When Darren and I first met, he was the proud owner of a Tanzer 26 sailboat. It was old and a little run down with malfunctioning gear and the occasional leak (or what most people would call a flood), but I loved everything about it! I’d never been on a sailboat before, but being the granddaughter of a lobster fisherman, I longed to be on the ocean and emerged in the salty air. The first time we set sail, we were alone and Darren needed a first mate. He was an experienced sailor but required an extra hand with leaving the pier, tacking, docking, and general support. I felt up to the challenge and anticipated the journey. Good communication and excellent teaching abilities made Darren the perfect captain, but maybe it wasn’t me that needed the lesson 😉
We left the marina without a hitch. Darren asked me to walk to the pulpit and watch for other boats entering or leaving the marina. Although I was hesitant about “walking” past the sails, I scotched my way along the bottom and proudly stood up when I reached the end. With a strong foothold in the pulpit, I felt the wind against my face and the rush of streaming water below my feet. It was beautiful, relaxing, and freeing and we hadn’t even set sail. We were still under motor, yet I already knew I was going to love sailing.
Next came hoisting the main sail, which seems like an impossible feat, as Darren turned the sail into the wind. How was I going to “hoist a sail” when I didn’t even really understand what that meant? I didn’t even know which one was the sail and which one was the jib or what a jib even was for that matter, but Darren’s calming voice and detailed instructions eased my nerves.
“You need to move the main halyard or silver line from the end of the boom to the end of the main sail. I’ll pass the halyard to you and you’ll see where it needs to clip on the head of the main sail.”
It all sounded like he was speaking another, obviously very complicated, language to me. I took the line that he gave me and stumbled back to where I thought I should be then he continued with the directions. I pulled the slack out of the line as he walked me through the process. Then, I pulled the halyard line by hand, letting the mainsail sheet unfurl and raise, before transferring the line to the winch (also referred to, by me, as the turny thingy). I wrapped the line three times around the winch, then cranked the winch handle until the mainsail topped out. Finally, I pulled tight on the line and tied it off on the cleat. I also had to be shown how to tie a knot because apparently at the age of 30 I still didn’t even understand that concept.
I breathed a sign of relief when Darren said, “You’ve done it. You put up the sail all on your own.”
I looked at the white sheet that was gently blowing in the wind guiding us through to ocean and I fought back tears or joy. I had learned something new and I felt confident that, with a little direction, I could do it again. Darren had taught me something complicated and he made easy and joyful. His attitude and knowledge were admirable and a moment of heart pounding love filled my veins.
Once we were under sail, we had to keep watch for buoys to make sure we didn’t get too close to sandbars. Everything else was relaxing as Darren controlled the 26 foot boat around us. It made it seem as simple as driving a car so I cuddled up next to him and enjoyed the sail.
My water proof camera found its way aboard and I took pictures of our first big day on the ocean. I’ve mastered the self-portrait shot while holding the camera in front of us and managing to get our faces perfectly centered in each photo.
I guess Darren was paying too much attention to me and the camera rather than watching for buoys or markers because before we knew it, we had rammed into the sandbar, bringing the sailboat to a complete stop. It all happened in mid shot and I caught his expression on camera as he drilled into the sandbar and stopped his boat.
I searched his face for an expression of emotions and hoped he didn’t blame me for distracting him.
Even though there was unknown damage to his sailboat, he focused on making sure I was fine before anything else. Once again, my heart beat a little faster and melted a little more.
Calming and patiently, he smiled and explained what we needed to do next. If we couldn’t get the boat out on our own, we would have to call the coast guard. He was mortified!
After countless tries, the boat finally let go of his death grip and set us free. Our decision to head back to the marina and check out the boat was an obvious one.
We docked the boat and there was no damage, except maybe to Darren’s pride.
Regardless of hitting the sandbar and calling it a day after only just getting started, I was content with my new knowledge of both sailing and Darren’s personality. It was a memorable day to say the least.