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BeejDeC 03-22-2014 11:34 PM

Maiden Voyage Newbie Trainwreck
Good Evening Sailnetters,

I'm sure this sorta post is common, but I feel compelled to document the experience for any others total newcomers. :D

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!


bljones 03-22-2014 11:50 PM

re: Maiden Voyage Newbie Trainwreck
You got home, didn't break anything, nobody shed any blood....
....that is a screaming success! Congrats on a perfect first sail.

You're smart enough to know what you don't know. That matters. You start your sailing career with a full barrel of luck and an empty cup of experience: the key is to fill the cup before the barrel runs dry.

azguy 03-23-2014 12:16 AM

re: Maiden Voyage Newbie Trainwreck
I'm not being critical, to each there own, it's more of an observation.

I took ASA 101 and rented 14' boats about 6 times and then took ASA 103 and bought a boat. I then hired an instructor to sail with me for the first 6 times I took the boat out and I'm on a lake with a C22 :eek:

We sailed up wind, down wind, sailed just on the mainsail, sailed just on the headsail, used the gin pole, hove-to, anchored, docked and even sailed into a slip as if the outboard wouldn't start upon our return. We adjusted the mast rake, tuned the rigging, the list goes on and on....she even showed me a trick to get kinks and twists out of a line (tie it to the rear pulpit and throw it in the water while you sail that

A few of the owners of the boats around me asked me who "the older lady was" and I replied "my instructor". All of them (3 different sailboat owners) said they had sailed on this lake for years and never had 1 minute of instruction. There approach was learn as you go.

IDK, it seems like this maiden cruise of yours could have gone bad fast at any point, but I'm glad it didn't.....

BeejDeC 03-23-2014 12:41 AM

re: Maiden Voyage Newbie Trainwreck
BlJones, AZGuy - Thanks for the responses.

I agree with you both. Love the luck v. experience analogy and AZ, you correctly deduced that I probably dipped pretty deep into the luck resevoir.

I badly want lessons. To be frank, the boat, marina fees, and upcoming wedding have left me tapped. Of course, three "good friends" of mine have years of experience and were "happy to go out with me" any time. A 63 degree sunny afternoon and three friend's voicemail boxes later and I decided it was go-time.


Barquito 03-23-2014 12:49 AM

re: Maiden Voyage Newbie Trainwreck
Take an experienced friend along next time. If that isn't possible, then go out on a dead calm morning, and practice motoring. Return to the slip a bunch of times. Enjoy your new ride, and congrats on the upcoming wedding.

TakeFive 03-23-2014 01:05 AM

re: Maiden Voyage Newbie Trainwreck
All things considered, sounds like it was a success. Those big boats are a little scary at first, but you learn how to stay out of their way. They can be even scarier in the canal, because there's less room to give way, and their wakes will bounce off the rocks and create standing waves that can follow you for an hour or more. Actually, lone tugboats make much worse wakes than the big boats.


Originally Posted by BeejDeC (Post 1656881)
The engine decides 1/4 throttle was its new max and any attempt to adjust up or down would stall it....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. ...

Could you clarify this? Is the button a choke for starting the motor when cold? BTW, make sure that you run your bilge blower properly before starting your motor - critically important for a gas motor.


Originally Posted by BeejDeC (Post 1656881)
...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...

A better option may be an extension mic "RAM mic" in your cockpit. You'll have the superior transmission power of the fixed VHF and masthead antenna vs. a handheld. You just need to verify that your radio has a socket for it, and determine what model is compatible. I have the Standard Horizon RAM3 for my GX2150.

If you decide to get the handheld instead, you should spend the extra $$$ for a model with built-in DSC. That's a huge safety improvement because you can press a "Distress" button that sends out a mayday with your exact GPS coordinates digitally embedded. The Coasties will know exactly where to find you. Standard Horizon HX851 is around $250 - a little pricey for a backup IMO. I found the Uniden MHS135DSC for $125 last Christmas and bought two - one for me and one for my son who crews on others' race boats in Seattle. I wanted him to have a distress button attached to him if he falls overboard. Cheaper than an EPIRB, but similarly effective for close to shore. The Uniden is about $150 on Amazon right now.

If your fixed VHF has DSC built in, be sure to register the MMSI (might need to get the info from prior owner), and interface a GPS puck or chartplotter to it to enable the same Distress button capabilities.


Originally Posted by BeejDeC (Post 1656881)
...We had mapped a route, bought the chart, downloaded the nav app...Smartphone apps are too small. At least get a tablet and mount it somewhere so you have both hands free...

