Single handed sailor girl

crewfinder, need crew, single handed sailor girl, sailing blog

“This is kind of like…a bachelor pad,” one my older sailing buddies said looking into the cabin of my 1968 Pearson Ariel, as the sun set across a sea of landlocked masts. 

“Yeah, except I’m a girl.” 

“Except you’re a girl. It’s minimalist. It’s not a couple’s boat.” 

single handed sailor, sailing blog, sailor girl, live aboard sailor girl

The conversation then somehow morphed into why I don’t have a boyfriend, as it often does with many of my sailing comrades, who mostly happen to be in between the ages of 50 and 70. I’m not sure where all the younger sailors are, but they’re not here sailing Lake Champlain, so I put up with the probing relationship questions from my married and divorced friends.

I don’t often wonder why I don’t have a partner on my boat, but other people do. Is it the size of my boat? Her condition? My hair do? My location? The questions are asked, but rarely answered. I don’t long for a lover to share the blue road, but it wouldn’t suck to have another set of hands to rebed deck hardware, or, and perhaps more importantly, another person to contribute some legal tender to the whole venture.

These conversations about my being single at 27 have led me to a conclusion, however; I either need a partner, or I need a job–because it turns out sailing an old boat from the era of early fiberglass construction is a wee bit more complicated than I once thought.

So this year I’m in the same place, with a new boat and a new plan. The dream is the same, though. And I don’t need a boyfriend to reach it, but I do need a crew.

cruising lake champlain

Cutting the dock lines

Bristol 24, cruising, live aboard

It’s amazing what little faith I have in simple machines, maneuvers, and mechanisms. Rather, how surprised I am when they actually work.

I corralled one of the dock boys to hold the bow line and directed my first mate Gina, who had never been sailing before three days earlier, on the stern. I had no idea how it would work. Pulling in and out of docks is my weakness. Rather then over think everything, such as where the stern will swing when I push the tiller in one direction, I just did it. The force was with me. We were off to a good start.

We reached our way across the bay in about 10 knots, but knew that it was going to get more intense when we rounded the point and were in the open fetch of Lake Champlain. The forecast predicted a consistent 10-20 knots.

Bristol 24, cruising, live aboard

I’d been staring at that pass for a month, and now I was finally cutting through it. A huge gust had us heeling hard over. I was glad I’d reefed the main at the dock and only had a small amount of headsail unfurled. The gusts were reaching nearly 25 knots.

I was scared. My friend, too. But I never showed it. I wasn’t scared in the sense that my life was in danger, rather it was an intense and uncomfortable motion of the boat. I sheeted in and tried to point up a little higher to balance out but it didn’t really work, so we rode the gusts out until they dissipated. That’s the good thing about gusts.

As we headed north towards our first anchorage we were dead downwind, surfing down the little 2-3 foot waves that felt a lot bigger. I had the sails wing and wing, which was quite an accomplishment for me. I had to steer carefully to stay directly downwind and gain as much speed as possible. A trimaran and windsurfer raced past my little heavy displacement hull.

bristol 24, cruising, live aboard

To enter the harbor we had to pass through a small cut in a breakwater rock wall. I was warned to keep left as there is an uncharted “stack” underneath the water. We wanted to sail into the harbor but I thought it best to furl the sails and use the engine.

While motoring the wind and waves were directly abeam and while we were in no immediate danger my instincts as well as my knowledge of seamanship told me this is not where you want the waves to be hitting. So I headed downwind to gain some sea room and then cut back up into the waves bow first.

We reached the harbor. Slowly motoring past all the beautifully moored boats to the open anchorage we had nearly all to ourselves. After circling a few times I dropped the hook for the first time and she set right away. We cracked open a beer for we had arrived.

Bristol 24, anchored, live aboard, on the hook

 

Solo sailor girl

desolation sound, solo sailor girl, single handed sailor

“It’s just a boat,” I mutter to myself. “I can always sell it.”

I’m drowning in self doubt.

It’s the eve of day before I haul all my shit six hours north to where she sits on dry dock. Perched on the land like a forgotten treehouse that needs renovating.

The car is packed with all of my gear–an anchor, life jackets, blankets, galley supplies, an assortment of lines, batteries, bungie chords and buckets. I keep clicking away from the page to order my harness. As if typing in my card number and hitting the submit button somehow solidifies that fact that I’m doing this all by myself.

solo sailor girl, sailing desolation sound, sailing alone

A friend unexpectedly expressed interest in joining me onboard this summer, and I’ve tried to push it out of my head. Tried not to have any expectations. Tried not to pressure her. Tried not to need anyone else.

Tried to remember I bought this boat with every intention of doing it alone, and even though I’m in over my head, I can learn how to swim.

solo sailor girl

My knee jerk reaction is to text a bunch of my friends. Tell them how scared and lonely I feel at this very moment, and anticipate the validation I’m bound to receive. But I don’t, I just think of all the people who have helped me get this far, who believe in me. A community of support has been built around me. The foundation laid, now all I have to do is go live my dream. Take this insane idea and turn it into the unforgiving reality that is a life at sea. Believe in myself.

I place my order. Here goes nothing everything…

Never trust a sailor on land

I just spent the last hour finally finishing up fixing a cataclysmic error. Okay, it wasn’t that bad. I was trying to coil my anchor line after having gotten a bit tangled up earlier today, and I got frustrated. Ultimately throwing the clean, unkinked line in a heap on the floor along with the mess already there, and making the mess even bigger. Sailor girlMy morning was spent learning to splice. I’ve settled on a pretty standard rope to chain back splice but man am I scared I’m doing it wrong! Youtube video after youtube video, photo after photo, diagram after diagram and I think I finally got it. Although at this point my spliced strands are so frayed and unraveled that I’m just going to start over. It’s a good thing I have 200 feet of line to work with.

It’s hard to imagine that my entire life is essentially going to be hanging by a thread pretty soon. A thread that I childishly tossed onto the floor in a heap because I was tired of studying the splice and not getting it right.

Tomorrow I’ll get it right.

THE HORROR

Nautical styleMy friend told me about this reoccurring nightmare she was having. It was just a blank map, and she was in the middle of it. Think google maps, except there’s no roads, points of interest, or any landscape. It’s just a grid. It sounded horrifying.

When I first decided I wanted to buy a boat, that’s how I felt. I didn’t have a road map.

My grid is no longer blank, but it’s certainly blurred and unsteady. I thought I had my plans mapped out but the more I think about it the more I realize I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing. Last night I tossed and turned over my ground tackle choices. I’d flip to the right and think 3/8″ line, and to the left, 1/2″ line.

Where I’m headed isn’s exactly a marine mecca, and I don’t know if I’ll have all the resources to obtain parts for my repairs. That’s why I decided to get things together early, before I head to the boat. But now I’m even second guessing that. Not being at the boat I’m unable to make measurements and truly assess the projects. I’m afraid I’ll get stuck in the boatyard for weeks, waiting the arrival of some simple fitting I couldn’t find in the store.

For the first time in this endeavor I’ve wished I had another person to share the load. Someone who could hold the anchor in place while I fit the roller on deck. The internet is proving to be an infinite source of knowledge, but when I arrive at the boat even that will no longer be accessible.

Today I bought an old inflatable dinghy for $100 from a very knowledgable do-it-yourself’er.

“I hope I meet people like you in the boatyard,” I said.

“I’m sure you will,” he replied with a smile.

I’m sure I will.

“Professor what kind of miracle is this? You should be careful just what you wish. For it comes at such a price…” -The Felice Brothers