sailboat racing | Lake Ontario

It’s warm with a tempting breeze—the kind that beckons you toward refreshing water. Once again, it’s race time for the local sailors on Lake Ontario and they are in need of crew. Now in our 24th day of ongoing engine repair, Trent and I just happen to be available.


The sun is dipping low on the horizon as we make our way on to the dock. The water laps softly beneath our feet as we tread past row after row of occupied boatslips. The surrounding schooners stand like silent sentinels, masts reaching skyward. It’s easy to feel insecure in this unfamiliar space. Yet I know that all that stands between the known and the unknown is the experience that lies before me.

sailboats lake ontario


A crew of six welcomes us aboard the Wind Thief. I’m given a brief tour before we shove off and make our way into the harbor. Once we near the starting point of our race, the motor is retired and the sails are hoisted heavenward. Like bees in a flower garden, the sailboats on the lake permeate the horizon, filling it with vertical sheets of white against a backdrop of blue liquid.

sailboat racing lake ontario


Many things begin to happen simultaneously. The captain stands at the helm, hands on the wheel, barking out orders in a manner fitting for someone in his position. Sails are positioned, tightened, tweaked and repositioned. Colored sheets (ropes), each with a unique name and task are cranked or loosened using hands and winches. I’m assigned to one of these cranks and told when and how long to tighten. All the while, a countdown toward the start is pacing us. We are assigned the fourth group (sorted according to speed and size). The goal is to cross the imaginary starting line between a buoy and the committee boat as close as possible to the start. Our moment comes, signified by a starting shot, and the race is on!

sailboat racing lake ontario
Photo credit: @hamsterescape on Instagram

What ensues is a mix of motion heightened by the energy of the race. While I’ve seen something new unfold with each tick of the clock since stepping onboard, my mind stands still when the racing technique is explained: “In sailing, you never set course directly toward your goal. Reaching your mark happens in a continual zigzag course correction. We rely on the power of the wind to take us back and forth ever closer to our destination.”


As I gaze over the lake, I see a beautiful sight as this counter intuitive truth is actively demonstrated. For this brief sliver of time, every sailboat is working toward the same goal. Yet, amazingly, uniquely, every boat is charting is own circuitous* course.

In this moment, I see life as the lake and each person or family occupying a boat, powered by the Holy Spirit. We each have the same goal: love the Lord; love those around us. Yet the way in which that is worked out is uniquely our own. While we may see specific markers ahead of us, at times we find ourselves seemingly moving farther away! Were it not for a captain at the wheel whom we trust, we would have cause to fear that things had gone terribly wrong.

Admittedly, the duration of our delay in Canada has left me feeling that way: far from our goal, lost, and at times forgotten. I must remember Who is at the helm. My Lord is trustworthy. He created the world that holds the water that I am floating upon. He will not steer me wrong. Are my eyes on Him? Am I listening to his voice? Am I willing to trust that even this is part of His plan to bring me closer to His goal?

sailboat racing lake ontario
Photo credit: @hamsterescape on Instagram


Our cursing captain snaps me back to the present and I crank clockwise until the jib is tight on the starboard side. The wind has made an unexpected show of strength and we lay low, our hull kissing the water. Arduous glee spontaneously erupts from the crew as we recover and once again are pressed low to the surface of the lake. I glance to my right and see the boats behind us meeting the same winds we just danced with. They bend low in submission and I can’t keep from smiling. This tease of sheets and sails, winch and wind—this is sailing!

sailboat racing lake ontario
Photo credit: @hamsterescape on Instagram

We cross the finish, neither first nor last. As the excited energy dims, I hear the phrase repeated more than once from the crew, “This was the most exciting race we’ve had in over two years!” As the sun offers up its showiest salutation before dipping beneath the horizon, I reflect on the evenings events and am filled with gratitude for this unbelievable experience.

sailboat racing lake ontario


This breakdown has been a continual contradiction. We’ve had moments of awe and wonder filled with old roommates, new friends and fun opportunities. We’ve also been challenged emotionally as Trent’s dad turned 80 in our absence and chances to reunite with friends has been minimized or taken away as our timeline here continues to extend. We are in a zigzag course correction that is testing us. Amidst the questioning and praying, I am reminded that I can trust my captain and even when it seems that we are moving away from our goal, He is directing our course.

sailboat racing lake ontario

How about you dear reader? Is life challenging you? Do you feel ‘circuitously off-course’?

Circuitous |sərˈkyo͞oədəs| adjective (of a route or journey) longer than the most direct way: Yet, amazingly, uniquely, every boat is charting is own circuitous course.

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