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Take the 1st Step

Leaving the dock is a critical first step to getting out on the water. And while the time it takes to leave is so short compared to the time we are out sailing (or motoring) on Lake Michigan, it will set the tone for the entire day. It’s very important to ‘get it right’ when leaving the dock. And another example where ‘slow is smooth, and smooth is fast’.

Straight to the car. Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast.

Part 1: Leaving the Dock

leaving cheboygan

Continuing on the learning to sail theme, I’m going to share our process that we take to leave the dock – with a follow up on the steps we take to dock the boat after a day on the water.

When we were preparing to leave Duncan Bay on our inaugural trip home, Scott said, “Every time I’m getting ready to go on a delivery, I get a sick feeling in my stomach.” It’s just the nerves for the trip so we need to over-communicate and talk through the steps we’ll take to get her safely out and back in. Even with over 50 years of sailing experience, the feeling doesn’t change. It’s a huge responsibility – lives (and boats) are at stake!

What just happened?!?

Throughout the journey home, every time we would get ready to leave the dock (as well as when we were docking), I would simply black out. I thought I was ready to help, but never quite knew what to do. My body would just freeze, and all the sudden we were on the boat, backing out and turning to exit the harbor. This will not work when Scott is no longer with us! I needed to learn the process for leaving the dock, and we needed to develop our process for it as well.

I shared on an instagram post that our 1st few solo trips to the boat were stressful and not enjoyable. We weren’t even taking the boat out – just going to the boat to work on it was awful. Kyle and I were not on the same page.  We each had different agendas, and we were not communicating these thoughts with each other.   🤜 🤛 And worse, we argued the whole way to the boat, which was really only about ~10 – 15 minutes from our house, but still, the tone was set and the mood was ruined.

Love & Respect

Luckily, our church had a ‘Marrieds Night’ event, where we heard a lesson on Love & Respect (Ephesians 5:21-33). Regardless of the other’s intention, we each had a biblical command to follow. After all, we want to have a better marriage, we want to enjoy each other’s company and we want to have fun adventuring on the sailboat together! AND, most importantly, we NEED to work TOGETHER in order to leave the dock successfully! 🙌

calm blue lake michigan

Peace Out ✌️

shaking hands in front of sunset

This means for me, the first step in leaving the dock, is making sure that my heart and my head are at peace internally with myself and also with Kyle. So far, our solo trips have started at home so we have a short drive to the marina. Our discussion and communication during this time is very important. I can be short and have an attitude quickly – after all, my nerves are running high and my stomach is queasy.

I’m anxious for the next hour or so while we prep the boat to leave. I’m constantly telling myself to be nice and over-communicate what I’m feeling and thinking to Kyle in a loving and not demanding way. Sometimes it works and sometimes I fail, so then I tell myself to be quick to apologize, which has always been difficult for me. Kyle is much better at this.

Over-communicate Expectations

After 18 years of marriage, we’re finally starting to better communicate with each other.  And I think the boat is helping us do this.  Well, we were good at it when we were rehabbing homes too.  We always needed to stop and talk about how to step-by-step carry something together.  While any one of Kyle’s friends or our dads would know exactly what to do without talking, I had a different method and we needed to discuss it first.   Once again, we’re learning to recognize (and laugh at) just how different we act and think.  So it is good to talk it over to understand what Kyle is thinking and how he wants to do something.  I get to ask questions or propose alternative solutions, and we’re getting to be on the same page.

kyle and kara talking

Get the Boat Ready

When we arrive at the marina, jitters and uneasiness sets in even more, but it is so beautiful.  It’s usually early in the morning, and there are very few people around.  We see the condo association landscaped with bright green grass, trees and flowers.  The blue skies (with or without clouds), a gentle breeze and the lapping of water against the boats as we walk the long dock to SV Zeke E Boy.  Kyle opens it up and I’m putting things away and getting settled.  We each have our own series of tasks that we work on consistently and constantly but not rushed.

Final Preparations

sailboat at the dock

Once we feel good about the boat prep – removing bimini and dodger windows and doors, putting away anything that may fall, getting the sails ready to go up on the water, checking the boat, etc. – Kyle makes sure I feel good, and then starts the engine. We like to have the engine idle and warm up for about 15 minutes or so. This is when we do the final boat prep: turn off shore power, unplug and put away cord, remove all dock lines except the 3 most important ones – the bow line, aft spring line and stern line, put lifejackets on (and I wear shoes and socks so I don’t stub my toes on deck), set out boat hooks (to push off something so we don’t hit it), turn on boat navigation and start the Garmin live navigation tracker.

Let’s Go!

Kyle asks one more time, are you ready? We give the once over on the dock lines – just to be safe. I unhook the bow line, while Kyle loosens the spring and stern lines. We slowly and manually walk the boat backwards toward the end of the dock. I throw the bow line over the boat, and I grab the spring and stern line, Kyle jumps on and gets ready to put it in gear. The boat continues to slowly move away from the dock, and I hop on the boat and yell “I’m on”. Kyle puts the boat into gear to continue to turn the boat. I’m cleaning up the dock lines and as soon as the boat is clear of the dock, I yell “Clear”. This means Kyle knows that we’ve cleared our dock, and he can turn to exit the marina when he feels ready.

Navigating the Channel

We slowly drive the boat past the other docks in our marina, past the condos and beautiful mansions on the New Buffalo inlets, and navigate around the shallow channel and stationary finishing boats in the New Buffalo Harbor.  We draft 5’2”, and there are some very shallow spots that we need to avoid in the harbor.  We continue to have our finger-crossed that they will dredge it out soon!  In the meantime, we continuously apologize and graciously thank the power boats for moving out of our way as we typically take the middle line of the channel out onto Lake Michigan!

new buffalo harbor

Raise the sails, sea dog!  We’re under way!
“Now, bring us that horizon!” – Jack Sparrow

A few minutes later, we make it out and we’re motoring further and further away from the harbor entrance.  I take the wheel (and grip it hard … until I can get more familiar with driving the boat), and pray that everything goes well while Kyle gets SV Zeke E Boy sailing!  At least we made it OUT with no major issues. 

Tell us what you think

Let us know what you think of our sailing adventures by sharing your feedback in the comments below. Do you have advice for me on how you leave the dock? I want to continue to get better and better! We’d love to hear from you!

– Kara from Zeke Life

Live like Zeke
You’re such a good boy!

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