Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Do you know how to sail?

We've had a run of good weather the past 4-5 days and Kris and I launched the dinghy last night with Jared and Nathalie to take advantage of the longer daylight, after-work time and a warm day.

I was first off work, so launched the boat and only had to wait about fifteen minutes before the rest of the crew showed. For the most part it was nice to sit and watch the sailing club races and feel the warm breeze. A couple of kids were fishing, lending the whole thing a bucolic, Huck Finn air, but occasionally the launch would experience a swarm of power boats and things transitioned quickly from Life on the Mississippi, to a night in da club.

The wake boats were out in force, with stereos blasting. A young couple wandered down and stood near me for a while, obviously looking for a ride with friends. I was able to overhear them making a call on their mobile and then a boat slid up with the hip-hop blasting. As the boat operator and the guy on the dock tried to converse with each other it apparently didn't occur to anyone involved to turn the stereo down.





That was about all I could follow, except for the lyrics, which involved a recurring line about being from Miami.

So, time to get jiggy wid it.

On this night, I had two experiences with the jib that reinforced my slowly (very, very slowly) growing knowledge about boat handling. The main turns me into the wind and the jib wants to fall off. When we left the dock I wasn't clear enough to my crew on when to unfurl the jib. As we were falling off with the main, Kris unfurled sooner than I would have liked and we started turning right back into the dock. Without much problem and only a little bit of banging on the dock bumpers, we were able to fall off and do a loop through the launching bay.

The wind was excellent, blowing 8-10 knots upriver (from the North), and the sailing club was having their Monday evening racing session. We headed upwind, downriver, toward them, making four big tacks before falling off and goosewinging it upriver.

As we passed the midriver buoy, Nathalie commented on the floating homes near Oaks Park, something about what it might be like living there. We were set up for a broad reach that would pass us right along the row of homes, so I offered to cruise past them.

We were starting to get the feel for the wind this evening and everybody had their controls in hand as we smartly turned to port, dropped the centerboard halfway and quickly picked up speed across the river.

We were passing within about thirty feet of the houses when the boat started to feel as though it were losing power, or at least making way more leeway than I thought it should.

Sure enough, we were pushed right up on the third house in the row, which of course was the only one with objects sticking out over the water. Pretty quickly, our shrouds were hung up in the plastic poles the homeowner had deployed to hold their jetskis. And just as quickly, a cranky-looking old woman was out on her upper deck staring daggers at us. I wondered why she looked at us with such purpose, when out of her thin-lipped grimace popped, "Do you know how to sail?"

It wasn't so much a question, as an accusation. I answered quickly and lightly, "Well, we're learning!" And then I had the crew furl the jib and hold us off from banging on the dock.

The woman said a few more rude things, which I don't recall and finally came down and pulled the plastic rod out of it's mount, setting us free.

With the jib put away, the main turned us into the wind and we were able to overcome, what I then realized was a strong eddy that pushes right into the homes at this point.

Kris made a very direct comment to the woman, along the lines of, "You could show a little understanding." I think she was irritated that, even though three of us had apologized and nothing was damaged, this woman was absolutely and unrepentantly grumpy.

I guess she's got the right to be, but I also sort of wondered why so early in the season, and how's she going to feel after a whole summer of wake boats roaring by, blasting L'il Wayne and dropping off bikini'ed young ladies to pee on her deck ...

We managed to stay out of trouble for the next half-hour or so, making runs upriver and down and speculating on whether the old biddy was going to be able to return to Dr. Phil uninterrupted after her run-in with the novice sailors.

We've adopted 'Do you know how to sail?' and I'm sure it will be with us for years to come, with many opportunities to toss it out for our own entertainment.


Tillerman said...


O Docker said...

Dunno if you're blogging every time you sail, but I'd guess you've had that boat out maybe only half a dozen times and, already, you've had two colorful encounters with other folks.

This is really what sailing is all about - exploring your world and learning about others. You're doing just fine. Occasional property damage, death, or dismemberment is perfectly normal and to be expected. Even the most experienced dinghy sailor occasionally chops off a finger or two.

I think you might want to check with your insurance agent, though, to make sure everything's paid up OK.

Greg and Kris said...

I think I've been out about 12-15 times, which is twice a half dozen, but not much more in experience. I do appear to be finding the fun folks, too. They say the most interesting people live on the coasts and it would appear the closer you get to the waterline, the more unique they become.

We love this stuff

Greg and Kris said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nathalie said...

Thanks for taking us out. We really enjoyed out time with you guys. As always. I still think we should have mooned that ol' hag.
In retrospect, Kris is right. When grumpy asked us "Do you know how to sail" we should have replied "Do you look like a man"?
We'll come again for sure and next time, I'd like to play with the ropes too!

Dan said...

Sounds like there was no harm done. Some people have no sense of humor!

Smilicus said...

I have to agree with you, I hate power boaters with their loud music, booze cruise spoiling the quiteness with their roaring engines.

Jolea said...

LOL I LOVE THIS POST! LOL! Do you know how to sail?!??!?!?! That should be the theme of my summer...

Pandabonium said...

"Do you know how to sail?" - ha. We resemble that remark.