Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Cruising at Last

George and I spent our first night out at anchor since we arrived in Cambridge. It was everything we hoped for. The winds were 10-12 knots and we were moving right along at 8 knots on a beam reach, Breeze On's favorite point of sail.

After just half an hour with arrived at the opening to LaTrappe Creek, one of the Chesapeake's best anchorages. Although it was a Monday night there were six other boats anchored in the three anchorages within the creek. We chose one that had two sailboats anchored, but plenty of room for us to tuck in as well. As soon as we were securely anchored I changed into my swimsuit, dropped the swim platform, put the swim ladder in and went for a swim. The water was a perfect 84 degrees. What a treat!

We ate our dinner as we watched the sunset and then stayed in the cockpit to look at the stars. It was so peaceful there.

We saw and heard numerous ospreys, blue herons and even the occasional jumping fish. I wasn't even tempted to pull out my iPad or a book to read. I just wanted to sit there and take it all in. It was almost like meditating. There was just one house off in the distance and they kept a dim light on all night. George used it as a landmark to verify that our anchor was holding.

We ate our breakfast in the cockpit as well and watched the watermen laying the lines to catch crabs. It was so interesting to see them go back and forth along the length of the line pulling it up to collect any crabs that had latched onto the bait that was placed on the line at intervals.

The wind was predicted to build during the day so we weighed anchor at 8:15 am. We would have loved to stay longer but didn't want to press our luck getting into the slip.

The one night cruising experience was so relaxing and peaceful. It was what we wanted when we decided to spend our time in retirement cruising. We still have a lot to learn and quite a few challenges ahead of us but if we can have more experiences like this it will be worth it.

 

New Address for Breeze On

We had a lovely afternoon of sailing with cousins and friends, Steve and Barb.

They both took a turn at the helm and we were all impressed by non-sailor Barb's skills at the helm.

Steve would have preferred a lot more wind.

At the end of the day we turned into Cambridge Creek instead of the yacht club marina. We drove by our condo by water for the first time. We also went through the drawbridge for the first time. It wasn't as bad as I had imagined. When we were searching for condos with boat slips we avoided any that required taking the boat through a drawbridge. We didn't want to be limited by the schedule of the bridge. The Cambridge drawbridge opens on demand 24/7 with the exception of 12-1 pm Monday through Friday.

Approaching Drawbridge, photos taken by Steve
We made it, phew!

 

I have also heard the bridge tenders can be difficult. This bridge tender responded immediately. The opening of the bridge, though, was much more narrow than I thought it would be.

Steve and Barb helped us to get into our new (temporary, we hope) slip at the end of the creek. We were able to do it without any major incidents. The water is wide open in front of the slip so I should be safe from getting pinned against any more pilings!

The new marina is a bit rickety and not nearly as nice as the yacht club marina. Our hope is that we will become more skilled at docking with practice and eventually move back to the yacht club where we have the challenge of higher winds and pilings opposite our slip.

 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Docking Lessons

The docking chronicals continue. After our disastrous docking of last week, George and I decided to take docking lessons. We chose a private lesson, conducted on our own boat, given by Jeff from The Sailing Academy.

Jeff and George

I was really nervous before the lesson began and actually dreaded it a little. Jeff started by explaining the drills we would be learning and practicing. He then used a model boat and strings to demonstrate the docking techniques we would practice.

I was at the helm as we pulled out of the slip, the marina and then into the channel. We used the markers at the end of the channel as "targets". George and I were both really nervous about getting anywhere near the buoys. We practiced stopping the boat and holding it in place and doing standing turns by using short bursts of forward and reverse. Once we were more comfortable with that, we headed back into the marina. Jeff coached us through a technique using a spring line to tie up to the T head at the end of the dock. He showed us how leaving the boat idling in forward gear while turning the wheel away from the dock kept the boat parallel to the dock. We could swing the stern away from the dock by turning the wheel toward the dock.

After lunch we practiced doing standing turns in the main fairway. That was initially very nerve-wracking. I felt uncomfortable getting so close to the pilings as we turned the boat. After much more practice I became more confident that I wasn't going to hit anything.

Next, it was time to practice entering the slip. Although Breeze On has a bow thruster we did not use it during our lesson. I was at the helm for the first few times we entered the slip. I used very subtle bursts of the throttle in forward with the wheel turned to adjust the placement of the stern. I did it perfectly during my second attempt, but kept over correcting on my third attempt. Instead of aborting, Jeff used the opportunity to demonstrate how to use a spring line to enter a slip. That will come in very handy on windy days, or on days when I just don't get it right! We also practiced using a spring line to leave a slip. When it was George's turn to practice he entered the slip perfectly! It was his first time at the helm while entering the slip. What a good way to end our lesson!

I believe we still need practice, but we all agreed that we made a lot of progress today.

