This is a book, so first, let me give you all some eyecandy to wet your appetites:
After several weekends of just crummy weather in South Florida (go figure) NOAA finally predicted decent wind and no storms so us newbie owners could take out our boat by ourselves. Since we bought Jendai, we've had her out very little despite her being right behind our house. First, we work a ton so sailing is strictly a weekend affair right now. Second, when we last tried taking her out without experienced captain/teacher on board, we managed to get her perpendicular to the canal and our dock. Much panic, dock crashing, gnashing of teeth and crying (my wife) we decided no more trips on our own. That escapade resulted in a small scrape and some toerail damage that reminded me of my failure every time I hosed her down or did any boat projects.
So, we've been at the mercy of friends with boats coming over and helping us take her around. Taking her out by ourselves had gotten to the point of a phobia for me...I just would lose intestinal fortitude as I stared at our boat on the dock.
That ended this weekend. With NOAA and Weather.com giving us the green light, we got on board did our pre-departure checklist. First, we said a bit of a prayer at the dock. Who cares if the neighbors stared....we were putting our lives and our boats wellbeing on the line here. On board we went, started up the engine, checked water flow, all systems look good. Time to go.
Then we slipped the stern and bow lines. Nothing dramatic happened (this is good). Then we slipped the aft spring line. Stern got a bit out out there...but my wife got that under control quickly. Slipped the forward spring line....push off and I gave it a bit of throttle. Diesel purred to life, and we were on our way!!!!
Trip down the New River was uneventful. Cross I-95 bridge no problem (its fixed...but blind approach). Davie Blvd bridge opened right up for us. No Jungle Queen securitie calls on the vhf (phew).
Then we cross SW 7th Ave. And oh crap. VHF chatter reveals that the railroad bridge is down. And get this, Jungle Queen is on the other side of Andrews (which is only 100-200 yards after the railroad bridge). Time to practice holding in place. Prop walk in reverse throws me into the current. Ok, no big deal...lots of room. A couple of doughnuts and we're back in line. Why wont this bridge open!? VHF chatter says that the CSX bridge will go up because too many boats are waiting...in 15 minutes since the "locks" on the bridge go slow....ARGH!
Ok, one more doughnut and I get it right. Holding ground against the current...this is cool. Oh wait, whats this. A trawler gets right up my stern. So, forward is 3 boatss holding for bridge...and my rear is the trawler. Stressful. Finally the bridge opens, and Jungle Queen sends a loudspeaker blast to everyone to come on through. Phew. I've had to deal with her between Andrews Ave and 3rd Ave bridges, it is NOT fun. As I pass her port to port, she blasts her whistle. I just about brown my underwear. I'm a bit skittish.
We pass through Andrews, then 3rd. NOW we're cooking with gas! Only 17th street causeway left and the trip will be a success (we only wanted to get to the ICW and back). So, as we get to 17th street, friendly boat we know hails us on the vhf and holds back. They cant clear 17th street without an opening...we can, but I found out later barely. I always thought 17th street was 65 feet. Well its 55 ft. And its high tide. We have 50' + 3-4 in antennas/equipment. We clear with a foot or two to spare. Lesson learned...respect bridges and tide.
Ok, I can see it. The inlet channel markers. Red to port...do we want to push it and go out? Lets do it says the wife! (god I love her) So left turn we make. Release the outhaul, the inhaul, the traveler sheets and the jib spinlock. Pull on the outhaul and up goes the main - no going forward to the mast for me! As we're going out there, wind picks up. Up goes the jib. Southeast wind and we close haul due east. Out to the 3 mile limit, turn north (I dont like running, cant control the jibes too well yet) and our friends take all these pics for us.
So, the wife starts looking a bit green. Its not as calm anymore, and the VHF traffic is getting crazy. Looks like there's going to be a bouy race soon. We turn back in and yes...I'm embarrassed to say it, pretty much motored back in. Wife didn't take her seasickness meds and the ginger ale could only do so much. So we get back to the inlet, navigate the bridges back in. I'm wary of Madame Jungle Queen or her (even uglier) younger step-sister, Carrie-B Cruises. As we cross the railroad bridge heading for 7th, I hear her...she's just entering marker 12. We are in the clear through the wiggles and probably all the way to I-95....yess!!!!!
Ok, so we make it to the mouth of our canal. Wow, it seems narrower than when we left. Do we really push our luck and back it down the whole way? Wife says go for it (I really love this woman!!). So first attempt...get the boat turned a bit too late...abort! Do we push it? YES she says! So attempt two lines up right. I'm backing up Dolphin Canal between Key Largo lane and Gulfstream. There's our house in the distance...seems far away going so slow. I reach for the throttle to speed it up...wife puts her hand on mine and says uh-uh. She knows me too well. The house comes soon enough...I turn the weel to cut in for the dog and all of a sudden WUFF WUFF GGGRRRWWWWOOOLLWWW. Neighbor LETS HER DOGS OUT JUST AS I'M GETTING TO MY DOCK. I'm stressed enough, and my concentration is shot!!! I straighten out took quick...and the docklines are too far to reach for my wife...they're on the dock not hanging. CRAP ON A STICK.
Ok, so its ok...I just put a bit of forward to try again. Only I didn't straighten my helm out enough! BOAT TURNS unexpected direction. Bow gets perpendicular to the dock....my stern is perpendicular to my canal neighbors dock. I'm thrashing between forward and reverse (lord save my transmission). Flashbacks of our first weekend out are going through my head. But an odd thing happens. We dont yell like we did last time. Yeah, we put the bow into our piling. Yeah we scraped along the wood a bit. But I got it back under control. When my wife got that first spring line on, it was like a weight had been lifted off of my chest. Then that second one came on and I just about danced at the helm.
We unloaded, and said another prayer right on the dock. What a day.
Link To Pictures of our first sail on our own boat