of Going Solo
"the wind, sun and a little
sea spray on my face...",
I heard about the Disabled Sailing
Association (DSA) and was intrigued. With their specially rigged
boats I understood anyone with a disability could learn to sail.
The boats were Martin
16s, which are fitted with a system of pulleys to lessen the
amount of strength needed to trim the sails. The rudder is set
up as a joystick situated in front of you. This summer I was going
to be in town and decided to enroll for lessons. For what I thought
was a nominal fee, I was assured I would be sailing solo by the
end of the summer. Lessons included five-hour classes on Sunday
afternoons. After completing two exams I would have my white sail
levels I and II.
The day of my first class dawned
gloomy and cold, but luckily enough the day was spent on dry land
going over sailing safety, knot tying (I can now tie a pretty
mean bowline knot in less than 15 seconds, if I do say so myself!),
terminology and rigging/derigging the boats. My four classmates
and I left that afternoon with one of instructors, Berkley, telling
us, "Next week you're on the water." Uh oh!
With much better weather, we started
our second class with a short talk on capsizing, which I way quickly
assured would never happen since the Martin 16s are equipped with
a heavy keel thus making it impossible to capsize. My trepidation
lessoned somewhat on hearing this and off I went to get my PFD
(personal flotation device) on and load up into the boat. Using
the mechanical hoist, transfers from land to boat are a breeze.
The first time on the water, each student was accompanied by a
trained volunteer who, should you need assistance, reassurance
or someone to chit-chat with, was right there. It was wonderful!
With the wind, sun and a little
sea spray on my face, I had a great time. Ben, my volunteer, who
was along for the ride, said I did very well. One problem, however,
we pulled of one unscheduled man overboard maneuver--not to retrieve
a man, but my hat!
The sailing bug had bit and I couldn't
wait for the next time. The remainder of the lessons took a similar
format with a little classroom teaching to start before the sail.
The only difference was that after that first sail with a volunteer
along, you went solo. At first I was a little nervous (on my own
already? Yikes!), but the instructors assured us that we were
competent. Besides, they are on the water with you, zipping around
in an engine-powered zodiac. Also, each boat is equipped with
a two-way radio. They were right--nothing did go wrong and another
sunny after noon was spent sailing on English Bay. Starting to
feel more relaxed I began to be aware of how beautiful the surroundings
were, and I even got a chance to look at some seals.
As the lessons progress, the instructors
begin evaluating you on your "on-the-water skills" and
a two part written exam is completed on the final day. I am proud
to say that I passed all my evaluations and am now a qualified
White Sail I and II sailor and also a member of the DSA racing
club. However, I must note that I am not a racing member at this
point but I'm sure that will change next year. I can't wait!