Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

If Nautical Nonsense Be Something You Wish

by Stephanie Black

The 4th of July holiday seemed like the perfect day to get out and have some summer fun. Instead, we decided to go sailing.

It all began a few months back when we became the co-owners of a rather large and very neglected sailboat, on the theory that as long as we’re spending horrific amounts of money in an effort to live in the Bay Area, we might as well do something fun that we couldn’t do in, say, Kansas (where we could afford to live).

In theory, the July 4th festivities seemed like a good plan. We would spend the day sailing on San Francisco Bay and exploring Angel Island. Then when dusk fell, we would anchor and watch the fireworks. The fireworks are blasted off a barge in the estuary, so we’d have front row seats. Awesome. With our family and our co-owner’s family on the boat there are four adults and ten children, but we’re fond of each other, and so far no one has pushed anyone else overboard.

Truth be told, I’m clueless about sailing and somewhat edgy about the concept. The other adults on the boat bustle around hoisting the mainsail and sheeting in the jib and giving each other nautical-sounding orders (“Ramming speed, helmsman.”) I sit there clutching my toddler and generally getting in everyone’s way. Part of my brain—the crazy part—would like to learn how to sail, but I have a sort of phobia about large, weighty objects that are slow to respond to my commands. I have bad dreams about driving a car and pushing on the brakes and the car not stopping. Sailboats are like the minivans of my nightmares, except there are no brakes to push on. But I do intend to learn something about sailing, and I suspect I have a stellar career ahead of me as the Gilligan of the crew.

So back to Tuesday’s festivities. In San Francisco Bay, there is an area called “the slot” where a break in the Pacific coastal mountains lets the wind come rushing in. Things can get rather choppy in the slot. It’s perfectly normal for sailboats to do a lot of tipping around, but it can be freaky if you’re not used to sailboats (I’m not) and prefer your mast to remain perpendicular to the water (I do). But our boat has a keel as heavy as a minivan and can tip nearly horizontally before we’d have to call the Coast Guard, so yeah, we’re getting smacked by the wind and the boat is heeling and it’s a dang shame I haven’t made a will yet, but all is well in Zion, yea, Zion prospereth, and then we wanted to start the engine—I can’t remember why—and it wouldn’t start.

You really need an engine in a sailboat that size. You’d have a heck of a time trying to dock it under sail, and an engine occasionally comes in handy if you need to get out of the way of something (like a freighter) in a big hurry. The mechanically-minded among us tried to fix the engine problem, with no success. Tension rose. The boat was getting hit broadside by waves. My six-year old started bawling, terrified by the way the boat was heeling. Bawling, frankly, didn’t strike me as a half bad idea, but I’m just sitting there holding my sleeping toddler and feigning calm (calm being defined as “not actually screaming”). We sailed into the wind shadow of the island so the mechanics could work on the engine problem without the boat’s bouncing around. The wind shadow is good in that the water is calm, but if a tanker had started toward us, we had no wind and no engine and couldn’t have moved out of the way. By now, I’ve decided that I hate sailing with a fiery passion.

To our intense gratitude, prayers were answered and my husband managed to hotwire the engine. We heaved a huge sigh of relief and the day was back on track. We partied on the island and ate pie and played on the beach. We sat on the boat and watched the fireworks. They were gorgeous, I was freezing, I had a nervous twitch from the events of the day and would jolly well rather have been home watching the Boston Pops on TV.

I’ve decided that I prefer vicarious adventure. No wonder I like reading and writing fiction.

By the way, the boat doesn’t have a name yet. Ideas on the table currently include the Itchy Shark and the Sea Weasel. If anyone has any good name suggestions, send them along. Right now I’m favoring the Decommissioned. Okay, that’s not true. I’m not quite ready to give up on sailing. Get me a Gilligan hat and I’ll be good to go. Though come to think of it, the S.S. Minnow wasn't a sailboat. Gilligan had it easy.


At 7/12/2006 11:38 AM, Blogger Sweebler said...

Aiyeeh! (or however one spells that) I think I'll avoid sailing. I'm a first class wimp

At 7/12/2006 12:46 PM, Blogger Mean Aunt said...

I vote for The Sea Weasel. I don't know why, but it has a great ring to it.

At 7/12/2006 1:02 PM, Anonymous Spongebob Squarepants said...

If nautical nonsense be something you wish...

At 7/12/2006 1:18 PM, Blogger Stephanie Black said...

Hmm, I can't decide if I should be embarrassed or proud that I didn't know Sponge Bob well enough to get the quote right ;-)

At 7/12/2006 1:28 PM, Blogger Stephanie Black said...

Okay, I fixed it. Thanks for the correction. We strive for accuracy in all things, except now I have this uneasy feeling that SpongeBob is one word and I made it two in the previous post.

I hope this doesn't start a controversy. The DB/Seagull thing is enough heat for the moment.

At 7/12/2006 6:26 PM, Blogger Kerry Blair said...

I have to confess that I sat right back and enjoyed that tale! (Only because I figured you'd survived it or there wouldn't be a blog.) What a great post -- One of your best yet! (But I'll also have to admit I think that every week.)

At 7/12/2006 7:26 PM, Blogger Sariah S. Wilson said...

Sea Weasel gets my vote, too.

I don't think there's a Nickelodeon cartoon that exists but what I know every single word to the title song. And now I can look forward to adding Cartoon Network to my repetoire.

At 7/13/2006 2:17 PM, Blogger Mark N said...

I go for "Itchy Shark". It conjures up funny images of sharks trying to scratch an itch. I imagine that they have a tough time reaching with their fins to wherever the itch is that needs scratching. Maybe that's why they look so mean all the time: they've been consigned to an existence where it's impossible for them to scratch an itch.

Now that's where dogs have something to be grateful for.

At 7/13/2006 2:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Spatula Dream" is my suggestion.

At 7/13/2006 7:21 PM, Blogger Stephanie Black said...

How about the "Shrieking Eel?"

At 7/14/2006 1:46 PM, Blogger Cheri said...

How about Dramamine II? =) 'Tis a fitting name for those of us who are prone to heave ho. =D [That's actually how I survive tiny boating adventures on nearby Bear Lake.]


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