Monday, October 20, 2008

Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race

The 19th annual Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race is now history. And Ocracoke's very own schooner, Windfall, in its first race, under command of captain Rob Temple, with a crew of four (Emmet Temple, Frank Phelps, Steve Musil, and yours truly) finished third place in its class.

Captain Rob now has a handsome plaque to display on his vessel. The more than fifty schooners (click on the link if you don't know how to distinguish a schooner) were divided into four classes. The Windfall, with a length of 57 feet overall, and 45 feet on deck, was one of the smallest boats. To Rob's delight we made record time and beat many of the larger vessels. In fact we were the second schooner in our class over the finish line, but were awarded third place because of a complicated handicap formula.

With winds of 15 to 25 mph and building seas, the Windfall raced down the Bay before the wind (at times exceeding 10 knots), from just after 1 pm on Thursday through early morning on Friday. It was an exciting (and sometimes wild) ride with all sails set.

What a memorable adventure it was. The race was the highlight, of course, but in port (in Norfolk, Baltimore, and Portsmouth) we were treated to traditional seafaring music (sea chanteys, ballads, and folk songs); tables piled with fresh oysters; pirate reenactors in frock coats, tri-corn hats, and cutlasses; and mugs of cold beer. Walking along the wharves and docks alongside salty old sailors, with wooden masts and traditional rigging as a backdrop, it felt as if we'd stepped back several centuries.

Although I am no experienced sailor, I can hold the boat on a steady course, I know the port side from the starboard side, the halyards from the sheets, and I know "red, right when returning." But I learned a number of new nautical terms. In case you're interested, I've listed a few below. Click on the terms to learn what they mean.

parrel beads
worm, parcel, and serve
plimsoll line
pin rail

I also had the good fortune to meet and talk briefly with Bill Pinkney, former master of the Amistad (one of the largest schooners in the race), and first African-American to sail alone around the world (it took him nearly two years). As he put it to me (this is a paraphrase), any capable sailor with a seaworthy vessel should be able to accomplish this, but the question is, why would anyone want to do it!

Here are a few more links about the Amistad, and the Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race. Enjoy!

Amistad and Schooner Race
Virginian Pilot Article

(I hope to post a few photos soon.)

Our latest Newsletter is a history of the Ocracoke Assembly of God Church. You can read the newsletter by clicking here.

1 comment:

  1. Welcome back! Man it sounds like you had a great adventure. Can't wait for your pictures. While reading your details, I just tried to imagine how it would have been on the Windfall. Great details.