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Aug. 23, 2019
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Vinnie Mendes On the Water

Prohibition, common sense and rum running on the Jersey Shore

Will Rogers once said ”Thank God we don’t get all the government we pay for.” Among the many examples of this was the 18th Amendment, which forbade the manufacture, sale and consumption of alcohol. Not only did it cost the country many millions of dollars in tax revenues, but also set up any number of businesses, both large and small to circumvent the law. Although the major notoriety was concentrated on the large operations sponsored by organized crime, there was a much smaller and possibly more widespread industry of which I know a little firsthand. 
 
I grew up in a little seacoast town near Sandy Hook, N.J. where the two major industries were clam digging and lobstering. My paternal grandfather was a bootlegger who actually owned a speakeasy where he sold booze from the “Rum Row,” a line of ships anchored off shore just beyond the three-mile US Territorial limit where the Coast Guard had no jurisdiction. He also sold his own homemade beer and ’shine.  
 
Now it’s hard to explain to outsiders how anyone could collect a few dollars from their friends, row three miles past the point of the “Hook” and row back in with a fortune’s worth of booze … if they didn’t get caught! The small guys usually weren’t worth the Coast Guard’s attention. The commercial rum runners were another story. They had their boats built by Seaman, a third-generation boat builder in Long Branch, who built all the local lobster boats and Coast Guard boats.

These weren’t actually the big “Pickets” or “Cutters” but 55-foot “Chase” boats designed to do nothing but go fast and catch rum runners. Paradoxically, they were built in the ways along side of the very boats they were supposed to chase! Both had WWI Liberty aircraft engines, but that’s where similarity ended. The Coast Guard boats were built to government specifications with heavy ribs and scantlings designed by some third year naval architecture student at the Coast Guard Academy. The rum runners were build light and fast, designed by Seaman.
 
I used to sail with an old lobsterman who would tell me stories. It was all very exciting until you realized that the Coast Guard was playing for keeps. One of his friends got shot and described the surprise of feeling like you got kicked in the back by a horse and looking down to see part of your lung poking out of your plaid flannel shirt! Fortunately he got away and survived to tell the tale. 
 
One of the tricks the lobstermen would use was to tow the cases of booze in a net behind the boat. If the Coast Guard spotted them, they would cut the tow line and the net would sink to the bottom. Tied to the net was a buoy with a bag of salt. After a certain amount of time, the salt would dissolve, and the buoy would float to the surface. If the water was deeper than the buoy line, they would have to drag for it, a lot of times unsuccessfully. Quite often we’d be sailing along and he would look at the compass, line up a church steeple with a chimney and say with a tear in his eye ”You know, we’re in seven fathoms of water but there’s 10 cases of the finest whiskey you ever tasted down there.” Even in the 1950s I remember every once in awhile a clamdigger would rake up a bottle of booze. Within the hour word would spread and half the bay would be there thinking there were probably a treasure trove of rare old Scotch or Canadian whisky at the bottom.
 
Finally in the early 1930s President Franklin Delano Roosevelt put an end to the madness and the 21st Amendment was passed to repeal the 18th. When that occurred, my grandfather simply hung a sign out in front of his speakeasy and went on with business as usual.
 
 
 
 
Mendes has been sailing all his life and on Lake Lanier for the past 25 years. His family owns a marina/bar/restaurant so he has plenty of real life experiences to draw from. His favorite line: “You can’t make this stuff up.”





July 2019 column

Leaf blowers, jet skis and the 100-foot rule

One of my favorite things to do on Sunday morning is to sit out on my deck with a cup of coffee and the Sunday Times crossword puzzle. Unfortunately, I have to do it early as about 9 a.m. the neighborhood leaf blowers fire up. I fondly remember the quiet days when people used to rake leaves. You could sit outside and enjoy the trees and the sky with the birds chirping and the other sounds of nature and concentrate on what you were doing. Now with the leaf blowers you need a set of ear plugs. I’m sure that all of the lawn services instruct their employees that if they finish a one hour job in 20 minutes, to put on their head phones, start up the leaf blower and walk around for the remaining 40 minutes.
 
