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Pride of Baltimore II

I'm going to write a story about our day today with Rodney (coming tomorrow)...for now, enjoy this awesome photo of the Pride of Baltimore II that Mia took today out sailing with our friend Rodney. And check out his sculptures sometime too. 

They're amazing. Story - and more photos - to follow tomorrow...

In the meantime, enjoy this Spinsheet piece I wrote about our friend and six-time schooner race veteran Brian Duff. This piece was about his race in 2009 on a 52-foot brigantine - but in 2010, Brian skippered the smallest-ever boat in the race, a tiny Tancook Whaler replica with his friend Ted and their two young sons. Ironically, Rodney was aboard Arcturus when we went out from Annapolis on a very rainy day in 2010 to watch the start - also aboard were Brian's wife Kim, and Ted's wife Claudia. Also ironic is that fact that Mia and I are the event managers for this year's Caribbean 1500. Weird how things sometimes come full circle.

SCHOONER SAILORS

Reprinted From Spinsheet MagazineOctober 2010

For Brian Duff, the 2010 schooner race is going to be special.

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Brian at the helm

Not that they aren’t all special. I met Brian and his family at the start of the Caribbean 1500 Cruising Rally last year in Hampton, VA. He was there to skipper his father’s 52’ Brigantine schooner, One World to Tortola, following the 2009 Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race, which had finished only a few weeks before. The boat had just undergone an impressive refit – rebuild is the better word – from the steel hull to the masthead. The interior was gutted and re-designed, the masts re-rigged the traditional way using spliced wire rigging (including the addition of a triangular running sail on a squared-off yard arm). As with most cruising boats, One World was still not quite complete, but she’d be setting forth for the open sea nonetheless, the smaller finishing jobs to be completed underway.

One World’s hectic entry into the Schooner Race was another story. The day before the race she truly wasn’t ready – Brian and his crew were still installing the headsail furling system as they made their way to the starting line. Just days before she was still in a state of disrepair, as they scrambled to put everything back together in Annapolis. Brian had the resources – at the time he was owner of Southbound Cruising Services, a small yacht rigging shop in Annapolis.

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One World  blasting down the Bay on a 'schooner weather' day

He and his crew readied the boat between “real” jobs and their busy Boat Show schedule (which included several seminars and a visit from Brion Toss, author of The Rigger’s Apprentice, the yacht rigger’s bible, who came all the way from the Pacific Northwest). They made it, and crossed the line at Windmill Point 80 nautical miles south of the start off Annapolis fast enough to earn 2nd place in Class B, not a bad effort for the boat’s inaugural race.

In Hampton, Brian had several of his close friends onboard, readying the boat for the offshore leg to Tortola. Tom and Annie were helping deliver One World to the BVI before returning to Hampton to sail their own boat south to the Bahamas and onward to destinations unknown.

Emma is a beautiful black Vancouver 27 that Tom and Annie refitted together, mostly on their own time and with little money. Every morning I’d admire Emma from the dock, and finally got to meet her owners when we were invited on One World.

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One World's triangular raffee sail 

It was raining a chilly light mist outside, and the cabin of One World, with it’s wooden interior filled with books and bronze port lights was the most inviting place in the world. It wasn’t fancy but practical and cozy. What struck me about life below decks was the realness and simplicity of it all. We were offered hot drinks from the teapot steaming on the stove, and people were lounging around reading books and talking sailboats. These were real people, working people with real jobs, sailing because they loved it even if it didn’t make sense financially. And they sailed on One World because they still believed that sailing is a way of life, not a way to escape it.

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Family affair on One World

This year, Brian won’t be sailing One World in the 2010 Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race, and that’s exactly why this year is special to him. Instead, he’ll be blasting down the Bay in a tiny Tancook Whaler schooner, joined by his friend Ted Resetiloff and their two seven-year-old sons. The Whaler is miniscule in comparison to One World and doesn’t even have accommodation – it’ll be the four guys in essentially an open boat, against the elements, a father and son duo that Brian can’t wait to put into action: “I am really looking forward to just the four of us having a blast down the Bay.”

This will be Brian’s sixth GCBSR, and he’s a huge supporter of the event, both practically and philosophically. As owner of Southbound, he had the privilege of racing with many of his clients, “real folks who are cash strapped all the time.”

“Their love for schooners is strong enough to outweigh logic and drive them to spend on big complicated boats just for love. These guys are spending everything they can on their boats and are very proud of what they are able to produce out of their own pockets.”

He was quick to note that he’s referring to the smaller schooners (“35-60 feet”) that help to make the event the biggest gathering of schooners in the world. While the big guns like the schooner Virginia and the Pride of Baltimore II get the most press, it’s the family boats, the privately owned craft, in Brian’s opinion, that make the event worthwhile. It’s their chance, in his words, “to really show off this one time each year.”

The only minor downside, according to some sailors, is the way some rules are handled, decidedly un-traditionally from your standard yacht race. The GCBSR is organized somewhat like a professional golf tournament, in that the competitors essentially enforce the rules of the game by an honor system of sorts, and whether intentional or not, this sometimes doesn’t work out as planned.

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The bluegrass playing, Bluenose II replica Martha White in Portsmouth after the race

There is no committee boat on hand for the two finish lines – Windmill Pt, an 80 mile course for Class B&C, or Thimble Shoals, a 127 mile course for Class A&AA – and racers are required to record their own finishing times, based on crossing a line of latitude that is pre-set into a GPS onboard. Occasionally this doesn’t always work out as planned, as Brian has experienced, yet understands: “[Owners] get miffed when some other competitors either do not record times accurately, or blatantly misreport times to fudge results. But with the late-night arrivals and sometimes-unpleasant weather, a proper finish line isn’t always practical, and most schooner skippers recognize this.”

Brian thinks installing satellite transponders on each boat – ala the Carib. 1500 Rally and it’s trans-Atlantic counterpart, the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers, where each boat is trackable online – would allow greater participation from enthusiasts at home, as well as provide more accurate results for the competitors.

Despite the drawbacks – and they are minor – the GCBSR remains one of the most-attended schooner races in the world, attracting upwards of fifty boats, some as small as Brian’s 2010 Tancook Whaler entry, right on up to the clipper ship Pride of Baltimore II.

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Sally B and the Woodwind moored in Solomons Island

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Before our conversation ended, Brian recommended I get in touch with Dan MacLeod, owner/skipper of the family schooner Sally B. Brian didn’t know it, but I’d already met Dan in 2006. He invited me and a few other crew from the schooner Woodwind down below a few days after that year’s event, where we drank rum and listened to stories. The Sally B. was Dan’s love, this salty sailing boat befitting a salty sea captain. Dim yellow light from one exposed bulb bathed the wooden galley in a calming glow, and on that cold October evening in Sally B.’s cabin the stove warmed our bodies and the rum warmed our souls, while we embodied what it really means to be schooner sailors.

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