Nautical dreams drop anchor for the day

Festival, racing yachts draw 100,000 to harbor

April 21, 2002|By Kate Shatzkin | Kate Shatzkin,SUN STAFF

Some were dreamers. Some were sailors. Some were both.

A few visitors among the crowds who flocked to see the sleek yachts of the Volvo Ocean Race Round the World yesterday had raced before, and some wanted to race someday, and others would not even set foot on a sailboat for money.

But nearly all of them seemed fascinated by the daily lives of sailors squeezed into tiny hulls - braving sickness, cold, heat, tankers and untold other obstacles for nine months on the open ocean.

An estimated 100,000 people came to see the yachts and other attractions yesterday, the fourth day of the fifth annual Baltimore Waterfront Festival, said Bill Gilmore, executive director of the Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts.

Eight yachts arrived in Baltimore from Miami on Thursday after finishing the sixth leg of the race - formerly known as the Whitbread Round the World - which concludes in Kiel, Germany, in June. The festival continues through Thursday.

Just when the clammy heat at the Inner Harbor seemed to become too much yesterday, the wind would arrive - ruffling the flags of corporate sponsors and the huge folded sails of the racing boats and fanning the fantasies of sailors itching to get back on the water.

"This would be a dream to be able to be out sailing one of these," said Harvey Kabran, 58, of Silver Spring as he gazed at Amer Sports Too, the yacht piloted by an all-female crew. "I would love to try it."

Kabran, who works for a computer company, has a sailboat of his own - a 26-footer called Ruach Tov, Hebrew for "good wind."

Mary Beth White, her husband and three daughters came from Annapolis. The Whites also have a boat, a 30-foot Pearson named Kinsale, after the sailing capital of Ireland where the couple honeymooned 11 years ago.

"These boats are amazing," White said.

White and others who visited the fleet pier got details about the yachts from Bill Hudson, a 56-year-old volunteer with the Fells Point Yacht Club and a former ocean racer whose last big competition, in 1979, was ended by a hurricane. A sailor since the age of 5, he was wistful in the sleek boats' presence. "If I was a little fitter, I'd still want to be doing it," he said.

Cashiers were busy at the kiosks selling official gear for those who would rather just look like racers. John Murname, 46, felt compelled to buy two shirts for two reasons.

The first was that he had come to town from Effort, Pa., inadequately prepared for the hot weather. The second was that as a Marine many years ago, he had done air-sea rescue duty, plucking ocean racers who had been in trouble from the north Atlantic.

Some people used the occasion to feel at home in Baltimore - even though Baltimore is their home.

One of those people was Chris Goss, a 56-year-old pipefitter who rode his bicycle from Fells Point, where he has lived for a year. He found himself mesmerized by a giant video that showed the yachts whipping through high water.

"I'm not a sailor or anything," he said. "It just trips my trigger. I mean, look at that!"

Curt and Kathy Barth moved to the area from Detroit six months ago and live on their 42-foot Beneteau sailboat in Canton. They volunteered to help with the festival, and their enthusiasm extended further than their sporting of official race hats and shirts. "A whole bunch of everything great!" Curt Barth called the day.

Others new to Baltimore - or at least to some of its ways - could be found at the "Chesapeake Kitchen" cooking demonstration area, where staffers from McCormick & Schmick's Seafood Restaurant showed people how to pick steamed blue crabs.

Becky Sims, 55, and her husband Bill, 58, moved to Otterbein two years ago from Texas - where they ate shrimp, but no crabs. They have been avoiding ordering this area's famous crustacean at restaurants for fear of being embarrassed.

Dick Sawyer, who had come to the festival from Bethlehem, Pa., hung back to wait for some promised crab cakes. He had raised his hand - in jest, he said - when a restaurant chef asked who in the crowd had never eaten a crab. He did acknowledge that he had never picked one clean. "Now this probably sounds anti-Baltimorean, but it just seems like a lot of work," said Sawyer, 63. "I've never cleaned a crab, and I am not going to start today."

Sun staff writer Paul Longo contributed to this article.

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