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.

3 comments:

Grandma Carole said...

Congratulations on your first race! Someone has to come in last - there is nowhere to go but up.

Lindsay said...

Good story but its mean for you to make up such lies about perfect Steven! Sounds like a blast though, hopefully one day I can experience the joy of being a passanger on your mighty ship!

Amy said...

I would have to agree with Lindsay on this! I really enjoyed all of it, except the lies about sweet Steven! ;)