Sunday, June 30, 2013
Lori at the Helm
Donavan and I went sailing yesterday, just the two of us. We really enjoy sailing with friends and family and usually have a few others on board with us, so it was a little different experience than usual. The weather was perfect for sailing--steady winds, temps around 80, and just enough cloud cover to shade the sun. And because the water levels are so high right now, there is a "no wake" rule for the time being, so the shores aren't washed away. So the big power boats that typically fly by and create big wakes have to keep their speeds at a minimum. That made me happy. When we first arrived at the marina, Donavan installed the new bimini, while I organized the cabin. (We're planning a 4-day sailing vacation over the 4th of July with my daughter Jane, and I'd like to at least start with an organized space, even though it will only last a minute or two.) A fellow Northern Lights Sailing Club member parks his sail boat next to us at the park-and-launch area of the marina. So we got to chat a bit with him while he worked on his boat. I'm finding that sailors are very friendly people.
Right out of the marina, Donavan had me steer the tiller and turn into the wind so he could pull up the main sail. We shut off the engine of the boat, and I stayed at the tiller while Donavan hung on to the "main sheet," which is the rope that connects to the main sail. Ropes are called "lines" or "sheets" or "halyards" on a sailboat. I'm not sure what makes a rope one or the other. Since Donavan had the main sail covered, that left me with just figuring out the tiller and how to steer and come about. A couple of weeks back I tried to sail, but there was barely any wind, and it kept gusting and changing directions, so didn't get much practice at all. Yesterday felt like my first real sailing experience. Most of the time we sailed at around 3 knots, but at times were up to 5 to 6 knots. We pulled out the front sail (the jib) for a while, but then the wind started picking up, and I started to feel like the boat was out of my control. The wind was behind us, and so I had difficulty going the direction I wanted us to go, without completely heeling over. I am still getting used to that feeling. When the wind picked up, Donavan would let out the main sail, which allowed the boat to be more upright, but it still felt uncomfortable to me with the jib out. Everything went quicker, and so I had to react quicker with the tiller. Since this stuff is not intuitive to me, I decided we needed to pull the jib in again, and just focus on learning how to sail and steer.
After an hour of sailing, I was exhausted. My brain was tired from all of that coordinating rope/tiller/sail/wind. And watching the arrow on top of the mast while looking out for boats, and remembering to tighten my core muscles so my lower back doesn't hurt, was a lot going on for me. That makes me feel old and dumb just writing that. I asked Donavan to take over as captain again. Let's be honest. He still needed to captain even when I was steering. I am told "helmsman" is the correct term since being a captain requires knowing some crap that I don't. I think that sailing with your significant other tells a lot about the relationship. I definitely had to trust what he was saying, and when things got rough, we just handled it calmly. I understand that there can be a lot of yelling on a sail boat, and have even seen sailing lessons advertised as "learn to sail, and no yelling." Although I can see the necessity for projecting your voice towards crew members to be heard over winds and waves, yelling orders shouldn't be the norm. And that's definitely not Donavan's teaching style. So we had a really good day, and despite my frustrations with myself for being so freaked out by heeling over, I am looking forward to sailing again soon, and having a new skill to learn.
We sailed for a couple of more hours, with Donavan at the helm. I had the chance to take a few photos while sailing. As you can see in the photo of my feet, the phrase white-knuckling-it also applies to toe knuckles! The wind became gustier at the end of the afternoon, and it was approaching dinner time, so we headed back to the marina, and parked the boat. We went to the Sail Away Café for dinner, where we had great food on their outdoor patio. There was even live guitar music that kept us there for dessert.