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Melrna 10-04-2007 10:54 PM

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!

tenuki 10-05-2007 02:09 AM

hey, thanks for the saillog! sounds like a lot of fun.

Sapperwhite 10-05-2007 02:35 AM

Although I am no lady, I almost always solo also. I prefer to dock nose first for a few reasons. First, it's easy to pop in and set my spring line to stop me going in further than I want. Then I have access to the stern lines easily. By this time, I now have enough lines set to be able to hop off and set the bow lines without worry.

I also like going nose first so that I can have a little more privacy. No dock walkers looking down into the cabin, which is good because Sapperwhite likes to go Sappernaked when it's hot. It's for their protection, not mine.

Now you may find it tricky leaving the slip solo with the nose in. You have to back out now. Thats going to involve some prop walk, and your nose is going to want to wander into the dock and pilings. More fun lessons! My boat is heavy, has a full keel, and has a lot of prop walk. My answer to that is easy. I have the engine running in neutral. Then I slip all the lines from the dock in a particular way that works for me. Now the boat is free, so I grab onto the shrouds an literally walk the boat straight out as far as I can go down the dock and get on at the end. This gives me enough distance out of the slip that I can casually walk back to the cockpit, put her in slow reverse, and power the rest of the way out. Different wind directions and streangths change the formula a little, but the process is the virtually the same most of the time. Also, having a 4 foot bowsprit adds a little bit more of a challenge. Imagine getting that baby up against a piling or another boat(not good! $$$$$ to fix).

Sounds like you had a good time and learned a few things along the way. Congrats.

SanderO 10-05-2007 08:29 AM

Enjoyed the story. I sail solo most of the time. Even with wifey on board she won't do a thing... and doesn't want to learn. She's company and that's fine.

We have a mooring so getting on and off is usually no problem at all. Above 20 it is a bit of a challenge.

When I do reef I will motor head to wind with the autopilot and have enough forward motion that she stays bow to wind.

I store in water so there I deal with a slip and prefer bow in for privacy. Getting out of the slip I usually take the line and walk the boat out and hop on at mid ship. She has some momentum and usually it doesn't even require any prop at all. When out of the slip I use the prop and steer.

Getting in is also simple since I use a mid ship cleat and make the line fast (and short) which completely stops the forward motion. I then take the bow line and pull the boat forward into the slip... after letting the mid ship line run around the far post/cleat on the dock which will be for the stern line. The mid ship cleated line is then made fast as a stern spring. Voila! Finally, the excess bow line is brought aft to the midship for a bow spring.

Sailing in crowded waters is hardly as enjoyable as it is stressful and worse so for single handed sailing.

sv shiva

deniseO30 10-05-2007 10:41 AM

way cool Melrna! Think I woulda been reefed already! keep it up! Hunter 33 is a great boat too!

SailorPam 10-05-2007 12:43 PM

Thanks for sharing that Melrna! That was far more challenging than my first solo. Sounds like you made many good decisions along the way. Knowing when you're getting tired is so important for safety. Docking, well, I think a high tolerance for public humiliation is a great characteristic for sailors to have. When you care too much about how you look to others, you're going to spend a lot of time stressed out. Jack Klang, who does presentations at the Strictly Sail shows for Quantum Sails, has a book that includes several solutions to docking dillemas. I used to be able to access it online on the Quantum site, but it's not cooperating this morning.

I'm just finishing my third season of sailing. My husband Dave & I bought a Catalina 25 that we sail at a beautiful mountain lake in Southern Oregon. So no tides or currents, but we get good wind with the switches a high lake provides. It's a wonderful place to learn. The first season I worked on overcoming an unexpected hysterical reaction to heeling. And given I've never gotten hysterical about *anything* in my life, that was pretty discouraging. But Dave and I worked through it and at the end of that season we took our boat to the San Juans and spent a couple weeks cruising up there. My goal for season two was to take the boat out solo, sail, anchor, spend the night, sail off and dock single-handed. I was lucky because one of my dearest friends decided to solo her boat for the first time with me. So we were able to share and congratulate each other. And she planned a celebration for that evening at anchor that included streamers and champagne. Since then I just plan that there will be some mishap each time I go out alone :cool: It's like I get a pop-quiz on random topics before I can return to a dock or mooring. As for docking, I use a long dockline that reaches from the bow to the cockpit so I can step out on the dock with a bow and stern line. The midship cleat and line is an excellent aid for shorthanded docking too.

sailhagg 10-05-2007 03:04 PM

Great Story Melrna, thanks for starting a new thread!

Neptune really likes to reach out and swap the backs of our heads when we think we're getting the hang of it. He does it too to the guys...I watched last month as the stern of one boat hugged up to the bow (and the anchor hanging there) of another.

You just haven't lived until you back out of the slip with "way"...while the wind is blowing and the current is running high and fast, only to find the transmission cable has come off the linkage....RAMING SPEED...:p The circus was in town and if you're inclined you can read my blathering (you can copy and paste to the browser if you want)

What a sinking feeling to have no forward or reverse! Anyways, thanks for the thread and the story! I'm looking forward to reading stories from the other girls too!

Come on Ladies, cough it up..we all want to know!

sailhagg 10-05-2007 03:07 PM

Hey, SailorPam I'm on the Columbia, North Portland harbor...what lake are you on?

SailorPam 10-05-2007 09:46 PM

Hey Sailhagg,

I sail on Howard Prairie Lake, 13 miles east of Ashland. About as south as you can get in Orygunn. It sits at 5000 feet and looks like a minature version of the San Juans. Bald eagles watch over us every weekend. Unfortunately heaven, as opposed to hell, freezes over and we'll be pulling "My Prozac" out tomorrow 'til next April. If you ever get down this way during season, I'd be happy to introduce you to our little paradise. There's a few pics on our website

Where are you in Portland?

sailhagg 10-06-2007 11:19 AM

SailorPam, I love the pic's in your site! I'm quite familiar with 'bobbing' we do that at Lake Shasta, with the same hand cooler! We're really sick, we have two boats. The wakeboard boat goes to Shasta for the season and we go once a month for about 10 days. I love to hydrofoil and that's a great lake for it.

Really nice boat (love the name) and the one pic sure looks like a party! Wish I'd been there...:D I really enjoyed the pictures you have. As a matter of fact I like them soooooo much that I added you to my 'blogroll'. Maybe some of my readers will come in.

Sorry you're having to lay up for winter. We're stalling and hoping the weather will turn enough that we can get in a few more trips. Although, it was pretty cold last night. We're in Portland just east of the I-5 bridge going into Vancouver, WA. We have quite a few bridges. I just love it when "they" have to open one for me. I get a sick pleasure out of blasting that horn at them....

Melrna, I was thinking about the jump in boat sizes you had; 22 to 33?? Holy Moly! I'll bet the first time at the helm was pretty intense. I can't imagine an increase of that size all at once. I like Hunters although I've never sailed on one. My hubby wanted to get 40-45 feet of blue-water when we moved up, I fought hard for something smaller. We bought 30' of off-shore. Which is great for where we're boating right now. Oddly enough, he agrees now that we made a good move for size and cost.

Melrna, you said you have a blog? What's the address? I keep trying to find lady sailor blogs but can't. SailorPam has a nice spot, I'd like to see yours. Thanks!

So, come on girlies...who else has a story? Go away guys!;)

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