Sailing Stories

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Ed Jones

Secretary/Vice Commodore
Thread starter #1
Thanks to Bigsky's request, I'm going to start posting some of my collection of stories that I've written over the years. Look for one every week or so until we get through the winter. Here's the first one - Ed Jones


I lay in the tent watching my father and Mr. Gibbs as they sat by the campfire, talking into the night. I was too excited to sleep. The sail across Lake Murray had been a rough one, the heavy old nineteen-foot Swan heeled way over, her gunwales dipping under more than once.
Lake Murray, in central South Carolina, was almost uninhabited back in 1945 when I was ten. The huge earthen dam for it had been built in the middle of the Depression, and few people could afford summer homes on the forested shores of the lake. Our cottage was built in 1937, and was almost alone in its little cove.
Mr. Gibbs and his family was one of our few neighbors. Swan belonged to them and it soon became the flagship of the flotilla of rowboats and sailing dinghies owned by the two families. It was on Swan that the two men and four boys made the annual camping trip to an isolated cove across the lake.
The wind dropped drastically as we ghosted through the narrow entrance into the cove, a tree-lined passageway. It was a relief to feel the boat sailing steadily upright again. I climbed onto the cabin top and watched as we glided out of the entrance into the long, winding cove. The hills on each side were steep and heavily forested except for a small meadow on one side. That was our campground.
The sheltered water was glassy calm as we coasted along and ground to a halt on the beach by the meadow. After unloading Swan, we set anchors fore and aft, holding her at an easy wade just a few feet out. Tents were set up, and the rock firepit that we had built when I was five was cleaned out and readied for use. We boys roamed the woods and soon brought back armloads of downed firewood.
Over the years we had dragged logs out of the woods to serve as benches around the firepit. Even the old metal grill was reused from year to year. By sunset the fire was going and hot dogs were roasting.
Soon my stomach was full of hot dogs and the potato salad my mom had sent along. But not so full I couldn’t make room for the marshmallows we toasted.
Now I was in bed, watching out the open tent while the moon rose through the pines across the cove, forming a glittering path across the water directly at Swan. To me she looked like the grandest yacht in the world as she lay peacefully at anchor. Swan. What a perfect name.
“Eddie,� my father had said, “I want you to sleep in my tent. The older boys will keep you awake all night.�
The other boys were in a tent at the far end of the meadow. I could hear them laughing every so often. Knock-knock jokes, most likely. Frogs were cheeping and a distant owl added an occasional comment. I knew Mr. Gibbs would be sleeping in Swan, as he always did. “Anchor watch,� he called it.
I loved the pup tent. My dad and I had gone to Solomon’s Army-Navy surplus store in Columbia to get the real thing. It had an army smell, that rich smell of canvas, cosmoline, and brass polish that reminded me of the Home Guard Armory. During the war I used to go there and watch my father, a First Sergeant, drill the teenage boys and old men, all ready to fight off any Nazi invasion of South Carolina.
On the other hand I figured the old Navy sailing ships smelled something like the cuddy cabin in Swan, filled with canvas covers, mildewed cotton sails, tar, and manila lines. Far different from an Army smell, except for the canvas.
I liked to listen while my father and Mr. Gibbs talked by the fire before turning in. They seemed to know about everything. Their faces were lit by the firelight. My father’s face was ruddy and his reddish hair was thinning. Mr. Gibbs, in his sixties, had a lean, craggy face and snow white hair. I watched him light his pipe, a familiar ritual.
They were looking at the full moon. “Funny,� my father said, “how the dark areas are called Mares.�
“Latin for ‘seas’,� Mr. Gibbs said.
“Yes. That’s because people once thought they were oceans.�
Mr. Gibbs shrugged. “A logical error, before modern telescopes.�
“Someday men will walk on the moon. It won’t be easy, though. I read an article in Astounding about how a rocket ship the size of an ocean liner would be needed to carry enough fuel and supplies for a round trip.�
Mr. Gibbs chuckled. “Won’t happen in my lifetime.�
My father nodded. “Nor in mine either, even though I’m a bit younger.�
“But do we have the will to do it? Can you imagine the expense?�
“That’s what Queen Isabella asked.� My father said, laughing. “But she finally coughed up the dough.�
“What’s all this talk about flying saucers?�
That caught my interest. I leaned out of the tent, hoping to see one. The sky was crystal clear, the Milky Way a bright path across the heavens. I looked for something round, spinning past the stars, but no such luck.
My father was talking about how pilots had seen the saucers making quick turns and zipping along at tremendous speeds. “I don’t know what they are, but I’d like to think they are visitors from other planets.�
Mr. Gibbs laughed. “Martin, you’re such a dreamer. You should have been a writer instead of a businessman.�
“Maybe you’re right.� I could hear a tone of wistfulness in my father’s voice. “I think I’d have been a good one.�
The men fell silent and I heard an owl across the cove, answered by another behind me. A good night for dreamy talk, I thought as I snuggled back into my sleeping bag. Do owls dream of flying on the moon?

Ed Jones

Secretary/Vice Commodore
Thread starter #2
Sailing Story # 2


Just a few minutes before, I'd been relaxing on a beach chair. Now I was hanging on for dear life as the catamaran lifted and began a slow roll into the icy water of a high mountain lake. Why, I wondered, did I ever agree to this wild ride? And where the hell is the skipper?

"What, you tell me you've never sailed a catamaran?" Tom had asked.
My friend Tom McCoy and I had just finished a long day of racing my Capri 14.2 in the High Sierra Regatta. Worn out, I just wanted to kick back on the beach with a beer and enjoy the sunset over Huntington Lake, a sparkling jewel tucked into the forested peaks of the Sierras. "Look, Scott says we can use his Hobie 18 for awhile," Tom persisted. "It's right at the dock, ready to go."
"Tom," I asked, wearily, "do you know how to sail a catamaran? And, hey, it's still blowing pretty good out there." Indeed, the wind was 15 knots, with puffs to 20.
"Of course, I used to own a Hobie 14. Let's just zip across the lake and back, just a quickie. All you have to do is handle the jib, no problema, Eddie."
"Okay, Tom, just a quickie," I said, pulling on my gloves and life jacket. "Better wear your jacket, too."
"Jeez, what a candy-ass," Tom laughed. "Okay, I'll wear it. Let's go."
The sun was low in the sky as we left the dock. Ours was the only boat in sight, as it was after seven, and all the racers had left for dinner. Even though it was July, we were at 7000 feet elevation, and the air was getting chilly. We pulled away, close reaching on starboard tack, the boat accelerating rapidly. Sitting up front, trimming the jib, I found myself getting excited as the Hobie raced across the lake. I'd never gone so fast on water.
We'd only gone about a half-mile when a strong puff hit and the starboard hull lifted sharply. This surprised me, as I felt we had plenty of weight to hold the boat down. I only weigh 140, but Tom, a muscular landscaper, easily tops 200. Like a good crew, I immediately eased the jibsheet until the jib started luffing. Still the hull lifted higher. Looking up, I was surprised that the main was still sheeted in. "Tom," I began to ask while turning to look back at him, "why don't you...."
Only Tom wasn't there. The tiller bar flopped uselessly back and forth as the boat continued to accelerate and the hull lifted even higher. Hanging on for dear life, I felt like I was going airborne. Now I knew how Ham the monkey felt in the nose cone of the Atlas missile. Only this missile was unguided.
Finally, my brain began to send signals. Grab the tiller, I thought, and the mainsheet, if I can get back there in time. I didn't. I'd just started to crawl aft when the boat flipped.
Perched on the starboard hull, I looked around for Tom, then spotted him, fifty yards aft. I could hear him yelling something about turtles. Turtles, I wondered, are there snapping turtles in this lake? Then Tom yelled loud enough for me to understand, "Eddie! Don't let it turtle!"
Oh. Too late. The mast was slowly headed down into the icy depths. I sat, still high and dry on the bottom of the hull as Tom splashed his way toward me and climbed up alongside.
"Is the water very cold?" I asked cheerfully.
"Is it cold?" he spluttered. "What do you think this stuff is, hot buttered rum? This water is melted snow, right off the mountains. Hell yes, it's cold!"
"Now what do we do? We seem to be alone out here."
"We wouldn't be in this fix if you hadn't let it turtle!"
"Oh, yeah, well Mr. Hobie Expert, we wouldn't have capsized to begin with if you hadn't fallen off the boat."
Arguing wasn't going to help. The sun was setting, and we could freeze on the lake. Swimming to shore would have been a desperation move, but we considered it. I looked around the lake, hoping to find some help. Then, thank the Lord, we saw a pontoon boat motoring our way, with a handfull of passengers, all gawking at the two fools sitting on the inverted boat. As Tom and I waved at them, they approached and stopped next to us. The skipper, a rangy sunburned man with a straw hat, grinned at us, "You fellers need some help?"
"Sure do," I answered. "Can you help us flip this thing back up?"
"Happy to help, only I don't know nothin' bout sailboats. I just rented this pontoon boat to take the folks out for a ride."
"Okay, if you'll just undo your bow line there, we'll tie it around this hull and pass it across our other hull. Then if you'll tie the other end to your stern cleat and pull away from us, it'll pull our boat back upright. Got it?"
"Nope. But I'll pass you the rope and then you kin show me what you mean."
A few minutes later, we had the line tied around the starboard hull. Tom insisted that I go in and carry the line under the hull as it was "high time somebody else did some swimming." The cold water hit me with a jolt. Yow!
We passed the line across the port hull and from there to the pontoon boat. Shivering, Tom and I stood on the port hull and signaled for our new friends to "hit it." Straw Hat poured on the coal and the masthead began its slow rise from the depths. It worked! The boat suddenly rose up on the port hull and came down with a crash with us floating in the water between the hulls.
We had just started to celebrate when a strong gust of wind hit us. The main was, of course, still sheeted, and the boat took off like a rocket.
"I'm lettin' you fellers loose!" Straw Hat yelled, dropping his end of the line. Frantically, Tom and I grabbed the only thing grabbable, the rudder bar. The Hobie raced across the lake with us steaming along in its wake, hanging on for dear life. Fortunately, it was headed back toward the beach, a place I desperately wanted to be.
"Tom," I gasped, "can we steer this thing like this?"
"I don't know, but who cares? As long as it heads for the beach and this bar doesn't break."
In a few minutes the Hobie bounced its way onto the sand and we scrambled onto dry land, racing for towels and dry clothes.
Wrapped in a warm jacket, I walked onto the dock and handed the bow line to Straw Hat, who had followed us in. "Thanks for your help."
"Glad to oblige," he said. "Boy, I'll never forget you fellers hangin' on to that boat, like a coupla half drowned rats. Right funny sight."
"I'll bet."
Just then Scott, the owner of the Hobie walked up. "You guys have a nice sail? Hey, you got a little wet, didn't you?"
"Just a little, Scott."
"Hey, Eddie, I'm racing the Hobie next weekend and I need a crew. Interested?"

