begins on Lake of the Woods
LOWISA’S FIRST YEAR – 1966
by Don Cameron
In a world where events and institutions turn on a dime, where today’s life-changing inventions are tomorrow’s obsolescence, it is hard to comprehend something surviving in much the same form for fifty years.
Loosely administered by volunteers who, for the most part are race competitors, LOWISA is an example of things done right and it possesses that one element that makes it unique in the world—Lake of the Woods at its peak.
LOWISA was originally seen as a tourism bonanza for communities around the lake, but the organizers quickly discovered that while sailors loved the adventure, some aspect of race safety must come first. They also discovered that they would have to cater to a range of interests if the concept was to succeed. Some were looking for an adventure, others were looking for competition; for some it would be a family outing and for others it was about the party at the end of the day.
Lake of the Woods is a big lake and the sailors love the fact that it lets them fly all the sail they’ve got on the good days or slip behind protection when the winds are rough. LOWISA would change dramatically from the havoc of the first year’s race, and it is this sensitive catering to the needs of the racers that has given LOWISA its staying power.
THE ORIGINAL CONCEPT
Clyde Ryberg was an outdoorsman with roots in northern Minnesota who also had an interest in politics. In the mid-1960s he was working with State
Senator Henry McKnight trying to find development ideas that would stimulate the economies of communities in the outer reaches of the state. They looked at the Quetico-Superior area and made investments in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. That led to an interest in possibilities on the Lake of the Woods.
Mr. Ryberg was a special kind of guy. He owned a marina on the St. Croix River in Minnesota and he sailed an E-Scow, one of those flat boats that go fastest when they are heeled way over on the edge. You see these boats in pictures with big sails flying over broad decks and slim hulls, with crewmen leaning way back to balance the force of the wind. It’s not the kind of boat that you would normally take onto the Big Traverse but that’s what he would do for research. He launched in Baudette and took his wife and two young girls in his E-Scow, towing a canoe, and embarked on a round-the-lake tour of the Lake of the Woods.
That was 1965. He made his way to Morson and then Nestor Falls; he made his way through Turtle Portage which was barely navigable then and sailed on to Sioux Narrows, Kenora, Oak Island and back to Baudette. He made contact with tourism people in each of his stops, and with a big broad smile and deep persuasive skills he enlisted recruits in each community. By the time he got to Kenora he began to develop his idea of a sailing race around Lake of the Woods.
He went back to Minnesota and wrote a report for Sen. McKnight proposing a 7-day sailing race in the international border area of Lake of the Woods for the summer of 1966. It said:
A preliminary study of the charts, sailing directions, weather maps, other data and a brief study of the existing physical facilities indicates that a one-week festival or regatta on the international waters of Lake of the Woods is not only practical and possible, but could be the most promising, exciting and best publicized sailing event of the year on the North American Continent.
He said it would be “one of the most grueling and competitive forms of sport as well as fun and recreation”, a six-day 250-mile race completely circumnavigating Lake of the Woods. It would start (alternatively each year) at either Baudette or Kenora. The race would consist of one-day increments and night-time layovers at commercial establishments. For 1966 the course would be Baudette – Oak Island – NW Angle – Kenora, where they would re- fit, then south through Reed Narrows to Sioux Narrows, on to Morson via the canal at Turtle Portage and on the last day back to Baudette.
His report stated that boats would have to be trailerable but they could well be drawn “from every section of the North American continent and possibly from European sources.” Total accumulated time adjusted by handicaps would determine the winners, and awards and medals and trophies would be awarded with ceremonious fanfare.
He foresaw complementary activities like a landlubbers’ regatta, a treasure hunt, inland class races, sponsored crew racing, sail equipment shows and displays, barbecues, fish fries and dances accompanying the event. He predicted that with the growing popularity of sailing an entry of 200–250 boats could result, “with accompanying craft of perhaps 10 times that number”. He mapped the whole concept out and, though many of the ideas never did fly, sailors who have done the race will recognize several of the ideas that are still followed fifty years later.
SOME WERE NOT IMPRESSED
When Ryberg consulted the sailing community he got quite a surprise. They told him the idea was impractical, if not foolhardy; the location was too remote; the size and complexity of the lake and the weather conditions made it unsafe. They said international complications would be insurmountable and could create friction between the U.S. and Canada; necessary expenditures would not be commensurate with returns. And further, they said, not enough people are sufficiently interested in that type of boating to travel such a distance.
