Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Last Word

It is only fitting that the skipper gets the last word.
Four years ago I bought Lightning Rod from a Yacht Club Member, Shep Shirley. I didn't just buy a boat, I made a friend. Shep was on board the first race Lightning Rod won. It was the Blue Gavel in 2007. This was the first win in a sailboat race for her skipper too. I learned that if I could get the right people and get them to work together, we could win sailboat races in spite of my own meager experience and ability.
When I was a boy I would read adventure books. Some I remember were actually my father's. "Dave Dawson with the Flying Tigers" was the type of book from WWII. Of course I had the "Hardy Boys Mysteries" and one in particular I remember the story, but not the name, a book about a teenager who bought a race car and entered it in a Grand National race. Of course, he won. This week was very much like that. To give you the idea, On Sunday I went to a tactics discussion with Robbie Haines, Bill Hardesty, Terry Hutchinson, Adrian Stead and Dave Ullman. My crew on I sailed the same waters as these legends all week.
I'm not a teenager and this isn't a storybook. I know the commitment required to be competitive in Key West. In yacht racing the commitment is not just from an owner, or a skipper or a tactician. It is from a crew. In the past six months we built, trained and honed a crew. Seven of the eight sailors aboard Lightning Rod every day were from the Fort Walton Yacht Club. Hunter Riddle might as well be as much as he contributes to our sailing program there. When Craig Wilusz signed on we finally had what we needed to complete the picture, a tactician with the detail mind to prepare this crew. This was Craig's seventh Key West. My management style is generally easy going and though detail oriented, I always need a detail person to execute. That was Craig. Sometimes we laughed at his lists; but in the end we needed every one of them. Running a crew is like herding kittens. On the water Craig was a great kittenherd, off the water we couldn't have asked for a better kittenherd than Grady. A good meal after a long day goes a long way toward getting people where you want them.
Last year I came to Key West as a mark set boat. Jerry had the connection and was kind enough to share with me. I watched the greatest sailors in the World compete and it was the beginning of a dream, very much like the dream of the teenager in the book. By the time July rolled around and Jennifer had Lightning Rod for a full month for the women's racing series, I had decided I want to try my luck in Key West. My goal, to be competitive enough we were not laughed off the course. In the end we achieved so much more. I am not one normally to set my goals too low. Though I did not expect to achieve the results we did, I never stopped dreaming them. My goal was to give my team the tools they needed. I certainly achieved that. Lightning Rod is a different boat with superior sails (Thanks Hunter, the other S2 did ask for your card), superior hardware and the best sailors I could sign on. Bill Rackley was the driving force in bringing the Rod's performance up. Before Bill, no quality sailors would sail on the "slow boat." Sheer timing added Glenn to our crew. He is one of the finest sailors and finest men I know. Glenn is kind and hardworking and usually quite humble, like his dad. We definitely had the best foredeck in our fleet doing poleless set after poleless set, flawlessly.
In the end, this man's dream is achieved as a result of the sacrifice and commitment of the rest of our crew. Thanks to all.

Race Week Over and we is dancin' in the streets!

Well, it is over, Acura Key West Race Week Presented By Nautica 2009. Dave Eames and his crew aboard Lightning Rod finished off the series in 2nd overall. But we will get to that in a bit below.

Dave did a great job putting everything together. The house was great, Bill Grady's cooking was good and entertaining. The weather, though quite cold, with a bit of a rain squall line one day, was cooperative. The competition was as good as it could get. So now for the awards:


Day 1: Div 3, PHRF 4, Nautica Watches Day , First Lightning Rod

Day 2: Div 3, PHRF 4, Sperry Top-Sider Day, First, Lightning Rod

Day 3: Div 3, PHRF 4, Mount Gay Rum Day, Second, Lightning Rod

Day 4: Div 3, PHRF 4, Lewmar Day, First, Lightning Rod

Day 5: Div 3, PHRF 4, Acura Day, Third, Lightning Rod


Division 3, PHRF 4, Second, Lightning Rod


"Baby Needs New Shoes Award": Deborah Deats, for her tumble on Day 1 down the companion way hatch. The event proved to be a lesson in communication as the US Coast Guard, Local EMT services, and a nearby hospital all needed to care for the girl.

"1 Scotch, 1 Bourbon, 1 Beer Award": Cute Daniel. His interest in dance (see above), mocha hotties, and boxing proved to be informative and entertaining. Who else could get a female Key West Police Officer to say "Stop it, settle down, get in the car, or your going to jail" and "Have fun!" all in the same situation.

"Milli Vanilli Award" : Jerry Deray. The same song, mincing words, strumming a six string, not quite priceless.

