Money, philosophy, and sailing
I have recently encountered two quotes that I think are worth thinking about.
At the end of the term, when I was participating in the panel grading of the English 100 essays, I ran across this priceless bit of wisdom: “Being financially rich means being able to pay one’s taxes and buy a boat at the same time without going broke.” Given that I had just paid in taxes about half again what I had paid for the last boat I bought, and that it was a financial strain to pay those taxes, I thought that was a great line.
The other quote was from a fortune cookie. More on that later.
Friday, I went down to the lake early, because Pat had to go up to Eldorado, near Santa Fe, for a meeting of the New Mexico Sailing club, and Tadpole was in school, but Zorro was coming to the lake to work on his boat and go sailing. I also needed to do some work on my boat. So I met Zorro at the lake, and because the wind was good, we did a lot more sailing than working on the boats.
Pat and Tadpole arrived somewhere between and , and we all had some conversation with Zorro, but we got to bed fairly soon thereafter.
This weekend was the fourth and final weekend of the spring series regattas for the Rio Grande Sailing Club, and also the Club Championships. Saturday, the winds were stiff. The steady winds were 15 to 20 mph, and the gusts were higher – we later found out that the committee boat had measured a 38 mph gust at about the time of the start of the first race. The lake level is up, and so there is a long enough fetch to allow the wind to build up some chop, not ocean sized, but three feet or more.
We knew we didn’t have Cornhusker – she had had additional bad news, and she won’t be sailing any time in the near future. Because of the stiff winds, I wanted an additional crew member, and I recruited SanFran, who has experience as crew in rough conditions on big boats and small, as well as teaching kids sailing on Lasers and the like.
The racing Saturday was physically taxing. By the time the racing was over, I think every part of my body had an ache, a strain, or a bruise. We had never run the Etchells in these conditions before, so even though we didn’t exactly do well in the races, I count it as a victory that we at least survived, especially since there were several boats that either didn’t start or didn’t finish the races. SanFran thoroughly enjoyed himself, and he said that the conditions were very much like those of his home waters, except the temperature was warmer. We broke our boom vang, but SanFran managed to jerry-rig a dock line from the boom to the spinnaker twing blocks and spinnaker sheet cleats (when the wind got fierce, we quit using the spinnaker anyway) to hold the boom down when we went downwind.
Sunday was a different story. There was almost no wind, and instead of fighting the elements, I was fighting my crew. Tadpole was on jib trim, and instead of trimming the sail properly, he was criticizing my helming. Downwind, on spinnaker, I first had SanFran trimming the chute, but his big-boat experience had mostly been in other areas of the boat, and he was rusty. So I put Tadpole in charge of the spinnaker. It was a disaster. He wouldn’t listen to me – he was in teenager mode rather than crew mode, so it was more important to him to contradict Mom than to make the boat go fast and win races, whether he was trimming the jib or the spinnaker.
In addition to the wind being variable from faint to nothing, there was also rain. I was sitting there, soaked to the skin and freezing cold in spite of my foul-weather gear, shivering, teeth chattering, in a boat that was going nowhere, dead last in the fleet, with my most knowledgeable and skilled crew member in out-and-out rebellion, flat broke from all the money we’ve spent on boats, and I was wondering, “Why the hell am I doing this?” I was composing “boat for sale” ads in my head, trying to figure out how to get some sucker to buy this miserable money drain.
Back at the dock, Zorro was jubilant over having squeaked out a narrow victory over Applegal for the spring series Etchells fleet championship. I tried to be happy for him, but I couldn’t – after this weekend’s dismal performance, I was just going to give up. What had I ever been thinking, that I could ever sail well – I’m just a dumpy, middle-aged community-college English teacher, no sort of athlete. Sure, Zorro was middle-aged when he took up sailing, but he was an Olympic athlete to start with. What business do I have even thinking I might be able to compete in such a high-powered boat as an Etchells?
When Zorro’s crew finished putting his boat away, I left Pat and Tadpole to put the boat away – I didn’t need to supervise that any more, since I was getting rid of it, and besides, any conversation with Tadpole would have ended up in serious bodily harm to him – and I went to join Zorro and Dino for food. I needed to tell Zorro that I was quitting. I started to begin to tell him, but I didn’t really get far. He cut me off. I don’t remember the exact words, but it was a lot about how I’m a fast learner, and I’ve come so hugely far in the past year, and I shouldn’t expect to become a world champion overnight, but to look at how I’m competitive with some really good sailors who have been at it for decades – and from now on, Tadpole is banned from my boat and can sail with someone else.
So I’m not selling Black Magic, and I’m still sailing, and we’re figuring out ways to scrape together the money to keep repairing all of those things that go wrong on a boat this old that has suffered so much deferred maintenance.
We ate at a Chinese restaurant, and the fortune cookie I got at the end of the meal said, “Broke is a temporary condition. Poor is a lifetime state of mind.”