While classifying this as a setback, Ryberg’s enthusiasm was not tempered one bit. He evaluated each of these concerns and agreed that some had merit but others did not, and drawing upon the great entrepreneurial spirit he possessed, he pressed on. He had support from Bill Holt in Baudette and Bill Marr in Kenora, both with excellent contacts in and around their communities and with strong business backgrounds.
Bill Holt started selling the concept in Baudette and Warroad, made TV and radio appearances in Fargo and International Falls and went on to Winnipeg to promote the event. Bill Marr enlisted the participation of the Kenora Rotary Club and developed support teams almost overnight. Ryberg embarked on a marketing mission that sent notices to the news media in Minneapolis, took him to the Chicago sport show for two days and had him in a booth at the Minneapolis sport show for the duration of the event. The media liked his concept.
Despite the misgivings of the official sailing community in the northern Midwest, more adventurous sailors did take notice and on August 13, 1966 59 boats showed up in Baudette. That number was short of Mr. Ryberg’s wished-for 250 to 300, but even 59 boats seem like a lot in a town of 1,000 people.
John Gjerde, a perpetual LOWISA sailor who hates to miss the regatta and who has lost count of the number he has taken part in (but it must be about 40), was one of the sailors who showed up for that race. He was a teenager then, a dinghy sailor in the Minneapolis area. During the winter John’s father had shown him a news clipping about this race and told him to think about it. He liked the idea.
The boats that showed up for that race were mostly open day sailors from Minnesota, boats designed for round-the-buoys racing. A few from Lake of the Woods were larger and self-contained and one in particular set John’s heart a-flutter. “Jim Shore’s boat, Seafever, was big and blue and I was in awe. To me it looked like the Queen Mary.” It was a 28-foot Cal, modest by 2015 standards.
At 6:30 on Sunday morning John, his dad and his brother launched into the waters of the Big Traverse in a 17 ft O’Day, a boat so small he could not sleep in it, or as he says, “Sleep? I couldn’t even nap in it.”
The course had been revised from the original plan to a clockwise tour of the lake: Baudette – Oak Island – Kenora – Sioux Narrows – Morson – Baudette, and as John sailed into the Traverse there was an uncharacteristically light breeze. He was hoping for more but he didn’t get it, at least not on this leg. The wind died in the early afternoon and volunteers had to be recruited in Oak Island to tow boats to harbour.
John was in his little boat 131⁄2 hours that day, from 6:45 am to 8:15 pm. It didn’t faze him. With nothing he could compare it to, it seemed normal.
Day 2 was a long day too, a difficult trek through the islands of the boreal part of the lake from Oak Island to Kenora. Day 3 however, was a day for the record books. A wind came up as the sailors embarked on the Kenora to Sioux Narrows leg.
The Kenora Daily Miner and News which was reporting on the race opened their story with this:
Torn sails, splintered masts, loss of personal property all added up to end the sailing hopes of from twelve to fifteen boats entered in the First International Lake of the Woods Sailing Regatta Wednesday when the armada ran into unpredicted high winds with accompanying rough seas on the journey from Kenora to Sioux Narrows. One boat was holed by another craft in an accidental collision minutes before the starting gun at Kenora and had to be sidelined.
The wind, which had gusts to 80 kph (50 mph), capsized boats, made navigation very difficult and forced some racers into shelter along the way. The fleet was strewn into pockets along the 30 mile route. The Miner and News story reported that five or six boats were not accounted for, but at press time it issued a bulletin indicating all were found. The story makes for good reading:
As the various boats arrived at Sioux Narrows many stories were told of happenings en route. Some had the misfortune to hit reefs, many crews were shipped into the turbulent lake waters.
… one of the sailors estimated his boat had reached speeds of from thirty to thirty five miles an hour. Many lost their personal belongings including wallets, eye glasses, and other items. Much equipment in the boats was also sent down to Davey Jones locker…
Preston Pate of Joplin, Missouri, said that when the waves and wind are crosswise and a boat enters this turbulence it heads down like a submarine and is a terrific experience.
Veteran yachtsman George Hachmeister said that he feels if he sails in a thousand or more races he will never run into the experience which this race has brought about.
