Sailing is something of a tradition in my family. Everyone knows how to sail. Everyone but me. Now maybe this doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it is.
See, when I say everyone sails, I mean everyone, little kids and old people alike. My extended family is quite a seafaring group. I like the ocean, I really do, but I hate the beach, and I get seasick pretty quickly. I suppose my love of the ocean extends to simply looking at it; I love admiring waves and boats without having to ever approach the water, which is why I never learned to sail. However, I’ve come to regret that decision.
You may be wondering why I can’t learn now. The truth is, I could, but it wouldn’t be the same, since I still wouldn’t be one of the kids who grew up tying knots and rigging sails. It’s a rite of passage, and I’ve already grown up without learning those skills.
It goes like this: you learn to sail in one of the smaller boats, probably a Sunfish, and you get pretty good.Soon you’re racing other people and capsizing your boat just for fun. Next you move onto a bigger model and take your wannabe sailor friends sailing. You attempt to teach them how to sail but give up pretty quickly because you’re already really good, and it’s easier if you’re the captain. Then you get certified to sail the fleet of Herreshoffs. And that’s it: you’re a full-fledged sailor, and nothing can stop you.
I know this progression because I’ve spent plenty of time watching these stages from dry land or on board as the wannabe sailor friend, who almost hits a rock and is immediately relieved of the job of captain. With a twinge of jealousy and lots of judgment, I’ve watched my cousins sailing around. For example, I don’t think they should go around capsizing their boats for sport! It’s dangerous. And it’s not that fun (especially when you have to right it again), but maybe it’s just something I don’t understand. I wasn’t always jealous, in fact for a long time I could not have cared less about learning how to sail, but as everyone around me learned and started to sail away from me, I began to wish that I possessed that nautical knowledge too.
Needless to say, I feel a little excluded. I want so badly to immerse myself in the tradition of sailing, of yelling “Ready about, hard to lee,” but I feel as though I’ll never fit in. My realization that I would never belong hit me when I was about 12 years old. My cousin showed me her “sailing knife” given to her when she passed her sailing course. “Where’s your knife?” she asked me. I, of course, had no sailing knife, and admitted that with some embarrassment. “Where can I get one?” I asked her. “Oh, you have to learn how to sail first,” she replied and clipped her knife back on her belt. It was at that moment that I realized the ship had sailed––I would never be a sailor like she was.
I love family traditions. I think they’re great, and they bring people together. However, it’s not so fun when you feel left out and are surrounded by people who can tie flawless knots while you sit pathetically on the dock.