Firstly, thanks for all of the encouragement! It made such a big difference in my mood, as I'll describe below.
What I didn't disclose is that this was a shakedown trial for a longer ~20nm singlehanded beat in 30 knot winds up to a boatyard. jimgo remarked that 15 knots seemed like a lot for my first try, but the fact I'd have to be comfortable with a lot more was my main motivation. (I've sailed enough in these "typical" SF Bay conditions with crew to be comfortable-ish it them, with crew.)
I was going to abandon the cruise after this terrible experience, but the forum really helped me turn it around; the reason I haven't been responding is due to being on the water or at the boatyard until now. I've been reading every night, but I haven't had the internet quality or energy to type up a good response.
The 20nm voyage went flawlessly. A lot of firsts for me singlehanding, including anchoring, high winds, some navigation, etc. Highlights include:
- I've gotten tethering working better, especially after Jeff's advice. Once I practiced more, I realized it was possible to do the tether one-handed, and the whole thing is partly a matter of planning things out in advance, and anticipating what's going to happen. I still de-tethered for anchoring, which I thought was reasonable.
- The wind usually dies a little while after dark, but it was especially abrupt this time. It was pretty amusing going from 30 knots to 5 knots, in the space of five minutes, meaning I no longer had enough wind to beat to windward and maintain steerage in the left-over chop. Hypothetically this would be a dangerous situation, in the higher-traffic northerly part of the Bay, in a shipping channel, but of course the motor worked fine; I just hate to spoil a serene night on a bay with a noisy 4-stroke.
- Anchoring seems so easy, even singlehanding. I don't get what the big deal is that people are always talking about messing it up. Just get in position, use the motor to stop, then idle; the wind push the bow away, but it doesn't especially matter; drop anchor and let out scope, and use the motor to set and check.
I spent some time with the damaged bow pulpit, and learned a few things:
- All of the bolts are accessible, eg, not under the non-removable headliner that is underneath most of my deck. Maybe this is just my noviceness, but this is a big deal to me, because it means it's almost trivial to remove.
- The fab shop at KKMI wants a little over $2000 to build a new one, plus glasswork to repair and beef up the deck base. My job manager seemed to think that the idea of repairing it was suspicious. Maybe I should push harder here, or get a second opinion.
- I guess I don't actually have to deal with this right now, because the pulpit seems to be pretty sturdy still (I've pulled on it, hard, and there was also no obvious damage to the welds or opposite-side bases.), given that it's so easy to remove and drive wherever.
- Touch screens, like my chartplotter and my cell phone, absolutely refuse to work after they get a certain amount of wet, no matter how hard you try to dry them in wet conditions. The Raymarine e97 has backup hard controls; the Galaxy S smart phone doesn't.
I really appreciate all of the advice (in addition to the unconditional encouragement) as well; despite reading tons of internets and Don Casey books and all of that sort of thing, I still have no idea how to approach problems like this, and it really helps to have you guys help frame the problem in my mind. I'll update as appropriate on stainless status, and on future singlehanded developments. But I don't think I'll go anywhere near a wharf or pier for a long time.
There's something ironic about singlehanding. It's so lonely, even when you want to be by yourself. If something awesome happens on the water, and no one else is there to see it, did it really happen? The first thing I want to do is tell someone about the adventure; and the first thing I want when anything goes wrong is someone else to help. I will admit that for the windiest and choppiest part of the trip, where I was getting re-soaked every minute or so by larger waves, I was actually bored somehow...
(Apologies for my usual length. One of my essay-assigning English teachers did something terrible to me at some point that makes me not be able to write concisely. I always have to do a separate pass to prune, and it still comes out long.)