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ONE DEAD RUN AT A TIME
Sailing Downwind • 8" x 8" acrylic framed to 12" x 12" • $250
Sailing with the wind square to your stern is called a dead run. If
you have a main and a jib, you can sail wing on wing. The jib flies to
one side of the mast, the main to the other. You are pushed across the
water like a butterfly. It's lovely.
Decades ago, I took a friend
out for a spin on a borrowed Laser. For those who don't know, a Laser
is a small but feisty single-handed racing boat with a very tall mast
and way too much sail for it's size. As a result, it's very "touchy,"
with a response time of 0 seconds. I had single-handed a sailfish a
couple of times in my career and figured, heck, all little boats are
alike - I could handle this one. My friend had no prior sailing
experience, but like me, she was gung-ho for a new adventure. No
worries, we said, we have life jackets, the sun is shining and the water
temp is delightful.
There was a brisk breeze tacking off the
dock close-hauled upwind. I was feeling really special - like I really
knew what I was doing. We were going fast and loving it because
honestly, we were speed freaks having accumulated a legendary number of
speeding tickets between us in our day. What a blast we were having.
And then it was time to go back downwind, or jibe-ho as they say. For
me it meant spinning the boat around 180 degrees into a dead run. The
first jibe resulted in an immediate sail slap to the water. The boat
went over so fast, we flew through the air and into the water before we
could yell fore! Choked with laughter, we righted the Laser and jumped
back into the saddle and took off again. As I started to haul the sail
back in, the mast immediately pitched from the left to the right and
back again. My friend brilliantly ducked the lightning fast and deadly
pendulum that was our boom, eventually pinning herself tight to the
deck. But we were in the drink again before we knew it.
dramatic. I'm thinking seven, but hoping it was only five times we
rolled over trying to get underway. We were like a death roll wind-up
toy, and my friend now had justifiable reason to finally ask me if I
knew what the hell I was doing. I don't remember what my reply was, but I
think I lied hoping it would somehow morph true.
By the grace of
God, and I'm not kidding here, we eventually got the hang of it. We
both figured out how to throw our weight around - hiking in nautical
terms, and were to win the race against impending death when we finally
bow-butted our home dock. It was freakin' awesome! we decided over a
cold one later, and over several more later on. We scared the shit out
ourselves, were exhausted but on an adrenaline high, defined ourselves
as Olympic contenders on perseverance and raw guts alone, had a great
swim, got some color, and survived!
We never sailed together
again - both determining that I needed to hone my technique. She and her
husband eventually bought a sailboat, which shocked the hell out of me,
so I didn't have to feel guilty about destroying her aspirations. Me, I
continued to test my fear of death rolls for many years. I still freak
sailing a dead run, but not so much that I feel like it's still a game
of high seas chicken - like who's going to take a dunking first, me or
the boat. You just gotta hang in there and take one dead run at a time.