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Our First Sail Was Terrifying

Knee’s Trembling, Terrified!

We sure have come a long way in eighteen months and we’ve certainly covered some distance. Our first outing on ‘Waiata’ was knee tremblingly terrifying.  Inhale.

It is quite a large step going from the 30 foot monohull you spent 3 day’s doing basic ‘learner’ sailing in, to your 45 foot live-aboard cruising multihull. Just figuring out how to get our big boat with 5 foot of freeboard off the dock, and then return her safely was heart-pumpingly difficult.

Our home marina in England was located in Hamble, Hampshire. It was designed by sailing legend Sir Robin Knox-Johnston. It is a chocolate-box, picturesque kind of place with a perfect mix of coastline and country. Our favourite pub was a dinghy date ride down the river, to the ‘Jolly Sailor’ which features a guest pontoon to tie up on and is well frequented by the yachting fraternity. It dates back to 1751 and is famous for featuring regularly on the TV show, Howards’ Way.

“The Jolly Sailor” – our favourte date night pub in Hamble.

This part of the world is hugely tidal (as is a lot of the UK), and the currents can reach 8 knots on an incoming/outgoing tide.  And to exacerbate our novice sailing situation, Southhampton (which is pretty much ‘next door’) experiences a double high water tide. All things considered we talked through what could go wrong and put on our marriage savers.

Marriage Savers

Our first purchase for the boat was a pair of ‘marriage savers’. Waiata is too big to be shouting vital information, even without strong winds to carry your voice away. Our marriage savers are blue-tooth headphones and they are one of the best items we have ever bought.

It is largely thanks to this vital communication technology that we were even able to get off the dock the first time. With the captain at the helm, I provided his ‘eyes’ through our bluetooth ‘ears’.

Marriage Savers
Bluetooth talk – our ‘marriage savers’ mean clear communication

Hoisting the Sails

We motored out to the Solent and then unfurled our genoa.  Exhale.  That went okay.  But there was a fear of the huge mainsail and the winching machinery to hoist her. The biggest part of the challenge was transferring our small monohull RYA learning experiences to our larger scaled multihull boat.

On our second outing and holding our breath, we bravely raised the mainsail.  He, manhandling and hauling on the lines; me winching from the helm to the top.  The mainsail seemed massive. Scarily so! This newbie had to get to grips that ‘sailing’ meant using wind power, not diesel.

Each time we ventured out, we gained more confidence, eventually spending a night on the hook (gasp) off the Isle of Wight –  we were awake most of the night wondering about how well our anchor might hold.  It felt like such a big deal at the time.  In retrospect, it was not.

It took us six month’s until we tried some ‘wing on wing’ action. And we’re hoping this set up with asymmetric spinnaker sail and genoa may help us to cross the Atlantic safely and in good time.

Wing on wing – our asymm and genoa

We Made Some Improvements

We made some adjustments and improvements for living aboard.  We upgraded our anchor, installed a water-maker, built a stainless-steel solar array with bifacial panels, upgraded our battery system, and converted one forward cabin into a walk in wardrobe providing ample cupboard storage, drawers and hanging space. 

This video shows our converted wardrobe improvement (and the ‘head’s)

Leaving England Across the Bay of Biscay

Virtually a year to the day since we took delivery of our boat, we let go the lines from our home marina in Hamble-le-Rice.  It was scary because we had barely sailed Waiata due to the government Covid restrictions.  We set off down the English coast – Portland, Exmouth, Falmouth – all were beautiful but already we faced challenges.  The accuracy of weather reports was frustrating. We found on one occasion that dolphins were swimming past our boat around a metre higher than our lifelines as we motor-sailed through 4-metre-high waves.

We took a big breath and set off across the notoriously difficult Bay of Biscay.  She did not disappoint and lived up to her reputation, which saw us running with the wind for 8 hours simply to not break our boat in half. 

Spain, Ballearics, Italy, Greece and Problems

We passed France and went directly to Finisterre, Spain, because the French could detain boats during times of Covid.  We were on a mission to get to Leros in Greece where we’d booked our winter marina. 

Spain was spicy, with hot days and nights. Cadiz, Mallorca, Formentera. And Gibraltar. We adored it all and had our first experience of smelling land as we approached. But as often occurs in a sea-centric life, we had problems with our girl.  First, we were 12 hours out of Mallorca sailing in 20 knots when there was a huge BANG and our starboard shroud went slack.  We decided is best to turn around and return to Mallorca. We waited an anxious eight days for Lagoon’s technicians to come.  Many people said it was our bulkheads. It wasn’t! Because Waiata was so new when we bought her, she had never had her first-year service. In retrospect it’s so obvious that a yacht, like a car, needs tensioning and servicing after being ‘run in’.

Our second ‘break’ was in Sardinia, when a mainsail batten plug was somehow lost.  There was no clue, except for the batten that worked its way out of place. We had excellent service and the Lagoon dealer (located in the north) personally arranged for hand delivery of a replacement plug to us, located in Cagliari in the south.

Onward we sailed.  Sicily where we again got stuck for 8 days awaiting a weather window.  We perfected the making of Mojitos in that time, and then across the expanse of sea to the Greek islands.

Weathering Battering Storms

We have weathered more than a fair share of battering storms. The worst was when we 64 knot winds in Batsi on the Greek island of Andros. Our bridle broke at 3.00 am in the morning and we had to come up with a solution in screaming winds, in the dark, while it was snowing. Yes! It can and does snow in Greece. We’ve had our anchor drag alert go off multiple times – it’s a horrible sound when the alarm goes off, but also grateful that it provides an early alert. 

We’ve Learned a Lot

From our first terrifiying sail in England, 18 months ago till now, we are certainly much more confident. We brave conditions that once upon a time we wouldn’t. Yet we remain conservative and safety is the number one factor in our decision making.

The Captain is an ‘IT’ sailor, and we are grateful for technology. Sailing is really the same now as it was centuries ago, But in the 21st century we certainly have advantages and do it easy compared to the salty sailors of old who relied on paper charts and celestial navigation.  

And thanks to experience and being open to perpetually learning, our knees no longer tremble in anxiety as we are about to set off. But sometimes with the weather, we still do get a little bit terrified.  

One of the many storms we’ve weathered. Lightning is the worst!

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