Taking the Tiller: Julie and Brian’s Maiden Voyage

A fine sail despite a galley mess and a mooring mistake. From Kitty Martin's "Taking the Tiller" for September 13, 2007

November 11, 2008

The Atomic Four was looking comfortable in her new home by the time co-owners Julie and Brian got their first sail. They arrived with beers and the ingredients to make avocado and sprout sandwiches with Italian dressing. I’m not much of a beer drinker so I called dibs on the white wine that was left over in the cooler from a previous trip. When it came time for lunch, I helped Julie with the sandwich making below, and even though Charlie alerted us of his intention to go about during the process, I’m still finding Italian dressing on the galley table, cushions, and sole.

Minor culinary disasters notwithstanding, it was another beautiful day of sailing on Buzzards Bay. Julie, and especially Brian, asked questions about the boat and its operations, on which Charlie was more than happy to expound. He also pointed out local landmarks such as the radome tower off Nonquitt and Fort Taber in New Bedford.

As we left Padanaram (easy to spell if you remember it’s all “A’s”), the wind, as it often is, was from the southwest, so we set out on a comfortable reach in a gentle roll toward Woods Hole. We turned around before we made it all the way there because we had to make the 3:00 p.m. bridge back in, but we averaged about 4.5 to 5 knots for most of the day.


I tended the genoa for most of the sail, which I do more often than not. Charlie’s usually the one to tell me when to trim, but I’m beginning to initiate the process myself. And I’m asking questions like, “Is this good?” or “How about here?” less and less. I’m getting a feel for the boat and learning how to get the telltales to stop dancing.

Julie helped out a little at the outset by taking off the sail ties and sail cover, but neither she nor Brian ever took the tiller. Maybe because this was their initial sail, they just wanted to enjoy the sun, the view, and the ride. I suspect they’ll become more involved the more they sail. I’m certainly having more fun sailing now that I know more and I definitely feel less “in the way.”

The only unpleasant thing that happened was the mooring flub I made when we returned home. When I grabbed the pick-up stick I was so concerned about getting the chafing gear through the chock that I forgot to put the loop over the cleat to secure Tommy. When Charlie asked if we were all set, I said yes, so he turned off the engine. In a matter of seconds, I had to yell back to him that I couldn’t hold the line and didn’t know why. I felt especially idiotic because Julie was standing next to me, and I was supposed to be showing her how to do it.


All of a sudden, Fluffy was gone, and Bligh appeared on the bow and told me what I’d done wrong. He explained that I should have remembered to place the loop over the cleat first and then make sure the chafing gear was through the chock. Maybe I should have remembered. And trust me, in subsequent mooring attempts I haven’t made that mistake again.

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