Soundings - - Contents - BY CAPT. LOU BOUDREAU

Fly­ing a kite while an­chored in the Gre­nadines gets an un­ex­pected re­sponse from neigh­bor­ing yachts.

Ship’s log, Jan. 15, 1975 Schooner Ja­neen An­chored in 6 fath­oms off Petit St. Vin­cent Wind: East­erly, 20 knots

We worked our way south dur­ing the Gold­wa­ter fam­ily cruise, our 138- foot Her­reshoff schooner Ja­neen rev­el­ing in the brisk trade winds. To­ward the end of our itin­er­ary, we sailed to the small is­land of Petit St. Vin­cent for a day of reef snor­kel­ing and a beach pic­nic of lob­ster salad, served with white wine.

Sit­ting at the south­ern end of the Gre­nadines, PSV was fa­mous for its pink-sand beach, which I have never seen any­where else. We were sur­prised to find five other char­ter yachts there; in those days, we of­ten had PSV all to our­selves.

Back aboard Ja­neen that evening, Barry Gold­wa­ter Jr. took out the 6-foot-long box kite he had brought along and passed it to me to rig for him. At cock­tail hour, I car­ried it to the stern, where Gold­wa­ter and his guests were be­gin­ning their evening drinks.

At the time, I owned a vom Hofe fish­ing reel spooled with about 300 yards of heavy line. The reel had been aboard the schooner when she came from Cal­i­for­nia, and it had the ini­tials Z.G. and Catalina Is­land Big Game Fish­ing Club in­scribed on it. I of­ten won­dered if it had be­longed to au­thor Zane Grey, an ar­dent big- game fish­er­man and a mem­ber of the Catalina fish­ing club. No mat­ter — that night with the Gold­wa­ters, I fas­tened the reel to one of the heavy aft stan­chions, at­tached the kite and sent it aloft. There was a brisk breeze, and it rock­eted up­ward.

Af­ter a gourmet din­ner in the ward­room, our guests ad­journed to the aft deck for liqueurs. They were in good spir­its, and al­though the kite was still aloft, we could no longer see it. Only the steady pres­sure on the line was proof that it was still sail­ing high above our schooner.

Gold­wa­ter went to the rail and looked up. “I can’t see the kite, Lou,” he said to me. “Is it still up there?” “Yes, it is,” I said. “Just feel the line.” Lean­ing over, he felt the slight but steady vi­bra­tion. “You need a light in that thing,” one of Barry’s friends com­mented.

Gold­wa­ter looked at me, and said, “Why not?”

We reeled in the kite, took a life jacket strobe from the locker and taped it into the cen­ter of the kite. The strobe was about the size of a pack of cig­a­rettes, and it gave off a bright flash so searchers could lo­cate a man over­board at night.

There was still a nice breeze as we sent the kite aloft a sec­ond time. When it had at­tained the same al­ti­tude as be­fore, we went to the stern to have a look. Drift­ing er­rat­i­cally back and forth over the an­chor­age, the flashing strobe light pro­duced an eerie ef­fect. At ev­ery flash, the kite’s red, blue and yel­low pan­els could be clearly seen against the night sky.

It wasn’t long be­fore the flashing drew the at­ten­tion of other yachts. Dinghies and launches be­gan run­ning be­tween the boats. We could see the guests and crews of other ves­sels stand­ing on deck, look­ing to the sky.

“UFO! UFO!” peo­ple shouted all around the an­chor­age.

A Zo­diac driven by a breath­less crew- man from the big ketch an­chored near­est to us came skid­ding along­side. “Have you seen it? Look, up there! It’s a UFO!” he blurted be­tween gasps.

We of­fered some oohs and aahs, play­ing along. “Yes, it’s a UFO,” he said. “And the cap­tain of the Panda, an­chored over there, has been in con­tact with it on the ra­dio. It’s go­ing to send down a land­ing craft soon, so I just came over to warn you. We’re alert­ing ev­ery­one in the an­chor­age.”

As he sped off to alert the next yacht, ev­ery­one aboard Ja­neen burst into laugh­ter. Twenty min­utes later, a squall with gusty winds came down on the an­chor­age, and the line hold­ing our kite parted at the reel be­fore we could bring it down. Our flashing kite took off to the west, dis­ap­pear­ing be­hind the is­land of Car­ri­a­cou, never to be seen again.

Gold­wa­ter took the loss in good form. It was a pity, though, that we missed the fran­tic con­fu­sion that surely would have en­sued had the space­craft landed on our stern.

An uniden­ti­fied fly­ing ob­ject took flight from the deck of the schooner Ja­neen.

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