Digressing Through Labor Day Weekend

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Most of you will be reading this column while enjoying the Labor Day weekend that officially signals the end of the summer season.  This summer has been great for boating, with mild temperatures, no hurricane swells reaching our waters and a moderate wind blowing in the afternoons for the rag boaters, I mean sailboat sailors.

Notice that I refer to “sailboat sailors”?  Many people do not know that using the term “sailors” does not automatically imply someone on a sailboat – that is, being powered only by the wind upon the sails.  According to Webster’s Dictionary a sailor is a person who makes his living by sailing, a member of a ship’s crew, a traveler, a seaman, a traveler by water, or a stiff straw hat with a low flat crown and a straight circular brim.  That last one worries me – I wonder how I would look in that hat?

You should not confuse “sailor” with “sailer,” as the “er” changes the reference to vessels having specified sailing qualities, a very loose definition.  To complicate the matter further, sailing is a term to be used more generally than I usually hear in Newport Harbor.  Sailing is the technical skill of managing a ship, the method of determining the course to be followed, riding in a sailboat, or a departure from a port.  So, the next time you head off the docks begin by telling your shipmates that you are all “sailors sailing on a sailer.”

However, I digress.  Let me sail back from this nomenclature tangent that steered me off course and note that this weekend is one of the busiest boating weekends, along with the Fourth of July.  However, we are fortunate to live in a global location that allows boating to continue basically year-round with only a few winter  sou’-westers forcing boaters to seek a safe harbor (which Newport is).

I have ridden out a few storms in my past and I have been ripped off mooring cans by unexpected storm systems that have changed course.  Times like that your anchor watch schedule, even while on a mooring can, pays off and saves the boat.  Normally anchor watch is a boring job where you are fighting to stay awake while you watch the clock to wake up the next watch keeper on the schedule.  I usually try to enjoy the wee hours of the morning watch by scheduling myself with the best hours or telling the newbie to take an extra hour on watch since he’s already awake, Captain’s prerogative.

But I digress, again. As we were talking about Labor Day, this Labor Day weekend I will be a mile above sea level in Lake Arrowhead, as I have been invited to help judge the Lake Arrowhead Yacht Club’s boat parade.  For more than 70 years, the club has held this parade every Labor Day to honor the presiding Commodore and his or her summer theme.

“This year’s Fleet Review will salute second-generation Commodore Jim Jonson and his summer theme ‘Pirates at Lakes End 2010,’”Jeff Diercksmeier, this year’s club secretary, told me.  Jeff continues, “members decorate their sail and power boats and parade them for the Commodore and his reviewing committee who will be aboard the Lake Arrowhead Queen as judges.  During previous Fleet Reviews, the Commodore has been known to be kidnapped from the Queen and not returned until an ‘appropriate’ bounty has been paid.”

What if no one pays the bounty? Is there an opening for a new commodore?

And I digress for the last time.

Tip of the week: Just keep in mind that the sun will start setting earlier, so check your navigation lights. All vessels must display the proper navigation lights from sunset to sunrise and during periods of restricted visibility.  Most boats under power are to display a forward 225-degree, white mast headlight, a red light on the port side with a green light on the starboard side both displaying 112.5 degrees from the bow aft on their respected side, and a white stern light displaying 135 degrees astern.  This completes a 360-degree circle around the vessel for those mathematically challenged.  For vessels under sail power only, meaning not using the engine, do not display the masthead light, but display the forward red and green lights, and the white stern light only.

There are exceptions to these rules, such as towing, vessels restricted with reasons, emergency operations, small rowing canoes and ships.  Know before you go, so go to Cal Boating’s website and download a copy of the publication “ABCs of the California Boating Law.”  Personally, I carry a cheat sheet from the Maritime Institutes (I’m on their advisory board) next to my U.S. Coast Guard’s master license, and use it to refresh my memory.

And don’t forget: Tune in to the No. 1 boating radio talk show in the nation, Capt. Mike Whitehead’s Boathouse Radio Show, broadcasting coast-to-coast on the CRN Digital Talk Radio syndicated network every Saturday at noon, Pacific Time.  Join Chandler Bell and me as we talk about “all things boating,” and news reporter Matt Prichard will be returning soon.  You can find the station listings, cable TV channels, live streaming on the Internet, and now available are apps to listen to the show for your iPhone, Blackberry, Itouch, Android, Palm, and Windows Mobile at www.BoathouseTV.com or www.BoathouseRadio.com.

Until next week, Safe Voyages!

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