Names have been changed to protect the innocent boat that had nothing to do with this incident… poor thing was dragged into it unknowingly.
Sail by Braille
My husband has more faith in me than I do. Apparently he has a boat load of faith in me because he had ME steer this boat. Now most teachers are kind and will start you out gently in whatever lesson you are learning and then they work you up, step by step, until you have mastered each thing along the way. Not my husband. He’s the “make ya or break ya” of sailors. He’s going to make a sailor out of me or sink the boat trying. It’s okay, don’t worry too much, we all wear our personal flotation devises while out… which is probably a good thing.
Today I watched an 8 year old boy sailing a 16 foot boat in the marina that we are currently docked at. He was out in the water tacking and jibing around buoys. These are terms I still don’t QUITE get, but I am learning. I know they have to do with turning the boat though. I watched in wide eyed wonder as this child weaved through the buoys, came inches from the other boats tied at the dock and turned inches from them with ease. I was stunned at how well he handled the boat while his teacher stood on the dock shouting commands like “hike it out” or something like that and even more amazed when the kid knew what to do. He was seven when he started sailing and I pictured his first lesson. In the daylight, bright sun, no problem seeing everything with those wide curious eyes as he sat listening intently to everything the teacher said.
Basically, it was nothing like my first actual sailing lesson on the boat. I’ve already had my experience of crash course in sailing as part of the crew. My husband decided I needed practice steering first since it was possible that I would have to move the boat from a guest dock to a guest slip. That’s like moving your car from the hotel “Guest Registration” spots to the other part of the parking lot where you’ll stay parked while you are there. I started laughing. He was serious.
My first time trying to park a boat at a dock was a complete failure. Now don’t get me wrong, the boat didn’t sink, I didn’t crash into, on and over the dock or any other boats, no one died or fell overboard. It was nothing like that. But I didn’t personally make the boat glide up to the dock. My husband had to take over. I was devastated. Well, no, I wasn’t. I was quite relieved actually! It started as a normal lesson… except that it was dark because it was nightfall already and I can’t see very well in the dark and there were no boats on the water except the crazy people on the boat named “Fluffy” (that’s us) sailing around the sign as you enter the private berthing section of the harbor. Yes, that was the first part of my lesson. Sail around the BIG GLOWING sign… the one you can’t miss even if you’re blind like me. My husband had me crank up the engine and instructed me in the directions I was to go… sometimes the boat went that way, sometimes it turned in circles. But I finally got the hang of it. He told me to sail around the sign and I did that wonderfully. In fact, I did it so well, I tried it about 5 more times to make sure I had it down pat… And then 2 more for good measure. No one got seasick (DARN!) and we continued on to the next part of the lesson.
I stared at him wide eyed and terrified as he explained I was going to bring the boat into our slip (park it at the dock). I think that’s where the last two circles around the sign came from. Instead of torturing me (thank you, dear!) he pointed to a buoy and asked “See that buoy?” All I could see was blackness with a cascade of shimmering colors. If there was a buoy there, I trust there was, but I didn’t see one. He insisted there was one and pointed in the direction for me to sail. I headed that way as he pointed and kept asking if I saw it. I felt like he was having me steer Fluffy to some invisible monster. I didn’t see it anywhere and I was terrified it would rip poor Fluffy to shreds if I hit it. The first one I actually saw brought joy to my soul, I threw the engine into reverse which slows the motor and waited patiently for the boat to glide to a seamless stop next to buoy. As the buoy came gliding by seamlessly, I realized that dh’s hopes where REALLY high when it came to parking a boat at a dock. I didn’t do too well with the next two buoys either. In fact, I never figured out how to get the boat to stop in the water at all, much less nosied up to a floating speed bump. It just wasn’t happening.
And since I failed so horribly at all those tries, he had the grand idea that it was time for me to head towards the dock as he pointed toward the area I should head saying “Head over toward the dock, four slips down from Poppy.” I couldn’t even see Poppy, the retired boat. Actually, all I saw was dark with polka dotted white spots of light and red glowing words running across an invisible sign “Welcome to Point Loma Pier”. My husband was optimistically envisioning me sliding right into the dock, I think, maybe a few issues here and there, but nothing major. I could see it in his eyes, he wanted to see me succeed. I could feel it in my chest, I couldn’t see where I was going. Was he kidding?
As we approached the dock it did take some form. I saw it more because of the outline of boats that appeared faint white. I headed towards the one dark dark spot thinking that MUST be the slip! How was I supposed to know it was I playing chicken with the dock??? My husband yelled “ABORT! ABORT! BREAK RIGHT!” and I, with my obedient manner, forgot which way to steer and went left. Thankfully I didn’t hit anything. It turned out it didn’t matter which way I went… as long as I wasn’t going straight anymore. He had me circle around again the second time I nearly took out the back end of the Double Dragon. I thought the third time would be the charm but it wasn’t. We actually had to have my husband steer us away from danger while I kept Fluffy from slamming into the Trojan Gift by pushing the boat’s end so we slid away from it.. Oh well. At least I tried, right? Right. The boat didn’t sink, no other boats sank, I didn’t crash into the dock, it was all good!
So tonight he tells me I am parking the boat. We’re pulling out and I’ll steer the boat from the guest dock to our guest slip… at night. In the dark. Lord have mercy on us all, does the man not learn??? So our neighbor sailor helped us cast off while chortling about my ability to “sail by braille”. I headed around the marina at a dead crawl. If snails swim, they would have passed us with flying colors and swam laps around us while giggling. He was making sure I didn’t hit ANY of the plethora of really fancy boats we were going to be motoring past. I managed to float past the mooring field, made a sharp left and a sharp right and headed down the waterway to where my oldest son was signaling me to sail to. It was easy… sail to the light. It was hard to miss since he wasn’t told how to properly signal someone. Just in case anyone is curious, the best way to signal a boat is to NOT shine the signal light into the helmsman (or Galley Wench’s) eyes. I may have trouble seeing at night, but lets not egg it on by blinding me with the signal I am supposed to be following… point it to the GROUND, not my eyes!
My husband managed to get the signal pointed to the dock and then shined a high powered light at the dock I was to be pulling into. I was terrified! There was a about 2 feet on each side to play with. One side had floating plank of wood nailed together. The other side had about $100,000 worth of floating fiberglass. I aimed for the wood. My hubby told me to slow the engine as I was turning and I did that. Then I sat patiently staring waiting to see what would happen as we puttered up to the end of the dock, nose first, and stopped moving, or so I thought. We were going so slow that I couldn’t tell we were moving. My husband could though. He had handed a line to my oldest son (that is how close we were to the dock) and my oldest son was slowly walking it up the dock. I do meanly slowly too. Getting a 10,000 pound boat to move in the water isn’t hard at all. It’s the stopping it at the end that hurts, I mean, is really difficult. So I learned early on that when I am told to pull the boat in slowly, he’s not kidding about the slow part.
After what seemed like eternity, the boat was in place, we tied Fluffy to the dock and secured the boat for a week of life at the Sailor’s Cave Marina. I jumped onto the dock and looked at the beautiful job well done. Fluffy was tied, lines coiled (to look nice and nautical) on the dock, the power was hooked up, my kids were running down the dock to meet up with friends and my husband was telling me “See! That wasn’t so bad was it?” And you know what, he was right! “If it were daytime, you would have had no problems at all.” He said smiling at me. True. Oh so true. In daytime, I could do this blindfolded. I already felt like I did it blindfolded once with my sail by braille eyesight!