Gemini wins Block Island Race!


James Coffman, long time former student and member of Sound Sailing Center, captained his Hanse 375 (which is the same hull as the VAr 37), with Martin van Breems (founder and owner of SSC) in the afterguard. Jim Boyle, a long time SSC instructor and professor of Oceanography was the navigator.

We initially planned a route through the islands, based on a light wind forecast, but by the start, the winds were strong enough to ignore the tides and head straight down the sound from the start of Stamford with winds out of the SE. Within a few hours the winds backed to the South, and we popped the chute, allowing us to put some distance between our competitors with winds over 18 knots and boat speeds over 10 knots. Unfortunately, the 3/4 oz kite blew out after a roundup, but we still had gained some good distance. Then, the wind totally died, and we were left flopping around the sound.


Even worse, the boats close in to shore were moving! We went into wind seeker mode (which the self tacking jib is great for), and managed to get the boat moving. To our great relief, we soon got some wind, and the boats more inshore were dead. Within Martin’s 2 hour watch, there were 6 sail changes!

As we approached Plum Gut well after dark, James decided to hoist our 2nd kite, and again started making tracks through the night all the way to the north end of Block Island. We sailed through a thunderstorm, and dropped the kite just a minute before we rounded the bouy. Then we started the upwind passage With winds in the 17-19 knot range we were double reefed. They dropped a little as we rounded the southern end of Block, just as dawn broke. We soon realized we had put a considerable distance between us and all the other boats in our class. Continue Reading →

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.

Continue Reading →

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!