Land Yachting is a short creative piece I wrote for my Intro to Creative Non-fiction 300 class. The piece elaborates on Land Yachting, an experience that you can only have in Scotland. I wanted to discuss an activity that people had never heard of. I found out and experienced land yachting when I went on the JMU summer semester study abroad program. This piece goes along with my other creative piece on St. Andrew’s.
27 April 2017
My eyes darted from the bright orange cones up to the high blue sails that resided on the carts that were positioned in a line on the sand. The carts were made of metal, with a sail in the middle and two large wheels on either side. There was a third wheel in the front connected by two black bars that met at a point. The seat was in the middle, under the sail, low to the ground. Two thin, flexible black ropes tapered down on both sides to control the blue sail.
It was overcast, windy as usual. A light mist blew over my body causing a shiver to sliver its way down to my feet like a snake. I didn’t think it would be that cold but I was wrong. I had planned accordingly for my trip to Scotland, taking along all the essentials needed for a rainy day. Yet, I didn’t bother putting on a rain jacket before I left my room.
Refocusing on the carts, my eyes wandered down the beach. My vision was hazy from the mist, but I still spotted a small orange dot on the sand in the distance. What is that? I thought.
“And here we have the cones,” the instructor said in his Scottish accent. “There are two of these on either side of the beach marking the boundary lines for how far you can go with your carts. Do not go past them, do not crush them.” He held it up high in his hand for all of us to see.
I tried to render my thoughts, but my mind was adrift like a boat on the water. Instead I thought of the stream of snot I felt falling underneath my nose. Great, my nose is running…and I don’t have a raincoat, I thought.
Traveling from Edinburgh, Scotland’s capital, to the University of St. Andrew’s had been rough on me. The change in time zones had screwed up my sleep schedule. Every night I watched the sun set outside my window at eleven. I wouldn’t go to sleep until the sun came back up again at four in the morning. My body hadn’t been able to readjust to the time zone change and I was only getting four to five hours of sleep every night.
The instructors enthusiastic voice filled my ears. “Are you all ready?”
“Yes!” I called out along with the other voices in my group.
It was hard for me to pretend that I wasn’t ill but I didn’t let that stop me from taking on the challenge. I had zoned out for most of the instruction, but I was confident in my ability to wing it. I hurried over to the carts with my friends and sat down grabbing onto both the ropes. I was eager to take on the newly presented challenge despite the fact I had no clue what I was doing. One by one, each of the instructors walked over to us giving our carts a push, sending us off like baby birds taking flight for the first time.
I tugged at the rope following the wind along down the beach. The sand was rugged and wet from the rain but dense allowing for the carts to roll over with ease.
As the first orange cone came closer, a grin spread across my face. I tightened my grip on the left rope, pulling down with force. Instead of catching the wind like what was supposed to happen, I stopped.
Of course this would happen to me, I thought. I had never experienced land yachting before. It always frustrated me when I failed, no matter the activity. Reaching my hand over the side of the cart, I pushed down on the wheel forcing it to turn in the sand but it wouldn’t budge. I was stuck.
“Pull down on that rope harder next time,” the instructor mentioned when he came over. He gripped the back of the cart giving me a wee push.
The slight movement of the cart allowed the wind to take hold of the sail. As the wind pulled me in different directions down the beach, I had to be careful not to hit any other carts. Driving the cart was like an unpredictable roller coaster ride, I had no clue which way the cart would turn. I was fighting for control.
Sam flew by me in her cart giggling, I made a close call with Isaac in his cart, and I saw Emily and Sophie were up ahead of me. As I watched them try to make the turn around the orange cone, they both stopped. As the cone drew closer to me, I pulled down on the rope determined to make it. I steered clear of Emily and Sophie’s carts but I failed in my attempt and stopped just like them.
Frustrated, I pressed my hand against one of the big wheels on the side of the cart and tugged the rope. I figured out how to get the cart going again without anyone’s help.
I liked to do activities by myself quite often. When I was younger, my grandma always told me that there was nothing wrong with needing help every once in a while, but I ignored her advice. I liked to do things myself because if I asked for help, I felt like I was weak. Not to mention when doing activities with others. I have always hated other people holding me back. It’s like a pack of dogs on a leash. You are restricted to only doing what the weakest one in the pack can do. They are not as strong and you are stuck to them, unable to be free.
I maneuvered the ropes back and forth until I regained speed with the help from the Scottish winds. The wind grabbed hold of the sail in an instant, dragging me down over the rough sand. Faster, Faster. Strands of hair flew in front of my eyes, covering my vision, but the cold wind brushed it away. The wind was my friend, helping me along the beach.
At the front of the cart there were two black bars that met at a point. I wonder if I could go faster if I shift my weight, I thought. I pressed my feet against the top of the cart, distributing my weight to the front. With not as much weight on the back wheels, the cart will go faster.
I gained speed, flying down the stretch of sand. The mist continued to hit my face making it hard to see that I was coming up to the next corner. The orange cone didn’t deter me now! I rounded it maintaining speed. It took me a while to get the hang of making that turn around the orange cones. I stopped multiple times before I got the hang of it. I tugged as hard as I could on the ropes forcing the palm of my hand to burn and crack from the cold. I ignored the sensation hungry for more speed.
It was as if I was tubing on the water again with my friend Kristen. I was in fifth grade when Kristen’s family invited us onto their boat for the day to go tubing. The feeling of the water droplets hitting our faces gave us a cool sensation. The wind that blew our hair back relieved us from the heat of the day. The speed was exhilarating and the waves were what created the fun. We both craved that speed. We tubed until the waves forced the tube out of the water and into the air. We flew off it, like kites flying away into the wind.
Tubing was like Land Yachting, exhilarating and fun. I pulled down on the rope again. Faster, Faster. I gained more speed flying down the stretch of sand.
I have always been a persistent woman, taking on challenges and throwing caution to the wind. I loved the adrenaline. The wind that brushed my face from the speed made me feel like a free spirit that had no restraints. I am different in this way from the rest of the group. Most people would be scared to step out of their comfort zone but not me. I wasn’t.
My cart kept going, so fast that one of the back wheels lifted off the ground. The cart felt lighter and I was surprised that it was still moving. It felt like I was in the air being carried away. I yanked at the rope, controlling the wind. My hands were cold, wet, and stung but I ignored the feeling. I forced the cart down with the rope, tugging to regain control of the sail.
The wind carried me along the beach with such force that half my cart rose off the ground. The clouds grew darker and the rain hit harder soaking my whole body along with my shoes. The wind became a cold stranger to me, stinging my face and forcing the hair on my arms to stand on end.
I fought with the wind, tugging to regain control of the sail. It wasn’t my friend anymore. It pulled me down the beach and tugged my cart off the ground. I pulled at the left rope burning my hand with the force but the wind wouldn’t relent. I couldn’t win. The cart continued to tip farther to the right and I regretted ever trusting the wind.
My eyes watered, tears slipping out from the corner of my eyes. I saw my friend Sam in another cart call to me, but her words were carried away by my enemy. I could not hear her.
I knew my fate. I released hold of both the ropes and leaned forward to grip the two bars connected to the front of the cart. I held on as the world turned on its side. Grains of sand blew up against my face and into my eyes. Pushing me over with no remorse, I was overtaken by the wind, colliding face first, right into the sand.