Friday, October 23, 2009

The Rum Run Regatta: Cluster-fuck on the High Seas

The Rum Run Regatta is hosted by the same people that put on Duck Dodge and starts near Shilshole and ends in Port Madison across Puget Sound. I spent most of the week talking smack to my colleague at work, Kris Lande, who was also entering the race. I later learned that her 38 foot 2005 Dufour was about 3x as fast as our 27 foot 1978 Catalina. Anyway the crowd at these regattas is more casual than a yacht club regatta (e.g. whiskey vs. chardonnay … Kings of Leon vs. Peter Gabriel … boxers vs. briefs? uh you get the idea). This was our second regatta and our first time to experience sailing in fall weather. We were not let down.

Crew: Dylan, Deetz, Mustard, and Mike Zaroudny

View Rum Run Regatta in a larger map

Despite our planning we made it to the starting line about 25 minutes late. Oh well, we ran into one other late comer in the locks to race against and we could see 20 or so boats ahead of us so we set sail, close hauled, with 10 – 15 knot wind and no rain: perfect. Two minutes on our course Super Deetz somehow knocked some rod in the water and we had to turn around and pick it back up. That’s not a straightforward thing to do in a sailboat, but I kept a good attitude and considered it a good spontaneous man overboard drill. We looked pretty clumsy trying to pick it up it’s a good thing that it wasn’t a REAL man overboard.

We continue and are actually still ahead of the fella who went through the locks with us. We even start to get a sense that we are gaining ground on the other boats. More hot drinks are poured and spirits run high.

DRINKS ONBOARD: Hot Toddies, Hot Chocolate and Schnapps, Dirty Hebrew, and Hot Buttered Rum (later renamed “My Mother’s Milk”)

We lose our position as second to last as I make a poor calculation of when to tack around the first buoy. Now we have a long run and we’re excited at the chance to put up the spinnaker. It’s only our third time to raise this sail and many people just avoid the trouble all together. Deetz and Mike head to the bow and the five of us proceed to unsuccessfully raise the spinnaker three times. There was almost a sort of harmony at the coordinated chaos we caused. I’m not just talking your regular twist or snagging here. At one point the boat was keeled over and we stared at the spinnaker flailing like an untamed kite in the air and thought, in unison, “what the fuck do we do now?” At another point Mustard is steering, I’m trying to undo the knot he created on the wench, and somehow a spinnaker line wraps around my ankle yanking me towards the sky. We give up before we lose any more of our egos and Deetz and Mike lay exhausted on the bow.

There weren’t any boats around us at this point but some sea life might have heard phrases such as:

· “Last time it didn’t work because I forgot to raise the spinnaker with the spinnaker pole.”

· “Look, stop holding the line with your teeth or one of these times it’s going to rip your jaw clear off.”

· “Are you going to pull that fucking line out of the water?”

· “Mustard, untie my ankle from that line before it pulls me overboard. What? Mustard, now! Untie it right now.”

· “The spinnaker ate my favorite hat.”

· “Well, your taped together tiller is now re-broken.”

Like good sailors we regrouped after a little medicine and we enjoyed our beam reach to the finish line. In the protection of Port Madison the rest of the participants were tied together and enjoying the day. We came in swinging the American flag like champions and tied on to the end of the line.

… drinks, laughs, introductions, stories, exploring other boats, goodbyes …

The wind really picked up and made the ride home a ton of fun. This was record wind for the crew of the Endeavor. We had the sails reefed and kept on the same tack all the way back. The 30 knot wind blew water over the bow and onto our backs. The salt slipped into our smiles.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

29th out of 29 Boats

“Hooray, it’s our first sailboat race!”

Famous last words Deetz. FAMOUS LAST WORDS you clumsy bastard!

Deetz, girl Deetz, and I were motoring on Lake Union less than an hour before we sailed in our first regatta with me at the helm. I had hoped to have a more experienced skipper to learn from just one more time, but that just didn’t happen. So I was kind of nervous all day. In fact, I was sitting in the cabin Googling “sailboat racing basics” when I heard Deetz decree with boy-like excitement, “Hooray, it’s our first sailboat race!” He then immediately stumbled, sat on the end of the tiller, and broke it in half.

There is a form of punishment called keelhauling that Deetz and I have often dreamed of administering some day on our ship. The idea is that you bound the culprit, tie him to the back of the boat, and throw him off the front of the boat. He’ll be cut up by the barnacles and likely drown as his rope gets stuck under the boat. But if he lives you drag him back in and all is forgiven. I can’t think of a more appropriate crime to justify such an ancient tradition than breaking the damn tiller 45 minutes before we participated in a race that we were already not prepared for. Alas, he is majority owner in the boat and I was out voted so he got away with it. To his credit, in true Super Deetz fashion, he temporarily repaired the tiller with a couple types of industrial tape he retrieved from his elevator van.

