1943-1945 HAVANA

Pallas, # 32, was a Snorky class scow type sailboat, flat bottomed, rectangularish, 12 feet overall and about four feet wide. Our Yacht Club in Havana had a fleet of more than a dozen and sponsored races every Sunday during the non-hurricane season. My father bought this, my first sailboat in 1943 and right away I began to learn about caulking, puttying, and antifouling paint.

My buddies owned another dozen Snorky’s and together we’d take our girl friends out for short sails, engage in water fights or just sail out to the horizon and back. I’ll include below some typical shots of us teenagers and the Snorky fleet

The great storms that swept down from Canada, showering snow, sleet and rain from the great plains to the East coast, would eventually cross the Gulf Stream to batter Havana with high winds and humongous waves. Thirty-foot masses of water built up momentum as 25 knot winds propelled them across the ninety mile stretch of water that separates Key West from Cuba to break against Punta Brava, a slight outcropping one block from my high school. On lunch break, the macho high was to touch the breakwater without getting soaked by waves that more often than not spread spray 199 feet in the air.

It was during the tail end of one of these northers, as they were called, that three of us sailed our Snorky’s out of our reef protected anchorage and into the ocean. Ocean waves form a pattern. After 4 or 5 extra large waves, about two minutes pass when the waves are relatively small. It was this period of calm that we would use to escape into the ocean. Outside, the sailing was great, the water deep blue, the breeze perfect at 15 knots. We chased each other with a bucket in hand intent in soaking the next boat. A great time was had by all.

I had sailed out quite a few miles and when I returned, I found that the other two boats had beaten me across the reef. I sailed back and forth just outside of the shallow water, waited for those 4 to 5 large waves to pass, then shot in. Problem was that the wind had died and I was about half way across the reef when I looked out to see a series of huge waves beginning to curl. The first broke early and pushed us broadside towards shore. The second broke on us. The boat somersaulted. We body surfed twenty feet, then got hit twice more.

Our buddies in the other two boats came to the rescue. Our Snorky floated right side up, submerged, the mast in about 6 pieces. With the two buckets we re-floated Pallas and got towed into the dock. My dad was not a happy person, but he did break down and got me a new mast.