Cedar Key 2013 Small Boat Meet Report

~~~ Confidence at the helm

Previously published in Small Craft Advisor, Sep/Oct 2013, Issue No. 83

Thursday afternoon May 2nd, before the boat meet, instead of taking the pram Valencia to Town, Tom Greenway, whom I've known forty years since he was sixteen, drove sailing canoe Bufflehead and me to the Shell Mound. Tom should've had ten foot Valencia to himself until he felt comfortable and confident. But, she was out of commission because I'd poked my fingers through too much rot.

Cedar Key 2013 small boat meet At the National Wildlife Refuge's Mound it was mid eighties. A fine northeasterly was above the trees, making a world class lee for no-see-'em gnats. We couldn't help but inhale them. They buzzed in our ears and chewed between fingers and toes.

After I shoved Bufflehead off the trailer, Tom's joviality frowned---but he did not dash to his truck and blast the air conditioning. He waited, offering help while I scraped and rubbed one ankle against the other, and set a single reef before lunging away.

Tom in a Mini-Sunfish Immediately I regretted not setting full sail, but, when out of the Shell Mound's lee the northeasterly nine to twelve knots came alive. Rain squalls were northwest and wild skies all 'round. A mile and a half south I full reefed on windy McClamory Key.

As the breeze grew I kept inshore, rudder and leeboard bumping the two miles to Rattlesnake Key, then two more miles to "stop-over beach" off the airstrip. At the Piney Point turn east northeast I leaned into a very satisfying beat, with the tide, still port tack, a mile and a half to Town. It would've been a fine ride for Tom in Valencia!

Felucca, two Buffleheads Friday we borrowed a Mini-Sunfish, but it didn't have enough buoyancy for Tom's two hundred fifty pounds. It wouldn't get to weather for him and capsized twice. Damn!

Friday evening, the tradition continued of the potluck open house begun in 2001 by Jeri and Bob Treat. This year Meade Gougeon and Andy Zimmerman rented the Community Center and primed the potluck food pump. Although they might match the Treats' generosity, I doubt the Treats' graciousness can be equaled.

Larry White had enjoyed the Treats' hospitality, too, and has been coming to the meet since 1994. He was beaming more broadly than usual when we nodded and raised our drinks. He told me he and Karen had married that afternoon, "And thank you for the reception!"

Wes sailing Felucca "Congratulations!---but thank Treats, Andy and Meade." This was Karen's fourth boat meet. "Cedar Key," Larry emailed, "will certainly figure into every anniversary."

Boats that particularly caught me: The sublime, feather light, twelve foot 'Felucca' built by Robb White. Three Drascombe "Longboat" based, twenty two foot yawls, the most seductive Drascombe shape at anchor or sailing. Lady of Shalott---a seventeen foot motor-sailer---winked from solemn Arthurian legend. And a rakish seven foot nine inch Optimist Dinghy, Black Pearl, was built well and sailed ably by her young master.

Motorsailor Lady of Shalott Saturday noon a week later, overcast and hazy. From Town, single reef, Bufflehead and I jammed hard on the west southwesterly eight to ten, up current back to Piney Point, before reaching off north. On stop-over beach, thinking the wind would increase, I full reefed for broad off or running, the tricky points of monohull canoe sailing.

What will it take for Tom to have confidence for a seven mile jaunt like this? He's canoed Michigan lakes, kayaked off Hawaii's big island when he lived there, and run his powerboats on Puget Sound. I thought of the kid sailing in Black Pearl. I remembered Tom's gleefully rueful comment Friday night, "Yeah, Hugh's tried to teach me to sail for thirty nine years."

Drascombe longboat On Sunday he soloed a WindRider 17. He got it back, but thought he'd learned nothing. "It didn't feel like sailing."

At the world respected Sarasota Sailing Squadron, kids start in Optis. Adults begin in six foot wide, three hundred thirty pound Bauer 12 centerboard sloops. But, on our shallow coast... ?

Bufflehead and I chugged along in the breeze fading from nine knots. As thunder increased over the Gulf and speed sagged, my gunter lug's full reef irritated me. To the west, dark cloud bottoms roiled and slid northeast. I envied Meade's efficient reefing on WoodWind.

Opti Black Pearl I'd just pulled out at the Shell Mound when thick squalls thrashed onshore at twenty five to thirty five or so, west northwest. Driven torrents washed salt away and blew gnats to wet hell.

Somewhat sheltered by the concrete roof over the National Wildlife Refuge's new outhouse, I thought, 'Yep. Leeboards, free standing rig, as simple to build and as responsive as an Opti, room for a passenger and stable enough to stand and reef, light enough for one to pull ashore.'


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