"Live a good life, and in the end, it’s not the years in the life, it’s the life in the years."

The first time… oops!

By on January 25, 2021 in Columnist with 0 Comments
Mike Cassidy

By Mike Cassidy


The story by June McCann this month about how she was in charge “for the first time” for an extended trailer trip struck a particular nerve with me.

Often, “first times” are fraught with experiences that take some time to be able to laugh at.

A few years ago, my wife and I achieved a long-held dream when we purchased a used sailboat — the first boat for us.

After months of spending money replacing the sails and rigging, and having work done on the diesel engine, it was time to actually take the boat out.

With my wife at the helm, and me providing the muscle should it be needed (and not to give anything away, but yes, it would be), she slowly starting backing out of the slip we rented at an Everett marina.

Our boat was a classic from the 1980s — the boat next to us was not. Rather, it was a new stylish sailboat that cost about 10 times what we paid for our boat, called the Pandora (another way of saying “trouble in a box”?).

Wishing to avoid clipping our neighboring boat, my wife backed very, very slowly out. This technique came from decades of maneuvering a car, when, if say, you are wedged into a tight parking space, you ever so carefully edge your way out.

Sailboats don’t work that way. You need speed for the rudder to affect the direction of the boat. 

About two-thirds of the way out, the current caught us and began pushing us toward a line of other moored boats. Yikes! She fruitlessly spun the wheel, trying to straighten our boat, while I — using a long pole — tried to muscle us away from the sterns of much more expensive boats than ours.

Crunch! Our stern plowed (slowly, yes, but surely) into the stainless steel railing of one boat, then another, then another… leaving a trail of dented and broken evidence of our inexperience.

We were finally saved when half a dozen fellow sailors came running to our rescue, pushed our boat out into the marina’s mid-channel and advised us to increase our speed. (They may have said some other things, too, but the powered-up diesel engine drowned those comments out.) Later one sailor said to us, “I heard you did the bumper boat.”

After that first experience, we entered and left our slip dozens of times and never even as much as grazed a nearby boat. 

I had an acquaintance say you can learn from mistakes, true, but only if the mistakes are bad enough. And oh, boy, did we learn that day.

We can laugh at that boating mishap now (and yes, we did leave notes on all of the vessels we damaged, and those captains were amazingly forgiving. Perhaps they had had their own “first times.”)

We also realized that without a first time — even as clumsily as we were — there would have never been those dozens of wonderful days on the water, our sail flying in the breeze, our boat slicing through the waves towards a new adventure.

Take a chance to have a “first time,” and then experience The Good Life.

— Mike

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