Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Learning to Fall Before You Fly

Falling over backwards was not a skill I ever hoped to master.
Not at those leadership seminars, trusting that I would be caught by a "team” member I barely knew. Certainly not on the spring-loaded trampolines of long-ago gym classes.
Here I was, standing on a tippy sliver of fiberglas, pulling the aluminum mast and a blanket of sail down after me as I headed for the green water of Lake Townsend.
I cleared the sail ok on the Pico, but struggled to lift myself over the stern of the plastic boat, shaped more like a sea kayak than a sailboat.
The AquaFin was another story. This flat little creature seemed like it should be stable, but other students had struggled to swim around the boat before it “turned turtle.” One student, the smallest of us, ended up standing on the hull of the overturned boat and forcing her slight weight against the daggerboard until slowly, finally, the mast lifted and the water poured out of the sail.
I pulled the AquaFin over hard but came up under the sail, pushing against the blue mass and knowing that I’d never get clear in time to catch the daggerboard – but I did. The boat grudged its way back to upright, and I clawed, squirmed and dragged myself back into the cockpit, one foot tangled in the lines and rudder.
“You find out what you can do when you have to,” observed Steve Raper, with the considerable calm of a longtime instructor and one who did not intend to end up in the water this evening.
Our class of eight was on the water Tuesday night for the second evening of an seven-day sailing class sponsored by city parks and conducted by volunteers from the Lake Townsend Yacht Club. More later at the News & Record,, where I'm doing a Your Game column.

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