Sailing is one of the only things that I have done since I was little. Ballet, I did that for a while, and then skipped that. My obsession with fashion designing, however, definitely grew out of it. Dora the Explorer, well, it would be weird if I still liked that. We still sail, and I had always heard adrenalin rushing stories of adventure on sailing trips or racing. I never thought I would live one of those, especially without my parents and even weirder, on a girl scout camping trip. Anyone who has been a part of Girl Scouts, knows that there is a safety rule for EVERYTHING.
There are a safety rules for the safety rules, which is why my parents let me be a part of the trip with seven girls and a captain I and my parents had never met before. After a long drive from the main camp, the seven girls and two counselors and I met the captain and set out to the apostles islands. Adventure here we come! Little did I know that all of the challenges we were going to face were not going to be well rehearsed lessons, but actual life-threatening situations that I could not have predicted would happen. The only non-life threatening lesson I learned was something I could not have predicted even if I tried.
Sometimes when you expect something to go one way but it goes the other, you learn lessons even more valuable than the ones you planned. Having sailed with my family for my entire life, I expected to share stories and be an advanced student at the Girl Scout Sailing Camp I went to in the early summer of 2012, but I didn’t expect to be the most experienced sailor on the boat. As packed for the trip, I knew I was going to look like the stuck up girl with all of the impressive sailing gear because of all the icebergs that were still on Lake Superior.
It had been a cold spring and my mom was worried I’d be too cold, and she lectured me about the dangers of the frigid water and cold weather. She even loaned me her foul weather gear, a bright red coat and overalls, which were too big for me. They were useful but that didn’t mean I wasn’t going to pull the teenage pouty “God Mom! ” look. Ironically, when we left from Camp Alice Chester, it was 80 degrees. None of the other campers or counselors had any idea how cold it would up north. None of them had packed more than an extra sweatshirt or pair of jeans.
One girl only had a plastic poncho. Now if I explained everything that went wrong on the trip, well, we would have a novel the size of War and Peace. To give you an idea, we lost use of our engine, wrapped our anchor around another’s anchor when we started drifting sideways, lost use of our stove leaving us eating froot loops and slim jims for dinner, and other problems I do not care to explain. One of the most important screw ups our group of inexperienced civilians encountered did teach me a important lesson about sailing in poor weather.
The day we set out to the islands, it was cold and foggy, less than perfect sailing weather. Our captain, a nice middle aged woman didn’t seem worried at all, which I of course gave a judgmental look at. Soon, I was very startled when our captain let a person with no sailing experience steer the boat out of the marina. For people who are not sailors, that is like telling someone with no driving experience to drive on a busy highway. Long story short, we barely missed hitting a docked ferry boat. As soon as I could I took the wheel, and after the girls on the boat learned of my experience, they gave no argument.
All was going pretty well, but soon most of the girls realized that they had not properly prepared for our trip. Waves had splashed on our boat due to the windy weather and the group was soaking wet. I looked ridiculous. It was June, but there | stood my wet hair pulled back, drowning in a huge red foul weather sailing coat, and winter gloves, shivering. “Why are you so cold? You are wearing all that special sailing stuff. You should should be warm and toasty. ” asked Ashlyn, a fellow Girl Scout. It looked at her in a sarcastic way. It was 46 degrees in Bayfield, Wisconsin.
She was bitter because she only packed a sweatshirt. The wheel of the boat was metal which with wet winter gloves was very uncomfortable to stand at for a half an hour, so I was more than happy to be bitter at them for making me steer more than my share. All of the scouts huddled cowardly under the dodger, a cloth protection device which blocked most of the chilly wind and even though they were at a disadvantage I was not giving them any slack for being so whiny. “Callie,” Gaby, one of the girls I had become fond of on my trip began, “why did you sign up for this trip if you had sailed before this? “I wanted the experience, I had never sailed without my family before. ”
I answered truthfully I took my first sailing trip at 9 months old, and have grown up on our family sailboat. On our boat, I took responsibility for an important part of docking, but rarely steered the boat and was never in charge. I was looking forward to the Girl Scout sailing trip to the Apostle Islands as a chance to learn in a different environment. Sure, I took sailing classes in little boats when I was younger, but at age 13, I was ready for some independence and to get some cool facts or stories to share with my family.
Before I could dive into my story, something strange had happened. The wind had changed. This would not have been a problem, the wind switched all the time in sailing, except I couldn’t find where it was going. Before it was blowing from east to west, giving us great direction for our target, but now it was blowing harder than ever and driving me back and forth like a crazy woman. Before I knew it, the sail had ripped. This was definitely not something I had not experienced before and it sent me into a crazy panic. The scouts had realized the seriousness of the situation and copied my anxious behavior, which did not help at all.
Even I, a serious sailor, did not realize that I actually had to fix the sail and that put me in a odd situation when everyone assumed I knew what I was doing. In all the years of sailing that I have done I’ve never had to fix a sail and I was not ready to do it yet. Fortunately the captain, the one I’d given judgmental looks and while she was looking for supplies I was still stuck at the cold wheel, shivering, went up to fix the sail. I took the wheel while everyone shrieked miserably under the wet dodger. Eventually, the wind did settle and after awhile, this situation did make me laugh.
I was able to steer us in a patch in between islands were there was less fog and was more protected from the wind. The startled faces of all of the girls was equivalent to if I lifted a billion pounds, but I was just happy that we had gotten out of that position. Our captain was able to fix our sail temporarily, but that complication did make me start doubting my security for the rest of our voyage. Though working through fixing a broken sail in heavy wind does not sound like anything you would ever want to experience, I’m glad that I did participate.
I learned how it was really like in a dangerous and high-risk situation, and how to react. Even though it was in a less than secure experience, it brought the complication to life and I knew exactly what to do. It was a boost of confidence to know that I know how to handle a problematic situation. I can not denyl accomplished something that I never could have on my family’s boat and took responsibility of the situation. I thought in the beginning that this trip would be very different, but after all of the mishaps and troubling situations, I had gained unexpected confidence.