The rot set in on Thursday. Two newsletters arrived in my inbox in succession from respected blogging experts. They both began with the words, “7 Ways to . . .”. It doesn’t matter what followed, I’ve seen it all 1000 times before. The titles themselves were from “Surefire Headlines” blogging advice columns. Start with “How to” or “X Ways” and readers will be compelled to read them. That’s true enough I suppose, but I was sick of reading about how to do stuff. I wanted to do something in the real world for a change.
By Saturday morning, I was tempted to swear off the internet for good. It was time for a real world adventure, so I hopped on my motorbike, rode down to the far end of Otres Beach, and rented a catamaran.
The wind was already blowing pretty hard and I almost chickened out, but thought, “What’s the worst that could happen?” The worst thing that could happen was that the catamaran could capsize. That had never happened to me before, but I’d seen videos about how to right a Hobie cat and it looked pretty easy. I would soon find out the hard way. It’s not always so easy.
Sailing in a strong wind is a glorious feeling. I had no problem keeping the catamaran from capsizing when I was sailing with the wind. The pressure against the rudders forced me to lean way back. The problem came when I decided to turn around.
You can become becalmed when the catamaran faces directly into the wind. I’m no expert, but I’ve found the best way to avoid this is to make the cat turn fast and scurry over to the opposite hull as the sail whips around just over your head. It’s worked for me many times before, but this was the strongest wind I’d ever been exposed to. I didn’t move as fast as the boat and before I could get in position on the opposite hull, it was already out of the water. I leaned back, but to no avail. It had reached the tipping point and the next thing I knew, I was in the water. Lucky I’d watched that YouTube video! Not!
I got the sail a little bit out of the water once, but repeated attempts were dismal failures. After exhausting myself, I climbed up on to the pontoon for a rest. That’s when I noticed the trampoline between the hulls was acting as a sail. I was slowing sailing towards Ream, about 5 kilometres away. This seemed like a good thing until I noticed the long rocky outcrop that stood between me and my goal. I was still a couple of hundred metres from the rocks, so I gave righting the boat another try, but it was useless. I’d sit on the hull, wait it out and hope for the best.
Then I noticed another Hobie cat coming in my direction. I knew no one else would have been
dumb brave enough to go sailing in that wind, so was sure it was the boys at Nautica Sailing Club coming to rescue me. By the time they drew close, though, I was nearly at the rocks. They headed back out to sea to go around the rocks and meet me on the other side — if I made it.
Call it the hand of fate or call it the current funnelling me through a break in the rocks. Call it what you will, I actually made it through to the other side unscathed. They drew close and one of the boys jumped off and came to me. After climbing on to the hull, he instructed me to get away from the boat while he righted it. I tried to protest, telling him our combined weight would make righting it easier, but his English was poor and my Khmer nearly non-existent.
Had I not been wearing the stupid life jacket, I might have been able to keep up with him as he drifted away from me. As it was, I just kept swimming in his direction in hopes of narrowing the distance. It’s a lot easier to see a Hobie cat on the water than a swimmer. I didn’t want them to lose sight of me after they righted the cat.
Fortunately, his mate saw me and picked me up before sailing on to my still capsized catamaran, now about 100 metres away. More skilled at the art of righting a catamaran than his friend, he quickly righted mine. Then we sailed back to Otres Beach.
If I’d watched ten YouTube videos about how to right a Hobie cat, I probably wouldn’t have fared any better. If I read ten “7 Ways to Write Magnetic Headlines” articles, all I’d learn was how to copy what every other blog-by-the-numbers blogger does. Better to learn from trial and error and get help along the way when you need it. The only way you really learn is by doing.
Next time I rent the cat, the first thing I’m going to do is capsize it. After I get righting it down cold, I’ll go sailing with confidence again. What I’m not going to do is watch another video. What a waste of time.