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Wind, Sail, and Water

The Thrill of Sailing My Catamaran

D. B. Evans

The day explodes with the first break of sun across the ripples on what just moments before was a dark moonless bay. The sun's first rays reflecting on the tips of the chop in the water, making them glisten like jewels. The vast ocean water stretches out from the shore as far as the eye can see and beyond. A catamaran, (a sailboat with two hulls connected to each other), sits waiting on the beach, its sails flapping, or “luffing in the wind”, as a sailor would say, the two bows pointing out to sea. The lapping of the water on the shore teases the boat and its crew to come and play.  To come and tame the waves, to try and control the winds that have passed over these seas formillennia.

These sails, no longer made only in white, have captured the colors of the morning sun.

The sail, hoisted up thethirty-foot black aluminum mast is ready for the day’s sea trials. Red, orange, gold and yellow bars of cloth fastened to black metal, the boat looking like an emissary from the sun.  As the boat is pushed out into the water, the sails fill with a strong warm summer wind. The boat can be felt tocome alive as it tries to pull away from its captain and crew. As these new style of sailors jump onto the boat’strampoline between the hulls, only a piece of rubberized material stretched between the two hulls, the breaking ofthe waves near the shore splashes up and wets down everything and everyone. The wind powers the boat andempowers its crew as it cuts up and through the shore breaking waves and out into the open water. Out into the open ocean.

As the boat turns or “comes about”, it seems to completely stop as it changes direction. And then, the sheet ispulled in tight, the sails fill with wind and it’s off again like a fleeing bandit. At nearly 30 miles per hour it skims the waves, almost dancing as it hops along the water. The wind is strong; thesails full and tight as the boat is thrust forward at the same time, pushed down into the water.The wind begins to bury the lower bow into the oncoming waves, threatening to stand the boat on its nose(s).Turning into the wind a bit, the danger is averted; the bow has been kept from digging in and flipping forward.The move avoiding what could have been an extremely wet disaster.

The boat again rises up and starts to lift the hull closest to the direction of the oncoming wind. As the windwardhull lifts up and out of the water, the lower hull is the only connection to the water, the Earth. The rudder (flipper pointed down) on the stern (back of a boat) is the only way of steering. Everything else is up and out of the water. From almost the top of the mast, a steel cable leads down to a steel ring. To balance the boat, the ring attaches toa waist hook on a harness the crew of the boat wear. Like a mountain climber, clip in; sit down into the harness, stand out and off the side of the boat and hopefully the boat levels off. The lean or heel of the boat corrects only a little but the speed increases. The single lower hull slapping in the water, splashes the salt water up and allaround. The salty seawater is everywhere, in and on everything. The smell of the ocean is fresh and pure and everywhere as well.

To be sailing is to feel freedom at the mercy of the elements, the using of nature to propel forward. To challenge nature to try and find some way to prevent the getting of as much power and energy as it can throw, then catch itand control it for more speed. Some catamarans have even been known to even take along water skiers. These areonly examples of what it is like to sail on a performance catamaran. The experience can only be understood when experienced first hand.Imagine standing up on the hull that has lifted completely out of the water. Of being held in place by one’s balanceand the cable from the harness to the top of the mast.The boat lifts and lifts until it lifts all the way and it stops cold. The top of the mast touches down onto the water, letting the sails lay down like the fallen flag of a great warship.

Now it is time to climb down and stand on the hull in the water, pull out the righting lines, wrap it underneath, sit and bounce down, pulling the top hull down and into the water again. After which it's quickly hop back on, pull intight on the lines and back on course again at what seems to be an almost lightening speed. Better be quick, these boats have been known to get away from even experienced crews during this critical moment. As some have actually watched their boat sail away without them. In the near distance, many catamarans can be seen in a race. Like colorful flies swarming on the waters surface, they go in seemingly different directions, all ending up on the same path to the same place. It is living a glorious fantasy when racing, to see hundreds of these glorious fantasy when racing, to see hundreds of these cloth-powered fairies of the waves flitting about. Dynamic varieties of color combinations on sails as they dart and crisscross each other, vying for the most speed that can be squeezed out of the combination of man, boat, sail and wind.

The waves begin lifting underneath; the boat rises up and begins to ride the waves like a surfer heading for the shore. Only instead, riding the curl with a thirty-foot aluminum lightening rod sticking straight up. Two brightly colored sails with over three hundred square feet of surface between them are held tight by metal, the metal held by rope, the rope held by the strength of the hand. Only hands, muscles and brains control all sails and rudders. Limited only by their strength and the knowledge of how to best pull in or let out as the need arises. Too loose, and the boat stalls, too tight and it's a saltwater bath. There is a thrill to being able to push off the beach and sail and sail until there is no more land. To some it may be frightening, to some, it's truly living. There is a point that when you look back, there is no more shore, no more landmarks. There is only a watery horizon in all directions. One better know what they are doing or they may never see Terra firma again. Which may not be so bad considering. Just sail up and down the local shore areas and see the envious crowds of beach goers. Watch the massive crowded beaches as one zips along the shoreline. It's not crowded out here. Only this and a few other boats have free reign of the vast vacant water. But even if there were millions of other boats, the ocean is so large it is never noticed.

The mariners’ prayer of "Lord thy Sea is so Great and my ship is so small" holds true all the time. It can never be otherwise. The seas are always so great and vast; there can never be a boat or ship for that matter that can challenge their vastness, the immense power, the majesty. The rolling of the waves never ends, they just keep rolling and coming. The boat rides those waves as they propel the boat like a turbo charged surfer towards the beach. As the boat hits the sandy coast, it continues up and several feet away from the water. The windward hull in the air settling down again as the line to the sail is let loose and the sail empties of its remaining fuel of nature. The ocean lapping up on the beach, taunting the return of the wave skimmer and its crew to again put their ability to the test. A dare lasting only a few minutes when the two-crew members grab and turn the boat around and start the whole process again. Pushing into the waves, grabbing the wind, lifting up on one hull, skimming and skipping across the tips of the waves. The endless circle of sail out and surf back in, lasts until there is no more light of day. Then the boats are pulled up and away from the water; the sails are lowered and packed away for the night. The crew rests and recalls the events of the day as they prepare for the next morning and their return encounter with the magical combination of wind, sail and water.

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