Yacht Clubbing

The best time to look at a boat is in the rain. If you love it in the rain, you will love it even more in the sun. I had planned to bike over to see it, but I arrived home from work looking like a drowned rat with my fingers frozen into the handlebar position. My thumbs were so numb that I couldn’t even move them enough to shift gears, so I had to use the side of my hand. When I walked in the house dripping wet, my awesome uncle and aunt told me to just take their car to go see the boat. So I did.

Driving in Seattle is weird. Main roads have two lanes - one is for traffic that is turning (but it’s not a turning lane) and one is for traffic that is going straight. If you’re in one lane at rush hour it’s pretty much impossible to get into the other. Also, there are confusing double stoplights. Anyway, I made it all the way to the boat without getting run over and I even found the McGinnis Marina, an industrial looking place near the locks on Lake Union with giant tug boats and fishing boats towering over a handful of tiny sailboats. The owner, “B”, welcomed me aboard his 30’ Newport where his wife was waiting. They took me over the boat and explained all the parts to me. I felt a little more comfortable telling the owners that I was clueless this time. The more you know about something the more comfortable you feel admitting that you don’t know anything. Not that I know much about boats. I found that out when they asked me if I would like to take it out for a spin since the rain was letting up. Would I like to? Are boogers salty?

I gripped the wheel as I motored the boat away from the dock. Driving a boat is a sensation of extreme power. I had never driven anything this large. If I wanted to, I could have caused thousands of dollars worth of damage to this boat or any of the other boats in the lake. I probably could have even sunk some of the other ships if I had rammed them hard enough. I could have run over kayakers or canoes or anything smaller than me and caused havoc. It was an incredible feeling. No wonder Blackbeard became a booty-plundering pirate.

The wind picked up so we raised the headsail.I’m sure there’s a better expression than that in sailor lingo but I don’t have time to look it up right now so I'll just say "Luff Cringle" again. "Luff Cringle." I sailed for approximately three whole minutes. Then B and his wife decided that that was enough of that and told me to head back to the slip. B took the wheel from me before we docked the boat. He must have noticed that glimmer of power in my eyes and he probably didn’t trust me to not ram the boat into the dock. Trying to be helpful, I tied the boat to the dock with a half hitch, which I had learned the other night in Des Moines. B took my half-hitch apart and re-tied it when he stepped off the boat. “Any more questions?” B asked. I told him that was it and I’d be in touch. Then I headed to the Corinthian Yacht Club for their Cinco De Mayo/Opening Day Party.

I wasn’t sure whether to walk in or not, since the sign on the door said “Members Only” and I wasn’t yet a member. But I spotted my friends inside and they waved me in. The party had already been going on for a couple of hours and the tabletop was littered in empty bottles and glasses. The conversation had turned to weigh-ins at races. “I always volunteer to man the scales when the Italian men are weighing in. They literally don’t wear anything for their weigh-ins! They just strip right down to the buff!” Exclaimed the elderly lady across from me. The table of women sailors erupted into laughter. “I always watch them and I’m thinking ‘do they realize that that’s illegal in this country?’ But I certainly hope they don’t!”

All the women talked about the benefits of having a heavier crew. Finally I've found a sport where I can put my love of eating to good use!

Half of the women at my table had sailed around the world at some point. I was in awe, but I realized that we actually had a lot in common - I was able to talk to them about the cliff divers in Acapulco and hanging out on nude beaches on the coast of France. They welcomed me as a Seattle newbie, and talked about the what they loved about living in Seattle, such as being able to sail on day and ski the next. Which happened to be what my plan was for the weekend.

And we all agreed that “There is nothing half so much fun as messing about in boats.”

Which is exactly what I did all day Saturday on lake Whatcom in Bellingham. My coworker Andy took me and we met his friends and sailed from noon until five in the alternately rainy and sunny weather. Since we hadn’t tipped the boat, Andy and I decided to celebrate by diving into the lake. I don’t know why this always happens. It just happens.

I took a dive off the dock and as I hit the water I felt the shock of the cold immediately freeze me hands into the t-rex position. I tried to swim to the dock but I could barely doggy paddled with my clenched-up muscles, and when I got to the dock I wasn’t able to lift myself with my jelly muscles out so Andy’s friend Leo had to give me a hand. Even so, standing on the dock in the mild sunshine I felt rejuvenated. There is nothing like diving into a freezing lake to make you feel like you’re alive.

Tonight, Monday night, I returned to the Corinthian Yacht Club for my first official sailing lesson with Stark. We hadn’t read the chapter of “Getting Started In Sailboat Racing” that we were supposed to read, so I read it aloud in the car and we started to pick up the lingo, like “Spinnaker pole,” “Leeward,” and “Windward.” Somehow, amazingly, we made it there ten minutes early. We were probably the youngest people in the room and the people with the least amount of sailing experience but we didn’t care. Actually, I think we might have also been the most excited people to be there. “I can’t believe this is actually happening,” Stark said as we left. “We’re going to be sailors.”