I was tootling along in my innocuous Honda minivan, possibly singing, when my life flashed in front of my eyes.
As it does.
A montage of really good stuff, actually. Kind of like the Sports Center Highlights Reel, only the soundtrack wasn't great: just my own voice, repeating a filthy variant of "Oh, fiddlesticks!"
On a sunny morning on the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway, a late-model muscle-car –– a Shelby or a Mustang (my apologies for blasphemy to whatever car-guy still reading after three paragraphs) –– almost smoked his tires stopping by the side of the road ahead in the distance.
Flinging open his door, the driver jumped out and assumed a classic shooter's stance: dominant arm outstretched, holding, with the other supporting, legs square, eye to the sight. The tiny, deadly, dark circle of muzzle pointing at me.
It's a testimony to hundreds of thousands of years of evolution that adrenaline hits the system quicker than the brain can process the need for it. I was already ducking a little (as if my steering wheel would offer any real cover!) before the thought of how fiddlestickingly stupid this was as a way to go: death by sniper.
Adrenaline grants the sensation of time dilation. My irritability about gun culture was accompanied almost simultaneously by a fleeting regret about the very LONG list of things left that I'd hoped to accomplish. And the lightning-flash reel of life highlights.
And then, quicker than a blink, I processed the shooter's details: a fit man in a tan uniform, sunglasses hiding half of his dark face, the light shining off what I really, really hoped was a lawman's badge. I hoped that he wasn't a man in the grips of mental illness, uniform or no. And then, the last thing I recognized: the hair-dryer shape of a radar gun.
Half of South Tampa passed before my heart stopped racing like a rabbit.
Over the Bounding Main
My favorite skipper gave the boat the –– I hope temporary –– sobriquet of "Work in Progress." A brand-new, styrene-scented, shiny white Lightning, boat #15590 came fresh from Allen Boat Company in Buffalo, NY this spring.
No, not ours: the boat is owned by Steve and Jan Davis of Denver, Colorado. (Check out what they do when not sailing!)
Jeff and Steve and I assembled the parts and took our first sail on a mild-mannered Saturday. And then started racing in earnest on a less mild-mannered Sunday at the 70th annual St. Petersburg Winter Championships.
Three races in breeze, a case of strep throat for Mr. Linton, two additional days of light-and-flukey, and we finished the regatta in sixth place, leaving a regrettable pile of points on the table.
Sometimes it's possible to pinpoint exactly the eight points separating oneself from the top five. Sigh.
Bill Clausen is one of the shining lights of the International Lightning Class. He's taken wonderful action shots of regattas for years, and then shares them freely. Here's the whole Flickr album from the regatta.
Also on the water taking great photos -- Phil Pape, who does a really lovely line of artful photos of sailing events. Here's the link to his page for the Winter Championships in St. Petersburg. www.philpape.photography/p587696734.
Our Southern Circuit continued in Miami, where the weather forecast offered some sort of WindPocalypse. Light air, snorting breeze, atmospheric lightning –– we had it all. Racing was called off one day –– when WeatherUnderground shows a maximum puff was 45 mph. A nice day to mooch around Coconut Grove and check out the peacocks.
On the last day of the Midwinters, regatta organizers put together four races in fresh (high teens) breeze. I don't know if I can regret not having photos, but we finished the third race in 22nd place, after a brief but refreshing swim. Something happened mid-gybe when we were in fourth place trying for third. Oops.
Work in Progress was quickly re-righted, our rummage sale of gear was returned to us by a nearby coach boat (Thanks Nick Turney! Thanks Brian Hayes!), and we pulled ourselves together enough to finish the regatta with a bullet. As a special bonus, Steve Davis got to wash Biscayne Bay sand out of the top of the brand-new mast and replace the spreaders! Got that out of the way, knock wood! Yay!
It's a pleasure to sail with the Davises –– we always laugh a lot and eat well and sail as hard as we can. Thank you Steve and Jan for including us in this Work project.
That Time of Year...
The blog will have a bit of a break while the salt reserves are replenished... (Wouldn't it seem more likely that the etymology of that word would make it "replentished"? Oh well.)
