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Learning the Ropes: Becoming Less Clewless in Texas

 

Rob Lucey - Learning the Ropes
Rob Lucey – Learning the Ropes

I’ve always harbored a tinge of jealousy toward people born with certain advantages. I’m not referring to those born into the One Percent (although that isn’t necessarily a bad thing). I’m thinking more of those lucky enough to be born into a bi-lingual family. How unjust that I’ve had to struggle for decades to learn rudimentary (accent on rude) French and Spanish when others are simply born into households speaking extra languages.

When I moved to a small town in Texas and first stepped into a local dance hall, I was impressed by how smoothly the bootscooters were gliding around the floor. I watched a while, then stepped out and made a fool of myself. How had they so far exceeded my abilities? I looked around again and saw a young boy being led around the floor by his mother. The locals were born two-steppers.

My jealousy has extended to those born into musical families who tickle ivories as soon as they can stand up to reach them, or first caress a guitar neck while still wearing diapers. They enjoy an unfair head start in life.

Later, this envy turned toward people born to boating. I’ve seen toddlers crawling in cockpits with their liveaboard parents and kids sailing in Optimists before they’ve learned how to ride a bike. They grow up knowing how to read the wind and trim a jib.

I came to sailing as a 30-year-old. For most of my life I was clueless (and clewless) on the water. Fortunately, there are ways to remedy these deficiencies in our upbringings.

In my case, I bought a boat with the agreement that my broker would help me move it from Houston’s Clear Lake to Galveston. That amounted to a free day-long sailing lesson during which time I picked her brain and learned everything I could. I’d also joined the volunteer crew of the tall ship Elissa and went through the annual sail training program … five times. True, knowing how to push a capstan bar or haul a buntline had little application on my 32-foot sloop, but I became proficient at tying square knots and bowlines.

A few years and one boat later, as my wife and I prepared to go cruising, Jo took a sailing class to increase her comfort level onboard. Then we both availed ourselves of the in depth classes offered by the local U.S. Power Squadron. After the initial seamanship and piloting courses, Jo continued with the navigation instruction (becoming our official navigatrix) while I took engine maintenance and marine electrical systems courses. All bolstered our confidence as we set out on our adventure.

We never did achieve the same sense of ease that comes to those who grow up on boats, but we learned enough to comfortably cast off our docklines and aim for the horizon.

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Learning is the theme of several articles in this “Back to School” issue. Whether you’re new to boating or just want to expand your seafaring expertise, there are people willing to share their nautical knowledge.

As always, enjoy the water and feel free to share your questions, comments and story ideas. E-mail Rob@allatsea.net.

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