Tuesday, February 3, 2009

FAST BOATS, By Ms. Shawn Alladio

Over the bridge I can barely make out the stacks on the Queen Mary looking out to sea. The grand dame of the Seven Seas is berthed in a permanent trap, and docked next to a modern Carnival Cruise line ship. I prefer the streamline steel hull of the lines the Queen Mary holds, sleek and sad, she sits fast going nowhere. An eventual fate for any ocean going vessel. We live for the open swell and sound of splashing waters off the hull, the wind folding, and the rolls of swells, it is a calling many ancient mariners are seduced by.Who are we? Good question. We own it, but on different levels. Equipment and pilot compliment one another depending upon the environmental factors. This team has 'bite'. I prefer a wild ocean, and I tend to shine in the worst of conditions. Give me a smooth running ocean and I suffer. The men here today are tacticians of delivering the 'bite' of their hull into a liquid field.7:40am I'm the last one to pull into the Queensway launch ramp in Long Beach. My 4 place Jet Ski trailer drags behind me like a dog sled team pushing instead of pulling.Our race team boats are all staging with racers getting prepped for our practice session. It's been too long for me, I haven't had an adrenaline flush. The Mark Hahn 300 mile endurance race looms on February 28th. This will be my first practice. I'm sorely lagging on the team front. PWCoffshore.com team endurance riders have more water hours and pump action than any other group I know of in racing circles, and I know a lot. I wonder how many times we have circumnavigated the Earth's waters collectively? I've got Aerosmith blaring from the radio and the beat picks me up. I feel like going to war. And so it is. Super Bowl Sunday, while others are watching players play a game, we are the game. The ocean looks steady, the skyline a drab and dreary haze of gray. It looks to be a simple ocean. The reports rang in at 1.7 @ 10 seconds. wind E 5.8 Knots, looks like the Santa Ana winds are going to try to stick around a little longer. It sure is a creepy winter, feels more like June Gloom this morning.This would change as the marine layer dragged a hasty retreat, and the water shadows of the island loomed against swell and wind patterns. Knowing the channel, the currents and geomorphic terrain, the signature of the distance measured versus the wind and swell patterns, usually the rough patches can be guessed at. The shadow line always makes an interesting leeway, depending upon to and from transits. Team Leader, I affectionately call Boss gives me the thumbs up, passing the parking stalls each team rider hails me, He runs the team with military precision, and the team runs itself due to attrition, everyone wants to win. Every man here is their own champion. What makes a great champion in my estimation? Having another one push you to their level and then you push yourself beyond the one you set. Everyone here is steady.Today the team was going to split into 2 groupings. Team One of 6 racers, 2 man team tags, Long Beach to Catalina and around the island. Team Two of 4 racers, 2 man team tags, Long beach to Catalina and back, my wingman was Kim Bushong on the way out. We were riding two similar horsepower boats, so we could stay steady and we did. Kim is a real Ironman, a true athlete, given the right boat, this man would ruin everyone's day.Bushong brings his OTB Boots over, we discuss the R&D he's done. I bring out a pair of Abyss model black high tops. Fortunately we have the same size boot. In a space of 4 minutes, we decide the Abyss model is the way to go. He confirms this on the return. These little things are big, comfort, fit, friction, fatigue, function, everything we wear in our 'kit' has to be top notch. No mindset shifting, we cannot be troubled with little things that become troubles. Safety first, and push the limit. 'Safety means Danger', that's my motto. I strapped a fuel tank to my stern deck and loaded a ridiculous amount of emergency gear on board. I already had a feeling I would be towing today, so I prepared with self sufficiency. Stock boat is a good tow boat. On an open sea, everything will and can happen, given enough time. My thoughts daily return to my friend Jeremy Hoyland missing adrift on a sunken PWC off the coast of Bali since October 24th, missing, gone but not forgotten. I know how life is, we are connected to a thin thread that can snap at any moment. I have a lot of respect for The Boss. I would standby on any call for him or his family, asking no questions, make it happen and move on. He's that kind of a man, you just know 'right will be right and wrong will be knocked down by the strong'. That's precisely my own language, no barriers there. I understand his language and I like him & the Crew, everyone knows how to run fast on open water. This is our bond.Friebe is the 'Master of Disaster'. He can fix everything, his strengths are engine, body, water. He drove all night, wrenched I'm sure and hit the deck. Brought me race offerings and covered all bases for the team and himself. A real top notch waterman. Paul comes over, the 'Famous Tenacious'. Dubz the 'quintessential