Earth and fire would come later in the day, via a great bonfire, but Saturday morning of Orleans’ Celebrate Our Waters weekend was all about wind and water. A photographer and a reporter (coincidentally husband and wife), completely inexperienced with sailing, had volunteered to board a sailboat, courtesy of Pleasant Bay Community Boating (PBCB), to skim the bay’s gentle waves.
We’re so inexperienced, in fact, that we spent a few minutes learning how to wear the life jackets. Then we had to choose between a ride on a catboat or a Flying Scot. Since we’d had one ride on the former (the Sarah, out of the Maritime Museum on Lewis Bay in Hyannis), we figured we’d try the Scot, powered by two sails in contrast to the catboat’s one.
We were met on PBCB’s dock by Steve Najarian, who has been sailing since his childhood. Friendly and pleasant, he helped us from the dock to launch to Scot, where he got us settled for what we thought would be a passive ride.
Steve actually meant to teach us a little hands-on sailing: hands on the tiller, hands on the ropes. A natural-born teacher, he first got us to think about all that we’d have to “read” on the water. Those patches of little waves off to starboard meant a little localized wind. The sails on another boat let us see whether she was heading into or out of the wind. On-shore flags and banners added pieces to the wind puzzle.
Then he brought in the non-visual cues.
He asked us to close our eyes and think about the blind woman who’d sailed with him once. “Pay attention to where the wind is coming from, know it by the feeling on your face,” he urged, just as the blind woman had.
He showed us how the Scot can even sail without a rudder as an added layer of safety. “Remember, there’s always an alternative” out on the water, he told us.
Now that we were initiated into reading the wind and the water, Steve began assigning us to help with some tasks. We loosened, we tightened. We kept low as the boom swung.
Steve must have decided that we were ready for a bit of responsibility, so he invited the reporter to take the tiller. “Point us toward that antenna,” he ordered as he indicated a landmark. And sure enough, the reporter, with some guidance, got the feel of nudging the tiller just enough, her arm a conduit for the energy of the mild wind, the taut sails, and the sparkling water.
The three of us spoke of another great pleasure of sailing, or as Steve put it, “what you don’t hear.” When we paused our talk, we heard the wind and the water gently slap at the boat’s sails and sides. No motors, no music, no neighbors, no noise. Now clouds masked the sun, now they let it shine. It was easy to understand why people love sailing.
But now we had sailed far enough away from PBCB, and other people were ready to use the boat, and it was time to head for home port. The captain gave the tiller to the photographer.
Steve continued to teach us, his lesson turning now toward how to reduce the wind in our sails and prepare the Flying Scot to rest at its mooring. Again, he pointed out clues on land and sea for the pockets of wind that we needed to know about, not to power up but to power down.
When it came time to grab a mooring, we learned our penultimate lesson of the morning, which was something along the lines of the old saying, “If you want God to laugh, just make a plan.”
The plan was to glide in, grab a mooring, and celebrate the end of a lovely sail. But here’s what happened for real.
Steve tried both to grab a mooring while lying on the bow, and to direct the helmsman/photographer at the stern. Suddenly all nautical language seemed to give way to a dialogue of “Push the tiller this way!” “Which way?” “No! That way!”
Not exactly Kirk and Sulu evading the Klingons.
We banged into another sailboat that had already moored.
Another lesson. We learned that Flying Scots are tough.
At last, with help from his colleagues on other boats, Steve was able, under the watchful eyes of roosting seabirds, to get #2464 moored. Patiently, he let us help him lock her down – just in time for a couple of guys to take her for her next spin. There’s always an alternative.
Pleasant Bay Community Boating, at 2287 Route 28 in Harwich, is open to all. A tax-deductible annual fee (youth $35, adult $60, family $75) entitles members to lessons and rentals. They strive to include mobility, cognitively, and vision-impaired people, wounded veterans, and senior citizens. Telephone 508-945-7245. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit pbcb.cc.