Most times, sailing consists of cruising beautiful islands with dolphins greeting you day in and day out. But there are times when things get fuzzy and you need to be able to think and act with purpose – and knowing I can do that has made me a more adequate person in all realms of life.Chelsea Pyne – Seawind 1160 Lite Owner
When I first stepped aboard Stardust, our Seawind 1160 Lite, I was greeted by the handover guy. He immediately took me aside and said, almost in a whisper, “I want to give you a warning. This boat, you know, it’s just a day cruiser. You can’t go offshore with it or be motoring in seas bigger than a foot. It will never hold up.” Taken back by his brashness, I thanked him for his concern.
We’re a young couple to own this boat, no doubt. And with our lack of years, many assume we are equally naive. As if my partner hadn’t spent the last five years researching catamarans and narrowing down his options. As if we didn’t get Seawind’s approval about our plans. As if we didn’t go for a test sail and receive the guidance of friends who have circumnavigated on a Seawind 1160 Lite. This purchase was not on a whim – it was a huge decision and we invested every part of our being into it.
Now I wish I could go back to our handover guy and tell him about our adventures. From sailing around the Bahamas all the way to Newport, Rhode Island. Entering the Salty Dawg Rally in Virginia, cutting through the Bermuda Triangle and back down to Saint Martin. Eight months and four thousand nautical miles later, the proof is in the pudding. We rarely used our engines on our offshore sail back to the Caribbean. (This was a great concern to the handover guy.) We chose the outboards because we prefer simplicity. We’ve had a monohull with a diesel inboard and we decided to change because we knew how well Seawind catamarans sail. We were betting on the sails to be our power, not the engines. Our nonstop sail lasted for two weeks, and it was indeed intense. The sea state was agitated and confused, unusual for this time of year. Many boats ended the rally with a heavy bill to fix, but Stardust, the little cat that could, remained resolute in her sails.
Perhaps the handover guy sized me up to be a delicate little flower. Someone afraid of getting wet. This is one reason I love to be a woman in the sailing community – it gives me the opportunity to prove people wrong.
But I also love it for other, bigger reasons. Sailing connects us back with Mother Nature. It takes us away from our digitized world and brings us to the present moment. As Leonardo Da Vinci said, “Water is the driving force of all nature.” When you’re out on the ocean, you’re vulnerable, humbled, and a part of the earth that created you. And working with Mother Nature is an incredible feeling. We trim our sails and adjust our course to meet her needs. Many times, she teaches us patience and likes to remind us who’s in control. We don’t test her waters, instead we agree to her terms because it’s the power of our environment that calls the shots. We are along for the ride, doing our best to listen and act accordingly.
I started my cruiser life just a few years ago – on and off between land and water. There was a definite learning curve, especially as someone who didn’t grow up on the sea. What originally intrigued me about the cruising life is that I saw so few women commanding boats. I like a challenge, and to do something that is so different from what I am used to really intrigues me. So I set out to take on a new adventure.
Since living on our Seawind 1160 Lite, my understanding of sailing has improved tenfold. From maneuvering the boat, trimming the sails, finding the right point of wind, manning the helm, and so forth. It has been an education all its own. And I have to admit, our transition from monohull to multihull has been incredible. The smoothness of the boat makes sailing, cooking, and sleeping astronomically more enjoyable. Especially for our salty dog, Margo (@margopiratepup). She has loved the extra room our Seawind 1160 Lite affords her. From the cockpit to the bow, she can comfortably stretch her legs and play – a relief to us all.
The Side Effect of Sailing
I have also found that sailing is a good test of character. You find where your limits are and how far you can push them. You get to know what you’re made of, how resilient, flexible and creative you are. People who don’t have experience sailing probably view it as a very sexy sport/lifestyle. I have found this to be false most of the time. Sailing has been a challenge physically, mentally, emotionally and financially.
For Stardust, sailing is getting up at 2 am to take your night watch after rough seas have slung you about for hours on end. Sailing is keeping your cool when the weather turns on you in the worst possible way. Sailing is finding a balance between you and nature and living accordingly. Although I have not been a sailor for long, and there is far more to learn, it has made me a more confident person. I am a reliable deckhand because I’m a good listener and can execute orders. Even on the roughest days I can cook a full meal in the galley and experience no seasickness. I am highly functional on low levels of sleep, which makes me a great addition to the night watch crew. Lastly, I can keep a course well, so I make a solid helmsman– and it feels good to be behind the wheel. These are new skills, so as my knowledge around sailing grows so does my motivation to be the best navigator I can be.
Still, I cannot tell you how to plot a course (yet!), but sailing has made me tough as a person, in more ways than one. I can handle stress and pressure with more heed. In September we were anchored in Liberty State Park, right behind the Statue of Liberty. We were there for four days, anchored in a safe, but very small bay. Other boats, all from Canada headed south, anchored next to us, squeezing their way in. The bay was outlined in rocks, so everyone had to be careful how close we anchored to each other and the shoreline. Four uneventful days passed until suddenly the wind gusts changed direction and gained force. I was alone on the boat, not paying attention to much at all. My captain was on land for a few hours running errands. This bay, as we were to come to find, was covered in plastic bags. Every time someone anchored, they pulled up a plastic bag and had to try again. On this day, I had no reason to worry that our position wouldn’t hold… until it didn’t. I heard a loud rapping on the boat, and startled, I popped my head outside to see what it was. A man on his dinghy yelled, “Do you know you are dragging?” I looked past him to see the line of rocks a mere four meters away. I felt sick. He asked if I needed help, I nodded. He told me he didn’t know how these types of boats worked, as he was on a trawler. I couldn’t find the words to tell him what to do. In the heat of the moment, my mind went blank. But my body was moving.
Shaking, I ran down the steps to the chart table. I looked at the battery switches and flipped one of them. I went back to the helm and started putting down the engines. I started them and immediately pressed forward, away from the rocks that were now two meters behind us. My Canadian ally was at the bow telling me which way to steer as I pulled up the anchor. I was trying to keep us in the same position, without going too far forward over the anchor and without running aground on rocks. We eventually got the anchor up and returned to my old position. My heart was pumping and my head throbbing. My captain being Missing In Action and unreachable added to my squeamishness. I had forgotten to turn on the instruments and accessories on the control panel, but used an app on my phone to see our distance from the rocks. I was lucky it was high tide – my phone said we were in the green zone– aka on land! If the other boater had not alerted me in the nick of time, it would have been a devastating day. But in the end, we made it work.
Through this experience, although not an enjoyable one, it added to my self-assurance. You have to be prepared for such cases, and when they do happen, you cannot freeze or panic. My critical thinking skills are constantly being sharpened, along with my ability to act on a pin drop. I know that when needed, my body will go into hyper focused mode and I can handle what’s to come. If I can survive rough seas and oncoming rocks, I’m not so intimidated by the little things in life. I can walk with my head held high in any situation that life throws at me.
Most times, sailing consists of cruising beautiful islands with dolphins greeting you day in and day out. (As we experienced for months on end throughout the Bahamas and US East Coast.) But there are times when things get fuzzy and you need to be able to think and act with purpose– and knowing I can do that has made me a more adequate person in all realms of life. I can handle stressful situations better. I can trust myself knowing that I’m responsible and adequate. I will always get through the next challenge as it comes.