On Saturday, August 28, 2010, Sun Cats Wily Conch and Catnip met up in Charlotte Harbor for the Sun Cat Nationals Time Trials. Being a lazy catboat jib trimmer, I never got around to announcing the Time Trials, and no one else was around to participate anyway. Too bad, as it was a beautiful day for sailing, and those are very rare in August in SW Florida.
We got out the channel from Ponce Park and raised the sail and I was looking around the harbor for Catnip when my phone rang. It was Butch.
“Where are you, Butch?”
“Just coming out of the (Port Charlotte Beach Park) channel now.”
“OK, we’re heading up that way!”
Pretty soon I saw his sail in the distance and it was Catnip Ho! Our first look at Butch’s new-to-him 2002 Sun Cat!
We sailed toward each other for a while, our boat pointing upwind as he ran downwind. The wind was averaging around ten knots, plenty to make our boats move but not enough to cause much excitement. We approached each other with cameras clicking away on both boats. I think Catnip looks pretty good, for a white one. (I actually wanted a white Sun Cat, but wound up with a blue one instead.)
He got a nice shot of us sailing the Wily Conch! Thanks, Butch! I have lots of great pictures of other boats on the harbor, but it can be hard to get a nice shot of your own boat.
Butch sailed on by, then came about to chase us upwind. Our first Sun Cat race! Despite the speed wrinkles in his sail, we were more or less holding him off for a while, but then my crew decided she would rather be on the lee side where there was some shade. Our dogs have not yet learned to tack properly, and were also on the lee side, so it was like having two people down there, and Catnip began to really eat our lunch.
Our dogs are definitely shade hounds when we go out in August. As we left the dock, we did not have the Bimini top up yet and Libby was trying to see if she would fit in the fuel tank locker. She weighs 80 lbs, and could just about get her nose in there. We got the top up quickly, and they proceeded to hog the shade for the rest of the day. Despite his smaller size, Luke the Cowdog is somehow in the way more often than Libby.
We came across one of my dream boats, a Maine Cat 41 named Tini Two, sailing down the harbor. I told Sonja that I’d like to cruise on one of those one day, and she agreed it looks nice, but then I made the stupid mistake of mentioning how much they cost. Oh well, one needs distant dreams too!
After Catnip caught up to us on the first tack across the harbor, we both headed for the other side. We were more or less keeping the same pace until Sonja came up with the brilliant tactical suggestion that we eat lunch. Out came the sandwiches and chips, and before too long Butch was drooling all over his cockpit, or at least that’s how I pictured him! He saw us eating and had to get out his lunch, and in the process his attention to helm control was not all it could have been. We opened up a small lead, which we barely managed to hold until the end of the lunch leg. At least, I’m claiming victory on that leg, since I enjoyed it and had a nice lunch, two very important aspects of Sun Cat racing.
On the next tack, Butch stayed in the shade on the lee side and was heeling a bit more than a catboat should in some of the puffs. I took a few pictures, but paused because I heard a powerboat coming into the picture. I wanted to let it pass by so it would not be in the picture, and looked up a little too late to see that it was a marine patrol boat. There was nothing illegal or unsafe about passing so close to a couple of little sailboats making their way upwind, but it struck us as a bit clueless and impolite, for a law enforcement officer. Butch beat us on that leg, and I am analyzing the speed wrinkles in his sail to see if I can figure out how he did it.
Soon I spotted another sailboat coming up the harbor in our direction. I was not sure at first, but after observing it for a few minutes I knew by the heeling angle that it had to be Tom in his old Morgan 30, Whimsy. He went blasting by us both as we crawled upwind in our little catboats. Tom has generously offered Whimsy as race committee boat for the Sun Cat Nationals, a very nice offer considering that it conflicts with his traditional November cruise.
We sailed around in the upper harbor for a bit, and I managed to position myself so that when we all turned downwind, it appeared that we were leading Whimsy and Catnip down the harbor. Well, we were leading, I suppose, but not due to sailing faster, as Tom promptly proved by sailing by us.
We chased Tom down the harbor as he switched from reaching to running wing on wing and back again. He made a nice video showing his single handed sailing techniques while leading us back down the harbor. Catboats sure like to run!
Despite building up a pretty good lead on the way back down the harbor, Tom took a bit longer than we did to put his sails away so we wound up heading in the Ponce Park channel into Punta Gorda Isles just behind him. It was a great day of sailing, with just about the emphasis on Sun Cat racing performance and tactics that I hope to see at the Sun Cat Nationals in November!