Turn, turn, turnThere is an old joke that goes something like this: Seems there was an Admiral who had been in the Navy for years and years. Many of them in shore side command. He had a secretary who watched him every morning like clockwork, go through the same routine. He would arrive promptly at 7AM. Hang his hat on the rack. Go to his desk and before sitting down for the days work, he open the top right drawer, stand for a moment looking in the drawer. He would then close the drawer, sit down and begin the day. Though very curious,. The secretary would never violate the trust with the Admiral by looking in the desk drawer to see what was there. Finally the day came. The Admiral had retired, and the secretary was left there alone awaiting the next command. Curiosity won and the secretary could stand it no longer and went to the desk, opened the drawer and peered in. There taped to the bottom of the drawer was a well worn and yellowed piece of paper with the following "Port = left, Starboard = right".
It had to be a distant relation of this Admiral that AJ (aka webmonkey) that went sailing with us that fine day. The boat was a well rigged chartered Beneteau 34. The skipper (provided by the charter service)and interesting able sailor, the crew AJ, Adam(the significant other), me (The Dad), a Japanese national working in Australia (cannot remember nor would it be likely that I could spell his name) and Bill, an Aussie brick salesman and I’m sure a descendant of the above mentioned Admiral.
We headed out on a beautiful day on a beautiful bay and it was not long before AJ and both shared with each other how good it was to have a boat under our feet again. AJ, her mother and I had lived on board a 38’ cutter named Katherine. She (Katherine) was the culmination of several years of sailing and a series of ever bigger boats. She (AJ) was the culmination of a trip on Nicole, one of those series of boats. AJ was 2 ½ when we sold all shore related stuff and moved aboard. Living aboard was for me, and I think for AJ, one of the most wonderful times in our lives. And, I believe that shared experience is part of what has bonded AJ and I so strongly. We sailed a lot of miles and spent a lot nights at anchor and shared all the experiences that come with that. If you have never sailed or have never learned to become comfortable at sea I suspect you will not "Grok" any of this. If you have ever had the wind on you cheek, sailing a well trimmed boat as she rises and falls to a gentle sea, realizing that the tears on your cheek are a result of both the brisk salty air and the shear joy in you soul, then I need say no more about how AJ and I were feeling.
It did not take the skipper long to find out that there were those aboard who had sailing experience. So, after a quick safety talk he began the process of changing from skipper to crew as he turned over the helm to me and started showing the rest some of the basics of trimming sails. Before long it was AJ and I doing a lot of sailing while the rest of the crew refused the helm or stuck to sail trimming. AJ was a little apprehensive on the helm at first but soon got the feel back and steered a good course. Unspellable name Japanese guy took a turn and did well though to me, he never seemed to have a "feel" for the boat. Adam and Bill both refused to have anything to do with the helm. Noontime came and we powered into a neat little cove adjacent the Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park on the far side of the Bay, picked a mooring buoy, and settled in for comfortable lunch at anchor. Refreshed, we cast off and headed back to the Bay. It was not long after leaving the cove that and after some prodding from all, we convinced Bill to take a turn on the helm.
I have been around boats of all kinds most of my life and have become to believe that operating a boat with ease is as much an art as a science. When I was Senior Deputy Harbormaster I was part of the hiring process for several Patrolman. Part of the testing process was to take the applicants, one at time, out in one of the Patrol boats and give them a series of maneuvers to accomplish. It was not so much to see how well they accomplished the maneuvers, but more how they handled themselves with the boat. After five minutes of watching I knew whether the applicant had the makings of a rescue boat operator. The moves have to be instinctive, the operator and the boat become a single machine and even though in docking the operator might miss the mark it was more due to not being familiar with the idiosyncrasies of that particular boat than it was to poor operation.
I have never seen such a mismatch of man and machine in my life, as that of Bill and that 34’ sailboat . Left became right and right left, ease the helm a little became a violent turn, fall off became no, no left, left, no the other left. Now I have to give to Bill, he tried. He really, really tried. And, the more he tried the more we became the boat that I’m sure the Harbor Patrol had in their sights as a wreck in the happening. A fairly good gust and a near knock down did it and Bill surrendered. We were all supportive after he gave up the helm and sat down with a look of embarrassment on his face. During the trip Bill had talked about wanting to take up sailing and hoped he could do more chartering to learn sailing skills.
I hope my instincts are wrong and Bill becomes a wonderful sailor.