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post #1 of Old 10-04-2007 Thread Starter
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First Solo

I thought I would start a new thread since Sailhag told us a story about solo in another thread. Here is my first solo after moving up from a Tanzer 22' to a Hunter 33 from my saling blog. Lots of lessons learned. So ladies, lets here your story.
Solo Day - Learning Day

Today was an interesting day. 4th July weekend and I couldn't find any crew to enjoy the water. So what is a sailor to do but go out solo!

I went down to the marina and everyone was there enjoying the weekend. Capt Tom was kind of enough to go over the Eldridge tides and current almanac with me. Something that has perplex me for a while. He is a wealth of knowledge and he loves to share it. I will take all I can get.

So I launch out solo with the help of one of the liveaboards, James. He is a nice guy who helps me launch and recover when he is not too busy retrofitting his boat. The winds was forecast to be glorious, 15 knots. I was a little nerveous about this sail. It is a big boat for me to handle with real winds. It is one thing to sail in 5-10 knots of wind another to sail with 15-20 knots. Solo!!!

When I got out to the middle of the river the winds were 10 knots. Not bad!! Up went the sails and the plan was to sail down to the Narrows and back. About 7 miles I think each way. It was a great sail with a close to beam reaching all the way. When I got to the Statue of Liberty the winds pick up to 13-15 knots. Yeppie. This boats was getting into the groove at 15 knots. Loves 15 knots. I turned the boat over to the first-mate, "Auto" and enjoyed the sail. The funny thing about observing all the other boats on the river was, I was the only solo, I was the only female captain, and I was the oldest. I must be nuts and need of therapy. On they way down, I had to dodge some real big ocean frieghters that were parked in the river. They were huge compared to my little boat. Very intimidating to say the least. I am getting some sense of the fright these things have on the open water from reading other sailors blogs.

On the way back the winds pick-up some more and was showing 18 knots gusting to 20. Freedom (my sailing boat) became very unhappy at this. Too much sail. Ok reef time! Never had to do that before on this boat. Ok jib first or main? I elected to reef in the jib first because of the fickle nature of the winds on the river. I didnt' get it right the first time for some reason. The jib unreefed when I tight down the jib sheets, so back into the wind and tried it again. It held this time. It looked funny up there but it worked and the boat became happy again. It was hard work doing all this single handed. The autopilot wasn't tracking the nose into the wind all the time and keep falling off. With the wind blowing 18 knots I had a handfull of boat and sail. I was totally wore out by the time I got it all under control. I am still sore from it all now as I write this. When I got home I could barely walk I was soo stiff.

After 4 hours on the river, I was tired and sore so I headed back in to the dock. Getting the sails in, fenders out and docklines ready, I must look a one-arm wallpaper hanger in 18 knots of wind!!! Someone must video this circus routine one day!
I was very concern with docking this beast with the direction and speed of the wind. The wind was southeast and the dock is southwest. No problem I thought, right into the dock. My worst fear happen. When I tried to back-in the dock she wouldn't turn. I tried 3 times and the bow wouldn't swing over. The third time the wind put me into the brand new boat in the next slip so I ran up the side to fend off. James came on board and save me by steering while I fended off. So I thought to myself I will just nose it in because I couldn't back it in. James switch lines for me, and I parked a boat nose in for the first time. Easy peasy!!! Now I know why everyone bows in first for the most part! I like backing in because of the easy acces to getting on and off the boat due to the sugar scoop transom. Also it is easy to connect electric and water to the boat. James and I discuss the docking situation. He said the bow won't swing because the wind was blowing the bow over and I need a unsafe speed to compensate for it. Gave me praise for keeping my cool during the whole event and making the right decision to bow in. Said he has witness many of my contemporaries loose their cool and do unsafe things. I have been having a easy time of docking this boat so I guess my luck ran out and presented me a difficult situation for which I wasn't prepared for. Like I said in the beginnng, I have lots to learn and the only way to learn is to get out there and do it. The revolution continues!
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