Sunday, October 18, 2015

GCBSR Report Back

As described in my previous post, a big fleet of schooners (35 of them) of all types and styles, sailed from Baltimore at the northern end of Chesapeake Bay to Portsmouth at the southern end. Starting on Thursday lunch time, after a big Wednesday evening dinner party at the Polish Home in Baltimore, most boats were in Portsmouth by early Saturday in time for the big lunch-time oyster, clam and pig roast and prizegiving.

On the Shearwater 45 "Apella", owned and skippered by Dan Hall, we acquitted ourselves quite well with second in Class B behind the 65ft "Tom Bombadil". In a schooner fleet quoted length includes the bowsprit, so our Shearwater 45 is listed at 54ft. Winner in Class C was "Adventure", the Hout Bay 40 gaff schooner (listed at 42ft) on which I sailed this race about 5 years ago. I don't know why she only gains 2ft in her listing, her bowsprit is considerably more than 2ft.

Classes B and C started 10 minutes behind the bigger boats of classes A and AA. The fastest of the first start boats sailed away from us but we had the opportunity to view some of the others as we sailed through the back end of the bigger fleet, with opportunities for good photos.
"Mystic Whaler", out of New London, Connecticut. She is a regular in this race.
A few boats fell out of the race along the way. The weather turned out to be considerably less favourable than the 8-10mph westerly breezes with smooth water that were forecast. We had those conditions for the first 6-8 hours of racing but then the breeze started to head south and continued that trend until it was pretty much on the nose and increased to about 25 knots (about 3x the forecast). With wind against tide most of the time, the seas were short and sharp, rather uncomfortable. This was too much for some crews, who retired from the race.
Hauling in "Lady Maryland"
I succumbed to the uncomfortable seas and donated my dinner to the fish, crabs and clams of Chesapeake Bay for a few hours from about 4am Friday until we reached smoother water south of our finish at Windmill Point. My own fault of course, I believed the forecast and didn't take my usual precautions until after we hit the rough water. By then it was too late to do much good.
Some of our crew. L-R Joe Miller, Dudley, Scott Page. Owner Dan Hall at the helm.
I really enjoy sailing among these boats, particularly the big ones like "Pride of Baltimore", "Mystic Whaler", "Lady Maryland" and others that are dedicated to educating people from all walks of life and of all ages. They do so in the interests of the community, teaching skills that will be lost to humanity without such dedicated people serving as stewards, to look after and pass on the crafts and skills of traditional schooners and the coastal waters in which they operate.
"Pride of Baltimore" docked in Portsmouth, other big schooners in the background.
I have sailed many thousands of miles and sailed most of my life but my skills are insignificant beside these true watermen and women. Some of these boats are skippered and crewed by women and they are well-respected by the men among whom they sail and compete. Being female is no disadvantage in the world of schooners, all must prove themselves on an equal basis.

Overall, this was another memorable Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race. This event was the brainchild of the late Capt. Lane Briggs, who sailed in most of them in his steel gaff schooner "Norfolk Rebel", a sail-assisted tug. The innovative Capt. Briggs was a sturdy pillar of the community in Hampton Roads, initiating many events to support, educate and entertain residents and visitors alike. The many volunteers involved in creating and hosting the Schooner Race every year do a wonderful job of keeping alive the aspirations of Lane Briggs, ensuring that they will continue for a long time into the future.

Dudley Dix