….. on the dock with a coffee … watching the boats leave for the races … Bobby and Sigrid crewed yesterday on the A-cat, Spyder … three races, three wins … Maddie and Gretchen take their places today … but, no pressure ……
….. powering out to the sailing grounds … a glorious morning but no wind … becalmed … waiting …
….. finally, some wind, and the sails go up …
….. later, on the beach … hot sun … a nice breeze from the southeast … watching others sunning, playing, surfing … sand castles and sand pits with futile embankments against the tide … the umbrella’s shade feels good … the buzz of others enjoying the afternoon … watching the sanderlings flit about … reading a book … nattering with passing friends … the inevitable beach nap, a fade from this view …
….. the freshening shower … the freshening ice-cold Gin and Tonic … some dinner … back to the beach for the Supermoon … lots of chatty people there to see it … underwhelming … but a striking reflection …
….. where did you go today? … out …what did you do? … nothing ……… and what a pleasant day it was …
The second weekend of August brings the annual invitational Downbay Regatta to the sailing grounds of Little Egg Harbor Bay behind Long Beach Island. This always exciting premier sailing and social event has been hosted by the Little Egg Harbor Yacht Club for many years.
Guest clubs are from along the upper Barnegat Bay sailing area, ranging from Island Heights to Bayhead. There is a social overlay but there’s also a day and a half of hard, competitive sailing amongst four fleets, the large A-cats, the more traditional B-cats, the sleek, racy E-scows, and the supple Lightnings. Above is a group of E-scows, spinnakers out and rails in the water. It is an eye-festival of color and motion.
When the scows are approaching their marks it can become dangerously crowded.
Here is some crude video to give you a sense of the sound and motion of the scene. Don’t be too harsh on me; I was shooting from my inner tube.
For many the queens of the regatta are the big A-cats. These are characterized by a single mast carried well forward in the bow of the boat, a centerboard, a long boom providing plenty of sail, a wide beam approximately half the length of the boat, a single sail, and a “barndoor” rudder. Evolving in the late 19th century they were used for fishing and transport in the coastal waters around Cape Cod, Narragansett Bay, New York and New Jersey. Their shallow draft was particularly good for Barnegat Bay waters and, with their wide hulls providing lots of carriage space, they proved to be a great work and transportation boat. The A designation was created in 1923 for a larger recreational boat design that would carry five to ten people during racing. Here are four of the five that joined us this year, Spy, Spyder, Torch and Vapor. They’re dramatic boats under sail, especially when headed downwind.
A backbone fleet of our club is that of the more traditional catboats, sometimes referred to as B-cats. They’re smaller but can be handled by one for a pleasant evening sail. Here, four of them are about to make their turn at the mark.
Another fleet that was well represented was that of the Lightning class. Handsome, here, as they race downwind with their colorful spinnakers.
Our family participated again this year. Last year granddaughter Gretchen crewed on one of the E-scows. This year she and granddaughter Maddie sailed a friend’s catboat with their friend and sailing colleague Sam as captain .
Also, daughter Sigrid got to ride on one of the A-cats, Spyder, captained by a high school friend, Tim. who invited her to fill in on Sunday. That’s Tim on the bow and Sigrid on the rail at his left. An interesting series of pictures on the construction of Spyder can be seen by clicking here.
I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky, And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by, And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking, And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.
I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied; And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying, And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.
I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life, To the gull’s way and the whale’s way, where the wind’s like a whetted knife; And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover, And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.
I am always moved by this poem as I am by work such as Debussy’s La Mer (The Sea). While you’re reading this and looking at the images you can hear the third movement (Dialog of the Wind and the Sea) by turning up your volume and clicking on the arrow here.
It is his impressionistic style that appeals to me but it is also the images evoked of the sea, something with which I have had a long love affair. (My Nordic genes?) My late friend, psycho-analyst LeRoy Byerly, once observed that the sea reminded us of the sloshing waters of the womb. Well, it could be but my own affinity for the waters dates from childhood on the beaches and along the Intra Coastal Waterway in a boathouse on pilings with my rowboat underneath it. Also, having to watch all of the episodes of Victory at Sea many times in OCS probably had some effect as well.
In any event I have a bountiful stream of memories involving the seas and other waterways. As a child, diving under the waters, pretending to be the comic book character, Submariner; walking the beaches in winter after school; scampering dangerously from rock to rock on the jettys; putt-putting through the marshes after a night of fishing, with only a war surplus one-cell life jacket light as a running light.
As an adult it was watching the chairs slide across the deck in the wardroom while crossing a March, storm-tossed North Atlantic, and watching the long deck of the LST ripple with each wave through which we plowed. It was barely surviving a windy day’s broach and near capsizing of a Captain’s gig I was running while rounding the tip of Conanicut Island where the Narragansett opened to Long Island Sound’s chop. It was standing on the bridge in deep night during a quieter Atlantic crossing and seeing another ship ghosting by in the distance, sharing the greatness and the depths and the loneliness of stars and sea. It was standing on a Pacific shore as the sun sank into the mysterious Far East with Richard Rodgers’ Theme of the Fast Carriers spinning in my head, thinking about that war and my brother storming murderous beaches, and the great dramas and losses and sadness of that profound era.