There are many accounts of heroism and of people in power boats going to the assistance of others in distress. The Kenora Radio Club played a big part in sending help to stranded sailors.
Dick Mickelson of Minneapolis who sails alone in a 12 foot boat met with misfortune in the vicinity of Yellowgirl Camp. His small boat was blown right up onto the shore by high seas and somewhat damaged.
Hammel of St. Paul said his boat capsized twice during the trip. He just crossed the finish line when his main stay was snapped off like a match stick.
One of the boats was Seven Up sailed by Leonard P. Vertnik of Minneapolis who was accompanied by his wife and 5 children, aged from 3 to 11 years. They were none the worse for the experience.
Everyone arrived safely but some spent the night in cottages along the route and were towed into Sioux Narrows the next morning.
For the record, George Hachmeister finished first on the leg at 5 hours 45 minutes and 45 seconds. Young John Gjerde, sailing with his father and his brother, was first on corrected time. He says, “I will always remember seeing the old wooden bridge at Sioux Narrows. When I saw it I said to myself, Lord you really came through for me today.”
Just 15 boats finished the race under sail that day.
The Race Committee declared a layover day in Sioux Narrows and sailors set about the task of inventorying damages and re-fitting their boats. Some who were determined to carry on devised creative jury-rigged solutions while others with no choice reluctantly withdrew from the race.
The rest of the race was relatively uneventful.
Day 5 took them through Whitefish Bay, over Turtle Portage and across the western edge of the Big Traverse to Morson where a community celebration was waiting for them. Day 6 was a brisk sail across the Traverse from Morson to Baudette and another celebration awaited them there. Thirty-eight boats finished the race.
Asked how he summed up the race, John Gjerde described it as “high adventure… There were no comparables. It was a personal challenge…”—the kind of challenge that keeps him coming back. He will race in LOWISA 50.
Clyde Ryberg’s report declares: “Almost to a man (and woman and child) they have stated, ‘We will be back next year and bring others with us!’”
It was clearly a success. Clyde Ryberg had established a concept that appealed to a certain kind of sailor. The interest in sailing would soar over the next few years and the kinds of boats they sailed would grow in size. Sailors in Minneapolis, Winnipeg and Kenora would buy boats with LOWISA in mind, and yacht basins would be established in Kenora and Pine Portage Bay.
The regatta was run by businessmen for the next two years (Bill Holt and Bill Marr) but then the sailors would take over.
For most sailors the sense of adventure that dominated the first race still persists, and for all that one element that makes it unique in the world—Lake of the Woods itself—is ever-present as well.
The Lake of the Woods
By Don Cameron
The taste of a fresh lake breeze hissing past a steel stay…
The rare beauty of a wilderness hardly touched by man…
The friendly lapping of clear, blue waters…
A father’s delight at small, glowing faces ’round a twilight campfire…
The warmth of goodwill across international borders…
The challenge of good sailing…
That’s the Thrill of LOWISA
LOWISA, the race, will convene its 50th edition this year. The Area News salutes the organization that keeps on doing what it does to cater to a continuing parade of participants. Entering the race is a difficult annual decision for the captains and yet the Thrill of LOWISA seems to possess them in April or May and they know they’ve “gotta do it again”.
“A one-week festival or regatta on the International waters of Lake of the Woods… that could be the most promising, exciting and best publicized sailing event of the year on the North American Continent.”
Originally intended to serve the business interests of the communities on the lake, LOWISA has evolved into something that better fits the needs of the sailors.
During the early years, responsibility for the race fell from promoters’ hands into the hands of the sailors, and while the community festival approach was something they liked, their capacity to mount big events was simply not there. Much more of their time and effort needed to be invested in the needs of the sailors.
The high winds encountered in the first LOWISA race compelled them to reduce the risks to sailors. While sailors know that the responsibility for their safety lies with the captain, the law spreads some responsibility to the organizers of events. Consequently a REPAX fleet, or Radio Equipped Power Auxiliary boats, soon followed the race to stand on guard for the sailors. They have been there ever since.
To further address safety the race committees set daily race objectives and anchorages that accommodated even the slowest of the boats. In addition boat owners were encouraged to make themselves as self-contained as possible. That resulted in boats having to carry a small engine (the bane of the ardent sailor) or some means of transport so that their boat could comfortably make it to the anchorage if the wind died out.
