Tuesday I get a call from the OCSC sailing club that I was the only person that signed up for a lesson so they were cancelling my lesson. I managed not to cry while I explained that I was flying in 3 days early and paying for 2 extra days of hotel, just to go on this lesson. He quickly told me he would put out an email to the club members to see who else was going to sail and if they had room. Within a few minutes he called back to say that Bruni would gladly take me on and introduced us by email. She and I exchanged a few emails and then she asked me to call her so she could make sure I got on the right trains and we could work out the details. Crisis averted.
Wednesday my day went like this – Leave in a van at 4:30 AM CST, fly to Detroit for a 3 hour layover, fly to San Francisco, buy a ticket to ride the BART, catch the BART, change trains, get off one status too early, get back on the train for 2 more stations. Get out, change shoes, charge my cell phone, meet my skipper, Bruni, at the BART station. Walk 4 blocks to her house to stow my luggage in her car, so she can change and show me all the websites she checks for weather and wind to prepare for sailing. Bruni will probably get an entire page in my book with all that I learned from her in a few short hours. Her generosity was staggering.
We arrive at the marina where I settle up on the exchange from a class to a charter and decide a trip through the gift shop is better than a refund. Bruni helped me try on foul weather gear which is what I’m sporting in the picture above. The first boat we were assigned didn’t have some of the lines, the 2nd boat we were assigned had it’s battery being charged so we finally settled on the 3rd boat. While I was feeling like Goldilocks (this boat isn’t safe, this boat is sure, this boat is just right), Bruni was happily saying, this is why I love sailing, you never know what to expect.
The rest of the crew was fairly experienced and knew how to help get the boat ready to go. I mainly tried to stay out of the way and be helpful with the checklists and stowing the gear. My mind was racing with all the metaphors between starting a business and sailing.
Before we started, Bruni went over a safety briefing reminding everyone to be alert constantly, and assigned tasks to each person. She had already explained that one of her first rules was no one leaves the boat, accidentally or on purpose. I would find out why this was a good rule and a difficult one to adhere to as we set sail.
While we were backing out of our slip (I don’t have all the terminology YET, but learned a lot), the wind was giving us a lot of trouble and we were trying not to bump the boat next to us. An unfortunate small gust caused our anchor to get tangled in the line of the next boat, Bruni kept her calm, gave instructions, everyone was giving her information to make the adjustments we needed and when it seemed like we were more stuck than we thought, suddenly we were free and on our way.
I would love to give you a play by play of all that was involved, what type of boat, the names of the sails and all that, but mostly I was trying not to fall off, not be in the way and stay focused amidst the beauty of the Bay Harbor area.
After we had safely cleared the harbor and were gently sailing, Bruni called a team meeting. She wanted to know what went wrong from each person’s perspective and how we could have prevented getting tangled up. It was a great leadership move and gave everyone a voice. She took responsibility for not communicating as well as she could have. A couple of times she looked at me and said see there’s a lesson for your book.
One of my fellow crew mates, Lorah, was especially helpful. She explained things, showed me how to do things, then would let me do what she had just explained. She loaned me her gloves when I got a turn at the helm and took pictures of me. Plus, we found out have the same birthday!
Yes you read that correctly, I got a turn at the helm. I was surprisingly reluctant. It seemed much harder than I thought and I had about contented myself to just go for a ride and learn what a sheet and a line were. However, when Bruni said it was my turn I could hardly say all that. So up I went. My goal was to keep the bow pointed at the left end of Alcatraz. Super!
Uh, not so much. It was so much harder than the other boats I’ve been on. It wouldn’t stay straight. Laugh all you want but I had no idea I would fight the wind so much. It took me about 5 minutes to get the hang of when to steer, how much to correct, when to ease up. Five minutes doesn’t sound like a long time, but when you are trying to not feel ridiculously useless, it felt like an eternity.
I finally got the hang of it and loved it. It wasn’t peaceful, it wasn’t calm, it felt commanding. (insert exultant shout here). I got to stay at the helm to tack the boat with a jib. Which is when we moved the sails from one side to the other. (experienced sailors, feel free to laugh quietly to yourself at my lack of terminology)
During the next 1.5 hours, everyone got a chance to be at the helm. Bruni stayed close, gave great instructions and often let the person at the helm make the decisions HOW they wanted to handle what needed to happen next, as well as, give the instructions.
One thing that stood out was the practice of announcing that you were preparing to do something before you actually did it. So you would say loudly, Ready to tack, the crew then says, Ready. The helmsman then says Tacking. Then the action starts and lines are released on one side and pulled in on another.
Everything is precise and has it’s place. The idea is that you prepare as much as you can in advance so then you can deal with all the unexpectedness as it pops up.
We made our way back in port, everyone had a job to do and Bruni gave brilliant instructions. All the crew had some form of certification to sail a boat, only Bruni had the certification to sail a 30′-plus boat that we were on. It was interesting to watch as people would share suggestions and she could either accept or reject them at her discretion. Each crew member accepted her decision as final.
As we were readying to leave the boat, I got very unsteady. I don’t know if it was all the holding myself on the boat during the rocky ride, the distant memory of food I’d eaten on the train 5 hours ago, or the very long day that was catching up to me. Bruni made me go on in to the clubhouse where they were serving clam chowder, chili, fruit, salad, wine and beer.
After a bowl of chili and more water, I perked right up. Our crew sat together and learned more about one another.
Dag (pronounced Dawg) is originally from Sweden, has 2 sons, works for Volvo and recently bought a sweet Harley, which slowed down his sailing certifications.
Lorah is a member of the Flaming Lotus Girls, who will soon be installing a ginormous sculpture on the San Francisco waterfront that includes LED lights and cool electronics. Check out the video: http://www.flaminglotus.com/
John has been sailing for 50 years and spent much of our time eating explaining cool sayings that we have in the American vernacular that come from sailing. Like 3 sheets to the wind, short version, you’ve let your sheets (I thought they were called ropes, silly girl) fly out of your hand so you don’t have any control. There were several others, hopefully I can remember them. He also builds trains that are to scale, that are large enough to ride on. Here’s his YouTube video.
When we finished, Bruni was supposed to take me back to the BART station for me to catch a train downtown. Her generous Puerto Rican spirit wouldn’t allow it. She was mortified by thinking of me walking half mile downtown at night with my suitcase to find my hotel. I tried to tell her that it was 12 miles out of her way, but didn’t try really hard to convince her. I told her I would be eternally grateful to her. She said, just help someone else to pay me back.
I ended up telling her the story of a few weeks ago when I was helping a friend get his business started by introducing him to 8 great potential clients. He was very appreciative and wanted to do something for me in return. I told him that what you send in the lives of others comes back to you 10-fold and I would soon need someone to help me and it would be there.
I told Bruni that she had repaid Tracy’s debt for him.
She also wouldn’t leave until she ensured that the hotel did in fact have my reservation. She said it was just how she was raised.
Sigh. Much contentment.