Ed Jones

Secretary/Vice Commodore
Thread starter #3
Sailing Stories - 3

OK, guys, I'm about to post my third story. But it's time somebody else joined the party. Hey, if you have a story to tell, put it in. Try to shoot for 500-1500 words if possible. Just enter it in this thread as a Reply. (Just scroll to the bottom and click on Post Reply). That way all the stories will be on the same thread. Hey, this can be a fun way to get through the winter...


By: Ed Jones

Until Dennis Conner lost the cup to the Australians in 1983, all the America's Cup sailboat races were sailed off Newport, Rhode Island. These were usually pretty boring, with the American defender always beating the foreign challenger in four straight races. This changed in 1962, when the Australian twelve-meter Gretel surfed downwind and passed the defender, Weatherly, then went on to actually win one of the races. It was unheard of that a foreigner actually could beat an American boat, thoroughly shaking up the smug east coast sailing establishment.
I happened to watch that historic race from an unusual vantage point, an Air Force F-101B Voodoo. At that time I was a pilot in the 444th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, stationed at Charleston AFB, South Carolina. I'd been sailing all my life, and had been avidly following the elimination trials leading up to the America's Cup. I badly wanted to somehow see one of the races. It happened that I had a weekend cross-country flight scheduled to an Air Force base on the tip of Long Island, for "navigational training." (Also known as a "boondoggle.") I noted the base was close to the America's Cup site.
I sought out my trusty Radar Observer, Junior Moore. "Listen, how would you like to watch a sailboat race from the air?"
He gave me a wary look. "I remember the time you buzzed your brother's yacht club. I hope you're not talking about another stunt like that."
"Heaven forbid. No, this is the America's Cup, a really big deal event in the ocean off Rhode Island. I plan to circle above at a safe altitude, say a thousand feet. Should be fun."
"You're the pilot. Get into trouble and it's your ass, not mine."
On Friday night we flew to Long Island and spent the night. The next morning we had a leisurely breakfast and took off. The second race of the series was scheduled for that day, with a forecast of 20-25 knot winds. "Should make for some wild sailing," I told Junior as we climbed out to the northeast.
It was only 75 miles to the race site, so we leveled at 10,000 feet and throttled back to an easy cruising speed of 300 knots. As we neared Rhode Island I could see what looked like a great white cloud on the otherwise blue ocean. I realized it was an enormous spectator fleet, hundreds of boats. I slowed the ship and made a descent to one thousand feet.
"I got lots of small targets on the radar," Junior reported. "Must be light planes out to watch the race."
"How many?"
"Okay, I'll go as slow as I can."
I lowered landing gear, flaps, and speedbrakes, slowing the plane to the slowest safe manuevering speed of a mere 200 knots. Even so, we rapidly swept through the cloud of light planes. We were so busy avoiding traffic that we were only able to take quick glances at the race. I saw the two 12-meter yachts side-by-side, charging downwind, spinnakers full. I learned later that was the defining moment, as the lighter Gretel rode the swells and surfed past Weatherly.
But we were busy. Damn busy. The light planes were scattering like chickens as we roared through the crowd. Indeed, we must have looked like a giant chickenhawk, with our swept wings and our landing gear extended like talons seeking slow-moving chicks.
We made a couple of passes, then..."Junior, I think maybe we should pack it in."
"Yeah, before we suck up a Cessna or two."
"Give me a vector to Quonset Point." Our plan was to spend that night at Quonset Point Naval Air Station. It was close to Newport, and I wanted to watch the boats sail in after the race.
We landed, arranged for quarters at the base, and caught a taxi into Newport. We had a great time that night. The town was one big party, with the highlight of the evening sitting in a bar while Gretel's crew belted out a rendition of "Waltzing Matilda." Later we walked down to the dock where the two twelve-meters were berthed and were able to get a close look at the boats. Those were innocent days, long before the paranoia of the closed compounds that the modern America's Cup contenders are housed in.
The next morning we walked into Flight Ops at Quonset Point to file our flight plan. I was filling out the paperwork when I was interrupted by the Ops Officer, a Lieutenant Commander.
"Ah, Captain..." he said.
"Yes, Sir?"
"That's your '101 out there, right?"
"Yes, Sir."
"Last night I got a call from the Coast Guard. They're in charge of spectator control for the America's Cup races, including the airspace over the race course. They said some kind of jet fighter was making high-speed passes though the spectator aircraft and, as they put it, 'terrorizing the natives.'"
I managed to put on a totally blank look.
The commander continued. "They didn't know what type the jet was, so they asked us if any of our planes were up yesterday afternoon. I said no, but I would look into it."
I kept a puzzled look on my face, still not speaking. The commander gave me a sharp look. "You know anything about this?"
I finally spoke, in a voice of pure, angelic innocence. "Sir, what’s the America's Cup?"

Ed Jones

Secretary/Vice Commodore
Thread starter #4
Sailing Story # 4

Note - A version of this was published in SAIL Magazine about ten years ago. It was my first sale of a short story, and I was thrilled. - EJ


By: Ed Jones

All through high school, in the early fifties, I worked part time for George Sumner, a friend of my father's. George owned a small woolen mill in my hometown of Columbia, South Carolina. I was his teenage Quality Control "Engineer". It was fun to work for George, a big, barrel-chested Scot in his sixties. He was a real "man's man" in the true Hemingway tradition.
I knew that he owned several sailboats, from a dinghy up to a wooden 40' yawl named Spindrift, but until my senior year I never sailed with George. During that time, however, I often saw George out sailing his dinghy on Lake Murray, where both his and my family had cottages.
George was especially fond of his 10' sailing dinghy, which he usually sailed solo. It was a brightly varnished lapstrake catboat. Once I was at a marina at the lake. As I walked out on the dock I noticed George's dinghy approaching, so I waited to greet him. I figured he was going to stop for a beer. There was a small crowd of fisherman, tourists, etc., sitting around the tables in front of the little bait shop/bar/snack bar on the dock. Most were watching George as he sailed in. He had his hands full that day as the wind was strong and gusty. He was hiked out on the gunwale, trying to keep the dinghy more or less level.
Suddenly, the little boat heeled sharply, and George, no longer a young athlete, fell overboard. He knew that all small sailboats have weather helm and will immediately turn into the wind if the tiller is let go. So as soon as he got his head above water he put two fingers in his mouth and let out a loud whistle. The little boat, as if responding to his whistle, turned into the wind and stopped, its sails luffing. George quickly swam to the boat, grabbed its transom, and hauled himself in.
The crowd on the dock stared in awe-struck silence. As George sailed up to the dock, one tourist asked, "How did the boat know to stop?"
"I trained her to do that," replied George. "Smart little boat, eh?"

Just before I left for college George invited me, along with my brother Martin and a couple of our friends, to go on a little cruise on Spindrift in the Charleston area. We sailed out the breakwater into the Atlantic. Heading south, we set the spinnaker and ran downwind.
Lying on the foredeck, I watched the big red, white, and blue spinnaker sweep back and forth against the summer cumulus clouds as the bow lifted and fell with each big swell.
Continuing south, we passed Kiawah Island and then turned toward shore and entered an inlet, carefully following the bouys that marked the channel. George luffed Spindrift into the wind and let her slowly drift to a stop. The anchor chain rattled as we dropped the big Danforth and we were secure. Green marshlands stretched for miles into the distance, broken by sea islands, each with its crown of pines and palmettos. A heron, startled by the anchor chain, flapped away, seeking a more peaceful spot for his meditative search of the shallows.
"Sun is over the yardarms, laddies." announced George, "Tyme to break out the ale."
"Aye, aye, skipper."
Just as we were popping the beer cans, a shrimp boat entered the channel, homeward bound. Like most shrimp boats, she had a certain workmanlike seediness. Her white topsides were streaked with rust from the fasteners. From her bluff bows the gunwales followed down in a sweeping curve to a low stern. The clutter and confusion of her fishing nets and gear was a pleasant counterpoint to her graceful shape. The crew, I'm sure, was completely unaware of what a beautiful sight their boat made as she rode in on her wide bow wave, the setting sun shining through her rigging.
George held up a beer can as the shrimper came past. "How about a beer, boys?"
The shrimper abruptly throttled back, appearing startled. A young man in a white T-shirt leaned out of the wheelhouse.
"You bet!"
They tied up alongside. The crew consisted of the young white skipper and two older black men who smiled broadly as we handed them the Buds. "Thanks, boss."
"How's the fishing?" asked George.
"Good enough to go home and git dinner," replied the skipper as he opened his beer. His forearms were covered with nautical tatoos, such as anchors and mermaids.
"Navy?" asked George.
"Yes, Sir. Destroyers. Got in too late for combat, though."
"I was in the Royal Navy," said George. "World War I. North Atlantic."
"See any U-Boats?"
"Sank one. Damn near got sank ourselves by another. We took a fish in the bow. Took on a lot of water, but we got home okay."
"Cold water."
"Damn right. I sure didn't want to swim."
The skipper showed us around his boat. The engine was a massive diesel, covered with rust, a monument to the Gods of Infernal Combustion. I wondered how they could entrust their lives to that heap of slag. Sounded fine when they started up, though.
"How 'bout a bucket of shrimp, Cap'n?" the young skipper asked George.
That night we dined on fresh shrimp, boiled in beer. George had brought along some fresh tomatoes, a couple of loaves of French bread and a big hunk of cheese. To us hungry sailors it was a gourmet's delight.
Later, I put my bedroll in the cockpit. As I lay there, I watched the mainmast, with its little white anchor light, swing in a long arc back and forth through the Milky Way. A splash caused me to look over the side. A porpoise was swimming through the inlet, its body outlined by phosphoresence as it glided past. Later, the moon rose, casting a silvery path across the water. The varnished spars gleamed in the moonlight. It was paradise.

