Lessons Learned: One Year of Sailing


Picture Credit: Evyn Williams

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine pointed out that I’d hit my one year anniversary of sailing with the UT Sailing Club.

In that time, I’ve learned a couple things (I know most of you didn’t think I was capable of that). Number one, if someone is yelling at you…just duck.

Things Break. Be Ready:

The first time I ever went sailing at UT, a few members managed to break a sailboat in half. Somehow, I was convinced that this was the group of people I should learn to sail with.

We’ve had numerous parts break on us at inopportune times. Sometimes it’s just poor luck and sometimes it’s our own incompetence (hint: it’s usually the latter). Instead of fretting and freaking out, you quickly learn to calm down and figure out how to improvise until you can fix it (or duct tape over it until the next person finds it).

Find a Sport:

As someone whose athletic claim to fame is scoring on my own soccer team in fourth grade, I never really understood the appeal of sports-ball competitions. I never understood how people bonded over flailing balls and pucks at each other.

After getting involved with J24 racing (the type of boat we race) it finally clicked. I understood how sports build camaraderie. The shared spirit of wanting to accomplish something. The coordination required to do something as simple as tack (turn) into another direction. The panic when things go wrong, it all just made sense.

I’ve probably inhaled just enough fiberglass while working on Jolly Bevo (our beloved J24) to shave a few months off my lifespan (how’s that for dedication), woken up sore every morning for a week after a regatta, and spent a too many hours in cold water, but somehow it all makes sense.

I have found a newfound respect for athletes and for my fellow professional Netflix connoisseurs, maybe give another sport a try.

What my parent's think I do when I say I'm sailing.

What my parent’s think I do when I say I’m sailing.

Everything Makes Sense. Except When It Doesn’t:

When I began sailing I floundered around in the water. Pulling on the mainsheet (the line that controls the sail) and messing with the tiller. More often than not I found myself in the water with the boat upside down. I didn’t understand what was going on and decided that sailing is essentially magic.

In the past year, I have learned more about sailing that any sane person should know (the amount of sailing knowledge I have has gone from nothing to being well informed, and has now peaked at nerdy). Generally, things make sense. I can read and react to the wind. When things go wrong, I can ascertain what I should look for. Once you know what you’re doing, sailing becomes a lot less like magic and a lot more like science. It’s a nice reminder that behind all the things we take for granted, there’s a lot more happening behind the scenes. At least for me, it has led me to become even more inquisitive (this was probably my elementary school teacher’s biggest nightmare).

But every once in a while, things just do not make sense. You can be sailing next to an identical boat doing the exact same thing as you and they still manage to surpass you. In those cases, I have decided to accept that sailing is still magic.

Bonus – Boat Puns Are Great:

I haven’t a clew where this fits in, but I have a newfound appreciation for boat puns and dad jokes. Maybe I’ve been pier pressured into appreciating them or maybe it is aboat time I started growing fond of them.

That is all.

End Notes:

One year in, I’ve been grateful that I somehow got roped into sailing. If you ever want to sail (regardless of whether you’re a pro or have never sailed before), let me know and I would love to get you out on the water (please note, you will be subjected to boat puns).