A Sailor’s Story
by Nutchapol Boonparlit (A14)
One of my favorite things about being a Johnnie in Annapolis is that whenever I need a break, all I have to do is walk outside my dorm room in Spector Hall and head over to the Hodson Boathouse. There, I can grab a lifejacket, pick from one of the many sailboats, and set out along College Creek. Once I’m out on the water, my mind settles down, as my thoughts shift from great books and complex ideas to massive winds and rushing waves.
As a rising senior, I'm experienced now, but sailing wasn't always this easy for me. In fact, before coming to St. John’s, I had never set foot in a sailboat. Halfway through my freshman year I decided to give it a try. In the beginning I was sufficiently nervous, but the sailing team – like all people at St. John’s – embraces amateurs. On my first day, the team members stuck me on a boat with an experienced steward, and away we went! The water was unusually windy, and the boat rocked wildly from side to side, refusing to sit still. Fortunately, my steward was encouraging and demonstrated to me everything to do – and not do – on a sailboat. Needless to say, we wound up in the water more than once, but after each time it happened my fellow Johnnies urged me to climb back in the boat and try again. Mistakes, they told me, were a part of the learning process.
Soon after my maiden voyage, I was hooked and started practicing with the team. A typical practice consists of mock races where we compete against each other. The sailing team members are a mix of beginners and experienced sailors, so the competition is fair. Occasionally, we’ll have free sails along the Severn River, where we do short tacking and jibbing drills and take in the sights of Annapolis. When sailing season wraps up for the winter, we keep the momentum by organizing meetings, usually at the Boathouse, to discuss tactics and other nautical topics. Being Johnnies, the conversation inevitably turns to books, especially those that are about sailing, involve sailors, or are written by sailors. And as soon as winter thaws, we head back on the water. Three years later, I can now call myself a sailor, even though I still occasionally fall in the water.