Thursday, September 04, 2014

Pocono Pirates

Last week for Throwback Thursday we had a photo quiz. I knew it was of the winners at a Sailing Association of North Jersey Lakes (SANJL) Junior Regatta but it took a bit of detective work by some of my smart readers to help me remember the names of all the sailors and even the year of the regatta. Turns out it was 1996.

This week Tillerwoman and I have been rummaging among the shoeboxes of old photos in the basement and we managed to unearth some photos of an even earlier SANJL Junior Regatta... in 1992.

This event was at Deer Lake which is a tiny puddle of a lake, a few miles north of Mountain Lakes in New Jersey, the town where we lived from 1989 to 2007.  When I moved there, my sons and I brought with us from England one Laser and two Optimists and we sailed them for a while in the Open Fleet at Mountain Lakes Sailing Association, but over time we all realized that most of the action at MLSA was in Sunfish and so all three of us took up Sunfish sailing.

SANJL is an organization that runs four senior regattas a year at various lakes around North Jersey, and (in those days) one Junior Regatta a year. In 1992, my friend Steve Manson encouraged a number of Mountain Lakes kids, including my sons, to come to the SANJL Junior Regatta at Deer Lake. As I recall, Steve lent my elder son his own boat but I don't remember whether all seven or eight Mountain Lakes kids who appear in my photos of that day were actually racing or whether some were just there to spectate and cheer on their friends.

So here is a photo of the racing action. Yes, the winds were pretty light. And that's me in the green polo shirt and sunglasses working on how to sit with bad posture and eventually trigger many episodes of lower back pain in later years. It was a typical day of North Jersey Sunfish racing except for one thing. This was a date which will live in infamy and the old salts still talk in incredulous tones of how it went down.

The first unusual thing was that, along with the usual contingent of parents with kids, a TEAM of kids showed up from Pennsylvania. With a COACH. And a trailer full of SIX Sunfish. From the next frigging state. It was unheard of.

But the day started in good spirits and everyone was cool and all the kids were having fun. After a few races it became apparent that the winner of the day was either going to be Tiller Extension #1 or one particular kid from the TEAM with a COACH from frigging PENNSYLVANIA. It was probably all going to be decided by which of the two sailed the best in the final race (although I don't recall the actually points situation.)

Anyway the kids were all drifting around in their boats on the other side of the lake in the final race. It was hard to see what was really going on but it looked to me as if Tiller Extension #1 was buried in the middle of the fleet and was not well positioned to win the regatta.

And then it happened. One of the kids from the TEAM with a COACH from frigging PENNSYLVANIA (not the one who had a chance to win) dove off his boat, swam across to the boat of Tiller Extension #1, got hold of that boat's mast and capsized it!!!!   OMG! WTF! Did that really just happen? We couldn't believe our eyes. (Did we even know what OMG and WTF meant in 1992?)

After Tiller Extension #1 had righted his boat he was so far back in the fleet that he had no chance to win the regatta and it looked like the winner would be the kid from the TEAM with a COACH from frigging PENNSYLVANIA (not the one who perpetrated the pirate attack to help his friend.)

But my friend Steve came to the rescue. Tiller Extension #1 wouldn't have known what to do on his own and in those days I don't think I would have known either. I wasn't party to the hearing but apparently Steve let them have it with Rule 2 and Rule 69.2c and Rule 62.1d or words to that effect and Tiller Extension #1 was awarded average points for that race which was enough for him to win the regatta.

Which is why I now have this photo of him holding the ginormous SANJL Junior Trophy as the 1992 SANJL Junior Champion.

Tiller Extension #2 is the little kid to the champions' right looking at the trophy and his big brother with admiring eyes and thinking, "I'm going to win that DAMN GINORMOUS THING myself one day!" (And he did.)

Is it my imagination or is #2 also holding a trophy in his left hand? Maybe he was first Midget (as we politically incorrectly used to call even more junior juniors in those days.)

Anyway the COACH of the TEAM from frigging PENNSYLVANIA did come over and apologize to us but I don't believe that the kid who launched the pirate attack did. Maybe he learned his lesson. It's entirely possible that his team-mate might have won the regatta if the race had been allowed to take its course. I hope the coach used the incident to teach his kids some lessons about sportsmanship.

