It was the day of the Fourth of July Regatta, the biggest race of the summer, and I had overslept. I slipped on my shoes and ran down the gravel road hoping not to step on my shoelaces. “Sorry to be late,” I shouted. Dad and my brother Tim making sure everything was securely fastened or stored properly under the bow.
There was excitement all around. Some of the past members had arrived to sail in this race. There were trailers everywhere. Ones you slept in, and ones boats rested upon.
How to prepare for the race
We waited patiently in line, as each crew helped to get their boat hooked up to the hoist so the boom would carry the boat over above the water, and then slowly lower it in. They wanted to make sure that the boat didn’t hit the deck on its way down. One person would take hold of the tow line and pull the boat around to the floating docks. The other two would push the trailer back to its parking spot. It was an organized system.
After several minutes, our boat was in the water. We were ready to leave the dock and practice our jobs before the race began. Tim dropped the centerboard in while I made sure our life jackets were secure under the bow.
The spinnaker sheet was stuffed into the side with the grommet corners sticking out – ready to be hooked to the lines to sail. Both Tim and I made sure the jib sheet was ready, with two lines, one of both sides of the boat. Dad had the main sail up and we were ready to go.
There were three races, based on the type of boat you had: Thistles, Lightnings, and Day-Sailors. Dad had a lightning and the number 11618 was on the sail. Mom could spot us easier with the binoculars and would be watching and cheering us from the shore.
Just warming up
Dad sat at the stern of the boat holding the tiller and the main sheet, which is the rope that holds the boom which guides the main sail. Let out the main sheet and the boom swings out over the water and you slow down. Pull the main sheet tighter, and the boom comes back in to mid-ship and you glide much faster.
Tim had a hold of the jib sheet. My job was to help with the spinnaker, a third colorful sail that when hoisted, the breeze would help your boat sail even faster. We sailed around a small island practicing our jobs so we could help Dad do well during the race.
And the race begins
ERRRRR, screamed the horn. It was time to head to the starting area. As soon as most of the boats were near the starting line, they shot the gun. A flag was waved signaling the start.
The race was in the shape of a triangle – you would sail around two buoys and then head back to the starting buoy and then do it again a second time before ending.
We were excited – the wind was just right to pull the main sheet in so the boom was close to the center of the boat. This also made the boat tip up on its side, which was a good thing, because it helped the boat move much quicker through the water. We could even sit on the edge of the boat with our feet against the centerboard.
We had already gone around the course once when Dad says, “okay kids, get ready to come about,” and so Tim switches the ropes of the jib sheet and we both scoot across to the other side of the boat. Dad turns the tiller but forgot to undo the main sheet and the wind got a hold of the main sail and pushed us over into the water.
We remained calm as Tim reached into the boat and grabbed the life jackets which we then put on, and then Dad swam around to the other side of the boat. He climbed up on the centerboard and tipped the boat back upright.
After Dad was in, both Tim and I are pulled in. We came out of the water to sit back into the water. I checked all of our things – and it didn’t look like we were missing anything. Tim reached under the bow again and pulled out two buckets and we each started bailing water out the boat.
A rescue motorboat approached and asked Dad if he wanted to get towed back in, but he said “No thanks.” Dad was too proud. He would sail back in, as Tim and I dumped buckets of water out of the boat. Mom and a few of our friends met us at the hoist. We took out the plugs at the bottom of the hull to let the water drain out.
When the boat was back in its space, Tim and I took all three sheets over to the lawn and spread them out on the grass to dry. It was an adventure I’ll never forget. Dad apologized for making the mistake. We told him, “sometimes we have to learn the hard way.” And then we all hugged and went back to our house trailer to change.