George continued to sail right up into his 70's. He kept a beautiful Dragon, 29 feet of gleaming mahogony, on Lake Murray. We sailed together a few times while I was in college. I would steer while he drank some concoction called a "Bullshot".
"Ed, this is wonderful, isn't it?" he asked me as we sailed one cold, cloudy November day.
"Yes, Sir."
"This is the way I want to go."
His words were prophetic. A couple of years later he went sailing alone in the Dragon and never returned. The boat was found drifting, empty. They never found George. I'm glad he went that way.


Sarah's first Regatta

My writing skills are not the greatest, but here it is.

Sarah’s first regatta

My name is Mike and I have a daughter named Sarah. I have been a competitive sailor for many years now and have always (since she was born) hoped to get my daughter to sail and race with me. While I have mainly raced PHRF and Lasers since moving from Tampa to Phoenix five years ago, there has not been much of a chance to get Sarah involved. I had taken her out on the Laser a few times, but a Laser is not the most comfortable boat for two people.

One weekend when I was out racing at Tempe Town Lake on the Laser. I began talking to Dennis Martinelli about sailing one of the Capri 14.2s that had started to get some One Design racing started. It looked like a boat that would suit Sarah and I well. Long story short, Dennis lined us up to sail a boat in a couple of races one Sunday afternoon. Sarah really got in to it. It was a nice day with relatively steady winds of 8-12 and temps in the 80s. We finished 2nd and 3rd in the two races we sailed. Sarah and I were hooked!

I spoke to Dennis about buying a “project� boat. He was able to oblige and soon we were the proud owners of hull number 4274. The boat was in relatively good shape except that it was very dirty, the running rigging was shot, there was a hole in the port side of the hull, the sails were training sails that were cut way short, there was no rudder, no whisker pole and no trailer.

Sarah and I began by giving the little boat a good cleaning. It is amazing what a little elbow grease will do. (Albeit it was more of my elbow grease than Sarah’s) Our next step was a quick trip to the local West Marine store. For some unknown reason I can’t seem to walk out of that store spending less than $100. This particular trip was for our first cut at some new running rigging. We bought new halyards, jib sheets, and a main sheet. The big mistake was using the measurements off of the old sheets (much shorter than necessary). Our other purchase was some Marine Tex to patch the hole and fill the bigger nicks in the centerboard. Dennis had lent us an old rudder he had until I could buy a new one. (new rudder assembly-complete from Catalina $300). We ordered some new sails from Chris Snow at the San Diego North loft ($1000). I dumped my Laser on the side of the house and had my Laser trailer widened and lengthened. The next step was to replace the old bolsters with new wider bolsters to support the boat better. (welding, materials, and new wheels and tires $225) I bought some aluminum tubing and the whisker pole ends to make a new whisker pole. ($80) We were almost ready to go sailing.

Sarah decided she needed some sailing gloves and a new life jacket. Since we had gone this far, what’s another Ben Franklin. Oh and we also needed to buy a $25 annual pass for the Tempe Town Lake to be able to do a couple of trial races prior to the big regatta at Lake Pleasant. We also joined the class association and the Arizona Yacht Club. Might as well go all the way.

Well the Birthday Regatta is one of our biggest sailing events in Arizona. It is held at Lake Pleasant located on the North West side of the Phoenix metro area. This year the regatta was scheduled for January 15th and 16th. It just so happens that Sarah’s birthday is January 13th and she decided that this should be “her� birthday regatta. As she is turning 11 with this birthday I agree that this should be a regatta in honor of her birthday and will let her pick the music that we will listen to while racing. The regatta doubles as the Leukemia Cup and has for the last 6 years. It is stacking up to be a lot of fun.

Sarah and I decide to camp out at the lake on Saturday night because it is over an hour drive home. We brought sleeping bags and an air mattress along with pillows and some warmer clothes. The forecast is for pretty light winds, but with temps in the low 70s. The lows will be in the 50s which is not too bad for camping in a van. We also decide to bring our little gas griddle to make some pancakes on Sunday morning. Everything is loaded and we are ready to take off early Saturday morning for the lake.

We leave early (8:00AM) with our coolers loaded, new batteries in our CD player, our camping gear, and the boat in tow. Upon arriving at the lake and going in to check in for the regatta we are asked what the name of our boat will be. By this time we have had several conversations about a boat name and have come up with almost nothing. I finally throw out a name I liked, but was not a hit with Sarah. Peas and Carrots. (A take off from one of my favorite movies, Forrest Gump) We soon realize that we are the only 14.2 in the regatta and the smallest boat registered (over 80 boats all together). Our fleet consisted of a Hobie Tiger, two Prindle 19s, a Thistle, a Highlander, and a Corsair 27 of all things. I told Sarah not to get her hopes up for a great finish in this type of racing. She seemed OK with this and we decide to focus on the fun of sailing in our first regatta.

We got the boat launched and sailed out to the race committee boat for the first race. There were two races sailed on Saturday. Both races were triangles. The first race we had a decent start in very light wind. We immediately turned on some Red Hot Chili Peppers on the CD player to help keep us focused. It was pretty hard to tell how we had done, but we were close behind the Thistle and beat the Corsair boat for boat. During the second race the wind picked up a little and the catamarans took off. It was still a great day on the water and we were having a ton of fun together. Sarah and I got the boat put away in plenty of time to visit with some of our competitors and talk about the racing. In the mean time Jenny, my wife, joined us at the lake to enjoy the evening festivities. She even brought her sleeping bag to camp out with us. I was amazed.

On Saturday night there was a great barbeque and a big fund raising event for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. The fund raiser consisted of a silent auction, a live auction, and a raffle. There were lots of great items auctioned off and Sarah ended up winning a 15 lb. Anchor and a GPS in the raffle. She is so lucky! She was lucky enough to find someone who traded her a cool kite for the anchor. There was several thousand dollars raised.

Sarah and I were very pleasantly surprised by the results that were posted from the first two races. We had corrected out with a first and a third. These finishes put us in first place after the Saturday racing. We were both on cloud nine!

On Sunday morning we awoke to a beautiful Arizona sunrise and some cool temperatures. I quickly made some hot chocolate and pancakes to try to get Sarah and Jenny up and out of their sleeping bags. We had an early start to make. (9:00AM) With the boat launched, we made our way out to the race course. The wind was up this morning. It was blowing about 10-14 with some decent size waves. This was a little unnerving to Sarah but she toughened up once the racing started.

We had two great starts in first two races on the day, but like the day before it was really hard to tell how we would correct out. After the second race Sarah and I sailed over to the side of the lake to try to take a bit of a break and eat a little lunch. As we started back toward the RC boat I noticed that the catamarans were almost up to the weather mark. When we got within ear shot of the RC boat I calmly (yeah right) asked them if the Portsmouth fleet had already started. My question was met with several nods and one call of encouragement to “go get ‘em�. With one stroke of my fist to the deck of the boat (for good luck) we took off for the weather mark.

All in all we were happy with our performance, but I was feeling pretty bad about possibly costing us a good finish in the regatta with my blunder on the last start. We got the boat put away after that last race and packed to head home after the trophy presentation. After settling a protest in one of the fleets, the results were announced.

We did end up hanging on to first place in our fleet. I have won many trophies in my sailing career, but none matched the feeling of pride with this one. To have my daughter by my side to receive the plaque was the coolest! The applause seemed so loud!

With all of the work and money that we put in to our first regatta the result was certainly priceless!! We are already looking forward to our next event, the Tempe Town Lake Spring Series and maybe even the Nationals.

Ed Jones

Secretary/Vice Commodore
Thread starter #6
Sailing Story #4 By Ed Jones


By: Ed Jones

"I can't believe it," Sue said. "She's going to be my step-mother, and she's only a couple of years older than me."
It was back in 1982 as the four of us sat at the dinette in Sundance, our Catalina 27. Sue and Jim were old friends of Ruth and mine. Sue was a cheerful thirty-something lady with a mass of curly blond hair. But she sure wasn't cheerful tonight.
"Have you met her?" Sue asked us.
"Yeah," I said, "at the last fleet meeting, remember?"
"Oh, right. And what did you think of her?"
"Uh..." I stalled, "she seemed awful young for Hank. He's what, sixty or so?"
Sue glared. "Sixty-one. I'll tell you what Jasmine is. She's the step-mom from hell!"
Jim cleared his throat. "Look, Sue, think of your dad. You know how lonesome Hank's been since your mom died. And it's been a over a year..." Jim was tall, prematurely bald and a damn good sailor. I listened carefully, as he always showed a lot of common sense.
Ruth leaned across the narrow cabin and snagged a beer from the cooler. "He's right, Sue. Hank has the right to be happy again. I know you're still loyal to your mom's memory, but..."
"This has nothing to do with my mom. Jasmine is a bimbo, and that's all there is to it! She just wants to get her hands on his money."
I thought of my first impression of Jasmine. She was red-headed, with long, flowing locks halfway down her back. But that wasn't what men first noticed. No, it was her magnificent bosom, standing high and proud in her bullet bra like a pair of 37 mm anti-aircraft guns.
How else to describe Jasmine? Brassy is the adjective that comes to mind. With a loud voice and a braying laugh like a hyena's. You know the kind. Bright red lipstick, and calls everyone "honey" or "sweetie."
Jim took a sip of his beer. "Sue, I think you should give her a chance. So she's not your type, but that's doesn't mean she's a gold-digger."
Sue's eyes narrowed. "Oh, yeah? Well, how come she's bugging dad to sell the house?"
"They plan to buy a boat and live on it. So what's wrong with that?"
"The boat won't cost but a fraction of what he'll get for the house."
"So the rest will be in the bank where she can get her hot little hands on it. Her greedy, grasping hands with the tacky glue-on nails!"

