By Gail Lynne Goodwin.
My husband and I are sailing a beautiful 42′ sailboat named Hula Kai off the US/Canadian Coast, for two weeks. I think one of the reasons I love sailing is that I’m reminded of so many life lessons while on the water. Yesterday was a perfect example.
We planned to sail from Back Eddy’s to Pender Harbor, only a few hours sail, but as we neared Pender and were enjoying the day so much, we decided to go further. We were sailing into uncharted waters where neither of us had ever sailed before. We looked at the charts and decided to stay at a marina on Bowen Island, another 4 hours away.
Our motto for this trip has been to take it one day at a time, and now, a week into our adventure, it seems we’re taking it an hour at a time.
When we decided to “go for it”, we didn’t fully think through all of the consequences we could have from our decision. We never considered that with it being Labor Day weekend as well as a holiday in Canada, that we might have a problem finding a place to dock or anchor the boat, especially so close to the city of Vancouver on the last holiday weekend of the summer season.
We didn’t think of this until we arrived 4 hours later and couldn’t find a place for the night. We’re usually docked or anchored no later than 5pm, but as the sun was setting behind a mountain, we still had not found a place for the night as all of the marinas were full.
The waters here range from 500-1000 feet in depth and drop off from the shore very quickly, making anchorage quite tricky in some areas. Therefore, in unfamiliar areas, I prefer the safety of a marina dock.
When I discovered that all of our options were full, I became concerned. Darryl just smiled, said we’d be fine and kept steering the boat. As I watched the sun sink further each moment, I wasn’t so sure of that.
It was getting dark quickly and we needed to find a place to anchor. We found a small bay with a protected area that was already full of boats. As it was almost dark we decided to find a way to make this location work.
The only area available was off to the side of the boats, and would require a stern anchor tie, something we’d read about but had never done before. We motored to the perfect spot and after three attempts to anchor in 60’ of water the bow anchor finally caught in the mud and held the boat. If at first you don’t succeed….
Once the bow anchor was set, Darryl jumped into the dinghy to go tie the stern line to the shore. When we’re in an anchorage where the water is deep and we have to let out 3-4 times the water depth in anchor chain, a stern line is necessary to keep us from drifting into other boats or hazards in the area. There’s a big spool of stern line on the boat and in theory, one just takes the end to shore and secures it there, tying the boat in place. Sounds easy.
Darryl prepared to go ashore to tie the line, but the dinghy engine wouldn’t start. In my mind I’m thinking, “Great, we have minutes of daylight left and now this. Will we make it?”
The sun had dropped and we were counting the last remaining minutes of light as he broke out the oars and rowed to shore, holding the stern line in between his teeth.
Hand over hand, I pulled the stern line from the spool, so he wouldn’t have to deal with any tension. Just as he neared the rocky, tree-lined bank, I watched in slow motion as the last of the stern line unraveled from the reel, let loose from the spool, and fluttered away from the boat towards the surface of the water. In my mind I thought I should grab the already-gone line, but my body stood there watching it hit the water and start to sink. I mean seriously, who knew it wasn’t attached to the boat? What next?
I called to Darryl to tell him that he and the line were no longer connected to our boat- and asked him to not let go of his end- but he couldn’t answer me as he was still holding the line in his mouth, still rowing.
At this point I remember thinking why I like hotels so much….
He quickly got to the shoreline and expertly tied the stern line, then calmly rowed back to the boat, asked me to make the distance shorter by letting out another 20’ of anchor chain, then tied off the floating end of the line to our boat. We were then secure for the night in a spectacularly beautiful spot-and I started breathing again.
After this experience, I asked Darryl how he stays so calm regardless of the “what if’s”. I’m not proud to admit that at several times during our several-hour adventure, I was wondering what we were going to do if this plan didn’t work.
He, on the other hand, was focusing on solutions that would make it work. Where I was concerned and racing hours ahead, he was confident, taking it one moment at a time.
Maybe it comes from his professional training as a Captain of a Gulfstream G 550 airplane, or maybe it’s just who he is.
Regardless, I took the opportunity to learn from him. He shared that we only have so much energy, so he choses to focus on the job at hand that needs to get done, rather than waste it on the “what if’s”.
He told me that if it hadn’t worked out we could have motored in circles in the bay during the night, which wouldn’t have been perfect, but we would have been safe. As long as he knew the “worst case” scenario wasn’t life threatening, he then put all of his mind energy to work on making this work for us.
We slept soundly and awoke the next morning in a beautiful bay, securely bow anchored and stern tied, with much to be grateful for. What I’d worried would be an “Oh no!”, turned into one of the best “Oh Wow” moments of the trip so far.
I hope that the next time we’re in a situation like this- or any other in life- I can have the confidence and the calm that I saw so perfectly modeled to me and instead of worrying about the “what if’s”, invest that energy instead into making the dream happen.
Thanks, Darryl, I appreciate you.