Smooth Sailing

August 21, 2013
Sometimes life can go very wrong in the very blink of an eye; if you’re not prepared for life’s twist and turns, you can find yourself in a position that has a life or death consequence. In 2009, for my Dad’s 50th birthday, we trailered our sailboat up to a cabin in Lake George, NY for a two week vacation. The cabin had a magnificent view of the mountains, and truly captured the beauty of the lake. Every day, we went out sailing on our boat, the C-dog. It was a beautiful, serene summer day, a perfect day for a sail when my family and I set out to have an adventure on Lake George. We pulled away from the dock and proceeded to raise sail, allowing our sail to billow in the breeze. As our sail began to catch the wind, we turned to tack, and we were off to the start of yet another lovely sail, or so we thought…

As we stuck our feet in the cool waters of Lake George, the waves gently lapped our toes, which provided relief from the scorching heat of the sun. It was the perfect way to spend an afternoon. Little did we know what drastic events were about to befall us. We were talking and laughing when suddenly, my Father became very quiet and said “listen to that”. We didn’t hear a thing, and we certainly didn’t know enough about severe weather changes to register any potential danger. Then, we heard it. It was a hissing sound, and almost instantaneously, it got louder. Puzzled but not yet overly concerned, we looked towards the stern of the boat wondering where the sound could be coming from. Then all of a sudden, I quickly turned my head, and all I could see was a massive wall of rain coming straight towards us. It didn’t immediately connect until I looked up. The sky had become an angry, ominous gray that was now a clear threat to my family. Just as the fear finally began to register, the fierce winds and rain were upon us. Our sail boat was pitching back and forth furiously against the waves. The torrential downpour had caught us unaware, at an alarmingly fast rate.

At first, I was in complete shock. What happened to our leisurely and idyllic sail on the tranquil waters of Lake George? But there was no time to be stuck in my stupor. My father quickly starting barking orders out- “We need to drop sail! Throw the bags down in the cabin! Watch out for that boom! Turn the engine on! Turn into the wind! Move! Move! Move!”. My family sprang into action, lashing down the sail and trying to desperately escape the path of the storm that was headed straight towards us. My father started the motor and, thankfully it roared to life. I was at the helm of the boat as the chaos ensued, frantically trying to turn us around. “Coming about!” I screamed over the wind, as the rain poured over us, the waves were pounding us relentlessly side to side. Within minutes, we were heading back to our dock. Luckily for us, the storm vanished as quickly as it appeared. We were all shaken and soaked, as we had never experienced such a dramatic change in weather conditions.

When I reached the dock, I remember recalling the first times that I was ever on a sailboat, and being terrified beyond belief. We were heeling and I was certain that we would capsize and sink. I remembered how terrified I was, and how I longed for nothing more than to get off the boat in one piece. I realize now how sailing is a true art form. Over the years that my family and I have been sailing, I have become empowered by knowledge. The more I understood about the mechanics of a sailboat and its relationship to the wind, the less afraid I became about sailing. Over time, I have become more capable and confident of my sailing skills. Sailing has taught me many life lessons. I have learned how vital it is for everyone on the boat to work cooperatively and cohesively as a team, and how it can make the difference between a life or death situation. You need to be able to depend on people, and they need to know that they can depend on you. Life can be very risky, but you must be prepared with the knowledge to safely navigate through the darkest storms. If you spend all your time avoiding risks, you could be missing the best part of your life.

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