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Monday, November 7, 2011

Magic


It was cold and windy enough on Saturday that we waited until afternoon to get out on the boat.  The sky was dotted with clouds, but enough blue showed through to be called mostly sunny.  It was only about fifty-five degrees and the wind was steady at ten knots with gusts to fifteen, right on the edge of where we feel comfortable sailing Willadine.

We bundled up in long johns, hats and windbreakers and made a brilliant getaway from the dock with the newly serviced motor running like a champ.  Hooray for Fred!  The lake was reflecting the sky and ringed with trees in various colors, like autumn confetti.  We certainly felt like celebrating.

Whenever possible we like to sail upwind to start and then have a leisurely sail downwind back, so we headed east toward the dam in the northeasterly wind.  We had reefed the main (reduced the sail area) but we noticed the boat had a significant amount of lee helm.  (For you landlubbers, this means that the wind was pushing the mainsail downwind, causing the helmsman to have to steer hard upwind to compensate.)

Eric had the brilliant idea to let out some jib, and with just a handkerchief of jib, the lee helm disappeared.  We surmised that the jib was improving the performance of the main by directing some of the wind over the lee side of it and also that somehow the jib “balances” the boat and makes her sail more properly.  We were extremely pleased with ourselves.

We neared the dam as the sun was getting low and I noticed the golden light of dusk hitting some red clay on the shore ahead lighting it up against the dark clouds behind.  Looking the other way, that sun came through the trees and they lit up chartreuse and orange, with tinges of scarlet and green against the sparkling water and darkening sky and the moon rising like a fat “D” above it all.

With the sails up, cruising along, it’s very quiet.  You can hear the water lapping on the hull and the occasional tap of a line on the mast.  When a gust of wind comes, it sometimes makes the rigging hum in a pleasured sort of way.  Above the sail, I noticed some white spots wheeling around in a group.  Seagulls.  They soared and dove above us and moved down along the lake and disappeared.  I longed to hear their sound, but they were silent.  Maybe seagulls only cry at sea.  I wonder why they came to the lake.  Do they go inland for a vacation, maybe?  They certainly looked like they were having a frolic, the way they flew so wildly around each other.  I could almost smell the sea.

Whenever a gust would come up, Willadine would catch it and take off.  If I got distracted with the trees or the wildlife and headed up to close to the wind, the jib would luff (flap) and warn me to steer off.  We felt the motion of the water moving the boat and the wind on our cheeks.  The very air all around us would take us where we wanted to go, with little effort on our parts, like magic.

This is the magic of sailing.  It satisfies so many of my longings all at once.  It satisfies my need for water, which I’ve had all my life, and my need for adventure, another lifelong desire, as well as my need for love and intimacy, since Eric is there to share it with me.  I feel very content on the boat, to ride the water and the wind and let it take me both out of and into life itself.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Kids on the Boat







Kids on the Boat

An entire weekend without seeing our dear Willadine was killing Eric, so we conspired to do a quick trip between our massive birthday party and Halloween, which ended up being on my birthday, Sunday October 30.  Eric had made wild suggestions such as we should get up at dawn, pack the kids in the car and take off.

Of course, I overindulged, not in alcohol, but in sugar and woke up at 2am feeling rather ill.  So, dawn didn’t happen, but poor Eric was a like a puppy waiting for a walk, bouncing around, packing the cooler (usually my job) and loading the car with all the necessaries the kids and I dragged to the door.

We managed to get out around ten, which I thought was pretty good and we stopped at McD’s for breakfast for the kids.  By the time they were into the hashbrowns, they were fully awake and raring to go.  We suffered the book-on-tape, while Eric drove and I dozed.  It was pleasant in the sun, with the tree shadows flying by and before we knew it we were there.

Woozy from the drive and the book, the kids looked around John W’s wooded yard.  “Where are we?” They asked.  Eric was out of the car and on his way down to the boat as he called back over his shoulder, “The boat!  We’re here!”  So we all went tearing down to see our baby, patiently waiting by the dock.  I swear I think she trembled a bit to see us coming.  The kids didn’t even recognize her in the water, but they got used to the rocking real fast.

