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Old 20-11-2007, 11:19   #1
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First time as skipper: October, 2007

Hi all. I thought I would do a quick write up of my first time as skipper this year. I hope you enjoy reading it and maybe some of you will be able to relate to it on some level.

I finished my basic sailing course, passed the written and on water exams, and did my Red Cross swim in September. My first time as skipper was in October of this year. I arrived at the clubhouse and the fleet folks told me they had switched me from a club-owned, 1985 Catalina 30 to a newer Catalina 30.

I arrived at the slip and did my walk around. My crew arrived about the same time I did and we hooked up the main halyard and familiarized ourselves with the rigging. I did the pre-sail inspection, documented the locations of fire extinguishers, and made sure everything was good to go.

The curveball for me was this Catalina 30 was in an end slip, so there was nowhere to turn to when backing her out of the slip. I decided to play it very safe and allow plenty of room between our stern and the stern of the boat behind us. This made things a little tight at the bow when turnind to starboard and heading down the channel.

As luck would have it, my instructor was walking down the dock, stopped to watch, and started barking at us about how tight it was at the bow. One of my crew was quite experienced and did a nice job fending the bow. We didn't hit the dock or any boats, so it was a success with a lesson learned. I think I'll ask my crew to walk us out next time we're in an end slip.

The wind was about 12 knots when we left the harbor. We sailed south east toward San Onofre and we were moving along nicely. The speed indicator was very optimistic and showed 8 knots at one point. Since that's in excess of the Cat 30's hull speed, I'm guessing the owner replaced the impeller for that guage with the next closest size available.

We got down to the nuke power plant in San Onofre and headed out to the yellow buoy a ways off shore there. We passed the buoy and decided to come about and head back toward Dana Point harbor. We executed the manuever pretty well, except I put the boat into irons for a few seconds. Rookie at the helm.

After we were on course for Dana Point, then wind blew up on us. The indicator showed 18 knots. There was a good deal of weather helm and it was a wresting match. We were heeling quite a bit and decided we were not sailing very efficiently.

My crew and I looked at reefing the mainsail, but the reefing lines looked quite a bit different than those on the boats I trained on. We decided not to try to learn this particular reefing system in the 5 foot swell and 18 knots of wind. I asked about reefing the jib and the experienced crew member on board said we could give it a shot.

He rolled the job in about 20% and the weather helm dissipated. We did not lose speed and, with an adjustment of the runner, we were sailing pretty upright. It was a good experience to have the weather change quite a bit my first time out. It's a primer for what can happen, even here in normally mild Southern California.

There was still quite a bit of wind when we returned to the harbor. It made docking a little challenging, but I got the bow into the slip and my two crewmembers pulled the Catalina the rest of the way in. It was a bit of a challenging sail for a first time out and we have not had wind like that since. I suppose that was weather's way of telling me, "welcome to sailing."
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Old 20-11-2007, 11:46   #2
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Welcome aboard Skipper!

It sounds like you did fairly well considering the vessel was unfamiliar. The best to you on future adventures........................._/)
Faithful are the Wounds of a Friend, but the Kisses of the Enemy are Deceitful! ........
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Old 20-11-2007, 12:18   #3
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Thank you for the welcome, Delmarrey. The first time I sail in your neck of the woods will be as crew for an experienced skipper who knows the waters and weather. It's beautiful there in the Puget Sound area. I've been sea kayaking on the Bud Inlet near Olympia, but that was quite a while ago. I love the area!

I've been out on a Newport 30, which I trained on in class, a few times since my first time as skipper. I could reef that mainsail with no problems, but the wind here hasn't called for it. The learning process is lots of fun.

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Old 20-11-2007, 12:44   #4
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That first sail as skip is a moment to remember. Sounds like you did well...

There's lots to learn and as long as you like learning you'll be in hog heaven.

I was sailing for over 10 years before I could go out and NOT be assured of learning something new..

Reef early....It's much easier to shake out an un-needed reef than to put one in once the wind and waves get up... This is in no way a comment on your story and needing to reef..

happy sailing

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Old 20-11-2007, 15:02   #5
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Hi Randy,
Thanks for the reply. "Reef early" is excellent advice and I'll definitely do that in the future. I love to learn and doing so on a boat under sail power is all the more invigoranting. I pretty much grin ear to ear whenever I'm out on the water. I'll be paying close attention to advice given here. I've got a new friend I sail with who I ask for advice when skippering, which is very helpful as well.


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Old 21-11-2007, 10:08   #6
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Great job, nice story!

I soooo hate last slip... my boat is small enough that I almost never do anything *but* walk it out of the slip; it's just too easy to gently push her back, then giver her a nudge in the right direction and jump aboard. Much less stress (for me at least) than not being certain how much room I have at the bow/stern.

Now if my pier mate just didn't have 6' of stern poking out...

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Old 21-11-2007, 11:17   #7
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Thanks for the nice comments, amgine. I feel kind of badly for the owner of the boat I took for my first time as skip because it's a 30 footer, so it's a beginner class boat in our club's fleet. The end slip means many people at that level will be inclined to take other 30 footers instead because they're easier to get out of the slip. I'll take that boat again, though. Sailors need to be brave. I'll ask my crew to walk it out and I'll buy them some beers afterwards.

Oh, and I love Vancouver, BC. It's a beautiful place!
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Old 21-11-2007, 23:32   #8
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Great post AVSkipper. Sounds exciting. I never feel bad about shortening sail. Being comfortable and in control is important. Also when you have a full crew you will be amazed at what happens when you get 600-800 pounds on the high side rail. You can carry a lot more sail.

Regarding backing out. If you are concerned you can run a line from the forward cleat opposite the dock, forward around the forestay, all the way back and do a loop around bollard, dockside at the stern.

As you back out the bowman continuously takes out slack. When the bow comes clear the bowman can cinch the line, this will stop the reaward motion of the boat and pull the bow towards the marina exit. It also assure you won't hit the behind boat. With your boat basicaly stationary he looses the bollard loop and away you go.

I prefer this to using the bowman as a movable fender. I almost got jammed between a bow and a dock trying to fend off a boat I was on. We were sailing away (not motoring) and the helmsman had left the main sheet cleated and didn't realize how much energy he was picking up.

You should also tell your crew that no boat paint or fiberglass is worth a finger, hand, arm or leg. I always cover that during my boat safety brief.
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Old 22-11-2007, 09:24   #9
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Hi Dan,
Thanks for the suggestion on backing out. I typed a whole post on it and it vanished, so this is more brief. I intend to discuss your suggestion with a guy who always crews for me and we'll do it when we get one of those end slips. I'll also add the point about paint and fiberglass not being worth risking serious injuries. That's important to emphasize.

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