RTC 2019 – My Heart Is Full But Where Was The Wind?!

This year was my second Round the County experience and it completely blew last year’s out of the water. This year was an absolute blast both on and off the water thanks to both the fun crew we had on TP52 Sonic as well as other wonderful friends in the community at seemingly every turn.

The adventure began for some of us on Friday morning for the delivery. I showed up a little early, partly to get a handle on things on the boat and partly because I was just so darn excited to get the weekend started. Once the crew had all assembled it was time for a 7+ hour trek up to Anacortes. We left the dock, we pointed the boat North and music came on. On our way out of the dock there was a sea lion hanging out on the Meadow Point buoy. When my sweet senior dog was in his last months I started noticing sea lions and seals more and more. I came to realize that after he passed any time I saw one it would mean that Murphy was saying hi. The sea lion started barking and then there was no doubt that my dearly departed kiddo was wishing us well on our journey.

A silly sea lion barking at us to send us on our way North

We could not have asked for better weather for a delivery. It was a beautiful sunny day albeit a tad bit chilly, it was November after all. As crew manager one of my important duties is making sure my people have fun, so to that end I had brought a few surprises for the weekend. I wasn’t the only one who had surprises though, a fellow crew-member Preston had a stuffed unicorn to surprise me with, how sweet! The unicorn needs a name, pop on over to my Facebook or Instagram to help me name him and you can win a Sailing Unicorn sticker pack. One of my surprises was introducing those on the delivery crew to the wonders of the POG mimosa. For the uninitiated, a POG mimosa is like a regular mimosa but is instead made of a unicorn-sized pour of bubbly and a splash of delicious Passion/Orange/Guava juice. I was super gleeful and excited to pop the first bottle of the trip but sigh, our skipper had other plans.

“Lizzy! No champagne until all AIS beacons are installed!” -skipper Marek
“What do you mean I can’t have champagne yet? FINE!” – me (immediately demands all PFDs come on deck NOW!)

The rest of the crew was a little too entertained by this exchange but having nearly finished the other boat prep items like running jacklines and programming what seemed like a million waypoints into the chart plotter they had been busy as well. Beacons did eventually get loaded in and armed with MMSI numbers logged with who they were assigned to just in case the unthinkable happened (thankfully it didn’t!).

Mission accomplished

As the delivery carried on we continued to have fun on the boat with a mix of light-hearted conversations and some great heart to hearts. The benefit of being on a bigger boat is you aren’t in quite as close quarters which allows for more one on one or time getting to know others on the boat. Part of why I volunteered to be crew manager for Sonic is the opportunity to become more invested in the culture on the boat and take care of the wonderful humans who are giving a lot of their time and resources to sail this boat. I’m really enjoying spending time with our crew, everyone brings something special to the team in their own way. The weekend held a lot of bonding with the crew at different points and I’m proud of how we’re coming together.

Getting to drive the boat North! Skipper has been entrusting me with driving more during non-race situations and I hope to keep getting to do so, it’s FUN!

Alright, enough mushy stuff. We finally made it to Anacortes a little bit after nightfall (and the second surprise I brought, homemade hot buttered rum!) and it was time to party after unloading the boat! We moseyed over to the skippers meeting/party at the wonderful Anacortes Yacht Club and availed ourselves of the delicious spaghetti feed (yay carbs!) and tasty beverages. It was fun to catch up with other sailors and friends at the club. When the party was winding down we didn’t yet want to so off to the infamous Brown Lantern we went. More merriment and drinks were had, and at one point I was razzed by crew from another boat for (GASP!) wearing my Musto boots to the bar. Oops.

