Taking the Tiller: Docking with Spectators

CW associate editor Kitty Martin reports on the progress of her sailing lessons.

June 5, 2007

I’m happy to report that my extraordinary success in sailing lesson number one wasn’t just a case of beginner’s luck. On my second night out, the weather was just as beautiful but with a bit more wind. And my teacher, Kate, (still in charge of the sheets) only kept the jib up for a short time due to the gusts.

I could feel how the wind affected the boat and the sails a bit more this time, and I found myself watching the wind vane less. The puffs still always take me by surprise, and I know I need to work on anticipating them, especially when I’m in control of the sheets. We did quite a bit of tacking and jibing again, and while my technique is far from perfect, I felt more confident. Kate got more technical with some of her explanations of wind and tacking-45 degrees, 90 degrees, etc.-that I’m not at all clear on yet. Did I mention a little problem I had with high school geometry?

Though it was only lesson number two, Kate felt that it was time I learned how to dock and moor the boat. Where does she get this confidence in me? Anyway, we headed back in to Brenton Cove, and there, as promised, was my twin sister, and her whole family moored on their Legacy 28, waiting to watch me sail-I guess I was the evening’s entertainment.


Now my sister’s a pretty good sailor, and my brother-in-law’s no slouch either, but I wasn’t intimidated. In fact, they were cheering me on like proud parents.

We started with docking, and in keeping with Kate’s laid-back style, she showed me just once and then said, “OK, now you try it.” I wonder what would happen if I asked her to show me something twice? But I’ve realized that it’s good that she shows me something and tells me something just once before she expects me to do it. After all, we’re not just student and teacher in a classroom setting, we’re really skipper and crew out on the water, and thus, we each have a job to do.

Anyway, on my first attempt at docking, the starboard side of our trusty J/22 was so far from the mark that we would’ve needed a cab to step on the dock. But on just my second try, I smoothly steered us in to just a whisper away from the dock, and Kate began to cheer almost as enthusiastically as my family. She even shouted over to my sister’s boat that I’m a natural. Maybe she gets paid extra for that.


Next, Kate gave a seamless demonstration of how to grab a mooring. I guess those things are pretty sturdy because I think I ran a few over while sailing. Anyway, I did it on the first try, though Kate has me do every new thing at least several times. I wouldn’t say my mooring technique is smooth yet, but I get the concept.

Unfortunately, I had to reschedule lesson number three, but I’m looking forward to my next set of lessons this week. I think it’ll be my turn at the sheets.


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