Steady as she goes…


Our third day of sailing with the Camp Chingachgook Y-Knot Sailing program for people of differing abilities continues to expose us to so many new words and terms. But it turns out that many of these terms and words are used in our every-day conversations, while probably most of us unaware of their origins.

I’ve always loved language, sayings, words, accents, and word origins. As a teen, I could be found sitting with a medical dictionary for hours being totally engrossed in the language. So many medical terms have Latin origins, and this has always piqued my interest and desire to learn.

I know I have so much more to learn about the complex sport of sailing, but I’ve already picked up on so much pertaining to the terms and rules.  What fascinates me is that while our gifted, experienced, and dedicated instructors continue to gently teach us about rigging the boats and the act of sailing, they have also not neglected to throw in connections to our modern-day language that have origins in this ancient art.


So while “all hands are on deck” each week rigging boats and helping the sailors into their Captain’s seats, my attention is engaged in picking up more information and understanding why this sport is so popular.

We’ve all heard “take a different tack” when referring to making a change in our thoughts or plans. The term is rooted in sailing and refers to the leading corner of the sail that is a guide for pointing the boat in the direction the Captain wants it to go. When the wind shifts or there’s a need to face a different direction, taking a different tack is the way to go.


Things being on an “even keel” originates in the sailing world. The Martin 16 has an impressive keel at the bottom of the boat to help with stability in all conditions. I can say that this makes me happy.  Although we’re all wearing life jackets, that fact that the boat is hard pressed to capsize gives me peace of mind.

The term “making headway” is used pretty much the same in sailing as it is during our every-day conversations.  It was conceived on the high seas, but often applicable in our landlubber lives.

I was fascinated with the fact that so many of our sayings were created by our fore-father sailors that I had to Google “sailing terms” to see what else is connected to our modern language system. The term “jury rig” came up and is a house-hold description for some of the projects I take on that I have no business doing. Like the closet inserts I installed in four closets. Well, they all work fine, and to another unskilled worker I must look like a genius, but in fact, they were jury rigged.  The sailing term refers to rigging a temporary sail that would need to be built at sea when the original rig was damaged. The jury rigged sail would allow for the sailors to return to shore and build another permanent sail.  I have jury rigged some complicated things.  Knowing how to do things the right way the first time is probably easier, but jury rigging works for me.

Today’s sailing adventure didn’t fail to be anything short of spectacular. Brian and I are getting better at rigging the boats with the constant guidance and instruction from the knowledgeable volunteers. We’re also getting better (I hope) at being companions for the brave and skilled sailors who show up every week. My Captain today was a 21-year-old young woman who is a master at taking different tacks, making headway, and staying on an even keel.

And although this is certainly not the “bitter end” of our sailing days, I learned that the sailing term “bitter end” refers to the last part or loose end of a rope or cable. I’ll never use that term again without thinking of sailing.


Heading back to the Y-Knot Pavilion

Next Saturday is the Ti Race which also known as the Ticonderoga Race. The Martin 16 sailors will be competing in the race, and all sailors who use Lake George are encouraged to participate. I’m anticipating another unforgettable day on the grand waters of our great and wondrous lake.

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