Day 1: Friday…
“WOW!” (because “Holy Shizzz” isn’t quite kid friendly) is the only way I can describe the incredible weekend Shelly and I had down in Pensacola. It really could NOT have been more perfect.
First, I have to say that Kathy and John at Lanier Sailing Academy were absolutely the best instructors we could have possibly hoped for. They were patient with us, so very encouraging, and all around great people. The kind of folks we hope to have as great friends on the water beside us someday soon. Both are long time experts at sailing and have some kind of superpower way of conveying that knowledge to others in such a way that you feel like they’re just reminding you of something you already knew. Seriously, we can’t recommend these guys enough. If you are looking to get your ASA certs or just wanting to learn to sail, these two are your peeps!
Second, the BnB that we “camped” out in over the weekend, The Noble Manor, was simply beautiful and the owners, Bonnie and Bob, were as welcoming as old family friends. Bonnie’s breakfasts were fitting of a 5 star restaurant and we loved hearing stories of her oldest daughter traveling the world to help war-torn countries rebuild.
Note: None of the above is paid or sponsored in any way. We just really want to give props to those who deserve it!
So, on with the story… Friday morning we woke in Pensacola with more than a little trepidation about the day. Not only were we unsure of how the “schooling” would go — would it be more info than we could process, the sailing skills too hard to master, and stuff like that — but lightning storms were also looming on the western horizon and threatening to cancel our whole weekend.
John, the day before, had even called me to tell me about the weather and ask if we were really sure we wanted to give it a go this weekend, but I told him that we had so much planned for the weekend (meeting up with friends, boat shopping, etc…) that we would just give it a shot anyway. He said that if the weather didn’t cooperate we could still get our written course work done and finished and just come back another weekend for a quick day of sailing instruction on the water and our sea trial that afternoon.
But as soon as we stepped foot onto Lanier’s floating classroom in the harbor Kathy’s warm personality quickly put trepidation at ease and we spent the next 2 hours learning to tie cleat hitches, bowlines, square knots, hitches, and going over the different types of rigging (running and standing) on a little wooden model sailboat that was surprisingly accurate.
She eased us through the types of sails, parts of sails — the clue, tack, foot, head, leach, and luff — and parts of the boat like bow, stern, port, starboard, beam, abeam, astern, and on and on.
And as we were going over the “stand-on” and “giveway” rules, John poked his head through the doorway and asked if we wanted to give it a shot on the water for a bit. A weather window was opening up for what looked like an hour or so. Needless to say, we jumped at the opportunity for some sea time — and to ease our overloaded minds.
On the little Capri 22 Kathy walked us through rigging the boat for departure, attaching the main and jib halyard, attaching the jib sheets, lowering the little outboard motor on the back, connecting the fuel line, and getting it cranked. That’s when John hopped aboard and took over and gave me instructions on getting us out of the harbor. And like Kathy, John’s approach to teaching was just as smooth and calming, and he was constantly encouraging us when we seemed flustered with one maneuver or another and always very complimentary when we finally got things right. He had a wicked sense of humor though, too. As I motored us through the harbor fairways and slips he kept making jokes, “Careful not to get too close to that boat. If you dent her it will cost you your car to fix the fiberglass. Oh, and you don’t want to hit that one either… it’s so expensive it cost $25,000 to just fill it with fuel.”
Once we were out in the open water of the bay, though, he walked Shelly through raising the mainsail and jib sail and though we only had 5-10 knot breezes (the next day was more like a hurricane though), it felt great to be back on a boat propelled only by the wind through the calm-ish water. The little Capri quickly reminded me that she wasn’t a Hobie like we were used to. I was shocked at the differences in how the two craft sailed, the complexity of the Capri’s rigging and sail configuration. I guess we were just spoiled to the simplicity of our mast-furling Islander.
Shelly and I took turns at the helm and the sheets as John walked us through several repetitions of tacking and jibing, sailing on the beam and close hauled, and a dozen other maneuvers including heaving-to. He also taught us to feel the wind points on our face to easily keep track of the wind direction — instead of having to look at the instruments. But sadly a thunderhead quickly formed on the western horizon of the bay and we had to head back only and hour and a half after we started out.
Unfortunately, I didn’t get any GoPro footage of Friday because we were just so overwhelmed with everything going on and were in a rush to get out to sea. But I got plenty on Saturday and Sunday and that’s a whole different story.
I cranked the engine while John quickly snatched the sails down and secured them, and told me to floor it back to the harbor. “Being caught out in a lightning storm with a tall pointy stick pointed at the sky isn’t the safest way to teach people to sail.” I agreed, not wanting to end up looking like a charred and smoking pork roast (insert your own mental image here) and did indeed “floor it”.
We broke for lunch and ended up at Jaco’s on the bay front enjoying the view of the boats in the harbor as the storm passed overhead, eating a cuban and margarita pizza. It’s a great place, but the food is just a little too hipster for me. But again, you can’t beat the view!
Once back in the floating classroom the storm gently rocked the room back and forth (I love that motion! and for most of the weekend kept feeling myself swaying back and forth even with 2 feet firmly planted on land) and the wind whistled through the stainless steel rigging of the dozens of sailboats in the harbor.
Kathy reviewed the morning’s lessons and rope knots with us and we went over “rules of right-of-way” in much more depth. But having covered most of all the classroom material so quickly that morning gave us a chance to break early that afternoon.
We ate an early-ish dinner at The Fish House and split a seafood platter between us and drove back to the BnB where we intended to study up some more and practice our knots, but ended up crashing asleep by 9 from exhaustion.
More to come and hopefully this week I’ll have time to edit down the hours and hours of footage we have and start putting together a YouTube vid to share with you guys!
Sailing Into The Blue
Lance & Shelly
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