Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Sailing Oslofjord

Thursday August 16 2007


All this talk about sailing, and the punchline is... I get seasick. I can get seasick in a bathtub. I can get seasick just looking at a ferry. And when I get seasick, it's nasty. I can throw up for hours. And here we were in Oslo, going sailing again, this time with a stiff breeze, and waves – those kind of waves that when you hit them right make you a rolling corkscrew on the water... which makes me... ill...

I'd sailed a bit in my younger days. When I was in junior high shool, my dad had a 16' sailboat, and he'd drag me along on the weekends to a nearby bay and we'd go sailing. Oh, how I moaned and whined about having to go, but once we were on the water, I actually enjoyed it. We also had a little 8' sailboat I'd take out on our little hometown 'lake.' I'd been on a sailboat only once since then – as a crew on a yacht race in San Francisco Bay (my role was to stay down in the hatch, completely out of the way) – but that was still a long time ago.

I'd never gotten sick on a sailboat, never even thought about it. I liked the feeling of the rolling boat on the waves. And so, it came as a great surprise to me when I found out that I get seasick on big boats. I discovered this affliction when I was riding a ferry from the the Outer Hebrides to the Scottish mainland. I was below deck in the cafeteria, having a coffee and watching the entertainment of the coffee cup sliding back and forth across the table as the boat started corkscrewing through the water. Cool! I thought. In about 10 minutes, I realized things were not cool. In fact, I was getting hot and clammy and... nauseous! How could this happen! I don't get sick on boats! I ran upstairs and outside on the railing, and stood for the next 2 hours in the freezing wind, staring at the horizon. I managed not to throw up, and the nausea went away, (maybe because I froze into a popsicle) and then I never thought about it again.

Until I was on a ferry from Athens to a Greek Island in the Mediterranean 2 years ago. Yea, it was a little rough, but not THAT rough, and the ferry wasn't corkscrewing, it was just riding the waves up and down. I stood out on the side of the ferry for fun, till I got too cold and wet, then walked inside to where my friend Tracy was sitting, head down and knitting furiously (she'd just had a break-up), while the boat plunged up and down... and it suddenly hit me. I ran to the loo and puked and puked, then crawled back to the seats, and laid on the ground under Tracy's feet, white-faced and moaning. She went off to get me some sea-sick pills, then went back to her furious knitting while I slept miserably on the floor.

From then on, when I've gotten on a ferry, no matter how calm the water looks, I pop the pills. And I hadn't thought about seasickness again, till today as we went out on the sailboat. And here I discovered to my delight that I still do not get sick on sailboats! (Though I wouldn't get too cocky, because even Kjersti can still get sick, if the rolling motion further out from shore is too great.)

There's something about the sea and the sound, and there's something about being out on the water, and there's something about being out on a sailboat, with just the wind to propel you along. And, there's something about being out on the water in Norway! We motored just a short distance out of the marina, then raised the mainsail and the foresail, though Per Christian did not raise them all the way, because the wind was too strong for that. “Well, too strong for us.”

I stayed out of the way while Per Christian and Kjersti sailed the boat, heading across the bay and tacking – changing directions, changing the sails (not nautical terms!) to catch the wind on the other side. Next time we tacked I helped just a smidgeon by loosening the foresail on the leeward side. There were other boats out on the water, and with the strong wind, we were all leaning – sometimes what I thought was waaaay over, at nearly a 45* angle. I remembered my dad and I tipping our sailboat over in the bay a few times. I did have a lifejacket on here but... “Can the boat turn over?” I asked. I had to know just how nervous I should get. “It won't turn over. It's got a lot of weight in the bottom, and when you get to a certain angle, the wind loses its power in the sails.” Well then, I didn't have to worry at all, other than keeping my footing and not slipping when the boat leaned, and, after all, I did have a lifejacket on. Let's cruise, then!

Then Kjersti laid down for a nap (nothing like a nap on a sailboat!), which left ME to help Per Christian with tacking. Next time we turned, I got to crank the foresail in on the new windward side. I didn't turn us over or rip a sail in two, hooray! And then, I was handed the wheel! Yikes! “Pick out a spot on that hill across the bay and head toward it. Try to keep the wind at 30*,” said Per Christian, pointing to one of the dials on the instrument pedestal (The Raven had checked these out earlier). Yikes!

We skimmed across the bay, and I had to concentrate a bit on not just keeping the boat headed in one direction, or, keeping it 30* to the wind, if the wind shifted, but, steering in the correct direction! This boat had a wheel, and from 30 years ago, my strong instinct was to steer as if using a rudder – in the opposite direction. The pull of the water and waves, the push of the wind, and the lean of the boat all pulled on the steering, and when the boat would lean way to the side, I would panic just a little and compensate – with the wind, the wrong way, which made the boat lean just a little more. Then I REALLY had to concentrate! And discovered that sailing isn't always the relaxing pasttime that it always seems, or that accomplished sailors like Per Christian and Kjersti make it look to be. (And today I didn't have to worry about traffic, which I did the next time we sailed – when I learned it's hard to see around the foresail on the leeward side, and, I don't know the boating traffic rules).

When we almost reached the shore of the other side of the fjord we turned around, then dropped the mainsail and just sailed with the foresail because we were running with the wind. And then the wind died, so we just silently floated along, about the pace of a horse's walk, which was lovely!. There was a little rain shower ahead of us, and some gray clouds ahead and to our right, but we stayed dry.

Finally the wind died and we turned on the motor to get us back to the slip, and we pulled in just before dark. That was just lovely. There's just something about the water... Now I've got a hankering to sail the Norwegian coast, and to visit Iceland and Greenland : ) . There's Icelandic ponies on Iceland, right?

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