[Photo courtesy of Seamus Vanecko: http://www.seamusvanecko.com/gallery/sailors/]
Have you ever taken a dinghy lesson at Cal Sailing? Then chances are you have met Michael "Mike" Sherrell. He has been teaching lessons every Monday, Thursday, and Saturday for as long as I can remember. On innumerable occasions, he has saved the day, being the only instructor to show up. And as many club members can attest to, Mike is very serious about learning as much as he can about sailing, and then passing that knowledge on to his students.
Mike is a Berkeley native who, after retiring from biotech-related business, has the luxury of splitting his free time between sailing and his other passion, horses. In fact, he has four of them, and loves to go camping out with them. If you haven't seen him around the club recently, it's because he just got back from an epic camping trip in Oregon and Utah.
Mike was kind enough to answer some questions about sailing and his dedication to CSC
When did you start to sail, and what convinced you to try it out?
When I was about 11 I got ahold of an old Sea Scout manual at my grandmother's house, and assimilated the diagrams of how to sail upwind. A fews later, at a Boy Scout summer camp in the Sierra they had a dinghy. Nobody knew how to sail it, but I worked it out and singlehanded around the lake. When I retired, I wanted another outdoor activity and it just came up as a possibility. I seem to be drawn to archaic modes of transportation.
What inspires you to teach so much?
Bunch of reasons. Particularly when I was a new Junior, coming down on Monday and Thursday pretty much guaranteed crew to sail with. At first, students were grateful that I brought them back safely, when I did. As time went on, more and more students thanked me for the lesson, and some even asked when I was teaching next. Excellent for the ego! (I always recommend students taking lessons from as many different instructors as possible.) Teach enough and you'll be exposed to every mistake and disaster possible (lots of which happen right around the dock, where everyone is watching), which makes for more competent sailing, not to mention some of the best slapstick this side of the Three Stooges. In addition, particularly in high wind, and most commonly during Fast Track, the mistakes and disasters get to be very exciting, and some times hilarious. Another reason is that moving around while novices are on the tiller and the jib teaches good balance on the boat.
Also, if you accumulate enough teaching hours it qualifies as a senior project.
Do you have any sailing goals?
I've got a couple, actually: to never dismast a club boat; to become the oldest club member to pass his senior dinghy test; and last and least likely, to beat Mark Playsted racing. Actually I might have succeeded once, except as a senior he popped the kite on the downwind home stretch.
What's been your most exhilarating moment sailing?
Driving a Bahia down from X-Buoy under gennaker at over 15 knots with Antony Davirro on the wire.
What tips do you have for beginning sailors?
First, read the "Introductory Handbook for Sailing Boats" on the club website, and read it again after you've had more experience. Second, get on the club email lists because there's all kinds of interesting stuff happening on them. Third, the sooner you capsize the sooner you'll stop worrying about it.
What do you like best about CSC?