Sailing the North Atlantic picture taken by Fran Meservy
SAILING LESSONS By: Frances M. McCrory-Meservy June 1972
In January of 1972, the U. S. Navy transplanted us in Newport, Rhode Island, the sailing capitol of our hemisphere.
Al decided he should take up sailing. Translated: this means "we" should take up sailing. I remembered Richard III by Shakespeare:
I saw a thousand fearful wrecks:
A thousand men that fishes gnaw'd upon:
Wedges of gold, great anchors, heaps of pearl,
Inestimable stones, unvalued jewels,
All scatter'd in the bottom of the sea.
and revolted. After all, those things looked like a good puff of wind would just knock them over - sailboats sure looked top-heavy to me.
Al knew how to get his "chicken" to do most anything. We sat on boulders on the south tip of Newport Island and watched sailboats go from Narragansett Bay into the North Atlantic and, amazingly, back again. Yes they did stay upright but it sure looked like complicated maneuvering to me.
After four months of watching sailboats, Al came home one day all excited: "Guess what! The Red Cross is offering a "FREE" sailing course at the Navy Marina. `We' just have to pay for our books. `We' can take the course and if `we' don't like it, `we'll' forget sailing." "No, I don't see a mouse in his pocket."
Ground school was meant to excite and scare you to death. Learning the safety rules scares you because in the process you learn all the different ways you can get killed. The Boat? Well, turns out its tougher than you are and will probably survive whether you do or not. With an autopilot, it can even sail home without you. The instructor is a romantic and makes dying sound exciting.
Al didn't tell me I had to learn a foreign language. A rope is not a rope - itís a halyard, sheet or Rhode according to what itís attached to. Left is port; right is starboard; front is bow and rear is stern. The floor is the deck; a wall is a bulkhead; the kitchen is the galley; etc. Sails are sails? Yes but be specific - main, jib, Genoa, mizzen, tri-sail, spinnaker, etc.
Ah, now the fun part. AERODYNAMICS? I don't want to fly an airplane - oh! I fly the boat. He has not got me on it yet.
The class is split up with two students per instructor and we get on little twelve-foot sailboats with centerboards. I interrupt my prayer asking God to protect me long enough to ask, "Where's the motor?" The instructor informs me, "Real sailors don't have motors." Rhode Island type navy men are weird. I ask, "What if the wind stops blowing!" My patient instructor tells me, "We wait for it to start blowing again." I remember The Mariners Rhyme:
Water; water everywhere and all the boards did shrink;
Water; water everywhere nor any drop to drink.
In hindsight I realize this really is a dumb question. The wind in Rhode Island may get strong enough to rip the doors off your house (we lost two, one frame and all); but, it never stops blowing there. You really don't need a motor - a sea anchor, maybe, but a motor - never.
Our little boat is tipsy but we learn to distribute body weight to keep it upright. In the wind on the bay, we learn how to retrieve a person if they fall overboard; how to stop the boat (if you luff, its like hitting mushy brakes), how to trim the boat and use the wind for whatever you want to do. THIS IS FUN!
Solo? I am nervous! What if I kill myself or worse misjudge the distance and ram the dock? I pass with flying colors and the bow gently touches the dock when I come back. I now have a license that says I know how to sail.
It took Al five months to coax me into sailing and I'm glad he did. I realize Byron understood sailing:
How gloriously her gallant course she goes!
Her white wings flying - never from her foes;
She walks the waters like a thing of life,
And seems to dare the elements of strife.
We went out and bought a twelve-foot sloop. Al finally found something I enjoyed doing with him.
After I learned how to sail a boat, God showed me something about sailing that helped me understand walking in the Spirit.
When running with the wind, the sails are all the way out and you feel very little wind. But, you are moving fast. At this point of sail, the wind is directly behind you. The slightest shift in the wind or a wake from another boat can cause a sudden shift in the boat and the main boom will come around really fast (jib) and could hit you in the head and injure if not kill you.
It is equally dangerous to run ahead of the Spirit of God. When we do, we leave room for Satan to attack us.
When tacking into the wind, the sails are pulled all the way in and the wind feels strong in your face. The boat is heeled over and you feel like you are moving fast. At this point of sail, the wind is in front of you. You have to zigzag to get where you are going. If you try to go straight at the mark, you lose the wind and your sails flop around (luf) and you go dead in the water. You find it constant and hard work to get where you are going. You will get there but you may be exhausted when you arrive. There is also the chance of an accidental tack that can cause the boom to hit someone.
It is just as tiring to try to go against the Spirit of God. When something seems impossible to achieve and we feel like we are beating our heads against a brick wall, it is time to stop and ask if we are in Godís will.
When on a beam reach, the sails are half way out and the wind is at our side. We are flying as fast as the boat will go. This is the fastest and safest point of sail.
When we are walking with the Spirit of God at our side, we are in Godís perfect will and we are safe from harm. Whatever we are doing goes smoothly and easily. A door has opened that no man can shut. We are walking joyfully in the Spirit. Satan can create a pothole in the road but the Spirit will help us step over it with ease.
Gal 5:16 I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.
Gal 5:25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.
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