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Old 03-07-2018, 10:12   #1
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Embarrassing story, seeking advice

Hello All,
I'm a 56-year old (male) college professor. In late August 2016, I took the ASA 101 course at a sailing school on the Chesapeake Bay and (easily) passed it. Since then, I haven't had much of a chance to go sailing due to various factors. However, this year, I decided to get a season pass at the boat rental place at the local lake. The local lake is a tiny "man-made" lake (they built a dam to fill up a depression in the land). My intention was to grab the centerboard day sailers (15 footers) they have there, to practice my basic sailing skills, then probably next season find a reasonably-priced second-hand boat and go sailing on the Chesapeake Bay....maybe more in the future.

However, a certain incident occurred that has kinda' scared me a bit: The first time I went out, the wind at the local lake was going 7-8 knots with gusts of upto 10. I went out maybe 0.5 NM and turned in such a way that the boat keeled over on the side that I was sitting. In a split second I was thrown overboard and the boat flipped over with me underneath. I was wearing my life-jacket, and without realizing it even, I was able to raise the hull and come out from underneath. The boat rental center takes safety very seriously and they always have one person as a lookout for all their rentals that go out. They saw me and two persons there jumped into a motor-boat and were at my side in no time. They pulled me onto their boat.

I think I'm a fairly risk-averse person and, generally speaking, like to err on the side of safety. For example, in my 38 years of driving, I have never received a ticket for a moving violation.

Later that day the following emotions ran through me:
1. Depression: "This is the end of my sailing career -- even before I seriously started."

2. Extreme embarrassment: "Those guys at the rental place are laughing their asses off thinking about the old fool who thought he knew how to sail. How will I even make my way there again?"

3. Fear: "Wow, that was closest I've come to within inches of my life."

4. Fear (another type): Of getting verbally chewed out by The One Who Must Be Obeyed. [She didn't]

Anyway, I'm writing to seek some advise and encouragement. Is an event like this unusual? Was I foolish? I kinda' like to be by myself sometimes and it's unlikely (if I ever make it to owning a real sailboat) that I will sail the Chesapeake with others -- this is MY thing. Besides, The One gets seasick if she even sees a boat, so no chance of convincing her to join in the fun.

Any advice, stories, encouragement, even discouragement ("You fool, it's people like you who give sailing a bad name!") is appreciated provided it's honest.

Thank-you all.

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Old 03-07-2018, 10:21   #2
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Re: Embarrassing story, seeking advice

If you don't make mistakes then you're not learning.

Don't worry about the embarrassment factor, there are plenty of "embarrassing" events going on in the boating world on any given day. You have to work really hard to do something that hasn't been done a ton of times before. 90% of the people in the boating world just brush it off (interesting for 5 minutes) and then put in the category of beer stories - "Remember when Mr So-and-So did this...".

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Old 03-07-2018, 10:28   #3
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Re: Embarrassing story, seeking advice

You have nothing to worry about...

Half the fun of having my Hobie Cat was flipping it over in front of a beach full of people. You don't get better standing on the dock.
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Old 03-07-2018, 10:33   #4
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Re: Embarrassing story, seeking advice

Leave twitchy dingies to the kids......and you did learn from that now didn't you, I use to sail beach cats and flipped them once or more times when learning to sail.....keep at it if you can sail a dingy a keel boat is easier....
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Old 03-07-2018, 10:33   #5
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Re: Embarrassing story, seeking advice

Short answer: sh*t happens suck it up.....

Long answer: You are going to encounter many close calls and potentially scary situations when boating. Everything from near collisions, to close lightning strikes, knock downs, and many more. If all sailors quit after their first "holy crap I could have been hurt or killed scenario" then there would be no sailors left. Sailing is exhilarating, boring, the best time of your life, and potentially dangerous all depending on what is going on. The biggest deciding factor is how do you handle stressful situations? If you act, find a solution, and don't panic, then you are fine. If you panic, get scared, and freeze then find another hobby.
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Old 03-07-2018, 10:46   #6
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Re: Embarrassing story, seeking advice

If you have never capsized or swamped a dinghy, you haven't really sailed a dinghy.

Even with expert instruction, it is very common to have a capsize or two while learning. Don't feel no way about it. A good dunking is a very good teacher! FWIW a big boat is extremely hard to capsize. In the wind you were in, basically impossible. One good reason to start out in dinghies is you learn the dynamics of sailing a lot quicker. Holding tiller in one hand and sheet in the other, there is a very strong and intuitive connection between skipper, boat, wind, and water.

Don't be hesitant to get back on the water. You gotta get back up on the horse that threw you.
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Old 03-07-2018, 10:58   #7
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Re: Embarrassing story, seeking advice

It surprises me that a small boat rental operation or sailing club would release a boat to a new member without having first done a check-ride with a knowledgeable instructor to ensure that the new member had at least a rudimentary knowledge of how to handle a small boat/dinghy which is somewhat different than a keel boat (as you discovered). Moreover, often such check rides include dumping the boat and ensuring the new member knows how to right the thing (which usually isn't to hard), remount the boat and bail the water out. Not having had the benefit of the foregoing check-ride you've had to learn the hard way although I suspect you won't soon forget the lesson.

