My First Solo Sail (part two)

Teresa Carey Words 20 Comments

Continued from Part One. Click HERE to read part one.

I anchored in eleven and a half feet of water, took some time tidying up the boat, and then settled into my cozy cabin to prepare a warm dinner. It was cold, foggy, and drizzly outside and even though my sail was finished for the day, my voyage was not.

When I began sailing it was on a Ranger 23. I was eight years old. My family would spend our evenings and weekends day sailing every summer. When I was old enough, I began teaching dinghy sailing and racing at a summer camp, then finally expedition sailing with Outward Bound. It was there where I decided that sailing was not just about hoisting the sails and finding the perfect line of sail trim. Sailing is about discovering new places, or old ones with new eyes, being close to the weather, navigating, swimming, cooking on a healing boat, trying to sleep comfortably in huge waves, keeping warm, and finding my way in the fog. It is the entire experience and I am eager to have more of it.

After a warm rice and vegetable dinner, with water on for tea, I lowered the table and converted the salon into a berth. The air was motionless, the sea was glass, and I anticipated a solid night of sleep. I knew how important sleep was as I set my alarm for 0300. If I hoisted the anchor by 0320 then I would make it to the cut before the strong currents turned against me. In fact, the water would be flowing in my favor and quickly carry me through. So, I turned in as soon as I could because I anticipated an early rise.

converting the salon into the forward berth

converting the salon into the forward berth


Almost every other time I have anchored a boat and slept on it, I had an anchor watch. Anchor watch is a position that rotates throughout the night, keeping an eye on the boat, so that the rest of the crew can have a full night sleep without worry. This time, without an anchor watch, as I snuggled into my sleeping bag, holding my kitty Dory close, I said a quick prayer thankful for the clam sea and making an appeal for fair weather, clear skies, and an uneventful sleep.

An hour later I awoke to the sound of the bucket in the cockpit sliding from the starboard side to the port side. Startled by my unfamiliar surroundings, I sat up quickly and immediately registered what was happening. I was aground. This was the first time I ever went aground and I was worried. The boat was resting on its port side, and I perched high on the starboard side stewing over an irrational fear that perhaps the boat would roll over, fill with water, get a hole, or worse…crack in half. I called Benji.

“Benji, I’m aground! I’m aground,” I said. After a brief explanation he reminded me that it was ok. The sea was calm, the bottom was sand, the boat was ok on it’s side. There was nothing to worry about.

“Take a picture,” he said, wondering what it looked like. I wouldn’t, and instead reminded him that there is a picture of the Nor’Sea dried out like this in the Nor’Sea brochure. Remembering this picture brought some reassurance, knowing its not abnormal for sailors to anchor their boat and let the tide run out from below them so that they can clean, check, or do work on the hull.

But how could I have let this happen? It has always been a part of my anchoring routine that when I set anchor, I check the tide table to see if the water was coming in or going out. How much water would be lost throughout the night? Was there enough to stay afloat? I think I blamed Benji a bit for my carelessness. When we sailed together when I first launched the boat, he wasn’t as worried about the tide, and I came to believe that in this part of the country (like in Lake Michigan) it didn’t matter as much. But the truth is, I was an idiot for not checking, and it likely will never happen again. Thank goodness for calm weather that night.

So there I sat. Perched on the high side of the forward berth, holding my breath, waiting for the tide to fill in setting my boat afloat. I explored the deck, checked to see if the depth sounder would work in this situation, and watched the crabs scurry sideways along the ocean floor. And when the boat was floating again, I went back to sleep.  Click Here to read part three.



Comments 20

  1. Pingback: My First Solo Sail (part one)

  2. laura

    We bought our boat in Boston and on our first sail to Annapolis we ran aground in the intercoastal. The only reason we were in the intercoastal was because we had a miserable night at sea (where I lived a bulimic’s dream) and thought it would be a break. Thanks to a missing marker it wasn’t.
    Unfortunately high tide didn’t help us and for a small fortune we had to be towed. Hans says he only allows one ‘running aground’ per boat. We’ll see.

  3. Stuart

    THe only way you will avoid drying out or going aground again is if you leave boating behind and stay on dry land. Mis-judging tides and hitting things happen to everyone. If anyone tells you otherwise, they either haven’t been on the water long enough or they are lying.

