Friday, September 21, 2007

The instinct for self-preservation is strong


Last weekend we took the Fiat Lux out again. This time the wind was strong and gusty. The first tack across the lake was rough going. I’d get everything sheeted in, then not only would a gust hit, but the wind would shift. I sailed back, beached the boat and then wondered if we should back out, or call it a day. The four boys who had not been out were clearly voting for staying. I was watching the other Laser on the beach pack up and having second thoughts. When I saw a 15” Hobie cat (with its sails reefed, no less) go over, I had third and fourth thoughts. “So what’s the worst thing that can happen?” Math Man asks. “We capsize.” Hey, we’ve brought dry clothes, the weather is warm and this is not the open ocean. I rule that everyone (including me) wears their PFD zipped up and tight, and we sail

Barnacle Boy has tons of questions about balancing the boat, prompted when I wouldn’t let him sit on the bow on this ride. We are having a wild ride across the lake, when I decide it’s time to come about. Over goes the tiller, and…over goes the Boy. He couldn’t find a good grip on the deck, so when the boat turned, he slid right off. I tried to grab him, but he outweighs me by 20 pounds and I couldn’t get a grip. “Mom!” “I won’t sail off without you,” the captain promises him. He doesn’t look very reassured, and does look very small and forlorn bobbing in his yellow PFD in my wake. Sailboats have no breaks, no reverse. The best I can do is point up into the wind. In this kind of wind, holding the boat into the wind midlake is what Crash would call a mad skill. The rigging shivers and clangs like Marley’s ghost. I point up and tell the Boy to swim to the boat. Thankfully he swims as if he were born with gills. He slides back over the gunnel, soaked to the bone. “I think I’m ready to go in now, Mom!” He’s grinning though, and the first words he has for the crew on shore are, “I fell off!” And how else would anyone get that wet?

Later in the afternoon, Crash and I are out. The wind is still up and it takes both of us hiking out over the side to keep the boat sort of flat in the water. Crash is discovering why reaching in a 15 knot wind is so much fun. By now I’m getting the hang of the wind and the boat and am practicing racing turns. Fast and smooth and right onto the new tack. I like being in control. Suddenly a puff hits and the clew end of the boom is in the water. Certain we’re going to be in the water, I turn to brief Crash on what to do: climb out onto the hull opposite to the sail. I find him already turned around and half-way out of the boat. The weight actually brings us down again and we don’t flip the boat. “Whew, I thought we were going over for sure! You did just the right thing.” My 13 year old responds laconically, “Mom, the instinct for self-preservation is strong.”

1 comment:

  1. I keep thinking about the "what's the worst thing that can happen thought" and I am glad you all survived. I have done little sailing, but will admit it was a bit fun to capsize when I did sail during my youth. probably thought I was invincible.

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