Chasing the Wind

October 13th, 2012

Visualization did not work! My “thought rehearsals” omitted the repeated mutiny attempts by the wind and the boat. At the end, I prevailed.

Same boat, the Mercury, and I showed off my perfectly done bowline knot. Just about to hoist up the mainsail. “Stop!” Elena shouted from afar. “You needed to turn the boat around before you hoist up the mainsail.” Ah, right. The boat must points upwind (called “in the iron”) before hoisting up the the sails. Five minutes later, Elena pushed out the bow, and I was out — without colliding with any object.

The plan was simple: explore and understood every wind directions. Since I went out with broad reach from port side (wind blew from behind, from the left side), that’s how I would start. First was to find the transition between broad reach and running (wind directly behind). When the boat is running, the mainsail blocks the wind from the jib. So I steered the boat, slowly, until the jib went limp. Ha! Got it! The intention was to steer it back. But the momentum of the boat kept going and I did a “unplanned jibe.” The boom (horizontal bar at the bottom of the mainsail) swept across the deck with such authority! I ducked just in time to avoid being knocked off the boat. No matter, improvise! I practiced the same, only with broad reach from the starboard side now.

It started raining! Rain drops rolled off the Marmot jacket and disappeared into the jeans. Calmly, I put my cell phone and wallet into the jacket pockets and zip them up. Time to formulated a plan to go back.

Remember I went out with a broad reach? Going back would be against the wind. I would need to tack back and forth to move toward the destination. This, I guess, is what racing is all about — there is a trade-off between the total distance against the frequency of tacking. I decided to minimize tacks. So I crossed the lake, tacked port-side 90 degrees, another one starboard-side, and repeat with more precision to enter the dock. The plan worked beautifully. I approached the nice parking spot at the end of the pier. A gentle turn paralleled the boat. The jib was long ago let flapping. I let loose the main sheets and walked up with the stern line in hand, like a pro.

During all those turns, I was in need of an extra hand. The jib has two sheets (ropes are called sheets) on each side. When the boat turned, I needed to let go the one I am holding and grab the other one, always had been pulled to the stopper knot. After several turns, I learned to grab that one, cleat nicely within reach, then make the turn. As the boat turned, I would just pull. Such a simple trick! This is what experience is all about.

Just when I had tied the stern line, the wind came and blew the bow out to the water. I found myself staring at the butt of the boat, and not knowing how to reach the bow line. Elena appeared, out of thin air, next to me and shook her head, “You should have walked up with your bow line. There is nothing we could do now. You need to sail out and come back again.” I untied the bow line, walked up the boat, sailed out, circled back, docked again, this time walked up with the bow line. Like a pro, I might add.

I took down the jib, folded it up, and put it in the bag. Took down the mainsail, tied it on the boom, and put on its cover. Then I stood there, blank-minded, and let the adrenaline recede.

I was drenched, tired, thirsty, and content with myself. Oh, the rain stopped somewhere when I was still in the water.

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