Michaela Merz

Sailing

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IMG_20160811_190224I have no idea why I am drawn as if by magic to wind and water. It just happens.

I have respect for water, but never fear. Despite the drastic methods, the first swimming course, to which my parents had sent me, did not succeed in diluting my love for water. I can remember a screaming trainer, who had thrown us into the deep-end and insisted that we swim to the other side of the pool to gain confidence. That was difficult, because we didn’t really know how to do so. As soon as a child began to sink, the trainer had a long pole, with which from the edge of the pool he could save the child from drowning.

After the second time I did everything to avoid going again. Therefore in my case it cannot be said that I learned how to swim properly. Being able to swim is an advantage for sailing.

There are small boats and big boats, there are luxury yachts and nutshells. I’m more the type for a nutshell. Nutshells are small boats, in which constant water contact is unavoidable. Everyone is wrapped up in wetsuits and layers of clothing, because with the wind, the waves and a reasonable speed the cold is what drives you back to the shore.

Sailors, like everyone who shares a passion, have their own language, love to talk shop and the more people are present the more opinions there are. Whether the rope should be fastened by bowlines or reef knots reflects a philosophy of life. Sailing is a very technical sport and it needs material and understanding of the wind and how I get from place A to place B with the help of the wind. That needs strength or a lot of experience.  It is therefore not really surprising that it is a sport that tends to be dominated by men.

Children, who learn to sail when they are young, find it easy. As an adult one thinks too much and that is often not a good thing. I didn’t learn to sail until I was older. As soon as I am on the water, away from the shore, I get where I want to. I sail close to the wind and up to now I have always been able to return. What frightens me are the start and approach manoeuvres, because I have not mastered them. Somehow one must get away from the shore and land there again in order to take the boat out of the water. Just as driving a car is easy, I struggle with the parking.

My home sailing club borders on the public swimming area in the lake. Many times when starting or returning I have landed in this restricted area. That is frustrating, embarrassing and extremely unpleasant. Look an amateur at the helm! It is even more embarrassing, when the swimmers had to free my boat from the boundary ropes, helped me again on the right course or at least showed sympathy. No one has yet cursed me, although they would have had every right to do so. In the evening one often meets somewhere in the village and I buy a beer to satisfy my debt.

When I’m out there and the wind has reached a decent strength, I can no longer be restrained. My mind becomes empty, my courage greater, water splatters from all directions and I forget everything. On my nutshell there exists nothing but wind and water. And as I have my hands full, almost every muscle in my body is needed, after 2 or 3 hours sailing I come back dead-beat, but at the same time feeling new and refreshed, happy and at peace with myself.

Then one can sit on the bank, watch the others and look forward to the next sail.

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