"Team Award" : Scott Mitchell and Glenn Purcell. Just a month before they were asking "Why are we practicing poleless sets?" 25 Weather mark roundings...13 port tack approaches.

"I Cannot Grow A Third Hand Out of My Ass, Craig, I Can't Even Try Award": Hunter Riddle. Trimming jib, tacking jib, setting main, flying sheet, pumping main, playing guy. Oh yeah, tactician.

"Every Body Loves Grady Award" : William "Shady" Grady. Tactful, delightful, an acquired taste. Grady was our roadside representitive, providing commentary on everything, mostly stuff he had no knowledge of, but commentary nonetheless.

"Falling On Deaf Ears Award" : William "Billy Ray" Rackley. "Bill".."Huh?" "Bill!"..."Huh?" "BILL!!!"..."Ready to tack?" Seriously, Billy Ray was a grinder's grinder.

"The Sails Are Up, Shut Up And Drive Award" : Gina Coulter. Damn girl, we nee a bigger boat if you gonna pull the sail up that fast! Gina also rode with Deborah in the ambulance and stayed in the emergency room with her.

"Current Events Award": Craig Wilusz: In the final race, Craig, on port approach slammed into a tack at the top mark inside a starboard tacker. The guy on starboard owed Lightning Rod one and was letting the team in, however, the current coming down didn't agree. A quick spin avoiding the mark, the crew picking up the movement, cleared us and we rounded right behind, passing the starboard tacker at the hoist. Practice your poleless sets, ya'll

"ROCKSTAR OF THE WEEK AWARD" : Stu Juengst. This guy had it on. On the final day of racing, Friday. Stu was picked up by the team aboard Santa Cruz 1. A brand new out of the box Santa Cruz 37 in Division 1, IRC 2. This was the SC37's debut to the world of yacht racing, even getting the tuning guide written as the boat sailed around the course, attracting the attention of the press and other types of media. Stu replaced Tim Kernan, of Kernan Yacht Design (he designed the Santa Cruz 37) as sewer and rail meat. Stu is the only member of Fort Walton Yacht Club and the Piney Wood Redneck Yacht Club to have ever sailed in IRC.

"All I Want To Do Is Trophy Out At Key West Award" : Dave Eames. He did it. getting a daily trophy every single day at Acura Key West Race Week Presented By Nautica. The enitre crew is proud of his accomplishment. Take a breather and relax now, Dave. All you gotta do now is win the next big event.

To all of you who cheered us on, thank you for your support, it meant a lot to us. Your texts, emails, phone calls, and messages all made the week more special. It gave us something to talk about other than the racing. To those that jeered, well, thanks for that too. We never entered the event trying to prove something, it just happened to end up that way.

From the team and crew for the sailing vessel Lightning Rod,

"Slap some lipstick on that boy and take him downtown!"

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Now we know we're mortal

today's first race was a reminder of two things, first that we are mortal and second that all of the competition here is good! we made one small tactical error when we got bad air on the start we tacked away, thought we were lifted and left the fleet, when we came back we were even behind the J24s! A problem with the folding prop sealed our fate and we finished the first race in 5th.

The picture is a great way to show what KWRW is all about. Hundreds of really hot boats, with great crews who all want to win.

Our second race found us back on task. The points now put us in a match race with the other S2. Yesterday, they "ground us down" in the second race. Today, tacking on every shift, we pulled away in the end to finish nearly a minute ahead. The crew work needed for such a feat was incredible. We must have tacked 12-15 times in the last upwind to the finish. Each tack was right on. It was like practice again with Craig yelling "Hike bitches!" repeatedly. way to go tactics!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Another amazing Day

Today was another amazing day of sailing. It seems a bit surprising we are doing as well as we are, but it is not such a mystery. Our crew is DEDICATED! They practiced and worked, we nearly rebuild Lightning Rod, we came together as a crew.

