What Do You Do When The Sailing Gods Appear To Be Against You?

June 28, 2017 by Monica Grant
What Do You Do When The Sailing Gods Appear To Be Against You?

What Do You Do When The Sailing Gods Appear To Be Against You?  Michael Angell from SailMichigan.org answers this question from first hand experience as he came up against several hinderances to his day's sailing plans...


Summer Sailstice - When the dark side tries to interfere

by Mike Angell

I am a small boat sailor. I identify with the struggles of the small boat sailor. I created SailMichigan to help with the struggles of the small boat sailor. Today I again became keenly aware of those struggles.

As you know (or not), Summer Sailstice is an annual international event to promote sailing on the weekend closest to the Summer Solstice. I like the concept, have promoted the concept, and planned on participating this year. Five obstacles, however, stood in my way (or tried to) and were almost successful in thwarting Sailstice. I realized that these five things conspire everytime I want to sail and others may have similar struggles. In an effort to confront these head-on next time, lets get them out in the open. Here are my five sailing nemesises.

Obstacle 1: Competing interests
The Summer Salstice competed with two other passions of mine, vintage wooden boats and vintage cars. The weekend of June 24 was not only Sailstice but also the Algonac Wooden Boat Show and a local car show. The weather was perfect for all three, but doing all three in one day was impossible. I was conflicted, until I saw that a local sailing club (Creekfleet / Stony Creek Metropark) was going to have a Sailstice regatta on Sunday (not Saturday). Perfect, I'll do the boat show on Saturday, skip the car show and meet the Creekfleeters on Sunday. Future sailing corollary: If you want to sail, you have to make it a priority.

Obstacle 2: Trailer issues
The Sailstice was to be the inaugural sail for my 15' Mutineer this season. On Saturday night, I dutifully checked the rigging, washed the boat and packed the boat. I was to leave early in the morning to make the 90 minute drive to Stony Creek in time to set-up and meet people. At 7 am I checked the trailer, no lights. If I was going 5 miles, I would have risked it. But 60 miles (one way), on busy state highways? I would need the lights. After 2 and half hours I finally found the issue and had workable lights. But now I would be arriving at Stony Creek too late to be comfortable. Decision: Sail/No Sail? I decided to pass on Stony Creek and opt for Kent Lake (Kensington Metropark), only 10 miles away. I wouldn't meet the Creekfleeters, but I would be able to meet my Sailstice aspirations. Future sailing corollary: Have a plan B lake or event (and check the trailer earlier).

Obstacle 3: No crew
The weather forecast, which initially was reported as temps in the 70s with winds 10-15 had changed to upper 60s with winds gusting 25-30. My wife and children were not interested. Two texts to two other friends resulted in two well-meaning rejections. Result: no crew. Decision: Sail/No Sail? I decided I would sail with main only and attempt the day single-handed. Future sailing corollary: Whereas the fun is certainly increased when shared, if you can't sail alone, you may stay home.

Obstacle 4: Cost
It had been awhile since I hand been to Kensington Metropark (Milford, MI). The park is large, well-maintaned and has many ameneties. The last fee I remembered was $8. As I pulled up to the entry kiosk, I was informed that the fee would be $10 for the car and $10 for the boat ($20). That seemed high to me. I had exacty $20 in my pocket. Decision: Sail/No Sail? Having the exact cash on hand, and having come that far, I decided to continue. Future sailing corrollary: Although my Michigan recreation passport is not honored at area Metroparks, $70 will buy a season car and boat pass. If I buy a seasonal pass, I will be motivated to use the park (sail) at least 4 times to get my money's worth.

Obstacle 5: Self-doubt & weather
To my chergrin only two sailboats were on the lake (both from the local American Sailing Institute). Each had 2-3 people, reefed mains, and appeared to be battling the wind (15 mph, gusting to 25+). This was to be the first outing for my boat this season. Was it worth it to trial the boat under such conditions? While assessing conditions, on autopilot, I rigged my boat. Although everything appeared correct, in these gusts, I would have to raise sails, launch, sail, dock and unrig to windward. With the boat sitting rigged on the trailer, an internal dialog began in my head. "Well at least you got her rigged. It's not worth breaking her or swimming today." "Wait, you've sailed in this stuff before (but not single-handed)." "If you wait for perfect/comfortable conditions, you will only sail once or twice this year." This last point, made in the ping-ponging of my thoughts, resonated the most. This is Michigan, perfect conditions are rare. I'm here now, the boat is rigged now, I have the time now. Future sailing corollary: In truth, self-doubt and the weather are my biggest obsticals. If there is no wind, there is nothing I can do. But who is to say when there is too much wind? I have waved off about as many high wind days as low wind days. If my self-confidence is low, then my wind cut-off will be low, and I will be simply rigging and de-rigging all day. In the end, I set the boat in the water and sat for 15 minutes on the dock, each gust of wind causing a new internal dialog. In the corner of my eye, I saw two ASI-owned Interlakes raise sails and leave their moorings, each with 2-3 individuals and reefed mains. That was enough for me. I now wanted to play. After a bit of dock negotiation, I fell off and followed their lead, dodging gusts and hiking out. In the end, the winds were manageable, my boat has re-proven itself for another season, and I am now able to extend my potential number of sailing days. 

If it hadn't been Sailstice, I might have de-rigged and gone home (justifying the decision over and over). But it was Sailstice, one weekend a year dedicated to windy pursuits. That fact, allowed the dialog in my head to continue until the decision was made. Just do it.... Happy Sailstice.

Michael Angell


Mike's story demonstrates the committment and passion that make sailors such awesome people. Yes, we have other interests. Yes, we might hit a bump in the road, or in this case the trailer. Yes, we might on occasion find ourselves sailing solo. Yes, sometimes we might need to spend a little cash, and yes, sometimes the weather might look like it will take us out of our comfort zone. But to quote a phrase from a long-ago Australian Toursim television commercial, "If you never, never go, You'll never, never, know."

Thanks Mike for sharing your story and for showing us that we can sail, even when we might think we can't. 

View Michael's original post at sailmichigan.blogspot.com


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