This weekend I had my first experience with (relatively) long distance ocean sailing. There is a race coming up this weekend in Cape Breton and the boat needed to be delivered. I volunteered because this was my first opportunity to affirm whether I actually enjoy ocean sailing. I've been an armchair sailor for years and I've sailed rivers, lakes and bays a lot but nothing like this.
So what was the prognosis? Well, if you asked me at 1pm on the first day I would have said something like "This is [expletive] miserable!" We had heavy fog and relatively rough seas for most of the first day. Not a good combination on a virgin stomach! I will give myself some credit in that I was the last of the crew to take a trip to the side of the boat.
Eventually, around late afternoon, the fog lifted and life returned to normal. We still had some good wave action happening but being able to see past the side of the boat made life good again. By evening we had a great wind, great weather and things were sailing smoothly.
This was also my first time sailing through the night. That was definitely the highlight of the trip. We took 4 hour turns on the helm and mine was from 1am - 5am. Steering under the stars using only the plotter for reference is pretty neat. The best time for me was just before sunrise when I could just see the profile of the rigging against a backdrop of the rough sea and the moon. A great moment. I would have tried to take a picture but it was pretty rough at that point and I had to keep both hands on the wheel to keep us on track.
The second day was great weather and a beautiful sail. We arrived in St. Peter's safe and sound around 29 hours after we left. The entrance to the Bras d'Or Lake
was beautiful and I hope to sail around that lake some day. It is supposed to be exceptional.
We did have some technical issues throughout the sail. We had engine problems that were related to some water that got in the diesel. This meant regular cleaning of the fuel pump. This caused issues because we needed to be able to keep the batteries charged for the navigation equipment. We also had some times with light wind that warranted motoring.
The other issue was a general power failure that happened in the middle of the night. This cause all lights and navigational equipment to be out for about an hour. Apparently this was a dramatic event but I slept through it! (I was off watch in the bunk)
All in all this was a perfect trip for testing and affirming my commitment to sailing. I have dreams of sailing long distances some day. This trip gave me a taste of the good, the bad and the ugly that comes with sailing in the ocean. Breakdowns and sea sickness are inevitable parts of the experience and I needed to understand that. It's not all just pretty sunrises.
I came away with a few specific lessons:
- Brush up on manual paper chart navigation
- Know how to tear apart and troubleshoot every system on your boat
- Don't eat curry noodles on your first day sailing in the fog!