Mix a little whimsy with the disciplines

I already can hear the wharfside wags hurrumphing, but I am going to say it anyway: Recreational boating is not warfare. Sure, at times it may seem so but if we’re on the right boat, for all the right reasons, with the right seagoing experience, and with plenty of sea room, then even a short gale at sea can be much fun and great sport. As the late solo sailor Steve Black told an offshore passagemaking-seminar audience, to their surprise: “It’s not life-threatening.”

The commercial experience is another story. Those who make their living from the sea – those out in most all conditions to feed the family and pay the mortgage – can be excused for occasionally perceiving their workplace as a battlefield. But I wonder how many of them do.

I recall listening to my VHF radio during Category-1 Hurricane Bob in 1991, and hearing a conversation between two trawler skippers trying to reach Galilee, R.I. The seas were so high that they couldn’t discern the gaps between the Harbor of Refuge breakwaters in all the whitewater. But the dialogue was more of a calm chat, the two mariners discussing the exercise of getting in, and planning to meet with their wives at a local restaurant later. Just another day at the office.

At Points East, we take a lighthearted approach to boats and the water. Authors and staff willingly admit their errors in procedure and judgment (sometimes with nervous smiles), and we look forward to retelling amusing sea tales in the magazine.

So last week, we received an e-missive from one Martha Blanchfield, San Francisco-based sailboat racer, writer and photographer, who says she’s “interested in tracking down, then sharing, humorous stories happening at water’s edge.” Not a New Englander, but a seaperson after our own heart. If it’s not fun, why do it?

A regular at the Rolex Big Boat Series, hosted by the St. Francis Yacht Club (this year scheduled for Sept. 14-17), she’s a serious sailor, competitor and shutterbug. But she still seeks the whimsical as she lives her life at a high-stakes level, and reports on it on her website, renegadesailing.com. The topic of her email was “Silly Regatta Names.”

“There are serious sailors, then there are silly sailors,” Martha writes. “And what do silly sailors do when they get together? Well, race, of course. And then they have a beer or two. And then they talk about silly things. And then they make up regattas with silly names.” Here are two offerings of interest:

The Figawi (no explanation necessary): “The Figawi was created in 1972 by four sailors who decided to stage a friendly race against one another from Baxter’s Boathouse in Hyannis to Nantucket,” Martha writes. “That first sprint has become a Cape Cod tradition, plus a major fundraiser event . . .

“This is complemented by a weekend of partying on the island, then come Monday there’s a race home that originates from the Nantucket jetty. From this event and a charity ball, Figawi Charities, Inc.” The mission of the late-May event is to raise money for Cape Cod and the Islands charities through fun events, generates nearly $200,000 each year, and has provided over $2.2 million in support of local organizations. FMI: www.figawi.com.

The Wobbly Race: “Since I was recently in Antigua, I’ll share a little promo for a local event in early February,” Martha writes. “It’s more of a B.Y.O.B. (build your own boat) fundraiser than regatta. Rumor has it that for this DIY event all are encouraged to make shortcuts and cheater-builds. Participants work under cover of costume so it’s a clandestine affair.

The Newport Shipyard, in Newport, R.I., has been a sponsor for the last five years, and sends a team to organize and host. Also supporting the event is the Association of Yacht Support Services (AYSS). Attend and you may rub elbows with boatbuilding superyacht captains and their crews. The 2017 event grossed EC$17,000 (US$6,300) for the Antigua Barbuda Search and Rescue (ABSAR). FMI: www.newportshipyard.com.

So take a page from Martha Blanchfield and judiciously add a little nonsense to your life. It will surely help you pilot your way through the confusion of reefs in this overly complicated world. But gotta run. I’m preparing a boat for yet another C.O.D. rally in mid-July, this one in southern Maine waters. What? You don’t know about our Confederacy of Dunces event?

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