It started out like any other day…

If you’ve been chartering at OCSC SAILING, it’s very likely you’ve gotten to know Lori Dennis. Lori has been one of the most active members at the club, well known for sailing virtually every moment she isn’t working as a 1st Grade Teacher.  She recently sent us an exciting story from one of her sailing adventures…

It started out like any other day.  Wake up at 4:00 a.m.  Protein shake.  Get ready for a sail on the bay.  And after 397 sails on said bay one might think, “Ho Hum.”  Understandable.

But what ensued this 398th sail day turned out to be anything but boring… or routine.

Quite the contrary.  It was — plain and simply —  just the kind of stuff Hollywood adventure movies are made of.

I must confess I was a little star struck from the start.  How could I not be?

There I was — hanging out at the yacht club — in Belvedere, no less  (Remember — I am a poor school teacher.) – hob-nobbing with championship racers and the kind of people who can actually afford to own a boat like Shadow — this sleek, silver, 40-foot. catamaran standing before me.  I mean, really, who owns these boats?  Certainly not any of my “homies.”   Nonetheless, I was made to feel like one of the gang in short order.

We set sail and I was even given a few jobs. I got to trim the traveller – until big, strong Lowell took over. Next, it was “Lori, since you like speed so much, (who told?) why don’t you be in charge of the GPS?”  (Uhhh, maybe cuz I don’t even know how to turn on a cell phone.)

“Okay, then why don’t you just hold the radio, Lori?   Don’t drop it and don’t forget to announce when you hear Romeo (our start code).”  Copy that gentlemen. I stashed the radio inside my lifejacket – close to my heart.  I can’t tell you how long I’ve been waiting to hear a Romeo talking to me.  Please God, don’t let me drop this damn thing into the bay!

They announced our start.  Two minutes.  Thirty seconds.  My heart raced.  We were off!  One hull barely off the water, we were building speed fast.  What a rush!  No time to wave to friends racing on other boats as we started to overtake them.  Instead — a couple of well-executed tacks, an adrenaline-laced spinnaker run, and a hop, skip and jump (literally) later – and we crossed the finish line.  In first place.  Which I understood was to be expected – given the fact that Shadow has a negative 99 handicap.

There wasn’t an extraordinary amount of wind on the way back to the barn in Belvedere.  But something happened as we tried to bear away.  (Am told later it had something to do with stuck rudders.  Who knows?)

Without warning I am being catapulted across the boat – and into the bay.  All I can think is, Oh shit, here I am — the new kid — the invited guest – and I totally screw up by falling off the boat. I hear Sue call my name, I look around and I see that she too is in the water. I turn around again — and now see that Shadow is completely on her side — and that the entire crew is swimming.  Everyone, that is, except for Whitey – who is hanging precariously from the upper hull.

lori-dennis-crashWith a line wrapped around my foot (which in hindsight I realize was not a good thing!) I swam to the boat, climbed up the outboard motor and hopped (okay — was pulled) up onto the hull.  I took my place in line.  We became a formation of sailors – waiting to be rescued.

In a grand “save our women and children first” gesture – Skipper, Peter, and first-mate, Andy, yell “Let’s get the women off the boat!”  After shooing away two large cruisers, Sue steps aboard – and I am thrown aboard — a small, white, rowboat-like  boat commanded by a well-meaning father and son team from the Encinal Yacht Club.  Tossing about in now heavy chop, teeth chattering non-stop, and rambling on in delirious fashion (I know, nothing new for me!)  — we, the women, wait —  as our men stay to guard the boat.  (Truth be told, I really did not mind playing the “girl card” right about now.)

In no time at all, two coast guard vessels, a police vessel, two helicopters and Vessel Assist appear to check things out.  Each agency informs our men on Shadow that they are people-assist agencies only and that they cannot help to right our vessel.

The little-engine-that-could, father-and-son-white-boat-team then tries to tow Shadow – to no avail.  She won’t budge.  Duh!

After 30 minutes, the coast guard yells to our Shadowmen, “OK, your time is up. Get off your vessel.”  To which our guys unceremoniously answer, “F- you.  We aren’t going anywhere.”

A racing friend of Peter’s sails by to offer help.  The Coast Guard order him to clear the area and order our Shadowmen to move their boat – as it is now creating a hazard.  Yeah right.  Move where?

Meanwhile, Peter’s girlfriend, Sue, sneaks onto the help-offering sailboat and motors off into the distance.  She is off to retrieve Shadow‘s protector boat from the San Francisco Yacht Club.

While gone, two other protector boats – one from the Saint Francis Yacht Club and one belonging to another personal friend of Peter — arrive on the scene to help.  (Did I mention that Peter is quite well-connected?)  So, I am dumped — like a saggy wet sack of potatoes — from the small, white rowboat-like boat onto a fancy protector boat.  The guys on the protector hand me a towel, tell me to take my clothes off and tell me to head downstairs to dry off.  No argument from me.


The Shadow protector boat arrives and I watch as the-now-three protector boats

attach anchors and lines to Shadow and try to upright her.  After four long, cold hours – they are successful.  Our Shadowmen work for yet another hour on the boat before we tow her back to Belvedere.  We stop in the lee of Angel Island so that Andy can climb the mast and cut off the mainsail.  (Shadow‘s mast had been stuck in the mud so the main would not come down on its own).

Safely back at the yacht club, we supped on fancy wine and grub.  Me in wet foulies.

Just an ordinary sail on the bay?  Perhaps not.  Would I do it again?  In a heartbeat!!  Thank you Peter.