The last post I talked a bit about how it was confidence building to get the sails up and sail on our own. But the whole trip was really a confidence booster. We had opportunities, even though we didn’t sail much, to practice a lot of other skills and really show ourselves that we can do this.
Anchoring – So, by no means are we experts. But by cutting our teeth in the San Juan Islands we had a great bottom on which to anchor every place we stopped. The bottom was almost always mud and we were able to set the anchor effectively every single time. A couple of anchorages, we got the anchor set, decided maybe we were too close to another boat, pulled the anchor and reset it. Everyone had a job and everyone performed amazingly. We actually got things down to a place where we had two people getting things done with no issues. It was huge. Now, we might face some challenges if we in a rocky bottom or seaweed, but you try to avoid those places anyway. We were pretty good and every night slept like we knew that it wasn’t going to be an issue. Of course we still had an anchor alarm set so that if we did drag, we would be able to get up and address the issue.
Navigation – Like I said last week, yeah, I need some practice at navigation in terms of planning time. But having said that, we actually got pretty good at being able to transfer from the chart to the land around us. We had several areas marked on the charts that were considered “No Go Zones”. If you ran into rocks and you were in a no-go zone, you were responsible for the damage to the boat and your insurance didn’t cover it. So, I was HYPER vigilant about no go zones. Anyway, as we were motoring from Roche Harbor to Echo Bay, there was a small no go zone, but you could go around it. Matthew figured it out pretty quick that we were free and clear of the zone and that we could turn. I wasn’t too sure, but after going over things with him, it was like, oh yeah, this is where we are and we are good to turn right here.
That instance also taught me a lot about trust. I trust my son, but let’s face it, he’s 16, I’m 49. I’m supposed to be smarter, wiser, whatever. In this instance that wasn’t the case. He was right. After a few minutes of talking it through, I could see, these are the rocks are supposed to avoid and we are going to be ok. My hypervigilance wasn’t bad, but I needed to chill just a bit. Which I did.
Docking – Before we headed out, we did have an instructor who had us practice docking. Docking a 41’ boat is challenging, because boats don’t just stop or turn on a dime. The timing of your turn has to be just right, speed can’t be too fast, but you can’t be too slow either. We all successfully docked, needed to back up a few times, but we docked. Tied up and untied and then did it again. I will say our son did an outstanding job at it. We all did, but he was calm, cool, and collected, used the bow thrusters appropriately and nailed our final docking. I know I could’ve done it, but once we got in on Thursday night, we weren’t going back out!
Moving – Whether it was sailing or motoring, we moved the boat every day. Avoiding logs and rocks. Which, if you didn’t know, the San Juan Islands are full of logs in the water. Logs will wash off of barges and end up floating around. Some of them are large enough to warrant warnings from the Coast Guard on the emergency channel.
The other “big” thing was moving through the traffic separation scheme. It’s a portion of the straits that is designed to ease the flow of container vessels. I had this built up in my head to be more than it was, because there weren’t many vessels in the TSS that day, but still getting through it and avoiding other traffic was a good feeling.
Alone time – I have had people tell me that, if you live on a boat you’ll never be able to be apart and get alone time. We did it, we actually had a couple of times where we had to look for a family member on the boat. You can lose someone in 40’ of space! But it was cool because that person needed a few minutes to themselves and they got it.
Overall, the trip was amazing. It was a charter, so boat maintenance was not an issue. Having said that, the successes that we had gave us all the confidence that while this might seem like a crazy idea to some, we can live on a boat. We still have plenty to learn, every sailor will tell you they still have plenty to learn. Actually, as an interesting tidbit, in the safety briefing with the charter company the people that have the most accidents are those that have been there before and are a little overconfident. Recognizing that you still have more to learn is an important thing, but it doesn’t mean that you can’t move forward.