As we reluctantly say farewell to summer, I’m reminded of so many enjoyable summer days, one of which was in August, when a group of our friends held a sailing race called the second annual Hale Passage Regatta.
Hale Passage runs along the northern shore of Fox Island from Point Fosdick to Green Point, with the Fox Island Bridge crossing it near the western end. We look at the passage from our home, as do several of the regatta participants.
This water really is a sweet stretch used by so many boaters. Every day, a variety of crafts motor or sail past, headed to points east or west. When weather permits, water skiers, jet skiers, kayakers and paddle boarders play.
As I write, the water looks like a lake as smooth as glass and the color of foil, one of its many moods. On windy days, the water chops with white caps. Sometimes we see quiet ripples brushed by breezes that make for good sailing.
That August day was warm and partly cloudy with minimal wind. Five sailboats participated in the race: two large sailboats, Capaz and Artful Dodger, two Thunderbird sailboats, Snowbird and Orca, and a light sailboat, Vixen.
Seaswirl, a speedboat, served as the race committee boat. My husband and I were in our speedboat, Spirit, which was dubbed the “press boat.” Along with our crew, we took our reporting job seriously, but it was all done in good fun.
Each boat was filled with eager passengers who were along to crew or just enjoy socializing on the water.
When the committee boat sounded the horn, the boats jockeyed for the most advantageous position. The starting marker was just outside of Echo Bay. From there, the racers headed west toward the windward mark some 1.82 nautical miles away in Wollochet Bay. Mount Rainier blessed the race with her towering presence.
In spite of the light winds, all five boats made progress, with Vixen, Snowbird and Orca in the lead. Although the two big sailboats were in the back, they were clearly into the race. They looked majestic with their masts rising as tall as the Olympics in the background.
Snowbird rounded the eastern mark first, with Vixen and Orca close behind. After Capaz and Artful Dodger rounded, those of us in the press boat indulged in some libations, toasting the sailors for their skill and tenacity.
We watched with pleasure as the sailboats raced downwind, their spinnakers blooming like flowers against the sky in a riot of color: pink, green, blue, orange, yellow and rainbow.
As we got closer to the western mark, which was placed just east of the Fox Island Bridge, Orca moved nearer to its home on the Fox Island shore, and for a moment, we thought her captain had decided to leave the race and start up his barbecue grill! We couldn’t blame him, as he had many mouths to feed at the post-race potluck.
But, no, he simply sought wind until he pointed toward the mark, along with the other boats.
Rounding the mark, Snowbird again took the lead. The wind died, and the opposing current made it impossible to progress to the finish.
The committee boat called the race and named Snowbird the winner.
At the post-race feast, which satisfied some mighty-hungry sailors, there was much joshing and mock bickering about who had broken which rules, and who had “really” won. However, no formal protests were lodged.
The regatta was a great excuse for spending the afternoon on the water, to give each other a hard time and to break bread together.
That’s what boating is all about.A Time to Talk columnist Mary Magee can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.