For the past three years, I've used a netbook with OpenCPN on a RAM mount in the cockpit. This year I'm upgrading to a Miix2 8" tablet with OpenCPN. It's not waterproof, but things stay pretty dry on the river. I have a pouch for wet weather, or I can mount it down in the cabin. There's also lots of software and cases for iPad, if you prefer those.

AIS is very helpful for dodging the large traffic on the Delaware. A transponder will tell them where you are, and you can interface a computer with OpenCPN to view where they are, how fast they are going, etc. You can also see their names, so you can hail them on the radio. My GX2150 gives me AIS receive capabilities, but no AIS transmission. There's a new model with built-in GPS.

Here are some pics of the Netbook, OpenCPN (old version), and new tablet (still under cover on the hard).

jimgo 03-23-2014 01:10 AM

re: Maiden Voyage Newbie Trainwreck
When we bought our first boat, we bought in October and we had a GREAT first couple of trips out. Got the sails up, engine started/stopped/started again fine, everything went really well. I was actually stoked for the next season.

The next season we moved her to a different marina near Ocean City, NJ. I had her trailered (wasn't sure I trusted the outboard yet) and had to have her dropped in at a different marina because our "new" marina didn't have a lift that could handle us. I went down to the boat the day she was launched (bad weather the day of the trailering pushed back the launch), and started talking to the guy that ran that marina. Turned out, he's a very accomplished racer with lots of neat stories. We talked sailing for easily an hour. Then I packed up my stuff, put the engine on, and got everything going. I set out, followed the GPS and maps, everything was going good. I wended my way through the back channels and caught sight of our marina. I called my father-in-law and told him he could leave his place to come pick me up (allowing for his drive time). Then I ran aground not more than 100 yards from the marina. I cut the turn into the marina too tight, and the outgoing tide made things very shallow. I could have walked to the marina (literally). It was so shallow, TowBoatUS couldn't get TO me to get me off. My father-in-law left to get lunch, and I sat there for about 4 hours putting on the sails and doing a bunch of other random stuff. When I could finally float off, I managed to get into the slip by myself (lines hadn't been pre-rigged or anything) and tied off.

That was the first "bad" thing to happen. Add in engine problems (water pump didn't want to pump, and the "replacement" engine that we bought died, twice), running aground one other time, and then (on the new boat) catching the jib sheets in the prop, and more engine problems (damping plate let go on the new boat), and I guess I can see why my father-in-law still won't go out with us! :) But, I look at it like BLJ said...nobody got hurt, no major damage was done (especially to other people's property/boats), so it was a successful day. Sounds like you learned a lot of good lessons.

Wait 'til you single-hand her. :)

jimgo 03-23-2014 01:12 AM

re: Maiden Voyage Newbie Trainwreck
Rick, we need to get together one of these days. I want to see your set-up.

BeejDeC 03-23-2014 01:32 AM

re: Maiden Voyage Newbie Trainwreck

Originally Posted by TakeFive (Post 1657105)
Could you clarify this? Is the button a choke for starting the motor when cold?

Take5, Thanks for that EXTREMELY helpful post. As to your first question... yes, we ran the blower and know to do so before starting the engine. As for what button brought the engine back to life, we've been debating that since we got home. Initially she said it was the button just to the left of the blower called "Light." We've since learned that controls the compass light, so unless there's some sort of major short circuit, that wasn't it. There's also a push button ignition right next to the button that actually cranks the engine. My guess is that's what was in the off position. After the engine was started, it was bumped in. The engine kept running, but barely. It's all conjecture until I get back and try to recreate it.

My VHF is vintage 1982... like a rainbow in the dark, YEAAAAHHH.
After trying to hail the tow/barge/dredge thing and getting no response, I think it's possible my antenna or radio is crap. We did a radio check, but at like 200 yards. We monitored 16 and heard nothing for 5 hours.

Having heard your input, I think I'll seriously consider a new main unit with auxiliary handset. Nav wise, I want to go the tablet route but also like your idea of a GPS distress/man overboard function. Do you need one to have the other?

In my vast experience, :p I really like the navionics smartphone app.. it's just too small on a pocket phone.

BeejDeC 03-23-2014 01:35 AM

re: Maiden Voyage Newbie Trainwreck

Great story. One of the guys who helped deliver my ride tells a similar story. Apparently he's pretty well known for taking 3 hour "breaks" to tidy up his sails and lines while the tide gets up to where he thought it should have been.

Could've been worse for ya. Could've been mother in law!

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