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Proud to be an old goat

Waukegan Sail & Power Squadron members have good reason to be proud of longtime member Alan Baske.

Besides earning an extraordinary 36 USPS merit marks, Alan is also a member of the exclusive Island Goats Sailing Society, an honor he earned by sailing 25 Chicago to Mackinac races.

2009 was Alan’s 45th consecutive year in the race. His last 34 races were aboard the same boat, his much-admired NANA, one of only nine “goat boats” to have competed in at least 25 races.

Together, Alan and NANA have won 19 Mac flags for first, second or third place in section, division or fleet. NANA has carried the title of “Fastest Goat to the Island” five times.

Built in 1971, the 39-foot Ericson yacht has a 20,000-pound displacement and still looks better than many late model state-of-the-art racers. Excelling in heavy air, NANA once exceeded 20 knots surfing in heavy seas in 2006. Alan purchased NANA in 1976 as the second owner.

During his years on the lake, Alan once watched St. Elmo’s fire travel up and down his boat’s rigging, balls of fire the size of soccer balls glowing on the antennas.

He also knows firsthand that the aurora borealis is best appreciated from the middle of the lake.

He has seen fata morganas—mirages caused by temperature inversion—in which images of both shorelines, sometimes upside down, were visible from the middle of the lake. False images of entire ships hovered upside down above the ship itself.

Of course, Alan has experienced everything from moonlight spinnaker ballets with warm gentle breezes to sideways rain, temperatures in the 40s, winds to 60 knots, and 15-foot seas. He doesn’t plan to repeat the experience of that broken mast during a 1977 squall.

Besides being serious competition, sailing the Mac is about good teamwork and friendship. Alan’s son, Roger, has sailed the race with his dad for 44 years. Alan’s good friends Doc Leslie, Geary Finn, Gene Bach and Billy McCaffrey have each sailed at least 18 races. This camaraderie speaks volumes about what sailing with Alan is really about.