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On the Bay: May 22, 2009

In most communities, the first Sunday in June is just like every other spring Sunday. Not so for Port Washington, for this is the day for all to celebrate our spectacular waterfront. The Chamber of Commerce offers a jewel of a day to all takers and it is called HarborFest. And what a celebration it is. Streets on lower main and the Town Dock are jammed with people who have been cooped up in their homes all winter and are ready to meet and greet. And what better place to do this than down by the water.

 

A very special part of HarborFest is the Model Boat Regatta. This event has been taking place for over 10 years and is a really fun event. Using the third-grade science curriculum (specifically the unit on buoyancy) as a base, teams of teacher-volunteers go to each of the elementary schools, both public and private, in Port Washington, and spend two hours teaching third-graders how to build a boat out of milk cartons. Along the way, the students have a great time and learn some nautical terms and the theory behind what makes a boat navigate through the water. These treasures are then lovingly and at times, quite creatively, painted and decorated at home, as each child waits patiently for the big regatta. Of course, this regatta is part of HarborFest and gives each child the opportunity to see how their little boat does against all the other boats. There are prizes and T-shirts and lots of spectators watching as each fleet is given a starting sequence. All the work, the anticipation and the excitement that has built over the weeks spills over as parents, teachers, friends and classmates cheer on these little boats, which seem to have a mind of their own. The past few years there has been little wind, but that doesn’t bother our little skippers. They watch gleefully as their boats do pirouettes in the water, some capsize, some go backwards, but there is always a boat that can be claimed the winner. While this may sound very competitive, the regatta is really about team and school spirit. And it is terrific fun to watch. So if you are in the area, why not come down to cheer our future sailors on, in what is, for the most of them, their first real regatta. You don’t need to be entered into the regatta. All are welcome. There couldn’t be a better way to celebrate our waterfront than to watch these young children having so much fun, while at the same time, learning about boats and all things nautical. And after the regatta, you might want to take in all that the Town Dock has to offer. It is quite amazing! See you on Sunday morning, June 7.

The racing season has begun. Last weekend there were seven Sonar boats out, with Port Washington YC serving as the Race Committee for both Saturday and Sunday. Official results are not available, but after speaking with some sailors, the winning boat was Housemartin, owned by Beth and Greg Danilek. As the boat crossed the finish line, it was wonderful to see that among the team of four, were two young boys. Now this is the way to start the racing season: win first place with your children onboard. Wouldn’t it be nice to see more families racing together this season? Why not give it a try – you might be surprised at how fun it can be!

The Volvo Ocean Race had a stop-over in Boston and are now well on their way in the final leg of the race. Check out these numbers, which are huge for the United States. Boston stopover manager Peter Craig admitted he was “stunned” by how many people visited. Crowds of “more than 20,000 people” flocked to Fan Pier to see the fleet complete its 4,900-nautical mile journey from Rio de Janeiro, a turnout that exceeded Craig’s expectations. “I make a living out of this sport and know there is a high level of interest in this sport to say the very least, especially here in Boston,” he said. “But I’d be embarrassed to tell you the figures I predicted for the finish day because we exceeded it by a factor of 10. On that Sunday (when the first boats arrived), I was stunned. There were so many people on the coast watching. I have never seen anything like that in the U.S. for a sailing event, even in San Diego for the America’s Cup in 1992.” He added: “What fell in our favor is that we had three consecutive record heat days, beautiful weather. That was wonderful. But word is getting out around the New England region that the race is here and I’m confident many more will come by to see it.” This bodes well for the future of sailing in the U.S.

A spectacular new study has shown there to be a natural fungus that, when added to hull paint, may completely solve the barnacle problem on the hulls of boats in the future.

The microscopic fungus called “streptomyces avermitilis” lives in the ocean and is extremely poisonous to acorn barnacles and other crustaceans. When an extract from this fungus is added to paint for the hulls of vessels, the surface remains entirely free from barnacles. This has been recently demonstrated in a study from Göteborg University in Sweden. “The fungus affects the nervous system of barnacles, and you only need a tiny amount of fungal extract to have an effect,” Hans Elwing, professor at the Department of Cell and Molecular Biology at Göteborg University, announced yesterday.

The discovery of how this microscopic fungus affects barnacles was made by a research team specializing in surface biophysics. As little as a 0.1 percent mixture of pure fungal extract in paint is sufficient to prevent any growth of acorn barnacles. Traditionally effective anti-foul paints have been problematic for the environment since the poison in the paint dissolves and spreads into the water. “A sensational finding is that the fungal extract is toxic only as long as the paint is on a painted surface. When the paint is dissolved in sea water, the activation of the poison appears not to take place, making the paint apparently harmless to organisms in the open sea,” says Hans Elwing.

The scientists are basing their work on a theory that the fungal extract makes the paint imitate the fungus’s natural and environmentally friendly defense against being eaten. Hans Elwing also believes that many other organisms in the sea have developed this type of environmentally friendly protection. “The discovery that this fungal extract counteracts the growth of barnacles will probably create quite a stir around the world. No naturally occurring substance has previously been shown to have such a dramatic effect on barnacles in combination with being so easily degradable in the environment and probably completely safe for humans,” says Hans Elwing. Hans Elwing’s research team has joined up with SP Technical Research Institute of Sweden in Borås and Stockholm to develop their ideas. It is hoped that innovations in nanotechnology will facilitate the creation of new anti-fouling paints for boats. “The fungal extract is probably both cheaper and, above all, more environmentally friendly than the paints based on copper compounds available on the market today,” says Hans Elwing. For more information, please contact: Hans Elwing, Professor of Surface Biotechnology, Department of Cell and Molecular Biology at Göteborg University, e-mail: hans.elwing [at] gmm.gu.se.