I figured out long ago that if I volunteered to be the boat’s cook, I’d usually get invited back to sail again. This happened again, but it turned out to be one of those times that Mother Nature flexed her muscles and things did not work out as expected.
The Harvest Moon Regatta is about 24 hours of continuous racing off the Texas coast from Galveston to Port Aransas. We left the dock in Kemah at sunrise and motor-sailed to the starting line off Galveston for our 2pm start. It was a beautiful day. The winds were picking up a bit as the sun rose. Just perfect.
I wanted the pre-start lunch to be special so I made popovers stuffed with shrimp salad. A popover creates a perfect pocket for all sorts of stuffings – you can hold it in one hand and half of the stuffing doesn’t fall out onto the deck like it would with a regular sandwich. Perfect if you have to do things while you are eating.
At 28′ Booty-Ful was the smallest boat in the racing fleet. The largest boat was 75′. 86 boats competed and 25 of those boats did not finish the race. Because of the large number of boats, the fleet was divided into groups of six boats. Each group was given a specific start time. Our group hit the starting line at 2pm.
We managed to get a perfect start and away we sailed. Tom, our captain, chose to sail about a mile off shore. As evening approached we held a good direct line to the turning mark on a broad reach almost all the way to Port Aransas. At night, all boats turned on their running lights (a white light at the top of the mast with red and green lights lower down). You could see the other boats’ lights which looked liked stars: a few sprinkled around us and more between our boat and the shore. We were ahead of all but one boat in our group and passed a few boats that started before us.
As the sun set the wind freshened (blew harder) and before we knew it we needed to put on foul weather gear. The wind increased and waves started to break over the bow sometimes. We were wearing our life lines, which are very strong bungie cord-like lines that attach our PFDs (life jackets) to the boat so no one goes overboard. The boat was pitching so much that you could not stay below standing up. I tried to make roast beef sandwiches and ended up not being able to stand up in the galley. At times when I grabbed the handrails near the ceiling, the floor was at such a crazy angle that I couldn’t get my feet on it! The pitching nauseated most of us who went below. I had planned meals that could be put together quickly with no cooking but the pitching made it too difficult to get to the cooler and put together the simplest of meals. On deck everyone was fine, if wet. Melissa, one of the boat owners, came up with a solution for the nausea – she had peppermint oil which we rubbed on the back of our necks. This cured the nausea in minutes!
With the wind blowing stink and wave heights reaching 8′ for a good part of the night, I tried to nap by the side stays, curling up on the walkway between the safety line and the cabin. The waves would crash over the boat every few minutes so I only dozed a bit. Several of us took turns at the helm. I could only drive for about 30 minutes because of the strength needed to sail the proper course with the wind and waves.
Luckily Melissa had made the best banana bread I’ve ever eaten, which really saved us. Easy to eat and slightly sweet, it was perfect for delicate stomachs. Add in a few bags of chips for the salt, of course, and you had our bad weather menu.
My dinner plans of rare roast beef and boursin in challah buns, with fruit and Nutella to be served in mugs for breakfast … all got eaten on the calm sail back to Booty-Ful’s home port north of Galveston.
As the unexpected storm blew in, quite a few boats turned back. Although she was the smallest boat, Booty-Ful sailed straight and true, finishing well up in the middle of the pack. Small and Fierce we christened her. What a great crew and boat!