April 19th, Aquatic Park-
This past Friday, three members of The Force were able to go sailing with a group of high school students at their boat building facility in Aquatic Park. Although I have sailed a wide variety of boats, this would be my very first time sailing a Pelican, a 12-foot gaff rigged dory designed to be simple and sailable in the San Francisco bay. We had an absolutely perfect day for sailing with the sun shining warm, consistent breeze fresh from the northwest and a flood tide helping to keep the waves coming over the bow to a minimum.
As we motored out to our Pelican’s, waiting patiently at their moorings, I met my first two crew member’s of the day, Diamond and Allan. After boarding our wooden craft, these two more experienced Pelican sailors set about teaching me how to rig our boat. With the expert help of my crew (and a slightly jerry-rigged main sheet), the Pelican was ready to fly in a few minutes. Team member Ian Andrewes sailed in our direction as we untied from our mooring, unfurled our jib and set about a few practice tacks in the cove of Aquatic Park. After getting comfortable with the boat and our crew positions, Diamond, Allan and myself followed Ian and our other AYSF team member Evan Sjostedt between the break walls and into the bay.
Immediately finding fresh breeze, the Pelican stretched its wings as we crashed through a series of waves and chased down the other boats. Diamond and Allan worked expertly together as we tacked through the bay and trimmed through the puffs. I found myself laughing as we splashed through the waves, the sun quickly drying our faces as we worked our way back to Aquatic Park.
Back in the cove, Diamond took control of the tiller, helming with comfort and confidence while David trimmed both jib sheets and I worked the main sheet. We sailed evenly through the many puffs that were rolling through Aquatic Park and even got the Pelican sailing wing-on-wing!
We arrived back at the dock and two new sailors bravely stepped aboard with me. This time Jackie and Carra would be trimming jib and they immediately asked to go outside the break wall. At first reticent, these two ladies quickly got comfortable in the bay, screaming each time waves came over the bow and through the cock pit. Although wearing jeans, sweatshirts and basketball shoes, not exactly optimal for summer sailing in the San Francisco bay, Jackie and Carra decided we should round Alcatraz. Unfortunately, that adventure may have to wait for another trip because the chase boat called us back into the cove.
Reflecting on this experience, I realized two things. First off, sailing, although incorrectly labeled a sport reserved only for the affluent, can be enjoyed by anyone and everyone. Sailing is about three things- sun, water and wind, and when all three are present it’s hard not to smile. There just needs to be more access. The second thing I thought about is more on a personal note. As a competitive sailor, it is easy to get caught up in the race for gold. Sometimes, as you narrow your focus to revolve around winning certain events, you forget about what brought you to this sport in the first place. Sailing with these four kids was a pleasure I wont soon forget and reminded me that I sail because the sun is my happiness, the wind is my motor, and the water is my equilibrium.
Looking forward to next time,