For the past two weekends I’ve been down in Oriental, NC1, getting my “Basic Keelboat Sailing Certification” at the Oriental School of Sailing. Unlike driving, you don’t actually have to have a “license” to sail; however if you want to charter a boat they usually want to see some sort of
The class, taught by Captains Jim and Chris, was both harder and easier than I expected. Easier because, as was promised, in the end I did “get” everything (and, in fact, passed the tests, both written and practical). Harder because it’s a *lot* of work in an area that my brain handles poorly (the geospatial and mechanical realm… see the Motorcycle Riding class for further evidence to this point) *and* it’s physically tiring (sun + moving things around + balancing on the boat + etc.).
I took the class with my friend Debra, and we got a sweet suite at the Oriental Marina Inn — not incredibly fancy, but really nice to have two bedrooms and two baths (even a kitchenette, which would’ve been nice had we had more people and a desire to cook). It was also walking distance to the sailing school (though, honestly, everything is walking distance in Oriental). We went down Friday night both weekends, which gave us time to get a drink at the Tiki bar, dangle our feet in the pool for a bit and rest before class started Saturday morning.
The first weekend we spent Saturday in the classroom and Sunday on the water (two crews of four students each plus an instructor on a 24′-26′ boat). To my surprise, I was pleased to discover that I had a strong kinesthetic memory of how to sail2 , even though the “words” (sailing terminology) really threw me off. For example, if Chris (my boat captain) asked “what point of sail are we on?” I struggled with the answer, but if he said, “head downwind” I could do that easily. (The terms are, of course, important, as it’s the only way to tell your crew what you’re trying to do, but I still found them frustrating.) We had *very* light wind that Sunday, which made sailing more difficult, as the adjustments are finer and you have less sense of the boat “telling” you what to do by the way it responds.
That Saturday night, BTW, was the NC Seafood Festival in Morehead City, NC, so Debra and I decided to go. It was an evening of All the Things I Love, as we took a car ferry over from Oriental (boats!!), ate hushpuppies (hushpuppies!!), did the Big Springy Thing (bouncy!!), then stopped at Dairy Queen on the way home (Blizzard!). The Big Springy Thing (my name, not theirs) is one of those contraptions where you strap into a harness, are suspended from bungee cords, then can bounce on a trampoline — you go waaaaay high in the air (30′?) and can do flips (backwards are much easier than forwards, due, I suspect, to the fact that you can bend your legs “up” easily to create angular momentum, but they don’t go “back” very well at all). I loved it (go figure). (Here’s a video of a little girl doing exactly what I did — flips and all — on the same sort of setup!)
This past weekend, we spent an hour or two in class Saturday morning, then the rest of the day on the boats (with a break for lunch). The winds were better (still light at 5-10 knots, but better), and we’d all gotten more comfortable with the whole process, so we practiced more advanced maneuvers, such as “man overboard”3.
Saturday afternoon I received an incredibly pleasant surprise when aklikins called me to tell me he was driving all the way down to Oriental to visit (yes, of course I’d invited him, but I didn’t actually expect he’d do it!). After going out for a drink with Debra, Capt. Jim, his wife Jan and his son Zach, I met Adrian for yummy seafood at M&M’s (fried oysters, ferociousbcycad — incredible!). Sunday morning we reviewed for the written test, took it (I got a 96…still an A!), then went out, rigged the boats and took the practical (which I rocked). After lunch, Debra, aklikins and I took out a boat and sailed for a few hours. I was more than a little pleased that we were able to do it “all by ourselves” and that it was a great day for aklikins‘s first sail.
So, I’m sorta pooped now. Also a little sunburnt and a lot bruised (I counted 14 last night that were at least the size of a quarter…lovely shades of purple and green at the moment.). That said, it was *really* fun (and if I’d just been better able to let go of the whole “it’s-school-and-there’s-a-test-so-I-need-to-be-perfect” stress, it’d have been even more fun), and I’d highly recommend it. (Steve and Heather, of hesketh.com, in fact, had recommended it to Debra & me).
1 My “Nanny” (my Granny’s best friend) had a place down at Oriental when I was growing up, so I have fond memories of fishing off the docks, catching frogs in the yard, and picking up pecans from the giant pecan tree they had. Her house was one of the first “modern” houses (lots of big plate glass windows, open spaces) that I remember being exposed to, and I strongly suspect that it was a major influence on my current architectural aesthetic.
2 My Dad taught sailing at Camp Mondamin up in the mountains of NC when he was growing up, and taught me to sail small boats (Sunfish) when I was pretty young (eight or nine, I think). When I was 14 I went to Mondamin’s sister camp, Green Cove, and learned to sail slightly bigger boats (Y-Flyers and Lightnings…14′ or so) there. Then, in 2001 I took an Intermediate Sailing class at Lake Crabtree in Raleigh, but that was on Sunfish too, so not nearly as big as the boats that we were using in Oriental.
3 In reality it was a big, yellow, floaty thing4 that went overboard. He was named Murphy and I shouted out encouragement to him every time he fell overboard (“It’s ok, Murph, we’re coming to get you!!”). I suspect this was annoying to my fellow crewmembers, but as it’s been pointed out, I anthropomorphize nearly everything, so I *couldn’t* not encourage him.
4 Now you see why the terminology was giving me problems, don’t you?5
5 Yes, I footnoted a footnote. No, I’m not sure whether that’s allowed.