Just as that fickle groundhog said, but honestly, who amongst us believed him. That Spring would be here in six weeks.
And here on the Coast of Illinois, Spring arrived with a gentle breeze and 70 degree temps. (Sorry East Coast. But maybe you shouldn't have pissed off the Groundhog. I recommend a steady bribery diet of berries and weekly rubdowns for next year's groundhog. Personally, I let ours live under our deck so I feel I have an in.)
Twenty-nine years ago I was learning to ski in Switzerland with my husband of one year and his best friend. It never occurred to me, as I listened to a Swiss man who spoke no English singing Billy Joel tunes at the hotel piano bar, that I would one fine spring day be hoisting the main sail to glide across a silent lake.
Life is funny that way.
No more daydreaming over Islands and Cruising World magazines.
It is time to take the sailboat out.
Being about one thousand miles from an actual island and limited by a stupid two day weekend, we decided on Rend Lake, a 90 minute drive, as it is a little larger and less busy than either of the closer lakes. It only took us three access roads to find the one lake access open on the first day of Spring. Which was good as it forced us to try a new boat launch and we discovered a nice picnic area for possible future get-togethers.
Setting up a sailboat in the land of powerboats and fishermen is always interesting. People watch in awe as we hoist the wooden mast. They sigh in disappointment when we don't drop it on top of the car. We were warned numerous times not to fall in the lake as it was still frozen just two weeks ago. I'm not sure what they thought we were going to be doing out there. Do I look like an America's Cup racer? Or someone who wants to freeze to death on the first day of spring in the middle of Southern Illinois?
(The average person can survive maybe ten minutes in 40 degree water. I looked it up. No thank you.)
I haven't been sailing since my November lessons so I was pretty excited to practice the skills I learned. Thankfully, there was no puking. But we did give rudderless steering a go. Not because we lost the rudder. But because we could! And it worked! Holding the rudder steady and letting the jib luft will actually turn the boat. Even in our 3-6knot East by South by Northeast gusting out of the West winds.
We had the lake nearly to ourselves. A couple of displaced bass boats raced past us heading to the bass boat party at the north end by the bridge but otherwise we were alone. With the waterfowl.
Herds of waterfowl.
And they were not happy with our slow and steady appearance. At one point a flock of over 200 birds took flight in front of us. It was amazing. What started as one flapping bird became two then twelve then one hundred. The sound was that of a small helicopter. I tried several times to catch the sight on camera.Listen closely, you can just barely hear the flapping.
At the end of the day we were slightly wind-burned, a little chilly and completely refreshed. I was reminded again of how lovely it is to fly silently over the water while interacting with the weather and the boat.
Happy Spring Everyone!