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by Dan RogersĀ - Diamond Lake, Washington - USA

Parts One and Two

One of my lasting disagreements with the ethos of this event was an abiding perception-fueled by extensive personal observation in 2009-that when somebody broke down or got lost or suffered other troubles; folks simply passed them by as if they were late for work on a Manhattan sidewalk. Gene and I had discussed ways to maybe soften that particular situation, when we first started daring each other go "do 'nuther one."

Re-enter the Pied Piper. Chuck dreamed up this notion that a small group of similar boats could travel in company, look out for each other, and even share meals. Talk about an offer that I can't pass up. Only, this one played out in a most satisfactory, but unforeseen, way for me.

I had not even clipped the handheld VHF back onto its perch in the cockpit, after putting out the general distress call, "This is Norm. We've lost our leeboard. We are disabled, and drifting," before boats started turning back. Boats simply showed up and sailed holding patterns. Tow lines materialized, and we were quickly beached a mile or so to windward. Tools appeared. Screws and even a roll of duct tape came along with many offers to help.

These guys came back for Norm, and Gene, and ME. Maybe, as many as ten of 'em. Several of 'em ended up completely submerged, or sitting chest deep in the muddy water, while we jockeyed the broken wing back into place. They pulled and shoved and offered encouragement. This was flat out, the very best part of the trip for me. Years of anger simply washed away on that little island someplace south of Army Hole. Suddenly, everything was right with the world. That I'm just about always the rescuer, not the rescued, makes this all the better. We really needed the help we got. THANKS, GUYS!

I count the whole trip a success. There were many high points and wonderful memories. But, one more makes the top of the list. Sometimes things work out better than we hope they will. Thursday night at Paul's Mott brought one of them, that worked out especially well.

A trio of Texas 200 stalwarts had died during the intervening year when Gene and I were daring each other to do it again. I offered, and was taken up on the idea of holding a short memorial service for these departed shipmates. The guys' widows were brought out to that remote location, and even some non-TX200 participating guests showed up in their own boats. Ray Whitney brought Merlin's bell. And, I had burgees with each guy's name embroidered on the rising/setting sun of this year's logo.

I've done this sort of thing before, and can write a pretty poignant eulogy on occasion. But, going into it, I knew this time there would be competing things. Would the ladies be on time? Would everybody be involved in pitching camp and getting dinner and all those important realities of this sort of adventure? Would the wind drown me out? Stuff like that. Well, I was completely overwhelmed when I opened with my first short verse, "We're sailors. We come and go with the sun." and EVERYONE from the Texas 200 who had managed to get to Paul's Mott for Thursday's encampment was arrayed around the sandspit. Simply, one of those rare moments when audience, message, venue, and delivery meld to make something bigger than the parts. Close to magical.

We were truly gathered to remember our friends, and to say goodbye as only people with a shared heritage can do effectively. I am honored to be a part of it. And, as the last line of the requiem, "Their voyage, is done," fell silent; I believe we all felt glad to have come.

Of course, by the time that long-grounded airplane finally put wheels in the wells over Houston, I had completely built my "ideal Texas boat" in my head. There is the not so small matter of Kate's admonition as I was leaving home a couple weeks earlier, "So, you're gonna' finish it this time, so you don't have to go back. Right?" I think I even jiggered that into some sort of acronym that I could name the ITB with. But, I do think Kate is right.

I don't HAVE to come back. I climbed the mountain, and made some new friends doing it. I didn't drown or even stay shipwrecked for long. No, I don't have to come back. But, who can say what will happen over the next year?

Know what I mean.? amlinHHamelin

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