The thought “Dear God what have I gotten myself into” has become an everyday thought in our lives! Constantly trimming and rearranging is what we’re now accustomed to, but as gluttons for punishment we are training ourselves to look fear and frustration head on.
My husband, son, and I live aboard our 36′ Catalina in the San Juan Islands. We love it and have never looked back to our land locked life, even once. We have managed to find work, start homeschooling, and make time to hoist the sails on many occasions. We’re becoming accustomed to our responsibilities when underway and as a not very experienced sailor… I’m very proud of that! So after multiple light wind day cruises and lots of docking practice I was feeling ready for a lesson on sailing in strong wind, which I highly recommend so your not “that guy” who’s ripping off your bowsprit on a dock piling! Boy was I in for a surprise.
We hired a very experienced Captain to come aboard our vessel and show us the ropes. The day was forecasted to bring 25 to 35 knot winds so we knew it would be the real deal, but the reality was far more then I could ever imagine! We made it out to the open bay and began to hoist our main and jib. I was so excited that the guys were using our new reefing lines, and our new roller fuller was reefed and holding strong. I pointed her downwind and sailed her out of the wind shadow. That’s when all hell broke lose (or so I thought at the time). We were hit with a 35 knot gust right off the bat and I knew we were going down! My initial fear lessoned a bit when the instructor gave out a loud “Woohoo!”, and I realized that this is what our boat was made to do.
The question was… is this what I was made to do?
30 minutes in and my arms were aching, I was sweating bullets in 45 degree weather and I was convinced that we were going to die at least 3 times. Not to mention our cast iron skillet flew out of our oven and into our son’s bunk, and there were books and Kitchen utensils finding new homes with every green water wave we took. With our personal belongings crashing all over our home, and our son hysterically crying in the cockpit I stepped into gear! That momma bear instinct was what I needed to truly embrace the roll of Captain and learn how to keep our little family afloat. After another half hour of getting our rear ends kicked we decided to turn back to the marina and salvage what was left of our little skipper’s love of the boat life.
I was so flustered at the time but I can now look back and remember the joy of riding the swells and the feeling of the icy spray on my face. The shear anticipation of seeing our little marina pop out from behind another island was one of the most soulful moments in my entire life! Until I realized that with bruised and shaky hands we had come to the high wind docking portion of the lesson.
“Oh dear God what have I got myself into?”
I quickly developed my spot turn technique and was so thrilled to learn that my once annoying prop walk was actually a very useful tool. All was going pretty well until I forced our instructor to take a 10 foot leap of faith onto the dock to secure us. We all had a good laugh and agreed no harm no foul and tried again… 4 more times. I learned a great deal about safety and my husband (the line handler) was extremely happy that this lesson was making his job so much easier! Let’s just say that he was not ready for a leap of great proportions!
This experience humbled us tremendously! I was greatly reminded of the power of nature and most importantly the power that lies in each of us that atemp to harness that feeling of shear adrenaline and use it to better ourselves. An amazing level of confidence is achieved when you set out to conquere your fears and learn to use them to work together to create experiences that shape our exsistence and our dreams.