Lake Union is small and there are a ton of boats on the water. This Duck Dodge regatta is renowned for being casual, fun, and full of a variety of experience levels of which we made up the tail end. The start is the trickiest and most dangerous part. Without the convenience of motors, sailboats must wonder around timing their approach so they cross the finish line just after the horn. Do to bad timing, a tangle with our genoa, and some miscommunication with first time crew member The Greek, we crossed the start line 8 minutes after the horn. That’s 3 minutes after the next bracket had already started. Heckles from the committee boat helped us make sure we were acutely aware of all of this.

But we were underway, on a good course, with perfect wind, in perfect weather, under the Seattle skyline and life was good. Racing can be thought of managing an ever changing series of collision courses. An obvious set of right of way rules keep you from hitting each other. But does everyone remember them or even know them at all? I made a few good calls threading the needle between boats, but I also made some bad calls. It’s hard to stick to your course, even if you have the right of way, when two boats are bearing down on you. At full speed with only 15 feet apart I tack and I hear disappointment from the more experienced boats who now have to change course for my illogical tactic. Oppss. But we finish the race. We are recorded 29th out of 29 boats but the crew of the Endeavor knew damn well we passed 3 boats and we stake our egos on that and the satisfaction that our boat is whole … whole except for the tiller, Deetz you baboon.

All the sailboats sail around until the sun sets and the wind dies. Then about 20 boats tie up. We meet folks who inspect our boat and exchange stories. Deetz gets a kiss from a stranger as it is her first race and tradition requires her to kiss the captain or the mast. No comment on her decision. The Greek gets some digits after talking to a girl for 7.6 seconds, I meet up with Kris Lande and some sailing friends, our jaws drop as we walk through a restored tugboat, we take in the sleek lines of a true race boat, and we climb from boat to boat careful to keep our gin drinks in tact.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

First Regatta - Duck Dodge

The Endeavor sailed in it's first regatta Tuesday. We raced in the 3rd start (slowest bracket) and proudly took 29th place out of 32 boats. That's right ... there were 3 boats slower than us! I'm not sure if we earned it or if Kris Lande, a gal I work with, helped us out from her privelaged position on the Duck Dodge committee boat.

Duck Dodge is a casual regatta that takes place on Lake Union in the middle of downtown Seattle. It is a crazy scene of criss-crossing boats, some people laughing, some people yelling at each other, everybody drinking, perfect weather, and the Seattle skyline and hills surrounding us. It is a hell of a good time. Definitely a uniquely special Seattle scene.

I don't know crap about racing and you can really get yourself into trouble not knowing the various right-of-way rules. So we were thankful to have Todd as our skipper showing us how it's done. Well, showing us how to get 29th place. :)

Afterwards all the boats raft up and people walk across the bows drinking, dancing, eating, and telling stories.

I ended the night sleeping by myself on the boat. Woke up the next day, swam in Lake Union, and walked to work. Good times.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Ye Shall Know Thy Tidal Currents

(crew: only Dylan & Deetz)


... so said Dylan 300 times Friday evening as he and Deetz tried to sail into the wind totally against the current. I guess that up until now I've had too many other things on my mind to give the tides any credit. But no longer. I think we left the Ballard Locks at about 8pm and made it to Bell Harbor Marina (downtown Seattle) around 11pm. What a beat! (For the record this would have taken about 10 minutes of driving time from where we started.)

There was good news though. Once we were in Elliott Bay our spirits were lifted by the the presence of the big city lights above us, ample wind, the thrill of sailing around the industrial city scape, and a fair amount of rum. Against my better judgement I copied Deetz and stood balanced on the rails of the pulpit with my back leaning against the forestay, the city above me and the driving wake splashing below. Once we got to downtown we were having so much fun we headed back out to the center of Elliott Bay for a little more time in this environment before docking.

- $35 per night for our 27' boat
- Native Americans have the best slips reserved
- the showers don't need quarters!
- you are walking distance from downtown nightlife

And so we made the most of our pridicament of only making 1/4 of the distance we intended and walked 4 blocks to meet-up with some of Deetz' chronies. I'm incredibly suprised they let me into Twist (fancy pants bar) with my sandals, tattered rugby jersey, and salty wind blown hair. Afterwards we left and were followed by a mermaid. By dawn we had slaughtered enough songs on our blurry guitar that it was time for bed.

