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Trading Our Combustion Engine for the Power of the Wind

I’m eager to learn the skills and expertise employed by sailors for centuries

After a lifetime of power boating on a variety of vessels, my wife and I decided to sell our 28-foot diesel powerboat and try our hands at sailing.
    Reading those words, do you cringe or applaud? Those are the two reactions we get when telling our story. Whether we are leaving the dark side to enter the light, or vice versa, remains the subject of much controversy.
    You’re doing it backwards! lamented some of my fellow stink-potters. Many lifetime sailors eventually seek the ease and comfort of a trawler after they tire of the physical rigors of sailing. Hoisting sails? Tacking? No, no, simply turn the key, point the bow toward your destination and go! Why would anyone want to snub the miracle of the modern combustion engine and revert to a mode of transportation that is centuries old? Why not sell my car and opt for a horse while I’m at it? I’ve heard it all.
    I can’t blame them entirely for such comments. I admit to having similar thoughts on more than one occasion as I skipped along at 30-plus knots in a twin outboard while passing a blow-boater barely making headway. Moreover, as we’ve not yet reached retirement, our boating is typically relegated to a couple of days on any given weekend. How are we supposed to continue to explore the many wonders of the Chesapeake at only two knots and with a hefty work schedule?
    Be that as it may, we are ready to take the plunge. Don’t get me wrong; it is not without some trepidation. In the interest of full disclosure, I must also say that my wife is still a somewhat reluctant and nervous participant in this new adventure. Despite the fact that she has been on the water since she was a toddler, sailing will inject a whole new learning curve and vocabulary into her boating repertoire. After all, a sheet is what she used to make up the berth on our powerboat, along with pillowcases and blankets. A close reach meant that the bottle of wine was less than an arm’s length away. And what the heck is a boom vang?
    On our powerboat, my wife ensured all of the lines were taken up, neatly wrapped and stowed upon departing the dock. When returning to our slip, she expertly lassoed pilings and tied properly to a cleat in a perfect display of seamanship. While she is no stranger to line handling, she admits that she finds the “hundreds of lines” on a sailboat daunting.
    Even though there might not actually be hundreds of lines, she is convinced that if she tugs on the wrong one, the mast will fall, the sails will shred and we’ll sink on the spot. Either that, or she’ll haplessly get caught up in the twisted spaghetti of lines and be hoisted to the top of the mast upside-down by the ankle. Perhaps I should postpone the conversation about strapping her into a harness and winching her up the rig to perform maintenance. Yeah, I think I’ll hold off on that for now.
    As for me, I can’t wait for the new adventure. I’m willing to work a little harder to move much slower and enjoy a change of pace. I’m eager to learn the skills and expertise employed by sailors for centuries as they harnessed the wind to take them across oceans and to new worlds.
    In much the same way that a mountain climber chooses to climb rather than take a quick helicopter ride to the summit, I’m ready to get back to basics and let modern ­technology take a back seat for a while. If I want to get there fast, I will concede to fossil fuel and drive my car. Otherwise, I’m ready to heed the old cliché describing life being about the journey, not the destination.
    With that said, we have our eye on a beautiful 35-foot cutter-rigged sailboat. If all goes well, we hope to take delivery soon and begin to learn the ropes. We look forward to learning from other sailors, absorbing the hidden knowledge and tidbits you can only find in the nautical, salty minds of experienced mariners. Yes, we’re ready to crank winches, hoist sails, jibe and reach (what was the boom vang for, again?).
    We’re ready to become sailors.