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A Learning Journey

Diane Cherry

Ricky T
Constellation
September 18th, 2018

“I don’t want to learn anything else, I know everything I ever want to know”. I remember those words well; we had purchased a business and along with a full time job and a house and a couple of kids, I was trying to learn the new family business as well. My brain and my body were tired. This sentiment could so easily apply to almost everything we do, and definitely to readying ourselves and our boats for offshore. Until we actually are at that magical distance offshore that gives us the “bluewater” status within BCA, we never know for sure what to expect. The one thing I think few of us expect is the never ending repairs, renovations, add ons and Lord help us, buying of stuff we will need. How many boat shows until I have all the stuff I need; the knowledge that goes with it, and hopefully at the best price I will find? And why is it every time I take another course and learn so much, I have the nagging feeling that whatever I have learned and will learn, I will never ever know everything I need to? We have been planning or at least in the dreaming stage of offshore sailing for many years. We bought our boat 7 or 8 years ago, moved aboard it about 4 years ago. We have been sailing together since 1980. We have taken numerous courses, many including Fleet/Weather from Bluewater Cruising. But often there still comes our “doubt” of our own abilities.

In the spring of this year, having pretty much completed two years of the Vancouver Island Fleet and Weather group of BCA I attended the Women’s seminar held in Nanoose Bay. It was interesting to talk to and listen to the many women there and realize just how different our experiences and more important our comfort areas and levels are. I got some laughs when I said I would prefer to do almost anything to do with boats rather than dock. As the discussions of the day in our “groups” went forward, I realized that the one area that maybe I excelled at, was the more mechanical aspect of life on a boat. With a background in design, installation and repairs of all kinds of pumps, I do not find it intimidating to tackle the rebuild of a manual bilge pump; the replacement (and holy cow, the removal) of old pencil zincs from the engine; the days-long dismantling of those mast winches; the placement of valves in the fuel vent lines to prevent a repeat of fuel leakage when somehow you ended up somewhere you shouldn’t have been, and more recently the complete stripping of the paint from a 55 foot mast and its boom. But I can brag as to my part in just how great they look now. I am content with the manual windlass (that we took 5 days to rebuild earlier this year) to pull that 3/8″ anchor chain and anchor. I have learned to fill the voids from the blisters removed from the hull, and to drill holes in the deck and fill them with epoxy to correct the separation of the fiberglass from the epoxy-coated plywood below. And to celebrate that so far there is no visible rot!

I fit into places on the boat that my husband David doesn’t, and at times it is his knowledge passing through my hands and my eyes to get things done. My hands are smaller, so I can and do complete wiring in those tough areas. I forget how many times I have taken pictures with my phone or camera, until I got the right angle to read information that is on the wrong side of the piece to see it looking straight on. David started calling me “Rosie The Riveter” as a bit of a joke, but it kind of stuck. I like it.

I am the foredeck person, because I prefer to go and do rather than to be in charge. So far, I work well under pressure and put aside the fear of the situation to tend to what needs doing. But I tend to worry too much. We recently anchored in a crowded bay, and after several days, I became uncomfortable with our anchoring. It was too crowded to allow for the scope I would prefer, so I spent some restless nights checking on things. It may be a good thing that for whatever reason, after numerous days in this spot, the Harbour Authority decided we should move. So here we were, new spot, crowded anchorage, less scope than ideal, so my comfort level lessened and I was up checking our anchor a little before midnight. I was checking landmarks to satisfy myself we were holding and I spotted a boat that wasn’t where it had been earlier. I then could see it was moving fast and right towards us. By the time I woke my husband, grabbed and sounded the air horn as the boat in question came closer, it was time to pick up the big fender off our deck and fend off that 50 foot sailboat, as it hit and flattened the fender and ran down the side of our boat. The owner, by this time, was on deck and started his engine. No visible damage, they moved off and found a spot to re-anchor. Rather wired, I had a fairly sleepless night. But in the morning, rather than be chastising myself for my nervousness of anchoring, I was thinking that maybe sometimes what we see as our weak point turns out to be completely the opposite.

The women’s session held in Nanoose Bay was, I am sure, well worth the attendance for everyone who was there. What is interesting is that each of us likely would give a different reason why. When I was relating what I “do” on the boat, I felt a sense of pride and accomplishment in admitting out loud what I could do. In putting so much focus on my strong points and perhaps even unique skills, it made me much more comfortable about what I consider to be my weaknesses. We all have different skills and comfort levels of what we can and will do. It is good to be reminded of this.

