SimplySailingOnline.com shows by example how easily you can eliminate stress, become more independent, raise your children in a safer environment (while spending more time with them, instilling values not based on the mighty dollar) and avoid the traps of commercialism. Because we live and sail simply, we have been wandering for 11 years with no intention of stopping. This is not a trip for us; it is our life, and I hope to share our success with stories of laughter and tears, as well as how-to tips and DIY projects for preparing, sailing and making a boat a home, so that others can join us.

Rite of Passage

March 26, 2012

By Garrett Fowler

Welcome, ladies and gentlemen. My name is Garrett Fowler. I am really bad with names, so I'm going to call you all Charlie. It's a pleasure to meet you. We've been brought here together today for a wide variety of reasons; the most crucial being that my mother didn't feel like writing. She is, like the rest of us, getting older. I wouldn't know much about that, because I'm young, and awesome, but I'm going to assume that aging blows. I mean, you hear older people say that "youth is wasted on the young" and that "wisdom comes with age" but I'm pretty sure that's just their way of hiding their jealousy over the fact that I can fall down without the hospital getting involved. Keep your wisdom. I'll be over here doing a few cartwheels. Remember cartwheels? Yeah, that's right! Now eat your pudding.

Though I suppose, as much as I try to ignore it, I've grown older as well. I'm not good at keeping track of how many days have passed, but there are other ways to measure the slow crawl of time than minutes and hours. I suppose the easiest way to keep up with how much we've grown is with rites of passage. A rite of passage is defined as "a ritual event that marks a person's progress from one status to another." I remember a few stepping stones in my life. When my mom let me read my first Stephen King book (with a reminder not to bother waking her or Dad up if I had nightmares), the first time I used deodorant, when I started walking with my hands in my pockets (it was a big deal to me, ok?), and of course, the first time I cussed in front of my parents.


Garrett: then

Now, my parents had a very strict and straightforward policy on swearing in the household. They could. We could not. When we were 18, we could cuss all we want. Fair enough. Of course, being children, we cussed all the time around our friends, but never in ear shot of an adult. It was so deeply ingrained; I even refused to say Hell when I was referring to the place. Seriously, I called it "H-E-double hockey stick" when I was 15. Not my proudest moment, but there it is. We were allowed to say Hell, but old habits die hard. I just didn't cuss in front of my parents. As far as I can remember, neither did my brothers. Don't get me wrong, we did an incredible amount of stupid things, but cussing was not among them.

The story of the first time I swore in front of my parents begins with a story about another rite of passage: the day I inherited my older brother's harness. When we were sailing off-shore everyone on deck had a harness to wear. My mom probably already discussed the finer details of these fine contraptions, and because you're all sailing nerds, you lapped it up. Which is fantastic, because that means I don't have to go over it again. But for those of you who have no idea what a harness is, let me break it down for you in layman's terms. It's a leash for humans. One side wraps around you, other side clips to the boat so you don't go overboard. Most of them are incredibly simple. You put on the harness, you clip the end to the boat, and you have anywhere between ten to fifteen feet of movement. My little brother and I had these simple harnesses, as that's all we needed. Children are some of the stupidest people are on the fact of the planet, so the less pieces you have to chew on, the better. We didn't need to go anywhere but the cockpit, and that's all the harness allowed you to do. With a little finesse, you could lean overboard to go to the bathroom, but Mom wasn't a huge fan of her babies peeing willy-nilly out at sea, so it wasn't common-place.


Garrett fishing under way

However, my parents and my older brother Nicholas (whom I refuse to call Nick, because that's not his name, dammit) had a special harness. I say special, because it was red, not yellow, and it had TWO...strap...things. Look, if you want fancy terminology, go to my Mom. I'm here to spin a yarn, not play dictionary. So it had two clips, which allowed for a wider range of movement. You basically leap frogged from location to location with the straps so that you were never in any danger. They needed this so that they could move about the deck and get to the mast/sails/whatnot. David and I were adorable and precious, this wasn't our job. It was theirs. We just sat in the cockpit and played moral support. But, like all little birds, Nicholas left the nest to play with his algae. David got his room, and as the now-oldest child on board, I got his harness. I'm not going to lie; it was a pretty sweet gig. Even though I'm an incredibly lazy individual, and I usually shirk away from extra work like it's going to eat my face off, I was incredibly proud of my new responsibilities. The most common reason for me to be traveling outside of the cockpit was to reef the sail, which didn't take me long to learn. I mentioned I was awesome, didn't I? Anyways, I felt like I was finally growing to be a man. I was only 15 at the time, but I was just one step away from wearing a tie and sporting a mustache. I was king of the world.

