I’m Sailing!

Posted in Monthly at 11:41 am by Pasha

I remember the smooth wood under my fingertips in the barn out back. My mother and father told me it was going to be a great sailboat but it never developed past a skeleton. It took up nearly every nook and cranny in the lofted barn.

Looking through a child’s eyes I could have sworn it was at least a 72 footer; in reality it was probably much smaller. I am not sure what ever happened to that sailboat and the farmhouse barn. Maybe it is still sitting there alone. I could ask my mother about its fate but I would rather not shatter its beauty.

Mom always told me that she loved to sail. Her answer to, “What would you do with a million dollars,” has always been, “Buy a sailboat.” Needless to say, I have been intrigued with sailing for a long time. Maybe my entire life.

One look at Lake Michigan and a person is almost compelled to take up sailing. When gazing out from Chicago’s sandy beach on a 90-degree summer day, it seems like a million sails dot the blue water. You can feel the wind’s urge to fill a sail in the almost constant breeze.

Even when the snow was still on the ground I knew I wanted to learn to sail on Lake Michigan. Lessons through the parks system or a local yacht club are plentiful but expensive. It was destined to be when I stumbled upon a Craigslist ad soliciting new crew members for a racing sailboat. I jumped all over the opportunity to learn to free.

My first journey to the Jackson Park Yacht Club was lengthy. Two trains, a bus, nearly two hours and an expansive park terrain later, I showed up at the first meeting. I never sailed as a crewman on the Pepperke though, another opportunity arose.

I was offered a sail-for-pay gig right in the city, at the Chicago Yacht Club. Paradigm Shift is the 38-feet-long racing cruiser that I have sailed for the past month. In that short time I caught my mother’s passion for the sport. I favor it enough to spend an hour each week scrubbing the deck. I serve drinks and food and then button down the hatches with the owner at night.

But most importantly, I learn how to sail.

The owner allows me to steer the enormous wheel that takes up the entire stern. I am slowly learning the lines, the sheets (sails), the instruments, the dynamics, the techniques and the feel for being a sailor. I cherish being on the water without gasoline or motors; Only the heavenly wind propels the craft from one state, country or continent, to the next.

After watching the sunset from seven miles out, behind the buildings and beyond the water–black with depth, I breathe in awe of the city’s skyscraper backdrop. The boat slices through the air on its way back towards land.

When I ride my bike home along the Lakefront, I see the other Lake Michigan. It seems like an endless bin of water and flashing lights. And I fantasize about sailing my own boat someday.