Mentor and Solo Sail
About six weeks after our sailing lessons we planned a trip back to Kemah for our free mentor and solo sail. On Monday, the 7th we met up with our mentor, Captain Vernon, for some valuable docking skills training. Tereasa and I took our turns at the helm backing out of the dock, going to the end of the docks, turning around and pulling back into the dock. Over and over till Captain Vernon felt we had it down. Once this was complete we motored out to the bay and raised the sails on the Hunter 28.5. We were enjoying a relaxing sail in about 10 knots of wind as Captain Vernon showed us the boundaries of were to sail and what to avoid. It was Labor Day and the bay was full of boats. I was at the helm as Tereasa milled about the boat attending to crew duties as needed and taking pictures. Captain Vernon entertained us with sailing tales as he relaxed in the cockpit. I raced nearby boats and won, although they never knew they were in a race. It was a great day on the water but it did come to an end leaving us looking forward to the next day's sail.
The next day the school let us take out a boat by ourselves and we were excited to do so, and a little nervous. As we walked down the dock to our boat we were amazed at the condition we found her. We boarded the red headed stepchild of a sailboat. She was in rough shape, ripped up Bimini, banged up paint and railing, pretty much just trashed. As we were heading out of the marina I was giving here close to full throttle but she was just slowly chugging along and then all the sudden she jumped to life and took off as I scrambled to reduce throttle and slow her down. As we latter came to realize, she had a slight problem fully engaging in gear. We finally made it out to the bay and raised the sails. She may have looked rough but she sailed like a champ. We only raised the main as the wind was up over 12 knots and this kept us moving along all day around 5 knots. We were having a great time, listening to music through the one good speaker, taking pictures and videos, and enjoying the quietness of sailing. We were pretty much the only boat out on the water that day as the big weekend holiday was over. The winds picked up in the afternoon giving us some chop but all that did was make it a little more fun. It was a nice relaxing day of sailing.
When it came time to head in things got a little interesting, I had positioned us just outside the channel and turned into the wind to drop the sails and fire up the motor. As we were dropping the sails and idling into the wind I noticed we were getting closer and closer to a channel marker. The wind and current was pushing us right towards the marker. I hurried to give her more throttle but we kept getting closer and closer to the marker. Oh yeah, that's right this damn thing has a problem fully engage in gear. As I was struggling to get her in gear and keep her pointed into the wind, Tereasa fault the sails and wind as she tried to get them stowed. Now we both start to panic and our voices rise as we fight to keep from smashing into the channel marker. Which, at this point, is now not much more than a boat length away. Our first-time solo sailing, rented boat in poor condition, drifting towards certain damage that neither of us wanted to explain. Bang! She jumps in gear just before contact and I speed off into the wind several hundred yards till we can get the sails stowed. We then start the slow and long motor back to the marina hoping our nerves will settle. A few short minutes into the trip back, we realize we are out of danger and we start to laugh about the incident and enjoy the ride back. That was until we got back to the dock. We forgot to put the fenders out and I may have misjudged our speed a little as we scraped the side of the boat on the dock. Now we are frantically trying to get her tied up, barking commands back and forth to each other until she is secure in her dock. The laughing had definitely stopped, at least until we were back in the car and heading to the hotel. It was then very clear, why we were given "the red headed stepchild" of a sailboat for our first solo sail.
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