First Sail!

Okay, so one afternoon after a few days of trying to talk ourselves into it- we got up the courage to actually take the boat out of the harbor. It was horrifying. Truly no other words to describe it.

This boat is huge. Massive actually (and expensive) and the idea of moving it around next to other very big very expensive things is enough to make you cringe. But we are also well aware that our goal is to be in the Caribbean in a matter of weeks and we’ve got a LONG way to go to get to that point!

The night before we read up on and practiced checking all our fluids and doing a mock “safety walk-through” and firing up the engines… so we knew they at least worked.

Our gigantic goal for the day was to simply turn the engines on and pull forward out of our slip and then back up again and tie off. That would be our “one new thing” lesson for the day and it seemed plenty big enough for our shaky confidence level. We did our walkthough again, put on our pfds and fired up the engines. We looked at each other and after a few very deep breaths threw off the lines and pushed the throttles forward. We struggled a bit with the lines and keeping things straight… but in a few minutes we were out. Free of our slip and floating freely. It was awesome.

But then… now that we had boosted our own confidence level and talked ourselves into that (and fueled by victory), it seemed a real shame to not go somewhere, so we made a decision to keep going. We turned the boat and left not only our slip but our little end of the harbor.

We knew we needed to pump out the tanks anyway and had noticed the fuel tank was low so we decided to venture just as far as the fuel dock (literally feet away at the end of our row of slips). It was wildly surpassing our own expectations/goals but also meant docking for the first time (read: big expensive object meets immovable object, Yikes!).

Honestly, we failed. Miserably.
We hadn’t accounted for how strong the current would be (or how protected from it we had been at the slip) and like 4 times we failed while the fuel guy stared at us from the dock and either laughed at us or feared for our lives (or both). I’m certain other boats passing by were calling friends to tell them of the worse docking they’d ever seen. If we watched the news i’m certain reports spread about the rookies who were dumb enough to think they could buy a huge boat and learn to sail but could barely even park the thing.

But… here’s the thing. Once we we out there- there simply was no other choice. Nobody to hand the wheel over to, nobody to “tap in”… we just had to figure it out. And - on the 5th (or maybe 6th) time trying to pull the boat alongside the dock we actually succeeded. It wasn’t pretty and we wont win any prizes for textbook docking, but it did work.

The funny thing is, that after that experience, and after pumping and filling the last thing we wanted to do was go back to our slip and have to dock again… so we continued out through the channel and into open ocean. Goals crushed!

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Seriously…we thought this was another week or so away at least!
No, we didn’t even think about putting a sail up- that would have been ridiculous- but we drove the boat around and made sure we knew how to turn and reverse and realized quickly how very little we know about any of the instruments in front of us at the helm (added to the top of our lists) and eventually got up the courage to return to the marina and dock the boat in our slip again.

We don’t have to go into too much detail… but that was also a complete failure the first few times and at one point we really started to beat ourselves up about our docking woes - but in reality we’re just learning to walk here. Did we really expect ourselves to be docking experts our 2nd time?? Maybe one of our greatest battles in this adventure is simply going to be accepting the fact that we aren’t going to nail everything all the time. Argh!

Anyway… we went back to our projects and found odd afternoons or (mostly) weekends to take the boat out a couple times. To feel bigger winds, bigger waves, eventually to actually lift the sails. Literally, not sailing just rising the sails… staring at them and putting them back down. To dock again upon our return... The dreaded docking. =/

It’s all absolutely terrifying. Every new thing, every new experience. Like nothing I can remember doing before. Like facing a fear I didn’t even know I had until moments before we try. The nerves skyrocket, our hearts race. We find ourselves constantly on the edge. Near breaking points all the time and often with tears to follow.

Every single day of this seems to be a lesson in extremes. Crazy highs/rewards and peace/calm almost assuredly (at least once a day) interrupted by complete and udder chaos.

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Some event/incident that we didn’t know to expect that at some point in our day immediately turns into an eminent disaster. In some cases we realize afterword that it wasn’t a real disaster after all- just something requiring immediate action from two people who have no idea what to do in that moment… which still results in a huge adrenaline spike, rushing to fix/stop/control/figure out whatever just happened and then trying to calm back down again from the pure terror that we felt during that moment.

Other times it’s an actual possible/pending disaster. The possibility of plunging the boat into something, an emergency docking because a 150’ tanker is bearing down on us while stuck in a narrow channel, a very real risk of injury (or worse). Everything seems like its a simple decision away from being catastrophic.

Our minds are exhausted and our bodies are tired and sore (and black and blue from head to toe) and we literally just had a discussion where we counted the number of bones I haven’t broken yet - based entirely upon the near misses where we both knew I likely could/should have broken one.

It’s hard work this thing we’re doing. It’s not for the faint of heart and almost every other day we find ourselves freaking out a bit and scouring the web for captains to come onboard and teach us what we need to know. But there’s always something in the way- the fact that the projects are still our focus, when we do get to go out its with very little notice or maybe just the fact that we learn better by doing not by watching... There’s also the fact that we haven’t heard great positives from those who have done the same. Instead, we keep trudging on and trying to learn by doing, and reading and practicing.

Learn at least one new thing a day. Thats the only goal. And each day we realize that the things that were purely horrifying yesterday aren’t as much today. The first time we went out in 2-3’ seas we thought about returning in fear to the comfort of the marina (but ironically even rough seas seem inviting compared to having to return and dock). The next time we head out there’s some other problem (like 20knot winds) that makes us forget waves were even a concern- because we’ve been there before.

We’re not gaining ground fast… but we are slowly learning and growing.

And…if I back up enough to remind myself of it - we’re still doing everything for the first time (ever), so slow is acceptable I think. So good on us!

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