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Saturday, September 30, 2006

September 30, 2006-Weekend Racers

Crew Work

It feels strange to be back in the working world, living ashore and trudging off to the office each day with my Dell notebook over my shoulder. We only make it to the boat on the odd weekend or so when there is a race scheduled in Singapore. This isn’t what we had in mind when we left Seattle to go cruising over ten years ago.

But reality sometimes forces its way onto the scene.

We only planned to cruise for 5-7 years, until the money ran out. We figured we’d have to go back to work.

So, I guess this is all according to plan, sort of. We never imagined that “work” was going to be in Bangkok, Thailand.

But we’ve got no complaints. Bangkok is great. It is an exciting, exotic, wild city. Our apartment is nice. Our jobs are challenging and rewarding. Several friends from overseas have come here to visit.

And it’s only temporary. Before we know it we’ll be back cruising.

Meantime it’s fun, if hectic, working here and racing in Singapore on the weekends. We rush off to the airport after work on Friday and arrive at the boat about midnight, open the sea cocks, turn on the aircon and roll into our berths. Saturday morning we get up and have breckkie at the Marina, then prep the boat for racing. At 1:00 the crew turns up and out we go onto Johore Straits. Racing is fun and it sure wipes the cobwebs from our minds. Saturday night we have some brews at the Raffles Marina Bar, and Sunday: fix what ever broke on Saturday, put the boat away, close the sea cocks, turn off the aircond again, and head back to the airport. We get back to Bangkok about midnight on Sunday.

The race last Saturday was hard work from the get go.

A force 6 squall is blowing through just as we leave the harbour; whitecaps to windward and blowing salt spray everywhere. We rig the #4 jib.

The course upwind and weather marks are obscured. The sailing looks to be exciting; and challenging. I am relishing the beat; Wings’ weather.

The committee boat is bouncing wildly but they get a mark set and the sequence starts on time.

Then the wind starts dropping and we change to the #3. Time is running out fast but the wind is still dropping. The three is the wrong sail. I have to make a decision. I call for the #1. Just a few minutes to go and there is a pile of sails on the foredeck but we get the #1 up and we are settled down; this crew is doing pretty good, since they’ve never changed a sail before. Judy’s been helping on the foredeck, not the best place for the owner but she is good; looking young and agile. I wonder if she’ll have aches and pains tomorrow.

Two minutes to go. We don’t have a chance to check the line or get on the wind to look at the sails. Never mind, we are now stuck into a crowd on port tack going away from the line at 1 and a half to go and I have to duck and weave to get out and tacked over. We’re over early but I get back and we head to the boat end and hit the line going well, and right on time.

Then the jib needs to be hoisted further and we blow the sheet while the halyard is cranked on. We lose some distance to a leeward boat and sag into his bad air. We tack away and he tacks on us. Then I’m distracted with some crew problems and by the top mark we are in fourth.

At another rounding a Laser 2B cuts in front of us at a distance of about 20 feet and calls starboard. I have to spin wildly to miss him, and it messes up the rounding. Oh well.

The wind has gone away entirely and a strong current pushes us around, but we do OK in the light stuff. Or the crew does. A few more bad choices on my part and the day turns into a practice, which is what it was meant to be anyway. We finish about where our rating says we should, and we go in reasonably satisfied. Anyhow, there’s beers waiting.

Miller Time

Not a bad life, but it still feels strange on Monday morning heading off to work again.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings

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Wednesday, September 20, 2006

September 20, 2006-Bangkok Coup

Tank Barracade

It’s not Tiananmen Square, but tanks are rolling in Bangkok. It happened last night and today the military are in control of the government.

I don’t think my sister is going to believe me when I say it is safe to come for a visit.

But we’re not worried; we’ve been through coups before.

Photo Opp

In 2000 we were in Fiji when the whole Parliament was held hostage for 52 days and rebels blocked roads all over the country and local gunmen terrorized Expat plantation owners.

Things in the marina in Savu Savu where we were staying then seemed calm, however, I remember walking past the police station and noticing out of the corner of my eye that all the policemen in the station were standing with their hands up, about 10 feet from the sidewalk where I was walking, at gunpoint. I realized that I was only 10 feet from a hostage situation. I kept walking and next time I crossed the street before I got to the police station.

In Thailand the TV stations are all broadcasting speeches from the coup leaders and the Satellite is offline. A holiday was announced and all of our offices were closed.


I went out to see for myself. At first I saw nothing other than a lack of traffic on the streets. Then I turned a corner and walked into a tank barricade. I had my camera in my backpack and I ducked into an alley to dig it out in a less conspicuous location, only to walk straight into a pair of soldiers with automatic weapons coming out the back door of a restaurant. They didn’t seem to mind the camera, and I walked past and started taking pictures, moving closer to the tanks. No one seemed to pay attention, but I was thinking about a comment I read online that morning about a newsman who was bundled into a van for getting too close.


Close Enough

Finally some guys turned to look at me and I decided it was time to go. I hopped on the back of a motor bike and sped off.

No bullets whizzed by my ears.

So Sis, it’s quite safe, come on over.

Fred & Judy, Bangkok


Wednesday, September 13, 2006

September 10, 2006-Starting Over

Wings' new crew

When we move to a new country and want to start racing we have find a new crew.

We need 10 people to properly sail this boat, and with the two of us, that means we have to find eight other fools willing to beat themselves up week after week on an old race boat, chasing after a little line on a race results sheet that says; “1st”.

Finding crew is sometimes hard, but we’ve always been able to do it, and we’ve always wound up with great crew.

Back in Seattle we had a consistent crew for eight years and they won us a lot of races.

I can’t begin to tell you how many times that crew pulled off a boat handling miracle that got us ahead of somebody else with a less capable crew.

We loved them, and we let them know it. Not only could they sail the boat with perfection, the Wing’s crew became part of our family and in that family we had marriages, kids, grandkids, even lover’s spats. We saw youngsters grow up and become adults, we saw beginners become experts, and we saw oldsters put off retirement for just a few more races because we told them we couldn’t do it without them; I would still hug each and every one of them if I had a chance.

Since we’ve left Seattle, and we’ve had to find pick up crew in eight countries. Most of those crews, all of them really, have also been wonderful.

In Port Vila, in 20 knots of wind in a crowded starting area, when we blew out our genoa with 3 minutes to go, the crew we picked up off of cruising boats there got the torn sail off and set the #3 in time for the start. We got second in that race.

In Hong Kong we took on a bunch of newcomers to sailing, and they showed the local old hands a thing or two. They consistently won races for us in variety of conditions. In Mexico, Tonga, Fiji, New Zealand, Australia we’ve also found super folks who signed on for a race or a season.

Now we are in Singapore, and we are starting over again. It’s tough work this time, as it always is, to find crew, to get them committed to a season, and to get them trained on Wings. The first practice is always a bit rough. The first heavy weather jibe in a race is even worse, but we know that before long this crew, like all the others, will gel into something beautiful, into a smoothly functioning team, and into a family. And when that happens, that’s when racing becomes really fun.

So, we don’t mind starting over with a new crew; that’s what leads to some of the best rewards of sailing.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Singapore

Click on the image above to see the names of the crew members on or first practice in Singapore.

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