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WheresCherie.COM Quote
"I should like to spend the whole of my life traveling, if I could borrow another life to spend at home." -- Hazlitt

Episode 49: A Mistress is Always Second
@ Where`s Cherie?     Aug 05 2002 - 16:48 PST
cherie writes: It is always nice to leave a little gift when you've had a great time somewhere. Sometimes it's hard to pick just the right thing: a bottle of wine, a good book, or perhaps some flowers? Ray chose our team's gift to the Santa Maria Harbor - our boat's BBQ.

I am going to try to explain, why our first and much anticipated 'steak night' tasted like chicken. It happened the night before the final leg of the Baja Ha-Ha, just after Ray had the 'dinghy incident'. Jean had just cubed an entire freezer full of meat. After you have been eating fish everyday for over a week the thought of a well-prepared cow product makes you salivate like one of Pavlov's dogs. Ray took the platter of meat on the deck of the Mistress to BBQ.

It should be noted that Ray was the only one sober that night. (But, Ray is sober every night because he is sober.) I am not sure if this counts as drinking, but Ray may have gotten intoxicated just from breathing our alcoholic fumes.

So Ray was on deck cooking, while everyone else was down below drinking. But, Ray was up there an awful long time. Maybe he just needs a break from us, everyone thought.

'Wow' Jean started to think, 'he has been up there a really long time.' (Jean estimated one hour, Dustin said it was more like two minutes.)

'Maybe he is putting special spices on the meat, and we shouldn't bother him.'

The waiting became longer and longer. Was Ray making beef jerky? We couldn't stand it. Dustin went up to the top and found a very pensive Ray in 'the thinker' position.

'Where's our dinner?' Dustin asked.'The meat fell into the ocean with the BBQ.' Ray said. It was such a simple and matter-of-fact statement. Ray seemed unaffected by the tragedy, perhaps because an hour before he almost floated solo to Cabo San Lucas.

Dustin came down and announced, 'Who feels like chicken tonight?'

Was Ray ever going to tell us about the BBQ fiasco? It will forever remain a mystery. My theory is that he was just waiting for all of us drunks to pass out and forget that we never ate dinner. So that last night while we lived it up, Ray did something he will never live down.

I don't know why we even bothered going to sleep that night because the final leg of the Baja Ha-Ha Race was set to start at 6:00am the next morning. (You know some guy picked that time.)

While we were peacefully sleeping, the entire crew was attacked. The virus 'bed head' assaulted our boat in the middle of the night. We were reduced to helpless victims, with the hair-gel cure hundreds of nautical miles away. It was a sad sight the morning of the third leg as we wobbled around on deck trying to shake out our unruly hair-dos.

But we had to fire up! The most important leg of the race was about to begin.

Everyone, at some point in his or her life, should see a sailing race at dawn. It's like watching giant flowers bloom, their colorful spinnakers opening up in the warming sun. Over a hundred boats colored the sea that morning with their brightly painted triangles. We watched in awe as they faded into the horizon and blurred into a hazy dream.

Then we had the startling realization, shouldn't we be fading into the horizon with them? Why weren't we moving?

The answer--there was no wind. A few of the other boats decided to motor out into the ocean in search of a breeze. But not us! Ray's strategy was to watch all the other boats pass us so we could overtake them later and feed the ego of the Mistress. We 'waited it out', a bunch of hung over idiots with bad hair. Except Ray. Ray is never hung over and he never has bad hair. This is because Ray consumes none of the beer and all of the energy on board. It's his hair dryer. (Note: Jean and I, with a meter of hair between us, have never used this wasteful appliance.) But Ray, with two inches of hair max, can drain the boat's battery faster than Joe can talk. (Now that's fast!)

We all sat in a lull and watched our jib (front sail) do a jive (silly dance). I could feel the energy of the other boats as they swept out to sea. I wonder, could they feel our complete boredom? I did not understand Ray's 'waiting' tactic and I kept pointing out each boat passing us and saying, 'Why are they ahead of us?'

I got the stink-eye from a couple of the crew so I went to the bow of the boat to help get us going (as the crew member full of the most hot air).

I am not taking credit for this, but it was then that we actually started to move.This is when the owner kicked the bucket. Yup, Tom kicked the bucket clear off the deck. Luckily the bucket was attached to a string. Except that when we pulled it in, the bucket disappeared. (I probably tied the inadequate knot and if someone would just sit down and teach me a few good knots these tragic bucket accidents could be avoided!)

