OU blog

Personal Blogs

Barbara Clough

Switching it up to Sailing

Visible to anyone in the world

Today the wind was heavier and the sun was shining on Boston Harbor as we backed the J27 off the dock and hoisted sail. I like saying that word: Hoisted. Not raised the sail, but hoisted them because it is, and I need all the muscles I have from CrossFit and yoga. I'm uncomfortable on keel boats having been sailing only small centerboards for the last few years. I forgot how far they could heel. And I'm uncomfortable with the other two in my class because I don't know their sailing skills well enough to trust them yet. 

They clearly, wanted to sail faster than I did, but they also own a Cataline 30 so have the feel of the keel boat down in a way that I do not. I just wanted to sail and have fun. The two are not mutually exclusive but when you're heeled over the decks are wet, and you can't keep your seat, it's not as much fun. 

But it was again a humbling experience that taught me how little I know. But I took every chance I had to improve, to learn more, to pay attention. And there are things I know that aren't just about making a boat go fast. 

Then tonight a 2.5 hour zoom class on reading charts and tide tables and dead reckoning when I'm already dead tired from 3 hours on the water, and a friend who has disappeared, and a friend who is frightened because he has disappeared. And I am home, and tired, and trying to focus on writing every single day, even if only in this blog. Tomorrow's are not a promise - only a hope. 

"Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing."

Permalink 3 comments (latest comment by Barbara Clough, Sunday, 10 Oct 2021, 22:42)
Share post
Barbara Clough

Penultimate sailing day

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Barbara Clough, Wednesday, 8 Sept 2021, 01:16

Today was not as perfect for sailing as yesterday. The sky looked foreboding with low lying dark clouds, and shifty wind dropping light rain seemed like it might scuttle the day's sailing entirely. We did manage to get out though. We all came prepared with rain gear after getting caught out unprepared last weekend, when the rain fell and so did the wind, so we all got soaked and had to paddle our boats back into the mooring field. No one wanted to do that again. 

They shortened the race to only .7 miles on a W course; frankly, they should have done the whole mile as the wind was good, the sky threatened rain but we stayed dry, and we were all off our boats by 3:00 PM. We all wanted a second race, knowing tomorrow's weather is also iffy and although there may be sailing next weekend, you never know. September can be iffy with hurricanes sweeping up from the Caribbean and autumn winds starting to blow. 

Regardless, I won't be here next weekend anyway, so I hope my skipper Tom can find a good crew and there's one last weekend of great sailing before autumn closes in.


Share post
Barbara Clough

End of Summer Sailing

Visible to anyone in the world

Here in the US, it's the Labor Day weekend, the last holiday of the summer that opened with Memorial Day, was intersected by the Fourth of July, and closed by Labor Day. There is no laboring going on. There was, however, sailing. Today was nearly perfect sailing weather: Sunshine with brilliant blue skies, with a just a few wispy white clouds very high up, as if staged to make the blue of the sky and the turquoise water even more brilliant. The wind was a bit lighter that perfect sailing requires, but enough to get a good, long race in. 

This time was a W, upwind, downwind, upwind, downwind, upwind so that we finished close to the mouth of the harbor. The course was a mile long, so only one race today. Partly because we'll race Sunday and Monday, but also so people can spend time with visiting family.

We blew the start - crossed over two seconds too early, so we had to tack around and re-start, which put us behind the rest of the fleet. Still, with good skippering on Tom's part and excellent crewing on my part, we managed to pull ourselves up, sail fast, and finish 3rd in the race. Super end to a great day of racing with two more to go. 

And then, on Friday, I get on my first flight in 19 months and will get off the plane in Dublin. This is all assuming Ireland doesn't close the door on tourists. Life, where I live at least, is starting to feel normal. We have about 70% vaccination, but still Delta is spiking and I wear my mask when in grocery stores or inside areas with heavy traffic flow. Just in case. 

When I return from Ireland, the second year of my OU course in Creative Writing, A803, will begin in earnest, but that's okay because sailing season will be over, dark will fall at 4:30 PM, and I won't be yearning to be outside - or at least not as much. Although I do already have my first winter snowshoeing, cross country skiing trip planned...

But that's another blog post.

