The process began on Friday at work. All day I was thinking I need to go on a solo sail, I want to go on a solo sail, I have to go on a solo sail. I have had this thought in the past but the couple times I was alone on the boat Mother Nature did not cooperate. I thought for me to do this thing I need the marina water to be as placid as glass and no wind. You heard it here first folks…a sailor praying for no wind. I just needed no wind or current so I could gently slide Starjewel out of the slip unscathed. I also knew the tricky part was going to be getting Starjewel back into her watery home without rubbing either side of her or smashing the bow.
Ok, I have a thought…solo sail, now to make it happen. I actually made it through work without saying anything about my big secret. Well, if you don’t count telling Durla and Xenia that I may have a story to tell on Monday. Other than that, I kept it hush hush. I didn’t even say anything to Dave. Just in case it did not happen or I crashed and burned.
So, we got off work 15 minutes early, woohoo, I love that! But my car wasn’t driving fast enough for me. It seemed as though I was moving in slow motion. As soon as I got home it was time to walk the dog, pack some food in the cooler, load the truck and off on my 3 hour journey with Sophia in tow. We arrived sometime around 9 PM, I drove straight there, no stops and YES the car was in slow mo again. Why is that?! Anyway, unloaded the truck while Sophia was free from the leash running around and exploring all the new smells. By the time we were settled in, it was definitely bedtime and we had a big day tomorrow…well hopefully a big day.
Saturday morning starts with the usual routine. Walk the dog, eat breakfast and check the weather. Hurricane season has really hit the Caribbean hard this year. Since Starjewel is on the east coast in Oriental, North Carolina some of the affects of the storms have been felt at Pecan Grove Marina. The weather pattern has changed slightly since we have been sailing there the last 2 years. The Neuse River current has been choppier with strong under currents. When we first started sailing the river the water would be pretty calm especially compared to now.
I check the water, its glass. I check the flag, no movement. I think we are a go my friends! I untie all the lines the engine is idling in neutral and Starjewel is gently humming. I look both ways, nothing coming in or out and slowly reverse out of the slip. Success, I made it without even a slight bump or tap! Once out of the protected marina and on the Neuse River the winds picked up quite a bit. I was seeing anywhere from 8 knots to 15 knots of wind. And the water, holy smokes it was wavy and choppy and all kinds of undercurrent. I got out in the middle and started to put the bimini back on, it was a bright sunny day with a high of 85 degrees. Poor Sophia was feeling every bit of the sun since we didn’t have any shade and she is a solid black dog.
Autopilot on, check. Bimini on, check. Now it was time to throw up some sails. David usually does this part, raising the sails, trimming the sails, I drive the boat. I try to raise the main, and the darn autopilot was not able to keep the boat into the wind with the current and wind pushing us towards land. It’s definitely a different feel watching the chart plotter and depth and sails and lines and the dog, is she still on board, yep there she is. Not able to raise the main, ok lets try the Jib. No luck, quick call to David and I remember on our boat you do not raise the main with the main halyard and you do not raise the jib with the jib halyard. Those sheets are only used when you initially raise the respective sails. These things are easy to remember when you're not alone and unafraid on your first solo sail. Aha triumph, I unfurled the jib and sailed up and down the river like I was the cat that ate the canary.
I knew I was driving home the same day so after a few hours of pure joy it was time to figure out how to get Starjewel safely into her slip. My plan was to try and lock the wheel with the auto pilot, glide in neutral and jump off and the tie the spring line as quickly as possible. Here I come snaking through the channel to Pecan Grove, we are in the front our slip, and the river is coming into the marina which means I will be pushed starboard to the dock. I’m making my plan eyeballing the dock and see someone standing in my slip, it’s Ryan! He sees me coming in solo and comes over to grab me…too late I’m being pushed too far starboard and I abort the turn. I go into the marina to do a U-turn. Great, I very rarely make the docking from this angle. I initially have to rev forward to go against the current, once 2 slips away I go into neutral, start my turn, holy crap it’s looking good! I go gliding straight in with giving only a little reverse, Ryan grabbed the dock lines and tied me off. Whew, I made it! Holy Smokes that was freaking awesome! How do people not LOVE THIS! How am I supposed to go back to work after this kind day?!? And I love my job, but not like I love sailing.
Now, it was time to shut her down and close her up. Next weekend David and I are going to the Annapolis Boat show, hopefully to put in offers on a couple catamarans, the retirement boat. I’m ready to start this retirement thing and really get this adventure started.