A Wild Wyoming Sailing Rodeo

Tempe Town Lake racers know Rich/Dick (“either,” he says) Krebill as the guy who single-hands a tomato red C14 (Tomato Sloop) around the marks, since wife Peggy gave up her crew spot. In the summer they retreat to a no frills (and no power, running water, phone, you name it) cabin they built in Wyoming. They also sail a Catalina 22 in this beautiful and remote spot, racing in an annual regatta. This year Rich and pal Charlie Kulp won in a wild, storm-tossed event that was nicely and entertainly reported by non-sailor Terry Allen on PinedaleOnline.com. Reprinted here with permission.

By Terry Allen

Race Start. Photo: Terry Allen

Little Shay Paravicini and I had a discussion about pirates during the Pinedale Boat Club’s Annual Sailing Regatta on Fremont Lake.

“They go, Aarrgghhh,” she said. “We have a pirate boat and I’m a pirate girl and pirate girls go, Aarrgghhh! Daddie’s a pirate and he likes to eat fish and drink beer and rum, but he isn’t racing today, Jason is the only pirate in today’s race.”

Lucky for me, Jason “The Pirate” Essington had invited me a year ago to come along for this year’s race, the 47th. They have held this race every year since 1970. His boat is named, Opa’s Dream. Opa is German for “Grandpa.” Opa’s Dream is Bert Reinow’s old boat, he left left it to his god daughter Leslie Hagenstein. Jason maintains and sails it to keep Bert’s dream of sailing on Fremont lake alive. Opa’s Dream weighs about 5000 pounds and the next heaviest boat in this race weighs about 2000 pounds. It takes more wind to get us going, but it is real good in the unpredictable squalls that kick up here.”

While I was waiting for the race to start I talked to a few other racers. David Pendell sails Rosie. “I used to sail Nirvana, but used to spend too much time upside down, bailing and other situations, so we got Rosie, who is more understanding of older gentlemen. Oh yeah, at last year’s race we saw a funnel cloud.”

I got a news tip from Allan and Sharon Holmes who summer at the cabins in Sylvan Bay, telling me about Richard and Peggy Krebill who have summered at Sylvan Bay for 50 years. “They are in the 80’s, and they sail a boat with a frowny face on it,” Allan said.

I never did find a frowny face anywhere, but I did find Rich and Peggy Krebill who have sailed this race for about seventeen years. Turns out they live in a home they built themselves with lumber they had cut at the old mill that used to be out in Daniel. “We don’t have hot water in the cabin,” said Peggy. “We use a solar shower. If we get a sunny day we get a pretty hot shower right out of the bag. If we don’t get a sunny day, then we warm up some water on the wood stove. That is the stove we cook our food on, too. That stove used to belong to the American Legion and my Mom bought it for us when the Legion got a new one.”

Jason gave me a heads up to go to the head if I needed to because it might not be easy out there. Once I got in the boat he gave me three spots I was allowed to be in and told me not to be offended if he yelled at me. I’m used to this advice as I get the same advice from cowboys when I do rodeo and branding stories. So far I ain’t walkin’ funny, so I’ll keep listening.

The start of the race is sort of like Musical Chairs for boats. You get a five minute blow on an air horn and in that five minutes all the boats run all over the place close to the orange mark buoy and try to be right at it when the start horn blows. It gets pretty tight and it’s a little like bumper cars, but no one yelled at anyone too bad. I couldn’t tell exactly where the line was but everyone seemed to know who got across the start line first and that’s when the beer came out and the trash talking started. We were in the doldrums just like Magellan and the insults were creative. Jason opened a beer for me with his wedding ring. “Titaniun,” he said. “Gold ain’t much good for opening beer.”

