Small Steps

On Saturday we went out for what I believe was our first family sail since our week-long bareboat charter in the San Juan Islands back in the beginning of the summer. Though I have been out on the water nearly every Monday night for club racing, this was quite a long spell with no family sailing. Despite how long it had been since we last sailed as a family, and the fact that it would be as part of a regatta event (Leukemia Cup Regatta and Family Fun Sail), our announcement of spending a day on the water met with a less than enthusiastic response from 2/3 of our children… though I think Arthur’s “Yea!!” may have been faked just to get into my good graces, so let’s just say none of them were keen for a full day of sailing. “Awwwww [whined with three syllables], do we have to go?” “I wanna stay hooooome.”

Being the evil parents we are, we ignored their pleas went sailing as planned, though under protest. Unfortunately, the wind forecast was very optimistically calling for 2-3 knots, and that’s about what we got. We motored about half a mile up the river to give ourselves plenty of room to drift once we hoisted the sails. And drift we did, without even a hint of steerage.

After about 20 minutes of baking in the sun, we resigned ourselves to a bit of motor-sailing to get where we needed to be for the Family Fun Sail event, basically about 10 boats, each with a basket of plastic balls color-coded and numbered for their boat.  The objective was to exchange a ball with each boat and then turn your collection in at the end of the day for a prize. If you dropped a ball, you had to retrieve it; we dropped two, and without a net, they’re harder to retrieve than you might think, but we managed. All said and done, I was actually relieved to have no wind for this event because it would have been a real challenge to maneuver under sail for all those ball exchanges. And despite the event’s name, I’m pretty sure we were the only family boat with kids; the rest seemed full of adult crew.

The kids were somewhat entertained by the game, but once finished, proper boredom set in. Henry clipped into a jack-line and retired to the foredeck for a nap. Arthur fell asleep while taking a turn at the helm and was promptly relocated to the comfort and shelter of the V-berth, and Hazel flopped around on Candace for a while. We’ve learned this lesson before… drifting around on the river on a warm day with no wind is about as miserable as it gets for us.

Going, going...
Going, going…
Gone
…Gone
Trying to get comfortable
Trying to get comfortable

Normally, we would have called it a day, but I wanted to watch some of the regatta which was about to get underway, and as the end of summer was right around the corner, I wasn’t quite ready to abandon what might well be our last family sail of the season. We decided to find a place to drop anchor and watch the regatta for a while. We found a relatively calm and clear patch of water over a sandspit of sorts upriver from Tomahawk Island.

Once anchored, a remarkable thing happened. The kids (Henry and Hazel, at least) began to stir and recognize that while not underway, they had free reign over the boat.  What’s more, their parents, no longer occupied with sailing the boat, were able to actually interact with them. Hazel’s favorite discovery was the fact that she could perch herself on top of the mainsail, stacked on the boom, and make a game of trying to stay balanced as we rocked through the wakes of passing boats. Henry, reluctant to abandon his resentment at being forced to be on the boat all day, couldn’t hold out forever and eventually succumbed to the opportunity for a bit of fun and joined us for our boom-riding game. I even convinced them to try a bit of halyard swinging, though we quickly discovered that their shoulder harnesses are not well suited to the task… I agreed to bring a better rig next time.

Anchored = Freedom
Anchored = Freedom
Boom Riding
Boom Riding

While I reveled in the kids’ discovery of a boat as a place to have fun, boats in the regatta began to announce over the radio their retirements from the great drift-off. Everyone seemed to be packing it in and we prepared to follow suit, to the kids’ delight.  Hey, Rome wasn’t built in a day and I know that one afternoon of moderate fun doesn’t mean that the kids are bought in to the dream. But at the same time, the afternoon also led to the first discussion in which the kids began voicing genuine curiosity as to what it would be like to live aboard a large sailboat, somewhere with warm, clear water, colorful fish, dolphins and sea turtles. That’s a small, but very welcome step, and I’ll take what I can get.


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