Wednesday, 17 February 2010

First time out

It was another cold morning. Emma and I arrived at the marina on my bike. This time I was hoping to have a proper inspection of the boat, although it was now too late to ask for my money back.When I opened the cabin hatch I was quite shocked to see that there was about a foot of water in the boat. Luckily I had my wellies on.

First thing I did was of course to find the bildge pump. How does it work?! I couldn't find out how to start the electric pump. No problem I thought, let's try the manual. Where is the handle? Nowhere to be found! I found some other metal rod and started pumping. We must have been doing it for about half an hour when I decided to have another go at starting the electric one. This time I got it right. It was just a matter of flipping the right switches on..

In a matter of minutes the water disappeared. Good! The cabin looked much healthier now; just a bit wet though. Oh well. I was not sure whether I wanted to get the boat out for a little sailing. All my experience was 5 days of the RYA competent crew training and one more day of crewing on a friend's boat.

I had never skippered a boat before, navigated, moored etc. But the adventurous spirit in me that keeps me going and often messes things up could not resist. Emma was slightly concerned.. And I must admit I was too. But what's the worst that can happen on the river Crouch with no wind at all?

I started the engine, untied the mooring lines and off we went. The sensation was subtly mesmerising. I was skippering my own boat! It must had been around 4pm and the sun was nearing the horizon. The scenery on the Crouch was just beautiful. But the noise of the engine was disturbing the tranquility. Despite the almost complete lack of wind I decided to get the sails up. That's why I got a sailboat. And so I did. After taking off the mainsail cover and the ties I did struggle a bit to figure out which is the main halyard. Such was my experience on boats. When I finally did find it and after I created a bit of a mess with the other halyards/sheets, I looked up the mast with pride, joy and satisfaction..

..which instantly evaporated when I saw the blue sky through a 2 foot tear on the sail. But, he had said the sails were fine! Did he lie? Emma said she heard the sound of something tearing as I lifted the sail... I was disappointed for a while but then thought that it's not a biggie - it can be repaired - just another job to add on the list.

So I unfurled the genoa and pretended to be sailing in the non-existent winds. The calmness drew us in and we drifted with the falling tide. By the time I realised it was getting dark we had already drifted quite some distance from the entrance to the creek where the marina was. And it was near low tide meaning that we may not be able to get in as the boat has a substantial draft of 5foot 6inches.. On the way back, against the tide, we were making little progress. It did get dark and we could barely see where we were going. At the creek entrance we must have had skimmed the mud as the boat started turning round instead of going straight. But we did not get stuck so we did not have to panic.

But I have to say that I was quite worried. What with the darkness, the falling tide and my complete inexperience, so many things could go wrong. When we reached our berth I thought I'd have an easy time. How wrong I was. It's a finger berth facing the shore which at low tide is probably less than two boatlengths away. No problem, I thought; I'd make a 90 degree turn and then make a few maneuvres forwards and backwards and get in. And that's what I did. But when I tried to go backwards I discovered that the boat would only turn to starboard!! I was trying for more than 10 minutes pushing the engine hard but drifting away the more I tried. I thought it was the tide that that was too strong and prevented me from turning to port when going backwards. The engine was making a lot of noise and probably woke up our neighbour, two boats to starboard side.. Finally, I managed. I don't know how but I certainly was in a state of controlled panic.

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