One of those people

Spent the day yesterday with friends on a 40 foot sailboat cruising San Diego Bay and the open ocean beyond Point Loma. Great day, great sailing partners and some great memories.

It was a rough start. We got stuck on a sand bar just 30 minutes into our excursion. None of us knew the harbor at all, and we were at extreme low tide, so not surprising in hindsight. But embarrassing at the time. A Good Samaritan in a small Zodiac offered to help pull us free. After 20-30 minutes we broke free and fled the scene. We paid the guy handsomely for rescuing us.

A while later, our grounding faux pas behind and sails unfurled, I watched people watching us from shore as we cruised by beautiful downtown San Diego. Many times I’ve stood onshore and watched majestic sailboats cruising with mysterious people aboard and wondered, “who are those lucky people out there?”. And then I realized that this time, I’m one of those people. That was fun.

Just a mile or two offshore, outside the protection of Point Loma, we sailed in much rougher waters. At that point our experienced Captain decided to let me steer the boat. It was terrifying. My every instinct was wrong. We were tacking (I think that’s the right word) hard, and to stay on course I had to fight the wheel and keep us tilted sharply, maybe 20-25 degrees over. We had waves breaking the bow and water rushing right up to the low side of the deck, where the rest of us were clinging on. Captain Terri was nonplussed and kept telling me we’re fine, the boat won’t turn over, when every neuron in my brain screamed “Yes, it will! We’re going over!” Even the slightest twitch of the wheel right or left felt like it was going to be my last mortal act. After about an hour of that I was completely drained. Our relaxing boat trip had become a consequential lesson for me – I’m not a sailor. Being at the helm and experiencing the power of just everyday, average (actually, I really hope for my own ego they were above average, but I don’t know) offshore waves and wind, I would never have made it across the water in the Magellan days. Going mano y mano with the ocean is not for me.

After I gave up the helm I went below to decompress and downed a quick beer (I really wanted something stronger). It took me a good 30-40 minutes to calm down. I don’t think my friends realized how stressed I was; I didn’t shit myself or anything, though I had to check. But I’m now 99.99% sure I’ll never sail offshore again in any boat smaller than a football field.

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