BJ Blanchard: Notes from Glen Ellen, May 3

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The welcome winds of merriment blew into Glen Ellen last Saturday.

On a beautiful spring day, April 27, several hundred people attended the inaugural Jack to Jack Yacht Race. Organized by the nonprofit Jack London Yacht Club headquartered in the landlocked Jack London Saloon, over 35 miniatures of Jack London’s yacht the Snark were launched into Sonoma Creek and raced down .7 miles of dangerous bends and bubbling rapids to the finish line at the Jack London Village. Jim Burch and Ana Dominguez, originators of the event, said while watching the launch, “We just wanted to put a smile on the faces of Glen Ellen after the fire. And looking around, I think we did.”

The morning started in the dappled shade of the saloon’s creekside patio with the “Star Spangled Banner” sung by Mayra Swatt. Selected volunteer firefighters freed the miniature Snarks from their moorings at the confluence of Sonoma and Calabazas creeks to race down the clear green waters of Sonoma Creek. Although members were allowed to watch from this vantage point, many Glen Ellen sailors lined the town bridge, peering over into the meandering Sonoma Creek where it is joined by its sister Calabazas Creek, to watch their favorite boat. The race course itself proceeded along a precarious route, dodging obstacles like the Devil’s Dice Box, the Heathen, the Abysmal Brute and One More Unfortunate, to the finish.

The finish line was at the historic Jack London Village where onlookers sat on the sunny decks to cheer their favorite boats. Two students from Hanna Boys Center were stationed in swimsuits and life vests at the rope strung across the creek signifying the finish. While awaiting the first heat, the boys swam and built sand castles in the creek’s banks as youngsters have done for decades.

The morning was enhanced by beer from Lance and Angela Morgan of the Marine Conservation Institute whose slogan was “Buy a Beer! Save the Ocean!” Rob and Laura Schermeister, the energetic young owners of Schermeister Winery, sold their chilled viognier and rosé by the glass with a free-to-go stemless wine glass. Laura, in race-day spirit, festooned their charming tasting room with nautical bunting. The Nepalese restaurant Yeti provided samosa and chicken momo on their patio, while the Glen Ellen Historical Society manned a booth reminding Glen Ellen of its past.

Each tiny Snark was fitted with a GPS so the crowds could monitor its course down the creek. By press time, only three of the five heats had been completed, the boats having unexpectedly taken somewhat over an hour to arrive at the finish. Kayak escorts Steve Lee and Brian Hughes reported that even though the clear water was “terrific,” a boat disappeared into the weeds and never completed the race (a search party is being mounted and reward offered). Additionally, the GPS batteries failed after the first hour, so boat owners tracked their boats by sight rather than on the big screen at the saloon.

The winner of the day was Wendy Quinn’s boat, “Waterstuff.” Her team received leis (in memory of the Snark’s first stop in the Hawaiian Islands) and a blown glass trophy created by noted glass artist Tyler Stupak. “Waterstuff” will be the first entry on the multiple winner plaque to be hung at the Jack London Saloon.

The Jack to Jack Race has been taken very seriously. Commodore Jim Burch received a phone call from a stranger on a sailboat somewhere in the Pacific. Having traversed the Panama Canal, the sailor requested mooring at the Jack London Yacht Club marina.

The concept for the race was born one night on a napkin by Commodore Burch and Vice Commodore Dominguez when they were brainstorming how to support the local fire department. As Jim and Ana began to talk with fellow adventurers, the boat race concept emerged and Jack London’s Snark became the inspiration - a tradition was born.

The Jack London Yacht Club is an organization of volunteers that supports local nonprofits and public entities, and builds community through fundraising efforts and engagement in the Valley of the Moon.

Not to be snark-y, but this tradition promises to go down in celebrated Glen Ellen lore along with the village fair, the Dunbar Easter egg hunt, the Rustic Inn, the Fireman’s Dance, the fifth grade play, and the garlands of holiday lights on the town bridge.

Commodore Burch and Vice Commodore Dominguez, you did indeed put a smile on the faces of Glen Ellen.

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