Drama unfolds at sailing club's Spring Series | Along the Waterfront
By FRED HOEPPNER
Journal of the San Juans Columnist
April 28, 2010 · Updated 3:43 PM
The Spring Series. Ah!
What a gentle and sweet sounding title for a sailing regatta.
Not so for this year’s Friday Harbor Sailing Club’s annual event on Saturday and Sunday, April 24 and 25, with courses set off Mitchell Bay and the Haro Strait. Perhaps it was the weather forecast, or maybe it was scheduled just too far to travel for the Friday Harbor-bound sailors, as only six real sailors showed up.
As it turned out, however, Saturday’s gusting winds of 12-15 knots were about as good as can be expected around here. The racing was fairly straight forward. The drama occurred just north of the San Juan County Park, as the Sailing Club’s Co-Fleet Captain, a life-long fisherman and boater in the area, decided that he would copy the tactics of another local.
He claimed that he had seen this local skipper with a 6-foot draft pass inside a well known and obvious rock. However, his depth perception was faulty. To his dismay, his 4-foot keel caught the bottom on a lee shore. Immediate action was imperative as wind, current and wave action was driving him further onto the shoal. Fortunately, his immediate good seamanship enabled him to claw off and resume the race.
Sunday was an almost windless day as Principle Race Officer and Co-Fleet Captain Dennis Pratt called for a short race out to Open Bay and return. But, as usual, the soft winds and building flood swept most of the fleet up Mosquito Pass.
The next race was to be out to Kelp Reef Light and return.
The boats that crossed the starting line were promptly rewarded with a nice puff that left the rest of us just trying to get to the line. With winds of 2-5 knots, the fleet soon spread out and the two-knot flood took its toll. While veteran sailors took the rhumb-line course for the light, the junior sailor Kevin Lewis elected to take his borrowed Cal-20 south along the shore to Lime Kiln Light, then across the strait to Kelp Reef. We all watched his initial course to Lime Kiln with amusement and wonderment figuring that he had taken the wrong course.
To our chagrin, he rounded Kelp Reef Light while the rest of us were only about halfway across, pretty much dead in the water and being set to Stuart Island. He had just gotten squared away on the leg for the finish when BANG! went the standing backstay. He was dead in the water with the very real probability of losing the mast. His father in Liberty about two miles away heard his call and immediately dropped his sails and motored over to take Kevin in tow back to Mitchell Bay. At about this time, the time limit for the race expired and the race was cancelled.
On the bright side, Norris Palmer with wife Karen as crew sailing their newly acquired San Juan 23, Mistral, (with a fresh bottom scrub) handedly picked off two first places and a third. Bill VanSkyhawk in Scarlet DeHaro got a first and two seconds. Co-Fleet Captain Howard Lewis in Liberty got a third in the first race, and Staff Commodore John Manning in his newly acquired Cal-20, Belwehter placed third in race 1.