Sunday, March 05, 2006

Sailing Through the Fear- Part 1

Gliding across the water
the wind at my face
It felt alive and like me

We all have had moments that test our character, bravery and spirit. When these moments happen and we come out the other end we become stronger. This story changed my life in many ways.

I was 38 and a single mother raising two teenagers. It was May 1999 and I was thrilled that spring finally had arrived. The kids were very busy with friends and I was becoming the mom from hell to keep them in line. I was in dire need of a break and so were they. At this time of year I am at my weakest because I don’t do much during the winter. I act like a bear in hibernation.

I received a phone call one day from a friend named Mike. He said "hey Tammy, would you like to go sailing with us in two weeks up by Shasta?" "Sailing?" I said, "I have never sailed in my life, doesn’t everyone have a job in sailing?" He said "They are little Hobie Cats and I don’t have a partner, all you need to do is steer." I’m thinking, sounds easy enough, but is Diana (his girlfriend, my realtor) going to be there. I’d met Mike once and would need "female" help. He said "yeah, she’s going and will help you, it’s a two-day tournament." "Tournament, are we competing?" He said "It’s a two-man race, one disabled team mate and one able body team mate." He assured me it would be fun and easy because he has sailed for years. All I heard was fun and three days away. I said "sure, and it sounds fun."

We made the five hour drive to a beautiful lake up by Mt. Shasta, CA. Snow capped mountains surrounded a huge lake with the fresh smell of pine and a crisp steady breeze. We checked in the hotel and I was given a huge room. I was alone and felt vulnerable amongst these strangers. I unpacked by myself and had to call Diana to help get me settled in. They had no idea how ALS affected me, so I just swallowed my fears of falling and stayed in the strange room all alone. Everyone gathered for a dinner/meeting to discuss the weekend’s schedule. I found out I would be the only woman in the race, and the only 1st timer. I was competing with paraplegics and quadriplegic men. They were all in wheelchairs, very serious and not very welcoming to the gal with the walker. The funniest part of the evening was I found out that we were racing in the US Trials to represent the US at the Paralympic Pan-American Games. I thought it all must be a cruel joke!

The first morning we arrived at the lake early, to get in a few practice rides. We had no idea the wind was anywhere between 14-20 knots, depending on where you were on the lake. I started talking with some of the guys, making sure they knew I was no threat. It was amazing how independent and strong they were. They could drive (with special controls) and get in and out of their cars and Hobie Cats by themselves. They were actually very nice, just highly competitive. The boats looked like trampolines with sails. I said "how do I stay on that thing?" It was a 16ft Hobie Cat with a built-on Trapseat for the disabled team member. It really was a sling for your butt, which leaves you sitting off the side. If the boat was not scary enough, Mike borrowed a cold water sailing suit, complete with booties. This suit looked like a space suit and weighed almost as much. They said it was supposed to be tight at the openings to keep the water out! They were not kidding either. This was all starting to make me very nervous. I said "how wet will I get?" Then I reminded them people with ALS can’t swim or get cold. Once in the suit they strapped on a life jacket and assured me I would stay dry and warm. Then two men carried me down to the Hobie in a fireman’s carry and lay me in the Trapseat. My partner jumped on, we pushed off and I held my breath. My adventure was straight ahead.

To be continued . . .


thebluestbutterfly said...

I am impressed. Good are a very brave person.

emmapeelDallas said...

You never cease to amaze me, Tammy. I LOVE that you have the courage to do things like this (you may be the bravest woman I know!), and I can't wait to read the rest of it.




Gabreael said...

Looking forward to reading the second part as well.

Take Care,


tara dawn said...

Oh, I can't wait for the next installment of this story. I am fascinated so have a wonderful gift for telling a story so that the reader feels right there with you.
I hope you are well. I am sending lots of love (and I promise I will send mail soon).

betty said...

I looked ahead and saw that you added part 2, but just wanted to say I am impressed with how brave you were to attempt this. I don't know if I would have braved it.


Globetrotter said...

Good heavens, I would have been terrified if I were you!

Almost afraid to read Part 2...

V said...

Goin` on!

Ayn said...

Oh man Tammy ... read part II first ... think I am going to have to decompress my fingers stiffened up just in the reading. Umm ... we're having trouble with this one somehow the word fun is confusing my brain with the words for tangled underneath in the ropes. Awe ... I see there are smiley pictures in the next entry ... going to warm myself there!


Bedazzzled1 said...

Good grief, woman! I cannot believe you! You are something else. Scrolling up to Part II now with bated breath.

(Thank you for the note. ::smile and hug::)

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