Monday, March 06, 2006

Sailing Through the Fear-Part 2

The day was windy, but the sun was shining brightly. The water was from the snowy mountains, which made it clear and very cold. We started to pick up speed and gliding off the water felt great! Sailing I discovered was not so easy, because Mike never stopped jumping around and had to tell me when to push or pull the stick thing that steered the boat. When we got out toward the middle, the water got choppy, I was catching spray and the boat was flying. I’m thinking, ok that’s enough practice, my hair was going to look like crap. When I thought things could not get any worse, the boat began to go up toward the sky on one side, and it was not my side! I’m forgetting to steer yelling up at Mike, is this supposed to happen? He looked down into my white face, as my butt was being dragged through the lake, and said calmly "it will be fine, grab the till."

I soon saw concern on Mike’s face, as his weight was struggling to keep the boat down. Then I found myself totally under water, being turned and tossed like I was in a washing machine. I learned later, that when a boat flips all the way over, it’s called a turtle. That’s probably because you end up under the boat. It was very scary because the ropes that were working the sails were wrapped around my legs, holding me under the water. I was struggling and drowning. When Mike appeared, he was trying to calm me down. It took forever for him to realize I was being pulled under because of the ropes and the life jacket was not strong enough. He dove under and freed me from the boat. He kept saying he was so sorry, but all I felt was very cold water entering the suit I was wearing. When I told him my ALS was causing my body to go stiff, he acted so quickly I just did as I was told not knowing we were still in danger. He had to stay in the water and hold me up to keep me from freezing until help arrived. What I failed to realize is he had no suit on and hypothermia could get him. I’m not quite sure what the worst case scenario would have been, but he was worried. While we waited, he kept talking as his lips were turning blue. I was unusually calm, but could not speak due to the ALS stiffening my body and jaw. Me being stiff as a two-by-four probably helped him keep me up. I have no idea how long we were out there because no one saw us flip. When help finally came, Mike yelled for them to hurry and get me in the boat. The looks on their faces were so funny I was busting a gut laughing, they probably thought I was having a seizure. I would not bend for them, they were saying why is she not bending? Mike yelled "lay her on the floor and get me out of this water." We pulled up to the dock and the others on the shore could see Mike but no Tammy. As I lay on the floor of the boat, I could hear lots of running feet coming down the dock. As the worried faces appeared I managed a "hi guys" with a half smile as I started to defrost.

The rumor was that Tammy would never race that weekend. As the women stripped me out of my wet clothes and covered me with blankets in some van, I was soon defrosted. I felt like a failure and had heard the rumors. The women were saying "come on, you can do this." Mike knocked on the door and was in shock to see me dressed in my suit. I said "lets do this before I chicken out." The others were surprised, but I could not let the fear allow me to quit. We sailed the whole weekend, the strong wind left and I’m very proud to say we won the whole event! WooHoo!

The trick to winning my gold medal was pure fear. I watched the other teams argue during the races. The disabled guys were the captains, but their partner’s would not listen. I was so scared I let Mike be the captain and did exactly as I was told. I kept my ego on shore and my body dry. LOL I loved sailing after that weekend. Gliding through the water, breeze blowing across your face, it was pure joy. This was how it was reported, handily my butt!

Representing the United States at the Paralympic Pan-Am Games-to be held this Fall in Acapulco, Mexico-will be an all-California team, including: Tammy Solis/now Brierly(Tuolumne) and crew Mike Lattin (Sonora), who won the three-race Championship round handily with a 1-1-2 score.

They cancelled the event in Mexico due to not enough Hobie 16's with Trapseats. They did it in San Diego on their own and I was unable to attend. Now this race is a big deal because there is lots of interest and more Trapseats available. I have sailed on bigger boats since my medal race and I love sailing more than racing. I did learn how to fight through fear and will cherish this life lesson.


Tillerman said...

Good for you. Congratulations on winning the gold medal.

emmapeelDallas said...

You are absolutely AMAZING! You're my hero.





TJ said...

Oh just as I thought, not to good at saying NO WAY! Now there is a chilling story...I was holding my breathe for you!!!
OMG! But look at the memory you made...Just call me chicken!

Jolene said...

What excitement!! I can't believe you got back out there after all that, and then to win. I would have never done it. I want to see more pictures :)

Tabor said...

My husband and I used to own a Hobie and I have done some sailing myself on it. In the very beginning, I never had your courage even without any disabilty! You are a tremendous inspiration to those of us who have the invisible disability of thinking we 'can't' whenever we try something new. I think your story is so important in pointing out that the TEAM effort is so much more important than pure determination and competitiveness and skill. TEAM on both sides, first, when you almost drowned and later, when you won!! (Wonderfully written, I was THERE.)

betty said...

WTG, Tammy! So proud of you for conquering your fear and getting back in the Hobie.

I have to say when you were relating about the other teams arguing, etc and you just being under the control of Mike's direction, it had me thinking about the Lord and how he wants us to live our lives that way. For us to just go along with life with him at the helm of the boat; not arguing with him, but letting him be in charge.

Too bad you couldn't compete further, but I think you did great in this one race!

Does Mike still race with others?

tara dawn said...

What a wonderful and inspiring story, my sweet Tammy. I am so very proud of courageous to fight a fear that easily could have overwhelmed any of us. You truly are an amazing woman...and this gets reaffirmed for me day after day.
Sending lots of love and big bear hugs,

Globetrotter said...


This story was absolutely amazing!

What an adventure! You are such an inspiration, woman!

I enjoy sailing, too, but only if I'm in water that's at least 80 degrees! I'm a wimp, and I know what it's like to flip a sailboat.
But I never went over the side of a sunfish in anything other than warm tropical waters. It's amazing to me that you gathered your courage and went back for more!

I feel proud that you represented women in this race. What a heroine you are to both hadicapped and able-bodied women!

Anonymous said...

I am so proud to have you as my wife.You are truly a strong and couragous person.
I hope when my time of illness comes I do so with as much courage and dignity as you.maybe we can go sailing one day and not have to do the work but just sit and enjoy the wind in our faces....Love Dave

V said...

Geez, what a story!
And, the Gold Medal winner!
I really admire you. What courage, and a POET to boot!

odie said...

Wow! Just... wow!


DEREK said...

i read both of these entries, you are brave to face those fears head on,you are an amazing woman.

Sassy said...

Tammy~yay! You felt the feal and did it anyway! I can't believe you won after beig caught in that "stiff turtle"!;-) Yes, always remember to play!

Sassy said...

*that's fear*--I need a nap!;-) Sass

V said...

Hey! New Pics & new music!!

Nancy said...

Just discovered your journal...what a gift I've just received. I'll be back.


Chris said...

Ha ha ha cool. This was great Tammy!

My Blog

Gail in MN said...

I kept flashing to the movie 'Titanic' as I read about you and your friend in the water!! Luckily everything turned out great. You're both brave souls....

Bedazzzled1 said...

Oh, Tammy. This made me cry. For many reasons. I am in awe of you.

::tight hug::

Gaboatman said...

This was an awesome tale of courage and what an adventure, too! I love sailing Hobie Cats, but haven't been on one in years. My hat's off to you for for getting on that boat a second time after the spill. Way to go!

Adrift At Sea said...


Congratulations... getting back on the boat took a lot of guts... I hope you knock 'em dead at the Pan-Am games.