B was visiting, and the weather was clear, save for the usual intermittent Seattle drizzle, so we thought it would be a good day to go out onto Lake Union. Despite January’s balmy 50-degree weather, the only other watercraft on the lake was a hot tub boat. The hot tub boat was an incongruous site in the middle of the lake, as though some powerful force had plucked a hot tub from someone’s backyard and placed it in the middle of the lake. We could hear the easygoing laughter of the bikini-clad partiers as we sailed by.
The wind was moderate, so much so that some seaplanes would takeoff downwind. After half an hour of aimless cruising just using the main sail, we decided to pick up some speed and unfurled the jib. B jibbed towards Gas Works Park. I had taken one introductory sailing lesson several years ago, but many things seemed unintuitive to me and I forgot most of what I had learned. I was excited to be out on the water with B, who sailed the busy Hudson River back when he was living on the East Coast. I had a general lack of experience, and I figured after enough excursions, sailing would finally make sense.
Earlier, B had been piloting a larger sailboat in a test to prove his skills. When the boat keeled, I was scared as my head tipped towards the sea, and white froth licked over the side of the boat. But the proctor laughed, assuring us that it was practically impossible for this particular boat to capsize, and it was fun sport to aggressively keel.
But now we were on a cute little sailboat, which, unbeknownst to us, also had a cute little keel (a structure on the centerline of the boat’s hull that makes the boat more stable). The boat was so small that, whenever the mainsail changed sides, we had to duck so that we were not clotheslined by its boom. There was a bit of multitasking, and B kept glancing at the tell tale yarns since the wind would frequently and dramatically change direction.
After more than an hour on the lake, we were at the Aurora Bridge, and decided it would be a good time to head back. We had travelled a good distance back to the southern shore. B was going to tack, but then we saw a couple staff members from the boating organization were headed towards us on a motorboat. B stalled for a moment and furrowed his brows, wondering why they were coming to us. They were probably concerned that we had been away for a long time. The boat was keeling (which we had done many times earlier).
“Are you okay?” the driver of the motorboat asked in a megaphone.
“Yes, we’re fine,” B replied back.
In the next few seconds, time moved like molasses. All of a sudden, B shouted to me, “Pull the rope!” There were many ropes, so I was unsure which one he was referring to. The boat keeled past some inflection point, like a rollercoaster reaching the apex, and now the boat was slowly flipping over and there was nothing we could do. I felt a surge of panic and disbelief.
B and I were dumped into Lake Union, which was cold, but not frigid. Luckily, the motorboat was right next to us. The staff members kindly helped us out of the water then righted the sailboat. They were very concerned and kept asking if we were okay. I was grateful for their concern. But truly, we were fine. We had just taken a dip, it’s not as though we were hit by anything.
All my clothes were soaked through— wool sweater and socks, jeans, t-shirt, thick winter overcoat, and especially my Seahawks pom pom beanie that I wore in spite of their elimination in the playoffs. I was concerned about our phones as well, but it turns out that they are highly water resistant, and at least mine recovered okay.
The motorboat made slow progress back to shore, as the sailboat had to be brought back as well, so the staff members asked some others to bring us back on a faster motorboat. Everyone was so kind and sympathetic, making small talk. They asked how our jaunt was before capsizing, and I gushed about how much fun we had.
Inside, I was asked, “Are you feeling better?”
“Yes, I’ve stopped slurring my words, thank you.” A pool of water had formed on the concrete below me. Some people glanced at me, but were polite and did not stare at this damp, musky creature.
That was enough adventure for me for one day, but B has endless reserves of energy. As we walked back to the car, B remained undeterred, and said we would sail again soon. I have no qualms about it. I never thought that we would capsize, because in all my previous times sailing that had never happened. B believes that, had we not been checked on, then ironically, we would not have capsized. After the great sailing debacle, we’ve learned our lesson, and the impossible will truly be impossible.
When I sat in bed thinking about it, sailing is truly remarkable. People can travel on water with minimal effort on their part, harnessing the wind, neither burning fossil fuels nor generating waste. Not only can you sail in the direction in which the wind is blowing, but you can also travel against the wind. There is so much freedom. We look back on our excursion, debacle included, with endearment.