Monday, May 01, 2006

Sailing on our minds...

Yet another sign of Spring has occurred- the boat is out of the garden! Yes, that boat, above, lives in our back garden during the winter. It takes up all of the annual bed (which is nearly half of our city back yard), with the mast just poking through the briar roses into the smaller perennial bed... so the exit of the boat heralds the possibilities of what we'll plant this summer. Nifty, huh? :)

The picture above is of C & B sailing on the bay last summer. This weekend was full of getting-ready-for-sailing activities, & caused C & I to reminisce a bit because we bought the boat (it's a 15-ft. Snipe, which is a small, racing-class boat) 10 years ago this June, when B was just 9 weeks old. We joined the sailing club when I was pregnant with B- in fact, we met some of our sailing friends for the first time at an open house at the club & went for our first sail in a Snipe when I was pregnant with B, but didn't know it yet...

I was lucky when I was growing up to have had a neighbour who loved to sail her little sunfish, & took me along as a teenager to teach me the ropes, so to speak, because the rest of my family can't swim, let alone sail (I was the only one who liked to be in the water), & because I married into a sailing family- & it wouldn't have done to have been totally ignorant of sailing, believe me. C's father is a naval architect who spent the Korean War tending buoys in Boston harbour while doing his service time in the Coast Guard (& considering that my father had a mental breakdown while in the service in Korea, I think this was a fine place for C's father to have been...). C's dad also sailed on the Coast Guard's sailing schooner, the "Eagle", & has been building boats since he was a teenager. C began sailing when he was 3, & joined his mom & brother in crewing on the family Lightning for racing at their yacht club when he was around 10. He went to sailing camp as a kid, & spent the first semester of his senior year of college on an oceanographic sailing ship with the SEA Semester programme out of Woods Hole. When he came to town for med school he found our present club through the Lightning grapevine & crewed throughout med school & residency. We decided to join as social (non-boat) members, then take some time to find the right boat & fleet for us. We didn't intend to buy a boat with a new-ish baby in our lives, but one of the members was moving & C decided to offer to buy his boat- so we found ourselves with a racing boat. I was not an experienced crew, but I loved sailing & was ready to learn. It helped that C was a calm person & never yelled (something practically unheard of among sailing skippers :). We found a sitter who was willing to watch B at the club, so I could nurse him after the racing. And, hey, the hiking-out was great for my abdominals, after having a baby :) I will never forget my first regatta, that August, when B was just over 4 months old... I crewed 2 races, jumped off the boat, nursed B, ate something, jumped back in the boat & sailed 3 more races... & did the first part over again the next morning. **shakes head**

Our Snipe fleet is is one of the nicest groups of people we know. Many of them have become like second family for us & surrogate grandparents for B. When B was diagnosed with Aspergers- & as new diagnoses occurred- we have felt comfortable sharing the journey with these friends, as well as with some of the members of the larger sailing club community (we have 4 fleets), which has been wonderfully supportive. I was struck by the importance of this community last Friday evening when we went down to the club for a potluck dinner (sponsored by our fleet) & meeting (which B & I didn't stay for). B usually hangs-back when presented with rooms full of chatting people, but this place has been a part of his life for so long, he just sailed right into the crowd & was soon regaling 2 women with the joke du jour. He then called dad over to a conference at the foosball table, which turned into a game of foosball (of course). This ended when the line formed for dinner. Eating just bread & salad, B was done before us, so wandered out to the porch where someone had set up a telescope, to take a look. As I kept an eye on him through the big picture window, he went from conversation to conversation with various people who came by to chat. Watching his body-language was interesting... it sometimes wasn't obvious that he was talking to the person. His head was turned in another direction, or maybe hunched between his shoulders, but I could tell by watching their lips that they were conversing, & it was nifty that B stuck with the conversations, & that these folks were happy to take the time to chat with him. He ended his evening at the club in deep discussion with a physicist in our fleet about black holes, which is the topic of his end-of-year research project. C was on hand for this & said it was so much fun to overhear his son discussing physics with someone who was obviously enjoying the conversation just as much as B was.

Yesterday was a club workday, & although B chose not to join dad in painting the club (probably not a bad thing, since B doesn't like messy painting jobs, & we did have a Japanese lesson in the afternoon), he did go with C on Sunday afternoon to take the boat down to the club, preparatory to getting it in the water. OK, so maybe it was the promise of stopping by the games store to look for new Pokemon cards that really got him to go... but it's still pretty neat that B is so comfortable going to the club & has such a wonderful relationship with so many of the people there. C has hopes of training B to crew for, if not himself (I had to stop crewing a few years ago because of my arthritis), then perhaps another member of the fleet (he seems to think that beating dad might motivate B even more than helping dad :). There's no question that B is capable of learning to crew- he's already pretty good at keeping the boat on a course (thank-you, visual/perceptual therapy!!) & is learning how the sails work with the wind. We've been encouraging his interest by reading Arthur Ransome's "Swallows & Amazons" books with B, since C's mom gave B the first in the series last summer (we finished book 4 last night & he's eager for the next one). The opportunity to sail & learn about sailing is also a nice antidote to B's intermittant feelings of low-self-esteem when it comes to sports. We often remind him that sailing is a sport & most of the kids teasing him about not being able to kick a soccer ball would not know what to do in a boat... A nice adjunct to the sailing is that is has driven the efforts to make sure B can swim, & he's finally gotten to a place where he really enjoys this, too.

Launch Day (first day of racing) is next Sunday. Once the water warms up, C & B will get out on the water together again... although I'll admit that what's really got B excited about the new sailing season is a practical joke he's planning to pull on one of the grandfatherly jokesters in the fleet, involving a snapper (a firework that goes off when the string is pulled) stuck to the back of a boat in such a way as to go off when the boat leaves the dock- so it'll sound like an engine backfire (Snipes don't have engines, you see...). Only B would put that one together... let's hope it works ! :)


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