Learn the art of sailing – Garden & Gun

It took us a few centuries of late summer days over a hundred degrees, but it’s now a God given truth that no one on this earth has perfected the inaction of Dog Days like Southerners have. do. When it comes to sucking, we have no equal: leaning over the sink to eat a ripe tomato like you would an apple; check this cord to make sure your floating cooler is firmly attached to your inner tube; watch the dog breathe as he collapses under the porch fan.

Because we are such professionals, the suggestion I am about to make goes in the opposite direction, requiring you to detach yourself from your favorite wicker chair to learn something new, namely how to navigate. Granted, you can keep busy there by preventing a sailboat from flipping over in a strong breeze, but that’s part of the problem. It’s the antidote to Dog Days.

There are three main reasons why you drink this sailing antidote heavily. First, sailing teaches us the ancient art of reading the mercurial forces of wind and water. Our kit has changed over the millennia, but the actions of wind and water have not. Stripped of any modern instrumentation you may or may not have on board, this is how sailing also teaches us how the larger world works, that is, our entire biosphere. When sailing, you receive the same messages from these land forces as Odysseus, and you become an actor in the dialogue, trying to position your ship to gain the greatest locomotive advantage (arguably minus the infamous shore leave of Odysseus to carry out his years-long affair with the witch Circe).

Captain Steve McClure, Mobile Bay’s Senior Captain SailTime Alabamaa Gulf Coast Central school and charter service, puts it more concretely: “You must learn to feel the wind on your face and neck, to see the cat’s paws on the water when it is calm, knowing the direction of the waves when the breeze is blowing, checking the masthead fly and feeling the heel and speed of the boat below you all tell your brain where the wind is coming from.

The second major lesson to be learned is that of concentration. On board each sailboat there is a lot of attention to be paid because no wind or water will stop changing during your journey. Since part of your job is to react to this, learning to focus on the smallest changes in the elements will give you times when you can, with training, anticipate what the wind and water might do and prepare your boat for it.

The third lesson is that of respect. Wind and water are the boss. You can cajole them, coax them, beg them and curse them, but when the wind blows against where you want or need to go, you’ll learn the patience to tack in the wind, back and forth in the famous swinging pattern. rafters, until you get there. . The reason for the chevrons is that it is only possible, on what sailors call upwind, to put your bow at a forty-five degree angle into the wind. Your sails will luff if you try it closer than that. In fact, it’s How? ‘Or’ What you stop a boat if you need to, turning your bow into the wind.

Captain McClure’s point about respecting the elements is much more specific: “Sudden afternoon thunderstorms are a frequent threat in Mobile Bay, especially during the summer. The wind can go from ten to forty knots or even more in a few moments. You must learn that when a dark cloud is heading your way and the temperature drops dramatically, to lower the sails now.”

There are as many versions of sailing schools as there are sailboats and captains teaching: in saltwater or freshwater, you can opt for a thirty-footer on which you embark, a group lesson with the family, or a simple private charter for an afternoon or two with a captain who teaches you, as the idiom goes, the ropes.

Specifically, to become American Sailing Association certified, you will spend time in a classroom and you will definitely need to know the difference between a halyard, the rope that hoists a sail, and the mainsheet or rope that controls the sail. angle of the mainsail to the boat – your control of sail power, so to speak. There is much more, but whatever path you choose in the sport, I would advise all new sailors to seek out the experience of capsizing and righting your boat as taught in dinghy schools.

Beloved at children’s sailing camps, the classic American dingy is the Sunfish, a chunky little craft with a daggerboard, a lateen sail and nothing more than a sort of floor for a cockpit. The boat is very easy to capsize if you forget to let out the sheet when the wind picks up and you are at a slightly critical angle to the wind, or, if it is the day you cast a glass in dinghy school, you or your instructor can pull it easily. That’s why the Sunfish is such a good teaching vessel, because it speaks so clearly about how you need to sail to not turn into a turtle. The boat is also relatively simple to right by swimming around the hull, pressing hard with both hands on the daggerboard so that when the mast rises from the water you can use your foot on the hull to raise it .

Consider it your baptism and welcome to the waters.

Want to learn?

Three schools to test across the South

SailTime Alabama

Fairhope, Alabama

On the eastern shore of Mobile Bay, this school offers tuition and private tuition, as well as ownership plans, if the bug bites you badly. Specialized in keelboats.

photo: SailTime Alabama

Gulf Coast Sailing and Cruising School

Punta Gorda, Florida

This place on Charlotte Harbor specializes in certification, but they also do cruises and charters. No dinghies here; deep-sea keelboats.

Charleston Sailing College

Mount Pleasant, South Carolina

The Cougars are known for their college sailing program, but the College of Charleston Sailing Association also offers adult classes and private lessons at the J. Stewart Walker Complex in Mount Pleasant.

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