On the start of the first race we had a winch blow up. A good crew does things well, a great crew deals with the unexpected without skipping a beat. That is the crew work I witnessed today. it is easy from the back, my job is to just drive the boat, once Craig reminded me that is my job, I went back to driving. Hunter and Craig were out of the picture for this start because of the winch problem, but Glenn runs the starts anyways, all I had to do was watch him and we got off to a pretty good start in clear air in spite of the 30 seconds of mayhem in the cockpit while they rigged a workaround for the failed winch. Months ago Glenn bought two very expensive snatch blocks for Lightning Rod and I wasn't sure what we needed them for. Twice in this regatta I have found out why. each time we have had an equipment failure these blocks covered with only seconds lost on the course. Thanks, Glenn!
Glenn and Scott have performed flawlessly. Every launch and every douse has been perfect. we have two pit people and when Deborah was injured, after winning the race, Gina stepped in today and performed every bit as flawlessly, not just in the pit, but helping to identify problems before they were problems and helping the tactics guys with where are fleet and others are on the course and what is happening to them. The "alley", which is the middle of the boat is getting last mention because not only has their work been flawless, other than the winch they haven't enjoyed too much drama. Rackley and Jerry worked the alley today while Stu and Rackley worked it yesterday. They do their job and get on the rail to yells of "Hike Bitches" from Craig. As with all the crew work I've seen on LR this week, it is every bit as professional as on the Farr 40s I watched last year that gave me key West fever. When the LR crew hikes their shoulders are out, their paws are in the air, legs kicked our for every ounce of counter balance they can provide. We all like to win.
On tactics Craig and Hunter have performed, well, up to 6 points in four races standards, there just isn't much better you can do.
Key West Race Week is FUN!

Puffs, Performance, and Percoset

By now, everyone is all aware of Deb's damage. Here is what it looked like after she got all cleaned up. She is doing a whole lot better, and is walking around on crutches, making the time to get sympathy hugs from Italians, the French, some Swedes, a couple of Norweigians, and the list goes on and on and on. Deborah has become quite popular.
So today, as far as sailing goes, was "just plain nuts". Chaos around the race course. One of the new big boats a Custom 41 "XS" with a negative six PHRF lost it's rig ( running backs are not as much fun as some people think).
Jerry Deray gets the save of the day. One minute and forty seconds before the first start we had a override on the starboard primary, on port tack , in seventeen knots of wind, with a line up of starboard tackers approaching the line. Not good. Craig called for the trimmers to pull straight up on the sheet to clear the overide. The trimmers followed, and the override came out just fine, but also pulling up the Lewmar winch drum up with it! It bounced off the deck, Jerry caught the drum, one handed under the lifeline outside the rail, OVER THE WATER! Gina collected split rings, pawl springs, races, and bearings from the deck. Quick responses by Craig and Glenn got a snatch block to the rail to lead the jib sheet to a secondary on the cabin top. Jerry and Bill got jamming along, Dave, calm and quiet throughout the carnage, tacked, and Lightning Rod was off. A bullet!

Race Two found "the Rod" leading the fleet around the marks again, Seven mile race, five legs, W/L's (1.3 mile legs, with a bit longer final upwind beat. Going around the final gate found Dave and the gang ahead of the other S2 9.1, but not enough time on the MAC 30 Carribean Soul II. Decisons had to be made. Hunter, Craig, and Dave had to come up with a game plan. Split with the S2 and attack the MAC? Tight cover the S2 and screw the MAC? Loose cover the S2 and make on the MAC? We chose door number 3. Loose covering the other S2 allowed us some time on the MAC, however the other S2, who got real aggressive on the beat, gained and got 16 seconds ahead. The S2's had a battle, a battle to the finish, spliting tacks, grinding away, and actually leaving the MAC behind. The final three tacks brought the S2's on approach to the line, with "the Rod" gunning for a port/starboard leading into the line. The boys from Conneticut, pulled it off, luffing up and into the line, crossing seven seconds ahead of Lightning Rod. A second for FWYC.

Points were lined up in Dave's favor as the previous race found the other S2 with a third, and the MAC a second. Score for Tuesday, Lightning Rod (1,2) three points, Elysium, the other S2 (3,1) four points, MAC 30 (2,3) five points. Lightning Rod the victor! Another Daily Trophy for Dave, another smile on his face, and another check to write! Going into Wednesday finds the Piney Wood Yacht Club bunch in first with six points, the other S2 second with eight points, and the MAC 30 third with twelve points. We are only 40% into a ten race series with no throwouts, so not much breathing room. Cheer us on folks, the crew needs it!

Monday, January 19, 2009

A picture is worth a thousand words....

Seriously, the most important item on today's post is that Deborah appears to be fine. She did injure her knee and we are concerned about that, otherwise, the injury we, the EMTs and the Doctor thought was a compound fracture was just a nasty tearing wound. Though it looked bad it will heal. We had a fantastic day on the water and it was such an awful punctuation to be as concerned for a friend as I was for Deborah. Roy, she didn't even whimper, the race was over before the injury, but I will tell you, we have two women with us that definitely belong on the boat. They are valuable crew.

