Gulfport to Pensacola '04
Sitting here at PYC’s bar, I know that save for my brilliant drink accessory invention, floating mini tetrahedrons stamped with some liquor brand’s logo, that I envisioned right after my third bushwhacker, all the memories that I’m really going to write about are from the G-to-P ’03 Race.
And this being my column, I can do that. So off we are all the way back to 2003 aboard my 39’ Gulfstar Sailmaster, Cash Bar, having rounded the Gulfport sea buoy at around 3:30pm, positioned as approximately the 3-4 boat in a moderate sized class. Once we rounded the buoy, we were able to crack off, flatten the boat and really fly in a freshening 20knt breeze. At that time our ETA to the Mobile sea buoy was 9:30pm. Several hours later in a rapidly diminishing wind mixed with a light drizzle, my crew began to grumble.
Look, I’ve heard and experienced way to many horror stories of wet and hungry crew subsisting on Doritos and Zapp’s punctuated with half a soggy ham and swiss to not know a hot dinner is a good way to keep up a crew’s morale. In ’03 I thought I had that nut cracked, a true culinary surprise… Hot boiled crawfish.
Now I’m not dumb enough to think that I could stand up a crawfish pot while underway, but I could boil up to 4-5 lbs. at a time in my ‘lobster’ pot down on the stove. With only four crew and myself to feed and armed with the sacred mathematical formula of 5lbs. per mouth, heck a 25lb. sack (live) nestled down in the lazarette would suffice. To boot, I’d be revered as a god by my troops when I pulled those babies out. I would be General Lee ordering my men to pour out their acorn mash tea while my quartermasters doled out fresh coffee, or Spartacus leading my rebels to pillage a Roman chicken farm. I would be a Captain amongst daysailors. In reality, my crew was highly skeptical, although intrigued, and in the end my crawfish experiment turned out to be slightly more problematic than first envisioned.
Now as all boat owners know, one must be nimble of thought and flexible of mind when approached by difficulties. Forgetting my lobster pot in the dockbox was but a trifling setback. Realizing I couldn’t boil more than a few mudbugs at a time in the coffee pot was obvious. Forging ahead with the boil in a quart sized pot… bold. Racing past the rigs at nearly 4knts. off of Mobile Bay at 10pm and serving hot and overspiced crawfish to my crew, albeit seventeen or so at a time was truly an awesome event. Granted, I explained to my faithful crew that the crawfish were but mere appetizers to the ham and swiss sandwiches that were to be coming out of the galley soon.
Oh and the joy, the absolute joy of witnessing the crawfish spice and juice stains on the wheel and cushions (which remain to this day) as the sun crept up on that soon to be sweltering Saturday. But I was not to have my day soured, as I knew that victory was at hand for my worthy Cash Bar.
With a highish PHRF rating of 178 and that morning having spied several lower rated boats from faster classes in our area, my gut screamed that I would soon be drinking a French 75 off of the silverish plate trophy that would be awarded to me as I stood proudly before my peers. I was so close to getting the bullet in my calculations, that the smell of gunpowder almost overpowered my unwashed crawfish boat.
My excitement definitely boiled over to the rest of my crew as I distinctly remember Doc, my trusty navigator and proud owner of a very prosperous belly bellow out, “Yeah… sure, I’ll take another beer.” to a crewmember below.
And in the celebratory spirit of the moment, I ordered up a cold one for myself.
Several hours later with the committee boat on station we made our closest approach to finish, drifting and spinning against a very marked falling riptide along with six other boats. At nearly 2pm, the sun began pouring down on us, producing a robust human and/or crawfish aroma onboard, but luckily the beer was maintaining a reasonable icy state.
As flotsam and jetsam and while cranking Boston and Bad Company cd’s, we neared another vessel, which at one point had managed to crack through the rip only to falter. After a show of bravado from both crews as to how neither boat would post a DNF, we were alerted to their alarming lack of beer situation. In careful negotiations, and before we drifted out of beer chucking distance, Cash Bar received a future consideration of Bushwhackers for every two beers proffered. One of my less (or too) farsighted winch monkeys prepared to proffer our remaining stores before this idea was nipped in the bud by Doc. Doc then proceeded to offer the remaining and ripening 15lbs of live crawfish to them in exchange for bushwhackers, but was rebuffed.
Nevertheless, as it turns out, we in fact did receive a DNF along with our trading partner and several others after the committee boat bored of watching us drift, leaving us to stew for another hour before we dropped sails and prepared to motor. I, of course, waited a full minute before dropping sails until I was sure that our nearby competition was secure in the knowledge that they had DNF’ed first. Together we convoyed in to PYC with Cash Bar arriving victorious in the knowledge that we were to receive many little red drink tickets.
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