Sailing in Aruba

DSC_2437My wife and I took the whole family to Aruba last week.  Sam is 2, Harry is 7, and Maggie is 9.  On day 2, Daddy got the itch, “It’s time to get out and sail kids!  Let’s go!”

When I want to go sailing and the opportunity presents itself, it is a bit like going to church.  There is no way they are getting out of it.  They know that I am going sailing, come hell or high water.  They also know that I hate to burden my wife by leaving all 3 kids in her care for too long.  So Harry and Maggie typically don’t argue when I make the move.  My wife typically does not argue because she gets a break from 2 out of 3 kids.

About a ½ mile down the beach near the Tamrim Beach Resort Water Sports center, the sails on the Hobie Resort Cats were bent on and it was time.  The three of us walked down the white-sand beach with the water rolling up over our feet.  Harry, the big tough hockey player was nervous.  He had never been out on a catamaran and the questions flowed.

resort cat

Harry:  Dad, have you ever sailed one of these things before?

Me:  Yup.  Once.  About 10 years ago

Harry:  What happens if we flip over?

Me:  You swim.  It’s not going to flip over Harry.  It’s a resort cat.  But if it does, you swim until we flip it back over.

Harry:  Are there sharks out there?

Me:  I don’t think so, but I’m not sure.

Harry:  Can I go back and hang out with Mom and Sam?

Me:  Nope.

Maggie on the other hand is an old salt.  She seems to have a bomb proof trust for her Daddy at the helm.  Sometimes I feel that if anything ever went wrong on one of these sailing ventures, she’d be emotionally crushed.  Maggie was excited for the sail and could barely contain herself.

We arrived at the Water Sports Center and claimed our place in line for the Hobie.  I asked a couple people in line if they were waiting for the Hobie and they replied, “No way.  We’d kill ourselves on that thing!”

Harry looked up at me like a puppy hoping to be released.  “Relax Harry,” I said.  “They just don’t know how to sail a cat.”  It was obvious to me, but it didn’t help Harry.

Unfortunately, the man before us got stuck in irons about a half mile down the beach and essentially got washed up on shore.  He was single-handing and didn’t have anyone to help, so by the time he went aground, it was ugly.  We could see him in the distance trying to get the boat back in the deep water.  He got knocked over a couple of times and looked pretty disheveled by the time the chase boat got to him.  Again, I got the glare from Harry.  I explained how cats tend to stick in irons and tried to comfort him again.  “He just doesn’t know how to sail a cat,” I said.

“Neither do you,” he replied.

I grinned and basically ignored the fact that he was mostly correct.  Well, at least I knew that they get stuck in irons.  Something about back-winding the sail was the solution.  I’m typically a figure it out as you go type of guy.

They eventually brought the boat in.  The surf was heavy, but the wind was blowing off the shore so we should have a decent launch without too much drama.  I motioned for Harry to get on board.  As he approached the boat, a wave came in hot and bucked the boat toward him knocking into his knee.  He jumped back holding his knee and looked at me in an I-told-you-so kind of way.  Maggie on the other hand scurried aboard like a rat.

“No time for pain Harry!” I commanded as I grabbed him by the vest and threw him onto to the pad on the port hull.  He clinged to the hiking straps looking around for somewhere to hide, but there was nowhere.  Harry is used to my Marshall Sanderling catboat with high gunwales and a small cabin.  Whenever he gets nervous in the catboat, he feels as though he is “inside” the boat.  With a catamaran, you’re basically out there in the wide open, sitting on top of the boat.

I don’t want you to think that I am some evil parent forcing his timid child into something he doesn’t want to do.  Harry is a daredevil.  He isn’t afraid of anything as long as he is in control of it.  It is when someone else is in control that his nerves get up.  Once we’re under way on whatever activity it is, he typically loves a little adrenaline.  I knew I could safely sail the kids in this boat and I just needed to get them on the boat and out in the ocean to comfort them.  Again, Maggie was essentially laughing and cheering through the whole process.

Finally, I got the kids on the boat and situated, jumped aboard myself, and sheeted in.  The boat took off like a rocket, effortlessly zipping through the water and out to sea.  The clear turquoise water splashed by beneath us and occasionally on us.  I could see Harry’s knuckles were white on the hiking strap and Maggie let out a “Woooooohooooo! This….is….AWESOME!”

I barked out my standard question that I ask every time we sail, “What do you do if the boat tips over or you fall overboard?”

On cue, Harry replied, “Swim!” and Maggie followed, “Don’t panic.”

The more we traveled out to sea, the calmer they seemed to get.  They were not used to this kind of speed in a sailboat.  It took them by surprise, but by the end of trip, they were both having a blast.  Sure, we got stuck in irons a couple of times, but like a catamaran veteran, I was able to backwind the sail and get us through the tack.  Eventually, I learned that gybing a catamaran was considerably easier than gybing a catboat and I tried to do that more often.

Overall, the sailing the catamaran was a highlight of my trip.  I am sure it was a highlight of Maggie’s as well, but for Harry I think we’ll simply refer to it as a memory and not so much a highlight.  He was happy that he went and quite proud of himself, but when I asked him the next day if he’d like to go again, he nearly lost his lunch.

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