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Novice sailors on the Aegean

Dec 29, 2016

Tyler Drogin

To the editor: A few years ago, the idea of sailing and rock climbing in the Mediterranean was a mere fantasy to our group of close friends, most of whom had never actually been on a real sailboat. But we decided we wanted to learn how to sail and go voyaging. After a brief period of teaching ourselves the basics on the San Francisco Bay, casual campfire discussions sparked into concrete meetings to figure out how to make our dream voyage come true. My friend Spencer and I signed up for sailing courses with a company called Pacific Sail in Santa Cruz, Calif., and had a great experience acquiring our ASA 101, 103 and 104 certifications. That allowed us to charter a sailboat anywhere in the world.

When we sailed away from Alimos Marina in Athens aboard our 44-foot Bavaria sailboat two months after completing our eight-day course, we felt just confident enough that our voyage seemed reasonable but realized there were lots of lessons that laid in store for us. During our first few days alone on the boat, every procedure seemed like a big deal. Before pulling up our anchor or navigating into a harbor, we had thorough conversations about what each person would do, but often there were last minute details that required one of us to sprint across the boat to move a fender or secure a line. Our way of functioning had a rather clunky feel to it, but after each event we talked as a group to reflect upon what we could have done differently to be more effective and smooth. We identified the specific skills and activities that we each should know, and practiced each one. We rotated positions and responsibilities so each of us could learn multiple roles. Since we were also rock climbing during the trip, we spent an enormous amount of time around one another. Although we were close friends and overall got along great, there were a few instances of annoyance or disharmony that we talked about in an open and honest way to ensure we all felt good about our group interactions. Over the course of our six-week journey, we went from being beginner sailors to feeling confident and relaxed living and traveling in our sailboat together.

—Ian Drogin is an outdoorsman and writer from Santa Cruz, Calif. For more on his exploits go to windandrock.com.

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