Ocean Watch

Susan Scott

Friday, June 25, 2004

Determination wins
the day on solo sail

Last Sunday, I went sailing with two friends. This wouldn't be remarkable except it was the first time I ever took the boat out without my sailor-to-the-core husband. To add even more excitement to the outing, Cari and Stephanie had little sailing experience.

What we lacked in knowledge, however, we made up for in determination. We can do this, we women reassured one another as we prepared the boat for our adventure. And if we don't do it perfectly, so what? How else will we ever learn?

Dutifully, I checked the fluid levels in my engine and started her up. My crew untied the mooring lines, and we were off.

Well, not quite. A blast of wind pushed the rear of the boat sideways. Unsure of what to do, I hit the throttle, turned the wheel -- and ran over my fixed line, the prop severing it neatly.

Oops! I needed that line to get the boat back into her space. Then, whack. I bumped the mooring ball.

"Watch the stern!" Stephanie shouted. I straightened out just in time to avoid hitting the neighboring boat.

Wow, getting out of there is hard, we agreed when we finally got the boat safely away from the dock.

And then we did what women do when things go wrong. We apologized.

"I'm sorry I shouted at you about the stern," Steph said.

"Oh, I'm glad you did," I said. "I'm sorry I didn't organize the casting off of the lines better."

"It was good experience," Cari said, cheerfully. "I'm sure we'll do better next time."

Shrugging off our inelegant departure, we motored out of the Ala Wai Boat Harbor. How we would get the boat back into her space without that rope to guide us, we did not know. We decided to take the Scarlett O'Hara approach: Worry about it later.

The sails went up with minimal fuss, and we were soon under way.

Were those sails trimmed perfectly? Nope. Was the anchor wobbling loose on the bow? Yep. Was I nervous about driving the boat back into its slip? Absolutely.

But none of that mattered, because I, a former landlubber who once didn't know a sailboat from a sack of corn, was skippering a sizable sailboat in breezy tradewinds with good friends off a beautiful Hawaiian island. Life is good. Call me captain.

Gleefully, my friends and I sailed to Keehi Lagoon, accidentally jibing only once and drawing just a teensy amount of blood on two of our shins. (I have a friend who says if you find yourself bleeding and don't know why, you're having a good time.)

I wished the day would never end. Besides enjoying our sailing success, when we headed in, I would have to face parking the boat. This was hard enough at the best of times, but that line I'd sliced through was the key to a smooth landing.

We women rose to the challenge. When we drew close, Cari gracefully dived into the water, tied the line's severed ends together and then reattached to it our fallen bow lines.

I backed the boat perfectly along the mended rope, Steph neatly retrieved the bow lines with the boat hook and Cari, who had jumped onto the pier, tossed me the ropes to secure the stern.

In seconds we had that boat tied up like pros.

After hugs and high fives, my friends left and I stood on the pier, tired but happy.

"Nice boat," commented a passer-by. "You handle her well."

"Thanks," I said. "I have a great crew."

See the Columnists section for some past articles.

Marine science writer Susan Scott can be reached at


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