A freight boat service was initiated to carry the sailors’ camping equipment and for several years the Kenora- Keewatin Navy Cadets were brought into service. Then as time progressed more and more boats became fully self- contained and the cadets and the freight boat service were not required.
RACING STANDARDS NEXT
The race committees of the ‘adolescent’ years were heavily focused on the racing experience. Handicapping systems were analyzed and trialed and methods were found to ‘give a fair number’ to some of the rare and home-built boats that turned up for the race.
Handicaps are a long-established principle in sailing, normally established hypothetically by the boat’s dimensions, its sail sizes and construction materials. The numbers produced this way are then proven or adjusted by real experience in race conditions—how much time the boat tended to take compared to others like it.
Rod Nuttall’s early experience is instructional. Rod and his wife, Marianne, have sailed or followed LOWISA for 40 years and their early experience indicates the problem handicappers had. Rod sailed in LOWISA 6 as crew for his dad in a Grampian 26. The next year they were sailing a day sailboat that had canvas sails. For LOWISA 8 they had a J/27 sailboat that was built in Winnipeg by Dr. Richard Johnson.
As time passed, LOWISA was able to work with its own historical experience using race results from prior LOWISA years and developed a system that is respected by the sailors.
To meet the sailor’s need for fair competition the regatta split the fleet into sub-fleets of 15 to 20 boats. They did this by simply drawing lines through the list of handicaps and produced a result that meant boats would race against the boats they were most competitive with, and not against boats that were much faster or slower than themselves. If there were 10 sub- fleets the race committee would start ten races at 10 minute intervals. All boats would be timed and results would be posted as soon as the committee could tabulate them. The computer era has simplified this process.
MORE THAN JUST A RACE
This attention to the needs of the racers is a main reason that the race has survived. Sailors would not come if they weren’t assured that their boat could compete at some level. However, if you were to ask a LOWISA sailor how the race was, their focus will be more on the emotional aspects of their week. You would hear accounts of incidents on their boat and hectic moments when chaos prevailed. There will be mention of new friends and reunions and of fair winds, of awakening to lapping waters, and of relaxing beneath unforgettable sunsets.
From the moment a sailor gets up he/ she has to make choices ranging from what to pack for lunch, which sails to fly, what the favoured route will be, whether to tack now or later, and where to anchor the boat. After a week of making these decisions and living with the outcomes, LOWISA becomes a lot more than just a race to them.
What that is might be quite a different thing from another participant’s experience. Some who sail large boats with strong and experienced crews will remember the competition. Some who sail family boats will discover how richly LOWISA contributes to the intangibles in their family life. Still others who just love to sail with the fleet and sit by a campfire or sing in their cockpit just feel the vibes.
There’s a range of experience for all when some have shown up with a great depth of sailing knowledge while others are neophytes, there to learn the difference between port and starboard. Almost all of them know that in a week of sailing there will be tensions in the boat and that skippers will have to work hard to keep their crews happy.
But if they have done the race before they will know that feeling of relief and fulfillment that follows a stressful day of looking up at sail shapes, and sitting in uncomfortable posts when the skipper needs more ballast. They will have watched the growth occur in families that have persisted for three or four years, a growth in knowledge, maturity and spirit. And they will know what an adventure LOWISA is.
For many sailors, LOWISA is a reunion, a reunion of good friends who see and “hang” with one another for just one week a year. At the end of each day’s competition a social scene evolves as boats raft up together and the sailors break out the refreshments and exchange tales of the day’s events. Kids hop from boat to boat looking for their friends and if the teenagers can get to shore they escape their boats and meet their chums off the other boats.
Mike Lee, from Winnipeg, and Molly Williams, from Minneapolis, met that way on LOWISA 28. They followed up on that encounter the next year when Molly moved to Winnipeg for work. They were married in 1997.
Kimberley Ovitz, a keen young sailor from Boston who sails a very competitive J24 sailboat, Ulla La, says everyone on the race is a LOWISA friend. “They are easy to talk to and you feel comfortable approaching a moored boat with the sailor’s request, ‘Permission to come aboard’.”
For about a third of the racers LOWISA is a family experience. Chris Debicki was actually born into LOWISA, sailing his first LOWISA in diapers. He is the eldest of four children who sailed on Marek Debicki’s HR24 called Syrenka (Polish for ‘mermaid’). Chris was sometimes in the hammock, sometimes on the foredeck and sometimes on the helm, and thirty years later he is still on the helm.
