The wind continues to build, and soon Metani's rail is submerged. Nikki instinctively removes the blue sticky note, realizing that too much of a good thing can be a problem as the adults douse the gollywobbler and we fly past Egg Rock. Metani stands on her feet, her speed ratchets up several knots, and I can tell from Jim's stance that the helm feels smoother. The sun-baked teak decks feel magnificent under bare feet, and all is right in the world as we charge toward Halibut Rocks.
"We need to think about tacking soon," advises Peter Thompson. "Can we make it through the pack if we take our hitch now?"
Glancing astern, I decide that it will be a tight crossing if we can get through the pack of starboard-tackers. I'm about to voice this concern when Jim confidently declares that yes, we're green lights to go now. The helm swings, Metani's bow passes through the breeze, and, sure enough, Jim finds his hole. It's tight, but thanks to Metani's speed and great crew work we're through the melee in no time, with Halibut Rocks gliding past our starboard rail.
"Let's think about the Fisherman," says Norie. "We're feeling a bit slow." We quickly get the brand-new sail flying as we tick past boats. But then the breeze starts to die a bit, and it's time again for the gollywobbler. And perhaps more magic.
Despite Nikki's best efforts, the last ten minutes of the race prove slow for us as the breeze sputters out. A few lighter boats slide past us, but soon we're across the finishing line, just a few hours after we started. Given the conditions at the start, we're all amazed that we had such a fine ride. All except Nikki, that is.
Jim negotiates the harbor, and a round of beers magically appears from belowdeck (this time conjured by older sorcerers) as we enjoy a visual feast. Around us is a floating maritime museum, populated by boats from such venerable designers as Alden, Sparkman & Stephens, Herreshoff, Fife, and Luders. They're easily some of the prettiest boats I've ever seen, and they give me an idea of what this place must have looked like half a century ago.
Soon we're in the dink, headed to shore and the wooded rural campus of Wooden Boat, a hands-on teaching outreach sponsored by Wooden Boat magazine. The vibe ashore is more like a Grateful Dead concert than a social gathering: tents are pitched in the meadows by the school, cars and vans are parked in the grassy fields, dogs and kids run around free and easy, and barbeque pits are smoking, soon to deliver great eats to hungry sailors. Two event tents provide seating for a BYOB party, and, judging from the copious supply of refreshments that seem to have arrived with each successive boatload of sailors, this is one party that will stretch long into the night. Egos are checked at the door, if there were any to begin with, and I catch as much talk about restoration projects and varnishing tips as I do about the race itself. It's obvious that the event's real purpose to is celebrate the maritime art of a different day, and not just bash around the cans.
The awards ceremony only strengthens this impression. Along with the standard perpetual trophies come generous cans of varnish and foam brushes. The race organizers proudly talk of the fact that this year proved to be the second-fastest running of the ERR ever, and easily the one with the best weather in the past decade. Call it magic.
I wander off to find Nikki to see if she can teach me that spell.
Many thanks to Jim, Norie and Nikki Bregman for inviting me to sail with them aboard their beautiful floating home.
The nitty gritty on...
The 2009 Eggemoggin
OLDEST BOAT: Alera, a New York 30 designed by Nathanael G. Herreshoff and built in 1905.
NEWEST BOAT: For Sale, a Landing School 30, built in 2009
DESIGNER WITH THE MOST BOATS RACING: Sparkman & Stephens
BIGGEST BOAT: Bequia, a 90ft 9in yawl designed by Stephens Waring White Yacht Design and built in 2009 by Brooklin Boat Yard
SMALLEST BOAT: Whisper, a 19ft 10in gaff-rigged sloop built by Larry Gillen in 1993 to a Nathanael Herreshoff design
SAY WHAT? Each boat that wins its class and then returns the following year is "awarded" a 10 percent time penalty.
RACE DISTANCE: 15 nautical miles
INSIDER SCOOP: The air is typically light just south of Halibut Rocks, so slightly overstanding this turning mark and rounding wide is usually the way to go.
WANT TO SAIL? At the end of the skipper's meeting it was announced that crew looking for boats should gather at a specified location. This might open the door for sailors looking to thumb a ride for the day's racing.
LOGISTICS: Book your hotel/bed-and-breakfast reservations early. Finding last-minute rooms for you and your crew can be tricky.
WHILE YOU'RE THERE: Check out the amazing craftsmanship exhibited in the boats being made at the Wooden Boat school. While you're there you might just consider linking the race with a weeklong course. You won't be disappointed.
LEADING UP: Several excellent feeder regattas that lead up to the main event. If you have the time, these are an excellent way to sort out crew work and admire more lovely boats. If you can see through the fog, that is...
AND FINALLY: Bring your camera and plenty of memory cards. You'll travel a long way to find a more scenic harbor during race day.