Sunday, March 16, 2014

Community Sailing Program: Days 3 & 4 - Tacking Along on Shore and Sail

Back to the books.

Sharon and I passed through the halfway point of our six day Community Sailing Course offered through The Sailing Club of Central Florida. As we navigated our experience we found ourselves hitting rough weather and take on challenging tacks!

Day 3 of the course returns us back into the classroom.  (You can read about Day 1 and Day 2 in previous blog posts.) The instructors started the class by reviewing our experiences of Day 2, our first time out on the water. The responses were quite mixed. Sharon and I both were pretty honest about our frustrations with inconsistencies, unclarity, confusion, and personality challenges. The instructors expressed much sympathy if not much causation to expect changes for the future.

Our small classroom in the Community Room
of the Orlando Fashion Square Mall.

With the our difficulties heard, the first part of the class was a written quiz challenging us to name the major parts of a small sailboat as well as name the different points of sail one can aim with relation to the wind. Our instructor challenges around clarity and leadership quickly returned as they began the review of the completed quiz.

One instructor began a review of the boat parts from the front of the room while the other instructor vehemently scolded students to pay attention because we were reviewing points of sail. There was a consistent challenge where one particular instructor completely ignored what the other was doing.  he instructor being ignored did not call out this behavior, and once it came to light of its own time, the one doing the ignoring made only a half hearted apology with no not about how they could avoid the challenge in the future.

I strive to BE the boat in order
 to master the art of sailing

The evening was not all frustration of course. Any review of the material is good review, and we had quite a good time acting out our boat positions for a jibing maneuver. At one time, I even got to play a mast and boom! These land drills for what you had to do in what order to complete a complex maneuver were quite helpful even if they required a large leap of imagination.

Next up we watched a video which reviewed the fundamentals of right of way while sailing.  The video laid out simple rules for determining which of two sailboats should change course if they are closing on each other for possible collision.  This topic on its own is not easy since water has no lane markings, traffic signals, or even an obvious marked wind direction, the rules can often seem abstract, unenforceable, and ultimately not very helpful if the other boater does not comprehend them.

Challenges Again...

Once again during this topic of right of way, one of the instructors proceeded to give us a different set of rules, or rationale for determining right of way.  I quickly realized that this other set of rules often conflicted with what the video had laid out.  (Another example of not trusting the other boater to know the rules.)  It took several objections before the teacher realized their mistake and retracted their statements.

On average this sailing group volunteering to teach this class are wonderfully pleasant people, and they are under no circumstances assumed to be good at teaching.  (In all humility, I don't really believe anyone can be good at traditional classroom teaching but that is a topic for another day.)

It has been my experience that the various club educators are teaching memorized facts and procedures in lieu of rationale.  Many of these facts and procedures they learned at different times from different people.  These facts are a mixture of safety directives, traditions, opinions, and guesses, and all are taught equally as laws of the known sailing universe. The class collides into challenges repeatedly as conflicting opinions are thrown out as facts, collide, and then are waived away as if no problem really occurred.

Reflecting on Ourselves...

This has been a severe challenge to both Sharon and myself.  We have a strong background in learning, psychology, and philosophy, and as such are strong self motivated thinkers. When we run into conflicts and misunderstandings, we see them as the fundamental relationship breaking instances that they can be. We acknowledge the occurrences, apologize for our part in them, empathize with the other's part in them, and pick them apart in detail in order to be sure they will never occur again.

With this concentrated work, our relationship has blossomed to the sky and rooted deeper into fundamental values than either of us have ever imagined. at once with this growth, we have seen an ever accelerating escalation in the speed of development both in our relationship and in ourselves.

As issues are identified, corrected, and made never to repeat we build on our past experience, with each year's effort compounding on the last. In each of the last three years, more has happened in our relationship and lives in each year than in all the years prior. We don't see this acceleration slowing down and boy oh boy are we not used to this trajectory. We are often each quite exhausted, and far afield of the mindset of those around us.

Sharon and I reviewed these topics extensively as we drove home from that Day 3 classroom session. I was filled with mixed emotions, and she was frustrated as heck. By the time Day 4 approached, we both agreed to try a different tack as we approached the anticipated storms of the class. We both acknowledged that we were there for ourselves and each other, not for the teachers or classmates. We would focus on keeping connected as a couple, and on being connected to our own experience. We would use the day as a training ground for sailing, and for life.

Back to the Water...

Day 4 provided a carbon copy of Day 2's weather. Clear sunny skies, warm comfortable temperature, and very light wind. We pulled out the boats quickly and rigged them ourselves. This time around, Sharon and I stuck closer together as we worked as a team to rig two of the boats.  We still had challenges, but in this way they were our challenges. We owned the variables, and therefore had much more control of the outcome.

On the water My experience was much improved over Day 2. I had a wonderfully laid back instructor, which made all the difference in the world. My instructor balanced praise with improvement notes, but also was often focused on reinforcing the control, and freedom I had to pace my own learning.  This made all the difference, and I can't wait for Sharon to work with this instructor on her last sail day.

On Day 4 some of us decided to do our capsize drill. This is a simulation of what to do when your boat is tipped over by a gust of wind. It was turning into a warm day, so I figured, why put off being dumped into the lake? My instructor and I dumped our boat over twice in order to practice two different techniques for righting the boat. The March water was a bit chilly, but actually quite refreshing, and the bright sun means we were not cold once back in the boat and then later on shore.

A retrospective on Day 2's activities.
I have no photos or GPS track for our sailing on day 4. As promised, I left my electronics in the car since there will be plenty of time for that on our own boat someday! Besides, one of the main reasons to sail in the first place is to practice living in the moment anyway.

I did get home to find my ankles very itchy. There may have been some small critters in the muddy bank of the lake where we pull the boats out of the water. Next week, I will plan on wearing socks under my water shoes.

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