Last week we learned about how to operate the rudder of a sailing boat as well as how to place the ballast in your boat. If you did not, well go back to issue number 16 and do so.
Today I want to touch on something which I enjoyed tremendously when I was a kid and my dad would take me sailing all the way to his fish traps and lobster pats. I am referring to the art of “guindolear” or using human ballast when it is very windy.
My dad used to hoist the sail and asked me whether I wanted to sit at the stern and handle the rudder or go up to the mast and act as a human ballast. Just in case you are not familiar with boat terms, the mast is the long pole where the sail is attached to and hoisted. Anyway, I always used to pick the rudder first because it made me feel like a captain or the person in charge. My dad would release his hook and bait into the sea and take charge of trolling, or if a bit tired, he would lie on the deck to take a short nap.
I would hold on to the ropes of the rudder and direct the boat, La Anita, straight to the village or at times sailed towards the reef, where trolling was better and a barracuda was guaranteed. There was only one danger spot, which I had to learn and that was a coral patch that was quite high and where the boat would crash. That patch was located between the cut and the beach right in front of “La Ensenada” more or less in front of Banyan Bay.
Sailing by the cut or channel was also fun because there were large schools of barracuda and I enjoyed the moment of pulling in a large thirty or forty pound barracuda. I also enjoyed the barracuda steaks, and don’t ask about the barracuda row or spawn. That was my favorite either fried as it was or scrambled with some eggs. Men, that was a delicacy. Yes, all of this was part of sailing because trolling is the number one sport in a sailing boat.
Now when the wind was blowing strongly, it was necessary to use the human ballast, which I spoke about, or “guindolear”. This was simple. A double rope was tied to the mast and you would sit on the rope with your body extending as far out on the side of the boat.
This extra weight helped to bring the boat back to a more or less straight position or prevent it from leaning dangerously to one side. The fun of acting as the human ballast was that you felt out of the boat and over the sea. The waves would get you wet and that was fun too. The role of “guindolear” was reserved only for the big and strong men, so if my dad asked me to act as the human ballast, I felt important, real big and strong. Actually it was not strength that was needed, but weight.
So next time you go sailing you can ask the captain to either let you handle the rudder or be the human ballast. Both give you a sense of importance. You are not just sitting down. You are an important part of the crew. This was indeed part of the fun of growing up in the 1950’s when every dad had a sailing boat, and no dad had a motor. So it was sailing time twenty five years ago.
- by Angel Nuñez, Columnist