Two months later, I met Jasmine again. She and Hank were married, and were preparing to sail their new 38' sloop, Jasmine, to Avalon. We lived in the LA area then, and our sailing club had group trips to Catalina once a month during the summer. A half-dozen boats were lined up on the dock at Marina Del Rey, ready to go. This included ours as well as Sue and Jim's.
We shook hands with Hank and Jasmine, congratulating them on their marriage. Hank, short and stocky, had the smug look of an older guy who's just re-discovered his long-lost libido. Gone were his old checkered shirts. Now he wore a silk shirt with the top buttons undone, showing off his grey chest hair and a set of gold chains. His hair was longer and fashionably styled.
Jasmine, wearing a bright pink outfit that made her look like a flamingo, was in fine form. Putting her arm around Hank's shoulders, (she was a head taller) she crowed, "Isn't he the sweetest thing! I told him I wanted to live on a boat so, lickety-split, he dumps his house and buys one. And names it after me!"
I glanced at Sue, who was standing behind the happy couple. I knew she had grown up in the house that had just been "dumped," and I could see she wasn't a happy camper.
The cruise to Avalon was uneventful--at first. We had a nice sail past Palos Verdes, then the breeze dropped and we all switched on our engines. The boats were spread out by then, except that our boat, Sundance, happened to be close to the Jasmine. About two hours out of Avalon, I noticed that both Hank and Jasmine had gone below.
"Must have gone down to fix lunch," I remarked to Ruth. "Running on autopilot."
"They need to keep watch. A lot of big ships come barreling right through here."
"I'll keep an eye out. If a ship comes I'll call them on the radio."
An hour went by, and still no sign of Hank or Jasmine. But I could see that the Jasmine was right on track to Avalon.
Another hour went by and we were drawing close to the island. Still no signs of life on deck. I tried the radio. "Jasmine, this is Sundance, over." No answer.
For the next half-hour I called again every few minutes. Still no answer. By now I could clearly see the rock breakwater that shelters the harbor at Avalon. It was easy to spot, as swells were breaking on it. Jasmine was headed right for the rocks, only a few hundred yards ahead.
Frantically, I called again. "Jasmine, this is Sundance. You are in danger of running aground!" Nada. Zip.
I tried to reach the Avalon harbor Suerol, but got no answer. I thought of pulling alongside Jasmine and yelling, but they had drawn a hundred yards ahead, and I knew we couldn't catch up.
The rocks loomed even closer. Ruth and I watched, our hearts in our throats, for the inevitable crash. Then, just yards away from the rocks, Hank rushed on deck and swung the wheel over, missing the breakwater by a whisker.

The club met for dinner that night at an outdoor Mexican restaurant, our favorite. Hank and Jasmine were side-by-side, and as usual, she had her hands all over him. She was wearing tights and a loose blouse with cleavage that went as far south as Chile.
I expected Hank to be subdued after his nautical faux pas, but instead he was as cocky as a bantam rooster.
"Hey, Eddie!" he greeted me. "Nice cruise, eh?"
"I saw how you barely missed the rocks."
"Oh, that!" he scoffed. "No problema."
"Didn't you hear me calling you on the VHF?"
"Nope. I must've had the volume turned down."
"So how did you know you were about to go aground?"
"I heard the surf."
"Were you taking a nap?" Ruth asked.
Jasmine threw back her head and roared with laughter. "You might call it that."

Seven months later, at the club Christmas party, we noticed that Hank and Jasmine weren't there.
"Sue," I asked, "where's the happy couple?"
"They're no longer a couple, and Dad's not so happy. I don't know about Jasmine."
"She's flown the coop. Cleaned out the money market account and took off with ninety-three thousand bucks. I tried to warn Dad, but you know..."
"I'm sorry," Ruth said. "You saw right through her from the start. How's Hank holding up?"
"I saw him yesterday. He's okay. He's living on the boat. It's about all he's got left. He changed the name, of course."
"To what?"
"Old Fool."
Sailing Stories, Ed Jones

Just read your stories, As an avid reader I found them very entertaining.
You have the knack, write a book, I'll buy the first one !!
Bill Taylor
The day I quit sailing for the first time.

I decided it was time for me to ride my harley less, and take up something that had always intrigued me, sailing. I had encountered a few close calls riding my bike and getting off the road and into the gravel(missing turns) but luckily I was able to make it back onto the pavement in one piece. Sailing had to be safer, and I was sure it would be challenging as well.

Like all my other recent mid life purchases, I hit the ebay pages and was determined to find a beginners sailboat that I could teach myself to sail with the help of some "how to" books purchased from Borders and whatever else I could find on the net. I settled on a roto molded sailboat called a Rhumba manufactured by Escape. It was 13 feet long and 150 lbs so I figured it to be a practical practice boat.

We have a small lake here in the cental valley called Rancho Seco. It is 16 miles from my home and is home to wind surfers, bass fisherman and sailors. It is known for its afternoon breezes and I was anxious to learn to sail on this lake.

I sailed maybe five times on the lake, getting a feel for the boat and practicing my figure eights, tacking and jibing. I got out of control a few times and tipped over, and was getting pretty good at flipping the boat back up and climbing in. Since the boat is so light, I couldn't make a complete tack as it would come to a stop before tacking. It only has a main sail, so I figured that is because it needs a jib to tack or more wind to have more speed going into the tack. Since there was no place to put a jib, I decided to go for the more wind option.

Close to me is an area of the delta where it is known for its winds. In fact, maybe ten years earlier I went sailing there with a stock broker and my only memory was how we spent the day mostly trying to flip the hobie cat back over after constantly turtling. I figured that he must not have been as savvy as me, and felt pretty confident that all I needed was more wind to have a good time.

I drove over to Rio Vista, and was ready to put all my skills to the test. The wind was blowing steady and I was getting excited about "planing" and zipping along out there. I was even thinking how nice it was that there were no other boats out there to contend with. As I was rigging the boat up, some local kid on a bike came up and said "looks pretty rough out there mister." I thought to myself, "shut up little kid, what do you know?" The boat ramp is in a sheltered area, but only a few yards out you begin to enjoy the wind. Some woman was standing nearby and gave me a little wave, I gave her a salute.

Well, the wind had increased dramatically from when I first arrived, and I don't know how strong it was but the three foot white capped waves told me this wasn't going to be a smooth relaxing ride. The boatramp is on the windward side of a very wide area of the Sacramento River, where it eventually flows into the Pacific Ocean. I was in trouble right from the go. The wind caught the sail and I was heading down stream and the jolting from the waves was making it tough just to stay on the boat. I was having second thoughts about the whole idea and decided I was getting too far from the dock and better just circle around and head back. After negotiating a turn and taking on half a boat full of water, an accidental jibe flipped me over. I calmly rotated the boat into the wind, climbed back in, and now was convinced I better just head back to the dock and re think all of this.

Heading down wind back to the dock, I flipped over again and when I got my bearings straight, I was horrified to see that the boat was on its side and wind was pushing it away from me. I didn't hang on the the main sheet when I went over and now the boat was about six feet away from me. I just started swimming(yes, I did have a life jacket on thank god) and soon I realized that the boat was drifting away faster than I could swim. I made one more effort with all I had, and even considered taking off the life jacket to swim faster, but I could not catch the boat. I looked around, and there was not a boat in sight. The waves were making it difficult to see, and I was being blown across the water that is probably three miles wide. I kept hoping the boat would turtle and stop, but it stayed on its side and kept increasing its distance from me. The water wasn't real cold, but I had already used alot of energy chasing the boat and I decided to take it easy and just try to make it across and then hopefully someone would help me gather the boat from the rocks and take me across the bridge back to the windward side. I was already humiliated to think of what I had done.

The boat and I kept drifting, and then I noticed that it had stopped and I was gaining on it. Appearantly the mast got tangled on something under water and had stopped its drift. When I arrived at the boat, I tried to free it and then decided to start unhooking some of the rigging and just try to get it free.
This boat uses a "smart rig" system where the boom is seperate from the mast and the boom had come out of the boat the sail was tangled and so on.

Finally a fishing boat came by to help, but he couldn't even control his boat and had to give up the idea. Then, shortly after, a ski boat showed up and offered to help. We hooked up a ski line and pulled the sailboat free and back toward the middle away from the rocks and pilings. I managed to flip it over but it immediately flipped over when the wind caught it. The ski boat said he could haul me back across but could not get too close to shore as the docking area was too small and rough for his boat. He pulled me into his boat to discuss what to do and at that point I was at a total loss for ideas. The wind kept pushing us toward the rocks on the that shore, and he was worried about his brand new boat and I already felt terrible that he had to help.

A minute or so later, the coast guard showed up and they offered to tow me back upside down to the coast guard dock and we could decide what to do when we got there. I jumped in and hooked the coast guard rope to the front of the boat and they began to tow it back across the channel. Somehow the positioning of both boats got out of whack and the coast guard had to simply cut the skier's brand new ski rope off the boat to prevent more problems. I felt terrible and the guy simply tossed my shoes to me and I could only get to one and the other floated away.

I slid into the coast guard boat like a dead whale, and they began slowly towing my sailboat carcass across the white caps back to the coast guard dock. While we were on board they were taking my name and address and such, I thought they were going to send me a bill or something. They made me feel a little better as they said they rescue someone almost every day out there. The currents, wind, and waves make for treacherous boating. When we got to the coast guard dock, I continued to disconnect the rigging and we disassembled the boat and brought it on the dock in pieces. The mast was bent from the towing upside down. (I get alot of comments about the "swept back look" now when I am back at Rancho Seco.)

They carried the boat parts back to the public dock and I loaded the boat and headed home, making the decision that would be music to my wife's ears. She was glad I was alive, and glad to hear I had listed the boat on Ebay. I put all my sailing books away and decided to end the sailing stage of my life.

Well, the boat didn't sell, and after a week of re-living the experience and re-thinking and re-evaluating myself, I decided to go back to basics, and....
buy a boat with a Jib sail if I wanted to tack.

So, I found my 14.2 in San Jose and went back to Rancho Seco Lake. Unfortunately, that brings me to a new chapter which I will post in awhile.

