This is Father and Daughter Togetherness Day, when I’m supposed to learn to love sailing as much as my daddy does. We’ll see.
Dad parks our Jeep in the parking lot at the lake. He leaps into the boat, installing the mast and pulling on ropes. He tells me to get my life jacket. At this, my stomach turns over. Earlier, he told me that our little Sunfish sailboat couldn’t flip over! Now he’s saying I need a life jacket?
Dad gives me a rope to hold onto while he backs the Jeep up so that the boat trailer is in the water. I’m not sure why I have this rope in my hand. Oh, now I know. It’s because the boat wants to float away. Guess I should have held the rope tighter.
He loops the rope around a cleat on the dock and climbs into the boat. He tells me to step into the boat, but when I put my left foot in, the boat scoots away from the dock so I’m doing the splits. He grabs the rope again and hauls the boat back to the dock. I get both feet into the boat this time. Now he throws me a paddle and tells me to help paddle us out into open water.
Now he says to pull the rope that brings up the sail. “Do it fast! As soon as the wind hits it, we are going to start moving, so you need to get it up fast.” So I do. I haul so fast on that rope that the sail catches on something and I nearly tear the rope right off the sail. Dad yells at me. Boy is this fun so far. “Get it, get it!” he yells. “What? Where?” I shout back. I look where he’s pointing and he yells at me again, “Don’t look at ME, it’s over THERE.” Finally I see where the sail is caught and I pull it free. The sail goes up.
A few minutes pass. My heart has just stopped pounding when Dad announces, “OK, I’m going to let you be in charge of the rudder.” He thrusts this piece of wood into my hands. I guess I’m supposed to be telepathic and know what to do with it. He tells me to move it left. So I move it left. “NOT THAT WAY!” he yells. “LEFT! I SAID LEFT!” So I figure I’ll try the other way. I push it RIGHT. The boat moves to the left. I guess this is what he meant all along. So far we have not hit anything and the boat has not turned over, so I guess things are going well.
We start to really pick up speed. He tells me to move the rudder again, but it slips out of my hand and zings across the boat. The boom (that huge piece of metal that is just the same height as our heads) flips across the boat. The boat does a 180-degree turn and nearly lies on its side. We keep turning. We aren’t done yet. We are still turning. I can’t reach the rudder to stop our turn. So Dad decides to go on the side of the boat that is dipping down to the water and reach out to grab the rudder. Just when it looks like the boat is about to tip, he grabs the rudder and pulls it back to the center.
The rest of the sail is a blur. I can’t remember much else. The one thing I do remember is that that wasn’t the only time I dropped the rudder. I did it again, about ten minutes later.
I could conclude by going on about how much this day helped me grow closer to my father and to understand and appreciate him and what a great day we had together. But this is supposed to be a nonfiction essay.