At that time, I proudly claimed to have been awarded new sea legs; when, in actuality, it was just the first of four classes, three land-based, and one on the water.
Due to some scheduling conflicts on the Friday evenings of the second two classes in the series, I was prevented from attending the full course. So, I was determined to do the sail that was included in the course. But with the June bad weather, it looked like the boat would never sail. On June 27, when the sun was shining and the temperature was just perfect, the deck shoes had to come on.
To tell the truth, even though I live so near the water, I (and apparently, the better half of Sheepshead Bites) live a landlocked life — practically touching water only to do routine cleaning of dishes, body, and clothes (here, I can’t speak for the better half).
Those of you who read my post about drowning and blogging might be able to understand why the thought of drowning due to blogging might be a real fear.
My friends warned me so many times to be careful on the boat, it almost felt as if this world wasn’t covered in 1.4 billion cubic kilometers of water. I felt like screaming, “Hey, I stand a better chance of getting hit by a car than falling off the boat!”
So, when I got to the marina and saw the strange, floating dead fish, its entrails trailing, with what looked like a combo fatal gun shot/knife stab wound, my mind was reeling: Is this dead fish an omen, a strange mob hit, or a religious ritual? Or was someone just playing a joke on me to knock me off my proud sea legs?
As I put one hand on the boat, I used the other to slap myself out of the useless thought, “Could today be the day I sleep with the fishes…is it too late to turn back?” I had to remember that I’m a place blogger, and as such, I needed to forget that I can’t swim to save my life. I reminded myself that I have a journalistic responsibility to bring you this story.
So, it was one deep breath of the Sheepshead Bay air, before setting off for the open sea or just the Rockaway Inlet — however far the wind would blow us.
Just as I was gaining my footing on the small, but comfortable day boat, I recalled the words of a good friend, “Don’t forget to stop at the drug store and get some Dramamine.” It was too late to get any tablets, and Leon, the boat owner and teacher for the day, said that I should really have nothing to worry about. Just “in case” seasickness should be a problem he said with a mischievous smile, I should just “aim for the water and not the boat”. I’m happy to report that although, the northerly wind tossed us to and fro, our stomach contents were never hurled about.
Sailor Leon — who refused to be called captain, since only official large boat captains have to be specially trained and certified — girded up the boat, using the two passenger trainees as his assistants. As novices, we were nervous about all manner of watery mishaps, including running aground, crashing into other boats, and turning over.
During our trip, Leon taught us everything we needed for us to handle the boat for a three-hour tour. He taught us what all the different lines were and how to operate them. He showed us the different types of sails and how to get them full of wind so the boat could move. He explained all the fancy terminology and showed us how the surface of the water can be used as a navigation tool.
Then, he gave us countless opportunities to be at the helm and steer the boat. Leon was very patient with the apprentices on his boat and frequently repeated himself, since most of what he said appeared to be sailing right above our heads.
The boat ride was so adventurous that I started to feel like I was Ferdinand Magellan, although our day trip took us no further than the Rockaway Inlet. There were moments when it appeared that the boat was moving completely on its side and the water came crashing in. These mishaps, though caused by the sailing apprentices’ inexperience, were immediately corrected by Leon who took it all in stride.
At one point, to stop my fear of drowning, I felt like I should just jump right into the water head first. Leon must have sensed the fear emanating from this apprentice and he just announced, in his usual soothing tone, that we were sitting on an unsinkable boat. Whether such a thing was true or not, was not of concern to me. All I cared about was the calm I felt from that moment on.
He explained how his boat came to be unsinkable and we took it as a great explanation, although we didn’t understand a bit of it. I was so impressed at that point, I even inquired about how much money it takes to be a boat owner. Leon told us that all the details about novice boat ownership and made it seem within range of the average person.
When our sailing lesson was over, we made our way very carefully back to the mooring station. The narrow entrance to the bay was somewhat crowded, but the other boat captains and navigators were politely giving way to each other, waving and yelling chitchat about the strong winds that day.
Back at the Miramar Yacht Club, there was a wedding reception going on in the main room, so we were asked to convene in the downstairs meeting room. There was a cake for the sailing course graduates, with coffee and tea.
Although we had been out on a wild and fun sailing lesson for just a few hours, the Miramar Yacht Club welcomed us as if we had just come back from a year of world exploration. “This is how Christopher Columbus must have felt when he sailed home to Spain,” I thought.
So, did I learn much about sailing? The answer is: Yes, I did. I learned that sailing is not just a way of getting from continent to continent with little or no fuel. Sailing is a skill that takes a lot of practice and knowledge. But, most of all, sailing is a culture with a family and a place to call home where ever the wind may take you.
So, thanks Miramar for introducing me to the family.
Miramar Yacht Club
3050 Emmons Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11235
Located between Haring St & Nostrand Ave
(718) 743-5823 or e-mail.
Note: The link to the website won’t work on Firefox.