Friday, February 8, 2002
Back in the days before we had children, my husband and I used to race sailboats. Ours was an 18-foot, molded mahogany, one-design, planing sloop-rigged sailboat. The class was known as the Jollyboat Class, and we competed both nationally and internationally. For us that meant the US and Canada; however, the boat was made in England and also raced in Europe. It was a very responsive boat, fun to sail for recreation. Serious racing, however, was a lot of work. My husband, the captain and helmsman, sat dry in the stern of the boat, while I, the crew, had to hang over the side in a trapeze harness and keep the boat level. While I may keep telling you how much fun it was because of its speed, for the crew it was a lot like sailing in front of a fire hose. Not only did I become one of the strongest girls in the world from tending the jib (smaller sail in front), and doing deep knee bends all afternoon (using the trapeze), I was also the wettest. We really did have a lot of fun and the competition was very strong in Marblehead, so eventually we became fairly skilled.
Competition seems to lead you along its own course, and after attending a couple of national events, we decided to compete in the 1967 World Jollyboat Championship when it was held in Montreal. So, we took our brand-new red Volkswagen Squareback, with sunroof, and attached our custom-made trailer and boat and headed north. So far so good.
The trip through New Hampshire and Vermont went smoothly. We arrived at the border in Vermont, and the Canadian officials waved us right on through. "Welcome to Canada." When we arrived at the outskirts of Montreal, the heavens opened and we had a Mount Olympus-type thunderstorm. We were just approaching the toll gates where we were to cross the St. Lawrence River when I took just one more peek out the back window to check on the boat. Much to my horror, the boat was waving back and forth on its trailer. We pulled over between two of the toll gates, and with the other cars whizzing past on both sides of us, and the thunderstorm in full blast, my husband got out of the car. Guess what? The tongue of the trailer had broken in half, and only the fact that we had tied the boat down ahead of the breaking point kept the boat and trailer together. There was an entrenching tool (a shovel), and extra rope in the car which we used to splice the trailer together to continue the trip. This worked enough for us to continue at thirty-five miles an hour, while the rest of the world around us was traveling about sixty-five. Eventually we arrived at the Royal St. Lawrence Yacht Club and parked this rig, said a prayer of thanks and went to our motel.
The next day was spent getting the trailer welded back together. Of course this was the time when no one in Quebec Province wanted to speak English. My high school French was of little use, but finally someone took pity on us, spoke English, and welded the trailer. We were back in business again.
That weekend was very windy, and the racing was very exciting. There were about thirty boats there, and five or six races. We had a second- and a third-finish, placing us seventh overall. Other boats from Marblehead finished ahead of us, as usual. It was almost like racing at home.
Picture this: the racing is over, the trophies given out, the banquet eaten, and the cars all packed and ready to go home. The next thing we knew, a micro-burst came down the St. Lawrence and knocked one tree down on one car, ours. Now we had a broken windshield, two broken side windows, a dented roof, and a sunroof that was tent shaped. We used tape and plastic to secure the car, and with a letter from the Royal St. Lawrence Yacht Club stating that they would pay for any uninsured expense, we headed for home.
Returning to the United States is not as easy as leaving. When we arrived at the US customs gate, the first question was, "What happened to your car?" The second question was, "Can you prove that you didn't buy that boat in Canada?" We didn't know that we were supposed to get some kind of a receipt when we entered Canada. They finally let us in when we pointed out similar boats returning to the US.
At last we were back in the good old USA. However, the roads in Vermont, in 1967, left something to be desired. As we traveled through Lyndonville, Vermont, we hit a rather large pot hole and heard a strange crunch. Believe it or not, this time we had broken the trailer axle and driven the top of the trailer through the bottom of the boat. Great! Now we had broken the new car, the custom trailer, and the molded mahogany boat. Back to looking for a welder at closing time. Another very kind repair shop took pity on us and sent us on our way.
At last we arrived at the Drum Hill rotary and passed safely through. I said to my husband those famous words, "We are almost home, nothing more can happen to us, all I want now is a nice long bath and go to bed." Don't ever say those words. When we arrived at our apartment in Carlisle, the water pump was broken and of course we were waterless too.
I will never forget the moment that my husband took the two trophies we had won in his hands and said, "I think these are the most expensive trophies they ever gave out."
The next summer we didn't go to the Nationals or the Worlds. Instead, we had our first child. Another expensive, but more enjoyable, experience.
© 2002 The Carlisle Mosquito