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Sail or Hit the Cliffs, My History of Sailboats

‘Dad got out of the sailboat. Sitting in the sailboat by myself, I watched in horror, as he pushed the edge of my sailboat away from the dock. As I protested, he quite calmly said, “you had better start sailing or you will hit the rocks.”

As the sun rises, it finds the catamaran's sail waiting on the dock.

I will never forget that moment when my Father did that, but sail I did, and fast. You see our little property has a rather tricky set up for a sailboat. We are in a small bay, and firstly the boat has a minimal area to leave the bay and, secondly, there is limited wind within the bay for a sail to catch to get the boat sailing. There is a specific trajectory to leave the dock and bay, and a specific trajectory to return properly to the dock. It is fairly straightforward, there is just little room for error, period. Further, if you lose your wind, it’s a paddle for you. If the wind is too strong, it’s almost a one-shot deal to land or risk crashing against the dock fairly hard. Easy-peasy.

The rock cliffs opposite the dock.

Opposite to the dock are the high rocky cliffs. The trick is to adjust your angle and your sail, catch the wind as quick as you can leaving the dock, and make a quick tack before you hit the cliffs. There is very little room for error. After that you need another quick tack in order to clear our rocky point of land. On the third tack you will most likely be clear and out on the lake. By the fourth tack you are home free and out sailing. By the fifth you are out in the middle of the lake. (If all goes according to plan.) Each sailboat we have owned takes more or less room to get out there, and some need more or less wind. You just learn. Each cabin here at the lake, and for each direction away from an owner’s shore, usually involves a regular plan because of their own lay of the land and the wind patterns. It’s just the nature of sailing.

It's a lovely little bay, just a tad tricky going out in a sailboat.

  At the time, in those early days, Dad managed to acquire a little yellow fiberglass and wood sailboat/rowboat that was called a Frostbite. He explained that it was a boat you could sail in in cooler temperatures. It might only have been about 8 feet long. We sold many years ago, because my husband and I upgraded. The wood on the seats and transom and keel needed so much seasonal maintenance, needing a good dose of elbow grease, and some minor fiber glassing, and so, the little boat simply needed a new owner who would love it and look after it, which we did indeed find. By the time we sold it we had jobs and kids and our lives were pretty busy to begin with. I can only share with you a picture of it on the dock, being used as a rowboat, and it’s an old, probably late 60’s black and white photo that isn’t the best of quality. I have so little photos of those early days.

The little yellow Frostbite sailboat doubled as a rowboat. Photo is circa late 1960's.

My fondest memories of that boat, was that when we sailed we sat down in the belly of the boat, not up on the seats like we did when we were rowing with it. Down in the belly you could see right through the yellow fiberglass sides, and I was fascinated as a youngster watching the water slip by as we sailed. When it was gusty and the boat was on quite a tilt, I remember my moments of anxiety as the water level visibly climbed towards the top edge of the little boat. When a sailboat is on a nice gusty plane, I admit I am not a relaxed sailor. That is just me. Don’t get me wrong, I loved to sail, I was just not one of those that would take the boat on a tilted plane to the edge to get the highest speeds. Dad would always remind me that you need only loosen the rope to the sail and the boat will slow and immediately back off, and I knew that, but, let’s just say I am a ‘Sunday Driver’ when it comes to sailing.  Sailing is a well-loved sport and summer activity because there is nothing nicer than being out in the water, just hearing the wind as it fills the sails, and the sounds of the constant slapping water as it hits and runs along the hull of the boat. Smelling the fresh summer air while enjoying the sunshine on your face, well, it’s a beautiful thing.  Over the years, we have acquired several sail boats. The next one my husband had to have was a Laser. This is a marvelous little boat, and he had to have one after a lake friend of mine came by and showed him how to ‘turtle’ the sailboat, and bring it back around without even getting wet in the lake. He demonstrated offshore to us and my husband was hooked. There is a way for the boat to flip over, then rotate around (including the sail and mast), while the sailor is standing and maneuvering with his feet on the hull and the keel, directing the flip. The sailboat can be maneuvered for a 360 degree spin this way. My friend, who clearly was the master of his little craft demonstrated this to us and my husband was in. (Not that he ever planned on doing the 360 flip), and so we came to own a little red Laser. It was well loved and used, until about 2006. I still have her. Unfortunately, I have no photos of her sailing I can share.

A visiting friend out for a sail.

Next was my husband’s yearning for a catamaran. There was still a tight Laser crowd of sailors on the lake, but now there were starting to be a few more catamarans. And so, of course, we had to get one of those, it was a 14-foot craft. I loved sailing on that one. There was room for two, or even the four of us, when our kids were little. Mostly, it was my husband and younger son that went out. I took this sailboat out lots on my own in those earlier years. It was so easy to maneuver. Of course, there was one more sailor I should mention, my puppy daughter. Although she was not a breed that you would normally think would love water sports, this little pup was a boater, kayaker, and a sailor. She loved to stand up front on the sailboat sling in her little lifejacket, wind whipping her long silky ears, bow on top of her head all tousled as she held her up, constantly sniffing all the summer scents. This little dog was in heaven out on the sailboat.

My dear puppy daughter ready to sail.

I never got into doing any sailing events, as there now was a sailing regatta of sorts in the summer. I did go to the odd one, but we were not always in residence at the lake when they happened. My ex went in it, and it was a fabulous time by all, (although the starting air horn scared the heck out of puppy). Then the neighbour in the next bay got some snazzy, quick, racing catamaran, and my husband was yearning again. It was just like the history of all boats on this lake, they just keep getting bigger and faster every year. Out went the 14-foot catamaran, and in came the 16-foot catamaran. Now she is a ‘beaut’, I have to admit. Her sail has brightly coloured stripes and quite gorgeous. I love the look of this boat, but it was just too big for me to manage on my own to sail. My ex sailed a lot on her, he loved to go out on a blustery afternoon, and there was that get-away factor. He could claim a little time for himself away from the kids and I. He loved his sailing. Sometimes he would pop over to other neighbours way up the lake and grab a beer with them. I remember always keeping a watch and relieved when I saw our bright and familiar sails returning. A wife keeps watch. 

A young friend asking for a spin in the colourful catamaran.

The deal with this last boat was that it was way too big for me. Also, it was really a two-man job if it flipped, which my ex did discover on his first time out, it flipped. However, he was still in sight of the shore and when I arrived out with the speed boat to help, he had one neighbour out there who had swum out to help, and two babes in bikinis in a speedboat standing by. He was clearly in good hands. I kidded him for a long time about the ladies who came to help the cute guy in the big, pretty sailboat. 

Smooth sailing on a beautiful day out on the lake.

I have not sailed now for some time, but memories of the sounds of the water rushing by the boat, and the wind and sun on your face just never go away. They are such incredibly delightful memories of lake life. Ones I will always cherish.

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