This is when Dustin sat me down and taught me his favorite knot: 'not me!' He's really good at it, and he uses it all the time. This coincides with the Mistress's theme song 'It Wasn't Me!' by Shaggy (the musical artist, not the crime solving cartoon dog.) It is amazing that we get anything done at all; since the correct answer to 'who did this?' on the Mistress is always 'it wasn't me!'

After a few hours, we finally started to pass some of the boats half our size. They probably didn't know that we had something up our sleeve. (It was our spinnaker.) We waited until our Swan 53 was in prime viewing location to show off our hip jiggle. A hip jiggle is when the boat swaths back and forth not sure which tack to lie on. This is when the Mistress really broke out her dance moves, and we wrapped the Ñchute.'

Have you seen the movie 'Scream?' Remember the part when the people are hysterically running away from the guy who is killing them? When you wrap a very expensive brand new spinnaker, the scene on deck is like a bad horror flick. I am not going to disclose who played the murderer, but I was definitely one of the victims. Please remember that our sailing competitors were all around us, watching bug-eyed as everything unfurled on our boat except our spinnaker.

We threw a harness on Dustin and sent him up the forestay in a Ñboatswains chair' to work on our sail that at that moment was doing a very impressive imitation of a 'French Braid'. It was then that the wind picked up and started to blow over 20 knots. I think the other boats were actually motoring backwards so they could drop back and not miss the action. With Dustin dangling like an ornament, Ray yelled from the helm 'fish on!'

Tom and I ran to the aft of the boat only to find out that Ray was wrong! There were two fish on! As Tom and I tugged at the fishing lines, Dustin tugged at the spinnaker lines. 'I hope we don't have to cut the spinnaker down!' I yelled. I always think positive.

Ray replied, 'I'd let you cut off my arm before I'd let you cut off that spinnaker!' (Of course Ray isn't scared of a morbid boating injury because he signed the Mistress's 'liability release form.')

Imagine: Ray was at the helm; Tom and I were reeling in dinner; Jean, Scott and Joe were at the bow untangling the bottom of the spinnaker; and Dustin had the greatest view of all 72 feet above deck swinging from a sheet. Less than five minutes later, our spinnaker flowered in the wind, we pulled two huge yellow-fin aboard, and we sailed past the audience of other sailors. Tom was as happy as a leech at a blood bank. To celebrate Dustin cleaned the fish and we put them in the freezer and ate pizza for dinner!

We paused for a moment to just smile. We were all on deck trying to catch our breath when something strange came out of the water. Was it a UFO? Was it the giant Frisbee that Dustin has been wishing for? Was it an enlarged version of Tom's dirty dinner plate coming back to get us?

No, it was a truly spectacular event. Right off the portside of the bow, a massive 6-foot Manta Ray leaped out of the water. Amazingly, all seven of us saw it together. Moments like that make you want to listen to your heart, breath the salt air, and just keep sailing forever.***Ray and I took the first and last night watch on the last leg of the Baja Ha-Ha. I took another dangerous shower before our shift began because my bruises were healing and people started not to recognize me without my slew of purple skin patches. The pleasure of the chill of the night sky on freshly bathed skin is worth the pain of being smacked around in a wooden shower capsule.

I am not detail oriented, so I am sure I missed washing a few spots. Mother Nature intuitively knew and as soon as she got the chance, she rubbed me the right way. My first real deck shower! I was sitting with Ray telling him that ÑDalmatians are always white when they are born' when a claw of water launched itself out of the water. It grabbed me, shook me, and left me looking like Ray before his morning coffee.

We switched up the night shifts a little bit, so that at 1:00am when I was exhausted and ready to sleep I found Scott in my bed. Okay, it was his bed, but it was my bed, too. Scott and I were 'hot bunking.' (It's not what you think because Scott and I are on different night shifts.) Jean and Dustin were 'hot bunking' too. It is what you think, because they are on the same night watch.

Our crew has been 'hot bunking' because there is not much luggage space on a performance sailboat. (There is however plenty of space for scuba diving equipment, seven extra sails, spear guns, fishing rods, and a tool box the size sofa.) Thus, all of my stuff is stuffed on my bunk.

As crew, when your night watch is over, the last thing you want to do is wake Tom up. The second-to-last thing you want to do is move all of your crap. So I have been 'hot bunking' with Scott, which means when I am ready to go to bed, Scott is ready to take his shift. The result is that my bunk is toasty warm and I don't need a U-Haul to move all my things to a different location. Then when Scott comes back, his bed is warm.

