This past Saturday, I woke up ready for an adventure. I was heading to the west coast of Michigan to a city called Muskegon. This lakefront town is home to miles of beachfront, rolling dunes, and a handful of lighthouses. I was here to go sailing for my Great Lakes Sailing elective class, but I was really here for the experience.
Before heading to the marina to meet up with Captain Joe and my classmates, I went to Pere Marquette Park. I was surprised to find quite a few people out enjoying the brisk morning.
After exploring the pier and beach, I went to the meeting place. Here I found several other student waiting outside a trailer at the marina. Moments later, Captain Joe appeared with promises of his world famous French toast. While I was hungry, I had no intention of breaking the record of 15 pieces.
We soon made our way down the rickety dock to the only boat in sight. We were a bit ahead of the game going out this early, but the feeling of excitement was palpable. All 12 of us loaded into the 35 foot boat and headed for open water. Soon, Captain shut off the engine. We drifted for a moment and then he invited us to help him open the sail. As soon as we pulled on the line, the sail began to unfurl and the wind caught it. We tied off the lines and we were sailing! It’s both exhilarating and peaceful. We floated with the wind while we sat back and relaxed.
Next we learned how to tack, or turn, the boat. It was a team effort. Someone would loosen the lines on one side of the sail while the other side was pulled tight. As this was happening the captain would turn the boat 180 degrees. We would quickly tie off the lines to hold the sail open, and then we could go back to relaxing in what Captain Joe called “position A”. The only thing missing was a corona and perhaps an extra layer of clothing to fight off the Lake Michigan wind.
Once we all had a chance to tack the boat, we were invited to walk around and check out the rest of the vessel. It seemed that everyone was a bit unsure so I hopped up and made my way to the bow. They soon followed. It was really cool when the Skipper told us to lay down on the deck. We did and then he said, “Prepare to tack”. While tacking the boat tends to pitch and roll a bit. Not to mention the massive sail whips from one side of the boat to other. It brushed over us as it went to the other side. When the sail was tied off again, captain told me to go the very tip of the boat. I am not one to pass up on sanctioned recklessness so I complied whiteout hesitation. But first, a selfie.
There are some great lesson to be learned from this. While we may have been cold and tired, it was the last thing on our minds. We were sharing a one of a kind experience. It is easy to become wrapped up in thoughts of the past and plans for the future. Being on the water demands your full attention in the best way possible. You cannot help but be completely immersed in the moment.
I am looking forward to sailing again soon. Luckily, my brother Jay just bought a sail boat. Now that I have this experience under my belt, we can take it out with confidence!
Enjoy your life, you only have one.
-Michael J. Flora