It is my brother, Bill’s, poem defining experiences I have also felt.
It was being anchored in a bight along the Rideau Waterway in Canada, surrounded by rocky hillsides, seated with my family on the roof of our rented houseboat as night and a Canadian chill fell upon us and hearing the plaintive call of a loon. It was being placidly anchored in some secluded gunk-hole of the Chesapeake Bay as twilight descended upon us amidst others at anchor; secure, sharing private peace from the hazards of life, the bay and the night… islands of humanity. And, it has been struggling through six foot seas as we ran along the coast while the cat puked on the aft deck and Marty Lou wondered out loud why she had ever left the mountains.
It has been walking the docks of marinas after safely tying up at day’s end, hearing the sounds and smelling the smells of boats at rest. It has been gazing over the froth-filled near-shore reefs at the distant mountains of St. Bart’s as the sun rose on our beloved Dawn Beach. It has been gliding on a canal boat through a dark Alsatian mountain tunnel in lantern light with the sounds of a requiem mass being played. Whose? Too many years ago and too far away; I don’t remember.
It has been out on the sailing grounds, sun and spray in my face, watching the races and hearing the shhhhh of the hulls slicing through the water, the clicking of the cranked winches, and the occasional flapping of luffing sails. It has been standing on the beach during a Nor’easter, physically understanding the overwhelming forces of the pounding waves and my own insignificance there. And it has been watching the moon’s reflection and the brief sheen left on a receding wave.
August brings the annual Downbay Regatta on Little Egg Harbor bay. Dozens of sail boats from clubs along the middle and north Jersey coast as far as Bay Head arrive to participate in what is the most exciting club weekend of the summer.
Participating hulls include cat boats, lightnings, E-scows and M-scows but the annual stars of the show are the handsome A-Cats. Seven of the thirteen on Barnegat Bay were towed in for this year’s event.
A catboat is a characterized by a single mast carried well forward in the bow of the boat, a centerboard, a long boom providing plenty of sail, a wide beam approximately half the length of the boat, a single sail, and a “barndoor” rudder. Evolving in the late 19th century they were used for fishing and transport in the coastal waters around Cape Cod, Narragansett Bay, New York and New Jersey. Their shallow draft was particularly good for Barnegat Bay waters and, with their wide hulls providing lots of carriage space, they proved to be a great work and transportation boat. The A designation was created in 1923 for a larger recreational boat design that would carry five to ten people during racing.
Best not be in the way!
They are a formidable sight headed downwind.
But the weekend is noted also for the variety of design classes, all racing simultaneously within their class on the broad sailing grounds of Litte Egg Harbor Bay. It’s amazing that there aren’t more collisions.
July and I had been getting along pretty well. Oh I know there were the occasional thunder storms and a couple days of fog and some stinky hot days. But all in all we had a lot of good days together. I don’t know what I said or did that upset things. I thought we had pretty well bonded. Then the next thing I know, July snuck out of town late last night without saying goodbye to anyone. Oh, well, I’m told it’ll be back next year. Meanwhile it left some pleasant memories.
The last fishing pier piling.
In my ten years in Beach Haven there have always been three pilings here on the beach, left over from the 1896 fishing pier that was destroyed in the 1944 hurricane. They were a nice setting around which to photograph family groups. We just have to photograph smaller families now.
Last week, kids from other sailing clubs on the island gathered at our club for interclub competitions. Boats included Optis, Lasers, 420’s and a scattering of sunfish. Talk about herding cats.
The weekend before we had a party on the dock to raise funds for the preservation of nearby Mordecai Island which protects about a third of Beach Haven. Elvis showed up to entertain the crowd, and he did a good job.
A sign of late summer is the Downbay Regatta, held at the Little Egg Harbor Yacht Club and hosting A Cats, Lightnings, E Scows, and catboats from Long Beach Island north along the Jersey coast. It’s two days of serious sailing races and two nights of serious partying. Here, one of the giant A Cats, Vapor, heads out from Liberty Thoroughfare to make for the race grounds.
These magnificent boats are in the tradition of the large boats needed to haul goods from the mainland to the barrier islands in the 19th century. The A Cats are the 20th century interpretation, re-created beginning in the 20’s. They are typically on the order of 28′ long with 12′ beams. Here we see (left to right) Lotus, Vapor, Spy, Ghost, Spyder and Tamwock headed downwind.
Here’s the group making for the turning marker. I’m happy to have used a telephoto lens rather than being this close in front of them.
Equally awesome, particularly with their colorful spinakers are the E Scows. What an awful name for such beautiful boats.
For some more images of the Downbay races, click here.
One of the highlights of the summer season is the Twilight Sail around Mordecai Island, just west of Beach Haven. The event began with hamburgers and a keg on the deck. After dinner we strolled down the dock to find a boat with some room in it. For a little background music (dated, I know), click on the arrow below.
We boarded a boat and after some milling around the start horn was sounded and we were off.
Unfortunately, the wind was light and variable and soon we were all tacking in different directions (some not so good).
But, the party mood prevailed. Here is our lovely masthead figure.
Eventually the twlight closed in on us and we returned safely to the dock after a great, fun evening.