Two land-loving, city-living friends took to the high seas (OK, the Florida Keys) for a glorious child-free adventure. How'd it turn out? Well, that depends on whether you ask Gayle Forman or Marjorie Ingall.
Gayle: There are sunsets, and there are sunsets, and this one is a doozy. The sky streaks peach, then pink, then orange--the colors reflected on the water make it look aflame. Marjorie and I leave the rollicking bar and head to a small beach, where we snap goofy pictures of ourselves. Then, because it's such a romantic moment, we call our husbands. As we walk back to the tiki bar for dinner, I feel dizzy, like the ground underneath me is shifting.
"You have sea legs," Captain Jen informs me when we join her at a table. This makes me feel strangely proud. I'm a real sailor now.
Marjorie: Early the next morning, we head back out. I'm at the helm, Gayle is navigating, and Captain Jen is somewhere below deck. "You can tell we're doing well because she ignores us," says Gayle.
Our next activity is learning how to tie various knots and what they're used for. "The only knots I care about are fixed by deep conditioner," I mutter to Gayle. But as Captain Jen takes us through the square knot (a.k.a. the reef knot), the sheet bend, and the clove hitch, I discover I like knots. Even better, I'm good at knots.
Gayle: There's not much wind until we reach Biscayne Bay, when the breeze picks up to five knots per hour. Now we're cooking. Captain Jen decides we're ready for the man-overboard drill. First, we throw Wilson (a life jacket) into the water. Next, Captain Jen shows us how to sail at a beam reach (with the waves hitting the middle of the boat), then head up, come about, and bear away from the wind. And finally, when we reach Wilson, we have to turn right into the breeze, to slow the boat enough to fish poor Wilson out with a hook. We each take turns at the helm. I really begin to physically understand where the wind is, how the sails should be manipulated, the mechanics of it all. When I tell Captain Jen that I'm in love with sailing, she says, "I had a feeling you would be." Marjorie, she's not feeling the love.
Marjorie: I'm the only person who failed to rescue Wilson on the first try.
Gayle: He died. She has survivor guilt.
Marjorie: Shut up. During drills, Captain Jen would yell "Come about!" or something, and Gayle and Ann would rocket into action while I stood frozen like a doofus. I always needed someone to tell me what to do.
Gayle: But then Marjorie goes all butch and rescues Wilson off the port side of the boat, with her left hand!
Marjorie: Go, me. Seriously, though, I'm so glad we learned that we travel well together and can shelve our momness and go back to the core of our B.C. (Before Child) friendship.
Gayle: Me, too. And I'm counting the days until I get to go sailing again.
Marjorie: Yeah, well, I think that perhaps I'd rather go hiking.
Gayle: Can I come?
Marjorie: Only if you loan me a cashmere sweater.
Women-Only Cruising Courses
Captain Jennifer Wirth offers introductory, women-only cruising courses year-round aboard the Sunday Morning. All of the classes depart from Miami. Most students will sail Biscayne Bay to the Florida Keys; advanced seafarers may get to venture to the Bahamas. Captain Jen prefers that parties book the entire boat, but she'll do what she can to pair solo travelers with other sailors or small groups. 305/807-1484, bikinisailing.com, $500 (three-day minimum) for charter and class fee for all students, and fuel; reserve at least one month in advance.