The Formation of the Blake Sea
In November of 2008 Jack Linden contacted Nber Medici. He wanted to arrange a meeting with her and MarkTwain White. He told them about a new program that Linden Lab was starting called the Community Partnership program. The idea was to partner with a few SL communities that had shown good growth and were identified as potential partners with them to future enhance the community in question.
The United Sailing Sims was the first community they approached. They informed him that while the United Sailing Sims was indeed a growing community of ten region owners in the SL Sailing community that it was only one part of the larger sailing community. Nevertheless, he said, the USS was the organization that LL had identified as a well run community that seemed to fit LL’s criteria of the kind of organization they wanted to work with.
So for a period of several months the ten owners of the USS and LL negotiated what eventually became the Blake Sea Community Partnership. One key component of the deal that was reached was that LL would donate a series of Linden water sims that would join the mainland on one end while joining the USS regions on the other end. Another key component would be that the yacht clubs in the USS (Starboards, Nantucket Yacht Club, Fisher’s Island Yacht Club, Schiffsratten Yacht Club and Way Point Yacht Club would provide members that would become race directors in the newly established waters and be the rarest of rare beings: SL residents with powers in Linden waters. They basically would have the power to rezz race objects in the Linden waters and to provide some security against those who would grief the races (freeze and reject from the region). Contrary to popular belief these race directors have never had the power to ban residents in the Blake Sea.
Yet another role that the USS leaders were tasked with was to advise LL on improvements that could be made in Linden waters around the grid in order to improve sailing and boating. Many changes occurred in the years since then to improve sailing on the grid. Sometimes the improvements came from our suggestions, sometimes people passed along suggestions to us to pass along. Other suggestions came through other avenues such as sailors talking to Lindens back in the day when the Lindens were allowed free and open communication with residents. Sadly over time that change.
In the initial discussions with Jack on the creation of the water regions that would serve as a bridge between the mainland and the USS regions, Jack offered a 25 region area (5 by 5). After several go arounds that became a 41 region area (6 by 6 along with a spine going eastward that the various owners could connect to.
The title LL wanted to give to the area was Cornelius Bay. “Why Cornelius Bay?” we asked. Turns out that Cornelius Drebbel invented the submarine and someone at LL thought it would be a fitting tribute. We replied that if this is supposed to be primarily a sailing area, “Why not name it for a famous sailor that all the users of the area would recognize and have a positive reaction to?.”. When they asked for a suggestion we first pointed out that if you are in the middle of a 36 sim water area you don’t get the feel you are in a bay, you feel you are at sea. Then we suggested “Why not call it Slocum Sea after the famous sailor Joshua Slocum who was the first to sail around the world single handled and wrote a book that was pretty much a bible in sailing literature “Sailing Alone Around the World”“ They mulled on this for a day then came back and told us that Slocum Sea did not pass the 12-year old boy test. A moment of silence ensued.. We were tempted to point out to them that at that time you had to be 18 years old to get into SL. But we did not. Our next suggestion was the one that stuck. The Blake Sea in SL is named after the famous well respected sailor Sir Peter Blake.
Sailing Expands to Square Rigged Battles
All the while that regular sailing was developing in SL another type of sailing was maturing as well, fighting sail. Several of these pirate and continental navy sailors were residing in the Blake Sims: private sims just off the SE corner of the Blake Sea. In October 2009 we approached LL about making four sims in that SE corner into full rezz sims so that the pirates could host battles in those sims when not being used for races by the yacht clubs. The area was called the “Contested Waters” and was made up of Blake Sea – Kendra, Thunderer, Beaufort and Cannonade. The pirates were responsible bloks and worked hand in hand with the sailors to share the waters er…. peacefully. For a period of six months this arrangement worked well and nothing problematic happened. That’s why this chapter is so short.
The Aircraft Carriers Arrive
In April 2010 a couple of aircraft carriers began to appear in the Contested Waters. This was disruptive to the pirate battles. Not only were these vessels rezzed in the middle of the battle areas these vessels were approaching a third to a half sim in size. While sailors did not see the pirates ships when they were a sim away, the aircraft carriers could be seen for several sims distance in all directions. Not something that a peaceful place like the Blake Sea sailors should have to deal with.
The aircraft carrier operators claimed they were not doing combat and just wanted a place to do non-combat operations (ie take off and landings).
The aircraft carrier operators claimed they were not doing combat and just wanted a place to do non-combat operations (ie take off and landings).