Forget the embarrassment. I know of no one that has sailed dinghy's/small boats that hasn't capsized themselves at one point or another often many times. As for the fear, you'll get over it (or not) depending upon how you choose to handle the experience. Given the time of year and the fact that you were wearing a life-vest, there was little likelihood you would have drowned, even if you didn't know how to right the boat yourself and had to wait for a helping hand. Get some instruction on righting a capsized boat and go out and turn the thing over and practice, do so in shallow water if it makes you feel "safer", just don't entirely turtle the thing or you'll stick the mast in the mud (and that can be a problem!).

Most of all, don't take the event too seriously. If you don't, and continue to learn. at some future date you'll laugh about it as you think back.

"It is not so much for its beauty that the Sea makes a claim upon men's hearts, as for that subtle something, that quality of air, that emanation from the waves, that so wonderfully renews a weary spirit."
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Old 03-07-2018, 11:53   #8
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Re: Embarrassing story, seeking advice

In my humble opinion you should not be embarrassed for the capsize. Maybe a little perhaps for not knowing how to right it yourself. Best way is to sail back wet with a big smile and some made up story about a rouge wave, ,lost attention looking at some girl, something cool like that
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Old 03-07-2018, 12:44   #9
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Re: Embarrassing story, seeking advice

Where are you on the Chesapeake? Find a sailing club and volunteer to crew. You’ll gain valuable experience, learn a lot and meet great people. I live close to Annapolis and have crewed on dinghies and keel boats, had a blast! Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions.
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Old 03-07-2018, 12:53   #10
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Re: Embarrassing story, seeking advice

Don't worry about it, in eight hours of sailing a laser (the forst small boat I've ever sailed) I've capsized 17 times.

I work on the theory if you don't capsize you're not trying hard enough, it's also nice to cool off.
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Old 03-07-2018, 13:08   #11
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Re: Embarrassing story, seeking advice

From the perspective of the teacher, the very first thing we teach the kids when they're just beginning is to capsize the boat, and right it, and get back into it. This is done in shallow water, near the beach, with instructors and a safety boat around, so they can first practice it in water they can stand up in, then they practice it when they're in water over their head.

As everyone has told you, it is normal to capsize dinghies. Don't worry about that.

Now, you may have experienced a blow to your professorial dignity, from one way of looking at it; on the other hand, you've had an adventure that you're sharing with many readers. How you view it is your choice.

So far, your wife has no need for anti-emetic medication; however there are threads about preventing sea sickness, here, should the two of you ever want to sail together.

If you go back to the lake, see if you can sign up for one of the kid's beginning sailing courses. Apparently you did fine on the academic side of your sailing course, but did not get much actual sailing experience. You will quickly learn the basics, and be placed much better for learning more. You only need practice. It would be unfair to yourself to think people don't have to learn and practice.

Another approach that will work is for you to sail as crew on other people's boats. That is how I got my start, many years ago. If you're lucky, you'll find a skipper who's good at mentoring people new to the sport.

Who scorns the calm has forgotten the storm.
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Old 03-07-2018, 13:17   #12
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Re: Embarrassing story, seeking advice

I donít know what you were sailing, but small boats are humbling. No one who sails was laughing at you. Get back out there. Move quicker, anticipate the heel, and have fun. Nothing wrong with swimming in a lake in the summertime...
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Old 03-07-2018, 13:34   #13
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Re: Embarrassing story, seeking advice

The master has failed more times than the novice has attempted.
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Old 03-07-2018, 13:52   #14
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Re: Embarrassing story, seeking advice

Nothing to be embarrassed about. I've lost count of how many times I capsized my first sailing dinghy. I was swimming regularly... The good thing about that boat was its' open transom, so once righted, the water just ran right out the back.

OK, so you've done ASA101, which I assume is something like RYA Day Skipper, i.e. the basics of sailing a keel boat. Dinghies are just different. Light and unballasted - you need to learn to trim the weight properly and be in control of the mainsheet at all times.

IMO, it would do you no harm to join a local dinghy sailing club for a season and get some opportunities to pick up tips from experienced dinghy sailors. It will make yo a better keel boat sailor.
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Old 03-07-2018, 14:04   #15
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Re: Embarrassing story, seeking advice

I teach ASA101 and can tell you there is nothing to be afraid or embarrased about. You probably did not get taught how to handle a dinghy but instead learned on a keelboat, an entirely diiferent fish altogether. In my youngers days i enjoyed a "get wet boat" but much prefer the comfort and feel of a big full keel cruiser upwards of 36 feet. Take a dinghy course or tag along as crew with someone on a small boat and get a feel and practice.

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