Sailing Through Life – by Charlotte Canelli

Read the published version of Library Director Charlotte Canelli’s column in the September 20, 2013 edition of the Norwood Transcript and Bulletin.

Over 25 years ago, dear friends became intrigued by sailing, and within a few years they acquired their first 34 foot Catalina. In those earliest years of their maritime discoveries, I was lucky enough to sail a few times off the North Shore where they have moored their boat at Hawthorne Cove in Salem, just steps from the House of Seven Gables. I observed them maneuver around the decks working the lines, I bobbed my head when they altered course with the main sail, and loafed on the bow in awe of the sea and wind.

It had been well over a decade since I’d sailed with them on their boat, but Gerry and I were lucky enough to spend a delightful September Saturday on the water. The mild day started out overcast and still. Sometime after lunch in their roomy cockpit, we dodged the clouds by motoring past the Miseries and Cat Island. We reached sunshine and a pleasant wind somewhere off Marblehead Light and turned off the engines, relying only on both sails. Our hosts were gracious enough to give Gerry his first chance at the helm of a ‘real’ sailboat, and we achieved up to 6 knots all the way across Salem Harbor following the breeze that only practiced sailors know how to do.

It’s always been obvious to me that someone can’t fall in love with the notion of sailing and simply buy a boat. Unlike a new car, a lawn tractor, or even a travel trailer, one can’t become the owner of a large sailboat and simply sail it off the dock. Lessons are an important step, and they are available anywhere there are harbors and coastlines. Very early on, my friends had joined the Boston Harbor Sailing Club where they became certified sailors and attempted sailing larger and larger boats as they learned.

Of course, an essential component of learning to sail is reading about it. You might begin with “The Coast of Summer: Sailing New England Waters from Shelter Island to Cape Cod” by New Yorker Magazine writer, Anthony Bailey. The book was published first in hardback and then again in paperback in 1999. British born, Bailey and his wife divided their time between England and New England, raised their family of daughters, and spent their summers sailing Lochinvar, a 27” vessel mainly off the east coast of the US. In the summer of Hurricane Bob (1991) they set sail from Connecticut and explored all of our favorite islands and Cape Cod. (Spoiler: their boat is safely tied down during the hurricane.)

In “The Next Port” by Heyward Coleman (2007), the author and sailor of 42” Skimmer, pairs up with his wife to sail the world. It is a narrative of the tests and loves they had for each other and for the oceans. It’s a tale of storms, failures, successes and world travel that can only be experienced on water and in a sailboat. You’ll either catch the sailing bug or you’ll become much more pragmatic after reading Coleman’s travel memoir.

“Three Ways to Capsize a Boat: An Optimist Afloat” (2010) might be just the remedy for any warnings from the naysayers. Author Chris Stewart had never sailed before when he accepted an offer to captain (no, not just crew!) a sailboat in the Greek Islands. At least it ended favorably enough that Stewart was given another opportunity – this time to crew on different ship, one that followed the course of Leif Eriksson from Norway to Greenland. It’s a witty memoir and full of comedy. If seven people spending time battling freezing nights and water for five months helps you to catch the sailing bug, then you’ve won half the battle!

Of course, there are many, many practical sailing guides in the Minuteman libraries. The 2009 edition of “The International Marine Book of Sailing” by Robby Robinson is a fascinating book full of illustrations and photographs. Everything you need to know about becoming a beginning sailor or maturing into a better one is introduced in an instructional format. Knots, pressure systems, wave terminology and Coast Guard regulations are a several of them. It’s the kind of book that will open your eyes to everything you’ll need to learn. Another title is “Sailing Fundamentals: The Official Learn-to-Sail Manual of the American Sailing Association and the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary” (2007) by Gary Jobson.

When you’ve decided you’re serious, the first books to read are “Learning to Sail: A No-Nonsense Guide for Beginners of All Ages” (2011) by Basil Mosenthal and “The Complete Sailor: Learning the Art of Sailing” (2011) by David Seidman. Both books discuss tides and winds and the art of finding your way around both the boat and water. Another is a pocket-sized book, “Sailing Essentials” (2013) by Steven Sleight. Don’t forget to check out some of the older classics, “Practical Sailing” (1987) by Timothy Jeffery and “Sailing for Beginners” (1981) by Moulton H. Farnham that we have in our library’s collection.

If you want to delve into the mechanics and science of sailing, read “The Complete Sailor: Learning the Art of Sailing” (2011) by Kelly Mulford or “Float Your Boat!: The Evolution and Science of Sailing” (2009) by Mark Denny.

Maybe you’ve sailed before and have all these tips and techniques down, and you are ready to find a boat. Daniel Spurr has written “Your First Sailboat: How to Find and Sail the Right Boat for You” (2004) and included the differences between daysailers and raceboats and information about how you will care for it after you can proudly call yourself an owner.

Supposedly some wise man once said that a smooth sea never makes a skillful sailor. It’s certainly in knowing how to navigate the winds, the waters, and the boat that start you on the successful journey. My husband, Gerry knows that if something sparks his interest that I’ll keep his nightstand piled high with books. (That’s how he became a successful beekeeper.) I think I’ll start him on “Sailing Language: the Words Sailors Use, Arranged So They Can Find the Worlds They Want for the Particular Use They Want to Make of Them” (2000) by Elliot Dunlap Smith. Call or visit the library to request or check out these books on sailing and sailboats.

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