I went out for a bit of a yot in my Laser on Bristol Harbor on Tuesday evening with a fellow I know from the Newport frostbite fleet. A 15 knot breeze from the south was kicking up some chop. My companion suggested doing a few loops around "the red can" for an hour or so and then calling it a night. Sounded like a good plan to me.
"Wait a minute. Red can? What red can? Do you mean the red/green buoy in the middle of the harbor, the one we sometimes use as a windward mark in our Tuesday races?"
"No. There's a red can way out beyond that."
So we sailed out of the mooring field, lined up, and set off upwind. I was hiking hard and trying to work the boat through the waves and to concentrate on my new technique of holding the sheet loosely to avoid the dreaded finger cramps. Seems like I was on starboard tack for a long while. We reached the red/green buoy and I kept going upwind. I scanned the horizon for a "red can". Couldn't see anything but my sunglasses were covered in spray and my eyesight isn't so good any more anyway. I tacked on to port and crossed my buddy by a good amount and that felt good. I kept going upwind past Hog Island towards Mount Hope Bridge. Still couldn't see any "red can". I don't recall seeing a red buoy on this stretch of water so I kept sailing upwind and hiking hard and working the boat through the waves and not holding the sheet too tight... Tacked back on to starboard and scanned the horizon and still couldn't see a "red can". Looked at my watch. We had been sailing upwind for 30 minutes. Pretty good workout in this breeze. Scanned the horizon. Wait, there is a red buoy, way, way, up there in the distance just where we would turn for the bridge. Hmmm. Is that the one he means?
I looked at the sky. Uh oh. It was a lot darker in the north and west then when we started. Looked like a storm coming in. I waited for my fellow sailor to catch up. He agreed, it was time to turn back. We rode all the little waves back down the harbor and heard the thunder getting closer and closer. I tried to remember if there were any places to bail out and go ashore with a couple of Lasers if the storm hit us before we reached our launching point. But we were going pretty well and arrived back at the beach safely.
"I thought you were going to round the red-green buoy," he said.
"I thought we were going for the red can," I said.
Duh! I guess my hearing must be as bad as my eyesight.
We packed up our boats. We could see the storm approaching. Several passers-by congratulated us on the wisdom of coming ashore when we did.
"Thanks for coming out tonight. Sorry we didn't get a longer sail," I said.
"That's OK. At least this way we both get to go home to our wives," he said.
True. It's better than the alternative.
I still don't know where that "red can" was. I don't really know buoys well. Aren't nuns red and cans green anyway?