Good Evening Sailnetters,
I'm sure this sorta post is common, but I feel compelled to document the experience for any others total newcomers.
I had never sailed or been aboard anything bigger than a 16' powerboat aside from riding along on the delivery of my 74 C&C 30. I had read EVERYTHING, watched every youtube video. Fiance and I set out this afternoon for our maiden voyage and found out just how unprepared we were.
We had mapped a route, bought the chart, downloaded the nav app, prepped the sails, changed the oil, practiced tying knots at home and mentally rehearsed tacking, jibing, reefing.. you name it. I had memorized the proper mayday call and even new how to communicate with oncoming ships.. "got you on my one (or two)"
If this sounds like you, when you get out on the boat and you face two modest issues at one time, be prepared to instantly forget everything you ever learned... lol.
In retrospect, our decision to spend a couple hours tooling around the delaware river, as opposed to crossing the C&D canal into the Chesapeake, was ill advised. It wasn't just the commercial traffic. There were these strange crane boats, huge barges and tugs towing yellow bouys 500 yards in trail. They all seemed to converge on our position when the wind jumped up from 17 to 25+ knots. The freshened wind only lasted a half hour, but it timed itself to hit during a needed course change and a supertanker!
The real pucker moment came when we had to head dead into a 20 knot wind to stay in the channel to get back. The engine decides 1/4 throttle was its new max and any attempt to adjust up or down would stall it.
The first time ever on a sailboat, doesn't know the bow from the stern, thinks the engine has a pilot light (not kidding) fiance comes up hugely clutch and correctly diagnoses the problem as the "light" pushbotten at the controls for the atomic four having been pushed in accidentally. Pulls it out, problem solved. She also "found" the main halyard, which had been clipped to the toe rail so close to the starboard shroud that it was indistinguishable.
Docking was going so well... pulled off a standing turn and was inching in nice and parallel. We're getting just a little close to another boat and people are watching from shore. Two concurrent issues, my brain shorts out. I literally can't remember reverse from forward. It's all going wrong... or is it. Happily, we nestled in nice n neat.
We got it tied up, sail flaked. With time to think, we even coiled the lines nicely for the first ever attempts.
We're alive, boat is safe, and we're much wiser.
Hallelujah! I'll be realizing lessons learned for days, but for starters, two rookies does not a crew make. One more person, even another noob, would have made all the difference. Handheld vhf is a must. The one in the cabin does no good with one person at the helm and another chained to the sheets. Smartphone apps are too small. At least get a tablet and mount it somewhere so you have both hands free.
I'd also err towards early morning than flirt with dusk. We had an hour before sunset when we got back, but the tankers didn't have their lights on yet and discerning their bearing in waning light was very difficult.
Look forward to posting about our next voyage once we find someone more experienced to come along. Not tempting fate like that again!