I’ve been going through boxes purging “stuff”. Among the things I don’t need, but clung to, I found a few journals. I flipped one of them open to an entry about introducing a young girl, Shelby, to sailing. Shelby joined a group of women to attend the Women’s Sailing Convention in New Port Beach a decade ago.
I’ve lost touch with Shelby but last I heard, she was living in a shore-side cabin with her mother. They had a dock. A dock with a sailboat.
Knowing Shelby was sailing after we took her under our wings for the convention still makes me happy. I think of it as a success and hope she finds many of the same pleasures, challenges and lasting friendships sailing has brought me.
Gail Hine, a NWSA board member, Leadership in Women’s Sailing Award recipient and editor of Take The Helm, is the producer of the Women’s Sailing Convention in California. Gail is the Grand Enabler for Women Sailing. Her Convention has been continuously running for 29 years. I can only imagine how many women changed their lives after attending, adding the joy of sailing to enrich their lifestye or even fulfill their dreams.
Here’s that old journal entry.
It was not raining. Water simply hung in the air suspended in a pregnant state of wetness. An hour before the doors opened, women began congregating, crowding under the awnings a the Bahia Corinthian Yacht Club for the Women’s Sailing Conference in New Port Beach, CA. Huddling close to the building and unaccustomed to stormy weather we are eager to get inside.
The event organizer, Gail HIne appears, gains our attention, and points to the sign, “Doors will open at 8:30 am.” She announces to the growing group, “I’ve got things to take care of. I’ll see you inside in about an hour.”
Our tribe of women, who sail on a desert reservoir near Phoenix, are decked out in seldom used rain gear, ready for the forecast of possible showers. There are five of us, four from the Lake Pleasant Sailing Club and Shelby, a high-school sophomore and sailing neophyte. She is my charge for the weekend. She was interested in sailing. Wanted to learn. Thought it would be fun to have a road trip and I knew her mother. After getting a waiver signed by her mom, along she came.
We pose our upper bodies leaning against the gleaming teak rail on the portico of the yacht club as a woman below takes our group photo. “Smile,” she instructs with a crisp British accent. She swaps our cameras to do it again. We freeze and grin again. Then I step back and take a snapshot of Shelby to send to her mother. She poses alone, elbows back with both thumbs poking upward. She is enveloped in cheery yellow, a poncho with matching waterproof pants. She flashes a broad smile, holds until I tell her, “Got it. Thanks!”
“I’m sooo excited!” she beams.
A woman from Orange County walks below the porch and announces to the larger group she encountered a squall on the drive. She also heard on the weather radio there were waterspouts reported just offshore. No one quits smiling. They nod then go back to chatting. More and more women congregate under the cover of the yacht club eaves.
“Breakfast is served!” The orderly group snakes through the doors to pick up packets and get food and coffee. The chirping high-pitched chorus of voices inside reminds me there are no men. Only women sailors. A lot of them.
Shelby has signed up for a morning session of Welcome Aboard and Introduction to Sailing for the afternoon. We walk downstairs together to the door of the Junior Room where Kathie Ohmer will show Shelby’s group the ropes.
I make my way to Mermaid where Capt. Nancy Erley, a matured pixie of a woman, will teach Going Up the Mast. We gather inside the cozy salon of the boat. Without the typically perfect SoCal weather, Going Up the Mast becomes a course on harness fitting, rigging and safety procedures. Even though no one actually goes aloft — there is lightening — when it is over, I feel I will go up next time with a since of security that was missing the few times I had gone up the mast before.
The second morning seminar I attend is obviously a popular choice. 50 or more women are participating. Capt. Patty Cook uses a novel nautical ice breaker to randomly group participants into pretend boat crews. Each crew is then given a sealed envelope with directions. We are instructed to get to know our crew first, elect a skipper, then open the envelope to discover the imagined trouble we have encountered. Our job is to think and talk through the problems, offer solutions and figure out the best way to handle it ourselves or decide if we need to seek outside help, then our skipper is to report to the larger group. I’m impressed with the cooperative problem solving of all of the groups.
I hurry out to seek out Shelby. “How was it?” I ask as she exits her classroom.
“Good, really good!” she grins. I feel as happy as she looks.