12 October 2021: First Solo Sail!
12 October 2021
Noank, CT, USA
New Haven, CT, USA
Cumulative Mileage (NM)
Crew on Board
Skipper, first mate, chef, entertainment and more; I guess that is solo sailing for you!
GENERAL WEATHER OBSERVATIONS
Light. Too light?
Balmy for a fall New England day.
Dry, thank goodness!
First solo outing! One might read that with enthusiasm but the exclamation point is one of nervousness. I considered using capital letters as well.
As an honest person, I have to admit that I had a real pit in my stomach Sunday night as I was safely tied to the dock at Ram Island Yacht Club. A real ‘what did I do?’ feeling. But that was a blustery day. When I left the dock for the mooring yesterday, the wind and rain had passed. This morning I woke up to the sun shining just over the horizon and a light breeze. Perfect for trying to learn to sail on my own!
Almost too little breeze as I motorsailed the whole way. I really did just want to just sail so I turned the engine off at one point, that lasted about 20 minutes before I realized that I was not sailing but in fact drifting with the current at 1.7 knots. Back on, more hum and vibrations. Alas, I guess I would save the real sailor feeling for a day with slightly more breeze.
The day and the 46nm passed without major incident. In terms of minor incidents, only a couple to note.
Firstly, though I was warned by many about getting too close to submarines, lets just say I managed to heed no one’s advice. I was torn between continuing the path I was on, which was directly towards a submarine moving across the surface, or aiming at a whole bunch of fish pots. And coming back to that wild imagination of mine, I picture these equally spaced-out fish pot fields as being interconnected underwater by a series of unnavigable nets. I opted not to enter the fish pot field which I can tell you according to the US Navy was the wrong decision. I know this because I was told off by a large military-looking zodiac speed boat full of armed guards, one who clearly had a megaphone or loud speaker of sorts saying, “No Closer!”. At least they cannot be accused of being vague. A polite Canadian apologetic wave and an “Sorry!” and that was the extent of the reprimand. However, by the time all of this occurred, I was essentially clear of the fish pot field, so I was happy with my choice even if they were not as pleased.
I also seemed to manage to wrap the furling line around the outside of the furling drum. Then, since I must have slackened off the line after this happened, it fell off the outside of the drum and tangled around the anchor. That meant when I went to go furl the jib, I could not without first going up front and sorting it out. Cause undetermined at this point, so will be watching for why this happened in the future.
Pretty excellent minor incidents for me to solve and build confidence for a first solo outing.
My plan for the day was to try and get to New Haven, a 45 nautical mile trip, but since I was lacking confidence in my abilities, my backup plan was to go to Old Saybrook which was only about 20 nautical miles from my departure point. But with a beautiful day and light winds, I arrived to point where I would turn into Old Saybrook and wanted to keep going. Looking at the time of day and miles to go, it seemed doable to make New Haven by sundown. Plus, even at sunset, it appeared to be a well-marked channel straight to little Morris Cove. Nothing complicated with good reviews on Active Captain, so I decided to carry on. I think two things also helped nudge me along:
- PTSD – recalling how cold the November 2018 journey was the last time I ventured down the Long Island Sound by sailboat. That memory is burned into my brain and I am still a bit at a loss of how two of us made it through that without freezing to death given how unprepared we were. Therefore, my imagination of doing anything near that solo without a partner to trade off with to survive the cold had me highly motivated to clock some miles and get south.
- Forecast – the other major motivation for leaving so soon after buying the boat and getting a move on quickly was what was coming in the forecast. A big storm to hit New England for which, if I could keep my hustle on, I could be in New Jersey and out of the way to avoid the brunt of the blow.
Encouraging me to make it to the further anchorage at New Haven, was sailing coach Jamie. Checking in on me throughout the day on AIS and messaging. At one point he messaged me something along the lines of “are you going to go around that reef?”. I was, thinking it was safer to just avoid all potential obstacles despite there being a path on the inside of it. And Jamie reminded me that it was safe and to follow the charts and that it would help ensure I arrived before dark. Good reminders for the overly cautious, new sailor that I was and a better reminder that being too cautious in one area (giving reefs too wide a berth) could cause problems in another area (adding mileage to the trip and ensuring you arrive at your destination after dark). Sailing really is a balance!
I arrived as the sun was meeting the horizon. Definitely not risking arrival in the dark but after choosing my spot to anchor, dropping the hook, securing the snubber and backing down on it and packing everything away it was full sunset (and a beautiful one at that). My meal was leftovers so I was ready to eat soon after packing up was complete and I enjoyed the most delicious curry with an incredible sunset view in this quiet little bay. Only three other boats in the bay, two monohulls and a catamaran, and I got the sense we all had the same plan and were heading in the same direction. This thought really legitimized my new status as boat owner, sailor and cruiser as I felt a part of the cruising community. We were all on our way.
“Whatever you do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius and power and magic in it.”
– Johann Wolfgang von Goethe