Right now, my wife and friends are sailing. I am indoors. It is warm in my home. It is cold on the water. I am dry. They are wet. My hair looks terrific. (Just washed it. New conditioner.) Their hair is, I am certain, sticking up like wheat stalks. I am happy watching football. They say they are happy. They are wrong. They just don’t know it.
Sailing – I just don’t get it. As mankind has grown up, we have learned that “new” is often better than “old.” Thus we gave up cooking over a fire for the more temperature adjustable stove. We’ve decided black-and-white television is neither the cat’s meow nor the dog’s bark.
And yet we continue to put ourselves onto the water with the same kind of equipment that Columbus used when he missed China by 6,000 miles. (His first words to a confused native were, I believe, “Where’s the moo goo gai pan?”) The Inquisition came to an end, why not sailing?
And still, people endure the pains of sailing – pulling, tugging, and tying ropes made especially to resist pulling, tugging, and tying. If there is no wind, you just sit in a cramped boat watching waves do what waves do, which is go up and down.
If there is a wind, it knifes through your skin like stilettos. And if the wind is really blowing, then you hang on to the side of the boat, promising that if you ever step on land again, you will donate half your earnings to paving the oceans.
And before you start telling me how many people participate in the pleasures of sailing, take a look at the marina near you. In the one closest to me, in Sausalito, Calif., hundreds of boats sit, unmoving, in their slips. Even when the temperature is agreeable, 95 percent of them go nowhere.
Instead, their owners, well-dressed men and women in white boat shoes and dark tans, tend to stand on the dock, wet their forefingers, stick them in the air, and after a lot of hmming and mmming, declare there is “too much wind” or “too little wind.”
After which they hang around waiting for “just the right wind,” which never seems to blow in their direction.
Today, for instance, is beautiful and sunny, with a light but steady breeze. (I know this by occasionally glancing up from the TV.) And yet, when I dropped my wife and her many layers of clothing off at the dock, only eight boats sit out on the bay. I guess on this perfect Sunday morning all the “captains” and their mates are home making eggs Benedict while praying for “just the right” wind.
As I think about it, those espousing the joys of sailing are like people who live in tundra states saying they won’t ever move because they “love the changing seasons.”
Sure. Show me one person who enjoys a subzero day in February, and I’ll show you a person who says each spring, “Forget the eggs Benedict. I’m going sailing.”
• Chuck Cohen writes from Mill Valley, Calif.