A distant relative of the leaf blower is the Jet Ski. Now you may think that this is like comparing a barge to a sailboat, but besides from both of them being things that float on the water, they are both required to display the same running lights after dark, i.e. red and green port and starboard and a white light on the stern. Jet Skis and leaf blowers both use gasoline engines to make a racket in the otherwise quiet and pristine environment of the lake and are similarly annoying. I have ridden Jet Skis as well as Ski Doos (snow mobiles) and have been a long-time motorcycle rider so I can understand the mentality of having the power to go from point A to point B very quickly. The feeling of control with the rush of the wind going past and the centrifugal force of a turn taken at speed is exhilarating.
 
The favorite sport of Jet Skis is to jump the wake of larger boats, the closer the better. This would be all right if they had full control of the craft and the boat making the wake was small enough that they could see what’s coming on the other side. When they try it with an 80-foot houseboat there are occasionally spectacular midair collisions. You can check them out on YouTube. 
 
Now when I first moved to the lake about 25 years ago, my next-door neighbor was a fishing guide. He had been on the lake forever and knew an awful lot about fishing in general and fishing on Lake Lanier in particular. About once a week I would see him walk down to his dock with a fishing pole and walk back up about 20 minutes later with a big fish! I asked his secret, and he said after every Christmas he tied a brick to his Christmas tree and sank it in the same place off his dock. The small fish came to hide out in the branches and the bigger fish came to feed on the smaller fish. He knew exactly where to cast his lure and, voila, fresh fish for dinner!
 
Over the years he had collected a number of good Jet Ski stories. I think the best one was when some teenager jumped the wake of his 25-foot Grady White, missing him by about a foot. He yelled at the kid who came back and did it again, flipping him the bird in the process. He figured he’d teach the kid a lesson so he got right behind him about three feet off his port quarter and chased him all the way up the lake, under Browns Bridge, past Gainesville, through the Rowing Venue and on up into the Chattahoochee River until the Jet Ski ran out of fuel. Then he simply turned around and said “Adios @#*hole,” and went home leaving the kid stranded. (This was long before cell phones.)
 
Incidents such as these have led the Georgia Department of natural resources to impose the 100-foot rule, which requires any vessel approaching another vessel, dock, shore or person in the water to do so at no faster than idle speed, unless meeting in a normal rules of the road situation. It’s a problem gauging 100 feet out on the water with no familiar objects to compare to. To help with this, Aqualand Marina and Gainesville Marina both have two floating signs displayed near their gas docks with arrows pointing at one another. The distance between them is 100 feet. This will give boaters an idea of what 100 feet looks like from their vessel. There are plans for more marinas to display signs like this. 
 
Hopefully this will reduce the number of accidents and fatalities, however, no matter how much legislation you pass, or instructions you give, “You can’t cure stupid!”


June 2019 column

An immigrant's odyssey

My Armenian grandfather was born in Constantinople (now Istanbul), Turkey in the 1870s. When he was about 14 years old, the Turks were systematically eliminating the Armenian population by killing off all the men and boys and selling the women into harems (yeah, it really happened, check it out!). 
 
Papa and a friend were hanging around the docks one day when suddenly some Turkish cops approached wanting to “talk” to them. They escaped on foot and after a chase ran up the gangway of an English ship, hoping for sanctuary. The Turks wanted to come and take the boys, but the British captain would not allow them on board. The cops went back for reinforcements and the captain simply cast off the dock lines and put to sea! 
 
In the 1880s there was no such thing as radio or modern patrol boats to chase them. Haik and his friend thanked their rescuers and became part of the crew. They assumed that they were going to England on the “Boyd of London.” To their surprise, they were headed to New York. They were put to work in the galley and peeled so many potatoes that Papa swore he’d never eat one again!
 
