ensigns:  Vim has new bulkheads and her bottom will be painted this week.   Courageous is getting her bottom painted now.
Oday 240:  She is starting to go out and is part of our new Ensign + program.    Perfect for local overnights.
Sabre 30.  Seguin is up in Mystic East (which offers easy access by Amtrak).  The channel is somewhat shallower than last year.   Plan on heading in/out at half tide. Sabre 30 members can also sail the electric Pearson 37 Friendship out of Norwalk for the Sabre 30 rate.
Pearson 37′s.  Matinicus just had her bottom painted, and we also repitched the prop, so the motor can be run to 2500 rpms (max is 2800).   We will be adding solar panels to Friendship, the electric Pearson, for extended range when motoring.


Our new Clearwater 35 and the Sweden 340.  Classic American and European yachts.




Mid Range.   All 3 midrange boats, the Hanse 320, Sweden 340 and Contest 36 (in Mystic) are now in service and ready for your use, with the Clearwater coming online soon.   Our most popular membership category.
VAr37.  The 37 is reserved for most of August up Mystic, with one member handing off to another member at various points heading up to Martha’s Vinyard.  The Contest 36 will likewise see lots of extended trips.   The Var 37 will be heading to the Newport and Annapolis shows in the fall, and then south to Miami for the winter.   Cuba anyone?!!