Friday, November 22, 2013

Enlightenment, By H. Michael

Janet Lee has accused me of teasing readers that may have found their way to my November 12th  post because I failed to explain how I became enlightened.  "But JL," I said "don't you enjoy a little foreplay prior to getting down to business?"  

"Yes, I do" she said "but I prefer to be stimulated with continuity, and without interruption." 

Once again her cunning intelligence left me speechless and with a lot more insight into that thing called love.  Here then is my enlightenment story.

It was a dirty December afternoon in 2003 when I stumbled into the youngest brother of my best friend at a local restaurant.  He mentioned  that, along with a friend, he had just purchased a really cool used twenty-four foot sailboat.  I was curios regarding his desire to own a sailboat because he is one of many I spent time cavorting with on the water.  His acquisition definitely tweaked my interest to the degree that when he offered to take me out sailing; I accepted.  We set up a time to meet the next day on an area lake where they kept their boat . 

I was not a sailor, but I trusted both of the owners of the little POS boat we were going to take out into the frothing waters of the lake.  Frothing?  Yep.  The wind was clocking at around 30 miles an hour and gusting to 35 or 40.  The grey, sunless sky provided limited light, and the low, fast moving clouds were threatening rain, or perhaps worse.   I would not have ventured out in a power boat in similar conditions, but to my uneducated sailing mind set the strong, gusting, cold, north wind just meant we would have a great sail.  My first warning should have been when one of the guys started taking hits from a flask about every ten minutes. 

"Hey Michael go up on the front of the boat and put this sail on that wire thing going up to the top of the mast.   Just make sure those little clip things are closed all the way and are in the right order.  Oh yea, and make sure that rope is attached to the first piece of hardware on the sail."

"Uh, okay" I said. 

My second warning should have been how spongy the deck felt when I went forward to hank on the jib, but I trusted my companions because they had been sailing on the old decaying boat before. 

"Do you guys know how to sail this thing?"

"Yea we took her out last week for the first time, but we didn't know we had to put the retractable keel down.  When the outboard ran out of gas and died we were pushed sideways into the back of the cove and Kevin had to jump out and keep us from hitting the shore.  He had to push the boat all the way around the cove, in waste deep water, back to the dock.  That was a really good learning experience."

"The water was so cold I lost feeling in my legs."  Kevin chimed.

After we got the boat set up to sail we headed out of the cove and into the main body of the lake.   At first we were traveling in the lee of the cove but once we rounded the corner and cleared the tree line the little outboard mounted on the stern began struggling to maintain forward momentum against the oncoming wind and waves. Occasionally a big wave would crash into the bow and throw a spray of ice cold water into the air toward our totally exposed bodies in the cockpit.  With the onslaught of every wave my host took another hit from his flask and offered it around. 
"No, none for me thanks." 

We had attached the halyard to the main sail back in the cove and now Bob said "Okay, it's time to pull the sail up the mast." Wrap this rope around the winch a couple of times and start pulling."

I did as I was told and the sail started inching up the mast.  Immediately upon being exposed to the wind, the sail began a disorderly complaint by dancing wildly side to side.  As the sail neared the top, Kevin added a handle to the winch and began to crank.   In no time the sail nestled tightly into place at the top.  As the sail gained height up the mast, the outboard increasingly struggled to keep the boat moving forward.  The little sailboat fought back bravely but labored under the attack from the waves hitting the bow.  She launched into her protest by bobbing up and down like a bronc at a rodeo.  I was beginning to understand.

Bob was at the tiller and asked if we were ready.  He should have said hold on cause the shit is about to hit the fan, but what did I know.  I was sitting on the starboard side of the cockpit and when Bob turned the boat to port, the wind immediately filled the sail, heeled the boat over about forty degrees, and buried the port toe rail three inches below the water.  I had to brace my feet on the bottom part of the port lazaret to keep from falling on top of Kevin and Bob.  The boat took off like a NHRA dragster, and my heart started pumping adrenaline as if turned on by a switch.  Eventually I took a turn on the tiller and even discovered I could maneuver the boat by pulling in on, or easing off of, the sheets. (I learned the terminology later.)  We incredibly sailed for about an hour until we were so cold and wet we couldn't take it any longer. 

I have heard it said that love will either set a man free, or make him a prisoner.  I'm not sure if that's true, but since that fateful day in December, love has become my alibi.  That day was a turning point in my life.  We were the only boat on the lake, and really had no business being there.  The extraordinarily bad conditions undoubtedly threw caution to all the sane people.  But, there we were, out on the lake.   Few people recognize important defining moments in there lives, but I knew in the short time we were on the water sailing that worn out, little sailboat that I would make sailing a long lasting part of my life.  I started to research sailing classes the next week and soon after started taking ASA sailing courses.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

