Sunday, 9 September 2012

First Duet

After 8 years of sailing together, last week was our first time sailing ALONE together.  We had anticipated some domestic clashes as we worked out our co-skippering routine of who-does-what-when and coped with the anxiety of being “alone”.  Friends had gleefully regaled us with stories of their first skippering experiences, and like them, I fully expected some tense, doubt-filled episodes.  In fact, there were very few clashes and surprisingly little stress, despite several rather spectacular misadventures.  

First dinner alone on boat.

We headed off for 6 days of easy cruising and rest after 3 months of non-stop work in the boatyard.  The summary of our week goes something like this:
  • 5 nights, 4 moorings, 1 port stop, 2 islands.
  • Tested the new windlass, the boom brake, and inflated the annex (dinghy) for the first time.
  • Sailed wing-on-wing with the jib sheet poled out (briefly… didn’t help).
  • Performed a “Hat Overboard” manoeuvre and recuperated the small dark object after 3 passes.
  • Learned not to succumb to peer-pressure in choosing a mooring location.  (Blindly lining up with the others isn’t necessarily what’s right for your boat.)
  • Learned that putting out an anchor buoy is a good idea to keep other boats from parking on top of your anchor, making it difficult to recuperate your anchor without a close encounter.
  • Learned that 30 meters of chain is really not enough for many fine spots in Brittany.
  • Reconfirmed that the island of Houat is breathtakingly beautiful.
  • Learned that 90 liters of fresh water goes faster than you think it does.
  • Tried to reset the wind direction and speed indicator to no avail.
  • Tried to understand the rather peculiar nature of the auto-pilot that requires one to immediately add or subtract 10 degrees depending on your tack each time it engages.
  • Mild panic attack (Patrick) when the Genoa parted from the furler and started dragging in the water while underway in a moderate swell and headwind.
  • Recuperated and immobilized a flapping headsail on the deck.
  • Put into practice our sailing school experience of installing the detachable forestay and a new headsail (a very nice 25 m2 Solent... Jib Sheet) underway, also in a moderate swell and headwind (Maria).
  • Climbed the mast (Patrick) to recuperate the headsail halyard that had remained firmly stuck to the top of the mast when the jib sheet ripped away from the shackle (in-port exercise).
  • Motor failed to start (thankfully in port) and mechanic on neighbouring boat suggested purging the fuel line to see if there was air in the system.   
  • Mild tantrum (Maria) when Patrick announced he was going to cut the fuel line to install a hand pump to make the job go faster.
  • Joy (Patrick) and panic (Maria) when motor started up after 1 hour of priming and Patrick’s insistence that all was well and good to go.
  • Learned that it isn’t enough to calculate tides and currents in order to get somewhere:  one should also calculate sunset if one wants to find a secluded mooring buoy in daylight.
Personally, I blame our misadventures on the rabbit pâté Patrick insisted on buying on Belle Ile.  Everything was going along fine until he brought it back to the boat.

When I got home, I had an email from my Dad asking what we had learned sailing alone that we hadn’t learned in all our years of sailing with others.  If one discounts my snarky, knee-jerk response that “sailing on your own boat is never a vacation”, Patrick and I would both agree that we learned to appreciate each other’s abilities in different domains.  He would not have attempted to put up a new headsail in the given conditions if I hadn’t taken the initiative, and I never would have dreamt of trying to fix the motor by myself.  Our “to do” list is now longer than when we left, and we are still desperately in need of a vacation, but we plan to head out again next week for several days … for a little rest.


christy said...

I am so impressed with your brave move to sail "alone"! Your candidness is awesome and so true...we all bring something to the table and appreciating that is the real gift of the day! Well done, Maria!

MH said...

Thanks, Christy !