I recommend sailing. Go learn how right now like I did this weekend:
See how I’m raising the main sail? Made out of Dacron, by the way, not canvas. Surprise! And thank God, because if hoisting a huge sheet of fairly-light-and-crackly-in-a-not-unpleasant-way Dacron was that difficult for me, I can only imagine the aches and pains of hoisting heavy canvas.
At first, I was a little nervous to get on the sailboat.
Even though I’d arranged for this sailing lesson, I felt woefully underprepared (did I wear the right shoes? Will I be hot in these pants?). Images of how much work this was going to be kept running through my mind, like:
Okay, so I realize that the sailing incident retold in “A Perfect Storm” involved a fishing boat and not a sailboat but still. Aren’t those men wearing gloves in the picture up there? The only sport that I could remotely qualify for that uses gloves would be bowling. And even then, I couldn’t really play any more than one game before my wrists hurt. Oh my God, was I supposed to bring gloves for this?
But it turned out the hardest part was stepping onto the boat while holding my huge and inappropriate purse. After that it was smooth sailing. Corny, but true. And not scary at all. Turns out this was an *introductory* sailing lesson I signed up for, not The America’s Cup (which, yes, I mistakenly referred to as The Davis Cup which made my sailing instructor laugh at me. Fool.)
Here’s Ken, our captain for the first half of the trip:
And here’s a view of Jersey City from a matey’s point of view (that would be me):
We learned the basics of sailing, how to “tack” and to “jibe”, how to sail upwind and downwind, how to watch the “telltales” to see if you’re doing it right. What struck me is how intuitive it is — when I was “captain” and manning the tiller I kept trying to remember that to turn the boat left I had to push the tiller right and vice versa. But when I found myself sailing the boat best, I was just feeling the pressure of the tiller in my hand, the boat underneath me, and going with it. Not forcing anything, just breathing and relaxing. It’s remarkably simple, really, and empowering, to harness the wind and have it move you across the water. There were times that we were going so fast, I forgot that it was only the wind powering us.
Apparently the numbers on this sail are meaningless. According to our instructor, the only number that matters on this boat is the one on the hull. I was going to ask why the sail had numbers at all and not, say, a picture of Jerry Garcia, but I sensed I was asking too many questions already.
Me: What’s the difference between “port” and “starboard”? What are the things you absolutely should not do on a sailboat? How long have you been sailing? So is this your dream job? Isn’t Rochester where Kodak is? What’s Kodak going to do now, are they focusing on digital? (What can I say? I talk when I’m nervous.)
Ken: I think we’re going to hit that ferry.
Our instructor, Alex, was very nice, knowledgeable, and patient. Here he is docking the boat. (Getting off is way easier than getting on. Even with a giant and inappropriate purse.) He runs education outreach for Hudson River Community Sailing, where he helps underprivileged kids understand math, physics, leadership and teamwork through sailing. This program is funded through sailing lessons like the one we took, an added bonus to an already amazing experience.
Did I mention that this whole thing was a surprise for Ken on our 7th wedding anniversary? It was. And that we sailed right past the restaurant where we had our wedding reception in a little bit of a trip down memory lane? We did. Here we are, two official sailors, still smiling after seven years.