I got a message recently asking whether, “if the storm warnings lift,” I’d like to come crew a small sailboat on the Columbia river for a short race. Now, when I hear someone ask if I want to come help race – my ears perk up. However, racing since I have almost zero experience as a sailor, I replied “Sure, as long as I can bring a camera and be ballast.”

For a moment it seemed as if the race was going to be cancelled, our planned afternoon sail turned into a booze-cruise, but then we all got a note that the race was back on. Winds were going to be strong, but we hit the water with the anticipation of competition.

I was the fourth person on the boat, sitting in the middle sloshing side to side at every tack. I also had the pleasure of being in charge of the boom vang and out haul. Which, for all their fancy sounding names are really just ropes. The key part of being in the hold, I had a nice vantage point of all the gents I sailed with.

A sailboat on the Columbia river

The three gentlemen who I joined on the boat are all much more experienced sea-hands than I. Cody and Matt have both been sailing for a number of years, and Scott – the owner of Deadbeat, the boat we are crewing – has been on the water his whole life.

I met these three over 15 years ago when we all worked at a store in Portland which sold and installed roof racks and sporting carriers for cars. Scott and I ran the inventory and online order fulfillment, Matt and Cody sold and installed everything in the store. We were all in our 20s, and making bad decisions on the daily – but at work we came together and solved problems and made someone else’s day better. A kind of millennial trauma bonding, in a pre-covid world.

So, you might ask: what happened with that storm warning?

Thankfully we didn’t get rained on, but as the afternoon progressed the winds kicked up. Watching the water start to turn white across the river is always kind of exciting for me. I love the feel of the boat bobbing to and fro, and even love feeling the wind pull the boat horizontal while we scramble up the high side to dangle our legs off the edge.

One of the things that became immediately clear to me: sailing is all about communication. Being open to correction, clearly stating your needs, and addressing the next challenge rather than contemplating your last decision. One things for sure – I won’t have to think twice about going out again when the invitation comes.

Thanks Scotty for the invite, and thanks to Cody and Matt for keeping me safe.

Color photos: Fuji X-T3 + 50-140/2.8
B&W photos: Ilford HP5 – Leica IIIa + Summaron 35/3.5