Today's first race was as exciting as class racing gets. We started a bit down the line in clear air just above the other S2 and the Mac 30, which is proving to be good competition. we had a screaming upwind and rounded first be a fair margin. The first downwind was uneventful, we neither gained or lost much ground. The second upwind started with a heavy rain shower and gusts to 28. It was hard to find the course changed weather mark and we played it safe by going up the middle. The rest of our fleet stayed right which seemed to be favored today and the other S2 rounded only a couple boat lengths behind. The took our air and forced us to gybe off. We lost by 12 seconds.

The second race was 5 legs with an upwind finish. We had five good legs and finished with 1:50 on the Mac 30 (corrected) and 1:58 on the 3rd place S2. Our 2nd and first gave us three points for a win in the first ever Key West for me, Deborah, Stu and Lightning Rod. I can't thank the whole crew enough. I get to keep a great trophy, but trust it belongs to the whole crew and even the many people back home that have done so much to make us better sailors.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Race Eve

Last night we piled eight people into the Dave's truck to anxiously await the arrival of Welome Gina. She arrived safely to the welcoming banner made of paper towels and a missing letter "Wel*ome Gina." All of us (nine now) loaded up for a little Green Parroting, mojitos at Willie T's, and a quick stop at the local drag queen bar. Had a very interesting evening trying to identify it's, he's or she's. After a few dances Craig finally figured out that his dance partner, a 6'6" amazon woman was really an it and Daniels mocha hottie was definately an it too. Scott helped Grady donate his chest hair to a group of young women on a Southern Bachelorette Party. Gina and Deborah passed on the mechanical bull riding but have both mastered the mechanical chair at the house (see previous chair video for a look at the wild ride).

Sunday's wind was very light, yet we were able get even more jibing and tacking practice in before heading back to the boatyard for final preparations going into battle. Dave feels confident and is anticipating the following week's events. Deborah took the opportunity to try her hand as a delivery captain taking Lightning Road to her new upscale digs for the week. Along the way , she took command and tow of a J-80 with engine trouble. Lightning Rod's new spot comes with the added perks of pool, showers, and only one block away from the party tent.

Scott and Glenn were dismal failures at applying the Acura stickers and had to request new ones from headquarters since one was on crooked and the other went to visit the local lobsters.

Most of the crew attended a racing tactics seminar and then had their first taste of Mt. Gay and German beer. Dave and Craig called it an early night at went home to more of Grady's good cookin' ... chicken breast, salad and key lime pie. Everyone is atwitter with anticipation for tomorrows events. The forecast keeps changing, however all the models show winds in the twentys and high teens. So hang on folks, it will now be interesting for sure...

Saturday, January 17, 2009

A word from the skipper

Today we started to really sense mission as a race team. We had difficulties with some things that have been second nature and we worked really hard. It is starting to set in that we are going to start racing with some of the finest sailors in the World the day after tomorrow and we are going to have to be up to it.

I'm feeling a little overwhelmed and even a little lonely with ten people sharing the experience; it is part of getting into a competitive mode that knows no compromise. Whether it is an achievable goal or not I am turning to a purpose of winning and accepting no less. Obviously there are other skippers that are entering the same mode, only one will leave with the desired result. When it is over we will proudly accept the result whatever it is because we will know we did everything we could. But for now, winning is the only acceptable result.

Though these musings are about my thoughts, I cannot say enough about our crew. We are a team and it is a privilege to sail with each and every one. The Lightning Rod effort is now about 6 months old. We have moulded a team that will put every ounce of their ability and heart into making one old PHRF boat sail the best she ever has. I am grateful to Bill, Craig, Daniel, Deborah, Gina, Glenn, Hunter, Jerry, Scott and Stu for their dedication to this effort. I can't say enough about how hard they've worked and how much they've sacrificed to share this experience. Grady also earns special mention. He has been a real team player. nobody could ask more from a support person. He has often remembered or just know details that would have been dropped balls. Grady is a real professional when it comes to supporting a crew.
All this aside, I am having a lot of fun. I went to the race committee party tonight, the only skipper there because of my donation of Thunder to the cause. I met some not so old friends (Last year was my first year) and some new ones. There is a special camaraderie for the race committee. The people who make this race happen are very committed and it is a joy to see people enjoying their roles in making this such an awesome event.

Beginning to feel like Key West

Yep, Key West, it is here. Saturday's practice day saw more boats come out to play. Some Swan 42's, J-80's, a Benne 36.7 and 40, and an all familiar boat Man-O-War, the J35 out of Singing River Yacht Club, Mississippi bounced around the water this afternoon. The J35 showed some love by giving a big GYA shout out to us "Go GYA!!!" as we sailed upwind together.