“LOWISA is a week that has always been part of our family narrative,” he says. “We (siblings) are now spread across Canada: one on Baffin Island, one in St. John’s, and two in Winnipeg, but last year we put three boats in the race.” Some families make Thanksgiving the time for family to gather but for the Debicki family LOWISA is the time.
Kids love it. My son, Kevin, who sailed as a kid and is now in his mid-forties says, “For me LOWISA was more about staying up late around the fire. It was like a week-long camping trip with a new location every night. I liked hanging out with Americans, comparing ourselves to them and their ways. It was about good people and good times, always,” he said. “The race itself was a competitive rush,” he adds, “and don’t forget the water balloons.”
LOWISA IS FOR NEWBIES
Around LOWISA 35 or so some sailors wanted to sail with the fleet but weren’t so sure about racing. Racing can be intimidating especially when boats are in close quarters and skippers have to be sure about their rights. Navigating is also a challenge for newcomers, so the organizers established a cruising category for them. LOWISA schedules a layover day on Day 4 usually where boats can either rest or race in a layover day event. New sailors often have an opportunity to step on another boat and get some racing experience serving as crew.
As well, with seven days of racing available to them, the new racers can also watch for a few days and participate in a race later in the week.
SO LOWISA TURNS 50
Like anything else 50 years old, LOWISA has gone through its ups and downs. It grew from 59 boats in the first year to 115 on its 15th. By LOWISA 30 the numbers bounced between 55 and 100 boats. By LOWISA 45 it had settled back to 40 boats and it has continued at that level since then.
David Nelson of Kenora, who is commodore of LOWISA 50, expects to see more boats this year, partly because it’s the 50th year and partly because of the signs he is seeing. He says that a few Scow boats from Wisconsin are making enquiries and he has heard that several Hobie Cat crews are interested. He is excited to see the appearance of second and third generation LOWISA sailors in recent years and says that some kids who were once crew on their dad’s boats are turning up as skippers.
He is particularly pleased to see the return of family boats. At one point they had gone missing and the race had been seen by many as an adult racer’s race, but family boats are coming back. “I like the mix,” he says, “big boats, scows, cats, family boats and racers. We’ll certainly have room for all of them.”
“What would really be delightful,” he says, “is if some of the ‘old salts’ would turn up. We’ve had thousands of people sail over the years. They know what an adventure LOWISA is and it would be great to have them experience it again.”
There have been a lot of changes in LOWISA’s world over the past 50 years but it seems to just soldier on. The organizers made it a high calibre race and they accommodated newcomers. The rest seems to just come naturally —the weather will do what it does, the people will make their own fun, and the Lake of the Woods will sit there and perform its magic.
LOWISA REGATTA’S GOLDEN YEARS
Saturday, August 1 to Saturday, August 8, 2015
By Dyke Van Etten Williams
It’s hard enough to get to be fifty and still alive—believe me! But for a regatta that features sailing all over a huge lake and camping in wilderness anchorages every night for a week it’s a miracle! And this year LOWISA, the regatta that does it all, is 50 years old!
A miracle unless—unless of course the people doing it are on to something! Could it be that they love sailing that unparalleled lake? Might they truly enjoy and admire the people they share this adventure with? Could it be that one of the joys of life is having what I call “stories to tell”, and that LOWISA provides ample adventures and a few challenges which become real “stories to tell” indeed?
LOWISA stands for Lake of the Woods International Sailing Association, a joint Canadian/American effort always held on Lake of the Woods, starting and finishing in the Kenora area. Boats and crews come from both countries and occasionally from further than that.
Each new LOWISA is a combination of tradition from former years and invention of the current year’s commodore and committee. The only thing certain is that each hour, day and week will be memorable yet might not go quite as planned. Weather, chance, human nature and life’s other variables are actually in charge, making each event a true adventure.
THIS SPECIAL YEAR
LOWISA 50 will follow the same general format as of old, starting Sunday, August 2, racing to protected wilderness anchorages Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, and arriving at Ash Rapids Resort Tuesday night.
