“Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors.”
~ African Proverb
There is a term sailors use when their sailboat heads into the wind, or the no sail zone. ‘Caught in the irons’. This refers to an incapacitated boat that has no wind to push the boat’s sailes in the direction the sailor wants to go.
My husband and I were ‘stuck in the irons’. I had just finished a demanding graduate program that consumed my time and energy. He was (and is) ‘paying his dues’ in his profession. We were lucky if we saw each other more than once during our waking hours on the weekdays.
During a quiet Friday night dinner we looked across the table at each other and decided that we needed to reconnect. We missed each other. We needed to start dating again. Between our academic and professional pursuits, we were scheduled within an inch of our lives. But somehow, we neglected to schedule appointments with each other. We were still very committed to each other, but our relationship has become and afterthought.
We decided to make a weekly date in the form of Saturday morning sailing lessons at the local community center.
Scheduling dates really made a difference. We were able to commit to a 5 week course. During that first meeting, we learned that we would be competing with the other sailors in the class during a sailing race. Missing a class was not an option. Making the class dates a priority helped us maintain our commitment to each other, and we found ourselves looking forward to and becoming focused on the same goal: to learn to sail and leave our classmates in our wake. (Our competitive and over-achieving natures are not for nothing, after all.) We really got into the competition of the sport.
There we were, alone, in a tiny Lido 14 sailing vessel. At first, it was clear that we needed some refinement with our communication skills. We were a crew and needed to rely on each other. When the wind caught our sails too quickly, we had to learn to communicate efficiently and clearly in order to avoid turtleing (tipping over).
There were plenty of times we got stuck in the irons. We shifted our weight to try and inch the boat this way and that… working together, we always managed to get back on track with the wind behind our sails. We developed a sailing shorthand out of necessity.
Learning a new activity
Learning together allowed us to learn new things about each other too. Before we started the course, my husband indicated that he wanted to just sit back and relax on the bay, while I worked the tiller and lines. Since it was my wacky idea to get us out on the water, I obliged. As soon as we hit the boat, my husband came alive and relished his role as crewmember. He was no longer content to sit back and relax. He wanted in on the action. The excitement lasted all week and we couldn’t wait till our next date. We even found ourselves making mid-week study dates to quiz each other on our sailing knowledge.
Endorphins! It is widely know that physical activity and exercise help to release those wonderful feel good chemicals called endorphins. Sailing certainly helped us carry those endorphins through the weekend. And, we found ourselves happier and less stressed during the week. Not only did we have something to look forward to do together, we were engaging in a healthy date that benefitted our health and our relationship.
By the last day of class, we were ready to face our racing goal together. We didn’t come in first, nor did we come in last; but the experience tested everything we had been building on during the previous weeks. The rush of racing with the wind down the harbor together was more fulfilling than actually winning the race. We were no longer “stuck in the irons.”
What began as a wacky idea to spend time together turned into a shared passion that we will continue on with. I already have it scheduled.