Saturday, July 15, 2006

On your mark...get set....and they're off!

And, they're off to the starting line for the famous

"Mackinac Island Sailboat Race"

How very exciting to be there, at the water, watching the beginning of the historically famed "Mackinac Sailboat Race"!

After last evening’s torrential downpour, then rising this morning to thick fog enveloping the area, the likelihood of traveling to such an event seemed highly impossible, and almost undesirable. However, being ever so optimistic in our outlook for the day, it was decided we should attempt the drive, "catch the wave" and attempt to enjoy something of this wonderful event - even if just for a short while. Boy are we pleased we made the effort, with temperatures soaring to 90 degrees within an hour after leaving home!

We enjoyed a pancake breakfast with the other thousand-something crowds

The prestigious
Port Huron to Mackinac Race, which featured 12 yachts in 1925, is truly unique, as participants and observers from around the world become a part of the history of this race.

This sailing tradition is the largest fresh-water sporting event in the world. It now includes more than 278 boats, ranging in size from 26 to over 90 feet, and tests the skills of 3,000 sailors. Many famous celebrities have taken part in this race including Walt Disney, Bob Seger, The Rich Devos family (still in it this year from the Amway corp.), and many more.

Hundreds of sailboats dot the waterways

The boats started to leave the docks of the Black River around 9 a.m. this morning, for the 1st of 16 starts at 11:30 a.m Sitting at the dock of the bay (smile) we witnessed a plethora of sailboat after sailboat floating passed us, as we sat with hundreds, even thousands waving to them!

There were some crews sporting matching t-shirts, neon colors were seen, those of tangerine, teal blue, lime green, yellow, and assorted other colorings of red& white, navy & white, photos and/or flags from various colors (many Italians for the “World Cup” soccer win), and of course vessels also sported some of many flags from around the world or nautical flags of interest.

The sky was the limit with entertainment from sailor crews as they sailed along the waterways waving to spectators. A few crews stood shoulder to shoulder on their vessels, arm across chest to shoulders singing "O Canada" or the “Star Spangled Banner, choking us all up a bit onshore. A few others were teasing the crowds hooting and hollering with sheer energy as they get in the spirit and prepare to sail the coastal waters for beating past record times; anywhere between 25-97 hours! The fastest boats will usually finish late Sunday evening.

Hopeful participants continue to pass by the crowds cheering them on

Whew! Hundreds of sailboats dotted the teal blue waters, floating north towards the horizon and eventually out of sight. How exciting to be a part of the beginnings of the race entries, viewing the sea of masts, sails and flags, smiling crew faces aboard each sailboat, providing a very colorful backdrop for the celebrations along the river front, as the boats headed onward to the race start line at Saginaw Bay, Michigan. The starting line is approximately 4.5 miles north of the Blue Water Bridges near the U.S. shore.

Each vessel sports a specific colored flag, the color determining the entry for their specific boating event and the path they choose to sail.

As they race north on Lake Huron from Port Huron, skippers may choose to race the 235-mile Shore Line Course up the Michigan coastline, or the 290-mile Southampton Course, which directs sailors toward Southampton Ontario, and then to the finish line at Mackinac Island.

Another idea for an adventure begins to solidify for us, as we ponder traveling to Mackinac Island someday, where time stands still and either horse & buggy, bicycle or foot are the only way to travel around it’s shores. If you’ve seen the movie with Jane Seymour and Christopher Reeves entitled “Somewhere in Time”, you will recognize the setting and lovely Victorian ambience imaginable which this island continues to retain. Imagine the sailboats landing there in the next day or two? A sea of color awaits the islanders, horse buggies and bicycles ready to transport the passengers to their hotels for the final event functions. Gotta love it!

Sailboats following boating traffic regulations
with huge lakers passing with their right of ways.