One step back, but two steps forward

October 15, 2018

The late summer breezes sure have carried some dangerous storms to the SouthEast this season. Our latest storm, Michael, created some catastrophic conditions for the Gulf Coast and my heart goes out to all of those impacted by his fury.

As the storm moved north and east, Hampton braced itself for another round of severe weather. We battened down our hatches (actually, LITERALLY since one of our hatches just sort of fell off last week) and rode out the storm. Winds topped out at our boat at 50.4kts, the finger dock next to us sorta broke off, but otherwise, we did not lose power and there appears to be no real damage at our marina.

However, as I drove through town the next morning on my way to see A Star is Born with my pal Nancy, we saw a LOT of downed trees littering the streets (great movie by the way!). There were more than 200,000 residents without power in Hampton alone, and apparently, the collapsed eyewall centered over our city. I’m continually amazed with Mother Nature and how some areas are devastated and others completely fine.

When the storm passed, it was time for us to get me back in the driver’s seat of our Lagoon catamaran. I’ve mentioned how scared I am of sailing and I think, in all honesty, this constant recognition of my fear is actually making it worse. Example:

Sunday winds were averaging 4-8kts. We knew this day of sailing would actually be a day of motoring, but perfect for us to get off the dock, let me take the wheel and safely turn the boat, doing 180s and 360s, learning to stop the boat (remember, we have electric drives so it’s a bit different), and docking techniques.

So as I prepped the boat for departure, I started feeling sick to my stomach. I had to sit down at one point and calm myself down. I started imagining all sorts of catastrophes while underway. WHAT?? In 4kts of wind?

As I started removing the lines from the boat, I felt overwhelmed to the point I started crying. I didn’t give up though, nor did I ever utter “I can’t do this”, but as tears fell and I kept sniffling the snot back, I grabbed the stern line and hopped on the boat, calmly advising “lines are off, I’m on the boat.” And then I made my way to the tissue.

I wish I could say when this almost irrational fear of mine began, but I can’t. Because while many people have very real fears, my fear of docking and undocking is ridiculous.

Post tears, but freezing my tootie off.

We motored out about 2 miles off the coast and Erik began showing me how to slow and stop the boat, what to look for with SOG and how far to push the drives into reverse. I was very tentative doing the maneuver myself, but nothing terrible happened and I’m not terribly frightened to do this again. Of course, next time, we will be under sail so in addition to watching instruments, I’ll have to be very aware of the sails and wind direction. So there’s that.

I started getting comfortable behind the wheel, advising Erik what I wanted to try and why, and then I proceeded to do just that. “I’m going to shift course 90 degrees and then again another 90 degrees because we are heading into a shallow area of the Bay, plus I just want to turn around.” And then I just did it. Boo yah!

While we were playing around with how the boat handles, we spotted several dolphins off our bow – what a fantastic experience to see them jumping through the water. Wish my photo did it justice, but I’m certain this isn’t the last time we will see these playful creatures. I ended up bringing our boat all the way to the channel back into the marina, and then let Erik show me how he navigates the shallow and jagged entrance.

Dolphins are a very welcome sight for sailors.

The next part of the training was a ‘faux dock’ – where Erik would drive the boat up to our dock, back the stern end in, and I would jump off with the line and tie her down. As the boat backed up, I would advise “3 feet out. 2 feet out. 1 foot out. Ok, I’m comfortable getting off. I’m off. The line is secure.” Then Erik would steer bow side in, toss me the bow line, and I’d secure. DONE. And DONE! Like a champ.

Then we headed over to the gas dock and repeated the process again, this time for real, including the midship spring line. Finally, we tossed off lines at the gas dock and headed back to our dock. Same procedure – and everything went as expected. In fact, Erik was thrilled how well I tied off the stern line. I feel very proud of myself for those accomplishments.

But I’m also annoyed that I continue to have set backs involving tears. We are now less than 2 weeks from departing Hampton onward to the Bahamas and unless I get this fear under control, it could completely change everything.

Next: Renaming our yacht officially and saying goodbye to friends and family

It was about 60 degrees out. Beautiful, but cold!


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