Bonus Days: Morphing Snowstorms into Practice

It’s been a tough February for flying into and out of the Northeast, and I definitely qualify as a frequent traveler this month. Recently I made the mistake of adding up the number of nights in my own bed, and it totals a whopping 8 out of 28. So you might think this is going to be yet another tale of travel woe to add to the list: friends stuck in airports, families stuck in airport hotels; folks unable to get home or unable to get away.

Paul and Carol USSC

Nope. This is a tale of three unique opportunities that grew out of weather-related travel challenges. Because in addition to not being home, I’ve been practice-sailing even less. So let me tell you about three bonus practice days that dropped into my lap the past few weeks, courtesy of Mother Nature.

Bonus day #1 was the direct result of taking initiative. Three days before a qualifying regatta in San Diego (read, “must sail event”), a major storm was announced for the day I was scheduled to leave home. So I repacked my bags (less than 48 hours after I’d returned from the previous trip) and flew out a full day ahead of schedule. The next morning I woke up in a cozy bunk on a boat off of San Diego Yacht Club to a text from USAirways: my scheduled flight had been cancelled. “Hah hah, already here!”

So I already had a reason to feel smug for the rest of the day (or even the rest of the weekend), and then I went for an early morning paddle around Shelter Island Harbor. Could it get any better?

The answer, surprisingly, was yes. Thanks to Eric Heim, George Szabo, and crew Seth Siegler, I finished up my work day with a five boat Snipe practice session, gaining an extra day’s familiarity in the boat I would sail for the weekend. The icing on the cake (both literally and figuratively) was a great dinner at the Szabos, catching up and finding answers to my latest tuning questions.

Bonus day #2 was somewhat pre-planned. Paul and I flew down to Miami together to work at the Boat Show, but I was originally scheduled to fly home Saturday morning; Paul was still working the show Saturday, so he’d fly home that night. After finding out that Peter Commette needed a crew for Snipe practice on Saturday, I changed my original ticket to fly back Saturday night with Paul instead. Peter and I used the nice breeze and perfect sunshine to full advantage, putting in a few hours of reaching practice across Biscayne Bay and chatting (rather than hiking) back upwind. Carol, 1: Winter at home, 0.

And Bonus day #2 led to bonus day #3. As we were rigging the boat Saturday morning, Southwest cancelled our flight for that evening because of yet another impending “big one” due to hit Rhode Island that night. It is basically impossible to stand in the boat park of the US Sailing Center in shorts and a T-shirt and pine for blizzard conditions, so when I heard the next available flight home was Monday morning, I didn’t even complain. Because that meant, dang, I had to go sailing again on Sunday! Even better, Paul had a seriously overdue day off in warm weather. Add in a few great meals and some fantastic stories at Chez Commette, plus an early ride to the airport to make our Monday morning flight, and a weather-induced delay turned into yet another bonus day.

Of course without such fantastic hospitality on and off the water, we would’ve found ourselves stuck in some airport hotel with all of the other poor sods whose flights were cancelled. So thanks Peter and Connie Commette, and George and Stacey Szabo, for helping me morph snowstorms into sailing and fun time. Please come visit in RI after the ice melts, so we can reciprocate.