My First Sail! Part 1

It was a cold, cloudy December morning when I made my way to the Marina.  I didn’t care though; I was excited.  For years—decades even—I’ve wanted to learn to sail, and I was finally taking the initial steps of that journey.

A few weeks prior, I received an email from a sailing club promoting a deep discounted initiation fee for Thanksgiving.  Joining a club and having access to its courses had been something I’ve wanted to do. In that moment I read that email, I knew I wanted to join and begin learning to sail.

The next day, I called the club and joined. The lady helping me was very friendly, and she highly recommended I do a Club Sail while I waited to take my first course, the American Sailing Association (ASA) 101.  Since the 101 courses were booked into January, I took her up on her recommendation and signed up for a December Club Sail.

As I made my way to the marina that morning, I was excited, but also very nervous—my usual response when I attempt something new.  Weird thoughts would come into my head:  What if I fall off the boat? What if I get seasick? What if I do something wrong and break the boat? What if the others joining the sail don’t like me? What if I don’t like sailing?  My head swirled with all sorts of doubts I had to work at setting aside.  I wasn’t going to let weird mind traps get in the way of this long awaited day.  Those thoughts were very powerful though. Sometimes I think my brain doesn’t like me chasing dreams.

When I got to the marina, the club was in this small blue building.  A couple people were standing outside talking.  I wished them a good morning and walked inside.  Two people were sitting at a table, and it looked like they were taking a test.  In another room was a guy behind a computer, who I assumed worked there. I walked over to that other room, and the guy inside smiled, welcomed me and asked how he could help me.  I told him I was there for the Club Sail.  He spent a moment clicking through his computer until he said he found me and checked me in.

The Skipper had not arrived yet, the guy told me, but said he expected the Skipper to show up any moment.  He had seen the skipper the night before during the Sausalito Light Boat Parade.

I took a seat near the entrance while I waited. In between playing with my phone, I watched the comings and goings of sailors and would-be sailors. Eventually the Skipper came in and went straight to the room with the guy behind the computer. I eaves dropped on them discussing the Club Sail, and I was pointed out as having arrived.  The Skipper walked over to me and introduced himself.  He had a warm, friendly persona about him, and I instantly eased up.  Much of those weird thoughts and nervousness fell away as we were talking and walking over to the boat.

The Skipper had asked about my sailing experience. I admitted to having none, and that I was doing the Club Sail for fun while waiting to take my ASA 101 course.  He told me getting out on the water is the best way to learn, and that he hoped I would learn a lot that day.  I must admit I was feeling a bit insecure about not having any sailing experience, but the Skipper’s welcoming, non-judgmental approach eliminated any insecurities I was feeling.  At this point, I was definitely feeling more excited than nervous, and I was enjoying the reality that I was finally on a boat.

The other two guys joining the Club Sail showed up, and we began our pre-launch check-list.  The Skipper handed me a clip-board with a list and asked me to list all the items off.

“6 Fenders”

“3 Wenches”

“1 Airhorn,” I would list off.

One by one, the Skipper and the others looked for the items I called out, count how many they could find, and then show me what the item is.  It was a great experience.  I felt like I was helping and also learning about what supplies are expected to be on a boat.

We spent 20 or so minutes going through the checklist.  At the end, it appeared we were missing an airhorn, so when the Skipper went to return the check-list to the club, he had a staff person come deliver an airhorn to us.

When the Skipper returned, we discussed the boat, safety stuff, the day’s weather expectations, and each other’s sailing experience.  Finally, after our pow-wow, we began getting ready to set off.  We began my first sail of what I hope will be many sails of a life-time sailing journey….

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