Thursday, July 07, 2011

Swedish Sailing and Insanity

It’s been said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing again and again expecting different results. By that definition, I am insane. Considering I just wrote a post about having multiple personalities, this may not come as much of a surprise. This past weekend though confirmed that. I am insane.

I went sailing. Again. Two years ago I went sailing and came back with two very expensive paper weights that were once a camera and cell phone after falling into the water. One year ago I was somehow convinced to join a sailing race. And ended up in what can best be described as a disaster including running aground, having no electricity and thus no GPS, and broaching the boat.

I vowed to not sail again. Which is where the insanity comes in. I found myself on a sail boat in the same damn race this past weekend. And I am alive. And that’s all that counts.

This time we really did have to pull out of the race. Strangely enough we found ourselves making the exact same call last year in the exact same Danish harbor town – Stubbekøbing. A lovely little place really and now my third most visited city in Denmark after Copenhagen and Helsingør.

But like I said, we had to quit. For a variety of reasons. The first being that we somehow managed to hit a marker in the middle of the ocean. Well not really the ocean, but a large sea. We were aiming for a west marker on the compass point. We just couldn’t see it. Not too strange really, it was the middle of the night and at two in the morning, it is somewhat dark, even here. As we got closer and closer to where it should have been a long winded discussion broke out about where in the hell the marker was. It was supposed to be lit. Nine flashes of light. Nothing. So we sailed on. And suddenly, BAM! We found it. It was not lit up. It was not supposed to be lit up. Not all markers are lit. The map tells us which ones are and are not supposed to be lit up. This one was not supposed to be lit up. Somehow we had missed that fact. We did not however miss the marker. I haven’t decided yet if this is an incredible work of navigation to be able to aim for a marker in the middle of the water that is maybe a meter wide and hit it, or just a stunningly embarrassing navigational feat. I’ll let you decide. Either way, the boat was hurting. So much so that the railing in the front was useless. Which was a bummer because that’s where I was doing most of my work. And without railing in the middle of a boiling sea, even strapped in and wearing a life jacket, well I may be insane, but I’m not stupid. There is a fine line. I toe it quite often, sometimes I cross it. Not usually when it could result in me taking a very cold and dark dive into the water while being dragged along by a boat doing ten knots.

After all this though, I went to bed. And woke up as we headed into port. Because while I was asleep, a large gust of wind grabbed the jib (that’s fock for the Swedish speakers. I had to look that one up in English) and ripped it nearly in half. Around the same time another gust of wind grabbed the mainsail and pushed us to one side in the process shearing the bolts holding the mainsheet in place clean off. Awesome.

To port we went. As I said, it was the same port as last year. At least we’re consistently bad. A discussion ensued about whether we should try to make some repairs or whether we should quit. Looking at the crew, it was decided that we should quit. Probably the smartest decision we made. At around this time, a lovely little storm was brewing. No worries we thought, we were going to turn the motor on and glide on home. It would only take us 14 hours.

It did only take us about 14 hours. Of course, we managed to run into one of the worts storms Copenhagen has seen in years. And when I say years I mean hundreds of them. The newspaper the next day said the rain that fell was the worst in 400 to 500 years. Four hundred to five hundred. That’s a lot of years. Hell, Sweden was still a world power 400 to 500 years ago. More rain fell in just a couple of hours than usually does in three or four months.

The sea was boiling. I never understood what that meant until this weekend. All of those literary descriptions meant nothing to me. Boiling? I thought it was just windy and wave-y. I was wrong. The rain was so powerful that the water falling from the skies was pushing the waves back down from the depths from which they originated. It was bubbling, but there were no whitecaps. The rain was too strong. Every description of a boiling sea that I have ever read suddenly made sense to me. In case you were wondering, boiling is an apt description. Just trust me.

The rain was accompanied by one of the most impressive lightning storms I have ever been a part of or seen. And I come from Colorado. Those Rocky Mountains do lightning right. One hit so close that I swear to you it sounded like someone fired a gun in the cabin of the boat. Everything was visible. Everything. I have never seen such light at such an ungodly hour of the night. It was eerie. And amazing. And frightening. It’s something I’m glad I was a part of and something I never want to be a part of again.

But we made it. Finally. No one was seriously hurt (we did have a smashed thumb). Everyone was still friends. And we all made it.

Welcome to Sweden. And my retirement from amateur sailing. For real this time.

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  1. Wow, glad you're okay. That was a mighty storm, I didn't even want to venture outside in Lund. I can't imagine being on a boat out in the sound.

    I'm surprised you haven't heard the expression "I like the cut of your jib". It seems right up your alley!

  2. Wow, what an adventure!!! As scary and difficult as your sailing trip was, it's a cool experience having survived it, I bet. Kudos for an epic effort!

  3. Ha ha! I had to share this blog post from another Swedish-American living in Sweden. Enjoy!

  4. Something you will never forget, that's for sure!

  5. Hailing from Minnesota here. Just started reading your blog as a nice escape and enjoying it immensely. :) Thanks and keep it up.