After months of toiling in the wood shop, weekends of sanding and painting and days spent pouring over sailing forums, it was finally time to put the Karen Marie to the test. My sails were aboard and prepped, the halyards were (re)attached and all systems were a go. It was time to go for a sail.
The crew of the Karen Marie (Karen and I) ditched the mooring ball and pointed our bow north, up Naraggansett Bay. Motoring, we prepped the mainsail and jib for use. There was not another boat around for miles and the wind was just right, strong enough to sail yet not strong enough to pose any real threat. As my first mate and I built up the courage to raise the mainsail, a pair of dolphins appeared off our starboard bow. Though they disappeared faster than you could say “get your camera”, I took it as a good omen.
Facing up wind, with the engine purring in neutral, we raised the mainsail. After taking a second to admire the sheer size of the sail I would make a short, yet deliberate turn of the wheel to again send us underway. Sailing at a relatively slow two to three knots, I killed the engine; the hum and vibration of the diesel was replaced by complete silence, a silence only broken by the sound of the bay lapping against the hull.
My plan was originally to sail with just the mainsail for an hour or so to get a feel for the boat. The feel I was getting from her was…slow. Standing guard at the wheel, I volunteered the rest of my crew to attach the jib. It took some time and few death stares from my mate on the bow but the jib got attached and was hoisted with relative ease, a matter that seemed to surprise me. Fumbling with lines a bit at first, we eventually had the Karen Marie sailing once more.
Gliding through the water at five knots was for a lack of better word, invigorating. Karen boasted a smile that stretched ear to ear, a gesture I’m sure mirrored my own. For months during the restoration of the boat there was a voice in the back of my mind that whispered “Are you sure you know what you’re doing? Was the boat worth sinking all that money into? Do you really want to spend every weekend in a dusty woodshop?” And perhaps the most frequent question, “Is this even going to be worth it?”
Hours would pass as we practiced tacking back and forth across the bay. The sailing itself wasn’t always pretty; in fact there were points when it was downright ugly. On more than one occasion we pulled textbook maneuvers, and by textbook I mean the section that illustrates what not to do. We found ourselves in the irons more than once, which I’ve learned means completely stuck with the boat facing into the wind with the sails flapping violently. Thankfully, like a protective older brother, the engine would fire up and take us out of those situations.
Only after most the day had passed and full sunburn settled into our skin did we return to Clark Boat Yard and our mooring. A lifelong power boater who took his responsibility of washing down to heart, it felt weird to not to wash down. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to that.
My crew and I had one last maneuver to practice before the day ended, a practice that dates back to the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria, mixing rum and ginger beer to create a Dark n’ Stormy. Sipping a cold cocktail after a full day on the water, yup I could get used to this whole sailing thing.