First-time sailors encounter different reactions based on their life experience, and it takes a little sailing psychology to figure it out. Golfers are better at the helm than tennis players. Men prefer the helm over women because they tend to be more adventurous and risk-prone. Dancers are better than singers. And so on with other generalizations that sometimes prove wrong.
Pauline Ferguson stumped me on the helm, or wheel. She and her fiancé Kyle Turrentine went sailing on a brisk afternoon near Williamsburg in breezes that built from zero to 20 mph in a little over an hour. She didn’t flinch and indeed got better at sailing as the wind rose. She knew instinctively how to spill wind by moving close to the wind without giving up speed. She steered straight through gusts that tilted the boat another 5%. After probing her background, the mystery was solved.
Pauline rides horses. She’s pursuing her master’s in psychology at Liberty University and spends time riding at a horse farm in Lynchburg. “I was thinking of buying a horse, but I can’t because it’s so expensive, between $4,000 and $20,000.” She asked numerous questions about maintenance on a sailboat, which is analogous to that of a horse except for one thing. “They eat a lot of grains.” Her experience in the saddle taught her the nuance of cantering the sailboat through the waves like a horse does over hills. She treated the wheel with the delicacy of riding reins, and she maneuvered on her feet with a subtle dexterity found in riding.
Kyle wanted no part of it. He was newly minted from the United States Marine Corps as an electrical engineer specialist in the Marine Reserves. After training at Parris Island, Camp Lejeune and Fort Leonard Wood, he was content to sit and take in the quietude of nature with no drill instructor hollering in his face.
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