Offen: Clear sailing

Jun. 16, 2014 @ 11:09 AM

It was a beautiful, warm, gloriously sunny late spring day. The perfect kind of day to stay home, eat a carrot and organize my old fabric softener sheets. 

Instead, I went sailing with my friend Bruce. Well, that’s not completely true.
We sailed for a good 17 minutes. We prepared for sailing for about three and a half hours. We unsailed for about two and three-quarter hours. We recovered from sailing for about 90 minutes. 
This was, in fact, the first time I went sailing or almost went sailing. Sailing was not the sport I grew up with. It’s very hard to play it on the streets of the Bronx.
Still, when Bruce suggested we go sailing, I immediately responded with the only sailing phrase I knew — “full speed ahead, captain, full speed ahead,” which was a line I stole from the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine, the official anthem of the U.S. Navy.
Even if I hadn’t ever done it, how difficult could sailing be? All you needed, I figured, was water. Maybe wind. Turns out, you need a dictionary, too.
After we got to the marina, which is the name of the woman who owns the boat yard, we had to prepare the boat. Before we could actually go out on the water, which seemed to be to be the whole point of sailing, we first had to attach the battens to the bollards before we could broach the jib and have cocktails with the foremast.
After keeling the gunwales, we lashed the luff until we could no longer tolerate the mizzen. But just when we were ready to launch, I unfortunately dropped the shackle right into the sheave, making the spinnaker uneasy and convincing the tiller not to talk to the rudder.
We had to regroup.
While Bruce tacked to the staysail, I trimmed to the spar and learned how to pronounce leeward. Then we hooked up the boat to the car — nautical talk for automobile — and actually headed to the water.
We slipped down the slip — nautical talk for slip — and Bruce unfurled the lateen while I hoisted the headstay and hanked the backstay. Apparently, though, I was supposed to stay the hank and back off completely while Bruce tried to get the boat in the water. 
Finally, though, we were almost ready to get out there on the water and sail. All I had to do was put on my deck shoes before I actually got onto the deck.
Bruce tossed the shoes to me. The left one landed, of course, in the water, its jib flying, its bollard beating to windward. It quickly sailed away.  We chased it, tacking and gaffing, furling and broaching and booming.
We made it to the middle of the lake. While the shoe floated westward, to the shores of Tripoli, the wind stopped. The boat stopped. I dreamed of fabric softener sheets.
Neil Offen can be reached at theneiloffencolumn@yahoo.com.