I went down to the reservoir last weekend to watch the Union Sailing Club's regatta. My contact, Catherine March, had arranged for me to watch the races from a pontoon.
I wasn't quite sure what a pontoon was, so I was a little nervous. Once I realized that it wasn't the inflatable raft I'd spotted, however, I was OK.
To my delight, I found the sailing club members to be a congenial bunch -- the type to ignore little things like the unsteadiness of a beginner stepping from the land to a swaying boat.
I talked with D.J. Hagberg, the club's vice commodore, just before the races began.
"You can learn the basics of sailing in a day," he advised, "but it takes a lifetime to master it. For a long time it's a puzzle about how to best manage your craft, and to capture the wind. But then one day you have the feel of it, and there's no need for conscious calculation."
Everybody I asked, said that they liked sailing because it was so peaceful and quiet. It was a noiseless activity in a noisome world.
D.J. told me that the Union Sailing Club has been operating for about six years. Families may join for an annual fee of $50. The club offers clinics, lessons and boat rentals. The best way to learn, D.J. says, is to crew with an experienced sailor.
Duane Chaloupka and Kelly Kavanagh from the Carter Lake Club had volunteered to be the race committee for the day. I rode out with them on the pontoon, which looked a little like the fishing boat in To Have and Have Not.
The men took some paraphernalia out of a briefcase, and started a complicated counting down process involving flags, clocks, whistles and horns in order to start the first race. And then they were off ... and the Snipes, Butterflys, Buccaneers, Sunfish and Hobies raced gracefully around the reservoir in what appeared to be slow motion.
Occasionally, I could hear the wind in the sails as the sailors turned and leaned to catch it. Some of the ships were crewed by just one person. Others had as many as three. The ships were classed by their speed, and would be handicapped accordingly.
When the first race was over, the sailors congregated around our pontoon, casually exchanging comments about the wind and the course. They reminded me of a school of playing porpoises. "Oh for the life on the sea," I thought, even though I was on a land-locked body of water.
When it was time for me to leave, Tony Porter and Peyton Lester ferried me back on the Chase boat. Like the race committee members, these two were volunteers. They were there to move flags, and pick up sailors in case of an emergency.
They didn't seem to mind at all taking me back to land, and they told me what all the various symbols on all the various sails meant. When I got back to my car, I looked wistfully back toward the boats, and this phrase of Ratty's from Wind in the Willows popped into my head.
"Believe me," Ratty said to Mole, "there is nothing -- absolutely nothing -- half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats."
Contact the Union Sailing Club at unionsailingclub.org.
Ann Miller is a travel, essay, and fiction writer who lives in Longmont. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.