Wednesday August 21, 2013
Yes, I know I’ve basically been starting ever post for the past few days this way, but I was so excited to get back to Grand Rapids because that meant that I’d be able to attend a Wednesday JAM (jib and main) race at the Muskegon Yacht Club. For those of you that have been following along for awhile, you might remember that early last summer I joined a racing league (is that what they call it?) to get myself even more comfortable on boats and gain some knowledge along the way. One Wednesday night last May I showed up with nothing more than a request to join, and was randomly placed on a boat. Which happened to be, the best boat ever. Just because they were short on crew that night and didn’t mind taking on extra (and unexperienced) hands, I was allowed to join Team Island Dream, captained by Tom Spoelman. We came in third that night.
I kept coming back every Wednesday, and even though we may not have always been the fasted boat out there, in fact there was one time we got the DFL (dead f#@king last) award, but I think we definitely had the most fun out of everyone there. Some people in the crew were rotating, only there a couple times out of the summer, and others showed up every week, for the fun, the adventure, or maybe just the Lime-a-Ritas afterward (this is where I got hooked!). We had a great crew last year and it was highlight of my week, rushing out there after working and enjoying time on the water where, for once, I was not the one behind the wheel. Being rail meat was just fine by me and gave me a chance to watch knowledgeable people in action, picking up on their movements and asking questions without a look of ‘We’ve been sailing for three years, how do you not know this yet?’.
Not having to rush my way out to Muskegon this time since there was no time clock dictating my departure, I strolled into the marina with plenty of time on my hands before our six o’clock push off from the docks. I saw Tom and his wife Denise getting Island Dream prepped, and ran down to greet them, noticing that Tom was donned in his boat swag, just as I was. There were big hugs around, and as we sat there chatting for a minute, I was also able to meet one of Muskegon Yacht Club’s past commodore, Dave Ellens, who Tom turned on to the blog and has been following mine and Matt’s misadventures.
Catching up with Denise and Tom.
Meeting past MYC Commodore, Dave Ellens.
(Above photos courtesy of Team Island Dream)
The rest of the crew wasn’t far behind, and all but one were regular faces. I had Shannon to sit rail meat with me, Michael to work the spinnaker, Mark and Pete on the main, and John as our tactician. Before I knew it, we were swinging off the dock, with only one crew member left behind holding dock lines that we needed to swing back and pick up again. Once on the lake the sails were hoisted, and the light breeze that was blowing through at the dock was now strong and powerful out on the water. We weren’t in the first division to start that night, but I did have fun watching all of the ones that were, cross paths with each other while they tried to keep a spot close to the starting line, cutting in back and forth and sometimes missing each other by just a few feet. I don’t know why, call me psychotic, but watching the close calls have always been my favorite part of the race. I know that no one is going to crash (hopefully), but I always get a kick out of how far these well trained but sometimes cocky captains will go to keep their spot. (Yes, I would probably be one of them)
When it was our turn to start we didn’t even hear the horn go off, and it was a little bit of a mad scramble trying to get ourselves where we wanted to be. We must have been doing something right though, or at least the downwind part of the course is much shorter than I remember, because as we came up to the first buoy we joined in the funnel of boats trying to round it at the same time. If I thought I was seeing some close calls before, that was nothing. There were boats literally bumping off each other, and I think I may have seen a boat hook broken out to push away. Our rounding wasn’t quite that close, but we were still surrounded by boats on each side.
I can’t remember many more specifics about the remainder of the race, I think I was high on the feeling of being back out there, enjoying sailing in a way that you just don’t get while cruising. I know that each time we’d tack, I’d slide under the boom to take my place on the new high side. No small feat while you have an expensive camera in your hand that you’re trying not to damage, mind you. I also know there were plenty of chances I was able to hike myself out on the side, dangling my legs over the edge as splashes of water would occasionally toss up beside me. I remember that the trickling sun set the head sail ablaze in bright golds and oranges. I remember grasping that it already hurt inside to know I wouldn’t be out there again.
You know, all the important aspects of racing that one usually tends to go through. Luckily, since I can’t remember enough to put a thousand words down recounting our whole sail on the water, I can at least photo bomb you with the many photos I took throughout the race.
We may not have finished in the top three that night, but we also didn’t come in DFL either. In no rush to get back to the dock right away we celebrated our finish with cold beers, and yes, a Lime-a-Rita, before docking the boat and bringing the party into the Yacht Club.
(Above photo courtesy of Team Island Dream)
It’s funny to look back at what the past year has done for me, and put certain things into perspective. I remember all those times we sat at dock after a race last year where I’d count down the weeks until leaving Muskegon for the last time, excited to get out of a small lake and into vast oceans. Who knew that after wishing for so long to get away, I’d be counting down the weeks until I could return again.