How We Learn

Debbie Leisure: What I learned on my first solo trip to the Bahamas

In September of 2009, Debbie Leisure wrote here on the Women and Cruising Blog about how she learned to single-hand her boat after the death of her husband. At the end of the post Debbie said that she planned to sail to the Bahamas this winter. So we recently asked Debbie to update readers – sharing what she has learned on this trip while it is fresh in her mind. Thanks, Debbie!

Yes, I’m sure I learned a lot his winter, my first solo trip to the Bahamas.

I’m also sure that I knew some of these things before setting out for the Bahamas, but I now REMEMBER that I knew them.

Lessons along the ICW

The learning experience did not take long to begin.

I left Oriental, North Carolina in October heading south along the ICW (Intracoastal Waterway) and on my second morning out I ran aground.

What did I learn?

That I have to pay very close attention to currents, and I learned that TowBoat US towing insurance is a wonderful thing to have.

Also, that I can call TowBoat US before I run aground when in unfamiliar waters, and they will advise me and give me the local knowledge that I need.

Day three and another lesson.

I’m still not real sure exactly what the lesson was that day. But I did learn that you can call TowBoat US two days in a row and they keep coming to help!

What actually happened was that my anchor became fouled on something on the bottom.

After much maneuvering on my part, and advice from my buddy boat that was circling around, I could not release the anchor from the bottom. Thus, Towboat US.

Unfortunately, they also couldn’t retrieve my anchor and I had to cut the anchor chain leaving behind 30 feet of chain and a perfectly good anchor.

The area I was in was not such that I could dive on the anchor, and the cost of hiring a diver would not have offset the loss of the chain and anchor.

So, I guess what I learned was: Always have a spare anchor, which I did have.

Most of the rest of the trip down the ICW from North Carolina to Florida was uneventful. I managed to anchor, pick up moorings and dock alone without mishap.

My new chartplotter

The entire trip taught me that the new chartplotter I had added last year was an excellent addition to the equipment.

The chartplotter made all navigation easier, both in the ICW and in the Bahamas.

It was especially useful in the ICW on the day I got caught in the fog.

In the Bahamas

I can navigate through the narrow passes in the cays of the Bahamas with confidence and the chartplotter makes it so much easier.

When the anchor chain was wrapped around a coral head in a beautiful anchorage, I learned that I needed assistance.

And that’s okay, because friends and fellow cruisers are always ready to help anyone in need.

It’s a comfortable feeling, knowing that that support group is always there should you ever need it.

I learned that I will run aground and, no, there may not be a towboat handy. I learned that I can get myself off the sand and handle the boat and myself in uncomfortable situations.

I have learned that I can evaluate the weather predictions and choose safe anchorages for the weather conditions.

Do I always get it perfect? No.

But I learn each time and survived the less than perfect anchorages and each time I get better at making those anchorage decisions.

I learned that the Bahamas are beautiful, that the weather is not always perfect, that cruisers everywhere are wonderful, and each successful day adds to my feeling of self-confidence.

See you next year in the Bahamas.

debbie-leisure-eleuthera About Debbie Leisure

Debbie Leisure sails her 29′ Island Packet, Illusions single-handed. Originally from Missouri, she sailed the Eastern Caribbean for five years. The island of Carriacou holds a special place in her heart.

Recently, Oriental North Carolina has been her home base. She spent this winter in the Bahamas (Abacos, Exumas and Eleuthera), and when she leaves the Bahamas this Spring she plans to sail back to North Carolina for hurricane season.

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8 comments to Debbie Leisure: What I learned on my first solo trip to the Bahamas

  • Mary Verlaque / I Wanda

    I loved this “lessons learned” from Debbie Leisure! Hats off the the guts and perseverance to get out there and learn the lessons. The reward you feel when you HAVE learned the lesson and avoid the problem the next time is worth most of the aggravation!

  • jerry jones

    I am proud of my litle sister, she seems to always get herself out of trouble when she gets into a jam.
    Growing up on a farm in Missouri there was no water and sailing was not heard of.
    then one day She and John got this sail boat and away they went, I would of never guessed that she could learn to Sail must less take off on her own.

    You have made me proud little sister.

  • Nikki

    Well, how can I put into words how very proud of you I am? I knew you could do it and WOULD do it! I guess there is a lesson for me in what you have learned, if we just read between the lines. Thank God “There is no such place as Far Away!” Love you – Nikki

  • Marian Jones

    I am so amazed but what you have accomplished on your own. And wish that I had half the guts and perseverance that you do.

  • Maye

    Debbie, I am amazed! I enjoy reading about your escapades. I share the others pride in your accomplishments. I know that John is giving that special smile as he sees you continue his dream. May God continue to hold you in his embrace and keep you safe.
    I look forward to hearing about more Debbie Leisure adventures.

  • dirk and mari mcginnis

    Hey lady, Congrats on keeping the dream alive. We remember our own adventures so much more vividly when we read about you still doing them. The great pictures are wonderful. Sometimes you forget how really beautiful the Bahamas are. Love and Stuff, Mari and Dirk

  • Erin

    Great story Debbie!
    I had to laugh about the calling TowBoat two days in a row and they’ll still keep coming.
    I wish that I would be seeing you in Oriental again.
    Let me know if you want crew sometime.

  • Your spirit and spunk are encouraging.

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