Writing Prompt: Divine Hair
Blank faces staring skyward.
Reflections skim the glass.
Full-grown dolls and no one loves them.
Ad Astra per Aster, that's what she thought of that particular model. Not Atticus Finch's "from the mud to the stars" and not Kansas' "through difficulty to the stars," but "to the stars, by Aster."
The spun silver hairdo was as glamorous as a movie star's, she thought, and the way those silvery eyes were always gazing into the distant heights ––! It was her favorite of the mannequin heads and her favorite wig. She could stand by the plate glass window all morning just enjoying the vision.
But someone was always coming by and telling her to leave. "Move it along, chubs!" the policeman told her. As if she was hurting anything. As if she didn't have feelings. She wasn't just a thing, after all. She was human, even if she didn't look like those dainty creatures with their perfect hair.
Everglades What? 2017
The organizers of the event announced early on Friday that should a small craft advisory be in effect at the start, the fleet would be delayed on shore. The WaterTribe is made up of small -- nay, tiny -- craft, and there is a well-travelled shipping channel between the start and the first couple of miles.
It takes very little imagination to see where that might go badly.
I was awake most of Friday night, listening to the gentle snoring of Ninjee and Moresailesed and the freight-train roar of wind through the trees outside the camper.
On Saturday morning, the news came at the six-thirty competitor's meeting: small craft advisory still in effect. Consequently, a 24-hour delay on shore, and disqualification for anyone who ventured out before then.
As the morning wore on, the prospects changed shape. In the likely event of continued small craft advisoriess, further delays might be possible, unless the boats were starting south of Tampa Bay.
Many of the competitors popped their vessels onto trailers and skipped ahead to Check Point #1 for the restart. Team Spawn considered it briefly, then weighed their original goals –– to top last year's time and to finally (finally!) stick around for the awards ceremony and receive one of those dang (alleged) shark's teeth.
Over a hearty breakfast and by the glow of multiple internet devices, the team gauged weather against time. And headed for the barn.
Until the next adventure...
That's how progress has been on Spawn this year.
OH Rodgers, the boat designer, came up with a pair of sliding foils that lifted the bow of the boat last fall. They looked sporty and worked to make the boat a bit more stable and quicker.
After a bit of testing, however, Mr. Linton pronounced, "The juice isn't worth the squeeze." Sadly for fans of the coolness, the foils took up a great deal of room in the cockpit, which tended to make the boat much less easy to row.
For the Everglades Challenge, with its 300 miles of sailing and rowing and camping across oyster beds and what-not, the faster performance of the foil didn't quite outweigh the possible need to operate the sweeps.
So the slots where the foils were inserted got filled back in and the rowing seat received a bit of an update.
For the first time, Team Spawn seems to be ready with plenty of time to spare. No last-minute deliveries or modifications! No questionable flight arrivals. No drama! Knock wood.
With the bonus days, Captain TwoBeers turned his attention to organizing. In the famous last words of Joe Hill: "Don't mourn, organize."
Fact: The quotation was actually from the next-to-the-last letter the labor organizer wrote before being shot by firing squad, and it goes like this: "Don't waste any time mourning. Organize."
In his last letter before execution, Hill asked that same friend, "Could you arrange to have my body hauled to the state line to be buried? I don't want to be found dead in Utah." Gallows humor is the bravest of them all.
Extra bonus fact:
Successive approximation is also used in behavior modification; I knew someone who worked with emotionally disturbed kids. As part of their learning plan, teachers would reward "approximately" appropriate behavior.
As I recall, one of her most challenging students was doing well when he managed to call her Miss F*&ing B@#%.
Baby steps. What I learned from stories about working with emotionally disturbed kids is that there is a whole world of people worse off in every way than it's possible to imagine. We are most of us really lucky.
About the Blog
A lot of ground gets covered on this blog -- from sailboat racing to book suggestions to plain old piffle.
Trying to keep track? Follow me on Facebook or Twitter or if you use an aggregator, click the RSS option below.
Old school? Sign up for the newsletter and I'll shoot you a short e-mail when there's something new.