Yard-sails Kinda Suck…

Ya gotta love it when shit comes together.

It doesn’t always happen as fast as you might like, but if you stick to something you want to accomplish, you can’t help but make progress.

After breaking my wrist last summer, and somehow letting myself get sucked into 70-hour work weeks at a job I wasn’t all that fond of, my first boating season was a bit of a bust, somewhat literally. A few times out on the water, and then it was October before I knew it.

I wouldn’t say I’ve been dicking around this summer, but I definitely haven’t pushed myself as hard as I could have when it came to my sailing ambition. I’ve spent far more hours helping my buddy work on restoring his boat, putting his trimaran in the water, messing around with our sailboat dinghy, and immersing myself in writing projects. All worthy and commendable activities which I don’t begrudge in the least, but I haven’t actually had the balls to take my own sailboat out by myself.

So yesterday I finally said Fuck it!

The summer is winding down, and I need all the practice I can get. Unless there’s a hurricane blowing in, I’m taking this floating symbol of freedom out on the water every chance I can, even if no one experienced is around to hold my girly hand. Time to grab the reigns and see what I’m made of.

The adventure started out in less than stellar fashion. Being tightly sandwiched by power boats that could probably house a team of migrant tobacco farmers, the margin of error slipping out of my dock is on the small side. I haven’t practiced this procedure nearly as much as I should have, because I always kept a handy excuse at the ready to justify my intimidation – too much wind today, the engine’s acting up, too many people are around, whatever. Lame.

The exit attempt was pathetic. My 3-point turn became problematic when I realized I couldn’t clear the dinghy hanging off one of the powerboats. Fuck. It quickly became a 9-point turn. Then my engine decided to take an unexpected coffee break –  didn’t even bother to share a latte with me. So there I was, floating derelict, drifting into quarter million dollar yachts with pretty much no back-up game plan to consider. (Note to self: invest in a better reaching pole, perhaps one not made of driftwood – rustic, earthy symbolism isn’t always functional or appropriate)

One last fit of desperation got my engine running again as I drifted backwards, waving happily to the old guy on the other dock, as if I knew what I was doing, while chugging shamefully back to my own.

I tied up and freaked myself out for a bit. Here came the excuses – too many people around, harbour is too tight, my engine is unreliable, blah, blah, blah. I was content to quit and wait for tomorrow’s light to try again.

But then I reflected on something I just posted. A rant about not giving a shit what other people think.  You can read that here. Yeah, eyes are on me right now as I’m fucking up. So what? What am I afraid of? Looking stupid, having people think I’m an inexperienced and dangerous jerk-off? All of these things are true! I have nothing to hide. The only way I’m gonna get better at this is by practicing.

I took a couple deep breaths, grabbed my screw-driver and cranked up the idle a touch. I rehearsed a new strategy in my mind, pivoting off my dock line to put me in the position I needed to be in to escape the confines of this harbour. I got back in my cockpit and eased the crappy throttle into reverse.

Fucking perfect. A textbook exit with nothing but the wind waiting for me out on the lake.

And waves.

Some rather big-ass waves. The kind that had me swaying in my cockpit like I’d just finished two bottles of rum for breakfast. My boat isn’t exactly set up for efficient single-handing, which means I have to climb up on deck to raise the sail from the mast. I weighed my options, and reluctantly decided this wasn’t the day for the solo sail. Not a fear thing, more of a practicality issue – I needed to rehearse this procedure several times in calmer waters. I needed a lash on my tiller. I needed my sail cover removed in the harbour. I needed a portable toilet on deck as a preferable option to shitting my pants.

This was a needed learning curve. No self-deprecation warranted for failure.

The next morning arrives. Winds are moderate and the lake is calm enough. I’m fucking ready.

The exit is flawless. I’m getting better each time. Before I know it, I’m on the lake, I cut my engine, lash my tiller, and climb up on deck. What next?

Glory. The main sail is up. Globs of mud start raining down on me from all the wasp nests unknowingly built up in my sail as it was bundled. Wasp larva wriggle all over my boat in the golden sunlight. I’m piggy-backing a great blue mass of undulating energy and letting the winds push me to my destiny (or at least in a 5-mile radius for now). Cool!!

I’m feeling comfortable and relaxed. I decide to forgo letting out the jib sheet, as I have no furling for it, which means walking out to the bow to release it. But I think back to yesterday. Why put this off? I’ve come this far, why not go all out?

The winds have picked up, but I decide it’s now or never. What happens next?

Not so much glory. I foul up the lines. My tiller lash lets loose. The boat starts turning wildly as I race back to the cockpit slipping on the dozens of mud balls scattered all over the deck.

My heart seems to be pounding a little more forcefully than I’m used to, but I get control of the jib-lines and set the sail.

I’m fucking flying now! Why did I hesitate to do this?

I spend the next few hours practicing tacking and learning how to set the sails to travel any direction. The weather starts turning a bit ominous, so I decide to head in for the day. I get my jib sheet down with minimal issue, and drop my main before the harbour.

Engine gets fired up, and I putt back to my dock, slipping it in with gentle accuracy as if I had the slightest fucking clue what I was doing.

She’s all tied up, and this time I don’t breathe a sigh of relief. This time a new wave of thoughts rolls into my head: “I can’t wait to go out again. I’m fucking made for this. All goals and dreams are possible if you say fuck you to fear.”

Inexperience and insecurity don’t have to hold you back. The only way to get good at anything is to dive in and experience the situation. The only way to learn is to practice, make note of your fuck-ups, and keep at it.

That’s what I’m doin’.

We’ll see where the wind blows.

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