Our very first trip after dropping Nicholas off was our longest off-shore trip ever as a family, and my first as being "the oldest." I raised sails. I lowered sails. I steered during watches, cooked meals, and held up my end pretty well, I would say. One evening, before Dad retired and left Mom and me for our first watch, the wind began to pick up a tad. Now, both of my parents own the boat, but it's always been my Dad's baby. I'm sure he loves Mom more than heaven and Earth itself, but he doesn't fully trust anyone with his boat but him. It's a fight to make him go to sleep sometimes when we're off-shore, actually. So, he asked if I could reef the sail before he went to bed, so that he knew everything would be ok. Are you kidding me? Reef sails? Buddy, I'm an old pro at this. Stand back and watch my magic. With my dual wielding clip action harness I went up to the mast, and got down to business. The wind was picking up pretty steadily, so I was glad we were reefing the sail before it got dark. I enjoy a lot of things in this world. Watermelons. Pretty girls. Sneezing. But one of the few things I don't enjoy is heeling over. So I undid the jamcleat, let the sail drop, hooked up the do-dad to the watchacallit, tightened up the luff of the sail, and got ready to winch the sail back up and call it a successful reef.


Garrett: now

Have you ever seen the inside of a winch before? My dad took one apart one time to clean it, so I got a good look it. Dad saw gears, frames, and bearings. I saw the face of God. I have no idea what kind of magic makes those things work and I don't want to. I put the handle it in, I turn the handle, and things are suddenly much easier to pull in. That's all I need to know. But our old winch up on the mast had been on the fritz lately. Mom had noticed it spinning the wrong way once or twice while we were moving the dinghy, and Dad had checked it out. He "fixed it," meaning that he tore it apart, and it didn't break with him using it. But you can't fix magic, and he didn't fix the winch. Winching the sail up was much harder than normal because the wind was gusting pretty hard, and although I was giving it my all, it was slow work. A boat slows down pretty drastically while you're reefing a sail, and a slow boat is a sluggish boat out in the ocean. So I had to fight to stay upright, while pulling down on the winch handle with the entirety of my puny, fifteen-year-book-worm might to get the sail up.

I let up on the handle for just a second to catch my breath, when a huge gust slapped the sail. Now, this would pull the line a little, if there wasn't enough friction/pressure keeping it tight, but the winch should not move. Well, it did. In fact, it went the wrong way. Not only did it go the wrong way, but it went the wrong way with a speed and a fury that would have made light itself feel insecure. I've mentioned this before, but I feel like the point needs to be stressed; children are stupid. All I knew was that this should not be happening, and that I should try to stop it. For some reason, I thought I was strong enough to stop this mechanical monstrosity all on my own, when I hadn't even been strong enough to lift the sail in the first place. Spoiler Alert: I was not. The handle ripped right out of my hands, and because I had put all my weight into it, I fell to the deck. While I was falling, the handle crashed into my face at full force. At this point, I should have just picked myself up and gone back to the cockpit, explaining what happened.

I did not do that, however. Instead, I slammed my fist and screamed out "F@$#!" at the top of my lungs, without even realizing what I had just done. I stood back up and, with the aid of the extra adrenaline, finished reefing the sail even with the winch acting up. I dreaded walking back to the cockpit; there was no way my parents had missed my outburst. On the bright side, because I was avoiding going back for so long, I will say it was the best and most thorough reef I've ever done. Very tidy. But eventually I ran out of excuses to still be at the mast, and slunk back to the cockpit. I met my mom's gaze and saw she was less than pleased. My throbbing head and hormones raged an inner war with my upbringing and experience. Half of me was screaming "Say something woman, I dare you. I will destroy this entire world with my anger" while the other half was whimpering "Don't eat my face. I know you're doing to eat me, but please, not my face. I'm too pretty." To this day, I have no idea how my mother was going to react, because right before I received judgment, my Dad ruined the entire mood by busting up laughing. He had to hold himself up on the tiller he was laughing so hard. Apparently my tiny outburst of rage was the funniest thing he'd seen in his entire life. Luckily for me, it's very hard to be upset when others are laughing around you, so I actually got away with it. Minus the throbbing forehead, of course.

I don't remember my fifteenth birthday. I have no idea what I did for my twelfth Christmas. These things didn't really matter to me, and so I've forgotten them. When I'm old and gray, there's a lot of my life I won't even remember anymore; things I've done today even. I'm already forgetting a lot of things about the boat. I had to look up the term reef and use a dictionary to spell cleat correctly. Stories I've written, places I've seen, songs I've heard, people I've met will all slowly fade away until they're just shadows on my mind. But I'll always remember that moment. And when it's one of the last few pieces of my past I have left, I'll cherish it more than anything else I own. Because these little rites of passage are how I can tell I'm still growing. And I like who I'm growing up to be.

After all, I am awesome.

You can read more of Garrett's stuff (some of which I don't understand, but it makes me laugh anyway) at his hubpages site where he writes as Professor Zerglot.

MONDAY we'll share a project that allows you to carry a library onboard, without having it fall on your head on a rough passage.

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