Saturday, September 22, 2012

Masters of the Potomac

I had a blast sailing with Ray and the crew of the STACY LYNN during the Masters of the Potomac regatta. I enjoyed getting to know the crew, the STACY LYNN, and the sport of racing better. 

Making ready

Our 55 km race began and ended at the Quantico Yacht Club. Winds gusting to 20 knots from the north pushed us south and we rode the ebbing tides out to seaward. At one point, we hit 7 knots of boat speed, which in a boat feels like flying. We thought maybe, if we timed it just right,  we could hit the turn-around point at Colonial Beach just as the tides reversed. We made the Nice Bridge (Route 301) in record time. 

Well, what actually happened was the favorable wind shifted, then died. By the time we finally hit the turn, we were sailing a broad reach up river, into still air. The current and the tide cancelled each other out. In slack water, we made slow progress in long tacks across the river, just as long as there was the slightest puff of air to shake the sails a bit.

And then of course, as it does every 6 hours or so around here, the tide turned again. Now the current and the tide were both pushing against us. In light air, we were fighting a losing battle with the elements. After passing the red buoy near Nice Bridge for the first time on our return trip, we saw it again as we slipped back south. Ray dropped anchor and we waited for the wind or the tide to change. 

And we got our hopes up a couple times, hauling anchor and passing that red buoy, only to get beat back again. What are you gonna do? We saw that buoy so  many times we named it Red Buddy. 

I'd rather be anchored off Red Buddy than stuck in an office somewhere. Now, that said, anchoring off Red Buddy begins to lose some of its charm after the 3d time... HA!

No matter. We had plenty of great food and drinks aboard for the 24 hour race. Peg's stew was superb. Naturally, I brought along a selection of craft-brewed beers, all prepared locally in places like "Port City" or bearing names like "Loose Cannon." Here is a recipe for the best espresso cookies ever. We were well-fed. Not only was the quality high and the quantity plentiful, but I noticed that Jay's brownies were individually wrapped. That kind of thoughtfulness takes care and class.


I am grateful that Mike was able to fend off the al-Quaeda S.E.A.L. that attempted to board the STACY LYNN just before she crossed the start line. We owe him. 


We are also indebted to Peg for spotting the UFO (Unidentified Flaming Object). You spared Ray from alien abduction, which in turn allowed him to win the Falling Star Tournament.


Falling Star Tournament (Unofficial) Results
  • Ray: 3
  • Jay: 2
  • Mike: 2 
  • Peg: 2
  • Dave: 1 (finally!) 

In my defense, the view of the sky is severely restricted while riding low side ballast. The fact that I was sleeping with my head tied to the mast did not help matters much, either. Do I get a PHRF Rating handicap of +1? That would move me from DFL into a 4-way tie for second. 

Speaking of placing, I am just glad that we managed to avoid the crab pots. Crab pots are everywhere in the Potomac, usually in about 30 feet of water. Sometimes, the channel is 100 feet deep, too deep for crab pots, and then all you have to look out for is the barges. But sometimes the channel flattens out, and crabbers roll out their pots, marked with little floats on lines that love to wrap themselves around a sailboat's keel. Sand bars, rocky shoals, and crab pots have hung up many a keel on the treacherous Potomac. 

For placing crab pots in the path of our competitor, causing them to become entangled and forcing them to start their engine to get free, and thus disqualify themselves, which in turn allowed us to move up in the standings, we offer to the watermen in question a tip of the Gill 136 Technical Sailing Cap. Race Commodore Ray keeps the trophy for the STACY LYNN, and for that, we thank you.

Our Skipper

Meanwhile we all keep the memories of camaraderie, shared hardship, challenges met, a splendidly colorful sunrise, and a full 24-hour day on the water.

Red sky in the morning, sailors take warning! 

Can we do this again next year?