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The Race to Mackinac

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  • The Race to Mackinac

    We were passed along this brilliant piece, and found it quite enjoyable, author Michael Flecha penned for his blog Not Dead Yet

    The race starts in Port Huron. Friday night before the race is one huge party that has been planned to coincide with the Blue Water Festival. It's basically a mile of the Black River that's nothing but sail boats and parties. Up and down the river there were probably 4-5 different tents with live music. Overall 233 boats were signed up for the race. I really couldn't believe how big it was. This race thing is a big deal. It really feels like the biggest event in all of Michigan.

    I slept on the boat last night knowing that the rest of the crew would be in around 8:00 am. I went to bed early to the sounds of live music and all out rager about 100 yards from the boat. After everyone arrived and packed the boat, it was time to leave.

    Everyone lines up at the yacht club to send you off. They have bagpipes and drums and it's the most insane feeling. It's like going off to war. As you go under the bridge to Canada, there are people lining both shores. I had no idea this was such a big production. We motored out to the starting line and waited for out start.

    The first bit was pretty exciting, just having that many boats in the water at once. The whole first leg was down wind, so there wasn't too much excitement until the rain came that evening.

    As the sun started to set on the first night, we could hear a couple rumbles of thunder in the distance. It started sprinkling, and we all got our foul weather gear on to prepare for a wet one. By 10:00 pm it was absolutely SHITTING rain, an absolute downpour. No one on the boat had sailed in that amount of rain before. Luckily it wasn't blowing too hard, but we had to change the sails and take down the spinnaker.

    I've been learning the position of bowman, and it's the one I like the best. You don't need to know all the subtle nuances of sail trim or driving. Just get up front, get wet, and do what's needed. So in the middle of the downpour, the real bowman was below deck sleeping and I got to change the sail. I'm clipped in with my tether, it's pouring rain, super windy, the waves are huge, and I get to go to the front which is bouncing up and down the most and wrestle with this huge sail. I think it was the most fun I've ever had.

    Another exciting event that night happened while I was off watch and sleeping down below. One of the halyards (the lines that raise the sails) went to the top of the mast. With out a sail attached to it, someone had to go up and get it back down. So one of the more experienced sailors took it upon himself to go up the mast and retrieve it. With Kelly, the 18 year old champion dinghy sailor at the helm, and all the rain and darkness and wind, he was raised by the only other halyard up the mast. Normally you'd use two halyards, one for raising and one for safety, but with two of them up already there was only one left. It was the coolest story from the race for sure.

    The next day was upwind for the majority of the day. When going up wind, the boat heels a lot. Which means everyone has to sit on the high side, with their feet hanging over the edge, to try and keep the boat flat. No one was allowed to go below for like 6 hours. We sent the lightest kid down when someone needed water or snacks, but no meals were eaten. Other boats were surprised that we were that hardcore when I was talking about it later, but going below and being comfortable isn't fast. I basically slept the whole time, waking up only to tack, and got super sunburnt. It was also awesome.

    The next night was a lot calmer, and the wind shifted so we were going down wind. As the sun was setting, I saw my first moonrise. Coming up over the water the moon was totally orange, just like a sunrise. It was spectacular. I started thinking about how crazy it was that I was actually out there. I've been dreaming about this for years, absolutely obsessed with sailing, without ever actually DOING it. I was afraid that it might not live up to my expectations. I was so wrong. It was so much more than I ever could have imagined. Everything comes to life when you're out there sailing at night. I totally understand old sailing superstitions. Everything seems to have it's own personality: the water, the wind, the boat. Sailing is intimately connected with nature. You're actually battling the elements. Sailing is more excitement, romance, and boredom than I ever could have hoped for. I guarantee this is not my last Mackinac.

    We finished at 2:01 am, 2nd in our class and 15th overall. We were only behind Tim by a little over half an hour, which is really saying something. I was extremely lucky to have landed on such an awesome boat, with such an awesome crew. I couldn't be more grateful.

    I didn't know this, but Mackinac Island is a crazy place too. Someone described the race as, "A minor inconvenience between two parties." When we arrive, it's a party on the dock. When we wake up it's Bloody Mary's and party. All afternoon it's a party. And the island itself is a magical place too. There are no cars, only bikes. All the goods are moved by flatbed carts pulled by Clydesdale horses. Yeah, horses.

    All the buildings are historic, and painted in pastel colors. This place is like the Caribbean of the north. I've never been anywhere like this. We went for a bike ride around the island and played mini golf for the afternoon. We ate dinner at a restaurant so fancy, I literally had 7 pieces of silverware around my plate. There was a guy in a black suit playing piano in the corner. It's hard to believe I've ended up here.

    The night was just as crazy. I had heard many crazy stories of nights at everyone's favorite Mackinac bar, the Pink Pony. It lived up to it's reputation. Live music, dancing, and random Canadians make for a good time. We rescued Tina (Tim's girlfriend)'s blind friend from being kidnapped, and overall had a rockin' time.

    I slept on a sail on the bottom of the boat, but woke up early due to the hatch being open and freezing without a blanket or sleeping bag, I'm getting used to the naps-all-day sleep schedule though. My boat should be leaving soon (it's docked behind 4 other boats), and it's raining. This race was one of the coolest experiences of my entire life.
    " I just found out my nest egg has salmonella" Photo Gallery

  • #2
    Great read! Thanks!