November 27, 2014

BERNIDA, THE BOOK AND THE ADVENTURE

I was talking with Justin last week and He suggested that I write a review of one of the many books I have been reading in Prison. (6 weeks, 13 books) Books do provide Me with a great way to escape from my situation into the fantasy and the reality of other times and lives.

I decided that my first book review would center upon a sailing story authored by my close friend, Al. I chose his book because my son and I participated in the story underpinning the book.

Bernida was a “R Class” racing sloop built on the east coast and brought to the great lakes in the early 1920’s. She competed in the very first Pt. Huron to Mackinac Yacht Race and won 1st overall. That was an amazing feat for a rather small boat (30 feet) racing against much larger yachts. After a few years, Bernida fell off the radar and lived an obscure life in storage sheds, at a summer camp, and finally rotting away next to an old barn.

However, She was discovered by a young man who loved the water who lived on Mackinac Island. He researched her history and decided to restore her to her previous glory and let her race again. She was brought to Mackinac Island for restoration. She became am instant celebrity after her arrival on the Island and many folks contributed their time and money to assist with the restoration project. Indeed, a local Michigan brewery, Bell’s even created “Bernida Ale” in her honor. Unfortunately, the project ran out of money and time. Bernida was advertised for sale in a partially refurbished state.

This is when my friend Al stepped in. He had a dream of finishing the restoration and bringing her back to the race course for the 2012 Pt. Huron to Mackinac Race. Most people thought He was nuts! He approached Me and another close friend Fred and asked us to sail the boat in the race with our sons. Three Dads, Three Sons sailing a 90 year old classic R boat to Mackinac.

Al, His son and various family members worked very hard to finish the restoration project. It was long and tedious.

However, You could see the pride in Al’s eyes when we were towed out of the Black river to the Mackinac Race starting line on that sunny July Morning.

The actual race turned out to be quite an adventure. Numerous issues cropped up during the race that can only be presented by 90 year old wooden boat. Several issues threatened to end our race long before we reached the finish line. However, A skilled and determined crew (and a lot of luck) brought Bernida across the finish line in the same spot she occupied 90 years earlier, First overall!

We were all ecstatic! The crazy plan that Al had hatched a year ago concluded with the appropriate fairy tail ending. This adventure with my Son and my friends is embedded in my mind. It was one of the best Father/Son moments a Man can ever experience.

It was truly wonderful to see the story of Bernida unfold on paper in Al’s Book and in real life! If you like boats and competition, you will truly enjoy the story of Bernida.

Ken Flaska

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