May 15, 2017
Tomorrow is my first time actually sailing on Sledgehammer. I am excited and nervous—wound tight with anticipation.
July 2, 2017
Sailing is the most incredible thing I’ve ever done! It’s even as good as skiing! I can’t get enough. I feel so acutely alive out there on the water—especially in the big waves when we rise up only to splash back down in a torrent of cold lake water. It’s magnificent. And the crew—my crew. They are sweet and tough and wonderful. I love them all.
July 13, 2017
I threw up at sailing last night—three times! It was horrible and awesome at the same time. I felt like I earned my stripes a little. I felt sailor-tough as I wiped my own vileness off of the toilet seat with my damp sailing glove and then turned back to packing sails into their unruly bags. And when I came up on deck time after time, I was greeted with accolades and kind words. I love the way that this team respects, thanks, and commends one another as they go.
September 8, 2017
I was sad for the end of this season of sailing: for the end of sunsets and rum and evening views of a city I am learning to love. I will miss those things and the wild courage that they filled me with each week. But mom offered, as always, good comfort. She said: “Oh sweetie. Sailing will come again. It will be summer again, and the sun will shine and the waves will wave and the wind will call your name. The rhythms of life have a way of reappearing and making themselves fresh all over again. It’s a gift in disguise.” The waves will wave again and the wind will call my name. What good hope that is.
July 1, 2018
I have spent my morning studying sailing—diving into its language, history, and strategy, trying to get even closer to this thing I am coming to love. And I have been studying all of the little changes in me that have come from being on the boat. My Chaco tan crisscrosses feet that are just a little scaly and well-tanned. The searing burns on my ankles are finally starting to peel, and somehow, my eyes seem bluer—like they soaked up all of the sunlight. I feel beautiful, carrying these marks of sailing all over my body.
July 12, 2018
I have such a size complex, and think that I am so much bigger and stronger than I actually am. How funny it must be to watch me run around that boat as if I am just as big and strong as my shipmates. Maybe this: that none of us would ever know how truly small we are, lest we stop striving and being brave.
August 9, 2018
Yesterday I went for a twenty-mile bike ride and ran the foredeck in twenty knots of wind. I used every muscle in my body for living, and when I woke up this morning, the soreness reminded me of all that I had conquered. I was terrified to be on foredeck without Tony, but I was ready for the challenge and knew that as always, my crew would have my back. When the start flag dropped we jumped off the line, the captain yelled for a skirt, and before I could skid across the wet deck we were off. Two hoists and two douses later I was soaked to the bone with a splitting headache and a stomach that had once again donated its contents to the head. I was exhausted but elated.
August 25, 2018
On Wednesday, after sailing, I called mom and dad to share my joy. Another windy night with the added complications of a downwind start and a starboard rounding. I was anxious, of course. And then, on the second hoist, something went wrong. Junior yelled “made” and I thought we were clear to roll up the jib and make our way back to the rail. But then I saw the foot of the big red A2 start to touch the water and thought that the halyard had come uncleated, but then I heard a mighty rip and realized that there was a massive tear where the sail met the spreader.
As I realized what was happening, I tried to gauge where I should be while beginning to drag the soaking sail back over the lifelines with Junior and Jeff. Then, from the back of the boat, I heard a steady voice and a calm command. Our captain was calling for the A4, and as he issued the command a second time, I knew that I needed to get below deck as quickly as I could. So I jumped down the hatch, skipping four steps and landing solidly on the hardwood. With a thrust I tossed the yellow bag of the A4 up into the front berth where I began to unpack and hook lines to a sail that I prayed had been properly packed. When I began to rush and accidentally twisted the clew, I actually said out loud, “go slow enough to get it right” just to steady my now shaking hands.
And then, in a matter of adrenaline-charged moments, the A4 hoisted perfectly and we were cruising downwind towards what still ended up as a first place finish. At the end of the night, Tom complimented my work—I haven’t stopped smiling since.
June 1, 2019
As I reflect on the beautiful moments and friendships that sailing has brought there is one entry in my well-loved journal that just about sums it all up:
“At the end of another race, with rum and coke in hand and the lights of Buffalo humming to life on the shore, I found a seat on the cabin top and reached for another handful of salt and vinegar potato chips. I was contentedly munching when Doug came up out of the hatch holding his Heineken, and asked me how the night was. I grinned and said, ‘It was so, so fun, just like it is always so, so fun.’ And I meant it. Tony, overhearing my delight, shook his head with a smile and said, ‘It’s just sailing,’ to which I replied, ‘It’s miraculous.’ And I meant that too.”
Ansley Kelly (‘16) is a Department Manager at Wegmans in Buffalo, New York. She is passionate about her work as a leader and often describes her job as “creating environments for talented people to be successful.” In the summer you can find her training as the bowperson on a competitive sailing team, and in the winter she volunteers as a member of the National Ski Patrol. After both of those activities you can find her sipping bourbon (neat, of course) and working on puzzles.