Eye of the Tyler: 'Tiller to trouble' except when I'm the trouble

  • Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Jacob Raymond (pointing) is an assistant dockmaster of the College of Charleston Sailing Association. Raymond taught a class for beginners wanting to learn how to sail last year. FILE PHOTO BY TYLER HEFFERNAN

Boaters and sailors of the Charleston Harbor beware: I'm learning how to sail.

The College of Charleston Sailing Association teaches community, non-credit courses for the rookies of the water. So, do me and the other eight members of the class a favor: get outta the way.

You know those big cargo ships that motor through the shipping channel? We're probably more dangerous than them.

I'd say treat the CofC J-22's like a student driver in an automobile, but we all know we like to mess with those petrefied 15 year olds – toot the horn, change lanes without signaling and all that kind of stuff.

But, I'd rather not put a hole in your hull, so treat us more like that really tall guy in church that you always get stuck seated behind. Just shuffle away.

One day I'll be a champion of the harbor, and I'll tack and jibe on purpose. For at least the first few occasions, though, I'll be yelling “duck” more than a 5 year old circling his kindergarten pals during the popular recess game. Except there's never a “goose.”

During my first lesson this past Saturday, I performed a couple of accidental jibes, causing the boom – that piece of metal attached perpendicular to the mast – to swing violently over myself and my two crew members. Fortunately, everyone did “duck” in time.

It's a blast, though, and I recommend the course to everyone. There are certainly worse investments than cruising – or wandering around at this point of my skill level – in the Charleston Harbor.

I make a conscious effort to remind myself that Jacob Raymond, assistant dockmaster, promised me the boat won't tip over unless there are extreme wind gusts. And Ken Smoak, our instructor, provided the tip that I cling to: “tiller to trouble,” meaning point the tiller – the steering mechanism – toward the object that could cause some issues.

That's a lifesaver in all scenarios except for one. Shouldn't the tiller always be pointed at me?

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