“By Jove! this is the deuce of an adventure–something you read about; and it is my first voyage as second mate– and I am only twenty–and here I am lasting it out as well as any of these men, and keeping my chaps up to the mark. I was pleased. I would not have given up the experience for worlds.” –Joseph Conrad Youth
We were still waiting for the Harbor Cops to clear us on the Hudson when over the radio came a call that was a blow to morale for which we were not properly prepared. “We are still half an hour from having this package cleared—please continue to hold”, the voice dead-panned.
“An announcement of delay came across the radio on our second pass to the start line, we were beginning to think this race was never going to get under way”, Jamie continued. The delay was a result of the aforementioned black beast. The SSN-21 Sea Wolf, a U.S. Naval Submarine, was preparing for sea trials. She had one Tug, a Coast Guard Cutter, and an annoying little Rapid Response boat—what looked like a 330x Defender built by Safe Boats of Bremerton—running intercept on any boat getting too close to the Sea Wolf.
The race finally started at 12:05 p.m., an hour late, we slipped passed the start line first in our division, followed closely by the Aleyone, the only other boat in our division, though we thought there was another. At the start we had 30 seconds, give or take, on her—but we would need to beat her back with 11 minutes to spare in order to win against her. But she was the least of our problems, there were many more boats, many times quicker than our own, and we had to sail efficiently, with only half of the inlet to use; on account of the Sea Wolf, and her eager Coast Guard security detail. We took the best possible route, and tried to hold that course for as long as possible. Slowly we were making time on the Aleyone. We were holding out on our first tack for as long as possible, but we were getting close to the shore, so we thought we would have to tack soon. All of the sudden, with sails full—and no presently explainable reason, the boat quickly decelerated. My dad looked over-board to see the bottom of the inlet less than six feet from the devil, with a shock he realized we had run aground. Our 22 foot sloop, the Jessie-O, had a retractable keel, so it could be pulled up, giving us five more feet of clearance below the water. “Crank up the keel”, my father yelled. Quickly, Patso scrambled below decks to man the keel crank. Up it came; we tacked, and were free. Patso returned the keel, and went back to his job of trimming the foresail. Glancing over the port rail we noticed that we hadn’t damaged our lead on the Aleyone too badly. We were on our toes at that point, and really made some decent time on our way to “marker #2”, off of the east side of Waterman Dock. Having put some distance between us and that ugly shallow spot we looked over the stern to notice that the Dulcinea had also run aground in the same spot we had just left. She was a fixed-keel vessel, so she had to wrestle with the inconvenience a little longer than had we. Her crew worked frantically to free her, but she was only one of a few boats that were behind us at this point. We were the first to leave, one of two slow boats, and the Division 2 and 3 boats had begun to over-take us.
As we neared the marker we had to fight traffic that had already rounded, most of whom had been hassled by the Coast Guard, an unpleasant experience we had avoided by being in the right place at the right time. The boats who’d over-taken us, now had right of away as they had the wind at their starboard rails. We beat wind to get to marker 2 and we came in hot, made our tack, and headed south. The Aleyone rounded the marker 7 minutes behind us…an encouraging sign, given the fact that we had three more markers to round.
We were being destroyed by the quicker, purpose-built, racing vessels and were not surprised. However, there were two boats we held within reach, the Aleyone, and the Joannie II. The Joannie II was ahead of us, and the Aleyone was behind us by around 30 minutes now. We were on our second-to-the-last leg of the race, around an hour over-schedule when the wind died out, leaving us desperate. We were being pushed by the current but that was only giving us about 1 knot of forward progress per hour…dismal, I went below decks to study charts, and remove myself from this frustration. The mood up top was no better, when a crew looses wind they will resort to anything for a remedy. I went back up on to deck, and performed several, Polynesian dances with the intention of intimidating the competition. It seemed to work we were slowly reeling in the Joannie II. We looked over our starboard stern to see the Aleyone clear across the inlet by the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard; she was not suffering for lack of wind like we were. This was a problem. We came up on the starboard rail of the Joannie II and made our pass. We cut across her bow, in an attempt to make a straight shot for our final marker. She held her course and passed us. When doing so, she shadowed us and took what little wind we had for a split second…she beat us to the marker by 40 seconds. Over the stern, it was clear the Aleyone was making up time hand over fist, and we were left with five minutes lead on her. We rounded the mark and tacked, in an attempt to find wind…the wind changed direction at this point and we picked up speed as we made our final tack for the finish line. We crossed the finish line, second to last, at about 4.5 knots per. The Joannie II had beat us by less than one minute, and the Aleyone came behind us three minutes later, we had lost to her…we figured ourselves dead last.
It was not so, the Joannie II was a division 2 vessel, and hadn’t had a large enough lead on us, so she was last…we had two victories that day: we finished the race, which is not an automatic assumption, given the sketchy persona of Puget Sound winds, and we didn’t finish dead last. That day marked the beginning of a bitter rivalry between us, the crew of the Jessie-O, and the scow—Aleyone. She took us that day…we were resolved to not see that again.