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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
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
 

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Congratulations! It will certainly get easier from this point. Since I mostly solo sail, my first few ventures were rocky and stressful also. Now I get in and out of the slip like a pro (almost). The best piece of advice I have heard is to approach your dock or slip at the speed you wish to strike it. Your enjoyment is directly related to your comfort level, and now that you have sucessfully made it in and out, your comfort level will grow in leaps and bounds. Enjoy all your future days on board.

Fair winds, Bill
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Congratulations! It will certainly get easier from this point. Since I mostly solo sail, my first few ventures were rocky and stressful also. Now I get in and out of the slip like a pro (almost). The best piece of advice I have heard is to approach your dock or slip at the speed you wish to strike it. Your enjoyment is directly related to your comfort level, and now that you have sucessfully made it in and out, your comfort level will grow in leaps and bounds. Enjoy all your future days on board.

Fair winds, Bill
Many thanks...very kind words. We love our Beneteau 343, but in retrospect she's too much boat for us beginners! We should probably have started with your boat (from your signature). But the "deal" was too good to pass up here. I'm sure we'll get the hang of her in a few more sails.

And as a friend reminds me, gelcoat and fiberglass can always be repaired...nothing on a boat is unreplaceable.
 

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Beautiful boat! Rest assured your docking skills will only improve if you work at them and even when you get more comfortable, there will be "those days". "Those Days" invariably happen when the most witnesses are about. You can dock perfectly 200 times in a row with no one around, but the day of the dock picnic with 100 people milling around, things will go to hell in a handbasket and it will be like you've never seen a sailboat much less competently skipper one. It happens to everyone and the only upside is it makes for great stories over drinks later.

Keep at it and enjoy your beautiful Bene!

btw, My wife won a pair of Family Service Radios (basically walkie talkies) which we use for situations like docking, anchoring and entering channels at night were one of us is at the bow and one at the helm. We've found it really helps ease communication and cuts down on the yelling, which in turn reduces stress levels. I think they are a pretty good idea for crusing couples.

Bill
s/v Palmetto Moon
Catalina 36
 

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It's one step at a time. Biscayne Bay is a great place to sail, and it's so close to you. If your mast heigth is under 55ft. you can use the ICW to get there.

I took lessons on S.F. Bay, and in the beginning there were days I just watched the boats from the marina. I knew I wasn't ready for the summer winds there. It wasn't long I was out in any wind, and then single-handing, but it was a step at a time. BEST WISHES in honing your skills, and soon you will be across the stream to enjoy the lovely Bahamas......i2f
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
I could do without the "tension" though!!
The "tension" has taken at least 5 years off of my life. Although the time out on the water has added back 3-4. Net net...I think its *SO* worth it.

We are going to the Bahamas July 4th extended weekend with experienced friends. Our boat, our provisions...their company and skills to get us there and back. Should be fun.

Our next "big" solo thing will be to take her out for a daysail then come back and anchor in Lake Sylvia for the night. Then go back home in the morning/afternoon.

After that, then its Biscayne for a weekend. Then, its the Keys for a week. Then Bahamas just us!
 

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Many thanks...very kind words. We love our Beneteau 343, but in retrospect she's too much boat for us beginners! We should probably have started with your boat (from your signature). But the "deal" was too good to pass up here. I'm sure we'll get the hang of her in a few more sails.

And as a friend reminds me, gelcoat and fiberglass can always be repaired...nothing on a boat is unreplaceable.
You'll get used to it in no-time and if you bought a smaller boat you would have been wishing for a bigger one very soon.
 

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WOW...that SO sounds like our first couple of times! I remember thinking "I have to keep us calm, so we make it back to land!" and then once we docked, this huge sense of relief, rapidly followed by..."Cool, when can we do it again?!?!?"

Its a learning curve...seems STEEP at times, but it is definitely worth it.
 

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Owl - dude, you're speaking my language! I'm still getting the tension/cotton-mouth thing at times while docking. And I've also treated my gelcoat to some nice piling tattoos. So it's all good.

GREAT JOB on getting her out and opening up. And, most importantly, you've got a great wife who's willing to get out there with you.

