There’s a lot to learn about guiding a sailboat. For starters, sailors seem to have a name for everything.
MY BRAIN HURT more than anything else.
I was in the second day of sailing class, listening to sailing teacher Paul Fadoul explain the wind clock; the names for the directions a boat could go in relation to the wind; and how to tack, or switch directions, while sailing.
I was at the Mount Baker Rowing and Sailing Center for a Learn to Sail class. I took the intro class last year. I loved the tour of Lake Washington and was mildly disappointed I didn’t learn more. My teacher said if I wanted to sail on my own, take the Learn to Sail class. You capsize the first day, he said. You’ll get a workout.
Mount Baker Rowing and Sailing Center
That was all I needed to hear.
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But let’s go back to the first day of class. Before I could capsize, I had to learn about the boat. Sailboats are complicated, and sailors have names for everything. After a couple hours tying rope knots and trying to decipher the wind clock and other basics, I thought there is no way I will remember anything. I shouldn’t be allowed on a boat.
Except it was time to capsize.
Paul showed us how to rig our two-person sailboat; launched the boat off the dock; and then pointed at me and another student, Andre. We were up first.
Once on board, with Paul holding the boat’s front bow line, he instructed us on how to tip the boat over, and jump in the water. I was acting as the crew, so my job was to float and not put any weight on the boat while Andre swam around, grabbed the center daggerboard that sticks out of the hull and heaved the boat back up. I had to kick and get “scooped” into the cockpit.
Being scooped was easy; getting the helmsman into the boat was not. I had to help haul Andre in over the stern by his life jacket.
My turn. We tipped the boat again, and I swam around to grab the daggerboard. I pulled myself up, and the boat slowly started to right itself. I thought it was almost there when it stopped, even with all my weight on it. I pulled harder, wondering whether Andre would need to swim around to help me. Suddenly, the boat came up, and Andre jumped in as well. Yes!
Pulling myself up onto the boat was also hard, and Andre helped me get all the way on board. While the actual capsizing was relatively easy, I was glad to get it over with.
For the second class, we worked on tacking. After discussion, and before we headed out, Paul told us we would thank him for learning how to capsize first.
He might have been right, if we had had any wind. Once we rigged our boats and launched, we bobbed around the cove by the sailing center, trying to catch small puffs of wind. Andre, who had experience sailing, was at the helm. He managed to get us moving, but it wasn’t fast.
After a short period, we switched roles. I caught enough wind to tack, and I also nearly steered us into the rocks Paul specifically instructed us to avoid. Sailing takes a lot of practice, plus, with no wind, you turn very, very slowly.
We had all learned another major sailing lesson — you need wind.
I didn’t stay for the full six-class series, but Paul assured us if you complete the course, you will know how to rig and sail a boat on your own. I had fun and would love to sail on my own. Knowing me, I’ll be back.