I don’t know about you, but I love the dude. Don’t get me wrong. In High School I didn’t understand a word he said.
My failure to “understand” occured three times in the ensuing years. Once in college reading “Ulysses” by James Joyce. Slightly earlier reading “Beowulf”. Later, in a Sailing 101 with my first love, Bill.
Bill and I were provided with the reading materials,in order to learn how to sail, from the Newport Yacht Club. It was mandatory that you read them. We were intent on learning how to sail. We were alike in our thinking, “I don’t need to read this.” We will learn by doing.
On our second class on our 40 foot sailboat, it happened.
I removed the floatation thingees, Bill steered us out of the slip. We managed to get into the harbor. There are so many yachts on the harbor on a Saturday afternoon. I wasn’t thinking about that. I was thinking, where are the cucumber sandwiches?
Bill and I lived on the water on Lido Isle. We’d watched a million boats pass by our living room thinking, “how difficult can it be?” In a similar act of hubris, Bill once called the coach of the Angels to advise him that he would be a better coach. I received the return call. Bill wasn't home. The coach and I remained on the phone for over an hour as I parroted what Bill had said to me a million times. I had no idea what I was saying. The coach almost raised his voice and suggested after 90 minutes, “why don’t YOU come down here and apply for my job right now?” Anyway…
In the harbor, I took the helm. Nice big steering wheel. Nothing to it. The instructor asked me to do something with a “wench” and a “leed” referring to some “jib” thing. I wanted to scream, “Speak English”. I did as instructed . The “leed” slipped out of my hand. (It’s the rope that holds the Jib which is the big sail that stretches out in front of the boat.) The “jib” was flapping in the wind making the sailboat rock.
Suddenly I heard a plunk. It was the “Boom Vang” coming unleashed from the “Mast”. It secures the main sail to the mast. It’s major. Without it the mast (big piece of wood) swooped like crazy from left to right with enough force to knock anyone overboard who attempted to sneak past.
At this point, I was holding onto the helm for dear life.
At that moment, I remembered an item mentioned in the instruction manual. Surely it was on first page because that’s all I read. It said, smaller vessels give larger vessels the right of way. (Larger boats have less maneuverability. ) That’s when I heard a frightening, deafeningly loud, droning HOOOOONK. I looked behind me. It was an ENORMOUS yacht towering over us. My first instinct was to wave. But there was going to be a collision. Remarkably, I heard another sound. Ka chink, Ka chink, Ka chink. The anchor slipped overboard because of the rocking from side to side. We were all going to die.
The moral of the story is; even when you deserve to die, you won’t if you surround yourself with the smart people. Choose wisely. The other moral is that even if you don’t understand something, you will if you keep trying. So don’t give up.