 

Friday, June 13, 2014

Disastrous Docking

I am thinking I should rename this blog "The Docking Chronicles". So much of it is focused on docking these days. I guess it makes sense since our boat is tied to a dock and every time we use the boat it requires leaving the slip and returning to it. Breeze On is a much bigger boat than we have ever owned and the style of slip is not what we have known. When I wrote my last post I was feeling very hopeful that I was really getting the hang of docking. That all came crashing to a halt two days ago.

My mother and brother arrived for a visit on Tuesday afternoon. They had never seen our new town or condo and really seem to like both. They were also looking forward to going for a sail on Breeze On. The weather looked good Wednesday morning so we packed a lunch and motored out of the marina by 10 am. The winds were a steady 7-9 knots from the East and we were sailing downwind on the Choptank River. My mom was in a comfortable position in the cockpit and kept commenting how nice it was.

 

My brother did most of the driving.

We ate a leisurely lunch in the cockpit before turning around to head back to Cambridge. We encountered a number of sailboats around Oxford and realized they we all racing. We tacked to avoid getting too close to the finish line. We remembered how irritated we used to get when cruisers would get in the way of our race.

We were going upwind on the return and the winds increased to over 10 knots at times. I was a little worried about docking, but not terrified. We were all enjoying the lovely day of sailing.

Before we entered the marina we discussed our docking strategy. The easterly wind was a cross wind for our slip. I planned to motor past the slip and back in, turning to starboard. I planned to begin turning into the slip from a point beyond it to allow for the wind to push me back. I didn't make it my first attempt so aborted and turned to starboard, toward the end of the fairway. I had to put it hard into reverse to avoid hitting the end of the fairway. I then slowly began approaching the slip and turning into it. It seemed as if I had gone too far past it and wasn't drifting into it as I thought I would so I decided to abort again. Since it had been nerve-wracking to turn toward the end of the fairway I decided to turn toward port. BIG MISTAKE. My decision to turn toward port meant I was abeam of the wind attempting to turn into the wind. In spite of turning up the throttle and using the bow thruster I was quickly being pushed toward the pilings on the opposite side of the fairway. I hit the pilings and broke a line hook. My memories of what happened next are very cloudy. I was pinned broadside against the pilings and couldn't move unless and scraped against them even more. My husband and brother were attempting to fend off (dangerous). I felt panicked and helpless. I was using the bow thruster to try to get us off but it didn't seem effective. I remember feeling as if anything I did would make things worse. I shouted "I can't do this!" and "I don't know what to do!" several times. We broke two or three line hooks off of the pilings. We came awfully close to the anchor of one of the boats. After a few minutes of this the bow came off of the pilings enough that my husband said to put it hard into forward and pull away. I did and asked him to take the helm. I felt just awful. Really, really awful. I knew I had damaged the boat and was afraid to see how much. In fact, it took two days to gather the courage to even look at the starboard side. After a few minutes of my husband driving around we decided to put Breeze On at the end of our T-dock. It wasn't ideal since the wind would be pushing us against the dock, but it was better than repeating the last fiasco. I took the helm but asked my husband to direct me in. I no longer had any confidence in my ability to dock. We were, however, able to get it to the dock without doing any more damage.

The experience was so far beyond my level of comfort that my first thought was we should sell the boat. I never, ever wanted to take a chance of repeating that experience. Part of me wanted to talk about what happened and what we could learn from it and another part of me didn't want to think about it or talk about it ever again. I didn't sleep well at all that night and kept replaying what happened over and over in my head.

My husband was so supportive and we did talk about what we could do (other than sell the boat or never take it out of the slip again) and decided that we should:

  1. Take docking lessons. We had talked about this before but decided that reading and practice should be enough. Now we are definitely going to take lessons.
  2. Move the boat to a more protected marina until we are more experienced and capable.
  3. Continue practicing maneuvers. I especially need to practice stopping the boat so that I don't have to rely on moving so slowly. When it is breezy I tend to drift when I am moving slowly. I don't have enough confidence to move fast now but if I know I can bring the boat to a stop I might be more willing to use more throttle.

In addition, I would like to add rub rails to the boat. It didn't come with them. I inquired about adding them but our broker told us that it couldn't be done after market. We spoke to someone yesterday who told us it could be done and showed us some his yard just installed. My husband isn't convinced we need them but I would feel much better if we had them.

So, what was the carnage?? I finally took a look when we returned to the boat at 6 am this morning to move her into her slip when there was no wind.

It wasn't as bad as I feared.

This is the worst section. There is s black mark with a scratch about 1/8" deep.

 

In addition to the scratch pictured above there are about five other scuff marks along the side.

We have arranged for private docking lessons on our boat.

Stay tuned for more Docking Chronicles.

