I am relatively new to sailing, but I absolutely love it

My husband too; we are what you would call “green” or inexperienced sailors. I am always looking for sailing articles and information. I don’t often find what I am looking for, so I decided to share my own adventures in sailing. Also, I can share my lessons learned along the way.

In May 2010, I completed the American Sailing Association (ASA) sailing course ASA101 Basic Keel Boat. I took the class at BaySail sailing school in the Chesapeake Bay in Havre De Grace, MD. Everyone at BaySail is very nice, and the location was perfect. It was only about an hour and 10 min drive from my home in York, PA. I was hooked and my husband and I bought our first boat in July 2010. It is a 1988 35′ O’Day named Escape. I love her; she is a great boat! We bought her in Annapolis, MD and sailed her ourselves to Tidewater Marina in Havre De Grace, MD. Also, right on the Chesapeake Bay, Tidewater and BaySail are right in the same marina. That trip turned out to be my biggest adventure to date, but that’s a story for another time. I can tell you the saying I have heard “if it is going to happen, it is going to happen on the water,” is definitely true. Am I crazy? Probably. Am I having fun? Most definitely.

Tidewater is a very nice full service marina, but the more we sailed we found that the bay area around Havre De Grace was a little too confining for us. If you check out a navigational chart of the head of the Chesapeake Bay area (available at the NOAA office of Coast Survey), you will see that a lot of the water is too shallow to sail in with a sailboat with a 4’11” draft. So, we found ourselves sailing down the channel towards Baltimore, MD often in search of more open sailing waters. This spring, we found a new home marina in Middle River, MD.

Today’s lesson on Annabel-j.co.uk

On April 2, 2011 we sailed down to Bowley’s Marina, Middle River, MD. The trip was about 30.2 Nm (nautical mile) down the lovely Chesapeake Bay and took us about 6 hours. It was a little cold (~40 °F) and cloudy but we had great wind and great sailing. The winds were running around 14 knots (one knot = one nautical mile per hour) with gusts of 20 knots. We sailed at our cruising speed of 7 knots for most of the trip on a close reach or beam reach.

Today’s lesson comes at docking time

This day was actually the second time we docked at this marina, but this day was windier. The water was much choppier than the last time we were there. Like the lubbers (an inexperienced sailor) we are, we did not have our fenders out when going into the dock. Big mistake.

Fenders, in case you do not know, are typically made from vinyl, and they are inflatable. They come in many shapes, sizes, and colors, but most commonly for sailboats they are cylindrical in shape. They can cost anywhere from $20 – $500 depending on size. Fenders are hung along the edge of the boat’s hull to protect it from damage that can happen when the boat bumps into the pilings or dock when docking or tied up in a slip.

I was taught that you don’t want to sail around with your fenders hanging out; it is bad etiquette and it looks stupid. However, you should put your fenders out before docking. Well, on this day my husband and I did not have our fenders out. I am not sure what we were thinking. I think we were a little too confident. We have had a few very successful and graceful docking experiences lately. But, as I said earlier, it was pretty windy this day.

Lesson of the day; bad things happen to your boat when it bumps into the dock !

Even when you are not going anywhere fast, damage happens quickly. The dock ripped our stern navigation light completely off, and we destroyed part of the gunwale on the starboard side. I learned my lesson. Fenders will always go out when docking. I am also adding permanent fenders to the pilings in our new home slip since we will be there a lot.

Happy Sailing!