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Sunshine Nostalgia

We have winter down here in North Florida. And occasionally, like denizens of the snowy latitudes, we yearn for summers past—you know, when it’s warm enough to virtually live in one of the most comfortable, practical, and fashionable ensembles ever invented for subtropical temperatures: flip-flops, a t-shirt, and a bathing suit.

So, just recently, I was much gratified to find three nostalgia-tinged, sunshiney images kicking around amongst the neurons of my laptop—they took me straight back to last October (not exactly summertime, I guess, but well within flip-flop throwing range of it, at least for the Jacksonville region) and a whole day of sporty sailboat races that were presided over by my stalwart Grand Banks trawler Betty Jane.

Certainly, I had no idea there’d be collisions—or near collisions—when the officials of the Epping Forest Yacht Club asked me if Betty would serve as the committee boat for the annual Fastest In The Forest Regatta.

“Some of the skippers do get a little close,” mused assistant harbormaster Capt. Jack Feeney, a leprechaun-like fellow enigmatically given to understatement. “You do have some good fenders, eh? I mean big, thick ones!”

Check out the two 420’s shown above, duking it out beneath Betty’s crisply gel-coated, painstakingly waxed, lovingly-washed bow, which was more or less geographically fixed at the time thanks to a well-set anchor. I don’t remember making any gurgling sounds or other comments while peering down from the flying bridge as each of the little devils virtually disappeared from view. But I do remember cringing as the duel for first place proceeded, mentally importuning King Neptune for just a little help on this one, and finally breathing a shaky sigh of relief when all drew to a friendly close without a shard of fiberglass (or gelcoat) flying.    

That’s Jack above by the way, evincing an altogether leprechaun-like, albeit enigmatic smile. And just over his shoulder, that’s the swirling inception of the “Popsicle Stick” race, a kickoff event that features Optimist prams and a wild and enthusiastic band of young pirates, both male and female.

Doting parents and others (above) swept in to view developments first-hand, of course. And although you’d think they’d have been offering oodles of tips, we heard only words of encouragement. Let the kids do their own freewheeling thing—that seemed to be the overriding sentiment that graced the event that morning. Which was quite memorable in a way, but not quite as memorable perhaps, at least from the early-January-North-Florida standpoint, as the way the sun shone on the smooth green surface of the St. Johns River when the first gun went off that day, the occasional scents of evergreen that wafted to us from shore, and the delightful sounds the pirates made because they were having so much fun in their little boats. 

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