The water doesn’t look like it normally does when you’re staring straight down at it. It actually looks like concrete, hard and unmoving. The instant you hit the water, however, it’s back to its usual state; swirling, heaving, powerful waves of warm liquid. When you are pushed off a high place, however, the moment of impact does feel like concrete. Standing on one of the highest poles, I was hoping I would not have to experience the latter sensation.
“Hey, Lucy! Behind you!” My friend Stephanie was shouting and motioning with her arms for me to look behind. I did, but a moment too late. Libby was already right behind me, her arms out stretched in front of her. Unable to back up, I tried trying to move in to meet her, but she was already too close, and managed to push me off head first.
The only reason we were jumping before class is that it was just so hot. The afternoon sessions of sailing class is meant to begin at 12:00pm and go to 3:00pm. Everyone in the class gets there 20 minutes before the class begins to rig the boats. The boats are located on a small floating dock wedged in-between two large motor boat docks. The floating dock is lower than the surrounding docks, and does not get any wind. This is good for rigging the boats, since when you are putting up the sail, you don’t want it catching wind and being knocked over on land. But the lack of wind added to the strenuous manual labor necessary for maintain the sailboats means that even the coolest days on Long Island feel very hot. The hottest day of the summer was around 98 degrees. It was the kind of hot that made the air heavy, that made the road shimmer 10 feet before your eyes, and that made your skin feel as though it is being fried. Shivers of heat roll up your spine. Its almost impossible to wear anything but a bathing suit. If your inside too long, walking back outside is like walking into a wall of heat. It was this kind of day that we completely abandoned any thought of working on the docks, and went to the opposite end of the sailing club where a platform was set up 15 feet above the water. It was created for fun, so kids could jump off and swim on a hot day. There was even a little ladder created so you could get back on the dock easily. But some of the older kids thought it would be even more fun to jump off buckets placed on the platform. At low tide, jumping off one of the buckets is close to a 25 foot drop. Which hurts if you are pushed head first.
I hit the water with a resounding smack, and pull my arms forward rapidly to get back to the surface. Climbing up the slick, seaweed coved ladder, my grin promises revenge. Grabbing the top straps of Libby’s lifejacket, I started hauling her over to the edge of the dock, trying to push her over. I was stopped before I got the chance, however.
“Lucy! Lib! Stephanie! Copper! Get your butts down to the dock. We’re going out,” yelled one of the senior instructors from where she stood ten feet from us.
“What? But there is no wind! We can’t sail today. Plus it’s too hot for us to try and move the boats without wind!” I shouted back. My friends all joined the chorus of whining, plying our instructor with many complaints.
“Enough! Okay, I know it’s hot, and there is no wind, so how about this; I’ll let you guys use the trapeze harnesses today.” This statement was met with enthusiasm for our entire group. Trapezeing on a sailboat is just about the coolest thing. You wear an elaborate harness, which is fixed securely under your life jacket. It has a large clip hook right where your belly button is, with an emergency strap down the back. Trapezeing its’ self is an amazing feeling- you have to stand up on the edge of the boat, your harness hooked into a wire tied from the top of the mast to the bow. You then lean out over the water, the purpose being that if it was really windy your wait thrown outside the boat would help level it. It actually feels like your flying over the water, nothing but the strength of the wire and your own body keeping you up. The fact that there was barely any wind did not deter us from this plan. The other person in the boat needs only to sit on the other side to balance out the displaced weight. Laughing and high-fiving, we ran over to the equipment shed, a small wooden sun bleached shack on the other side of the docks. We were rarely allowed to trapeze, both because of the difficulty and the often lack of wind. But today was special, both because it was so hot and because it was one of the last sailing days of the year.
Putting on the harnesses is tricky and annoying, the experience actually culminating in an annoyed yelp from Stephanie as she got one of the straps caught on her lifejacket for the third time. After putting on the harnesses, we still have to rig, since we hadn’t gotten much done before we decided to go swimming. The dock was boiling, but after being in the water for a while, it didn’t feel so bad. The lines, however, were very hot to the touch, and it took a long time only because we couldn’t handle the lines more than a few minutes at a time.
But finally we were out on the water. Moving at a snail’s pace, but it didn’t matter. Here on the water with the blazing sun glittering off all facets of the water, with the air hazy and baking, music drifting our way from a far off motor boat, floating above the water in an acrobatic balance of strength and skill, is where I belong.