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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Finding my place among the boats of Geneva Lake

By Dan Plutchak/Assoc. Editor

Finding a place among the boats of Geneva Lake

Summer did not depart willingly from the Fontana Beach on Labor Day.

I spent the afternoon there with my family. We swam, lounged around and talked about where the days had gone.

The sun was hot, and the beach was packed. Out on the water, boats of every shape and size maneuvered in and out of Abbey Marina.

The boats were magnificent, and often drew the gaze of those on the beach.

What was unseen was the pecking order among boat owners.

A boat owner falls into one of three categories: those in the middle, who both aspire to a bigger boat and are envied by those with smaller boats.

The other two categories have only one member each. One includes the person with the largest boat; the other includes person with the smallest boat.

I'm not sure who has the largest boat on Geneva Lake.

I'm pretty sure I have the smallest.

I own a tiny sailboat, big enough for me and only me. I acquired it a few years back, after it had been abandoned by a friend's son and was wasting space in her garage.

I became interested in sailing years ago when I began covering racing on Geneva Lake. I was invited to crew for a couple of C-class scow races, where I got an up-close look at the strategy it takes to outwit the wind and the other boats.

Long before green was more than just a color, the idea that nothing more than a breeze could propel a boat fascinated me.

My sailboat is a Sunfish-type, with a single, orange, triangular sail. It's smaller than a canoe and most windsurfing boards.

I succumbed to the lure of the pecking order once last summer and rented a larger sailboat for an afternoon cruise on the east side of Geneva Lake.

In addition to realizing that it didn't quench my thirst for an even larger boat, I learned that seasoned boat owners could skillfully detect a rental.

That became clear as I approached the mooring, and the warning cry was passed along from boat to boat, "rental!" they shouted.

Granted, I'm no Buddy Melges, the America's Cup-winning skipper from Zenda, but I thought I was managing my boat pretty well.

Despite that, I could see my fellow skippers on the decks of their boats with a foot at the ready to fend off my potentially wayward craft.

As it turns out, I might not be at the bottom of the boat-owner pecking order after all.

This summer, as I was heading off in my little sailboat, a neighbor asked about it. He thought it was great that I could just haul it to the water on top of my car and go.

He said that maybe he'd get one like it someday, although I hope that if he does, he buys a nice, big boat.

I like the idea that I have a place all my own in the boat-owner pecking order on Geneva Lake.


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