Maxed out 

That sinking-sailing feeling

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I’m sailing this week. Don’t know if an Internet connection is in the travel plans so this is what can most graciously be called an encore presentation. At least it has something to do with sailing… if nothing to do with elections. Consider it a gift.

A 38-foot sailboat is a joy to sail. A boat that size, with a displacement approaching 12 tonnes, just tends to give a boy confidence. It accelerates to speed almost unnoticeable, flattens out all but deep swells of a trailing sea, and feels rock solid with its leeward toerail nearly submerged. It is for good reason large Cadillacs and Lincolns of a certain vintage are referred to as land yachts.

The boat I’m on is a sleek cruising boat with just enough beam to offer its occupants a bit of comfort below deck but not nearly enough to seem tubby. Under sail it is a joy to steer and a pleasure to ride. At least until the wind starts to blow stronger than 25 knots with gusts into the 30s and non-sailors aboard.

At that point, even the finest of sailing yachts becomes a careening, out of control, unsafety-tested, midway ride, with screaming adolescents and adults turning green and wondering if anyone will notice them tossing their cookies overboard. This is when I really begin to relish the trip, and generally puts me in good stead with the captain, if at odds with the passengers.

August is a capricious month to sail on Lake Ontario. It is not unusual to be becalmed for long stretches of time when the drone of a diesel engine is the only alternative to sitting motionless and cursing your fate. Since even the best diesel sounds like someone’s dropped a handful of various sized nuts and bolts maliciously into the crankcase, running the engine is not just an admission that you brought the wrong kind of boat to the party, it is a form of auditory torture. Motoring is an unmitigated cry of “uncle” when sailing is your preferred mode of travel.

However, whether sailing or motoring, motion of any sort in a large sailboat is preferable to stopping. Stopping a boat is an act of faith almost beyond the comprehension of non-sailors. To state the obvious, there are no brakes on a boat. And unlike a motorboat that enjoys multiple, large propellers each capable of turning different directions and bringing a boat to a stop so quickly you can pop blood vessels in your eyes, sailboats have a single prop that looks a great deal as though it was stolen from the top of someone’s beanie and wouldn’t be able to blend a decent margarita at full speed.


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