Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Learning to sail

When I was nine or ten years old, my father taught me how to sail.  It was a hot summer day.  The water was warm.

The first thing we did was get the smallest little sailing dingy (I forget what it is today) and learn to rig it. 

We sat there on the grass, at the Navy yacht club in Florida, putting it together and taking it apart a few times until I could do it myself.  There would be a pile of parts at one point and, after mounting mast, hanking on the sail, running the sheets; sailboat in about 30 minutes,

After that we took it down to the dock and put it in the water. It sat there floating beside the dock.  Just as I was asking what we were going to do next, my dad picked me up and threw me in the water next to the boat.  I came to the surface to find him laughing -- at me. 

"Climb in," he said.

I did. It took a few tries as he held the bowline so the little dingy didn't float away, but I made it into the boat.  It was kinda fun, actually.

Then he jumped in the water with me (it was only about four feet deep there) and knocked the boat down so the mast was in the water. 

"This is how you right it," he said as he showed me how.

Then he knocked the boat down again and said, "you do it."

And I did -- a few times.

"Now you aren't scared of dumping your sailboat.  Why don't you bail it out and I will teach you to sail," he said, tossing a cut open bleach bottle at me.

With the boat bailed out, dad climbed in and we took off for a bit. Dad showed me where to sit (windward).  He showed me how handle the main sheet while he handled the tiller.  He had me handle the tiller while he handled the main sheet.  He showed me how to point up or release the mainsheet to depower the boat and keep it on it's feet.  Then he handed me both controls and had me sail towards the dock.  We practiced pulling up to the dock without crashing into it.  Once we were there, Dad hopped out and said, "take off that way, I'll be right behind you."

He climbed in another larger dingy and followed me out.  We had a good time putting around in the bay, him giving me pointers, and me learning the boat.

So, that day I learned to rig a boat, how to climb back in one, how to right one, how to sail and how to dock. Yes, in one day. May dad was a great teacher.

Years later, as I sailed other smaller boats I can honestly say I never capsized one but I wasn't afraid if I did.  Oh, I came close sometimes but, the confidence he gave me that day, the way he impressed upon me how to not let a boat get out from under me, really made a difference in my sailing and taught me not to be afraid of the boat.

The second anniversary of his passing comes this next Tuesday.  Thanks dad.

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