Hank, that disclosure occurred on a Tuesday. Three days later found them in a sporting goods store where
they purchased, as he put it, “a boat in a box”. It was a little 12’ day-sailor with
a center board, a main sail, jib and tiller. With their new treasure strapped to the top of the station
wagon, they arrived home to an enthusiastic greeting from a neighbor kid who apparently also wished to answer the call of
the sea. He sprinted over to help unload the cargo, and they all began assembling the little ship in the
Soon, the neighborhood laid witness to three people sitting in a little hull intently studying the included
sailing instruction manual and futilely tacking and jibbing on the front lawn. Dottie supposed they must’ve
appeared crazy. Upon their return home, their daughters declared they were crazy and concluded
that “mom and dad should never again be left alone for any length of time”.
Dottie confessed to
having some initial difficulty in understanding how wind direction coincided with the points of sail, and was confused with
which way to turn the tiller in the mix. In an effort to resolve her perplexity, she and Hank spent many
nights practicing in the living room, with Dottie steering a broomstick and Hank running past her, mimicking the wind.
At this point in Dottie’s story, tears of laughter were escaping from all our eyes. But the
humorous pinnacle of their initiation into sailing was yet to be revealed.
While visiting, Hank’s brother-in-law
teasingly asked “So, have you had it in the pool yet?” Hank was game, so they hauled the little
12’ vessel into the back yard. Hank hopped in with a six pack, which was all it took to entice Buzz
into the insanity. Before long, the two skippers were sailing round and round in the 20’ diameter
above-ground swimming pool. The vision of Hank and her brother zooming across the backyard was one Dottie
claimed would never fade from memory. Hank insistently added “We got a lot of tacking practice that
Feeling confident that the time had come to reach beyond the security of the front lawn and the backyard
pool, Hank and Dottie headed to a nearby lake for some real open water sailing experience. The enthusiastic
neighbor kid, who I’m certain at this point wished to be adopted by the eccentric yachtsmen in his midst, joined the
Referencing the recommendations of the ‘Boat in a Box’ sailing manual, Hank chose the windward shore from which
to launch. Per the instructions, this was a “guarantee that you will be returned to land, should
you find yourself unable to control your own direction of sail”. At this point, Hank interjected
Dottie’s account by stating that he laid out clear orders to the crew. “The neighbor kid was to handle
the jib, Dottie was to be positioned at the tiller, and I was going to push them off and climb aboard.”
of it caused Dottie to laugh so hard she had difficulty continuing. Their first launch resulted in the
boat making the promised 180 degree turn back to shore, and gained the attention of some nearby fishermen. Hank
tempered his impatience with further clarification of his orders, but feared he had lost control of his crew as they seemed
unable to repress their giggles. The second launch provided the same results as the first, and Hank’s
ego was being deflated by the laughing audience whose full attention they now had.
Hank’s annoyance at the crew
was made evident in the third attempt, as he pushed off so far he ended up chest deep in the lake. He nearly
tipped the boat over trying to climb aboard, and in some misplaced logic the neighbor kid decided diving into the water was
safer than being at the mercy of an angry captain.
Fast forward 20 years and we find ourselves in the company of accomplished
sailors. They have recently returned from a yearlong cruise through the Caribbean, and are back to stocking
their cruising kitty for their next adventure. Knowing the origins of their sailing experience has not
diminished my judgment of Hank and Dottie’s sailing knowledge and opinions. Rather by humbly revealing
their unsophisticated beginnings, they bolstered our confidence in our own abilities to achieve our cruising goals.
If two fully matured, terra firma type people can go from floating in a backyard pool to crossing the deep blue sea,
than surely so can we!