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FROM THE HELM

Finding Joy in No Wind

The faces of the sailors around me are contorted into a special kind of anguish, one I have yet to see on any other kind of human. I’m aboard Smoke, a hotshot Transpac 52 belonging to well-known racer Steven Travis, and Norris Comer we’re in first place on Leg 2 of the Van Isle 360 sailboat race from Comox to Campbell River, British Columbia. We owe the custom Paul Beiker-designed Blue, skippered by sailing Olympian Jonathan McKee, some time on handicap, but still, being at the front of the pack usually puts sailors in a good mood. Why the anguish? Low wind. More accurately, zero knots of wind. For competitive racing teams gunning for the gold, racing with no wind is a morale killer. The spinnaker goes limp in the malaise and bow crew scoop up the sagging kite so it doesn’t end up in the water. The rail meat, me included, gaze over the pond water for any hint of breeze-induced water disturbances. I internally wrestle with Race to Alaska flashbacks from last year. It was in this exact stretch of water near the Campbell River mouth where team Wright Yachts (with me aboard) floundered in a similar no-wind situation. Fortunately for us on Smoke, we don’t have to worry about getting through a 10- or 15-knot tide swing at Seymour Narrows. Beds and a big meal at the Riptide Marine Pub await us instead. Eyes glaze as we hurry up and wait, somehow both hyper aware and nodding off at the same time. We glide in slow motion on faint currents. Stories from friends who recently raced in the annual Swiftsure sailboat race, a no-wind “Drift-sure” this year, echo in my mind.

“Just give us a knot,” someone mutters as if uncomfortable with the massive weight of natural silence. “One bloody knot.” In answer, a humpback whale erupts from the water, hitting the surface after a twirl and sending a thunderclap across the water. The crew ooohs and aaahs as another, then another follow suit. I estimate five or six individual whales participate in the breaching, their serrated blade-like pectoral fins rising and falling like a giant’s greeting. They swim toward us, making a show of it along the way before disappearing underneath, their agenda a cetacean secret. “Alright, the whale tour is over,” someone says. “We’re racing, stay focused.” Our morale tanks refilled, the merits of patience are reaffirmed to me. Eventually, the wind fills in—it always does. Smoke is a bat out of hell again, crew consumed in racing as we’re first across the finish line. The experience reminds me of the Buddhist advice to encountering an inconvenient red traffic light; to be thankful of an opportunity to set aside one’s itinerary for a few seconds of mind-clearing meditation. The thrill of high winds and speedy finishes are easy to understand, but there is also joy to be found in no wind. Our desires and timetables—so human and inconsequential—are forced to yield to the greater powers of the universe. Is this not part of the appeal of the vast ocean? To be humbled by a force so much greater than ourselves? No wind situations, like the red traffic light, are opportunities to become more at one with the sea, the sky, and ourselves. The wind always fills in eventually. We become busy again. Northwest Yachting crew wishes you and yours a great July filled with on-water fun and celebration. Seize the day! From our helm to yours, —Norris Comer, managing editor

Evin Moore is an assistant editor at Northwest Yachting. He grew up in Redmond, Washington, graduated from UW, and looks to get on the water every chance he gets. Say hello at evin@nwyachting.com

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14 NORTHWEST YACHTING || JULY 2019

Managing Editor

Norris Comer norris@nwyachting.com

Creative Director

Alex Kwanten alexk@nwyachting.com

Sales

Katherine Kjaer katherine@nwyachting.com

Sales (AK)

Michelle Zeasman-Gibbon mz@nwyachting.com

Advertising Coordinator

Schelleen Rathkopf schelleen@nwyachting.com

Assitant Editor

Evin Moore evin@nwyachting.com

Contributing Writers Bridget Charters Peter Schrappen Jeff Cote Bill Shaw Doug Hansen Richard Walker Kevin Klein Greg Van Belle Schelleen Rathkopf

Contributing Artists & Photographers Jan Anderson Jack Riley Bob Tower Suzanne Travis

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This Month's Feature Contributors Raised in the Marshall Islands but with Washington as her second home, Eva Seelye is an independent writer and former assistant editor at Northwest Yachting. Her on-water enthusiasm surfaces in every aspect of her life. Read up on her adventures at wanderinraw.com

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Michelle Zeasman-Gibbon michelle@nwyachting.com

Richard Walker spent part of his childhood on a Chris Craft Super Sport in Long Beach, California, got his first taste of sailing on a catamaran in Newport Beach, California, served as a helmsman and quartermaster aboard USS Manitowoc (LST 1180) from 1980-84, and married a lovely San Juan Island woman of Irish and Coast Salish ancestry who also happened to own a 26-foot Nordic Tug. He is a writer, author, and poet serving as a deckhand aboard the M/V Guemes.

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7342 15th Ave. NW, Seattle, WA 98117 ©2019 Northwest Yachting. All rights reserved. Any use of Northwest Yachting materials without the expressed written permission of the Publisher is specifically prohibited. While we welcome letters and photos, we can not be responsible for unsolicited materials. Special photo credits: Kurt Arrigo (Maiden, p26); Andrew Sassoli-Walker (Whitbread finish 1990, p27); Taylor Bayley (R2AK, p28); Ethan Welty/Aurora Photos (Lummi Canoe, p76); Suzanne Travis (Van Isle 360, p84); PutneyPics/Flickr.com (TowBoatUS, p88).

Views expressed by individual Northwest Yachting contributors are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the opinions of the magazine.

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