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I bet it was 15 years ago that a bunch of us set out from Portsmouth, New Hampshire, with a mongrel fleet of sailboats in tow, and headed for a regatta in Camden, Maine, that was advertised as a fundraiser for the local chapter of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. It was Friday night, and it was raining so hard that every half an hour or so we had to pull over and bail the boats to keep the trailer tires from blowing out.
Our destination that evening was a pal’s family cottage in Friendship, just down the road from Camden. There was plenty of room for several couples, a boatload of kids, and the remaining adults, all of whom planned on sailing the next day, come hell or high water. It was late when we’d pulled the last trailer into the yard that night, and much later still when the post-drive festivities on the porch overlooking the water concluded. Race day dawned early, rainy, foggy, and cold. The best you could say about the weather was that is was damp enough for the boats to swell up while sitting on their trailers.
By the time we arrived in Camden, the race committee had declared a postponement, and the meager crowd had gone directly to a local brewpub to toast what might’ve been. We, on the other hand, with several small children to entertain, thought it too early to take them to a bar. Instead, we launched our craft and had a pleasant, though soggy, romp amid the floating docks in scenic Camden harbor. Later, we discovered that loaded with charm as the town might be, its storm-water drainage system left something to be desired. When we set off in search of a celebratory pint for ourselves, both the aforementioned hell and the high water seemingly arrived simultaneously, gushing up out of manhole covers and flooding the sinks and kitchens of every pub along the waterfront.
Alas, we left town thirsty. But a seed was planted, and so the following year we were back, boats, toddlers, and dogs in tow. And we’ve been going back ever since, though not to race, because that’s not what called us Down East each year. No, it’s the unabashed fun that we’ve had every fall since with our friends and kids, scooting in and out of coves and over ledges that would wrench the keels off the big boats we sail the rest of the year.
Most of us learned to sail in a small boat of some sort, maybe on the ocean but just as likely on a lake or river somewhere far from either coast. In this month’s issue, Midwestern photographer JH Peterson describes a summer road trip to four of his favorite western-U.S. lakes. And though he managed to bum rides aboard boats once he arrived at each one, he could’ve just as easily towed his own. His story, in fact, leads off this year’s Small-Boat Buyers Guide.
This month you’ll also meet our new electronics editor, though if you’re gadget prone, you probably know him well already. Ben Ellison, with his Panbo website (www.panbo.com), is the go-to guy when it comes to marine electronics. You may notice a couple other changes as well. In the depths of the New England winter, former CW editor John Burnham warmed to the siren call of cyberspace, and after nearly four years at the helm here and another couple of decades working for our sister magazine, Sailing World, he deemed it time to punch in a dot-com waypoint. So with this issue, I assume the proverbial hotseat and write the first of what I hope will be many Editor’s Logs. And I do so admittedly feeling as though I’ve been handed the tiller of a vintage Herreshoff sailing full bore on a crowded and bustling starting line. And right there in the thick of it, as well, is longtime CW managing editor Elaine Lembo, now this magazine’s deputy editor. In her new role, she’ll frequently be out of the office, traveling to research and write more of the features that have entertained our readers for 10 years.
Here’s our May issue. It’s spring in Newport, Rhode Island. It’s time to go sailing.