We aren't quite at this level...
So, for those of you who are keeping count, Dan and I have been sailing this year a grand total of… three times. Well, actually he’s been three, and I’ve been sailing twice and trying frantically to find somewhere to land the boat once. Seeing as it is almost the end of May you might be wondering where all of our sailing stories are. There are a couple of reasons (see: excuses) why we haven’t seen as much wind this spring as we had originally anticipated, but hope to improve over the summer.
- First, the weather has been crazy. All week it will be beautiful sailing weather, then its freezing and rainy all weekend.
- Also complicating our plans is that our boat is not currently in a slip. This might not sound like a big complication, but it takes significantly longer prep time to have to pick up the boat and step the mast before heading out on the water. It pretty much limits our sailing time to weekends except for in the middle of the summer when there is a lot more daylight time to work with.
- Finally, Dan’s brother Kyle has been working most weekends, and due to my status as resident weakling, we need help stepping the mast.
Now that I’ve got all of the logical reasons out of the way, here’s the embarrassing one: we’re a little afraid of another disaster. Our confidence has been somewhat injured by our failures so far. (Though one of our 3 days was actually perfect.) Kyle, Becca, Dan and I actually had the boat down at a marina on Sunday, but we chickened out after watching another boat glide peacefully out of the harbor, only to get practically laid down as soon as they hit the 20 mph winds on the river. We just aren’t ready for dealing with that yet.
No worries, though! We haven’t given up, we are just going to get a little confidence boost before doing anything else crazy. Dan and I are taking a sailing class starting in June that should get us right back to our good-old-selves. Nothing like a little hands-on where the most experienced sailor in the boat isn’t the one who took the free online class! In the meantime, we’re going on a sweet dive vacation to Bull Shoals, Arkansas…full details forthcoming.
I have a confession to make. I’m afraid of water. Growing up, my whole family was uncomfortable when in the water. I didn’t learn how to swim until I was eight years old, and I’m sure that Carter will be a better swimmer than me by the time he’s five. I don’t even like getting my face wet in the shower…yea, it’s pretty stupid I know.
A year ago, Dan started talking about getting our SCUBA certifications. Kyle and Becca, his brother and sister-in-law, had already gotten theirs and went diving in Mexico for their honeymoon and had really enjoyed it. The idea of scuba diving made me want to hyperventilate… which is somewhat ironic considering that I’ve willingly jumped out of a plane three times and I would have no problem doing it again. I just don’t like to be underwater. But I decided to go ahead and bite the bullet; if Becca could do it, then I could do it.
For the most part, our class was uneventful. I wasn’t even the worst one there! The only problem that I had was taking off my mask underwater and having to clear it again (see above statement about getting my face wet.) It was time for our certification dives at Haigh Quarry in Kankakee, Illinois. I wasn’t too worried, because I knew I could do everything. Unfortunately, I had decided to buy a new mask from our dive shop and hadn’t tested it yet. Bad idea. As soon as I would go under water, my mask would instantly start filling with water. I am ashamed to admit that I started freaking out, not quite hyperventilation, but definitely freaking out. I was done with this. Luckily, our instructor that day noticed my problem and traded masks with me so that I could complete my dives. Poor guy had to wear a pink mask all day.
I’m happy to report that while I’m not entirely cured of my fears of the water, I do really like scuba diving. Diving in the Caribbean was one of the most amazing things that I have experienced. For now, I’m happy to just go diving with Dan. I’m not interested in starting Divemaster training like he is until I am significantly more comfortable. However, there is something to be said for facing your fears. The confidence earned is definitely worth the cost.
Good bye awesome car
Yesterday was a sad day in the life of my car ownership… I just sold the best car that I will ever own (previously of My Car and I went Diving fame). Car ownership and cruising don’t exactly go hand in hand, do they? Let me say that I like cars. I like driving, I like racing (not NASCAR, that doesn’t make sense to me), etc… I had a Saab 9-3 Aero with a 6 speed manual transmission. The engine was V6 Turbo Charged. That’s 276 screaming horse power in a sedan. I actually never lost a race, even against BMWs, Mercedes, Porches, Corvettes, and other less worthy challengers.
It just wasn’t to be, however. Finance guru Michele figured out that we could save an additional $13,000 before our cast off if we traded my car for a cheaper one that we paid cash for. That $13,000 is around a year’s worth of expenses while cruising. Needless to say a year cruising the ocean beats a year cruising my 9-3 Aero to work any day… but it was still hard to drive off the lot leaving it behind. It is one thing to know and understand that following our dreams will require us to get rid of pretty much everything we own, but its another thing altogether to put those words into action. It’s bittersweet. I feel awesome that Michele was able to figure out how to save an additional year’s worth of expenses without needing to wait any longer before we cast off.
We now have one major To-Do List item checked off: pay off one of our car loans. We plan on doing the same with our other Saab 9-3 (yes, we used to own two…) in the future, but paying cash for our new GMC Jimmy kind of knocked our savings down temporarily. We will probably get nearly all of what we paid for the GMC back when we sell it, but we don’t have the cash to buy another car immediately. One car payment down, one to go, and a future to look forward to. Follow your dreams. Follow the Horizon.