Ed Jones

Secretary/Vice Commodore
Thread starter #9
Sailing Story - Fear of Lightning

Thanks for the story, Bob. It sounds like a real learning experience. Here's another one of mine. - Ed Jones

Fear of Lightning

Each lightning bolt seemed closer than the last. “Keep your hand off that shroud,� I told my crew, shouting to be heard over the wind and the driving rain. “If it hits the mast it’ll run down the rigging.� I was only a kid, and in deep trouble. I knew there had been a chance of a storm, but nothing like this...
* * *
By the time I was fifteen, in 1950, I’d done a fair amount of dinghy sailing, enough to make me confident I could handle the frequent summer thunderstorms that arose on our home waters, Lake Murray, in central South Carolina. A bit too confident, as it turned out.
The trouble all started when one of the neighbors across our cove, Bob Wilson, called me one summer day. “Ed, I hear you’re a pretty good sailor.�
“Well, I’ve been sailing since I was a little kid.�
“Yeah, I’ve seen you out in that Snipe of yours lots of times. Listen, I’ve bought an old Lightning. It’s up at Harden’s Landing and I need to sail it home. But I’ve only sailed once or twice in my life, and I need somebody experienced to go with me. Would you be willing?�
Two days later Bob’s wife drove us the ten miles to Harden’s Landing and dropped us off, along with a lunch she’d packed in a cooler.
I looked over the Lightning. There was no trailer, and she sat at the dock. The bottom looked fairly clean, the big advantage of keeping a boat in fresh water. But the rigging looked tired, and the cotton sails were limp and mildewed. A pair of faded life jackets with frayed straps lay in the cuddy, along with a couple of paddles and a bucket. Not too promising. At eighteen feet, it would be the biggest boat I’d sailed.
“I got it real cheap,� Bob said. “When I get it home I’m going to fix it up, paint it, and maybe get new sails. But first we have to get it there.� While I made my inspection he was busy pumping out the bilge with a cheap little pump. “As you can see, it leaks a bit. Something else I’ll have to work on.�
I examined the sky. It was ten in the morning, and a few cumulus clouds already dotted the horizon. A light breeze ruffled the water. “Let’s get going,� I said. “I want to get home quick, in case a thunderstorm comes up.�
The rig was pretty simple, and there was only the main and jib, so it didn’t take long for us to get the sails up and shove off. I steered while he dug into the lunch. Well, the beer part of the lunch.
He handed me a Coke. “You don’t drink beer, do you?�
“No, sir.�
“Well, if you decide you want one there’s more in the cooler,� he said. “Gonna be a hot one.�
I hoped he wouldn’t drink too much. If the weather turned bad I’d need a sober crew person.
The sails were totally blown out, but we were beam-reaching, so it didn’t matter. And once we had cleared a long peninsular we could turn downwind for the final leg to home.
By eleven o’clock I was hungry, and ate a sandwich and had a second Coke. Bob was on his fourth beer by then. Surprisingly, there seemed to be a lot of water in the bilge already, so I put him to work pumping the bilge again. Better than sitting there drinking, I figured.
What worried me most were the clouds to windward. They were boiling up into the hot, hazy sky, growing fast and reaching for the stratosphere.
I pointed at the clouds. “We might have a problem.�
Bob’s head swiveled. “Where did those come from?�
“They’ve been growing for the last hour. I think maybe we better put on those life jackets.�
He looked startled. A husky man, his eyes usually had kind of a sleepy, half-closed look. But now they were wide open. He sat down the beer can, fumbled around under the cuddy, and pulled out the life jackets. Mine had no buckles, so I just tied the straps. One side of the jacket was split, and the ancient kapok stuffing was poking out. Great.
The wind started to build, and it was shifting ahead of us. We were still on starboard tack. I sheeted in, but the ancient sails were so blown out I knew going to weather would be a challenge. But the point we had to round was only a mile ahead, and I figured we could lay it.
A sudden puff caught us, heeling the boat sharply, and Bob yelped as he hiked out, one hand gripping the weather shroud. I couldn’t help grinning. “Hang on!� I shouted. “This could get interesting.�
But before we’d gone another half-mile the wind was up to about fifteen knots, the sails were luffing wildly, and I knew we hadn’t a chance to clear the point, not with those sails. Should I tack?
I looked at Bob, who was hanging on with both hands by now. I decided trying to beat to weather was hopeless as I had no confidence he could handle the jib sheets in those conditions. “Bob,� I shouted over the rising wind, “we’ve gotta run downwind. We can’t clear the point.�
Bob nodded, now looking scared. “Where will we go?�
“We’ll run down to George Sumner’s cove. It’s pretty sheltered, and he has a mooring we can tie off on.�
“Whatever you say.�
I turned downwind and eased the sails. If I’d had an experienced crew I would’ve dropped the main and run with just the jib, but I was afraid Bob would be unable to get down the big main and tie it off. Oh, well, we were off the wind, so it didn’t matter. We’d just go all the faster.
I looked back. The sky was black, and the water was covered with whitecaps. A curtain of rain was sweeping down toward us, fast. “We’re gonna get wet...�
Just then a massive bolt of lightning lit up the sky, followed a couple of seconds later by a huge thunderclap.
“Oh, my God,� Bob muttered. “That mast is like a big lightning rod.�
I didn’t want to think about it. I had my hands full, trying to spot the entrance to George’s cove about three miles downwind. I figured it would take about half an hour. More than ever, I wished we were carrying just the jib, but trying to drop the main now was out of the question. I wondered if Bob would be okay if we went over. I had no idea of how good a swimmer he was. At least it would sober him up...
Another lightning bolt, this one closer, struck just as the rain hit us, a cold, blinding downpour that soaked us instantly. Now I would have to guess which way to steer for the cove. No compass, of course. I told Bob not to touch the rigging.
We raced on, my mind racing as well. I decided to edge closer to the shore, and follow it until it opened up into the cove. I steered more to starboard until I heard what sounded like surf breaking to my right.
There were several inches of water in the bilge, some from the leaking hull, some from the rain, making it harder to steer as it sloshed around. The Lightning was wallowing in the swells, the bow dipping as the waves lifted our stern and the bilge water rushed forward. I was worried about losing control if the bow buried itself.
Bob got out the little pump and went to work, but he couldn’t even keep up. “Use the bucket!� I yelled. He nodded and dragged the bucket out of the cuddy, but his bailing was slow and not very useful. I began to wonder if that old life jacket would keep me afloat.
Time dragged, and I was getting tired from wrestling with the tiller, trying to keep the water-logged boat on course. Suddenly, a break in the rain gave me a momentary view and I saw the cove opening to starboard. But now I would have to harden up to a beam reach to get in.
“Get ready to hike out,� I yelled as I sheeted in the main, letting the jib flog.
Bob scrambled out onto the rail as the old Lightning heeled over. The weather helm was fierce and I had to pull with all my strength to hold my heading. Then, to my relief, we finally reached inside the cove where the water was flat. But now the rain was back, and it was hard to spot the mooring.
Bob came off the rail and laid on the foredeck, mooring line in hand. “I see it!� he called out. “Dead ahead!�
“I’m gonna luff up to it. Don’t miss it! I don’t want to have to make a second pass!�
To my amazement, he crawled forward, reached out, grabbed the buoy on the first try, and whipped a loop of the line through a ring welded to the top. Moments later, we were secure. Wet, cold, and miserable, we somehow managed to squeeze into the cuddy where we laid waiting for the rain to stop.
But just a few minutes later I heard a familiar voice. “Hey, boys, could ye use a spot of hot coffee?� It was George Sumner, the old Scot who was also my boss. He owned a woolen mill where I worked after school as a quality control assistant.
I crawled back into the cockpit and peered out. George was alongside in a dinghy. “Climb in, lad, you and your mate.�
George, a real tough guy in the style of Hemingway, had rowed against a stiff wind to the mooring. He wasn’t even breathing hard. I wasn’t surprised. After all, George had survived being sunk by a German U-boat in World War I and little things like thunderstorms were nothing to him. We tumbled aboard and ten minutes later we sat in his snug kitchen, drinking hot coffee.
“I saw ye lads reaching in. And I said to myself that boy at the helm looks a lot like me Eddie. And sure enough it was.� He clapped a heavy hand on my shoulder. “Good work, lad.�
I felt myself swell with pride. “Could I have some more coffee?�
“Sure. Cream and sugar?�
“Nope. Just black.�

Ed Jones

Secretary/Vice Commodore
Thread starter #10
The Death of the Fantome

The Death of the Fantome

By: Ed Jones

In October 1998, Mitch, a monster hurricane, roared through the Caribbean with winds up to 178 mph, the fifth most powerful Atlantic storm ever recorded. Among its victims was the 282’ steel-hulled Windjammer cruise ship Fantome, which went down with the loss of all 31 crew members.
I had a personal interest in the Fantome, as my wife Ruth and I had sailed aboard her just one year previously. We had the pleasure of making many friends on the crew and we were grieved by their loss.
We had arrived at Belize City a few days before sailing, along with my daughter Lynn and her husband, Dale. After touring several Mayan ruins we boarded the Fantome for a week-long cruise along the barrier reef just off Belize. Each day brought a different island and another chance for some fabulous snorkling.
One day was spent anchored off a tiny village on the Honduras coast. That evening our crew set up a buffet dinner ashore. After dinner a salsa band emerged, seemingly right out of the jungle. The music was loud, hot, and incredible fun. Everyone danced for hours, passengers, crew, and the entire population of the village. One of the best parties of my life.
Life aboard a Windjammer cruise isn’t anything like Holland America. Informal doesn’t begin to describe it. For example, no shoes are allowed while aboard. Shorts and T-shirts are fine for all meals, and formal dinners are unthinkable. The cabins are tiny, reminding me of the old joke about a room being so small “I had to go outside to change my mind.� And the passengers are encouraged to help raise the sails, a big job requiring lots of hands. At each day’s sailing, a traditional bagpipe rendering of “Amazing Grace� was played as the sails were hoisted.
I remember one night at dinner in the great cabin that spanned the entire stern. I remarked to my tablemates that the large windows along each side and across the stern could be vulnerable if the ship was running downwind in large breaking seas. More on this later...
A year later came the big El Nino year. Remember? It spawned several big hurricanes, including Mitch, which devasted Honduras as it crossed Central America. As Mitch approached on Saturday, Oct. 24, the Fantome was boarding 100 passengers at Oman, Honduras for a weeks cruise of the islands. That night, while under way, a decision was made to proceed in the hope that the storm, still 1000 miles away, would pass to the north.
But at around 6 a.m. on Sunday, bad news came along with the passengers’ Bloody Marys. Captain Guyan March, only 32, but an experienced skipper, announced they were making a sprint to Belize City where the passengers and “nonessential� crew members would be put ashore. It would take all day, a hard beat in heavy rain.
The passengers and about ten crewmembers left the ship at Belize, leaving a crew of 31 aboard. One passenger noted that as they were boarding the launches, the crew was busy, “preparing to do battle, going through the rigging, securing gear, literally battening down the hatches.�
Some notes on the Fantome, French for “Ghost.� It was built for the Duke of Westminister in 1927. The Windjammer line bought it in 1969 and gave it a $6 million overhaul, giving it four steel masts. It was a strong, solid vessel, but lacked water-tight bulkheads. If any part of the structure failed...well, you get my drift. Think “Titantic.�
By now the hurricane was drifting erratically northwestward, blowing at 127 mph, a strong Category 3. Windjammer owner Michael Burke agonized by satellite phone with his skipper. “Our intentions were to go north past Cancun and Cozumel to get out of the area and avoid the storm,� Burke later said. “This was really our only choice at the time, since the land locked us in on two sides, with the Yucatan peninsula to the west and Honduras to the south.�
By 3 pm Monday, the Fantome was under way, plowing past the Barrier Reef, headed north. If all went well, the Fantome would wait out Mitch in the peaceful western Gulf of Mexico.
But within hours, “the idea of running north was no longer a safe option,� Burke said. Even under full sail, the Fantome could do no better than 9 mph. Burke and March feared the storm might catch the ship before it cleared Yucatan. Mitch was now blowing at monster strength--178 mph. It was slowly bending northwest, as predicted. So March turned south. But forecasters warned that the “steering currents� were weak, and anything could happen.
On Tuesday, anything happened. The National Hurricane Center computer models kept forecasting Mitch to move northwest toward Belize and the Yucatan. But it stalled off the coast of Honduras. The forecasters stuck to past history and predicted it would eventually drift northwest, then north.
Aboard the Fantome, March was making for the lee side of Roatan Island, which lies east to west, parallel to the Honduras coast, between the ship and storm. Hopefully this would shelter Fantome from the counter-clockwise circulation around the eye of the hurricane.
But around noon, with forecasters still predicting a north-west movement, Mitch turned south, churning directly toward Roatan. “Fantome’s shelter suddenly looked like ground zero,� as later reported by the Miami Herald.
The corner formed by the coastlines of Honduras and Yucatan now formed a deathtrap. March decided to make desperate run for it--heading downwind to the east and the open Caribbean. But Mitch kept coming south, trapping Fantome between the coastline and the winds screaming around the eye.
Around 4:30 p.m., the Fantome had moved east of Roatan Island, about 40 miles south of Mitch’s 155 mph eyewall. March told Burke he was fighting a 100-mph gale and 40 foot waves. Then the Fantome apparently lost its satellite antenna. No more signals were detected on any frequency.
One can only speculate what happened next. Burke may have chosen to carry only a small headsail, or perhaps run under bare poles. The steel ship, without water-tight bulkheads, meant that should it founder, it could sink almost instantly. Its bow may have plunged into a wave, wiping out the bridge and flooding the forward sections. Or a following sea could have smashed the large stern windows, allowing tons of water to flood the stern section. Or it could have simply broached.
If the Fantome crested a large wave and dropped bow-first into the trough, it might have pitch-poled, flipping end over end. Or the hull may have broken up under the beating handed out by monster waves cresting over it. Fantome could have snapped in half, sinking in waters 1,100 to 1,400 feet deep. All speculation.
On the fifth day of an intense search, the crew of a helicopter from the British frigate HMS Sheffield, spotted debris off eastern Honduras. Eight life vests, two life rafts, stenciled “S/V Fantome.� No sign of survivors.
Now she was truly a ghost ship.

