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The Call of the Water

Answer that December call with the Parade of Lights and the Volvo Ocean Race

Like you, we’re playing carols, stringing lights and decorating the Christmas tree. (Practicing what the Bay Gardener preaches, we sawed a fire-safe Canaan fir at his Upakrik Farm, plunged it into a bucket of 100-degree water and stored it in the shade before it came inside.)
    The holidays are a time we savor. They bring us into the universe, husband Bill Lambrecht suggested the other day, as we counted the homes signaling their welcome to the season in codes of colored lights. This time of year, we seem to recognize that we’re all in this together, and we reach out to one another in words and deeds with season’s greetings, holiday cards, good works and parties.
    But even as we’re trimming the tree and preparing the parties, the water keeps tugging us.
    The Bay is beautiful this time of year, still and clear and limitless, whether you’re looking at the Eastern Shore or way beyond — to the Caribbean, the Great Loop or even ocean crossings.
    Yet you could have the Bay to yourself most any day.
    As the watermen do. Crabbers are pulling their pots for the winter, but so long as there are wild oysters to harvest, the oystermen will be out scraping them off the bottom, for this is the season they make their money.
    Joining them, a few sailors still rush out for any bit of wind, even in December, and Frostbite sailing resumes in February at the Annapolis Yacht Club.
    But most of us are fair-weather boaters, driven off the Bay by the cold and into dreamland.
    This morning’s conversation at the marina gym, where boats are going on the hard, slid naturally from tree trimming to sailing. “We’re going to go sailing in Italy this year,” a sister boater said. She’d also reported three days on the water, at Oxford, over this year’s balmy Thanksgiving. “There was no wind,” she said, “but who cares?” There was water.
    I may have started that conversation, talking about how I’d been dreaming — till I heard the airfares — of doing a Christmas sailing school in Florida or the islands.
    (If you’ve got the money and the time, Womanship has boats and instructors waiting in the Florida Keys and the British Virgin Islands.)
    My sister boater and I aren’t the only ones pulled in two directions. Even as Eastport Yacht Club is counting down to its Christmas Parade of Lights, illuminating Spa Creek this Saturday, December 10, the club is looking ahead to its annual Bermuda Ocean Race, setting off from Annapolis on June 8.
    Now’s the time to start planning if you’re up for that 753-nautical-mile race “via the busy coastal waters of the Chesapeake Bay, crossing the sometimes devious Gulf Stream and avoiding the treacherous reefs encircling Bermuda,” according to chairwoman Mary Ann DeGraw, who’s already alerted us to a race seminar coming up on February 11.
    Headline speaker that day is Kurt Lowman, a veteran ocean racer who was team photographer for Chessie Racing, one of the nine 1997-’98 Whitbread Round-the-World racers.
    Whitbread, you’ll remember, is now the Volvo Ocean Race. Annapolis lost its place on the race’s round-the-world circuit, but the race remains the ultimate test of extreme sailing.
    And this year’s race is underway.
    There are no better thrills and spills in sport, Steve Carr writes in his report on Leg One of the 40,000-mile race. Leg Two, from Cape Town, South Africa, to Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, begins this Saturday.
    That’s December 10, a contender as the fullest day of the fullest month of the year. No doubt your calendar is already packed with Christmas cheer — including the Eastport Yacht Club Parade of Lights.
    But half-way around the world, where the summer solstice is approaching, the toughest sailors are setting out to try their skills, strength and endurance against the worst the wild ocean has to offer. If you’re a water lover, we gladly give you permission to keep one eye on the race, which you can follow at www.volvooceanrace.com. and in Carr’s columns in Bay Weekly.