When you start out to sail, you set yourself apart from the rest of mankind who lack your ambition. You have chosen an adventure that takes time to learn, time to hone, time to perfect. Not everyone can do it. Already you feel better. You think, This beats the hell out of golf.
As you begin to learn, sailing shifts from an abstract concept to a set of actions that makes sense. A certain routine kicks in as you practice the Close Reach, Beam Reach, Broad Reach and Run. Before long, muscle memory takes over and the actions become routine.
As a result, you can impressive your significant other with turns and maneuvers that adjust the sailboat quickly to changing wind conditions and angles. Like no one else, you can “see” the wind by observing the growing ripples on the water. It’s as if your eyesight has improved. You progress to the point of flying the spinnaker downwind, very tricky.
Your wife appreciates your encouragement as she gets into the rhythm of sailing. Before long, she’s on the way to proficiency. How I love her!
Underway, the boat glides past the shore to the next objective, perhaps a buoy where you’ll turn to tack. The effortless pass reflects significant speed in the water heretofore unseen because there wasn’t much to compare it to. This is fast, you think.
Over time, you move up in size to larger sailboats with more equipment and bigger challenges. Now you can sail farther because the range of the boat has improved due to size. You’re off on weekend trips across the river to the other bay to see if they have water over there as well. This is a sailing cruise.
Overnight, the apprehension about anchoring out dissipates because you’re confident you set the anchor tight. While going to sleep, waves gently lap on the hull and the lines tinkle in the wind. All is quiet. Off far away on shore, a dog barks for a few minutes. We are safely surrounded by water.
When you take friends sailing, they become dazzled by your newfound expertise. It’s in the turns. The very idea of tacking a sailboat into the wind by 120 degrees and coming out on the other side with speed and momentum boggles the minds of new people. The best part occurs when someone takes a cell phone call on board and tells the caller, “I’m out on the water with him, sailing!”
At work Monday, the boss realizes you seem different—more alert and happy. He has no idea of the adventure you took and how well it turned out. Myriad problems at sea did not materialize, but you were ready. The engine started, the sails worked, the mooring succeeded, the home return next day was glorious. Work is hard, but sailing is more challenging.
Grown children discover the most amazement when Dad gets a sailboat. Whatever their love for him, they are quite familiar with your shortcomings. They grew up dealing with your idiosyncrasies, frustration and temper. They knew when to avoid you, stay in their room, or drive away. Here they are with no place to escape. Yet it’s fine. Without showing off, you simply run the boat with alacrity while holding the first good conversation with them in years. I should have done this years ago.
Over time, your skills improve. You begin to react to emergencies with studied focus on precise solutions. You get used to docking by using the engine, then one day the engine conked out and you had to sail in. No problem. Another time, the wind was so strong that it jammed the boat up against the slip and you had to use a stern wrap to back in. Got this. One hot day, the wind died and the engine was sketchy. Let’s go swimming. Later you did a port-to-port pass with a new sailing friend and tossed him a beer as you rode by. Next time, Gray Poupon.
The weather takes on a new hue. Whereas you used to wonder absently whether to take a raincoat to work, you concentrate on approaching fronts that bring rain on the water. Your examination of radar enables you to go out in the afternoon with confidence that the storm has passed.
At first reluctant, the dog agrees to go sailing. An otherwise impertinent pet with the loyalty of a cat has changed. He sidles up to you to snuggle. The boat is heeling to 10 degrees and he has no idea what’s happening. The dog loves me, finally.
For a guy who could barely change a flat tire, you become pretty handy on the boat. After learning the fuel, electrical, water and lube systems, you can fix just about anything. The engine included.
In lieu of a winter vacation to Boston to see pesky relatives, you both decide to go bareback sailing in the Caribbean, where island-to-island navigation is easy. The water is blue/green, unlike the grey/black of Boston Bay. This is living.
Slowly your attitude changes. An early enthusiasm for sailing becomes excitement. Not an obsession, but genuine excitement. Events remind you about sailing. Success inspires more sailing. You talk less about it as you think more about it. People wonder why you’re more reserved, less chatty. I’m thinking about an idea.
Before long, friends who think you’re obsessed start to ask about sailing movies. They figures you loved Russell Crow in “Master and Commander,” but it was actually boring. “Dead Calm” is the winner. I could rescue Nicole Kidman.
You become easier to shop for because all things nautical work great. You become the life of the party, standing there in a double-breasted blazer with white slacks. While others are talking about their jobs or their children, people ask you about what it’s like to sail and to feel the wind. It’s wonderful.
They expect you to report on the latest races, so you have to become literate in the big ones: Volvo, Cowes Week, Vendee, Hobart, Key West. Nothing tops the America’s Cup for glamour, cost and speed. I could do that.
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Sailing to 50 Shades of Improved Ego
Sailing sets you apart from the rest of mankind who lack your ambition. You have chosen an adventure that takes time to learn, time to hone, time to perfect.
Capt. Bill O'Donovan
Williamsburg Charter Sails
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