Saturday, October 24, 2015

Sailing with the Westie Crew

A while back I asked Paula if she and Rich would like to go sailing with us sometime. She said they would love to….but then I thought I’d see if anyone else on the Executive Committee would like to go sailing as well. I really didn’t expect to get many takers but to my surprise eight people ended up getting on board with the idea.

We’ve had six people on the boat, but two of them were children, and at the time we only had two dogs. Eight people seemed like a lot. Our boat is 38’, but the cockpit is somewhat small. I hoped I hadn’t made a mistake.

Any sailboat invitation is contingent on the weather. We picked a date that everyone that wanted to could come and then waited to see what mother nature would serve up on that date. Well the weather was perfect. 5-10 knots, sunny skies, 1 foot seas or less. The trip was on!

We keep our boat in Salem, Massachusetts at Hawthorne Cove Marina. Since it was a Saturday, everyone needed to park next door in the Salem Ferry parking lot. We got there early so we could meet everyone. Lee went ahead and went to the boat to make sure everything was ready for our guests. I took the dogs for a short walk and then waited in the ferry parking lot for people to arrive.

Diane and Dennis were the first ones there. The dogs were so surprised! “Wow! You’re at the boat! This is great!” I walked them over to the marina and they helpfully kept the dogs while I went back over to the parking lot to wait for everyone else.

Amy and Bill arrived next. There were a LOT of people out and both the marina and the ferry parking lot were really crowded. I started to worry that there wasn’t going to be enough parking spaces for everyone, but it was fine. Paula and Rich arrived and then it was time to go.

No one had ever been on a sailboat before. Motorboats and cruise ships yes, but no sailboats. Everyone was game, but Amy insisted on NO SWIM LADDERS! But with all the people and our gear the dinghy would have been too small anyway. We all took the launch to the boat.

The launch was full; I’ve never seen so many people on it. It actually seemed lower in the water. But before too long there we were at Prevailing Wins. Now it was time to see if we all would actually fit.

Well we fit just fine. The food and people’s bags and sweaters went below and the people all spread out above. The dogs had plenty of attention; the people had beer and other drinks. We gave anyone that wanted it a short tour of the cabin and then it was time to go.

For the most part Lee and I did our usual roles. He’s the captain. He determines the course, sets the autopilot, trims the sails. I get us off and on the mooring, fetch stuff and do other miscellaneous chores as needed. But Dennis wanted to help so Lee showed him how to come about and handle the jib. He did just fine!

There were many, many other boats out. I guess people knew this might be one of the last weekend days for sailing and nobody wanted to miss it. The kids were all out in their little boats outside Marblehead racing, motorboats and sailboats zigged and zagged here and there in Salem Sound.

We had enough wind to make things fun but not too scary. After my usual initial bout of nervousness I kind of forgot about things, unless Lee went below. I was having too much fun visiting with my friends and pointing out various sights to worry too much about what the boat was doing.

All of a sudden, it seemed, a patch of fog came rolling across the sound. Suddenly we could only see about 100 yards in front of us, and there were lots and lots of other boats out there who couldn’t see anything either. We decided that the smart thing to do was take down the sails and motor back in.

About the time we got to the mooring field the fog blew past and we could see again. Good timing! Our plan was to go to the marina deck and have a picnic. We figured that it would be a little tight trying to feed 8 people on the boat. But on this crowded festive Saturday we learned that the deck had been reserved by another group. No problem, I said, let’s go to The Willows, a nice park just down the road from the marina.

But when we got to the Willows it was packed. There were cars and people everywhere, and not a table or a grill to be had. I guess all the landlubbers were enjoying the end of summer too! The picnic had to migrate back to the Nill’s abode on Arlington Pond. That turned out to be a fine solution, and a pleasant end to a very nice day!

We learned a few things from this adventure. First of all, 8 people on the boat for a day sail is no problem at all. We could probably do 9 and maybe even 10 people, but that would be the absolute limit. Secondly, nice boating days in September are going to be crowded in Salem Harbor. If you want to use the deck at the marina you’d better reserve it well in advance! And thirdly, if there are enough things to distract me I’m not that nervous of a sailor at all. Maybe.

PS. Most of the photos in the post are by Diane Levesque, our wonderful Westie breeder and a great photographer. I was too busy having fun!

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