I’ve been meaning to sit down and write this blog post all week, but circumstances from our 2nd day on the water have had me scrambling to get life back in order! Here’s what happened.
On Saturday, we had our first sail on At Last with our ASA private instructor Mark Fields. It was mostly review for us, almost identical to the US Sailing weekend class we took in San Diego two years ago. We had to repeat 101 with ASA because unfortunately US Sailing qualifications don’t transfer between programs! Plus, our US Sailing class had been on a 22 ft keelboat, and this time our 101 class was on a 38 ft sailboat, so it was good to go back to basics. We had very light winds as we went over parts of the boat, rules of the road, and sailing physics. Conor was at the helm while I worked the sails, and I think the biggest victory was when he docked us back into our slip perfectly! Our 100 question multiple choice test at the end was a breeze, and I think our first lesson did a lot to get our confidence up.
Sunday: This lesson was to get our 103 certification (Coastal Cruising) and the day started off great. I was at the helm while Conor worked the sails, and we went from almost 0 wind to over 25 knots! Mark talked us through everything and helped us remain in control of our boat. It went from terrifying to a roller coaster kind of fun as the boat heeled over and cut through the waves. The exhilaration crashed through me while I white-knuckled the wheel, and my only thought when the winds died back down was, I can’t wait to do that again.
The sailing part of the day ended on such a high note, but then we turned the engine on to motor back to the marina. I felt it sputter and whine, and then diesel smoke started pouring out of the companionway and up into the cockpit. I’m proud to say that no one panicked. I killed the engine and then Mark went below to try and figure out what went wrong. The manifold on our engine had snapped, a malfunction that no one could have predicted (even a very experienced sailor), so exhaust filled our aft cabin instead of mixing with the intake water and exiting out the back of the boat. We were dead in the water.
Luckily, we had seen Mark’s friend out sailing a few hours before, so he radioed Chuck and asked for a tow. I was so thankful that our first ’emergency’ on the boat was accompanied by an instructor, so we got to see how to handle everything in a calm and safe manner. We got 103 certified, and learned how to get our boat towed as a bonus!
Back at the fuel dock reality hit. The boat would be unlivable for the next two days while the fumes aired out, it needed to be deep cleaned, our engine didn’t work, and we had no power hookups (no A/C!). Conor had to go back to Virginia that night because he had a Monday morning class, so Scout and I checked into a hotel. The next morning, I rolled up my sleeves (figuratively—it was 90 degrees, of course I was in a tank top) and got to work.
Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday were filled with phone calls, cleaning, scheduling, and repairs. Our mechanic is coming in about 30 min with the replaced engine parts to get us back up and running in time for our 104 Bareboat class with Mark this weekend. The best part of this disaster was seeing firsthand how caring and helpful other boaters are. I had so many offers to stay aboard other boats, people checking in on me hourly while At Last was stuck at the fuel dock, offers of snacks and cold drinks, and advice or a sympathetic ear. My gratitude was met with a chuckle and, “We’ve all been there.” I guess I’ll just have to pay it forward.
Taylor and Conor