The 13th Annual Lake Charles Yacht Club Messabout
I was at a beer tasting about a year ago and ran into some friends (members of one of the local yacht clubs) who have a boat out at the marina on Sabine Lake. It's a nice boat, a 37 footer as I recall. They spend most weekends on her, at the dock. She has air conditioning, a refrigeration system, and all the other stuff that the big boat magazines tell us we need. They plan on living aboard someday, once they make all of the improvements that they think need to be made before they can live comfortably on her. I think that day will never come.
We were joined at the table by an acquaintance of theirs. He was interested in sailing and talked about his desire to buy a sailboat that he, his wife, and two boys could spend weekends on. My friends thought about it for a minute, and told the guy that he needed at least a 32 footer if he wanted to spend weekends on the water with three other people on the boat.
A 32 foot boat. What these folks were really telling him that he needed to spend 15 or 20 thousand dollars on a boat, procure a slip, and schedule yearly bottom maintenance, when all he really wanted to do was sail around the lake with his family a couple of Saturdays a month. A 32 foot boat.
I have spent a considerable amount of time sailing in the marina my friends' boat is in. Testing for my Mayfly 14 was done there, and I've had the ECDuck down there a few times as well, experimenting with her rig. As I am sailing around, it is interesting to hear the comments people make about the boats I'm sailing. Some make positive comments and ask questions about the boats, although they are in the minority. Most are along the lines of "Look at that little piece of S***!" (made about my "big boat", a Potter 19, as I used the pumpout station). "What is that thing doing here?" and other similar comments are common. I long ago decided that I would never be a part of any organization whose members treated others so shabbily, and so have never been interested in joining or even visiting the local yacht clubs.
Yesterday I found a yacht club that is worth joining.
I have been hearing about the Lake Charles Yacht Club's (LCYC) Annual Messabout for a couple of years now. Yesterday, I decided to drive over and check it out. I hauled the ECDuck with me in the hope that I could get some more names on her decks (for more about that, go to www.texas200.com and click on the Texas 200 Duck Teams' LIVESTRONG link). Lake Charles, Louisiana is about 50 miles east of Beaumont, a straight shot down Interstate 10.
I drove into the gate (past the typical "No Trespassing" signs) and parked behind a couple of other boats on trailers, one a nice Goose-like wooden fishing boat, the other a mini-tug named Theodore, complete with face and "cap". This was the first indication that maybe this was not the typical yacht club.
As I got out of the truck, a couple of guys came over and introduced themselves. One of them was Ken Abrahams, who has been organizing the Messabout for 13 years now. Ken describes the LCYC as more of a sailing club than a yacht club. From what I could see, small boats outnumbered big boats by 3 or 4 to one, lending credence to his statement. Looking around, I noticed a lot of beach-launched boats, including a bunch of catamarans, a couple of wooden Optimist prams, and a Sunfish. There were some other wooden boats as well-a Jarcat, a couple of pirogues, the wooden jonboat mentioned earlier, Theodore the Tug, and some nice canoes.
Ken has recently become the owner of a 1980's vintage Potter 19. As with all boats of her age, she needs a little work. We spent some time in her cockpit and cabin talking about his plans for her and discussing the capabilities of the boat. He will have a nice little cruiser after once some elbow grease is applied and a few small repairs are made.
David Sargent (builder of the Jarcat) and I decided we wanted to do some sailing, so we launched the Jarcat and the ECDuck then pulled them around to the beach on the west side of the club's property. As I was admiring the 'gator and dolphin paintings that adorn the port and starboard sides of his boat (painted by his artistic daughter), David invited me aboard. I was surprised and amazed by how open and roomy the interior is. He has a portable kitchen setup that is pulled out when needed and hatches and deckplates that open for ventilation in the bunks. I liked the way that he has left the main body of the cabin uncluttered by built-ins, and could see having 5 or 6 friends down there for a beer or some food with plenty of room.
Food and drinks were being served in the clubhouse, a raised structure reminiscent of what you might see down on the coastal beaches. The concrete slab underneath is filled with picnic tables so that you can eat and talk while admiring the boats that are out sailing on the lake. There is a nice relaxed quality about the whole building; it is well kept, but was built to be used, not to impress. My kind of place.
David and I went upstairs into the main clubhouse so as to partake of the provided refreshments. The room runs the breadth and length of the building. Everything is moveable, except the stove, sink, and refrigerator. It is perfect for meetings, lectures or whatever else you could dream up. Yesterday it was set up for lunch, and there was lots of boat talk to go along with the food. One of our tablemates was perusing a set of plans for an Uncle John's something or another as a lively discussion went on about its good points and bad. This, to me, is another validation of Ken's opinion about the club.
After lunch, we hit the water, joined later by a Sunfish and a couple of wooden Optimist dinghies. Lake Charles is small, but nice to sail in. When the winds kick up, there is not enough fetch to really get any chop going, so you can zoom around in pretty flat water and try all kinds of stuff. This would be a great place to wring out a new boat and to do initial capsize tests before moving on to rougher water.
After we sailed for a couple of hours, it was time to head home. I tacked the ECDuck back up the channel to the dock and derigged, then David helped me get her back on her trailer. It was the end of a great day of sailing and fellowship with like-minded sailors and some all around nice folks. I will not wait until the next Messabout to visit again, and neither should you, if you live anywhere in Southeast Texas or Southwest Louisiana. That group is as friendly and welcoming as any I have seen.
Back to the beer tasting. I pointed out to the would-be sailor that the maintenance costs on a 32 footer would have him paying for the boat all over again every 4 or 5 years, and that what he really needed was a Catalina 22 or some similar trailerable boat. I extolled the virtues of 60 mile-an-hour travel to many different sailing grounds, the vastly reduced yearly costs of keeping a boat on a trailer in the driveway or back yard, and spoke of the shoal water capability that is so important to a boat that will be sailing on the bays and estuaries of the Texas coast.
The entire table looked at me like I was some sort of alien insect that had just landed in their midst. "But", he said, "I want a REAL boat". I excused myself and went to get another beer. Some people just have to learn things the hard way.