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Carol Ann Gleason: Earning my sea legs was great experience

Sailing was as strange to me as the stranger. I am glad that I embraced both.

Late last summer, I met a woman at an event. She told me she was the captain of a women’s sailing crew and she invited me to join her team for 2016. I decided to take the opportunity to try something new with someone I did not know.

Sailing lessons at the Buffalo Harbor Sailing Club began in mid-May. The club’s mission is to introduce others to the joy of sailing, and it does so with the help of enthusiastic volunteers. I was introduced to the crew of Storm Warning. I met women sailors who were willing to share their knowledge with me. This was exciting.

After my first few hours of training on the yacht, I had to have assistance getting from the dock to the land, due to “sea legs.” I wondered if I would ever be considered “crew” and I began wondering why in the world I was on this yacht!

The exercise routine I practice was only a drop in the bucket compared with the physical demands of sailing. Even without having an official job, whenever I heard the captain yell, “tacking,” I had to cross over the top of the yacht to the other side as the boat turned. Crossing over on your butt with legs first may be easy for a young woman – not so for this woman with gray hair.

Grinding the lines on the winch would take more than the muscles in my arms. I had to use my whole body to “trim the sail.” The day after each sailing, my body was crying for comfort. Why I kept returning was a wonder to me.

One of the gals showed me how I’d have to sit on the high side with my legs hanging over the edge of the boat. In my mind I thought, I’ll never do that! I’m too afraid. However, as the boat leaned on an angle, the fear of hanging my legs over the high side disappeared. It was replaced with fear of being capsized. The boat was sailing at such an angle that the low side was almost at water level. So, off to the high side I went, hanging my legs overboard.

I found the water, sky and sunsets delightful as I sat in the few moments of cruising in between sail trimming and hopping side to side. I looked around at the women who were crew and sat there appreciating each one for welcoming me. They all worked hard physically and mentally and continued to share their knowledge with me.

When each sail was over, we would discuss what we had done and what we could improve upon. Sometimes, if I wasn’t too tired, we shared a meal together. Then we’d return the following week for more.

My captain wanted to win races and she worked with a mixed crew of newbies along with her established crew. She let us know she was in this to win and would offer practice times as well as sail mentors who coached us each week during the race.

Trying something new has been a stretch physically, mentally and socially. I’ve learned some things about sailing and learned a lot about “tacking” strangers into new friends.

I’m glad I stepped out of my comfort zone on the ground and went abroad with my winner, the captain of Storm Warning: Captain Merrily.

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