Made With Paper
This past week has been full of sailing downers. On Sunday, ignoring a marginal forecast for race day I pushed ahead. I loaded my car, drove to the lake and began to ready my boat, all the while my little voice pestered me, asking “What are you trying to prove?” The answer was not a good one. I was trying to prove I could go — not that I should. Walking to get my life jacket out of the car, a friend driving past stopped to tell me they heard the forecast had been updated for 20mph with gusts of 30+. I bailed. Cluck, cluck, cluck. What a chicken! I made a good choice, but I still felt regret.
For the midweek, beer can races I filled in for an injured crew on a J24. I couldn’t have been a worse replacement. It was windy. They suggested I drive so the two moderately burly guys could hold the boat down from the high side. I would have none of it. Chicken. Cluck, cluck. Cluck. What a chicken. I asked to grind, forgetting I’m old and tiny and weak. I was unable to trim the sails fully in the stiff breeze. Everyone was disappointed after the sail, except for the folks on the boats in front of us.
On Saturday, our crew was planning on hoisting a spinnaker during a race for the first time. A big stretch for me, and for most of the crew too. With wind shifts, there was not a down wind leg, so we did not mess up with the chute. I just got my butt thoroughly kicked without an excuse. It was humiliating, humbling and generally horrible. I simply sailed like I didn’t know how. Three strikes — I swore off racing, even sailing.
Sunday, feeling remorse for a string of regrettable outings, I suggested to my sweet husband we take out the refurbished Scot. Five sailors ended up on the boat, with light wind. The day was glorious. Enjoying the sunshine, we chattered, told stories and laughed. A friend who later confessed, she had never been in charge of anything — ever — skippered the boat. She took us out onto the lake, around a crab pot, close to the Coast Guard Station, past the lighthouse then landed the boat like a champ at the dock. While we were putting the boat away, I asked what she learned. She inexplicably burst into tears. Perhaps the day was relaxing for four of us, but not so much for her. Once again, I walked away from a boat lacking the happiness a sail usually brings.
Last night, for the Wednesday beer can races, I decided not to sail but would work on my boat. I’m pretty good with maintenance. No need to be brave or fast or sensitive and I get satisfaction from fixing things that are broken or worn. The skipper of Siren found me and asked me to sail with them. The injured crew was still out and they needed my help on the same boat I goofed up on the week prior. I drove. Not sure it they planned it that way, knowing I needed a boost or if it just worked to put me on the helm. We made some mistakes, I made most of them, but we had fun while we tried to go fast. It is always beautiful at night too.
Sometimes I forget, sailing isn’t really about the boat, or the crew, or the speed. It is about everything interacting in the singular moment. Most times the interaction works fine, sometimes it is thrillingly awful and other moments are simply glorious and beautiful. Sailing, like so little else I do can be inexplicable, complex and lovely.
Sailing reminds me of life. How could I think of giving that up?