Practice was fairly intense today. We counted approximately a eight takedowns, a nine sets, maybe twenty tacks, and around thirty or so gybes. Winds were between 14 and 20 knots. Seas definately dropping down a bit as compared to the last couple of days. Working the foredeck to a pulp was the mission today. Communication started working itself through with "Hike Bitches!" , "Tack Bitches", and"Gybe Bitches" . Terminolgy is still under development for hoists types and mark douces. Cute Daniel, as seen in the picture, is having a blast! No matter what we throw at the lad, we still can't get him to wipe that goofy smile off his face.

Regardless, of Daniel's inablilty to turn his frown upside down, everybody got a workout. Dave spent some time working the main upwind, switching off the helm to Craig every once in awhile. Dave also developed some gybing style as he trims and gybes the main downwind. Dave is having a blast taking time to sail his boat. Per the usual, Grady's food is outstanding. Ham steaks in the morning, grilled sandwiches for lunch, shrimp premaviera for dinner. He is a reall assest to the team taking time to help out with laundry tasks as well. He is slowly getting into the groove, even breaking out his Kwanza shirt tonight to go out on the town. So out on the town it is, Mojitos, Mojitos, Mojitos!!!!! GO PWRYC!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Time to get our game face on....

Here is my game face, Key West style...

Of course it is not all fun and games like back at the shop..... The guys sent me this picture so I could keep my head on the boat and not worry about what is going on back home. Don't they look like they have everything under control?

The sailing is just fantastic. There is nothing to calm the mind and the soul like concentrating on getting every last bit of speed out of a boat in 20-30 knots. Lightning Rod is an amazing boat, she just feels so nimble now with her new bottom. I can't wait to try her with our good sails.

I took a walk on Duval Street tonight and had a great time watching people and just relaxing. I bought a few cigars from a street vendor and indulged in my two or three times per year cigar habit. The cigars are hand rolled here in Key West and the one I smoked was very good.

We are expecting more of the same weather tomorrow. If the forecast is right we may want to wait until early afternoon for it to lay down a little.


Flying the FWYC colors

The burgee finally arrived via Fed-Ex, thanks to the gang at Custom Earpiece. We are now representing FWYC to the best of our ability, at least until racing begins. The bikes are great, we have the crew warming up in the morning and in the evening keeping physically fit for the turmoil ahead.

Grady is outdoing himself again with the cooking. Sausage, eggs, and fruit in the morning. Ribs for snacking after sailing. At press time, steaks are cooking on the grill.

What about sailing? Today was fun. Ninteen to twenty six knots with a puff here and there topping at thirty-one knots knots out of the North provided some steep waves to play in. Top speed downwind with Craig driving was 11.2 knots. Upwind Dave hitting 5.8 to 6.1 knots, despite the steeps. Dave is really enjoying the bigger waves that we just don't get back home, however Glenn and Scott on the bow do not seem to share the same enthusiasm. Yet, the gang is doing a great job, switching from two crew tacking the jib, to one tacking the blade. This move was made to move the weight on the rail quicker. The ten year old practice chute is still holding together, however a blown batten in the practice 110 might make trim difficult for tomorrow. The older main with the full battens still has some life left in her.

Projects still pop up as we now have the mast plate at the deck working itself away from the deck. The hitech tapered main halyard is the culprit, literally pulling the plate upwards. Some epoxy and moving the carbo blocks back a bit should prove to be the solution. Shackles don't seem to like the conditions either, as we are breaking the smaller vang shackles. The solution is to reduce shackles and use line and knots instead where a shackle can be replaced. It works too! Just like a hi-tech little boat!
Night has fallen, Bill Rackley and Cute Daniel emailed to say they are on the road heading south on I-75. Should be a long weekend for them as we sail in the morning (Saturday) and even earlier Sunday. Sunday is dress rehearsal day, getting to the boat at 8am means getting a dozen people showered, fed, sober, and on the road early.
Deborah, is itching to get out on the town, again, so gotta run....
Love, Lightning Rod Team

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Todays sailing

Today Grady came along as photog. Yes, I know he is getting way too much mention in this blog, well that's how it is. The center of attention. But some of the pics are great. I'll let them speak for themselves and just publish a bunch of them without descriptions


We have video of Our Tactician showing us his capabilities

Thursday, 3 more days till racing begins...