Winners Rich Krebill and Charlie Kulp. Photo: Terry Allen

We were looking for “texture” in the surface which indicates wind, but it took a long time coming. Every time a dark front with a little lightning moved in, we thought we’d get going. But it didn’t happen…until it happened suddenly. One minute we were commenting on David Payne’s big fat toes and the next we were grabbing at anything with an edge so we wouldn’t go over the side. Someone turned cowboy music up loud and there were cowboy whoops and “yeehaw’s” all over the fleet as the wind almost threw everyone off their feet. I crashed into one side of the cabin or the other until I learned to anticipate the changes, but I cracked a few body parts pretty good in the process.

Luckily, my camera has never left my hands in spite of all the spills I’ve taken over the years, so I just kept shooting as I scrambled. Unfortunately, I must have bumped my head so I can’t remember how I ended up leaving my camera in the cabin and joining Jason and David pulling sail lines. It ain’t easy pulling on those little skinny twiney things. As I pulled my line I watched my camera roll around the cabin floor and then it was joined by my camera bag…which spilled out all the lens’s, batteries, filters and mixed together on the floor with beer bottles, radios, life jackets, Cheetos, bikini bottoms and lake spray. Damn, I was missing some good shots…so I scampered down there and got back to work.

Jason and David were shouting Viking songs into the wind as they stood at 90 degrees off level or is it 45? Hope you like that shot. Somehow, in spite of the waves coming over the front of the boat, they kept their eyes on the second marker and kept steering toward it…tho Dave did ask me to clean his glasses at least once.

After awhile we looked around us and it seemed a few boats were giving up and dropping their sails or trying to. It felt good to be in Jason’s boat. He and David worked together like they’d been handling this stuff all their lives, so I felt totally secure. Never had a moments misgiving. I was a little disappointed that we turned around, too…until I realized we had capsized boats and people overboard in the race.

Teamwork gets the cat back on her feet. Photo: Terry Allen

Riley Bennett had flipped and his mast was pointed toward the bottom of the lake. Riley Wilson on his little Butterfly was nowhere to be seen; Howard Bartlett had been thrown overboard and had been in the cold water twenty minutes since he’d last been seen. We also were unable to raise the boat with the Merman and his Mermaids from New York on the radio. Every boat that could get underway joined to the search and rescue.

Jason was on the radio trying to account for everyone but I couldn’t figure out a single word that came thru that radio. It sounded like a heavy metal song mixed together with sounds of someone getting murdered and finger nails on a chalk board.

Eventually everyone was accounted for; Riley was able to get his boat halfway up with the help of two boats pulling on opposite ends and then dragging him to Sandy Beach. Monte Bolgiano said they were so far over water was coming into the cockpit of his boat, Time Traveler. I was glad we headed in when we did. I found myself pretty focused on weighing my barfing options…a small plastic bag or crowd Jason and heave over the side. Then I’d look at the horizon and try to take my mind off it. Stepping onto dry land got me on the road to recovery, but I needed something more.

I found Howard “twenty minutes in the water” Bartlett all bundled up in the lodge and he admitted he was hypothermic. “One boat came close and I held up my hand in the waves, but there was so much rain, hail and wind they didn’t see me as they went by,” he said. So just like the movies I went up to the bar and brought us both down a Jameson Whiskey. I know, Kenna Tanner…I forgot. Whiskey isn’t a good way to fight if off since it will pull the cool blood from your extremities into your core, further lowering your body temp. That is why we have people like you and Tip Top Search and Rescue who train and train and train…so they won’t make things worse for their friends like I just did. But, we liked it anyway, didn’t we Howard?

So guess who won the race?

Eighty-one year old Richard Krebill and his buddy, seventy-year old Charlie Kulp. I sat with them and Peggy and told them of my high time on the lake and asked them what their secret was. “Well, we didn’t have any beer,” said Richard.

I’ll just leave that there, since I didn’t pursue it with Richard either. Some topics we just can’t entertain.

Update from Jason: “The airport reported at 4:35 on Sunday that we had NW winds at 29mph with gusts to 48mph. The north component to the wind generates pretty good sized waves on Fremont lake, we probably had 2 to 3 foot waves.”

When the storm rolled in, it got tippy out there. Photo: Terry Allen