Postscript: Hurricane Mitch continued on over Honduras, wreaking devastion and many deaths on that small country. Belize City, once forecast to be hit head-on, was spared any serious damage. Indeed, if the crew had simply left Fantome anchored unmanned off Belize City behind the barrier reef both crew and ship would be sailing to this day.

(Thanks to the Miami Herald, an invaluable reference source.)
The second time I almost quit sailing.

I found my capri 14.2 in San Jose, where I grew up. I now live near Sacramento, Ca. and like to practice on Rancho Seco Lake.

I was determined to have fun sailing, and real anxious to try out the capri, with its jib up front. I thought it would be a good idea to go out on a calm day to practice rigging, and hopefully do some very tame sailing.

I read and re read as many posts on this website, and felt as confident as I could that I would have an uneventful outing. I was confident sailing by myself, and didn't want any company in case I embarrased myself again.

Rigging, launching and take off went quite well. The boat sits up in the water and is so much more comfortable than the Roto molded sail/kayak I had learned and nearly drowned on. There was barely any wind, but I quietly navigated out to the middle of the lake, where the wind decided to take a break. I was in heaven, sitting there working on my tan and enjoying the solitude. I was thinking to myself and remembering my commitment not to tip the boat over or go beyond my skills the first time out. I had my lifejacket on, but not tied as there was no possible way I would end up in the water today. I had read about the importance of keeping the boat from turtling should it go over, and felt confident about all that. I just leaned back and sat there enjoying the quiet, waiting for the wind to show up.

And, you guessed it..... I leaned back, and the boat simply kept going back. I was like a bad dream, like slow motion. I was in the water and all my lunch and goodies were getting wet. The boat was on its side for about five seconds and then over it went, turtle city. I was so confused, and flabbergasted. I gathered the personal effects, and tried to stuff them in the cuddy. I pulled myself up by grabbing the centerboard, and try as I might I couldn't get the boat to roll over. I couldn't even get it on its side. I tried everything I could think of, and just got exhausted trying. I slid off the boat and went underneath and got the little portable oar. I used that and the backstroke to try to pull the boat toward the shore. I was making progress, but painfully slow and I had maybe an hour of daylite left. I was desperate.

I thought maybe by disconnecting the shrouds, I could get the mast to rise up toward the rear of the boat and then I could pull it faster. I disconnected the front stay, with the furling jib and was trying to get the mast to come up and toward the rear. I hooked a bungee cord onto the upside down rudder and was pulling on something when I heard a noise and saw my rudder come lose and start sinking. Before I could get there it was out of site. Great, upside down boat, no rudder, I love this past time.

I climbed on top of the turtled boat, and began rowing with a three foot oar alternating sides and trying to get to shore. There was still not a hint of wind. There was no one to help me, until I got about a hundred yards from shore. There were some people camping that went and got some rope and one of them swam out to meet me and attach the rope. The others pulled and we eventually got the boat into shallow water where I could disconnect the rest of the rigging and set it aside. Unbelievably, the bungee was still connected to my rudder, and it was covered with "seaweed" but still intact.
With the help of the campers, we flipped the boat over, and I put it back together and tried to sail it over to the boat ramp where my truck was. I noticed that when I was in the rear of the boat, there was water entering in the holes in the transom, and thought that was pretty odd. I figured somehow some water got inside the boat, and that is why it was so hard to row. About an hour of rowing and I was back at the car, and shortly after that, had the boat on the trailer. I unscrewed the plug and water came gushing out of the boat. Gallons upon gallons.

Even when I got home I tilted the trailer up and maybe twenty more gallons came out.

I was really tired and disappointed with the whole experience. I figured I had bought a boat that leaked and felt cheated, tired and frustrated. I won't bore you with all the follow up and guess as to what happened. Appearantly I did a visual check of the plug, but not a tightness check. The former owner told me he leaves it a little loose and my failure to double check that before launching caused the whole mess.

It is really hard to admit how much drama one can get into over simply not checking one little item before launching. I hope that my story can prevent someone else from a much more serious consequence to not paying attention to the little things. And.... since these two events I have been able to enjoy my capri without getting wet. PS. I have the rope ladder and hobie float on my mast just in case.
Sailing can be fun but not this day.

Hi All,

I decided to take a camping/sailing trip with my little Hobie monocat up on top of my VW bug the summer before starting college in 1973. It was my first sailboat and I wanted to have a little fun with it so I drove up to Panguitch lake in Southern Utah where you could camp on the shore and launching from the marina was free.

I didn't see another sailboat on this roughly one mile across lake so I had the whole thing to myself. The gentle breeze was blowing at a nice right angle to the dock so I had no trouble launching out into the middle of the lake. Things went just fine for about a half an hour until the wind took a dramatic ninety degree shift blowing straight away from the marina and toward the far side of the lake.

Panguitch does not have much of a shore on the far side away from the dock. In fact, it was a sheer cliff with a jumble of rocks similar to sailing up to a jetty and I certainly didn't want to end up there so I immediately started tacking back toward the dock to get away from that dreadful lee shore. I got a couple of tacks in until the wind built up until it was actually blowing me back to a broad reach and then a run every time I'd try to come up to weather.

My last attempt to get close hauled blew me right over to a turtle in about one second! I sat on the boat momentarily looking down into the very clear water and seeing my mast and sail twenty feet down and very near some rocks on the bottom. When I looked up I realized for the first time that while I was concentrating on the getting back to the marina the wind had blown me all the way over to the rocky lee shore. Luckily the wind had shifted around a little and was now blowing very hard for the far eastern shore but at least that one was sandy. I righted the boat and started to climb back in when the sail went all the way out, caught the wind and left me there stranded in the water. Fortunately the boat headed up on its own and started luffing about forty feet away.

Even though it was June the water in Panguitch was still about forty degrees that year and it was quite a struggle to swim that far in water that cold. I barely made it over to the Hobie and grabbed the rudder when the boat took off again! I wasn't about to let go and have to remain in that frigid water so I hung on with everything I had and eventually was able to climb up into the boat over the transom. The wind was blowing so hard that all I could do was hang on and sit back as far as I could to keep the bow from digging into the water and somersaulting forward. I was told later that people from the shore could see a rooster tail shooting up behind about two boat lengths long. I rode that way for almost a mile until the shore rushed up at me and I was able to skid completely up onto the sand.

That was my only sail on Panguitch and I doubt I'll ever try that location again but at least it didn't diminish my love for sailing.

