Sunshine, wind, salt water spray, and the wind filling a sail overhead. We spent Saturday afternoon on a sailboat!
Several years ago, before Cameron, I sailed with the Vikings out of Jericho Sailing Centre. I spent three summers with them, skittering around on English Bay, racing dinghies, and some time in their keel boat too. On windy summer days, watching the white sails zip around, I miss it.
Many times, Cameron and I have stood on the beach and watched the sailboats head out, raising sails as they leave False Creek. I’ve told him about how they use the sails to move, how they don’t use engines while they’re using their sails. We’ve talked about what the sails are called, and how they move too. He’s asked me several times, “Next time, Mommy, I want to go on a sail boat!” I think this kid is on to me and my plans for adventure.
A bit of background, perhaps? The Munin is a 40 foot replica (at half-scale) of a Norwegian Viking Ship. It has one mast, a square red-and-white sail, dragons fore and aft, wooden benches to sit on, and long oars. That’s right – oars. The Vikings didn’t have motors, and neither does the Munin. It seats roughly fifteen, including a crew of three or four people. So if you’re determined to get on, be sure to call ahead and book, don’t rely on there being extra seats.
For all that he’s begged me to take him sailing, Cameron wasn’t at all sure about things once we got on the dock. He was okay getting his life jacket on, but then balked at the idea of getting on board the boat. He’s quite used to the false creek ferries, but this is a wooden boat, all open, very different. He had an idea in his head of what we were going to do, and this didn’t match up with it, so he dug in his heels. One of the women working on the boat, an experienced parent clearly, just scooped him up and carried him on board, with me following behind. Worked out well! Slowly, as the boat was maneuvered away from the dock and out to the open water, he relaxed and began to enjoy it.
Getting out there was interesting. Six oars, six rowers, and I don’t think a single one of them had handled an oar before. Coordination between rowers wasn’t an easy thing, and I think there were sore backs and arms come the next morning!
Finally, we were out far enough, and quick instructions were given out. Keep rowing, work fast, getting the sail up is the most dangerous part of the whole trip. The helmsman’s view is obstructed by the sail, and at half-mast the sail isn’t easy to move yet is catching the wind. Yikes. Still, it went smoothly. With a swoosh, up went the sail.
I lost track of how many times we tacked back and forth in the Bay. Each time, the oars on one side worked steadily to turn the boat, and the sail swooshed to the other side. It was a good, long trip. Cameron was given an important job to do – he held a rope attached to a fender, or bumper. Veeeery important. He ‘helped’ haul on a sheet (rope) during a tack – not advisable! He even got to help steer the boat. Or as he puts it, be the captain. During each lovely and long sail there was lots to see. English Bay is a busy place, filled with boat traffic under sail and motor. The view was breathtaking – mountains, city architecture, beaches filled with people.
The return was fun too – this time I took one of the oars, while a kind grandmotherly woman held Cameron close. It was challenging – new oarsment, currents swirling water around, and million dollar heritage boats to avoid. But we did it.
If you go, read their website first for ideas of what to bring. Dress appropriately for the weather, wear layers if you’re at all unsure. Bring sunscreen and a hat! Also, bring your ‘listening ears’ as they said in school when I was a kid. None of the ‘orders’ were particularly difficult, but yet it seemed some found things challenging. I hate to say this, but if you’re bringing small kids (they do have life jackets for them), you might wish to consider having two adults. While on board, everyone keeps an eye on the younger ones, but I was a little nervous about Cameron. When everyone around was busy at one point, I sat him on the deck of the boat to keep him safe … and wound up stepping on his fingers! I would’ve found it hard to row had the grandmotherly woman not been right there and willing to hold Cameron.
Our next few weekends are filled up, but I’m sure that in September or October we’ll be joining them again.