Saturday morning EARLY boat call of 6:30am. May or may not have felt a bit fuzzy-headed as I crawled out of my bunk and into the clothes I would wear for the day. Our skipper is very conscious of weight on the boat but in order to avoid disaster I cleverly hid the french press that was originally on the dock cart to be stowed in a car. As many sailors know, caffeine is an essential piece of safety kit. As we motored out to the start, I started feeling more excited which surely had nothing to do with the fact that I could feel the caffeine kicking in. There was a supreme lack of wind at the start, we were bobbing around forever as we watched other boats take the current out. We were lucky though, we at least were able to cross the start line in time when some other boats were not. We were catching a little bit of wind and then… it dead. What follows is a scattered depiction of the remaining events of the race:

Sails up, sails down, sail up, sail down. Everybody on the low side, move to the bow, oh yay, wind is up a little bit, two bodies back, ah the wind died again, let’s go down to the drifter. Repeat who knows how many times. Marek broaches the subject: “it’s 3:30, shall we retire?” Crew pretty much unanimously says “YES”. Marek 5 minutes later: “Ah let’s wait a bit and see if anything fills in.” Grumbling occurs under the breath of many. I sneak out the pink sparkly flask of “Secret Crew Manager Water” and share it with some very grateful crew. Sorry skipper… Wind continues to not exist, current continues to not do any favors. I’m about to lead a mutiny. Marek a few minutes later: “Ok, let’s call it.” Motoring to Roche, sails go down incredibly efficiently, music comes on, flasks come out. Me: “Wait, it’s getting dark, time for PFDs. Yes, that means all of you!” More grumbling from crew. Almost in to Roche, wait what’s that weird vibration? Music off, listen to engine, back up, phew, we just untangled from a giant wad of kelp. Pull in to Roche, dock on the wall with assistance of Friday Harbor Sailing Club.

Cruise through party to snag some beers and then check into our crew houses. OMG FANCY! Skipper insisted the guys leave me what turned out to be an incredible suite fit for a queen. Bottles are popped and cans are cracked as the wonderful Michele, our roadie for the weekend had started preparing some of the appetizers/meal. Surf and turf feast (steak, shrimp, salmon, YUM) cooked by crew, out came more wine and scotch, more and more food. Wandered down to the party, run into a room full of friends. S/V Solution crew won’t take no for an answer joining for champagne, running into fellow Foredeck Union member up from California. Party winding down so wander back up to house with one of our crew for apparently more party. Hang out with team talking until past 11, then OMG BATHTUB. Savor one last scotch in big warm cozy soaking tub, throw onesie back on and drift blissfully back to sleep.

Sunday morning, make a bajillion pots of coffee, pack sandwiches for the day, load up car with things that aren’t needed for the race and time to roll out on boat. Head out to start line, watch all the pretty kites start downwind. Feel a little verklempt comparing how I felt last year to this year, grateful to be with a crew who loves me and has my back. Time for our start, holy crap stay focused as I’m really sailing with the big kids! Just enough wind to get moving so we aren’t playing a huge game of bumper boats. Get out of the bay, start playing with sail plan. Oh shoot, boats closer to shore are riding a current river. Wow, boats that went way out are PARKED. Holy crap, did Glory retire? Ooh, wind line coming up, get ready to drop the drifter and raise the kite! Ah crap, wind line is not coming yet. Bring up more and more munchies on deck, ah screw it let’s break out the sandwiches. 30 minutes later, yay wind is here, lets send it! Finally getting a good heel angle, cruising to halfway point between Patos Island Lighthouse and Iceberg Point. Continue making good boat speed, holy crap we are towards the front of the fleet. On the homestretch, man I don’t want to be done yet I’m having too much fun! Looks like a major wind hole swallowing the rest of the fleet further back. See Mist round the finish mark and come back with kite up, good job guys, well-sailed! Call in to committee that we believe we will be next to finish, Ocelet is within earshot and razzes us in good humor. Right as we were about to round the mark a single harbor seal looks up at me from the water and blinks a few times before diving back below. Hi Murphy, thanks for checking in on your mama. It was a wonderful way to cap off the end of the race, I got a little teary but don’t think anyone on the boat saw thankfully.

After clearing the finish line we put the kite up for a little bit to enjoy a downwind kite run before the wind backed off, then we proceeded to motor-sail under main the rest of the way back to Cap Sante Marina. We gave friends on Mist our congratulations again and hugs to the delivery crew, then loaded into the car of the wonderful Tomasz for a ride back to Seattle. Still too many endorphins from the weekend to be able to sleep so enjoyed a good conversation on the ride home with friends I still absolutely love sailing with. I have so much love for this crew and for this community and am very humbled by the love and support that so many have given.

