Learning to Sail

In her last post Lacey talked about some of the reasons that have lead us to the make the decision to set out on this sojourn. Or ‘WHY’ we are doing this. The next very obvious piece of the puzzle is ‘HOW’.

How two people whose sailing experience is limited to say the least and don’t own a boat capable of the feat (or any boat for that matter) have now made the decision to sail around the world is indeed a curious thing.

Lacey’s sailing experience was gained and subsequently forgotten through a one year stint in Sea Cadets and numerous sailing excursions earlier in life with a father who’s passion for sailing and all things nautical is understated by the word  enthusiast. My sailing experience was on par with or slightly overshadowed by my expertise as a lion tamer.

After many hours of combing the Internet, reading testimonials and comparing prices the decision was made to entrust our sailing education to the San Diego Sailing Academy and our instructor there Nick Monastra. We arrived late on Sunday evening to the Kona Kai marina and the 30 foot Hunter that would be our home and classroom for the next 7 days ‘Boondoggle’.

We were there for a week long course which would result in us receiving 3 different American Sailing Association (ASA) certifications. 101 Basic keelboat, 103 basic costal cruising and 104 bareboat chartering. Then on the weekend the boat would be ours for a bareboat charter, to do as we pleased.

Our text books had arrived by mail a couple of weeks before our course started to give us ample time to read up on the theory of sailing. These didn’t receive the attention they possibly deserved as we had been away from our friends in the ‘desert’ for about a year, so naturally there was much rejoicing and a very full social calendar upon our return. Nevertheless by the time our course started we knew the you couldn’t sail directly into the wind and a common misconception had been exploded, having the wind directly behind isn’t the best thing for sailing either. This was going to be a tough week.

Learning to sail is like learning a new language but the problem is it sounds exactly like the language you already speak, the only catch is the words mean completely different things. Most of what happens on the deck of a sailboat is aided or controlled by ropes, the only problem is they are not called ropes. If they are used to control the position or trim of the sails they are ‘sheets’, if they are used to raise and lower the sails they are ‘halyards’. Knots aren’t tied they are made, sails aren’t tightened or loosened they are eased or sheeted in. Left is port,right is starboard and anything coming from behind the widest point of the boat is abaft of abeam.  Now this poses a problem for almost every new sailor but was especially challenging for Lacey who has been calling her uncle’s truck (a 330 horsepower Kenworth prime mover and 20 horse trailer) the Kenmore (makers of stereos and washing machines) for the past 5 years.

Despite  our apprehension and nerves about the process things went smoothly for for the first three days, we passed all the written exams and the sailing was starting to make sense even if the terminology was a little slower to stick. By the afternoon of day three our instructors confidence in our abilities far outweighed our own and we were sent into San Diego Harbor alone with the boat and told to be back by dark. Day four, and Nick asked if we had any questions as we motored out of the marina, we asked about heaving to and right of way rules which we briefly reviewed with him before dropping him off at the police dock. His words to us as he stared at the faces of his two slightly nervous students were ” downtown and Coronado are that way” motioning down towards where the retired aircraft carrier the USS Midway is moored serving as a museum “and the ocean is that way” he said nodding his head out towards the open water past the lighthouse. “I’ll check to make sure you made it back around dark, have a good day”. That was essentially the last instruction we received from Nick and the last time he was on the boat with us, she was all ours now.

The rest of the week went without incident. We applied for an anchoring permit for Glorietta Bay and spent Friday night at anchor. Cooking a BBQ and drinking a celebratory bottle of champagne in the cockpit overlooking the Del Coronado Hotel. This  assured us that this was indeed a lifestyle we would like to become accustomed to. Poking our heads out of the cabin every 30 minutes to make sure the anchor was holding and we weren’t going to drift into anyone else did little to curb our excitement.

The conclusion of our courses saw the search for a boat which had been underway for a while shift into top gear as our enthusiasm was at an all time high.


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