08 May 2007

A Bag of Pretzels

"That's not a good place for that bag of pretzels."

In Hollywood, that would be known as foreshadowing. In the middle of the Bay, it is known as a mess in your cockpit.

Tillerman asked for a post on big gaffes while sailing. Mine didn't actually involve damage, catastrophe, or a sunken boat. Just a bit of a learning lesson.

I have to give some history on myself...I've sailed pretty much my whole life. A bunch in Florida, as a kid in the Caribbean, some in San Francisco, and a little trip across the Atlantic. But I had never owned a boat or actually been the guy in charge of the boat (sometimes called Cap'n in nautical circles).

So I was nervous as hell when I got my first boat and took my first sail out into the hallowed grounds of San Francisco Bay...into an area known as "The Slot." The Slot is known for one thing mainly: wind. Lots of it and mostly from the West. I had been dinking around in the lee of the Marin Headlands for a few weeks, poking the bow into The Slot and turning tail immediately.

Well, one day I decided it was time to go for broke, I was heading for San Francisco from Sausalito. The last thing I said to Bob as we left the lee was "that's not a good place for that bag of pretzels." And, BOOM, we accelerated on a beam reach out into 30 knots of wind. Seriously, the wind went from 5 knots to 30 in the time it took me to utter that sentence.

And, I'm pretty sure that sentence was the last seamanlike thing done or said on the boat that day. The next words out of my mouth aren't fit for a family blog. And, sure as heck, that weather helm I was feeling wouldn't be so good for it either. I thought I tried everything to depower the boat but in retrospect I'm pretty sure all I really did was hyperventilate, form a deathgrip on the tiller, and maybe pretend to ease the main. Bob had been sailing a grand total of 4 times in his life at that point, he still trusted I knew what I was doing. Surprise!, I was too scared to remember what to do.

Then came the crowd. There was some sort of race happening in the middle of the Bay. And they were directly in front of us. I'll insert some sanity to the story here: all I had to do was head to wind to slow down...letting go of the freakin' tiller would have done it. But I had never been on a small boat going 55MPH before, I had no idea what to do. All I knew was I had to get out of there before I killed my father-in-law, Polka Dot, and myself.

So, without thinking, I yelled, "prepare to jibe!", waited a brief second for the jib sheet to come off the winch, then threw the tiller around. Somehow the next 5 seconds went in slow motion, the rudder came out of the water we heeled over so much, the boom went flying across the boat, my favorite Disneyland hat went to the bottom of the Bay, Bob ceased admiring my sailing skills, I learned of that sickening sound the rigging makes when the boom travels 180 degrees in 30 knots of wind, and most importantly I saw those damned pretzels scatter around the cockpit. They were like a gas, expanding to fill its container, they were everywhere.

By the time all of this happened, we were on another screaming reach going the other way, the rig miraculously intact but with pretzels all over the place, under our shoes, in pockets, down below, up in the rigging....everywhere.

In a lame attempt to save my failing reputation, I threw out the best line I could think of, "I told you that was a bad place for those pretzels."


merrifie said...

That's great and well told! I'm coming to the conclusion that all of these responses to Tillerman's Challenge remind me of other (suppressed) sailing adventures...

Carol Anne said...

Wonderful story. Food can contribute in so many ways to a good disaster. There was the time, for instance, when I was sailing on a J/24 and a crew member's banana peel ended up on the cabin sole at the bottom of the companionway.

I no longer allow bananas on my boat.

Mondale said...

It's funny how high octane gybing can so often appear in slo-mo!

EVK4 said...

Carol Anne, I believe that bananas are bad luck on board anyway..something about rotting and/or spiders is the reason I've heard.

And, Mondale, High-Octane Gybing is such a cool x-games way to describe my complete-lack-of-composure panic-turn. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Hilarious. Your description captured that whole type of affair perfectly. We've all had them....many of them.

"Raps" said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
"Raps" said...


Now that was a great story!

Zen said...

Hmmm I thought I had put something here...

must have gooten los tin the slot!

Zen said...

"gotten lost in the slot"
Darn keyboards always screwing up