Overboard with Oscar – Yes I’m ‘all wet’

It’s the middle of summer, the third week of July, and I’ve managed to make only my second sail of the summer. Since sailing is when I make my contemplation time, and I’ve lacked contemplation time, my ‘other-than-grad-school’ writing has been without its normal nourishment. This was corrected yesterday after a long fast when I joined in on the Learn-to-Sail summer course.

I assisted at our local sailing club’s adult sailing classes. The usual routine of tying a new knot and getting on the water was delayed for two hours while a front brought some heavy thunderstorms through. It’s one thing for an experienced sailor to sail through a fresh water wash down of summer showers. It’s another thing entirely to take new people out in a lighting storm. We don’t. We want them to ‘like’ sailing before it gets very challenging!

So, we ‘chalk-talked’ for two hours, still beginning with the knot tying, but extending that through a full half hour before deciding the storms were just too close. Ten minutes later the front hit, literally, as some branches and lots of leaves left their trees, and on the water the familiar whistling of wind past stays and chimes of halyards striking masts struck up as an orchestra’s wind instruments tuning before a concert. OK, what do we talk about next?

There was the discussion of boat parts followed by the usual ‘standing-or-running’ rigging review. A little discussion about sail shape went forward. Anchoring was talked about, and one student asked whether there would be training on docking. Our Sunday team leader, Jim Lubinsky, brought up the topic of crew-overboard, and I stepped up to present. It was time for my lesson.

I drew a blank. Then, I drew the circle backwards for a Quick Stop maneuver for a crew pickup with a ‘small’ boat. John Pyers chimed in from behind the class, “You drew it backwards. You come about into a ‘heave to’ first, and then circle down- and back up-wind.” Now, this isn’t a lesson about the crew overboard drill. That requires diagrams and now You-tube videos I’m not prepared to present in this blog.

It IS a lesson in how what we don’t practice can become confused in our minds and executed incorrectly, causing further difficulty for our day on the water. I apologized and told the class I hadn’t reviewed the book in a year. Truth is, I hadn’t reviewed it for longer than that, which made me question first, why was I standing there, and second, why COULDN’T I remember such an important maneuver well enough to discuss it?

So, I’ll be out practicing my skills this coming week and the crew-overboard drill will be first. I’ll learn again how to come about (bring the bow through the wind), fall off the wind into that ‘heave to’ configuration (stable drifting down-wind), and turning down wind to pick up speed before coming full circle back into the wind to recover my Oscar. Oscar is the name of the dummy the Coast Guard and the Navy use for their crew-overboard drills. And hey, if it’s important enough for them to drill on, shouldn’t it be important for you to drill on as well? When was the last time you picked your Oscar out of the water?


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