Friday, May 8, 2015

Dead Calm: My First Time Sailing

This is Lucid.

Lucid at dock

She's a Catalina 25 that calls the Washington DC area of the Potomac River home. She is also the first sailboat I had ever been underway on* and, later, the first sailboat I ever skippered and the first I ever single-handed. Cat 25s are nice little boats; durable, easy to operate, and very forgiving of mistakes.

It was November of 2011 and Lucid's owner, my long-time friend and soon-to-be sailing mentor Ryan (whom I still affectionately refer to as "Skipper"), had arranged to take himself, myself, and three other long-time friends (known collectively "the guys") sailing. I can't speak for the other guys, but I was excited. It was my first time sailing and I was curious to see what it was like.

The trip was a lot of fun from a "hanging out with the guys" standpoint. We talked, we had a few drinks, and generally got to catch up. "The guys" have been friends since middle school, close to thirty years now, and we generally only get together once or twice a year. But when we do get together it's always a good time.

Blue sky, white sails, wind
However, from a sailing standpoint I would later come to realize that the day was very, well, boring. There was almost no wind. We had to motor down past the Wilson Bridge before we could even put Lucid's sails up, and when we finally did, we just barely maintained steerage.

An underview of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge
We puttered around the Potomac just south of the Wilson bridge for a few hours, then we headed back to the dock. You're probably thinking to yourself that this sounds like a very dull sailing story, but in a way I think that's a good thing. I got introduced to sailing gradually; it wasn't until my second or third time out with Ryan that I experienced sufficient wind to heel the boat any great amount, and had I gotten hit with that on this day, I may not have come back. But since the day was so calm, I got to enjoy myself and take my first pictures on the water.

What are all these ropes for?
I had visited tall ships before so I had some concept of the vast amount of ropes, cables, poles, etc. that went into making a sailboat sail, but I had no idea that smaller sailboats also had such a collection of ropes. I commented on this and Ryan gave me my very first sailing lesson: "There are no ropes on a boat, only lines."

Years later, I still tell rookie sailors the same thing.

After a few hours of trying to sail, we gave up on the wind, dropped our sails, and motored back to the marina. I feel pretty comfortable saying that this day led me to my current love of sailing which has had a huge impact on my life. Thanks Skipper.

*(Strictly speaking, I had been on a sailboat underway before, but only once as a toddler. I don't remember that rather harrowing incident but, according to my father, it was a close call. But that's another 'blog post....)

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