Wednesday July 11, 2012
Cutting it close as alwasy due to the terrible traffic that I swear only gangs up on me Wednesday afternoons, I made it to Torresen’s with 15 minutes to change and walk over to the yacht club. Until I saw that both bathrooms were occupied and had to hurridly drive over to the other side to find open ones. Rushing to get to the docks I started to walk down and didn’t see the tan hull of Island Dream anywhere. Getting in panic mode that I had actually missed the boat for once I finally saw her at the far end of the last dock having been blocked by all the other boats until I was almost on top of her. Walking down the dock the opposite direction Tom greeted me, thanked me for the boat hook I deposited on his deck a few weeks ago during a drive by gifting and told me that the new crew shirts were in and I had one waiting for me on the boat. Yippie skippy!, I had been waiting for these since they were first mentioned at the beginning of the season. I had wanted a little momento to take with me, show my support for the team after I’d left, and show that I, Jessica Johnson, had been part of a crew. Stepping on deck I saw Shannon in her turquois polo and went down to grab mine. Pulling off my t-shirt (I did have a tank underneath, no strip shows here) I slid the polo on and went back above deck to hang with my crew.
It was a pretty crowded boat that night, all regulars except for one new face. Her name is Margie and she crewed with Tom last summer but had been in Africa until last week and resumed her sailing duties as soon as she got home. I think Tom must have mentioned me before I got there because she already knew who I was, that I was leaving in a few weeks, and joked that she would be my replacement. After stating that I should give her my crew shirt when I left (she hadn’t gotten one that night) I was releived to hear Tom say there were more at home because I was ready to go into a death grip to keep this thing. When Rob and Jules hopped on a few minutes later they changed into their new shirts and we had a fine looking crew. The women had solid color polos with Island Dream on the chest and the guys were a little more festive with button down Hawaiian-esqe shirts (all in the same color tone so it looked very good) with Island Dream on their chests as well. Besides the people on Chicken Poop (oops, sorry, Chicken Soup) we were the only boat out there in matching gear. Getting on the water with plenty of time before our division was to start we moved around the crew to keep four people on the foredeck while the remaining 7 were seated in the cockpit. Full crew tonight indeed!
We were in the last division to start that night and after we had all sails raised we tried to get ourselves in the best position for the start. Being in the last division to start gives all the boats in that division plenty of time to get on top of eachother and nearly hit. Assuming that all the helmsmen know what they’re doing and see all the boats around them I’ve actually started to enjoy this part the most. When I’m sitting up on the high side of the deck and out of nowhere a boat crosses in front of our bow with less than five feet to spare. Your heart starts racing as you did not see it coming and it’s kind of like a rollercoaster ride after you take that first plunge and your heart jumps into your throat but at the same time you still know you’re ok. When our horn sounded we were near the front of the pack with a few others very close on our tail. The upwind journey to the first marker near the dunes left us on a straight course for a very long time before eventually tacking as we had been getting great speed and there was no reason to change. When we did begin our tacks it took a littled bit of getting used to the cluster F of having so many people at the front of the boat changing sides. The first one we attempted I was ready to run in front of the mast as I always do but Rob advised a tuck & roll under the boom. I was a little afraid to go for it and while waiting for an opening I became tangled in the jib line and dragged back close to the cockpit. All was fine though, I sprang right back and dove over to the new side with a new war wound (huge bruise) on my back thigh that I was proud to show off.
While getting close to the first marker I was ready to hop down below deck and get ready to assist shoving out the kite when I found that position had alredy been taken. Sitting back on deck I just enjoyed the view while everyone else went to work on their tasks. We rounded the marker and raised the kite without problem but the downwind run caused us (and everyone else) to suddenly lose a lot of their speed. Shannon was placed against the boom to hold it out as far as possible but the rest of us just sat back and enjoyed the view. Since we were able to stay on a single course for the whole run I just absorbed the sights of the other racers, admiring the colorful spinnakers of the other boats around us and their skill of rounding the next marker and beginning their upwind journey. While sitting on the rail after we had started upwind once more Margie came to sit next to me and ask questions about my upcoming journey and tell me of her travels in Africa. It was reassuring to hear that leaving your regular life behind to experience something new is completely worth it and you can (mostly) pick up your life right where you left off.
Since winds were not extremely high and there were no issues of the spinnaker going in the water or someone getting hit in the head with the boom, the rest of the race was mostly a pleasure cruise. Since our upwind course off the wind was different from almost ever other boat based on the point of sail we could all get our best speed that night we spend most of our time by oursleves without the close call anticipation of ‘are we going to pass them?’. There was a bit of excitement in the last 10 minutes of the last leg where there was a mad rush of boats to the last marker located at the Northwest end of the lake. While off on our own we were closer North to the marker while the other remaining boats were all piled up on the West side. Then the race was to see if we could get West before they could get North, but sadly they were closer. As Island Dream rolled up to the finish us rail meat were now riding the low side trying to help gain as much speed as possible. We hung out the lifelines with our toes touching the water and the jib pinned against our back. Our finish horn sounded and we cheered, another race completed for Island Dream.
Instead of heading back to the docks to open the cooler it was immediately ajar and out came these monsterous 24oz cans of Lime-A-Rita. Three times larger than the normal 8oz size they come in (did you like my math there?). Everyone wanted on the Lime-A-Rita bandwagon but there were not enough to go around. That problem was quickly solved by emptying some water bottles on board and filling them with tequila flavored beer to pass around. The sails were still up but we were slowly ambling back toward the dock with no rush to get there as there was still light in the sky and it was a beautiful night. Just a few minutes into this pleasurable booze cruise I got a text from Matt that said he was locked out of the house and could I come home right away because no one else was going to be there for the rest of the night. Looking at the happy faces of everyone on board who probably used Wednesdays as their big socializing night with friends, there was no way I was going to ask to have the motor turned on to get me back to the dock as soon as possible. Matt had a vehicle and and iPhone, he’d be fine for a few hours. Once the motor finally was tunred on because we were nearing the mooring field there was a consensus going around that everyone needed to check out Serendipity. I pointed Tom towards our new spot out in BFE and everyone gathered on deck as we came closer. There were Ooooos and Aaaaaahs all around and she was given approval for me to be able to travel aboard. She was also given a Bud Light bath from everyone on ID as it is apparently good luck to spray beer on a departing boat (come on guys, no champagne?). When we finally tied off at the docks I couldn’t ignore Matt’s pleads any longer and had to say quick good-byes to be on my way. The good news is that there is still one more race next week with a going away celebration at the end. And since Matt will be right by my side we’ll be able to party until after the stars have come up.