Jun

26

 Next week my 10 year old daughter takes her first sailing class. She will be learning in an 8' long Optimist. Now the Optimist is a sprit rigged pram (a dingy with transoms fore and aft - a flat bow and stern). I was trying to recall the difference between a spritsail and a gaff rigged sail and began snooping around the web for the answer. As I read along, relearning the difference between a Barquentine and a Barque and a Fully Rigged Ship my mind wandered a bit - okay the Barque is square rigged on the forward masts and fore and aft rigged on the aftermost mast, the Barquentine is fore and aft rigged on all but the foremast, the Schooner is fore and aft rigged on all her masts. Now what is the name of that small triangular sail above the gaff rigged sails on a schooner? So I go to the Wiki article on Schooners to find out and something catches my eye. What … Holy Cow, the sample picture is of the Regina Maris (which is odd because I remember her being a Barquentine). Now I've come across this name a few times. Most recently I recognized her because just before her demise she berthed in Greenport on eastern Long Island. But I knew her name before..why? I do a quick search and find a blog and as I scroll down I come across this amazing photo showing a skysail and a moonraker above the royal. But she is also wearing a studding sail! (Which is extremely cool if you've read the Aubrey/Maturin series by Patrick O'Brian.) But that doesn't answer my question.

I scroll down a bit more and stop, transfixed by a photo of the cover of a book that I have owned for twenty years but not read in as many. The book is in a box in the attic and I will have to fish it out after I write this. As I stare at the photo I remember how much I loved reading this book. It spoke to me as I was going through some of the same growth of character as the author at the time and it touched me again and again. The book is called Tuning the Rig by Harvey Oxenhorn and it details the authors physical and spiritual journey aboard the Regina Maris, bound for the arctic to study humpback whales. While I was dealing with my own fears, Oxenhorn was dealing with the fear of having to go aloft and reef the mainsail like this — notice that the men in the photo are reefing the lowest of the sails on the foremast — there are at least three, probably four sails above them. Reefing the royals might put a man a hundred feet above the deck — when he WAS above the deck, in weather a topman can expect to look down and frequently see nothing but the roiling sea. Doesn't sound like much fun to me either.

I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the sea and sailing — it is beautifully written and gets deep into the working of the vessel. But it is much, much more than that. This book is a soulful and heartwrenchingly honest self assessment written by a young man as he learns how to become a grown man. A fantastic journey.


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