#8 A Sailor's Story

Crew Limerick

  The words clutter the mind of this writer, and the skills, to share them, elude me, though I shall try.         


                                                             Crew Limerick


            Scattered throughout our hemisphere are countless destinations that a magazine rack of travel guides would surely reveal to any reader. This particular oasis, written about numerous times rises above all others with ease. Not for its pristine waterways of rivers and epic lakes, crowned only by Flathead, nor by the surrounding uprisings forming the Rocky Mountains, culminating to the North and the South with award winning ski areas.                       

            The Western way of life with cowboys and amber painted spreads of ranches, the cleanest atmospheric presence to be inhaled for hundreds of miles, not even the humilities and conscientiousness of civilians milling about, is what brings this locale to this writers thought.


            Allowing a digression of seventeen months, I play the part of the driven man who walks onto a foreign marinas dock to find a sailing vessel to crew on. With pseudo arrogance wrapped with apprehensions that I dreaded would shine through, I meander / nay should I say, sauntered, with the faced of 6 Miller Genuine Drafts and a sailing shirt from a previous time and space. The offering to be crew to a new group of yachtsmen would forever be a daunting task, to any member of SWB's {Sailors w/out boats}


            This particular club would be no different; a drinking community with a sailing problem. The Friday night races are notorious across any body of water large enough to host tacking, jibbing and drinking of vessels and crew. My introduction to the skipper was one of concern, second guessing and boastfulness all without being solicited, on any significant level. A blur of introductions to the rest of the crew would forever be registered as; inconsequential to them.


            Hands were shaken and niceties were exchanged, though later it would be revealed as the norm when any, one timer, visiting crew, FNG, or greenhorn would board the Limerick. This family of crew would reveal themselves very quickly as a cohesive team of knowledge and anticipation, one more experienced than the next, though all assured of the others abilities. Any new blood stepping on board would soon learn, they were only visitors on someone else's world.


            The skipper, the tactician, the main sheet queen, the well person, the first mate, the fore deck mistress............ they would all, in short order alert the onlookers of their individual tasks and the   mountainous efficiencies with which they performed, many a Swiss watch would deliberately halt with envy.


            Jockeying for position @ the starting line, situated between two buoys, was an artful display of agro finessing, coupled with arrogance of knowledge and a confidence in the vessel beneath us. We sliced the water’s surface while trimming to within four short inches from other multi-tunned vessels to capture the line, out front of the pack. Orders were barked, attentions were sharpened and the flawless efforts of this crew seemed to rise above any previous knowledge this second year sailor, had ever experienced.


            “Back on the pole”, “you're falling off”, “release the tweaker”, “out on the main”, “line maintenance”, and of course “go on up”; These and so many other requests, orders, demands and commands would soon become my new second language. Along with the new family of sailors and the new dialect, I too found a new home away from home, NFYC on Flathead Lake, on Friday nights.




            The mystery of backgrounds for these people was as diverse as the flags flying over the UN.

Locals born and raised, out of towner's who came for  a visit and are still sending idyllic postcards home 26 years later, International travelers, caretakers, farmers, entrepreneurs and single parents intertwined to become this crew with 85+ years of sailing experience. No one walking by us on the docks, as we were prepping the 35' Schock, would accuse the Limerick of being inexperienced or in need of a redefining as to what constitutes fun.


            For years this writer fantasized about being free to cut through the windswept surface of water, and controlling the excitement, felt by a select few. I would soon learn the real treat in all of this, would be to release that excitement, as well as another exclamation of zeal. No other sport gives the exhilaration to sportsman and viewer alike. Let it be said that the spray in your face, the sun drenching your body and the silence of wind propelling you forward, can only be experienced firsthand and not TRULY displayed in a travel magazine.


            As the course grew smaller and the commands from our skipper relaxed ever so slightly, it dawned on me; The Limerick was in a comfortable lead and could now begin thinking of the second portion of the evening, often construed as the most important portion of this weekly event; cracking a cold Corona. The stuffing a lime in the neck and serving it to the person who aided in making this 10,000 lbs dance effortlessly on the lake, your fellow crew member, became a tradition I enjoyed, almost as much as the sailing.


            Head sails were dropped, main sheets were relaxed, running lights were awakened and Mr. Buffet was allowed out of his muted position. My awareness now amped to full tilt, and camaraderie’s being revealed, it was quite obvious, this was a calling for these people as well as for me, this was also a lifeline and this wasn't their first rodeo on Flathead Lake in Northern Montana.


            No watches alerted any of us to actual time or any other distraction would steer us from this solitary life, partnered with others. Each having our own reason for doing this, for lifting our heads above the fog existence of everyday and setting our compasses to a body of water. With the rolling up of our collective sleeves we'd do the impossible; capture the wind, harness Mother Nature if only for a few moments and barely contain ourselves while reliving every jibe, every hoisted sail, every misstep; only to be improve upon it, next Friday.


            Sharing our newly created story over a lime saturated cerveza, would indeed become more enriching then the beer advertiser would've led you to believe. Tales of past sailing trips in the South Pacific, fables later revealed to be true of upper echelon encounters and PG13 adventures that would also be confirmed as being too racy for an After School Special. The post race social scene was as cliquey as any zip coded high school ever dreamed. Complete with the modesty of social classes redefined, to the Fox network rejects of reality TV, a people viewing mecca doused with colorful story lines and blatant political incorrectness.