Ed Jones

Secretary/Vice Commodore
Thread starter #14
A Close Call

Great story, Jack. I'm glad you're still sailing. Here's another one of mine.
Ed Jones


It was July, 1975, and I was helping my uncle and his two sons move their boat, a Morgan 45, from St. Lauderdale to Chesapeake Bay. We were running offshore, about 100 miles east of Myrtle Beach, S.C., heading downwind, dodging one thunderstorm after another. The Wando Lady was carrying just a storm jib, the main securely lashed to the boom. Even with just the jib, we surfed down big rollers at hull speed. Uncle Bill wanted a fast passage, and he was getting it.
At three AM I was off-watch, trying to sleep in the forepeak, snuggled up between sailbags. It was the only place I could find to sleep where I wouldn't be rolled out of bed as the boat lurched drunkenly down the big swells. Only I wasn't getting much sleep.
I had just dozed off when I was awakened by Uncle Bill's voice. He stood in the companionway, reading the wind gauge, calling the numbers to his son, Mike, at the helm. The wind had risen as we skirted a storm. I could hear thunder over the sound of the water as it hissed by the hull.
"Thirty-five knots," Uncle Bill said, just before an especially loud crack was heard. I saw the flash of light through the plexiglass in the hatch overhead.
"That was a close one, Dad," Mike said.
"It's peaking to forty in the puffs."
I felt the boat heel sharply as the gusts roared by. Uncle Bill didn't have to say how fast the wind was. Simply put, it was blowing like hell.
"Dad," Mike said, "check out these lights. There's a ship coming up behind us."
A few minutes later, Uncle Bill came below and ordered myself and Bill, Jr. on deck. "Put on all your gear," he said. "Foulies, life jacket, harness, everything."
"You worried about that ship?"
When we stepped into the cockpit, I saw the bright lights of a ship about a half mile behind us, appearing and disappearing behind the giant waves astern. The two white range lights were centered precisely between the red and green running lights. In other words, the ship was headed directly for us. And fast.
With each flash of lightning, the seas rising behind us looked like mountains, breaking into white spume as the wind whipped off the tops. Like passing giants, they lifted our stern, then swept under us, raising our bow high into the dark sky. We didn't dare try to turn very far away from dead downwind, as we could easily broach in those following seas. With luck, the ship would see our lights and steer around us.
"What about their radar, Dad?" Mike asked. He was steering, working hard to keep the Wando Lady heading straight downwind.
"With these waves? Too much sea clutter. He'll never see us."
Uncle Bill, an engineer, was a expert on radar.
"Mike," I asked, "how much can you bear off?"
"I’m gonna try a few degrees to starboard and see what he does.�
"Can we call him on Channel 16?" I asked.
"Tried that. No response," Uncle Bill answered as another flash lit the sea. This one was inside a nearby cloud, illuminating it with a yellow-white glow, like a giant Japanese paper lantern. It gave us a momentary glimpse of the ship plowing at high speed, its bow rising, throwing off a puff of spray.
"I hope someone's standing watch," said Bill, Jr. "Maybe they’ll see us when the lightning flashes. God, I hope so."
"Turn on every light we have," Uncle Bill ordered.
On went our masthead light, spreader spotlights, even our cabin lights. We all took flashlights and waved them around. I aimed the biggest one at the storm jib, lighting it like a signboard. Uncle Bill even tried firing a couple of flares. Here we are. Please don't hit us.
We anxiously watched astern as the ship loomed even closer. Uncle Bill took another bearing on the ship. "Damn. Same relative bearing. It’s like when he turned he went right with us. I'll keep taking readings.�
"Okay, Dad. But if you don't see any drift at all, real soon, I'm going to chance a harder turn and pray we don’t broach."
As we waited, a sudden rain shower hit, stinging our faces as we stared aft. The ship disappeared from view as the rain became a downpour.
"Sonofabitch!" Bill, Jr. railed. "Now we can't see him any better than he can see us. How the hell will we know which way to turn?"
"Maybe the shower will be a short one," I said.
I was wrong. The blinding rain kept up for several long minutes, and Mike was ready to try a harder turn, gambling we wouldn't broach. The ship was close, that we knew. We could hear the deep thrum-thrum of its propellers. We stared aft, trying to give Mike a clue as to which way to dodge. Still nothing.
Then I looked off to starboard, and saw a glint of light. It was our running lights, reflected off the black, wet topsides of the ship.
"Hold your course, Mike," I gasped. "He's right next to us!"
"Hang on!" Uncle Bill yelled. "Here's his bow wave!"
The Wando Lady rolled hard to port. We hung on to the lifelines as Mike struggled to hold a steady heading. A moment later, we rolled again as the ship's propwash swept by, then the ship was past, its sternlight high above, rapidly pulling ahead.
"Close," Uncle Bill said grimly, "too damn close."
"But not as close, Dad," Bill Jr. laughed, the tension broken, "as some of those Nazis you used to dogfight." Uncle Bill had flown P-40s in North Africa.
"True. But they were trying to kill me. This jerk was just asleep at the switch. You know, I'm really annoyed."

Ed Jones

Secretary/Vice Commodore
Thread starter #15
Banana Fish

In 1965, I was living in Florida with my family, where we owned a Columbia 22. We kept the boat on the Banana River, a warm, shallow, salt water estuary a few miles south of Cape Canaveral, where I worked on the Apollo Program.
"These kids," my wife complained late one summer afternoon, "are driving me crazy!"
"Tell you what," I said, "why don't I take the three oldest on a sleep-out on the boat tonight? Give you a break."
"I'd love it. I can put David to bed early and have some peace and quiet. Thank you, thank you." David, my youngest was three. The others ranged from six to eleven.
Packing our sleeping bags, we headed out after dinner. There was a light, warm breeze and we sailed out into the wide estuary, reaching to the south, where there were some secluded coves, with no houses in sight. It was a dark night, lit only by a cresent moon and the glow of our running lights.
"Daddy," asked my six-year old, Susan, "why is this called the Banana River?"
"Because of the Banana Fish," I answered.
"What's a Banana Fish?"
"Well, they're yellow, like bananas, and they stay real close together, just like a bunch of bananas."
"Susan," interrupted Lynn, my oldest, "Daddy's making up one of his stories again. There's no such thing as Banana Fish."
"Daddy," Susan said. "That's not nice."
"Look, kids," I said, "at the water, see the sparklies?"
The dark water was alive with phosphoresence, lighting up like millions of fireflies as the tiny micro-organisms were disturbed by the ripples on the surface of the water.
"Oh, Daddy," Susan said, "we see that all the time, and you always say, 'Look at the sparklies'."
"Well, it's something really special. I never saw it before we moved to Florida. Isn't it beautiful?"
About ten, we ghosted with the dying breeze into a tiny cove, surrounded on three sides by salt grass and palmetto trees. I luffed the boat to a stop while Lynn went forward and let down the eight-pound Danforth. I dropped and furled the sails. It was dead quiet in the cove, with only the sound of small waves brushing the nearby beach.
Turning off the running lights, we sat and looked at the stars.
"There's the Scorpion," I said, pointing to the south. "See, there are his claws. And see how his body goes down, and then curls up into a forked tail. It's my favorite constellation."
"Mine, too," said Lynn.
"Daddy," came the voice of Ed, Jr., from below. "Come look! There's sparklies in the toilet."
We all went into the dark cabin, where Ed, Jr. was pumping water through the head. (This was before holding tanks, etc. It was a time of environmental innocence.) The salt water, as it was pumped through the toilet bowl, was full of phosphoresence and glowed with tiny flashes as the water swirled around. For fifteen minutes, we pumped and pumped, fascinated by the sight.
"Daddy," Lynn called from the cockpit, "come here!"
Rushing on deck, we all looked where she was pointing overboard. A large crab was crawling on the bottom, only five feet down, his body clearly outlined by the phosphoresence, like a ghostly x-ray.
As we watched, we suddenly heard a puff of air. I knew what it was. A porpoise had surfaced nearby and was blowing out air through his blowhole.
"Porpoise," I whispered. "Shh, don't say anything. Just look."
"There," Lynn whispered, pointing alongside. Only a few feet away, a porpoise swam next to our boat, his streamlined body marked by a gleaming path of sparkling water.
It was magic.
Come Sail Away

Living just a couple miles from Grapevine Lake in Texas gives me the opportunity to go sailing almost every weekend (if I can sneak away when my wife isn’t looking). Grapevine Lake is a great place to sail and there are almost always several sailboats plying the waters.

This past Labor Day our church planned a lake party at a park on the shore of the Lake. They started off with a pancake and egg breakfast and asked all those who had power boats to bring them. Since a sailboat is "wind powered" I figured that was close enough and I brought my boat along. While I was at it, I threw in my kayak thinking the kids would enjoy playing with it as well.

It was a beautiful warm sunny day and there was great turn out for the party. After breakfast they fired up the ski-boats and jet-skis and the fun began. I think sailing is fun also, but it is more of an esthetic Zen type fun. But in order to enjoy the fun you need two things: a sailboat and wind. I had the boat but the day lacked an abundance of wind.

As the morning wore on a gentle breeze kicked up so I launched my boat and sailed over to the beach where everyone was waiting for their turn to go out on one of the power boats. As I landed on the beach a bunch of Boy Scouts ran over and asked if they could have a ride (bless their little hearts). We had a nice sail out of the cove and back and forth a couple of times. Because the wind wasn't very strong the going was slow and the Scouts got bored pretty quickly. So we sailed back to shore and I took on a new load of passengers. I passed the morning in this rather pleasant way and was able to take several people sailing for the first time in their lives.

By midday the wind had died down and sailing was more like floating so I beached the boat and helped clean up as people were leaving. After everyone left I launched the boat and started the (very slow) trip back to the boat ramp. One of the men from our church came by on his jet-ski and offered to give me a tow. While I appreciated his offer, I consider it an insult to my nautical skills to condescend to being towed, so I told him no thanks and sailed on.

When I was a couple hundred yards from the ramp the wind died down completely and I was dead in the water. I had my kayak tied off the stern of the boat and I decided to use it to tow the boat to shore. I thought there was at least slightly more dignity to that than using a canoe paddle to finish the trip. So I hopped onto my kayak, tied it off to the bow of the sailboat, and started paddling to shore. Since I was alone and it was such a calm day I had been using my lifejacket as a seat cushion and I had my shirt off so I could enjoy the sun. What could go wrong on such a beautiful day?

Every time I took a stroke with the paddle I could feel a little tug at the back of the kayak and I soon fell into a smooth rhythm and was enjoying the juxtaposition and irony of the whole kayak-sailboat-no-wind thing. That's when I noticed the tugging had ceased. I turned and looked over my shoulder expecting to see that the boat had come untied. To my surprise I saw that the wind had picked up and my boat, under full sail, was rapidly bearing straight down on me and my little craft! Worse than that, without any weight as a counter balance, it was keeling over and very close to swamping. I had stupidly left the boat fully rigged and the lines and sails set to the same tack I was on when the wind died.

With no time to think, only react, I jumped off the kayak and made a dive for the boat. Well, you can't really jump and dive from a kayak in deep water. I missed the boat and it sailed on past me at a petty good clip—faster than it had sailed all morning with its skipper on board.

So, there I was, bobbing in the lake while my boat, with kayak attached, sailed away. I paused just long enough to remind myself what an idiot I was, and seeing no other option, started swimming as fast as I could after my quickly receding fleet. I'm a pretty good swimmer and not in too bad shape physically but despite my best efforts motivated by desperation, the speed of the boat still exceeded my progress through the water. With no better choice I kept up the chase anyway, hoping and praying I could somehow catch the boat. It wasn't until I stated to tire that it dawned on me that I had no lifejacket on and if I wasn't careful I could drown, leaving behind the mystery of a ghost ship and an empty kayak for people to puzzle over.

