Thursday, February 12, 2015

We’re not burling, we’re sailing!

It has been a number of years in the making but today it finally happened – we got to have a sailing lesson!

It all started last weekend when Julie booked us for a kayak tour around the south end of Lido Key. Our guide Mark introduced himself as a lifetime Sarasotan who has spent much of his life on the water, even going to school as a boy from the boat his family lived on in the marina. As we chatted he said that he teaches sailing and his wife also windsurfs. What a coincidence! We are also looking to learn how to sail and would like to windsurf as well. Once back on shore we made plans to meet on Monday for a lesson. But fate would push back against us once more and our session was cancelled as heavy rains poured into the area all day on Monday. But today looked fine and sunny with just enough breeze.

Not surprising that we discovered Mark’s house backs onto water, a bayou [riverway] in this case. He had the boats ready to go so we hopped right on board and made our way to the bay while he briefed us on some sailing terms and the basics of working with the wind – remember the “no go zone” that covers straight into the wind and 60 degrees on either side. He rigged up a little pointer device on the front end of the boom to indicate the wind direction. We found some clear water amongst the moored boats in the Bay to anchor the  motor boat that was acting as our home base. 

I went first since I was the one who was so keen to get sailing. Sit with your bum on the side, grab hold of the tiller (the handle that operates the rudder for steering) with one hand, and the sheet (the rope that operates the sail’s angle) with the other hand. With a push from the moored motor boat we were off!

Just like our first windsurfing lesson, the moment that the wind grabs hold and you thrust forward feels exhilarating!  A couple reminders to “fall off the wind” (turn to be pointing more where the wind is blowing) were needed as I tended point upwards a bit too much. And then I needed to turn around. This took a bit of practice, and I’m sure will continue to require practice if we get to go again. First turn was to “come about” (aka tacking) or turn up into the wind. It’s a nifty manoeuvre wherein you slam the rudder all the wayclick for smugmug pictures one way, wait for the boat to point straight up wind and then shift your body to the other side of the boat, switch hands for the rope and tiller all while minding that the sail boom doesn’t smack your head. Four attempts and my confidence was up. After 8 attempts we did the jibe. This is the action that you see people getting knocked out or off boats on TV when the boom comes whipping around. Don’t worry – we watched our heads and safely navigated the turn. To conclude my lesson, I was quite happy when Mark stated that I pulled the sail boat up the motor boat “remarkably well”. Julie also did well and I’ll say that I think she was going faster than I was.

Sitting on the bow of the boat watching Julie sail past to and fro, was so good. The warm sun, a pleasant breeze [damn glad I bought this sweater yesterday!] and the Sarasota skyline made us thankful we can do this kind of stuff – with grandparents at hand to babysit! 

where we were sailing

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