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Old 28-06-2010, 17:19   #1
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First Time Sailing (Long-Winded Version)

Hi, I'm relatively new here and thought I'd share a story about my first sail which happened to be on my new (to me) boat. First off, I am not a Jonah. I have had great experiences since and never anything as terrible as this one.

Until about 9 months ago, I knew relatively little about boats, the water, and sailing in general. I have always been interested in boats, from a distance, so finding myself newly married, living in Florida, I did what anyone would do. I decided I was going to buy a boat and learn how to sail her. Sorry if this is a little long winded:

I had been on plenty of powerboats (maybe a total of 5) in my life so I thought I knew what to expect. I found a cheap enough boat for my learning experience and decided to buy her and motor her home to my dock. The total distance is about 65nm. I was on a tight schedule and decided to bring along a couple of buddies to share the workload with. We had a generous 3 day weekend to bring her home, so we were going to take it easy. But we had to leave on the Saturday or we were not going to get "our fill" of boating. We had no intention of sailing at any point. That was something to learn in the comfort of a calm bay by my home.

We woke up bright and early on Saturday to drive up to get the boat. When I looked outside it was raining. Not hard, but the sky was grey and it was wet. "No big deal" i thought, it is florida. So we left. By the time we got to the slip where the boat was tied up, it was not raining, but the sky was still very far from the sunny day we had hoped for. No worries, we've got a motor.

So we loaded up the 30ft boat with food and water and bedding and Lysol and cast off. It took me 30 minutes to idle out of a 10 slip marina in reverse. First time with a tiller, took a little getting used to. But we made it, without damaging any of the other boats in the marina, and started home. Immediately it started to blow about 10 kts. not bad, the sun was even starting to break through the clouds.

Our route home took us down either the ICW or out into the Gulf for a stretch of about 20 miles. There was a drawbridge on the ICW route, and none of us knew how to get them to open (new to this remember?). So we chose the outside route and started out of the pass. If youre familiar with the area, this pass is called Stump pass and is only about 75 meters wide in places with shoals on both sides.

Well we pounded through the breakers and were beginning to turn south when i turned to see both of my "crew" leaned over the sides tinted distinctly green. No big deal I thought, i can steer by myself.

I probably could have. Had a swell not filled the carb on my outboard with water. so no more motor. i ran down below, and grabbed an ancient copy of Chapman's that the previous owner had left onboard. I quickly briefed myself on sailing 101, and hoisted the main. There were after all, shoals not 1/2 mi away. In a bit, I had the jib up too and we were flying along at a brisk 4 kts. (I had yet to discover wenches and could not hoist the main all the way by hand).

My two buddies were shocked to see us moving without the motor and began to perk up. Just then, the free (I can include a pic to show you what i mean) dinghy broke loose of its line and began to float off.

I then did something very stupid. I gave the tiller to my friend to had never been on a boat in his life and dove in after it. It took them 30 minutes to get the boat turned around to come get me. At this point, we had only made about a 5 mile circle and were almost back where we started.

When I was back onboard, the first of the swells broke over the back of the boat. See, we had not noticed the rapidly increasing height of the waves. Standing in 4 inches of water in the cockpit sure woke us up. As the rain began to fall, we frantically began trying to start our waterlogged motor. Of course, we forgot to shorten sail and were being rapidly driven towards the shore ahead of a massive storm front I forgot to check the radar for before we left home.

Let me say here, that we never got that dang motor started again. Ever.

Soon the shore was much closer, but barely visible due to the torrential downpour. We had no motor, and full canvas up. The largest of the waves were breaking on the transom and beating us all to heck. Then we stopped moving forward. Then we felt ourselves thrown forward on the next swell and dropped like a rock again. We were tossed this way for about 10 minutes and 200 yards on the shallows. We had come so far that we almost cleared them and were 50 feet from the channel when we stopped moving entirely. We were hard aground, listing badly to starboard, and could no longer see shore it was raining so hard.

On of my crew went below and started to have a panic attack when the room tilted sideways. He grabbed the flare gun and a horn and threw us lifejackets (yes, we were not wearing them even at this point) and began to yell for help. (we had to yell to each other to talk, so how he thought anyone would hear us I still dont know). The other one just sat stock still and looked like he was preparing to meet his maker.

I did the only thing I could think of. I took down the sails. Suddenly our world started to right itself. The tide was coming in, and the swells were increasing in size. At this point, there was a 10 foot sea running (although I wouldve swore at the time that they were at tall as the mast). With the sails down, we were no longer pinned against a sandbar (the source of most of the tilt), just sitting in very shallow water.

