Monday, March 19, 2007

Taking a newbie sailing...

One of the fun things about sailing is introducing new people to the sport. Sailing is one of those dream sports. You know...romantic, exciting, filled with freedom and adventure. That's what got most of us into it in the first place. So, taking someone new out is a way to experience that first-time thrill again, albeit vicariously.

This last week I got to do that with Viktor Pal, a friend and fellow historian of technology and the environment from Hungary. He's on leave from his Ph.D. studies at the University of Tampere in Finland to visit scholars at Stanford and UCLA before starting a year's fellowship at the University of Pittsburg, and he connected with me through my very good friend Timo Myllyntaus at the University of Turku in Finland. Anyway, I invited him to go sailing, where we could spend a day talking history and he could experience something new.

As we got Dog Days ready for the sail, I gave him a 15 mg Stugeron tablet to fend of seasickness (it works better than anything I've ever tried), and friends appeared with words of encouragment, such as "you're not going to take him in the slot, are you?!?" Bolstered with such words, we putted out into the estuary and down to Jack London for fuel.

Eventually we got going, and Viktor loved it. The wind was a bit out of the southwest down the estuary, so I raised the sails and we had a nice, gentle sail with the ebb out toward Yerba Buena. I motored under the Bay Bridge, and then caught the wind again, which had shifted to a more normal northwesterly for a close haul over to Sausalito. Through the slot it hit 18-20 knots, but Viktor loved it. "Like a duck to water," goes the saying.

We drifted through Raccoon Strait, over to Ayala Cove, where we saw the new moorings everyone has been waiting for - and they do look good. Then I gave Viktor the helm to sail across the backside of the slot to Treasure Island. He did a lovely job, getting the sense of the tiller, feeling the vibration when he got Dog Days into the groove. Unlike so many newbies, moved easily on the boat, learned quickly not to over correct the helm, and brought along food to share!

We got back and he pitched right in to help me put Dog Days to bed, stowing things and putting on canvas. As I washed down the boat, I must admit I was very sorry that Viktor wouldn't be a regular crew member. But, he's off to UCLA and then Pittsburgh. I can only hope he's hooked and look forward to a day when he'll be back.