When we first came to Canada, my father’s colleague introduced us to the frightening delight of sailing in a tippy boat on a lake with capricious winds in Ontario. Pretty soon, my Dad had his own centreboard sailboat, one that was a little more stable than his colleague’s Albacore.
Back then, only rich fat white guys could afford keelboats. The rest of us had centreboards: cheaper but more likely to dunk you in the water. A keelboat has a permanent “fin” that dives deep into the water, giving the boat stability, making it more likely to stay mast up. A centreboard has a smaller board in the centre of the boat that you winch down as you sail out from shallow waters into deeper ones.
Winches or ropes can get stuck. The wind can grab your sails before you get the blasted board all the way lowered, then off you go skimming over the water at the mercy of the wind like some freaked out cat.
So growing up, our sailing days would begin with us standing on the calm of the land, shoving battens into the sails, pushing the boat into the water, threading the sails onto the mast and boom, before raging at the tiny motor to sputter to life and putt-putt us out of the sheltered area of the yacht club’s water through the gap and into Lake Ontario.
While we stood serenely on the land, the wind invigorated our senses and we yearned to be out for a thrilling afternoon of sailing on the waves flinging white froth.
But once on those heaving waves, our hair streaming in the wind, our hands working frantically to shouts of get the blasted centreboard down, pull hard on the main sail, get the jib up quick quick, we were not so sure this was quite what we had yearned for. But before we could think more on that, the main sail snapped to attention and more shouts commenced — “coming about!” — eek! — we ducked just in time from being whacked and thrown overboard by the boom. For hours, we battled to tame in our sails the unrelenting wind hurling the waters up and down into bigger and bigger swells.
Down into the troughs we’d sink, sky and water our only view, up into the swell we’d rise, an amazing view of Hanlan’s Point appearing briefly before we’d plunge back down into the trough, all the while sails and wind driving us away from the calm land towards the deep, treacherous waters of the open lake beyond the protection of the Toronto Islands.
From land it looked exciting, like we had it all under control. In our tight sailboat, our hands and bodies were in non-stop action keeping our boat upright and us in the boat. We needed an endless supply of energy.
Having brain injury is like being in that boat alone, handling main sail, jib, and rudder all at once. Without energy.
Everyone else — family, friends, neighbours, health care professionals, acquaintances — stand on the comfortable shore watching, perhaps shouting encouragement across the waves to us but rarely offering to hop into a zodiac and zip over to join us in our tippy sailboat and take over the jib or the main sail and rudder for awhile.
This week’s session:
Neurodoc: You don’t get a vacation too often?
Me: I just went to . . .
Neurodoc: I don’t mean that kind. I mean the kind where someone comes over, fixes breakfast, lunch, and dinner, takes care of things for you for a day or so.
Neurodoc: *raises brows questioningly*
Me: Bwahahahahaha! Um, no. I had a friend come over once years ago at 10:00pm to cook me dinner.