Sailing is amazing: going out on my boat, pulling up the sails, feeling the wind take over, floating at speeds my engine can’t make me go. The silence of the motion, the peace of the journey, the ability to get away from the chaos of the world all are reasons I love sailing. Last Saturday I went out on the boat with a girlfriend. The weather was perfect! Not too hot, not too cold, just right; like Goldy Locks and The Three Bears and her porridge. Perfect.
We had both sails out and full of air. The boat was moving swiftly and quietly through the water. This is why I sail. The peace that comes with harnessing the wind. The being one with nature, yet having her push me along. My friend is actually lying on the bow watching the sky in this picture although you can’t see her.
Later, though, things changed. There are always lessons to learn when I go sailing. I’m still new enough that I have barely touched the tip of the iceberg on what I can learn. Nature had other ideas for later that day.
We traveled along the Pamlico River inland toward Little Washington. I really wanted to see what it would be like to sail to the marina on the waterfront there. I wanted to know if I could do it and I wanted some sort of approximation of distance and time to get there. I was stretching myself a little but the weather was fine and it was still midday. There wasn’t any problem at all. I lowered the sails and motored into the marina and docked. We went on land and bought a late lunch and I marveled that I had arrived at my destination by boat.
Leaving the marina was simple. The wind was low and we motored out. It was late afternoon but the sun was still high enough. I had a little inkling in my stomach that something wasn’t quite right. Nothing major, just a little antsy. I was beginning to wonder if we had waited too long to leave. The sky was still blue, though, and the wind was supposed to pick up some. I didn’t expect we’d have any real problems getting back to my home marina.
Historically, if that’s what six months of boat ownership is, I’ve learned that my electric engine isn’t all that great at staying charged and so I try to use my sails as much as possible, saving the motoring for docking. I love the electric engine; it’s easy to use, just like a car. All you have to do is turn it on and turn it off.
The wind picked up as expected. I set the sails again and we started off. It wasn’t quite a head wind but I still needed to make my way back to the marina in a less direct way. I locate some landmarks and begin to notice they aren’t changing. It feels like we’re sailing, the wind is blowing like crazy. The sails are full but they start to complain. The wind builds so I decide to lower the main and just use my jib. The boat was becoming a bit harder to control. This was a lesson in strength, in negotiation, in compromise. We continued to move forward, some. I motor-sail some. I have a lot of battery left, it shouldn’t be a problem, but I’m worrying a little bit more. I really want to see my slip and tie up for the night. The water is full of waves that occasionally splash us on board. As we go through each swell, my engine loses its purchase not helping us at all. I try increasing my angle, anything and everything I can think of. I look at my landmarks again and they are too familiar. They haven’t changed in a long time.
I lower the jib, it’s time to just motor, the sails aren’t helping and might be hindering. We motor a while but my landmarks are still the same. We’re not going backwards at least. The waves, though, there just a bit more than I like. I trust my boat, though, she’s holding her own. She can handle this, it’s me who needs to learn. The sun is lower in the sky now and I stop. I turn off my engine, pick up my phone and call for a tow. We’ll be okay.
Patience. I look around and I’m at peace. I worry about my friend because she’s getting cold. She’s at least in the cabin re-warming herself.
I notice that; without steering, without sails, without motor, without anchor; we still have not moved. We’ve moved neither forward nor backward. We’ve merely moved in circles up and down with the waves. What a weird feeling! Eventually I do turn the motor back on because we did drift a little closer to an island, but just a little. I turn it back off and wait.
Patience. This boat will teach me to rest. She will teach me to listen to my gut, to trust my instincts, and to be patient. I knew this when I got her. I knew that I would learn from her. I knew she would be strong enough to withstand my learning. She’s almost as old as I am but she knows the waters better than I. I look forward to her instruction each time I take her out.
Two hours or so, sitting and waiting, bouncing on the waves; we find ourselves in a cold dark night. The brightest light around is that of my mast. It was so bright, the captain of the tow boat first didn’t see us because he thought we must be land. When he approaches he asks if the anchor is down. No. Didn’t need it. Didn’t go anywhere without it either. He comes near and tosses me the rope to tie on. Says to me, you know the drill, reminding me that he was the one who towed me last time. I laugh.
I do know the drill. I know that I have things yet to learn. And yet, I know that I am safe enough here to learn some of these lessons. I know that I can call for help and it’s not a mark against my character. I do not allow pride to prevent me from asking. I know that nature has won this round. Yet I will do it all again. I may even have to call for a tow again. Let me learn. I’ve only just begun this journey.
We arrived back at the dock after almost an hour of towing. I’m certain the waves and the wind did not make it any easier for my rescuers than it did for me. They just had stronger engines. As I held on and attempted to steer behind them, the occasional wave would splash me. The wind was cold but I was grateful for the tow, for not spending the night on the hook, for the weather not being freezing, for having no rain. I was much too grateful to be bothered by being upset.
Lessons sometimes need to be learned multiple times before you figure it out. That’s the way it is with life. I’m certain I am in the process of learning something. Patience is but part of it. perseverance may be another. My body ached for three days from trying to control my boat in that wind and then being towed. I definitely got my work out for the day!
thank you for reading,