(photo credit: Sailing by Boston Public Library on flickr.com. https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/legalcode.)
There are three beginners and one coach on the Sonar sailboat.
We each explain our beginner-ness to the coach so he’ll know what to focus on during our lesson.
Beginner #1: From the time I was young, my Dad sailed so I would go out with him on Lake Winnepasaukie in New Hampshire. I love sailing but don’t feel comfortable taking a boat out on my own yet.
Beginner #2: Just after I got married 20 years ago, my husband and I bought a friend’s used sailboat and despite not knowing much, sailed in the races on Saturdays. We only did that for a couple of years.
Beginner #3: Sometimes I go out on sailboats with my husband and let him order me around: pull this line in! Tighter! Look at the telltales! I’ve never sat at the helm.
Since I’m Beginner #3, I’m suddenly nervous, when I hadn’t been before. I thought I was taking a beginner sailing class. These other two “beginners” were more like intermediates compared to me. How was I possibly going to keep up?
First task: rig the boat.
The coach gave us a little guidance about rigging the boat but he didn’t need to do much since Beginners #1 and #2 knew what they were doing. I, on the other hand, fumbled around, pretending I had a clue, asking only one or two questions when I actually had about fifteen rigging-related questions. It was a bit intimidating to ask the simple questions I had when the other two were working away as if they’d been doing this all their lives.
Then we sailed. In a race. A “casual” race but still a race run by a local yacht club.
Beginner #1 took the helm. Beginner #2 and #3 (me) trimmed the jib.
Once we got on the course, I discovered how very differently the three of us defined the word “beginner.” #1 not only steered the boat, she trimmed the mainsail and asked questions about strategy. #2, while on the same job as me, seemed to understand what the coach was saying when he said “head into the wind” and “go above that boat.”
I pulled in the jib lines when I was told to, as I’ve done in the past when sailing with my husband, but that was all. I did ask a bunch of questions but the answers only raised more questions in my mind and we had to pay attention to the actual sailing, since it was quite windy out. The one time I asked a few questions in a row, the coach tried to explain a few things to me at my level and next thing we know, we are heeling so far that we almost capsized. As soon as the others called out to him, the coach told us how to fix things, but I realized then that I wasn’t in a beginner sailing class. At least not the way I defined beginner.
Both of the other students truly believed themselves to be beginner sailors. They knew they had experience but not solid experience or recent experience. In their minds, they were beginners.
In my mind, they were not. I was in Kindergarten and they were in Middle School.
I find it really interesting that all three of us considered ourselves beginners. It made me think about all of the ways we define ourselves to others and how the others may hear our definitions differently than we intended, simply because they are coming from different perspectives.
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