Our daughter gave up her seat in the sailboat this past weekend, and I took it. It was likely to be our last chance to sail before it gets too cold. Already it was chilly for a small, wet boat: sweatshirt and long pants weather rather than sweatshirts and swimsuits.
“I don’t know,” my husband said. “There’s a wind advisory. Gusts to 20 knots.” He looked out the window at the brilliant autumn sky. I sipped coffee and was happy for my slippers.
He looked down at his phone, at the forecast again. “It ends at 6pm though, I think we’ll be okay to go out this afternoon.”
When we arrived at the lake, the sun glittered on its surface, which was free of boats.
After rowing a short distance from the dock, the wind blew us steadily into the middle of the lake while we hoisted the sails, and then zipped us fast across the dimpled surface.
“It’s not so bad!” I said.
“Yeah, I’m glad we came out,” said my husband.
“The wind is perfect, look how fast we’re going.” It blew splashes of water over the bow, into my face, and down the neck of my sweatshirt.
“The mountains are protecting us from the gusts.” The puddle from the bow splashes grew deeper.
“We’re probably going to regret saying these things.”
Then the sail whipped and snapped and we lost our momentum. We were pointed towards a bend in the lake where we don’t normally go, because there’s not usually wind enough for it. The boat tugged, tipped, took off for a second, and then stalled again.
“The wind is swirly,” said Brian as he pulled the mizzen sheet to fill the main sail to point us where he wanted to go. “Unpredictable.”
I shielded my eyes to look out over the water in the direction we were headed, toward the bend off to the right. The water was getting pretty choppy. “Wow, the wind is tunneling down that part of the lake up there, between the mountains. I see white caps.” Which we were headed towards in our tiny little boat.
My husband looked up at the mountain behind us, where tall trees not blocked by the mountain to our right were twisting and bowing in the wind.
“Coming about,” he said.
The water was not calm any more. The direction of the chop did not match the direction of the wind. My back was soaked. My bare feet were wet and numb in the puddle I sat in. And the boat continued to jerk and snap in gusty air that kept changing direction.
I’ll be honest, I was scared.
We made our way back up the lake in squirrely wind that was growing stronger and more erratic by the minute. We watched the sailing team who had come out onto the water to practice also struggle. They seemed to be having as much trouble as we were. They had jammed rudders and flapping sails, or they’d fly along with their mast at 45° and their rails almost in the water and then suddenly the mast would be straight up and down.
The further we got toward the far side of the lake, the gustier the wind — and it didn’t seem to want to let us turn back. I wanted to turn back. I thought about a crazy thunderstorm I was caught out in a boat with my dad when I was a kid, and how now that it’s over, it seems like a grand adventure.
I hoped this sail would seem like an adventure once it was over, too. At least the sky was blue and there was no risk of getting struck by lightning. Capsizing in the cold doesn’t seem quite as bad as getting struck by lightning. Maybe.
We finally cruised in close enough to roll up the sails and row to the dock.
“Well,” my husband said, “now we know. If there’s a wind advisory we should listen. That was too much for this boat.”
We’ve got soccer games and swim meets until the weather will be too cold for wet sailing, and now I’m sad we might not be able to sail our little boat until spring. Last weekend was an adventure on a glittering mountain lake under a brilliant October sky. It was gorgeous. I was glad when it was over. Now that it’s over, and we’re safe on land, I want to go out again.