Sunday, June 5, 2011

I swear I didn't pee my pants!

It's been a while since I have written a blog, been busy baking, making chocolate and sailing.  What did I do this weekend?  Raced with about 80 other boats in the Susan Hood Race 2011 been going every year since about 1955., the Coolest Race on the Lake.  The race this year was from Port Credit Yacht Club to a mark in Burlington, then over to the Niagara River and across the lake back to Port Credit.  About 120ish nautical miles, which is about 230 kms.  Not bad considering we were the smallest boat in the fleet and doing it double handed, me and my bud Kat.  The ground crew, the owner, aka my husband Paul, spent the week before getting the boat ready and all the safety gear stowed and some little upgrades and tweaking of the rig and all below decks sorted out.  

 So neat and tidy.

Sooo excited!

The race started at Port Credit Yacht Club, Friday June 3 at 8 pm.  There were about 80 boats on the start line.  The pictures don't do it justice but it's worth a gander:

The winds were amazing, except they were out of the west, coming directly from where we had to go...makes for a very long sail indeed.  However, it was fun seeing all the bow lights behind us and a few stern lights in front of us.  The stars were out and we were far enough from shore to be able to see their twinkling beauty.  Then, about 2 nautical miles from the weather mark, us and about 20 other boats were becalmed.  No wind.  This was about 3:30 am.  We had spent almost 8 hours going 20 nautical miles (NM).  We waited.  We bobbed.  We had a beer. We did a sail change hoping to catch any kind of breeze - nothing.  We decided to throw up the spinnaker, lost the topping lift for the spinnaker pole, jury rigged the topping lift and still nothing.  Finally about 4 am, we saw the mark and the breeze picked up.  I'm happy to report that although we were probably the smallest boat in the race, we can pick up speed quickly and leave the other monsters behind!  We had a Guinness for breakfast. Breakfast of champions.

See - we left them all behind

After our liquid breakfast of champions!

After rounding the mark we settled into a nice comfortable sail, doing on average 6 knots of speed.  The water was flat, the clouds helped with a beautiful sunrise and the wind was warm and in our favour.  We had about 30 nautical miles to go, me, Kat and Ashe.  

The wind died for a bit and we were able to catch up to another boat from our Yacht Club, Better Still.  We passed them, with big obnoxious smiles on our faces.  The clouds kept building and from about 7 am onwards there was lightning and thunder all around us and the coast guard was reporting Squalls on Eastern Lake Erie, pretty much heading towards us...YUP...towards us.  

"This is Prescot Coast Guard Radio, Mariners Please be Advised there is a Squall watch for Western Lake Ontario and a Squall warning for Eastern Lake Erie..."

About 10 NM from the Niagara Race Mark the coast guard was reporting a squall watch in our area.  There was an amazing front headed our  Kat flew up on deck and took down the headsail and bungied it down, not even 1 second after the headsail was on the deck the wind hit and we had a full main sail.   Then the wind picked the headsail off the deck and there it was, flogging itself in the wind (we now need a new one - something had to be sacrificed).  I don't remember the rain, waves or thunder and lightning but I will always remember the sound of the wind, hunkering down in the cockpit, dumping out the flares so we could choose our weapon of choice, loading the flare gun and having the bolt cutters ready at hand.  Yes the mast was swinging wildly over our heads.  Fortunately we know Ashe inside and out and were able to keep in control of our steerage, although we were sailing at over 8 knots dead into the wind.  There was so much tension on the forestay that the back stay was just hanging down like a limp spinnaker sheet in light wind.  My mantra during those 20 minutes - IT HAS TO BE OVER SOON - IT HAS TO BE OVER SOON - IT HAS TO BE OVER SOON!

Then - it was.

It poured, the waves weren't too bad and the wind had died down.  We regrouped, got the headsail tied back onto the foredeck, the main sail was bungied down and the boom was tied onto the deck.  I was worried about any damage done to the rigging so we called "THE OWNER" reporting in that we were okay, the mast was still standing but we were motoring home.  Our race in the Susan Hood was over for this year.

It probably took 4+ hours to motor home, we got lucky and had the waves and wind at our back and little Ashe surfed those rollers at over 8 knots all the way to home port.  We were happy to see LSYC mark #3!  We were happy to see Jim Lewis greet us at our slip with a big bottle of rum and we were happy to see The Owner arrive with dry clothes for us.

What an adventure.  Kat asked if we could try again next year - hell ya!  I would like to finish that damn race.  Thanks to Kat for here cool head,  Paul who keeps the boat in tiptop shape and everything working and of course kudos to our boat Ashe, EB Spars who designed the rigging and mast, The Store Masons Chandlery for making us our new side stays this spring and kudos to our sailmaker - Ron at Triton, the new mainsail saved our hides!  It takes a big team of talented professionals to keep sailors safe on the water and I don't think we thank them enough.  Cheers and now for another shot of rum!

 After the storm and 16 hours on the water...
 The GPS pointing our way home

It's a mess!

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