Bluewater Cruising is an amazing organization. We have thoroughly enjoyed the courses we have taken, the monthly Mid Island presentations, the Fleet and Weather group meetings and generally, the never ending support and sharing of experiences and information. We have now let go the dock lines, and although we are behind schedule (whatever that is) on where we thought we would be by now, we know we are starting a new chapter. We will do a blog, but I wonder if the blog should start at the stepping off point of the first offshore leg, or if it should start with the finding and preparing of the boat and crew.

Every offshore dreamer will have their own experiences, some low and some high. What I think may be underestimated for a lot of us, is the low points when you feel totally overwhelmed and maybe even consumed by the task at hand. And what will the endless and always growing list of tasks feel like, yet to be done? I wish from this angle in our “journey” I had done a journal for each of the haul outs and each of the countless tasks accomplished. Somehow the “done” seems to be forgotten amidst the “to do”. Maybe a journal would help focus more on the completed tasks.

The generous sharing of other dreamers, doers and doners is amazing. As you work your way toward cutting the dock lines, embrace the offers of help from other sailors when you are working on a task you just aren’t quite comfortable with. Participate in the Fleet and Weather sessions and take something, at least once, for show and tell. Not only will you be sharing something you have discovered or made, you will be actively reminding yourself what skills and knowledge you have to offer as a thank you to those who have given us so much of themselves.


Cover image attribution: Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

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  1. Ricky says:

    Excellent peice Diane. I like your idea of journaling the Do’s. They so often get checked off and scribbled over for the next task. We wish you both a safe smooth passage. We hope to see you down there or along the way.
    Fairwinds
    Ricky
    SV Fainleog

  2. Don & Janice says:

    The “Blog” is the way – start right away – it is a confidence builder.
    The bonus is that your friends and family can enjoy your trip too.
    Safe journey(s).

  3. Brian Short says:

    Excellent article, Diane and good luck. One of the hardest parts of an off shore voyage is finally letting go of the dock line in your home port. Be as ready as you can, but you will never be 100% ready!

  4. David B. Zaharik says:

    Its not just women who feel this! It is a wonderful safety net to know you don’t know. But we must not let it be a crutch to not do what we can do!!

    We’ll be launching off of northern France sometime this early spring on adventures that are both thrilling and terrifying as we contemplate the enormity of what we are undertaking… but life is an adventure. With prudent caution and an eye on safety we will begin daysailing the English Channel and down the west coast of France!

  5. Stefa Katamay says:

    Good to see you are casting off! I look forward to reading about your adventures and learning journey.

  6. Corinne Whelan says:

    A wonderful article Diane- thanks for sharing!!
    Corinne
    Victoria

  7. Sue Chapman says:

    I so enjoyed reading your article. Please do continue to log your boat work and preparation plans. It really makes for great content. Sue Chapman. Galiano Island

  8. Hugh Bacon says:

    Hey Diane, great article for a great beginning. Camaraderie among yachties is a huge thing especially once you get going. Networking among fellow cruisers is vital. All of this happens more or less automatically. A full suite of up to date communication equipment makes the foregoing a lot easier especially the type of gear which allows multi-party voice communication beyond line of sight. Once the umbilical is cut, the ability to do yacht maintenance becomes more important. You folks seem very well prepared for this! Reliable navigation systems with some backup as well as a source of decent weather information kept us out of trouble. Good luck! Hugh & Heather Bacon

  9. Rod Morris says:

    Hi Diane, Congratulations on “letting go the dock lines”. I know that feeling well and it is both anxious and exciting! The line I like the very best in your article is,
    “Somehow the “done” seems to be forgotten amidst the “to do”. ”
    It could not have been phrased better. The to do list just never ends and has a habit of growing on steroids whenever you think you are catching up, just to remind you that you will never catch up. But it is all worth it and I hope you have an incredible story to tell along the way.
    Cheers
    Rod Morris , Catamaran “Oh!”

  10. Ann Lange s/v Cat's-Paw IV says:

    Well written, I found myself identifying with many comments you made about what you had learned and your small body and hands fitting into spaces your husband’s could not. The process of going offshore stretches us in so many ways. Enjoy your journey and all the trips you make to try and find a part that may fit and solve your problem.