How I Got My Sailing Grin - My Family Travels

My parents aren’t sailors. My mom thinks the main sheet is a sail, and my dad thinks heeling means running like mad. But they both recognize my sailing grin, which erupts when you put water, a boat, and me in the same place. I think the grin first appeared my second summer of sailing.


On the last day of the session there was a long race to a stash of candy. We were paired in Lasers or else in threesomes in Flying Juniors. I was in a Laser with a more experienced sailor. On the second to last leg, we had to sail backwards a fair distance. When we found the final clue to the candy, the rest of the fleet was so far behind we thought we had missed a checkpoint. We waited for about 20 minutes for the others to catch up and tell us our mistake. Finally, after leaving a note to prove we had been there, we headed in to the finish (and the candy). There we learned that we had indeed been to all the checkpoints. We finished 30 minutes before everyone else, which was a surprise and a thrill. In fact it was more exciting than some larger regattas I’ve sailed in since then.

I don’t always win races and there isn’t candy at the end of every sail, but there are always surprises. I love using my brain – not just the thinking part, but the instincts I’ve developed – to speed over the water. Sometimes I don’t even feel the water, and it’s almost like flying. It’s just the boat and me – no engine – working with nature.

It’s a great experience every time, and I grin just thinking about it.

Aaron’s story was the First Place winner in the author’s age category, in the Sunsail 2000 “Why I Love Sailing” writing contest. Hailing from Berkeley, California, Aaron was 13 years old when he wrote this. It was first published on

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