Pardon the phrasing, but holy shit this was fun.
So that backstory here is that I have a love for just saying "yes" to things, especially if they feel way out of my comfort zone (which this definitely did). On Thursday, somebody posted on our hackerspace's mailing list asking for help crewing his boat on Saturday.
I have precisely zero experience on a sailboat. I have spent quite a lot of time on the water, but that has been in the form of riding a jet ski, or a wakeboard, or a powerboat.
So...loving this sort of thing, I said yes, hell yes, and where should I show up? I've always wanted to sail, and this sounded like a good chance to try it.
Saturday was high 40s, low 50s for temperature, and wind around 16mph. Driving to the place where we were meeting was a lot of thinking "WTF are you doing, dumbass?", because we weren't just going for a leisurely float around the lake, we were racing, and the winds were high, and wtf I'm a computer nerd who really has no business leaving my computer cave.
When we got to the lake, we found out that one of the people just plain wasn't going to go out (due to the conditions), meaning we picked up a third crew member (thank god).
On the way out to the starting point, we got the chance to go over some of the stuff I needed to do, which was nice, because things like "jib", or " halyard" or "jibe set" or "jibe" or "spinnaker sheet" or "spinnaker" or "sheet", which is neither something you sleep in, nor something you write on (it means: rope that adjusts the tightness of the sail), had absolutely no meaning to me whatsoever before Saturday.
I really can't highlight how much of a "Baptism by fire" this was, at least from my perspective. Imagine tucking your feet under a strap in the middle of the boat, resting the back of your thighs against the side of it, and then leaning out away from the boat [towards the water! Ack!], all while the boat feels [at least to this newb] like it is in a constant state of being almost tipped over.
(At one point, it tipped so far that the other side actually went underwater, filling the bottom of the boat with water, which had to get bailed out by our third crew member)
So this sounds very relaxing and therapeutic, but in about 20 seconds, the guy driving is going to yell "TACKING IN 3...2....1....TACK!", which means: "jump under that boom that is going to come sweeping across the boat, pop the line that is in your hand out of its cleat, and in the same motion grab the line that corresponds to the other side of the boat, and pull on it as hard as you can while you get your feet under the strap and lean out against the other side." -- and this is all happening within a few seconds, while you're soaking wet, and it's freezing cold, and the wind is blowing, and it's raining, and the guy next to you is nicknamed the fleet's "swim team captain" because of how often he gets tossed overboard into the freezing ice cold water that your floating in.
I loved every single second of this.
Meta: but I love getting home with cuts and bruises. No cuts on Saturday, but the tips of my fingers are rope-burned, and I have plenty of huge bruises from banging my legs against the center of the boat while trying to avoid getting hit in the face with a boom. There is something about that feeling that just feels good. Getting home hurting is confirmation that you did something extraordinary.