The boat safely docked, I joined the celebration erupting all around us. This might be my favorite time of the whole weekend. The people-watching is nonpareil.
The rest of Saturday and all of Sunday is an open-air festival that is equal parts boat show, Mardi Gras, and rock concert. Crews party on the decks of the boats, beer flows—from cans, because only an amateur brings glass bottles or bananas on boats, or whistles once aboard—and the afternoon becomes a pastel-clad, glad-handing procession of genial wanderings. Invitations on board become as casual as the wave of an arm.
By sundown, things are getting loud, funky, and fun, and then they open the big party tent. Soon the drink lines are 10 deep, the band is rocking, and it’s a life-in-your-hands adventure out on the drink-slick dance floor.
There’s no racing on Sunday, when they present first a joke-telling session, the awards ceremony, and then a big clambake in the tent.
Like the Figawi itself, the joke session started informally when one race legend, the late Jeffrey Foster, ran aground in Nantucket Harbor. It became part of the weekend, moved into the tent and has been hosted for years now by a goodtime prankster troupe who call themselves the Band of Angels. They bill the event as a “champagne brunch, you bring the brunch.” It is a raucous and decidedly off-color event—50 shades of inappropriate.
After they sweep out the lobster and clam shells, the tent reopens for another bacchanal, traditionally topped at the end of the night as the band breaks into “God Bless America” and everyone sings along in full throat.
Then it’s back to the boats and berths, where sleep is fitful and the sea awaits the morrow.
Rocket Man narrowly avoided that collision, but there were other close scrapes. One time he got cut off and began to shout abuse at the other boat, unperturbed that it was the Mya, helmed by the late senator Edward M. Kennedy. Bulletproof got sold and would later sink (while tied to a dock!).
Slick got a dream job, ultimately living on the same beautiful boat in Nantucket Harbor aboard which he met his future wife (also beautiful).
As for me, I haven’t been on a boat that won anything in years.
But I’ll always go: To see friends you only see on that weekend, for the pastel promenade on Straight Wharf, for watching people in pink whale hats attempt to dance with two drinks in each hand, for the rolling motion of the sea, for the salt and the wind and boozy bonhomie on the docks, for the music and the dancing. I’ll go as long as there’s an open berth.
Rob Conery is a freelance writer and a frequent contributor to Cape Cod Life Publications.