Sailing Practice (May 20, 2014)

UNNNGH!  UNNNGH!  UNNNGH!  UNNNGH!  UNNNGH! That was the deafening blast of a tanker’s horn blaring as it bore down on us in the channel. Five horn blasts is a warning. We had decided to sail out into the ocean for the first time. We were sailing the narrow harbor channel to get out and, because of the wind direction, had to tack across it. The tanker, which would not even feel our boat hit it, hailed us on the VHF to ask our intention. Can I just say how big these things are and how quickly they come upon you? We look up their specs through AIS on our chartplotter. This container ship is 150 feet wide and .2 miles long. To put that in perspective, our boat is 13 feet wide and 41 feet long. I feel like a mouse looking up at an elephant prior to being trampled.


Our boat is heeling, there are raised voices and this is about the time I start freaking out thinking “maybe I [meaning me) can’t do this.” It’s the first time I’m really afraid. The channel is crowded and Matt doesn’t feel well. All I can think is what will happen if it’s just me and I need to bring us back in safely (did I mention that we have to pass through the jetties, i.e., a 3-mile long set of rock walls that are hidden at high tide on the way out? And that we’ve heard numerous stories of whole families perishing after crashing up on them?). [see below]


Matt, however, sees my freak out as progress. “You know that 4×4 quadrant with competence on one axis and awareness on the other?” he asks. “I think you’ve just passed from incompetently unaware to incompetently aware. It sounds like an insult but it’s not.” This from the man who, after we had been dating a few months, informed me that I was #10 on his priority list (after divine beings, family members and friends) and that it was actually quite an honor to be in the top ten [My sister had looked at me incredulously and said, “I’d break up with him immediately” when I told her]. But I understand what he’s saying and he’s right. I’m not that competent yet but at least I know it. He acquiesces to my fear and we save the ocean for another day.