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• July, 2007
Why they call it Monday Night Madness. Bay View Boat Club's Monday Night Madness evening races lived up to their name last month. The race committee had just fired off the five-minute warning for the second start when two uniformed officers rushed in and demanded that they "Drop the weapon!" Seems some concerned citizen had called in that there were gunshots emanating from the club and, well, considering the neighborhood (Hunter's Point), the boys in blue were on 'high alert' when they responded. "They didn't have their guns out, but they had their hands on them," notes Howard Dinnet, who was aboard one of the boats waiting to start — and who never got a starting gun. That's because the race committee 'perps' were still trying to explain to the police that shotgun blasts are used to start sailboat races, and they were using blanks. The cops reportedly suggested whistles might be better. At any rate, the conversation took a turn for the worse when the start time came and went with no gunshot. "Now we have to fire two shots for a general recall," explained the Race Chairman. Probably not the best thing to say under the circumstances. By then, some boats had already taken their own starts, others were calling in wondering what was going on — and everybody had a good story to tell when they went home. The old race committee used to call the police and inform them when they were going to be running races. We have to think that after this, the new RC will be doing the same. Old wounds. How long do whales live? That's a tough question to answer. People have been keeping track of orcas around Puget Sound long enough that ages of up to 90 years are claimed. Pelagic whales are another story. They're almost impossible to keep track of. But science has found ways. Blue whales, for example, have little bones in their ears that are good indicators. Other whales, such as bowheads, don't have ear bones. A few years ago, scientists figured out that they can determine the age of a bowhead by measuring the amino acid found in their eye lenses. Occasionally, there are actual physical 'markers', such as the one found in a 49-ft bowhead whale killed last month in Alaska. (To help preserve their traditional way of life, Alaskan Eskimos are allowed to kill about 50 whales a year.) Embedded in the whale's body were fragments of a bomb lance that had been fired into the 50-ton animal around — ahem — 1890. The small metal cylinder was of a type fired from a rifle-like weapon. It contained an explosive head which was meant to kill the whale when it went off. This one went off, but in a non-lethal place. And the whale healed. Figuring he must have been an adult at the time, researchers have estimated his age at between 115 and 130 years old. Other artifacts retrieved from dead whales in the 1970s suggest even more staggering lifespans, in this case several bone spearheads of a type last used by Inuit hunters in the — ahem, ahem — 18th century. Based on the eye-lens test, the oldest bowhead was estimated to have been 211 years old when it died. Sorry, we mean 'when it was killed'. These findings make bowhead whales the oldest living mammals on earth. We've long felt that whaling in modern times was cruel and unnecessary, but somehow knowing these gentle creatures continue to be killed after living so long makes it even worse. Crikey! A motorist who had stopped to stretch his legs near Rio Vista got a bit of a surprise last month. Turns out the small alligator he spotted in the reeds wasn't an inflatable publicity 'plant' for Isleton's Crawdad Festival. It was the real thing. Several phone pictures and phone calls later, amused police had cordoned off
The July 2007 issue of the West's premier sailing and marine magazine.