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06/15/2006: "First solo cruise"

This past weekend was supposed to be a nice one weather-wise with a small front passing through Saturday night. Unfortunately I had to work Saturday morning and Cori was out of town on a business trip. That left me alone on the boat during a nice weekend. One of our concerns about what boat to buy was the ability for either of us to sail single-handed if we needed to or chose to.

I decided to head out and do some sailing. We had around 10 knots winds which had me on a beat downriver while deciding whether to stay out for the night or head back to the marina. I decided on staying in South River for the night. Also this weekend, the wind indicator decided to start working again and the depth sounder worked better in the shallows then previously. The forecast for overnight was for the wind to shift and build from the north and northwest then back to northeast after the front cleared through. With this in mind I chose my anchoring location, did a circle in the area to determine if I could swing properly during the night. I did manage to go aground while checking the depth. It is surprising how fast the bottom popped up and bit me. Fortunately I hadnít pushed too far into the mud and was able to back off quickly. I relocated and dropped the hook for what I hoped would be a quiet night. The almost full moon rose and provided a lot of light to sit on deck and enjoy the evening. After going below and working on some log updates I thought I saw a lightning flash. Sure enough the front was moving through and there was a lot of lightning to our north but it was still quiet where I was. While up on deck checking the weather I heard some dolphins when they broke the surface and breathed. Unfortunately it was to dark to see any. During the night the wind kicked up and shifted just as they predicted. In the morning it was still blowing 15-20 and we had whitecaps on the river. Since the anchor was holding firm I just stayed below and waited it out. Soon it started to drop and eventually it was calm again. At this time I decided to get started.

One of my concerns was how I was going to get the anchor up and stowed without getting blown into a shallow area if the wind did not die down or shift, by waiting until it died off there was nothing to worry about but at least I had a plan. I started by raising both the mizzen and the main and then hoisted the anchor and motored away. By the time I got to the mouth of the river and headed into the Neuse I had a headwind which allowed me to break off on a beat when clear of the markers. I beat across the Neuse until I got closer to Oriental then turned downwind to make the run back up to the marina. Everything went so well that I got back earlier then I had planned so I spent a couple of hours tacking back and forth getting used to being single-handed. Eventually all thing must come to and end and I dropped the sails and headed back to the marina.

What I learned by being out alone is that the boat is well set up for single-handed sailing. The previous owner added two self tailing winches further back then the original winches which gives you access to them while behind the wheel. The autopilot does a very good job of handling the steering, which is something we already knew. The autopilot does a good job of bringing the boat around when it is time to tack, however it only works to starboard. I will need to dig into the manual and see why it doesnít work when turning to port. It was a good experience with just the right amount of wind, anymore and it would have been a lot more work but it is defiantly doable, it will just take more practice. At least I didnít have to stay at the dock because I didnít have any crew.