About my first regatta

My first race … I’m a biker. I have always been. I once told my children that when I’ll be 50 years old and I’be an old guy, I’ll buy the Gold Wing for myself (it’s such a big couch on two wheels, with armrests, radio, TV, refrigerator, ice maker, grill;) and I’ll drive along the wide roads.

When I turned 50. I said that I postponed being an old guy, I’m still a young ass;) So, as my dear wife said, I started to fuss! Once someone talked me for some skiing, another time I decided to do diver course, which I didn’t finish previously. More and more I liked it coming. Somehow, I came to the marina in Gdynia and I saw sails. When I was on holiday I made a patent for sailing and I became addicted to this! For real :) I once upon a time my friend called me – it was in June:

– There’s job! You have to help someone to remove the boat from Gdynia to Tolkmicko.

You didn’t have to tell me twice. At this time I didn’t know that this boat will be my future home for almost two weeks. Here’s how I met skipper Sławek Frajkopf and his s/y Kristi… Anyway, the boat didn’t know that it would be her name ;)

1

It turned out that in July the captain is planning to take a part in some kind of race. I’ve checked when I’m able to take a time off and I registered as a crew member. Just a few weeks before the start of the regatta I’ve heard the bad news – our participation in the race is a big question mark, because of the failure of the engine – the head of the engine was cracked. How it’s possible? We won’t go to Sweden? I won’t take a part in the regatta? I won’t see Gothland? Oh no! That cannot be! What kind of engine it is? Give me that head, I’ll weld it by myself!

But it turned out that it was more complicated. The head was made of cast iron, we weren’t able to fix it, the engine was out of the market for forty years, no one has any parts to replace the broken one. A total breakdown! Finally, our captain found the head – some magician of marine engines from Stockholm had it. But will we have it in time? I’ve had some stupid ideas to ride my bike to Sweden, but… the ferry, I would have to take two days off… In the end, we sent it by courier, who delayed the delivery so much, that I bitten my nails almost to the elbows. But it worked… just in time! ;)

2

Me and Sławek went for the supplies and two other crew members on Thursday, 17th. Blażej – a young sailor, but with a very experienced in racing, amazing “sense” and sailing instinct. Natalia – very nice and very pretty Błażej’s girlfriend, who declared herself as the cook and additionally became a good spirit of the crew. The good spirit was protecting us from the captain’s anger. Her smile or even presence was enough for the skipper to forget what was he mad about – he was happy again.

On Thursday afternoon, we’re leaving Tolkmicko to make it to Sopot for the integration event and there’s the first hassle – drawbridge in Rybina is closed until the next morning. Waiting and wasting time was very painful. But every cloud has a silver lining… Though not for the Facil. We found the crew from Facil in the bush next morning along with the guys from Elblag.
The propeller was tangled in the seaweed, so we helped them, just like noble knights…
We were sailing together, sometimes boardside to boardside, to exchange the beer (ours was warm, theirs was chilled straight from the fridge;). Just before Sobieszewo we’ve had a second problem – we’ve realized that the bridge will be opened an hour earlier than we thought. Damn it! If we don’t make it, another opening won’t be until late afternoon and they will eat the whole boar in Sopot without us! Motivation is too strong not to make it, so we’re rocking the boat as much as it’s possible (Lord protect our new head…). Fortunately, Kristi’s engine and propeller are strong as a tug, so we go like ORP Błyskawica! Facil was behind us, and with freshly purified propeller, he was trying to keep pace. We made it!

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Some young man, who is running all over the Sopot’s quay, caught our fast. He made a node within milliseconds, threw the rope on the bitt and he run to the next boat. He was so fast, that I didn’t even know how that happened – I guess that he must have been a good sailor.
You still don’t know who’s the guy I’m talking about? It was Jacek. The main organizer of the regatta greets everyone with a handshake as soon as we pop-up on the shore. He’s in very good mood. He’s cool, everyone’s like this? Indeed – as I discovered during the integration.
Somehow, I didn’t feel that it was my first time here and soon I’ve had dozen of new friends!
One man with a beard, very modest and likeable, looked familiar to me, but we figured out during the conversation, that haven’t met before. Later it turned out that it was the captain from Generał Zaruski! ;)
Our last crew member – Tomek, came during the event. He’s nice, young student, with a huge experience, he survived even the storms in the North Sea. He was my mate during the watch. Yeah… Am I the least experienced member of the crew? No, I’m not! There’s also Natalka ;)

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5

On Saturday, it’s time for last provision; the opening ceremony of the regatta, photos, applause, the orchestra’s playing and we’re on the water! You can feel the excitement among the people, but also a joy – just like a child, when it get’s a huge bowl of ice creams with some fruits. Most of the participants worked very hard and had to overcome numerous obstacles to get here, but the party’s on!

