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mixing things up & lessons learned

Posted by on September 27, 2012

September 17, 2012

It was a peaceful morning when we hoisted the sail and pulled up the anchor from Westbrook Harbor. However, there was a major difference to the day. Wil and I had decided to do a role reversal. It was time to mix things up a bit.

Over the past few months, we had fallen into specific roles that are comfortable or easy for us. When we anchor, I’m usually at the helm, and Wil usually drops the anchor. We have our routine and hand signals down to perfection ( . . . or so we thought, but that comes later in this story!)

When we hoist and drop sails, I’m usually at the helm with Wil working the sails. With the size of our boat, it’s tough to reach the boom for unzipping and zipping the sailbag. Since Wil is taller, he has taken on that job. If I have to get the sail out or zip it up, it involves cranking the boom out to a point where I can better reach it, but then I still have to climb to reach the zipper. Also with such a tall mast, Wil is stronger and able to raise the mainsail faster than I can. It’s just simpler if he does it.

A couple of weeks ago, a good friend of ours on a buddy boat, fell through a hatch opening and into their service bay, breaking several ribs in several places. They were still in Seal Bay on the remote island of Vinalhaven in Maine. Fortunately, a first responder was able to get to her, and there were no other significant injuries. However, their departure from Seal Bay was delayed while she needed to heal enough before they could move the boat. It is a huge relief to all that they were in a location to receive relatively immediate medical care.

It is this incident that brought Wil and I to think about the “what if?” What if one of us is injured and unable to tend to our regular duties? Therefore, we are mixing things up a bit. Yes, it might take me longer to put up the sail, or drop it and put it away, but I need to become proficient at it. I need to do the anchor and get used to giving the signals, which means it’s time to train one of the kids to handle the boat while anchoring. All of us need to be able to do all jobs onboard, that way if one of us is injured, the others can take over.

Now back to the story of the day.

When we departed Westbrook Harbor, Wil was at the helm, and I gave the hand signals from the bow and brought the anchor up, scrubbing the chain clean of any mud. No wonder Wil looks like he’s had a workout by the time we’ve left an anchorage!

As we got underway, we reassessed our weather situation for the upcoming days. There was a strong southerly blow on its way for the next day, and it was looking like something we wouldn’t want to be traveling in. Since we were on the move in the early morning, it was possible to pass Port Jefferson and make it to Port Washington. There we could hunker down for a day while the wind blew.

just starting to see NYC

many monarchs flew along with us

Arriving in Port Washington, we knew there was a possibility of picking up one of their free mooring balls, if there was one available. Since this would only be the second mooring of our lifetime, I wasn’t ready to walk in Wil’s shoes at the bow.
We arrived in the anchorage to discover that the free mooring balls didn’t even have a pendant to grab. You had to place your own shackle and line on the ball, a difficult task from 6+ feet above the ball.

To add to the uncertainty of the moment, Wil’s normal hand signals disappeared, and he began telling me which engine to use for turning the boat. He was telling me to use the starboard engine which would bring the bow to port. Even though I knew I needed to have the bow turning to starboard, and needed to use the port engine, I chose to follow Wil’s orders. Maybe he knew something I didn’t. As I engaged the starboard engine, of course the boat turned the “wrong” direction from the mooring ball. By this time, Wil was repeatedly yelling “STARBOARD ENGINE!” and about to leave the bow to come do it himself. I yelled back, “I AM using starboard, but this doesn’t make any sense!” Suddenly, Wil stopped in his tracks. He realized that as he was looking backwards to the stern, he had his port and starboards mixed up. Not surprising when we commonly joke about his right and left mix ups.

As we quickly got back on track to where the boat needed to be, a neighboring guy on his boat, jumped in his dinghy to help us shackle to the mooring. After he assisted us, we discovered that he was someone from the Magellan Net whom we had not met yet. He happened to be moored right next to us and saw our most ungraceful approach to the ball. Oh, well!

We’ll do better next time. In fact, after this incident, we agreed that from now on, the person on the bow is only to direct where to put the boat, and the person at the helm is responsible for putting it there. Another lesson learned.

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