Very happy unicorn at the end of an amazing weekend

Without sailing I would not be nearly as ok as I am and I’m so grateful for it and looking forward to continuing to do more and more in the sailing world. To that end, I’m still busting my butt to finish paying off the Clipper Race! Pop on over to my Support page, there are some great opportunities to knock out some holiday shopping while also helping me with my goal.

Love,
Lizzy

Call me… SKIPPER?!?!

It would seem that the Rum Run continues to be a race that is a special one for me. Those of you who know my saga know that a previous Rum Run, welllll… Rogue Rum Run, was the day I can pinpoint as the day I really fell in love with sailing. It turns out Rum Run 2019 is another special Rum Run! A couple of weeks ago after watching the movie Maiden with dozens of fellow Sloop Tavern Yacht Club I hadn’t yet sorted a ride out for the race so shamelessly asked my friend Mike Danger if he had plans for it. He hadn’t even thought of it yet, but was conveniently sitting next to his friend Duncan and they decided it would be fun to take Duncan’s boat 20 Degrees out! As luck would have it Mike’s partner Nadine was also there. While she doesn’t consider herself a sailor *yet* as soon as I heard him say they haven’t really done a lot of racing together I knew this would be a great opportunity for a gateway race.

As Mike and I continued to chat about plans for the race I knew it was going to be a fun one based on the cast of characters that had been pulled together. The week prior to Rum Run Mike messaged me and asked me my preferred position on the boat. I let him know I love the pointy end but will work pretty much anywhere, and then my heart leaped into my throat as he said that he and Duncan were considering having me take the helm if I wanted it. ACK! Me, helming a race?! So many thoughts went through my head, but I didn’t give it a ton of energy as I wasn’t sure if it would really happen or not.

The morning of the race happened and after excitedly getting to the slip, orienting myself to the boat, a Wylie 34 and doing introductions (“Hi, my name is Lizzy” “Hi Lizzy!” “And I’m a sailor”) we go over roles for the day. Duncan, the boat owner asked me how I would feel about driving and holy crap, it was happening! I’m sure the big grin on my face answered before I could say the words. I had Duncan take us out of the slip (didn’t want to push my luck too much!) and then when we were out and in Shilshole Bay. With admittedly some trepidation, I asked Duncan if he was ready to hand off the tiller. He enthusiastically said yes and holy crap, I was now skipper!

Pre-race start, coffee in hand and eagerly trying to watch traffic and get my wits about me!

Before the race start there wasn’t much wind, in fact we saw the sad eyeballs (0.0) on the speed indicator. Truth be told I was more than ok with this as it gave me more time to try to get my bearings. This proved difficult as the wind was being incredibly flukey and the windex kept swinging around so I couldn’t easily pick a course to stay to and find a setting I liked for the sails! It did mean lots of opportunities to practice calling gybes and tacks with the changing wind direction. After a delay due to waiting for the committee boat to make it through the locks it was time for the race start, AHHH!! Again, fortunately the winds were still pretty calm so the start was in slow motion. Minus one boat that yelled at us as they seem to have forgotten this is meant to be a casual race, the start went reasonably well. I picked a spot to stay in and wanted to be conservative so waited until after the start to hoist our spinnaker. After a couple of minutes the racer in me won out over the anxious person in me so the awesome team on the boat got the kite up and the jib furled in. All went well and THANK GOD the wind filled in a bit and stayed fairly steady so I could get a course and sail towards the first mark. Holy crap, I was doing it! I had helmed for my first race start and we didn’t crash into anybody, and now I was steering towards my first mark and picking our lines. It was incredible. The next mark rounding went fairly uneventfully, though again I was very conservative on calling the timing for the douse so we went way past the mark in order to drop the kite before rounding. Oops! Something I’ll definitely get better at as time goes on. The wind started to fill in a little bit more after rounding the West Point mark and I continued to get the feel for the boat. I started to get to know the sweet spot where I felt even pressure on both sides of the rudder and could tell she was happy. I looked around a little bit to see where other boats were but couldn’t spend much time doing it, I realized now why the skippers I’ve sailed with kept asking me to watch for other boats when I was trimming as it’s really a big job to keep focusing on where I’m driving and what the wind and telltales are doing. Skippers I love, if you’re reading this I promise I’ll be even more diligent about calling traffic and other hazards for you!

