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How I was Shamed into Learning the Rules of Sailing

by David Paligo When I first started racing with Core Four, I only had one job on the J/30 and that was to trim the main sail and adjust the traveler as required. As a rookie, All my focus was on those four tell-tails streaming off the leach of the main sail; so I hardly paid any attention to anything else on the boat except my job. A couple of years later I decided it was time to sell our 18 foot power boat and buy a sailboat. Within two weeks all that came to be, soon both Jane and I were learning how to step the mast and rig our new Ranger 20. Of course, as any new and proud owner of any sailboat, we needed to take our new pride and joy out on an adventure all by ourselves. We knew how to rig the boat, we knew how to launch and retrieve it (remember, we were power boaters once), and my racing had taught me how to trim sails; so we figured we should get out and see just how well we could do by ourselves. For our adventure we decided to pull the boat up to Yale Reservoir as it was only one hour away from our home and we could practice raising and lowering the mast, launching and retrieving, and still be able to have the boat back home for sailing on the Columbia River for the following week. Things could not have been more perfect: the winds were 5 to 7 knots and we almost had the lake to ourselves so we could practice our tacking and gybing. Jane was driving the boat and I was in heaven trimming the jib and the main. All of a sudden we look up to see another sailboat on a collision course with us. Jane looks at me and asks, “What do we do?” and I said, “I don’t know.” She asked, “What would Doug do in this situation? (my mentor) and I said he’d yell “STARBOARD!” so I yell in my most seaman-like voice, “STARBOARD!” and the boat immediately tacks out of our way. Jane looks at me and says, “Uh, I think we’re on port and he was on starboard.” We humbly yelled, “We’re sorry!” and vowed to each other that we would learn and understand “The Racing Rules of Sailing.” How about you, do you know and understand the basic rules of sailing?  Do you get out on the water and have questions like, “Are we on a collision course?” “Who is on starboard; who is on port?” “Who has rights or who is the give-way boat?” and so forth? Jane and I have been sailing together for many years after our little starboard experience and to this day, we still challenge each other to the Basic Rules of Sailing and who has the right of way or who has to give way. Do you?
David recently joined BLYC after relocating from Portland, Oregon.  He has years of sailing and racing experience on the Columbia River where he primarily sailed Merit 25’s and Ranger 20’s.  He and his wife Jane reside in Heron Bay.