By this time, the blood baths at Linden Lab had already begun and some of the greatest Linden supporters of the Blake Sea were gone, such as Jack Linden and Blondin Linden.
The dwindling communications with LL regarding our needs in the Blake Sea was the handwriting on the wall that we were losing the support of the Lab in regards to maintaining a viable peaceful place for large scale sailing in SL.
It was at this time that a long ago forgotten discussion between Jack Linden and us came back to mind. The Blake Sea Community Partnership and the accompanying official LL document “The Blake Sea Code of Conduct” contained language that we thought was contradictory. On the one hand the Code said “The purpose of the Blake Sea is to provide an open space for the Residents of Second Life to enjoy sailing’. On the other hand it also said “ all Residents are welcome and encouraged to enjoy and explore the Blake Sea.” When we pointed out to Jack that those potentially contradictory phrases could spell trouble down the line he, in his British calm demeanor that exuded confidence, said “Then we will address the issue at that time”. Little did any of us realize that when the time came to deal with this contradiction he would not be around and those that were in charge of making policy in the Blake Sea were more interested in creating Premium Account events in the Blake Sea than they were in helping the Blake Sea to thrive in a dynamic virtual world where the seeming innocuous phrase“all residents” could lead to great turmoil.
This was the environment we found ourselves in when these aircraft carrier folks came seeking a place to hold non-combat operations.
We asked them that if LL created a rezz area elsewhere in the area that would meet their needs they would leave the Contested Waters alone. They agreed. So we went to LL and they turned on rezz in Blake Sea – Hawser for the purposes of allowing non-combat aircraft carrier operations there. This was not heavily announced or promoted because we hoped it would stay under the radar. And it did for some 18 months. But hindsight is 20-20 vision and as we look back we wish we had contacted Fisher’s Island Yacht Club about this new development since they used the Blake Sea startline in Blake Sea – Arabian.
All Hell Breaks Loose
After Jack Linden and Blondin were axed in one of the many blood baths the community support efforts at LL were handed over to the Vice President of Marketing and Member Retention, Viale Linden. This was the beginning of a long sad decline in the relationship of LL with the communities of Second Life. A number of USS owners meet face to face with Viale Linden at the SL Community Convention at Oakland, CA in August 2011. At that meeting we pleaded with Viale to have LL turn some attention to the horrible state of sim crossings. He was more interested in talking about how we could create Premium Events in the Blake Sea to entice people to become premium account holders. We told him that the purpose of the Blake Sea and the Blake Sea Community Partnership was to build the sailing community and improve the environment for SL sailing. We told him that if he did not want to lose the base of customers he already had he would need to put more emphasis on the second half of his job title: member retention. A few months later changes were made in the Blake Sea and in sim crossings that did improve the situation. But the goal of LL regarding the Blake Sea was clear. Viale became increasingly hard to reach and important issues in the Blake Sea were left to stew.
In early 2012 huge WW2 battleships, cruisers, submarines as well as Modern military vessels started showing up in the Contested Water sims. Unlike the pirates who cooperated with the sailing community the majority of these residents and their vessels were hell bent on fighting battles in the Contested Waters with little to no regard to the rights of others in the regions. There were a few reasonable voices that understood that the area was not designed or intended primarily as WW2/Modern naval battles but they were mostly ignored and it did not help that even they were clogging up the sims with 1/3 to ½ region long battleships and the like.
Since things were spiraling out of control we tried to get the new powers that be at LL to step in and help stop the abuse. Recall that we in the Blake Sea no longer had any help from LL to deal with this. No longer did concierge personnel have directions that issues in the Blake Sea should get priority service. It those days LL hired an third party company to provide conceirge and other types of support. Often the resident calling had more experience in SL that many of these folks.
In early July 2012 we were able to arrange a meeting with Viale. Representatives of the sailing community (Nber/MTW), Aviation Community (Tig Spijkers) and the WW2 community (Emily xxxx) meet with Viale. We did not even get to make our points before he said “you guys come up with a solution and send it to me as a proposal”. He then said that all discussions ensuing would be under nondisclosure. End of meeting.
On July 12, 2012 the following proposal was sent to Vaile and the Community Team
JOINT COMMUNIQUE We recommend that LL take four existing water regions somewhere on the grid other than the Blake Sea but reachable to the Blake Sea by navigable waters of SL and turn on build there for the use of the WWII/Modern Naval combat role-play.