I'm Not a Sailor, by H Michael

I have always enjoyed being in, or on, water.  In my youth it really didn't matter if I was in a swimming pool, lake, or backyard sprinkler; I felt happy when around water, as though I was receiving some sort of unexplained emotional benefit.  Later in life I naturally gravitated to friends that receive similar reward from water, but always our interest was connected to power boats.  Whether we were on top of the water skiing, or under the water diving, power boats were our preferred style of water toy.  I am not a sailor, but I vividly remember the day I became enlightened


From the above one may presume that I do not come from a long line of sailors.    I was not born with a sailing pedigree, and to the best of my knowledge no one in my family tree was, or is, a sailor.  Please allow me at this juncture, to take occasion and explain my use of the noun "sailor" in this transcript.  My desire is to reference those individuals that employ bits of fabric sails to move their watercraft, not as reference to a crew member in the navy.   Permit me to further declare; I did not take sailing lessons during summer camps, enjoy summers on a lake racing sailboats, or create any other form of youthful sailing memory.  I have never had a mentor that was a sailor, and if fact be told, I thought sailboats were for indolent individuals.  How exciting could moving a vessel with the wind be compared to the speed with which wind blows through your hair on a powerboat?  I have never known a sailor, and I am not a sailor.  But, I clearly remember the day I became enlightened.

Last week Janet Lee and I were visiting with a group of sailing friends (you can read their blogs here and here) and the conversation turned to a specific component recently installed on one of their sailboats.  Everyone present, at least the men, the women were discussing different kinds of rum, knew the function of the devise being discussed but no one knew the proper name.  My excuse, and lack of knowedge in this regard, is most certainly because I am not a sailor, and I might add, make no pretense of being a sailor.  Oh sure I understand the dynamics of moving a vessel through water using a wing or combination of wings for propulsion.  I have even skippered sailboats in the leeward and windward islands of the Caribbean, navigated successfully between islands in all kinds of conditions and arrived safe and reasonably sound.  I have owned a couple of sailboats the smallest being 35 feet.  I can identify some of the parts of a sailboat and sometimes even know their intent or function, but I could sail from now until my last day and I would never consider myself a sailor compared to resumes of some I have met.  But, I definetly remember the day I became enlightened.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Flying Without a Net, By H. Michael

The other night Janet Lee and I were having cocktails with some friends. We shared our goal of moving onboard Adventure Us 2 with them (they shall remain nameless) and one of them responded with, "oh, I could never do that".   I thought to myself, well isn't that precisely the point?     Allow me to explain.

When I was a teenager growing up in Dallas, I was lucky enough to have parents that loved going to the movies.  Even before we moved to Dallas, we would go to "drive in" theaters and watch double features into the late hours of the night, and sometimes into the wee hours of the morning.  This manner of distraction allowed my imagination to run out of control with unrestrained frenzy.  I easily identified with the lead character, or any other character I choose, and in that context I would make choices and decisions for the character based on my own youthful idealism, and perception of the world.  Whether I was identifying with Lloyd Bridges in his role as the Karl Wallenda,  John Wayne in the Alamo, or Omar Sharif in just about anything, I created my own sensibilities.  Movies somehow filled in the gap between who I thought I could be, who I would like to be, and who I really was.  Yea, in my youth I could totally perform a high wire act without a net.  To do anything else would be so uncool.  Besides if you are confident in your ability, skillful at your craft, and courageous in your mission what could go wrong?

Somewhere along the line I stepped away from a romantic perception of life and allowed  conventional structure to dominate my existence.  I became what I was expected to be; a consumer of everything traditional culture told me I wanted from life.  Now don't get your butt up in a roar because this post is not a rant about consumerism,  and it certainly is not a cry of regret for things I have or have not achieved.  The fact is I have been blessed with a life free of depravity and full of adventure that has left me sane, healthy, happy and free of undesirable habits.  But, always bubbling just under the surface in the cauldron of life was an irresistible essence, or spice I wanted to taste.

Occasionally someone, or some event would stir my soul and quixotic thoughts would invade my spirit and bestow an irresistible desire to swim against the grain of convention.  Some of you (if anyone is reading this) may say that the very spirit of quixotism makes for an ugly blend of impracticality at the expense of romanticism.  I ask you; did Rooster Cogburn fuss over the impossible, or impractical odds stacked against him when he mounted his horse, a Winchester in each hand,  reins in his mouth, and charged hell bent for leather toward the bad guys?  Hell no he didn't.  He was prepared to stay the course, trust in himself, his abilities, and his equipment because he learned from his quest for self realization that he had true grit.

The roads we travel in life are many, and a few of us must lead the way for others to follow especially when it means going against conventional wisdom of how our time on earth should be spent. Romantic, impractical, or na├»ve as it may seem to those who do not share our mindset, Janet Lee and I have decided to explore the undeniably different lifestyle of living on a cruising sailboat, and if required to make personal changes in our lives to achieve our goal.  Do I want to wash clothes in a bucket? Not really.  But, if it is a necessary requirement then I'll take the ugly along with the bad and the good.   Perhaps somewhere along the way we may even discover that flying without a net can be fulfilling, as long as we stay away from uncontrolled landings.