My husband bought a boat. "It doesn't make any sense to live on the water and not have a boat," he kept telling me. I made him promise to wait until after we'd gotten our house in DC rented out, but our house has been tenanted for several months now, and he could wait no longer.
He didn't get just any old boat, he purchased one of the oddest watercraft in existence, a Hobie Mirage Adventure Island. It's a kayak... with a sail... and foot pedals... and two outriggers. It's weird. It's also pretty cool.
We tested one out a few weeks ago, all three of us, sailing around Sarasota Bay. The model we tried had the optional trampolines in place, which turned it into a trimaran. Click the link so you can see what I'm talking about. See where that dog is? That's where I was, and the boy was on the other side. It was awesome. My husband sat in the middle, sailing and foot-pedaling the boat, while I lounged on the trampoline. "This is perfect," I said. "It combines your favorite sport of sailing with my favorite sport of lying down." We tooled around the harbor and briefly took the boat out on the open Gulf. It was fun. I gave him my blessing to buy the boat.
He bought the boat on Friday afternoon, and Saturday afternoon we took it out for the first time, and it was... not fun. Not for me. Not at all.
Our first mistake was where we chose to put the boat into the water. I suggested a spot, but we wound up about half a mile away at a designated boat ramp on the Intracoastal Waterway. The place was full of powerboats, powerboats, powerboats. We don't have a trailer (not yet, at least; we've purchased a used one, but have to get a trailer hitch for our SUV before we can use it) so we first had to get the boat off the top of the car and down to the water. We got the boat off the car without too much trouble -- gravity was helpful -- but moving it across the parking lot was murder. Really. I almost died, I'm pretty sure of that. The boat weighs about 150lbs when it's fully rigged, and I was expected to carry half of it. The heavy half. The heavy, pointy end part, with the rudder sticking out. I barely managed to not die, and I scored myself a vicious bruise on my calf from the rudder slicing into it. So far, not fun.
We got the boat into the water in between powerboats being loaded in and out, and we realized that we couldn't put the mast up yet because we'd have to go under a low bridge to get out into the main waterway. This bridge was marked with several large signs saying "NO JUMPING OR DIVING," which did nothing to deter a bunch of preteen boys. I should give them the benefit of the doubt -- it is entirely possible that they weren't disobedient but merely illiterate. One of the boys leapt off the bridge just as we were coming out the other side, landing within inches of the pointy end of one of our amas. He came up to the surface and angrily yelled at us "you guys were lucky!" "No, YOU were lucky," I yelled back. "Lucky for what?" "Lucky your parents didn't abort you," roared my husband.
Oh yes, we were off to a great start.
We didn't have the trampolines on the boat -- the dealer won't have them in stock until next week -- so my son and I had to squish onto the cargo area on the back of the kayak, and once we had the sail up, I had to hunch down. My son took this opportunity to lick my face repeatedly, which I told him was inappropriate. "I'm kissing you like a dog," he claimed. "You are not a dog, you are a human," I reminded him. Meanwhile, having both of us at the back of the boat meant that we were riding perhaps an inch above the water. The kayak alone is rated to hold 350lbs, and as a family we collectively weigh 315, but the weight wasn't balanced. It just wasn't working, and my husband wanted to take the boat out into the Gulf, so I kindly agreed to get off the boat (with the boy) and walk the hot half-mile back to the car and bring it around to the beach. And I did. And it was hot, and my shoes were full of sand and were rubbing blisters, but my son didn't complain and I didn't either.
Once we got to the beach, we quickly found my in-laws, and I settled my son down on the blanket with a sandwich and went out into the waves. The wind was strong, about 20mph, and the waves were much larger than normal. Of course, "normal" Gulf waves are pretty wimpy, especially in the eyes of someone used to the Atlantic, so I'm talking about 3 foot swells. It didn't take long for the blue and yellow sail of the sail-ma-yak to come into view, and soon my husband was coasting triumphantly through the waves onto the shore.
The triumph quickly turned into agony, though, as we realized that he'd come in so fast, he hadn't pulled up any of the sticky-down bits of the boat before he hit the sand. Not the daggerboard, not the pedals, and most definitely not the rudder. With the help of my father-in-law and some random dude who'd been swimming, we pushed the boat back into the waves and (after much swishing and splashing and maybe some cursing) got all of the bits up and out of the way. Once again, I had the pointy back end of the boat, and I got the rudder up. It swung up suspiciously easily, and once we were on shore, we discovered that the pin that holds it in place had bent. Forget smashing a bottle of champagne... the boat is well and truly christened when the first thing breaks.
Did I mention that this also happened to be the drum circle evening, at the drum circle beach, so all of our drum circle friends got to see the floundering? Yeah.
My husband grabbed his drum out of the car, and we joined the drum circle, but within ten minutes he was up and out. He wanted to sail. He wanted me to come with him, and dutifully I obeyed. We left our son with his grandparents and sailed off, literally, into the sunset.
Now, the thought did cross my mind that perhaps it was not so smart to head out into the open ocean with a somewhat broken rudder, but what do I know about boats? Nothing, really, as you can tell by my use of technical terms like "sticky-down bits." My husband does know a lot about sailing... why, he had four college credits in sailing! Surely he would know better than I whether or not the rudder was truly broken. Surely he would not sail off with his precious princess of a wife in an uncontrollable craft.
Yeah. We had no problem sailing swiftly out from shore, and it was not until we were well out, and the sun was about to sink into the ocean, that my husband realized that YES THE DAMN RUDDER REALLY WAS BROKEN. And also WE HAVE NO CONTROL OF THE BOAT. I laid down on my belly, stretching across the rear of the craft, to try and assess the damage and to see if I could magically repair it. No magic repairs were possible, so I pulled up the dangling, useless rudder and strapped it to the top of the boat.
This is when I realized that I was really, truly not having any fun. I also began to feel seasick as we rolled up and over wave after wave. (I later learned that bending over is pretty much the fastest way to get seasick. Crawling on your belly, with face mere inches from the surf, is also extremely effective.) But I held it together. I could still see the beach, and I knew that if worst came to worst, I could easily abandon ship and swim into shore. I was wearing my Coast Guard-Approved Personal Flotation Device, even, so as long as nothing bit me on the way back, I didn't have any reason to fear for my life. My husband insists that it was great fun to overcome the obstacle of not being able to steer the boat, and maybe I'm crazy, but for me, it takes more than being reasonably certain that I'm not going to die for something to qualify as fun.
We did get back to the beach, of course. We took down the sail and paddled and pedaled our way back in, but we wound up far down the beach from where we'd started. Once I was on the shore, the seasickness suddenly grew stronger, and I delicately deposited my sandwich back into the surf.
Thank goodness my father-in-law was willing to help us get the boat back up on top of the car, and my brother-in-law (who is over 6' tall, and strong, and a kayak-owner himself) showed up just in time to lend a hand as well, so all I had to do was supervise and concentrate on not vomiting any more.
Oddly enough, I am willing to go out on the boat again. However, I am not going to do so until we have the trampolines and the trailer, and I am insisting that our next excursion be in a bay or other inland water, rather than out in the ocean in high winds. I don't think my husband quite buys my argument that maybe we should get used to the boat in easy waters before going back in the ocean, but he knows he can only push me so far.
I've since discovered that the rudder pin we broke is actually designed to break, to prevent further damage to the rudder. The boat even comes with spare rudder pins, and if we need more, they cost one dollar. There are not many things you can break on a boat that only cost a dollar to replace.
I have a feeling I'm going to have to get a lot more nautical, whether I like it or not.