The first stop was Gibraltar and the ship’s Purser jumped ship as soon as they docked. The Captain asked Papa if he could do “cyphers” (arithmetic) and he said “of course.” Papa had been educated in a German Military Academy, so he was good at math, and spoke several languages. He gladly left the potato peels and became the new Purser. 
 
When the ship docked in Brooklyn several weeks later, he was listed as “ship’s crew” rather than “immigrant” and thus he never came through Ellis Island. He decided to stay on in New York City. He got a job and became a US Citizen.
 
Men worked six days and got Sunday off back then. Each Sunday, Papa would take a street car out to the shore and hang out at a yacht club in Brooklyn. There happened to be a sunken boat in one of the slips, and someone said “Hey Haik, you want a boat? Get this thing to float and it’s yours.” Taking the challenge, he got his buddies together and raised the old skiff off the bottom!
 
He gradually disassembled the engine and smuggled it piece by piece back to his rooming house in a suitcase. Over the winter he rebuilt the engine. The following summer after work every Saturday, Haik and his crew would motor his boat 15 miles across lower New York Bay and up the Shrewsbury River to camp out on the beach.
 
As they passed by the hills of Highlands, NJ, he would point up to them and tell his friends how they reminded him of his family home on the Bosporus in Constantinople. He said that one day he would own a house on top of the hill with property running all the way down to the river. They all scoffed at him for having such an unattainable dream, but they enjoyed the weekend trips down to the shore.
 
Papa worked in a new science/art called Photo Engraving in its earliest days. In the 1880s this was tantamount to designing computers in the 1960s. He gradually worked his way up and wound up owning the company and starting up several other businesses. Eventually he built his “house on top of the hill with property running all the way down to the river.” This is where my mother was born, and I was raised.
 
Papa died at age 102. He was sitting at his desk giving dictation to his secretary with a cigar in his hand. It slumped down on his lap and his secretary thought he had fallen asleep. She took the cigar out of his hand and realized that he was dead. Papa had outlived three wives. He had five children, and countless grand, great-grand and great-great-grandchildren. He left $25,000 to each of his kids, $5,000 to each of the rest of us and $21 million to the Armenian church! Now this was the 1970s, when $21 million was real money! 
 
When my mother and all her brothers and sisters wanted to contest the will, I asked her, “Mom, how much money you got? The Armenian Church has $21 million to hire the best lawyers in New York, and you want to fight that?” Papa was totally lucid up to the very end and he knew exactly what he was doing. What he left us is in our genes, not in a bank account. I’m just happy to be remembered and all I’ve got to say is “Thank you, Papa.”
 
I think of him often especially when I’m out at sea or on the lake, using the natural motion of the wind and water to get me where I want to go. We all have to play the cards that we’re dealt and make the best of it.


May 2019 column

On the lake, there be dragons!

I love to volunteer. It makes me feel good, and it’s a lot of fun. You never know who you’ll meet or what you’ll encounter that wouldn’t ordinarily cross your path.
 
One of my regular “gigs” is driving a referee boat or safety boat at the Olympic Rowing Venue in Gainesville. I arrive at 6 a.m. to be out on the water by 6:30, and usually work until after 6 at night. It’s really exciting to be “up close and personal” with all of these Olympic class athletes at their National Championship Qualifying Competition. The boats range from the one-person canoe, kayak or racing shell, to the 40-foot long eight-person shell, which can achieve speeds upward of 15 mph. 
 
The course runs for about three miles up a narrow part of the lake, with eight narrow lanes, sort of like a swim meet but much longer. The lanes are separated by small orange buoys every 20 yards or so. When viewed looking directly down the course as from Clarks Bridge, they look like airplane runway landing lights. It takes a lot of concentration to chase a bunch of boats down the course while maintaining a safe distance and staying in my lane. It’s hard to imagine the concentration required by the rowers and cox’n!
 
The venue itself is set up with bleachers allowing spectators to see the entire race course with the finish line directly in front of them. There are no “bad” seats here.
 
