7 Lessons About Boating on My Own - Sail Magazine

7 Lessons About Boating on My Own

Author:
Publish date:
7-things-1

Things I Learned This Past Week:

1: If your crew can’t make it, go anyway.

I had scheduled to move my boat from Annapolis to DC where I’ll live aboard for the winter. My mentor was going to accompany me, but then life happened. After putting it off a few days, I decided to give it a go solo. It was the best decision I’ve made since buying my boat.

2: Chartplotters are nice; paper charts are essential.

While I had my course plotted on the chart plotter the entire way, my paper chart was always by my side. It gave me perspective on the big picture and helped me make decisions. I’ll never boat without it.

3: Anchoring ain’t that difficult, and if you do it wrong, just start over.

I had to anchor twice, once in a very secluded bay and another time just in the lee of the river. I took my time, remembered the lessons provided to me by friends and I was set. In the morning, I just did it in reverse. I held tight even after I was waked so hard in the middle of the night I had to hold fast for a good five minutes.

4: If something goes wrong, cry, then dry the damned tears and get on with it.

The first night I anchored, I discovered none of my electricswere working, including my anchor lights. My interior lights were out. My bilge was filled with water. I couldn’t get my engine to start. I was terrified. I cried. Then I went looking for the issue. I hand bailed the bilge. I never found the electrical problem, and it was now dark. There was nothing I could do. So I had a glass of wine and decided I’d call Tow Boat US in the morning for a jump. I slept like a baby and when morning came, the engine decided to work—it was slightly in gear and because I was so flustered the night before, I didn’t notice. I motored off in search of a marina where I could troubleshoot the electrical issue with a mechanic. It wasn’t ideal, but it didn’t kill me either. And the crying? It was totally OK.

5: Always have a plan B. And a plan C. And a plan D. And...

On my second night out, darkness was looming. Tides and winds on my head meant I wasn’t going to make the protected bay where I’d planned to anchor by nightfall. A quick check of the paper chart (yup, essential) and I found a little cove, but it looked shallow. A quick call to a friend who consulted with other sailors for local knowledge and I learned the south end was deeper than charted. I pulled in, anchored, and was set for the night in time to have TWO glasses of wine. Never race the calendar or the clock, they’ll win every time.

6: Docking ain’t easy, but it ain’t hard either.

Again, as I docked and cast off solo, I could hear a good friend in my head saying, “slow is pro” and reminding me to never go faster in a marina than the speed at which I was comfortable with hitting anything. I readied my lines and fenders before I entered the marina, read the wind, took a deep breath and went for it. Honestly, while I was shaking inside the whole time, I made it look like I’d been doing it my entire life.

7: I’m one bad-a** woman!

And I’m damn proud of it. I’d never been out on my boat alone. I’d never put sails up on her. I’d had a few good lessons and watched other people, lent a hand several times and read tons of books, but it was never just me. Then for three days, it was just me. I was terrified, a bit angry and thrilled. I learned more being on my own than I’d have ever learned if I’d had someone with me. I loved being alone and responsible. While I’d been doubting my plan to cruise alone because of my fears, I am renewed in my sense that I can do this! The moral? Grab life by the horns and ride it all the way home. 

After spending her teen years sailing Hobie catamarans, Janelle Kennedy took a 30-year hiatus from sailing to raise kids and earn degrees in philosophy and American studies. She currently lives aboard an Ericson 32-2.

Photo courtesy of Janelle Kennedy

January 2017

Related

Thoreau

A Thoreau Approach to Sailing

I know someone who spent two years, two months and two days staring at the water, living in a space 150ft square, and paying keen attention to the weather. This sounds like a happy circumnavigation, and in a sense, it was, because the person I’m referring to is Henry David ...read more

shutterstock_1886572

Cruising: Won Over by Lake Michigan

Like many, I often spend my sailing holidays far away from home, assuming that real adventure requires some kind of international flight. More and more, though, I’m learning that some of the best sailing vacations can be found right in my own backyard.In this spirit, I skipped my ...read more

00WindGenerator700x

How-to: Installing a Wind Generator

Solar panels or wind generator? There’s little doubt that for Stateside cruising, especially down South where the amount of sunshine outstrips the strength of the wind for much of the year, solar is top of the list for liveaboard and long-term cruisers. Having seen what even a ...read more

01-Ursus-Maritimus-31081

The Figawi Race: A New England Classic

When I was 15, some of my sailing classmates kicked off the summer by sailing the Figawi, New England’s legendary season-opening race held every Memorial Day weekend. A winding course between Hyannis and Nantucket, it was a seemingly epic voyage to a bunch of kids who had never ...read more

03-Panama-Posse-honduras

Panama Posse Enters Its Second Year

The Panama Posse is back this month after a successful inaugural rally in 2017-2018. This year it includes visits to seven Central American countries—Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras, Costa Rica and Panama.Over the course of the rally, organizers provide ...read more

TOTW_PromoSite

SAIL's Tip of the Week

Presented by Vetus-Maxwell.Got a tip? Send it to sailmail@sailmagazine.comLetting go the sheetTaking a loaded-up sheet off a winch when the boat tacks can be a just cause for nervousness. On a boat up to 40ft or so, the safest way is to first ease off a few inches, keeping the ...read more

USCGReadyForRescue_Identifier_FullColor

USCG Ready for Rescue Challenge

The U.S. Coast Guard is now collaborating with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on something it calls the “Ready for Rescue,” a $255,000 prize competition that is looking for ways that will make it easier to locate people, MOB victims in particular, in the water.The ...read more

04-CLR1718md1085-jpg

A Historic Win for Wendy Tuck

This past summer Australian sailor, Wendy Tuck (inset), became the first woman to win a round-the-world yacht race when she and her crew aboard Sanya Serenity Coast claimed the overall victory in the 2017-18 Clipper Race. “I am just so happy,” Tuck said at the finish in ...read more