Dave Barry

Wow-ee! Look at the jib on that one!

This classic Dave Barry column was originally published Monday, October 13, 1986

I am on a boat. I have just finished competing in the annual Columbus Day Regatta. It was something I felt I had to do, because I am a Man. For millions of years, Men have felt the irresistible urge to go to Sea, and many of them died. Things got a lot better after they invented boats.

But it is still very, very dangerous, going to Sea. Especially the annual Columbus Day Regatta. You must sail a grueling course, starting right near Key Biscayne and ending, as many as eight exhausting hours later, not too far from Key Biscayne. Along the way you must battle not only waves the size of throw pillows, but also 710 competitors, some of them driven by people who are naked as jaybirds. Tragically, a lot of these competitors turned out to be, upon close examination with nautical binoculars, Men.

The vessel I am sailing on is called the Mar-Gin. My wife and I chose the Mar-Gin because she has the two qualities we consider absolutely essential in our sailing craft:

1. She has a bathroom.

2. She belongs to somebody else.

Two of the owners, the ones we're sailing with, are named Ginny and Ed. Ed is the captain. He is taking the regatta very seriously. He did not have his first Bloody Mary until nearly 90 seconds after we crossed the starting line. You have to have discipline, at sea. To help you understand why, I'll reprint the Ship's Log here:

SATURDAY

0900 hours -- We set out toward the starting line. We check our equipment. "I've got good binoculars, " Captain Ed says, "so we can see the nudies." We also have a videocassette camera.

0930 -- We approach a blob of several thousand boats barging around Biscayne Bay seemingly at random. This is the competition. "We won a trophy last year, " Ginny says. "But that was because we were the only people in our class to show up at the party."

1030 -- We maneuver toward the starting line, coolly analyzing the tactical situation and making nautical comments such as: "What is that jerk doing?!" And: "Look at this jerk!"

1040 -- We cross the starting line. We have Bloody Marys. But we know we face a long race ahead, so we soon switch over to beer.

1200 -- We start falling behind. Ed feels this is because he has a smaller jib than the other boats. He has serious jib envy. We tell him jib size is not everything. He has another beer.

1226 -- Ginny says, very cheerfully: "We're going backwards, aren't we?" Ed says he is definitely going to get a bigger jib.

1234 -- The following nautical conversation takes place between Ginny and Ed:

GINNY: Everybody else is going that way.

ED: Yes, I know.

GINNY: Why are we going this way?

ED: (nothing.)

1309 -- We have our first confirmed sighting of a semi- naked woman.

1348 -- Ginny and my wife, who are clearly starting to feel the strain of competition, go downstairs to take naps. Ed and I, being Men, remain on deck, drinking beer, listening to the Mets-Astros game and watching boats with bigger jibs pass us at the speed of relaxed earthworms.

1717 -- We finally reach the first-day finish line. We are greeted by hundreds, maybe thousands, of boats occupied by enthusiastic nautical people, many of whom apparently started drinking at the Dawn of Time.

1737 -- We pass a totally naked couple driving a boat. Ed tells Ginny to record this event on the videocassette camera. "I can't just point the camera right at them, " Ginny protests. "No!" explains Ed, from the helm. "You pan it. You're panning the camera." That's why he's the captain. Coolness under pressure.

1803 -- Entering the anchorage, we pass a group of extremely mellow people standing in a motorboat that is clearly sinking. The back is rapidly becoming submerged. The people are not the least bit concerned. They are just standing there, beer cans in hand, looking down casually at the water lapping at their ankles, as if to say: "Huh." They gradually disappear behind us, a mellow marine disaster.

1904 -- We tie up to a friendly boat and have a few beers in an effort to unwind after the rigors of the Sea. All around us are major floating parties featuring (we are sure of this, although we cannot quite tell, even with the aid of binoculars), full frontal nudity. As darkness falls, nearby boats shoot emergency flares into the air, so as to convey, in marine code, the nautical message: "Whoooo." The flares often come down, still burning, very close to other boats, but nobody seems to be worried. People have unwound, from the rigors of the Sea, to the point where a boat explosion would elicit little more than scattered applause.

VERY LATE -- We go to sleep. Around us, marine air horns continue to honk sporadically far into the night.

SUNDAY

0630 -- Aboard the Mar-Gin, we are up bright and early.

0631 -- We go to the bathroom and, thus refreshed, go back to sleep.

1140 -- We start the second part of the race, a twisting course that will cover roughly 800 miles and bring us to a point right near Key Biscayne. The most exciting moment at the start comes when, at a crucial moment, I start pulling violently on the wrong rope, and thus cause the jib to "furl, " which means it becomes even tinier than it already is. This is a bonehead maneuver similar to starting the Indianapolis 500 by leaping out of your race car and letting the air out of all four tires. Ed tells me not to worry. We have a beer.

1356 -- The following nautical conversation takes place between Ginny and Ed:

GINNY: What I wonder is, how come there are never any boats behind us?

ED: (silence.)

GINNY: I mean, how come all those other boats are in front of us?

ED: (silence.)

1535 -- We finish, and head for home. We are exhausted. We have been at Sea for almost four hours today and have seen zero naked people of any sex whatsoever. The Sea can be a harsh and unforgiving body of water, all right. We cannot believe that brave men such as Christopher Columbus sailed all the way across the entire ocean hundreds of years before the discovery of aluminum cans. Of course, he had a much bigger jib.

© 2010, Dave Barry

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