One of the most interesting events I’ve volunteered for are the Dragon Boats. These are 40-foot-long replicas of oriental war canoes decorated in bright colors with a dragon’s head at the bow and tail at the stern. They require a crew of 22, made up of 20 paddlers, one steer’s-person with an oar and a drummer to beat the cadence on a large bass drum.
 
It’s really exciting to see a whole line of these coming down the course neck and neck. You hear the crowd cheering and the drums beating “BOOM, BOOM, BOOM,” faster and faster as they approach the finish line. You could be on a movie set in the South Sea Islands with Clark Gable.
 
Now, a canoe is sort of a tippy boat anyway but try putting 22 people including a drummer in one and add all of the adrenalin of racing! Every once in awhile after a boat crosses the finish line in a really close race, the entire crew will stand up in the winning boat and it will capsize putting everyone in the water! (This is one of the reasons why they are all required to wear life preservers).
 
Dragon boating is purportedly the second largest sport in the world, with events held on all the continents except Antarctica. Last year the Dragon Boat Worlds were held right here in Gainesville. Among this diverse group of athletes are the members of Dragon Boat Atlanta. (Check out dragonboatatlanta.org or on Facebook) These are Breast Cancer Survivors who compete regularly all around the world. Within the past year they have competed in places such as Florence, Italy.
 
The local organization was started several years ago, modeled after other clubs around the country. Their goal is to help women move from merely surviving to thriving through support, friendship, laughter and exercise. They also increase community awareness of breast cancer issues and of the important role of exercise in maximizing quality of life after breast cancer.
 
It seems the exercise you get while paddling is not only beneficial all around, but extremely good for the muscles affected by breast cancer and members of the club have had much lower recurrence of the disease.
 
Its encounters like these that make it so much fun volunteering. Sometimes it is hard work and time consuming, but you never know what interesting people and unexpected adventures you’ll run into.
 


April 2019 column

A tugboat's odyssey

Several years ago, at my brother’s marina, Teddy, one of the regulars at the bar, came up with a scheme to outwit his three ex-wives. They were always after him for money and the instant he bought anything, (house/car/whatever), one of them would put a lien on it. 
 
He found an old wooden tugboat that had been converted into a yacht in the 1960s. She was 85 feet long and had plenty of room for living, recreation, parties etc. Teddy planned to put it into his mother’s name, moor it in the river in front of her house and live on it. It sure beat the dumpy apartment he was living in. Now Teddy ran a motorcycle shop and had a rudimentary knowledge of outboards, but knew very little about sailing, navigating and virtually nothing about big boats.
 
The only problem was the boat was located in Booth Bay Harbor, Maine, and this was November, and he had to get her down to New Jersey. Nothing insurmountable. Since there is very little to do around the marina in the winter time in NJ, my brother Hank and I decided to go on a road trip and sail her on down. Teddy also enlisted Andy, another of the regulars to come with us. I was not too confident in him as he tended to drink a bit too much but figured we could use an extra pair of hands. So, one cold November morning the four of us headed north in a rental car ready for a two-week adventure. Eight hours later, we turned in our rental car at the harbor and inspected the boat thoroughly. She was everything claimed, old but well maintained and seaworthy. 
 
We set sail the next morning and for a few days things went fairly smoothly. When we pulled into Gloucester, Mass, the harbor was very crowded. We asked a local fisherman where we could safely anchor. He directed us to a mooring and told us we could tie up there because it belonged to a “big” fishing trawler that would be out to sea for several days. We tied up and just to be on the safe side, set an anchor watch since the harbor was so crowded and the wind was picking up.
 
Andy had the four hour watch from eight to midnight. When I came to relieve him, I found him dozing in the pilothouse! While he was passed out, we had dragged the mooring half way across the harbor!
I woke my brother and we started the engine and between the two of us kept this 85-foot “battering ram” from drifting into any other boats or obstacles for the rest of the night. Of course, Teddy slept through it all! At the crack of dawn, we cast off the mooring and headed out of the harbor, hoping that the fellows who owned the “big” fishing trawler could find their mooring when they returned. (She was probably all of 40 feet long.)
 
