Learning to Sail: Day 2
Jason and I took the two little girls with us, and at first we thought we might each take out a boat but at the last minute we decided to all stay on one. Another good decision-“all hands on deck” may be our sailing motto as it’s just easier to have more hands to help when we have problems.
There wasn’t much wind today either (it’s supposed to be quiet all week of course.) We timed it right as one Hobie Wave sailboat was coming in just as we were ready to head out, once again wearing our stinky life jackets. They did come in handy when June and Rory got bored as we could tell them to jump in near the stern (front) of the boat and we’d fish them back onboard as they reached the bow (back) Great entertainment for them with us doing all the work and not much sailing.
We wanted to go further so we headed for the far end of the little lake. Practicing the zig-zag needed to make progress we felt pretty good at first, Jason and I taking turns at running both the tiller and the sail at once as if we were sailing alone. It was actually easier to do both than to do just one, I could coordinate my efforts. Carol had found some friends to go out with and we shouted “Ahoy!” and waved at each other. We introduced our passengers then continued sailing, her going in and us going out. The wind was blowing in our direction and we made steady progress down the lake past the bridge and the swimming area.
As we neared the bank we spotted a family of ducks and got closer than we normally would have so the kids could take a look. We turned from our zig and went back to zagging without difficulty, making us confident. When we approached the pedestrian bridge it was obvious our mast was too tall to fit underneath but our new confidence meant we skirted closer to take advantage of the winds. One man hollered down “Need a push?” as he passed us on foot while we slowly turned.
On one close turn the wind died down, leaving us drifting and still moving toward the bridge. I let out the sail, tried to turn the boat but we just kept drifting. 20 feet. 15. 10. I fought rising panic as our catamaran seemed bent on hitting the cement structure. “Uh, Jason, do something!” I hollered desperately.
“Like what? I can’t make it go. We’re going to have to get in and push it.”
Since I was on the side closest to the bridge I leaped overboard and shoved at the nearest pontoon, relieved when it moved easily and in the right direction-away from the bridge. I’m sure people have run into the bridge before, but I didn’t want to join that group. After pushing the Hobie to a safe distance I realized the side of the boat was almost at eye level from my position in the water. I kicked and tried to pull myself up, a dismal failure that made me realize I might have jumped in too quickly. I could barely get my arm over the pontoon, much less to the strap in the center of the webbing that I had pulled myself up with yesterday after pushing the boat off the sandbar. Jason had the line for the sail in one hand and the tiller in the other, he couldn’t help me and the girls were too little.
I kicked again and lunged for the strap, but I missed. Rory and June were getting scared, and each pull on the boat was moving it back toward the bridge. I kicked for a minute and got away from danger again, then readied myself for a final lunge. If I couldn’t get myself back on the boat I’d have to hang off the side paddling the rest of the way back and we were still very far out. I bobbed down, then kicked hard and grabbed the strap. But it wasn’t enough-I couldn’t haul my body weight up out of the water with just one arm.
With no wind to fight and far enough away from the bridge not to worry, Jason let the sail go, grabbed my life jacket and hauled as I pulled. My torso finally slid up onto the pontoon. I was safely back onboard. Applause and cheers broke out from the amused walkers on the bridge who had watched the whole thing. I vowed 2 things: 1) to start doing push ups and 2) not to sail close to the bridge again, although this was due more to the hecklers than the almost collision.
The later it got the more the winds died down. We hadn’t thought about this when boldly choosing our course, and now we realized with only light winds blowing away from the dock it would be trickier to get back. Our rental was supposed to be for an hour, but we were easily out for two. We could see the staff waiting for us on the dock, the marina now closed, and as we drifted slowly back and forth two of them finally got in a paddleboat and came out to tow us in. At least there was no crowd left to witness it.
So far sailing is more work than I thought, especially when you get off the boat and have to get back on. Gray’s Lake is a busy place and our mistakes are embarrassingly public. Oh well, who cares what strangers think? We’ll be the ones laughing when we are sailing our own boat someday. Maybe one a little bigger. And with a ladder.