Monday, March 28, 2016

Nerves of steel have I not!

March 28, 2016

When Jim and I first started sailing together, we found that it worked best if I was the helmsperson and he handled all of the lines, bumpers, etc.  (This, of course, ignores our first sailing together 45 years ago in his Balboa 20.  I was purely the passenger on that boat!)  We developed this pattern with our Islander 33.  It was a flushdeck and very high off the dock.  The way the lines and cletes were organized it was necessary to jump off the boat as we came into the slip and tie it off.  Jim is more of a gymnast than I so he assumed that job.   Also, he was used to steering with a tiller not a wheel and had a tendency to turn the wrong way when behind a wheel rather than a tiller!  I was not hampered by prior experience so I just used the wheel like in a car and it worked.  So that is how we fell into our pattern.  

But what this did not take into account is my nervous system and my tendency to worry which is exacerbated by being behind the helm.  As Casey, a friend at Regatta Pointe once said to me "What is the worst thing that can happen?"  I think she meant to make me feel better, but that is not something to ask me.  There are lots of answers to that question.  I have one of the world's best imaginations at conjuring up disasters: destroying our or someone else's boat, sinking, running aground, hurting someone, being scared - I mean really scared, feeling totally out of control, etc.  I worry about things breaking on the boat (they will) and how to prepare for it, I fail to understand about through hulls which are holes in the bottom of the boat, I mean really HOLES under the water line ...just think about it! Lower on the list is just plain worrying about making a total fool of myself and believe me in docking, anchoring and mooring alone, there are zillions of ways to do that. And oh how other cruisers love to watch - you become the subject of a spectator sport.  So my nerves and my stomach have been overwhelmingly challenged in the last couple of weeks as we have prepared for our departure from the marina and have actually departed. Outside my comfort zone, indeed!

An example:  There were no mooring balls available at Marathon which meant that we had to anchor in a very crowded anchorage - something we have actually very little experience in.
Anchorage at Boot Key Harbor, Marathon

Sure enough between dodging shallow areas, other boats, and 20 to 25 knot winds and a strong current, it took us 4 tries to successfully least we thought we were successful. We had been waved off by a sheriff (who knew they patrolled the waters here?) when we headed to an area that was too shallow, we were encouraged to move elsewhere by a boater who said the "holding" was not good. When we finally anchored, we thought we were a little close to a couple of other boats but could not figure out anywhere else to go.  We met these two neighbors - one had a ferro cement boat- we were not going to hurt his boat any.  The other gentleman was also concerned about dragging as he had no functioning engine and said he would just blow his horn and we could put out the bumpers.  So they were both very understanding and we felt better.  The first night we got up frequently to check our positions.The second night, also.   Our last check was at 6:00am but when we got up at 6:30 it was clear that the boat had moved and that our anchor buoy was caught up in the outboard motor of our ferro cement neighbor.  Mike and Betty meanwhile had come into the anchorage the day before. When we told them about the anchor buoy they came on over and it was actually they who released the buoy and within minutes our boat moved backwards with a bit of speed. (remember the wind and the current?)  Anyhow I started the motor, Jim started pulling up the anchor and the owner of the closest power boat came out and looked a little stressed as our boat headed towards his.  I actually had a lot of trouble turning the boat away because of the strong winds and ended up backing in a circle before I could go forward. When Jim pulled up the anchor he pulled up a large branch that was caught in it as well as any number of other "things" that had been at the bottom.  After we re-anchored and calmed down with our cups of coffee, we were suspicious that the branch had prevented our anchor from digging in solidly to the bottom and finally just let go in the strong winds. We hoped there were no more branches lurking under the water!  Several more nights of conscientious checking and a mooring ball finally became available!  Although the mooring field looks more crowded, it is more organized than an anchorage with calculated spacing between boats and a least at this mooring field you can be pretty sure that the balls are solidly attached.  We are not going anywhere for awhile, so, back into our comfort zone temporarily! 

Mooring field, Boot Key Harbor, Marathon


  1. A true sailor.... worrying about boat damage before injury to people :-)

    Can you set a Anchor Drag alarm on your GPS? It is a nice feature especially when you are anchoring in isolated coves when their are no other boaters to holler. It also works as a wind direction change alarm.

    Even with all the "Pepto-Bismol" moments, it still sounds like both of you are having the time of your life. Enjoy.

  2. You can see the mooring area filled with boats on Google Earth:,-81.0764983,1534a,20y,246.32h,44.58t/data=!3m1!1e3?hl=en