Sailing Along


Image from Sailboats To Go

A few years after we moved to Kansas City, my husband bought a sailing canoe. You have probably never seen a sailing canoe—they are rare, for good reason.

A sailing canoe is a regular canoe to which a mast and a keel can be attached. Ours looked something like this picture, though the canoe was yellow and the sail plain white.

But as a sailing vessel, it is a compromise. The keel is not weighted, so the boat sits light on the water, leans easily and is therefore swamped with little notice. The mast makes the boat top-heavy, further increasing the chances of capsizing.

My husband, a lover of both canoeing and sailing, thought our boat was the neatest thing since sliced bread. He had always wanted a canoe and a sail boat, and now he had both.

Shortly after he purchased the canoe, he figured out how to mount the mast and sail. Then the two of us headed for the closest county lake one sweltering summer day in Missouri.

We spread all the pieces out on the beach and finally got the sail on the boat, ready for its maiden voyage.

“You’d better stay here,” my husband told me. “You don’t know what you’re doing.”

Well, he was right. I’m not an experienced sailor. But I didn’t think it was very nice of him to point it out.

Still, in the interest of marital harmony, I kept my mouth shut, and pushed him out to sea, so he could try it out on his own.

He sailed out into the middle of the lake, tacked a couple of times, and then the boat tipped over.

There my sailor was—a Naval Academy graduate, no less—his vessel upside down, mast dragging into the mud at the bottom of the lake. He dove under the boat, freed the sail and mast so they floated beside his swamped canoe, and wondered what to do next.

After some time, a motor boat came along and towed him back to shore, where I waited patiently, sipping lemonade to combat the heat and humidity of a Missouri summer afternoon.

We packed up the pieces and headed home.

It is a tribute to my good sense that I never told him he didn’t know what he was doing any more than I did. (Until now.)

We took the sailing canoe out on future trips, and managed to keep it upright, though we also swamped it again several times. It was never a good family boat, because only two people could sit in it comfortably. And “comfortably” was a specious description, because you had to sit in the bottom of the boat, which always had a little water in it, making for a damp seat.

Ultimately, when my husband took up rowing and bought a single scull, he sold the sailing canoe. He has swamped the scull also, but that’s another story. And at least the scull is a single, so I don’t have to participate.

What activities have you endured for the sake of a spouse or friend?



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  1. With my first husband in the early 70’s in Spokane, WA. He and a friend rented a duck blind – a place where they could hide and shoot and kill ducks at a god-awful early time in the morning. At 7 months pregnant, I finally joined him. The path out to the duck blind was swamped so my husband carried me on his back to the blind which was no less wet. We never made it.

    For some reason or another he couldn’t stay balanced carrying this large pregnant woman on his back and we both fell into the water. Some laughter ensued – especially when I noticed that the tummy stretch panel on my pants had become waterlogged and therefore drooped down to my knees – and we drove back to our apartment in our Volvo smelling of water that exists in a duck blind environment.

    I never joined him at the duck blind again.

  2. Oh my, this post reminds me of my college years, Theresa. My friend wanted to rent a canoe at the local public lake, so we could enjoy the day. Neither one of us knew the proper way to row, so we spun in circles as a major thunderstorm rolled in.

    • Jill,
      I’ve gone through river rapids backwards in a canoe, because I was with someone who didn’t know what they were doing. But my husband is a good canoer, so now I stick with him. I just do J strokes and cross strokes when he tells me to, and pretend to know the difference.
      P.S. You don’t row a canoe, you paddle it. I’ve been corrected on that terminology many times.

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