Monday, September 9, 2013

Sail Away.

The mission this weekend was to do something fun. I had big plans to check out the hot air balloon festival but the winds were so heavy that it wasn't in the cards.

Do you know what heavy winds are good for? Sailing.

TC and all of his friends are sailors. I grew up going to soccer camp, they grew up going to sailing school. John and Andrew both have big sail boats that the boys race regularly. We're lucky enough to live right on the coast so our local marina is packed full of boats that race several times a week in the summers.

The final race of the season was on Saturday. Since the balloon festival was out of the question, TC and I packed up and headed out to the big red boat named Courage. She's 33 feet long and, thankfully, has a bathroom. This is always a good thing when you're a girl and heading out to sail the seven seas for the day.

Just because the boys are skillful sailors doesn't mean that I have any clue what is going on. Sure, I know the basics. Courage has two sails - the main and the jib. She even has an extra fancy one called the spinnaker that is flown in certain situations. Other things I know include: ropes are called lines and sheets, the front is called the foredeck, the little strings on the sails are called tell-tails, and that I should always stay the hell out of the way because I don't know what I'm doing.

I've sailed in this particular race twice before. The first time it was so rough that we all spent the day barfing over the side. The second time it was so calm that we actually sailed backwards for a while. This time no one barfed but we did spend the entire time hanging on for dear life while the waves soaked us.

The boys have done this a million times so if there isn't a broken mast in the middle of a lightening storm, they don't panic. A little high wind is what they consider fun - definitely not enough to warrant squealing and screaming like I do.

I take my cues from John. I can squeal and scream all day, but if John is calm and relaxed than I know we are actually not in any danger of tipping over. Which, is called capsizing, by the way. Even though we cruised at a solid 45 degree angle for the trip, John remained calm. I, on the other hand, held on the to railings for dear life because I was convinced we were going to tip over at any moment.

Here's how this works. The majority of the crew is in the back manning the steering wheel and all the lines that control the sails. They are relatively dry, safe and on level ground back there. The rest of us sit on the side of the boat with our legs hanging over the side. Our legs go under the bottom railing, which is called a life line, and when the boat leans enough we put our head and bodies under the second one to help even out the weight. When you're in this position the boat is leaning way to the side and you're sitting on the high side, which means if you let go you will roll down and right into the water. My advice is to not look down.

Now here's the fun part - turning. When the boat turns it's called tacking or jibing, depending on the direction you turn. Tacking and jibing is pretty fierce in high winds. The boom is a big metal pole that holds the main sail. It comes violently swinging across the boat and if you don't duck under it than you can kiss your head goodbye. Also, you have to very quickly dive across the boat and get yourself to the other side. If not, have fun swimming. Remember, the boat is not level. It's very slanted so it's like quickly climbing a ladder.

On one of the tacks, I didn't move fast enough and TC had to grab me by the jacket and pull me across. On another Franco didn't move fast enough and, as he phrased it, took a 2.5 second dip in the water. Meanwhile, the boat is not exactly a smooth surface. There are bumps and bolts and other thingys that ensure your knees, hips and shins will be peppered with bruises for the next week.

Now, this is all only in really high wind. In normal wind, this is all more relaxed. However, the exhilaration of high wind is what makes it so much fun. Flying across the water with the boat leaning and waves crashing and squealing in slight panic is what makes it an adventure.

Not to mention that in all of this you're trying to not spill your beer. Let's be honest, it's the only way to sail. And probably what keeps John so calm. Remember, I take my panic cues from him. If John is calm, than I should be to. If John is tense, than we are going to die. It's a pretty simple equation.

It should be mentioned that John didn't get tense at all in the race. Neither did Andrew, who was steering. TC wasn't the least bit concerned and actually thought it was quite hilarious to calm my fears with comments like, "Yup, we're about to go over" or "Hang on, we might die."

He's helpful like that.

Once the race was over we dropped our sails and motored out a bit to enjoy the rest of the afternoon. With drinks in our hands, we recapped the day and talked about how awesome it was and how the wind wasn't really that bad and how we might have actually won the race. Wouldn't that be something?

And you know what, we took home the win. The proof is in the red flag.

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