Learning your Mate
You get to know a lot about someone on a sailboat. I had been dating my new beau (will call him Beau) for about a month when we set out on his 32 foot Piewiet 930 named Renaissance for what I thought was an afternoon pleasure cruise. He and I had sailed offshore in the predictably unpredictable Charleston harbor before. I felt comfortable on board with my “mate,” despite the 25 knot winds.
I was feeling good about our relationship too. It’s been 20 years since I have connected with someone on so many levels. Here’s a short list of things that were going well:
1. I love the serendipitous way we met volunteering. It was true fate (I had been meditating on finding a partner and creating positive energy___it was a total “God, Buddah, Mystic thing”). We both love being on the water and are never at a loss for things to do or say.
2. Our weekend had been delightful.
3. We had a porpoise and sea turtle siting! Always a magical, good omen.
Bound for the jetties, past Sullivan’s Island, Renaissance headed out on a reach toward Fort Sumter (the site of the beginning of the Civil War). We were cruising at 7 knots. The wind whistled and the white sails were full against the Carolina blue sky as I perched on the bow of the boat gazing at tip of the island. I reminisced about how he’d kissed me while we walked on the sand by the rocks right there.
It was getting late in the afternoon and we decided to tack back to the Ashley River. Beau mentioned that in order to keep the course, we may have to “beat” (sailing close-hauled) into the wind. I thought to myself that “beating” anything was NOT on my Sunday Afternoon Pleasure Cruise Agenda. A feeling of unease came over me as my mind went from holding hands on the beach to my white knuckles holding on to the boat for dear life as the port deck rail dipped into the sea of whitecaps.
It always amazes me how fast life goes from one moment of joy to a moment of sheer terror. Heaven to Hell in the blink of an eye.
Earlier in the day, I recalled a time during my childhood when sailing with my family we had a mini “Mutiny on the Bounty”. I was immediately transported to this experience when I realized that we were heeling over too much. I felt uncomfortable and frightened.
I asked Beau to “fall-off” to make the boat heel less and me more at ease.
And he said no (similar to the captain in my childhood).
He said that if we did, we would have to tack twice to get to where we needed to go and he didn’t want to have to start the engine. He said, “No___we are sailing! This is fun_we don’t need an engine!” I thought, what the what?
This began our uncivil war. Here is a list of things that were not going well:
1. He didn’t listen: “So let me understand,” I asked him. “I am asking you to make a simple adjustment to make this ride a bit more pleasurable and your answer is no?”
“Correct_it will just be a few more minutes. That’s just sailing babe.”
For 15 minutes we “beat” into the wind, the boat pounding up and down with spray coming over the bowsprit. I was miserable.
2. I was scared: I have never been forced against my will but here I was-forced to do something I didn’t want to do. I powered through as I did when I was 10 years old…gritting my teeth and terrified.
3. I was over Beau…do I have the strength to “call” another fun fabulous guy into my life? Whyyyyyyyyyyy????
Back at the Dock
We had a chat about the afternoon sail (a deconstruct as we always do) with some other mariners. One woman said,
“If you just understand the geometry and physics of the boat, you’ll understand that the boat cannot tip over__it pops up like a weighted punching bag.”
Great advice but what I needed was to BE UNDERSTOOD…and perhaps a RUM. When someone is scared, they need to be told everything is okay___not made to feel like they are a “wussy.” Furthermore, if you were the Captain of the boat, wouldn’t you want your passengers to be happy and relaxed if possible?
The older I get, the more joy I seek and comfort is important…I didn’t come this far to not be enjoying my Sundays or to be bossed around by a man. I am grateful that I have my own boat and ability to captain.
Fair Winds and Good Signs
But Beau apologized for not falling OFF and time marches ON.
One reason I love sailing so much is that you have to remain focused in the moment in order to keep the boat moving forward. Always be present: enjoy the sugar sweet minutes and the tough challenges__WE ARE FORTUNATE for this precious time on the water to learn invaluable lessons.
No matter what the weather is, as shipmates he and I are genuinely discovering each other (our quirks and strengths), the mechanics of the boat, and the way of the impartial sea. I cannot imagine a better training ground for life and team building.
It is an ebb and flow. It is NEVER “Just Sailing.” Sailing is just.