This one is for the books

If I would have known ahead of time exactly how it would all play out on Saturday afternoon, I’m pretty sure I would have chosen to stay safe at the dock and polish the stainless steel screws on my sailboat.
But that’s not what boats are for, right?
June 16, indeed, was the first time I sailed my boat. June 27 was the first time I did it alone—as in I was the only human on board. The only other living creature was the big fat-backed spider that crawled out of my mainsheet.
I had studied my sailing boat manual until I couldn’t see. I had walked the boat from bow to stern, talking to myself about how to rig that and how to raise this. I had practised all the moves 101 times.
I put on my “Indiana Jones” hat for good luck, started my little motor, shifted to reverse, and backed out of my safe zone.
Within 15 minutes I could hardly believe it. I had raised the sails, shut the motor off, and sailed in Sand Bay all by myself. Unbelievable!
And then the wind died.
I was supposed to meet up with sailing friends about seven miles from my safe little harbour zone. I wasn’t sure I could make it that far on my first solo voyage, but one of the hardy roving tars had faith in me so I kept going—taking a route north of “Nowhere Island,” past “Midway” and “Copenhagen Islands.”
The day was hot and muggy, and most of the time the water shone like glass. I sailed whenever I could and motored when I couldn’t, which was more than half the time.
I joked with the invisible man of “Murphy’s Law” about how coincidental it was to be on my first real solo sail in no appreciable wind.
I waved at lake-lovers zooming by. One such group of women, clearly enjoying their summer pontoon cruise, shouted back to me: “Beth! You rock! Rock on girl!”
I didn’t know who they were but my head swelled at being recognized on such a big lake—and my “Indiana Jones” hat nearly popped off my head.
The skies to the west and south were dark and thundering, and my optimist’s prime attitude blinded me to the wind shift.
And then my little motor up and died just past “Mermaid Rock,” so I put sails up again and, poof, the wind picked up in Water Narrows and I sailed right through and into “Swell Bay.”
I came into view of other sailboats with sails down and motoring, and I assumed it was the finish line of the Rendezvous Yacht Club’s “Sandpoint Island Race.” They were, in fact, seeking shelter.
As I was passing one of the boats, I yelled to my friends onboard, “I have no motor!” And they looked at me with dropped jaw as I passed them going the wrong direction.
That’s when the wind exploded and off went my “Indiana Jones” hat into the drink. And as fast as lightning, the big bad storm blew into the bay and there I was with both sails up and a sitting duck.
It was a scene from the Robert Redford movie, “All is Lost.”
I don’t know how much time passed. I was flipped around like a rag doll and at one point was at a 45-degree angle with my boat—me high portside hauling on the tiller as I watched the lake pour in starboard.
For a split second, I was sure I was going to flip over.
I knew I had to let go and take a sail down. Somehow I managed to ditch my jib and my main, but forgot that my boom falls into the cockpit when the main comes down if its not hooked on the backstay first.
The wind had a heyday with that, too.
My friends had stuck around at a safe distance from my rag doll showcase and waited it out until I paid attention to their yelling instructions on where to go to get out of the wind, and then followed me.
I wish I had that experience on video. I wasn’t scared but it was a harrowing adventure. Everything untoward that could happen to me in sailing appears to have happened all in one day—and on the first solo sail of my life.
The rest of my summer should be golden.

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