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post #4 of Old 06-07-2001
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Learning in the UK

Hi Dominique,

Aha! Found it on the map. I bet you do have ferocious tides. We sail the Chesapeake Bay, with a maximum tide of two feet (that''s on springs and neaps) and currents so light they aren''t worth considering. But really, you might as well learn in the difficult stuff. You''ll have to deal with it eventually, and why not do it with an instructor in the boat? You have an advantage over me there.

I started sailing six years ago in the British Virgin Islands on a charter with friends and have been every year since. So, six "years" of sailing, but not that much time on the water--only 10 days a year. And all in warm, crystal-clear water with consistent trade winds coming from the exact same direction all the time. It''s very easy to sail down there. I will never forget how terrified I was the first time the boat heeled over. No one told me it would happen, and all I thought was GET ME OFF THIS THING NOW!! But I got behind the wheel the second day and never left it for the rest of the trip. I was hooked. So I took a few lessons (in Florida, more sunny, clear, warm water).

I had the bug, and last October my husband (he''s power, not sail) and I decided to get our own boat. It''s a 26-foot Hunter, just right for weekends on the Bay. It''s been a major adjustment for me to switch from sailing in paradise to the cold, gray waters of the Bay. Not to mention that it''s done nothing but rain this spring. You''d think we were in England! It''s also pretty crowded, even though it''s a big body of water. The Baltimore/Washington area is a fairly affluent one, lots of people own boats, and they''re all out there in droves on a nice weekend. Some of them are pretty rude, too, particularly the powerboats that blast past you only 30 feet away. All that water and they can''t be bothered to turn the wheel to give you a little space. You also have the big ship channel to Baltimore to deal with, and you absolutely must stay out of the way of these monsters when they come through.

But we get out there anyway. It is much different being responsible for my own boat rather than having other, more experienced people to turn to for help and advice like I had on the charters. I''ll be glad when I have more miles under my belt and can relax a little more. The ever-present "chance of afternoon thunderstorms" keeps my apprehension level high. We had one two weekends ago with hurricane-force gusts and you can''t imagine how thankful I was that we weren''t out that day. But I know we will get caught in one eventually.

The best part is that the Bay has really beautiful anchorages. Once the anchor is (hopefully) set and I have a glass of wine in my hand, I can watch the ducks and swans and really relax. In fact, relaxed a bit too much last Saturday--we dragged anchor and had to be told by another boat that it was happening. The wind direction had changed 180 degrees and we should have re-set our anchor rather than expecting it to dig in on its own. Another lesson learned. We do a sort of de-brief on the drive home to talk about the mistakes we''ve made and what we will do differently next time.

Our charters have been on big 50-foot ocean-going Beneteaus, which are big and heavy enough to feel impervious to nature. Our little 26-footer does not feel that way!

So I think you''re doing it the right way, to start with a dinghy and move up, rather than the other way around. I bet you won''t have the paranoia I have about ending up in the water--having done it a few times already!

Well, I''ve confirmed the old adage that if you ask someone to talk about themselves, they will probably oblige. What got you started? What is dinghy sailing like? Must be pretty scary sometimes given the conditions you''re in.

sehopkins is offline  
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