Spent a bit of this past weekend out on the waters of Georgian Bay, or to be more accurate, Nottawasaga Bay, which is our sourthern section of Georgian Bay. It began on Friday, with a trip up to the top of the mast of the Wandering Wind, Jeff Smith’s 33-foot boat, to affix some “thingmajiggys”. “Captain” Smith, eager to sail each spring, forgoes the traditional custom of removing the mast for storage in the winter, which many sailors adhere to but which necessitates raising it again in spring.
But he doesn’t want to leave the delicate – and expensive – wireless wind instruments up there all winter, so he needs to have someone, namely your blogger, head up to do remove them in fall and re-install them in spring. This involves stepping into a bright orange diaper-like seat connected to the main halyard (as well the spinnaker halyard as a backup), and listening to Jeff grunt and groan as he leans into the winch to haul me up. (He says I’ve been chosen for the task as I’m the lightest of his friends, but perhaps he needs to meet more friends.)
With a few screwdrivers and the instruments in a cloth shopping bag dangling precariously at my side, I ascended the mast, then carefully pulled out the instruments, fumbled for the correct screwdriver and carefully screwed in the various set screws and such. All while being extremely careful not to drop one of the screwdrivers or, heaven forbid, the instruments to the deck 50 feet below.
Job done, we headed out onto the calm (windless) waters of Georgian Bay for a shakedown of the engines, then drifted for awhile in the suprisingly warm air as the sun set.
Late the next morning, after the rumble of the ferocious thunderstorms that had raged for three hours finally receded, I cycled down to Meaford’s Reef Boat Club to meet another friend, Barry Altman, who had ill-advisedly invited me to crew for him in the Club’s first sailing race of the weekend. I explained that I’d forgotten half of what I’d managed to learn about sailing, I’d never raced before, and my injured finger was not quite up to full ability. Brave man that he is, he didn’t withdraw the invitation.
Now, Barry’s boat is a smaller affair than Jeff’s. Low to the water and short on amenities, the sleek MaryAnn was the smallest, though not the shortest, boat in the race.
(“She’s a Bluenose One design class,” says Barry. “24-feet long and 2000 pounds displacement. She was designed by William Roue in 1945. He was the designer of the famous Bluenose schooner that is on the back of the Canadian dime. The original boats were made of wood and many of them are still racing near Halifax and Chester, Nova Scotia.
“McVay Yachts in Mahone Bay NS started manufacturing the boats in fibreglass in the 1970′s. MaryAnn was built in 1972. I bought her from a friend in Toronto last year. Compared to modern boats she’s very narrow, low and wet and carries a lot of sail for her size. In light to moderate winds she’s very competitive with the newer and larger boats in the club races and won a couple last year.”)
MaryAnn was first off the start line, so for a brief period we were in first place. A group of four boats had pulled ahead by the first marker, but we were around it and chasing them soon after. But as we rounded the second marker with a group of three other boats, the wind suddenly died. We were in a parking lot, as Barry put it, watching as the sails of the four lead boats, still leaning, riding the wind that had left us behind, got smaller and smaller. It was another 10 or 15 minutes before the first stirrings of a breeze had us on our way again.
Sailing races are handicapped based on the size of the boat and the history of different models in races everywhere, and while the Mary Ann rounded the final marker in seventh place, our final position was 5th out of 11 boats. Three cheers!