Gulfport to Pensacola '05
Never causing death, this affliction did somehow bring on a malaise that made me feel less a man, weak and stricken, and I felt it uncontrollably multiplying through my veins as I read down the list of my old nemeses on the scratch list. Most were here. Light air, heavy. The outrageously rated.
Startling though was the very prominent lack of sailing vessels that Hurricane Ivan had walked on last year and who would generally walk over Cash Bar. By my count only nine Florida boats were registered for this race, helping the fleet to reach only a paltry 60.
Even though with the fleet down nearly half in count, my ailment, my symptoms still abounded: Forecasted light air coughing in from the east and boats whose sail numbers would transpose into their PHRF ratings and vibrate towards me in the waves of heat off Mississippi Sound. A weird hallucination by any stretch.
Seeing my annual consternation flaring up while waiting for the start, Doc put down his beer and produced a primitive albeit potentially distracting potion in the form of a little brown baggy of cotter pins. He jingled them before my eyes, like a healer with a bag of mojo.
“What in the hell is all that for?” I asked taking my eyes from the bag and looking over his shoulder to a starboard tack boat that I might have to deal with.
“Watch.” Doc reached into his back pocket and pulled out a fairly powerful looking slingshot. “Don’t you think that discovering these little sweet ass babies on deck is going to make our competition a little curious as to where they came from?” A caricature of his amoral grin jibed across his face. “Lawrence, what do you think this adjusts our rating to?”
Lawrence belched, “Full sail check. Bra, that’s awesome. Try it on this one.” He pointed to a Cruising – Spinnaker boat passing to our port, home port of Mobile.
Surreptitiously, Doc loaded the sling with three pins and launched them in their general direction. They briefly glinted in the air before they were scooped up by her main and then dropped down onto the boom.
“Awesome! Evil, but awesome.” Lawrence made his way to the foredeck hoping for a glimpse of their discovery by her crew.
Doc picked his beer back up and took a healthy pull. What he’d done and was to continue doing wasn’t a cure-all, but it did embolden my competitive soul. My crew was in the race.
Our start was fantastic as we gained ground in our class and others all the way to Ship Island and past. The real difficulty began twelve hours after the start, around midnight, while nearing the Mobile Sea Bouy. To state it was a rapidly diminishing wind would be a gross understatement. For three hours, the windex made full circles along with Cash Bar and the full moon through the rigging.
My shift and I crashed below and we slept fitfully, forced to listen to Doc and Lawrence bitching for three hours. Doc held the wheel and was making Lawrence’s life miserable. I began to empathize with the deer on Cat Island with all those horseflies buzzing around.
“We’re gonna’ jibe. Walk that line over. Nope bring it back. Grab me a smoke. Coming about. What’s our ETA now? Loosen the vang. Maybe some smart pig. Beer me. You forgot my koozie. Grab the binoculars. Let’s try to tack. Loosen the jib. In. Out again. Brewski. Hold the wheel while I piss.” Doc was a demanding soul, even in zero wind.
Lawrence’s frustration was obviously showing as he replied to each of Doc’s demands. “Fuck bra. For fuck’s sake. Fucking no wind. Up yours. Bra. Three days from now. Shove it. Fat fuck. Right, fuck you. Mother fucker. Fucking where? Oh my Christ, fuck you. Fuck you bitch. Fucker. Bra, fuck off. Your fucking momma will. Ok.”
We shift changed again right before Lawrence was about to abandon ship and swim to a nearby boat and just in time for the wind, which was building in from the east. The Wind Gods favored me.
Nevertheless, we made it as far as Perdido around 3:00 pm Saturday when we reached a critical mass of crew bitching. Before this, Doc had made a strong showing as Master at Arms, moving his eyes around the crew while peppering a wrench into his hand.
But it wasn’t until Doc bellowed out, “I don’t care if the Commodore of Pensacola Yacht Club said that they were mixing the bushwhackers in 55 gallon drums last night. I can feel it in my bones; they’re running low! They are O-U-T of bushwhackers!” He started to lose his cool and ripped his XXL sailing gloves off and threw them into the Gulf of Mexico.
I started the engine, but made a grand showing of not placing her in gear for a moment.
Lawrence stated the obvious. “Captain, GPS shows our ETA to the finish as midnight. We’ve got two hours of motoring to the yacht club after that.”
“I understand this.” And I did. I knew earlier, we had made a bad call, by not sticking with the lifting tack along the coast, opting instead for potential pressure further offshore. I put Cash Bar in gear thereby dropping us out of the race. I then, incredibly depressed, radioed our move in to the race committee.
We docked up in a slip at PYC. With the lines tied off and bumpers in place, Doc and his sweaty, grossly mismanaged weight made a slow jog to the pool and floundered into the water. Several sweet ladies dangling their feet in the water and having a cocktail frowned, disgusted at watching him wring out his nasty shirt in the chlorinated water and then washing his armpits with it.
The rest of my crew followed him in bringing to mind the scene in Caddyshack.
Later that evening, Doc set up a tent on the grounds in front of the club, but right next to a sprinkler that went off at four in the morning dousing him and his gear inside. But it was fine, at that point we had already jockeyed for position at the bar, drank our fill of bushwhackers and rum, and had taken a cab to and from the Seville Quarter.