Nothing remarkable occurred for the next two days until we got through the Cape Cod canal and entered Buzzard’s Bay. Now you must realize that this was long before GPS and other fancy navigational aids and we were navigating using a compass, binoculars and most important, a chart! The chart comes in what is called a “Chartkit” which is a soft cover book about twice the size of a loose-leaf binder. It has about 20 miles of coastline on each page with channel markers, water depths, and landmarks such as smokestacks, steeples etc. Basically, all the information you need to safely navigate from point A to point B.
 
We asked Teddy to give us the Chartkit for Buzzards Bay and South, and he said, “Oh, I didn’t get one. You guys sail around this area, so I figured you don’t need it.” Hank and I had a s*#t fit! We had sailed extensively around there with the help of a local chart! Especially since the sea bottom in New England is not the “forgiving” mud and sand we have in New Jersey. Up there you have big hard rocks! Fortunately I happened to have an Exxon road map of Rhode Island, which we used to navigate by “Braille” down to Newport, the closest place with a marine store where we could get a Chartkit!
 
Everything went smoothly after that and once we were safely tied up in our own marina, we went into the bar to celebrate. That very night, Teddy met a United Airline stewardess (yes, they preferred to be called “stewardesses” back then). She just “loved tugboats” and thought they were “so romantic” and “couldn’t wait to see it” and “couldn’t wait to go out on it” and “would love to live on one” ad nauseum!
Six weeks later they were married and as soon as that ring was on her finger, there was no way in the world she was going to set foot on that damp, smelly thing! 
 
The upshot was that Teddy moved into her condo and had to sell the boat. He made a deal with my brother to keep the tug at the marina and pay the slip fee from the proceeds once it was sold. Meanwhile we could use it whenever we pleased, just pay for the fuel! We had her for about three years and a bunch of good stories came out of her.
 
Oh, by the way, wife number four lasted about a year and then headed for greener pastures.


March 2019 column

Things are not always what they seem

Back in the mid 1980s I was living in New Jersey and sailing as much as I could both on my own boat and as crew on a J-24 with my buddy Chris and an Ericson 39. Donald Trump had just opened his “Trump Marina Casino” in Atlantic City and was sponsoring the J-24 Nationals, a major sailboat race.

It was a good deal, with the entry fee including free launching of the boat, a slip right in front of the hotel plus as many crew rooms as we wanted with a great view of the marina and bay beyond. The only down side was you had to walk all the way through the casino floor the get to your room. This would be tempting for someone with a gambling addiction but we just enjoyed the gongs and flashing lights for free.
 
I was to help Chris trail his boat down to Atlantic City and serve as winch grinder and tactician in his crew of four hard partying sailors. We set out on the 75-mile drive down the Garden State Parkway in a two-vehicle caravan with him towing the boat in the lead and me following behind in my car.
 
About a half hour into the trip, it began to look like the boat was getting closer and closer to me. I signaled him to pull over and as I had suspected, the boat had shifted back about two feet on the trailer and was in danger of falling off entirely! He did not know that someone had borrowed his trailer and reset the jacks that support the boat without telling him. We were miles away from any crane that could lift the J-24 back where it belonged. So we tied a line between each winch and the front of the trailer, tightening them as much as possible and cranking up on the rear jacks as hard as we could. I followed at a distance as he drove a few miles down the road. We pulled over to check and as we had hoped, the boat had moved forward a couple of inches. We repeated the procedure every few miles until the boat was back where she belonged and then continued safely down to A/C.
 
The racing was uneventful until the third day when we had 8 to 10 knots of breeze and a light chop. The best way to sail in those conditions was to get all the available weight sitting down on the cabin sole right on top of the keel. We did this and were doing quite well when the skipper (viewing the mass of humanity) mentioned that he was worried that we might be over the weight limit. He made sure that each time we sailed past the Race Committee boat everyone was down below leaving only him on deck as he “sucked in his gut.” We finished in second place and knew we would be challenged, so as soon as we hit the dock everyone disappeared except for the skipper who hired a couple of kids to wash down the boat as he put her away. As it was, no one challenged us on weight and we actually got away with it!
 
