Sunday, August 12, 2007

Sailing Under a New Moon

After enjoying half of a strong-but-tasty martini, some super-yummy pierogies, and the high-quality company of friends Teresa and Jacque, I had high hopes of squeezing in a sail on Saturday. By the time we left the Grand Opening Party at Gresso’s (the great pub-and-grill where the aforementioned martini, Polish food, and company was enjoyed), drove my friends home, and picked up Judy Jetson at my house, it was nearly 7:30 PM. I called my friend Jeff, who sails a giant S2, on my way up to the lake. He suggested a pizza party on his boat with the potential for a post-pizza sail. Perfect!

The pizza from Cheshire Market pretty much drove Judy Jetson wild, and Jeff seemed to like it too! Jeff gave me a tour of his little cruise-ship, including a lights show with the LED boat-lights that he builds and
sells. (For those keeping score, that’s the second endorsement for a friend’s business venture in a single blog post. What a sell-out!)

After some minor debate, with me perhaps not fully understanding what I was getting myself into -- darkness-wise and can’t-see-in-the-dark-especially-during-a-New-Moon-wise -- we decided to head out on the lake on Central Air. There was plenty of evening light as we head out through the channel. The channel is a little tight these days because of the drought here in Ohio and because of the nearly three feet of fixed keel beneath C.A. I couldn’t imagine coming back through the channel after dark. Perhaps we’d come back in before it got too dark! But anyway, there wasn’t much of a breeze at the docks, so we weren’t sure what we would encounter, if anything, out on the lake. Once we got out there, we had just enough daylight left to raise the sails and play with the light wind while being able to actually see. And then… it… went… completely… DARK. (Note to self for future reference: There’s not much night vision to be had when there is no LIGHT… not even from the moon, for pity’s sake.)

Sailing in the dark is very weird, to say the least. Depth perception is challenging, for one thing, and figuring out the direction and motion of other boats on the water was a little disconcerting at first. (There were several other sailors on the water, but we were all sort of spread out over our 1 mile x 5 mile section of the reservoir, so there was plenty of space for everyone.)

The wind was just perfect for this first-time night sailor – light, but enough to move us along nicely and in comfort. The breeze was kind of warm, which helped as the night air became pretty chilly. I had the (lame, bungy-cord-like) tiller tamer on, so I let the tamer do some of the steering as we sailed downwind, which was cool (until I realized that we were meandering around quite a bit – oops.) As a sailor, I am pretty devoted to monitoring my telltales and my beloved Windex. In the pitch dark, I had to sail solely on the ‘feel’ of the tiller while sailing upwind and my dim view of the mainsail and jib. It was a little challenging, but I think that a few times that the sails were actually trimmed better than they are while sailing in daylight. There are lessons to be learned from this, I’m sure. (Such as: “Christy, stop thinking and just sail the boat!”)

Jeff and I had beverages and lots of talk. I am thankful that Jeff is a dog person! Judy Jetson had a late supper, served by Jeff, and a nap on the cockpit floor. (She’s getting a little more comfortable with wearing her Doggy-PFD. The first couple times that she wore it, she just stood stiffly, trying very hard to look like she was enjoying the experience. Bless her heart.) Jeff encouraged my single-handed tacking practice, which I’m pretty sure I’m going to need a tiller-extension in order to master it with any level of success. Jeff saw several shooting stars from the
Perseid Meteor Shower that is at its peak this weekend. I guess that I was too focused on playing with the boat and the complete wonder of sailing in the dark to see them myself. Hey, someone had to drive.

I inquired as to the time at around 11 PM and couldn’t believe that so much time had passed since we’d left the dock. After what seemed like another thirty minutes or so, we dropped the sails and headed for home. Thank God for Jeff bringing along one of his truly excellent LED super-flashlights (available for only $6 – GAH! Another shameless plug!), or else we would probably still be shipwrecked somewhere in the channel. The marks at the entrance to the channel have blinking lights, and the marks through the channel each have a reflector at the top. We crept along the pitch-dark channel very slowly -- after passing a fishing boat parked smack-dab in the center of the channel entrance and some very odd boat near the shore with a bright-bright spotlight (hello, alien abduction! buh-bye, meager night vision!) -- and as we arrived at each mark I experienced around 30 seconds of terror before the super-flashlight picked up the reflector of the next marker off in the distance. Okay, okay - truth be told, it was a little exhilarating, too! As we made our way through the channel and back to the marina, I saw the first two shooting stars that I’ve seen in my thirty-something years of life. Beautiful!! If I might be so nerdy, I must say that they looked like special effects from a Disney attraction, perfectly on cue as we turned the corner to the dock area at 1:30 AM.

This great experience has opened up a whole new universe of sailing opportunities. Now my sailing time won’t be constrained by taking place only in the presence of daylight. The number of many sailing ‘firsts’ I’ve had so far this season is a little overwhelming. This summer's experiences have taken my enjoyment of the sport to an entirely new level. Life is good, and I am so thankful.

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