Sailing as an exclusively guy thing? Not hardly. But there are definitely lots of guy rituals when it comes to sailing. The whole I don't have to use the head below for the most part thing, the whole I don't have to shave if women are not around thing, the whole We can stay up late and watch Seinfeld re-runs and smoke cigars thing just to name a few.
Let's face it, some of this is inevitable. Guys are usually the ones on hand to do most of the heavy lifting when it comes to launch and lift at end of season. Quick test, raise your hand if you think it would be fun to hang out at the marina and work on boats, help the marina guys bleed the diesels and scour the bilges, set the dock lines, and hang out and watch them take Tres Joli off the sling, and manage her into her slip? Okay, show of hands, how many of you think that's beyond boring? Keep your hands raised if you are female? See my point?
Not that there's anything wrong with this. It's an occasional outlet for us to engage in important (okay sometimes neanderthal not best seen in public) male bonding behaviors. But what is really a blast for me is watching our boys get into the act. I still remember my first season on Phase One in the Clinton River, hanging out with my dad talking to the marina guys while we docked up for gas at Zinner's, and later tied off at Metropolitan Beach. Same as when Will and Dan first sailed solo on Butterflies across Lake Walloon during the Regatta, or one of the first times I took my nephew Ty aboard Tres Joli a few years back. Ty sat with me for hours asking questions about navigation, and how to steer and tack. I let him bring Tres Joli into the marina, and didn't take helm until we were almost in the slip, much to the nervous consternation of Kay and Wendy. Ty did fine (of course), and even more important, he now seems to be taking to the sport, and I have a theory about this. Sailing gave us something to talk about as guys during the teen years, same as Phase One did for me and the Ancient (Original) Polish Mariner over 40 years ago.
Last season, Ty went off on a Great Lakes Tour aboard a Tall Ship headed to Lake Superior. Had the time of his life, learned a ton, and become a convert to the sailing cause. I haven't scared him off, even after buying him new sailing gloves and learning a week later that they had been recalled because of a resin coating that made people's fingers blister and bleed.
I am pleased to announce that Ty is leading our launch crew-- Will, Dan, and hopefully Max Berry, Nick, Jeremy and David this week at Toledo Beach and will be instrumental in making sure we get Tres Joli properly provisioned and underway for the season. Then Ty is charting a course for our first weekend cruise of the season. It just doesn't get any better, especially if you add Dan and Will into the mix, and the possibility of including the motor boat loving Treanor crew!
My obsession with boats at a young age never crested, and I can still spend hours looking at new boats to buy, others to restore, and still others to cruise as if they were all real and distinct possibilities.
As a sport, we are not attracting enough new converts to sailing. Whether it's cruising, daysailing or racing in club matches or regattas, sailing is still seen by too many as an elitist pursuit. The America's Cup and some of the more expensive JBoat undertakings contribute to the view that it's a sport best left to people who have time and too much money on their hands. Well, I don't have enough of either, but that couldn't be further from the truth. And every time I am on my knees cleaning the bilge I wonder how sailing ever got this elitist rap in the first place. Who considers mopping up environmentally unfriendly sludge the domain of the privileged class?
I still can't get enough of sailing, and strangely all the chores associated with it. My friend Greg Thompson told me when I stopped leasing and bought my own boat I would take it all more seriously, and enjoy it more thoroughly. He couldn't have been more right. So I have concluded we need to start the recruiting young, and we may need to watch some of the guy stuff onboard, especially if it contributes to fewer female converts. Lord knows, first crew mate Kay is even enjoying the boat now that we have put a bunch of things in place to ensure her improved enjoyment. Here are the top 10 things that have contributed to Kay's enjoyment on board Tres Joli:
1. Eliminated screaming at her from 30 feet away when attempting to navigate the dock under high wind conditions with limited visibility, or when we have too much sail out as the wind picks up. (A set of $25 walkie-talkies works wonders.)
2. Provisioned the boat to limit the amount of shlepping each time we head out.
3. Took on all onerous responsibilities without her involvement. This includes but is not limited to cleaning out the head, loading and unloading provisions, and heading up in the bosun's chair to adjust the spreader 30 feet above the hull.
4. Asking her to listen to her iPod below deck during docking and when getting underway.
5. Heading back to shore at the first sign of inclement weather.
6. Staying on shore at the first sign of inclement weather and not venturing out in the first place.
7. Limiting heel to 5 degrees when under way at all times, reducing sail before I really want to and engaging the mighty diesel whenever it feels like we should be closer to shore.
8. Giving her a private space in the v-Berth for all her stuff. Including unlimited space for shoes.
9. Buying a boat with a windlass so she never had to do what my mom did, which was to jump into the water in order to force the anchor loose in the soft clay while my dad maintained position and avoided going aground.
10. Making sure the boat was long on the hard before the season's first snow (something else the Ancient Polish Mariner neglected to do on more than one occasion). The Ancient Polish Mariner taught me a lot. I also figured out a few important things on my own without him!
SEE PICTURE OF PHASE ONE. TELL ME IF IT LOOKS LIKE ITS SNOWING ON BOARD.