EDITOR'S COLUMN | A night to remember on Puget Sound

When I was 14, I spent the night stranded aboard a 20-foot sailboat hard aground in Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii.

An evening of tropical breezes spent with my first high school sweetheart, it was hardly a traumatic experience. We were returning from a long day sailing to Coconut Island — made famous as the profile of “Gilligan’s Island” — when the boat came to an abrupt halt.

While we did our best to free the small boat, she was hopelessly stuck and we were forced to spend the evening huddled below, using sails as blankets.

As freshmen in high school, the evening was quite innocent, I assure you. A third person was also along, a mutual friend, and we were just kids after all, though I’m not so sure the girl’s father saw it quite the same way. I spent the next morning making a concerted effort to avoid the angry man.

More than 20 years later, shivering in the cockpit of yet another hopelessly grounded sailboat this past Thursday evening in the Oak Harbor channel, that memory came flooding back to me. But as I looked at my three crew mates — this time a bunch of crusty sea dogs — I knew this would be a much different experience.

We weren’t in any real danger and the mood was cheery, but the potential for misery was there. Instead of a warm sail, I was wrapped in a damp towel — a result of an unsuccessful effort to free us — and the boat lay at an uncomfortable 45-degree angle.

We were training for a race in Anacortes this weekend, and the boat was long ago turned into a floating hot rod. Stripped of all luxuries, it has no cushions, no heat, no food; just racing gear and cold, hard bunks.

I won’t be so cruel as to identify the skipper here, though my warnings went unheeded. No doubt, the man’s shame is burning bright enough as it is and this column is the “I told you so” of all time.

It should be noted that our captain was quick to redeem himself. He made a few calls, and in short order a young man named Nick was ferrying us back to the marina, our warm cars and our worried and lovely wives.

So while this wasn’t quite the adventure of my youth, it was a memorable one nonetheless and a sea tale worthy of repeating. And for any who would scoff at our stouthearted and patient leader, know this: it was Mayhem out there and each of us on board was a willing Joiner.

Wish us luck this weekend as we kick tail in Anacortes.

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