    “Beauty is a summation of the parts where nothing is needed to be altered, added or taken away.”


            As spoken by Elio Carletti an Italian artist, the quote depicts the simplicity and extravagance of this moment in time, the vessel, the setting, the crew, the locale. Nothing could've been added to make this temporal tear in the fabric of time, seem any better.


            The crew in total would share knowledge and criticisms on any given Friday, complete with a ribbing that would make any comedic jester comfortable.


            This surrogate family undoubtedly worked in unison, one with the others, often without speaking, the knowledge expressed with a glance, the finishing of one another's thought was like an old married couple only multiplied and shared by 7 members of our crew.


            Jim was skipper with the tiller in hand, his clairvoyant knowledge of what to do next was the foundation of our crew, reading the wind lines, looking to the tell tails for shifts of wind, feeling the heeling as it would adjust with every gentle push or pull of that powerful rudder. He's a masterful sculptor, knowing just what to leave and take away to create a breathtaking moment in time for all on board.


            Liz was the enigma of the crew, with countless years and experiences to be shared @ will, her demeanor was riddled with military precision coupled with a matriarch qualities looking out for her family, let it be known that her family included the entire 35 feet of Limerick and its crew, in its entirety.


            John would stand out as the first mate, with focus and strength which the skipper would rely on

numerous times throughout any outing. His diversity of self what with being a farmer, a power company employee and sailor, was only lapped by his eagerness to continue his accumulation of yachtsmen knowledge.


            Diane with a control of the mainsail sheets unrivaled in the fleet was quiet and efficient with her undaunted answering of Jim's commands. The diversity of Diane would be sandwiched between running the main sail and being revered as the masterful mixologist, secretive portions of tequila, mix, a splash of Corona and ice blended nicely to create a flavorful remedy for whatever ailed you.


            Dana, an entrepreneur well defined, had an ingeniously thought out business plan of care taking others mansions and livelihoods while they were absent, in continuity she would do the same with 'releasing the topping lifts lines, head sail sheets, tweaker adjustments' all in the nick of time for smoothest the transitions. My sister, the delivery of ribbing to and fro with her was becoming a thing of comfort for the two of us, siblings separated @ birth.


            K1 was out of respect with regards to her seniority on board, advancing past the dozen year mark. Skipper Jim Kelley would respectfully though simply be 'Jim', and I would be K2 forever more. She'd be donned “K1” as to reduce confusion from fellow crew, who @ anytime would call out to Kelly and two if not three heads would spin around.


            The Limerick, with all of her grace, rising above so many other vessels in the yacht club, she'd undoubtedly win a 'Best in Show'. The performance focused, made for racing vessel, an offshore one design, she was built as a top end boat at an exceptional price. From her teak bulkheads and trim to the pristine whiteness of her decks the aire of elegance is unmistakable. The 35' Schock was in a class all her own within the NFYC.


            The pinnacle activity of the season is of course the Montana Cup, and with this, the bragging rights for the remainder of the year and into the wintry season of shoveling snow and frozen lake scenes. Hauntingly, the same waters that revealed such emotions only a couple of months earlier become stagnate on the surface, giving way to the skaters and ice fishermen.


            The Montana Cup, a marathon of races, an endurance match for the sailors and a memory making weekend, is truly to be experienced, as tales of adventures from this weekend fall short in conveying the magnitude of reality. Exhaustion shows early evening on the second day; What with preliminary races Friday evening, Saturday 4 / 5 sometimes 6 races blurredly segue into Sunday's final 2 / 3 races. By Saturday evening the hours jostling about the fore deck, countless circumnavigations around the winches, blistered fingers, bruise yet to be revealed, and emotions teetering on delirium gave cause for a well deserved margarita and a horizontal respite before it all starts again @ 6:30am Sunday.


            Crossing lines, uncooperative wind shifts, complaining creaks from the blocks and halyards slapping, there's so much that can distract one from the focused task @ hand. The attentiveness zeroed in can win a repositioning of a racer as quickly as the distraction can open up a fuster cluck resulting in a loss of position.

 The cast is called, the setting is illustrated and the Friday's would forever be changed in this sailor’s world. As an addict would jones for a needle between fixes, or the gambler who shuttles between tables attempting to win back his losses, sailors are comparable in their 'need for a fix'. The water’s edge calls to us as we sit in our corner offices midweek, as we deliver packages, rustle up dinner for our family, as we cordially acquaint new strangers to our day. Our focus is tangibly present in our activities, our passions, our hearts however are untying the dock lines, motoring out to the buoys and sitting course for yet another infusion of our true life's blood.

Themselves standing alone on the deck of the Limerick make for a quaint portrait photo, though collectively, these forces corralled as a unit on board her creates an orchestra of music only enhanced by the others movements and contributions. The crew of the Limerick, I salute you.


Latest comments

30.10 | 16:06

Kelly… I love this!!! So it’s true. When you’re least expecting it. There they are!!!

28.12 | 02:18

27.12 | 21:17

Vielen Dank für die äußerst sympathische Begegnung auf dem Main Tower in Frankfurt und die Unterstützung beim Fotografieren. Ich habe Ihre künstlerische Ader auf den ersten Blick erkannt! :D

14.12 | 06:08

That was an exciting novel,one worth reading and inspiring, your word's have an elegant style to the story.
Thanks for sharing and congratulations on your voyage of a lifetime.
Sailing !!!

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