Duck Dodge’s awesome autumn tradition was enjoyed in perfect conditions.

The course gave sailors a lovely spinnaker run between Meadow Point and West Point. Photo by Chris Webb.

Rum Run, Duck Dodge’s end-of-the-season sailing event, was held September 30 on Puget Sound instead of Seattle’s Lake Union. Rum Run marks the end of the 49th season of the summertime sailing series. Duck Dodge is a low stakes sailing event that is more of a community sail and gathering than it is a race. There is no pre-registration for Duck Dodge events, no fees to participate, no club affiliation requirements, and which boats to sail with is up to each skipper’s self-selection — and Rum Run shares the same approach and values.

Jeff Blyth of the Catalina 36, Mata Hari, shared this when considering which start they should choose for Rum Run: “The crew of Mata Hari started off the pre-race planning with a hard decision. Do we start in the second class of fast(er) boats that know what they’re doing, or do we happily go to the third start of slightly slower boats, and thoroughly enjoy the day? After contemplating hard and asking fellow participants which start they were planning, the full rum bottle made the decision for us — we decided on the third start.”

Close roundings and and some sea life at Meadow Point. Photo by Chris Webb.

As a Duck Dodge event, the first three boats in each of the four starts to complete the course get to proudly claim a vinyl duck sticker, while the first overall finisher is also gifted a pint of Kraken Rum.

Rum Run begins outside of Shilshole Bay Marina and finishes in Bainbridge Island’s Port Madison with a traditional Duck Dodge raft-up. Rum Run attracts a slightly different crowd of boats than is typical on Lake Union. Many of the Tuesday night participants made the trek through the locks to join up on the Sound, but many saltwater boats that usually don’t lock through for Tuesdays joined in on the fun too. This year’s Rum Run saw just shy of 50 boats, ranging in size from a San Juan 24 to an Andrews 70.

The conditions for this year’s event could not have been better. The northerly wind held steady at 9-14 knots for the entirety of the sailing portion of the event, and the sea state was calm. The course was set to take boats from the start around Meadow Point for a spinnaker run down to West Point, before a close reach across Puget Sound to Point Monroe. The sailing conditions were so favorable that four of the fast boats from the first start arrived at the course finish before the committee boat was able to be on station at Port Madison. The Andrews 70, Runaway, arrived a good 15 minutes ahead!

As the committee boat weighed anchor to head over to Port Madison, a beautiful parade of colorful kites could be seen headed from Meadow Point to West Point, lit up by the early fall sunshine. Once on station at Port Madison, a steady stream of participants popped into view coming around the corner from West Point, all making their way in the moderate breeze.

Blyth and the Mata Hari crew described this leg like this: “It soon became clear that the last leg would be generally upwind, so our desire for outpacing the rest of our start faded, since we are slower upwind than down. Regardless, we kept our foot on the accelerator and came within a hundred feet of the leader at one point. They had a better angle, and we were being shadowed by some faster boats in other classes. As we approached the finish, our competition pulled ahead and beat us to the finish line just behind Point Monroe. We did, however, secure a bronze duck sticker for our efforts!”

Laughter and joyful cheers could be heard from each boat as they passed through the gate at the end of the course. All 47 participating boats completed the course in less than 3 hours and the committee boat was able to join the raft early for the post race celebration.

Some of Rum Run’s biggest, fastest boats charge downwind. Photo by Chris Webb.

The raft-up in Port Madison was 25 boats strong at its largest, with at least a few boats joining the raft without participating in the sailing portion of the event. The breeze lightened just as the raft festivities were getting underway. Inspired by the warm sun, there were even a half-dozen swimmers off the back of the raft in the chilly waters of Port Madison. Wandering down the raft, the consensus was clear; everyone that was out for the day had a blast.

A bit after the raft had gotten into full swing, a cannon was fired, followed by a moment of silence and a short speech to honor the recent loss of Cheri Trainor, an amazing and well revered member of our sailing community that connected so many people and made anyone she encountered feel welcomed to become a sailor. It was a special moment and served as a reminder of how strong the relationships are within the sailing world, and the Duck Dodge community especially. Afterward, the celebration of another fantastic year of Duck Dodge events continued.

One of the crew on the Wylie 34 20 Degrees, April, commented, “Before last year, it had been years since I sailed in the Rum Run. The sailing was exhilarating, especially finishing neck and neck with two other boats in our start. The weather was perfect, and the raft-up was fun. I was impressed how crew from different boats worked together to close the gaps as boats left. It was special that we honored Cheri Trainor that day, and it reminded me that I met her for the first time at the raft-up at last year’s Rum Run. On our way back to Shilshole we were able to catch a glimpse of two humpback whales diving mid-channel.”

This year’s Rum Run was a resounding success. We couldn’t ask for better weather, or better people to enjoy the day with. The next season is year 50 for Duck Dodge, and I’m excited to see what it brings!

What a great way to wrap up the Duck Dodge season. Photo by Shez Tucker.

Feature photo by Shez Tucker.