Day 157: Sailing… and capsizing.

It’s a beautiful, sunny day on the lake, and the wind is blowing strong. The last place I want to be is on the Audrohn, my parents’ sailboat., with  my dad and sister, Susanna. As we put up the sails- or I should say as my sister and Dad put up the sails- my mind couldn’t help but wonder back to the first and only time I had been on this sailboat (or any sailboat). I was about 8, and was completely unaware about the normal tilting of the boat until I was sitting in water, looking at my parents high above me on the other side, thinking I was going to die of drowning. I’ve never been on a sailboat since.

Obviously, my good sense kicked in sometime in the years that passed, and I have come to realize that the boat half-filled with water is normal. As the wind pulled us out into the middle of the lake, my dad manning the sail lines, I braced myself for a traumatic replay of my childhood nightmare.

My dad started explaining to me how the boat worked and interacted with the wind, and when he asked me if I wanted to take over, I can assure you I most certainly did not. Noting I had just heard actually stuck with me, and I soon found the sail line in one hand and the rudder in the other, with no clue on what to do with either!

The next few minutes were anything short of stressful and I might have had a panic attack, but with the coaching of my dad and a few frantic “What do I do?!”‘s, I was able to maneuver the boat across the lake and back. I even managed to ride the boat on its side in the strong wind once or twice (not that I knew how I got it like that or how I righted it again).

It was now Susanna’s turn to take over. She expressed her distaste for the idea, but my dad and I gave her no choice and I gladly traded positions with her. It was another episode of frantic girl screams and calm instruction from my dad. She turned the boat slightly, picking up the strong wind, and we started rising high from the water with my dad sinking into it on the lower side of the boat. What happened next I can’t even begin to describe to you in its full intensity.

As the main sail caught more and more of the wind, our side of the boat continued to rise higher and higher, as did the pitch of Susanna’s scream. I felt terror as I heard my dad scream with increasing severity, “Susanna!” “Susanna!” “Susanna!” I got higher and higher in the air, and in the same second I realized we were flipping, I saw my dad fall out of the boat. Susanna, panicking about falling on top of him leaped onto the sail below her, already in the water. At this point I was hanging onto the high side of the boat looking at the choppy water and metal bars beneath me. If I fell in, the boat would fall on top of me! I scrambled to try to make it to the underside of the boat, which was now on top, knowing that the boat wasn’t only tipping over, but was completely flipping upside down. The next few seconds were a blur, but I soon found myself in the water beside the overturned boat, my dad and Susanna on the other side, all of us unharmed. Phew! I told myself to breathe, and then my heart sank with realization of what just happened. A sailboat on it’s side in the water is one thing, but a sailboat turned upside in the water is definitely another. This was not good.

As my dad and Susanna positioned their weight on one side of the boat, pulling it towards them, I gave all my energy in pushing my side up. It was a slow process, but the boat slowly started turning. We finally got it positioned on its side, the sail laying on the water. Again we started the slow process of pushing and pulling, and before I knew it I was watching the sail rise high in the air. There was only one problem: it was rising way to fast. The boat swung upright, but the momentum at which it was turning, combined with the weight of the wet sail, caused it to immediately turn over the other side, landing on my dad! I quickly swam around the boat just in time to see him coming up from the water, sputtering. After a couple of coughs, he was OK, and we again pushed and pulled the boat, much slower this time, finally getting it upright. We struggled back in and everyone froze and stared at each other, breathing heavily. No one knew what to say.

And then we broke out in laughter. What an experience! What could have been a terrible situation had turned out alright, and we were now able to look back at it with humor, adrenaline still flowing through our bodies. The next half hour was a blast. I took on the role of captain once again, and this time actually understood when and why I was to move the rudder or let the sail out. My arm was burning from exertion from trying to keep the sail tight in the wind, and as the boat turned high on its side, I kept repeating, “When in doubt, let it out. When in doubt, let it out.” Susanna learned this lesson the hard way, and I was not about to have a repeat performance of our accident.

The next 500 hours (OK, maybe it was only 2) consisted of my Dad trying to getting us back up the lake, tacing back and forth, and Susanna and I cracking non-stop jokes about our capsize and what now seemed to be our stranding out in the middle of the lake. We even went so far as to include newly themed “sailing” Christmas songs and plenty of Gilligan’s Island references.

It was a wonderful day. And I officially love sailing.

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