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Euro Vacation – Part 2

Euro
Vacation – Part 2

Customarily Pissed

Mr.
Clean is on the road. And boy is he pissed.

HARBOR, n. A place where ships taking shelter from storms are exposed to the
fury of the Customs.
-Ambrose Bierce (1842 – 1914), The Devil’s Dictionary

When
Mer and I planned our itinerary for our month-long trek through Western
Europe, we allotted three full days in Zeebrugge, Belgium to collect the
Melges 24 "Sevenstar SLAM" from the Port, deal with customs,
and solve any road issues before our drop-dead date to leave for Sardinia.
Thank god we did. We thought we’d been hyper-conservative on time, and
that we could look forward to a lazy trip through the Alps and along the
Tyrrhenian coast, but a zealous Belgian Customs Officer had other ideas.
Instead of a leisurely trip, our little Customs nightmare meant an all-night,
time-crunched drive through Belgium, France, and Switzerland. Another
lesson learned from this most unpredictable and irrational branch of governments
worldwide.

We
were already half-expecting some misfortune after the English part of
our trip went so swimmingly. We landed in London before noon and by 4
p.m. we were cruising a shiny new Nissan pickup down to Hayling Island
Sailing Club to check in with our pal James Hill, the owner of the truck
and trimmer for Sevenstar SLAM at the upcoming Worlds. After picking up
three bottles of wine for his top performance in that day’s RS Elite pennant
series, James was happy to show off his club, and we quickly were blown
away by most everything about HISC. The sheer volume of dinghies is unfathomable
for a US sailor – there is no club with close to that many boats anywhere
in the states, and the number of people on the water in all conditions
boggles the mind. Even the RIBs are something to see – a half-dozen or
more orange safety boats sit lined up on the beach just above the high
water mark, looking like swimmers on blocks waiting for a starting gate.
I thought the club’s location on a perfect spit of sand inside a big,
breezy harbor explained HISC’s popularity, but there are thriving clubs
full of one-design dinghies and keelboats in nearly every corner of the
harbor. US racing needs some of whatever the Brits are smoking to get
so high on their boats.