Wednesday is a “layover day” at Ash Rapids. That day there is an around- the-buoys race and a keenly contested cooking-aboard competition. There are several parties with rum and beer sponsors, an opportunity to resupply necessities like ice, fuel, fresh bread and even time for the occasional nap. The series racing resumes Thursday, Friday and Saturday, finishing near Kenora, with a final in-town dinner and trophy presentation at the Commodore’s Ball.
The fleet, which has been as large as 160 boats, is divided into groups of boats of similar size and speed, and given handicaps from a sophisticated system that closely equalizes all of them. Most boats will be live-aboards—galley, head, berths—all the comforts of home. There is a special division for “working sails only”, sailing with main and jib but not spinnaker. At least two dozen E-Scows, Hobie Cats and other small, open boats are expected this year as well. These open-boat sailors will live on chartered houseboats or tent on shore at the anchorages. The word is that pleasant weather, wind, sun and people are guaranteed.
For this 50th year, the committee is working on a special three-day “Mini- LOWISA” for Sunday, Monday and Tuesday only. Scows, cats, dinghies and old guys/gals like me can race those days if that’s all they choose, with awards at the end. The courses will be close enough to the Kenora area that one could even commute by powerboat to a cottage or motel if appropriate—or race all seven days and feel 22 again!
The committee is planning the LOWISA 50 Commodore’s Ball as a grand reunion, a chance for folks who didn’t sail this year or who haven’t sailed in years to celebrate LOWISA’s 50th, see old friends, catch up on what happened this year and generally have a good time.
All official information, registration, details and links will appear on the LOWISA 50 website at www.lowisa.org. Each boat will need to register ahead of time, provide crew information and reserve various meals and the Commodore’s Ball if desired.
LOWISA is also on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/lowisaregatta. So start making plans now. Find a boat to borrow or charter, friends to come with you, a boat to crew aboard—some way to get (back) out on the lake!
WHY SAIL LOWISA?
Because it’s an authentic, real (read not virtual) adventure, filled with fun, some challenges and occasional hardships—all worth it. For me, I enjoy finding in myself the seamanship to sail well, comfortably and safely. I enjoy figuring out just how to start, race, finish, anchor and tie up to shore. I like being with folks who enjoy these things as well, especially (my bias) those who also like to sing old camp and campfire songs in made-up harmony.
Decades ago I was racing in the International 14 nationals off Cape Cod when the committee boat signalled the course for the series final, long-distance race—a challenging 25 miles in a brisk 25 knot wind. We’d already sailed five 15-milers that and the previous day. As I sailed under their stern I hollered “Sadists!” With total aplomb, the chairman turned and hollered back “Masochists!” Is this a reason to sail LOWISA?
But I think it’s the kids that benefit most. In a division of 16 boats, only one will win. But kids see adults sailing right on with no hope of being first and having a good time anyway. They see adults making (hopefully) adult decisions in response to various challenges. They often have the chance to practice making their own adult decisions. Our son and his school friend sailed a 16 ft. Fireball dinghy one LOWISA at age 17. Imagine what they learned that week. If one of our jobs is to give kids “wings”, this is one good way to do it.
Josh Miner brought Outward Bound to the U.S. in 1962. He used to maintain that a paper route and a broken arm were a kid’s ticket of admission to the human race. I would extend that to say that kids should not be allowed to drive, vote, marry or have children until they have been on a four-week canoe trip. LOWISA isn’t quite that, but it’s a terrific start, especially if they go several times and thus can re-decide who they are and how they want to be each time as part of growing up.
There are many more reasons to sail LOWISA—I’ll let you think of your own. But this might give you a feel for what it’s like and what fun it can be.
The lake is sublime. What you will remember are the sunsets, the songs, the new friends, a new appetizer recipe, the warm sun, loons, northern lights, the profound quiet of this unique and beautiful place. Do consider coming. Contact www.lowisa.org and say you’re interested.
Remember: To have stories to tell, you have to be there!
Submitted by Bob Oas, Duluth, Minnesota
That first regatta in 1966 was when this took place. We were sailing a Class C scow and doing pretty well in the race, but felt that if we were to win we would have to do better. In comparing notes, we got to talking to the father of Rolf Lagerquist, who had entered a Y class sailboat in the race. Rolf’s dad said that he used to do a lot of sailing in Sweden when he was a boy and they had found that by mixing up a thin paste consisting of heavy motor oil and graphite and rubbing it all over the bottom of the hull of the boat, the boat would slide through the water with less friction. We beat a path to the nearest hardware store in Kenora on our layover day and found just the ingredients we needed and proceeded to smear this black goo all over the hull of our boat. We were camped over on Coney Island, so had a nice beach on which to tip the boat over.