We affirm that we will let everyone know in the communities that use the Blake Sea that the peaceful non-combat use of the Blake Sea is open to all, including WWII/Modern Naval vessels for general NON-COMBAT cruising subject to the existing requirement of the Blake Sea Code of Conduct that affirms: “While all are welcome, Residents must observe certain rights of way. The purpose of the Blake Sea is to provide an open space for the Residents of Second Life to enjoy sailing, and therefore other vehicle types should allow sailboats to have the right of way.”
While we do not expect LL to tell us in advance where this WWII/Modern Naval Contested Waters area will be, we strongly suggest that you consult with us about potential places that would not be good to place the Contested Waters. In general we would suggest not placing the Contested Waters within ten regions of existing yacht clubs, race start lines, or airports in SL or in the path of popular sailboat race courses. We can assist you with that information. Note that there will not be a lot of these areas, but it is best to avoid them.
MarkTwain WhiteTig SpijkersEmily Placebo
Three long frustrating months later (October 3, 2012) we received the following email from the Second Life Community Team:
“We apologize for the delay in correspondence. Viale is no longer with Linden Lab, and during the transition unfortunately the details and thoughts on this project were not passed along to a new owner. Because the team here has evolved significantly since these conversations began, it may stand that some of the discussions that happened in July could be different from those that might take place now. We will check in and get back to you shortly. Again, we are sorry for the delay.
That was the final communication about the Blake Sea we ever got from the SL Community Team!
Meanwhile we still had to deal with the increasing militarization of the Blake Sea Contested Waters.
There was no way we could tell these people to leave the area as it was not intended for modern naval battles. They would simply quote the “for the enjoyment of all” phrase from the Code of Conduct.
Since there was no LL power to help dissuade the WW2 onslaught we had very little to work with. About the best we could do was take a page out of the rules at Hollywood Airport to try and shut down the abuse. Since Hollywood Airport was and is the busiest airport in SL we could get SOME control of aviators in the Blake Sea by imposing a set of rules for flight over the Blake Sea. We could not enforce the rules IN the Blake Sea itself, but we could certainly ban aviators who abused those rules in the Blake Sea by banning them at the busiest airport in SL. This kept aviation abuses in the Blake Sea to a manageable level. That having been said, the great majority of aviators using the Blake Sea did so in a responsible manner. As in real life though all groups (sailors, pirates, aviators, boaters and WW2 role-players) have their bad apples..
Using the same principle that was working in the aviation community we developed the BLAKE SEA CODE OF CONDUCT ADDENDUM. Basically it held that violations of this addendum would in the worst cases get a resident banned in the 200 regions of the United Sailing Sims. While there were likely to be many kids who did not give a damn about the USS, others realized that to be banned in those sims would take away access to five airports including three of the more popular airports.
Of course such an addendum would need to be agreed to by the owners of the USS. While that proposal was discussed we distributed a early version of the proposal (Version 0.9) which stated that these are interim rules that should be used in the Blake Sea pending approval of the Addendum by the USS owners. That approval came in xx of xxxx and was never distributed because the events around the restructuring of the USS ownership of the Sailor’s Cove regions was underway.
Here is the final version of the Blake Sea Code of Conduct Addendum that was approved by the USS owners on February 1, 2013. It is very close to the interim 0.9 Version of the Addendum that was regularly distributed to the WW2/Modern military role-players using the Contested Waters of the Blake Sea.
Blake Sea Code of Conduct Addendum (Version 1.0)Preamble: ----------1. The rules below have been added to the Blake Sea Code of Conduct to address issues involving the use of the Blake Sea by modern (WWII and later) naval vessels and combat aircraft. .
2. These rules are approved by the owners of the United Sailing Sims who have the charge of overseeing fair and reasonable use of the Blake Sea by all residents.3. Violations of the rules below can in serious cases lead to banning from up to more than 200 sims of the United Sailing Sims.
The Rules-------------Rule #1: All vessels shall give way to sailboats racing or cruising.The reason behind the rule: This is the basic backbone of keeping the Blake Sea first and foremost for sailing while allowing all to use the waters.
Rule #2: All vessels are granted the right to use the Blake SeaThe reason behind the rule: LL provides the sims and they want all to be able to use the sims. This includes modern military vessels.
Rule #3: While large military vessels that cover significant parts of a sim (60 meters or more) have the right to cruise the open waters of the Blake Sea they do not have the right to park such vessels for significant periods of time, not more that 60 minutes. This assumes there is no race occurring as outlined in rule #4.Reason behind the rule: A large vessel parked is not a cruising/sailing vessel, it is an obstacle to navigation. Much of the issues some have with military vessels in the Blake could be ameliorated if they were not parked.
