I once took a sailing boat course in Mount Vernon, Washington. I have always been terrified of deep water, especially if I cannot see what might be lurking under the surface. So, I was quite proud of myself for finding the courage to risk myself to horrible monsters that might be living in Big Lake.
I worked in the Business Office of the local college. I was on the Classified Staff Committee which is a liaison between staff, faculty and the public. My responsibility on the committee was to publish our newsletter each week. Current events was a big portion of the newsletter and I kept everyone informed on what was going on.
One summer the sailing boat course was offered and I encouraged everyone who could to sign up. Big Lake is set in a beautiful location in a woodlands area. The college owns some land there, with a building for classes pertaining to water sports. They own docking piers and several sailing boats. There is also a kitchen in the building. I was successful in getting several people to sign up for sailing. A lot of my coworkers said they would sign up if I did. Fear swept over me and I thought about it very carefully. I talked to the instructor, whom I fully trusted, and told him about my fear of deep water. He assured me there were no monsters in the lake, no piranhas, no freaky things floating around, and he said it is mandatory everyone wear a life jacket. He really had high hopes this new class would be successful. He also told me he would be on the lake each time we went out sailing. With great courage from I knew not where, I signed up.
The first two classes were easy and enjoyable. We stayed inside the building and learned all the proper terms of boats and sailing. The third class shook me to the core – we had to team up, two buddies per boat, and decide who would sit fore and who would sit aft. The person aft (back of the boat) would handle the rudder to steer the boat, and keep the necessary tension on the mainsail. The person fore (front of the boat) would handle the rope attached to the jib (the headsail, a triangular sail that sets ahead of the foremast of a sailing vessel; a jib’s most crucial function is as an airfoil, increasing performance and overall stability by reducing turbulence on the main sail’s leeward side, downwind side).
I really surprised myself and the instructor, for I did quite well in learning how to sail, how to avoid the main mast pole when it came rushing at my head, all the safety regulations, all the terms, even how to tack across the lake when the wind was too strong to sail down stream.
This could be a really long post if I told you all I learned in the class, so I will just tell you one more thing. In the last class before we went out on the lake, the instructor told us we had one final test, and that was to learn how to upright the boat when we capsize. Okay – that just about made me get up and walk out, but, I had come far and was not going to chicken out. We went out, got in our boats and headed out. My buddy and I were doing just fine, we did not capsize. We watched everyone else flip upside down then right their boat. The instructor sailed over to our boat and said, “You two have not capsized yet.” I grinned at him. “No,” I proudly said. “We have been very careful and we watched to learn how everyone got their boat back up.” The instructor said, “I don’t think you understand!” and quickly stretched out an oar and pushed us over.
He did it so fast I barely had time to take a breath and there I was, under water with the sails below me. Because my buddy and I had watched everyone else, we swam around to the keel and grabbed hold of it, pulling hard till our boat was upright again. When we got back in the boat, the instructor was laughing and said we passed with flying colors. Yep, flying colors, indeed, I was all shades of red and green, from anger, to embarrassment, to sick.
I did it ! I took a sailing course and passed. Would I ever do it again? Nope! I was in my prime back then and I don’t think I would survive that course now. I must admit, though, it was quite fun – and no monsters ate me.
© 2017 Phyllis Doyle Burns
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