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duck dodged

Well, I 'raced' last night in the Lake Union Duck Dogde.

The Duck Dodge is a weekly race on lake union in Seattle. for more info on 
the race itself, check out
Its basically an informal 'pick up' sail race with 4 classes - fast, 
half-fast, slow, and dinghy. The parties afterwards are legendary, and 
often have themes - next week is "Western Night".

The weather was beautiful all day yesterday, with 10 to 20 knot winds 
expected, and looking out my office, the trees were swaying in the breeze 
all day. We motored over from my slip in Yarrow Bay on Lake Washington, and 
through the ship canal into Lake Union. Takes us about 75 minutes, but 
thats quicker than pulling the boat, trailering her, trying to find 
parking, etc. We got to the lake around 6:15, and there were only a few 
other sailboats on the lake. I thought maybe i had the schedule wrong, and 
we tied up to the guest dock at Chandler's Cove to use the restrooms, dump 
our garbage, and get out the binoculars to see if we could find the 
committee boat. Around 6:30 to 6:40 a gazillion boats showed up, like a 
small invasion of the lake. There were probably 60 or 70 boats in total, 
maybe more, of all makes and models, though we were probably the smallest 
boat except for some of the smaller dinghys. There was a ton of Santanas 
and San Juans (mostly 24s, but I saw a 21 too), a few catalinas, and so 
forth. No other potters though. It was an awesome sight seeing so many 
sails up on that lake. The sailboats >own< that lake on tuesday nights, and 
even the commercial traffic and harbor patrol basically gave up trying to 
get through during that time. I've got some pictures and I'll post 'em on 
the web when I get them developed.

We motored over to the committee boat and they had a 'race board' posted 
which showed which marks to hit in what order. The wind was still blowing 
good form the north, so the first mark was to be the one under the aurora 
bridge to the northwest, and the other two used that day were one's marked 
'triples' and 'duke's' presumably after the restaurants that were near each 
mark. They asked us our boat name, and assigned us to the 'slow' class. Of 
course, some 30+ footers came by right after us, and were also assigned to 
the slow class, so it was quickly apparent we weren't going to win this 
race tonite, not that we would anyways with our inexperienced skipper and 

I've never raced before, and it was very interesting to watch the first 
group jockey for position (and starboard tack) before the starting horn at 
7pm. The wind was still blowing real good. 5 minutes later the half-fast 
class took off, and our horn went 5 minutes after that. We had a crappy 
starting position, but we intended to lay back a bit anyways and stay out 
of the way of the other boats. We didn't cross the start line until 6 
minutes after the horn.

Racing was pretty wild. A short, lightweight boat like the Potter can stop 
dead in its tracks when a larger boat passes to windward and blocks all the 
wind from our sails. I was also very surprised just how close some skippers 
will come to colliding with you when you have the right way. We got within 
10 feet of many boats, and even much closer to a few, going quite fast. I 
think they try to intimidate you into changing tacks, and we fell for it a 
time or two. I think once you're on starboard tack, you have to have nerves 
of steel and stick to your guns when a port-tack boat tries to share the 
same position with you.

We tacked our way towards the first mark in rapidly diminishing wind. By 
now, all but a few dighys and a Flicka were ahead of us. We stayed pretty 
competitive with the Flicka for a while. I think it is a faster boat, but 
he made what seemed to me obvious tactical errors (getting way too close to 
shore and the diminished wind) and we shot far past him when we tacked in 
deeper windier water. He eventually passed us again (due to MY errors!), 
but it was fun to have a boat of similar speed to race with.

As we neared the first mark, the fast boats (including a 65' macgregor with 
about an acre of sail)  were passing us on their second lap! I don't know 
how some of these boats find wind... To make a long story short, we ran out 
of wind even before the first mark, and hour or more into the race. After 
seeing a few other boats do it, we dropped our sails too and motored to the 
flotilla forming around the committee boat. So we basically had a DNF (or 
as I like to say, NFW!)

I'm not comfortible with flotillas - i have this fear that if I'm tied 
between two boats with 50,000lbs displacement, a large wake going by could 
cause one boat to crush me against another. Maybe this isnt realistic, but 
I like to play it safe. After doing a lap around the flotilla to see if i 
could find a smaller boat to raft to, I saw the Flicka tied up and headed 
to her. But at the last moment I had an idea - a 30 or 40 footer had tied 
to the 65' macgregor, and it looked like I could squeeze behind it against 
the 65. I backed in stern-to-stern with the shorter boat and fit perfectly. 
Next thing I know people are grabbing lines and fenders and helping us 

The party was great and some of the most fun I've had partying since 
college. I expected a little snottiness from the guys with the larger 
yachts, but everyone was extremely friendly and happy to show off their 
boats. the majority of the people at the party were guests of other 
boatowners, so everyone was just happy to be there and have boats to party 
on, and i didn't get any attitude from anyone for having a smaller boat. 
Actually, I think people respected that I was a skipper of any boat. A 
Potter 15 would have been a big hit and something of a novelty, but even my 
19 filled that role a bit. I was a little afraid at first to just jump 
aboard other people's vessels, but it turns out everyone just goes for it 
and hops from boat to boat. Someone fired up a decent stereo with some 
caribbean music, and folks were even dancing on the decks. I got the chance 
to look inside a bunch of different boats. Wow, those Flickas are nice 
inside, but kinda dark.

The 65 was pretty cool for its sheer mass. The sail locker alone was much 
larger than my V berth. Actually, it might have been a stateroom but they 
had to stash the acre of sail somewhere. The head was something like "the 
fifth door on the right". Somehow this cracked me up being a Potter sailor. 
Next time someone asks me where my head is, I'll say "take the elevator to 
the Promenade deck...past the sauna and lockers, you can't miss it. " Oh 
well, it seemed funny after a dozen beers, but nothing seems too funny 
right now. :)

After a couple hours the rain started, and while a lot of boats had biminis 
to keep us dry, it still basically broke up the party. The outboard quit a 
couple times on the way home - once because the safety key jiggled out, and 
again because we ran out of gas. Tipping the gas tank sideways fed enough 
fuel into the tank to get us the rest of the way to the slip.  I don't 
recall what time we left or got home, but I'm very tired and hungover 

A few lessons learned:
*I need a genny in a big way.
*The race is cool, but the party is fabulous
*You can drink an obscene amount of beer when on a boat, without really 
realizing it.
*Its a good thing I emptied the head holding tank before the race
*I could use a few more fenders.

I'll be back next week. Would love to see some more of you out there.

- P19 # 461

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