I got a boat. Specifically, Oats bought me a boat: It’s my alternative engagement ring, and in my eyes, a vast improvement on a piece of jewellery that I’d most likely lose. It’s true, I could also very easily sink this other gift, but at least that would make a good story.
The vessel is a sailing dinghy, secondhand, bought from the local online classifieds for $350. It’s 9 feet long, and hilariously jury-rigged. The gooseneck connecting the mast to the boom is a PVC T-junction pipe more commonly seen in plumbing, and the foot of the sail is attached to the boom with zip-ties. At least the hull is fibreglass, which is lighter and easier to repair than a wood. Before even taking it out on the water, it was clear that the entire thing needed at least a new coat of paint, but this hardly matters because it’s mine. I love it.
Here’s my childhood fantasy: Me, in my own boat, with my own dog. I always knew I could attain these things all on my own at some point in my life, but finally having the fantasy made real is all the sweeter for Oats’ involvement. Sharing the work of raising a puppy is infinitely easier than doing it solo, and I’m such a tightwad that it’d have taken me another decade to splurge on a boat, even one as small as this. So, I felt a particularly tender sort of happiness yesterday afternoon, when Sum and Capt Pestou took the above photo of me and Mo making our way across a local lake.
The best part of that pic is how I look like I actually know what I’m doing, which to be frank is completely incorrect. As I type this, I’m sitting on my bed with a copy of the “K.I.S.S. Guide to Sailing”, which is essentially sailing-for-dummies. I’m pretty good at doing what I’m told on larger ships, and know how to jibe and tack on command, but am mostly clueless about how to control a little boat all on my own. Still, through trial and error, I did manage to very slowly sail us from one side of the lake to the other, and rewarded Mo for his patience by beaching the boat and having a swim together.
Things went pear-shaped after that.
For one thing, the wind had picked up. There were now little whitecaps on the waves out on the lake, where there’d previously been only ripples and soft peaks. For another thing, the wind was going against me, and kept pushing us back to the shore. I got off the beach, then was forced into a marshy area, where I promptly broke my one good oar. When I fought my way back to open water, the rudder suddenly fell off and floated away. Immediately I let go of the mainsheet, sending the sail spinning around the mast while I used half an oar to paddle after the rudder. I got it into the boat, and then tried to take down the sail, since I now had no chance of controlling my direction. Of course, the nut on the bolt that locked the boom to the mast was jammed, and the sail wasn’t going anywhere. Le sigh.
For my birthday, Oats fulfilled another of my childhood desires: She gave me a pair of walky-talkies, and waterproof ones to boot. Their main use, she suggested, could be as a ship-to-shore radio for when I went sailing while she relaxed at some nice seaside park. Since she was at home on this afternoon, however, I was glad that Sum and Captain Pestou had the other half of the set.
“I need help!” I radioed to them, watching their own newly-acquired little sailing catamaran zip down the other side of the lake. Sum responded, but her voice was distorted by static. I gave up on complex words, and just yelled, “I’m FUCKED!”
Their response was distorted with more static, but I saw that they’d turned and were approaching. I gave up on the walky-talkie, and instead just raised in the air my rudder, and then the two halves of my oar. I was laughing pretty hard at this point, and so were they when they reached me. Poor Mo was the only one who didn’t think it was amusing, especially when they towed us back to the boat ramp faster than my dinghy would ever go even if I knew what I was doing. He doesn’t approve of bow waves, or speed, or perhaps even boats in general. I’m working on this.
Anyway, we got back to shore safe and sound, and my friends got some more sailing in while I took stock of what had happened. One of the mounts for the rudder had actually fallen off and disappeared, and the other is ready to follow. I think the wood to which they’re attached is rotting, and the cleat that secures the mainsheet to the traveler across the stern is broken. There’s holes in the sail that need to be patched, and I’ll have to come up with some better way of keeping the boom and mast secured so that I can easily collapse the sail when in crisis. Obviously, I also need new oars.
Some sailing lessons might be good too.
But you know what? It was a great afternoon, because facing my own ignorance was completely thrilling. I don’t do that enough, don’t often take opportunities to step outside my known skills and risk fucking up. In this case, the boat itself caused problems before I could really get myself into much trouble, but that was enjoyable too because it made me feel like we were evenly matched. Me and my boat, against the world.