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Volume 14, Issue 35 ~ August 31 - September 6, 2006


Battle for the Bay

With today’s gas prices, I may have to learn to love sailing

by Allen Delaney

Throughout the Chesapeake, power boaters and sailors compete as the Caputlets and Montagues of the water.

Flip-flop-wearing power boaters fire up their noisy engines, creating a plume of blue smoke that engulfs the dock as they roar off to join their kind for a day of water skiing, fishing and carbonated beverage imbibing. The Sperry-wearing sail boat crowd quietly putters out of the marina, raising the mizenmast, lowering their jibs, hoisting the mainsail and tacking their vessels to a secluded cove where they tie up with other sailors to enjoy a day of eating brie, sipping wine and discussing boating footwear.

Of course, from that last sentence you can guess I’m in the powerboat group. Of course, not all sailors sip wine; some sip champagne.

Sailors think power boaters are a boorish lot who have little training or experience to operate an 18-foot boat with a 350-cubic-inch inboard V-8 engine and a steering wheel.

But there is no better feeling for us motorboat owners when, on hot, oppressive, windless Chesapeake days, we push the throttle forward and feel the power as the bow rises. The wind blows through our hair as our boats plane across the water, skimming past sloops whose jibs are hanging listlessly in the humid air. We wave to old salts with years of sailing skill and experience as they sit helplessly on their futtocks, silently cursing us who are actually making it to our destinations. Finally, the stationary captains give up, pull the starter cords on their five-horsepower engines and putter back to their slips, where they will wait for the wind.

When the wind arrives, sailors bask in their glory.

With their kicker engines raised and sails billowing, they scurry about raising and lowering sails, propelled swiftly and silently across choppy waters. They see themselves in harmony with nature, performing a delicate ballet that has taken them years to perfect.

It is now the sailor’s revenge as they happily wave to us as we struggle with the wheel to avoid zigzagging sailboats, crab pots and other motorboats that, in turn, are trying to avoid the waving mariners.

My power boating days may be numbered, and I’m not alone. Gasoline is required for boats to pull skiers and tubers. My 200-horsepower outboard gets two miles per gallon — just enough to get me to the next fuel dock. I have already seen many of my fellow boaters forego their evening cruise for picnic dinners on deck while bobbing in their slips.

The ransom now required for a gallon of gas will only make sailors more obnoxious. They will wave at us with greater glee and raise a mock toast in our direction while we sit idle in our moorings.

I may have to trade my 25-foot fishing boat for some type of sailing vessel so I can once again afford to be on the water. I suppose if I’m to fit in, I will also have to trade my worn out flip-flops for a proper set of boating footwear and set aside the Cheez Whiz and beer.

Sailing may not be so bad after all.

Allen Delaney’s comic reflections have tickled Bay Weekly readers since the turn of the millennium. You last laughed at Another Fourth of July, Another Block Party (Vol. xiv, No. 26: June 29).

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