The great boat race

When I was young, we used to go to the beach each year for  our annual holiday at a small town on the coast. The place we went was popular and attracted regular holiday-makers from all over the country.

The town is situated next to a large (almost) enclosed lagoon which fills to the high water mark twice each day when the tide is in. There are two large islands in the lagoon, and our house was on one of these. The lagoon has no rough water, is largely quite shallow and has few dangerous currents – an ideal place to learn to sail, swim and fish, and we did plenty of all the above.

Frequent local beach goers got to know each other over time, and, as most of us were kids, we were always assured of plenty of playmates. One particular holiday, someone came up with the idea of having a boat race!

A checklist of all the vessels we could gather together included a:
– few canoes
– small yacht (to be skippered by my brother – aged in his early teens)
– larger yacht (skippered by someone’s dad, and crewed by one of his offspring and my sister)
– small runabout (with a tiny temperamental, seagull engine, the latter tied securely to the painter of the boat. It had a tendency to come loose and flip off the transom and into the water. The rope ensured that if this happened, it could be hauled back into the boat, fitted back on the transom, cleaned up and put back into service!)

Small blue yacht going well!

My dad, with his larger, reliable boat was commissioned to be the referee, and ferry for the smaller kids who could not manage a vessel on their own.

Everyone finally away and the referee boat standing by

The route was chosen and the participants handicapped according to their mode of propulsion and their age. I had the self appointed job as photographer with a small analog camera at my disposal.

The canoeists did well in this regard and were given a sizable head start 🙂 The yachts were becalmed frequently – the breeze being barely discernible and highly unreliable for the duration of the race. The seagull engine purred away happily around half the course before doing its thing – coming loose and flipping itself into the water. Unperturbed, the master mariner (another brother) just sat patiently and waited for the referee boat to give him a tow back to shore.

The smaller yacht won the day, but we all had such fun. It went down in my recollections as a favourite day.

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