(Daily prompt: precipice) Next week I will be 78. I am “standing” on a precipice. Ten minutes ago (actually ten years ago) three of us, long-time sailboaters all, were on a passage from the Lasqueti Islands to Nanaimo in the Georgia Strait (British Columbia). The boat was a Cal 34 owned and skippered by my long-time best buddy, Gary Johnson. (I’d introduced him to sailing, but that’s another story.) We’d left our sheltered anchorage in a moderate wind, put up the big sail, the genoa, not smart given the marine forecast of 25 knots. But very pleasant sailing, the NW wind slightly abaft the beam, as long as we were sheltered by the islands. Then we entered open waters, and suddenly it was blowing 30 knots, the seas really kicking up made worse by an opposing current. What to do? Loosen up on the jib sheet and lower the halyard just enough to take the pressure off the sail before heading into the wind to finish the job. The wind had other ideas and promptly wound the sail around the forestay, leaving it flapping out of control. I climbed out of the cockpit and started forward to grapple with the damn thing. Gary and Ray both yelled at me to get back in the cockpit. The better part of valor, fire up the diesel auxiliary and motor down to Nanaimo, leaving the damn sail flapping. Motoring was a good idea, but I couldn’t abide the flapping, the thought of it tearing his sail to rags. So I continued forward, very gingerly. Reaching the bow, I tried pulling the sail the remaining way down. But the halyard was jammed. I started to stand up, which was too much for Gary. If you fall overboard, there’s no way we can rescue you in these seas, but we’d have to try and all of us would drown. You want that? For not the first time, I was “standing” on the precipice. I kneeled back down and crept my way back to the cockpit. Readers should note that precipice has at least two meanings, my source being Encarta, the first, the more common, a steep rock face, and the second, as used in this tale from my past, a very dangerous situation. What’s yours?
Published by robertsolem-books
Robert Solem grew up a Midwest lad until he graduated from high school and left for the coasts or the high country, never to return. As an undergraduate, he attended M.I.T. and Tulane. He taught at a local college for two years before migrating west for four years of graduate studies at the University of California, San Francisco. He graduated with a Ph.D. in information processing psychology and gerontology. He taught theories of aging, social research methodology, and applied statistics at the University of Washington. He left academia to be research director of the Community Based Care Project, a federal grant administered through the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services. Shunning permanent employment with the state, he spent several years living on his sailboat, working part time, and sailing the inland waters of Puget Sound and British Columbia. In 1985, he began his most satisfying career experience as the administrator of a non-profit continuing care retirement community. After 22 years, he retired from that position in 2007 at age 68. He moved to Arizona in the fall of that year, where he met the partner of his retirement years at a singles golfing event. Although the desert is now his home, sailing is still his passion, even though mainly relegated to memories. Last summer he and his adventurous “first mate” embarked on a one-week bareboat charter, just the two of them alone on a Beneteau 32 out of Nanaimo BC. Their friends were convinced they’d lost their marbles to the desert sun. Maybe a last hurrah, maybe not. He regards golf as an inferior compensation for sailing. His reading is wide-ranging. A lot of crime fiction alternating with history, biography, and natural history. His only real hobby is writing for the enjoyment of it. Turning 72, he wrote a novel around the theme of “loss and healing,” a kind of bucket list undertaking that has long since gone the way of the delete button. He followed this effort with a crime fiction novel that has expanded into a series of five at about one book per year. As with most hobbies, he spends more than he takes in. He is currently in the process of dressing his offspring in shiny new Kindle covers and furthering their development with a professionally directed edit and revision of each. Knock on wood, at age 79 he works to keep healthy and pain free through diet, cardio, good friends, positive thoughts, a little wine with dinner and most evenings, a Vodka martini at five. View all posts by robertsolem-books