We were unable to get the motor back from Fred at Fred’s Boats, because Fred’s dad is in the hospital and not doing well, so we had planned to just use John’s trolling motor.  It worked fine before.  I cast off and Eric headed her around to back out.  She started to go and then stopped.  There was just enough wind (wind!) to prevent our turn.  It was directly out of the north, the way we needed to go and I know both Eric and I were wondering if we could possibly tack in that narrow cove.  (No, we could not.)

Luckily John came down when he saw us floundering around and suggested we through him a line.  I suggested that I jump in the water and pull her around, but it was fairly cold and I was glad when Eric began tying lines together to reach back to the dock.  His first throw was perfect except the two lines came mysteriously apart.  The next throw was perfect and John pulled us around easily and we headed off.   Apparently the motor can make headway against a three knot wind, but not if it’s blowing on our beam.

We got out and raised the sails and our sweet girl heeled over gently and took off.  I was worried the kids would be uncomfortable with the heeling, but they were delighted and begged to go up on the bow.  The wind was fairly stiff at first, so we suggested they go below.  Next thing we knew they were singing, “Yo, ho, ho and a bottle of rum!” and taking long draughts on two liter bottles of Pepsi leftover from the party.

Eric looked at me.  I looked at Eric.  The kids were raucous, laughing hysterically and slapping each other on the back.

“Um, does that have caffeine?”  Eric asked me.  “Oh no!  And sugar too!”  Soon my two granola kids were wired out of their minds.  Giggling and swaggering around, George rummaged around and pulled a neon green pistol out of his pillowcase.  Tossing it to Lucy, who was singing, in between pulls on her bottle, he pulled out another pistol and a wicked-looking plastic knife.  Those lake pirates did not stand a chance.

Eric and I managed a tack and the kids lolled over with gales of laughter.  George came up through the hatch and trained his gun on a far-off powerboat.  They were doomed.  More hilarity ensued.  Eric and I just shook our heads, wondering what on earth caused someone to bring Pepsi with sugar and caffeine to a party with kids, and what possessed Eric to pack the accursed stuff to the boat.  But they were kind of hilarious and it was so nice and pleasant in the sun we just smiled at each other and shrugged.

Luckily it wore off pretty fast and they settled into the V-berth to read.  Eric and I relaxed in the cockpit as the wind died and we agreed it was wise to stay close to John’s in case the motor couldn’t make it too far.  We find that as long as we’re on Willadine, we have a good time and that was certainly the case.  It was cool, maybe fifty-five degrees, but the sun was warm and we were dressed for it and the water was beautiful and sparkly reflecting the blue sky.

It was over too soon and we sailed back to the dock and went to have Chinese and birthday cake with Grandma Betsy who was delighted to see us.  There was that little incident with the puppy poo, but never mind that.  We stumbled back to the boat after dark and I managed to get the kids to brush their teeth while Eric pulled out all the bedding.  Lucy had a fit about wanting the green (warmer) sleeping bag and I let her have it.  I knew better, but was too tired to fight with her.  Poor George was up at 4am just freezing.  It was below freezing outside and he’s just skin and bones.  He climbed in with us and was warm and asleep in a jiffy.

In the morning we dropped the kids off and took The Toaster (my car)  to Fred’s to collect the motor.  We found Fred to be a surprisingly warm, friendly kind of guy, who gave us the scoop on the Tohatsu (it’s a good motor, but don’t lay it down on the wrong side again!) and one of his guys had it settled down in The Toaster on protective cardboard before we were done paying the bill.

On the way back we stopped at the Information Grocery to see about a breakfast biscuit, but they were gone already.  Eric said that’s why they call it the Information Grocery, because all the guys were hanging around gossiping in there.  So we stopped at the one other possibility where a middle-aged country woman fixed and heated two biscuits while we looked at the Indian Artifact Museum in the back.  There was an impressive array of spear-tips and stone tools and some very cool pottery pieces, including some doll heads, which I had never seen before.  It always gives me a queer feeling to think about the people that made them, thousands of years ago.

It feels funny to me to think about the discovery of sailing too.  Who dreamed that up?  It sure is awesome though.  I’m still dreaming of the sea, but I’m not pushing that with Eric.  It’s too cold now, anyway.  The lake will do.  It’s pretty sweet.  Definitely my best birthday ever.