Dan rants: The Tall Ships

I must be building an incredible karmic debt somewhere. I ended up on a coworker's 27 foot sloop this morning, sailing out of the Berkeley Marina to the Golden Gate, where a number of huge sailing ships entered the bay this afternoon.

About 1:00 we and a few hundred other boats converged on the narrows of the Golden Gate. Sailboats tacking back and forth in the churning waters of the changing tide, tentatively ignoring the few powerboats which braved the experience and had to yield to us. Warnings of "helm's a lee!" and "jibe!" as we pulled lines and cranked winches and ducked the swinging boom as the boat pitched and rolled through the churning current of the gate and the wake of the passing container ships.

Then the masts rose over the horizon, and the billowing sails, and we wondered how those masts would ever fit under the bridge, but somehow they did, and the swarm of boats parted to let these majestic objects through. Where the four of us scrambled to keep out of each other's way and stay on the high side of the boat, these ships had people standing on the yards and climbing through the rigging, and flew silently through the water which tossed and bobbed us easily.

And as the last ship passed us we turned down wind and tried to run with it, but it easily outdistanced us and we were left bobbing in the chop of the bay with the wind in our hair and the sun in our eyes and the rope burn fresh on our hands.

Of course I've got sunburn. But it's a good pain, the feeling of new experiences, of unspoken communication as we dodged and weaved and frolicked through the largest mass of boats I've ever seen, of awe for the memory of times gone by, when a boat with hundreds of feet of mast and 20 or 30 sails gliding quietly through the gate was an everyday occurrence, and didn't bring out every sailing enthusiast for a hundred miles.

At best my hard fought pictures taken as I struggled to steady the camera from a precarious perch on the tilted bouncing deck can only bring back the memories of the experience. Because I've seen other's pictures of similar situations and they don't come near to evoking what I felt.

That was my day.

Friday, July 2nd, 1999 danlyke@flutterby.com