Wind awaits sailors, water lovers
July 28, 2007
Water lapped against the hull as the bow pointed into the wind, stalling the boat. Suddenly, line flapped through rigging, manipulating the jib sail and the boom swung around, turning the main sail.
The ominous creaking and rumbling of sails, joints and rope sounded as if the vessel may crumble at any moment.
Then the line went taut, a breeze filled the sails and the boat seemed to leap into motion as it moved closer to a 45-degree angle against the wind.
It was silent again aboard Two Wild, a Catalina 22, as it cruised the Jordanelle Reservoir, navigated by Lucy and her daughter Julie Minahan.
"You can see a different view of The Canyons," said Lucy Minahan, pointing to the east with her left hand while her right hand rested on the tiller.
"And over there is Timp," she said, pointing to the south.
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"It’s peaceful and nice, there’s no motor" Julie said, and later explained the difference between ocean sailing and drifting across an alpine lake. "It’s less intimidating, the ocean gets swells. It’s different and everywhere you’re surrounded by views."
There were engine noises, those from a wave-runner and a ski-boat just off the bow (front) of the boat.
"Most sailors are not motor boaters," Lucy said. "They don’t like the noise or the pollution."
Lucy and Julie hope to convert more water recreationists to the one-with-nature aspect that sailing offers.
"It doesn’t cost anything to come out here," Lucy said. "It’s closer to nature and you have to work with nature to enjoy the sport."
Julie grew up boating on Lake Ontario. When she and her mother moved to Utah, she thought the desert would be the end of her aquatic journeys.
"You don’t think of Utah as a water state," Julie said.
She was surprised when she found accessible lakes and reservoirs to sail.
"It was heaven," Julie said. "It’s nice to be on, and in, the water. There are so many reservoirs and lakes in the Uintas and around here, people just have to get out to them."
Her favorite lake in Utah, is the one she sails on.
"The best one is the one out of your backyard," Julie said.
Although a few sailboats are docked at Jordanelle’s marina, hardly any of them hit the open water during the week, Julie said.
"Other sailors are weekend warriors," Julie said.
When the sailors do come out, they enjoy the water in relative solitude.
"In the mornings, the water is flat, that’s when the motor boats hit the water," Julie said. "In the afternoon, the wind picks up and the sailors come out."
For the most part, Lucy said, people in Utah don’t ever think of sailing.
"People have no comprehension," Lucy said. "But some are used to it, only because they grew up somewhere else where they lived by water."
The mother-daughter combination teaches people to sail and offers guided trips on Jordanelle. Lucy also is trying to establish a non-profit organization to offer sailing lessons to kids.
"My husband is the chairman of the Friends of Jordanelle," Lucy said. "He’s getting the Junior Sail Program approved. There are plans for small sailboats called Optimus, they are for children 8-14."
Lucy said she’d "love to introduce that to the community" so kids can discover an unfamiliar sport in Utah.
"It’s a great outdoor alternative or activity," she said. "You don’t have to have an incredibly muscular body. For recreational sailing, you don’t have to be fit, unless you’re a pro or college competitor."
"Some kids don’t want to run around a soccer field, or anything else," Julie added.
Lucy was one of the kids who benefited from learning to sail. She went to a sailing camp in seventh grade and was immediately recruited onto racing.
"I was tall as a seventh grader," Lucy said.
For a young girl, Lucy said it was difficult being so tall. But that attribute enabled her to reach and lean further across the boat while still holding on to lines. She immediately became an asset to any racing team.
"They started me racing right away, before I even knew what to do," Lucy said. "I raced until I went to college."
Even if a kid is short, he or she can still sail. And there are other benefits from sailing that don’t include racing. Young kids can quickly learn how to maneuver a boat by tuning in to the wind.
"Driving a sailboat by yourself, as an 8-year-old, is incredibly confidence-building and rewarding," Lucy said.
When others who have sailed hear about the program, they often become excited to teach their families, she added.
"One lady who used to sail, said that she ‘couldn’t wait to introduce to my teenagers to sailing, to at least have a basic understanding of what I used to do.’"
The sport is relatively simple for adults to master as well.
"For an adult that wanted to pay attention, it will take about 12 hours on the water to be ready to sail on their own," Lucy said, "typically, anywhere from three to five lessons."
Both Lucy and Julie made it clear that sailors should know what they are doing before they go out on their own.
"There’s people that come out and say, ‘It doesn’t look hard. Oh, I can make it go anywhere I want it to,’" Lucy said.
Then a storm hits and those same people get in trouble, she added.
"You can be going along fine, and in 10 minutes, boom, there could be a storm," Julie said. "You always have to be in position. There’s a lot of strategy."
To be safe on the water, the Minahans always check the weather and break it down by hour.
"Preparation is very important," Julie said. "You need to learn the water and the depths, understand buoys. For the ocean, you have to understand navigation and you have to have a crew and a plan."
Skills to operate a sailboat
To operate a boat, requires a sailor to understand and work the equipment to adjust to any type of circumstance.
"They have to be totally confident in all kinds of wind, understand turning, steering, reducing sail, dock a boat with the wind, pick up mooring, learn how to (rescue) a man overboard, there are all kinds of things," Lucy said.
Some of the necessary skills include reading nature to predicting where wind will come from.
"You watch the clouds, the dark ripples in the water. You have to know where to look at the water," Julie said.