A few Saturdays ago friend Jan and I hiked a bit on the sand dunes at the John Dellenback Dunes Trail off Hwy 101 near Lakeside. The parking lot connects to a path that winds through scrub growth to the dunes, huge white sculpted sand piles dotted with small animal footprints and decorated by the wind with sand-wave necklaces. Many of the dunes wear crowns of scrub pine forests. Tiny valleys between dunes sport incipient shrubs and foot-tall trees, forests in the making. Far in the distance we glimpsed the sea, teasing us to make the two mile trek. We declined for then, but the trip to the dunes was worthwhile, reminding us of the varied scenery of the amazing Oregon coast. Only hikers are permitted on the dunes at this locale–nothing motorized, no bicycles, so the silence is immense, the trail the one you create.
The next Saturday was my first sail in a small boat. I am one of twenty-two in the community ed. class, Beginning Sailing, conducted by Skipper Tom Mills and wife, Anjo. We met two Wednesday evenings before our first day on the water. Being of mature years and never before on a sail boat, I was not happy at the idea of going overboard. I packed up two changes of clothes–in case. You’d think I was going on a six-week cruise, with my gear, most of which I did not need. I expected to be cold on the water,and the wind did howl for the afternoon portion of the sail, but it wasn’t cold. The sail took place at the Coos Bay Yacht Club on Tenmile Lake, and members of the club were kind enough to let us crew on their boats so we could learn by doing. And there’s a lot to learn: the equipment on the boat, using it safety, how to move self and boat correctly, and of course, wind knowledge: where’s it coming from, when the puffs (gusts) are approaching, trimming the sails to get to a destination and remain afloat. Nautical terms are evocative and creative: lines (not ropes), mast, main sail, jib, starboard, bowline, halyard, telltales, boom vang, cunningham, luff, outhaul, clew, and my favorite: playing the yarns. I have much learn; I’m a baby beginner at this fascinating sport.
I was lucky enough to go out with Tom Kyle, a national racing champion, on his 21 ft San Juan sailboat. Classmate Joanne, and later, Katherine and I were his crew, but I was pretty worthless, not knowing what to do, and then not strong enough to pull the jib sheets by myself. I hope they forgive me my shortcomings. Watching for puffs, we tacked and jibed, heeled and leveled and I loved it all. I could not have been in more competent hands.
Thanks to all who made it possible for me to feel the beauty and excitement of this elegant sport.
We’re going out on the boats one more time. I can’t wait.