While Gen Yeager was fishing in Mexico on a boy trip, I stayed in LA.
I headed to the ocean – I love the ocean even just looking at it, listening to it. God’s creation. Pure and powerful.
I found a place that rented sailboats. With some trepidation, I rented the boat and headed out.
The last time I had sailed in Marina Del Rey, was years and years before in a catamaran I had rented on a busy weekend day.
I was enjoying zipping around until the big boats started coming in. Most of those skippers have no idea about right of way. So I was forced to come about, jive, all sorts of things to avoid them.
At one point, I was calling out: STARBOARD! and getting no response but getting squeezed by two boats converging.
To avoid one, and not hit the other, I capsized the boat. Fortunately it got enough attention so I was immediately rescued: it was the most excitement of the weekend or month, perhaps year, for them.
The funniest was, I had already put my life jacket under the end of the mast and swam back to the bottom of the boat, climbed on the centerboard and was trying to right the boat but I wasn’t heavy enough, when the harbor police, the last of those helping, came along. On their megaphone they said: Was there anyone else on board with you?
My impulse was to smack my forehead and say: I knew I forgot something! Where are those other people?
Of course, grateful for any and all help, I refrained.
I asked them to please grab the life jacket I had put under the mast, take it away, and lift up the mast to help me right the boat – which they did and the boat came up easily. Couldn’t do it by myself but just that little push…
I thanked them profusely. They came closer and tossed me the life jacket. (Putting it under the mast prevents the boat from turtling – ending upside down with a mast stuck in the mud – much much harder to right the boat – instead of on its side).
The good news was the activity had caused all boats to give us a very wide berth and of course, the perpetrators were long gone – they had powered up and ignored the wake rules in their effort not to get fingered and caught.
After I finished my sail and returned the boat, I went to the various responders’ offices and thanked each one. They were all shocked. No one had ever taken the time to thank them.
My response: Heck, I want you to not mind doing it again, if I need it!
We all laughed.
So this time, several years later, I rented a small sloop and, as I said, took the boat out by myself with great trepidation.
Small catamarans, the prior boat, can be hard to come about (turn across the wind). I didn’t know how this sloop would be. It did have a jib but the mainsail, the jib, the tiller would be a lot to manage all by myself.
The wind was just right. I zipped along but not too wildly.
I tried to heel (lean out to keep the boat level) but the problem with this boat was the tiller was not long enough and had no extension and I did not have Jerry West’s arms. So if I leaned out too much, it would bring the tiller toward me causing the boat to heel (lean) more.
I tacked all the way out to the entrance of the harbor where the rental company said was the best wind.
A few others, some faster, some slower, were tacking as well. I took it upon myself to dodge them rather than call Starboard or right of way. For me, courtesy depended more on the big picture – who had to divert off course the most.
When the other boat was on starboard but could have diverted just a little, but instead yelled starboard, I gave way saying: Yes I know – but I cut you a break when I was on starboard last tack.
He was showing off to his date, I suddenly realized. But I never had problems from him again.
When the other boats realized I was able to read the wind darn well, (my racing experience had kicked in), they started tacking when I tacked and essentially following me.
I got out to almost the end of the protected harbor and realized the wind wasn’t all that great out there, and someone was headed right at me, I tacked. Oops. I hadn’t seen the BIG boat bearing down on me from behind. It was the only time I hadn’t checked six. And that’s the one that….even thought I had right of way.
I zipped out of the way, waved a oops, sorry! The guy smiled and acknowledged he would have given way. I thought – if I were a fighter pilot – I’d be toast. Or this would have happened in training. Once. Only once. I’d like to think.
As time progressed and it all was coming back to me, I was having a great time.
Most people didn’t know right of way, but I was expecting that this time so was doing fine.
I saw a guy come in from the ocean and I asked about the winds out there. He said gusty, nothing steady.
That’s no fun so I stayed inside.
At one point I was going to jibe but wasn’t feeling too confident. Any sailor knows that most teachers scare their students re jibing – it can be dangerous if done too quickly or with gusty, changeable winds. One could capsize, head whacked, all sorts of things.
So the first time I wanted to switch directions heading downwind, I actually almost did a 360 by heading upwind and coming about.
That felt a little silly but hey that was my comfort zone. The wind was changing direction, too so I wasn’t sure when that sail would whip across if I had tried to jibe.
I got to a place where the wind wasn’t so hefty so this time I did a slow jibe…..
The sail wasn’t coming across, wasn’t coming across…..then it slowly came and sorta whipped but a gentle whip. Piece of cake. Woo hoo!
It’s so peaceful to go sailing, yet exhilerating, if the right amount of wind. It’s especially peaceful to go sailing alone or with someone who isn’t chatty.
I rather missed Gen Yeager – he might have enjoyed it with me – there was enough wind.
I kept thinking of and mentally thanking my father for teaching me how to sail from the age of 3 or 4. Every summer he rented a sloop, big enough for 4 little kids (my 3 older brothers and me) and 2 adults. He kept it moored in the bay of a house across from the beach house.
The bay house was owned by an older guy who loved seeing us young, polite kids come around every non rainy day. The bay in those days was full of seaweed. I was always afraid of what was under that seaweed and sometimes had nightmares that some big crab or lobster bigger than me would bite my head off. Or my toe.
Sometimes the tide was out and we could walk out to the boat, more often we took a rowboat.
I was about 4-6 when Dad couldn’t grab the halyard. How would we raise the sail?
That day we were going on a long day sail across the bay to the great diner where we’d have hot dogs or hamburgers or grilled cheese. And great milkshakes. A special treat.
We were all waiting with great anticipation – afraid of any possibility we might now not be able to go – that our hero, our Dad, would figure it out, solve the problem, as he usually did.
Dad looked at me, the wheels turning, and lifted me up – just high enough. The line was swinging in the wind.
I missed the first pass. The second one…..GOT IT!
Dad: Hold on to it, Victoria, until I take it from you.
For my Dad, I held onto that line as though my life depended on it, knowing my Dad would hold onto me – I wouldn’t fall – until I was safe.
It’s one of my early memories where I had done something very helpful and important for my Dad. And Dad made me feel awfully proud of my contribution to our sail that day. I saved the day. And the milkshakes. With Dad’s help.
And I have continued enjoying sailing to this day.