After our second time sailing on the MacGregor, Michele and I decided to invite my youngest brother Alex, his girlfriend Stephanie, and my parents along for the ride. It was a bad idea. I guess after our second voyage I was pretty confident and felt that while I had not mastered sailing (if one can even “master” sailing) but I had at least established a foundation upon which to build. The wind was a steady 10-15 knots and gusting above 20… again a bad idea for trip number three. We had learned from our previous experiences when the river drops enough to lower the keel, when it was best to raise the main, etc. All in around 5-10 knots of wind. Not 10-15.
We raised the main too early. By “too early” I mean we weren’t yet in the channel and we couldn’t yet fully lower the keel… again a bad idea. This left us with two choices #1 sail with the keel not lowered far enough or sail with the keel dragging. We decided on not lowered far enough. This allowed us to at least move the boat into the channel at which point we would be able to lower the keel and point to wind. However, perhaps a little to leery of repeating my first sailing adventure, I did not want to go with the wind past the marina as we did in the first voyage. Again, a bad idea. Forcing the boat into the wind with the keel not in the correct position caused the high (for me) wind to push the boat down wind even though we were pointed around 60 degrees off wind. So at this point I have my parents, younger brother and girlfriend, wife, and baby on a boat that is pointed one way yet going another. Enough is enough, I am not too prideful to admit that I am not yet experienced enough to attempt the current circumstances. I decided to cut my losses and return to the marina.
We lower the mainsail and begin (electric) motoring back to the marina. At this point the wind begins blowing at a steady 20 knots. At least I made the decision prior to the wind picking up, right? Now all I have to deal with is a light boat that drafts 11 inches bobbing in 3 feet of water (can’t lower the keel) that is broadside to 20 knots of wind. With a trolling motor. Needless to say direction the bow was pointed had much less to do with the direction of travel than the force of the wind on the side of the boat. Even though we were motoring significantly windward of the marina entrance we ended up 500 or so feet down wind of the entrance. The little motor, while perfect once we are in the marina, was not capable of making headway against the wind. Dismayed, I turned the boat down wind and stopped at the free city boat launches about a quarter mile down river from our marina. The free boat launch lacks most things you would think are necessary at a boat launch… like a dock to stop at so you can disembark and retrieve the trailer. It fell to myself to jump in the water and walk the boat to a safe spot while I walked back to the marina. While I was moving the boat to a safe spot I kicked an underwater rock and broke a toe on my left foot. So let me recap my situation at this point for you, just in case you have lost track of the dismal events… I am standing in three feet of cold, murky water with only a coat, life preserver, and boxer shorts on pulling a boat that is being pushed by the wind, and just broke my toe with my family watching on. Extremely embarrassing. And now I am sharing this story with you… also embarrassing.
This pretty much sums up how I was feeling
I do not share this simply to embarrass myself. I share this story because it truly reminded me how different the cruising life will be from what I am used to. A more experienced sailor would have had no problems whatsoever in 10-15 knots of wind. Matter of fact we saw three other similarly sized boats sailing around. At the low point of the voyage (standing in the muck in my boxers) I couldn’t help but have a moment of introspection… What the hell was I doing?
No one but Michele and I are going to make our dream of cruising become a reality for us. I am acutely aware that there will be times when things won’t work out the way we expect, people will (and already do) think we are crazy, but we are following our dream. The purpose of buying a sailboat now was to learn to sail… and that’s what we’re doing. It’s not always going to be easy.
Sailing right were we are
Recently, Tillerman of Proper Course issued a “writing project” to complete his Top 10 list of best places to sail with one of your own. The challenge was open ended, the destination could be a favorite vacation spot, local secret, or anything in between. When I first read it, I thought “we haven’t really sailed anywhere too exciting” (though our first attempt was fairly exciting in itself even without an exotic destination.) But then I realized that I did have the answer to his question. What is the best sailing destination? It’s wherever your boat is floating right now.
Don’t get me wrong here, I’m sure that there are much preferable places to sail a boat than the Illinois River, or some little lake by where you live. But isn’t the point of sailing to just be on the water? Anywhere? To throw off the lines and feel the wind in your face, even if it isn’t tinged with sea salt? Is the joy of the water dependent on the type of sand beneath it? I certainly don’t think so.
We are just beginning our journey to start our lives as cruisers and we still have a long way to go. We’re never going to learn to sail unless we go sailing, and if that means getting our feet wet in the muddy river with a channel hardly wide enough for decent tacking so be it. Sure we’re looking forward to the white sand beaches and trade winds in the future, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t have some amazing days of sailing right where we are, enjoying the same sun setting below the distant horizon.
Those far off destinations might be fantastic, but you have to start wherever your boat is right now… you certainly won’t get there by sitting in front of a computer screen thinking about how nice it would be to be staring down at crystal clear waters in the Bahamas. White sand beaches, crystal clear water, and the trandwinds at your back beat a muddy river any day… just don’t forget that sailing in a muddy river beats sitting at home any day. Where’s the best place to go sailing? Right where you are.
Follow your dreams. Follow the Horizon.