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by Dave Farmer - Tum Tum, Washington - USA

Lunatic Fringe lies inverted (turtled!) in the neighboring Shelter Bay, riding out the first fall front. She's anchored in 70' of water, which is good, seeing as the mast is forty feet, expensive, and currently aimed at China. And yet this curious smile plasters my mug.

We've managed to keep her upright all season, a busy one for me, lots of hours as helm and crew both, with hugely rewarding progress in a never ending process of improving the tune of the cat, and even more importantly, the teamwork of the crew. With this small cadre of adventure seekers I get to sail with regularly, we're learning how hard we can push, finding that edge and holding her there for as long as possible, responding instantly to the ever fluctuating wind and water.

Most of the time! When you run these high powered machines close to their (and our?) limits, there's a certain element of risk. And if you spend a fair amount of time near that line, you're gonna find yourself on the other side occasionally.

So, it's the last day of the season. Yesterday was epic fall weather, clear and warm, exceptional color and lighting. Today it's threatening rain, blowing fifteen out of the west, and predicted to build into the thirties! Which is way too much for this over canvassed craft. Brad and I head for the beach with every intention to break her down and load her up on the trailer for the short trip to Brad's boat barn.

But hey, look! It's not raining, and there's a NICE line of pressure out there! Just one more ride to finish off the season properly! We suit up, hoist sail, and head out for one last adrenaline fix.

All goes nicely, a few minutes to find the groove and get her smoothly powered up, double trapezing upwind. We do a few tacks, and agree to bear away and head back downwind to stay close to port, in light of the forecast. We're back to the beach, and a sucker lull lures us into one more run out to Shelter Island and back. Then we'll do the tear down.

Running downwind in these conditions involves a delicate dance, heading up enough to touch the power window, getting that burst of power, and quickly but smoothly driving back down before the pressure 35' up the mast drives the leeward bow under. Throw in some 3' swells, and precision steering, sensitive traveler releases, and a bit of good fortune become requisite.

But right now we're just a little shy of sufficient quantity of a least one of those three. The bow goes down hard and fast, the traveler is fully dumped, but it's not quite enough, and over she goes!

Lunatic Fringe in happier times

Normally she'll lie there on her side while we scramble onto the lower hull and hook into the righting line. But that sucker lull is long gone now, and 20 kts of breeze pounding on the tramp rapidly drives the mast into the lake and the boat turtles, completely inverted, before we get into position to right the boat. Turns out she's a mighty stable platform upside down, even in this building sea. We're in dry suits, so personal safety's not an issue. But getting her righted before we drift ashore and that 40 mast finds the bottom is a high priority. It's now blowing in the high 20s with increasing chop, it's mid October and there's nary another boat on the lake. We spend some time and precious energy attempting to pull her up from turtle, but the 12' beam that makes her so stable pointy end up, now performs similar duty now keeping her inverted. Out comes the cell phone, to acquaint us with how many of Brad's numerous boating buddies have pulled their boats for the year. With the best offer of assistance being hours away, we once again put some muscle into doing the job ourselves. The boat has altered it's orientation to the wind, and somewhat surprisingly we get her onto her side, but can't quite pop her back upright. Big windage now, and with the sails substantially less immersed, we're drifting ashore rapidly. And a formidable shore it is, big rocks with a three to four foot swell pounding it. And we've got to stay on the righting line to keep her on her side, or the mast responds to gravity again.

With some frenzied paddling, Brad positions us to land hull first on a big dock, with the mast and sails to windward. It's all we can do to keep the fragile hull fended off from the dock, with me still hanging off the righting line, but it allows us to catch our breath. A few of the remaining lakeside neighbors show to offer assistance, and a local power boat is summoned, who then pulls us off the dock into deeper water. A few unsuccessful attempts to right her, culminates with a try to pull her from turtle over the sterns. It's tantalizingly close to succeeding when the tow rope snaps. And our good samaritan begins to develop concern about doing damage to one or both boats, considering the loads we've just witnessed. Brad and I are pretty wasted, and the proffered suggestion to anchor her there in deep water sound pretty reasonable. His anchor is deployed with all the line he's got, and we get unceremoniously dropped off at our beach. Literally. It's way too lumpy to bring a 20' powerboat up to our dock, so back into the drink and we swim/drift ashore in the big swells.

So we've left our beloved Fringe to weather the building storm, we're worried about the damage done, and all that could yet be inflicted, but there's still these irrepressible grins! Repeatedly surfacing is the awareness that this particular type of adventure is the price exacted by this extreme sport, the way we play it. That this experience implies the many hours of true bliss we get running this glorious machine. I smile, for it reminds me what an awesome season it's been.


Brad rouses me from a fitful slumber at 7:30 the next morning. It's just getting light, blowing maybe 10 to 15 now. It was still in the high 20s most of the night, I could hear the surf from the cabin whenever I awoke. Reed picks us up at the dock 15 minutes later, and we motor into the adjacent bay. There she lies, disturbingly bow up. Either the mast is on the bottom, or there's a lot of water in the sterns. Both, it turns out. But after some frustrating untangling of the mass of lines entwining the boat, we again attempt to pull her bows over sterns, and she pops right up. A measured tow back home, a slow pull up the beach to allow the hulls to drain, a little breakfast, and a couple hours later she's on the trailer and headed for her winter digs. A few dollars, a bit of love, and the Lunatic Fringe will once again challenge Flathead Lake.

Now for some ice sailing...

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