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post #1403 of Old 08-16-2009
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Okay, I guess I've got one

I remember the scene that kept happening over and over. We would be healed over at least 45 degrees in a centerboard dinghy, with me shouting "release the jib" at the girl I had just started dating--who had never been on a boat before. I was thinking that if we go over, I wasn't sure we can get the boat righted in those conditions with just the two of us.

We were on my first boat, a old (as in 3 digit hull number) Coronado 15. If there is a hall-of-fame for worst choices for a first sailboat, the C15 is probably in it. It had a completely soft chine, no ballast, and lots of attitude. I have personally capsized that boat by stepping aboard from the dock in zero winds. It's only stable position was upside down.

We had plenty of wind that day. It was July 4, 1992. (I think I've got the year right, but I am sure about the day.) We were in the middle Lake Grapevine in north Texas. We found at later that the wind had been blowing a steady 25 mph with gusts over 30.

This was probably our second date, and I was starting to suspect it would be the last.

Did I mention this was my first boat? This was the first time I had it out without someone who knew more about sailing that I did. We had already been through a comedy of errors. When we launched the boat from the trailer, I failed to tie a proper knot attaching the jib-sheet to the sail. It promptly came undone, and left us with a sheet slipping through the clew. I handed the tiller off to my date and went forward to try to fix it. By the time I got it tied correctly, we had run all the way across the lake. When we tried to head back upwind, I noticed the mainsail was behaving badly. On inspection, I determined that the battens were missing. Not misplaced exactly; I knew exactly where they were--the trunk of my car back at the boat ramp.

So now we had to beat our way back to the boat ramp with no battens. The boat would just barely point above a beam reach. We spent probably 4 hours tacking back, with each tack finding us only a little closer than before. We almost capsized more times than I could count. We made it back without capsizing, but we were sunburned, windburned, and exhausted.

I was floored later when we met up with some friends. They asked if she had been afraid. She said no, that I seemed to know what I was doing and she was confident I would get us back alive. I had the bad sense to point out that, as confident as she might have been, I had personally been terrified the whole time.

We're married now, and she approved the purchase of boat number 3 last April--out new Beneteau 31. We both almost know what we're doing now. The C15 is long gone--we donated it to a university sailing club some years back.
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