Sailing Slow

The invitation to go sailing in the Zen, one of the sailboats tied to the dock of Smiling Cove Marina at the Lower Base in Garapan was one I did not hesitate to grab when owners Matt and Donna threw my way.

I had wanted try sailing on the waters off Saipan lagoon for a long time and the chance just didn’t come my way, until that day.

The bright afternoon sun shot painful rays in my unprotected skin but it was one adventure I was not willing to quash with the fear of a few sunburns. We drove to the Smiling Cove and for the first time, I had the chance to walk on the floating docks—a chance that only boat owners and their friends usually have.

At the end of the long dock wedged in between two other sailboats was the Zen, bobbing gracefully in the water. I eyed the boat doubtfully, and for a few seconds I felt a gnawing fear at started at the middle of my stomach.  I calculated there were six of us and the Zen not a big one but honestly, I was more concerned for my camera since I conveniently forgot to bring a plastic cover for it.

Donna maneuvered the sailboat smoothly out of the cove and toward the open water of the Saipan lagoon. Matt and Jason, his friend who was on a short visit to Saipan started to unfurl the sails. Suddenly the wind caught—which caught me by surprise.

The sailboat tilted to a precarious angle which honestly alarmed me. I have boarded boats of different kinds even under the angriest of waves in the Pacific before, even survived an inflatable boat ride over Saipan’s choppy waters but that time was different. I was not prepared to die. Or drown my new camera which had me scrimping for a long time saving money to pay for it.

Matt removed one of the sails and the boat went upright again, this time sailing straightly on the not-so-calm waters.

With only single ropes acting as handholds around the boat, it was quite challenging having to jump to the other side when the boat tilts to one side and maintaining your balance so as not to fall off the sides but that added to the thrill.

As the sailing trip was unplanned, Matt didn’t have a GPS to guide us so we just sailed back and forth in the lagoon, enjoying the view from the sea and watching schools of fish swimming near the boat.

An hour later, we were rewarded with one of nature’s gifts bestowed on this side of the planet—a spectacular sunset which we raced to capture with our cameras. When the last rays of the sun were safely tucked beneath the horizon, we slowly made our way back to the dock.

The cruise boats offering sunset dinner cruises for tourists and locals also started gliding back toward the dock. From a distance, we could see the passengers of the Stars and Stripes waving at us as they joined the festive dancing on deck.

With shaky feet, I jumped on the floating dock of the Smiling Cove Marina after the boat was securely tied, glad for the experience albeit unplanned. One day, look for the right time to experience slow sailing around Saipan’s waters. It definitely is one of the must-not miss activities if you are visiting Saipan.



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