I wanted to take a moment and write about one of my sailing adventures this past summer. Just before Labor Day, I decided to rent a 33′ sailboat up in Cheboygan for a week of sailing. Knowing my Dad had never sailed before, I thought it would be a lot of fun to invite him along and teach him the ropes. Since he was working on a project up in Cheboygan for work, it actually worked out quite well. He was able to swing a few days off and join in on an adventure. Little did we know that what was coming though would be a hard knock lesson.
Day 1: The weather was beautiful. Unfortunately, not for sailing. It was about 80 degrees, and not a cloud in the sky. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much wind either. The forecast called for increasing winds into the latter part of the afternoon of 7-10 mph. No problem. It would be perfect “learning weather”. Dad arrived at the boat with my step Mom. After a brief tour of the 33′ Gib’Sea, I began to explain some various terms that would be important to us. I figured if I was going to have to ask him to pull on lines and whatnot, it would be helpful if he knew what I was talking about. So, after about a 1/2 hour of explaining the differences between the halyard, reef lines, bow, stern, pulpit, stantions, starboard, port, rigging, etc. his eyes began to cross. I figured at the time, the best way to learn would be on the water. That was my step Mom’s cue to leave the boat. Don’t worry, we didn’t kick her off, she is nervous when it comes to water, so she didn’t think sailing would be for her.
I begin to start prepping the sails, untying the loose dock lines, and continued to give instruction to my Dad. The first thing was understanding the plan for leaving the slip. His job would be to remove the last spring line and just keep an eye out and make sure I didn’t bump into anything. So, I gave him a bumper (just in case) and handed him the spring line. I gave the order to undo the spring line, put the gear in reverse, and began backing out of the slip. Unfortunately, we were at the end of the dock so I didn’t have a lot of room to maneuver to get the boat pointed in the right direction. Then I heard a light splash. So, there was my Dad looking down into the water. The bumper I gave him had rolled off the deck and fallen in the water. I kept trying to maneuver the boat in a tiny little area as we drifted around. I tossed him the boat hook at this point to grab hold of the bumper and pull it back into the boat. It wasn’t until I informed him that the boat hook was telescoping that he managed to get the bumper up out of the water. We had a good laugh at that, and my thought was, “If this is the worst that happens, then it would be a great trip”.
After that little mishap, we slowly motored our way out of the marina into the Lower Straits of Mackinac. I put the bow into the wind, backed off the throttle a bit, and gave the order to “raise the halyard”. “The what?” was the response I heard back. “The white line with the red stripe. Just start pulling on it,” was my response. The main sail went up slowly. With that, I could see the sail filling up with the wind. After the main was raised, I cut the engine. The hum of the engine disappeared and all you could hear was the breeze and the sound of the boat riding across the water. I then instructed him how to pull the roller furling line to unroll the jib.
We were sailing! Well… we were for awhile. The sails then went limp as the wind just completely died down. There wasn’t even enough wind to get any kind of momentum to teach Dad how to do a tack. So, we waited. And waited. For nearly 2 hours we waited for some wind. Granted, I could’ve started the engine and “power sailed”, but even though we weren’t going anywhere, it was still relaxing. My hope was that the forecast would be true, and that later in the day the wind would pick up. It never did. Instead, after a few hours of just floating around and talking, we rolled up the sails, turned on the motor, and called it a day. There were drinks and food waiting to be had back at shore.
Day 2: The real adventure starts… (To be continued…)