Today was a good day. We all woke up to Grady's story about sneaking up on Jerry with cooking spray at night, and decided to eat breakfast instead of hearing the rest of the story. Some of the gang took off to find bikes to rent or find the boat, while others fished around "the compound" and found some bikes on their own. More on this later as ingenuity was required to get the bicycles in working order (Winn-Dixie lighter fluid replacing chain oil) and with some added flair. Our next door neighbors are not only nice, but also helpful in emergencies as Urgent Care is right next door! Perfect! Lunch was served, again with more gradyisms, and we went sailing. Sailing was wonderful, 20 knots TWS, surfing off pebble rollers around eight knots or so. Dave, really taking to the wave pattern well. Of course a mishap was requried and our new megamaxi jib sheet cover came undone from the core at the splice. Glenn, ever so helpful, now has another project.

After sailing we took the time to make minor adjustments to the boat while a Swan 42 was getting it's mast stepped in our slip. The guys on the 42 were real nice, and made way as soon as the rig was somewhat secure. We unloaded the boat with some help from local yard workers who seemd to cheer on each other to keep up morale. A friendly bunch once you get Grady away from them.

Some rig re-tuning, some taping, and the mighty Lightning Rod slumbers away Thursday evening to the hum of the industrial dehumidifier.

Grady came through again with dinner of ribs, stir fried vegtables, and seemingly semi-boiled potatos. Somewhare around here is some Key Lime Pie with Scott's name on it, wait, RedStripe for Scott and Key Lime Pie for every one else!

Friday looks to be a bit more breezy with some computer models forcasting winds as high as twenty-six knots! More blade sailing and chicken chute gybing makes for a happy bunch.

Racing begins Monday, with more practicing Friday, Saturday, and Sunday so stay tuned ya'll!!! LOVE, PWRYC

Today was the first morning together as a crew. Things are starting to get crowded with 7 crew and Grady. Glenn, Dave, Jerry and Grady were the first four here. Last night Deborah, Stu, Scott and Craig arrived. Everybody settled in after a beer run.

This morning the first up were about 4:00 AM, most of us were up at 5:30. First thing everybody has something different to do. last thing last night Glenn washed our new jib sheets (sail control lines for the boat). First thing they got laid out in the livingroom to dry. We now officially live in a sail loft.

Craig checked the weather while Deborah got her morning exercize and Stu slept.

Grady served breakfast at 7:30. We had waffles with Barney sauce (a concoction of blueberries, cream cheese and honey that Grady makes) bacon and scrambled eggs. We now officially have more people than dining table so people have to eat wherever they find a space.

This morning's plan of the day includes sanding the sheets, dropping off a trailer key for the race committee and getting a haircut if we have time. The sailmaker should have our spare blade ready after a few minor modifications and then we will go sailing. It is cloudy and cool now and we are expecting good winds and sun by noon.
More later

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

More crew arrives

Hey, Stu here. Today, Craig, Scott, Deborah, and I flew down to KW. Thanks to Craig's dad Stan for the lift to the airport! Our flight was delayed leaving VPS, but other than that, everything went smoothly.

We got here just in time to keep Grady from being arrested by the airport security for loitering.

January 14

I feel much better now! Today we took our first sail. It was amazing! Lightning Rod feels so nimble. She is like a different boat.

We started our day with a good breakfast, as usual. By 11:00 we were at the boat and started on final rigging. We put the old main on. We left the dock at about noon and headed for the beautiful azure waters of Key West. The weather is cooperating. We had a cold front come through this morning and it brought with it 20+ knot winds. The skies were a little cloudy first thing but they cleared. When we left the dock we headed out into 20 gusting to 22. We are on what today was the leeward side of the island, so the waves were not too big though.

First we needed to finalize calibrating our instruments. We motored in a circle to calculate deviation and then we motored upwind and down to calibrate our speed log. The sea state was a little rough to do the fine calibration sailing so we skipped that for today.

Next we put up the old 110. We sailed upwind for awhile. We were sailing 6 knots upwind on jib only. Amazing! Later we put up the main and sailed some more upwind. Total under sail today about an hour and a half. It was great. The weather cooperated and the wind came down to 14 knots by the time we struck the sails. Just a wonderful day sail in about 70 degree sun.
At the end of the day we took care of turning the keys to Thunder over to the man who will drive her, Tom over at the Truman Annex.
We finished our day with the most wonderful barbecue New York Strip steak, baked potato and corn on the cob.
Tonight four more crew members arrive, Craig, Scott, Stu and Deborah. We will start practice in earnest tomorrow with nearly a full crew.
Ashore today was an interesting day too. Elysium, the S2 we will race against declared for a 3 second weight penalty as we did, which makes their handicap 132 as is ours. There is also a Mac 30 in the fleet with the same handicap so for three of us it will be like one-design.
More later D

