Adventures Of A Recovering Racer Learning To Cruise Amidst The Chaos Of Family Life
Sometimes Sailboats Heel…
We set off for our club’s outstation, a small island nestled among a gaggle of islands at the south end of Gabriola, last Friday night. The wind was forecast to be 10-15 kn NW freshening to 15-25 kn that evening. We left early to try to get the former part of that forecast but once out in the straight found ourselves confronted with the latter blowing directly out of the direction we wanted to go.
I realise that while A. has grown up on the boat, for what ever reason, he hasn’t done that much upwind sailing. If you are not a sailor, upwind sailing would be the part that you refer to as “HOLY CRAP, WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE!” as the boat heels over. The 5 year old version of this is more polite, but also more monotonous. The phrase “MUMMY, THE BOAT IS GOING TO TIP OVER!” or “Why is it doing this?” repeated every minute or two. I explained to him that sailing, the sport that we love, is essentially an activity where the wind is either not strong enough, too strong or coming from the wrong direction but, that kind of philosophy is waaay over the head of a 5 1/2 year old.
However, as a 5 1/2 year old it’s time to appreciate heeling. He’s had the sailboat in his bath for years so understands that it’s the job of a keel to stop the boat tipping over. What we hadn’t thought too much about is that the darn kid is smart and makes connections we don’t draw for him.
“Sweetie, the boat isn’t going to fall over, it has a keel remember? The keel’s job is to stop the boat tipping over.”
“But what if it falls off?”
“Well, it’s held on with some very big bolts. Don’t worry, it won’t fall off.”
“It did on Tony Bullmore’s boat.”
Darn, I guess we didn’t think it through when we started reading him bedtime stories about real sailing heroes. (If you are unaware of the story, in 1997 Tony Bullmore’s keel came off in the southern ocean. His boat flipped upside down and he lived in the upturned hull for 4 days before amazed rescuers found him.)
I gently talked him through a couple hours of upwind sailing. I’m hoping next time he’ll be more used / comfortable with it. – yeah, I know. ‘good luck with that.’
We were sailing with a double reefed main and a reefed genoa and just couldn’t get the sails flat. That’s the catch with having a cruising boat. Darn saggy sails, for the first time I missed our light and nimble race boat with the sails that could be made flat as a board. I finally realised that our failed windy sail in English Bay in the fall wasn’t so much my screw up, but in large parts to do with standing waves and saggy sails.
After three hours, we weren’t making our mark (A.K.A, the island we were heading to. A.K.A the place I was visualising opening the bottle of wine at.) We handed the sails, turned on the engine and looked forward to the prospect of motoring the boat through the waves directly into the wind. J. Took A. down below to warm up and I enjoyed the kind of peace only weird people who are happy driving a straight line in a washing machine on the cold setting enjoy.
The next morning we encountered a pleasant surprise. We had come to the island to volunteer at a work party, the pleasant surprise was that the kind of people that come to work parties are spectacularly awesome. A. Was the only kid and they embraced him with open arms. Once furnished with a can of white paint and a paint brush he painted everything in sight white including himself ending up looking very much like the ‘Abominable Kindergartner’.
I didn’t fare much better – I was detailed to paint the float plane dock bullrail white. Have you ever tried to paint in 20 knots of wind? All I can say is that the small island directly downwind from me is looking beautifully white now.
The day’s work was rounded out by a fantastic dinner provided by the club. A. Is now old enough that we can attend these evening things without too much trouble. Sunshine, wonderful people, a great sail home and a meal I didn’t cook. What can I say, except that the cruising season is well and truly open.