What do you think I’m going to say? What would you say, those of you out there cruising? I’m really curious, so please share. For me, it’s docking. Yes, dammit, still docking. Granted, with practice I am getting better and I am intensely pushing myself to be brave and try and just say “It’s okay if you bump something, we can fix it.” Those things are easy to say, but not so easy to act out in real life. I hate that I get all jittery and panicked. My hands and leg muscles shake. My eyes become stupid huge saucers. It’s like I’m having a mini-heart attack. Why?!
I really am just venting here because it irritates me that I get myself all worked up into such a state of terror at the sight of pilings, piers and other boats. A part of it is the thought of damaging our Niagara because that would royally suck. But a bigger part (I believe) is damaging someone else’s boat. Wrecking my dreams is one thing, but wrecking another’s by plowing a huge hole in their stern makes me sick to my stomach.
Then there’s the thought of disappointing Phillip. I know this is all internal because he is immensely proud of me and I am a very lucky gal because he tells me this often, but that doesn’t mean a huge part of everything I do is still intended to impress him. The thought of me turning to starboard when he says “Turn to port!” and crashing our bow into concrete makes me feel so embarrassed and sad for him. What a crappy mate he has! And, why would I turn to starboard when he says port? Because I am literally in that moment an absolute nervous wreck. Port is starboard. Forward is reverse. I’m panicked, remember? A babbling idiot. It really is quite embarrassing. And almost inexplicable. I’ve been in some pretty gnarly stuff out in the Gulf and the Atlantic—winds of 43 on the nose, 15-foot seas—but it has never made me feel like docking does. This instant on-set, heart-pounding dread.
Many of you may have already seen this candid, unedited video we posted to Facebook of my first de-docking that—in my mind—didn’t go so well. But, as Phillip says: “If we didn’t hit anything and nothing’s broke, it went well.” But I had not yet published it on the blog, so I wanted to share it here, as well as a few other docking incidences we’ve racked up in the last couple of weeks while putting me more on the helm as I believe each one is a lesson and a confidence builder.
Here is my first (very scary, very harrowing, shockingly near-miss) de-docking out of Key West:
Undeterred, we continued to put Annie on the helm and let her try her hand at docking against the fuel dock in Venice in some rather calm conditions. Thank goodness! The winds were light and I had a moderate tide pushing against the boat and keeping my speed down along with some great instruction from Phillip about making sure to err away from the dock because the wind would easily and quickly push me toward it. (Oh, and some fantastic dock hands that helped us as well. I will never be ashamed to ask for hands on the dock to help grab lines. “Save my baby!”):
So, Annie did good there. We didn’t hit anything and nothing got broke. Gold star. But, our next docking opportunity was a very telling one. A thankfully-successful, but rather-difficult docking by Phillip. The winds were blowing about 15 kts with a very strong current pushing in the same direction. Phillip still wanted me to try it because “You’re going to have to dock in these conditions someday.” While that is most definitely true, I was a little reluctant but was willing to try because Phillip is right (and, remember, I still want to impress him). After about a ten-minute discussion with the dock hand talking us through all of the dangers, the conditions to pay attention to, the best approach and how quickly the boat could get sideways in the slip if I “undershot it” (which I wasn’t quite sure what that even meant), I was—needless to say—more than nervous. But, I was still going to do it right? Right, let’s go.
You’ll see, however, in the video, that just backing off the fuel dock, I’m completely petrified, shaking hands and legs, not sure which way to even turn the wheel to control the stern in reverse. I throw it all the way over hard to port then back to starboard, then back to port again. I’m a mess. Phillip was initially on deck, but when he made his way back to the helm, he could see the terror in my eyes and the lack of focus and confidence to truly handle this docking, so he took the wheel. And nailed it!
Five thousand gold stars for Phillip. Another successful docking! We didn’t hit anything and nothing got broke. Again! So, I should now be all rainbows and sunshine, right?
I’m not. I’m pissed. Furious. In a fuming cloud of funk.
Why? The answer is embarrassingly stupid. It’s not because I got too nervous to do it. This was a very tricky docking situation with winds and current pushing in the same direction, up against the pier in a narrow, short finger-piered slip. While I will have to handle those conditions someday, I know I am not yet experienced enough to handle that one confidently just yet. Giving up the wheel wasn’t the issue. I was totally comfortable with that. I’m infuriated because we’re docked, everything’s fine, and I’m the only one who’s all Petrified Patty about it. It is only my heart that is beating through the bones of my chest. Only my hands that are shaking like a junkie in detox. I’m the only one who’s freaked out. Me. Annie. Everyone else is all: “Great, we’re here.” “Good job Captain.” “Where did you guys come in from?” And I want to scream: “From the fuel dock just over there and we almost crashed! Didn’t you see?! I can’t just chit-chat with you right now!” I hate that I’m a nervous, frustrated wreck and I’m so mad at myself about it. But that is what I feel in the moment, when we have a hairy docking—even a successful one—and it takes me a while to calm down.
Perhaps this is just a personal venting, or perhaps many of you feel this way. Do you?
All I can say is: It’s frustrating and embarrassing, but I’m working on it. Annie Raw. Out.