Sailing can be very tack-y

It's a new chapter.

I have embarked on a life on the open sea, to feel the spray of saltwater in my face and the coming together of earth and sky… OK, OK, maybe it's not that exciting, but I was invited to race on a sailboat for the summer.

skipper Pete
skipper Pete

Up until now, I have been an associate member at the Cobourg Yacht Club, which meant attending pub nights every second Saturday through the winter and listening to sailing stories from the seasoned members.

But now it's my turn.

During the winter get-togethers, I made it clear that I wanted to me more than a couch yacht club member and that I wanted to get onto Lake Ontario and learn how to sail.

My prayers were answered when skipper Peter Stirling invited me to crew on his 30-foot sailboat Nemesis. The first race of the season was scheduled for May 5.

"If you are interested, get back to me and if you decide to try it, remember, dress warmly as it’s cold out there," stated skipper Pete's email invitation.

When I contacted my buddy Josh, a very experienced sailor, he also expressed the importance of dressing warmly.

So I arrived at the ship with long underwear and jeans, along with a t-shirt, sweatshirt, sweater, winter coat, toque and winter mitts.

As the six-man crew made their way onto the boat, I tried my best to fit in by staying out-of-the-way. Being the first race of the year, it was more of a practice run and only the diehard crews were out to launch the season. The wind was cold and serious. Waves were massive – well in my limited experience of being on boats they looked pretty freakin' big.

As I perched myself in the cockpit, skipper Pete announced, "Prepare to tack!!!"

The rest of the crew burst into action, preparing themselves for the tack. I stood there, legs bent, arms out, and not having a clue what the command meant.

"What do I do?",  I asked skipper Pete.

"Ah, right, Jeff, you keep your head down."

That was it. My first day on the water as a sailor and the skipper was more or less saying, "Jeff, don't crack your skull open when the boom comes across because that would really, really ruin my day."

Suddenly, we were speeding along with the wind now directly behind us. Another command came from skipper Pete to raise the spinnaker.

"Is that the really pretty, colourful one," I asked inquisitively.

"Yes, Jeff, that's the really pretty, colourful one," responded skipper Pete subtly shaking his head.

And so it began, my first race, my first time as a crew member, and I didn't crack my head open or get caught up in a line or infuriate the skipper.

All in all it was a pretty damn good start and I was invited back for another race.

I'll keep you posted.


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