The wife of one of the crew members was planning to come down that night and the crew member asked me where to take her for dinner. I knew the area quite well as I had worked for a company located nearby. There is no really nice place to eat in Atlantic City so we’d take all our important clients to a four-star restaurant a few miles out of town. He made a reservation and had quite an experience. Out on the water next day all he would talk about was the amazing time they’d had last night. He gushed about the delicious food and halfway through dinner “who came and sat at the table right next too theirs but Joan Rivers and her entire entourage! She was so witty and she was so glamorous and she was so funny and she was so beautiful and he really wanted to get her autograph but didn’t have the guts to ask her ... ,” etc. This went on all afternoon until we were all happy to get off the boat, so we didn’t have to hear any more of it.
 
A week later I was on the road. I checked into my motel room and flipped on the tube. A talk show host was interviewing a bunch of female impersonators. There were Cher and Barbara Streisand and Madonna and Joan Rivers! They were all doing a gig in Atlantic City! They explained that they were paid a ridiculous amount of money to cavort around on stage in drag. They had some funny stories about going out on the town in costume after the show and how people would react. I never told my friend.
 
Why shatter his illusion?


February 2019 column

Memories of ice boating (aka hard water sailing)

Ice boats have been around for about 200 years. No one knows the name of the Dutchman who first thought of putting a sail on a set of runners on a frozen canal in Holland, but it wasn’t much of a stretch up from ice skates. The sport came to this country with the Dutch settlement in New York and worked its way up the Hudson River as a method of moving cargo and passengers when the river was frozen.

As people gradually got more free time, the commercial aspect gave way to recreation, even President Franklin D. Roosevelt had an ice boat he used to sail up and down the Hudson, racing the railroad trains whose tracks ran parallel to the shore. It is still on display in the FDR Museum in Hyde Park, NY. The upstate cities such as Albany and Utica have switched their winter heating fuel from train delivered coal to tanker delivered oil, so, unfortunately for ice boaters, the Coast Guard breaks up the ice on the Hudson River.
 
One of the exciting things about sailing on ice is that there is very little resistance to forward motion. The faster you go into the wind, the faster the wind comes at you so the faster you go etc. Last time I checked the world speed record for an iceboat was 147 mph! 
 
In wintertime around my brother’s marina there was very little to do once all the boats have been hauled out and winterized. So many years ago a few friends and I pooled our spare change and bought an old wooden ice boat. She was built around 1900 and was 26 feet long, with a 30-foot mast and could seat several people. Her name was “Fleetwood.” We spent the late fall restoring her varnish and mending the sails and rigging. 
 
When the river finally froze, we assembled her and went out for the maiden voyage. We were running along nicely at about 20 mph with no sound but the hiss of the runners on the ice and the groaning of the old hemp ropes in the rigging. Suddenly, a puff of wind came along and instantly shredded the old cotton sail. Within a week we had recut an old Dacron sail that came off an “E” Scow and were back on the ice.
 
So once again as we silently sailed along, another puff came, and the old wooden mast exploded into a million toothpicks! I can’t tell you how exciting it is to be doing 20 mph across the ice trying to kill speed by going around in circles while leaving a trail of splinters and dragging the remnants of your mast and sail behind you! 
 
It’s fortunate to have a brother with a marina because he happened to have a 35-foot aluminum mast that had tangled with a bridge. We hacksawed the bent end off, spray painted it brown and while the paint was still wet, we dragged crumpled newspapers along to give it a wood grain look. We transferred the rigging and were good to go!
 
