29. A Taste of Sailing

29.  A Taste of Sailing

sailingWe got our first taste of sailing when our insurance agent, Norm Westly, told us a group was starting a sailing club, and we could rent a small boat.   Would we be interested?  Absolutely!  It was a 10 ft O’Day.  As a prerequisite, I taught Betty to swim in the  pool before we could use it.  It was great fun to sail around the smooth water in the Bay inside the breakwater wall.

One of the club members had a 19 ft Mariner, and invited us to go out for a sail on a beautiful afternoon.  When we rounded the end of the breakwater and moved into the gentle swells coming in off the Pacific, I looked at Betty to see her big smile — we were both hooked!  There is something about the rhythmic movement of waves as a boat sails over and slides down; rocking like a cradle to calm the spirit.
The club joined some power boaters to do a boat parade along the Bay front.  Our neighbor was a carpenter, and helped us build a thatched hut on our little sailboat, and a sign, “Hicks Mobile Home.”

A local builder was Hicks Homes, and the judges thought we were a commercial float, so we didn’t win. The club president gave us a bottle of champagne anyway, because everyone thought we had the best boat.

Any boaters out there who would like to share their first boating experience?

4 thoughts on “29. A Taste of Sailing

  1. Lyn Heinz

    Bob, this reminded me that for 20 summers my children and I went sailing with my Dad on Ocohonnock Creek, which runs into the Chesapeake Bay. My Dad was so happy on the water that he instilled that love in all of us. Sailing (first priority), canoeing, motorboating (skiing and tubing) were all part of our adventures. Dad was the captain, and we either handled the sails and tiller, or we lounged on deck enjoying the slowly passing scenery. We couldn’t snooze, or we risked getting hit by the boom when we came about! Even Dad’s lab, Jaime, loved sailing along with us for the better part of a day. What a great place for children to experience those Tom Sawyer summers!

  2. Conrad Swanson

    My sailing experience started with a little sailboard with a cockpit big enough to get two sets of feet in.  A little too much wind and over she goes, tip her back up and away you go again.  Probably not a bad way to learn to sail on the inland lakes certainly not on Lake Michigan. 
    Friends at work were real sailors, they owned their own boats, a 27 foot Catalina and the other two had a 27 foot Vega, a Swedish built boat with an inboard engine, as well as a 22 foot Boston Whaler.  All three nice boats and we had a lot of fun sailing with them.  

    Doug owned the Catalina and asked me to sail with him in the Grand Traverse Bay area including Charlevoix.  Well, Charlevoix has a draw bridge that opens every half hour.  We cleared the bridge and headed out into the Big Lake. We headed out the channel with the main sail up and a 110 ginny flying as the head sail (jib).  The rollers in the channel were getting bigger, so Doug ordered the storm jib up to replace the big head sail. 

    My job was to hank on to the rails and bring the big sail down.  What a joke! Every time I got it part way down we’d crest a wave and I’d let go of the sail to hang on, and the wind would grab the sail and send it back up again! 

    We broke out of the protective breakwaters into the big lake just as I got the storm jib up, my partner was pulling the sail into the boat through the hatch and was getting sea sick – worse by the minute.

    We couldn’t turn back as the bridge was closed for the next half hour.  So we headed for Beaver Island, broadside to these gigantic waves.  The storm was beating us up pretty bad so Doug decided to head for Harbor Springs.  We sailed wing on wing, main out to the starboard and jib out to the port, plus surfing down the waves. 

    I didn’t know a sailboat could go that fast, we figured we were doing 12 to 14 knots.  It was a lot of fun except for the guy that got seasick. He spent most of the trip hanging over the port rail, and he claimed he NEVER got sea sick. Not this time – he was green by the time we made land again.  

    I was lucky and had lots of adventures with my friends, most of them good.


  3. John White

    I always thought Hawaii was a paradise; your comments certainly convince me I was right.
    I’ve been on small boats my whole life on lakes, water skiing and tubing and stuff, and really loved it. I went on my first bay cruise when I was 17. It was for a church dance with about 200 kids; I was really excited for a dance out on the bay! Problem is, I started getting sea sick as soon as we left the dock. I found a corner and slept through the whole dance. I’m glad your sea legs were better than mine!

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