When I was setting up for the sail that day, I was nervous. I had a bad feeling about things because the wind was already blowing so hard and this was only my second day and I was bringing along a dear mentor. But I wasn’t gonna back out. We were gonna get out there, one way or another. Eventually after scraping and pushing past the rocks on the bank, we were off.
Pretty soon after we made it to the mouth of the river I realized I wasn’t having such an easy time steering the boat. Nothing was making sense and I couldn’t find the “line” where the wind was pushing us just right. Instead, the bow of the boat kept swinging back and forth as my uneasy hand tried to control the rudder with the half broken tiller handle. Of course up until this point, I tried to act calm and collected, but I wasn’t feeling like I was going to get control of the situation and it being my second time out on the boat, I couldn’t think of the best thing to do or how to tell my counterpart to help out. Instead, I just tried unsuccessfully to gain the best line of travel. Soon I disclosed that my confidence was slim and at the very next change of direction, we started to tip. Out loud, I proclaimed that we were indeed going overboard and when She said “well what do we do now?”, I just replied in a matter of fact way, “grab everything and stay with the boat.” I knew it wouldn’t be long before the mast of the boat started to complete its journey to 180° from its proposed direction. So, I tried to grab onto the keel. In the unfortunate string of events, it had fallen back toward the mast and was not in reach.
So, here we were, floating at least, in the life jackets I had been prompted to wear by that little voice in my head. Both of us had gathered what we could and were staying near the boat. At this point, I had my phone in a waterproof case and called our dear friends to come help us out. As we waited on their arrival I secured the gear to the hole in the rudder mount and grabbed my scrub brush. I wanted to take this perfect opportunity to clean the hull of the boat while it was exposed out of the water. Once I finished that, I talked through what was supposed to happen at this point when you capsize a two person sailboat. Easy, both people just grab and hold the keel and lean back with steady pressure. Once the mast is on the surface of the water, you ideally point it into the wind and one person gives it a little lift out of the water while the other keeps pressure on the keel.
See, at this point even with all my weight, I could tell something wasn’t right. The mast was stuck. And as I leaned against the keel the waves were just driving the mast further down with each bounce, instead of bringing it to the surface.
As I reflect on this experience, I realized that although we had good intentions with wearing the lifejacket and making sure our phones were water proofed, we still had many items that we didn’t want to lose, but we had not really made secure. This was my mistake. Fully. I should have advised to tie all things down. This preparation, though it may seem like an inconvenience at the start, would have prevented our need of rescue. If our hands were not full, we could have both jumped on the keel at once and started righting the boat before it even made a full capsize.
Capsizing is a common reality in the world of sailing. It’s nothing crazy, but you also need to be equipped to rectify the situation quickly.
Life is the same way, capsizing is a common reality. It’s nothing crazy, but we must take the time to fully prepare all the loose ends so that when we capsize, we are ready to grab the keel, and apply pressure to immediately begin righting the situation.
It’s also to be noted that it takes two people to complete the righting process if both people are prepared and ready. This reminded me that I need to be looking out for my buddy and holding them to the right standard as well. Educating prior to experiencing.
Luckily for us, we had a team of loving and supportive professionals and friends there to help us in no time. After they freed our hands of our loose ends, we were able to start the process of turning the boat back the right way.
I’m blessed to have my people. I’m constantly learning and now I know what not to do next time. Although next time might be meant for an entirely different lesson.