Harken Derm

36 Hours on Lake Michigan: A First Timer’s Sailing Narrative

Published on August 13th, 2014

In July, on either side of the Michigan peninsula, it’s Mackinac race season. Whether you choose the Bayview Mack or the Chicago Mac (note the spelling difference), where ever you come from, you need to get back. There is only so much fudge and rum runners to consume on Mackinac Island.

While racing requires skill, boat delivery requires need… often a need for income. But it is also an opportunity, perhaps ill-advised, to introduce friends to sailing. Sarah Cox was one of those friends, and she was certain that she’d love sailing. When the invitation came to deliver a boat from Mackinac Island to Chicago, she jumped at it.

Her boat delivery narrative sheds light on the thoughts of a newbie, and what to expect if the idea to recruit one occurs. It is also pretty funny… here is an excerpt…


The beginning:
Our first “sailing” lesson is about vomit. Chas warns us not to go into the boat cabin unless we are going to go straight to sleep. He tells us that the fresh air (the really, really cold fresh air) will make us feel better and we’ll get disoriented and sick down below. While this is my first sailing experience, I grew up in Virginia and have taken many power boats through the Atlantic Ocean. “I don’t get seasick,” I tell Ben.

It occurs to me that this would be lakesick and that maybe that is different.

Apparently Chas gets lakesick sometimes. The next morning I notice that Andrew is wearing a patch for seasickness (of the lake variety). I don’t have patches or pills or rubber bands or any real sea sickness remedies packed. I do have some prescription anti-nausea pills that I used to use for weird drug interactions that I now use for hangovers. I want to preserve these because hangovers in the future are certain.

Around midnight we pass under the Bridge in very choppy, wavy waters. At 1:00 a.m. I asked to go to bed. As instructed, I will go right down stairs and straight to bed, but before that I needed to pee, as one does after 1/3 a bottle of warm rosé. I ask our host about this who informs me that it is best to wait until the morning or that I can “pee off the back of the boat” so I won’t get sickness down below.

In my head I quip, “peeing off the back sounds great but can I borrow your dick?”

The end…
The last two hours are a mix of anxiousness and sadness. This sailing trip has been amazing and I don’t want it to end. At the same time, and in conflict with this, I can see our target and I want us to just goddamn reach it already. Being goal-oriented is not a good way to just enjoy the ride. Sailing is a real mindf#ck. In the middle of the lake with the sail up, the boat at full tilt, and a brisk wind in your face, you feel like you are flying at motorcycle speeds. But when you have a large landmass in front of you, it becomes apparent you’ve been on a 36 hour pleasure ride and that this has to be one of the least effective ways to get anywhere.

Click here for the complete narrative.

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