The Adventures of Ollie The Optimist
A Picnic on the Beach

Written by: Michael Hoye

Dimming stars gave way to a light pink in the eastern sky. Minutes later the sun emerged just above the horizon, beginning a new day at sailing school. The water is fresh and clean on the rising tide, and the fleet of sailing school Optimist Dinghies rode easily, tugging lightly against their painters. Ollie was wide-awake, and he wondered about that flowing water that came and went twice each day.

This was Ollie’s favorite time of year. The surface of the bay was rippled by a light breeze. Seagulls cried overhead and pelicans soared just above the water’s surface, probably looking for breakfast. The other sailboats were still sleeping, unaware of the beauty surrounding them.

Ollie wondered about the tide and the birds, and lots of other things. The kids would be here soon for sailing class, and he sensed adventure in the air. Ollie loved sailing with the kids.

Ollie could hear the bell buoy gong in the distance, and he wondered about that too. It seemed that Ollie wondered about everything. But more than anything, he wanted to know what lay out there beyond the jetty and the bell buoy.

A fish nibbled at Ollie’s rudder, tickling his tiller. His boom and gooseneck fittings rattled against his mast in the breeze. He was ready to go sailing, but where were the kids?

Just then, kids riding bicycles rattled up to the dock, and car doors opened and closed. Laughing and giggling filled the air as the junior sailors arrived for class once again. Padlocks unsnapped and creaky doors were opened on the sheds as the instructor’s greeted their students. Today the kids would sail their boats to the beach near the lighthouse for a picnic.

Ollie would sail with Emily today. She has red hair and freckles. Ollie liked Emily because she could sail really well.

Emily hoisted Ollie’s sail and dropped his centerboard. She cast off the painter from the dock, trimmed the mainsheet, and they headed into the bay on a beam reach. Two other boats were alongside, and several more were right behind. Sailing to the beach would be upwind. This looks like a race to me, Ollie thought.

As they entered the channel leading to Lighthouse Beach, Emily came about to a starboard tack, and then hauled in the mainsheet. Ollie nosed up into the oncoming breeze and they jumped ahead by a full length.

 

Sailing close hauled was Ollie’s favorite point of sail. Emily squealed in delight as Ollie’s hull leaned to leeward, his bow wave making a splash.

Emily hiked out, her feet braced under the hiking strap. “Yippee” she yelled, as Ollie leaped on the wind, “lets go Ollie, go!” The other boats chased Emily and Ollie to the beach ahead.

Lighthouse beach was near the very end of the jetty, just out of reach of the open ocean. Ollie looked forward to just peeking beyond the protective wall, but the instructor’s chase boats hovering nearby kept everyone on course.

Emily skillfully steered Ollie to a perfect landing on the beach, and Ollie got a glimpse of the ocean beyond. The other kids followed, and the beach was filled with small sails luffing in the wind.

The kids furled their sails, and blankets were spread on the sand with the instructors help. While they swam, and played in the water, Ollie was watching the ocean. The waves seemed big, he thought. The other sailboats didn’t seem interested. They just relaxed on the beach, enjoying the sun. Someday, I will sail on the ocean, Ollie thought.

Whistles blew, sand was shaken from the blankets, and sails were hoisted once again and luffing. It was time to return to the sailing school dock.

Emily eased Ollie back off the beach, steered onto a broad reach, and they headed into the channel. The tide was ebbing now, and the rapidly flowing water tipped the channel marking buoys toward the ocean.

The fleet of Optimists, each skippered by a junior sailor, filled the channel with white sails. They split into two groups as they passed the old schooner anchored in the mooring field. After rounding the green buoy number 7 to port, each boat jibed and trimmed sail for a run into the little harbor.

Emily tied Ollie’s painter to the dock with a cleat hitch, then carefully furled his sail. It was a perfect end to a perfect day of sailing. Ollie was tired, but he could not stop thinking about the ocean, and he wondered what it would be like to sail in the open sea.

The water was still as the sun appeared to sink into the bay. The tide was about to turn once again, and the occasional gong of the bell buoy could be heard in the distance. Ollie lay effortlessly in the calm water by the dock, and drifted into dreams of blue water sailing.