The sky looks darkly ominous — almost bruised — as I drive across Columbus Boulevard and turn onto South Delaware Avenue. Philadelphia is in for a massive thunderstorm, and its moody threat provides the perfect backdrop for this service road’s desolate scenery. I pass a chemical company, a power station, a boarded-up brick factory of some sort. Every few blocks the avenue is bisected by train tracks, pitted with tooth-rattling potholes.
We’re a down-to-earth group here at Soundings, and generally not given to idolatry of any sort. However, if we had to choose heroes, Nathaniel Philbrick would definitely be one.
Standing behind one of the steering wheels of the world’s most outrageous monohull racing yacht, you have to squint to read the instrument displays on the mast. The most important number is the one on the top: boat speed. And it read 10.2 knots. A joke. On any other boat that’s cause for celebration, given that the wind speed on Block Island Sound was in the single digits. But aboard Comanche it felt like dragging the hook. For a speed machine that guzzles wind like an old Chevy guzzles gas, an anemic breeze is the mortal enemy.
Capt. Pat Mundus grew up in Montauk, New York, at the east end of Long Island. The daughter of legendary shark hunter Frank Mundus (said to be the inspiration for the character Quint in the movie Jaws), she spent much of her childhood afloat and, after high school, shipped off to the Caribbean for a few years to crew sailboats and yachts. In 1981 she graduated from SUNY Maritime College-Fort Schuyler.
In Oakcliff Sailing Center’s main building near Oyster Bay Harbor on New York’s Long Island, a half-dozen employees, students and volunteers are bustling around the office, organizing upcoming regattas and other events. In the adjacent maintenance shop, a staffer is finishing a fiberglass repair to the bow of a catamaran shattered in a collision. Upstairs in a new dormitory, eight young sailors are holding a “debrief” on how they might have performed better in a race in Newport, Rhode Island, the previous weekend. Across the street in Oakcliff’s boatyard, another staffer rolls touch-up paint onto a 40-foot sloop.
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