The next day we could hardly wait to try out this new discovery to see just how fast we could go. Well, that happened to be the worst possible day to have to try it out on as it was a very stormy day with heavy clouds forming and more wind than anyone should have had to endure. By the time the starting gun went off, several boats had already capsized, but on we went, battling the waves and wind. As the day wore on the weather was getting worse and finally we were sailing in 50 mph winds with gusts to 60.
For my friend, Mark Curtis, and myself to try to hold down that boat in that kind of wind was just too much for us. We were clocked by a fast runabout that ran alongside of us for a ways and they said we were doing 35 miles per hour. It finally happened: we went over and turned turtle, dumping out all our equipment that we hadn’t put on the baggage boat. We tried to climb onto the greased hull of our boat, but it was just like climbing a greased pole, or in other words, impossible. Our efforts to climb up showed, though, on our bodies. We were covered with black graphite and oil. We were lucky we didn’t drown and probably would have if we hadn’t had on our life jackets.
Well, to go on with the story, the graphite did actually work on the next leg of the race from Sioux Narrows to Morson. It was a very calm day and some sailors were taking advantage of it by diving off their boats for a swim during the race, as they weren’t going anyplace anyhow. We sailed by many of these dead-in-the-water boats and sailed right on out of sight. From that day on I have been sold on this method of making a sailboat go faster, but have never cared to mess up my boat again with the stuff. Two years later this graphite was still visible on the hull, so I guess it really sticks.
I’m not too sure this method of winning a race is legal anymore, but have never seen one thing saying we couldn’t use it.
No Light Matter
Submitted by Wilma Kern
Lowisa 10 was corning up
Meetings by the score
Details got attended to
But wait, there’s one thing more;
A lot was left desired
By facilities on shore.
The piece of tarp for shelter
Was tied onto the trees
But it would always fall on you
With just the slightest breeze.
So yards and yards of plastic,
orange was purchased by my spouse
And with this we did fashion
A cozy wee outhouse.
The first night out on Little Rope,
A lovely sight to see
Five little tents were stationed
So you could go in privacy.
The evening was a warm one
A group sat outside our tent
A sailor wandered down the path
And in the biffy went.
His flashlight, carefully set down
Made a giant orange glow
And twice as large as life
We had a shadow show.
The moral of this story –
To avoid a crude remark
Please remember this
Do it in the dark!
Straight from the Heart
Submitted by Unknown Author of Lowisa 12
Without a word of a lie
The winter sky
Has turned from grey cloud to blue
And the soft spring rains
Bring a hint to the brain
That LOWISA days are due
As the warm summer breeze
Wafts over the trees
Of the wilderness Lake of the Woods
From sea to sea
All sailors agree
That LOWISA delivers the goods.
Port Tack Phantom
Submitted by Unknown Author of Lowisa 12
Here’s to a guy called “Right-of-way” Black
Who died maintaining his Starboard Tack
He was dead-to-rights as we went along
But he’s just as dead
As if he were wrong.
A Racer’s Lament
Submitted by Unknown Author of Lowisa 12
It’s crazy! Impossible!
I cried as I read
This PAME rating system
Is something to dread
If it goes unprotested
Do you know where I’ll be
At the back of the pack
Just the gas boat and me
Well I moaned and I groaned
To the boys in the club
My boat’s no sore racer
It’s just an old tub
They all nodded agreement
Except one old salt
Who eyed me a moment
Then quietly spoke
Make that rating a challenge
To sail her your best
To place higher than last year
And save your protest
I’m sure we’ll do better
Place higher perhaps
And we all will have done it
Submitted by Don Cameron
but is LOWISA really just a race? No it’s an experience—perhaps the collective experiences of 500 people, sometimes reaching to their outer limits, sometimes searching within, but always learning to live in harmony with the world around them and the people in that world.
As her body lurched to the liferail
Her soul leapt to the sea, smiling,
For it was as one with the water.
–I laughed out loud
For the LOWISA thrill
Had just possesed my daughter.