6

The start was amazing: beautiful weather, beautiful yachts and plenty of other boats around, but it was time to start the race. We were tacking all the way to Hel and talked with each other; we watched the peninsula from the north and than, slowly went out into the sea. In the evening, the first watch has started and I felt … that I cannot even go to sleep. I gave Neptune a bow – I do not know if it’s because I mixed different kinds of alkohol yesterday or it’s the rocking the boat … in any case, after that I slowly returned to normal and I didn’t have such problems anymore ;)

We change the watch in every 8 hours, I’m fine with the rhythm of work on board; I started to relax and forgot about the problems I’ve left on the shore, thanks to a simple repetitive tasks. Slowly, I’m turning into a damn Viking, who has only three problems: to sleep in, to eat and s… ;) And that’s a huge problem! The captain gave the only toilet on board exclusively for Natalka. Well, of course! If she smiles a little bit longer and batting her lashed a little bit more, he would give her the whole boat ;))

The first day, Natalka was emptying the kettle for the old water overboard, she turned it upside down, shook, and she watched with a surprise as the lid falls into the water to be gone forever. Captain, instead of being angry and yell at her for ruining the property, was laughing so hard, that he almost fell over the rail. Then, Natalka threw a bucket for scooping the sea water, and by the way, she almoste threw herself overboard;) But hey, we were sure that even if she throw away the laptop with navigation, she will be fine. But the rest of the crew knew, that as captain wakes up and sees such a stuff like: unwashed cups or a knife, flashlight and binoculars out of their place, one’s can immediately throw himself into the sea !;)

We were surrounded by a void, only water and sun, sometimes we’ve seen another boat on the horizon. At night, I realized that the nearest shore is min. 100 miles away. Oh mummy! If something goes wrong, we will be busted. We will have to repair every failure on our own… and we can only count on ourselves, or other participants of the regatta, of course, if they hear our calling. Later it turned out (shame on me – but I’ll write about it later) that Kristi has a radio like a space shuttle! If Sławek had a similar radio at home, he could chat with his wife ;)

7

Finally, we saw the shore – it was the Gothalnd! We were a little bit late against the rest of the fleet, when suddenly the wind began to blow. We reef the sails, it’s blowing harder and the skipper yawns; the water strikes us into the faces and captain is ordering a cup of tea; here goes a huge wave, the water hits the hull trying to stop us and our captain is looking for the lighter; the waves are starting to grow and some of them are reaching the spreaders, so finally, the captain is interested and decides to change the course for more favorable – go to the shore – it’s the race eventually!
Close to the shore the wind was weaker, about 5 knots, and our skipper is doing what? He orders to go back into the sea, because there’s some „calm” ;)
I do not remember exactly how long we’re sailing in a storm, a dozen hours or so, but finally I heard the captain’s shouting: I can feel the land! Can you feel it? Smells like honey!;)

As we reached Visby in the evening, moored next to the Facile’s side, we were surrounded by shouts and cheers from the shore. It was a warm and friendly welcome. Jacek handed us the champagne, I took a small sip – Jeez! So good;) I cannot describe what I felt, I guess everything at once. Then, the first showers after few days and Polish Evening on the shore alongside Zaruski. Life could not be any better! :)

The next day we have to repair the electrical wiring because something was wrong with it, so there’s was no time to explore the island. After a long tinkering and looking for a needle in a haystack, we resolved the problem. Many thanks to Łukasz Politański from s / y Facil for helping us and lending us tools, and the young genius from s / s Bystrze for his time and accurate “investigation” !;) The weather in Visby was amazing, it was warm and sunny, a nice old town with many monuments and streets – it was a pleasure to walk down those streets, to enjoy some hard ground underfoot. But, as the true sailors, when we were at the sea, we longed for the land, and when we were on the land, we longed for the water.

