This Saturday is the last class of my CANSail 1&2 course. I don’t want to say that it’s going great, because I will be completely honest, I think I am learning at a pace that is a touch slower than some other people, but it really has been a blast. We found out last weekend from our instructor that a bunch of us might not pass, which means we’d have to do a couple extra classes before getting our certificates (I’m sure I will be one of those people), but that hasn’t discouraged me. I have been known to be a bit of a quitter in life, but not this time. I really do love sailing, I’m just not that great at it yet.
Last weekend we were supposed to be doing our capsize drills. Ha! What a shit show that turned out to be. About six or seven boats headed out onto the course on a VERY windy afternoon. Our instructor was supposed to be pulling one boat off the course at a time to take them away from the group and practice the capsize, turtle, and recovery. Well, as soon as the boats got out of the channel and into the Inner Harbour, teams were capsizing left, right, and centre, UNINTENTIONALLY. Our instructor was racing from one boat to another on his motor boat trying to make sure everyone was ok. As soon as one group would right their boat, another boat would go down. It wasn’t exactly the controlled capsizing environment he had planned, so we ended up calling the whole thing off. Two or three boats didn’t end up capsizing, but the rest did, all unintentionally.
As for me, well I half participated in a capsize. My partner and I were freaking out a little bit when we got out onto the lake because it was so windy and we were losing control. Our instructor came over to us and knowing that we were scared, asked if one of us wanted to get out onto his boat and he would sub-in an experienced coach. I jumped at the chance to get off the sailboat, and headed onto his boat. A short while later the sailboat I had ditched capsized. We sped over to them (surprisingly, it was a mistake made by the experienced coach that led to the capsize, not one made by my novice partner!) and the boat had already turtled. The instructor told me that if I wanted to jump in to help right the boat now, he would count that as my capsize drill.
So, I jumped off the motor boat into the lake.
Let me tell you, the water in Lake Ontario is not a fun place to be this time of year. When I resurfaced, thanks to my PFD, I gasped for breath. I could. not. breathe. For at least 3 minutes I was gasping, trying to get my breathing under control. The thing is, I had jumped into the lake, so my head had gone under, and it was a very sudden cold jolt, whereas when you capsize, it’s a slow move into the water and your head almost never has to go under. Jumping off the side of the boat was a shock I’ve never felt. I actually thought I was going to die. I now truly understand the importance of a life jacket, because if you fell into a lake at that temperature (about 10 degrees Celsius) and you weren’t wearing one, you would die for sure. Your muscles become completely useless, and in gasping for air, it is very easy to swallow water. Scary stuff.
Anyways, I was wearing a PFD and I did survive. I swam over to the turtled boat, and helped my former partner (who I had abandoned for the safety of the motor boat) bring the boat from a turtled position into a capsize, and from there, back up to a righted position. It wasn’t easy, but we did it. It’s harder for two light women, because you need a lot of strength/weight to bring the boat up.
But we did it! Thankfully, the coach got in the boat to sail us back to the club, because everything was completely fucked up when we got back on board. The mainsheet had come off the boom, the jib was a tangled mess, we were taking on water and weren’t sailing fast enough to use to auto-bailers. It was a bit of a disaster, but we managed to rethread the mainsheet partially and sail home. We couldn’t get a tow because there was a lot going on with all the other sailboats and our instructor couldn’t leave them.
What an experience that was! I still feel like I want to actually BE in the boat when it capsizes so I know what to expect, but I am sure I will have the chance to do that again on Saturday. The good thing is, I still love sailing and it hasn’t scared me into giving up. I really am having a great time, and hopefully by the end of the summer I will be an old pro!