January 13

Sorry to everybody who missed this post. I was just tired and a little under the weather yesterday.
Tuesday was rather uneventful for Lightning rod except that she got a much needed and deserved bath as a courtesy from Grady and Glenn. They also worked on rigging details making sure no important parts were left out.
The high point of the day was first thing when Grady made Eggs Benedict for us. We've been eating high ion the hog! (Canadian Bacon is from the back, the very top of the animal)
I'm sorry everyone but the high point for Jerry and I was actually a high point; we were on top of the Fly navy (BOQ) building working on a temperamental repeater. It is the highest point on the island and I wish I would have thought to take a picture. Here is a pic of the building from the outside.
Jerry and I got the repeater working correctly and then went to take Thunder over to Truman Annex where they will launch her.
I was under the weather yesterday. The stress finally started getting to me and my stomach was doing exercises I need not describe. Suffice it to say, we did what we had to and then took the rest of the day off.

Monday, January 12, 2009

The actual day 5 (yesterday was really 4)

We started the morning with yet another great Grady breakfast. This is living!
Jerry and I started the morning by getting the repeater (a piece of radio gear that allows walkie talkies to function over many miles) to Pete Sarelas. Pete is a history instructor at the Naval Academy who gets involved in race committee each year and is kind of the "Commo" guy. Pete is a great guy and it was nice to meat him. He will be working with our radios for us.

Next it was time to put the mast up on the boat. The mast was so close to the power lines i found it scary and everybody thought I was too careful to insist we move the boat a little bit away from the lines.

The marina did not have much of a crane and the operator was not very inventive. It was extremely difficult to get the mast through the boot. We ended up shaking it for nearly a half hour before we finally had it dropped in place. The crane operator was not a lot of help and we were both frustrated and worn out by the time the mast was securely in place.

Next we rigged the mast. This took us almost an hour, hooking up and adjusting all of the shrouds and attaching the control lines.

we took a short lunch. Our first meal out was at the "rusty Anchor." The food was very good and we left satisfied.

Upon our return to the yard it was time to launch the boat. "Flash Gordon," a Farr 40 was supposed to go before us, but though it was high tide, it was not a real high tide and Flash will have to wait until 12:30 for her launch. Our launch was uneventful thanks to the work of a really good travel lift operator and the professionalism of our own crew. Glenn has kept all of the rigging work on track with the same high quality rigging work that has turned a losing boat into a winning one.

We are on a seawall at old island so we will move for race week. But for the next 5 days. This will be home for Lightning Rod.
It is so nice to see her afloat again.
After launching there is still a great deal of work to do. We started by wiring the electronics and lighting for the top of the mast. Glenn and Jerry worked hard on the rest of the rigging and Grady went back to the house to prepare yet another awesome meal.
While we were getting this done we also received the bad news that there is a problem with the repeater which Pete installed this afternoon. So, my plans for the morning are changed to try to get the repeater functioning. Glenn and Grady will probably try to finish rigging the boat while Jerry and I work on the Comm gear.
so far on this trip there has been sun and temperatures in the high 70s. It couldn't be nicer. Tomorrow afternoon, just in time for us to start sailing, it is supposed to get cold. I am hoping it will stay as beautiful as it has been.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Day 5

Today was the most uneventful and nearly relaxing day so far. We had a breakfast of eggs, sausage and English muffin at 8:30 and from there went out to LR to lower her back down onto her keel blocks and take care of some clean-up chores. Tomorrow at 2:00 she will be launched. Hopefully we will raise her mast befor that.

Lunch was leftover pork roast sandwiches that were great. After lunch Grady and Glenn emptied and cleaned the power boat. Jerry and I took care of more radio work including fixing some equipment. We also did a lot of work on the house again today. The Hot Tub is working perfectly and is hot. We had some issues with the cable and partially resolved them, but some of the work will belong to ComCast. We also installed a wireless router for all of our hi-tech crew.

In the afternoon we went out to the bight and made arrangements for dockage during race week. We were not comfortable with our arrangements at Stock Island. Conch Harbor in the bight is very expensive, I just cringed, but we will be there for all the festivities this way and we'll have access to parking, showers and a swimming pool. Jerry and I went for a swim to ensure that the facilities are of a quality fitting our crew. They are much too nice but our crew will have to suffer through them!

Tonight we had a fabulous chicken salad for dinner and some really good Key Lime pie for dessert. Rough life.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The rest of day 4

We took a short nap and then off we went to finish getting LR ready to be launched on Monday morning. Jerry worked hard on unwrapping the mast and polishing the spreaders which were covered with bugs (next time pallet wrap the spreaders too!) And Grady and I jacked the boat up so we could finish under the keel and under the forward four pads.

