October of 2011
The Las Vegas heat had mostly* subsided and as the sun set on Lake Mead, waves of laughter rolled through the Temple Bar Marina. I sipped a cold Monster & Sailor Jerry - The Official Racing Day Drink on Heeling Art. Sailors are gathered at the far end of our long distance race, readying ourselves to make the fifteen mile return trip the next day.
Andrew and I chit-chat with our competitor: Larry Folsom, Captain of sailboat Norhi (not to be confused with his wife, also named Norhi). His serious face draws into straight lines as he bemoans his largest complaint with his crew member sitting to my right: a six foot four, 240 lbs man wearing a plastic viking hat. “I would like the guy,” Larry proclaims, “except he’s a vegetarian! Does Shane accommodate your special diet of vegetables on bread?” We explained Shane provides the nutrition of champions to the crew of Heeling Art: powdered donuts, hotdogs filled with cheese, Monster and Sailor Jerry.
I can’t remember now how the conversation arose, but at some point we explained Shane is training us to sail around the world. “Awesome! Yes. You should do that.” Larry replied.
This response took me aback. Usually, whenever we would make this bold declaration, people would cock their head to the side and snort a little. “Yeah. Sure. Sounds good.” They would say, uninterested and of course doubtful. But Larry knows a crazy offshore sailor when he sees one.
Larry has sailed across oceans. When he was a young lad, he sailed the South Pacific with his dad. At age 22, he was plying oceans as a deck hand. He went into the military, kicked some Bad-Guy-Ass, met his wife Norhi, bought a boat, sailed in the Caribbean, built up a business, sailed the Caribbean again. He swallowed the anchor and became a landlubber in Las Vegas to build a few more businesses and race on Lake Mead. This path created a lucky intersection for the Godfreys.
On race days, Larry would request status updates on The Plan. “Sounds good,” He would say, “but you should just go. Figure out a way to go sooner and go.”
One day, Captain Shane and Heeling Art were unavailable to race. So, we ended up as temporary crew on Norhi (the Boat). We were not vegetarians, so we were supplied with a lovely ham sandwich and chips by Norhi (the Wife.) Race day ended up a boisterous 20-30 knots, a perfect amount of wind to get Norhi (the Boat) up on a plane, surfing like a 27 foot surfboard with a wing. We were kicking butt and taking names when we rounded the mark to launch the parachute-like downwind sail, my beloved spinnaker. Norhi's regular crew hoisted the sail like clockwork while I dutifully fulfilled my guest-crew role as rail meat. Trying to time my movement just right, I changed position on the side deck to put my weight in the right place. I slipped my feet beneath the wire lifelines and unwittingly into a loop of spinnaker sheet (rope). In one clean move, 1500 square feet of sail filled in 20 knots of wind and put tension on the rope wrapped around my ankle. My foot is pulled upward until it was pinned against the life rail wire, and I am flopped onto my back.
Oh...crap. In this moment, time slowed and inside that split second where one can choose to panic or choose to take action the following happened:
The sail luffed (or lost steam) ever so slightly;
I pulled the rope loose to slip my foot free; and
Cuss words spilled from my Dear Captain's mouth as he watched the incompetent crew member about to be dragged head first in the lake dangling only by her mangled right foot.
Larry and I look at each other, both surprised and pleased that I freed myself with so little drama. The sail filled with wind again and Norhi (the Boat) took off like a rocket downwind. Nervous laughter filled the cockpit, laugher of those who know they dodged a bullet.
From this day forward, Larry gave us his vote of confidence. He treated our launch as an inevitable outcome, not a childish starry-eyed dream that would get set aside in favor of a safer existence. He and Norhi (the Wife) invested time in helping us move forward. When we started looking for boats, they compiled a stack of cruising text books for us to read. We enjoyed several dinners together, where they shared sea stories and lessons that echo in our minds when we are making sailing decisions at sea, including but not limited to the following:
You must pack more than lipstick in your ditchbag.
If she wants to bring several pairs of high heels, you shall allow it.
You can have butterflies in your stomach, as long as you make them fly in formation.
Never pay someone else to break your boat; do repair and maintenance work yourself.
All electronics run on smoke; don't let the smoke out.
Tighten your sails gradually to catch the best wind and build momentum.
On a sailboat, you must investigate all things that go "bump" in the night.
A sailboat is like a spaceship....
Follow the wind shifts.
And, things that suck build character.
There is nothing like keeping positive, humorous, disciplined and challenging people in your network. A leader always goes first; a leader shows the way. Larry and Norhi (the Wife) have been where we want to go, and they never withhold the knowledge they gained. They encouraged us with the motivating factor of high expectations. When I fear I set aside professional potential to lounge on tropical beaches, I think of all that Larry and Norhi learned on their trips. Then, I am sure this sailing excursion is not a dalliance off track but an education in achieving what we design.