equalizer'. The Chronicles of T is collecting data, Belton hasn't had enough yet, needs more nautical miles, Paul is ready to make the day 'ready'. I'm welcomed into the family. Everyone is anticipating a good day. I'm running late, multiple offers of help, I pack the boat, double check and triple check all communications and electronics. Suit up in a thin mil wetsuit so I won't overheat, strap my cell phone to my arm, grab the helmet, gloves and launch at the ramp, Trawlercat takes my boat. I look over my shoulder, all the men are waiting for me. Roque is prepped for yet another sesh, he doesn't like to hold back on the reigns. I notice this in mere seconds between rushing.I grab my camera and take a quick photo. The modern escape of our generation documents everything. I look over to the men because for me as a woman, this is a historic moment. No women have taken the charge. I do not understand this. Where are all the sisters? It is an honor to be on the ocean with these powerful men. I say that, because I believe it. It is true. This must change. We head out through the docile 5 mph idle to the marker buoys. The large hulking shapes of the cruise ships sit silent at their berths. The small the mighty. At least we are moving, and heading out to sea. There is little boat traffic. The Boss does a cursory buddy team check, I give him the OK sign and signal Bushong. The Boss checks in with the USCG Auxiliary on patrol and we scoot off WOT. Wide Open Throttle Baby.The ride is pleasant, very little marine life or bird life. It's a dormant ocean. I do not like a glassy surface on the face of the liquid syrup. I prefer a bit of agitation to the texture because it's easier to read at a faster clip. I know exactly how my hull from the centerline of the keel will lay down into the fluctuating madness. It's kind of like taking a spatula and swatting your bath water, landings can be like swatting flies. The pace is distanced as the lead boats, especially #58, the Kawasaki ULTRA 250, red hot, why does the color red always run fast? The Boss is gone, his boat wants to runaway. It doesn't take long to see the lead boats simply vanish into the gray zone ahead. We come alongside the Catalina Express, she's running fast today. I look down at my speedo, a few 62 MPH, but those are not accurate, more like 53 I imagine. If I'm lucky. Some good little chops and thumps, bumps and a few chest strikes into the helm and I'm a very happy woman thank you very much. I like a few of the hard hits, reminds me I'm supposed to be working for it.We run in a team of 3 eventually, then back down to two and we arrive at Avalon, outside the harbor everyone is under adrenaline control. They look like they just woke up from a nap. Our tea party gets moved to the fuel dock. A lovely day, we are so fortunate out of billions of people and 300 plus million Americans, we are the only ones doing this right now. This is crazy and deserved.The turnaround is swift. I lose Bushong and pony up with 3 hotshots. We're running a good speed back, the glass has settled in and I'm thinking how fast this run is going to be. The Boss's red hot slows and eventually watching his helmet line looking down, something is up. It's time for a tow, I can just barely see the peaks of the San Gabriel mountains peeking through a stubborn marine layer. I re-kit my emergency gear, put a line on his boat, he ponies onto the seat and we set the pace at 11 knots or so.As we make a slow mile, Dubz is in front, then Dubz has the next boat under tow. It's a 2 tow boat tow back to the launch zone. The Boss and I get to time to talk politics, viewpoints, politics, boat failures, opinion pieces, ammunition, racing and family, my favorite subjects. Not necessarily in that order. Looking northward the familiar distant whitewater signature is spotted, I spy 3 bogeys at 11. It's our boys, looks like they split into two 3 man teams. They run a bit north of us and spit into the Jaws of Long Beach. Several minutes later, we identify the second set, same track line. Friebe's boat is clear, The Boss calls out the riders. Ahead of us Dubz has set a fast pace under tow.Tow time isn't so bad. Back to the dock, load up fast, I wash all boats and gear, and I'm impressed with the diligence of care the team gives their boats. I watch Paul really pride up his green boat, wish everyone would take care of the boats the way these guys do. The men are beyond helpful. This is what I love about racing, for me it has always been about competition, challenges, strife and camaraderie. I am packed and ready to get a hamburger, I'm running late, my 4 year old is probably driving everyone nuts, I being the only freedom fighter, I got my flush. I can only hope now that I have torn some musculature to see what my margins will be for the Hahn. I have never trained for a race before, the team has thrown down the reality of effort, and I must follow in their wake.Mr. G's picshttp://flickr.com/photos/31192104@N04/
"The Life You Save May Be Your Own'http://www.k38watersafety.com/"The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in time of moral crisis"-Dante Alighieri(Italian Florentine Poet)
Jet Ski / offshore pwc racing