Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Goose Poop Beach Sailing Club

Goose Poop Beach Sailing Club? No, of course that's not the real name of the sailing club I'm going to describe. In line with my policy of preserving anonymity for the victims of my blog I decided not to use its real name. But those of who have sailed there will recognize it... and know why I chose that name too.

GPBSC was the first sailing club that I joined when I moved to New Jersey from England. There's probably going to be a few nostalgic posts in the next few weeks about sailing in New Jersey now that I have left the place. Perhaps we only appreciate what we have after we have left it?

GPBSC is the ultimate off-the-beach dinghy club. Club house? Doesn't have one. Safety boats? Hell no. Race committee? Not really. Friendly, competitive, top-class one-design sailing? You bet.

The club sails every Sunday morning off a beach on the lake near where I used to live. It was the ultimate luxury. Roll out of bed on Sunday morning. Wheel a boat on a dolly about 100 yards from my house to the launching ramp. Go sailing. Repeat week after week, year after year.

When I first moved to the town the club had an Open fleet as well as a Sunfish fleet. My sons (then aged 8 and 10) and I had brought two Optimists and a Laser with us from England. We raced in the open fleet with Portsmouth Yardstick handicaps. There was a 470, some Laser 2's and various other dinghies. It was laid-back, casual, family-oriented racing. But after a few years for some reason the fleet dwindled and died and we moved over to Sunfish.

Aaaah the Sunfish. I couldn't believe this crazy little boat the first time my neighbor lent me his. It couldn't point. It seemed under-powered. But in the next few years the class introduced a better sail and daggerboard and it wasn't quite such an awful boat. But who cares about boat performance? That whole area of North Jersey is full of little lakes with Sunfish fleets. When in Rome... as they say. I'm a strong believer in one-design sailing and going with the flow, racing whatever the locals race. So the Tillerman family eventually bought three Sunfish and raced every Sunday at GPBSC and on the local Sunfish circuit.

GPBSC has three fixed racing marks in the corners of a small lake. They are cleverly positioned far enough into the corners so that there is never any wind near the marks. This is so that when the leaders arrive at each mark they are becalmed and the tail-enders can catch up. This makes for closer racing.

The starting line is another couple of buoys near the beach on the lake. All the sailors congregate on that beach around 10am. The fleet captain announces the course. Some combination of those three fixed marks. He makes a great show of sniffing the wind and trying to chose a course that will start and end with a beat. But we all know that the effort is futile. The lake is small and sheltered by many trees and a couple of hills, so whatever the wind is doing now it will be different by the time we start. But we didn't really care.

After racing we used to run classes for anyone interested in learning to sail, adult or child. It was as much a public service as a recruiting tool. There were separate races for kids too. Some weeks there would be a barbecue and picnic on the beach too.

It was a good time. The kids honed their racing skills in that Sunfish fleet. We made many good friends. And in spite of, or perhaps because of, the crazy random winds on that little lake it bred some excellent sailors.

They were good years. But after a while I became frustrated. More on this in a future post...


Zen said...

Ah good times.

Tillerman said...


Mal Kiely [Lancelots Pram] said...

sounds different! sounds a bit like the small rural clubs here, except there's a whole lot more focus on beerp-consumption than sailing sometimes [tho not at ours, thankfully! heh heh].
Thanx for ur blog and hope you're beginning to find those things you'd thought were still packed away in boxes. heh heh
Mal :)

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