Opening day in Newport Harbor starts off the first Saturday of May with a bang each year with the starting signals of Newport Harbor’s Opening Day Race from Long Beach to Newport Beach Pier.
This year, 26 boats showed up on the starting line and were greeted with a fresh, cool westerly breeze that picked up to 20 knots as we sailed down the coast. This event is truly about the sail with your friends, and it makes it that much better when you have a big swell and breeze on your back. Everyone from all the participating yachts had huge smiles on their faces when they reached the docks.
This event brings out more than the racing boats from our harbor – boats of interest included Richard Straman’s 88-foot schooner “Astor.” Aboard Astor, I noticed many of our harbor’s best sailors, who I can only imagine are still trying to figure out terms used aboard these fine ships such as “Bone in her Teeth,” which I am sure got the attention of most of them, meaning “sailing well underway such that spray is thrown out at the stem of the boat.” They might have heard the boatswain say “Stay away from the Bar,” meaning be aware of the shallow water ahead.
Other boats that caught my eye were John Sabourin Hinkley’s Bermuda 40 “Black Irish” which has a long history on the bay. Sage Marie had a strong crew aboard the Calkins 50 “Zapata II” and the Morris 42 “Lyoness” skippered by Curt Lyon is always a double take.
Opening Day is a celebration and tradition to welcome members to the yacht clubs’ facilities for the upcoming season.
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This Saturday, I plan to attend Opening Day at the Bahia Corinthian Yacht Club’s start of their 2018 yachting season. The tradition of the opening day started many years ago, where yacht clubs would close down for the winter and, of course, re-open before each summer season. Tradition plays a big part in every opening day, starting with the inspection of the fleet.
I am a big supporter of the inspection process because it leads to boat owners’ preparation and maintenance for the upcoming season. Fleet inspection normally starts early in the morning, with the inspection chairmen and their committee assigned to the different boats for judging.
The judges will then head out to the fleet and meet with the boat owners who have entered into the inspection. Judges are looking at overall appearance inside and out. They will then head into the bilges of the boats and take a look around with a boat surveyor’s eye toward the integrity of the vessel.
Some judges might even know Coast Guard, National Fire Protection Assn. and American Boat and Yacht Council standards. This would cover everything from batteries being boxed and properly secured, looking for fuel leaks, making sure a set of tapered softwood plugs are leashed through the hull in the boat, and even ensuring there is a corkscrew for happy hour in the galley.
I have known more than one boat owner who could tell me how many door hinges they have on their boats because they have polished each and every one of them. For the boat owner who has taken the last week off work and has gone through the inspection checklist themselves, I salute you for a job well done.
The odds of them having an equipment malfunction this season has been greatly diminished because of their hard work. If you happen to know this type of yachtsman, send me a note; I would like to interview this sailor.
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Let’s talk about flag etiquette – this is when I start my yearly rant. Now, the bottom line is you are enjoying your boat, and are having fun doing so, and I should stop here. But I have a hard time with people flying pirate flags and thinking that the more flags you fly the better. I noticed one boat last weekend flying a set of plastic flags from the sign shop. The guy could not have been any happier and said, “Look at all the colors I have flying.” I replied, “Looks like you are going to have a fun opening day.”
As I turned away, I suffered from acid reflux, but, hey, people on the boat were having a great time, and that’s all that really matters. So, yes, I am a type of snob when it comes to flag etiquette. I wrote a story nine years ago on this topic. You can find it on my website, lenboseyachts.blogspot.com.
Here is the Chapman, book of seamanship, recommended list for dressing ship:
“On the Fourth of July and other special occasions, yachts may dress ship when at anchor. The international Code Flags are displayed from the waterline forward to the waterline aft, using weights at the end in the following order arranged to the effect color patterns throughout: Starting forward: AB2, UJ1, KE3, GH6, LV5, FL4, DM7, PO 3rd repeater, RN 1st repeater, ST0, CX9, WQ8, ZY 2nd repeater.”
NO Pirate Flags!
Now, if you don’t have your signal flags in this order, and you get marked down, you can argue that this is only a recommendation for a color pattern, and there is no official pattern. I have to take tums every time I see boaters dress ship a week before and still have their signal flags up a week after opening day.
One last bit advice for the upcoming season: Make sure your first mate understands how to read your GPS and how to work the VHF radio and call for help. Let this person engage and disengage the autopilot and let them hand steer to or from Catalina once this season.
It’s summer and the sun is out!
Len Bose is a yachting enthusiast, yacht broker and harbor columnist for StuNewsNewport.