You're a lucky dude!
 

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This story sounds like a few pages out of my logbook. The experience is well worth the cost in terms of stress eating away at your soul :)

Congratulations on a sufficiently successful trip, and keep the great pics coming!
 

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You bought a perfect size boat to handle yourselves. The learning curve will be quick with new experiences. Trust youself. Everyone remebers their frist time and no one got it 100% correct.

In a year you will look back and be cruisers already. Enjoy your virginity...it doesnt last long before you are giving advice to newbies.

Nice boat for you boath...good luck

Dave
 

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Don't feel like the only one. We are going though the same thing with our first boat a 31 footer. We bought it in NJ and decided to bring it back ourselves to MI. We just got back from this adventure Sunday afternoon.

My first time out of the dock (18 days ago now) resulted in some heroics from the marina staff to save the boats around us as I turned a bit late out of the dock. Coming in I parked it at the gas dock and asked them to get it back in the slip for me :). The next time (15 days ago) I got it out with no problems! That day we headed though two bridges that had to open for us and out to New York Harbor and up the Hudson river to start the 1000 mile plus trip home. Our first day where we had one more bad docking experience (my first attempt to dock other then the gas dock) and after that I got better at docking on long flat walls (for a while). We went though 40+ locks over the next few weeks with our mast down, after the 11th one we set our standard for locking to avoid scraping/bumping one or both ends of the mast when pulling into and out of the locks. I got good at the bridge/lock holding patterns (my wife still gets nervous). After two weeks of living on the boat and doing an overnight passage & one midnight docking in a strange area (put-in-bay) on lake Erie I was feeling pretty good until we got back to our new home marina and all the sudden it looked really small. I drove by our slip, with what I will call skill (others will call it luck) I got the boat turned around (lots of frantic talk from the wife & 4yr old during this process of forward and reverse) only to get it stuck sideways between two open slips due to the wind and me not giving it enough power. Luckily several folks on the dock came to our aid and helped us walk it to our slip (or at least what I think is our slip? We docked it Sunday got off the boat and had to leave right away as our babysitter for that had been hanging with our 1yr old son during this adventure was already a day late for their vacation and was itching to leave). I have to admit I'm now not so sure how I will get it out of the slip and am pretty nervous about trying to get it back in with lots of other boats around. Our boat is fairly wide so we only have about a foot of space in our slip (this may be good or bad, I'm not sure yet?).

I have managed to scrap both sides pretty good, one from our first docking experience in Terrytown and the other when trying to tie up to a lock wall in the dark. I can see that the later one did damage to the gel coat but can't tell if the first one scraped it or just left a big black mark? Will find out when I try to clean it here soon? While I'm not too excited about the prospect of getting the gel coat fixed I just tell myself its only one more of a long list of boat related projects I now have and I bought a used boat for exactly this purpose so I would not feel too bad when I banged it into stuff :)

My wife is out of town this week but I may try taking it out on my own one night so I can get in the water and start cleaning it up from the trip? Honestly I'm more worried about damaging the boats around me then my own, but keep telling myself that's why I have insurance ;) and that I just need to push though the fear.
 

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Sailing Lessons, Sailboat Docking and Anchoring

This might help you out. My memory of one of the first times leaving the slip was getting the bow blown down wind. Now it seems simple to just back down the fairway. Then it was panick mode, but no damage to docks, boats, or humans.

I was telling a friend, and he laughed as he said. "The pointy end goes down wind first." Don't worry things will get better......i2f
 

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My memory of one of the first times leaving the slip was getting the bow blown down wind.
Mine too. Does anybody use any kind of riding sail on the backstay to keep the boat weathercocked into the wind while trying to motor upwind? The dock-approach flowchart nowadays generally has as its goal getting my stern into the wind, which doesn't make for great steerage but at least doesn't result in spinning around uncontrolledly.
 

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Well, that did it and I've got all you guys to blame. The pics, the stories, the sailing. I'm leaving the office and heading for the boat and I'll come back when I'm darn good and ready. (Which will be at the exact moment my wife tells me!)
 
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