Saturday, July 11, 2009

Recent Adventures - September 06

This has been a busy month with several firsts and interesting experiences for me.

One evening after work I drove through the marina and saw the most amazing spectacle: Wind! I ran down the dock, started the motor, pulled off the main sail cover, cast off and left the dock. One problem I still seem to have every time is not remembering which way to steer going in reverse, but it only took one near miss to figure it out! Note to self, with a wheel it's like a car, with a tiller it's the opposite.

After getting out of the marina I opened a beer, took a sip, then raised the main. As I was adjusting the sail I heard a motor over my shoulder. I’d noticed the sound earlier and thought it was a small power boat that had come out behind me but as I looked over my shoulder I saw the familiar black stripe down the side of the boat. DNR.

Cushion? Check. Fire Extinguisher? Check. Life jackets? Check. Horn? Crap. Beer? Check. Uh oh. And of course they did a wide U-turn and pulled alongside. I kept doing what needed to be done with the sail, hoping I could use the, “I’m new at this, I didn’t know I couldn’t drink a beer while I sailed and I’ve only had one sip out of it and I didn’t know I had to have a horn.” Turns out I didn’t need any excuses. They were just checking to make sure I was safe and not being attacked by pirates or knocked down by fierce winds.

“Are you out here by yourself?” asked one of the uniformed men.
I couldn’t help it, I looked around the empty cockpit and down below before answering. “Yep.”
“Wow! That’s pretty unusual. Don’t see many women out here by themselves,” one says.
“That’s pretty cool,” adds the other.

At that point, I needed to lean down and adjust the traveler, but that would require me to turn my backside directly to them and bend over. Not going to happen so I stood there looking at them with my main sail flapping noisily.

“There’s a Jeff Foxworthy concert tonight at the Amphitheater if you want to go.”
Pardon? Hello, do you see me trying to go for a sail? But that would be rude.
“I don’t even know where the Amphitheater is,” I said, realizing my mistake instantly. Because they proceeded to give me directions. After a few more minutes of chat, they finally lost interest and sped away. I picked up my beer and took a sip before adjusting the traveler. Hmmpphh.

After getting the main up and set, I settled back to enjoy the sail but quickly realized that I was going nowhere fast. I needed the jib. But I’ve never been out by myself with both sails up. Should I try anyway? I spent a moment considering it and another moment figuring out how to tie off the tiller – main halyard pulled diagonally across the cockpit, wrapped around the tiller and tied off on the stern cleat). I hauled the jib out from below, hanked it on, raised it and sheeted it in. Wow. It’s a thrill to read back over that last sentence. It sounds like I know what I’m doing. Even more thrilling is realizing that I did know what I was doing! As evidenced by the substantial increase in speed! I spent a little time playing with the points of sail to see what worked best and grew a little more comfortable and familiar with my boat. It was a great sunset sail and I STILL didn’t hurt my boat, hurt anyone elses boat or hurt myself!

Another exciting adventure this past month took place on the water but didn’t involve sailing. Mike took the kids and I offshore fishing out of Charleston. My daughter and I were a little disappointed that this apparently isn’t done on a sailboat. It’s done on a fishing boat with big loud motors. Yuck. I was sure us girls would be bored to tears by lunchtime and spend most of our time lying on deck soaking up sun.

How wrong I was. Bridget and I both caught our first fish ever and both were sharks. And we were both hooked ourselves with this whole fishing thing! I was a little disappointed that we had to throw our sharks back but we didn’t have shark permits and even if we had, they apparently weren’t big enough to eat. But I got to hold mine for a minute and there’s something a little thrilling about holding a creature in your hands that would rather be chewing your hands off.

Never having been fishing before, I listened and mimicked everyone else. Bait the hooks with squid – and yes, I did it myself! – drop the line and wait for a nudge. Yank the pole back to set the hook and start reeling. It was always a surprise to see what you brought up. We caught a lot of black sea bass, snapper, white grunt and a few trigger fish and grouper. Karen, one of the owners of the boat, even snagged an octopus, which we spent several minutes inspecting before releasing.

We were out for about nine hours and spent every bit of it fishing. On the ride back in, we were all so tired it took serious effort to move. The next day my arms throbbed and I really wasn’t sure if I’d been catching fish or arm wrestling them, but it was worth it. We all had a great time and can’t wait to do it again.

A week ago, if you’d told me I would ever give more than a passing glance at a boat without sails, I would have said you were nuts. But when Mike mentioned how nice it would be to own a fishing boat, I was in complete agreement. “But I want more rod holders on the foredeck and a place to filet the catch.” He just grinned. I wonder if they make sailboats with rod holders and bait tanks?

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