into the wind

In middle school, just as I was starting to do my bangs, go to country club dances, shave my legs and shower daily, my parents got a new hobby. They could not just play golf or redecorate like some of the other parents I knew. Instead, they bought a boat.
A really big boat.
The kind that slept six, had a full kitchen, bathroom and even a decent sized shower.
Most tweens would probably be thrilled that for all practical purposes their family owned a yacht, but unless it came with it’s own personal hot tub I was not impressed.

 This is also a good time to mention that my parents knew almost nothing about sailing and that I really did not like the weekend jaunts down to Kemah that kept me away from my very own phone line that boys were so not calling me on…(but a girl could dream).

Almost every weekend as long as the weather was nice and there was decent wind we would head south.  I’d go down below while my parents checked lines and sails and located the winch.  I read books or the latest YM while they navigated us out of the ship channel and into the Gulf of Mexico.  If I was a little less moody that day I’d climb up on the mast and nestle myself on top of the main sail and wave coolly at all the people sipping beers and eating oysters on the boardwalk.

My parents subscribed to sailing magazines, read books got tips from friends and probably spend my inheritance at Boat US. All I wanted was a cute pair of deck shoes and to work on my tan. The learned the lingo and somehow managed to navigate the boat back into the slip at the marina week after week with very few major mishaps. Occasionally we’d lose a hat (and once even my retainer) overboard or break a line but there were never any crashes or shipwrecks. There were the occasionally storms and close calls…but we all got our sea legs and despite my best intentions I occasionally didn’t hate it.  I love the sea and the salt and watching the boat cut swiftly through the water.  I especially liked the quiet of a sailboat. Just the wind and the waves and my parents in the background cussing at each other to clean up their lines.

Most of the lingo was lost on me and to this day I couldn’t tell you the difference between port and starboard. With a few tries I can tie a decent cleathitch. But a few words I learned fast were jibe and tack. Jibing and tacking are maneuvers to help you turn the boat either into or away from the wind. It is a quick 45 degree turn that I don’t know the first thing about. I do know this, before you do it the crew (read—my parents) must announce “ready to jibe” then to be followed up by “jibing” or my personal favorite “jibe ho” because then the boom (mainsail) would slam (and I do mean slam) across the boat …taking out anyone in its way. At the age of 12 I was an expert at turning out my parents and getting lost in my magazine or cranking up my discman ….but after learning the hard way once or twice I always heard these commands.

My parents don’t sail anymore. Instead with a slew of grandchildren they traded in their mainsails for a lakehouse with a much smaller more manageable party boat. I’ve tried to take that boat out a few times without my parents or husband around to help and I’m sure anyone watching has gotten a good laugh. Usually it is with friends who are even more clueless than me. We almost always have to ask for help and there is usually a few panicked phone calls made.  Trying to get the boat back in the slip or even worse into the pier at Starbucks is a really good show for anyone watching.  I can barely park my car without backing into things (ok, I can’t) so a boat is like me trying to back an 18 wheeler into a compact space. Some of my friends have seen this first hand and still talk about it.
If there is even the teensiest wind….I won’t even consider it. I tell my friends or kids to make do with the kayak. Or hit the pool.

It has not escape my notice that some of the sailboats my parents have owned were significantly larger than this little boat that I refuse to drive or park or fill up with gas if anyone is so much as breathing heavy in my presence. Their much larger sailboats with a much smaller engines were designed for windy days. For the sails to fill up and to cut through the water faster than I can cruise the lake in a pontoon boat.

Funny thing about a sailboat, you can not actually sail directly into the wind.
If your destination is into the wind you must criss-cross back and forth tacking and jibing across the water. Modern sailboats can only sail into the wind at best in 45 degree angles and it takes several tacks to keep your boat on course. To get where you want to go you have to keep turning and to keep enough wind in your sails.
And like anything in life the wind is liable to change at any moment.

 I am not a huge planner, but occasionally try to be a grown up and map out some goals. Places I’d like to see myself in a few years. Things I want for my family. Things I want to accomplish. Dreams I want to stop talking about and pursue.
And as I set out along that path what I am hoping will be a nice easy straight line course.
But so often I get distracted.
Or something gets in the way.
Or the wind changes.

I don’t quit things easily and I am a distance runner, but when it is personal I often get discouraged or disheartened or wonder if I am even aiming in the right place.
I haven’t been sailing in probably 15 years, but I have been trying to remember some of the things I learned on those boats.
Keep turning.
Not many things in life are straight lines.
It is hard and not so healthy to go directly into the wind. Into the struggle.
Occasionally I might need to jump ship, but more often than not I just need to make a hard tack.

Just watch out for the boom.