I continued to be involved with the SANJL Junior Regattas for over a dozen years as a parent, a coach (yes, I really did take a TEAM from frigging MOUNTAIN LAKES to these regattas in later years) and a regatta organizer. But I never again saw an incident of such bad sportsmanship ever again. Kids who sail are basically good kids and a pleasure to work with. At least that's been my experience.


Anonymous said...

He basically deserved it with all his yelling and threats of protests and what not to all the little kids who were also drifting around aimlessly.

Tillerman said...

Thanks Anonymous. Always good to hear another side of the story.

And it's certainly true that some sailors are very vocal - and even annoying - with their "yelling and threats of protests" on the water. I come across adults like that when racing from time to time. But I don't think that justifies me in swimming over and capsizing their boat. Usually I just ignore them and sail faster. Much better revenge!

Derek said...

I remember this and to this day have never seen anything like it. However, it made such an impression on me that I always make a point to tell kids that they cannot play pirates while racing!

Steve and I may have been part of the protest committee along with the coach from Lake Naomi. Are you certain this was not at Lake Valhalla? I remember we discussed the incident and protest in a "junior building" on the rights side of the lake.

Tillerman said...

Interesting. Memory plays tricks in 20+years. Three people who were there that day with different perspectives and different (sometimes conflicting) memories.

Why do I think this was Deer Lake? Why does Derek think it was Lake Valhalla? I do remember sailing SANJL regattas at Lake Valhalla too and maybe there was a junior regatta there one year too. Maybe it was this year. Derek may well be right.

But for some reason I've been pretty certain over the last few weeks that this was Deer Lake but, for the life of me, I can't now remember why. It will probably come to me at 3am tomorrow morning and I will have to wake up Tillerwoman and tell her why.

Actually looking back over the last few days through various old photos of sailing at SANJL events and at Mountain Lakes in the 90s, Tillerwoman and I keep seeing people whom we recognize but can't put names too. And then some time over the next 24-48 hours the memory of the name will suddenly come back to one of us and we will shout it out.

"Karen Kubliski!"

"Hardy Bowen!"

"Alexa Nasta!"

"Will Staehle!"

The boy in the Athletic League T-shirt is Leighton Fort. (Or was it his brother?) The names of the two boys at either end of the line in the photo still elude us, but Tillerwoman thinks they were brothers. It will probably come to her at 3am the day after tomorrow.

And talking of memories, all of us remember (or think we remember) one or another sailor behaving badly that day. There's a message there. People remember bad stuff a long long time. Please refer to Laser Sailing: The Rules numbers 48, 49 and 50.

Tillerman said...

LOL. I see I have an email from Derek with irrefutable evidence that the 1992 SANJL Regatta was at Deer Lake. I guess this 66 year-old grandfather still has a few brain cells working properly.

George A said...

If the ginormous SANJL Junior Trophy is a perpetual award, with the winner's names and dates awarded engraved on the trophy, you could sort out this little mystery. Might require a short phone call to North Jersey. Of course this assumes that the aforementioned ginormous SANJL Junior Trophy still exists in all of it's ginormous awesomeness.

Tillerman said...

Correct George. I am now in possession of photos of the plaques on the trophy showing all the winners names and home clubs and years. That's how I know for sure that this was 1992 and the photo in the quiz was 1996. But the plaques don't include the name of the location of each annual junior regatta. But Derek found a full list of SANJL results from 1992 that confirms this really was Deer Lake.

Derek said...

The ginormous trophy grew this past year because we filled the first section. Here is the enlarged trophy:

There are a few pictures from the 2014 SANJL Youth regatta at

George A said...

Looking at Derek's pix, I wonder how many old mahogany Sunfish dagger boards have been "re-purposed" into perpetual trophies?! I know that Brigantine YC has at least one blade with a collection of little plaques screwed on it. The Classic Moth Boat Association also uses one as the annual "Turtle Trophy" to commemorate the year's most spectacular "crash and burn" incident. My son "won" that dubious distinction one season and remarked "there's a lot of good names on that slab of wood."

Tillerman said...


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