Tuesday 20 October 2020

Me vs The Boat....Part 3 - Lessons in how not to sail

If you haven't caught up, you can find Part 1 here and Part 2 here

So just to briefly catch us all up, we got a boat, the motor is kind of shit, we haven't successfully done anything, and we are not at all good at this. 

It was time for some professional help. And by that, what I mean is that we booked a lesson and got handed off to a 16 year old girl working for the summer at a sailing club. This poor thing then got stuck in a boat with two adults, one of whom couldn't go in a straight line if she was tied to it. 

Because we were so late in the season, all the normal learn how to sail group lessons were fully booked and our only option was a private lesson. This was fine with me; it was a 4 hour round trip drive just to get there, so going every Thursday night for 6 weeks just wasn't an option. I thought that that if we just did an intensive solo lesson for a day, we would at least get the basics and maybe make it off the dock next time.

And this was technically true; my husband did pick up the basics. I picked up a new fear of jibing and a bone deep feeling of inadequacy.   

We were put into a tiny 14 foot dinghy, which felt too small for the amount of chop on the lake. Apparently it wasn't though, because just in front of us was a group of 4-7 year old kids who were also learning how to sail. They were going in a straight line. 

Our teenager showed us the ins and outs of making the boat go and then handed the tiller over the my husband. He did a perfectly respectable job of keeping us on course, and I did a perfectly respectable job of remaining calm. Up until we did the first tack. 

For those of you who don't know (and I counted myself as one of those until recently), tacking and jibing are boat words for turning. Boats have a lot of what I think are unnecessarily complicated boat words for things that already have words, but that will need to be a later post. Suffice to say, we turned the boat, which put the wind on the other side of us. The other thing that happens when you tack or jibe, is that the boom swings over, the balance of the boat shifts, and you can heel over. Heeling is another boat word for the boat tipping over and making you feel like you're going to die. 

At this point, the agile 16 year old would leap over all the shit in the bottom of the boat, sit on the opposite edge, and balance us again. She didn't look panicked, so ok, maybe I could deal with this. Don't tip too much, and I'm ok. 

We went back and forth for a while with my husband keeping us firmly under control, so of course it was decided that it was time for me to take over and utterly destroy any feeling of calm or confidence I'd so painstakingly developed. I'd gotten surprisingly good at trimming the sails, and I was feeling ok about it, so it was definitely time to ruin that. 

Going into it, part of me thought that maybe it wouldn't be that bad. I was very wrong. First, I was handed the boat at a point where the wind and chop had picked up quite a bit. Perfect. I was also told almost immediately that we needed to jibe. Ok. We'd done a few tacks, how much different could the jibe be? Turns out it was very different.  

What's also very different is that with a tiller (boat word for shitty steering stick) is that everything is opposite. Want to go left? Push the tiller to the right. Want to go right? Go left.  That day I learned that my spatial orientation skills are absolute shit. I just couldn't coordinate my brain and my hand so we zig zagged all over the place. Then she tells me it's time to jibe. Just push the tiller all the way over to the one side and we'd turn, the boom would swing, and we would be going the other way. Cool. 

What she failed to mention is that you don't push the tiller ALL the way over, very quickly. Nor did she mention that unlike the nice slow tacks, this turn would happen at the speed of an out of control cheetah. And finally, she definitely neglected to say that when these things all combine together, you need to gracefully leap over to the other side of the boat to shift the weight so you don't dip the fucking edge of the boat in the water. 

All of these things happened in rapid succession.

We began our jibe very...aggressively. The boat heeled way over, and then spun in very tight circles repeatedly, because rather than gently pushing us into the turn, I thrust us into it like a motivated gym rat, and held it there. My brain could not respond fast enough to that whole "go the opposite way you think you should" thing, so I just held the tiller where it was and hoped for the best.  Then instead of gracefully leaping to the other side of the boat to correct any of this, I flung my body to the other side, and smoked my knee into the tiller in the process. 

I should mention at this point, that while doing all this, I was definitely not supposed to let go of the tiller or the head sail rope that I was also holding. 

I most definitely did let go of everything. This did not help.

Somehow, and I'm not sure how because my full concentration was on not screaming out loud in front of the teenage instructor, she got us back on track and sorted out. She even gave me back the tiller despite my protests, but didn't make the obviously critical error of leaving me alone to my own devices again. 

We finished off the lesson, during which I tried very hard to internalize my terror screaming so as not to make a scene every time the boat heeled over even slightly.  I think I succeeded more or less. At the end, my husband executed a perfect J-turn into the dock, while I just tried not to fall while exiting the boat, because that was about all I could handle at that point. 

I was still pretty sure we'd made a terrible error and should probably sell the boat. 

Also, there are no pictures in the episode, because frankly I had other things to worry about than instagraming the shit out of my day. Like not falling out of the boat, which I didn't do, and consider the main win of the day.

Join me for Part 4 where we try again a few weeks later because I needed some time for my adrenaline levels to return to normal.

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