We used to have three people on a night watch so Scott and I were always on different shifts, but on the last leg of the race, we went crazy and changed to two people on a shift. This left me in a precarious dilemma in the middle of the night. I could either get a crane and attempt to relocate my luggage or snuggle with Scott. Scott was sending me cuddle vibes in his sleep so I gently got in his bed and tried to take up as little space as possible. But that bunk was so tiny. And it was so hot. I just couldn't sleep. I nicely woke Scott up and asked him to turn on the fan. Then, as any gentleman would, he turned on the fan and slept on the couch.

That's my story. But since I want to be a fair and impartial journalist I will tell you his side and you can believe what you want. His version is that I came in the middle of the night and turned on and off the lights like I was a strobe operator at a disco. Then I pushed myself into his bed and in one good turn, took all the covers. Then I fidgeted around complaining about the heat and barked at him to turn on the fan. When he didn't jump at my command, I elbowed him in the ribs. (Consider that it may be a coincidence that he has a bruise whose circumference matches my elbow.) He fell out of the bunk, turned on the fan, and tried to get back into his bed. In the eight seconds it took him to turn on the fan, I fell dead asleep. My carcass covered the bed the way an X covers its buried treasure. Apparently rigamortis had set in, because I wasn't moving.

The ending is the only thing that we both agree on. I woke up in Scott's bed, and Scott woke up on the couch. I feel lucky that I got a little shut-eye, and he feels lucky not to have an open wound.

This whole fiasco could have been avoided with the installation of air-conditioning. Eddy Murphy, were he aboard the Mistress, would say, 'She's too hot for the hot tub!' But with a luxury boat like this, it makes sense to make everything have a dual purpose. The wench holders are also soda holders; the fenders are pillows; and the mast and forestay double as hammock posts. It is only appropriate that the all-wood living room doubles as the sauna.

It makes sense since the Mistress is a Swan. Swans are made in Finland and Finland is known for its fine wooden boats and fine wooden saunas. It is also why when Tom says: 'What do I need to have sent down to the yacht in Cabo San Lucas?' My response is always 'air conditioning.' (PS. Tom likes it when I say yacht instead of boat.)

I am going to disclose a startling secret to the rest of the Mistress crew. Most of this trip the water has 'tasted funny.'

'It must be in your head,' is Tom's favorite response, quite possibly because it is the only problem on the boat that cannot be fixed with a Zip-Lock Baggie. According to Tom, most of the world's problems can be solved with Zip-Lock Baggie.

'What are these little floatie black things in the water?' Jean asked.'Don't worry about those, they sink to the bottom.' Tom replied. 'There can't be anything wrong with the water, we just replaced that filter.'

Here is a word for word replay of a Dustin and Jean water-filter conversation:Jean: 'The drinking water is gross and brown.'Dustin: 'It's fine.'Jean: 'It's not fine. It's brown.'Dustin: 'It's just algae, it won't hurt you.'Jean: 'A booger in my water won't hurt me either, but I still don't want it there.'

Later, when no one was paying attention, Dustin and Tom snuck off in a covert operation to check the filter. Like a real journalist, I was spying so I could get the full scoop. I was peering from the hatch over-head when Tom and Dustin opened up the filter holder and found it was not holding a filter. I was there for this event, and I gave them a mean 'have we been drinking disgusting unfiltered water all these days?' look. They tried to appease me by telling me that this filter was not the important one. (Then why did we need to change it?) I was also bribed not to tell others with Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.Reese's Peanut Butter Cups on land taste like peanut butter and chocolate, after 8 days at sea; they are a vacation in your mouth. Note: a bad water-filter problem can be hidden from the rest of the crew as effectively as candy can be hidden. Finding this tasty peanut-butter treasure foreshadowed the sweet taste of victory we were about to embark upon.

The final leg of the race was close to the finish. Learjet only beat us by a few hours! And we came in second place! As we cruised over the imaginary finish line encoded into our GPS, all seven of our crew, got behind the wheel and ended the race together. We grabbed the SSB radio and broadcast to the fleet that the Mistress was crossing the finish line. Then we popped a bottle of champagne and drank in the pleasure of our victory.

Stay tuned to hear highlights of the Baja Ha-Ha awards ceremony where Tom graciously accepted his wooden-fish trophy and second-place red ribbon.

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