MASCF Part 3 ~ A Parade of Sail

”Marianne,” one of the Museum’s Log Canoes


(to start of project)

How do you get a hundred or so independent-minded skippers to sail their boats in a tight formation in the same general direction for a few miles?

Tell them it’s a race.

After lunch on Saturday is the annual sailing race. For many, this is the highlight of the whole Festival every year. In truth, it’s more a glorious parade than a race, but no one would show up for a parade. Still, it’s very, very low key. There are crude groupings of somewhat similar boats for awarding prizes and bragging rights, but the categories seems to change at the whim of the Race Committee before, during and after the race. In other words, it’s just too informal to get worked up over, so everyone has a blast. There are no protest flags, no Portsmouth Numbers, and no rules beyond “Start here. Go there as fast as you can. Don’t hurt anybody. Have fun.” The result is enough beautiful traditional canvas in a small space to blanket a football field.


Dan Sutherland, Museum Boat Yard Manager, takes
the inside lane in his batwing sailing canoe.


Still, there are some longterm, unstated rivalries between sailors to keep things exciting. Everybody has somebody they want to beat. And there’s something about a race that taps into a deep-rooted instinct in each of us to try and go faster than the next guy. In the days of sail-driven fishing schooners, getting to port first meant the difference between bringing home the bacon or not. In a still more primitive era, it made the difference between becoming the bacon or not. After a few thousand years it’s just genetic. Let another sail approach over the horizon on an otherwise empty sea, and adrenalin levels automatically spike in every sailor, and a race is on.

The weather has been perfect each of the last three years we’ve been. The wind usually flattens out around mid-day, before a shift that comes toward evening. Two years ago, the wind suddenly died completely just before the start. All the boats were clumped together bumping at the starting line when the gun went off, and everyone sat stunned for a moment in confused silence while nothing happened. Then a shout went out as crews of boats in the back of the pack began clawing their way hand over rail to the front, pushing other boats aside and pulling them back. Mayhem ensued. Some crews even formed boarding parties and changed boats. It was quite entertaining.

This year we had a nice steady, gentle breeze. That’s when chaos at the start takes another form, as boats of every size and shape (and skill level) crisscross rapidly in very close proximity, jockeying for the best possible position when the gun goes off. It can be very exciting, and even in a light breeze there are often close calls.



Crew of the Cortez Museum boat “Sallie Adams,” close enough for a friendly chat.


We had planned to go out with Kevin Brennan on his Navigator Slip Jig for the first time, again, but couldn’t find him in the confusion before the race. We also had a peg-legged crew mate who couldn’t stay ashore alone and needed to come along in his personal ditty bag. Doug Oeller, camping next to us, also happens to be a vet, and pet friendly, so offered once again to take us on.



Little Buddy, aka “Peg Leg”


He insists that his boat is the ideal place from which to view and photograph the race, because if we start out near the front, eventually you have good views of every boat, from the front and the rear, as they all pass by on the way to the finish. His Marsh Cat Comfort is also a wide, dry, stable platform, ideal for working a camera. I believe he may be prone to boasting, however, because there were, in point of fact, a few boats behind us when we crossed the finish line.

Still, we shot a lot of photos and a fair amount of video during the race. The gallery, already mentioned, is here:

MASCF 2010



Emily crewing on Comfort.



Mike Wick in “Pepita”



Carl Weissinger with crew aboard his newly finished sandbagger “Baguette”


The video is below. We couldn’t get everyone, since some of the more spry, strategic craft began ahead of us and we never saw them again. However, boats that came alongside at any point in the race received a salvo of camera shots and footage.

Thanks again, Doug, for a great time.




I’m still trying to figure out how I’ll juggle a camera next year, when I’m the one who has to tend the tiller and sheet, and still maintain an acceptable number of collisions.


melonseed skiff, mellonseed skiff, melon seed, mellon seed   


8 Replies to “MASCF Part 3 ~ A Parade of Sail”

  1. That’s great Barry! I’m really impressed that you made the effort to get your boat out there. Are we going to hear about the general reaction to your work?

    I’ve seen some great footage taken by sailors while they single hand, but never gotten the hang of it myself. Maybe a camera on your forehead would work.

    Tuesday, October 12, 2010 – 12:10 AM

    1. Hey Doryman, I was just thinking of sending you the link. Ben Crenshaw, of Invisible Workshop, did some terrific stuff singlehanded with video. So I guess I can’t say it’s impossible. But the learning curve could be vey ugly.

      I do want to share a little more about the rest of the weekend, which was very interesting and cool, but in a very different way. Have to travel for work for a few days, but will try when I get back.

      – Barry
      Tuesday, October 12, 2010 – 12:56 PM

  2. Wonderful work Barry! I really like how you used the telephoto lens to make it look as if we were passing other boats!

    Hope that Bandit’s leg feels better now.

    Tuesday, October 12, 2010 – 08:53 AM

    1. Thanks, Doug, it was great fun, as always. I think with a little more creative camera work, I can convince people we actually won. Editing is everything. 😉

      Bandit has another four weeks with his pirate peg-leg. We’re thinking of giving him a hat, eye patch and a clip-on parrot for the duration. Personally, I think he’d look rather spiffy that way.

      – Barry
      Tuesday, October 12, 2010 – 01:02 PM

  3. Loved the movie of the race, it was almost like I was there, Helen and I just watched it and now she knows what it’s like there, thanks. I’ll put this link out to the guys. There were a lot of fine looking boats there this year. You’re going to have to loan your new boat out next year or have Terry sail it cause you have to stay in one of the larger boats to get pictures for us all.
    Sunday, October 17, 2010 – 11:43 PM

  4. Barry: Happy New Year to you and to your family! Thanks for taking the great photographs and for your inspiring website…I optimistically thinned out some cedar trees in the hope of making some spars for some hulls that are not yet built and can’t wait to see what you have created in your shop! Also, I hope that Bandit made a full recovery and wish everyone well!

    Thursday, January 6, 2011 – 11:29 PM

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