Learning to Sail – Again

At this stage in my life, it feels like I’m learning to sail again.

I’m relatively good at sailing and boat handling. Boats have been my passion for a long time now.

I didn’t get competent with boats overnight.

Learning what I know now has been a perpetual series of events, some good some bad.

At the age of nine, I got to progress from playing with boat’s in the bath and mucking around in row boats, to start actually learning to sail.

My parents scraped together enough for a P-Class yacht, called “Pele”. The P-Class was a light weight 2.13 metre (7 foot) long hull with a tiny cockpit, large watertight compartments, together with a relatively large sail area. No matter which way up it was, the hull always floated high in the water.

The learning curve from this popular sailing dinghy was close to vertical from day one.

Learning how to rig the yacht was the first hurdle. I practiced at home when it was obvious I was taking three times as long to rig the boat as everyone else, missing the start of races.

WhenDoc - 11 Mar 2016, 7-23 am - p1 the yacht was rigged in our back yard, I’d visualise and practice stacking out, imagining a gust of wind trying to tip me out.

There is no faster way to learn sailing than to get out on the water, ideally with a club coach giving good advice. Club coaches are seldom available on race days with a large fleet to attend.

Mistakes were made.

At the very beginning, we also got some advice from the wrong people.

A salesman who knew nothing about dinghy sailing, sold us an offshore Kapok life jacket with all the buoyancy in the front and a large collar to keep my head above water. Apparently I needed this because the boom was likely to knock me out.

An old sales technique, create the fear and solve the problem. This became the obvious choice for nervous parents. Totally the wrong buoyancy aid for a wee dinghy sailor.

It must have been hilarious for those arrogant parents watching back in the clubhouse, making snide remarks within earshot of my parents, as the large collar of the lifejacket, hooked up on the mainsheet when I tried to get under the boom. This damn collar totally disrupted the flow of what I had visualised as a well-executed tack. The reality was another dunking.

This lifejacket with the large buoyant chest area effectively made my arms too short. I couldn’t reach the centreboard to lever “Pele” back upright after the yacht had turned completely upside down. Even with help to get the yacht back upright, the lifejacket made it impossible to climb back on board, prolonging my drift down the harbour.

A new sailing vest fixed that problem.

Beware of bad advice, from the wrong person, it equals wasted money.

There was one occasion when near catastrophe struck. It seemed like the end of my sailing for some time afterwards.Doc - 11 Mar 2016, 7-30 am - p1

I learned rigging the mast correctly is very important.

A small kink in the port shroud, the stainless steel wire that holds the mast up, went unnoticed. I sailed off from the launching ramp with the wind on my right shoulder.

To get to the start line I needed to tack to port. The manoeuvre went well. I was feeling confident.

A gust of wind threatened to tip me out, I stacked out to counter the additional weight in the sail, then in the blink of an eye, the mast and sail came crashing down, lying flat in the water beside the yacht.

What just happened?

What’s going to happen now?

I was still quite close to the shore, drifting toward a large boulder bank. I saved “Pele” from those rocks by jumping over the side, using my body as a fender.

Always look up when working rigging up the mast. I taught this rule to many people later in life.

The season ended before I learnt enough to compete in more than a couple of races.

It was all a bit of a blur to me, one lesson after another. Quitting never occurred to me.Doc - 11 Mar 2016, 8-32 am - p1

For my sponsors [my parents] the financial and time commitments were tough, the people they mixed with while I was busy learning, not their type. That winter the “Pele” the P-Class was sold.

I learnt that being a sailor was more than just getting into a yacht and pointing it in the direction you wanted to go. A whole raft of skills surrounds sailing.

My parents negotiated acceptance into the local Sea Cadet unit, TS DIOMEDE, a year younger than normal. I was age 11.

Learning to sail with Sea Cadets and mucking around in various rowing, sailing and motor boats most weekends gave me skills I never really valued until later in life.

Sea sense, spatial awareness, time on distance relative to speed and course, communication, systems and routines, teamwork and maintenance.

By the time I left Sea Cadets I knew how to sail fast.

In preparation for the northern area regatta, we stripped and painted the race yacht over the winter months. We studied the race rules, knots, and tactics and practiced on the water. My crew proudly beat the hotshot ring in “Chris Dixon” in a series of picture perfect races off one tree point, Whangarei Harbour.

I developed solid foundations for future learning about boats, seamanship and leadership over the seven years with sea cadets.

I am now passionate about building an online income. This is why I feel like I’m learning to sail again:

  • Learning how to rig the yacht = building a WordPress website.
  • Visualizing sailing upright = imagining the appearance of the site.
  • Club Coach = Internet income mentor.
  • Advice from non-sailor salesmen wasted time and money = Advice from people who are not making money online, wasted time and money.
  • Always look up when rigging the mast = Always check the back end settings of your website.
  • Losing your mast over the side = Having your money making website server hacked.
  • Maintaining the hull and rigging = Keeping the themes and plugins up to date.
  • A whole raft of skills surround sailing fast = A whole raft of skills surround creating a money-making website.
  • Planning, sanding/painting, practicing skills, winning races = Planning, preparation, creating and building, attracting income.

As you get on in life and try to learn something new, I believe it helps to draw on your past experiences that led to success. Older people have this advantage over those just starting out. They know that learning new skills is going have a large component of failures and perceived disasters. That’s okay.

Sticking with your passion and working through the good and the bad will eventually get you to the point where you can make a living from your knowledge and skills.

When you look back, the successes and failures will blend together into the stories you tell of your journey.

If you push hard to achieve your goals, it will all seem like a bit of a blur when you look back.

What can you relate back to, that fuels your current goals?

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