What it Takes to Sail
What it takes to sail on the expansive York River is grit, determination, skill – or none of the above. You can make it as challenging as you like, or just relax to enjoy the adventure.
A certain amount of agility is needed to get on and off a boat. The tides run two feet at the extreme, so one has to step up or step down. For those who have ADA requirements, Let’s Go Sail can move the boat to a nearby floating dock, which affords the easiest access by simply crossing a level threshold. I once had two daughters request that for their disabled dad, but he was in better shape than they were.
Some stamina is needed but not much. Guests with allergic or asthmatic conditions will find the fresh air exhilarating. Those who have trouble moving around will enjoy either one of the catbirds as the best seat in the house. Others use the cockpit seats as the aqua equivalent of a couch, and just sit there enjoying the great outdoors.
Sailboats have a tendency to lean slightly, or heel. This is normal and expected. Once you get the rhythm of heeling, it’s quite enjoyable. One has to adjust one’s inner gyroscope to maintain stability—or balance. As long as you’re sitting down, it’s an issue. Even dogs get acclimated.
Some arm strength is useful if you choose to pull the lines on the sails. It’s a wonderful experience to run a boat by adjusting the sheets (lines) because it puts the power of the wind in your hands, literally. On the other hand, most people let the skipper run the sheets. Your choice. Mild arm strength is required to run the helm. If the wheel gets stiff, we simply spill more wind to ease the stress.
A good grip on the sheets helps turn the sails properly. A sort of ballet takes place as the boat tacks through the wind because the hands are used to pass the sail across the boat. Nothing tricky, just a little experience does the job. The most fun occurs when we put up the spinnaker. What it takes to sail the spinn is modicum of teamwork and timing. People are awed by the sight.
Standing on a boat requires the balance cited above. There is no kicking or lifting required. It’s simply a matter of positioning one’s legs to be ready to pull the sheets. Most people who run the helm like to stand because it gives them a better view. Others sit. It’s a subtle sign of self-confidence when new helmsmen sit because it implies they’ve figured out the physics of sailing.
Good vision is vital for noticing hazards on the horizon such as oncoming ships or storms. The skipper is adroit at this and remains alert for all things on the water. I once had a fellow who saw a vague military ship five miles out and correctly described it as a USCG cutter instead of a Navy warship. From that distance, it’s hard to tell. I’ve also had blind people aboard, and they proved magnificent on the helm because their senses are so acute.
This may be the least required attribute on the water, which explains why deaf people enjoy sailing so much. The only problem for some people is stability because their balance is sometomes affected by deafness.