The post I bored Stacy's readers with
So this weekend Stacy made the mistake of unleashing me on her blog.
Since it's weekend and I'm too lazy to write anything else, here's what I bored her readers with.
(Update: I'm having computer glitches, so Stacy's since returned from her trip. Oh, you were thinking that I'm merely posting in African time, did ya? Anyway, so now you can safely go and visit her site, without the risk of running into me. The best author of Stacy's blog is Stacy. She is very funny.)
Anyway, here's my second-hand post:
A recent encounter with a crew from a racing sailboat docked at Baltimore's Inner Harbour took me back to my own - somewhat reluctant - international sailing debut a few summers ago in Norfolk, Virginia.
My reluctance stemmed from my nautical skills, which were (and still are) naught.
Until that time, the closest I've ever come to a sailor was during Op Sail 2000, when a fleet of tall ships was also docked at the harbour here in my current hometown of Baltimore. The sailors aboard the ships were leaning over the rails and doing what sailors are supposed to do (at least in my humble opinion): whooping and wolf-whistling to the girls strolling by on the promenade.
"In that case," I thought, "There can't be all that much to the art of being a sailor."
It has to be said that I'm not exactly the sporty type, and that would still be a gross understatement. For one, I don't swim; I float (a la Ophelia). I love water, but frankly, I've always felt more at home with my feet planted firmly on Mother Earth.
The thought of being ON the water had never occurred to me before that summer, except during elaborate fantasies of spending a Mediterranean summer on a yacht (manned by others who are more muscular... eh, I mean capable.).
Actually, there was another time when I had too much Green Island Rum on Mauritius (that gorgeous island in the Indian Ocean) and I found myself hovering high above the clear blue sea in a tandem parasailing flight. But that's a story for another time...
Other than that, as far as I was concerned, boats were always just objects to complete the charming picture at the marinas and harbours of holiday towns, villages and port cities. Objects with names that I can read and laugh at - like the little dinghy of a thingy which I spotted in a small South African coastal town during a holiday one year. It was very wittily named "Indestructible... the third".
Other than that and as far as I was concerned, boats have always been nothing more than safely distant dots on the ocean's horizon.
Until that one fateful day during a weekend in Norfolk, when I came face to mast with a catamaran.
My host, a verrry handsome American boy, turned out to be an enthusiastic amateur sailor, a fact that he had wisely kept hidden from me until I was entirely at his mercy for the weekend.
This newly revealed facet to his personality would not have bothered me in the least, had it not been for his sly little plans to incorporate me in his crew.
"Aw, c'mon!" he begged, his grin revealing a set of teeth flashing white against his tanned complexion. "The wind is perfect, and just look at the bay!"
I looked at the bay. Threatening white caps marred the normal sheet of calm, brilliant blue. It was one of those days that you didn't need to lick your finger and stick it in the air to confirm the presence of a stirring breeze...
"What about sharks..?" I asked weakly in one last attempt at staying grounded.
I still don't know whether it was my politeness, embarrassment or sheer stupidity - possibly a combination of all three - but the next thing I was an official crewmember (and by 'crew' I mean him and I) ensconced in a bright orange (not my colour!) life preserver and a type of harness contraption, and hooked up to the mast.
He explained something about leaning backward off the boat for balance when we pick up speed, or something to that effect. (My attention span is remarkably short when I'm under pressure.)
"Aye, aye, Captain." (Despite my panic I did remember some of the jargon appropriate for the occasion, like "Captain", "Starboard", "Aft", "Bow", and "Drown.")
On that note, I was off on my maiden voyage. The further we advanced on the open water, the more the breeze felt like a gale force wind.
Soon we were going very fast indeed. I don't know exactly HOW fast we were going, but over the past years, the number has increased every time I've told the story. I've since settled on about 50 knots.
I must admit, something happens in the mind when you are let loose at such a manic speed; when the wind blowing in your face leaves you breathless. At some point, I even started to enjoy this new excursion. (But don't tell anyone.)
Suddenly I was fearless. When the Captain yelled "lean!", I kicked and leaned back so low over the water that my hair got drenched.
My imagination ran wild, and I pretended we were taking part in a world class regatta. Must've been too much fresh air, but in my crazy daydream, we were neck-in-neck with a pirate ship.
Suddenly I was jerked from the dream with a loud snap followed by a gigantic splash. It took me a while to realise that... I had fallen overboard!
The harness had broken, almost causing my premature expiration.
My Captain swore that it had never happened before. (Yeah, great consolation that, isn't it?) He soothed, pleaded again and reassured, but that was the end of any further sailing aspirations for me.
I'm secretly glad that I had that little adventure, though. Not only is it great dinner conversation or blog fodder (ah, yes, I might be a mere novice blogger, but I'm already thinking like a veteran) but now I regard sailors with more than just a passing interest and a lot of respect. In fact, when they wolf-whistle (even if it's usually at other girls and not at me) I wolf-whistle right back!
That newfound respect is probably why, a short time after my near catastrophic catamaran incident, a television segment about sailing caught my eyes and ears.
The story followed the adventures of a young British sailor, Ellen Macarthur, a brave chick in her late twenties, in her solo efforts during the grueling, three month long Vendee Globe race, during which teams (or, as in Ellen's case, individuals) sail from France, down the Eastern Atlantic, around Antarctica, up the Western Atlantic and back across the Northern Atlantic to finish back in France.
Ellen's story was remarkable, not only because of her age (she was a mere 25 at the time!!!), but because she was a considerable novice competing against far more experienced, and predominately male, crews.
She was also the only one who tackled the journey by herself.
Ellen surprised everyone by surviving almost insurmountable obstacles (her mast cracked while she was at sea, amongst other things). She endured though and finished in second place. By the time she docked her boat, Kingfisher, back in France, she was a celebrity all across Europe.
At the end of the television segment, the reporter announced that Ellen was racing again, taking part in the EDS Atlantic Challenge. When I heard that one of her ports during the race was going to be Baltimore, I decided that I had to stalk meet her.
Sadly, I didn't, but I did get to see her boat, the Kingfisher and I spoke to one of her shore crewmembers, a jovial fellow from New Zealand who willingly shared inside information about Ellen, the Kingfisher, and racing in general.
The next morning, I was at the harbour to bid them good luck and bon voyage as they set out on the fourth leg of the race to Boston. Corny as it may sound, I was lucky to be in the presence of greatness.
Just before they set off, I asked a member of the crew what the nautical term for "Good Luck" is. He said he thought it was merely "Bon Voyage". I thought that was too boring, and pitched a few ideas at them. "How about putting a spin on the theatre saying, "Break a Leg" and changing it to "Break a Mast"?"
The looks on their faces quickly dismissed my idea. As they left the dock, it dawned on me and I yelled:
"Float your boat!"
Noting my enthusiasm at the encounter, my former Captain thought it meant that I still had some seaworthiness left in me. No such luck for him.
But instead of telling him where he could shove the mast, I sweetly commanded him to find someone else as an offering to Neptune.
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