Because this was my first time helming a race, it couldn’t go completely without some oopsies and boy did they. Anyone who sails in Shilshole Bay knows that there are a couple of areas in particular where the water can be deceptively shallow. West Point is one such area, and having gone aground there spectacularly earlier in the year on another vessel (not my fault!!) I gave the beach a wide berth and we tacked away early and avoided any mishaps. As we were nearing the point I figured we should start turning soon I asked the guys what they thought about the tack angle and Mike smiled back and said “You’re the skipper!” Well… Meadow Point is a mark I’m used rounding on a boat with a shallower draft (my beloved Reckless, a J/80) and cut it a little too close before turning towards the mark. We didn’t have a working depth sounder on 20 Degrees and so there was a very soft lurch and we stopped moving and, crap, I had put us aground. Fortunately it was over in a matter of minutes as it was a soft grounding, the engine is solid, and we were able to throw the boom over to weight us. After some work moving the rudder back and forth and a few choice swears we wiggled ourself off of where we grounded and starting moving towards the mark by way of a few tacks. I was embarrassed and apologizing profusely to Duncan for my error and in my head hoping I hadn’t damaged the keel. Because I wasn’t focusing on where I was steering and what the wind and currents were doing, I managed to put us into irons (a point of sail where you don’t have forward momentum or much steerage at all) and the current was all too happy to push us into the Meadow Point buoy. Oops.
Not my finest 15 minutes of my sailing career for sure, and thanks to fellow rad lady sailor Remy on board we were able to avoid a harder bonk as she did a great job of fending us off. At this point Nadine could tell I was mentally beating myself up and encouraged me which I was very grateful for.

This seal was less than thrilled that he/she had to abruptly leave his/her chosen nap spot for an impending sailboat! Photo Credit: Amy Danger Mustard

The wind continued to kick in and it made for quite a fun run to Port Madison. It was revealed that the boat is named 20 Degrees because that is an angle that she sails quite happily at, and I have to agree! There were a few gusts and I think a couple of the crew were more than a little nervous at the angle we were at (sorry Amy!) as this was a new concept. Fortunately I had the awesome team of Mike and Remy trimming and they helped get the boat a little flatter so that there were no crazy broaches or round ups. We sailed past the invisible finish line and while we didn’t earn one of the coveted duck stickers, holy crap I had done it! I skippered a race!! My nervous instinct wanted to get the sails furled right away and throw the motor on, but then brain reminded me that other boats were finishing behind us (yay we weren’t dead last!!) and turning up into the wind just past the finish line would be bad form. We continued to motor sail into Port Madison and then I handed off the tiller to Duncan to get us into the raft up.

The raft up was fun and it was great to see dear friends in the community. A few expressed how proud they were that I skippered and I was grateful for it! I may or may not have had more than a couple of rum drinks to calm the nerves that finally got to get worked out about skippering so definitely did not do any of the driving home!!

One last raft up for the season, the weather was amazing!

Mike and Duncan, thank you SO MUCH for believing in me and entrusting me with the privilege of skippering. Thank you for providing a safe place to learn and make mistakes, and for encouraging me to make calls and experiment with the boat. Thanks for not yelling at me when I ran aground and then bonked the buoy, you would have had every right to take the helm away during the race but you told me to keep going and I feel like I grew so much as a sailor because of it. Remy, thank you for always being a badass and an all around fun woman to sail with. You may not know it but you have inspired me to go whole hog with sailing! Nadine and Amy, you both were awesome on the boat. Thank you for doing a great job of staying on the boat in conditions that were definitely not in the Jimmy Buffet video!

Love,

SailingUnicorn

Choppy, lively seas on the delivery home and yet another gorgeous Seattle sunset!

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