For those of you just tuning in, for the last 9 years I've been building a boat with my father, and it's finally done. You can go here to see the original story of how I ended up building a sailboat when I have absolutely no idea how to sail.
Sailing people you meet at the boat launch are weird. They're a helpful and friendly bunch, but they sure like to talk about themselves a lot. I think I just haven't been indoctrinated into the club yet. So far, almost every conversation I've had at a launch began with "Well, I've been sailing for XX years, and I....blah, blah, blah..." and I have to stand there and listen to them tell stories and give advice when I really should be trying to prevent my boat from washing up on the shore and killing a dog or something.
I'm pretty sure that how long you've been doing something doesn't necessarily equate to how good you are at it, but I don't think sailors will admit this. I've been playing drums for a long time, and I reached a certain skill level that I never surpassed -- it became a limitation of both my time and talent. In reality, as much as they won't admit it, sailing is like sex. When you first start doing it, you suck at it, and your goal is to not kill or embarrass yourself. After you get the basics down, you practice up and get better and learn a few tricks and eventually you spend a decade or two at the top of your game. After that, you begin the inevitable slide down the other side of that bell curve.* Sailors deny this slide, and eventually they just end up hanging around the public boat launch wearing a strap-on and telling lies.
Take knots, for instance. Apparently, they're more than just those annoying things you get in your shoelaces at the exact moment you're trying to romantically rip your pants off -- they are also some bullshit measure of speed you are forced to use when you become a sailor. Miles per hour isn't good enough for Sailors. Noooo, they have to have their own personal unit of measurement.
In fact, in the short time I've been doing this, I've learned that almost every single aspect of sailing has its own unique terminology. The first thing you are forced to do is learn some of it, because you'll need to be familiar with those terms in order to ask intelligent questions of other sailors. For example, you might need to know the correct terminology to be able to accurately describe exactly what was happening the instant before something hit you in the back of head and a wall of water came up to meet your face.
You can't say things like "It was really windy and there were some big-ass waves, and we were sailing kind of with the wind when the cable on the left side holding the mast snapped and my father let go of the rope and the sail went whipping out at a right angle and pulled all the rope out of the boom pulleys, and when it did, we took off like a bat out of hell. Then the other rope holding the top of the sail up came loose and the rope slid up the mast and the top of the sail collapsed. It was a total clusterfuck."
Instead, you have to say, "The wind was blowing at about 15 knots due north, kicking up a fresh breeze** and 3 foot seas. We were on a broad reach when the port shroud snapped off the chainplate and my first mate released the main sheet when she started to heel, and the sheet ran out of the boom blocks, and when it did, the mainsail hit the starboard shroud and we started running. Then the peak halyard sheet uncleated and ran up the mast and the sail spilled air and started flogging. It was a total clusterfuck."
OK, some of the terminology is the same.
And that's only half the problem. When you finally figure out the correct terms required to actually phrase your question, the experienced sailing person to whom you ask this question will generally give you an answer that contains 20 new terms that you're not familiar with.
"Yeah, you're gonna need some 17x9 SS, double-swaged to a 1/8" thimble. Throw a Harken double on the peak, pick up some sea dogs, and ditch those horns and get cams. The brass horns are pretty but they don't work for shit. Better yet, just get some fairleads and run the jibsheets back to the cockpit. And pick up a fitted gooseneck and maybe think about a boom vang. Oh, and with that gaff rig, a topping lift would definitely make your life easier."
Your job as a new sailor is to simply stand there and nod your head and pretend you understand what they are telling you, even though deep in your brain stem, you feel the same panicked, naked dread that you felt the first time you saw one of those math word problems with no numbers in it on the SAT.
Then you go home and look up 37 different things on Google.
A few weeks ago, we decided to take Constant Sun out because the weather report said the winds were going to be 5-10mph and we figured it would be another easy day of practice. (You can't just say "the boat" anymore either. You have to call it "her" or by her given name or the Sailboat Police will come to your house and tell you how long they've been sailing.)
Someone once told me "It's a good trip if you come home with all the big pieces" so technically this was a good trip. I'm a little short on time this week, and this post is far too long already, so I will tell you the tale of our adventure*** in my next post.
* so I've heard.
**on the Beaufort scale.
*** or, to use the correct nautical term, Total Clusterfuck.