Thankfully, the Lord heard my prayers and, despite my stupidity, the wind stopped just as suddenly as it began, and the boat turned in a lazy circle and floated back to where I floated, panting and exhausted, in the water. I hauled myself back into the boat, said a prayer of thanks, and sailed the boat to shore.

I had been carefully following all the Boy Scouts' "Safety Afloat" rules all morning with other people’s kids, but in the short time and distance it took to sail from the beach to the boat ramp I had broken most of the rules and it easily could have cost me my life. “Who’d of thunk it?” Well, I’m glad I lived to tell the tale and I’d be happy to take you sailing anytime you are in the area. Bring you own lifejacket.
Remote sailing on the Great Lakes

The Irrational Exuberance of Owning a Sailboat Remotely

Hello. My name is Dale and I live in Texas (near Dallas) but own a 1966 Pearson Ariel located in Michigan.

I’m not rich, and I’m not nuts (I think).

This is my story.

Back in 1994 my brother (who lives in Arizona – near Phoenix) came up with the hair-brained idea to buy a friend’s boat located in my hometown of Marine City (located one hour north of Detroit, on the St. Clair River which separates the United States from Canada). Based solely on my brother’s expert, technical opinion (“it’s a good lookin’ boat”) and the Practical Sailor’s review of the Pearson Triton, I agreed to put up $2,500, sight unseen. He negotiated tough though, and got the boat “as is.” Normally that means use long dock lines when you launch. This way you can easily find the boat when it sinks to the bottom. But in this instance, it meant we got everything that was on the boat, or related to the boat, when they signed the deal. We got three complete sets of sails, spare blocks, engine parts, standing and running rigging, pot and pans, etc. You name it and we probably have two. What a wheeler-dealer! The friend was drooling over a 42’ Irwin and my brother knew it.

From there it went downhill. On his maiden voyage as captain they did an unplanned jibe and broke the boom gooseneck. On my maiden voyage as co-captain, my brother announced he really didn’t want to own the boat. On our maiden extended coastal cruise up the Lake Huron western shoreline, I spent the first week troubleshooting a problem with water in the oil. (Incorrectly installed O-rings on impeller drive shaft allowed water to enter the crankcase.)

I finally bought my brother out at the end of the 1995 season. It was a tough decision on whether to go it alone or just sell the boat. (The former owner was really interested in buying it back. He was having a lot of engine problems with his dream boat.) I knew there were going to be a lot of headaches to maintain a boat over 1,200 miles away. Chartering would be more expensive, but no headaches. But I knew if I didn’t own a boat, I wouldn’t make it a priority to get up to the Great Lakes to go sailing on a regular basis. Owning the boat “forces” me to go on an extended sailing cruise annually. Since then, I’ve managed to make my annual 3-week cruise most years.

To make a remote boat ownership work requires patience, compromise, organization, hard work, someone near your boat that you can rely on, and a supportive, understanding spouse. I maintain a long list of maintenance projects. At the beginning of the season, long before I head north, I review the list to prioritize first between tasks that can be completed before I arrive (i.e., buy a new compass), those that must be completed once I’m in Michigan and before launch (i.e., repair the mast step), and those tasks that can be completed once the boat is in the water (i.e., install lazy jacks). I’ve learnt to eliminate as much running around as possible. I try to stay focused on getting the maintenance tasks done, not run around getting the materials to do the task. The on-site tasks are further prioritized 1 through 5. Ones and two are not optional and must be completed before launch. Threes are on the cusp – either from the perspective of necessity or launch. Fours and fives are optional (and probably will never get done). How much I get done is determined by the fixed launch date. I also keep a list of new tasks for the following year. Since I sail for 3 weeks straight, I get a good perspective on what isn’t quite right.

Over the years the list has gotten better. I have little reminder tasks for pre-launch and for winterizing. One year I didn’t have the shroud on the correct side of the crane when we were stepping the mast; anther year, I forgot to add a fuel additive. You know the old saying: those that fail to learn from their mistakes are doomed to repeat them. I don’t have the time to screw something up twice.

But no matter what, I “learn something new” every season (i.e., something breaks). This last year, I learnt to religiously replace my fuel filters annually and add diesel fuel bacteria preventative at each fill-up. Another year, I learnt to remove the lifelines before covering the boat for winter so they don’t get stretched.

I’ve had many regrets over the years as the list of problems ebb and flow. (My only current regret is the boat is not – yet – rigged for single-handed sailing in rough weather.) But once the boat is out on Lake Huron, the wind is on my face, and all I hear is the hum of Too Contagious cutting through the waters headed for an unknown port, all I can think about are the opportunities.

Ed Jones

Secretary/Vice Commodore
Thread starter #19
We need more stories!

Hey, dudes, it's time for more submittals. Any scary stories about winter sailing? Like, "There I was, standing on the bottom of my Capri, watching ice floes drifting by..."

Send 'em in!

Ed Jones

Secretary/Vice Commodore
Thread starter #20
Red Boat, Blue Sky - By Ed Jones

Red Boat, Blue Sky

Summers in South Carolina can be unbearable, especially back before air-conditioning became commonplace. That’s why my family spent most of each summer at our lake cottage, and why I spent hours on, or in, the water.
One August morning the heat struck the cottage the instant the sun rose above the trees across our cove. A cool breeze ruffled off the lake, and I wanted to sail before it got too hot. My parents were asleep, so I slipped into the kitchen and had a quick bowl of cornflakes--a state of the art breakfast in 1948. Padding barefoot down the walk, wearing only swim trunks, I carried just the cotton sail for my boat, an eight-foot pram named simply Red Boat.
Modern parents would be aghast. Where's the sunscreen? And the life jacket? And wasn't I going to tell anyone where I would be? At age thirteen I sailed like a Polynesian youth headed out to fish the reef, innocent of any such concerns. Wooden boats don't sink, do they? So why worry?
Summer humidity in South Carolina is legendary, and daily thunderstorms routine on Lake Murray. While rigging the boat on the beach I looked at the sky. A few popcorn-like cumulus clouds were forming already. As I pushed the boat across the sand, a water moccasin emerged from under the dinghy and wiggled toward the shallows. I tossed a pebble at it and grinned as it hustled toward deep water.
Lake Murray is a large lake, shaped like a maple leaf, some thirty miles long. Developed in the middle of the Depression, few houses had been built on its shores by then. (Now it's wall-to-wall.)
The lake was empty as I glided though a light chop. A bobwhite called out his name as I cleared the point and entered open water. The far shore at that point was only four miles distant, and my plan was to reach across the lake and make it back before the weather turned bad.
The light breeze was steady as Red Boat’s bow-wave made a happy chuckling sound. I sat crosswise on the floorboards, back against the starboard side, feet propped up on the port gunwale. The sail was blinding white against the deep blue sky and my only worry was the growing number of cumulus clouds.
The far shore lured me on. It featured a deep bay, still devoid of civilization, surrounded by forested hills that dropped steeply toward the deep, calm water. The slopes were dark with pines, oaks, and hickories. A meadow on one shore was a favorite camping spot for my family. We sailed there each summer in a friend's old 18 foot sloop, Swan. I hoped to take just a peek into the narrow opening of the bay and then skeedadle.
But not today. As I neared the shore I could see the clouds growing like genies out of bottles. The closest one, just upwind, was the biggest, and it boiled rapidly upward toward the stratosphere. It looked like it was going to be a monster, and I hastily tacked and headed for home. I'd gone too far--there was no way I could outrun the gathering storm.
The cloud covered the sun and the warm breeze suddenly turned chilly. I looked back upwind and saw, beneath the jet-black underside of the cloud, a line of whitecaps headed toward me. Uh oh, here it comes. I had about three miles to go. It looked like forever.
A bolt of lightning lit the dark water, followed immediately by a sharp crack. I shivered, knowing how close it had struck. And my mast was sticking up like a lightning rod. Once our house got hit--the bolt blew out all the wiring and almost set the place on fire.
As the whitecaps approached Red Boat, I un-cleated the mainsheet, ready to ease it quickly. Then, with a roar, the first gust was on me as I sheeted out all the way, the manila line scorching my bare hand. The mainsail flogged as the boat heeled, the lee side dipping a few gallons before I got my weight onto the windward gunwale.
A hard rain came with the wind, stinging my bare back like needles, soaking me within moments. Now I wished I’d worn a jacket.
I tried sheeting in just a touch, and was thrilled as Red Boat suddenly accelerated. I was amazed that the ungainly little tub could go so fast--almost hydroplaning on a broad reach. With a mixture of terror and excitement, I pumped the sheet as the gusts blasted through, varying from luffing fully in the puffs to pulling in just enough to keep the craft racing toward home.
It was a wild ride. My arm ached and my bare hand blistered as I worked the sheet. Despite my best efforts I continually shipped water over the lee side. As I drew near to our cove, the boat was half-full of water--wallowing in the waves and hard to steer--but still moving fast. Curtains of rain made it hard to see the entrance to the cove.
Another lightning strike, even closer, made me instinctively sheet in more, trying to urge as much speed as possible. I started to shiver from the cold, forcing my hand to keep steady as I continually played the sail. At last, I blew past the point and was in our cove, riding the half-submerged boat like a cowboy. I felt triumphant as the beach neared, yanking up the centerboard and pulling off the rudder as Red Boat ground onto the sand.
I lowered the sail and turned the boat onto its side, dumping the water, and dragged it to safety. Wearily, and still shivering, I stumbled up the walk and onto our screen porch. I wondered if I would be in trouble with my parents for doing something so foolhardy.
My father sat there, drinking coffee. He tossed me a beach towel and said, "Dry off before you go in. Don't drip in the house."
I wrapped the towel around me and asked, "Did you see me sail in?"
"Yep. Looked like a real fun ride."
He didn't act like he'd been worried. Then I noticed the binoculars. They usually sat on the mantle, but today they were on the table beside him.
"Want some coffee?" he asked.
I was surprised, but pleased. I'd never drunk it before--not for kids, my mother would tell me.
"Sure, I'll take a cup."
"Cream and sugar?"
I stood tall, like a young Masai warrior after killing his first lion. "Nope, just black."