Friday, August 19, 2016

Initial, Official Training for the First Mate

In one of Sam's posts, he mentioned making preparations for ourselves.  Well, June was an extremely busy month for me as I prepared for different changes in my life.  First, we closed on our home June 7th.  Saying good-bye after five short years was bitter sweet.  I remember seeing it for the first time, falling in love with it, and hoping to spend the rest of our lives there.  A young couple bought the house and got a puppy.  They love the house and are excited to spend many years there.

Second, my last day of teaching was June 10th.  After 9 years teaching math in Minnetonka and 14 years total, I am looking forward to a little time off to sail and reevaluate what I'd like to do after cruising.  I will miss my coworkers and students, but looking for the very needed break.

Third, as I ended two chapters in our life, I prepared for our next journey by completing a week long sailing course in the San Juan Islands.  I participated in the ASA 101, 103, and 104 through San Juan Sailing out of Bellingham, WA.  I spent the week between school ending and the start of my sailing classes studying the material from the three course books.  By the time I read through my third book, I felt somewhat prepared to take the first written exam aboard our sailboat.  Throughout the week, I had three written tests and practical skills tests to complete onboard. I flew into Portland PDX airport Friday afternoon where my friend April Strong picked me up and drove north to Bellingham WA.  We boarded SV Esprit de Mar (the owner's Jeanneau 45) Saturday just after having lunch with Captain Anne and the four of us (Jessica, Callie, April, and I).

Esprit de Mar in Friday Harbor

We were informed that we would be taking our first written at lunch, but the weather was not ideal, so we focussed on getting off the dock and motoring/sailing out for our first night.  We stayed at Blind Bay on Shaw Island.  We finally took the first test on Sunday morning. I scored a 95/100 and was pleased.  April and I had studied in bed the night before.  Captain Ann has been an instructor with San Juan Sailing for almost 5 years now and has great materials and successful routines she uses every time she takes out a new group.  I loved the way she broke up the duties on board: The Skipper who was in charge of getting us safely from point A to B, The Navigator who was responsible for weather briefing and navigational course (dead reckoning) for the day, The Mechanic who was in charge of checking the systems on board along with assisting the deckhand, and The Deckhand who was responsible for mooring/anchoring and bumpers and lines along with dish duty.  We rotated through the roles each day so we became comfortable with all positions on a sailing vessel.  I hope to put a few of these systems into place on Windbird. Today we spent the majority of our time sailing and learning the different points of sail along with knowing when to ease and trim the sails.  If I recall correctly, we were also in search of whales throughout the day. :)

Sunday night we anchored at Garrison Bay on San Juan Island (one of our favorite anchorages).  We arrived early enough to take the dingy to shore and did some walking at English Camp.  A family of deer lived on the island and didn't seem to be people shy. 

Garden at English Camp

Esprit de Mar after Sunset - Garrison Bay

Monday morning, we had breakfast and took our second written test (I scored 97/100).  We had to make sure we left to get out before low tide.  We motored over to Roche Harbor where we practiced figure eights to get the feel of the motor.  We also practiced stopping alongside a buoy.  We had time to take showers before a quick sail to Friday Harbor on San Juan Island where we spent the Summer Solstice.  

Friday Harbor

Full Moon during Summer Solstice

Tuesday morning the winds were somewhat strong in the harbor.  The wind was blowing us into the dock, so it was a little stressful to motor off.  I was the skipper for the day, so that was my job, which was quite stressful for me, but Captain Anne was there to guide me and step in if she needed to.  We agreed to practice stopping along side the dock where the wind was blowing us off.  I'm sure it appeared to others that we didn't know what we were doing, but we were practicing.  Our boat was magnificent and every time we came into port, people watched.  Many would want to jump in to help 5 women, but we had to mention that we were a student boat and had it under control.  We had mapped out a location for where we wanted to spend the night, but the winds and currents were strong enough that we ended up picking a different location.  We sailed to and moored in Shallow Bay on Sucia Island.  It was a peaceful place.  We took the dingy into shore where we had a quick hike to the other side of the island.  We spoke to an older couple who had kayaked in during low tide.  Jessica and Callie went for a jog and walk respectively while the rest of us went back to the boat to prepare dinner.  April and I drove back in to pick up the girls about an hour later.  

The kayakers relaxing and enjoying the view

 April and I

 Madrone Tree - Native to the area

Upon waking Wednesday morning, we took our final written exam.  I was most nervous about his one because I felt the least prepared; the test consisted of systems and more rules and regulations.  I ended up scoring 93/100.  I was very pleased with all three scores but felt like I needed more practice with the skills portion of the tests.  We left Shallow Bay headed for Rosario on Orcas Island.  We had a nice morning sail, heaved to for lunch, sailed a little more before practicing man overboard and then arrived in Rosario in time to see Christopher Peacock played piano and organ at The Mansion.  After the concert, April and I took showers and Jessica and Callie went for a hike.  Captain Anne made spaghetti, her special sauce, and garlic bread for dinner, which we ate late because the girls had taken a wrong on their way back to the boat.  It was another late night while we planned our sail for Thursday.

For our final FULL day of sailing we had steady winds and currents.  Captain Anne asked us not to lean on her for advice because she wanted us making decisions on our own.  We teamed up and took turns sailing as if we were a two person crew.  I was hoping that I'd become more comfortable at the helm during this course, but realized it will take me much longer than these six days.  I also realized that I really like easing and trimming the sails.  On our way over to Inati on Lummi Island, we stopped at Vendovi (Captain Anne's secret stop) to hike and meet the couple who live on and manage the island.

 We saw slugs and this beautiful snail

Esprit de Mar with Lummi in the background

It was a quick sail over to Inati where we moored and stern tied.  April and I were acting deckmates so were responsible for rowing to shore and tying down the stern.  By this point we docked two nights, moored two nights, and anchored two nights using a different anchoring system each night.  

Friday morning was sunny and windy.  We had a beautiful sail back to Bellingham with winds up to 25 Knots at times.  We reefed before raising the anchor, so we were ready for the winds.  Once arriving back to base, we needed to refuel, empty the holding tanks, and fill the water tanks  Jessica docked us at the dump dock where the wind was blowing us off the dock, Callie docked us at the fuel dock, and I drove us to the dock.  We had to be off the boat by noon.  All in all, we had a great time and I'm glad that I took the course.  I have plenty more to learn, but it will be aboard our boat Windbird.  Next month Sam and I will be attending some classes at Cruisers University in Annapolis.  I'm excited to learn so much more.  I've been spending time joining Facebook groups like Women Who Sail and Cooking on a Boat to help me be more prepared before I move aboard by November 1st.

Final sail back to Bellingham Bay. 

1 comment:

  1. Nicely done, Dawn!! We're so proud of you and we're happy we're able to follow you and Sam on your journey! Beautiful pictures!