I love sailing. I love sailing. I love sailing.

“I love sailing. I love sailing. I love sailing.”

I pulled back a side of my hood with the elastic cord at the edge, and turned to Richard, also perched on the rail. He was alternating between methodically tightening his fists to squeeze water from his gloves and tucking his baby toe back into place within tek water sneakers. He turned his head to show an entertained smile and said, “You know, my feet don’t usually get cold but today they are.” A second later he took a bow splash back of head; I got it in the face.

Corinthian Midwinters in San Francisco—the annual two-weekends series. This was the final day, Sunday, February 19 and the weather was a dog. My role was double duty: report and photograph for the local sail mag, assist the crew as a rodent. I forecasted that the DSLR would remain in the dry bag til just the instant a shot lined up. While the crew raised sails, I prepped. Suited tip to toe in gear that clearly screamed utilitarian (not fashionista) sailor, once through a practice tack I pushed back the hatch and waited for things to settle in the pit before emerging. Barely upright and plotting my 20-plus degree heel navigation toward back of boat I get barked at by the guy on windward winch. "Hey camera girl, something something something...." Ever-cool, I looked him in the eye and said, “I am waiting for things to settle into place before I head back.” I'm thinking, “Ok, I have sailed with this type before.” To his credit, he did apologize a few moments later.

Not Getting the Shot
En route to the start line area it’s gray, winds are in the teens and water alternates between thick and thicker mist, then drizzle. As I’m plotting angles and f/setting fifteen minutes prior to our start, skipper says he’s worried about me having the camera around my neck (even though I am standing aft where there’s plenty of room to pass behind him in safety). Crud. Ok, his boat. Put away DSLR.

Sure enough, the cover shot lines up inches ahead as four in our fleet run haunches-to-haunches on starboard tack. With an artist’s eye, I am watching the tail end of Swift Ness just inches beyond our bow swing left to right parting the deep waves like gobs of frosting on a cake; the crew moving furiously in the pit. She’s dodging and staying clear of a boat ahead, which is also sashaying the water to and fro. THAT was the cover shot. Grr.

Posing for shots on a solid heel in Carquinez Straits. Whispering sweet nothings into a skipper's ear can be one of the best ways to ensure good communication and coordination when trimming. Oh, and that is NOT my beer.

Posing for shots on a solid heel in Carquinez Straits. Whispering sweet nothings into a skipper's ear can be one of the best ways to ensure good communication and coordination when trimming. Oh, and that is NOT my beer.

Fast Forwarding Through the Muck
I had started the day as designated photographer, but when that role vanished I spent much of the ride in flux, listening to and observing communication styles and closely observing how sails got moved around the boat. It’s rare when I'm not hands-on doing something. For Sunday, it turned out fortunate I was not back of boat amidst the triple-headed testosterone spray and machine gun expletives.

To summarize, I could go into detail about the race—labeling it just about the worst day I have had on the water (weather not to blame). Or I can look at it with humor and confirm that shrimping and trimming the asym really can take place at the same time; that our final major foul up was inevitable given the embattled coordination and communication. Guess we should be glad we walked away without injury or broken stuff. Or I can just be reminded there will be good days and bad. Some crews find harmony, and some don’t.

Back at the dock we debriefed, reliving the foibles and trying to figure out what happened and how to avoid going forward. I listened with point of view observer/deckslider as opposed to operational cog. I was as disappointed listening to the discussion as I had been top of deck.

Remembering that I Love Sailing
Fortunately, the day prior I had raced with my core crew up at lovely Vallejo. I love that boat, the Beneteau 36.7, especially that instant when the main snags the wind and starts to power up the boat. I love muscling the block along the loaded traveler when at a clip in rolling Carquinez waves. I love going up the Mare Island Straits final leg of beer can racing, winds constantly shifty and skipper steering from the low side. It’s fun watching his expression when the rudder fails to bite during a surprise gust and he begins waving his arms around and hollering “no steerage!” Just maybe I don’t let the main out soon enough sometimes. You see, those are the kinds of things you can do with a crew that communicates and respects one another.