Siboney, my 39’ Robert Clark cutter, proudly flying the burgee of the Manila Yacht Club and my commodores flag, motored out of the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club at noon April 5, 1968 after rendering the traditional farewell salute to the Commodore and the race committee. I had decided to head out a couple of hours earlier than the rest of the fleet to insure the bottom was totally clean and to check the rotor for the speed indicator. The 1600 start of the traditional China Sea race was three hours away when we pulled into a small cove two miles from the starting line in Junk Bay. I gave the order to drop the anchor, and over went my 40-pound Danforth and 50 feet of chain, straight to the bottom. The end of the chain hadn’t been shackled to the anchor line. Besides being my favorite anchor, race rules specified all boats must have 3 anchors. Furious at Jack who was on anchor watch, I cried out, “OK, Jack. You are now officially an anchor!”

          Bottom clean and the anchor impossible to locate in 30 feet of icy murky water above 6 feet of mud, we headed for the starting line. When the starting gun went off, Siboney outmaneuvered the Japanese entry, “Miss Bluebird” to be first across the line, though soon to be overtaken by the larger more modern boats in the fleet. Once we cleared Hong Kong harbor, a brisk northeast breeze drove us at almost hull speed towards Manila, our homeport and from where we had sailed almost three weeks earlier.

          My race strategy was to sail about 35 miles above the rhumb line convinced this was to be the winning move as the usual wind flow over the Philippines is out of the east. Any wind shift would greet us first. Aboard besides Jack was Eric Neale as #1 Cooky, an honorary position, as he had been a cook while imprisoned by the Japanese at Santo Tomas during the Second World War. The actual cook was Terrence Burke, young and great on the foredeck together with Dicky Bartlett, an ex Green Beret, still strong and gung-ho. Jim Laidlaw rounded out the crew. With two people on watch, Siboney could be kept trimmed and moving.

          My master plan went to hell right after midnight April 9 when the wind dropped to almost nothing, the spinnaker wrapped around the forestay and the main had to be dropped to keep it from bashing itself into shreds. Worse yet, the sun-baked crew drank all of the beer before the little remaining ice melted away. Once the sun climbed over the yardarm we were in total hell. Huge tankers and freighters streamed both north and south shuttling between Indonesia and Japan. My joker crew frantically waved at each. I couldn’t make them understand one doesn’t do this on the high seas. Should one of these super tankers decide to stop it would take them 10 miles or more to turn and cost them a bunch of money. It just was not proper form to wave at these ships whenever one came with a mile or so. They still continued to carry on like a bunch of drunken sailors. Exhausted by the heat and frustrated by the turn of events, I jumped into a bunk and passed right out.

          I know not how long I had been asleep when I was awakened by someone calling over what had to be a bull horn: “CAN YOU HEAR ME?”  Imagining the worst, I pulled my pillow over my head and played dead. The entire crew was up on deck when I heard once again: “CAN YOU HEAR ME?” What in the hell have these guys done, I wondered? With that Cooky Eric shook me and said, “Hey skipper, you’d better get up on deck.” I retorted, “Bull, Cooky. You guys got yourselves into this. You figure out what to do.” I played dead until my curiosity caused me to get up and look out a porthole. There was the rustiest liberty ship I have ever seen, stern to. It was the IMPALA out of GIBRALTAR. A dozen dark skinned men hung over the rail. I hollered out, “You guys remember, we’re racing and if we get any type of assistance we’re disqualified,” and jumped back into my bunk.

          Once again the man dressed in a white shirt and shorts called out over the horn, “CAN WE HELP YOU?” Truly pissed, I got up and asked the guys what in the hell was going on. With the innocence of an angel Terence piped back with, “Gee skip, we’re out of basic supplies so we made this sign and started to wave.” They had taken one of my charts and in 12 inch letters had written BEER ICE. “CAN WE HELP YOU?” came across once again from the freighter, now less than 50 feet away. Cooky pleaded, “Skip, think of something.”  “Think of something,” I retort, “Think of something? All I can think of is to kick your collective butts over the side. I’m going to play brain dead like you guys. You stop a ship with a bunch of guys who haven’t seen a beer much less ice in years and now you want me to think of something. Bull!”

          I looked out the porthole again. The impasse remained tense at both ends. I had to make a move. “Ok. Ask them what time it is,”  was the most innocuous question I could come up with to put an end to this encounter. They came back with the time and confirmed our position as 16º 42’ north and 118º 12’ east. The crew thanked, the Impala steamed off and the skip steamed up to the deck of his bobbing boat to raise hell with his great China Sea crew.