Taking the Tiller: Sailing's Not Always a Breeze

In her fourth progress report from her sailing lessons, CW associate editor Kitty Martin discovers that too much wind can be as bad as too little.

I know that you need wind to go sailing. But I discovered last night that sometimes, there's just too much *%$#!@ wind. I've decided that I'm the Goldilocks of sailors. I was at the tiller and I could feel a distinct difference in how the boat handled in what Kate said were "wooly" and "hairy" conditions (my fellow student, Bob, found these terms hysterically funny) than in our previous nights with near-perfect conditions. Early on, while still in the harbor, I lost my favorite hat. Kate saw this a good opportunity to attempt a MOB drill with said hat as the victim in need of rescue. We immediately tacked, but it was already too late-my hat was a goner.

Shortly after that, Kate decided a reef in the main would be prudent, so we headed back to the dock. I couldn't believe how the wind was howling even in a protected cove. Kate showed Bob and me how to put a reef in the sail, and we headed back out. Well, so much for the reef. We were flying just as fast and maybe even faster now because the wind just kept picking up. Bob was at the tiller now, and oh, I've given him a new moniker: Bob "No Fear" Brown. He's also apparently completely over his hesitation about heeling. There were several times that I thought I'd get a first-hand opportunity to resume the search for my hat.

I don't know Kate very well but I think she's a great teacher, a highly competent sailor, and I have complete faith in her. But I sensed that she wasn't at ease being responsible for this boat and two novices in these conditions. Well, it turns out my intuition was right because Kate soon said, "Forget it. Let's go in. We don't want to wind up on our ear." Bob thought that term was a hoot, too.

I was all for calling it a night, but Bob couldn't understand why we just simply couldn't head out into the bay. Apparently, Mr. No Fear had told all his colleagues "to look for me when you're going over the bridge tonight on your way home. That'll be me on that sailboat out there." Yeah, sure, Bob.

All was not lost, however. We went back in, grabbed a mooring, closed up shop, and spent a few minutes going over parts of the boat, which I found helpful. Then we took the launch in and practiced tying knots, another task I find very worthwhile. And guess what? After more than a few tries, I can finally tie a bowline.