Saturday, April 25, 2020

Who is that masked man Sailing Round the Pond?

Model sailboats on Charleston pond
(Charleston, SC)- Like his brother, Bob Johnstone has also been dreaming, wondering, when it would be possible to escape onto the water again? In the meantime, here are some of his thoughts on "pandemic life":

It seems the boatyards and boat trucking operations are carrying on with “Business as Usual”.  Just arranged for a June 10th hauling our new triple-outboard powered MJM 43z BREEZE from the City Marina here in Charleston to truck to Newport Shipyard in Newport, RI.  We have a condo rented there on Coddington Wharf, overlooking the harbor, from June 15 to September 15… with a 3-week cruise to Northeast Harbor in late July.  Booked at the Northeast Town Docks.

Bob Johnstone with his model sailboatWe had been planning to put BREEZE on our mooring off New York Yacht Club Harbour Court, but looks like their launch service won’t start until the end of June… so, we may be rowing an inflatable back and forth as “registered” dinghies can be kept at the HC floats.

The other option during the last half of June, particularly if the 14-day R.I. quarantine for "foreigners" still exists, we could keep the boat on the dock and either live on the boat at Newport Shipyard, which is offering deliveries to deal with the situation… or move into isolation in the condo.  After all, we spent a month aboard (the longest period we’ve ever stayed aboard any boat), cruising BREEZE from Naples FL back up the ICW (intra-coastal waterway) to Charleston and had a great time.

In the meantime, doing what comes naturally! Back to one-design sailboat racing… actually coming back full circle to model sailboats. 

My first one-design efforts, preceding J/Boats by 15 years, was when we were living in Cali, Colombia.  Got a dozen of my ex-pat friends to invest in Dumas model Star class wooden boat kits. I imported them.  It was a complete disaster. I was the only one who built one.  Guess we were going to take them out to our local golf/tennis- Club Campestre- and sail them on the pond, run around, pushing them back on course with our putters… as they weren’t radio controlled! LOL!

Good news is that I learned something in the past 58 years. “Build it and they will come!”  If I put all the kits together and handed a fully-tuned, completed boat to the owner, the program will take off (or, so I hoped). That story and some nice coverage by Craig Leweck in Sailing Scuttlebutt apparently got Tom Babbitt and Ben Hall psyched about starting fleets in ME and FL… and Rod’s been thinking about the same thing from his new house on an extension of Stonington harbor north of the RR bridge.

DF-95's sailing on Charleston pond
You can see my #24 (my official US Sailing Offshore number having the obvious J/24 connection) above along with half the new fleet one-design of DF-95s, each boat being a different color… trying to match the appeal of Nantucket’s Rainbow Fleet of catboats.  The dining room table of our cottage is now the local boatyard, as am rigging every boat for the new owners from a very complete “ready to race” kit. And, I thought we had one-design nailed down with the J/24! These are like mini-Volvo 70s. Of the 5-lbs total weight with carbon keel and unstayed carbon rig, the keel is 3 lbs.! Stiff boats! 

They anointed me Commodore of the Bishop Gadsden Yacht Club here on the campus. We are restricted to only 4 person groups with masks and social distancing… SC Governor says no more than 3.  But, the croquet people talked management into 4… so it was extended to sailing! With 16 sailors, we’ve had to split up into two hourly sessions, 11am and 3pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays, with one group of 4 on the North side of the pond and a second group of 4 on the East side of one of two ponds. So, everyone gets two days of racing a week.

What is the best part? Unlimited solo sailing… because sailing is more than just racing. It can be quite therapeutic.

We’re probably one of the few yacht clubs in the country, active, with a full regatta schedule.  The racing is fun.  Haven’t ever hear the word, “protest!”  Mark rounding jam-ups are causes for laughter and we don’t publicize a running daily score, but I keep a tally. It’s crazy enough sailing on these ponds with swirling winds. For example, yesterday afternoon every sailor had at least a podium 3rd place finish and can go home happy.

Reminds me of the movie, 'King of Hearts'… where the only sane people were those in the asylum, the insanity being the war around them.  Is there a lesson here for the sport?" 

Cheers and pray everyone is OK and doing well,