Soooooooo ... this caused us to sleep in and, after the mermaid slipped back into the oily harbor she came from, we sailed BACK up wind again AND directly upstream of the current. Sheesh ... clowns!

At 4pm at the north end of Vashon Island we realized there was no f'n way we could make it to the south end of Vashon into the safety of their sweet little naturally protected waters. So for fun we got a little speed on a beam reach to Fauntelory and then back on a beam reach to the marina at Blake Island.

Dock, bullshit with sailors, walk the beach, sad attempt at fishing, grill halibut on the BBQ attached to the stern rail, BBQ comes loose dropping corn into water, Dylan does once in a lifetime save of grilled pesto basil seasoned halibut, eat, discussion of the Grand Sail over gin, and then bed.

- cheap, only .50/ft
- apparently gets very crowded in summer; many moorings and good places to anchor all around island
- hike and bike trails all over island are great
- sterile state park setting attracts scores of annoying boy scouts (lucky for them they stay out of range of our cannons)

The next day we met an interesting character that invited us onto his beautiful 34' sloop. As his kid spilled small toys everywhere he told recounted scores of stories and useful information in his possibly eastern European accent. He filled a notecard full of tips and Deetz nearly learned something before we left to set sail. The run home was HARMONIOUS. For only the second time ever we hoisted the spinnaker (big balloon like colorful sail; can be a complicated process). We've had ZERO schooling on how to do this. The first time last year was horrible and we only avoided serious disaster by Deetz' luck and my wife's karma. This time, if you were close to us, you would have seen me reading the same page of "Sail Trim Theory" 12 times before I went to set-up the rigging. But from afar I dare say we looked much better than the damn fools we were last time; this time we were clearly AMATEURS. :)

- The best part about staying in a marina is meeting all the other people there. It's a great way to get tips, advice, and stories.
- We both know enough to get by raising and tacking with a spinnaker.
- A fun sail could be from the locks to Bell Harbor Marina. Then go party or eat downtown and stumble back to the boat.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Ross Goes Sailing

Delicate Dan, Mustard, and I took Ross out sailing on the Sound during his visit to the Great Northwest. The wind and weather was just about perfect and I've never seen so many sailboats out on the Sound other than during regattas.

We sailed across the Sound and back drinking rum and gin drinks. We got to pass two giant seals on a buoy who barked and wailed as we passed. We had to dodge a huge cruise ship and a very large shipping vessel. Delicate Dan had the bright idea to tack back sooner than later so we could take on the big wake from the ship. But alas, we couldn't get the water over our bow. :(

We ended the night eating shish-kabobs at the docks in South Lake Union and drinking more than our fair share of the the rations.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

First Sail of 2009 - Lake Union

The glorious day of sun and 74 degree weather yesterday FORCED us to take the boat out after work. Deetz, Delicate Dan, and a new crew member, Daniel Bryant (from here on to be referred to only as Mustard) were all on board. I forgot how much fun sailing was and the excitement made the gin flow at top speed. We just messed around tacking and jibing back and forth on the little downtown city lake until the wind died at dusk. After that we just floated around aimlessly until it was time to give in and go home. This is going to be a great year.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The McGee's Go Sailing

We squeezed in one last casual sail in the remaining days of pleasant fall weather when Jason McGee and his lovely wife Chris came to visit. The batteries didn't have water in them so the engine wouldn't start. I borrowed and returned a battery I found on another boat to give us a jump start and we were on our way. We decided to take it easy and head out to Lake Washington instead of Puget Sound. There are a couple of draw bridges along the way. So we pulled out our air horn to signal them to open and "bppphhissssssss". It was empty. After about 15 minutes of trying to hail the bridge over radio someone else opened it and off we went.

There wasn't really any wind at all on the lake but spirits remained high anyway. We drank rum and cooked brats on the grill that hangs over the railing. I got a chance to know Chris a little better and as much as I love my old friend Jason I frankly don't know how he landed this gal. :) Smart, comfortable with herself, confident, fun, easy going, and beautiful. Fine work Jason. I apologize for those 8 years after high school where I questioned your sexuality.

After plenty of new and old stories we headed back. Of course the motor wouldn't start again so Deetz spent about 15 minutes leaning off the back of the boat trying to pull start the motor. I should note that the motor doesn't have a rip chord. Deetz used some reef lines (rope) to wrap around this emergency pull start ring on the top of the motor. After plenty of yanking the rope and then re-wrapping it the damn thing started. We actually got a little wind and enjoyed a broad reach for about 30 minutes. It was a good day and it's fun to sail even with no wind with the right company.