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S a i
I f you know me, you know I love sailing. But that wasn’t always the case. It was something I had to grow into because at one point in time, I was terrified of the concept of sailing. I credit my husband for my current love of the activity. Back in the day when we lived on the East Coast, my husband, Matt, was a private pilot. When we moved to the West Coast over a decade ago, we made a few changes. Matt was no longer flying as he once did, so he and our family needed a new hobby. Sailing was something Matt was already familiar with. His grandfather had a 28-foot wooden sailboat he had raced in San Francisco Bay and the Puget Sound. Matt had spent some time around boats and the water, but I had not. I grew up in New York City and never made it out onto the water or had any type of aquatic exposure. But for our 10th wedding anniversary, Matt and I decided to take sailing lessons through the Seattle Sailing Club. It was an experience. The class was dominated by men; I was one of two women. The first class was all about the principles of sailing. We learned the lingo, a few knots, and the basics of what we needed to know before stepping on the deck of a sailboat. Once you pass the exam at the end of the class, you can rent a sailboat from the club. But to pass, you have to do a solo sail — a sail without an instructor. For the exam, Matt and I went out in a little 24- foot sailboat with an outboard engine. As we’re on the water, Matt talked me through what I needed to do step-by-step: Keep the engine on, raise the mainsail, raise the forward sail, and turn the engine off. Well, if you turn the engine off at the wrong time, you can lose control of the sail and turn the boat. I misheard one of Matt’s instructions and turned the engine off early. In a split second, the boat tilted 45 degrees. In what seemed like the same split second, Matt ran to the back of the boat, and before I knew it, everything was back to normal. We averted disaster! Before long, the sails filled with air, and we were on our way. If you’ve never sailed before, it’s like flying sideways. It can feel like you’re flying across the water, even though you’re going much slower than an
aircraft. At times, you’re pulling 5 knots, which is just under 6 miles per hour, jogging speed.
Now, our goal was to get across the Puget Sound. On this particular day, the waters were busy. Just as things were going well, the forward sail started flapping in the wind. My knot didn’t hold. Again, Matt quickly and calmly went to work. I held the boat steady as he retied the line. Still, I was convinced we were going to collide with a nearby tugboat. Matt told me to hold my course; he said that everything will be fine. In my mind, we were going to hit the tugboat. We weren’t slowing down, and it was right in our path. My heart was racing. But you wouldn’t believe it! We didn’t hit a single boat. Matt retied the knot, and we continued on our path back to the marina with few maneuvers ahead of us. Other than our rough start, it was uneventful. We passed the exam and could now rent sailboats at our leisure. I was so relieved. It all comes back to Matt. He is one of the calmest, most even-tempered people you will ever meet. He taught me a lot that day, just as he continues to teach me new things now. He helped me every step of the way, never missing a beat or losing his cool. It took me two years after that day to love and appreciate sailing. But now we’ve been sailing for 10 years, and I can’t get enough. There’s something incredibly peaceful about letting the wind take you. It’s all the romantic things people think it is. Yes, it’s a lot of work, but it’s not traditional work. It’s challenging yet fun. It’s fulfilling. We found our family hobby, and it’s our favorite time away from home. Every summer, we spend a couple weeks on the water. Last year, we were out for two and a half weeks. This year, I want to beat that record and make it a solid three weeks.
None of this would be possible without Matt. He’s an amazing husband and father. He always encourages us as we learn and grow — and because of that encouragement, I discovered a new passion in life.
–Dr. Orit Hickman
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