Thursday, October 27, 2011

Interview: Rick & Langley from Seattle Sailing Club

At the Seattle Boat Show this year, among the multi-million dollar motorized boats, we saw signs for a tour on the lake on a sailboat. What better way to feel the force of wind than being swept away by it? When on a sailboat, the wind is your guide, friend and foe. We wanted to find out what it would be like to experience the wind in its true element. This is how we were introduced to Rick & Langley Sears, an enthusiastic couple from the Seattle Sailing Club, an organization that promotes the love of sailing. We talked to Rick & Langley about their experience of wind on water.

How long have you been sailing?

We have been sailing for a year and a half since we first took lessons together. We never sailed before, even on someone else’s boat.

How did you get introduced to the Seattle Sailing Club?

We were introduced to the Seattle Sailing Club at the 2010 Winter Indoor Boat Show in downtown Seattle. It was the last day of the boat show, Super Bowl Day in fact, and my husband finally convinced me to go to the boat show. He had already been earlier that weekend. He dragged me along, but I really started enjoying all of the new motor boats on display. Then we came upon the Seattle Sailing Club and they were advertising for sailing lessons. We always said “one day we should try sailing”, and we figured that day at the boat show was our day. So, we eagerly signed up for 101, 103, and 104 classes with the club. And a year and a half later, we both successfully completed all of our courses.

Can you introduce us to a typical sail boat?

A typical sailboat has a hull, mast, boom, tiller, foresail, and mainsail. These are the main things you need to get going.

35' feet sailboat

How do you study the wind before a sail? Do you use any instruments?

We typically look at the weather forecast online on several websites and of course look outside and observe the weather at hand. When sailing, we use a wind vane located at the top of the mast which helps determine where the wind is coming from. We have not used electrical devices yet.

What weather conditions make for an ideal sail?

There is always a saying in sailing about the best conditions for sailing. It is better to sail in wind with rain than sail with no wind with sun. I sometimes tend to disagree with that. However, ideal conditions in my opinion consist of 80 degrees, sun, and fair wind. These types of days come about three times here in Seattle.

You use the motor to launch from the marina, how do you know when to deploy the sail? Do you feel a tug or does the wind vane tell you?

We are required to motor from the marina and then set sail once out at safe distance from the breakwater. We usually hoist the sails once we are a safe distance from the breakwater, land, and other boats. To set the sails, the boat needs to be pointing into the wind so the sail won't catch the wind and pull the boat. So, once the boat is pointed into the wind (engine on still), one person hoists both sails and then the helmsman (person at wheel) will fall off then let the wind catch the sails and then turn off the engine.

If you have multiple sails, when do you decide which sail to deploy?

It depends on the weather. The bigger the boat you typically do not switch out the foresail as much, but on a smaller boat it is common to change out the foresail depending on the amount of wind that day.

You feel the raw power of the wind out in the water, can you share with us an incident when you felt overpowered?

It was 6 months ago. We went out with two SSC club members and a squall came out of nowhere and broached our boat (meaning the boat heeled violently) and we started to take on water. It was very frightening because it was hard to get the boat back in our control. Visibility was extremely poor due to the high wind and pouring rain. We managed to get the boat back under control, under sail, and then eventually motored safely back to the marina. We were just off the shore of Ballard. We learned a lot from that incident and will never forget that day. We also tested out our new foul weather gear and it worked brilliantly!

Do you sail only in the lakes in Washington state or have you sailed on sea? Please tell us about the differences in wind force and how it affected your sailing experiences.

We have sailed in Lake Union and Puget Sound only. We have not been in blue water (open sea) yet. Rick has a dream of sailing around the world, which I think one day we will do together.

Sailboats rely primarily on wind. What makes them more attractive to you, than their motorized cousins?

It is beautiful to sail, you feel more connected to nature and also at the mercy of nature. Once you turn the engine off after the sails are up on the boat, you always feel lucky to be sailing. Engines are very noisy and can be expensive. The wind is free, gas is not. Motoring to the San Juan Islands can be over $1000 in gasoline expenses.

How do you recommend introducing kids to sailing? If you have kids in your group, can they help during the sail?

We recommend getting kids introduced to the water as soon as they can walk easily! There are plenty of great sailing opportunities for young kids in Seattle. Sail Sandpoint at Magnuson Park and the Seattle Sailing Club offers great lessons for young kids (small boats). Kids tend to be less nervous about learning to sail than adults, kids are more open to learning to sail since they do not have all of the same fears that adults may have about sailing.

What keeps you coming back to sail?

We love being on the water. It is very relaxing being on the water, we never think about work! Plus, we get to spend time together learning something new every time we go sailing. It is never the same.

Thank you!
Photo credits: Rick & Langley Sears, used with permission.


sathish said...

Anusha, Another great interview.

"It is beautiful to sail, you feel more connected to nature and also at the mercy of nature." - I loved that sentence. The essence of the interview, I guess.

Meera Sriram said...

This was a delight A! A sailboat, paper or not, small or big, somehow sets the heart sailin'! An excellent and tangible perspective for the wind! Wish Rick & Langley the best to go sailing around the world someday!

Anusha said...

Thanks Satish, Meera; and thanks to Rick & Langley for introducing our family to an unforgettable experience.

Choxbox said...

That was a treat Anusha, given that one does not come across sailers so often in our neck of the woods!

sandhya said...

A lovely nautical post, Anusha! I could almost hear Long John Silver and his cronies singing 'Yo ho ho, and a bottle of rum!"

We have experienced sailing into the wind once in UK, so I can relate to all the magic that the interview conveys.

ranjani.sathish said...

Wow Anusha ! That was such an informative interview. Thanks Rick and Langley for enlightening us on this subject !

Vibha said...

Loved the part that Sathish has mentioned. The nature does bring right perspective in our lives.

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