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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
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!

Beej
 

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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.
 

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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 day...lol)

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.....
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
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.

Thanks,
Beej
 

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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.
 

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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.

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.

...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.

...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).







 

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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. :)
 

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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.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Jimgo,

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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Congratulations on your first sail , you got there , it doesn't really matter what went wrong as long as you learnt something for next time . There are good days sailing and better days sailing . At some point for most of us it doesn't always go as planned , but you were out there actually doing it not sitting at home thinking about doing it . Next time you will be having a coffee , eating a biscuit and going yep we will miss that tanker by heaps , pass us another one thanks . Nothing like a steep learning curve .
 

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Sounds awesome to me, seeing as my boat is sitting under a foot of snow and we can drive across Lake Champlain right now. You've got a good attitide and did well. Try to get in an area without the traffic -- that's stressful for anyone. Keep untying those lines from the dock as too many forget that part of sailboat ownership..
 

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If your fiance did not break up with you after that trip, she's a keeper! :)
 

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Im with bijones, if nothings broke you have gained the understanding what sailings about.

I would check for water or trash in your fuel, that and to make sure your fuel system is bleed right.

Most of the tugs and barges monitor channel 13

If you wife steeps foot aboard again you did great.
 
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Sounds like a success to me:D

Now get out there in some light winds and enjoy, you will be comfortable in no time;)
 

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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?
A couple of notes.
1. Radios don't tend to wear out. Yes, a new radio will have a bunch of great features like DSC. But my guess is that what is more likely the problem is that you masthead antenna and the cable running up to it are shot. They don't usually last 30+ years. On VHF the ground is usually less of a problem but you should check the ground wire too. And to answer your question directly yes you need a GPS attached to the radio for full DSC funtion. It will still work without one but will not broadcast your position if you get in trouble.
2. I do a lot of offshore long distance sailing. If I have learned one lesson it is redundancy, redundancy, redundancy. A fixed mount VHF with a second mike is very convenient. It it craps out you have nothing. A fixed mount VHF with a second handheld radio means two things have to crap out before you lose comms. About the same cost. (BTW I have two fixed mount and two handheld marine VHF radios on board. But I am a belt and suspenders guy.
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.
3.I am glad you had a successful sail. But I would caution you that you made the mistake of many new (and less new) sailors. You decided to sail under less than optimal (appropriate) conditions as your friends could not come when you wanted to go sailing. I have watched people sail into 45 knot winds and 20 foot seas because they needed to get to the next port on time to meet friends. They did. Lost the dinghy, most of the rig, and a big part of the transom. I guess they didn't take their friends sailing. There is an old saying, originally attributed to pilots but paraphrased: There are old sailors, there are bold sailors, there are no old bold sailors. Don't let desire overcome common sense. :)

Fair winds and following seas ;)
 

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One more vote for a relatively 'successful' first foray.

Nothing broke, your lady's a keeper, and you'll do better next time, and better still the time after that.. next thing you know YOU'LL have 40 years under your belt and be telling another newbie the same.
 

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Beej,

One thing that John and I still do after each sail (either while at anchor or at the dock) is to relax and review the day. We try to be as honest as possible about the bad parts because the little things we overlook during that "debriefing" may be critical to do correctly down the road.

Congrats to both, and please extend mine to your GF.
 

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Great story and congrats on your maiden sail. We all have had experiences like that. Taking a long a more experienced sailor for a few outings may be helpful.

I vote for the redundancy side also. We have two handhelds as well as the fixed VHF with Ram mike. I would purchase the handheld first as it willl have the added advantage of being portable, where most ram mikes are still fixed....just at the helm.

As far as navigation I would suggest an inexpensive chartplotter. The are made for the marine environment, look sleek and inobstrusive and can be very helpful and a safety factor, however they are not a substitutte for having a paper chart on board as well. We use a Navionics app on ours as well as the portable I pad down below.

Where are you keeping your boat? on the Chesapeake? The trip through the canal is not as dangerous as entioned and we have transitted many times. The tankers are really not the issue. The real issue are the go fast boats who have no speed limit and glass like water.

BYW welcome to the C&C club

Dave
 
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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.
Three more notes:
1. Ships in general do not have "bow lights." They have "side lights." The red and green lights are more likely to be on the "house" in the stern then anywhere near the bow. If your mindset (like mine was) is that the colored lights are in the bow you will think everyone is making sternway! Big ships have a 225 degree (112.5 on each side) masthead white light in the bow and a 225 degree white light in the stern. The stern masthead light is higher. Think of a triangle with the pointy part at the bow and the top of the triangle at the stern if that helps you remember. They also have a true stern light. When combined with the stern masthead light it means a while light in the stern from 360 degrees.
2. Carry a couple of cheap air horns and don't be afraid to use them. 5 short blasts means "I disagree with your intentions" and also can be used as an emergency or danger signal. You don't have to be sinking, burning etc. to warn that BFS that you don't have things under control - technically you are at the moment a "vessel not under command" if you don't think you can get out of the way in time. In tight quarters trying to sort out which BFS is CBDR (constant bearing decreasing range - in other words on a collision course), getting their name, calling them on the radio, and having a conversation all take time. They don't want to hit you - the paperwork is a ***** - they would rather do a crashback. You can apologize later after things are under control. Don't be afraid to broadcast in the blind "I'm the little sailboat and I am out of control." Anything so two of you are trying to avoid the problem rather than just one of you. Sure it is embarrassing but less so than being pulled out of the water with bits of your boat floating around you.
3. In unexpected strong winds dump the main, furl most of the jib, and head downwind. Your boat speed with decrease the apparent wind speed, the boat will flatten out and you will have a lot more control.

Fair winds and following seas :)
 
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