Single handing therapy


Coming in wing-and-wing, just before the trouble began.

Last weekend I enjoyed my first solo, or “single hand” sail in a very long time. This was something of a landmark for me, because, for almost two years, I was partially disabled by a succession of three leg injuries that affected both legs. Among other things, this prevented me from single handing. My disability required that I have help from a crew. Finding reliable people and training them can be a challenge of its own. Fortunately, some of my friends were willing and able to join me and learn, so we had some fine sails together last year.

However, there is a peace an joy in single handing that cannot be duplicated. While I have enjoyed sailing with my friends and brother, I have missed that singular feeling. So, I was delighted when Woodbridge Sailing School confirmed my reservation for the boat that is rigged for single handing.

The day was sunny, with light to moderate wind, perfect conditions for my first solo sail. For about two hours, I sailed about on the Potomac River, enjoying the ability to do just as I wished, when I wished, without need to give notice to crew. And the great silence was refreshing. Sometimes single handing is the best therapy.

I planned to dock under sail, which I love, especially wing-and-wing, meaning down wind, with one sail on each side of the boat. I was coming into the harbor wing-and-wing, and all was well until I tried to lower the main sail and found the halyard was jammed. This means that I could not slow the boat, so I had to abort that attempt to dock.

I navigated through the crowded and busy harbor, trying to get back out through each of the channels between the breakwaters, but the wind was coming from the wrong direction. Reaching the end of the harbor and wishing to avoid hitting the rock jetty, I jibed, narrowly avoiding the stupid bass boat with stupid people stupidly fishing the harbor, and on a starboard tack, managed to make it back out into the river.

There, I went on a beam reach until I was at the harbor opening near the sailing school dock. I headed out into the river a bit, to make sure I was safe from being blown against the breakwater or jetty. There, I dealt with the jammed halyard–caused by my own rigging mistake–pulled the main sail down, and secured it with sail ties.

Finally, I turned the boat back to shore. Approaching the dock, I let the jib fly, hopping lightly off the boat and onto the dock without a hitch or any problem with my legs. Thus, I regained my confidence in my ability to single hand, and felt great hope for my sailing future. Sometimes, single handing is the best therapy.

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