Why would I ever tell this story...
Why would I ever tell this story...Report Abuse
Oh gads, I can’t believe I’m considering the telling of this story”… Why am I hove-to here at my keyboard thinking of this misadventure that my entire sail club knows only too well? And entertaining even an inkling that I might submit it for publication, is… well… beyond me. This is a tale that may best remain buried in the murky depths of memory bay. Yet here it is with renewed buoyancy, the words falling onto these pages like loose chain slipping through a hawser pipe.
This story, if it must be told, starts like many other good nautical tales, with a sailboat race. The annual regatta of the Rickey Point Sail Club on Lake Roosevelt, that is. Twas a midsummer’s day with the breeze blowing fair, a southerly had set up with 12 to 16 knots of wind pushing small wavelets before it. We had fifteen or so boats in the heat and everyone was pretty excited at the prospect of a good race. The course was a windward / leeward affair, four miles into the teeth of the wind, round the buoy at French Rock Islands and make a downhill run back north to fetch the club dock. I was particularly looking forward to this race in OSPREY, my Lyle Hess designed 27 footer, the largest and heaviest vessel in this make-up of the fleet. In previous races, with less wind, the smaller boats (San Juan 23s, Macgregor 26s, a Catalina 25 and the like) had all out run my heavier, deeper keeled vessel. This breeze held promise of a different outcome to the race. There’s the starting gun and we’re off! Fifteen sailing sloops jostling for position as we cross the starting line at the committee boat. The breeze had that tangy taste of increasing as OSPREY beat to the middle of the fleet. Some of the smaller vessels had tucked away a reef just in case. OSPREY, my boat, is in her element as I tack for the mid line of this 150 mile long lake to get the most undisturbed breeze. Close hauled, really rocking with occasional spray coming over the decks and hitting the dodger. Now this is sailing!
Okay, a bit of the truth must probably be told here. OSPREY’S crew are not racers; not in any serious sense of the word. She was carrying all her water and fuel. Her 24# storm anchor was still in the hold with her 18# lunch hook on the bow and several kedge anchors in the deck lockers. OSPREY was provisioned for extended weekend cruising and well; we hadn’t bothered to take anything off her as the plan was to head out for a few days after the race party & BBQ. By mid-lake the wind waves had grown to over three feet, OSPREY was heeled hard and really shouldering into the shallow troughs. It was a blast! Gaps had opened in the fleet and the vessels that had opted for our deeper-water-more-wind-larger-wave tack were all astern. Yep, things seemed well in the world except for a slight nagging feeling on the tiller that OSPREY wasn’t quite into her ‘sweet spot’. Now I’ve sailed this vessel for over 6,000 miles in all kinds of conditions. I’ve seen her scoop water into the foot of her genoa; bury her rails in gurgling foam, heck we’ve even been knocked down together in the Straits of Juan de Fuca. I’ve always said, “She sails better than her skipper does.” But something was not quite in the groove here. By the time we had tacked off the four miles and reached the buoy almost all the little water skimmer boats had caught up with and passed us. Yeah, the wind had gone a bit fluky, big gusts and short lulls and I still couldn’t find her groove.
“That’s okay,” I told Catherine, my sometimes sailing partner (now first mate) “we’ll pop the chute on the downwind run and that’s her fastest means of sail.” And “pop” the chute we did; from it’s head down to it’s mid belly. We ripped a $390 hole in that red, black and yellow beauty as the fleet left us behind. I was fighting off a case of the growlies when we finally fetched the point into the protected bay of the club dock. All the smaller vessels and their crews were rafted up at the dock and I could see the bright plastic cups holding prized, local brewed Lost Falls Ale, which I so desperately needed to soothe my aching ego. We were within 50’ of sailing to the dock and in easy hail of the group when all of a sudden OSPREY lost all her steerage.
“What the *%$@#?” I thought as visions of a slow-motion ramming right into the middle of the fleet raced into my mind; then we stopped. Just stopped. All sails flapping and we’re halted dead in the water. Then it hit me. Yep, you probably already guessed it half a dozen paragraphs ago.
“Hey Vice Commodore,” someone called from the dock and all the club members turned to look at me at the helm. Yep, I was the Vice Commodore at that time. “Something’s hanging from your bow.” I had no choice. I stood proudly in the cockpit, took off my cap, clicked my bare heels together and formally addressed the gathered crowd, all of them within an easy shout.
“There’s no room at the dock,” I called out. “I’m anchoring here!” That’s right, the anchor-retaining pin had slipped out in the beat to windward and the 18# lunch hook fell off the bow dragging 60 feet of 5/16s with it. The splice eye had fouled in the ring and stopped the 200 feet of rode from deploying. I had sailed my vessel nearly eight miles with the anchor hanging free – all of it in fortunately deep water. And to this day, they’ve not let me live it down. “Now why in this ocean blue world did I tell this story? Oh gads…”
Foster Fanning & Catherine Brown now sail the 1987 Allied Yachts, S2 9.2C, AQUILA and his beloved Lyle Hess designed OSPREY (complete with new anchor-retaining pin) has sold. Foster is now the Commodore for the Rickey Point Sail Club of Lake Roosevelt…