Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Wages of Fear

On the only sunny day in Seattle last month, the 10th Annual Pacific Maritime Magazine Quick and Dirty Boatbuilding (QDB) competition attracted a throng of winter-weary Seattleites, cheerfully blinking at the sun and squinting, believing that spring had finally arrived.

Along the cruise pier overlooking the Bell Harbor Marina, ten teams of boatbuilders sawed and bent and stitched and hammered and glued, hoping to build the boat that would capture the coveted Marty Johnson Memorial Fastest Boat trophy, the equally coveted Pacific Maritime Magazine Dirtiest Boat trophy or the ever elusive Best Student Team trophy.

Student teams included Highline and Chief Sealth High Schools, the Bellevue College Engineering Club and Seattle Maritime Academy.

The commercial teams competing this year included a group of US Coast Guardsmen from Sector Seattle, teams from Art Anderson Associates Naval Architects, Pacific Aluminum, Vigor Shipyards (Formerly Todd Pacific Shipyards), a single builder from naval architecture firm Guido Perla and Associates and another single builder, Bill Forslund, Sales Manager of Fishermen’s News and FOGHORN Magazine and experienced kayaker. Forslund is experienced in two senses of the term. He has years of experience on the water in vessels as large as a container ship and as small as a one-man kayak. Forslund is also experienced in QDB, as he had competed in two previous races – his first with the editor of Pacific Maritime Magazine, which ended predictably with his team coming in last, and last year, rid of his former teammate and with a sleek PVC kayak that “could have won.” Forslund and his naval architect, Walt Forslund, redesigned the vessel for 2011 and Bill was confident that this was his year.

In the suspenseful 1953 film The Wages of Fear, a group of men is hired in a poor South American village to drive several rickety trucks loaded with nitroglycerin over a treacherous mountain route. A similar white-knuckle experience was to be had dockside, as teams embarked in their vessels. Some stayed bone dry, some took on water – not much, but enough to be a concern to the occupants, and one boat simply didn’t have the freeboard to remain afloat. The valiant Seattle Maritime Academy team swamped their boat at the dock, climbed out of the frigid marina and tried again, swamping the boat a second time, and earning cheers from the crowd.

While SMA didn’t win a trophy, their can-do attitude was inspiring.

After the first heat, Bill Forslund’s new PVC kayak, QDB Torpedo of Truth, seemed to be the boat to beat, but a rogue wave in the second heat capsized the vessel.

While bobbing in the water after his capsize, Forslund was visibly conflicted – torn between sabotaging the other racers or swimming to a beer proffered by well-wishers on shore. True to form, Forslund swam to shore.

The winner of the race was Courtney Bradbury, of naval architecture firm Guido Perla & Associates. Mr. Bradbury had been browbeaten into entering the race by Mr. Forslund during the Philips Publishing Group Bering Sea Fisheries Conference. We suspect Mr. Forslund regrets that decision, but we congratulate him on a race well run.