Fall 98

Another exciting event in my life was the sailboat race. Mary and Chima may have told some of you about this already. There is an older man in Ft. Scott who's wife died a couple years ago. To keep himself busy he has set about trying to get internet access to all the schools and hospitals in Ft. Scott. However, he doesn't really understand the internet so conversations with him center around computer buzz words he has heard. Anyway I've spent several hours on the phone with him in the past and he has come to the computer department at the hospital before so I wasn't very surprised to see him walk in one afternoon. This time he didn't want to talk about T1 lines and web pages. He was looking for a crew member for a sailboat race he was entering the next day. I've been kind of interested in sailboats and agreed to go with him. A couple hours later he came back with a sheet of sailing information for me. He said he had just come from the drivers license office and was really glad they let him squeeze by the eye test because he had cataracts and can't see very well. Have any of you ever been sailing with someone who can't see?

Anyway the next morning at 5:30 Ross, Mary, and I showed up at his house and followed him to KC. His eye problem became apparent as we followed him. Fortunately most of the trip was on a divided 4 lane highway. every so often he would end up straddling the 2 lanes. It seems when he found himself in the middle he would forget which lane he was originally in and move into which ever one seemed like a good idea at the time. So he'd go from the left lane to the middle, back to the left lane, to the middle, to the right lane.....etc.

Chima and I rig the boat.

When we got there I had the idea that we would set the boat up and see if everything worked. He had never sailed that particular boat fact he hadn't sailed any boat for over 40 years! I kind of assumed he'd want to try it out and at least make sure it would float as soon as we got there. Instead we sat around for an hour while he talked to someone about bringing the internet to Ft. Scott. We heard all about the T1 lines and Web pages. Ross and Mary attempted to take a nap on the picnic bench during this, but I don't think they were very successful.

Finally we got the boat set up and in the water. It did float so that was a good sign. After lunch the race was supposed to begin. He was up in his car as the judges explained the instructions so I went to get him. When we got back they were done, so neither of us knew what we were supposed to do. He said we'd just follow the other boats.

A sailboat race begins by every one sailing back and forth until the signal to start. Then you head your boat between a buoy and the judges boat. When you pass between the two you've started the race. We were headed toward the judge's boat when the race started. We got a little too close, got our boat caught on their anchor line, swung around and hit the judges. Ross and Mary were on the judge's boat so they got to see the whole thing up close. They didn't disqualify us, so once we got unhooked we continued the race.

To go into the wind you have to sail back and forth angling as close to the wind as you can while still going forward. We tried to do this, but when we would "come about" (turn and head the other direction) we tried following the standard procedure of switching sides. Keep in mind that the guy I was sailing with was quite old so it took him a while to get to the other side. By the time he got seated again we would have turned around and head back downwind. I think we were only making about 10 or 20 feet of progress with each trip across the lake because anything we gained we'd lose while changing sides. I finally suggested we not change sides and that helped things a little.

I'd usually say something if I thought he was getting off course, but after a while I kind of felt bad because he always acted like he was doing it intentionally, so the next time I didn't feel we were going the right direction I kept my mouth shut. After awhile he looked up and said, "Whoa! How'd we get over here?!?"

We finished the first race just as everyone was starting on the second so we followed and began the second race. It was less exciting--meaning we didn't hit anyone--but we seemed to get even further behind than the first time so we didn't even finish that race.

A couple days later I noticed a plaque sitting on top of my desk at work. The skipper had brought it by because we had won something for the class we were in. I just thought you all should know that your dear friend Mark W. Shead is a sailboat race champion.