Member News Key West Race Week Recap
2006 Key West Race Recap
Hello from Sunny Key West.
You've heard the news but let me add some details.
I got out of Indiana and made the drive to Key West getting here just in time to connect with the bulk of the crew ordering dinner at the Conch Republic Restaurant. Shortly after I arrived, TJ and Maggie showed up and shortly after that, unexpectedly, Jeff, TJ's brother walked around the corner. Needless to say, we retraced steps we'd walked in the past but with much anticipation of an early morning boat call on Friday morning and some much deserved sailing.
We all gathered up Friday morning and pulled gear off the boat and reorganized after the boat's trip down from Maine and ultimately its participation in the Ft. Lauderdale to Key West feeder race in which they had a great race but found the vagaries of the new IRC rating rule to not be particularly favorable to Open 60 design concepts. By 1pm, we were on the water enjoying some practice and sailing in the light wind which was allowing the lesser experienced sailors to get their bearings.
We finished sailing late in the afternoon and the Ft. laud crew rushed back to the crew house to prepare for the awards banquet while the rest of us ruffians polished a few bar stools at the famed Green Parrot.
After a typical Key West evening taking in the oddities that humanity creates along with some great seafood at the Half Shell, we all went our separate ways with much anticipation of sailing in some "good" winds on Saturday.
At about 5am. I heard my cell phone ring and because of the similar prefixes, I thought someone was calling from home.....it occurred to me as my head woke up that who ever would be calling me at 5am in Key West either had a sick sense of humor (quite a few names ran thru my head and I am sure you know who you are) or a serious problem. To be honest, I'd really appreciate some sick humor right now.
The call was from Bruce, he was at the boat and needing serious help. TJ and I rushed to the boat and when we got there, we added our bodies to the half dozen or more others that were crouched on the Starboard side with their feet and such against the concrete doing everything they could to absorb some of the sea and wind's energy and prevent damage. As I began to take in the whole picture, it became apparent there were no stanchions on the starboard side. All the bumpers had exploded. They were dropping old sails, lines, anything softer than concrete over the wall side to help absorb any of the impact. The radar dome was ripped off the stern, the stern pulpits crushed and quite honestly, things were a full mess. After an hour or so of intense work, improvising and incredible personal safety management, we received the help from a tow boat to help Ocean Planet from the wall. If you've ever experienced 40 or 45 knot winds exert their pressure, you can imaging the force on a 60 foot boat pinning it against the wall. With the tow boats line around the mast, and the help of our engine, we got off the wall.
Thru out the morning, the tow boat would pull other boats off the wall as well. One boat, a Kiwi 35 wasn't as fortunate and sunk from hull damage. This boat was ahead of us on the wall. Struggling on our own fate, we were helpless to do anything. Most of the other boats were empty of crew as staying onboard is not allowed. As word spread thru the harbor, crews started arriving. Unfortunately, the crew of the boat that sank was held up in Ft. Lauderdale and arrived at 6:30 or so just as the boat was sinking. Arrgh!
The harbor we are in is a large, seldom used naval area at the Truman Annex. The wind was blowing directly in thru the gap and the seas surge was sending us 4 - 6 foot swells. With much will and a strong Yanmar engine, we became confident we could motor across the harbor and get to the lee of the other side. Once there, we were faced with odd options for securing the boat. We created a very nice looking macrame of lines and by the using the direction of the wind would keep us about 10 feet off the wall. Once we were secure, our next problem was that we were on the secured side of the naval basin. We finally convinced the security guys (guns and all) to let us in. Well, actually, we bribed them with coffee.
The bottom line is that the entire starboard side of the boat is scraped and severely damaged with some crushed areas. Six of the titanium stanchions that support the life lines are damaged or punched through the hull. The back of the boat is damaged and the radar tower is gone. The damage is severe enough that getting the boat safe enough to race is out of the question without very deep pockets. As you all are aware of, solo sailors spend much more time sailing than raising money and Ocean Planet is no exception. We'll have to await insurance inspections and such before repairs can be made and Bruce can continue on with Ocean Planet's missions.
We're all a bit disappointed and some of us even more so as well, you can imagine Bruce's guts must be churning having sailed OP twice around the world without incident only to end up in paradise with problems. But after a long day yesterday, triple securing the boat yesterday afternoon, we got back to the house and split up a few pizza's and few beers some wine and a seemingly endless jug of margaritas before walking up to The Bull to dominate the dance floor and set the world straight.
Yours truly was a bit weary and I have to admit, I couldn't begin to expect to sleep unless I was onboard OP so myself and Pat (a great hand from Tacoma, WA) left the revelers and headed back to guard OP thru the night as the wind were forecasted to shift. As you might expect, emergencies only happen during the wee hours of the night and Saturday night was no exception as I was sleeping in my bunk, the phone rang. Instantly awake, I answered thinking there must be another emergency to find out that one of the crew members had gotten lost from the rest of the revelers and didnt know where to find them!!! All worked out well and apparently everyone made it home safe and sound. Pat and I got up 4 or 5 times throughout the night to adjust the lines and resecure OP as the winds reduced to the mid 20's and shifted to the right.
At this point in the afternoon on Sunday, we are all looking for things other than alcohol to occupy our time and are considering eco tours, museums, art galleries and things like that. Tonight there is an opening party at the race tent where I am sure we will all be selling ourselves for another berth. I'll keep you posted as to what becomes of the next few days, but likely, it will be consumed with preparing OP for haul and work to be done by TJ at his shop and trying to understand the culture of Key West.
Safe and sound for now.
The next installment sent January 18, 2006...
Avast!! We be needin' a ship!!
