As a proponent of continuous learning, this year I decided to put my money where my mouth is and signed up for sailing lessons. On a whim, I signed up my 11-year-old stepdaughter as well. Growing up in the City of Lakes I had always dreamed of learning to sail, and this was my opportunity! And so, for four evenings in mid-August, we went to Lake Harriet and attended sailing class with sixteen other people.
Day 1: We learned two knots, the cleat hitch and the figure 8. Then they handed us life jackets and sails and showed us how to rig up the boat. Nautical terminology is different. They’re not ropes, they’re sheets and halyards. You start thinking in terms of port, starboard, fore and aft. (That one isn’t too hard from watching pirate movies — fetch aft for rum, Darby M’Graw!) Tacking is turning your bow through the wind. Jibing is turning your stern through the wind. And there are many other examples.
Without ado, we left the dock. It was just myself, the instructor, and my stepdaughter aboard the Lido 14 sailboat. So how was it taking a class with a kid? Well, I have to say it tried my patience. While I was focused on learning and experiencing, I had to contend with chattering, fooling around, daydreaming, pleading and so on. In retrospect I think it might have been a better fit for her to take the class with other kids. Still, we both learned a lot and I can’t really blame her for acting like a kid.
Day 2: Learned how to jibe. Docked the sailboat myself. Lost my glasses in the water. Sweet adieu, hipster Ray-Bans!
Day 3: Good time out on the lake. A bolt of lightning forced us to return to shore after only a few minutes on the water, but we soon returned. The clouds parted to reveal a glorious evening sky. Fell into the lake while getting off the sailboat. Fortunately my wallet and iPhone were safely in the car.
Day 4: There was hardly any wind. Boooorrrrring. The stepdaughter and I went to Dairy Queen afterwards to celebrate the triumphant finale of our class.
In conclusion, there were many instances when being a classmate of my stepdaughter drove me to the brink of mental breakdown. And I’m sure it would have been more fun for her to not have Daddy sending her dirty looks every three minutes. But it was a great bonding experience and — perhaps mainly with older kids — I recommend it to any GeekDad.
By the way, if you’d like to learn how to sail, and can’t afford sailing lessons or there isn’t a sailing lake nearby, this book is recommended: Start Sailing Right!: The National Standard for Quality Sailing Instruction