One of the things I love about New Orleans is the hidden activities that the tourists don't think about. Everyone knows that New Orleans has good food, good music and good bars, but there are a lot of other fun things to do that don't get the same amount of attention. Last weekend I got to investigate another activity many local New Orleanians love: sailing on Lake Pontchartrain. 


After writing about fun things I wanted to do in New Orleans, I was invited to fulfill my dream of sailing on Lake Pontchartrain by Lynn Long from the Leukemia Cup Regatta. The Leukemia Cup happened March 23-24, 2013, at the Southern Yacht Club. The weekend consisted of sailboat racing and other festivities, all benefiting the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. I was flattered that Lynn read my blog and decided to invite me, so I said yes and was so excited to finally get to go sailing.


Sailing might be kind of a random activity to some people, but for me it's something I've always wanted to do because it seems like everyone else in my family does it – and does it well. One of my cousins is the managing director of the U.S. Olympic Sailing team and was previously the publisher of SAIL Magazine. Another one of my cousins works in the sailing business and was previously the director of operations at a sailing school. In my immediate family, my mom grew up in a sailing town in Massachusetts, so she was sailing before she even had a driver's license.   


My brother and I missed the boat on sailing because we moved to Missouri when we were both in elementary school. Not a lot of sailing goes on in the middle of America, miles away from the ocean. Even during college one summer, when I worked as a lifeguard at a yacht club in Massachusetts while interning at Boston Magazine, I never met the cute sailing boy I was planning to in my imagination. I had visions of meeting a preppy sailor with a name like Biff Wellington, III, who would take me out sailing all the time.


Sailing for a Cause on Lake PontchartrainSo with my family's background and my own desire to try sailing, one of the things I was happy about when I planned to move to New Orleans from the Midwest was that I would be by the water, super close to Lake Pontchartrain and a quick drive to the Gulf of Mexico.


On the day of the regatta, I was nervous that I had hyped my sailing adventure too much, so I was a bit scared about my sailing adventure. After an hour of wondering about important things such as what I should wear ("Will nautical stripes make it look like I'm trying too hard?"), I met my sailing team at the Orleans Marina. I was assigned to a boat called Nike, owned by Chris Clement, and his wife, Laurie, an extremely nice couple. They welcomed me like I was an old sailing buddy, even when I reminded them that I had zero sailing skills. Chris, Laurie and a few of their good friends made up the rest of the crew that would be my sailing group for the next six hours.


Sailing was A LOT harder than I anticipated. First there was the lingo. I didn't know what tacking meant; I kept calling the restroom the "restroom" instead of the head; and I only knew what "stern" meant because I've seen Titanic a million times. Then there were all the logistics of how to use the wind to get the sailboat to go faster. I began to understand why my mom was surprised when I told her I was going to be in a sailing race with no experience.


My team lost the first race, but won the second. I say "we" like I helped the team, but really all I did was adjust the volume on the music. I wasn't a natural sailor like I hoped I would be. Since I had no idea what I was doing, I pretty much just sat and observed. I did learn a lot about the whole sailing world, and I now have a new respect for people who compete in regattas all the time. While it was kind of a long day, I thought it was so nice that Chris and Laurie and their experienced sailor friends would let me hang out with them for an entire Saturday and give me the chance to learn about something just because I wanted to. Their kindness showed true New Orleans hospitality.


So with the warm weather coming up, I push you all to try a new outdoor activity you've never tried in New Orleans. If you have a friend with a boat, ask him or her to take you out on the water. If you have always wanted to go kayaking on Bayou St. John, rent a kayak. Sure, you have your favorite New Orleans restaurant or jazz club, but there are so many other things to do in this city and always new adventures to find.


I'm looking forward to spending more time around Lake Pontchartrain, even though it will probably be in the form of a picnic on the shore or a nice walk. I didn't have the natural sailing skills I hoped I did, but it was still fun to try something new.


On a different topic, there is still time to donate to the Leukemia Cup Regatta if you are interested. Click here to donate to Chris Clement's page.