Dirt in your skirt blog

Day 89… Family Fun

Posted on September 7, 2011 by Margaret Schlachter

Time to play blog catch up again, starting now…

Traditions are important, each family has their own. Saturday, we held an annual tradition in my family, the 51st annual Family Sailboat Races. A little bit of background on this event. It is simply, the most competitive non-competitive race in the history of the world, well at least in my family. Each year we, my siblings and I, find friends to bring up and sail with us. Every year someone tries to bring in the ringer.

First off, I am not a sailor. I know how to sail, my mother taught me to sail a Sunfish when I was a little kid. I know how to tack, I know how to come about, starboard and port still confuse me. The only rules I know about racing are you can’t get out of your boat and push it, or carry a paddle on board when the wind dies. These are all things family members have tried to do in the past. But I am not a sailor, I get on a boat and sail about once a year and it happens to be this race. My strategy is to bring up one of my friends that knows how to sail better than I do or get partnered with one of my family members who grew up racing.

My Little Brother and two friends heading out to fish

We have a camp, otherwise known as a house, in the Adirondacks of New York. For generations my family has summered there. When I was a kid we spent weeks on end with just family up here. Year after year the date looms of the family sailboat races. We talk about the race from last year (2010 was during a hurricane where all but my boat flipped over).  I dread coming in last and having to sign the paddle. I went on a streak for years of finishing last or second to last.

The race course itself is a triangular course that is set out the morning of. It stays the same year after year. We sail in teams of two on our worn Sunfish’s around the lake. Our neighbors come over and watch this event take place. We have rules but most either don’t follow them or forget them. In the end we get some serious prizes. First place is a silver mint julep cup which is coveted in our family. It took me years to get my first one!

Some family

Then Labor Day weekend rolls around. We all roll into camp send the day before setting up boats, cooking food and prepping for the thirty plus people that will be at our house for lunch and a race the next day. The food stays the same, fried chicken, Mexican mac and cheese some crazy family recipe, all the salads, watermelon and tons of desserts. Race day morning arrives my step father heads out onto the lake to layout the course. We listen to the committee boat rip around as my mother and my sisters and any other house guests get the food and house ready. As the guests arrive they get their shirt for the year, the design stays the same but the colors change. This year it was black and white. People mingle, lunch is served everyone sits at picnic tables praying for the wind to build up for the start of the race. Or as it was last year praying the wind would die down and the whitecaps would subside.

2010 Race

Sometime after lunch it we put the finishing touches for boats and draw who gets what boat. This is a make or break moment as these boats have been around longer than I have and some have special attributes to them, like the one that the rudder likes to pop out. We pull boats and set off while the “committee boat” fills up and sets off. This is a party boat some of the more seasoned members of our family. This may or may not have a few adult beverages on it for those sitting around watching, the less wind the more beer seems to make it’s way on that boat.

My brother-in-laws 2010 ringer

The air horn goes off warning us of three minutes, then one, then thirty second, finally the race has started. This year we had almost no win and for the second year in a row my ringer turned out to be the best! In truth we coach together and know how to work together which ultimately makes us a good team. And she’s a hell of a sailor!

I won’t go into all the details of the race this year or last year (we were the only boat not to flip over and deemed the winner by default) but I will say it’s fun to spend time with a friend and have a teammate like Jenn on the boat. Or how Jenn HAS to come back next year so we can three-peat!

2010 & 2011 Champs

After the race is over we head to my grandmothers camp taking in another large meal, awards are given with at least a 5 minute speech about each boat. The evening is capped off with square dancing in my grandmother’s boat house with the same band each year. I loathe and love the Virginia Reel each year and try to set the land speed record when it’s my turn to spin around and around.

We all have our traditions, our has been going on consecutively for over half a century. I have a nutty family but don’t we all in the end. If my mom reads this she will probably cry remembering this race back through all the years. For me I just hope every year my ringer helps me to NOT have to sign the paddle.