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Duck Doge, part 3.




This is the third of my 'duck dodge diary'. Previous entries with some
photos are at
http://www.tx3.com/~ej/dodge.html

June 3rd, 1998

Skies in the area cleared of clouds around 2pm, and by 5:30pm when we left
the dock, the promised 10-15 knot winds from the northwest had manifested
themselves. Motoring over, I was having a little trouble maintaining hull
speed, as reported by the GPS, which is an uncommon problem for me. I
suspect I've got some crud growing of the hull, slowing me down, or perhaps
it was just the mass of my crew and I, which weigh in at over 700 lbs. Or
maybe it was just the headwinds. Whatever it was, something didn't feel
right.

As usual, we rigged the sails and ate dinner on the 75-minute trip to Lake
Union. Our experiences during our first Duck Dodge two weeks ago taught us
to hold off on drinking any beer on the way over, to preserve the beverages,
the holding tank in the head, and well as our better judgement.

As usual we checked in at the committee boat, whose name I can't pronounce
since it was written in Chinese characters, and entered the fray of 70 or 80
boats of all sizes jockeying for starting position. To my delight, somewhat
downwind of the starting line, was a P15. It turned out to be Josh Freund's
"Freundship". We got plenty of pictures of Josh and the boat. This was
Josh's first race (and my third) so we passed on the little knowledge we had
to him of start line positions, etc. The committee set him up in the fourth
start (dinghys) while we were still in the third start, though we were
arguably the smallest boat in that heat.

The traffic at the start clears up a bit as the first two heats get under
way, and most of the much-larger boats head upwind, and out of the
congestion.

I still don't really know what happened during my start, and I normally
analyze everything to death, but am still at a loss to what happened next.
Our starting horn blew, and we had great starting position. Maybe it was
crud on the hull, maybe it was the strong headwind coming straight from the
mark. Or maybe it was the huge wind shadow created by the many much larger
boats that somehow managed to get into heat 3. Or perhaps it was the fact
that a fellow Potter was watching me. Whatever it was, I could not seem to
cross the start line to save my life. The boat just wouldn't really point,
and once it would, the wind would shift or die, or I'd get a nasty wind
shadow and lose headway.

In my attempts to tack to better wind, I found pinching on a course just
upwind of the committee boat. My point was ok, but somehow I was making a
LOT of leeway. I think the Potter really needs to be heeled to let the lee
chine help prevent this -- but I'll save the vector analysis and get to the
point:

We hit the committee boat.

Not too hard, mind you. We slid sideways into her bow. But it enough to get
most of the committee up to the bow with their arms out to hold us off.
Fortunately the Potter is a light enough vessel that this was successful,
and no gelcoat or harsh words were exchanged. They pushed us forward to get
us over to her lee side where we could drift and figure out what the heck we
were doing. Free at last.

Nope.

Our keel fouled their anchor line. Now I'm getting impatient, cranking the
daggerboard handle as fast as I can, while barking at my crew to get the
sails down, as we know that if sails are up on a P19 with the daggerboard
up, you're asking for trouble. We get the keel free, and start to pivot
around to the lee side of the committee boat. Free at last? Nope. Now the
rudder was fouling the anchor line. At this point I'm tempted to cut the
rudder free, and let her sink, so long as I could drift into some secluded
port, and wither up and die of embarrassment.

Josh, by the way, had a great view of the whole thing. I hope he didn't
bring a camera. By this time he was merrily upwind, even though he started
five minutes after us.

We finally get free of the committee boat, re-tension the sails, double
check all the rigging, and started to round her to re-start. But by now the
wind was dying its usual 7:30ish death, and we aborted the attempt to do a
real restart, since our likelihood of finishing, let alone placing, was nil.
So we tacked upwind, hoping to at least pick off some of the slowest boats,
like the Flickas and maybe even try to catch up with Josh.

The just wouldn't cooperate, at least for us. It amazes me how the largest
boats can always find enough wind to go a few knots. I suppose the acres of
sail on 60 foot masts helps in that regard. The only way I'll ever beat
these guys in a race is if I can pick the course - which will be along the
shipping canal, under motor power, during rush hour when they won't raise
the drawbridges.

So, we kicked back, lit up a few cigars, and became spectators, watching the
myriad of colored sails glow in the bright sun.

This race reminded me a lot of week one (though we had the good sense not to
smack the committee boat then) - the wind just stopped. I don't know if any
boats in my heat finished the race. I suspect some did, but many didn't make
the first mark. After probably 30 minutes of watching the fleet sit there
and wait for wind, we saw boats turn around, some furling their sails, and
others just ghosting back to the start.

Josh by this time was wing-and-wing, heading for us. He eventually fired up
his motor as well, and rafted to us to chat a bit, while we both furled
sails and so forth. We talked for a bit, then decided to join the main raft
forming for the customary post-race party.

As we circled the raft looking for places to tie up, Josh yelled to me that
he had to be at work at 4am, and motored back to the ramp. For our part, we
tied up against a Hunter that was probably 21-24 feet long.

One thing we didn't notice at the prevous parties is that it is customary
for Duck Dodge "virgins" to walk from boat to boat, and touch east mast, so
we had a lot of traffic. I wish more people would wear boat shoes with white
soles!

As much as we love our potters, the decks aren't the most solidly-built of
any yacht, and I did get a little nervous as some people stepped on places
not meant to be stepped on, like the forward hatch. I eventually propped it
open to prevent this.

I made a point of finding the skipper of the committee boat and apologized
for my unfortunate mishap. He didn't give it a second thought, and proceeded
to tell me a story of one race where a boat T-boned the committee boat at a
high speed, casuing a lot of damage. He seemed fairly pleased that we had
the courtesy to hit him softly with a lightweight boat.

We hopped from boat to boat for a while, meeting and talking with people. At
one point there was at least 20 boats rafted, beam-to-beam. We must have
looked not unlike that blockade of Canadian fishing boats a couple years ago
around some US ferry!

Around 10pm the party was dying off, and we headed home too. The trip back
was mostly uneventful except for some lightning in the distant skies to the
east. Furthermore, the dock where I moor my boat and surrounding apartment
buildings had lost power, so we had to be extra careful as we pulled into
the slip.

Next week is "Hat Night" whatever that means.

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