I managed to spot a powerboat speeding past and flag them down. They could not hear us, and we could not hear them but it was obvious what had happened. They would not get close to the shoal, but did not leave and kept waving. So I took a bow line, and jumped in and swam over to the boat in these swells. They graciously began to tow us off of the bar during the big swells and finally pulled us inside the pass and into a sheltered bay.

At this point, one of my crew left on the powerboat (the one with the panic attack). We tied everything we could down and went below to weather to storm and plan our next step. I was determined to get this boat home.

It blew for another 4 hours, and we passed the time filling the cabin with smoke rings while we studied everything chapman had to say about the finer points of sailing. When the weather had stopped, we went outside to see a beautiful calm sea, steel grey sky, and dolphins swimming around our boat.

We decided to stay the night (only 2 miles from the dock we left 10 hours earlier) and try the next day. I have never slept as good as I did that night.

The next day, we pulled up our anchor and decided to try the ICW under sail. We never got the main all the way up on that trip and were happy to do 3kts most of the way home. We accomplished this and even had time to practice coming about in Charlotte Harbor. By the time we got home that night, without the use of a motor, we fancied ourselves real sailors.

Needless to say, I now know how stupid nearly everything we did that first day was. Yet, it was some of the most fun I've had sailing in my life, and wouldn't trade the experience for the world. Sailing was the most fun I've had in my life, and seeing the fury with which nature can suddenly rise up against you with, was amazing.

Man, I was stupid. Wouldn't trade it for the world.

(the pics are, in order, me fixing a tangled halyard at sea before raising the sails, me bringing back the dinghy, the boat at home finally, the storm as it was over, the rain from the cabin, and the state the cabin was left in after being tossed about).

Sorry this was so long, I got a little carried away reliving the experience. Any similar experiences?
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Old 28-06-2010, 17:39   #2
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I Love your story.....and I am glad you guys are all good

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Old 28-06-2010, 18:13   #3
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Thanks, we're alive and now I'm sold on the life. My plan is to be living aboard permanently within 5 years. (different boat).
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Old 30-06-2010, 06:06   #4

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Awesome story.
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Old 30-06-2010, 11:19   #5
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Originally Posted by compaqp39 View Post
It blew for another 4 hours, and we passed the time filling the cabin with smoke rings

Adlard Coles' Heavy Weather Sailing suggests the exact same thing.

Well done! Great story

It kinda reminds me of a building site story I'm sure many remember...
Notes on a Circumnavigation.

Somalia Pirates and our Convoy
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Old 28-07-2010, 05:07   #6
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ROFL...I love this story!

Frankly, I'm surprised that you didn't draw more scorn from the "nanny-patrol". Whatever you do, don't tell this story over on Sailnet.

There were soooo many other things that could have gone wrong... standing rigging parting, chainplates breaking, dismasting, thru-hulls breaking off... After all, it was a new boat to you, and you didn't know how it had been maintained previously.

I especially love the part about breaking out the Chapman's and learning to sail as you were learning to sail!

I have days like that- Where I can't decide if I should kick my own arse because I made a huge mistake or if I should pat myself on the back for the brilliant recovery I just made.

Good job, and be more careful as you learn.
Is a man not entitled to the sweat of his own brow?
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Old 29-07-2010, 12:39   #7
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Now that is a sea story. Well done. No real damage and everyone survived. Plus you sailed her into the dock.

But the part about the Chapmans sailing 101 had me rolling.
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Old 29-07-2010, 15:42   #8
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Great story. Glad you learned quickly.
Water is Life!!!!
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Old 29-07-2010, 16:32   #9
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That is awesome! Love the story...practically crying reading it, I was laughing so hard. I'm new to this myself...don't even have the boat yet. But it's reading stories like this ( and ones that are maybe a little better planned) that keep me excited.
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Old 03-08-2010, 12:18   #10
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Some of the best stories are when we do the dumbest things. I had a day where everything went wrong from start to finish (well, the middle was pretty good). But I managed to work through the challenges. I felt so proud of myself for dealing with everything and getting the boat back in one piece (and myself, for that matter).

We all do stupid things. As long as we learn from them and don't die, we win in the end, right? Besides people love a "You won't believe what I did" story.
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Old 26-09-2013, 19:32   #11
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Re: First Time Sailing (Long-Winded Version)

Man...that is great story, nicely told. I am just about to do the same thing, bought a 35 hunter in jacksonville and gotta get her home to stuart, never sailed before!!! Think im gonna find some experienced help now. Cheers!!

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