Share post
Barbara Clough

Living in Lowell

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Barbara Clough, Thursday, 26 Aug 2021, 02:29

I am almost unpacked. I am leaving on vacation on 10 Sept., so I need to be fully unpacked before I go. That's the deal I made with myself because I don't want to come back and still have cardboard boxes to unpack and bags of clothes waiting to be donated. I want to come back to clean, clear spaces because Year 2 starts officially the first week in October. I need to be fully present and undistracted for my coursework. 

Sailing season will be over when I come home from vacation because it's too cold, windy and dark in New England to sail the treacherous Atlantic. My weekends will be consumed with reading and writing and hiking and biking and CrossFit - mostly in that order. All good fun things. I often wonder would I love sailing as much as I do if I could do it year round? Or is it simply because summer and sailing have become synonymous in my mind. And yet, I don't like summer - the heat, the humidity, the bugs, the unrelenting sun. But for those few short months with long days, the sailing alleviates the heat, the humidity, the bugs, and the unrelenting sun; all those are muted when I'm out on the water. 

Autumn will give me time to teach a memoir class at the senior center, work on my own writing, ride my bike into the greenery surrounding this gritty city in which I live. I can find the other great Victorian buildings, explore neighborhoods that are all new to me, find myself in this new space and in this new city. I know my time here is limited, so I need to embrace it while I can. And I don't mean I'm dying! I'm mean my time here in Lowell is just a layover until I make my next connection. I'm starting to think that's all life really is - the layover until the final flight. 

Share post
Barbara Clough

Spinnaker spaghetti

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Barbara Clough, Saturday, 21 Aug 2021, 23:05

I stare at the tangle of sheets, guys, lines, pieces of rope, topping lift, and things on the boat I don't even know the technical name for. And it's a boat. There are technical names for everything! The problem before me in the tangle of red guys, green guys, and striped ropes is that I can't figure out how the spinnaker guys got wound around my jib sheets, and more to the point, I can't figure out how to get them untangled. In the meantime, the spinnaker flaps, forlorn and useless, wrapped around the jib, also forlorn and useless.

It doesn't help that my skipper is in the background saying, "Should we take the spinnaker down?"

"No, I don't think that's going to solve the problem." 

What I'm really thinking is no because then it's just going to be tangled in the turtle, and I'm still going to have to untangle it. At least when it's up, even if it's not flying, I can see where the tangles are. 

It doesn't help that my brain doesn't really work well spatially. So I stare at the tangle of what are really a bunch of ropes of different colors with funny names. I probably only stare at them for 20-30 seconds but it feels like 20 or 30 minutes. The boat ahead of us gains boat lengths, and I watch its stern receding into the sunset. When you're racing a small boat in a big bay, 20 seconds is a long time to lose.

What could have caused this tangle of lines is a question I can't contemplate, nor would it solve the current problem. Sometimes knowing the cause helps, and in retrospect, it's good to go through that exercise when you're on dry land and the race is over. However, the immediate problem at hand is I need the spinnaker and the jib to be flying and filled with air and both are now deflated and useless.

In a lightning bolt, it comes to me that I have somehow wrapped the spinnaker around the jib. If I just unwrap the spinnaker from the jib, it should be okay (should being the operative word). Or I might be completely wrong, but standing here staring at it as the competition pulls further and further away isn't helping matters. Sometimes doing anything is better than doing nothing. 

I'm still not sure how I untangled it, but I took the spinnaker pole down, got the sail out in front of the jib where it should be, put the pole back up on right side of the boat, made sure all the lines were clear, and it filled with air like a giant hot air balloon, beautiful in it's red, white and blue glory.  

On the launch back into the dock after the races (neither of which we did very well in), I listened to another sailor, who has literally been sailing longer than I have been alive, talk about how he also fouled his spinnaker and relief flooded through me. I don't feel better that he fouled his spinnaker, but I feel better knowing that even the most experienced sailors foul the spinnaker and life doesn't end. You try and untangle it. You try and figure it out. And worst case scenario is, you fly without the spinnaker. 

Sailing is such a great metaphor for life. I have to remember when the unexpected happens, my thought process is simple: Don't panic. Study the problem for a minute. Try a solution.

If that solution doesn't work, there's usually more than one.  

Permalink 2 comments (latest comment by Gill Burrell, Wednesday, 18 Aug 2021, 13:46)
Share post

This blog might contain posts that are only visible to logged-in users, or where only logged-in users can comment. If you have an account on the system, please log in for full access.

Total visits to this blog: 59839