A restart of the race – the wind was favourable from the very beginning, so we went the north immediately. Then, minute after minute, the wind began to calm. During the night watch we figured out that we overtook Generał Zaruski, which was almost standing still. We were hungry and we started to talk about food. Tomek told me, that today the crew from Zaruski ate the damn apple pie for dessert. – You kidding me? Really? Give me the radio!
The officer of the watch confirmed that they have apple pie and if we wait for them, they will treat us. The temptetion was strong, but we knew that the skipper will throw us overboard and we’re going to eat the apple pie from the ground. ;)

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The next day – we’re standing. Everything is standing still. The sun is warm. Sails are hanging. The captain is grim (I guess we need to wake up Natalka;) But it is not so bad, we have the permission to swim in the sea, so the ladder goes overboard and we jump into the water! We are near Sweden, in the middle of the sea and the water is warm just like the lake in the Kashubian region, great – nice holidays! The Generał Zaruski was standing or going very slow a bit further. The crew set every single sail they had, even such tiny “wipes” at the top of mast !;) What’s more, there was no fly, not to mention about any breeze. Later, we took a lap around the Gotska Sandon – it was an agony. Some light wind appeared at night and the first watch decided to set the spinnaker and silently get close to s / s Wanda to scare Michał, who sailed on the eastern side of the island. He wanted to go near the shore to catch the breeze, but he was afraid that he will hit the rocks and he will be eaten by the from the island. I guess the watch managed to scare Michał, because we’ve heard them laughing in the morning;)

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The fleet became very stretched – those yachts, that passed the Gotska several hours before of us, went far to the south. There was a silence, but we’ve heard some selected messages, Jacek Zielinski from s / s Quick Livener reported by the radio and soon we heard Rod Stewart was singing … “I am Sailing …” Damn, somehow I was touched and felt that I would like to stay longer here, on the water, with cool people, birds and fish… but not with the flies!
Where are they come from? Very irritating ones, probably it’s some Swedish maritime variant;)

Finally, Jacek asked us to watch over Michał, because we had much better radio. We need to be sure that he will not go crazy. In fact, our radio was so good, that at one point we’ve heard the border guards from Krynica Morska! Well, unless they were on a beer closer to the north;)

10

I talked with Michał on our watch, he was probably bored and that’s why he was keeping up our conversation. As far as I remember, he’s a young guy, but knows where is the bow, stern etc. Must be cool one, as he took part in the „tour” alone. In Visby something told me that Wanda propeller is shaft to the left from the axis of the boat, because it crosses the axis of the rudder, as a result you need to do an appropriate adjustment to the helm while sailing. Probably you have to correct it somehow way round, as if there wasn’t a lot of details to keep in mind when you sail etc.
We talk about private stuff, such as how old are we, who have wives, children, etc. Michał is a sweet boy, maybe he will be my son-in-law. He has an awesome boat which I will borrow (later I figured out that it wasn’t his property, he also borrowed the boat, but it did not diminish my affection for him! :) I have three daughters, one doesn’t have a boyfriend and she’s interested in sailing so… I decided to make a joke.

– Michał? How tall are you? (I asked because I know that it is important for my girls)
– 1,82 m. – he said.
– Ok, perfect;) – you won the casting and you can try to pick up my daughter.

At the moment I realized that Kristi’s radio is like a nuclear reactor, thanks to its power, few boats were listening us for whole the time, and we received a comment ;) Immediately, I received a questions\ about a ”various details and specifications” of my girls.
Damn it, what a shame;) Michał was amused, he thanked politely and admitted, that he already had a nice girl. And as for other listening people, I replied that I’m not going to talk about it anymore! (Well, unless I will find myself caught somewhere in the middle ocean min. 300 miles from home, because even Kristis radio hasn’t such a coverage;))

You already know what happened next. Two days almost at one tack, strong wind after passing Hel and a struggle to reach the pier right before the Sopot, because the wind disappeared somewhere. Who greeted us at the finish line? Jacek, of course! (is there a few of them ?;)) Then a great joy, sip of champagne and a long party on Wandas board in the company of other sailors. Too bad it was not Michał’s yacht;)

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I wuould like to thank for everything: Jacek and Ola, the organizers, for the fact that they wanted to do something; the captain of s / s Kristi, Sławek, for the fact that he took me for the race (he was not so cruel;), the crew: Natalia, Błażej and Tomek for their company and all participants of the race, for the sense of humor and spontaneous, selfless friendship. I only wish that I had the pleasure to meet you all better but … probably it is not the end of story ?;)

Roman Jastrzębski

 


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