Rule #4: If there is no sailboat race taking place in the area aircraft carriers are allowed to rezz in Blake Sea Hawser for up to one hour in order to conduct NON-COMBAT operations (landings and takeoffs) as outlined in rule #3. If, during the course of operations, a Blake Sea race director asks an aircraft carrier to de-rezz because a sailboat race will be entering Blake Sea Hawser within 30 minutes. and the aircraft carrier must suspend operations within that 30 minutes. Reason behind the Rule: The Hawser rule is to allow some military non-combat action in one particular location of the Blake Sea in the spirit of having the Blake be accessible to all. However it is not the intent to allow large vessels to remain in place for long periods of time.
Rule #5:1 Any vessels moored the the Blake Sea without an active avatar that can respond to queries from other avatars is subject to removal. Reason behind the Rule: Rezzing large unattended vessels violates the directive that the Blake Sea is first and foremost an area for sailing and said vessels that do not make way for sailing races and events are not using the Blake Sea as designed.
Rule 6: THE ONLY COMBAT allowed in the Blake Sea by modern military weaponry is air to air combat above 250 meters (above the clouds) between consenting aircraft.
Rule 7: Residents firing on non-combatants in the Blake Sea whether air-to-air, air-to-surface, or surface-to-air is strictly forbidden. Those doing so are subject to possible bans in over 200 sims in the United Sailing Sims as well as being AR (assault in a safe area) reported to LL for TOS violations.
Rule 8: Aircraft that buzz low overhead of any non-combat boat or sailing vessel shall be considered to be harassing residents (a TOS violation) and potentially banned from the United Sailing Sims as well as being ARed..Reason behind these rules: Other than air to air combat between consenting pilots above 250 meters (i.e. above the clouds), all other combat actions as outlined in these rules are contrary not only to TOS but to the general peaceful use of waters as intended when LL declared that the Blake Sea should be for sailing first.
Just a side note here. You might recall that Viale Linden had warned us against sharing any of this with the community. It was difficult to read calls for openness and transparency when to have done so could be used by Viale as an excuse to officially kill any action on LL’s part. So the four of us in that meeting with Viale could not say anything. Sadly as the situation degenerated we had another issue to deal with that would keep us more or less silent. It was clear that we had NO backing from LL regarding the Blake Sea. Had we publicly talked about these challenges with the sailing community, what do you think would have happened? Thats right, the SS Sieve would have set sail and sank to the bottom of the Blake Sea. But now that we have LL support once again. we can finally speak out. Thank God.
A New Dawn in the Blake Sea
Several sad things have occurred in our community in the past few months. However at least one good thing has happened. While working through the particulars of of the changes that will keep the Sailor’s Cove sims in the USS a new connection has been formed.
Patch Linden was part of the original team that helped create the Blake Sea and the Blake Sea Community Partnership. Once the Blake Sea and the BSCP became a reality Patch was no longer part of the day to day contact (really more like week to week contact) with the USS and those in the Blake Sea Group that provided services in the Blake Sea (such as running races). That situation changed with the events concerning the moves of the Sailor’s Cove regions to the Hollywood Complex and Second Norway.
We got the official confirmation that indeed the communications breakdown at LL with the USS was real. Without going into details for the past year and a half our communications with LL went through the community@lindenlab dot com email. That email stopped being actively monitored about a year ago and a lot of emails to community@linden even went into a spam folder. No one informed us of that. A years worth of hair pulling and groaning by Sudane Erato and ourselves (the liaisons between LL and the USS) could have been greatly reduced with a simple communication.
But this is good news we said, right? Patch Linden is stepping in to pick up the pieces. While much of the relationship with LL that created the partnership between the USS and the Lab is gone, we at least have a few caring Lindens back on board to help us as we go forward. If you need evidence of that, just look at the recent notice (Sept. 24. 2013) where we announced that the long hard fight to stop WW2/naval combat abuse in the Blake Sea ended when Patch ordered the removal of full rezz in the Contested Waters at our request..
We very much look forward to working with Patch to bring the Blake Sea and the USS back into the heartland of peaceful sailing and boating in the Blake Sea.
September 24, 2013
Many Thanks to Nber Medici and Sudane Erato for edits and editorial comments that made this a much better article.