The Highs and Lows of a Newbie Sailor
I was really anxious, maybe even slightly scared. My adrenaline was definitely in overdrive. Although it just around four in the morning, there was no trace of sleepiness in my body. I was on my sailboat, miles away from nearest shore. It was pitch dark, with strong swells hitting the hull of my boat with laud bangs, leaving that unnerving, sickly feeling in my stomach, and a nagging question that run through my alarmed mind – will she hold together?
Such was my state of mind shortly before the awesome feeling of elation, joy and sense of adventure lifted my spirit. How did that all come about? Well, allow me tell you…
My boat was over forty years old, 27 feet long Albin Vega sailboat. These relatively small, unimpressive looking, yet very capable vessels has crossed all the oceans of the world. (Vigor 7-12) (Neal ) (Mercy )When I found this one just two years earlier, she was nothing but a sad looking, abandoned hull. Few people thought that she would ever sail again, but I knew that she would. I cannot even tell you how many hundreds of hours I spent, bringing her back to life. It truly was a labor of love. I named her “Attraction”. After the law of attraction which brings our desires to fruition. I will spare you endless details, only to mention that it was a long process, with a few twists of fate along the way. During that project I had to move out of state, and live for a year away from water and my boat. Yet a circumstances presented an opportunity for me and my boat to do what we meant to do together – sailing. I got an employment opportunity in a marina near Annapolis, Maryland.
Immediately I have decided to bring my boat from New Jersey to the marina in which I was going to work, and live there aboard my boat till I got settled in my new location. That’s how my sailing story begun… I needed to sail with my boat from Port Republic in New Jersey, south along the Jersey shore, then north up the Delaware Bay and through C&D canal to Chesapeake Bay and southbound to Annapolis. Of course, at that point my boat was completely untested on the water. Additionally, I have never sailed any more than few miles within the protected bays near Atlantic City. Now I was facing a passage requiring several days of sailing and couple hundreds miles over the waters, I have never seen before. Yet on April 27th 2010, Attraction and me have left the Port Republic and were on our way. On the second night we moored in a protected cove at the entrance to Cape May Canal. Shortly after 3 am next morning, I fired up the motor – you see – in the canal, you have to move under the engine power – no sails allowed. The canal is too narrow for flying sails anyway. We easily motored through The Cape May canal, which is a well-lit, protected body of water. As I approach the entrance to the Delaware Bay though, my heartbeat started to speed up. Up ahead of us was slowly expanding; pitch black canvas of the open water. The Delaware Bay is known for its capricious nature. (Bennett) As the fresh waters of Delaware river flow towards the ocean, they face the opposing tides and often strong winds coming from the Atlantic. As I sailed out of the canal, the smooth ride has quickly changed into a sudden pitching motion of the boat’s hull, struggling against large swells of the agitated Bay. The lights of the Cape May quickly shrunk and faded behind, and we succumbed to a complete darkness. The unnerving ritual has begun. In the darkness I could only hear the approaching swells, but could not see them till they hit the hull with a loud bangs, followed by screeching and gnawing response coming from the interiors of the boat’s hull. I knew that Attraction should handle this without problem, but then again, both the boat and the captain were completely untested. If something went wrong – this water was way too cold…. I was trying not to think about such eventuality. I curled in the corner of the cockpit, crunching tightly the wood of the boat’s tiller in my hands, holding my breath every time I heard the next swell nearing. I shivered with each bang, and then with greater intensity strained my ear trying to decipher the meaning of all the squealing coming out of the hull. All the while, the 10-horse power motor seemed to struggle while pushing us forward against the swells and current.
This struggle seemed to last forever, but after about two hours, as first tiniest amount of twilight availed itself, I took courage and decided to set the sail up. Slowly, I worked my way to the cabin top, to raise the main sail. I struggled to keep my balance with the constant swaying motion of the boat. Wind was blowing steadily from the west, I knew that it wasn’t too strong for the boat, but I was not sure how will Attraction react to it under these conditions. Slowly the sail started to climb up the mast, and as it did the amazing thing has happened! As the sail has filled up, the motion of the boat changed instantly! Amazingly, she stabilized herself, as if she grew deep roots down to the bottom and held fast against the angry swells. I just had eureka moment –my Attraction was a sailboat; she needed her sails up to feel her best, no lousy motor will do! Afterwards I also raised her head sail and she felt even steadier. I was elated! At that moment, the black, angry waters of the bay were no longer scary, for my boat cut through them powerfully, with beautiful grace and confidence! The eastern sky took on more shades of red then orange and yellow, offering more light. Water started turning from black to deep navy and blue with shy sparks of light starting to reflect along the ridges of swells. The wind was steady, sails were full and we were SAILING!