It was a big weekend for Narrow Escape. On Saturday, it was the committee boat for the first race of the season to be hosted by my club, Little Ships Fleet Yacht Club, and I was the Principal Race Officer.
Then on Sunday, the club hosted its Opening Day ceremonies, and Narrow Escape, proudly decorated, was tied at the center of the Long Dock to takes its place in our planned afternoon boat parade.
Our Saturday race was named the Murray Gordon Memorial, after a long-time member of our 71-year-old club who passed away. It was the second race of the season in the nine-race Long Beach Harbor Invitational series that is sponsored by three clubs, each club responsible for separate races.
The wind was 5-6 knots out of the southeast as we gave separate starts to three classes, sending them on courses of 10.6 nm and 11.6 nm. By the time they finished three to three and a half hours later it was in the upper teens and building, having clocked around toward the southwest.
It took three men on the bow to wrestle the Bruce anchor out of the sticky clay bottom of the harbor. That put the boat bow down, and the outboard bounced in and out of the 1-2 foot chop as I asked the remaining two crew members to stand at the stern to try to get the engine to spend more time in the water. Once the foredeck crew secured the anchor and rode at the bow and moved aft, the boat motored well through the building conditions as we returned to Alamitos Bay.
I spent the night aboard at my slip and awakened to drizzle, threatening skies and cool temperatures. After dressing the boat with strings of signal flags and colored pennants, I motored over to the Long Dock and assisted with preparations for our midday ceremonies.
Our only facility is a storage shed, leased from the city-owned marina, where we store our racing equipment, our barbeque for after-race festivities, and the paraphernalia we use once a year to convert the adjacent marina parking lot into an outdoor yacht club for our opening day ceremony.
The setting is far more glorious than it sounds. This small section of parking lot is set near a point on Alamitos Bay. The point itself is bordered with the grass lawn and white picket fence of the Navy Yacht Club of Long Beach, where we set up our luncheon tables. Beyond is the small bay itself, bordered by docks full of large yachts on the east, and fine homes of the Long Beach Peninsula and Naples Island on the south and west. In the distance between the two rises San Pedro Hill. And, of course, boats of all sizes are plying the water in between.
It is, however, subject to the weather of the day. On Sunday, that weather was cool, mostly cloudy, and blustery. Speakers had to take care their notes did not blow away. But it was dry. Forecast rain failed to appear.
The opening was well attended by flag officers from other clubs, large and small, and our own members. Our officers were introduced to canon salutes simulated by 12-gauge shotgun blanks, and a pair of pipers played a couple of stirring numbers, finishing with Amazing Grace. Afterwards, perfectly-grilled hamburgers were served on paper plates. As the burgers were consumed it became more and more difficult to keep the plates on the tables.
In the end, the boat parade was cancelled as whitecaps driven across Alamitos Bay by winds upwards of 20 knots pinned the eight-boat fleet hard against each other and the Long Dock.
Extricating the boats from that lee shore was skillfully handled by a combination of crews manning boat hooks from adjacent boats, pushing bows off while others kept stern lines tight, and skippers gunned their engines. The light Santa Cruz 27, a class-winner Saturday, powered by a small 2.5 hp outboard managed to avoid scraping the newly-painted Cal 40, a 2005 Transpac veteran. The Ranger 26 got cleanly away from its sidetie to the J-30, and the J-30 escaped unharmed from alongside the Mirage K-30. The Catalina 310 stepped smartly away from the side of the Ericson 38.
Finally it was Narrow Escape's turn. Three helpers walked her forward along the dock to the end. With a shove at the bow, a tug on the stern line and a healthy dose of forward throttle, she left the dock unscathed and soon was tied quietly in her slip once again.
A yachting season which never ends in Southern California had symbolically begun once more.