Trouncing Grandpa

For at least one week every summer my wife and I take full ownership of our two granddaughters, Sarah and Haley (ages seven and 11). If we are lucky, we occasionally manage to have our other granddaughter Taylor (12 years of age) who lives in Florida join the rest of us for a week at “Camp David.”

I’ll readily admit that my own selfish interest in not wanting to miss a day on the water ensures that virtually every activity that I’m in charge of during the week involves a boat of some kind. My two sailboats are identical Windrider 16 Trimarans, one with a standard rig and one with a newer tall rig that was delivered by the “Craig’s List Gods” three years ago. My intent was never to keep both boats but to simply upgrade, keeping the newest and least worn parts on one and sell the other. Over the past 50 years, I truly have not understood why owning too many boats is considered a problem, and soon after my purchase and true to form, I started thinking of reasons why I really did need them both.

At this year’s Camp David, I thought it might be a good time to show my wife another great reason why we needed two. Since Haley and Taylor had both taken learn-to-sail courses several years earlier, I decided that the three girls were not going to be mere passengers, but rather captains and first mate on their own vessel. My most daunting task was to quiet Grandma’s vehement protests. After all, what could possibly go wrong?


On the day of our sail, the wind was a steady seven miles per hour from the northwest direction. I launched my first boat, adjusting the steering foot pedals so Haley and Taylor could take turns as captain and made sure the younger Sarah was situated on one of the two trampolines. With my second boat ready to go, I cast off the three girls and walked through the water about 15 feet where my boat was waiting. In less than a minute that it took me to start sailing, the girls were already two hundred yards away.

“The look” on grandma’s face at the dock let me know that she was nervously aware that I had already broken my promise to her by not keeping them within spitting distance. I assured my wife that I had wisely put them in the “slower” boat with the shorter mast and could surely catch them quickly. I soon learned that my new tall rig and my 200-pound body were no match for their lighter combined body weight and the one-minute head start. After several miles of reaching up the Elk River, I was finally able to catch them. During that time, I’ll admit I was far more worried about how badly they were beating me than I was worried about breaking my promise to grandma. I hoped that the smiles on their faces were from sailing their own boat and not from “trouncing grandpa” at his own game.

In order to entertain Sarah, we stopped at a nearby beach to look for “treasures” (our code word for odd shaped stones, sea glass, or a washed up ball or balloon). By now, the wind had picked up to 10 to 12 miles per hour. My new concern was how well the girls would like the increased speed and spray and how hard it would be for me to keep up with them now!

We launched off the beach again, with me wisely holding onto their boat this time until I was in mine ready to go. With these wind speeds, we quickly accelerated to seven and a half miles per hour and had our windward amas constantly clear of the water. I was able to take a picture when Haley calmly gave me the “thumbs up,” while the other two girls lay on the trampoline playfully splashing each other as the water rushed by, oblivious to the fact that I was again struggling to keep up.

When we returned to the launch ramp that day, I encouraged the girls to be sure and tell grandma all about their experiences, hoping it would blunt some of the “talking to” I instinctively knew was on the horizon for not keeping them close as I had promised. The joy of watching my granddaughters captain their own sailboat was surpassed only by how glad I was that they finally helped prove to grandma how serendipitous it was not to have sold one.

About the Author: SpinSheet Century Club member Dave Nestel has gone out on the water 159 days in 2014—107 of them on his own sailboat.