Watery nightmares turn to dream realized

February, 2000

By DeeAnn Dubois
For Points East

A near drowning incident in a swimming pool when I was a child left me fearful of the water. It wasn’t until I was about 34 years old that I was forced to confront the fear and deal with it. After surgery, my doctor said he did not want me to return to running and land aerobics right away. He preferred that I work out in the water.

I was too embarrassed to tell him about my fear of water. Since I belong to a health club with a water aerobics program, I decided that my need to work out was greater than my fear of the water. It was a big leap of faith and I was scared beyond words.

The water aerobics teacher, Nancy Rakiey, allowed me to participate in the class in the divided shallow end of the pool while the rest of class worked out in the deep end. At first, I was very self-conscious, but I was determined and my classmates encouraged me.

Now I know you are wondering what this all has to do with boating and the Gulf of Maine. I promise to get to that.

I became a regular in the water classes, and after a while I ventured deeper in the water, sometimes holding onto a ball to keep me afloat. Before I knew it, I spent the entire hour in the deep end, treading water on my own and learning to swim. Meanwhile, my husband, who is a builder and cabinetmaker, decided to build a wooden canoe. It took a good nine months to complete, but it was worth every minute, because he produced a beauty! At this point, I felt pretty comfortable in the pool with lifeguards all around, but I wasn’t sure how I felt about deeper waters with bigger parameters.

My loyalty to my husband overshadowed the fears that were creeping back into my life. The lifejacket I had on helped too. I quickly found that I loved going out in the canoe, but had you told me then that my boating experiences would reach ocean proportions, I would have thought you insane. Little did I know what the future held for me!

During the spring of 1993, some friends mentioned that they had a sailboat for sale and asked if we wanted to look at it. Not only did we look at it, but we ended up buying the 21-foot sailboat. It just so happened that it was such a good deal that we hated to pass it up in spite of the fact that neither of us had sailing experience. We had no clue where we would even sail her.

We began sailing her on Lake Sunapee and found that we both had to take Dramamine each time we went out. Through books, videos and good ole trial and error, we managed to sail despite ourselves. I felt pretty comfortable with my lifejacket and felt that Lake Sunapee was where I belonged.

I know you are still wondering where the Gulf of Maine comes in, so I’ll tell you. At this point we attended the Maine Boatbuilders Show in Portland and happened upon Tom Powers, who runs a sailing school. After some careful thought, we decided to sign up for a four-day, three-night sailing course out of Falmouth, Maine.

It was an eye-opener, to say the least. I felt safe with Tom as Captain and teacher, but spent most of the time trying to overcome my seasickness. I will say I spent very little time being afraid of being on the ocean.

Two things happened as a result of our sailing school experience. First, we decided that we would never become ocean sailors (little did we know). Secondly, we discovered to our delight that we no longer needed to take Dramamine to go out on the lake.

Although I would have been content to eventually retire to Lake Sunapee, my husband was getting bored. This boredom prompted him to build a wooden sailing dinghy and then to decide that he wanted a bigger sailboat, something to take to the ocean.

I was a bit surprised at the ocean part of it, but went along with him as he searched the Internet and various publications for our next boat. We looked at quite a few bigger sailboats, but finally chose a 25-foot Catalina named Cat Tales as our new summer home. We were able to rent a mooring in Great Bay for our first season, the summer of 1999. I am proud to say that despite my initial reservations, the ocean has stolen my heart.

Now that our first season on the ocean has ended, we are busy readying ourselves for next year. My husband is taking more boating courses, and I have been busy reading sailing books and learning knots. We both dream of a bigger boat, maybe one we can build together.

P.S. With the help of wristbands, I have only had to take Dramamine occasionally.

DeeAnn Dubois and her husband, David, live in Wilton, N.H. and sail out of Great Bay. At right, a peaceful evening aboard Cat Tales at her Great Bay mooring.