My destination, Lake Ngaroto, rested twenty minutes drive south of Hamilton, nestled in a valley surrounded by Waikato’s sheep peppered hills. I’m thankful for the weather; it has granted the countryside its mercy on this Sunday, setting fluffy clouds afloat in a light blue sky. Windows open in my ’93 Toyota Corona, I rounded the last bend of the gravel road. A few cars with empty trailers sat beside a two-story boathouse. In between keeping my eyes on the road, I caught glimpses of the lake’s glinting surface. After the gravel ended, I drove further up a grassy slope. A handful of masts popped into view, sprouting from boats of various styles and sizes. A bunch of kids and some teenagers raised flapping sails and tangled with rigging, accompanied by the supervision of a few adults. I pushed open the car door and stood on the hill, staring at the lake. Excitement darted through me. I might get to sail today.

I’ve been aching to go sailing again ever since I finished my one credit sailing course at MSU last fall semester. I approached the group, introduced myself and confirmed I was in the right place.

“Like sailing, do ya?” offered one older gentleman.
“Oh yes!” I replied. One of the women, Linda, said I’d probably be able to crew for Evan, a high school boy who at that moment was hauling a boat out of the shed.

“Gonna sail in that?” asked another guy, probably in his forties.
I looked down at my sweatshirt, jeans and tennis shoes. “I suppose so… I have some sandals in the car…”
“You’ll be soaking in a jiffy,” laughed the first man.
“Oh, well um…” I stuttered, slightly embarrassed, wanting to say, well, this is what my classmates and I wore sailing back in Michigan.
“I’ve got an extra pair of board shorts and a jacket in my van.” And with that, Christine had known me for just two minutes and was already loaning me her clothes. Oh, and not to mention the fact that I’m a foreigner. Pure-hearted Kiwi hospitality.

After swapping my street clothes for the sailing ensemble, I walked down to the bank where Evan was securing the shrouds. I helped him attach the boom to the mast, and then tied off a couple of lines with figure eight knots while straining to remember anything more that I had learned last year about rigging a sailboat.

No matter, we were out on the water before I had time to track down anything in the cobwebs of my mind. Evan asked me if I knew what I was doing. I told him, yeah, mildly. I crouched up near the mast, grabbed a hold of the jib sheet and trimmed the sail. Every now and then Evan would have to tell me to “ease it out” or “trim it back in”. I could perform a decently graceful tack – for the most part. I was without shoes and therefore without traction. Once or twice my foot slipped out of its braced position and I fell into the bottom of the boat, a muddled heap of arms and legs.

We zig-zagged across the lake, keeling hard and getting soaked from the heavy spray. The wind was warm and gusty, compelling us to constantly lean out over the water and then shift our weight back in near the centerboard.

I smiled. When I didn’t have to concentrate on tacking, I could relax slightly and enjoy the feeling of flying over the water. The lake was pretty, the sky bright… and then we began to keel over, hard. I tried to lean back farther, but all I achieved was standing up taller. I looked back in one desperate moment trying to figure out how… but, “Oh noo…” was all I could come up with. The main sail hit the water and I fell off the top of the boat right smack into the middle of sail, wrapping myself up in the lines as I went. “Oh crap!” I yelled, shocked at the briskness of the water. And then, I started laughing. It was the first time I had ever capsized! The wind had blown us flat over. So cool. It was actually pretty fun to fall off the boat! I was totally elated.

I was drenched and shivering, but my day was fulfilled.