I’m a sailor. But we sold our boat last week. I rarely talk or write about sailing.  My first partner, B and I sailed a 27-foot sloop with a sail area the size of a parking lot. My first time out on that boat, fully rigged, we were blown over in a gale near Sidney spit. At the summer solstice, we sailed to a beach party. Bright sunshine and clear skies and, out of nowhere, the wind blew up from the southeast. 

On a laser, sailing on a warm lake in Quebec, my girlfriend dumped the boat. Turtled! This is how you learn to sail, she laughed as she stood on the keel to right the boat. Slick and slippery I hauled myself aboard.  

On B’s boat, I thought, this is it,  we are done for. When I hauled on the tiller, the rudder hovered above the waves. No steering. Frozen and shivering, I was sure we’d capsize. Wet to the waist,  B scrambled along the cabin side back to the cockpit (he’d tried to lower the sail).  The sheet for the Genoa was caught.  Once the line was freed from the cleat, the sail lifted out of the water, and the boat came round and righted itself. The heavy cast-iron keel saved us.  No chance to anchor, climb into the dinghy and row ashore. Missed the party. One friend struggled to paddle back to his boat. It rocked like a wild horse against the anchor chain. We sailed back to a secluded anchorage out of the wind. Dried out and slept to the sound of wind rifling high in the rigging.

Close Hauled

We sailed that boat all through the gulf islands. One time, after a five am start to catch the tide through Sansum Narrows, we were close-hauled, sailing smoothly up the channel.  A bald Eagle stared from a marker on North Reef.  I was eight months pregnant, eating blueberries with granola. On a falling tide. Out of the blue, thump, thump and the bow wedged up on the reef. The blueberries went flying.

Is this when we call the coast guard? B said, no, never call the coast guard. Suddenly, we were surrounded by fishermen in small boats. Our sailing buddies in a nearby boat spotted us caught on the reef. B hoisted a line to the top of the mast, threw it to them and they tipped our boat sideways to pull us off. Another ten minutes and we would have been high and dry for the day until the tide flowed back.  I didn’t go into labour!  The Eagle flew up and away. This was our daughter’s first of many sailing adventures.

The next summer, at anchor, on rare afternoons,  she slept slung from the mast in her reclining seat. Sea rippled.  I loved being tucked away in a peaceful anchorage with a good book. 

Adios Sula

This past week, the 27-foot sailboat that my current partner and I sailed for the past 19 years, powered away from the dock in the hands of new owners.

From beating against the wind, heeled over in a gale in Trincomali Channel to downwind sailing on a summer evening. Such extremes happen with sailing, like the weather with climate change.  I learned to be humble on the sea and grateful to Poseidon.

As I once said, my favourite thing about sailing is going for a walk (different island, sea legs rolling on solid ground). Or squeezing into my wetsuit to swim, snorkel to view the underwater world: purple starfish, nudibranchs and a plethora of fish. I loved setting the sails, silencing the engine; the Jib taut in a strong wind, I lay down on the bow to watch the sky, going nowhere fast away from cell phones and email.

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