AS I walked the plank toward slip No. 2411, I hollered "ahoy" to Vice Commodore Chuck Cady and offered the WWII veteran a friendly salute. Despite any appearances to the contrary, however, I hadn't been drafted into the Naval Reserve or otherwise shanghaied. I just thought it fitting to pay a little nautical honorific to the California Sailing Cooperative.
A nonprofit sailing club-cum-school, CSC is a rare and tribute-worthy beast -- an example of smart, efficient (and nonaggressive) communism flourishing among the Thurston Howells of the Marina City Club. There was no manifesto, Bolshevik coup or bust of Lenin involved in the group's founding, though, just Cady -- a longtime sailor, who, finding his retirement budget insufficient for the upkeep of his yacht, opened the 36-foot sailboat up to collective ownership and set a schedule whereby all member-owners would get two weekend days per month to sail her.
Now 14 years in and on its second ship, the Mystic, CSC has five skippers and six mates, all qualified to helm her, and another dozen or so members learning the ropes. With a cap of 30 members but a steady attrition, there's almost always room for new recruits to join the co-op and earn their American Sailing Assn. certificates in Basic Keelboat and Coastal Cruising. Serious candidates can even request a test sail to see if they have the mustard to make it as a sailor, which is where I came in, or rather aboard.
I'm glad I did. Five minutes on deck and Cady and his first mate, Bahman Engheta, had me appreciating the difference between a jib and a mainsail, and a line and a halyard. Half an hour later, I was piloting the Mystic out of the marina and learning how to tack.
From port to starboard and back again, we craftily advanced against a head wind by applying Bernoulli's Principle -- the same concept that governs the flight of fixed-wing aircraft -- to the sails. Tightening the vertical mainsail to one side or the other, what would be lift under a horizontal airplane wing becomes a kind of low-pressure suction actually pulling the boat diagonally forward. Cool, huh?
Along with the odd lesson in sailing -- a "close haul" here, a "keel" maneuver there -- we enjoyed a lazy day with plenty of time for lunch, some fantastic views and the camaraderie of the Mystic's crew. Call me "Relax-tion Man," because I could get used to this.
CALIFORNIA SAILING COOPERATIVE
WHERE: Marina City Club, 4333 Admiralty Way, Marina del Rey
WHEN: 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
PRICE: $100 initiation, $60 monthly dues
INFO: http://sailingla.google pages.com