Andy Bike and I really wanted to get the new sail boat in the water. There was not a stitch of wind in the air on Tuesday. On Wednesday, Bike was booked, so Thursday it was. The forecast was shaping up nicely: 70 degrees, wind building to 7 to 10 knots which seemed ideal for a test sail. Enter Andy’s two kids under age six and my boy age nine. We’re both happy to do stuff with our children, but having three of them underfoot on a new boat, wasn’t our first choice. We figured we could make do, if we kept everyone busy and well fed.
Bike and I agreed to meet at three o’clock, each of us saying we’d get there early so we could really be on the water by three, then sail until dusk or meltdown: whichever came first. Let’s just say I didn’t quite make it to the river on time and Andy showed up later than me.
I’d hoped for a gentle breeze that would allow us to make some adjustments to the rigging, which we had attached with temporary fittings since we were unfamiliar with the boat’s lug rig (instead of the ubiquitous Bermuda rig that is on 99% of the sailboats you see). However, as we set up the boat in the parking lot, the wind seemed to be building and by the time we were ready to launch, puffs of wind were clearly moving at speeds greater than the predicted 10 knots.
I consider myself to be a calm person, not easily flustered or stressed out, but the idea of taking this whole crew into a new boat in a growing wind wasn’t sitting well with me. Although the boat was in the water and I’d waited a whole year to get to this point, I turned to Andy and said, “Maybe this isn’t the best day to launch. I’m willing to pull out and come back tomorrow.” (I should note that while the reefing (a system to make the sail smaller in high winds) had been considered, we hadn’t decided on a final set up, so it wasn’t ready to go.)
If there is such a thing, Bike “out-calmed” me and said that he’d simply shorten sail with some extra line we had lying around in the boat. So while I held the mooring lines, fended the boat off the dock and against wakes and driving chop, the kids jumped up and down on the dock, endlessly asking if it was time to get in the boat, Andy got us ready.
Before I had the chance to get a photo of the boat with its sails gloriously billowing in the wind. We hopped in and sailed smoothly off the dock.
My son sat near the mizzen sail soaking up the scene, persistently asking if he could steer. Meanwhile Bike and I took turns learning to use the boat’s uncommon push/pull steering and handling the sails. It didn’t take long to realize that the boat was quite capable of handling the wind and likely more. Andy’s kids however soon found the motion and shifting as we tacked to be outside their realm of comfort. “Bruce, you didn’t build the boat right,” I was informed.
The boat seemed right to me and after a few exhilarating hours, we decided to head in. After I nearly hit a moored boat and narrowly missing the dock, Andy tried his luck with little success. The beauty of a sail and oar boat is that you have two ways to get there gracefully, so we dropped sail and rowed in. No one or thing was injured, beside our pride, and although neither of Bike’s kids said they’d go sailing with me again, I knew Andy would.