A Facebook friend asked a question I have not thought about for a long time. As often happens a simple answer became a short essay, because I’m like that.
Been thinking a lot about the wind and I am highly interested in what Chris and JJ would say about the feeling they experience when the sails on their crafts first catch the wind.
Whenever I sailed my 23 foot sloop DragonsongÂ I relished a particular moment, the best of the day. While still in the slip I would start the 9 hp outboard on it’s bracket at the stern. I liked the little 2 stroke motor because it was as reliable as it was loud. I would cast off the mooring lines and motor out of the marina into Bear Creek. Once past the marina I would pass by another marina and the green day mark at the entry to the Rhode River. It would be another quarter mile until I joined the West River where it widened out to meld with the more open waters of the Chesapeake Bay. I could motor the distance or sail it. When the wind was out of the northeast it would require a lot of tacking back and forth. If the tide was on the flood you could relax and just keep the iron topsail running. But if the wind was fair or at least on the beam it was definitely time for sailing.
So, head into the wind and go forward to the mast removing the sail ties on the boom along the way. Cast off the main halyard from it’s cleat and haul away. The main sheet would be left slack so that it could stream in the wind without power. Sailors call this luffing. Tighten that mainsheet real good and make it fast to the cleat with a clove hitch. Coil the loose tail real fast and repeat the operation setting the jib running it up the wire forestay.
With all the sails aloft but not drawing I would return to the cockpit and haul on the main and jib sheets trimming the sails into tight curves of strong fabric embraced by the power of the wind. This is the moment you asked about because suddenly the engine becomes superfluous and with one hand on the tiller the other reaches for the kill switch and suddenly, silence. As the propeller loses it’s grip on the water the boat heels and settles into the pull of atmospheric horsepower. My senses open to sky and water. The only sounds left are the splash and gurgle of the buoyant medium, the song of the wind in the rigging, and creak of gear, modern in design but ancient in purpose. Somewhere in the back of my brain and the marrow of my bones I feel the beat of my heart in concert with it all.