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mike21070 07-23-2013 04:03 AM

First Solo Dinghy Sail!
At the tender age of 43, I did something yesterday that Iíve wanted to do since I was a teenager: I took a sailboat out all by myself...

My family and I currently live in Abu Dhabi. Last year I finally took some sailing lessons in Dubai. Last month I was able to buy my first boat-a 16í Topper Sport dinghy. The plan was to go out with a friend who is much more experienced, but he had to cancel last minute. I thought for a moment and said, ďWell, itís now or never!Ē Itís berthed in a marina in Abu Dhabi that is not right on the Gulf, so there is some sheltered water. It was blowing about 16 knots, but I was determined to go. Itís too hot during the day, so I had to go out at 5:00 when it cools down to a balmy 95 degrees.

To say I was nervous as I motored out with my little trolling motor is an understatement. When I got far enough away from land, I stopped the motor and raised the mailsail (it has a jib but I passed on it; only 1 at a time for now) and off I went. I canít even say I enjoyed it because I was so nervous. I donít remember when I first drove by myself, but I imagine my feelings were similar.

I just tacked back and forth with the mailsail basically out because I was afraid of moving too fast. I just got the boat, so I want to get a feel for her before I push her faster. That went well, except for the boom almost smacking me in the head, my face getting smacked with the mailsheets another time, and having to step over my tiller extension several times because it didnít end up where I wanted it after the tack. Every now and then I allowed myself a moment of joy; at one point I even said, ďMom, if you could see your son now.Ē

As I sailed along a beach, I saw a mother and young child stop digging in the sand and watch me go. I then said to myself, ďDonít screw up because you have an audience now.Ē Of course, I then proceed to screw up by getting caught in irons and begin to drift towards the beach. ďGee Mommy, look at the pretty sailboat. Is he supposed to be moving backwards towards us?Ē I try to remain cool, but nothing is happening. Finally I bit the bullet and start up my little trolling motor and head back out.

I spent an hour out there, and it went as well as I could have hoped. Iíll be heading out several times a week until I get comfortable enough to bring the wife and kids out.

Just wanted to share my story with others who would appreciate it.
Living the dream,

Tim R. 07-23-2013 08:34 AM

Re: First Solo Dinghy Sail!
Nice. Keep practicing and many skills will become second nature.

jimgo 07-23-2013 09:49 AM

Re: First Solo Dinghy Sail!
Congratulations! We are the same age, and I have 2 kids (now 7 and 5). I took lessons as a kid (3 lessons during a 1 week vacation), and then didn't do any sailing until 3 years ago when my wife and I took 4 lessons on a small boat at a local lake. So don't feel funny about starting "late," there are others of us in the same "boat" with you.

FWIW, a little over a year after our class, I was out single-handing my "new-to-me" Catalina 25 for the first time, and it was amazing. I couldn't tack worth a darn, and had other issues too, but there's nothing like being out there, in charge of your own boat, making it go (or not go as was occasionally the case for me) all based on the wind. Congratulations! I hope each time you're out you see your skills improve and your confidence increase. Then you'll really start to have fun!

bobperry 07-23-2013 11:11 AM

Re: First Solo Dinghy Sail!
Next time you get in irons grab the boom and shove it forward, hard and hold it. This will blow your bow down onto the opposite tack. Then let go the boom, sheet in and off you go sure as Bob's your uncle.

FlyingJunior 07-23-2013 03:44 PM

First Solo Dinghy Sail!
Awesome, thanks for sharing! Next look for a day with 5-10 knots and singlehand with main and jib, you'll do fine.

mike21070 07-25-2013 02:14 PM

Re: First Solo Dinghy Sail!
Thanks for the replies...I went out again yesterday and today as well. Yesterday was pretty much a disaster (although I'm sure I entertained the people who live in the apartments on the beach...) but today was awesome! Felt much stronger with my tacks and sail handling...
I'm not up to the jib yet, but getting there. I'm planning on going out 3-4 times a week. I'll have this sailing thing down in no time!

aprilsails 07-25-2013 03:32 PM

Re: First Solo Dinghy Sail!
You are reminding me fondly of my first few trips out alone in my dinghy. I too got stuck in irons and I can remember my Dad screaming at me from shore. The funny part was that I'd spent 2 years sailing a square rigger but had no clue what I was doing in a dinghy. I consistently turned the rudder the wrong way for the first couple of goes.

Best of luck and have fun! Raising the jib seems scarier than it really is. The best way to "play" with the jib is to do a nice and even series of close hauled tacks. That way you don't have to worry about handling the main sheet too much and you can focus on the process of sheeting the jib in to each side.

BillyOC 07-25-2013 03:58 PM

Re: First Solo Dinghy Sail!
I did the same thing last year! Learning to sail on my own at 50. All the reading and research was ok, but, the first time my Zuma heeled over in the wind and I started moving, that's when that stuff really started to make sense. I'm hooked. Figure after this year I'll move up to 2 sails.

mike21070 07-26-2013 04:37 AM

Re: First Solo Dinghy Sail!
Next time you get in irons grab the boom and shove it forward, hard and hold it. This will blow your bow down onto the opposite tack. Then let go the boom, sheet in and off you go sure as Bob's your uncle

Bob, what should I be doing with the rudder while I'm doing this?

bobperry 07-26-2013 08:06 AM

Re: First Solo Dinghy Sail!
Oh yeah, sorry, I forgot to mention that.
Put the rudder hard over to the side oppsite the side the boom is on. That will turn you around so you are no longer in irons.

But don't get in irons. DO NOT creep up on your tacks like a wimp. Be a man. Sail along at the best speed you can manage and then tack decisively in one bold movement. If you approach the tack in a tentative manner by slowly bringing the boat head to wnd you will go in irons. Do not intentionally slow the boat down prior to tacking.

It's easy. I know several idiots who a very good sailors.

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