22 June 2006

We were so close...

Ever since Amber Joy and I moved out to the lake, we've been seriously battling a sudden on-slaught of "water-toy" envy. So, when we discovered that one of the little two-person sailboats sitting right here on Grandma's property is still in working condition, we were elated! Score! Fun on the lake, here we come!

We decided that yesterday would be the day to take the little Starfish out for a cruise. But there were all kinds of obstacles in the way. First of all, neither of us has ever learned how to sail a boat, even a small one like this. But I was confident - I have a general idea about how the physics of it work, and surely putting the sail on would be pretty intuitive! So we were optimistic and ready for a new adventure!

First step: gathering the necessary equipment from various places in the old metal shack that my family affectionately calls the "boat house." (Everything around here is in various stages of deterioration.) I manage to scrounge up a working rudder, and even figure out how to attach it to the back of the boat. (An accomplishment I remember feeling very smug about at the time. "Oh, yeah, this'll be easy. I'm a natural.") After a little more digging, I find a center board that is still intact. "But where is the sail?" This question requires a phone call to my father (the first of many that day!). He directs me right to it: suspended over the lawn mower and a bunch of rickety sawhorses, and harboring a whole colony of wasps. ("Add wasp killer to the list," I note wisely to myself.)

Once Amber arrives home from work, we tackle the major task - figuring out how to assemble all the parts and transport the boat across the yard, down the ramp, and into the water. After a major battle with the wasps (A & K - 157, Wasps - 0), we tug the sail and mast out of its state of sleepy suspension, lay it on the ground near the boat, and unravel it. It looks like it's been stored in that dirt-dobber infested spot for a decade (and it probably has). Now comes the tricky part: figuring out how to attach the sail to the mast and the mast to the boat. Time to call Dad again.

Maybe I'm making this too complicated - it is, after all, a tiny sailboat - but there is something about the ropes that instantly throws my cocky confidence into utter confusion. There are all these pulleys and weird hooks that don't fit. All the knots look so sophisticated. But I only know how to tie goofy-looking knots. They hold about as well as those fancy knots that a sailor would tie (or my Eagle scout brother), but they make me feel a little incompetent. It looks like I don't know what I'm doing. ("Oh, wait, I don't!" My false sense of confidence takes a little stagger.)

I circle around the sail, phone in one hand, as I lift the sail and tug at the ropes with the other, trying to describe what I'm seeing to Dad. He tells me what the sail should look like... but for some reason it's different than what he remembers. "There's not a pulley there, Dad." "These hooks are supposed to go together but they don't." He does his best to describe to me how everything should work, and I promise to call back if I get stuck.

Amber and I decide that it would be best to attach the sail when we're closer to the water, so we start dragging the sailboat dolley toward the ramp. (I say we, but Amber did most of the work - she's an incredible girl on so many levels! ) At this point, Grandma chimes in, yelling from her balcony that we should take life jackets - that would be the cobweb-covered, dirt-dobber nested chunks of decaying plastic and foam hanging limply from nails inside the boat house that once aspired to save lives. I let out a half-hearted, "Yes, ma'am." Life jackets - duly noted. By this point, I'm beginning to feel any remnant of confidence leak out of me... much like the murky water that's draining from the bottom of the boat now that it's sitting on the incline of the ramp. (Apparently, it wasn't drained properly the last time someone took it out.)

As we lug the sail down the ramp, it hits me. There's another sail sitting inside the boat house. Setting down our booty from the wasp war, I slink in the side door of the boat house, and sure enough, there's the other sail. "Wait a second..." (I look closer) "This is the sail Dad was describing - it'll fit our boat perfectly... my, what nice knots those ropes have." I know that I can't tie the knots back that well. Wasps, the wrong sail, pulleys and hooks galore, dolleys, ramps, dingy life belts, and finally the right sail but with such lovely knots that I could never hope to tie them back correctly - the combination is all too much. Any remaining excitement and confidence shattered, I vote that we return everything to its rightful place and give it a shot another day.

I wish I hadn't - looking back, we were so close! Maybe we'll try it again next week. (But in the meantime, I'm learning to tie cool knots!) Any friends out there have some advice for a couple of clueless but otherwise eager would-be sailors?

1 comment:

Donald Philip Simpson said...

Great storytelling!! Last weekend I went to Boston to see Steve and Chrissy Holt and we went out on the water with a sailing club that was offering free sailing for the day. When I started reading your blog today all I could think of was...

"Now sit right down and I'll tell you a tale;
a tale of a fatefull trip.
That started on Lake Fort Phantom;
aboard a tiny ship.
The mate was a mighty nursing student;
the skipper was never a bore.
They started out by killing wasps that day;
before their three hour tour,
their three hour tour...
Their was Kellibean, and Amber Joy;
about a milliom wasps, thats for sure.
It started out so inoscently;
but grew into a PhD, grew into a PhD,
grew into a PhD......

Ok, ok - I sort of forgot how the end of the actual song went, but you get the point. Thanks for your comment on my post yesteday :)