When Romain and I decided to document our journey we wanted to make sure we would be honest and tell both the good and the bad. Our first sailing experience together probably falls somewhere in between, with some high points but definitely several tough, low points as well. In the spirit of keeping it real, we’ve already had many arguments and tears. During our very first sail, the day after we closed on the boat, I was so nervous and worried about damaging the boat or not being able to maintain control of it that I completely stressed myself out.
We had about 20 knots of consistent wind that day, which now looking back may have been too much for a first sail, but hindsight is always too late. We motored through the channel, slightly concerned about our engine, and got the mainsail up. Briefly I heard Romain say, “I don’t have control of the boat,” and immediately I jumped to let out the main in hopes of bringing the boat back onto her feet. Once we settled in with the mainsail and feeling calmer we decided to step it up a notch and roll out the headsail. Again I start frantically pulling and releasing lines. For those who may be unfamiliar with the sailing process, it’s work! Especially for a petite woman I’m using all the strength I have to get the sails out quickly and trimmed correctly. When Romain does it he makes it look so much easier. The bruises on my shins the next morning were friendly reminders of my frantic activities. At least I can look forward to super buff arms – here’s hoping.
Without really thinking about it, we let out the entire headsail, a 150% genoa. And just like that, we were heeling. A lot. This was probably the moment when the majority of my bruises were created and my comfort levels dropped to an extraordinary low. They say fear begins where control ends, and I definitely did not feel in control. So I rolled up the headsail and we went back to calmer sailing.
The intensity and brief moments of panic proved to be too much for me and the tears started flowing. Even though we were peacefully moving along, I only wanted to go back to our mooring where I knew for certain we’d be secure. The stress of not knowing the boat and sailing on our own for the first time took me by surprise and I just wanted the uncomfortable feeling to end.
Looking back we did just fine. We took our time and were very cautious, always monitoring our depth and oncoming boat traffic. Since it was the 4th of July weekend the channel was busier than usual; we kept our motor on as a precaution to make sure we could maneuver the boat quickly. The weather was also another factor and honestly, the wind was perhaps a bit too strong for our first sail. We definitely didn’t need to roll out our entire headsail. The boat did absolutely great, of course; it was an issue of our comfort levels and nerves.
With all of that said, there were several things that we did well and some things that we could have done better. To start with the positive points, we communicated well and reacted quickly to get the sails under control. Before we even left the mooring we also talked through each step of what we would do and how we would react if we needed to put the sails down quickly.
Some things that weren’t so great: we didn’t have the winch handles easily available and we didn’t do a safety check of the lines. After we put up the mainsail I realized the winch handles were in the locked lazarette, so I had to run down below to get the key and unlock it to get the winch handles. It wasn’t a huge deal, but it caused unnecessary stress because I couldn’t get the mainsail all the way up on my own. As for the lines, we did manage to tie the ends of the jib sheets just in time, but this should have been done before we left the mooring. We already had the main and headsail up when I realized the sheets weren’t tied at the ends. Thankfully I saw this and fixed it in time because a few minutes later that knot was the only thing that kept the jib sheet from flying through the block and flailing in the wind. I’m all for adventures, but I prefer to have them safely, without idiotic mistakes.
On our way back to our mooring, which we found without any issues thanks to Romain saving the location in the Navionics app, it took us three tries before I could actually pick up the mooring ball. I’d like to think this wasn’t too awful for our first time, but I’m certain we’ll get better. We also made our very first attempt at docking. For those that have never done this before, imagine trying to parallel park a very large vehicle, on water, that doesn’t move well in reverse. Romain was at the wheel and did a fantastic job, but there was a point where I seriously thought we would hit a very large and beautiful (read expensive) boat behind us. Luckily for us, and the other boat owners, we docked just fine and with a little tip from a neighbor we lowered our fenders to the correct level in time. Which reminds me, we must get boat insurance!
The weekend was a lot of firsts for us; first sail, first thunderstorm, first sailing argument. Not only are we new sailors and first time boat owners, we’re also newlyweds, and I’ve quickly realized having two co-captains is a little difficult to say the least. The good news is we’re learning and slowly making our way, as daunting as that is. It’s a steep learning curve but this is our journey and we’re figuring out how to navigate the boat and each other one day at a time. All of the ups and downs are part of the adventurous path that we’ve chosen to make. To say it hasn’t been easy is a huge understatement, but no one ever got anywhere being comfortable.
So here’s to getting uncomfortable, taking on new challenges, and feeling victorious when you do. Cheers!