Knots…and a little more

The past few weeks have been a series of first steps in our sailing journey.  Step 1: Know Your Knots!  Step 2: Our first practical sailing lesson. Step 3: Our first introduction to scuba diving.  Step 4: Booking a trip to Florida to look at boats.  Sometimes the newness and excitement of it all is overwhelming!  But the journey is underway.

We took the “Know Your Knots” course from Victoria Sailing School in Denver in early June.  Excitement, butterflies, nerves… all emotions were coursing through me as we drove down to Denver that Friday night.

When I was in Boy Scouts, even when I was in college, any rope I tied knot in became known as a “Jon Knot”, because it was impossible to untie.  No matter what you did, you couldn’t get my knots untied.  It might have started out as a square knot (reef knot), but it turned into a mess that even Alexander the Great couldn’t have sliced with his sword.  My scout leaders, parents, friends, all tried to help, but beyond tying my shoes… forget it!  I couldn’t seem to learn to tie a knot.

Back in November, when we were quarantined and began conversations to move up our timetable on our adventure, I started to find websites that could teach knots.  I got a section of rope and started working on the basic knots that I could.  Then Santa left a knot tying book and deck rope in my stocking, and slowly I reached a point with several knots that I could tie them proficiently.  As spring rolled around and we did more outside, I stopped practicing, so I was a little nervous going into class.

The knots I had learned over quarantine went well, a few others went so-so, and there was one that just kicked my butt.  But eventually, I reached a place where I could tie the knots that were expected of us.  This was the first requirement before setting foot on one of the boats for the practical lessons.

So, why does it matter what kind of knot you use?  So what if I just tie of bunch of overhand knots to use as a stopping knot for my halyards?  Who cares if I don’t use a knot at all?  Does it really matter if I wrap my line around the cleat a whole lot at the dock?  Given my experience with knots, I will admit that these questions ran through my mind.  I stayed optimistic, and as we learned, IT MATTERS!  The wrong knot and your halyard can slip up through the mast requiring extensive time to rework the rigging.  Another wrong knot, and your boat can slip off the cleat on the dock wreaking havoc in the marina.  Knots matter.

During our knots class, I came to realize that there’s a bit of parallel to life here.  We might not always understand why things have to be a certain way, but there’s usually a rationale for it.  You use a figure eight knot to stop the halyards from going up the mast, but you also use it because it can be undone when you need to remove that portion of the running rigging. 

I understand after going through that class why the school requires you to learn those knots before you set foot on a boat.  The owner of the school told us that on the smaller boats used for the initial courses, they put zip ties in the figure eight knots to keep them from being untied accidentally. It didn’t make a lot of sense until I saw, but when it did, it all just clicked. It felt good to take this class and take the first step toward learning to sail. 

Step 2: On the wet!  Sailing is amazing… when there is wind!  But that is a tale for another day.

In addition to these first baby steps to the ocean, this summer we’ve also enjoyed a trip to Temple, TX to help Sandy’s niece, camping with amazing friends in the Snowies, and a backpacking trip into the Winds.  Life is indeed, good.

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