Monday, October 30, 2006
October 30, 2006: Monday Memory: Sailing, Sailing
My brother Peter and his son spent last week at my parents' home in upstate New York. My parents live on Seneca Lake, one of the Finger Lakes, and it is mandatory in our family that we sail while we are visiting them. Last week was cold, but Peter and Owen had to sail anyway. About 25 years ago, my brothers and dad made the front page of the local newspaper when they took a Christmas Day sail. (My mother and I watched from the snow-covered dock.)
Sailing was a big part of my childhood. When we first moved from southern Illinois to New York, my parents--pure, land-locked midwesterners--joined the Yacht Club and took sailing lessons. They were hooked, and they bought what we called the K-boat--a big, red, wooden sailboat. Later they also bought the Sunfish, a smaller sailboat that could be managed by one person. I took sailing lessons at the Yacht Club for years and learned practically nothing except that big, old heavy boats can sink. By this time we had moved from town to our newly built home on the lake. One day when I was about 13, Peter came home from college and taught me how to sail in 2 hours. Maybe I was old enough by then to understand the subtle changes in the wind--to feel the tension of the sails and recognize the patterns of the waves. My friends and I spent countless hours over the next years of summers, sailing in the Sunfish. We'd set a straight and easy course and steer with our feet while we splayed out on the boat, begging the sun to bake us a little more. When we got too hot, we'd dive in or capsize the boat.
I miss sailing, but there's no place for it here in the mountain waters. The speedboats here rule without regard to their wind-powered distant cousins, and I'm spoiled by a natural lake 2 miles across, 35 miles long, and 750 feet deep dotted by white sails, any time of the year.