After a bit of work, Grady and I had made the right tools to jack the boat up. We each ended up with a length of pipe with a smaller pipe in the inside to fit the jacking screws. It was over an hour of tediously jacking each screw 1/2 turn at a time to raise the boat 6 inches.

Glenn put his bike together. I think he is iching for a solo trip to town.

The boat above is a Swan 42. He is our neighbor. She was under two feet of snow in Newport last week. Wow, what a project, they ship the keel seperately!

We arrived home to find the hot tub was not hot, but we figured that one out and I am confident we will have a HOT tub by later this evening!
And now it's dinner time. Roast pork tenderloin, asparagus tips with mushrooms and a very nice salad. A healthy and nutricious and delicious dinner. This is great!

Hot Tub emergency solved!!!

This afternoon Jerry and Grady are really hard at it! I think jerry would love to take credit for getting the mobile radios set up with cigarette plug adapters for race committee (Custom Earpiece are the official communications for Acura Key West Race Week by Nautica). We delivered their hand helds this morning and we will finish the system on Monday afternoon. Communications for the shore and three divisions are a pretty sophisticated system and we were able to provide it with some help from Keller Communications who handles game day co-ordination for the Cowboys.

More important yet, the hot tub is fixed. I would take credit for this, but Grady fixed the hot tub with epoxy and duct tape and it just aint pretty.
This afternoon we have to jack up the boat so we can buff under the pads tomorrow.
Good Morning one and all. Day three started with a wonderful breakfast here at the "compound" The house is nice but old and will do fine. The hot tub is broken, but we have figured it out. We have our own fiberglass guy (Grady) with us whose second order of business is to fix the hot tub. We should be neck deep by this evening.

The trip down was every bit the adventure expected. Most of the excitement was with Grady and the powerboat,it seem a motorhome in front of him ran down a construction barrel and bounced off a bairier then kissed the red chevy Grady was pulling Thunder Rogue with.Between accidents he and the boat arrived here mostly safe, except for a dented fender on the truck and wiring to replace from when the trailer separated from the hitch.

Towing Lightning Rod was an adventure in and of itself. The picture is from when we first loaded her. After this Bill white worked 18 hour days to give a fine racing bottom and last Wednesday we had our Bon Voyage party where the entire crew helped load her for the road.

Along the way we were passed by three Catalina 22s, one of which Glenn recognized. "That's Micky Richardson," he exclaimed, "with Mischief." we later stopped for gas at the same place and found out they were having a Regatta at Gilbert's in Key Largo. We loaned one of the three boats our tire inflator to pump up a soft tire, to no avail as his valve stem broke.The tire was quickly changer and off they went.

We had to have a permit, wide load signs, flags and flashing lights for the trip. Officer Barney Fife, one of at least ten of the DOT officers we had already seen along the way stopped us to check our permit and he did say the four flags we had were not sufficient, so even though we didn't get ticketed, $100.00 he warned us we could and especially down on the Keys. Barny Fife the DOT officer was a hoot a slight black dude ,pleasent face and kind of dancing motion about him,a two inch cigar hanging out of his mouth,not lit did his act perfectly.Later that day we send Glenn up to attach flags at the "widest point."

We did this with free flags from Home depot and some tape.

The first excitement Jerry and I were involved in happened as we began our journey into the keys. It seems I had forgotten to renew the registration on the small boat trailer and Grady also had been stopped and warned. So while we had eight hours to burn waiting for our police escort to come down into the Keys at 9:00 PM We started out to go see the Catalina's rig, but we decided to have lunch and then take care of the registration. On the way down to the tag office, Grady and Glenn were driving along and the receiver came out of the hitch and the boat was careering down the road. I'm sure a very scary moment for Grady the boat came to a halt saftly and Glenn found the receiver, we gave them our hitch pin and fixed the scarred wiring. Soon they had the updated the registration and off they went to open the house.

Jerry and I went back to get Lightning Rod and found the greatest trailer part store where we bought a spare for the power boat trailer, a bunch of different pins and were gifted with the stuff we needed to fix the wiring right.

At 9:00PM we met Bob from the Monroe County Sheriff's office. A big and nice guy, he was our escort into the Keys. Whenever we needed to make a turn he would stop traffic for us and we arrived safely at the Old Island Marina at 11:30. Boy was Jerry relieved!

Thursday, January 8, 2009


Welcome to the Lightning Rod Racing blog.  Here you'll find daily (or almost daily) updates from the crew of Lightning Rod, an S2 9.1 sailing out of Fort Walton Yacht Club in Fort Walton Beach, FL.