First sail, damn winches, and lost a crew

We hadn’t sailed since the last day of our sailing lessons back in January. We desperately wanted to get out on the water, partly to remember (hopefully) some of the things we learned and partly to give the boat a shakedown run. I wasn’t even 100% confident I had the sails rigged properly after re-installing them the past week, so this was all about finding the issues not necessarily about going out for a proper sail.

Kerri was not feeling up to snuff that day (more on that in a moment) so we talked and decided to go out on the main sail only, which would just simplify things to be a bit more relaxing. I took the helm, backing her out of our slip, while Kerri cleaned the deck of all the dock lines and fenders. This was the first big step – to just get the boat out of our slip without hitting anything, on our own. After navigating it out of the marina we got to the open waters of Bellingham Bay, where I handed the helm to Kerri and set about raising the main sail. And it was here that we ran into our first big problem. Everything was under control, do not fear. The engine was still puttering away with Kerri controlling the boat while I found that the main winch – you know, the one used to raise the main sail – had just broken! Luckily there is a backup on the other side of the mast, so I switched and got the sail raised to catch some of the 18 knot breeze we had that afternoon. Sure, finding the winch issue was problematic, but that is exactly why I wanted to take the boat out. Better to find it today then on a day we need to do an eight hour sail.

We just sailed out into the open water in a straight line. With only a single sail out we were not setting any speed records, nor did either of us care too. Kerri was in charge of trimming the main sail, using our brand new main sheet (the line that controls the angle of the main sail). She found that *that* winch was not properly holding (self tailing it is, for those that know) onto the new line making that process much more difficult for her. Another winch issue, and so far we had only used two winches for this sail!

We continued on, sailing to a bouy 3 miles out in the bay, taking just under an hour to traverse. Here we would tack and work our way back towards the marina to practice some motoring about, which we did. Getting to know how our boat would feel in reverse, rotating it at a stand still, and so on. It all matters as a few minutes later we had to motor into our slip again, which wasn’t the easiest to get in to, but I had a plan!

I was going to pull past our slip, just a boat’s length because that is all there was before hitting a dock, and back it into the tight space. Easy enough! As we approached our slip I only just realized that we hadn’t prepared the boat at all. With no fenders hanging over the sides I had to loiter in place while Kerri got the fenders positioned. Only then did I start my maneuvers. Just at the precipice of calamity, with the nose of the boat only feet from hitting the dock ahead, a neighbor couple was walking past and asked if we needed any help. Need? Na, I don’t need any help, but Kerri blurts out, ” yes, it is our first time”. So we got some help. It was at this time that we realized all the dock lines were still tied up to the other side of the boat, so a bit of running around took place while I kept the 19,000 pound boat steady. With help, and a few laughs by us all, we tied off and shut the motor down. Hand shakes and goodbyes ensued before Kerri and I both exhaled with relief. It was the end of our first ‘three hour tour’. It wasn’t the most relaxing with the winch issues and our own shortcomings in the docking procedures, but we learned some things.

It was even harder on Kerri as only 12 hours earlier we lost one of our crew. Byron, Kerri’s nearly 15 year old Springer Spaniel, “went to college”. He went peacefully, in her arms, here – in his own home, after finally being allowed to eat every single treat in the house in one sitting (his life long goal, for sure). The feel in our living space has changed dramatically now that he is gone. His presence was all encompassing (both good and bad at times) and his needs were a 24/7 job. There is a big empty space on the boat (and in heart) now that he has gone. Moose, on the other hand, went straight to taking over the space.

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4 Responses

  1. Rob says:

    Sorry about you loss… and It’s good to hear you successfully made a “three hour tour”!

  2. Mark says:

    So sorry to hear about Byron. Evelyn and I have belonged to a couple of dogs (and the odd cat), and we know how much that hurts.

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