Filed Under (Boats and Boating Gear) by Debbie on 08-02-2008

I think it would be interesting to hear from other women who’ve single handed their boat, even if it was just a short trip, particularly your first try. What did you do well and what could you have done better?

This last spring I took our Newport 30 down the Columbia River to have her hauled out, the bottom painted and new zinc put on. The trip down was nice, good weather but I was a bit tense as I’d not traveled down this channel before and then too it was the first time I’d taken this boat out alone. Plus I wasn’t exactly sure what the boat yard would look like from the water. The trip down was easy and went well.

It was bringing her back to the club that turned out to be annoying.

I had my daughter on board with me as well as Buddy our chihuahua. The weather wasn’t the best and I grabbed my foul weather gear, as I could see a dark weather line coming in. My daughter stayed below with a nice little fire going in the solid fuel heater…which sent a sliver of smoke in my direction.

I motored up the channel, yes I used the iron jenny as there was no wind and a hot chimney. As I passed the first set of docked boats a ‘nice man’ began telling me how he wished he could go sailing. As a matter of fact he talked to me until he ran out of dock to walk down.

A little farther upriver I become aware of the fact that many of the guys working on the docks were look at my boat. Some of them are actually running and jumping over stuff to get a better look. Now, if I were captain of a multi-million dollar yacht I’d expect them to look at the boat.  If I was a young, svelte, chick-y-babe I’d have thought they were looking at me! But being the old bat that I am, covered in a foul weather burka and given that our boat is far from big bucks, I figured I was having problems.

So I check the dark line of clouds knowing they were full of buckets of rain and frowned as they were getting closer, I zipped up my foulies.  Then I leaned over the stern to be sure I’ve water pumping out the back, sure enough I can see the water pump is working fine. Now I’m really confused…maybe I’m going too fast, check my wake, almost none. Maybe I’m on the wrong side of the markers, nope.

Drats! The rain starts pouring and I pull the hood from my foulies over my head. I see a small commercial fishing boat just ahead of me and I slow down until I can figure out which way to pass them as this is a really narrow channel, getting closer I can see they’re on the hook.  As I moved past the entire crew comes running to say hi and make nice comments about the boat, hummm…now I’m really feeling weird!

Finally I’m out on the Columbia River, the rain pours down and the fog screeched in. Visibility dropped to almost nothing! On came my running lights…we have commercial barges and I wanted them to be able to see me even if I was staying outside of the channel.

GPS in hand, eyes straining to see and smoke making them water…I slowly make my way in the pouring rain, back to our slip at the club. Later while talking with a much more seasoned lady sailor in our club…she pointed out that the guys probably weren’t looking at the boat. It’s just soooooo odd to see a woman by herself on a boat.

How offensive! Ladies we as a group, have to do better. It’s something I harp on periodically here.  Women are perfectly capable….we just have to push beyond our comfort zone.  So what if you scratch the topsides?  This is how the guys learn.

If you’ve single handed your boat I’d love to hear about it.  Please, leave a comment below and remember.  If you’ve a good story you’d like to submit and I use it, you get one of our great hats as a thank you! 

2 Comments posted on "My first time solo on our sailboat"
Gail on March 2nd, 2008 at 5:24 pm #

I came across your blog looking for tips on single-handing. I’m taking a class in the Virgin Islands in April then I plan to take out the Catalina 22 and Mac 26X that I have access to from the boat club I belong to. It’s going to be single-handed only for me as I work weekends and don’t have friends who are interested in sailing. And yeah, I’m apprehensive about it. Wish me luck!!

Debbie on March 2nd, 2008 at 10:29 pm #


I wish you the very best!

Please, remember that Neptune has a warped sense of humor and will test each sailor to their max. But where the will is the way can be found. I’d love to hear how everything goes for you.

My very first time skippering a sailboat in the ocean was pretty funny. Check out the ‘archive’ tab above or below and look in Feb. 08 for ‘learning to sail a sailboat’.

Please, let me know how you progress. Sailing is a great activity and there is just no end to the learning. There is more satisfaction in a single afternoon at the helm than in a lifetime of gentle living. We only get to be in this world once, don’t waste a precious moment!

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