38 with a shoal draft (3'2" board up; 6'8" board down)
and who never lost his smile under the jalapenio-pepper-print cap
The course was simple enough. For those of us in the Gunkholers
cruising classes, Saturday's sail was a beeline reach 11 miles
south from Key Biscayne to a marker off Ragged Keys. Pelican completed
the job in less than two hours, just ahead of the three Krogen 38
cutters also competing. And with all the lines led conveniently to
Pelican's cockpit and a high-cut, boomed, self-tending jib,
it was hardly a job.
Jim had modified the cutter he'd penned in 1981 to create the ketch Pelican
in 1987 for his own cruiser. In addition to the change in rig,
he'd had his Taiwan yard alter the molds for this model; he traded
interior cabin space he didn't need for extra room in the cockpit.
Extra room just begins to describe the 12-foot-long teak patio we
lounged in that weekend.
the racing out of the way for the day by 2 p.m. for most of the
entries, we segued directly into the rendezvous at the acres of
anchorage area off the wooded Sands and Elliott Keys.
In what seemed like minutes, Pelican was anchored
and expertly rafted into a Krogen 38 mini-rendezvous with Buzz
Labbee's Astarte and John Peet's Appassionata, and
in the regatta's melting pot spirit, we were soon joined by Ken
Lemming's Morgan 46 Fond Trait, Ida Galliherís sleek
Concordia yawl Fleetwood, a husky trawler and a lean and
lines and anchors were put in order, I looked around at a sight
I'd never seen before and would not likely see again. The old saw as
far as the eye can see sprang to mind. As far as my eye could
see there were boats anchored, anchoring or looking for a gap in
which to anchor a veritable Woodstock nation of cruisers, and not
an angry shout or a collision in sight. It was breathtaking.
showed up this year " said Denise Alt from her perch on
Astarte's coach roof.
Although I'd had all
day to get used to the local cast-of-thousands mentality, I
couldn't help thinking Denise was exaggerating a bit.
Nevertheless, I was quickly learning to abandon all my
preconceived Yankee notions about tight quarters and crowds. Back
home in Newport, Rhode Island, arrival at anchorages often
involved a lot of meaningful glances of the I-was-here-first
variety, and even picking up a mooring in the crowded harbor
required paying attention lest one ended up paying for someone's
paint job. Yet here I was in a pesky drizzle amid hundreds of
boats, many of them still moving (or dragging) targets, but no one
seemed nervous and everyone was having fun.
The sunset unnoticed into the hazy cloud cover as we danced and boat-hopped across our raft. Sharon and John Peet had postponed the official christening of Appassionata in order to hold it among close
friends on regatta weekend, all gathered around for the ritual of champagne bottle meeting bulwarks with a thwack. It was evident that racing had less to do with this regatta than did friendship.
morning brought the most sunshine we'd see that weekend (not much)
and the least wind (none). The starting line for the race back to
Miami was a surreal sight: Hundreds of boats under full sail going
motored Pelican as close to the line as possible and killed
the engine. Then we sat. And sat. Twenty minutes after the gun,
Jim roused himself from his position staring at the zero reading
on the knot meter and woke us all from our numb; glum coma with a
stage whisper: "Kurt, get the anchor ."
As Kurt scrambled to the
bow, Jim explained that he'd had success with this tactic several
Columbus Days ago. Kurt discreetly slid the hook into the water.
Nobody on the surrounding boats had noticed. In a few minutes, we
began "passing" boats one by one and were soon
"headed" for an impressive lead in our class as the
outgoing tide slowly carried the fleet backward.
An hour passed. The
flat-calm silence was broken occasionally by the sound of an
engine starting, signaling another dropout from the standstill
race. Then....a flutter of air on the cheek, a sign of life on the
meter. When we broke 0.5
knots, Kurt hauled up the anchor. At 2.0 knots, we all cheered and
Jim, Kurt and John each chose a boom to lean on, the better to
catch the tiny breeze and stop the slatting. In a manner of
speaking, I steered.
Deanna silently delivered sandwiches to each of us at our stations.
Wordlessly, hopefully, we ate them as the breeze sneaked in. The
southwesterly breeze became a northwesterly wind.
"Four point one!" I hooted from the helm. "Four point
By the time the Miami skyline appeared in the haze, we'd cranked
everything in, cranked the board all the way down and had begun
topping eight knots on the gusts.
As we congratulated ourselves on our
perseverance, John stood vigil with the .binoculars.
After trying to sail 11 miles in five hours, we'd
completely lost track of our class. We had no idea whether they'd
all dropped out and gone home, beaten us handily or were trailing
in the distance, none of which had the slightest effect on our
exhilaration as we crossed the finish line in front of the
"We only race once a year on Columbus Day weekend," said Jim.
"It's much more fun if you don't have to do it all the
I flew home from Miami the next morning on one of the last planes out
of the Miami airport before it was closed down
the day. Hurricane Floyd had arrived, cutting a path directly
across Elliott Key, which had hosted Pelican and the
hundreds of other boats at anchor just 24 hours earlier.
took several days, understandably, to figure out who had won. The
race committee tirelessly combined, corrected and calculated both
days' times for every boat that finished. Kurt Krogen called me
from Miami the minute he heard.
"We won our class!" he shouted. "Can you come back next year? You've got to see what it's like when everybody shows up."
Zisson. formerlya Cruising World editor, lives in Sedgwick,