Another memorable incident happened several years later when a winter storm deposited six inches of snow on top of the ice. It was the week before the town was going to have their Winter Carnival with ice skating and hockey competitions, ice sculptures, and basically anything concerned with winter sports. The ice under the snow was 21 inches thick, more than enough to support the town’s snow plows. They cleared an area a mile wide and several miles long down the middle of the river and the carnival went ahead as scheduled. 
 
A few weeks later we had a thaw and although the ice was still plenty thick, there was about an eighth of an inch of water on top of it. We were cruising along at a good clip with me at the tiller and a nice stretch of clear ice in front of us when suddenly a couple of kids skated right out in our path. I quickly changed course to avoid hitting them and the starboard runner hit a frozen pile of snow left behind by the plows and stopped! I had been hanging onto the tiller with one hand and the handrail that ran down the center of the cockpit with the other. My hand was suddenly jerked free of the tiller, and the handrail I was gripping snapped as I went flying across the ice on my back for several hundred yards.

When I finally came to a stop, I was soaking wet and still clutching the piece of broken handrail! I got no sympathy from my friends who were all laughing their heads off, telling me how I looked flying across the ice leaving a rooster tail! All I could say was “You should have seen it from this side!”


January 2019 column

Sailing into the new year

I spent the early part of my life up north on the coast of New Jersey. There the sailers cherished the months between April, when with luck you could put your boat in the water, and October, when you had to haul her out. The winter was a dismal time when we thought about getting ready for the next sailing season. If we were lucky, the river would freeze over hard enough to get some ice boating in, but that only happened every other year.
 
When we moved down here about 25 years ago due to a job transfer, we had some friends who had moved from Cape Cod the year before, after selling their Island Packet 33. They told us that “There’s no sailing in Atlanta, there’s only one tiny little lake and there’s no wind and its wall to wall power boats.” They retired from sailing and got into “lawn maintenance” i.e. gardening, then moved up the line to head of the Homeowner’s Association!
 
I had reluctantly left my Tartan 36 One Ton racing sailboat at my brother’s marina and came down to check the area out. My wife’s older brother, an Atlanta native, showed me around Lake Lanier in January – I thought I had died and gone to Heaven! That afternoon, I arranged to have my Tartan hauled down here and then started looking for a place to live. (A guy must have his priorities!) It turns out that there are at least five sailing/yacht clubs on the lake with racing every weekend, and several evenings during the week in the summer. The first race is New Years Day and the last is the Saturday between Christmas and New Years.
 
My Tartan is a One Ton Ocean Racer designed to race long distances in the open ocean – with a crew of 13. (The “One Ton” refers to a mathematical formula taking into account the overall length, waterline length, beam, displacement and sail area yielding a final figure that comes out in tons. The number has little to do with what she actually weighs.) Before I acquired her, she had sailed on the SORC and competed twice in the Newport to Bermuda Race. Needless to say, she was not a perfect lake boat but we did campaign her for several years on Lake Lanier and won our share of trophies.
 
In recent years we have just sailed her for pleasure and now I crew for other people on their boats to add to my excitement. The one race I do compete in with my boat is the Barefoot Sailing Club’s New Years Day Poker Run. We’ve sailed in that event every year for the past 25 except twice when the wind speed was higher than the temperature and the Race Committee wisely canceled it.
 
The race itself is just a good excuse for a party, and I always have about 15 people aboard, both hardcore sailers and neophytes, and everyone brings eggnog, champagne, beer and of course rum along with more hors d’ouvres than you can possibly imagine. 
 
We sail around collecting cards that had been taped to the buoys to see who can get the highest poker hand and win top prize, which is usually a bottle of champagne. To discourage cheating, the cards are in sealed non-see thru envelopes, and color coded as well as numbered to show which buoy they came from.
 
Afterward at the awards party, the Race Committee opens the envelopes and the suspense adds to the excitement. Finally, the winner is declared and he or she has earned bragging rights for the remainder of the year.
 
In my mind, the best part of the day is starting the year off out on the water with a group of friends. 
Sailing on New Year’s Day sure beats the hell out of sitting on your rear end in front of the TV!
 
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