 

Monday, June 9, 2014

Practice, Practice, Practice

We set the alarm for 6:30 am on Saturday so we could begin docking practice while the winds were still very light. We ate a quick breakfast and made it to the boat before 7:30. After we removed covers, opened through hulls and reviewed our checklist we started up the engine for our first practice session. George threw off the spring lines and bow lines and I threw off the stern lines. I removed the stern lines before George was finished with the bow lines and the boat started to shift in the slip. I made it out with just a little nudge on one of the (padded) pilings. I drove out of the fairway and into the main fairway so I could turn around. I decided to back into our fairway and then into the slip. My first attempt went well. I drove very slowly and did nudge a piling just a bit. The wind had picked up to 6-7 knots but decided to practice again anyway.

This time I decided to hold onto the last stern line until George had finished releasing all of the other lines. That did help keep the boat straight in the slip. I left the slip and again turned around in the main fairway to dock the boat again. As I used the bow thruster to straighten the boat for the approach I thought the port stern was too close to the piling so I aborted the attempt. George had already picked up some lines so he dropped them into the water as I pulled away. I began backing toward the slip again and had the same issue with being too close to the piling. I put the boat in forward and pulled out into the fairway again. By this time I was feeling really rattled. I put the boat in reverse as I entered the main fairway to avoid getting too close to the dock on the other side of the fairway but, instead of reverse I put it in forward. George yelled and I realized my mistake and got the boat in reverse before we hit the dock. At this point I asked George to take the helm. I was feeling nervous and hopeless that I was going to be able to get us back at all. I thought of asking George to drive her in but I didn't want to handle the lines, either. There was a part of me that just wanted to drive or sail around forever and never return. George went out into the channel and then eventually turned around. I took the helm and a big breath and tried again. I was finally able to get her in but didn't feel at all confident.

We set our alarms again on Sunday morning for another practice session. I was able to get Breeze On out without touching any pilings. After I turned around to go back to the slip I gave myself a pep talk. I decided to approach the slip from just a little farther away and wait before I began using the bow thruster. This helped keep the stern from getting too close to the piling. I got her in without touching any pilings!!!! George did get a spring line mixed up but quickly recovered and got her tied up quickly before she had time to drift. Although I felt very happy about the job I did and much more confident, I realized my heart was pounding and my hands were shaking a little. Docking is nerve-wracking stuff. We each decided not to practice again. It was so much better to end on a good note!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Docking

We have sailed only twice since bringing Breeze On to Cambridge almost two weeks ago. That is much less than we used to sail WindChime. One reason we haven't sailed much is that have been very busy. We returned to New York to pick up my car, then drove my husband's car to Massachusetts to trade it for our daughter's car. Then my husband helped to sail a friend's boat from Norfolk to Cambridge.

Another reason is that we still aren't very good at docking and we are waiting for light winds to practice leaving and returning to the slip. Our first time out since bringing Breeze On to Cambridge went very well. We asked friends Dawn and Ray to join us and lend their expertise. After they helped to release the lines we had a lovely sail to La Trappe Creek. We dropped an anchor and enjoyed a peaceful lunch.

We sailed back to Cambridge and made it into the slip without any issues. I was at the helm and George, Dawn and Ray handled the lines. I was so relieved and excited that it went well.

Next, George and I went down to the boat last Monday with the plan to take her out on our own. The winds were over 10 knots and we just didn't have the courage to attempt it by ourselves. On Tuesday we went back when the winds were very light. We got out of the slip without any problems but I was a nervous wreck by the time we did. George was pulling on the bow lines to bring the boat closer to the pilings so he could hang them on the hooks. As he did, the stern swung on the other direction and I was worried about getting out of the slip without scraping the stern on the pilings. All was well, though. I straightened her out and we headed into the river and raised our sails.

There was so little wind that we just drifted. The schooner, Pride of Baltimore, was right behind us. She was such a beautiful sight.

Pride of Baltimore (motor sailing)

 

We eventually got into a little more breeze and started to move. As we ran out of breeze we turned around to head toward a buoy and practice the maneuvers listed in the ebook, Maneuvering Under Power.http://www.nauticed.org/sailingcourses/view/maneuvering-under-power

Unfortunately the wind had really started to build by then. That meant we would have to cope with the wind when we were attempting to dock the boat for the first time without help.

I backed into the slip but decided to abort my first attempt. The second attempt started out well. Breeze On was straight backing in and George was able to quickly attach the first spring line on the windward side. He had trouble getting the second spring line off of the piling as the wind was blowing the bow leeward. I was in a kind of diagonal position about a third of the way into the slip. I was trying to use the bow thruster to straighten the boat out before I backed in any more but it just wouldn't move. It took about a minute for me to figure out I still had the boat in forward gear. One of our dock mates, John, had come over to help and was able to get the spring line to George. I finally straightened the boat out and backed the rest of the way in. As we docked we nudged up against a few pilings (thank goodness they are padded) but did not do any noticeable damage. It wasn't a pretty docking but we made it in. George did a good job of grabbing and attaching the lines. I didn't feel good about my part of it, though. My confidence was shaken by not realizing what gear I had the boat in.

Our plan is to practice, practice, practice in light winds until it becomes more second nature to us. Then (we hope) we will be able to take Breeze On out in windier conditions and return her safely to her slip.