Growing up on Florida’s Gulf Coast I spent a lot of time on the water. For most of my life there was nothing better than hearing that engine rev up and feeling the boat jump out of the hole and onto plane. Skipping across the waves with the wheel in one hand, the throttle in the other, and the wind in your face; it’s always a great feeling.
It doesn’t really matter to me if it is on my kayak, a sailboat, or a motorboat; just being at sea is a special place for me. But some time ago I was lucky enough to be able to start sailing and have since gotten my certification to sail basic keel boats.
The first time I went out on a sailboat was off the coats of North Carolina and I knew I was in love with it. Though not as fast as the motorboats there is just a magic to sailing that the powerboats will never be able to match. For me I think it is the interplay between the boat, the wind, and the water; you are completely under the force of nature and to me sailing is more like a dance with the ocean than brutally powering through her like on the motorboats.
I recall my first experience sailing. We were on a 40-foot mono-haul. The captain cranked up the diesel engine as I untied the lines from the dock. We motored out towards the inlet passing other boaters and giving the usual wave to our fellow sea-goers.
Now up to this point it was like any other boat trip I had been on to date, but once we cleared the jetties the magic took hold. Rather than hearing an increase in the engine noise and feeling the boat jump up onto plane, the sails were raised, the main popped as it caught the breeze causing the boat keeled to starboard. After the sails were adjusted and our heading set the engines were killed. After a moment or two the sound from the diesel engine faded from my ears and all I could hear was the fizz of the foam behind us, the water as it cascaded off the sides of the haul, and the wind as it passed by my ears. And much unlike a motorboat I could have a conversation with those around me.
I was amazed at how tranquil the trip was and how much different it felt to be at the helm. When under sail you can feel the power of the wind, the influence of the currents and the waves, and you can hear all the sounds around you; this is how a real sailor is supposed to take to the sea I thought.
Later that night we dropped the sails and were just floating around in the Atlantic for a bit before we headed back to the marina. I had decided to go forward and lay out on the deck to look at the stars while we were away form the light pollution of land. As I lay there all I could here was the gentle lapping of the waves on the haul, the slight chatter from those below, and the sound of the rigging as it clattered with the rocking of the boat. A warm summer breeze was gently blowing and it was here that the magic of sailing awakened the sailor within me; and I have been entranced by it every since. I have so much more to learn about sailing and I know one day I will call a boat my home; but until that day I just dream and live vicariously through those lucky enough to do so.