Friday, July 11, 2014

Sailing and Bagpipes :: Lessons on Lopez

Fisherman Bay, Lopez Island, Washington
Most folks I meet have a list of hobbies and skills in their brain that they want to learn someday or plunge into. When these activities come up in conversation, they say, "I've always wanted to do that!"

Well, I've got 'em too - a lot of them - a whole list of them.

This summer on Lopez has been great because I've had the opportunity to start dabbling in the various interests I've had for a while. It's fun to learn on your own, but that takes a certain level of discipline that I don't always have. Sometimes I can learn things on my own, but I've found that investing cash in a competent teacher can lay down a solid, crucial foundation.

So what dreams have been actualized this week?
This week I started taking sailing and bagpiping lessons.
(not at the same time)
Sailing and bagpiping?

Boats have been on my mind for a while. I was reading through an old journal note from a few years ago and in it was something-of-a-love-note to a ferry boat. I've been reading lots of sailing blogs and spend a bit too much time looking at the message boards in town advertising boats for sail. I know I'm not in a place to buy one, right now, nor do I want to. I've got Tobbit and this is a season I want to live out for a while - there is so much on land I want to explore. Anyways, I've been interested in sailing for a number of years.

I used to think I'd find someone and they'd teach me for free - and maybe that would happen someday, maybe - but then I found this class offered through the community. For a cheap price, around 10 hours on the water - it was a good deal. Without much thought, I signed away my next few weeks' of Tuesdays to being out on a boat.

This Tuesday was my first class. We met at the Islander Dock where there was a fleet of  10 tiny sailboats waiting for us. Our instructor powered into explaining all the parts and their names and purposes and we tried to take it in.

I found myself most amused when he talked about the jib.

A fellow I was fond of use to tell me, "I like the cut of your jib," upon one of our first days of meeting back in 2010. I was confused and had to ask him what he meant. I get it now. Guess he was paying me quite the compliment. Thanks, Nick, I like the cut of your jib as well.

After just a short session of speech, he told us to get out on the water and we were loaded into our boats after.. ahh.. terminology.. hoisting the sails! That's it! We hoisted the sails. I felt so unprepared and clueless, but off we went into the water. I was in a boat of "the light people" -- all the tiniest folks of the class of 10. There were four of us in my sailboat.

The beginning was smoother than I had expected, merely because we moved forward and that was exciting enough. I was in charge of the main sail. It wouldn't really take four folks to get this sort of sailboat around, but since we were all beginners, it was nice to have every task isolated so we could learn how everything felt.

This is why I'm taking a class. If I wanted for the goodness of mankind to take me sailing, I probably wouldn't be able to get 4-5 classes in a row every week - few folks are that generous with their time. It's worth it for me to pay to get the repetition. It's also lovely to spend time with other folks I might not otherwise meet.

By the end of class, we were sailing about and could get a pretty good pace going as we dodged the yachts anchored in the bay.

Hoorah. Hoorah. Hoorah.

Yesterday I had my first bagpiping lesson with Helen.
I met her at the ferry dock, where she works.

One day, I was parked super-early, waiting in the ferry line. I heard some pipes playing and followed them till there I spotted Helen piping away! After a lovely conversation, she told me she taught and I took her card. That was two months ago, but finally we got a date set.

I was so eager.

Bagpipes make me pretty giddy. I find them absolutely beautiful and have been moved to tears numerous times upon hearing them. They affect my breathing and make me feel all sorts of things (specific, I know).

I grew up with Mom playing the pipes. As I grew older, I felt a stronger draw to my Scottish heritage (Clan MacLeod and Clan Lindsay). I found a lot of joy in playing with Seirm (we played traditional Scot-Gaelic music) in college and spending time learning Gaelic. Last year I made it to Scotland (finally!) which was a memorable experience.

So.. so... after all this, and such a draw to the pipes, I still hadn't learned. It had been on my mind and a great desire, but it hadn't panned out yet. There were teachers in Seattle but, back then I couldn't drive nor had the cash and time to make the attempt to learn.

Now, I'm in a good place.


1. I have the time to practice.
2. I have access to an instructor.
3. I have the desire to learn.
4. I have the money to pay for lessons.

She was slightly surprised when I showed up. We had set up the date a few weeks ago, but it was in a side-hand conversation and most folks don't remember. I was too excited to forget.

Helen is an awesome human and I don't even know how to describe her, nor do I feel like this blog is the place to. I will say, though, that I'm developing a lot of respect for her and am eager for our time together as I learn to play.

She prepped me to make sure I knew that the bagpipes are hard to learn - easy in a lot of ways, but hard in others. She wanted to make sure I didn't think it would be easy. I assured it I was stoked for another challenge - I like having something to work towards.

Near the end of the lesson, she looked at me and said, "You've done in one lesson what takes most/some folks a month to learn." Helen doesn't just loosely throw out compliments, so I believed her, put my fingers back down, and played again.

The bagpipes are hard. It's a whole level of muscle memory that I don't have. There's also a host of embellishments to be learned. I'm eager for this! It won't come easily, I'm going to have to practice. I'm going to have to have a lot of discipline to make this work and that's going to be a healthy experience for me. I want to work towards something. I also have a challenge lined up for August which I'm keen on.

Sailing and bagpipes - that's what will be on my mind these next few weeks and/or months and/or years. I'm grateful for these opportunities and to be where I am now.

1 comment:

  1. I just played my parlor pipes the other night at our backyard talent show. I do not deny that my embellishments were not as they should be. Perhaps you'll have to re-teach me.


Your words make me grin.

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