I’m fortunate to live in West Michigan where I can pursue my passion for sailing on Lake Michigan, a lake 118 miles wide and 307 miles long, and Lake Muskegon. The two are connected by a canal about ¼ mile away from where I keep my small daysailer, Pearl, moored. So, when sailing conditions on one lake aren’t optimal, I’ll usually find another set of conditions suitable for sailing on the other lake.
I began sailing as an adult and have taken lessons through the Muskegon Yacht Club and the American Sailing Association as well as lots of tiller time by myself and with friends and family. It’s been a rewarding and humbling experience. And I’ve learned a few things along the way.
I’ve learned to plan, prepare, and plan again! As a single-handed sailor, it’s imperative that I’ve set up the boat in advance of even leaving the dock. The halyard is attached to the mast, lines are freed, and all the necessary safety gear is within reach. Once out on the water, conditions can change quickly, and I must be prepared to shorten the sails so Pearl is better equipped to handle stronger winds, or to deal with fog or light winds. Or sometimes I have to completely change plans and seek a new destination if a summer thunderstorm pops up on the big lake.
I’ve learned that to become a better sailor, I have to push myself a little past my comfort zone. When single-handing, it’s easy to say that the wind or waves are just too much and return to a safe port. But, bearing safety in mind, extending my single-handed sailing experience to progressively higher winds and slightly higher waves has given me confidence in my own skills and my boat’s performance.
Most importantly, I’ve learned to enjoy the moment. Sailing requires one to constantly monitor the wind. Sailing really keeps me ‘present,’ not thinking or worrying about other issues. I can enjoy the sound of the waves against Pearl’s hull and the sparkle of sunlight on the water.
Sailing season is drawing to a close here in the Midwest. Pearl is usually one of the last boats out of the water as I try to get in a few more trips up and down Lake Michigan’s coast to Grand Haven and Whitehall. I’ll spend the winter watching YouTube sailing channels and dreaming of a clear day and 12 knots of westerly breeze.