Still hangin' in around here. We've got most of the crew out looking for a ship to pirate and commandeer but we haven't been successful. Yesterday we came close when we boarded the 86' Schooner Appledore for a pleasure cruise, but we were surprised to find they harbored cannons below decks and thought better of casting the captain and crew overboard and entering the racing. One of the crew argued hard for his position that they'd never find us hiding under their noses but one of the wiser ones just couldn't be swayed to vote with the majority. So, defeated once again, we coughed up some of our quarter share and paid for the ride.
Wild and windy for the racing fleet, smooth and wonderful for us. The evening tent event hosted by the race sponsors gave us lots of exciting pictures to view of the racing. Kinda hard to watch and not be out there but then again, go with the flow.
So, its back to the drawing board once again. We'll go off looking for a ride tomorrow and see what comes up.
Let you know more when there is more.
And the rest of the story, sent February 5, 2006...
Hey everyone, I have to apologize, It never occurred to me that I left most of you hanging as to how the Key West Event finished out. Many of you have said....."gee Dave, I thought we'd get one more story out of you? What happened?" So, here it is, that last story.....for a while..!!
I believe I left you with the boat damaged but all of us safe and looking for other boats to race on. Key West Race Week is one of the top regattas in the world. Hence, most of the boat are well staffed and prepared for battle. A few of the crew found rides on other boats and more rides became available as the windy week of racing took its toll. Pat and Donald landed on the other Open 60, a French boat, Soluna. Kevin found a ride on a Wylie 44 which is identical to the one he owns and is reconstructing so that became very beneficial for him. Delph spent some time on a J-24, Richard finally found a ride on a Trimaran which he gave up the next day to Laurie for her experience. Kristine, Saint, and Steve were picked up by the Race Committee and their help became very valuable to an understaffed RC for the windy weather. Beth, a media and photo specialist found herself on a press boat rubbing elbows with some of the best photographers in the world. Myself? Well, I have to admit, I enjoy working and taking care of boats as much as anything. I busied myself with tending to the injured OceanPlanet as well as helping Bruce, Helen and Ted to sort thru the insurance and publicity mazes. No where near as exciting as racing, but I found it to be quite relaxing and for the first time in many years, actually can say I just chilled out for a week or so!!
Aside from the sailing and boat work, Key West has a lot to offer and being a bit of a splintered sailing crew, we often reunited at the end of the day with fun antics. Myself and Helen often drove down to Soluna in Chauffeur form, opening doors and carrying bags for Donald and Patrique' our "rock star" crew members. We would arrive at the dock, speaking with our French accents oohing and wooing our crew much to the laughter and amusement of the French sailors. We quickly learned that our "inside contacts" at the Race Committee had a favorite table at the Schooner Wharf Bar after racing and would make ourselves at home or meet them there after their day.
The Racing organization had a huge tent in which they plied tired sailors with free rum drinks and beer into boasting of their day on the water. Being entrants without responsibilities, we often arrived early and stayed until close. Along with the drinks, there were great videos and photos of the racing and Beth and Laurie beat all the women in the Coffegrinder winching contest!!. We noticed Kim, our whitewater specialist, a bit bewildered the first evening at the tent. When we asked her what was up, she remarked....."its says two drink max. I'm having a tough time making two drinks last two hours." She was delighted to find out that the 2 drink max was per visit to the bar!!!
Early one morning, Laurie came to Dodge and I to let us know she had met a guy the night before and he invited her to go sailing on Hobie Cats. She wanted us to have what little information she had about him so if something went wrong, we could follow up on her. Acting as big brothers, we quizzed her extensively about this guy, turns out, he's the popcorn specialist at the party tent. It wasn't long before he became one of our favorite crew and earned the name of Dr. Pop.....thats with a Phd in Popcornology!
As the week wore on, we made ourselves known at almost every dancing and music venue in the town. Laurie, Kim and Saint earned their stripes at the Karaoke Bars. Mike made a name for us at the Whistle Bar when, in a very animated storytelling incident, he cold cocked the bouncer who walked unsuspectedly around the corner into his flailing arms. Fortunately, the bouncer had a sense of humor and didn't hurt us. We enjoyed a few of the sunsets at Mallory Square, bought pirate booty and even did some cultural things like walk thru art galleries and took in the sculpture show on the beach at Ft. Pierce. The week came and went very fast. Saturday became departure day for many and there seemed to be a constant shuttle to the airport and an echoing of good-byes. Delph, Dodge,Richard, Donald and Steve headed back to Maine, Ted headed home to New Hampshire to continue to Promote OP, Beth and Kristine took our torn sails to Ft. Lauderdale where they then headed for home. Kevin headed back to Oregon and the crew dwindled quickly leaving Helen, Bruce, TJ and Maggie, Big Tom3, Mike, Kim, Laurie and Pat and his wife to hang out for the last few days before we peeled off one by one heading for home. I headed out of Key West Monday morning around 10am....well, actually, I didn't leave until after 3.....I guess that was some subconscious foot dragging going on there. I called back to Helen, Bruce and Laurie (Laurie was waiting for a boat ride to leave later that evening) at the Seven Mile Bridge asking if I could turn around and come back home.
The next two days were spent doing my best to keep the vehicle from wandering East and West towards the oceans on either side of Florida instead of the intended northerly direction.
All in all, tho I went to Key West to race with the big boys and things turned decidedly against that notion, in the end, it was a very rewarding time. Back here in Indiana watching the lake roll with 25 knot North winds, snow and the cold of winter, I really miss Key West and my new group of family friends.
There's another big race week in Charleston in April and with the energies of TJ, Walter, Mike and another expert boat builder from Maine making the repairs, we hope to be able to sail Ocean Planet in that regatta and redeem ourselves.
Until then, Remember, Life's a grand adventure, live it all, live it always!!!!