GOING SOLO!

This is the very first time I sailed Giulia solo!
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One evening my friend Géry told me: "Tomorrow I am going to sail my boat. Why don't you try to sail Giulia on your own?"

It was really tempting. At the same time I was sweating of fear. I just answered him : "Is it okay if I tell you tomorrow morning?"

This was not a problem and I went back to Giulia. I looked at the weather forecast. It was ideal, a gentle breeze would blow in the morning. I had no good reason to refuse and went to bed.

Next morning, I prepared Giulia to sail  her alone and went to Géry. "Okay, let's go for it! If I don't try I will never do it."

He helped me with the lines as I was slipping out of the box. I was trembling but all went good.

At the entrance of the marina, I unfurled the genua, as much as I dared, Giulia had a manageable speed. Can you imagine my happiness: there I was sailing for the first time solo. My heart was bouncing with joy. Géry sailed closer to see if all was right.

My big smile confirmed him I was enjoying it a lot!

After that good experience I would cast off solo each time I would feel comfortable with the weather conditions. Pushing myself a little further was my mantra. Tiredness and loss of concentration still due to the chemotherapies were my alarms. An hour, two hours, three hours on the genua alone, then with both the genua and the mainsail, and again an hour, two hours, three hours, until I could sail a whole day on the Veerse Meer.

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Three hours trip on the Veerse Meer.

At once it became too small but I was reluctant to pass the Zandkreek locks that would widen my horizon and let me sail on the Oosterschelde. Again it was a new friend I made in the marina, Henry, that opened me that door. One day he comes to Giulia: “I’ve seen you are sailing solo, me too, I would love to give you more tips to go further, if you let me onboard your boat” as he still was on the pontoon. A bit confused I invited him onboard for a drink. We arranged that we would go through the locks the day after. “I won’t help you, just let you do on your own, and give you a hand if I see it is going to go wrong…” I always like challenges. He did not need to help me.

I admit it took me a few days to dare do it really alone, until one day my little voice wakes me up; “Hey Eugénie are going to sail all your life on the Veerse Meer?”

 - Euh, euh, no...

 - The conditions are perfect today! Go for it, you can that.

And right she was. I prepared a lunch and left, still with the idea that if the doors wouldn’t open when I would get there, I would turn back. Sometimes I think we don’t decide, and that day too. As I arrived at the feared locks, the doors opened. I had no more choice but to go. I still hoped that some other boat would take my lines. None heard my request. I was pushed to do it on my own as Henry taught me. To my surprise it just went perfect. Still trembling I started talking to a guy who was staring at me, all confused I had been so nervous.

 - It is my first time, I still need to learn a lot.

His answer was comforting:

 - I sail all my life, but what you just did, I wouldn’t dare!

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And he was right I could be proud of me. I enjoyed even more the freedom of the Oosterschelde. When I felt I was getting tired, I turned back. I moored on the waiting pontoon of the locks, had lunch, and when I felt ready went back to the other side even smoothly as the first.

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My next challenges were to sail with stronger winds and for longer time. I could count on my friends in the marina. In the week-ends we would all cast off on our boats, me solo, the others with crew and set course to the Oosterschelde. I never needed their help. At the same time, it was really nice and reassuring to have them around.

Sailing on the Oosterschelde with my friends. Pictures: Marina Piérard
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A two days trip to the Grevelingen meer was the last push I needed to dare cast off for a week on my own. We sailed with Géry and Isabelle, his lovely wife, on their boat and me, on Giulia. It was a longer distance to go. The best way to test my endurance. Besides having a lot of fun, it went very well. I had funny experiences too. As the moment I really needed to go to the loo but didn’t dare leave the cockpit because it was quite windy. I did it in a bucket holding the tiller and waving at the other sailors so that they wouldn’t understand what I was doing. I also felt very proud of me. In particular when the lock’s guardian asked me to prop Giulia between two boats, a very narrow space left, to fill the tiny locks. The owner of one of the boat was waving a huge no, shouting “She will never manage”. 

Géry , on the other side, kindly answered:

- You will be surprised that she can, and easily!

The owner had to admit I did it as real captain… that I was becoming.

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Sailing & celebrating with Géry and Isabelle Pictures Isabelle Beckers
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Back in Kortgene, I prepared myself for a week trip, on my own.

Initially I would go to Beneden-sas, a magical little harbor in a natural park. Thanks to an elderly couple I helped to moor I decided to go even further, to Willemstad. I fully enjoyed it.
 

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Beneden-sas is a magical place!
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Yet I needed to overcome another big fear: go on the open sea. My friend Norman was the one who gave me a good push in a funny way. I was telling him how proud I was I had tacked 30 times in narrow waters. His answer was direct: “At sea you will not need to tack that much ;-)!” He had found the best way to challenge me again.

 

A few days later, there was not much wind. It was ideal to round the Walcheren, from Vlissingen to Roompot, on the sea, and yet close to the shore. This was the funniest experience I had. I left very early in the morning to have the tide with me. The sun rose, and with him the mist came down due to the still high temperature difference between the air and the water. I had to sail on my navionics chart and with the AIS to avoid other boats. Turning back was no point. I would have the tide against me. I was laughing at my fear when I safely arrived at the Roompot marina.

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This is how it looked until I could see the lighthouse of Neeltjes Jan!
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I had no more excuses
not to go
for a longer trip at sea!