Race Day

Part I
by: Ralph E. Ahseln  10/2007

Iíd been setting at the table for over an hour. Even back here you could understand the sounds of the bragging and complaining of the Tuesday night racing crews. The far corner table at the Sextant Bar and Grill was my regular hang out spot. Tonight Iíd been here for a long time and my beer was warm and pretty much flat. But it was fun to listen to the crowd. There was still a lot of noise from the "round the buoys "gang. You know those regular complaints about "You didnít give me room at the Mark" and how someone had made contact but hadnít done their 360. Besides the normal high volume bitching, it was generally a happy bunch of sailors. They all were tanked and talking loudly. Like most sailors in a bar.

I hadnít found a ride for the upcoming series yet. I was hoping that, even over here, away from the crowd, someone would spot my T-shirt with the line "Iíd rather be sailing" written on the front. It was my way of trolling for a crew position. It had worked many times before.

Thereís always a boat with a short crew whoíd be happy to pick up a stranger. If, for nothing else, just to add some "Rail Meat" on the long weather legs. Since I had a fair amount of experience racing, after one race, Iíd be doing more than that.

The noise had begun to die down which usually means that everyone is about to head home. Full of beer and full of lies about the dayís racing performances.

It was beginning to look like I wasnít going to connect with a boat tonight. I guess Iíd have to come to the Sextant Tavern next week to do the waiting game again. Maybe by then someone would get sick, or a wife would complain or the foredeck girl would have a date. Thereís always a good chance Iíd catch a ride for the next race series sooner or later.

I was swallowing the last of my warm beer, tipping the glass up, and WHOA! There was this guy standing next to my table. He suddenly had appeared scaring the crap out of me. I must have jumped a foot. Half of the leftover beer wound up on my face and T-shirt. I sputtered, tried to catch a breath and coughed up some of the beer. I must have looked pretty funny. I thought the guy was going to split a gut laughing. He finally stopped giggling and wiping the tears from his eyes, then sat down next to me.

"Hey, Man Iím sorry I made you spill your beer. I thought youíd seen me coming over".

He stuck his hand out; it had a weathered and callused look. Not one of those West Hills professional types who jump on a boat to be on a "Winning crew" so they can talk about it the next day at the office. You know the kind whose hands are always covered in expensive racing gloves so never they get battered. No, this guy looked like a hard core, old timer, Salty. The kind of a guy that lives to sail.

We shook hands.

"My name is Mason Todd, but call me MASE, I own a sailboat. I like to race and I like to win".. "Are you interested in a crew spot? "

I leaned forward, looked him in the eyes and said, "You DAMNED right I am! "

"Are you as sloppy as you were with that beer ?" He started laughing again.

The kind of a laugh that you want to join inÖ and give to back as much in return.

"Do you sneak up on your crew just to scare the piss out of them? ".

I said, still wiping beer off my face and shirt. He snorted; you know that "nose "snort that is always so damned funny.

"Nope, at least not if they are sucking on a beer"..

"Good, because if you do it to ME again, Iíll aim in your direction"

He started laughing again. He could hardly catch a breath.

Right away, I knew I liked this guy. Fun, funny and probably a solid friend to all who knew him.

"I saw your T-shirt from across the room and since youíre here in the Sextant after races today, I assumed you must be a sailor"

"Yep, but I didnít race today. I normally hang out here hoping to do Pickup if someone needs an extra or a fill-in. But I didnít get a ride today."

"Really? Too bad. You looking for a position now? "

"Yep" I said,

"Well, I need someone at the Trimmer spot. Someone who can work at headsails and Chute. Think you can do it? Would you be Interested? ".

He had just called me out on THE VERY thing I love doing and that I CAN do better than most.

"I can do the job." I said. I must have sounded excited because that big grin broke out on his face again.

"Do you have all your gear and can you be ready next Tuesday for ĎAí boat races ? "

"I have all my stuff and Iím free for any race you want me "

"Good then, Well, Youíre now part of the crew. Whatís your name? "

"Iím Eddie Rolf. But call me Ed. "

I winked, he laughed. A table shaking belly laugh.

Iíve been on a lot of boats that seemed like great boats until you got on them. Crews that have worked together for years and that had winning records. Coming onboard as a Ďstrangerí sometimes caused problems. To try to keep those problems from happening it was a good idea to ask questions. Like, what had happened to the person you replaced. Iíve learned to ask the questions early before I would fully commit.

This was one of those times to ask question

"Umm, Mase, Could I ask what happened to the guy Iím replacing? " The smile left his face. A kind of a wistful look took its place.

"We donít know". His voice was a whisper.

"No one knows what happened to him or where he is. Weíve all tried to find him but he just canít be found"

"Was he a relative? " I asked.

"No, just a guy we had sailed with for a long time. A guy we all liked a lot. We miss him"

He had such a sad look that I decided not to question him farther. It was obvious he was concerned and the subject was a big hurt to him and I guessed for the rest of his crew.

We sat there quietly for a few minutes watching the last racing crews file out of the bar. Heading for their cars. The Sextant Tavern had gotten very quiet. The wall mounted TV and the clink of glasses being washed had replaced the alcohol driven noise of a few minutes ago.

After a short time the big grin found its way back to Masonís face.

"Well, weíll see you next Tuesday" he said.

"Ok, where should I meet you and the boat? "

"Can you be at the end of Slip "F" at Hidden Cove Marina around 1700?"

"Sure, is that where your boat is moored?"

"Nope. Just stand out on the end of the slip and weíll swing by and pick you up,"

This kind of arrangement wasnít unusual, Iíd done it many times at Hidden Cove and at other spots along the way to the race course. As a "Pickup" crewperson we donít always have keys to the gates of some marinas so itís usually easier to meet at some end of a dock.... and just jump on the boat there..

"Whatís the name of your boat soís Iíll not jump on some other boat that I may like better ? " I joked.

"Itís named. ĎYESTERDAYSíÖA gray hull with the name in Gold at midships. Itís a boat of my own design. A 30 foot, Flush Decked, masthead sloop, a crew of 6. youíll meet the other 4 on Tuesday."

He didnít say another word. He just got up from the table and walked out of the door!

Except for the Bartender and me there was no one else in the Sextant Bar and Grill.

While I was excited about catching a crew position on what sounded like a Hot boat, I wondered what the REAL story about the "missing "crew guy was.

Oh well, Next Tuesday a lot of questions would be answered.

It was going to be an Exciting Race Day.

I had NO idea just how exciting it was really going to beÖ

(To be continued)ÖÖÖÖ.


October 2007

Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four