"I was perhaps the last sailor to see Kentucky Woman before she departed on her final voyage. Arriving from Santa Cruz at about 2pm last Saturday, we pulled our Cal 40 into the fuel dock in Pillar Point Harbor.
Kentucky Woman was tied up around the corner from the diesel pump, sheltered in the lee of the ice house. She had a small mainsail hoisted—about the size of a J22 main—sheeted on boat’s centerline and slatting gently back and forth. Her dirty and cluttered deck was strewn with piles of old braided line that had once been white, and was now faded from age and the marine environment. Other random objects, both nautical and otherwise, were visible on deck. The companionway was open, and I could hear faint music coming from below.
The overall picture was of a boat that had once been a state-of-the-art racing craft circa 1983, but was now a live-aboard, one step up the scale from homelessness. She had fine lines, custom red and yellow paint that still looked pretty good, and a tall rig with two spreaders and jumpers. She reminded me of a thoroughbred racehorse, perhaps a long-ago Kentucky Derby winner, now out to pasture and forgotten.
I had seen Kentucky Woman many times before in Pillar Point Harbor over the last decade. When I first encountered her in about 2006, she was moored out, looking like she had been suddenly abandoned, with a gold kevlar genoa flaked on the foredeck, shredded and drooping. It was as though her owner had finished a race, gone to the brew pub for an ale and never returned. Whenever I dropped by the harbor to sail my El Toro over the next couple of years, she was there, looking just the same way except more sad and dirty.
Years later in 2015, as I stopped by while delivering my Cal up for SF Bay races, I routinely saw her sailing slowly and randomly about inside the breakwater. The torn genoa was gone, and she was now propelled by the tiny mainsail. Sometimes she towed a small inflatable boat as she cruised the harbor at two knots. There was always music playing from her sound system, and once I saw a gray-haired man dancing to the tunes on deck.
The vessel and her owner would have fit in well in my charming and grungy homeport of Moss Landing, a 21st Century version of Steinbeck’s Cannery Row. I imagined her skipper as perhaps a Vietnam vet, living out his unappreciated twilight years on this aging warhorse. Not a bad endgame for an old soldier.
Back to last weekend. I pumped my diesel into Shaman’s tank and walked up the ramp to pay the attendant. I said, “Interesting local character? I’ve seen him around here whenever I pull in.” pointing in the direction of the red and yellow sailboat.
“Nut job,” the young man replied, with the radio playing a baseball game in the background.
For reasons known only to her skipper, Kentucky Woman cruised south into a roaring maelstrom as I and many other mariners stayed in port and the Gale Warning flag snapped loudly overhead.
There is a group of sailors out there that thinks main centered is the fastest way to sail downhill. I've had cruising multi sailors tell me we would be faster on the cat if we sheet on hard in the centre while vmg running with a kite.
Surprisingly, they don't seem to win often.
Racing OD last weekend going downwind (15kts of breeze with a kite up) a competitor had to drop their main to fix a batten issue. It was very surprising that they only lost a couple boat lengths!