Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Don’t Do What I Did

July 1, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Don't Do What I DidWe bought our first sailboat, a used Pearson 33, and needed to relocate it from Hampton Bays to Northport. My husband, Ron,had sailed in San Francisco Bay before moving to New York, while I had no experience other than fishing from small power boats.  So we asked a friend who was familiar with Long Island waters to accompany us on our trip.

As the day was calm, we had to motor instead of sail.  After we rounded Plum Gut, I got out our lunch. We were calmly enjoying our sandwiches, when all of a sudden we smelled acrid smoke.It was seeping up from below onto the deck!Ron turned off the engine and went to take a look, discovering that the smoke was coming from the transmission. As the transmission was too hot to touch, he decided we would deal with it when we got into port. We’d just sail the rest of the way… except there was no wind. Our experienced friend said we’d have to “wait for the predictable southerly [winds].”

Veteran sailors know that you can sit around a long time waiting for that southerly. And that’s precisely what we did, making me quite unhappy — waiting around in the heat was not how I had pictured sailing.Our (semi) patience was rewarded a couple of hours later when the wind finally came up.And then up lots more, as we were suddenly blasting along the Long Island Sound, rapidly making up for lost time. As we made haste, I’m thinking that our new boat is a bit tippy — I didn’t yet realize that’s a big part of sailing.

I was adapting to my new position clinging to the rail when Ron decided it was too late to keep on heading to Northport. Instead, we’d stop at Port Jefferson. There were lots of boats heading the same way, but having no usable engine, we had to tack through the channel. The wind was a stiff 20 knots or so, which felt (to me, as a neophyte) like being in a hurricane. The wind was also blowing against the tide, so water splashed up and over our bow. Between the wind, the water, the tacking, and the indigestion from the liverwurst sandwich I ate for lunch, I felt like I would surely die!

I went down to the V-berth, intending to draw my last breath. Ron handed over the wheel to our friend and hurried down to check on me. He was reassuring, telling me that I was not going to expire, and that I’d feel better in the fresh air.  Besides, he could really use an extra pair of eyes to watch out for other boats.

As it was stifling down below, I figured I’d accept my husband’s advice (and request for assistance). I came up on deck just in time to see him steering out of the way of the ferry. A few harrowing moments later, we grabbed a mooring in the harbor and the boat finally stopped moving.

Though he knew I was a novice, I felt that my less-than-sterling behavior had let Ron down. So the next day, while waiting for the transmission repairman, I gladly accepted when he said he had a little job for me. Turns out, he needed “someone small and light-weight” (how flattering), so a few moments later, I’m at the top of the mast, changing a light bulb. Why did I ever think owning a boat was a good idea?

We sailed the rest of the summer, and I started to really enjoy it.  In the fall, I took a U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary course on boating (it would have helped me more before we got the boat, but it was nevertheless invaluable). There were a few things my thorough instructor didn’t cover, however, such as never volunteering before asking, “What’s the job?”Then there’s the lesson that any boat able to create a wake will do so right next to you while you’re up the mast — that’s tied to the companion lesson to never look down. Finally, I got an education the hard way about only eating tried and true foods you know you can digest while on a boat. Don’t experiment with new flavors; I haven’t had a liverwurst sandwich since our first sailing trip many years ago.

By Ann Fox

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