  4. Lee

    Hate to say it, but I agree with Stuart. It’s heart wrenching every single time, but I’ve lost count now how many times I’ve bumped. I met some Kiwi’s who spent six days aground off of Cancun. Almost zero tide at all. They shoveled the boat out during the day and on the six day timed a full throttle departure with the wake of the biggest ferry boat that crossed them. It worked. By their definition you didn’t go aground, you just bumped. You are aground when you are there for days.

    Keep it up.


  5. Post

    @Lee…”just bumped” Yes, I’m sure. But I was nervous anyway. I really do think that because its MY boat with MY hard earned money that makes the consequence seem much much greater in my head. I’ve “just bumped” other boats before (don’t tell my former employers) and didn’t worry at all then. I sure hope I’m not aground for days! But challenges seem to come at a time when you are ready for them, so maybe by then I’ll handle it well….we’ll see. Either way, it will make for an interesting blog post!!!

  6. Douglas

    Out here the saying is,,,,, “If you haven’t been aground, you haven’t been around” ,,,, yah ,, it’s no fun sleeping on the ceiling strips !

    Did you make it through the cut with the favorable current, anyway ?

  7. Post

    Yes, I have heard that saying. I knew it for many years before I actually touched bottom in a boat! But I’ve only touched. Nope, didn’t sleep on the ceiling strips. It didn’t lean over that much. And, yes! I made it though the cut. I wanted to write that story too, but I was getting sleepy and wanted to post this.

    Yes, I awoke at 0300 and it was still foggy. But I headed out anyway. I was only a bit confused about my location and with that on top of fog and darkness I returned to my anchorage to wait for sunrise. Then I headed out again, the fog cleared briefly, and I then noticed that the bell, a buoy, and a blinking buoy were in different locations that what my chart indicated. No wonder I was a bit confused about my location. I navigate without radar, or an electronic chart, so I rely on navigational aids! I was able to set sail. It was very windy and favorable…beam reach all the way! I motored through the cut and it was fun! Lots of people on the banks watching, fishing, biking, etc. Then I set sail again.

  8. Nick

    The Germans have a saying ‘may you always have a handspan of water under your keel!’

    But it’s not always so easy to do so 😉

    I’ve grounded once completely, and a second time when I was able to just motor off at full revs.

  9. Mayberry

    Wow, you are living my dream! Congratulations! And if you ever want a sailing partner lemme know. ccavanau at stx dot rr dot com.

  10. deryk

    Nice little adventure you had… just chalk it up to new experiences. Im still new to sailing, and first time I dragged anchor I heard this thumping sound( I have a center board) Quick start the motor and head to deeper water and resecure the anchor..glad it was still day time lol

    Keep at it, Im sure even Benji gets a little scared sometimes 😉

  11. Post
  12. Pingback: My First Solo Sail (part three)

  13. rob

    Hi Teresa to wake yourself up if you move out of your expected “mooring circle” I used to hang an “angel” or a “lead” (on the bottom) off the bow, on a light line and attach the lines boat end with some slack ( only experience will tell you how much slack ) either to my toe or a tin can or bucket left on the table. When the boat moved beyond your “Comfort zone” the tin or bucket hits the deck and you wake up. Sure the line get wrapped a couple of times around the anchor chain but its well worth considering and cheaper and more reliable than an electronic version.

  14. Jack Talbott

    In the year and a half that I lived aboard and cruised full time in Puget Sound, I only ever touched bottom once, and that was on purpose.

    I had sailed into Liberty Bay/Poulsbo for the Latitudes and Attitudes pacific northwest cruisers party. I ended up staying there from august to november. There is a small cut at Keyport to the south east of the bay and I was curious how far I could get up into it. Bottom was listed as mud and I putted up into it in forward idle. About a third of the way in, I came to a gentle stop. Satisfied, I tried to reverse out of it but the mud was creating too much suction. I ended up having to dink out a lunch hook to kedge myself off. Once I got Her spun around, I was able to putt back out.

    I have been fortunate to have such a protected cruising ground. In most cases, I’m able to put the hook down in 20-30 feet of water without exposing myself to too much wind. I’ve seen others though that want to get it as shallow as possible and end up on their sides. To drop a 5-1 scope here in anything less than 20′ is asking for it. Our bays can be very steep and the tide moves as much as +11/-3.5′.
    20-30′ deep with a 4-1 all chain rode will hold just about anything here.

    While I’ve never gone aground on accident, I’m still young. I just hope that when it happens, I’ll have thought ahead and brought my lee cloth.


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