|“Will You Marry Me?”…”Huh?…Reef the Main?”
By Roger Curley
When I met my “soul mate wife”, I told her “Hey, your cool & all but don’t get too attached, I plan on buying an old fixer upper sailboat & go cruising around the world as soon as I get my ‘ducks’ in order.” “Oh really” she said innocently, “I love sailing”. “No, you don’t understand; itty bitty boat, big blue sea, no land for weeks, constant motion, foreign bureaucracies & …boat butt!” Apparently she convinced me that she really meant what she said about sailing; in fact she said she learned how to sail on her friend Paul’s boat (currently our refurbished “itty bitty boat’; see my article “Captains Log – Launch Day”).
Time went on, we sailed many times to Catalina Island & around Southern California on chartered sailboats; the cruising plans were being fine-tuned. Then one day, several years later, on the anniversary of our ‘first date’, 2-22-94, we chartered a sailboat for a day sail. She thought it was to celebrate our first date, but I nervously had other plans…BIG plans! I had secretly gotten the ring & had everything worked out…except the weather! Now most of the time, coastal sailing in southern California is real mild; you set the auto pilot, set your drink any where & it stays put…So my plan was to sail out for about an hour, set the auto pilot, with a nice bright sun & calm seas I would gallantly perch on one knee & state “Will you marry me?”
Well the day started just like I had planned; when we got to the dock the sun was shinning just like I had planned, the wind was as planned – mild. We calmly got the boat ship shape & headed out for the breakwater. Strangely we noticed right away was that there were no boats going out & a whole bunch of boats heading back in! As soon as we cleared the breakwater we noticed a larger than normal swell breaking over the break wall. We hoisted all sails, shut the engine off & immediately had a rail in the water! We bashed along for about 30 –40 minutes as I tried to get my courage up to pop the big question while trying to calmly battle the ever-increasing swells that were relentlessly ‘attacking us from windward’. Just when I wanted to pop the question & get it over with (It’s quite nerve wracking to be waiting to do this:-) the question of the moment was more of a curve ball; ‘HONEY SHOULD WE REEF THE MAIN?”… “HUH?” The wind was so loud we couldn’t even hear ourselves scream standing only feet away. Finally we communicated the fact that reefing the main was the essential activity of the moment. With the main reefed the boat leveled out; we rolled the jib in a bit to balance the sails & confidently sailed on. I was still constantly trying to find the ‘right time’ to pop the question, but after another 30-40 minutes the only question I felt appropriate again was, ‘HONEY SHOULD WE REEF THE MAIN, AGAIN?”… “HUH?” It was now blowing like heck, wind meter registering average speeds of over 35 knots & increasing. When we set the 2nd reef the rope clutch lever shattered under pressure but held the reefing line; we rolled the jib up a bit more to balance the sails. We sailed on; had to get our money’s worth from the day sail charter; we soon took notice of the very menacing black storm clouds bearing down on us & decided that it was probably time to head back in.
Now as we were running with the wind, the seas had grown monstrous, the auto pilot was useless in these conditions, the sun had abandoned us & there was no way to even hold a drink; I need both hands for the wheel. It was the kind of conditions where you are constantly turning the wheel as fast as you can one way, then the other way & back the other way & …With a storm raging all around us, rain mixed with sleet pelting us, giant raging seas bashing us around, all I could think of is “how am I gonna propose now?” “I can’t even let go of the wheel with one hand!” But finally I got the courage up to pop the big question. “Hey Baby! I Love You! Will you marry me?”…”Huh?” I’ve got to admit, this wasn’t as romantic as I had planned; I had to scream “Hey Baby! I LOVE YOU! WILL YOU MARRY ME!” into her ear & she still couldn’t quite hear what I was saying until I took out the ring & she got the picture. She was so touched that she just sat there admiring the ring, forgetting the raging seas all around for a moment when we got drenched by a nasty breaking wave. “Put it on before Neptune steals it!” While steering & holding on for dear life I finally got the answer I had waited so long to hear…”Oh yes!” …& puckered up for the big kiss to seal the deal. That’s when it became apparent that it was time for her to ‘feed the fish’, so to speak. Tears of joy & this morning’s breakfast were flowing over board…Love Sick!…Yea That’s the Ticket!; I was afraid that she would change her mind about marrying this crazy sailor dude. I was sure that she would be changing her mind about our cruising plans, but after surfing the boat back into the harbor we were both all smiles; with our adrenaline still pumping we agreed that this was our best sailing day so far & eagerly planned our great escape to the cruising life.
As soon as we tied the boat down at the dock, we collapsed down below, completely wiped out. The charter gal from ‘Seamist Skippers’, Suzanne came by to check on us. She said she would have never let us out in these conditions; they announced a major storm warning & issued a small craft warning minutes after we left the dock that morning. Several other sailboats got into big trouble & a few could not make it back to their Marina Del Rey harbor & got blown way down wind to another harbor. Back at our home in the Los Angeles valley it had hailed so much that it piled up a few inches in our yard. We live in basically a desert where you can play tennis shirtless in the wintertime; we had a white winter yard when we got home.
A few more years have come & gone, our cruising plans are so fine-tuned you could tune a piano to them. Even though we are closer now than ever to our big departure day, it seems so close but yet so far away. We busy ourselves with all the things we need to accomplish before shoving off; we are both musicians & we are completing as many music CD’s of our original music in our studio as we can. We plan on cruising paradise, playing our music as we go to keep us afloat. Follow us along on our sailing adventures through our web site ‘hipnautical.com’, where we offer our musical ditties, our nautical stories & our sailing adventures.