Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Dreams of white canvas, singing winds and fear of the unknown.

It's difficult defining when this love of the sea and the ships who sail her began. I have been a water lover all my life. I swim, SCUBA, Waterski, snorkel and if there is a pool, well, I am in it. But the real story starts when I walked into an Attorneys office and there, on the wall, was this noble vessel just crying to me. I inquired about the ship and he said it was his, but he had sold her. For some unknown reason, my heart sank. In that scanty moment, I could almost smell the sea spray, salty and sharp yet so comforting, and then it was gone.

I don't know what design she was, that was easily 15 years ago and my knowledge was not developed. Maybe she was a Sloop, or a Ketch, maybe a noble Schooner. I didn't know what any of that meant anyway and if you don't, well, feel at ease, I'll be catching you up on sailor jargon soon. Sailing has its very own unique language. For instance, If I say Sheet, in the context of sailing, you probably think of the sail. However, in sailing, a sheet is a line used to control the movable corner(s) or clews of a sail, yes it is confusing. I remember my friend Allen talking about Sailing, he used to sail when he was a kid, and a good friend Sam who sails and had magnificent stories to tell about floating around the Caribbean. But I was so naive and the language they used intimidated me so I just swallowed stories and never really took action towards learning more. 

Basic Styles of Sailboats
Over the years, sailing has intrigued me, When I see a sailing vessel I pause and wonder what her crew has seen, the raging seas they have endured, the perils they have endured. Sailing, I knew, was a risky sport and knowing that the people who devote their lives to sailing and the sea love every moment of that time on the sea. I knew I would sail, I just didn't know when. Even my favorite songs were sailing songs. 

Southern Cross - Crosby Stills and Nash
Got out of town on a boat goin' to Southern islands
Sailing a reach before a followin' sea
She was makin' for the trades on the outside
And the downhill run to Papeete

Off the wind on this heading lie the Marquesas
We got eighty feet of the waterline nicely making way
In a noisy bar in Avalon I tried to call you
But on a midnight watch I realized why twice you ran away

This song has inspired so many people to challenge themselves and has probably inspired many to look up words and phrases like "sailing a reach", Papeete and "before a followin' sea". Well, they are authentic sailing terms and create a sense of romance and mystery. This is likely another key principle that drove me to love sailing. 

Now I have a desire and I also have a problem, in England, I think they call this a sticky wicket, a metaphor used to describe a difficult circumstance and seemingly arose from cricket. I am intimidated by the mystery of sailing and I aspire to sail. Example: I am sitting on the beach in the Mexican Riviera;  enjoying the company of good friends on a perfect gleaming white beach and there are these sailboats sitting there all alone. Now these are Cat Boats or even Dingey sailboats and easy to capsize.

This intimidation left me hunkered down in the chair being a landlubber and not pursuing my passion. And for the next few years I would dream but not achieve. But before we get into how I achieved that first sail, Let's look at the basics of the language of sailing and parts of a boat in the next article. But for now...

May the winds always fill your sails and the sun and moon light your passage.


  1. Shiver me timbers maitey!

    to tell the difference between a ketch and a yawl: (I always loved this one)... the mizen mast in a ketch is positioned so the sail (and boom) hang over the stern of the boat. That way, if you're not paying attention, you'll "KETCH" it in the head....

    Keep it up Scoot. Great stuff

    1. I love the look of the Ketch and Yawl, they feel grown up. The way the sail hangs off the back of a Yawl is just cool but when you get into configurations with Bowsprit and multiple headsails I get lost, they look gorgeous but so many sheets. Lots of work.