Well folks… after being a land lubber for the past 35 odd years, I have accepted a crew position beginning in the Spring onboard a Flying Scot at Monmouth Boat Club in Red Bank, NJ. My skipper is none other than the wonderful and talented Wendy Elovich.
Although this is NOT a picture of Wendy, or me… this is a photo of a Flying Scot in action. I will be the one in lime green, ready to do whatever the skipper asks. The smaller sail, the jib will be under my control, as well as the spinnaker (the bright-colored balloon sail to you non-sailors). Ahhh…. the salt water hitting me in the face, the smell of seaweed and algae, and pulling jelly fish off the lines. Goodie! I can’t wait!
My dad’s passion was sailing… and as his children we had no choice but to love it too. Growing up I just assumed every one knew how to sail. As an adult I now know that’s not the case.
During my marriage and raising my own brood… sailing wasn’t in our life. My husband wasn’t a fan, and therefore it was ‘off limits’. Occasionally my brother would invite us all down to the club for a ride on the Race Committee Boat… and I even worked with the Girl Scout’s and brought my troop down for a weekend of learning how to sail. But on a day-to-day basis sailing just didn’t exist.
In a brief moment of craziness I found myself crewing on the historic maiden race of the schooner Virginia in the Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race in October of 2005. Prepared to race for 2 to 3 days, the howling winds at 22 knots allowed us to finish in only 14 hours… all 127 nautical miles!!! To say it was the most thrilling adventure of my life just doesn’t say enough. The awesomeness of being onboard a great vessel, in the dark, in heavy winds is just too hard to put into words. The feeling of the large boat, creaking in the wind, water splashing against the sides, mates calling signals down the line to the captain because he can’t see where he’s going, is too difficult to convey.
At one point a hush fell over the crew as in the dark we felt the boat flatten out, the bow tip up slightly and the boat take off under us in a plane. THAT is the grand moment of sailing!!! THAT is what it’s all about!!! To think I experienced that moment frozen in time leaves me in awe still.
The wind direction swung around quickly, and our captain made the split-second decision to jibe… without calling down below. Our cook (ahem, chef) having never cooked onboard a moving vessel was down in a catch hole digging up supplies when the action took place… slamming him against a rail where he bruised a few ribs and cried out in pain.
Meanwhile the flames went out on the diesel fueled stove spewing heavy fumes and thick black smoke in the galley. The cook, screaming for help and directing someone… ANY ONE… to hit the emergency OFF switch woke me from my 4 hour rest shift. I was the only one who heard him. I choked back the smoke and through tear streaked eyes burning from the fumes, I fumbled around and located the switch.
Helping the cook to his bunk he continued to moan in pain and asked that I send word to the captain he needed to be airlifted off the ship. I explained that wasn’t going to happen. We were racing. Whatever and whoever was on board at the starting line, must also be onboard at the finish. Only a case of imminent death would require the captain to make the decision to airlift. Some tape tightly wrapped around his ribs and a bottle of whiskey held him to the finish a few hours later.
This race was newsworthy as it was the very first race for the new boat. Reporters were onboard sending detailed reports to their publications on every facet of the voyage. The gourmet food we ate, the comfortable accommodations, the experience of the crew… you name it no slight piece of information was left out. The Internet was abuzz with pictures. On my return home I printed out every word I could find, there was even a photo of me coiling line during the race… ME, A STAR!! Sadly those papers were destroyed in subsequent basement floods and moves.
At my age, most people consider retirement from the sport. Instead I’m running straight for the opportunity. I’m told it’s like riding a bike… you never really forget, and everything you ever learned comes back to you once you step onboard. Well… that’s what I’m hoping.
See you on the water!