Leap of Faith

by Barbara White

Some are born to sail, others yearn to sail, and still others have sailing thrust upon them. A few years ago, I suddenly found myself in the ranks of those with sailing thrust upon them. When my husband decided that what we needed was a new hobby. I lobbied hard to quilting, but at last faced the inevitable and prepared to ship out.

I could see it all. It would be Adventures in Paradise all over again with me standing at the helm, gulls flying over-head and dolphins swimming, a gentle breeze blowing through my hair, and the crew scurrying around doing whatever it is crews do. If you’re going to dream -- dream big. I had created the full-package fantasy.

Of course, we hadn’t won the lottery so our little sloop was a couple of masts and several feet short of being HMS Sea Gypsy, but she was sturdy and seaworthy and optimistically named Pleasant Surprise. There was only one key component missing - the crew.

The minute we had the boat in the water I discovered just how far from reality my little fantasy had been. My husband, Robert, was the trained sailor and it would take an act of God to wrest his hand from the tiller. As for the crew, by process of elimination, that role fell to me. Every time we set sail, I would dash around, stumbling, lurching and tangling myself in various ropes and lines all the while dodging the boom with - about a 50% success rate. On one or two exceptionally bad days I had to be dragged back aboard.

It was late afternoon and we were approaching the dock at the marina. I was poised on the bow ready to tie us off when we pulled alongside the rickety little pier. The bowline was coiled neatly at my feet. A stiff breeze was churning up the water and the waves were bouncing us around. Robert, as he always did, had the sails down and was bringing us in under power.

As we approached, I bent down to pick up the line; Robert cut the throttle. A wave caught us broadside causing the bow to lurch sending me into the air, gripping the rope for dear life. I went the distance and landed, with all the grace and poise of a Blue Footed Booby, on the dock. I tied rope to cleat as though I had planned it all and waved to my astounded husband. Meanwhile on the pier a small group of thoroughly impressed onlookers cheered.
It was the beginning of a love affair. I couldn’t wait to get on the boat. Well, actually, I couldn’t wait to get off the boat. Each day we would go out sailing and I would wile away the hours until it was time to return. When we did, I would leap into the air and soar to the pier, line in hand. Little by little I began extending the jump distance. Before long I was covering six or seven feet of water between bow and dock.

To be honest about it, my overall sailing ability hadn’t improved much. In fact, with the exception of the bowline, Robert didn’t let me touch anything on the boat. So I spent my time reading stories of man and the sea - Horatio Hornblower, Moby Dick, Kidnapped, Jaws, Tom Swift and His Electric Fishing Pole. Okay not Tom Swift, I made that up. Just waiting for the end of the day and my big moment.

Word spread and the little crowd on the dock grew. Everyone stood by ready to watch me in action. Autograph seekers hounded me. My kids brought their friends out so I could amaze them. Those were heady days!
At last, with Labor Day behind us and the first touch of winter in the air, the boating season began to draw to a close. We decided to spend one more day out on the water. We left the harbor at first light and didn’t return until the sun was making its way to the western horizon.

At last my moment had arrived. This was it, the season finale. I took up my position on bow. The crowd on the little dock seemed larger than usual. I was ready to give them a show to remember. Robert brought us chugging in under power. I reached for the line and waited until we were in range.

We got close to the pier, Robert threw the throttle in reverse and I began my leap.

But the throttle stuck.

So with the motor still in reverse, the boat backed further away from the dock. The rope began pulling and instead of letting it go, I held on. The rope went taut and I completed my arc and landed - not on the pier, but in the water. Robert was fiddling frantically with the little outboard motor. I was holding the rope and being dragged backward.

Robert shouted “Hold on, Honey,” as he hammered on the engine. Then, “No, maybe you should let go.” Followed by, “Don’t worry, I’ll save you!”

I was shouting too, but nothing I care to repeat.

On the dock, I could hear the crowd yelling things like, “Yeah, way to go!” Or “Hey! That’s pretty daring! At her age she could break a hip.” And “Wow! She may not be much of a sailor, but she sure can cuss like one!”

In a few minutes Robert had the motor shut down and turned his attention to helping me back onto the boat. At last I was standing on deck, soaking wet, freezing cold - the water in the north Atlantic seems to stay just this side of ice - and shouting like a naked Viking.

Robert handed me a towel and tried to sound concerned, which wasn’t easy since he couldn’t stop lauphing long enough. It went something like, “Are you...ha, ha...okay...hee, hee, hee...? I’m so-o-o sorry...HA, HA, HA!” It was a long silent trip as we rowed back to the pier.

Maybe it’s not too late to take up quilting.

Barbara White is a freelance writer based out of Ft. Collins, CO.