Thursday, April 21, 2011

Mid-Atlantic Mediocrity

Today's photo from the Tillerman family archives is of the Mountain Lakes Sailing Association Sunfish fleet racing one Sunday morning, apparently in some year before the invention of color photography. Although actually I think it's from the dim, distant days of the early 1990's. It's not clear to me why my family has so many black-and-white photos taken in that era but it might have have had something to do with my sons wanting images that they could manipulate in the high school darkroom. At least, I hope that's what they were doing in the high school darkroom. I didn't ask too many questions.

I have written before about this fleet at Sunfish Fleet 17 and Goose Poop Beach Sailing Club, so I'll try not to repeat too much of what I wrote there, but you will have to excuse me if I ramble on. We old people love to tell stories about the good old days.

Mountain Lakes, by the way, is in New Jersey and was where I used to live from 1988 to 2007.

The photo is taken just after the start of a race on a day when, quite unusually for this lake, the wind appears to exceed 2 knots. The start line was always set across the narrowest part of the lake so the race officer could sight the line from the beach (where the photographer appears to be standing.) The club does not have a race committee boat or a safety boat; indeed motor boats are banned on the lake. Note also that (at least in this epoch) hardly anybody in the fleet seems to be wearing a life-jacket. Them were the days.

Did I mention the lake was narrow at this point? This created the interesting tactical situation that the whole fleet usually set off on starboard tack towards a shore that was only a few hundred feet away and, as a result, those sailors who started at the pin end of the line would be bleating for room to tack only a few seconds after the start. Of course everyone in the fleet was fully cognizant of all the intricacies of Rule 20  (or Rule 43 as we used to call it in those days) and the whole fleet would tack away from the shore in perfect harmony with only a few T-boned Sunfish and hardly any naughty words. It was Sunday, after all.

It looks as if son #1 (the blogger formerly known as Litoralis) is in the lead. That's him on the far right of the picture with the sail number ending in 49. To windward of him in 49732 is one of the experts at sailing on this lake, Jaro Mesicek. I suspect he gave Litoralis a run for his money in this race.

The sailor in 29401 is Jay Eveleth, the godfather of junior sailing in this club for many years. When I retired from real work in 2000 I spent the next three summers on this lake helping Jay run the summer program for juniors.

And there I am in 77275, buried as usual in mid-fleet, eating bad air from at least three other boats. Why I didn't tack away for clear air in that huge gap that appears to be available is a mystery to me. My brain starts functioning in weird ways once the start signal sounds and I don't always remember what Stuart Walker and Ed Baird and Dave Perry wrote in all those books I own.

I don't yet appear to have entered my flowery hat period.

I sailed with this club for about 15 years and never did master the boat or the lake, although I was very intense and committed to improving my skills and finishing as high as I could in the season series. There were only a dozen or so regular racers but I hardly every managed to break into the top five in the overall results.

At nearby Hunterdon Sailing Club they have a Force 5 Regatta called the Millard Fillmore Regatta. Millard Fillmore was (apparently) America's most mediocre president and the prestigious Millard Fillmore trophy is awarded not to the winner of the regatta, but to the sailor who finishes in the exact middle of the fleet. I was the Millard Fillmore of Mountain Lakes.

But it was fun. I feel very nostalgic about all the summer Sundays I spent racing there and hanging out on the beach with all the fine folk in Sunfish Fleet 17. This year is the 100th anniversary of the founding of the town of Mountain Lakes, and the sailing club is holding a special Centennial Regatta on the July 4th weekend to celebrate. I might just have to go back for that.

This post was sponsored by North Jersey Lakes Goose Management, Egg Addling, Fence Installation and Poop Removal Company. No geese were harmed in the making of this blog.


Mojo said...


This is all very interesting and nostalgic, and all, but after you've introduced us, your devoted readers, to the ribald candor of that wondrous woman Sarah, Proud and Tall, a few questions come to mind, if you don't mind my asking:

Was there any dalliance with the lady-folk in Sunfish Fleet 17? (... note: Sarah not shy shy about naming names)

Did anyone get punched, or otherwise physically abused??

How much blow, or adult beverages were consumed during/after the event???

Come on Tillerman, SPICE IT UP!!

There could be a nice tie-in here with the new Page 3 (Bravo!, BTW)

Tillerman said...

Of all the sailing clubs in all the world I think this one was probably the least likely to have any of that stuff going on Mojo.

Sorry to disappoint you.

R W Rawles said...

Speaking of zzzzzz's! Lasers officially splashed in the The New York Boat Show in 1971! I don't understand what Tillerman is doing sailing Sunfish after 1972????? I'd call that late on the start!

Mojo said...

You never disappoint us, Tillerman...

... as time goes by

Tillerman said...

Oh, there's a good reason for that RW.

I first took up sailing in the early 1980's and I chose the Laser, of course.

When we moved to America in 1988, I brought my Laser with me, of course.

I have always owned a Laser (or sometimes several Lasers) since I bought my first one. I have raced my Laser every year, of course.

But.... there was a Sunfish fleet that raced on the lake every Sunday just across from my home in NJ.

And... there was hardly any Laser racing in the area of northern NJ where I lived. I had to travel quite a long way for regattas (and I did.)

And... there was a lot of Sunfish racing on the North Jersey lakes including an excellent series of regattas around different lakes.

So I went with the flow. When in Rome etc. etc. and took up Sunfish sailing while I lived there.

When I decided to move to Rhode Island, I sold my Sunfish and now only sail my Laser.

Sorry about that.

Tillerman said...

By the way, this is the 2000th post on this blog.

O Docker said...

Congratulations on your 2000th post!

I didn't realize it at the time, of course, but my years in New Jersey were transitional, too. They separated my youth from what has had to pass for maturity.

I never did learn how to break out of midfleet. In fact, the rest of my life has been a struggle just to stay there.

I think if you had tried to escape the fleet by tacking onto port, you would have come afoul of Mr. 53263 and the Get The Heck Out Of My Way You Stupid Port Tacker rule (there must be another name for it).

In the movies, a bold tack onto port often wins the day. In my life, it has usually resulted in pain, suffering, embarrassment, and a resolve never to do that again.

Baydog said...

Here's one for you, Tillerman: If the Millard Fillmore trophy is for the sailor in the middle of the pack, for which President would the winning trophy be named? And for which the last place finisher? Please explain your answer (not that I think you wouldn't).

Baydog said...

And get a load of all the telltales on 53263's sail. After a while, windage becomes an issue, no?

Tillerman said...

Oh yes, well spotted Baydog. That could be a whole post on its own. He was actually a very good sailor but whether it was because of all the telltales I don't know. In the photo he appears to be intensely studying his telltales. With so many to watch I don't know how he ever found the time to look at anything else.

Tillerman said...

And as for presidents, the answer to your question is that the first president was George Washington and the last one was George W. Bush. That is what you asked, right?

Tillerman said...

O Docker, watch for an upcoming post about "bold tacks on to port" and when to do them.

Baydog said...

I was hoping for your personal, more cynical response

Tillerman said...

I think my personal, cynical response would be the same.

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