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Sailing on the High Sound

(*If you haven't read my previous post, start here.)

I met with a formidable gatekeeper once again today, on my way out to sea--rather, Long Island Sound--on a 38-foot Beneteau sailboat captained by Andy, a member of the Westchester Sail & Power Squadron, sailing teacher, and retired engineer.

Andy wants me to learn, so I was at the helm for a couple hours today, in 6- to 10-foot waves and big winds. How big? We don't know, because our instrumentation malfunctioned! It was liberating to be staring at the horizon and judging the wind by the blowing on our cheeks (and windtails and sails) instead of by dials. Analog, if you will.

Here's the catch! Leaving the harbor, we crossed paths with a familiar boat that was entering the harbor. "That's strange," Captain Andy said. "They left at noon, and it's just past one. I wonder what happened."

Since I was one woman in the company of five middle-aged men, I cracked a joke about them having girls on their boat--while simultaneously proving that women can hold their own. And when I say their own, I mean their own COOKIES.

It was a wild ride. We could easily see why Captain Dennis turned back. The waves were high and constant. We made it to the shipping lane and back in an hour. I was steering the whole way. Imagine standing on one leg and gripping the giant wheel against resistance for that long.

Imagine being in a snow globe. Imagine being on an hour-long rollercoaster ride. Captain Andy asked whether we were all good to go for another hour. The waves were no match for my pride and my hunger to learn and practice. We all agreed that it was best to avoid getting exactly parallel to the waves. What a difference a few degrees makes! I'd say even 15 degrees off parallel made the up and down in the bathtub a whole lot more enjoyable.

I felt like I had the reins on a bucking bronco!

It was best for me to remain standing. This way, my loose body could adapt to the movement and keep the crown of my head to the sky. I could see over the bimini to the high-rise buildings of Stamford, CT and was thankful for that visual anchor as we got tossed about.

We stayed out another hour, taking turns at the helm. Being at the helm was the best position. You're standing and you have a task to focus on.

The threshold guardian, in the form of the boat that turned back, signaled rough seas ahead; its action said to us, "TURN BACK NOW," but we didn't listen, and we pursued the hero's journey we were impelled to take.

And it was the most fun I've had since the last time I went sailing!

Late this summer, I escaped to Five Islands Park to meditate on a floating dock. I spread out a picnic blanket and lied down. The motion of the waves and the sound of the water and wind relaxed me. As the dock gently lifted up and down, I wondered how I could bring boating back into my life. I drove a power yacht for five months in 1999. And I took sailing lessons on small craft in my youth. I was pretty good back then.

I realized I could volunteers as crew and it wasn't long before my plan materialized.

I am now officially a member of the Westchester Sail & Power Squadron, as well.

Many thanks to the warm hospitality of the owners and crew I've sailed with late this season. It's a convivial bunch who are eager to share knowledge. I'm happy to have found them through Meetup.

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