Okay, when I decided on the phrase “Everyday Adventures at Home… Hurrah”, I had in mind some pretty safe adventures; looking at and living life creatively and openly – not adrenaline thrills. This Saturday, though, I found myself on more of an adventure than I had expected.
It was the last sail of the season – the day when we sail the boat for a couple of hours, from the marina where we keep the sailboat for the summer, to the marina where the boat gets hauled out of the water and stored for the winter.
I’ll admit that, unlike my husband, I am not a natural sailor. I am an active person – I love walking, swimming, and bike riding – but a rather passive sailor. Maybe that makes me more of a ‘passenger’? I enjoy sailing as a unique way to connect with nature, for relaxation and fun.
We’ve had our boat for about 6 years. At 22 feet, it is not a huge boat, and one can certainly feel the motion of the water and wind around it.
So, Saturday’s sail started out well enough. Quite promising – a sunny, warm day. It was windy, just enough to keep a quick pace (or so we thought). As we headed out (my husband, a family friend, my son and I), it looked something like this…
Well, it turns out the winds soon grew stronger, at points at least 70 km per hour, with the waves becoming frighteningly high, and jarringly choppy. The boat was leaning sharply, getting slammed every which way. It was hard to control, and we were getting splashed as the cold water crashed against the deck. All this made it difficult, and dangerous to balance on the bow of the boat in order to raise the sail, and the fabric ripped with the force of the wind, though it was still intact enough to move us forward.
We have been in large waves before, but they were gentle, rolling waves. Kind of lulling. Saturday’s waves were sharp, driven by a hard wind, repeatedly lifting us up high and crashing us down. It was the first time that I was seriously worried that we might come to harm.
Fortunately, between my husband, and a good friend of ours (who often joins us on sails), we managed to reach our destination, unharmed. My husband took the helm, both literally by steering the rudder, and figuratively by directing our efforts. Our friend worked the sails and GPS. My 12 year old son and I helped by being an extra pair of hands – holding the GPS, passing ropes and ties. Most importantly, we tried to stay calm.
I did manage to take a few, very quick snapshots in between the really scary waves. They were all taken from the same vantage point – I didn’t move – so the horizon changes in the pictures because the water was swelling, and we were rising and dropping, very fast.
Honestly, these pics do not capture the size of the waves, nor how violently they were tossing the boat around. Nor the shrill hisses and howls the wind produced. Nor the deep, straining groans of the wood, as heard from the hull (where I spent a lot of time, both to stay out of the way and to hold on for dear life). I braced myself with my legs and took these quick snapshots from the doorway that goes below deck.
Eventually, we had to insist that my son come down into the hull with me, though he wanted to be out on deck where he felt safer. He was getting wet, and we didn’t want to chance him falling in the water. I was more worried for him than for us throughout the ordeal.
Toward the end of the trip, as we struggled to get the sail down, wind flailing it violently, we saw the coastguard heading out to make sure we were okay. I actually felt immense relief. Even though we managed without their help, it was such a reassuring sight. I was grateful to all those brave souls in professions that risk themselves to help others.
By the time we arrived at the harbour, the wind was howling so strongly that it was hard even to walk on the dock. The boats parked in the marina were rocking, some of their cables flying lose in the wind.
In the end, I am happy to report that we are all safe and sound. I don’t exactly regret the escapade, either. I’ve learned some lessons, and it stretched us, brought out our courage, and tested us. If one sails, I suppose one has to be prepared to accept high winds and learn how to handle them. Some people thrive on that excitement. Not me. While I like to step outside of my comfort zone by learning new things or being outdoors, I definitely don’t need that much danger to feel alive.
Still, the unexpected happens. We had to accept the situation and just do the best we could with the experience we had. My husband had been in a thunderstorm once when he was training to sail, so it was some comfort to know that this was not his first experience with very challenging conditions. I guess one is bound to encounter difficult weather sometimes, in sailing as in life. I am really proud of us for pulling through this one.
“If we are strong, and have faith in life, and its richness of surprises, and hold the rudder steadily in our hands, I am sure we will sail into quiet and pleasant waters…”
Freya Stark – Brainy Quote